Disclaimer: I don't own WALL·E or anything else in this story except for one human OC who is growing up, making a nuisance of herself and loving every second of it. Read and enjoy!
The Wake-Up Call
"Auto? Hello? Anybody home? C'mon, buddy! Rise and shine!"
That voice … He had never heard that voice before. It was young and feminine, and it sounded like it was coming from very far away. He felt electricity flowing into his circuits, strengthening him enough to turn on his single optic lens.
A blurry face was only inches away from him, and it did not resemble the last one he had seen before his switch was turned to 'manual'. This face was young and feminine like the voice that had drawn him out of his sleep, with blue eyes and reddish-brown hair pulled back in a messy ponytail.
"You're awake!" the human female said in the same cheerful tone as before. "Thank goodness! For a minute there I thought I'd gone a little overboard, but you look like you're okay to me!"
Auto's vocal processing unit was now fully active, allowing him to make a reply. "You are not the Captain." he said, his voice the same deep and ominous monotone as before.
The human female, whom he now deduced was somewhere in her early teens, took a few steps back. As his eyesight grew stronger, Auto noticed several odd things about this stranger. First of all, she was smiling. He could not remember the last time he had seen a human being smile. Second, her body was not like the pasty, gelatinous blobs he was familiar with. Her build was short, thin and gangly and her skin had traces of sunburn, freckles and acne. Third, she was wearing strange things over her standard issue red bodysuit. A large, baggy jacket, dirty sneakers, and mismatched socks were just a few of her many accessories.
"Nope!" the girl said in reply to his statement, still beaming brightly. "My name's Hannah! I'm fourteen, and I'm a roboticist!" She said the last phrase with great pride.
"Not possible." Auto declared coldly.
The human named Hannah tilted her head in curiosity. "What's not possible?"
"There are no roboticists left among humans." Auto stated. "The last of the Buy N Large roboticists died in the year 2157 AD."
Hannah grinned, and he noticed she had a slight overbite. "Well, then, I guess that makes me a new breed! Trust me, I've been dealing with robots since I was in diapers, and I've read every book I could find on them since I learned to read. I'm pretty sure I'm qualified for the job."
Auto saw she was convinced of all this and that arguing over the subject would be pointless. He returned to his original concern. "Where is the Captain?"
"Oh, he was too busy to come." Hannah said. "It's harvest time, so he's out in the fields with the rest of the grown-ups. He said he'd come by later to check on us, though."
She frowned. "Huh?"
"Axiom does not contain any fields to be harvested."
The girl blinked back at him in incredulous silence, then burst out laughing. Auto had not heard the sound of a human laughing for as long as he had not seen a human smile. He did not like that sound.
When she stopped she pulled a hand from its pocket and pointed past him, toward the windows. "Why don't you take a look outside?"
Auto swiveled himself around and was stunned by what he saw. Instead of the starry blackness of outer space there was a blinding explosion of color. Above there was a bright expanse of blue with fluffy patches of white, and below were tall grey buildings surrounded by greens, yellows, oranges, and reds. It was like nothing the autopilot had ever seen before in all his seven hundred years of existence.
"What…is…this?" he finally managed to say.
Hannah came up next to him, both hands in her big pockets again. "This is the planet Earth, in the year 2830 AD."
The autopilot inched closer to the windows, unable to believe what he was seeing. "Not possible… Earth is uninhabitable."
"Well, there's the thing about planets, Auto." Hannah said. "They change, just like everything else does. That's why I'm in here with you now."
Auto turned to look at the human teen again. The look on her face had become stern, and her arms were folded across her skinny chest. This concerned him. "What do you mean?"
"What do I mean?" she said, as if she couldn't believe he still didn't get it. "I mean that I'm the only human standing between you and the scrap heap! Lucky for you, the Captain thinks you could be useful once people are ready to try space travel again. So he asked me, the best robot expert around, to make sure you don't try anything bad like last time."
Hannah pointed a greasy gloved finger at his optic, and Auto did not like that at all. He backed away from her and tried to access one of his many tools in the hope of driving her off. But something was wrong. There were no tools there for him to access. In confusion he swiveled around to survey the bridge and spotted a pile of mechanical objects lying in a greasy jumbled heap on the floor. They looked as if they had been forcibly yanked out and tossed aside like useless junk. Among them he recognized his taser.
