What with one thing and another–“one thing” being Canada Day celebrations on Monday, and “another” being the heat wave that disrupted our activities over the last few days–it’s a tug of war. Which is to say, I only got one chapter done this week in the Vorkosigan Saga Reread; luckily the current novel, Memory, has an odd number of chapters, so I knew I could get away with this once without delaying completing of the book. Whether it was a good idea to do this when there’s still summer vacation and the like to come…well, that remains to be seen. Also, I’m not sure if it actually was, but Chapter Nineteen felt longer than some of the others I’ve done, so I’m just as happy to just do the one this week…
The next day, Miles makes himself call up ImpMil and make an appointment to have his seizures checked out; he chooses ImpMil because of their experience with cryo-revival, and the access they’ll have to classified records like his Dendarii fleet surgeon’s notes. That done, he wanders around Vorkosigan House, missing Ivan’s company, or anyone’s really.
Vorkosigan House wasn’t meant to be this quiet. It had been designed to host a full-time roaring circus, with its complement of guardsmen and staff, maids and grooms and gardeners, hurrying couriers and languid courtiers, Vor visitors trailing their retinues, children . . . with the successive Counts Vorkosigan as ringmasters, the hubs around which the whole great gaudy wheel turned. Counts and Countesses Vorkosigan. The party had been at its height in his great-grandparents’ day, Miles supposed, just before the end of the Time of Isolation. He paused before a window overlooking the curving drive, and pictured horses and carriages pulling up below, officers and ladies disembarking with a glitter of swords and a swirl of fabrics.
It reminds him of running the Dendarii Mercenaries, and wonders if in the Dendarii he’s created something that will last as long as Vorkosigan House, like a child. He assures himself that Elli Quinn will do fine running them, and wonders if he or Haroche should formally make her Admiral…and if he really trusts Haroche to deal properly with the Dendarii.
He finds himself in the second-floor suite where old Count Piotr had lived out his last days. His parents had stayed in their third-floor rooms, but they’d had Count Piotr’s rooms refurbished as a luxurious guest suite, which not even Ivan had had the nerve to claim during his recent visit. Miles has an inspiration, and the next morning he approaches Haroche with an offer to relocate Illyan to Vorkosigan House. Haroche is dubious, pointing out that sabotage hasn’t been ruled out yet, and questions the safety of Vorkosigan House; Miles says that if ImpSec can’t secure Vorkosigan House, it will come as a nasty shock to the former Lord Regent. Haroche asks Dr. Ruibal’s opinion, and Ruibal says that this will allow Illyan to get some more activity without being sucked into ImpSec business, or looking over Haroche’s shoulder.
Miles asks about Illyan’s current condition; Ruibal says that he’s recovering, physically, from his ordeal, but his short-term memory is suffering right now. It’s too early to tell if this is a permanent debility or if he’ll recover in time, so Ruibal wants to give him a couple of weeks of varied activity and see how he does. Haroche agrees, reluctantly. Miles goes to make the offer to Illyan, where Lady Alys approves heartily, and adds that Cordelia would as well, overriding Illyan’s hesitation. Miles mentions the windows in the suite–a lack in the ImpSec building–and Illyan points out that windows can be a point of vulnerability, but Miles says that they’ve had been force-screened since then. He also mentions the new cook, and Alys mentions that he’ll be able to entertain visitors more comfortably, and Illyan decides to accept.
Miles has his car ready to bring Illyan to his home, and Lady Alys says she’ll meet them there, since they’ve probably forgotten something.
“Whatever can she intend to provide that Vorkosigan House doesn’t already have?” Illyan wondered in some bemusement.
“Flowers?’ hazarded Miles. “Dancing maids?” Er. . . soap and towels? She was right, he hadn’t thought of everything.
Illyan muses that Lady Alys was there during some of his more unpleasant moments, then says that it’s time to get out of this dismal place. One small valise later, Illyan is ready to leave the ImpSec HQ. At Vorkosigan House, Alys is already directing cleaning crews and bringing in supplies–soap, towels, and fresh sheets. Martin puts away Illyan’s meager supplies and then goes to fetch a tea cart of Ma Kosti’s delicacies. As they sit, replete, in Illyan’s suite, Miles asks Illyan how his memory is.
