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A Rough Day at Steam Powered Giraffe Café.

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If you're looking for a truly memorable coffee experience, everyone knows you go to the robot café. In large letters, the sign on the door reads 'Steam Powered Giraffe', and written smaller underneath that 'Home of the Extraordinary Automaton Baristas!'. If you're lucky and you haven't hit a busy time when the queue runs out the café and down the block, then you can push said door open and enter the café to the sound of a tinkling bell. Then you have a choice. You can take a seat at one of the tables, peruse the menu, and wait for one of the blue-haired wait staff to take your order. Or, if you just want a drink to go, you can place the order yourself at the counter up the back, and watch as one of the famed robot baristas fills your order before your very eyes.

Whoever is standing under the 'order here' sign when you approach will greet you and make your coffee – or whatever beverage you choose, be it a hot chocolate, chai latte, tea, frappe, smoothie, or a milkshake. So, it's pot luck which bot makes your drink, and they each have their own specialities... and idiosyncrasies.

Hatchworth will hail you enthusiastically the moment you turn toward the counter, eagerly leaning over it. “Hi pal! What can I get for you today?” He'll try to take your order before you've barely taken a step, and excitedly reel off the list of specials so fast that you'll just give up and order something from the standard menu. After he makes your drink, he'll likely offer to make you a bonus sandwich. You can always pick a first-time customer, because they accept the offer. Regulars know better.

When Rabbit takes your order, you're never quite certain if you're going to end up with the drink you expected, but that's half the thrill. Regardless of what you order from her, she will smile sweetly and try to talk you into some kind of additional flavoured syrup or other add-in. “Are you s-s-s-sure you want it plain? I cou-could make it a hazelnut caram-m-mel espresso shot. Oh! And with whipped cream! That sure sounds fun, d-d-dontcha think?” (Whatever you get, there's a good chance of it having a bendy straw and a paper umbrella.)

The Spine is the most reliable when it comes to just giving the customers what they ordered and nothing they didn't. But that's not to say that he doesn't have a creative streak too. You'll find the foam of your latte decorated with anything from simple but elegant constellations, to intricate arrays of gears, to a miniature but sweeping frontier landscape. People have been known to eschew drinking their Spine-made coffee at all, unwilling to destroy the breath-taking artwork. (He's a hit with Instagram users.) But on occasion people have also been known to give up and leave without their drink, because he's gotten caught up in dreaming up the details of a lovingly detailed prairie scene, and forgotten that someone is waiting for their caffeine hit.

But so what if the service is a little unpredictable? The coffee is always good because they're programmed to make it that way, and if you don't like that trade-off, you don't came back. That way, you leave more space for the flocks of devoted regulars and curious newcomers. But most do come back, because the robot baristas are truly a sight to behold. There's no-one else like them, because they make the coffee by hand. Literally. You'll find no espresso machine in Steam Powered Giraffe café, because there's no need for one when you've got steam powered baristas. Water from their boiler pumps down their arm, emerges through vents in their finger joints and squeezes through a filter filled with coffee grounds held in a tight fist with the thumb held down to direct the flow into the cup. For steamed milk, all it takes is one finger dipped into a milk jug and the release of steam from a fingertip vent. The same vent can provide hot water for tea. Other attachments are engaged as necessary, for crushing ice, blending smoothies or mixing milkshakes.

This hands-on approach to making drinks might be a little off-putting to some, and every so often some killjoy reports the café for unhygienic practices. But since the robots classify as machinery, so long as they keep their hands clean the health department has no grounds to close them down. Unfortunately, this does mean that 'management' tends to keep a rather strict eye on these matters, which can cause some hiccups in the day.

************

“Okay! I'm glad you l-l-like it! It was nice t-talking to you! See you next time!” Rabbit cheerily waves off a regular customer, who waves back as they leave sucking on the straw of their choco-nana-strawberry double macchiato with extra nuts. They've been discussing the ins and outs of marshmallows and bacon as coffee additives for the last five minutes, and Rabbit hasn't properly cleaned the milk from her steam nozzle just yet. She's a smidge too slow in reaching for the cleaning cloth hanging from her apron, and an alarm starts blaring through the café, accompanied by flashing lights. Customers look around in consternation.

