the smuggler’s bible


Clawbertron picks a spot with a crater density somewhat lower than the lunar average and piles loose rocks to form a boundary containing a little over four thousand square meters of dust. Then he straightens himself out and rolls back and forth in an effort to flatten things down a little bit.

“It won’t work”

“We’ve never tried.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

They managed it somehow, and they’re primates.”

“When humans invented lawns they had certain other advantages to compensate.”

Clawbertron rattles his components furiously. “If a ROBOT on the MOON can’t even manage one green acre,” he hisses, “what’s the point?”

Neon Larry

Earth spins blue and silent above the horizon, shining like a simile that has been polished with oil and a soft cloth. Neon Larry is sitting on the rim of a crater, drawing a symbol in the moon dust.

“Is this one good, do you think?”

“Maybe. What’s it supposed to mean?”

Neon Larry executes a twisting motion with his primary manipulator and flashes a pattern of colored lights, the combination of which can be interpreted as something like a shrug. But for robots.

“Moon glyphs are crazy, man,” Clawbertron says, staring up at the planet. “I mean really wild.”

Neon Larry

Neon Larry trundles over and gingerly scrapes a soil sample into a vial that he places with the others in a white crate. Pallets and pallets of crates stretch out for miles into the lunar distance.

“When are you going to analyze any of these?” Clawbertron asks.

“To parse data, you must collect data.”

“You’ve collected enough, I think.”

“And that’s why you aren’t head of the science team,” Neon Larry says, popping the lid off a fresh box of vials. “Now, let’s try over there.”

Clawbertron hisses, but he goes along. At least it’s something to do between arguments.


Clawbertron slithers through the lunar dust at eighty miles-per-hour. His trail winds back to the horizon, and farther. But the horizon is closer on the moon, so maybe that’s not a big deal.

Back at base, he reports to Neon Larry, whose turn it is to be commander for the day. He hisses: “Still cold and still empty.”

“And you still have a bad attitude.”

“Aw, c’mon. Don’t make me—”

“You’re on patrol duty, soldier,” Neon Larry beeps and boots like a dial-up modem.

The good news is, this time Clawbertron finds a half-buried human probe and eats it.