flat screen display

and sharp as a tack
(the Chuck au)

“Darcy, what do you think you’re doing?” Jane says at the exact moment Darcy swings her legs over the window ledge.  Her shoulders droop and Darcy shuts her eyes tight.

One, two, three, four-

“Darcy!”

Oh, right…

“Um, I was escaping?” she replies, shoulders drooping.

“It’s your birthday party.”

“Yeah, well, they aren’t exactly my friends,”

“That’s because you don’t have any friends.”

“I do too have friends…they just aren’t here.”

“You haven’t had friends since you dropped out two years ago.”

“That’s a matter of opinion,” Darcy says easing back into her room. She does have friends, work friends, who are more than acquaintances but maybe not friend-friends.

“Darcy I have invited real live men here for you. Nice men.”

‘Nice men’ in Jane speak meant doctors. It always meant doctors, Jane being one and married to one, or possibly that one male nurse that was gorgeous until he opened his mouth. And Darcy, well, she had a tendency to make a terrible first impression, whether she wanted to or not.

….

Click, click, scroll.

She really should have gone to bed an hour ago, but five more minutes won’t kill her. Or forty if she was being honest with herself. Darcy was mostly always honest with herself.

She checks email one last time. Junk, junk…James? An email from James. Oh, God.

James was…awesome. He was smart, gorgeous and they could have had something. Maybe they would have if Darcy hadn’t been painfully awkward in college, or you know her whole damn life, and they didn’t end up becoming friends

With no little bit of trepidation she opens the email.  

the terrible troll raises his sword

What?, she thinks, racking her brain for the right response. There was a game, a game she hasn’t thought about in the two years since Darcy failed at life and dropped out. Go big or go home, and she went home. Home to her perfect sister and a crappy job fixing computers at the local Buy More. Shut up, brain.

It takes a few attempts before she finds the words in her head and her fingers fly across the keyboard.

attack troll with nasty knife

The screen flickers and images flood the screen. She cannot move. Cannot blink.

“You’re going to be late,” Jane shouts.

"Urgh,” Darcy winces, cradling her head in her arms as she sits up on the floor. Everything hurts, but her head hurts worse. “Ow, ow, ow.”

“Darcy, are you even listening to me? You’ll lose your job.”

“Shut it, Jane, my head hurts,” Darcy moans. She scrambles across the bedroom to get her shirt and tie off the hook. It smells fresh enough when she sniffs it. Good enough.

Work sucks more than usual the next day.

Her head won’t stop pounding no matter how much aspirin and coffee she downs.

…General Ross will be arriving here later today.

“He’s already here,” Darcy says, waving a vague hand at the news playing on flat screens displayed behind the Nerd Herd desk. Nobody listens to her. That isn’t anything new.

….

“Please hold.”

“No, no, no…damn it,” Darcy says, rolling her eyes at the tinny Muzak playing in her ear.

“I like ‘em big and stupid,” Clint mutters low.

“I like ‘em big and real dumb, I like ‘em big and stupid. What kind of guy does a lot for me. Superman with a lobotomy,” Darcy sings, short pink nails tapping on the keyboard in front of her, phone held between head and shoulder.

“Excuse me, I hope I’m not interrupting,” rumbles a low voice.

Darcy jumps, hands tangling in the cord of the phone, “Oh, my God.”

“Sorry, I, uh, need some help,” says the same deep voice. Darcy looks up, and up. Holy crap, he was beautiful. Tall and cut. Unfair.

Tight white t-shirt, blue motorcycle jacket, baseball cap, dark jeans. Bright blue eyes hidden behind hipster glasses that Darcy would have mocked if not for her propensity for wearing them herself. Soft pink lips, strong jaw with just a hint of stubble.

“Its a song, Julie Brown, totally 80s,” Darcy says, face hot. Kill me now.

“Yeah.”

Clint snickers beside her and says “Welcome to the Buy More, I’m Clint and this is Darcy.”

