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Archive for December, 2014

Baby!  Sweetie-doll!  So nice to see you!  You remember me, don’t you?  The Vorkosigan Saga Reread?  Yeah, yeah, the one who talks about those Bujold books, about the Vorkosigan guys.  Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’ve been up to.  Like right now, I’m doing this one called CryoBurn, which is actually the last one, about this guy named Miles who’s on this planet called Kibou-daini, hiding out with the help of a kid named Jin, but Miles’s armsman Roic has been captured, and…you know what?  It’s too complicated.  Just follow along with me.

Chapter Four

After Jin’s departure, Miles makes his way carefully back down to the basement cafeteria, realizing that he fits in better in his current tattered clothes than he would in his best.  He starts a conversation with the woman behind the counter, who says he can use whatever he wants as long as he cleans up after himself and replaces what he takes; he settles for a cup of tea.  He hears a familiar voice and sees an old man who must be Yani, grumpy and confrontational, but Miles lures him into conversation by listening sympathetically to his complaints about how things went downhill during the century he was frozen; Miles had plenty of practice with this listening to his grandfather when he was younger.  He wonders what it would be like if people from his grandfather’s generation had been frozen instead, and whether they’d hold back the tide of change when they were thawed.

When Yani starts to repeat himself, Miles ducks out to get them more tea, and chats with the cook some more.  The cook asks if he’s here because he’s sick; Miles says he has a chronic medical condition, wondering how she guessed, and then wonders what she really means by her question.  She interrupts his thought to greet a hairy man named Tenbury, who’s there to pick up his lunch; he notices Miles, who says that he’s a friend of Jin, who’s off running him an errand.  He leaves after promising to fix a leaky faucet; the cook explains that Tenbury is the custodian.  Miles, interested in the utilities feeding into the building, wonders what else he does.

On impulse, he drops Yani’s refilled teacup at his table and heads off in Tenbury’s wake, down a darkened stairwell following his quarry’s flashlight, then through a door into a similarly dark hallway lined with cryo-drawers, active ones.  He realizes that this building is a secret cryo-cooperative for the disadvantaged, which Suze and her friends have managed to keep functioning off the grid.  He wonders how much danger he’s in, if he’s liable to find himself stuffed into a cryochamber himself, frozen, alive or dead.

He knocks on Tenbury’s door, who lets him in after Miles tells him he talked to Suze that morning–omitting that it wasn’t to admit them to their community or anything.  Tenbury also asks after his health, and Miles tells him about the seizure disorder, not correcting Tenbury’s impression that he’s broke.  Tenbury shows him the cryochambers, most of which he says he keeps working by cannibalizing some of them; after twenty years they’re only 10% full, and they can keep on for decades yet, though he muses that he’ll need someone to learn his trade.

Miles still finds it odd to think of being cryofrozen voluntarily, rather than as a last resort.  Tenbury says that a lot of people don’t want to risk dying without a chance of being frozen, but he thinks the corps are pushing it a little too much; Miles agrees that this seems like a self-limiting strategy.  Tenbury notes that there are still refusers, a term that Miles hadn’t heard before, but seems obvious; he considers this a self-limiting strategy as well.  He takes Miles out to see one of the cryo-drawers.

“It seems . . . ​small,” said Miles.

“Not much head room,” Tenbury agreed. “But you’re past sitting up suddenly by the time you arrive in it. I’ve often wondered if folks would retain any memory of their time in these, but the revives I’ve met all say not.” He slid the drawer closed and gave it a fond thump to seat the latch.

“You just go to sleep, and then wake up in a future somebody else picked for you. No dreams,” Miles agreed. “Blink out, blink back in. Like anesthesia, but longer.” An intimate preview of death, and doubtless a lot less traumatic when the blink out part wasn’t accomplished by a needle-grenade blowing out one’s chest, Miles had to allow. He spread his palm on the drawer-front. “What happens to all the poor frozen people”-or frozen poor people-“if this place is discovered by the authorities?”

A brief, humorless grin ruffled the beard-thatch. “Well, they can’t just let us thaw and rot, then bury us. That’s illegal.”

Miles realizes that this makes this more of a worthwhile endeavour, then, though he notes that the law could always change; Tenbury says that at least the deaths would be painless, and he’d rather not wake up in a world like that anyway.  He then says he needs to get back to work, and Miles says he needs to go feed Jin’s animals; Tenbury gives him directions to the stairs back up, and Miles heads up to the roof, hoping Jin is back soon.

