Hello again, or whatever. There’s these books, Vorkosigan Saga, by Bujold, I’m going through them and stuff. This one’s Brothers In Arms, we’re close to being done. Got it? Good, let’s go.
Miles wakes up to find himself in a hospital room–ImpMil in Vorbarr Sultana, from the view out the window. A doctor (Dr. Galen, by his nametag) enters and asks if he’s going to “go away” on them again–crazy, like his ancestors. He sticks his hand into his pocket and exclaims that the hypospray bit him; he throws it onto the floor and stomps on it. Then he tells Miles that any mental disorientation he may be experiencing is normal, since he’s been revived from cryofreeze after he died on Earth a year ago; Miles vaguely remembers lying frozen in a glass coffin. The doctor tells him that his body was too spoiled, unfortunately, but luckily there was a spare body at hand. Miles finds the stitches on his forehead and is dismayed; he asks Dr. Galen what happened to the body’s old brain, and Galen points out a brain preserved in a pickling jar.
“No, no, no!” cried Miles. “No, no, no!” He struggled out of bed and clutched up the jar. The liquid sloshed cold down over his hands. He ran out into the hall, barefoot, his patient gown flapping open behind him. There had to be spare bodies around here; this was Imp Mil. Suddenly, he remembered where he’d left one.
He burst through another door and found himself in the combat-drop shuttle over Dagoola IV. The shuttle hatch was jammed open; black clouds shot with yellow dendrites of lightning boiled beyond. The shuttle lurched, and muddy, wounded men and women in scorched Dendarii combat gear slid and screamed and swore. Miles skidded to the open hatch, still clutching the jar, and stepped out.
He falls/floats down to the ground, ignoring the falling red-haired woman, then lands next to Lieutenant Murka’s decapitated body. He pulls the brain out of the jar and tries to attach it to Murka’s neck, but he can’t get it to attach. Murka says he’s not going to have a face anyway, but Miles tells him to shut up, he’s dead. He’s still trying to attach the brain when he wakes up.
He’s relieved to be awake once more, still in the cell with Galeni; he says it was such a bad dream that waking up there was still an improvement. Galeni says he and one guard stunned each other, leaving one still conscious, but he’s not sure how long they were out; Miles is still a little weak and twitchy from stun. When the door opens, he hopes for supper, but instead the guards–prepared for trouble–tell them to come out. They take them down in the elevator, and Miles urges Galeni to talk to his father. When Galeni asks, though, the guards say that Galen is gone, and left them with their orders.
Miles asks how the guards are going to kill them. One of them says that they’ll be stunned and dropped into the ocean with weights on, and even if they wash ashore it’ll just look like drowning. Miles tries to consider his escape options.
“And so the Butcher of Komarr gets his at last,” the solemn guard observed in a detached voice. “Indirectly.” He raised his stunner.
“Wait!” squeaked Miles.
Miles was still groping for a reply when the garage doors slid open.
“Me!” yelled Elli Quinn. “Freeze!”
A troop of Dendarii surges into the garage, taking out the two guards. Elli walks up to Miles and Galeni, asking Miles how he did that…and then pauses, looking at his face. Miles crows that he knew the clone wouldn’t fool Elli; she asks, what clone? It turns out that Elli had no idea about the clone, but had managed to track down Galeni, as he’d ordered her to do a week ago… They’d planned to wait for positive ID and call in the authorities, but what she’d overheard made her decide to go in and rescue them.
“Remember, three or four nights ago when you took me to be kidnapped so’s I could penetrate the opposition and find out who they were and what they wanted?”
“Yeah . . .”
“Well,” Miles took a deep breath, “it worked. Congratulations. You have just converted an absolute disaster into a major intelligence coup. Thank you, Commander Quinn. By the way, the guy you walked out of that empty house with—wasn’t me.”
Elli said she thought the clone story was something that Miles made up; Miles agreed that he had, but it probably confused the issue when the real clone turned up. He tells Elli that there should be one difference between him and the clone–his own bones should show a distinctive pattern of breakage that the clones’ shouldn’t. Miles turns to ask Captain Galeni how they’re going to handle the situation. Galeni says they’ll need to call in the local authorities, since the Komarrans have obviously committed crimes here on Earth, and the Barrayarans can’t extradite them. Miles points out that the whole clone story will come out in this case, as well as some of Miles’s other secrets, and the Cetagandans will likely hear. Galeni says that it’s too late to cover it up entirely, and Miles says that a few confused rumours may actually help muddy the waters. He urges Galeni to just keep the Komarrans under surveillance; the clone is likely at the Barrayaran Embassy, where they can capture him anytime. Galeni isn’t sure about this plan.
Miles tells the Dendarii to drain as many comconsole files as they can, and see if they can find some of those personal scanner-shield belts for Baz Jesek to examine. They return successful, while Miles’s broken finger is treated; Galen has still not returned. Miles stuns the remaining guards, after threatening to dump them in the ocean before they regain consciousness. They arrive back to the Barrayaran Embassy, Galen wearing his uniform and Miles without, both of them quite odorous and bearded after their incarceration, but giddy with relief at being alive. Miles says they’ll go right in the front door, where they are met by a guard who is pleasantly surprised to see Galeni, and confused to see Miles. Galeni tells him to summon up Ivan, and only Ivan. Ivan duly arrives and is very happy to see Galeni returned.
“My absence wasn’t voluntary, I assure you.” Galeni tugged on one earlobe, blinking, and ran the hand through his beard stubble, clearly a little touched by Ivan’s enthusiasm. “As I shall explain in detail, later. Right now—Lieutenant Vorkosigan? It is perhaps time to surprise your, er, other relative.”
Ivan glanced at Miles. “They let you out, then?” He looked more closely, then stared. “Miles . . .”
Miles bared his teeth and moved them out of earshot of the mesmerized corporal. “All shall be revealed when we arrest the other me. Where am I, by the way?”
Ivan doesn’t think Miles’s head-games are very funny; Miles explains the clone swap, and hopes that Ivan had noticed some difference, at least. Ivan said he had seemed “off his feed”–not manic, not depressive, but, unusually, just neutral. He admits he’d suspected something the first night, but brushed it off, since he knew Miles had made up the clone story himself. He was surprised to see Miles, though; it takes Galeni and Miles a few minutes to get the story out of him. Ivan says the local authorities came and served “Miles” with notice that he wasn’t allowed to leave, which upset him because he’d gotten orders to ship out. It emerges that they had decided to charge Lt. Miles Vorkosigan with the attempted assassination of Admiral Miles Naismith.
Miles stamped in a circle. “Ah. Ah. Agh!”
“The ambassador is filing protests all over the place. Naturally, we couldn’t tell them why we thought they were mistaken.”
Miles clutched Quinn’s elbow. “Don’t panic.”
“I’m not panicking,” Quinn observed, “I’m watching you panic. It’s more entertaining.”
Miles says that if the clone knows what he’s doing, he’ll be going all aristocratically “no-comment” on them. If they hurry to catch up to him, they might be able to save Admiral Naismith. He says that he and Galeni will go clean up, while Ivan gets them some food, then Admiral Miles Naismith can drive down to the law courts and try to spring his clone.
They show up at the London Municipal Assizes, Miles in Dendarii regalia, still with the beard, though more neatly trimmed. They are directed to an office where they meet with Investigator Reed, whom Elli is acquainted with from the earlier investigation. Miles introduces “himself”; Reed is impressed at Naismith’s resemblance to “Lord Vorkosigan”, who he found to be surly and obstructive. Miles explains that “Vorkosigan” dislikes being reminded of his clone’s existence, possibly because of Naismith’s greater rank…
He asks Reed how he’d come to the absurd conclusion that “Vorkosigan” was behind the assassination attempt; he apologizes if Reed had been listening too much to Lise Vallerie, who he’d spun a tall tale for earlier. Reed says the two assassins from the float-truck were a dead end, but they had traced an unauthorized aircar from the area of the incident back to the Barrayaran Embassy. This would have been Sgt. Barth’s car; Miles waves it away as the usual tedious Barrayaran surveillance, and suggests the Cetagandans, who he’d inconvenienced recently, as more likely suspects.
Reed asks why Miles is so concerned, and Miles says that he just wants to clear things up with the Barrayarans, though he emphasizes that there’s no “obstruction of justice” going on. He asks if they can release Lord Vorkosigan into the custody of Captain Galeni. Reed gets a peculiar expression and says that they already did that; upon discovering that his description of “Captain Galeni” matches Ser Galen, Miles thanks him for his time and they leave.
“I think,” said Captain Galeni, “it is time to return to the embassy. And send a full report to HQ.”
The urge to confess, eh? “No, no, never send interim reports,” said Miles. “Only final ones. Interim reports tend to elicit orders. Which you must then either obey, or spend valuable time and energy evading, which you could be using to solve the problem.”
She almost had me going at the beginning of this chapter, at first. Waking up in a hospital bed–I guess he’s been rescued! Then “Dr. Galen”–is he trying some weird brainwashing on Miles? The cryocorpse story…plausible, until the part where his parents had approved transplanting his brain into the clone’s body. By the time he’s back on Dagoola, it’s clear that this is definitely a dream. But nice fake-out, nonetheless. Bujold doesn’t use dream material that much, but this is a good one, because these are precisely the kinds of anxieties Miles is trying to process at the moment, together with Dagoola IV flashbacks…
So apparently neither Elli nor Ivan was able to spot the clone…or, at least, were thrown off by their knowledge that the clone story was a fake. One must admit that it would require extraordinary evidence to lead one to the conclusion that somebody one knew had been replaced by an imposter. In our world, it’d have to be identical twins (like on “Ringer”–I didn’t finish that one, so I don’t know if anyone had figured out the identity switch on that show), but here there’s also clones, an additional, if not much more plausible, possibility. The fact of Miles’s teratogenic body changes makes it even less likely for a clone to work, unless one had the insane determination of Ser Galen. The “evil twin” is an apparently hoary plot device; if there’s any twist here, it might be that Miles’s clone is not “evil” by nature. Mark’s arc in Mirror Dance goes a long way towards redeeming any potential clichés that Bujold may have committed by introducing him here.
They do return to the embassy, where Galeni organizes a thorough investigation of the courier officer, and Miles changes back to Barrayaran uniform and gets his broken hand looked at. He wonders sadly if it’s time to get his arm and hand bones replaced with synthetics like he already did with his legs.
He goes down to Galeni’s office, where Galeni says they really may have to call in the local authorities, since they’re going to need the resources of a small army to find Galen and Mark now. Miles point out that the Dendarii are a small army, of proven effectiveness, and urges Galeni to hire them. Galeni asks how they’ll explain the clone, and Miles says he’ll tell them it’s Naismith’s clone, if necessary, but says they can concentrate on finding Galen instead. The problem is, what to do with them when they catch them.
Galen says there are three possibilities–turn them over to Earth authorities; capture them and send them secretly to Barrayar to be tried, the most likely option; or to kill them in secret. Miles says the first will destroy Naismith’s secret identity and reveal the Dendarii link to Barrayar; the second might not be so bad for Mark, who will have Vorkosigan allies in the government, but Ser Galen’s fate will be unenviable; and the third would be a criminal order. Miles notes that they can just not capture their respective relatives in the first place. Galeni says that capturing his father may be the last chance for his career, if it’s not already hopeless for not having known about him until now. Miles says his predecessor didn’t find Galen either. Galen wishes that his father had really died in that explosion, which would have been a fitting end, instead of hanging around to torment him. Miles wonders how to choose between Admiral Naismith’s existence and Galeni’s career–or his sanity, which would doubtless suffer if he brought about his father’s death.
Galeni says his choice is to go after them; Miles suggests that he hire the Dendarii to monitor them, but not try to bring them in, instead concentrating on the courier. Galeni agrees.
Miles finds Elli in the embassy cafeteria, and tells her about their new contract. He asks how they found him and Galeni in the first place, and Elli explains. They found the arrest record for the a son of a Komarran expatriate who was caught with an unlicensed stunner of Barrayaran manufacture, and began tracking down his associates. One of them a certain “Van der Poole”, was registered as an immigrant from Frost IV, a planet that Elli was familiar with from her Jackson’s Whole investigation of Terrence Cee. Frost IV had lost a lot of its computer records in a natural disaster, so it was easy to fabricate a history there. Van der Poole turned out to be Ser Galen.
Miles commends their intelligence work, and says he’ll need to transfer their information back to the embassy. He says that when they find Galen/Van der Poole, they should report directly to Miles himself, who will pass it on the embassy. Elli makes to leave; Miles asks how long she’s been awake (thirty hours) then tells her she can delegate to Bel Thorne and get some rest. He tells her he’ll find her a bunk at the embassy, which she agrees to readily. They hook Ivan up with the data from the Triumph, which should keep him occupied for a while, and they go up to Miles’s quarters.
Elli has a shower while Miles digs out the cat fur from the back of the closet. Elli emerges and looks around, reassuring Miles that she hadn’t been there before with his clone. Miles asks if he hadn’t noticed the difference, and she says she had, but she wasn’t sure what it was. She felt like she’d fallen out of favour somehow, so as a result she decided to keep her progress on finding Ser Galen from him until she had solid evidence, serendipitously keeping the clone from finding out the hunt was even going on. Miles says that he was doubtless daunted by her beauty.
Her hand touched one cheek, half-consciously, then fell more tenderly to ruffle his hair. “I think you’ve put your finger on it, what felt so wrong. You knew me when I had my old face, and no face, and the new face, and for you alone, it was all the same face.”
His unbandaged hand traced over the arch of her brows, perfect nose, paused at her lips to collect a kiss, then down the ideal angle of her chin and velvet skin of her throat. “Yes, the face . . . I was young and dumb then. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was only later that I realized it could be a handicap for you.”
“Me, too,” sighed Elli. “For the first six months, I was delighted. But the second time a soldier made a pass at me instead of following an order, I knew I definitely had a problem. I had to discover and teach myself all kinds of tricks to get people to respond to the inside of me, and not the outside.”
Miles sympathizes, and Elli remarks on how many of those tricks she learned from him. They move on to love-play and then sleep.
They are awakened by Ivan coming in insisting they get up, even though it’s midnight. Ivan tells them that Elena is back from Tau Ceti, and Miles should clean up and shave, because Commodore Destang came with her. Miles wakes up fully, realizing that after his report Destang might go after Galeni. He’d never had trouble with Destang before, a competent commander to manage Sector Two intelligence and security, and never impeding Dendarii operations in his area.
Destang is in Galeni’s office with Elena, who’s willing enough to hand off the whole affair to Miles, and Galeni himself. Destang says he’s read Galeni’s report, and wonders where Miles is; Miles says he’d been in the infirmary. Destang says they’ve already arrested the courier officer on Tau Ceti, who’d managed to get himself blackmailed by the Komarrans three years earlier. Despite the courier’s subversion predating Galeni’s arrival on Earth, though, Destang seems to be reserving judgement on Galeni’s involvement. Miles points out that while Ser Galen may have been expecting to be able to exert leverage on his son, there was no way he could have predicted the Dendarii fleet’s arrival on Earth.
Destang tells Miles that the courier never forwarded Miles’s request for the Dendarii’s payment, nor even informed them of Miles’s presence on Earth; any orders were complete fabrications. From their point of view, Miles has been missing for two months.
“I—see, sir. Then you never received our urgent requests for funds? Then I was never actually assigned to the embassy!”
A very small noise, as of deep and muffled pain, escaped the otherwise deadpan Galeni.
Destang said, “Only by the Komarrans. Apparently it was a ploy to keep you immobilized until they could make their attempted switch.”
“I’d guessed as much. Ah—you wouldn’t by chance happen to have brought my eighteen million marks with you now, have you? That part hasn’t changed. I did mention it in my memo.”
“Several times,” said Destang dryly. “Yes, Lieutenant, we will fund your irregulars. As usual.”
Destang tells Miles he should never have appeared as Lord Vorkosigan on Earth, and he should return to the Dendarii. Simon Illyan has been sending ever more frequent requests for updates on Miles, and Destang surmises that new orders for the mercenary fleet will be forthcoming as soon as Illyan is informed of the situation. Miles asks what they’ll be doing about the situation on Earth, and Destang says that they’ll clean it up themselves, without need for any help from Earth authorities; he’s brought a team from Tau Ceti for the purpose.
“Ser Galen would have been on our most-wanted list long before this if we hadn’t believed him already dead. Galen!” Destang shook his head as though he still couldn’t believe it himself. “Here on Earth, all this time. You know, I served during the Komarr Revolt—it’s where I got my start in Security. I was on the team that dug through the rubble of the Halomar Barracks, after the bastards blew it up in the middle of the night—looking for survivors and evidence, finding bodies and damned few clues . . . There were a lot of new openings for posts in Security that morning. Damn. How it all comes back. If we can find Galen again, after you let him slip through your hands,” Destang’s eyes fell without favor on Galeni, “accidentally or otherwise, we’ll take him back to Barrayar to answer for that bloody morning if nothing else. I wish he could be made to answer for it all, but there’s not enough of him to go around. Rather like Mad Emperor Yuri.”
Miles encourages Destang to think of Galen as having been defanged now that he’s been exposed, but Destang is unwilling to leave him at liberty. Destang is even willing to risk offending Earth authorities to bring Galen to justice. Sensing the commodore will not be moved, Miles asks about his clone, who has committed no crimes on Barrayar. Destang misinterprets Miles’s interest in the clone as a desire to avoid further confusion, and assures him the clone will be dealt with.
Miles hoped that didn’t mean what he thought it did. If he had to derail Destang . . . “There’s no danger of confusion, sir. A simple medical scan can tell the difference between us. His bones are normal, mine are not. By what charge or claim do we have any further interest in him?”
“Treason, of course. Conspiracy against the Imperium.”
The second part being demonstrably true, Miles concentrated on the first part. “Treason? He was born on Jackson’s Whole. He’s not an Imperial subject by conquest or place of birth. To charge him with treason,” Miles took a breath, “you must allow him to be an Imperial subject by blood. And if he’s that, he’s that all the way, a lord of the Vor with all the rights of his rank including trial by his peers—the Council of Counts in full session.”
Destang considers that, and concedes that Miles may have a point; assassination may be a better option, then. Miles says that whether or not he’s an Imperial subject, killing him would involve a criminal order. Destang tells Miles not to worry, he wouldn’t think of ordering Miles to do it. Miles considers whether he should push further, but while he might succeed, he could end up court martialed, or Destang could, and the commodore’s distinguished career would not thus be well served. If he leaves it alone, at least he should still have freedom of movement to take some other action. Destang dismisses him, telling to take his credit chit and “all these women” with him.
“Yes, Lieutenant, run along.” Captain Galeni’s voice was utmost-bland. “I never finished writing my report. I’ll give you one Mark, against the commodore’s eighteen million, if you take the Dendarii off with you now.”
Miles’s eyes widened just slightly, hearing the capital M. Galeni hasn’t told Destang yet that the Dendarii are on the case. Therefore, he can’t order them off, can he? A head start—if he could find Galen and Mark before Destang’s team did— “That’s a bargain, Captain,” Miles heard his own voice saying. “It’s amazing, how much one Mark can weigh.”
A little taken aback, in this chapter, that Miles would consider taking Elli up to his room at the embassy. I suppose Ivan is proof enough that the staff aren’t required to be celibate, and Elli has been given a certain freedom of movement in the embassy, and yet I thought it possible that Miles was still trying to keep their relationship on the QT. Their room may not be monitored, but the hallways surely are, so those responsible for keeping tabs on the embassy inhabitants can’t help but know what they’re up to. Maybe Miles isn’t worried about their opinions, because everyone leapt to that conclusion anyway when Elli arrived as his bodyguard. As long as Simon Illyan isn’t worried about it, I suppose, Miles does get a certain amount of leeway. I guess the relationship between the Dendarii and Barrayara being classified means that there isn’t going to be a lot of scurrilous gossip going around…which begs the question, what do the people who aren’t in the know think Elli is doing there? Maybe Elli being Miles’s girlfriend is actually her cover, then… I’m so confused.
Miles certainly seems to be in the minority among the Barrayarans in thinking that there’s any value in keeping his clone alive. Destang, while admitting that the clone might try to claim he’s a Vor lord, is more concerned with disposing of him than convinced that there’s any merit to his claim. Galeni is, in the end, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but perhaps that’s because his Komarran attitudes are a little bit more Galactic than his Barrayaran colleagues.
I can think of some of the tactics Miles could have used had he been willing to go up against Destang on Mark’s behalf. Bringing up his father, and demanding that Destang find out what Count (and Countess) Vorkosigan’s desires about the clone, is an obvious one. While the Vorkosigans wouldn’t be able to actually intervene in time, Destang might be unwilling to alienate Aral Vorkosigan by gambling on his decision. But, as Miles realizes, it might blight or completely derail Destang’s career, without actually necessarily saving Mark, not to mention adding yet another to the list of superior officers he has to try to push out of the way. Of course, he’s circumventing Destang anyway, but technically without defying orders…not that that’s the first time, either, given what happened in Cetaganda.
Two more weeks left. Not to self: you may want to get the last installment done a little early, to free the day itself for reading the new book/watching the American election results. At least try…