Good evening and welcome back to the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, is the kind of thing you might be expecting me to say. You might also expect me to mention how this is devoted to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, which is a series of books about Miles Vorkosigan and his friends and family. In fact, you’re probably even expecting me to say something about how I’m currently going through the book Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, which is mostly concerned with Miles’s cousin Ivan Vorpatril, and how I only did one chapter again, and that we’re only a few chapters from the end, or something. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not going to say anything like that, even though it’s all true.
The next morning Tej drives Star and her father into a newer part of Vorbarr Sultana; they drop Star off in front of a pipe-laying firm, but Shiv takes Tej down the street, to meet with a man he knows; he says they’re running short of time, their visa extension not looking promising, and they may need to resort to hiring outsiders for help. After a couple of blocks they arrive at the office of a storage and shipping firm named “Imola & Kovaks”, where Shiv asks to be announced as “Selby”. Soon they are ushered into an office where a middle-aged man seems momentarily astonished to see Shiv, and greets him effusively once they are alone, exclaiming that he thought Shiv was dead.
Shiv asks after his friend’s name, and is told Vigo Imola; he introduces Tej to Vigo by name as his daughter, which hasn’t happened before on any of these trips. She asks where they know each other from, and Shiv tells her that “Vigo” was a liaison officer from their days in the Selby Fleet; those came to an end when they had the contract for defending Komarr from the Barrayarans. Vigo asks about the news of the Prestene takeover, which Shiv confirms, promising to tell him about it later. He asks about Vigo’s shipping business, and Vigo admits that they do a bit of less legitimate shipping, if the price is right, and it’s not too risky. Vigo mentions the possibility of shipping live cargo, though he admits that they generally do it cryofrozen to minimize the risk; there is a legitimate line in shipping tourists back home, and sometimes they take less legitimate frozen deportees offworld as well.
“It was my son-in-law’s idea, to give credit where it’s due. My daughter married this Barrayaran boy, some years after the annexation. I wasn’t thrilled at first, but he’s come along. Junior partner. He’s the Kovaks. Our medical contact is his brother.”
“Glad to hear you’re keeping it in the family. That’s…almost always safer.” Another brief grimace of a smile.
“Heh, daughters getting married–that’s a crap shoot to make the old days look sensible. You don’t know what they’ll drag in. My other one married this Komarran fellow, who is completely useless, but at least lives five jumps away. You folks’ve got the right idea out in the Whole, Shiv–pre-vetted contracts, money and considerations up front.”
“Oh, well….” Dada did not follow this up, to Tej’s relief.
Shiv asks about vans and loading crews, for this weekend, with private storage; he proposes that they leave the van in the underground garage overnight and just drive it away in the morning, though he will want someone there to supervise unloading, and they might need two nights. Tej pictures them bucket-brigading the loot down the tunnel, and supposes they’ll have to leave bulkier items behind. After they’ve unloaded the stuff, they can arrange offworld shipping later, since he’s not sure precisely where they’ll want it sent yet, but definitely out of the Empire. They dicker over price, Vigo preferring a flat fee up front and an additional percentage later once they know the value of the items; Shiv isn’t completely happy, but agrees to the deal.
Vigo asks where this garage is, and is dismayed to discover how close it is to ImpSec HQ; Shiv assures him that they are being discreet, and that vehicles are more thoroughly scanned going in than going out. Vigo still worries about getting involved with anything to do with ImpSec, but Shiv assures him that it’s strictly commercial. The business tied up, Vigo asks after the rest of the family, Shiv’s wife and her dance troupe; Shiv doesn’t confirm that they’re looking to take their House back, but he doesn’t deny it.
They return to the car and wait for Star to return; Tej notes that her father wasn’t completely straight with Vigo, and asks if he trusts him or not. Shiv says that there are always limits to trust, and fast-penta makes it less smart to tell someone everything; he reassures her that soon enough they’ll all be back home, though Tej wonders how hard it will be to restore House Cordonah, and how much it will have changed.
