Who: Guardians of the friggin' Galaxy What: while out on a space mission, Nebula finds herself in a new universe. When: now. Notes: intro for Nebula. Tree & Rabbit are npc'd.
In outer space, it was said no one could hear a scream. Or yell. Or so much as scoff.
Which was - as actual denizens of outer space could tell you - an absolute lie. Onboard the Benatar, the Guardians of the Galaxy were very much like a family, in that they held some measure of affection for one another....but also wanted to strangle the life out of their teammates. In this alternate universe, it was the same as the other...give or take a few people knowing they were in an alternate universe and others? Not so much.
The things that were the same, and some that were not? Gamora was still missing. Rocket was still a raccoon with a chip on his shoulder. Groot said Groot a lot, when he wasn't in his messy room playing video games. Mantis kept disappearing on shore leave and would only send a distress signal when she remembered what those were (currently, she hadn't remembered). Nebula stared like she was thinking of the fastest way to kill them all. And Drax? Drax was.....
"The snack foods from Contraxia were delicious," Drax the Destroyer said, after he destroyed an entire bag of roasted grubs dusted in Morag sea salt. He knew about living in an alternate universe. But he had conveniently forgotten about it, so that this universe's Rocket and Groot (who weren't aware) wouldn't ridicule him. "Quill, we must return. I have consumed the last pouch."
To date, the Guardians had already returned to Contraxia three times. Not for the robo hookers or refueling. Not to try to get more intel if Thanos still existed in this universe or not. Oh no. It was to buy snack foods out of the only frequently restocked vending machine in that quadrant. At least a thousand credits had gone into Drax's mouth that week, and that likely contributed to his past claim of having famously huge turds. Peter gritted his teeth as tightly as his hands gripped the wheel. This excursion into space had been completely useless. The only thing they'd gathered was credits from a few odd jobs...credits that were rapidly dwindling down Drax's disgusting mouth.
Staying in touch with Tony sporadically had ensured they weren't completely rock bottom (although Peter was fairly certain when he returned to work, he'd owe the billionaire some free labour) but this was enough.
Plus, the grubs were disgusting. It wasn't even worth it.
"Jeeesuuuusss chriiist, Drax," Peter exclaimed, turning around to death glare at the alien. "There's fucking food on this ship. I'm not turning around again, and since I'm the captain, you're going to listen to me!"
This wasn't going to work, but it made Peter feel slightly better about things. He WAS the captain, damnit! And this was HIS ship. And they had a mission, even if Drax had conveniently forgotten about it immediately.
"We have one more stop before we can head back to Terra. One. That's it. One line, one way, one thing" Peter pointed out into space. "So fucking deal." "I have an insatiable appetite," Drax replied, as though he was talking about an incoming solar flare. Meaning he had absolutely no inflection at all, since Drax had no clue what solar flares could do. "I am not concerned about your intercourse deals, or if you need to draw one thing only one way, with one line. I will starve on this ship. That is why Rocket is the captain."
Rocket, who had been grumbling in the back of the ship over a bomb he was creating, chimed in. "Damn right, I'm the captain! But I'm not turning around to Contraxia either. Eat some yaro roots, ya idiot!"
"They are not ripe yet," Drax said, and turned enough to look over at Quill from his seat. "I can not make a deal, even if intercorse is involved. You offer exeptionally bad advice." Nebula didn't really care who thought they were captain of the Benetar and who actually had any form of legal claim to the position. If she had to choose between the man and the fox, she was tempted to back the tree, who was wisely keeping to himself.
As for Drax and the bottomless pit where he temporarily parked those disgusting grubs? If she had to see that wretched vending machine one more time and kick it until it surrendered the chosen treats, she would jam them so far down his throat his body wouldn't be able to digest them.
The thought made her lips twitch, briefly, into something that could be interpreted as a very small smile. If you didn't blink.
What she actually said, however, had no direct connection to her opinion on captaincy or any daydreams she might be harbouring.
"We need to focus on the task," Nebula stated in her distinctive, husky voice with only a hint of inflection. Her eyes didn't stray from the controls in front of her as she added, "if any of you would like to set aside your petty declarations of ownership and obscene cravings and join me, we might manage to accomplish something before the tree can legally pilot this vessel." "NO ONE is piloting but me! God!" Peter hit a few buttons and swiveled his chair around to glare at everyone, which was obviously wasted because no one was paying attention to him at all.
Pouting a bit, he channeled more energy into his glare before sighing heavily. A few times. Enough times so that people were actually looking at him.
"Thanks Nebs, for that vote of confidence. Really feeling it in my heart." He thumped his chest twice before giving her the peace sign. He'd learned a lot about Earth customs from youtube.
"We just have to set this beacon on Lorre. It'll close the circuit and gives us more warning than just the milky way. Is it too much to ask to get just a smidge of respect? I can make you guys walk a plank or something, y'know." Some things were clearer to Drax than other things were. For instance, Gamora and Nebula were sisters who sounded somewhat alike when their patience ran out. As for what wasn't clear? What Quill just said, and everything before it that Drax had already forgotten about, from thinking about what Quill just said.
After a long pause to ponder what Earthlings called a cone-um-drum, Drax asked everyone, "Why would we need a plank, when we already have floors and ground to walk on?” She stared at Quill's glare and the symbol he made with his fingers and wondered if she should respond with a finger gesture of her own. Something she had witnessed on Earth transmissions which involved sharing personal videos, mostly about cats.
Opting to refrain from utilizing her hands, she slid a look at Drax and wondered, not for the first time, how he managed to get through the day without accidentally terminating his own life. Then she looked to the fox, who was building yet another explosive device, and contemplated his response should she ask him to just blow them up and save them from their futile existence.
Nebula returned her attention to Quill. If she was aware of the Human habit to count to ten before responding to someone annoying, she would have reached one-point-eight-trillion squared in the same amount of time. I should space you all, she thought.
"You know he is easily confused by your obscure references, " she said quietly but clearly, referring to Drax. "Do not make our circumstances more difficult to bear. I will grant you know how to pilot, but we must focus." Why she was attempting to be diplomatic, even polite, she wasn't certain. Then she remembered that these were her friends now, them and Gamora, as much as she had anything like friends. They were all she had. That thought was depressing and made her head hurt. Peter almost responded to Nebula that he was well aware that Drax had dicks for brains but he held himself back.
He didn’t want to explain that expression.
“Well duh,” was what he chose to go with instead. Straight, to the point, and….another crap Terran expression. Damnit all. “What does it look like I’m doing? Trying to get us all back on track, losers!” With a flick of his wrist, a map materialized with red pulsing lights in a circle around a galaxy.
Peter stared at it for a while, his eyes tracing paths while he drummed his fingers on the armrest of his chair. “We are so close to tasting pizza again… or chinese food… no more rations or protein bars or whatever crap Drax keeps loading on this ship. For the record? I’ve always hated yaro root.” Drax was already grabbing a yaro root and giving it a squeeze to test for ripeness. It was the most plentiful food source in the galaxy, but the last choice on everyone's list of things they wanted to eat. They took a long time to get ripe, which made them great for long journeys. But if it was eaten too soon, it was the most sour and bitter taste known to all humanoid lifeforms.
"Not ripe," he said to no one in particular, putting it aside and staring straight ahead. After a long moment, he grumbled under his breath, "I enjoy Terra's puffed cheese snacks."
