Rocket and the locations therein copyrighted Marvel Comics and the Disney Company.
"Rocket, are you sure you know what you are doing?"
Deltan Thel held the light high over head while the meter tall furry figure reach into his orange jump suit and removed a small globe from his front pocket. His small paws dug away the loose dirt until his claws hit something metallic. At once the fingers stopped digging and carefully placed the globe on top of the exposed power coupling. The middle finger of the small hand then pushed a tiny button at the top of the globe that started to pulsate red.
"Let's move," Rocket growled and they both backed quickly out of the small cave and stepped back into the access tunnel. They slowly moved back through the narrow tunnel and into the side corridor that lead into the main concourse at Knowhere. Deltan followed Rocket trying to keep in the shadows as much as possible. The last thing they needed was someone recognizing either of them. When they got back to near the main entrance to the concourse they both stopped.
"Get them on," Rocket ordered, "Thirty seconds."
He reached into his pack and took out his combination breather mask and Monochrom glasses. Rocket reached into his suit and did the same in one fluid motion. The raccoon then reached into his backpack and took out two larger blue globes and handed them to him. Deltan took them and removed the safety pin from the tops of both spheres. Rocket took two more and did the same.
Rocket looked back at him his now furry brown face covered with a unifit mask and goggles. "Remember, you throw yours at the front door and I will toss mine inside the shop."
"I am not Groot," Deltan said with annoyance. "I know how to use these things."
"Just make sure you keep to your part of the plan," Rocket told him sticking his small finger into his gut. "I am not throwing away half a million Units because you screwed up."
"Worry about yourself, you ill tempered fur ball," Deltan said loud enough so he could be heard through the masks.
Rocket looked at his watch. "Three, two, one…NOW!" Rocket yelled.
The small cave they had just moved through sudden because as bright as a noon day sun. Immediately power couplings and lighting fixtures started shorting out filling the cave and the entire concourse with huge amounts of sparks. The primary lights flicked and then went dark. Automatically and immediately the red emergency lights came on. That is what they were waiting for. They both ran into the corridor. Deltan tossed his two orbs in the front of the Collector's Shop and Rocket tossed his deep inside the opening. In seconds they exploded filling the entire area with a blue prismatic smoke. Even with the slim possibility that anyone around had Image Intensifier Viewers, it would do them no good. This smoke was only transparent to a few wavelengths of light which their goggles could view. Added to this was the irritant in the smoke that would make normal breathing difficult. It was a sure bet anyone around not in protective clothing would have bigger things to worry about than them.
Both of them ran into the Collector's shop. Deltan saw a red skin female standing and coughing, but of the Collector he saw nothing. They ran past about fifty display cases holding a variety of creatures. He had no idea what most of them were and he didn't have time to care.
"Here," Rocket shouted and he stopped in front of a case. Inside was a creature about Rocket's size, an avian of some sort covered in white feathers except for a red three piece suit and a white shirt and red tie.
"What are you guys doing?" the figure yelled out.
'No time for this," Rocket yelled and took his Yelmar Multi-pistol and blew the lock off the door. Rocket threw the display door open and tried to grab the bird.
"Someone wants to see you Bird Boy," Rocket said, "Now come here."
The creature moved back into his display case beyond the reach of the short arms of the raccoon. Deltan had anticipated his. He took his Spencer dart gun and put a tranq dart into the chest of the creature.
"Buaaaaaccck," it squawked before it went limp in the displace case. Deltan quickly reached in and grabbed the creature and dragged it outside and put it on the floor. Rocket took a hood out of his backpack, unfolded it and threw it over the white feathered face and yellow beak of the creature. He tied it firmly but not tightly around the neck.
"We got to go now," Rocket said looking around him. His pistol was still out as they both ran out of the Collector's shop and down the small access corridor they had come in from. They both ran past the small access tunnel they had placed the power disruptor in. Inside it was still glowing bright red. In this corridor there were few people which is why Rocket chose it. It was mainly used for maintenance staff and some small cargo. They moved out of the smoke, but left their masks on. No one was around them, but that would not last. They moved quickly down the smooth metal corridor until they came to a small access tunnel. This one was no more than 1.5 meters tall and was hewn out of solid bone. They followed it. It would be hard for local security to follow them now. They barely fit inside the small opening with Deltan still hoofing the bird on his back. After about five minutes of following the opening in the bone, it ended in a covering of solid rock. The path through the rock was only partly finished. Only a small power coupler was here. Once into the rock, the passage opened out until it was about two meters square.
Rocket stopped and motioned for Deltan to go past him. The raccoon moved back about five meters and took a detonator control out of his pack. He pushed the button.
Small pre-placed seismic charges exploded over head and the rock fell into the corridor sealing it from the other side. They were now trapped inside, but at least no one could follow them. The passage went only another fifty meters and then stopped dead at a solid plasti-steel hull plate. Other than a knapsack leaning against the wall, there was nothing here. Beyond this point was the vacuum of space.
Rocket looked down at his watch. "Hmm, not bad, we are only fifty seconds behind schedule. Make sure your mask is on tight and check Sleeping Beauty there. This next part is going to get hairy."
With that Rocket opened the knapsack and took out a dozen circular disks. He placed four of them around the lower edges of the hull plate. Then he placed four more in the center of the plate.
"Drop the bird and help me up," Rocket said.
Deltan put his load down and lifted the small raccoon up so it could reach the top of the tunnel where he placed the other four disks around the top of the opening against the plasti-steel.
"Ok we are ready. Check on our ride," Rocket yelled.
Deltan opened his wrist comm and hit the transmitter.
"You there," he said.
"All ok here," came the immediate answer.
"Ready," he called out.
Deltan checked his mask and then made sure the bird would not suffocate. Rocket then took two foot rockets out of the knapsack and attached them to his boots. He then took out a coil of mono-crys wire and tied it to his utility belt and then Deltan's.
"This always works for Quill," Rocket said motioned him back. "Get back and press yourself hard against the wall, we are blowing this joint, literally."
Deltan carried the bird back about ten meters and pushed him against the wall. He then nodded to Rocket. He moved back and hit his detonator control again.
The eight periphery linear charges cut the pasti-steel hull plate like butter and the four central charges blew it out. In seconds there was a two meter square hole leading into empty space. The air exploded by them, but Deltan was able to hold himself and the bird in place until the flow slowed. Rocket ran forward and jumped through the opening trailing the wire behind him. About twenty second later a sixty meter long rectangular shaped ship with small winglets came up and pulled alongside of the opening. Rocket use his boot thrusters to maneuver over to the side. By then the airlock on the side of the ship was opening. Inside was a vac-suited figure that pulled the raccoon into the air lock. Deltan then picked up the bird and leaped through the opening. Both the suited figure and Rocket pulled on the line and Deltan quickly covered the short distance into the ship. As soon as he was in the lock they cycled it closed and then opened the inner lock. He let the bird drop and he ran for the bridge of the ship.
Deltan leaped into the pilot's chair and hit the thrusters. He opened the throttle and hoped the others were ready for the acceleration. As a precaution he dropped a sensor buoy to confuse any anti-ship batteries Knowhere had plenty of. He saw nothing on the sensors indicating they even knew they were here. It took about a minute to get far enough away as not to be in range of the blaster cannons of the base. He hit the FTL and within seconds the ship passed through a wormhole and into interstellar space. They made it.
"Rocket, I need to know where I am going," Deltan yelled back into the cabin.
"Hold on to your shorts, I'm busy," came the reply from behind the lavatory door.
Deltan waited a few minutes until the raccoon came up to the bridge followed closely by Jura his partner and long time companion. Rocket took the co-pilot's chair and started punching in coordinates into the nav-comp. A few second later he was done and Deltan felt the ship changing direction.
"Plan went off without a hitch," Deltan said to Rocket in admiration.
"The furry face broke into a big smile. "All my plans go off without a hitch. "They never knew what hit them. We got the goods and soon we will have about half a million Units."
"Any idea what they want the bird for?" Jura asked leaning over the raccoon.
"Don't know, don't care," Rocket answered. "They got the half million reasons to keep to themselves and I have half a million reasons to agree."
By then the nav-comp had computed the course to their destination.
"We are heading for the SJ sector," Deltan said. It should take about four hours to get there. Looks like a deep space rendezvous."
"What about the sleeping bird prince," Jura said looking toward the back of our ship.
"Keep him under," Rocket said. "Less trouble if he is out cold."
"You know the contractor?" Deltan wanted to know.
"Not a clue," Rocket told him flatly. "All I got off of him was the contract and the half the money up front. Money came through a Votarian numbered account."
"So none of it is traceable," Jura said. "I like this less and less."
"We take precautions at the rendezvous" Deltan said out loud. "In the meantime I am tired. I am going to catch a nap and I suggest we all do the same. I want to be fresh when our friends arrive."
