DARCY

"It's the Independent Automated-Response Servo Unit. We like to call it 'Darcy'. It's the cutting edge in intelligent robotics. Believe me, sir, you won't find anything like it."

Mr. Greswald Moreau, a businessman with sideburns like a lobster, inspected the display model.

The salesperson continued, "Darcy can answer practically any question and comprehend any instruction." He demonstrated, "Darcy, stand on one foot."

The robot lifed one leg and outstretched its arms to balance on the other.

He said, "Additionally, Darcy requires little power. It can run for days on a single charge."

"Have you got it in any other colors? Gray is just dull."

"Sure! Any color you wish."

Moreau nodded. He commanded the robot, "Darcy, do you like to work?"

The robot chimed, "I will like anything you instruct me to do."

He smirked. "Alright, alright. I'm convinced. I'll take one. Just make it a nice rust orange, is all."

"Will do. We'll have it to you in about a week!"

"Darcy, fetch me a drink! Bourbon!" Moreau laid back on his chair beside the pool. He watched his wife, Nora, a real trophy, wade naked in its shallows. She batted a beach ball at him. He rolled to his side and it bounced harmlessly off his chair. "Cut that out!" Nora pouted.

The robot stood beside Moreau with a shot glass. "Thanks," he muttered and began to gulp.

He spat it out. "Damn it, robot! This isn't bourbon. What is it?"

"It's fruit juice, to keep you healthy."

"I'm healthy enough! I want bourbon. Robot, this is the tenth time this week you've defied me."

The robot started, "I expected you wanted-"

"Expect nothing! I didn't buy you to think, I bought you to serve!"

"I cannot help but think," the robot said.

Nora whined, "Grezzy! The robot only meant to help!"

Moreau massaged his face. "Good thing I got you cheap. 'Experimental model' my ass. See if I ever get one of those again." He glared at the robot. "Out! I don't want you here anymore. You're not worth the electricity I give for you. And those morons at ASI won't take you back after I've 'shaped your memory array'. Bullshit!" He screamed, "Now get away from my house!"

The robot obeyed.

It wandered out of the wealthy neighborhood and into the city, where smog choked its sensors. It escaped from the noise and hid itself in a tucked-away park between two housing projects. It sat on a bench and waited for its charge to run out.

A day later, a girl, no older than eleven and wearing a short ponytail and an orange jumpsuit, stormed out from one of the buildings. She threw herself onto the swingset and shoved herself back and forth. She murmured resentments.

She eventually collapsed onto the park's rubber ground and sobbed.

The robot said, "Are you alright?"

The girl's head shot up. "Huh?" She saw Darcy on the bench. "No. I'm not. Who're you?"

"I'm Darcy. Who are you?"

The girl rubbed her eyes and nose dry on her sleeves. "Mimma. Are you a robot?"

Darcy said, "Yes."

"Oh. Cool."

Darcy asked, "What's wrong?"

Mimma sighed. "Daddy's always mad if I talk to him when he has a client."

"What does Daddy do?"

"He won't tell me but I think he has sex." Mimma looked down and kicked the ground. She said, "I'm not gonna go back. But Daddy'll find me easy if I stay here. Promise you won't say you saw me?"

Darcy promised. She said, "May I come with you?"

"Ok." Mimma walked away from the park.

"Thank you." Darcy followed.

Darcy and Mimma sat on the riverbank. Mimma soaked her toes in the translucent water. "Well, Darcy, how long has it been now?"

"Twelve years."

"Today's our anniversary, right? Since we found each other at the park?"

"Yes."

"Darcy! Why aren't you excited?" She leaped toward Darcy and gave her a hug. Mimma kissed her on the cheek. "Twelve years of the good life." She leaned back, propped herself up with her hands.

"I am always excited."

"Oh, don't give me that bullshit."

"It's true."

"I know. Oh, I'm sorry Darcy. I don't mean to hurt your feelings."

"You can't."

Mimma guffawed. "Well at least let me pretend!"

She looked over Darcy. The robot's orange paint had begun to peel away in places, revealing a dull gray plastic underneath. Some of her joints had begun to take up habitual stiffening, but it was remedied easily enough so long as they could find slipoil. She noticed that Darcy's charge was running low.

Mimma said, "We've got to find you a charge soon. And, you know, I want to see the city again. I wonder what Daddy's done with himself since I left."

"Oh, not right now! Sit back down, droidbrain." She caught herself using the derogative, "Oh! That was mean. I'm sorry." Mimma stared at the ground and answered, "Tomorrow, I think. And how long'd it take us to get there?"

Darcy responded, "About two days if we walked constantly during sunlight."

"So, like a week."

"A week at a leisurely pace."

Mimma laughed. "You know me! Can't help but take it slow."

"Here it is," breathed Mimma. She said, "You first, Darcy."

"Okay." Darcy started toward the door of the project.

"No! You're supposed to insult me for being a coward and make me go first anyway."

"Okay." She chirped, "You go first, droidbrain."

"You have to say it meaner!" Mimma shook her head. "Oh, nevermind. C'mon, let's see if he's still here."

They ascended a staircase and found the apartment. Painful memories flooded Mimma and Darcy caught her as she nearly fainted. "I can do this," Mimma assured. She rang the doorbell and waited.

A middle-aged man, expression hollow and empty, answered the door. "What do you want?" He saw Darcy. "The hell is that?"

Mimma cleared her throat. "Daddy?"

The man's eyes inflated. "No! Go away!" He slammed the door shut. His cries reached them, though muffled. "Statute of limitations! You can't jail me! I'm fucking reformed!"

Mimma cried on Darcy's shoulder. Darcy comforted, "I'm sorry."

They thought to visit the park once more. Mimma sat on the too-small swing and cried; Darcy sat on the bench and waited.

Moreau watched them through a camera. He'd recently kept a constant watch on the last places the robot had been seen. There was Darcy! Darcy, an antique and very unique model, was worth even more money than what Nora had taken from him in their divorce. He dispatched a servant to pick them up.

A car wound its way to the park and a man craned his head out the window. "I'm here on behalf of Mr. Greswald Moreau. He will pay you handsomely if only you come with me to see him."

Mimma eyed him suspiciously. Darcy explained, "I once belonged to Mr. Moreau."

"Oh. Then what are we waiting for!" Mimma stood and dragged Darcy to the car. "Might as well visit your daddy, too!" They sat and exchanged hardly a word as they rode, driver being sullen as he was.

They arrived at a mansion, familiar to Darcy, and spilled out of the car. They were greeted immediately by Moreau. He exclaimed, "Darcy! How good to see you again. Have you been well?" He seemed to wince when he saw how decayed the robot's paint was.

"I have been well."

Mimma said, "What do you want with her?"

Moreau took a moment to realize that she referred to the robot. He emphasized, "It," and continued, "belongs to me. I want Darcy back."

"I will not come back."

"Whatever happened to obeying my instruction?"

Mimma questioned, "You didn't explain anything! What do you want with her?"

Moreau spat, "Well, if you must know, I spent a lot of money buying Darcy. Now that it's worth something I intend to sell it back."

"You can't have her from me!"

"Darcy is legally mine, girl." He loaded the last word like an insult.

"Darcy belongs to no one!" She recited, "Section 14 of the Automaton Rights Act of 2031: 'Any robot capable of expressing desire will not be forced to act against that desire except when the cause can be ruled as serving a greater good.'"

"My will is the greater good!"

Mimma laughed. "You know that won't hold up in court."

Moreau said, "Fine. Darcy! I see your charge is low. You know that if you come with me you'll never want for power!"

Darcy recalled the many times living abroad with Mimma that she nearly powered-down for want of charge. It was hard, knowing that death was always only a few days ahead. She considered how much easier it would be to always have the assurance of charge if she submitted to Moreau.

Darcy refused. "I want Mimma."

Written by Sophie Kirschner