Marque and Reprisal
the lamp shade. Walls of soft peach, with a faint cream stripe. Ky lay back against the piled pillows, wondering where she was. The last she remembered was the Captains’ Guild… men with masks and guns… police… then it came back, all a rush of memory. She blinked. This wasn’t a jail, she was sure of that. She’d never seen this room before, but the fragrance, familiar since childhood, suggested the legation and its garden of Slotter Key natives.
    Before she thought to reach for the comunit on the bedside table, someone shouldered the door open and entered with a tray, a stout woman in a flowered tunic. She brought the tray to the bedside and began offloading dishes onto the bedside table.
    “Ah, good, you’re awake. You’ll be wondering where you are and what happened,” the woman said. “Slotter Key legation. The doctor wants to talk to you and so does the consul and the Belinta police. I’m Carla, by the way, and you’re supposed to take your time eating as much as you want before anyone tries to talk to you. Doctor’s orders.” She poured out a cup of tea; Ky hitched herself more upright in the bed, took it, and sipped.
    “Tell me what happened at the Captains’ Guild,” Ky said. “Upstairs, I mean.”
    “My feet hurt,” Carla said, ignoring the question. She plumped down in the upholstered chair and kicked her shoes off. “I’m not supposed to talk to you about what happened; I’m supposed to be sure you’re really awake and have had something to eat.” She laid her head back and sighed. Ky stared a moment then picked up one of the pastries and started to bite into it. Then she stopped. Whatever had happened after the part she remembered, someone had tried to kill her—not once, but twice, counting the attempt to smuggle explosives onto her ship. And she was supposed to eat and drink whatever she was brought?
    She put the cup down; it chinked on the saucer, and the woman—Carla—opened her eyes. “Sorry—can I get you anything?”
    “How do I know you’re who you say you are?”
    “Excuse me?”
    Ky realized, as she sat up and threw the covers back, that she was wearing someone else’s nightshirt. She’d never owned one in lavender and green, and besides it was hugely too big. Her head spun for a moment, then cleared.
    “You say this is the Slotter Key legation—”
    “Yes, of course. Where else would it be?”
    “And you’re—a legation employee?”
    The woman drew herself up, red patches coming up on her cheeks, and gave Ky a hostile glance. “I am the consul’s wife,” she said. “Carla Maria Inosyeh.”
    Ky felt her face heating up. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “You weren’t—I didn’t meet you before, at the dinner.”
    “I was indisposed.” An impatient movement in the chair, then the woman fished for her shoes and put them back on. “And before you ask, yes, this is my bedroom you’re in, and my nightdress you’re wearing. I was told your things had been stolen.”
    “I’m sorry,” Ky said again. “I didn’t know—I am confused—they tried to kill me, and I was afraid—”
    The woman’s expression softened. “I suppose it’s understandable. It’s been a very strange day, I hear. But perhaps you should see Parin—my husband the consul—now. I will have to tell him later that I managed to frighten the redoubtable Captain Vatta.” She actually smiled as she went to the door.
    The tea must be doing its work; Ky felt more solidly there than she had a few minutes before. “Wait,” she said. “I believe you. Please—stay, sit down, and I’ll eat—” She picked up the pastry again and bit into it. It was delicious.
    “If you insist,” Carla said, this time with a genuine smile. “My husband has been telling me about your trip to Sabine. The news reports of the attacks there were terrifying. I can’t imagine someone blowing up ansible platforms.” She glanced up as if she could see through the roof to Belinta’s ansible station.

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