It’s Wednesday night, again, and that must mean we’re back here at the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, where I get to make another post following the works of Lois McMaster Bujold in the Vorkosigan Saga. This week I continue on through Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, following fan favourite and occasional idiot Ivan Vorpatril as his romantic life takes a turn for the interesting. This week I manage to cover Chapter Three, which once again features both of our main characters, Ivan and the mysterious Tej…
As soon as Ivan leaves, Tej and Rish check out possible escape routes. There’s only one door, but it opens onto a hallway with two lift tubes and emergency stairs; there’s a balcony, but it’s a bit high without antigravity or rappelling gear. They can’t find any surveillance gear either. The lock is quite good, though of course a mere locked door won’t stop everybody. Rish puts their clothes into Ivan’s compact washing machine, and Tej, finding his bathroom, decides to take a long bath.
The scent of him still lingered in the moist air, strangely pleasant and complex, as if his immune system was calling out to hers: let’s get together and make wonderful new antibodies.
She appreciates the brief sensual moment, before it is lost in the reminder of her precarious situation, in the months since the fall of her House. On Komarr things had been seeming to calm down, until last night brought it all back. She wonders again who Ivan Vorpatril is, and why he came into her life.
When she emerges from the bath, Rish is using the comconsole to see if Dome Security has released any information on the night’s intruders; all she’s found is bare statements of fact, no new information. She notes that nobody’s outbid the arrest order yet, though Tej says that she doesn’t think they do that here; Rish is forced to agree, seeing some of the other crimes reported. Tej says the bath is free, and Rish is willing to take advantage of it, though she does wonder how Vorpatril can afford such a nice apartment on officer’s pay; Tej says she thinks this is just temporary lodging while he’s here from Barrayar.
Tej wonders if they can look him up on the comconsole; on Jackson’s Whole, that kind of information wouldn’t be available for free, but Tej’s Betan childhood tutors described an open information network on their home planet, which was one of the most advanced, technologically, in the wormhole nexus. At the very least, they can see what public information there is about him; Rish agrees that she should give it a try.
Tej starts looking for his name, and quickly discovers how many Barrayaran names there are that begin with “Vor”, and even hundreds of Vorpatrils. She sorts them by significance, which puts Count Falco Vorpatril at the top, but Ivan isn’t his son, so she moves on. After moving through a few officers, she remembers the middle name “Xav”, from the card he gave her, and that narrows it down to his proper record. Nothing much on it, though she does note that his birth date and his father’s death date are the same, and wonders what that was like, with a parent he’d never known.
She remembers that he’d send the vase to somebody “Vorkosigan”, and looks up that name too. That family seems to be much smaller, only about a dozen adult males, but Count Vorkosigan seems to be the second most person in the entire database, and his son Miles, an agemate of Miles, also seems to have an impressively long entry. She only knows the basic history of the Barrayaran Empire; they hadn’t planned on spending a lot of time here, just passing through the jump stations. She knows about its Time of Isolation, the Cetangandan invasion, and Barrayar’s counter-invasion of Komarr after the Cetagandans were driven off…and the botched invasion of Escobar after that.
It was still a matter of profound respect and awe, to Jacksonian students of the great Deals of history, how evil Emperor Ezar had managed to hang on the newly discovered planet of Sergyar during the treaty settlements, adding it firmly to his empire before dying and leaving his throne to a five-year-old grandson.
Jackson’s Whole is just as happy to have several systems’ buffer between itself and the Barrayaran Empire, but unfortunately there are also several systems still in the way of Tej and Rish’s escape to Escobar, or Beta Colony. She returns to Ivan’s record, but can’t find anything there to lead her to believe him more than a dull middle-rank officer…so how had he gotten involved in their problems? Rish emerges from the bath, they share a wine-and-ration-bar brunch, after which Tej falls asleep on the couch.
Ivan blames his slight lateness on a bubble-car jam; Admiral Desplains notices his somewhat squinty appearance, and is amused but skeptical of Ivan’s assertion that he was kidnapped and tied up by two beautiful women. Ivan only barely manages to stay awake through the morning’s three-hour meeting, and afterwards grabs a coffee, painkiller and rat-bar lunch before deciding to talk to someone at ImpSec Galactic Affairs.
He’d met Captain Morozov before, after the Mark incident, and trusts him sufficiently to talk to him. Implying, though not outright stating, that he’s getting information for Desplains, he asks Morozov about a suspected Jacksonian, and gives him a description of Rish. Morozov immediately brings up a startling image.
