The soft clink of container against flask and the quiet slosh of liquid woke me quickly and completely. No ancillary, and no crewmember trying to perform an ancillary’s role, would make so much noise brewing and pouring tea.
Ship, why is there a stranger in my cabin? I asked silently, keeping my eyes closed and my breathing even. No doubt the stranger had noted my involuntary physiological changes on waking, but perhaps she would think it was simply a sleep phase transition. If she wasn’t an ancillary, if she had never stood like a piece of furniture, all but invisible, while citizens and ancillaries breathed and slept and woke around her, she might not know the thousand subtle differences between consciousness and unconsciousness.
The stranger convinced me that no harm was intended, replied Ship. I believe the tea is supposed to be the signal for you to wake up.
I opened my eyes. The stranger was at the foot of my bed, watching me with her head tilted to one side. She wore a simple outfit of black and gold, with a single large ornament on the left side of her chest and three small matching pins on her collar. In her ungloved hands she held a strange glass container of tea. The container was too tall to be considered a bowl. If it had not had a handle and been clearly intended for drinking from, I would have called it a vase. The fragrance of the tea inside was unfamiliar too, like Heart of the Valley with citrus peel added.
“Greetings, Fleet Captain,” she said as I sat up. “My previous captain was also fond of tea in the morning, and I’ve taken the liberty of making you some the way that he liked it.”
I took the vaselike vessel from her and sipped it. It was delicious. “And what did your previous captain call it?”
“Tea. Earl Grey.” She closed her lips, as though there was another word in that sequence, one she did not intend to say.
This is a spoiler thread for Ancillary Mercy.