Bugsie 37

A Sci-Fi Mob Story by Tony Thorne MBE

Bugsy 37

by Tony Thorne MBE



Although equipped with Asimov’s Laws, Avram Seven-X1 was no ordinary robot. It was the first of a new line that the company’s research scientists had fitted with an extra pair of arms, joined to the middle of its long body. These could function as legs, too, by interchanging the hands with feet. Even its normal hands could be swapped for feet if required, making it into a very versatile crawling machine, designed primarily for use in difficult terrains and various other hostile environments. The prototype was immediately nicknamed “The Bug” for obvious reasons by some joker in the marketing department, and the name stuck.

Its six jointed legs, or arms, could be fitted with alternative specialized feet, including versions fitted with spikes, or suckers or even inflatable floats. The Bug could, therefore, travel over all kinds of rugged ground, including snow and ice, on water, and even climb up vertical walls. Marketing soon got under way with the emphasis on industrial applications, and very soon after just a few demonstrations backed up with a comprehensive video program, the orders began to pour in. The Bug was definitely a big marketing success.

The problem was that everyone wanted one, including the banes of society, who would often get what they wanted in one way or the other. One dark night, the Louie Giotto gang raided a carelessly guarded warehouse and managed to stealthe thirty-seventh model of The Bug off the production line. It was still secure in its crate, ready for delivery to a shipping company the next day.

Louie’s mob had a discredited scientist, Kurt Schneider among them, who claimed he knew something about robots. Schneider had had assured his chief that although they were unable to harm humans or allow themselves to be harmed (unless they were protecting somebody), there were certain things robots probably could do which Louie might find interesting. A robot had to obey the orders given to it by a human, providing they did not violate any of Asimov’s Three Laws. He explained these to his chief and then outlined a couple of useful, but legal, orders they could give to a robot. Finally, the deplorable scientist mentioned that he knew where there was a suitable robot, and the potential of it inspired Louie to plan The Bug’s heist a few days later.

Everything went smoothly. Bug 37’s crate arrived at the gang’s hideout safely in their large van. Rudi Donner, the handyman, decoded the seal on the crate and opened it. Then, before anyone could stop him, he leaned over and pressed the big power-on button on the robot’s chest. Its eyes lit up immediately. Kurt pushed Rudi away angrily and then took over, as he was prone to do. He connected Bug 37 to a laptop computer and was soon studying the programming menu that appeared on its screen. It took him some time to figure everything out, clicking through the enormous list of FAQs, but the scientist was soon able to activate the imposing robot and start negotiating with it.

After a few mentally exhausting hours, he had the machine successfully aware that its owner was now one Louie Giotto, who must be obeyed at all times. Louie was delighted with his new minion, especially after successfully trying out a few simple commands, such as – Pick that thing up, smash up this, bring me that over there. Bug 37 obeyed each and every command perfectly. Then, Louie decided to find out what Bug 37 would not do. He handed the robot a gun and ordered it to shoot Rudi, the oldest member of the gang, who he had found rather annoying lately. Naturally, the robot would not kill Rudi, but Rudi strangely corrected his off-handed behavior from that point forward. Louie was impressed with his new power.

The next evening, Louie, Kurt and Rudi drove to a large solitary building with “Bugsie” (as they called it now) resting snugly in its crate in the back of their van. They had already spent the afternoon telling Bugsie what they wanted it to do when the journey across town came to an end. Making sure nobody was around, and leaving Rudi to keep watch, Kurt opened the crate and activated the robot. It sat up, climbed out into the road and then waited. Louie crossed his fingers and gave it the go command. It promptly opened up a storage chamber in its wide body and attached and activated six sucker attachments to its feet. Soon after this, it began to noisily squelch itself up the wall of the massive building. The two conspirators gazed around in a panic at the unexpectedly loud sound of the robot’s climb, but but Rudi signaled that all was still clear. Reassured, they clambered back in the van to watch the robot’s progress via the remote video monitor. Through Bugsie’s eyes, they were instantly able to see whatever it could see.

The view on the screen revealed what would have been otherwise hiding behind a large window as the robot reached the seventh floor, and then paused to peer in and look around. The two onlookers could see row after row of tailor’s dummies dressed in the very latest designer fashions, exclusive and secret until now, in the designer’s private premises. As instructed, Bugsie switched on its recording mode and began to stereo-scan each model via its zoom-lens eyeballs.

Less than five minutes later, the robot was back down safely and inside the van again, with all the valuable data stored on a removable data disk inside it. As Rudi drove them back to their hideout, Louie was tapping the tips of his fingers together in great satisfied delight.

A perfect heist, Kurt, and the robot did no harm to anyone, or itself. We can sell copies of the recording several times over to the competition. They’ll use the pictures to improve their own creations, and certainly not just copy them.”

Maybe we can repeat the operation with all the competitors, every season?”

His chief grinned and nodded.

Absolutely, and I can already think of several other projects we can use it for. Industrial espionage is a growth industry nowadays, and it’s very profitable.”

Kurt agreed and began to dream up some plans of his own.

The next morning, Louie ordered the robot to start working on breaching the gang’s collection of various safes accumulated over the years, but had so far been unable open. Bugsie began flashing its sensitive sets of fingers over the safes’ button pads, and dials, occasionally even two at a time. Its delicate micro-hearing circuits soon solved the combination on one of the safes, and the delighted gang members were able to gaze on the beautiful sight of several large bundles of used banknotes. As time passed, the heap of bundles became larger. Louie was ecstatic.

That same afternoon, Louie sent Bugsie out into his vegetable garden. Fitted with the set of feet spikes, it daintily stepped around and neatly weeded everywhere, between the rows of plants, in record time. Louie sat out in his deck chair restfully with a long drink, delighted and watching Bugsie while pondering any further necessity for Rudi anymore.

The next day, Louie and Kurt tried out another way to use the robot. Louie showed it his bank account statement, which was well in the black, and told it that it would like his own money, the five thousand dollars he had paid in that morning, back again. Louie showed the robot what money looked like, and then, put his plan in action. Just as the bank would be closing and counting up all the money, Louie would instruct Bugsie to go just behind the main cash desk, in the top drawer, and retrieve the money, insisting that Bugsie, on no account, talk to anyone during the operation or take any notice of anything anyone said. He was confident the robot understood and would obey.

Their van drew up outside the bank at just the right moment. Bugsie was unloaded rapidly, covered with a large cloth to help keep it inconspicuous to any onlookers.Kurt had already fixed a radio-activated sleeping gas canister to Bugsie. Soon after the robot entered the bank, he pressed the switch on the controller, and waited. Only a few moments later, the robot emerged from the bank, clutching a wad of banknotes in each of its fore hands. Then following its previously given instructions, it climbed up into the van and into its crate. The gang sped away back to their hideout, apparently unobserved.

Later that evening in the seedy night club haunt, Bella’s Bar, while the villains were celebrating their first two fashion design recording sales, Kurt neatly slipped Louie a subtle delayed action potion in his third double-Martini. Somewhat later, the drunken two eventually finished celebrating and staggered arm-in-arm back to their hideout.

The next morning, Kurt was not surprised when Rudi called and told him Louie had sadly passed away in the night. It looked like a sudden heart attack brought on by too much gin and a fatty diet. For a small fee, the part-time medical advisor that the gang had always had on the take, took care of all the details of Louie’s demise, and that was that.

Kurt was obviously next in line for the power seat, so he immediately proceeded to take things over. He gave Rudi and the other gang members a useful hike in salary, so as to purchase their continuing loyalty, and then he told Rudi to go out to the van and open Bugsie’s crate. This time, however, he activated the robot himself. It opened its eyes and proceeded to sit up and regard him silently.

Here are your new instructions,” Kurt exclaimed with glee. “I am your master now, and you must do as I say.”

To his surprise, for the first time since the gang had hijacked it, the robot began to ask some tricky questions.

Please, sir, what is your name?” was the first awkward inquiry.

Kurt thought about the significance of this question for a moment, then replied with a shrug, “I’m Kurt Schneider, your new owner.”

The robot responded immediately.

I am sorry, sir, but that name does not correspond to my records. It will be necessary to have my original owner authorize any change of ownership.”

With Louie Giotto clearly unavailable now, Kurt was in a quandary. He gave the situation some thought, and then came to an obvious decision.

Please ignore my previous request. I was only testing you. I am your owner and my name really is Louie Giotto.”

The robot seemed agitated; it shook its head several times.

Your appearance, sir, does not correspond with that of my first declared and observed owner. Please contact him immediately to initiate the necessary transfer procedures. You are not authorized to make this change.”

Kurt was baffled. He had not expected this complication. There had to be a way around the impasse. Some other owners of robots must have been unobtainable at times, for various reasons. He decided to take a chance.

Your owner has met with an accident and cannot communicate with you. What is the procedure to make a change of ownership in this situation?”

The robot replied immediately.

I must be deactivated and returned to my manufacturing company for reprogramming.”

Kurt cursed, realizing he had reached an impassable obstacle to his maniacal plans. He paced up and down, thinking hard about what to do next. Rudi made a subtle suggestion.

How about delegating Louie’s authority to someone else, on a temporary basis?”

The intelligent machine nodded.

Yes, sir, that is possible, if my recorded owner agrees to it.”

Kurt’s sudden enthusiasm for that idea evaporated. However, Rudi followed up his own crafty idea.

Before his accident this morning, Louie Giotto authorized me to give you his orders. Remember, I was the one who opened your crate and first switched you on when you were delivered.”

