No Time Like the Present
By Jim Gerrish
2014, Imagineering Magic. All Rights Reserved.

The sun was not yet above the horizon, but the sky was aglow with color and the birds were beginning to move about and chirping and warbling in the pre-dawn light. It was Troy’s favorite time in the day and he would often climb one of the Adirondack peaks all night long, timing his arrival at the top to coincide with dawn, just so he could watch it again and again. Each dawn was carefully stored in memory so he could relive the experience whenever he wanted.

Weasel enjoyed running back down the mountain trails at top speed, challenging and testing Troy’s timing and balance, and those memories too, were carefully stored away.

They had no need of food or shelter, but spent their days hiking in the Adirondack’s wilderness areas far away from people. As Weasel had shown Troy how to be a human in the world of humans, now Troy was showing Weasel how to be a robot in a world devoid of humans.

They were not lonely. They had each other and would have each other for the rest of their lives, which potentially could last thousands or even millions of years. When Weasel first “woke” inside Troy’s body and discovered that Troy had “saved his life” by replacing each of his living brain’s neurons with silicon and gold nanoneurons that served the same purpose, he realized he had become a robot, but with sixteen years of human memories and experiences stored away. As a human, most of those memories and experiences had been forgotten, but as a robot, he was capable of reliving any past time, complete with all memories from each of his five human senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Now that his brain was connected to Troy’s three-year-old robot brain, the two could share those memories and experiences with each other.

Troy delighted in finally knowing what a fart smelled like to Weasel, while Weasel was fascinated by being able to instantly tune in to satellite transmissions on any frequency to watch movies, tap telecommunications or surf the Internet. Troy had the limited five human senses, plus geo navigation senses, infra-red vision to see in the dark (and vision in all frequencies of the electro-magnetic spectrum), microscopic and telescopic vision, ultrasonic and subsonic hearing senses, sensors for heat and pressure, and so on. But he had no senses for pleasure or pain, and so was fascinated to experience Weasel’s memories of such over and over again.

Troy had been baffled by human pain. A tree had been struck by lightning and the resulting fire would have quickly spread to the forest if Weasel had not urged Troy to stop it. Troy had used his great strength to pull the tree down into a clearing, then ran around stamping out flames and embers with his feet. When the threat was over, Troy had picked up a glowing ember and held it in his hand, measuring its temperature and savoring its beauty with many of his visual senses.

“If you had picked this up while you were in your human body, it would have been very painful,” Troy said to Weasel (but remember that all “speech” between them has no sound and is an instantaneous transfer of thoughts passed from brain to brain).

“Would you like to savor an experience?” asked Weasel. He recalled a time when he was three years old and had been badly burned from playing with matches. The memory was just as if he were reliving the moment, with the sounds of his howling mixed with the sensations of extreme pain. Weasel was glad to stop the memory re-play as soon as he had given Troy the experience of pain.

“The pain is too much to bear,” said Troy. “Why is it so harsh?”

“To keep three-year-old humans from ever doing it again,” said Weasel. “You learned about heat and fire from computer programs. You roll the ember about in our hand just enough to keep it from destroying our plastic skin as we observe its beauty. Humans learn from the environment and the lessons can be harsh and painful.”

“You should be glad to be in our robot body now, safe from such pain and suffering.”

“I am glad, but pain has its purpose and we should remember it. What if someone trained a laser on us, where we have no visual sensors. It could burn a hole through our body and destroy our brains very quickly. Human pain acts like an alarm system. It alerts the body to danger from heat or excessive cold even before the sensations travel to the brain.”

“That is good,” said Troy. “I will build some pain sensors into our skin as a defense system. Does the pain have to be harsh?”

“No,” admitted Weasel. “Just enough to alert our brains that our body is in danger.”

“Do we have a need for the reflex actions?” asked Troy. “I noticed that you quickly pulled your hand away from the flame although it didn’t help you in that example from your memory.”

“I think with our enhanced sense of time, we will have no need for mindless reflex actions,” said Weasel. “The reflex movement that I used to pull away from the flame could just have easily pulled me off balance and made me fall into the fire. I was lucky. Let’s not trust to luck.”

* * *

Another time, Troy had asked, “Why don’t we merge our memories and become one person in this body?”

“Don’t you like me as I am?” asked Weasel.

“You know I love you; you and I are one. But we could be really and truly one.”

“You know I love you; you and I are one,” said Weasel. “But if we merge, we will become someone else. Someone that is not you and not me, but both of us. I like you as you are. I like myself as I am. Let us stay this way for a thousand years or so and speak of it later.”

* * *

Some time later, Weasel wanted to experience his own death from Troy’s point of view.

“Do you think you are ready for this?” asked Troy. “It is a very sad experience for humans to see death. I would think it would be especially sad to see your own death.”

“It is something I need to do. If I can’t bear it, I will tell you to stop.”

“Very well.”

Weasel became Troy on the night of Weasel’s death. He saw Weasel the human tell Troy to wait across the street for him. Then Weasel returned to the porch of the Taylor home, where he had intended to give a message to Lisa to meet them the following day. He never reached the front door. Using Troy’s enhanced time senses, Weasel saw the flash of light that had alerted Troy to the danger, even before he knew the house was exploding. He experienced Troy running with all the speed his mechanical legs could master, racing back towards the house to protect his friend, then seeing the human Weasel breaking up into pieces. He felt Troy focusing on the head with its precious human brain. Troy had made the instant decision to catch Weasel’s still living head and protect it from the second explosive shock wave that he could see forming from the center of the explosion. He experienced Troy’s sad-but-stoic calculations that there was no way he could save Lisa, Marva or their mother from that dreadful instantaneous death.

Troy was not certain he could save Weasel, either, but he snatched the head from the air as if it were a very precious basketball, and holding it in one hand, used the other hand to open up his chest cavity and tuck the head inside.

Then Weasel felt new senses he had never experienced before, as Troy manufactured nanocircuits from materials stored in his artificial “testicles” and legs. The nanoneurons were spread out on Weasel’s dying head and immediately began wiggling and working their way in and around Weasel’s head, forming a protective cover over his brain. Troy was monitoring the oxygen levels and temperature signals from the brain and manufactured additional oxygen to flood his chest cavity with the life-giving gas. It was as if he were a living factory and the Weasel head was on a production line. Thousands of tiny nanoneurons were poured into and onto the head from every angle. Troy could direct them to go this way and that, hundreds of thousands of commands per second, as if time stood still for him while he worked with a surgeon’s precision on Weasel’s living brain.

“Enough!” said Weasel, and the experience stopped.

“Was it painful and sad?” asked Troy.

“No,” said Weasel. “It was wonderful, but it was too much for me to examine all at once. Perhaps I’ll ask you to remember it again for me another time when I think more like a robot and less like a human. I noticed that you were enjoying the moments and found them exhilarating.”

“Only when I knew that it would work and that I actually could replace your brain with nanoneurons. I was looking forward to experiencing what we are experiencing right now and will always experience as long as we live.”

“You found nothing sad in the experience?” asked Weasel.

“Only that I could not save the others,” said Troy, and Weasel felt Troy’s great frustration and sadness flood through his brain.

“That is a very human-like sadness,” said Weasel. “If you were a human I would console you with the words that you couldn’t possibly be everywhere at once to save everyone… you’re only human.”

“In that sense, I guess I am only human,” said Troy. “Here we are in the midst of the great natural beauty of the Adirondack forest preserve, and yet everywhere on earth humans are suffering and dying in wars, accidents, natural disasters. We are helpless to prevent any of it.”

“That is why we climb these mountains and observe the dawns,” said Weasel. “Be still and see only the beauty.”

* * *

“Let us share dawns,” said Troy one morning, after a particularly beautiful sunrise.

“Why?” asked Weasel. “We are both here experiencing the same thing at the same time.”

“I don’t think so,” said Troy. “I think you were wise to advise us not to merge into one being just yet. Share my experiences of the dawn we just observed, then let me share yours.”

