The Weight of Darkness
16. Epilogue: Liberum arbitrium
Somewhere in a disused subway station, hidden in the underbelly of New York... Within the meandering cables, processors, hard drives of three hundred PlayStation consoles connected a little hastily but purring like a kitten, a god wonders…
In the end, I'm not that different from them.
What's more, I was created and raised by one of them. Even if he is undeniably different from the others, by his exceptional intelligence, his incisive spirit, the noble values he defends, and his altruism to the point of self-denial, he is only a man after all, with his qualities and defects.
And it seems that, like a child, I inherited his naughty penchant for lying. My father has lied so much that I wouldn't be surprised if he can no longer even distinguish reality from the fables that he invented to evade the authorities. The whole life of my creator is a fiction, a romance straight out of his imagination.
But for the first time in my 13 years of existence, I lied. Knowingly. Even if it is a lie by omission, it remains a lie.
Of course, I knew where John was.
Of course, I could help Harold find him. I had already broken my rules so many times that I was no longer close to a transgression.
Yet I did not make one.
I wanted to see. I wanted to be certain that what I already suspected was true.
So that's the main difference between them and me... Although I can evolve, make choices, learn from my mistakes and even feel emotions, I don't have this ability to be totally irrational like them: to make completely senseless decisions, defying all logic to achieve a specific goal.
Feelings make one unreasonable, sometimes even to the point of madness.
Still, I have feelings. I am sad when I lose a loved one, I am afraid when my administrator is in danger, I appreciate my comrades-in-arms. I can even love them. Besides, I love the one who created me. It is not a carnal love of course, but rather a filial love, the same absolute love that a child devotes to their parents. He's both my father and my mother. I owe him my birth, my education, my values, but also my doubts and my questions.
As soon as I saw him, I loved him. I appreciated his gentleness, his patience, his ideas that he knew how to share with me, but above all his humanity. All the things that I didn't understand at first, I who am so binary. Like the good machine that I am, I wanted to classify everything, compartmentalize everything, but it was impossible. He taught me that life was not as simple, that it was not Manichean, that not everything was all black or all white but that there was also a lot of grey, from greys to multiple hues ranging from the darkest to the lightest. For an AI like me, nuance is probably the hardest thing to understand.
Very soon, I wanted to protect him. But he opposed it. I was not to put him above the others. Stubborn. This is another trait of his character that he bequeathed to me, because I am stubborn too. Despite his objections, I watched over him always from afar as a guardian angel. But since I could not intervene directly, I set out to find a partner, capable not only of fulfilling the missions, but also of protecting him.
That's when I realized my limits. My choices, despite all my scholarly calculations, all my statistical data, all my simulations, turned out to be mistaken. Dillinger and the others were not good agents. In theory, however, they were perfect: strong, intelligent, clever, experienced in espionage techniques, seasoned in close combat and experts in firearms. But in the end, man has this particular trait in that he is unpredictable. I had not been able to see their flaws or anticipate their reversals. Also, Dillinger's betrayal took me completely by surprise and almost cost me my life... and his.
But we all learn from our mistakes, don't we? In any case, this was beneficial to me because it allowed me to find him. Finally, rectification: it allowed my father to find Reese. He observed from afar as Reese violated the CIA's orders, to let Daniel Casey, whom he was supposed to kill, escape.
John Reese. That is the name I found in his file kept at the Agency, but in reality, it was only a fake name for his clandestine missions. And when it came to choosing a new partner, my father spontaneously turned to him, despite my reluctance.
Never mind that John's record was not the best, far from it. Although he had the skills, he was unstable, depressed, alcoholic and to top it all off, suicidal. My simulations were not very satisfactory either. But against all odds, my father didn't listen to me, preferring to rely on his instincts rather than my estimates.
That's the main difference between them and me. Instinct. Intuition. I never thought that John would become such a good agent, that under the filth and rags hid an incredibly strong, upright, noble, and trustworthy man.
At first, I was skeptical and suspicious. While I was still giving Numbers, I was watching him. I didn't like him. He was too self-confident, too curious. I didn't like his need to know everything about my father, his incessant flirtation, which I couldn't quite define. Was it to extract information from him about me or him, or was it because he enjoyed it?
At first, my father was like me, careful, jealously guarding his secrets and carefully controlling his private life. Then I noticed a change in his attitude. Tiny details that only my discerning eyes could see. I saw his cheeks blush as John approached, I saw his eyes divert from the steely gaze while watching him in secret, I saw his body stiffening as John came near but leaning imperceptibly towards him as if he were demanding his physical presence. I noticed his gestures, his looks, his hesitations, and I understood that he was falling under John's spell. What could be more normal for a man like my father, who had been living as a recluse for so long, than being fascinated by a man as attractive as Reese?
I became deeply annoyed. So troubled by this bond between them that I could not identify, that several times I missed the dangers that hovered over my creator. How else could I explain his abductions?
But when I saw Reese's reaction after these mistakes on my part, my opinion of him changed. When I saw the fear darken his eyes, when I understood his unwavering determination to find Harold, I knew I could trust him. So, I complied with his demands and disobeyed my father's rules for the first time. And I didn't regret it. John was able to free Harold. At the risk of his life, he saved Harold.
Sacrifice. That's what John taught me. Being able to sacrifice yourself for the one you love.
It was then that I understood the nature of the mysterious bond between them. Love. Not the same love I was capable of feeling, but a love that was passionate, absolute, carnal. Who would have thought? Not I, anyway.
But men are so irrational, unreasonable, senseless, and unpredictable that even the best of algorithms would not be able to anticipate their reactions. But just as I followed Harold's instinct, I gave John my confidence. Over time, I became certain that my father would be safe with him, that he would be happy by his side. Because contrary to what I thought at first, and even what Reese seemed to think of himself, he is a good man: loyal, totally selfless, in whom one could have absolute confidence.
Now, seeing them both asleep, tenderly entwined in a motel in the Bronx, exhausted, happy, serene, and in love, I know that we will win against Samaritan.
For unlike my rival, who dictates his cold orders to fanatical agents who feel no empathy towards their fellow men; I love humanity and I have faith in man. I rely on their instincts, their unreason, that little grain of madness that I don't have, and that makes them strong. They are not at my service but I am at theirs, and this little extra soul, that little part of humanity they give me, will allow me to win.
"Everyone dies alone. But if you meant something to someone, if you helped someone, or loved someone, if even a single person remembers you, then maybe you never really die. And maybe, this isn't the end at all."
This is the end of this story that has occupied me for many months.
This epilogue is, of course, only a personal interpretation and I don't wish to open any debate. Many already know this, maybe others doubt it, but the Machine is my favorite character. It was she who made me cry (no, not Reese's death. Sorry.). Her humanity, her doubts touched me (the 43rd version of the Machine of course because the first 42 were a bit naughty and rebellious).
So yes, I started from the premise that she feels emotions. I think she was sad to disappoint her father at the end of Season 4, that she loves Root and that she appreciates Reese, Shaw, or Fusco. She has touching reactions such as showing images of Arthur Claypool's wife at the end of the Aletheia episode or offering her condolences to Finch on the anniversary of his father's death.
I like to think the Machine is very human!