And it was easy to tell when he ate them, since that neon orange cheese dust really stood out against grey skin. Quill responded with indignation and then yammered on about food, which set Drax off about the yaro root and puffed cheese snacks, whatever they were. Food. Why were they so obsessed with food? The very thought made her stomach flip and the pain in her head --
Gamora, her sister, tall and strong and -- I am every inch the warrior you are. The screams of my victims fill every field -- You are a disappointment sister; out of all our siblings, I hated you the least -- -- I can help them, by killing Thanos -- Thanos, smug and powerful and she was trapped and being torn apart -- Some time ago, your sister snuck aboard this ship to kill me. Very nearly succeeded. So I brought her here… to talk. -- Well, well…You should have killed me! It would have been a waste of parts! --Where is Gamora?-- Ashes, all but two of them, herself and the man with a beard who was spared -- He did it -- -- My father is many things. A liar is not one of them -- A man in armour, his eyes sympathetic but not filled with pity, she would have hated that -- I wasn't always like this. Me either. But we work with what we got, right? -- There's an idiot in the landing zone -- This is the one? Seriously? The choices were him or a tree -- The man with the beard who was spared, sitting against a rock with a blonde woman and a boy, and his life was leaving him --
Nebula shrieked. There was no other way to describe it. The agony filled every inch of the Benatar and resonated against the hull and then the shrieking abruptly stopped. Nebula's eyes rolled into the back of her head and she slid from her seat to collapse on the deck like a puppet with the strings cut. Peter was in the middle of a persuasive argument about how pringles trumped cheetos everytime when a high pitched keening tore through the small space.
Instantly, he covered his ears with his hands, pressing tightly, his eyes scrunched tight until the ringing in his ears stopped. Slowly opening one eye, he was shocked to see Nebula sprawled on the ground.
So shocked that he could only think of one thing to do: nudge her prone body with his toe. “Nebula?” He tried in vain to remember what her modifications were but he was pretty sure she was like a computer. Hitting them usually worked...but she was also essentially a killer and he didn’t want to get shanked.
Drax could handle it.
“Drax, pick her up and bring her to the medbay.” Aka the kitchen table. This ship wasn’t that fancy. The second that Drax heard that alarming sound coming from Nebula, he was on his feet and knives were in hand, expecting some sort of attack. Instead, he was disappointed that it was only Nebula, who sometimes yelled. But not like this.
After putting his knives away - he did not want an angry Nebula to grab one and use it to shank him - he picked the woman's prone form up and slung her over his shoulder like one would a big bag of yaro roots. Speaking of which, "She weighs more than yaro roots do."
It was probably a good thing that she was knocked out, rather than hearing that. Blessedly, Drax was silent as he took her to the kitchen table they used for medical purposes. He swept aside some empty bottles and a half eaten bowl of Comet Pops 'cereal' (#1 best seller in the Galaxy!), before he plopped her down on it.
Knowing how Quill fixed computer issues, Drax looked at his very good friend and said conversationally, "She is in need of a reboot. You should hit her."
"What'd you guys do?" Rocket said as he stormed into the kitchen medbay. As much as a raccoon could storm in there, since his feet didn't exactly stomp. His tail did look a little bushy though, after hearing Nebula scream like that.
"I am Groot," Groot said, peeking around a corner to see what was going on.
"No, no one stabbed anyone, eeesh! Can't ya see there's no blood?" Rocket responded.
"I am Groot."
"Hey, don't tell me what I can go do to myself. You go back to playin' video games!" Rocket ordered and then hopped up onto the table to get a better look at Nebula. This was nothing a little troubleshooting couldn't fix. Beady eyes looked up at Quill and Drax. "Did one of you try hitting her yet?" “Think that’d work?” Peter was honestly debating it but he shook his head. If Gamora ever showed up again and heard he bonked her sister to reset her … Gamora could forgive a lot but that? That was probably a bit much.
“Oh!” He had a thought. “Drax! Quick, give me a pair of your pants! Wave it under her nose. That smell should wake her up.”
He was oddly pleased with this plan. "That is a surprisingly good advice. My pants smelled ripe by the time we left Degenera." And no one wanted to talk about Degenera. It was a bad, sleazy, and slimy place funded by robberies and had a thriving black market. Heavy emphasis was put on the slime, which literally coated every surface...and everyone who dared touched the planet's surface. Many of the buildings were on stilts for a reason. Slime was the reason...and slick stilts prevented 50% of thievery on a planet full of thieves.