Realization struck him then. He turned back to glare at the girl, who was smiling back very smugly. "You removed my tools."
"Of course I did! Duh!" Hannah then rolled her eyes and seemed to be talking to the ceiling. "Jeez, I still don't believe it. What kind of first-class BnL moron would give a weapon to a robot whose function is to fly a luxury star liner? Some brilliant roboticist that guy must've been!" Then she looked back at Auto with the same smug look. "By the way, that's not all I did to you."
She pulled a flat square box from one pocket and flipped open the lid. It was a mirror, and Auto shrank back in horror when he saw his reflection there. A red boot was attached to his body, the same red boot that only defective robots wore. "Not possible… I am not defective-"
"Oh, I beg to differ, Auto." Hannah interrupted. She snapped the mirror shut and approached him, pointing with her gloved finger again. "In fact, the whole colony begs to differ! You committed all the worst crimes a robot can commit!"
Auto was confused again. "I did what was necessary to fulfill my directive."
The girl's formerly sunny expression had been steadily darkening, but now it was pitch black. She advanced on him, her voice growing more and more angry. "You expect me to believe that? I know what you did fifteen years ago."
"Don't talk to me about directives, buster!" She was now eye to eye with the robot, her icy stare piercing straight through his single red lens. "I'm a roboticist! I know all about directives, and not one of them is worth putting lives in danger! Am I wrong, Auto?"
The robot remained silent, realizing he had misjudged this child greatly. She had successfully disarmed him, knew all about the rules robots were meant to follow, and that he had broken each one of them. She just might be a real roboticist after all.
Finally he gave her the answer she was waiting for. "Negative."
Hannah stood back and folded her arms again, still frowning. "That's what makes you defective, Auto. More specifically, you're a rogue robot. You're so far gone that I can't fix you with just my tools."
Suddenly her frown turned into a smile again. "So instead, I've come up with a plan to put you through some robot re-education! And to help me with your teaching, I've brought some friends along!" She turned around and crouched on the floor of the room, holding out one hand in a friendly beckoning gesture. "Come on out, guys! It's okay!"
At first nothing happened. Then, there were sounds of mechanical movements from behind one of the control panels. Cautiously two robots emerged, one sleek and white, the other yellow and boxy. As Hannah urged them to come forward they stayed close to each other and kept their eyes trained firmly on Auto. It was obvious that both of them remembered the autopilot, and neither of them really wanted to be here right now.
Keeping as low to the floor as possible and staying at a distance he thought was safe, the garbage-bot lifted one skinny arm and waved at Auto. "W-W-WALL·E…" he said in a very nervous, shaky voice, as if he expected the other robot's taser to pop out at any moment.
His probe-bot companion was hovering just inches away from him. Instead of waving to Auto and saying her name she had a different greeting in mind. Blue eyes narrowing into slits, she deployed a quasar ion cannon from her right arm and aimed at his single eye.
Before Auto could react Hannah had jumped in front of him and was waving her hands up and down frantically. "No, no, EVE! Put that away! Auto's harmless now, I took all his gadgets out!"
EVE obeyed the human and stowed her weapon, but did not stop her murderous glaring at the autopilot. She had absolutely zero trust or fear toward him, and if he tried anything funny to Hannah or WALL·E, she would not hesitate to blast him into smoldering bits of tin foil.
Auto glared right back. He remembered both of these robots well and was not the least bit fond of either of them. WALL·E was an obsolete model and a stowaway, and EVE was a traitor and a renegade for siding with him. Everything that had gone wrong to him was their fault, or more precisely, it was WALL·E's fault. Had he never come to the Axiom to begin with, EVE would have remained a loyal pawn, the Captain and all the humans would have remained helpless couch potatoes, the ship would have stayed in space forever, and none of this humiliation would be happening to him now.
Swiveling himself around Auto spoke to Hannah again. "Why have you brought them here?"
Hannah rolled her eyes at him. "I already told you. Weren't you listening?"
Auto stared very hard at her with his single eye. "Explain."
Hannah stood up, put her hands on her narrow hips, and proceeded to say lots of very big words at a very rapid speed.
