Once, or maybe someday, there was a little factory sitting nearly abandoned at the edge of the woods. It was nearly abandoned by people, because the Gold Standard Cleaning Supplies factory was nearly fully automated. The robots did most of the work themselves, and only really needed people to pick up their neatly boxed supplies to deliver them elsewhere.
Unfortunately for the Gold Standard Cleaning Supplies company, one day one of the delivery people was in a hurry. He stacked the boxes higher than normal so that he could take fewer trips. This meant that he propped the door open so that he didn’t need to try to open and close it while his arms were over-full.
He did not notice the cleaning robot making its way around the perimeter of the factory. He did not see it follow the trail of his muddy footprints out the door. And when he locked up and left, he did not count to see if any robots were missing.
The little lost gold standard cleaning supplies industrial janitorial robot, goldibot, would not be missed for months and months and months. That’s how long it would take for the deliveryman to notice that the factory floor was unusually dusty. It would take many more months for him to remember to report it to his supervisor. By that time, goldibot was long gone, and they never knew what happened to it.
They never knew that goldibot followed the dirty footprints out to a dirty parking lot, where the footprints became lost in the general grime. Following the perimeter of the lot, the little robot began sweeping up dirt and fallen leaves and pine needles and leaving them in tiny compact cubes. Normally, goldibot would pick these up in its next pass around the perimeter and drop them in the incinerator.
However, the perimeter wasn’t clearly defined, and goldibot didn’t come around again. Instead, the robot soon wandered into the woods, clearing a path as it went. Occasionally there was a tree in its path, and goldibot paused to clean off all the moss and scrub the bark. Boulders received similar treatment. The robot cleaned with pressurized air and sonic waves, so it was in no danger of running out of cleaning supplies.
The next morning, goldibot wandered into a dark, messy cave. This was not just any cave. This was the home of three bears, who were out for a walk to patrol the edge of their territory.
Goldibot quickly swept up the nuts, seeds, and berries left in the hollows of the rock and left them behind, squished into tiny cubes. It rolled further into the cave, clearing boulders of moss and stacking them neatly out of the way.
The next room was full of mounds of pine needles and soft grass that kept goldibot very busy sweeping and compacting. In fact, goldibot was still cleaning up when the bears returned home. Goldibot didn’t know that the bears were there, of course.
But the bears knew that goldibot was there. When they stepped into the cave, ready to sit down to breakfast, they noticed right away that something was different. “Something has happened to my breakfast,” Papa Bear roared.
“Something happened to my breakfast, too,” Mama Bear replied.
Baby bear inspected the tiny cubes and tasted one. “I think this is breakfast,” he said.
After some grumbling, the bears quickly gobbled up the tiny cubes and went to sit in their living room. But their comfy moss-covered boulders were gone. “Someone has stolen my chair,” Papa Bear roared.
“Someone stole my chair, too,” Mama Bear replied.
Baby bear sniffed at the tiny green cubes and followed them to the neat stack of clean boulders along the far wall. “Here they are,” he said.
“We can’t use them like that,” Papa Bear said. “They don’t look at all comfortable. Someone has broken our living room.”
“This is all so distressing,” Mama Bear said. “I need a nap.”
“Me too,” Papa Bear said.
Baby Bear followed them to the bedroom. The bedroom looked strange, too. Something was missing.
“Somebody stole my bed,” Papa Bear roared.
“Someone stole mine too,” Mama Bear said.
“Someone is still stealing my bed,” Baby Bear said. “And there he is.” They all looked at the silver something as it scooped up the last bit of Baby Bear’s bed. It spat out a tiny cube, made a scary hissing noise, and zoomed away.
The bears cleaned up the mess and remade their furniture. They never saw the scary silver thing again. But they heard from the foxes and wolves that it was still out there, causing trouble. The animals still tell their children about it on dark nights when the moon is full and no one can sleep.
And the little lost goldibot continued to clean everything in its path for years and years and years.