Guugel came out of his rest cycle slowly, his lone eye staring at the ceiling as he laid in his bed; the only noises he heard were the warm hum of the ship, and the death rattle that was Kracker’s snoring. The concept of a bed was still so alien to him; and he would always dwell on how artificial it seemed when he came out of his rest state. Despite this, beds had an odd tint of familiarity. Back home on Otiwa, his people would rest in the communal peat rooms. There, they would slow their bodies down while lying upon soft plants. Guugel felt a twinge of familiarity and homesickness every time he woke up inside the crew bunks. He kept expecting to see the greenery of his youth whenever he woke up. He continued to stare at the ceiling, which seemed to loom miles above him, at such an early hour. His mind wandered as he rested on the gigantic bunk in the cavernous room.
Most of the ship was gigantic to him. He wasn’t quite sure how Marken handled it; Marken was just as small as he was. Whenever he was around the Astro-Mole, Guugel would feel flashes of business-related panic. There would be worries of failure, and loss, and disappointment, with just a hint of sad longing. However, more overwhelming was the love of food and cooking.
Guugel had always picked up on the subtle emotional vibrations of other beings. Over time, though, he learned to tune them out entirely, because they would often overwhelm him. He had made his choice to explore the stars… unusual for most Wot. He wouldn’t let someone else’s sad feelings spur him toward homesickness and self-doubt. He’d made his choice to leave the safety of Otiwa, and he was determined to see as much of the galaxy as he could.
The rest of his bunk-mates were still asleep, actively dreaming as the wot prepared for his day. Throughout the night, he would see sudden flashes of the abstract imagery of their dreams; most of the time, he couldn’t piece them together, but there were times where their nature was unmistakable. He did not want to invade their dreams, but the dreams were adamant about invading his mind.
As usual, Kracker’s unconscious mind was flashing the energetic imagery of the Zero-G races. The dream felt almost lustful, as though he was opening up the throttle of a technically advanced racer, just like the ones the parrack was always watching on the net. Kracker was addicted to racing and the pursuit of speed, as evidenced by his hectic piloting, when he could get away from the pre-laid routes of conventional space travel. Dorian was tossing fitfully as he recalled a sad memory involving a sibling, and Guugel promptly tuned it out. All he had seen was the presence of three grey of varying ages in a hallway. The oldest tried to talk to one who was grudgingly acknowledging him, while the youngest was crying down the hall . The crying child felt familiar to Guugel, and he promptly tried to flush the image from his mind.
Most unusual was Dash, always Dash. Dash always understood Guugel; he was one of the few individuals the wot had met who could actually hear his conscious projections. As usual, though, Dash’s dreams were indecipherable. The mental equivalent of static, unfortunately. Tonally, Guugel sensed conflict: rage, fear, but yet some tang of optimism.
Guugel began his day as he always did, with a few moments at his footlocker. He popped it open to inspect his collection of soils. As he traveled from planet to planet, he would take a soil sample and store it in the footlocker. The weary wot dug through his small bags of dirt, looking for one he hadn’t tried in a while. He spied Poenva. He unsealed the bag and poured some of the grit into his hand. Poenva’s soil was fairly acrid. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant though, as the planet was full of life and aged stone. It felt old, and old soil was almost the most comfortable. In a way, he just needed that pick-me-up.
Soil still in hand, Guugel sealed up the Poenva bag, set it back into the footlocker, and shut it closed. He took a moment to make sure he didn’t wake any of his coworkers, and made his way to the hygiene room. Along the way he spotted the robot, Blu, jumping from seat to seat in the living area. He paused for a second and waved, and Guugel nodded. Despite the energy the robot showed, he felt old… far older than the ship. It was something that filled Guugel with curiosity most of the time, but curiosity was best avoided in the morning.
The wot stepped into the hygiene room and selected his custom settings. No laundry, no soap, 2-inch lukewarm water fill, high-luminosity lighting, and no air-dry. In seconds the tub began to fill, and shut off at exactly 2-inches. Guugel dipped a finger into the water, making sure the finicky hygiene system didn’t malfunction this time. Satisfied with the temperature, he tossed his small handful of dirt into the water. It made a plunk, and a cloud of coppery brown billowed out from the surface of the water down to the bottom of the tub. Guugel stepped in, mixed the dirt in with his feet, and finally laid down, his back resting against the plastic of the tub. He spent a few minutes soaking, enjoying the gritty texture of the earthy water. Combined with the bright light, this would be simply perfect to keep him going for the day. Everyone else had breakfast. He had this.
A few minutes later, Guugel returned from the hygiene room, feeling refreshed. He made his way back to his bunk and had just reached the foot of his bed when he noticed his footlocker was open. He promptly shut the locker, but grew curious. He unlocked it and pored through his bags of soil, but he could not find Otiwa. He searched through several times, frantically tossing bags out of the locker and onto the floor. Reeling with shock, he fell backwards onto the thinly-carpeted floor. His arms fell to his sides, and his palms found themselves lying flat on the threadbare floor. Distributing his weight, he found the telltale signs of dirt on his fingertips. He whipped upright and held the loose grains close to his eye. It was otiwan, particular to his former village. He peered around, noticing more bits of soil on the carpet. The puzzled wot began to follow them.
