CHAPTER 1 - A MURDER CASE
Harry Mortimer leaned back in his seat after finishing his lengthy report. Despite being 45 years old, he felt like he was 30 years old, vigorous and energetic. He had a muscular body. He also owed this to the exercises he regularly performed each day. The file he had just finished working on was about the murder of Bostonian billionaire, Bruce Coston. He had solved this case with his assistant, Scott. When the doorbell rang, he was about to pour coffee for himself.
Scott stood at the door when Mortimer opened it, leaning against the entryway, one foot cocked and crossed in front of the other, left toe pointing at the ground. His brown hair was brushed over to one side, but to Mortimer, it looked like the kid brushed his hair with his fingers. Casual. A little too casual, perhaps. However, that’s who Scott was and casual didn’t mean he wasn’t sharp. He was sharp all right.
“Hope I’m not bothering you, Chief,” Scott said. He pushed himself off from the entryway wall and stepped forward without entering, waiting for Mortimer to back off and let him in. Mortimer did, taking two steps backward before putting his back to Scott, letting Scott enter of his own free will.
“Of course not!” Mortimer responded. “I’ve just finished the report of the last case. I was thinking of drinking a cup of coffee; would you like one?”
When Scott nodded, Mortimer pressed a button on the table and said “Two cups of coffee.” A few seconds later, a compartment of the cabinet next to the table opened, and two cups of steaming coffee were delivered to Mortimer on a tray by a robot arm. “I’m afraid you’ll have to manage, Scott. As you know, we can’t make real coffee here”
“Interesting how it’s the year 2073 but we still have not solved this problem,” Scott told, sitting on the chair opposite the table and sipping his coffee.
“Do you know our next mission, Chief?”
Mortimer paused as he sipped his coffee and looked up at Scott. His eyes tightened. “Which one?”
“Haven’t you heard, Chief?” Scott said, pushing his chair back as he spoke. He kicked his feet up, coffee cup still in hand as he leaned far back in his chair, getting very comfortable. “Spoke to Director Crusher ’bout an hour ago. Your communicator was closed, you see.” Scott shrugged, taking a sip of his coffee. “Called me. Told me we had another murder to solve.” He paused, keeping that one watchful eye on Mortimer and continued
Scott sat his empty coffee mug on the desk, leaving it dangling over the edge and stood up, walking toward the side of Mortimer’s den. Mortimer had shelves there, some lined with books, others lined with collectibles he had gathered over the years. The moment Scott had moved away from the desk, Mortimer leaned forward and slid Scott’s mug away from the edge of the desk, making sure it wouldn’t accidentally be knocked off.
“It ain’t a person,” Scott said, standing in front of a shelf lined with old relics from Greece.
“What do you mean, it’s not a person. Of course, it’s a person.”
“Not this time,” Scott said. He reached up and picked up a small statue. Marble. It was black, but had specs of white. It was clearly a man, but had an elephant’s head. He twisted it back and forth in his hands, inspecting it closely and then sat it back down. Mortimer quickly got up, headed over to Scott and reached over his shoulder, shifting the piece back to where it belonged; taking his time to make sure its positioning was precise.
“Please,” Mortimer begged. “Look, but don’t touch!” His voice was strained and a vein protruded from the side of his forehead. Scott took another piece from the shelf and Mortimer stared at him with a dumbfounded look on his face.
“Is this one a wolf person?” Scott asked him.
“Put it back, please?” Mortimer said. “It came from Egypt and in their ancient history.”
“All right. Okay,” Scott said, lifting his hands in surrender. “Don’t want that vein exploding or anything.” Scott nonchalantly placed the cat woman piece on the shelf, leaving it turned backward. He chuckled as Mortimer rushed over to twist it around and reposition it.
Mortimer was both curious and troubled. They had just completed an event and the report. He was making plans to rest a bit, and now his assistant was talking about a new case they were considering giving to them.
“What is the case? Tell me about it,” he said. He sat upright with the cup in his hand and looked directly at Scott.
