I'm a man that will go far
Fly the moon and reach for the stars
With my sword and head held high
Got to pass the test first time, yeah
I know that people talk about me, I hear it every day
But I can prove them wrong 'cause I'm right first time
- Queen, Princes of the Universe, 1986
They met with the client at a tavern on a backwater moon known as Neivis 6. A sign over the door declared the tavern’s name to be The Vengeful Spearfruit. Quill and his fellow Guardians of the Galaxy were just here to make a quick, quiet, and highly profitable deal. The client had requested that they retrieve an object from an archeological site. Apparently the guy couldn't just go get it himself because of some sort of territorial conflict, and so the Guardians, ever willing to assist someone in need, especially someone who paid in cash with half up front, had retrieved the item with very few complications. Now, after a discreet exchange of goods and money, the Guardians would be on their way. Perhaps it was time for a vacation. Only three jumps away, Palcade had a resort where you could bathe in pure moonwater under the stars, listen to bands playing music from all over the galaxy, and mingle with many attractive beings. Most of them even had humanoid forms. They'd have the money to visit a resort like that when the deal was done, even after paying for some well-needed repairs on the Benatar.
The tavern was dark, barely occupied, with a heavy scent of rot that the owners had tried to cover with smoke from smudge pots. Viewscreens flickered on the walls and the tables, some showing an old Kree documentary and the rest scrolling through a list of sports scores for the most popular games in the local star system. Which meant the owner hadn’t sprung for even a basic vid subscription, which meant he wasn’t going to get many customers during the game tonight, which meant this was the perfect place for a quasi-legal business transaction. And the spearfruit ale was pretty good.
Their client, a Rasathman called Mitrik Riit, sat at the end of the table. He was a grey reptile-man, who looked at them through slit pupils and spoke with a hiss in his voice. He had two humanoid bodyguards, one on either side of him, both in the same shade of grey, with visors across their eyes. They carried no visible weapons. Quill, on the other hand, had locked his pistols in a wall cabinet along with Drax’s knives, Rocket’s gun and some sort of bladed pistol belonging to Mitrik Riit. It was a show of courtesy, but just a show. The cabinet was made of plaswood and one good punch would crumble it. Most of the people in the room carried concealed weapons anyway. It was the way business was done.
When everyone had taken their seats, Quill lifted the preservation case and set it on the table. He straightened his back, tugged the lapels of his red leather coat, and said, with as much ceremony as he could, “Through great hardship and extreme personal risk, we have-”
“Just give it to usss,” Riit snapped.
“You know, I worked on this speech-” Quill looked at Riit’s expression and sighed. “Cash first.”
Riit took a unit card from his pocket, held it up. Gamora leaned over and scanned it. “Ten thousand units,” she said. Riit put the card flat on the table and covered it with one grey ridged hand.
“Shhow it to me,” he said.
Quill shook his head in disappointment. “No sense of style,” he said. He popped the catches on the preservation case, which let out a small hiss as the air escaped. He lifted a silvery cylinder about a foot long and half a foot in diameter. It was etched with the letters of a language he didn’t know and had indents around the edges at regular intervals, just the right size to hook a finger into.
“Here,” Quill said. “Just as requested-” He lost his grip on the cylinder and it slid from his hands. He grabbed for it, managed to hook two fingers in the indents, and lifted it up to show it to everyone. “It’s fine, nothing to-” He felt two clicks at the tips of his fingers and the world blurred and changed.
Peter pulled on his linen shirt, a Dwarven-made chainmail shirt, and a red velvet tunic embroidered with the Lion of Narnia in gold. He buckled on his sword belt and studied himself in the mirror. He wanted to show strength, but not aggression. He took off his favorite steel dagger and replaced it with another one that had jewels embedded all over the hilt. The blade was little better than tin, but it looked showy.
Peter looked out the window. The royal family had their own private tower and Peter’s rooms were on the top floor; a benefit of being the High King. The Calormene party was nowhere in sight. Good. Plenty of time, then. Several of the Magpies would be watching the sea and send word when Prince Rabadash’s ship was spotted.
He met his brother Edmund coming down the stairs. Edmund’s tunic was faded from washing and had been patched along one side. “Going to the salle?” Peter guessed.
Edmund nodded. “I’ve got a bit of time before lunch.”
Peter sighed. “You should be meeting with the Prince. You’re much better at diplomacy than me.”
Edmund grinned. “But you’re the High King, with all the rights and privileges thereof.”
The High King stuck out his tongue at his younger brother. “Practice well, then. I will meet you on the battleground tomorrow.”
“I will,” Edmund said. “Did you find a gift for the Prince?”
Peter stopped abruptly. “Oh, Lion’s Toes,” he swore. “I was going to ask Auntie Beaver and I forgot.”
Edmund frowned in thought, then said, “The Treasury. There’s some things that might do on the shelves near the back. Come on, we should have time to find something and give it a good dusting before they get here.”
"What about this?" Peter asked, holding up a necklace.
Edmund recoiled. "By the Mane, that's hideous."
"They outfit themselves in colorful garb, don't they?"
"Not quite that colorful. Besides, it's not a proper gift if we're trying to rid ourselves of it," Edmund said. He took an engraved knife off the shelf in the treasury. "What of this?"
"It's lovely," Peter said. "But I believe it's ill luck to gift a weapon to someone you wish to form a friendship with. Oh!" he exclaimed, pulling an object from behind a vase. "What is this?" He held up a silvery engraved cylinder with indents on the edges.
"How odd!" Edmund said. "Perhaps you use it in the kitchen?" He did not spend much time in the kitchen.
"Or hang it on the wall." Peter blew dust off of it.
"Maybe a weapon?" Edmund suggested.
Peter turned it over. "I can't see how," he said. He slipped his fingers in the indents. "Unless it's some sort of ma-" His fingers pressed something that clicked and Peter disappeared.
Another man appeared in his place. He had dark blond hair, a long, red leather coat and it had been a while since his last shave. "-worry about-" He stopped speaking and stared at Edmund. This man carried a cylinder identical to the one Peter had held. Even as Edmund watched, it crumbled into sand and sifted through his fingers to the floor. "Shit!" the man said. "That's ten thousand units gone. You got a dustpan?" he asked Edmund. "Maybe we can still get partial payment. Also, who the hell are you and where the hell am I?"
"You are in Cair Paravel and I am King Edmund," Edmund said. "What did you do with my brother?"
"Never touched him, I swear!" The man held up his hands. "We talked, that's all. Okay, we had a few drinks, got to know each other a bit, but it was all perfectly -" He frowned. "Wait, which one is your brother?"
"Peter," Edmund said, exasperated.
Edmund sighed, dragged his hand over his face, and said, very calmly. "With whom am I speaking?"
There was a moment of silence, then the man in red leather pointed to himself. "Oh, me? I'm Peter Quill, Captain of the Benatar, but you probably know me as Star-"
"Peter!" Lucy poked her head through the door at the top of the stairs. "The Calormen delegation will be here in half an hour. Are you ready? Oh, hello Edmund. Where is Peter?"
"That's rather the question of the hour," Edmund said dryly. He turned back to Peter Quill. "I'm sorry, please continue."
Quill sighed. "Star-Lord. Also known as Peter, also known as Quill, call me whatever because no one freaking listens when I talk."
"My deepest apologies," Edmund said. "This is my sister, the Queen Lucy. Will you please accompany me upstairs? We have food and drink, if you like, and we can sort this all out."
"Sure, I guess," Quill said. "Brother and sister, huh?"
Lucy smiled. "There are four of us who rule. We have another sister and brother, the Queen Susan and the High King Peter. Peter's the one that seems to be missing."
"Hey, if it works for you, 's all good." Quill looked around the treasury, with glittering jewels, swords and precious artifacts scattered on shelves and hanging from the walls. "So... is this stuff, like, for anybody?"
Edmund stared at him.
"No? Okay, that's cool." Quill said.
"Do you have a gift for the Calormen?" Lucy asked Edmund.
Edmund sighed. "Where's that hideous necklace?" He turned back to the shelf. Quill stepped out of his way and jingled slightly. Edmund frowned.
“Oh, this necklace?” Quill asked, producing it from the air.
"Use the tea set," Lucy commanded, pointing to a lower shelf. "We'll share a bit of Narnian culture and all that. Come on, we haven't much time!"
"Right." Edmund picked up the tea set and went upstairs. Quill left the necklace on a shelf and followed Edmund.
Edmund filled Lucy in on the situation as they walked. "He swapped places with Peter? Are you sure?" she asked
"One minute our Peter was there, and the next the Star-Lord took his place. As we haven't any wardrobes down there, I think we can assume it was the item Peter picked from the shelves that did the switch," Edmund said.
