Another Tuesday has come (and mostly gone), so it must be time for another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread. Another week closer to the release of the next book in the series, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, and I’m beginning to think that I won’t have quite caught up by then. So, instead, I’ll settle for doing two more chapters of Brothers In Arms, a pivotal book in the adventures of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, even if not really my favourite. Today we’ll cover chapters Five and Six, where one plot complication is resolved and another introduced, and a relationship moves to the next level.
Miles waits in the hall outside Galeni’s office the day the next courier is due to arrive, and only waits for the man to leave before rushing inside. Galeni makes Miles wait while he reads over the messages, then invites Miles to look himself–still no eighteen million marks. Miles complains at having to wait still longer, and Galeni points out that many things could have happened to interfere with the transfer of funds. Miles says that such things don’t happen to him, and Galeni says acerbically that he’s sure they don’t, to an “arrogant little vorling”, but there’s a first time for everything. Miles suddenly realizes the disquieting possibility that Galeni may have pocketed the funds himself. He doesn’t know much about Galeni’s family history, but there could be a lost Komarran fortune in there… Galeni promises to send again for the funds; Miles decides he needs to muster Dendarii resources to try to track the money down. Galeni seems to be in earnest about trying to find Miles’s money, but he could just be a good actor. The only question is, if Galeni stole the money, why hasn’t he run?
Miles tells Galeni that he will need to arrange some loans against Dendarii equipment, but Galeni isn’t satisfied with Dendarii security. Miles says the clone story should take some of the heat off, but Galeni thinks the story idiotic–even if the Cetagandans get the story from the reporter, they’ll know for sure they hadn’t created any Miles Vorkosigan clones.
“Your logic has a few glaring weaknesses,” sneered Galeni. “It may help your long-term scam, possibly. But it doesn’t help me. Having Admiral Naismith’s corpse on my hands would be just as embarrassing as having Lord Vorkosigan’s. Schizoid or no, not even you can compartmentalize yourself to that extent.”
“I am not schizoid,” Miles bit off. “A little manic-depressive, maybe,” he admitted in afterthought.
Galeni’s lips twitched. “Know thyself.”
“We try, sir.”
Galeni decides to let Miles go to the Dendarii, with Sgt. Barth as additional security, on twenty-four hours leave. Miles is suspicious of Galeni’s change of heart, but decides to take advantage of it and leave while he has permission.
The Dendarii have rented a distant, isolated, and fortuitously cheap area at the London shuttleport. While he admires its strategic qualities, it is a long walk from the terminal. Sgt. Barth had had to be talked out of driving Admiral Naismith in an armored Barrayaran groundcar, which would not have done Miles’s cover any good.
The good view from the shuttle hardstand was something that cut two ways, alas. Still, nothing could sneak up on them.
Unless it was psychologically disguised, of course. Take that big shuttleport maintenance float truck over there, for instance, speeding along busily, hugging the ground. They were all over the place; the eye quickly became used to their irregular passing. If he were going to launch an attack, Miles decided, one of those would definitely be the vehicle of choice. It was wonderfully doubtful. Until it fired first, no defending Dendarii could be sure he or she wasn’t about to randomly murder some hapless stray shuttleport employee. Criminally embarrassing, that, the sort of mistake that wrecked careers.
The truck shifts its route slightly, to intercept Miles and Barth’s path. Both become immediately suspicious, drawing their stunners, despite no sign of anyone actually trying to shoot them. When it gets closer, though, it becomes apparent that its driver is trying a much simpler attack, attempting to crush Miles underneath. Miles dives out of the way as it drops towards him, only escaping because of the wave of air being compressed underneath it. Miles leaps up and grabs onto a handle on the side, just in time to avoid being squashed again, but can’t keep his grip. He spots Barth calling into his wristcom before turning to zigzag away as fast as he can, which isn’t much. The truck is beginning to pick itself up again when it explodes into smithereens.
A Barrayaran aircar is falling fast, and no doubt illegally, through the air above the shuttleport, as Dendarii guards run towards Miles. Realizing the Dendarii and Barrayarans could easily mistake each other for enemies, he lurches to his feet in time to keep Barth from getting shot. Elli arrives, carrying the rocket launcher that had obliterated the truck, where she and Barth start arguing over Miles’s safety. Miles sends a Dendarii trooper to investigate the remains of the truck. Barth tries to persuade Miles to come back to the Embassy, and Miles sends Barth back instead, assuring him that the Dendarii have just proven their adequacy as security, and warning him that Simon Illyan will be mad if Miles’s cover is broken. The truck proves to have the remains of two men in it, which Miles perforce leaves for the London police to investigate.
