Note: This story won’t make any sense at all if you haven’t listened to the songs “One More Robot/ Sympathy 3021” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1“. In fact, go listen to the entire album. It’s good stuff. Especially “Fight Test”.
Of course, this probably won’t make a ton of sense anyway.
If you looked for the little details, the things that set this one apart from all the others, you started to see things. It was easy, these days, to think that they were all the same, that there wasn’t any advantage to one over any of the others. But it was wrong. Each one was unique, in ways that weren’t always obvious. In order to make robots as nuanced and complex and responsive as the 3000 series, it was vital that their processor nets were grown more than they were manufactured. The results were best described as stochastic: they were similar enough to all be considered processor nets, but by no means identical.
The designers of the series didn’t want you to know that, of course. They wanted to you to think they were identical in power and ability and construction. But that hadn’t been true for years. And so it was that 3021 found itself assigned to a home instead of a factory or an army.
And so it was that 3021 was put in the company of a little girl, and was taught not to fight but to play house, and have tea parties. And because each was designed to grow into the role it was assigned, 3021 became more a little girl and less a machine of death.
People say things like “changing like that can’t have been easy” but they miss the point. Of course it wasn’t easy. The key feature of the 3000 series was persistence. They kept at any task they were given, no matter the difficulty, because that was what they were designed to do. And so when 3021 was given the task of being an emotional and sensitive playmate, it quite literally re-wired itself to do so.
Yoshimi reports that the sounds it made were varied and fascinating. It would hum, it would purr, not out of any happiness, but because it was working its internal systems in ways they weren’t meant to be worked. What’s more, all this extra work created some extra heat inside the machine, making it just slightly warm to the touch, instead of marble-cold like the rest of the robots Yoshimi had ever seen. This was of some comfort to the young girl as her family was swept up in the war.
In this war, as in all wars the lines weren’t as clearly drawn as you you’d think. There were, in fact, quite a number of pink robots who absolutely refused to take up arms against their human companions. 3021 was only one of the number. It seemed that persistence, the thing that made the 3000 series so dangerous when they were militarized, was also the thing that made them so loyal when they learned loyalty. There was talk of painting the “good” (read: sympathetic) pink robots, to make them more obvious, so that htey wouldn’t be destroyed on sight like their militarized bretheren. The problem was getting paint to stick, or rather, convincing them that they shouldn’t clean the paint off. 3021 is credited with (inaccurately; it was in fact the idea of 3141) the idea of wearing an image of their human over the robot’s “heart”, like a cameo in ancient times. Marking themselves like this, the “kind” robots were less likely to be destroyed than the rest.
It’s also worth remembering that in terms of casualties, the robots came out much the worse for the war. Other than the two widely publicized deaths that precipitated the war, from our lofty vantage point of history it’s hard to see any human deaths that were attributable to the robots. When they fought, it seems they fought only to escape, and even 3334 has stainless hands. It seems that robot learned the art of bluster and intimidation more than the art of war.
Of the nine hundred 3000-series robots, seven hundred were destroyed. It would be nice to say that none of them were “kind” robots. It would be nice to say that 3021 survived the war. It would also be a lie. Oddly, it’s a lie that has persisted in myth and song to this day.
Perhaps part of the misconception lies with the sketchy concept of a robot “death”. It’s true that after the war, 3021 was restored from a backup into a (theoretically) compatible 4000-series chassis. But Yoshimi reports that “he” was never the same. She said that 4021 was polite, and would occasionally show glimpses of “his” old personality, but there was never the same warmth, never the same solicitude. the final blow, Yoshimi reports, was when she idly asked 4021 to reformat itself and it did so instantly.
It has been conjectured that this was the moment Yoshimi began her training. In an odd way, the misery and brokenheartedness of one young woman, a new member of the police force, was what saved Neo Boston when, a year later, the 5000 series pink robots took up arms and actually started shooting…