The trail led him down the hall to the lower common room, where he had seen Blu earlier. Now, Blu was absent. The wot thought back to Blu; the little robot was harmless, mostly, known to take things and hoard them. Generally, this wasn’t a problem. Everyone would just find their missing item dangling out of a vent, eventually… however, this was a bit more personal.
The trail of grains led to the couch in the lounge, but stopped at the cushions. Guugel took the pillowed seating and ripped it from the couch. No sign of the otiwan dirt, nor were there signs underneath the couch. He placed the cushions back onto the seat and peered around, annoyed that his trail ran cold.
Suddenly, he remembered the vents.
He looked upward. Six feet from the top of the couch was a vent cover that was clearly loose. Guugel climbed up onto the couch and jumped as high as his small legs would allow, but to no avail. Annoyed, he clenched his fist and hit the wall. To his surprise, the vent opened, and a thin wire rolled out onto his head. It was just as Dash had mentioned; makeshift rigging ran all over the ship, thanks to Blu.
Guugel tugged at the wire, but it did not give way. He climbed up to the vent, brushed aside the cover, and pulled himself inside, entering the inner workings of the ship. Sure enough, he was greeted by several grains of otiwan soil. The vent was small, even for the diminutive wot, and he had to remain on his hands and knees to fit inside. Unabated by the ironically cramped quarters, he pushed forward.
The vents were dark and smooth; this was an utterly gloomy and artificial environment for the wot, and he already felt fatigued by it. As he inched further into the the dark vents, he made out crude drawings. Blu had turned the inner-workings of the ship into his playground! It was too dark to see clearly, but Guugel could make out crude drawings of the Lucky Strike crew along one side, and a long sequence of symbols on the other. Blu was telling a story, but the tale could wait for the moment.
The vent split into two after a distance; based on where he entered, Guugel suspected the paths took him to the cargo-bay, or the engine room. Peering around, he spotted an errant grain heading toward the engine room. The temperature rose as he pressed onward to the core mechanics of the ship. The heat in the ventilation shaft was not intense, so much as thick and stifling. The wot knew he couldn’t remain in there for long, or else he would dry out. A light ahead of him grew in intensity with each step. Suddenly, he broke the threshold, falling into a large vent hub filled with plant life. The elusive little blue robot sat on an upside down clay pot, waving at his guest.
The makeshift garden was fascinating, dazzling the wot. The plant-life had grown lush in the warm vents near the engine room, and the variety was astounding. Guugel wiped at his brow, clearing his sweat and marking his disbelief. He had nearly lost himself in awe when he remembered the purpose of his search.
Guugel picked up some grains of the otiwan dirt inside the room. He held them toward Blu. Blu tilted his head in response, curious. Guugel gestured again, pretending to open a bag and pour the grains from one hand to another. He closed and opened an imaginary foot locker several times. The exasperated wot brought two level hands down several times in a smooth motion. Blu took a moment, and then nodded, understanding. The little robot hopped off the clay pot and knelt down next to it. He pointed to the pot, and waved Guugel over. Guugel approached, sweltering in the heat. Blu pointed to his own kneeling stance, and Guugel followed through with his own.
Blu looked around a bit, and then lifted the bottom of the pot slightly, almost gingerly. He nodded at Guugel, and tilted the pot enough to reveal a smaller pot, filled with dirt. Guugel noticed the distinct tang of the otiwan soil. He rubbed the side of his head in exasperation, until he noticed the mushroom. It was light purple, with a teal swirl along the cap; the surface felt smooth and rubbery, and shone brilliantly. The small size of the swirl indicated that it was still juvenile. The mushroom resembled Guugel in many ways. He marveled at it.Blu picked up the larger pot and set it to the side, while Guugel was still entranced by the mushroom. Blu grabbed a small watering can, a repurposed Pommo can, and tapped Guugel’s shoulder. Guugel watched as the tiny robot poured for a few seconds. Blu finished, and shook his finger at Guugel, pointing at the can several times. Guugel nodded. Content, Blu picked up the small pot, and thrust it toward Guugel. He held the pot for a moment and looked back at Blu, who had already begun trimming one of his plants. Guugel shook his head in disbelief, and made the crawl back through the vents.
Back in the bunk room, everyone was still asleep. Kracker’s snoring had grown more ear-shattering, and Dash and Dorian had each subconsciously buried their heads into their pillows. Guugel looked all around the room, but finally decided that the best place for his mushroom was on top of his foot-locker. He placed it there, and for a few moments, he was content. Then, quite suddenly, he pulled the mushroom off the foot-locker, setting it to the side. He opened the lid, and began to collect bags of dirt.
A few hours later, while moving through the vents, Blu arrived at the exit to the lower-common room, usually his main thoroughfare. He was quite surprised to see several bags of soil waiting for him, just inside the vent.