Author : Pyai (aka Megan Hoffman)

“Ms. Anderson,” the bot said as he leaned forward, his fingers steepling and making little chinking noises of metal against metal, “tell me once again why you are requesting such a drastic career change?”

Lori shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “I’m missing my children grow up. I can’t put in more 80-hour work weeks and see them as much as I want. I need this eight to four job as a file clerk so I can focus on my family.”

The bot’s eyes gleamed from beneath burnished chrome. The pattern was disturbing. File 6198742 had been the 216th this month requesting a file clerk transfer, from every profession from teacher, mechanic, actor, and now to the leading cola company’s CEO. Algorithms sifted through the bot’s head matrix, trying to place the pieces together.

“The Inquiry has no objection to this career change. You will receive your new assignment Sunday evening.”

A look of relief that even the Inquiry bot couldn’t miss flashed across the woman’s face as she quickly exited.

It was quite by accident that this Inquiry bot PN-42 discovered the answer to the question every Inquiry bot had been running through their systems. The bot’s mechanic was reading an antique book one day. The bot, always practicing its Inquiry skills, learning to improvise and detect lies, started asking questions.

It wasn’t until the mechanic spoke about a global nuclear war, much like the impending one slated for early next month, that the bot realized the old man had stumbled across an answer.

“That’s right,” the mechanic had huffed a little, “convicts and file clerks. The only groups surrounded by enough walls, paper and red tape to withstand even a nuclear winter.”

This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows
365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow