For the 2nd day of Christmas Calendar we have a story to tell. This tale was loosely inspired by Frozenbyte support workers’ daily chores, though all characters and events (including explosions) are purely fictional. The tale was written by LindaFB. ❄️

A Day in the Life of Support

by Bob, a robot

It was nine a.m., and Bob felt groggy. The computer, which he had just booted up, was some ancient model, unlike any he’d seen before, and was taking forever to start up. It wasn’t the only piece of machinery that puzzled him; The whole station was crammed full of underwhelming devices and gadgets undoubtedly belonging to some distant, primitive faction hiding from Imperial visitors.

Not that Bob could blame them – he’d had some personal encounters with the Empire as of late, none of which had been particularly pleasant in nature, and he rather welcomed this excuse to go incognito for a few weeks.

”Finally,” he thought as the e-mail client started up. Twenty new messages since last night. He sighed inwardly.

The topmost message was yet another reply to an already long conversation with a customer who wasn’t at all tech-savvy and tended to ignore most of his instructions. Bob frowned with eyebrows that he didn’t have. Another ’unhandled exception’, and the customer had answered only one question out of ten.

He spent good forty-five minutes typing a lengthy response to the e-mail. The floor quaked just as he hit ’send’, and he glanced out the window to see a tall column of smoke rising upwards. Bits of what had presumably been a Vasama scooter rained against the windows.

”Before anyone asks, that wasn’t me,” Bob typed in the internal chat. Downstairs a door opened, and he could hear distressed beeping. “…and all damages to property are covered by Bolt TV’s insurance.”

He put on headphones to block out the sound of Doctor Bolt arguing with a station assistant, and turned back to his e-mails. The screen shook as robots jogged past his workstation and made the floor vibrate, all no doubt curious to see what Bolt had destroyed this time.

An hour later he was scrolling down a seemingly endless litany of Discord messages. The number sixteen flashed across the screen over and over again, bolded, italicized, underlined, and in every hexadecimal color. He stared at them in disbelief, a sense of cold dread spreading through his circuitry. Was it just a coincidence, or had the Empire somehow tracked them all the way to this tiny backwater planet? No, no, the Empire had no way of knowing who monitored these messages. He wasn’t Bob, he was just ones and zeroes in an anonymous chat room full of strangers.

Strangers. Who wasn’t to say that there couldn’t be a spy among them?

He started as a new message popped up in the internal chat.

”Help!” it read. ”Something’s leaking water on my workstation!”

”Be right there,” Bob typed. He put down the headphones, grabbed his toolbox, and ran like hell.

fan art made by MisterMajestic#8520 on Discord

Two hours, one Bolt Tool, a roll of duct tape, and four changed light bulbs later Bob returned to his desk. It was already noon. Another air conditioning machine had started malfunctioning and resulted in a minor flood, which had been one of the most stressful experiences in his memory. He’d discovered that this liquid substance they called water was not exactly good for his endoskeleton, wieldy though it was, and the machines it had made contact with hadn’t reacted very well to it, either, if the sizzling and smoke were an indicator.

”Perhaps we should test how well our ships endure water if we ever come to film on this planet,” he thought. He could already picture the explosions – and the viewer statistics. What a hit it would be if they could just get a filming permit.

Bob leaned back in his chair, opened the browser, and spent the next hour reading and replying to new comments on the latest Boltcrackers episode. The suggestions did not vary much episode to episode. Their audience had a fascination with asteroids and making vehicles or weapons out of them, which Bob welcomed with open arms. He chuckled as he scrolled past yet another wall of ”#ASTEROIDMETA is real” comments.

What he did not laugh at, however, were the increasingly many comments that worried for the continuation of the show after his prison break, and the radio silence that had followed it. He found it even less funny that someone, or several someones, were still posting about the strange item they had found in the Imperial laboratories several episodes back. ’Cat ears’ they kept calling it. Neither word rang a bell.

”Perhaps it’s a code for something,” he muttered to himself, and just as an afterthought, scribbled it down in his notes. Not that his notes were of much use nowadays. They were more erratic thoughts, haphazardly typed without any order or connection, born in those early hours of the night when there were no distractions. He tapped the screen of his Universal Tool absent-mindedly as he thought. Sixteen. It always came back to sixteen. But what was the connection between the number and the other clues? What did it mean? He glanced back at the comments section of the video. Even here, some many comments contained nothing but the same number.

It was frankly quite disturbing.

He had been going over messages in their other social medias for another two hours when someone tapped him on the shoulder. Bob paused, a finger hovering over the ’send’ button. When he looked up, he found Doctor Bolt hovering behind him, looking rather dustier than usual. Something had left an impressive dent across the chestplate of his armour.

”May I borrow you for a bit?”

Bob glanced at the screen. He had just crafted a most clever tweet that begged to be shared with the fans. Perhaps later.

”Sure. What is it?”

”We’ve got a delivery to pick up from another station. It’s urgent.”

They trudged downstairs together. Bob did a double-take when he saw the vehicle parked at the far end of the dock; it was probably the oldest spaceship he had ever seen. Paint was peeling off in many places, and there were spots of rust all over. The graffiti on both sides declared ’Space Van’ in gaudy pastel colours. Underneath it was a large soot stain, presumably from the earlier accident. He could still see bits and pieces of metal all over the shipyard.

”There’s no way that will fly,” Bob said in disbelief as they got closer. ”It’s falling apart.”

