He stared up at the bright illuminescent nights sky above. A hue of gentle colours added a soft back drop to the magnificent star scape. Each one of you stars have a story to tell. He thought to himself. But you tell them in a language that we are yet to understand. Stories of the distance past and even stories of the distance future. He sat up right and scuffed his wet hair slightly, before glancing back up again at the starry nights sky. One day us humans are going to join you up there. Then he promptly got up onto his feet and began brushing off some of the water that had settled on his clothes, which he had gained from laying in the fresh evening grass. Shortly after which he returned to his laboratory.
When he returned he was greeted by an unexpected guest. “Paul!” The man cried gleefully. “It’s great to see you again my good friend!”
“Its good to see you too Dr Stothard. What brings you here at this hour?” Paul replied. “I would have tidied up if I knew you were coming. Would you like some tea?”
“That would be excellent Paul! Thank you.”
“Riley! Could you make us two cups of tea please and please pack away my notes and books from earlier!” Paul called out aimlessly into the large expanse of the cluttered workshop.
“Certainly Sir.” An inhuman voice replied. “I shall be back in a moment.”
“I see you’ve created a new robot! When is this one going to hit the shelves!?” Stothard enquired.
“Not for a while” Paul replied. “I think the hype needs to die down before releasing anymore to the shelves. The first introduction of robots to the mainstream caused a fair bit of excitement. No need to over do it.”
“Quite right Paul, as always.” Stothard chirped.
“Well? Did you come here for a reason or just for small talk” Paul asked as he pulled out two chairs for them both.
“No one has seen or heard from you for days Paul! Some folk have been saying that you might have ran off, not being able to cope with your new found fame.” Stothard replied. “But I know you well Paul. I’ve come down to see what new toy you’ve been working on. Have you made any more progress in sending people to the stars? Or have you been indulging it some other science?”
Paul laughed, and as he did his robot Riley returned with a plastic tray that held two cups of tea, a small jug of milk and some sugar. “Thank you very much Riley.”
“You’re Welcome Sir.” Riley replied as he placed the tray down delicately. He turned to leave but before he had a chance, Paul spoke up once more “Oh and Riley! Before you go, Could you bring me my notes relating to my latest project please?”
Both Stothard and Paul added milk to their tea, before sipping gently. Riley returned in a matter of moments, carrying a large folder. “Thank you Riley.”
“You’re welcome Sir.”
Stothard picked up the huge binder and laid it out on a desk to his left before hastily flicking through the mountain of paper work. Page after page of seemingly endless mathematics greeted Stothards wide eyes. To the average man, the incomprehensible ink scribbles would look like nothing more than a chaotic jumble of numbers and letters. However to a brain box like Stothard, the numbers spelt out one thing. “Time Travel!?” He exclaimed. “But surely it is the work of science-fiction!”
“It was the work of science-fiction, Just as robots once were.” Paul lent in towards Stothard and placed a hand on his shoulder. “But my friend. It isn’t anymore. It’s ready for human trails, and that’s exactly what I plan to do this night!”
‘This… This is fantastic!! Where do you plan on going!?”
“To the future of course. I need to know what the future holds. You and I have done endless work in trying to get the human race to outer space and eventually the stars. But like it or not we aren’t going to be around long enough to see our work come to pass. But now! Now we have a gate way! A gate way that can not only tell us if mankind will succeed in settling the universe, but also tell us every secret that the universe may hold. We will be able to go to anytime and see for ourselves.”
“You truly are one of the greatest minds of the 22nd century my friend.” Stothard said as he finished his cup of tea. “You must let me know how the first trail goes! I shall be back tomorrow to ask you about your travels!” Stothard got up to leave.
“Stothard, Don’t tell anyone about this. Not yet anyway.”
“Don’t worry my friend. Your secret is safe with me.” Stothard smiled warmly. “Goodnight Paul and Good luck.”
“Goodnight Stothard. See you soon.”
With that, Stothard left. Paul was once again left alone in the silence and solitude of his laboratory, after a quick swig he finished the remainder of his milky tea. He collected his notes together and tucked them under his arm, before getting up to finally test his new invention.
Paul made his way through the strange maze of scientific equipment, wires and wonderful inventions. He continued deep into his laboratory until he reached a grand white door. He stood still in front of it whilst a small scanner located at the top of the door checked him. “Welcome back Sir.” A deep monotone voice replied, and as it did large door slowly swung open.
Paul entered the room in the centre of which sat the proud effort of his works, the worlds first time machine. It was of a simple and minimalist design. All of the complex engineering was neatly compacted away under shiny sleek white panels. The small oblong cube had enough room to fit an average man with circular port windows present on all four sides of the white box.
Paul paused for a moment to take in the sight. A gate way to the past and to the future, lay but a few feet from him. All of human history, no! All of earths history was accessible due to the small white wonder. Finally, he would be able to the see the future, a feat that nature and time would normally not allow.
