In their apartment, Kathy Sutton and John Smith were curled up together watching coverage of his mission on the Eleven O’clock News.
“So what happened to Scott? Where did you take him?” Kathy asked.
“I convinced the police to let me take the boy to the JLA Satellite. Due to the unpredictable nature of his powers, they readily agreed, not wanting to risk any further injury to anyone. As I was about to fly the boy to the teleporter tube, his mother showed up. Before I could caution her, she hugged the boy. Fortunately, she appears to be immune to his power.”
“What happened to the two people who were hurt?”
“Scott’s friend and the other man were treated at the hospital. I am not sure if the other boy will lose his arm or not. The doctors are doing their best. The gentleman I encountered was in better shape. The doctors expect him to recover fully.
“I took the boy and his mother to the satellite, where Aquaman was on monitor duty. He summoned Hawkman and Hawkwoman. Using Thanagarian equipment, they were able to determine that Scott was what might be termed a mutant. His powers manifested themselves with the onset of puberty. His mother was immune, apparently because of their genetic heritage.”
“I see. So what happens now? Will Scott have to be kept isolated for the rest of his life?”
“Yes and no. Using the power of the Absorbascon, Hawkwoman was able to find someone who we think can help. He runs a small exclusive school in Massachusetts for others who are in similar situations. He was very surprised when we showed up on his doorstep, but he was more than willing to help. In some ways, he reminded me of Captain Picard.”
Kathy rolled her eyes and gently punched John in the arm, “No more Star Trek tonight! I would have thought you’d have had your share of monsters for one evening.”
“Sadly, you are correct. The real monster was not Scott, but the crowd that mindlessly went after him. It scared me to think that humans can be so callous and cruel.”
“I know, honey, but most people are frightened of the strange and unusual. I’m not saying that it’s right, but it is an unfortunate aspect of the human condition.”
“Would you have reacted that way?” John asked.
“No, sweetheart, but remember — with you around, the strange and unusual is a way of life.”
NYC Family Court, a few weeks later:
Kathy Sutton, John Smith, and Traya were sitting at a table in a meeting room. With them were the judge and the City of New York Child Welfare Department representatives.
The judge was addressing John and Kathy. “Ms. Sutton, this court has no objection to your petition to adopt Traya. However, some concerns have been raised regarding Mr. Smith.”
“Your honor, I don’t understand,” Kathy said, somewhat confused.
“Ms. Sutton, you informed this court that Mr. Smith was the android hero known as the Red Tornado,” the judge replied. “The state had no objection to Mr. Smith adopting Traya as well, until it came to light that Mr. Smith was, well, not human. He is, in effect, a machine. Mrs. Grantham?”
The lawyer for the city shuffled some papers and then answered, “With all due respect, Ms. Sutton, Mr. Smith, the City of New York is very liberal in its adoption policies, but we cannot allow a machine to adopt a child. That would be like Traya being adopted by a computer. Mr. Smith may be a recognized hero, but he is not a person. He is not alive. We simply can’t allow this in good conscience.”
“Um, ‘scuse me?”
The judge looked over to see Traya standing next to her. “Yes, Traya?”
“Why can’t Daddy be my daddy? He tells me bedtime stories, and he helps me with my homework. He takes me shopping, and he cooks me dinner, and he tells me he loves me. He saved me from that bad man. Isn’t that what a daddy is supposed to do?”
“Well, I, uh…” the judge stammered, not sure how to respond.
Traya ran over to John and jumped in his lap.
“Your honor, if I may, I believe the state’s objection is the fact that it considers me to be no more than a glorified toaster. Is that not correct?” John said, looking at the state’s lawyer.
“Well, that’s a gross oversimplification, but yes, the idea is the same.”
“I see. What if I were to say that I could prove that I am indeed alive?”
Mrs. Grantham sat back in her chair. “No objection here, your honor.”
The judge looked back at John. “By all means, Mr. Smith, proceed!”
Standing, John proceeded to the other side of the table near the city’s representatives. Initially he was going to tell them of the Tornado Champion and how it had helped him to come to life. John imagined their reaction, so he decided to take another route.
