“Do you ever think about going home?” said Peter Quill (alias Star-Lord) with his feet up on the instrument panel of the Milano . He addressed his question to all of the crew and none in particular, but it was Rocket who answered.
“Where I've come from's nothing compared to where I'm going.”
“Where did you come from?”
Rocket bared his teeth. “I don't want to talk about it,” he said. “And I ain't never going back.”
“Where are we going?” Drax's base rumble was barely audible over the roaring of the engines, and Peter wondered when he had become the man with all the answers.
“Are you thinking about going back to Earth?” Gamora asked. She had her eyes closed, and Peter would have sworn she wasn't listening.
“Earth isn't ready. Well,” he amended, thinking of green-skinned space babes, “they're not ready for us. They might be ready for you.”
Gamora's smile had a sharp edge. “I hear Earth is a primitive planet. You don't even have space flight.”
“We might have.” Peter had spent more time roaming the galaxy than he had ever spent on Earth, but he still felt obliged to defend his native star. “It's been a while.”
“You don't.” She slid open one eye.
“Don't be stupid. You're the only Terran I've ever seen. And you're only half Terran.”
“True.” Peter admitted. “Not Earth, then.” Nostalgia had its merits, but after so long he couldn't see himself giving up all the galaxy's worlds for one. He remembered a phrase of his mother's. “Can't keep 'em down on the farm, huh?”
Drax frowned. “Didn't know you used to have a farm. My folks raised moondragons on Dorado for a while.”
Peter kicked off from the console. “We didn't. Jeez. It's another figure of speech.” He had never realized his language replied so much on metaphor. “What about your planet, Drax?”
“I can never return.” Drax said solemnly.
”Too many memories, huh?”
“No. I can never return. There is a warrant out for my arrest.”
“Well, that rules out one place at least.”Peter called up the navigator and calculated just how far their remaining fuel would take them. A broad blue ellipse illuminated the screen. “Any alternatives?”
“I don't care,” Gamora said, “as long as we don't go near the Kree.”
“No Kree Empire,” Peter agreed. “That would be bad.” He tapped the screen, highlighted all the worlds controlled by the Kree and deleted the lot.
“I am under a death sentence on Dorado,” Drax rumbled. “In addition, there is a warrant out for my arrest onMensa, Canophes and Azophee.”
“Not Dorado, then-”Peter selected a small group of planets and discarded them with a flick of his hand. “I can work with that. In fact-” he made a few adjustments “-let's scrap the whole Greater Magellanic Cloud.”
“Might have to scrap more than that.” Rocket folded his arms.
“Anything you wanna tell me?”
“A few counts of theft.” Rocket said. “Few more of escape from custody.”
“How many is a few?” Gamora asked.
“Well, let's just say we better stay away from the Federation of Erida for a while. Delta Cepheid, too. And don't visit Tucana or Grus else this ship you like so much'll be impounded. Not a good idea to go thru' Pavo. Or Brasil. And don't even think 'bout visiting the Independent Protectorate of Menkar.” Rocket shuddered. “Folks have a justice system like you would not believe.”
“I would recommend giving Knowhere a miss.” Drax said.”The Collector has a long memory.”
“And I wouldn't go near the Kyln,” said Gamora.
“Okay...” Peter scrapped system after system. “That leaves us with a choice of four.”
“Systems?” Gamora asked.
“Planets.” Peter said.
Rocket peered over Peter's shoulder and shook his head. “Three. There's some guys on Mira reckon I blew up their moon.” He spread his hands as the rest of the crew exchanged glances. “What! They can't prove anything!”
“I find it remarkable,” intoned Drax, “that you are the smallest of us all yet you have the longest criminal record.”
“Nuh-uh.” Rocket jabbed a finger at Gamora. “I seen her record. Her rap sheet's waaay longer.”
“You're wrong.” Gamora said crisply. “Because I was never caught.”
“Guys!” Peter got to his feet. “How're we meant to guard the galaxy if you're banned from half of it?”
“Half of the area you have selected is unexplored space.” Gamora pointed out. She reached out and stroked one slender scarred finger across the screen, magnifying the area so it was large enough for them all to see the red 'UNSURVEYED' warning flashing on the screen; the galactic equivalent of 'Here Be Dragons'.
“That's awesome!” enthused Peter.
The rest of the group exchanged glances.
“You must be crazy,” Rocket said flatly.
“I think your language has a different meaning for 'awesome'” said Drax.
Gamora folded her arms. “How are we meant to make any money from exploration?”
“We could seek out new life and new civilisations.” Peter dredged up memories from a long-lost TV show.
“What a crock of shit.” Rocket snarled.
“We could kill Thanos,” Drax rumbled.
“Sure,” Peter said, That might work-if we knew where he was.”
“It was just a suggestion.” If it was possible for someone who outweighed the rest of the crew by fifty pounds of pure muscle to look hurt, then Drax was wounded.
“We'll get to that. Guys-you're not listening. There's a legend from my home planet about a brave starship captain named Kirk. He explored the galaxy with his crew in his starship Enterprise. Their five year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life, and new civilisations. To boldly go where no man has gone before. We could do that!”
“Did this Kirk visit many planets?” Drax asked.
“A new one every week.” said Peter.
“Did he mine the planets for riches?” Gamora's voice brightened.
It had been a long time, but Peter could not remember Captain Kirk doing a great deal of mining. “I don't think so.”
“Did he find new tech?” Rocket asked.
“Not much. But-”
“Did he perhaps sell his skills as a mercenary to these new civilizations?” Drax asked.
“No.” Peter had to admit that Captain Kirk was not the best example. “The Enterprise was a peaceful ship. It didn't even have guns.”
“Where's the fun in that?” Rocket said.
“Where's the money?” asked Gamora.
Peter had to admit he didn't know. “I think Kirk was government funded,” he said lamely.
“Would the Novans fund us?” suggested Drax.
“I doubt it.” Peter said.
Drax shrugged. He pulled a knife from the side of his boot and began to scrape a whetstone up and down the blade.
“Oh, who cares.” Peter jabbed a finger at the handful of stars on the screen. “Eeeney, meeny, miney, mo..” He stopped. “This one. Anyone heard of Kaitos?”
Drax shook his head. Rocket shrugged. Gamora yawned.
Peter flicked on the tape deck. “Hit it,” he said, charting their course towards Kaitos as the opening bars of 'Ooh Child' by The Five Stairsteps thumped over the speakers.
“Hit what?” Drax asked.
Peter rolled his eyes. “Never mind.” He lip-synched to the chorus. “Ooh-oo child. Things are gonna get easi-er.”
“Not that song again.” Rocket rolled his eyes.
Peter turned the music up. His shimmied his hips a little, insofar as it was possible to shimmy in a bucket seat. “Ooh-oo child. Things are gonna get brii-ghter.”
“They certainly will when you fire us all into the sun,” Gamora snapped. “Watch where you're going.”
“Yeah, Kaitos,” Rocket sang. “Watch out, 'cause the Guardians of the Galaxy are on their way to yoo-oo”. He yowled out the final bars with Peter, then hesitated. “Is the galaxy going to pay us?”
“I don't know,” Peter said as the Milano swooped through space. “Let's find out.”
Things are gonna get easier
Things'll get brighter
Some day, yeah
We'll get it together and we'll get it all done
When your head is much lighter
Some day, yeah
We'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
When the world is much brighter.”
The Five Stairsteps-Ooh Child.
Peter Quill “What should we do next? Something good, something bad? Bit of both?”
Gamora: “We'll follow your lead, Star-Lord.”
Peter Quill “A bit of both!”