October 18, 2018:

When trouble finds its way to Phil Coulson's neighbor, Rocket, Groot, and Coulson are on the job. More or less.

Fox Pointe, Wisconsin

You wouldn't believe what kind of crap ends up in the flea markets here.


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

A day or so at Phil's cabin is relatively low-key, but the food is good. Phil cooks, fresh stuff from a farmer's market, and keeps the ice cream, booze, and Netflix flowing. Later in the evening, though, he's sort of wandered away from the television to start messing with the police scanner again, though he plugs in a pair of headphones.

About an hour in, something that he hears has him tilting his head, his brow furrowing. He turns it up, listening to a bit of chatter. When it's done, he takes off the headphones, looks out in the distance towards where, no doubt, some member of his security detail is standing around, then looks out in some other direction, his mouth thinning.

"Hey guys?" he says. "My neighbor Edna just put in a call the police have decided to ignore. She's old and a little batty and is always going on about prowlers and things, but this time she sounds really scared, and some of what's being said makes me think this time someone needs to go over and check on her. You guys game?"

Technically they're a SHIELD escort, right? Right. Very. Very technically.

Rocket is not the most classy of sleepers. He'd put away several bottles before finally passing out in the middle of some show or another. Most likely he wouldn't be able to remember what it was they'd been watching since at some point they all started blurring together.

Hisn ear twitches at Coulson's voice, a clawed hand sloppily wiping away a string of drool as he lifts his head, blinking. "Buh…?" Wait, where are they? This isn't the hangar, or the Milano, or their house thingy.

Slowly he starts to process the voice as Coulson goes on, the raccoonoid sitting himself up, scratching in a not at all surreptitious manner as he tries to wake up. Edna? Prowlers?

Squinting over in the agent's direction, it seems that something finally clicks in Rocket's head. "What, you mean like, on the down-low? Yeah I'm game," he grins, hopping off of the armchair he'd practically been nesting in half the time they'd spent in the cabin. The armrest might be a bit damp but hey.

"If it takes helpin' an little old lady for you to decide you want a prison break, who'm I to complain? Hey Groot, you awake?"

Any more ice cream and Groot could have burst. Not like he would have minded - this is the most he's eaten ice cream in a long time, so he doesn't complain.

Fortunately, there has been a long enough break from stuffing his face by viewing all of the Netflix Coulson has to offer, the bite-sized ent content to root there on the couch while his friends are doing other stuff. Important stuff.

Like taking the opportunity to go check on a neighbor because the police didn't do it. In the middle of singing along to another princess song, Groot perks, lifting his head slightly as Coulson and Rocket get his attention. "I am Groot?" He's not exactly sure what's going on, but it sounds like they're going to go somewhere. Which is fine by him. Flipping over onto his hands and knees, he crawls across the couch cushions before getting to his feet, jumping up onto its armrest.

"I'll probably come back," Phil says. But probably is kind of the operating word here.

In the meantime, he casts about, and then looks at Rocket a little helplessly. "What are the chances you've got a spare gun lying around?"

Even as he gently opens up the back door. There's a nice shot from there to the boathouse, and a nice shot from the boathouse to the woods surrounding the lake, and from there it's only a short hop to a break in the fence that leads to Edna's admittedly large property. It's also overgrown enough and wet enough from the lake that none of the agents decided it was a prime stake-out spot. It'll do.

As to what could be menacing Edna, or who, well…

"It could just be a bear," he admits. "But I don't know. I have a weird feeling."

There is admittedly some disappointment at Coulson's claim, but 'probably' holds possibilities. Plus, they have an invisible spaceship. If Coulson changed his mind at any point, well, hopefully he'd realize the option would be there.

Rocket buckles his holster belt back on, eyes going to the man at the question with a snort in mild offense. "A spare— Deadeye, who do you think I am?"

So maybe that's not exactly an answer, but as the back door's open and the Guardian makes his way towards it, he passes Coulson a pistol. At least, it looks like a pistol. It's relatively gun-shaped. Considering Rocket's passion for big things that go boom, it looks more like a toy. Then again, with that same knowledge, it's probably better to be careful in handling it all the same.

"Just make sure you really mean to shoot whatever it is you take aim with that. And don't point it at me!" he warns before poking his head out the door, looking around. "Also, it's got something of a kick. I was gonna let Groot use it but I figured it probably wasn't a good idea." Pause. "…but if you want like, a Terran shotgun I got a nice fancy one some crazy lady in Gotham gave me, but that's in the ship.

