"Nice place," Aldrich commented. Even on the mansion's rooftop, it was easy to tell how impressive it was.
Six stories tall, judging by how far up they were, with the mansion grounds decorated with a pristinely well-maintained green lawn peppered with elaborate fountain statues that housed hidden sentry turrets.
'Yeah, that's Springvale for you,' said V. "Insane what they can do. They're basically a biocorp, warcorp, and rentcorp packed all in one."
Springvale was an elite company meant for the elites, focusing on developing select real estate to create playgrounds for the ultra-wealthy.
Where the vast majority of people nowadays lived packed in mega-apartments or, if they were lucky, corporate sponsored housing, the ultra-wealthy could afford to separate themselves from the air of the poor and the bustle of walled cities.
Springvale mansions were created in key areas outside of walled cities where variant activity was relatively low.
Once a patch of suitable wild area was identified, company militia and bulldozers destroyed everything in its wake before the terraculture department re-seeded the land with life, though this time with fauna and flora that suited an aesthetic, not variants looking for their next kill.
Bart, it seemed, had not been stingy about his Springvale mansion. Aside from the mansion itself, the property extended to a radius of ten miles, creating an artificial forest ecosystem.
At its borders were AV (Anti-Variant) signal towers and trees and rocks that were mechs and turrets in disguise to gun down any variant or thug that still tried to approach.
"So this is like a lord's manor, is it?" said Valera, peering out at the mansion also. "Not as surprising as I thought it would be. It is tall, big, and isolated from peasants. It seems that across realms, some things do not change."
"I guess it's just human nature. Hierarchy, like you said," said Aldrich.
'Hoho, I am eager to feast!' Volantis's voice boomed in Aldrich's head. 'You do not know how much willpower it took simply to not snatch the alcohol lying before me.'
'Just hold on a little,' said Aldrich. 'And this isn't a feast. This is a proper dinner. I'm not used to this high fine dining or whatever yet, but what I do know is that we won't be pigging out, getting blasted drunk, and throwing out punches.'
'The humans of this realm are a terrible bore,' said Volantis.
'Some are, some aren't. That's the thing about humans. A whole lot of variety.'
"Welcome, Thanatos, to the estate of Bart Hammerhead." The airjet's A.I. spoke with a nondescript, helpful feminine tone. "I trust your flight has been comfortable?"
Throughout the flight, the A.I. had been focused only on auto-piloting so as to give Aldrich and Valera privacy to talk, but now that the flight was over, it was free to chime in.
"Comfortable," said Aldrich, standing up. "Can I get in touch with Bart?"
"Unfortunately, Mr. Hammerhead wishes to inform you that he is still preparing for your arrival. Moving his daughter is a delicate procedure that is taking his care and attention. In his stead, Arthur will be taking care of you."
"Arthur?" said Aldrich with a hint of interest.
"You know who this is?" questioned Valera.
"Arthur is not really so much a person. He's an automated butler. Also a luxury symbol. He's marketed as the perfect butler and often comes with these mansions as a groundskeeper and, if it comes down to it, guard," said Aldrich.
The airjet's holo-walls dimmed down, obscuring the view of the outside, but not for long as they opened up with a pressurized click. There, bowing his head beside the doorway was Arthur, the butler bot.
Arthur was approximately six foot two 188 (cm) with an almost completely human appearance, the only glaring difference being that his skin was a metallic grey with mechanical seams and lines running across his body, though in this day and age of cyberware, even that was not all that out there.
Dressed up in a dapper butler's suit with a broad-shouldered build and a rugged, handsome face with combed back silver hair and sparkling blue eyes, Arthur looked every bit like the quintessentially perfect butler. A perfect mix of both the classical and neo.
'Shit, seeing an Arthur-bot in the flesh. Though I guess not really since it's through your eyes, but still – it's crazy,' said V.
'In what way?' said Aldrich mentally.
'Ol' Arthur over here is way more dangerous than he looks. He's got insanely high encryption that even I can't break through unless I could find a key or workaround. You don't ever have that level of encryption unless you're hiding something important, and if that's the case, you better be damn sure you can fight for it too.
But that's Caliburn for ya. They started out as a tech business focused on creating neural networks and A.I. brains.
Once they created the perfect A.I. brain for service personnel, they went all in and bam, out of the tech industry birth canal came out Arthur, perfect butler extraordinaire.'
"I extend the most pleasant of greetings, Thanatos," said Arthur in a smooth, almost sing-song voice. "Allow my staff and I to guide you to your accommodations. Please, if there is anything you need carried or stored, do not hesitate to let me know."
Arthur's 'staff' hovered into view. They were drones colored in Arthur's own color scheme of blue, silver, and grey.
"It's alright," said Aldrich, stepping out of the airjet.
"And for you, miss?" Arthur extended a convivial hand towards Valera.
"I can carry myself well enough." Valera waved Arthur away, and he nodded, understanding.
"Excellent, then allow me to escort the two of you. Rest assured that Bart has laid out the most exquisite of meals for you. You will absolutely not regret taking the time to visit," said Arthur, strolling ahead of Aldrich. "If, at any time, you desire a drink or snack or anything within my means, do let me know, and I will assist you. If I cannot, one of my staff will."