Episode 208: Badges
18 0 0
Reading Options
Font Size
A- 15px A+
Table of Contents
Loading... please wait.

The tall building in the center of the city was the Thalassian government building, and apparently that’s where minister Sally had arranged their accommodations. They entered the large, ornate double doors and went into a circular room with doors spaced out all over, and ServAis set between each. Shimmering holograms of historical figures floated near the ceiling all around, staring down unblinking and silent. There were more well-dressed civilians waiting inside, talking to themselves as they waited.


As soon as they entered, the civilians all fell silent and bowed forward, the sudden simultaneous sound of layers of fabric shifting, creating a low roar through the room.

“As I said,” Sally purred, “So many were excited to see you; I couldn’t turn them away.”

She clicked her claw at two ServAis standing along the wall. They instantly came to life and came over, greeting TO and DH first with the bow and backward step, then bowing to minister Sally. 


“Greetings, Honored Synths.” they said in unison, “Greetings, minister Sally.”

“You will take our honored synths to their rooms.” minister Sally said, “And then, whenever they are in the building, you will wait on them and only them; am I clear?”


“That won’t be necessary.” TO said. They didn’t want to have ServAis around them all the time, and even aside from that, they had already seen several AIs being used by the insurgents. They weren’t sure that it was entirely safe. 


Did minister Sally know? Probably not; They had kept the information confidential, as they still hadn’t discounted the possibility of a minister being part of the insurgency. They still thought it was Buteo since he was a descendent of former royalty, but looking at the fine, decorative work put into all the buildings, the excess of grass and trees placed even by the roads, and the clothes and accessories she wore, TO wouldn’t overlook minister Sally either. Already, she reminded TO of the kinds of old rulers that controlled planets before King Decon liberated them and brought them into His Galactic Empire; surrounded and dressed in finery and entirely removed from everyone else. 

TO doubted that she had ever seen the Outer Ring; they were certain that she had never been there. 


“Please, let me send them with you.” Minister Sally said again, her voice so sweeter than when she spoke to Noss, “should you need anything, these two will accommodate you. I wouldn’t want you needing something and having nobody around to help you.”


“Couldn’t you send a normal civilian?” TO asked. The helmet didn’t translate that; instead, it gave TO a warning that in more highly regarded estates, especially on Thalassa, ServAi’s were the norm, with actual people working only in the more specialized areas. Minister Sally may be unable to accommodate a request for a civilian, and even if she could, rejecting the offer of two ServAi’s would be rude. 


More civilian rules. They only now realized how many rules there were in ‘high’ society here. There weren’t any kind of unnecessary rules around Lendulin and the others. Of course, they didn’t have their helmets on then, nor did their civilian friends have ServAis to offer them. There could have been a thousand simple social taboos that they broke around their friends without even knowing it. 


“I thank you for your hospitality.” TO said. “We should examine the room now, though.” 


Noss, who had been standing right next to Minister Sally, shook his head. “There’s no need for that.” he said quickly, “I can have my people examine it-”

“We would rather examine it ourselves.” TO said. They’d have to do it themselves anyway, regardless of who examined it.

“Of course.” minister Sally said. “And before I forget, please, take these.” She clicked her claw at another ServAi behind her. It stepped forward and held two boxes up to TO and DH.

“Your security badges.” She said, “Full access to any part of Thalassa, of course. I regret we cannot simply add your existing identification scans to our system, but it is part of that invisible security I mentioned earlier.” 

TO took a box and opened it, revealing a necklace inside; it hung on a golden chain and had a small conch shell hanging off the end. It didn't look like anything more than a decorative necklace, but TO knew there had to be all kinds of electronics on the inside.

“If you wish to use any facilities in Thalassa, you will need your badge. If there’s any other issues, please let me know.”

“These don’t look like badges.” DH said as they picked their necklace from the box.

“Of course not.” Sally said, “That’s the point.” She gestured to her chest, showing her own necklace; it looked just like the one she had given TO and DH. “They’re meant to look beautiful, so they don’t remind people it’s a security device. Besides, nobody wants to wear an actual badge with the height of fashion, do they?” 


“I like these.” DH admitted through their communicator, “But… it seems excessive, even for me. It’s a security device; a safety measure. I don’t think that looks should be a big concern.”

“That is odd coming from you.” TO said, their ears twitching with amusement. Of course, DH couldn’t see that.

“I like Arkanian fashion, and I love pretty things, but if it’s a safety measure, it shouldn’t matter!” 


“I’ll leave you to your accommodations for now.” Sally said, bowing and stepping backwards, “When everything is to your liking, please come to the training grounds for a little military display before the festivities.” She tilted her head. “I do hope you will attend. We have so many people, and even a famous and very skilled artist, coming to meet the representatives of King Decon.”


They had little choice on that; they would have to go as synths. “We will attend, for a short while.” they said.


“Yes,” DH said in the communicator, “Let’s go meet the phony artist as synths, then spend time with the actual artist as ourselves.” 


“Excellent. I know that Minister Noss put together a… quaint little get together for you at the Okoian Government house, but I assure you, you’ve not seen a party until you’ve attended one at a Thalassian estate.”

Noss huffed. “I beg your pardon, we sought to provide the best welcome for our honored Synths-”

“And I'm certain you did the best you could.” Minister Sally said without looking at him. “It is SO hard to do things on Okoia, given all the security issues.”