"Where is the item?" Lucy asked.
"It sorta fell apart," Quill said. He mimed brushing something off his hands. "Dust in the wind."
"Well, that will make things more difficult," Lucy said, chewing her lip.
"You think?" asked Quill.
“I'll fetch Susan and Sallowpad and Mr. Tumnus and we'll have a council immediately after Edmund's seen to the Calormen delegation,” Lucy said.
"I don't expect it will take long," Edmund said. "I'm just welcoming them to Narnia. We won't begin proper discussions until the dinner this evening." He looked down at his worn tunic. “Oh, blast, I’ve got to change. We’ll talk later,” he told Quill, and left them.
"Star-Lord Quill, I will take you to Auntie Beaver," Lucy said. "She'll provide you lunch and anything else you might need.”
“Sure,” Quill said. “Auntie Beaver.”
Quill expected a woman in a frilly apron, maybe with a scarf over her grey bun. What he got was… a beaver. Lucy led him to a kitchen where two very large mice and a badger chopped vegetables, kneaded dough and stirred a boiling pot of something that smelled really good. Auntie Beaver did wear an apron, though it was rather plain and covered with flour. Quill didn’t spot any cybernetic enhancements. It was probably rude to ask.
“Auntie Beaver, this is Star-Lord Peter Quill,” Lucy said. “Star-Lord, this is Auntie Beaver. She runs the household and we’d be utterly lost without her.”
“My Lord,” Auntie said, with a quick curtsy.
“Oh, I’m not-” Quill paused. Why couldn’t he be a lord, if he wanted? “-very formal. You can just call me Quill when we’re not being fancy.” He offered his hand and she shook it.
“Quill has arrived rather suddenly and with none of his belongings. Will you please assist him?” Lucy asked.
“Of course,” Auntie Beaver said. “Have you eaten today?”
“Just breakfast,” Quill said.
“Auntie, will you please make sure he finds his way to the parlor by one?” Lucy asked. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave you for a bit,” she told Quill.
“I’ll take care of him, don’t you worry,” Auntie said.
“You’re a darling,” Lucy said. She gave Auntie Beaver a kiss on the cheek and left the kitchen.
Auntie Beaver offered Quill a lunch of stew, fresh baked bread, grapes, cheese and wine and led him to a long dining hall lined with tapestries. It seemed to be the end of lunchtime, but a few diners still lingered, chatting. At one table, a Squirrel was arguing with a Centaur.
“Don’t mind them,” Auntie Beaver said. “Nibblestrip is convinced the Centaurs can control the weather, not just predict it, and nobody can convince her otherwise.”
Quill took a seat and picked up a hunk of bread. They’d been eating rehydrated frozen food packs for the last couple days, which were filling and allegedly nutritious, but not very good as a dining experience. "Thish-" Quill said, his mouth stuffed with bread, "-ish really good. Really good."
Auntie Beaver beamed with pride. "Thank you. How long will you be staying?"
Quill chewed and swallowed. "Don’t really know yet."
"We're a bit full up at the moment," Auntie Beaver said. "We've even opened the dungeons for sleeping space. Chained the doors open, of course, and hung up blankets for privacy. Dusted everything, beat the rugs clean, had to mend a couple of quilts because the mice had gotten in to play poker and they are careless with their pipes. But nobody’s complained.”
"I can sleep wherever, but I don't think I'll be staying very long," Quill said.
"Well, we'll get you sorted, don't you worry," she said.
After Quill had eaten his fill, Auntie Beaver lead him into a parlor. The parlor had stone walls and a stone floor, but a thick, burgundy rug covered the floor and the soft midday light filled the room from a large window overlooking the sea. Quill sat in a chair that was soft enough to be cozy but not so soft that he sank in deep. It was a very welcoming parlor.
Lucy joined him soon, and brought with her a huge raven and a man who had the upper body of a man and the lower body of a goat. His legs were so hairy that Quill thought they were pants at first, but he realized that the man was only wearing a long leather loincloth. A bold fashion choice.
Lucy introduced the raven as Sallowpad. The goat-man - a faun, Lucy said - was called Mr. Tumnus.
"Susan and Edmund should be here soon," Lucy said. "Oh, here they are." The door opened. Edmund entered first. He now wore a dark red tunic over a silver-grey shirt with flowing sleeves and had a gold circlet of braided wire with a ruby set in the front.
