By Ada Herschel, Science and Technology
15/6- As I entered the coliseum in Oeil de Fleur for this year’s Industry and Innovation Conference, a success story from last year’s conference hung, quite literally, in the air. That success is, of course, the Foundation Inc. interior climate control system. Given that it made the three hour wait between seating and presentation all the more bearable, and that Rinkenbach Industries was the first showing of the conference, I found myself more excited than I have been in a long time for the IIC.
That excitement quickly soured, however, as Rinkenbach hit the stage. The man known for flashy entrances, such as launching himself from a trap door under the stage, or descending from the rafters suspended by wires, or appearing in an explosion of smoke and flame, simply stumbled out from backstage. He was pursued by someone I’m assuming was a PR rep, trying to stop him. When the PR rep realized that thousands of people were watching him, he quickly about faced and headed backstage, throwing his hands up.
“Good evening, Oeil de Fleur,” Rinkenbach said in opening, despite the fact that it was nine in the morning. “And Welcome to Rinkenbach R&D’s IIC conference. We’ve got a big announcement today, that’s going to change EVERYTHING!”
With a flourish of his hands, two buxom assistants wearing sequin gowns rolled out what appeared to be a man on a dolly. I immediately knew what it was…the new model of clockwork butler. Apparently everyone else in the room knew it, too, because when Rinkenbach revealed the mech, it was met with middling applause.
“The Clockwork Butler Mark IV,” Rinkenbach said, his voice more than a little slurred. “I know you’ve all been waiting for it, so, here it is!”
The middling applause didn’t grow any louder.
“Ahem. Alright then. Moving on. The Mark IV hosts a veritable, um, host, yes, of improvements over the popular Mark III, making it the premiere automaton on the market. For instance, new gyroscopic attachments for the arms ensure that your daily tea will no longer get spilled.”
My colleague, industry analyst Jerald Doramus, sat two seats down from me. When I interviewed him after the announcement of the Mark IV several weeks ago, this development was one of two possibilities Doramus offered, the other being a free thinking doomsday machine. Needless to say, Doramus looked relieved.
“That’s really a small thing, however,” Rinkenbach said, continuing on. “For now, the Mark IV is capable of something no other automaton has been capable of before.
“This unit has a name. Francois. Hello, Francois.”
“Good morning, sir.”
The coliseum was deathly silent as the automaton not only spoke, but responded to inquiry.
“Morning? Don’t be silly, Francois. It’s evening.”
“No, sir. It’s morning.”
“Oh, dear, how embarrassing. There must be a glitch in Francois’s time configuration.”
“There is no glitch,” Francois said. “Check your watch.”
This elicited a round of laughter from the audience. I looked again at Doramus. He’d gone completely white, and held his head down in his hand.
The implications of Rinkenbach’s unveiling are shocking. Not only was the voice coming from the automaton of striking clarity and even warmth, but it was adapting to the flow of the conversation. Any reservations that this could have been a put on were laid to rest when seemingly random members of the audience began asking questions. More than a few times, the Mark IV was unable to answer, but one question in particular not only garnished a response from the automaton, but a panicked reaction from Rinkenbach that cut the show short and raises some serious questions about the future of the Triumvirate.
“Is Rigel Rinkenbach working on the Blackwood Formulae, and how far has he gotten?”
“Yes,” the robot answered. “As of this morning he has computed more than fifteen point six five nine three two percent of the formulae, according to his own est—“
The automaton went silent, and I could see Rinkenbach standing next to it with a large box, smoking wires dangling from the bottom, presumably ripped from within the machine
“Thank you, Francois,” Rinkenbach said. “That’s quite enough. Um, thank you all for coming! Enjoy the show.”
Rinkenbach rushed off stage as a deluge of questions were shouted at him from the audience. I, like many other reporters at the conference, tried to set up a one on one interview, but it seems that Rinkenbach has left the city. In any case, the bar has been set for this year’s IIC.