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Archive for September, 2013

If this were the last night of world, what would you be doing?  Probably spending time with your loved ones, or perhaps looting.  Certainly not reading the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  So, with any luck, there will be a tomorrow, and you can go ahead and read the next installment guilt-free.  This week we cover two more chapters of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Komarr, in which Ekaterin rescues Miles Vorkosigan from his shackles, and deals with her husband’s death.

Chapter Eleven

Ekaterin is just making one last check of the apartment before leaving for good, when the comconsole chimes.  She almost doesn’t answer, but she considers that it might be Tuomonen or somebody looking for Miles, or her uncle; on the other hand, it could be Tien.  She decides to answer, though vowing to hang up immediately if it is Tien.

It turns out to be Lena Foscol, from Tien’s department; Ekaterin immediately recalls her name coming up in the overheard call from the night before, as a “meticulous thief”, so she must be involved in the whole embezzlement plot.  Foscol is wearing a parka, as if she just came in from outside.  She tells Ekaterin to come pick up her husband at the Waste Heat station, and where she can find him.  Ekaterin asks if he can’t get a ride with anyone else, but Foscol, smiling, says everyone else has left, and cuts off.

This will be a major hassle for her; she’ll have to rent a flyer from out of her meagre funds, and she was already wondering if she wanted to pay for lodgings that night or not.  Foscol hadn’t mentioned Miles, and if he’s not there, then Tien would insist on piloting on the return trip, and he might try to kill himself again, and take her with him…  Only the thought of Nikki, and the fact that she and Tien will still have to have some sort of working relationship for taking care of him, keeps her from deciding to just leave Tien out there.

The bubble-car trip to the rental place is delayed half an hour, and the flyer she rents isn’t in the best condition, but she feels better when she’s actually flying through the solitude of the Komarran night.  She briefly entertains a fantasy of just flying off somewhere, but she has obligations–for one, she’ll have to earn herself some money just to pay her and Nikki’s passage home to Barrayar, or else resort to borrowing money from her family.  She sternly admonishes herself to do whatever is necessary to accomplish what she needs to.

As she approaches the Waste Heat station, she sees lights on and plenty of vehicles in the light, and is annoyed that Foscol evidently lied to her.  On the bright side, maybe she won’t have to ride back with Tien after all.  After she lands, she goes inside to try to arrange another ride, but finds the station deserted, and in disarray, with vacant rooms, and a slagged comconsole.  She isn’t quite sure where to find Tien, from Foscol’s directions, so she heads back outside to circle the building.

Halfway around, she spots two odd figures up against the railing, and hurries over to find Miles and Tien; it’s immediately obvious that Tien is dead.  Miles, on the other hand, is still alive, to her relief, though both are still shackled to the railing.  She’s very glad that Nikki isn’t with her, and she wonders how she’ll break the news to him.  She tells Miles she’s going to get some cutters, but he tells her there’s supposed to be a key on the walkway.  She finds it and fumblingly unlocks Miles, though she has to unstick the cuffs from his bloody flesh, and grab him to keep him from pitching forward once he’s fully free.  His legs feel cold and stiff, and she rubs them to try to get the warmth back into them.

Miles tells her to leave Tien’s body for Tuomonen, as well as the packet of information on his back.  He apologizes for having been unable to do anything; Ekaterin tells him they need to get inside to the warmth, and she helps him to the building entrance.  Once inside, he asks her to hit the button on his wristcom, his fingers too numb to do much yet, and she removes their breath masks.  Miles tells Tuomonen to come out to the Waste Heat station, with forensics and a medical team; Tuomonen is furious that Miles went out there without checking with him, especially after learning that Tien is dead, but promises to get there as soon as possible.

Miles apologizes again for being unable to save Tien, then suddenly remembers the power plant.  He tells Ekaterin they might have sabotaged it to blow up, and she helps him to go check it out.  He examines all the readouts, and says it doesn’t look like it’s set for self-destruct, but he’s not sure why not.  He tells her how he and Tien came out, and asks what she’s doing there; she tells him about Lena Foscol’s call, which she almost didn’t answer.  Miles assures her that Foscol would certainly have called someone else if Ekaterin hadn’t been there; he asks about the time of the call, then tells her fiercely that Tien was already dead by the time Foscol had called, so she couldn’t have saved him.  He tells her how Soudha had stunned them, and it was Tien’s own bad breath-mask habits that had killed him.  Ekaterin says that it wouldn’t have occurred to Komarrans that anybody might go out without a fully charged breath mask.  He tells her that he doesn’t think it was intentional murder, at least.

“Death from stupidity,” she said bitterly. “Consistent to the end.”

He glanced up at her, his eyes not so much startled as aware, and questioning. “Ah?”

“Lord Auditor Vorkosigan.” She swallowed; her throat was so tight it felt like a muscle spasm. The silence in the building, and outside, was eerie in its emptiness. She and Vorkosigan might as well have been the only two people left alive on the planet. “You should know, when I said Foscol called as I was leaving . . . I was leaving. Leaving Tien. I’d told him so, when he came home from the department tonight, and just before he went back, I suppose, to get you. What did he do?”

He took this in without much response at first, as if thinking it over. “All right,” he echoed himself softly at last. He glanced across at her. “Basically, he came in babbling about some embezzlement scheme which had been going on in Waste Heat Management, apparently for quite some time. He sounded me out about declaring him an Imperial Witness, which he seemed to think would save him from prosecution. It’s not quite that simple. I didn’t commit myself.”

“Tien would hear what he wanted to hear,” she said softly.

She tells him about Tien’s pathological fear that someone might find out about his Vorzohn’s; he’d only found out himself after his brother had killed himself over it.  Nikki, who was a baby then, had been a body-birth–which had seemed romantic and heroic at the time–so he’d never gotten gene-scanned either.  He’d planned to get it treated offplanet, which added to the cost, and they’d never managed to save up enough for it.  For the past few months, he’d seemed more confident about it, because of this embezzlement scheme of Soudha’s, which he was taking a cut of.  She said she found the bribes in his financial records, and apologizes to Miles for being so angry at him for looking at hers.  She tells him about the money he’d gotten which he had then mostly blown on trade fleet shares.

All?

“Well, no, not quite all. About three-quarters of it.” At his astonished look, she added, “Tien’s luck has always been like that.”

“I always used to say you made your own luck. Though I’ve been forced to eat those words often enough, I don’t say it so much anymore.”

“Well . . . I think it must be true, or how else could his luck have been so consistently bad? The only common factor in all the chaos was Tien.” She leaned her head back wearily. “Though I suppose it might have been me, somehow.” Tien often said it was me.

Miles asks if she loved her husband, and Ekaterin, forced to honesty, said she must have, once, but for a long time it’s been reduced to cleaning up after him, until she stopped caring at all.  She felt like he’d fall down without her, and it turned out she was right.  She thinks to herself that Tien’s death won’t have simplified her life at all–instead of divorcing him, she has to clean up his bankrupt estate.  But at least she won’t have to deal with Tien while doing it.  She asks if Tien will be charged, and Miles says that only rarely, in Barrayaran law, are charges pressed against the dead, but she’ll probably have to testify.

Miles says they probably took his stunner, searches his pockets, then looks alarmed and says they’ve taken his Auditor’s Seal.  While it will give them access to a lot of government computers, though, it is also traceable by ImpSec.  He calls Tuomonen back and informs him of this circumstance.  Somewhat recovered, he insists on searching the building, with only occasional assistance from Ekaterin; by the time they reach the lobby, Tuomonen and his men have arrived.

“My lord!” said Tuomonen, pulling down his breath mask. His tone of voice sounded familiarly maternal to Ekaterin’s ear, halfway between Thank God you’re safe and I’m going to strangle you with my bare hands.

“Good evening, Captain,” said Vorkosigan genially. “So glad to see you.”

“You didn’t notify me!”

“Yes, it was entirely my mistake, and I’ll be certain to note your exoneration in my report,” Vorkosigan said soothingly.

He assures Tuomonen that most of his injuries are self-inflicted.  He tell Tuomonen to come with him to the back of the building, where they should record everything they find, and retrieve Tien’s body; Ekaterin gives them the key to the restraints, and Miles tells her to wait there.  When they return, Miles finally submits to having his wounded wrists treated, though he’s more concerned about an incipient seizure, and insists he needs to get back to Serifosa.  Miles asks Ekaterin if Tien had ever mentioned anything going on with the scam apart from the money, but she had never heard anything to that effect.  Tuomonen tells Miles that, even if they didn’t know about Miles’s seizures and Tien’s breath mask, he wants to call it attempted murder for the purposes of issuing a security alert.

Miles says that there’s still something funny about this.  Even Komarran patriots, who might not balk at robbing Barrayarans blind, should stop short of robbing their own terraforming project.  If they weren’t just trying to get rich, what were they spending the money on?  They took two vans of equipment but left their personal effects behind; they didn’t split up to make it easier to escape, but left in a group.  They were working on something out here, and Miles hopes that the techs can find out what it was.  He wishes they had Marie Trogir, or that he’d fast-penta’d Madame Radovas.  He insists again that he has to go back to Serifosa; Tuomonen insists on a guard, and Ekaterin, feeling foolish, says she has to return the rented flyer.  Then she recalls that she can go back to her own apartment now after all.

The presence of Miles and the guard causes some odd looks at the rental office, but their bubble-car trip is private and undelayed.  When they reach her apartment, though, they find the lock broken and the door ajar.  The guard goes inside, stunner out, and emerges a few minutes later to confirm that someone was in there, but they’re gone now.  Her and Miles’s respective suitcases had been broken open and searched, and a few drawers searched, but little else seems to have been done.  Miles takes a brief look and reports that his data-case had been taken, and he calls Tuomonen to report the situation.

He does find his odd device in its gel-pack case, and asks Ekaterin for her help.  He explains that the device is used to trigger seizures in a controlled situation to keep them from happening at inconvenient times.  With all his recent stress, he suspects he’s overdue, and wants to get it over with.  He says he prefers to have a spotter to make sure nothing goes wrong while he’s under.  They head for the living room, where she encourages him to lie on the floor so he won’t be able to fall.  He inserts a plastic mouthguard and is about to trigger the device when Ekaterin asks if it could have been sabotaged.  Miles swears to himself, and says all he was thinking was that he should stop putting off his seizure.

