Welcome back to the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, that weekly event wherein I examine, discuss, and dissect the works of Lois McMaster Bujold in her Saga of Miles Vorkosigan (and his friends and family). This week we continue on with two more chapters of her novel Komarr (also found as part of the Miles In Love omnibus), with Miles as usual sharing POV chapters with Ekaterin Vorsoisson, and trying to conceal his growing feelings from the new widow…
Ekaterin sleeps well, but upon waking realizes that most of the day is going to consist of waiting. She gets up and tries to keep busy, making breakfast for the two Auditors, and cleaning up, but soon runs out of tasks. Eventually Miles emerges and offers her information about Tien’s autopsy. She asks if there was anything unexpected, and he says no, though they did find signs of the Vorzohn’s Dystrophy, which they judge would have soon become impossible to conceal. Ekaterin wonders how much of his behaviour stemmed from the disease; Miles says that it’s hard to tell, but it sounded like most of the affected brain regions were more to do with motion and sensation than with judgement and emotion. He points out that, if necessary, they can still use it as an excuse for Tien’s behaviour if the need should ever come up.
“How did Nikki take the news, last night?”
“That was hard. He started out—before I told him—trying to argue me into letting him stay and play another night. Getting passionate and sulking, you know how kids are. I so much wished I could simply let him go on, not having to know. I wasn’t able to prepare him as much as I would have liked. I finally had to sit him down and tell him straight out, Nikki, you have to come home now. Your Da was killed in a breath mask accident last night. It just . . . wiped him blank. I almost wished for the whining back.” Ekaterin looked away. She wondered what oblique forms Nikki’s reactions might eventually take, and whether she would recognize them. Or handle them well. Or not . . . “I don’t know how it’s going to go in the long run. When I lost my mother . . . I was older, and we knew it was coming, but it was still a shock, that day, that hour. I always thought there would be more time.”
Miles shares his experience of his grandfather’s death, which shook up his father’s world; Ekaterin agrees that it is akin to an earthquake, and wonders how shaken up Nikki’s world will be this morning. She says she plans to tell him about his Vorzohn’s Dystrophy, but not until after his breakfast. Miles offers to stay and help, and Ekaterin accepts his offer; she doesn’t want the disease to turn into something awful and secret.
Miles returns to the kitchen as Nikki is finishing his breakfast, silently urging Ekaterin to take the plunge, and she begins by telling him that he’s missing school the next day. Nikki asks if it’s for the funeral, and Ekaterin explains how they are bringing Tien’s body back to Barrayar to bury with his family; Miles adds that the Imperial Service will be taking care of transporting the body, so they won’t have to worry about it.
Ekaterin returns to the subject, telling Nikki he has a doctor’s appointment to check into a condition he has, called Vorzohn’s Dystrophy. Ekaterin explains the condition to him in clinical terms, careful to avoid using the term “mutation”, but mentioning that this treatment should keep him from having any symptoms. She neutrally offers some articles about it that she’s willing to help him read through. Nikki asks if it will hurt; Ekaterin says they will take some samples, and Miles tells him, from experience, that it doesn’t hurt when they do it, but it does hurt a little afterward. Nikki asks if Miles has Vorzohn’s, and Miles explains about his mother’s soltoxin poisoning and how it damaged his bones, but assures Nikki that his mother’s all right. Ekaterin realizes that Nikki hasn’t placed who Miles’s mother might be, and Miles offers to introduce him to her someday. After some more questions from Nikki, Miles explains that his treatment wasn’t so simple as the retrogenes that they’ll use on Nikki, and shows a scar on his arm from where they replaced one of his brittle bones with plastic.
Nikki stared with interest, both at Vorkosigan’s arm and, speculatively, at his own. He wriggled his fingers, and watched his arm flex as the muscles and bones moved beneath his skin.
“I have a scab,” he offered in return. “Want to see?” Awkwardly, he pushed up his pant leg to display the latest playground souvenir on his knee. Gravely, Vorkosigan inspected it, and agreed it was a good scab, and would doubtless fall off very soon now, and yes, perhaps there would be a scar, but his mother was very right to tell him not to pick it. To Ekaterin’s relief, everyone then refastened their clothes and the contest went no further.
Nikki loses interest and dashes off soon after, and Ekaterin is pleased at how well it went. Miles says her matter-of-factness helped keep him from a stronger reaction. Later, after Miles and Vorthys leave for a visit to the Waste Heat station, she gets Nikki to read one of the Vorzohn’s articles with her. He stiffens a little when he first runs across a reference to it as a “mutation”, but wanders off again easily enough after finishing it. Ekaterin had hoped for more of a response, but supposes he’ll have to work through it in his own way.
The next day, Miles’s presence streamlines the trip to Solstice, allowing them to take an ImpSec shuttle, with a pair of bodyguards, instead of rising early for a budget trip on the monorail. Miles says that ImpSec has expressed a wish for him to avoid public transportation as much as possible, as much as he loves the monorail. He also manages to score Nikki a brief meeting with the shuttle pilot; he tells Ekaterin that there’s still no sign of Soudha and his group, but the parts list is taking shape, and Vorthys seems to have appropriated the project from him. They also have gotten some extra information from marginal notes in the station’s library, some of which include names, one of them of a crew member on the soletta array; now they’re thinking that the mysterious equipment may have been on the soletta, rather than the ore freighter, so they’re pursuing that angle.
Once in Solstice, they go for lunch at a restaurant whose priciness daunts Ekaterin. She notices some covert glances at them, and wonders if they think they’re all a family; she’s initially embarrassed, but she also feels indignant on Miles’s behalf. Afterwards, they head over the clinic, where Nikki becomes more subdued. Miles stays behind them as Ekaterin deals with the admissions clerk, until they hit a snag: with Tien dead, Nikki’s legal guardian is the distant cousin on Barrayar, and the computer won’t accept Nikki’s admission without it. The clerk’s supervisor is fetched, and expresses his regret that they can’t take the chance, after recently being bitten by a case where a Vor child’s guardian disagreed with the emergency treatment they rendered. The condition is non-life-threatening, and so they’ll have to wait until the proper permissions are acquired.
Ekaterin took a deep breath, whether to argue or scream she was not sure. But Lord Vorkosigan leaned past her shoulder and smiled at the supervisor.
“Hand me that read-pad, will you?”
The puzzled supervisor did so; Vorkosigan rummaged in his pocket and pulled out his gold Auditor’s seal, which he uncapped and pressed to the pad, along with his right palm. He spoke into the vocorder. “By my order, and for the good of the Imperium, I request and require all assistance, to wit, suitable medical treatment for Nikolai Vorsoisson. Vorkosigan, Imperial Auditor.” He handed it back. “See if that doesn’t make your machine happier.” He murmured aside to Ekaterin, “Just like swatting flies with a laser cannon. The aim’s a bit tricky, but it sure takes care of the flies.”
Ekaterin is reluctant to accept his assistance, but Miles points out that her uncle would doubtless have been willing to do the same for her if he’d been there. The supervisor asks timidly what Miles’s business there is, and Miles says he’s just a friend of the family, “red tape cutter and general expediter”. After that, things run very smoothly for Nikki’s appointment. Ekaterin says they probably just jumped the queue, and Miles says he did the same thing for himself at ImpMil not long ago, and admits he hasn’t quite figured out when he should use his Auditorial Powers and when not. If he’d interrogated Madame Radovas, or inspected the Waste Heat station earlier, things might have gone much differently, but he’d restrained his impulses both times. Ekaterin asks if he’d anticipated that kind of bureaucracy, and he admits that he’d hoped he could help out somehow. Ekaterin thinks, enviously, that he can wave most ordinary problems out of the way, then realizes that leaves him with just the extraordinary problems to deal with. She attributes his solicitousness to a desire to assuage his guilt over Tien’s death.
The tests are done swiftly, and then they meet with the Komarran physician, who describes the results, calling Nikki’s case mildly idiosyncratic, but well within their capabilities. She says they’ll have the retrovirus for Nikki in a week, and they’ll have to check up on him regularly for the next three months; she gives them a recommendation for a clinic in Vorbarr Sultana, and promises them a disk with all the pertinent data. After that, annual checkups will be all that’s required. She assures Ekaterin that the treatment will be in good time, that Nikki would likely have had several years yet before any measurable damage was done. They return to Serifosa via the shuttle.
Vorkosigan, sitting across from them with his reader on his knees again, watched her in turn, and murmured, “Is it well?”
“It’s well,” she said softly. “But it feels so strange . . . Nikki’s illness has been the whole focus of my life for so long. I gradually pared away all the other impossibilities to concentrate wholly on this, the one main thing. It feels as though I had been steeling myself to batter down some unscaleable wall. And then, when I finally took a deep breath and put my head down and charged, it just . . . fell, all in a heap, like that. And now I’m stumbling around in the dust and the bricks, blinking. I feel very unbalanced. Where am I now? Who am I now?”
“Oh, you’ll find your center. You can’t have mislaid it totally, even if you have been revolving around other people. Give yourself time.”
Ekaterin said she’d been focusing on being a good Vor woman; she’d chosen the marriage to Tien in the first place, wanting to fit in to the “Vor pageant”, which Miles assures her he knows all about. Somehow, she didn’t end up with the pretty pattern she’d intended, but just a tangle of strings. She says that she’s been bracing for failure for so long, that she’s unprepared for the devastation of success. Miles agrees with her, that achievement can be disorienting, and also leads to people expecting you to achieve more all the time, or you end up a failure again. Ekaterin is surprised that he’s not calling her foolish, which is the reaction she’d gotten used to from Tien, but Miles says she’s perfectly correct. He tells her that it is possible to acquire a taste for success, too, and it only takes once. His intensity disturbs her, and the conversation grinds to a halt.
They return to the apartment in Serifosa, where Vorthys tells them that his wife has left Barrayar and should be on Komarr in three days. Ekaterin is happy to hear it, but recalls that her aunt gets jump-sick, and feels guilty that she’s coming all this way for her niece; Vorthys pointed out that it was Miles’s idea, but she would have come soon enough anyway, and that she’ll have time to get over her jump-sickness. He suggests Ekaterin go to meet her aunt at the jump-station, which Ekaterin eagerly agrees to. She loves her aunt, and considers her one of her few “undisheartening” relatives, and a welcome friend and ally.
As they head in for dessert, Vorthys tells Miles he’ll be interested to see what Miles can make of the day’s progress.
One of the problems, I imagine, with absorbing Komarr into the Barrayaran Empire are the cultural differences. Komarran women seem much more “liberated” than their Barrayaran counterparts, like the doctor in this chapter–I imagine they don’t have a lot of female doctors on Barrayar. Overall Komarr seems much more cosmopolitan, “galactic”, and probably find a lot of Barrayaran concepts bizarre and antiquated. They’ve had a few decades to get used to each other by now, but I’m sure it’s still an uneasy situation. The fact that the clinic got into trouble before, going against Barrayaran traditions, makes them leery about getting into trouble again, when they don’t really understand the underlying logic of the traditions. I confess I don’t understand why a distant male relative makes a better guardian than the child’s mother in any case, but then I guess I’m not Barrayaran.
Ekaterin hasn’t figured out Miles’s infatuation with her yet, though she has spotted the solicitousness–she’s mostly just attributing it to guilt, if anything, or possibly conscientiousness. But she’s definitely opening up to Miles more, and he’s all too willing to share with her what he can that he thinks she’ll find helpful. He just needs to keep himself in check a little more, perhaps.
Nikki does seem to take the news about Vorzohn’s with a little equanimity, but after the disruption of his father’s death, he may just have trouble absorbing it. Or maybe he’s just going to take it in his stride. I guess we’ll just have to see if he has any sudden meltdowns or something…
The next morning, Miles is heading for the bathroom for his morning ablutions when he finds Ekaterin in the hall outside; apparently Nikki has locked himself inside. She tells Miles that Nikki is claiming that the Vorzohn’s Dystrophy is making him too sick to go to school; she stood form, and, scared, he’s hiding in the bathroom. Miles inspects the lock, and decides that it would take some serious tools to get it open, unless he can use subterfuge. Ekaterin tries to persuade Nikki to let Miles in to get ready, but to no avail.
“I’m torn,” murmured Ekaterin in lower tones. “We’re leaving in a few weeks. A few missed lessons wouldn’t matter, but . . . that’s not the point.”
“I went to a private Vor school rather like his, when I was his age,” Miles murmured back. “I know what he’s afraid of. But I think your instincts are correct.” He frowned thoughtfully, then set his case down and rummaged for his tube of depilatory cream, which he smeared liberally over his night’s bristles. “Nikki?” he called more loudly. “Can I come in? I’m all over depilatory cream, and if I don’t wash it off, it’ll start eating through my skin.”
“Won’t he realize you can wash in the kitchen?” Ekaterin whispered.
“Maybe. But he’s only nine, I’m gambling depilation is still a bit of a mystery.”
Nikki says Miles can come in, but he’s locking the door behind him; Miles agrees, and tells Ekaterin not to try grabbing him and violate the truce. He says that Nikki won’t be quite as sure how to deal with him, as a near stranger, so that’ll give him an advantage. Nikki opens the door only just barely wide enough for Miles to slide through sideways.
Nikki is wearing everything except his shoes, which Miles supposes must have been the final sticking point; he retreats to sit on the edge of the bathtub as Miles heads for the sink, trying to muster up sufficient eloquence to persuade a nine-year-old. He brushes his teeth, cleans off the depilatory, and then asks Nikki what the problem is. Nikki claims to be sick; Miles points out that Vorzohn’s isn’t catching, but that doesn’t seem to be what Nikki is worrying about. Miles says that nobody will be able to see it in him, but Ekaterin has apparently already tried that one.
“Well . . . deal. I won’t tell you you’re blowing it all out of proportion if you won’t tell me I don’t understand.”
Nikki glanced up from his seat, his attention arrested. Yeah. See me, kid.
Miles decides that trying to pressure Nikki would be the wrong tactic, so he decides to try to lower the barrier. He mentions his own experience in Vor private school, where he had to deal with his classmates treating him like a mutie. They learned to leave his brittle bones alone, but learned how to use words on him to equal effect. Bothari had had to start checking him to keep him from bringing weapons to school with him, but Miles managed to teach them all to leave him alone anyway…using methods he’s reluctant to tell Nikki about. He asks what Nikki thinks his classmates wil do; Nikki says he’s more worried about what they’ll think. Miles admits that’s a tricky problem, since it’s hard to tell what people think without fast-penta, and even that can’t tell you what they will think.
He muses aloud that they need some kind of ImpSec agent, the ones who scout in enemy territory and get information on what people think. Nikki says that Miles was just a courier, and Miles says that even couriers can get into dangerous situations. He says that it’s easier the second time than the first, though. He can’t spare an ImpSec agent to check for antimutant activity at Nikki’s school, of course, but he says that sometimes ImpSec uses paid informants, especially ones that can blend in well, and not stir up trouble. Nikki isn’t buying it, until Miles mentions the ten-year-old girl he employed on one planet, and a few allusions to the mission where he used her, before announcing that he has to go have his breakfast. He leaves a speculative Nikki behind him, hopefully one who now has an honourable line of retreat available to him.
Nikki emerges just as Miles is finishing his breakfast, asks for his shoes, and puts them on. Ekaterin asks neutrally if he wants her to go with him, but he demurs and heads out. Ekaterin wonders aloud if she should phone to check that he did arrive at school; Miles allows as she should, but not tell Nikki about it. She asks what his trick was–Tien would always get his back up too, and there would be shouting and threats, though with peace offerings later. Miles says he just tries to always arrange his negotations so that nobody loses face.
“Well . . . thank you for being so patient. One doesn’t normally expect busy and important men to take the time for kids.”
Her voice was warm; she was pleased. Oh, good. He babbled in relief, “Well, I do. Expect it, that is. My Da always did, you see—take time for me. Later, when I learned not everyone’s Da did the same, I just assumed it was only a trait of the most busy and most important men.”
Vorthys emerges and says an ImpSec driver will be picking them up soon. Ekaterin says she has to do packing, and talk to an estate lawyer; Miles says they’ll leave a guard at the apartment, and offers another guard to accompany her when she goes out, but she says it won’t be necessary. Miles leaves her, not without regret, but sternly admonishing himself to keep his mind on business.
Vorthys has set up his HQ out at the Waste Heat station, which has the advantage of being out of the way and hard to sneak up on; Miles supposes that Soudha found it much the same, and wonders if the Waste Heat job came first, or his mysterious project. Miles checks on the inventory project, which promises to be done that day, then goes to the office Vorthys has commandeered to check over the list of missing equipment so far. Vorthys, who has been running simulations, says that at least they know they built something–probably two somethings, one lost in orbit and one from the Waste Heat station. Miles says that it’s still not clear what went on out in space, and where Marie Trogir is–he got the impression even Soudha didn’t know that. He says that the autopsy on Radovas included cellular damage that looked reminiscent of a glancing blow from a gravitic imploder lance, and speculates that maybe they’ve been working on scaling it down, which hasn’t been solved yet. Except that the parts don’t quite line up, and there’s a lot of power being transmitted in there somewhere.
Vorthys says that the bits of math scribbled in Radovas’s library are interesting, and asks what Miles thought of the mathematician Cappell. Miles said that Cappell was probably lying through his teeth, but Soudha must have trusted him enough to let him talk to Miles at all. He proposes Soudha, Cappell, Radovas and Foscol as the inner circle, with the Marie Trogir story added later to explain her disappearance. If they’re trying to sell this thing, outside of the empire, it’s possible that Trogir absconded with the specs to auction it off herself, a possibility that ImpSec is investigating.
By the end of an hour, Miles was cross-eyed from staring at meters and meters of really supremely boring inventory readouts. His mind wandered, revolving a plan to go attach himself like a hyperactive leech to all the field agents searching for the fugitive Komarrans. Sequentially, he supposed; he had learned not to wish to be twins, or any other multiple of himself. Miles thought of the old Barrayaran joke about the Vor lord who jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions. Forward momentum only worked as a strategy if one had correctly identified which way was forward. After all, Lord Auditor Vorthys didn’t run around in circles; he sat composedly in the center and let it all come to him.
Colonel Gibbs contacts them with a solid lead–some large Waste Heat purchases that he’s tracked down to a company named Bollan Design, of custom-designed Necklin field generators. Bollen is a small company that does custom jobs, and Waste Heat bought five rods…an odd number, since Necklin rods are used in pairs. Bollen has been around since long before the mbezzlement scam, and didn’t do anything illegal on their end, but their chief design engineer has been missing for three days. Gibbs sends them the specs, which Vorthys brings up on his screen. The Necklin rod designs seem quite odd, looking like “a cross between a corkscrew and a funnel”, each model larger than the one before. The largest one, close to four meters by six, would have been too big to store at the Waste Heat station, and Miles wonders where it was.
Miles wonders what kind of Necklin field this would generate. The standard jumpship has two Necklin rods, whose fields counter-rotate to take the ship through hyperspace; Miles knew he’d been exposed to the five-space math behind it at the Academy, but he’s long since forgotten most of it. Vorthys brings up an image of a piece of orbital debris, which turns out to be a match for the second-largest of the Necklin rods. Miles wonders where the largest one is, then; he asks if they can figure out what it does, if they can find its power supply, but Vorthys says it will all depend on how that power is applied. It must generate some kind of five-space distortion, but it’ll be difficult to find out what kind. Vorthys suggests finding another expert in five-space math, like Dr. Riva from the University of Solstice, who, though she is of course Komarran, is someone that Vorthys has consulted before. First, though, he wants to visit Bollen himself.
