The Laws Of Robotics
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
4. (The Zeroth Law) A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
5. (The Sub-Zeroth Law) ?
On December 8, 1980 John Lennon was NOT assassinated.
It is the year 2120 in a world that is free of wars, free of disease and free of greed. Individual countries and nuclear weapons no longer exist. There is a one-world government, whose President is the much-loved and respected, yet enigmatic, Tony Black.
The reason for this idyllic state of affairs is down to one great man. A man who, in 2017 at the height of the Great Depression of the twenty-teens, published the most awe-inspiring book of all time. His name was John Lennon and the book's title, "All you need is love."
People had grown sick and tired of the perpetual wars their leaders led them into with their endless messages of hate. People had grown sick and tired of the boom and bust cycle of capitalism and its desire to destroy the planet through selfish greed and eco-disasters. Normal people like you and me, yearned for peace and the end of unfettered materialism.
Within one year of publication, the book had spawned a religion. A religion that preached the simple mantra of love and peace. A religion whose followers believed in real people, not some all-seeing, mythical sky pixie with a long white beard. As the followers of Lennonism increased exponentially, belief in the other major religious systems started to dwindle. Hinduism was the first to disappear. And then, like dominoes, the other major religions of the time soon followed.
Within ten years of publication, the vast majority of the world's population were Lennonists.
Within twenty years of publication, countries began to disappear, for they were no longer needed. Europe and Russia became one, then Central and South America, then East Asia, then Africa, then the North American continent.
Within thirty years of publication, there was the first World President.
Chapter 1 - The Butterfly
Captain Pooh Carrot woke up, and immediately wished he hadn't. His mouth tasted like the bottom of a baby's pram and there was an Irish line dance group armed with vuvuzelas performing in head. He struggled out of bed and on the way to the bathroom, glanced out of the window. Another perfect day, warm and sunny with the certainty of an hour's rain at 1:00pm. Since mankind had learned to control the weather, every day was perfect. He just wished that he felt perfect like the weather, but he didn't.
He made it to the bathroom and risked a glance in the mirror. Not a pretty sight! His once boyish good looks, now but a faded memory. His claim that the crow's feet round his eyes were in fact laugh lines, was getting harder to believe with every passing day, because nothing in the universe was that funny. This morning he felt the 53 years of age his birth certificate proclaimed.
Pressing the auto-shave/face massage button, he let the robotic arms soothingly get on with their job, while a touch of the mirror brought up the apartment's mail function. He toyed with the idea of buying a fake Rolex and increasing his manhood. He grinned to himself at the Canadian meds on offer that a 21st century spam-bot stubbornly continued to tout, despite the fact that all disease had been eradicated thirty years previously, then his eyes settled on a message from SW, the enigmatic World President's bionic secretary.
He touched SW's message, and the mirror monitor displayed her sultry and smouldering image, then her sweet dulcet tone filled the bathroom,
"Oh for John's sake! Carrot, you look like shit!"
"Hi, SW. Yeah, yeah, I know. I did have a couple too many last night."
"Well, Tony wants to see your sorry ass in his office pretty damn sharpish, so make like a hockey player and get the puck over here."
"I'll be with you in an hour, SW"
"You'd better be, Carrot."
Pooh Carrot switched back to mirror function, inspected his freshly shaved face, then stripped and stepped into the micro wave shower. After a 30 second blast of decontaminating, rose-scented waves, he slipped into his one piece black uniform, matching black baseball cap and Lennon sunglasses. He looked good! He then went downstairs to face Dot-C.
Dot-C was his pleasuretron. A perk of his job. A fully functioning, lifelike female robot, tailor-made to his specific requirements, with cascading blond hair, breasts like watermelons and a 25 bit pixel outer skin computer screen membrane that continually showed a kaleidoscope of day-glo primary colours. The only problem was, for some inexplicable reason she had been malfunctioning recently. Instead of being a desire-fulfilling sex machine with the culinary expertise of a master chef, she had recently started to get stroppy. The last time they had indulged in sex had been nearly a month ago, and the last meal she had served him had been cold beans on burnt toast. He reminded himself to have a word with SW about it when he saw her today.
"And what time did you get on last night?"
"No idea! I don't even remember how I got home."
"Well, it's simply not good enough, you know. And where did you go? Who were you with? If you were with another woman I'll chop your goolies off."
"Dot-C, sweetheart, I..."
"Don't you sweetheart me, you louse!"
"Look! I was drinking with a couple of other cops, if you must know, but frankly, it's absolutely none of your damned business."
"You shouldn't hang out with those losers. They're bad news."
"I'll hang out with whomever I choose, thank you very much."
"Don't you take that tone with me!"
"Oh sod this! I'm off to work."
"And what time will you be back? You'd better not be late again or you'll get no sex for another month."
Cursing to himself under his breath, he left the apartment and flagged down the first automa-taxi he saw.
"Where to guv?"
"The President's residence and don't spare the horses."
When the free automa-taxis had been first introduced, their voices had all been female, but for some reason this had led to thousands of complaints, mainly from women. It wasn't until some bright spark in the company had suggested using a cockney male voice, that their popularity had soared.
Pooh Carrot arrived at the President's residence and was escorted to SW's office by orange-robed protector-cons. He went inside. SW, her bionic fingers a blur over her touch screen processor, didn't even bother to look up.
"You're one second late. You're losing your edge, Carrot"
"Losing my edge? Pah! Never!"
With a deft flick of the wrist, his black regulation baseball cap frisbeed over to the hat stand in the corner of the room. It missed by centimetres, hit a vase of flowers, which fell to the floor with an almighty crash.
"Oh dear, Carrot. That'll come out of your pay. By the way, how is your Pleasuretron behaving these days?"
"Actually, I wanted to have a word with you about that, SW. She's started to act all strangely."
"Oh, that is a shame. Why not lodge a complaint with the person who supplied it?"
"But that was you! It's one of the perks of the job. You had it specially designed and programmed for me to my specific requirements."
"Oh, that is a shame. You don't think someone deliberately sabotaged it with a nagging virus, do you?"
"But the only person who could have done that is you!"
"Oh, that is a shame. Never mind. Looks like you'll just have to grin and bear it for the rest of the year."
"Surely you didn't..."
"You may go through now. Don't keep the President is waiting."
As Pooh Carrot went through the connecting doors to the world President's office, SW smiled sweetly at him and winked her bionic eye mischievously.
You wished to see me sir?"
"Ah Carrot, take a seat. You're looking extremely rough today, might I add?" The President added enigmatically.
"Sorry, sir. It's a long story, involving a bottle or four of single malt whisky, the Pink Pussycat Pleasuredome and two reprobates who don't know the meaning of the word moderation."
"Well at least you're here now. I have a mission for you, if you feel up to it that is, which is vital to our very existence."
"Yes of course , sir, what is it?"
"What do you know of parallel worlds Carrot?"
"That there are an infinite number of worlds where anything and everything is possible. Each decision or course of action we take in this world, creates a parallel world in which the opposite decision or course of action is taken. But this is only a theory because it is impossible to communicate between worlds so we have no proof."
"Excellent, Carrot. In another world, you weren't one second late for our appointment, thus incurring the wrath of SW who is a stickler for punctuality, and your baseball cap landed perfectly on the hat stand, not smashing to pieces SW's vase which had been a present from her dearly-departed mother. In this other parallel world SW took pity on you for the naughty little prank she played with the nagging virus and reprogrammed your Dot-C to your wishes. However we live in this world, so for the remainder of the year, I'm sorry to say, you have made your bed, so you'll just have to lie in it."
"Ooh, the little minx! I'll get her back for that, you see if I don't."
The President laughed, "You have as much chance of getting one up on SW, as I have of sprouting wings, becoming a chicken and laying an egg. She runs rings round me and I'm the World President with unlimited power to do anything I please. But don't whatever you do tell her I said that."
"So what's the mission, sir?"
" You know your John Lennon, right?"
"Of course I do. Everybody does. He wrote the Book in 2017 which led to the world we have today."
"Tell me about his life before the Book."
That's easy! He was born in Liverpool and was one of the members of the Beatles with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star. In 1970 the Beatles split up and he went solo, recording such classics as "Imagine" and "Happy Xmas - war is over," laying some of the groundwork for his Book."
"And what did he do in the 1980s?"
"The 1980s? Well, he had a massive world wide hit with...um...er...with...um...that's funny, I can't remember the title!"
"Can you sing it?"
"Yeah! It goes...um...er...it goes...how does it go? It's completely slipped my mind."
"Please use this computer to find the song's title."
"OK, won't take a second. Um...it's not here. That's not right! In fact there's nothing about John Lennon here in the eighties at all. He's here in the nineties, but something's happened to all the data on him from the eighties. Where's it all gone?"
"He never existed in the eighties."
"This may sound unbelievable, but something recently happened to John Lennon in 1980. We believe he died, or was killed. We first noticed John Lennon data disappearing about three months ago. We have been able to calculate the rate of disappearence, and it seems to be speeding up. Now look at this picture of John and Yoko taken in Karuizawa, Japan in 1990. In fifteen seconds watch what happens."
Twelve seconds later the computer image of John lennon started to fade until there was nothing but a smiling Yoko.
"Oh dear! It seems to be still speeding up. In approximately one month, all information about John lennon will cease to exist after December 8, 1980. Do you know what that will mean, Carrot?"
"It will mean the Book will never have been written, so the whole fabric of our society will be different."
"Worse than that, I'm afraid. It will mean our world will cease to exist."
"We've had our best brains working on the problem round the clock, and they have come up with this scenario. Somebody from our future was sent back in time, and for some reason they effected the past and caused John lennon to die in 1980. Because they were from our own future, they effected our world now."
"Hang about! If they were from our future and changed our past causing us to cease to exist, they would never have lived, so they couldn't have altered our past."
"Unless sombody from our world now, goes back to the past and also changes history. The future person could have effected the past, then carried on living in the parallel world that they themselves created, while at the same time you will go back and alter the past thus making sure that our world will also continue to exist."
"So if I go back in time, my mission is bound to be successful, because if I fail and our world disappears, it would mean the future person will never exist."
"Precisely! However, in our world John lennon didn't die, but in the other world he did die. This was the time that the future person created a parallel world, but this isn't the point in time we're going to send you back to."
"Because if we just stop John Lennon getting killed, it will cause the other parallel world to disappear."
"That would mean that we would be responsible for the complete destruction of an entire world full of people just like us."
"I never have, nor ever will meet them. I can live with that."
"I can't! It was somebody from our world who created this parallel world, so it hardly seems fair that somebody else from our world should destroy it."
"What do you suggest, then?"
"We have identified a point in time, two years before John Lennon dies, in 1978. We calculate that if one seemingly, unconnected action is taken, we can create our own parallel world. This would then make it possible for our world, where John Lennon didn't die, to continue to exist. It would also make it possible for the parallel world, where John lennon did die, to exist. The action taken at this point in time, we calculate, will have world-wide repercussions, just like the Quantum Butterfly of legend, which flaps its wings in the Amazonian rainforest and causes storms throughout Europe."
"You know, Tony, this is all very interesting, but I can see one massive flaw to the whole scheme. Time travel! It's impossible! To my knowledge, and I do have the highest level government clearance, nobody has ever travelled back in time. Also, nobody has been working on a time machine. I mean, it's hardly something that could be kept secret. We simply don't have the technology."
"That's true! To date nobody has ever gone back in time, and we don't have the technology to create a time machine. But we do actually possess a time machine."
"You have a time machine?! Where did you get it from? No, let me guess. You got it from the future, didn't you?"
"Indirectly, yes. Directly, no. We got it from the past."
"We have actually had possession of it since 1956, but until recently, had no idea what it was. It was identified as coming from the future, because the metal alloy it is constructed from has never existed on this planet to date, but it's only in the last ten years that our technology has been suitably advanced to work out what it does. Have you heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls?"
"Bits of the Bible written on papyrus dating back to the time of Jesus Christ, which were found in earthenware pots in a cave in Qumran, in what used to be Israel."
"Spot on! In one of the pots, this was found."
Tony Black showed Pooh Carrot what looked to be a watch-like instrument.
"This, Carrot, is a time bracelet. The wearer can program in any date and destination they wish to visit, and they will be transported there by pressing this button."
"What the hell was it doing in a cave for nigh on two thousand years?"
"We don't know. We assume the original owner didn't want to return to their own future, for whatever reason, so left it there. We surmise the original owner left it there for us to use now, so that even though they knew they would change the future and would possibly cease to exist, they also knew that we would have to use it in order to save ourselves, thus saving the future person's own existence."
"But if the original owner left it in a cave in Qumran two thousand years ago, AND was responsible for the death of John Lennon, it would mean that they are also over two thousand years old, wouldn't it?"
"Or that they had another time bracelet, or that they travalled backward and forward in time, we have no way of knowing."
"How do you surmise that it was left for us to use now?"
"Look at the reverse of the bracelet, what do you see?"
"It looks like somebody has etched a picture on it. It's a bent leg and foot with two arrows pointing at it and it looks as if it's kicking something that's orange and triangular shaped with a bit of green stuff on top."
"What colour is the leg?"
"And where are the arrows pointing?"
"To the knee and toes."
"Knee and toes...toes and knees...toe knee...Tony Black! That's you! And that's a carrot it's kicking!"
"The future person obviously knew about us, so this is a two thousand-year-old coded message which can only be understood now, coincidently enough at the time when our world is in danger, and we need to use the bracelet to save ourselves."
"So let me get this whole ridiculous story straight. Please excuse any mistakes I make because fourth dimensional grammar was never my strong point. Someone from our future has already effected our, and their own past, which I have already changed after they will have had changed it before me, using a time bracelet from the future which will have been left for us two thousand years before I travelled back in time, which I haven't done yet, but will do shortly."
"Glad to see you're up to speed, Carrot."
"Just for one minute, let's say I buy into all this nonsense, what is the mission you want to send me on, the one which I'm bound to succeed in, because I already have?"
