"I'm not going!"
"Yes you are. You have to," Gumal said.
"No I don't. You know the law." Rority was correct; he was perfectly within his rights. There was only one law -- "do what you want, or do nothing if that's what you wish." Unlike the poor protohumans millions of years previously, nobody had to work. In fact, there was nothing the protohumans would have called "work", any way. The protohumans would have called what these folks called "work" a hobby. The nobots provided all the food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, everything a person could ever want. With Earth's population fixed at two million people after the Great Catastrophe had almost wiped out mankind and caused the largest mass extinction in earth's life, there was plenty of land for everyone. Want your street paved with gold? The nobots would pave your street with gold if that's what you wanted.
The law would have seemed strange to their uber-ancient ancestors. Do anything you want? Steal? Kill? Rape? Cheat? Swindle? But theft was impossible; the trillions of nobots; the microscopic machines that had at first been called nano-robots, which was shortened to "nanobots", then "nobots", made property a quaint anachronism. Each microscopic nobot contained more computational processing than the biggest computer the protohumans had ever built, and could sample mechanical vibrations or electromagnetic radiation, and produce the same. Anything one wanted one only had to ask for, and it would be assembled instantly by the nobots. Want a few billion trillion more nobots? The nobots would get the raw materials and assemble them. Murder? There was no longer any motive for murder, even if murder were possible. The nobots made injury or death an impossibility. They would assemble themselves into armor that would stop any weapon one could dream up, and if the impossibility had ever become possible, pain had been genetically engineered out of people. Should someone, for instance, fall off a cliff and and the impossible happened that he had actually hit botton, the nobots would be in his body in a heartbeat, performing microscopic surgery on every injured cell. Rape? Unthinkable. The nobots could assemble themselves into a simulacrum of the object of desire, only more desireable, and besides, rape is a crime of violence and hate, not passion.
Cheat? Swindle? Cheat and swindle out of what? Gumal frowned (even this was unusual). "But Rority, if you don't go I'll have to!"
"No you won't."
"But somebody has to!"
"You did read the report, didn't you?"
"Yes," said Rority. "That's why I don't want to go."
"But look," argued Gumal, "this one's easy."
"Sorry, Gumal, I'm not going. I told you before."
"But look, you don't mind the genetic reprogramming and changing of your form to match the protohumans, you said so yourself. You told me you even liked some of the protohumans."
"That's one reason I'm not going. I particularly like the one I'd have to kill" (he shuddered again at the word) "and damn it, I know what a broken leg feels like and I'll have to get my leg broken. I don't want to know what it feels like to be shot inside a burning barn!"
"You don't have to. Look, all you have to do is shoot the guy, get back to your ship, and the real Booth will take the fall."
"No! I have an appreciation for this particular animal. I met him before, when he lived in Springfield. I don't want to shoot him."
"Ok," Gumal sighed, "I'll shoot the crazy bastard myself. How about shooting this one? It's about a hundred years later."
"That's another reason I don't want to do it. All the similarities are just too wierd; you know how time works, with its paradoxes if something goes wrong, and I suspect something went wrong with the timeline just because of the odd coincidences. You know that whatever I'm going to do was already done, looking at things from a future perspective."
"Ok, damn it, I'll shoot him, too. How about this assignment? Just got it from Rula. Here." Gumal handed Rority the "book". Rority read it over.
"Hey, now this one I like! Going back to the first time traveler and making sure nobody ever travels farther into the future than he already has been. I like it."
"You and your primitive books!" Gumal snorted.
"Want a hit?" Rority asked.
"Sure thing," Gumal said, taking a toke from Rority's stratodoober. "By the way, what is that protohuman book you're reading?"
"It's actually got to do with the reason for the assignment I just accepted. The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov.
"Tripe!" Gumal exclaimed.
"Pretty damned good for a barely sentient animal", Rority replied.