Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Soul (07/13/06)
- TITLE: Tin Man
By Allen Scovil
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“Over here!” shouted a girl in her mid-teens as she waved toward the street.
A pair of paramedics hurried through the chain-link gate, past the girl and a group of anxious-looking boys huddled with her, and over to Tom. One of them asked, “How is she?”
Tom handed her over. “She’s got a pulse. That’s it.”
“Alright. Leave her to us.”
Tom stood up and wheeled around to face the four-foot clown standing near by. “Why couldn’t you have rescued her when you saw her like that, you worthless piece of junk?!”
“Sir, I am an entertainment ‘droid. I am not programmed for anything else.”
“‘Not programmed’? What’s to be programmed?! You saw she was in trouble!”
“No, sir. I saw that she was not moving, an abnormal state for a child. My only option was to phone you, and I did that.”
“And left calling Emergency Services to me! Now it could be too late!”
A policeman laid his hand on Tom’s raised arm. “Sir, what’s the problem here?”
Tom spun around, fury etched in his face. “My daughter was lying face down in my pool here and this ... thing ... didn’t have the ...” He took a deep breath. “It didn’t have the programming to do a basic thing like pull her out.”
“I see. Could I get you to sit down over there for a minute? I need to ask it a couple of questions before I let it go.”
“Let it go?! Are you serious?”
The officer met Tom’s anger with steel-cold eyes. “Are you suggesting a crime has been committed here?” Tom hesitated and shook his head. “Then sit. I’ll be right with you.”
“Yes, sir.” Tom wandered over and plopped down in a lawn chair. He knew that the courts had ruled that `droids were incapable of committing an indictable offense on their own. He had just witnessed that they were even unable to save a drowning child without the right software. Thankfully, the sitter had known CPR.
The policeman had turned to the clown and was copying down what he needed as it recited what it had witnessed and its identification data. He straightened up. “That’s it. You can go now.”
“Very good, sir. Have a nice day.” It walked briskly through the gate.
The policeman came and sat by Tom. “Could I get your name please?”
“Uh, yeah. Tom, Tom Neville.”
“Alright, Tom, you want to tell me about it?”
Tom swallowed. “Sure. My wife and I were both at work. My son,” he nodded toward the boys, “was having a birthday party here, and they had moved around to the front of the house for a game. I guess that’s when little Sharon somehow got into the pool area and fell in. Nobody saw it happen except that cursed machine, waiting to perform.” His voice broke. “It didn’t even have the sense to tell the sitter who was supervising the party until I told it to.” Tears began to flow down his face. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped at them. “Sorry.”
“No problem. When I arrived here, you were yelling at the `droid.”
“Uh-huh.” Tom tried to chuckle, but it came out as a hiccuping sob. “I suppose I had gone a little crazy.”
“Not surprising, but you know that `droids haven’t got any feelings - real ones anyway - no heart or soul like we’ve got, just their programming.”
“Yeah.” Tom did know, but the reminder was reassuring. “I suppose they do work pretty well as far as they go. You think the engineers will ever be able to give them honest emotions?”
The policeman chuckled. “Will the Tin Man ever get a heart? I hope not. It smacks too much of us playing God.”
One of the paramedics stood up. “Okay, she’s breathing on her own. Let’s get her to the hospital.”
Tom sighed, relieved, even though his daughter was not yet out of danger. He stood up and pulled out his car keys.
The officer stood as well. “Wait, let me take you. I don’t think you should be driving just yet.”
Tom was about to object, but thought better of it. “Okay. Be right with you.” He went over to talk with his son and the sitter.
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