“The state questions whether or not I am alive. It is reasonable under the circumstance, but it is not the root of the problem. A dog is alive, as is a plant. The state would not grant custody of Traya to either. I believe the actual question you have is whether or not I am a sentient being, rather than just a glorified toaster. Would that be more accurate, Mrs. Grantham?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“Very well. Mrs. Grantham, before I prove to the court I am sentient, perhaps you would be kind enough to do the same?”
“What?” Mrs. Grantham said, looking at the judge. “Your honor, that’s absurd. Of course I’m sentient. I am not what is in question here, Mr. Smith is.”
“Do you say that because you know you cannot prove it?”
The judge looked at John disapprovingly. “Mr. Smith, if you have a point, you’d better make it. My patience is wearing thin.”
“I am sorry, your honor. If I may, then, does anyone here know the criteria for sentience?”
“I do, Mr. Smith. They are intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness,” Mrs. Grantham said.
“Excellent. Mrs. Grantham, would you say that I am intelligent?”
“Yes. According to what I’ve read, you have a computer for a brain. That doesn’t make you a person,” she said.
“Agreed. The second criterion you mentioned is self-awareness. What is required for someone to be self-aware?”
Mrs. Grantham wrinkled her nose at John. “You would have to be conscious of your own existence and actions. You would have to be aware of yourself and your own ego.”
“Your honor,” John said, addressing the judge, “I am participating in a court hearing to determine whether or not the daughter of my heart can become my daughter in the eyes of the law. Would that, in your estimation, meet those criteria of self-awareness?”
The judge nodded. “Yes it would. Go on.”
“The final criterion is consciousness, which ties back into the other two criteria. It is the totality of being, one’s mind, one’s thoughts, one’s soul. That would be the final question. Do I have a soul?”
John walked over to the judge. “I don’t know if I do, your honor. Does Mrs. Grantham have one? Do you? Can it ever truly be proven that anyone does? If you cannot prove that you have one, how could you possibly prove that I don’t? I may not be a human being, but I know this: I love Traya. I love Kathy, and regardless of your decision today, nothing will ever change that.”
Sitting back in his seat, John took Kathy’s hand, while Traya resumed her spot in his lap.
“Mr. Smith, your words are very eloquent. Are you alive? It would seem to me that you are. You are the type of person that others should aspire to be: a hero, a good man, and a good father. It is the business of this court to find good, loving homes for children who need them. I don’t think Traya could have a better home, or better parents. I hereby grant your petition for adoption. My secretary will have some papers for you to sign.”
As the judge left, Mrs. Grantham came over and offered her hand to John. “Well done, Mr. Smith. I suppose I was blinded by the fact that you are a machine. You certainly make a better human being than most I’ve met. I wish you and Ms. Sutton and your daughter a happy life.”
The door closed, leaving John alone with his new family.
“Wow. That was amazing, John. I should have known you’d have extensive legal knowledge up there in that head of yours,” Kathy said as she hugged John.
“Actually, it had nothing to do with the law. It was a speech Captain Picard gave on last week’s Star Trek: The Next Generation. He had to prove that the android Data was alive. It had the desired effect, and it seemed appropriate in these circumstances as well,” he said with a smile.
“Wait a minute. You mean to tell me we owe our adoption of Traya to a TV show?“
“Well, not entirely, but yes.”
Kathy shook her head as she stood up, dragging John to his feet. “John, you will never ever hear me complain about that show again. Who knows? I might even learn to like it!”
“Daddy, can we get something to eat now?” Traya said, tugging on John’s pants.
John picked his daughter up and held her close. “Of course, sweetheart. We just have to sign some papers, and then Mommy and I will take you to lunch. Where do you want to go?”
Traya broke out in a big grin. “McDonald’s!”
“Of course. Where else?” Kathy said laughing. She reached in to kiss Traya. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Mommy,” Traya said, and then she kissed John on the cheek. “I love you too, Daddy.”
“I love you as well, my darling girl.”
They were headed out the door when Traya had one last question to ask. “Daddy, when are you and Mommy going to get married?“
Kathy turned to John with a surprised look on her face. John wasn’t quite sure what to say, either.