Good evening, Bruce, and welcome to the Literature department of the University of Woolloomooloo. Bruce and myself have been spending some time going over the works of Bruce McMaster Bujold, particularly the Vorkosigan Saga, about the adventures of one Bruce Vorkosigan. This week we look at another chapter in the novel CryoBruce, where, in Chapter 12, Bruce tries to figure out what happened to the real body of Bruce Sato, Bruce and Bruce’s mother. So crack a beer, sit back, and enjoy the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.
Miles just barely kept himself from blurting, idiotically, Are you sure? Neither set young face held the least doubt. “Then who,” he choked, wheeling to stare at Raven, at the draped figure on the table, “was it that we just . . .” Murdered was unfair, as well as inaccurate. And, he suspected, would also be deeply offensive to the upset cryorevival specialist. “That we just . . .” Fortunately, no one here seemed to expect him to fill in the blank.
Raven says the numbers matched the ones Miles gave him, which meant that either he got the wrong drawer number, or somebody fudged the numbers somehow, either to deliberately hide Lisa Sato’s body, or by accident; the last possibility is so depressing that Miles discounts it for now. Or, it occurs to him, they might just have been pre-empted–somebody else might have substituted a body for Sato’s.
Trying to stick to facts they can actually obtain, he asks Raven to identify the actual body; Vorlynkin reminds him of the presence of the children, and Miles realizes he should deal with them before they get too disturbed. He takes them back outside and apologizes to them, saying that he still wants to find their mother, he just needs more information. They ask him if they’ll have to go back to their aunt and uncle, and Miles says they can go back to the consulate with Vorlynkin, until they turn up some more data; he’ll go back there after he helps with the cleanup. He tells the Consul to get Johannes to look for Lisa Sato’s acquaintance Dr. Leiber, the only solid lead they had.
Roic, awakened by the commotion, emerges from the room he’d been bunking in and asks what’s going on; Miles brings him up to date, and is rewarded by a particular type of Armsman-bland that conveys Roic’s opinion of the situation; he reinforces it by noting that they could have been on their way home by now if they’d left after the meeting with Wing, though Miles notes that they can’t stop now.
They go back into the lab, where Raven and Tanaka have cleaned up from the aborted revival and are preparing for the autopsy; Tanaka asks if they still get the free revivals, and Miles says he’ll hold to that, since they’re likely to be back. Raven asks if they want to send samples to a commercial lab, or make do with what equipment they can scrounge; to do the job as good a commercial lab, he’d need to bring in some of his team from Escobar, which will take longer. Miles says he doesn’t want this information getting out yet, so he tells Raven to go as far as he can without help, and then they’ll reassess; he tells them his theory, that this was a deliberate substitution, and he hopes that this woman’s identity will lead them to whoever took Sato’s body in the first place.
He notes the possibility that Lisa Sato might never have been frozen at all, and Raven comments that that seems a needlessly cruel thing to do to her children; Miles says that it might have been more dangerous for her to stay with them. Tanaka, inspecting the woman’s wrapping, mentions that it’s the kind used decades ago, back when she was a student; Miles presses her for more information, and she says it was used from about fifty years ago to about thirty.
Jin and Mina are quiet in the lift van back to the consulate; Vorlynkin apologizes to them for the mixup, and Jin says it’s not his fault. Vorlynkin says he’d have been furious if his daughter had been the one dragged into this; Mina asks about his daughter, and Vorlynkin says she’s on Escobar with his ex-wife, her mother.
“Why are you divorced?” asked Mina. If they’d been sitting together, Jin could have kicked her in the ankle to shut her up, but unfortunately she was out of reach.
Vorlynkin shrugged. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault, really. She was an Escobaran. I met her when I was stationed at the embassy there as a junior secretary. When we first married, I thought it was understood that she would follow where my career took me. But by the time I was offered the promotion and the transfer to the Barrayaran embassy on Pol, Annah had come along. And my wife changed her mind. With a baby to look out for, she didn’t want to leave the security of her family and her homeworld. Or she didn’t trust me enough. Or something.”
He says that now she’s remarried, and her new husband wants to adopt Annah, and he wonders if that’s for the best; Mina says she’d want her real daddy, and Jin says that it’d depend on if he was a nice guy. Jin asks if he couldn’t have just refused the transfer, being a diplomat rather than a soldier, and Vorlynkin says that he’d made the choice back then, though he’s not sure he’d make the same choice again.
Back at the consulate, Vorlynkin gets them some food, then Mina goes upstairs with the cat while Jin goes to check on his creatures; afterwards he goes upstairs too.