Scott leaned back in his chair and started explaining comfortably. “It is another murder case. But this time, the place is Icarus B. A mining colony that revolves around Alpha Centauri. It’s been open for operation and settlement for fifteen years.”
This statement startled Mortimer. He and Scott had gone into space before to solve the murder at the Bologna Space Hotel orbiting around the world. Nevertheless, that was different. The mining planet Scott was talking about was orbiting around Alpha Centauri, which was four-and-a-half light-years away from the Earth. This meant they would have to travel through space faster than the speed of light. Even the thought of this made his muscles harden and ache.
Scott understood what the chief felt. To calm him down, he said, “Don’t worry Chief, according to all accounts; you don’t feel much when you travel faster than the speed of light. It’s only like a tingle in your whole body.”
Mortimer wanted to drop the subject. “Who has been murdered? Has the murder weapon been found?”
“Better than that Chief; the murderer himself is known.”
Mortimer was baffled. “What do you mean? What do they need us if the local police have solved the case?”
“What is interesting is that the killer is known, but the instigator of the murder is not known yet. That’s why the local police consulted the UN Space Police Department.”
Scott’s evasive answers annoyed Mortimer. “Get to the point, Scott.”
Scott saw it would not be right to tease the chief further. He grinned, “All right, Chief, don’t be angry. A robot-worker chief named Bryan Gaust was killed. No important connection of him has been discovered until now, and I assume you know the robot-worker chiefs are assigned as controllers of the robot workers.”
Scott continued. “But the murderer is not a person; it’s a robot!” Scott emphasized the last word intentionally. As soon as he finished the sentence, the reaction he expected started to grow on Mortimer’s face.
Mortimer was shocked. “What did you say–a robot? Oh my God, what kind of robot?”
“It’s an ordinary human-like model developed for mine digging, like many others.”
“Well, how do we know that it committed the murder?”
“Because the security cameras recorded everything during the murder, Chief.”
“Do we have this recording now?”
Scott took a holo-cube out of his pocket. “I can show you if you want, right now, Chief,” he said and put the little cube in the holographic player on the table.
Now, they were watching a three-dimensional image reflected from the holo-cube. In the images, a robot was about to shoot a laser gun in its hand to a person sitting at his desk in his room the robot’s body was yellow. There was a serial number on the front of the robot’s body and the name of the mine it was working on. Mortimer guessed that he was forty to forty-five-years-old whose side-whiskers had slightly gone gray. The person looked at the robot unbelievingly, and then screamed, “No, do not do it!” The robot hesitated for a little while but pulled the trigger and the victim screamed terribly and clung to the table.
The victim died immediately there and smoke was coming out of his back. The deadly rays that were set to the highest level pierced the victim’s chest through his back, then pierced the cabinet behind him, and almost destroyed the part of the wall that the rays hit.
The robot looked carefully at the body for a few seconds after the murder. Then it took a few steps toward the corpse. It stood there as if it was frozen. Scott pulled out the cube and turned to Mortimer.
“As you can see, Chief, the killer is obvious.”
“I understand now what you mean by saying that the killer is certain, but the instigator of the crime is unknown. Since this robot cannot handle this crime on its own and Asimov’s first rule blocks him, do you assume that someone else, possibly an expert in robots, did it?”
“The reason the robot took a few steps right after the murder and then remained motionless was because it contradicted the first rule. It is understood that it was described in detail that it was not a person who the robot was going to shoot. Otherwise, whomever the robotic expert was, no matter how exact the orders were, the robot could not have broken the first robotic rule of Asimov. The robot realized that the victim was a human being from the way he reacted when it shot him. The person who programmed the robot and gave it the order to kill had forgotten to add that the cry the victim made desperately was not a human reaction. As a result, breaking the first rule of Asimov caused the robot to lose all its functions. That’s why it froze where it was.”
Scott had listened to him with great enthusiasm and admiration. “Chief, I guess the Sherlock Mortimer name suits you so well. The robotic specialists who examined the robot reported exactly the same as you said.”
Mortimer dodged the compliment. “Where did the robot find the weapon?”
“I do not have much of a clue except what I have told you, Chief. We will learn the details from the local policeman and the robotics expert, Dr. Franz Abenhauer who was sent to the planet to help us.”
