The popcorn is almost eaten, the lights are going down, and up on the screen…no, it’s not commercials, or trailers, or cartoons–it’s the Vorkosigan Saga Reread! Two more chapters in Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Memory, a central book in the saga of Miles Vorkosigan, and we’re almost to the end. In the mystery plotline, we have finally arrived at the scenes where the cunning detective lures the culprit into incriminating himself, and then we have the big confession…
Not long before the end of the ImpSec day shift, Miles arrives in the big groundcar with his hastily-mustered and -briefed troops: Ivan, Illyan, Dr. Weddell, and Delia Koudelka. Miles orders the guard at the front desk to not report his arrival to Haroche; Illyan reassures him that it’s all right. Next, they go to the detention centre, where Miles leaves Delia to keep an eye on Duv Galeni, as well as orders to not admit anyone else to the cell block until he comes back. He hopes that this will keep Galeni from being “suicided” by Haroche.
Next he goes to Janitorial, collecting the department head, and Forensics to acquire a tech, before going to the Evidence Rooms. They fetch down the prokaryote, still with Miles’s seal on it, and Miles breaks one of the capsules open. They wait a few minutes, until Dr. Weddell says it should have dissipated sufficiently. He opens a box and takes out an atomizer of clear fluid, which he managed to whip up on short notice, designed to find traces of the prokaryotes’ discarded “shells”. The Janitorial head leads them to the room’s air filter and extracts it; Dr. Weddell sprays the filter, then shines UV light on it, showing how the traces fluoresce. The forensics tech bags it up, and they head back upstairs.
Miles takes them to the Komarran Affairs department, where General Allegre joins them; Miles asks Illyan if he ever came to Galeni’s office, and Illyan says he came down once a week or so. They extract the air filter for Galeni’s office, and Weddell sprays it; Miles hopes that Haroche hadn’t thought of using his spare capsule to contaminate this one as well. Luckily, it comes up clean, no traces of the prokaryote. Miles confirms that the filter wouldn’t have been scheduled to be changed since Midsummer, and that it doesn’t look like it has been replaced recently.
“Your old office is next, Simon. Would you care to lead the way?”
Illyan shook his head, politely declining. “There isn’t much joy for me in this, Miles. Either way your results come out, I lose a trusted subordinate.”
“But wouldn’t you rather lose the one who’s actually guilty?”
“Yes.” Illyan’s snort was not wholly ironic. “Carry on, my Lord Auditor.”
Haroche reacts with aplomb to their arrival en masse, though Miles imagines that maybe he’s a little uncomfortable being faced with Illyan’s presence. He asks what they’re doing there, and Miles explains about the air filters, something Haroche might not have thought of, never having been on space duty. Haroche doesn’t seem too uncomfortable yet; Miles knows that anyone could have used the prokaryotes in Illyan’s office, so it wouldn’t point directly at him. Weddell doesn’t find any traces in the filter, though, which doesn’t surprise Miles too much. Miles acts disappointed, and says there’s nothing for it but to systematically spray every filter in the building, hoping Haroche doesn’t notice that he doesn’t have nearly enough spray for that. Haroche asks if they checked Galeni’s office, and then suggests they try a briefing room.
“If you want to save steps,” put in Ivan, on cue, “you ought to start with the places Illyan went most, and work out from there. Rather than from the top down.”
“Good thinking,” said Miles. “Shall we start with the outer office? Then — excuse me, General Allegre, but I must be complete — the offices of the department heads. Then the briefing rooms, then all the affairs analysts’ offices. We should probably have done the whole of Komarran Affairs while we were first down there. After that we’ll see.”
They begin working on extracting the filter in the outer office, studiously not noticing when Haroche excuses himself. Miles counts to a hundred, then tells them to follow him once more, quietly this time, to Domestic Affairs, and Haroche’s old office. They encounter Haroche’s replacement in the halls, sent to look for Miles; Miles continues to the Domestic Affairs office and overrides the door lock with his Auditor’s Seal.
Haroche was crouched to the left of his old comconsole desk, just levering the vent grille out of the wall. In the opened flimsy-folder on the floor by his side lay another fiber filter. Miles laid a small bet with himself that they would find a disemboweled grille awaiting Haroche’s return in one of the briefing rooms on a direct line between Illyan’s old office and this one. A quick switch, very cool. You think fast, General. But this time I had a head start.
“Timing,” said Miles, “is everything.”
Haroche jerked upright, on his knees. “My Lord Auditor,” he began quickly, and stopped. His eye took in the small army of ImpSec men crowding into the doorway behind Miles. Even then, Miles thought, Haroche might have been capable of some brilliantly extemporized explanation, to Miles, to the whole damned mob, but then Illyan shouldered forward. Miles fancied he could almost see the glib lies turning to clotted ashes on Haroche’s tongue, though the only outward sign was a little twitch at the corner of his mouth.
Miles realizes that Haroche had avoided facing his victims–staying away from Illyan in the ImpSec clinic, avoiding Miles after that while setting up the frame for him, and keeping out of the way of Galeni’s arrest. He’s just an man of ordinary morality who gave in to temptation and then had to try to avoid the consequences. Haroche avoids Illyan’s and Miles’s gaze while the techs extract the filter and do the spraying. Red fluorescence is indeed revealed by the UV light. Miles appoints General Allegre acting chief of ImpSec, and instructs him to arrest General Haroche, by his Imperial Auditor’s authority, on the charge of treason.
“Not treason,” Haroche whispered hoarsely. “Never treason.”
Miles opened his hand. “But . . . if he is willing to confess and cooperate, possibly a lesser charge of assault on a superior officer. A court-martial, a year in prison, a simple dishonorable discharge. I think . . . I will let the Service court sort that one out.”
By the looks on their faces, both Haroche and Allegre caught the nuances of that speech.
Miles suggests that they take him down to the cells and release Galeni at the same time. Allegre drafts Ivan and two other nearby ImpSec staff to escort Haroche, who says he’s not athletic enough to try any fancy escapes. Miles finds the briefing room that Haroche had taken the filter from, and after the evidence there is collected, seals it up and sends it down to the Evidence Rooms. This, and the final report to Gregor, is the end of his Auditor’s responsibilities, and he’s glad he doesn’t have to deal with the court martial to come.
Miles and Illyan discuss what Haroche is likely to do next; Miles wonders if he’ll try to tough it out with a good lawyer, perhaps claiming evidence was planted. Illyan says he doesn’t think Haroche is likely to kill himself in his cell either, and he’d prefer him to live with the consequences anyway.
When they arrive at the detention centre, Galeni is being discharged, and Haroche seems to have already been processed in. Galeni is angry at Miles for leaving him in the cell so long, having thought he’d have come to extract him hours ago. He vows to quit this paranoid organization, though Delia takes his hand and he calms down. Miles apologized for having to take an entire day to muster the exonerating evidence, and Ivan points out it’s only taken him five days to solve the sabotage case in the first place, and it’ll probably take him longer just to write the report. Miles says that after Galeni’s public arrest, which must have been done on purpose, he couldn’t just declare Galeni innocent, he actually had to prove it.
Delia complains about Galeni’s cell; Illyan says they’re better than the old cells. After the incident with Miles and his alleged private army, when Illyan was thrown into his own prison, he had the old prison turned into evidence storage and built new cells; it was a most salutary experience, which he highly recommends. Galeni asks who was guilty, then, and Miles tells him it was Haroche. Once Haroche knew the prokaryotes had been discovered, he’d targeted Miles, who he disliked, and Galeni, who fit the profile, to try to take one or both of them down as plausible culprits. Arresting the chief of ImpSec in the middle of ImpSec HQ seemed tricky enough that Miles hadn’t wanted to get Galeni’s hopes up prematurely.
Allegre urges Galeni not to resign, and Miles says that all the crap he’s had to put up with will make things easier for all the Komarran officers that come after him. He says that Galeni has the type of perspective that ImpSec needs to be able to give to the Imperium, and notes that there will likely be an opening for the head of the Komarran Affairs department, since Allegre will probably have to take over as chief, albeit under protest. Allegre, beginning to realize what he’s in for, excuses himself to begin trying to get ImpSec in order; Illyan tells him he’ll do fine. Allegre tells Galeni to go home and get some sleep before he makes any big decisions, and Galeni agrees. Ivan finally begins to notice Delia and Galeni’s inseparability and put two and two together. Miles says he’ll break the news to Gregor right then; Galeni asks him to make sure that Laisa knows he’s innocent.
Miles calls Gregor and lets him know that Haroche was the culprit, and how they used the air filters to pin him down, and passes on Galeni’s message. Gregor, disturbed, asks if they know why he did it, and Miles says that motive is often the hardest question. They can’t fast-penta Haroche, of course, and if they want to get anything from him, they’ll have to do it before he recovers his equilibrium and starts fighting back. Miles thinks that Haroche probably hates him too much, for whatever reason, to cooperate, and asks Simon if he wants to question him. Gregor says he has a better idea.
See, the janitors come to the rescue! If it weren’t for those air filters–which were mentioned several chapters ago, to establish that ImpSec air was scrubbed regularly–Haroche might have gotten away with it. Of course, even if they hadn’t come up with something that actually worked, Miles might have been able to pull off a bluff to make him confess…and, in fact, at this point Haroche has no way of knowing if it’s legitimate or not. In fact, I think the first time through the book I may have been convinced that Miles was just pulling a fast one to get him to incriminate himself.
So Guy Allegre becomes a new ImpSec head. I think he still is in the latest book, but I’m not sure. Now I’m picturing Duv Galeni as the head of ImpSec. That would be interesting. I’d actually love to see the whole universe taken forward an entire generation. Cryoburn may have been a step in that direction, so who knows what Lois has planned? Maybe it’s just all my time playing Sims 2, but I could totally see the Vorkosigan and Koudelka descendants populating the next batch of books.
Ivan complains about being dragooned to accompany the party that goes to Haroche’s cell half an hour later. Miles tells Ivan that he still has one more role to play as the Auditor’s official witness, and he can also serve as a guard without inhibiting Haroche the way a former subordinate might. He assures Ivan he’s only there to listen.
Miles is the first into Haroche’s cell; Haroche is still in his uniform, not yet in prison garb, but his ImpSec eyes have been removed. Ivan follows Miles in, then Illyan, whose presence makes Haroche uncomfortable, but nothing compared to the next visitor, Emperor Gregor.
Shock and dismay gave way to a flash of open anguish. Haroche took a breath, and tried to look cold and stern, but only succeeded in looking congealed. He scrambled to his feet — Ivan tensed — but only said, “Sire,” in a cracked voice. He had either not enough nerve, or better sense, than to salute his commander-in-chief under these circumstances. Gregor did not look likely to return it.
Gregor leaves his Armsmen outside the cell, causing Miles to mentally work out scenarios where, if Haroche attacked, he could sacrifice his life to give Gregor time to call for reinforcements. He and Ivan take up positions on either side of the cell door, but Haroche only has eyes for Gregor. Gregor tells Haroche sit down, which he does, clumsily, and then asks for his last report–how and why he did what he did. Miles takes in something he’s never seen before–Gregor being quietly angry.
Haroche tells about how he found out about the Komarran prokaryotes back when they were first retrieved. He ascended to head of Domestic Affairs, but it was widely rumoured that Miles was being groomed as Illyan’s successor…but then Miles was killed on Jackson’s Whole. At that point, Illyan appointed Haroche as his second-in-command and definite successor. After Miles came back to life, though, Illyan began asking Haroche if he could mentor Miles in Domestic Affairs. It was clear that Illyan was still planning on promoting Miles up over Haroche’s head. He didn’t like it, but he still went along.
After Miles faked up his report and ended his own career, Haroche got to thinking that Illyan could still hang on for another five or ten years in office, and some other young hotshot might come up with Illyan liked just as well as Miles. He thought that Illyan was getting tired, and stale, but wasn’t likely to step down, and he wanted his own chance to serve the Empire. The very day that Miles was cashiered, he went down to the Evidence Rooms on another matter, and found himself stopping by to grab a couple of capsules of the prokaryotes. Nobody noticed, and he was pretty sure he could gimmick the monitors later if necessary. A few days later, he deployed the first capsule in his office, and then the second one a week later when nothing seemed to be happening. It was almost an impulse, but once acted on, he had to follow through.
Gregor asks him when he decided to frame Galeni. Haroche said he’d really planned on framing Miles, if he had to cast the blame on anyone, especially after he practically got away with slicing up Lieutenant Vorberg.
“Then he turned up on my front doorstep with that damned Auditor’s chain around his neck, and I realized he wasn’t just Illyan’s pet.” Haroche’s eyes, meeting Gregor’s at last, were accusing.
Gregor’s eyes were very, very cool. “Go on,” he said, utterly neutral.
If it hadn’t been for Vorkosigan pushing, Haroche says, he might not have needed the frame at all, but now he realized that he couldn’t make it stick to Miles after all. Galeni seemed almost a better choice–disposable, not to mention Komarran, in a position to know about the prokaryotes as well.
Gregor had grown so neutral as to seem almost gray. So, that’s what rage looks like on him. Miles wondered if Haroche realized what Gregor’s extreme lack of expression meant. The general seemed caught up in his own words, indignant, speaking faster now.
He’d planned on it taking months to find the capsules, but it only took Miles three days; he couldn’t convince Miles to go off to Jackson’s Whole, or get out of his hair, so he rushed the Galeni frame and arrest as quickly as he could. He even tried offering him a juicy bribe, and he thought Miles was going for it, but then he came back with Weddell, and that was it.
Gregor asks about the bribe, and when Haroche doesn’t answer, Miles tells him about the offer–being reinstated, as a Captain, and back with the Dendarii. Gregor, Illyan, and Ivan are all astonished; Illyan asked him why he turned it down. Miles said he wouldn’t have been able to stand throwing Galeni to the wolves, and leaving a weasel like Haroche in charge of ImpSec. With what he’d already done, he’d have probably been capable of finessing Gregor’s reports to try to manipulate him, though Haroche insists that he wouldn’t have. Miles asks if they’re done now, and Gregor says they are. As they leave, Haroche insists that it wasn’t murder, or even treason, that Illyan wasn’t even hurt, really. Gregor turns his back, and even Illyan can’t muster a retort scathing enough.
Illyan says he’d though Miles had been joking about wrestling with temptation. Gregor offers to charge Haroche with bribing an Auditor, which is another capital offense, but Miles doesn’t want the whole thing brought up in a military court.
“If you wish. My Lord Auditor.” Gregor had a strange look on his face, staring down at Miles; Miles shifted uncomfortably. It wasn’t surprise or amazement, which would have unraveled to an insult, after all. Awe? Surely not. “What stopped you? I too want to know why, you know. You owe me that much.”
“I don’t . . . quite know how to put it.” He searched for, and rather to his surprise found, that odd calm place inside, still there. It helped. “Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can’t trade for your heart’s desire is your heart.”
All that’s left is for Miles to write up the report, which, it turns out, takes longer than the actual investigation had. He spends a week compiling what he has, then keeps having to go collect information from various ImpSec departments, or Allegre himself, or Admiral Avakli; he’s determined to make it as complete as possible. Ivan barges in to interrupt him, having finally managed to figure out what’s going on with his mother and Simon Illyan.
“Simon Illyan is sleeping with my mother, and it’s your fault!”
“I . . . don’t think it is, somehow.”
“It’s happening in your house, anyway. You’ve got some kind of responsibility for the consequences.”
“I don’t know what consequences! I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do about it. Should I start calling Illyan Da, or challenge him to a duel?”
“Well . . . you might start by considering the possibility that it’s none of your business. They are grown-ups, last I checked.”
“They’re old, Miles! It’s, it’s, it’s . . . undignified. Or something. Scandalous. She’s high Vor, and he’s, he’s . . . Illyan.”
Ivan is also scandalized by the fact that the two of them are planning on vacationing together, down to some little resort that Illyan’s never heard of–and if ImpSec never heard about it, it must be good. They’re taking off after the betrothal, when Lady Alys is sure she’ll need some time to sit in the sun during the day, and at night… Miles offers to talk to his mother, and Ivan said he already has, and Cordelia seems to think that it’s healthy for both of them. Miles says that it could be a good thing–she’ll be busy enough with her own love-life to stop worrying about Ivan’s. Ivan admits that she has stopped nagging him and commenting on everyone else’s marriages and babies, but…
Miles makes an appointment with Dr. Chenko to calibrate his seizure-control device. He’s heading out for that appointment when he bumps into Illyan, coming in from having a walk, all by himself. Cordelia has given him a portable map-cube which he can use to find his way around, and an auto-indexing audionote-taker which he can use to keep track of information.
The man hadn’t had to even think about taking notes for the past thirty-five years, after all. What was he going to discover next, fire? Writing? Agriculture? “All you have to remember is where you put it down.”
“I’m thinking of chaining it to my belt. Or possibly around my neck.”
At dinner, the Countess is beginning to wonder aloud if she can convince Ma Kosti to emigrate to Sergyar…possibly by having her son transferred there. Miles asks when the Count is going to arrive; Cordelia says it’ll be the day before the betrothal, and they’ll leave afterwards, so they can get back to the Sergyar colony, and also keep Aral from getting waylaid by old colleagues with other ideas for what he can do with his nonexistent spare time. She invites Miles to come visit them on Sergyar, where they have a much better treatment for the worm plague now, and lots of work to do. Miles admits he’s not sure what he’ll be doing after he finishes the investigation.
Illyan tells them that he’ll be moving into his own flat soon–close to Alys’s, but not in the same building, in case anyone gets any ideas about taking vengeance on him. He’s hoping to put it about that he’s more brain-damaged than he actually is, in hopes of discouraging that. When Miles asks, he says he’s not planning on doing any more work for ImpSec, that forty-five years was long enough.
Miles finished his Auditor’s report late the following afternoon, including the table of contents and the cross-referenced index, and sat back in his comconsole chair, and stretched. It was as complete as he could make it, and as straightforward as his indignation with the central crime would allow. He only now realized, looking over the finished product, just how much subtle spin he used to put on even his most truthful Dendarii field reports, making the Dendarii and Admiral Naismith look good to assure the continued flow of funding and assignments. There was a dry serenity in not having to give a damn what Lord Auditor Vorkosigan looked like, that he quite enjoyed.
He was determined that anyone after Gregor who looks at the report will have all the information they needed to make sense of it, because he’s been at the other end of inadequate reports often enough. He makes an appointment with Gregor the next morning to deliver the report and return the Auditor’s Chain, and he hopes to have his seizure-control device implanted shortly after that; then maybe he can finally release Martin to apply to the Imperial Service. He wanders into the apartments recently vacated by Illyan, looks them over speculatively, and shortly is organizing the household staff into moving his possessions into them. Cordelia notes this with approval, thinking it high time, since his previous room was only where it was because it was the hardest to shoot things through the window.
His possessions spread fairly thin over the larger area, and he thinks that he’ll have to send for the rest of his stuff, still with the Dendarii, and reminds himself that he needs to settle things with Elli Quinn, who’s gotten somewhat neglected in recent weeks. He dashes off a cheerful and reassuring message to her, thinking that it’s much easier than it was before.
Yeah, Haroche dug himself in pretty deep with that one. His resistance must have been way down, or else he might not have come quite so clean with Gregor…but in his own mind, at least, he had always been a loyal servant of the Empire. He’d only wanted to remove some deadwood that was keeping him from serving the Empire as well as he was sure he could. One wonders how long he’d have been content to serve under ImpSec chief Vorkosigan if that had come about. Though Illyan had that convenient vulnerability, in that he could be taken out more easily than anyone else. (Though a seizure-prone Chief Vorkosigan might have also been vulnerable…)
After that, we are well and truly into the denouement. Miles begins to settle his home life, as does Illyan, expanding into spaces that they can call their own, and becoming more comfortable with their new situations. There’s still his future career to deal with, but that’s for the next chapter, and Elli Quinn, for the chapter after that. Oh, yeah, and there’s still the betrothal to come, I guess.
Two more chapters, one more week, as the book winds down, but I promise you, one of the best scenes in the book is coming in the next chapter, so there’s no reason to leave the theatre yet…