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Wastes of Space: A Space Engineers Diary - Part Six: Secrets of the Ants

There's gold in them thar hurtling chunks of orbital debris

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Last time on Wastes of Space: In need of a mobile base, the gang started building a colossal metal spider called the Loveless, in homage to Commander Bee’s favourite film. Real spiders showed up, causing some consternation, and a lovely bedroom was build inside the giant spider’s bum.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383398

Nate: Today starts like every other day on Horace’s world: I open up my space laptop, open my space mail, and stare vacantly at the latest missive from Brent, wondering how we’ll ever fulfill this maniac’s thirst for gold.

Reading Brent’s mail, I can almost hear the rumbling of the reclamation sharks now. But there’s no time for such gloom – things are on the up for our crew! Indeed, just yesterday morning, I began my day lying facedown on the hillside dirt, while today I’m waking up in a fancy new bedroom, inside a titanic iron spider.

Sick new digs

What’s more, our loyal robot pal ODD has really spruced the place up while we’ve been napping. Now, not only have we got sweet colour-coded beds, but we’ve got decorative potted plants, and even a brand new space shitter, which we all gleefully take turns to have a sit on. Science is briefly afflicted by the disease known as the Waving Plague, and can’t stop waving his arm at us even as he squats on the astro-crapper, but he gets over it soon enough.

Science having a nice wave from the loo

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383402

Alice Bee: The sealed environment of the Loveless’ cabin means that we have a room full of breathable oxygen. Finally, we can open our helmets! It’s like taking off a pair of cardboard-stiff pants you’ve been wearing for three days at a festival, but for your head.

The relief is short lived, however, as it is revealed that Security and Science have exactly the same face. It seems they’re clones; hideous doppelgangers; the warring faces of Janus made flesh. Have they been sent to watch us? Are they sleeper agents? Is this whole thing a grisly experiment conducted by RPS? I am afraid to look in a mirror. Although it does, at least, explain why Sec and Science have been locked in such an intense rivalry. Perhaps there can only be one.

Freud called this the unheimlich

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383403

Nate: Science and I are just trying to work out how to deal with our grisly newfound brotherhood, when there is a muted clang on the roof, and a volley of swearing. It’s only bloody Survey Officer Ligz, finally recovered from her bout of moon mumps! She’s impressed with the Loveless, but absolutely fucking horrified by the much smaller, much realer spiders swarming over the ground below. (She also points out that these space spiders have turtle faces – they do and all.)

SURVEY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383406

Alice L.: I’m back from my re-affliction with the disgusting moon mumps! Nobody warns you they come back time after time, but by Horace they do. In fact, it turns out that “moon mumps” is one of the possible side effects of moon mumps medication. Superb! Still, I have to say I’m impressed by what my crewmates have been up to. The Loveless in particular is pretty sweet. I’m not sure why it’s been made to look like the small, disgusting, eight-legged evil-doers scuttling around below it, but apparently it’s something to do with Commander Bee’s fave film. Something something west?

Other developments are… less impressive. I remember the last time I was here Security had built some crazy dungeon thing. Now he’s built… a memorial to it?? Who appointed this guy? I mean, fair enough, the memorial does look good. But… there are… spiders. Everywhere. Crawling in and out of the ground, and now learning to jump. This seems slightly more pressing than paying respects to abandoned prisons.

Rest in peace, dungeon. Can’t believe you’re gone

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383408

Alice Bee: I’ve had enough of this shit. We’re the monkeys with opposable thumbs on this planet, and those thumbs are ideally suited to operating one thing: a trigger, baby. Science begins, pragmatically, drilling at spiders whilst maintaining a safe flight distance. I scurry to the lockers and retrieve an automatic rifle that ODD (foolishly, in my opinion) left on the Loveless. I stand atop the bum platform and do a massive Scarface, spraying bullets and yelling like a pissed Delia Smith at a football match.

It’s hell down here

Security mans his precious Gigantor, the giant drilling lorry, and lawnmowers a bunch of the spiders at once. They become just so many eight-legged grapes, popping between relentless metal teeth. These spider bastards will think twice before messing with us again.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383412

Nate: It feels good to get Gigantor out again, even if it does end up upside down in a ditch after its spider-mullering sesh. It leaves me feeling spiritually refreshed. And with some respite bought from the arachnid horde, our beloved Commander seizes the moment to get the crew in order – for we have work to do.

As it stands, the Loveless won’t be able to stand – its legs are positioned all wrong, and it has been built on a hill, so they’re different lengths on both sides of its body. I attempt to impress the boss by building a “butt strutt” under the bum to stabilise the base, but the Commander tells me that might not be enough to get the job done. Saying she’ll take care of the leggy business, she lets me jump in the Eiffel 69 and do some mining. Yesssss. I decide to begin styling myself as “the Drillionaire”.

SCIENCE OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383414

Matt: I am outraged. As in, beyond the usual background outrage that’s been sinking in deeper than a mining vehicle into a security trench ever since we landed on this godforsaken planet. I didn’t spend two sodding days digging the blasted Eiffel out of Crowley’s spite pit, just so the git could jump behind the wheel and shower himself in mining glory. Oh no, I won’t stand for this.

After fixing up my race-car, which ODD kindly de-holed while we slept, I drive over to where Crowley is buffoonishly drilling away. My plan is to out-drill him. My plan is not to anger the most dangerous insect on the planet (the spiders are arachnids, after all), then accidentally drive right in front of him so he can drill right into my fragile chassis. But that’s exactly what happens, and Commander Bee does little but chuckle about it.

The ants do not deserve me.

