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Archive for May, 2013

Clever intros?  Yeah, I got nothin’.  I mean, what is there to say?  I’m posting summaries, quotes and comments from two more chapters of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Memory, from her Vorkosigan Saga–chapters Nine and Ten, this week.  I seem to be all out of that “further ado”, so here they are:

Chapter Nine

Count Vorkosigan’s armored groundcar sighed to the pavement under the east portico of the Imperial Residence. Martin looked nervously back over his shoulder toward the gates, and the gesturing guards clustered around them. “Are you sure that’s going to be all right, my lord?”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Miles, seated beside him in the drivers compartment. “They’ll have that little bit of wrought-iron straightened back up and repainted before I’m ready to be picked up again, I wager.”

Martin takes some hunting to find the controls to open the door.  Miles encourages him to take the car out while he’s with Gregor, somewhere with lots of room to practice, and to call Tsipis if he has any problems.  He warns Martin that the car is very heavy and has more momentum that it seems.  As Martin pulls out–the car being much less damaged than the gate–Miles wishes he’d had Martin practice the week before, but decides he’ll do better without his new employer in the back seat to kibitz.

Miles is escorted to Gregor’s private office, which is located in a newer portion of the palace–rebuilt after the fire started by Cordelia during the Pretendership, and generally filled with art by living artists, and no antiques.  After being announced, Miles sits and Gregor joins him.  They both agree that they wish Miles hadn’t done it, but they can’t undo it now.  Miles says that if he could magically undo anything, it might be Bothari’s death.  Gregor says that Miles was on the verge of great things; Miles says it was only a desk job at ImpSec, but Gregor says that he wants to get some people his own age in positions of power in his government, and Miles would have been the first.  Miles points out that they were mostly his age when they were appointed to their positions, they’ve just been there for a while.

Gregor asks Miles what he plans to do; Miles says he hasn’t decided yet, but he needs some time to get his head together.  Gregor requests that he stay away from the Dendarii.  He admits that they probably couldn’t stop Miles from getting to them if he really wanted to, but it would definitely be considered treason.  Miles says he wouldn’t do them any good with his seizures in any case.  He asks what will become of them, and Gregor says that will depend on Quinn.  Miles says Quinn will probably be savvy enough to want to keep the Empire’s retainer, and ImpSec should still be able to make use of them, if she can keep the same good record.  Miles says that if Quinn, who should be at the peak of her abilities, can’t manage the Dendarii, then he’s not the commander he thought.

Gregor acknowledges this, then changes the subject, cheering up visibly, and invites Miles to lunch.  Miles asks if he has to, and Gregor says he wants Miles’s opinion on somebody.  This reminds him to ask where Miles has told his parents yet, and they both admit they haven’t.  Gregor tells Miles to do so, and to get medical treatment as soon as he can.  As they are heading out to the garden for lunch, Miles apologizes to Gregor.  They find a table for four in the garden under an awning; Miles isn’t sure what this is in all about, until he sees Alys Vorpatril and Laisa Toscane.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Toscane,” Miles said, as greetings were exchanged all around. “We meet again. Is this your second trip to the Residence, then?”

“My fourth.” She smiled. “Gregor very kindly invited me to a luncheon meeting last week with Minister Racozy and some of his staff, where I had a chance to present some of my Trade Group’s views. And then there was a ceremonial reception for some retiring District officers, that was just fascinating.”

The conversation starts on Komarr, but veers off into Laisa and Gregor comparing their respective only-childhoods.  Miles has the impression that this is part of a dialogue between the two of them begun on one of the earlier visits.  Alys stays quiet, and Gregor digs information out of Laisa and she insists on tit-for-tat from him, making him surprisingly talkative.  After the dessert arrives, Gregor says he has a surprise for Laisa, and one of his liveried men brings a gorgeous white mare for Laisa to ride.  Laisa protests that she doesn’t know how, and Gregor insists that he’ll teach her; Miles notices that the horse is so placid as to be barely awake, so Laisa’s not likely to be in any danger.

Laisa made doubtful, fascinated, please-talk-me-into-it noises. Miles leaned over to Lady Alys and whispered, “Where did Gregor ever find that horse?”

“Three Districts away,” she murmured back. “It was flown in to the Residence’s stables yesterday. Gregor has been driving his domestic staff to distraction for four days, planning every detail of this luncheon.”

Gregor offers to boost her into the saddle, which they eventually manage, and Gregor leads the horse around the garden with Laisa on its back.  Miles asks Alys if she’s playing Baba to the couple, and Alys says it certainly seems that way.  She’s not quite sure when it happened.  Miles asks if Barrayar–or Komarr–is ready for a Komarran Empress.  Alys says it may be controversial, but the Centrists will like it, at least.  She says that, on balance, she approves.  She’s been trying to find a bride for Gregor for ten years, and to no avail.  He’s seen every tall, slim Vor beauty on the planet; Miles says he’s not surprised that didn’t work out, since Gregor is too afraid of inbreeding bring out his ancestors’ insanity, and he’s related to too many of the Vors for comfort.

“So . . . what does he see in Dr. Toscane, d’you think? Besides brains, beauty, a nice personality, a good sense of humor, social grace, wealth, and non-Vor genetics, that is?”

Alys vented a small, ladylike snort. “I think it’s even simpler and more fundamental than that, though I doubt Gregor is conscious of it. Not to imitate one of your mother’s annoying Betan-style instant psychoanalyses, but . . . Gregor’s mother was murdered when he was five years old.” Her red lips crimped briefly in old pain; Lady Alys had known Princess Kareen, back then. “Look at Dr. Toscane’s figure. It’s . . . maternal. Not a bone in sight anywhere. All that time I wasted herding tall, slender beauties past him, when I should have been rounding up short, plump beauties. I could cry.”

Gregor, Laisa and the horse pass by, talking animatedly.  Alys asks where Duv Galeni fits into this.  Miles says that they’re not exactly friends, but he knows something about it.  Alys says that, according to ImpSec, Duv and Laisa weren’t actually in an intimate relationship; Miles says he was courting her nonetheless, but has to admit they were in no formal relationship.  Miles says he doesn’t know what stage they were actually at, since he doesn’t know Galeni that well–he was very private and deliberate, which may have been working against him with Laisa.  Alys asks if Galeni is likely to be problematic if Laisa starts seeing Gregor, and Miles says he doesn’t know, but it will probably hurt him.  He apologizes mentally to Galeni.

“How can poor Galeni compete with the Emperor?”

She gave him a slightly pitying look. “If she loves Galeni . . . there’s no contest. If she doesn’t . . . then there’s no problem. Right?”

Gregor and Laisa return to the table; he helps Laisa dismount, and they wash their hands (though Miles is certain the horse would have already been thoroughly cleaned).  Alys reminds Gregor about an impending meeting, and Laisa apologizes for interfering with Gregor’s work.  Gregor demurs, but kisses her palm, leading to a grinning match between the two of them before Alys breaks it up, leading Laisa away.

Gregor asks Miles’s opinion of her, though he gushes his own praise of her, her trade presentation, her eyes, her beauty, with Miles unable to do more than agree, until finally Gregor calls him on it.  Gregor then admits to being terrified–not of rejection, but of the danger he may be putting her into because of who he is.  Miles reminds him that non-Imperial people die every day too, and Gregor seems to find this reassuring.  Miles asks about the impending meeting, but it’s nothing relevant to the Vorkosigans; he wonders if he should spread the word that this would be a good week to ask Gregor for anything, since he’ll undoubtedly be in a fantastic mood, but decides that it’s better kept secret.

Miles asks if Illyan has been informed of the possible interplanetary incident this relationship, not to say wedding, would be, and Gregor says that he’ll send Alys to brief him on it, when things seem more certain.  Miles says that Lady Alys may be his best possible ally in this.  Gregor says that a marriage like this could be a good sign of unity for the Emperor, and Miles says that the Komarrans might not all agree with that.

Gregor shook his head. “At the last . . . none of that matters. I’ve finally found something for me. Really for me, not for the Imperium, not even for the Emperor. Just for me.”

“Then grab it with both hands. And don’t let the bastards take it away from you.”

“Thank you,” Gregor breathed.

Miles takes his leave, hoping the car is still right-side up, and planning to avoid Duv Galeni for as long as he can.

Comments

I don’t care what anyone else says, I think that there’s something going on between Gregor and Laisa.  Also, I noticed that Gregor was going to send Lady Alys to liaise with Simon Illyan…

Seriously, though, you gotta feel for poor Gregor.  The responsibility on his shoulders, and on other parts of him, particularly when it comes to perpetuating the Vorbarra line, must be formidable, and while he may have gotten over his brief fling of rebellion (see: The Vor Game), he can’t help but dig in his heels a little bit.  He may not have been able to hold out for a love match forever, but he managed long enough, apparently.  And even then, even though he has a feeling that any relationship with Laisa is something “for him”, he can’t help but think of the implications–he can’t think of it just as dating some pretty girl, but as a prospective marriage, because everyone else is, too.  It’s hard to say whether Laisa is already considering marriage or not at this point, of course, but she definitely seems smitten, at least.

Finally: “annoying Betan-style instant psychoanalyses”.  Heh.  In case anyone, like me, is tempted to take Cordelia’s pronouncements as Divine Writ, or Authorial Writ.  This book is, as I may have mentioned before, Miles trying to prove wrong his mother’s assessment (which, admittedly, he may not have ever heard) that he can find a balance in his life without the “Little Admiral”.  Not without a few stumbles, of course, but he is, apparently, more resilient (and more sane?) than she seemed to think in Mirror Dance, at least.

Chapter Ten

It takes a few days, but Miles finally manages to convince Ivan to let him go to Vorkosigan District on his own, or at least without Ivan along.  Ivan makes him pledge his word not to do anything suicidal, and he enlists Martin as a spotter just in case.  Miles hopes that a few days in Vorkosigan Surleau will be good for him.

When they reach the district, Martin piloting the lightflyer, Miles asks him to take an indirect route, quartering the district, passing by Hassadar.  Martin is no great shakes as a lightflyer pilot, but, all in all, will be better than someone having a five-minute seizure.  They make a wide pass around the city of Hassadar, which doesn’t impress Vorbarr Sultana native Martin, even when Miles points out that Hassadar is more modern, since most of it was built after the Cetagandan Invasion, when the previous district capital was nuked.  Martin says that there’s not much else to the district, and tries to make a hillman joke, which Miles does not appreciate.  He reminds Martin that the hillmen were staunch fighters against the Cetagandan invaders.

The Vorkosigan’s District had subsequently lagged behind others in development because it was among the most war-torn on Barrayar.