Then his eyes roll up and he falls over in a seizure.  Ekaterin puts his mouthguard back in, watching his body twitch and shudder, his face oddly free of his personality.  It seems like a long time, but it’s only three minutes before the seizure is over, and another minute after that before he awakens again.  He apologizes, and promises to get out of her way soon; she asks him to keep the guard there, at least, until her lock is repaired.  In fact, she enlists the guard to put him to bed, since he doesn’t seem as unaffected by the aftermath of the seizure as he’d led her to believe.  They put him in Nikki’s room, which lacks a comconsole and so gives Miles a greater chance of uninterrupted sleep.  The guard takes up station in the living room, and Ekaterin takes some painkillers and lies down fully dressed on her own bed, where, despite everything, she manages to drift off to sleep.

Comments

When I stopped after the last chapter, I was trying to remember what Ekaterin was doing while Miles was being rescued from the Waste Heat station.  Apparently I had completely forgotten that she was the one who was sent to pick him up.  A good call on the part of the author–and justified plotwise too, since they took the opportunity to toss the apartment while she was out–for dealing with the potential difficulty of having strictly alternating POV chapters and then having to find something for one character to do when something exciting is happening to the other character.

I remember, in the earlier books, that I always wanted to avoid trying to use the past tense of “fast-penta”, since I wasn’t sure how it might be spelled, and I don’t recall if the author ever used it herself.  It looks like by this point, at least, she had settled on “fast-penta’d”, which I guess is okay.  I’ve long been under the impression that this is a reasonably legitimate use of the apostrophe, for adding a suffix to a word in an unorthodox way, even for plurals, as in “60’s” or “straight A’s”, so I guess it’ll work in this case.  People will often use something in spoken language that can’t be written without breaking any number of rules, in any case, and brave writers will then try to write it down anyway.

It’s a little bit funny for Miles to have a spontaneous seizure when he was about to use his seizure stimulator anyway.  I almost picture the first draft having him using the stimulator as intended, and then an early reader pointing out that they should check to see if it had been sabotaged first…so she came up with a revised version of the scene.  Miles is definitely lucky not to have had his seizure while shackled up like that, at least, but it was a good point of tension.

Also amused to note that this time Ekaterin has no compunctions about putting Miles in Nikki’s bed, whereas before she balked because the congruence of sizes seemed too insulting.  Good to know she’s gotten past that.

Chapter Twelve

Miles awakens with a horrible combination of post-seizure and stun hangover, to find himself in Nikki’s room; Ekaterin is waking him up to tell him of Tuomonen’s arrival.

“Ah,” said Miles thickly. He struggled upright. Madame Vorsoisson was holding out a tray with a large mug of black coffee and a bottle of painkiller tablets. Two tablets had already been extracted from the bottle, and lay ready for ingestion beside the cup. Only in his imagination did a heavenly choir supply background music. “Oh. My.”

Miles has only been asleep for about four hours, but, considering what might have been going on in those hours, he refuses to go back to bed.  Ekaterin tells him that Tuomonen found his seal, so he decides against having a shower before talking to him.  He does a few stretches to work out stiffness, trying to figure out what to say to Ekaterin; he settles on asking if she’s all right, and wishing he could fix it somehow.

He goes out to the living room, where Tuomonen is waiting, and deliberately does not stop Ekaterin from joining them.  Tuomonen gives Miles his seal, which seems freshly washed, and Miles guesses, correctly, that it was found in a sewer pipe; Tuomonen says they luckily acquired technical help in retrieving it, rather than just blasting the pipe open with plasma arcs.  Miles surmises that they’d deliberately lured Ekaterin out of the apartment before breaking in and opening up his data case, and then disposing of it down the toilet.  The data case mostly contained classified reports about the soletta accident.

Tuomonen says they plan to head over the Terraforming offices, fast-penta everyone there, and try to figure out who’s missing because they’ve fled and who are just fictional.  Miles says they probably won’t find out anything new, but they might as well try.  Tuomonen tells Ekaterin that because of her husband’s suspicious death, she’ll need to be fast-penta’d as well.  Miles protests that there wasn’t anything suspicious about Tien’s death, since he was right there, but Tuomonen points out that she can be cleared as a suspect.  Ekaterin merely asks Tuomonen when he wants to do it, and he says it won’t be until afternoon, and asks her to stay put until then.  She says she will need to pick up Nikki sometime, but on the whole prefers it to be after her interrogation, once Tuomonen assures her that he won’t be hearing about his father’s death from anyone else first.  He also tells her, at Miles’s urging, that ImpSec will be monitoring her comconsoles for any calls, in case anyone tries to contact Tien, not realizing he’s dead.

Miles asks for a secure vid-link so he can make some calls himself, in particular to Vorthys, and also asks Tuomonen to check his medical equipment for tampering.  He asks about the data-packet left with Tien–not elaborating on its contents in Ekaterin’s presence–and Tuomonen says it’s been turned over to an ImpSec analyst; ImpSec HQ has sent him reinforcements.  He says that the data could be quite helpful in untangling the embezzlement scheme, which is puzzling, of course, since it will incriminate the Komarrans conspirators as much as Tien.  An ImpSec tech leaves, having copied all the comconsole data, and Miles asks for someone to repair her broken door-lock as well, and leave a guard on duty until then.

Tuomonen leaves, and Miles finally bathes and dresses, beginning to feel human; he goes to the kitchen for breakfast and coaxes Ekaterin, who hasn’t eaten yet either, into having breakfast as well.  She makes them some groats; while they eat, she asks about fast-penta.  He tells her about his own idiosyncratic, manic reaction; he said that the degree of ugliness that comes out in the interrogation with most people generally depends on whether you fight the effects or not, and if you cooperate then you mostly just say what you would have said anyway.  He tells her he’s noticed that she tends to underreact, and she says it came of growing up with three older brothers, the youngest of whom would tease her mercilessly.  He was witty enough to get away with it, and her mother mostly told her to just not react.

Miles bit his knuckles, hard. Right. So at the dawn of puberty, she’d learned no one would defend her, she could not defend herself, and the only way to survive was to pretend to be dead. Great. And if there were a more fatally wrong move some awkward fellow could possibly make at this moment than to take her in his arms and try to comfort her, it escaped his wildest imaginings. If she needed to be stone right now because it was the only way she knew how to survive, let her be marble, let her be granite. Whatever you need, you take it, Milady Ekaterin; whatever you want, you’ve got it.

Miles tells her about his own loutish relative, cousin Ivan, though he had Sergeant Bothari to keep things from going too far.  She asks where the Sergeant is now, and Miles says he’d dead, partly because of Miles’s actions, but he taught Miles how to keep going, which he silently hopes Ekaterin will find encouraging.  He adds that she is, at the very least, level-headed in an emergency, which seems to please her, enough that Miles wonders how starved for praise she’s become.

Miles would like the conversation to continue, but breakfast is over, and then the ImpSec tech arrives with the secure comconsole.  Ekaterin turns to cleaning as the tech sets up the station in Tien’s office.  Miles prepares to face a several-second time-lagged conversation with Vorthys.  He starts out with a bald announcement of the facts, then waits for Vorthys’s responses to the news.  He goes on to give details about the previous day’s events; by the end, Vorthys is appalled, and promises to come back down planetside.  He had been thinking of asking Miles to come up to look at some odd, and distorted, pieces of equipment, in case he’d seen anything like it before; some of it has serial numbers on it, too, which Miles asks him to send to Colonel Gibbs at ImpSec, who’s tracing purchases made by the Terraforming Project.
Miles tells Vorthys about the impending fast-penta interrogation of Ekaterin; Vorthys says he wouldn’t want to be there himself, as a conflict of interest, and asks Miles to sit in on it instead to keep the interrogators in line.  Miles suggests that Vorthys send for his wife to come join Ekaterin, which Vorthys finds an excellent idea.  Miles says it’s almost time to bring in Ekaterin to talk to him herself, but before he does, he wants to ask what Vorthys’s impression of the Vorsoissons’ marriage is, so he can try to keep the interrogator from getting into bad territory.

Vorthys doesn’t want to speak ill of the dead, but tries to give a summary of the facts.  Ekaterin’s father had known Tien’s, and Tien had just left the military for the civil service, and seemed to have a bright future ahead of him, though he hadn’t risen too far in the military…  Ekaterin’s father was a widower looking to remarry, and felt that he should get Ekaterin “settled”, i.e. married, before he did.  Tien sent a Baba to arrange the marriage, and Ekaterin seemed flattered, so they went ahead with it.  Her father, low Vor but still a Vor snob for all of that, hadn’t wanted her to settle for some non-Vor type.  Things seemed to start out well, and Nikki arrived, but Tien changed jobs frequently, and never did seem to settle down, and Ekaterin seemed to draw in on herself over time.  Miles says that Ekaterin may be able to explain more of it herself, and goes to fetch her.

Ekaterin. He tasted the syllables of her name in his mind. It had been so easy, speaking with her uncle, to slip into the familiar form. But she had not yet invited him to use her first name. Her late husband had called her Kat. A pet name. A little name. As if he hadn’t had time to pronounce the whole thing, or wished to be bothered. It was true her full array, Ekaterin Nile Vorvayne Vorsoisson, made an impractical mouthful. But Ekaterin was light on the teeth and the tip of the tongue, yet elegant and dignified and entirely worth an extra second of, of anyone’s time.

The door repair tech and another guard arrive, and Miles enjoins them both to stay and guard Ekaterin until he returns, and do any other repairs she may need; then he heads off to the Terraforming offices.  It’s quite well-guarded now, with ImpSec everywhere, though a little too late to do any good now.  Colonel Gibbs is in the office with Venier, who Miles is somewhat gratified not to have been one of those who fled.  Gibbs tells Miles he’s figured out most of the fictitious employees, and Lena Foscol’s report seems clear.  Miles warns him to be careful of any data she’s touched, and Gibbs says he’s acquired the utmost respect for her, and looks forward to dealing with her.

Miles tells Gibbs to try to track down equipment purchases; Gibbs says he’s found some dummy companies they would have used for them, and he hopes to have all the missing money accounted for soon.  Miles says he’s more interested in the actual equipment, in particular anything which was bought but not found at the Waste Heat station or anywhere else, though sifting it out may be a tedious job.  Gibbs says it sounds like a job for enlisted men.  In particular, Miles says, he wants to know about anything odd, or anything that might match equipment found in the soletta accident; Gibbs is enlightened about why the Imperial Auditors are involved in this embezzlement scam.

Miles goes to check in with Tuomonen, who is organizing the fast-penta interrogations, which he says will take several days to get through; he says they haven’t tracked down Soudha and his friends yet.  Miles passes on overseeing any of the employee interrogations, and says he’ll see Tuomonen for Ekaterin’s questioning, after he’s had some rest.

Comments

Is this where we first begin to see Miles falling for Ekaterin?  He was attracted to her from the beginning, it seemed, but was trying to keep such thoughts firmly in rein, what with her being married and all.  Now he’s allowing himself to think the thoughts, but, of course, being recently widowed (even if she was planning to leave him anyway), and involved in his investigation, she’s still off-limits.  He’s still trying to make discreet offers of help, but they are also opening up to each other.

Ekaterin seems fairly equable about the fast-penta interrogation, though perhaps she’s just underreacting again.  She does ask Miles for some reassurances, which of course he tries to give her.  I presume we’ll see that scene in the next chapter or two.  Is it from her point of view, or Miles’s?  I can’t recall, but I suspect that it will be from hers.

As for the actual investigation, nothing much new.  We’re not even two-thirds of the way through the book, so there’s room for a few more plot twists, but I can’t recall when they find out what’s really going on.  Why these Komarrans were stealing money from their own terraforming project, what the equipment was that they carted off with them, and what this all has to do with the soletta accident…  All open questions, still.

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I recall a couple more scenes that should be coming up soon, but I don’t quite recall how we transition to the climax that I recall.  I guess we’ll just keep going and eventually it will become clear.  Still another nine chapters, probably five more weeks; I’m almost impatient to get on to the post-Komarr reward which is A Civil Campaign, but it will come in due time.  Until next week, then…

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Typhoons! Earthquakes! Hurricanes! Tornados! Smog!  Amid the myriad disasters wracking the modern world, there is one shining bright spot (well, more than one, really, but no fewer than one): the Vorkosigan Saga Reread!  Holding back the zombie apocalypse and looming earth-striking asteroids, I post here my synopsis and comments for two more chapters of Lois McMaster Bujold’s book Komarr, from her award-winning and just generally awesome Vorkosigan Saga.  In Chapters Nine and Ten, Ekaterin Vorsoisson takes a stand, and Miles Vorkosigan takes a chance, which, unfortunately, does not turn out as well as could be hoped…

Chapter Nine

Ekaterin packs Miles’s possessions up for him, not sure what the odd medical device might be.

Vorkosigan’s war story of his Sergeant Beatrice burned in Ekaterin’s mind, as the marks on her wrists seemed to burn. O fortunate man, that his missed grasp had passed in a fraction of a second. What if he had had years to think about it first? Hours to calculate the masses and forces and the true arc of descent? Would it have been cowardice or courage to let go of a comrade he could not possibly have saved, to save himself at least? He’d had a command, he’d had responsibilities to others, too. How much would it have cost you, Captain Vorkosigan, to have opened your hands and deliberately let go?

She’s sent Nikolai’s to a friend’s for the night, which took longer than she’d planned, and returned the rented grav-bed.  She hoped that Miles would take the hint and decamp immediately when he returned.  She’s barely had time to start on packing her own things, though.  Looking over the remnants of her plants, she decides she’s going to have abandon most of it, just like her marriage.  She packs her library, but leaves her furniture, thinking that it’s like rescuing possessions from a fire, except in slow motion.  She can’t bear to leave behind her great-aunt’s skellytum plant, though.

As she’s trying to figure out how to transport it, Tien returns, asking about dinner; he says that Miles stayed behind at the office.  She tells Tien to sit down, then says she’s leaving him, saying she’s “come to the end of herself”.  Tien reacts with astonishment, then accusations of infidelity, which she denies levelly.  Tien presses her for a reason, grabbing her, and she finally says she found out about the trade fleet shares.  She asks if he got the money from Soudha, and he begins to accuse her of nagging him into getting more money.

As he paced, sputtering, his eye fell on the bright red skellytum, sitting in its basin on the kitchen table. “You don’t love me. You only love yourself. Selfish, Kat! You love your damned potted plants more than you love me. Here, I’ll prove it to you.”

He snatched up the pot and pressed the control for the door to the balcony. It opened a little too slowly for his dramatic timing, but he strode through nonetheless, and whirled to face her. “Which shall it be to go over the railing, Kat? Your precious plant, or me? Choose!”

She neither spoke nor moved. Now he will attempt to terrify me with suicide gestures. This made, what, the fourth time around for that ploy? His trump card, which had always before ended the game in his favor.

She says nothing, and eventually he drops the pot over the edge, and she listens for the crash.  She berates him for not checking if there was anybody to be injured by it.  Eventually his anger winds down and he asks how he can get through to her; she says she wants her honour back, but he can’t give it to her.  He says he did it all for her, and she says that apparently he never managed to find out who she was or what she wanted.  He says he can’t afford to confess, and she says all she wants is to not have to lie any more.

He says that custody of Nikki is his, by Barrayaran law, which is a tactic he’s never tried before; he belatedly realizes that Nikki is nowhere around, and says she can’t keep his son away from him.  She thinks that he can’t have custody if he’s in prison, but she also wonders whether he’d really challenge her to get Nikki.

Tien then says that he’ll fix everything, that he has a plan, and she should wait until he comes back.  She makes no promises, merely resumes her packing, but he dashes off.  Then she heads down to see what can be salvaged from the wreck of the skellytum.

Comments

A fairly short, but intense chapter, as Ekaterin finally ends it with Tien.  Would this all have happened without the events of the other plotline as a catalyst?  If Soudha was just siphoning off money from, well, government funding, I guess, and was still paying Tien off…  He wouldn’t have had any impetus to fix his behaviour, but it might never have gotten bad enough to cross Ekaterin’s threshold.  Though we can hope.

The skellytum–which was the symbol for what, again?  Well, if it was their marriage, then Tien just threw it over the ledge, and Ekaterin is going to see if she can salvage anything from its wreckage.

Chapter Ten

Miles reads through files of Waste Heat plentiful roster of employees, few of which were at the office; he assumes they must be out at the experimental station, which he now wishes he’d started the day’s investigation at.  Not that he’s sure he knows what he’d be looking for.  He hopes that ImpSec can manage to find Marie Trogir.

He hears footsteps, and looks up to see Tien Vorsoisson, out of breath, and carrying two coats and a visitor’s breath mask.  He tells Miles has to show him something that he’s just discovered…out at the Waste Heat station.  Tien says he wants to take Miles out there right now, while everyone’s gone.  Miles agrees, accepts the breath mask and checks it before putting it and the jacket on.  Tien grabs his own breath mask, and takes him down to the garage, where they get in a lightflyer.

Miles asks Tien what’s going on; Tien asks about how he might become an Imperial Witness.  Miles, not sure of the procedure, says he thinks it’s usually negotiated on a case-by-case basis, and privately thinks that it happens much more rarely in these days of fast-penta, though he admits that as an Imperial Auditor he can make it happen if he wants to.  As they lift off, Miles asks why, and Tien eventually says he’s managed to accumulate evidence of a crime, and finally has enough to come forward.  He tells Miles that Soudha is running Waste Heat as an empty shell, with ghost employees and fictitious equipment purchases, and Soudha has “tried” to bribe him to keep quiet.  Nobody knows enough to check the science, and Tien suspects they’ve manufactured most of their reports.

Miles asks if Radovas’s death is related, and Tien says he doesn’t think so, since Radovas quit before he did; Miles points out they only have Soudha’s word for that.  Soudha could have faked more than his reports; Miles realizes that much of the data he’s siphoned from the Waste Heat computers is likely worthless.  But technical staffers like Radovas must have known what was going on, and likely been in on the scam.

“I want you to remember, I found this. I turned them in. Just as soon as I was sure.”

His repeated insistence on that last point hinted broadly to Miles’s ear that his knowledge of this fascinating piece of peculation predated his assurance by a noticeable margin. Had Soudha’s bribe been not just offered, but accepted? Till the bubble burst. Was Miles witnessing an outbreak of patriotic duty on Vorsoisson’s part, or an unseemly rush to get Soudha and Company before they got him?

Belatedly, Miles wonders if going off with Tien like this, with no bodyguard and no notice to Tuomonen, was a smart thing to do.  But he suspects that ImpSec presence might put a damper on Tien’s eagerness to spill the beans.  Still, he won’t disillusion Tien about his chances for getting off scott free until he has some backup, as soon as he can get a quiet moment to call for some.  Tien also asks him to tell Ekaterin what he’s done; Miles reminds him that he still needs to see proof.

They draw near to the experimental station, which seems to be quite well-lit, not darkened as vacant as Tien seems to be expecting.  Floodlights are on, and vans are loading.  Miles almost asks Tien to land the lightflyer out of sight of the building, but Tien puts it down in the parking lot instead.  Tien says that they know him, but Miles should stay out of sight.  They get out of the lightflyer, breath masks on, Miles keeping Tien in sight.  Miles tells Tien to go into the Engineering building, though he half expects to find out that Tien is completely wrong about what’s going on.

Inside the building, they spot Soudha and Madame Radovas, who also spot them.  Miles tries to get out his stunner, but Soudha gets the drop on him and stuns him first, Miles wondering belatedly what it’ll do to his seizure stimulator.
He reawakens with a stunner migraine, bright lights shining on him, but still wearing his breath mask, so he restrains his incipient nausea.  His arms are shackled to posts of a railing outside the building.  His commlink is still on his wrist, where he can’t reach it to activate it, and it’s designed to be resistant to bumps.  He can’t tell if he had a seizure already, or if he’s still due.  Tien is chained to the railing to his right, and stil unconscious.

He smiled grimly under his mask. All things considered, he’d rather Vorsoisson were free and able to try for help. Better still, leave Vorsoisson fastened there, free himself to try for help. But twisting his hands in their tight chains merely scraped his wrists raw.

Tien still hasn’t recovered consciousness by the time Miles hears footsteps, which prove to belong to the accountant Lena Foscol, who Miles remembers from the briefing.  She greets Miles and takes out a key to their shackles, which she leaves out of reach between Miles and Tien.  Obviously they expect someone to come for Miles, and also expect to be gone themselves by that time.  She takes out a data disk which she claims contains a complete record of the bribes Tien has taken, and tapes it to the back of Miles’s jacket, saying that’s much better than just mailing it to Tuomonen.  Miles begins to ask her questions, but she says she has no plans to stay around and chat with him.  Tien begins to wake up, and Foscol lingers just long enough to be sure he isn’t going to be sick, then leaves, admonishing them not to hurt themselves before they get collected.  A lift-van leaves shortly after, leaving them in silence.  Miles half expects Soudha to have left the reactor to self-destruct, but since Foscol seems to expect the evidence to be retrieved, perhaps not.

