His father stood in front of him, a lone shining force in the darkness that surrounded the two of them. Even in death Odin appeared to be everything one would think of when they pictured a god. Strong yet merciful, wise yet ready for action, the Allfather stood as a testament to what Thor always dreamed he would be. Yet Odin had died like the rest of them while Thor survived. How could it be that this pillar of strength was no longer there to prop up the God of Thunder when he needed it?
"Quit pitying yourself," the father raised an eyebrow at his son. "You just defeated a mad tyrant and escaped his clutches. You should be reveling."
Thor looked down at himself, still wondering whether these visions of his father were in his head or whether they were real. Part of him wondered if that mattered. This was the place he was coming when he exerted enough of his energy. It must mean something, and he was going to make the most of his visits. Maybe they could help in some way to quell the coming storm.
"Revel? For what?" Thor responded dejectedly. "For harnessing a fraction of my power and passing out afterwards? For falling into a trap that should have never caught me? For falling behind our adversary so far that he plunders our treasures? I see not a reason for merriment, father."
He had won the day. That much was to be certain. There was a time that was all he needed to start feasting and drinking in the halls of Asgard. But that time was not now. Now he still had an anger in his belly towards his still unseen foe. He was furious that he still felt no closer to discovering who had destroyed his home and his people.
"You're looking at the negatives," Odin shook his head and looked down. "Did you not find Heimdall? Did you not discover our people still live? Did you not reclaim Jarnbjorn and harness the lightning once more? Are these not accomplishments worth celebrating?"
"Aye," Thor nodded. "I harnessed the lightning but for a few moments. And then it overpowered me."
"You have lost Asgard," Odin placed his hand on his son's shoulder. "It was where some of your power came from. Until you learn how to ground yourself without it, you will not feel yourself. But you will find a way to harness it once again. You will find our people and protect them. For you are Thor. God of Thunder. Odinson. You were born to lead our people out of the darkness, and so you will. Fare well, my son. And remember who you are."?
He woke with a startle, sending the multiple people around his bedside jumping back. He saw Quill, Heimdall, a small rabbit of some kind, the tree, a Thanagarian warrior, Korg, and Meik. As his eyes adjusted to the light on the ship, he saw he was on a larger, yet not wholly different ship from Quill's Milano, as if someone had merely stretched the ship out slightly. He sat up, and his head spun momentarily before he regained his wits.
"We got off the planet then?" he asked Heimdall. "How many came with us?"
"What you see here, and close to a dozen more on the bigger ship," the former sentry of Asgard reported, not without some satisfaction. He had been stuck on Warworld for too long. Getting off the gladiator world clearly brought him joy, as it should have. "Mongul may not like that we took both his fastest ship and his biggest one. The other is a pleasure yacht, but has potent defenses."
"And this one is a kickass, tricked-out Milano clone," Quill smiled like an idiot behind Heimdall. "I love it so much."
"Yea, and I made sure there weren't any tracking devices operational on either of them," the rabbit shrugged. "We don't need Mongul waking up and sending the dogs after us."
"Yes, rabbits do hate dogs," Thor pondered.
"What the hell is a rabbit?" the furry creature bristled at the word.
"I am Groot," Tree responded matter of factly.
"No I do not care if it means I'm cute and furry. I am an intergalactic killing machine. I ain't cure," snapped back before turning to Thor. "Name's Rocket."
"And I'm Hawk," the Thanagarian put out our hand.
He hesitated to take it, "A Thanagarian ship was the reason we ended up on Warworld. Yours?"
"Yea," she nodded as she took off her battle helmet. A cascade of auburn hair fell from within, draping over her caramel skin. "You guys had a bounty. I'm a bounty hunter. But seeing as I was just seen helping you escape by everyone with access to Mongul's broadcast, I assume I have a price on my head as well. Considering how big the one was on both of you, I assume it's pretty substantial."
"Shit, wait what?" Rocket sputtered. "You're tellin' me I got a price on my head now?"
"Probably," Hawk nodded.
"Great. Out of the frying pan and into the friggin' fire."
"I am Groot."
Rocket nodded, "You're right, pal. It isn't
fair, is it?"
"So what's our next move?" Heimdall asked.
As the others chattered amongst themselves, Thor pondered the question. Quill wanted to run back to his Ravagers. Rocket just wanted to run. Hawk wanted to fight. Thor liked that. But as they tried to plot and plan, he came up with the only way he could think of to find his enemy as well as help his people escape harm.
The request came out of his mouth unlike any other time he could remember. It remind him of his father when he was on the throne. It was not threatening, but it carried power. Until now he had never thought he had the ability to command a room in such a way. He had done it plenty of times on the battlefield, but not in a setting like this.
"Heimdall," he looked at his old friend, "as much as this pains me after being reunited, we must part ways. You said yourself that our people are out there and scattered. They are being hunted as we are, yet we know many of them do not have the skills the two of us do. You must take the gladiators and find our people. Collect them. Protect them."
Heimdall considered the command. It made sense, but Thor saw the trepidation he had with leaving the God of Thunder, "And what shall you do, Odinson?"
"We," he motioned to Quill, Hawk, Rocket, and Groot, "will provide you cover. While you are hunting to save our people, we will be traveling the galaxy, flaunting our living status. Helping those that need it, and, with luck, find who put a price on our heads and destroyed Asgard. And when we do, we'll go and kill him."
His four new potential traveling companions considered what he had said. Thor knew Quill was in, and Hawk seemed eager as well. It was Rocket and Groot who were the wildcards.
"Listen, we ain't usually the joinin-"
"I am Groot," Groot cut him off.
"What do you mean we stand a better chance with them!?" Rocket growled at the tree. "We survived all this time without 'em!"
"I am Groot."
"Grrrrrrrrrrrrr," Rocket growled again and ran his hands...paws...whatever through his fur in frustration. "Fine. We're in. But I do not love the idea of flaunting around while someone wants me dead."
Thor stood, before kneeling in front of the small creature. He placed his hand on Rocket's small shoulder, "My friend you have the heart of a warrior. With the rest of us, those who stand against you do not stand a chance."
"Shake the bait, see who bites," Hawk cracked her neck. "Sounds good to me."
"Shit I've been an outlaw this whole time anyway," Quill shrugged. "I'm in."
"Then let us begin," Thor smiled broadly at his new companions. "Our enemy does not rest, and neither shall we."
THOR, STAR-LORD, HAWK, ROCKET, and GROOTARE
THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY