Nebula sat in the cockpit of her ravager ship. The cold seeped through the metal, everything powered down, as she considered the stars surrounding her, and the slightly brighter pinprick of light that was Peter Quill’s ship, Gamora’s ship. She was so much machine she always ran hot, the delicate motors imbedded in her nervous system always a soft humming noise in her ears.
They should have left by now. The brightly colored lights honoring whatever his face had been. What were they waiting for?
A whispered voice ran through the circuits of her metallic parts, For you.
Nebula scoffed. That was idiotic. Maybe she and Gamora were not actively trying to kill each other anymore, but Gamora would not wait for her. It wasn’t Nebula’s name that Gamora had cried out during the fight with Quill’s planetary dad.
Her jaws clenched on each other, her robot hand clenching at her knee.
Maybe it meant something that Gamora and her new family wasn’t going to turn her over to rot in prison. No, Gamora had just let her go off on her own to kill Thanos, their father, which was surely a suicide mission.
Fear sparked through her, and Nebula tamped it down. Gamora could just have easily let her go because she believed Nebula to be her own person, capable of making her own choices. For so long they had both done as their father willed, taken from their homes as their parents were slaughtered.
Perhaps that ship with all those squabbling idiots was her home, and maybe Gamora knew that Nebular would just see that as another cage.
Or maybe Gamora really didn’t care if Nebula went out in an electric fire going against their dad. Of course, Nebula had an edge where Gamora didn’t. Thanos wanted Gamora, his favorite daughter to return. Thanos probably did not know Nebula lived, nor did he care. She might as well be invisible to him, and that would be his undoing.
The bright star of Quill’s ship gleamed. There would be only one way to find out why they waited, or why Gamora had been content to embrace her and then let Nebula go off on what even she realized was a misguided death wish, even if It was fueled by righteous anger.
“Oh my god,” Nebula muttered as she powered up the engines, and turned the ship back toward Gamora.
Within a few minutes, she was in hailing distance. She got Drax unfortunately, who kept calling her “Nebular” and claiming they didn’t know anybody name “Nebular.”
“Ne-Bu-LA!” she screamed into her ship’s communication system.
This had been a mistake. She should turn around and go after Thanos. There was a scuffle in the background. Gamora snapped, give me that, while Drax guffawed like he’d just played the world’s greatest joke. Then Gamora said, “Nebula?”
“Are you going to let me dock or what?”
“You came back?”
Nebula rolled her eyes. “I could turn right back around.”
The ship creaked, its bay doors opening, and Nebular navigated the craft into it. The doors sealed, air pressure hissing in geysered steam. Not that she needed air to breathe. She could survive in space. Not for long, but long enough.
Still, she waited for her sensors to flash that it was safe to exit the craft. Gamora was hanging in the hall, and Nebula brushed past her, shoulder bumping shoulder. “Miss me?”
“Don’t you want to see where you’re sleeping?” Gamora said, “or was your plan to just lurk around like some thief in the night?”
“You’re the thieves,” Nebula said, but she hadn’t considered where she would stay if she returned. But it sounded like Gamora already had a place, so did that mean they had been waiting for her.
Gamora raised her thin silver eyebrows.
“Fine.” Nebula followed Gamora at a distance. The baby tree was sleeping in one of the window sills, while Mantis watched it intently. Quill and the fox were shouting at each other in the cockpit about the best way to escape a black hole, like that would actually ever matter in anything but the grandest of hypotheticals. Drax, now that he had had his little joke, slept in a chair with his feet propped up on the table. Mud dripped from the soles, and Nebula made a memory file to never eat anything off that table.
“Here you go,” Gamora said. She held a battered banged up door open. There was a bed, and a window staring out into the void of space. There were empty shelves, and plain walls.
“It’s your room.” Gamora said patiently.
Nebula’s nostrils flared. “My very own room? I don’t have to share with—“ she jerked her head over to where Quill and the fox were still shouting at each other.
“It’s all yours.”
Nebula stepped into the room, neck craning as she took in the space. The door closed gently behind her, and Nebula was alone. She sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, her fingers tapping patterns into the cloth.
What was she doing here?
The engines throttled so it seemed that they had finally decided to stop bickering and were on their way to—somewhere. She leaned back against the thin mattress, and let her eyes close.
Nebula had trained herself to wake when her neural implants sensed the beginning of the nightmares. Her planet shone purple and blue in their sun, and the droning voice of another of her so-called brothers, sharing the good news that their lives would finally have purpose in their deaths.
Her eyes flipped open before Thanos appeared. “You’re a fighter,” he had told her, like it was important, like it meant something other than whatever he had planned for her. He took her hand, something so small and fragile he could crush it if he chose, and he did choose, eventually.
The walls encroached upon her, and she jerked from the bed, and opened the door into the wider hallways of the ship, where there was more air to breathe. She could tell from the way the engines thrummed that the ship was on autopilot. It was a wonder that Drax’s snoring hadn’t been the thing to wake her up. Groot was still in the window. If she listened closely enough, and she didn’t because it was gross, she could hear Quill and Gamora together.
There was still dirt on the table from Drax’s boots. Nebular searched the cupboards for something to eat. There was stale dried bread, and she munched on it as she looked for something else, maybe some fruit that was actually ripe.
“You can’t sleep?”
Nebula whirled around. It was the one called Mantis. There was a slight glow to her antennae in the dim light. “It’s not your concern.”
“But I am concerned,” Mantis said. She sat at the table and looked at Nebula.
Nebula rolled her eyes. She sat opposite of Mantis. “You’re an empath?”
Mantis nodded. “Would you like me to help you sleep?”
Nebula imagined Mantis’s hand against her forehead and she recoiled. “it won’t work on me.”
“I have too much machinery in me,” Nebula said. “Thanos made me and Gamora fight, to make us better, he said. Every time I lost, he would replace a part of me with machinery.” The story came to her by rote. She thought of it constantly. “Gamora always won.”
“I don’t think that matters.” Her hands spread against the surface of the table. “I am still learning how to use my empathic abilities.” Her gaze lit up. “We could try it, and if I’m wrong you can laugh and point and say I told you so.”
“Fine,” Nebula said. They went back to her room, and Nebula stretched out on the bed. She wasn’t sure what to do with her hands. Put them on her chest, by her side, under her head? She settled with pressing them underneath her thighs.
“Don’t you want to go under the covers?”
“I don’t get cold. Now are you going to do it or not?”
Mantis pressed her palm against Nebula’s forehead. Her skin was warm and dry, but Nebula stiffened against her.
“Relax,” Mantis whispered, “and sleep.”
Nebula’s consciousness submerged far deeper than any dream could touch.