He talks about how Tej was made from a mostly unmodified combination of his and Udine’s genes–which Tej already knows, having been called the “control child” often enough; he says he’d wanted to get her a special marriage contract, and then asks her about her relationship with Ivan Xav. Tej says that she’s happy enough it, and it sounds like Count Falco won’t let her get out of it anyway; Shiv muses that if they don’t realize that Tej accepts it, he can maybe include it as part of a deal with them, and Tej wonders if the prospect will help sway even Simon Illyan.
It was plain that the strange, reserved man wanted some better relations with his stepson than he had yet been able to construct, if only to please his high Vor lady. And more: Simon liked Ivan Xav in his own right–in his own quietly awkward way–though Ivan Xav didn’t seem to see it. The late great Captain Illyan had been superb with security, it was said; maybe not so deft with family. He’d evidently never had one before, in all his long adult life, or was that only…his long adult career? But surely the man couldn’t be compromising his peculiar Barrayaran honour just to secure his stepson’s marriage. Simon was a mystery; how could you tell what he was thinking?
She asks if he’s already made a deal with Simon Illyan, and Shiv says it’s more like a bet, which Tej says is worse. First, he’d bet them that they couldn’t map out the bunker underneath ImpSec’s nose; now they’re in Round Two, the tunneling, which the Mycoborer is helping them get a jump on, and Shiv thinks that they won’t need any more rounds than that.
Tej wonders if Simon thinks that he needs to get Ivan settled so that he can pursue marriage with Lady Alys, and it he thus thinks that sending Ivan offworld would be ideal solution. After all, with Gregor having his own sons, Ivan isn’t much in need as a spare heir. Her father says that he wants to give her what she wants, but he doesn’t know what that is yet; she says she doesn’t either. She reminds herself that she should try to do what’s best to help her clan, especially if it doesn’t do any real harm.
As Star returns and Tej starts driving off, she tells them about Ivan’s plan to get some personal leave and join them; Stars grumbles about it, and Shiv says they’ll just have to occupy him the way they have with Byerly.
On Ivan’s first day off, he manages to invite himself along with Tej, overcoming her evasions, and she gives in and takes him down to the hotel. Unfortunately, he ends up being maneuvered into becoming a second driver, chauffeuring a set of Arquas which does not include his wife, and meeting Byerly and Emerald for lunch. Between all the diversions, he doesn’t end meeting up with Tej again until bedtime–when he finds her dressing to go out again. He fails to lure her into bed, and she tells him she might have to leave if her family’s visa extension doesn’t come through; he reminds her that, as Lady Vorpatril, she doesn’t have to, but this doesn’t seem to reassure her any.
He tells her they need to talk right now, though she continues to pretend she doesn’t know what about; he tells her that he knows about the bunker, and how they mapped it out. He says that, according to Simon, it was cleared out decades ago; she refuses to believe, insisting that her grandmother would have known, and eventually makes him a bet. They will check out the bunker, and if it’s empty, she’ll do whatever he wants, and if it’s not, then he’ll do whatever she wants–which would including helping carry things out, and not talking about it to anyone else. Ivan hesitates, wondering if he’s really willing to bet on Simon Illyan being right, but eventually agrees to the bet.
They drive over to the site, though Tej makes Ivan park several blocks away just to be safe, which nettles him when he discovers their destination is an actual garage; Tej notices that Ser Imola’s van is parked there, as agreed. She knocks on the utility room door and is pulled in by Star, who is not happy to find Ivan with her; she even says she’d like to stun him, but they want to avoid using energy weapons. Star says everyone else is already in the tunnel, and they’re not likely to wait for stragglers before going ahead. Ivan is not happy at the prospect of going into the tunnel.
“Wait, we’re going down there?”
“Most tunnels are underground. Oh, no, Ivan Xav–I forgot about your claustrophobia thing. Why didn’t you say something? I’m sorry!”
