The Great Space Race (Part 1 – In Space)

July 12, 2017:

Three of the Guardians of the Galaxy and two SHIELD Agents attempt to win the biggest interstellar rally race of the season… in Earth's own cosmic backyard.

Sol System - The Final Frontier

With a gravitational radius of about 1.87 LY, the star called Sol presides over 8 planets, 5 dwarf planets, a myriad of moons orbiting those various planets and dwarf planets, countless asteroids in two separate belts (the blandly titled 'inner-system asteroid belt' and the Trans-Neptunian Kuiper Belt), and an oort cloud way out at the far edge. Its most populous planet is the third planet out from the G-class main-sequence star — a planet called Earth by its dominant inhabitants, the humans.

Beyond Earth, there is some speculation that there might be life on other planets, perhaps even in other solar systems. But, if there is, the humans have never found it. Or, at least, never found a greater trace than a few bacteria phyla. At least, that's what they're telling their people, anyway.


NPCs: Yondu Udonta – Scene run and spoofed by Chipmunk



Mood Music: [* ]

Fade In…

It's the race of the year, or so the Interstellar Racing Jam has proclaimed. Time to see what the Sol System is made of… so to speak, anyway. Gathered out in the darkness beyond the far side of the moon, a flotilla of interstellar spacecraft have gathered. Sleek, professional racing machines from high-end manufacturers jockey with ramshackle DIY hopefuls between the newly deployed floating beacons that mark the starting line (and, not coincidentally, the finish line, too). Around them are clouds of space drones and flights of monitor ships sent by the various broadcasting agencies throughout the galaxy.

Never has there been so much interstellar attention on the Sol System before.

The course the race designers have marked out is largely based on how the various planets are scattered through the system on this given day. It's also designed to have ships crisscrossing the system in a crazy cat's cradle, back and forth between the far planets and the near. Starting at Luna, the race will take its participants out to Neptune, back to Venus, out to Uranus, and back to Mars, on to Jupiter, back into Mercury, and then out to Saturn and finally back to Earth. And, of course, there's the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and strays from the Kuiper belt out around Neptue. At each point there are scavenger beacons deployed, demarkating sites where something of value may be found and must be retrieved. It's up to the participants to figure out just what those things may be (though they're typically technological in nature). The race is a time-trial, true, but the points gained from scavenger pick-ups can make or break a good time throughout the course. So, only the very foolish will bypass the scavenger pods in favour of a pure time score.

Besides… One never knows what else might be there for the taking that'll be worth a credit or few in trade afterward.

The participants have been warned: They're not allowed to use space warping technology of any kind — like wormholes or slipstreams, but must rely solely on more relativistic means of travel. So, while 'warp factor 10, engage' is fine, 'plotting jump coordinates, now' is a surefire way to get disqualified. Further, the use of weaponry, stasis fields, tractor beams, or other such traps on fellow participants (or monitoring ships and drones) is grounds for immediate disqualification, though use of obfuscating technology to delay them is perfectly acceptable. Naturally, sabotage is also a disqualifying act… when it can be proven.

Similar rules apply to the capture of salvage: No shooting or killing your rivals (though fisticuffs and delaying traps are fine) and no stealing or sabotaging any beacon not earmarked for your own procurement (though swiping other stuff isn't mentioned in the rules — however, local law enforcement may have something to say about it).

The mood is at once tense and jubilant as the race approaches launch-go. The winners, after all, are going to walk way with half-a-million credits in prize money. Eventually, Race Control's voice comes over the coms of the gathered ships, informing them to take their positions between the poles. Sensors are checked and rechecked, tuned and retuned, focussed on the starting beacons. The countdown begins: Violet, red, orange, yellow… GREEN!

And, they're off!


Among the fleet of hopefuls rests rather unique looking ship. Blue, silver, and gold it stands out somewhere between the DIY ships of those with boundless hope and the sleed racing ships of dozens of galactic corps. There is a bit of room around it, as though the ship itself is unique. The /style/ of the ship is reconised well enough.

Not many people like being /that/ close to a Ravanger ship. They are a shifty bunch you know.

Onboard the Milano its pilot wears a wide grin. Fingers of the lether gloves he wears grip the controls of his beloved ship in anticipation of just whats about to go down.

"Rocket! You saw the rules! No blowing things up unless they start it…" The grin grows only more wiled as he looks at the rest of the gathering of ships. "…of course someone is going to start it. They /always/ start it." He's sure the engineer has /plenty/ of things up his sleeves that are /just/ within the rules though.

…letter and not spirit wise…

"You all might want to strap in!" He adds to the rest of his passangers. "This is gonna be /fun/."

His defination of /fun/ is up for debate.

His eyes flicker towards the lights as they begin to change color, one hand rests on the throttle the other on the most important swich in the ship.

They move with the speed of molasses. Flickering down towards green as the world seems to slow around Peter. Yellow dissipears and…

The Milano's engines scream to life as he slams the throttle forwards, his other hand caressing the play button of the cassette deck before gripping the controls as he hurls his ship forwards and into the race.

…yes, he shouldn't burn out like that but goddamit it looks awesome.

For the record. The song playing would be 'Fox on the Run' by Sweet.

Peter howls himself as for the first time in months he's actually able to cut loose, the triple wings of the Milano compressing down as he accellerates into the race.


Rules are rules. Almost every place has them. But do the rules of the space race rule out bringing snacks along?

If so, then Groot didn't get the memo.

/Crunch crunch. CRUNCH./

A large, branch-y hand digs around the half-eaten bag of potato chips, bringing up another bunch to toss into his wooden tree maw. Surrounded by a variety of boxes and bags, the self-designated snack provider has been enjoying the trip back into space, barely containing his excitement right as Quill throws some switches and gets to racing. The thrust pushes him back into his seat, but it doesn't deter him from eating.

"I am Groot!" he exclaims between crunches, digging the song choice.


Phil Coulson, it should be noted, tried to bring every one of his powers of persuasion to bear in the hopes of simply talking this race just one solar system over. The problem was, all the plans had been made and set. It's not easy to change an event like this when the entire galaxy has been blasted with advertisements for months. He was late to the game. He did not get his way.

A promise was a promise though, and he didn't back out of his. Really, establishing a good working relationship with his strange parolees is more than a priority. The better the working relationship, the fewer headaches he expects to have when he finally needs something important from them. Besides. He wasn't kidding when he made it clear that he really wanted to go.