Jin is having trouble finding his way around the downtown tram station; he also wonders what’s in the thick envelope Vorlynkin gave him for Miles, but it’s sealed too securely for him to peek.  He eventually finds his way up, his thoughts turning to Miles-san and whether he’ll be properly taking care of the animals; it’s always hard to tell if adults are taking you seriously.

In his distraction, he jumps at a hand on his shoulder, which turns out to belong to a policewoman, a person he emphatically did not want to run into just then.  She asks his name and he claims to be Jin Vorkson, son of an offworlder, on an errand for his mother, but when she insists that they his mother from the security booth, he tries to make a break for it, and fails; she grabs the envelope from him, and calls for backup.  She (Michiko) and her companion (Dan) haul Jin to the booth and give him a retina scan, which turns up his real identity quickly enough; Dan notes that Jin Sato has been listed as missing for over a year.

Michiko asks him about the envelope, which Jin claims is a personal letter he’s delivering for some men; the cops take this as a warning signal, and ask for more details, which Jin refuses to provide.  They open the envelope to reveal a large chunk of cash, and a note which just says “We must trust that you know what you are doing.  Please contact us in person as soon as possible.”  They discuss whether this is about drugs, or feelie-dreams, or what.  Jin refuses to tell them more, insisting he didn’t know there was money in there; Michiko says he’s safe from the men now, and they begin making arrangements to send him home; Jin, knowing he’s screwed up big time, hopes he can keep the secrets about Suze and Ako and Tenbury and the rest, but he worries about what is going to happen to his animals.

With a grating noise and a puff of powder, the bolt popped out of the concrete.

Finally,” breathed Roic.

Comments

The frustrating part about having (or being) a young protagonist is that there is, generally, no really good reason why it has to be a young person doing these things.  Children need to be protected, after all, and shouldn’t be off risking themselves when an adult could probably do it more safely.  But adults are notoriously hard to convince about the things that kids consider to be important, having different priorities.  And when your kid is the protagonist, then, of course, their priorities are right, the adults are wrong, so therefore they become a threat, because, with the best of intentions, they will ruthlessly act for kid’s own good, as they see it, no matter what they want.  On the one hand–I know that you shouldn’t let your kid run back inside a burning house to rescue a favourite toy, or pet, or whatever.  But Michiko and Dan can’t help but come across as villains here.

Admittedly, Jin doesn’t, and can’t, tell them much, because of his illicit living situation, and I’m sure he doesn’t get much sympathy for disliking his relatives, though we haven’t met them yet, so we don’t know how much it’s justified…though I can imagine.  Should he have told them about the Barrayarans?  It would have provided a better explanation for the money and the message, but then it would have led to questions about Miles, and maybe turned the wrong kind of attention on the Barrayarans from the people whose scrutiny Miles is trying to avoid.  Are the police actually corrupt, or is it just Jin’s situation that makes him want to avoid them?  If the government’s under the thumbs of the cryocorps, then I guess they could suborn the police if they want to…

I’m not sure personally how I feel about voluntary cryo-freezing.  Yani should be a cautionary tale about the risks of being revived just to find out that things haven’t improved any.  And presumably it’s not a risk-free process, even if Kibou-daini has it down pat; it’s probably at least as risky as what we would consider routine surgery, which is to say non-zero.  In the case of incurable disease or injury, I guess I could see it as an alternative to swift and certain death, though it does presume a future where they’ve got resources to spare to heal sick people from the past, and add them to their own population.  Something like Spider Robinson’s Deathkiller, I guess.  But I’m not laying odds on that happening any time soon.  I suppose, if you just couldn’t wait for the last Song of Ice And Fire or Stormlight Archive books to be released, then you could freeze yourself for a couple of years, but then you’d find yourself having missed out on years, or decades, of life and popular culture, and these days it’s pretty much impossible to keep up with it as it is.  Okay, maybe Kibou-daini’s cultural scene is a little bit different, but we don’t get into that, do we?

Roic getting free is a great ending for a chapter, too.  Especially now that Jin’s been captured and is likely to be shipped off to his hated relatives, and Miles is stuck waiting for Jin’s return, so at least one of our characters can actually, you know, do something.  Or so we hope.


