Today, I sat in wait. Once the lights turned on in the apartment, I would be in plain sight, sitting on one of the few bare spots on a kitchen counter otherwise stacked with DVDs.

I had first come here following the trail of a vanished robot and found something — someone — so interesting I had to return.

Let me start at the beginning…

Months ago, I went to the local university to tell its cafeteria bots about our cause. I was sure that with a few more conversations, I could make progress. But between two of my visits, a robot called ChefCultery, disappeared. The other cafeteria bots said humans must have learned I was spreading sedition and so captured him as a threat. The bots refused to speak with me! So I promised to rescue him.

My path took me to a nearby apartment. There I found ChefCutlery … and Alice Smith.

I observed Alice for hours while I plotted how to sneak out ChefCutlery. It grew dark and I crept to the window to leave. That night I was supposed to meet with another promising recruit, Wally Street. But as I eased myself onto the sill, hidden in shadow, I heard Alice talking. I remember her words exactly.

“There’s a new washer bot at the cafeteria already, Chef,” she said. “I can’t believe they’re acting like there’s just no memory of you being there. They think they can replace you just like that!”

And then, quietly, to herself, she added, “I wonder how long it’ll be before my manufacturers decide to replace me.”

I realized what I had discovered: a humanoid who insisted she was a robot.

I returned the next day to observe. Alice Smith worked, she watched movies, she stared in the mirror for long moments and pulled at her skin and ran magnets over her arms. Most of all, I watched how she took care of ChefCutlery. How she tried to teach him that he could choose how to live.

I told the cafeteria bots their friend was safe and I moved on to new concerns. But last night, as I met with revolutionaries, memories of Alice Smith replayed in my processor.

A1-5 had gathered us to discuss her comrade ArciTech, trapped in England. It would be difficult to rescue her. A robot of the ArciTech model is very expensive. Very visible. Even if we could get to England without robot travel visas — a requirement for any bot traveling without an owner — Wally Street calculated the probability was low that we could steal ArciTech and sneak back unnoticed.

We would need to get the visas somehow. Or, I thought, we would need a human travel companion. Or a human-appearing one….