Telling of space travel wrecked Mortimer’s nerves again. “When are we going out?”
“The Director said there will be a routine transport flight at 21:00 tonight from the New York Space Port to the planet. We will join it. Since this is a shipping vessel, we will not be able to find the comfort of the cruise ships. However, I do not think we will mind this because we only have a few hours of travel. During the investigation, the entire local police force will be at our disposal.”
“Good” Mortimer said, and he looked at the old-fashioned digital clock at his desk. It was 18:00. The trip was only three hours away, and he was not ready yet.
“Damn it, I hate it when the director informs me at the last second about events and travels,” grunted Mortimer.
They got up and left the office together.
Mortimer and Scott, who took the office vehicle, first led to Mortimer’s house and took the necessary items for the trip. Meanwhile, because his wife and son were out shopping, Mortimer left them a short note on the communication device. Then they went to Scott’s home that was five blocks away, and after he also got everything he needed, they quickly began to head for the Space Port.
The road took about half an hour. Upon completion of the necessary bureaucratic procedures when they reached the port, they continued to the shipping craft, which was ready to part in the middle of the field, with the air jet assigned to them.
After the necessary documents were checked and digitally signed by the authorities, Scott and Mortimer boarded the shuttle. Mortimer had not liked the outward appearance of the shuttle. It was a standard cargo ship with a non-equilateral triangle. It was standing on four landing gear. There were three non-large portholes on either side of the shuttle. - It would not be possible to watch the outside of these portholes comfortably- he thought. But when he saw its inside, his reluctance for the journey increased rapidly. The interior of the shuttle was decorated very simply. Normally, the number of seats, which is six, was increased to eight when they were taken into account. The seats were leather-covered, comfortable seats. There were some control buttons in the armrest. Nevertheless, that didn’t make Mortimer feel better.
The Shuttle Commander Peter Nash met them at the door. He had a blue United Nations uniform on him. There was a single star rank on the shoulders of the uniform, indicating that he was the captain. “Hello, detectives, my name is Peter Nash, the shuttle commander. This is my crew.” When he said that, he pointed to five people on their duties in the administration section. They all continued their work by shaking their heads, meaning welcome.
After Mortimer and Scott had responded in the same way, Nash pointed out where they should sit. While the detectives sat in their seats, Nash was already giving them a brief about the trip.
“Our journey will take only about two hours including departure and landing. For this, we owe thanks to the scientist and engineers who invented the engine beyond of light. Without them, interstellar travel would never have been possible. After departing, it will take approximately twelve minutes to reach the appropriate coordinates for the jump. You will not feel anything during the jump, so you do not have to worry. After jumping, Icarus B in the orbit of Alpha Centauri will be an hour’s distance. In fact, we can jump farther, but according to the International Journey Safety Specification, as determined by the UN Space Agency, we need to maintain this distance for security. Although the computers do the jump after the calculations made very precisely, the tiniest mistake can cause us to deviate tremendously from the route and find ourselves torn on a planet or a star.”
Mortimer listened to Nash while he was observing the environment. The place they were seated was where the shuttle was managed. This was quite extensive, and all the crew had special mission consoles. The administrative part was separated from the back by a door, which was opened to both sides.
-This should be the cargo department- Mortimer thought. Meanwhile, Nash finished his speech and stated to the detective that he could answer if he had any questions. Scott said he did not have a question. After Mortimer had said he did not have a question either, Nash said, “Well, then. We are about to depart now,” and gave the order to the pilot to take off. The pilot who received the command fired the magnetic motors by pressing a button on the console in front of him.
The vehicle took off silently, and after a few feet, the tires it was standing on were pulled back into the body. After this process had been completed, the shuttle began to ascend when the pilot pushed an arm forward and lifted the maneuvering arm.
The shuttle reached space in a few minutes. “Now we will go forward to the coordinates for leaping. We will be there in ten minutes,” Nash said, and the shuttle was accelerated by entering the necessary coordinates. In fact, they had reached the bounce point in the time Nash estimated. He said, “We’ll jump in two minutes.” Mortimer and Scott suddenly felt they were slightly swollen inside and their hair was erect. This feeling lasted for a few seconds and then it passed.