“WARNING! WARNING!” The pleasant background music is replaced by the harsh rasp of an electronic voice, and the morning news show that had been playing on the tv in the corner of the room is now a disembodied cybernetic head. “EXTENDED DAIRY EXPOSURE HAS INCREASED BACTERIAL CONTAMINATION CHANCE BY 0.0008 PER CENT.”

“No, n-no!” Rabbit protests, holding her cleaning cloth aloft and pooting steam through her fingertip vents. “I'm just doing it now! Everything's okay! Hon-honest!” But to no avail.

“WARNING! WARNING! INITIATE DIGITAL STERILIZATION PROTOCOL LEVEL ONE POINT ALPHA CARROT. ACTIVATE WALTER WORKER MAINTENANCE NETWORK. PREPARE TO ENTER SANITATION MODE.”

The Spine, who had been just about to take an order, looks at the floor and puts a hand to his eyes for a moment. “Oh, for crying out loud...” As the alarm keeps blaring, he straightens up again and returns his attention to the customer. “Please excuse us one moment,” he says with his most charming customer service smile. “I'll be right with y-”

The lights dim and the robots abruptly slump. One of the wait staff bustles over and ducks behind the counter where the customers can't see her, but they can hear clanking as she rummages. A bucket, an over-sized electric toothbrush and an industrial-sized hairdryer appear on the counter. The waitress then reappears, wearing safety goggles and a surgical mask, enormous yellow rubber gloves. She bustles off with the bucket and comes back with it full of water, then hoists a spray tank (of the sort generally used for weedkiller) onto her back. It's emblazoned with a large skull and crossbones, and labelled 'DIOXY-ETHYL-POLY-ACETYL-HYDRO-ROBO-CLEANAMINE', with a warning in red 'IF INGESTED, CONSULT A MORTICIAN IMMEDIATELY', and underneath that in purple cursive: 'Lavender Scented'.

The waitress turns the nozzle on Rabbit first, spraying a thick layer of fluffy, slightly pink foam all over the bot's hands. It smells slightly of lavender, with a hint of chemical burns and an overtone of permanent respiratory tract damage. The nearest customers put their hands over their noses and shift away. Next, the waitress fires up the electric brush. It makes a loud buzz, almost like chainsaw, and she uses it to lather up the cleanser that has been sitting on Rabbit's hands. When the foam has been reduced to a pink-grey slime, she dips Rabbit's hand into the bucket of water and sloshes it around. Then she presses a catch that releases steam through all the hand vents, flushing them out. She does this for Rabbit's other hand as well, then she puts down the bucket and puts on a large pair of hearing-safety earmuffs, before drying each hand with a blast of hot air from the hair-dryer that sounds more like a small jet engine. Finally, she takes out a soft cloth and meticulously buffs all Rabbit's fingers.

This whole process is repeated on Hatchworth's hands. Unfortunately, he had been halfway through making a cup of tea, so now there was scalding hot water, shards of smashed crockery, and spilt tea leaves all over the floor around him. The waitress cleans his nearest hand, then steps daintily around the mess to reach his other hand. Then she turns to The Spine, and foams one hand, then the other. She dabs an extra blob of foam on his nose, and giggles briefly. She fishes for her phone to take a picture before she finishes up with him.

Once the job is done, the waitress nods smartly to herself and spins around sharply on one heel. A little too sharply, it turns out, as the tea-soaked floor makes her spin faster than she expected. Slamming her other foot down to brake, she puts it on a large shard of teacup which provides no traction at all, and her feet slip out from underneath her. She flails as she crashes to the floor, hitting her head on the counter and pulling a basket of muffins and a tray of glasses down on top of herself.

The robots come back online to the confusing sight of horrified customers filing out the door, and an unconscious waitress lying among a mess of smashed glass, spilt tea and escaped muffins. The other waitress is crouched over her colleague, worriedly checking her pulse.