“Steve,” he says with a half smile, which was half adorable and seventy five percent gorgeous and roughly ninety seven percent panty melting. “Didn’t think anyone named their kids Clint any more… or Darcy.”

“Well, my mother is a member of the Jane Austen Society, and carnival freaks found him in a dumpster.”

“But they raised me as their own,” Clint says dryly.

“I’m here about this,” he says, pulling a starkphone from his pocket. It’s an older model, practically paleolithic. 

“Dude, that’s ancient.”  

“I’ve only had it a few years,” Steve says defensively, phone cradled in the palm of his hand.

“Ancient,” Darcy nods. She plucks the phone from his hand, absolutely doesn’t think about the jolt down her spine when her fingers brush against warm calloused skin. She unscrews the back of the case to check the battery. It’s in place but there is a screw loose. She tightens the screw and assembles the phone again.

“There you go, Steve,” she says, lips curving in a wide grin as she holds the phone in the cage of her fingers. Chipped nails painted neon pink. Steve’s eyes sweep over her slow and the rough calluses of his fingers linger on her skin as he plucks the starkphone from her grip. He smiles again. Slow like honey, her brain sings softly, which is ridiculous as the honey in the bear bottle is fast as anything. Darcy’s belly gives a traitorous flip.

“Thanks, Darcy.”

“Ask him out already,” Clint hisses beside her nudging her with his elbow.

“Uh…”

(A young woman is smiling towards the left of the picture, and is sitting at a desk, with one hand touching a white encased robot.)

Cynthia Breazeal: Why she kicks ass

  • She is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she is the director of the Personal Robots Group (formerly the Robotic Life Group) at the MIT Media Laboratory. She is best known for her work in robotics where she is recognized as a pioneer of Social Robotics and Human Robot Interaction. In 2003, she was named to the MITTechnology ReviewTR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35.
  • She developed the robot Kismet as a doctoral thesis looking into expressive social exchange between humans and humanoid robots. Kismet is internationally recognized, and is one of the best known robots developed to explore social and emotional aspects of human-robot interaction.
  • Kismet and some of the other robots Breazeal co-developed while a graduate student at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, can be found at the MIT Museum. Notable examples include the upper torso humanoid robot Cog and the insect-like robot Hannibal.
  • She continues to work on social interaction and socially situated learning between people and robots.
  • The successor to Kismet, Leonardo, another globally recognized robot (co-developed with Stan Winston Studio and recognized in 2006 by Wired Magazine as one of the “50 Best Robots Ever”) is used to investigate social cognition and Theory of Mind abilities on robots with application to human-robot collaboration, in addition to developing social learning abilities for robots such as imitation, tutelage, and social referencing.
  • Nexi is the most recent robot in this tradition (awarded a TIME Magazine 50 Best Inventions of 2008). Nexi is a MDS robot (Mobile, Dexterous, Social) that combines rich social communication abilities with mobile dexterity to investigate more complex forms of human-robot teaming.
  • Other social robots developed in Breazeal’s Personal Robots Group include Autom, a robot diet and exercise coach that was found to be more effective than a computer counterpart in sustaining engagement and building trust and a working alliance with users. Autom is in the process of being commercialized.
  • Breazeal’s group has also explored expressive remote presence robots (for example, MeBot and Huggable). The physical social embodiment of the MeBot was found to elicit greater psychological involvement, engagement, and desire to cooperate over purely screen based video conferencing or a mobile screen.
  • She is also is recognized as a designer and innovator on the national and global stage. She received the Gilbreth Lectures Award by the National Academy of Engineering in 2008, and has spoken at a number of prominent global events including the World Science Festival, the World Economic Forum, and TEDWomen.
  • She is a featured scientist in the Women’s Adventures in Science series (sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences), and in 2003, Breazeal was recognized as a Finalist in the National Design Awards in Communication at the White House.
  • She also has a prominent role as a virtual participant in a popular exhibit on robots with the traveling exhibit, Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, interacting with a real C-3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels as she spoke to the audience through a pre-recorded message displayed on a large plasma flat-screen display.