Tien has regained full consciousness, and asks Miles what’s going on; Miles says they must have realized their time was up, and decided to run for it.  Miles and Tien were chained up to keep them out of the way.  Miles asks Tien when he first found out about the embezzlement scheme; Tien says it was just a week ago, though Foscol had claimed more like eight months.  Miles isn’t sure she didn’t invent the evidence, but that was a matter for ImpSec, for later.  He asks if Tien thanks that’s all that was going on; they must have had weeks of time to plan their retreat, but rather than sneaking out of the Empire with their money, they’re taking off vans full of equipment with them.

Vorsoisson is quiet for a few minute, then tells Miles that his oxygen is almost gone.  Miles realizes that Tien hadn’t checked his mask before they left, and Ekaterin’s earlier reminder may have indicated a certain amount of carelessness about it.  Miles almost wishes his hand bones were brittle enough for him to break them and pull his wrists out of the restraints, but now they’re hard and plastic.  Tien begins to struggle, to wrench out of his shackles, though Miles implores him to save his strength and oxygen in case he still has enough to last until rescue.  Miles hopes that the plan wasn’t to kill both of them, though killing an Imperial Auditor is an act of treason just barely short of killing the Emperor himself.

Vorsoisson wriggled his chin and tried to peer down over his nose into the dim recesses of his jacket to see the top of the canister strapped there. “Oh, God. I think it’s reading zero.”

“Those things always have some safety margin. Stay still, man! Try for some self-control!”

Instead Vorsoisson began to struggle ever more frantically. He threw himself forward and backward with all his considerable strength, trying to break the railing. Blood drops flew from the flayed skin of his wrists, and the railing reverberated and bent, but it did not break. He pulled up his knees and then flung himself down through the meter-wide opening between the posts, trying to propel his full body weight against the chains. They held, and then his backward-scrambling legs could not regain the walkway. His boot heels scraped and scrabbled on the wall. His dizzied choking, at the last, led to vomiting inside his breath mask. When it slipped down around his neck in his final paroxysms, it seemed almost a mercy, except for the way it revealed his distorted, purpling features. But the screams and pleas stopped, and then the gasps and gulpings. The kicking legs twitched, and hung limply.

Miles begins shivering in the silence left afterwards, trying to calm himself down to keep from going into a seizure, which would kill him as dead as Tien.

Comments

Tien attempts to redeem himself, belatedly, by trying to turn “State’s Evidence” on the Waste Heat embezzlers, glossing over the fact that he’s been taking their bribes happily for months.  Miles could have been to the experimental station at least twice already, and maybe if he had it would have turned out better than this, being ambushed and hung out to dry.  Or maybe not.  In any event, whatever they’re up to out there, they got away, at least for now.  And Miles is right, if it was just money, they wouldn’t have had to take so much stuff with them…unless they’d fashioned it into a solid gold lightflyer or something.

Tien died the way he lived–an idiot.  Jeopardized by his own carelessness, then dooming himself by panicking at the wrong moment.  I think it’s safe to say that he won’t be much lamented, except by those who may have wanted to fast-penta him for more information.  Ekaterin may have disconnected herself from him enough to even be able to miss out on the survivor’s guilt.  Poor Nikki, I suppose.  I don’t think he gets the whole story, at least not yet.

We’re only halfway through the book, and already we seem to have come to sort of climax.  So obviously there’s still a lot more to resolve–like what, if anything, does all of this have to do with the soletta disaster that’s our ostensible plot?  It always seems to me that it takes a long time to get back to the whole reason the Auditors were sent to Komarr in the first place, but maybe that’s just because events on the planet are happening faster than the slow accumulation of evidence in orbit.  But it all ties together, somehow.


Will Miles be rescued in time?  What is Ekaterin doing in the meantime–since, by established convention, the next chapter will be hers?  Another week will bring those answers, barring unfortunate delay.

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Where will your dreams take you tonight?  Will you be bowling on the starship Enterprise?  Stuck in a closet with Vanna White?  Or perhaps reading the latest installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread?  I can’t speak, of course, for what you may find in your dreams, but in reality this week’s installment follows two more chapters in Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Komarr, where Miles Vorkosigan continues investing the odd appearance of an engineer’s body near a disastrous orbital collision, and Ekaterin Vorsoisson continues to lose faith in her husband’s good intentions.

Chapter Seven

Ekaterin dozes on the couch waiting for the men to return.  Considering the bruises on her wrists left by Miles’s grip, she ponders the fact that she was more aware of his odd, stunted body than any other man’s in years, especially since Tien’s accusations of infidelity.  But his scars give him the air of a survivor, and she wishes she could get some tips from him on just how to do that.

The men return–Tien and the two Auditors, no Tuomonen, just family and guests.  Vorkosigan is telling Tien that he wishes tomorrow’s inspection to come as a surprise to his staff.  Ekaterin asks if they found anything, but Vorthys said Madame Radovas doesn’t know why her husband was in space.  Tien makes a comment about middle-aged men running off with younger women, and Ekaterin wonders to herself why Tien can’t do that, instead of maintaining fidelity as his sole virtue.

The household goes to bed, and Ekaterin lies awake next to her husband, who she can tell is also not asleep.  She thinks about how his brother’s suicide was such a bad example for Tien, whose own attempts had been sadly ineffectual.  While she’s trying to sleep, Tien gets up and goes out to the kitchen.  She remembers an old family recipe for insomnia, warm milk with brandy and spices, and after a few minutes gets up to make him some.  In the kitchen, though, the only light is the comconsole; it puzzles her, since she was brought up never to call anyone this late except in cases of birth or death, and she lurks in the doorway to find out what’s going on.

Tien is talking to Administrator Soudha, asking him about Radovas’s body; Soudha seems to still be fully dressed, and doesn’t seem to be disturbed about Radovas’s fate.  Tien tells him about the surprise inspection tomorrow; Ekaterin wonders why he’s going against Vorkosigan’s orders, in the Emperor’s Voice.  Tien is worried about what they’ll find, particularly in the Waste Heat experimental station, which apparently consists mostly of fictional employees, and Soudha tells him calmly to keep the Auditors away from it, reminding him that he’s getting an extra salary out of the scam as well.  Soudha tells him to make excuses if the Auditor wants to speak to anyone fictional; Lena Foscol’s accounts are meticulous, and nobody will be able to poke any holes in them.

Tien says he’s the one who’s had Imperial Auditors in his house, and it’s making him antsy; he then asks Soudha for another twenty thousand mark advance on his stipend, or else.  Soudha isn’t impressed by his attempted threats, since Tien has as much to lose as anyone; he tells Tien not to calm down, and just cooperate with ImpSec so they don’t get suspicious.  Tien insists that there’s more like fifty thousand marks a month in imaginary salaries in Soudha’s department, and asks what happens if ImpSec decides to fast-penta their accountant.

Ekaterin, horrified at what Tien has gotten involved in, backs away, missing the end of the exchange; she slips into the bathroom to wait for Tien’s return, shaking and staring at her reflection.  When she returns to bed, she claims to be unwell.  Trying to keep from believing the worst, she asks Tien if he’s done anything for their galactic trip, but he says he was too busy, even though she knows he already transferred the money out of her account.  She offers to take care of the arrangements, but he shuts her down, telling her that can wait until her uncle’s gone home.  She’s forced to conclude that Tien’s urgent need for money has nothing to do with his promise to her.

She lies awake for the rest of the night, waiting for the dawn, reduced as it is by the soletta accident.  In the morning, she sends Nikki off to school, and Uncle Vorthys leaves for his orbital flight; Vorthys says he’s not sure if he’ll be back, but if the case drags on, his wife might come to join them.  She avoids Tien and Miles by escorting Nikki to school, and they’re gone by the time she returns.  Then she heads to Tien’s comconsole, wishing, now, that she’d taken Miles up on his offer to show her how he’d done it.

Tien’s financial accounts aren’t locked; there should have been a respectable accumulation there, but it seems to have almost all vanished, with no trace of how.  Except for the most recent transfer, her money, which turns out to have been sent to a hidden account.  Her attempt to access it requires a palm-print; all their other bank accounts have shared access, in case one or the other becomes disabled, and it’s possible that this falls under the same umbrella.

Maybe ImpSec covert ops doesn’t have all the advantages, she thought grimly, and placed her right hand in the light box. If only you were willing to betray a trust, why, the most amazing range of possible actions opened up to you.

So did the file.

She took a deep breath, and started reading.

Tien seems to have been an aficionado of Komarran trade fleets.  Komarr went from charging traders who used its wormholes to starting its own trade fleets.  Some trade fleets return with spectacular profits; some don’t return at all, or return as failures.  Many of the fleets have publicly traded shares, and buying them is Komarrans’ favourite form of gambling.  Tien, focusing on the successes as always, confident in his luck, had borrowed sixty thousand marks, and added forty thousand marks of his own money (or, more likely, money from Soudha’s fake employees, since that represents eight months’ salary) and put it all on one fleet.  That fleet had left amid much hype and fanfare, but returned tail between its legs after losing precious cargo and ships in a wormhole mishap.  Tien has now lost three-quarters of his money, and still has twenty thousand marks of his debt left to pay off, a situation which is apparently growing desperate.  She could almost feel sorry for him, if so much of the original money hadn’t been embezzled.

The scam at the terraforming project is more likely to be Soudha’s than Tien’s; most likely Soudha was just buying Tien off with his own share of the profits.  Maybe Tien’s gamble on the fleet had been an attempt to extricate himself from the scam, though privately she doubts he would necessarily have followed through if the windfall had actually come through.  Nor would she, before today, have been suspicious if he’s presented her with trade-fleet-won profits on that scale.

A Vor woman’s first loyalty was supposed to be to her husband. Even unto treason, even unto death. The sixth Countess Vorvayne had followed her husband right up to the stocks in which he had been hung to die for his part in the Saltpetre Plot, and sat at his feet in a hunger strike, and died, in fact a day before him, of exposure. Great tragic story, that one—one of the best bloody melodramas from the history of the Time of Isolation. They’d made a holovid of it, though in the vid version the couple had died at the same moment, as if achieving mutual orgasm.

Has a Vor woman no honor of her own, then? Before Tien entered my life, did I not have integrity all the same?

Yes, and I laid it on my marriage oath. Rather like buying all your shares in one fleet.