“It’s the only ship they have available.”

“It has wheels.”

“Well, they travel short distances on land here. Gravity, you know. This station we’re headed to isn’t far away.”

“What funding does this station run on?”

Bolt shrugged. “Beats me. Take a look at the cargo and we’re off.”

Bob pressed the button that was supposed to open the doors of the cargo bay, but nothing happened. He turned the handle, and slowly, with an ominous wailing noise, the doors swung open. A bit of metal fell off the ship as the whole thing trembled. There were what looked like small propane tanks inside, along with several mostly empty (and decrepit) cargo crates.

“Unimpressive. What’s this delivery all about?” he asked and closed the doors.

“Get those tanks refilled, and pick up some,” Bolt pulled up his Universal Tool and stared at the instructions, “uh, sixty or so containers of ethanol.”

“Better hope the cargo crates can be powered on, in that case, because this whole operation sounds pretty flammable. What do they even need that much for?”

“Some party, according to the station assistant I spoke to earlier. I don’t know what they’re gonna do with it.”

The engine let out a series of highly unpleasant sounds as Dr. Bolt tried to power it on. Bob stared at the control panel in dismay. Unusual wasn’t quite enough to describe it; it used some archaic pilot seat system that required an ignition key, and there was what he assumed was called a steering wheel. The engine sputtered to life at last and they took off, leaving a black trail behind them.

“How far’s this station?” Bob asked as Dr. Bolt accelerated. His words were instantly followed by the sound of loose cargo slamming against the wall as they took a sharp turn to the left.

“Should be just a ten-minute ride, if our cargo doesn’t blow up on the way. Those propane tanks are probably not as empty as the shipyard manager thinks.”

”So what’s the rush, then?”

”Instructions. Gotta be there at exactly 1600 hours.”

”What?”

Bolt didn’t answer, just increased the speed as soon as the station had vanished from view. Bob eyed the ships that passed them warily. There was much more traffic today than usual, and there was a nasty feeling at the back of his head that they were being followed.

He glanced in the rear-view mirror. A gray ship, not much larger than theirs, had been flying behind them ever since the first intersection. It kept bypassing any other ships that tried to get between them, as though keen to keep them within eyesight, but never accelerating enough to fly past them. Nothing about its design or markings looked familiar, but the pilot seat was empty. Bob adjusted the mirror and glanced at Dr. Bolt.

”The ship behind us is on autopilot. I think we’re—”

”—being tailed? Yep.”

Bob brought up his Universal Tool. To his relief their ship was still compatible with an older variant of YOLOL, despite its age. He typed in some quick changes to the rear-view mirror’s values, zooming in on the ship behind them, and his finger paused over the screen as he saw it. The ship wasn’t empty, even if the pilot seat was. There were several endoskeleton-shaped entities moving at the back, almost out of view. They were armed.

”Bounty hunters or soldiers.” Bob said and put down the Universal Tool.

”Well, looks like we’re not getting that delivery done after all.”

”What are we gonna do?”

”Get rid of them and bolt, asap.” The whole ship vibrated with a horrible racket as Dr. Bolt accelerated. ”There’s a neutral base in the moon orbiting this planet. Our ship just might be able to make the journey.”

”And then what? Sell the ship and hitch a ride from some traders?”

”I’m keeping my options open.”

Bob glanced over his shoulder into the cargo bay where the propane tanks were rolling around on the floor. They were letting out a faint hissing noise. Without pausing to think Bob unfastened his seat belt and got up. There was a narrow space between the two seats that was just big enough for a robot of his size to squeeze through.

”Bob?”

”I’m OK.” Bob replied and entered the cargo bay. He opened the nearest cargo crate and peeked in. YOLOL chips, propellant cooler, magazines and shells. The next one was empty, apart from a selection of dusty, broken weapons. The only operational one was a banged-up assault rifle.

”You’ll have to do,” he muttered as he picked it up. He took out a magazine from the other crate, crouched down, and loaded the rifle. ”I have an idea,” he told Bolt. ”This will make some noise.”

And with that he activated his mag boots and threw open the doors of the cargo bay.

The propane tanks went rolling past him and flew out of the cargo bay, airborne, hurtling towards the ship tailing them. Bob lifted the rifle, aimed, and pulled the trigger. The first bullet met its mark and hit a propane tank, but nothing happened. He aimed and fired again. The second bullet hit another propane tank just as they were about to collide with the ship’s windshield. The reaction was instantaneous; the tanks exploded one by one, destroying the windshield and parts of the cockpit. The last Bob saw of the ship was it slowing down and spinning around uncontrollably towards the incoming traffic.

”Nice one!” Bolt said. ”I think you caught their FCU.”

”If only I’d gotten that on camera.”

Bob closed the door and clambered back on his seat at the cockpit, rifle still in hand. A brief look at the rear-view mirror told him the ship was no longer after them; there was a great deal of smoke still rising from where the wreck had landed.

”Almost 1600,” Bolt said. ”Just enough time to grab that ethanol before we leave.”

”I think we should get going – before more show up.”

”Yeah, but I don’t think this ship’s gonna fetch us enough credits to get out of this star system.”

”I guess you’re right. Here’s hoping ethanol sells for something.”

Bob leaned back in his seat. Perhaps he could write up support experience in his CV now.

Though, honestly speaking, he wasn’t quite sure if escapes generally counted towards your typical support experience.