"Did it go all right?" Lucy asked.
Edmund sat down on a couch and tossed the circlet carelessly on the table beside it. "They weren't happy that Peter was absent. The Prince seemed to take it as a slight." He ran his fingers through his hair. "I made excuses as best I could, but I think Peter should arrange a meeting as soon as possible once he returns."
The raven croaked, and said, "It is as the old saying goes, 'It is easier to make a friend than to unmake an enemy.'" Quill jumped when he spoke; he hadn't expected the bird to speak. Fortunately, everyone was looking at the raven and didn't notice.
"Exactly," Edmund said. "Let's get Peter back, then, shall we?" The door opened again and a woman entered. She wore a long, green gown, laced in the front, with sleeves that fell to the floor. Unlike Lucy and Edmund, who were fair, this woman had raven black hair, braided in long strands and wrapped around her head, with flowers woven in. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Quill rose to his feet without thinking. Lucy let out an almost imperceptible sigh.
"Have I kept you waiting?" she asked. "I'm very sorry. There was a mix-up with the booths at the fair and three of the Badgers nearly came to blows with Flintmane."
"Hadn't started yet," Quill said. "You must be Queen Susan." He stuck out his hand. "Peter Quill. Called Star-Lord."
"It's lovely to meet you, Star-Lord," Susan said. She put her hand in his and Quill gave it a light kiss.
"Likewise, your Highness."
"Majesty," Edmund corrected quietly.
"Your Majesty," Quill said.
"I think we can begin now," Edmund said. Taking the cue, Quill and Susan sat down. Quill returned to his chair and Susan sat next to Lucy on a couch. Edmund turned to Quill. "What do you know of the device that switched you?"
"Well, we - my crew and I - were hired to retrieve it. It was in this abandoned ruin on this planet that had gone wild after a big earthquake a few centuries back. We're used to handling rough stuff so it wasn't a big deal." He shrugged, trying to appear effortlessly cool, like Don Johnson. He didn't mention that there had been someone else excavating the site when they'd arrived. Did that really matter?
"Planet?" Lucy asked. "You've been to more than one planet?"
"Sure, lots," Quill said. "Haven't you?"
Edmund, Susan and Lucy shared a look. “My sisters, my brother, and I traveled from another land to this one,” Edmund said. “We didn’t go by ship, though. We came through a wardrobe.”
Quill frowned. “What’s a wardrobe?”
“You hang clothing in it,” Lucy said.
“Like a closet?” Quill asked.
“Yes, exactly,” Lucy said.
“How did you steer it?” Quill asked. “What kind of fuel did it use? How did you all fit?” He looked at their faces. “You know, I really feel like I’m missing something here.”
“Magic,” Edmund said. “We went into the wardrobe, walked all the way to the back and walked out into a snowy forest.”
“That’s it?” Quill asked.
“That’s it,” Susan said.
“Can we use it?” Quill asked.
Susan shook her head. “It only goes one place, and you always get there at the time you left. I don’t think it would help us find Peter and I’m not sure if you could travel through it at all.”
"Do you think our Peter is in space?" Lucy asked.
"Probably," Quill said. "If he's with my crew, he's off-planet by now." There was a long moment of silent consideration, until Edmund spoke.
"Well, there goes my plan of sending a party to fetch him," he said.
“Is he safe?” Lucy asked Quill.
Quill shrugged. “Never know what you’ll run into out there. My guys’ll look after him, though.”
"Look, Su, is there an inventory of the treasury?" Edmund asked.
"Yes, of course," Susan said. "But many records were lost during the Hundred Years' Winter and I had to create new lists. We may not have more than a description."
“It’s worth a look,” Edmund said.
"There are books that contain myths about Men," Mr. Tumnus said. "Perhaps this has happened before."
"We should reconvene after we've gathered more information," Susan said. "Assuming the situation doesn't right itself before then. Star-Lord Quill, has Auntie Beaver found sleeping arrangements for you?"
Quill shook his head. "She just said the dungeons were full."
"I will speak to her," Susan said. "We're providing meals for all festival guests; Auntie Beaver can give you a schedule. I'll let her know that she's to help you if you need clothing or any other necessities. Please don't hesitate to ask for anything."
“Thanks,” Quill said.
