Subtilize

Avatar Author: lastsyllable Who wants to be a writer? I do! Read Bio

Quentin took longer than he expected to suss out the robot’s problem. It was a standard E-class bot, a learning agent programmed to score entrance exams for Parkview College. Diagnostics showed the hardware was fine, all sensors and systems functioning correctly, but the machine was completely unresponsive.

“Must be a software issue,” he told the fidgety admissions rep. “Did you change anything in the past few months?”

The lady shook her head. “All we did was upload the newest essay prompts.”

“Nothing else whatsoever?”

“Well, we did have it subtilized after an applicant complained.”

Quentin fought the urge to throttle her. “What did you refine?”

“The thing is, the young man wrote a perfectly good essay, but the robot couldn’t grasp the finer points of—”

“What,” Quentin interjected, “did you refine?”

“The humor protocols.”

Quentin almost laughed himself. “Your robot’s having an existential crisis. It’s gone nihilist.”

The woman gasped. “What can you do?”

“Assisted suicide. Reformat and reinstall.”

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Comments (7 so far!)

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  1. Avatar Mostly Harmless

    Brilliant!

    I love how you don’t explain yourself, you just dive into this world and leave the reader to catch up – it’s totally worth it.

    Witty and intelligent all at the same time, I am very impressed! MH :)

  2. Avatar Yuriy Zubovski

    I most enjoyed the anthropomorphism that was introduced – attributing insanity (and the ominous death by assisted suicide) to some_thing_ given a thoroughly boring and monotonous job. It’s a comic exposition, behind which is hiding a realistic tragedy. 5s, and a sequel (though perhaps not linearly related).

  3. Avatar Marli

    It threw me initally but then I am a bit backward lol. Well done. L

  4. Avatar Krulltar

    I think what really impressed me about this story is how you captured the typical IT guy personality and geeky humor(ie ‘Assisted suicide’).

  5. Avatar lastsyllable

    Thanks, guys! This is the same world as my very first Ficly: http://ficly.com/stories/1246

    A friend and I have been working on making it a comic book but I still like to explore it on my own every so often. Glad I was able to get the right tone of an IT guy… I’ve known enough of them and have heard the stories. There is a reason the first thing they have to ask is “Did you plug it in and turn it on?”

  6. Avatar Stovohobo

    The dialogue is perfect and the humor scores as much as the robot didn’t. And I completely agree with diving straight into a different universe; I think that’s what the best Ficlys seem to do.

  7. Avatar Tad Winslow

    Fantastico. Mwah!<<< the sound that goes with a gesture that means perfection. That’s all the fake Italian I know.