Not that she would win back her honour by turning in Tien to the authorities.  She’s honour-bound to stay with him, no matter how much she reduces herself to do so, since if she’s not a Vor woman, she has nothing left.  Could she bring herself to leave?  Maybe now, before his crimes come to light, she might be able to manage it, even though it’s still desertion; if she stays, she’s condoning his actions by her silence.  She sits silent for a long time, trying to decide what to do.

Comments

After last week I was beginning to feel that Komarr must have longer chapters than Memory, or some of the other books in the series.  I did a quick word count on the digital copies that I have, and apparently I was partly right.  Last week’s Komarr chapters, Five and Six, were over twice as long as the average chapter in either book…but the rest of them weren’t that much longer.  This one is fairly short, for instance, though highly important, because now we discover that Tien is, in fact, involved with the shenanigans that are going on.  Right now it’s not clear that it has anything to do with the soletta accident, except for the linkage of Radovas and Soudha.  Still, that could be a coincidence, couldn’t it?

Ekaterin’s impulse to make the milk-brandy drink for Tien is probably her last charitable feeling toward him.  It’d take a lot of work for him to overcome that, were he to become aware of the problem at all, and I doubt it’d work anyway.  She is now driven so far away that she is seriously considering cutting her losses and forsaking her marriage oath.  I wonder what kind of draconian divorce laws Barrayar has…I can’t recall running across any examples of divorce there, in fact, so it must be pretty unpleasant.

Chapter Eight

Miles and Tien are met by Tuomonen in Tien’s apartment building, which strikes Miles as meaning that Tuomonen means to act as Miles’s ImpSec guard whether he wants one or not.  Miles and Tuomonen get a bubble-car to themselves, Komarran commuters generally wanting to avoid riding with ImpSec officers in uniform; Tuomonen notes that he does sometimes wear civilian clothes, when he wants to catch up on Serifosan gossip.  He tells Miles that he sent the library to ImpSec Solstice with one of the guards; it turns out that ImpSec Serifosa has a staff of only four people, not counting the ten guards at the Sub-Consulate.  Serifosa tends to be fairly quiet, even during the Revolt, and Tuomonen makes up for his lack of staff by subsidizing a group of salaried local informants, though none of them, sadly, in Terraforming.

Tuomonen does note that Terraforming requires the least background checks of any government department, the presumption being that it’s more important that they love their own planet and want to improve it; sabotaging it won’t do their own people any good.  Miles wonders if Radovas was one of the disaffected.

At the Terraforming building, Tien takes them up to his office, and they makes plans for the day’s inspection.  Tuomonen says he talked to Andro Farr, and he wants to follow up by talking to some of Marie Trogir’s work-friends.  Miles says that he’ll start from the Radovas angle, then, starting by talking to Soudha.  Tien takes Miles down to Waste Heat, leaving Tuomonen behind to examine Tien’s comconsole.  Soudha isn’t there, but Miles dismisses Tien anyway, examining Soudha’s office, which is fairly sparse, containing nothing conspicuously telling.

Soudha arrives, only mildly surprised to find Miles in his office.  Miles tells him about Radovas’s death, watching for his reaction carefully.  Soudha guesses a heart attack, before Miles tells him about finding the body in space, and Soudha concludes that it must have something to do with the soletta accident, given Miles’s presence.  Soudha asks about Marie Trogir, who Miles tells him hasn’t been found yet.  Miles asks for some insight into Radovas’s personality, but Soudha merely says that he was a good worker but kept to himself.  Miles asks about Radovas’s hiring, and Soudha said that waste heat is a concern on space stations, so he brought valuable experience to the project.  Miles then asks why Radovas would have left; Soudha says he gathered the impetus came from Marie Trogir, about whom he knew even little, since Radovas had hired her and, as her supervisor, did all her evaluations.

Miles asks to examine Radovas’s work area, but Soudha says it’s already been reassigned, though they haven’t hired a replacement yet.  Miles asks to speak with some coworkers, and Soudha says that some are on vacation, and others out at the experimental station, but offers him a couple who are present.  The first, Arozzi, is a younger man, scrambling to cover Radovas’s work, who didn’t know much about him, but, Miles judged, may have had a crush on Marie Trogir.  The other, Cappell, a mathematician, is more experienced and a little cynical, and not close to either Radovas or Trogir.

He’d be glad to show my Lord Auditor a few thousand more pages of his work. No? What was Trogir like? Well-enough looking, he supposed, but rather sly. Look what she’d done to poor Radovas, eh? Did he think Trogir might be dead as well? No, women were like cats, they landed on their feet. No, he’d never actually experimented with testing that old saying on live cats; he didn’t have any pets himself. Nor a wife. No, he didn’t want a kitten, thank you for the offer, my Lord Auditor . . . .

Over lunch with Tuomonen, they wonder if they should get a female interrogator to deal with the more reticent female coworkers.  Komarran egalitarianism can be inconvenient for Barrayarans–for one thing, Barrayaran women who go to study on Komarr tend to stay there, which only exacerbates the already pronounced sexual imbalance.  Tuomonen himself, of course, just married a Komarran woman, and says that Komarrans tend to be in favour of the Emperor doing the same thing.  Even Barrayarans on Komarr seem to be in favour of the upcoming marriage, and those who disapproved of Tuomonen’s choice at the time now credit him with shrewd foresight.

Miles asks if Tuomonen found out much about Radovas; most of them knew little about him, though one women had thought Cappell was the one who was sweet on Trogir.  Miles considered this as a possible motive, but surely Andro Farr would have been a better target for a romantic rival.  Farr himself is a possible suspect, but so far they’ve found nothing to implicate him.  Tuomenen says Farr has so far been his best source of information on Trogir.  Miles debates going topside, but decides to stay down here and pursue this end of the story.

Soudha supplied Miles with more human sacrifices in the form of employees called back from the experiment station. They all seemed more interested in their work than in office gossip, but perhaps, Miles reflected, that was an observer-effect. By late afternoon, Miles was reduced to amusing himself wandering around the project offices and terrorizing employees by taking over their comconsoles at random and sampling data, and occasionally emitting ambiguous little “Hm . . .” noises as they watched him in fearful fascination. This lacked even the challenge of dissecting Madame Vorsoisson’s comconsole, since the government-issue machines all opened everything immediately to the overrides in his Auditor’s seal, regardless of their security classification. He mainly learned that terraforming was an enormous project with a centuries-long scientific and bureaucratic history, and that any individual who attempted to sort clues through sheer mass data assimilation had to be frigging insane.

Now, delegating that task, on the other hand . . . Who do I hate enough in ImpSec?

While digging through Venier’s comconsole, Tien asks Miles if he needs him for anything else, or if he can go home.  Miles gives him leave to go, promising to go collect his things later that night–or maybe even just send someone for them, to avoid any further confrontation with Ekaterin.  Tuomonen comes to check on his progress, and Miles says the best thing he’s found was an encrypted file of Barrayaran jokes, which Tuomonen says his mother-in-law has already sent him.

Miles says they haven’t found anything there, maybe even a suspicious amount of nothing, and he may want to sleep on it overnight.  Maybe something will come in from the analysis of Radovas’s library, and in any event he plans to visit the Waste Heat experiment station tomorrow.  He’s tempted to call in the troops, do a full audit, fast-penta everyone in sight…but he has no reason.  Tuomonen points out that, as an Imperial Auditor, Miles doesn’t need a reason, he can just order it done; Miles remains noncommittal.  Tuomonen offers to bring Miles to the ImpSec office, but Miles wants to stay and see if he can figure out what’s bothering him.  He does accept Tuomonen’s offer to send someone else by later to pick him up, which fits in with Miles’s plan to send a minion to the Vorsoissons’.  Tuomonen leaves Miles considering Venier’s comconsole.

Comments

Another short chapter, with a lot of nothing–we know, of course, that Soudha was forewarned, and so if there had been anything incriminating, they may have had time to remove it.  Who would have done it, in the middle of the night, though?  Would Miles have noticed staff members who were suspiciously tired, or taking stim pills?  Maybe Soudha just kept the main office scrupulously clean and unincriminating on principle, or had already started cleaning up when the Auditors first arrived, or when the accident happened…

One thing is for sure, that Waste Heat experiment station (or is it an “experimental” station?) is definitely looming larger and larger.  Something is going on out there, according to Soudha and Tien’s late-night conversation, and even Miles is getting suspicious of it.  What could be out there?  Good thing Miles is going to check it out tomorrow…then we’ll definitely get to the bottom of things.

The next two chapters, in fact, I’m pretty sure things start to come to a head, if I’m remembering them correctly.  Though we’re not up to the halfway point in the book yet, so I could be getting ahead of things.


I do try to keep from rereading further ahead than the current week’s chapters (though, with Memory, I often found myself slipping, and I do wonder if it’ll happen again in A Civil Campaign, but so far Komarr doesn’t seem to be tempting me the same way), so I’m mosly going on vague memories of what comes next.  Come back next week, and you’ll see if I was right…

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As the leaves that are green turn to brown (except for the native Barrayaran plant life), so does time move ever on, and the proof of that is that here is another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  Though in Lois McMaster Bujold’s book Komarr (for it is on Komarr that our scene lies), there’s not a lot of plant life outside of the domes anyway, and most of it probably doesn’t technically have leaves anyway.  But, nonetheless, here are two more chapters of the Vorkosigan Saga for your edification, and entertainment.

Chapter Five

As they get ready for bed, Tien asks Ekaterin to keep the Auditors occupied tomorrow, so his department can get some work done.  Ekaterin says she already took her uncle out, and she doesn’t know what Vorkosigan likes to do; Tien suggests shopping, perhaps.

Ekaterin decides she’d better offer him sex soon.  She needs to do it regularly to keep his tension from building up so high that even sex won’t work any more.  It’s not for her pleasure any more, unfortunately, though Tien is determined to give her satisfaction as well, or else he accuses her of being frigid.  As a result, she finds herself retreating into private fantasies when she’s with Tien, and they’ve gotten uglier over time.  Particularly after the time, a few jobs ago now, where Tien had apparently started suspecting her of having an affair.  He’d stalked around, trying to catch her at it, and when he eventually confessed his suspicions, his suspects were so ridiculous she didn’t even know how she’d come up with them.  When she kept scrupulous out of unchaperoned male company, he only accused her of a lesbian affair instead.

