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Archive for the ‘Memory’ Category

Diane, it’s 9:00 PM, and I’m holding in my hand a small package of chocolate bunnies.  Also, it is now time, once again, for the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, as we draw to a close our examination of the novel Memory, with Miles Vorkosigan completing his transition from his former career into his new one, and tying off some personal loose ends.  Have a slice of pie, by all means, while you consider these last two chapters…

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Miles prepares carefully for his visit to Gregor to return the Auditor’s paraphenalia, putting on his house uniform and medals again, because he’s planning to ask Gregor for a favour when he does.  He’s not quite certain about his asking, since it seems such a little thing, but it matters to him, at least.  Martin takes him to the Residence, with less damage to the gate this time; Miles finds Gregor also dressed up, probably for some later ceremony.

He and Gregor greet each other cordially, and then he gives Gregor the data card with his report on it as well as the chain.  Before Miles can make his request, Gregor is sitting down at his comconsole; he makes a copy of the report, then gives the data card to his majordomo to take to the next room.  Miles waits, perforce, while Gregor reads the report, making a few mild exclamations, then goes back over selected portions of it.

Gregor picks up the chains, saying thoughtfully that this was one of his better snap decisions.  Miles says that it was just luck that he could do some good; Gregor points out how few people would have been suited for the job, knowing ImpSec well without being part of it.  Miles decides just to thank him.  Gregor says he’s thinking about an appropriate reward for a job well done, which is, traditionally, another job.  He offers Miles the post of Chief of ImpSec, even if he’s not technically in the military anymore.  Miles refuses, saying it’s too much of a tedious desk job, in between periods of complete insanity, and would tie him down too much to Barrayar and Vorbarr Sultana.  He acknowledges that he could do it, but he asks if Gregor is ordering him to take the job; Gregor said he was genuinely curious.  Miles says that Guy Allegre will do a better job, is the right age, has more of the appropriate experience, and is familiar to the Komarrans.  Gregor says he thought Miles would say that, but wanted to give him first refusal.

He asks Miles if he wants anything to eat ot drink, but Miles says that with his surgery scheduled for that afternoon, he’s been told to keep an empty stomach.  Gregor says he must be happy to have the chance to do his own driving now, though Miles admits Martin had grown on him a little.  Miles is just gathering his courage to ask for his favour when the room door slides open and the majordomo returns, then ushers four men into the room–Imperial Auditors all.  Miles reflexively begins wondering what he’s done to warrant their attention, then calms down and greets them politely as they take their seats.

The four Auditors are Lord Vorhovis, back from Komarr, a mere sexagenarian, a former ambassador and Minister of Finance; Dr. Vorthys, an academic appointee of Gregor’s, specializing in engineering failure analysis; Lord Vorgustafson, a retired industrialist so rich as to be virtually unbribable; and Admiral Vorkalloner, a retired officer with no strong political ties.  Vorkalloner greets Miles as “Aral Vorkosigan’s boy” and says that now he knows why he hasn’t seen Miles much in the last ten years.  Miles is struck again by the oddness of the Auditors, taken as a group–all accomplished and/or wealthy, and all more or less eccentric.

Gregor asks them what they thought of Miles’s report.  Vorhovis says it was extraordinary, and Vorthys praises it for being “concise, coherent, and complete”.  Miles tells how Illyan used to send back his reports for correction until he learned how to do it right the first time.

Vorkalloner smiled. “Old Vorsmythe,” he noted, “used to turn in handwritten plastic flimsys. Never more than two pages. He insisted anything important could always be said in two pages.”

“Illegibly handwritten,” muttered Gregor.

“We used to have to go and squeeze the footnotes out of him in person. It became somewhat irritating,” added Vorkalloner.

Vorhovis says he hasn’t left much for the prosecutor to do; Gregor says that Haroche is officially going to plead guilty anyway, which is good, considering how he confessed to the Emperor and all.  Vorhovis says he doubts he would have been able to unravel the case, particularly since Dr. Weddell’s expertise proved critical, and he had never heard of the man.  Vorhovis says the Auditors rarely work together, but they do consult with each other and share resources.  There are really only five effective Auditors at the moment, General Vorparadijs and Admiral Valentine being sort of Emeriti, and General Vorsmythe’s position hadn’t yet been filled since his death two years earlier; the other active Auditor, Vorlaisner, was tied up on the South Continent, but the four of them constitute a quorum.

