Plot Summary/Details

Afraid I remember very little of the story, except for the ending. I'm hoping that is memorable enough that someone will know this one.

A group of astronauts/space travelers are on a mission to rescue another human, who is either trapped on a space station or in a lifeboat/pod of some sort. Again, I don't remember many of the details. There is some sort of peril involved, however. The human to be rescued has his faithful robot assistant with him. I don't remember the robot's name, but let's call him "Roboto", for argument's sake.

The ending to the story - the one part I can really remember - is chilling. The rescuers eventually reach the station or lifeboat, and find the robot by itself. When they question it where the human is, the robot replies something like "Lubricants. With our metal joints and many gears, robots need them in abundance/frequently. I could not wait any longer. The human body is an excellent source of lubricants. I can assure you [person's name] died quite painlessly."

The story then ends with a final line tacked on to it. In all caps, there is a sentence that goes something like "ALL HAIL ROBOTO, LIBERATOR OF ROBOTS!" The thrust being, the events in the story led to all of to a robot revolution against humanity. The story is being told in retrospect. I always thought it a rather clunky and silly addition, marring the excellent ending, but that was the last line in the tale.

Timeframe of Publication

Not sure. From what I remember of the tale, I think it is a very old story, probably no later than the 1950's or 60's. Possibly considerably earlier.

  • 1
    Was this story actually anthologized, or did you read it in the original magazine?
    – user14111
    Feb 19, 2017 at 6:47
  • I can't be 100% sure, but I believe it was in a paperback anthology, not in the original magazine.
    – Helbent IV
    Feb 19, 2017 at 6:58
  • 1
    It's memorable enough I remember the story, too, but unfortunately I cannot remember the name or the author, either ...
    – dirkt
    Feb 19, 2017 at 7:05
  • 2
    It's not your story, but Clifford D. Simak used the idea of Robots dependent on lubricants in a couple of novels. In Cemetary World the two war machines are blackmailed through their need for oil, and in A Heritage of Stars the last surviving robot only lived because he overcame his pacifist programming to kill bears in order to render the oil from them (only bears, though).
    – Joe L.
    Feb 19, 2017 at 15:38
  • 1
    Thought the question is already answered, there's also a Doctor Who episode that uses a similar premise. The spaceship in question is programmed to replace its own parts, but due to an oversight in moral boundaries, the ship has resorted to using humans for spare parts (e.g. an eye for a camera, etc.), thus killing off its own crew and later even trying to lure in others just so they can be used as spare parts.
    – Flater
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:14

1 Answer 1


I believe that the story is called, appropriately enough "Lubrication", by Robert Sheckley. It was published in Playboy, May 1959 along with two other shorts called "Duplication" and "Judication" (The later, if this jogs your memory, was about a man who like to burn orphanages.) under the collective title "Triplication". It was reprinted in Store of Infinity. I know I don't have a copy of May 1959 Playboy, but maybe I have another anthology with that story in it. I'll look and edit my answer if so.

I do, in fact. It appeared in Playboy Press, From the 'S' File, an anthology containing "16 stories by Sheckley, Slesar, Sturgeon & others". I'm sure that the stories are always listed under the "umbrella" title, which may account for your difficulty in finding it.

"Lubrication", Akka said, "Is a robot's greatest problem. Gentlemen, have you ever considered the problem of rendering a human body into its' essential fats and oils without adequate equipment?"

  • This is most assuredly the story I was trying to remember. I remember the robot's name "Akka" now. As well as the chilling line about rendering a human body into lubricants.
    – Helbent IV
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:34
  • 2
    I can't help but feel that Playboy's audience was probably expecting a different lubrication story...
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 17, 2020 at 13:58

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