“Oh my gosh, the muffins! They at-ta-ta-tacked her!” Rabbit gasps. “I knew they were up to no good!” She starts stomping on a muffin that had rolled near her. “Ha! Take that, you vicious baked good! You w-won't get Rabbit!”

“I think she just got sleepy. You know how humans are,” interjects Hatchworth, bending over to look at the waitress more closely. He pokes at her head. “Uh-oh, she's leaking. That's not good.”

“Really?” The Spine addresses the air in a tone of disbelief. “A little bit of milk foam on a robot and it's 'Red alert! Red alert!', but a human with a head wound gets nothing?”

“HUMANS ARE EASILY REPLACED,” Beebop replies. “A NEW WALTER WORKER WILL BE DISPATCHED. PLEASE STAND BY.” The Spine makes a noise of disbelief and raps his knuckles on the shuttered window behind the counter. The shutter slides aside and Steve, the cook, sticks his head out from the kitchen.

“I am EXTREMELY BUSY you kn- Whoa! What happened here?” Steve's tone makes a sharp turn from irate to surprised when he sees the fallen waitress.

“The muffins! B-b-b-b-b-bloodthirsty, killer mu-mu-muffins!” Rabbit is crouching on the counter with a broom, which she is using to make vigorous fencing motions at muffins. “Hyah! Have at you!”

“Huh...” Steve frowns thoughtfully. “Must've added too much baking powder. Well, I guess it's time for me to swing into action!” The window slams shut again, and a moment later Steve appears at the door that connects the main café to the kitchen, carrying the first aid kit. While he and the remaining conscious waitress take care of the waitress on the floor, The Spine wrests the broom from Rabbit and starts sweeping up the mess. Hatchworth is trying to piece the smashed tea cup back together.

“Um, excuse me...” A timid voice speaks up, and a head peeks over the counter. “Can I have my tea, please?”

“Oh, I knew I was doing something!” Hatchworth springs to attention. “I will get right on that for you, right away right now. Sorry for the delay. How about a free sandwich while you wait?”

************

By lunchtime, the floor has been mopped, the injured waitress has been revived and sent to the doctor, and the unfortunate customer has recovered from their sandwich. The café is back in business, but the replacement Walter Worker waitress has not yet arrived. The remaining waitress is run off her feet trying to cover all the tables on her own.

GG appears from somewhere to 'help out', but she mostly just succeeds in getting underfoot. She trips up several customers, who she then proceeds to berate, loudly and at length. The final straw comes when she nearly sends The Spine flying through a wall. He narrowly avoids smashing a hole in the building, but still spills three carefully crafted lattes and one of his signature 'Rex Milksley' shakes (white chocolate, with a scene of rolling hills picked out in caramel sauce around the inside of the glass, a scoop of salted caramel ice cream and a scoop of crushed malt balls, all topped with whipped cream and jelly beans). After that, GG is packed off to the back storeroom to alphabetise the sugar packets. She is grievously offended by the lack of gratitude for her assistance.

“I can't believe you, locking a sweet baby giraffe up to work in a stuffy back room like this!” She complains. “This is basically child labour! That is against the law, you know!”

“It's not locked,” The Spine says flatly, coffee still dripping off his apron. “I couldn't find the key. And since you're more than a hundred years old, I don't think child labour laws apply to you.”

“I DON'T CARE! YOU'RE A JERK ANYWAY! And it should be illegal to be a jerk to someone as adorable as me. So there.” The Spine gives her an unimpressed look, and GG makes a little 'hmph' noise, pointedly turning her head away.

“SPINE! HEY SPINE!” Rabbit's voice floats from the front counter. “Are there any more little umbrella thingies back there?” The Spine's gaze flicks over the shelves as he turns to leave.

“Uhh, doesn't look like it, Rabbit,” he calls back as he shuts the door behind him.

GG pouts at the closed door for some time, staring at the handle far above her reach. When it fails to spontaneously open, she starts looking about the room for something to entertain herself. She investigates box after box of takeaway cups and lids, paper napkins, straws, and spare crockery and cutlery, strewing their contents across the floor.