Sibling rivalry

SURVEY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383421

Alice L.: I’m very glad to see my original survey vehicle, the RPS Waffle, has been recovered. ODD’s pretty cool, aren’t they? I figure I’ll repay the favour by helping them build a new vehicle – a flying drill. A smart idea. After all, it’s clear the two increasingly opposed clones below aren’t doing a great job of mining. In fact, if we’re going to have a flying drill, ODD decides I should get some flying practice in, and suggests I try flying the Vengabus. It’s only got four fewer engines than it used to, so what could possibly go wrong?

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383422

Alice Bee: Sec and Science are shrieking and drill-jousting at each other on the hillside, although to little effect. It looks like a giant, automotive equivalent of a slapfight in a pub car park. They pay no attention to my threats of disciplinaries (possibly because we no longer have a dungeon), so instead I leap upon the distraction just provided by ODD, and order Science to accompany Ligz on her flight. He is, after all, the expert in that sort of thing. Which he is the first to admit. Or bring up, apropos of nothing. This achieved, I divert Sec’s attention back to fixing the Loveless.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383425

Nate: As Ligz and Science set off, I get to work. The chief needs this whole base lifted right off the ground so we can straighten the legs out and get wheels on them – and I know just the thing. A massive great piston. Sod it – two massive great pistons, one ont he end of the other. So I start welding them onto the belly of the beast like a gargantuan hectocotylus (that’s the fancy word for octopus dick), and affix some landing gear to the assemblage’s bellend.

After a bit of buggering around drilling a hole for said landing gear to lodge into, the pistons are switched on, and the whole edifice rises, shuddering, into the air. (Well, there’s a false start where the supports snap and the whole thing keels alarmingly over onto one side like a drunk boat, but there’s no need to mention that).

Hoo-ray and up she rises! Hoo-ray and up she rises! Hoo-ray and up she rises!
Massive fucken spider!

SURVEY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383428

Alice L.: Right. Well. It appears literally everything could go wrong. The Vengabus just flops off the back of the Loveless, without enough power to actually fly – due to it being missing four engines. God knows what the Commander and Security must be seeing right now – as we grind down the floor of the valley away from the base, we probably look like some sort of sad purple firefly, receding towards the horizon. I have no idea how to arrest our motion. And Science is just sat there, giggling. Eventually, he offers to help by “sorting out the engines”. Which he does. By grinding them up. Great. And then, right as the situation is reaching a perihelion of fucked-ness, Science announces he must disappear, departing on sinister secret business. Thanks a bunch, Science. Snakes don’t hiss: they take you out for flying lessons, then saw up your engines and abandon you.

SCIENCE OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383429

Matt:I’m sure she’ll be fine.

SURVEY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383430

Alice L.: I am disappointed with myself. But I’m furious with Science. As I notice his spirit leaving his body, all I can see is red. Left alone with just the now-useless Vengabus and his body, I can see no other option other than grinding up Science’s physical form in a fit of rage. Good job there are no Space Trials out here, or any remaining dungeons. If the Commander knew about this, I’d get a firm telling off at the very least for mincing Science up. But I mean, he did just leave me here to die, right? I think that just counts as frontier justice. Ah, not to worry. I’ll just tell the Commander the space spiders got him.

COMMANDER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383433

Alice Bee: The Loveless is jacked up, and has proper legs! After making such splendid progress with barely any fucking about, I am quite proud of Sec. It’s rather uncharacteristic of him to be so efficient. And, actually, it’s not like Science to go rogue. I begin to worry that they may have done a body swap…

At this point, Sec announces that he ran out of jetpack fuel and couldn’t get on the Loveless, so instead did the extremely reasonable thing of tunnelling underground for hundreds of meters to make a nest in a magnesium deposit. He has discovered a second speed setting on his hand drill, and mutters about “the secrets of the ants”.

Welcome, Commander

Eventually I find the entrance to his new tunnel, in the canyon where the dungeon used to be. It is a narrow, claustrophobic worm extending into the rock. My torch only lights up a few feet in front of me. From deep inside the mountain, Crowley giggles and screeches, “Welcome to the hole, Commander!”

Ah yes. Same old Security.

SECURITY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383441

Nate: I am having the time of my life down here. Suddenly, down here among the stones and the minerals, it all makes sense. But I get lost in the revery; consumed by a fugue state. I’ve dug so far, and so deep, that my drill is nearly out of energy – if it runs out completely, I shall perish. And with no jetpack fuel left either, I have no hope of escaping my new home. I do briefly consider surrendering my body to Gak the Ant-Faced god, but it’s not time for that yet – I still have work to do among the living. And so I beg the commander to rescue me, and she flies all the way down the twisty burrow with an emergency fuel tank. Using it, I zoom out of the tunnel like a stoat from a pipe, and reach the Loveless with seconds to spare. Unfortunately I miscalculate my angle of approach, and slap into its deck stone dead, like a mackerel dropkicked at a concrete wall. Oh well. At least the Commander manages to get all my magnesium home from the nest.

Lol, deado

SURVEY OFFICER’S LOG: SPACE TIME 10438494-3383446

Alice L.: It’s just in time, too. Another meteor shower is coming in, and the magnesium allows more ammo to be crafted so the turret on the Loveless can shoot the rocks out of the sky. It does just that – and would you believe it? One of the downed rocks turns out to contain gold!! Only 2kg, mind, but that’s 0.2% of the total we need!!! Security’s weird pit, Commander Bee’s rescue… it all had a purpose.

There’s still so much more to mine, but it feels such a relief to have made a start. As ODD brings the gold in and secures it, the wheels go onto the Loveless, and the Commander begins to weld the suspension in place. Next time, it’ll be ready to move at last.

Read on here for Wastes of Space part 7, in which we really will get the damn base moving. Promise.

Thanks as ever to @ginbrogueshats, the true mastermind of the series, and the very model of the secretly-genius Shakespearean fool in his role as the robot ODD.

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