Little Guardians of the Galaxy vignette. Not particularly spoiler-heavy, but with at least one plot detail that those who haven’t seen the film or who know nothing of the back story might wish to avoid. Hence… Cut.
Batteries Not Included
Adaptability. If pressed, he knows he probably couldn’t spell it, but he knows what it means. It is something he is going to have to start demonstrating pretty soon.
Peter isn’t sure how much time has passed since he has found himself… wherever he is. A few hours, perhaps. There is no night or day in this place – and even if there were windows for him to look out of, all he would see are the stars. So judging time is something he can only gauge. Hours? A week? Perhaps. More? Who knows.
He is still not convinced that this isn’t all some weird-ass dream. For several hours after he was “beamed up”, possibly by Scotty, all he has been able to do is lay on the hard, uncomfortable bed in the tiny room he’s been thrown in. He speaks to nobody. Not that anybody comes to speak to him. Left to his own devices, he has convinced himself that this is some kind of hallucination brought about by the shock of his mother’s death. It will pass, he keeps reminding himself. In a minute, you’ll wake up, face-down in the grass. Grandpa will be there. Everything will be fine. Apart from Mom. She’ll still be gone.
That alone, Peter Quill establishes early on, is reason not to want to wake up.
He hasn’t seen a single face since his abduction. He’s heard voices on the other side of his room, but they are quite literally alien to him. Languages have never been his strong point. He has hammered against the door, screaming childish threats, all to no avail. He refuses food, despite the gnawing hunger in his gut. Dreams, he asserts to nobody, because nobody listens, don’t give you food. Even if they do, the stuff is probably poison. Look at it.
He looks at it, innocuous on its tray in the corner of the room. They – whoever the hell they were – pushed the food through a small opening in the (very locked) door. Words were spoken. He didn’t understand them, but they were probably ‘food’s up’.
The ‘food’ that’s left for him three times a day, piled neatly on small trays, look like cubes of Jell-O. It even has the same texture. He knows. From time to time, he pokes at it. It wobbles back at him. Peter loves Jell-O, but this is poison. Alien poison. He won’t have any part of it.
He is hungry.
He has, much to his shame, cried. Quite a lot. But in his misery, he justifies it rationally. He is only a kid. His mother has just died. He has just been snatched out of the life he knows by person – or persons – as yet unknown. He’s not seen the face of the (presumably) aliens who have taken him from Earth. They took his backpack away from him and that, he knows, is the worst thing of all. Everything he has left is in that bag. He has never wanted his assorted treasures so much as he does right now.
He wants Awesome Mix # 1 back.
He wants his mother.
He cries again.
In the end, the tears dry up and a child’s curiosity takes over. Deep down – very deep down – there is a grudging sense of excitement. If this isn’t a dream, then he is on board an alien spaceship. That is… well, frankly, that’s pretty cool. He pokes around the small room. There is a bed, the table on which the Jell-O cubes currently sit and a panel on the wall that defeats him. He presumes that it can somehow turn lights on and off, or maybe launch nuclear weapons, but nothing he does to it seemed to make it function.
Further exploration reveals a small room accessed through a sliding door where he finds facilities to clean himself up and deal with other necessary bodily functions. Bathrooms, it appear, are of a near-universal design. He has been raised on a diet of science fiction TV shows, and like any other healthy kid, he has always wondered what aliens did when they were caught short. Now he knows.
They go to the toilet.
It is a bizarrely crushing disappointment. It will be the first of many such disappointments over the course of young Peter Quill’s life, but he doesn’t know that at this stage.
And so the cycle goes on. Food appears three times a day and by his calculations, he is into the fourth day before he finally caves and tentatively eats one of the cubes. It looks like strawberry Jell-O. It tastes like cardboard. But after he’s eaten it, he doesn’t feel quite so weak and scared any more. He eats a second cube. That one tastes like wallpaper paste.
Over the next two days, his tastebuds adapt. The cubes start to taste like things he imagines they should taste like. First of all, there is a hint of sweet, artificial strawberry flavour. Then one cube tastes like tomato soup. Another has a definite hint of French fries. But no matter how hard he wills it, they never taste like hot dogs.
On the seventh day, Peter is eating the food cubes with relish. It is also on the seventh day that he first comes face to face with Yondu Udonta.
When the door to his cell slides open, Peter’s instinct is to run. He doesn’t get past the vice-like grip of the blue-skinned alien who stretches out an arm to grab the child’s arm. The man says something Peter can’t understand and he struggles, crying and lashing out. The things he promises he will do to his captor would be amusing… if they spoke one another’s language. But sometimes, words are not needed. The alien holds onto the struggling boy for a while longer before reaching into a pocket.
He is wearing a coat that looks to be made of leather, but mismatched and patchwork: many different colours, many different textures. Many different creatures that he has killed, skinned, tanned and stitched into this outfit. Despite himself, Peter is intrigued. The alien is humanoid in shape, maybe five nine, five ten, with clearly discernible eyes, ears, nose… the other facial features that Peter knows. A distinct lack of razor-sharp teeth and/or tentacles.
