The Soul of Mark III Beast

"The Soul of Anna Klane" (Chapter 23), by Terrel Miedaner

Metal GearThe following text is taken from the book "The Soul of Anna Klane" (Chapter 23), by Terrel Miedaner. I highly recommend getting this book if possible (ISBN 0698108264), although it is hard to find since it is apparently out of print. This chapter was also reprinted in Daniel C. Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter's, "The Mind's I", which can be easily found. I got mine from a used book shop at the UK by mail order, after reading the author's style in those two chapters I was captivated. (Was a real pain to get it, but it was worth all the effort).

It is a real shame that there is not much information either about the author or the book on the net, if you happen to know something else, please contact me

   "Anatol's attitude is straightforward enough," Hunt said. "He considers biological life as a complex form of machinery."
   She shrugged, but not indifferently. "I admit being fascinated by the man, but I can't accept that philosophy."
   "Think about it," Hunt suggested. "You know that according to neoevolution theory, animal bodies are formed by a completely mechanistic process. Each cell is a microscopic machine, a tiny component part integrated into a larger, more complex device."
   Dirksen shook her head. "But animal and human bodies are more than machines. The reproductive act itself makes them different."
   "Why," Hunt asked, "it is so wonderful that a biological machine should beget another biological machine? It requires no more creative thought for a female mammal to conceive and give birth than for an automatic mill to spew forth engine blocks."
   Dirksen's eyes flashed. "Do you think the automatic mill feels anything when it gives birth?" she challenged.
   "Its metal is severely stressed, and eventually the mill wears out."
   "I don't think that's what I mean by feeling"
   "Nor I," Hunt agreed. "But it isn't always easy to know who or what has feelings. On the farm where I was raised, we had a brood sow with an unfortunate tendency to crush most of her offspring to death- accidentally, I imagine. Then she ate her children's corpses. Would you say she had maternal feelings?"
   "I'm not talking about pigs!"
   "We could talk about humans in the same breath. Would you care to estimate how many newborn babies drown in toilets?"
   Dirksen was too appalled to speak.
   After some silence Hunt continued. "What you see is Klane as preoccupation with machinery is just a different perspective. Machines are another life form to him, a form he himself can create from plastic and metal. And he is honest enough to regard himself as a machine."
   "A machine begetting machines," Dirkens quipped. "Next thing, you'll be calling him a mother!"
   "No," Hunt said. "He's an engineer. And however crude an engineered machine is in comparison with the human body, it represents a higher act then simple biological reproduction, for it is at least the result of a thought process."
   "I ought to know better then to argue with a lawyer," she conceded, still upset. "But I just do not relate to machines! Emotionally speaking, there is a difference between the way we treat animals and the way we treat machines that defies logical explanation. I mean, I can break a machine and it really doesn't bother me, but I cannot kill an animal."
   "Have you ever tried?"
   "Sort of," Dirksen recalled. "The apartment I shared at college was infested with mice, so I set a trap. But when I finally caught one, I couldn't empty the trap-the poor dead thing looked so hurt and harmless. So I buried it in the backyard, trap and all, and decided that living with mice was far more pleasant than killing them."
   "Yet you eat meat," Hunt pointed out. "So your aversion isn't so much to killing per se as it is to doing it yourself."
   "Look," she said, irritated. "That argument misses a point about basic respect for life. We have something in common with animals. You do see that, don't you?"
   "Klane has a theory that you might find interesting," Hunt persisted. "He would say that real or imagined biological kinship has nothing to do with your 'respect for like.' In actual fact, you don't like to kill simply because the animal resists death. It cries, struggles, or looks sad-it pleads with you not to destroy. And it is your mind, by the way, not your biological body, that hears an animal's plea."
   She looked at him, unconvinced.
   Hunt laid some money on the table, pushed back his chair. "Come with me."


