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Archive for the ‘Brothers in Arms’ Category

Good day, and welcome back to the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, wherein I try to distill (or is that “dilute”?) the essence of the fine novels and stories in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga.  This week I cover the last two chapters of Brothers In Arms, which wraps up most of its plot threads, though it seems to start up some others…

Chapter Fifteen

Miles immediately contacts Nim and tells them about the Cetagandans and their plasma weapons; Nim says he’s already run into them, since they fired at the Dendarii when they tried to enter.  He tells Miles that Elli’s wristcomm is down on the lower levels, not moving, and she stll doesn’t respond.  Miles wonders if it’s still on her wrist, or if she’s lying stunned or dead somewhere.  Miles tells Nim to anonymous inform the police about the presence of the armed men in the tower, maybe paint them as potential saboteurs, and then try to keep them sealed in the tower, pulling back when the police arrive if possible, but if necessary just pretending to be tourists out for a stroll.

As Miles signs off, Mark grabs him and tries to get him to call the Dendarii back and get them to clear out the Cetagandans.  Miles says that stunner tag is one thing, but plasma arcs have a longer range.  Ivan expresses concern that they’re about to be caught in a pincer between Barrayarans and Cetagandans, but Miles claims to have a “cloak of invisibility”.  He leads them back towards the Barrayarans.

“No!” Mark balked. “The Barrayarans might kill you by accident, but they’ll kill me on purpose!”

“The ones back there,” Miles jerked his head over his shoulder, “would kill us both just to make sure. The Dagoola operation left the Cetagandans more peeved with Admiral Naismith than I think you have grasped. Come on.”

Miles, hoping his plan will actually work, finds a pumping station, quiescent now that high tide is receding.  To be certain, Miles checks the control panels, and, retrieving his grandfather’s knife from Mark, disables the warning lights.  He opens the pump chamber, puts his grappler on the inside of the door as a handler, reassures himself that he’ll be able to reopen it from the inside even if locked from outside, and puts a fisheye scanner on the control panel.  Then he urges them all inside the pumping station; Ivan is far from thrilled, and neither is Mark.  Miles tells Ivan he does have a chance of making it past Destang’s squad, although he might still get arrested when the police show up, but, ­sotto voce, he asks Ivan not to leave him along with Mark.  The appeal for help persuades Ivan to stay, though he still protests it’s like a trap.  Miles says it’ll be like a tactics room with the power out, and besides, Mark will get to share the experience.

The three of them clamber down into the chamber, Ivan closing the door so Miles can turn on his light.  Ivan says at least they won’t be heard in there, and Miles says he went past it twice without really noticing it.  He sets up his receiver to project the view from the fisheye lens, and says now they just have to wait.  He calls Nim back, who tells him that the police have arrived, and they’re withdrawing; no update on Quinn, and, when Miles asks, they haven’t heard from Captain Galeni either.

Miles now wished he’d kept Galeni by him as heartily as he wished he’d kept Quinn. But they hadn’t yet found Ivan then; Miles hardly could have done otherwise. He felt like a man trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle of live pieces, that moved and changed shape at random intervals with tiny malicious giggles.

A Cetagandan scout appears in the display, now wielding a stunner, withdrawing just before a pair of Barrayarans appear from the other end, also getting out their stunners, both sides apparently aware of the police and wanting to de-escalate the situation.  Soon three Barrayarans and two Cetagandans are approaching each other in the corridor.  Miles wonders if the Cetagandans have Elli captive, if they’ll let her go or decide to cut her throat to keep her quiet, if he should charge out with his few troops and attack them; he restrains himself.

The lead Cetagandan and Barrayaran catch sight of each other and each fires, stunning the other.  The second Cetagandan is stunned trying to check on his fallen companion, and the remaining Barrayarans go to inspect their downed opponents, trying to identify them.  Just then the amplified, unintelligible voices of the police blare down the corridor; the Barrayarans pick up their stunned comrade and carry him onward.  They encounter another pair of Cetagandans, firing behind them, and stun one of them, the other stunning one of the Barrayarans.  As they try to shoot the other Cetagandan, a mass of stunner fire from the police takes out everyone but the Barrayaran carrying his unconscious comrade; when the police come into view he puts up his hands and surrenders meekly.

The two converging police squads came within a breath of repeating the mutual annihilation of their fleeing suspects, but managed to get their true identities communicated just in time. Miles was almost disappointed. Still, nothing could go on forever; at some point the corridor would have become impassable due to the piles of bodies, and the havoc trail off according to the typical senescence curve of a biological system choked on its own waste.

Once the police have cleared the place, the Tidal Authority and the bomb squads would go over the whole place with a fine-toothed comb; if Miles and his friends get discovered in the process, it won’t be fatal, as long as nobody panics.  Mark asks whose side Miles is on, and Miles says this is all for Mark’s benefit.  He and Mark consider each other; Miles understands the fascination with a clone of oneself, but he thinks he would really prefer actually combining his genes with those of a woman who is, preferably, smarter, faster and more attractive and than he is.

He knew what Mark was. Maybe it was more important to realize what he was not. Mark was not a duplicate of Miles himself, despite Galen’s best efforts. Was not even the brother of an only-child’s dreams; Ivan, with whom Miles shared clan, friends, Barrayar, private memories of the ever-receding past, was a hundred times more his brother than Mark could ever be. It was just possible he had under-appreciated Ivan’s merits. Botched beginnings could never be replayed, though they could be—Miles glanced down at his legs, seeing in his mind’s eye the artificial bones within—repaired. Sometimes.

Ivan wonders about Miles’s motivations too; he says one Miles is enough, when they both keep trying to lock him in closets.  He recalls how Miles used to bully him and Elena around all the time, which image baffles Mark.

Miles asks Mark if he thinks he’s Evil; Mark says he’s a murderer, isn’t that enough?  He admits that the weapon went off while he and Galen were struggling for it, but that he’d wanted it to.  Miles asks Mark what he’d do if he were free; he points out that Galen’s body may well have washed out to sea by this point.  Mark says that Miles is the free one; Miles blinks in surprise, pointing out that Mark’s only restraint was Galen, and he’s now gone.  Miles is held by his sense of obligation to Barrayar and to the Dendarii.  Once Mark gets out of Miles’s shadow, he can find out what he truly is.  Miles reiterates his offer to smuggle Mark out with the Dendarii and take him to Barrayar to meet his family.

Mark says he doesn’t want to meet them, and when prodded, admits that what he really wants is to bust up the illegal clone business on Jackson’s Whole.  Miles thinks this is an interesting idea, and asks Mark how he’d go about it.  Mark says he’d blow up the labs and rescue the kids, but Miles says that that wouldn’t achieve much unless Mark could deal with the underlying demand.  The best way to stop rich people from wanting to buy clone-bodies, he points out, would be to provide them another way of extending their lifespan.  Mark says he could just kill them, but Miles counters that rich people tend to have good bodyguards.  Mark really needs power, money and training, all of which he could get on Barrayar…

Mark repeats that he doesn’t want to go to Barrayar.  Ivan tells Miles that he’s completely crazy; Miles says it’s time somebody took the clone-merchants on, and while he can’t spare the time and attention to do it himself, he could support Mark’s efforts, as long as he’s willing to stop trying to take his place.  Mark says that, if anything, Miles should be trying to take his place, and looks at him suspiciously.

Miles laughed, painfully. What a temptation. Ditch his uniform, walk into a tubeway, and disappear with a credit chit for half a million marks in his pocket. To be a free man . . . His eye fell on Ivan’s grimy Imperial dress greens, symbol of their service. You are what you do—choose again. . . . No. Barrayar’s ugliest child would choose to be her champion still. Not crawl into a hole and be no one at all.

Miles spots the police patrols receding, and judges it’s time to leave before the techs come with their scanners.  Ivan opens up the door and boosts Miles out; Mark has a moment of panic when he thinks he might be left behind, but Miles lowers the grappling line for him and he subsides.  Miles calls Nim and asks for a status update; Nim says they’ve pulled back into the air, and the place is crawling with police, and still no sign of Elli.  He gives Miles Elli’s coordinates and Miles says he’ll try to pick her up on their way out.

They sneak past a group of techs at the T intersection, and find a policeman guarding the lift-tube in the nearest tower.  Miles reluctantly stuns him, having hoped to make their exit without a trace, and they go up to the level where Quinn’s signal has been coming from.  They trace it to a locked utility closet, and Miles, with visions of slow deathtraps left by the Cetagandans, manually overrides the door and pushes it open to find her limp body inside.  Checking for a pulse, he finds that she’s only stunned, and almost collapses in relief.

Comments

The farce continues, with Miles luring the Barrayarans and Cetagandans into firing at each other, and watching from their hidden location as people stun each other.  I like the way that Bujold keeps consistent with her technology–stunners, nerve disrupters, and plasma arcs were introduced right from the beginning, in Shards of Honour.  It’s a nice group of weapons–the ones that only knock out your opponent, the ones that damage people but, presumably, nothing else (unless there’s some kind of computer systems made out of neural tissue, perhaps), and then the ones that do physical damage and burn things.  There are no easy defenses against any of them, that I recall (though Miles was supposedly selling some kind of personal shield in The Vor Game, wasn’t he, perhaps for nerve disrupters?).  The horrific potential of nerve disrupter damage was also brought up very early in Shards of Honour, between Dubauer and Koudelka, but stunners still seem to be nice and safe (except for the hangover, of course).  Admittedly she doesn’t waste a lot of time describing how they work–this is space opera, after all–but having their effects well-defined makes it easy for the reader to keep her honest…

I may have mentioned before how helpful the reread is for helping me make sense of confusing scenes.  The whole sequence at the tidal station is so complex, with people splitting up and going in different directions, going up and down, etc., that going through it more slowly rewards you with actually being able to keep track of what’s going on.  There’s two towers mentioned, for instance, Tower Six and Tower Seven, which I had trouble keeping straight, but apparently Six has the Barrayarans and Seven has the Cetagandans.  Similarly, I kept somehow missing Miles actually placing his fisheye camera on the wall and had to go back and check for it when they were using it to watch the combatants.

Miles’s conversation about Mark and his goals, to get rid of cloning, is more foreshadowing of Mirror Dance–or, more likely, plot seeds that were later incorporated into Mirror Dance.  Miles’s points are well taken, about the difficulty of eradicating the trade by taking direct action against its participants, rather than just trying to make it obsolete.  In some ways, though, that’s like trying to get rid of homelessness by giving them all free accomodation–effective (and even cost-effective according to some studies), but yet seeming somehow ethically wrong anyway.  It seems like it should be possible to make it economically unfeasible through repeated sabotage (though that is more dangerous); making it socially unacceptable doesn’t work when cultures are scattered so widely that there’s a lack of cultural consensus on right and wrong.

Chapter Sixteen

Miles, Mark and Ivan pause at the exit of the tower with the unconscious Elli, trying to gauge how to get to the shelter of the bushes past the police vehicles scattered around.  Miles wishes they had some alcohol (Ivan had neglected to bring his hip flask), because a splash of that would have made them carrying Elli’s limp form seem more acceptable.  They make it to the bushes, Ivan complaining that Miles should date lighter women.

Miles looks around, telling Ivan they still haven’t seen the man in face paint that Mark had told them about earlier.  Miles quizzes Mark about the precise colours of the paint, and Miles tells him that means a century-captain (Mark having misidentified it).  As a full ghem-lord, he won’t want to risk being captured and shamed, so he’ll have hung back, but be more committed to carrying out his mission.

They pass through the woods and find a utilitarian kiosk with a single door, the lights above it knocked out.  The door opens and they aim their stunners tensely until Miles recognizes Captain Galeni and calls out to them; Galeni comes over to join them, somewhat surprised to find them all alive.  Miles notices that Galeni seems to be in a state of mild exhilaration, his face is slightly bruised, and he’s carrying a Cetagandan plasma arc.  They ask about the ghem-lord, and Galeni says he’s run into him already.

Galeni tells them that he’d gone into utility tunnels through the kiosk when he couldn’t find another way into the Barrier, but got turned around and ended up on a nearby pedestrian crossing, where he found Ghem-Lieutenant Tabor from the Cetagandan Embassy standing by a car.  He soon realized that Tabor was serving as a perimeter man for a Cetagandan team; Tabor couldn’t figure out what Galeni was doing there, thinking he was drugged or something (which Miles could well believe, given Galeni’s fey state).  Tabor received a message and tried to shoot Galeni with a stunner; Galeni was only half-hit but pretended to be out cold.  He waited, biding his time and eavesdropping on Tabor until the century-captain showed up; his arrival distracted Tabor and Galeni was able to get the jump on them.

Miles’s brows rose. “How the devil did you manage that?”

Galeni’s hands were flexing as he spoke. “I don’t . . . quite know,” he admitted. “I remember hitting them. . . .” He glanced at Mark. “It was nice to have a clearly defined enemy for a change.”

Upon whom, Miles guessed, Galeni had just unloaded all the accumulated tensions of the last impossible week and this mad night. Miles had witnessed berserkers before. “Are they still alive?”

“Oh yes.”

Miles asks if Tabor’s call is still nearby; Galeni says the police may have found it by now, he heard them in the tunnels, but Miles says they’ll have to chance it.  Mark grumbles that he doesn’t have diplomatic immunity.  Miles asks him if he’d like to really earn that credit chit; Mark says it doesn’t exist, but Miles counters that that was what Ser Galen thought, and he’d been wrong about other things.  Miles asks Galeni if the Cetagandans can be roused, and is pleased when told they should be conscious by now.  He tells Mark to be Lord Vorkosigan, and he’ll be Admiral Naismith, since Mark doesn’t have the Betan accent down yet.  Galeni agrees that Mark owes them this much cooperation.

They make their way through the tunnels, dodging police, until they reach the Cetagandan groundcar, unadorned with any incriminating embassy markings; Miles notices the blood on the pavement and dents in the side.  The two Cetagandans in the backseat are bound and gagged; Tabor is awake, the century-captain is still out cold, and Miles gets the medkit while Ivan loads Elli into the vehicle.  The others get in the back with the Cetagandans and Ivan lowers a reflective canopy to hide them from outside viewers.  Miles injects the century-captain with synergine to rouse him, and gives Elli one too for good measure.  Ivan drives off, and Miles calls NIm to signal him to withdraw and follow them.

“Hello, Tabor,” said Mark, carefully coached, in his best Barrayaran Vor tones—did it really sound that snide?—”How’s your bonsai?”

Tabor recoiled slightly. The century-captain stirred, staring through slitted but focusing eyes. He tried to move, discovered his bonds, and settled back—not relaxed, but not wasting energy on futile struggle.

Galeni reached over him and loosed Tabor’s gag. “Sorry, Tabor. But you can’t have Admiral Naismith. Not here on Earth, anyway. You can pass the word up your chain of command. He’s under our protection until his fleet leaves orbit. Part of the agreed price for his helping the Barrayaran Embassy find the Komarrans who had lately kidnapped some of our personnel. So back off.”

Tabor’s eyes shifted, back and forth, as he spat out his gag, worked his jaw, and swallowed. He croaked, “You’re working together?”

“Unfortunately,” growled Mark.

“A mercenary,” caroled Miles, “gets it where he can.”

The century-captain tells “Naismith” that taking the Dagoola contract was a mistake; Miles agrees amiably, claiming that the Dagoolans stiffed them, too.  He can’t afford personal vengeance, though, having been driven to work with his “old friends” the Barrayarans.  Tabor is surprised that “Naismith” really seems to be a clone; “Lord Vorkosigan” says they thought he was a Cetagandan clone, but they now know he was made by the Komarrans.  Miles says they promised to cover him until he leaves Earth, as long he avoids Barrayar in future, which he has no interest in anyway.  Elli awakens and looks around in surprise at her surroundings, but decides to keep quiet until they can brief her more fully.

Ivan asks where he should drop off the Cetagandans, and Galeni says cheerfully that there’s no need for an incident, for him to reveal what the Cetagandans were really doing at the Tidal Barrier; he tells Ivan to take them to a hospital, since Tabor has a broken arm and his comrade has a concussion…unless Tabor prefers treatment at the Cetagandan embassy instead?  Tabor chooses the embassy, to keep either of their ambassadors from having to get involved in the messy exchange of charges that would result at the hospital.  They drop the two Cetagandans off, tossing the key after them once they’re out of the car, Galeni promising to return the car…after the Barrayarans have examined it thoroughly, of course.

Ivan asks Miles if he thinks the Cetagandans are convinced; Miles says he’s not sure they bought the idea that Barrayar had nothing to do with Dagoola, but they should now be easy to convince that Vorkosigan and Naismith are two different people.  Ivan wonders if Destang will approve, and Galeni says that he “doesn’t give a good goddamn” about what Destang thinks; Miles agrees, though he realizes they are all very tired.  He asks Mark where he wants to be dropped off; Mark says any tube station, and Galeni doesn’t object.  Ivan takes them to the nearest one and Miles and Mark get out and go down the lift tube.

In the station, Miles pulls out the coded card with the hundred thousand Betan dollars on it and gives it to Mark, telling him that he should be able to use that to disappear easily enough.  Mark asks what Miles wants of him; Miles says he’s a free man, they won’t be pursuing him over Galen’s death.  He admits he’d like more from Mark than that, but he’ll settle for what he can get.

“What is it that you want me to do?” Mark demanded. “What are you setting me up for? Did you really take that Jackson’s Whole garbage seriously? What do you expect me to do?”

“You can take it and retire to the pleasure domes of Mars, for as long as it lasts. Or buy an education, or two or three. Or stuff it down the first waste chute you pass. I’m not your owner. I’m not your mentor. I’m not your parents. I have no expectations. I have no desires.” Rebel against that—if you can figure out how—little brother. . . . Miles held his hands palm-out and stepped back.

Mark swung into the lift tube, never turning his back. “WHY NOT?” he yelled suddenly, baffled and furious.

Miles threw back his head and laughed. “You figure it out!” he called.

Miles returns to the car, and Elli asks if that was a good idea.  Miles says Galen twisted Mark so much that Miles couldn’t help any more, so the best he can do is deprive Mark of the object of his obsession and see if he can untwist himself.  He calls Nim and dismisses them back to the shuttle, but decides that he and the others have to go back to the embassy and face the music.  No point in lying any more, either, he says, and Galeni agrees.  “I do not care for doctored reports anyway. Eventually, they become history. Embedded sin.”

Miles apologizes for Galen’s death, and Galeni says he never thought Miles was omnipotent.  Miles tells Ivan to drive slowly, and they enjoy a leisurely drive through London’s summer dawn.  All too soon they are lined up in Galeni’s office, facing a disgusted-looking Destang.

“Vorkosigan.” Miles’s name hung in the air before them like a visible thing. Destang regarded it without favor, and went on, “When I finished dealing with a certain Investigator Reed of the London Municipal Assizes at 0700 this morning, I was determined that only divine intervention could save you from my wrath. Divine intervention arrived at 0900 in the person of a special courier from Imperial HQ.” Destang held up a data disk marked with the Imperial seal between his thumb and forefinger. “Here are the new and urgent orders for your Dendarii irregulars.”

