Knock knock knock. Three rapid articulations of sound burst through the hotel lobby. Jila, the plushie Kau proprietor, was bent over the thickly-carpeted floor, plucking bits of downy feather and dropping them daintily into a plastic satchel held in her left hoof. She was having, it might be said, a bad day.
Knock knock knock. "Oh, I'm coming," she grumbled, pushing herself up from the floor and brushing stray feathers from her apron. "Why anyone knocks instead of just coming in when there's a huge sign outside saying 'Come right in!' is beyond me, but I suppose my job is to—" she broke off her agitated, head-bobbing rant in mid-sentence as she reached the door. A giant, still-aggravated smile was strewn across her bovine features as she opened the door.
"Hello!" she said with her best attempt at perkiness (which is to say, she appeared a bit frightening at that particular moment), "and welcome to—." Once again, she broke off mid-sentence. A cricket chirped in the bright, yellow sunlight. There was no one in front of her. There was no one to the right or left of her. The nearest pedestrian was a red Shoyru across the street, and she didn't particularly suspect him of having flown over just to knock on her door. She was about to stomp across the street and ask him some questions, just to be certain, when she heard it again.
Knock knock knock. And this time is was more insistent, finishing with two louder, slower knocks for flourish. Knock. Knock.
"Well, I never," Jila declared, turning about and closing the door behind her. "Someone must be at the kitchen door." She shook her head in an attempt to clear it, baffled at the sheer lack of propriety such a guest would be presenting. Then she gathered her wits about her and clip-clopped to the kitchen. Mildly frightened by the mystery of this unconventional newcomer, she rubbed her hooves together as she walked.
Not another sound jarred her delicate consciousness before she reached the door. She let out a sigh of relief before turning the handle and pulling open the kitchen door.
Knock knock knock. The starry Scorchio standing in front of her planted three quick, frustrated knocks on Jila's forehead as he looked about impatiently.
"What do you think you're doing?!" Jila exploded. "Why are you back here, hitting me in the face, when you could have walked through the front door and spared me all this miserable trouble?!" Her voice was rising in pitch and increasing in speed as she spoke. She was hopping up and down, her hooves in front of her body in a manifestation of puzzled, frustrated anxiety.
The Scorchio held one finger next to his smiling face before he spoke, "I'll just be going," he said, turning on his heel and marching towards the street with increasing celerity.
"No! No, you don't!" Jila ran, pumping her hooves, to head off the fleeing Scorchio. "You aren't leaving before you tell me exactly what this is all about. Now," she said, placing a hoof on the Scorchio's shoulder to restrain him, "talk."
"Well," the Scorchio said, tilting his head and allowing a smile to form on his face, "if you insist." He walked back to the hotel, pulling a large brown trunk behind him, and stopped when he reached the door. "You will excuse me," he began, "I have a few props to take out." He opened his briefcase to display a panoply of assorted accoutrement and, well, random doo-dads.
First he pulled two plastic bags from a green box and placed them over his shoes. Then he removed a small, circular tub and a wooden spoon from the trunk, and placed them both on top of his bag. Finally, he pulled a strange mechanism half his size from the trunk.
Its top section was composed of a large, red bag and a handle – fairly straightforward, if inexplicable. Its bottom section looked mechanical, except for the eyes. It was roughly square, with a red racing stripe pained down the middle. Two wheels jutted out from its sides. It smiled at Jila, and she backed away with her eyebrows raised and eyes wide with surprise.
"Is that," Jila halted, confused, "a petpet?" Her head was craning forward as she leaned down to squint at the thing's face.
"Sure is!" The Scorchio beamed. "The Vacumatic 9000, brought all the way from the Space Station's Robo-Petpet Shop!"
"And why did you bring it here?" Jila asked in her slowest and best diction.
"To show you what it can do, of course!" The Scorchio picked up his spoon and tub of gloopy-looking liquid and unscrewed the top. Balancing against the wall, he spread a blackish brown substance thickly over the bottoms of his newly-covered shoes. "Just watch, you'll love it!" he said as he walked casually into her kitchen.
Jila watched. She couldn't help herself. She wanted to cry. A strange man had appeared, at the wrong door, while she was busy, and now he was walking across the hardwood floor of her kitchen, spreading sticky black and brown goop everywhere he went.
"Are you coming?" he said as he leaned back from the kitchen's other door.
"Yes," she said, "yes." Properly shell-shocked, Jila gingerly plodded her way through the splotches of vile filth towards the Scorchio. By now, he had walked into the hallway and spread his mire of muck into her plush, thick-piled, white carpeting.
"Glad you made it!" the Scorchio said, clapping his hand on her shoulder and continuing to grin. "Now, watch this!" The strange, filthy intruder whistled, and then proceeded to exclaim, "Here boy! There's a job for you to do! Here, boy!"
Suddenly, a swooshing, sucking sound began from just outside the kitchen door. Jila, curious in spite of her despair, peeked her head through the hall doorway's frame to watch the petpet's progress.
It was moving slowly, using its wheels to balance its weight as it proceeded towards the waiting pair. A twirling brush had come out of its back, and, after it sucked up much of the greasy mire, that brush polished the path the petpet had tread. When it reached the hallway, the kitchen floor was sparkling, beautifully polished, and looked as though it had never seen dirt or grime of any kind.
When the petpet reached the carpet, it retracted its rear-polishing-apparatus and worked on the mess more slowly. It ran over every speck of dirt and grime the Scorchio had produced before shutting off its engines, quieting down, and wriggling its handle in joyful excitement.
Jila blinked, stunned and largely awoken from her befuddled stupor. She sank to all fours, stuck her nose to the carpet, and looked desperately amidst the pile for any trace of the filth it had borne mere moments ago.
"Nothing," she said, shocked. Her voice was high and sharp, confused and giddy. "Nothing!" she said. She looked at the splendorous petpet before her, her eyes starry and grateful. "Nothing!" she shouted with glee as she ran towards the Vacumatic 9000. She lifted it in her arms, and the world began to change around them.
Flowers, hearts, and musical notes appeared in gold and pink tufts of smoke as trumpets and violins sounded triumphantly from the aether. Fireworks burst to life, adding grey smoke to the cornucopia of mist, as they danced in a clean-carpeted ballroom to the sonic joy of their invisible orchestra.
This was it, this was the real thing, this was what Jila had been waiting for her entire life. And now she'd found it, she'd found the Vacumatic of her dreams.
As they danced in the mist-strewn, heavily-adorned, thickening twilight, a starry clawed hand appeared suddenly on Jila's shoulder.
The music stopped with the abrupt shriek of a needle being torn from spinning vinyl, and Jila turned to the interrupting Scorchio with fire in her eyes.
"Yes? Why do you disturb my bliss, you forehead-smacking buffoon?"
"You like the Vacumatic, yeah?"
"Yes," Jila replied tersely, caressing the petpet in her arms.
"Would you like to buy it then?" he said, wriggling his thick, starry eyebrows.
"Yes," Jila said, smiling through her teeth. She placed a hand on the Scorchio's shoulder and began the arduous task of coaxing his still filth-laden feet towards the door. "How much would it be?"
"Oh, a mere three million neopoints," he said, "surely you can afford that."
"I'll send you a cheque," she said, shoving the Scorchio out and slamming the door in his face.