That had broken something in her at last, some will to desire his good opinion. How could you argue sense into someone who believed something not because it was true, but because he was an idiot? No amount of panicky protestation or indignant denial or futile attempt to prove a negative was likely to help, because the problem was not in the accused, but in the accuser. She began then to believe he was living in a different universe, one with a different set of physical laws, perhaps, and an alternate history. And very different people from the ones she’d met of the same name. Smarmy dopplegangers all.

Still, the accusation alone had been enough to chill her friendships, stealing their innocent savor and replacing it with an unwelcome new level of awareness. With the next move, time and distance attenuated her contacts. And on the move after that, she’d stopped trying to make new friends.

She realizes that he acts so crazily because he’s afraid of losing her, and she admits that his fears are not without substance, because the only feeling she has left for him now is loyalty.  She wonders how much of this behaviour might be because of the Vorzohn’s, and then she wonders if Tien is putting off treatment because on some level he feels that once he’s well she’ll feel free to leave him.

Tien comments on her increasing tension, and she makes an effort to relax and slip into one of her fantasies.  She does crave touch, even his, but she knows she can’t be too selfish about it.  He has rights to her body, anyway, but not her mind.  After they’re done, Tien seeks reassurance that their sex life is getting better, and she tries to ease his mind.  She waits until he starts snoring, then goes into the bathroom to cry.  She hates that she still wants his touch, and wishes she could get rid of it.  Finally, her crying done, she takes some painkillers and goes back to bed, but finds Tien is awake; he asks why she was in there so long.

To try to change the subject, she brings up a call she’d received that afternoon.  His bank had called, apparently needing her approval to release his pension funds; she hadn’t thought that sounded right, so she’d put them off.  Tien swears at her angrily, and she hopes he won’t hit the wall again; she asks if she’d made a mistake.  He apologizes for losing his temper, saying he’d forgotten about the different rules on Komarr.  She asks if he’s leaving his job, and he assures her he isn’t; she asks about pension from his other jobs, and he says he’d always cashed it out at the end, and points out that she’d enjoyed the use of that money well enough.  At the moment he doesn’t see the point of saving for his old age.

She realizes that this means that if he does die, she and Nikki will be left with nothing.  Then, with some hope, she asks if this is money that he’s finally planning on using for getting the galactic Vorzohn’s treatment.  Tien is noncommittal, saying he doesn’t know if it’ll be enough, but Ekaterin offers the use of her additional stash of household money, which he says will come in handy.  She asks when they can get away, and Tien says he still needs to check it out, the arrival of the Auditors having made him too busy to get to it.  She snuggles up to him, feeling suddenly secure in newfound hope.

The next morning, after Tien and Nikki have left, Ekaterin offers to take Miles shopping.  He is surprised at the offer, then recalls he needs to buy a wedding present, for Gregor and Laisa.  Ekaterin is a little surprised to hear him referring to the Emperor and his surprising new Komarran fiancée so casually, and says she’s not sure they can find anything sufficiently fancy in Serifosa Dome.  Miles says he has to find something, as Gregor’s Second, and Ekaterin recalls a few exclusive shops she’s never dared to go into before.  Miles remembers he needs something for Duv and Delia as well.

“Delia Koudelka’s a childhood friend of mine. She’s marrying Commodore Duv Galeni, who is the new Chief of Komarran Affairs for Imperial Security. You may not have heard of him yet, but you will. He’s Komarran-born.”

“Of Barrayaran parents?”

“No, of Komarran resistance fighters. We seduced him to the service of the Imperium. We’ve agreed it was the shiny boots that turned the trick.”

He was so utterly deadpan, he had to be joking. Hadn’t he? She smiled uncertainly.

Vorthys stumbles into the kitchen in search of coffee.  Miles asks how the analysis is going, and Vorthys says things aren’t adding up like he’d hoped.  There is a mysterious vector of additional force that appeared after the collision, not attributable to an engine explosion, and some things weren’t travelling in the straight line he’d expect.  Ekaterin asks what’s strange about it, and Vorthys says it’s kind of a trough of gravitational force, rather than the funnel-shape that a regular mass would present.  Miles says it sounds like a gravitic imploder lance, and Vorthys says it doesn’t match up, and it looks like it came from the jump point towards the mirror.

Ekaterin asks her uncle to join her on the shopping trip, but he says he needs to stay behind and catch up on his reading, though they should feel free to pick something up for her aunt.  Ekaterin is a little dubious about heading out unchaperoned with Lord Auditor Vorkosigan, but she assures herself they’ll be in public, and Tien doesn’t seem to view Miles as any sort of threat.

They head out for the bubble-car station, Miles’s short legs having no trouble keeping up with hers, his stiffness from the day before seeming to be gone.  She asks where they should go, and he says the last time he went shopping was for military ordnance.

She laughed. “That’s very different.”

“It’s not as different as you might think. For the really high-ticket items they send sales engineers halfway across the galaxy to wait upon you. It’s exactly the way my Aunt Vorpatril shops for clothes—in her case, come to think of it, also high-ticket items. The couturiers send their minions to her. I’ve become fond of minions, in my old age.”

His old age was no more than thirty, she decided. A new-minted thirty much like her own, still worn uncomfortably.

She asks about his mother, and he admits she’d probably rather wear her Betan Survey fatigues.  They reach the bubble cars and Miles automatically seals the car after they enter; Ekaterin knows that she should share with other riders, but she’s happy enough not to have to sit with strangers this time.  They head for the Shuttleport Locks district, where there are pricier stores to cater to tourists.  They take off slowly, arching out into a high tube to the next complex, but they slow up even further.  Ekaterin says there’s a lot of blockages these days, due to an excess of traffic, and the politicians keep arguing over how to fix it with no clear consensus.  She hopes he’s not afraid of heights, of claustrophobic; Miles says he’s fine with enclosed spaces as long as they’re above freezing.

Returning to the topic of his mother, Ekaterin asks if she was really in the Astronomical Survey; Miles says she was in the Expeditionary Force during the Escobar War, but she started out in the Survey, doing wormhole exploration.  Ekaterin is impressed, since wormhole wildcatters always struck her as somewhat crazy.  The bubble-car starts to move again.

“I’ve met some of ’em. I confess, I never thought of the government Survey as in the same league with the entrepreneurs. The independents make blind jumps into possible death hoping for a staggering fortune. The Survey . . . makes blind jumps into possible death for a salary, benefits, and a pension. Hm.” He sat back, looking suddenly bemused. “She made ship captain, before the war. Maybe she had more practice for Barrayar than I’d realized. I wonder if she got tired of playing wall, too. I’ll have to ask her.”

“Playing wall?”

“Sorry, a personal metaphor. When you’ve taken chances a few too many times, you can get into an odd frame of mind. Adrenaline is a hard habit to kick. I’d always assumed that my, um, former taste for that kind of rush came from the Barrayaran side of my genetics. But near-death experiences tend to cause you to reevaluate your priorities. Running that much risk, that long . . . you’d end up either damn sure who you were and what you wanted, or you’d be, I don’t know, anesthetized.”

“And your mother?”

“Well, she’s certainly not anesthetized.”

Miles says, amused, that most people pump him about his father, not his mother, and Ekaterin apologizes if she’s being rude.  Miles says she’s not, and she asks whether raising him was a kind of “wall” for her.  He asks if she knows the story, and she says she only heard about the Lord Regent’s crippled son, since her family was far from the rarefied upper reaches of the Vor.  He tells her about the soltoxin grenade, and how the damage is actually not genetic, noting that it’s not as important as it used to be for him to emphasize that.  Now he prefers to act the role of a visible, successul “mutie” in hopes that it won’t matter as much to people.  He managed to get into the service, then found himself in ImpSec, where they were more interested in results than appearances; this worked well for him, except that most of his achievements were classified.  On his discharge, he was rescued from anonymity be becoming an Imperial Auditor.

She asks if he wants to be famous, and he says he just wants to be known for himself.  He has nothing but respect for his father, but he secretly hopes for a day when Aral Vorkosigan is mentioned in history books mainly for being Miles Vorkosigan’s father, which makes her laugh.  She says it sounds like hubris, which he heartily agrees with.  He turns pensive for a moment, and is about to bring up something from her comconsole the other day, when the bubble-car pulls into the station and he cuts off.

In the Shuttleport Locks district, Miles seems drawn to the seedier side first, full of the less well-off galactics, and some of the kitschier stores.  He finds a lava lamp in a store, and stares at it in fascination, but Ekaterin discourages him from getting it as a wedding present for Gregor.  At the last moment he decides to get it anyway, for a birthday present instead, and then lets Ekaterin drag into the classier section.  That area, full of well-lit antique and jewelry shops, and high-class couturiers, doubtless with minions, he finds less interesting, but then something catches his attention in a jeweler’s kiosk.

The jeweler has a whole display of miniature planets inside tiny grav-bubbles, made to exacting detail, with a terminator line moving across the surface to simulate realistic day-night cycles for the planet in question.  They have most of the planets in the nexus available–including an Earth with its moon orbiting an inconveniently accurate handspan away–and the cost alarms Ekaterin, but Miles doesn’t seem to pay the price any attention.

“Oh, yes, a typical tech toy—high-end this year, everywhere next year, nowhere after that, till the antiquarians’ revival. Still . . . it would be fun to make up an Imperial set, Barrayar, Komarr, and Sergyar. I don’t know any women with three ears . . . two earrings and a pendant, perhaps, though then you’d have the socio-political problem of how to rank the worlds.”

“You could put all three on a necklace.”

“True, or . . . I think my mother would definitely like a Sergyar. Or Beta Colony . . . no, might make her homesick. Sergyar, yes, very apropos. And there’s Winterfair, and birthdays coming up—let’s see, there’s Mother, Laisa, Delia, Aunt Alys, Delia’s sisters, Drou—maybe I ought to order a dozen sets, and a have a couple to spare.”

Ekaterin points out that if all of these women know each other (and she wonders if any of them are lovers, or prospective lovers), it might be a little crass to get them all the same thing.  She persuades him to restrain himself, buying two Komarr-Barrayar pairs, for Laisa and Delia, a Sergyar on a chain for his mother, and a last-minute Barrayar for someone he doesn’t specify.

The shopping done, Ekaterin takes him to a nearby park, with a naturally-landscaped lake in it.  They stop for a view of the downtown skyline over the lake, and Ekaterin points out that all of this was created manually, and maintained full-time.  She wonders if Komarrans will be able to deal with real forests by the time they actually have them on the surface, or if they’ll think these toy parks are the real thing.  Miles’s reply is interrupted by a loud bang from some construction site behind them, and his instant reaction is to toss the package aside, draw his stunner, and push Ekaterin behind him, before he figures out that it’s harmless.  Then they discover that he’s dropped the packet over the edge of the bluff, and it’s snagged on a bush halfway down.

