Define Anniversary

by Locutus

With a soft humming from her gravitic drive, EVE was floating along a row of wheat plants. Every now and then, she activated her scanner beam and let it graze over a stalk or a patch of soil. The grain was growing well, she noted contently. As she discovered a little gap in the row, she sent a quick message to Agricultural Maintenance aboard the Axiom. Soon a TYP-E bot would be dispatched to fill up the gap with a new seedling.

Looking up and letting her view sweep over the stately field of grain plants, she felt, like so many times before, quite amazed at how much the young growing colony had accomplished in barely one year after their return to the Earth.

Land areas for both residence and agriculture were being opened up, and while they were building homes and farms, the resources and accomodations on the Axiom were also still in use.

Cooperation of humans and robots worked remarkably well. Every robot had been assigned a new "job" in the bustling little colony; everyone was doing what they were best at. EVE herself had become a "gardener", tending to plants, analysing the soil and overseeing farming activities. Her love, WALL-E, was still working in the trash compaction business. But since his work had a real purpose now, he was very content with his assignment.

As was EVE with hers. Floating between all this lush green plant life was like a dream come true for her, like that one time when she was exploring that foreign planet. And in addition to food plants, she had set aside a tiny bit of land for her personal use. A little smile flickered over her face as she thought of it.

Completing her wheat survey, she left the field and glided on towards the little river. She liked spending time there, close to the calming sound and freshness of the flowing water. It was quite astonishing, but Earth's nature had sufficiently healed itself so that the occasional body of flowing water could be found again. Many children from the colony used to come here to play, and she relished watching them.

Today, she noticed, there appeared to be a special kind of excitement among the kids and their parents at the river. She overheard some of them talking about a celebration that was coming up. She did not really understand what they were referring to, but it had to be something important given the agitation with which they were conversing.

EVE decided, since she still had to deliver a report to Captain McCrea on the Axiom's bridge, to ask him later what this was all about. For now, she settled down closely above the ground, happily waved back as she was greeted by some of the colonists and enjoyed this moment of recreation.

"No, no, no, AUTO, this is wrong," McCrea was complaining to the Axiom's autopilot. After the ship's return to the Earth, the directive A113 had become obsolete and, for the most part, had deleted itself. With it being gone, and some modifications to his programming, he was once more completely compliant to the Captain's orders, so he had been re-activated to take care of the ship's systems. One specific order though appeared to be a problem.

"The year is not 2810 A.D. any longer, it is 1 A.L. How many times do I have to explain that to you. 1 A.L. After landing! Almost 2 A.L. in fact. I guess we'll need to replace your chronometer programming if you can't understand this simple fact."

"My chronometer is working perfectly, captain. The year is 2810 A.D., 710 years after departure," AUTO replied, earning a sound of annoyance and disgruntlement from the Captain in return.

Just as McCrea was about to continue his rant, a chime sounded. After a determined "Come!", the door opened and the EVE probe floated in, moving up to the Captain. There she saluted, as it had become customary, with her right fin.

The Captain's face lit up; he was glad about the pretty diversion from his discussions with the spoked steering wheel. "Hi there EVE, is it time for you report again?"

EVE nodded and waited until McCrea had entered the data transfer command into the computer. After the adventures surrounding the ship's homecoming, the Captain had become good friends with both EVE and WALL-E. "I trust the grain fields are faring okay?" he asked.

"Perfectly," EVE replied and then added, "Question?"

"Sure, EVE, what's on your mind?"

"Celebration?" the white probe asked with a puzzled expression in her eyes.

The captain smiled. "Ah, you heard people talk about the Anniversary. You know, we humans like to remember and celebrate important events once per year, on the day when they happened. In our case, it's the Axiom's return to the Earth which was exactly one year ago. So the colonists are having some probably quite big party."

Anniversary, EVE pondered. The return to the Earth had been an important event for her too, of course, but there was something that had made an even bigger impact on her life: Almost exactly one year ago she had met WALL-E!

She pondered further. So humans liked celebrating the day on which important events happened. But EVE, as a robot, decided to take it a step further. She pinpointed a very specific moment as her most memorable event. And to her delight, her internal chronometer indicated that the one-year time span after that moment would end in exactly 5 hours, 36 minutes and 21 seconds.

Happiness flickering in her eyes, and following a spontaneous idea, she decided that she too wanted to have an anniversary celebration with her love. So she asked the Captain what humans usually did for this occasion.

"Let's see," McCrea replied and then instructed, "Computer! Define 'Anniversary'."

"Anniversary. An annual recurrence to commemorate an important event, like a birthday or another incidence of major significance. It is often celebrated in form of a get-together with friends and/or by giving presents. Personal anniversaries are often accompanied by ingestion of cake."

EVE pondered some more, and several further ideas started forming. One of them led to something that her long-gone creator had used to do to keep memories.

Memories... friends... cake... presents... special moment... Her eye expression switched over a smirk to a gleeful smile. "Idea! Help?" she warbled, and pointed to a display screen to which she transmitted an internal communication message.

McCrea turned to the screen, and reading EVE's message, he started laughing heartily. "Very clever, my dear. I'll do what I can to help. And thanks for the invitation, I'll be there, and the others surely too."

He turned to the autopilot and gave him some instructions. Despite seeing no sense in the captain's orders, he carried them out, if only after an adequately clear repetition. Multiple robots were then set in motion and dashed to different parts of the ship, collecting the things EVE would be needing for her anniversary party.

Directive A-001: Collect Trash.

Yes, yes, I know what to do. Sheesh, WALL-E grouched in his mind. Even after over seven hundred years of compacting garbage his directive core just would not shut up. As if he had not learned by now how to do his job.

As he wheeled towards a new heap of trash, he watched the construction workers who were building a new home in an area that he had cleaned out a few days ago. He was glad that his work finally had a real significance. That, being together with his beloved EVE in the evenings, and hibernating together with her during the nights, made his life full of happiness.

A squeaking noise had him look down to the ground. Hal was scuttling around in his path, and WALL-E held out his arm so that the little cockroach could climb up onto him. Watching the critter scramble up, he hoped that he would be spared a ticklish insect-inspection of his innards today.

He actually got lucky, and after his friend had settled down near the buttons of his audio recorder, he continued following the endless repetitions of his directive core.

Just as another cube tumbled out of his compaction chamber, he heard some more squeaking noises, this time accompanied by the rattling of a wheel. M-O, the little microbe obliterator robot, came rolling around the corner of a trash heap and towards him. He seemed a little agitated, and WALL-E hoped that he had not forgotten his lectures on how to ignore all the dirt around him, so he did not go crazy trying to clean it all up.

When M-O reached the trash compactor and his insect friend, he squeaked and motioned towards Hal. Apparently he wanted the cockroach to follow him and said something about "important Captain's orders". WALL-E was a little stumped as to what the Captain might want from his friend, but then he shrugged. McCrea surely knew what he was doing.

So he stretched out his arm to let Hal scuttle along it and jump over onto the disinfection robot. M-O nodded and chirped again, then turned around and wheeled off. Lucky guy, WALL-E thought, for not having any openings that Hal could use to reach his insides. Smirking a little he turned around to deal with the next heap of trash that now had to make way for a new house. Happily he thought about the evening that he was going to spend together with his dear white gardener robot.

"Halt." the Steward bot said in its usual unemotionally modulated voice.

EVE looked up, shook her head at McCrea and warbled, "No work."

"Hmph," the Captain replied. "Can it be so difficult to do such a simple reprogramming. I don't know, ever since we purged all that was left of A113 from his programming, AUTO seems to have become a lot less competent when it comes to commanding other robots."

EVE giggled and nodded. But she definitely preferred the ship's autopilot this way. It had been hard enough for her to forgive the electrocution of her beloved trash robot and to blame AUTO's actions on his formerly violent and self-contradicting programming.

"No worries, EVE. You go ahead and do your other preparations. I'll have a word with AUTO and see to it that this Steward gets reprogrammed the way we want it. It'll be ready in time."

EVE nodded again and warbled, "Thanks!" Then she dashed off towards the ship's storage area, to collect some more things for their celebration. Soon after, as her chronometer counted T minus 2 hours, 52 minutes, 30 seconds, she could be seen speeding away from the Axiom, towards the small secluded part of fertile land that she had set aside for her personal use.

A few hours later, WALL-E stacked the final trash cube onto a tower. Checking his chronometer, which showed that his assigned work day was over for fifteen minutes already, he decided to ignore that slave driver of a directive core and call it a day. He turned around and accelerated happily, knowing that he would soon be watching another installment of Hello, Dolly with EVE. As he wheeled past a group of construction workers, he greeted them with a waving arm.

Soon after, he arrived at his truck. Throwing a quick glance at the BRL-A which had been dispatched to cover the hole that EVE had blasted into the trailer's ceiling, he entered his home via the rear ramp. To his surprise, he found his beloved already inside. For a moment, he had the impression that she quickly was hiding something inside her chest compartment as soon as she noticed him.

"EVE-ah!" he exclaimed and wheeled towards her, eager to greet her with a warm hug, ignoring her attempt to act nonchalant. "Home already?"

"WALL-E! Glad you back! she replied and caressed his metallic framework with a white plastic fin.

EVE had never had the task to hide something she was planning from somebody so close to her, so she was a little insecure as how to proceed. Luckily, WALL-E did not notice it, for he was way too preoccupied with his attempts to try out some new methods of robot cuddling he had come up with recently.

The white probe checked her internal chronometer. T minus 44 minutes 25 seconds, it counted. Just enough time, she pondered, and invited WALL-E to once more watch his all-time favourite film on his makeshift video projector. Already having waited for that, he agreed happily. A minute later they were sitting side by side, imitating the actors whenever it was time to hold hands.

It turned out that the portion of the film on the videotape that had survived the rough times was not sufficient to cover the whole timespan. Fortunately though, WALL-E invited EVE to continue their "eternal Pong match" as soon as the film was over. Quite relieved, EVE agreed.

