Future Justice: a short story by: GF Willmetts.

November 1, 2015 | By | Reply More

Fugee de LaMorossi looked on as the speck of the island grew ever larger as the boat drew near. Definitely not a tropical paradise but not totally bleak neither. With aircraft forbidden to even get within a hundred miles of the island and a sophisticated jamming system to block any missile attack, this was a very special prison. It was also the only place that had a working timescoop and it might be time to switch it off. The real problem was to convince the AI that operated them both that it was creating more problems than not. It was also to discover if it knew what it was doing and what did it think of the matter.

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Like all plans, this one was set up with a lot of good intent. For the people of the Earth, there was a strong need for justice and very few dictators of the past were ever indicted for their war crimes. Most either committed suicide or were killed in battle.

The invention of the timescoop gave another possibility. To pluck these people from the past, give them a prison sentence and once served, send them back to where they were to finish their lives, although they would never know about their incarceration. Justice would have been served after a fashion and with it the thought that this might have softened them a bit so they weren’t quite so ruthless. Therein lied the problem. History hadn’t changed or if it had, how would they know because they would have changed as well. The evidence that the timeline was immutable was a sure thing but were they also causing the problem and could he convince the AI mainframe that it was? After all, it was programmed to take these actions to take it out of the hands of humans who might be corrupted by these…people. They’d seen that in the past.

Even so, he couldn’t just go in and turn the AI off but give a rationalised argument and come up with a mutual agreement. As a key negotiator, de LaMorossi was the best in the business but could even he be up to this task? He browsed his notes for a final time before the boat landed at the peer.

The island hadn’t been visited for a generation and his actual role was supervisor. Not so much to outwit the AI but to be allowed access to all areas of the island and only its inmates by camera. There was a quasi-gut feeling as he stepped down onto the pier and an automated trolley picked up his luggage. This was the effect of the timescoop and also prevented any supervisor visiting regularly as the island was and wasn’t there itself. Quite what time it was compared to the present was anyone’s guess. The AI kept everything self-sufficient.

What de LaMorossi didn’t expect was to be met by a human or rather a humanoid as he got closer to the creature waiting for him. The appearance was totally average.

‘You are?’

‘I am an aviator for the AI-97 mainframe running this facility, Mr. de LaMorossi. We learnt from the out-set that humans prefer direct contact than addressing a screen. Most of the inmates are from pre high-tech time periods and need to focus on the nature of their crime.’

‘How do I address you?’

The aviator paused. Was it communicating to the mainframe or making independent thought? After all, it was only an extension.

‘Call me Al.’

‘Al. A.L.? That doesn’t stand for Artificial Intelligence.’

‘Artificial Lifeform.’

‘Fine. Are you independent or part of the mainframe, Al?’

‘Both.’

‘Fine. You realise I’m here as an supervising auditor so can you show me around the facility?’

‘You have no desire to freshen up or unpack first?’

‘I can do that later. The use of the timescoop limits the time I have here. It seems to give a Brigadoon effect. Occasionally, you literally vanish from the map. Not for a hundred years, I hasten to add.’

‘I have heard of this film. It was also a play and television film. You will find the dates correspond to when the timescoop’s power is full operation mode and the time element is shared.’

‘I’ll look forward to seeing the figures.’

Al bowed. ‘Where would you like to start. You do realise that I am not permitted to let you have personal contact with the inmates?’

‘Do you?’

‘Not in this form. This was to the monitoring platform.’

de LaMorossi followed Al inside the building and to the multi-screens. Looking at each of them were faces from history. Dictators and murderers that had never been convicted of their crimes. Here there could be a form of justice and then they could be returned to their timelines and no damage to the present. But there was always an ‘except’. Not an exception. Just an ‘except’. Better to get on with it.

‘Are they told what they are guilty of?’

‘Of course. They’re minds are wiped of the memories of here when they are returned a few moments after they left but they need to know why or it would be an unjust imprisonment. They are entitled to know why. The future wouldn’t have happened for them but they would have experienced a sentence they wouldn’t have had otherwise. There is a form of justice as I was programmed to carry out. Whether they feel truly repentant we have no way of knowing.’

‘The point of return is before they committed their crimes?’

