Reckon thine number, beast!

"Okay that was fun but the game's over punks." I announce with a smirk. Mainly 'cause they're pretty much dead, except those few unlucky sods. I don't care, they ain't going nowhere when Drax is holding them by the scruff of the neck until Quill can zap them unconscious with his gun. Mission accomplished, return to ship, report to Nova, caching-caching, money well earned and soon spent. It's still kinda dark in here so I switch on the lights. Time to see what's in the boxes. I love opening boxes. If those jerks were willing to die for it, it's got to be worth something and nobody knows if I swipe a box or two, right? "Come on help me out a bit, Groot". Groot obliges by cracking some of the containers, closest to me, open. 'Well damn these guns ain't worth squat'. "What the flark is this? They're all just junk, damn it." Were we just ordered by Nova Corps to kill a warehouse full of jerks for scrap? This stuff is a far cry from what we were told they were trafficking in the briefing. I kick at the parts I had spilt on the floor. Some of them landing on Drax's boot end with a thud.

Peter seems perplexed, Gamora is taking the news in a stride and Drax as usual, asks the poignant question, holding and examining a piece of trigger mechanism at his palm. "I do not see anything wrong, they're perfectly serviceable parts. Why are you upset Rocket? "Serviceable, yeah twenty years ago when neodymium rails in flechette guns were still a thing. Cheap, medium powered and relatively versatile -just what the military needs when at war." I collect my breath to express my disappointment more clearly. "and that's exactly the point, numb nuts! These were supposed to be high end, the cutting edge -tech, not this junkyard garbage, don't you see we've been had you big oaf, for once try and rub those two beans together for that tiny spark!" I practically yell at him, feeling the need to vent my frustration.

"Do not compare me to vegetables, creepy beast!" He retorts back with a glare. "hey, hey, hey! No need to get into personal, Ranger Rick -Draxie boy!" Peter exclaims getting between me and the gray lummox and lays his other hand on my muzzle and forehead since its at the same height as Drax's lower body, to push us a part. I'd be lying if I'd say there isn't an instinct involved with what happens next. His barely puts his hand on me before I react and bite him on the offending palm -hard. There's a sickening crunch as my teeth sink through the faux-leather gauntlet but I don't let go until he drops to his knees from pain so I can reach up to claw at his eyes and then I'd slash his stomach open with my back paws but something grasps and yanks me away from Peter before I can do the real hurt on the idiot, daring to invade my private space like that. I struggle furiously for a moment until my brain catches on with what's going on and I realize it's Groot with his vines, holding me tight.

I glare and huff at their incredulous stares. "Shit, man! Why'd you do that for? God damn it. That really fuckin' hurt!" Peter spits gritting his teeth, shaking and clutching the bloodied palm in pain. And I wonder if I should explain how I'm pretty much 'wired' to react like that if you suddenly stick your hand on my face like that but I decide against it. They already see me as animal enough without getting instincts into play. 'Don't you dare to touch me' is the best I can come up with. I'm not sure if he buys it as an excuse but I sure as frakk aren't apologizing. Drax glares at me again and nobody says a word as we stare at our each other's until we break apart and head out. Groot finally lets go off me and grabs the prisoners and Star-lord announces what everyone else were already planning. "C'mon guys, let's blow this joint and let the Nova care the rest." I'm too miffed to care to have even a few of the parts as a souvenir for my ever growing spares collection, the way I'm often wanting to do.

"Why'd you let the little beast wound you without retaliating appropriately, doesn't it only encourage the malicious behavior?" I hear Drax, asking from Peter, thinking that I can't hear them from this far. Their whispered conversation makes my hair bristle. "No, that's not how you deal with animals that have been abused in the past. Look, while Rocky's lot smarter than your average dog or really anything you'd call a pet, the main principles are the same. They bite and scratch because they're afraid of being hurt by the touch and-."

"What's a dog?" Drax interrupts Peter. "It's a popular companion animal that looks like Cosmo -you know the animal in that space suit at Knowhere?" Peter elaborates.

"Are they telepathic on Terra too?" Asks Gamora, now slightly intrigued. "No, Cosmo's different. They're just animals back in Terra, just dumb beasts like Raccoons." He explains further.

Am I really that? Just a beast, slightly smarter than normal, to them. Some kind of mascot. I try not to think too much on it but it burns and I just zone out the remaining conversation they're having. And Groot, Groot doesn't say anything. He probably knows why I do what I do even better than I do, though it doesn't mean that he necessarily agrees with all my actions, but nor will he readily judge me for them.

"Subject-89p13!" The bailiff calls. I refuse to acknowledge the call. 'my name IS Rocket. Not that string of numbers 'n letters' I think to myself. He looks at me directly with an annoyed frown. "Subject-89p13!" He announces one more time, and this time he articulates it with such care that I realize it's because he thinks that maybe I'm not quite intelligent enough to reckon 'my name' if it's not clearly appointed to me. I keep silent, cross my arms and refuse to move from my seat inside the van. The other prisoners are starting to smirk and whoop at my display of defiance. As a prisoner you don't get too many chances to display your recalcitrance without swift reprimand, so they're taking what little they can get through me, and I'm fine with that.

"Get a move on, rat. We don't have all day!" One of the two big guards accompanying the bailiff grumbles brandishing his stun baton for emphasis which quells the jeering peanut gallery for a second. "Frakk you tin button." I growl in response but do as I'm told and move out into the courthouse yard from the transport vehicle, full of other "guilty until proven innocents" waiting for their turn at the court. Someone whistles and few stomp their feet jeeringly when I'm exiting. It's a big imposing building as is proper for a star-system district court.

At first the judge is dubious about the charges laid on me, -vehicular theft, arson and some minor larceny, but he sets the maximum sentence and liberally sprinkles it with assault & Grievous bodily harm and contempt to court when I completely lose my shit after my state appointed advocate has presented my behavioral defense; comparing me to a loyal but lost pet desperate to find its master, a pet who was starving and just trying to get home. I only manage to rip my advocates ear off while yelling- "My name IS Rocket. I ain't no frackin pet, rat or vermin and certainly not Subject-89p13 you asshole! And don't you bastard ever forget it" -to full court. I have committed to rather get the max for murder with the possibility of dying in prison before allowing myself to being acquitted in the grounds of being a flarking pet!' Then the stun batons come up and I go down and I wake up in yet another prison.

Learning to eat the insults from the right people while viciously avenging the same for the rest to avoid being beaten up in prison is not a great way to build your character but it does lend you a reputation; bad enough to make them leave you be for the most part. That court wasn't my first rodeo and most certainly not the last. I was already as hard as they come by the time I'd gone through my third prison term and I'd reckon that eventually the only reason I wasn't simply put down like a rabid beast when caught again was the fact that I had finally managed to convince the Nova corps that I was more than just a smart animal - I had been 'upgraded' from beast to lowlife thug.

And there lies the rub, in Xandar held space any sentient beings, registered as resident or natural born citizens, have plenty of civil rights. While unregistered people and common animals have their law given rights starkly defined and restricted in comparison, they still have plenty when compared to former test subjects and escaped lab projects, whose legal status as a person are practically none existing. They're just property owned by their creators, their level of sapience and/or sentience is largely irrelevant to property laws. In fact, if you're caught helping such a 'runaway project' and don't immediately report it, there's a good chance that you'll end up being accused of theft or illegal possession of stolen goods. Help the poor thing 'breed' and you're inviting for a piracy lawsuit when the megacorp 'owning' the project gets a wind of it.

I dodged the 'owners rights' by hiding & evading their search parties for so long that their fair ownership rights became expired, from that point on I was basically subjected to laws governing 'abandoned property' and thus 'the new owner' of myself. With that the Nova corps had no legal grounds to ship me back to the labs from which I had escaped from without gaining my written consent to 'relinquish the property I had salvaged in good faith'. Yeah, I'm not sure how that's supposed to work exactly with 'property' who actively works to hide itself from being found but I don't really care either as long as I'm never going back there.

I sigh loudly, coming out from my reverie and stop near the exit, pointing my gun and the motion detector towards the exit. Multiple blips moving fast on our direction. 'Well, guys. Flight or fight? We've got at least twenty more bogies coming in fast." I announce as if it were the most normal thing. Drax sounds eager as usual. Gamora, who knows from that stone face? Groot looks almost annoyed. Peter seems thoughtful and then asks if there's another way out. "Nope, no such thing boss, unless we make our own." I confirm. "That's a lot of enemies but nothing we can't take, right guys?" he admits but is determined to see us through it. "I can even out the numbers a little with this baby" I announce gleefully and get to work on setting the infrared-line triggered claymore-mines across the doorway. "I know what I said about no killing... but you just can't please everyone, I guess." Peter consents sarcastically as we retreat further back inside the warehouse so we won't get caught in our own trap when it explodes.

Aww, the shrapnel mine takes only the first batch of enemies out for good but I don't mind too much as I wade into yet another gun fight. Seeing your friends ripped apart by a booby-trap does interesting things to group morale, such as making half of them tail and run or simply refuse to move forward. Either one should work for our advantage.

We've won again but it doesn't matter. Destruction lays around me, soot clings to my scorched fur and tattered suit, the acrid scent of laser burnt flesh flares my sinuses. Groot reaches down to embrace me, to which I involuntarily flinch and move away from. No touching, not now, not in front of them! I take my gun from the ground and flip it to my shoulders for carry and flinch from the spike of pain flaring from the bruises. Usually there's a sense of urgency to chase away the hollow feel after the battle and the adrenaline rush, a reason to focus on something else beyond the emptiness but we're no longer in a hurry. The enemy is defeated, mission is accomplished. All that is left is to walk back to our ship and leave this planet. I can hear my comrades cheering their one another as if this carnage was some great thing worth celebrating, perhaps it was. Peter is trying to teach Drax about the secrets of 'high fiving' and even Groot is smiling a little for the job well-done when we're walking back to ship. Only Gamora is not smiling, she's looking at me though she tries to hide it into sideward glances. I know what she tries not to see, the old scars and the implants on my back and the new ones all over my limbs, revealed by my torn suit and limping gait.

It doesn't matter what they think, I need no pity from anyone, I'm stronger than that. Show no pain, show no mercy and you'll be fine. No weakness and they'll let you be. it'll pass in time, the pain, it always has. 'You don't need anyone, you've survived worse. You're not a pet to be coddled and comforted. You're a mean ass fighting machine, yeah.' I try to convince myself but a nagging voice whispers to me, 'That's what you are and nothing more. -Half machine half something else, just a mean, ugly and horribly mutilated monster, built to kill, it's what you were meant to do, it's what you do best, where you're good at, the only thing that's ever been 'good' in you'. And deep down I know it to be right.