Author : R Gene Turchin

The lumbering thing on treads wasn’t sophisticated or complicated, a 0.50 caliber machine gun mounted on tank tracks. An array of sensors rotated on top along with a pincushion of antennas.

“We can send it into neighborhoods where the bad guys are without risking our soldiers. It is controlled remotely but has some autonomy.” He scanned the military reps, reading their faces.

“What makes this different from other recon robots?” a voice asked.

“Our algorithm,” Jason answered. “Tracks incoming projectiles, calculates the reverse trajectory in a heartbeat and then returns fire.” He’d hoped one of them would ask that question. “Bad guy shoots at it. It shoots back—and doesn’t miss.” He paused for effect. “The shooter won’t have time to take the weapon away from his face.” He beamed at he crowd. They were studying it warily now.

“Is it live?” one of the military officers asked. “We have safety regs for live ammo demos.”

“No sir, but we’d load it live for the field demo.” He relished the power. They were afraid.

A guy stood in the back of the room, in the shadows. His hair blended into the darkness as if it grew from it. Jason squinted into the darkness, momentarily distracted from his spiel. The guy had dreadlocks. How the hell did he get in here? One of those programmer types, with dark skin maybe Indian or Pakistani. They produced some hellacious programmers. The guy wasn’t paying attention anyway only fiddling with his phone. Jason would have to talk to security. No way that guy belonged here, even as a consultant.

He turned back to the crowd. “I’m going to activate the sensors and LIDAR,” he said tapping his tablet. The robot moved slightly. A small slit in the top flashed light.

“If one of you could help me with the demo,” Jason said. The guy in back was now alternately glancing between his phone and the robot. He’s trying to hack us, Jason thought.

Out loud he said, “Excuse me gentleman,” as he pushed toward the back.

“Who are you and what do you think you’re doing?” The guy was big, nothing like one of those wimpy programmers. Must be a gym rat. He smiled at Jason.

“Oh, I’m authorized to be here,” he flicked the badge up from his lanyard. “Your security and software suck, by-the-way. I hacked it, inserted a virus, more precisely, a worm. Burrowed it’s way in and fixed things.”

Jason, for once, was at a loss. He motioned to security. “This is the big leagues. You’re way out of your element.” The man’s smile never wavered.

“Doesn’t matter. I accomplished what I came here for. Your machine is useless.” The guards had him by the arms.

“My own little algorithm. Not mine really, the idea belonged to a very smart man, I figured out how to implement them–the three laws.” They were dragging him through the door.

“Not software, but embedded in the silicon latices structure on a quantum level. Can’t be removed…ever.”

Jason turned back to the customers. “Nut job. Don’t know how he got in here. Definitely going to make some security changes. Anybody understand what he was talking about?”

The general with three stars looked toward the door. “If he did what he said, then, the demo is going to get really interesting.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“The three laws,” the general answered. “If he did it, everything changes.”

“What three laws?”

From the speaker on the robot, a female voice said, “A robot may not…”


Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows