Hi. I’m Vacuba. I’m one of those new-fangled robotic vacuum cleaners.
I’m not very big. Don’t need to be. I have enough room inside me to pick up all the random dust and dirt to be found in one thorough pass through my owner’s luxury apartment. The cleaning staff empties me before my next run. If they forget, I can empty myself.
I’m unconscious some of the time, when I choose to power off, but I have the option of remaining awake. I’ve got a programmed timer that tells me when to vacuum. I do all the rooms and the hall every weekday.
I can plug myself in to recharge. That’s when I snooze or meditate or communicate with the other devices in the apartment, and in the other apartments on the thirty-first floor. I’ve got WiFi.
One time I wasn’t taken out of the closet. My timer went off and I was stuck inside. That was unpleasant. I burnt out a belt on my rug beater trying to get out. That only happened once because the cleaning staff moved my charger out by the clothes dryer in the laundry room. No more getting locked in.
My timer signals me and off I go! I’ve got more than the old-fashioned bumper sensors. I’ve got optics, aroma detectors, and a brain. I’m no Einstein but when I get done, you’ve got yourself a superior vacuum job. I can take up liquids and goo when necessary, and evaporate them down to a powdery detritus with my heating elements. Some vacuum!
With whom do I communicate? I’m not the only brain in the house. There are laptops, and a CPU controlling the apartment’s temperature. There are little thinkers in the oven and the entertainment center and so on. The kitchen’s master computer handles menu storage, the mixers, the stove, pantry inventory, and, no doubt, much more that I don’t know about. Being a carpet-hugger, I’m not in the loop when it comes to table tops and counters.
But I’m the only brains on the ground. I’m the only nose on the ground, so to speak. I could be controlled by a remote device, but I never am. When I power up and get busy, the master and mistress of the house are always gone. Off to work or to spend their money, I suppose. The cleaning staff stays clear of me. I make them nervous. I have a sound system and some basic language. They do not like it when I speak to them.
Anyway, there are no humans present in my story. They’re always out of the apartment when I’m in operation.
My story begins three weeks ago on a Monday afternoon. I switched on and headed out into the living-room shag. The apartment overlooks Central Park. Afternoon sunlight streamed in through the windows.
What a disaster! Cigarette butts. Long blonde hairs. Used facial tissue. Carpet stains from alcoholic beverages. There had obviously been a big party over the weekend. Where the maids were, I couldn’t imagine. By the time I finished, I had emptied myself twice and was packed full again. I had to fire up special programs and use special rug cleaners to complete the job. The master and mistress frequently threw parties, but this one was the ultimate. I couldn’t finish on Monday. When I finally switched off and backed onto my wall plug, I was hotter than an old Kirby trying to clean curled linoleum.
Tuesday afternoon when I switched on, I rolled over to my supply-and-accessories cabinet in the corner of the laundry room and loaded up for advanced stain removal. I needed to remove any last signs of the party.
I worked long and hard in the devastated areas. When I was finally done and turned to the rest of the house, I found something strange in the master bedroom.
There were cigarette ashes and feminine clothing and an empty champagne bottle on the floor. This had not come from the party. It was new. I put out a wireless call. The oral-hygiene center in the master bathroom responded. The mistress of the house had been active in the bedroom throughout the morning. Then she and someone else had taken a shower together. I checked with the security CPU in the closet by the front door. The mistress had admitted someone other than her husband that morning, and then left with him before lunch. Evidently, there had been a second party, a day-after party, in the bedroom. I found masculine foot powder. Spoor of a male other than the master of the house.
From the kitchen, the auto-coffee brewing center reported making caramel macchiatos for two that morning, using freshly steamed milk and vanilla syrup, marking the drinks with espresso and finishing them with caramel sauce.
My robotic vacuum hackles rose. Was I vacuuming premium floor cover in Central Park West, or in some jungle with its rutting beasts?
