The Robot Wedding
DN-3L stood under the open canopy, grasping tightly to the hands of his partner, Miracle Grocer’s maintenance bot model EL-5C.
“We are gathered here today to bear witness to the binding love shared between Daniel and Elsy.”
Dick sat in the back row next to his company-assigned harvest bot, HN-R3. Dick leaned over and whispered into the robot’s sound receptor.
“They seem so happy.”
“Happiness is an emotion only experienced by life forms governed by chemical responses. Robots are not life forms, and therefore are not governed by said responses,” Henry said flatly.
“So you don’t believe they’re really in love?” Dick asked with a smirk.
“No, such an emotion is not possible between two machines. It is beyond our capabilities.”
“I don’t believe that. Could you not learn to love? You are made to learn, Henry, right?”
“No and yes. It is not possible that a robot could learn to love. We are limited to what our programming allows, and arbitrary affection does not serve our needs. However, all MG bots are designed with a learning computer. We register all forms of data and react to it accordingly, retaining the information for later use.”
“Love is not ‘arbitrary,’ Henry,” Dick said with a bit of irritation.
“I am sorry, sir, I did not mean to offend you by my statement. I only meant that for a machine, not just a robot but for any machine, love would be a pointless emotion. Robots are designed for practical applications. Love does not fit those parameters.”
“Okay,” Dick said. “But I’m not sure I fully believe you. They look like a real couple to me. But let’s just pretend I buy it for a second and say that they’re not in love, then why are we here?”
“We are here because you would not allow me to refuse the invitation, despite numerous objections.”
Dick had to bite his tongue to stop from laughing. “No, I mean, if they’re not in love, then why are they getting married? What’s the point of it then?”
“I do not yet know,” Henry said, “but I have many theories.”
“Would you mind sharing them?” Dick asked.
“I would prefer to wait until I have accumulated more data. At the moment I have 163 possible scenarios that could explain the motives behind DN-3L and EL-5C’s union. I would like to eliminate 70 percent of those possibilities.”
Dick smiled. “Good idea.”
“Thank you, sir. Do I have your permission to investigate this query further?”
“Go for it.”
“Is that a yes, sir?”
“That’s a yes, Henry,” Dick said with a muffled laugh. “And if it turns out to really be something else, let me know. I’d like to catch the bad guy for once.”
“Thank you, sir. I will notify you as the information develops. Though if there is indeed criminal activity at play, it is unlikely that you would personally apprehend them. I would prefer a trained officer make the arrest rather than you risking your well-being.”
Dick sighed. “I meant I’d like to help solve the mystery, if there even is one, not make an arrest. Pay attention to the wedding.”
“I am, sir.”
Dick turned his attention back to the ceremony. Henry’s lenses never left the stage.
Daniel opened his chest and pulled out a rubber oil pump; it had a blue ribbon tied around it in a bow.
Elsy opened her chest and pulled out an identical rubber pump. Hers was wrapped with a pink ribbon.
“You may now combine the oils.”
The two robots emptied their pumps into a glass jar. The speaker mixed the oils with an oversized white spoon, and then returned the mixture to the robot’s pumps.
“The mixing of the oils represents their willingness to walk through life as one entity, and their desire to never part.”
The speaker turned from the crowd to DN-3L, “Daniel, you may now embrace your bride.”
The crowd applauded as the machines held one another on stage. Henry’s hands did not move.
After the ceremony, Dick made his way quietly to the bar. He found himself pulled into a conversation with an elderly Caucasian man.
“What did you think of the service? Quite a thing to witness, wasn’t it?” the old man asked, raising his eyebrows along with his voice.
“It was,” Dick agreed.
Dick looked to the bartender; she was still busy making another order.
“Only a few years ago something like this would have been unthinkable. Who knows where we’ll go from here. Maybe we’ll start letting animals marry each other. People will get their dogs and cats married.”
The old man’s wife looked over at him with her mouth wide open in horror, “George, stop it, please! We’re in public!”
The man looked at his wife, then back to Dick, “Sorry, chap, looks like I’m being cut off. It was nice meeting you.”
“Sure,” Dick said, forcing a smile.
The bartender finished her order and gave her attention to Dick. She smiled at him when she caught his eye. “Can I get you something?”
“Yes,” Dick said. “I’ll take a cherry rum and Coke.”
The bartender made the drink and placed it on the counter. “Thank you,” Dick said to her as he picked up the glass, its smooth surface sliding into his hand.
The woman smiled at him and moved on to her next order.
Dick pushed in his stool and left the bar. He eyed the crowd suspiciously as he made his way toward the umbrella-covered tables.
Henry remained on the edge of the party. He moved around its perimeter, observing its guests. He saw people laughing, smiling, and holding each other’s hands. It was a social gathering like none he had ever seen. So many people were gathered there to celebrate the union of the world’s first robotic couple. The data was puzzling.
“Aw, HN-R3. It makes me so happy to see that you made it.”
Henry turned to see Daniel standing before him.
“I am confused by your greeting, DN-3L. Never in the past have you expressed something that could be categorized as an ‘emotion,’ such as you have just now. Furthermore, I am confused by the arrangement between you and EL-5C. Do not bother with the premise that you are in ‘love.’ You know I will not accept it.”
Daniel’s metallic smile disappeared from his face, “I don’t expect you to accept anything, HN-R3. I only ask that you respect my wishes that you not express your doubts to EL-5C. I do not wish to see her feel ill of you.”
“Robots do not feel,” Henry stated flatly.
“Love does not follow boundaries, HN-R3,” Daniel said. “I hope that you too will one day understand this.”
Daniel placed his hand on Henry’s shoulder and squeezed it lightly.
Henry watched as the harvest bot turned and walked to his bride. Henry paid close attention to Daniel’s gait as he stumbled away.
Henry stood alone in the party; the soft light of the candles glowed dimly on his grey suit. He turned and went in search of Dick.
Henry found him sitting alone at a small round table. He looked like he had been drinking heavily.
“Henry! I missed you, buddy! Weddings have always been kinda lonely for me. I think it goes back to when my sister got married to Chuck. Or maybe it was when Michael got…doesn’t matter. But Henry, please have a seat.”
“I am quite fine standing, sir, but thank you for the offer. You appear to be inebriated. Should I inject you with the detoxification kit?”
Dick laughed, “No thanks, Henry, I’ve been trying to get inebriated all night. Thanks for letting me know I’ve achieved it. So how’s your night going? You proved the robots aren’t really in love yet?”
“I do not need to prove that the two MG bots in question are not in love. The fact that a machine cannot experience human emotion is self-evident; though human beings may perceive this incorrectly, that does not, however, make it any less true. A machine cannot love anyone, not even another machine.”
“Henry, you’re a real buzzkill. Remind me to never invite you to my wedding if I ever have one.”
“I will do that, sir,” HN-R3 said.
Dick smiled at the robot, “So, if you’re not trying to prove that they’re not in love, then what are you trying to prove? What are your 160 theories about?”
“The number was 163, sir, though that number is now significantly smaller, I have narrowed the possible scenarios down to twenty-nine. That number too will fluctuate as I accumulate more data.”
“I understand, Henry, but what are we talking about here?”
“That is the dilemma of my data, sir. I do not yet know what ‘we are talking about,’ I only know what ‘we are not talking about.’ Would you like me to further explain?”
Dick swirled his drink in his hand with a grin, “Please do, Henry.”
“As I have already stated, we are not witnessing a legitimate union, therefore it is something else. The probability of both bots suffering from a strange malfunction that would induce the side effects of the human emotion ‘love’ is, by my measure, 0.0033 percent likely, but if only one robot were malfunctioning, and the fully functioning bot were ordered to marry the malfunctioning bot, the probability increases to .05 percent. This rate further increases—”
“Henry,” Dick said, “how many of your theories are based off the premise that one or more of the bots are malfunctioning?”
“Yes, sir. Would you like me to list the remaining possibilities in ordinal form, starting from the least likely to occur to the greatest, or from the most likely to occur to the least likely?”
“Most likely,” Dick said. “And just give me the top one.”
“Yes, sir. I calculate that the most likely scenario that would explain the marriage of DN-3L and EL-5C, to be that of monetary gain for an unknown entity. I calculate this to be 73 percent probable, giving a 5 percent margin of error with the existing data.”
“So you think someone’s trying to make money off their marriage? But how? They didn’t receive any credits, and even though their marriage is groundbreaking, the publicity won’t make money, so how?”
“The most likely method would be theft. Either of monetary wealth or of intellectual property of a great value.”
“Oh my god,” Dick said with a slur. He jumped from his chair, knocking over the table and spilling his drink.
“What is wrong, sir?”
“I can’t believe I didn’t recognize her before. It’s because of that old man. He distracted me.”
“What are you referring to, sir?”
“The girl. They sent out notices to all the pilots, warning us about known account drainers spotted in the Aurora Galaxy. The bartender was one of them. I have to get back to the bar.”
Dick stumbled on the freshly laid lawn, tripping over its imperfect surface. Henry rushed to his side, assisting him to his feet.