Miles decides he can probably reach it, and jumps over the safety railing, lying down to reach over the edge of the bluff, but his arms are too short after all.  Ekaterin, not wanting him to fall head-first into the lake, whose depth she doesn’t know, volunteers to try herself.  Miles suggests sending for an ImpSec minion with a stick, but Ekaterin pronounces that overkill.  She crawls to the edge herself, leaning forward to try to reach it, but the edge of the bluff begins to fragment under her.

One wildly back-grappling arm was caught suddenly in a viselike grip, but the rest of her body turned as the soil gave way beneath her, and she found herself dangling absurdly feet-down over the pond. Her other arm, swinging around, was caught, too, and she looked up into Vorkosigan’s face above her. He was lying prone on the slope, one hand locked around each of her wrists. His teeth were clenched and grinning, his gray eyes alight.

“Let go, you idiot!” she cried.

The look on his face was weirdly, wildly exultant. “Never,” he gasped, “again -”

His half-boots were locked around . . . nothing, she realized, as he began to slide inexorably over the edge after her. But his death-grip never slackened. The exalted look on his face melted to sudden horrified realization. The laws of physics took precedence over heroic intent for the next couple of seconds; dirt, pebbles, vegetation, and two Barrayaran bodies all hit the chilly water more or less simultaneously.

The water turns out to be only a meter deep, and they emerge wet and muddy but unscathed, though Ekaterin has lost a shoe.

“Oh,” said Ekaterin faintly. “Drat.”

There was a meditative pause before Lord Vorkosigan spoke. “Madame Vorsoisson,” he said mildly at last, “has it ever occurred to you that you may be just a touch oversocialized?”

She couldn’t stop herself; she laughed out loud. She clapped her hand over her mouth, and waited fearfully for some masculine explosion of wrath.

From this vantage, Miles retrieves the package easily by throwing rocks at the bush until the package is dislodged, then catches it.  He offers Ekaterin his arm and escorts her to the edge of the lake, grabbing a low-hanging tree and pulling himself and then her out of the water.  Ekaterin worries briefly if they’ll get in trouble, but nobody seems to have noticed anything, and anyway, Miles is an Imperial Auditor.  She asks if he’s upset about the accident; Miles says a needle grenade is an accident, that was just an inconvenience.  He then admits to feeling a little odd, and tells her about his seizures, in case he should have one.

She takes him to a bench, and he hunches over, shivering.  He recovers in a couple of minutes, and he tells her that wasn’t a seizure, but a combat flashback.  She thinks he looks shocky and a little unhealthy; he says he was mostly just stunned by an insight, and thanks her for it.  She peevishly asks him to explain what he’s talking about, or shut up, and he is struck by the extreme justice of this remark.  He tells her how, on the escape from Dagoola IV, their shuttle had problems closing its hatch until they jettisoned the broken loading ramp, and when it did, a certain Sergeant Beatrice had fallen as well.  He’d tried to reach her, but couldn’t get hold of her hand, and it had tormented him ever since…but now he realized, based on his recent experience, that if he had grabbed her hand, he’d just have been pulled out with her.  Ekaterin agrees that he wouldn’t have let go, because she now has marks on her wrists from his unyielding grip, for which he apologizes.  He says that somehow, inside his head, he’s six feet tall.

He rubs at her wrists, and she realizes they’re both freezing cold, and says they need to get warm and dry.  She buys some towels at a kiosk, and they get into a bubble-car, and turn up the heat as far as it goes.  Miles strips out of his wet clothes, and Ekaterin is astonished at his array of scars, realizing he wasn’t joking at needle grenades.  Miles says a lot of the scars are from his various bone-replacement surgeries, too.  As he dries off and warms himself up, he apologizes for not having told her about the seizures earlier.  Then he apologizes for accidentally finding the Vorzohn’s Dystrophy file on her comconsole.

Ekaterin is dismayed, thinking she may have left it open, but Miles admits to having hacked it out of curiosity, while taking a break from autopsies, and compliments her on her gardens.  He apologizes again, pleading only old ImpSec habits, and offers to help her in any way he can.  Ekaterin refuses his help, and withdraws from him, wondering how Tien will react to finding out his secret has been found out.  Miles says that there are things that can be done for them, whoever’s suffering from the disease, but Ekaterin refuses him again, and tells him what he did was wrong.  Miles agrees, but refuses to compound the wrong by pretending he doesn’t know about the problem now; he says at the very least she should consult her uncle for help, but she says she won’t do that either.

They return to the Vorsoisson apartment in chilly silence, where they are greeted by a mostly-oblivious Vorthys.  Another courier has stopped by with some hot new evidence–they’ve found a body, an entire male one, just when they had accounted for everyone who could possibly have been in the vicinity of the crash.

Comments

Who does he buy that other Barrayar jewelry piece for?  (It isn’t clear whether it’s earrings or a pendant…)  I don’t recall if it ever comes up.  It seems like a bit of a pointed gift for Elli…maybe Elena?  Mark?  I’d love that kind of thing, anyway, though admittedly having the Moon orbiting at a realistic distance (it mentions “a handspan” in the text) would be inconvenient unless you were wearing it on a hat.

The opening scene, with the expose of Ekaterin and Tien’s sex life, is perhaps one of the more chilling ones in the series, practically on par with Mark and the Black Gang.  Like nothing else, it shows how far their relationship had degraded, though by this time we’ve gotten ample evidence of just how screwed up Tien is, from his career sabotage to his closed-mindedness and prejudice to his groundless suspicions of his wife’s fidelity.  We’re just getting the barest glimpse of his financial peculations in this chapter, to be revealed in much more horrifying detail later on, but the repeated liquidation of any pension funds is entirely typical.

It is nice to see, in this book, how much more at peace with himself Miles is.  Even something like his failure to keep Ekaterin from falling into the lake just leads to a personal epiphany, and progress towards the ability to forgive himself for something he’s been beating himself up over for years.  Though, admittedly, his screwup with peeking into their private files cancels that out a bit.  He does admit to it, so he gets points for honesty, but admitting that you did something bad to someone else doesn’t cancel out having done it in the first place.  It just avoids the even worse thing which is being found out without having admitted it.

Chapter Six

Miles takes a long shower to warm himself up.  He’d been trying to reassure her, as much as possible about the potentials in life as a mutant, because he could tell she was worried about Nikolai’s future.  She’d begun relaxing and opening up, even after the fall into the pond, and seeing him half-naked in the bubble-car.  But when he confessed to finding about the Vorzohn’s, she’d shut him out again.  He almost wishes he’d kept from telling her, but he hadn’t been able to keep on without telling her the truth.

Her icy, armored We don’t require assistance felt like . . . missing a catch. He would be forced onward, she would spin down into the fog and never be seen again.

You’re overdramatizing, boy. Madame Vorsoisson wasn’t in a combat zone, was she?

Yes, she is. She was just falling toward death in exquisitely slow motion.

Finally emerging from the shower, he dresses and rejoins Vorthys to examine the new autopsy report.  Miles asks first if they’re sure he’s from their collision, and Vorthys says that the trajectory and time of death matches perfectly.  The news hasn’t been released, or leaked, yet; Miles thinks that he’s going to have to go to Solstice soon to deal with political issues soon anyway, while Vorthys says he’ll have to go back to orbit to examine the control systems they’ve retrieved.  It would be a relief for Miles to move out of the tension-laden Vorsoisson household, though Vorthys says he’ll wait until morning at least.  Vorthys also mentions that they’ve found some odd pieces of equipment, and new things, not just old pieces of a makeshift still; Miles considers joining Vorthys on the trip tomorrow.

He goes looking for Ekaterin for one last conversation, but she’s gone, probably picking up Nikolai from school.  He takes the autopsy report to her comconsole to look over it again, not without a twinge of guilt over his earlier snooping.  The man whose body they found has no I.D. in his clothing anywhere, much of which was destroyed in the explosion.  He wonders why they haven’t identified him yet, but restrains himself from heading up to the space station to breathe over their shoulders; instead, he calls General Rathjens, head of ImpSec Komarr in Solstice.

Rathjens hasn’t had a chance to look into the preliminary report on the new body; Miles asks him how they plan to go about identifying him.  Komarran authorities perforce share all their information with ImpSec, though not vice versa; if the man’s a Komarran or a registered galactic visitor, it shouldn’t take too long, but it’ll take longer if he’s a Barrayaran, and of course longer if he’s unregistered somehow.  He doesn’t match up with any missing persons reports, which Miles finds odd if he’s a Komarran, since he would’ve been gone for three weeks by now.  Rathjens points out that Miles is on an unsecured comconsole, and Miles says he just wants general information.  He asks to be notified when they identify the man, because if he has relatives on Komarr to be notified, he’d like to go along and observe.

After that, he starts reading over the terraforming reports, leaving the office door open in case Ekaterin should happen by.  Instead, he turns around at one point to find Nikolai standing there instead.  Miles quizzes him about school, to one-word responses, but Nikolai does seem to be satisfying some of his curiosity about the odd Auditor, and Miles allows it.  Nikki asks him if he was a spy, and Miles tells him he was a courier, and describes the dull missions he went on to deliver messages, and the reading and studying he did to kill time.

“Oh,” said Nikki, sounding a little dismayed, possibly at the thought that even grownups weren’t spared from homework. He regarded Miles more sympathetically. Then a spark rose in his eye. “But you got to go on jumpships, didn’t you? Imperial fast couriers and things?”

“Oh, yes.”

“We went on a jumpship, to come here. It was a Vorsmythe Dolphin-class 776 with quadruple-vortex outboard control nacelles and dual norm-space thrusters and a crew of twelve. It carried a hundred and twenty passengers. It was full up, too.” Nikki’s face grew reflective. “Kind of a barge, compared to Imperial fast couriers, but Mama got the jump pilot to let me come up and see his control room. He let me sit in his station chair and put on his headset.” The spark had become a flame in the memory of this glorious moment.

Miles immediately recognizes that Nikki is obsessed with jumpships, and Nikki confirms that he’d love to be a pilot someday.  Miles said he’d wanted to be a strategist.  Nikki said his dad was a soldier and it sounded boring; he’d rather be a pilot and fly all over the place.  Miles recognizes that if he does carry Vorzohn’s Dystrophy, they wouldn’t let him in the military for pilot training, so he talks up Komarran trade fleets instead, telling him they’ll get much more interesting missions than dull military voyages.