T minus 20 minutes 12 seconds.

A little while later, just as WALL-E's Pong score reached 8001, he heard a rustling noise and some voices from outside the trailer. He looked at EVE. "People? Outside?"

The white robot nodded with a smile. She took WALL-E's hands and gently dragged him over to a workbench. "Surprise. For you." she warbled in a soft voice.

"Ooh!" the trash robot replied, moving his head and eyes flaps excitedly. His love never had prepared a surprise for him before. "What? What?" he asked.

EVE reached into a corner of WALL-E's rotation storage rack and produced a beautifully colored flower. She knew that the trash robot liked flowers, ever since he had found that little seedling and put it in the boot. So she had used the opportunity that her job as a gardener offered and had raised some for WALL-E.

"Ooooh!" the trash robot repeated and took the flower. He looked at it a little dreamily. Very beautiful, he thought.

Before he could thank EVE for the present, she said, "There is more." Then she added, exclaiming, "Now! Come in!"

Having waited for the cue, a little crowd came rushing up the rear ramp, shouting felicitations towards the two robots. All of the people who had become so good friends during their endeavours were among them: McCrea, John, Mary, M-O and of course Hal.

WALL-E, who was indeed surprised and also a little scared, moved around nervously at the sudden commotion in his home. But EVE warmly held his hands, soothingly caressing them. Then she opened up her chest chamber and tractor-beamed a cake out onto the workbench. It was a Black Forest gateau from the Axiom's food storage, with an inscription on it:

Happy 1st Anniversary, WALL-E
From EVE

Instead of a candle, a Zippo lighter was sitting on top of the cake. EVE reached out for it, still holding WALL-Es grappler hand in her white fin, and together they ignited it.

WALL-E was pleasantly reminded of the wonderful moments that this image meant to him. He looked at EVE, who showed a gleeful smile in her eye display. She knew that WALL-E, if he had been able to express emotions the way she could, he would be smiling the very same way now. "Happy anniversary!" the white robot warbled quietly.

Their friends joined in and moved closer, watching the couple in elation. "To the robots who brought us back down to the ground!" McCrea shouted. Then he added, "And here's a very special guest. We managed to re-program him just in time, like I promised."

The Captain moved aside and a Steward bot came wheeling past him, emitting the usual Las Vegas slot machine sounds that made them so unmistakable. He stopped, joined the group of friends and said, in its unchanged unemotional voice, "Smile."

WALL-E was even more perplexed than before and looked at EVE. She just nodded and pointed towards the cake with the lighter, then took WALL-E's hand into hers again.

The Steward repeated, "Smile." A flash of light momentarily filled the room. The robot had taken a picture and was now displaying it on its large front screen.

The scene showed WALL-E and EVE with the cake, holding hands, both of them looking at the warm flickering flame atop the lighter in blissful reminiscence. A subtitling was printed under it:

"Caution! Celebrating robots!"

T minus 2 minutes 20 seconds.

"I wonder if they're going to stare at it forever? Or are they maybe planning to eat it themselves?" John asked his companion Mary. They both laughed, and McCrea joined in.

"Good question," the Captain replied towards the robots with a smirk. "Your guests are hungry!"

EVE giggled and pointed at the cake, warbling towards the humans, "Yours."

Uttering some pleased "Aah"s and "Finally"s, they pitched into the pastry, obviously remembering the good and rich-in-fat times they had had aboard the Axiom. Hal scuttled among them, and making sure that he was not forgotten, he dived into the cake to receive his share of the sweetness.

"Eww!" the Captain exclaimed. "WALL-E, you should teach your friend here some table manners!" Then he added with a chuckle, "Alright, little guy. This slice of the cake is, obviously, yours."

As a VN-GO robot entered the trailer and started painting a hardcopy of the photo on the Steward's screen, EVE took WALL-E aside and they moved back a little, into a quiet corner of the trailer. There EVE connected a projection device that the Captain had given her.

As her internal counter reached T minus 40 seconds, the projector flickered on. It showed, from the white probe's perspective, as she and WALL-E danced through space together outside the Axiom, WALL-E visibly fighting to control his fire extinguisher.

Then, as the recording showed EVE giving WALL-E the first tender spark kiss, the white robot pointed and sighed happily. This was the moment that she had chosen as her very personal Anniversary, the moment that best summed up what meeting the trash robot had meant for her life.

WALL-E though just watched the recording, his eyes conveying the happy memories and the longing brought up by the images. He did not really comprehend what EVE tried to tell him, but it did not matter.

As EVE's counter approached zero, she closed her eyes, leaned in and rested her white plastic head against WALL-E's grey metallic frame. A gentle spark spanned between them, lasting almost half a second. The trash robot nearly swooned, chittering some incomprehensible noises.

EVE giggled and knew that, if they had been in space right now, WALL-E surely would have once more floated away.

And WALL-E, savouring the moment as best as he could, held the white gardener robot gently between his grappler arms. He looked at her, wishing intently that one day they might be able to dance together again.

Maybe for their second Anniversary.