“But seriously, what are you doing here?” Rocket seemed stuck in puzzled mode.
“Real happy to see you too, buddy,” Quill said, sarcastically, although without an edge.
“I called him,” Desiree intervened.
Rocket turned around to face Des.
“Didn’t we agree to call him only if we didn’t find Groot ourselves?”
“Whoa, wait. Groot is missing? Well, that explains why he’s not here trying to give me a rooty high-five.”
“It’s complicated,” Rocket started. “But really, I’ve got everything under control. There was no need…”
Desiree interrupted. “I have no patience for your macho pride, Rocket. We need all the help we can get, and fast. I wasn’t even sure if he was going to come, so I have to see what I have to work with.”
Rocket groaned and rolled his eyes. “Well, since apparently yer in CHARGE now, you can explain the whole sitch ta your new underling yerself, doll,” he said, and left the room to go look for some tools.
Quill’s eyes were fixed on the female lagomorph appreciatively. “Well, HELLO. And you are…?”
Desiree smiled politely. “Desiree. I’m the Captain.”
“NO, SHE’S NOT!” Rocket moaned in protest from the other room.
“Obviously, not the Captain of this ship. My ship is… out there.”
“That’s a SHIP? It looked like something built out of legos and chewing gum.” He smiled sheepishly. “Uh, no offense.”
“None taken. It probably was.” Desiree shrugged. She cocked her head. “Are the other Guardians in your ship?”
Quill sat down and put his boots up on one of the chairs.
“Nope, they’re… well, who knows? I can ring them up and could go get them if necessary. I have no idea what’s going on, tho, sooooo….” Peter pointed in the general direction of the broken panels and all-around mess.
“There’s no time for that,” Desiree said. She sat down and explained the situation in a very efficient, economical manner. When she finished, she asked: “Any questions?”
Peter Quill blinked as if still trying to process all that info. “No. Actually… no.”
“She’s ex-military, Quill, they don’t know how to tell stories properly,” Rocket said, carrying a box of stuff with a somehow pained look about him. He put it down.
Quill looked at him. “Cosmo says hello, by the way.”
Rocket raised an eyebrow. “Good ol’ bastard.” He started pawing around in the box. “Des, Brock seems to be doing fine, but why don’t you check? I could really start using his help ‘round here soon, if he’s up to it.”
Desiree looked at Rocket. Then she nodded and left.
Rocket turned around briefly to see she was not there. “What.”
Peter Quill dropped his voice. “Tell me about it.”
“What she said, mostly.”
“Mostly, as in different tales?”
Rocket shook his head. “I’m being straight with them. But perhaps she didn’t tell you why I boarded their ship. I guess I should tell ya, I wanted to borrow a Gun. To copy the schematics.”
Quill scratched his beard. “Illegal?”
“A Gun with a capital G,” Rocket shrugged.
“Money with a capital M, I’m guessing. Aaaand jail with a capital J, too.”
Rocket’s tail fluffed down. “I was just going to sell a few. And I was going to add up things of my own design; in any case, MY design would not be outlawed. At least until they wised up. But I’d end up clean.”
“Planning a jailbreak again, then.”
Rocket looked at Star-Lord indignantly.
“Whaddayamean, it’s a hole-proof plan!”
“Right. Did you bother asking a lawyer?”
“Of course not, do you think I’m crazy?”
Quill just looked at Rocket.
“Ain’t getting caught. And anyway, I have to solve this problem first.”
“Mmh-hm. Listen, Real talk. What is your investment in this… C-c-…” Quill snorted. “Cocky character. Okay, I gotta stop doing that.”
“Can’t blame ya if you don’t.” Rocket snickered.
“Curvy told me why she wants to rescue him. But why do you? He’s a friend of you, I’m assuming, but I have rarely seen you rescuing people from bounty hunters, and I guess you do know a lot of people on both sides.”
“Well, yeah. Bad form. The job is the job. But… yeah. He’s my friend. Of sorts.”
“I’m just wondering what you’re getting into. Bounties rarely get over a million. I just want to know if we’re gonna try and rescue a mass murderer or worse.”
Rocket made a face. “The buyer is the Khail Empire. And yeah, Cocky is a mass murderer if you consider war casualties murders. He’s a war hero on the B’eel side.”
“Oh. And you want to go into a slapfest with the Khail Empire over a friend of sorts.”
“Nah, it’s not only personal, Quill.” Rocket’s hands worked automatically, almost without even looking. “Cocky was stuck in a POW camp for a year. He led a rebellion to escape, and afterwards, he personally liberated a dozen camps or so. He was already wanted by the Empire before all that, but afterwards… well. Evidently, the Khail wants to make an example of him. I don’t wanna let that happen; it would be monstrous. You can see that, don’t you?”
“Mmh.” Star-Lord scratched his beard again. “Wouldn’t it be easier to contact B’eel, let them handle it?”
“We can’t. Cocky got himself exiled from his own planet, because he’s a huge idiot. Lost his crap and punched the president or something. No help there whatsoever.” Rocket shook his head.
Peter Quill nodded. “Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you on this. But if your friend is delivered to the Khail, there’s nothing we can officially do about it. The Khail has a non-aggression, no-intervention pact with the Galaxy Forces. I know, we’re not technically in the organization, but this could trigger a diplomatic crisis. And you know how the Khail gets.”
“I get it, don’t touch the poop. Still, this is about getting Cocky back from Blackjack. And of course, this is also about getting Groot back.”
“Speaking of ships, why don’t you just leave your ship parked here? It’s gonna take some time to fix, I’m guessing. Let’s just take the Milano.”
“S’a matter of pride. Goddamn carrot-muncher thinks he can touch my ship?? I’ll teach him!” Rocket swished his tail indignantly. Then he mellowed out. “I only need like an hour of work or so, but in the meantime, could you check around the ship? We think Blackjack might have thrown Groot out of the airlock.”
Peter Quill looked at Rocket, seemingly about to insist. But then he shrugged, as he knew from experience Rocket would not be convinced. “Okay, let’s see if we can find ourselves a Christmas tree.”
“It’s been a while. Hurry,” Rocket pleaded. Then he let his mask on again. “I mean, we have to leave soon.”
Quill left without saying another word. He knew better.