The vid showed a group portrait, posed and formal. Rish, it was clearly Rish, knelt on one knee, second from the left. She was wearing very little: a gold thong and a winding pattern of gold foil that appeared to be glued on, barely covering other strategic points and twining up to her neck as if to present her face as an exotic blossom. Surrounding her were four other women and a man. They had slightly varying heights and builds, but all looked equally lithe and shimmering. One woman was white and silver, one yellow and metallic gold, one green and gold, one red and garnet, and the man was jet black and silver. Six faces differently but equally exquisite, smiling faintly, serene.
Morozov says they’re Baronne Cordonah’s living Jewels–Pearl, Ruby, Emerald, Ropaz, Onyx, and Lapis Lazuli (Rish). They were partly decorative, partly dancers, and what Jacksonians called “jeeveses”–unswervingly loyal servants/slaves, their loyalty ensured either genetically or through conditioning. Ivan recognizes Cordonah as the name of one of Jackson’s Whole’s jump-point stations, and Morozov says that the masters of House Cordonah were, until recently, Shiv and Udine ghem Estif Arqua.
Ivan immediately asks why “until recently”, and why there’s a Cetagandan ghem name in there, and Morozov offers to tell him the story; Ivan checks the time, but isn’t going to pass up free information from an ImpSec analyst. General ghem Estif was, as most Barrayarans would know, one of the last generals involved in the Cetagandan occupation of Barrayar; he’d been awarded a haut wife, and they lingered on Komarr after being driven off-planet rather than return home for a fatal apology to the Emperor. They had a daughter, Udine, who married a Komarran shipping magnate; when the Barrayarans invaded Komarr, Udine and her husband fled offplanet with the aid of Shiv Arqua, a mercenary captain from the Selby Fleet. Udine soon left her husband and settled on Jackson’s Whole with Arqua, who she helped rise in House Cordonah. Ivan speculates on what Shiv Arqua’s appeal might be; Morozov shows him a picture of the couple, Udine tall and gorgeous with long haut-woman hair, and Shiv Arqua dark-skinned, stocky and bald.
Morozov says that the Cordonahs had moved into the hostage recovery business, and had a remarkably good track record; they were also willing informants, admittedly for both sides, but with high quality info, and Morozov admits he misses them. He explains that several months earlier they’d been victims of a hostile takeover by House Prestene, and nothing had been heard of them since, so it’s assumed that they’re both dead. He asks Ivan where he might have seen this Lapis Lazuli, and Ivan hastily excuses himself, because he’s genuinely running late now. Morozov says he hopes they can talk again soon, and conveys his best wishes to Ivan’s stepfather; Ivan says that Simon Illyan isn’t his stepfather yet, and belatedly realizes why an ImpSec man might want to get into his good books…
At the end of the day, Ivan is heading out of the office with Admiral Desplains, his mind whirling, trying to figure out where to pick up food for his guests, when a security guard calls out to them to wait. Apparently two Dome Security people want to interview Ivan; Desplains wonders what trouble Ivan could have gotten into after only four days, and Ivan says that he doesn’t know, not adding that he certainly has his suspicions. Desplains tells Ivan to go along and talk to them, and he can report in the morning.
Ivan finds the security officers, Fano and Sulmona, in a small and unappealing conference room; Fano, a man, is in plainclothes, Sulmona, a woman, in uniform with stunner and shock-stick. Fano invites him to sit down, while Ivan tries to remember that counterinterrogation course he took back at the Academy; he agrees to let them record him, as he’s sure they’re being recorded anyway. As he’s feared, they’re investigating his connection with “Nanja”; she hasn’t been seen since her apartment was broken into, and he was one of the last to have seen her, having been placed at her work before she went home.
Ivan tells the story mostly straight, with a few modifications. For one thing, he pretends to have met her by chance at the shipping shop, and then met her again by chance on her way home; he insists to the skeptical security people that he wasn’t stalking her, and could take no for an answer, but he thought he’d give her another try. He also omits mention of Rish, claiming that Nanja shot him with a stunner; Fano asks if he’d been attacking her, and Ivan says, nettled, that if he’d been trying, he’d have succeeded, but she took him by surprise. He skips to waking up tied up to the chair, and claims that he tried to escape quietly, not knowing whether or not he’d fallen into the hands of anti-Barrayaran terrorists or something; then the men appeared outside the window on the float-pallet.