Illyan, half-engulfed by the soft upholstery of the armchair in which he leaned back, grimaced. “The last few weeks seem very fragmentary. Before that . . . is fragmentary too.” The hand twitch, again. “It feels like . . . as if a man who’d always had perfect vision had a glass helmet all smeared with grease and mud fastened over his head. Except. . . I can’t get it off. Can’t break it. Can’t breathe.”
Miles points out that he remembers who he is, at least, as compared to his own cryo-amnesia. Illyan expresses frustration of his inability to remember clearly, and Alys points out that that’s how it is all the time, for most people. She encourages him to compare his current memories with those from before the chip was implanted.
Miles explains how he became an Imperial Auditor to help Illyan, and that it still remains to be determined if there was any sabotage done to the chip; he asks Illyan if he remembers anything that might be relevant. Illyan says that he could have, easily, with the help of his chip, but as it is, they seem to have covered their tracks.
Miles changes the subject to the arrangements for Gregor’s betrothal ceremony; Illyan asks after the security arrangements, which Haroche has delegated to Colonel Lord Vortala, who Alys approves of. After Alys rambles on various etiquette-related subjects for a while, Miles proposes a card game, at least partly to check on Illyan’s capabilities. Previously, Illyan was nigh-unbeatable at Star-tarot One-up, but now he can’t win a single hand, which disturbs him greatly; his short-term memory is, indeed, pretty much shot. Miles tests this by bringing up security for the betrothal again, where Illyan once again asks who’s in charge, having forgotten about Vortala already.
They quickly settle down to a household routine, Miles and Illyan living quietly and separately in the house, mostly meeting for meals. Miles makes his visit to ImpMil, which turn into daily visits, his service expedited by his mention of acting-Imperial-Auditor status. Lady Alys visits often, as does Ivan, and some of Illyan’s old cronies, including Guy Allegre, all of them happy to experience Ma Kosti’s cooking when they have the opportunity. Duv Galeni happens by, not aware of Illyan’s presence, and seems stiff and uncomfortable through their dinner. The ImpSec guard is increased to three men.
Avakli’s investigation continues, still mostly negative, but Miles doesn’t press him. More progress is made on Miles’s own case, where they manage to trigger one of his seizures and gather valuable data from it.
Colonel Dr. Chenko, the neurologist, and Captain Dr. D’Guise, the cryonicist, were bouncing up and down and chortling, loudly pointing out fascinating readouts to each other. It was apparently the best show since the cycle-riding bear had come to the Hassadar Fair and spooked the horses. Miles groaned, but it did not gain any immediate attention; the monitors were apparently much more engrossing.
The doctors didn’t really start talking to him, instead of each other, until he was dressed again and awaited in Dr. Chenko s office. Even his Imperial Auditor’s status didn’t rush them this time. Chenko, a fit and energetic middle-aged man who seemed a walking advertisement for the medical profession, came in at last, assortment of data disks in his hand; his initial air of pleased excitement had by this time subsided to mere smugness.
They explain that his seizures seem to be caused by excess production of neurotransmitters in his brain, which build up until they discharge all at once, particularly under stressful conditions, which causes the seizures. Afterwards, the neurotransmitter levels are low, so he becomes unconscious until they begin to replenish. They rule out surgical treatments, which Miles isn’t keen on anyway, and asks about alternatives.
“Ah.” Dr. Chenko hesitated. Actually, he fell silent. “Ah. Hm,” he added after a time.
Miles waited, clutching his fragile patience. Dr. Chenko’s medical creativity would surely not be enhanced by having an Imperial Auditor launch himself over the comconsole and attempt to strangle him. Miles also wasn’t sure if his Auditor’s legal immunity extended to personal assault.
Chenko mentions biochips used for epileptics, but not quite right for Miles’s case, which is okay since Miles is a little dubious about biochips right now. They’ll have to do some thinking and testing to see if they can find a viable solution for him, but it should only be a matter of days, weeks at most.
Miles arrives home to find Illyan dressed up, and has a horrible thought that Illyan somehow thinks he’s supposed meet with the Emperor, but it turns out that Lady Alys is taking him to see a concert. He’s run security at the concert hall many times, but never got to sit down and listen to the music, so he’s going to try that see if he likes it. Miles wonders if it’s a good idea for Illyan to go out in public, for the first time since his breakdown, and if there may be another attempt; Illyan says it’s ImpSec’s problem now, not his.
As they leave, Illyan remembers that there was a message for Miles–that his mother was on her way there from Komarr, due in five days. Miles isn’t sure how he feels about this, pointing out his mother’s tendency to psychoanalyze everyone, Betan-style; Alys tells him not to be childish. Miles spends the evening at loose ends, wondering what’s going to happen with his life once Illyan’s problems and his seizures are resolved, if he’s going to be taking ladies to concerts, or if he’ll be stuck in limbo, a young retired Vor.
Illyan isn’t home until quite late; Miles is starting to get worried, recalling how easily Illyan got lost the one time he went walking a few blocks away from Vorkosigan House. Illyan says that after the concert, he and Lady Alys had a late supper, rode around, talked…he’s decided he likes concerts, after all.
Dammit, the rest of us are going crazy over this chip thing. Why aren’t you? No, unfair to blame Illyan for declining to, well, to go into a decline. Perhaps the ImpSec chief had concluded the failure was natural, and was dealing with it. Or perhaps he was just more patient and subtle than Miles about stalking his stalker. That would not be news.
Dr. Chenko’s proposed treatment, it emerges, is to artificially trigger the seizures under controlled conditions, which will give him periods of guaranteed seizure-free time before the neurotransmitters start to build up again. They can put a receiver in his head, which can also detect high neurotransmitter levels, and give him a remote control to do the triggering. This should free him up to engage in normal activities, even flying, as long as his levels are monitored.
Miles asks if his medical discharge might be rescinded, and Chenko says that’s not really his department, since for some reason he wasn’t sent to ImpMil before his dismissal. Outside of ImpSec he would certainly be relegated to desk work, but he admits that ImpSec makes its own rules, so it’s hard to say. Miles considers whether he’d be willing to settle for a desk job in the bowels of ImpSec, going home to Vorkosigan House every night…but there is, of course, the issue of the falsified report.
Chenko says that the trigger procedure should work until someone brighter comes along to fix the problem, and even if nobody does, he has no idea whether Miles will have to deal with his seizures for the rest of his life or not. Miles decides to give it a try and see what happens. They schedule an appointment to proceed, and Chenko asks idly why an Imperial Auditor would want to be reinstated as an ImpSec Lieutenant. Miles says he’s only an acting Auditor, and doesn’t add that he really wants to be a Captain, not a Lieutenant…but he’s not sure how to answer the question.
Yay, Miles has his seizures checked out, finally! I’m not sure if the explanation put forth here is at all plausible, but it sounds good, doesn’t it? Neurotransmitters seem to be involved in lots of things–I’m constantly hearing about dopamine this and serotonin that, oxytocin and melatonin and endorphin–so it sounds plausible, but I don’t know if it really works that way. No miracle cure, now that it’s been diagnosed–would there have been one on Escobar, I wonder?–but at least he can manage his condition. So that’s good.
Not sure why, when he knows damn well that his discharge was only partially medical, he pursues the possibility of reinstatement. I mean, Haroche is certainly aware of the falsified report, and I’m not sure that being forced to work with Miles has improved his opinion of the hyperactive little runt.
Illyan’s now out of danger and now living at Vorkosigan House…and staying out long past curfew with Lady Alys. Still no hint that anyone else has figured out that there’s something going on between the two of them, or at least Miles doesn’t seem to have put it together yet… I’m sure it wouldn’t have taken Cordelia all that long. A brief appearance by Duv Galeni, who seems uncomfortable in Illyan’s company…I wonder if he has something to hide? A guilty conscience, perhaps? Heh.
I promise I’ll try harder to do two full chapters next week. The plot will progress a little farther then, though the next big plot twist is not until a little after that, I think. Still, as I said, the memory-chip-sabotage plot is not the only plot: it’s just the most “public stakes” kind of plot. I enjoy watching Miles try to figure out what to do now that he’s been forced to grow up, and Illyan trying to figure out what to do now that he’s been forced to retire, and all that sort of thing. But I like to throw a bone to you excitement junkies out there too, from time to time…