"-sometimes you gotta trust yer gut. If you got a weird feelin' on this, it can't be for no reason. …unless it's from all the booze."

It's a neat gun. Groot is sure he could have handled it if he grounded himself. Still, he feels like it has a better chance of being with Coulson since the poor man is unarmed.

"I am Groot," Groot chimes in as he clambers down to touch the floor, skittering past the agent's legs to see what's outside of the door. The look lets him be in awe of the peace and quiet the area permits without the city-like hustle and bustle he's been used to hearing and seeing and being a part of, and he can just feel his feet sinking into that wet overgrowth just beyond.

A brief, light sigh and a renewed sense of adventure takes hold. "I am Groot," he says, looking back at the other two as he toddles out a few steps. So long as he isn't running off ahead of them, they're good.

Coulson turns it back and forth in his hands and makes that face people make which is the same shape as a frown as it's always drawn on frownie-faces, but is not actually a frown. The one that says, 'huh. Okay then.'

"This is perfect, thank you," he says, because he doesn't really want to be slipping the coop with something he can't conceal.

Once they hop the fence he takes them on a short walk through the woods on this other property, flicking on a flashlight only after they are well away from his own perimeter. This helps them pick out the path. But as his beam crosses across a bit of a clearing behind what looks like a pleasant enough farmhouse?

Rocket and Groot will see a small space cruiser that, by its markings, looks like it might belong to one of the nastier mercenary companies known to work in the Alpha Centari sector.

He can't help it. He has to grin at the face Coulson makes. Really, Rocket could lend him one of his mismatched pistol mods, but those are his babies. Aside from his favorite and super-illegally modded rifle. No one touches that one but him.

At least he doesn't have to remind Groot to stick close, only looking towards the little tree guy just to make sure of it as he keeps his senses alert for anything while they skulk across the yard. Past the fence he still keeps on his guard, one of his guns already drawn and in hand.

"That's weird. I can almost swear that I smell burnt ozone with a hint of hi-grade Qlorax fuel—"

He stops short at the first sight of the cruiser, frowning. "Oh. Well, that explains that," he mutters. "Hey Coulson, you sure get a lotta off-worlders visitin' this dirtball. But what I don't get is what Ursae Trino mercs would want around here."

Groot sticks close. Sometimes he wanders ahead, but he reels himself back in, switching between sneaking next to Coulson and Rocket. The excitement is hard to get rid of, but it lends itself to how wary he should be on a mission like this, eyes open and alert despite how wooded and dark it gets.

The clearing makes for better viewing, but what is seen is like one of those pictures Groot has come across in a magazine. What's wrong with this picture?

The raccoonoid has the answer to that question, and the tree grunts. "I am Groot," he whispers, scrutinizing the mercs.

Coulson frowns and mutters, "I have no idea. She's 84 years old and goes to the flea market constantly…"

Which could be just about it. He grimaces. "Who knows what space junk wound up at the flea market? She probably has something sitting on a very nice lace doily that they think they want."

Rocket's keen eyes will pick out a group of four, and indeed they are getting into position, ready to storm the house of a lady who definitely poses no threat to them, clad in full armor with helmets and heavy duty weapons. Coulson looks to Groot with some concern, as if remembering yet again that he is not a giant tree anymore, but a tiny adorable sapling, but they're all the way out here now and he eventually decides this is kind of par for Groot's course anyway.

Where's that blond when you need her? Captain Ursula or whatever. Rocket scowls as he spies the group of mercenaries. "Well that's just great. Guess we'll have to stop them before they do something terrible. Which is what they do on a daily basis, by the way."

How different is that really from what he and Groot do, though? Rocket will never say.

"Just to note, you don't needa feel bad if you end up havin' to shoot any of these guys with that. Probably better off that way for you," he says before he starts to quietly dash off, keeping to the treeline as much as possible before skulking for more cover as he gets closer towards the house and the armored group.

Groot's eyes narrow. He doesn't like the look of these guys, and if they're here to bother a little old lady, he isn't for that. She's minding her own business, she needs to be left alone! One small hand is balled up into a tiny fist, punching his open palm a few times. "I am Groot."

He is indeed a sapling. But he's here to play.

He stays relatively close in the same direction Rocket skulks off into, peeking out every so often to see if the mercs move any further from where they currently are. It's probably easier for him to charge, but he's reserving that when the time is right.