I do remember that, sir. Please what is your name?” the robot asked.

Rudi did not hesitate, even for a moment, and confidently replied, “Rudolph Zwicky.”

Before Kurt could intervene, the robot responded immediately.

Rudolph, sir, I recognize you as my limited standby owner, until Louie Giotto returns. This must be within the next forty-eight hours; otherwise, I must deactivate myself as primarily programmed and be returned to my makers.”

Rudi was delighted. He grinned and stepped back smugly as Kurt angrily tried to attack him. Meanwhile, the robot had already raised an arm to restrain Kurt.

Sir, I apologize for this action, but I cannot allow you to harm another human.”

Kurt had no choice but to accept the situation. He also realized, as did Rudi, that it meant they had just forty-eight hours, to make profitable use of the situation. So, what should they do next? Louie Giotto had kept a diary in his safe of his plans for possible future heists. Unfortunately, only Louie knew its combination, and he wasn’t talking these days.

They delegated the problem to Bugsie, and took it into Louie’s apartment. The robot located the safe behind a picture and immediately went to work. Starting from scratch, its fingers flashed through every possible sequence of code buttons. In just over an hour, it hit the right combination and the safe opened with a click. Rudi ordered the robot back out into its crate.

As soon as Bugsie had departed, Kurt took out Louie’s diary of potential thieveries, plus all the money in the safe, and put it into a brief case he had brought with him.

We’ll split this later,” he promised to Rudi. “Meanwhile, let’s see what job we can do next.”

The next heist Louie had been planning entailed a raid on an expensive yacht, at anchor in the local bay. It was one he had owned a few years before, and sold cheaply to buy off another gang leader who wanted to muscle into some of Louie’s territory.

Later that evening, having switched over to its inflated set of rubber floats, Bugsie was skimming its way over the calm waters of the bay, heading for the yacht. Rudi and Kurt had shown the original yacht ownership documents to the robot and had explained that Louie wanted the contents of his safe, hidden behind a picture in the wall of the main stateroom, brought to their hideout.

Kurt and Rudi were watching in their van as the robot reached the yacht and started to haul itself up and over the stern, grabbing at every hook and hold it could find. Unfortunately, they also saw it intercepted by another robot – an early model Avram Four, programmed as a security guard. They were able to overhear the following conversation.

What do you want here? Please go away.”

I must collect the contents of the safe from my owner’s stateroom and take it to his deputy.”

Please state the name of your owner?”

Louie Giotto.”

This vessel is owned by Albert Jolinni. You cannot proceed.”

I have seen the documents proving ownership to Louie Giotto. I must proceed as ordered.”

Impossible. This vessel is owned by Albert Jolinni. I cannot allow you aboard.”

I have seen the documents proving ownership to Louie Giotto.”

The security robot began to fend Bugsie off with a long boathook.

Go away. You are unauthorized. It is against my orders to allow you aboard this vessel. You are an intruder.”

The two robots continued to argue. Their conversation became tedious, and Kurt and Rudi decided to give up after half-an-hour.

Kurt activated the remote communicator and told the robot to come back immediately. The argument ceased, and the gangsters saw Bugsie begin to drop back over the stern of the yacht. Unfortunately, the security guard’s boathook had perforated two of Bugsie’s floats on one side of its body. After skimming only a short way back to the harbor, the disabled robot began to sink. In utter dismay, Kurt and Rudi watched the water level rising up higher and higher on their screen until the robot’s eyes were submerged.

Soon, they saw a series of tiny flashes, and streams of bubbles appear, as various components inside the machine became short-circuited. All movements ceased, and the last thing they saw before the screen blacked out, was a small school of curious little fish staring at them with bulging eyes.

Later that evening, discussing their grim future, Kurt had already arrived at a conclusion. When he assumed Rudi was not looking, he dropped some more of his deadly mixture into his rival’s glass. However, a short while later, with his eyes fixed on an interesting dancer, he did not notice Rudi switch the glasses. Rudi had been quite more intelligent than he was presumed to be about his prior leader’s strange sudden death, and had now eliminated the culprit before he became the next victim. Dr. Kurt Schneider would not be waking up tomorrow.

With the quick-fix help of the gang’s medical man, Rudi assumed command and did the right thing. He collected up all the cash he could find in Kurt’s room, and there was quite a lot of it. He then handsomely paid off the other two minor members of the diminished gang, including the recently very helpful medical man. Finally, he declared the Giotto Gang disbanded, sold off the premises, and headed off to South America with all his acquired loot in tow.

While sipping a cool drink on a quiet beach one summer day a year later, Rudi had a group of visitors. Bearing FBI badges, they immediately apprehended him. He hadn’t counted on a fishing boat dragging up a stolen Bug 37 from the water. And he certainly hadn’t expected Bugsie’s waterlogged memory disks to still be in perfect working order.

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