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Jason Preu's picture

Bug's Day at the Office

By Jason Preu in Teleport Us

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An ill employee sends her personal robot into the office to work for her. Dystopian hijinks ensue!


Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday February 1, 2013 - 12:07pm

Well done.  I enjoyed the light-hearted way in which Bug took ove Maggie's life.  It didn't do it out of spite or malice, it was just the logical way things had to happen.

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 1, 2013 - 12:09pm

Appreciate the read-through and comments, Grant.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland February 2, 2013 - 12:46am


I like the end. I love the theme that robots will eventually put us humans out of work. What I don’t get is the sense of ownership and abandonment.

I’d assumed that Maggie owned the robot and that the robot had no sense of self.

Therefore, the robot should continue at the job but would have to bring Maggie her salary. Right?  It would be a win-win for the company and for Maggie. She wouldn’t have to work, And they would get twice the production for the same cost.

The way you ended is good, but there is nothing to suggest the robot works indepently from Maggie in the story. They would need much more than severance to purchase the robot. Maybe he brings a check for 500,000.00 Then that would show they bought him from her. Just suggestions. 

I've attached a file with a few other suggestions. Keep in mind they are just my oppinions. I like the story alot. Good luck with the next draft.



Ivan Smith's picture
Ivan Smith from Melbourne, Australia is reading The back of a packet of potato chips February 2, 2013 - 5:31am

This was lovely to read. I also thought that Maggie owned the robot, and that she had it made when her job was replaced, if she was just hiring the robot for the day, then this would have made more sense. Anyway, it was a minor thing, I really like the story.

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 2, 2013 - 6:09am

This has a nice feel right from the beginning.  You set up Maggie and Bug's personalities really well.  I liked watching Bug travel through the city and interacting with people; that was well done, too.  Like others, I got hung up a bit on the robot's sudden independence at the end.  Still, though, it moves along well and the principals have real personality.  Nice job! :)

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. February 2, 2013 - 5:28pm

Very well written, there were a few word choice issues that caught my attention neither/either and nor/or but nothing overly problematic.  As one of the other comments mentioned, I initially had the impression that Maggie owned Bug, which would make the ending a touch difficult to reconcile.   The time frame for Bug's trial didn't seem right to me.  It also didn't feel right for the company to use her head cold as a basis for introducing robots, even as a trial.  I would have expected a revolt from the other employees in short order.

In any event, I'm up-voting this even though I don't really like the story itself all that much because it is very well written.  I do think the premise has merit, but I think it needs a slightly different approach.

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 2, 2013 - 5:45pm

Thanks for the reads and comments, all. Much appreciated.

timbarzyk's picture
timbarzyk from Earth February 3, 2013 - 10:37pm

Bug's a robot with no emotions or, presumably, aspirations, yet it blatantly defies its owner to take an accounting job? What incentive did it have to do that?

The story flowed well, and the dialogue was pretty quippy, so that kept me interested, but I didn't sense much conflict or character development,so the end left me a little flat. Maybe if the robot were like, mistreated in the beginning (under-appreciated or something -- and Maggie's a faker who spends the day eating bon-bons while playing sick), then that would've generated some sympathy for its plight, and some antipathy towards Maggie, so that she ultimately gets what she deserves and I would've signed off saying, "You go, Bug!"

Hell, though, I like any robot story, and humor, and this had both. Keep 'em coming.



Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 4, 2013 - 7:01am

Thanks for the comments, Tim. 

colleen.m.hampton's picture
colleen.m.hampton from ATL is reading A Fractured Light February 4, 2013 - 7:45pm

My husband is a computer programmer and feels like his job is to create programs that put other people out of their jobs. This story reminded me of that.

I'm very interested in law and when I realized Maggie was losing her job I immediately began to wonder if, in this future world, laws protected robots. 

I liked the story. Well written. Got me day dreaming. 

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 5, 2013 - 8:15am

Thanks for taking your time to read my tale, Colleen. I appreciate the feedback.


Paper_Junkie's picture
Paper_Junkie from MN is reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again February 5, 2013 - 10:08am

I like the idea of being able to send a robot substitute into work when I'm sick!  I think that the reprecussions came too fast though-- I don't know if it is realistic for her to get fired and replaced after only one day.  I think the best parts were the robot interacting with other people in the company- maybe highlight that more?

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 5, 2013 - 10:18am

Thanks very much for reading and your comments.

