If there was one thing Rocky had learned, its that your name doesn't last forever. Whenever he saw Adonis hit a bag, or work on his V-step, Rocky could only gawk at how much the kid had grown. It was Adonis' name, his name, that drove him. The hunger for an identity was something that always drove the young. When you're young, you have dreams of irreversible glory. You have fantasies of becoming something greater than you are. Your name becomes a legacy. But even legacies fade to time.
It was uncanny how much Adonis took after his father, a man the kid had never met. At first, Rocky didn't want to see the distinction (Apollo was boisterous while Donnie was humble). Apollo could work a crowd like no one's business, but Adonis reminded everyone of the underdog inside them.
But the more Rocky trained with the kid, the more he saw hints of the great Apollo Creed in his eyes. Adonis had his father's fearlessness. Adonis had his father's strength. Adonis had his father's love of boxing. As much as Rocky didn't want to admit it, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
Adonis was like his father...but the young boxer reminded Rocky of someone else he knew...a long long time ago. In a galaxy too far away to mention. A young man who smiled with a coy gleam, and was always thinking of his next move. How long had it been since Rocky had heard the name Yondu? How long had it been since the Ravagers took to the galaxy, off to find their next adventure?
How long had it been since Rocky Balboa, the great underdog of Philadelphia, had answered to the name of Stakar?
"You're doing great kid," Rocky said as monitored Donnie's training from the park bench. The old man had wanted to take the kid out to the park, have him run through the grass, do push ups and skip rope. It was an easy workout. Doctor's orders was for Adonis to take it easy, that fight with Ricky Conlan was a doozy, but Adonis just couldn't stay in bed.
So...good old Uncle Rocky had decided a little exercise might be a good thing. Just as long as Donnie didn't overdo, and Rocky would make sure he didn't.
The park was beautiful at this time a' day. Early enough for the sun to peek through the clouds, and illuminate the dark recesses of Philly. This neighborhood could use a little light. Hell, this whole galaxy could use a little light.
When he was Stakar, leader of the Ravagers, he believed the galaxy was what others made of it. Sure, there were those who worked to keep everything fair and safe for weary travelers, but most...most had no honor. So, Stakar did what he could. He tried to move himself and his crew with as much integrity as possible. Stakar saved Yondu from slavery. Taught the Centariun everything he knew about thievery, honor, and making sure you only did harm to those who deserved it. And for a while, Stakar felt as if he had his own family.
Those times...were happy. Yondu would ask questions, beg to fly the ship, whine about doing the dishes, and Stakar would only shake his head, punch the kid's arm, and tell him not to talk so loud.
"Come on, Stakar," Yondu would say, "It's only for a few minutes. Just let me take the help for...like a half hour. Please?"
"How the hell did your request go from 'A Few Minutes' to a whole half hour? Am I not tutoring you right, or something?"
But then...Yondu broke the code.
"Hey, Unc," Adonis said as he walked up, his Nike's crunched against the grass. The sound was as familiar to Rocky as Yondu's incessant pleas. "What's next?" As was Donnie's voice.
Rocky smiled, "Nuthin'. Have a seat with the old man."
Adonis cocked his head, and sat down. Rocky took his newspaper from his lap, crumpled it in his hands, and then turned to the next page. "Your foot works gettin' a little sloppy, you gotta watch that."
Adonis smiled, "Always lookin' out for me, ain't you Unc?"
"Sure, it's my job."
"And what about you? How's your health? Have you been seeing the doctor? Taking it easy like he says?"
Rocky turned his paper, "Of course. If I die who the hell's gonna make sure you don't get your ass kicked the next time you step in the ring?"
And they laughed. Adonis laughed like Yondu had laughed. And Adonis joked like Yondu had joked. Two young men who existed in a world that conspired against them, and there Rocky was, an old man who had just happened to know them both.
What are the odds? What were the odds that when the Ravagers broke up, Stakar would come to Earth, and settle in Philly? What were the odds that he'd change his name to Rocky off of a poster of a boxer he had a passing interest in? What were the odds that he would meet Adrian, and Paulie, and Apollo, and become a legend to the people of this city?
The name Stakar used to ring out through all the galaxies. Stakar, the greatest space pirate anyone had known. Stakar, the slickest thief who could be in an out before a Grosgumbeekian could blink. And now, that name was gone and replaced with one that was stole from a boxing poster.
But that name still found a way to ring out through the corners of a boxing ring. Mickey had seen to that.
This world was a strange place...stranger still than Ego. Stranger still than talking raccoons, and tree people. Stranger still than young Centurions who turn their backs on everything they once stood for. Yondu betrayed the code all those years ago...and for that he had brought shame to each and every Ravager.
"Unc?" Adonis asked.
Rocky looked up from his paper, he seemed to have been lost in his thoughts. That seemed to happen a lot when it came to his past with Yondu.
"You alright?" the kid asked.
Rocky nodded his head, "Y-yeah, I'm fine. I wuz just thinkin'."
This shouldn't have worked. No matter what name he took, no matter what part of the galaxy he took residence in, he couldn't avoid finding some scrappy kid to look after. It was a curse. "You remind me of that last guy I worked with, that's all."
"You mean Tommy Gunn?" Adonis asked. "Look, I've heard the stories about that dude, and I'll never turn out like him Unc, I promise."
Shit, Rocky had forgotten all about Tommy Gunn. After their last fight in the parking lot, Tommy kind of just disappeared.
"Naw, you're nuthin' like how Tommy wuz. You're really sumthin' special Donnie, just like your dad." Rocky leaned back into the chair and gazed towards the sun, "I wuz just thinking about someone else." Someone who traversed the galaxy. Someone Stakar once knew, and Rocky can only reminisce about.
"Anyone I've heard of?" Adonis asked.
"Naw," Rocky said as he shook his head, "He...wasn't really big on publicity. Hell, most of the people I know now don't even know him." A blue Centariun who couldn't keep his mouth shut, or stick to his own promises.
"Well," Adonis' voice was hesitant, as careful as a miner walking through a cavern, "What was he...like?"
"He...was smart," Rocky began. "Always curious. Always looking to fight the next big fight. Always lookin' ahead. I guess I taught him that. But," Rocky froze and crumpled his hands all over his newspaper. The Ravagers had a code. No innocents were to be hurt. No children were to be stolen. There is always line you can't cross, a boundary that needs to be respected, but Yondu…
Yondu took a job delivering children to Ego, a planet that was alive. A planet that had sown its seeds throughout the galaxy and now wished to see the fruit of its own work. Ego had children...and he wished to have them collected. Yondu was the man for the job, even though it was against everything the Ravagers stood for.
"You've disgraced yourself Yondu," Stakar said.
Yondu only shrugged with that cavalier presence that had become as a part of him as his own blue skin. "And what was I supposed to do, wait around for someone else to take that score? Being a Ravager means going for any opportunity."
"Not when those opportunities harm other people. We may be thieves, but we don't involved the innocent," Stakar said.
Yondu only shook his head, a grim disillusionment swelling in his chest, "You're a damn fool, Stakar," he said.
"And you went back on our code," Stakar said, his voice echoing through whatever space they could occupy. "The code I taught you." The long nights of tutoring. The missions that took them to the outer reaches of space, the long nights planning their next target, all dissolved like paper in a boiler. "The code you swore by." All of that was gone, and all Stakar could see before him was a traitor.
And after that day, Yondu vanished into the cold grasp of space, and the Ravagers disbanded, and Stakar was no more.
But that did not stop the old man from wondering how Yondu was doing. Some nights, when Rocky closed down the restaurant, and stared out into the Philly sky, he wondered how Yondu was. Was he still visiting Earth to take kids away? Had he found his next big score? Some even said he had taken a protege...Star Lord? Who could tell, rumors were as plentiful as stars.
Sometimes...Rocky would find himself regretting, as all old men find themselves doing. He'd look in the mirror after his shave, and see that same desperate face that Mickey shoved his way. There was a certain sadness to aging. A sorrow that the young could never even fathom. Time is limitless to the young man. But to the elders, it is a fleeting rarity.
"God," Rocky said as he folded his newspaper in his lap, "I really hope he's doing alright."
Adonis placed his hand on his Uncle's shoulder, "If he had you to teach him the ropes, I'm more than certain he's doing fine."
And Rocky tried to smile. For his own sake. For Adonis' sake. For Yondu's sake. And perhaps, if the galaxy was strange enough, Stakar would see his old protege again.
"I sure hope so."