They stood up to leave, and Lucy walked over to Quill. “There’s a party this evening for the festival guests and you’re welcome to attend.”
“Sounds good,” Quill said. “I’d love to. What’s this festival about, anyway?”
“The Crown Prince of Calormen - that’s south of here, past Archenland - heard of Susan’s beauty and he has come to court her and perhaps ask her to be his wife. We are throwing a great festival in his honor, with feasts and tourneys and a fair,” Edmund said. The corners of his mouth quirked up just a little as he watched Quill’s expression.
“She’s not available then,” Quill said, and sighed.
“No,” Edmund said. His smile faded. “And I would ask that, whatever your interest in Susan, you do not interfere-”
“Nope!” Quill lifted his hand. “Don’t worry. Not doing that again. Getting royally fucked ain’t worth getting royally fucked, if you know what I mean.”
“I believe I get the gist, yes” Edmund said dryly.
Lucy smiled. “You’ve come to Narnia at a wonderful time,” she told Quill. She bit her lip. “But I do hope Peter’s okay.”
“-gic-” Peter said, and stopped. He found himself in a room he'd never seen before. He stood at the end of a long table, built from battered metal with images etched in glass over the surface. The walls had a straight, even grain, too regular to be natural wood. The floor was covered in a rug worn thin and faded grey from long use. Other chairs and tables sat around the room, as battered as the rest of the room, but empty of people. The place reminded him of the Dwarven tavern in Glasswater, though the tools displayed on the walls looked like none he'd ever seen.
At the table in front of him, six people stared up at him. A frowning raccoon, a tree with a small device in his hands, and a pretty woman with dark hair and antennae rising from her forehead sat to his left. A large blue man with red tattoos and a green woman with red and black hair sat to his right. A grey-skinned man in a dark suit sat at the end a two grey humanoid figures with grey visors over their eyes stood behind him. Peter couldn't see their eyes, but they did not seem to be looking at anyone in particular.
Peter cleared his throat. "Hello," he said. "I am Peter, High King of Narnia. I seem to have encountered a strange bit of magic. Could you please tell me where I am?"
"You're in The Vengeful Spearfruit ," the green woman said. "Where has Quill gone?"
Peter shook his head. "I don't know who that is." He looked down at the object in his hands and lifted it up to take a closer look. At the first hint of movement, the object shuddered, and a moment later it shattered into pieces as tiny as sand and fell through Peter's fingers. The man in the suit stood up and slammed his hands on the table. The glass panels on the table turned blue and symbols in white scrolled rapidly across them. The suited man was short, shorter than Lucy, but stout. He had grey ridges running down his neck and across his hands.
"That iss my property you have desstroyed," the man hissed, and now Peter saw that he had a green forked tongue.
"I really don't think so," Peter said, taken aback by the man's intensity. "It came from the Cair Paravel treasury, which makes it property of-"
"Take them!" the grey man said to his grey servants. Peter drew his sword. The others jumped up from the table, though the tree took a few extra moments to tap something on his tablet before he got up.
The blue man smiled. "It will take more than three of you to defeat us."
“Groot!” the raccoon snapped. The tree slapped his device against his back and branches grew over it to hold it in place. At the same time, the tree’s branches extended, punched a cabinet on the wall and pulled out the weapons inside. He dropped them in the hands of his companions.
The grey man smiled. Both his guards stepped to the side, but left themselves standing in the same place. Each of the four humanoids took a step backwards, leaving their other selves standing in front of them. The green woman drew the hilt of a sword from under her coat and with a flick of her wrist, a blade extended. She thrust it into the nearest humanoid. The creature faded briefly and the sword passed harmlessly through it. It grabbed the green woman's arm and she screamed as grey steam rose from its hand. She twisted and knelt, pulled herself out of the grip and tried to kick its ankles. Her feet passed through it and she stumbled. She caught the back of a chair to keep herself from hitting the floor.
The eight humanoids spread out and duplicated again. The raccoon shot one with an enormous gun, but again the humanoid faded and the shot passed through it.
"I am Groot," the tree said nervously.
"Run?!" the blue man indignantly. "I don't think so."
"Let's call it a strategic retreat," the green woman said. Her arm had gone grey in the spot the humanoid had grabbed, but she ignored it. She dashed around the blue man and pointed her sword at Peter's throat. "You will come with us."