He walked up to the machine, swung open the small door and climbed inside. He placed the notes, that remained tucked under his arm, down onto a small ledge to his left. Nervously he began flicking through them one final time. Even though he knew this was a pointless precaution. As the calculations were so long and so vast that to find a small fault in one by casually browsing would be impossible. Paul was annoyed that he was subjecting himself to such an illogical impulse.
He took a shallow breath and began punching at some of the buttons that lay to his right. Flashes of green and blues faintly illuminated the small compartment. Which Paul manipulated some dials carefully, making sure that he entered the correct time and date that he wished to investigate.
100 years? 200 years? 1000? 2000!? Surely mankind would have extended out into the stars by then! They’d probably have a galactic government and extensive networks across the cosmos. 2000 years. He thought to himself. That’ll do just fine.
He pulled down hard on a final lever and shut his eyes tightly in anxious anticipation. A loud clank echoed within the tiny container and slowly chimed into silence… Paul peeked out of one of his eyes and looked around nervously, he hadn’t moved, he was still sat firmly in his lab. With a sigh Paul turned to exit the tiny capsule. Seconds before opening the door, the small cubicle and Paul had vanished. Only a faint haze of purple smoke lingered where the time machine had once stood.
The machine landed as quickly as it had vanished. Both Paul’s eyes were shut once more and it wasn’t until the sweet sound of silence returned that he dared open them again. Am I alive? He thought to himself, as he nervously opened both eyes once more. Paul checked both his hands first before frantically patting his body. I’m alive! He thought to himself in astonishment. His attention suddenly drawn to a new scene out of the corner of his eye. With his face pressed up against the small window he peered out at his new surroundings. A palace? A house? He slowly stretched out his hand toward the silver door handle and stepped outside into the mysterious future.
A grand white marble floor lay at his feet, and a large full wall window stood opposite him. The glass panes were crafted into elegant shapes and held were up by gold and silver frames that caught a setting suns beautiful rays. The scene out beyond the window displayed a gorgeous setting. A glistening green grass plain spanned outwards, softly moving as wave of wind rolled over the field. Beyond that lay some winding silver mountains, capped with white snow.
The scene outside of the window was just as beautiful as the room Paul found himself in. The floor was made of majestic white marble, as were the walls, which held upon them exquisite works of art. Two large arch ways lay at opposing ends of the room, each were carved out of rich black and brown marble. Each arch way was accompanied by a silence robot. Which Paul had completely failed to noticed on first glance, due to the pure grande of the room itself. Both robots stood perfectly still and were unmoved by his presence.
Paul eagerly sprinted across to one of the stationary machines. They had sleek metallic bodies and it was clear that every piece of them had been crafted beautifully. Appearing more like works of art than simple robotic slaves. The models before him seemed to be slightly more advanced than the Riley model that he himself had recently created back in his own time. “Robot! Please tell me what year it is!?” Paul said frantically, both eyes wide in anticipation.
“It is the year 4114 Sir.” The robot said bluntly, its mouth light flashing red as it spoke.
“I did it… I did it!” Paul exclaimed. He turned to his right and ran towards the large window once more, pressing both hands onto the smooth cool glass, peering out at the beautiful scene once more. “I did it! I’ve traveled to the future!” Paul’s ecstatic grin faded as his curiosity and questions increased, so he once again bounded back over to the robot.
“Could I ask you who owns this establishment? I would like to ask them some questions and I would also like to apologise for entering their house uninvited.”
“The owner of this property is Master Stothard.” Instantly Paul’s eyes grew wide in respond. “If you would please follow me Sir I shall take you to him.”
Master Stothard?! Paul thought to himself. Of all the people, I happen to run into Stothards descendent, I wonder if he’s anything like his distance ancestor.
Paul lost his train of thought as he was taken through the lavish estate. Large open rooms were littered with beautifully crafted oak furniture. Large animal skin rugs of every kind could be seen in each room and there seemed to be endless amount of fine art hung on every wall of every room. Master Stothard must be wealthy, incredibly wealthy. Paul thought to himself
It wasn’t long before they stopped at a large dark wooden door, which had been engraved with a subtle swirling pattern. “Wait here for just a moment” The robot told Paul, who merely nodded in reply, still taken back in awe by the grandness of the home. The robot opened the door just enough to pass through, the aged wood creaked slightly as it did. Paul pressed his ear up against the door and could faintly hear both the robot and Stothard talking in the other room.
“Master Stothard Sir. You have a visitor whom wishes to ask you some questions.”
“Oh! Who!? Are they female?”
“They didn’t give a name and no Sir. He isn’t.”
“Oh well! Send him on in!”
