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I'm looking for the name of a short story I remember reading at my University library between 2001-2003. It had a great selection of Sci-Fi stories and anthologies. I'm pretty sure this story was in an anthology with other robot stories.

The backstory was about robots that were virtually immortal, whose whole purpose was to experience different things. They would adapt their bodies to suit the experience. I don't remember specifics, but these are some examples:

  • One would sit inside a volcano, so they would use super resilient skin.

  • Another would fly through space so they would suit up accordingly.

The main part of the story focused on a group of robots that wanted a real experience, so they ditched all their super-strong bodies and became what is essentially mortal. They then went out into the woods (or something like that) so they could experience what it was like to be scared. I have a feeling that the story bordered on horror as something started hunting the robots, but that could be my memory acting up.

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Sounds like 'The night of the storm' - short story by Dean Koontz.

Quoting description from Wikipedia:

"The Night of the Storm": a group of intelligent robots go on a hunting trip in the woods, where they learn that the myth of "human beings" may not be a myth after all.

I've got a copy in the 'Strange Highways' collection.

The protagonist is 'Curanov', a robot built in an automated factory more than 100 years ago. Like all the others, the purpose of his existence is to gain more 'experiences', and he is bored of climbing mountains, exploring the arctic, etc because he's always adapted to the environment. In response, he visits a nature reserve to go hunting, while modifying himself to have less extraordinary senses and strength.

As Curanov and his companions set off, they are warned that

"we get a dozen reports each month about `human beings' sighted in wilder regions northwest of here."

After hunting a buck, they find hints that something not a robot is in the area:

"There," Tuttle said, pointing at the ground before them. "Footprints," Curanov said. Leeke said, "They don't belong to any of us." "So?" Curanov asked. "And they're not robot prints," Tuttle said. "Of course they are." Tuttle said, "Look closer."

The consider following the tracks, but end up getting nervous in the forest and go back to their lodge. The discuss whether sentient organic beings are possible, but dismiss the idea.

One of the robots disappears with their rifles overnight. The find him 'terminated' nearby, and decide to leave. They are followed and attacked by men:

Tuttle had fallen back under the relentless attack of a two-legged creature that moved almost as a robot might move, though it was clearly an animal. [...] A fleshy face stared back at him from a dozen feet away, blowing steam in the cold air. It was framed in a fur-lined hood: a grotesque parody of a robot face. Its eyes were too small for visual receptors, and they did not glow. Its face was not perfectly symmetrical as it should have been; it was out of proportion, also puffed and mottled from the cold. It did not even shine in the torchlight, and yet ... ... yet ... obvious intelligence abided there.

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  • I'd completely forgotten the Human part of the story, but everything else sounds exactly like the story I was looking for! Thank you so much. I had no idea it was a Dean Koontz story. Edit: I marked this as the correct answer.
    – Mattrixk
    Jun 5 '20 at 1:19

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