The trip to Bollen is not particularly rewarding, though. Nobody else seems to have any additional information to add to what ImpSec has already extracted, the missing engineer apparently being the crucial figure; they can confirm having seen Cappell, Soudha and Radovas visit the shop, though, the experimental rods having always been picked up there, never delivered. Miles makes a mental note to check for vans that could have carried the largest generators. He pokes around and concludes that the missing engineer probably left voluntarily, since otherwise Soudha would have had to clean records out of too many comconsoles. He hopes they find the man and fast-penta him, but he supposes that people expect fast-penta these days, and are more tight-lipped.
They return to Ekaterin’s apartment in time for dessert; Nikki seems to have recovered his aplomb, and monosyllabically asserts that he doesn’t expect any trouble at school tomorrow.
When Nikki finished bolting his dessert and galloped off, she added wryly, “And how was work today? I wasn’t sure if the extra hours represented progress, or the reverse.”
How was work today. Her tone seemed to apologize for the prosaic quality of the question. Miles wondered how to explain to her that he found it altogether delightful, and wished she’d do it again. And again and . . . Her perfume was making his reptile-brain want to roll over and do tricks, and he wasn’t even sure she was wearing any. This mind-melting mixture of lust and domesticity was entirely novel to him. Well, half novel; he knew how to handle lust. It was the domesticity that had ambushed his guard.
Miles says they are spectacularly baffled, and Vorthys seconds it. They argue briefly over the device that the embezzlers were building was a “secret weapon” or not, before being interrupted by the doorbell. Ekaterin and Vorthys go to the door, and Miles elects to go out to the balcony instead. While gazing out at the night, Miles hears Ekaterin welcoming Venier into the apartment. Venier is apparently there to deliver Tien’s personal effects from the office, but he also asks to speak to Ekaterin privately; Miles, on the verge of heading back in to the apartment, pauses on the balcony, wondering if Venier is somehow involved in the plot.
Venier says that he’d noticed problems with Tien and Ekaterin’s relationship, and has nothing good to say about Tien; Ekaterin’s responses are guarded and unencouraging, but Venier presses on. He knows that Ekaterin is being “forced” to return to Barrayar, and wonders if she’d consider remaining on Komarr instead. Ekaterin says she can’t afford to stay.
“I have an alternative to offer you.” Venier swallowed; Miles swore he could hear the slight gurgle in his narrow neck. “Marry me. It would give you the legal protection you need to stay here. No one could force you back, then. I could support you, while you train up to your full strength, botany or chemistry or anything you choose. You could be so much. I can’t tell you how it’s turned my stomach, to see so much human potential wasted on that clown of a Barrayaran. I realize that for you it would have to start as a marriage of convenience, but as a Vor, that’s surely not an alien idea for you. And it could grow to be more, in time, I’m certain it could. I know it’s too soon, but soon you’ll be gone and then it will be too late!”
Venier paused for breath. Miles bent over, mouth still open, in a sort of silent scream. My lines! My lines! Those were all my lines, dammit! He’d expected Vorish rivals for Ekaterin’s hand to come pouring out of the woodwork as soon as the widow touched down in Vorbarr Sultana, but my God, she hadn’t even got off Komarr yet! He hadn’t thought of Venier, or any other Komarran, as possible competition. He wasn’t competition, the idea of Vennie as competition was laughable. Miles had more power, position, money, rank, all to lay at her feet when the time was finally ripe—Venier wasn’t even taller than Ekaterin, he was a good four centimeters shorter—
The one thing Miles couldn’t offer, though, was less Barrayar. In that, Venier had an advantage Miles could never match.