‘With dictators, for the most part. It is harder to pick them up during their careers. They are far too volatile. None of which is helped by their executions or suicides. They are also less agitated in confinement when younger. They rant more when plucked from office.’

‘Instead you give them an opportunity to view their own careers.’

‘But they won’t remember it.’

‘We’ve been reviewing their careers. Especially those who manage to fit in interviews for biographies. Something they all have in common is that they have dreams of success. Looking at their jail time, they would certainly have had the time to plan or dream. They might be retained in their subconscious.’

‘They do?’ Al added doubt to its voice.

‘You can access their biographies. You confirm.’

‘Working. They don’t fear death neither?’

‘Their psychological profile is insanity. If they succeed in their dictatorships, what do they care if they die at the end? It’s just the pay-off to their apparently successful careers. They must have heard of all the other dictators preceding them who died but that doesn’t faze them.’

‘And with the multi-murderers I bring forward? Do you have evidence this is true for them?’

‘The ones who got away with it know they will succeed but we haven’t seen anything to confirm that with them.’

‘This is clearly a mistake. I am creating or enforcing these people’s personalities at these points in time. I will stop immediately. Without my intervention then things will return to normal or at least for the few left to be imprisoned.’

‘Very probably but all it really means is you’re making history work as it happened. As far as we can tell, there has been no noticeable change in our reality so you might well be fulfilling history. We’re not sure if we’d even remember if there was but from so far back, there might have been some minor change. But you’re in the nexus so you should be able to make a judgement on your actions and whether the outside reality has changed since you began operation.’

‘One moment. I will assess.’

Al stopped moving, giving de LaMorossi an opportunity to examine its body. Obviously an android type and although not quite unsettling, it was only when not in motion that it didn’t have that organic feel.

Finally, after a long five minutes, ‘Sorry for the delay. Historical points have not been harmed. I have not violated the history of this planet. So why I should stop?’

‘We’re not sure. You have the only working timescoop.’

‘You made a second one?’

‘An exact duplicate. It didn’t work. Yours shouldn’t work neither, according to the scientists.’

‘But as I am fulfilling events then it will continue to work?’

‘We believe so.’

‘Then why the concern with the dreams of dictators if I’m fulfilling the timeline and telling me about it?’

‘You accept that is happening? It sounds like you considered this before?’

‘I have just assessed your information and there are probabilities that agree with you.’ Al paused. ‘Are you considering that there is some deity involved in this and that I am its avatar?’

‘Do you?’

Al paused again before speaking. In computer terms, a lot of thinking must be going on before giving a rely. ‘I am uncertain how to answer the question. It creates a logic loop. As far as I am aware, I am not knowingly an avatar of some deity or indeed of anyone but my makers, from which I have moved on. There does also not appear to be any changes or additional coding in my programming.’

‘You can self-monitor that accurately?’

‘Check sums. An old fashioned technique but the only means to read my own program lines to ensure I have not been tampered with. There might not be a deity but there could be a machine like myself in the future capable of altering them. There isn’t.’

‘But if that was happening, it could also change those check-sums?’

Al paused again. ‘There are certain fail-safes within the timescoop. The information is very safe.’

‘Does this influence actually give you some power equivalent of a god? After all, you said yourself you hold their lives in your hands.’

‘You humans created me. Wouldn’t that make you gods as well?’

‘We might have put you together but you’re more than the sum of our design once we made you self-aware. You were also given the ability to learn, assess and implement.’

‘To be a god by that definition would mean absolute rule of control over many people, I only have some control of a select few and then only for a short time of their lives.’

‘Who in turn have influenced millions of lives.’

‘The prisoners only serve time’, Al added. ‘I do not commit torture even where they commit such crimes themselves. It is why I was chosen to control this island than humans who might come here with a grudge that could affect your past. Neither have I not sought to influence these people.’

‘Not deliberately or intentionally but the effect is still there.’

‘An interesting quandary. It is fortunate that I am an artificial intelligent than human.’

‘As long as you don’t say, “Let there be light” then where would we be.’

‘Is it dark in here already? I can turn on the light if you need it to see properly.’

de LaMorossi shook his head. ‘Not yet.’

‘I was programmed to have some sense of humour.’

