The Gauntlet

            

The Gauntlet

                        Chapter Two

     The Milano shook violently. Glass pieces ripped away from the window, making the crack bigger. The cold winds rushed into the cabin. 
     "Someone plug that hole!!!" Gamora yelled, her voice shaky.
     Star-Lord tapped an instrument on his ear. His helmet manifested, covering his whole face.
     Rocket shrunk into his seat. His mouth shut. Eyes bulging.
     Groot released his hold on the chair. Lifting his right arm and stretching it. His elongated limb puffed out into a tangled root-like growth, plugging the hole in the glass. The winds ceased to blow.
     Rocket opened his mouth, releasing his breath.
     "I thought I was gonna run out of air!" The raccoon said.
     "I am Groot!" Groot said.
     A layer of ice crusted Groot's vine-like hand. The frost spread slowly down his arm.
     "It's ok, just hang on!" Rocket said.
     Star-Lord tapped his ear. His helmet dissolved away.
     The cloud of red surrounded the ship, winds tore at it from the outside. The engines threatened to fail.
     The lights in the cockpit blinked. The displays and and controls lost power, rebooting only seconds later.
     Metal creaked on the outside. Vibrations vigorously surged through the ship. The seats clanged against the floor. Electricals sparked.
     "Quill?!" Gamora said. "What is going on?"
     Star-Lord tapped at the monitor before him.
     "I don't know! This storm's damaging the systems!" He said.
     "Are you saying we're stuck?" Rocket asked.
     "No, she's still going." Star-Lord said. "It's the engines I'm worried about. The second main engine. It's literally struggling to stay on."
     "Well that bastard's missile was THIS close to obliterating us!!" Rocket said.
     "It feels like we're slowing down." Gamora said.
     The engines sparked. The orange exhausts withered away in seconds. Jumping back to life with a weaker flame.
     "We shouldn't have gone into that wormhole! Now we're stuck!" Drax said.
     "Now hold up!" Star-Lord said. "I'm picking up something."
     "Yeah? Like what? Another space ship?" Rocket asked.
     "No. The energy seems to be decreasing in this area." Star-Lord said. "Which probably means we're coming onto the end of the wormhole."
     "Your little device tells you that?" Gamora said.
     "No, the radar is." Star-Lord said.
     "I hope you're right." Gamora said.
     "I am Groot!" Groot said.
     Groot's entire arm was covered in ice. Spreading onto his shoulder.
     "It's ok, you can hold it!" Rocket said.
     "I am Groot!!" Groot said.
     The Milano shook again. The lights blinked in the cabin. The darkness swirling about the ship diminishing. The winds slowing down.
      Star-Lord tapped the display in front of him.
      "That can't be right." He said.
      The Milano shook again. The vortex around it dissipating.
      "I am GROOT!" Groot said.
      The ice covering his shoulder and going down his spine.
      Rocket looked to his friend.
      "He's freezing up!!" The raccoon said. 
      The ship stopped rocking. The lights and electricals no longer blinking. Engines booting back up to full power.
      The Milano shot out of the wormhole, flying through space on it's side.
      "Are we out?" Gamora asked.
      Rocked glanced to his monitor.
      "Looks like it!" Rocket said, throwing his hands up. "Whooooh! We're out!!"
      "I am Groot!" Groot said.
      "Finally!" Gamora said.
      "Where are the ships?" Drax asked.
      Rocket dropped his hands, tapping at his display.
      "Uh, I don't see them." He said.
      "Maybe they didn't make it out." Gamora said.
      "Guys." Star-Lord said.
      "What Quill?" Rocket asked. "You see them?"
      "No, but I see that!" He said.
      He pointed out the front windows of the ship. Everyone looked to where he pointed. A massive blue swirling ball before them.
      "Holy crap! What is that?" Rocket asked.
      "It appears to be a planet." Drax said.
      "I know that!" Rocket snapped. "What planet is that?"
      The raccoon tapped at his monitor.
      "I don't think this is Xandar." Gamora said.
      "Ya think?" Rocket said. "We need to get the hell out of here!"
      "We're really close to it." Star-Lord said, eyeing the planet.
      "I am Groot!!" Groot said.
      The ice now covering his back and chest, spreading to his other arm.
      "Buddy, hang in there." Rocket said.
      All alarms went off. The red lights blinking in the cockpit.
     "Oh crap!" Star-Lord said. "They're back!"
     Out of the dark mist surrounding the wormhole, large ships emerged. Lots of ships.
     "There is no way, they're not getting us!" Rocket said.
     He slammed his fist on the button. No missiles fired. The cannons only steamed.
     Drax looked to the window on his left. His eyes widened.
     The missile hit the ship's left side, blowing up the inactive engine and ripped the ship apart. 
     Drax, Gamora, and Rocket's seats tore from the ground with violent force, smashing into the window. The glass shattered. 
     Electricals sparked. Metal shreds ripped from the ship. Engines ceased to function. 