As Mortimer realized that the leap had taken place, he turned to Nash with a slightly furious look. “You said in two minutes, but why did you start leaping without warning us?”
“I beg your pardon, Detective Mortimer,” Nash said with an embarrassed smile. “If I had told you the exact time, you would have been tense. I knew you were already tense by the look on your face. I did not want to torture you anymore.”
“It does not matter, anyway.”
When Nash said, “I can show you the scenery if you want,” both detectives nodded. Nash instructed someone to open the main screen in front of them, and Alpha Centauri star system appeared. Five planets surrounded the Alpha Centauri system, which was a triple system consisting of two yellow and orange sun-like stars and a red dwarf star. Icarus B planet, where they were just about to arrive, was habitable and it had been opened for settlement recently for the purpose of mining and colonizing.
Mortimer and Scott were contemplating the scenery with awe. The two sun-like stars of the system were glowing brightly in front of them. The red dwarf star—it was called Proxima Centauri—was away from the other two and could be seen vaguely. Of course, being seven thousand times less bright than the Earth’s sun was effective in this matter.
Mortimer said to himself, “It’s beautiful.”
Scott said, “That’s right.” Because Nash and the other crew were used to this view, they continued their routine work.
“Now we are turning our route towards the planet. I will ask you to sit in your seats and fasten your belts because the shuttle will be at standard cruise maximum speed. At this rate, we will arrive on the planet within an hour. Otherwise, we will be late, which will cause a delay in our program,” Nash said.
The crew and the detectives have done as instructed. Nash ensured they were okay and ordered that the engines be given full speed. The shuttle shot forward with the ignition of the pushers. As the standard pushers reached maximum speed, Mortimer realized there was nothing to fear. He was pushed slightly backward in his seat with the ignition that was all.
After about an hour’s journey, the shuttle started landing on Icarus B. They watched it approaching them on the screen. The planet was an M-class planet, slightly larger than Earth, classified as habitable. The atmosphere on the planet was respirable, and the vegetation was found suitable for colonization since it had similar properties to the vegetation of Earth. When the shuttle landed under the clouds, a large sea appeared in front of them, similar to the one on earth. After flying over the sea for about five minutes, they arrived on a piece of land with a modern-looking city, where they knew it was not too crowded. When they went down towards the city, Mortimer found that the buildings were mostly two or three floors and surrounded by gardens. The most striking feature was the fact that bitronium, the element that provided the energy used for leaping in space, was abundant on the planet. For this reason, the United Nations deemed it appropriate to begin colonization of the planet with human settlement along with mining activities.
To this end, three hundred humanoid robots and human ten robot-worker chiefs who would manage them and their family members were sent to the planet. Five metallurgists and three robotic experts accompanied them. Besides the technical staff, a population of 30,000 people were sent to colonize the planet. All the personnel and the people were chosen among volunteers because this planet was opened for settlement for the first time.
After a short flight over the city, they arrived at the port of space. It was a small port, not too big, where at most three vehicles could take off at the same time, Mortimer’s guess. At the southern end of the square, there was a one-storey control tower. There was a magnetic jet and two people standing in front of it.
After the shuttle quietly landed in the area, Scott and Mortimer shook the crewmembers’ hands and said farewell to them as they left the shuttle.
A squat, black-haired man with blue eyes greeted them on the landing stage. He had a blue uniform on her left chest with a sun emblem. The double star on his shirt collar indicated he was a senior director of the United Nations Space Division. He had an armed guard with him.
“I welcome you, gentlemen. My name is Michael Westhouse, and I am the manager of the colony. I hope you have had a good trip.”
The detectives shook Westhouse’s hand and thanked him before climbing through the open doors of the magneto-jet. They took the back seats, and Westhouse sat in front of them as they headed towards the administration building.
Westhouse glanced over his shoulder. “I know you are tired, but I am going to invite you to my office first. The robots will deliver your luggage and show you your rooms after we have finished. First, however, I arranged a meeting at the bureau where you can get something to drink and some necessary information. Our robotic expert and security officers are waiting for us … if you don’t mind?”