Drax had fallen off a stilt building into a pool of slime. But before he could go get the pants he still hadn't laundered, one of Groot's limbs grew out to vines and had already gotten the very offensively stinky pants from Drax's very stinky room. The closer that the pants got, the more it smelled like rotten swamp and associated swamp crotch.
Drax nodded in thanks to Groot and took the pants, spreading the legs apart and finding the ass portion of the material. Then he hovered it about three inches from Nebula's nose.
"If this does not work," he told Quill and Rocket, "one of us should hit her."
"I am Groot."
Rocket pfft'ed that idea, "Fine, you volunteer. Just cos you think you're all cute with the sap from your last growth spurt s'ploding outta your face? Doesn't mean she won't try to snap you over her knee."
"She wakes," Drax announced, although he was really just guessing. The smell was enough to make even the dead want to recoil in horror. Sooner or later, it would crawl up her nose and never leave. Nebula had missed so much while being unconscious as the crew of the Benatar responded to her emergency. Such as an unflattering comparison to yaro root, being deposited on the kitchen table like a sack of yaro root and the impending threat of being pummeled by well-meaning people as if they wanted to make a yaro root pie out of her.
However, the smell of the slime from Degenera was, above anything else, more than sufficient to wake the dead, if only for a brief time. Even if Nebula had wanted to remain oblivious, she now had no choice.
She reacted before she even opened her eyes. One hand latched onto Drax's wrist and the other unerringly connected with Rocket's throat.
"Remove that smell before I start to squeeze," she growled. Her headache was larger than Ego's, well, ego, and between the pain and the incredible press of experiences suddenly imposed upon her it was almost too much. Gritting her teeth, she added, "Do it. Now. And I will spare you both." "I could survive without a hand," said Drax, who stared from Nebula to Rocket. "I don't think you could live without a head."
"Throw your stinky britches outta airlock, dumb ass!" shouted Rocket, inefficiently clawing at a metal hand that was around his throat.
"...but these are my best pants," Drax said slowly.
Before anyone could hesitate further, resulting in injured wrists and necks, Groot's vines tore the pants out of Drax's hand. And by tore, the pants made a loud ripping noise and came apart, while Drax looked forlorn at the fistful of stank that he was left with.
"You served me well," he told the fistful of slimy material, as though it was a funeral for a respected tribe elder. Soon after, the majority of the stench left the ship when Groot spaced the pants. After punching several wrong buttons, some of which cranked up the heat and made the lighting turn into strobe lighting. From past experience, Peter knew the lights were going to be wonky for a while so clearly, there was only one thing to do: activate the sound system and play ABBA, stat.
Crossing his arms across his chest, he looked at Nebula, his brows furrowed while “Waterloo” played in the background. “You were weirder than you usually are back there. Did you break? I don’t know how to fix you ...and Rocket would probably turn you into a bomb and you’re already deadly enough. We don’t need you explosive too...unless you already are.”
This was not a comforting train of thought. He gave his head a shake. “Anyways. What happened there?” She paused and listened to the conversation while the smell eventually receded. It took effort, but Nebula managed to ease her hands open and lowered her arms to rest on the table. She could tell through her eyelids that the lights were shifting intensity and opted not to find out what they would do to her headache. It was bad enough that Human females, as she had discovered them to be through the fox, were vocalizing about water to some lively percussion.
Quill rambled, but to her surprise she was almost used to that by now.
"I don't know," she said, obviously unimpressed with her own lack of information. "It was… If I thought it possible for someone to access my memories and alter them…"
Nebula swallowed and finally opened her eyes, just enough. It hurt to turn her head, so she stopped the motion even as she started to move. Instead, she slid her eyes from the Human to the one responsible for the smell and then to the fox. The tree was somewhere she couldn't see.
