Wherever you may be, reading this on computer or tablet or smartphone or comconsole vidplate or direct neural link or smartpaper or regular paper, or perhaps projected on a wall or printed on a cake, not to mention all of the places you could be listening to some kind of audio version of it, or perhaps reading it in Braille with your fingertips, welcome back to the Vorkosigan Saga Reread. Thank you for spending time here when you could be just reading the book yourself, and I hope that if you are reading it, and you are a previous reader of the works of Ms. Lois McMaster Bujold, I am evincing a pleasant sensation of nostalgia in you as you remember how much you enjoyed reading this book yourself the first time…or, perhaps a pleasant anticipation of reading it again sometime (or even for the first time, but that’s not really my goal here, because there’s spoilers for, like, the entire plot). This week I have the pleasure of rendering unto you the fourth Chapter of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, which is, as one might expect, called Chapter Four, or at least what happened in it.
It’s dark by the time Ivan returns, but he brings ample supplies of food, which interests the women much more than his insistence that they need to talk; they complain that all they had was wine and rat bars, but Ivan says that he didn’t even have wine. Ivan brought a variety of food because he wasn’t sure if they had special requirements; Rish says her only problem is with meat from animals, but luckily they have lots of vat protein. Tej is relieved that Ivan’s palate isn’t quite as undeveloped as his shortage of food supplies had hinted.
After they eat, Ivan collapses on the couch and is asleep in seconds. They debate waking him, but decide that he probably manage to sleep at all tied up in the chair the night before, and besides, one of Rish’s shows is on; she’s become a devotee of Komarran soap operas since their arrival on the planet, since she rarely gets to go out. Tej looks out at the dome, contemplating their situation, and notes that Ivan has put in several days’ supply, af if he’s expecting them to stay. She half-heartedly tries to wake him, but to no avail.
After another few minutes, Tish came out to join her, smiling in a pleased way. “I was right about Hendro Fon,” she informed Tej. “He was faking the amnesia. And the DNA sample had been substituted. Sera Jenna was a real clone! I’ll bet the trade fleet merge is off now.”
Tej asks Rish what she’s to do now, since she obviously can’t go back to her job; Rish says there’s not much to miss about it, but Tej had been hoping she could stay on for a while and actually get somewhere. Nanja Brindis was her last fake identity, anyway, and not a very well-fleshed-out one at that, so she’s going to have to obtain another one somehow…which would be easier if they could get off-planet, but it’d be hard to get off-planet without one. Rish says they could at least move to a different dome, but Tej points out that the others are all smaller, which will make it harder to hide. They don’t have a lot of cash left, and they can’t risk trying to steal Ivan’s credit chit, though Rish idly suggests that they could sell his IDs; Tej says their funds are short enough that they’d be better off accepting Ivan’s offer of free accommodation for as long as they can.
Rish says she saw a show about the colonization on Sergyar, though she admits they skipped over the worm plague; apparently it’s possible to go to the colony as an indentured worker, but Tej thinks that sounds too much like slavery, and it’d be even harder for Rish to hide. Rish says that the Vicereine is encouraging offplanet immigration, so she might be able to slip through, but it’d depend on being able to make it to orbit safely.
“There’s Captain Mystery, here.” Rish nodded to the sleeping figure across from them. “Captain Vormystery, I suppose he would correct that.”
“Ivan Xav, the one and only. I think he likes me.”
“Oh, I can smell that.” Rish smirked. “He also has a slight breast fetish.”
“Don’t they all.” Tej sighed. The corners of her mouth drew up. “Though not, in his case, for slight breasts.”
Rish says that she’d recommend Tej milk Ivan for all she could get, but his turning up was still a little too strange, and she doesn’t trust him; some random Komarran off the street would be less suspicious. She says that she’d rather die than be used against the Baron and Baronne; Tej points out, dispiritedly, that there are no Baron and Baronne any more, and has to blink back tears. Rish says that they need to plan carefully in case the only option is suicide, because they may not have much time to take advantage of the opportunity; painless drugs will be too hard to come by, but they could always try the slit veins in the bathtub. Tej says that wouldn’t be too nice for Ivan Xav to come home to, but Rish said it wouldn’t be their problem; Tej says she’d almost rather do something more grandiose, like jumping from a tall building.
Rish says that Tej would stand a better chance without her, an old argument, and Tej says that she’s just as loyal to Rish as the other way around, even if it’s less genetically compelled in her case. They have a good-natured dispute over nature vs. nurture, and Tej says they need a tiebreaker. Tej points out that killing themselves would be better if they could pin it on the ones who are hunting for them, or even better, the ones who hired them, but consider that unlikely, if they can’t even do it while they’re alive.
They’re just discussing going to bed when the door buzzer sounds; Rish leaps to her feet, and Tej tries to shake Ivan awake, telling him there’s someone at the door, but doesn’t have much luck until Rish rolls him off the couch entirely. Ivan wakes up disoriented, but eventually figures out that there’s someone at the door; while he goes to answer it, Rish and Tej dart off to hide, though Tej makes sure she can still see the entryway.
Ivan opens the door, and the visitor calls Ivan an idiot and asks what happened to him last night; Ivan grabs him and shoves him against the wall. He protests and tells Ivan to be careful of the jacket; Ivan interrupts, calling him “Byerly” and an “ImpWeasel”, demanding to ask why Byerly set him up.
“What went wrong? I thought you would bring the woman back here!”
“Not on a first date, you twit! You always end up at her place, first time. Or some neutral third location, but only if you’re both insanely hot.”
Ivan relents and lets Byerly down, reluctantly allowing him inside. Byerly asks Ivan how he ended up tied to a chair–something that is now in the official records, and with Ivan’s name attached–and how he ended up untied. Ivan responds by telling the women to come out; Tej isn’t sure if they should trust this man, since Ivan doesn’t really seem to, but he already seems know about them. When Byerly sees Tej, he exclaims with annoyance that she’s here, when he’s been looking for her all this time, but when he sees Rish he falls silent and expressionless, though Tej can see his pupils dilate, and she can smell his surprise, fear, and arousal.
Byerly regains his composure and greets Rish with a bow, asking to be introduced. Ivan says they’re not actually cousins, as Byerly has been calling him, and formally introduces him as Byerly “By” Vorrutyer, noting he’s not a Lord anything, not being son of the Count. Tej notes some resemblance between them, not sure whether it’s genetic relation or just general Vor cast genes. She notes that he doesn’t seem scared of any of them, though he is still acutely conscious of Rish. Tej greets By, and asks what he is; By suggests they sit down first, which they do. He asks how the women got there, and Tej said that Ivan invited them, and Ivan adds that he thought it’d be a safe place for them to lie low, which it looks like it was, if By hadn’t turned them up there.
Tej asks again who By really is, and he asks her the same thing; Ivan pipes up with the information he had from Morozov about Rish being Lapis Lazuli and formerly owned by House Cordonah, before it was taken over. Rish says some unkind things about the ones who had taken over her former House, but Tej forestalls her from saying more by offering a Deal, offering an answer for an answer. She’s not sure he’ll go for it, since he could just stun them all and have them fast-penta’d, but he agrees.
He starts by asking Tej her real name, but she says that answer is worth her life, and she insists he prove he has an answer of equal value first. He then sidesteps the questioning by getting Ivan’s story on what happened the night before; Ivan says By owes him big time for him having to “jump tall buildings with a stunner hangover”. By asks why Ivan called Dome Security, and Ivan said he wanted to be sure the burglars didn’t have a chance to escape, and he was too suspicious of other authorities he could have called. What he got out of it, though, was a lengthy interrogation with two officers who seriously wanted to pin something on him–though he tells By he managed to keep his name out of it–which his own boss will have a recording of by now.
Tej interrupts to ask By if he was the one who gave Ivan her picture, and how he knew they were going to be attacked. By says that it was indeed him, and that he knew because he’d hired the goons in the first place. He was trying to prove his trustworthiness to some people he’s “studying”, so he set up the kidnappers while trying to use Ivan to make sure Tej wasn’t there to be kidnapped–not knowing about Rish, or that they would be going back to her place after all; he didn’t know why they wanted her kidnapped in the first place, though. She notes that By is obviously an agent of some sort, and asks what kind; he replies that that would be worth her name.