Well . . . that had been a good excuse two generations ago, even one generation ago. But now?

The Imperium plucks us Vorkosigans from our District, and uses us up, and never replaces what it borrows. And then makes jokes about our impoverishment. Odd . . . he’d never thought of his family’s ardent service as a hidden tax on the District before.

Next, Miles directs Martin to fly over the radioactive wastelands, most of which were left to Miles personally by his grandfather.  They observe the odd plants there, and Miles says that someday, after he’s had children, he plans to put on a radiation suit and actually set foot down there.  Martin asks if anyone lives there, and Miles says it’s mostly bandits and other desperate folk, who aren’t planning on children anyway.  By the time he’s old (Martin guesses ten years, and Miles says more like fifty), it’ll start being usable again.  Miles points out the old capital, Vorkosigan Vashnoi, and wonders if it still glows in the dark.

Martin asks if he can go a little faster, see what the lightflyer can do, and Miles says he’s in no hurry.  He toys with the idea of showing Martin how to fly the Dendarii Gorge, the way he and Ivan used to, but decides he’s not up to that level of challenge anymore.

Ivan had started the game. Each cousin took a turn at the lightflyer’s controls on runs through the deep winding gorge till the other either tapped out, martial arts-fashion, by banging on the dash, or else lost their last meal. For a proper run one had to disable several of the lightflyer’s fail-safe circuits first, a trick Miles would just as soon Martin not learn about. Miles had pulled ahead of Ivan in the score early by the simple precaution of not eating first, till Ivan twigged to it and insisted they eat breakfast together, to assure fairness.

Miles won the final round by challenging Ivan to a night run. Ivan took the first turn, and brought them through alive, though he was white and sweating when they popped up over the last rim and leveled out.

Miles lined up for his run, and turned off the flyer’s lights. All credit to Ivan’s nerve, he didn’t break and claw, screaming, for the (disabled) emergency-eject button till he realized his cousin was also flying the speed-pattern through the gorge with his eyes closed.

Miles, of course, didn’t bother to mention he’d flown the identical pattern over sixty times in daylight during the prior three days, gradually darkening the canopy until fully opaqued.

They go to check on the Vorkosigan forests, which Miles thinks are probably about ten years away from selective harvesting of hardwoods.  He’s briefly alarmed at a plume of smoke, but it’s just some terraformers burning off native vegetation, so he gets Martin to waggle their wings at them.  Finally they head for Vorkosigan Surleau.  There are more cottages on the lakeshore, more boats on the lake, and more houses in the village.

Miles decides to visit the stables before going to the house.  Martin’s attention is caught by the teenaged village girl who looks after the horses, while Miles goes to visit his horse, Fat Ninny, who is definitely getting on in years.  He wonders if riding is safe for him, with his seizures, and concludes that short rides might be possible, with a spotter.  More possible than swimming, in any case; sailing might be okay, with a lifejacket and a lifeguard.

Miles has deliberately scheduled his visit to coincide with his thirtieth birthday, since he’s feeling antisocial and not up to well-wishers and party-throwers.  Nonetheless, Lady Alys calls to wish him well, and Miles tries to figure out how to hide from the impending comconsole calls.  He goes to visit Bothari’s grave, and General Piotr’s, but can’t come up with anything to say to them.

I’m talking to the wrong damned grave, is the problem, Miles decided abruptly. Ruthlessly, he turned and strode back to the house to wake up Martin, who would sleep till noon if allowed. He knew someplace he could go where the comconsole could not pursue him. And he desperately needed to talk to a certain small lady there.

Miles tells Martin to fly him to a place in the mountains called Silvy Vale, and points out the map coordinates for the cemetery he wants to visit.  Martin offers again to take the lightflyer faster, but Miles, now feeling a little daunted by the goal of his quest, proposes to teach Martin a little bit about mountain flying, which Martin says will at least be better than horseback riding.  Martin is duly impressed by Dendarii Gorge, though at much slower speeds than Ivan and Miles had done, but eventually Miles can delay no longer.

Martin asks what is in Silvy Vale, and Miles tells him about the infanticide case he judged up there years ago, and how he wants to talk to the victim, Raina Csurik.

Martin’s brows rose. “Do you, uh . . . talk to dead people a lot, m’lord?”

“Sometimes.”

Martin’s mouth crooked in an uncertain, we-hope-this-is-a-joke smile. “Do they ever talk back?”

“Sometimes . . . what, don’t you ever talk to dead people?”

“I don’t know any. Except you, m’lord,” Martin modified this slightly.

“I was only a would-be corpse.” Give yourself time, Martin. Your acquaintance will surely expand in time. Miles knew lots of dead people.

Even among the other dead people Miles knows, though, Raina Csurik is the biggest symbol of what he’s trying to do, and he thinks he’s started to lose touch with that, trying to play the Admiral Naismith game.  He knows exactly how he lost Naismith, but now he’s wondering how he lost Vorkosigan.

When they landed, he would tell Martin to take a walk, or go fly the lightflyer around some more. This was one conversation with the dead he didn’t want a witness to. He’d failed Gregor, yet faced him, failed his family, and would have to face them soon. But facing Raina . . . that was going to hurt like needle grenade fire.

Oh, Raina. Small lady. Please. What do I do now? He hunched away from Martin, very silent, his forehead leaning against the canopy, eyes closed, head aching.

He’s shocked when Martin says that the spot where Miles wanted him to land now seems to be underwater.  A hydroelectric dam has been installed, and flooded the valley.  Miles checks the map, which has no dam, and is only two years out of date.  He tells Martin to set down on the shore, and Martin eventually finds an open spot in the trees.  Miles gets out and peers into the water, wondering what happened to the cemetery and the dead of Silvy Vale.

Comments

I should really have done chapters Ten and Eleven together, because of that cliffhanger.  Well, not really a cliffhanger, but it doesn’t come to a neat ending.  Not up to a three-chapter week, and I’m already too far ahead to want to do a one-chapter week, so this is what you get.  We haven’t really seen Miles in Vorkosigan District since “The Mountains of Mourning”, which is, of course, the story of Raina Csurik’s death and Miles’s investigation of it.  Vorkosigan Surleau turned up in the two Cordelia books, of course, not to mention a fair chunk of the hill country in Barrayar, but Miles has been spending more time out in the galaxy.

It’s hard to say whether Miles is, at first, trying to reground himself in his notional home, or if he’s just trying to flee from contact.  The way he evades his brithday calls would seem to indicate the latter.  He’s out of his near-catatonic funk, but still nowhere near ready to deal with most of the people he knows.  Vorkosigan District is, at least, somewhere he knows, a place familiar from his childhood, with some pleasant memories attached, but things don’t stay the same.  The extra buildings around the lake are just the beginning–obviously Silvy Vale, which is a kind of emotional touchstone for him, is also changing.

I gotta say, while the scene with Simon Illyan firing Miles is quite affecting, I have a hard time getting through this chapter and the next one without welling up.  Raina Csurik’s story is just so sad, and touches Miles so deeply, that I can’t help but feel for them both.  And then Bujold cuts off the hard conversation I was anticipating by flodding the entire valley, and taking this sequence in a completely different direction…

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Next week we’ll find out what did happen to the Silvy Vale cemetery, and the rest of Silvy Vale.  Soon, the real plot will surface, once we’ve gotten a little farther into Miles’s recovery.  Obviously he can’t just shrug off a blow like this…but soon he’ll be given a impetus to put his inimitable talents to good use, which will be of great help, as well as a more exciting read for those of you who may be getting a little impatient with Miles moping.  …But I don’t think next week’s chapters get that far yet.  Come back anyway.

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Listen to the slow, steady ticking of the clock.  Slow down your heartbeat and breathing to match it…clear your mind…prepare yourself to receive another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  You will find yourself reading a summary of two more chapters in Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Memory, from her saga of Miles Vorkosigan and his friends and family.  Last week Miles received a horrific blow in being essentially fired, but have no fear, Miles will bounce back, though possibly not without some help.  You will begin reading in 3…2…1….

Chapter Seven

Miles keeps himself upright until he’s safely inside Vorkosigan House, whereupon he collapses into a chair and shivers for an hour.  Bladder pressure eventually drives him to get up.

I should get drunk. It’s traditional, for situations like this, isn’t it? He collected a bottle of brandy from the cellar. Wine seemed inadequately poisonous. This burst of activity dwindled to rest in the smallest room he could find, a fourth-floor chamber which, but for its window, might have passed for a closet. It was a former servants’ room, but it had an old wing chair in it. After going to all the trouble to find the brandy, he had not the ambition left to open the bottle. He crouched down small in the big chair.

On his next trip to his bathroom, sometime after midnight, he picked up his grandfather’s dagger, and brought it back with him to set it beside the sealed brandy bottle on the lamp table by his left hand. The dagger tempted him as little as the drink, but toying with it did provide a few moments of interest. He let the light slide over the blade, and pressed it against his wrists, his throat, along the thin scars from his cryonic prep already slashed there. Definitely the throat, if anything. All or nothing, no playing around.

But he’s already died once, and it didn’t fix anything.  They could just bring him back, and they might botch it worse this time.  He just doesn’t want to be alive right now.  He contemplates fleeing back to Naismith’s life, but doesn’t move.  He tries drinking less water, so he has to get up less, and by dawn he’s slowed down to one thought per hour.

Sometime after sunrise he hears Ivan’s voice, and wishes it would go away.  Eventually, though, footsteps arrive outside his room, and Ivan tells Duv Galeni that he’s found Miles.  Duv is taken aback by Miles’s appearance, but Ivan says it’s just something Miles does…though even he is nonplussed by the unopened bottle, and the knife, and admits it may be worse than usual.  Duv points out that Miles isn’t even blinking, and suggests calling for medical help, but Ivan says this is a family matter, and gets an idea.  They leave, though taking the knife with them, and Miles sits in relief for close to an hour before they reappear, take his boots off, and pick him up.  He hopes that they’re going to put him to bed, where he can sleep for a hundred years.

Instead, they take him to the bathroom, and he wonders if they’re going to drown him.  As they prepare to throw him into the huge bathtub, Miles suddenly notices that it’s full of ice, and begins, belatedly, to struggle.  Ivan tells Galeni that ever since Kyril Island Miles has hated the cold.  He begins to flail and complain, and Ivan shoves him back under repeatedly until Miles can fight him off and escape.  Miles then punches his cousin in the chin, surprising Ivan, who complains that his fingers don’t break when he tries to do that anymore.

Ivan asks him if he feels better, and Miles swears at him; Ivan tells him to change out of the wet clothes, shower and depilate, then get dressed and come out to dinner with him.  Miles says he doesn’t want to go out, and Ivan says there’s more ice in the freezer downstairs.  Miles accuses Ivan of enjoying this, which Ivan freely admits.

Once they get to the restaurant, Ivan urges Miles to eat, and once he does he realizes he’s famished.  Ivan asks what’s going on with him; Miles asks why they came, and Galeni says that Illyan asked him to check on Miles.  The gate guard told him that Miles was still inside, but there was no response on the comconsole, so he enlisted Ivan, who had more of a right to barge in, to help him.  He’d half expected to find Miles hanging from a rafter, but Ivan said that Miles was more likely to blow himself up spectacularly somewhere with lots of bystanders.  Miles promises to explain, but in private, since it’s to do with ImpSec business.

Back in Vorkosigan House, Ivan brews tea and makes him drink it, then tells him to spill.  Miles tells them about his seizures, and not informing ImpSec, or anyone except Mark and his Dendarii doctor, about them, in hopes that they could fix it medically and he could avoid a medical discharge.  Ivan pries further, and Miles tells them about Vorberg and the accidental bisection, and then the falsified report.  Galeni said Illyan had told him Miles had resigned by request, and he’d almost thought it was some kind of internal investigation, except Miles didn’t seem to be acting.

Ivan was still processing it. “You lied to Illyan?”

“Yeah. And then I documented my lie. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, yes? I didn’t resign, Ivan. I was fired. On all of Barrayar right now, there is no one more fired than I am.”

Ivan asked if Illyan had really ripped off his ImpSec eyes, like Haroche had claimed.  Miles said that he removed them himself, after he had a seizure right there in front of Illyan.  Haroche said that it came as a shock, because everybody knew that Illyan thought the world of Miles, and Miles said that it had been a while since his coup of the Dagoola IV rescue.  Galeni said that according to Haroche, Illyan had been grooming Miles as his successor.  Miles protests that as a field agent he doesn’t have the right skill set, but Galeni said that Miles had been due for a posting as Haroche’s assistant, to fill in the gaps in the “Domestic” side of his ImpSec experience.  Haroche had stopped five different assassination plots against Gregor (including the Yarrow Incident), so Illyan had wanted some of his experience to rub off on Miles.  Ivan asked about the Yarrow Incident, and Miles and Galeni explain that it was a great success, well known inside ImpSec, and unheard of outside of it–ImpSec failures are the only ones that get attention; an isolationist faction had planned on dropping a freighter (named the Yarrow) packed with explosives on the Imperial Residence.  Miles asks when this apprenticeship was supposed to happen, and Galeni said within the year.

“Chief of ImpSec at age thirty-five. Huh. God be praised, I’m saved from that at least. Well. No joy to Haroche, to be required to paper train some Vor puppy for the express purpose of being promoted over his head. He ought to be quite relieved.”

Galeni said apologetically, “I gather he was, actually.”

Miles reminds Galeni that this story is strictly private, that officially he just got a regular medical discharge.  Ivan leaves briefly, and returns with a valise–he’s moving in for a few days, until Miles picks himself up and gets the house organized, with a proper staff, including a driver and a cook.  He threatens that if Miles doesn’t, he’ll get his mother, Lady Alys, to pick his staff instead.  Miles is still less than enthusiastic, and Ivan encourages him to live the life of a Vor lord in the capital a little bit more.  Vorkosigan House is his, and his life’s possibilities have widened again–though Miles thinks that it’s at the expense of Admiral Naismith’s possibilities.  Naismith was, it turns out, killed by that needle-grenade on Jackson’s Whole after all.

Miles had read of mutants, twins born joined together inseparably in their bodies. Sometimes, horrifically, one died first, leaving the other attached to a corpse for hours or days until they died too. Lord Vorkosigan and Admiral Naismith, body-bound twins. I don’t want to think about this anymore. I don’t want to think at all.

Comments

And this is Miles’s darkest hour.  The only comparable one that I recall, so far, was after Bothari’s death back in The Warrior’s Apprentice–even washing out of the physical exam didn’t take that much out of him.  It’s interesting how little he wants to resort to the usual outlets–suicide, or alcohol–too drained of energy to even open the bottle, and, as he said, having already tried death.

Ivan comes through in spades, though.  I remember how he got so drunk at the Emperor’s Birthday in Mirror Dance when he thought Miles was dead, so he knows now how much his cousin means to him, and is prepared to deal with it.  Kudos to Galeni for thinking of him–as a matter of fact, Simon Illyan should practically have thought of that himself, but I guess he was reluctant to bring Ivan in on the whole thing.  Even though Ivan was on the list of those who knew about Miles’s double identity, this was more of a matter of keeping Miles’s shame private, plus Illyan might not have that much respect for Ivan’s capabilities.  But he knows how to rouse Miles out of his stupor–the cryo-freezing, as much as Kyril Island, has instilled Miles with his cryophobia, or at least cryoaversion.

I’m not sure that it would have worked, trying to turn Miles into the head of ImpSec.  It would, at least, put Miles in a position where he had fewer superiors–pretty much just the Emperor himself, in fact.  It would keep him from traveling around much, so it would have forced him to abandon the Admiral Naismith persona anyway.  Unless he was the most hands-on ImpSec Chief ever, though I imagine that Gregor would have to put his foot down there.  And it is true that Haroche wouldn’t feel that good about being passed over for, and by, a young Vor lord, however stellar a record he might have had, so that is definitely a relief for him.

Chapter Eight

The next morning, even after sleeping late, Miles finds Ivan in the kitchen, since he’s apparently taking time off work until Miles is back on his feet.  Miles decides the easiest way to get rid of him is to hire a staff on a strictly temporary basis, then discharge them with glowing recommendations once Ivan’s gone.  Ivan encourages Miles to tell his parents what’s happened, before the rumour mill beats him to it.  Miles agrees that he should, but it’ll be difficult…he asks Ivan if he could do it instead, and Ivan refuses vehemently…unless Miles really can’t bring himself to do it.

Miles dresses in civilian clothes from three years ago, then banishes his Barrayaran and Dendarii military uniforms into another bedroom so he won’t have to look at them.  He sits down at the comconsole, but can’t manage to compose any messages to his parents, or to Elli Quinn, for that matter; he wonders if he’ll ever be able to patch things up with Quinn.

He turns his mind to the staffing problem instead.  His own discharged lieutenant’s pay would barely suffice for one servant in the hard Vorbarr Sultana job market, so he contacts the family business manager, Tsipis, to find out what other options he has.  Miles tells him only that he’ll be staying on the planet for longer than anticipated, and asks how much of the family funds he can draw on; Tsipis tells him he can use all of it.  Miles was given joint authority when his parents went off to Sergyar.  The only things he can’t do are sell off Vorkosigan House and their residence in Hassadar.  Miles asks if he can hire a driver, and Tsipis says he can staff Vorkosigan House fully if he wants to; the Viceroy’s Palace on Sergyar is paid for out of Imperial funds, apart from his father’s armsmen.

Miles says he’s not planning on reopening Vorkosigan House quite yet, and Tsipis realizes he needs money for day-to-day expenses.  He offers to deposit it into Miles’s military service account, but Miles says he’d rather keep it separate.  Tsipis says he’ll give Miles the accumulated household funds to start, and the usual weekly allotment after that–which turns out to be 80,000 marks, and 5,000 a week after that, rather more than Miles had expected.  Tsipis offers to go over the accounts in more detail, in case Miles wants to take a more active money management role, but Miles tells him some other time, and signs off.

He tries to adjust to the thought that he can buy whatever he wants…except perhaps the Dendarii.  He can’t think of much else that he wants–what he wanted was achivements.  To make admiral younger than his father, to be a Great Man, but there was no opportunity to be a Great Man at the moment.

He starts his staffing search by calling retired Vorkosigan Armsmen in the area, but they’re either too old or their wives won’t stand for them going back into service, and he won’t compel them.  Giving up that for the moment, he gathers some kitchen scraps in an attempt to woo Zap the Cat (whose orneriness rather reminds him of Mark).  At the gate, Corporal Kosti has a visitor, his younger brother Martin, and a large box which proves to contain his lunch.  They’re not sure how to deal with Miles out of uniform, so he tells them about his medical discharge.  Zap the Cat emerges and accepts the scraps with only minor clawing.

Martin complains to his brother that nobody wants to hire him for two months, before he’s old enough to enter the Service.  He’s afraid his mother will find work for him to do, probably cleaning; Miles tells them about cleaning drains on Kyril Island.  He asks Martin if he can drive, then offers him a temporary position as his driver; Corporal Kosti warns him not to get Miles killed on him.  Miles says he can start today, as they need groceries anyway, and he can live in Vorkosigan House and study up for his entrance exams.  Not wanting Martin to be taken unawares by any seizures, Miles mentions those as well, including their origin in cryo-revival; both Kostis are suitably impressed.  Martin gives the box to his brother, and Zap the Cat goes crazy meowing for it, even after Corporal Kosti gives her his regulation rations.

The inside of the box lid turned into a clever tray or plate, with little compartments. Onto it Kosti placed two temperature-controlled jugs, a bowl, and cups; there followed an assortment of sandwiches on two different kinds of bread with variously colored fillings, cut into circle, star, and square shapes, the crusts removed; carved fruit on a stick; buttery cookies; and round tarts with flaky, fluted, sugar-sprinkled crusts, oozing dark, thick fruit syrups. From one of the jugs Kosti poured a pinkish cream soup into the bowl; from the other, some spicy hot drink. Both steamed in the cool air. For Zap the Cat there was a wad of prettily tied green leaves that unfolded to reveal a meat paste of some kind, apparently the same as filled one of the sandwiches. Zap dived in the moment Kosti spread it on the floor, growling ecstatically, tail lashing.

Miles is impressed at this; the corporal explains that his sisters are married, and only Martin is left in the house, so their mother is getting a little bored.  Miles inhales the delectable smells of the lunch, and offers Ma Kosti a job as his cook.  Ivan samples her cooking the next day at lunch, and immediately advises Miles to double her salary or else someone will steal her away.  Miles also hires Ivan’s cleaning service to stop in a couple of times a week to clean the house, but unfortunately, even now that he’s completed his staffing, Ivan is reluctant to leave Ma Kosti’s cooking.  He tries delicate hinting that Ivan’s free to go back to work anytime, so that Miles can go back to brooding, but Ivan ignores the hints.