“I do not have a claustrophobia thing. I have a perfectly rational dislike of being locked up in small, dark, wet spaces by people trying to kill me.”
Ivan insists he’ll be okay, and refuses Tej’s offer to let him stay behind and operate the pulley. They remove all their electronic devices, and shoes, and leave them in the tunnel vestibule; Ivan isn’t happy about it, but he complies, though he does bring extra cold lights with him. Star gives them filter masks and gloves, explaining that Mycoborer spores might be harmful to their skin or lungs; Ivan complains about them using that kind of thing on Barrayar in the first place.
They move into the tunnel, where Ivan is careful to avoid touching walls as much as possible. They come across Sgt. Abelard and his backpack, which is still sitting in the tunnel; Ivan inspects it, and recoils from the contents of the backpack.
“I do not have claustrophobia,” he…well, it was still a whisper, but it had a lot of snarl in it. It seemed he actually did possess emotional range beyond peeved. “I do, however, have a quite active unexploded bombs phobia. This could be–anything. Unstable, for example. Are you people insane?”
“It can’t be too unstable,” said Star, unsympathetically. “It didn’t go off when it fell in here, and it didn’t go off when pidge tripped over it and kicked it a bit ago. I wouldn’t play with it, mind, but it’s not going to do anything spontaneous, I don’t think.”
The pass a water pipe that the tunnel splits around, and Ivan mutters about the proximity of water in the tunnel as well. Finally they reach a widened area at the end of the tunnel, dead-ended against a wall. Tej’s parents are not happy to see Ivan either, but Tej promises that he’s with her. Amiri is attaching a suction cup to the wall where a large oval has been cut, and he and Jet lift it out before tossing in some cold lights. He peers through and reports that he can see “Marvelous things!”
I almost wish Vigo had turned up a little sooner, because he seems like a bit of a last-minute addition to the cast, considering his importance to the climax in the next chapter. Even if he’d been mentioned to somebody… Well, anyway, it looks like Shiv goofed in bringing him in on it, but I suppose his choices were limited, and his time rushed. I’m not sure if he had a good reason to bring Tej along to the meeting, either, except to give us a viewpoint character at the scene. But, eh, whatever.
I think one of my biggest problems with the Arquas is the sheer size of the clan. Too many characters, and most of them introduced in much too close proximity. Shiv, Udine and Moira get a few scenes, but somehow Star and Pidge are fairly two-dimensional, and I have trouble keeping them straight; Amiri is mostly distinguished by his not wanting to be there; and out of the Jewels (excluding Rish, of course) only Jet gets to have even the rudiments of a distinctive character. Maybe we do need this number of warm bodies to pull off the heist, but it’s just too many people to keep track of.
They hadn’t cleaned up that backpack yet, with its potential explosives in it? You’d have thought they’d have wanted to do something with it, at the very least trying to determine if it was still dangerous. Of course, if it was, they’d want to move it, but it would probably be too risky, whereas if it wasn’t, they wouldn’t really need to do anything to it. So it just sits there, giving only Ivan (apparently) any heebie-jeebies. I do like his characterization of his not-claustrophobia, though. Wonder if he’ll end up trapped in a cramped, dark wet space by people trying to kill him again anytime soon?
You almost got two chapters this week–I read them, at least–but my stamina for actually writing them up failed. It is getting into the exciting part, anyway. Five more chapters plus epilogue, in any case, and after that on to the final book, CryoBurn. (Because, of course, I’m doing them in chronological order, not publication…)
Somebody expressed interest in whatever I may be doing next. I confess, I’m not really sure what I’m doing after I finish the series, but I expect that it will not, at least for a while, be a reread blog. This one was fun, at least from time to time, but it’s become more of an effort as time goes on, and I’m not sure I can think of any other series that I know well enough, that haven’t already been done by somebody else, that I can muster the same level of enthusiasm for. So unless I can get tor.com or somebody to pay me for it, this will probably be it.