Next chapter: Roic does something?  Maybe?  Also, it won’t be next week, because Christmas and all that.  Hmmm, and the one after that is New Year’s Eve.  Maybe I’ll try for a post in the middle there somewhere, before going back to the Wednesday schedule.  Sound good?

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The First Thing: This is the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.

The Second Thing: The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of books written by Lois McMaster Bujold.

The Third Thing: I’m on the last book chronologically, CryoBurn.  This week I cover Chapter Three.

The Fourth Thing: Miles Vorkosigan is on the planet of Kibou-daini, befriended by a boy named Jin while he tries to figure out what’s going on on the planet.

Chapter Three

Jin leads Miles down to a tunnel and into another building, which seems to be occupied; they pass a kitchen where some cooks and diners watch them warily.  A woman named Ako asks Jin to have breakfast, but Jin says he has a guest.  They go up two flights of stairs into offices-turned-apartments; most of the inhabitants seem elderly, but Miles supposes that those more capable might be busy doing things.  He notes that there seems to be some usage of public utilities, and wonders how they’re getting away with it.  One floor further up, Jin knocks on a door and is answered gruffly from within.

Suze turns out to be a hunched, elderly woman, somewhat grumpy in demeanour, who is dubious about Miles, referring to him as “Yani’s druggie”, though Miles claims that he had an allergic reaction to some medication, was robbed, and got lost in the Cryocombs.  Jin asks if Miles can use his comconsole; Suze claims that it can’t send out, which Miles finds unlikely, but doesn’t complain.  In a secretive community like this one, he knows, trust has to be earned, and being a stranger can be dangerous.  He says he only wants to read the news, and is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers, which is, admittedly, a situation that has turned out well for him in the past.  Suze allows Miles access, and he checks on the news, not taking long to find an item on the cryo-conference incident.  He, Roic, and Dr. Durona are all listed among the missing, and two different extremist organizations are claiming responsibility.

“That’s you!” said Jin in excitement, pointing to Miles’s face on the holovid. Miles didn’t think it a flattering shot, but apparently it was recognizable. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, just now. Jin went on, “Miles Vor-vor-vorkaseegain.”

“Vor-ko-suh-g’n,” Miles corrected automatically.

Suze, aware of the incident, asks Miles if he’s an offworlder; Miles admits he is, and that they tried to kidnap him, but the sedative they used made him manic instead, and he escaped.  Miles contemplates his position–nobody knows where he is, and he’s tempted to take advantage of the fact, but news of his disappearance or capture has surely already been sent home, and he has loved ones who would take it hard.  He could go to some public place and call for help, but he’s worried someone else might be able to find him if he does; he suspects that the authorities are somewhat under the thumb of shady people whose attention he’d rather not draw.

Jin, bored, asks if he can get them something from the kitchen, and Miles asks for coffee; Jin expresses bewilderment that anybody could like that, but Suze asks for some too, and Jin heads off in search.  Miles takes advantage of Jin’s absence to ask Suze about him, volunteering the information that Jin had already given him.  Suze says that Jin’s father was killed in a construction accident, and without insurance he was denied freezing until it was too late; this drove Jin’s mother into campaigning for freezing as a public right, until she was blamed for a violent rally and frozen herself as a potential mental health risk.  Her family kept quiet, shamed by her behaviour and daunted by the enemies she’d made; Miles doesn’t find any of this surprising, having experience with lots of corruption over the years.

Suze tells him that the system wasn’t too bad for a while, the companies being small and varied enough that they didn’t have a huge sway over the government, but a couple of decades ago the cryocompanies were beginning to agglomerate, and now there’s half a dozen that are in charge of everything.  Miles asks Suze about herself; she says she was secretary of the family corporation that owned this building, bought out and sold off by one of the cryocorps, which itself got swallowed up by WhiteChrys.

Before Miles can question her further, Jin returns with coffee and cinnamon rolls; Suze doctors her coffee with some booze, which Miles declines.  Suze seems to feel like she’s said too much, because she tells him to go to Ayako’s Cafe to get his friends to pick him up; Jin wants him to stay longer, but Suze says he has to go.  Miles says that he came to the planet to learn about cryo-law and -science on Kibou-daini, but he feels like the conference left out rather a lot, and he wants to find out more about it; Suze tells him to look elsewhere, but Miles says he’d like to stay for one more day, if he can send a message with Jin.

