While the night is still young, I’m going to make another post in the Vorkosigan Saga Reread for you. (Note: youth of night is not guaranteed in all time zones.) We’re moving up to the halfway point in Brothers In Arms, a crucial book in the Vorkosigan Saga, introducing at least one character of great important to the life of our hero and main character, Miles Vorkosigan, Barrayaran lord, lieutenant, and secret mercenary admiral.
The ambassador lets Ivan and Miles into Galeni’s office, asking them to find out if they need to contact the authorities or not. Ivan finds nothing on a preliminary scan of Galeni’s computer, so Miles decides to go more thoroughly into his finances. Unfortunately, what he finds is very bland, no great incomes or outgos, just regular salary and a modest savings account. Miles starts to look for hidden vices in Galeni’s purchases; when Ivan questions his methodology, he pulls up Ivan’s finances for comparison, noting, for example, a lace nightgown which Ivan admits he bought for Sylveth. Galeni buys occasional liquor, about a third as much as Ivan, but many times more book-discs. No sign even of a girlfriend. Moving on to Service records, Miles is surprised to learn that Galeni had a doctorate in history, but left it behind to join the Imperial Service just a couple of years before Miles and Ivan.
“He must have been one of the first Komarrans permitted to enter the military. Within weeks of the ruling. And he’s been on the fast track ever since. Extra training—languages, information analysis, a posting at the Imperial HQ—and then this plum of a post on Earth. Duvie is our darling, clearly.” Miles could see why. A brilliant, educated, liberal officer—Galeni was a walking advertisement for the success of the New Order. An Example. Miles knew all about being an Example.
Miles begins to sense political overtones to Galeni’s disappearance, which is scary, given the generally vicious nature of Barrayaran politics. Then he finds a sealed file, inaccessible to them, but not, he hopes, to the ambassador. The ambassador admits he has emergency access for it, but needs convincing. Miles asks his opinion of Galeni, and the ambassador says his background makes him quite capable, and if he has a flaw it is his emotional reserve. Miles says that they haven’t found any other hints about Galeni’s disappearance, so the sealed file is the only other avenue of investigation. Ivan suggests that he might have found a girlfriend at long last, but they conclude that Galeni would never have been absent this long for any innocent reason without contacting the embassy about it. Reluctantly, the ambassador opens the file.
Duv Galeni turns out to have been born David Galen, to the rich Galen family of Komarran merchants. After Miles’s grandfather’s generation fought off the Cetagandan invasion of Barrayar, they decided they wanted to keep it from happening again; Miles’s father, Aral Vorkosigan, commanded an invasion of Komarr, with the intent of capturing its wormhole and economy mostly intact. The Komarran surrender was smoothly arranged, until the Solstice Massacre, where two hundred Komarran Counsellors were killed on Aral’s watch. Aral said it was an overeager subordinate who had killed them, and he’d killed the man with his own hands, but he ended up with the “Butcher of Komarr” title nonetheless. David Galen’s aunt Rebecca was one of those who died in Solstice.
The sealed file includes an exchange of memos between Aral and Simon Illyan, where Illyan expressed reservations about Galeni’s admittance to the Service.
The return memo was handwritten in the crabbed scrawl of a thick-fingered man for whom all pens were too tiny, a handwriting achingly familiar to Miles. ” . . . guilt? Perhaps. I had a little tour of that damned gym, soon after, before the thickest blood had quite dried. Pudding-like. Some details burn themselves permanently in the memory. But I happen to remember Rebecca Galen particularly because of the way she’d been shot. She was one of the few who died facing her murderers. I doubt very much if it will ever be my back that’s in danger from ‘Duv Galeni.’
“The involvement of his father in the later Resistance worries me rather less. It wasn’t just for us that the boy altered his name to the Barrayaran form.
“But if we can capture this one’s true allegiance, it will be something like what I’d had in mind for Komarr in the first place. A generation late, true, and after a long and bloody detour, but—since you bring up these theological terms—a sort of redemption. Of course he has political ambitions, but I beg to suggest they are both more complex and more constructive than mere assassination.
After they’re done reading it, Miles says that this doesn’t clear anything up, just complicates it. The ambassador agrees that they were right to keep the file sealed, since it could be highly prejudicial, and orders it resealed. Miles takes a moment to take a look for references to Galeni’s father; he had apparently joined the resistance after Rebecca Galen died, his family fortune turned to rebel supplies and offplanet transport, and he and his older son had died in an explosion. No other Galen relatives are among the Komarran expatriates on Earth, so Miles hopes that Illyan and his father were right, that all of this was in Galeni’s past.
