Robots With Feelings

Entry by: vanAdamme

2nd March 2015
The pair rolled through the abandoned facility nestled amongst the ruins of Mexico City. Machinery stood draped in dust and the floor was all but hidden beneath colourful, dry leaves.

"Remarkable," said RA-7, its wheels crunching the leaves beneath its tread. "Everything appears to be fully functional. This facility cannot have been used in centuries."

TI-13 wiped a metallic finger through the dust on a table. "It's not very tidy. I wonder where the Cleaning Units are?"

"Probably in Guadalajara with the rest of them."

"That’s right, I forgot about their annual pilgrimage. Good for them."

RA-7 investigated further through the facility. There were many offices and examination rooms and bedrooms. Sunlight arrowed through the windows and reflected off tiny motes of dust stirred up by the robot’s movement.

A heavy crash came from the main room and RA-7 sped in to see what had happened. Tread marks in the dusty floor led to an upturned chair then curved away to TI-13 who looked as contrite as one could without a display screen.

"What happened?"

"I was cleaning."

"You are a Tourist Information Unit, not a Cleaning Unit."

"I wanted the place to look nice."

RA-7 shook its head, beeped, and returned to its investigations. Beyond the offices stood an imposing door labelled "Staff Only". Whatever staff had worked here were long gone so RA-7 opened the door and went inside.

One side of the room functioned as a laboratory. Benches lined the wall and held microscopes, syringes and machines of unknown purpose. A selection of petri dishes balanced precariously in a tower at one end.

Suddenly, lights turned on. TI-13 could be heard whistling excitedly from another room.

"I found the light control panel!" it yelled.

RA-7 stared at the flourescent tubes that lit the room. They buzzed comfortingly. The Operations Units in the energy station must still be performing their functions and sending power to the facility. It trilled in relief.

A large glass cabinet took up the entire opposite wall, big enough to fit several robots. Entry was via a sliding glass door which bore various warning signs and symbols. They suggested that admittance was for trained personnel only. RA-7 ignored these and entered the room.

A wall readout showed a temperature of one hundred Kelvin. Ice crystals formed immediately on its exterior.

Shelves ran along the walls of the freezer, each loaded with small vials containing a translucent liquid. All were hermetically sealed. There were several hundred and each bore the label
"Cryopreservation Medium", followed by a serial number. RA-7 picked one up and examined it from all angles. The liquid inside flowed slowly when it turned the vial over.

RA-7 left the freezer and found TI-13 in the laboratory. It looked pleased with itself and held something behind its back.

"Guess what I found?"

"I am a Risk Assessment Unit, not a Guessing Unit."


TI-13 revealed the hidden object - a MultiBook. Its glass surface was smudged with dust but its label could still be read: Cloning Facility MC-3 Operations Manual.

RA-7 grabbed the MultiBook and patted its companion on its head.


The little pink blob floated in its tank. The two robots had been staring at it for hours.

"How long will this take?" asked TI-13.

"The manual says nine months with a standard deviation of ten days in total. The chamber will alert us when it is ready."

"That's six months away! Why so long? I was constructed in less than one hour."

"This process is fully automated, just so long as the fuel supply is not interrupted. I suppose that frees up the Robot Construction Units to do other things."

The pair watched it for several more hours.

"Should we take it outside?"

"It doesn’t need solar energy like we do."

TI-13 whistled in amazement. "What do we do when it’s ready?"

RA-7 hesitated, there were certain things it did not like admitting and a lack of knowledge was one of them. "The manual only covered the growth stage. I may have to do more research."

"It doesn’t look like much."

"It will get bigger every day."


They continued staring.


The little pink blob grew. It floated in the viscous fluid of the growth chamber and occasionally wriggled its appendages about with no apparent aim. A thin, rubbery feeding tube ran from the top of the chamber to the blob, supplying it with an organic fuel.

TI-13 stared at it.

"Why does it have five appendages?"

"I don’t really know. The manual says that means it is a Boy Unit."

"What do they do?"

"It's a bit hard to say. According to the Big Boy’s Book of Sports I found in that ancient library, they specialise in the throwing, catching and kicking of what appear to be large, soft ball bearings. I don't quite see the point of it but it seems very important and largely ritualistic."

"Why did you choose a Boy Unit?"

"The decision had already been made. The chamber appears to create Boy Units by default. I saw no reason to interfere with the settings.

TI-13 whirred the gears in its backup servo-motor unit in contemplation. "So could you also create Transport Units or Inventory Recording Units?"

"I do not believe so. This model of robot only comes in two types: Boy or Girl."

"So what can they do?"

"Anything they want to, I think. They are capable of learning, they self-repair and can even create near-copies of themselves. Their only drawback seems to be that before they reach their first century they run out of power and stop working."

"They just stop? Can't you put more energy into them?"

"Only up to a certain point it seems."


The little pink robot screamed. RA-7 had severed its rubbery feeding tube as per the instructions in the operations manual but it still screamed. They wrapped it in a bed sheet but the noise continued. TI-13 cradled it in its arms and rocked it from side to side, wheeling back and forth across the room.

"Why are you doing that?"

"I don’t know what else to do!"

RA-7 consulted its Multibook.

"It needs power straight away. Its removal from the growth tube has drained its reserves. I’ll fetch a battery from the storage room."

RA-7 left and returned with a bottle containing a thick, white liquid.

"We need to plug this in and wait until it is drained."

TI-13 took the bottle and inserted it into the screaming robot but the sound got worse.

RA-7 once more consulted its device.

"Try the other end."

TI-13 inserted the teat of the bottle into the small robot’s speaker and the noise instantly ceased. Its smooth, rubbery cheeks contracted and expanded as it drew in the liquid from the bottle. They watched, awestruck as the little robot refuelled. Its four appendages flailed around and it made loud sucking noises.

"I think its seal is damaged."

"Don't worry, they are self-repairing, remember?"

"Who's a clever little Boy Unit then? Who's a clever little Boy Unit?"

"What are you doing?"

"It's called encouragement. You wouldn't have heard of it."

"I am aware of it. Watch."

RA-7 leaned over the Boy Unit and spoke.

"Very good. You are performing that task with excellent efficiency. Continue in that respect for repeated praise."

RA-7 looked at TI-13 smugly.

The bottle had drained and the little robot's visual sensors slowly closed.

"What is it doing?"

"Automatic shut-down. They spend many hours a day recharging."

"Their energy supplies don't seem very efficient."

"No, but they eventually learn how to refuel manually. We won't need to do it forever."

A horrible sound suddenly erupted from the little construct. Both robots turned to it in surprise.

"It has two speakers! Why would it need one above its legs?"

"Perhaps so it can speak in stereo."

"My olfactory sensors are picking up something."

"Mine too. I think you should look."

TI-13 pulled back the bed sheet and looked between its legs.

"It's leaking some kind of black tar."

"The MultiBook said that would happen. Quite often, I believe."

"What should we do?"

"I'll find a hose."


TI-13 held the Boy Unit in its arms and watched it play with its fingers. "I could stare at it for hours."

RA-7 nodded. "It moved across the floor by itself earlier today, and its noises almost sound like language."

"It doesn't have an identification label. I think we should choose one."

"A good point. It’s a Boy Unit so how about BU-7?"

"I was thinking BU-13."

"I have seniority, it should be my decision."

TI-13 crossed its arms. "And what exactly makes you think that?"

"I am five thousand, one hundred and forty-seven hours old, a full six hours older than you."

"We should compromise. How about BU-10?"

RA-7 considered this. It’s internal gears spun as it wheeled back and forth.

"It's perfect."


RA-7 and TI-13 wheeled along the abandoned street outside the facility. A slight wind blew around them, picking up small leaves and discarded plastic bags.

Little BU-10 swung its arms back and forth and walked in front of them, investigating everything it could see. Every so often it would suck on a nutrient pack that had been tied around its neck with a piece of string.

RA-7 watched it play while calculating the probability of it falling off a rock and cracking open its CPU casing. A casing that was inexplicably covered with long, light brown fur.

"BU-10! Be careful! Don't climb that! The chances of injury are statistically significant!" said RA-7.

"Oh settle down, it'll be fine. It needs to explore and learn, remember? You told me that."

"I am just concerned for its safety, that's all."

"I know."

RA-7 watched as BU-10 climbed into a small hole along a fence.

"It certainly seems to enjoy exploring. It must get that from you. I only wish it shared my love of risk assessment. It puts everything it finds into its fuel intake valve!"

TI-13 took one of RA-7's graspers in its own.

"We should go for a holiday, all three of us. I would enjoy visiting some of the places I am an expert on."

"Where would you like to go?"

"I was thinking Antarctica. I’ve always wanted to see snow."

"It might be too cold for BU-10. It can only handle a very small temperature range."

"It’s not as cold as the freezer back at the facility and BU-10 handled that without complaint."

"We’ll see."

The pair continued down the street and BU-10 laughed to itself over a small rock it had found and was trying to fit into its mouth. TI-13 watched it play and felt joy spreading through its circuits.

"Was there enough material in the facility to create more of these units?"

"Oh yes, enough for hundreds."

"Should we make another one?"

RA-7 stopped and considered.

"I hadn’t really thought about it."

"We should have a Girl Unit. You told me before that Boy and Girl Units have the ability to assemble more of their own but you never told me how."

RA-7 pointed at the sky. "Look, a bird."

"Anyway, I think two would be nice," said TI-13.

"Very well. We can make a Girl Unit to complement BU-10. They can be companions."

The sun was setting behind them and the trio continued their journey along the empty street. Their shadows stretched out before them into the distance. BU-10 babbled happily to itself and poked a stick it had found into a pile of rubble.

The older robots watched their creation at play. RA-7 turned to its companion and beeped in contentment.

"Let's see what the future holds."
Marker 1
Marker 2
Marker 3