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Kara Thrace prays to Athena

The interview room was empty, apart from the table, four straight-backed chairs, and a full carafe of what Kara assumed was water and four small glasses, sitting on a silver tray. She sat down facing the doorway, and tried not to fidget. Her lawyer, Lieutenant Vorrinkstraat, took the chair next to hers. Secretly, Kara had shortened his name to Lieutenant Vorky. There was nothing to worry about, he had explained to her through a translator. (Four languages were spoken on Barrayar, none of them Caprican.) According to Lieutenant Vorky, Kara had already been granted provisional refugee status. Today's interview was a formality; then she would be assigned to a caseworker, who would arrange temporary housing, language instruction and education, the goal being her resettlement on one of the planets of the Imperium.

Although Vorky looked young for a lawyer, Kara took him at his word. She didn't care where she ended up—any planet that was willing to fight the Cylons was fine by her. Closing her eyes, she began a silent prayer to Athena.

Mighty Athena, whose able arm ever aids
the weak, who upholds our efforts, who sustains
our strength, who in battle is unsurpassed, you ward us
from all who would assail us, all who wish us harm.
I praise and honor you, I thank you for your blessings.

As she was finishing her prayer, the door opened. An odd-looking man swept into the room and Lieutenant Vorky bolted out of his seat and stood at attention. The newcomer inclined his head and torso in a formal bow and recited what Kara now recognized as a greeting. Yada yada, something, something, Vor-Something. Half the surnames here started with Vor, which was weird. This Vor didn't clear five feet, had a pronounced hunchback and his head was too big for his height. Physical peculiarities aside, the way he radiated confidence and authority reminded her of Bill Adama. Short-but-charismatic Vor Guy was dressed in a drab gray uniform that Kara figured was the equivalent of a Barrayaran business suit.

What was wrong with her? This man was her interviewer, so she'd better shut her mouth and stop staring. She folded her hands in her lap and forced a smile.

An older woman with gray hair and kind eyes had followed him in. She wore a long, full skirt, a high-necked blouse, and an elaborately embroidered vest. In impeccable, formal Caprican, she translated, "Greetings, Captain Thrace. This is Lord Auditor Miles Vorkosigan, Lord Miles to you, if you prefer. I am Madame Doctor Vorthys, the translator." The Barrayarans loved combining their names and titles into long, complicated lists, Kara had noticed. She did prefer the shorter version as it saved her the trouble of making one up.

Lord Miles sat across from Kara; Madame Doctor took the seat next to his. When the lieutenant didn't move, Lord Miles motioned for him to sit, and after a moment of hesitation, he obeyed.

Thanks to Lieutenant Vorky's coaching, Kara knew what questions to expect. She told them everything: name, rank, serial number. Level of education. Family background. Plan for assimilation into Barrayaran society. It was Kara's understanding that the Barrayarans wanted to place the refugees into jobs that would require as little retraining as possible. Joining their military was her best option, although in addition to becoming fluent in English Standard, it would require pledging her allegiance to their emperor. It was not a tough call. Defending democracy mattered far less to her than defeating the Cylons.

Lord Miles frowned. "I am sorry, Captain Thrace. Women are not permitted to serve in the Barrayaran military. I assumed you had been told this, if not by your commanding officer," he said, turning to Lieutenant Vorrinkstraat, "by your advocate." He put extra emphasis on the words "your" and "advocate." Vorky turned pink, stared down at his data pad, and kept silent.

"Why the frak not? You do realize I'm the best fighter pilot in the fleet." Gods. Instead of the Thirteenth Colony of Kobol, they'd ended up on a planet stuck in the Stone Age, run by idiots. This was pointless. She needed to get out this room. If she didn't, she might take a swing at the little twerp. She stood up and squared her shoulders. "I think we're done here. Take me back to camp."

Lieutenant Vorrinkstrat looked at Lord Miles, who nodded permission. Kara was escorted from the room.

After the door closed, Miles winced. "That went well."

Dr. Voryths sighed and poured herself a glass of water. "Captain Thrace has a point. The female members of their military are eager to serve in ours. If we are on the verge of war, can we afford to assign them to civilian jobs for which they have no training or aptitude, on the basis of their sex?"

Miles had read her file: Kara Thrace could be volatile but she was a hero. She deserved better. However, it wasn't his call. His job was to gather information. Who were these Colonials? Where did they come from? How did they get here? What sort of enemy were they in retreat from? Why was there no mention of their planet of origin—Kobol—in the records of Old Earth? Miles loved puzzles. Solving this mystery could be the most exciting, consequential, and urgent assignment of his career.

"I have some ideas about that but I'll need to talk with Gregor," he said. Maybe the Dendarii could absorb the Colonial military, including the two battle cruisers? The thought of getting Elli Quinn and Kara Thrace in the same room was enthralling. And, as usual, he was getting ahead of himself. "We'll need to re-interview Captain Thrace soon. She knows things that I need to know. But, first things first. Who's next on our list?"