A Desolation Called Peace is the spectacular space opera sequel to A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, winner of the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
An alien terror could spell our end
An alien threat lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is supposed to win a war against it.
In a desperate attempt to find a diplomatic solution, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy to contact the mysterious invaders. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass - both still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire - face an impossible task. They must attempt to negotiate with a hostile entity, without inadvertently triggering the destruction of themselves and the Empire.
Whether they succeed or fail could change the face of Teixcalaan forever.
'All-round brilliant space opera, I absolutely loved it' - Ann Leckie on A Memory Called Empire
'A cutting, beautiful, human adventure . . . The best SF novel I've read in the last five years' - Yoon Ha Lee on A Memory Called Empire
Release date: March 2, 2021
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Print pages: 320
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
A Desolation Called Peace
… INTERDICT SUSPENDED—for a duration of four months, extensible by Council order, the interdict regarding Teixcalaanli military transport through Stationer space is suspended; all ships bearing Teixcalaanli military callsign are permitted to pass through the Anhamemat Gate—this suspension does not authorize Teixcalaanli ships, military or otherwise, to dock at Lsel Station without prior visas, approvals, and customs clearances—SUSPENSION AUTHORIZED BY THE COUNCILOR FOR THE MINERS (DARJ TARATS)—message repeats …
—priority message deployed on diplomatic, commercial, and universal frequencies in the Bardzravand Sector, 52nd day, 1st year, in the 1st indiction of the Emperor of All Teixcalaan Nineteen Adze
* * *
Your Brilliance, you have left me with all the world, and yet I am bereft; I’d take your star-cursed possessing ghost, Six Direction, if only he would teach me how not to sleep.
—the private notes of Her Brilliance the Emperor Nineteen Adze, undated, locked, and encrypted
NINE Hibiscus watched the cartograph cycle through its last week of recorded developments for a third time, and then switched it off. Without its pinpoint stargleams and Fleet-movement arcs inscribed in light, the strategy table on the bridge of Weight for the Wheel was a flat black expanse, dull-matte, as impatient as its captain for new information.
There was none forthcoming. Nine Hibiscus didn’t need to watch the cartograph again to remember how the displayed planet-points had winked first distress-red and then out-of-communication black, vanishing like they were being swallowed by a tide. No matter how thickly laid the lines of incoming Teixcalaanli ships were shown on that cartograph, none of them had advanced into the flood of blank silence. Beyond this point, Nine Hibiscus thought, not without a shimmering anticipation, we are quite afraid to see.
Her own Weight for the Wheel was the second-closest vessel to the communicationless swath. She’d sent only one ship farther out than she’d take her own people. That was the hybrid scout-gunner called Knifepoint’s Ninth Blooming, a near-invisible sliver of a ship that slipped free of her flagship’s open-mawed hangar and into the silent black. Sending it might have been Nine Hibiscus’s first mistake as Her Brilliance the Emperor Nineteen Adze’s newest yaotlek—commander of Fleet commanders, with multiple Teixcalaanli legions under her control. An Emperor made new yaotlekim when that Emperor wanted to make a war: the one begot the other. Nine Hibiscus had heard that old saying the first time when she’d been a cadet, and thought it herself approximately once a week, absent confirmation of absolute observed truth.
Nineteen Adze, new-crowned, had very badly wanted to make a war.
Now, at the very forefront of that war, Nine Hibiscus hoped sending Knifepoint hadn’t been a mistake after all. It’d be useful to avoid unforced errors, considering how new a yaotlek she was. (It’d be useful to avoid errors at all, but Nine Hibiscus had been an officer of the Six Outreaching Palms—the Teixcalaanli imperial military, hands outstretched in every direction—long enough to know that errors, in war, were inevitable.) So far Knifepoint was running as quiet as the dead planets up ahead, and the cartograph hadn’t updated in four hours.
So that gambit could be going any way at all.
She leaned her elbows on the strategy table. There’d be elbowprints later: the soft pillowing flesh of her arms leaving its oils on the matte surface, and she’d have to get out a screen-cleaner cloth to wipe them away. But Nine Hibiscus liked to touch her ship, know it even when it was just waiting for orders. Feel, even this far from its engine core, the humming of the great machine for which she served as a brain. Or at least a ganglion cluster, a central point. A Fleet captain was a filter for all the information that came to the bridge, after all—and a yaotlek was more so, a yaotlek had farther reach, more hands to stretch out in every possible direction. More ships.
Nine Hibiscus was going to need every one of them she had got. The Emperor Herself might have wanted a war to cut the teeth of her rulership on, but the war that she’d sent Nine Hibiscus out to win was already ugly: ugly and mysterious. A poison tide lapping at the edges of Teixcalaan. It had begun with rumors, stories of aliens that struck, destroyed, vanished without warning or demands, leaving shattered ship pieces in the void if they left anything at all. But there were always horror stories of spooks in the black. Every Fleet soldier grew up on them, passed them down to new cadets. And these particular rumors had all crept inward from the Empire’s neighbors, from Verashk-Talay and Lsel Station, nowhere central, nowhere important—not until the old Emperor, eternally-sun-caught Six Direction, died … and in his dying declared that all the rumors were true.
After that the war was inevitable. It would have happened anyway, even before five Teixcalaanli colony outposts on the other side of the jumpgate in Parzrawantlak Sector went as silent and dull as stones, just where those horror-stories would have crawled out from, if they were going to crawl out of the black spaces between the stars at all. It merely might have happened slower.
Her Brilliance Nineteen Adze had been Emperor for two months, and Nine Hibiscus had been yaotlek for this war for almost half that time.
Around her the bridge was both too busy and too quiet. Every station was occupied by its appropriate officer. Navigation, propulsion, weaponry, comms: all arrayed around her and her strategy table like a solid, scaled-up version of the holographic workspace she could call into being with her cloudhook, the glass-and-metal overlay on her right eye that linked her—even here on the edge of the Teixcalaanli imperium—to the great data-and-story networks that held the Empire together. Every one of the bridge’s stations was occupied, and every occupant was trying to look as if they had something to do besides wait and wonder if the force they had been sent to defeat would catch them unawares and do—whatever it was that these aliens were doing that snuffed out planetary communication systems like flames in vacuum. All of her bridge officers were nervous, and all of them were tired of being patient. They were the Fleet, the Six Outreaching Palms of Teixcalaan: conquest was their style, not massed waiting on the edge of the inevitable, paused in worrisome silence at the very forefront of six legions’ worth of ships. Nearest to the danger, and yet still unmoving.
At least when Her Brilliance Nineteen Adze had made her yaotlek to prosecute this war, Nine Hibiscus thought, she’d let her keep her own ship as flagship. Each of these officers was a Teixcalaanlitzlim she’d worked with, served with, commanded—each of them she’d led to victory at the uprising at Kauraan System less than three months ago. They were hers. They’d trust her a little longer. Just a little longer, until Knifepoint came back with some actionable information and she could let them loose a bit. Taste a little blood, a little dust and fire blooming from the death of an alien ship. A fleet could last a long time, fed on those sips of sugar-water violence, as long as they believed their yaotlek knew what she was doing.
Or that’d always been how Nine Hibiscus had felt, when she used to serve under Fleet Captain Nine Propulsion before Nine Propulsion had gone off to pilot a desk planetside in the City. She’d risen all the way to Minister of War under the last, dead, lamented Emperor, and Nine Hibiscus—who spelled her name with the same number glyph Nine Propulsion used, and hadn’t yet regretted that late-teenage star-eyed choice of how to style herself in written form—had thought she’d probably be Minister under the new one. Had expected that.
But instead, Nine Propulsion had taken retirement almost immediately upon Nineteen Adze’s ascension. She’d left the City entirely, gone home to her birth system—no chance yet for one of her old subordinates to drop by and ask her what for, and why now, and all the usual gossip. Instead, Nine Hibiscus, bereft of the comfort of mentorship (she’d been lucky to have had it so long, if she was being honest with herself) had woken up one shift with an urgent infofiche stick message from the Emperor Herself—a commission.
If this war is winnable, I want you to win it. The Emperor’s dark cheekbones like knives, like the edges of the flares of the sun-spear throne she sat on.
And now, calling her back to herself in this present moment, a low voice to Nine Hibiscus’s direct left: one that wouldn’t startle her at that distance. (The only one who could sneak up that close, regardless.) “Nothing yet, then, sir?”
Twenty Cicada, her ikantlos-prime, highest-ranking of all the officers who served directly under the Fleet Captain and not in another administrative division. He was her adjutant and second-in-command, which was one of the ways that rank could be used—she couldn’t imagine having anyone else in the position save for him. He had his arms folded neatly across the cadaverous thinness of his chest, one eyebrow an expressive arch. As always, his uniform was impeccable, perfect-Teixcalaanli, the very image of a soldier in a propaganda holofilm: if you ignored the shaved head and how he looked like he hadn’t eaten in a month. The curling edges of green-and-white-inked tattoos just visible at his wrists and throat, when the uniform shifted as he moved or breathed.
“Nothing,” said Nine Hibiscus, loud enough for the rest of the bridge to hear. “Absolute quiet. Knifepoint’s running silenced, and at their usual speed they’re not going to be back for another shift and a half, unless they’re running from something nasty. And there isn’t much Knifepoint would run from.”
Twenty Cicada knew all that. It wasn’t for him. It was for how Eighteen Chisel in Navigation’s shoulders dropped an inch; how Two Foam, on comm, actually sent the message she’d been hesitating on for the past five minutes, reporting continued clear skies to the rest of their multilegion Fleet.
“Excellent,” said Twenty Cicada. “Then you won’t mind if I borrow you for a moment, yaotlek?”
“Tell me that we are not still having problems with the escaped pets in the air ducts on Deck Five, and I will not mind being borrowed,” Nine Hibiscus said, widening her eyes in fond near-mockery. The pets—small furred things that vibrated pleasantly and ate vermin, a peculiar variant on cat that was endemic to Kauraan—had come aboard during their last planetfall there, when she’d still been Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus of the Tenth Legion, not yaotlek yet. The pets had not been a problem—or something Nine Hibiscus had even known about—until they had decided to reproduce themselves, and moved into a Deck Five air duct to do it. Twenty Cicada had complained vociferously about how they were disturbing the homeostasis of Weight for the Wheel’s environment.
“It is not the pets,” Twenty Cicada said. “That I promise. Conference room?”
If he wanted privacy to discuss whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. “Perfect,” Nine Hibiscus said, pushing herself upright. She was twice as wide as Twenty Cicada, but he moved around her as if he had solidity enough to match. “Two Foam, your bridge.”
“My bridge, Yaotlek,” Two Foam called, and that was as it should be, so Nine Hibiscus went to see what was wrong with her ship—her Fleet—now.
Weight for the Wheel had two conference rooms right off the bridge—a large one, for strategy meetings, and a small one, for fixing problems. Nine Hibiscus had repurposed the latter from an auxiliary weapon-control station when she’d first been made captain. A ship needed a space to have private official conversations, she’d thought then, and she’d been largely right; the small conference room was the best place to solve personnel issues, recorded on the ship’s cameras, visible and invisible all at once. She took Twenty Cicada inside, cuing the door to open with a micromovement of one eye that directed her cloudhook to talk to the ship’s algorithmic AI.
Twenty Cicada wasn’t given to preambles; Nine Hibiscus had always known him to be efficient, brisk and clean and mercilessly direct. He preceded her through the door—and to her surprise, did not turn to give his report. Instead he headed directly for the room’s narrow viewport and put a hand up against the plastisteel separating his body and the vacuum. Nine Hibiscus felt a flicker of warmth at the familiarity of the gesture, warmth mixed with uncomfortable dread: like her, Twenty Cicada touched the ship, but he touched it like he was longing for space to come in and take his hand. He’d done that for as long as Nine Hibiscus had known him, and the two of them had met on their very first deployment.
Which was long enough ago by now that Nine Hibiscus didn’t particularly feel like counting the years.
“Swarm,” she said—the nickname he’d gotten back on that deployment, the one she had mostly given up calling him for the sake of officer hierarchy—“spit it out. What’s going on?”
“Sir,” he said, still staring out at the black, gentle corrective for the cameras, even if the recordings of this room would never be seen by anyone but her: who outranked a yaotlek? But he was so correctly a Fleet officer, a Teixcalaanlitzlim’s Teixcalaanlitzlim, seamless in the role of ikantlos-prime and adjutant, a man who could have walked out of The Expansion History or Opening Frontier Poems, except that the system his people had come from hadn’t even been absorbed into Teixcalaan when either of those works had been written. (Except that he still kept up some of that system’s peculiar cultural-religious practices—but hesitance wasn’t one of those, either. At least not one she knew about.)
“Yes, ikantlos? Report.”
