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«Warrior», William Wu

Isaac Asimov’s Robots In Time

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 the orders given 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.

 

This novel is dedicated to

Daniel Carnahan

who will understand Marcus’s dilemma.

 

Special thanks are due in the writing of this novel to Ricia Mainhardt, John

Betancourt, and Byron Preiss.

 

Additional help during the period in which this was written came from Michael

D. Toman, Laura J. LeHew, and Bridgett and Marty Marquardt.

 

1

Steve Chang followed Jane Maynard into the office of Mojave Center Governor, the gestalt robot who was supposed to be running the underground city of Mojave Center. Now the office was temporarily occupied by R. Hunter, the robot who had been specifically designed and built to lead the search for the missing Governor Robot.

“Good morning,” said Hunter. “I trust your breakfast was good.” He was already standing, six and a half brawny feet of humaniform robot in a northern European physiognomy now, with short blond hair and blue eyes, though he could change his shape and appearance at will. “Steve, Jane-this is Professor Gene Titus, our historian on the team for this mission.”

“Pleased to meet you both.” Gene was a tall, pleasant-looking man, only a little older than Steve, with bushy brown hair. He smiled broadly as he shook hands with them. “I’m a specialist in Roman history, especially the early imperial period. From what Hunter tells me, this trip we’re about to take should be quite an experience.”

“We’ve done two of them already,” said Jane. “There’s nothing like it.”

“Hi,” said Steve. He hung back a little, waiting to see what sort of guy Gene would turn out to be.

“So Hunter was telling me.” Gene turned to the weird object standing against the wall. “So these are two of the six gestalt robots we’re looking for?” Steve said nothing. This was Jane’s specialty.

“That’s right,” said Jane. “Mojave Center Governor split into his six component robots and these are the two we have brought back from the past so far.”

“And so what is this, exactly?”

“This thing in front of us is what MC 1 and 2 look like, physically merged and shut down. If we get the other four back here to merge with them, we’ll have

MC Governor put back together again. At that point, he’ll actually be humaniform.”

“Not ‘if’ we bring them back,” said Hunter soberly.

“When we bring them back.” Steve grinned.

“That’s the right spirit. But, if you don’t mind my asking…”

“Yes?”

“You look kind of young to be a professor.”

“I just received my first position this year. My doctoral degree is so new, the ink’s wet.” He winked.

Jane laughed.

“I see.” Steve smiled too, pleased at Gene’s casual attitude. He had expected Gene to be a little more stuffy in his manner.

Gene turned to Jane. “Hunter has only started to brief me. You’re the roboticist?”

“That’s right.”

“Then I guess you can explain something to me. The Laws of Robotics must be dictating the robots’ behavior somehow, but I don’t quite see the connection.” “Hunter, do you want to finish the briefing? Or does it matter?”

“Go ahead,” said Hunter. His manner was serious and direct, telling Steve that he did not want to waste time with unnecessary talk.

“The Third Law of Robotics says, ‘ A robot must protect his own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law,’ “ said Jane.

“What about it?” Gene asked.

“MC Governor is one of a small number of experimental Governor Robots that were being tested recently. All the others have malfunctioned. The Governor Robot Oversight Committee, for whom Hunter is working, needs to get hold of MC Governor to find out what may have happened to them all. MC Governor has split into his component robots and fled. Without interviewing him, I can only surmise his reasons, but I believe that under the Third Law, he split to avoid experiencing the same malfunction as the other Governor Robots. Also under the same Law, I think he fled in order to avoid being dismantled during a study of the problem.”

“I see. So that’s why they fled to different times in history.” Gene nodded soberly. “I’ve already given Hunter my promise to keep the existence of time travel confidential. If time travel became widespread, history would be very vulnerable to all the people who might change it. But do the other Laws apply to the robots’ decision to flee?”

“Oh, yes. The component robots miniaturized themselves to microscopic size when they used the time travel device. Their intention was to avoid receiving any instructions from humans-in the case of MC 1, who went back to the dinosaur age, he was anticipating survival into the human era. The Second Law of Robotics says, ‘ A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.’ “


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