What’s that, Mr. Scruffy? You say it’s time for another Vorkosigan Saga Reread post? Okay, here it is! Another chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s CryoBurn, last chronologically in her Vorkosigan Saga, in which our frequent protagonist, Miles Vorkosigan, is investigating something odd about the cryonics businesses on the planet of Kibou-daini. No, Mr. Scruffy, there are no cats in Chapter 7. Well, some sphinx statues, but that’s about it. Maybe in one of the other chapters. Until then, enjoy this chapter despite its lack of felinity.
Miles is mostly recovered from his seizure two days later when WhiteChrys send a luxurious groundcar to collect him and his party–Roic, Vorlynkin, and Raven Durona. As they watch the car arrive, Miles instructs Vorlynkin to play along with whatever he says, and generally be a yes-man. The car comes to a stop and an attractive Kibou woman steps out–dressed in Kibou business formal, somewhat geisha-like, with a short skirt to enhance her sex appeal, and her diminituve height and flat shoes seem aimed specifically at Miles. She greets them and introduces herself as Aida, assistant to Mr. Ron Wing; Miles suspects she’d been specially selected in an attempt to appeal to him.
He’d been hoping to meet with Ron Wing, and held out for him during yesterday’s repeated wooings, driving Vorlynkin to distraction in the process. Wing was the man in charge of the Komarran expansion effort, and his underlings had been the ones who had been courting Miles at the conference; Miles is eager to see who’s been pulling the strings. The groundcar is very roomy inside, reminding Miles of his father’s, but Roic says it doesn’t feel like it has nearly enough armour plating. Miles looks out at the city, which looks fairly galactic-standard, with no hint of the endless Cryocombs beneath it.
“The Cryopolis began to be developed some forty years ago,” Aida informed them in good guide style, “when further extension of cryofacilities beneath the city grew too expensive. Now Northbridge has grown out to meet it, and it has become its own municipality, named Western Hope.”
“And how many representatives does Western Hope field to the Territorial Prefecture’s legislature?” Miles inquired.
“Fourteen,” she replied brightly.
As many as the parent-city itself, though it occupied a fraction of the area. “Interesting.”
Several of WhiteChrys’s competitors have showy facilities–NewEgypt has pyramids (and sphinxes, and Anubis-headed mascots), and somehow manages to charge more for space near the top of the pyramid. Shinkawa Consolidated has lights and music, and Aida says they’re trying to appeal to a younger crowd, trying to lock them in earlier into paying their fees over a potentially longer period of time; Northern Spring seems to be on the way down, with a downright stodgy look, though Miles is aware that they’re still in the top half-dozen.
They finally reach WhiteChrys itself, where they debark and walk through a traditional-style garden and into the lobby. Ron Wing is dressed in more traditional formal Kibou business attire, in the most expensive style. With him is Hideyuki Storrs, a high-ranking minion who had been the one trying to bribe Miles before the kidnapping. He notes that Wing seems fully as interested in him as he is in Wing, and wonders why.
Wing expresses regret for Miles’s unfortunate experiences, and hopes that he’ll be able to make up for it with a detailed tour of the facility. They are held to Miles slow pace with his cane, only partially feigned, as his recent experiences, and the seizure, have left him achier than usual. After a brief look through the headquarters building, they head over to the intake building; Wing says that while some of their clients are sent in after being frozen at the hospital, but some come in while still alive to be frozen while still in good health. He offers to let them observe some of the scheduled freezings, but Miles passes on the opportunity, the smell getting to him a little bit; Raven goes off with Storrs, though.
Miles asks how many revivals they do in a day, and Wing hedges, saying he’d have to look it up, and then changes the subject to their acquaintance with Dr. Durona; Miles merely says that he and Roic bonded as captives. Wing mentions a Mark Vorkosigan, who invests in the Durona group, and Miles says it’s his younger brother; Wing asks if he should be involved in the Komarr deal, and Miles pretends a bit of sibling rivalry, expressing a desire to come out ahead of Mark in a business dealing for once.
“And the rest of your famous family? Are you on warmer terms with them?”
“Oh, yes. Though a chance to show them all up doesn’t come along every day.” Miles let his voice turn faintly whiny. “I’ve always had more to prove, on Barrayar.” There, let Wing digest that. A nice balance between jealous greed and the promise of an influence worth peddling. And it would stand up to surface inquiry. Thank you, Brother.
Miles implies that he’s working on suborning Raven Durona as well, to keep him from reporting back to his brother; he tells Wing that Raven doesn’t need to be invited to a presentation on the Komarr Project, implying that Raven is more interested in science than business (which, as a Jacksonian, is highly improbable). Wing, though, apparently hasn’t spent much time off-world.
The presentation seems entirely aboveboard, unfortunately; ImpSec’s investigation of the Komarr project so far has only turned up a few unscrupulous contractors and the like, which WhiteChrys was pleased enough to have rooted out. Miles asks why they’re going for Komarr, rather than Escobar; Wing says that Escobar has some very restrictive cryonics regulations, but Komarr was more open for growth. Miles muses that he supposes they’d have to look offplanet once everyone Kibou-daini already had a contract; Wing agrees, though he notes that they’ve been doing some trading in cryo-contracts, though not, he reassures them, the frozen bodies themselves. They don’t plan to do this on Komarr, though, which Miles presumes is because WhiteChrys plans to have a monopoly there.
Miles asks Vorlynkin his opinion, and if he’s ready to sign up for a cryo-contract; Vorlynkin says he’s more concerned with the living, and mentions some of the bodies he’s had to deal with transporting to and from the planet. They are fed lunch in a Japanese-style building, where Aida turns her sex appeal on Miles full blast. He doesn’t believe it’s worth stringing her along, though, so he provides evidence of being happily married, and she backs off; instead, he complains of financial woes instead, which piques Wing’s interest. Wing manages to delicately convey a nice bribe of company shares to Miles, which Miles of course accepts, though he wishes he knew why they were bothering to bribe him. Wing claims to believe solidly in the Solstice Dome project, and says that he’s transferred his own contract there.
And Miles, connections boiling up at last, thought, Ye gods. I think you’ve just handed me your head.
The last few chapters have been divided fairly neatly between two scenes, from either Jin, Roic, or Miles’s POV. This one, though, is only Miles’s…which is good, I suppose, because I have been complaining about not spending enough time in his head. He spends the whole time acting, though, pretending to be less competent and more susceptible to bribery than he actually is. And I guess, at the end, they give something away, though I’m not sure what. And the next chapters starts with a Jin scene, so I’ll have to wait to find out what the heck our main character was thinking about…
Wing’s evasive answer about not knowing how many cryo-revivals they do is just another sign that these companies aren’t interested in bringing the people back, just accumulating more and more cryocorpses, and their votes. The whole business about trading the contracts as a commodity is just another way of vote-buying, too; after all, if your contract specifies that Company X gets your proxy vote, and Company Y buys the contract, then surely they get the vote, too. And so the system perpetuates. But if they reach saturation, then all they can do is spread out to other worlds.
How is their system going to work on Komarr? I guess there is the whole “planetary share” thing, though surely even a majority shareholder in the planet, if one were to exist, wouldn’t be able to override the Emperor. Do they have some plan to deal with that, too, or have they just not thought this thing through? Or is their plan just too sinister? I guess we’ll find out. Eventually. (Because I seriously don’t remember how the main plot turns out.)
I almost considered doing two chapters, because this one felt shorter, but I’m not sure it was. Plus, the new Order of the Stick book came in, so that’s been distracting me a lot. I should be done it in plenty of time to do another chapter next week, though, so till then…