Blame It On The Stars

Chapter 3

In which Kraglin acquires a mop and a friend.

His next shift is labelled simply as 'scrubbing'.

There's no designated placement. No name to comm neither. So Kraglin sets off aimlessly through the labyrinth of corridors and crawl-ways, trying to commit some of them to memory. In fact, he's so focused on where he's going that when he stumbles over someone who's not in a hurry to get somewhere else, it's quite literal.

His victim's a girl, skin an obnoxious Xandarian pink. She's on all fours, muttering to herself as she attacks a boot scuff with an ineffectually soft brush. Kraglin's foot hooks her calf. He goes down like a blown-out Nova ship. His face cracks neatly against the spot the girl had been working on, but as he topples she manages to wreak vengeance by clocking him on the temple with her brush.

"Fuck!" Kraglin clutches his skull like he's trying to hold it together, unsure which part hurts most. "Ow!"

"Ow!" counters the girl right back. Then she actually looks at him, and the brewing fight slumps out of her. "Watch where you're goin', greenie."

That's… new.

Surprised that his presence is inciting mere irritation as opposed to out-and-out animosity, Kraglin stays where he is instead of shuffling away – or at least, he does until the girl lifts the scrub brush and menaces his other ear. "The fuck you trying t'do? Cop a feel?"

Kraglin doesn't dare leer and prove her right. He scrambles backwards like she's leaking radiation. "No. No! Sorry."

The girl rolls her eyes at him, bows her head, and returns doggedly to the task at hand. Bristles swirl over metal, then dunk into a bucket of water dirtier than the floor it's cleaning. The process repeats every five seconds or so – skrrsh, splt, skrrsh, splt – regular as a nodding donkey. Kraglin inches closer. "Um. What you doin', anyway?"

"What's it look like."

That… doesn't sound like a question he's supposed to answer. More rhetorical-like, really. Kraglin swallows, prays his reflexes are fast enough to save him from the grotty scrub brush that will no doubt end up being flung at his head, and answers anyway.

"Well, it looks like you're scrubbin'. And y'see, the thing is, I oughta be scrubbin' too, but I don't really know what to do or where to get the stuff –" His monologue's snipped by a grunt and an aggrieved heave of the girl's shoulders. She waves her brush – Kraglin flinches – towards an open panel, which cuts a wedge from the rust-red wall.

"Cleaning crap's in there. Grab a mop or something and check yer map for where's flagged up. Just make sure ya bring it back to this floor, or the guy checking supplies next shift'll get pissy."

"'Kay…" Kraglin moves to the panel, and squints inside. The cupboard's deeper than expected, cut into the sloped wall until it meets the flank of the next hall over, and edged with flaky piping. He'd probably be able to wriggle his torso inside if he tried hard enough, the rest of him at a push. As it is, he need only slot in an arm and grope to locate the handle of a droopy-headed mop that's taller than he is. "Right," he says. Then, in hope – "So, you don't need no help here then?"

"No," says the girl shortly. She scrubs harder. Kraglin imagines her wearing through scuff and floor and out the other side. "I'm only here because Dagada knows I'm on scrub-duty now. A-hole put this here himself, I'll bet." Her voice isn't so much vehement as venomous. Kraglin studies the way she sneers at the dirt-patch she's working on and decides that she must be replacing it with this Dagada-character's face. Motivation, he supposes. Whatever works.

Propping his mop in the chink between two uneven grills, Kraglin leans on it and swivels to appraise the tunnel in all its dank and dusty glory. "Y'know, I don't think anyone'd notice if ya slacked off. This place ain't exactly a Nova barracks, if you get my drift."

Panting, the girl pushes back a hank of sweat-darkened purple hair. She aims her scowl at him instead. "Dagada would. First you barge into me, now you're tryin' ta get me in shit with the bo'sun? The fuck d'you think you are?" Kraglin pales. The harsh lines of the girl's face soften. "Aw heck," she grumbles. "You're just a greenie with a mouth on ya. You don't know how all this works. Ain't no point being mad at you."

"You seem to be the only one who thinks so," Kraglin tells her. That wins a whip-crack of a laugh. She dabbles the tips of her brush bristles, then slaps them over the scuff hard enough to propel water drops at Kraglin's bootcaps.

"There ain't nobody on this crew who made friends on their first day, greenie. Don't bust an eyeball over it." Shrrk, shrrk, shrrk, splat. Scrub-girl gives her tool a more thorough drenching, and continues to scour the floor as if she's buffing it to a mirror. At least she's louring at it and not him. "They'll warm up. If you survive the first month, they'll ask yer name. Watch that gob of yours for the next five, and they might start to like ya."

Which reminds him.

Kraglin dithers over sharing the tale – this girl seems marginally nicer than the rest, or at least, marginally less likely to haul his ass out an airlock for making an honest mistake (admittedly, experience up to this point may have lowered his standards). And she's cute to boot. In a pink kinda way. After Isla, he doesn't feel confident in asking questions of his own – so he might as well say something of himself, and see what comes out of it. Heck, perhaps she'll find it as amusing as lizard-guy and his friends.

"They've started a betting pool about me, y'know."

"Yeah, I know." The splash of her brush in the bucket drowns Kraglin's disappointment. "They do that every now and again, when someone joins from Xandar territory. Most folks like that think far too much of themselves to survive long." She snickers under her breath. "Picked you off one of them posh ports too, so you're less likely to last than most."

Well, that's just gross misinformation. Offended, Kraglin crosses his arms. "Oi, I might've come aboard at that naffy place, but I weren't native or nothing. I'm Hraxian. Born and bred."

