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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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?”
“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.”
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?
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.