“Who were those guys?” asked the Dendarii guard, glancing in the direction the black aircar had gone.
“Never mind,” said Miles. “They weren’t here, you never saw ’em.”
He loved the Dendarii. They didn’t argue with him.
While waiting for the police, Miles finds that Lise Vallerie has shown up again. She asks him about the attack, and he says it’s probably the Cetagandans. She mentions the possibility of Barrayarans, and he asks her what she knows about them. She says they told her that Naismith was created by the Cetagandans, but she’s intrigued by the Jacksonian registration of the Dendarii Mercenaries and wonders whether he might not have originated on Jackson’s Whole instead. She offers to do a story on him, but he says the Dendarii would rather not have the publicity. He suggests she do a story on the illegal cloning trade instead, and heads off to talk to the police.
Elli is being arrested; Miles tries to persuade the authorities that she was bodyguarding him at the time, but Elli says it’ll all get straightened out and she’ll be out in no time. He subsides, not wanting to end up forbidden to leave the planet; he begins to wonder if Elli’s arrest is part of a plot against him, but decides he’s probably just being paranoid.
Lt. Bone arrives, striking in her dress uniform, and Miles realizes that he’s wasted five hours out of his twenty-four, and it’s now time for the appointment with the bankers…and he’s bruised, dirty, and bloody from the attack. He tells her to reschedule the appointment for tomorrow; he needs to go up to get a new uniform, see the doctor, and start investigating where their missing money is.
On board Triumph, the doctor finds a crack in his shoulder blade and immobilizes his left arm in a sling. After that, he tracks down Elena Bothari-Jesek, and tells her he has a mission for her. He wants her to go to the ImpSec headquarters at Tau Ceti and give a message to Commodore Destang. He wants her to keep the details both from the Dendarii and from the Barrayaran embassy on Earth. Elena isn’t eager to deal with Barrayarans, but Miles says it has to be one of the inner circle–Elli is in jail, and Baz Jesek may still be wanted for desertion, so that leaves her. He tells her to give the message to Destang only, because the problem may be related to the other end of the courier channel, and hopefully isn’t Destang himself.
“Paranoid?” she inquired solicitously.
“Getting more so by the minute. Having Mad Emperor Yuri in my family tree doesn’t help a bit. I’m always wondering if I’m starting to come down with his disease. Can you be paranoid about being paranoid?”
She smiled sweetly. “If anyone can, it’s you.”
“Hm. Well, this particular paranoia is a classic. I softened the language in the message to Destang—you better read it before you embark. After all, what would you think of a young officer who was convinced his superiors were out to get him?”
He tells her that one of his theories is that Galeni is stealing the money, but he’s tried to bury it among three other theories. It sounds convincing, but he really hopes that Galeni isn’t guilty, because of the fallout for other Komarran officers in the service. Elena, no longer concerned about Barrayaran politics, shrugs picks up the message and heads out.
The scene with Elena contains a lot of references to Miles’s old crush on her, which apparently isn’t that old after all, because even in the throes of a new affair with Elli, he can’t help but be attracted to her. By this point I’m sure he knows that nothing will ever come of it, but there’s still that undercurrent of yearning. Not sure whether she’s aware of it or not, but considering she chose Baz over him back in The Warrior’s Apprentice, nothing would come of it anyway. But Miles doesn’t let go of his old loves, however unrequited, that easily.
Apparently the Dendarii lot at the shuttleport is rather far from the main terminal…which just lends credence to my argument about how slow it was for Miles to go into orbit after the liquor-store incident. Five hours apparently passed before Miles could get to the shuttle–it’s not clear how much of that was merely in transit to the shuttleport and the tarmac, but surely the actual float-truck attack and its aftermath couldn’t have taken that long. The Lise Vallerie conversation was surely only a few minutes, and then Elli’s arrest, shortly followed by Bone’s arrival… Maybe he spent a lot of time waiting for Barth at the embassy?
Miles takes some time to catch up with the fleet’s status. They’ve paid for the combat drop shuttle repairs, they’ve had their leaves and done their chores, and people are now starting to get bored. And, of course, their money is dwindling. Peace may be more lethal to the Dendarii than war ever was.
Elli knocks on his door, and Miles is happy to see her released already. She says the men that she killed turned out to be well-known contract killers, hired to take Miles out, probably by the Cetagandans. Miles is disturbed that total strangers may now be hired to kill him, but Elli points out that Naismith tends to disappear a lot, leaving them with a shortage of opportunity. Miles hopes the next attempt doesn’t end up killing innocents.
Elli says that Danio has asked Miles to be a character witness; Miles doesn’t want to schedule himself a public appearance, and he’s not sure he could give an honest assessment of Danio’s character anyway, so he suggests Thorne do it instead. Elli approves of his delegation, though she wishes he’d delegate his protection to someone other than her. She was distracted by seeing him on the tarmac and almost didn’t see the attack coming. Miles says that they have to talk, about them and about duty, and Elli pulls back a little bit.
He tells her about his various sets of duties–Lieutenant Vorkosigan’s, Admiral Naismith’s, and Lord Vorkosigan’s. He says that Admiral Naismith has to be subordinate to Lt. Vorkosigan, who is subordinate to Lord Vorkosigan. She knows Naismith the best, of course, but from Miles’s point of view he’s not a whole person. Lord Vorkosigan is closer to the real him, and Elli hardly knows him; she thinks of his Barrayaran self, and accent, as being put on.
“Barrayar is bred in my bones.”
Her eyebrows lifted, their ironic tilt blunted by her clear good will. “Literally, as I understand it. I shouldn’t think you’d thank them, for poisoning you before you’d even managed to get born.”
“They weren’t after me, they were after my father. My mother—” Considering just where he was attempting to steer this conversation, it might be better to avoid expanding upon the misfired assassination attempts of the last twenty-five years. “Anyway, that kind of thing hardly ever happens any more.”
“What was that out there on the shuttleport today, street ballet?”
“It wasn’t a Barrayaran assassination.”
Elli asks if he’s sure about that, and Miles is stricken suddenly by the thought that Galeni might be the one out to get him, but he wrenches the conversation back on his original track. He tells her that Lt. Vorkosigan contains Admiral Naismith, and Lord Vorkosigan contains them both…and he, himself, who contains them all, is Miles. Elli jokes that she’s “fallen in love with a man who thinks he’s an onion”. After a brief digression onto a former Countess Vorkosigan who was convinced she was made of glass, Miles says that among Lord Vorkosigan’s duties are family duties–that is, to marry and have descendants. He begins to babble about the teratogenic nature of his physical abnormalities before Elli stops him. He confesses that he’s nervous, and asks her if she wants to be Countess Vorkosigan.
She grinned. “Made of glass? Not my style, thanks. Really, though, the title sounds more like something that would go with black leather and chromium studs.”
The mental image of Elli so attired was so arresting, it took him a full half minute of silence to trace back to the wrong turn. “Let me rephrase that,” he said at last. “Will you marry me?”
The silence this time was much longer.
“I thought you were working up to asking me to go to bed with you,” she said finally, “and I was laughing. At your nerves.” She wasn’t laughing now.
“No,” said Miles. “That would have been easy.”
She says he doesn’t want much, just to upend her life, and he’s glad that at least she knows what she would be getting into. Elli is not enthusiastic about a proposed future confined to a single planet, with no chance of ship command, though Miles offers the example of his own mother as someone who took on the challenge of Barrayar. With a sad smile, she tells him he’s not really thinking, making this offer to her, ripping her out of her space-born lifestyle and stranding her on a planet barely out of the age of feudalism. She tells him it’s Barrayar that’s the issue, not him, and he points out that his mother is a woman who changes Barrayar rather than letting it change her. She asks Miles why he’s so concerned about Barrayar himself, when the rest of the universe can offer him so much more if he would just take it. She points out that he likely sees ten times more action than the average Barrayaran soldier.
Miles realizes that the problem is that Elli’s in love with Admiral Naismith, not Lord Vorkosigan; Elli agrees, saying that he sells Naismith short. Miles says that it’s important to him that he succeed on Barrayar’s terms, with the hand he was dealt. Elli asks if they can still be lovers, even if she won’t marry him, and Miles says he’d be a fool to go off in a huff because he couldn’t have everything all at once.
