Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Ram Prasath


When Chithranjan Das, toredapage from the Calendar, it showed 23-Aug-2045.
‘Could there be someone like you, elsewhere in any planet or universe? Technology has gone to such a height, but you are still sticking to papers, notes and so on. Look at others, Das. Electronic Calendar itself manages bank accounts, controls refrigerator, AC, other bill payments. You are such an old man by your brains’ shouted Praneetha, Das’s wife.
Das was not at all bothered by her words. He wore his overcoat, shoes, and jacket and stepped out of the house, turned to his right and entered the railway station.
He took the lift and went to the first floor. A trunk, red in color was already on the rail with its mouth wide open. Das entered and sat in a seat and put on his seat belt. The Trunk closed its mouth.
In the rear view mirror, was seen a train running 300 kilometers per hour. There was a trunk, similar to the one; Das was seated in, on the back of the train. In a few minutes, with a little jerk, the train dropped off the trunk that it carried and picked up the trunk Das was seated in.
In 2045, the trains never stopped in stations, except that of the destination and source. I should say, the trains need not stop in any stations. So no time wasted in waiting to pick up passengers in stations.
At the station, where his office was located, Das got down from the trunk, took the lift and came out. He entered into his compartment and pressed a button and within seconds, he was at his seat in his office automatically. He thanked the virtual office system. If it was not it, he probably would have waited for a wagon, travelled another 30 minutes into the special economic zone and reached his cabin.
A pleasant walk on the road, shocking accidents, chirping of birds, road-side panipoori shops, trees, dew drops on the leaves, morning fog, barking street dogs, guys proposing to girls, men walking their dogs. Das counted on everything that he missed in 2045 that had a mention in books of 2010 that he used to read in his eBook reader in leisure.
Malcolm knocked the door and entered.
‘Malcolm, what are we to work on, today?’ said Das.
‘Four have been killed in a 100 floor apartment in Kodambakkam, last night. Ever since the murders happened, the Vikiserver didn’t let me sleep. Now I know why you didn’t connect your home with the server. You are a smart ass’ said Malcolm.
‘Let us don’t waste time. Come, let us go and discuss the case details on the way’ said Das.
Both boarded the detective agency wagon and soon, the wagon flew up in the air. The air traffic was very high on that day, but since the patrol line was different, the wagon that carried Das and Malcolm was flowing freely to the destination.
‘Four were killed at midnight, each at less than 2 minutes interval, in their apartments 496, 497, 486, 487. All four of them died because of a break in their neck. No finger prints left. All four of them were aged more than 40 and suffered problems in breathing which had them install breather device in their throat. This is what we know till now and the rest, are to be found by you in 4 hours Mr. Das’ said Malcolm.
‘What? Why four hours? This is homicide and should not I be given 8 hours? ’ said Das in curiosity.
‘Your home is not connected to the server Das. It’s been four hours since the murder. Ideally you should had commenced your investigation 4 hours earlier’ said Malcolm.
Wagon stopped at the ground floor of the apartment near the lift. Das and Malcolm got down from the wagon and took the lift and came to 98th floor. Das visited the four flats with Malcolm, one by one.
All four flats were neatly secured. Three among the four were loners while the fourth resident has a daughter who stayed at her college hostel when he was killed. Windows and doors of all four flats were locked from inside. Nothing was broken or mishandled. Everything was in place. Autopsy report clearly mentioned that, all four of them were murdered. The only opening to the flats were the ventilator ducts in the bathroom, which were of the size of a small apple. That ruled out the possibility of someone to have secured an entrance into the flats, in first place.
The building had 100 floors, 5 flats in each floor. From so many people living in all the 500 flats, whom to suspect? That too, the one who has entered into the four flats through that tiny ventilator in less than 2 minutes interval.
Two more hours have already gone, by then. He has only 2 hours left to find the culprit.
‘How do we progress further, Das?’ Malcolm asked.
‘All four murders have happened in less than 2 minutes gap between each. So the killer must had been able to reach out to all the four flats quickly. No one can enter the apartment from outside without a valid access. Therefore the culprit could only be an inmate. The server too has not showed any new immigrant in the last 24 hours. Therefore, if the flats, whose residents that were killed are, 496, 497, 486, 487 then the killer should had been somebody who stayed reachable to these flats. Which means someone from flats 491, 492, 493, 494, 495 should have done this whole thing. We will go ahead with the details of residents in flats 491, 492, 493, 494, 495 and narrow down the culprit Malcolm’ said Das.
Malcolm nodded in agreement. Das called up the Vikiserver and asked for the details of the residents of flats 491 through 495.
After 30 minutes of inquiry, Das took Malcolm to Flat 492.
The server informed the resident in Flat 492, John about the investigation, and opened the door automatically for Das and Malcolm. John greeted them and offered them seats. John’s room looked neat and tidy. There was not much of furniture in the room. There was hardly any book. There was a tread mill at a corner of the room. Das could relate that with John’s athletic physiq.
‘I hope you are aware about the murders happened last night. Can you tell me where you were, when the murder happened?’ asked Das.
‘I was sleeping in my room. I woke up minutes back and came to know of the murders through Viki’ said John.
Das noticed the machine that was kept by the side of John’s bed and inquired about it.
‘I lost my hand in an accident. I was treated with an electronic hand made of metal. That machine is the charger for the hand. Whenever I go to bed, I keep my hand in charger’ said John.
Das called up William, a robotics specialist. In front of John, Das and Malcolm, William inspected the machine.
‘I can certify that this one is manufactured by our company, The Malcolm Limbs but it cannot function on its own’ he said.
‘Why not? Has it got Bluetooth?’ asked Das.
‘So can it connect automatically to the free wireless service for guestsprovided by this apartment?’
‘Yes, it can’
‘So can it download anything of its choice by itself?’
‘Yes, it can’
‘In that case, could it have downloaded the directives for killing someone from internet and executed the same?’
‘Do not go by your mind, detective. We should go by proofs’ said William.
‘All the windows and doors were locked from inside. The only way the killer could have secured his entrance into the flats was through that tiny ventilator. Obviously no man can enter through that tiny ventilator. But, this metal hand can go through it. The Viki could give us the required proofs’ saying so; Das ordered the Viki to display the list of downloads that has happened in the last 24 hours.
In the details displayed by the server, there were files for video games related to killing people by breaking their neck.
‘It could have happened. But, I was not the one who chose Bluetooth. I am a manufacturer and distributor. My only concern is to fulfill the service orders to the best possible quality and nothing more than that. I am only answerable if there was any fault in the machine or its charger or its functioning’ Malcolm said.
‘Mr. William, May I know which controlling organization inspects your products?’ asked Das.
Malcolm intervened at this and said,
‘Das, the government has already given away the rights to the private. Don’t you know that? We cannot ask this question?’
Das now turned to John.
‘There are software updates for all devices Das. The soft wares keep on updating from time to time and most machines nowadays come with Bluetooth enabled auto updating. Like the GPRS system that you have in your wagon? How can I be responsible for this? You know that. Don’t you?’ said John.
‘Give details about the one who wrote this stupid game software?’ Das commanded the Vikiserver.
‘Mr. Philip, a multimillionaire wrote this code but he died 4 years back’Viki replied politely.
‘Damn!!’ Das uttered in frustration.
‘But Das, according to the basic three rules of human protection in robotics, a machine cannot harm a human being, right?’ asked Malcolm.
‘That is very right’ said John and William together.
‘It is true that the basic protection laws apply on all robotic products. But a rule can be misinterpreted and that was what has happened. All the four men who were killed were suffering from breathing problems and hence they had had artificial breather device installed in their neck. Nowhere in any directives, has it been written that, a robot should not harm a device. This robotic arm, though had not killed the victims directly but has indirectly done it, by breaking the device. The victims died of lack of oxygen because; the arm has broken down the devices. Breaking a device doesn’t not fit anywhere within the basic three rules of human protection Malcolm because a device is not human’ said Das.
‘But we never design the robots so carelessly. Normally before doing anything, all robots are designed to seek permission from the subject. Only after having gottenpermission from the subject, can a robot do anything. Therefore, before breaking the breather device, the robot would have definitely asked permission from the victims’ said William.
John nodded at this.
‘How do you expect a response from a person who was in deep sleep, my dear William? Your arm might have asked permission. The victim might have been in deep sleep and therefore, would not have responded. Your arm might have interpreted his silence for yes. Has not it been the way, you programmers write code ever since the era of computers? Wait for 30 seconds and if there was no response, proceed to the next step with the default?’ Das asked.
Both John and William remained silent.
‘But Das, no one had a motive to kill them. No one had even a slightest idea about it. Now, how can we file an FIR against a machine? How can we get a machine,arrested and punished?’ asked Malcolm.
‘That’s the reason I stay away from machines’ said Das.
– Ramprasath.


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