As Rook approached the Imperial Palace, he thought about the messenger that brought the summons from Empress Azarra, asking him to come to the Palace this morning. He'd been only too willing to accept such an invitation. Security had been increased since the Empress came to stay. The Guards at the first checkpoint made sure he had no weapons and the second ones made sure he was expected. Then he was led to an elevator, sent to the 15th level and met there by a Red Guard who escorted him into an elegant meeting/reception room. A huge desk and very comfortable chairs took up most of the space; the walls were lined with bookshelves and very expensive art. The room was empty, so he just stood and waited. A few minutes later, the Empress entered through a door at the far end of the room and said, "Good morning, Rook. Thank you for coming on such short notice. I do hope this meeting is not keeping you from any of your Household duties. I wouldn't want Lady Darana to be angry with me." "Good morning, Your Majesty. Have no fear of keeping me from my duties. Darana knows I am here and approves. I am only too glad to be of service." Azarra graciously offered him some refreshment and after pouring 2 glasses of a deep red fruit juice herself, sat in one of the comfortable chairs and indicated that he should do the same. "You mentioned an idea of how to deal with this droid situation. Since 'blast them all' and 'mind wipe them all' are the only suggestions I have gotten from the Imperial advisors, I thought a fresh perspective was needed to this far-reaching problem. " "I agree, Your Majesty, hence my boldness in even suggesting a solution." She continued, "I don't think these advisors appreciate how deeply entrenched the droids could be. Surely it would be impractical to mind wipe thousands of droids. How would you handle this?" Rook paused to gather his thoughts, took a sip of his drink and then replied, "In my humble opinion, you have a great number of droids that are considered property. They perform functions that the Empire has come to rely upon. If you deny them citizen status and the Alliance grants it, you now have a situation where the droids will want to defect, giving them more numbers and robbing The Empire of resources." Azarra interjected, "From what I understand, the Alliance has already granted citizenship to any who wish it. If we are talking about a few hundred droids, The Empire could handle that. But, what if it's thousands?" "That is exactly why you should grant them the same. With citizenship, they have an incentive to stay. You can force them to take jobs, tax them, and even draft them into the military service, perhaps in the front lines, where they cease to be a problem if they are killed. At present, they are unable to reproduce. . ." Azarra was about to take another drink, but stopped, startled. "Reproduce? Do you think that's a possibility? I must admit that robotics was not part of a Princess' education." "They cannot reproduce, as we know it. It would be more like copying files and assembling duplicates. I don't know if they have thought of this. But, as citizens, they fall under the law like anyone else. They must obey or be prosecuted. Rules can then be created as problems arise." Azarra thought a few moments, rose and took a seat behind the desk then replied, "I fear that the Emperor will not see the rationality behind this point of view. I'm not even sure who will make the final decision. His Majesty is not big on diplomacy. So, you suggest granting them citizenship with certain restrictions?" He nodded. "Does Lady Darana share your viewpoint . . . or is it none of my business?" "I did not ask what Darana thought of this, but she did say it sounded like an interesting plan and that I had given it a great deal of thought." "I appreciate your taking the time both to think about this and to explain it to me. I will be compiling all the suggestions with appropriate pros and cons and giving it to His Majesty if he wishes to see it. Someone will render a final decision. Your input has been very helpful. Is there anything I can do for you?" "I am happy to be of any service I can, Your Majesty. I did not do this for recompense, merely to serve, so I cannot think of anything." "Well, if there ever is anything that I might be able to do for you, you will let me know, won't you? I will be certain to tell His Majesty how helpful you have been. It did not seem as if you two were on the best of terms during the throne room audience at Port Lansing." Rook seemed slightly abashed. "I had spoken out of turn and made a request, Your Majesty. There are not many who do that. I can understand his annoyance." "Perhaps he will reconsider your request when he finds out how helpful you have been. I'm sure you must have other duties to attend to, so I won't keep you any longer, unless you have something else you'd like to add. Thank you for your opinions on this matter. I found your frankness refreshing." Inclining his head, Rook replied, "You continue to flatter me, Your Majesty. I am doing my job, as I believe everyone should. Feel free to call upon me again should you have the need." Rising from behind the desk, she said, "If all our citizens were as loyal as you, we would have far fewer problems than we do now. Thank you, again, for coming, and please give my best to Lady Darana." "I reflect the values we try to instill and uphold in all of the members of the house. I will, indeed, give her your best, Your Majesty." He rose from his chair, bowed slightly, and left.
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