Though the definition of time was the same for both humans and robots, the true perception of it was much different for either of them. Robots could track the passing hours and days, but usually only gave it attention when it concerned their directives or programs.
Wall-E had originally been programmed to not mind time. Their program had been designed to keep them working without putting functions in danger, like getting caught in sandstorms, throwing themselves from a skyscraper, being submerged in floods, or running out of battery in an unfortunate place.
That's when the first auto modifications to Wall-E program happened. Working throughout the night quickly spent their batteries, and left them barely any energy to activate their solar panels to recharge. Many had been lost for that unfortunate slip, but the same losses taught many others to go into stand-by mode through the night so that they could still recharge in the morning and go on with their directives.
From that first modification, many others came. As their numbers decreased, the ones left learned more, an quicker every passing decade, changing their own programs on their own to keep moving on. Their creator had not placed any code in their system so that they could change their behavior to survive. Maybe it had been a glitch. A fortunate glitch.
And glitches gave way to varying behaviors. Varying behaviors turned into personalities. And personalities became emotions.
It was about 600 years after the creation of Waste Allocator Load Lifter – Earth Class robots that a whole new and odd emotions invaded their program.
Normal robots didn't question their directives. They'd just do it, not minding what for, why or what would happen afterwards. But normal robots didn't have emotions either, did they?
The thousands of holograms scattered around them didn't give them enough answers. They had been created to do that, they knew it. But was that is? Nothing else? Was it even worth it, with so many already lost? They were clearly already too late anyway. About 600 years had passed, 595 beyond the expiration date of their directive.
That's when one of the Wall-E units had found it. A huge dead tree, safely hidden inside a cave in the outskirts of Sector NA-001. It stirred their curiosity, and so they looked for answers among the garbage.
They found pictures, and saw how beautiful it was. How beautiful Earth had been. And it returned their will to keep going. To keep cleaning up Earth. They wanted to see it beyond pictures.
More of them were being lost to the harshness of the planet. They realized that maybe there wouldn't be a single one of them left to see a living tree.
So they built their own.
At certain times, in a period of about five years, when they felt the first signals of losing hope, they would return to that same spot to remember their new purpose. And after every visit, it was more fulfilling than a summer morning charge. They returned to their directive eagerly, each one with their own unique tics and perks.
Their numbers kept descending though. And the visits became more frequent.
Until the very last unit of its kind was left functioning. It came back each year with a green gift to the tree, which had been named Speranza. Why an Italian word? A unit that had been produced for Sector EU – 100, city formerly known as Rome, for some reason had been mistakenly assigned to operate in Sector NA – 001, city formerly known as New York. The word had sounded funny at first, but they accepted the name. The meaning suited well with the purpose of that place anyway.
Robots usually only gave time attention when it concerned their directives or programs. But they could still sense the passing of days,… weeks,… months,… years,... decades,…
And about an entire century spent in almost complete loneliness. The last functioning robot produced on Earth had only trinkets and cockroaches for company, but it wasn't the same as it had been before.
Yet he never gave up. When he started to even consider giving up, he'd search for weeks on end if necessary to find a green offering to Speranza. Then he'd sigh and go back to work. Watching to his most recent discovery, a VHS tape of Hello Dolly!" also worked.
It kept Wall-E going…
…to this very day.
Eve's cheerful voice sent a jolt of both happiness and surprise to his mechanisms. His lenses readjusted and refocused, as he looked up at the white robot hovering next to him, holding his shovel hand with her parted fingers, happy upturned crescents looking back at him.
"Evah…" He replied adoringly.
She giggled, her bullet form shivering up and down in a cute way.
They looked back at the huge tree before them. A real and magnificent living tree, with a sturdy trunk raising firmly from the soil and reaching for the skies with soft green leaves gently moving randomly to the wind. It seemed to sing to them with happy high pitched chirping and twittering.
Wall-E lowered his lenses to the soft grass under his treads. He already learned that the small green plants in form of tiny harmless blades were much stronger than they looked, and they would not break or die if you stood on them. And without that worry in mind, he was free to think about other things.
800 years… 100 years of happiness and companionship. And even more special, of love.
Wall-E never truly expected that his efforts would be so greatly paid off. He barely even expected to be able to see a living tree with his own binoculars and register that image in his very memory chip. But it was there, and more than that, he had friends once again. Even more than that, he had Eve.
Time was really an amazing thing, Wall-E decided. It might not have made much sense to him in the beginning, when the first adaptations to his code had started. But all around him, time changed everything. He saw his human friends grow old. Some of them had passed away. He saw Earth healing, plants sprouting, animals appearing and spreading. He saw the new human buildings in new colors, and as they slowly got grimy with the passing days.
He could even see Eve's pristine white body pale a bit over time, despite the best attempts of the cleaning robots of the Axiom. His own body, which had been replaced with newly produced parts, had rusted all over once again.
Time was a powerful and unstoppable thing. It spared no one. Not even Wall-E, who had withstood against it for so long.
But truth be told: Wall-E already had an old soul. He had grown tired and weary, and even if every single one of his parts could be replaced once again, he doubted he would feel any newer. And he also doubted he would get answers for what time kept in store for him next. His human friends didn't find out until it happened to them. Would it happen to him as well?
Wall-E felt a warm and familiar feeling against his optics.
"Evaaah…" He cooed happily at the received spark-kiss.
With her giggle around him again, Wall-E decided that this time, he would not seek for answers. He would wait for it to come to him. And until then, he would enjoy every single second he could by the side of his Eve. After all, it was not every time you get such a miracle happen. Or like that same misplaced unit that should have been assigned to Sector EU-100 had said long ago…
"Mirrrr…ahhhh…culo." Wall-E mumbled, pointing his shovel claw to the tree. Which that same small plant in a boot had become over time.
Smiling, Eve nodded.
"Miraculo." She looked towards the tree, clutching his shovel lightly. "Our miracle."