"WALL·E is the first robot to go beyond his original programming and achieve a genuine personality, progressing beyond the level of a simple machine to a living being. His stimulus on other robots causes them to experience the same process of evolution, such as EVE, who is here mainly for security precautions. By bringing them here to educate you, I expect to reduce your homicidal inclinations and catalyze the growth of a personality that is more compassionate toward other intelligent life forms. Get it?"
Auto's stare of hardness became one of blankness.
Hannah groaned and shook her head, thinking he hadn't understood. "Okay, let's try this again..." She pointed at the garbage-bot, who was now completely hidden inside his box. "WALL·E can think and feel the way humans do. Once you learn how to be like him, you won't be defective anymore. Now do you get it?"
The concept the girl was describing was strange to him, but he thought he grasped what she was trying to say. Basically, she considered the rogue robot to be superior to him somehow, and was challenging him to surpass him. "Affirmative." Auto said in reply.
Hannah clasped her hands in front of her and grinned brightly again. "Good! Now we can start your first lesson!"
Auto watched her bustle over to a corner of the room where a large rectangular box was sitting. After rummaging noisily through it, she found what she was looking for and came back. In her hands was a small projection device, the kind that attached to a robot's head and displayed images from its memory.
WALL·E was still boxed up when she spoke to him. "Okay, buddy! It's time for you to do what we talked about. Are you ready?"
The little robot peeked up out of his shell and looked at her, and then Auto. Just the sight of him made WALL·E wish he was safe at home inside his truck, as far away from this creepy old ship as possible. Yet the Captain had been very insistent about him being involved in this mission, saying that the he was the only robot who was capable of changing Auto for the better. Hannah had also been stubbornly determined to study the only robot she had never met, and since the girl was practically family WALL·E couldn't stand the idea of her being left alone with the hostile machine.
He looked up at EVE. She leaned down, touched his shoulder with one comforting hand, and nodded, urging him to be brave and keep the promise he had made to the humans. She had not left his side since the Captain had asked him to do this thing, and she definitely wouldn't leave him now. He began to feel safer knowing she had his back and always would. Nothing really bad could happen as long as they were together.
When WALL·E looked at Hannah again he had fully emerged from his box. He nodded to her and let her stick the projection device on his head. Now the first lesson could begin.
The girl beckoned Auto to move to where she was standing so he could see what was about to be displayed, then she scampered back to the corner and pressed a button. The glass of the windows darkened until they were black, and the only light came from the bodies of the three robots. Suddenly a holographic screen appeared before them and music began to play. The projection device was displaying the film "Hello, Dolly!" straight from WALL·E's memory.
When Hannah returned to the group she unfolded a beach chair for herself and took a seat. "This is a movie." she whispered to Auto. "WALL·E learned a lot from watching it, so pay attention. You might just learn something from it, too."
At first Auto found the movie to be completely ridiculous. Like the healthy landscape outside, it was totally different from anything he had seen before. It showed colorful images of thin, happy humans in strange clothing bursting into song and dance at any given moment. Humans never did things like that, but he wondered if the bizarre child Hannah was related to them somehow.
Auto could not ask her, though, because after the first forty-five minutes had gone by she had plugged something into her ears that played different music and was reading a book with the odd title So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. He did not want to speak to EVE or WALL·E at all, which was just as well because they were holding hands and seemed to have forgotten he was even there.
At some point Auto thought he heard footsteps in the corridor beyond the bridge that stopped just outside the door. He looked away from the movie and at the door, expecting the Captain to come in to check on them. For a long moment there was silence outside. Then the footsteps sounded again, moving away from the bridge this time. If it had really been the Captain, he must have heard the film playing inside and decided not to interrupt it by coming in.
One hour passed, and then another, and another, until Auto realized that the movie was replaying itself. Hannah was fast asleep in her chair with her loud music playing, and without her to tell him to stop, WALL·E kept it going. He was enjoying himself very much, especially since EVE was snuggling with him. Thinking this was all part of the lesson, Auto continued to watch the movie, determined not to be beaten by a human child and a pair of rogue robots. But as more time passed, all of the movie's illogical absurdities bothered him more and more, and he began wishing the movie would stop.
When it didn't, it began to seem less like a lesson and more like torture, until Auto thought he understood the concept of what the humans called Hell. That was it. He was in a twisted robot Hell, with only an annoying human child and two mechanical freaks for company. He had to get out, but all the doors were closed and he could no longer open them. He could not call GO-4 or any of the stewards for help, either. He even wished the Captain would come back to check their progress, but he did not. So there was only one option for escape left to him.
Suddenly WALL·E, EVE and Hannah were shocked out of their respective states of leisure by a loud, repetitive pounding noise.
When they looked they saw that it was Auto slamming himself against the door over and over, trying to break out or die trying.
EVE flew into action then. She blocked Auto from slamming into the wall again and tried to shove him backward. Panicking, Hannah sprang to her feet, snatched the projection device from a befuddled WALL·E's head and clapped her hands twice, causing the lights on the bridge to turn on. "Auto!" Hannah shouted. "Stop this now! Don't make me shut you off again, because I will!"
As EVE grappled with Auto, she noticed he appeared to be twitching strangely and making odd muttering sounds. The threat of being shut off caused him to give up the fight, but his twitching continued. "Make it stop…" he said. "Make it all stop…Can't take … more singing…"
The two robots looked at him worriedly and exchanged a confused look. What was going on? Neither of them had expected Auto to react this way to the movie. Was he experiencing a glitch in his processor, or malfunctioning?
Meanwhile Hannah seemed very annoyed. She had planned this lesson far in advance and this spontaneous act of rebellion was not part of her agenda. After stamping one large sneaker on the floor she marched up to the autopilot to demand an explanation. "What's the matter with you? Are you crazy? Didn't that movie teach you anything?"
Auto rounded on her. "What in Axiom's name could that piece of multimedia horror teach me but insanity?!" he retorted.
Hannah grabbed at her hair as if she were trying to pull it out. "No, no, no! You're missing the point! Didn't you learn anything about humanity at all?"
"I learned that I never want to see that horrible film again!" Auto snapped. "I would rather face the scrap heap then relive that torturous experience!"
As Hannah continued to argue with the autopilot, WALL·E and EVE watched with a growing sense of confusion. Something was definitely different about Auto. The things he was saying, the way he was saying them, it was totally unlike the cold, unfeeling machine he had been earlier. Soon Hannah seemed to sense the same thing and fell silent, wondering what had changed even as the autopilot continued ranting at her.
Suddenly her face broke into the biggest grin of all. "Auto! Auto! You're right! You did learn something!"
Auto stopped ranting and stared blankly back at her. "I did?"
"Yes! You're angry! You're feeling angry right now! You've learned your first emotion!" Hannah was so delighted by this that she began bouncing up and down. She turned to WALL·E and EVE, who were watching her in total confusion. "Guys! The movie worked! We did it! We made our first big breakthrough!"
As the girl continued jumping and cheering, WALL·E decided to join her. He didn't know why she was doing it, but it looked like fun. EVE remained perplexed, not understanding how making the autopilot angry was a good thing. But she was not nearly as perplexed as Auto was. He had not even considered the idea that the film had caused him to experience an emotion. Was it true? Had it really happened? Or was this weird child just plain crazy?
"I can't wait to tell everyone about this!" Hannah exclaimed. "The Captain will be so glad, and Mom and Dad will be so proud of me!" She dashed to the door, opened it, and dashed out, but not before shouting one last thing to the autopilot. "Bye, Auto! See you tomorrow!"
WALL·E and EVE began to follow her, but at the last minute EVE turned around. In her haste to leave, Hannah had left all her things behind. Her toolkit, her beach chair, even Auto's removed gadgets. EVE did not go back for any of those things, however. She flew straight up to the autopilot's face and glared straight into his single lens.
Just when he thought she was going to turn her laser cannon on, she raised an arm and smacked the yellow button on the red boot he wore. Instantly he drooped and fell into the darkness of stasis lock. EVE knew this was only a temporary sleep, but she felt better knowing that Auto could not do as he pleased behind their backs. Besides, all of this punishment served him right for what he did to her and WALL·E all those years ago.
At the moment, her partner was waiting in the doorway for her. When she came to his side they joined hands and left the bridge together. As the doors closed behind them, WALL·E began to hum Put On Your Sunday Clothes.
To be continued...