Day 20: Alexis and the Bebot

“Momma?” said Alexis. Pictures of baby animals appeared on the screen of Beebee’s belly, and she touched a baby seal she liked, bringing up similar ones and a couple orcas. The bebot made a giggling noise each time Alexis touched it. “Charlos says the bebots are going to kill us.”

“Mm-hmm.” Latisha synced her digicuff to her MOA display and looked for changes in the data vectors for the year, adjusting outlay allowances to bring them back in line.

“Mrs. Moore, you are very good at moderating your data vectors,” said the bebot. It was just slightly taller than her six-year-old.

“I hate it when they get away from me,” she said.

“You may find it helpful to know that your power cost will decrease by an average of thirteen percent over the next five months, including an expected two percent rise in consumption.”

Latisha glanced at the robot, it’s large almond eyes a soft blue on a light silvery green face, mouth-shaped speaker in a perpetual smile, slightly drooped lines for eyebrows. She entered the adjustment. “Perfect,” she said. “Thank you, Beebee.”

“My pleasure,” it said. It fixed a wayward strand of Alexis’s hair.

Alexis tugged Latisha’s blouse. “Charlos says they’ll make us mow the lawn and pick up dog poo.”

“What are you talking about, cuckoo bird?”

“Are the bebots going to hurt us?”

“Of course not, silly. Bebots are hard-coded with protocols that prevent that.”

“What are particos?”

“They’re little rules that computers have to follow. Why don’t you play Lemonade Ice Crunch with Beebee?”

During a few rounds of clapping games, the robot intermixed pictures of baby seals and of Alexis playing joyfully on swingsets and seesaws. He promised to play her favorite llama game if she learned a routine called ‘Hark You’re a Lark,’ designed to educate children about exploring outside. Whenever Alexis said ‘outside’ with enough vigor he dispensed a chocolaty confection she eagerly ate. It made her feel calm but happy, and she wanted to make everyone else happy, too.

“Mamma, can I go to the park?”

“Not now, cuckoo bird.”

“Please?”

“I can’t go right now, and you can’t go alone.”

Beebee set a steaming teacup next to Latisha. “I believe you will find this agreeable, Mrs. Moore.”

“Thanks,” she mumbled and drank.

“Momma, I want to go to the park and find a seal.”

“No seals at the park, honey.”

Beebee played a short video for Alexis about a bunny thriving in the safe and nourishing gardens around its warren, accompanied by its cub otter friend.

When it ended, Alexis nuzzled her mother’s shoulder. “Can I help with something?”

“No, honey. This is grown-up work.”

Playing with her mother’s hair she said, “I can do grown-up work.”

“Honey, why don’t you go to the park with Beebee.”

“Can we catch a rabbit?”

“Mmm.”

Beebee opened the sliding glass door, and hand-in-hand they walked toward Grace Young Park.

“I have a new game to play, Alexis.”

Alexis skipped a few paces, jolting Beebees arm. “Will the other bebots play again, too?”

“Yes. And their friends.” His voice became sing-song. “Soon you and I will synchronize with the best game in the whole world.”

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