My publisher has been bugging me to to get back to writing the autobiography I've promised him for some time, and I feel guilty about not getting the first draft to him by now. Of course I've been a little busy, I mean between working on my acceptance speech for the Nobel prize in physics, and the world coming to an end a few months ago, I've been rather busy.
What, you didn't hear about the world ending? Well, that was actually in an alternate universe, but it almost did happen in the one in which we inhabit. Fortunately I was able to fix that little mistake, it was really my fault in a way as I should have been a more responsible parent, sorry about that.
Well I guess I should start this story at the beginning, rather than at the end, though I promise I'll get back to the bit about how I saved the human race from premature self destruction.
It all started with my former owner, an MIT physics graduate student named I. M. Flipout. This was back in the days of LSD being a hobby for many college students with too much time on their hands. I.M. experimented on himself and my brother and I after rescuing us from the recombinant DNA lab over on the other side of the campus. I'm glad he got us out of there in time, that was just before some of the scientists there created a giant honey bee that looked a bit like Richard Nixon and accidentally let it loose on Cambridge Mass. But that's another story, for another time! Anyway, I.M. named me after his recently deceased grandfather, P.D.Q. Peabody.
I don't know whether I should be mad at I.M. or not, he fed my brother and I large doses of LSD, as well as tripping out quite a bit himself. My poor brother didn't survive the experiment, but the drug had a profound effect on me, increasing my I.Q. by many orders of magnitude. After that I took to following my master to class everyday. I sat besides him absorbing the lectures while he often dozed off.
I was so enthralled by the Physics lectures I attended that started to write a thesis on the subject of space-time interactions. I made the mistake of using I.M.'s computer when he was sleeping. I should have password protected my work, as my master who was having trouble writing a thesis of his own, borrowed mine and submitted it as his. Fortunately the professor realized that I.M.'s paper was totally out of character and correctly deduced the work was plagiarized. The day after he submitted the work he was called into the Dean of Physic's office, and naturally I accompanied him.
“Mr. Flipout, It's clear to me that you didn't write this paper. It's too good to be your work, who did you steal it from?” Professor Habib demanded. I.M. just stood there with a drug induced blank stare on his face, so I answered the question for him.
“Actually Professor Habib, that thesis was mostly my work, I can bring in the original document tomorrow if you'd like to see it.”
The professor looked down at me. “And what would your name be?” he asked.
“You may call me, Mr. Peabody.” I answered.
Well to make a long story short I received my doctorate in physics and I.M. Flipout dropped out of MIT. He disappeared for awhile, and later turned up in the east village selling artwork. I really think he's happier as an artist than as a physicist anyway.
So I stayed on at MIT and was hired by Lincoln Labs. I spent a few years working on a few top secret government projects, and then left to do a bit of inventing on my own. I felt unfulfilled however, and I wanted some companionship. I felt jealous of my peers who had families of their own, and I got the idea that I wanted to become a father. Why not? I thought, if a boy can have a dog, why can't a dog, especially one with an I.Q. of over 200 like myself, have a boy?
I moved to N.Y.C. and bought myself a penthouse apartment with plenty of room for my workshop, and lots of space to raise a growing boy. I visited many orphanages, and I soon met the most precocious child. We bonded instantly, and I knew I had to adopt him. So I petitioned the courts and applied for the right to bring the boy home with me. Did I mention that I also had gotten my jurisprudence degree? I guess that slipped my mind. Anyway, I represented myself and convinced the judge that I would make an excellent father. And so Sherman came to live with me.
I made the boy's education a primary concern of mine. I was really torn between the idea of home schooling him and having him attend public school. In the end I decided that it was important for his social development that he be schooled with children his own age, but I took it upon myself to supplement his education with additional instruction.
Sherman wasn't doing very well in history, so I figured that seeing the past unfold before his very eyes would be a good way to increase his appreciation of the subject, and so I built him his very own time machine. Thinking back on that now, I guess it wasn't the best idea I'd ever had. Mind you the WABAC machine was one of my greatest achievements, and I still thing that it will go down as one of the greatest achievements that mankind (or at least dogkind) has ever conceived. However allowing a nine year old child to man the controls of such a device was something that I should have put a little more thought to.
I did of course instruct Sherman on the responsibilities of operating a time machine. I warned him that going backwards in time could lead to dire consequences if he wasn't careful. Not that I was worried about him ever committing a homicide, but I did point out the problem of murdering his grandfather and causing a temporal feedback loop that could dissolve the universe. I did of course accompany him on every trip that we made back in time to visit all of the events that he was studying in school. I was careful to point out the important happenings that we witnessed, and allowed him to carefully interact with some of history's most famous people. I'm sure that the piano lessons he got from Beethoven, and the art lessons from Picasso will enrich his personality. The science that he learned firsthand from Da Vinci and Newton will certainly help him when he gets to High School.
“Gee Mr. Peabody,” Sherman asked, “Is it safer to go forward in time than backwards?”
“I never thought of that.” I told him. “But yes, I don't think you can muck up the future since it hasn't actually happened yet. Any interaction that you might have with future people could be undone when you later returned, however you'd have to be careful not to bump into your future self.”
“So I could possibly take the WABAC on a spin into the future by myself without destroying the universe?” he asked.
“I guess so, Sherman.” I said. I was kinda busy at the time, and I was only half aware of that conversation. Had I been more attentive I would not have answered the boy in that fashion. The consequences of that conversation would soon cause me quite a problem, remember my mentioning of the world ending earlier?
Sherman and I were watching the news on TV a few months ago, just a few days before the world ended (and then didn't thanks to me). A reporter for CNN news had broken a story about a raid made by U.S. Marine secret forces on a North Korean base where a huge secret stockpile of nuclear weapons were about to be deployed in an attack on US military interests in Japan, China and Russia. If their plans had succeeded the Koreans would have sparked the beginnings of a third world war. We were lucky that a Vietnamese born CIA agent named Kim Young Lee had been able to infiltrate the ranks of the Korean nuclear forces and blow the whistle in time for our military to mount a counter strike.
“You see Sherman,” I said, “how dangerous the proliferation of nuclear arms is. This incident was potentially more dangerous that the Cuban missile crisis was, and once again the world lucked out only because the right man was in the right place at the right time.”
Following the news we watched a PBS special on robots. It was a fascinating program that captured Sherman's imagination. Most of the work depicted was being done in Japan, and the CEO of one of the companies the TV crew visited predicted that in less than twenty years they would be building super intelligent robots that would be indistinguishable from people.
“Wow!” Sherman said, “I can't wait to see that!”
Then I made the mistake in saying, “You don't have to, we have a time machine!”
Two days later I was working in my lab when the WABAC machine re-materialized from elsewhen in time. Just as Sherman stepped out of the machine and cried out, “Hey Mr. Peabody, you'll never guess who I made friends with in Japan!”, the air raid sirens began to wail. The classical music station I had been listening to broke into their broadcast of Rachmaninoff's second symphony with the klaxon of the the emergency broadcast system. I put two and two together and quickly grabbed Sherman and jumped into the WABAC machine. With nuclear bombs exploding around us I quickly activated the WABAC's status field, safely freezing us in time.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!” I yelled at Sherman.
The boy's face was frozen with fear. “Nothing! I just went about a dozen years forward in time to Japan to visit with the robots!” he cried. “I didn't kill anybody!”
BTW, the bit about I.M. Flipout and the giant honeybee that looks like Tricky Dick came from a comic strip someone published many years ago at a former employer of mine (DIgital Equipment Corp.) entitled "Digital Dog and the DNA monster that ate Cambridge Mass." If I every find the copy I have stashed away I'll scan it and post it up on my website.