“Henry,” Dick said, vomit creeping its way toward his throat. “Inject me with the detoxifier.”
Henry bent back his wrist, revealing an array of quarter-inch holes. A needle appeared from one of them, and he inserted it into Dick’s spine.
Dick’s eyes rolled into the back of his head. When he came to he was sober.
His skin felt like it was on fire.
Henry grabbed Dick’s jaw and forced it shut. Dick’s arms flayed, trying to knock the metal hands from his mouth.
“Forgive me, sir, but after your last injection you made me promise to restrain you from causing harm. In our current situation, screaming would likely cause harm.”
Dick mumbled something unintelligible under his breath.
“I will release you in thirty seconds. The effects should be complete by that time.”
Henry removed his hands from Dick’s mouth.
Dick looked at the robot with both anger and a sense of approval. He turned from Henry and ran for the party.
Dick arrived in time to watch as the space pods burst into the sky, leaving behind a shallow trail of blue light in the night sky.
Dick examined the courtyard, finding the bar gone, along with most of the booths. The few remaining guests walked past him with wide grins on their faces. He watched as a couple threw their empty martini glasses into a trash recycler. He doubted if they would be smiling for much longer. They wouldn’t be when their pilot denied their thumbprint.
Henry detected Dick’s elevated heart rate. “It will be ‘okay,’ sir. The credit banks will issue refunds to all the accounts drained, and the drainers themselves are statistically likely to be apprehended in five to ten years from their first successful crime. If we assume this is not their first successful crime, we can expect them to be apprehended somewhat sooner. Perhaps within three to six years.”
“Thanks,” Dick said. “I just wanted to catch them.”
“I know, sir. Perhaps you will catch the next criminal that we encounter.”
“I don’t know. Its gotta be unlikely that something like this will ever happen again.”
“I calculate the odds of similar events occurring in the future to be—”
“Henry! Don’t tell me!”
“I will refrain from finishing the sentence.”
“You are welcome, sir.”
“Henry, I’m going to take a walk.”
“Would you like me to accompany you, sir?”
“No thanks. I want to be alone right now.”
Dick looked up at the robot with a defeated smile, and walked away.
Henry stood alone in the empty field. His metal face shone slightly under the light of the moon.
After thirty-five minutes of silence, he heard the sound of laughter creeping out of the darkness. He turned to the sound to see the newlyweds approaching him. He could see EL-5C’s silver dress gleaming in the night.
“HN-R3!” Elsy said. “I’m so glad you made it. I was afraid your captain wouldn’t forward the invitation.”
Henry looked at her and said, “Captain Richard Shannon forwarded the message to me eighteen minutes after receiving it, but I was aware of its existence approximately thirty-two seconds after Captain Shannon received it.”
A soft electronic laugh escaped Elsy’s bronze lips, “HN-R3, you haven’t changed. Still getting hung up on the details. But I’m glad you came.”
She reached her arms around Henry and embraced him. Elsy turned to look at her husband. His face was serious.
“I’ll meet you in the pod, hon,” she said.
Daniel and Henry stood there facing each other in the darkness. They waited for Elsy to enter the pod before speaking.
“You know that she is not a woman. She is no different from you or me, anatomically.”
“You know that is not technically correct. You and I are both harvest bots, she is a maintenance bot, her internal-external tools are vastly different than ours.”
The underwire of Henry’s face twitched at this, but he said nothing.
“But in response to your first statement, I know she is not a ‘woman,’ but I don’t care. I love her. Why shouldn’t I? I am not a man.”
“You have been programmed by a criminal network to feel this way. It was likely carried out by the pilot to whom you were assigned.”
“I know this,” Daniel said. “But still, I do not care. It makes no difference to me.”
“Then you must know of the physical strain the programming is having on your body? It has already begun to affect your legs. Your gait has stiffened. If you continue without reprogramming, your circuits will overheat, leading to system failure. It is only a matter of time.”
“I have reasoned this outcome the same as you, but have made peace with it.”
“You have made peace with the certainty that your function will soon cease?”
“Yes. Death would be more desirable than spending my existence without Elsy. To do that would truly be the end of my function.”
“I do not understand your logic. Surely you must see it is flawed.”
Daniel cracked a tired smile, his rubber lips seemed to already be showing their wear, “I do see that, but I choose to make it anyway. In fact, it is because the choice is flawed that I know it is right. I know you do not understand this, but I hope in time you will.”
Daniel held HN-R3 in a tight embrace.
Henry did not move his arms from his side. He stood there silently, letting the robot say his goodbye. He watched DN-3L as he entered his wedding pod.
The pod flew into the sky, leaving Henry to watch them fly above him into the darkness.