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In Another World

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Swish, swish. Swish, swish.

Just another day on the Stellar Patrol Ship Feinstein.

The life of a scrubbing brush is an undignified one. The creature that holds you believes that it has a bad deal, but at least it is insulated from the harsh realities of the floor by your delicate, sensitive bristles.

There were so many airs and graces on your packaging. Self-contained; multi-purpose (not that you would be able to tell, as the only purpose you are ever used for is scrubbing the harsh metal decks of the patrol ship); all-weather (not that there is any weather in space, or at least, if there was, it would hardly penetrate into the corridors you spend your life in).

You are not sure what to make of the alien ambassador. Your owner becomes distracted by it, which provides you with a temporary reprieve, but you are left eyeing up the pool of green slime warily; you know that your fate will lead you inexorably to be dipped in the gross, stringy substance which will take forever to wash out of your bristles.

You wonder if you will ever feel clean again.

Much to your relief, a fey mood seems to have come over your owner. As the ambassador ascends the gangway, he decides to follow the creature, rather than staying in his duty post. For a moment there is only the blissful relief of rest while he navigates the gangway, but then he is confronted by the architect of both your woes - a big shouty man named Blather, whose favourite word appears to be 'demerits'.

Your owner attempts to continue further into the ship, but is physically blocked by the big shouty man, who continues to bellow meaningless human noises until your owner is sufficiently berated to descend the gangway once again.

He takes you back off his belt and eyes the slime speculatively.

Oh no. Oh no - oh no…

...it's actually not that bad. The slime is certainly resistant to being cleaned up - you are mostly smearing it over the deck rather than meaningfully removing any of it - but compared to the harsh metal deck it is practically comfortable, a smooth silky counterpoint that makes everything a little more bearable.

Everything is going quite well, all considered, until a massive explosion rocks the ship.

Demonstrating remarkable presence of mind, your owner ducks into the escape pod that he was fortunately situated next to, as soon as the entry-way will accommodate him. This appears to be a sensible move, as explosions continue.

After gazing around in a disoriented fashion for a few moments, your owner nestles himself (and by extension, you) in the provided safety webbing, just in time for the escape pod to be forcibly ejected. Everything is a bit rotational for a while, and explosions continue to be a theme, but the pod finally gets its act together (although not without some mechanical whinging) and starts looking for a place to set you both down.

Your owner inconsiderately blocks most of the view from the window, but you can see a pattern of light and dark, and then it starts to get warmer. And warmer. And warmer. Are you heading into the sun?

The light and temperature gradually stabilise, then recede, and with one last fwoosh of the thrusters, the pod is unceremoniously deposited somewhere and a hidden compartment opens.

Apparently whatever in the compartment is fascinating, as your owner spends some time studying it before realising he should disentangle himself from the webbing. Unfortunately, he makes such a palaver of it that he dislodges the pod from its perfectly good landing spot and tips it into the water.

Showing a little decent presence of mind once again, he tears open the door and rolls out, then swims determinedly upwards towards the light. His callous disregard for your safety means you are smashed against some unnecessarily pointy rocks, but fortunately you are All-Weather and Self-Contained, so you survive the indignity with no worse than a few scuff marks.

He then indulges in a lot of climbing and poking around in ruined stone buildings. At one point he is going down a dusty corridor and absent-mindedly takes you out to swipe at some of the ancient, stone-fragment-choked dust. It does not combine well with the alien slime, leaving your bristles caked with some kind of novel cement that would undoubtedly excite scientists the galaxy over, if you had any chance of getting off this planet and returning to the wider galaxy and if any scientist would ever express interest in a lowly hall-cleaner's brush.

The building gets steadily less ruined, but everything is still dry and dusty, including the canteen he swipes from the mess room table and the toilet that he insists on cleaning with you, despite there being no-one to tell him what to do, the toilet being entirely dry and clearly abandoned for many years, and your bristles having stiffened with slime-dust cement.

He wanders aimlessly through the increasingly industrial surroundings, until he finds himself in a tool room full of wondrous things - pliers, magnets, lasers…

...and he abandons you.

He tries not to. He picks things up, armfuls of things, but he has no backpack and nowhere but his hands and his belt to carry them, and they fall to the ground in a sad little heap. He drops the brochure that the alien gave him, he drops the chronometer from his wrist, he even abandons his towel - and you know what they say about knowing where one's towel is - but it's not enough.

He is at least sorry about it. He carefully places you on the towel and promises to return.

It's not so bad. You always expected your life would end with one too many shed bristles and a swift, ignominious trip down a garbage chute, or a long fall off a precarious gantry into a forgotten corner. It's a little early to be be put out to pasture, but the towel is a comfortable resting place, there are plenty of other tools to keep you company, and all in all it's better than you could have expected.

You wonder if, in another world, he came back for you.