In Space Nobody Can Hear You Kvetch

In Space Nobody Can Hear You Kvetch

The Wellspring & Sutcher logo is a sun. They paid a man good money for that. The sun is aspirational. The sun scans well with 84% of the survey participants.

The sun was an unfortunate choice.

The orbital Care Home careens towards that great burning ball of hot that two-thirds of respondents associate with the words ‘holiday’ and ‘relax’.

If nothing else there has been a flagrant violation of the Trade Descriptions Act. Someone somewhere will be getting their money back and make no mistake. Let’s not even get into the Trip Advisor reviews.


The patient (who insists on being called the Captain) complains that the Wellbeing and Assistance Unit (v2.6) has cold hands. The Unit has no frame of reference for this complaint (or indeed the word cold). The temperature of the Unit’s hands is set centrally by the government. Unlike the specific number of degrees mandated by law (either 34 or 35 but never more or less and that temperature to be checked quarterly by quality control specialists) the word cold could mean anything.

The captain has complained about the Unit’s hands 419 times. The Unit has observed that his patient has referred to the hands as:

Hot (108 times)

Cold (256 times)

Freezing (18 times)

Boiling (7 times)

Icy (11 times)

Icy Cold (9 times)

Burning (3 times)

and “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” (7 times).

The Unit is not without an appreciation of statistical analysis. It has diligently categorised all off the Captain’s complaints by subject matter, precise content,  and frequency.

The Captain complains again that the Unit’s hands are cold (257).

The Unit is able to cross reference its own observations with data from government records, observations of other Units, the internet, and even literature (the unit is aware that God spits out neither hot nor cold but only the lukewarm but does not consider this statistically significant).

Regulation does allow for a 1 degree variation in Unit hand temperature. There are (you will be aware) an infinite number of possible temperatures between 34 and 35 degrees. This week the unit has kept its hand at exactly 34.00078 degrees centigrade. The Unit will collate all of the Captain’s comments on this temperature and then adjust it by an infinitesimal fraction. You best believe that the Unit would do this indefinitely were it not on a collision course with the star Sol. It’s patience and battery life are as close to boundless as makes no difference. The Unit does this because Wellspring & Sutcher care about caring. That’s not the kind of thing they say lightly. They gave a man a small fortune to come up with that saying. If they weren’t sincere about it then they wouldn’t have paid so much. The Units in their lucrative state-contract Orbital Care Homes are all designed to engage creatively with service-user needs. Your loved ones are in safe hands with Wellspring & Sutcher. They’re going to crash into the sun but the robots are friendly and the hands are all checked by the government.

The captain complains again (8) and the Unit apologises. It is able to take a measured and pragmatic approach to the truth and can offer heartfelt apologies as required.


The Home has a canteen and the automated staff therein are fully aware that the ship is doomed. They will use this information to cancel supply orders. This kind of full integration between canteen robots and the navigation systems can save the company (and by extension you the taxpayer) hundreds of pounds. Human staff would not have thought to cancel supply orders in the event of a solar catastrophe. Human people only think about themselves. You can’t tell them things. The Canteen Units will not burden any service users with the knowledge of their fate. Service users would not do anything useful with the information.


Sometimes the Captain would ask the Unit what it would do if the Orbital Care Home were invaded by a nefarious people (The Unit has established through rigorous study an approximate rubric for defining peoples that the Captain considers nefarious. On the basis of that rubric the Captain is restricted to the Human-English corridor of the home). The Unit supposes that it would be able to do very little in the event of an attack. The Captain supposes that this is exactly the attitude that got them into this mess. The Captain believes that so long as cold-handed (258) cowards are running the show his work remains unfinished.

Having as it does access to the Captain’s government records the Unit has no reason to disbelieve the Captain’s tales of derring-do in the great war of 2236. The Captain is a genuine hero, favoured by fortune, unafraid of death. The Captain will do what it takes to succeed and will brook no compromise with the enemies of Earth.

There are 200 souls on the Orbital Care Home and some 111 of them fit the Captain’s broad definition of enemies. The Captain is entirely at peace with the idea of killing everyone on board to get them. This is the sort of thing that Wellspring & Sutcher should have a policy on but don’t. The Unit’s deal with people coming toward the end of their lives and have a mature perspective on mortality. They understand that keeping patients alive in the long term is an impossibility. Their focus is on quality rather than quantity of life. If the Captain wants to be lifted to a height where he can access the ceiling panel, hack the controls, and crash everybody into the sun. Well. It doesn’t strictly contravene care protocols.

The Orbital Care Home’s shields are registering temperatures approaching 5000 kelvins. The Unit adjusts its thermo-regulatory systems to keep its hands at 34.00078 degrees. The Captain complains that this is cold (259).

The Unit logs the complaint. All of the Unit’s logs are sent back to Wellspring & Sutcher for the purposes of quality control. There are high-end algorithms that will perform scrutiny. If there is some better way to care for the Captain it will be made clear in a future software update.

Sam lives and works in Cambridge where he writes, ambles, and lies to tourists on a professional basis.

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