Ivan protests that her enemies know who she is, so why won’t she share it with her friends? She says that they haven’t proven to be friends, and Ivan says that he has too, though he acknowledges her doubt of Byerly.
Tej rubbed her mouth. Ivan Xav had a point. “Is he trustworthy?” she asked him straight out.
“No, he’s a damned weasel.” Vorpatril hesitated. “But he won’t betray Barrayar. if what you are poses no threat to the Imperium, you have nothing to fear from him. Probably.”
Byerly cast Vorpatril a look of exasperated disbelief. “Whose side are you on?”
“You’ve been known to make mistakes. I distinctly recall pulling your, and your Countly cousin’s, feet out of the fire on one of ’em, spectacularly. But do I get respect? Do I get gratitude? Do I get–”
Byerly, hunching, said, “You got another job.”
For some reason, this settled him. “Huh.”
By accepts her Deal for her name; he tells her that he works for ImpSec, as a “surveillance operative”, normally in the upper-class social milieu, though he’s here following up on some of his upper-class people, criminals and potential traitors, who have moved on to a different venue here on Komarr. Tej points out that it isn’t Barrayarans who are after her, and By says that his Barrayarans seem to be trying to capture her as part of a deal with those who are after her. Ivan says that it was a pretty risky plan, and By says that they wouldn’t have been allowed to take Tej and Rish out of the Imperium, and now he suspects the two of them can give him a lot more information on these offworlder contacts.
Tej realizes that now that they know who By really is, he has a good motivation to keep them out of the hands of anyone who he doesn’t want to know his real job, which means this was a good move for them. Assuming he doesn’t just kill them, but she doesn’t get that scent from him.
Tej swallowed. “Very well.” Her throat felt very tight and thick, as if it were closing off in some deathly allergic reaction. “My full name is Akuti Tejaswini Jyoti ghem Estif Arqua. My parents are–were–Shiv and Udine ghem Estif Arqua. Baron and Baronne Cordonah.”
Wait a minute, Tej can smell By’s surprise, fear and arousal? She notes that Rish can actually detect heart rates, which she herself can’t, but still…is this a haut thing? Or is Tej perhaps a Wolfsister? Maybe this explains why she seems so willing to trust Ivan, if she can read so much of his emotional state through smell, or her other senses. Of course, Rish seems to be able to detect even more, and she’s less willing to trust, so I guess it’s not just that.
By isn’t “Lord” because he’s not the son of the Count…though he is a close relation of the current Count; admittedly, I can’t recall if he’s an actual cousin, or something more removed, but he was at least a friend to Dono. Have Dono and Olivia produced any heirs yet? If not, who would be Dono’s heir? I suppose, after the whole legal issue from A Civil Campaign settled, he can make his heir whoever he wants, but I suppose Byerly wouldn’t be the best choice, and he’d probably be just as happy to avoid it as Ivan, or Mark.
I just did a quick Google of Tejaswini, and I’m convinced that this is not a name that Bujold made up, since the first several pages are dominated by celebrities from India. I’m never quite sure about names ending in “j”, because I’ve had a lot of exposure to those Eastern European languages (not to mention Esperanto) where “j” is used for the semivowel we would use “y” for…and I know that vowel + “y” usually makes what we call a “long vowel”. So if “j” was being used that way in “Tej”, it would be pronounced to rhyme with “day”. But apparently it’s an actual consonant “j”, so it rhymes with “edge” instead. It’s interesting that her nickname isn’t based on her _first_ name…especially considering she seems to be well into a habit of calling Ivan “Ivan Xav”. For full symmetry, she should just call him “Xav”, but I guess that might be a little confusing.
Another week, another chapter…and likely another chapter next week, too. Though Chapter Six looks to be the end of the “sampler”, which has a good ending line, so there’s a slightly chance I’ll push through and do two. Don’t hold your breath, though. You could pass out and hurt yourself.