Welcome Tank!

Meet Marion (Tank) LeFleur, Newell-Simon's new Roboceptionist.

Creation & Intention

The only electronic son of a NASA scientist, Tank once had an especially strong bond with his father, who spent more time in the garage slaving away at Tank’s creation than he ever did around the dinner table with the rest of his family. Tank’s father was a man who aspired to be an astronaut, but he was grounded by his vertigo. Tank was designed to see all of the things his old man could not. He was supposed to be a robot akin to the Hubble Telescope: Able to travel light years away and beam back brilliant images from the outer reaches of space. But things did not work as planned. Tank was successfully launched into space, but the images he returned were less than impressive: He confused his coordinates and took spectacular photographs of earth itself. Embarrassed and disappointed, Tank’s father abandoned him.

The CIA & the Coffee Cart

Tank used his connections at NASA to secure a job with the CIA. His employment filled a quota: All of those government agencies have to boast about having at least one robot on staff. Because he was created for reconnaissance, Tank was especially adept at seeking out the coffee cart and returning to the office with news of the various types of pastries that were being offered. Occasionally, he was recruited for practical jokes: His snapshots of co-workers in awkward circumstances, complete with witty captions, made it to the company bulletin board on more than one occasion. Life was good. He was pulling in decent money at a job that most people would find prestigious and gratifying. He was fitting in well with his fellow employees. But there was still something missing. Then . . ..

Terror & Redemption

9/11 occurred. And if retrieving pastries for bureaucrats held little meaning on September 10th, it meant absolutely nothing now. In the following months, Tank watched closely as the government declared that Osama Bin Laden was the culprit. He watched even more closely as they determined that Osama and his posse were holed up in the caves of Afghanistan. Tank seized the opportunity: He was born for this kind of work. He could be the one to investigate the deepest crevices that no one else dared to venture into. He could be the one to save the world (and, not coincidentally, win again the adulation of his father)! He enlisted in the War on Terror.


Tank’s transfer from the offices to the desert was not an easy one. At first, the CIA was skeptical because of Tank’s less-than-stellar past. But some reprogramming and coercing on Tank’s behalf won them to his side. What is a robot for, after all, if not to handle the tasks that fail to interest humans? Once the decision was made that he could go abroad, there were still other necessary adjustments: Eye-crunches to strengthen his sight; rewiring so he could stand the heat without a meltdown; a scratch-resistant screen to deflect the swirling sand; a general toughening and bulking up. The overhaul rendered the “new” Tank barely recognizable. He had gone from being a scientific tool to being a “G-Man.” If only Tank’s father could see him now.

Hot Days in the Desert

At first, Tank relished his time in the Afghani desert. He was all the rage with the fellow soldiers, who admired his siding because it was more protective than the doors on their Hummers. So what if there was an occasional grumble about breaking him down for scrap metal? Everyone seemed to recognize that he was doing important—and undesirable—work. Even the natives took a shine to Tank when they discovered that, if they attached a piece of aluminum foil to his head, he could get pretty good reception for “The Gilmore Girls.” But then Tank had to quit socializing and get to work.

In Pursuit of . . . What Exactly?

Unfortunately, when Tank actually got into the contested territory, the old problems cropped up again. His reconnaissance work for the CIA was no better than it was for NASA. Only whereas before Tank had a difficult time discerning our planet from the others, this time Tank was unable to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys. At first, the Powers That Be believed it was only a glitch in his system. After fine-tuning him, they sent him back into the fray. But when Tank repeatedly offered a line-up of completely harmless Muslims—with, perhaps, even a stray American soldier or two thrown into the mix—the CIA had no options other than to remove him from the project. Now the disgruntled soldiers really did want to harvest him for scrap metal, so Tank was ushered back to the states as quickly as possible.

From Reconnaissance to Roboceptionist

Mindful of the backlash that may occur if the CIA actually fired their one robot on payroll, they decided to “transfer” him instead. They looked for a position that would continue to foster Tank’s growth (after all, they had invested a considerable chunk of change into the ol’ chap) while at the same time making sure that he was in an environment in which he could not do too much damage. When news of Valerie’s imminent departure from CMU rocked the roboceptionist world, the CIA acted immediately. As a favor to some very influential members of the CMU faculty who shall remain nameless, Tank succeeded Valerie as its second roboceptionist.

Tank at work in Newell-Simon