Palace Security, Meditation, and Observation

"We don't like the idea of you being alone especially after the nonsense that happened on Rogue Moon. It cannot hurt for you to take Snowflake with you, he is well trained. When you finish what you're doing, you could bring him back here where I'll be waiting, then you will have someone to walk back to the ship with if you do need a ride. Or alternatively, we can wait here for you to return and tell us in person whether you need to ride with us or not, then we will be close enough that if something does go wrong we can come and help you."

"Er, okay, I guess you can wait here for me if that is what Captain Spivak wants you to do," Armé replied, assuming that Spivak was the other person Crystal was referring to when she used the pronoun 'we'. "I guess I'll see you soon then."

After waving Crystal goodbye, Armé continued up the stairs to where the palace guards were waiting. "Can I see an ID?" one of the guards demanded.

Armé reached into her coat and pulled her government employee ID card off of her Credit Chip holder and presented it to the guard, who scanned it and handed it back to her. "What brings you to the palace today, Miss Natala?"

"I have an urgent message to deliver to Queen Namiene Tolarri from my boss, Senator Thadlé Berenko," Armé answered.

"Is her Highness expecting you?"

"Doubtful, unless Senator Berenko informed our Queen of my imminent arrival without my knowledge of such a communication."

"Very well, I will let her Highness know to see you at her earliest convenience," the guard informed her. Pointing toward a room inside, the palace, the guard continued, "In the meantime, you should find a seat in the waiting area over there. One of my colleagues will let you know when her Highness is ready to see you."

Armé thanked the guard then made her way to the room the guard had directed her toward. Unlike the beautiful, grand, and ornate vestibule of the palace, the waiting room was small and fairly plain looking. It was not a place designed to impress anyone.

There were a few other people sitting in the room, mostly business types by the look of them. A few of them glanced her way, then returned their attention to their datapads or other distractions. Armé wordlessly sat in a chair that wasn't directly next to anyone. At first, she just stared at the wall across from her and considered what she would say to the Queen once she was given the chance to talk to her. However, as time went by and minutes became hours, Armé's thoughts drifted back to her recent experiences, to the friends she had lost and those she seemed to have gained, to her traumatic brush with death and the surprising degree of kindness shown to her by strangers ignorant of her plight. The world Armé lived in was one in which everyone had an angle, and if they were being nice to her, it was because they wanted something from her. Today, however, that didn't quite seem to be the case. Perhaps Crystal was just too young to be jaded by the universe, but Spivak seemed aged and experienced, yet he had been unconditionally kind to her as well.

"Miss Natala, the Queen is ready to see you."

Armé sprang to her feet upon hearing her name. She looked around and saw that most everyone else had left. At the entrance to the waiting room, a security guard stood with an impatient look on his face. "I'm ready," Armé murmured as she approached the guard, who merely grunted in response before turning around and walking off. Armé followed him back into the vestibule and through the familiar corridors of the palace where she had once worked.

Soon, Armé found herself standing in front of the Queen's private office as her escort went in to inform the Queen of her arrival. Armé noticed another guard standing at the entrance to the office, examining her. As Armé started to meet his gaze, he suddenly lowered his eyes to the ground, which struck Armé as rather odd.

"You may enter, Miss Natala," the escorting guard declared, emerging from the Queen's office. He courteously held the door open with one hand, but the other was hovering uncomfortably close to his blaster. Come to think of it, a lot of the guards seemed a little on edge today. Armé wondered if a security breach or something had occurred recently. She dipped her head in acknowledgment to the guards then strode past them. The door closed behind her, leaving her alone with Queen Namiene Tolarri...

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