Our grandfathers wouldn’t recognise it. Theirs was an unassuming chunk of alloy, solid matter specialised to address a particular shape. Mine is a more fragile thing, a plasteel package of intricate circuitry and tiny teeth which morph to interlock with a spaceship’s fanciful nubs.
The limitations of my grandfather’s spanner were defined by the sinew of his arms. My nut-analogues are finer, their challenge not in torque, but in specificity. The ancestral spanner’s forty sizes have bloomed: four thousand varied combinations mate my wrench with every iteration of the myriad impenetrable locks stapling a standard drive to itself.
Like my grandfather, I bend my body to the needs of this machine. He craned headfirst into engine blocks; I employ my tools halfway up ladders into loci of imponderable force. His hampered rotations created brute couplings to assist the combustions of motion. Mine are tiny tweaks, caressing the ego of the fine-stretched fiery spring which winds this craft into heat and air and gravity as well as speed.
A fumble dropped his spanner through the engine and onto the oily grass: if the grass swallowed it, other tools would serve. Failure brought him sullenly in from the yard to be revived with supper, the squatting diesel beast to be tamed another day. If I drop mine, as I do now, from sweating hands urgent with need, it rebounds from a bulkhead to vanish, in a spray of sparks, into the heat-death of the drive. It leaves ungentled the hiccup which afflicts the life support and threatens to grow into paroxysms of failure. Frantic, I ransack the stores for the spanner’s missing twin, while the lights flicker and the air grows stale.
My grandfather’s oath, like his spanners, was a sturdy thing. It still serves. Fuck.