Art Magnum's SEARCH FOR KNOWLEDGE

by George Wilson


"Don't you ever relax?" asked Art Magnum's dog. "You're at it 24/7."

Art looked down at Iota, the self-aware robot he had created when he was seven.

"Relax?" Art asked, a wide grin on his face. "Since I've made my body capable of constant activity, I've had the most fun of my life!" He steered an electronic stream at its target. "Nothing is greater than a continuous gain of knowledge!"

Art was twenty-three years old. When an infant, his pediatrician declared he was unique.

"His brain is larger than normal. Moreover, our socialists declared it was wired far more precisely than that of others. He is as far above genius as we are above amoeba."

Art's inventive genius had supported his parents and, most important, his lab ever since he was nine.

"I'm about to learn how to control dark energy," he added, watching the electron stream. "Imagine what it will be like, controlling the unlimited power of the ultimate source of energy!"

"You said that when you learned to master solar power, then when you mastered the power of the electron, and again when you mastered gravity."

"Kid stuff!" Art snorted. "This is what's behind it all! And," he added, leaning back, "as it controls the universe, I have so much more to learn!"

"You always say 'Knowledge is everything.' What will you do when you learn it all?"

"'Learned it all?' Art said, then steered the electrons again. Gleefully, he continued, "I've just scratched the surface! What about history and a study of humanity. Not only that -- imagine the complexity of the field of time!"

Art paused. "Maybe I need to create a duplicate version of me, just to speed things up."

"No!" Iota objected, horrified. "Then you won't have the pleasure of doing it yourself."

Art considered his dog's statement and then nodded. "You're right.

"Well," he continued, "I'm going to set up a genealogy business for my parents to run. Think how detailed it can be when they use time viewing to trace a family's history back to its origin."

"But you only just suggested using time control!" Iota objected.

Art grinned. "As soon as I thought of it, one part of my brain went to work. There's still a lot to do, but it will work."

"I'm sure it will," Iota said. He watched Art working at the keyboard. "Now what?" he asked.

Art typed some more, then looked up. "There's a private investigator in our city. His name is Dick Tracer. Here's what he looks like."

A man's head appeared. He wore a snap-brim yellow hat. Narrow eyes above a hawk nose and a square chin gave him a look of determination and perseverance.

"He looks . . . familiar," Iota whispered.

Art nodded. "An ancestor of his, Dick Tracy, was popular in the distant past.

"The current one works closely with both local and national law enforcement. He is respected, talented and resourceful. Dick has a sexy blonde secretary named Peggy who has been very helpful. Right now, Peggy has been gassed and kidnapped. While she's unconscious, I'm going to give her brain connection to our records of the city and its inhabitants. She won't know about it but will think its part of the knowledge she has accumulated over the years."

"And?"

"I'm trusting Dick to keep the city under control while we're gone."

"What? When? Why?" Iota asked, totally puzzled.

"Open the wall, Iota."

The dog trotted to a distant wall and pressed a button with its nose. The wall slid up revealing a large room with a diamond-shaped vessel inside.

Stunned by surprise, Iota looked at the ship and asked, uncertainly, "A ship?"

"Its hull is invincible, even to gamma rays. It can go into the heart of a star without discomfort to the occupants."

"But. . . ."

"Using dark energy, it can instantly reach any part of our universe. We're going exploring, Iota."

"You were, well you only started recently on dark energy."

Art smiled. "I control everything in this vast complex. You have no idea how much I can do with multi-tasking, Iota. It's the only way to go." He took a deep breath and added, "Using both dark energy and dark matter, we have an unlimited supply of everything we will need." Rising, he walked to the ship and entered it. Looking back, he asked, "Are you coming, Iota?"

The robot dog had been frozen with amazement, but now it trotted into the ship and looked around. "How do we get out?" it asked. "I mean, we have a ceiling overhead."

Art chuckled. "No problem. We just dematerialize, then rematerialize at our destination."

"Sounds good," Iota said. "Move us out."

In a blink the room disappeared to be replaced by star-studded outer space.

"Where are we?" Iota asked.

"Near Orion. I thought we'd cruise around and see what we find." Art shifted a joy stick.

In less than an hour, a fleet of ships appeared before them. A voice came over the radio. "Who are you? Why are you here?"

"Goof thing I made a translator," Art told Iota. Then, to the caller, he said, "We're from Earth. We're just exploring."

"Explore some place else," the voice said sharply.

By then they were close enough to discover the ships weren't ships but living beings.

"We don't want to cause trouble," Art replied. "We'd just like to become acquainted."

"Get acquainted somewhere else," the voice directed.

"Maybe we should go someplace else," Iota whispered.

"Why? They can't hurt us."

"Why make enemies?"

After a pause, Art shrugged. "Why not?" He moved the ship away from the aliens. "We'll try Gemini."

When they found no signs of intelligent life in the entire Gemini area, Art moved on.

"Discouraging," Iota said.

"That's just a tiny bit of the vastness of the universe,” Art proclaimed, moving them again.

"On again," Art said.

Eventually they found a planetary system with a planet covered with buildings and roads and spaceports. Soon Art was talking with one of their leaders.

"Welcome to our system," the alien said. He was green, long-headed and wore a jeweled robe. "I am Leeyaroo, president of the planet Exle. As a gesture of friendship, you may call me Ley."

Art replied, "Thank you, Ley. You can call me Art."

"Very good," Ley answered. ”We are always eager to make new friends. We are aware if the planet you refer to as Earth. We didn't know they had the ability to reach us." He turned to an associate and held a discussion Art could not hear. Then he turned back to Art.

"We will hold a banquet in your honor. You can attend and we will discuss our new friendship."