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep February 6, 2013 - 10:37pm

This seems very much like a classic sci-fi story. I pictured everything in black and white. This is one of those concepts you might see on The Outer Limits.

I don't have a lot to add to the above, outside of my real thought during the story is that robots have always been created to replace human jobs, so it seems that the company really would have already thought of that.

But, for a moment, let's assume in the world of your story, that's not how things happen. I think your story really ends the second the robot delivers the severance check. That is your "Aha!" moment. Pretty much everything past that can be cut I'd also end the scene where Rich calls Bug into his office right around "go ahead and shut the door behind you." Leave the reader wondering why the robot is being called in to the boss's office--make them wonder if he's in trouble, going to get Maggie fired, etc. It would take some editing to make sure this all works, but I think the story you're telling would be tighter and more impactual.

Just some thoughts.

All in all, a fun read!


Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 7, 2013 - 8:04am

Thanks so much, Ethan, for the thoughtful commentary and suggestions for improvements.

Naomi Mesbur's picture
Naomi Mesbur from Toronto, Ontario, Canada is reading Burn Baby Burn Baby by Kevin T. Craig February 8, 2013 - 9:40pm

I really liked your story. The rhythm flowed well, especially in the office where I could feel the anxiety of the workers contrasted by the coolness of the robot. I have one little nitpicky thing- you have the robot speaking very formally, except when Bug is informing the office that "She's home with..." Using a contraction seems out of character for Bug. But great job! Wonderful manifestation of the cubicle worker's greatest fear.

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 11, 2013 - 7:55am

Thanks so much for the close, close read, Naomi!

SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes February 14, 2013 - 11:34am

Great writing. I could really see this as one of those robots with human features, kinda like Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man. What I'm not getting is why they didn't figure on using robots this way in the first place. What were they created for if not as tools? That was my only snag for the whole story. Great Job!

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 14, 2013 - 11:53am

Thanks for taking your time to read and moreso for commenting, Sam. Very much appreciated.

Jeff Kyle Jr's picture
Jeff Kyle Jr February 15, 2013 - 11:24pm

I enjoyed the story as the tale of the first case (of many more implied) where a robot takes a person's job. My only real critisism has already been voiced. Maggie owns the robot in the beginning and in the end it just leaves her. Otherwise a great read!

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 16, 2013 - 2:51am

I am a bit conflicted about this story. 

On the one hand, it is excellently written. Your pacing, worldbuilding dialogue are flawless. The characters are likeable, believable, and fun.

On the other hand, I have a problem with the basic premise of the story. It's just not believable. The conflict in this story is not that the robot takes Maggies job, but that she lives in a world that is capable of building such robots yet somehow never had that idea until Maggie got sick.  

This could be the basis of an excellent surrealistic story, if developed in that way. Like a society filled with automobiles, yet nobody has come up with the idea to actually drive them. 

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 18, 2013 - 9:38am

Thank you for taking time to read and respond, Jeff and klahol. 

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 18, 2013 - 1:47pm

This story gave me a good chuckle. The end was quite funny. I had a wee bit of trouble figuring out what was going on in the opening, but once I did, it worked. Thumbs up!

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 18, 2013 - 1:59pm

Many thanks for the read and comments, GG.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Wheel of Time February 18, 2013 - 8:40pm

Solid proses and a pointed story.  A good read!  If I had to critique anything I'd say delete the "The End" at the end.  We know its the end when we run out of words to read.  But you wrote a polished enjoyable story.  That's the important part.

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 19, 2013 - 7:14am

Thanks for the read and commentary, Joe.

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 19, 2013 - 5:49pm

Kudos for having the guts to place your story out in front of the masses.

FYI, I believe one is either "aware of someone's touch" or "they feel someone's touch." I'm not so sure it's correct from a technical perspective that one "felt aware of someone's touch."

The opening line of a story is very, very important. Best to be sure.

...I admittedly could be wrong.

