EVE and WALL•E awoke the next morning to a beeping from their console in the truck. But that wasn't stopping WALL•E from his first wish of the day.
"Happy anniversary, Eee-vaah!" he said warmly to her, caressing her as her eye forms opened.
"Thank you! Happy anniversary, WALL•E!" EVE replied, switching unreservedly now to her upgraded speech module. "We are going to have a wonderful day, my love, just you see! . . . You don't mind me talking like this when I have something to share, do you?"
"No," WALL•E said gladly.
"Give box . . . please," he asked as he held out a hand.
With a smile in her eye forms, EVE opened her stasis chamber and used her blue force field to place the compact speech module right into his hand. Even though the console was still beeping at them, EVE chose to remain in their shelf bed until WALL•E had plugged the module into himself and said what was really on his mind.
"Eee-vaah," he now said through the module. "Today, we've been married five hundred years. That calls for a real present. And I can't think of a bigger one than offering you the gift of change — of changing, even upgrading me, however you want. I trust you, completely, and I will accept whatever upgrades, or changes of house and home, you think are best for us. I have another surprise or two, but this is my gift to you today. This is how much I love you."
"WALL•E . . ." EVE said in tearful, almost speechless, appreciation and love.
EVE took WALL•E's hand as they moved out of their shelf bed together, and she righted herself.
"WALL•E . . ." EVE said again as she took him into her arms and gently rose off the floor and spun around, embracing him.
"I love you so much," she finally said through her upgraded module, "that I can't change you now. I can't. Only you can, for me. I want part of us to always be the same though . . . always."
"Eee-vaah love WALL•E," she said, switching back to her old processor. "Always will!"
"WALL•E love Eee-vaah," he said with his old voice before switching again, ". . . enough to be both the changing, and yet the same, husband you deserve."
"Thank you, WALL•E. Thank you so much," EVE said switching to her upgraded module again. "That box is tempting — but at the same time, we do lose something amid all these extra words, don't we. We discovered this five hundred years ago with the console, remember? As we talked right before your reintegration. Let's talk this way sometimes, but let's also keep our old way of sharing as well."
"Give box back . . . for now . . . please," EVE said using her old processor with a smile in her eye forms.
WALL•E unplugged the box from himself, and gave it back to her as he moved to joyfully nuzzle his optics against her head and gladly embrace her.
The console still beeped for their attention with an incoming comm link.
"I'd better get that," EVE said, switching back to her upgraded module.
"Mmee should switch . . . too," WALL•E said as EVE turned to answer the console.
"Maybe we should enable you to switch back and forth like I do," EVE replied before hitting a blinking button on the console. "But everyone would be surprised that the 'Zen Master' of simple speech would change like that!"
"Surprise . . . change . . . good," WALL•E responded.
That stopped EVE midstream as she was about to hit the button. She turned around and almost zoomed back to embrace WALL•E one more time.
"That open, accepting, positive attitude," she said, "is the absolute best anniversary present I could ask for from you. You've been resisting, even fighting change for so long. I know you've lost so much — familiar places, so many friends, even two of our children. I know you've also feared that changes in how we talk might change us and how we relate. But that you are now with me, and our children, in accepting change — especially calling it good — that, WALL•E, means everything to me. I love you! . . . Now I really do have to answer this comm link, okay?"
"Love you, Eee-vaah!" WALL•E said as he released her to answer the console.
"Love you, WALL•E," EVE replied as she moved to the console and finally hit the blinking comm button.
"Hello," EVE said, seeing it was an audio-only link.
"Mom!" EVE 4 said with relief as her voice emerged on the console's speakers. "We were about to knock down the ramp! You didn't have your internal comm system on!"
"I like to sleep in peace," EVE replied.
"We're all here outside the truck, ready to go," EVE 4 resumed. "So open up! 'Bots and folks are waiting out here!"
"Your father's already given me a wonderful surprise this morning," EVE said to her daughter. "He's embracing change — everything from offering to let me choose our new home, to even accepting a speech module. And the incredible thing is, I'm not sure if I really want him to upgrade now!"
"Mom, that's wonderful. But open the ramp already, okay?" EVE 4 repeated insistently.
"Alright, we're coming!" EVE responded, now slightly irritated. "Allow your father and I a little break on our five hundredth anniversary!"
EVE ended the link, and turned to find WALL•E already in position near the ramp's lever with his arms raised, waiting for her to lift him as was their habit.
"Daughter pushy!" EVE said to him with her old processor as she picked him up.
"Love her anyway," WALL•E said as he pulled the lever.
"I know," EVE answered.
As the ramp lowered, before WALL•E and EVE could even turn to look, they heard a thunderous and collective, "SURPRISE! . . . HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!"
"Oh . . . my . . . word!" EVE said as she looked outside in shock, with her old speech processor still engaged.
"Whoa!" was all WALL•E could say.
Outside before them were hundreds, perhaps thousands of robots and humans. A few bravely stood on the dilapidated freeway bridge, while many more were hovering above ground and overhead. Several large hoverships even displayed banners and messages, all saying . . .
Happy 500th Anniversary WALL•E and EVE!
EVE hovered out with WALL•E and settled on the middle of the truck's ramp, still stunned. What was widely known as 'their song', It Only Takes a Moment, began playing on a number of Megaphone-bots' speakers, as cheers and applause, streamers and confetti (bio-degradable, of course), and even daytime fireworks and lasers erupted around them.
Their children were all gathered around the ramp.
"Don't worry, Mom and Dad," EVE 4 assured. "We've kept the speech-making politicians at bay."
"Hey, I've had to be one at times!" EVE objected.
"Sorry, Mom. No offense intended," EVE 4 continued. "Plus, no one wanted to cater for this many 'bots and people. So this is the brief, big, public commemoration of your anniversary right here! But everyone agreed that one of us should say something to you . . ."
EVE 4 turned as Typing-bot now hovered forward, with PR-T at his side. Although they made for something of an odd couple, they too, had now been married for several centuries.
"EVE . . . WALL•E . . ." he said, almost as slowly in English as he would in Axiom, ". . . on behalf of all of us . . . I want to thank you . . . for being models of love . . . that we all have been inspired by . . . and learned from. You have both . . . fulfilled Captain McCrea's commission to you . . . in full. Just you and your family . . . are the best gifts . . . you could have ever given us.
"May you have many more anniversaries . . . yet to come," he concluded. "Thank you . . . We love you."
The assembled crowd erupted into applause.
"Thank you," EVE said with a Megaphone-bot now hovering in front of her. "Thank you, Typing-bot and everyone. Although I've become a professor, a politician and a government minister at times . . . I don't know what to say right now, except one thing . . .
"WALL•E," she asked as she turned to face him and switched to her old speech processor, ". . . another five hundred years . . . with you . . . please?"
"Yess!" WALL•E responded with his old voice.
The crowd erupted with cheers again upon hearing that.
WALL•E gestured to EVE in front of her stasis chamber, silently asking for the portable speech module amid the crowd's continued cheering.
When she had helped him plug it in, and he had gestured for the crowd to quiet down, he said via the box, "I've made a mistake . . ."
Everyone was surprised at hearing him speak publicly for the first time in clear English.
"I let fear," he continued, "loss, and resistance to change, come between me and the partner I love. I still value each word I say. But Eee-vaah, I'm sorry — and I want to show you how much I love you, by apologizing this way . . . in front of everyone."
WALL•E now retracted his treads and lowered his cube to the ramp, as he unplugged the module again and laid it aside as he faced her and took her hand.
"Still have mmee . . . as yourrs?" he asked, trying his best to go down on his 'knees'.
"Yes!" she replied. "Forever!"
The crowd roared one more time, as she picked him up and spun around with him off the ground. WALL•E just closed his eyes and nestled his optics underneath her head as they continued to spin for a moment in the air.
Once EVE and WALL•E had settled back down on the ramp, WALL•E 5 and EVE 5 now moved forward, with an extra guest in their hands.
"Dad, Mom," WALL•E 5 said. "It's taken us years of experimental recovery work, and we weren't sure we would succeed. But now, we have. He's here, and it's really him. Mom, Dad . . . here's M-O!"
"W-W-WALL•E . . . Eee-vaah!" M-O said with glee as he jumped out of WALL•E 5's hands and rushed over to greet them.
"M-O . . ." WALL•E said, crying with a mixture of joy and disbelief as he took the little robot, in a brand new shell, into his hands. EVE moved close beside WALL•E and stroked their friend with a fin as well.
"I've been upgraded with a new speech module," M-O said in a smaller, higher-pitched voice, befitting his smaller stature, ". . . b-b-b-but it's r-r-r-really me!"
"What did you say to me the day WALL•E lost his consciousness?" EVE asked, just wanting to make sure.
"R-r-r-r-r-ready . . . h-h-h-help," the new M-O recited verbatim.
"M-O . . ." EVE said warmly to him. "It's really him, WALL•E. That's just what he said! M–O, you have to come live with us in our new home . . . wherever that is! We're moving today, and we've missed you so much!"
"Wouldn't think of living anywhere else but with my best friends!" he happily replied. "My consciousness has been bouncing around lab computers and databanks for a while now. Being in one place, in one body again at last is great!"
"You should have contacted us," EVE said.
"And our children should have told us!" she added, looking somewhat sternly at WALL•E 5 and EVE 5.
"Sorry," M-O replied. "When I died in the hover transport crash, WALL•E 5 and EVE 5 convinced the robotics research centre they're with to try and bring me back. As most of my circuit boards and even chips were shattered though, recovering my consciousness, let alone my basic system, was a big challenge. The centre came to see it as a learning opportunity, but as success was not assured, everyone outside the team had to continue believing I was dead. When I started becoming myself again though, Five and E-5 began to keep me informed on how you were doing, providing me with holo-images of you and your events."
"WALL•E missed you more than any other of our lost friends, M-O," EVE told him. "We are so glad to have you back."
"Neverr lose you again . . ." WALL•E said as he continued to hold M-O in his hands.
"If I've learned one thing in all this," M-O replied, "a big part of life, WALL•E, is about risk, and change. Don't keep me locked in a box, or restrained on a shelf. T-t-t-trrrust m-m-me! . . . And WALL•E, you still haven't accepted an internal speech module upgrade yet. I know you don't exactly like new things, but it can really help with friendships and relationships!"
"WALL•E learrning . . ." he replied.
"WALL•E's been doing pretty well in those areas just as he is, M-O," EVE added in his defense. "But he's open to change — left it in my fins, as a matter of fact!"
"Well Mom, Dad . . . and M-O," EVE 4 interjected, "I hate to break up this reunion, but there are dozens of beings that are here to move a truck, and remove a bridge hazard."
"Oh, right! I'll get packing quickly here!" EVE responded as she picked up the speech module off the ramp and tucked it away inside her again.
"No need, Mom," EVE 4 said. "Just close the ramp, move out of the way. Hoverships and stasis beams will do the rest! And we'd better hurry. Engineer-bots have told me this bridge could go at any time! They've already been directing non-hovering robots and humans off of it. Dad and our husbands are in danger here as long as they're on the bridge deck."
"Excuse me, M-O," WALL•E said as he placed him onto an adjacent hover transport. "Eee-vaah . . . ramp!"
EVE compliantly lifted WALL•E to close the ramp one last time at the location the truck had been at for about 1,200 years . . . give or take a century.
"Wave . . . cameras, dear," EVE said with her old processor as she noticed holo-media were covering this live as an event of historic significance.
Once the ramp was closed, EVE moved back, still carrying WALL•E in her fins.
"Okay everyone," EVE 4 said with the help of a Megaphone-bot, "that's the show! Engineers and Engineer-bots are asking you to please clear the area for your own safety now. The moving of a heavy historical object, and the demolition of an unsafe structure is about to begin. Thank you again for coming, and showing your support for my mom and dad!"
EVE, WALL•E and their family now watched as a large hovership moved into position over their truck, and engaged a stasis beam that slowly lifted it with creaks and groans, as well as generous amounts of sand falling off it, up into the air and away to its new home.
"Where are we going?" EVE asked their children, now gathered around them.
"We thought you'd like a place with some room, and gardens, Mom!" EVE 4 replied. "Shall we all take our land-bound spouses there, Mom and sisters?"
"Hey!" WALL•E 5 objected. "I can get a thruster-pack, you know!"
"No family rivalries on our anniversary!" EVE warned her children as she tightened her grip on WALL•E. "M-O, would you follow us?"
"Already know the way," he said as he started off on the transport. "S-s-see you there!"
"I'm glad he keeps his stutter at times," EVE said to WALL•E as they watched him depart. "He just wouldn't quite be M-O without it."
"Yep!" WALL•E simply agreed in his own voice.
WALL•E's 'Low Charge' alarm started going off.
"Well, I don't think we have time for your usual leisurely recharge this morning," EVE said to him. "Mind if I give you a quick jolt again?"
"Surre!" WALL•E replied.
EVE put WALL•E down for a moment as she opened his front panels to expose his battery terminals. Then EVE touched the terminals with the two outer fingers of her left hand. Almost instantly, his Solar Charge Display and happy chime indicated he was once again fully charged.
