As the termite of time gnaws through the log of eternity, and the three-legged stool of fate topples and spills the barfly of destiny into a puddle of spilled beer, I notice that it’s time for another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread. As our regular listeners know, this is a long-running series devoted to a scholarly, or at least not utterly illiterate, analysis of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold in her saga of Miles Vorkosigan and his assorted friends, relatives, and strangers. This week we surge ever so slightly forward into Chapter Eighteen of CryoBurn, where things happen that you will find out about if you just bestir yourself to finish reading this introduction. Go on, we’re not stopping you…
Ted Fuwa, the building’s owner, and Madame Xia, the consulate’s lawyer, join Mark, Kareen, Suze, Tenbury, Miles and Roic for the meeting. Suze and Mark start out disagreeing over future treatment of the poor; Suze says they’re the whole reason she’s running this place, but Mark points out that after she got frozen herself the place probably wouldn’t last long anyway, and Fuwa says he’d been looking forward to it. Mark says that they’ll need the Durona Group treatment to keep the place going in any case, unless they manage to make cryofreezing obsolete; Miles points out that they might just change the timescale of it, people getting frozen a few hundred years older than before.
Kareen points out that the treatment will be free for test subjects during the transition phase, particularly ones who haven’t been frozen yet, which will probably provide more valuable data than the thawed; Miles spots tiny gestures between her and Mark as part of their good-cop-bad-cop routine. Kareen adds that the Durona Group will surely want to hire some locals to oversee the operation, and Suze could easily be one of them, possibly Directory of Community Relations; Suze is not impressed with being offered a fancy title, though, and asks what about the rest of them. Mark says he’d love to have Tenbury for Physical Planet, Medtech Tanaka seems a valuable resource, and Fuwa’s construction company would likely be useful as well; the rest he’ll have to see.
Madame Xia says that she’s pretty sure Suze can be given de facto proxy for the frozen residents; Miles asks if the city won’t try to fight for their extra votes, and Xia says she’s sure she can throw up enough obstacles in their way, as long as the current residents stay united. Miles notes that it sounds like a job for Lisa Sato’s group, and wishes he’d grabbed the remaining two members when they were at NewEgypt; Xia warns him not to say anything too self-incriminating in her hearing, but says that she can probably subpoena the two of them. Mark asks Kareen to put her on retainer, but Xia protests that her plate is already full; Mark says they’ll negotiate later, but they will definitely need local legal representation.
They are interrupted by a boom from outside, and while they’re trying to determine its source, Miles receives a wristcom call from Vorlynkin, who tells him about the arsonists outside; the Consul says he’s contacted the authorities, and is looking to see if there’s anyone else around. Fuwa reacts to the accusing stares of everyone by protesting that he wouldn’t do this now, when he was on the verge of finally selling it; Tenbury says that if the heat exchanger tower burns down, all the freezers will fail, and Suze narrowly stops him from running out to do something about the fire himself.
Miles muses to himself that the fire was set on the opposite corner of the complex from the front of the intake building, and suspects this is a diversion; he tells Roic they should go look for Leiber, because he suspects that’s the next target, and tells Suze they’re going there to warn people. Suze and Xia head the other way to warn others; meanwhile, Mark seems to be seizing the opportunity to offer Fuwa a “fire sale” price.
Jin manages to grab Nefertiti when she tried to bolt past him, but does not enjoy lugging the beast up the stairs back to his mother’s recovery room with Mina. Leiber, who’s also there, is not pleased to see the sphinx again; their mother asks what’s happening, and Mina says that ninjas started a fire. Jin says they’re not ninjas, but fills in more details about what they saw; he asks where Raven is, and Leiber says he went down to help Tanaka with a cryoprep.
Jin and Leiber are about to leave the room–Jin to go downstairs and tell them what’s happening, and Leiber to find a window–when the door is kicked open, and Hans and Oki enter. Hans focuses on Leiber, but Oki seems unsettled by the children’s presence; Hans gets him to grab Leiber anyway. Lisa protests, and Hans, spotting her through the window, says they should grab her too; Leiber goes limp in protest, and Oki jabs him with a shock-stick, cursing as the charge flows back through Leiber into him. Hans heads into Lisa’s room, Jin protesting that she’ll get sick; Hans manages to grab her and drag her out.
