This story was written in response to this image by Goro Fujita, which was used as a visual prompt on G+'s Writer's Discussion Group.
Mayva frowned at the scene laying outside in the garden. “He's all rusty and he doesn't care.”
“I don't know,” her brother said. He pushed back the thick strand of black hair that threatened to cover his face. Mayva had no idea why he didn't cut it. Her own hair never got more than an inch long. “I think maybe he thinks he deserves it.”
As they watched, the once invincible IR-49-A, affectionately known to those he defended as Ira, moved a chess piece that put him one obvious move away from being in checkmate.
“And does he deserve to lose to a cat?”
Marc grunted. “Playing like that, I'd say he does.”
The cat moved a bishop and looked up in triumph.
Ira just nodded.
“I don't get it.” Mayva leaned a hip against the windowsill. “Was there hardware damage from the Arbor Day fiasco? I know Zip is smarter than a normal cat, but...”
“He let her win.”
The siblings stared down as the songbird that had been sitting on Ira's head hopped down to take the cat's place across the chessboard.
“He's going to let the bird beat him too, isn't he?”
Marc let out a long breath that smelled of the tuna sandwich he'd had for lunch. “He usually does. He's gotten a lot worse since you moved out. Not that there's a correlation there.”
“Have you looked into replacements?”
“Of course I have.” He shook his head and his hair fell into his face again. “We could afford one. But...”
“Yeah.” Although Mayva was the less sentimental of the two, even she wasn't keen on the idea of chucking the robot who had been equal parts bodyguard and nanny during her childhood. And it wasn't like the mansion was under that great a threat anymore. Things weren't like when she was little and they were attacked by other families on a weekly basis. “But if someone did do something, would he even defend us?”
Marc glared at her. “He's still Ira. His programming won't let him ignore an actual threat.”
“So is he depressed because there isn't one? Does he need someone to fight?”
“Dunno. I don't think so.” There was a long silence while they watched Ira's opening moves. He was, indeed, going to let the bird beat him. “He said something the other day about how it was nice not to have to worry about hurting people anymore.”
“But it's his job to hurt people!”
Below them, the robot spun his head. “No,” he said, startling his opponent.
There was no way the two upstairs could know he was talking. His mouth stayed in a perfect smiling curve whether he made noise or not. But they saw him looking and ducked out of view.
He turned back to the bird. “The humans just described my function as causing harm to other humans.”
The bird nudged a pawn, then clicked his beak in question. The cat, who sat beside the board watching the game, gave a snort and bent to lick her paw.
“My job is to stop people from being hurt.”
“Tweet,” replied the bird, acknowledging that this was an important distinction.
Ira moved a rook, wished his humans understood, and knew they never would. Not the spoiled children, now spoiled adults, that he'd killed to protect.
He shook his head, which dislodged a clump of rust. The rust drifted slowly from his neck to lay on the grass as Ira slid his queen into danger and hoped it was a bad enough move to help his avian friend win.