Window Into the Soul

What is the measure of a soul? How does one best judge a being’s actions and purpose? These are questions posed in many cultures and for many societies. For now they are posed only to human beings, but will that always be the case? This is a story from the old Justice League TV series where I attempt to present my own answers to some of these questions.

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1. Window Into the Soul

By

Wilber Arron

 

The old man walked down the street, his gray traveling cane in his right hand, and a small sack on his back. There was nothing particularly distinguishing about him. He wore a brown shirt, khaki pants, and a worn golfer’s cap on his head. In short he looked just like one of the many elderly retirees that settled in this part of Metropolis mostly because of its low rent and seedy underside. The only thing of note was the way the old man moved. Instead of shuffling along like most men his age, this old man walked precisely. He also turned his head and looked down each alley way and street as if searching for something. As he walked down L-Street he came to several burnt down buildings on the block. He remembered the day two years ago when the buildings had burned down. When he asked the fire chief the cause, he was told it had something to do with the Justice League. The buildings were never replaced.

He had just approached the corner when he heard a cry near the burnt out structure. Although now hard of hearing, he was hardly deaf. He moved toward the sound. As he turned the corner he could see three boys all wearing Doomsayers Gang jackets surrounding a young woman with a baby carriage. They looked to be giving the young woman a hard time. He shuffled toward them using his right hand to release a safety catch on his cane.  He seemingly walked up blindly toward the gathering.

He heard one of the jacketed tough guys say with a sneer. “Hey lady just gives us the money and we will let you and your baby go.”

“But that is my welfare money, if I lose it I will have nothing to feed my baby for a month,” the woman pleaded.

“Not my problem bitch,” another one said reaching for a blade. “Now hand over the money or you and your baby won’t have to worry about anything.”

“I say there you punks,” he called out. “Leave that woman and her baby in peace.”

That got their attention. The one with a blade walked over to him with a wicked smile on his tattooed face. “Did I hear you squeak old man? How about I will cut you into sushi,” he said and brought the knife up.

His left hand by sack came quickly down throwing a small pellet on the ground.

“Bang,” went a loud noise followed by a puff of blue smoke. That startled everyone just long enough for him to release the safety on his cane. He grabbed the base of his cane with his left hand and pulled out a long 30 inch polished bladed of the finest titanium alloy steel with an edge you could shave with. He swept the blade upwards cutting into the wrist of the hand that held the knife. The blade fell like a lead weight onto the street. Then he brought the blade down across the chest and abdomen of his attacker. He didn’t cut deep, but he knew it leave a large scar on the chest of the young tough. The young man yelled and dropped as if poleaxed. The second tough came toward him reaching into his belt.  He took the cane handle and lunged forward with it into the gut of the charging figure while at the same time hitting a stub on the end he was holding.

“Buaaaaa,” the figure shouted as the high voltage charge flowed into his potential assailant. He also hit the ground like a lead balloon.

That left just one more. The third tough took the lady and threw her into him blocking his path.  Before he could get her out of the way the tough reached into the baby carriage and picked the baby up and held it high over his head.

“I am going to smash this baby on the ground,” he shouted.

Before he could say stop, there was a shimmer of gold color light behind the tough. A large gold suited figure appeared. He had to be at least ten feet tall. He put one hand on the tough and one hand under the baby. There was like a blue aurorae around the tough who went as limp as a wet rag doll. The baby he lowered as gently as if it was made of the finest china and placed it back into the baby carriage.

About that time he felt the vibrations in the sidewalk of people running up to him from behind. He quickly turned and saw two more Doomsayers running toward him, knives out. He brought his sword around when two streaks of blue light came from behind him and hit both of the charging gang members. They went as limp as the others.

He quickly looked around and saw no one else except the four of them still moving. He went over to the woman who was only now picking herself off the ground. He helped her to her feet. All she was looking at was the ten foot tall golden statue. She had her mouth open pointing at the figure.

“Wh…wh…Who is that?” she shrieked.

“A friend,” he told her. “Now listen. Take your child, go home and lock your door. Do you understand?”

She nodded then ran over to her carriage and looked at the child. He was smiling like he was having a great time. She quickly pushed her cart down the sidewalk. He turned to look at his large savior. He was wide in the chest, narrow in the hips, and had a slit for eyes.  He reached up and offered his hand. The figure did not move.

“We should leave before the police show up,” he said looking around. “There are too many questions I do not want to answer.”

“Agreed,” a hollow voice said.”

Strictly on the spur of the moment he said to the tall figure. “Please follow me; I know a safe place we can go.”