“It’s not a problem, Mr. Westhouse. I wouldn’t say we’re too tired, would you, Scott?” Mortimer turned his face towards his assistant...
“You’re right, Chief. I am not too tired. I guess it would be good to start working immediately.”
Pleased, Westhouse said, “Good, great.”
“There’s only one matter, Mr. Westhouse…,” continued Mortimer. “You said there was a robotic expert in the meeting. You realize a robot committed this murder. I hope you’re aware that a specialist is our number one suspect.”
Westhouse smiled. “Don’t worry, Detective. The UN Department of Robotics sent the specialist who will attend the meeting. When the murder was committed, the experts who were in charge here were questioned by the local security units and are now under surveillance.”
“Ah! I understand, I apologize.”
“It is okay, Detective.”
As they talked, the jet arrived at the door of the bureau. Together, they got out of the vehicle and walked to the door where two security officers dressed in formal clothes met them. The building was three storeys and it was all made of glass. But it didn’t appear from the outside. They took the elevator at the lobby and went up to the third floor. After they got off the elevator, they came across a long corridor. There were many rooms on both sides of the aisle. In these rooms, the number of robots working with people attracted Mortimer’s attention. These robots were usually a metallic green color. When Mortimer asked why these robots were not yellow like worker robots, Westhouse replied that they were service-class robots, and that each robot class was designed in different colors according to the service rendered. When they entered, they saw a robotics expert and the head of the local police force, the lieutenant.
Unlike his colleagues on Earth, the Lieutenant had a beard, and it took Mortimer’s attention that his uniform was in black instead of blue. There were also epaulets that showed his rank on his shoulders. First, the lieutenant introduced himself. “Hello, Mr. Mortimer. My name is Lieutenant Wolfgang Merkel, the head of the local police force. I will try to help you through all the opportunities available throughout your research.” Mortimer and Scott also thanked him and introduced themselves, shaking the lieutenant’s hand.
The robotics expert also introduced himself. “Hello, Detectives. My name is Dr. Franz Abenhauer.” The English-speaking expert with a German accent was a person with tall, broad hair and sharp eyes. He did not look much like the known robotics experts with his lush hair pouring over his shoulders.
Mortimer said, “Nice to meet you, Doctor,” and shook Abenhauer’s hand. “My assistant told me you’d be here, Doctor.”
“That satisfaction belongs to me, Detective Mortimer,” Abenhauer said. “The success you showed in the murder of the Space Hotel was remarkable. That’s why I was looking forward to meeting you.” Mortimer thanked him.
After this little introduction phase, Westhouse showed them the seats. After the detectives had sat in the spacious and comfortable armchairs, Westhouse moved to his chair. The room was very simple. Westhouse’s desk was placed at the end of the room. In front of his desk, there were six seats symmetrically placed inside the room. A giant three-dimensional screen on the wall opposite Westhouse’s desk was almost glued to the wall. Westhouse pressed a button and a human robot with a tray in its hand came in and offered guests a yellow and sweet drink. Everyone thanked him, took the drinks and started to sip. While they were drinking, Westhouse said, “You can start speaking, Detective Mortimer.” Mortimer thanked him and turned to the Chief of Security.
“First, I would like to ask you, Lieutenant. I watched the murder footage before I came here. Maybe I need not ask, but did you come across a fingerprint on the gun other than the robot’s? By the way ... He turned to the robotics expert and asked, “Do robots have fingerprints, Doctor Abenhauer?”
“Not like people, but they all have their own fingerprint codes, Detective. I will complete it before you ask. These codes are added during the production of robots since these traces are considered being the subject of any judicial or administrative investigation.”
Mortimer thanked Abenhauer and turned to the Lieutenant again with a questioning look. “Yes, Lieutenant?”
The Lieutenant shook his head. “Negative, Detective. We could not find any other fingerprints.”
Mortimer continued his questions. “Where did the robot find a gun?”