“That being so, my lords,” said Gregor, “how do you advise Us?”

Vorhovis glanced around at his colleagues, who gave him nods, and pursed his lips judiciously. “He’ll do, Gregor.”

“Thank you.” Gregor turned to Miles. “We were discussing job openings, a bit ago. It happens I also have a place this week for the position of eighth Auditor. Do you want it?”

Miles, shocked, asks if Gregor realizes what he’s saying, offering Miles an appointment for life, and at his age.  Vorhovis agrees that Miles will be the youngest Auditor since the Time of Isolation.  Miles says that Vorparadijs will doubtless disapprove of him based on his youth and physical appearance; Vorhovis says Vorparadijs thought he was too young too, at fifty-eight.  He says that Miles’s galactic experience and unique ImpSec training makes him a valuable resource in his own right.  Miles asks if they’ve read his personnel files, and then reiterates the near-fatal accident and falsified report that led to the end of his ImpSec career.

Vorhovis says that the four of them had discussed it with Gregor and Illyan the day before.  He asks how, in light of Miles’s earlier actions, he was able to refuse Haroche’s bribe of the Dendarii, which would almost certainly never have been recognized as such.

“Haroche would have known. Galeni would have known. And I would have known. Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead. Not three.”

“You would certainly have outlived Captain Galeni, and you might have outlived Haroche. What then?”

Miles blew out his breath, and answered slowly. “Someone might have survived, with my name, in my body. It wouldn’t have been me, anymore. It would have been a man I didn’t much . . . like.”

Gregor points out that, as the junior Auditor, he’ll get the worst jobs, the jobs will probably be totally unrelated to each other, and he’ll be left to succeed or fail on his own; Vorthys says he will get some help now and then.

Miles says this wasn’t the reward he’d been planning to ask for; he’s been hankering after a retroactive promotion to Captain.  He doesn’t need the extra pay grade or anything, just the title; he’d wanted it freely given, but he’ll take it as he gets it.  He doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life as a Lieutenant.  It occurs to him that Gregor and the Auditors have put a lot of effort into considering him for this position–it’s more than just a courtesy to offer it to him, this time.  So he may have a little bit of bargaining power this time.  He mentions that most of the other Auditors are retired senior officers; Gregor points out that he’s the former Admiral Naismith, but Miles says that hardly counts.  For the dignity of the office, he should be at least a captain.

“Persistent,” murmured Vorhovis, “isn’t he?”

“Relentlessly,” Gregor agreed. “Just as advertised. Very well, Miles. Allow me to cure you of this distraction.”

His magic Imperial finger — index, not middle, thank you Gregor — flipped down to point at Miles. “Congratulations. You’re a captain. My secretary will see that your records are updated. Does that satisfy you?”

“Entirely, Sire.” Miles suppressed a grin. So, it was a touch anticlimactic, compared to the thousand ways he’d dreamed this promotion over the years. He was not moved to complain.

Gregor and the Auditors emphasize that the Auditors are never assigned routine tasks–they’re only sent in when other means have failed.  They get complex, disturbing, and occasionally bizarre cases–and often, extremely important ones, like tracking down the traitor at the heart of ImpSec.  Gregor offers Miles the position again, and Miles says yes.

When Miles goes for his surgery that afternoon, he’s allowed to stay under local anesthesia and watch it on a monitor, and go home the next day.  Two days later, he goes in so they can do the first test.  Miles agrees to do it himself, since he may need to do so in the future; Dr. Chenko cautions him that he should usually do it with someone to spot for him.  Miles puts in a mouth-guard and presses the activator; the seizure duly comes, and after Miles regains consciousness they keep him there to do some tests.  Miles asks for reassurances that no other signal is likely to activate his implant, and that it’s not going to get switched permanently by any head trauma; Chenko says that the signal is encoded, and any trauma that could affect the implant will have damaged enough of his brain to give him bigger worries.

