"Antique bag of bones," the man grumbled as another tottered off across the great foyer. The object of scorn was certainly no young man, but one would generally hesitate to call him "antique." A touch of grey at the temples, a sleek bowler hat, and a charcoal suit ironed so crisply one got the impression one would risk a paper cut should they brush against a seam. He walked to the other room without a word, no response to the harsh words from the other gentlemen. Henley never responded to criticism or rudeness, as was his duty as a butler and man-servant not to do so. The middle-aged gentleman set to dusting the vast library shelves with their teak and mahogany blend with an air of distinct dignity and grace.
Meanwhile, on the third floor of the vast manor, Lord Glen Eric Robinson continued grumbling under his breath. This man was much more gallant in appearance though noticeably less dignified. His hair a wind-tossed mass of molten caramel interspersed with black, the man paced an upstairs office with a frown on his face. Wrinkled maroon slacks made an agitated whispering noise as they chafed together. The noise fit well with the man's obviously tense upper torso covered with a dashing forest green cloak, maroon blazer, black satin shirt, and blood red cravat. All of his clothes were rumpled, diminishing the grace of this man. Despite all this, he cut a fine, cavalier figure marching back and forth across the deep blue carpet, mirror-shined tuxedo shoes sinking into the lush threads a full inch.
"Damn him, damn him to hell the nefarious toad!" he growled, words dripping contempt and malice. "He'll undo everything my family has worked for this last century and a half," he said in a somewhat softer tone, but still one filled with anger. The young Lord Robinson had already dealt with Bartholomew Peter's mistakes in the past, and as the chief share-holder of Robinson Technologies he had done so enough. With half a mind to fire the incompetent programmer with a tendency to shoot his mouth off when he'd had too much gin the frazzled businessman stepped to the old-fashioned phone on the ebony desk. Dialing with a sharply flexed finger in the rotary, he sighed and composed himself as he had seen his father do countless times in decades past. At twenty-four Glen had watched his father die and simultaneously became the heir of the elder Robinson's industry, something that had never been in doubt. Besides a few rebellious periods and a much more devil-may-care attitude, the younger man had been cut from the same stone as the former. He had been groomed for these very circumstances, and he would not allow his anger to cloud his judgment or cast him in an unkind light. As the man pondered all this with a bit of nostalgia a voice cut in from the other end of the phone line.
"Put Jacques-Reneault on," he said with force but no anger then added "please." The voice from the other end echoed back in the affirmative. Robinson took a deep breath and began tapping his foot at a rather upbeat tempo. He had even begun to hum some Beethoven (or was it Bach?) before he began to lose some of his patience. Five minutes had passed with but silence from the receiver. Finally the voice returned, "Sir, Mr. Jacques-Renault appears to have slipped out for a moment. Would you like me to connect you to his mobile?" The young Lord grimaced, this nonsense would give him an ulcer before forty and that was a mere twelve years away.
"Yes, I need to speak with him promptly Ford." The man on the other end muttered back with respectful awe, he hadn't expected the boss to recall his name out of the thousands of Lord Robinson's employees around the globe.
While this was going on Henley had moved on from dusting to placing the night's seating arrangement on the mezzanine terrace overlooking the vast pond in the side yard of the manor. The afternoon's charm lost on the butler as he bustled about. Pausing for but a moment to recall the seating chart he had committed to memory, the man finally looked up and took in the beautiful autumn day. It was the very beginning of fall, the leaves had just begun to turn and the air was cool but not cold. A perfect breeze whispered lightly over the well-dressed round tables. Henley measured it at exactly seventy six point seven degrees with a gust reading of just over two kilometers per hour. This was no ordinary butler as you, no doubt, are accustomed to witnessing. The "man," so-called, was actually a R(C)A Mark Six, a highly sophisticated human-analog robot. The model name prefix, in its extended format, reads "Robinson (Custodial) Android." Henley was the very first of the Mark Sixes designed and produced by Glen's father. As a prototype, Henley was fitted with much more features than a standard market android, including the more sinister ones. Equipped with silenced handguns concealed in his wrists, the "butler" doubled as a bodyguard for the Robinson family.
Henley let out a rather human sigh and continued in his work, humming a bit of sprightly Mozart. Androids, over the past century, had become more and more capable of blending in with true humans. In fact, it was the current Lord Robinson's great-grandfather who had begun the process of transforming dull, metal service robots into very skilled replicas of Homo sapiens. Over the past decades the Robinson family, guarding their secrets well, had moved from the RA Mark One to the current model Mark 6 with varying occupations for each model. Some of the Robinson Androids were designed for combat purposes, some, like Henley, for custodial needs, and still others for entirely different specializations. It had been, of course, a rather crude enterprise at the start. R Mark One wasn't much more than a robot with plastic human skin over his metal parts, a sort of life-sized, functional Barbie doll. R Mark Two was a significant improvement with the addition of facial expressions. Further advancements allowed for tonal changes in voice, body language, and, most importantly, analysis and proper response to human emotions. Now, it would have been nearly impossible to tell a Robinson Android from a line-up of normal men or women. It was for this exact reason that each Android was branded with a metal bracelet on each wrist and a collar around his or her throat. Laws were set into place that no android or owner could cover any of the three distinctive marks and all other companies attempting to replicate Robinson's extremely successful robots must make equally eye-catching marks to distinguish their creations from true humans.
It was precisely this law that concerned all of Glen Eric Robinson's thought processes at that very moment. Spouting rapid French in a fluid stream, the young Robinson waved his arms about, the phone now on speaker as he paced. Pausing only to listen intently to the head of PR on the line, a Mr. Pierre Jacques-Renault, Robinson was obviously distressed. Luckily, this Pierre was a very skilled communicator and had dealt with Robinson's highly active moods since the boy was a child. It was, in fact, Sir Jacques-Renault that taught Glen his impeccable French, along with several other languages. Robinson finally began to calm down as the Belgian worked his charm. Reassuring the young man continuously, Pierre told him the idiot Peters' indiscretion could be brushed off as a joke or hoax. He also told him he would personally see to it that Peters was reprimanded and placed on probation pending a hearing with Glen Eric himself.
"Etes-vous sûr?" the younger man asked tensely.
"Oui, maître! Sans aucun doute, il sera pris en charge," the public relations wizard responded, the hint of a triumphant smile on his face already.
"Tres bien, mon ami. Je suis à l'aise maintenant," Robinson breathed with relief. Then, slipping back into the King's merry English said, "Though I find myself in need of a bloody stiff drink and a cigarette or two." Deep French laughter echoed across the line.
"I am getting of my sonic aeroplane now. I should like to join you for a drink if I might presume to say I am invited, mon jeune maître!" the Belgian PR manager said joyously.
Glen smiled hugely, completely at ease once more as was his customary disposition. "Ah, mais bien sûr, monsieur! Avez-vous m'apporter ce joli vin que je sorte adore?" Jacques-Renault laughed again, another triumph under his belt, "Oui, mon seigneur!"
"Capital! We shall have a beautiful evening indeed. Shit, I'll have to have Henley add a seat on the terrace. We're having another ball of sorts if you don't mind."
"Non, tres bien! I love to dance!," Pierre cried jovially in his French accent.
"Very well, see you in twenty old chap."