     The three Guardians swept from the cockpit of the ship into the cold air of space. Star-Lord tapped the side of his head. His helmet formed over his face. The buckles strapping him securely to the seat.
     Ice crusted over Gamora, Drax, and Rocket. Groot still attached to Rocket's chair. His body was almost frozen over. His eyes wide open. His arm stretched out.
     Reaching for the ship, he wound his arm around a piece of metal inside the cockpit that wasn't broken off during the explosion. 
     Vines protruded from his body. Growing longer as they stretched outward. Surrounding Gamora, Drax and Rocket.
     "Gro-ot." Rocket said weakly.
     Groot's vines circled around the three guardians. His arm holding onto the metal piece slowly retracted.
     The Milano floated freely in the darkness. The lights blinked in the cabin.
     Star-Lord stared at his display. He pounded on it.
     "Come on!" He said.
     The lights blinked again. Then the power surged through what remained of the ship.
      Star-Lord cracked a smile.
      "We actually have power!" He said.
      Groot pulled himself into the cockpit, dragging along the other three. 
      "I am Groot!"
      "Alright, let's fly this baby outta here!"
      He powered the engine into full throttle. The Milano moved, but barely as quick as it did prior to the missile. Only one engine now working.
      The ship drew closer to the planet. The white now visible within it's atmosphere.
      Groot secured Drax, Gamora, and Rocket to the floor while the ship was moving forward, the ice freezing him to the metal.
      Star-Lord looked back at his friends, frozen on the metal floor. 
      "We're almost there guys. Just a little more."
      He applied more thurst to the engine. The craft flying sideways. Left wing gone and the whole left corner of the ship missing. The cold space air surging through the ship.
      "We can make it! I know we can make it!!" Star Lord said. "It's literally THIS close!" 
      The ship entered into the planet's magnetic field. Gravity pulled it inward. Friction attacked the sides of the ship in the the form of flames. 
     The scorching heat entered into the cockpit through the cracked windows. Star-Lord felt the heat the most, sitting right under the windows.
     The ice encasing Groot melted. He let go of the floor and hit the back wall with the other three.
     Star-Lord kept his hand on the throttle. His clothes burning.
     The darkness of space faded around them. Surrounded now by the peaking rays of a star.
     The flames quickly subsided. The Milano now getting heavy.
     Groot began to slip. He wound his arm around the back wall. The metal wall piece creaked.
     Star-Lord had his hand on the throttle as they passed right through a layer of clouds. The air now colder, cooling off the burning edges from the flames.
     The Milano quickly passed through another cloud layer. Now entering free fall. The ground very steadily getting closer.
     "Almost there!" Star-Lord said.
     A large passenger plane flew directly in the Milano's path.
     Star-Lord's eyes widened.
     "Whoa!!"
     He turned the ship, clenching his teeth. It tilted just enough to miss it by inches.
     He sighed.
     The ground closer now than ever. A large area of blue was directly under the Milano; a larger portion of green area was right next to it.
     He pulled back the throttle. The engine released only half the exhaust. Gravity pulling the ship down. The back part of the Milano smoking as it barreled towards the ground.
     "Oh crap." He said.
     The ship flew closer to the large blue area. The closer it got, the farther from the green land it was.
     He pulled as hard as he could to make the ship turn. Slightly at most. Now headed towards land. 
     The wall piece creaked again. Bending at Groot's weight.
     "I am Groot." He said.
     "Hold on." Rocket said.
     Gamora's eyes widened.
     "Peter!!"
     Star-Lord's hand slipped on the handle. The ship veered off course. Heading directly for the large area of blue.
     "Oh crap." He said.
     "What's going on?" Rocket asked.
     "Everyone take a deep breath!" Star-Lord yelled, as he cut the power to the engine. 
     "What?" Drax asked.
     Star-Lord unbuckled his seat belt.
     The Milano plunged into the water, sinking deep.
     The metal wall piece bent underwater by Groot. He pushed it upwards, reaching his arm to the surface. Drax, Gamora and Rocket swam up. They broke the surface and taking deep breaths.
     Groot's head popped out of the water, his body floating like ballast.
     "I am Groot."
     Gamora looked around.
     "Where's Peter?" She asked.
     Star-Lord surfaced right next to a large boat. He tapped the side of his head. His helmet fizzed away. Loud upbeat music played from on board.
     He breathed in deeply, looking up at the gaping fancy dressed people on board, holding wine glasses and staring down at him. 
     More individuals ran to the railing to take a look.
     He cracked a smile. 
     "Damn. It's been a while." He said.
Next Chapter here

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