Diane, it’s 9:00 PM, and I’m holding in my hand a small package of chocolate bunnies. Also, it is now time, once again, for the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, as we draw to a close our examination of the novel Memory, with Miles Vorkosigan completing his transition from his former career into his new one, and tying off some personal loose ends. Have a slice of pie, by all means, while you consider these last two chapters…
Miles prepares carefully for his visit to Gregor to return the Auditor’s paraphenalia, putting on his house uniform and medals again, because he’s planning to ask Gregor for a favour when he does. He’s not quite certain about his asking, since it seems such a little thing, but it matters to him, at least. Martin takes him to the Residence, with less damage to the gate this time; Miles finds Gregor also dressed up, probably for some later ceremony.
He and Gregor greet each other cordially, and then he gives Gregor the data card with his report on it as well as the chain. Before Miles can make his request, Gregor is sitting down at his comconsole; he makes a copy of the report, then gives the data card to his majordomo to take to the next room. Miles waits, perforce, while Gregor reads the report, making a few mild exclamations, then goes back over selected portions of it.
Gregor picks up the chains, saying thoughtfully that this was one of his better snap decisions. Miles says that it was just luck that he could do some good; Gregor points out how few people would have been suited for the job, knowing ImpSec well without being part of it. Miles decides just to thank him. Gregor says he’s thinking about an appropriate reward for a job well done, which is, traditionally, another job. He offers Miles the post of Chief of ImpSec, even if he’s not technically in the military anymore. Miles refuses, saying it’s too much of a tedious desk job, in between periods of complete insanity, and would tie him down too much to Barrayar and Vorbarr Sultana. He acknowledges that he could do it, but he asks if Gregor is ordering him to take the job; Gregor said he was genuinely curious. Miles says that Guy Allegre will do a better job, is the right age, has more of the appropriate experience, and is familiar to the Komarrans. Gregor says he thought Miles would say that, but wanted to give him first refusal.
He asks Miles if he wants anything to eat ot drink, but Miles says that with his surgery scheduled for that afternoon, he’s been told to keep an empty stomach. Gregor says he must be happy to have the chance to do his own driving now, though Miles admits Martin had grown on him a little. Miles is just gathering his courage to ask for his favour when the room door slides open and the majordomo returns, then ushers four men into the room–Imperial Auditors all. Miles reflexively begins wondering what he’s done to warrant their attention, then calms down and greets them politely as they take their seats.
The four Auditors are Lord Vorhovis, back from Komarr, a mere sexagenarian, a former ambassador and Minister of Finance; Dr. Vorthys, an academic appointee of Gregor’s, specializing in engineering failure analysis; Lord Vorgustafson, a retired industrialist so rich as to be virtually unbribable; and Admiral Vorkalloner, a retired officer with no strong political ties. Vorkalloner greets Miles as “Aral Vorkosigan’s boy” and says that now he knows why he hasn’t seen Miles much in the last ten years. Miles is struck again by the oddness of the Auditors, taken as a group–all accomplished and/or wealthy, and all more or less eccentric.
Gregor asks them what they thought of Miles’s report. Vorhovis says it was extraordinary, and Vorthys praises it for being “concise, coherent, and complete”. Miles tells how Illyan used to send back his reports for correction until he learned how to do it right the first time.
Vorkalloner smiled. “Old Vorsmythe,” he noted, “used to turn in handwritten plastic flimsys. Never more than two pages. He insisted anything important could always be said in two pages.”
“Illegibly handwritten,” muttered Gregor.
“We used to have to go and squeeze the footnotes out of him in person. It became somewhat irritating,” added Vorkalloner.
Vorhovis says he hasn’t left much for the prosecutor to do; Gregor says that Haroche is officially going to plead guilty anyway, which is good, considering how he confessed to the Emperor and all. Vorhovis says he doubts he would have been able to unravel the case, particularly since Dr. Weddell’s expertise proved critical, and he had never heard of the man. Vorhovis says the Auditors rarely work together, but they do consult with each other and share resources. There are really only five effective Auditors at the moment, General Vorparadijs and Admiral Valentine being sort of Emeriti, and General Vorsmythe’s position hadn’t yet been filled since his death two years earlier; the other active Auditor, Vorlaisner, was tied up on the South Continent, but the four of them constitute a quorum.
“That being so, my lords,” said Gregor, “how do you advise Us?”
Vorhovis glanced around at his colleagues, who gave him nods, and pursed his lips judiciously. “He’ll do, Gregor.”
“Thank you.” Gregor turned to Miles. “We were discussing job openings, a bit ago. It happens I also have a place this week for the position of eighth Auditor. Do you want it?”
Miles, shocked, asks if Gregor realizes what he’s saying, offering Miles an appointment for life, and at his age. Vorhovis agrees that Miles will be the youngest Auditor since the Time of Isolation. Miles says that Vorparadijs will doubtless disapprove of him based on his youth and physical appearance; Vorhovis says Vorparadijs thought he was too young too, at fifty-eight. He says that Miles’s galactic experience and unique ImpSec training makes him a valuable resource in his own right. Miles asks if they’ve read his personnel files, and then reiterates the near-fatal accident and falsified report that led to the end of his ImpSec career.
Vorhovis says that the four of them had discussed it with Gregor and Illyan the day before. He asks how, in light of Miles’s earlier actions, he was able to refuse Haroche’s bribe of the Dendarii, which would almost certainly never have been recognized as such.
“Haroche would have known. Galeni would have known. And I would have known. Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead. Not three.”
“You would certainly have outlived Captain Galeni, and you might have outlived Haroche. What then?”
Miles blew out his breath, and answered slowly. “Someone might have survived, with my name, in my body. It wouldn’t have been me, anymore. It would have been a man I didn’t much . . . like.”
Gregor points out that, as the junior Auditor, he’ll get the worst jobs, the jobs will probably be totally unrelated to each other, and he’ll be left to succeed or fail on his own; Vorthys says he will get some help now and then.
Miles says this wasn’t the reward he’d been planning to ask for; he’s been hankering after a retroactive promotion to Captain. He doesn’t need the extra pay grade or anything, just the title; he’d wanted it freely given, but he’ll take it as he gets it. He doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life as a Lieutenant. It occurs to him that Gregor and the Auditors have put a lot of effort into considering him for this position–it’s more than just a courtesy to offer it to him, this time. So he may have a little bit of bargaining power this time. He mentions that most of the other Auditors are retired senior officers; Gregor points out that he’s the former Admiral Naismith, but Miles says that hardly counts. For the dignity of the office, he should be at least a captain.
“Persistent,” murmured Vorhovis, “isn’t he?”
“Relentlessly,” Gregor agreed. “Just as advertised. Very well, Miles. Allow me to cure you of this distraction.”
His magic Imperial finger — index, not middle, thank you Gregor — flipped down to point at Miles. “Congratulations. You’re a captain. My secretary will see that your records are updated. Does that satisfy you?”
“Entirely, Sire.” Miles suppressed a grin. So, it was a touch anticlimactic, compared to the thousand ways he’d dreamed this promotion over the years. He was not moved to complain.
Gregor and the Auditors emphasize that the Auditors are never assigned routine tasks–they’re only sent in when other means have failed. They get complex, disturbing, and occasionally bizarre cases–and often, extremely important ones, like tracking down the traitor at the heart of ImpSec. Gregor offers Miles the position again, and Miles says yes.
When Miles goes for his surgery that afternoon, he’s allowed to stay under local anesthesia and watch it on a monitor, and go home the next day. Two days later, he goes in so they can do the first test. Miles agrees to do it himself, since he may need to do so in the future; Dr. Chenko cautions him that he should usually do it with someone to spot for him. Miles puts in a mouth-guard and presses the activator; the seizure duly comes, and after Miles regains consciousness they keep him there to do some tests. Miles asks for reassurances that no other signal is likely to activate his implant, and that it’s not going to get switched permanently by any head trauma; Chenko says that the signal is encoded, and any trauma that could affect the implant will have damaged enough of his brain to give him bigger worries.