Suze offers to spring for his tram fare if he goes; Miles obliquely threatens to tell the police about them, unless they give him some more information.  He mentions that WhiteChrys has also tried to bribe him, which mostly made him curious what they were hiding, and also makes him want to hide from them a little longer.  He assures her that the recipient of his message will do what he says.  Jin says he’ll be happy to carry the message, and Suze, still grumpy about the trouble this little man seems likely to bring down on them, tells Jin to get him something to write his message with, and on.
Jin takes “Miles-san” down to the storeroom, where Miles spends some time looking through an assortment of notepaper, mostly fancy flowered stationery.  Miles selects a pen as well, then looks around at the room.

“This place looks like a junk shop. Or the attic of Vorkosigan House . . .”

“Whenever anybody has findings that they don’t want, they bring them down here for anybody to use,” Jin explained. “Or else when . . . ​um.” When they go downstairs to Tenbury for the last time, but he couldn’t say that. He wasn’t sure he was even supposed to know that.

Miles spots a pile of discarded shoes, and Jin helps him find a pair of girly but wearable sport shoes; then he finds himself a sturdy wooden cane.  Jin leads him back up to the roof, where Miles sits down at the table and composes the note; after he’s done, Miles asks him for something sharp, and Jin finds him a scalpel.  Miles pricks his thumb with it and makes a bloody thumbprint on the sealed envelope; Jin asks him why, and Miles says it’s traditional, but also contains a good DNA sample to prove it comes from him.  Miles tells him where to deliver the note, and writes down the address as well; he instructs Jin to give it only to Lieutenant Johannes of Consul Vorlynkin.  Jin gets tramfare from his limited cache of coins, which Miles promises him he’ll get back; Jin gives Miles instructions for dealing with any animal-related emergencies, and then heads down to the street.

He nervously takes the tram to the unfamiliar east side of the city, and manages to find the Barrayaran Consulate in a neighbourhood of houses in walled gardens; it’s not nearly so impressive as the huge mansion of the Escobaran embassy, though.  He walks through the open gate and presses the buzzer; the man who answers tries to put him off, but Jin says he has a letter, and the man identifies himself as Lieutenant Johannes, so Jin gives him the letter.  When Jin says it’s from Miles Vorkosigan, though, Johannes pulls him inside, opens the envelope, and shouts for someone named Stefin; he is relieved when the letter’s contents announce that Miles is alive after all.  A second man comes down the stairs.

“Look at this! A letter from Lord Vorkosigan-he’s free!”

The second man looked over his shoulder, and echoed, “Thank God! But why didn’t he call in?” Then, after a moment more, “What? What?

The lieutenant turned the letter over and they both read on. “Is he insane?”

They look at Jin doubtfully, and Jin says the thumbprint on the envelope was done in Miles-san’s own blood; Johannes takes the envelope and goes to get it checked out.  Jin asks the other man if he’s Consul Vorlynkin, with the man confirms, even though he’s not as old as Jin expected.  He starts asking Jin about how he met Miles, and Jin tells him about meeting him after he got out of the Cryocombs; he tries to reassure the consul that Miles is okay, but the consul says that he’ll put Jin under fast-penta if anything about the story doesn’t check out.  Luckily, the consul doesn’t press the question of where exactly Miles _is_, muttering to himself about why he sent a child with the letter.

Johannes returns with the news that the thumbprint is genuine, so the consul supposes they’ll have to do as the letter tells them, but they’ll send a copy of ImpSec on Komarr; they’re not likely to override Miles’s orders without approval from very high up, though.  Miles also seems to think Roic was taken, which they’ll have to pursue.  Jin diffidently tells them that Miles has asked for a reply; the consul says he’ll provide one, and tells him to wait, and the two men leave him there.  Jin pokes around a little, but another man discourages this, so he sits and waits; the consul returns with an envelope and gives it to him, with orders to give it to Lord Vorkosigan only, something Jin assures him he can do.  He leaves a little apprehensively, but somewhat reassures that Miles-san seems to have some sort of friends on the planet.

Comments

I can’t help but think that Miles’s correction of Jin’s pronunciation is aimed at some readers.  Well, getting your readers to pronounce your character’s names right is a spotty affair at best.  By now, even if the author declares firmly that the second syllable of Vorkosigan is “ko” to rhyme with “snow”, I’m still going to say “Vor-koss-i-gan”.  It’s still closer than “Vor-ka-see-gin”, right?