"And I don't give a shit." Of course she doesn't. Kraglin slumps. "Hey, y'know what the bets are? I might get in on 'em this time."

Suddenly, this whole thing – this assfuck of a day, the casual banter over when he's going to die; heck, this whole crazy, stupid plan that he'd cobbled together on the spur of the moment, when he'd spotted a swarm of red-clad outlaws flooding the dock and had decided that once he'd joined a fucking space pirate crew everything would be miraculously better – it's all too much.

"Thank you," says Kraglin. He wrestles his mop free of the metal crevasse and settles it crossly over one shoulder, glowering at her leather clad back. "Thank you, very fuckin' much."

He means to march off there and then. But the girl glances up, fringe flopping, and grins. "Hey c'mon. I'd give ya at least a fortnight, greenie."

It's… it's better than anything he's gotten so far.

Anger evaporates as Kraglin sighs. He squeezes the tension from his nose bridge with the hand not stabilizing the mop; the throb in his temple has waned, but only because it's been subsumed by the pressure behind his eyeballs. He's tired. He's worn. He feels like a man who's been chased halfway across the quadrant for the sake of some dumb, fake necklace and one little bullet that had gone awry. The canteen eggs sit like melted lead in his stomach, and all he wants is to drop into a soft, warm bed.

This must be serious. He ain't never had a soft warm bed before, and he doubts that'll change here.

"Isla said I'd last the night," he says pathetically. "And someone called Horuz gave me most of today – until dinner, at least." The girl's passes of the brush continue. But they slow considerably, and she tilts her head, lips pursed.


Kraglin's not done yet though. He paces the corridor lengthways, side-to-side. The mop-head thwacks on the light panels every time he turns, and he's got the staff clenched so hard that he can hear the plastic grains creak. "But this one guy… He's called, uh, Odontu, or something? He didn't think I'd make four hours." He lets the words hang. For some reason, the girl doesn't seem especially surprised. In fact, she snorts and ducks her head once again. Kraglin tacks on a desperate "Can you believe it?"

Because heck, that prediction is ridiculous, right? How many Ravager recruits kick the bucket in the first four hours? And what about Kraglin suggests that he might be one of them?

The mop smears the central ceiling strut in his agitation. Scrubgirl glances up and groans. "Calm yer tits, Mohawk. That's Yondu's idea of a joke." A pause. "I think."

Kraglin laughs, a little higher than usual. "That's really reassuring."

"Look, just…" She waves the brush wordlessly for a moment, then verbalizes her frustration with a drawn-out, aggravated hiss. "Get yer map out, would ya?"

He's got nothing else to do. Kraglin obeys. He sees, to his surprise, that the usual schematics, red-brown: the colour of arterial Hraxian blood, are now smattered through with flashing yellow dots. "There," Scrub-girl says. "Beacons. Folks'll flag up where there's been a spill, or whatnot. They pop up on your chart there. You go clean 'em. Simple, right?" Simpler than anything else he's encountered today. He must look haggard, because Scrub-girl sighs at him and doesn't bother to toss in a last freebie insult as she shoos him on. "Go clean somethin'. Whatever it is that's buggin' you… Well, it ain't gonna make it better. But it might take your mind off it, and that's something, right?"

Something indeed. Kraglin checks the map again, isolating the nearest (he thinks) blip, which is located in a network of ladders between this floor and the one above. He pauses before he reaches the corner.

"So, no one's gonna ask after my name before I've survived a month?" Scrub-girl nods. Kraglin clears his throat, and rubs the rough plastic of the mop handle over the back of his neck, in absence of a hand. "Um… is it alright if I ask for yours?"

He's once again subjected to that wary appraisal. Then the Xandarian nods. "Morlug," she says.

It's better than 'Scrub-girl'. Kraglin smiles. "Nice t'meetcha, Morlug."

"Likewise, greenie. Now fuck off."

He snaps to a saucy salute, mop slapping on the light – "Yes, ma'am." And off he fucks.

Behind him, the brush scrapes away. The furious scritching eats at his eardrums until he's well round the corridor and away.

He's halfway through wiping up his seventh spillage of the shift – this a familiar shade of draov egg orange, albeit with a semi-digested texture and a lingering bile-sour aroma; apparently some folks didn't like their dinner – when it happens.

There's a burst of holographic light. That's enough to startle him. Then the chronometer strapped around his wrist blares like a Kree raid siren. Kraglin jumps, banging his head on the low doorframe, and stumbles cussing against the airlock. He almost avoids standing in the mess. Once he's ascertained that they're not under attack, that the ship isn't violently depressurizing and that he hasn't banged the self-destruct button with his stupid oversized mop-handle (the novelty of which wore off sometime between the sixth and seventh compensation-joke) he forces himself to breathe, and locates the source of the infernal noise.

His wristpiece is flashing. The words night and cycle scroll intermittently over the pixelated surface. Kraglin stares at the words until they sink into the tired, porous mass that he once called a brain. Then goggles.


Because the room icon flashing next to the digits reading time and astral-date? That's not the one Thrabba'd assigned him. Isla. Double shit.

What was it he'd been told? Once his night-cycle alarm goes off, he's got eight hours to find his designated cabin and bunk. Then he can start catching up on all the sleep he's lost since fleeing the Cartel.

It's long overdue – he can feel the pains and twinges of a manual day's work settling atop of his previous aches, and knows he's going to be stiff in the morning. Second proper day tomorrow too, and he doesn't doubt it'll be a busy one. Honestly, what's he waiting for? Sure, Isla had bet for twenty-four hours. But Kraglin figures he can deal with any of the more volatile crewmembers Isla throws at him and still come up kicking. He's been practicing his spine-trick, after all.

And really, how bad can cabinmates be?

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