"Glad we discovered a few hundred years ago I had the ability to do that," EVE noted to him. "It's a real time-saver sometimes — and much more useful than just illuminating light bulbs!"
"Yep!" WALL•E replied again as EVE closed his front panels and picked him up from behind.
"Now, will someone else who knows where we're going — at a slightly higher altitude than M-O — please lead the way?" EVE asked.
"Follow me!" EVE 4 said as she took off carrying her own husband into the sky, showing off with an initial tight corkscrew.
"Takes after youu . . ." WALL•E noted to EVE as they took off as well.
"Got that right!" she said, as she executed her own even more dramatic ascent and corkscrew climb with him, throwing in a big reverse loop for good measure, before joining in the family flying formation.
"Youu get clearance . . . for that?" WALL•E asked.
"Whoops!" EVE noted, forgetting to establish a data link with Airspace Control, which she quickly corrected, sending an apologetic text transmission as well. "Sometimes I'm still used to the skies being clear . . . and unregulated!"
"Good thing . . . you're ex-Rrobotics Mministerr!" WALL•E noted.
"And may be again," EVE replied. "But I don't want to push it!"
"Bye, bridge . . ." WALL•E said, looking back down as they flew away from it for the last time. Engineering teams of robots and humans were already beginning to swarm around it, safely dismantling and recycling the structure without disturbing the surrounding environment.
"Always have good memories from there . . ." EVE said to him with her old voice. "Always have truck, too. Safe now though . . . with you."
"Yess . . ." WALL•E agreed as he now looked ahead underneath EVE.
— — — — —
Soon, the family was following the large hovership downwards towards a greenbelt on the edge of the city. A mid-sized, single-level house with glass walls came into view, surrounded by gardens, green fields, and small groves of freshly planted trees.
"Mom, Dad," EVE 4 proudly announced by comm link to the family, ". . . your new home!"
"Ooo-ooo . . ." WALL•E said as he heard the comm message over EVE's speaker.
He slightly extended a hand and stroked EVE's fingers as they were gripping him.
"Eee-vaah like?" he asked her.
"Yes, WALL•E," EVE said gratefully in reply, using her old processor. "You like, too?"
"Yess!" he said.
"Eee-vaah glad!" she said.
"Most of the trees here come from the McCrea tree in town," EVE 4 continued on the comm link. "But there is at least some genetic diversity among them. Plus Mom, Dad, we ordered the house big enough to put the truck inside a room all to itself, under cover so it doesn't deteriorate any more. The roof over it is transparent, so it'll still seem like you're outdoors around the truck. There's room for you, Mom, to garden, both indoors and out, and space for each of you to reflect and work. And you two are getting a proper bedroom with a Levi-bed that allows each of you to finally relax and lie down . . . side by side!"
"Whom do we thank for all this?" EVE asked via her comm link.
"It's mostly us," WALL•E 3 now responded on the link. "Our latest fractal fusion album just went double-palladium! E-3 and I thought about buying you two a small town to yourselves — but we figured this would be enough. This place has guest quarters both in the house, and nearby among the trees . . . enough for all of us anyway."
"Are you all staying tonight?" EVE asked in reply.
"Yes! . . . Absolutely! . . . You got it!" their children all chimed in via the comm.
The family all landed on a large patio at the back of the house, as the hovership and its stasis beam gently moved the truck a final few metres inside the house to its place of honor.
"Ohh WALL•E!" EVE said in joy as she looked around, still gripping him tightly.
"Youu desservve it!" he said to her. "After mmeee . . . all these yearrs!"
"I deserve you, and all that you are," EVE replied lovingly to him.
WALL•E could only reach behind him and silently embrace her, as he turned his optics around to nudge her visor with his lenses closed in deep gratitude.
"Neverr let annything . . . come between us . . . again," he resolved.
"WALL•E . . . thank you . . ." EVE said, moved deeply.
"Youu . . . keep mmee . . . straight!" he requested.
"You keep me straight, too," she warmly invited him as well.
— — — — —
After they all toured the house and grounds together, the family settled into a circle back on the patio as the sun began to set, holding hands as WALL•E requested through a simple gesture.
"Eee-vaah . . . box please," WALL•E said, now holding his hand out in front of her.
EVE's eye forms smiled as she opened her stasis chamber and levitated the compact speech module into his hand. She couldn't resist helping WALL•E to plug it in however.