Their previous exposure to aliens left Art cautious. "Well," he said, "I'll appear as a hologram. I can't exist out of my ship."

"Your atmosphere and gravity is quite similar to ours," he was told. "Surely you will find it all quite satisfactory." Art noted Iota trying to get his attention. The dog was standing out of view of the alien. He was holding up one of his front paws, twisting it back and forth.

"Volumn up?" Art asked.

Iota shook his head and put his foot on the floor.

Getting the idea, Art turned back to the screen showing Ley. "A crewman needs my attention," he said. "I'll call back shortly." When the alien nodded his green head, Art turned off transmission and turned to Iota. "You have an idea?"

"Definitely," Iota said. "I think it wise you declined to go to their banquet. However, you may learn something by going there as an automaton. Can't you make one with dark energy and dark power?"

Art's eyes widened. "Why, that's an excellent idea, Iota. Yes, I can make an ambient -- a simularicon -- a being looking like me."

"Can you rig it to explode?"

Art looked at Iota with a crooked grin. "What became of 'not making enemies'?"

"Someone once said 'Violence begets violence,'" Iota responded. "Can you do it?"

"Yes," Art told him. "I'll include dark energy in its makeup. In fact," he added, "I'll explain to them I need dark energy to live own there. I'll get onto it right away." Then he supplemented, "Of course, I'm new at dark energy. I'm not sure how destructive the explosion might be."

In less than an hour the simularicon was complete, Art called the alien president. "My crewman had an excellent idea," he said. "By using dark energy, I can come down at any time."

"Very good," Ley said happily. "Join us."

"Clear a space," Art said. "I'll appear there."

"You can do that? It is one thing we would want to know about." Saying that, he used his long green arms to clear a space beside the banquet table to be cleared.

Art pressed a button and his simularicon appeared in the spot.

"Welcome!" Ley said. "Come! We have a special chair just for you."

The auto bot followed, then sat in the indicated place.

Clamps snapped around his legs, arms and chest. A helmet lowered onto its head.

"This isn't a friendly welcome," Art said, through the simularicon.

"Please forgive us," the alien president said, waving a green arm. "You must realize this is very new to us. We must hold you until we are satisfied you mean no harm."

The simularicon nodded. "Of course. But why all the instruments in the helmet?"

"Merely our way of detecting if you lie or not."

Art could tell instruments were already probing the artificial brain. They were blocked.

The wired 'chair of honor' sat at the head of the table. Ley, the green alien, sat in a chair to its left.

"I feel more like a prisoner than a guest," Art said.

"You must understand," Ley said. "Once we ascertain you are truly a friend, all will be well."

"Well, tell me about your people," Art said,

"After you," Ley responded. "You must prove your friendship before we can trust you."

Art sighed, then said, "We are humans who live on a planet we named Earth. We have lived there for hundreds of thousands of years. As we developed, we created science, beginning with fire. Now we use dark energy and dark matter to gain control of our planet and our solar system. As you see, we have mastered space travel and reach distant areas in the blink of an eye. We educate our young, trying to inspire them to achieve great things. We have great weapons, but prefer peaceful ways." Ge stopped, had the simularicon lick its lips, then added, "What else do you want to know, Ley"

"Details!" Ley demanded. "How do you control this dark energy?"

Art could tell 'dark energy' was new to Ley. "Let's start with something more basic and build up," he suggested. "Have you invented gunpowder?"

"No!" Ley snapped. Racketing down, he slid a small bar on the chair's arm and the simularicon’s body vibrated for three seconds.

Angrily, Art pushed a button.

He had expected an explosion. Instead, the great power that was released cut a two-meter wide tube through the entire planet.

Art pushed another button and they returned home

The two exited the ship, closed the wall, and went to Art's desk. Sighing, Art sank into his chair, dejected. "Is the entire universe filled with enemies?" he asked Iota.

"As you said earlier, we've barely scratched the surface of a really enormous area."

Art looked glumly at the hands in his lap, and then straightened. "I'll make thousands of small transmission units," he said as he recovered. "I'll send a message to the universe, a message inviting friendly contact. They'll be made of the same invulnerable material as the ship." He leaned back in his chair. "Let me compose a message," he added, closing his eyes in thought. Then he opened his eyes and added, "Or perhaps I should first approach our world's government.

Iota snorted. "Not if you want to get anything done! They would first spend time investigating you and your complex. If they are ever satisfied, they will form councils to deliberate the matter. Months, years, even decades later, they might make a decision. No, if you want anything done, do it yourself."

Art smiled at his small robot dog. "You're a cynic, Iota."

"When it comes to politics," Iota agreed.

"Well," Art said, "how about this for a beginning? Hello to the universe. I represent humanity from the planet Earth. We are a peaceful people, seeking --"

Again, Iota snorted. "Peaceful? Your early people formed tribes and fought other tribes. As you developed, cities fought cities; countries fought countries and then along came World Wars 1, 2 and 3. Peaceful?"

Art considered the statement, then said, "Okay, okay. I'll -- no, we’ll work on it."

Eventually a satisfactory message was composed and sent to the universe. Now Art and Iota are waiting to see what they had begun.

GEORGE WILSON BIO I'm 38 years old and didn't realize I was a Space Opera fan until I found Planetary Stories a couple of years ago. I was pleasantly surprised to find out, after corresponding with ShelVy, that he too lived on Panama City Beach. He can't drive, so I began visiting him on a regular basis.

I've been writing since I was sixteen, but never felt anything I wrote was publishable so I wrote for my own pleasure and was pleased to find that ShelVy enjoyed my output.

I know where Art and Iota are going next, and ShelVy gave me an excellent Idea for the next Dick Tracer story. It's been fun!

CONTENTS


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