Echoes of the Soul
I have always wondered what a soul is. What it is made of. If it lasts forever, as some say. What happens, when one releases his last breath, and the heart stops? Does the soul live on, in the air of the earth around us? Is this the one vital thing that sets man apart from beast?
My father died long ago. I took up his general branch of work: science. But I always did have a wonder for the supernatural. I am not religious, and never have been. But it just seems that no matter what I do, my mind always wanders back to the subject of soul matter. I suppose all the fiction reading I have done has only fed my curiosity, inflamed it, in fact.
So here I am, picking apart this corpse in the middle of the night (or is it day, I cannot tell) on my old clunky spacecraft…oops, dropped the damn glove again…The brain in this specimen shows no sign of conscious matter, not even any spiritual lingering of it. I watched a Latchuian monk once, praying over a corpse, chanting and humming, proclaiming to the congregation that he had picked up the last words the dead man had ever wanted to say. I never had the chance to talk to that monk. Perhaps he could have helped me with this spiritual feeling stuff. I try to grasp any oddities in the air with my heart, anything that tingles my spine or baffles my nose, something that could be a piece of the deceased’s soul. But of course it’s not working.
My scalpel shines dully under the dim lab lights. My back is aching terribly under this cramped position I have been in for hours. I flex my hand as it begins to tremble again. I suppose my body is exhausted from lab work. I cannot readily tell, though. My mother always told me that I was detached from pain and all other parts of human bodily reaction and feeling. That is, except when I’m with a boyfriend. Ah, how can I still think about these worthless trivialities? I have put it all behind me. I will search no more for men, call no more on friends, forget Yamucha, and forget the greatest betrayal of my life. I will not lift these memories from the murkiest depths of my brain until I complete my research. And with the progress I’m making currently, I may never finish.
Aimio beeps at me. I roll my eyes.
"You are hungry. Would you like me to prepare you some food?" she asks in a singsong tone.
"No, I don’t want anything. Cut the voice," I order. I really should get around to removing that annoying voice chip. But I have no time for robots anymore.
"Your stomach is growling," Aimio persists. Her wheels roll quickly, a sign of artificial excitement.
"Go away," I turn away from her, back to my work.
"You don’t have to be a bitch to me," she mutters. My hand pauses an inch above the frozen vein I am examining. I slowly turn my head to her again, and narrow my eyes. I peer down my nose at the miniature doll.
It had just called me a bitch.
I had never programmed a swear vocabulary into any of my machines. A chill quickly passes through me, but I keep my composure, and I stoop down to the thing. It stays still as I look straight into its eyes.
How far has artificial intelligence gone? I am an illegal pioneer in this field of science, and although I am definitely bold, I do not yet dare to create something that will challenge me. Aimio will have to go.
"This won’t hurt a bit," I whisper as I open a chest panel and pull the plug. Now it cannot answer. Its red eyes dim and no longer focus on me. I pick it by the arm and toss it lightly into the pile of organic refuse next to the dead body.
They have no legacies to leave behind, these robots. No souls to linger in the minds of others. Certainly not inside mine. Some people I have worked with in the past have resigned from their jobs merely because they find my behavior unsettling. I do not understand what makes them so queasy about shutting off a robot. It has no life anyway. Some people compare it to killing a person. What nonsense.
I work for another hour. The detector begins to light up. Has it found something? I fumble for it, trip, and fall against the table.
Disgusting. I look down at my pants.
Oh! Forget those stains, I realize with dread; I’ve ruined the specimen! Damn! I should have been more careful!
I frantically begin trying to clean up the mess I have made. Two fingers roll off the table. I absently step on them. I grit my teeth at my own clumsiness. I worked so hard to get this corpse, now I’ve squished part of it and stepped on two other parts. I carefully pick up the two small limbs, and I find they are fully intact, and undamaged. When I peer more closely at the body, I realize that it has not been damaged either, but merely smeared with fluid. Silly me.
How could I have forgotten? Saiyajins are certainly sturdily built, a species based on battle and aggression, warfare…I’m afraid I don’t know much else about them. It seems most of their brainpower was concentrated in reflex and instinct. Not too many Saiyajin scientists, I suppose.
What a beautiful body. Chest muscles clearly defined, arms thick with power, legs built for sprinting or running any distance, face so mysterious. The mouth drawn into a scowl, cheekbones set rigidly, sharp and angular, forehead high, nose with a superior poise, hair unfettered and wild…how perfect. Are all Saiyajins like this?
And suddenly I feel sick.
I put down the knife in my hand. The knife I used to cut up this carcass and analyze mutilated organs with. My gloves, caked with dry blood and bodily fluid. My clothes, smeared with grime and blood. I look at the dead Saiyajin again. Slain in battle. The pinprick-sized holes on either side of the head were enough to destroy the life of this warrior, as well as most of the brain I have to work with. He was killed by another of his kind.
I had been on that battlefield, hidden in an underground capsule machine. Watching, recording the incredible events I had witnessed, from a safe place. What a typical human I was, cowardly but curious. Only daring to crawl out from my hiding spot once the danger had left. To scavenge the remains, a prize that was not mine. The man had put up a valiant battle, but was hopelessly weak compared to his opponent, his killer.
I remember the shock on his face as he went down for the last time, blood pouring out from either side of his head. And I remember just as clearly the callously calm victor as he strode away to his ship.
Prince of the Saiyajins.
The words flash in my mind, utterly foreign.
Prince? Where did that come from? Words that just materialized in my brain? A prince was the murderer of my specimen?
My eyes fall to the opened brains of the Saiyajin before me. I question this: does his soul really still linger here as I view his dead body? Has he just "talked" to me, informed me that his killer was a prince? Or am I too tired, am I imagining things? I should go to sleep.
There is a bleep on my detector. Its miniature screen proliferates with data, graphs surging upward, numbers and commands racing across it, and I grab it in an excited frenzy, fumbling with code buttons, ready to decipher the signals! Something has been found, a sign of sentience after death! My great triumph, at last!
"Come on, come on, yes!!" I forget about the "Prince of Saiyajins" temporarily.
Then the screen goes blank. Totally blank.
My fingers freeze for a split-second as my mind registers in surprise. What is this? No, no, what just happened?! All the data in that gargantuan influx, gone? I try every recovery code, punching in at least ten combinations of everything I remember from tech class. Nothing. It is all gone, wiped out after such a short moment of bliss. Perhaps an overload occurred. Damn.
My index finger brushes one key purely by accident. And one word appears on the screen.
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