Author : James Reinebold

Filbert swished his mop over the steel floor. A Whisko 5000 beauty: everything you could want in a cleaning device complete with neural net dirt processors, scent ejectors, and partial sentience. He twirled it over the sizzling fluids like a ballroom dancer. Krystal K. would be arriving soon and the administrator wanted everything to be perfect.

Along the way back to his supply closet Filbert picked up a Butterfinger wrapper and an empty can of Grapico (official sponsors of the International Mars Colony) and tossed them in a tube leading towards the incinerator. Scientists carrying shrieking laboratory rodents and engineers with wrenches bustled past him as he walked.

He set a Trash Buddy loose, gave it priorities (1. Clean all major hallways. 2. Clean VIP dormitory. 3. Clean the kitchen areas.), and hoped it would get something done. It bumped into the wall a few times before making it out of the closet.

The observatory was empty. Filbert kept his head down low and scrubbed. He whistled and whooshed the mop back and forth while periodically examining the shine. In his head he laboriously did the math a Trash Buddy could do in a picosecond: estimating the glare and lemon concentration levels. He arranged cups and emptied the trash bins into the incinerator. He wiped the glass clean of smudges and coffee stains.

After he finished, he paused for a moment to look through the glass up at the stars. Millions of them, brilliant points of light shining down through the Windex scuffed windows and radiation filters. A pale dot for Earth, a couple of glaring white circles for the other planets.

He thought that maybe all the work was worth it.

The Trash Buddy reported a successful cleansing of the VIP dorms and kitchen. Main hallways scrubbed using 50% cleaning solution, 50% recycled water. Lemon scent added at regular intervals. Heading to rendezvous.

Filbert acknowledged and flipped a circuit that gave tiny shocks of pleasurable energy to the Trash Buddy to thank it for its service.

At that moment the intercom buzzed.

“Attention: all staff. This is a reminder that today will be the long awaited visit from electromegapop artist Krystal K. She will be arriving in moments, so please be on your best behavior. I can’t stress enough to you the benefits good press has for research like ours.”

The crew emerged from their laboratories and ran towards the shuttle port. The administrator played the first few tracks of Krystal’s latest hit (Galactomusik) over the loudspeakers.

Filbert sighed and leaned against a railing. The Trash Buddy beeped rapidly and propped up next to his shoe. No one said anything about the shiny floors or fresh lemony scent. Nobody had to.


Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows