There's nothing worth saying on our way back. We're all just too happy to be back on the Milano in one piece. Star-lord uses his remote device to open the hatch and we pile in for takeoff.
"Let's blow this joint guys. We can get ourselves cleaned up once we're safe." He announces and pats me jovially on the shoulder as he passes. I snarl viciously at the touch on my injured shoulder though I quietly echo his sentiment as we mimic his example and scramble in haste to strap in on our seats.
I dutifully take my place as the co-pilot and end up doing most of the work to get us airborne since our glorious leader is unable to properly steer with just one hand, therefore mostly just moping how he 'can't stop that feeling' and keeps on bitching about his injured hand during acceleration. "Gods, it was one time only. It's not like the fricking thing's about to fall off. It's even bandaged and as far as I know I was never implanted with venom glands. So stop bitching already, It'll d'ast well heal in time." I announce. I'm having enough of his simpering and jump out of my chair as soon as we've reached the fifth Lagrange point, deciding to retreat to my room or should I say our room seeing how I share it with Groot. "We're at Lagrange point, Star-baby. You're free to take as long as you wish to punch the coordinates into nav. computer to reach Xandar." I inform rather snidely as I take my leave and feel a touch of smile creep up as I hear him muttering 'what the hell's Le Grande point? I bet the furball just makes them up as he goes.' Groot follows me as usual. I let my gun stay where I've left it on the floor by the air lock as we pass it. I shouldn't be needing it for the foreseeable 24h though I suppose it needs the basic after battle clean-up at some point.
Our 'room' does sound a bit grand to me, when I think of how it came to be, as I lay down on my cot while Groot takes his usual corner. He doesn't quite need sleep the way other species do but he does tire and sort of slows down for a few hours at each night cycle. Me on the other hand; while I often do things diurnally, I am actually more happy as crepuscular or nocturnal. Unfortunately most intelligent species in the Galaxy are diurnal. One of these days I'd like to place thicker metal on the walls of our 'room' so I could reliably attach some shelves and have more privacy. Right now there's just a few plast-steel travel chests and my cot to provide storage and table surfaces as needed. I don't really need that much space or furniture and neither does Groot but I would like some better soundproofing. In fact the whole room didn't even exist when Nova rebuilt the ship. Their engineers had drawn plans for three rooms, Drax's, Gamora's and ofc. Quill's who already occupied that one actual sleeping room. It seems that they assumed that I wouldn't need a room for being just a small animal and Groot was just a twig in a pot... Though initially quite miffed, I soon struck a deal with Quill to be allowed to haul in a few thin sheets of plast-steel and welded them together to form a small room space for me and Groot. Thin sheets, because adding too much 'junk' onboard would adversarially effect the ships handling and fuel consumption and nobody really wanted that as the other option would have been a total engine overhaul which we really couldn't afford and still don't -at least not to the specs at which point I'm willing to do the work for it.
Hmph, maybe the big guy really is more tired than I assumed seeing as how his already in his "real tree"-state. I'm tired too but first I'm going to need a shower, a few Band-Aids for the scrapes and a good grooming after to get all this crap off my fur. I get back from the shower room, with a towel draped around me like a cloak as I stand at the open doorway, immediately sensing that I'm not alone in the darkened room. I switch on the lights more for Gamora's convenience than mine. The sudden harsh light stings my eyes. I notice her carrying the portable medi-kit case. That case of medical tools has become awfully familiar in the past few months, I reckon.
"What are you doing here. Did Peter send you to check on me? Well, you can tell him I can manage washing and bandaging myself just fine on my own. Besides Groot's here too." I accuse her.
She mostly shrugs at my hostility as if expecting no less. "No, I don't need his permission nor prompt for this." I squint my eyes in suspicion, nobody does shit like this for fun. "Ohh, really? Sure it's not to have a second go at the freak show?"
"I am Groot!" Groot grumbles from the corner and opens one eye to glare admonishingly at me. "Mind your manners Rocket, she's just being nice." Is what he says but I'm not in the mood to translate. "Oh, come on that's just unfair-" I spit instead as a reply.
"We are Groot." He retorts settling back to rest and I guess his probably right to a point and agree to apologize to Gamora.
"Fine. I'm sorry I snapped at you Gamora. Just gimme the flarking case and I'll fix myself while you watch, since I probably can't make you leave. Deal?"
"No. You sit down, hold still and let me do that. You can't properly treat your shoulder anyway and it's the most heavily lacerated area if your wince from mere touch by Peter is of any indication." I feel like I should argue the point but seeing her stance and set jaw, I figure its best to just get on with it and hunker down on one of the travel trunks and just drop the towel down to my waist. "Happy now? Seen the freak, go ahead get disgusted." I mumble while trying to calm down for the upcoming 'groping' and almost do the unthinkable by thinking of grooming my tail between my teeth to occupy my mind. She doesn't say anything to it or about my freakishness, though I can clearly hear her deep inhale which to anyone else would have been the equivalent of 'holy hell, mother of god!' "Does your back currently hurt as well?" She asks as she opens the case to take out the med scanner. "No, just the shoulder." I admit with a sigh and avoid looking at her. I'm assuming from the rustle of fabric and her flowery scent getting stronger that she's leaning closer to look at something before I feel surprisingly gentle fingers parting the fur on my shoulder. "Okay, Rocky... When did you actually hurt that shoulder? There's something embedded in there and it's clearly been there awhile already. I can see the lumpy pustule just under the skin." I shudder away from the touch. "Probably just one of my shoulder cybernetics misaligned from impact." I offer. Gamora has been avoiding the metal bits on my body as she slowly scrubs off any remaining residues from our latest battle with a fine comb.
"Not according to med scanner." She reminds me, bending over to grab more stuff from the box that I can't see without turning my head. "I think it's a shrapnel and you probably pushed it deeper when you landed on the shoulder this morning." She comments before adding some of my least favorite words. "hold still. This is going to sting a bit. I'll lance the pustule to drain it and get the shard out." I can literally smell as well as feel it when she punctures the skin, lancing the festering boil formed around the foreign object. "No fear, I'll be quick about it. I've got practice..." she reassures me and true to her word, she doesn't dither with digging it out with a pair of tweezers and soon drops the ceramic metal shard on the tray to show it to me."I think it's from a fletchette gun." I offer sheepishly. "The tip is from a semi-barbed type-D anti-personnel, I think." She agrees easily and gets to work on cleaning my shoulder and other scrapes with disinfecting spray. "It looks clean enough, hold still. I'll need to staple this shut." She says right about the moment I nearly jump from the feel of something cold against my skin before the rapid successive stings from the stapler drowns the urge.
"Thanks, I guess" I mutter, gauging up my shoulder myself and roll it gently to test its movement. "Anytime, besides you'd do the same for me, right?" She waves dismissively while disinfecting the tools before placing them back into case. "Yeah, sure. Just ask." I lie easily and then wonder if it really is as much as a white lie as I think it to be.
"Wanna drink? I've got some good stuff." I offer as thanks and start to dig inside one of my trunks for a T-shirt, clean cups and the bottle of booze. "Sure, though I don't really get anything from it. Iron liver, you know... Thanos, thought it as a weakness." she sighs taking a sip from her cup. "Funny, mine's pretty much the opposite. Booze is like the only thing it doesn't filter... I just pass out like a candle when my cybernetics detect too much in my blood." I confess and take a second helping of the raw liquid right from the bottle mouth before passing it to her which she politely declines. Opting rather to just relax and watch me taking sips from the bottle while I tinker with one of my many guns. It's actually pretty cozy scene if you can overlook the fact that its comprised of two cyborgs and a talking tree, drinking booze and fixing guns.
"Okay, now what?" I grumble when I suddenly feel myself starting to float up before plopping down and then going up again before I even hit the floor. "I think the gravity generator is malfunctioning." Gamora remarks. "No shit." I grumble as I 'swim' towards the door before I and everything else in the room crash painfully back down on the floor before starting to float up again in a few seconds, though I'm forced to admit that a brownish, floating ball of booze possesses a rather peculiar idiosyncrasy to me. "I think I'm going to be sick!" I curse, trying to keep the queasiness down as I scramble through the doorway Gamora and Groot 'floating' after me. On a hindsight that's probably when things started to go apart -literally. The Milano is the most permanent 'home' I've ever had and that's saying something considering that this Milano 2.0, as Quill calls it at times, is barely even four months old. There was almost nothing worth salvaging from the old gall after the battle of Xandar except some of our personal effects, few interior trimmings here and there and parts of the fuselage.
That something was breaking in the Milano was almost given, as she was in fact a very old model not known for its reliability even when new. I did have its perks, chief being its modular nature, which was probably why Star-lord had chosen it in the first place. While much of the ship parts had been replaced by Nova upon rebuild, many of the key components had been near impossible to find as new on such a short notice. Unfortunately you can't make an M-ship without using M-ship parts and that means refurbished and retooled parts. Those never work quite as good or last as long as new genuine parts. Such as this heater I'm fixing right now. And with the mileage we were giving her... We really should be using only the best-in-store.
This heater unit I'm now fixing hadn't been the first part to blow up today after the takeoff from Bonh-IX. The first had been the gravity field generator malfunction some 4h after takeoff, which had caused a cascading failure throughout the ship and I've been forced to spend the last 18 hours in fixing and hunting problems once I had gotten the gravity generator running again, because Peter whined that he couldn't do anything because his hand was 'swollen and hurting like a bitch from being bitten' by me. Sounds like an excuse to me, so what if it's getting kinda puffy red? I've seen worse. Gamora readily admitted that she knew practically nothing about starship maintenance and Drax isn't much better than her at it, though he offered to lift any heavy objects as needed. Groot knows a lot about these things but his way too big to be able to actually help with much of anything. I should know, having seen what he could do when he was just a sapling and had appendixes more befitting to fine motory work. When he grows big even those tiny tendrils of vine lose some of their sensitivity or so he tells me. Meh, I think it's more about him having almost no interest in worthwhile hard sciences like engineering.
"Will my vocal presence pose hindrance to your work, Rocket?" Drax asks sitting cross-legged on the floor so his at eye level with me while I'm working. It was his way of asking if I'm bothered by him and that he wanted to ask something personal. That literal muscle mountain was pretty easy to read once you got past his weirdly eloquent way of speech. Contrary to popular belief he isn't stupid and could comprehend puns and metaphors just not most of them. "Well speak up then. It's not like I've got much better things to do." I grumble in response while carefully rasping the hexagonal metal piece round with an electronic file to eventually form it into carved jewelry bracelet. I don't think it looked like much yet, just some flowery vines and tight swirls carved on some very large hex lug nut taken from an engine I'd found on our last trip to planetside. It should look better once I've etched it a bit with acids to bring out the carved layers more. I'm pretty sure she'll like it once its ready.
"Is it true what you said about being torn apart and put back together again over and over, back at the boot of Jemiah on Knowhere?" He asks and I'm shocked enough at the question that I stop working and turn to scowl at him."What I mean is, was it just a metaphor or... not. It has bothered me for some time now." He quickly elaborates, seeing my confused glare. I turn away, trying to think of what to say. "No Drax. It's not a metaphor of any kind, now leave me be. I don't want to talk about it." I say, hoping to brush it aside. Should have never let them know about that but the genie was out of the bottle and wishing wouldn't get it back in there.
He looks strangely at me then but doesn't say anything more except "I apologize for bringing this up. It was insensitive on my part." When he finally leaves my workshop, I watch him go, unsure of what was all that about and focus back to my actual work, which is not the bracelet to be for Gamora but one of the three heating units of the ship.
