Time, like an ever-flowing river, has moved forward another week, and so we have arrived at an odd structure on the shores of that river: another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread. It marks a spot close to the end (so far) of the river flowing through Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, in the swamps of CryoBurn, where I managed to slog through Chapter Fifteen, just for you.
Before seeing to Leiber, Miles goes to check on the other captives, sedated into unconsciousness; Roic has been searching them and their van, and says that not only is the van registered to NewEgypt, but their outfits are company issue and their IDs have their real names. One of them is in charge of plant security, and the other one is his personal assistant, promoted there eighteen months earlier; Roic surmises that they threw together this operation in a hurry.
Roic asks what they should do with them, since they can’t really keep them forever; he suggests just leaving them to wake up in their van near Leiber’s hotel. Miles notes that they saw Roic, if not Johannes, and that they might bring charges; he suggests having Suze freeze store them, which Roic doesn’t think much of, so they put off the decision for now.
Miles sets up his interrogation chamber next to Lisa Sato’s, and gives her a wristcom to listen in, and a window to peek through; he wants to start the questioning without Leiber knowing of Sato’s presence. Raven and Roic bring him in and sit him down; Raven gives an injection of synergine, which alarms Leiber at first, but he soon realizes it’s not actually fast-penta. Miles assures Leiber that they’re now in private, so they can talk freely, mentioning the bug on his comconsole, which Leiber says he thought he’d gotten rid of. Leiber is familiar with the thugs who tried to grab him, Hans and Oki, the “Gang of Four’s pet muscle”; Miles says that Roic stunned the thugs to get him away from them.
Leiber asks who they are, and if they stole Lisa; Miles hedges and tells him that her cryochamber is perfectly safe, and they’re holed up in an old cryofacility. Miles says he’ll tell Leiber what he knows, and Leiber can fill in the gaps; he describes his mission as investigating how Kibou-daini has dealt with the legalities of cryonics, which is probably at least partly true, but he only found technical issues at the conference he was sent to. Since then, he says he’s found out the problems with the proxy votes, and, to Leiber’s surprise, the flawed cryo-preservative that the cryocorps, especially NewEgypt, are trying to keep from getting discovered. He then mentions how Leiber sent to Lisa Sato’s group, which led to the ill-fated rally; Leiber says he didn’t mean to draw NewEgypt down on them, and he insists that the “bribe” they paid him (which Miles hadn’t even found yet) was just to make it look an intentional betrayal.
Leiber says he’d been assigned the investigation of a series of bad revivals, which is how he found out about the flawed cryo-fluid; he told his boss, who told his bosses, but nobody seemed to be doing anything about it.
“Who were these bosses? Which men were told about this?”
“The Gang of Four? There was my R & D supervisor, Roger Napak. And Ran Choi, the chief operating officer, and Anish Akabane, he’s chief of finance, and Shirou Kim, the NewEgypt president. They clamped down and kept the information tight right away.
He soon realized that they were more interested in covering their own asses than doing anything about the actual problem; when he protested they threatened to fire him, but he said he’d go public if they did, so they promised to work something out. By then he’d lost faith in them, and searched out Sato’s group, who seemed to be the only ones complaining about anything except money; he met them, they organized the rally, and then the next time he went into work he got dragged off and interrogated under fast-penta, which was quasi-legal for employees. They held him for two days, by which time the rally was all over.
However, Lisa Sato had told him to place evidence in a secret place with instructions to make it public in case he died or disappeared, and Lisa and George also hid copies; they found Leiber’s, of course, but not the other two, which Leiber surmises is why they kept him alive and unfrozen. Hans and Oki were behind the capture and involuntary freezing of Lisa and most of her friends, and probably the deaths of the others; nonetheless, the Gang keep the around, under threat of mutual blackmail, and hopes that they will be useful in future.
Leiber felt guilty about what he’d done to Lisa and her friends, and their cause, but he still accepted his employers’ bribe, in delayed stock options, to try to pacify them; he’s been working on a way to detect the people frozen with the bad solution, because he’s the only one who knows about it and can work on it. But he says he mostly stayed at his job all this time to keep access to Lisa’s cryochamber; he’d planned to take her to Escobar to be unfrozen there, her two friends being beyond his budget, where he could support her, maybe get a job with the Durona group…. Lisa tears back the curtain and pounds on the glass, her protests inaudible, startling Leiber with her appearance; Raven gets her a filter-mask and she barges into their booth.
