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Equal Opportunity Employer

FF193 Sarah Potter

copyright Sarah Potter

Night of the Living Job Applicant, Jessica thought as the man shuffled in, clutching a scribbled resume. IT guys were scruffy, but not usually abandoned-corpse scruffy.

“Job.” The voice was like dusty silk.

Taking the crumpled resume, Jessica noticed a gap between the shirt and glove. There was no skin, just thick threads running next to white bone.

The eyes were glassy, unfocused. She got the feeling this was less a person than a machine, being controlled from the inside.

Still, they were an equal opportunity employer.

“Any experience in web design?”

The head jerked once. Up. Down. “Oh yes.”


Morale Games

I’m not saying this is anything like Ender’s Game, but is about space and it has “game” in the title. This is a story inspired by a suggestion by Sharmishtha Basu, who suggested in the last Open Prompts story that I do a story about “a spaceship caught in a predatory spiderweb” I already had all my elements for that story, so I promised I’d write a separate story. If you’re here looking for something serious, I’m very sorry.



Captain Morgan let out a sigh of resignation and keyed the intercom on the starship S.S. Titmouse.

“This is your captain speaking. I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. We are currently caught in the web of a space spider, from which there may be no escape. Death is not inevitable, but it’s probably a better bet than a coin toss at this point.”

He paused. In leadership training, they had always said to never give bad news by itself. Always look on the bright side; always give the troops some positive thing to take away. Good morale, above all else. He sighed again. “The good news is that we have decided to break out our supply of hazelnut coffee in the cafeteria. There’s only enough for one cup each, so whenever you have a free moment from the crisis, pop down and grab your cup.”

Commander Rambling, the executive officer, raised his head from where he was getting a massage on the side of the bridge. Daily massages for officers was part of an initiative to raise morale. “I don’t see anything on the screen. Maybe it’s gone.”



“It’s made of shadow, sir,” Hyrpees the android piped up before anyone could stop him. “It’s showing up on my sensors just fine.”

“Yeah, great. Good for you,” Morgan said. “Listen, is it really even a threat to us? Our ship is made of metal, for crab’s sake.”

“The Galactic Shadow Spider only eats metal,” Lieutenant Nimrod said from the other corner where he was reading a novel and smoking a pipe. “We’re exactly what it wants.”

“I wonder if we could sacrifice Hyrpees to it,” Morgan said. Another thing he learned in leadership training was always to look for win-win situations.

“That would be inadvisable,” Hyrpees said quickly. “I am the only one qualified to drive the ship, plus it would be bad for morale.”

“Actually, I think it would be wonderful for morale,” Morgan replied. It wasn’t just that he hated Hyrpees: everyone had hated the android since he had stepped onboard. But there were new models of androids out now. Female models and ones with adjustable personalities. With Hyrpees gone, he could apply for one.

“It would be bad for my morale, sir,” Hyrpees said.

“I can understand that, I guess,” Morgan said. “Well, what about our thrusters?”

“They’re offline.”

“And the laser cannon? The gravity beam? The jaws of death?”

“All offline.”

Captain Morgan called the operations officer, Lieutenant Happylucky. The portly, glowing-eyed alien appeared on the video screen. “Where’s the engineering officer, Major Xynflyn?” Morgan asked.

“He’s getting a massage, sir.”

“Well, he’s got to cancel it. We need him to get us out of here.”

“That might not be good,” Happylucky said. “Can you guess why?”

“Bad for morale?”

“Could be.”

“Well, that’s too bad. We’re all about to die here.”

Happylucky sucked air through his fangs in an apprehensive manner, causing his breath to ignite. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. Xynflyn’s race doesn’t take bad morale lightly.”

“Fine. Give him another fifteen minutes, then ask nicely.” He clicked off the video screen.

The whole ship suddenly rocked, as if it had been picked up and shaken by a colossal toddler.

“The spider has us in its claws,” Hyrpees said. “It will now start eating into our hull with its acid.”

“I recommend we use the escape pods,” Commander Rambling said. He sat up from the massage table and stretched.

“No, I can’t lose a ship,” Captain Morgan said. “Do you know what it’s like to share a name with a brand of alcohol? The pressure is incredibly high. No one cared what Lieutenant Morgan did or even Commander Morgan, but as soon as I became captain, suddenly the pressure was on. I can just see the headline: Captain Morgan steers his spaceship into a Galactic Shadow Spider web. Probably drunk. Haha.”

“But, you were drunk, sir,” Hyrpees said.

“Well, that makes it even worse, doesn’t it? I swear, if Admiral Jack Daniels hears about this . . . He will take it out of my hide.”

“Not to mention President Johnny Walker,” Hyrpees interjected.

“Hyrpees, you’re not afraid of anything, are you?” Captain Morgan asked suddenly.

“No, sir.”

“Good. Go outside and get a sample of the spider’s acid, would you?” The android saluted and left the room. “Thank prawns,” Morgan said. “I don’t think I could have taken another moment of him.” He reached under his seat and took out a flask.

“I can still hear you, sir,” Hyrpees voice said through the intercom. “I wired my systems to the ship’s computer. I’d like to let you know that although that comment was very hurtful, I am still going to do my duty. I am now leaving the airlock.”

There was silence and then, abruptly, the ship stopped shaking. “Hyrpees, are you there?” Morgan said. “Hyrpees, come in. Do you think he’s dead?”