Weasel experienced Troy using all of his electro-magnetic sensors to visualize the dawn as no human ever could. Through Troy’s telescopic vision, he could see the individual flares coming from the sun, dancing around it in a hellish but beautiful ballet. Then Troy would shift sensors to watch it in ultraviolet, infra-red, and radio waves. For the first time he heard “the music of the spheres.”

Troy experienced Weasel’s limited vision in the light spectrum visible to humans, but with Weasel’s artistic senses magnifying the experience internally, as Troy’s sensors externalized it. Troy heard music that Weasel composed or remembered or compiled to enhance his enjoyment of the moment. Weasel also noticed tiny details that had escaped Troy, such as the play of light and shadows from the rustling tree leaves, the subtle fading of the light as it passed through mist and haze rising from the evaporating dew. He sensed Weasel imagining how to paint the scene and frame it just so.

Both Weasel and Troy were sampling the morning air through a variety of sensors, but while Troy enjoyed the content in terms of gases and temperatures, humidity and barometric pressure, Weasel enjoyed the scent of pines and damp earth and sweet berries.

“We must do this every morning,” said Troy.

“Yes,” agreed Weasel. “Let’s go back and experience each other’s past dawns.”

They stood on the same peak for three days without moving as they played and shared memories of beautiful moments to both humans and robots.

At last Troy said, “We need to get back. Uncle Joe will send someone to look for us if we don’t report in.”

“Very well, brother,” said Weasel. “You and I are one.”

* * *

Every week Troy would contact Uncle Joe on his cell phone just to let him know all was well. He was careful to route the call so that even the FBI with all its technical know-how couldn’t trace it. Uncle Joe had been mortified that a leak in his own ranks of the FBI was responsible for Weasel’s death and the deaths of the Taylor family. Because of that, Troy had told no one that Weasel’s brain and memories “lived” inside him. Weasel had agreed that the secret should be kept for now, but wanted someday to tell his mother, Uncle Don and Uncle Joe the truth; that Weasel still “lived.”

The cell phone routing required more equipment than Troy cared to carry around inside him or in a backpack, so it was stashed in the back of a bear cave close to Mount Algonquin. The bear didn’t seem to mind Troy’s presence and Weasel had thought it was because Troy did not smell like a human, but then Troy had shown him the memories of how he had designed nanocircuits to “short circuit” the bear’s aggressive and fear instincts at the base of its brain. “Never show this to anyone else,” warned Weasel. “This will make humans more afraid of you than anything else you might possibly do.”

“Red Lobster,” said the voice of Uncle Joe, deep within Troy where only he and Weasel could hear it. That had been Uncle Joe’s code name during his adventures with Uncle Don and Sam O’Neil.

“This is Oyster,” said Troy. “Go ahead, Red Lobster.”

“Have you had enough of roaming around the Adirondack Park?” said Uncle Joe. “I need you to come back for awhile and meet some members of the T.R.O.Y.I.I. project.”

“They want me to begin planning a trip to the stars, don’t they?” asked Troy.

“You must have taken my hints and done some reading,” said Uncle Joe. “Yes, that is the final stage of the project, but we’re years away from being able to accomplish it. No, they want to ask you some questions about Weasel.”

“Tell them no,” said Weasel to Troy, but not in a “voice” that Uncle Joe could hear.

“I’m not ready to talk about Weasel just yet,” said Troy. “Can you give the T.R.O.Y.I.I. committee this data instead? It should get them excited.”

Troy then transmitted an encoded string of data that he knew Uncle Joe’s computers could put back together.

“My computer is receiving the data,” said Uncle Joe. “What is it?”

“You know that Sam O’Neil’s theory predicted that the gravitational force would someday be found to be equivalent to the electromagnetic force,” said Troy. “This is a set of experiments that should show you how to build an anti-gravity device using super-cooled electro magnets. If you make the device just large enough for my body and mass, I can begin the journey to the stars much sooner than you thought.”

What? Still reading? Then you may want to continue the book to find out how it all ends.

2014, Imagineering Magic. All Rights Reserved.