The heater is now almost done, it just needs to be recalibrated and refilled with coolant fluids, which we currently don't have in stock. Need to talk with Peter about that. A starship should have all the vital component parts onboard at all times -including the necessary fluids. I'm so tired I could probably sleep with my eyes open. 'I'll just make the note on my digi-pad and care it later. Just one more things to do' - I decide as I yawn and scratch the note with freehand and pinch myself to stay awake.
Can't fall asleep now, this thing isn't done yet, yeah... Dang it! The damn screwdriver slipped, shit my hand fell numb. Need to focus... more. I'm sure we're all going to freeze to death unless I get all three heaters fixed in three hours. I knew we should've bought that auxiliary module... My head feels heavy and I close my eyes just for a second to reduce the fatigue building up.
I lift my head back up with a jerk, waking on the sound of screwdriver clattering down from the table, pushed by my limp hands. My head feels groggy and... What is this thing draped over me, how long have I been asleep? It's a thermal blanket. I'm pretty damn sure I didn't have one over my shoulders last night. Why would anyone do such a thing for me and personally suffer from the frigidity through the night-cycle as a consequence? I've got a thick coat of fur, I can manage even though the ship does get pretty damn cold when a heater unit breaks while in space, even when it's just one of three. I can't make out the scent of the person who brought it, it's too mixed with mine by now. My digi-pad's still here but someone has read the short notes and suggestions about parts & repairs I'd penned on it. The heater unit I had fixed is gone too and so is the engine noise.
My workshop is a former storage space I've repurposed to myself, no bigger than three by two by two gretches. I've decked that useless (to me) 2 gretch room height with closed wall compartments full of parts and tools and have stuffed an old and battered steel workbench against the sidewall, which takes about half of the floor space, the rest serving as a storage for my unfinished inventions and gadgets. I don't mind, I have a habit of sitting hunched on the workbench anyway, where the light is better, rather than at the floor or chair when I'm working. That still leaves me plenty of room to work in. The space sits almost neck to neck between the main thrusters but above the main power source and fuel cells, which are accessible via hatch, situated under my work table. So there's always that low reverberating hum in the air around me when we're in flight, which I find comforting. It's part of the reason why I set my workspace here.
Sometimes when I've felt sore and tired of everything and have had one of those unsettling thoughts or dreams about my body being more machine than flesh, that if I'd peel my skin off, I'd find no blood or sinew but machine oil, gears and wires, that my mind could be rewritten and erased with a simple code and a push of a button, That I'm just a meat puppet parroting his program. Then I come down here and quietly listen in on their dual hum to reassert myself that I am not just an artificial being, that I am a real person, that my thoughts are more than just the sum of my parts, That I'm in control of myself, there's nobody pushing a button that makes me hop and skip as they please. That I am a being with a mind of his own regardless of the cybernetic augmenting, gene splicing, psychological programming and behavioral conditioning. That any choice I've made since Halfworld are mine and mine alone. I'm also intelligent and self-assertive enough to acknowledge that this kind of wariness hurts my ability to work with others but I'm also too stubborn to just let it go and easily accept that sometimes someone else might actually know better than me.
The fact that the engine hum has petered down to almost too low for even me to hear usually means we've landed on a planet or space station, but we can't have landed yet. We still had almost 10h of flight left before reaching Xandar and there aren't any suitable planetoids or stations to stop or restock for repairs in between. Yet the gravity doesn't quite feel like when being on a planetoid nor do I hear anyone else moving inside the ship. I shake the last cobwebs of dream from my mind and drape the blanket securely around my shoulders. It really is kinda cold in here and the air feels musty, I note with my breath misting a little. Something's seriously not right I deduce and decide that it's time to get my guns and find out just what the flark's going on around here and maybe get the power back on line before the back-up runs dry too and we all freeze to death.