That Game We Played During the War

That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn Read Free Book Online

Book: That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carrie Vaughn
 
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    From the moment she left the train station, absolutely everybody stopped to look at Calla. They watched her walk across the plaza and up the steps of the Northward Military Hospital. In her dull gray uniform she was like a storm cloud moving among the khaki of the Gaantish soldiers and officials. The peace between their peoples was holding; seeing her should not have been such a shock. And yet, she might very well have been the first citizen of Enith to walk across this plaza without being a prisoner.
    Calla wasn’t telepathic, but she could guess what every one of these Gaantish was thinking: What was she doing here? Well, since they were telepathic, they’d know the answer to that. They’d wonder all the same, but they’d know. It would be a comfort not to have to explain herself over and over again.
    It was also something of a comfort not bothering to hide her fear. Technically, Enith and Gaant were no longer at war. That did not mean these people didn’t hate her for the uniform she wore. She didn’t think much of their uniforms either, and all the harm soldiers like these had done to her and those she loved. She couldn’t hide that, and so let the emotions slide right through her and away. She felt strangely light, entering the hospital lobby, and her smile was wry.
    Some said Enith and Gaant were two sides of the same coin; they would never see eye to eye and would always fight over the same spit of land between their two continents. But their differences were simple, one might say: only in their minds.
    The war had ended recently enough that the hospital was crowded. Many injured, many recovering. In the lobby, Calla had to pause a moment, the scents and sounds and bustle of the place were so familiar, recalling for her every base or camp where she’d been stationed, all her years as a nurse and then as a field medic. She’d spent the whole war in places like this, and her hands itched for work. Surely someone needed a temperature taken or a dressing changed? No amount of exhaustion had ever quelled that impulse in her.
    But she was a visitor here, not a nurse. Tucking her short hair behind her ears, brushing some lint off her jacket, she walked to the reception desk and approached the young woman in a khaki uniform sitting there.
    â€œHello. I’m here to see one of your patients, Major Valk Larn. I think all my paperwork is in order.” Speaking slowly and carefully because she knew her accent in Gaantish was rough, she unfolded said paperwork from its packet: passport, visa, military identification, and travel permissions.
    The Gaantish officer stared at her. Her hair under her cap was pulled back in a severe bun; her whole manner was very strict and proper. Her tabs said she was a second lieutenant—just out of training and the war ends, poor thing. Or lucky thing, depending on one’s point of view. Calla wondered what the young lieutenant made of the mess of thoughts pouring from her. If she saw the sympathy or only the pity.
    â€œYou speak Gaantish,” the lieutenant said bluntly.
    Calla was used to this reaction. “Yes. I spent a year at the prisoner camp at Ovorton. Couldn’t help but learn it, really. It’s a long story.” She smiled blandly.
    Seeing the whole of that long story in an instant, the woman glanced away quickly. She might have been blushing, either from confusion or embarrassment, Calla couldn’t tell. Didn’t really matter. Whatever it was, she covered it up by examining Calla’s papers.
    â€œTechnician Calla Belan, why are you here?” The lieutenant sounded amazed.
    Calla chuckled. “Really?” She wasn’t hiding anything; Valk and her worry for him were at the front of her mind.
    The other Gaantish soldiers in the lobby were too polite to stare at the exchange, but they glanced over. If they really focused they could learn everything about her. They were welcome to her history. It

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