The Lieutenant sighed. “He stole one of our security officers’ gun. While our officers are not at work, they put their weapons in a warehouse on the second floor of the opposite building. That is their headquarters. This warehouse is protected by strict safety measures. However, how it had got this weapon is a mystery.”
Scott, meanwhile, stepped in. “Lieutenant, I’d like to ask you a few questions if you let me,”
“Of Course,” replied the Lieutenant. Scott continued, “What are these safety measures, Lieutenant?”
“Two security guards keep watch over there twenty-four hours a day. In addition, the weaponry is monitored 24 hours with security cameras. If the alarm is not disabled by entering the password, with authorized entry and if the infrared laser beams across the warehouse by the door are interrupted, the alarm rings.”
Scott said, “Well, who has the authority to disable this alarm?”
“Only the security officers and the police chief, that’s me.”
Mortimer said “Thank you. Is there another question for the Lieutenant, Scott?”
Mortimer turned to Abenhauer. “Who you judge has the ability to convince a robot to perform such an act, Doctor?”
“Of course, only a robotics expert can accomplish this, Detective.”
Mortimer insisted on his point. “Well, if it’s not a robotics expert, can someone who’s used to robots or has a lot of knowledge about robotics do it?”
Abenhauer hesitated for a moment, and then shook his head in negative terms, “I do not think so, Detective. Robots are fully loaded with all the features that define a person as a human being during the production phase. The robot realizes that the target is a human being with only one or several of these features because the differences between robots and humans are already transferred in details.”
“Then I take these words as an answer in the sense of very difficult but not impossible, am I right?” Mortimer asked again.
Abenhauer smiled. “If you put it that way, yes, it is possible in theory, although it is difficult.”
Mortimer continued his words. “Let’s approach it from another angle. I suppose when you got there, the first thing to do was to examine the robot. Am I right?”
“Of course, Detective. This was the first thing I did, naturally.”
“We will definitely read the reports at night, but can you briefly summarize what you have for us, Doctor?
Dr. Abenhauer said, “There is nothing like listening from first hand, Detective,” and he started telling
“As soon as I got here, I moved to the neighborhood where the incident had happened. Before I left, I had already notified the authorities that robot should never be touched and that no attempt should be made to talk to him. When I arrived at the scene, I found the robot in a way that its mind was frozen and it was immobile, just like in the video recording. I ran various tests on it, and as a result of the murder it committed, I concluded that its brain had been completely destroyed because of the excessive negative charge in its mind, as it had publicly violated the first of the three laws of robots...”
Scott intervened here. “Can you tell us, Doctor, if the order it received was stronger than the first law, why was the robot still unable to do this without hesitating and why did it concern itself about this law after?”
“You cannot underestimate a mind of a robot so much, Mr. Scott,” answered Abenhauer.
“Asimov’s Three Robot Laws are extremely effective in the process of each robotic production and we can say these laws become their character. Even if a robot succeeds in breaking any of these laws, it will cause severe damage that cannot be repaired. Especially, breaking the first law means destruction for the robots. I will recite the first law with your permission.
-A robot cannot harm a human or cause a human to be harmed by staying motionless.- Since its brain works based on various electrical currents, negative tensions in the opposite directions cause great damage to the robot’s mind. When it comes to the first law, it is inevitable that the robot’s brain will become completely unusable.” The doctor took a deep breath in his words. “I apologize; I think I gave you an accelerated robotics course.”
Everyone in the room laughed lightly. “It does not matter, Doctor, you gave us very enlightening information,” Mortimer said. “Can you tell us that if you discussed this matter with the robotic experts that are in custody right now, or if I am to say in a more deductive way, did you question them?”
Dr. Abenhauer smiled again. “Yes, I did question them in a way, even if I did not appreciate the way you expressed it.”
“So what was your result, Doctor?”
“To the information I received from them, they burst upon the scene as soon as they got the news and applied the same test I had applied. In the end, they reached the same result.”
“What kind of technique makes a robot act like this, and how long would it take, Doctor?” Mortimer asked.