Keep writing!
-Shane Berryhill
In a society where owning books makes you an outlaw, literature is kept alive by "burners," those who wage war for books by reciting their pages in rap-style battles called "burns." BURN by Shane Berryhill features "Reader" on the night of the biggest burn in his life. Reader must face off against "Shakespeare" for the title of "Librarian" while the Tolstoys, the Austens, the Wells, the Vernes, and all the other burner gangs look on. BURN is a tribute to the work of Ray Bradbury and a love letter to the written word.
Read, rate, and review BURN here:


Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 19, 2013 - 8:01pm

Many thanks, Shane. Couldn't agree more.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) February 26, 2013 - 1:35am

You could solve the robot ownership issue by having One World pay her for the robot as well.  If she’s paid out a lot of money for something not only can she no longer use, but has taken her job away as well, that’s a bit much to swallow.  I liked the story but I feel like it could be something more.  There feels like there should be more conflict here.  You have Regina confronting Bug, but there is no concern that if this has happened with one worker, it could happen to them all.  You could have a futuristic version of the Luddite riots here.  That’s not to say this is bad in any way, because it’s a reasonably tight enjoyable story, but it still feels like it has a lot of potential.

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 26, 2013 - 7:34am

Thanks for the read, Adam, and great suggestions.

Andy McGuire's picture
Andy McGuire from Los Angeles is reading Y: The Last Man February 26, 2013 - 10:33pm

Nicely written and highly enjoyable. My only real complaint (and it's extremely minor and in no way your fault) is that is has an android in it. This only bugs me because almost every story on here has androids at the center of the tale.
Again, very minor indeed. I would like it if you read my alien sex story (haha, for real) "Beyond Pleasure Lies Dreams" and rated/commented on it.
Keep up the good work and let your imagination continue to run rampant.


Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 27, 2013 - 5:35am

Score. Alien sex. 

Thanks for reading, Andy. I will check out "Beyond Pleasure Lies Dreams" post-haste. 

Kate Bosco's picture
Kate Bosco from Natick, MA is reading The Passage by Justin Cronin February 28, 2013 - 9:12pm

Even though it's not a happy story for us humans, I enjoyed it.

Regarding Bug's sudden autonomy: I thought that this was what was supposed to happen, and I don't think it was really autonomy at all. After reading some of the other comments you received, I went back to Herb's phone conversation. From what I can tell, One World built this robot. They built it with the express purpose of eliminating human employees. Couldn't they program it to trade its loyalty from Maggie to the company once it was offered employment? It has no sense of what loyalty means, but ownership could be switched easily, especially by the manufacturer. Bug might have had a software adjustment after it was "offered" employment (the phrase itself might have been a password that would allow this change in software, if that makes sense).

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu February 28, 2013 - 9:15pm


Thank you for reading, Kate.

Steven Zore's picture
Steven Zore from Brooklyn, New York March 1, 2013 - 5:32pm

Excellent story i loved it very well done. Mr Bug.  Rofl

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu March 2, 2013 - 5:36am

Thanks for reading, Steven.

C Patrick Neagle's picture
C Patrick Neagle from Portland, Oregon is reading words, words, words March 2, 2013 - 2:54am

I enjoyed this one. I'll admit, though, that I thought it was going to be machine erotica as I read the first page. Heh.

Anyway, it moves inexorably toward an expected and ordained conclusion. This could be seen as a bad thing, since the reader suspects the outcome very early, but the end works because it's what has to happen, given the circumstances. Sure, I kept hoping that Bug would stand up for Maggie at some point, since it seemed so friendly toward her, but that was the whole point...emulating friendly, not actually BEING friendly. When that hope was dashed, so too was the future. Good work.

That said, I did wonder why Bug didn't go ahead and answer the question posed to it at the end. Subtlety was not part of Bug's character before, why is it at the end?

Oh, and on page 9: "...has not yet shown viable results in neither lab tests nor theoretical postulates" has enough double negatives that it might be a triple or a quadruple. Get rid of that first 'not yet' and flip the 'in' with 'neither' and it's all fixed, though.


The Human Argument

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu March 2, 2013 - 5:37am

Many, many thanks for the comments, Patrick.

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb March 2, 2013 - 11:51am

Overall I think I like this, although I think you've got something that could be more developed. I don't mean increase the wordcount, I liked how consise the whole thing was, but I wonder if a slightly different angle for the whole story might be better, here's why:

(1) You've got highly intelligent and efficient robots on the market for the public to buy in this world and yet the business this is set around hasn't thought of replacing humans with them yet? I find this unconvincing, if only because I get the feeling anyone who could design such a robot would be pitching it to businesses with loads of money before it even went on general sale. 

(2) The story makes Maggie out to be the first human being who ever tried sending a robot to work to cover for her. I find this hard to swallow as well. In a world where this was possible loads of people would be doing it, and they probably wouldn't wait to get sick as an's almost the ultimate fantasy of anyone who ever wanted to skip work, send in the robot! 