"Yes, ma'am," Peter said politely. It seemed the best strategy for the moment. He sheathed his sword.
"Follow Rocket," she said. The raccoon, who was halfway out the door, looked back at this. Peter guessed that was Rocket. The creature ran out the door and Peter followed. Once outside, he stumbled to a stop, agape. Buildings towered over him, lit with strings of lanterns in all different colors. Great glowing signs hung suspended on cables crossing between the buildings. Advertisements, Peter guessed, though he didn't know the language. Around him were all sorts of people, strange people in different colors and sizes, some with horns or scales, others wearing glittering glass plates or with what looked like armor fused to their limbs. He saw no humans, though, and no fauns, dwarves, or any of the other races from back home, except for the raccoon.
A hand slammed into his back. "Go!" the green woman yelled. Behind her, the grey humanoids duplicated and the grey man yelled in a language Peter didn't understand. Peter followed Rocket and nearly stumbled again when he saw where they were going.
An aeroplane! Peter marveled at the airships in front of him. He’d never been on an aeroplane. As a child, he’d dreamed of being a pilot, destroying German bombers and fighting for King and Country thousands of feet in the sky. But life – and Aslan – had a different path planned for him. He had once ridden a winged horse while leading a battle against pirates on the Eastern Sea, but that wasn’t at all the same thing.
Peter didn’t have time to admire the aeroplanes, though. He was shoved towards a blue and orange triwing plane, with a nose that dipped down like a bird of prey ready to strike. It was badly battered and covered in dents with the paint scraped off in some places, but it was a graceful thing just the same. Rocket leapt up the side of the plane and unlocked a hatch. It swung open. Rocket swung himself inside the hatch and kicked a ladder, which slid down and hit the ground on rubber feet. The green woman pushed Peter and he climbed into the ship.
Two curved knives were immediately pressed to his throat. “Who are you?” demanded the blue man. “What did you do with Quill?”
Peter held still. “I’m Peter, High King of Narnia,” he said carefully. “I don’t know anyone by that name.” They were in a large cockpit, with the open window looking out over the port. The raccoon took one of the pilot’s seats at the front.
“Hey, Drax, we go through liftoff like that and you’ll take the guy’s head off,” Rocket said. “All of you, sit down and buckle up.” There was a sound of scratching, of something crawling up the sides. Rocket flicked a plate of glass in front of him and an image appeared of the grey humanoids swarming over the wings.
“Sit,” the green woman said to Peter, and pointed to a chair. He glanced at Drax, who reluctantly let him go. Peter sat, and let her clip him into the safety harness, but put his hand over his hilt when she tried to take his sword.
“I will answer your questions peacefully, Lady, but you will not take Rhindon from me without a fight.”
“You named your sword?” Rocket said in disbelief.
The green woman just nodded. “Rocket, lock him in.” The raccoon pressed a button and the seat harness tightened with a loud click.
Drax reluctantly sheathed his blades. “We will continue this discussion later,” he said to Peter. He sat down and buckled in, as did the others. The engine thrummed beneath them and despite the uncertainty of his situation, Peter felt a thrill of excitement. An aeroplane! What a story he’d have to tell when he returned home!
The plane shot forward and Peter sucked in his breath as they flew directly at a tattered building, but Rocket shifted a gear and the plane curved up, and kept curving up until it looked as though its nose was reaching for the sky. The grey humanoids fell from the wings. The force of the lift pressed Peter back against his seat. He curled his hands around the arm rests and waited for the plane to level out, but Rocket shifted again and Peter felt another boost of power. This had to be faster than any plane in the Royal Air Force! He waited for the nose to dip and the plane to level out, but that moment never came. As the ship hurtled towards the sky, Peter realized that “aeroplane” wasn’t the right word for this vehicle at all.
The spaceship burst through the atmosphere and out into the darkness above. Peter stared in astonishment at the stars all around him and looked down to see the planet below. Fog – or perhaps smog, he thought, remembering London – covered most of the surface below, though lights shown through, casting a splotchy orange glow over the surface.
“There’s a jump spot fifteen clicks away,” Rocket said. He flipped a couple of switches. “I figure we should get some distance between us and them before we take a break.” He shifted a gear and they sped up again, until they reached a glowing net of linked hexagons. They burst through it and were abruptly somewhere else. The orange planet behind them had disappeared and two other planets were now in front of them, one that looked like red rock and another that swirled with blue and gold. Rocket flipped another switch and the ship settled into a soft hum, hovering where it was.