   A half hour later Dirksen found herself entering Klane's house in the company of his attorney, for whose car the entrance gate had automatically moved aside, and at whose touch the keyless front door had servoed immediately open.
   She followed him to the basement laboratory, where Hunt opened one of several dozen cabinets and brought out something that looked like a large aluminum beetle with small, colored indicator lamps and a few mechanical protrusions about its smooth surface. He turned it over, showing Dirksen three rubber wheels on its underside. Stenciled on the flat metal base plate were the words MARK III BEAST.
   Hunt set the device on the tiled floor, simultaneously toggling a tiny switch on its underbelly. With a quiet humming sound the toy began to move in a searching pattern back and forth across the floor. It stopped large chassis. It paused before the socket, extended a pair of prongs from an opening in its metallic body, probed and entered the energy source. Some of the lights on its body began to glow green, and a noise almost like the purring of a cat emanated from within.
   Dirksen regarded the contrivance with interest. "A mechanical animal. It's cute-but what's the point of it?
   Hunt reached over to a nearby bench for a hammer and held it out to her. "I'd like you to kill it."
   "What are you talking about?" Dirksen said in a mild alarm. "Why should I kill... break that... that machine?" she backed away, refusing to take the weapon.
   "Just as an experiment," Hunt replied. "I tried it myself some years ago at Klane's behest and found it instructive."
   "What did you learn?"
   "Something about the meaning of life and death."
   Dirksen stood looking at Hunt suspiciously.
   "The 'beast' has no defenses that can hurt you," he assured her. "Just don't crash into anything while chasing it." He held out the hammer.
   She stepped tentatively forward, took the weapon, looked sidelong at the peculiar machine purring deeply as it sucked away at the electrical current. She walked toward it, stooped down and raised the hammer. "But... it's eating," she said, turning to Hunt.
   He laughed. Angrily she took the hammer in both hands, raised it, ad brought it down hard.
   But with a shrill noise like a cry of fright the beast had pulled its mandibles from the socket and moved suddenly backwards. The hammer cracked solidly into the floor, on a section of the tile that had been obscured from view by the body of the machine. The tile was pockmarked with indentations.
   Dirksen looked up. Hunt was laughing. The machine had moved two meters away and stopped, eyeing her. No, she decided, it was not eyeing her. Irritated with herself, Dirksen grasped her weapon and stalked cautiously forward. The machine backed away, a pair of red lights on the front of it glowing alternately brighter and dimmer at the approximate alpha wave frequency of the human brain. Dirksen lunged, swung the hammer, and missed.
   Ten minutes later she returned, flushed and gasping, to Hunt. Her body hurt in several places where she had bruised it on jutting machinery, and her head ached where she had cracked it under a workbench. "It's like trying to catch a big rat! When do its stupid batteries run down anyways?"
   Hunt checked his watch. "I'd guess it has another half hour, provided you keep it busy." He pointed beneath a workbench, where the beast had found another electrical outlet. "But there is an easier way to get it."
   "I'll take it."
   "Put the hammer down and pick it up."
   "Just... pick it up?"
   "Yes. It only recognizes danger from its own kind-in this case the steel hammerhead. It's programmed to trust unarmed protoplasm."
   She laid the hammer on a bench, walked slowly over to the machine. It didn't move. The purring had stopped; pale amber lights glowed softly. Dirksen reached down and touched it tentatively, felt a gentle vibration. She gingerly picked it up with both hands. Its lights changed to a clear green color, and through the comfortable warmth of its metal skin she could feel the smooth purr of motors.
   "So now what do I do with the stupid thing?" she asked irritably.
   "Oh, lay him on his back on the workbench. He'll be quite helpless in that position, and you can bash him at your leisure."
   "I can do without the anthropomorphisms," Dirksen muttered as she followed Hunt's suggestion, determined to see this thing through.
   As she inverted the machine and set it down, its lights changed back to red. Wheels spun briefly, stopped. Dirksen picked up the hammer again, quickly raised it and brought it back down in a smooth arc which struck the helpless machine off-center, damaging one of its wheels and flipping it right side up again. There was a metallic scraping sound from the damaged wheel, and the beast began spinning in a fitful circle. A snapping sound came from its underbelly; the machine stopped, lights glowing dolefully.
   Dirksen pressed her lips together tightly, raised the hammer for a final blow. But as she started to bring it down there came from within the beast a sound, a soft crying wail the rose up and fell like a baby whimpering. Dirksen dropped the hammer and stepped back, her eyes on the blood-red pool of lubricating fluid forming on the table beneath the creature. She looked at hunt horrified. "It's... it's-"
   "Just a machine," Hunt said, seriously now. "Like these, its evolutionary predecessors." His gesturing hands took in the array of machinery in the workshop around them, mute and menacing watchers. "But unlike them it can sense its own doom and cry out for succor."
   "Turn it off," she said flatly.
   Hunt walked to the table, tried to move its tiny power switch. "You've jammed it, I'm afraid." He picked up the hammer from the floor where it had fallen. "Care to administer the death blow?"
   She stepped back, shaking her head as Hunt raised the hammer. "Couldn't you fix-" There was a brief metallic crunch. She winced, turned her head. The wailing had stopped, and they returned upstairs in silence.


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