Chenko tells him that the seizure was shorter and less intense than his uncontrolled ones, and the hangover effects should also be reduced.  He encourages Miles to check his neurotransmitter levels once a day, so he can schedule his seizures before the levels get too high.  Miles asks if he can fly yet, and Chenko says they’ll do some more tests tomorrow and then let him know.

Gregor has managed to convince Lady Alys to schedule the betrothal ceremony for the beginning of the Winterfair season.  The day before the ceremony, an enormous blizzard hits Vorbarr Sultana and the surrounding Districts, closing the shuttleports and stranding Viceroy Aral Vorkosigan in orbit.  He decides to stay in orbit and come directly to the Imperial Residence the next day.  Miles decides not to fly, but to accompany the Countess in her groundcar.  Their departure is delayed by Zap the Cat having kittens on his House uniform, forcing Miles to painfully extricate them and have them hastily cleaned before they can leave.

The Countess, delighted as ever to find her biological empire increasing, came in thoughtfully bearing a cat-gourmet tray prepared by Ma Kosti that Miles would have had no hesitation in eating for his own breakfast. In the general chaos of the morning, however, he had to go down to the kitchen and scrounge his meal. The Countess sat on the floor and cooed into his closet for a good half-hour, and not only escaped laceration, but managed to pick up, sex, and name the whole batch of little squirming furballs before tearing herself away to hurry and dress.

They eventually manage to leave and make their way through and around the snowdrifts to the Residence, where they are far from the last arrivals, though the snow and wind do seem to be letting up somewhat.  Luckily, most of the Komarran guests have already been staying in the Residence guest quarters.  Lady Alys seems calm, but may be merely in a stage beyond panic, though she is visibly relieved when Miles and Cordelia arrive, and even more so when Aral finally shows up.  Aral opines that Gregor’s weatherman is probably due for a posting on Kyril Island; Miles points out that he may have been pressured to produce an optimistic forecast.  Aral tells Miles that they should have a talk soon, but Lady Alys has first claim on him.

A mere hour late, the ceremony starts, with Aral and Cordelia standing as Gregor’s foster parents, and Miles as Gregor’s Second.  His role mostly consists of conveying ceremonial gifts between the two sides–these days, hardly anyone expects the Second to marry the bride if the groom dies untimely.  Some of the gifts, like a bridle without a horse, a somewhat baffling, but at least they’ve left out the blunted scalpel which was supposed to represent the bride’s genetic cleanliness.  Then he gives the Admonishments to the Bride (there are no Admishments to the Groom, he notes), also somewhat modified to exclude such things as obligation to produce heirs in one’s own womb as opposed to a uterine replicator.  Laisa still isn’t quite sure about all of them, but Cordelia signals her silently to not take them too seriously, while Miles pictures Elli Quinn’s highly unprintable reaction to the Admonishments.

After the ceremony is over, the snowed-in crew settle in to celebrate.  Aral goes off with Gregor, and Miles spots Ivan.  Ivan says people have been asking him about Miles’s Auditorial appointment, and Miles tells them to talk to Vorkalloner or Vorhovis.  He asks about Ivan’s date, and Ivan says he asked Delia Koudelka to marry him.  Miles begins heartily (and fakely) congratulating him, and Ivan says she turned him down for Duv Galeni.  Miles says he’d already figured that much out; he suggests Ivan tries Martya, but Martya has already turned him down, in favour of nearly anyone else.  Miles congratulates Ivan on the carefree bachelor life he can doubtless look forward to, and offers him a kitten to liven up his digs; Ivan tells him to get stuffed.

Miles wanders off and finds the Koudelkas, where Duv Galeni is talking seriously with Commodore Koudelka.  Galeni has elected not to resign from ImpSec, and according to Gregor is being seriously considered for head of Komarran Affairs.  Miles thinks that with three other sisters to marry off, Galeni has good odds of gaining some influential in-laws; Miles wonders if Galeni knows yet that his clone-brother Mark stands a good chance of becoming one of them.

Aral finally returns and congratulates Miles on his promotion–Captain as well as Auditor, though he thinks that the former was a little bit roundabout.  He’s glad that Miles has finally managed to “grow into himself”.  Miles points out that not only was Imperial Auditor not a post that Aral himself ever had, but no Vorkosigan ever has, making him entirely unprecedented.