“No, you can’t have my mommy!” screamed Mina. “We just got her back!” She grabbed the folding chair, flopped it shut, and swung it as hard as she could. She might have been trying to hit the security chief in the stomach, but Mina was pretty short, and her aim was rather blind, as she whirled around. Instead, the chair legs took him square in the crotch-but not quite hard enough.
He bent over, saying really horrible words, but didn’t let go of their mother’s arm. With his other fist, he backhanded Mina, who fell on her butt, crying. Their mother tried to kick him, more accurately than Mina had, but she was barefooted and frighteningly breathless. “How dare . . . you touch . . . my children, you . . . horrible murderer!”
Jin grabs Nefertiti and throws her at Oki, who flails at her ineffectively with the shock-stick; neither suffers much damage, but Leiber is able to escape Oki’s grasp. Hans grumbles at the unexpected complications to their simple snatch plan; Jin tries to headbutt him, but Hans tosses Lisa aside and grabs Jin instead, putting a knife to his throat and telling everyone to freeze (“Not you, Oki!”). Oki protests that he’s just a kid, but seems to be convinced that Hans means it. Once they’ve all settled down, all quiet except for the whimpering and muttering sphinx, Hans tells them all to keep their hands in sight, tells Oki to turn his shock-stick up to full, and starts marching them out into the corridor.
In the corridor, they’ve just turned toward the stairs when Jin hears Roic telling them to halt. Hans turns, still holding Jin in front of him, and Jin sees Roic, Miles and Raven at his side, pointing something at them; he finds Roic’s remote expression unsettling and scary. Before Hans can do more than begin to protest, Roic fires at them, and Jin’s awareness vanishes.
After the end of the last chapter, it feels a little weird that the people at the beginning of this chapter aren’t reacting to the events yet, but I guess that’s what happens with multiple viewpoint characters; sometimes you have to backtrack and catch up to them. I almost wish Madame Xia had been introduced earlier, or at least referred to by name, since they certainly made a few references to the consulate’s lawyer, with reference to the Jin situation if nothing else. It seems a little late in the book to be adding new characters like that. I suppose we hadn’t met Ted Fuwa before either, though, had we…
Throughout this book, it becomes easy to forget the whole purpose of cryofreezing someone in the first place–the attempt to preserve people in poor health, or slightly dead, against the possibility that they might be revived and fixed later. The proxy-vote situation, and the corporatization, have made freezing the end in itself; Suze’s group, who are almost the only Kibou we meet who _aren’t_ corporate, are still focused on the original purpose of the freezing, and, in particular sharing it with the disadvantaged. Now Mark comes along and presents them with the possibility of actually fulfilling the promise of a potential fix, for aging at least, but he doesn’t understand Suze’s motives for doing anything for the disadvantaged…
The fire doesn’t seem to be threatening anyone except the cryocorpses themselves (yeah, I suppose that if you were keeping a whole bunch of bodies frozen, you’d need to bleed off heat from them somehow, wouldn’t you?), so that was a bit of a letdown tension-wise, but then we get the return of Hans and Oki, having used their diversion to good effect. Except that they’re a little behind the times, still thinking that grabbing Leiber will accomplish something (which I’m not sure it would by this point, the worms being pretty much out of the can by now). Lisa Sato might have made a good hostage, but they were really in over their head, and quite frankly not too bright in the first place. Did we ever resolve whether they had gone back to HQ for orders, or if they were still trying to fulfill their last orders? Anyway, after a brief scuffle, Roic comes in and saves the day, so that’s that.
Two more chapters left, and it feels like we are nearing the end of the climax, though not quite into the denouement yet. Two chapters and then, of course, the Aftermaths, three more weeks, and then the series will be over for the nonce.