The robot returned to open the dark wooden door, in full this time. “Master Stothard will see you now.” With the door fully a jar Paul walked into a vast dining hall. Before him lay a grand table of which at the other end sat Master Stothard. Many excellent dishes were resting on the table in front of him, various exotic foods which gave off seducing aromas and indulged the senses. The food was accompanied with several different large bottles of brightly coloured liquid, which Paul assumed to be alcohol.
“Hello there my friend!” Stothard bellowed as he got up from his seat. “My name as you know is Master Stothard! Could I ask what your name may be?”
Paul walked over to this new Stothard and was greeted with a firm shake of the hand. “My name’s Dr Paul Davies. I’m sorry that I’ve come into your property uninvited.” Paul took a moment to examine Stothards facial features. He wasn’t surprised to find that this Stothard looked nothing at all like his good friend back in the 22nd century.
“Don’t worry about it! It doesn’t matter! Anyone is welcome here.” Master Stothard cried warmly. “How about a drink and some food whilst I answer these questions my robot said you wanted to ask me.”
“I’ll just have some water please.” Paul said sheepishly. “and not to be disrespectful, but I’m not hungry at the moment.”
“That’s absolutely fine! Come sit with me.”
A robot came instantly and pulled two chairs out for both Stothard and Paul. The robots moved about the room in such a calculated manner. The bringing of plates or movement of small objects had a sort of rhythm to it. Almost as if they were dancing, their motions flowing seamlessly.
When the were both seated Stothard grabbed a large glass that was sat upon the table. A bright yellow liquid sloshed about within it. A still glass of clear water came shortly after for Paul, who held the drink in both his hands delicately . “Before you begin with your questions Dr Paul Davies! May I ask you one first, How is it you actually got into my home?” Stothard queried with a warm smile.
“You probably won’t find this very amazing, as this is the future and the means by which I got here is ancient technology by now but, I arrived here by time machine!” Paul announced boldly! “The first time machine in human history actually! This here, right now, is man kinds first venture through time! Isn’t it amazing!”
Stothard looked at Paul with a blank expression, his glass poised steadily in his hand.
“See, As I suspected, Time travel is old to you!” replied Paul, sinking back into his chair. “Having been discovered 2000 years ago. I suppose it pails in comparison to the technology you have now!”
Stothards blank expression still remained and he slowly lent forward with a single eyebrow raised. “What’s time travel…?”
Paul was dumbfounded by the response. “What’s time travel? You know, where you travel through time, to another place in the future?!”
Stothard paused for a second and pondered the thought. “I’ve never heard of it until now. But yes, a very abstract concept. How on earth did you come up with that idea! You’re not one of those people that read are you?” He chortled heartily as he finished his sentence, but his laughter died down slowly as he noticed Paul didn’t share his sense of humor.
“Wait, you don’t know how to read?” Paul said in stunned amazement.
“Well No, Obviously not! Why would I waste my time reading when I can have my robots tell me anything I want to know? I don’t think anyone really reads these days. Only very few people carry on using that outdated retro form of communication.”
Paul was completely silence, unable to believe what he was hearing. “So wait, no one reads anymore?! But reading is fundamental! How has the human race expanded through stars yet decided it doesn’t need to read?! It doesn’t make sense!”
“That was another question I wanted to ask you actually Dr Paul Davies. Why is it you keep talking about ‘the human race expanding to the stars’? The human race has never left earth and I doubt it ever will! How could we even attempt to leave earth and secondly, If we could, why would we want to, when it provides us with everything we could ever need?”
“What? We never settled other planets? You mean to tell me that in 2000 years we still haven’t left earth?” Paul took a large gulp of water. He place the glass back onto the table and brought a hand to his head, gently rubbing one of his temples. “Furthermore the Human race has apparently forgotten how to get into space?! We had rockets and spacecraft 2000 years ago! We also wanted to leave earth because we knew this planet wouldn’t sustain the ever growing population. For that matter what is the population of the planet at the moment?”
Stothard was starting to become troubled with the constant bombardment of questions that Paul was throwing at him. He took a few swigs of his drink before replying. “Please, Ask my robots these questions. I’m sorry to say I simply don’t have the answers that you seek. However my robots have access to all the knowledge every discovered by man. Truly amazing machines”
“Yeah, you’re welcome.” Paul muttered under his breath as he watched Stothard wave one of his robot servers over to the table, who bowed slightly.
A blank monotone voice spoke out “What is it that you’d like to know Sir.”
“Tell me why the human race hasn’t expanded into space in the last 2000 years, when the technology to do so was almost ready?” Paul asked calmly.
“Well Sir, the simple answer to that is, there hasn’t been any need to.”
“What about the population crisis I mentioned a minute ago? There was 11 billion people on the planet in 2114 and it was still set to increase. The only solution to cope with the ever growing populi is to expand outwards to new planets and settle elsewhere. What happened? The population must be, well I don’t know, hundreds of billions now! How can this one planet sustain all those people?”