The Count smiled. “This is not news, Miles.”

Comments

This chapter could almost stand to be the last, wrapping up almost everything, but there is still one more loose thread for the next chapter.  Though that one could almost have been an epilogue…  The betrothal is accomplished, Miles’s parents are both there with him, Miles has his seizure control device, and Miles has a new job.  The only thing he really needs now is a love life, or maybe a wife and children…

I don’t recall if I was surprised the first time I read this to find Miles offered an actual Auditorship, but I suspect I was.  But it is a great conclusion to the book, even if one points out that Imperial Auditor was practically invented for this book, and it may have been as much to give Miles a future career as it was to give him the leverage to run an investigation inside ImpSec.  From an authorial perspective, it gives tremendous leeway for future plots, though admittedly not (always) off-planet ones.  Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn notwithstanding.

Miles was thinking earlier that personal probity seemed to be an absolute requirement to be an Imperial Auditor, which is one reason they tend to be older men, whose personality has already been amply demonstrated over the course of decades.  It makes me think that it was Miles’s resistance to Haroche’s proffered bribe that was the final selling point for them, showing them, at least, that his willpower was up to the challenge.  Not sure whether his perceived probity is quite as stellar, but I guess he’ll get ample chance to demonstrate it.

Poor Ivan, though, striking out with both Delia and Martya.  It’s almost like neither of them thought he was serious about them as much as he was panicked and desperate.  Well, of course, Delia was already spoken for, but as I recall it takes a couple more books for Martya to find someone to interest her…though not a Vor, as I recall.  Or even a Barrayaran.  Kareen is, of course, already somewhat interested in Lord Mark, and Olivia…has she even been named yet?  Well, I guess not every sister gets to have her own plot…

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Miles waits outside Customs on a space station orbiting Komarr, contemplating how this interstellar transport hub is also part of the Barrayaran Empire, and wonders if Elli Quinn could be happy here.  It does have domed cities, almost like the space stations she grew up on , though his own life would likely keep him close to Vorbarr Sultana most of the time.

He’d hitched a ride out to Komarr with his parents, on their own way back to Sergyar, and finally felt like he had time enough to really talk to them.  He’d managd to secure Armsman Pym’s services for himself, without even having to trade her for Ma Kosti, and they promised to send him a couple more, those who have been least happy on Sergyar.

Miles has to wait for most of the crowd of arrivals to get through Customs before he spots Elli, and soon enough she spots him, too.  They embrace forcefully and she kisses him thoroughly.  Then she asks why he sent for all of his possessions–currently tied up in Customs, what with all the weapons among them.  Miles sends Pym to straighten things out and have them sent back to Vorkosigan House.  Then Miles takes Elli back to the suite he’d booked for them at the hostel.

Miles says he’d wanted to talk to her, in private, before she met with Allegre and the new ImpSec Galactic Affairs head.  Elli says she’s not sure what’s up with him–the first message, he looked like a zombie, then went incommunicado entirely before finally sending back a more cheerful message, and now an order to report to Komarr to meet with ImpSec, right away.  She asks if he’s back with ImpSec, and he says he’s not, but he’s there to help her transition to her new bosses.  He hadn’t wanted to say too much on his messages, knowing that ImpSec censors will be looking at them.

“But this time, it was frigging incomprehensible. What is going on with you?” Her voice was edged with the same suppressed fear Miles was feeling, Am I losing you? No, not fear. Knowledge.

“I tried to compose a message a couple of times, but it was . . . too complicated, and all the most important parts were things I didn’t want to send tight-beam. The edited version came out sounding like gibberish. I had to see you face-to-face anyway, for, for a lot of reasons. It’s a long story, and most of it is classified, a fact that I am going to completely ignore. I can, you know. Do you want to go down to the restaurant to eat, or order room service?”

Miles,” she said in exasperation. “Room service. And explanations.”