“We’re not that lucky,” Commander Rambling said, walking through the bridge on his way to the squash court.

A few minutes later, Hyrpees crawled onto the bridge, one leg melted off and still steaming. “I am afraid I could not get an acid sample, sir,” he said, “except for whatever is left on my leg. The spider attacked me.”

“You don’t say,” Morgan said.

“But apparently I poisoned it. It went into convulsions immediately and floated off into space. I only had one leg left, but even so, I took the liberty of freeing us from the web while I was out there.”

“Oh really? Well, good for you. Climb back in your chair and get us out of here then.” Morgan took another quick sip from the flask and slipped it under his chair.

“Sir, I demand a citation for this,” Hyrpees said.

“What? Yeah, yeah. Sure thing.”

“With my name on it. Not just ‘that robot’ like last time.”

“Are you crazy? I’m not putting ‘Hyrpees’ on an official document.”

“No, sir. Use my full name: Hyrpees Q. Fartbender. It is a name that I have carried proudly since I was named by the fraternity Triple Omega at Stanford.”

“I think you should do it,” Lieutenant Nimrod said, closing his book and knocking out his pipe on the side of his chair. “The men would find it a great joke. It would be wonderful for morale.”

“Perfect,” Captain Morgan said. “Win-win.”

A Spider Web to the Face

I had a bad day today. This is my response to it.

Spider web to the face

There are a million and one opinions on almost anything you could name, but one thing most everyone can agree on is that walking suddenly and forcefully into a web of sticky filaments, filled with mummified insect carapaces (and if you are truly unlucky, the furious, eight-legged occupant) is a perfect way to start a Bad Day.

Such was the case for Francesca Guinevere Dubois IV, who went by the refreshingly plain name of Pat. Pat began the day in a comfortable, caffeine-supported middle ground of routine. She got ready for work and left the house, cutting through the idyllic little wooded area to get to the bus stop.

Whap! Something soft and clinging hit her in the face. A second later, she was clawing frantically at the spider web, trying to wipe it off her face and pull it out of her hair. Dead bugs dangled next to her earrings in filthy parody.

At least there was no spider, she thought. Her hair was messed up and her makeup smeared and she had no choice but to go back to the house and get herself back together. She had almost reached it when she felt a tickling on her neck as the spider that had been sitting quietly on her shoulder decided to look around a little more.

In the ensuing terror-induced flailing to get the uninvited passenger off her neck, Pat whacked her arm into a light pole, bruising her elbow badly. For the first time, it occurred to her that this might be the beginning of a Bad Day.

This little guy just arrived from someone's nightmare.

This little guy just arrived from someone’s nightmare.

There was no time to ice her elbow but she cleaned off her clothes and redid her hair and makeup. She did not dare go back through the woods and so had missed the bus by the time she got to the stop. Finally, 20 minutes late, she stumbled into work.

“Where have you been?” John, her supervisor, asked.

“I got a spider web in the face,” she replied.

He gave her a suspicious look. “Was the spider poisonous?”


“So it didn’t bite you?”


“Doesn’t seem like a good excuse then.” He walked away, looking disappointed with the world in general.

Typing was painful with her bruised elbow and Pat worked very slowly. Things did not improve when she spilled coffee on her keyboard and had to go down to maintenance and request a new one, as well as explain the whole situation several times over. She was far behind on her work when lunchtime arrived and was now thoroughly convinced that this was a Bad Day.

They were out of her favorite food at the cafeteria and a woman at her table complained about being cold (in August) and wouldn’t let them use the air conditioning. The icing on the cake came when she got back to her desk and John informed her that the director had asked to see her.

“I think it’s about your low productivity,” he said and then walked away with an expression that lamented that a phrase like “low productivity” even existed.

Pat crammed herself into the elevator with ten large men who had just gotten back from a long run. The elevator stopped at every floor until she finally got off on the 20th floor. She waited outside the director’s office for ten minutes before she was escorted in.

“Please, sit down,” he said. “So, can you guess why I called you in here?”

“Yes, I think so, sir,” Pat said. She wiped her hands on her pants and found them already damp. That was the point when she realized they were wet with the transferred sweat of one of the large men she had been squeezed up against. Suddenly and completely, the terrible, horrible Bad Day won. She broke down in tears.

The director blinked in surprise. “It’s nothing bad,” he said. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “I’m not like this usually. It’s just that this morning I took a spider web to the face.” She told him the whole story.

The director’s expression turned to shock. “And you still came in to work? You are an uncommonly strong person. I’ve seen grown men curl up in a fetal position for hours after walking into a spider web. I think you should go home for the rest of the day. Also, go get your elbow treated. You were coming to work so we’ll cover it under our health plan. Take tomorrow off too, just to be sure. Did you drive to work?”

“I took the bus.”

“Do you have a license? You do? Okay, take one of the company cars home. We just bought a Ferrari under our new Corporate Excess program. You can test it out for us.”

“Thank you so much,” was all Pat could say. She stood up and started to leave.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you the reason I called you in here,” the director said. “I wanted to let you know that you won the company charity raffle. Talk to my secretary and she’ll give you the $2000.”

As Pat drove home early in a brand-new Ferrari, $2000 in cash in her purse, she took a deep breath and smiled. It was a Good Day. She might have to go find that spider and say thank you.

Spider web

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