Peter stops struggling, realising the utter futility of it. Besides, he has seen what the alien has taken out of his pocket. It is his Walkman.
“That’s mine, you son of a…” he begins to say, but the alien just smirks at him. He hands the machine over and Peter snatches it, running back to his bed. He clutches the Walkman to himself protectively, crooning at it like he would over a returned pet. “It’ll all be OK now,” he murmurs. “It’s all OK.”
Defiantly, he jams on the headphones, raising his head to glare at the blue-skinned alien who is watching him. There is a faintly amused expression in the blood-red eyes and Peter finds this incredibly irritating. He presses down the play button.
The batteries have gone flat.
He is only a kid, but the following thought races through his head.
I’m in the depths of space, on board a ship of aliens I can’t understand, with no hope of rescue, and my Walkman’s all out of power. I’m no expert, but I’m thinking that asking for four AA batteries isn’t going to cut it.
Wait. They’re aliens. They have a spaceship. They’ll have some sort of method of powering it. I just need to ask. If they don’t eat me first.
He presses the stop button. He takes off the headphones. He looks up at the alien. The blue-skinned man takes a step towards him. In his other hand he holds what looks like some sort of gun. He shows it to Peter, then he raises it to his neck. He pulls the trigger. There is the tiniest crack noise, but the alien does not keel over. Neither does his head explode. Peter is just a little disappointed.
The alien holds it out towards Peter, a questioning look in his eyes. He opens his mouth and speaks, the alien language confusing and disorienting. Peter shakes his head.
“I don’t understand you,” he says. “I want to go home to my Mo… to my grandpa. I want to go home.”
Even as he says it, he knows two things with absolute certainty. They won’t take him home. And he doesn’t really want to go home. His mother was his life. Without her, he has nothing worth going home for.
More alien gibberish. The alien waves the gun-thing at Peter and there is an understanding that he is expected to take it and shoot himself.
In the neck.
With an alien’s gun.
What the hell, thinks the child. This can’t get any more weird. And what’s the worst that could happen?
He takes the gun and he shoots it into his neck, just as the blue alien did. There isn’t any pain, but his vision briefly swims out of focus. As it sharpens up, Peter realises that the man – it’s easier to think of him that way – is still talking. Only now, he’s making sense.
“…translator chip. Can you get what I’m saying yet, kid?”
Peter stares at the gun. He stares at the alien. He stares back at the gun.
“Are you dumb? Stupid? Either or both? C’mon, kid, I know you can understand me now.”
He does understand the alien, but he doesn’t understand how, or why. Peter Quill begins to realise that he is entering a world where asking the questions ‘how’ and ‘why’ are likely to get old really quickly. He decides not to ask. To be nonchalant. To pretend he knew all along that all he needed to break the language barrier was to inject himself with alien technology.
“You Peter Quill?” The alien knows his name. Of course the alien knows his name. It’s stitched into the inside of his backpack. He nods, warily.
“Good. We got the right kid. Name’s Yondu Udonta. We’re taking you to see someone who’s very interested in you. Co-operate, and we’ll treat you just fine. Play up, act like a spoiled brat and…” Yondu shifts aside the coat for a moment and Peter catches a glimpse of what looks like an arrow in a holster at his waist. “…we won’t.”
He smiles, a slow smile that is anything but friendly. But Peter is a smart kid. He adapts fast.
“Yeah, you know what? I think I’ll behave,” he says. The snarky response brings a short, barked laugh forth from Yondu Udonta. It’s progress and Peter gets brave. “But I want something. Actually, I want a couple of things.” Yondu’s nearly invisible eyebrow quirks.
“Makin’ demands already? I like the way your head works, kiddo.”
“I want my stuff back.”
“Sure. There was nothing of value in there anyway. Brought you that thing…” Yondu points at the Walkman. “…because we thought it was maybe your personal translator. Ketchu listened to it for hours, but couldn’t understand what was being said. Although now he keeps claiming he’s a Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb.”
That’s why the Walkman had stopped working.
“What else d’you want, kid? Food? Money? Clothes? I admit you’re the first Terran I’ve ever met, so I ain’t sure we can cater much for you. But you seem smart. You’ll adapt. What d’you want?”
Peter smiles. He holds up the Walkman, brandishing it like some kind of trophy.
“What do I want? I want four AA batteries. It’s the least you owe me.”
There is silence and Peter’s smug. He’s confused the alien. It feels like he’s scored a point. He experiences yet another moment of disappointment when Yondu smirks at him.
“Not a problem,” he says. “Four AA batteries. To power your Cherry Bomb, right?”
“Right,” he says, and lowers the Walkman. “You know what they are?”
“Sure I do,” says Yondu. “We took ‘em out of the thing in the first place. Here’s your first lesson, kid. Whenever you come across somethin’ new – you learn fast. You can have that one for free. We’ll rig you up a power unit that’ll do the job. In return, you can tell us more about Terra. And if you behave, we’ll teach you a few things. And I will make sure the crew doesn’t eat you.” Yondu’s smile is only slightly less terrifying than before?
Peter pauses. Then he nods.
“Deal,” he says.
It appears that young Peter Quill has a lot to learn about the universe and his lessons are starting right now.