“Seiichiro Leiber, you moron!” cried Madame Sato, which was approximately what Miles had guessed she’d been trying to say, since he’d been hard-pressed not to say it himself. “What were you thinking? You were going to kidnap me, take me off-planet, and abandon my children? And trap me there, with no money to get home?”
“No, no!” said Leiber, rising hastily and turning his hands out in pleading. “It wasn’t like that! Wasn’t going to be like that!”
It had been going to be exactly like that, in Leiber’s mind, Miles guessed. A princely rescue, with Leiber in the starring role, and the happily-ever-after, if not planned, at least much wished upon. Had Snow White in her glass coffin ever had a vote? Or a voice?
Leiber protests his good intentions, but Lisa doesn’t buy it; Raven points out that getting upset is not good for her immune system, and Miles reassures her that his scheme is scuttled now, and invites her to join them. She sits down, out of breath, and wonders what her planet is coming to, if the corps can get away with murder, but she refuses to leave her children, or anyone else’s in this situation.
Miles points out that NewEgypt is still vulnerable if this news gets out, and tells Roic to interrogate the goons downstairs and find out who hired them. Roic points out the testimony may not be admissible, but Miles says he at least wants it for their own purposes; he agrees they should be tested for allergy first, but isn’t sure what to do with them after the questioning’s done. He muses on whether they can get Kibou-daini out of this situation, and keep other planets, particularly Barrayar, from getting into the same pickle.
At that point Vorlynkin arrives with the kids, and there follows a happy family reunion; Lisa is surprised at how much Mina has grown, as it finally sinks in that she’s been gone for eighteen months. Jin and Mina introduce her to Vorlynkin, the nice man who’s letting them stay in his house, with its big garden; Vorlynkin helps her to her feet, introduces himself formally, and compliments her on her children. Raven takes her back to her room, the children following to try to bring her up to date. Vorlynkin says that it’s a relief to have her awake, so he can legitimately help protect the children.
Leiber asks what they’re going to do with him, and Miles says he’s free to go; he’s not a Barrayaran, so they can’t arrest him.
“Uh, but what about Hans and Oki?”
“I didn’t arrest them, I kidnapped them. According to Roic. I see I shall have to explain to you the difference between permission and forgiveness, sometime.”
“And what is the difference?” inquired Vorlynkin, brows rising.
“Success, usually. In any case, Dr. Leiber, you are free to leave at any time. I just don’t recommend it, not unless you have a better plan for hiding out than your last one. Presuming Hans and Oki are not your bosses’ only resource for legwork.”
He tells Leiber he’s free to stay here, where he’s less likely to be found, and says he does not recommend trying to catch the orbital shuttle. Vorlynkin asks Miles what he’s going to do next, and Miles says he’s going to look for allies.
The whole chapter is from Miles’s viewpoint; is this the first such chapter in the book? Well, that’s fine, because this is sort of like the scene with Guppy in Diplomatic Immunity, or…well, maybe that’s the only one like that. But we finally get a bunch more background, and everything pretty much fits into place. More or less. With some venal and venial corporate drones as our villains, instead of a homicidal deranged Cetagandan ba. And the title even kind of makes sense, because these people who thought they were safely frozen have now gotten…(removes shades)…Cryo-burned.
But I am not feeling like our main characters are in any way threatened. The fiendish corps have done nothing except send their goons after Leiber, and those goons were dealt with so easily that they scarcely seemed any danger at all. They have no inkling that they have earned the enmity of Our Heroes, and so they are likely to be caught flat-footed. Again, unlike the ba, or Ilsum Kety, or Cavilo, or even Baron Bharaputra. They are being ineffectual because Our Heroes have been so extremely clever/fortunate as to not have been detected. Ho hum. The only serious threat so far was the N.H.L.L., and we haven’t seen them since the first few chapters.
Are they trying to set up a Lisa Sato-Vorlynkin romance here? It would explain why we got that earlier scene establishing that Vorlynkin is divorced, and the kids may be trying to help things out, in their own clumsy way. Makes me think of Vorob’yev and Mia Maz in Cetaganda, except that Miles can probably claim a little more credit for this one; those two might have gotten together on their own. I don’t remember if they do, but now is when I would start beginning to expect something to develop.
Five chapters left now, not counting Aftermaths. And then I’ll be done with the Reread…which has definitely seemed more of a burden over these last couple of books, less favourite of mine. Though Ms. Bujold has recently announced a new book forthcoming, starting Cordelia (!), called Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. So that’s exciting…assuming she can get back into her game, anyway.