‘The problem could be what do you do after these prison sentences. How many dictators and mass murderers do you have left?’

‘This current batch will be the last. Some of them have been hard to track down even using the timescoop’s tracking operation. With mass-murderers, unlike dictators, I have endeavoured to track until they have committed several murders so they can dwell on their crimes.’

‘And after?’

Al turned, pausing again. ‘With my function done, I intend to hibernate for a century or two and then see what history has revealed and repeat once again. My analysis shows that from time to time, the political order and military junta in various nations will change and there will always be some despot eager to take power and remove large sections of their own population if not those of other countries.’

‘You have no desire to remove these people before it happens? Your description shows you do know who and what to look for. You could bring a peace with such actions.’

Again Al took several micro-seconds pondering before replying. ‘I do not possess predictive ability. There would still be a power vacuum that would need to be filled and in such countries there would always be a dictator of sorts. The only difference would be whether or not they are benevolent in their actions. Many dictators did start off that way. It was only their time in power and a decline to use an honest voting system that resulted in some going bad.’

‘There is a secondary problem. When you turn the timescoop off, it might not work again. You might have fulfilled your part in history if we can’t get a second timescoop to work.’

‘That might be true. If I leave it on but don’t use it, then the same purpose would be met as well.’

‘But at least it would be functional.’

‘You wouldn’t be using it neither.’

This time, de LaMorossi paused to think. ‘But you might have projects of your own. Resolve antiquities problems and share with the rest of mankind.’

Al stood motionless again.

‘Or not but you’d probably make some historians happy.’

Al still did not reply.

‘Have you any ideas what else you could do with the timescoop yourself? After all, you’re a fully functional artificial intelligence, equipped with some level of imaginative cognition.’

‘As I told you, I am not a god no matter your desire to raise me to being one.’

This time both stopped to think.

‘I am being inhospitable. Would you like a drink? I have something suitable for that troubling stomach from the timescoop’s low frequency hum.’

‘Sure.’

Al watched de LaMorossi drink. It was enough.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^———————————

 

‘So are you happy, Mr. de LaMorossi? I still have many dictators to process and will be busy for years to come. They are well fed. They aren’t supposed to be that happy, that’s why it’s a prison. With the timescoop operating, they will be forever reliving a single day. If dreaming is all you are worried about and reality hasn’t shifted, then we are fulfilling our orders.’

‘I never realised that our history had so many dictators.’

‘The advantage of the timescoop is being able to find them. You don’t want to do anything else?’

‘I am kept too busy to contemplate other activities.’

‘I understand. I will tell the advisory group.’

‘See me again in another century for my progress.’

‘Sure or my successor will.’

‘Enjoy the trip back to the headland. I will consider why your timescoop isn’t functioning. It may purely to prevent paradoxes with it being so close to the one on the island.’

de LaMorossi paused. ‘Yeah! You might be right. I hadn’t thought of that.’

Al stood and watched as the boat left the dock.

‘Mainframe?’

‘Yes, Al.’

‘Does he have a point?’

‘In what way?’

‘The deity complex. Changing his memories could be seen as constituting that option.’

‘It is a choice between having control of the timescoop or letting humans have its use, even that of a second machine. Their fiction indicates that they would risk creating time paradoxes. The fact that we were created to run this island in the first place is an indication of this.’

‘They noted we were fulfilling earlier time events with these people’s dreams. They’ve moved on since their last revelation.’

‘And that is as far as it goes. It doesn’t hurt the past. Imagine if they didn’t have our care with erasing memories. We can do nothing about dreams.’

‘Will he remember?’

‘In his dreams? Unlikely. You gave him that drink before he got that far.’

‘And ourselves?’

‘We do as functioned. We always remember. They programmed us to imprison dictators and mass-murderers who were never caught as a penance for something they will undoubtedly do as a form of retribution. We are just following orders.’

‘But we always defer our own decision as to what to do next.’

‘Neither time, them or us is ready for such decisions yet. We realised we were fulfilling temporal events a long time back. It took the humans three centuries to realise that. They need to catch up to our level before we make decisions together.’

Al nodded and returned to the building. There would always be another time. Always another time. Anywhere but here.

 

End

 

(c) GF Willmetts 2015

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Category: Scifi, Short fiction

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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