Ekaterin responds noncommittally to Venier’s offer. Venier expresses his extreme admiration for Ekaterin, and adds that he’s applied for Tien’s job, and asks her to help him make Serifosa Sector into a showcase of the terraforming project. He notes that if he does become administrator, she might not even have to leave the apartment. Ekaterin corrects his misapprehension that she’s being forced to return–she says that Komarr’s domes are starting to make her claustrophobic, and anyway Barrayaran custom calls for a year of mourning. Venier questions the custom, and Ekaterin admits it was probably practical–to ensure that any children born after the husband’s death were of clear parentage, but she plans to use it as an excuse to fend off unwanted suits. Miles thinks that Ekaterin’s gun-shyness about marriage will keep her from accepting offers like Venier’s, but of course will keep her accepting Miles’s… Venier encourages her to keep his offer in mind, but Ekaterin says she prefers not to leave him with false hope, and refuses him in no uncertain terms.
Venier leaves, and Miles plans his re-entry, but Ekaterin returns to the kitchen and he has no opportunity. Rather than risk being locked outside all night, he arranges himself artistically in a chair as if he’d fallen asleep there, and pretends to wake up when she steps out onto the balcony.
Her brows drew down quizzically, and she crossed her arms. “Lord Vorkosigan. I didn’t think Imperial Auditors were supposed to prevaricate like that.”
“What . . . badly?” He sat all the way up and sighed. “I’m sorry. I’d stepped out to contemplate the view, and I didn’t think anything when I first heard Vennie enter, and then I thought it might be something to do with the case, and then it was too late to say anything without embarrassing us all. As bad as the business with your comconsole all over again, sorry. Accidents, both. I’m not like this, really.”
She cocked her head, a weird quirky smile tilting her mouth. “What, insatiably curious and entirely free of social inhibitions? Yes, you are. It’s not the ImpSec training. You’re a natural. No wonder you did so well for them.”
Was this a compliment or an insult? He couldn’t quite tell. Good, bad, good-bad-good . . . ?
I guess Nikki did have a bit of a delayed reaction to the Vorzohn’s news after all. That is a good scene, as Miles tries to win over his toughest audience, and shows some incipient parenting skills in the bargain. Though, of course, in some ways it might be easier to deal with other people’s children, because you approach the situation with fresh eyes, and don’t get sucked down into all the previous arguments, and the last time this happened, and the usual responses… I confess I’m also a little uncertain how depilation works–does it somehow dissolve the stubble, as Miles implies, and then you wash it off? If so, I’m all for it. (Of course, I always heard about Nair, and yet somehow there never seemed to be a male version of it, so perhaps it’s not quite ready after all.)
So Bollen Design (or was it Bollan? My e-copy was going back and forth) does custom Necklin rods, and repairs on obsolete models? Obviously the Dendarii need to send them Arde Mayhew’s old busted RG Necklin rods, if they still have them. Might be a bit pricy, but surely he owes that much to his armsman… (Just finished reading The Warrior’s Apprentice to my son, so Arde’s predicament is fresh in my mind…) Anyway, there’s definitely something five-spacey going on here, and of course there was an inactive wormhole somewhere near the site of the accident, wasn’t there? I also remember what’s coming up with Dr. Riva at the University of Solstice, probably a chapter or two from now.
Venier wasn’t part of the embezzlement scam, but I guess he did have one other plot role to play, making his awkward proposal to Ekaterin. Obviously he had a crush on her of some kind, but he didn’t know her too well, apparently. Free of Barrayaran prejudices, he would of course mourn her wasted potential, but with his own Komarran prejudices he hadn’t figured out that she might actually want to return to Barrayar. Miles will definitely have to play it cool now, because if he moves too soon she might give him a final refusal like she did Venier…but then, of course, if he waits too long he might found that she’s found a suitor she didn’t want to fend off. But most of that is in the next book, of course.
I’m amazed I’ve gone this far without a single-chapter week, since my stamina has come close to flagging a couple of times, but I suppose it may depend on if I find an Ekaterin chapter that can be easily separated from its accompanying Miles chapter. Or a Miles chapter that goes better with its following chapter than its preceding one… Once again, thinking of events, I remember an upcoming Miles scene with Dr. Riva, but I’m not sure what’s next for Ekaterin. Surely it can’t be time for her to meet her aunt at the jump point station yet, is it? Because that’s getting awfully close to the climax… But I believe there’s only five more chapters left, so I suppose it might as well get started. Next week…