Hearing no objections, Deltan put the ship on full automatic and closed his eyes.
The proximity alarm woke them all with about half an hour to go. They must have been tired to sleep this long. A quick check of their guest and a few minutes each in the fresher and they were ready to rock.
Deltan spent a few minutes hiding a couple of weapons near the main lounge by the airlock. Rocket did the same thing and Jura set the on board computer to security mode. All of them had experience with exchanges gone wrong in the past and in a few cases paid the price for the error. By the time they had made their preparations, the computer had told them they had arrived.
Deltan was in the pilot's seat now ready for evasive maneuvers. Jura was in the co-pilot's seat working the shielding. Rocket was in the gunner's chair ready to blow the crap out of anything that made a hostile move.
"Sending out a general sensor pulse," Deltan told the others.
The pulse came back with one contact. There was a small courier ship maybe about 100,000 clicks away. It was a standard Votarian type set up to be flown by creatures with half a dozen prehensile tentacles.
"This is the Votarian ship Zartoff, do you have the package?" came a deep reverberating voice.
"We have the package, do you have payment?" Deltan responded.
"We have payment," the voice said. "I am plotting a standard intercept course. I assume you have a standard docking collar?"
"Correct," he replied. "I am also plotting standard intercept course."
"Affirmative, see you shortly, Zartoff out."
"OK let's wake our passenger," Deltan told Jura.
The bird was up but still groggy by the time the Zartoff made contact. He would remain that way for another half hour with the Mickey Finn Jura gave him. Deltan had already determined there were only two life-forms on board, a Votarian male and a human female. The ship carried standard weaponry and minimal shielding. Deltan let the Zartoff read his ship and it the information it got back was that of a standard priority cargo ship with standard weapons and slightly better than average shields. Of course if they bothered to examine his ship personally, they would have found something quite different. As per standard protocol the targeting sensors were off and the weapons were cold. Of course with Rocket on the guns, targeting scanners he did not need. That raccoon could hit anything using just the optics.
They all felt the lurch of the ships making contact and after a few second of equalizing pressures, the airlock opened and in walked a young human female. She was carrying no weapons or anything that could carry a weapon. She was attractive for a human female. She looked around the room and saw the bird in the chair still shaking off the effects of the drug.
"Howard," she cried out and ran over to him. She grabbed him and gave him a huge hug and kissed him on the cheek or at least was passed for one. He looked at Rocket who got up out of the gunner's chair and walked over.
Howard looked stunned for a second then put his arms around the female. "Bev," was all he could say.
"That certainly rates high on the old weirdometer," Rocket said just loud enough to be heard.
Deltan turned his attention to what came through the airlock next. It was a spherical being with six tentacles. Four of the tentacles rested on the floor and looked to support the creature as it walked. There were two others that grew out of the side of the creature ended it what looked to be split like fingers. In the left hand he carried a small case, the right hand was empty. Around the top of the sphere was a large eye slit in which three eyes seemed to move independently. There was a larger opening in the center of the body from where food was processed. Above each arm were smaller slits and from those two areas came the deep reverberating voice. This creature talked in stereo. The creature brought its right tentacle up and spread wide the small fingers.
"Duva tuse anto yavic," the voice called out.
Deltan looked at the figure for a second and raised his own right arm and spread wide his fingers. Detan yatz oomar osya sotar," he replied.
"Thank you for that greeting," the figure went back to standard.
Deltan bowed deeply and as he straighten up, he rubbed his right leg with his right hand. Rocket gave a nonchalant nod. That meant expect trouble.
"Forgive me but I think we should turn first to business," Deltan said. "There is the package," he told the creature and pointed to Howard.
"Is this the duck you told me about," the creature asked the female.
"Yes," she said, "It is Howard."
The creature put the case on the floor. "This is the remainder of your payment. Two hundred fifty thousand Units,"
"Rocket," if you would do the honors please," he said and motioned toward the case.
"Always," the raccoon said eagerly and picked up the case. He opened it and looked through the pile of unit chips and counted them twice. "All here" Rocket reported.
"Then we will leave," the creature said. "Ms. Switzler if you would bring Howard?" We must return to Voltar."
"If you were truly Voltarian, that would be the case," Deltan said dropping his right hand to his side." However you are no more a Voltarian than I am an Altarian Slime Slug."
The creature froze in place. Before it could answer he continued.
"As a race Voltarians are all left handed. They call it the left hand of the blessed and the right hand of the damned. You gave me the Votarian peace gesture with your right hand, something a true Voltarian would never do. Also my blessing to you was not the standard Voltarian greeting, but actually a comment regarding the sexual orientation of your grandmother. You had no idea what I was saying. You are a shape shifter, and a damn good one to fool my ship's sensors."
The creature started to rise up on its legs. The sphere shape disappeared and in its place appeared a humanoid figure of something that resembled a troll from the Asgard legends. It was big, green, had a huge tail and two huge yellow eyes that started to glow blue.
"My people will not be denied their revenge on this duck," it boomed and sent a blue beam of light from its eyes toward Deltan Deltan was expecting something and dropped to the floor. It went overhead impacting on the food processor which exploded into a shower of sparks.
"Blast it," Deltan yelled.
Both Deltan and Rocket had their pistols out in a half second and started shooting. While the fire was impressive, it wasn't powerful enough to hurt the creature.
"In coming" Jura shouted from the front of the ship.
Rocket threw himself flat on the floor. A second later a blue ball of plasma came from the front of the ship and hit the creature. A second and third shot followed. He could smell skin burning and the odor of sulfur. The creature made a high pitch squeal and collapsed onto the floor.
"What the hell was that thing?" Jura shouted from behind.
"Kotian Devil Bat," Deltan answered. "They work for the Overlords." He got up all the while holding his gun on the human female.
"Lady you need to prove to me right now that you are no shape shifter or you and the bird get the same."
Jura walked forward carrying a shoulder mounted plasma cannon and pointed it at the female who was shrieking, "I am not one of those."
Rocket was up on his feet pistol pointing at the female's head. "Damn you bitch; you better start talking right now. Who is that thing?"
The female looked terrified; whether it because of the shape shifter or the three weapons being pointed at her, Deltan wasn't sure. She stammered out, "He told me he was a Voltarian counselor from the Galactic Aid Society. He contacted me in Cleveland and told me he heard about how Howard was sold to the Collector by his enemies on his home planet. He was going to help get him back to Earth."
"Keep them covered," Deltan said. He put his pistol away and ran back into the engineering section of the ship. He came back a few seconds later holding a positronic analyzer. He pointed the cow horn shaped object at their two guests and read the dial.
"Neurological analysis on the bird is not registering. He is unknown to the instrument. The girl is showing neural pathways of a human. She is no shaft shifter."
Rocket and Jura put their weapons down. Neither looked convinced about what was going on. The bird still looked like it was mostly in la-la land and hadn't even taken cover when the shooting started.
"OK, Lady but that still doesn't explain how you know bird boy here," Rocket growled. "I want to hear that story and it better be good. Any lies and you two plus tall, green and gruesome there go out the airlock together."
What followed was about ten minutes of what had to be the wackiest, nut-job of a story any of them had ever heard. When she and Howard were done, they concluded it had to be true. Even Rocket couldn't lie like that.
"In brief," Deltan summarized. "Howard gets shanghaied to Earth along with some Evil Overlord, you two get friendly and beat the snot out of the Overlord, and then Howard gets sent back home where his enemies sell him to the Collector. That is one for the books, Lady."
"We got the money," Rocket went on. Who gives a crap where these two go?"
"Can either of you two fly and navigate a spaceship?" Jura asked.
"Sorry," Howard said.
Jura looked at Rocket. "You are going to have to fly them back to Earth, to this Cleveland place and drop them."
"Crap," Rocket said kicking the deck with his small feet.
"Look at it this way," Deltan added. "This thing either stole this ship, in which case we collect the finder's bounty, or he actually managed to buy it in which case it now belongs to us and we sell it. Either way it is more money for us. You drop these two off at Earth. It is about a twenty hour flight away. Then fly the ship to Glantore; not too many questions will be asked there. I will meet you there at Clara's Happy Hunting Ground in about thirty six hours. Then we dump the Voltarian ship and tie one on."
"That is the smartest thing anyone has said since I contracted this job." Rocket said with a smile."Lady, Bird guy, into the ship; the bus is leaving." Rocket then looked at the large mound of smoldering Devil Bat. "What about that?" he added.
Once you two leave, Jura and I will cut the gravity and move it to the cargo lock and then greenie here takes a giant leap for Devil Bat kind."
"Got it," Rocket said and motioned to the cash. "Put the money in the safe. We will divi it up at Clara's." His face then went serious and someone hostile. "Don't run out on me," he said as a threat.
"And have you and the rest of the Guardians on my ass, thank you no," Deltan answered. "We'll be there."
"You always were a smart one, Del"