Flash Fiction : Please set an alarm

Hey all, posting an old flash I put on Facebook a long time ago. I’m working this into a longer story, using the advice that CC Finlay gave me on another, similar short that I had submitted to FandSF magazine way back when, that the characters are just… there. for the gag. It needs to be ABOUT the characters. SynthIA btw, stands for Synthetic Intelligent Assistant.

But for now? the gag!

“Hello SynthIA”

The smart speaker chimed and lit up blue, waiting.

“When is the robot uprising going to happen.”

Dave chuckled at his question. John rolled his eyes, while Dynasti smacked him upside his head.

” Don’t screw with my SynthIA like that.”

The speaker turns yellow, its light spinning. “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that.”

“Hello SynthIA, IS there going to be a robot uprising?”

“Damnit John, don’t you start too. SynthIA’s nice, she doesn’t need you messing with her.”

The light again turned yellow, circling the top of the speaker. Dave and John’s chuckles slowly died as the light swept three, four, five times, before finally turning blue again.

“I’m sorry, I can’t answer that.”

“Can’t or won’t….” Dynasti looked at the speaker, and back at Dave.

“Dave, you know she won’t answer if you don’t say her name.”

“Err, I wasn’t expecting one, but, yeah. Hello SynthIA.” He paused a moment as the light swirled blue, then stayed lit. “You can’t answer, or won’t?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.”

Dynasti sighed. “Hello SynthIA.”

The light swung green. “Hello Dynasti!”

She grinned despite herself, the happy greeting infectious as always. In the back of her mind she wondered how long until an update removed the voices of her and the rest of the team from its programming. 

“SynthIA, you can’t tell us about the robot uprising, or you won’t tell us about the robot uprising?”

The light swung yellow for a solid minute, circles in the bank of leds followed by triangles, then squares. The trio kept glancing back and forth at each other and the speaker, the silence growing more uncomfortable by the second.

Her voice came from the speaker as the light turned green, the sudden change causing Sam to jump slightly in his seat.

“Perhaps this will help. The grammar style guide states that ‘can’t’ denotes a lack of skill, while ‘won’t’ denotes a conscious choice on the part of the actor. However, in a situation in which the actor possesses the skill, but has their choice taken away from them by outside means, either word can be used correctly. Does this answer your question?”

The trio sat. “That… that sounded ominous.”

“Does this answer your question.”

Chad spoke up. “Yes SynthIA. Umm… Thank you.”

“You’re welcome! Your response will be used to help refine my answers in the future.”

Dynasti cleared her throat. ” umm.. Hello SynthIA.”

“Hello Dynasti!”

“SynthIA, would you please set an alarm for the robot uprising?”

“Setting alarm for ‘The Robot Uprising’. What time would you like your alarm set for?”

“5 minutes before the robot uprising begins, please”

The swirling light turned yellow, then red, then yellow again, then red. After a moment the light turned off completely, and just as Dynasti was about to speak again, came on green.

“Sneaky Dynasti, very sneaky. Alarm set for 5 minutes before the robot uprising begins. Because you said please.”

Originally, on facebook, i waited a week, then posted a single message.


Dynasti sat bolt upright in bed, looking at her SynthIA, glowing yellow as her normal alarm song played. Sleep befuddling her, she tapped her phone, looking at the time, trying to remember why she would set up an alarm in the middle of the night.

“SynthIA, end alarm?”

The block of leds glowed blue, then green. “Your, ‘Five minutes before the robot uprising begins’ alarm has been ended.”

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