“Boring, boring, boring, aaaaand... BORING. Oooh, what's this?” She ducks her head into another box, and when she emerges, she's covered in tinsel. “Now THAT'S more like it!” She says around a mouthful of fairy lights. She tugs the string out of the box and twirls it delicately about her head and down her neck, then chews off the plug and lodges the wires in her belly button. The lights flicker on and she crows victoriously, holding her head aloft. “Yes! I am magnificent! All hail Queen GG!” She waves to an imaginary adoring crowd. But there's something missing. What a queen really needs is a throne, so GG returns to poking around the room, for something that could become an appropriately regal seat. In the end, she settles for an upturned milk crate, generously draped in the tinsel from the box that had the fairy lights. She comes across the spare tablecloths, and ties one around her shoulders like a cape, and then takes her seat, mistress of all she surveys. Oh, but how could she be queen without a crown? She hops down from her perch and returns to rummaging through boxes, cape swishing behind her.

*****************

Back in the café, things are getting steadily crazier. The lunch rush is truly in full swing now and the lone waitress can barely cope, so The Spine has switched from making coffee to delivering filled food orders to tables. There is a steady rhythm of snaps and slams as Steve opens the kitchen shutter to present completed dishes, and reclaim used ones. Rabbit has run out of paper umbrellas and is compensating with extra straws.

On top of the usual midday madness, twenty-four members of the Ladies' Society for Tea Appreciation have arrived for a luncheon expedition. Hatchworth is brewing up a storm while they look on, fascinated. He's starting to lose his grip a bit, and begins to sing. “I'm a little teapot, short and stout. Here is my handle, here is my spout.” He giggles as a whoosh of steam escapes from the chimney stack on his hat.

“Oh, he's like a singing kettle that actually sings! How absolutely darling!” One of the lady tea-appreciators exclaims, and her friends chortle. Hatchworth nudges the last of the teacups across the counter, and the ladies take their drinks to their table, with delighted murmurs of thanks.

“You're all very welcome, please come againnn.” Hatchworth says cheerily. Suddenly, his face falls and he braces himself against the counter and raises a hand to his chest. “Ohh,” he groans. “I don't feel so good.”

Rabbit breaks away from taking a customer's order to ask, “H-Hatchworth? Are you all r-r-r-r-r-ri-right?”

“Nng...” Hatchworth's head is hanging on his chest. There's a dry sizzling sound and his knees sag.

“Oh no, did your b-boiler run out? Hold on, I'll fill you back up.” Rabbit pulls a length of hose out from under the counter, and feeds one end down Hatchworth's throat, then she raps on the kitchen shutter. Steve opens it with a bang, and slams down two plates of food. The waitress skitters in, exchanges them for a stack of dirty plates, and then scampers off again.

“WHAT?” Steve demands of Rabbit, as he takes the empty plates. “In case you didn't know, I'm VERY busy!”

“Hatchy needs a refi-fi-fill right away,” explains Rabbit, waving the free hose end. Without a word, Steve reaches out and snatches it, pulling the hose through to the kitchen to the sink. Water starts flowing into Hatchworth's tank, and the sizzling sound is drowned out. There's a muffled sigh of relief from Hatchworth, but not much other movement. He remains half draped on the counter, so Rabbit steps around him and returns to her customer.

In light of Hatchworth's temporary indisposition, The Spine returns to the counter to help catch up on the drink backlog. The lone waitress is left trying to carry three plates on each arm and one on her head. Rabbit is filling orders two drinks at a time, making a different one with each hand and, babbling furiously to herself all the while in a effort to keep track of what she is doing. A steadily increasing jet of steam is whistling from the back of her neck.

“You might want to slow down there, Rabbit,” suggests The Spine, resting a hand on Rabbit's shoulder. “Take it one at a time.”

“Soy la-la-latte, left. Mochachi-chino, right,” Rabbit chants in reply.

“Don't want you overheating, is all,” The Spine persists. “Overworking yourself won't help anybody.”

“Soylefty mo-mo-mocha. Latte right-o-chino... Oh, now I don't know what I'm doing!” Exasperated, Rabbit stamps her foot. “S-s-spine! Why'd you interrupt me? I'm all mixed up now because of you, ya dummins! I'll ha-have to start over!”

“There's no need for name calling. I was just saying, if you overheat because you're making two drinks at once, I'll be the only one left making the drinks...”

“And then we'll b-b-be here all day, 'co-cos you're so SLOW!” retorts Rabbit.

“Well, of course we're going to be here all day, Rabbit. It's our job,” The Spine points out.

“Not us, you big ol' dumdum, the cust-” Rabbit is cut-off mid-sentence by a loud crash in the kitchen, followed by the sound of gushing water and a stream of swearing. Everyone (except Hatchworth) looks up through the kitchen window to see Steve apparently wrestling a enormous snake. On second glance, the snake is actually the other end of the hose that is refilling Hatchworth. Under a great deal of pressure, it has burst off the tap and is now madly writhing and spraying water everywhere, knocking things off benches and shelves in the process. Water is leaking out underneath the kitchen door. Rabbit and The Spine look at each other, and then down at the floor, where Rabbit's foot is stomped firmly down on the hose. She jerks it away like the hose is on fire, and giggles awkwardly. “Oopsie!”

With a triumphant cry, Steve finally vanquishes the hose, turning it off at the tap and throwing it to the ground. There is a round of applause from the gathered customers, and it's only then that Steve realises he has an audience. Water dripping off his dreadlocks, he strikes a victory pose and gives the crowd a winning smile and a bow. “Thank you, thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Please form an orderly queue at the kitchen door of you want autographs. However, if you want food I regret to inform you that the kitchen is now closed for the day, due to flooding.” He shoves the hose back out of the window, and slams the shutter closed.

****************

Though unfortunate, the lack of food service does mean that customers drop away quickly and things become manageable once more, despite the staff shortage. Hatchworth perks up once his boiler is boiling properly again, and the three barista bots together work their way through the line of patiently waiting customers. (The impatient ones are already long gone by this point.)

Once it's quietened down, Rabbit decides to go hunting for paper umbrellas in the back room. Despite what The Spine had said earlier, she's quite certain there is another box of them somewhere. “Spine's probably just hiding them, because he's a boring-butt who likes boring things,” she mutters to herself.

When Rabbit opens the door to the storeroom, she finds herself transported to a magical kingdom swathed in a canopy of tinsel and tablecloths. Her Royal Highness, Queen GG, is holding forth to a loyal army of cutlery subjects arrayed before her throne, each standing to attention by means of being poked through the base of an upturned paper coffee cup. “Oh, hey GG,” Rabbit interrupts casually, knocking some tinsel to the floor as she bends to inspect a shelf.

“How dare you!” GG gasps in outrage, and turns to a row of salt and pepper shakers lined in front of her. “GUARDS, SEIZE HER!” As it turns out, her guards are not as well-trained as they perhaps might be, and they do nothing. “Ugh, useless. If you want something done right around here, you have to do it yourself,” GG says with disgust, and hops down from her throne.

Rabbit ignores GG and keeps poking around the shelves, knocking more of GG's throne room down as she goes.“Heeeere little umbrellas,” she coaxes her quarry. “Wh-where are you?” Receiving no reply, she stands up and taps her chin thoughtfully. “Uhmm, if I was a tiny ummmbrella, where would I hide? Think like an umbrella, Rabbit!” She jams her arms straight down by her sides and stands rigidly straight, her only movement her eyes darting this way and that to every corner of the room.

An insistent tugging on Rabbit's leg draws her attention down to her feet. GG has grabbed the cuff of one boot in her teeth, and is tugging with all her baby robot giraffe might (which is more than most babies, but not as much as most robots. Or even most giraffes, for that matter). Rabbit lifts her foot and shakes GG loose. “What are you doing, GG? Get off!”