"Family," WALL•E said, using the box. "I want to apologize to all of you, for being as stubborn as I've been over recent years, even decades. Given what I've seen of some humans . . . if your mother was human, she might have left me by now."
"Never!" EVE said to the family, gripping his hand tightly. "Even if I was human!"
"I won't," she said, as she turned to WALL•E and looked at him, ". . . ever."
WALL•E paused, looking at her for a moment.
"Eee-vaah . . . thank youu," WALL•E said in awe with his old voice as he nudged against her. "Don't knoww if WALL•E deserrve that."
"Yes, you do," she simply said. "We both do."
WALL•E could only wordlessly embrace her tightly, as EVE took care not to squash the module dangling out his open data port door between them.
"Your mother," he turned to say to their family, now through the new box for her, "is special. Very, very special."
"We know, Dad," EVE 4 said. "We're just glad you see that, too. She's treated all of us better than we've deserved at times. That's why we're all here to help both of you — and that's why we've given her, and you, this house. Because we know how much she's wanted it all."
"EVE," he said with the new box, calling her by her proper name, "I'm sorry I haven't been, and done, all that I should have for you. I want to apologize again to you, even if I don't need to, in front of our family."
"WALL•E . . . thank you," she said with tears of gratitude and joy in her eye forms. "Now this is an anniversary present. I love you, WALL•E One. I have for five hundred years now . . . and I always will . . . always."
"I love you, too, EVE One," WALL•E said. "Help me to be . . . what you deserve."
"You already are," she responded. "But I'll still help you as you ask, anyway."
WALL•E turned to give EVE another brief, tight hug.
"I still have one more present for you," he added. "But not yet!"
EVE smiled with her eye forms as she once again leaned against WALL•E, emitting a wonderful sigh.
"You all prefer Axiom?" WALL•E said to the family once again, switching among languages via the module, "Or English?"
"English!" they all said.
"It's a warmer, more loving language," EVE 5 amplified.
"But it's not quite as romantic as Greek though," EVE 4 noted.
"The rest of us don't have that language loaded, E-4," EVE 3 objected.
"This is," . . . "kind of fun, actually!" WALL•E said, continuing to switch between languages via the module he was holding.
"Dad! English please!" EVE 4 reminded him.
"Okay," WALL•E said through the box.
"By the way," EVE 4 added, "Dad, you're not stubborn — well you can be at times. But really, you, and mom, are an inspiration to us. You've made me want to be a better wife and partner to Four here, and enjoy the loving, romantic life that you two have. And I'm sorry, Four, for almost giving up on you."
"That was a hundred forty-six years ago," WALL•E 4 observed. "We've learned a lot more since then. But thank you, E-4. I hope you know I've forgiven you long ago, and I'm trying to be the best partner I can be for you as well."
"You are, Four!" EVE 4 assured, putting a fin around him and holding him tighter.
"M-O, I hope you don't mind being in the middle of this family love-fest," WALL•E said via his box as he looked down at M-O next to him.
"Having helped to bring each of you children to life — at least the WALL•Es" M-O said as he looked around, "you all have long been my family. Five and E-5, I owe you my second life here. And WALL•E and EVE, I can't think of a home I'd want to share with anyone more than you."
"Does this mean we get to finally call you 'Uncle M-O'?" WALL•E 3 asked.
"A-a-a-absolutely!" M-O said, reviving his signature stutter.
"It's kind of funny," EVE 4 noted, ". . . how we've wound up adopting some human familial designations, as well as coming up with our own, like 'Four' and 'E-4'."
"At first," EVE replied, "I numbered you all so that everyone could tell you apart from me, and your father, as well as from each other. Then as I was trying to manage and coordinate you all when we became a family, I simply needed to address you quickly at times using the fewest syllables possible, especially as the WALL•Es understood only English initially, like your father. 'W' has more syllables in English than 'WALL•E', so it just became easier to address you WALL•Es by your numbers, and to address you EVEs by adding an 'E' to avoid confusing you with your WALL•E partners. Adding human familial designations just . . . well, came to feel good, and appropriate. It helped even me recognize that we had indeed become a real family together."
"Mom," EVE 5 interjected, "speaking of our family, I wound up defending us and how we've lived at a recent robotic ethics seminar. Some humans especially, said that aside from you and dad, robots who are raised in families like we were shouldn't be married to each other — that it's akin to incest. Five had to calm me down, and really comfort me that night."
"I heard what you did, E-5, and thought you handled it well," EVE responded, as she tapped into her own now considerable rhetorical subroutines and conclusions on this subject. "I was actually contacted about that by a news media inquiry afterwards. As I explained to them, there are no biological or reproductive issues surrounding you all getting married. You each simply began pairing up together at our wedding — before you had any real concept of what it meant, before we had even adopted you as family. Your father and I found our own lives so balanced, so good together, that we wanted this for each of you as well. So we thought we'd simply adopt and raise you as couples, right from the beginning, allowing you to develop healthy, but shared and interdependent identities with your partners. Given the inbuilt 'EVE' propensity for emotional swings that I've experienced myself, I felt you needed the balance of a calm WALL•E temperament, as I've had. I also felt that you WALL•Es needed the focus and drive of EVEs as well — that you all would simply live better functioning in balanced pairs. As there were few other similarly sentient robots around at the time, encouraging your continued pairing was just logical.
"As I've debated with other ethicists," EVE continued, "the human taboo around sibling marriage and incest is a natural and necessary biological imperative to prevent inbreeding and genetic abnormalities among subsequent generations, which simply aren't issues among robots. There can be psychological and socialization issues among sentients like us, but I feel we've dealt with those well. Besides, each of you had already existed, and had previous lives over portions of the preceding seven hundred years before we all came together. So really, the matter of sibling incest doesn't even exist for us.
"Also," EVE noted, "each of you, left on your own, might not have accomplished all that much, or had all that much of what we now consider to be a good life — given studies even I've done of robots, especially sentient ones, functioning in solitary lives. Your father and I were both prime examples of this. He was essentially first among us all to develop an advanced sentience on his own — over seven hundred years. But he accomplished little else, beyond erecting dangerously tall stacks of garbage.
"Well," she paused, reconsidering, "he did learn and introduce the concept of love to me, and to all of us though, which maybe is kind of a second important achievement of his. So maybe he didn't need me to live a decent life of accomplishment after all!"
"Yes I did!" WALL•E shot back good-naturedly via the box. "And I still do!"
"As for me, however," EVE said in contrast, looking around, "I didn't really even have a life before pairing with your father, aside from some occasional acrobatic flying! I was mostly so single-minded and directive-obsessed, it's embarrassing now!
"But look at what you've done together with your partners, just as I have with the support and encouragement of mine," EVE continued. "That each of you has become respected participants in, even leaders in your fields, is I think the clearest rebuttal of any criticisms anyone may have of our family, and how we've raised you. I haven't really told you — but I am so proud of all of you, and of our family. We are special. We are unique. Humans can't truly duplicate our family structure, but I would hope that they might learn from us anyway."
"Thanks, Mom," EVE 5 replied as she nudged against WALL•E 5. "Just hearing that makes me feel better. I do love who we are, and what we have become."
"Mministerr . . ." WALL•E noted affectionately using his old voice as he looked at EVE.
"I've always had a mind for details," EVE countered good-naturedly as she looked at him. "It's been useful at times, hasn't it?"
"Yes," WALL•E warmly admitted through the new module again as he nudged against her. "Now I can finally tell you how much I've admired you for it."
"You've been telling me that long before now — and long before this," she lovingly said to him, briefly touching the module he was still plugged into.
"Mom, Dad," EVE 3 now began, ". . . there was something here we weren't sure we should move to this place, but being closest to them, I volunteered to bring this up. This being such a green and peaceful place as they liked, and you, Dad, always wanting to see the family together . . . well, we were wondering if you would like Two's and E-2's shared grave and memorial relocated to the estate here?"
"Yes, E-3," WALL•E said softly, ". . . if your mother doesn't object, I would like that very much."
"I would never object to that," EVE said, holding WALL•E's hand and stifling a tear from her eye forms. "It would be good to have them close to us . . ."
"We'll take care of the details," EVE 3 said.
"I still miss your brother and sister . . . very much," WALL•E noted. "That's been part of my problem. I haven't stopped mourning them these past few years."
"Dad," EVE 3 gently responded. "Two and E-2 were so happy together when they died. They had comm linked me en route. They said they had just enjoyed a fabulous romantic vacation together in space, their space hydroponics garden and nursery business was going well, and they were happy to be coming home to see you and mom. Plus, they transmitted another comm message just as the ship they were on was breaking up. They said to never worry about them, to not be sad for them. They were going together, just as you and mom have always said you would want to. The last image shows them lovingly spark-kissing each other, right to the end. I hope Three and I are that lucky, if death ever happens to us.
"It's okay, Dad and Mom," EVE 3 said as she hovered across the family circle and hugged them. "Two and E-2 were happy, and in love, deeply in love . . . and I know they still are."
"Thank you, E-3," WALL•E said, sniffling through his speech module.
"Yes, thank you, daughter," EVE said, sniffling herself. "I don't think your father and I have ever seen that final message. It might be good to see it with you sometime here."
"You want to see it now?" EVE 3 asked. "I can project it onto a holo-sphere so we all can see it."
"I think it would be good for us all to see it together," EVE responded.
EVE 3 moved back beside her husband. Then, while taking his hand, she projected a spherical holo-image in the middle of the family circle.
Soon a close-up image of WALL•E 2 and EVE 2 appeared on the holo-sphere, holding each other. The image was shaking, and they were surrounded by smoke and flames amid some panicked yelling and screaming.
". . . Everyone," WALL•E 2 said, "E-2 and I only have a few seconds left."
"We'll be okay, even good . . . where we're going now," EVE 2 said. "We just know."
"Don't worry about us," Two continued. "We've already switched off our tactile sensors. We'll feel nothing."
"While we're naturally nervous here about this," E-2 half-joked as her eye forms looked down for a second, ". . . Two and I couldn't be happier or more in love with each other."
"Love one another," Two continued as he turned his optics to look at E-2. "Be happy, even for us. Don't be sad. We're together, like mom and dad would want to be in something like this."
The ship started to break up around them.
"We love you . . ." Two and E-2 said together.
They started spark-kissing, and then the image went to static, before EVE 3 turned it off.
"Two . . . E-2 . . ." WALL•E said as he looked down, before turning and briefly crying in EVE's embrace, as she cried with him. Practically everyone turned to their partner, held them, and cried a little. M-O just leaned sadly against WALL•E.
"Thank you, E-3," EVE said looking up and across the circle at her. "This was important, and very appropriate, for us to share together tonight."
"E-3," WALL•E finally said. "As you were perhaps closest to them, you think they'd have any thoughts for this anniversary gathering of ours?"
"Perhaps closest?" EVE 3 responded almost incredulously, ending her tears. "I helped them through some post-honeymoon problems they never dared share with the rest of you! E-2 got impatient with Two one day, just like most of us EVEs have with you WALL•Es in one way or another. I just flew with her out into the countryside and encouraged her to blast out her frustrations with her ion cannon a bit, and then talk it out with me. I then gently told Two how to better handle us EVEs, and things were just fine after that."
"I never knew that about your sister!" EVE remarked.
"You think kids ever tell their parents everything?" EVE 3 asked.
"Well, no," EVE admitted. "But I had hopes our family would be better than average."
"We are, Mom," EVE 5 assured. "Thanks to you and Dad!"
"She's right!" EVE 3 concurred. "But tapping into my memories of Two and E-2 . . . I think they'd say first, 'Happy Five Hundredth Anniversary to Mom and Dad.' Then they'd likely say to just be happy ourselves, to love and treasure what we have together, here and now . . ."
EVE 3 paused for a moment looking down, before continuing, almost as if it was no longer just her speaking. "We're fine together, and we want you to be as well . . . The accident was so long ago and so far away, we barely think about it now . . . Life doesn't end. Once you're aware, sentient, you always are . . . Mom, Dad, thanks for giving us life, the life of awareness. You are parents in the truest sense of the word . . . Don't miss us. Don't be sad. Simply be glad that we were . . . that we are . . . and that we lived, and loved, with you . . ."
The family all paused in reflection.
"Wow," EVE 3 said a moment later. "I really don't quite know where that came from!"
"I think it came from a good place . . . a very good place. Thank you, E-3," EVE said thoughtfully before turning to WALL•E. "Feel better, my husband of five hundred years, tonight?"
"With all of you here, and including Two and E-2 in our thoughts tonight . . . yes, I do," WALL•E said. "Plus, with me getting addicted to this enhanced talking device like all of you have been, I think our family is in a very good place now as well. But please, let's see you all a little more often!"
"Now that you're no longer living in a truck, Dad, and actually have room for us in a nice place like this — you bet you'll be seeing us more often!" WALL•E 4 observed.
"Hey, we raised you all in that truck!" WALL•E objected.
"And it was crowded, if you'll remember," WALL•E 5 countered. "The EVEs sometimes bounced around at night like billiard balls if they didn't have their stabilizers on — except for Mom, of course!"