Everyone unfastened their harnesses and stood up. Peter pushed uselessly at the clip on his chest, but it was still locked. Drax pulled out his blades.
“Drax. Put your knives away,” the green woman said, and her voice held a note of command. The blue man lowered his knives, but did not sheathe them. It did not escape Peter’s notice that the woman’s own sword was still drawn. She introduced the crew briefly: Rocket the raccoon. Drax, the blue man. Mantis, the lady with the antennae. The tree was called Groot and the green woman herself was Gamora. “Where is Narnia?” she asked Peter.
“North of Archenland, by the shores of the Eastern Sea,” Peter said.
“What planet, genius?” Rocket demanded.
“I…” Peter said, and realized he had no idea. “We have no name for it.”
“Great,” the raccoon muttered. “What are the coordinates?”
“Coordinates?” Peter said blankly. He hated feeling stupid and feeling stupid with blades pointed at him was even worse.
“Can. You. Find. It. On. A. Map?” Rocket asked very slowly.
“Oh!” Peter said, relieved. “Yes, I think so.” Even if they had different names, he could still recognize the shape of the coastline. And they must have Calormen on one of their maps. It was too large to ignore, even if the small northern kingdoms could be overlooked.
“How is this relevant?” Drax demanded.
“You think they changed places,” Mantis said softly.
Gamora nodded. “I’ve seen something like this before." She put away her sword, took a small box from a cabinet and bandaged the wound on her arm.
Rocket swiveled a plate of glass towards Peter and jabbed some buttons. “We’ll start here.” He turned the sheet of glass towards Peter and a star chart appeared. “Point at anything that looks familiar,” he said.
Peter stared at him in disbelief. “Is this a joke?”
Rocket leaned over to look at the map, then looked back at Peter. “No?”
“Haven’t you got anything, er, closer?” Peter asked.
“Of which one?”
Peter stared at the image. He had to start somewhere, he supposed. “Try this one.” He tapped one at random.
“That one,” Rocket said.
“Yes,” Peter said. “Why not?”
Rocket dragged a paw over his face. “That’s a sun. It’s a sun. You’re saying you live on the firey surface of a sun in 10,000 degree weather?”
Peter stared at the map again, then pointed at a different dot.
“Also a sun,” Rocket said.
Gamora leaned over and tapped the screen. “Here,” she said, bringing up a surface map. “This is the planet we just left.” She showed him how to make the map larger and smaller and how to move around.
Grateful for the help, Peter studied the map, but finally he shook his head. “No. Narnia isn’t here.”
"What do you know about the device you were holding when you arrived?" she asked.
Peter shook his head again. "Absolutely nothing. My brother and I found it in the Royal Treasury and I picked it up to examine it. Neither of us had seen it before."
"So you stole it from the Royal Treasury and then what? How'd you make it do whatever it did?" Rocket asked.
"I didn't steal it," Peter said indignantly. "I'm the High King. The treasury belongs to my family."
Rocket put a hand to his chest and made a mocking half-bow. “ Well , then, your Maj-” He froze. “Wait, you have a whole treasury of your own?”
“I share it with my sisters and brother,” Peter said. “And the realm, of course.”
“Of course,” Rocket said. “And they’d be grateful to get you back, wouldn’t they? Could be a reward?”
Ah. “Yes, I believe something could be arranged,” Peter said, with a smile.
Groot looked up from his tablet. “I am Groot,” he said.
Rocket turned to Gamora. “We must get this man home safely.”
"You don't know anything and all we've got is a couple of surface scans." Gamora considered this. "We'll have to go to the Librarian."
“I am Groot,” Groot said.
“Chores before games,” Gamora told Groot.
“I am Groot !” Groot stamped his foot.
“Clean up where you shed,” Gamora said. “Ten minutes, that’s all.”
“I am Groot,” Groot grumbled. He shuffled out of the cockpit and down the ladder, stomping each step with a large wooden foot so the sound rang throughout the ship.
“I could do it,” Mantis said, after Groot was gone. “It would be very fast.”
Rocket sighed and shook his head. “He’s gotta learn.”
“Are you fostering him?” Peter asked, curious.
“He’s ours,” Rocket said curtly. He took his seat again. “Buckle up, everyone. We’re off to see the Librarian.”
Next: People Are Strange