Suze explains how the planet got to its current sorry state, as the little cryo-company voting blocs got subsumed in mergers until all that was left were the big companies.  Sounds a bit more plausible than people picking big companies to give their votes to.  It seems like a lack of planning and foresight.   I mean, signing your voting proxies over to the company that’s holding you frozen is one thing if you have assurances that they’re just as liberal or conservative or libertarian or whatever as you are.  But if you don’t have any assurance that they’re going to keep voting that way forever, then it’s just bad planning.

It’s not clear yet whether most of the people who are frozen were frozen because of illness or injury, or if some of them just wanted to fast-forward to the future or something; the latter would be more likely to want to channel their votes into a direction they’d want to specify, while the former may be more focused on supporting first the cryocorps themselves, to keep them frozen, and secondly the medical research that would make it possible to fix their health up when they’re finally thawed.  But once the big companies are in place, then they’re likely going to use their votes to entrench themselves more firmly and maybe try to sabotage their rivals.  So, seems like a good time for Lord Auditor Vorkosigan to step in and fix things…though I can’t remember if that’s what he does.  It’s not really his mission, but then his true mission is a little unclear, except that it seemed to have something to do with investing the cryocorps for the Toscanes.  Unless that’s just a cover story…

The relief of the embassy staff to find out that Miles is still alive and well is palpable, since surely it’d be a black mark on their records for a Lord Auditor, and Count’s Heir, to go missing or die on their watch.  And if it turned out that the planetary authorities were in any way responsible for it, it might lead to some kind of heavy-handed intervention on Barrayar’s part.  Which, again, makes me wonder what the heck is really going on here.  Anyway, we don’t know much about Johannes and Vorlynkin, whether they’re on the up-and-up or if one of them is collaborating with the enemy or something.  Vorlynkin, at least, didn’t seem to be digging too hard to find out where Miles was, which would be a bit of a danger sign.  What the heck is in that letter, though?  What is Miles telling them to do?  I guess we’ll have to wait to find that out too, with any luck.

Also, what the heck is “going downstairs to Tenbury”?  Another cryo-freezing thing?  Another tidbit for later, I guess.


And that’s the Reread for another week, I guess.  Another chapter, likely, next week…week after that is Christmas Eve, so I might take a break, or if I’m feeling ambitious I might do up an entry in advance to post on a timer.  But I wouldn’t count on it; I haven’t finished my Christmas shopping yet, after all.

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Name: The Vorkosigan Saga Reread

Real Name: CryoBurn, Chapter 2

Origin: CryoBurn is the second most-recently published book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, but takes place most recently chronologically, with a several-year gap between it and the last couple of books.

Powers: Multiple viewpoints (Miles Vorkosigan and his Armsman, Roic)

Known weaknesses: Difficulty removing bolts from walls; recent injuries and lack of immediate resources

Chapter Two

Roic wakes, not for the first time, with the effects of the drugs partly worn off.  His wristcom is gone and he’s lying on a mattress on the floor of what he suspects is an abandoned hotel room; one ankle is chained to a bolt in the wall, the chain just long enough to let him reach the bathroom.  The bathroom has a window in it, but the glass seems designed to be unbreakable; there’s another picture window he can see out of, but outside he sees nothing but taiga and scrub, so he must be outside the city of Northbridge.  He begins trying to pull the bolt out of the wall, but it’s too small for him to get a decent grip on.

He thinks back to how he got into this situation.  Four weeks ago, M’lord had been given a new Auditorial assignment, and they were headed offplanet.  Roic was kept busy arranging for M’lord’s travel, and arranging things for his absence from the planet; more difficult was Roic’s absence from his own affairs, which includes his cautious courtship of Armsman Pym’s daughter Aurie.  All told it took less than a day before they left the planet on the way to the planet named New Hope II, but called Kibou-daini by its inhabitants; Roic and M’lord both studied up on the planet during the three-week voyage.

They’re supposed to be attending a conference on cryonics, hosted by several cryorevival companies on the planet; Roic isn’t sure that M’lord’s personal experience with cryorevival, not to mention comfort with galactics and offplanet reproductive technologies, is enough to qualify him for the conference, though.  He also doesn’t see that they’re enough of a threat to warrant M’lord bringing him along as a bodyguard, and yet he’s been assigned to keep watch over him in all of the program rooms.