Fano says that the men initially claimed to have seen Ivan while on their way to return a borrowed float-pallet, and broke in to try to rescue him; Ivan says that they definitely did not know he was there when they cut their way in, and asks if they’d fast-penta’d them to check the story. Fano says they did, apparently not being important enough to have any implanted allergies or anything, their organization preferring to rely on a cell system so they didn’t know too many of their fellows. They confirmed that they’d been hired to pick up Nanja and her maidservant and hand them over to another cell; Ivan says he never saw the maidservant, that he’d tried to convince the burglars to release him, but they were stunned by people he couldn’t see, and who were gone by the time he got free, and he had no desire to hang around.
Sulmona then brings up the recording of the anonymous tip that brought them in, and dryly notes that they now have a positive voice-match on it, and a record of his bubble-car rental a few minutes later. Ivan admits he wanted to bring Security there without getting further involved, before the two goons woke up. Fano reminds him that he committed crimes both by leaving the scene and placing a fake call; Ivan says he had a major stunner hangover, which may explain why he sounded drunk, and just wanted to get out of there before he was late for work. When they ask him what important duties he was afraid to miss, he tells them that it’s classified; they ask about a potential fast-penta interrogation, and he refers them to his commanding officer, who would have to refer the request to Guy Allegre himself, which they all know means it’s not likely to happen.
“Yes, but didn’t you even report this incident to your own security, Captain?” asked Fano.
“I reported it in brief to my commanding officer.” True in a sense, but oh God, wasn’t Desplains ever going to fry him in the morning over that.
He says that he wasn’t on duty when this happened, so he considers it just a misadventure, a bit of a mystery, but that’s ImpSec’s job, and if they want him to know what happened, they’ll tell him. Sulmona says she doesn’t like not knowing what happened to the woman; Ivan says she probably just went into hiding somewhere else, and Sulmona wonders why she didn’t go to Dome Security instead of running away. Ivan shrugs and says they should look to where she came from–which, supposedly, was in Olbia Dome. They thank him for his cooperation, and he escorts them out.
I’d never really thought to wonder why Barrayar did end up with Sergyar after the abortive Escobar war. I guess I just assumed that they had actually discovered it before Beta Colony–after all, they had their supply depot in place already when Cordelia and the Betan Survey team were exploring it. Even if they kept it a secret from everyone. And that was before the actual Escobar war. Of course, Sergyar wasn’t mentioned by name very often for several books, and it took a long time–maybe until Mirror Dance, when Aral was being offered the job of Viceroy–before I clued in that it was the planet from Shards of Honour. Apparently the Jacksonians, at least, were impressed by Ezar hanging on to the planet despite the ignominious defeat. The Barrayarans can’t have given too much up in the peace treaty, since I don’t recall reading anything about forced disarmament or anything. Maybe they just had to pay reparations or something…
It’s a little amusing that Ivan’s biographical entry is so small, especially compared to Miles and Aral. I’m going to assume that Miles’s still doesn’t contain any mention of the Dendarii Mercenaries, since it’s still technically a secret, however certain they are that the Cetagandans know all about it, but I guess between his unfortunate birth and his later career as an Imperial Auditor, he’s had enough to fill a respectable entry. Ivan’s damsel-in-distress misadventures probably don’t get the same kind of writeup, he’s not married, and he’s spent a lot of time avoiding the limelight, so his own birth is probably the most notable thing in there. Though, while he isn’t close to inheriting the Vorpatril Countship, he is reasonably close to the Vorkosigan Countship (less so now that Miles has a son, of course–and do Gregor and Laisa have kids yet?), with its concomitant weak claims on the Imperium, so you’d think that would warrant a mention too… Or maybe there’s just a big long list of “Line of Succession to the Barrayaran Imperium” with his name at #8 on the list or something.
Ivan has now found out some more details about Tej’s probably Jacksonian origin; it seems highly likely at this point that she’s related to House Cordonah in some way, and possibly to the Baron and Baronne themselves. I’d forgotten about the Cetagandan connection, though I guess Udine herself, born and raised on Komarr, may not have identified as Cetagandan, and was obviously won over to the Jacksonian point of view at some point.
The interrogation scene is almost a bit tedious, since we’re going over the same events again, this time with a cover story, so unless the point is to establish the Komarran Security personnel as characters (which I don’t think we are), it could have been handled with a simple “Ivan told them what happened, leaving out Rish and Byerly’s mission entirely” or something like that. Oh, well.
This is one of the few books where I read a substantial sample before the book came out, in this case the first six chapters, so we’re only halfway there so far. So far I am not feeling an urge to pick the pace back up, so for now, expect another chapter next week…