Chenko tells him that the seizure was shorter and less intense than his uncontrolled ones, and the hangover effects should also be reduced. He encourages Miles to check his neurotransmitter levels once a day, so he can schedule his seizures before the levels get too high. Miles asks if he can fly yet, and Chenko says they’ll do some more tests tomorrow and then let him know.
Gregor has managed to convince Lady Alys to schedule the betrothal ceremony for the beginning of the Winterfair season. The day before the ceremony, an enormous blizzard hits Vorbarr Sultana and the surrounding Districts, closing the shuttleports and stranding Viceroy Aral Vorkosigan in orbit. He decides to stay in orbit and come directly to the Imperial Residence the next day. Miles decides not to fly, but to accompany the Countess in her groundcar. Their departure is delayed by Zap the Cat having kittens on his House uniform, forcing Miles to painfully extricate them and have them hastily cleaned before they can leave.
The Countess, delighted as ever to find her biological empire increasing, came in thoughtfully bearing a cat-gourmet tray prepared by Ma Kosti that Miles would have had no hesitation in eating for his own breakfast. In the general chaos of the morning, however, he had to go down to the kitchen and scrounge his meal. The Countess sat on the floor and cooed into his closet for a good half-hour, and not only escaped laceration, but managed to pick up, sex, and name the whole batch of little squirming furballs before tearing herself away to hurry and dress.
They eventually manage to leave and make their way through and around the snowdrifts to the Residence, where they are far from the last arrivals, though the snow and wind do seem to be letting up somewhat. Luckily, most of the Komarran guests have already been staying in the Residence guest quarters. Lady Alys seems calm, but may be merely in a stage beyond panic, though she is visibly relieved when Miles and Cordelia arrive, and even more so when Aral finally shows up. Aral opines that Gregor’s weatherman is probably due for a posting on Kyril Island; Miles points out that he may have been pressured to produce an optimistic forecast. Aral tells Miles that they should have a talk soon, but Lady Alys has first claim on him.
A mere hour late, the ceremony starts, with Aral and Cordelia standing as Gregor’s foster parents, and Miles as Gregor’s Second. His role mostly consists of conveying ceremonial gifts between the two sides–these days, hardly anyone expects the Second to marry the bride if the groom dies untimely. Some of the gifts, like a bridle without a horse, a somewhat baffling, but at least they’ve left out the blunted scalpel which was supposed to represent the bride’s genetic cleanliness. Then he gives the Admonishments to the Bride (there are no Admishments to the Groom, he notes), also somewhat modified to exclude such things as obligation to produce heirs in one’s own womb as opposed to a uterine replicator. Laisa still isn’t quite sure about all of them, but Cordelia signals her silently to not take them too seriously, while Miles pictures Elli Quinn’s highly unprintable reaction to the Admonishments.
After the ceremony is over, the snowed-in crew settle in to celebrate. Aral goes off with Gregor, and Miles spots Ivan. Ivan says people have been asking him about Miles’s Auditorial appointment, and Miles tells them to talk to Vorkalloner or Vorhovis. He asks about Ivan’s date, and Ivan says he asked Delia Koudelka to marry him. Miles begins heartily (and fakely) congratulating him, and Ivan says she turned him down for Duv Galeni. Miles says he’d already figured that much out; he suggests Ivan tries Martya, but Martya has already turned him down, in favour of nearly anyone else. Miles congratulates Ivan on the carefree bachelor life he can doubtless look forward to, and offers him a kitten to liven up his digs; Ivan tells him to get stuffed.
Miles wanders off and finds the Koudelkas, where Duv Galeni is talking seriously with Commodore Koudelka. Galeni has elected not to resign from ImpSec, and according to Gregor is being seriously considered for head of Komarran Affairs. Miles thinks that with three other sisters to marry off, Galeni has good odds of gaining some influential in-laws; Miles wonders if Galeni knows yet that his clone-brother Mark stands a good chance of becoming one of them.