There was a brief pause, then Stothard began to laugh uncontrollably. Paul looked across at him with a stern scowl set upon his face, before directing his attention back to the robot. Who promptly answered his question. “I believe you are mistaken Sir. That is not the population of the planet. The population of the planet at this point in time is 70 million.”
Paul’s jaw dropped slightly as he stared at the robot, before replying weakly “70 million… Is that all? That’s a little less than the entire population of the UK back in the 22nd century…. 70 million, across the whole planet… How many people is that per square mile?”
Stothard watched the two of them talk, shifting his gaze between them as they did. Following the conversation like a game tennis. Whilst helping himself to more of the delicious delights that rested upon the table.
“2.8 people per square mile.. That’s literally no one. What on Earth happened?” Paul said in despair. His head sunk into his hands as he stared at the empty glass that lay in front of him.
“Well the human population dropped dramatically at the start of the 23rd century. Shortly after robots had become common place.”
Paul looked back up at the robot before him in horror “What? Why!?”
“Robots had become affordable and everyone had access to them. It wasn’t long before business owners realised that their work force could be cheaply replaced by robotic employees. Robots don’t ask for pay, they don’t take sick leave, they don’t ask for raises and don’t need time off. They were the perfect replacement for human employees. As a result there was a state of mass unemployment, and that’s when the riots started.”
Paul began frantically looking around the dining hall that he was in and started to realise how many robots there actually were in the establishment. Many of them had gone about their work unbeknownst to him. Robots had never bothered Paul, but at this particular moment he felt extremely unsettled more so as he turned back round to robot speaking to him. Staring into the machines cold lifeless eyes.
Paul suddenly blurted out. “But surely the governments would have stepped in!? Surely they must have done something!”
“They did Sir. They passed many regulations and laws stating that robots were prohibited from the work place in a bid to end the mass unemployment.”
“And the large business owners were not impressed. But again they realised that they had an endlessly amount of obedient robots at their disposal. So they started a war.”
All the blood drained from Paul’s face as he continued to listen, horrified by what he was hearing. Stothard was still sat quietly and wore a slight grin on his face, as if he were a small child being told a bedtime story.
“Needless to say that the business owners won the war and continued their robotic crusades until 99% of the population had been removed. All that remained after that were the 1% of wealthy businessmen . The human race began to settle down shortly after the war. The robots then continued to work again and began to provide every need of the human race. They have carried on doing so till this very day.”
“Genocide. The human race nearly wiped itself out for its own convenience.” A lump grew in Paul’s throat, as he brought up a hand to wipe his wet eyes.
“Yes but it’s better this way!” Stothard said cheerily. “There’s no more hunger! No more disease and no more wars!”
“What about the drive for knowledge! The thirst for understanding! What about progression and what about all those lives lost… All those families… all dead, because of me.” Paul replied hoarsely.
With a simple wave of his hand, Stothard dismissed all Paul had said. “Why would we want to spend our time studying, and reading and learning. When we could spend our time actually enjoying everything the world has to offer! If I want to know something, I’ll just ask one of my robots. If something needs doing or fixing, or whatever! A robot will do it, so that we, us humans, can sit back and enjoy life.” He took enough large gulp of his drink and ushered a robot to refill it for him. “Plus you can’t blame yourself, Unless it was you who created robots to begin with!” Stothard laughed heartily as he finished speaking.
With sullen eyes Paul looked up from the table and stared across at the jolly man with a fierce glare. “It was me.” He replied coldly.
“Oh… Well even in that case you did us humans a favour, you gave us all a life of luxury!”
“I gave 1% of the humans a life of luxury, I gave the rest a one way trip underground.”
An eery silence lingered. “I’ve got to fix this.” Paul pushed himself upwards from the table and got to his feet.
Suddenly Stothard cried out “Seize him!”
Two robots lunged forward and in a flash their cold metallic hands grabbed hold Paul. Both his arms were restrained and a pair of robotic hands had been wrapped round his neck. Paul called out in terror. “What are you doing!? Let me go! Please let me go!”
“I don’t want you fixing anything. If you hop into that ‘time machine’, you’ll no doubt go back and change it so that all this is no more and I’m not having you take away my luxurious life. I’d have to be stupid or something to allow you to do that.”
Paul’s eyes grew wide, his heat pounding frantically. He called out earnestly, whilst struggling to free himself of his binds. “Please don’t keep me here! Please!”
There was a loud crack and Paul struggling stopped. The robots loosened their grip and his lifeless body slumped onto the beautifully titled floor.
“Dispose of him would you.” Stothard said calmly. “And get rid of that machine he got here in with as well. Thank you.” Stothard took a gulp of his drink then returned to endorse himself with the lovely luscious food that still littered the table. “Ooooh. exquisite ! I can’t wait for dessert!”