He's never been before, after all. This is an experience worth having.

He has brought his newest Agent. Because she found out. And begged. She begged a lot. She begged until he felt like Dad, withholding ice cream. Ultimately, he caved, though he still feels guilty about caving. This seems dangerous. Fun, but dangerous.

"Okay," he'd said at last, "but you are responsible for catalouging whatever dangerous debris ends up falling to earth, complete with coordinates which need to be transmitted to SHIELD pick-up teams immediately."

No space garbage left to get into Hydra hands, please.

He straps in, and says, "Just let us know how we can help, guys." Because he will make himself useful, particularly on salvage runs…but neither does he intend to rain on their parades, so to speak.


"I read the rules!" No he didn't. Pff. Who needs rules? Besides, he'd been pretty sure someone would have told him what they were- see. Right there. Frankly, Rocket's not surprised. "Well of course someone will start it. In which case retaliation is only to be expected," the small Guardian says.

He's sitting in the seat opposite Quill that he's long since claimed as his own. For now he's being…nice and letting Quill handle the start off, more so because Rocket's getting a good look at their supposed competition. "Junk. Junk. Pfah! How's that thing even flying?! -PFahahahha!! Take a look at that piece'a crap, Groot!" Oh, they're starting. He looks back as Star-Lord hits the throttle, unable to help but grin himself. After all, this is where they belong, not down on Terra! And boy does it feel good. The music blaring, the stars surrounding them? Just like old times.

…well, except for their extra passengers. Rocket rolls his eyes as that voice that neither belongs to Gamorra nor Drax speaks up. The one that sounds like it's wearing a suit and tie. Because it totally is.

"Right, sure thing. For the moment? Don't touch anything or you might make us explode." That may or may not be true.


"He's not kidding! Pretty sure you're sitting on a bomb!" Quill tosses over his shoulder towards Phil.


She's a passenger. A passenger in a race, sitting in the back and watching everything happen. And watching every OTHER spacecraft out there in the dark between worlds, because even like this she's not allowed to simply enjoy it. Rusalka Stojespal, racing enthusiast and engineer, doesn't care.

She's aboard a freaking spaceship racing for glory and fame and money, the literal pinnacle of her life. It's all downhill from age 18, as far as she cares. Nothing else will ever top this. There's a reason she begged Phil for this chance.

And as soon as the thrusters go off at full, Sally shrieks with glee.

Clad in a SHIELD jumpsuit and her white leather racing jacket, the Sokovian sits in the back of the cockpit. She can just peer past Groot and Phil to see into the cockpit area, staring at the controls. Trying to learn everything she can about the Milano, just by looking at it. Rocket interrupts, and it's Sally's turn to roll her own eyes.

"This is hardly that complex a thing. If it was so easy to blow this up with an accidental touch of a button, then it is a bad design!" Did she just imply the Milano is badly designed? No, she implied Rocket implied it is.

"Does anyone know what these…er, beacon-things are supposed to look like?" She's taking a minute to tap things on her tablet-computer - it seems one of the spacecraft has already jettisoned something. Or it fell off. Either way, it'll re-enter over Iowa, and the corn is going to be weird…


Meanwhile, Groot laughs. Whether it's for Rocket's comment on the other ships, or in reply to Quill's, they may never know.

There are, of course, other M-ships in the race, beyond the Milano. At least one other, anyway. It's called Warbird, and a blue-skinned Centaurian with a red fin on the top of his head sits in the pilot's seat. He's a bit of a cheat, to be sure, and a whole lot of a grifter. He's also a helluva pilot (even if he does say so himself) and arguably taught Peter Quill everything he knows (at least, that's what he'd tell you, true or not). So, it's no surprise when the Warbird sluices in front of the Milano, waggling its wings as if daring the Terran halfbreed at the controls to try to catch him… right before he flips some sort of a turbo switch and dodges agilely through the field ahead.


Okay, she's impressed. Another ship cutting them off like that and hammering its boosters is a sight to see. "Classic overtake. Down one position, but only by a few seconds." Why yes, she does know her racing. "Who is this pilot? They are skilled, certainly, but…show-offish? I think is the word."


Peter knows that ship.

He knows who is piloting that ship.

He knows just how much of a bounty said blue-skinned Centaurian has out on him and his crew.

The prudent thing to do at this point would be to back off. Loose himself in the genral pack and then skedaddle back to the Trisket and lie low. Yup. That would totally be the smart thing to do.

Peter of course doesn't even consider it.

"I KNOW THAT SHIP!" Comes the exclimation as the Warbird makes them eat space dust. "…oh no he didn't…"

Now this would be the point where Gamorra would say something about not being stupid. Thankfully she isn't here, and Rocket and Groot are totally enablers.

"Persuit mode! He is /not/ getting away with that!"

He doesn't even look back as the Milano's engines reconfigure into high-speed interception as he tears off after the Warbird. "Thats Yondu, I know it is! He taught me that move!" He's grinning as he gives chase though the mass of ships moving at top speed.

No way he'll beat him this time!


"Aw hell."

Yeah, Rocket knows that ship too, but then it'd be pretty hard not to. He scowls as the Warbird speeds off ahead, throwing a glance towards Quill. No, he's no going to even ask because he has a feeling he knows. Because he'd be doing the same thing. What, you think he's the voice of reason here? Hah!

His clawed fingers are already reaching over and flipping switches and tapping at buttons on the console in front of him at Quill's announcement. "Hang on back there!" he adds belatedly, as if just remembering they have non-spacer passengers.


If Phil is ruffled by the idea that he might be sitting on a bomb, or by the hostility from the furry member of the crew, he doesn't let it show. He just adopts that slight, Cheshire Cat smile he always adopts when people are throwing that sort of thing his way, and remains silent. He's not a man who really needs to do a lot of talking. Observing, now…that's a different story. And he's got a ton to observe right now. Neither does he react in particular when the pilot of the Milano gets excited by the sudden pull-ahead of another ship, one he apparently knows. It's just more information as far as the immenently forgetable Agent is concerned. He doesn't even make a visible show of hanging on. He just kind of…does.


Gears and engines shift, sending remnants of potato chips flying all over the back behind the two piloting seats. Looks like there's gonna have to be some clean-up later.

…Hah, that's funny!

Groot barely processes the facts as he reaches down to pick out a box of cheese-flavored crackers, ripping open the top as he sees the Yondu-piloted ship pull on ahead. "I am Groot?"