Destang tells him that a mercenary fleet in a system in that sector has slipped over the edge from blockade into outright piracy.  They captured a passenger liner to convert into a troop transport, and had the bright idea to hold the passengers for hostage.  While many of the governments whose citizens were captured are involved in negotiations, Barrayar had only a few, including the wife of one Lord Vorvane, Minister for Heavy Industries, and were unable to get a representative onto the team.  The Barrayaran fleet is blocked from the shortest route, but the Dendarii are only a couple of weeks away.  Their orders are to rescue the Barrayarans and as many other citizens as possible, and convince the pirates that they should reconsider their career choices, as usual without revealing who hired them, method left entirely to Miles’s discretion.  Destang hands over the most recent intelligence information they have, as well as, somewhat grudgingly, another eighteen-million-mark credit chit.  After that he can report to Commodore Rivik at Orient Station, and, with any luck, he’ll stay out of Destang’s sector until he’s had the chance to retire.

Destang turned his eye on Ivan. “Lieutenant Vorpatril.”

“Sir?” Ivan stood to attention with his best air of eager enthusiasm. Miles prepared to protest Ivan’s complete innocence, ignorance, and victimhood, but it turned out not to be necessary; Destang contemplated Ivan for a moment longer, and sighed, “Never mind.”

Destang then turns to Galeni.  Galeni is facing charges of disobeying orders in leaving the embassy, but since Miles is already evading those charges, it doesn’t seem fair to punish Galeni for it.  Destang admits that they did end up rescuing Ivan and killing an enemy of Barrayar; anything about Galeni’s motives and thoughts is mere speculation…unless he agrees to fast-penta.  Galeni asks if it’s an order, and Miles can tell he’ll resign if pressed.  Destang says no, and he’s going to pass the whole mess up to Simon Illyan, who can deal with the political questions; in the meantime, Galeni can resume his post on Earth, at the ambassador’s request.

Miles and Elli return to the Triumph, the Dendarii busily preparing for departure.  Miles sends the curious away with instructions to help get things ready.  They encounter Tung, dressed in civilian clothing, who says he’s retiring and getting married.  A distant relative of his, a widow, has a tourist boat on the Amazon which he’s going to help her with, once Miles finishes buying out his share of the Triumph.  Miles is somewhat distressed by this, but Tung assures him that he’ll do fine, he’s earned his rank, and, he says with a wink, the Dendarii don’t have to make a profit.

After Tung leaves, Miles tells Elli they’ll need to send someone to infiltrate the pirate fleet, and he realizes that Elli is the logical choice to send.  Overcoming his reservations, he muses that they need someone able to do “criminally psychotic”, just as Private Danio approaches Miles to thank him for bailing him out.  He tells her to get Thorne to collect any additional information he can from Earth before they leave, and is relieved that this, at least, will be a straightforward mission.

Comments

The pirate mission is one of the great untold Dendarii stories, in that we get a fair number of details about it here, at the end of the book, and then the next we see of it is Miles recovering from it in the Borders of Infinity framing story.  For some authors, this would be a cliffhanger, but for Bujold it just means that the Dendarii are returning to business as usual.  She does lampshade it a bit, actually, when she has Destang refer to it as “divine intervention”.  What would Destang have done with Miles, and Galeni, otherwise?  Punishment details?  Court martials (or is that “courts martial”)?  Even humiliating fast-penta interrogations would be fraught.  He’s wise to push Galeni’s case up to Simon Illyan, where I’m sure Aral Vorkosigan will encourage him to give Galeni the benefit of the doubt.

The scene with Mark and Miles and the Cetagandans is cute, and probably muddied the waters for some time.  Later, when Mark is accepted as a Vorkosigan and Miles’s brother, one might wonder if they figure out that they were had, especially after Admiral Naismith’s forced retirement…  This book was written before Cetaganda, of course, so Bujold may not have realized yet that Miles did have a few allies inside the Cetagandan power structure, who turn up the next time Miles and the Cetagandans cross paths, in Diplomatic Immunity.  So perhaps by then they’ve decided to let bygones be bygones, or just given up..
According to the timelines supplied in most of the books (and in The Vorkosigan Companion), Miles is 24 in Brothers In Arms, 25 by the time of the Borders of Infinity framing story, and 28 for Mirror Dance.  Those three or four years are another gap filled with Dendarii missions for Miles–as, admittedly, were the four years between The Vor Game (age 20) and Brothers In Arms, but since those include Ethan of Athos, “Labyrinth”, and “The Borders of Infinity”, it feels like we know more about them.  I doubt Bujold intends to fill in all of that history, by this point, though it does give her plenty of room to add in any “remember when” backstory scenes or discussions if needed for later plot or character development.  Of course, Mark isn’t idle in that period either, but we’ll find out more about that in Mirror Dance.  Miles is 30, of course, for Memory, where he learns the truth about Galeni’s comment about doctored reports.


I did it!  Brothers In Arms is done, and in plenty of time for me to read Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance…assuming that it doesn’t get delayed like CryoBurn did.  By popular request, I will be doing the Borders of Infinity framing story next, but I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll do that next week, and then give myself a week off before Mirror Dance, or if I’ll do the week off right away and then the framing story.  Chronologically, there is a longer gap before Mirror Dance (and it does look like it has more chapters than Brothers–thirty-two–but we’ll see how I feel next week.  Until then…

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Winter is coming, they say, or is it already here?  You know what’s definitely here?  Another Vorkosigan Saga Reread post, as I devote my week to another two chapters in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga–in this case, chapters Thirteen and Fourteen in Brothers In Arms, the penultimate installment in the book.  We’re definitely into the climax now…

Chapter Thirteen

Ivan follows Elli and Miles back up to their quarters.  As Miles changes back into his Dendarii uniform, Ivan says that Destang will probably be trying to break Galeni down.  Miles is incensed on Galeni’s behalf, but says that if Ser Galen couldn’t do it, Destang probably can’t.  Ivan says they’ll probably be coming to question him soon enough.  Miles realizes that Ivan will indeed remain in the thick of it, and proposes that he give his secured commlink back to Ivan, while Elli “forgets” to return hers, and that Ivan then keeps Miles’s commlink until he gets the other half.  Ivan is leary of the idea, not wanting another incident on his service record.  Miles insists it will only be a precaution, in case he needs to a private line to the embassy; Ivan says he can’t conceive of any reason Miles would need to use it rather than normal channels, and neither would Destang.

“Just what are you hatching in the back of your twisty little mind, Coz?”

Miles sealed his boots and paused in seriousness. “I’m not sure. But I may yet see a chance to save . . . something, from this mess.”

Elli, listening intently, remarked, “I thought we had saved something. We uncovered a traitor, plugged a security leak, foiled a kidnapping, and broke up a major plot against the Barrayaran Imperium. And we got paid. What more do you want for one week?”

“Well, it would have been nice if any of that had been on purpose, instead of by accident,” Miles mused.

Ivan ask him what he wants to save, and realizes it must be the clone.  He tells Miles to stop obsessing over it, but Miles says that it’s his brother–on some planets, would even be considered his child.  Ivan says that it tried to kill him, and Elli says he could always make another clone if he wants one.  Miles says he doesn’t want a clone, but he seems to have one anyway.  Elli says the clone belongs to Galen, by Jackson’s Whole law, and Ivan says that Miles is out of the picture anyway.  Miles says that Destang wants to kill the clone, and he has no time to get his father to tell Simon Illyan to order him otherwise.  Ivan is shocked that Miles would even consider pulling strings like that, but Miles says he owes it to his clone.  He tells Ivan that he just wants to keep an open channel, in case; he’d give it to Galeni, but he doesn’t think it would look right.

Miles, Elli and Elena catch a shuttle for returning Dendarii personnel; joining them on it at the last minute is Sergeant Siembieda, a tech sergeant who’d been cryofrozen but made it through.  Siembieda shows them snapshots of the Unicorn Park in Great Britain, where they have a number of genetically engineered species on display, as well as tame lions.  Then he asks, diffidently, what happened on the day he was killed on Mahata Solaris.  Miles tells him they’d been checking out some defective batteries they’d been sold when they were jumped at a warehouse by a Cetagandan hit squad; Siembieda had taken shrapnel to the neck and bled out quickly, but they’d frozen him right away.  Elli points out that memory loss is common in all trauma cases, not just cryo-revivals.  Miles asks her if she remembered her plasma burn, and she admits she never quite lost consciousness.

The shuttle takes off, a little fast, with a combat-drop pilot at the helm.  Miles looks out over the great dikes holding back the risen oceans from the Thames estuary, helping to preserve historical London, and spots one of the Channel-spanning bridges.  He contemplates Galen, wondering what need he still has for Mark, now that his Barrayar plot has been exposed.  He might be trying to sell the clone to somebody, like the Cetagandans…and Miles begins to wonder if he can convince Galen that he wants to but it himself, if that would be an effective way to salvage Mark out of the situation.  But if Galen was willing to sell the clone for a brain transplant, would Miles still be willing to let him escape?

Miles is happy to be back on Triumph, perceptibly in better repair than before their arrival at Earth.  He issues orders to prepare the Dendarii for departure, cancelling any remaining work contracts, then goes to talk to Bel Thorne in the Intelligence department.  He tells Bel to play through the recording of what happened in the Komarrans’ house after they left (supposedly “with the Barrayaran attaché”, for Bel’s benefit).  The guards awaken from stun, and then Galen calls them, discovers their failure, and breaks off contact with them.  The call came from a public comconsole, unfortunately, and with the efficient tube system Galen could already be a hundred kilometers away.  The Barrayarans showed up to arrest the two guards shortly thereafter.

Miles says that the Barrayarans are no longer hiring them to find Galen, but he wants them to keep looking anyway, and this time try to avoid contact with the Barrayarans.  When Bel expresses surprise, Miles decides to “explain” his interest.

“All right. An odd and unexpected personal wrinkle has turned up in the middle of this case. Have you ever wondered why I never speak of my family background, or my past?”

“Well—there are a lot of Dendarii who don’t. Sir.”

“Quite. I was born a clone, Bel.”

Thorne looked only mildly sympathetic. “Some of my best friends are clones.”

“Perhaps I should say, I was created a clone. In the military laboratory of a galactic power that shall remain nameless. I was created for a covert substitution plot against the son of a certain important man, key of another galactic power—you can figure out who with a very little research, I’m sure—but about seven years ago I declined the honor. I escaped, fled, and set up on my own, creating the Dendarii Mercenaries from, er, materials found ready to hand.”

Miles tells Bel that one of the early experiments (before the process was perfected with him) was frozen for a few years and is now in Galen’s hands, from which Miles is determined to recover him.  Bel understands Miles’s interest and promises to do his best.  Miles tells them that they should be able to distinguish the clone because he’ll still have bone in his legs, while Miles’s leg bones are now plastic; otherwise, he and his clone-brother are well-nigh indistinguishable, as Quinn confirms.

After they leave Intelligence, Miles tells Quinn he needed a way to keep the Dendarii on alert about Mark, and when she asks, explains how he arrived at the name “Mark”.  Elli is also dubious about Miles’s interest in the clone, but Miles says that even if everyone else disagrees with him about it, he may still be right.  He’s reluctant to use Naismith’s powers for personal reasons, but thinks Mark is worth it.  Although he’s not sure he wants Galen and Mark to be found, if they are, he wants to be the one to do it, to get Mark and Galen separated, and keep Mark hidden long enough to get the kill orders rescinded.  He’s still not sure what the best solution to Galen is, though.

Lieutenant Bone is ecstatic to receive their money at long last, and Miles tells her to unmortgage Triumph and disburse any other necessary funds.  He also says he wants an untraceable credit chit, payable to bearer, for half a million marks.  Bone promises to do her best.  Miles goes to get some rest, trying to think of a way to get the momentum on his side, to act instead of react, but he can’t do much until they find Galen.

After managing to actually get enough sleep, he receives a comconsole message telling him that there’s a call from the Barrayaran embassy.  Miles has it forwarded to his cabin (with no surveillance or recording).  It is Destang, who orders Lieutenant Vorkosigan to stay on his ship and in orbit until personally notified otherwise by Destang himself.  Miles deduces that Destang wouldn’t be closing off this particular loophole unless he was close to finding Mark.  Miles calls on the private commlink, but reaches not Ivan, but Galeni.  Galeni says that Ivan gave it to him before being sent off to escort the ambassador’s lady to a flower show; apparently Destang is less than thrilled with him, or with Galeni either, having confined him to quarters.

“It’s so damned useless! The dead hand of the past goes on jerking the strings by galvanic reflex, and we poor puppets dance—nothing is served, not us, not him, not Komarr . . .”

“If I could make contact with your father,” began Miles.

“It would be useless. He’ll fight, and keep on fighting.”

“But he has nothing, now. He blew his last chance. He’s an old man, he’s tired—he could be ready to change, to quit at last,” Miles argued.

“I wish . . . no. He can’t quit. Above life itself, he has to prove himself right. To be right redeems his every crime. To have done all that he’s done, and be wrong—unbearable!”

Miles tells Galeni to keep the commlink, just in case, and signs off.  He checks with Bel to discover there’s no progress to speak of, and tells him the Barrayarans seem to have found their quarry, but he wants to beat them there.  Miles prepares to depart immediately on receiving any news, arming himself as well as he can when planning to pass through customs, then waits impatiently for some break.

Soon he receives a call from a public comconsole, which he gets Bel to record; it turns out to be Galen.  Galen tells Miles to meet him at the Thames Tidal Barrier in seventy minutes, and come alone, or else Ivan will die at 0207.  Miles protests that he has to bring a second, to match Galen and Mark, and Galen agrees and hangs up.  Bel says they could have someone there in a few minutes, but by then Galen could have lost himself again.  He tells Bel to ready his shuttle and get Elli to meet him there with some med-scanners, and get the credit chit from Bone.

He calls Galeni and tells him to check on Ivan.  Galeni calls someone else to check, and returns to report that Ivan’s driver has just reported him missing at the flower show.  Miles tells Galeni to get away, however he can, without alerting Destang, and meet him at the Tidal Barrier with a stunner.  They have one last chance to deal with Mark and Galen properly before it’s too late.

Comments

I’m not sure why they need the scene with Siembieda.  If anything, it reads like foreshadowing for Mirror Dance, but that book was still years in the future; was Bujold planning ahead for that already?  Or is it just a little bit of colour, filling in some tech and also a little bit of the backstory between Dagoola IV and Earth?  Seems an odd place for it, though.

We do get a little bit more of a glimpse of the changes in the future Earth–bridges over the English Channel(!), and obviously higher ocean levels, requiring big dikes to protect the historic shores of the Thames.  One almost expects a diabolical plot to blow them up, holding the city hostage, but Galen doesn’t have those resources, and probably never did, except perhaps on Komarr…did he threaten to blow up any Barrayaran-occupied domes back then, one wonders?  (I can’t remember if, by this point, much of Komarr has been described; apart from this book, there was Gregor’s disappearance in The Vor Game, and either of them might have mentioned domes, but once again I’m too lazy to check…)

And Ivan once again gets to be the damsel in distress, in need of rescue.  I guess the other time was in Cetaganda, which wasn’t published under after Mirror Dance, so in some ways this is the first time.  It never fails to amuse, though.  (In some role-playing games, Ivan would fulfill the role of a “dependent NPC”, albeit a competent one, giving Miles a few extra character points in exchange for being a weakness for his enemies to exploit by kidnapping or threatening.)

Chapter Fourteen

Miles finds the Thames Tidal Barrier (a.k.a. the King Canute Memorial) more impressive close up in an aircar than it had from the shuttle.  It’s a gigantic mountain of synthacrete with periodic towers manned by technicians constantly monitoring the pumps and sluices.  Section Six, where they are to meet Galen, is a peripheral area, all but deserted in the wee hours of the morning.  Miles wonders why Ivan’s death is scheduled for 0207 precisely, and the aircar pilot says that it’s high tide; Miles realizes that means that Ivan is probably below the tide line somewhere.  Quinn suggests having the Dendarii check it from the air, which Miles approves.

A man nearby turns out to be a late-night jogger, who avoids the uniformed Dendarii, but the next they see is Captain Galeni.  Miles gets Elli to med-scan him and record it as a baseline, and tests out his wrist-comm, which he sets to constantly transmit.  Elli asks what to do if Mark comes back and Miles doesn’t; Miles tells her to fast-penta him, find out where Ivan is, and then blow Mark’s head off if she wants.

Miles and Galeni set off for the meeting place, a walkway on the other side of the dike.  Galeni says he had no trouble leaving the embassy, but the duty guard definitely saw him, so Destang will know soon enough, but he wasn’t followed, and left his wristcomm behind to avoid being traced.  At the top of the dike, they discover the ladders down are locked.

Miles sighed under his breath. Rappelling high over rock-hard surfaces was one of his all-time least favorite activities. He fished the drop-wire spool from its own little pocket on his Dendarii jacket, attached the gravitic grappler carefully and firmly to the railing, and doublechecked it. At a touch, handles telescoped out from the sides of the spool and released the wide ribbon-harness that always looked horribly flimsy despite its phenomenal tensile strength. Miles threaded it round himself, clipped it tight, hopped over the rail, and danced down the wall backwards, not looking down. By the time he reached the bottom his adrenaline was pumping nicely, thank you.

Miles says he managed to sneak two stunners and a few other “toys” through security; Galeni only has one stunner himself.  They walk slowly along the walkway, the water not far below them, obviously covering this place at high tide.  Miles peeks around a curve and sees Mark and Galen standing at the end of the walkway, in front of a door, stunners at the ready.  Galen sees Miles, and notes the standoff; either Miles can only stun one of them and the other can kill him, or by some chance Miles might stun both, and never know where Ivan is.  Galen is surprised and dismayed to see his son appear behind Miles, but says that it changes nothing.

Galen suggests they all lay their weapons down on the ground.  Miles suggests he and his clone first, then Galen and Galeni; Galeni gives his word, and his father reluctantly accepts, though he hesitates a long time when his turn comes, before reluctantly laying down his stunner.  Galeni follows suit.  Ser Galen asks for Miles’s proposition; Miles offers the credit chit (which he says is concealed, where Galen would never find it), a hundred thousand Betan dollars, and information on how to evade the Barrayarans.  In return, he asks for Ivan, the clone, and Galen’s promise to retire peaceably somewhere.

“The revolt,” breathed Galen almost to himself, “must not die.”

“Even if everybody in it dies? ‘It didn’t work, so let’s do it some more’? In my line of work they call that military stupidity. I don’t know what they call it in civilian life.”

“My older sister once surrendered on a Barrayaran’s word,” Galen remarked. His face was very cold. “Admiral Vorkosigan too was full of soft and logical persuasion, promising peace.”

“My father’s word was betrayed by an underling,” said Miles, “who couldn’t recognize when the war was over and it was time to quit. He paid for the error with his life, executed for his crime. My father gave you your revenge then. It was all he could give you; he couldn’t bring those dead to life. Neither can I. I can only try to prevent more dying.”

Galen asks his son what he could promise; Galeni says grandchildren, perhaps, a continuation of his family line.  Galen sneers that they would be “good Imperial subjects”.  Miles wonders at Galen’s own proposition, knowing that he must have a second weapon concealed, and briefly considering trying to swim for it; he doesn’t, even when Galen pulls out a nerve disrupter.  He tells Mark to gather up the stunners, and says he’s going to kill them; Miles wonders why he hasn’t already, and tries to keep him talking, asking what he thinks to accomplish.

Galen says he will leave with the only Miles–not to replace Miles Vorkosigan this time, but rather Miles Naismith, and take over the Dendarii Mercenaries.  Miles says that the Dendarii are wise to the possibility of substitution, and he’s told them to use med-scanners.  The clone tells him that he’s had his own perfectly good leg bones replaced with synthetics too, though, and any other differences will be more subtle and easy to miss.  He’ll dispose of the three who know Miles Vorkosigan–Elli and the Bothari-Jeseks–and study up on Miles’s logs until he’s a perfect replacement.

