And if you’ll look to your right, you’ll see a lovely specimen of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread. It is, of course, merely a small part of the Vorkosigan Saga itself, based upon a single chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. No, it is mostly about Ivan Vorpatril, but I assure you there are Vorkosigans in it as well. Would you care to take a closer look? Go ahead…
Ivan drives By over to his mother’s apartment, where they find Simon alone, Alys having gone to help host a dinner for the galactic diplomats; Ivan’s just glad that he and Simon weren’t there as “native Barrayaran décor”. Illyan just says “You two again” and then dismisses the maidservant; he asks what they’re up to, and eventually Ian asks right outwhat he knows about what the Arquas are doing.
Simon’s eyes crinkled, just slightly. “I can’t guess, Ivan. What do you two know?”
“That they think there’s something under there, probably Cetagandan and probably dating back to the Occupation, and Shiv and Udine Arqua think it’s valuable enough to fund their attempt to retake their House, which has got to be a high-end hobby. How the hell they think they can extract whatever it is right under ImpSec’s collective nose, not to mention get it out of the Empire, defeats me. But I think not you. Want to give me a clue?”
Simon murmured something under his breath that might have been, But you’re so much more amusing without one; Ivan didn’t ask him to repeat it.
Illyan tries to turn the conversation into a more philosophical one about the nature of knowledge, but Ivan tries hard to keep him on the concrete, complaining that he’s tired and his wife isn’t talking to him anymore. By straight up asks Illyan if he’s made a deal with Shiv Arqua, and Illyan says that it was really more of a bet–and one he can’t lose.
He then tells them about the Arquas’ goal, a Cetagandan bunker built under the current site of ImpSec. He says that they knew about it at the time, but it was marked cleared when they excavated the foundation; it’s less clear whether they know about it now, since sometimes records are lost, or knowledge is lost when the people who know it die or retire. Illyan doesn’t think there’s many people in ImpSec now who were involved the original documents, and while he thinks he was one of them, he doesn’t have any specific memories of it left. Illyan’s intention was always for the park to be used for the site of the new ImpSec building, and the bunker would be examined more fully in the process of excavating its foundations, but the new building never happened.
Ivan asks if Illyan was really going to let them do all this work searching for an empty vault; Illyan said the stakes didn’t seem high enough to get too heavily involved. He wanted to see how far they got before ImpSec noticed, as a bit of a test for the current staff. Ivan pointed out that Illyan was interfering himself, lulling their suspicions when he benignly observed the mapping dance; Illyan says he just wanted to speed things along, and anyway his presence shouldn’t have lulled their suspicions, a flaw he’ll bring to Allegre’s attention. He says he doesn’t think they’ll be able to overcome the problems with trying to tunnel around the ImpSec HQ building, or digging down from above. In the event that they do make it all the way to the vault, he hopes to be able to make some sort of longer-term deal with the Arquas with the aim of improving the situation between Barrayar and Jackson’s Whole.
“House Fell has always been dangerous, but determinedly independent. Morozov believes that House Prestene has strong Cetagandan contacts–and it now controls two out of the five wormholes in a possible first move on a monopoly. The loss of House Cordonah was originally judged to make little difference on that count, as they were thought to be technically neutral but with personal ties to the Cetagandans through the Baronne. Having now met Moira ghem Estif, I am…rethinking that.”
Ivan points out that he doesn’t think the Arquas are likely to end up anybody’s puppet; Illyan said they’d settle for an ally, or even a safe house on Jackson’s Whole. Ivan warns Illyan that he doesn’t think Udine Arqua should be neglected in his evaluation, since he’s seen the two of them together and has the impression that they work together sort of like Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan; Illyan is interested in this observation. He notes that Shiv seemed not to notice the fact that Illyan himself had no actual bargaining power on behalf of the Empire.
By asks if this is just a test for a potential ally, and Illyan asks if they noticed one other thing about what he’s told them. Ivan thinks back, and recalls the wording that the vault was “marked cleared”; Illyan agrees that nobody seems to know now whether it is cleared or not, but he’s asked Duv Galeni to look into it in his spare time. By asks if he should be reporting this, and Illyan unhelpfully leaves it entirely up to him. He doesn’t think there’s much urgency, because the Arquas can’t have had much time to line up the kind of supplies he needs, and they’d also have to solve the problem of what to do with the dirt they dig out of the tunnel; they’ll probably need to get their visas extended or they won’t have time to carry the operation through.
Shortly thereafter, Illyan eases them out the door; By says to Ivan that at least he seems to be on top of it, nothing addled about him at all. Ivan is more worried about what this scenario is likely to do to him and Tej–whether they’ll end up on opposing sides. By asks Ivan to drop him off at home; on the drive, he starts asking ivan for relationship advice, noting that he’s had a lot of girlfriends, even though Ivan points out that a lot of them were just women he was assigned to escort for social occasions.
“You know,” and somehow, probably because of the damned rain, Ivan’s mouth went off on its own: “I’ve always wondered why nobody ever notices that lots and lots of girlfriends entail lots and lots of breakups.” Enough to learn all the road signs by heart, yeah.
By’s eyes opened; his brows climbed. “Huh. You never seemed to point up that part.”
Most of the trouble seemed to come from angling for a high Vor wedding, even from the married women, and he reflects that he sure doesn’t have that problem with Tej–being married is much more relaxing. By says that at least he shouldn’t have trouble parting with Tej; Ivan refrains from strangling him long enough to drop him off at his flat.
He spends the next two days trying to catch up with Tej; she gets home very late, and then his shift the next day runs long, so he misses dinner, and Tej is still “out driving”. The next day he invites her and her family out for dinner, but enough the Arquas show up to derail any plans for a personal conversation, and by the time they get home it doesn’t happen then either, with Rish back sleeping on their couch. And the next day he oversleeps and has to rush off to work.
Tej, Amiri, Jet and Moira investigate the results of three days of Mycoboring. The tunnels are not particularly straight, or uniform in width, despite the claims of Carlo from Galactech. They head into the tunnel with stern admonishments to stay quiet, and wearing fuzzy slippers, which feel odd on the rubbery floor of the tunnel. The tunnels are mostly wide enough for them all to stand up (except possibly Moira), but sometimes they narrow so they all have to stoop, and they curve wildly and unpredictably, with little side-offshoots from time to time.
Jet points out one spot on the wall of the tunnel to Tej, and she almost screams when she sees a skeletal foot, but she keeps her cool, refusing to give her odd-brother the satisfaction. He pulls out a knife and begins digging a hole in the wall of the tunnel, saying that if they want to investigate they have to do it now, before the wall hardens; Tej doesn’t see why they have to investigate at all. After Jet digs through the wall he announces that there’s an open space on the other side, which Tej says is probably another tunnel. Jet widens the opening and then slithers through, telling Tej she should come see this.
The space beyond the hole looks like part of another tunnel, with some bent timber supports holding it up, but it looked like the rest of it collapsed not too far away. There’s still a tattered backpack strapped to the skeleton, and a few bits of metal, including ImpSec collar pins and a necklace with what look like nametags on it, reading “Ssgt. Abelard, V.” As Jet begins to open the backpack, Tej realizes that it must be a bomb; it looks like a gray lumpy mass with wires and electronics connected to it.
Amiri comes to join them, though he complains that Jet should have just left the foot alone. He examines the body and says it probably died sometime twenty to forty years earlier; he’s dismayed at the sight of the bomb, and Jet’s suggestion that they should try to take a sample of it. Amiri asks Grandmama if the explosive’s likely to have deteriorated; she says some do, and some become unstable. Tej votes that they leave it alone for a later trip; they leave the collapsed tunnel, but Amiri wonders where “Abelard” was heading.
When they emerge, Moira is annoyed with them, for having made such a mess, and insists they clean up all the dirt and cover up the hole; she’s not impressed by their finding a dead Barrayaran. She and Tej leave the boys to the work and head back to the entrance; she explains that the Mycoborers encountered some kind of sewer pipe and split in all directions, so they started a new batch going. Tej asks her grandmother about the stability of their tunnel; she reassures Tej that a circular pipe is as secure as two arches, though she admits the Mycoborers’ product is far from that regular.