It might have been more engaging if you'd had a model of robot that could somehow convincingly disguise itself as human instead of having Maggie send it in with a message and having everyone else know what she'd done. This might be a common practice that could cost an employee their job if they got caught and that's where your tension could come from. It could be that robots are common in the workplace but there are still some human employees for various reasons, but they sometimes try to cheat like this.

Or perhaps you could tell the story of the first high profile case of an employee being replaced by a robot that started the whole thing off, way back when. At the moment I feel like you're telling the story of an event that could change history but haven't quite pulled it off in a way that I buy into.

I liked the voice you've given the robot though, it seems rather cold, detatched and emotionless and I think this was the whole point, so you've pulled that off well. There are a few lines where I felt your style shifted into what you might find in a story aimed at younger readers, particularly when you had the 'butchers, bakers, candlestick makers' reference in the description of the city, and later had employees who 'chittered and chattered.' Fair enough if this is what you were aiming for - it did occur to me that nowhere in the competition rules did it specify you had to write for an adult audience, but I just get the feeling you were, as skipping work and a scheming boss who's thinking of firing someone for a robot seem like more adult material thematically.

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu March 2, 2013 - 1:20pm

Thank you for the feedback, Chacron.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 13, 2013 - 7:11pm

Hey Jason,

This story's cool because it's one of the few ones that has a more lighthearted tone to it -- a difficult thing to pull off when writing a dystopian short story!

I did wonder why Maggie used a robot as a sub -- I don't think you need to explain it in-depth, maybe just a line or two about how it was cheaper than human labour, or how robots don't get sick, something like that. The larger issue I had was with the end, how the robot went from seeming to have manipulative, conniving human emotions and reactions, then the end says that he's programmed not to feel anything. I think your robot's sentience touches on interesting themes about what it is exactly that makes us human. Why don't you stick with that and take out the parts about him not feeling?


(Also, if I could impose on you to have a look at my story, that would be very much appreciated!

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu March 14, 2013 - 6:43am

Thanks so much for reading, Jess. Appreciate the comments and suggestions. Wlil be happy to give your tale a read.


Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations April 23, 2013 - 5:07am

Hi Jason,

Congrats on winning an author review - and I'm also playing catchup on any winning entries I didn't get to read!

A nice 2000 worder. (Don't see many of them when the limit is double that...) Well done!

Fundamentally, you have to wonder exactly how this is allowed to play out - Maggie buys the Bug, so it works for her, doesn't it? So how can One World employ it direct? And why would they not have tried this already? Ultimately, we have to go with this slightly implausible "accidental" discovery, for the sake of the fun of the story, but I'd like to see it developed a bit more- perhaps they'd had previous attempts, but none of the other employees had accepted it then. But are not all of Maggies colleagues now frightened to lose their jobs?

Minor points : I'd be careful with some of the word choices, there's one where Bug is talking that contains "Routine" 3 times, which seems inelegant. Also, there's a bit where Bug "diagnoses" warmth, gout, and failure to update diet record, which is a bit odd. I'd take the opportunity at that point perhaps to mention raised temperature, if Maggie has a cold?

Ultimately, a fun little piece, and well written, but maybe it needs to be a little deeper on the impact on society, for this to truly work?


Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu April 23, 2013 - 7:19am

Thank for the close read and commentary, Liam. Very much appreciated.

Dana Fredsti's picture
Dana Fredsti April 25, 2013 - 1:20pm

First off, I love the title. It set the light-hearted tone of your story really well and set my expectations as a reader for pretty much what you delivered.  Second, I am in the camp of those who feel that it would have been a more interesting choice at the end to actually have Bug having developed some sentience. I would be fun if he actually DID feel something (satisfaction/regret/?) at the end, but as you said, he doesn't have to answer because no one expects him to do so. I also would like a little more connection with Maggie, and more of a reaction from her when she gets fired. As she is now, I'm not invested enough in her to care about her fate.  Whether or not you choose to make Bug become sentient and have an emotional reaction, whatever that might be, or have the corporation override his programming and replace his loyalty to his owner with loyalty to them,  making the resolution more definitive one way or the other would make what's already a well-written and fun story even stronger.  Again, very fun!

Jason Preu's picture
Jason Preu May 8, 2013 - 11:48am

Killer, Dana!

Thank you for the read and commentary.