If you had one wish, what would it be? Fame? Money? Superpowers? Or perhaps another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread? While you may consider that to be a flagrant waste of a wish, I would point out that it’s more likely to come true than the other ones. In fact here it is right now, another chapter from Lois McMaster Bujold’s CryoBurn, the latest (chronologically) (so far) in the Vorkosigan Saga. This week it’s Chapter Five, as things get somewhat brighter for most of our characters.
Roic doesn’t venture out until he’s satisfied it’s dark and quiet enough; then he kicks the door until the doorframe splinters around the lock, which doesn’t seem to draw any untoward attention. He scouts around, keeping low to avoid the windows; he is the top floor of a two-storey building, with another couple of buildings nearby in the scrubland. He is startled to hear a voice from above; Dr. Raven Durona, who was captured at the same time, is on the roof, and gives him a hand up. M’lord had made sure he and Dr. Durona kept clear of each other at the conference, for some reason. Durona says he’d unlocked his window and slithered out, apparently not having been chained like Roic; the guards sleep on the first floor, but right now they’re mostly in the dining hall. Raven estimates that they’re 100-150 kilometers from Northbridge, deep in the forest, at a former resort accessible only by aircar; it closed down after some legal troubles, and the owner is one of the kidnappers.
Roic asks if he’s seen Miles, and Raven says that he hasn’t, not since they tackled him back in the lobby; there’s only eight hostages here, including the two of them, and the terrorists are unhappy with Roic for helping so many of them keep from getting captured. Raven says the rest of them have been forced to sit in the dining hall and listen to lectures about their ideology.
“Oh. I had a sample.”
“Only a sample? The rest of us have endured hours of it. They marched us down to the dining hall and harangued us till they were hoarse.”
“How come I wasn’t invited?”
“You have a reputation as a bold Barrayaran barbarian–say that six times really fast–too dangerous to let loose. Chains, huh? You were fortunate to miss class. I think they might be trying to inculcate some sort of identify-with-one’s-captors syndrome in us, but are doing it wrong. Old Baron Ryoval could have eaten them all for breakfast.”
Roic had heard a little about Lord Ryoval, the occasional quote from Mark, who had rescued the Duronas from Jackson’s Whole and killed Baron Ryoval in the process. He wonders why Raven is up here; obviously he’s at the conference because of his cryorevival experience, and Miles had been invited to attend a lecture in which he was one of the anonymous patients. Raven is derisive about these idiots’ goals, kidnapping people to try to indoctrinate them when they can’t even get people to visit their website.
Raven says that he’s not quite sure what to do next, since they’re so far from civilization, and it seems foolish to plunge into the wilderness. He suggests they jump someone after they’ve unlocked their lightflyer, which Roic surmises will be mostly him doing the jumping, but he hasn’t seen anyone come or go for quite a while. Roic notes that one of the other buildings looks like it might be a toolshed or boathouse; Raven points out the lake that used to be here has disappeared, so a boat wouldn’t be too useful to them, and it’s hard to hijack a lightflyer with any common tools. Roic insists, though, and they climb down to the ground and sneak into the trees to check the building out; he kicks the door in, and they creep in, where Roic is positive he can smell the old boats. He convinces Raven to help him uncover a big power-boat, which proves, as he’d hoped, to have a working comlink.
From there, he contacts the Northbridge police and uses the boat’s nav system to give them precise coordinates; they are happy to get some information about the kidnapping, but, to Roic’s dismay, don’t have any more information on Lord Vorkosigan. While waiting for their rescuers to arrive, Roic places a call to the embassy as well; he gets a recording, but while he’s leaving a message Lieutenant Johannes breaks in and asks where he is, and Consul Vorlynkin soon joins him. Roic tells them his story and says the Northbridge police are up to date as well.
Vorlynkin asks if Lord Vorkosigan is with him, saying that they’re not sure if he’s contacted them or not, puzzling Roic. Raven speaks up, and Roic introduces him as another delegate, and a friend of M’lord’s; Vorlynkin grumbles about being kept in the dark, which Roic takes to mean that he has received some enigmatic communication from M’lord. They sign off, and wait for the rescuers to arrive; Roic hopes that they come quietly, as he recommended, so that the kidnappers aren’t driven to panic and do something unfortunate.
In the pre-dawn, Miles arrives at the Barrayaran consulate, a tiny building suited to Kibou-daini’s minor importance to the Imperium; the gate is locked, so he climbs over it and rings the doorbell. The local man who answers it doesn’t want to let Miles in, not recognizing him, but he pushes his way in until Consul Vorlynkin sees him. He asks the Consul what happened to his courier, and Vorlynkin says he can answer that, which shows that Jin made it there, at least. Vorlynkin invites Miles, visibly coveting his tea, to join them and Johannes at breakfast; he also notes Miles’s bedraggled appearance, but doesn’t comment on it, except to ask how he got there, which Miles says was on foot, dodging street guards.