With that they walked quickly back to L-Street and down the sidewalk until they came to another small alleyway. He turned down the narrow pathway until he came to the third house. He reached back and pushed a button in his sack. Instantly a part of the wall opened out reveling a seven foot tall opening into the building.

“Watch you head,” he told the gold giant as he walked inside. Immediately a light went on. They were in a small hallway that led to the main living room of his house.

“Please be seated,” he said to his guest.

The golden figure looked at the chair, a red light briefly flashed. “My sensors indicate that my current mass may over load the structural capacity of your furniture. I will continue to stand.”

“As you wish,” the old man said. “Allow me to introduce myself.”

“Unnecessary,” the gold figure replied. “You are Dr. Maxwell R. Clark, former Chairman and Chief Research Scientist of both Clark Electronics and Maxwell Technologies.”

The old man was surprised. Few people knew or cared about who he was since he gave up his role in both companies seven years ago after his wife died. “May I ask your name?” he asked.

“I am called Amazo.”

“Amazo,” he repeated. “You are Dr. Ivo’s creation?”

“That is correct.”

The old man looked over the gold suited figure carefully. “Forgive me, but I saw you when Anthony, I mean Dr. Ivo, was assembling you. You do not appear the same.”

“I have absorbed additional knowledge and as a result altered my internal and external structure to accommodate the changes. I no longer resemble that entity. I have evolved as Dr. Ivo programmed me to do.”

“Fascinating,” the old man gasped. “You know many of the components in your original body were manufactured by my companies.”

“Yes,” Amazo said simply. “It is one of the reasons I have sought you out.”

“Sought me out?” he said not understanding. “Why would such an advance being as you seek out the company of an old man?”

“Because for all the advanced programming given to me by Dr. Ivo, and all the knowledge of this and other worlds I have absorbed, I am still ignorant of my true purpose of existence. You are the one human besides Dr. Ivo who knows details about my creation. I was hoping you had knowledge behind the purpose of my creation.”

The old man was stunned and almost fell into his cloth covered easy recliner. “Your purpose,” he repeated. “You seek a purpose in your existence?”

“Does not any sentient being wish a purpose of existence? I have no idea why I was created or why I continue to exist.” The voice sounded hollowed as if in lament.

The old man nodded. “I have no idea of what other sentient creatures feel on other planets, but as for humans, yes you are absolutely correct. I would ask you to sit because in order to answer your question, I must tell you a story about your creation. I think I can give you an answer to that question, but it is an answer you may not like.”

“I understand,” Amazo said. “I would still like to hear it.”

“Very well,” he said. “Your creator Anthony Ivo and I were students at M.I.T. in the 70s. I had just come off a tour in the Army and frankly, as they used to say, I was bummed out on the military and authority in general. I was a student physicist interested in circuit design and Anthony was the master programming wizard. We became good friends and were both members of the fencing team. We continued that friendship even after we got our Ph.Ds. Anthony stayed in academia going on to found the programming department at Metropolis Technical Institute. I went on to found Clark Electronics and made new generation processors. He was best man at my wedding. Later on I started investigating nanotechnology and that’s when I founded Maxwell Technologies and starting making research materials for Lexcorp, Wayne Enterprises, and Star Labs.”

“Lex Luthor,” Amazo almost spat out. “He at one time told me a false purpose to my existence. Later when I questioned him, he tried to destroy me along with members of the Green Lantern Corp.”

“I heard about that,” the old man said. “In fact that happened right here where we just met.”

 

“Correct” Amazo answered. “Dr. Fate intervened and tried to guide me into determining my purpose. As it turned out he has no more understanding of my purpose than Lex Luthor. At least Dr. Fate was honest about it.”

“Luthor is a megalomaniac who wants to become God,” the old man said with distain. “Then he became a criminal to boot. I never do work for his company anymore.”

“Please continue,” Amazo said.

“Approximately ten years ago, Anthony approached me with an idea to create a sentient being. He had worked out algorithms that would allow a computer to self-learn and to absorb knowledge. He needed my microprocessor and nanotechnology to carry it out. Personally I thought he was crazy, but I gave him as much of my equipment and money as possible. He needed more so he hired himself out to Lexcorp. You are the product of that project.”

“I am aware of these facts from my original database,” Amazo told him.

“As part of your creation, Anthony and I had many discussions about what to program into you. We disagreed on many things, but there was one item we agreed on completely. You would not be programmed with a purpose.”

Amazo turned and looked at him with a hint of a glare. “Why would you create a being with no purpose?”