"As I stated earlier, some actions which may seem totally unconnected and may appear to be quite trivial in nature, can have profound world-wide effects. We have tried to find a mission that will be simple for you to carry out, but whose ripple effects will be great enough to cause a parallel world to be created. Basically we want you to assassinate someone."
"Who? The President of the US? Margaret Thatcher? The Pope?"
"All those people would be difficult to kill. We want you to go back to 1978 and kill a 78 year-old woman, whose name is Doris Batty, and who lives in Martleborough in the north of England. If she dies before Monday July 15, the ripple effect from her death will cause a parallel world to be created in which John lennon doesn't die in 1980, thus ensuring our survival."
"What?! That's it?!"
"You want to send me back in time to kill an old woman?!"
"Has she ever done anything bad?"
"Not as far as we're aware of. She's perfectly harmless."
"You're completely and utterly stark raving bonkers!"
"I wish that were the case, but sadly everything I have said is true. Good luck, Carrot. May Johnspeed your mission. You are dismissed"
Pooh Carrot came back into SW's office with an incredulous look on his face.
"SW, we have a major situation here. I think the Boss has gone gaga. He's completely lost it. He's raving on about about time travel and killing old ladies. He's one Ringo Star short of a Fab Four."
"Sit down, Carrot, I have something very important to say."
Pooh Carrot sat down.
"You couldn't be more right, Carrot. The President is insane. He's quite mad."
"So what are we going to do about it? Shall we call the men in white coats and get him certified?"
"No, no, no, you misunderstand me. Everything he said is true. The President is insane because he believes that you, of all people, are the person to save our world from anihilation. Personally, I am of the opinion that you couldn't save your arse from your elbow, but he's the Boss. He thought you might have reservations about this mission, so allow me to do a graphic demonstration for you. This should convince you, and also introduce you to your partner."
"Partner?! It just gets worse and worse, doesn't it? I always work alone. I never have partners."
"But this mission is so important to our very survival that if we left it solely up to you, you'd probably end up getting drunk and trying to shag every twentieth century woman you could lay your grubby paws on."
"The thought had never crossed my mind."
"I'm sure it hadn't. Now watch that corner of the room very carefully, because your partner will be arriving any second now."
Pooh Carrot stared into the corner. His eyes started to lose focus and the air shimmered, then standing in the corner was Dot-C.
"Dot-C?! You've got to be kidding me, SW. You can't expect me to travel back in time with a mal-functioning robot who hates my guts, can you? And it's hardly going to be inconspicuous if I'm traipsing round twentieth century Earth with a day-glo flashing, stunningly beautiful woman, with breasts that would put a cow to shame."
"Good point, Carrot. Dot-C, switch off the colours and reduce your breast size to 34C."
The colours stopped and Dot-C's breasts shrank in size.
"Dot-C, please explain to Carrot how you got here. He still isn't convinced about everything."
"Certainly, SW. Listen up, Carrot. Tomorrow SW gave me this time bracelet. It will be programed to go back in time to now. Here's the bracelet."
Pooh Carrot inspected it. It certainly looked like the same bracelet.
"And here's your e-reader with tomorrow's newspaper already downloaded."
Pooh Carrot snatched the e-reader and went straight to the sports page.
"Wow! Darlington FC beat Barcelona 3-1 away in the World Champions League. I was looking forward to watching that game this evening. Let me just watch the goals."
"Do you believe us now, Carrot?"
"Not in the slightest, but what the hell! If Darlo can win at the Nou Camp stadium, then anything must be possible. OK, count me in. I'll go along for the ride."
"Let me explain something to you first about Dot-C. She is, believe it or not, the most advanced robot ever created on this planet. Three months ago when we noticed the John Lennon data was disappearing, and worked out the time bracelet code involving you and Tony Black, we planned this mission. The hardest part was trying to select the perfect target in the past that would create a parallel world, but not one too drastically different from this world. If it's any consolation to you, Carrot, Doris Batty died from natural causes two days after the time we want you to kill her. Anyway, getting back to Dot-C, we gave her to you to use as your pleasuretron so you two could get used to each other. She has inbuilt, one of the world's most powerful computers, is extremely strong and is virtually indestructable. One reason she started getting stroppy with you was that she was bored senseless. Fulfilling your little pecadillo, cooking and cleaning for you was hardly realising her massive potential."
"I do not have a little pecadillo, thank you very much. And anyway, it's not the size that's important, it's what you do with it that matters."
"We all know exactly what you do with it, Carrot, we've all seen the tapes that Dot-C has been sending us."
For once, Pooh Carrot was at a loss for words.
"Disliking Carrot would be like kicking a puppy."
"You kicked a puppy," Lobsang said accusingly.