Finally he turned, widened his eyes in wry and resigned amusement, and said, “In about two hours, sir, you’re going to get an official communiqué, addressed to you specifically as yaotlek in charge of this combined Fleet, from Fleet Captain Sixteen Moonrise on the Parabolic Compression of the Twenty-Fourth Legion, demanding to know what the delay in action is. It will be countersigned by Fleet Captain Forty Oxide of the Seventeenth and Fleet Captain Two Canal of the Sixth. We have a problem.”
“The Seventeenth and the Sixth?” Nine Hibiscus asked. “They hate each other. That rivalry is two hundred years old. How did Sixteen Moonrise get them both to sign?”
They absolutely had a problem. Her combined Fleet was six legions strong: her own Tenth and five more, each with its own Fleet Captain newly subordinate to her authority. The traditional yaotlek’s six, both tactically effective and symbolically sound—if a somewhat limited amount of manpower to win a war with. Enough, though, to start a war, which Nine Hibiscus understood her purpose here to be. To start, and then to win with whatever resources she would need to call up from the core of Teixcalaan, if such resources were necessary.
But if three of her initial yaotlek’s six were already willing to sign an opening salvo against her authority as yaotlek … She didn’t need to say it; both she and Twenty Cicada knew what a letter like this one meant. It was a test, a press to check for weak spots: a light barrage to find the best point to concentrate a wedge attack. It was bad enough that she’d been given both the Sixth and the Seventeenth Legions as part of her Fleet, but she’d expected any ensuing conflict to be between them, something to carefully manage by doling out the best assignments equally. Not this surprising show of political unity through displeasure.
“From what information I’ve received from my associates on their ships,” said Twenty Cicada, “Sixteen Moonrise appealed on the one side to Forty Oxide’s long experience compared to yours, and on the other to Two Canal’s vehement wish that she had been made yaotlek instead of you, and neither of them knew the other one had agreed until right before they agreed to send the message.”
There were reasons that Twenty Cicada was nicknamed Swarm, and it wasn’t just his peculiar name: a name with a living creature in it instead of a proper object or color or plant. Swarm was Swarm because he was everywhere at once: he knew someone on every ship in the Fleet, and those someones tended to keep him well-informed. Nine Hibiscus clicked her teeth together, considering. “Politics,” she said. “All right. We’ve had politics before.”
Nine Hibiscus had had politics come after her more than once. Anyone who made Fleet Captain did. Anyone who made Fleet Captain and meant to keep the position and win victories for her legion—well, that sort of Teixcalaanlitzlim made enemies. Jealous ones.
(Every time there’d been politics before, though, Nine Hibiscus had also had Nine Propulsion in the Ministry as a threat of last resort. The new Minister of War, Three Azimuth, was no one’s friend in particular—or at least she wasn’t Nine Hibiscus’s friend.)
“Two Canal and Forty Oxide aren’t the point anyhow,” said Twenty Cicada. “Sixteen Moonrise is. She’s the instigator—she’s the one you’re going to have to defuse.”
“Perhaps she’d like the point position when we do make our approach.”
Twenty Cicada said, dry as processed ship’s air, “So direct, sir.”
She couldn’t help grinning: teeth-bared like a barbarian, a savage expression. It felt good on her face. Felt like getting ready to act, instead of waiting and waiting and waiting. “They are insinuating I’m overhesitant.”
“I can have that order composed. The Twenty-Fourth will be cast shouting into whatever void is eating our planets by shift-change, if you like.” One of the problems with Twenty Cicada was that he offered her exactly what she wanted, for precisely long enough for her to remember that it was a bad idea. It was the kind of problem that ended up being one of a thousand reasons Nine Hibiscus had never thought of replacing him with a soldier who came from a more assimilated world.
“No,” she said. “Let’s do one better. The glory of dying first for the Empire is too good for Sixteen Moonrise, don’t you think? Invite her to dinner instead. Treat her like a favored colleague, a prospective co-commander. A new yaotlek like me needs allies, doesn’t she?”
Twenty Cicada’s expression had become unreadable, like he was adjusting some value in a vast calculation of a complex system. Nine Hibiscus figured that if he was going to object, he would go ahead and object, and went on, assuming he wouldn’t.
“Fourth shift—that’ll give her the travel time to get over to Wheel. Her and her adjutant. We’ll have a strategy discussion, the four of us.”
“As soon as the letter officially arrives, sir, I’ll send that invitation back—and alert the galley that we’re expecting guests.” Twenty Cicada paused. “I don’t like this. For the record. It’s too early for anyone to be pushing you like this. I didn’t expect it.”