Miles says that he’ll never carry it off, since Miles carries lots of information in his head about the five thousand Dendarii that’s not in any log.  Even if Mark does succeed–is that really what he wants?  He doesn’t have to be a mercenary commander, he could have the freedom to be anything else he wants.  Galen comments that the clone won’t make a convincing soldier if he’s never killed, so he hands the clone the nerve disrupter and tells him to kill Miles and Galeni.  Mark asks about the credit chit and Galen tells him it’s just a ruse.  Miles speaks into his wristcomm, and Elli replies audibly, telling him that everything they said has been relayed to Thorne in Intelligence.

Galen exhorts Mark to kill them, but Mark is undecided.  Miles tells him that he’s a free man, until he kills for Galen.  Galen tells him to kill his enemies, and makes to take the disrupter from the clone; Galeni steps in front of Miles.  The disrupter crackles, but it is Ser Galen who falls.  Mark points the weapon back and Miles as he lunges forward.  Noticing the seawater beginning to lap over the edge of the walkway, Miles asks about Ivan, and Mark tells him to stay back or he’ll never know.  Miles agrees to help him, if he takes them to Ivan, but Mark doesn’t trust him.  Miles points out that between the Komarrans, the Barrayarans, and the local authorities, Mark doesn’t have a lot of alternatives.  Elli begins to rappel down behind them, and Mark ducks through the hatch, tossing the nerve disrupter away; he points out that it’s Miles’s fingerprints on the weapon.

The hatch closes and locks; Elli suggests blowing it open, but it’s below the high tide line, so Miles nixes that, not wanting to flood London.  Galeni hasn’t moved, but tells Miles he’s not in shock “yet”…Miles asks him to go up and try to find another entrance.  He offers Galeni weapons, but Galeni says he’ll use his bare hands.  Quinn gets the door open shortly after Galeni ascends, and she and Miles enter, leaving Galen’s body behind.  They soon reach a T-intersection.

“You go left, I’ll go right,” said Miles.

“You shouldn’t be alone,” Quinn objected.

“Maybe I should be twins, eh? Go, dammit!”

Miles runs along the corridor for a while, just beginning to wonder if he’s missed a turnoff when he spots a stunner on the floor, obviously dropped by Mark.  He tries to contact Quinn with his wristcomm but gets no response.  Reaching a lift tube, he goes up and gets off in a lobby on the third floor.  The first person he sees, though, a man in civilian clothes, pulls out a nerve disrupter and shoots at him.  Miles ducks back into the lift tube, catching only the very edge of the disruptor, and realizes the man had Barrayaran boots; he was nearly shot by his own side, mistaking him for his clone.  The next level up is empty of gunmen, and Miles tries four doors along the corridor before finding one that opens.  Two women in tech uniforms are cowering under a console.

Miles tried a friendly smile. “Ah . . . hello.”

“Who are you people?” said the second woman in rising tone.

“Oh, I’m not with them. They’re, um . . . hired killers.” A just description, after all. “Don’t worry, they’re not after you. Have you called the police yet?”

She shook her head mutely.

“I suggest you do so immediately. Ah—have you seen me before?”

She nodded.

“Which way did I go?”

She cowers away, obviously convinced he’s insane, and he leaves, urging them again to call the police.  He reaches the other end of the hall, where the lift tube has been deactivated, and peeking over the edge gets another nerve disrupter aimed at him.  Miles heads out onto a balcony instead, and uses his grappler to go up to the next level.  There, he spots Mark, waiting by the lift tube with his stunner.  Miles calls out to him and offers to help get him out of this, so they can find Ivan.  Mark agrees to tell Miles where Ivan is in exchange for help escaping.

Miles tells Mark that the Barrayarans will have to retreat as soon as the police arrive, already being in hot water just for having been seen.  He suggests going to the roof for pickup by a Dendarii aircar, but Mark says that he’ll be Miles’s captive then, and he knows what use Miles could have for a clone…  He tells Miles that Ivan is down, not up, and they only have eleven minutes left.  Miles checks the lift-tube, finds it empty, and hooks up the rappelling line, telling Mark to hang on.  Miles jumps over the side, Mark clinging in terror.

Their doubled weight gathered momentum terrifyingly. They fell unimpeded in near-silence for four stories—Miles’s stomach was floating near his back teeth, and the sides of the lift tube were a smear of color—then the rappelling spool began to whine, resisting its blurring spin. The straps bit, and Mark’s grip hand-to-hand across Miles’s collarbone began to pull apart. Miles’s right hand flashed up to clamp around Mark’s wrist. They braked to a demure stop a centimeter or two above the lift tube’s bottom floor, back in the belly of the synthacrete mountain. Miles’s ears popped.

They don’t seem to have excited any attention, even when Miles pulls the grappel back down after them.  Mark points the way and they jog along the corridor; Miles can hear the pumps beginning to work just one level below them.  Mark stops and indicates the access hatch to a pumping chamber.  Miles pictures Ivan’s fate if not rescued, and castigates Mark for doing this to someone whose worst crime was snoring.

He opens the hatch and sees Ivan’s face looking up; he sets up the grappel and sends the rappelling harness down to Ivan, who grabs on and lets the reel pull him up.  Ivan crawls out into the corridor, his hands raw from pounding on the walls, and when Miles closes the hatch again, the pump begins working immediately.  He tells Miles he’s going to take up claustrophobia as a hobby.  Miles turns and sees that Mark has disappeared, and he still can’t raise Elli on his wristcomm.  He calls Sergeant Nim with the air patrol instead and tells him he’s lost contact with Quinn, and where he last saw her.

He pulls Ivan to his feet and they walk down the corridor.  Ivan said it feels like he’s been on pure adrenaline for hours, but Miles says it’s only been a couple of hours.  He says that Galen snatched him to lure Miles down, even though Destang had ordered him to stay on Triumph, which is why the Barrayarans feel free to shoot at any diminutive Miles that they see.  He tells Ivan that Galen is dead, as they near the hatch to the walkway, and, hearing approaching footsteps, says he’ll get a chance to thank Mark in person soon enough.

Mark appears, running flat-out, with a plasma burn on one side of his face.  He tells Miles about “painted lunatics” in the next watchtower up the corridor.  Miles realizes that these must be Cetagandans, and that Quinn may well have run into them.

“But you can relax, Mark. They don’t want to kill you.”

“The hell they don’t! He shouted, ‘There he is, men!’ and tried to blow my head off!”

Miles’s lips peeled back on a dirty grin. “No, no,” he caroled soothingly. “Merely a case of mistaken identity. Those people want to kill me—Admiral Naismith. It’s just the ones on the other end of the tunnel who want to kill you. Of course,” he added jovially, “neither of them can tell us apart.”

Miles leads them back to the access hatch, but with the rising waters, they can no longer open it.

Comments

Poor Mark, he still can’t decide which way to jump.  He still has so little experience in trusting people, but at least he broke free of Galen (who never did dignify him with a name apart from “my Miles”).  He can’t figure out Miles’s motivations, though, apart from his conclusion that he must want a clone-body.  Would Miles want Mark as a clone-body, though?  At least Mark doesn’t have fragile bones (lucky him, though, he got to have unnecessary replacements), but he’s still not really tall and prepossessing.  Of course, if Miles was transplanted into a real Ivan-sized clone, most of the people he knew wouldn’t recognize him, so I suppose there’s that.

This chapter and the next one are kind of like a bedroom farce, except with lethal weapons.  The Cetagandans want to kill Miles Naismith, the Barrayarans want to kill Mark the clone, and neither of them really want to kill Miles Vorkosigan, but they can’t tell any of the two (three) of them apart.  And, of course, neither group wants to be caught by the police, who would probably love to just stun everybody and sort them out in jail…at least, as soon as they arrive.

There is a nice moment (which I mostly skipped over) after Miles rescues Ivan:

“Why did you come downside?” asked Ivan after a minute or two. “Don’t tell me you’re still trying to save that graceless little copy’s worthless hide.”

“Galen sent me an invitation engraved on your hide. I don’t have too many relatives, Ivan. They’re of surprising value to me. If only for their rarity, eh?”

Miles and Ivan don’t always get along, but they do care about each other, and, let’s face it, Miles is much closer to his cousin than to his genetic twin, because of the wealth of shared experiences.  Miles and Ivan are more “brothers in arms” than Miles and Mark.  It’ll take a few more books for their relationship to settle down still…

The little rappelling spool/grapple thingie does prove to be very useful, and Miles even comments to himself that he almost didn’t bring it along.  I’m not quite sure how such a little thing could lift someone as heavy as Ivan out of the tank, but I guess he wasn’t completely dead weight, and if it can stop Mark and Miles from hitting the bottom of the lift tube, it must be fairly strong.  I guess that’s the “gravitic” part of the “gravitic grappler”–does it have a miniature black hole?  Or just some weird offshoot of the gravitic imploder lance weapon (though that wasn’t actually mentioned until the later-written Vor Game…)


One more week!  I just hope Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance comes in at the local bookstore branch, and that we don’t have to go too far afield to track it down next Tuesday.  Or that it doesn’t get held up for weeks like Cryoburn did.  I tried to preorder it online, but apparently they only guarantee to send it on release date.  I remember Harry Potter & The Order of The Phoenix, you could order to arrive on release date.  Grumble.  I really need to remember to get the reread post done early next week, to leave Tuesday clear…  Oh, yeah, and the election, too.  It’ll be a long week…

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Hello again, or whatever.  There’s these books, Vorkosigan Saga, by Bujold, I’m going through them and stuff.  This one’s Brothers In Arms, we’re close to being done.  Got it?  Good, let’s go.

Chapter Eleven

Miles wakes up to find himself in a hospital room–ImpMil in Vorbarr Sultana, from the view out the window.  A doctor (Dr. Galen, by his nametag) enters and asks if he’s going to “go away” on them again–crazy, like his ancestors.  He sticks his hand into his pocket and exclaims that the hypospray bit him; he throws it onto the floor and stomps on it.  Then he tells Miles that any mental disorientation he may be experiencing is normal, since he’s been revived from cryofreeze after he died on Earth a year ago; Miles vaguely remembers lying frozen in a glass coffin.  The doctor tells him that his body was too spoiled, unfortunately, but luckily there was a spare body at hand.  Miles finds the stitches on his forehead and is dismayed; he asks Dr. Galen what happened to the body’s old brain, and Galen points out a brain preserved in a pickling jar.

“No, no, no!” cried Miles. “No, no, no!” He struggled out of bed and clutched up the jar. The liquid sloshed cold down over his hands. He ran out into the hall, barefoot, his patient gown flapping open behind him. There had to be spare bodies around here; this was Imp Mil. Suddenly, he remembered where he’d left one.

He burst through another door and found himself in the combat-drop shuttle over Dagoola IV. The shuttle hatch was jammed open; black clouds shot with yellow dendrites of lightning boiled beyond. The shuttle lurched, and muddy, wounded men and women in scorched Dendarii combat gear slid and screamed and swore. Miles skidded to the open hatch, still clutching the jar, and stepped out.

He falls/floats down to the ground, ignoring the falling red-haired woman, then lands next to Lieutenant Murka’s decapitated body.  He pulls the brain out of the jar and tries to attach it to Murka’s neck, but he can’t get it to attach.  Murka says he’s not going to have a face anyway, but Miles tells him to shut up, he’s dead.  He’s still trying to attach the brain when he wakes up.

He’s relieved to be awake once more, still in the cell with Galeni; he says it was such a bad dream that waking up there was still an improvement.  Galeni says he and one guard stunned each other, leaving one still conscious, but he’s not sure how long they were out; Miles is still a little weak and twitchy from stun.  When the door opens, he hopes for supper, but instead the guards–prepared for trouble–tell them to come out.  They take them down in the elevator, and Miles urges Galeni to talk to his father.  When Galeni asks, though, the guards say that Galen is gone, and left them with their orders.

Miles asks how the guards are going to kill them.  One of them says that they’ll be stunned and dropped into the ocean with weights on, and even if they wash ashore it’ll just look like drowning.  Miles tries to consider his escape options.

“And so the Butcher of Komarr gets his at last,” the solemn guard observed in a detached voice. “Indirectly.” He raised his stunner.

“Wait!” squeaked Miles.

“What for?”

Miles was still groping for a reply when the garage doors slid open.

“Me!” yelled Elli Quinn. “Freeze!”

A troop of Dendarii surges into the garage, taking out the two guards.  Elli walks up to Miles and Galeni, asking Miles how he did that…and then pauses, looking at his face.  Miles crows that he knew the clone wouldn’t fool Elli; she asks, what clone?  It turns out that Elli had no idea about the clone, but had managed to track down Galeni, as he’d ordered her to do a week ago…  They’d planned to wait for positive ID and call in the authorities, but what she’d overheard made her decide to go in and rescue them.

“Remember, three or four nights ago when you took me to be kidnapped so’s I could penetrate the opposition and find out who they were and what they wanted?”

“Yeah . . .”

“Well,” Miles took a deep breath, “it worked. Congratulations. You have just converted an absolute disaster into a major intelligence coup. Thank you, Commander Quinn. By the way, the guy you walked out of that empty house with—wasn’t me.”

Elli said she thought the clone story was something that Miles made up; Miles agreed that he had, but it probably confused the issue when the real clone turned up.  He tells Elli that there should be one difference between him and the clone–his own bones should show a distinctive pattern of breakage that the clones’ shouldn’t.  Miles turns to ask Captain Galeni how they’re going to handle the situation.  Galeni says they’ll need to call in the local authorities, since the Komarrans have obviously committed crimes here on Earth, and the Barrayarans can’t extradite them.  Miles points out that the whole clone story will come out in this case, as well as some of Miles’s other secrets, and the Cetagandans will likely hear.  Galeni says that it’s too late to cover it up entirely, and Miles says that a few confused rumours may actually help muddy the waters.  He urges Galeni to just keep the Komarrans under surveillance; the clone is likely at the Barrayaran Embassy, where they can capture him anytime.  Galeni isn’t sure about this plan.

Miles tells the Dendarii to drain as many comconsole files as they can, and see if they can find some of those personal scanner-shield belts for Baz Jesek to examine.  They return successful, while Miles’s broken finger is treated; Galen has still not returned.  Miles stuns the remaining guards, after threatening to dump them in the ocean before they regain consciousness.  They arrive back to the Barrayaran Embassy, Galen wearing his uniform and Miles without, both of them quite odorous and bearded after their incarceration, but giddy with relief at being alive.  Miles says they’ll go right in the front door, where they are met by a guard who is pleasantly surprised to see Galeni, and confused to see Miles.  Galeni tells him to summon up Ivan, and only Ivan.  Ivan duly arrives and is very happy to see Galeni returned.

“My absence wasn’t voluntary, I assure you.” Galeni tugged on one earlobe, blinking, and ran the hand through his beard stubble, clearly a little touched by Ivan’s enthusiasm. “As I shall explain in detail, later. Right now—Lieutenant Vorkosigan? It is perhaps time to surprise your, er, other relative.”

Ivan glanced at Miles. “They let you out, then?” He looked more closely, then stared. “Miles . . .”

Miles bared his teeth and moved them out of earshot of the mesmerized corporal. “All shall be revealed when we arrest the other me. Where am I, by the way?”

Ivan doesn’t think Miles’s head-games are very funny; Miles explains the clone swap, and hopes that Ivan had noticed some difference, at least.  Ivan said he had seemed “off his feed”–not manic, not depressive, but, unusually, just neutral.  He admits he’d suspected something the first night, but brushed it off, since he knew Miles had made up the clone story himself.  He was surprised to see Miles, though; it takes Galeni and Miles a few minutes to get the story out of him.  Ivan says the local authorities came and served “Miles” with notice that he wasn’t allowed to leave, which upset him because he’d gotten orders to ship out.  It emerges that they had decided to charge Lt. Miles Vorkosigan with the attempted assassination of Admiral Miles Naismith.

Miles stamped in a circle. “Ah. Ah. Agh!”

“The ambassador is filing protests all over the place. Naturally, we couldn’t tell them why we thought they were mistaken.”

Miles clutched Quinn’s elbow. “Don’t panic.”

“I’m not panicking,” Quinn observed, “I’m watching you panic. It’s more entertaining.”

Miles says that if the clone knows what he’s doing, he’ll be going all aristocratically “no-comment” on them.  If they hurry to catch up to him, they might be able to save Admiral Naismith.  He says that he and Galeni will go clean up, while Ivan gets them some food, then Admiral Miles Naismith can drive down to the law courts and try to spring his clone.

They show up at the London Municipal Assizes, Miles in Dendarii regalia, still with the beard, though more neatly trimmed.  They are directed to an office where they meet with Investigator Reed, whom Elli is acquainted with from the earlier investigation.  Miles introduces “himself”; Reed is impressed at Naismith’s resemblance to “Lord Vorkosigan”, who he found to be surly and obstructive.  Miles explains that “Vorkosigan” dislikes being reminded of his clone’s existence, possibly because of Naismith’s greater rank…

He asks Reed how he’d come to the absurd conclusion that “Vorkosigan” was behind the assassination attempt; he apologizes if Reed had been listening too much to Lise Vallerie, who he’d spun a tall tale for earlier.  Reed says the two assassins from the float-truck were a dead end, but they had traced an unauthorized aircar from the area of the incident back to the Barrayaran Embassy.  This would have been Sgt. Barth’s car; Miles waves it away as the usual tedious Barrayaran surveillance, and suggests the Cetagandans, who he’d inconvenienced recently, as more likely suspects.

Reed asks why Miles is so concerned, and Miles says that he just wants to clear things up with the Barrayarans, though he emphasizes that there’s no “obstruction of justice” going on.  He asks if they can release Lord Vorkosigan into the custody of Captain Galeni.  Reed gets a peculiar expression and says that they already did that; upon discovering that his description of “Captain Galeni” matches Ser Galen, Miles thanks him for his time and they leave.

“I think,” said Captain Galeni, “it is time to return to the embassy. And send a full report to HQ.”

The urge to confess, eh? “No, no, never send interim reports,” said Miles. “Only final ones. Interim reports tend to elicit orders. Which you must then either obey, or spend valuable time and energy evading, which you could be using to solve the problem.”

Comments

She almost had me going at the beginning of this chapter, at first.  Waking up in a hospital bed–I guess he’s been rescued!  Then “Dr. Galen”–is he trying some weird brainwashing on Miles?  The cryocorpse story…plausible, until the part where his parents had approved transplanting his brain into the clone’s body.  By the time he’s back on Dagoola, it’s clear that this is definitely a dream.  But nice fake-out, nonetheless.  Bujold doesn’t use dream material that much, but this is a good one, because these are precisely the kinds of anxieties Miles is trying to process at the moment, together with Dagoola IV flashbacks…

So apparently neither Elli nor Ivan was able to spot the clone…or, at least, were thrown off by their knowledge that the clone story was a fake.  One must admit that it would require extraordinary evidence to lead one to the conclusion that somebody one knew had been replaced by an imposter.  In our world, it’d have to be identical twins (like on “Ringer”–I didn’t finish that one, so I don’t know if anyone had figured out the identity switch on that show), but here there’s also clones, an additional, if not much more plausible, possibility.  The fact of Miles’s teratogenic body changes makes it even less likely for a clone to work, unless one had the insane determination of Ser Galen.  The “evil twin” is an apparently hoary plot device; if there’s any twist here, it might be that Miles’s clone is not “evil” by nature.  Mark’s arc in Mirror Dance goes a long way towards redeeming any potential clichés that Bujold may have committed by introducing him here.

Chapter Twelve

They do return to the embassy, where Galeni organizes a thorough investigation of the courier officer, and Miles changes back to Barrayaran uniform and gets his broken hand looked at.  He wonders sadly if it’s time to get his arm and hand bones replaced with synthetics like he already did with his legs.

He goes down to Galeni’s office, where Galeni says they really may have to call in the local authorities, since they’re going to need the resources of a small army to find Galen and Mark now.  Miles point out that the Dendarii are a small army, of proven effectiveness, and urges Galeni to hire them.  Galeni asks how they’ll explain the clone, and Miles says he’ll tell them it’s Naismith’s clone, if necessary, but says they can concentrate on finding Galen instead.  The problem is, what to do with them when they catch them.

Galen says there are three possibilities–turn them over to Earth authorities; capture them and send them secretly to Barrayar to be tried, the most likely option; or to kill them in secret.  Miles says the first will destroy Naismith’s secret identity and reveal the Dendarii link to Barrayar; the second might not be so bad for Mark, who will have Vorkosigan allies in the government, but Ser Galen’s fate will be unenviable; and the third would be a criminal order.  Miles notes that they can just not capture their respective relatives in the first place.  Galeni says that capturing his father may be the last chance for his career, if it’s not already hopeless for not having known about him until now.  Miles says his predecessor didn’t find Galen either.  Galen wishes that his father had really died in that explosion, which would have been a fitting end, instead of hanging around to torment him.  Miles wonders how to choose between Admiral Naismith’s existence and Galeni’s career–or his sanity, which would doubtless suffer if he brought about his father’s death.

Galeni says his choice is to go after them; Miles suggests that he hire the Dendarii to monitor them, but not try to bring them in, instead concentrating on the courier.  Galeni agrees.

Miles finds Elli in the embassy cafeteria, and tells her about their new contract.  He asks how they found him and Galeni in the first place, and Elli explains.  They found the arrest record for the a son of a Komarran expatriate who was caught with an unlicensed stunner of Barrayaran manufacture, and began tracking down his associates.  One of them a certain “Van der Poole”, was registered as an immigrant from Frost IV, a planet that Elli was familiar with from her Jackson’s Whole investigation of Terrence Cee.  Frost IV had lost a lot of its computer records in a natural disaster, so it was easy to fabricate a history there.  Van der Poole turned out to be Ser Galen.

Miles commends their intelligence work, and says he’ll need to transfer their information back to the embassy.  He says that when they find Galen/Van der Poole, they should report directly to Miles himself, who will pass it on the embassy.  Elli makes to leave; Miles asks how long she’s been awake (thirty hours) then tells her she can delegate to Bel Thorne and get some rest.  He tells her he’ll find her a bunk at the embassy, which she agrees to readily.  They hook Ivan up with the data from the Triumph, which should keep him occupied for a while, and they go up to Miles’s quarters.

Elli has a shower while Miles digs out the cat fur from the back of the closet.  Elli emerges and looks around, reassuring Miles that she hadn’t been there before with his clone.  Miles asks if he hadn’t noticed the difference, and she says she had, but she wasn’t sure what it was.  She felt like she’d fallen out of favour somehow, so as a result she decided to keep her progress on finding Ser Galen from him until she had solid evidence, serendipitously keeping the clone from finding out the hunt was even going on.  Miles says that he was doubtless daunted by her beauty.

Her hand touched one cheek, half-consciously, then fell more tenderly to ruffle his hair. “I think you’ve put your finger on it, what felt so wrong. You knew me when I had my old face, and no face, and the new face, and for you alone, it was all the same face.”

His unbandaged hand traced over the arch of her brows, perfect nose, paused at her lips to collect a kiss, then down the ideal angle of her chin and velvet skin of her throat. “Yes, the face . . . I was young and dumb then. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was only later that I realized it could be a handicap for you.”

“Me, too,” sighed Elli. “For the first six months, I was delighted. But the second time a soldier made a pass at me instead of following an order, I knew I definitely had a problem. I had to discover and teach myself all kinds of tricks to get people to respond to the inside of me, and not the outside.”

Miles sympathizes, and Elli remarks on how many of those tricks she learned from him.  They move on to love-play and then sleep.

They are awakened by Ivan coming in insisting they get up, even though it’s midnight.  Ivan tells them that Elena is back from Tau Ceti, and Miles should clean up and shave, because Commodore Destang came with her.  Miles wakes up fully, realizing that after his report Destang might go after Galeni.  He’d never had trouble with Destang before, a competent commander to manage Sector Two intelligence and security, and never impeding Dendarii operations in his area.

Destang is in Galeni’s office with Elena, who’s willing enough to hand off the whole affair to Miles, and Galeni himself.  Destang says he’s read Galeni’s report, and wonders where Miles is; Miles says he’d been in the infirmary.  Destang says they’ve already arrested the courier officer on Tau Ceti, who’d managed to get himself blackmailed by the Komarrans three years earlier.  Despite the courier’s subversion predating Galeni’s arrival on Earth, though, Destang seems to be reserving judgement on Galeni’s involvement.  Miles points out that while Ser Galen may have been expecting to be able to exert leverage on his son, there was no way he could have predicted the Dendarii fleet’s arrival on Earth.

Destang tells Miles that the courier never forwarded Miles’s request for the Dendarii’s payment, nor even informed them of Miles’s presence on Earth; any orders were complete fabrications.  From their point of view, Miles has been missing for two months.

“I—see, sir. Then you never received our urgent requests for funds? Then I was never actually assigned to the embassy!”

A very small noise, as of deep and muffled pain, escaped the otherwise deadpan Galeni.

Destang said, “Only by the Komarrans. Apparently it was a ploy to keep you immobilized until they could make their attempted switch.”

“I’d guessed as much. Ah—you wouldn’t by chance happen to have brought my eighteen million marks with you now, have you? That part hasn’t changed. I did mention it in my memo.”

“Several times,” said Destang dryly. “Yes, Lieutenant, we will fund your irregulars. As usual.”

Destang tells Miles he should never have appeared as Lord Vorkosigan on Earth, and he should return to the Dendarii.  Simon Illyan has been sending ever more frequent requests for updates on Miles, and Destang surmises that new orders for the mercenary fleet will be forthcoming as soon as Illyan is informed of the situation.  Miles asks what they’ll be doing about the situation on Earth, and Destang says that they’ll clean it up themselves, without need for any help from Earth authorities; he’s brought a team from Tau Ceti for the purpose.

“Ser Galen would have been on our most-wanted list long before this if we hadn’t believed him already dead. Galen!” Destang shook his head as though he still couldn’t believe it himself. “Here on Earth, all this time. You know, I served during the Komarr Revolt—it’s where I got my start in Security. I was on the team that dug through the rubble of the Halomar Barracks, after the bastards blew it up in the middle of the night—looking for survivors and evidence, finding bodies and damned few clues . . . There were a lot of new openings for posts in Security that morning. Damn. How it all comes back. If we can find Galen again, after you let him slip through your hands,” Destang’s eyes fell without favor on Galeni, “accidentally or otherwise, we’ll take him back to Barrayar to answer for that bloody morning if nothing else. I wish he could be made to answer for it all, but there’s not enough of him to go around. Rather like Mad Emperor Yuri.”

Miles encourages Destang to think of Galen as having been defanged now that he’s been exposed, but Destang is unwilling to leave him at liberty.  Destang is even willing to risk offending Earth authorities to bring Galen to justice.  Sensing the commodore will not be moved, Miles asks about his clone, who has committed no crimes on Barrayar.  Destang misinterprets Miles’s interest in the clone as a desire to avoid further confusion, and assures him the clone will be dealt with.

Miles hoped that didn’t mean what he thought it did. If he had to derail Destang . . . “There’s no danger of confusion, sir. A simple medical scan can tell the difference between us. His bones are normal, mine are not. By what charge or claim do we have any further interest in him?”

“Treason, of course. Conspiracy against the Imperium.”

The second part being demonstrably true, Miles concentrated on the first part. “Treason? He was born on Jackson’s Whole. He’s not an Imperial subject by conquest or place of birth. To charge him with treason,” Miles took a breath, “you must allow him to be an Imperial subject by blood. And if he’s that, he’s that all the way, a lord of the Vor with all the rights of his rank including trial by his peers—the Council of Counts in full session.”

Destang considers that, and concedes that Miles may have a point; assassination may be a better option, then.  Miles says that whether or not he’s an Imperial subject, killing him would involve a criminal order.  Destang tells Miles not to worry, he wouldn’t think of ordering Miles to do it.  Miles considers whether he should push further, but while he might succeed, he could end up court martialed, or Destang could, and the commodore’s distinguished career would not thus be well served.  If he leaves it alone, at least he should still have freedom of movement to take some other action.  Destang dismisses him, telling to take his credit chit and “all these women” with him.

“Yes, Lieutenant, run along.” Captain Galeni’s voice was utmost-bland. “I never finished writing my report. I’ll give you one Mark, against the commodore’s eighteen million, if you take the Dendarii off with you now.”

Miles’s eyes widened just slightly, hearing the capital M. Galeni hasn’t told Destang yet that the Dendarii are on the case. Therefore, he can’t order them off, can he? A head start—if he could find Galen and Mark before Destang’s team did— “That’s a bargain, Captain,” Miles heard his own voice saying. “It’s amazing, how much one Mark can weigh.”

Comments

A little taken aback, in this chapter, that Miles would consider taking Elli up to his room at the embassy.  I suppose Ivan is proof enough that the staff aren’t required to be celibate, and Elli has been given a certain freedom of movement in the embassy, and yet I thought it possible that Miles was still trying to keep their relationship on the QT.  Their room may not be monitored, but the hallways surely are, so those responsible for keeping tabs on the embassy inhabitants can’t help but know what they’re up to.  Maybe Miles isn’t worried about their opinions, because everyone leapt to that conclusion anyway when Elli arrived as his bodyguard.  As long as Simon Illyan isn’t worried about it, I suppose, Miles does get a certain amount of leeway.  I guess the relationship between the Dendarii and Barrayara being classified means that there isn’t going to be a lot of scurrilous gossip going around…which begs the question, what do the people who aren’t in the know think Elli is doing there?  Maybe Elli being Miles’s girlfriend is actually her cover, then…  I’m so confused.

Miles certainly seems to be in the minority among the Barrayarans in thinking that there’s any value in keeping his clone alive.  Destang, while admitting that the clone might try to claim he’s a Vor lord, is more concerned with disposing of him than convinced that there’s any merit to his claim.  Galeni is, in the end, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but perhaps that’s because his Komarran attitudes are a little bit more Galactic than his Barrayaran colleagues.

I can think of some of the tactics Miles could have used had he been willing to go up against Destang on Mark’s behalf.  Bringing up his father, and demanding that Destang find out what Count (and Countess) Vorkosigan’s desires about the clone, is an obvious one.  While the Vorkosigans wouldn’t be able to actually intervene in time, Destang might be unwilling to alienate Aral Vorkosigan by gambling on his decision.  But, as Miles realizes, it might blight or completely derail Destang’s career, without actually necessarily saving Mark, not to mention adding yet another to the list of superior officers he has to try to push out of the way.  Of course, he’s circumventing Destang anyway, but technically without defying orders…not that that’s the first time, either, given what happened in Cetaganda.


Two more weeks left.  Not to self: you may want to get the last installment done a little early, to free the day itself for reading the new book/watching the American election results.  At least try…

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The wheel of time turns, and brings us around to another Tuesday evening, which means it’s time for another Vorkosigan Saga Reread post.  Over the halfway point now in Brothers In Arms, fulcrum of the series, though our protagonist, Miles Vorkosigan, spends chapters Nine and Ten pretty much a prisoner the whole time, so the action can’t actually be said to be picking up just yet.  The tension, though, perhaps…

Chapter Nine

They take Miles up to an office, bright with sunlight, with a display showing Miles and Galeni’s cell, and occupied by the man who had been in charge of Miles’s kidnapping.  He is preparing a hypospray for what is more likely going to be an interrogation rather than an execution.  It takes a moment for Miles to catch the family resemblance and realize this must be Ser Galen, Galeni’s father.

Galen rose and stalked slowly around Miles with the air of a man studying a sculpture by an inferior artist. Miles stood very still, feeling smaller than usual in his sock feet, stubbled and grubby. He had come to the center at last, the secret source from which all his coiling troubles had been emanating these past weeks. And the center was this man, who orbited him staring back with hungry hate. Or perhaps he and Galen were both centers, like the twin foci of an ellipse, brought together and superimposed at last to create some diabolical perfect circle.

Galen speaks, wondering how such an unimpressive figure could have won his son’s loyalty, but commenting how apt a representation Miles is of his father’s inner corruption.  Miles notes that, having cloned him, Galen knows there’s nothing genetic about it.  Galen concedes the point but still wonders how such a monster as Aral Vorkosigan could retain the allegiance of his own son, let alone so many others.

Miles, glowering, clipped out, “For one thing, my father has never abandoned me in the presence of an enemy.”

Galen jerks away at this and picks up the hypospray; Miles regrets his impulse for the last word which has kept him from extending the conversation and maybe learning something.  Miles asks what Galen is injecting him with, and Galen says it’s fast-penta.  Miles knows what to expect, having studied the drug at the Academy; it’s considered perfect for interrogation, irresistible and harmless, unless of course you have a natural or induced allergy to it.  Most ImpSec agents do, but Miles was considered to be too important to risk his life that way.  As Naismith, he’s witnessed several interrogations, too, and they’re amusing to watch, less amusing to be the subject yourself.

Instead of beginning to feel mellow, relaxed, and trusting, though, Miles begins to feel amped up, as if on caffeine.  He wonders if he’ll turn out to have a natural allergy anyway, but when he keeps breathing, or rather panting, he decides it must just be another weird drug reaction.  They sit him down and Galen asks him about security procedures at the embassy.  Miles begins rambling, spouting not only the answers to Galen’s questions but also every single digression and side road that his brain comes up with.  Normal fast-penta victims do tend to ramble, but can be gently redirected; Miles babbles so forcefully that they find it difficult to keep him on track, or stop him without physical force.

As they mutter about what could be going wrong with the interrogation, a message comes in on the comconsole–Miles’s clone calling to check in with Galen.  He tells Galen that he almost blew it when he didn’t recognize Ivan in the car, but he pretended it was a joke, and it blew over, though he now has to room with Ivan, who snores…

“You’re going to have to deal with all kinds of people who knew him, before this is done,” said Galen roughly to the vid. “But if you can fool Vorpatril, you’ll be able to carry it off anywhere—”

“You can fool all of the people some of the time,” chirped Miles, “and some of the people all of the time, but you can fool Ivan anytime. He doesn’t pay attention.”

Galen glanced over at him in irritation. “The embassy is a perfect isolated test-microcosm,” he went on to the vid, “before you go on to the larger arena of Barrayar itself. Vorpatril’s presence makes it an ideal practice opportunity. If he tumbles to you, we can find some way to eliminate him.”

The clone grumbles that they almost didn’t find out about his double life as Naismith in time, and wonders what else they missed.  Galen tries to reassure him, calling him “Miles”, which strikes the real Miles as odd, that the clone wasn’t allowed to develop his own identity.  He adds that this unexpected opportunity on Earth is much better than trying to pull the switch on Barrayar, which was their original plan, but much more complicated.  The clone says he’s been trying to avoid talking too much, passing it off as a depressive episode.  He asks about Miles’s voice, who’s been babbling in the background throughout the call, and Galen explains he’s under fast-penta.  The clone says to ask him what he should do about the Dendarii Mercenaries, who won’t stop calling him.  He’s trying to convince the ambassador to let him go back to Barrayar, but it’s difficult because he’s in charge of the search for Galeni; they might need to slip them in with the courier.  Miles wonders if they know that the Barrayarans know the courier’s been compromised, and tries to keep from blurting that thought out loud enough for them to hear.

The clone has a few questions for Miles, while he’s there.  He says that Lieutenant Bone asked him what to do with the surplus from the Triumph, and he told her to use her own judgement, but wants to know what that was all about.  Miles tells him that Bone is the fleet accountant, and the surplus is extra money from the mortgage, and she’ll probably just invest it with the rest, what there is of it.  The clone asks why one Rosalie Crew is suing Naismith for half a million credits, and Miles realizes she must be the women from the liquor store.  He recommends countersuing for medical damages to his back, but Galen overrides that, telling the clone to ignore it because he won’t be around that long.

“And leave the Dendarii holding the bag?” said Miles angrily. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying desperately to think in the wavering room. “But of course, you don’t care anything about the Dendarii, do you? You must care! They put their lives on the line for you—me—it’s wrong—you’ll betray them, casually, without even thinking about it, you scarcely know what they are—”

“Quite,” sighed the clone, “and speaking of what they are, just what is his relationship with this Commander Quinn, anyway? Did you finally decide he was screwing her, or not?”

“We’re just good friends,” caroled Miles, and laughed hysterically. He lunged for the comconsole—the guards grabbed for him and missed—and climbing across the desk snarled into the vid, “Stay away from her, you little shit! She’s mine, you hear, mine, mine, all mine—Quinn, Quinn, beautiful Quinn, Quinn of the evening, beautiful Quinn,” he sang off-key as the guards dragged him back. Blows ran him down into silence.

The clone says Miles doesn’t sound like he’s on fast-penta, and Galen agrees that his reaction is odd; if they can’t trust the information he provides, there won’t be much use in keeping him around.  The clone signs off, and Galen turns back to trying to interrogate Miles, about the Dendarii, as well as his habits and acquaintances on Barrayar.  Miles answered when he couldn’t stop himself, but he found that if he managed to hit a line of poetry, he was compelled to finish the whole thing, and tries to use that to derail things.

“At this rate we’ll be here till next winter,” said one of the guards in disgust.

Miles’s bleeding lips peeled back in a maniacal grin. ” ‘Now is the winter of our discontent,’ ” he cried, ” ‘made glorious summer by this sun of York—’ ”

It had been years since he’d memorized the ancient play, but the vivid iambic pentameter carried him along relentlessly. Short of beating him into unconsciousness, there seemed nothing Galen could do to turn him off. Miles was not even to the end of Act I when the two guards dragged him back down the lift tube and threw him roughly back into his prison room.

Once there, his rapid-firing neurons drove him from wall to wall, pacing and reciting, jumping up and down off the bench at appropriate moments, doing all the women’s parts in a high falsetto. He got all the way through to the last Amen! before he collapsed on the floor and lay gasping.

Galeni, taken aback by Miles’s behaviour, asked if he was quite finished.  Miles tells an incredulous Galeni that that was from his fast-penta interrogation, which apparently behaves as oddly for him as other drugs do.  Galeni calls it a stroke of luck, but Miles remembers Galen talking about his decreased utility and isn’t so sure.

Miles spends the next day recovering from fast-penta hangover.  Galeni is taken away for his own interrogation, after trying and failing to get himself stunned, and returns hours later to suffer his own hangover.  Galeni says his father keeps trying to convince his son that he must really hate the Barrayarans after all, digging into his personal history to find out why he thinks otherwise.  His father has concluded he must be “dazzled by the glittering tinsel of neo-fascism”, or “get a sadistic psychosexual kick out of being a bully, goon and thug”.  Galeni admits he is on a power trip, to prove himself as a Komarran, rising through Barrayar’s great leveler, the Imperial Service, destined to emerge as practically the social equal of a Vor.  He rambles on a bit more before confessing that this is actually his Ph.D. thesis.

Galeni says he had more combat experience in the Komarran revolution than most cadets at the academy, admitting that his father did make use of him at a young age, and that he helped kill men before he turned fourteen.  Despite seeing Barrayarans commit atrocities, he grew to realize that it didn’t matter whether Komarrans were killed by the Barrayaran invaders or their own resistance fighters, they were still as dead.  And the Barrayarans weren’t trying to destroy Komarr, despite what his father said.  So he planned to rise through the service, retire, enter the civil service, and rise up as high as he could…  Miles suggests Viceroy, and Galeni says that might be a bit overambitious.  Ser Galen, though, insists the the Barrayaran occupation is a priori wrong, and anyone who’s not resisting is collaborating.

Miles suggests that Galeni might consider pretending to go along with his father, but Galeni says that changing his mind would just convince his father he could change it again, and then Ser Galen would definitely have to kill him.  Miles says that his parents have always agreed on one thing–“it’s more important to be loyal to a person than a principle”.

Galeni sat forward in interest, his hands loosely clasped between his knees. “It surprises me more that your mother had anything to do with your upbringing at all. Barrayaran society tends to be so, er, aggressively patriarchal. And Countess Vorkosigan has the reputation of being the most invisible of political wives.”

“Yeah, invisible,” Miles agreed cheerfully, “like air. If it disappeared you’d hardly miss it. Till the next time you came to inhale.” He suppressed a twinge of homesickness, and a fiercer fear—if I don’t make it back this time. . . .

Galeni smiled polite disbelief. “It’s hard to imagine that Great Admiral yielding to, ah, uxorial blandishments.”

Miles shrugged. “He yields to logic. My mother is one of the few people I know who has almost completely conquered the will to be stupid.”

Miles says that Galen’s plan disturbs him, because it doesn’t seem logical.  He doesn’t think that his clone really stands a chance of becoming Emperor, and he suspects that Ser Galen knows it.  And besides, even if he attained the crown, he’d have trouble making the rest of Barrayar obey him–it’s not so long since The Dismemberment of Mad Emperor Yuri, after all.  So if the clone becomes Emperor and tries to grant Komarr independence, he’d be offending the military and the counts and the ministries, for different reasons, not to mention the people, who can’t help but think of him as a mutant.  Miles doesn’t think that even he could survive being Emperor, even if he didn’t give up Komarr, and the clone is years of experience behind him.

Since it’s such a bad plot, it can’t be Ser Galen’s real plot, especially since it would end up giving the Barrayaran throne to a descendent of Aral Vorkosigan, and he seems to lack any leverage to keep the clone under his control afterwards.  Miles realizes that the clone isn’t meant to succeed, just to cause chaos on Barrayar.  At the moment of most disorder, Komarr is no doubt scheduled to rise up and throw off their overlords.  For that plan to succeed, Ser Galen must have lined up allies to blockade the wormhole and trap Barrayar again; Miles hopes he’s not stupid enough to have approached the Cetagandans.  Galeni asks how Galeni proposes to save his clone afterwards.

Miles smiled crookedly. “Ser Galen doesn’t care. He’s just a means to an end.” His mouth opened, closed, opened again. “Except that—I keep hearing my mother’s voice, in my head. That’s where I picked up that perfect Betan accent, y’know, that I use for Admiral Naismith. I can hear her now.”

“And what does she say?” Galeni’s brows twitched in amusement.

“Miles—she says—what have you done with your baby brother?!”

Galeni protests, but Miles says that by Betan law the clone is exactly that, and his mother is perfectly capable of expecting Miles to look out for him.  Galeni wonders that she really has such influence on Aral Vorkosigan, pragmatic as he is, but Miles repeats, people before principles.  Galeni admits that his father was always a man of principles.

Comments

I’ve never been sure whether or not “Ser Galen”‘s first name is actually “Ser”, or if Ser is an honorific, like “Sir” or “Mister”.  On the one hand, it feels like we should know his name, but we don’t seem to.  Surely Miles does, having read the sealed file, which would certainly have included the name of Galen’s father–it mentioned his aunt, after all–but it doesn’t tell us.  Unless it is actually “Ser”, but somehow I have trouble actually believing it, because of the offhanded way it’s introduced into the chapter.  Plus, I’ve seen “Ser” used as an honorific multiple times before; the “Fantastic Honorifics” page on TV Tropes even has a section devoted to it, though it doesn’t mention Komarr specifically, so I’m not sure if it’s used there or not.

One thing about having read Brothers In Arms before some of the later-published stories is that I knew for a fact that Miles was never going to get fast-pentaed in them.  So while there may have been some times in The Vor Game or Cetaganda or “Labyrinth” that it seemed likely, I was able to rely on the fact that his first exposure didn’t happen until Brothers In Arms.  Of course, he’s seen others, and conducted them…let’s see if I can remember which, from memory–two in “Mountains of Mourning”, Lem Csurik and his mother; Metzov in The Vor Game, the Ryoval security guy in “Labyrinth”…I think that’s all in the series so far.  Maybe one in Ethan of Athos as well, which of course Miles wasn’t there for.  I don’t recall fast-penta turning up in the Cordelia books, or The Warrior’s Apprentice, but I could be wrong.

Why, precisely, did Miles memorize “Richard III”?  Shakespeare is still indispensible as literature however many centuries in the future?  (Has Bujold ever committed to an actual year?  Can’t remember.  Somebody check and let me know.)  Oh, well, it’s hard to say which is worse, using a piece of literature that we’re familiar with, however far in the character’s past it might be, or else making up a fake one that you then have to go out of your way to explain to the reader.  And she does have a point, iambic pentameter makes it easier to memorize than, say, a complete Dickens book.  Or an episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”.

Chapter Ten

By the third day of Miles’s incarceration, he’s given up on Ivan or Elli having noticed any obvious flaws in the clone’s performance.  Miles works off some of his energy exercising, then tries to clog the sink and the toilet, but failsafes thwart his efforts to flood the room.  Galeni has already proven how difficult it is to escape past the guards and their stunners, so their only option is to try to sabotage the information they pass to the Komarrans…though fast-penta makes that more difficult, of course.

While Miles is waiting for his socks to dry, the guards come for him.  Miles finds the clone waiting in the corridor, dressed as Admiral Naismith.  He’s taken to the study, where there is no sign of Ser Galen, and tied to a chair.  The clone tells the guards to wait outside, and they leave him alone with Miles.  Miles watches him assume one of his own familiar postures, and asks how he escaped the embassy.  The clone says that the Dendarii passed him to Komarran escorts thinking they were Barrayaran, and the Barrayarans will think when he returns that his Komarran escorts are Dendarii, so he has a little bit of free time.

Miles asks what he plans to do, since fast-penta doesn’t work; the clone says he just wants to talk to Miles for a while, and confesses how much he hates him.  Miles point out that they only met a few days ago, but the clone says his life has been poisoned by Miles’s very existence.  It won’t be for much longer, though, but before then, Ser Galen promised him a conversation.  He had to steal the opportunity, though, while Galen was gone, because Galen’s reneged on the offer.  Miles said it’s probably because he was afraid Miles would spill the truth about his plot; Miles was okay with not giving the clone any more information to work with than he had to.

The clone takes the bait and asks what Miles figured out.  Miles tells him that Galen doesn’t plan for him to survive as Barrayaran Emperor.  The clone says he knows that already, that nobody thinks he can do it, which strikes Miles hard as a point of similarity.

“But I’ll show them. Ser Galen,” the clone’s eyes glittered, “is going to be very surprised at what happens when I come to power.”

“So will you,” Miles predicted morosely.

“D’you think I’m stupid?” the clone demanded.

Miles shook his head. “I know exactly how stupid you are, I’m afraid.”

The clone smiled tightly. “Galen and his friends spent a month farting around London, chasing you, just trying to set up for the switch. It was I who told them to have you kidnap yourself. I’ve studied you longer than any of them, harder than all of them. I knew you couldn’t resist. I can outthink you.”

He tells Miles that as Admiral Naismith he got Danio and the others released from jail.  He asks if Miles is sleeping with Quinn.

“Quinn,” said Miles, “is six years older than me. Extremely experienced. And demanding. Accustomed to a high degree of finesse in her chosen partner. Are you an initiate in the variant practices of the Deeva Tau love cults as practiced on Kline Station?” A safe challenge, Miles judged, as he’d just this minute invented them. “Are you familiar with the Seven Secret Roads of Female Pleasure? After she’s climaxed four or five times, though, she’ll usually let you up—”

The clone circled him, looking distinctly unsettled. “You’re lying. I think.”

Miles asks the clone if his bones are brittle, and the clone admits they aren’t; Miles says that he won’t be able to pass for very long, because any medical scans won’t match up.  The clone says that he’ll be Emperor in six months.  Miles asks how they’re going to bottle up the Barrayarans; the clone admits they had been planning to use the Cetagandans, but not any more.  Now they’re going to use the Dendarii Mercenaries.  Miles yells that they’ll be slaughtered, and tries to lunge for the clone, only managing to tip his chair over.  The guards come in at the commotion, asking what’s going on; the clone tells them to just set Miles back upright.  The guards, obviously assuming that the clone is beating up on Miles, offer some help in technique, which both of them refuse, in unison.  Miles is briefly tempted to claim that he’s the clone, overpowered and tied up, except for the fact that he’s got three days growth of beard to distinguish him.

After the guards leave, Miles reiterates that the Dendarii are a small force, with no chance against the determined might of a planet like Barrayar, that they won’t last much longer than the clone himself will as Emperor.  The clone says that way he won’t have to pay them.

He paused and looked at Miles curiously. “How far ahead do you think?”

“These days, about twenty years,” Miles admitted glumly. And a fat lot of good it did him. Consider Captain Galeni. In his mind Miles already saw him as the best viceroy Komarr was ever likely to get—his death, not the loss of a minor Imperial officer of dubious origins, but of the first link in a chain of thousands of lives striving for a less tormented future. A future when Lieutenant Miles Vorkosigan would surely be subsumed by Count Miles Vorkosigan, and need sane friends in high places. If he could bring Galeni through this mess alive, and sane . . . “I admit,” Miles added, “when I was your age I got through about one quarter hour at a time.”

The clone says Miles has about 24 hours before he’s due to ship out and Miles will become redundant.  Miles decides that, if his time his short, he’d better make his best effort now.  He asks the clone what the plans are for their father, Aral Vorkosigan.  The clone denies any relationship to the Butcher of Komarr, saying that his mother was a replicator.  Miles points out that his was, too, but his mother won’t care, being Betan, and will consider herself the clone’s mother too.  The clone says that once he’s Emperor, he’ll deal with Ser Galen.  Miles says that if he plans to betray Ser Galen, he should go ahead with it now.  He offers to take the clone back to Barrayar, saying he’s got family now, like it or not; after all, Miles wouldn’t have picked Ivan for a cousin if he’d had a choice.

The clone choked slightly, but did not interrupt. He was beginning to look faintly fascinated.

“But there he is. And he’s exactly as much your cousin as mine. Did you realize you have a name?” Miles demanded suddenly. “That’s another thing you don’t get to choose on Barrayar. Second son—that’s you, my twin-six-years-delayed—gets the second names of his maternal and paternal grandfathers, just as the first son gets stuck with their first names. That makes you Mark Pierre. Sorry about the Pierre. Grandfather always hated it. You are Lord Mark Pierre Vorkosigan, in your own right, on Barrayar.” He spoke faster and faster, inspired by the clone’s arrested eyes.

He tells “Mark” that he’ll have plenty of opportunities to whatever he wants.  He could get an education, become a licensed pilot, take over the family wine business, go study with Grandmother Naismith, live on Beta Colony instead of Barrayar if he wants.  The clone challenges that ImpSec would never let him live; Miles says that he’d give his clone-brother his word to protect him, against anything up to and including ImpSec.  He wonders as he says it if he’s trying to undermine the clone’s alliance with Galen, or if he really means every word of it.  The clone is amused by Miles’s grandiose promises, from his position of weakness, slapping him across the face to underline it.  Miles can tell he’s never really struck a man before, or killed one, for that matter.

Miles asks him about his childhood, what kind of dreams he had growing up, of rescue.  The clone says that he knew from an early age, growing up with young clones, some of whom he met later after their wealthy donors had taken up occupancy in their new bodies.  He’s quite satisfied to be stealing Miles’s life, rather than have Miles steal his.

“Then where will your life be?” asked Miles desperately. “Buried in an imitation of Miles, where will Mark be then? Are you sure it will be only me, lying in my grave?”

The clone flinched. “When I am emperor of Barrayar,” he said through his teeth, “no one will be able to get at me. Power is safety.”

“Let me give you a hint,” said Miles. “There is no safety. Only varying states of risk. And failure.”

Miles tells his clone that he always knew why he was an only child–because, despite the sterility caused by the soltoxin, they could easily have used Betan technology to grow another child.  But if they had had another child, who was whole, tall and fully developed, the pressure to disinherit Miles would have grown horrendous.  He tells the clone the story of how Bothari had protected him from his grandfather’s attempts at infanticide, and how General Piotr had later taught Miles to ride and given him his dagger.  He pressured Miles to strive and struggle, while Miles’s parents were more careful with him, preserving him from sibling competition.

Running down, Miles wonders to himself how he can rescue “Mark”, himself, and Galeni, foil the Komarran plot, and save the Dendarii.  The only place he can act is right here, trying to win the trust of his clone-brother.  The clone asks what guarantee Miles can give, and Miles asks, as someone weaned on betrayal, what guarantee he would accept.  Assuming everyone always lies is just as bad as assuming everyone always tells the truth; the flaw is in him, not in anyone else; he has to test it, try to trust someone.

While the clone struggles with this, Galen bursts in with his guards.  He asks the clone what he’s doing; the clone replies that he’s trying to improve his odds of survival on Barrayar.  Galen says all Vorkosigans are liars, and that Miles will have been trying to trip him up.  The clone says that even knowing how Miles lies has told him a lot about how he thinks; he says Miles seems to believe them, though he, of course, does not.  Galen tells the guards to lock Miles back up.

“Your name is Mark!” Miles shouted back to him as the door shut. “Mark!”

Galen hits Miles in the jaw to shut him up and then tells the guards to lock him up, and not let him out without orders from himself personally.  As the guards escort him down to the cell, Miles calculates that he and Galeni against the two guards may be the best odds they have.  Unfortunately, when they open the cell door, Galeni is finally asleep.  Miles tries to rouse him, grappling with the guard holding him to try to get his stunner, which he does at the cost of a broken finger.  He tosses the stunner to Galeni, who scoops it up, but the other guard grabs Miles in a chokehold and stuns him point-blank.

Comments

The conversation between Miles and his clone has been a few chapters coming, but was worth waiting for.  Admiral Oser, as one of the few to ever go up against Miles a second time, recommended cutting his tongue out to be safe from him, but Ser Galen isn’t wise enough for that yet, though he did try to block Miles and the clone from meeting.  Miles is painfully in earnest, despite his own doubts, in what he offers the clone.  He doesn’t hold any grudge against the clone, as a pawn of Ser Galen, not to mention a teenager, with a horrible upbringing.  Also, finally we get “Mark”, though as a name for the clone it doesn’t really catch on until the next book sometime, and not before time.  I should start calling him that in the summaries anyway, or else I’ll start trying to come up with variants of clone, like “Cloneo” or “Vorclone” or maybe even something actually clever.  I may have to use the quotation marks, though.

I wonder why “Mark”, and Ser Galen as well, I guess, and to some extent even Galeni, are so dismissive of Cordelia.  She does manage to mostly not make waves in Barrayaran society–at least, not since beheading the would-be Emperor Vordarian–but she’s not easily diverted.  It’s true that there don’t seem to be a lot of prominent Barrayaran women, but they’re there nonetheless.  Galen has a pretty one-dimensional view of Barrayar, so he can be excused for overlooking the fact that Cordelia is actually Betan…but, I guess, among the more Barrayaran Betans.  Mark hasn’t had the chance to look past Galen’s indoctrination, or, at least, he hasn’t quite figured out which bits of it to doubt.  Galeni, though…what’s his excuse?  He was raised in Komarr’s more egalitarian society, though admittedly by Ser Galen, but I guess he just leapt to conclusions.  I miss Cordelia, and I’m glad we’ll get to see more of her in the next book or two…

I’m fascinated in some ways by the kind of naming customs that Miles describes, that dictate the names of at least your first few children, or, more likely, first few sons, since daughters aren’t nearly as important on Barrayar…  As I know from my wife’s Dutch family, though, they can get a little ridiculous.  My father-in-law had the same name as his eldest brother, because they ran out of aunts and uncles and had to start over again.  (Or maybe there was another duplication in that generation, too…)  It is convenient here, because it gives Miles a ready-made name to bestow upon his clone-brother, so I wonder, was this where it was first mentioned?  Miles’s name was arrived at a similar way in Barrayar, but that came out later than this one, so this might have set the precedent…

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Three more weeks for Brothers In Arms, and then we should have Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance to divert us.  Until next week, then…there are neither beginnings nor endings in the wheel of time, but this isn’t an ending in any case.

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While the night is still young, I’m going to make another post in the Vorkosigan Saga Reread for you.  (Note: youth of night is not guaranteed in all time zones.)  We’re moving up to the halfway point in Brothers In Arms, a crucial book in the Vorkosigan Saga, introducing at least one character of great important to the life of our hero and main character, Miles Vorkosigan, Barrayaran lord, lieutenant, and secret mercenary admiral.

Chapter Seven

The ambassador lets Ivan and Miles into Galeni’s office, asking them to find out if they need to contact the authorities or not.  Ivan finds nothing on a preliminary scan of Galeni’s computer, so Miles decides to go more thoroughly into his finances.  Unfortunately, what he finds is very bland, no great incomes or outgos, just regular salary and a modest savings account.  Miles starts to look for hidden vices in Galeni’s purchases; when Ivan questions his methodology, he pulls up Ivan’s finances for comparison, noting, for example, a lace nightgown which Ivan admits he bought for Sylveth.  Galeni buys occasional liquor, about a third as much as Ivan, but many times more book-discs.  No sign even of a girlfriend.  Moving on to Service records, Miles is surprised to learn that Galeni had a doctorate in history, but left it behind to join the Imperial Service just a couple of years before Miles and Ivan.

“He must have been one of the first Komarrans permitted to enter the military. Within weeks of the ruling. And he’s been on the fast track ever since. Extra training—languages, information analysis, a posting at the Imperial HQ—and then this plum of a post on Earth. Duvie is our darling, clearly.” Miles could see why. A brilliant, educated, liberal officer—Galeni was a walking advertisement for the success of the New Order. An Example. Miles knew all about being an Example.

Miles begins to sense political overtones to Galeni’s disappearance, which is scary, given the generally vicious nature of Barrayaran politics.  Then he finds a sealed file, inaccessible to them, but not, he hopes, to the ambassador.  The ambassador admits he has emergency access for it, but needs convincing.  Miles asks his opinion of Galeni, and the ambassador says his background makes him quite capable, and if he has a flaw it is his emotional reserve.  Miles says that they haven’t found any other hints about Galeni’s disappearance, so the sealed file is the only other avenue of investigation.  Ivan suggests that he might have found a girlfriend at long last, but they conclude that Galeni would never have been absent this long for any innocent reason without contacting the embassy about it.  Reluctantly, the ambassador opens the file.

Duv Galeni turns out to have been born David Galen, to the rich Galen family of Komarran merchants.  After Miles’s grandfather’s generation fought off the Cetagandan invasion of Barrayar, they decided they wanted to keep it from happening again; Miles’s father, Aral Vorkosigan, commanded an invasion of Komarr, with the intent of capturing its wormhole and economy mostly intact.  The Komarran surrender was smoothly arranged, until the Solstice Massacre, where two hundred Komarran Counsellors were killed on Aral’s watch.  Aral said it was an overeager subordinate who had killed them, and he’d killed the man with his own hands, but he ended up with the “Butcher of Komarr” title nonetheless.  David Galen’s aunt Rebecca was one of those who died in Solstice.

The sealed file includes an exchange of memos between Aral and Simon Illyan, where Illyan expressed reservations about Galeni’s admittance to the Service.

The return memo was handwritten in the crabbed scrawl of a thick-fingered man for whom all pens were too tiny, a handwriting achingly familiar to Miles. ” . . . guilt? Perhaps. I had a little tour of that damned gym, soon after, before the thickest blood had quite dried. Pudding-like. Some details burn themselves permanently in the memory. But I happen to remember Rebecca Galen particularly because of the way she’d been shot. She was one of the few who died facing her murderers. I doubt very much if it will ever be my back that’s in danger from ‘Duv Galeni.’

“The involvement of his father in the later Resistance worries me rather less. It wasn’t just for us that the boy altered his name to the Barrayaran form.

“But if we can capture this one’s true allegiance, it will be something like what I’d had in mind for Komarr in the first place. A generation late, true, and after a long and bloody detour, but—since you bring up these theological terms—a sort of redemption. Of course he has political ambitions, but I beg to suggest they are both more complex and more constructive than mere assassination.

After they’re done reading it, Miles says that this doesn’t clear anything up, just complicates it.  The ambassador agrees that they were right to keep the file sealed, since it could be highly prejudicial, and orders it resealed.  Miles takes a moment to take a look for references to Galeni’s father; he had apparently joined the resistance after Rebecca Galen died, his family fortune turned to rebel supplies and offplanet transport, and he and his older son had died in an explosion.  No other Galen relatives are among the Komarran expatriates on Earth, so Miles hopes that Illyan and his father were right, that all of this was in Galeni’s past.

Ivan, now technically the senior military attaché, deals with the police, so Miles is spared further trials of his clone story.  The police now dealing with looking for Galeni outside the embassy, Miles keeps looking for clues inside.  After a day of looking at the records of Komarran expatriates himself, he decides to outsouce it to the Dendarii.

Galeni would have had convulsions; screw Galeni, it was all his fault for disappearing in the first place. Miles thoughtfully didn’t ask Ivan, either. Miles’s legal position, if it came to that, was that the Dendarii were de facto Barrayaran troops and the data transfer therefore internal to the Imperial military. Technically. Miles included all of Galeni’s personnel files too, in fully accessed form. Miles’s legal position there was that the seal was only to protect Galeni from the prejudice of Barrayaran patriots, which the Dendarii clearly were not. One argument or the other had to work.

“Tell the spooks that finding Galeni is a contract,” Miles told Elli, “part of the fleet-wide fund-raising drive. We only get paid for producing the man. That could actually be true, come to think of it.”

On the third day, Elli calls back to inform him that Bel Thorne was just offered a fascinating Dendarii contract.  She is oddly enthusiastic when she outlines a patently illegal, if lucrative, kidnapping contract, before adding that what they want is for Admiral Naismith’s mercenaries to kidnap Miles Vorkosigan.

The next night, Ivan, in Dendarii uniform, and Elli Quinn bring a supposedly-captive Miles to their specified rendezvous.  Ivan says it’s obviously a trap, and Miles agrees, but what they’re trying to find it is whose trap it is, and why they set it.  Do they know that Vorkosigan and Naismith are the same, or think that they’re different?  Ivan suggests that it could be Earth-based criminals, or Cetagandans trying to set the Barrayarans against Naismith; Miles counters that it could be Ivan himself, trying to clear out competition for the attaché position.  He adds, seriously, that it’s almost certainly not the Cetagandans trying to kill him, though Elli isn’t convinced.

“Look at the logic of it,” argued Miles. “The Cetagandans either still think I’m two separate people, or they don’t. It’s Admiral Naismith they want to kill, not the Barrayaran prime minister’s son. Killing Lord Vorkosigan could restart a bloody war. In fact, we’ll know my cover’s been blown the day they stop trying to assassinate Naismith—and start making a great and embarrassing public flap about Dendarii operations against them instead. They wouldn’t miss that diplomatic opportunity for anything. Particularly now, with the right-of-passage treaty through Tau Ceti up in the air. They could cripple our galactic trade in one move.”

Elli contacts Bel, who’s watching the building from above in an aircar full of troops, ready to drop in when they give the signal.  She tells Miles she’s not keen on letting him be the bait, but Miles says that they can always call Bel and his troopers in, and in the meantime they should string them along as much as possible in hopes of finding some connection to Galeni.

When they arrive at the undistinguished house designated, Ivan scans it and declares it empty.  Miles says that their contacts should already be there, since they gave the Dendarii this address at the last minute, obviously to keep them from scouting it ahead of time; not being there early defeats the whole purpose of that.  Elli decides that she doesn’t to bring in Miles with his hands tied, so Miles pretends to be drugged instead.  She brings him inside the darkened house, and after getting no response to her calls, she decides to leave Miles there and take a quick look around.  Miles continues to play drugged, since there may still be hidden cameras or bugs.

She’s barely out of earshot when he’s grabbed from behind, covering his mouth and putting a light stun at the back of his neck.  He is pinioned and gagged by two assailants, the gag saturated with some drug that begins to interfere with voluntary control of his body.  A light comes on and he sees two men in Earth clothing, slightly blurred, and he realizes they must have been shielded from the Dendarii scanners.  While he’s trying to find out more about the scanners, he sees another man–Miles himself.

Miles decides he’s going crazy, as his alter-ego, in Barrayaran dress uniform, begins emptying Miles’s pockets, eyeing Miles hungrily as he does so.  He gestures for the two men holding Miles to give him Miles’s grandfather’s dagger with the Vorkosigan seal in the hilt.  Then he removes his scanner-shield belt and puts it on Miles instead.

The alter-Miles’s eyes were hot with an exhilarated terror, as he paused to sweep one last glance over Miles. Miles had seen the look once before, in his own face in the mirrored wall of a tube station.

No.

He’d seen it on this one‘s face in the mirrored wall of a tube station.

He must have been standing feet away that night, behind Miles at an angle. In the wrong uniform. The green one, at a moment Miles was wearing his Dendarii grays.

Miles manages to bump a doorframe as the two men carry him out of the room; when Elli calls down to check, the imposter says he’d been looking around, and there’s nobody else there.  Ivan contacts Elli to say there was an odd blip on the scanners (doubtless due to the scanner-shield belt switching), but it’s gone now.  The fake Miles says the kidnappers have obviously aborted, and it’s time to pull out and take him back to the embassy.

The real Miles is carried into an alley and into a groundcar, grumbling to himself about how outdated the Dendarii scanner technology must be now, probably ten years behind Earth, if this is any indication.  They drive for fifteen minutes before parking in a small underground garage.  Miles’s limbs are still rubbery, but the stun is wearing off, as they bundle him into a lift tube and then down a short hallway into a small windowless room.

A sealed light fixture in the ceiling illuminated a narrow room furnished only with two hard benches along the walls. To the left a doorframe with the door removed led to a tiny, windowless washroom.

A man, wearing only green trousers, cream shirt, and socks, lay curled on one of the benches, facing the wall. Stiffly, gingerly, he rolled over and sat up. One hand flung up automatically, as if to shield his reddened eyes from some too-bright light; the other pressed the bench to keep him from toppling. Dark hair mussed, a four-day beard stubble. His shirt collar hung open in a V, revealing a throat strangely vulnerable, in contrast to the usual turtle-armored effect of the high, closed Barrayaran tunic collar. His face was furrowed.

The impeccable Captain Galeni. Rather the worse for wear.

Comments

The list of nameless characters now expands to include the Barrayaran Ambassador to Earth.  Seriously?  Does that mean he’s not Vor?  No, I’m sure that if this is such a distinguished post, he’d almost have to be Vor.

What was Komarr thinking, letting the Cetagandans through to attack Barrayar?  Let’s say the Cetagandans had succeeded, and Barrayar had become a Cetagandan satrapy.  How long would they have been happy with Komarr sitting in the middle of their empire?  Komarr would just have ended up falling to Cetaganda in the long run, one thinks; how exactly did the Komarrans think that they were going to avoid that fate?  Maybe they were just overoptimistic; I’m sure they didn’t expect the Barrayarans to be able to conquer them.

I’m a little confused about what exactly they do to Miles when they kidnap him.  They stun him “lightly” at the back of the neck, which sounds like it would be fairly effective at immobilizing someone, and yet he’s still able to struggle, until they hit him with “fastchloroform” or whatever is on the gag.  Yet, when they arrive at their destination, it specifically says that the stun was wearing off.  Since the original stun didn’t seem to do anything…  One wonders, though, does firing a stunner set off some kind of energy signature that one of these mysterious scanners would be able to detect?  Or would that be shielded by the scanner-shields too?

By this point it’s hard to assess how much of a surprise anything was to me–I may even have known about Miles’s clone from my first reading, though maybe not, since I was going through the books in publication order and so Brothers In Arms was fairly early in the sequence.  Still, coming after Miles’s own invented clone story, it seems like it should have been a nice ironic twist.  And their suspicions of Galeni turn out to be somewhat unfounded, since he ends up a victim as well.

Why do they bring Ivan along on the supposed prisoner exchange?  Miles has lots of Dendarii that he can count on, whereas Ivan is a risk to anyone who may happen to recognize Miles’s close relatives…  Did he insist on being involved, despite his usual desire to avoid involvement, out of a desire to protect his cousin?

The transition from the history of Duv Galeni and the Komarran conquest at the beginning of the chapter to the Miles kidnapping mission at the end strikes me as a bit sudden, on this read-through.  The timing isn’t a problem–the bad guys can’t wait too long to do it, or they risk Miles finding out too much, or taking the Dendarii and leaving, but perhaps they needed to get more information from Galeni, or dig out more about the mercenary fleet.  But still, it feels like it comes out of nowhere, and then bam, we’re actually on the prisoner exchange.  Must have been a scene or two missing, Ivan trying to talk Miles out of it, and then insisting on coming along, or something.  I may just be getting oversensitive to these things, though.

Chapter Eight

Galeni is not happy to see Miles…though he’s not sure it’s really Miles.  He points out the bug in the light fixture to confirm they’re being monitored, and confirms that he has met Miles’s alter-ego, though he’s not quite sure when, because the light’s on all the time.  He was in the cell with Galeni for four or five hours, and Galeni didn’t realize it wasn’t Miles himself until the imposter told him.  Miles winces at the news that his replacement is so good.

“Well, historian. And how do you tell a forgery from the real thing?”

Galeni shook his head, then touched his hand to his temple as though he wished he hadn’t; blinding headache, apparently. Miles had one too. “I don’t believe I know anymore.” Galeni added reflectively, “He saluted.”

A dry grin cracked one corner of Miles’s mouth. “Of course, there could be just one of me, and all this a ploy to drive you crazy. . . .”

“Stop that!” Galeni almost shouted. A ghastly answering smile lit his face for a moment nonetheless.

Miles asks if Galeni knows who made the imposter, and how, hoping it’s not the Cetagandans.  Galeni said the duplicate told him he was a clone, but he’s not sure how much they can trust what he said.  Miles realizes that the reason he came up with the clone story may have been his subconscious telling him what he really saw in the tube-car, that his conscious mind had dismissed as a reflection.  Galeni says it’s the Komarrans behind the clone; Miles says they must have some reason for keeping both of them alive, but Galeni denies it, loudly, to the bug in the light fixture.

Miles asks why left the embassy; Galeni says he received a phone call from an…old acquaintance from Komarr, and went to meet them.  He erased the call from the log–a mistake, he realizes now–because he got the impression it might be related to Miles’s odd orders and missing money, and didn’t know if the embassy security had been compromised, perhaps by the courier.  Miles admits that while he had considered the courier, Galeni had been his first suspect.

Galeni’s sour smile said it all.

Miles shrugged in embarrassment. “I figured you’d made off with my eighteen million marks. Except if you had, why hadn’t you absconded? And then you absconded.”

“Oh,” said Galeni in turn.

“All the facts fit, then,” Miles explained. “I had you pegged as an embezzler, deserter, thief, and all-around Komarran son of a bitch.”

“So what kept you from laying charges to that effect?”

“Nothing, unfortunately.” Miles cleared his throat. “Sorry.”

Miles considers the probably effects if he and Galeni aren’t recovered–Galeni presumed guilty of embezzlement and perhaps worse, and the Komarran integration effort crippled, perhaps fatally.  Galeni says he had lunch with the man–without backup, or a beeper, or anything–who attempted to suborn him, but took him captive upon his refusal.  They’ve interrogated him several times under fast-penta; Miles asks him about his evident injuries, and Galeni says that’s the result of a failed escape attempt.  Miles asks if Galeni ever considered pretending to go along; Galeni says he couldn’t bring himself to, and in any case it’d be too late now.

Miles says that his duplicate can’t be a clone; because his damage isn’t genetic, his clone would probably turn out tall like Ivan.  Galeni says that they must have modified the clone’s body to keep it looking like his, and they might have tried multiple times before getting one they were satisfied with.  Miles says that his clone–his twin brother, he thinks to himself–must be younger than him, probably by several years.  Galeni agrees, noting that Miles was about six years old when the Komarran revolt ended.  Any younger and the clone wouldn’t look right, and before that point they wouldn’t have spent their effort on such an indirect scheme.  Miles asks why they would clone him at all, and Galeni says he supposes the clone would be set up to wreak havoc on Barrayar while the Komarrans revolted again.  Miles points out the ridiculousness of the scheme, and Galeni agrees, but says that these people aren’t that in touch with reality.

Miles asks Galeni how long he’s known that his father was still alive.  Galeni is surprised that Miles figured it out, but Miles points out that Galeni’s father wasn’t confirmed dead.  Galeni said he was presumed dead, supposedly vapourized by the bomb that left only pieces of his brother.

“My father spoke constantly of Komarr’s freedom,” Galeni went on softly. To Miles, to the light fixture, to himself? “Of the sacrifices we must all make for the freedom of Komarr. He was very big on sacrifices. Human or otherwise. But he never seemed to care much about the freedom of anyone on Komarr. It wasn’t until the day the revolt died that I became a free man. The day he died. Free to look with my own eyes, make my own judgments, choose my own life. Or so I thought. Life,” the lilt of Galeni’s voice was infinitely sarcastic, “is full of surprises.” He favored the light fixture with a vulpine smile.

Galeni seems to be struggling with his personal demons, and losing his perspective in the process; Miles leaves him to it and inspects the cell.  Walls, floor and ceiling don’t seem to have any accessible seams or panels.  There is a small bathroom, but nothing to drink from except for cupped hands.  The best they could do would be to try to plug up the sink with clothing and flood the cell.  Miles asks about the food, and Galeni says they get leftovers from the other people in the house, two or three times a day.  Miles points out that mealtime would be a good time to break out, but Galeni had already tried it, so they’ll be warier now.  Miles suspects his superior is half-hoping that his captors will just kill him and get it over with.

Miles wonders if his friends will be able to spot the clone, if Ivan will notice a difference, if he’ll slip up somehow.  But he’s well-trained on embassy procedure courtesy of Galeni’s interrogations, if nothing else.  Miles does wonder if they know much about the Dendarii, and if the clone would be able to pull off Naismith as well as Vorkosigan.  Would Quinn be able to tell, or would the clone be able to take Miles’s place in her bed?  He tells himself the clone wouldn’t be likely to risk much intimate contact with anybody who knew Miles well.  The clone is most likely to be part of a plot aimed at Count Aral Vorkosigan, in any case, and Miles can think of a number of unpleasant things that an imposter Miles could do.

Miles and Galeni sleep fitfully; Miles wakes up a few minutes before a breakfast-like meal arrives at the door, delivered by one man while another, armed with a stunner, watches Galeni warily.  Miles is initially wary about poison, but Galeni eats it willingly, so Miles joins in.  As they eat, he asks Galeni if he knows any more about the clone plot.  Galeni admits that what he’s been told could be lies, but he’ll tell Miles anyway.

His father’s group is more radical than most of the Komarran underground.  They’re all worried about the fact that the older rebels are dying off, their children are growing up citizens of other planets, and Komarrans at home are finding it not so bad to be part of the Barrayaran Empire, so their window of opportunity is closing, making them desperate.  Galeni isn’t sure how they got a genetic sample for Miles, but Miles says that he spent so much time being prodded by doctors that there was ample opportunity to steal a piece of him.  The cloning itself, they hired out to an unscrupulous laboratory on Jackson’s Whole, which rings a loud bell for Miles, thinking of the lab that makes replacement clone-bodies for the aging wealthy.  The group’s lack of connections to the rest of the Komarrans, and the fact that they had little involvement with the clone except for paying its bills, are probably why they weren’t traced.

A few years earlier, they retrieved the teenaged clone from Jackson’s Whole and began to prepare him for their plan–to make him the next Emperor of Barrayar.  Miles realizes that this will have to involve the deaths of his father and Emperor Gregor.

“I would imagine,” said Galeni dryly, “they’re looking forward to just that.” He lay back on his bench, eyes glinting, hands locked behind his neck for a pillow, and purred, “Over my dead body, of course.”

“Over both our dead bodies. They don’t dare let us live. . . .”

“I believe I mentioned that yesterday.”

“Still, if anything goes wrong,” Miles’s gaze flickered toward the light fixture, “it might be handy for them to have hostages.” He enunciated this idea clearly, emphasizing the plural. Though he feared that from the Barrayaran point of view, only one of them had value as a hostage. Galeni was no fool; he knew who the goat was too.

Miles wishes he could call down the Dendarii on these rebels; when the door opens, he hopes for rescue by Quinn, but instead it’s a pair of Komarrans.  They tell Miles to come with them, grabbing him when he balks; they stun Galeni when he tries to stop them, and pull Miles out of the room.

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Man, I can’t wait until Miles’s clone gets an actual separate name.  I was running out of synonyms for him there–imposter, duplicate, replacement, alter-ego…  I’ve never been quite sure about the spelling of “imposter”, by the way; I thought I might have been spelling it wrong in “-or”, like I did with “sorcerer” for many years, but apparently both endings are acceptable.  I seem have to been converted to “-er”, and at least I try to be consistent.  But it’s better than using “he” and “he” when there’s two men present and another one being discussed…

House Bharaputra was the one who Terrence Cee hired, and who Canaba worked for before he absconded with his creations…so they’re the ones who do the clone bodies, right?  Baron Ryoval was just the one who killed his brother Baron Fell’s replacement clone.  Ryoval deals in genetic material too, but only in the sense of providing oddities to perverts, or something like that.  I guess we’ll get more into this in the next book, but Miles could have actually named the House he was thinking of here, for the benefit of anyone who hadn’t read those other stories yet…

How much did the Komarran rebels know about the Dendarii?  Are they certain that Miles’s story about Naismith being a clone is a fake (if they’ve even heard it, I suppose)?  If they cloned him, why couldn’t someone else have?  I guess they do know that it’s a lot of work to create a clone of Miles that looks like him, since any accidental clone would, as Miles said, look more like Ivan, so they might decide that it’s easier to assume that Admiral Naismith and Lt. Vorkosigan are the same.  They do supposedly have that spy in the embassy, the courier, or whoever, who might, say, have information to the effect that ImpSec is supposed to be paying the Dendarii’s expenses, even if they don’t have access to anything deeper than that.  So there’s also that.  I guess Galeni’s father doesn’t want to spill the beans on Miles, and possibly screw up their own plot, but if they haven’t known about Naismith for that long, they won’t have been able to prepare the clone as thoroughly for that role.  But there’s more about that to come.


And what is to come?  Who is Miles being taken to meet?  I can’t remember whether it’s Ser Galen or the clone, but it’s probably one of those two.  Wait until next week, and then we shall find out…or, as I often urge, go read it yourself.  Or register your guesses in the comments–who else could they be taking Miles to meet?  Baron Ryoval?  Varys the Eunuch?  O’Brien?  Redcloak?  Bueller?

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Another Tuesday has come (and mostly gone), so it must be time for another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  Another week closer to the release of the next book in the series, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, and I’m beginning to think that I won’t have quite caught up by then.  So, instead, I’ll settle for doing two more chapters of Brothers In Arms, a pivotal book in the adventures of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, even if not really my favourite.  Today we’ll cover chapters Five and Six, where one plot complication is resolved and another introduced, and a relationship moves to the next level.

Chapter Five

Miles waits in the hall outside Galeni’s office the day the next courier is due to arrive, and only waits for the man to leave before rushing inside.  Galeni makes Miles wait while he reads over the messages, then invites Miles to look himself–still no eighteen million marks.  Miles complains at having to wait still longer, and Galeni points out that many things could have happened to interfere with the transfer of funds.  Miles says that such things don’t happen to him, and Galeni says acerbically that he’s sure they don’t, to an “arrogant little vorling”, but there’s a first time for everything.  Miles suddenly realizes the disquieting possibility that Galeni may have pocketed the funds himself.  He doesn’t know much about Galeni’s family history, but there could be a lost Komarran fortune in there…  Galeni promises to send again for the funds; Miles decides he needs to muster Dendarii resources to try to track the money down.  Galeni seems to be in earnest about trying to find Miles’s money, but he could just be a good actor.  The only question is, if Galeni stole the money, why hasn’t he run?

Miles tells Galeni that he will need to arrange some loans against Dendarii equipment, but Galeni isn’t satisfied with Dendarii security.  Miles says the clone story should take some of the heat off, but Galeni thinks the story idiotic–even if the Cetagandans get the story from the reporter, they’ll know for sure they hadn’t created any Miles Vorkosigan clones.

“Your logic has a few glaring weaknesses,” sneered Galeni. “It may help your long-term scam, possibly. But it doesn’t help me. Having Admiral Naismith’s corpse on my hands would be just as embarrassing as having Lord Vorkosigan’s. Schizoid or no, not even you can compartmentalize yourself to that extent.”

“I am not schizoid,” Miles bit off. “A little manic-depressive, maybe,” he admitted in afterthought.

Galeni’s lips twitched. “Know thyself.”

“We try, sir.”

Galeni decides to let Miles go to the Dendarii, with Sgt. Barth as additional security, on twenty-four hours leave.  Miles is suspicious of Galeni’s change of heart, but decides to take advantage of it and leave while he has permission.

The Dendarii have rented a distant, isolated, and fortuitously cheap area at the London shuttleport.  While he admires its strategic qualities, it is a long walk from the terminal.  Sgt. Barth had had to be talked out of driving Admiral Naismith in an armored Barrayaran groundcar, which would not have done Miles’s cover any good.

The good view from the shuttle hardstand was something that cut two ways, alas. Still, nothing could sneak up on them.

Unless it was psychologically disguised, of course. Take that big shuttleport maintenance float truck over there, for instance, speeding along busily, hugging the ground. They were all over the place; the eye quickly became used to their irregular passing. If he were going to launch an attack, Miles decided, one of those would definitely be the vehicle of choice. It was wonderfully doubtful. Until it fired first, no defending Dendarii could be sure he or she wasn’t about to randomly murder some hapless stray shuttleport employee. Criminally embarrassing, that, the sort of mistake that wrecked careers.

The truck shifts its route slightly, to intercept Miles and Barth’s path.  Both become immediately suspicious, drawing their stunners, despite no sign of anyone actually trying to shoot them.  When it gets closer, though, it becomes apparent that its driver is trying a much simpler attack, attempting to crush Miles underneath.  Miles dives out of the way as it drops towards him, only escaping because of the wave of air being compressed underneath it.  Miles leaps up and grabs onto a handle on the side, just in time to avoid being squashed again, but can’t keep his grip.  He spots Barth calling into his wristcom before turning to zigzag away as fast as he can, which isn’t much.  The truck is beginning to pick itself up again when it explodes into smithereens.

A Barrayaran aircar is falling fast, and no doubt illegally, through the air above the shuttleport, as Dendarii guards run towards Miles.  Realizing the Dendarii and Barrayarans could easily mistake each other for enemies, he lurches to his feet in time to keep Barth from getting shot.  Elli arrives, carrying the rocket launcher that had obliterated the truck, where she and Barth start arguing over Miles’s safety.  Miles sends a Dendarii trooper to investigate the remains of the truck.  Barth tries to persuade Miles to come back to the Embassy, and Miles sends Barth back instead, assuring him that the Dendarii have just proven their adequacy as security, and warning him that Simon Illyan will be mad if Miles’s cover is broken.  The truck proves to have the remains of two men in it, which Miles perforce leaves for the London police to investigate.

“Who were those guys?” asked the Dendarii guard, glancing in the direction the black aircar had gone.

“Never mind,” said Miles. “They weren’t here, you never saw ’em.”

“Yes, sir.”

He loved the Dendarii. They didn’t argue with him.

While waiting for the police, Miles finds that Lise Vallerie has shown up again.  She asks him about the attack, and he says it’s probably the Cetagandans.  She mentions the possibility of Barrayarans, and he asks her what she knows about them.  She says they told her that Naismith was created by the Cetagandans, but she’s intrigued by the Jacksonian registration of the Dendarii Mercenaries and wonders whether he might not have originated on Jackson’s Whole instead.  She offers to do a story on him, but he says the Dendarii would rather not have the publicity.  He suggests she do a story on the illegal cloning trade instead, and heads off to talk to the police.

Elli is being arrested; Miles tries to persuade the authorities that she was bodyguarding him at the time, but Elli says it’ll all get straightened out and she’ll be out in no time.  He subsides, not wanting to end up forbidden to leave the planet; he begins to wonder if Elli’s arrest is part of a plot against him, but decides he’s probably just being paranoid.

Lt. Bone arrives, striking in her dress uniform, and Miles realizes that he’s wasted five hours out of his twenty-four, and it’s now time for the appointment with the bankers…and he’s bruised, dirty, and bloody from the attack.  He tells her to reschedule the appointment for tomorrow; he needs to go up to get a new uniform, see the doctor, and start investigating where their missing money is.

On board Triumph, the doctor finds a crack in his shoulder blade and immobilizes his left arm in a sling.  After that, he tracks down Elena Bothari-Jesek, and tells her he has a mission for her.  He wants her to go to the ImpSec headquarters at Tau Ceti and give a message to Commodore Destang.  He wants her to keep the details both from the Dendarii and from the Barrayaran embassy on Earth.  Elena isn’t eager to deal with Barrayarans, but Miles says it has to be one of the inner circle–Elli is in jail, and Baz Jesek may still be wanted for desertion, so that leaves her.  He tells her to give the message to Destang only, because the problem may be related to the other end of the courier channel, and hopefully isn’t Destang himself.

“Paranoid?” she inquired solicitously.

“Getting more so by the minute. Having Mad Emperor Yuri in my family tree doesn’t help a bit. I’m always wondering if I’m starting to come down with his disease. Can you be paranoid about being paranoid?”

She smiled sweetly. “If anyone can, it’s you.”

“Hm. Well, this particular paranoia is a classic. I softened the language in the message to Destang—you better read it before you embark. After all, what would you think of a young officer who was convinced his superiors were out to get him?”

He tells her that one of his theories is that Galeni is stealing the money, but he’s tried to bury it among three other theories.  It sounds convincing, but he really hopes that Galeni isn’t guilty, because of the fallout for other Komarran officers in the service.  Elena, no longer concerned about Barrayaran politics, shrugs picks up the message and heads out.

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The scene with Elena contains a lot of references to Miles’s old crush on her, which apparently isn’t that old after all, because even in the throes of a new affair with Elli, he can’t help but be attracted to her.  By this point I’m sure he knows that nothing will ever come of it, but there’s still that undercurrent of yearning.  Not sure whether she’s aware of it or not, but considering she chose Baz over him back in The Warrior’s Apprentice, nothing would come of it anyway.  But Miles doesn’t let go of his old loves, however unrequited, that easily.

Apparently the Dendarii lot at the shuttleport is rather far from the main terminal…which just lends credence to my argument about how slow it was for Miles to go into orbit after the liquor-store incident.  Five hours apparently passed before Miles could get to the shuttle–it’s not clear how much of that was merely in transit to the shuttleport and the tarmac, but surely the actual float-truck attack and its aftermath couldn’t have taken that long.  The Lise Vallerie conversation was surely only a few minutes, and then Elli’s arrest, shortly followed by Bone’s arrival…  Maybe he spent a lot of time waiting for Barth at the embassy?

Chapter Six

Miles takes some time to catch up with the fleet’s status.  They’ve paid for the combat drop shuttle repairs, they’ve had their leaves and done their chores, and people are now starting to get bored.  And, of course, their money is dwindling.  Peace may be more lethal to the Dendarii than war ever was.

Elli knocks on his door, and Miles is happy to see her released already.  She says the men that she killed turned out to be well-known contract killers, hired to take Miles out, probably by the Cetagandans.  Miles is disturbed that total strangers may now be hired to kill him, but Elli points out that Naismith tends to disappear a lot, leaving them with a shortage of opportunity.  Miles hopes the next attempt doesn’t end up killing innocents.

Elli says that Danio has asked Miles to be a character witness; Miles doesn’t want to schedule himself a public appearance, and he’s not sure he could give an honest assessment of Danio’s character anyway, so he suggests Thorne do it instead.  Elli approves of his delegation, though she wishes he’d delegate his protection to someone other than her.  She was distracted by seeing him on the tarmac and almost didn’t see the attack coming.  Miles says that they have to talk, about them and about duty, and Elli pulls back a little bit.

He tells her about his various sets of duties–Lieutenant Vorkosigan’s, Admiral Naismith’s, and Lord Vorkosigan’s.  He says that Admiral Naismith has to be subordinate to Lt. Vorkosigan, who is subordinate to Lord Vorkosigan.  She knows Naismith the best, of course, but from Miles’s point of view he’s not a whole person.  Lord Vorkosigan is closer to the real him, and Elli hardly knows him; she thinks of his Barrayaran self, and accent, as being put on.

“Barrayar is bred in my bones.”

Her eyebrows lifted, their ironic tilt blunted by her clear good will. “Literally, as I understand it. I shouldn’t think you’d thank them, for poisoning you before you’d even managed to get born.”

“They weren’t after me, they were after my father. My mother—” Considering just where he was attempting to steer this conversation, it might be better to avoid expanding upon the misfired assassination attempts of the last twenty-five years. “Anyway, that kind of thing hardly ever happens any more.”

“What was that out there on the shuttleport today, street ballet?”

“It wasn’t a Barrayaran assassination.”

Elli asks if he’s sure about that, and Miles is stricken suddenly by the thought that Galeni might be the one out to get him, but he wrenches the conversation back on his original track.  He tells her that Lt. Vorkosigan contains Admiral Naismith, and Lord Vorkosigan contains them both…and he, himself, who contains them all, is Miles.  Elli jokes that she’s “fallen in love with a man who thinks he’s an onion”.  After a brief digression onto a former Countess Vorkosigan who was convinced she was made of glass, Miles says that among Lord Vorkosigan’s duties are family duties–that is, to marry and have descendants.  He begins to babble about the teratogenic nature of his physical abnormalities before Elli stops him.  He confesses that he’s nervous, and asks her if she wants to be Countess Vorkosigan.

She grinned. “Made of glass? Not my style, thanks. Really, though, the title sounds more like something that would go with black leather and chromium studs.”

The mental image of Elli so attired was so arresting, it took him a full half minute of silence to trace back to the wrong turn. “Let me rephrase that,” he said at last. “Will you marry me?”

The silence this time was much longer.

“I thought you were working up to asking me to go to bed with you,” she said finally, “and I was laughing. At your nerves.” She wasn’t laughing now.

“No,” said Miles. “That would have been easy.”

She says he doesn’t want much, just to upend her life, and he’s glad that at least she knows what she would be getting into.  Elli is not enthusiastic about a proposed future confined to a single planet, with no chance of ship command, though Miles offers the example of his own mother as someone who took on the challenge of Barrayar.  With a sad smile, she tells him he’s not really thinking, making this offer to her, ripping her out of her space-born lifestyle and stranding her on a planet barely out of the age of feudalism.  She tells him it’s Barrayar that’s the issue, not him, and he points out that his mother is a woman who changes Barrayar rather than letting it change her.  She asks Miles why he’s so concerned about Barrayar himself, when the rest of the universe can offer him so much more if he would just take it.  She points out that he likely sees ten times more action than the average Barrayaran soldier.

Miles realizes that the problem is that Elli’s in love with Admiral Naismith, not Lord Vorkosigan; Elli agrees, saying that he sells Naismith short.  Miles says that it’s important to him that he succeed on Barrayar’s terms, with the hand he was dealt.  Elli asks if they can still be lovers, even if she won’t marry him, and Miles says he’d be a fool to go off in a huff because he couldn’t have everything all at once.

As pillow talk, while Elli massages him, they discuss the situation with the police, and the situation with the embassy and the missing money.  Miles says that it’ll be ten days at best before Elena comes back, and if the money had already been sent, they might still have to track it down on Earth.  Until then, they need some kind of a contract to tide them over; ImpSec never minds those, as they help ease its budget.  Earth is in an unfortunately peaceful state, so he’d have to send them away, but Elli nixes that idea, and Miles isn’t enthused about losing their resources either.  Then he has another idea.

“What says I’ve got to contract out the entire fleet at a time? Work. Odd jobs. Interim cash flow. Divide and conquer! Security guards, computer techs, anything and everything anyone can come up with that will generate a little cash income—”

“Bank robberies?” said Elli in a tone of rising interest.

“And you say the police let you out? Don’t get carried away. But I’m sitting on a labor pool of five thousand variously and highly trained people. Surely that’s a resource of even greater value than the _Triumph_. Delegate! Let them spread out and go scare up some bloody cash!”

Energized by his idea, Miles leaps up, to Elli’s bemusement, to get dressed and put his plan into action.  He calls a staff meeting and tells them finally about the cash-flow problem, but assures them he’s working on tracking it down.  After he lays out his plan to raise money, they pick up on it immediately with a flurry of ideas, and, relieved, Miles leaves them to it.

He slept alone and badly, and woke tired and sore. He attended to some routine internal matters, and approved the seven least harebrained schemes for cash creation evolved by his people during the night. One officer had actually come up with a security guard contract for a squad of twenty, never mind that it was for the grand opening of a shopping mall in—where the hell was Xian?

At the bank Admiral Naismith, quite polished and urbane for a man who didn’t exist, signed away questionable rights to a warship he did not own to a financial organization who did not need or want it. As Lieutenant Bone pointed out, at least the money was real.

Elli escorts him back to the embassy’s underground entrance.  They pause, Elli wondering if he’s going to be ordered away where she won’t see him for a year, but being under the monitors their farewell is restrained.  He’s surprised to find Ivan waiting for him.  Ivan tells him that Galeni left the embassy shortly after Miles did yesterday, and hasn’t been seen since.

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DUN DUN DUN!  Very suspicious, Galeni!  So, then, according to the paranoid theory, Galeni stole Miles’s money, hired assassins on him, then fled.  According to Ivan, he left half an hour after Miles, so I suppose he could have waited to find out the success of his plot and then scarpered when he found out it didn’t work.  It may or may not surprise you that, now that more and more of the circumstantial evidence is pointing at Galeni, that isn’t quite where Bujold is heading with the plot.  We’re not even halfway through the book, and we have a couple more twists to come before things start to disentangle again.

At least Miles doesn’t screw things up completely with Elli by proposing.  While they both realize that long-term compatibility in their relationship is pretty much out of the question, barring a major priority change (like Elli contracted zero-G sickness, or the Cetagandans blowing up Barrayar), they at least agree to have a nice fling while it lasts.  Miles is doubtless culturally conditioned to view each potential romantic partner as a potential spouse (with the possible exception of Taura, as I believe I previously noted), and that can be a little intimidating and off-putting.  Maybe he should start looking for people whose name doesn’t start with “El”…  (And now I’m picturing Bel Thorne as Countess(?) Vorkosigan…now that would set some tongues wagging.)  By the way, wasn’t one of Miles’s arms immobilized because of the crack in his shoulder blade, not to mention pulled muscles from the liquor-store rescue?  One hopes Elli was gentle with him.

I’m very relieved at this point to see Miles finally hit on the solution to their cash problems, or at least a way to stave them off for longer.  I guess I don’t know how long the possible earnings by this method are likely to be able to keep them solvent, but if it keeps them from whittling away the value of their _Triumph_-backed loan until they can track down the missing money, then it will suffice.  Anyway, the point is that it makes the lack of money less of a tension point, just in time to introduce the disappearance of Galeni.

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Ten more chapters in the book, five more weeks…I might make it before the new book comes out; in fact, if my calculations are correct, Part 8 will come out on November 6th, which is the release date listed online.  I feel vaguely obligated to try to post some kind of spoiler-free review on my week off, but I guess I’ll see if I can muster one or not.  In any case, join me next week to push further on through Brothers In Arms, on the Vorkosigan Saga Reread…

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No rain, nor snow, nor dead of night, or even a touch of potentially E. coli-related food poisoning, will stay this week’s installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread from being posted. Though it was a near thing, and if the current book, Brothers In Arms, had had an odd number of chapters, you might be getting a one-chapter installment this time, but with some work and perseverance I’ve managed to do both Chapter Three and Four of the book this week, as Miles Vorkosigan has to deal with cash-flow problems, the press, inconvenient subordinates and superiors, and an inappropriate infatuation.  With no further ado, let’s open the envelope…

Chapter Three

Miles surveys the reception, which is at its peak, though some of the early arrivals seem to have left already, and the Cetagandans aren’t in sight.  Miles tells Ivan to meet him by the main door in five minutes, then slips back to his room to don his Dendarii uniform.  Then he goes back down the lift tubes and down a side corridor to the entrance; still no Cetagandans.  Ivan is shocked to see Miles’s outfit, and tries to block him from the rest of the room while trying to dissuade him from leaving.  Miles says that Elli wouldn’t have called him if it wasn’t important, so he needs to sneak out now, without Galeni seeing him.  He tells Ivan to claim that he’s gone back to his room because of a flareup of bone-related pain.  He tells Ivan to bring Sylveth, for cover, and with her as a distraction he gets past the guards without incident.

Outside, Ivan points out that he doesn’t have a bodyguard; Miles says Elli will be there soon enough.  He adds that Ivan will need to figure out a way for him to get back into the embassy later without being seen.  Miles dashes away as another car arrives, taking the tubeway to his destination.  When he emerges, any need to check his destination is obviated by the barricades, crowds and flashing police lights.

“Damnation,” Miles muttered, and started down that side street. He rolled the words back through his mouth, switching gears to Admiral Naismith’s flat Betan accent, “Aw, shit . . .”

Miles pushes his way through to the constable in charge, who asks him if he’s “one of those psychopaths”.  Miles identifies himself with dignity as Admiral Naismith, gently pushing away the barrel of a weapon aimed in his direction, and asks what’s going on.  The constable says it’s attempted robbery, with an attack on the clerk–trying to steal stock, not money, from what turns out to be a liquor store.  Now they’re holding her hostage, and claim to have rigged up a deadman switch so the police can’t just stun them all.  They were communicating by comconsole, though it’s now been destroyed.

Miles walks toward the store, telling the constable he’s going to arrest them himself; they’re not going to be crazy enough to shoot their own commanding officer.  He pounds on the glass door, and after a long pause it opens to admit him.  Inside the wineshop, the air is redolent with alcoholic fumes.  The man at the door, who’s wearing only underwear, salutes him drunkenly; Miles spots another Dendarii in uniform, whose consciousness is adrift, from something stronger than just alcohol.

Another man, Private Danio, emerges from behind a shelf, and his presence tells Miles all he needs to know about the situation.  Danio has an antique pistol with him–the dangerous firearm, which he says is his personal property, to help protect him from “crazies”; he says one of the others, Yalen, who’s on the floor, has a bowie knife.  Miles tells him that any weapon is illegal in this jurisdiction.  Miles confiscates their weapons and asks for a quick summary of events.

Danio says they were having a party and ran short of supplies, so they came here, but the clerk refused their credit.  Miles looks around and spots a middle-aged woman tied up with a Dendarii uniform; he starts to cut her free with the bowie knife, but the unclad soldier warns him that she makes a lot of noise.  Miles reads the name on the uniform, and identifies him as Xaveria, who served well as Dagoola…unfortunately for Miles, who had been inclined to throw the whole lot of them to the wolves.  Xaveria says that after their credit was refused, things escalated–insults, and bottles, were thrown, the clerk was knocked out, and when the police arrived, they told them about the deadman switch, which Xaveria assures Miles was pure bluff.

Miles asks about the refused credit cards; Xaveria says they’ve got the right cards, but the comconsole refused them…though Miles can’t confirm this because of the bullet hole in the middle of its screen.  The cards should be fine, Miles though, unless there was something very wrong with the main Dendarii financial account…  He promises to check it out, as long as he can get them out without the police killing them all.  Danio suggests blasting their way out the back and running for the tubeway.

“No, Danio,” Miles said when he could command his voice. “We are going to walk quietly—very quietly—out the front door and surrender.”

“But the Dendarii never surrender,” said Xaveria.

“This is not a firebase,” said Miles patiently. “It is a wineshop. Or at any rate, it was. Furthermore, it is not even our wineshop.” Though I shall no doubt be compelled to buy it. “Think of the London police not as your enemies, but as your dearest friends. They are, you know. Because,” he fixed Xaveria with a cold eye, “until they get done with you, I can’t start.”

Xaveria, quelled, tells Danio they’d better go along with the admiral.  Miles stuns the man who’s already lost in dreamland, tells Yalen and Danio to carry him, and Xaveria to put his hands on his head.  They emerge into daylight, where the police take charge of them.  Just as the constable is about to speak, though, the wineshop behind them begins to burn.  Miles lunges back into the shop, grabs the clerk, tosses her awkwardly over his shoulder, and heads for the door.  They make it out just as the whole shop bursts into flame, and Miles rolls himself and clerk on the sidewalk trying to put out their clothing, until a fireman with an extinguisher covers both of them in foam.  The constable is raving about a bomb, but Miles corrects him says it’s more likely brandy ignited by sparks from the comconsole.  As the firemen rush to try to put out the wineshop, Miles finds himself confronted with a holovid camera, until the clerk starts babbling and captures the reporter’s attention.

“Miles!” Elli Quinn’s voice over his shoulder made him jump. “Do you have everything under control?”

Miles and Elli take the tubeway to the shuttleport; he catches sight of his reflection and looks a sight–scorched, damp and covered with foam, and smelling of booze and smoke.  Miles asks why Elli didn’t protect him from that reporter, or take over, since she was more photogenic.

“Holovids make me tongue-tied. But you sounded calm enough.”

“I was trying to downplay it all. ‘Boys will be boys’ chuckles Admiral Naismith, while in the background his troops burn down London. . . .”

Elli points out that Miles was the one who ran into a burning building, which cheers him up a little, hoping that it came out looking good on camera.  One hand is somewhat blistered, but his uniform helped shield him from the rest.  He explains that he was operating mostly on reflex, knowing that he probably didn’t have much time before the fire really started to expand.  He is somewhat worried about the video of Admiral Naismith, but the Cetagandans likely already know that Naismith has been seen in London, and soon he’ll disappear back into Lieutenant Vorkosigan’s identity.  As they get off the tube, Miles’s back begins to twinge, strained from his carrying the clerk out of the fire.

They take a shuttle up to the Triumph, where the medic diagnoses him with pulled muscles and tells him to lie in bed for a week; Miles escapes with some pain pills and a bandaged hand, his tensions unwinding now that he’s safe on his flagship.  He heads to the financial offices, hoping to clear things up.  Vicky Bone, the fleet’s accountant, asks Miles about the credit transfer as soon as he enters.  Miles asks about the fleet finances, which she had assured him were under control.  She said they were, but there’s only so much they can do without actually getting paid.  They have to pay some of their bills to be able to stave off the rest, and they are now dangerously over-extended.

Miles asks her what happened at the wineshop.  Vicky looks into it and says that what they usually do while they’re in dock is take all their liquid funds and put them into short-term interest-paying investments.  Any credit requests get covered by a money transfer from the savings account.  But Danio and friends tried to access the main account directly, even though they’ve been told repeatedly not to, and since the account happened to be empty at the time, the request bounced.  Now, the investment account is empty, and they won’t be able to keep the fleet’s finances afloat much longer, maybe not even the six more days until the next courier is due.

Miles asks if they can somehow manage to create virtual money through accounting tricks; Vicky says that that’s impossible on a tightly-bound network like Earth’s, because you really need time lags to make that work.  She suggests getting some short-term loans against capital equipment…such as Triumph.  Miles reflects that Admiral Naismith would have to undersign it, despite his having no real existence whatsoever…  He authorizes her to set it up.

Comments

Somehow, when I was reading the previous chapter, I was under the impression that the reception they were at was somewhere else, not at the Barrayaran embassy itself.  And, I guess, that those were different goldfish.  But of course it’s easier for Miles to get his Admiral Naismith uniform if he doesn’t have to go back to his own embassy from somewhere else…

I also keep picturing the scene taking place at night–possibly because I keep thinking that the reception should be taking place at night–but Bujold does occasionally remind us that it’s daytime.  Oh, yeah, and the fact that the Dendarii in the shop were partying also makes me think it must be night…  It makes me wonder if it started as a night scene but the author had to change it to fit her timeline.

Daytime or not, I am always flabbergasted that Miles, after sneaking out to rescue his troopers from their predicament, then leaves the planet.  Bujold slips from on-the-ground to on-the-ship between paragraphs, implying it takes negligible time, but I still think it’s ill thought out.  Sure, he needs to clean up and get some medical help before returning to the embassy, not to mention talking to Vicky Bone about their finances, but I can’t help but think that he could have managed that while staying on Earth.  A quick check on the net indicates that the Space Shuttle took 10 minutes to get to low orbit, and 45 minutes to a higher one, so let’s say an hour including time to get through the shuttleport, get clearance, etc.  If they’d radioed for the medic to come down to meet them, Miles could have showered in a hotel or fitness club or something and bought replacement clothes (or even just gotten some sent down from the ship too) in that time, while talking remotely to Vicky…assuming they have some kind of secure communication, that is, which I’m pretty sure they must.

And, of course, the financial troubles continue to pile up.  That’s the kind of thing it would never occur to me to use as a major plot element, so I always have lots of respect for those who can do that, like here, or, say, Dave Sim in the “High Society” storyline in Cerebus.  The thought that an army can be brought low simply because of economic problems is somehow counterintuitive to me, but then I never did take economics in school or anything.  It also feels vaguely unfair, despite doubtless being more realistic, and yet a little bit reassuring that there is that kind of check on military might…

Chapter Four

Miles cleans up and finds himself much more cheerful–almost too much, and he makes a note to cut down on the dosage of painkillers.  Elli says they need to hurry to get back to the embassy; Miles says it’s probably already a lost cause to get back undetected, already 2300 London time.  Not looking forward to his reception at the embassy, he tries to think of something to do to put it off.  Admiral Naismith will be hidden away soon enough, but he deserves one last fling.  He rejects alcohol as being a bad idea on top of his pills, and theatre keeping him in one place for too long, so once they’re back on the ground, he invites Elli to go window shopping with him.

They walk through late-night London, looking at the passersby as much as the shops, though Elli still seems to be bodyguarding him rather than relaxing.  When she does stop in front of a shop advertising bio-engineered “cultured furs”, Miles ushers her inside.  The upscale store has a variety of rare types of fur and skins, which they are assured are 100% vat-grown, no real animals harmed.  Elli is particularly taken with a black “live fur”, blended from real cat genes, which the salesman tells them does not eat, shed, or excrete, but sustains itself off of electromagnetic radiation from the environment, or it can be microwaved on low to give it an extra boost.

“Pet it,” the salesman instructed Elli eagerly.

She did so, and laughed. “It purrs!”

“Yes. It also has programmable thermotaxic orientation—in other words, it snuggles up.”

Elli wrapped it around herself completely, black fur cascading over her feet like the train of a queen’s robe, and rubbed her cheek into the silky shimmer. “What won’t they think of next? Oh, my. You want to rub it all over your skin.”

Taken with the image of Elli rubbing it all over her skin, Miles says they’ll take it.  When he turns out only to have Miles Vorkosigan’s credit card, though, Elli is forced to pay for it herself, and it isn’t cheap.  Still, Miles won’t regret taking advantage of the opportunity to delight Elli, and promises to pay her back later.  Now, though, he really wants her to try it out…but he tries to convince himself he shouldn’t.  He’s starting to get past the point of wanting to have an affair with her, and being ready to ask her to change her career to Lady Vorkosigan…and space-born Elli isn’t likely to think much of that.

In a drop-tube, Miles has a sudden flashback to Dagoola and grabs Elli’s arm tightly.  She checks his eyes to see if they’re dilated and tells him that they’re actually pulsing in and out; Miles reassures her that the Dendarii medics are careful with the medications they give him.  Impulsively, Miles kisses her, and after a moment of surprise, she pulls him close and kisses him back.  The near-escape of the boxed live fur, and Elli’s beeper going off, breaks the mood and they swiftly exit the lift tube.  They look at each other apprehensively, their working relationship now upended, and Miles wonders what next, if starting a relationship with her is a bad idea, or if they should take advantage of any time they have, before one or the other falls victims to one of the risks of their dangerous career.

Elli checks her beeper and finds Ivan calling her on the secure commlink.  Ivan tells her to send Miles back soon, because he’s holding open a hole in the security net for him, but not for much longer.  He says he’s at the guard post on the third underground level, and they have about fifteen minutes before he won’t be able to edit the footage to cover Miles’s return.  Elli says they just have time to make it.

Miles massaged his face, as she went to credit their tokens, trying to rub his escaping rationality back through his skin by force. He looked up to see his own dim reflection staring back at him from the mirrored wall, shadowed by a pillar, face suffused with frustration and terror. He squeezed his eyes shut and looked again, moving in front of the pillar and staring. Most unpleasant—for a second, he had seen himself wearing his green Barrayaran uniform. Damn the pain pills. Was his subconscious trying to tell him something? Well, he didn’t suppose he was in real trouble until a brain scan taken of him in his two different uniforms produced two different patterns.

Upon reflection, the idea was suddenly not funny.

They steal a few more kisses on the tube, before Miles has to leave, painfully aroused and holding the package with the live fur.

The next morning Miles awakens with the fur almost wrapped around him.  Ivan is impressed with it, and says he’d like to rub it all over his skin.  Miles decides to get rid of his pain pills, after his adventure of the night before and the weird hallucination in the tube station.

Galeni summons Miles down to his office in the morning.  Miles, with his sore back muscles, doesn’t have to feign pain from his supposed incapacity of the day before, but he has a harder time accounting for his burned hand.  Galeni tells him about an interesting news broadcast he saw, and shares with Miles, showing Admiral Naismith and the daring wineshop rescue.  When Galeni calls him to account for it, Miles explains how Elli called him with the emergency, and points out that his intervention helped saved lives, but he apologizes for going AWOL.

Galeni, unimpressed, takes him to task for sneaking off and almost getting himself killed, and somehow managing to do so without leaving a security blip.  Miles explains how he snuck out with some guests in his Dendarii uniform, but has a harder time explaining his return.  Galeni warns him not to protect Lt. Vorpatril, and Miles says that he ordered Ivan to do it; he’ll tell Ivan to give a report on how he created the security hole.

“You will, eh?” Galeni’s lips twisted. “Has it occurred to you yet that Lieutenant Vorpatril is above you in this chain of command?”

“No, sir,” gulped Miles. “It, er . . . slipped my mind.”

“His too, it appears.”

Miles said he’d been planning on making a more open return, but Ivan went to such effort it seemed ungrateful…  And, Galeni adds sardonically, it looked like it might work.  Miles says Ivan is innocent, but Galeni can charge Miles if he wishes.

“Thank you, Lieutenant, for your kind permission.”

Goaded, Miles snapped, “Dammit, sir, what would you have of me? The Dendarii are as much Barrayaran troops as any who wear the Emperor’s uniform, even if they don’t know it. They are my assigned charge. I cannot neglect their urgent needs even to play the part of Lieutenant Vorkosigan.”

Galeni rocked back in his chair, his eyebrows shooting up. “Play the part of Lieutenant Vorkosigan? Who do you think you are?”

Miles is caught speechless, and Galeni notes that he seems to be losing track.  Miles says he has to play Admiral Naismith as hard as he can when he’s with the Dendarii; this is an unusual situation in having to switch back and forth.  Though Naismith isn’t real, his duties are, and Miles needs to be able to carry them out.  He realizes suddenly that if he’s in Galeni’s line of command, so are all of Naismith’s subordinates, and hopes that Galeni doesn’t decide to start messing with the Dendarii.  Galeni tells Miles that, in future, he would like to be consulted about any Naismith duties; Miles is on probation, and not confined to quarters only because he still has social escort obligations.  As he leaves, Miles wonders if he is going crazy after all.

That afternoon’s reception is for the Baba of Lairouba, who’s made a pilgrimage to Mecca and is now in talks about trade routes near Tau Ceti and Komarr, hence Barrayar’s interest.  Miles is escorting one of the Baba’s wives, swathed in silk except for her eyes and hands.  Translator earbuds having gone astray, much potential conversation is made impossible by language barriers until after dinner, though Miles does manage to communicate with hand gestures and somehow make her laugh twice.

After the dinner, Miles runs into the reporter he’d talked to the day before, who recognizes him as Admiral Naismith.  He pretends bafflement, and then shock that Admiral Naismith has been seen on Earth.  He introduces himself as Lt. Lord Vorkosigan of Barrayar, but the reporter is still not convinced that he’s not Naismith.  He tells her that Naismith is of the greatest interest to Barrayaran Security.

She looked him up and down. “So I would imagine, since you are one and the same.”

“Come, come over here.” And how was he going to get out of this one? He took her by the elbow and steered her toward a private corner. “Of course we are the same. Admiral Naismith of the Dendarii Mercenaries is my—” Illegitimate twin brother? No, that didn’t scan. Light didn’t just dawn, it came like a nuclear flash at ground zero. “—clone,” Miles finished smoothly.

Seeing that she’s beginning to believe, Miles expands on his story, saying that the clone is probably a product of the Cetagandans.  She reintroduces herself to him as Lise Vallerie from Euronews, and he feigns reluctance to talk to the press, but allows himself to be persuaded.  She belatedly recognizes the name Vorkosigan, and Miles agrees that he is his son.  He takes her aside to give her the full story, which he says is mostly old news anyway.

“The biological construct who calls himself Admiral Naismith is . . . perhaps the most dangerous man in the galaxy. Cunning—resolute—both Cetagandan and Barrayaran Security have attempted, in the past, to assassinate him, without success. He’s started to build himself a power-base, with his Dendarii Mercenaries. We still don’t know what his long-range plans for this private army are, except that he must have some.”

Vallerie’s finger went to her lips doubtfully. “He seemed—pleasant enough, when I spoke with him. Allowing for the circumstance. A brave man, certainly.”

“Aye, there’s the genius and the wonder of the man,” cried Miles, then decided he’d better tone it down a bit. “Charisma. Surely the Cetagandans, if it was the Cetagandans, must have intended something extraordinary for him. He’s a military genius, you know.”

He tells her that Barrayar has stopped trying to kill Naismith, now mostly just trying to keep track of him, but the Cetagandans are out for his blood.  He says that Naismith was probably originally designed for some kind of replacement plot, but by now they’ve diverged too much to be able to carry it off–Miles claims to even be two centimetres taller than Naismith.  Pretending anger, he says that Naismith flaunts their relationship, having assumed his mother’s maiden name and Betan heritage, and claiming to be Miles’s brother by Betan clone-law.

The ambassador summons Miles over, and Miles parts with a request that she notify him if she sees Naismith again.  As he leaves, he is ecstatic to have finally come up with a plausible cover story for Naismith, one that even Galeni might appreciate.

Comments

Hands up, everyone who’d buy a live fur!  Okay, I guess there is something to be said for playfulness, mobility, a face, etc., there are probably a lot of people who’d love to not have to clean the litterbox or deal with meowing.  Just midnight smothering, I guess.  How can you guarantee no shedding, anyway?  Surely it would wear out over time, so eventually it would start to break down…probably just has a warranty period.

Miles and Elli’s relationship does finally start, sort of.  She was obviously willing, not throwing Miles’s non-fraternization rules back in his face when he makes his pass, but they don’t spend a lot of time actually discussing anything, what with the time constraints.  He’s right that Elli would not be eager to become Lady Vorkosigan…and isn’t it a bit early to be thinking about that, anyway?  I guess that’s the way Miles’s mind works–he has trouble disentangling love and attraction from the whole “growing old together” thing.  At least he never proposed to Taura; even he knew that wasn’t likely to work out.

The clone story is indeed brilliant, though of course it doesn’t fit with Miles’s frequent insistence that the problems affecting his development were “teratogenic, not genetic”.  Why, to make a clone of Miles look like him, you’d have to use some nasty techniques, possibly even involving the soltoxin antidote that caused the original damage to Miles.  Or you could just keep shortening his bones whenever they tried to grow too long, or something, but that would be a lot of work; who’d bother?

And yes, of course, knowing what happens in the rest of the book, that whole story about the clone is absolutely fraught with irony.  Heck, it’s practically fraught with irony even just knowing that Miles thinks he’s inventing the clone story, without knowing how much of it is actually true.


Brothers In Arms only has sixteen chapters, apparently; I thought it was a longer book, but maybe it just has longer chapters than, say, Ethan of Athos…  So I’m a quarter of the way through it already.  Still a fair chunk of plot to go, yet, so hang in there.

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