As pillow talk, while Elli massages him, they discuss the situation with the police, and the situation with the embassy and the missing money. Miles says that it’ll be ten days at best before Elena comes back, and if the money had already been sent, they might still have to track it down on Earth. Until then, they need some kind of a contract to tide them over; ImpSec never minds those, as they help ease its budget. Earth is in an unfortunately peaceful state, so he’d have to send them away, but Elli nixes that idea, and Miles isn’t enthused about losing their resources either. Then he has another idea.
“What says I’ve got to contract out the entire fleet at a time? Work. Odd jobs. Interim cash flow. Divide and conquer! Security guards, computer techs, anything and everything anyone can come up with that will generate a little cash income—”
“Bank robberies?” said Elli in a tone of rising interest.
“And you say the police let you out? Don’t get carried away. But I’m sitting on a labor pool of five thousand variously and highly trained people. Surely that’s a resource of even greater value than the _Triumph_. Delegate! Let them spread out and go scare up some bloody cash!”
Energized by his idea, Miles leaps up, to Elli’s bemusement, to get dressed and put his plan into action. He calls a staff meeting and tells them finally about the cash-flow problem, but assures them he’s working on tracking it down. After he lays out his plan to raise money, they pick up on it immediately with a flurry of ideas, and, relieved, Miles leaves them to it.
He slept alone and badly, and woke tired and sore. He attended to some routine internal matters, and approved the seven least harebrained schemes for cash creation evolved by his people during the night. One officer had actually come up with a security guard contract for a squad of twenty, never mind that it was for the grand opening of a shopping mall in—where the hell was Xian?
At the bank Admiral Naismith, quite polished and urbane for a man who didn’t exist, signed away questionable rights to a warship he did not own to a financial organization who did not need or want it. As Lieutenant Bone pointed out, at least the money was real.
Elli escorts him back to the embassy’s underground entrance. They pause, Elli wondering if he’s going to be ordered away where she won’t see him for a year, but being under the monitors their farewell is restrained. He’s surprised to find Ivan waiting for him. Ivan tells him that Galeni left the embassy shortly after Miles did yesterday, and hasn’t been seen since.
DUN DUN DUN! Very suspicious, Galeni! So, then, according to the paranoid theory, Galeni stole Miles’s money, hired assassins on him, then fled. According to Ivan, he left half an hour after Miles, so I suppose he could have waited to find out the success of his plot and then scarpered when he found out it didn’t work. It may or may not surprise you that, now that more and more of the circumstantial evidence is pointing at Galeni, that isn’t quite where Bujold is heading with the plot. We’re not even halfway through the book, and we have a couple more twists to come before things start to disentangle again.
At least Miles doesn’t screw things up completely with Elli by proposing. While they both realize that long-term compatibility in their relationship is pretty much out of the question, barring a major priority change (like Elli contracted zero-G sickness, or the Cetagandans blowing up Barrayar), they at least agree to have a nice fling while it lasts. Miles is doubtless culturally conditioned to view each potential romantic partner as a potential spouse (with the possible exception of Taura, as I believe I previously noted), and that can be a little intimidating and off-putting. Maybe he should start looking for people whose name doesn’t start with “El”… (And now I’m picturing Bel Thorne as Countess(?) Vorkosigan…now that would set some tongues wagging.) By the way, wasn’t one of Miles’s arms immobilized because of the crack in his shoulder blade, not to mention pulled muscles from the liquor-store rescue? One hopes Elli was gentle with him.
I’m very relieved at this point to see Miles finally hit on the solution to their cash problems, or at least a way to stave them off for longer. I guess I don’t know how long the possible earnings by this method are likely to be able to keep them solvent, but if it keeps them from whittling away the value of their _Triumph_-backed loan until they can track down the missing money, then it will suffice. Anyway, the point is that it makes the lack of money less of a tension point, just in time to introduce the disappearance of Galeni.
Ten more chapters in the book, five more weeks…I might make it before the new book comes out; in fact, if my calculations are correct, Part 8 will come out on November 6th, which is the release date listed online. I feel vaguely obligated to try to post some kind of spoiler-free review on my week off, but I guess I’ll see if I can muster one or not. In any case, join me next week to push further on through Brothers In Arms, on the Vorkosigan Saga Reread…