Author : J.D. Rice
Robots aren't supposed to travel through time, forget what the movies tell you. Aside from the incredible amount of electromagnetic activity that a temporal gateway puts out, the act of time travel itself is incredibly damaging to a robot's psyche. The ones you send to the future just obsess over returning to the past. While the ones you send to the past simply shut down. The First Law prevents them from making any changes to the timeline, no matter how small. I guess somewhere in those positronic brains they've figured out the scope of the butterfly effect.
Knowing everything that I know, I can't help but wonder who it was that cracked the robot code. How did they send this robot back in time?
“My name is Flux,” the robot says, standing on the delivery pad in the testing center. I stand with the other scientists behind the bulletproof windows, surrounded by beeping equipment. We're all equally flabbergasted. “Your alarm is understandable, Doctor Harker.”
All the other scientists turn their heads to me. In response, I lean my head forward and press down the microphone key.
“Greetings, Flux,” I say, voice shaking from both excitement and nervousness. The robot's design is unusual, featuring a white, fibrous underbelly covered with silver, metallic plating.
“May I step down now?” Flux asks, still standing in the center of the delivery pad. Our written procedure for potential test passengers is to send a message through the portal first, followed by the traveler, who would await permission to disembark. The system was designed to prevent any mishaps from unexpected future-to-present transfers. This robot had sent no message ahead, despite seeming to be aware of our other procedures.
“Robot Flux,” the voice is that of our program director, Doctor Wesley, who is standing at the mic on the opposite side of the control room. “If you are aware of our procedures, then you should know that no message of intent preceded your arrival. We do NOT give you permission to leave the delivery pad at this time.”
“My apologies,” the robot says, offering our program director a slight bow. “Our records from your time are incomplete. I will of course wait here until you give me clearance to step down.”
“Thank you,” Wesley says, taking his hand off the mic and motioning for me to do the same. “What do you make of it, Harker?”
“It's possible he's been sent from far enough in the future for records of our procedures to be lost,” I say. “But if this robot really is the first successful traveler in history, then it's likely that we won't develop a stable robotic traveler prototype in our lifetime.”
Several of the other scientists present voice their approval of my theory.
“I agree,” Doctor Wesley finally says, before leaning down over the mic again. “Robot Flux, please state your mission parameters.”
The robot responds immediately.
“Verify time and date, ensure all digital records of my journey be deleted, then enter cold storage until I can be recovered in my own time,” it says.
“Standard test drop,” I say. “He must be their first long-range prototype.”
“Robot Flux,” Wesley says. “I hereby give you permission to disembark. We will greet you at the door.”
With that Wesley motions to me, and the two of us make our way down to the testing area. Along the way, I excitedly regale Wesley with my hopes for what this robot could mean in the future, for the information its creators will glean about history, technology, philosophy. The possibilities were unlimited. I'm just getting into the implications on modern sociology when the test bay doors open, and the robot leaps through, landing astride Doctor Wesley and snapping his neck in one stroke. As I jump away in shock, it stands up and calmly faces me.
“Robot Flux,” it says. “Mission complete.”
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows