You can get anything you want at the Vorkosigan Saga Reread…as long as what you want is synopsizing, summarizing and rhapsodizing about the works of Lois McMaster Bujold. She wrote a whole bunch of books about the Vorkosigans, mostly a guy named Miles, and this one is the one named CryoBurn, which is the last one that she wrote, except for the one that came before it. So now sit back and relax, and we’ll cover Chapter Fourteen as soon it comes around again on the guitar…
After a day or so, Miles eventually concludes that he may have been wrong about Leiber coming to the consulate, so he sends Roic and Johannes out to look for him. Leiber has apparently called in sick at work, and doesn’t answer at home, so they head back over to his house. On the way, they pass a building that advertises itself as for people born in a particular couple of decades in the last century; Johannes explains that people who’ve been revived and miss their old time often gravitate together.
At the house, they find the garage unlocked and the float-bike gone; toiletries and a few clothes seem to have been taken, the house tidied, Miles’s note gone. Johannes begins dumping the contents of Leiber’s comconsole, noticing after a while that it’s monitored; he assures Roic that this activity won’t be noticed, and they might be able to trace it back to its source. They check the last two days’ worth of communications; apart from calling in sick, Leiber seems to have emptied his bank accounts and purchased passage to Escobar on a ship that will be arriving at the planet that afternoon. Roic considers asking the neighbours if they know anything, but decides that after their last visit, they’re not likely to trust him.
Johannes suggests he might have gone to hide with a friend, but Roic thinks he wouldn’t want to endanger them, so they head out to the shuttleport to look at lodgings nearby. Roic starts with the cheapest, a self-serve place with no employees to remember faces, but they find Leiber’s float-bike parked around back; Roic accepts Johannes’s admiration for finding him so quickly modestly, thinking that it’s partly luck and partly practice gained trailing around with the Lord Auditor. They sit in the float-van for a while trying to puzzle out Leiber’s enemies’ next move; a cryocorp might be able to get Leiber arrested on trumped-up charges, but that would call attention to themselves, so they might prefer to sending some goons to pick him up, and they might not have any more trouble tracking him down than Roic did.
Roic’s attention is caught by an emergency vehicle, with flashing blue lights, pulling up in front of the building; two burly men in scrubs jump out with a float pallet and run inside. Roic, suspicious, goes inside and asks the desk clerk what’s going on, and she says one of their guests just called for medical assistance, some kind of seizure or something; she says she needs to go back and make sure his property is taken care of, and Roic waits in the lobby. The men come back out with a float pallet, Dr. Leiber strapped onto it with an oxygen mask over his face. Roic follows them as they leave, asking with concern what happened to the man, if they need help, if this hotel is too dangerous to stay at…annoyed, they tell him it’s perfectly safe.
The pair swung the van doors wide and slid the pallet aboard, both climbing inside to secure it.
Roic stuck his head in after. “You sure?”
“Yes, it’s safe,” said the tall one, exasperated, from the windowless cargo area.
“Good,” said Roic, pulled his stunner, and shot them both.
Roic quickly checks the two goons to make sure they haven’t had bad stunner reactions, and secures them for a bit longer; Leiber has lost consciousness as well, but seems to otherwise be all right. Roic tells Johannes to lead him back to Suze’s place, and drives the ambulance after him, calling m’lord to notify him, and wondering if working for the Lord Auditor is being a bad influence on his respect for due process.
Jin and Mina, feeling rich after Roic paid them their informant fees, talk about what they want to do with their newfound wealth. Jin thinks first about food for his pets, or even new pets, maybe some fish, though Mina isn’t sure they’re going to stay here that long. Mina asks if she has enough for a pony, but Jin says they don’t have room for one, and points out that Lady Murasaki has twice as many legs, so she’s twice as good; Mina, unconvinced, says you can’t ride a spider.
Miles and Vorlynkin pass through on their way out, saying they’re going down to Madame Suze’s again; Jin wonders why they’re spending so much time there, and why Raven hasn’t come back. Miles says that Yuuichi Matson will still be there, but they should try to stay out of sight if any strangers come by on business. Mina asks if they’ll find Mommy soon, and Miles says he hopes to have good news soon; Jin can’t tell if he’s telling the truth or not.
“Lord Vorkosigan, if you had children you’d give them ponies, wouldn’t you? Not spiders?”
He looked a little taken aback. “I do and I have. Ponies, not spiders. Although I suppose they could have spiders if they wanted some. God knows we have butterbugs. Monogrammed. Didn’t I ever show you my pictures?”
Jin is dismayed when Miles shows him that he already has a wife and four children, and wonders again who exactly he is, to seem to have such power.
“And here’s Helen on her pony down at Vorkosigan Surleau-it’s a place we have in the country, on a lake-and here’s Sasha petting his. Xander. Alex, I mean.”
Jin wondered what kind of inattentive father Miles-san was, that he couldn’t seem to remember his own son’s name. There was only the one boy, after all. It wasn’t as if he needed to run down a list till he got to the one who was irritating him, the way Uncle Hikaru had with him and Tetsu and Ken sometimes.
He’s impressed with the ponies, though, and the big place in the country, and all the animals, tame and wild, that must be living around there. All of it belonging to other children, with living parents, and none of it for them; he’s angry and envious, even though he knows it’s ridiculous. Miles tells them about how his grandfather would have thought it vital for them all to learn how to ride, calling it a sort of tradition, though he doesn’t sound sure how he thinks about it.
Miles and Vorlynkin depart, leaving Jin and Mina feeling sad, disappointed, and less rich than before; they admit it was probably a stupid idea, him wanting to take them away, and Mina wonders if they shouldn’t just go back to their aunt and uncle’s. Jin says he’s going to stay, and says she has to stay too, or else she’ll tell them where he is; Mina is not happy about this, and points out that two ponies would have eight legs.
Matson comes in, asking Jin if he’s cryo-activist Lisa Sato’s son; Jin says he is, not sure whether it’s supposed to be a secret, but since Matson already knows… He asks Jin if he needs somebody to call the police to rescue him from the Barrayarans; Jin, horrified, says the police took his mother away in the first place, and his relatives are even worse. He denies that they’re prisoners, and Matson apologizes, but says he’ll help them out if they change their mind.
At Suze’s place, Miles goes to talk to Lisa Sato. She’s still in bed in her isolation booth, but looking healthy for a revive; Miles puts on a mask and joins her, introducing himself. She asks about him and the doctor who revived her, seeming suspicious of everything at the moment; Miles tells her about Dr. Durona and the facility they’re staying it, confirming that it’s in Northbridge. She asks if he really has her children, and he tries to assure her that they’re safe, being sure to mention the menagerie to help convince her of his good intentions; she is surprised at his mention of the Barrayaran consulate, asking who he is and why he’s there.
Miles asks about the last thing that she remembers, but she stays mum on that; he says he knows little between her arrest, witnessed by her children, and her discovery in Dr. Leiber’s basement. He explains how he works for the Barrayaran Emperor, and he’s investigating WhiteChrys’s odd behaviour on Komarr; he describes what he’s found, and his bribery sting, and she seems to approve. Then he mentions the conference and N.H.L.L., of whom she does not approve, and how he got lost until found by Jin. She says she thought she’d only be held a day or two before her lawyer sprung her, and she wonders why her children aren’t still with her sister; she’d been sedated while at the police station, and hadn’t realized she was going to be frozen. Miles says that Jin seemed to be in conflict with his aunt over his animals, which is why he ran away, and Mina joined him more recently; he says Jin can tell her the full story.
Miles changes the subject to ask about her relation with Dr. Leiber; she says he’d come across a secret at his work, and thought that her group–whose names had all come up in talking to Mina and Jin–should know about it. They met with him a few times, then planned to go public at a big rally. However, the N.H.L.L. were having a rally in the same park that night, a fight started, and the police showed up suspiciously swiftly and in force to deal with it.
Miles asks about Dr. Leiber’s secret, pointing out that he already knows that Leiber worked with cryo-preservation fluids, and Sato decides that if he’s a spy he already knows anyway; she says that he found that a previous commonly-used preservation solution only lasted a few decades before breaking down. As a result, a lot of the frozen are not really revivable, which means that they’re legally dead, their possessions due to their heirs and their votes lost to the corps; there’s a lot of money at stake, including legal fees and the costs of determining who is dead. Miles is glad to finally have this piece to his puzzle, and wishes he had an analyst to determine the effects this is likely to have on the planetary economy; this probably also explains Alice Chen’s failure to revive.
Sato said she was sure this would strike a major blow to the cryocorps, and is amazed they’ve kept a lid on it for a year and a half; Miles says that three of her group were frozen under suspicious circumstances, and two more of them died suspiciously. What he wants to know is why Dr. Leiber has kept his mouth shut this long; he tells her how Leiber had tried to flee the planet and was narrowly rescued from cryocorp goons, and is now sedated at this same facility. Taking a leap of faith, he asks her if she wants to sit in on his interrogation.
So Roic says first that this is a self-serve hotel, but there turns out to be a lady at the front desk anyway, so…is she like a modern circulation librarian, job mostly obviated by automated service, but still required in case of emergency or unusual situation? Or perhaps required by law, if only to buzz security if somebody tries to cause trouble?
I seem to recall that Matson wasn’t cleared quite as thoroughly as the others, and in this chapter I was watching him to see if he was going to get up to no good. He didn’t seem to be guilty of anything other than being suspicious of the Barrayarans’ intentions, but I’m still suspicious of his motives. Could just be a red herring; it’s hard to tell the purpose of some of the scenes in the book, if they’re setting up plot points, or if it’s more character-building for Jin or something.
So now we know why their previous revive attempt died, and why Sato’s group was so forcefully disbanded. And maybe even an explanation for the title of the book–“Cryoburn”, kind of like “freezer burn”, perhaps? The cryocorps have started doing something, going after Dr. Leiber, but luckily Miles doesn’t seem to be on their radar yet, at least as a threat. They probably still think of him as safely bought. Or maybe there’s not much of a “they” yet–the corps are probably working independently, WhiteChrys bribing Miles to go after Komarr, while Dr. Leiber is at NewEgypt. They’re probably all affected by the preservative issue, but I’m not sure if they’re organized enough to do much except try to keep it all hidden. Maybe only NewEgypt even knows about the problem.
I know it’s SF technology, but the cryofreeze thing seems a little implausible, when I think about it. I was under the impression that freezing a person was dangerous because of the formation of water ice in their tissues. Maybe the cryopreservation technology doesn’t use actual subzero temperatures, more like a refrigerator, but it seems like freezing would be safer for the long term. There is the whole thing where the blood is replaced with cryofluid, and one presumes other fluids as well, because frozen lymph would probably be just as bad for you. Can you get rid of all the water in the brain and other tissues as well, though? That seems a lot harder, but maybe that’s just part of the technology; replacing it seems like it would be even harder. I suppose they’ve had a few hundred years to work out the kinks in the technology…
Lisa Sato’s awake and talking, so things are moving ahead. Next week we’ll see what Leiber has to say for himself, and maybe Jin and Mina will finally be reunited with their mother…