Will they be able to catch up? He sure hopes so!


Sally blinks as there's a shout from the pilot, Quill. She sits up straighter in her seat, peering closer - and perhaps, not quite as much the voice of reason as Gamora might be. No, Rusalka is a born racer and knows another when she sees it.

There's a sensation of shifting and a faint shudder that Sally feels through the hull when the engines reconfigure, and she glances across their controls - indecipherable, but she simply knows what's coming - thrust. Raw, unbridled, pure thrust.

Hang on back there? Sally gives a cheer as the ship surges forward, and can't help but join in. "Let's see what the front of his ship looks like!" Specifically, in their rear-view. Why yes, the racing enthusiast is having the time of her life.

Sorry Phil.

When she sees the agent, though, Sally settles down a little - right, she's here on SHIELD buisness, and has her own job to do. Ahem. Back to her tablet - which pings, getting an eyebrow lifted in surprise. It looks like some kind of manual; something buried deep in the Milano's computer files. Not deep in means of security, but simply 'among the files noone ever bothered to open and look at.' She'll tip the tablet to show her boss.

Too bad it's absolutely not in english, but the diagrams at least are downright fascinating. Absently Sally reaches out a hand toward the tree-alien, sensing the presence of cheese-crackers, before pausing. "Ah, may I? Just a couple." Smile!


Nothing like a little incentive to keep things interesting, eh? Warbird begins a chase through the system that involves lots of jockeying for position with the Milano, and sometimes a tricky dodge between obstacles — other ships, asteroids, flights of media drones (which just love the idea of a Ravager head-to-head skirmish for the prize). Think of a pair of superbikes careening down the busiest interstate on the continent, at top speed… during rush hour. Yeah. That's Warbird and Milano, for sure. Are there others in the race? Sure. Do they matter?

Not a whit.

Warbird disappears within the Main Belt asteroid field. Shortly thereafter, the Milano's sensors start misbehaving…


Blinking, Groot looks over at the small agent-shadow Sally. And with a Groot smile, the tree alien obliges, tilting the box's contents into her palm.

Okay, so it's more than a couple of cheese crackers. She'll be fine.


"Yeah we'll catch 'im," Rocket shouts over his shoulder, presumably back at Groot since he's the only one who voiced a question. And while he's not so sure he likes the Terrans being quiet back there, he's got other things to worry about.

"What the-" He squints at the alerts that come up across the board, scowling as he moves his hands and even shifts in his seat to tap a few just out of reach with his feet. "Just keep flyin' Quill, I got this," he says as his screen lights up with multiple targets. He's pretty sure that he won't accidentally atomize any of their competition, given they've probably already eaten the space dust from both M-ships.

Grabbing the yoke on his side he grins maliciously as he fires away. Guys in the back, don't mind the borderline maniacal cackling as he lets loose. It's…normal.


Phil nods to Sally — it's a nod of approval. He gestures to his watch. Forward the whole thing. He makes a small back-and-forth cutting gesture. Keep it on the downlow, don't let them know that we've found that. Get it off your tablet for the time being. Study it later.

There are good reasons not to like it when Phil Coulson goes quiet.

But he doesn't want them worrying about it too much, so he asks brightly, "Who is this guy? You guys seem to have quite the history with him!" It's again behind that somewhat dopey, dorky smile, as if he doesn't have a care in the world.


The Giving Tree gives, and keeps on giving - though the shudder that runs through the ship as it makes a particularly hard maneuver ends up spilling cheesecrackers everywhere. Well, at least Rusalka got a few. "Dyakuyu, Perunets." Frankly, she can't think of a better name for the creature for now, and will just ask later.

Besides, Groot would probably be amused to know she thinks of him as the tree-abode of the mighty god Perun.

Rocket cuts loose, and the cheer turns into a shriek of surprise as the cannons aboard Milano open fire. Who puts guns on a race car! …Ship! But she can see that they're having an effect, the jammers being destroyed quickly and displays clearing up. Even her tablet was affected, glitching out and stuttering for a moment.

Fortunately she's not lost anything, though Phil's gestures catch her eye - and there's a plaintive look, almost pleading with him. She just found a cool thing! A really cool thing! Her tablet tips to show him, and she makes sure to make it seem legit. Oh, there we go. "SHIELD is responding to the debris, sir. They think one ship's engine broke away clean, and that's what fell." Meanwhile a finger points to the file - Last Access: NEVER. C'mon, please let her read it!

But she's a good agent, so it gets filed away and purged. Meanwhile she'll chime in. "Yes, please, who is Yondu?"


Peter doesn't waste his breath as Rocket cuts loose, instead he uses the bright blossoming explosions to his advantage. As he racoon blows them up, the Milano cuts close to the explosions, screaming by the expanding clouds of debris to screen it from other racers and scramble sensors that might or might not be trained against them.

Starlord doesn't really seem to be bothered by how close they get to some of them. Or by Rocket's cackling.

Because yes. Thats normal.

"Who's Yondu?" Peter asks as he flips the Milano onto its back to pass one racer, giving the man a rude gesture though the glass of the ships canopy as he does. "He's the guy that kidnapped me and raised me in the culture of a psudo-pirate clan that threatened to eat me every other tuesday. Thats all."

This explains so much about Peter Quill.

"He's a Ravanger. And I'm pretty sure he won't shoot out till after the race." A pause. "Pretty sure."

But to make sure…

He screams in close to the Warbird as Rocket clears scramblers. "Hey girl with the chips! Hit the com system would ya?"


Warbird's scrambler nets are made violently inoperable by Milano's ofensive systems. (Only a few asteroids were harmed in the making of this scene.) As enough of them go down, the sensor picture begins to resolve itself once more; asteroids become easier to see on scope (in case you missed them out the view port), and the Warbird can be seen coasting along on the crest of an accellerating energy wave created by deploying reactive rockets into a cluster of space rocks particularly amenable to the chemicals released by such rockets.

In other words, Yondu cheated.

Or did he? There's nothing in the rules, after all, that precludes the use of accellerating energy waves. It's not like it's a wormhole or secret jump gate, after all…

Regardless, the Warbird is now a quickly receeding dot shooting towards the edge of the scope and out of physical view.

Unless, of course, Quill proves to be as skilled a pilot as he boasts he is.


Sally makes a strange face listening to just what kind of childhood Peter Quill had. It explains a lot, indeed. And she sees just what Yondu did, that energy wave, that giant pulse giving him a boost in speed…it gives her an idea. Somehow. Can it work? Sorry Phil, she's breaking the rule for a moment, flipping back into the manual looking at schematic drawings at least. Forget the text, concepts need no translation.

Then again, neither does some of the text. One random injercting page just loves extolling the virtues of the rich Corinthian leather of the interior seats of the Milano.

Eh? "Girl?! Rusalka Stojespal of House Stojespal of Sokovia!" Get it right, Quill, and she might even permit a 'Sally' out of you. Meanwhile she just slams her fist straight up punching the communications switch. Good thing she's sitting there. "Hailing frequencies open!"

And then she can't help but mumble a small prayer. "Khoro, please…don't let it be 3,720 to 1…"


Rocket blinks. "-did she just say her name was Stooge-pal?"


Groot shrugs. "I am Groot."


"Pretty sure she did, told you Terrans are odd!" Come's Peter's reply.


The sound of both palms crashing hard into Sally's face is audible across the entire race. Even through vacuum.


"Admit it, you've always wanted to say that," Phil says to Sally, his eyes sparkling. Because they're kindred spirits, really, and he's dorky enough to feel like he, at least, has always wanted to say that. Or maybe he's just trying to distract her from her irritation over the irreverent crew's treatment of her name and nobility.


If Quill wants to say hi to the old man, who's Rocket to argue? Besides, he's too busy cursing up a storm as the readouts clear and he sees just what Yondu's done. "Why that flarkin' cheater-!!" he growls, as though he has never once ever cheated in his entire life. "Hang on-"

Who he's saying that to, he doesn't specify but that's because he's already cycling through weapons for- ah, here we go. "Cross your fingers or whatever and hope we don't get blowed up with this." Well that's comforting! But then those astroids he's aiming for are a touch on the close side- shh, shh, it'll be fiiiine!


"So! I hope you all like surfing!" Peter calls out to those in the back of the ship as he notices just what cluster of rocks that Rocket is aiming for. The Milano suddenly drops speed as Peter Works the controls. The nose of the ship angling down, the engines powering down as he angles it juuust right and…


The shockwave catching the Milano sends it careening though space, its course seemingly random as the angle that the waves slam into the sloved hull of the ship causes it to tumble like a leaf.

Technicly random.


"THERE!" And The Milano's engine roars to life again, pivoting the ship to catch Yondu's wave and /just/ the right angle to combine the force of the pair of energy waves. The tumbleing stops as the ship catches the crest of the combined wave and goes /flying/ though the field.

The doubled energy allowing him to keep pace with the Warbird even as hailing frequencies are opened.

"Thanks Stooge-pal!"

Always say the names right. Chicks dig that.

"HEY OLD MAN!" He calls tauntingly into the com system. "You'll have to do better than that! You're getting old!"


"I am Groot!"

At the suggestion and its following action, Groot throws his hands Milano ceiling-ward. Although a tree, he's still organic; that shockwave runs right through him, but there's a thrill to it. A great thrill. Like the kind in those amusement park rides.

Surely some of the snacks have gone flying around in the back again. Rusalka and Phil should be okay with the free service.

"I am Groot!" he then says, turning his attention to the two agents. They won't know what he's saying, but he's feeling pretty good about all this chaos.


Phil lets out a soft laugh as they careen, free fall, and then suddenly catch and ride that wave. His eyes are sparkling much as they were when Sally took him out in her Lotus; for all that there is serious work going on here he's caught up in the enjoyment of the moment, the boy that still lives inside of him having the time of his life. He says little to distract, does little to distract except to be ready to help out if necessary, but there it is…he's loving every minute of this. He reaches up to snag a snack in one hand as it free falls past him, and pops it into his mouth. "I agree!" he tells Groot, which really goes for…just about anything the tree might reasonably be saying right about now.


There's a horrified look in Rusalka's eyes at the sudden snap of conversation, and she looks to Phil for help - who is no help of all, really. Okay, slightly. "Maybe just a little…" And with that her copy of the owner's manual gets tucked away digitally, as she goes back to watching everything that's going on. Okay, she's a little calmed down, having the SHIELD agent around is definitely a soothing thought.

"Mr. Quill! Do you have enough fuel for…something stupid?" She pauses when Rocket yells back, then grabs onto everything she can - the explosion sending everything, including her tablet, flying into a cloud of cheese crackers, chips, and whatever Quill didn't secure down.

Breathe. Breathe. Okay, breathing is working. And then Sally realizes her competitive streak is taking over, that the race…the race has crystallized for her. The pithy statement is true, that doing anything else is just waiting - and Sally's not going to wait. She glances to Phil again, mouths something simple - trust me. Then unclasps her harness, half-diving forward and clinging to Groot's side.

He's a very useful tree, and not at all uncomfortable.

It puts her down at Rocket's ear, as Sally whispers. "<Yenotchka.>" Raccoonlet, the translator would say. "A backfire. Is there spare fuel to dump and ignite as we pass, burning it externally? A flare to return the scrambler favor, and ride a shockwave further?"

Whether Rocket Raccoon will acknowledge her existence - or simply bite her - after her choice of names for him, well…that depends.


The Milano surfs the curl of the wave, sluicing up within striking distance of the Warbird. "You got nuthin' in yer bag o' tricks I ain't taught you, boy," Yondu drawls over coms. "Don't even pretend you can beat me. We both know you can't. Not even with the rat along to help. I already got the jump on you twice."

Only from a certain point of view, of course. And the race is far from over.

And the next several lighthours will prove that the pair of Ravager ships are well-matched, both in the cockpit and in the bags o' tricks.


"Love you too, smurf!" Yeaaap. Rocket and Groot have been watching too much Netflix. The smallest Guardian is practically hunched over his side of the controls. At Rusalka's question he barks out a laugh. "She asks like every other thing we do ain't stupid." That really is funny. Tell him to stop laughing now.

And then the girl's come up front and Rocket practically jumps out of his seat- except he's strapped in. "Stooge-pal what the heck're you doin' outta your seat?! -and what the hell'd you call me?!" Because he doesn't like the sound of it either way, and would probably be chewing on her face if he did have a translator active. Actually he looks pretty close to doing that regardless, a clawed hand moving to shove her face back because she is in his personal space, yo.