After they order their room-service meals, Miles explains about Illyan’s breakdown, Laisa and Galeni, the investigation which led him to Haroche, his seizure treatment, and his new job.  Elli doesn’t seem to quite understand all that he’s been through, and doesn’t respond much until after their food has arrived.  She says that “Auditor” sounds like an accountant, not like a job he’d enjoy; he tries to explain the actual job, but isn’t sure he can get it across.  She said he’d never mentioned it as one he was interested in; he says he didn’t consider it possible, as well as noting that ambition for the job is not a recommendation to get it.  Elli asks if that means he’s never coming back to the Dendarii, if she’s ever going to see him again.

“That’s . . . one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you tonight, personally, before tomorrow’s business overwhelms everything else.” Now it was his turn to pause for courage, to keep his voice in an even register. “You see, if you were . . . if you stayed here . . . if you were Lady Vorkosigan, you could be with me all the time.”

“No . . .” Her soup would have cooled, forgotten, if not for the stay-warm circuit in the bottom of die bowl. “I’d be with Lord Vorkosigan all the time. Not with you, Miles, not with Admiral Naismith.”

“Admiral Naismith was something I made up, Elli,” he said gently. “He was my own invention. I’m an egotistical enough artist, I suppose, I’m glad you liked my creation. I made him up out of me, after all. But not all of me.”

She says he’s asked her to be Lady Vorkosigan three times already, and each time claimed it was the last.  He says this time it really is the last; if she doesn’t accept the job of Lady Vorkosigan, he has another job offer for her–Admiral of the Dendarii, working for General Allegre.  Quinn says that she’s not ready for the job; Miles says she’s more than ready, and she’s been doing it already.  He says that it’s one or the other, and she has to choose.  She says she can’t bear to stuck on one planet, or even three, for the rest of her life, though Miles points out that there’s more to planets than she thinks.

She makes a counteroffer–he leaves Barrayar behind, comes back to the Dendarii with her, and while they may have to give up their lucrative ImpSec contracts, they’ll be free, and she’d happily marry Admiral Naismith.  Miles says he tried, but it’s just not him.  He’s not a mercenary at heart–not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course–he’s Miles Vorkosigan, not Miles Naismith.  Elli laments the part of him that she could never touch; he says he tried for years, but he can’t snuff Lord Vorkosigan out completely, and she has to accept him as he is, all of him.  He offers her one last time, to be “desperately unhappy” on Barrayar with him.  She says she couldn’t bear it, it would be sacrificing everything she is to be reborn as Lady Vorkosigan, and she’s not as good at resurrection as he is.

Elli wrestles with the decision, but when challenged, she admits that she wants to be Admiral Quinn.  She asks why he forced her to make this painful decision now, and he says he has to be able to move on, one way or the other, with her or without her.

They made love one last time, for old times’ sake, for good-bye, and, Miles realized halfway through, each in a desperate last-ditch effort to please and pleasure the other so much, they would change their mind. We’d have to change more than our minds. We’d have to change our whole selves.

With a sigh, he sat up in the suite’s vast bed, disentangling their limbs. “This isn’t working, Elli.”

“‘L make it work,” she mumbled. He captured her hand, and kissed the inside of her wrist. She took a deep breath, and sat up beside him. They were both silent for a long time.

Quinn says he should be a soldier, not a bureaucrat; Miles says that to be a great soldier, he needs a great war, and there’s a shortage of them around these days. Cetaganda is quiescent, Jackson’s Whole is too disorganized, and the Barrayarans themselves are mostly busy with the colonization of Sergyar.  Though if Barrayar does need him to be a soldier, they can always ask.  They embrace, and he feels the tension leaving them, the melancholy resignation that this is over.

He warns her that, as Admiral, she should stay safely in the command chair, not risk her neck on rescue missions; she calls him a hypocrite.  He then asks her for a favour, regarding Taura–he could see that she was starting to show signs of age, and it might not be long from there until her time finally runs out.  He asks her to send for him in time for him to be there at her side, at the end, as he promised himself years ago.

She settled back. “All right,” she said seriously. After a moment she added, “So . . . did you sleep with her?”

“Um . . .” He swallowed. “She was before your time, Elli.” After another minute he was compelled to add, “And after, from time to time. Very rarely.”

“Hah. I thought so.”

