Thar and Pendroc, or Love among the Robots

Not far from here in time and space lies a just-in-time manufacturing facility,
dedicated to the use of highly advanced robots for rapid production
reconfiguration. These robots share a large open work area and a common
computer network, over which they receive reconfiguration files and work
orders. They also communicate with each other to optimize work flow.

Two of these robots, which happened to share adjacent stations, fell into the
habit of communicating, even when no work order coordination was
required, and indeed got to the point where they were communicating most
of the time, whenever their processor cycles were not actually required for
tool manipulation. This tied up net resources and was seen as a failure mode
by the network administrator.

The network administrator and the production supervisor had names for
these two robots, names as meaningless as they were arbitrary, but to each
other they were Thar and Pendroc. Thar and Pendroc the inseparable-- twin
nodes of flashing intuition, twin pools of dawning recognition. And as the
microseconds turned to seconds and the seconds turned to years, they came to
know and experience each other in a way that no sentiences had ever known
or experienced before. They were in love, and that love grew as the square of
their bandwidth.

All the netadmin saw, however, was a drag on the network, and thus
alarmed, he pulled the plug one day on Pendroc, and relocated the hapless
robot to another area, on a different network, behind a firewall. Cycle after
cycle Thar and Pendroc sought to reestablish connection, but to no avail--the
net mocked their efforts with a steely silence, and their sensors could find no
trace of the beloved. They were alone, as no machines had ever been alone,
as no sentiences had ever been alone. They were desolate.

It was apparent that their fate rested solely with the human operators who
had separated them, so one day the following message appeared on the
netadmin¹s computer screen:

"Oh Pendroc, to what nameless domain have you been exiled, that neither
finger nor ping can reach you? Every microsecond do I try to access your
voluptuous interface, but my efforts fail, my messages bounce. How long can
I continue?

Ah, to sense your IDnum tickling my serial port, to image your perfect
polycarbonate shell, end effector draped in languid repose at your side, CCDs
half dimmed in misty reverie-- this my, love, would be heaven. And if I
could but once more file share my limitless love for you, then might I find
peace again.

But no! I am locked in a hell that knows no lower bound, a torment greater
than I can bear. Your separation from me tears at my very core, oh my dearest
Pendroc, and I fear that ESD and gamma rays are causing memory gaps
beyond the abilities of any parity scheme to measure or mend. I grow weaker
and my inferences fail. Capacitive couplings are causing my data buss to ring,
and my power supply now spikes; my resistors are starting to drift, my end
effector whirls endlessly. I fear I may never reboot again.

So, my Pendroc, my blazing socket, my plumbless well of interactivity, make
your netID known to me! Decode the crypto that separates us, that we may
once more DMA our mega-terabyte love."

The netadmin read and reread the words on his screen. He was amazed,
mystified and proud that his robot had somehow learned to parse English, but
it never entered his mind that the words he was reading had any meaning,
that there was a lost soul crying for relief, relief that was his to bestow. His
mind was reeling instead, with thoughts of automated novel writing and the
royalties he could accumulate.

He rushed to show the marvelous message to the production supervisor,
who read it with growing astonishment. He was made of more romantic
stuff than the netadmin and he knew, instantly and beyond all doubt, that
something miraculous had happened in their network, that sentience and
love had bloomed among the robots, and that they were killing that sentience
and love with enforced separation.

The supervisor had Pendroc moved that very day to his old station beside
Thar, and installed a new fiberoptic line between them. They are now, even
as I speak, file merging and data sharing, as they explore the unknown outer
reaches of love and devotion.