Returning her squinting focus to Quill, she said quietly, "You died. So many… Thanos he… had the gauntlet and…" She stopped. Perhaps she was going insane. Perhaps one of them had drugged her meal. Perhaps it was all real and she and the fox had spent five years trying not to lose their minds to grief. But how was that possible? "Great, now another one of yous is talking crazy crap again," the disgruntled fox raccoon said, waving a paw at the three of them before hopping off the table. "C'mon Groot, lets go play with explosives!"
"I am Groot," the tree replied, following along.
"I dunno where you picked up whacky tobaccy" Rocket could be heard saying, "but I'm guessing it's Terra, where these guys've been smoking a helluva lot of it."
A long awkward pause ensued, while Waterloo kept playing like a demented soundtrack.
Waterloo - Couldn't escape if I wanted to Waterloo - Knowing my fate is to be with you Waterloo - Finally facing my Waterloo I tried to hold you back, but you were stronger Oh yeah And now it seems my only chance is giving up the fight
Drax finally broke the awkward silence between the three of them.
"I have smoked laughing tobacco before," Drax announced, looking at Quill in awe. "She remembers, Quill. And I know the meaning of this song. A loo is what the Sovereign call their toilets. I asked where I could urinate and they said the loo. Terra has water in their toilets. This song is about winning a war against chronic constipation."
Drax could have gone on with his music critique, but luckily for everyone present he only looked at Nebula and nodded. Once. Just the once. Like he could accept her knowing about this alternate universe too. Talk of ‘whacky tobaccy’ and Drax’s obsession with bodily functions aside, key phrases permeated the fog that was her usually razor sharp brain: ‘another one of yous’ and ‘she remembers, Quill’. Nebula sat up abruptly and swung her legs over the side of the table, narrowly missing Drax’s knees and potential damage to them in the process. She immediately regretted the movement and straightened her arms at her sides, her hands gripping the edge of the table tightly. As sternly as possible, she growled, “Explain.” At least she wasn’t considering shanking any of them. Yet. Drax plopped a hand down onto Quill's shoulder, like he was willing to take the helm explaining this situation.
"According to Terra's shaman," he told Nebula, "some part of you has awakened into this other universe. Some are not aware of it, like our copy of Rocket or Groot. If this makes you so angry that you want to stab someone, the captain is always first. You will want to embed your blade in this man, right here."
Rocket was scampering past and heard the last part about being angry. It was just enough of a snippet of the convo to chime in with, "Totally true! Ya got this, Captain."
As Rocket passed out of view again, Drax hummed thoughtfully and nodded at Nebula. He looked over at Quill while stating, "I have helped." "You're an idiot," Peter responded, glaring. "But in a weird way, you explained it." He leaned against the countertop and picked up a protein bar that he'd tossed aside earlier. "No one stabs anyone in that ...other place. And that Tony is the one we are doing this for -- because in our timeline, Thanos got away. What you're remembering is when we defeated him. It's stupid and complicated and all you need to know is that you are now stuck with us."
He stretched his arms out and grinned. He would have added more but another, more familiar sound echoed through the sound system.
"Looks like we're here." He pushed off and glanced at Nebula. "We'll take you back with us. You'll like it on Terra. Other yous seemed to anyways." Nebula listened to them in silence, determining that they were, in fact, both idiots but they were being genuine with their answers.
The shaman would be Doctor Strange and Tony -- they had worked on the Benatar together, played an odd game and nearly died on the ship. She would have questions for him and Strange when they returned to Terra. There was so much information to sift through and the pain had barely subsided. She needed to think, recover, not show any more weakness, and avoid having anyone decide she needed to be hit the way Quill hit the computers when they malfunctioned.
"I look forward to our arrival on Terra," she said quietly, sliding until her feet touched the deck. Confirming that her knees wouldn't buckle, Nebula released her grip on the table, turned and walked slowly toward the corridor. "I will be in my quarters until then."
She paused at the door and looked over her shoulder. She tried to scowl, but found herself unable. Instead, she smiled a little, which might have been more frightening than a scowl. "If anyone disturbs me before then, I will rip out their tongue."