The Afterthought’s structural integrity only worsened during the six-week voyage to the Quadra Sector: parts of the ship started falling off.
The pieces—most of them recently attached blenders—remained trapped just outside the ship, smashing back and forth in the weightlessness between the Afterthought's energy shield and its hull.
The damage had become so noticeable that a number of passing ships hailed the Afterthought and asked if the crewmembers were refugees from some distant conflict.
“Let us help. Your ship has obviously been through a terrible war,” they had said.
“Several wars, but none recently,” Daniel had responded.
Then he thanked them for their concern, ignored their continued offers of assistance, and drank two or three shots of booze.
The dismal state of the Afterthought didn’t bother 25-year-old Daniel. He’d spent his whole life around junk.
Daniel had been trained as a cloud mechanic—more commonly known as a duster —since he was four-years-old.
A popular 28th century profession, a duster used nanobot swarms to repair and rebuild old machinery. That included everything from starships to medical equipment.
While clouds can assemble almost any type of material, they can be temperamental. A duster knows just how to work with them to get the best result.
In Daniel’s time, duster inhabited countless orbital construction platforms, scrap nebulas, and any place with garbage that needed fixing.
Mechanics found out that, during large-scale manufacturing projects, clouds created harmless but highly adhesive nanoparticles called Dust.
Anyone who worked with clouds ended up coated in the stuff, just like ancient mechanics ended up coated in oil. The longer you worked around Dust, the harder it was to remove.
A duster to the core, Daniel's five foot eight inch frame, genial face, fair skin, and black hair was a permanent canvas of grey-colored smudges and streaks, remnants of the last job he'd truly loved.
He hadn't worked with clouds in years.
Daniel should have felt at home in the ship graveyard, but the object in front of his ship removed any sense of familiarity.
Rachel-7 had nicknamed it the Garage.