Do Not Shank Your Spider-Bot

Do not shank your spider-bot. You will surely need it: for emotional support, for construction upon the alien regolith, for warmth at night.

Do not shank your spider-bot. It feels and it thinks.

These were the words that Spalty Rees-Caspag-Noire, Umptian Prelate Principalia (Hon.) to the British Kingdom of EUnitys' College of Winter Scientiests, had running through his mind as he shanked his spider-bot.

"DIE!!" he stepped on it with his big black boot with enormous hardened rubber sole and kicked it over. It tumbled, dooting and clanking, until it landed on it's side.

Sanfort Wenty, his attendant, then spoke up: "Is it dead?"

"It is dead."

She made a mark on her clipboard.

Back at the base, preparations were underway for departure, but something was amiss.

"Fuel count is low! Fuel count is low!"

An officer-scientist was banging his gloved finger against a fuel gauge's glass cover, hoping that the agressive tapping motion might dislodge the needle which was firmly sitting just a hair above "4".

"Check it again! Check it again!"

"It's no use-- there's nothing to check. It's just a needle on a gauge and it's reading four point a little bit."

"Blast! We'll have to send the spider-bots to harvest more helium-3, but that is going to waste time and I'll miss my launch window."

"Our launch window, sir."


"You said it was your launch window, but we'll all be launching in it. It's our luanch window."

"Yes yes whatever."

"He what?"

"He killed the last spider-bot yesterday in battle."

"I thought we were leaving the last one in case we needed it! He promised!"

"He promised, but he is the Umptiam Prelate."

"I know he's the Umptian Prelate. I don't need you to tell me that. But if he really killed the last spider-bot, then he is without a doubt a total and confounded BAB! Hmph!"

The Launch Director visibly flinched at this grotesque and extreme expletive from his superior. "Well I'm sorry sir but it means he can do what he wants: he's the scientiestest of us all, after all. And I'm afraid I will miss my launch window, sir."

Captain Caramel Blanchford had no retort. In the pecking order of science, scientiests always outranked scientists proper, if only according to the rule of law: in practice a scientist ranking Supreme Calculator or higher could order around most low-ranked scientiests. However Spalty Rees-Capspag-Noire was of the rank Umptian Prelate, which meant he would outrank any actual scientist at the base by seven or more degrees, and easy.

But the loss of the last spider-bot was pure foolishness, and Captain (who had the rank of Pippet Fogg) could not forgive Rees-Caspag-Noire, Umptian Prelate or no.

"Call him in."


"Call him in."

"Sir I can't..."

The Launch Director was cut off with a shout and agressive lean forward. "Just call him in. NOW!!"

Rees-Caspag-Noire stepped into the room with a smile. He was wearing the customary blue coat, black hi-hat, and black boots with thick rubber soles of a high ranking scientiest. The scientiests were supposed to handle the high level decisions that the scientists typically could not, such as: which space program to fund, whether or not the biolab was safe after the outbreak or should be micronepped, or whether or not the spider-bots were needed anymore.

"Hear there's a fuel problem." Rees-Caspag-Noire sat down slumpily into the leather chair and put his boot, covered in purply, clumpy soil, on Captain's coffee table. A single science magazine sat on it, tattered and fourteen years out of date. He smiled smugly and produced a toothpick from behind his back somehow, as if it had been tucked into his belt, leaning awkwardly forward and then grunting slightly as he leaned back again and proceeded to pick his teeth.

"Umptian Prelate. I had your assurance that we would keep one spider-bot operational, even though the phase of the mission that required them was complete, and you agreed to this. In fact, you said that it would be your spider-bot we kept, because you had a— I believe it was quote a cultural and sexual affinity for it, and— quote— would not ever be tempted to kill it. Well. And now you have. And we are, I'm afraid, RIGHT. UP. THE CREEK!!"

He lost his temper at the last of this slammed his electronic clipboard on his desk.

Rees-Caspag-Noire just clicked his tongue a bit and lolled his toothpick around as a wider smile, but this time holding the threat of anger, crossed his lips. "I did not kill my spider-bot. I would not, could not, ever, have KILLED a spider-bot, much less my own. I certainly would not, could not, ever, have PROMISED not to KILL a spider-bot, much less my own, because it would not even OCCUR to me that KILLING a spider-bot would be a thing that I would EVER, and I mean EVER, be tempted in even the most minutest fragment to do. I did not KILL my spider-bot, Pippet Fogg. I SHANKED her, in open and fair combat."

He glared at Captain for two and a half whole seconds, his body having leaned forward during his diatribe somewhat. Then he returned his body back into the chair with a leathery sqeak, but not before grabbing the science magazine from the coffee table and carrying it back with him. He crossed his legs and casually began to flip through it, disinterestedly.

Rees-Caspag-Noire licked his lips, his tongue briefly touching his thick black moustache. He continued to flip through the magazine. Without looking up, he sniffed loudly and exhaled. "Have you ever gone hand-to-hand in combat to the death? Have you ever FELT the adrenaline pumping through your blood, ever KNOWN you were going to die, and yet still, managed to grab your shank from where you had it hidden in your boot and, through supreme effort, USE IT, vanquishing your foe? No? Well let me tell you something. If it turns out there are hostiles on this planet after all, well then it's going to be up to the scientiests to come up with a plan to defeat them, and that plan may very well involve sending you SCIENTISTS into unarmed combat. Have you ever thought about THAT? No? Do you even HAVE a shank in your boot? No? Well that kind of consideration is what makes me a scientiest, and a damn good one." He paused. "So. You were saying?"

"Ok. You promised not to shank your spider-bot."

Rees-Caspag-Noire visibly twitched but did not look up.

Captain continued. "This planet is uninhabited, we sent probes for years to scan for signs of life and got nothing." Rees-Caspag-Noire shruggled near-invisibly. Captain paused to inhale through his nostrils, continued in a whisper. "If we had a spider-bot, even one, we could harvest fuel with it." Another pause: "Do you not understand at all?"

Rees-Caspag-Noire brought his boot down, closed the magazine, and threw it on the table. "I understand very well. It's your problem. This is what scientists do, you solve problems. My job as a scientiest is to tell you what problems to solve. And god THANK us we have scientiests, otherwise we'd all still be crawling on our bellies in caves, let alone REACHING FOR THE STARS and COLONIZING ALPHA CENTAURI."

Rees-Caspag-Noire stood, picked up the magazine again, and again tossed it-- this time with a nasty spin-- back onto the coffee table. It landed sloppily which this tore the cover fold slightly at the staples and bent the back cover irreversably in half. "The problem you need to solve, is to GET US FUEL SO WE CAN LAUNCH. You can use whatever resources you need for it as long as we don't need them for other things or they won't cause other problems. Get whatever kind of fuel will work for the engines. And you're welcome."

Rees-Caspag-Noire turned and walked out of the room. Captain, in genuine and sudden confusion, said to his back: "What? We aren't colonizing alpha centauri, this is... " Rees-Caspag-Noire waved this comment off with his leather-gloved hand, elbow crooked at a ninety degree angle and thin whippet baton (which Captain had never noticed before) tucked under the armpit opposite.

"I said YOU'RE WELCOME!" he bellowed, cutting him off loudly as the doors slipped closed behind him.

Captain inhaled deeply.

Eventually everyone on the station perished. Try as they might they couldn't figure out how to get any of the needed fuel to get into orbit where the mothership was waiting for them.

Finally, they gave it a shot anyway but a hair past "4" wasn't enough and they just crashed back down. Then they had zero fuel which was way too little to even maintain life support, and so they suffocated and froze horrifically.

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