They seem to be staking out the doors, one on each of them. One window is currently open, and it's not enough for anyone human-sized to get through. Edna herself peers through them, scanning the darkness as if seeing the things she's called the police about will help. Coulson hisses in irritation. "I really wish I wasn't banned from phones," he mutters. Of course, being banned from phones gives him some plausible deniability. Sorry, guards! We totally would have had you here to deal with this but we didn't have a phone! Or something.

He nods to what Rocket says, then looks thoughtfully between them. "Groot's ideal to get in there and get her into her basement I think," he says slowly. Sure, he's…unconventional…but he's too cute for her to possibly be afraid of him. "Theoretically," he adds, because he will also have to convey this through the only three words Coulson has ever heard him speak, and that might be pretty hard. Still…

"Then you," this aimed at Rocket, "could take out the ones on the right, and I could handle the ones on the left?"

Rocket glances at Coulson, patting one of his pockets before dismissing the thought of offering the man use of his own phone. Since…he left it in the ship. Eh well. They got this!

Eyeing Groot as the layout of a plan is set, the raccoonoid begins to nod. "Okay. You get that, Groot? Sneak in, be quiet. Through…uh. That side over there, right?"

Groot can handle instructions pretty well. Usually. Kind of.

…best not to get too complicated.

"Yeah, I can take 'em," he says as he studies the two on his side as per Coulson's plan. Then he glances up at the man, reluctant to ask. "Sure you're up for this?"

Groot looks at the agent.

He looks at Rocket. Then he looks at the house.

And then he looks at Rocket again.

"…I am Groot."

He then turns, hustling himself across the grounds toward the house as fast as he can.

…One can only hope he understood all of that.

Once Groot is in the house he will learn several important things.

First, Edna keeps lace. Everywhere. Second, wedged between a ridiculously sweet Hummel figure and a ceramic doll, he will spot what is likely the source of the trouble. It is a highly experimental energy drive that happens to look a lot like a Himalayan salt lamp. It is not in fact one, as evidenced by all the buttons and things on the base, the fact that it has no apparent battery, the fact that it is not plugged in anywhere and the fact that it's not the orange-pink of a Himalayan salt lamp, but is a sort of faint purply-pink instead. Why Edna decided this was the perfect piece for her mantle is anyone's guess.

Fun fact number two. Edna's home is extremely cluttered with all manner of crocheted things, furniture, including several rocking chairs, crammed will-he, nill-he all over her living room.

Overseeing this domain is a particularly large and hostile fluffy white cat, who immediately puffs up and stalks towards Groot, yowling his displeasure.

Final fun fact for Groot: Edna is wearing a hat. A terrible hat. It is made out of blue straw. Feathers and flowers are stuck in it every which-way. A church hat gone awry over a matching house dress that does not need, in any way, shape, or form, to be paired with a church hat. Even one gone awry. But there it is, perched right on her head.

Coulson watches Groot go with his brow furrowed in concern, in the meanwhile, and nods. "Yeah, of course," in a way that sounds…well. Perfectly convincing, because being a fantastic liar is part of his skillset, and then some. He even gives a wholly reassuring smile. "I'll move on your mark," he adds, even as the mercenaries finish getting into position. It won't be long before they are going to want to start kicking down some doors.

"…ho boy."

That's said in response to Groot as Rocket has less than confident feelings about the little guy's performance as directed. There are any number of things that could go wrong. Not that he voices these concerns to Coulson, who is in fact another concern altogether.

"Uh-huh," he says as he once again eyes the man before nodding. He'll have to take the agent at his word. It wouldn't have been a problem if Rocket could just forget the whole matter of the man having been dead for eight months. The smile he's offered seems to seal things for him, for now at least. The Guardian nods.

"All right."

He tracks Groot's progress until he's either out of sight or at the very least, near where he needs to be. Then Rocket's moving towards the right, and even as he breaks away from his cover he proves swift on his feet, blending fairly well with the shadows and the cold tones of night. Right until he's close enough to leap right up onto one of the merc's backs.

"Huh! Fancy meetin' you guys here! Hey, do me a favor- hold this," he says conversationally to the other mercenary as he looks down at him and levels his gun, pulling the trigger.

This house…is a nightmare.

The moment Groot steps inside, he feels claustrophobic. Lace. Lace everywhere, like thick spiderwebs if a spider wanted to be extra fancy with its web designs. All of the crochet throws him off, their colors and patterns causing him to cringe as he tiptoes through the rooms. This is perhaps one of the only times he tries not to actively touch anything, arms held up to make sure he keeps a safe distance between him and all of these inanimate strings.

