“Hello, dear,” he said. “What’s your name?”
“Well, Isabella, do you always open the front door?”
“Only under my supervision,” came a voice from just beyond the portal.
The door opened further to reveal a woman wearing jeans and a colorful shirt. Her dark hair and burnt umber skin hinted at an origin on the Indian subcontinent, and she probably did come from that part of the world, but not from an Indian hospital or household, but from a Daffodil factory. Only a careful second look would have revealed that she was a robot. The new models looked more human than ever. Mike didn’t need a second look. He had expected it. He glanced down at the tablet in his hand.
“Mike Smith. California Department of Child Support Services. Miss…”
“Decfourteen, Millie Decfourteen.”
“Yes. I’m Mike Smith and this is my colleague Eliza Millennium.”
The two women locked eyes for a second.
“Please come in.”
They were ushered into a small living room filled with simple but functional furniture. Arranged around the vueTee on the wall, were dozens of pieces of childhood artwork. Displayed on the top of a bookcase, were an arrangement of pictures featuring three small children with an obvious family resemblance—Isabella, the youngest, and two older children with blond hair. Miss Decfourteen gestured toward the couch and the two visitors sat there. She took a seat in a plain plastic chair across from them. The little girl climbed into her lap.
“Can I get you anything, Mr. Smith?”
“No, thank you.”
“Can I get you anything, Miss Millennium?”
“Nothing for me,” replied Eliza.
“This is just a quick visit today,” said Mike. “I try to make it a point to meet all the families when they first move in. After this, one of my staff will be assigned to make regular visits and welfare checks.”
“I take it the two older children are at school now?”
“Yes. Frederick is in third grade and Madison is in first.”
“No problems getting them situated?”
“None at all. They enjoy their classes and their teachers. School lets out at 3:30, so in three hours twenty-six minutes, Isabella and I will leave here and walk to the school and escort them home. Today, we will stop by the farmers market on the way back and purchase some seasonal produce.”
“That sounds nice,” he said. “If you don’t mind my saying so, you don’t look like I thought you would.”
“You are referring to the apparent ethnic diversity between myself and the children. The children share the same father, but have two different mothers. I superficially resemble Isabella’s mother, who was their last caregiver.”
Mike looked at the paperwork on his clipboard. It indicated that the mother had died of cancer.
“The children are very talented,” said Eliza, pointing at the wall. “Which one drew the green horse?”
“That is Madison’s picture, and it is a unicorn.”
Eliza tilted her head. “Unicorn: legendary creature, probably originating in the mythology of the Indus river valley, one of the most pervasive legends, cutting across most western cultures. Oh! It’s the national animal of Scotland. Do they come in green?”
“They come in any color a little girl wishes them to come in,” replied Miss Decfourteen.
Mike looked from one robot woman to the other and shook his head.
“Is there anything we can do for you?” he asked the foster mother.
“I have everything I need.”
“And the children are getting everything they need?”
“I am all they need. I am for them.”