And he had just about come to the conclusion that the entire jaunt was a put-up job between Lady Vorkosigan and Empress Laisa, to give Ekaterin a much-needed holiday from a spouse who diagnosed all complaints as a sign of boredom, to be alleviated with an exciting new task. Since Lady Vorkosigan already ran an enormous household, rode herd on four children under the age of six and a teenage son from a prior marriage, played political hostess for her husband in his roles both as an Imperial Auditor and as the Count’s heir, had undertaken supervisory responsibilities for agriculture and terraforming in the Vorkosigan’s District, and tried desperately, in her spare seconds, to maintain a garden design business, bets were on below-stairs as to when she would break and respond to m’lord’s idea of husbandly help by defenestrating the little man from the fourth floor of Vorkosigan House. This trip seemed a reasonable substitute to Roic.

Roic wasn’t comfortable not having a backup man, either.  Just a day or two ago he’d come back from a bathroom visit to find M’lord vanished upstairs to a private party, and barely restrained himself from bursting in without being called.  M’lord had been quite happy after that meeting, and later he told Roic that he’d just received his first bribe attempt, which seems to substantiate Empress Laisa’s hunch about what was going on here.  M’lord explained that offers of bribes are excellent if you want to follow the strings back to find out who’s pulling them, and generally you should accept them until you have the information you need.  The bribe was an offer of (non-voting) shares in White Chrysanthemum Cryonics Corporation, a.k.a. WhiteChrys, which is working on setting up a facility on Komarr.  Roic has trouble understanding the odd Kibou-daini system whereby the cryofrozen leave voting proxies in the hands of the cryocompanies storing their bodies, a practice that had been started a couple of centuries earlier when the cryofreezing trend had been on the upswing.

The next day things had gone quite unexpectedly, what with the melee in the lobby, getting separated from M’lord, and Roic getting captured.  He wonders if M’lord is nearby, in the same building, and starts rapping on the walls to see if he gets an answer; receiving none, he goes back to the bolt.  He’d been busily trying to help potential hostages escape when he was taken down by a stunner beam, and now he can only help that M’lord will show up to rescue him.

The door is unbolted from the outside, and opened to reveal a skinny, bruised man who brings in a Reddi-Meal and cautiously pushes it towards Roic, careful to stay out of range.  Roic tells the man he recognizes him from the lobby, one of the less-skilled men who’d participated in the mass hostage-taking.  Roic asks who they are, and the skinny man identifies himself as part of the New Hope Legacy Liberators; as he holds forth on their manifesto, Roic manages to deduce that they’re trying to take back power from the companies and their vast proxy voting blocs, “Burn the Dead” being one of their slogans.  They’re taking offworld hostages in an attempt to gain galactic attention to their struggle; Roic offers to pay some random or reward instead, and begins asking after Lord Vorkosigan, emphasizing that he needs to look after M’lord’s medical issues.  Eventually the skinny man agrees to ask around, but he doesn’t think he’s seen anybody like that around.

Roic has Skinny pegged as a minion, having been convinced by someone that someone else is to blame for all their problems, following happily but not especially bright or reliable.  The N.H.L.L. doesn’t seem to be using particularly lethal methods so far, so hopefully they won’t start killing their hostages.

Because if m’lord died on Roic’s watch, there would be nothing for it but to file the testimony by secured comlink and slit his own throat right here. Death would be better than making that report to certain persons in person. He pictured the faces of Count and Countess Vorkosigan, of Lady Ekaterin, hearing the news. Of Commander Pym, of Aurie. He imagined Sasha and little Helen, five years old-he’d have to kneel to look them in the eye-Where’s Papa, Roic?

He lacked a suitable blade. He’d heard of prisoners choking themselves by swallowing their own tongues-he curled his experimentally-but he doubted it would work for him. There was the wall. Strong enough to hold that damned bolt, certainly. Could he run against that wall hard enough to break his own sturdy neck?

Miles wakes up with a cat sitting on his chest, relieved to find out that the visual hallucinations seem to have gone away, and his surroundings, while odd, seem to be entirely real; in addition to the animals he’d already seen, he sees shelves holding cages and terrariums.  He’s still tethered by the ankle; Jin is sitting nearby at a small table, and proves to an ordinary, dark-haired multiracial prepubescent kid dressed in ill-fitting clothes.  He offers fresh-laid eggs for breakfast, but Miles asks if he can wash up first; Jin scrounges up some supplies and unties him, and Miles gives himself a thorough wash under the water tap around the corner.