Aral finally returns and congratulates Miles on his promotion–Captain as well as Auditor, though he thinks that the former was a little bit roundabout. He’s glad that Miles has finally managed to “grow into himself”. Miles points out that not only was Imperial Auditor not a post that Aral himself ever had, but no Vorkosigan ever has, making him entirely unprecedented.
The Count smiled. “This is not news, Miles.”
This chapter could almost stand to be the last, wrapping up almost everything, but there is still one more loose thread for the next chapter. Though that one could almost have been an epilogue… The betrothal is accomplished, Miles’s parents are both there with him, Miles has his seizure control device, and Miles has a new job. The only thing he really needs now is a love life, or maybe a wife and children…
I don’t recall if I was surprised the first time I read this to find Miles offered an actual Auditorship, but I suspect I was. But it is a great conclusion to the book, even if one points out that Imperial Auditor was practically invented for this book, and it may have been as much to give Miles a future career as it was to give him the leverage to run an investigation inside ImpSec. From an authorial perspective, it gives tremendous leeway for future plots, though admittedly not (always) off-planet ones. Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn notwithstanding.
Miles was thinking earlier that personal probity seemed to be an absolute requirement to be an Imperial Auditor, which is one reason they tend to be older men, whose personality has already been amply demonstrated over the course of decades. It makes me think that it was Miles’s resistance to Haroche’s proffered bribe that was the final selling point for them, showing them, at least, that his willpower was up to the challenge. Not sure whether his perceived probity is quite as stellar, but I guess he’ll get ample chance to demonstrate it.
Poor Ivan, though, striking out with both Delia and Martya. It’s almost like neither of them thought he was serious about them as much as he was panicked and desperate. Well, of course, Delia was already spoken for, but as I recall it takes a couple more books for Martya to find someone to interest her…though not a Vor, as I recall. Or even a Barrayaran. Kareen is, of course, already somewhat interested in Lord Mark, and Olivia…has she even been named yet? Well, I guess not every sister gets to have her own plot…
Miles waits outside Customs on a space station orbiting Komarr, contemplating how this interstellar transport hub is also part of the Barrayaran Empire, and wonders if Elli Quinn could be happy here. It does have domed cities, almost like the space stations she grew up on , though his own life would likely keep him close to Vorbarr Sultana most of the time.
He’d hitched a ride out to Komarr with his parents, on their own way back to Sergyar, and finally felt like he had time enough to really talk to them. He’d managd to secure Armsman Pym’s services for himself, without even having to trade her for Ma Kosti, and they promised to send him a couple more, those who have been least happy on Sergyar.
Miles has to wait for most of the crowd of arrivals to get through Customs before he spots Elli, and soon enough she spots him, too. They embrace forcefully and she kisses him thoroughly. Then she asks why he sent for all of his possessions–currently tied up in Customs, what with all the weapons among them. Miles sends Pym to straighten things out and have them sent back to Vorkosigan House. Then Miles takes Elli back to the suite he’d booked for them at the hostel.
Miles says he’d wanted to talk to her, in private, before she met with Allegre and the new ImpSec Galactic Affairs head. Elli says she’s not sure what’s up with him–the first message, he looked like a zombie, then went incommunicado entirely before finally sending back a more cheerful message, and now an order to report to Komarr to meet with ImpSec, right away. She asks if he’s back with ImpSec, and he says he’s not, but he’s there to help her transition to her new bosses. He hadn’t wanted to say too much on his messages, knowing that ImpSec censors will be looking at them.
“But this time, it was frigging incomprehensible. What is going on with you?” Her voice was edged with the same suppressed fear Miles was feeling, Am I losing you? No, not fear. Knowledge.
“I tried to compose a message a couple of times, but it was . . . too complicated, and all the most important parts were things I didn’t want to send tight-beam. The edited version came out sounding like gibberish. I had to see you face-to-face anyway, for, for a lot of reasons. It’s a long story, and most of it is classified, a fact that I am going to completely ignore. I can, you know. Do you want to go down to the restaurant to eat, or order room service?”