"Pff. Oh, if you want something to flare a heat signature we got plenty of options. I'm not wastin' fuel when we got a solar system to cross and back." He starts scrolling along through things on his control panel. "Groot! You remember that thing from the necroship? Painted a big ol' smiley face on it? Go pop the back and chuck it out, will ya?"


See, this team-up is great. Everyone's having a great time! Or, well, most of them are. But Phil's feeling it and enjoying the snacks in passing, that's a good sign in Groot's book. (If he ever keeps a book. That'd be a first.)

Hugs! Trees love hugs. Except this isn't the point of this hug.

The reaction to Rusalka's attachment is almost automatic, but he doesn't completely wrap her in a giant Groot hug. Instead, he helps her out, assisting her with the balancing issues since the ship's going all over the place.

"I am Groot?" He seems concerned about her, but he gets easily distracted by Yondu's reply over the com system. There's a pause. "I am Groot," he adds, trying to secure Sally unless she decides to do something else.

Looking back toward the front, the tree's brow wrinkles slightly. "Iiii am Groot!" comes his own response to the blue man, waving the voice off. When Rocket asks for the Special Thing, he nods. "I am Groot."

Maybe Rusalka can sit in his seat. Unstrapping himself, the tree stands, leaning forward as he goes toward the back of the ship to find the thing with the painted smiley face.


If Phil has any protest to Sally's getting up and trying to help he leaves it unvoiced. He is no engineer, and no pilot, to provide particular help to this venture. He briefly considered trying to use psychological warfare on Yondu, but the truth is he doesn't know enough to know what might get under the man's skin and shake him up. For the time being, the Agent is simply content to watch and learn, to see how the group interacts and to see how Sally interacts with them.


Well, Sally IS clinging to Groot for safety. It's kind of a hug, certainly; she kinda likes the giant tree-alien already. And the assistance he's giving with keeping her steady and in one piece is hugely useful. She'll turn back to that wooden face and give it a thumbs-up and a grin, before turning her attention back to Rocket.

"Doesn't matter." What she'd called him, she means; the snappy reaction says a lot already. Her english is still a little touchy, admittedly, but it's what she has. "Not just flare. Like…an explosion, shockwave to push us forward, and if placed right, push Yondu back. Not attacking him, just…" She shrugs. Rules are always flexible, and in the heart of every engineer beats a rules lawyer willing to take on reality itself. "Getting separation and speed."

Necroship thing? Smiley face? As she's put back into a spare seat by Groot, she can't help but wonder. There's a horrified look back at Phil when she hears the word. "Necro…is bad, da?" She can't help but huddle a little in that advertiser-patch-clad jacket…the meaning of the word is terrible enough.

Necro-Ship. Aliens resurrecting the dead for their own nefarious scheme, some sort of plan from outer space. Why do things have to have such terrible names!?


"Yeah well, I've learned a few more things since last I saw you old man! How you like your troll anyway?" Peter shoots back as he skims closer towards the Warbird. The pair of Ravanger ships outdistancing most of the competation.

He hears the plans though and smirks slowly. "Groot! Gonna come in close and cut across his nose! Toss it when ya first see him!"

Teamwork is a scary thing, and no matter how much the Guardians bicker they seem to work almost disturbingly well together at times like this.

Like when they have to.

"I'm pretty sure she called you a Trash Panda!" Peter adds towards Rocket as he opens up the boosters to try to cost by the front of Yondu's ship.

They are just /throwing/ things. Not shooting anyone!

Still legal!!

…Yondu would be proud with this kind of sophistry.

"Eh Necro-ships arn't that bad, I mean they come in hordes usually but they are kinda made of paper! Just like the aliens that pilot em. Oh man, they explode /really/ good."

This is likely not helping.


"Pah," comes the response from the Warbird. "You owe me, boy. If by some miracle you actually do beat me, you best hand the prize money back over to me, or I'll never cancel that bounty out on your head." 40,000 vs 500,000… Ri-ight.

In any case he soon has his hands full dodging the effects of a smiley-faced projectile set to overload. "You missed!" Except, of course, their intention wasn't so much to hit him as to slow him down. Which, okay, it does… a little.

But, he's got time to make it back up.

What ensues is a back-and-forth chase of taunts, tricks, and one-upsmanship. By the time they've crisscrossed the solar system four times and are heading for the home stretch back to Earth (and the last scavenger beacon deployed there), both ships are a little worse for wear. Of course, so are many others in the field. Several of them didn't make it past the asteroid belt… at various stages of the race. Others were taken out by what they claim (but have yet to prove) are acts of sabotage, and still others by misadventure and plain old bad luck. But, there are enough left in the race, at the end, to make it a real race.

On a secondary sensor array, a projection of Earth indicates that the beacon the Milano is to retrieve is somewhere in the Nevada desert.


"Usually," Phil tells Sally, arching an eyebrow. In response, of course, to necro being bad. "Which makes me wonder about the smiley face."

Yondu keeps droning on, and he decides that he might have a little something to insert, at that. He feels like he's gathered enough information, now, to make his bid. To insert just a little psychological warfare, to try to make Yondu choke at an appropriate moment.

The hailing frequencies are still open, and he speaks.

"Don't listen to him, Quill," he says, in that so-mild voice of his. "Every father figure fears being supplanted by his son, especially when they themselves have usurped the role of the father."

A thoughtful pause.

"The bid for the prize money speaks of a deep insecurity. Getting a little older, is he? Little slower? Reflexes just a little bit less than they were? Running out of tricks…it's very sad. You should really send him a card, at least, when all this is done."


"…well now he's /defintally/ going to shoot us." Peter's sure of it.


Yondu's proposition gets a good laugh out of Rocket that he may as well have told a joke. Because pff, seriously? They're not giving up that kind of credits. "Whoa, who made you space-counselor?" he sputters when Phil speaks up. Shaking his head, he preps shields, just in case.

"Hey Suits, Stooge-pal, any idea where that is?" Rocket asks as he pulls up the sensor beacon on a holoscreen. "Other'n the middle of nowhere… Maybe we can just snatch an' go."


Rewinding a bit: catching the last bit from Quill, the tree makes his way past the stairs, steadily tromping through the rest of the Milano so he can fetch The Thing the maniacal raccoon lovingly put together.

It's not the Prettiest Thing, but it does have its own strange alien aesthetic to go by, and that's about all it has going for it. The smiley, thinly and roughly painted, is no masterpiece, but it serves its purpose in identifying the Thing even further.

Grabbing it, Groot hefts it over a shoulder while making his way downtown waltzing over to the airlock. It's then set down with little ceremony, an 'eye' poked before he slams the panel with a closed fist. From here, he's hanging on for dear life as the air is sucked out of the bay area.

In hindsight, someone should have gone over airlock procedures with him.

It's fine. He'll be fine.

And the Thing flies out into space, returning to its current point in time in missing Yondu's ship.

It takes Groot another minute or so to close the airlock again, limbs extending the more he's threatened with floating off behind the Milano. Go Team!


"I said no such thing!" This to Peter, as Sally defends her choice of words without actually translating. Fortunately it seems they don't get proper Ukrainian, which lets her grumble only slightly sotto voce for a moment. Bezstrashnyy smitnyk-hospodyn pidburyuvach, tsey zhakhlyvyy pilot! Nekulturny!

At least, until the translator kicks in. Insane litter-lord, Mr. Instigator, this awful pilot! Uncultured!

But that won't happen anytime soon, will it? Meanwhile she's still following the race, tablet now tapped into the sensors of the Milano so she can follow it easier and hold it up to share with Phil. There's more than a few DNFs, apparently, but right now they're definitely up in the top two - the lead just keeps changing too much. And then there's a loud fwump from the airlock bay with Groot. Sally stares back and forth between the two pilots…did they even notice? Well, neither of them are panicking, so…perhaps that was supposed to happen. She'll see.

Meanwhile, Phil finally goes on the offensive - and Rusalka cranes her head back to glance at him, surprised - and a grin starting to form. Another thumbs-up, this one for the agent, along with a handwaved gesture. Keep him talking.

To Rocket, she offers her best - but she's not a native American; just a transplant. "It's desert. One city, Las Vegas. Gambling and all, but the rest? Dirt and desert. No sweat!"


"Snatch and go it is then," Peter says with a wild grin. "Groot! Get back in here before you let the air out! We're gonna re-enter!" Which means things are gonna get /hot/.

But then Phil is talking again and Peter just stares at him. "What the hell are you talking about?!" Because Peter isn't gonna admit anything like that to anyone. "He's /Yondu/ not /Yondad/!"

"Pfft! If I win you'll have to catch me ta get anything!" This back towards the smurf he's flying against. "Though you know what! I'd let you /have/ the money, just to see your face when I beat you!"

Quill and Yondu share the fact that they arn't good at money appearently.

"Alright! Heat shields up! We are goin in!"


Remarkably, Yondu *doesn't* shoot at them. But, it's a very near thing, with one of his companions in the m-ship doing a whole lotta fast talking to keep it from happening. He ends up settling for more scatter nets, a few dazzlers, all accompanied by a clear "Insecure, my pretty blue ass…"

When the beacon signals become apparent, the Warbird's trajectory is set not for Nevada, but for New York. Now, it's simply a race against time, one team against the other, each to reach their own beacon and retrieve it before the others do.


"-WHAT?! NO! If we win we're keeping the money!" Rocket Raccoon, ever all about the money, as it were. This stupid argument is incentive enough for him to destroy whatever Yondu tries throwing at them. "After this can we like. Actually kill something?" he mutters. He's joking, right? …..

"Desert- oh! Yeah, I think I 'member that. Except someone didn't want us to pass through when we went on our roadtrip for In-and-Out!" He shoots a look somewhere Groot-wards, or at least where he thinks his pal to be. Oh the things one does when they're on parole on a foreign planet and loads of free time. Also, sorry they didn't take you along, Quill.

Speaking of, as their Star-Lord takes them down, Rocket swings around in his seat to slam the button down for their shields. Crazy Terrans! Even halfsies!


Phil Coulson just smiles yet again as everyone questions his psychoanalyzing. It doesn't really work— he can't see that it's made Yondu stutter at all, other than nearly disqualifying himself from the race with a shot…but, well. Sometimes that stuff does, and sometimes it doesn't. Either way, he pipes down again, getting comfortable as he waits to see who the final victor will be. At this point he's actually invested. He'd like to see the Guardians win. But this is pretty much not his area at all, and he's really fine with that. If nothing else, they really are getting out in front of the clean-up, and the amount of alien intel he's sat here and gathered throughout the course of the race— on the other ships, not even just the Ravager or even the one he's sitting on— has made this all well worth the ride. That and, you know. Space.


Somewhere in the near distance, a faint "I AM Groot!" can be heard. And it's like he can almost feel those little beady eyes on him. That's how connected they all are. It's scary.

A lot of noisy tromping heralds Groot's arrival back into the cockpit, moving along the back of it as things get heated. "I am Groot!" he yells, finding the nearest vacant seat so that he's not sent hurdling across the way. Win, lose, he's just eager to see how things end up.


Re-enter? …Oh god, that's right, they still have to land. And with this marvelous viewport, it's going to be beyond spectacular…especially at the speeds she's been following. The Warbird, though, splits off, much to Sally's consternation - and seems to be heading elsewhere. Not Nevada, but the east coast. She holds up her tablet, following the other ship's course.

New York.

She glances back at Phil, wondering if there's anything terrible about to happen…or if SHIELD might be able to reach the beacon first, and move it to…safer places? Namely anywhere that Yondu isn't? After all, Sally wants to win too; it wasn't outright said that they couldn't have a 'pit crew' swipe the beacon…

Groot returns, and she starts to unclasp her seat before the first buffeting starts. No, sorry, he put her here and she's not getting out of this particular spot when the ship's bouncing around this much. Shields or no shields, re-entry is rough. It's also utterly spectacular, watching the plasma shockwave build up along the front of the ship.

For once, for a minute or two, she's silent, enraptured by the beauty of the event. Enjoy it while it lasts.



Thats Peter's last com to the blue-skinned Not-Dad of his as he tips the Milano's nose towards the earth. Now, if this was a space shuttle on a standard, normal, safe re-entry the nose would be tipping up. Coming in at a slant to let the bottom of the ship take the brunt of the friction. Spreading it out so the whole ship doesn't burn up at re-entry speeds.

Thats the /safe/ way to do it.

Which means hell with that. Peter never read up on safty concerns.

"Rocket! Heat shields to maximum! See if you can get some kind of cooling system going so we don't loose some wing edges! We are totally going in hot!"

Money or no. Peter is /not/ gonna let Yondu win.

Its a matter of pride now.

The view is indeed spectacular. And covered in flames.

"Hey suit! You people are suppose to be good shots! Get on the mag-grapel to nab this becon. Rocket, make sure there arn't any supprises! The rest of you…"

And Peter puts the Milano's nose almost streight down towards the Navada deseart.


This is so totally not safe.


The beacon's signal comes from ghost town named Sulphur at the edge of Nevada's Black Rock Desert. It's peripheral to a large corporate mining op, though the town itself is a graveyard of broken piles of wood that, once upon a time, were homes and western town buildings. Broken pits are particularly popular in this ghost town, the big holes studded with broken peices of wood and metal findings… at one time cellars and cold-storage 'basements', though they were never thought of as such. The beacon has created a sizable crater around one such cellar pit, and is recognizable by the holographic IRJ logo and the blaring theme music echoing across the sands.


Phil springs to get to that mag grapple. Perhaps he wasn't quite as placid and blase as he appeared. Or perhaps he's just excited. Or maybe he just doesn't want them to crash in Nevada because Peter is feeling competitive.

He lines up the shot carefully though, with the sort of clear-eyed cool headedness that has marked his career. He figures out how to use it relatively quickly, finding it all rather intuitive.

The moment the shot locks, he pulls the trigger, all but willing the mag-lock to grab the beacon in the crater. He might be humming Smoke on the Water, in distinct and discordant counterpoint to the blaring theme music.

It's his concentration song.

Don't judge.


Rocket says nothing, his teeth grit as he practically seems to scramble across the board with the way his claws fly. Shouting something that, despite being non-Terran in origin at all still manages to convey not-nice meanings by sheer tone alone, he releases the clasp on his seat harness so he can pull at seemingly random levers and steal a quick look at the temperature readouts on the screens. Then he clambers up on the top of his seat to leap for the overhang, dangling as he punches another panel.

"If I knew you were going to be making like a meteorite at any point soon I would've insisted on the shields boost! -never mind that I've converted just about everything we scavenged from that necrocraft into explosives!" He LIKES explosives okay??

"-oh you suck," he says as he runs by Phil. He saw that shot. This is why you don't ask the Terran to use the space guns.


Well, crap. That isn't how it's supposed to go.

Between the snark-filled comments and unspoken denial of circumstantial failure, Groot thoughtfully ponders this problem. 'Thoughtfully,' as in 'perhaps there's another way of picking up the pace before we all lose big time.' Despite being…Groot, his plant brain is always in constant motion, sometimes moving faster than his large tree body in general.

This time, however, both mind and body have synced up within the next passing seconds.

The harness clasp is undone yet again while his eyes dart from person to person within the cockpit, finally landing on Rusalka just as he taps her on the shoulder. "I am Groot," he says with gruff urgency, beckoning her to unbuckle and follow him to the back. With the ship's level of rockiness, he may also just guide her through the rest of the way.

By the time they get to the back of the ship, he's probably all but picked her up to make up for lost time. "I am Groot," he says again with a different intonation, pointing at the back, then pointing back at her. "I am Groot. I am Groot." Another pointing motion, then a look. "I am Groot?" With nothing further, he opens up the airlock for the second time today. "I am Groot!"

Rusalka got that, right? Because now she's being sent - re: /thrown/ - out to follow where the grapple should have gone, tree arm entwining around her waist as a means of security.

Safety can be fun!


"Like I knew we would be racing against Yondu! Just shut up and make sure the wings down't melt off!!" Peter tosses back to his copilot as he screams towards the ground, pulling up at the last moment. Tearing towards the target as he slows just enough to give Phil and good shot and…

…Negative. It just impacted the surface.

"Oh my god did you just Gold Leader this?!" He shouts back. "Good shot Deadeye! Groot! Can ya get it quick!" He can't afford to slow down too much or the Milano is going to crash, instead he turns. Wing decending towards the ground at a dangerous height. "I can't hold this for long!"


Forty miles high and on fire, and nosing over straight at the earth.

The planet looms high in the main window, the glorious earth spread out before her - and wreathed in flaming plasma as the Milano screams dirtward. Rusalka can't help the shriek of terror as it grows, which isn't at all helped by the wild cowboy attitude of their esteemed pilot.

The tap on her shoulder, at least, gives enough of a distraction - and it takes a moment as they're shuddering. Groot doesn't seem to mind; he just about scoops her up and carries her along to the airlock - the airlock?! And then the tree has an arm around her - as she's being pitched clean out the airlock with nothing but that arm, extending all the way down - screaming words that the wind whips away, thankfully. It doesn't matter, because her swearing is loud enough to still be heard aboard the ship even without a radio. It's also quite possibly the first thing in her native Ukrainian that the rest of the Milano's crew understands.

And then physics takes over - the arc of a pendulum only goes so far, and as Sally grabs on to the grapple line she finds herself swinging forward once more toward it - and towards the beacon. She's got one good shot at this, upside down just a few feet above the earth screaming (literally) along with the Milano. Arms outstretched, reaching for the beacon, calculating the sweep, the speed, and a host of other variables in an instant.

For someone who dedicates her life to racing, being at a particular point at a particular moment is the easiest thing in the world.

The pendulum continues its swing, going forward of the Milano now, and still with enough energy through Groot's arm and the grapple that, for a few moments, the Sokovian's visible in the front windshield. That instant of weightlessness at the top of the arc lets her secure Phil's grappling line, before gravity resumes the process and starts pulling her downwards.

Fortunately for her friends, the recent language lessons make translating what she's shouting all too easy.


"It moved!" Phil says, very defensively.

Because he's very embarrassed. "I'll…try to…"

He fiddles with the maglock frantically, trying to find the target again.

Then there are all sorts of "I am Groots" being uttered, and something is opening. He turns in slow-mo horror to watch his young recruit being FLUNG OUT OF THE AIRLOCK.

He freezes.

The word "No-ooooooo" may come out of his mouth in slow motion too, as he flings out his hand. Or maybe that's only in his head, cause 'Deadeye' Coulson is actually having this moment of total and complete shock.

It's a good thing he's a healthy guy for his age, or this would be the moment where he has a heart attack. As it is, several of the hairs near his ears are probably just leeching their last bits of dirty blonde color away. They will be grey by morning. If they live.


It's a cinematic miracle of impossible comic book physics. Rusalka and Groot manage to save Phil's ass by snagging the beacon from the center of its crater. Swinging her back aboard may take some effort, but it's well within Groot's abilities… lucky for her. And, probably the rest of them. Because, really… there's still a race to win.