That evening, Tej is back in the apartment, and at the same time as Ivan, even; she wanders around restlessly, peering into Ivan’s drawer of miscellaneous junk, and asking if he has some kind of ID necklace. Ivan tells her they’re called “dog tags”, though he’s not sure why; he has some, with his black fatigues, which he hasn’t worn in a while. He adds that they’re generally only worn when going into a dangerous situation, to help with posthumous identification; radio transmitter tags have been suggested, but they don’t want to risk making them detectable by the enemy too. Tej mentions that she saw one day, claiming that it was on the floor of a parking garage, and shows it to him; Ivan says it’s an old style, and says he could look it up at Ops and see about returning it. Tej says she might want to keep it, and Ivan says he could give her his old lieutenant’s tags.
Then she asks about old plastic explosives, from twenty years ago or so; Ivan says he did take a course, back at the Academy, and is startled to realize that that was almost twenty years ago. He encourages her to just call a bomb squad if she sees anything that looks like explosives.
“Is that what you’d do?”
“Of course! Well, except for that old guerrilla cache Miles and Elena and I found up in the Dendarii Mountains when we were kids. But we were being very stupid kids, as everyone from Uncle Aral on down explained, very memorably, after the–never mind that now. Anyway, the point is, people can still find old, dangerous stuff lying around on this planet, and civilians shouldn’t fool with it.” Untangling himself from this digression, Ivan finally got back to the important question, which was, “Why do you ask?”
“No reason,” Tej said airily.
Right. Avocados probably did shifty better than Tej. It was most un-Jacksonian of her.
Ivan decides that he’s going to take some personal leave, no matter what ImpSec might think about it, and he tells her he wants to spend more time with her family while they’re on the planet. Tej says she doesn’t want to interfere with his career, and Ivan insists they can do without him for a few days. Tej immediately suggests they have sex, which Ivan senses is probably a diversion, but he’s willing to go along with it.
This means she likes me, right? some awkward young Ivan who still lived at the bottom his brain urged, just before the physiologically induced lights-out.
Surly old Ivan could only think, Ivan, you idiot.
And not one Ivan on the whole pathetic committee had yet been able to muster aloud the only question that mattered. Tej, will you stay?
So now we know what’s up with Shiv Arqua and Simon Illyan, though Illyan does have a few of his facts wrong. He doesn’t know about the Mycoborers, so he expects them to be somewhat further behind on the tunnel than they are; on the other hand, he seems to be open to the possibility that they will succeed after all. I find it a little amusing that he’s deliberately staying as neutral as he can with relation to ImpSec, which I imagine would annoy a lot of ImpSec people if they knew. I imagine they presume him to retain a certain loyalty to his alma mater, after all; some of them may believe him fuddled, but some of them, at least, must know the truth. He does believe that there’s nothing that can go wrong, though, which may be a little bit naive.
Illyan’s statement about lots of breakups may or may not be true; after all, it seems that a person who dates a lot of different people is perhaps more likely to do so because they’re deliberately trying not to form emotional attachments to any of their dates. They would be more likely to be the one to break things off and move on to their next conquest. Of course, maybe I’m just thinking of the TV sitcom caricature of these people, the Barney Stinsons and Joey Tribbianis, just in it for the sex. Someone who isn’t quite so sociopathic about it could end up getting repeatedly hurt, but I wouldn’t have put Ivan into that category. I guess, on some level, it did make an impact. Was it just the “high Vor weddings” he was trying to avoid? Would he have been okay with any of his previous romances proposing a quickie instant-groats affair? Not to mention that he did propose to a couple of the Koudelka sisters back in Memory…
And in the tunnel, we find a little cavity with a dead soldier and some explosives. From 20-40 years ago… Vordarian’s Pretendership falls in that range somewhere, doesn’t it? Say, about 35 years earlier? And the tunnel is going from the parking garage on one side of ImpSec HQ to the park on other side? So that would be about where one might be tunneling if one wanted to blow up ImpSec HQ itself, wouldn’t it? Anyway, I get the feeling that those explosives and Ssgt. (Staff Sergeant?) Abelard has some relevance to what I remember of the climax…
Which looks like it’s only a couple of chapters away now. Tej and Ivan are talking to each other again, the Arquas seem to be close to getting what they want, and there’s only half a dozen chapters left. Yay, things are picking up…