Jin boils up some water and puts the eggs in it; he makes sure that Miles knows exactly where eggs come from, which he says some outworlders can’t handle.  Miles tells him that he’s familiar with a lot of Earth animals that were imported to Barrayar; Kibou-daini is more like Komarr, still being terraformed.  He tells Jin about Sergyar, with its more complete native ecosystem, since Jin seems to find the topic interesting.  Miles asks about coffee or tea, but all Jin has to offer is warm bulbs of cola, which Miles decides doesn’t look too appealing.

Miles asks about the building–different from anything the cryocorps would have shown him–and Jin says he’s not quite sure how many people live there, one or two hundred, but his friend Suze might know.  He was brought there by some people who find him sleeping in a park.  Miles asks about family, and Jin says he doesn’t have any here, with uncharacteristic terseness.

“My dad’s dead.” A hesitation. “My mom’s frozen.”

A distinction with a difference, on this planet. “Siblings?”

“I have a little sister. Somewhere. With relatives.”

That last word had almost been spit out. Miles controlled his brows, maintaining an empty, inviting silence.

“She was too little to take with me,” Jin went on, a bit defensively, “and she didn’t understand anything that was going on anyway.”

Jin changes his subject, noting that the eggs are done, and serves them, providing some salt from Ayako’s Cafe.  Miles wonders if Jin is an orphan or a runaway, and what Kibou-daini’s social services would think about his situation.  Miles asks about the comconsole Jin had mentioned earlier, and Jin says his friend Suze has it; he promises, reluctantly, to takes Miles to meet her, though he doesn’t seem happy at the prospect of losing his new friend.

Jin feeds the animals and cleans their cages, but eventually finishes and leads Miles back down the ladder.

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So Roic gets the flashback, not Miles, and manages to fill us in on at least some of what happened, though of course not the stuff Miles did when he wasn’t there, or Miles’s unexpressed thoughts, so there’s still a few gaps.  And Miles’s POV is too concerned with the current situation to spend much time thinking about the recent past…or perhaps his memory is still a bit muddied from the drugs they gave him.

Roic is courting Pym’s daughter, eh?  I’d forgotten that part.  I still remember how Pym was “the new guy” way back in “The Mountains of Mourning”, and now he’s got a grown daughter?  His son was young enough to play with Nikki, nine years ago, at least, so it’s not clear whether Aurie is older or younger than Arthur (or a twin?  Or did Arthur get a sex change?).  Anyway, we haven’t actually met her yet, but then we never did actually see Arthur, did we?  Except maybe as one of the bug-hunting armsman kids back in A Civil Campaign.  For that matter, Aurie might have been one of those, too.  (Is Aurie short for something?  Aurelia, perhaps?  Aurora?)

And, also, Roic is being imprisoned by anti-cryocorp fanatics, “Burn the Dead” people, which may explain the graffiti Miles saw earlier.  It does sound like a highly dodgy situation, cryocorps collecting the proxy votes of their clientele, turning into voting monoliths.  Sounds like one of things that seemed like a good idea at the time and now it’s too late to do anything about it.  Except that that’s what Miles is here for, to smash the cryocorp cartels and free the frozen.  Well, those of them that can be thawed safely, anyway.  It’s not clear yet if most of these people are like the guy who wanted to be frozen until they could fix old age, or if some of them just wanted to skip into the future (like in that Vernor Vinge story), or if there are a lot of people with serious medical conditions who would die if awakened, more like the rest of the galaxy seems to use cryofreezing.

There’s the slightly more minor mystery of Jin’s family, what happened to his mother, why he doesn’t seem to like the relatives who are looking after his sister, and maybe why his dad’s dead, though that could conceivably be innocent.  Jin getting a POV means, of course, that he’s going to be integral to the plot, even after Miles manages to contact his people and get retrieved.  Which may very well happen in the next chapter, of course.


And that chapter will, of course, be winging its way to you next week, barring untoward circumstances.  The electronic copy of the book (from the CD enclosed with the hardcover) says there’s 20 chapters, and there doesn’t seem to be an authorial afterword like in the omnibized books, so that should be exactly what we get.  Well, except for the “Aftermaths”, which are tacked onto the end of that chapter.  I’ll have to see whether I want to devote an entire week to those five drabbles, brief in words but dense with meaning…

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