Gonzo Dictaphone

“I’m telling you it’s not technical.” Andrew argued for the third time. “Everything is running fine.” “Fine?” Rob always had a problem with people who knew more about machines than he did. He thought they always assumed he was stupid. “No, that is not an answer to the argument we are having. Step one is that this machine doesn’t work. Seeing as it’s a machine, it’s a technical problem. So I don’t want to hear everything is running fine!”

“If it was a technical problem then something in the machine wouldn’t be working.” Andrew explained in a mockingly slow manner, using his hands to draw a line of logic for Rob. “Everything in this is working, ergo, this is not technical problem.”

“So your stance is that this bot, whose only purpose is to report on an active senator’s re-election campaign, is working perfectly.”

Andrew tapped his finger on the handheld computer that read all clear on the bot’s optics, processing, and audio channels.

“It’s not working,” he said after a beat. “It’s just not a technical problem.”

Rob’s brain screamed, which manifested itself as him sinking down to the ground in a flushed meditation. Andrew felt bad for his manager, but was glad to get the quiet.

“Maybe it’s a virus.” Andrew said. “Or someone hacking into the servers and throwing their own stuff on the site.”

“No,” Rob said in a groan of futility. “We disconnected it from the system once we got the first complaint and it kept trying to post. Of course now the thing is all over the news and we need a decent excuse why our bot reported that the Senator was…”

Rob was too polite to repeat what had been posted. Andrew was not.

“‘Gearing up on enough Patrone Silver and Benzedrine to fuel his five week fest of sodomizing underage interns and stump speeches’ if I remember correctly.”

Rob stood up in a shot and kicked the bot, causing some of Andrew’s sensors to fall off.

“Hey!” Andrew pulled him away just as he was gearing up for another kick. “That thing is worth more than I make in month, so don’t break it when it’s signed out under my name.”

Rob signaled he was okay and stared the bot down. It didn’t look like much, but nothing amazing does. It was size of an RC car with a hard box shell casing for the elements. Its main camera was dead center on the box, but it could release optical spores to that took ten pictures a second and uploaded them to the bot’s server for quality check. The real money was in the processing and recognition tech. The bot could pick optimal pictures and write competent (at times somewhat stiff) write ups about whatever it was reporting on live. It’d become something that major and minor news sites had gone in together on, everyone wanting less than 200 words with good pictures spit out every ten minutes or so.

“So, what then?” Rob asked, “We have a bot that is reading all systems clear and not connected to anything else and yet it keeps producing this…” he struggled for the word. “Garbage?”

“I can’t say.” Andrew admitted, “The report says the algorithm is running fine; basic sight/audio to text translation with corresponding pictures. I rebooted it and told it to run its memory for the speech it covered.”

Andrew switched functions on his hand held monitor and showed Rob the read out.

The good people of Mystic, Connecticut gathered in the newly re-floored gymnasium of Andrew Levitt Senior High School this morning to hear Senator Derek Laurie officially announce his intent to run for his fourth reelection. But the crowd of pie-eyed innocent Connecticuters was in for a horrid shock, for when they’re “self made” native appeared on stage he resembled something that had escaped the Island of Dr. Moreau. A horrid Chimera strung out on enough high end stimulants and psychedelics that…

“This thing is possessed!” Rob said not having the stomach to finish the bot’s diatribe. ” “Possessed by the ghost of a freshman journalist major in a sanitarium. Who the hell would do this to me?”

“It’s odd.” Andrew said, scrolling through the diagnostic screen. “I mean, this thing has connections to approved websites in order to link related articles and fact check, so it could have gotten some editorial language mixed up with that. But that doesn’t account for the….tone.”

“Meaning we’re still stuck.” said Rob. “Meaning when I go back to the office and have an endless amount of calls from sponsors and the Wallace campaign I can’t tell them what went wrong.”

Andrew pulled up the bot’s prompt screen and typed in the command Profile/original/Senator Derek Wallace of Connecticut. A loading symbol spun in the corner of the screen before the text began to appear.

Derek Wallace, born May 25th 2062, is a child of “the greater good” philosophy the Democratic Party has been using to justify their systematic demolition of the fourth amendment for the last six election cycles. Billed as a local, lower-middle class boy from a mulatto neighborhood, Wallace has perfected the art of playing the good man in hard times. In reality, Wallace has used the government’s bungling of digital information laws to enforce his anachronistic anti-drug policy, a with-us-or-against-us use of the term terrorist, and his own voyeuristic fetish. Inside sources report the Senator’s nightly masturbation exploits can be indicated when a loop of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues can be heard with the line “What if I take my problem to the United Nations” played and rewound Ad nauseam. 

“It’s not anything it’s pulling off line.” said Andrew, “No one is hacking into now that it’s off the grid. I think this is what it thinks is going on.”

Rob’s face went slack. “This is what it thinks? It doesn’t think Andy, it’s a fucking bot!”

“Then this is what it’s processing!” Andrew yelled back. “This thing is programmed to report what it sees and this is what it sees!”

Rob began to consider the implications of this, and then remembered what he was paid to do.

“Send it back,” he said, turning to take the long walk back to his office. “Get me a full refund and an apology from the manufactures. I have to go explain to everyone why they shouldn’t demand the same from me.”

Andrew began to protest, but the conversation was ended by Rob leaving the workshop. He stood silent for a moment, looking at this machine that only came up to his knees, then he typed into its command prompt.

Editorial/original/Senator Derek Wallace of Connecticut/scenario- re-elected to Senate.

The load symbol spun.

The Horror! The Horror!

Andrew stared at the bizarre result. Before shutting the bot down and beginning his trek through the manufacture’s customer service system, he changed the scenario

/elected President

The symbol spun.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.

Andrew switched the screen off and began packing the bot.

“It’s beyond my pay grade.”


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