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The Examinations

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This concludes the general knowledge portion of The Aptitudes. We shall now start the interview portion. Please answer honestly.

Question 1: What do you think of when you think of The Radch?

There was a time when the color of war was brown, the dirt of trenches, red brown of drying blood. There was a time when war was dirty. There was a time when it stuck beneath nails and stained the sheets of any bed a soldier slept on. But that was a long time ago.

The color of war is silver now. It is a clean and shining thing. It is the color of armor, smooth and faultless, and the color of the smooth bodies of ships in the sky above battle fields. It is the color of weapons. The color of the people with the weapons.

For Doas cait’s people it is not too far behind them. Grandfathers, and there are grandfathers for Cait still, and grandmothers cannot remember a time when the Radch did not look like war but they can certainly imagine a time when war did not look like the scaled soldiers of the Radch. 

When they first came she was 3 and she thought they were the darting silver fishes come into the air. When she thinks of them she thinks of fish bellies. What an innocuous thing? For people who changed so much.

She lets the drugs drag this out of her. Better this than something worse. Better darting silver fish in the shallows than the things in the depths.

Question 2: Please explain one time in which you experienced grief and how you handled it.

She is at the temple three times.

She is 6 and the blood has not even cooled. She is on the way to The Lieutenant’s house and she stops before the temple. She turns her head slowly; she was told not to look, just as she was told not to go out at all. There is a priest kneeling among the red, head bent and back penitent, crying silently. All her scrubbing will not remove it.

She is 14 and blood still lives between the cracks, still seems into the marsh dirt beneath it. On the hottest days you can smell the iron and taste that day’s memories in the heavy air.

She is 9 and she is cutting Skaiaat ’s hair with a knife that she was sent to get because Skiaait had none of her own. It was no ceremonial thing, but rather a fishmonger’s knife. Doas Cait had seen it day after day skinning the scales off fish, and delicately dipping in and out of their slit stomachs, pulling their bones out into the air. It is what she thinks of when she thinks of knives and so it is what she fetched when she was asked.

She cuts each of Skaiaat ’s braids as closely to the scalp as her shaking hands could manage. And she takes them each, in gloved hands, and places them on the brazier to turn to ash.

The question is always how to mourn. There are a thousand ways to clip your hair, a hundred thousand patterns to cut into your face in white paint, more styles of memorial pins than there are people to remember the dead. One must choose the correct path according to the manner of death, their relationship to you, their house and position in society, which gods they prayed to, how the omens fell on the day of their death.

In the more prestigious houses there were people whose job it was to know. On stations, in the sight line of ships, AI’s could run subroutines to analyze mourning into easily met criterion, could provide suggestions from the cross referenced memory of their centuries.

These things were not perfect. Nothing could account for everything. One simply had to throw the coin of chance and guess. One would mourn as Amaat willed.

That was what Lieutenant Skaiaat had said to her when she had asked Doas Cait for this service. She had seen Doa Cait in the square ad for a single moment her face had done something strange as if she was making the type of decision that the Radchai never let show on their faces.

“I think it is time that we mourn,” she had said divisively.

“For who are we mourning?” Daos Cait asked.  

“I think you know.” Was Skaiaat’s reply.

Of course she did. Skaiaat mourned for The Lieutenit and One-Esk and Daos Cait mourned for One-Esk and the Leuteniate.

After Skaiaat’s hair was done, they painted the white stripe across each other’s faces, and then they sat.

“What else do we do?” Daos Cait asked.

“I do not know.”

Question 3: To whom do you feel you owe the most loyalty?

Skaiaat Awer was not the same person who Doas Cait had watched strolling through the streets with The Lieutenant. This Skaiaat was far more deliberate. This Skaiaat had chosen her and let her cut her braids as only a family member should. Doas Cait had not known this of course, for at 9 she was still far from conversant in the subtleties of the Radchai. Yet she had known the intimacy of the act as she had done it.

“You will be okay here,” Skaiaat had told her even as she asked her to come with her.

“I think you know my answer,” Doas Cait answered.

Doas Cait was 16 and she would not have to see the temple stones again.

Question 4: When asked to carry out and order that you may find repulsive, do you think you will be capable of following it?

“They will ask you the question,” Skaiaat said as they walked down the concourse together.

Doas Cait was shaking. Skaiaat was pretending not to notice as any polite Radchai would.

“They will ask you about following orders and you must say yes,” she said.

Daos Cait did not know if she could.

“I order you to say yes. It will be repulsive to you, but I order you to say yes, and you will. Then it will not be a lie.”

“Yes,” Doas Cait says to the interviewer, “Yes I believe I can.”