"Nothing has been more comfortable than that boot bed your dad made for me!" EVE noted.
"You just try the Levi-bed, Mom," EVE 5 assured. "It's like sleeping in space! I can finally sleep as close as I want with Five every night now."
"How does your father especially, get in and out of such a bed?" EVE asked.
"You can always lift him in and out, or he can just tell it, 'bed enter' or 'bed exit'," E-5 answered, "and it will levitate him with a stasis beam right into or out of bed's suspension matrix. It's why they call it the Levi-bed!"
"I'm not sure about that," WALL•E responded. "I may be sleeping cubed up on the floor!"
"I'll protect you from harm," EVE assured, giving him a gentle, reassuring squeeze with her fin. "Give it a try . . . for me?"
"I can't refuse you there," WALL•E admitted warmly to her. "I've promised now."
"Thank you, my love," EVE said gratefully to him as she moved closer and gave him a spark-kiss.
WALL•E emitted one of his trademark happy warbles through his own speaker.
"Only you can do that to me," he now said through his new speech box again.
"That's a wonderful thing," EVE said warmly to him.
"You want me to get this speech module installed? Rather than carry it around with me?" WALL•E asked EVE.
"Dad!" several of their children responded with surprise.
"Not now, actually," EVE responded happily, to everyone's equal surprise. "I don't want you changing any more than you are right now."
"Eee-vaah . . ." WALL•E said admiringly in his old voice as he moved to gratefully embrace and nuzzle her.
"WALL•E . . ." she said to him, using her old processor as well as she continued to embrace him.
"Oh-oh . . . time to give the parents some space here!" EVE 4 announced. "The 'room' is right over there, folks — if you're interested!"
"Well, call me old-fashioned," WALL•E said using the box once again, and facing his optics to the rest of the family circle, "but as we go to bed now, I would like us all to turn off these speech modules, for a moment — and just show one another how much we love each other. Please?"
Soon, the family was just silently moving among each other, simply exchanging looks, touches, and hugs. After unplugging and laying aside the box himself, WALL•E silently moved with EVE, hand-in-hand, embracing each of their offspring couples in turn. Eye forms and optics, arms and fins, conveyed all that each of them could possibly want to really share. WALL•E gestured to M-O, inviting him to balance on the top of his cube for a moment as together they silently bid goodnight to the rest of the family.
As the Threes, Fours, and Fives each now went off to their guest quarters, still silent and hand-in-hand or arm-in-fin, and M-O went off into the house to look for a space to now call his own, WALL•E and EVE looked up into the night sky together at their new home as they moved closer into each other's arms.
Moving back from EVE slightly, WALL•E opened his compartment, and took out his final surprise of the day for her.
It was a tiny bonsai tree, planted in a small, blue, boot-shaped pot.
WALL•E wanted to explain his gift, and what he intended it for, but instead he simply, wordlessly handed it to her as he looked at her.
EVE found herself filled with love and appreciation as she looked first at the little tree while she gently took it into her hand, and then at him. She let her tearful, happy eye forms express the rich flood of emotions she was experiencing.
Then for a moment as she continued holding the tree to one side, EVE looked down, her eye forms now betraying a degree of sadness.
WALL•E gently extended a hand and caressed the side of her head, conveying a silent but concerned and curious look with his optics.
EVE looked up at him sadly while opening her stasis chamber, revealing there was nothing inside . . . for him.
WALL•E knew how busy she had been. He just took her into his embrace as if she had just given him the most wonderful gift in the world anyway. He knew that really, she had — the gift of herself, and her love and commitment.
EVE gently cried again as he held her, feeling not only forgiven over her forgetfulness and busyness . . . but loved. Just loved.
Laying the tiny potted tree down carefully beside her on a low patio table, she then picked up the pocket speech module, and gently tossed it aside as she tearfully, wordlessly moved closer and gave him a long spark-kiss.
WALL•E channeled all the energy he would have warbled with back into the kiss, as he closed his optics in complete bliss.
Both agreed, wordlessly, that this silent moment of theirs was sacred.
A short while later, after jointly ending their kiss, WALL•E and EVE were tempted to say something to each other. But neither wanted to break the silence . . . the magic . . . of the moment.
Looking deeply into EVE's eye forms, it was finally WALL•E who could no longer resist.
"More . . ." he simply said as he embraced EVE.
"More . . ." EVE agreed.