“I don’t like it either,” Nine Hibiscus said. “But since when has that made a difference? We persevere, Swarm. We win.”
“We do tend to.” A flicker, again, of that dry amusement. “But the wheel goes around—”
Nine Hibiscus said, “That’s why we’re the weight,” like she was one of her soldiers in the mess, ship-phrase slogan, and smiled. Game on, she thought. Sixteen Moonrise, whatever it is you want from me—come play.
Over the comm, then, Two Foam’s disembodied voice: “Yaotlek, I have visual on Knifepoint. Three hours early. Coming in fast. Coming in—hot.”
“Bleeding stars,” Nine Hibiscus spat, a quick, instinctive curse, just for her and Twenty Cicada to hear, and then signaled her cloudhook to patch her into the comm frequency. “On my way. Don’t fire on anything until we know we have to.”
* * *
Lsel Station was a sort of city, if one thought of cities as animate machines, organisms made of interlocking parts and people, too close-packed to be any other form of life. Thirty thousand Stationers on Lsel, all in motion, spinning in the dark in their gravitational well, safe inside the thin envelope of metal which was Station-skin. And like any other city, Lsel Station was—if you knew where to go, and where to avoid—a decent place to take a long enough walk to exhaust yourself out of overthinking.
<A fascinating theory, that one,> said Yskandr, <which you are in the process of disproving at this very moment.>
Mahit Dzmare, by certain technicalities still the Ambassador to Teixcalaan from Lsel, even after two months spent returning from her post and one month more since she’d returned to Lsel in quasi-disgrace, had perfected the art of thinking the sensation of rolling her eyes. I haven’t walked far enough yet, she said to her imago—to both her imagos, the old Yskandr and the fragmentary remains of the young one. Give me time.
<You’ve got twenty minutes before Councilor Amnardbat is expecting you,> Yskandr said—he was mostly the young Yskandr today, arch and amused, experience-hungry, all bravado and new-won fluency in Teixcalaanli manners and politics. The Yskandr-version she’d mostly lost to the sabotage of the imago-machine which had brought him to her in the first place, nestled at the base of her skull, full up with live memory and the experience she’d needed to be a good Ambassador from Lsel, on the glittering City-planet heart of Teixcalaan. Sabotage executed—possibly, she remained unsure—by the very Councilor she was due to have dinner with in twenty minutes.
There was another life, Mahit thought, where she and Yskandr would have been in the City still, and integrated already into a single continuous self.
<There never was,> Yskandr told her, and that was the other Yskandr: twenty years older, a man who remembered his own death well enough that Mahit still sometimes woke up in the night choking on psychosomatic anaphylaxis, <any other world but the one we got.>
Mahit was too many people, since she’d overlaid her damaged imago with the imago of the same man twenty years further on down the line. She’d had a while to think about it. She was almost used to how it felt, the fault lines between the three of them grinding together like planetary tectonics. Her boots made soft familiar noise on the metal floor of the Station corridors. She was out near the edge of this deck—she could just barely see the curvature of the floor, here, stretching up. Walking endless loops around the Station had started as a refamiliarization tactic and turned into a habit. Yskandr didn’t know the geography of the Station any longer—in the City he’d been either fifteen years or three dead months out of date, but here at home he was just a long-exiled stranger. In fifteen years the interior, nonstructural walls moved around, the decks were repurposed, little shops opened and shut. Someone in Heritage had changed all the fonts on the navigational signs, a shift Mahit hardly recalled—she’d been eight—but she found herself staring at them, a perfectly innocuous MEDICAL SECTOR: LEFTWARD sign suddenly compulsively fascinating.
We’re both exiles, she’d thought, right then, and had hated herself for thinking it. She’d been gone a few months. She had no right to the name. She was home.
She wasn’t, and she knew it. (There was no such place any longer.) But the walking was a semblance, and she did remember where some things were, the shape and rhythm of the Station, alive and full of people—and she and Yskandr both had the same joy in discovering new places. On that, the aptitudes had gotten them entirely dead to rights.
This deck—which contained Heritage offices, if a person kept walking through the residential section Mahit was traversing, everyone’s individual pods hanging in warm bone-colored rows, interspersed with common areas—wasn’t one she knew well at all. It was full of kids, older ones, three-quarters of the way to their imago-aptitude tests, sitting easily on top of bulkheads and clustered in chattering groups around shop kiosks. Most of them ignored Mahit entirely, which was comforting. One month back on the Station, and half the time she ran into old friends, her crèchesibs or classmates, and all of them wanted her to tell them about Teixcalaan. And what could she say? I love it; it almost ate me and all of you together; I can’t tell you a single thing?
