Rocket Raccoon lands on the asteroid in a detachable pod. He gets out with a space helmet and looks around. He doesn’t want to be there; at least it’s better than the planet in orbit below, where he knows a cease-fire has just been broken by the side with the most to lose. He misses Groot. He doesn’t try to worry himself over the lack of patience or sheer malicious instigation that initiated the rocket fire into the disputed area. He suspects Nebula sold the weaponry to both sides. “Just another dollar,” he thinks, reservedly.
He spins around and sees five women in ghostly robes. He’s immediately suspicious; they feel weird, like a humming arises around seeing them, like they are not what they seem at all, but some camouflaged destructive force! But one of them tries to communicate. A voice seems to float to his thoughts, asking that they talk. He keeps his weapon at ready. “It’s your dime,” he says gruffly.
She pulls her hands slowly apart, with a nebulous light shimmering. A pocket appears, seemingly immaterial, a window to some receding inner space. Rocket remembers seeing something like this: “one of the inmates on the mental rehabilitation planet, Halfworld, tried to open something…give me a glimpse, when we were alone, of some otherly, beautiful world. But then he was sad because he could open the portal and couldn’t go through it. At least, that’s what I think. We called him Moses. I guess he was a wizard. Or a frustrated scientist who’d been changed by a discovery. Same diff? I guess I never thought much about it again because so much of what I remember was never real.”
He can see the recognition on the woman’s face.
“Hey, stop reading my thoughts,” the raccoon protests. “But I guess that’s the only way you can ‘talk’ with me. That space he opened…it’s the same phenomenon?” He recalls how the doctors debated: should Moses forget about the portal so he could go on with his life? Or was trying to access it, the hope needed, the reserve rebuilt and depleted again and again, his one thread of sanity?
Suddenly a winged girl with a petite frame and a pair of ram-like horns on her head soars by. Rocket notes she is also unaided by life support. A ghoulish trickle of blood drips precipitously from her mouth as she hovers above him; she ignores the five women in robes.
“She looks confused,” Rocket thinks. He decides not to judge a book by its cover; after all, until you really begin to know, how can you decide anything by appearance alone? “And I should know,” he chuckles.
A trio of armored soldiers suddenly teleport into their midst. Clad entirely in grey save for orange faceplates that glow, revealing no features, they take out their cannons, each about the size of their arms, and fire at the winged girl. She flaps her wings, which seem leathery and reptilian, as she evades the beams. One of them strikes one of the five women from before; she holds stock still. “Stasis beams?” Rocket observes. He cocks his own cannon, still undecided about his course of action. “They could be a peace force. They may be some kind of local police. They may be bounty hunters. But they do shoot a little carelessly,” he thinks, grimacing. The woman with the open source of light between her hands remains where she stands, her thoughts indiscernible, her expression…her expression makes Rocket feel queer. “That’s alien life forms for you,” he thinks. His seasoned bounty hunter instincts tell him not to get mixed up in what he doesn’t understand; he isn’t sure of anyone’s purpose or innocence.
The winged girl twists acrobatically out of the range of the next shots. He notices she is wearing something akin to a circus performer’s bodice. “She’s kinda creepy looking,” Rocket thinks. He debates on whether to zap her himself and put an end to the cannon fire. The fact that the blasts don’t seem overtly concussive…that they don’t seem lethal or destructive…makes him consider again that these may not be malicious marauders. Besides…none of this is what drew him here.
“It’s that crazy dream I’ve been having,” he thinks. “I was drawn to the asteroid almost by pure instinct. Mystical searches aren’t really my bag, but maybe it was something those robed chicks did that got into my head. Ahh, damnit! I don’t know what to shoot!”
The armored beings continue to ignore everyone else while chasing the winged girl across the low-gravity surface. Rocket runs over to the woman in stasis. Her phosphorescent bluish-green robe drifts in reaction to his approach; there is virtually no atmosphere, not much gravity to keep anyone nailed where they are standing. Another shot lands close to her and paralyzes another of the women. “Can’t you see where you’re shooting?” Rocket hisses, taking a shot back in reaction. His beam hits a soldier so hard he flips in the air. “Now I’ve done it, I’ll bet,” he thinks; he prepares his jet pack for evasive action, and flies upwards to be clear of the robed women.
One of the armored soldiers fires back, narrowly missing Rocket Raccoon. Rocket trains his gun on the soldier while the third one gives chase to the winged girl, and the flipping soldier rights himself shakily.
“Who the hell are you guys, anyway?” he demands.
“Lucian Weathers, Craft 9 Squadron,” the soldier says, pointing his cannon back. “Stand down or I’ll be forced to immobilize you!”
“Who is the girl? And why don’t you watch where you shoot?”
