Blame It On The Stars

Chapter 5

In which Kraglin makes some new friends, the bo'sun is a dick, and that mysterious Udonta guy remains a jackass.

The next morning isn’t as dire as Kraglin expects. Although it does come close.

He’d drifted into an uneasy doze, back tight to the wall in an effort to touch as little of the Kree guy as possible. Thankfully whoever Isla has seen fit to victimize in her game is the only person onboard more tired-looking than Kraglin himself, and he sleeps deeper than a corpse swaddled in breeze-blocks and sent to the bottom of an ice lake. Kraglin stops wincing every time Varra rearranges himself: an action which ricochets through the bunk stack’s rickety frame. He even lets himself relax. Just a little.

Sure, he’d rather Isla had chosen Morlug’s bunk. But he hasn’t been butchered – or whistled at – which counts as a victory on his end.

Ha. She’ll never collect on that bet now.

Enthused by his foiling of her plot, Kraglin allows himself a little fist pump as he starts to plan his escape. Isla’s not making money off his untimely demise, not today. Horuz neither. And as for Yondu Udonta, well… Fuck that jackass. Kraglin’ll show ‘em all.

But for now, he’s only got half an hour before his morning shift, and if he wants to grab a shower and take a shit, he’s got to devise a way to extract himself from behind the wall of passed out Kree. Kraglin spares a moment to check the guy’s unconscious face. It’s lax. The snores have petered out – thank god – and now he’s drooling on his bicep, snuffling quietly on the exhale.

Kraglin is, for one utterly absurd second, tempted to poke him. Then he remembers that he’s not suicidal, and resists.

He’s debating whether he dares shove the Kree guy’s legs off the bed and make a dive for it, when a head pops down to fill the dark space between mattress and bunk above.

“Greenie?” someone whispers, voice hoarse.

Kraglin perks, leaning forwards as best he can. Then jerks back again when he brushes the Kree’s upturned shoulder. Kree guy mumbles some more of those weird clicks into the pillow, fingers curling, but doesn’t rouse. Kraglin slowly settles into his nest. “Varra?” he tries. Was that the guy’s name?

There’s an affirmative hum. “Wanna get out of there, greenie? They give him twelve hours after he’s done a solo, and he ain’t gonna move for at least that.” Varra chuckles. “And trust me, you don’t wanna be around if the captain decides to come wake him herself.”

The captain. Kraglin hasn’t met her yet – thank fuck – but the mere mention of the title’s enough to have his bladder shivering. Which in turn, reminds him of the other reason he so desperately needs liberation from his Kree-walled cell. “Think you could help me?” he asks. "I kinda need to pee." Varra’s head, silhouetted against the faint light streaming from under the dormitory door, nods. The only part of him Kraglin can make out is the eerie white of his grin.

“Feel up – above your head. Yeah. Thatssit. Alright, you got a hold of them bars?” Kraglin nods, not liking where this is going. “They’ll take your weight.” Varra must have better night-vision than him, because he catches Kraglin’s frown and husks out a laugh. “Seriously. If they take mine, they’ll take yours. Not that there’s much to take.” Another laugh. Kraglin forces a smile. “Shit, greenie, we gotta feed you up! I bet you hear that a lot, don’t you?”

Kraglin’s smile strains valiantly wider. “Yeah. Could you be a bit quieter?”

Varra’s hands appear, flapping in dismissal. “He’s out. Quit worrying, greenie.” From what he can see of the guy, Kraglin can understand that a six metre headfirst plummet might be something he can scoff off. He braces himself to watch the big guy slither forwards. But Varra doesn’t slip an inch, despite the apparent absence of any grip and the fact that he’s dangling from the waist down. “C’mon,” he hisses, beckoning Kraglin with both hands. “You wanna get to the bathroom before Figs takes her turn.”

“I heard that!” growls a woman from the bunk below. Kraglin peers through the crack and glimpses green scales and crazy blonde hair. Skrull-cross, and with a dandelion by all appearances.

“Are you guys on shift now too?” he asks, voice at its lowest register as he takes careful hold of the bunk’s slatted underside. His fingers already ache from the weight of the mattress – he realizes that Varra must be balanced over the sidebar, feet braced against the far bedposts to stop himself falling. Thank fuck. If his bulk was pressing down on him too, Kraglin could bid goodbye to his metacarpals.