Meanwhile, of course, somewhere in NYC, Yondu is having a Horrible, Terrible, Very Bad Day, thanks to a military cyborg… and a far-too-clever carpenter.


"Chill out, Deadeye!" Peter calls cheerfully. "She's fine!" And the pilot points out the front window where Sally can be seen just beginning to be snapped around by the force of gravity.

Peter is totally not helping.

"Groot!" He shouts back. "Get her back inside! We have a race to win!"

Just as Motley Crue's 'Kickstart My Heart' kicks on the radio.

As soon as Sally is back inside? Peter opens up the afterburners again. Climbing, tearing free of gravity, heading to the finish line.


"I'm not letting this rig melt- we've got a race to win!!" Rocket shouts back at Quill, almost simultaneously with him as he watches the outer hull temperatures waver between critical and more optimal levels. Really, what would you do without him?

He runs back towards the cockpit, stopping to give Phil a look. "Look, if you're gonna just stand there you might as well wind that cable in and get both the beacon and Stooge-pal back inside," he suggests, dashing back to his seat without waiting a response. Terrans!

"Groot, you got things covered there?! You heard Quill!"


It might be that Peter has questionable definitions of 'Back inside' because while Groot was hauling her back in. Sally would swear that she felt the heat from the Milano's main thrusters going into overdrive, as well as the sudden surge of acceleration. But in this case? She's got both arms wrapped around that beacon, as she's hauled in - and it's a race. She knows what the only appropriate thing to do is. Even before she's aboard, the aristocrat still has to tell someone what to do before she's even in the ship.


And with that she'll tumble to the floor, rolling over on her back as the last beacon joins the others. Sliding sideways with the acceleration, bumping up against the closing airlock door, and just…thoroughly, utterly spent for the moment. She barely has enough strength to laugh, and throw a thumbs up at her boss…

…whose hair is just a tiny bit greyer now. Oops. She's probably going to be in trouble for doing that. Well, Sally decides, lying on the floor of the Milano?

Worth it.


Phil shoots Rocket a grimly annoyed look.

But he stomps over to do just that. In fact, he's quite grimly annoyed with ALL OF THEM right now. As he winds up the winch he looks at Groot and says these words, very sternly, hoping that he will be understood. "You are GROOT," he growls.

And then, to Rusalka: "And you too! Grounded for life, Agent. Grounded. For. Life."

He doesn't mean it. I mean. He got over apricots in Lola, he'll get over this. Probably. Eventually. He slams the airlock door shut.


"…I…am GROOT!"

It's adrenaline and an unfiltered cry of victory the moment Rusalka successfully (for emphasis) captures the beacon they need to end this mess of a race. His limbs stretch and pull under the weight of…well, everything, tearing and shrinking as he reels her back in like a really big fish. Stump feet stagger back step by step to make sure she's brought in all the way, half-dragging the agent in so he can shut the doors.

Another triumphant "I am Groot!!" is shouted in Quill and Rocket's direction, only to be cut off by a very stern Phil Coulson.

In fact, he gasps.

"I am Groot," he says, offended and saddened all at once.


"…you realize that made no sense," Rocket helpfully notes, Phil-wards.


Eyebrows crinkle in shock as she's read the world's shortest riot-act. Those blue eyes puppy-dog as hard as they can at him, before Phil stomps away - she was trying to save the race! It worked! But…yeah, she gets the feeling this is not going to end anytime soon.

Sally, still lying on the floor, just reaches over to the alien, and gives a root a squeeze. "I think we're both GROOT for a while now…"


The Milano rockets spacewards again. Two minutes later, Warbird also retreats from the planet, though Yondu is suspiciously quiet over coms. No crowing about his conquest, though the 'Bird's afterburners do kick in as he tries very hard to catch up with his Not-Son's spacecraft. In the end, though, it's the Milano that rockets between the beacons on the darkside of the Moon that denote the finish line to a spectacular…

Second Place Finish.

Oh, yes. The Guardians of the Galaxy (and SHIELD) have been bested, it seems, by a team of 18" alien squids flying something that looks suspiciously like a knock-off of a fictional starship that made the fictional Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs.

On the bright side? Yondu is 4th. Not even 3rd. Fourth. So, he doesn't even get one of the consolation prizes.

As for the Interstellar Racing Jam? Well… they got some 'splainin' to do. To the Lantern Corps, to SWORD (or SHIELD… both), and probably to the Justice League, too, in their Watchtower.

But the ratings? Booyah! Long live the Ravagers!


Peter just glares at the first place finishers. "…I /hate/ those guys. Hate their little tentacle faces."

Peter or someone miiight want to get Rocket's hands off of the ship's guns because he looks like he's ready to make good on his earlier comment about killing something. He'll feel better knowing they beat Yondu, at least, but half a mil…!!


Once Groot gets over being verbally grounded by Phil, he finally gets a look at all the commotion the end of the race brings.

"…I am Groot," he agrees with Quill-Lord, puffing out his cheeks. And then he tilts his head, thinking about their placement among the rest of the racers. "I am Groot…?"

And if Peter doesn't act fast enough, he'll get right on removing the raccoon from the guns. Because they don't need to add onto their ever-growing list of being terrible.


Second place. After all of that, second place. Holy shit they got second place in her first-ever SPACE RACE. To say that the youngest, and currently Most Maximum Supreme Grounded, SHIELD agent is giddy is an understatement. Let the little tentacle guys have their victory, second place is still exceptional as far as Rusalka cares.

The last five hours of her life have been beyond anything she could ever have dreamed. It's all downhill from here, she realizes, thankful she'd had her tablet recording everything. Those pictures of Jupiter and Saturn are totally going on her wall.

She spots Rocket, eyeing something - those squidlings perhaps, or the people around the grand prize, and reaches up to the ceiling to flick a switch. Something she'd seen in the owner's manual when she'd flipped through it for a brief moment - the control that disengages the power feed to the cannons and sends them into maintenance mode.

There's a finger held to her lips as she glances at Phil; the prank is mildly reminiscent of something he did to her not so long ago. At least, it'll hold until Rocket realizes what she's done…but they should be off the ship by then.

[Editor's Note: Many of the crucial actions in this scene were determined by dice rolls, including Phil's spectacular miss and the 2nd place finish.]

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