“If you’re referring to that winged thing, that’s Nilina. We were hired to retrieve her after she murdered an entire circus on a Capricorn world. This is all created world business and none of yours…whoever you are!”
“Rocket Raccoon,” he replies, “Guardian of the Galaxy.”
“What a pretentious load of baloney,” says the soldier. Rocket thinks he’s hearing a trans-galactic translation, accounting quite well for the colloquial nature of the reply. “What’s your evidence?” he retorts.
“Why don’t you ask her yourself?” replies Weathers. “If you’re not a bounty hunter yourself, you’re probably going to be a victim. What are you doing here?”
“You don’t see those women over there?”
“I don’t have time for mind games, sir.” Lucian Weathers of Craft 9 Squadron puts his hand to his head to relay a message: “teleport on my signal to this triangulation and let’s take her down!” He then vanishes.
Rocket turns back to the robed women, who remain as they were. The one with the dimensional aperture…or whatever it might be…seems to beckon Rocket to stare inside. He watches her curly hair drift gently, and sees that wherever the one door of light in her hand leads, yet another opens further inside. He tries to make out the figures he sees poised between the inner doorways. He responds to his curiosity by making the aperture larger. A woman in flames, with a serpent draped around her hand, holds up a white, shimmering disc; a long-haired man with wings raises his arms before a blue ocean at night; a man with a cocked, short-brimmed straw hat, in a white suit, laughs jovially, his eyes piercing and dancing, his skin like midnight.
Rocket senses a need for sacrifices (what kind?)…communication…a call to service to some mysterious being…wonder…an ominous sense of the smallness of his place in the material world. In the light, he reflects on the little ways he’s been damaged, his losses…his triumphs. And for all of his aimless strivings in this universe, he marvels at how some undiscovered part of himself seems to lie in those doorways. Again, beyond the furthest doorway are more doors…a sense of increasing vibrational dimension. He asks himself if he is the type of individual who can abandon all he has known with no hope possibly of returning, or if this is a source of blessings and powers?
“Look, kid,” he says, “and I hope I’m not making a big mistake here…I honestly can’t say if this is a trap or a treasure, and my curiosity is about to get the best of me either way. You see that world down there-- Zaag Trips? If you want to offer someone a wormhole vacation, maybe you should try it down there. Somebody’s got to be dying to get out of that madness.”
The woman looks longingly towards the world of Zaag Trips below. He feels a sort of sadness…then a detached reserve, which he could mistake for his own, seems to well up in its place.
“They can’t see ya, huh?” he says haltingly. He relaxes his gun at his side, realizing he’s been gesturing with it all along. “Hey, for all I know, I should blast you myself before you go alien-abducting people…but I wonder if you’re not just trying to share? And if you are bad seed…I found out a long time ago I can’t clean up the whole galaxy. When it’s black and white enough for me to do any good for sure, that’s when I’ll make my move…like with that Thanos ass. And the fact that I care one way or the other makes me a terrible mercenary but hey, I don’t mind looking at myself in the mirror, and you can’t buy that.”
She and her companions all raise their arms simultaneously, then, with eyes softly aglow, inhumanly, yet compassionately, she seems to send a pink candle light image to his thoughts before all five blink away. Only the vast distance of the stars and their ancient luminescence remains above the lonely asteroid.
Rocket Raccoon thinks about the candle as he mounts his small pod to return to the ship with Groot, Zamora, Drax and Quill…”excuse me, STAR Lord,” he thinks sarcastically. But the pink candle makes him feel softer, kinder, in a way he would be a bit abashed to express. “I never knew what became of ol’ Moses,” he thinks as the engines activate and the anti-grav equation severs his anchor with the asteroid surface. The engines suddenly boost him out into space, as he thinks about why Moses couldn’t enter the aperture he’d seemed to generate himself, or if that was only a vision, and even so, why no one on the asylum planet had ever seemed to decipher what Moses was opening. Perhaps some of them were as unable to see Moses as the soldiers had been unable to detect the robed women.
He wonders about the armored beings trying to capture the winged girl—“Nilina, that was the name!”---and if she was guilty of murdering a whole circus and why would she and why would anyone think about that, and where the hell was Capricorn, some pocket world? It seemed to Rocket a lot of convergences between realities proliferated in this sector of space. Yet, for countless parsecs…it’s just emptiness, with not a sign of life. Not in the material sense, anyway.
As Rocket Raccoon’s ship departs the nameless asteroid, the winged Nilina watches…and cautiously follows. She likes something about the furry little being and his sense of inner conflict. Perhaps she’ll find out more, if she’s shaken her teleporting pursuers. It will do for a purpose, at least, until she gets bored.
Come See Integr8d Soul at Schroeder's Deli in downtown Rome Aug. 21st!!! Here's the pre-poster sketch I'm considering...and it is pre-poster-ous. OK, I'm almost done with that joke....