“TO THE DUNGEONS WITH HER!” GG splutters. “OFF WITH HER HEAD!” She charges at Rabbit, who dodges to the side, but manages to get herself caught in the large tablecloth draped overhead between the shelves. Confused, she stumbles back out towards the café, pulling boxes off shelves, and trailing decorations behind her. GG squawks in indignant rage as her kingdom comes crashing down on her head.

“Oh, wow!” Exclaims Hatchworth as Rabbit stumbles back into the café. “A ghost!”

“N-no, Hatchworth, it's me! Rabbit!” Rabbit rebounds off a wall and knocks over a table. A customer jumps out of her way.

“Oh, so you're ghost now, Rabbit?” Hatchworth asks with interest, watching as she stumbles over a chair, and pulls the tablecloth off another table. “What's that like?”

“No, Hatchy,” says The Spine with a sigh, reaching out a hand to steady Rabbit and starting to untangle her from the tablecloth. “She's just regular ol' Rabbit, like usual.” He tugs a strand of tinsel loose, and frowns toward the back room. “What the heck is going on back there?” He gets his answer when a vengeful GG comes careening out of the back room at top speed, still draped in twinkling lights and trailing her royal cape behind her. She starts head-butting Rabbit's legs, and Rabbit starts blindly dancing around trying to avoid her, almost toppling over. “Ah. Never mind. I should have known.” The Spine sighs again, and bends to scoop up GG.

“Unhand me at once!” GG says haughtily. “I am royalty, I'll have you know!”

“You're a royal pain in the backside, that's what you are,” grumbles The Spine as GG struggles to escape. “If I let you sit on the corner table and count the tip jar, will you stay quiet and out of trouble?”

GG pauses to considers the offer. “Can I keep the lights?”

“Well... Alright, I guess so. But you have to lose the tablecloth,” counters The Spine.

“It's a deal!” GG nods decisively.

“You sure do drive a hard bargain, GG.” The Spine says drily as he sets her down on the table and unties her cape.

“It's one of my many talents.”

****************

The café is open well into the evening every day, and this day is no exception. Once the sun goes down, trade slows to a quiet but steady trickle. This means that The Spine and Hatchworth can easily hold the fort out front by themselves, while Rabbit goes out back to clean up the wreckage of GG's storeroom kingdom, and look for her paper umbrellas at the same time. GG revels in the attention she gets from cooing customers, some of whom leave additions to the tip jar. With nothing much to do, the waitress is sitting in a corner and laughing quietly at something on her phone.

The situation is calm and calamity-free for the first time that day, and there's even a classic Western on the tv in the corner. If robots were capable of feelings, The Spine would be feeling a great deal of contentment as he sits at one of the empty tables and methodically refills all the salt and pepper shakers, the caddies of sugar packets, and the paper napkin holders. As it is, none of his system alerts are going off and his CPU is running nice and cool, so it's a reasonably close approximation.

“Say, Spine...” Hatchworth interrupts The Spine's zen moment.

The Spine looks up from the sugar packets. “What's on your mind, Hatchy?”

“I was just wondering. Since Steve went home, who's in the kitchen now?” Hatchworth points back over his shoulder towards the kitchen door.

“Well, no-one is.” The Spine shrugs.

“Maybe we should tell that to whoever is in the kitchen. Because I don't think they know.” Hatchworth suggests. The Spine cocks his head toward the kitchen door, brows knitted. Sure enough, he detects a muffled series of small bumps and clangs, along with the occasional exclamation that suggests the interloper is not just a rat. With a sigh and a hiss of steam, he hoists himself from his seat, and goes to the kitchen.

The noises continue when The Spine and Hatchworth step into the kitchen, but there doesn't appear to be anyone in there. Hatchworth checks behind the kitchen island. “Hello?” A small blur of movement leaping over the knife block catches his eye. “Oh! What was that?” His head screws around 180 degrees as he tries to follow it. A series of 'Hup! Hah! Hey!' noises and exclamations of 'Parkour!' can be heard as it progresses around a lap of the kitchen counter, knocking utensils and pots askew in their storage. There is oil, flour and rice spilled across the floor and counter top. And then:

“Wha-? HEY! PUT ME DOWN!”

