"Speaking of staff, you don't have any meat around here?" said Aldrich.
"Meat? Forgive me, but are you speaking of meat for sustenance or meat as in the colloquial term for bio-intellects?" said Arthur.
"Bio-intellects," said Aldrich. He made a mental note to himself to cut out the occasional slang he used as it would not fit with 'high society'. "I don't see any flesh and blood staff."
"Bart likes to keep his security detail tight and trustworthy," said Arthur. "I'm sure you can understand, given his daughter's condition. As a result, he places exclusive trust with me."
"I see." Made sense. The targeted shutdown on Bart's mansion that crippled his daughter for life had likely been allowed to occur due to an insider in the mansion, probably staff, being bribed or leaking information about the security.
But Arthur was a machine who could not be bribed. He could be infiltrated, but that was purely in the realm of theory. Not even V, a S class infiltrator, could break into Arthur's data without some form of pre-given access.
If one wanted absolute security, then it made sense to rely completely on an A.I. like Arthur.
"Under Bart's recommendation, I have also been advised to grant you temporary limited access to this mansion's security network," said Arthur. He opened his palm up and projected a blue barcode. "Scanning this will grant you said access. Just in case you had any doubts about the security of this area.
I assure you, the security here, both physical and net based, are absolutely impenetrable, giving you free reign to discuss what you want when you want without any fear. If, by a remote chance I cannot live up to my guarantees, you can reach out to Caliburn and they will compensate you with-,"
"I get it," said Aldrich. "Let me go ahead and scan that."
Aldrich stared at the barcode, and V, linked with his eyes, scanned it.
'Got it, boss. Let's see…'
After just a few seconds, V continued.
'Like Arthur said, this isn't complete access, just a rundown of the security measures in place. Basically, a way to show off like 'see how tough my cyber-fort is?'. And it makes sense. Caliburn would rather nuke itself than leak any of the encryption related to its neural network or Arthur's A.I. mind security.'
'So, how is the security?' asked Aldrich.
'Excellent. Top notch. Top shelf stuff. Y'know, standard for a company that caters only to the ultra wealthy with a perfect track for the past thirty years.
It's like I'm looking at a super-fortress. The encryption walls are thicker than the average customer at McGrill fastfoods.
Security at this level is flat out impenetrable unless you're really, really, really special or you get lucky and someone leaks a way inside.
There's also a detailed physical layout of the mansion too, but I won't bore you with the details unless you ask for them.'
'Anything that I should make note of?'
'Not really, to be honest. Dining room's on the first floor, and you'll take an elevator down. There's tons of security everywhere, turrets and bots and the like hidden in the walls, but that's to be expected.
Honestly, this just seems like your typical rich guy's mansion.
But notably more secure. Bart really did splurge on the protection here.
Most of the time, Arthur's just a butler. Having Arthur take full control requires paying a premium, so most peeps, even rich ones, only do it when they really have to, when they can't find anyone trustworthy at all or temporarily when they go on vacation or something.
But Bart is doing this 24/7, shelling out at least 50,000 credits a month.
I pray to the sake of all those credits that this security is good enough.'
"I'm done." Aldrich nodded, and Arthur turned off the projection.
"Excellent," said Arthur. "Then follow me."
Arthur bowed and then clapped his hands. Several meters away, the ceiling opened up to reveal a well-lit staircase going down. He gracefully stepped down the stairs, and Aldrich and Valera promptly followed close behind.
"Down these stairs leads to attic storage space," explained Arthur. "It's where my staff will come for spare parts or to carry in or out supplies that come by via airdrop. But storage is no place for esteemed guests like yourselves to be in, so we will take the elevator to the left here.
It will lead you directly to the dining floor, and there, you will find dinner prepared. My staff and I will accommodate any culinary cravings or service requests you like until Bart is prepared."
"I see." Aldrich stopped before he reached the end of the stairs. Valera stopped in synch with him. Ahead was the storage space that Arthur talked about. It was well lit and spacious, stretching continuously across the entire length of the building as one big room.
The room was austere, bare metal like the inside of a warehouse container. Blue and white lights lit the space up, showing one half of the room occupied by refrigerators holding frozen goods and even tanks holding live fish and animals for fresh food.
The other half was more industrial, packed with mechanical arms and containers filled with parts where drones came to be repaired and serviced.
Nothing was off about this space either.
But regardless of how safe this place was, Valera had her guard up, her training as a guardian knight making sure she never treated any moment, even moments of calm, casually. At a moment's notice, she could materialize her armor over her dress and shield Aldrich from any threat.
Valera's caution instilled caution in Aldrich as well. Something felt ever so slightly off. From what V said, there was nothing off about the mansion's physical or net security. If there were intruders, there would most definitely have been signs of them.
At the very least, Arthur would have caught them considering he managed the entire extensive security system.
But the fact that Bart was not showing himself felt odd, now that Aldrich thought about it. Bart knew well ahead of time that Aldrich was coming. And Bart had an entire day to prepare his daughter for Aldrich's arrival.
Granted, maybe Bart could not just wheel his daughter's life support system around freely ahead of time, but still -
Better to be safe than sorry.
"Then I apologize, Arthur, but I'd like to stay here until Bart is ready. I wouldn't want to make him feel bad with us sitting around an empty table, you know?"
"Are you sure?" said Arthur, worried in a customer service type of way more so than any anxious way. "The accommodations here are quite lacking. There is no furniture nor readily prepared refreshments. All of that is located downstairs."
"Understood." Arthur bowed his head low, lower than he ever did before, hiding his facial expression. "I am deeply sorry to say, Thanatos, but I cannot grant your request."