Of course, that all changes when the cat puffs up and yowls at him. He immediately hisses back at it while backing up, looking over his shoulder to make sure he isn't bumping into anything lacy.

Which then draws his eyes, somehow, directly to where the Himalayan salt lamp sits. He's not sure what it is, but it sure is pretty. "I am- "

His eyes flick over again, this time falling onto Edna.

And her terrible, terrible hat.

He screams in horror. "-GROOOOOOT!!!!"

So there is good news and bad news.

Good news: Rocket drops the first mercenary with a bit of badass banter and a perfectly placed shot.

Good news: Phil's shooting goes a lot better today than it did on the day he earned his nickname. He just goes ahead and takes out the mercenary rather than trying to spare his life, for a whole host of reasons, really.

Bad news: The second mercenary on the right starts firing laser blasts at Rocket, and he's not a bad shot.

Bad news: While Phil had braced himself for 'a kick' the tiny weapon's recoil nevertheless lifts him off his feet and flings him back, wide-eyed, into the branches of a tree, where he is briefly and momentarily tangled.

Good news: The recoil from the gun keeps Phil from spending 8 more months dead…or you know, however long…because it moves him neatly and efficiently out of the way of his second merc.

Good news: All this shooting means nobody's kicking down the door in the Castle of Groot's Nightmares.

Good news, bad news, intertwined: Edna is now away from the windows, namely because she's shrieking as Groot shrieks at her, and all of this pisses off the cat, resulting in a hissing, spitting furball trying to claw Groot right up while Edna snatches the monstrous hat off her head and proceeds to try to whap the crap out of Groot with it. It is possible, just a bit, that this portion of the plan has…gone awry.

These guys have pretty sharp reflexes. Not to mention an uncanny ability to shoot at something perched on their own shoulder. Rocket's curse is cut short as he narrowly misses the first of the blasts that are aimed up at him, smelling singed fur as he throws himself towards the ground, using the other merc's fallen body as a rebound before he dives between the legs of the one left standing.

"Fine! Didn't feel like small talk anyway!" he shouts, returning a few shots over his shoulder as he scrambles for cover.

His ears have picked up the sound of Coulson's gun going off, and the sounds that follow, or at least as much as he can make out between the shots that come at him. If the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent gets himself hurt or worse yet, killed again, Rocket doesn't know what he'd do.

He flinches back again and pats his free hand around his belt- realizing that he's without grenades. Well, when in doubt, improvise! His hand grabs for a rock near his feet.

"Hey! You better pack up an' get off Terra if you know what's good for you, or I'll just blow your ship right now an' leave you stranded. I got a microtek grenade right here with your name on it." He jerks his hand and makes a sorta *ker-chak* sound with his mouth. "And I just armed it."

So. Much. Shrieking.

Groot is just as loud as Edna is, freaking out even more when the cat starts going after him. Groot tries to fight back, getting claw marks on his little tree body much like a scratching post because he isn't moving fast enough within close quarters.

And the lady's hat MAKES IT SO MUCH WORSE.

Shorter screams are made as the horrible hat comes down on him, slapping him silly every so often as he tries to block. "I AM GROOT!" he hollers, grabbing for the nearest thing to distract Edna and keep her hat away from his being.

Which happens to be the cat.

He tries to grab onto the cat - head, tail, whatever he can reach - so that he can hurl it into Edna's face with all of his strength.

Rocket…arms a rock.

And while these things are freakishly flexible, they are apparently susceptible to a really good bluff. Both the mercenaries stop shooting and exchange uneasy glances. Guns wavering. Coulson uses the opportunity to draw a bead from his ignoble position, but he won't shoot as long as they're hesitating. They finally grumble, "Fine, we're going. This job doesn't pay enough for this shit."

And they holster weapons and start towards the ship. The nice thing about mercs is it's always a cost-benefit analysis.

Meanwhile, inside, Fluffy LeMew goes hurtling towards her owner with a cry of, "YOW WOW ROOOOOOW." She staggers as he claws and fights and ends up ultimately on her head in place of the hat. She shrieks a little more, but now she's preoccupied with trying to tear the cat out of her curly grey locks. It's probably fine.