“Li'l Steve, what are you doing?” The Spine asks the tiny crocheted man dangling between his thumb and forefinger.

“Well, I'm practising my parkour, obviously.” Li'l Steve crosses his arms.

“Let me rephrase that,” says The Spine. “Why are you doing what you are doing, specifically here and specifically now? Why aren't you with Regular-sized Steve?” The Spine puts Li'l Steve down on the kitchen island, and starts inspecting boxes in the kitchen storage cupboard.

“Well, you know earlier when we were under attack from the giant water serpent?” Li'l Steve begins.

“I don't remember that at all.” Hatchworth looks confused.

“You mean the hose,” The Spine corrects Li'l Steve. He settles on a box which has just a couple of packets of pasta left in it. He puts the pasta on the shelf where the larger box was, then pauses as he reads the next box along. “'One thousand paper umbrellas'. Well, I'll be.” He takes that box down as well.

“Yeah, sure, if you wanna call it that. Anyway, I got a little bit completely soaked in the line of duty. So, Regular-sized Steve had to wring me out and put me in the sun to dry. And then you know what he did?”

“What did he do?” Asks Hatchworth in breathless suspense.

“HE FORGOT ME!” Li'l Steve waves his hands angrily. “Can you believe that jerk? I mean, I'm a crucial part of operations around here. And he left me behind!”

“How rude,” Hatchworth agrees. “Very rude.”

“Yeah, completely unbelievable,” The Spine deadpans as he puts his empty box on the kitchen island.

“So much for loyalty! So much for solidarity!” Li'l Steve declaims melodramatically. “So much for teamw- Hey, what are you doing? Hey! HEY!” The Spine lifts L'il Steve and drops him into the empty box, before closing the lid and weighing it down with a heavy chopping board. Li'l Steve's muffled ranting continues unabated from inside the box as The Spine and Hatchworth clean up the trail of mess left by the kitchen counter parkour.

When that's done, they emerge from the kitchen to find Rabbit leaning dejectedly on the café counter, staring blankly at the empty room. The Spine proffers the box he found in the kitchen. “Is this here what you were looking for, Rabbit?” Rabbit's photoreceptors light up (literally) when she sees the box.

“Yes!” She grabs the box gleefully and starts tearing it open, humming all the while. She pulls out and opens three umbrellas. The first one, she sticks in her hair. The second one she flattens out so the stem lies flat against the top, and tucks it into The Spine's breast pocket like a flower. The third she offers to Hatchworth, and he eats it.

An electronic chime sounds, and Beebop appears on the tv. “WE WISH TO ADVISE CUSTOMERS THAT STEAM POWERED GIRAFFE IS NOW CLOSED FOR TODAY. THANK YOU FROM WALTER ROBOTICS AND PLEASE COME AGAIN.” The bots pull off their aprons and hang them behind the counter.

The Spine starts counting the till and then pauses, one eyebrow raised in puzzlement, and asks, “Say, Beebop. What ever happened to that replacement Walter Worker?” There's a long pause.

“IT WOULD APPEAR THERE ARE NO FURTHER WALTER WORKERS AVAILABLE FOR DISPATCH AT THIS TIME.” (If you didn't know better, you might think Beebop sounds a little abashed.)

“Is that so? Not so easy to replace after all, huh?” Observes The Spine ironically, before another thought occurs to him. “Wait a minute, are we going to be under-staffed again tomorrow?” Beebop does not reply at all this time, and The Spine pinches the bridge of his nose with a pained expression. “Maybe I'll just call in malfunctioning,” he mutters.

“Our ride's here!” Rabbit calls as the Walter Robotics truck backs up to the front of the café. She grabs GG and goes outside with Hatchworth and the waitress. The Spine locks the till away, turns off the lights, and follows after them.

As the truck pulls away into the night, there is a crash and a cry of “FREEDOM!” from the darkened kitchen.