“Did you get my don’t-panic message off to Barrayar, and my wife? Coded, I trust?”
Vorlynkin said, a little stiffly, “We notified ImpSec Galactic Affairs on Komarr that we’d heard from you, and that you were not in the hands of the kidnappers.”
“Good enough. I’ll send my own update in a bit.” Miles trusted it would overtake any word anyone had been maladroit enough to hand on to Ekaterin, or he’d have some groveling to do when he got home.
Miles asks if he’s heard anything about Roic and the hostages, and Vorlynkin says that Roic managed to get clear and call in the police; they have since arrived and freed everyone, but Roic still needs to give them his statement. He asks suspiciously about the young man who let him in, and Vorlynkin introduces their sole local employee, Yuiichi Matson; Miles isn’t sure he trusts him, but he decides not to be too paranoid. He asks about Jin, and Vorlynkin says they sent him back with the envelope of money, with a tracer in it; the envelope seems to be in police custody right now, and they identified the boy after his arrest as Jin Sato, an eleven-year-old boy who’s been missing for over a year. Miles says he knows that.
“When my father was eleven,” said Miles reasonably, “he became aide-de-camp to the general-my-grandfather in a full-scale civil war. By age thirteen he’d helped to bring down an emperor. I didn’t figure an afternoon’s jaunt across his home town and back-on a peaceful planet at that-to be beyond Jin’s capacity.”
Unfortunately, he hadn’t reckoned how the heavily-monitored Kibou society might be hard for a runaway to navigate safely, and says they’ll have to retrieve him; Vorlynkin is dubious, and Johannes mourns the loss of their petty cash, which was made untraceable enough that they won’t be able to claim it back. Vorlynkin notes that the police haven’t called them yet, and Miles realizes that means Jin has managed to keep some facts to himself. Miles tells them a version of his story which omits the illicitly-occupied building, fudging timelines as necessary, trying to convey how Jin helped him when he was drug-befuddled; Vorlynkin hopes that Miles’s addled state at the time might help with legal troubles if necessary, and promises to set their lawyer to work on getting Jin loose. Miles says they can notify the police that he’s found his way back, but be careful if anyone else asks about him.
Johannes takes him upstairs to be reunited with his own luggage, recovered from the hotel after the kidnapping; his other possessions are mostly in the hands of the police, though the Consul had been able to extricate the Auditor’s Seal. Miles showers and changes into clean clothes, before starting on his first comconsole search–for Lisa Sato, Jin’s mother, who was apparently important enough to have worried somebody.
This chapter was a bit of letdown in tension. Roic escapes without much difficulty (after a couple of chapters of working on that bolt, I suppose, but no other complications arise to speak of), and so he seems to be out of jeopardy. And then Miles just walks back to the embassy and is also reasonably out of jeopardy. I mean, starting with Miles hallucinating and Roic locked up was pretty good, but it ends up being resolved too neatly. Now the only one in jeopardy is Jin (and perhaps his mother), but we barely know them, and I have a tough time feeling much urgency for them. Maybe next chapter we’ll get back to Jin and see how bad his situation is–getting sent back to live with hated relatives…doesn’t sound that awful, quite frankly, except perhaps in one of those children’s books where all the adults are caricatures, and this isn’t one of those. They could still be objectionable people, but it doesn’t feel the same.
There are still lingering threats–the people who took Miles off in the first place, who may or may not be associated with one of the big cryocompanies, and of course the things we was investigating in the first place, but he hasn’t shared a lot of that information with us yet. And the Lisa Sato thing, of course. I have to assume that maybe we’ll see the people from Jin’s building again, because otherwise why introduce them right near the beginning? But this is, I confess, where I really started to lose confidence in the book.
One thing about doing a reread of this series, as opposed to, say, Wheel of Time or Harry Potter, is that there are major differences between the series. WoT and HP were finite series, building up to the grand finale; I suppose you weren’t quite guaranteed that the books would keep getting better or anything, but you had to keep going to get that resolution. This one, though, each book is sufficiently independent that it contains its own resolution, apart from leaving perhaps a couple of dangling plot threads (like Mark’s existence, or Miles’s seizures, or his crush on Ekaterin). Somehow it seems like A Civil Campaign tied up all the rest of the loose threads, and so Ms. Bujold’s spear-thrust has been getting a little overextended ever since. I’m almost beginning to not wish for any more books…
I suppose I didn’t manage to bring out a post anytime during the holidays, so hopefully you weren’t all too disappointed at that. I should be back on my weekly schedule now, though, so next week another chapter, most likely…