Sorely tempted to just throw the thing, Rocket manages to sustain the urge as he watches the two mercenaries finally make the call and retreat. He keeps his gun on them as well, still watching them as they get to the ship, easing out of his cover but keeping his 'grenade' low and his pistol high.

…and he tries not to cringe as the chaotic sounds of screams and yowls reach him from within the house. Hopefully Groot doesn't tear down the house before the ship leaves.

"…I got this Deadeye. You check on things in there," he decides, gesturing with a jerk of his head.

Everything's fine. They shouldn't worry about it.

Groot breathes, crawling backward a bit as Edna and the Fluffy are distracted with each other. Once he does, he gets to his feet…and takes the time to wander back over to stomp on the hat with repetitive jumping. "I. Am. Groot!"

Once that is done, he goes to wander back over to where the Himalayan salt lamp is, staring up at it before letting his limbs grow out. Tiny body, long limbs, less time to try picking up the lamp to see if it's actually salt.

"Got it," Coulson says, and he puts away the tiny cricket, disentangles himself from the tree, and goes jogging up to the door. Which he just opens. It's locked, but that's nothing the paperclip in his pocket can't fix. And, of course, he walks into a scene of chaos. Edna, dropping the frazzled cat onto the couch, the cat streaking down the hall to hide under a bed, a thoroughly ruined hat.

"Phillip! There is an alien in my living room! I told them! I told them all there were aliens."

"Yes ma'am," says Phil. "Fortunately I'm here to remove him. And that alien artifact."

Because it's not salt. It hums and buzzes in Groot's limbs, warm to the touch.

She peers at Phil, who will step over protectively to Groot. "Come on, we should get out of Mrs. Franklin's hair," he says. She seems to have had quite enough in her hair for one night.

And outside the mercs make it to their ship, close the door firmly, and take off into the night. The dirtball is safe for another day.

It's only once the Ursae Trino's ship takes off and becomes nothing more than a distant star that Rocket breathes a sigh of relief, holstering his gun. There's a brief moment where he's about to chuck the rock-grenade over a shoulder before he decides instead to pocket it. Then he turns towards the house, glad to hear that the screaming has died down.

Mostly. Sounds like the ol' broad's still worked up. At least Rocket has enough sense not to step inside, although he does poke his head in through the door to check on Coulson and Groot.

"Oooh," Groot croons, almost hugging the lamp against his face after oogling it from all sides. It's warm, and it feels nice in this really weird way. Kinda tickles.

While he's still holding the object, he turns to face Coulson, waving one long arm in greeting as he begins to shrink down again. "I am Groot!" he chirps, toddling carefully around things so that he doesn't have to stay in this lace-ridden hell hole any longer. As far as the agent can tell, he's ready to go.

Oh, sweet, sweet air! He can taste it!

And that's the story of how Coulson and two Guardians…helped (???) a little old lady.

Once they're out in the night air, Coulson nods to the drive, which Rocket can tell could be popped onto an existing drive to allow it to run way better and faster. "It seems we just recovered that missing piece of the Milano you guys have been looking for," he says, mild as milk. Circle this date in red, it's history: he's just letting them keep it instead of demanding it get turned over to whatever SHIELD warehouse or lab they'd want to stuff it in.

At the moment, Coulson is just so not in the mood.

And of course there's the matter of getting the bodies out of there before Edna sees those, but…that's not exactly an epic level challenge either.

Rocket suggests they disintegrate the bodies, because that seems the fastest option. But of course he'd suggest something like that, because he sure as hell ain't dragging them around. "Make her garden grow real nice! …no?"

But his attention's quickly wrapped up in studying the rock that Groot's procured from Edna's home, his eyes lighting up like one of those old-fashioned multi-bulb signs. "Ohoho…this is perfect," he says, grinning hungrily as he tries to pry the drive away from tree fingers- or lift Groot up with it for closer study.

And then Coulson's words sink in, the raccoonoid blinking at him. He heard right, right? He's not gonna question it, just in case he hadn't. His grin returns in full.

He'll let the agent hold onto that little pistol too. Just in case.

"I am Groot." The tree seems to latch onto this idea of gardening, but it's quickly put aside once the agent points out what exactly he's been holding onto. Groot sort of fights Rocket for the lamp, ultimately dangling from it as the raccoonoid examines it at a closer range. He then drops off with a soft plop onto his little tree butt, visibly pouting now that he doesn't have something warm to hug.

For now, though, maybe he'll settle on Coulson's leg. It's always fun to cling on during a walk. What better way is there to end an exciting night?

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