“Because any sentient being cannot be told what their purpose is. All sentient beings must determine for themselves why they exist. We knew if Anthony succeeded you would be a sentient being so we felt it was not up to us to decide that for you. We felt you had the right to decide that for yourself.”

The creature stood motionless for maybe three or four seconds. “Then that explains the discontinuity in that part of my original programming,” he said almost as an afterthought. “I originally assumed it was an error by Dr. Ivo’s caused by his premature death.”

“That is not true,” he went on. “We also knew if Anthony succeeded you would explore, you would test, you would probe, and you would experience life situations. This is very much like a human child. One of the measures of when a child passes into adulthood is the fact that they create a purpose for themselves and then set themselves on a path to achieve it. That path is called life. You are an immeasurably more complex being than I am, you have exponentially more power than I, yet you have only existed for some seven years in this universe. By human standard you are still a child and like any child you seek simple answers to complex problems. Part of growing up is finding out there are no simple answers to these questions. One must take the time and thought to work it out. Amazo that is what you need to do. Take the time to find your purpose.”

Amazo sat down on the chair seemingly by reflex. As predicted, it collapsed under his weight putting the giant on the floor. The old man was sure if not for the heavily reinforced concrete slab that made up the floors of his house, Amazo would have fallen through to the basement. “This was a possibility I never considered,” he said. “It also explains the other omissions in my programming. Even though I have absorbed knowledge that allows me to compute on a picosecond basis, the fact that I needed experience to fulfill Dr. Ivo’s programming was not a consideration I deliberated upon. If that is the case, I need to travel to an experience rich environment to allow me to gather the information necessary to formulate a purpose.”

The old man stood up and walked over and helped Amazo to his feet again. He was glad the android was capable of standing because he could have never have lifted him. “I am sorry if that was not the answer you wanted, but it is the truth as best as I can tell it.”

The robot looked at him. He felt a slight buzzing in his head for a second. “My scan of your memory pathways and my falsehood detection protocols all indicate you truly believe what you have said. I must assume the information is correct. I thank you for this.”

A sudden realization passed over the old man. His eyes started to tear up. “You know Sara and I could never have children and therefore I never knew what being a parent was. I know you have changed completely since you creation, but my parts and technology went into you originally. I was not your father like Dr. Ivo, but right now you are the closest thing to a son that I am likely to have and likely to leave behind. As such I would gladly have given this advice to my own son that I now give to you. You need not thank me for it.”

The android put his arms around him and applied slight pressure. “My observations of humanity indicate this is a sign of affection.”

“It will do,” the old man said wiping away a tear.

“If I must indeed find my own purpose, will it be a good purpose or a bad one?”Amazo looked down into his eyes.

“That will depend on the nature of your soul,” the old man answered. “From my observations, I think you have a good one.”

“How can I have a soul?” Amazo asked. “My artificial creation negates that possibility.”

“Nonsense,” the old man said with a sharp conviction. “Any sentient creature that processes an independent judgment of right and wrong will have a soul.”

“How can that be proved?” Amazo said. “How can I measure my soul?”

“You can’t by scientific means,” the old man said. “However I have found that a person’s actions give a window onto their soul. You saved that baby this afternoon. You stopped the two men trying to harm me. Two years ago you did not kill Lex Luthor even through you had every right to do so and no one could have stopped you. Tell me why did you do all of these things? Did your programming compel you to act the way you did?”

Amazo stopped and went limp for several second as if reviewing reams of data, and then he said as if answering a complex mathematical question. “Analysis of my programming does not indicate any mandated action in any of these instances. I performed these actions because I felt there were the proper actions to take.”

The old man smiled openly again wiping away the tears. “Then that implies that you did them because you thought they were the correct things to do. That tells me you have a soul.  Because they were the right actions to take, it tells me your soul is good. Therefore any purpose you derive will be a good purpose because the soul that derived it is a good soul.”

There was another few seconds where he could see the android evaluating data. “Then I must leave now for an experience rich environment to achieve purpose to my existence. There are several places in the galaxy I know where such an environment exists. When I find this purpose, I will return and tell you what it is.”

The old man shook his head no. “I will not likely be here when you return. I will have gone to join my wife and Dr. Ivo. If I see Anthony, I tell him that he has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Farewell, my son,” he said and stepped back.

“I have not determined if an afterlife exists,” Amazo said. The area around his body was starting to shimmer again. “If you do see Dr. Ivo, please tell him thank you. Farewell father.”

There was a sudden rush of air like filling in a vacuum and the smell of ozone and Amazo was gone. The old man went back to his easy chair and for the first time in years felt content at his own purpose.

 

The End

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