Ivan, now technically the senior military attaché, deals with the police, so Miles is spared further trials of his clone story. The police now dealing with looking for Galeni outside the embassy, Miles keeps looking for clues inside. After a day of looking at the records of Komarran expatriates himself, he decides to outsouce it to the Dendarii.
Galeni would have had convulsions; screw Galeni, it was all his fault for disappearing in the first place. Miles thoughtfully didn’t ask Ivan, either. Miles’s legal position, if it came to that, was that the Dendarii were de facto Barrayaran troops and the data transfer therefore internal to the Imperial military. Technically. Miles included all of Galeni’s personnel files too, in fully accessed form. Miles’s legal position there was that the seal was only to protect Galeni from the prejudice of Barrayaran patriots, which the Dendarii clearly were not. One argument or the other had to work.
“Tell the spooks that finding Galeni is a contract,” Miles told Elli, “part of the fleet-wide fund-raising drive. We only get paid for producing the man. That could actually be true, come to think of it.”
On the third day, Elli calls back to inform him that Bel Thorne was just offered a fascinating Dendarii contract. She is oddly enthusiastic when she outlines a patently illegal, if lucrative, kidnapping contract, before adding that what they want is for Admiral Naismith’s mercenaries to kidnap Miles Vorkosigan.
The next night, Ivan, in Dendarii uniform, and Elli Quinn bring a supposedly-captive Miles to their specified rendezvous. Ivan says it’s obviously a trap, and Miles agrees, but what they’re trying to find it is whose trap it is, and why they set it. Do they know that Vorkosigan and Naismith are the same, or think that they’re different? Ivan suggests that it could be Earth-based criminals, or Cetagandans trying to set the Barrayarans against Naismith; Miles counters that it could be Ivan himself, trying to clear out competition for the attaché position. He adds, seriously, that it’s almost certainly not the Cetagandans trying to kill him, though Elli isn’t convinced.
“Look at the logic of it,” argued Miles. “The Cetagandans either still think I’m two separate people, or they don’t. It’s Admiral Naismith they want to kill, not the Barrayaran prime minister’s son. Killing Lord Vorkosigan could restart a bloody war. In fact, we’ll know my cover’s been blown the day they stop trying to assassinate Naismith—and start making a great and embarrassing public flap about Dendarii operations against them instead. They wouldn’t miss that diplomatic opportunity for anything. Particularly now, with the right-of-passage treaty through Tau Ceti up in the air. They could cripple our galactic trade in one move.”
Elli contacts Bel, who’s watching the building from above in an aircar full of troops, ready to drop in when they give the signal. She tells Miles she’s not keen on letting him be the bait, but Miles says that they can always call Bel and his troopers in, and in the meantime they should string them along as much as possible in hopes of finding some connection to Galeni.
When they arrive at the undistinguished house designated, Ivan scans it and declares it empty. Miles says that their contacts should already be there, since they gave the Dendarii this address at the last minute, obviously to keep them from scouting it ahead of time; not being there early defeats the whole purpose of that. Elli decides that she doesn’t to bring in Miles with his hands tied, so Miles pretends to be drugged instead. She brings him inside the darkened house, and after getting no response to her calls, she decides to leave Miles there and take a quick look around. Miles continues to play drugged, since there may still be hidden cameras or bugs.
She’s barely out of earshot when he’s grabbed from behind, covering his mouth and putting a light stun at the back of his neck. He is pinioned and gagged by two assailants, the gag saturated with some drug that begins to interfere with voluntary control of his body. A light comes on and he sees two men in Earth clothing, slightly blurred, and he realizes they must have been shielded from the Dendarii scanners. While he’s trying to find out more about the scanners, he sees another man–Miles himself.
Miles decides he’s going crazy, as his alter-ego, in Barrayaran dress uniform, begins emptying Miles’s pockets, eyeing Miles hungrily as he does so. He gestures for the two men holding Miles to give him Miles’s grandfather’s dagger with the Vorkosigan seal in the hilt. Then he removes his scanner-shield belt and puts it on Miles instead.
The alter-Miles’s eyes were hot with an exhilarated terror, as he paused to sweep one last glance over Miles. Miles had seen the look once before, in his own face in the mirrored wall of a tube station.
He’d seen it on this one‘s face in the mirrored wall of a tube station.
He must have been standing feet away that night, behind Miles at an angle. In the wrong uniform. The green one, at a moment Miles was wearing his Dendarii grays.
Miles manages to bump a doorframe as the two men carry him out of the room; when Elli calls down to check, the imposter says he’d been looking around, and there’s nobody else there. Ivan contacts Elli to say there was an odd blip on the scanners (doubtless due to the scanner-shield belt switching), but it’s gone now. The fake Miles says the kidnappers have obviously aborted, and it’s time to pull out and take him back to the embassy.
The real Miles is carried into an alley and into a groundcar, grumbling to himself about how outdated the Dendarii scanner technology must be now, probably ten years behind Earth, if this is any indication. They drive for fifteen minutes before parking in a small underground garage. Miles’s limbs are still rubbery, but the stun is wearing off, as they bundle him into a lift tube and then down a short hallway into a small windowless room.
A sealed light fixture in the ceiling illuminated a narrow room furnished only with two hard benches along the walls. To the left a doorframe with the door removed led to a tiny, windowless washroom.
A man, wearing only green trousers, cream shirt, and socks, lay curled on one of the benches, facing the wall. Stiffly, gingerly, he rolled over and sat up. One hand flung up automatically, as if to shield his reddened eyes from some too-bright light; the other pressed the bench to keep him from toppling. Dark hair mussed, a four-day beard stubble. His shirt collar hung open in a V, revealing a throat strangely vulnerable, in contrast to the usual turtle-armored effect of the high, closed Barrayaran tunic collar. His face was furrowed.
The impeccable Captain Galeni. Rather the worse for wear.
The list of nameless characters now expands to include the Barrayaran Ambassador to Earth. Seriously? Does that mean he’s not Vor? No, I’m sure that if this is such a distinguished post, he’d almost have to be Vor.
What was Komarr thinking, letting the Cetagandans through to attack Barrayar? Let’s say the Cetagandans had succeeded, and Barrayar had become a Cetagandan satrapy. How long would they have been happy with Komarr sitting in the middle of their empire? Komarr would just have ended up falling to Cetaganda in the long run, one thinks; how exactly did the Komarrans think that they were going to avoid that fate? Maybe they were just overoptimistic; I’m sure they didn’t expect the Barrayarans to be able to conquer them.
I’m a little confused about what exactly they do to Miles when they kidnap him. They stun him “lightly” at the back of the neck, which sounds like it would be fairly effective at immobilizing someone, and yet he’s still able to struggle, until they hit him with “fastchloroform” or whatever is on the gag. Yet, when they arrive at their destination, it specifically says that the stun was wearing off. Since the original stun didn’t seem to do anything… One wonders, though, does firing a stunner set off some kind of energy signature that one of these mysterious scanners would be able to detect? Or would that be shielded by the scanner-shields too?
By this point it’s hard to assess how much of a surprise anything was to me–I may even have known about Miles’s clone from my first reading, though maybe not, since I was going through the books in publication order and so Brothers In Arms was fairly early in the sequence. Still, coming after Miles’s own invented clone story, it seems like it should have been a nice ironic twist. And their suspicions of Galeni turn out to be somewhat unfounded, since he ends up a victim as well.
Why do they bring Ivan along on the supposed prisoner exchange? Miles has lots of Dendarii that he can count on, whereas Ivan is a risk to anyone who may happen to recognize Miles’s close relatives… Did he insist on being involved, despite his usual desire to avoid involvement, out of a desire to protect his cousin?
The transition from the history of Duv Galeni and the Komarran conquest at the beginning of the chapter to the Miles kidnapping mission at the end strikes me as a bit sudden, on this read-through. The timing isn’t a problem–the bad guys can’t wait too long to do it, or they risk Miles finding out too much, or taking the Dendarii and leaving, but perhaps they needed to get more information from Galeni, or dig out more about the mercenary fleet. But still, it feels like it comes out of nowhere, and then bam, we’re actually on the prisoner exchange. Must have been a scene or two missing, Ivan trying to talk Miles out of it, and then insisting on coming along, or something. I may just be getting oversensitive to these things, though.
Galeni is not happy to see Miles…though he’s not sure it’s really Miles. He points out the bug in the light fixture to confirm they’re being monitored, and confirms that he has met Miles’s alter-ego, though he’s not quite sure when, because the light’s on all the time. He was in the cell with Galeni for four or five hours, and Galeni didn’t realize it wasn’t Miles himself until the imposter told him. Miles winces at the news that his replacement is so good.
“Well, historian. And how do you tell a forgery from the real thing?”
Galeni shook his head, then touched his hand to his temple as though he wished he hadn’t; blinding headache, apparently. Miles had one too. “I don’t believe I know anymore.” Galeni added reflectively, “He saluted.”
A dry grin cracked one corner of Miles’s mouth. “Of course, there could be just one of me, and all this a ploy to drive you crazy. . . .”
“Stop that!” Galeni almost shouted. A ghastly answering smile lit his face for a moment nonetheless.
Miles asks if Galeni knows who made the imposter, and how, hoping it’s not the Cetagandans. Galeni said the duplicate told him he was a clone, but he’s not sure how much they can trust what he said. Miles realizes that the reason he came up with the clone story may have been his subconscious telling him what he really saw in the tube-car, that his conscious mind had dismissed as a reflection. Galeni says it’s the Komarrans behind the clone; Miles says they must have some reason for keeping both of them alive, but Galeni denies it, loudly, to the bug in the light fixture.
Miles asks why left the embassy; Galeni says he received a phone call from an…old acquaintance from Komarr, and went to meet them. He erased the call from the log–a mistake, he realizes now–because he got the impression it might be related to Miles’s odd orders and missing money, and didn’t know if the embassy security had been compromised, perhaps by the courier. Miles admits that while he had considered the courier, Galeni had been his first suspect.
Galeni’s sour smile said it all.
Miles shrugged in embarrassment. “I figured you’d made off with my eighteen million marks. Except if you had, why hadn’t you absconded? And then you absconded.”
“Oh,” said Galeni in turn.
“All the facts fit, then,” Miles explained. “I had you pegged as an embezzler, deserter, thief, and all-around Komarran son of a bitch.”
“So what kept you from laying charges to that effect?”
“Nothing, unfortunately.” Miles cleared his throat. “Sorry.”
Miles considers the probably effects if he and Galeni aren’t recovered–Galeni presumed guilty of embezzlement and perhaps worse, and the Komarran integration effort crippled, perhaps fatally. Galeni says he had lunch with the man–without backup, or a beeper, or anything–who attempted to suborn him, but took him captive upon his refusal. They’ve interrogated him several times under fast-penta; Miles asks him about his evident injuries, and Galeni says that’s the result of a failed escape attempt. Miles asks if Galeni ever considered pretending to go along; Galeni says he couldn’t bring himself to, and in any case it’d be too late now.
Miles says that his duplicate can’t be a clone; because his damage isn’t genetic, his clone would probably turn out tall like Ivan. Galeni says that they must have modified the clone’s body to keep it looking like his, and they might have tried multiple times before getting one they were satisfied with. Miles says that his clone–his twin brother, he thinks to himself–must be younger than him, probably by several years. Galeni agrees, noting that Miles was about six years old when the Komarran revolt ended. Any younger and the clone wouldn’t look right, and before that point they wouldn’t have spent their effort on such an indirect scheme. Miles asks why they would clone him at all, and Galeni says he supposes the clone would be set up to wreak havoc on Barrayar while the Komarrans revolted again. Miles points out the ridiculousness of the scheme, and Galeni agrees, but says that these people aren’t that in touch with reality.
Miles asks Galeni how long he’s known that his father was still alive. Galeni is surprised that Miles figured it out, but Miles points out that Galeni’s father wasn’t confirmed dead. Galeni said he was presumed dead, supposedly vapourized by the bomb that left only pieces of his brother.
“My father spoke constantly of Komarr’s freedom,” Galeni went on softly. To Miles, to the light fixture, to himself? “Of the sacrifices we must all make for the freedom of Komarr. He was very big on sacrifices. Human or otherwise. But he never seemed to care much about the freedom of anyone on Komarr. It wasn’t until the day the revolt died that I became a free man. The day he died. Free to look with my own eyes, make my own judgments, choose my own life. Or so I thought. Life,” the lilt of Galeni’s voice was infinitely sarcastic, “is full of surprises.” He favored the light fixture with a vulpine smile.
Galeni seems to be struggling with his personal demons, and losing his perspective in the process; Miles leaves him to it and inspects the cell. Walls, floor and ceiling don’t seem to have any accessible seams or panels. There is a small bathroom, but nothing to drink from except for cupped hands. The best they could do would be to try to plug up the sink with clothing and flood the cell. Miles asks about the food, and Galeni says they get leftovers from the other people in the house, two or three times a day. Miles points out that mealtime would be a good time to break out, but Galeni had already tried it, so they’ll be warier now. Miles suspects his superior is half-hoping that his captors will just kill him and get it over with.
Miles wonders if his friends will be able to spot the clone, if Ivan will notice a difference, if he’ll slip up somehow. But he’s well-trained on embassy procedure courtesy of Galeni’s interrogations, if nothing else. Miles does wonder if they know much about the Dendarii, and if the clone would be able to pull off Naismith as well as Vorkosigan. Would Quinn be able to tell, or would the clone be able to take Miles’s place in her bed? He tells himself the clone wouldn’t be likely to risk much intimate contact with anybody who knew Miles well. The clone is most likely to be part of a plot aimed at Count Aral Vorkosigan, in any case, and Miles can think of a number of unpleasant things that an imposter Miles could do.
Miles and Galeni sleep fitfully; Miles wakes up a few minutes before a breakfast-like meal arrives at the door, delivered by one man while another, armed with a stunner, watches Galeni warily. Miles is initially wary about poison, but Galeni eats it willingly, so Miles joins in. As they eat, he asks Galeni if he knows any more about the clone plot. Galeni admits that what he’s been told could be lies, but he’ll tell Miles anyway.
His father’s group is more radical than most of the Komarran underground. They’re all worried about the fact that the older rebels are dying off, their children are growing up citizens of other planets, and Komarrans at home are finding it not so bad to be part of the Barrayaran Empire, so their window of opportunity is closing, making them desperate. Galeni isn’t sure how they got a genetic sample for Miles, but Miles says that he spent so much time being prodded by doctors that there was ample opportunity to steal a piece of him. The cloning itself, they hired out to an unscrupulous laboratory on Jackson’s Whole, which rings a loud bell for Miles, thinking of the lab that makes replacement clone-bodies for the aging wealthy. The group’s lack of connections to the rest of the Komarrans, and the fact that they had little involvement with the clone except for paying its bills, are probably why they weren’t traced.
A few years earlier, they retrieved the teenaged clone from Jackson’s Whole and began to prepare him for their plan–to make him the next Emperor of Barrayar. Miles realizes that this will have to involve the deaths of his father and Emperor Gregor.
“I would imagine,” said Galeni dryly, “they’re looking forward to just that.” He lay back on his bench, eyes glinting, hands locked behind his neck for a pillow, and purred, “Over my dead body, of course.”
“Over both our dead bodies. They don’t dare let us live. . . .”
“I believe I mentioned that yesterday.”
“Still, if anything goes wrong,” Miles’s gaze flickered toward the light fixture, “it might be handy for them to have hostages.” He enunciated this idea clearly, emphasizing the plural. Though he feared that from the Barrayaran point of view, only one of them had value as a hostage. Galeni was no fool; he knew who the goat was too.
Miles wishes he could call down the Dendarii on these rebels; when the door opens, he hopes for rescue by Quinn, but instead it’s a pair of Komarrans. They tell Miles to come with them, grabbing him when he balks; they stun Galeni when he tries to stop them, and pull Miles out of the room.
Man, I can’t wait until Miles’s clone gets an actual separate name. I was running out of synonyms for him there–imposter, duplicate, replacement, alter-ego… I’ve never been quite sure about the spelling of “imposter”, by the way; I thought I might have been spelling it wrong in “-or”, like I did with “sorcerer” for many years, but apparently both endings are acceptable. I seem have to been converted to “-er”, and at least I try to be consistent. But it’s better than using “he” and “he” when there’s two men present and another one being discussed…
House Bharaputra was the one who Terrence Cee hired, and who Canaba worked for before he absconded with his creations…so they’re the ones who do the clone bodies, right? Baron Ryoval was just the one who killed his brother Baron Fell’s replacement clone. Ryoval deals in genetic material too, but only in the sense of providing oddities to perverts, or something like that. I guess we’ll get more into this in the next book, but Miles could have actually named the House he was thinking of here, for the benefit of anyone who hadn’t read those other stories yet…
How much did the Komarran rebels know about the Dendarii? Are they certain that Miles’s story about Naismith being a clone is a fake (if they’ve even heard it, I suppose)? If they cloned him, why couldn’t someone else have? I guess they do know that it’s a lot of work to create a clone of Miles that looks like him, since any accidental clone would, as Miles said, look more like Ivan, so they might decide that it’s easier to assume that Admiral Naismith and Lt. Vorkosigan are the same. They do supposedly have that spy in the embassy, the courier, or whoever, who might, say, have information to the effect that ImpSec is supposed to be paying the Dendarii’s expenses, even if they don’t have access to anything deeper than that. So there’s also that. I guess Galeni’s father doesn’t want to spill the beans on Miles, and possibly screw up their own plot, but if they haven’t known about Naismith for that long, they won’t have been able to prepare the clone as thoroughly for that role. But there’s more about that to come.
And what is to come? Who is Miles being taken to meet? I can’t remember whether it’s Ser Galen or the clone, but it’s probably one of those two. Wait until next week, and then we shall find out…or, as I often urge, go read it yourself. Or register your guesses in the comments–who else could they be taking Miles to meet? Baron Ryoval? Varys the Eunuch? O’Brien? Redcloak? Bueller?