Okay, so I guess I didn’t just dream getting up in the middle of the night to bash out a blog post. Huh. I definitely was dreaming that ending of CryoBurn, though. A Song of Ice and Fire crossover? Only in my dreams, I’d wager. Besides, Brienne was obviously actually Taura in disguise.
Anyway, this is the real Vorkosigan Saga Reread, going through the real published works of Lois McMaster Bujold, which is finishing up (over the next few weeks, at least) with CryoBurn, the last novel chronologically to feature Miles Vorkosigan and his cohorts. (Speaking of which, she just recently posted a link to an interview online about CryoBurn which I hadn’t seen before. I promise it’s not a rickroll…) In Chapter Seventeen, the action starts to heat up a little…
Miles and Roic return, immediately noticing the lack of the prisoners (and their van) and the presence of a number of other people nearby, including, surprisingly, Mark and Kareen. Jin tells them the story, and Miles is at least relieved that Yani isn’t worse off; Raven says it probably happened shortly after they left, and apologizes for undermedicating. Miles tries to work out where they might have gone, whether they’d have dared to go back to NewEgypt; they hadn’t sene Miles, but they’d likely be able to describe Roic’s distinctive appearance, which would lead them to him. NewEgypt would also thus know the location of Suze’s facility, and suspect that Leiber was there, but it was uncertain whether they knew about him having Lisa Sato’s cryocorpse; if they did, would they check security camera footage and find Miles and company’s attempted rescue? He’d have to get more information from Leiber about his bosses.
“And hello, Mark. Why are you here? And so unexpectedly, too.”
Mark tilted his head in un-apology, smirking a bit.
Miles eyed Raven. “I thought we’d had an understanding about such surprises.”
Looking faintly guilty, Raven shrugged and mumbled, “Earlier ship.”
He greets Kareen instead, but they are interrupted by cries of “Aowt!” from the back of the van; Vorlynkin resignedly asks if he has another kidnap victim, but Miles says it’s a present for Jin, and Roic and Kareen go to help Jin unload the sphinx from the van. Miles asks Raven how soon they’ll be able to move Lisa Sato to a safer place, i.e. the consulate; it’ll be a safer place to keep her from legal attacks, and in a few days he’ll have some help in protecting from less legal attacks. Raven says the kids have already been compromising her isolation, and he’s already shot her up with as many immune-boosters as he can, so tomorrow should be doable; Miles asks Vorlynkin to stay there overnight and be ready to evacuate her in a hurry if necessary. Vorlynkin asks if he really thinks that’ll be necessary, and Miles admits he’s not sure; they might just hide behind their lawyers, but they may take more aggressive action instead.
Miles asks Mark again why he’s there, and Mark tells him about the plan to buy up the building and test the life-extension treatment on the cryo-corpses that they revive; he asks Miles not to mess up his Deal, and Miles asks him in return not to screw up the case. Mark admits that Raven hasn’t shared the details about that, and Miles tells him about the WhiteChrys project on Komarr; the NewEgypt issues came up later.
“I’m trying not to leave undue collateral damage upon a local kid who befriended me, at some cost to himself. Good intentions, Mark. My path is paved with them.”
“So glad I don’t have any of those.” Mark’s glance grew uncomfortably shrewd. “It’s not your planet, you know. You can’t fix it.”
“No, but . . . well, no. But.”
“Well, try not to leave too much rubble in your wake. I can use this place.”
Miles says he hopes the treatment is more successful than the last one, which killed its test subjects; Mark says that Lily herself is testing this one, though more out of desperation than extreme confidence. Miles mentions another potential test subject, an older male, like their father; Mark is dubious that they’ll be able to talk him into it, though perhaps their mother might be able to. Miles suggests that if they play up the risk factor, it might actually make him more likely to try it, out of a weird sense of duty. Mark says that if the deal goes through, he’s likely to leave Raven in charge, as a kind of promotion; it’s not likely to put the clone-transplant people out of business, but he jokes that it might make him enough money to hire a band of mercenaries to attack them.
Miles grimaced. “Do you remember the last time you tried that?”
“Vividly. Don’t you?”
“Patchily,” said Miles dryly.
Miles asks what their plans are next, and Mark says that they’ll be meeting with Fuwa, the building owner; he allows that Miles can sit in if he wishes, but to otherwise keep out of it. Roic, Jin and Kareen return then with the sphinx, and Jin lobbies to take it up to show to his mother and sister; Roic prefers to stay and guard, but Vorlynkin volunteers to come up instead, Raven offers to come along to make sure his patient is okay, and Miles follows to go have another chat with Leiber. Mark and Kareen resume their interrupted tour with Tenbury.
Jin is unsurprised that his mother is highly dubious about the prospect of keeping Nefertiti the sphinx, but Mina seems to like it, saying she’s kind of like Lucky and Gyre put together. Jin puts the sphinx down and she flaps her wings, but he’s pretty sure she can’t fly any more than a chicken, and Raven says it’s likely designed for appearance over function. Jin wonders if they’d lay eggs or have babies, and Raven said that they might not have made any males to breed with, so they’d have to clone them, which doesn’t sound that hard to Jin… The sphinx says “Hum!”, and Jin tells Mina that they know about twenty words, and wonders if they can teach her more…
Jin’s mother says that they don’t even have a home to take her to, and then begins wondering what happened to her apartment and her possessions; Mina says that Aunt Lorna has some of her stuff, but had to sell some of their furniture, and Consul Vorlynkin says that these are solvable problems, and they don’t have to all be solved right away. He says that she’s under the Auditor’s protection, and they will put her up at the consulate, and look after her needs for now. Raven says that she needs to recover physically, which may take a few weeks yet, and her mental composure will follow; she says she never feels like she’ll have time. Vorlynkin assures her that they have space at the consulate for the Lord Auditor’s perhaps ill-considered gift, along with the other animals, who he insists are livening up the place, and her unease subsides.
Vorlynkin lets Jin talk to Johannes at the consulate and give instructions for the animals; Miles and Roic join them after a while with a bunch of takeout food, supplied by Kareen, and they have a meal together in the recovery room. Miles tells them about his visit to Earth with his wife on his honeymoon, skimming over the details of his previous visit. Jin tries feeding Nefertiti some people food, which results in a mess in the corner; Ako makes Jin clean it up, and says the sphinx will have to stay outside overnight. Jin takes Mina up to show him the rooftop hideout, Vorlynkin carrying the sphinx up for them.
On the way they pass a person looking for Ako to help someone who collapsed in the cafeteria, which Jin says is a reasonably common occurrence. They descend down into the tunnels, Jin leading the way, then back up five flights to the rooftop; Jin shows them around, though a lot of the useful things have already been taken over to the consulate. It’s dark outside, apparently having gotten quite late while they were inside. They let Nefertiti out to explore, which she does cautiously, though Jin follows her around, not wanting her to go over the edge in case she plummets to her death; he says he should tie a line around her leg, like he did with Miles, and explains the earlier tethering to Vorlynkin, who seems amused by it. He wonders if he should spend the night out there with her, or stay with his mother.
Nefertiti does peer over one parapet, but doesn’t try to go over the edge, and then goes to check out the other side; there, she sees something which seems to disturb her, and begins crying “Foes!” Jin can’t see much in the dark, but there is a van parked down there, and some men in dark clothing moving around; then one of them breaks a window, and Jin realizes they’re breaking in. They lug a barrel out of the van; Vorlynkin gets a whiff of the liquid inside as they shove it through the window, and says they’re trying to set fire to the place. They toss something inside and then drive off in the van; they hear an explosion and see flames start up inside.
Vorlynkin asks how they can get down, and Jin tells him about the ladder; he leaves the sphinx with Vorlynkin and climbs down to unlatch the ladder to its full extension. Mina comes down cautiously, and Jin helps her down after he reaches the ground; Nefertiti jumps over the edge of the building, and is apparently able to use her wings to break her momentum enough to land with little more than a thump. Vorlynkin comes down last, a scratch visible on his face, and tells them to go to their mother and Dr. Durona, and do what they say; he begins to make calls with his wristcom, telling them to leave the sphinx behind.
Some good snarky Miles-Mark dialogue in this chapter, so there is that, at least. And I guess that one of them did think of Count Aral as a potential test subject for the life extension treatment; I like the suggestion that playing up the risk will make him more willing to do it. Would Cordelia think the same way? Not sure.
The sphinx seems like an interesting creature, but just a novelty, really. One doubts that all the potential problems of its hodgepodge nature have been worked out, and one wonders about how it’s brain is wired, too. Does it have more intelligence than a regular pet, or does it just have the words it can speak hard-wired into it for various emotional state? Though it does seem to be smart enough to recognize “Foes”; would that really be one of the 20 most important words? I suppose it could use that for when it sees the neighbour’s cat outside the window or something…
And now we do have some actual violence, or enemy action, at least. Must be linked to the NewEgypt people, though whether it’s the thugs who escaped coming back on their own initiative or if it’s organized by the Gang of Four themselves. It wasn’t clear on the first read-through that the building that was set alight wasn’t the same building the rest of the characters are in, but presumably they’re hoping to spread through the entire complex. I’d actually forgotten that it was more than one building, since it’s been a few chapters (and months, for me) since Jin first showed Miles through them.
Getting down to the climax now, one hopes, three chapters left, and I’m pretty sure the last one should be denouement, by this time. Still on track to finish this month, at last. See me next week…