She had been sniping at Noss the entire way, and while TO had no affection for the stout little man, they didn’t enjoy her jabs. 


“Please, follow us, Honored Synths.” The ServAi’s said in unison as they headed towards a large, ornate elevator. 


“We will await you at the training yard at your leisure.” Minister Sally said, and she backed away, bowing. As she did, the others who had entered following her did the same; a sea of brightly colored fabric and carefully balanced wigs all dipping at once, the roar of fabric sounding like a distant beast.

“Very well.” TO said, and then in their communicator, they said to DH, “Let’s get out of here, they’re disturbing.”

“Very.” DH said back. They turned and followed the servAi’s to the elevator. Even the elevator was too much; it was not a simple blank one, but one that seemed to travel upwards through an aquarium filled with bioluminescent jellyfish. After several long moments of silence, TO’s communicator sounded in their ear with DH’s voice.

“... Do you think they like the ocean?”

A snort of laughter escaped TO, one which they quickly suppressed, and one which the helmet didn’t translate. It was all ridiculous to TO! The fancy clothes made it feel like they were at a party that never ceased. The over-decorated interiors, the aquarium elevator, even the decorative badges were all so excessive as to be ridiculous. And as for those civilians, well, didn’t they have anything better to do than to stand around and look pretty so they could glimpse a couple of on-duty synths? They were certain they didn’t look any different from the ones who were here before. 

It wasn’t necessary. TO could appreciate some aesthetic value, but all this? Real greenery under water? The wasted space?

Lendulin couldn’t afford a wheelchair. Pearla struggled to get supplies for people in her shelter, Petra couldn’t get an education without going into massive debt and yet the people for Thalassa had aquarium elevators in government buildings, and public green spaces.

This was the excess that King Decon meant to stop. The inequality King Decon had rid from his planets was now what they expected TO and DH to allow so that the planet would cooperate.

For the good of the Galaxy. Civilians wouldn’t understand.

TO didn’t understand either. 




The servAis led them down an over-decorated hallway - TO was certain that they carved the mouldings from marble, and could see inlaid pearls and gold gilt at the edges  - and to a large double door. Though it looked like an old-fashioned door that would swing open, the normal sliding mechanism clearly operated it. TO looked around for the panel that they’d have to set their badge to. 


“Honored Synth.” One of the ServAis said after a few minutes, “There is no need for security input; if you approach the door, it will open automatically.” 


Under their helmet, TO felt their ears burn. They stepped towards the door, and just as the ServAi said, it opened automatically. Once they were inside, they turned to the Bot. 


“You wait outside.” TO said, not bothering to soften their tone, “If we need you, we will fetch you.”

“Of course, Honored Synths.”

They stepped inside, and the door closed behind them.

TO figured that their accommodations would be more lavish than they’d need, and they were right. They entered a large circular room with five doors spaced out evenly around. In the center of the room was a table with a vase of aquatic flowers, bottles of wine, and a variety of fruits. Pictures hung between each door, showing images of mythical underwater creatures. Under each picture sat ornate padded chairs; the leather seats dyed a deep blue, the feet carved to look like waves frozen in time.


“They realize we’re here to work, right?” DH muttered as they looked around. “Do they have an office here, or-”

“I’m sure one of these rooms is an office.” TO muttered. “Want to scan for cameras?” 


DH nodded and fell silent as they looked about the room. A moment later, their voice came back on the communicator. 


“Yes.” They hissed, “Cameras all over; one over each door, and one in the ceiling pointing down.”

TO felt their ears pin back and their wings puff up. “Can you disable them?”

“I can.” DH said, “But there’s more in there; I’m having trouble pinpointing it.” They looked up, down, twisted around, and then stopped. They lifted their necklace up, so they were looking right at it, then looked at TO.

“The badges.” DH said, “They have recording equipment; cameras and audio recording.” 


Recording devices in the badges, and in the room itself. Why did they have that? Was that why Sally was so insistent that Noss didn’t need to have it inspected?

Of course, if that was the case, then why was she then so at ease with them inspecting it? 


“Should we ask her about it, or report it?” DH asked.

TO couldn’t respond before their helmet answered that question for them. 


== Detected; Civilian grade service surveillance. Constant surveillance is an accepted part of security and life in Thalassa. They fit most guest rooms with such devices to ensure that they meet the needs of its occupants, and to increase general security.

“No wonder the others never slept here.” TO said, “We can’t even take off our armor here.” TO sighed. They didn’t want constant surveillance again; they wanted to enjoy what little time they had with DH!

“We could request that they disable the surveillance,” DH said. “I can’t see how that would be a problem.” 


“Does it matter, though?” TO said as they touched the necklace, “We need to wear these to get around, regardless.”

“It does matter.” DH said, “They have no right to be observing us. We’ll have them disabled. I’ll tell her to disable them myself!”


“For all we know, she could be part of the insurgency! I mean-” They waved a hand around, “look at all this. She clearly likes the excess and ways of the Old Rule. Why wouldn't she want to get rid of King Decon’s rule and have more.”

Ideally, that made sense, but after talking to Ark-1 about it in the first place about the allowances they afford the leadership of Arkane, they weren’t sure if they’d live any better freed from King Decon’s rule.