As he sat on his bed and plotted his recapture of the cat, Mina sniffed and said, “They lied.”
“Grownups always lie.” Jin brooded. “Mom lied. She always said everything was going to be all right, and it wasn’t.”
Mina drifts off to sleep, and Jin sneaks the cat away from her and goes to lie on his own bed; he wishes he were back at Suze-san’s, and wonders if he should have left Miles in the street after all. He dozes until awakened by Roic, a couple of hours later, who asks him if he can come to look at something on the comconsole. Roic waits until the kids are ready and leads them downstairs.
Now that he was getting used to the big man, Jin kind of liked Roic. For Miles-san, it must be like owning your own private grownup, following you around and doing stuff for you. Except you got to tell him what to do, instead of the other way around. Jin wished he owned a Roic.
They go down to the room in the basement with all the spy equipment, where they join Miles, Raven, Vorlynkin and Johannes. Raven is using a machine that he identifies as a DNA scanner, which he is happy to find at the consulate; Miles calls them over to his comconsole, where he’s brought up pictures of different Dr. Leibers for them to look at. Mina has trouble deciding between them, not having caught more than a glimpse of the man and that years ago, but she is sure that he had black hair and was old, at least thirty. They narrow it down to two men, and Mina thinks it’s probably the skinnier one, but Roic says it’s probably that’s as far as she’ll be able to help them; Miles points out that the skinny one works at NewEgypt Cryonics, while the other is an obstetrician, so he’s inclined to pick the skinny one. Roic notes that this Dr. Leiber seems to have taken the corporate route rather than fleeing like Miles had predicted, but Miles says they just need to find out the whole story.
Meanwhile, Raven and Johannes have found a DNA match, with a picture that matches the cryocorpse they’d failed to revive; she seems to have been a woman named Alice Chen, frozen about 45 years ago, and they have a wealth of information about her from the public database. She seems to have had a blood disease, probably why she was frozen, though Raven says it shouldn’t have affected her revival, and the disease is curable these days. Miles wonders again why she was switched with Lisa Sato, which is now his working theory; Chen was frozen at a different facility and moved to the Cryopolis later, and then swapped with Lisa Sato. Mina asks if somebody stole her mommy, and Miles says it looks that way, but hastens to reassure her that that means they probably cared enough about her to keep her safe.
Miles says the next step is to meet with Dr. Leiber, somewhere outside of work; Roic says he needs a proper perimeter this time, and Miles agrees, and says he can even take Johannes along. He adds, to the children, that if Dr. Leiber is a solid lead, then they’ve definitely earned payment as informants, and couriers as well, even if Jin was captured before he could finish his job.
“You propose to pay them adult rates?” asked Vorlynkin. Jin thought he sounded more startled than disapproving, and hoped he wouldn’t try to talk Miles-san out of this wonderful idea.
“Damn straight.” Miles-san added, “My case budget allows for a lot of discretion, you know.”
“Then I wish you’d buy some,” snapped Vorlynkin. He shut his mouth abruptly, as if startled at what had fallen out of it.
I’m not sure why Raven suggested going to a public lab, since it must be clear that Miles wants to keep this all on the hush-hush; he seems a little more practical than that, being a Jacksonian and all. Perhaps he’s thinking that a sufficient fee will be enough to ensure their secrets are kept, or perhaps he’s just pessimistic about what he can achieve with limited equipment. Unwarrantedly, apparently, since he’s able to identify her just given the DNA scanner and comconsole access at the consulate.
Not sure about the significance of the conversation about Vorlynkin’s divorce–character-building? Thematic resonance? Surely it doesn’t come into the plot later or anything… I suppose that Vorob’yev got a romance somewhere in the back corner of Cetaganda, but I just wasn’t sure that we were devoting that much attention to Vorlynkin.
This is the point of the book where I begin to lose track of why we’re doing this. It’s like in Komarr, where we started out looking at the soletta disaster and then kept spending time on the embezzlement at the terraforming station, until, luckily, it looped back around. Miles was sent to Kibou-daini to investigate this new cryocompany setting up on Komarr, and now he’s chasing after a frozen protester who happens to be the mother of a runaway he bumped into by chance. Why does he think that this is going to pay off, again? I’m all for serendipity, but I guess what I prefer is for the protagonist not to be counting on it paying off.
Come back next week for another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread…probably with less lame Monty Python references. There’s still several more chapters before I ring down the curtain and the book joins the choir invisibule…