After a week, Lady Alys contacts Miles, expressing her condolences over his medical discharge, and invites him to an “intimate luncheon” with Gregor the next day.  Gregor has “Requested & Required” Miles to show up an hour early for a personal meeting.  Miles knows the meeting is about what he did, to give him a chance to apologize to his Emperor in person.  He knows they have to clear the air between them sometime, since at the very least they’ll have to deal with each other as Count and Liege Lord at some point in the future, but he almost feels he’d rather apologize with a ritual self-disemboweling.

Comments

I always forget that Martin Kosti is only looking for temp work, until he can join the military, but I can’t remember if he does end up staying on longer than that, or if the book’s just resolved by that point, or what.  I seem to recall that Ma Kosti sticks around, though.  (What happens to the Kosti house that she and Martin were rattling around in?  Do they just sell it so they can both live in Vorkosigan House?  I guess it might not be a mansion or anything, but a family home might have some sentimental value…)

I also enjoy the conversation with Tsipis, a timely reminder that, even without his ImpSec job, Miles has plenty of resources to draw on.  He’s not going to be out on the street by any means.  (He’s more likely to end up in prison…)  Though, as Miles realizes, he doesn’t know what he wants enough to spend money on.  His immediately goal is just to get Ivan out of the house, possibly under false pretenses, so he can go back to brooding, but sooner or later he’s going to have to acquire some new goals.

It’s interesting to note that it’s with the Kosti brothers that Miles really begins to spread the story of what happened to him, compelled by simple honesty to two harmless Barrayaran souls who don’t deserve to be strung along.  So while he’s unwilling to tell Tsipis that he’s likely back on Barrayar for good, to commit to actually being back to living in Vorkosigan House, he tells the Kostis the story of his medical discharge, his seizures, and even a fair amount of the truth about how it came about.  He lets them believe that he happened to be killed by a needle-grenade while working as a simple ImpSec courier, but apart from that, the details match up.  I’m sure that, on some level, he knows that this information will begin to percolate throughout Barrayaran society, so he’s decided to promulgate a story that’s pretty much as close to the truth as he’s authorized to tell–his Dendarii job, and his forced resignation, both being classified.


Normally after I do my weekly summary, I read the next two chapters of the novel in the next day or two (often on my iPod, since I had them all as ebooks).  This is the first one where I’ve had trouble stopping.  I could not stop after Chapter Six, but went on to Chapter Seven a week early.  (And toyed with the idea of a three-chapter week, but decided not to.)  Last week I went on to Chapter Nine for the Gregor scenes early too.  I wonder if I’ll be able to hold myself back to only one chapter this week…  Seriously, my favourite book in the series.  Come back next week for two more chapters…no promises about any more.

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Time flows inexorably on, like an ever-flowing river, and so another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread washes up on the shores of the Internet.  Or something.  Our journey through Lois McMaster Bujold’s books of Miles Vorkosigan, and his friends and family, has reached the book with the deceptively simple and bland title of Memory, which marks a major transition in Miles’s life, which hinges upon the events of Chapters Five and Six.

Chapter Five

Miles and Delia Koudelka emerge from Duv Galeni’s groundcar at the Imperial Residence.  She’s much taller than Miles, and is a little dubious about escorting him; Miles promises she’ll only need to give him the first two dances.  Galeni basks in the glow of his companion, Laisa Toscane, a shapely, zaftig woman whose skin Miles finds almost seems to glow.  She seems excited, but not overwhelmed, to be there.

The guards let them inside, where they meet Lady Alys Vorpatril, who greets Miles and Delia; Miles introduces her to Galeni and Laisa, and Alys tells them they’ll be seated at Gregor’s table, mixed in with the galactics.  Miles spots Simon Illyan off to one side, and asks Delia to take the other two to the dinner hall.  Alys speaks approvingly of Laisa, heir of the rich Komarran Toscane family, though she can’t bring herself to wholeheartedly approve of a Komarran nonetheless.

Illyan, armed and earbud-equipped to handle the event’s security, doesn’t seem happy to see Miles.  He tells Miles he has seen his report, but nothing more; Miles asks to speak with him, but Illyan puts him off, saying he’s waiting for further information.  As Miles turns to leave, Illyan asks if he drove there, and Miles says he came with Duv Galeni, who Illyan approves of.

Miles catches up with his companions outside the hall; Galeni and Delia are chatting, and Laisa is looking around at the décor.  She discusses some of the antiques and wooden furniture with Miles, pointing out that some of them are younger than the oldest domes on Komarr, and yet seem to have more history.  Komarr is still centuries of terraforming away from a breathable atmosphere, hence the domed cities.  They have long exploited their strategic position in the jump nexus, but their decision to let Cetaganda through to attack newly-discovered Barrayar led Barrayar to attack them in turn, as their only outbound route, hence their current status as a Barrayaran possession.  Miles suggests that Laisa get Duv to take her horseback riding, to experience the outdoors that Komarr lacks; if he doesn’t know how, Miles thinks, he can give Galeni a crash course.  Laisa says Duv has a tendency to exaggerate the unromantic side of history, though admittedly she herself needs to be a practical businesswoman, since Komarr relies so heavily on its commerce.

They enter the Glass Hall–lines with windows on one side, and mirrors on the other–where Gregor is playing the role of host.  Laisa observes that he’s not wearing the military uniform they see in vid broadcasts, and Miles explains that Gregor only wear the military uniform on special occasions, since he doesn’t feel he’s truly earned the right to wear it.  That lets the rest of them dress more formally for many occasions, which Miles is okay with, especially the part where he doesn’t have to wear ceremonial swords.

They reach the Emperor, who tells Galeni he’s heard good things about him.  His attention is somewhat arrested by Laisa, but he lets her go with some polite words about hope for Komarr’s future.  Delia leads them off in search of Ivan and Martya; Laisa wonders at Gregor’s words, which she construes as an apology for conquering Komarr in the first place.

They are forced to halt for an old General moving slowly with his cane and full dress uniform; Laisa asks about him, and Miles explains that he’s an Imperial Auditor, General Vorparadijs, the last one appointed by Emperor Ezar.  The Imperial Auditors are the supreme overseers over the Counts, with the Emperor’s Voice and authority behind them; Galeni adds that there are supposed to be nine, though at the moment there are only seven living.  Laisa asks if they are lifetime appointments, and Miles says sometimes, but sometimes they’re just appointed on a temporary basis.  His father, as Regent, had only appointed acting Auditors, until Gregor was able to confirm them upon his accession.  Laisa wonders if they should talk to the General, and Miles says that Vorparadijs himself is incredibly dull, considering everything to have gone downhill since Ezar’s day; most Auditors are retired military types, to give them more authority over regular military types.

They are seated near the Escobaran embassy, where Miles and Laisa endeavour to make conversation with the galactics, while Gregor and Galeni politely discuss Komarr.  Laisa interjects in response to a leading statement by Galeni, pointing out the interest her employers, the Komarr Shippers’ Syndicate, have in the issue in question.  Miles applauds her spunk, and she and Gregor discuss the issue; she provides a farming metaphor that Gregor thinks will be effective in explaining the issue to the more rural Counts in the Council.

Laisa smiled. Gregor smiled. Galeni looked downright smug. Laisa, having made her point, had the good sense to back off and turn the conversation immediately to lighter matters, or at least, to Escobaran policies on jump technologies, less potentially volatile than Barrayaran-Komarran taxation issues.

After dinner the dancing begins in a downstairs ballroom; Gregor starts with Lady Alys, and then various female guests in rank order.  Miles dances twice with Delia, then, feeling that he’s made his point, he sits down to watch the rest of the guests.  Galeni dances methodically; aiming for a political career in the future, he devotes himself to acquiring social skills as well.  Gregor requests a mirror dance with Laisa, who even manages to make him laugh.

She returned to Galeni, temporarily holding up the wall along with Miles, with her eyes shining. “He’s more intelligent than I imagined,” she said breathlessly. “He listens . . . very intently. You feel as though he’s taking it all in. Or is that an act?”

“No act,” said Miles. “He’s processing everything. But Gregor has to watch what he says very closely, given that his word can be literally law. He’d be shy if he could, but he’s not allowed.”

“Not allowed? How odd that sounds,” said Laisa.

Laisa and Gregor dance three more times before the end of the evening, continuing to make each other laugh.  Miles finds the opportunity for a private word with the Emperor; Gregor’s first comment is that Vorberg is home, though not quite the worse for wear.  Miles give him the noncommittal explanation of the “plasma arc accident”, deferring the full story for a later time which he hopes he can avoid for a while.

“Where did you find that extraordinary young Komarran woman?” Gregor added, gazing off into the middle distance.

“Dr. Toscane? Impressive, isn’t she? I admired her courage as much as her cleavage. What all did you find to talk about out there?”

“Komarr, mostly . . . Do you have her, um, the Shippers’ Syndicates address? Oh, never mind, Simon can get it for me. Along with a complete Security report, whether I want it or not, no doubt.”

Miles invites the two Komarrans back to Vorkosigan House for a drink; Galeni is about to demur, but Laisa says she’d love to see the house, so Galeni perforce joins them.  Miles leads them to an upstairs parlour, where he removes the furniture covers, then goes to fetch wine and glasses.  Upon his return, Galeni has not pressed his suit on Laisa; Miles wonders if he knows of Laisa’s yen for a little “romantic idiocy”, and thinks that there doesn’t seem to be a spark of playfulness of humour between the two of them.  But then, what does he know?

The conversation turns again to Barrayar-Komarr relations, including a discussion of those Komarrans who cooperated with the Barrayarans after the conquest, like the Toscanes, and whether they can be called collaborators or not.  Galeni forebears to introduce the topic of his terrorist father and his views on the subject.  Miles can hardly bear to let his guests go, but in the wee hours of the morning reluctantly escorts them out.  He wonders if Galeni will be able to win Laisa over, and doesn’t think Galeni has managed to advance his cause much with the evening’s efforts.

Still no message from Illyan, and Miles wonders if it’ll take long enough for him to have had time for the medical trip fo Escobar after all.  He considers tempting fate by getting really drunk, perversely encouraging Illyan to call, but he thinks it will slow down his time sense too much.  Illyan can’t have forgotten, of course, because of the memory chip Ezar had implanted in his head; those chips tended to make their wearers schizophrenic, but Illyan had been one of the lucky few, and after Ezar’s death, had more or less entered Aral Vorkosigan’s service.  Miles wondered how horrible it would be to have every memory fresh and available at your beck and call.  He’d hate it, himself; Galeni might be able to handle it, but even he might have things he wanted to forget.
Miles stares at the comconsole, willing Illyan to call, and in the end gets another bottle of wine.

Coments

This chapter sees the first introduction of the Imperial Auditor, though it’s done deftly enough that it was a few rereads through the series that I realized they were invented just for this book.  They seemed like a logical enough development, and the way that Miles and Galeni explain it to Laisa, as something that they already know, is a great way to sneak it in.  Enough of the other information in the chapter–like the history of relations with Komarr–is done in the usual internal-monologue info-dump style, so it’s good to have a little variety there.

The most interesting part of this chapter is seeing what happens with Laisa Toscane at the dinner party.  She spends some time chatting with Miles, more than she seems to with Duv Galeni himself; she asks after Gregor a lot, and dances with him, and talks with him, and they make each other laugh.  And Gregor resolves to get her…employer’s number.  It all goes right over Miles’s head, let alone Galeni’s, since they’re too busy focusing on Galeni’s chances with her to notice that her attention has turned in a completely different direction.  We’ll find out the results of that in just a few chapters, I believe.

Miles, though, is still frustrated.  He actually gets to talk to Illyan, but Illyan puts him off, telling him to keep waiting.  And Illyan asks if he drove there…which also goes right over Miles’s head.  Seriously, Miles, how badly did the cryo-freeze affect your brain?  Illyan knows about the seizures, or at least suspects, and what he’s waiting for is confirmation.  I suspect that Gregor doesn’t know at this point, but I could be wrong.  He didn’t seem to have quite enough reserve with Miles to have that hanging over him, but maybe it was just Laisa’s influence…

Chapter Six

Miles doesn’t get another comconsole call for two more days, and when it does, it turns out to be only his cousin Ivan, just off work.  Miles’s eyes are instantly drawn to the captain’s rank tabs on his collar.  Ivan has obviously called fishing for congratulations on his promotion, but Miles is incredulous that Ivan got promoted before he did, and is barely able to muster a polite appreciation.  Ivan points out that Miles has spent a lot more time on medical leave than he has.

Blood and bone. Every bit of that unwelcome leave had been bought with blood and bone and endless pain, laid down willingly enough in the Emperor’s service. Blood and bone and they promote Ivan? Before me . . . ?! Something like rage choked him, clotting words in his throat like cotton.

Ivan’s face, watching his, fell. Yes, of course, Ivan had expected to be applauded, in some suitably backhanded way, expected Miles to share his pride and pleasure in his achievement, which truly made a sad dish when eaten alone.

Miles pulls himself together and makes a half-hearted jab about how Ivan’s mother will surely push him to get married now.  They go over a list of single Vor women of their generation, and Ivan tells him who each of them has gotten married to, but says he can always go for someone younger.  Miles manages to offer a heartfelt congratulation for Ivan, who laments that it’ll be difficult to get further promotion without some ship duty, which the ongoing peace is making a scarce commodity.  Ivan points out that Miles has had more ship experience than most people he knows, even if it is classified.

“I never let anything stop me. That’s how you get what you want, Ivan. No one’s just going to hand it to you.” Well . . . no one was going to just hand it to Miles. Things fell out of the sky onto Ivan, and had done so all his charmed life. “If you can’t win, change the game.”

Ivan twitched a brow upward. “If there’s no game, isn’t winning a pretty meaningless concept?”

Miles hesitated. “Out of the mouths of . . . Ivans. I’ll . . . have to think about that one.”

Both of them dislike the turn of the conversation, they sign off.  Miles vents his frustration in curses against the bedroom ceiling.  He tries to decide what it is he wants–to win, or to be seen to win?  ImpSec is not a good posting for anyone who wants public recognition, though everyone who matters to him knows the truth of what he’s accomplished.  Except his grandfather, long dead; Miles wonders when he’d stopped carrying around the old man’s dagger like a talisman.  He feels out of balance, as he increasingly does when he’s not on a mission as Naismith.  Will being Count be this bad, all day long?

Being Naismith is an expensive hobby, which he needs ImpSec to underwrite, and which thus requires him to make them frequent proofs that they’re getting their money worth.  Accountants are just as bad as enemy missiles…or not quite, he thinks, tracing his scars, and wondering if there’s something wrong with his new heart, which feels like a stranger’s.  He wants his mission from Illyan–maybe he’s become an excitement junkie, but his occasional attempts at extreme sports don’t seem to scratch the itch.

He barely sleeps that night, and so Illyan’s summons wakes him from an afternoon doze.  Miles promises eagerly to be there as soon as possible, but Illyan’s secretary says they’ll send a car in an hour.  He bathes (again) and puts on his undress green uniform, including his battered lieutenant’s tabs and his unduplicable Horus-eye ImpSec pins.  He’s still waiting impatiently when the car arrives.

The door to Illyan’s office is open this time, but, unusually, Illyan closes it as soon as Miles is in the room, which Miles hopes portends something special.  Illyan seems in a grim, tense mood, but at least he hasn’t had the visitor chairs removed.  Illyan asks Miles about the addendum he’d mentioned to his previous report, but Miles, reluctant to derail his next mission assignment, demurs.  Illyan says he received a disturbing report from Jackson’s Whole, related to Miles’s last misadventure on the planet.  They’d finally managed to acquire Miles’s complete medical records from his cryo-revival under the Duronas, and determined what they meant.

The bottom drops out of Miles’s stomach as Illyan says the worst part is how Miles concealed the seizures from the ImpSec physicians.  Miles claims he thought they’d gone away, but Illyan produces the report he’d been waiting for, from one of his Dendarii agents–one that Miles didn’t know about–which includes his fleet surgeon’s reports.

“Do you want to try to play any more little guessing games about this?” Illyan added dryly.

“No, sir,” Miles whispered. He hadn’t meant it to come out a whisper. “No more games.”

“Good.” Illyan rocked slightly in his station chair, and tossed the card back to the desktop. His face looked like death itself. Miles wondered what his own face looked like. As wide-eyed as an animal in the headlights, as viewed from a groundcar traveling toward it at a hundred kilometers an hour, he suspected.

Illyan calls Miles’s actions a betrayal of his subordinates, and those who depended on him–like Vorberg.  Miles goes on the offensive, reminding Illyan of how much he’s done for him and ImpSec, for the Marilacans, for nine years, how he’s bled for them.  Illyan agrees that Miles’s accomplishments mean a lot–which is why he’s offering Miles a medical discharge, rather than a court-martial.  He says he’s gone over it in his mind for weeks, and this is the best for Miles and the Vorkosigans.  Miles realizes that this is exactly why Illyan summoned him back.

Miles asks if Illyan’s told his father, and Illyan says he leaves that job up to Miles.  He points out that even Miles’s father alone would not be able to convince Illyan to be so lenient on Miles without his excellent track record; if he pushes it to a court-martial, then for the travesty of his last, truncated report he’d be lucky to get away with merely a dishonourable discharge.  Illyan says he went over it with Gregor, all that morning, and everything’s ready for the discharge to become official.  Miles just needs to scan his palm and retina, and he can keep his custom uniforms and rank tabs, but he has to return his ImpSec Horus-eyes.  Miles begins one last round of frantic protests, interrupted by the visual aura which foretells another seizure.

He comes to on the ground, Illyan bending over him, a stylus in his mouth to keep him from biting his tongue; Illyan says he was out for about four minutes.  His lip is swollen and his nose bleeding from the fall to the ground, but when Illyan offers to call a medic, Miles refuses and lurches to his feet on his own, borrowing a handkerchief for his nosebleed.

Illyan half-sat on the edge of his desk, watching him. Watching over him, always. “You knew,” said Illyan. “And you lied. To me. In writing. In that damned falsified report, you pissed away . . . everything. I’d have mistrusted my memory chip before I mistrusted you. Why, Miles? Were you that panicked?” The anguish leaked into that level voice like blood into a bruise.

Yes. I was that panicked. I didn’t want to lose Naismith. I didn’t want to lose . . . everything. “It doesn’t matter now.” He fumbled at his collar. One pin tore the green fabric, coming off in his shaking hands. He thrust the pins blindly at Illyan. “There. You win.”

Illyan’s hand closed over them. “God save me,” he said softly, “from another such victory.”

“Fine, good, give me the read-pad. Give me the retinal scan. Let’s get this the hell over with. I’m sick of ImpSec, and eating ImpSec shit. No more. Good.”

Illyan offers him a minute in his washroom to compose himself and clean up, before he’ll let Miles go out in public again.  Miles accepts the offer; his face in the mirror looks like the one he saw after he lost Sergeant Beatrice above Dagoola.  He washes his face, though there are still bloodstains in his shirt-collar.  He returns to Illyan’s office and completes the formal resignation, then asks Illyan to let him go.  Illyan is reluctant, considering that Miles is still shaking in reaction, and says he’ll at least escort Miles to a car, and that Miles should consider going directly to ImpMil.  Miles says he’ll just go home, since it’ll probably take a while for another seizure to happen; he reminds Illyan that he no longer has any authority over Miles’s actions.  Illyan wipes his eyes briefly and unlocks the door.

Outside Illyan’s office, Illyan’s secretary has been joined by Duv Galeni and General Haroche, all looking anxious, especially when they see Miles’s collar stripped of its insignia.  Haroche wonders out loud what’s going on, but Illyan just excuses himself and leads Miles to the door.

Comments

Miles’s wishful thinking comes to an end here; Illyan’s seen through him, at least with the aid of the belated information from Jackson’s Whole.  If anyone were to know about this, it would do wonders for tales of Illyan’s omniscience, to gather this information from several hyperspace jumps away, even about one of his own agents.  I suppose he needs to keep a close eye on his ImpSec agents to make sure they’re not trying to pull something…as Miles did.  And if Miles hadn’t sliced Vorberg’s legs in half, Illyan might have been more merciful–there would have been no faked report, just a matter of concealing his medical issues from his superiors.  Maybe still a medical discharge, and maybe Miles wouldn’t have taken it any better, but maybe he would’ve just been reassigned to a desk job.  But Miles burned that bridge.

The scene with Miles and Illyan is painful, in some ways, but it’s a great piece of drama.  Illyan, traditionally so reserved and bland, is deeply torn by Miles’s actions, trying to balance his past accomplishments with his present misfeasance.  He has deep connections to Miles, and to Miles’s father, almost familial, so it’s painful for him to have to make these kinds of decisions–and his hopes for Miles’s future, which we’ll find out more about in the next chapter, have been dashed.

As for the Ivan scene…obviously that’s mostly there to underscore the problems with Miles’s secret career, his lack of advancement compared to Ivan’s relative coasting along.  There are certain assumptions about rank relative to age, or at least time of service, so Miles’s hopes for promotion are probably not that unreasonable, and maybe, if it hadn’t been for the events of the last book, it would’ve happened already.  But it didn’t, and Miles really has to struggle to overcome his jealousy of Ivan.  Though Ivan does lead him to wonder what he’s even trying to accomplish, and for whom, which is a highly useful train of thought for him to embark on right now, when his previous goal gets derailed, just like when he washed out of the obstacle course back in The Warrior’s Apprentice.  And we all know how that turned out.


Tune in next week to see Miles slip, once again, into his depressive phase, and how Ivan knows exactly how to deal with it.  And we start moving into my favourite part of the book–Miles trying to figure out what to do when he grows up.

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Clever ideas for blog post introductions having temporarily (I hope) forsaken me, I will prosaically welcome you back to the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, the results of my rereading the Vorkosigan Saga, as I’ve done several times in the past.  This time, though, I am endeavouring to share with you my insights into the novels and stories of Lois McMaster Bujold, at least the ones that concern the Vorkosigan family of Barrayar and their close friends and associates.  This week we cover the third and fourth chapters of Memory, the prosaically-titled but nonetheless fascinating story of what happens to Miles Vorkosigan when everything that gives his life meaning is put into jeopardy…

Chapter Three

Because they need adjoining rooms, for security reasons, Miles and Taura are obliged to take luxury suites on the ship to Tau Ceti.  After that he will have to travel as boring old Lieutenant Lord Miles Vorkosigan, and deal with people suspecting him of having a cushy courier job because of his family connections.  But he has a week until then to spend in room service-catered luxury, with Taura.

After Taura completes her security sweep of the cabins and they leave orbit, Miles tells her to take a week-long vacation.  He reminisces about their first time together, and he can still remember every time they’ve made love, both before and since his relationship with Elli Quinn.

Oh, they’d tried to be good. Dendarii regs against cross-rank fraternization were for the benefit of all, to protect the rankers from exploitation and the officers from losing control of discipline, or worse. And Miles had been quite determined, as the young and earnest Admiral Naismith, to set a good example for his troops, a virtuous resolve that had slipped away . . . somewhere. After the umpteenth we’ve-lost-count-again time he had been almost killed, perhaps.

Well, if you couldn’t be good, at least you could be discreet.

Taura kisses him and then heads to the bathroom to freshen up.  He encourages her to take her time and be decadent.  She rarely gets to indulge her feminine side, but she feels safe to do it with him.  He does sometimes have to discourage her from the extremities of pink that she keeps trying to festoon herself in.  She does not disappoint when she returns, in creamy and shimmery fabric.  She’s also trimmed her claws, to keep from leaving embarrassing scratches this time.  He notices that he feels a little defensive about his arrangement with Taura, and wonders if he’s breaking his own rules by doing this.

Later he wakes to watch her as she sleeps, a rare gift for her to feel safe enough for that.  Her flesh is hot because of her heightened metabolism, which is also shortening her lifespan, though an active Dendarii medical project is lengthening that as much as possible.  Taura already has a few grey hairs, at the age of twenty-two.

It’s a good thing she loves Admiral Naismith. Lord Vorkosigan couldn’t handle this.

He thought a bit guiltily of Admiral Naismith’s other lover, the public and acknowledged Quinn. Nobody had to explain or excuse being in love with the beautiful Quinn. She was self-evidently his match.

He was not, exactly, being unfaithful to Elli Quinn. Technically, Taura predated her. And he and Quinn had exchanged no vows, no oaths, no promises. Not for lack of asking; he’d asked her a painful number of times. But she too was in love with Admiral Naismith. Not Lord Vorkosigan. The thought of becoming Lady Vorkosigan, grounded downside forever on a planet she herself had stigmatized as a “backwater dirtball,” had been enough to send space-bred Quinn screaming in the opposite direction, or at least, excusing herself uneasily.

Admiral Naismith’s sex life is astonishing and mostly free of strings, but it’s not satisfying him anymore.  Lieutenant Lord Vorkosigan, he suddenly realizes, has no sex life at all, and he wonders when that happened.

Taura awakens and they eat, Miles feeling no guilt about ordering everything because he knows she’ll take care of any leftovers.  They reminisce about his rescue of her, and he reminds her that he was actually sent to kill her.  She says he changed that, and he seems to like rescues better than any other mission.  She wonders if he’s like one of those people who give other people the gift they want themselves–if he needs to be rescued, or wants freedom that he doesn’t have.  Miles changes the subject, and then the food arrives.

He asks if she had been surprised to find out his true identity, and she says she’d always suspected he was secretly a prince.  Miles says far from that, never having wanted the Imperium, and he wonders if Admiral Naismith is more real than Lieutenant Lord Vorkosigan; it certainly seems to be the easier identity to slip into.  Returning to the earlier topic, he says he doesn’t really want “freedom”, especially not in the sense of having no responsibilities.  He wants to be himself, to the fullest, and achieve whatever destiny that brings him.  He wonders if being Naismith is that; he’s never been able to bring himself to abandon Barrayar entirely and take the Dendarii with him, especially with the consequences Miles having a private army would bring down upon his father.  He doesn’t look forward to taking his father’s place one day, being Count, and the duties that go with that…

Taura asks after Mark; Miles says he went to Sergyar with their parents, then continued on to Beta Colony, living with their grandmother and studying accounting.  Miles doesn’t understand that choice, and wonders why they aren’t more similar; Taura says maybe he’ll learn to like accounting later.  Miles’s thoughts turn to the Duronas, and he wonders if Mark knows how they’re doing on Escobar…and if they could help him out with his medical issues, sub rosa.  If he went to visit Sergyar, he could maybe sneak from there to Escobar…and maybe even convince Illyan he’s visiting Rowan Durona for romantic reasons.  Then he could get cured and resume his duties without anyone else being the wiser.  He begins to wish he hadn’t deleted the other copy of the mission report.

Resolved to his Escobar plan, he turns back to a gastronomically-sated Taura to fulfill other appetites.

Comments

A lot of backstory in this chapter…and backstory that you’ve seen if you read all the other books.  But it does add on a few details, like the fact that Miles and Taura’s relationship is now depicted as an on-again off-again thing.  After the pass she made at Mark back in _Mirror Dance_, based only on the fact that Quinn wasn’t on the mission, it shouldn’t be that surprising.  I’m not as sanguine as Miles that Elli is, or would be, okay with it.  Maybe she knows, maybe not.  Maybe she doesn’t envision a married life with Lord Vorkosigan on Barrayar…but she might nonetheless want them to be monogamous and committed to each other with the Dendarii.  He even thinks to himself that he may be breaking his own rules.  After all, Elli was incensed when he chose Taura as a bodyguard for this trip, so I’m sure Quinn knows about the hanky-panky that was likely to ensue, and she didn’t like it.

In other words, Miles does something stupid and insensitive again, which is a little out of character for him.  He’s still in denial, or is it bargaining now?  Promising that he’ll go to Escobar and get things fixed up on the hush-hush, and then everything can go back to normal.  But there are those nagging doubts–he’s not satisfied with either of his identities right now, Lord Vorkosigan being dull and sexless, but Admiral Naismith starting to feel a little hollow.  He’s still leaning towards Naismith, but his health issues are putting Naismith in danger, and threatening to take the choice out of his hands, so he’s panicking.

Maybe it’s just me, but after so much was made of her short lifespan, I began to wonder if Taura was ever going to actually die.  They make the point, several times, throughout the later books, that they’d managed to heroically extend her life by quite a bit, but I confess that it began to wear on me a bit.  They don’t have to show her on her deathbed, coughing up blood and shedding hair by the bucketful, but…well, I suppose it’s painful to say goodbye to loved characters sometimes, even if one is the author.  And not every death can be a heroic sacrifice used as a crucial blow against the enemy.  Lois McMaster Bujold is certainly no George R.R. Martin, and it’s true that more advanced societies accept death less casually (at least, according to the Steven Pinker book I’m reading right now), and have the technology to fight it more successfully in Bujold’s far future.  But it exists, it’s a fact, and reminding us that one character is living on borrowed time, and then continuing to lend her time, can begin to wear a little thin.  I think they did establish by the time of Cryoburn that she was dead, at least.  Not that I dislike the character that much (though she’s not actually a favourite), but an author has certain obligations to follow through on these things…

Chapter Four

Upon arriving in Vorbarr Sultana, Miles is picked up by an ImpSec car, which he wishes would dawdle a little more on its way to the ugly headquarters building.  As he stands outside the door, he’s fast losing confidence in his Escobar plan, and decides he’ll have to deliver his notes on the seizure verbally to Illyan, pretending that he thought they were too sensitive to commit to even a confidential report.

Decision made, he heads inside, checking his coat and heading for Illyan’s office unescorted.  Illyan’s secretary is chatting with General Lucas Haroche, Head of ImpSec’s Domestic Affairs division, in charge of covering investigations of plots based on the homeworld, as Guy Allegre does on Komarr.  Miles generally deals with the Galactic Affairs office on Komarr, if not Illyan himself, but he hadn’t been given time to stop in there.  Miles greets them, and the secretary asks for the report; Miles says he’d rather deliver it in person, but the secretary says Illyan is out of town.  Reluctantly, Miles leaves the cipher-case with the report, rejecting the secretary’s offer to pass on Miles’s extra verbal information, and makes do with leaving a message for Illyan to contact him as soon as possible.

He asks if Illyan left any orders for him, but he didn’t, despite the supposed urgency of Miles’s return.  Miles asks if he can go visit his parents, hoping to skive off to Escobar after all, but he’s told that he has to keep himself available on one-hour notice.  Haroche asks after Miles’s parents, but Miles says his mail hasn’t caught up with him yet, and Haroche likely has more up-to-date information than he does, but Haroche tells him that Sergyar has been split off from Domestic Affairs into its own bureau, despite the small size of its colony.  Miles expresses surprise, but allows that Sergyar’s position in the nexus gives it a certain importance.  He bids them farewell and says he might as well head home.

On his way out, he bumps into Duv Galeni.  Last Miles had heard, Galeni had been working on Komarr, but Galeni says he’d requested a transfer back to Barrayar…  He’s interested in a Komarran woman from the Toscane family, who has come to Vorbarr Sultana as a government lobbyist, and decided to follow her.  Galeni admits his relationship is still more hopeful than actual, and Miles wishes him luck.  Miles says he’s headed home, and Galeni bids him farewell.  At the exit, Miles pauses to consider how exactly he’ll get home, since the entire Vorkosigan household has decamped to Sergyar, and so there won’t be any Armsmen there to pick him up.  He considers the safety of ordering a public taxi, and decides that the weather is not awful, so he’ll walk home.

His walk is uneventful–no attention spared for his deformities, and he’s not sure whether having his spine straightened had that much of an effect, or if Vorbarr Sultana’s denizens are getting better.  Vorkosigan House is situated on a block that used to have three mansions; one of them was torn down to make a park, and the other bought by the Imperium and turned into offices.

Vorkosigan House sat in the center, set off from the street by a narrow green strip of lawn and garden in the loop of the semicircular drive. A stone wall topped with black wrought-iron spikes surrounded it all. The four stories of great gray stone blocks, in two main wings plus some extra odd architectural bits, rose in a vast archaic mass. All it needed was window slits and a moat.

The guard kiosk is manned only an ImpSec corporal who salutes Miles, telling him that his luggage has already arrived.  He says the most excitement they’ve had since the Count and Countess left was a stray cat getting caught in the defenses; Miles spots a few signs that the cat is none the worse for wear and has in fact been adopted by the guards.  Keeping a pet on duty is against regulations, but Miles realizes the man must be bored and decides to overlook it; he asks what they named it, and the corporal admits they called it “Zap”.  Miles heads inside, considering how young the corporal seems to him.  He opens the automatic door and enters the disconcertingly empty house.

Keeping the lights down, he explores in unaccustomed solitude, finding half the furniture gone and the rest covered up.  There is a lightflyer and a groundcar, but the risk of seizures makes him an unsafe driver or pilot.  He’s been cadging a lot of rides since his cryo-revival.  The kitchen is empty of food, which he makes a note to get some of if he’s going to be here for any length of time.  Maybe a servant, too–not a stranger, but maybe some pensioner could come back for a few days.  Or maybe he can just get some instant meals.  There’s still wine in the cellar, so he brings up a couple of bottles of “a particularly chewy red” from his grandfather’s day.

He heads up to his third-floor room, turning on the lights this time; his room hasn’t really been lived in for a while, even when he was recuperating a few months ago.  He considers his utter freedom to do whatever he wants, except go to Escobar to get his head examined.  He unpacks his clothing and changes into more comfortable clothes.  He’s been avoiding alcohol in case it exacerbates his seizures, but now he’s planning to stay in until Illyan calls for him, so he pours himself some.  Planning to have some food later, he instead drops off to sleep after two-thirds of a bottle.

By noon the next day the problem of food was becoming acute, despite a couple of painkillers for breakfast, and the absence of coffee and tea turning downright desperate. I’m ImpSec trained. I can figure out this problem. Somebody must have been going for groceries all these years . . . no, come to think of it, kitchen supplies had been delivered daily by a lift-van; he remembered the Armsmen inspecting it.

He inspects the computer records, finds the name of the supplier, boggles at the quantities they were ordering, and instead just walks down to a nearby store.  He grabs coffee, tea, eggs, and some prepackaged food (“Reddi-Meals!”), as well as some cat food.

He gathered up his spoils and took them to the checkout, where the clerk looked him up and down and gave him a peculiar smile. He braced himself inwardly for some snide remark, Ah, mutant? He should have worn his ImpSec uniform; nobody dared sneer at that Horus-eye winking from his collar. But what she said was, “Ah. Bachelor?”

After he’s finally had some food, he still has lots of time to kill, some of which he spends looking up medical clinics and ranking them by reputation and likelihood they’ll keep his visit secret from ImpSec.  He paces around the house, dredging up old memories.

For his evening meal, Miles decided to keep up the standards. He donned his dress greens, pulled all the covers off the furniture in the State dining room, and set up his wine with a proper crystal glass at the head of the meters-long table. He almost hunted up a plate, but reflected he could save the washing up by eating the Reddi-Meal! out of its packet. He piped in soft music. Other than that, dinner took about five minutes. When he’d finished, he dutifully put the covers back on the polished wood and fine chairs.

He wishes some of the Dendarii were there so he could have a real party.  The next evening, he’s driven to call Ivan, who’s surprised to see him back in town.  He tells Ivan about how he’s rattling around in Vorkosigan House; Ivan says it’s appropriate for the formerly-dead Miles to be in such a mausoleum.  Ivan says there’s not much going on, between Emperor’s Birthday (where he’d had to deliver the Vorkosigans’ bag of gold) and Winterfair, but apparently Gregor is having a state dinner in a couple of days, and Lady Alys had asked Ivan to bring some younger people for dancing later.  Miles surmises she really wants Ivan to bring a date, or a fiancée; he says he doesn’t have a date, and Ivan says he should ask one of the Koudelka girls.

“Did you ask Delia?” said Miles thoughtfully.

“Yeah. But I’ll cede her to you if you like, and take Martya. But if you’re escorting Delia, you have to promise not to make her wear high heels. She hates it when you make her wear high heels.”

“But she’s so . . . impressive in them.”

Miles asks Ivan for a ride, pretending his is in the shop, before he realizes that would result in Ivan driving him.  Instead, he remembers Duv Galeni and offers to invite him along.  Galeni can bring this Komarran girl along, impressing her with an official state dinner, and he can drive Miles instead.  Ivan says he’d been to do something to welcome Galeni to the capital anyway, and this is just the ticket.

Comments

I enjoy the scenes with Miles in the empty Vorkosigan House, living the bachelor lifestyle.  I’m almost surprised that Vorkosigan House is quite that deserted, but I guess it is still under guard, so it’s not likely that squatters are going to break in and set up house there.  At the moment he’s still convinced he’s going to be out of there soon and back to the fleet, so he’s not putting down any roots yet.

Illyan does seem to be deliberately avoiding Miles at this point.  He should have been able to determine when Miles would be returning to the capital and make himself available, if he’d wanted to–there doesn’t seem to be any actual crisis calling him away, though I suppose that part’s a bit vague.  So it seems that summoning Miles back, just to make him wait, is less an urgent need for Miles than it is an urgent need for Miles to not be with the Dendarii right then.  Could it be that Illyan has some dire suspicion about Miles’s intentions?  Or perhaps he knows something that would make it dangerous to leave Miles in charge of a mercenary fleet?  Or to be doing combat missions in space armour?  Nah, couldn’t be.

Finally, we have one of the more fateful conversations in Barrayaran history.  If it hadn’t been for Miles not wanting to drive but not wanting Ivan to drive either, would they have thought to invite Duv Galeni along?  Would the meeting between Gregor and Ms. Toscane have taken place at the right time, before she gave in to Duv’s deliberate charms?  Also, the return of the Koudelkas, or at least Delia; probably we won’t see much of Kareen, who may very well be on Beta Colony right now, if Mark is…

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It’s the Barrayar scenes–most of the book, from Chapter Four onward, really–that make Memory one of my favourites, so I’m glad that there’s a lot of them coming up.  Though admittedly they’re not all cheerful ones…as we’ll probably find out in the next couple of weeks.  Oh, sure, a lot of them just look like Miles being at loose ends, but I enjoy them nonetheless.  So come back next week, and we’ll see…

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It’s the First of May, and the next book on the Vorkosigan Saga Reread starts today.  (What were you expecting?)  Having finished off the first of the truly great Vorkosigan Saga books, Hugo-winner Mirror Dance, we move on to what may be my personal favourite book of the entire series, Memory.  Which originally I thought had the dullest title of the whole series (which it really does), but I’m long past holding that against it.  Feast your brains now upon the first two chapters of the book now…

Chapter One

Miles regains consciousness, his thoughts very scattered, and tries to figure out what’s going on.  He’s in zero gravity, strapped to a surface and wrapped in medical foil, wearing the lining from his space armour.  He doesn’t seem to be injured, though.  He had been on a Dendarii mission, he and Quinn and a patrol rescuing Barrayaran Lieutenant Vorberg from hijackers…and that’s the last thing he remembers.  He hears moans from nearby, so obviously someone else is wounded; he concludes he’s in a Dendarii shuttle, at the emergency medical station, with a medtech near the injured person.  He’s not sure why he’s strapped down, though–apart from a headache, somewhat like a post-stun migraine, he seems to be fine.

The medtech sees him awake and comes to check him out; he tells Miles that he had some sort of seizure, which lasted close to five minutes, and he was unconscious for half an hour.  Miles tries to get up, and the medtech says that Quinn had ordered Miles sedated if he did.  Miles asks about the hostage, Vorberg, and the medtech says they should be able to reattach his legs, but he refuses to give more details, referring him to Captain Quinn.

He doesn’t see Quinn until they dock, and Vorberg is rushed off to sickbay.  Quinn first reports that the rescue had gone well, all the crew from the hijacked ships recovered.  They captured the hijackers’ main ship and took nineteen prisoners, but half a dozen more are on the run in a pinnace.  Miles tells her to interrogate the prisoners, and hopefully they’re the same crew who did another job the year before, which would enable the Dendarii to collect another reward for them.

Miles asks what exactly happened to Vorberg.  Quinn says that Miles keeled over, the plasma arc in his combat suit locked on, and sliced Vorberg’s legs off just below the knee, as well as cutting through several walls, before they could open up his armour and deactivate it.  Quinn had to stun Miles to get him to go limp, which explains his headache.  She asks him what happened, and Miles explained about his seizure.  Quinn is less than impressed that he hadn’t told her about the prior seizures; Miles said there had been a few shortly after his cryo-revival, but they’d seemed to stop on their own.  He admits that he hasn’t informed ImpSec yet, mostly for fear they’ll put an end to his Dendarii assignments and give him a desk job, or a medical discharge.  He’s only told the fleet surgeon, who hadn’t solved the problem yet.

Quinn, still annoyed that he hadn’t told her, his second-in-command and lover, tells him to report to sick bay while she finishes mopping up, and he acquiesces.  There he is scanned, sampled and tested, before being left alone to wait for the surgeon.  He assures himself that Quinn is competent to finish up the mission, and reexamines his scars from the last time she was left in charge.  He’d worked hard to overcome his physical limitations, and found a perfect niche for himself as a covert agent with the Dendarii Mercenaries.  This mission had seemed right up their alley–a hijacking which had included a Barrayaran Imperial Courier, who they’d tried to auction off.  Simon Illyan had authorized him to recover the courier over as many dead hijackers as necessary, and even make it clear that it was the Barrayarans who’d authorized it this time.  Miles itches to find out if it was just happenstance, or if they’d gone after the courier on purpose.

The surgeon arrives, fresh from fixing up Vorberg, and says he’ll recover, though he will be a few centimetres shorter, and be recovered in about six weeks.  Miles winces, but reassures himself that at least the damage was reparable.  She checks over the scans, and still can’t find anything suspicious, adding she really needs to monitor him during an actual seizure, though they’d tried to trigger one before and failed.  Miles had not been wearing the monitor she’d given him, since it didn’t fit under his space armour.

Her teeth clenched. “Couldn’t you have at least thought to — to disable your weapons?”

“I could hardly be of use to my squad in an emergency, disarmed. I might as well have stayed aboard the Peregrine.”

“You were the emergency. And you certainly should have stayed aboard the Peregrine.”

Miles’s presence had been necessary, however, to use ImpSec recognition codes for Vorberg, but he concedes that he’ll try to restrain himself until they’ve fixed the problem.  She tells him he’ll need to go to a specialist in cryo-neurology to find his answers, then releases him to oversee the interrogation.

Comments

This chapter both starts with a protagonist who doesn’t know where he is, and has a lot of recap, so I guess it’s meant to orient people who haven’t read the rest of the series.  And yet, it heavily depends on prior events, particularly the cryo-revival from Mirror Dance, so in some ways it’s the least amenable to reading out of order, at least for best effect.  Many of our prior cast reappears, from sources as disparate as Brothers in Arms and “The Mountains of Mourning”.  There’s still enough information for, hopefully, one to orient oneself if the rest of the series is unread, or at least not fresh in your memory, but for best results read the prior books in the series, to get the full “spearpoint” effect.

It was really kind of a dick move, not telling Quinn about the seizures, but Miles is scared stiff of them.  He’s not quite ignoring them and hoping they’ll go away, but he’s nonetheless hoping they’re no big deal, so he’s not going to bother telling people about them.  Maybe after they’re cured, ten years later, he’ll bring it up as an anecdote one day.  “Oh, yeah, I had seizures a few times after that time I got killed and revived.  No big deal, they went away.”  Given Cordelia’s assessments of his sanity, and Admiral Naismith’s necessity to it, in the last book, I’m sure his brain is working hard to keep from dealing with the fact that the Admiral’s existence may be threatened.  Although I think part of the goal of this book is showing that things weren’t as bad as Cordelia had thought.

Chapter Two

Miles composes his umpteenth report for ImpSec–well, it can’t be more than forty missions, he calculates, but he no longer knows the number offhand.  He’s leaving in a lot of raw data for the ImpSec analysts and just adding a personal synopsis.  They’re at Zoave Twilight, collecting money from insurance companies, salvagers, and governments, which Miles dutifully includes in an appendix.  Another appendix includes interviews with their captives, showing that they probably weren’t after Vorberg specifically, unless only the deceased hijackers (which included captain and senior staff) were in on it.  All in all, they’ve made a fair profit on the mission, and Miles hopes that maybe this will encourage Illyan to finally promote him to Captain.  If only it weren’t for the combat armour recordings, including Miles’s accidentally slicing up Lieutenant Vorberg.

Suit #060’s vid recording had some really great close-ups of Lieutenant Vorberg, shocked from his doped stupor, screaming in agony and toppling unconscious in one direction while his severed legs fell in the other. Miles found himself bent over, clutching his chest in sympathy.

This was not going to be a good time to pester Illyan for a promotion.

Vorberg has been sent home already, and he never got a good look at Miles, during or after the rescue.  Miles wished he could delete his squad’s recordings, but that would be too obvious.  Unless he omitted all of them, which would make it less obvious that he was trying to cover something up.  He debates it with himself–he could describe it in neutral language and blame it on an equipment malfunction.  It would be lying, even if by omission.  But it would be good practice to make up a fake report so he’d be better able to detect fake reports in future.  He’d be sure to miss some reference elsewhere in the report, though, and then he’d be in even more trouble…but then again, it might not be that hard to find them all.  Eventually, he tries it; it takes him twenty minutes, and the whole thing lifts right out.  He’d half-proud, half-disgusted with his accomplishment.  Neither of ImpSec’s observers in the fleet have enough information to contradict him, though.  He files both versions of the report to decide later.

Baz Jesek and Elena come to his quarters and ask to talk to him.  Miles wonders what would have happened if Elena had consented to marry him, instead of leaving Barrayar with him on the journey that had ended up spawning the Dendarii Mercenaries–if they’d be happy, or regretful, if they’d have children…  He briefly entertains the thought of something happening to baz, and him having to console the grieving widow…except that Elena’s more regularly in dangerous situations than her husband.

She took a deep breath. “My lord — ”

Another sure sign of something unusual, when she addressed him in terms of their Barrayaran liege relationship.

” — we wish to resign.” Her smile, confusingly, crept wider, as if she’d just said something delightful.

Miles is flabbergasted, and asks why.  Baz says he’s been offered a position at a shipyard at Escobar, which would pay enough for them to leave the mercenaries.  Elena denies that they’re unhappy with their pay–they want to start a family.  Miles feels like he’s been hit with another rocket-grenade.  Elena says that as his vassals, they have to petition him for release from their duties.  Miles is dubious about losing his two top officers, but Baz says his engineering second is ready to take over, and Elena says that Elli Quinn is also ready to move up.  Miles wonders if Illyan will have a problem with Quinn, a non-Barrayaran, but Elena said it didn’t seem to bothering him during the previous crisis.  Miles asks if they’ll really need to fully retire, instead of just taking a leave of absence, and Elena says she doesn’t know if she’ll want to come back.

“I thought you wanted to become a soldier. With all your heart, more than anything. Like me.” Do you have any idea how much of all this was for you, just for you?

“I did. I have. I’m . . . done. I know enough is not a concept you particularly relate to. I don’t know if the wildest successes would ever be enough to fill you up.”

That’s because I am so very empty. . . .

She says she’d always taken for granted that the military was the only worthwhile career, because that’s what she was taught, but also that she couldn’t do it.  She’s proven the second wrong, and now she’s wondering about the first.  When she spent time on Barrayar with Cordelia, they talked a lot; Cordelia told her a lot about all the things she’d done in her career, and Elena wanted more of that variety for herself.  She says by the time she’d be ready to come back, the Dendarii will likely not even be around any more, and she’d rather move on, maybe become a commercial shipmaster.

Miles says he’s sure she’ll be great at anything she tries to do.  He does note that he can’t actually release them from being his vassals, but he can agree to let them go their own way for as long as they want.

It wasn’t fair, for people to go and change on him, while his back was turned being dead. To change without giving notice, or even asking permission. He would howl with loss, except . . . you lost her years ago. This change has been coming since forever. ‘You’re just pathologically incapable of admitting defeat. That was a useful quality, sometimes, in a military leader. It was a pain in the neck in a lover, or would-be lover.

He releases them from their oaths, and asks them to name the first child after him, but Elena says they’re planning on a girl, and there aren’t any good female forms of his name…  Elena asks when they can go, and Miles says as soon as he’s notified Quinn, who’s currently down on Zoave Twilight.  He leaves a message for her to get in touch with him as soon as she’s back, and, after the Bothari-Jeseks leave, he works on rearranging crew assignments to fill the gaps.

He was not, he assured himself, in shock about this. There were limits even to his capacity for self-dramatization, after all. He was a little unbalanced, perhaps, like a man accustomed to leaning on a decorative cane having it suddenly snatched away. Or a swordstick, like old Commodore Koudelka’s. If it weren’t for his private little medical problem, he would have to say the couple had chosen their timing well, from the Fleet’s point of view.

When Quinn arrives, she brings a package from ImpSec, which includes a credit chit for their latest mission, and a coded mission chip for his eyes only.  When he decodes it, all it says is for him to report to ImpSec HQ immediately, via a government courier ship at Tau Ceti.  He notes that these orders would have taken precedence over any current missions, and he can’t think what that would be, except for a new mission assignment, and why would he need to go all the way back to Barrayar for that?  He begins to worry that it might be bad news about his parents, but he tells himself that they’re both important enough figures that news would have filtered out here if anything had happened to them.

Quinn asks what happens if he has another seizure when he’s travelling, and then asks him why he’s so strongly in denial about it.  She encourages him to seek help at ImpMil Hospital, but he says it’s too late for him to come forward with this by now.  She asks him to throw himself on Illyan’s mercy, but he says that after what happened to Vorberg, there’s little chance of that any more.  He tells her that it lifts out of the mission report, and she’s aghast that he would even consider that.  Annoyed, he tells that Illyan doesn’t really know everything, but Quinn is dubious that he’ll be able to keep it a secret.  She accuses him of being as bad as Mark, which isn’t a good sign, especially when she accuses Mark of having caused the whole thing in the first place by going down to Jackson’s Whole.

It ends up in a shouting match, which Miles caps by telling her, at the top of his lungs, about Bez and Elena leaving and her getting promoted.  He dismisses her, but she asks him who’s going to bodyguard him to Tau Ceti then.  He says he’ll get Taura to do it, which infuriates Quinn, and she stalks out of the room.  Miles then goes to his comconsole, deletes the long form of the report, and dumps the doctored version onto a card to take home with him to Barrayar.

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A shouting match with Elli Quinn?  That’s not a good sign.  Even Mark’s coup on Jackson’s Whole hasn’t done much to change her attitude toward him, apparently, but this is really about the seizures, and Miles’s avoidance of them, with Mark pulled in as one of those long-term-couple grievances that end up sneaking into arguments if they go on long enough.  I’m not sure if she knows about Miles’s romantic history with Taura–which predates their own affair, admittedly–but if she did, that would explain her fury at Miles selecting Taura as bodyguard instead of Quinn.  Is this the end of Miles and Quinn’s relationship?  (Yes, I believe so.)

It’s tempting to conclude, based on later events, that Miles doctoring this report is what really gets him in trouble, but the peremptory summons was already on his way by that point.  I guess I’ve never been clear if ImpSec had belatedly found out about the seizures anyway, and were planning to castigate him for not mentioning them earlier, or what was going on.  Maybe this time through I’ll figure it out, because I normally just conclude that the report was the problem, when it was just a symptom.  Anyway, Miles is beginning the downward slope–screwing up on the Dendarii mission, losing Elena from his support system, alienating Elli…  And let’s note that he’s already lost Ky Tung and Bel Thorne.  But he’s got a few more big stops before he reaches bottom.


Two chapters done this week, despite the rush of last-minute taxes submission.  This was helped along by my actually getting a digital copy of Memory, so I am able to cut-and-paste the quoted sections after all.  Twenty-nine chapters in this book, so there’ll be at least one single-chapter week in there somewhere, but I’m glad not to have wasted it this early.  Also, I note that I’m getting close to the two-year anniversary of this blog (though, even with the changed day of the week, I won’t be posting on May 17th itself).  I know I’m impressed that I’ve kept it up this long, and I think by this point I might as well keep going.  Who knows, there may be another book out by the time I’m done…

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