“To make a robot perform such an action, you first need to convince the robot the victim is not human. Otherwise, you cannot make it do this. The first law prevents it. Even if you are an expert, this persuasion cannot be done at once, because we are talking about changing the robot’s judgments completely. While trying to convince the robot that the person you are targeting is not human, you cannot allow the robot to have doubts in its mind about the definition of humans of other humans. Or else the robot may become a potential threat to other people. For this reason, this work can be done by a specialist within a certain period.”
Mortimer expressed a thoughtful attitude. “So, you mean, we can remove non-experts from the list of suspects. Then one of the specialists who were here at the time of the incident, both or all of them could be the instigator?”
“You are mistaken here, Detective,” Dr. Abenhauer said
“You do not need to be around a robot to give some inculcations or instructions. You can also contact it through communication channels. Since the minds of robots are manufactured to be contacted by any means of communication, they do not need any device for communication. In the same way, they communicate with each other without needing any intermediary. ”
Mortimer stroked his chin. “So, I do not have to be on this planet. It’s bad because it greatly expands our research area.” He got up and turned to Westhouse. “Scott and I will go to our rooms, if you excuse us, for we need to get some rest. We also read the file about the incident from the computer and discuss it. Then we start questioning the witnesses.”
Westhouse and the others stood up with him. “Your luggage has been sent to your rooms, Detective. Will you honor us at dinner, or do you prefer to eat in your room?”
“If you do not mind, let’s eat in our room tonight, Mr. Westhouse,” Mortimer replied. “I’m going to ask you to send us both food to my room. We discuss the situation with Scott as we eat.”
“As you wish, Detective,” Westhouse said. “The dinner is served two hours later. The robots will accompany you to your rooms, please follow them.” He pressed a button on the table. Five seconds passed and two humanoid robots entered the room. Westhouse pointed to their guests, told the robots their names and ordered them to show their rooms. The robots returned to Scott and Mortimer. “Here, sir, please follow us,” both robots addressed Mortimer and Scott. It was clear that they had already been informed about their guests and had been instructed to serve them.
When they went out of the building following the robots, they were both bewildered for a moment. During the time they spent in the evening, the sun must have gone down, but things were still bright. Mortimer asked, “Did we set our clocks wrong, Scott, what do you say? Is the sun still up? ”
One robot who heard this question walked in front of them and said, “May I remind you the Alpha Centauri star system is a triple-star system, sir? If you do not consider Proxima Centauri which is a red dwarf star, the sun never goes down on the planet because of the positions of the two stars that rotate around Icarus B., so the night never comes here, as people say.”
Upon the words of the robot, Mortimer and Scott paused and looked up at the sky. When they stopped, the robots also stopped and turned their faces towards the detectives. Indeed two suns were shining above their heads. They were in different sizes and brightness. Mortimer addressed the robot, which informed him. “Tell me; umm... what should I call you?”
“My serial number is 1301, sir. You can call me by this record number,” answered the robot.
Mortimer said, “Well then, 1301, tell me according to what do these people adjust the hours of rest or sleep hours like it is said on the Earth?”
The robot paused for a moment before responding to the question as if it wanted to understand the meaning of the problem. A few seconds later it answered, “The day-night difference is different here than in the world, sir. Because there are two suns, the planet’s average of the turnaround times around both stars is taken and this value is divided by twenty-four to get a day-night cycle similar to Earth’s. I hope this information helps, sir. ,”
“It helped 1301, thank you. Now you can get us to our rooms.”
“Right, sir. Please follow us.”
Both robots walked again in front of the detectives. They entered a building just opposite the administration building. It was understood that the style of the building and the manner in which it was furnished were prepared for the guests. There were ample sofas in the lobby. A reception for two people reminded people of luxury hotels. After passing through the lobby, they went to the second floor via a glass elevator.
After they had exited the elevator, they came across a wide corridor. The robots moved a few steps, then turned left and showed them two rooms next to each other. They left after telling them that they would send their evening meals to Mortimer’s room on the order of Westhouse. They also said The Detectives could use the sound command system in their rooms or the consoles next to their beds for all their needs, including the food menu.
Mortimer told Scott to rest in his own room until dinner had arrived, but Scott preferred to stay in Mortimer’s room. The room had a large bed and two armchairs. There was a keyboard and a computer monitor on the table across the bed to log in manually as needed. On the left side of the bed, there was a giant monitor covering almost the entire wall. Mortimer had strange the presence of a screen at a time when holographic images were widespread. –The warden seems to be conservative- he thought.
“Nice room, what do you say, Scott?”
Scott nodded, “I think it’s a little old fashioned, chief. It could have been laid in a more modern style.”
“You’re right, let’s eat now, and then we can continue our work.”
After the two detectives had selected their meals and reported to the robots through the console, they began to declare their opinions on the incident. As they spoke, a knock came at the door.
“Come in,” Mortimer said
Two service robots with trays in their hands entered, and they prepared the table for the meal. When their work was done, one robot turned to the detectives and said, “Your food is ready, sir. If you want, we can serve you while you eat.” Mortimer and Scott watched the robots with admiration. Upon the offer of the robot, Mortimer said, “No, no need. We can do our own services.”
“However you like it, sir. When you need anything, all you need to say is ‘Robot’. The voice command detectors in the room will inform the nearest robot of what you need. We will wait to serve you outside the door. If you wish, you can call us with our serial numbers. My serial number is 1402, and my friend’s number is 1403.”
Mortimer and Scott looked at each other for a moment. “Do the preceptors record every sound in the room?” Mortimer asked.
“No, sir. It only perceives the voices, and when he realizes you have any need, the nearest robot is informed. It is a simple robotic brain doing the job.”
Mortimer thanked them, and they left.
Mortimer and Scott went to the table that was equipped with a very rich menu. After eating their meals, Mortimer asked, “What are you getting out of this first phase of the investigation, Scott?”
“Productive, Chief. We learned things about robots.” Scott gazed at the far wall. “Enough to sketch the investigation.”
“Someone who was a robotics expert or very knowledgeable about robotics, possibly educated on this subject, but who did not graduate from the robotics department, did this crime. We have to find such a person, and I do not think many people on the planet meet these criteria.”
“Why did you use not graduated?”
“Because if he had graduated from this department, it would have been noticed among the workers. However, investigating this does not constitute a problem in my opinion. Anyway, when we look at the files of all of them, we will understand. We also have information about their families, so I don’t think we’re going to have much trouble with this.”
“A good explanation, but you have not still given the answer I expected?”
“You mean commanding the robot through a communication device? But this is not a case that would happen with a one-time instruction, according to Dr. Abenhauer.”
“You’re missing the point, Scott, if someone planned to kill Bryan Gaust in cold blood for any reason, and if he could not reach him, he could do it by routing the robot with intermittent instructions. This time, however, the question arises how the security code in the gun room was disarmed. Because the robot has to take the weapon.”
“But there’s something here that’s stuck in my mind, Chief.”
“What is it?”
“If he was going to commit murder, why did the killer risk himself by using a gun? Why did he take the hard route by getting a weapon and making a robot do something so difficult like committing the murder? The chances of failure were very high. Couldn’t he try the simpler methods? Like pushing the guy from a high place, or setting up an accident while he was at work?”
“You seem right, Scott. However, it is understood that the true murderer was in a very difficult situation and that he cannot risk himself regarding the certainty of the murder. Because if he had tried another method, the victim could have been saved as wounded. Whether it’s here on the planet, or away, it’s obvious he is helpless. You should also consider that. It is relatively easy to convince a robot to kill a person with a gun, compared to other methods. Because it is almost impossible to make a robot perceive the details of other methods and how they are different from accidents with the current level of technology.”
“I don’t agree with you, chief. I think this method was extremely high risk of being caught. But I can’t prove my point.”
Mortimer leant back. “I can’t prove it either. But I can’t think of any more rational explanation right now.”
“Then who do we start with in the first interrogation?”
“Of course, the robotics experts in custody. Now go get some rest, it will be a long day tomorrow.” He looked at the versatile communication device on the wrist. “It’s not too late yet; you can go through the files before you go to bed.”
“Yes, I will. Good evening, Chief,” said Scott and went to his room.