“Miles,” she said in exasperation. “Room service. And explanations.”
After they order their room-service meals, Miles explains about Illyan’s breakdown, Laisa and Galeni, the investigation which led him to Haroche, his seizure treatment, and his new job. Elli doesn’t seem to quite understand all that he’s been through, and doesn’t respond much until after their food has arrived. She says that “Auditor” sounds like an accountant, not like a job he’d enjoy; he tries to explain the actual job, but isn’t sure he can get it across. She said he’d never mentioned it as one he was interested in; he says he didn’t consider it possible, as well as noting that ambition for the job is not a recommendation to get it. Elli asks if that means he’s never coming back to the Dendarii, if she’s ever going to see him again.
“That’s . . . one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you tonight, personally, before tomorrow’s business overwhelms everything else.” Now it was his turn to pause for courage, to keep his voice in an even register. “You see, if you were . . . if you stayed here . . . if you were Lady Vorkosigan, you could be with me all the time.”
“No . . .” Her soup would have cooled, forgotten, if not for the stay-warm circuit in the bottom of die bowl. “I’d be with Lord Vorkosigan all the time. Not with you, Miles, not with Admiral Naismith.”
“Admiral Naismith was something I made up, Elli,” he said gently. “He was my own invention. I’m an egotistical enough artist, I suppose, I’m glad you liked my creation. I made him up out of me, after all. But not all of me.”
She says he’s asked her to be Lady Vorkosigan three times already, and each time claimed it was the last. He says this time it really is the last; if she doesn’t accept the job of Lady Vorkosigan, he has another job offer for her–Admiral of the Dendarii, working for General Allegre. Quinn says that she’s not ready for the job; Miles says she’s more than ready, and she’s been doing it already. He says that it’s one or the other, and she has to choose. She says she can’t bear to stuck on one planet, or even three, for the rest of her life, though Miles points out that there’s more to planets than she thinks.
She makes a counteroffer–he leaves Barrayar behind, comes back to the Dendarii with her, and while they may have to give up their lucrative ImpSec contracts, they’ll be free, and she’d happily marry Admiral Naismith. Miles says he tried, but it’s just not him. He’s not a mercenary at heart–not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course–he’s Miles Vorkosigan, not Miles Naismith. Elli laments the part of him that she could never touch; he says he tried for years, but he can’t snuff Lord Vorkosigan out completely, and she has to accept him as he is, all of him. He offers her one last time, to be “desperately unhappy” on Barrayar with him. She says she couldn’t bear it, it would be sacrificing everything she is to be reborn as Lady Vorkosigan, and she’s not as good at resurrection as he is.
Elli wrestles with the decision, but when challenged, she admits that she wants to be Admiral Quinn. She asks why he forced her to make this painful decision now, and he says he has to be able to move on, one way or the other, with her or without her.
They made love one last time, for old times’ sake, for good-bye, and, Miles realized halfway through, each in a desperate last-ditch effort to please and pleasure the other so much, they would change their mind. We’d have to change more than our minds. We’d have to change our whole selves.
With a sigh, he sat up in the suite’s vast bed, disentangling their limbs. “This isn’t working, Elli.”
“‘L make it work,” she mumbled. He captured her hand, and kissed the inside of her wrist. She took a deep breath, and sat up beside him. They were both silent for a long time.
Quinn says he should be a soldier, not a bureaucrat; Miles says that to be a great soldier, he needs a great war, and there’s a shortage of them around these days. Cetaganda is quiescent, Jackson’s Whole is too disorganized, and the Barrayarans themselves are mostly busy with the colonization of Sergyar. Though if Barrayar does need him to be a soldier, they can always ask. They embrace, and he feels the tension leaving them, the melancholy resignation that this is over.
He warns her that, as Admiral, she should stay safely in the command chair, not risk her neck on rescue missions; she calls him a hypocrite. He then asks her for a favour, regarding Taura–he could see that she was starting to show signs of age, and it might not be long from there until her time finally runs out. He asks her to send for him in time for him to be there at her side, at the end, as he promised himself years ago.