<Propaganda’s fascinating when it’s inside your own mind,> Yskandr murmured. <It endlessly surprises me, how good the City is at engendering compulsive silence.>
You died there rather than coming back to share your plans with our Station, and you’d like to lecture me on silence? Mahit snapped, and felt her smallest fingers go to fizzing sparkles: neurological afterimages of sabotage. That side effect hadn’t stopped. It was more obvious when she stumbled into one of the places she and Yskandr hadn’t managed to integrate yet, at all. But her sense of his presence withdrew to a banked and observant simmer. She’d ended up next to one of the kiosks while she was too busy talking to her imago to notice where she was going. (Probably she should mind those slips more than she did. The slips where she wasn’t quite her, in her body.) Ended up next to a kiosk, and in a line for what it was selling.
Which seemed to be—handbound literature. The kiosk was labeled ADVENTURE/BLEAK PUBLISHING. Its display was full of graphic stories, drawn not on ever-changeable infofiche but on paper, made from flattened rag pulp. Mahit reached out and touched the cover of the nearest. It was rough under her fingertips.
“Hey,” said the kiosk manager. “You like that one? The Perilous Frontier!”
“The what?” Mahit asked her, suddenly feeling as adrift as she had the first time anyone had asked her a question in Teixcalaanli. Context failure: What frontier? Aren’t they all perilous?
“We’ve got all five volumes, if you’re into first-contact stuff; I love it, the artist on volume three draws Captain Cameron’s imago like Chadra Mav’s, only visible in reflective surfaces, and the linework—”
The manager couldn’t be more than seventeen, Mahit thought. Short tight-curled hair over a bright-toothed grin, eight hooped earrings up the side of one ear. That was new fashion. When Mahit was that age, everyone had been into long earrings. I’m old, she thought, with a peculiar delight.
<Ancient,> Yskandr agreed, dust-dry and amused. He was years older.
I’m old, and I have no idea what kids on Lsel like to read. Even when I was a kid on Lsel, I didn’t know, really. It hadn’t seemed important, before her aptitudes—why bother, when there was so much Teixcalaanli literature to drown herself in? To learn to speak in poetry for?
“I haven’t read them yet,” Mahit told the manager. “Can I have the first one?”
“Sure,” she replied—ducked down underneath the counter and produced one. Mahit handed over her credit chip, and the manager swiped it. “They’re drawn right here on this deck,” she said. “If you like it, come back on second-shift two days from now and you can meet the artist, we’re having a signing.”
“Thanks. If I have time—”
<You have ten minutes before Councilor Amnardbat wants to feed you dinner.>
“Yeah.” The manager grinned, as if to say, Adults, seriously, what can you do. “If you have time.”
Mahit waved, went on. Walked a little faster. The Perilous Frontier! fit in her inside jacket pocket like it was a political pamphlet. Exactly the same size. That was interesting, in and of itself. Even if it turned out to be a horribly dull story, that was interesting.
The Heritage offices were a neatly labeled warren, seven or so doors on either side of the deck corridor, which had narrowed from the wide residential space to something more like a road. Behind those doors, all the extra space would be full of the offices of people assigned to jobs in Heritage: analysts, mostly. Analysts of historical precedent, of the health of art production and education, of the number of imago-matches in one sector of the population or another. Analysts and propaganda writers.
How Teixcalaan had changed her, and how quickly. The last time Mahit had come to the Heritage offices, for her final confirmation interview before she received both her imago and her assignment as ambassador, she’d have never thought about Heritage as being in the business of propaganda. But what else were they doing, when they adjusted educational materials for one age group or another, trying to have the aptitudes in five years spit out more pilots or more medical personnel? Changing how children wanted to be.
She was hesitating, poised outside the middlemost door with its neatly signed (in the new font, and when will I get to stop noticing the fucking new font, Yskandr, it isn’t actually a new font, it’s only a new font for you) nameplate reading AKNEL AMNARDBAT, COUNCILOR FOR HERITAGE. Hesitating because she hadn’t seen Councilor Amnardbat since that last confirmation interview, and hesitating because she still couldn’t understand why the woman she’d met then would have wanted to sabotage Mahit’s imago-machine. Ruin her before she could even attempt to do right by the imago-
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