Nikki runs off and returns with a box of jumpship models, showing them to Miles.  Miles spots an RG freighter, and tells Nikki how he used to own one, until it crashed into another ship, destroying its Necklin rods.  Soon they’re sitting on the floor together, Nikki showing off his models and knowledge of their specs, Miles relaying his personal knowledge and interesting anecdotes.  Nikki asks how he’d become a nonmilitary pilot, and Miles says he’d need to pay for a training school, and for the neurological interface, but he’s got at least ten more years before he’s eligible, and there’s the potential for scholarships and the like.

Jumpships exhausted, Nikki asks a few questions about Miles’s Auditor career, which are interrupted by the return of Tien.  Tien is dismissive of Nikki’s latest obsession, telling him he’ll grow out of it; Miles tries to supply a few more encouraging messages as well.  Tien says it’s suppertime, and so Miles suffers through one last, tense meal with the Vorsoisson family, mostly dominated by Tien holding forth ill-informedly on Komarran politics.  Miles watches them, realizing that Ekaterin’s silence is more withdrawal than serenity, and Tien’s energy is more tension and twitchiness.  He can spot some clumsiness in Tien if he looks, concluding that he is the Vorzohn’s sufferer after all.  He empathizes somewhat with Tien’s denial of his illness, so similar to Miles’s with his seizures, but has no sympathy with what Tien’s choices may mean for his family, particularly Nikolai.

In the middle of supper, the door chimes; Ekaterin goes to answer it, and Miles follows.  It proves to be an ImpSec Captain named Tuomonen, head of the Serifosa office, who has information about the identity of the extra body found in space.  They go to the living room to talk, and Miles asks Ekaterin to send Vorthys when he’s ready; Tuomonen asks for Tien as well.  He tells Miles that the body turns out to be someone from Serifosa, an employee of the Terraforming Project; Miles immediately hazards a guess, correct, as it turns out, that it is the missing Dr. Radovas.  He asks if they’ve found Marie Trogir as well, but Tuomonen says she hasn’t turned up; Miles says they shouldn’t assume she’s dead, either.

Tuomonen gives Miles a file on Radovas, mostly pulled from public sources, but notes that he was in a revolutionary group during the Komarr Revolt, when he was a university student.  Tuomonen himself, it turns out, married a Komarran woman, whose mother was a former revolutionary herself, but then so were half the Komarrans of that age, so it might not be significant on Radovas’s part.  Miles asks for his thoughts on the file, and Tuomonen suggests he read it over himself first, without prejudice.  Miles, curious, asks what Tuomonen thinks about Lord Auditor Miles Vorkosigan.

“About two-thirds of your career is locked under a need-to-know seal that requires clearance from ImpSec HQ in Vorbarr Sultana to access. But your publicly recorded awards and decorations appear in a statistically significant pattern following supposedly routine courier missions assigned to you by the Galactic Affairs office. At approximately five times the density of the next most decorated courier in ImpSec history.”

“And your conclusion, Captain Tuomonen?”

Tuomonen smiled faintly. “You were never a bloody courier, Captain Vorkosigan.”

“Do you know, Tuomonen, I believe I am going to enjoy working with you.”

Vorthys and Tien arrive, and Tuomonen tells them about Dr. Radovas, watching Tien carefully as he does so.  Tien seems to be genuinely surprised, but can’t tell them much about the man, except that he was in Soudha’s Waste Heat department, and seemed unexceptional.  He’d resigned five days before his death, so it would have been impossible for him to be on the ore ship, unless he’d joined it en route somehow.  Tuomonen says they’ll be telling Madame Radovas shortly, but Miles says it can wait until he’s gone over the report.

They all, including Tien, go over it on Tien’s computer.  Radovas lost two years of his schooling to the Revolt, and spent two years on Escobar after graduation, working in their shipyards.  Refused a government research job because of his revolutionary associations, he worked in the Komarran orbital yards, before being suddenly hired by Soudha for the Terraforming Project, without even a raise in pay.  Miles finds it odd, considering Radovas was a specialist in jump-point technologies, that he should have taken the job, which Tuomonen agrees with.  Vorthys said there could be many reasons, including his wife being tired of living on a space station.

The next step is to go speak to Madame Radovas, which the four of them do (though Miles is unsure why Tien is still with them), as well as a female dome security officer, Group-Patroller Rigby.  When Madame Radovas answers the door to see the presence of the officials, she seems to draw the obvious conclusion that it’s not good news, though to Miles’s eye she seems to be the underreacting type.  Rigby informs her officially that her husband’s body has been found; Madame Radovas says she’s not as pleased as she thought she’d be, and asks after Marie Trogir.  Rigby says they have questions for her first, and will try to answer hers as well.

Rigby tells her how his body was found in space, and asks if she knows why he would have been there.  Madame Radovas says he didn’t tell her anything, had in fact only left her a note on her comconsole, which she has unfortunately erased; his departure took her entirely by surprise.  He’d gone away for work trips before, but this time he took his personal files with him.  She says she had talked to Soudha, who hadn’t seemed to think it was any of his concern what Radovas did after he resigned.  Tien says he didn’t know she’d spoken to anyone at the project, and promises to have a word with Soudha about it.

Tuomonen asks her why her husband took the terraforming job.  She says they were tired of station life, wanted a more settled life for the children, and to do something for Komarr’s future.  Soudha had wanted people of different backgrounds on his project.  When Tuomonen asks, Madame Radovas says she wishes to have her husband’s body returned, though she seems at a loss what to do about it; Rigby offers community counseling assistance.  Tuomonen also says they will have to examine his comconsole and their personal records, which may be useful even if Radovas supposedly deleted his files from it.  Vorthys is spending time examining Radovas’s digital library, and asks them to bring that as well, to Madame Radovas’s bewilderment, because he insists it will tell him something of the shape of Radovas’s thinking.  Madame Radovas breaks down and tells them to take whatever they want, she doesn’t care anymore; Tuomonen goes to siphon the Radovases’ digital information, while the others go to help Vorthys with the library case.
As they’re leaving, Madame Radovas asks about any pension benefits; Tien says that since he’d already resigned, there won’t be any.  Miles, not seeing why she should be deprived because of her late husband’s fecklessness, decides to use his Auditorial power for good, and tells Vorsoisson to authorize her benefits anyway.

“I can’t—how—do you want me to alter the date of his resignation?”

Thus creating the curious legal spectacle of a man resigning the day after his own death? By what method, spirit writing? “No, of course not. Simply make it by an Imperial order.”

“There are no places on the forms for an Imperial order!” said Vorsoisson, taken aback.

Miles digested this. Tuomonen, looking faintly suffused, watched with wide-eyed fascination. Even Madame Radovas’s eyebrows crimped with bemusement. She looked directly at Miles as if seeing him for the first time. At last, Miles said gently, “A design defect you shall have to correct, Administrator Vorsoisson.”

Madame Radovas thanks Miles, and they leave her apartment, Tien carrying the library bundle.  Tuomonen asks Rigby to continue investigating the death, even though it happened outside of Serifosa jurisdiction, and pass any evidence to ImpSec.  Vorthys tells Tuomonen he won’t have time to analyze the library himself before going back to orbit; Miles authorizes him to requisition a “basement boffin” from HQ to help him out, to help produce an outline of Radovas’s mind based on his library.

Tuomonen asks Miles how long he’ll be in Serifosa; Miles says he isn’t sure, since he’ll probably be joining Vorthys in orbit soon.  He tells Tien he’ll probably move out into a hotel once Vorthys goes up, and Tien makes only a token effort to dissuade him.  Tuomonen asks him to keep ImpSec apprised of his movements, and asks him if he won’t reconsider an ImpSec escort, now that there is a Serifosa link to the case, but Miles insists on merely retaining the wrist commlink.

“Is there anything else you need?”

“Not tonight,” said Vorthys, yawning.

I need all this to make sense. I need half a dozen eager informers. I want to be alone in a locked room with Marie Trogir and a hypo of fast-penta. I wish I might fast-penta that poor bitter widow, even. Rigby would require a court order for such an invasive and offensive step; Miles could do it on whim and his borrowed Imperial Voice, if he didn’t mind being a very obnoxious Lord Auditor indeed. The justification was simply not yet sufficient. But Soudha had better watch his step, tomorrow. Miles shook his head. “No. Get some sleep.”

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One does wonder why the Auditors don’t object more to Tien inserting himself into these proceedings.  I guess Tuomonen is content to keep an eye on him as a possible suspect, as somebody who knew the deceased.  Tien himself…well, I believe we find more about his motives later.  Though when reading this, it occurred to me to wonder if he was there to carry the library; otherwise, Tuomonen or Rigby would have had to carry it, since neither of the Auditors are particularly burly.  Of course, one also has to wonder how much data is actually in this library–Miles estimates it as a thousand disks, and given how much data we can store on disks with 21st-century technology, by Miles’s time (on Komarr, at least, if not Barrayar) they could probably fit the entire Library of Congress on a thousand disks, or the complete Wikipedia, and it would take a little time to figure out which bits of that Radovas had been particularly interested in.  (I could probably link here to a TVTropes page about technology being extrapolated insufficiently far, but I’ll refrain.  I’m sure Ms. Bujold was just trying to use something more futuristic than actual books…)

I do like the scene with Nikki and Miles, with Nikki’s encyclopedic knowledge of the jumpships.  It does give him and Miles something to talk about, at least.  Did they ever find another RG freighter for Arde Mayhew?  I don’t recall it being mentioned last time we saw him, in “Winterfair Gifts”, alas.  Just another missed plot thread, I guess.  Maybe there’s some fanfic out there that resolves the issue…  Anyway, Nikki’s best scenes are, of course, in the next book.  I also don’t recall the later books telling us whether he did actually achieve his jump-pilot ambitions, but I imagine that if he didn’t, it wasn’t because of lack of financial and familial support…

I don’t remember offhand exactly how Dr. Radovas did end up in orbit, or where poor Marie Trogir is right now, but I remember enough.  Waste Heat is up to something, that’s for sure, and both Tien and Madame Radovas know more than they’re saying…  How different would the book be if Miles had decided to fast-penta Madame Radovas after all?

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So now the mysterious accident in space is linked to Etienne Vorsoisson’s Terraforming Project office, even if we don’t know quite what the connection is yet.  Come back next week and we’ll see if Miles manages to blow the case wide open…probably not, since there’s still quite a few more chapters left, but maybe he’ll at least stumble across another clue.

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