She settled back. “All right,” she said seriously. After a moment she added, “So . . . did you sleep with her?”
“Um . . .” He swallowed. “She was before your time, Elli.” After another minute he was compelled to add, “And after, from time to time. Very rarely.”
“Hah. I thought so.”
He asks if there was anyone else for her, and she points out that she, at least, was faithful. He tells her that she’s free to pursue other attachments now, and she says she can free herself, thank you very much. She wishes him luck finding his Lady Vorkosigan, whoever she is. She kisses him, and asks if they can have flings, perhaps, from time to time, if their paths happen to cross, and Miles says they might. Their lovemaking arises more naturally after that, and goes much better.
Afterwards, Elli asks him more about his new job, if he’s going to like it, if there’s much opportunity to advance… Miles says that he’ll probably outlive most of the current crop, but that’s about it; they seem to be “post-ambitious”, not interested in jockeying for advantage, and he’s looking forward to getting to know them better. He shares a few choice stories about them, and Elli admits that he just might fit in after all.
Miles returns quietly to Barrayar, spending his first evening back home eating in the kitchen with Pym, Ma Kosti, and her son the Corporal, who shares news of Martin from basic training. Afterwards he goes to the wine cellar to get a bottle of his grandfather’s oldest wine; when it proves to have gone more than a little off, he pours it out and gets some from a newer, proven batch. He sits with his wineglass and contemplates his reflection, and Admiral Naismith’s three deaths–once on Jackson’s Whole, once in Illyan’s office, and once at the hands of Haroche. He prepares to wallow in self-pity.
Instead, he found himself leaning back in the warm chair, laughing softly. He swallowed the laugh, wondering if he’d lost his grip at last.
Just the opposite.
Haroche was no miracle-worker. He wasn’t even a stage magician. He’d had no power then or ever to give or withhold Naismith, though Miles felt a cryonic chill, thinking how close he’d come to delivering himself into Haroche’s hands.
No wonder he was laughing. He wasn’t mourning a death. He was celebrating an escape.
“I’m not dead. I’m here.” He touched his scarred chest in wonder.
Harra Csurik had been almost right. It wasn’t your life again you found, going on. It was your life anew. And it wasn’t at all what he’d been expecting. His slow smile deepened. He was beginning to be very curious about his future.
The last chapter is more of an epilogue, or a coda…tying off one last loose plot thread–Elli Quinn. I agree that it would have been a mistake for Elli to come to Barrayar, or even, really, to Komarr; Elena might have been willing to settle for it, had things been different, but Elli is not even necessarily ready to settle down yet. Plus she has those irrational anti-planet prejudices. I don’t know that I remember her complaining that much when she was on Earth, but then I guess nobody was proposing that she stay there forever…
I think I may have spotted a symbolism thing, with the wine there… When Miles finds the wine from his grandfather’s time not to his taste, he briefly considers drinking it anyway, but then decides to get rid of it and take something more modern instead, which he knows is better. Though…what is that really about? That he doesn’t have to stick to old Barrayaran ways of thinking just because they’re traditional, but he can indulge in more modern thinking instead? Though it’s not like he’s drinking some weird offplanet liquor either, right? It seems clear enough, but I’m not sure it’s entirely apposite for the ending of the book. After all, Miles has never particularly been one to attach to old Barrayaran ways of thinking, exemplified by people like Count Piotr, Vordarian, Count Vorhalas, General Metzov, so why is it important for him to be able to reject it so easily now? Okay, maybe I’m just reading too much into this. Maybe I really don’t get symbolism after all, and maybe, sometimes, a wine bottle is just a wine bottle.
I have reached the end of Memory, and I’m a little sad, because it is perhaps my favourite Vorkosigan book, though Civil Campaign gives it a run for its money. Next up we get Komarr, which is a little less cheerful and fun, but it does introduce the very important character of Ekaterin Vorsoisson, so there’s that. My customary week off in between, of course. So, until then, don’t take any unmapped wormhole jumps…