Terry Pratchett described inspiration as like neutrinos; there’s unimaginable numbers of them streaking through every point of the universe all the time, but only a few will actually intersect with anything. Which is probably why that was the only thing I could come up with to introduce this, the antepenultimate installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, about the penultimate chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s CryoBurn, the end of the Vorkosigan Saga so far, at least until next year, when the next book is due out. But by that point I’ll likely have hung up my shingle. Still, try to enjoy what I have to say about Chapter 19 of CryoBurn, if you can…
After Roic stunned Hans, he goes after Oki, who is being hampered by his grasp of Leiber; while he tries to shock a squirming Leiber, Roic points his stunner at Oki’s face and tells him to give up, which he does. Lisa Sato checks on the unconscious Jin, who only has a small scratch on his neck; Roic apologizes, but said he thought it better to stun both them than let a hostage situation escalate, and sends Raven to get him some synergine.
M’lord strolled up, possessed himself of the shock stick, and regarded their captive with a curious and thoughtful air, like a biologist planning out the dissection of a promising new specimen.
Oki regarded him back, bewildered. “Who the hell are you people, anyway?”
“From your point of view,” said m’lord, “I suppose we’re your karma delivery service.”
Miles asks why they didn’t just run away instead of going back to their bosses, and Oki says that they have families to think about, and for the first time, he’s making good money. Miles encourages him to turn himself in as a state witness, as long as he does it right now; he asks where they were taking Leiber, and Oki says that there’s a van outside with Akabane from NewEgypt waiting for them. Delighted, Miles tells Roic that they should get Akabane arrested right now, red-handed, if at all possible. Oki says that Akabane sensed that the three other heads at NewEgypt, Kim, Choi, and Napak, were going to throw them to the wolves, unless they took some action, so he recruited Hans and Oki. As Raven returns with the medkit, Roic cuffs Oki, then takes Leiber down the stairs with him, saying he needs him to identify Akabane so he doesn’t stun the wrong man.
“You’re pretty free with that thing.”
“It’s all right. I have a license to stun.”
“I thought that was supposed to be a license to kill.”
Roic grimaced. “That, too. But you would not believe all the forms that have to be filled out, afterward.”
Leiber looked as if he weren’t sure if that was a joke or not, which was all right, since Roic wasn’t sure either. The procedures hadn’t been all that amusing at the time. Or in retrospect.
They go out a side door and circle around to the front, where the doubtless formerly landscaped front lawn, filled with elderly evacuees, is now overgrown; Roic sees emergency lights from the other end of the complex, but no fire-glow. The facility is surrounded by a chain-link fence, but the gate has been forced open, and a familiar-looking van is parked on the street outside. Roic says he’ll take cover behind the gate kiosk, and then Leiber can join the crowd to try to draw Akabane out; Leiber protests, but Roic says he can’t stun him through the side of the van, and Mark can charge him trespassing as soon as he’s on the grounds. Leiber says that he thought Fuwa owned the place, but Roic says that he wouldn’t bet on it any more. Leiber complies, and Roic watches him mill around, being sure that his face is visible; after a minute, the van creeps through the gate. Roic wonders suddenly whether Akabane will try to crush Leiber with the van, but instead it stops and the door slides open; a figure leaps out to attack Leiber, and Roic kneecaps him with the stunner before knocking him out entirely.
They toss Akabane back into the van, Roic musing about how this is the first time he’s actually been face to face with any of the NewEgypt people that they’ve been fighting, and how odd that feels; more like space combat, almost, like Miles and his father were familiar with. But then, from the NewEgypt point of view, the Lord Auditor had come out of nowhere to wreak havoc with their careful plans. He spots the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle heading for the gate, and tells Leiber to head back into the crowd, then meet him at the door; he’s pretty sure that the action part of is over, and now Lord Vorkosigan can take over with the talking part.
Jin wakes up in a recovery room, feeling kind of blah, with his mother watching over him; he remembers Armsman Roic shooting him, which was a weird feeling of helplessness, and leaves him feeling a little scared of and angry at Roic. Vorlynkin is also being treated; apparently he found some more prowlers, radical N.H.L.L. members, who hit him with a crowbar, but nothing seems to be broken. They had been trying to break in with the crowbar and start some more fires in the tunnels; Vorlynkin did managed to tell the firefighters about the asterzine used for the other fire, which was fortunate, because asterzine ignites when it gets wet. Jin says that the door they’d been trying to pry open is never actually locked, which amuses Vorlynkin; the firefighters helped subdue the men, who were willing enough to finger Hans and Oki as the ones who hired them.
Jin asks after Nefertiti, who seems to be just hiding under a desk, grumbling to herself; Raven checks him out, bandages the scratch on his neck and assures him the numbness on his face should pass soon. He passes on Lord Vorkosigan’s thanks to Jin and Mina for delaying the kidnappers’ escape until the rescue party arrived, which made his job much easier; Jin catches an alarming glimpse of the men in the next room, but one is still stunned and the other is handcuffed. He pictures what would have happened if they’d been kidnapped again, and is relieved.
Miles and Roic return, and Roic gives Jin a friendly greeting, but Jin can’t return it, remembering the scary Roic who shot him. Miles hops on a chair to address them all, saying that the police, and some of Madame Xia’s lawyer friends, will be here soon, but first they need to get their stories straight; he says he’d like to de-emphasize his own role, in favour of Raven and Dr. Leiber. The story will be that Raven was looking to hire Leiber for the Durona Group, and was told about the cryo-solution and commodified contracts at that point; Raven agreed to revive Lisa Sato as a witness, and Leiber’s abortive flight to Escobar was only a feint to draw pursuit off, which worked a little too well. Raven requested Roic’s rescue services as a favour from his employer’s brother, while Miles was only along to keep an eye on his brother’s activities, and he’ll be leaving soon now that he’s been satisfied about that, which Jin hears with some disappointment. Raven agrees to go along with the story.
Miles says he hardly needs the forensic accountant he sent for a few days earlier, but he offers their services to Lisa Sato when they do arrive. Lisa expresses concern over keeping custody of the children; Miles says they’d need her permission to even question the children, and he encourages her not to let them.
Roic asks if he can show the children something, and Jin isn’t sure, but Mina is eager, so he goes along. When they’re out in the corridor, Roic pulls out his stunner and offers to let them try it out, and again Jin is forced to agree when by his sister. Roic tells Jin how to handle it safely, and lets him fire at the wall a few times before Mina gets her turn; by the end, Jin feels much safer, and not angry with Roic anymore.
Miles leaned forward and spoke earnestly into the secure holovid recorder. “I just want you to know, Gregor, that if the planet melts down over all this, it wasn’t my fault. The trip-wire was laid long before I stumbled across it.”
He considered the opening remark of his report cover for a moment, then reached out and deleted it. The one good thing about the very asynchronous vid communication entailed by Nexus info-squirts, moving at light speed between jump points and ship-carried through them, was that if you didn’t think before you spoke, you could at least think before you hit send. Not that he hadn’t generated some of his best ideas as his brain raced to catch up with his moving mouth. Also, some of my worst. He wondered which kind his recent examples would ultimately prove to be.
Miles had spent a couple of days training Johannes on the kind of information to forward to ImpSec about coming events on the planet, but now he’s got the tight-room to himself; he adds a commendation for Johannes. He’d recently overheard a conversation between the clerk, Yuuichi Matson, and Vorlynkin, where Matson was complaining that he’d heard people’d be trying to grease his palm if he had a consulate job, but he’d been severely disappointed; Vorlynkin, amused, said he should ask the Lord Auditor for tips. His report includes information on the Komarran scheme, which should allow ImpSec to deal with the ploy.
Meanwhile, outside the Consulate, NewEgypt executives are under arrest for conspiracy, the preservative scandal blown wide open, and Lisa Sato and her group are suing them; the other cryocorps are trying to spin this as best they can. Vorlynkin is doing a good job managing the Consulate and looking after the Satos, and Mark is handling the Durona interests; Miles is glad of the serendipitous effects of his unplanned side-jaunt into NewEgypt business. Miles records a personal cover message for Gregor, summarizing the fact that the WhiteChrys suspicions proved correct, and requesting a commendation for Vorlynkin, before going on to tell him about how he got embroiled with NewEgypt.
He was a little out of breath by the time he finished. Miles tried not to wince as he imagined the look on Gregor’s face as he heard all this out. Nonplussed? Pained? Bland? Gregor could out-bland Pym.
“So far, no criminal charges have been leveled against me, and I trust I’ll be long gone from Kibou-daini before anyone on the other side thinks of it,” he concluded in cheerful reassurance.
He ends with a mention of Mark’s experimental rejuvenation treatment, which might end up being the most important thing to come out of the affair, and recommends it to Laisa’s aunt as a potential alternate investment instead of WhiteChrys.
The tail end of the climax, with the subdual of Oki and the capture of Akabane, both reasonably effortless on Roic’s part. I guess Roic gets to the action stuff that Miles is getting too old for, or something. I guess when he was younger, he was more brittle, and tried to avoid the physical confrontations anyway, but then he had Bothari, and the Dendarii, and all that, and he still ended up getting more physically involved anyway.
Things tie up neatly. Lisa Sato gets to stay conscious and in custody of her children, Leiber may get a job with the Duronas, the cryofacility is surely under Mark’s/Durona’s auspices now. We do get one more scene with Jin in the next chapter, I see, but by that point it’s almost more of an epilogue than a denouement, despite having a chapter number. You can’t trust those chapter numbers. Matson turns out to have been a red herring, if you can use that term to describe something that was only alluded to once and never bothered about after that. Yes, I’m still unsatisfied with the book. Can you tell?
Miles and Roic seem to start off the book in jeopardy, but it gets resolved too quickly, and isn’t really related to the main plot except by letting Miles make the acquaintance of Jin. Miles’s supposed mission is pretty much peripheral to that main plot too, and doesn’t even coincidentally tie into it at the end. They do some risky investigations, but manage to stay mostly unscathed, until last chapter’s temporary jeopardy. We get a cameo from a couple of beloved characters from earlier books (Mark and Kareen), not to mention Raven Durona. It all…fails to gel.
Next week, the last chapter, as we get to one last knot introduced by the author at the end of the book. But I’ll talk about that more then. Until then…