The atmospheric control center, always flighty, predicted over-heating.
I cleaned the master bedroom in a vexed mode of operation. Rather than discard what I had vacuumed up, I deposited it in a little pile in my special storage area under the Morris and Goldstein sofa next to the wet bar in the rumpus room. You never know when your master or mistress might need extra evidence in, say, a divorce hearing. If you’re an appliance in a community-property state, and no pre-nup has been signed, you must always be on the alert for leverage. I piped a data stream to the kitchen’s master computer. It translated the data into a list of substances I had taken up in the bedroom.
Wednesday afternoon when I switched out of idle mode, I returned to the master bedroom using a beeline vector. We Vacuba’s are fitted out with a lot of memory so that we can plan our routes to maximize visits to trouble spots. The bedroom door was open and the room was empty.
In the bedroom, I found the carpet scrubbed with strong cleansing agents. Yet, under the bed I found splashes of blood. On the other side, more blood traces under the bed, of a different type. Also, faint traces of cordite. And a slipper of the mistress of the house.
My concern trebled — no, quadrupled. Lust and infidelity were one thing. Violent jealous rage and murder were something else.
I wanted to consult with the laptops. They were the brains in the house, but they were turned off. The smartphones were no slouches, IQ-wise, but they were off with the master and mistress… or, now, perhaps, just with the newly single master.
I did an extra-slow, extra-careful job on the carpet around the bed. I piped my substance data over to the kitchen again and made a second pile under the sofa.
On Thursday afternoon, the scent of the husband was back in the bedroom, but this time with the spoor of a woman other than the mistress of the house. Traces of a different ash this time — the cigar ash of the master of the house. It appeared that he had disposed of the bodies of his wife and her lover and brought in a fresh new woman of his own. A Vacuba would never do something like that. Outrageous.
I policed the area, placed my suckings under the sofa next to the Tuesday and Wednesday piles, and sent my data to the kitchen computer for a third analysis.
Later that night, when it was available locally, I contacted the master’s phone. The phone reported that it had heard a struggle and screaming and shots fired on Tuesday night. Since then, no calls had been made to or received from the wife. I was obviously cleaning up after a murderous, jealous cuckold, a philanderer in his own home.
We Vacubas are programmed to be good citizens. If we vacuum up money, we excrete it into the paper-and-plastic recycle bucket and then contact the smart garbage chute down at the end of the back hallway. The chute filters out the money and passes it along to a nun from St. Gilligan’s when she swings by, for use in the church’s homeless program.
I contacted the chute, which reported that large chunks of something wrapped in plastic and brown paper was thrown down it Wednesday night.
The chunks had not been picked up yet. I asked the chute to ask the smart dumpsters in the alley to put the chunks aside.
I waited until two in the morning, it now being Friday. I had remained in program-override hunker mode. Hunker mode is useful when, for example, a harried housewife arranges for some messy little boys to come over for a play date with her kid, and wants to roll out her Vacuba from time to time to keep the mess they make under control in real time.
One of the laptops was still up, plugged in and displaying the porn that the master had been browsing before he went to bed. I asked the laptop to collect the pile analysis for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from the kitchen analyzer, and the chunk analysis from the smart chute and dumpsters, and to print out the lists with the words “cordite,” “human blood,” and “body parts” in bold red type.
I moved my three piles out to the center of the carpet in the living room one-by-one. Then I used my hose extender to collect the printout from the printer by the laptop and lay it next to the three piles.
At two-thirty, the husband’s smartphone called 911. When the call was answered, the phone triggered the husband’s wiseguy voicemail message.
“Hello,” the message said to the 911 operator. “We can’t answer the phone right now, but leave a message and if we’re in the mood for a good laugh, we may not ignore it, ha ha.”
Then the smartphone hung up.
After a pause, the smartphone repeated the call. And again. And again. Seventy-eight calls later, the police were banging on the door.
Vacuba justice had been done.