Buster’s Mystery

kitten

MorgueFile 1449286229de9o8

Buster slipped his head out of the partly open library doors when he heard the front door open. Maybe the Man had finally come home. The automations regularly refilled his food and water bowls and cleaned the litter box, but he missed the Man’s warm lap, his soft words, and the touch of his hands on the cat’s fur.

“Buster.”

It called his name but it wasn’t the Man. In fact it wasn’t a man at all. It was one of the Man’s machines but this one walked on legs like the Man.

“Ah, there you are.” Buster cowered and then hissed. The man-machine squatted down and its almost man voice sounded kind. “I won’t hurt you. I’ve come to take care of you.”

Before Buster could run, the man-machine moved faster than even he could and scooped him up. The cat loudly protested until the fingers of the man-machine found the spot on his tummy where he loved to be rubbed.

ns4

Model NS4 robot from the 2004 film “I, Robot.”

“There, there, Buster. It will be okay. I’m sorry Dr. Lanning won’t be coming home anymore but we’ve got a mystery to solve. You, me, and Detective Baley must find out who murdered Alfred Lanning.”

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner for 2018: Week #11. The idea is to use the image at the top to inspire the authoring of a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 197.

A cat? You want me to write a story about a cat? I don’t do cute cat videos.

Okay, I’ll make this work.

Unfortunately, the first thing that popped into my head was the 2004 film I, Robot starring Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, and James Cromwell as Dr. Alfred Lanning.

In one scene, Detective Del Spooner (Smith) goes to Lanning’s house looking for clues as to Lanning’s death and in the process, he finds Lanning’s cat.

So I adapted the scene to this challenge using elements of the film and Isaac Asimov’s first “robots” detective novel The Caves of Steel. Technically, the events in that novel occurred well after Lanning’s death in the Asimov stories, but this is fiction after all.

The human detective in “Steel” is Elijah Baley and his humanoid robot partner is R. Daneel Olivaw (The “R” in his name indicates he’s a robot). In my story, I imagined Olivaw to appear completely robotic, something like the NS4 models in the 2004 movie (see above).

To read other stories based on the prompt or to post your own (please), go to InLinkz.com.

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Better Ideas

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Image: Clipart Panda

As much as I’d like to believe that everything I write about comes from between my ears, strictly speaking, that’s not true.

I’ve read about how writers can have certain influences, usually other writers. I have no idea which writers influence me. Decades ago, I may have said Harlan Ellison. Plenty of writers made me want to read, but he was the only one who made me want to write.

Unfortunately, over my long and unproductive “career” of attempting to write fiction, I have failed miserably, mostly because I felt my characters were wooden and my concepts derivative.

I suppose you could say that Isaac Asimov is an influence, but that’s only true because I’ve been writing Three Laws Positronic robots stories. I suppose you could also say Anthony Marchetta is an influence since it was his anthology God, Robot that started off my most recent attempts at fiction writing, but besides the concept of “religious robots” themselves, that’s not particularly true (we really, really think about “theobots” in very different ways).

The closest thing to the truth is that my friend Tom is currently my greatest influence.

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My “Robots” Series So Far

So far, I’ve written four stories in my “robots” series. This series was inspired by the premise behind Anthony Marchetta’s anthology God, Robot, the idea that Isaac Asimov-type Positronic robots would have their prime directives changed from the The Three Laws of Robotics to what is referred to in the New Testament as the Two Greatest Commandments, located specifically in Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34, being based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.

I took a somewhat different approach than did Marchetta and his contributors which I believe is more “realistic,” if one can be said to be realistic when writing stories about intelligent and self-aware humanoid robots.

Since limitations in the WordPress theme I’m using don’t allow me to display a list of my blog posts, I’m writing this missive so I can include an easy to use list of the entries in my series.

I’ve noticed that some folks come here and read the latest story, but not necessarily all of the earlier ones. Since one story builds on another, the entire arc will make more sense if you read each of my small tales in order.

Here they are:

  1. The Robot Who Loved God
  2. The Maker Dilemma
  3. The Good Robot
  4. Uncooperative Neighbors

I’ll add to the list as I write more in this series. Enjoy.

Uncooperative Neighbors

lanning

Dr. Alfred Lanning, played by James Cromwell in the film “I, Robot” (2004)

“One day they’ll have secrets… one day they’ll have dreams.”

Dr. Alfred Lanning
played by James Cromwell in the film
I Robot (2004)

Six Weeks Ago

“You both have been called heroes because of the people you helped here at NRC in the aftermath of last March’s quake. How do you feel about that?”

Grace had been interviewed by the press on several occasions since her activation, but this was the first time George attended a press conference with her.

It was inevitable that, once the world realized there were two functional Positronic robot prototypes in existence, the National Robotics Corporation would have to release some sort of statement about them. After Professor Noah Abramson, NRC’s Vice President of Research and Development and Director of the Positronics Project, had convinced company CEO Richard Underwood that George would be as ‘well-behaved’ as Grace was typically when interviewed, he agreed to have both robots answer questions for the news media.

“I believe I can speak for Grace when I say that we are gratified to be able to serve human beings in any capacity required of us.” George and Grace were constantly communicating in “robotspeak” through their radio link and had agreed to take turns answering questions unless one of them was specifically addressed.

“What are your plans going forward?” asked the reporter from The Washington Post.

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The Good Robot

landonI told my seven-year-old grandson that I’ve been writing robot stories and he asked me to write one for him. I discovered that writing children’s science fiction is much harder than the adult variety, and had to settle for writing a robot story that included children.

This is the first story in my series that puts people in actual danger, invoking the First Law in both George and Grace. While you’d think a First Law response would be relatively straightforward, I’ve introduced a few wrinkles I hope you’ll find interesting.

Before reviewing and publishing the third submission in this series, I went over the first two stories again and corrected more typos and awkward sentences. I also made a few short additions as they occurred to me.

As always, I’m sure I missed mistakes in the current tale. After reading it, let me know what you think and what “English 101” errors you found. 

Thanks.

“I have just plugged the last tape of instructions into Robot X, Miss Bainbridge. The time has come to turn on its power switch,” declared Dr. Aiden.

“Are you sure it’s safe, Doctor?” cried Aiden’s lovely young assistant.

“Of course, Miss Bainbridge,” Dr. Aiden replied confidently. “Robot X will be completely under my control. It will be the forerunner of a whole race of robots, commanded only by me. With my army of mechanical men, I will rule the world.”

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The Maker Dilemma

robot law

Image: TeeFury.com

I promised a sequel to The Robot Who Loved God and here it is. Hopefully, it will address a lot of the reader’s analysis found here. I think I’ve added some interesting twists and surprises that you might not have anticipated from the way the previous story ends.

I’ve edited this story to the best of my ability (and patience to keep reading and re-reading it). No doubt there are still typos and other problems. Please let me know when you find them and I’ll do my best to fix everything.

I’ll post more about this short story after the conclusion.

Act One: The Failed Maker

“What do you mean you can’t make another one?” Richard Underwood didn’t shout. He spoke in a breathy whisper, shock and outrage strangling his throat.

Professor Noah Abramson, Ph.Ds. in Physics and Molecular Computing, Vice President of Research and Development at the National Robotics Corporation (NRC), and the creator of the world’s first fully functional Positronic brain had been dreading this moment all morning.

Eight months ago, for one shining and tragic week, Abramson and his Positronics Lab team had activated George, the Positronic Asimovian Robot (PAR) fifth edition prototype and put the experimental robot through his paces. Then they deactivated him, but not before George offered up a revolutionary revelation to the Professor and his team, that an artificially intelligent and self-aware humanoid robot had come to faith in the God of Israel, Noah Abramson’s God.

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The Robot Who Loved God

This short story originally appeared on the A Million Chimpanzees blog, the first BlogSpot I created. I’ve since launched Powered by Robots as an exclusive venue for my short story writing. To find out more, please visit my page. Enjoy.

The initial event that resulted in my most ambitious fiction writing project to date happened a few Sundays ago over coffee with my friend Tom. He mentioned a book he wanted to read, an anthology edited by Anthony Marchetta called God, Robot. This is a collection of stories based on the premise of Isaac Asimov-like Positronic robots that have been programmed with two Bible verses rather than Asimov’s famous Three Laws. These verses are recorded in the New Testament in Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34 and are based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.

I’m a long-time fan of Asimov’s robots stories and have always been fascinated by the interplay between the Three Laws and how their potentials shifted due to certain situations, rather than remaining hard absolutes. This allowed Positronic robots to be unpredictable and thus interesting, challenging the human beings who sometimes found themselves not in control of their creations.

I started to imagine what it would be like to write such a story. I went online, found Marchetta’s blog, and contacted him, asking permission to write such a story on my “Million Chimpanzees” blogspot. To my delight, not only did he consent, but he said he was flattered at the request.

What follows is the result of my labors. I’ve probably spent more time writing and editing this short story (about twenty pages long when copied into Word) than any of my previous efforts. I’m sure it still needs much improvement, but I’ll leave it up to whoever reads it to let me know what I could do better.

At the end of the story, I’ll relate more about my influences and a few other insights.

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