The slice of Figs’s face visible through the gap scrunches, as she squints at the slice of his own. “You, me, and the rest of our bunk-stack. Except sleeping beauty there. Now come on – me and Varra are holding us steady so you won’t go rattling off the walls.”

It’s ridiculous. One day and one night on this godawful ship, and Kraglin’s ready to kiss their boots at this small show of kindness.

Giving the bars a final test – they squeak at the rivets – he nods to Varra, who hoists his massive trunk out of his line of escape. Then he draws a deep breath, and pushes gently off the wall. It’s one of the rare times he’s grateful he came out such a skinny bugger; it’d be hard as heck to hoist himself along otherwise. A tuck of his feet, a nerve-racking groan from the bedframe (and an even more nerve-racking one from the occupant) and Kraglin lifts parallel to the mattress, his abdomen sucked tight. He keeps his legs curled and inches from rung to rung on aching fingers until he can drop with a wheeze on the bar at the far side of the sleeping Kree. He props his forehead against the chilly slats of Varra’s bunk, shooting him a silent thanks, which Varra waves off.

“Hurry it up, greenie,” urges Figs from below. “You got five seconds to get past my bunk before I call dibs on bathroom. You too, Varra.” Varra swears, sitting bolt-upright, and bypasses the ladder completely in favor of rolling over the side of the bunk and flipping to the floor to retrieve his lost boot. Whoever’s in the top bed tosses another to bounce off his head. It does minimal damage – mostly because it’s ten sizes smaller than the one on Varra’s foot. Scrambling down the ladder, Kraglin peers at him in awe.

“Damn, you’re big.”

Varra’s shrug is carefree. “High-gravity planet.” He’s not Kronan, and there’s no other HG-systems under Nova reign. He must be another outworlder – although compared to Lizard-guy, Varra’s practically an Adonis. Kraglin’s eyes widen.


“Five, four, three, two, one,” says Figs irritably. She pushes over her bar to land light as a cat besides the thin-toed pair of boots Kraglin assumes belong to her. “Snap, snap, fuckers. Time’s a-ticking, and I’m feeling eggy after last night.”

There’s a panicked flurry of blankets from bunks top and bottom alike, the Kree guy a motionless blue filler in their sandwich. Kraglin doesn’t stick around to see who emerges – he’s hopping after Varra for the washblock at the dormitory’s far end, whispering apologies to the night-cycling Ravagers who lift middle fingers at them as they pass, and trying to tie up his boots while navigating a pitch-black room and remaining vaguely vertical. Start of the second day, and he’s not dead yet. At least he’s gonna get better at multitasking, he figures.

And he is – getting better at multitasking, that is. And it’s a damn good thing.

After squeezing out a shit and ducking his head under the leaky shower nozzle long enough to sluice off the toppermost layer of sweat and grime, Kraglin trudges on towards his next shift – M-ship upkeep – stopping off at the canteen halfway to grab a sticky breakfast bowl. It’s oats and something, miscellaneous. Probably best to keep it that way.

From what he can tell, M-ships get gifted or sold to the more senior Ravagers after they’ve proved they can handle themselves solo. It’s a status sign as well as a functional reward – once an M-ship goes to a Ravager, repair and fueling’s their responsibility, rather than that of the Ravagers-in-training. For now, Kraglin’s half-buried amid dinged fuel canisters and pistons still scalding to the touch, puzzling out how an M-ship’s engine operates from the manual he’s got open on his wristpiece. He pities whichever poor sod has to fly this thing once he’s through with it. Perhaps, if he fucks up bad enough and it explodes before it’s left the hanger, he’ll get pulled off the repairs shift.

And put on scrub indefinitely.

Yeah, he only plans on being here… what? Six weeks, at the most. But that’s still a sobering thought. Kraglin swipes an oil-blackened finger through the hologram. The light particles fizzle and flip, and he’s presented with a bird’s eye that almost matches the one in front of him. Who knows? This could be a productive experience. He could learn something. Might even get to pilot one of these things – he’s dismantled the drive shaft, and while he hasn’t the first clue how to put it together again, he’s been able to determine that it operates similarly to the junkship he’d stolen for his grand escape. Put a baby like this in his hands, and he’ll make it turn loops.

He finds the nut he’d dropped: under a coolant nodule, which, from the crystallized dry-ice crackling across its surface, has sprung a leak. Excellent. He just prays his jacket’s as impervious to the cold as it is to heat. And air. And his sweat – which has started to form a second insulatory layer between the leather and his skin.

It’s not the most comfortable of positions – torso immersed in the engine pod while his long legs kick out behind. What sparse fat covers his belly is sliced by the pod’s angled lip. If he wants to fix that nodule he’s going to have to crawl in further, head-first, and pray that someone’ll be around to grab his ankles and haul him out again once he’s finished. Deciding he deserves a breath of fresh air before his dive – fresh-ish: air that’s not so thick with fuel fumes that he might as well be sucking an exhaust pipe – Kraglin steadies himself on the pod’s sides and unwedges his head and shoulders.

That’s when he sees Morlug. Girl’s clambering down the ladder out of one of the flashier M-ships, her purple hair blotchy with engine grease. The ship’s one of the personalized ones, strapped ten metres up in a sturdy harness, its hood magnetized to the docking bay above. Orange flames pour abundantly from its engines – thankfully, only of paint. Whoever its owner is (and they’re high-ranking, if it’s docked next to the ship with all the dings and dents that Varra had pointed out as belonging to the first mate) they’ve either got a sick sense of humor or a deathwish.

Morlug, who’s hopped off the last rung of the ladder with a bucket of cleaning equipment clunking at her waist, answers that question for him. She stomps across to the man who Kraglin’d assumed was supervising, and tosses a dirty rag in his face.

”Fuck you,” she hisses. “You spilt that shit everywhere just so I’d have to clean it up, didn’t you? What if it'd leaked through your circuits? Could have fritzed you in take-off; done us all a favor!”

The guy she’s talking to has his back to Kraglin. They’re a far way off – he only recognizes Morlug from the hair. But he can tell that he’s wearing a sleeveless jacket. Is he too important to be working engines or repairs? Or is his skin tougher than the dipped leather that’s gotten Kraglin through his first few chemical spills?

…And are those flame tattoos, etched up his biceps?

Kraglin scoffs. He matches his M-ship. What a tool.

His theory’s confirmed when the guy pats Morlug condescendingly on the head, relieves her of her bucket, and pulls up a chart of work-shifts. Kraglin sees the multi-colored column that can only be Morlug’s quiver to a familiar purple. Scrub. For what appears to be the next year. Kraglin swallows. That’s motivation to get his head down, if nothing else is. He buries himself in the engine pod to the muffled, dulcet tones of Morlug’s swearing.

Lunch follows. Kraglin dithers over waiting for Morlug. She’s suspended from a winch, in turn attached to the slender metal rail that runs all the way around the flame-dude’s M-ship. There’s a washcloth in one hand and a bucket in the other, and she’s smearing a concoction of suds and spit-gobbins over his hull. When she needs to move to the next panel, she flicks an icon on her wristpiece until the mechanism groans into life, clunking her round by degrees.

Kraglin makes to wave. Then catches a glimpse of her face, angry and aubergine, as she hoiks up another wet wadge and puts her back into spraying it over flame-dude’s headlights.

”Fucking bo’sun,” she sneers.

Kraglin could speak up. Could commiserate. Could offer to give her a hand filing the dusty space-slime out from between flame-dude – the bo’sun’s – grills.

Or he could not get involved, head out on lunch-break, and pretend he never saw her.

Walking into mess, Kraglin has to pull up short so that he doesn’t tread on Lizard-guy’s heels. Fuck. Lizard-guy, expecting one of his angular scaly buddies, turns with a grin – then sees Kraglin and transfigures it into a cruel snicker. “You ain’t dead yet?”

Kraglin peers longingly past him to the kitchen hatches. But ensuring that his skin stays over his internal organs rather than patching lizard-guy’s jacket is the bigger priority. “Yeah,” he says, aiming for pleasant and achieving a generous civil. “Guess that’s Isla and Horuz out of the bet. And Udonta.” Jackass. “Uh, did you…?”

Lizard-guy slits his serpentine eyes. “This hour.”

”Oh.” Kraglin’s rearwards shuffle is not the most subtle, and is thwarted anyway by the press of hungry Ravagers behind. “Uh…”

Lizard-guy lets him sweat a long minute. Then reveals all of his jagged teeth. “Luckily for you, killing you myself would mean I forfeit.” Lucky indeed. Kraglin’s weak knees rediscover their cartilage.

”That’s… that’s good,” he says. Lizard-guy’s eyes move independently, which makes for a roll both derisive and disturbing.

”Whatever, rookie.”

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