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I Got A Landmine In My Bloodline

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It starts off as a twinge, a dull, throbbing ache that tugs just to the right of his navel. It's not unbearable but it hurts enough to wake Peter up and after that it's all he can think about. He lays in his bunk for several long, painful seconds, staring up at the ceiling and breathing shallowly. He's been on the ship for months now but he's still not used to waking up in a cold, metal-walled room in the middle of a galaxy he doesn't know the name of. Sometimes he wonders if this has all been a long, vivid, horrible dream brought on by the stress of his mother being in the hospital. He keeps thinking/hoping/praying that one day he'll wake up at home, back on earth and in his grandparent's house. He'd been staying with them before his mother...well, before he was taken away. He keeps hoping that maybe, just maybe, he'll get back there one day.

The pain in his stomach throbs sharply and he hisses in a breath, slowly pulling himself up into a sitting position. It hurts like hell but, then again, so does lying down. At least if he's sitting up, the weight is distributed a bit more evenly and there isn't as much pressure on his abdomen. One arm curls instinctively across his stomach and he winces slightly. He wonders if he pulled a muscle the day before or if something he ate was trying to pass along a message.

For a long moment, nothing but the tight, throbbing ache happens. He sits on the edge of his bunk and counts his heartbeat in time with each throb. It's deep, all the way down to his core, and it makes him feel shaky. His fingers clench in the thin blankets and he takes another shallow breath, briefly wondering if he's about to be sick.

There's a loud thump against the door that causes him to jump and subsequently flinch at the same time. "Get up, brat!" a loud voice booms from outside the door and there's another thump from something that sounds remarkably like a boot slamming into the door. "You're going into the shafts today!"

Peter resists the urge to groan. He hated the shafts more than any other chore on the ship and he was always the one who got stuck doing it. He was the smallest and therefore the most obvious candidate to shove into the ventilation shafts of the ship to clear out any debris that got sucked up inside during their travels. It was cramped, hot, and he always stood about a 60% chance of getting sucked into a turbine if he wasn't careful.

Still, for as much as he hated the shafts, it was better than being forced to work with the rest of the crew. They were rough and violent and he didn't think he could handle that today with how he was feeling. He'd been here for a few months now and while they hadn't killed him yet, Peter knew it wasn't too far outside the realms of possibility one day. Also, he's pretty sure a few of them still want to eat him given the right incentive. So yeah, the shafts suck but at least he can do that alone.

It takes a lot of effort to pull himself to his feet and get dressed and even then, every movement is measured and slow. Every step causes a twinge of pain to shoot through his abdomen and Peter feels flushed and out of breath by the time he's fully dressed. He pulls on his boots carefully and straightens up, letting out a slow, shallow breath as he makes it up to his full height. The sooner he got out there, the sooner he could get finished and lay back down. Maybe the pain would stop by then, maybe the work would take his mind off of it, maybe-

"Move it!" the voice from outside booms again and Peter feels a muscle in his jaw clench slightly in irritation. He pushes the door open and comes face-to-face a huge, musclebound thug named Rist. Peter wasn't sure where exactly Rist was from but he looked like an odd combination of man and bull. His body was huge and bulky, bulging with layers upon layers of muscle. He had a square face and a wide nose with a silver hoop through the septum. There are two lumps on top of his head that Peter is pretty sure might have been horns at some point in time but now they're filed down to flat, bony nubs. Peter is also pretty sure that, given his violent and often unpredictable temperament, Rist had probably stabbed more than one person with said horns which would explain why he doesn't have them anymore.

"Took you long enough," Rist growls when Peter appears at the door, snorting out an exaggerated huff like he'd been waiting for hours.

Peter rolls his eyes and shoves past him out into the hallway. "Blow me," he grumbles in reply, forcing himself to stand up straight in spite of the throbbing pain in his stomach. His mother would have washed his mouth out with soap if she'd ever heard him talking like that but he'd learned from day one that you couldn't be soft and timid and live with the Ravagers.

There was nearly a constant power struggle onboard the ship, the fight between who was tough enough and who was a waste of space. Peter never wanted to be on top but he certainly didn't want to be at the bottom either so he'd established himself right in the middle and fought to keep it that way. In spite of his size and the presumed weakness of his Terran biology, Peter had proven himself to be quite the scrappy fighter with one hell of right hook. It was enough to impress some of the crew members and make others steer clear. They didn't respect him (Ravagers don't respect much of anything other than money and bounties) but they knew that Peter wasn't afraid to fight dirty and would use that to his advantage if need be.

Rist hears the remark and mutters a shockingly vulgar curse of his own back at Peter but leaves it at that. It seems neither of them are in the mood to fight (rare for someone like Rist) so the pretext of battle drops there. Peter walks as straight as he's able down to the hull of the ship, fighting the urge to wrap an arm across his stomach again. Rist is lumbering along behind him, heavy boots vibrating the metal floors below, and it wouldn't do to show any kind of weakness in front of the other man. They may have reached a pseudo-truce a few minutes before but that didn't mean Rist wouldn't jump at the opportunity to take Peter down if he saw an ounce of vulnerability.

They reach the hull of the ship a few minutes later and Peter stops at the vented duct he'll be crawling into. The pain in his stomach is starting to make him nauseous and he swallows thickly before speaking. "How many am I cleaning?" he asks, tilting his head up to meet the other Ravager's eyes.

"Front half of the ship," Rist tells him shortly, reaching out and literally jerking the vent off the wall as indication. "Sykes has the back half. Get it done and you won't spend the night in the ducts again."

That had happened one time when Peter was first assigned to clean out the shafts. He'd gotten lost in the long, winding ducts that traveled all throughout the ship and had ended up spending the night curled up in a corner above the engine room. He had a little bit more experience with it now and knew his way around the ship better (sort of) but cleaning out the shafts, even just for the front half of the ship, was still an all day event. He'd be lucky if he got it done in the next eight hours.

Peter grumbles again and grabs his tools which consist of a broom and something that kind of resembled a blow torch. The shafts were great at making sure no excess trash or space junk got sucked into the engine but that meant said trash would just sit in the ducts until it was forcefully removed. That's where the broom and the blow torch came in handy; most of it could just be swept/shoveled out but some of the larger pieces needed to be broken down a bit via blowtorch before they could be cleaned out. Most of the debris that got sucked up into the bowels of the ship consisted of dust and chunks of rocks from asteroid fields and occasionally bits of metal and oil from unlucky ships that had been destroyed or damaged during a fight with the Ravagers. Peter once found what looked like the charred remains of a hand among the chunks of debris and had to actively force himself not to think about where it had come from.

He climbs into the shaft, pulling his tools along with him. The pain in his stomach twinges sharply and he almost gasps but manages to hold it in while Rist is still standing there. Once Peter is far enough inside, Rist shoves the vent back into the wall and stomps away, leaving Peter alone inside the shaft.

Peter waits until he hears the other Ravager's footsteps retreat down the hall before he lets out a painful moan and curls onto his side. The muscles in his abdomen feel tight and rigid and the pain shifts into a cramp that seizes him from front to back. He wraps his arms around his middle and takes a few shallow, shaking breaths as the spasm continues. It's worse than any pain he's ever felt before and it's strong enough to paralyze him in the ventilation shaft. He's been sick to his stomach before; he's had food poisoning and stomach viruses and everything in between. This doesn't feel like any of those.

The pain recedes just marginally after about five minutes, just enough for Peter to uncurl himself and sit up inside the shaft. His hands are trembling and he can feel a clammy sweat breaking out across his forehead but he doesn't vomit so he counts that as a victory. His fingers are still weakly curled around the broom handle and he uses that as leverage to push himself up onto his knees.

The shaft seems to stretch on for miles in front of him and just from where he's sitting Peter can tell it's filthy. They hadn't been cleaned out in over two months which meant two months worth of trash and debris were now cluttering the cramped vents. Peter bites back another curse as he makes his way to the nearest pile, still breathing shallowly against the spasms of pain that continue to shoot through his stomach. The sooner he got started, the sooner he would get done. Didn't mean he would be done anytime soon though...