Chapter 44

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"What is that smell?"

Quix scrunched her nose up as she stepped over a sleeping human, daintily making her way through the refugees one by one as she followed Maya through the massive, empty cargo hold. Her frame ached from stress and lack of sleep, and the smells of the bloodied, soiled hold were turning her stomach over as she looked at the ragged mass of miserable Obsidian employees. Despite a variety of species and sizes, she could see that not one of them had escaped a little misery. Some leaned against the dented, scarred walls of the hold, staring blankly into space. Others were still curled up on the unpolished metal floor, clinging to the meager blankets that had been handed out.

The Rust, massive as it was, seemed too small to contain so many struggling souls. Its huge steel and titanium belly wasn't meant for passengers. It was meant for the huge cargo containers she'd seen at the space ports, and in the movies.

She sighed, and stretched as she followed Maya down the length of the steel chamber. She tried to offer consoling looks and brief greetings to the others she came to. The smells, the sights, and echoing sounds of coughs and occasional moans through the chamber...

Each weary face pricked her conscience. As she tried to rub the last sleep out of her eyes, her sleepy thoughts reached for solutions, and for compassion.

She'd woken not long ago after a late night, donned her least stained and freshest-smelling clothes, and said hello to Runt as he tried to pry himself out of bed. She'd grabbed a snack bar for breakfast about half an hour ago, and then mindlessly wandered the ship for a while, trying to strike up a conversation or find a task.

The boredom got to her fast. So did the guilt.

Everyone else was busily shuffling tasks around, doing this and that and making themselves useful. Juan was organizing things with the Ghost, Hasse was busy outside checking the hull for damage, and Maya had been cleaning up the hold.

Quix wasn't about to be the only useless one.

So she'd asked Maya if she could help.

The only problem was that she had no idea what she could do.

Quix glanced to her right.

She noticed a crust of dried vomit, and immediately kept herself from inhaling through her nose.

"Uh, looks like somebody lost their lunch."

Maya glanced, and sighed.

"I thought I got all that earlier." She said.

She shook her head, stepping over another sleeping human as she worked her way towards the back of the shuttle.

"You mopped?" Quix asked, raising her brow.

Maya chuckled.

"Nope. Couldn't find a mop on this whole ship. Used a bunch of grease rags from the engineering closet. This deck does need mopped though. And just... cleaned." She said, looking around.

Quix looked around too. She lifted her upper lip in disgust.

She really hadn't given the place a real, through looking-over. But now that she was, she understood the need for a mop. Even before the wounded and star-sick passengers had tarnished the floor, she had to guess that the ship needed cleaned. Now that they'd soiled it, it was a dire need.

And there was a strange, new stench in the air...

A curse rang through the hull.

Quix looked.

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