He asks if there was anyone else for her, and she points out that she, at least, was faithful.  He tells her that she’s free to pursue other attachments now, and she says she can free herself, thank you very much.  She wishes him luck finding his Lady Vorkosigan, whoever she is.  She kisses him, and asks if they can have flings, perhaps, from time to time, if their paths happen to cross, and Miles says they might.  Their lovemaking arises more naturally after that, and goes much better.

Afterwards, Elli asks him more about his new job, if he’s going to like it, if there’s much opportunity to advance…  Miles says that he’ll probably outlive most of the current crop, but that’s about it; they seem to be “post-ambitious”, not interested in jockeying for advantage, and he’s looking forward to getting to know them better.  He shares a few choice stories about them, and Elli admits that he just might fit in after all.

Miles returns quietly to Barrayar, spending his first evening back home eating in the kitchen with Pym, Ma Kosti, and her son the Corporal, who shares news of Martin from basic training.  Afterwards he goes to the wine cellar to get a bottle of his grandfather’s oldest wine; when it proves to have gone more than a little off, he pours it out and gets some from a newer, proven batch.  He sits with his wineglass and contemplates his reflection, and Admiral Naismith’s three deaths–once on Jackson’s Whole, once in Illyan’s office, and once at the hands of Haroche.  He prepares to wallow in self-pity.

Instead, he found himself leaning back in the warm chair, laughing softly. He swallowed the laugh, wondering if he’d lost his grip at last.

Just the opposite.

Haroche was no miracle-worker. He wasn’t even a stage magician. He’d had no power then or ever to give or withhold Naismith, though Miles felt a cryonic chill, thinking how close he’d come to delivering himself into Haroche’s hands.

No wonder he was laughing. He wasn’t mourning a death. He was celebrating an escape.

“I’m not dead. I’m here.” He touched his scarred chest in wonder.

Harra Csurik had been almost right. It wasn’t your life again you found, going on. It was your life anew. And it wasn’t at all what he’d been expecting. His slow smile deepened. He was beginning to be very curious about his future.

Comments

The last chapter is more of an epilogue, or a coda…tying off one last loose plot thread–Elli Quinn.  I agree that it would have been a mistake for Elli to come to Barrayar, or even, really, to Komarr; Elena might have been willing to settle for it, had things been different, but Elli is not even necessarily ready to settle down yet.  Plus she has those irrational anti-planet prejudices.  I don’t know that I remember her complaining that much when she was on Earth, but then I guess nobody was proposing that she stay there forever…

I think I may have spotted a symbolism thing, with the wine there…  When Miles finds the wine from his grandfather’s time not to his taste, he briefly considers drinking it anyway, but then decides to get rid of it and take something more modern instead, which he knows is better.  Though…what is that really about?  That he doesn’t have to stick to old Barrayaran ways of thinking just because they’re traditional, but he can indulge in more modern thinking instead?  Though it’s not like he’s drinking some weird offplanet liquor either, right?  It seems clear enough, but I’m not sure it’s entirely apposite for the ending of the book.  After all, Miles has never particularly been one to attach to old Barrayaran ways of thinking, exemplified by people like Count Piotr, Vordarian, Count Vorhalas, General Metzov, so why is it important for him to be able to reject it so easily now?  Okay, maybe I’m just reading too much into this.  Maybe I really don’t get symbolism after all, and maybe, sometimes, a wine bottle is just a wine bottle.


I have reached the end of Memory, and I’m a little sad, because it is perhaps my favourite Vorkosigan book, though Civil Campaign gives it a run for its money.  Next up we get Komarr, which is a little less cheerful and fun, but it does introduce the very important character of Ekaterin Vorsoisson, so there’s that.  My customary week off in between, of course.  So, until then, don’t take any unmapped wormhole jumps…

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The popcorn is almost eaten, the lights are going down, and up on the screen…no, it’s not commercials, or trailers, or cartoons–it’s the Vorkosigan Saga Reread!  Two more chapters in Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Memory, a central book in the saga of Miles Vorkosigan, and we’re almost to the end.  In the mystery plotline, we have finally arrived at the scenes where the cunning detective lures the culprit into incriminating himself, and then we have the big confession…

Chapter Twenty-Six

Not long before the end of the ImpSec day shift, Miles arrives in the big groundcar with his hastily-mustered and -briefed troops: Ivan, Illyan, Dr. Weddell, and Delia Koudelka.  Miles orders the guard at the front desk to not report his arrival to Haroche; Illyan reassures him that it’s all right.  Next, they go to the detention centre, where Miles leaves Delia to keep an eye on Duv Galeni, as well as orders to not admit anyone else to the cell block until he comes back.  He hopes that this will keep Galeni from being “suicided” by Haroche.

Next he goes to Janitorial, collecting the department head, and Forensics to acquire a tech, before going to the Evidence Rooms.  They fetch down the prokaryote, still with Miles’s seal on it, and Miles breaks one of the capsules open.  They wait a few minutes, until Dr. Weddell says it should have dissipated sufficiently.  He opens a box and takes out an atomizer of clear fluid, which he managed to whip up on short notice, designed to find traces of the prokaryotes’ discarded “shells”.  The Janitorial head leads them to the room’s air filter and extracts it; Dr. Weddell sprays the filter, then shines UV light on it, showing how the traces fluoresce.  The forensics tech bags it up, and they head back upstairs.

Miles takes them to the Komarran Affairs department, where General Allegre joins them; Miles asks Illyan if he ever came to Galeni’s office, and Illyan says he came down once a week or so.  They extract the air filter for Galeni’s office, and Weddell sprays it; Miles hopes that Haroche hadn’t thought of using his spare capsule to contaminate this one as well.  Luckily, it comes up clean, no traces of the prokaryote.  Miles confirms that the filter wouldn’t have been scheduled to be changed since Midsummer, and that it doesn’t look like it has been replaced recently.

“Your old office is next, Simon. Would you care to lead the way?”

Illyan shook his head, politely declining. “There isn’t much joy for me in this, Miles. Either way your results come out, I lose a trusted subordinate.”

“But wouldn’t you rather lose the one who’s actually guilty?”

“Yes.” Illyan’s snort was not wholly ironic. “Carry on, my Lord Auditor.”

Haroche reacts with aplomb to their arrival en masse, though Miles imagines that maybe he’s a little uncomfortable being faced with Illyan’s presence.  He asks what they’re doing there, and Miles explains about the air filters, something Haroche might not have thought of, never having been on space duty.  Haroche doesn’t seem too uncomfortable yet; Miles knows that anyone could have used the prokaryotes in Illyan’s office, so it wouldn’t point directly at him.  Weddell doesn’t find any traces in the filter, though, which doesn’t surprise Miles too much.  Miles acts disappointed, and says there’s nothing for it but to systematically spray every filter in the building, hoping Haroche doesn’t notice that he doesn’t have nearly enough spray for that.  Haroche asks if they checked Galeni’s office, and then suggests they try a briefing room.

“If you want to save steps,” put in Ivan, on cue, “you ought to start with the places Illyan went most, and work out from there. Rather than from the top down.”

“Good thinking,” said Miles. “Shall we start with the outer office? Then — excuse me, General Allegre, but I must be complete — the offices of the department heads. Then the briefing rooms, then all the affairs analysts’ offices. We should probably have done the whole of Komarran Affairs while we were first down there. After that we’ll see.”

They begin working on extracting the filter in the outer office, studiously not noticing when Haroche excuses himself.  Miles counts to a hundred, then tells them to follow him once more, quietly this time, to Domestic Affairs, and Haroche’s old office.  They encounter Haroche’s replacement in the halls, sent to look for Miles; Miles continues to the Domestic Affairs office and overrides the door lock with his Auditor’s Seal.

Haroche was crouched to the left of his old comconsole desk, just levering the vent grille out of the wall. In the opened flimsy-folder on the floor by his side lay another fiber filter. Miles laid a small bet with himself that they would find a disemboweled grille awaiting Haroche’s return in one of the briefing rooms on a direct line between Illyan’s old office and this one. A quick switch, very cool. You think fast, General. But this time I had a head start.

“Timing,” said Miles, “is everything.”

Haroche jerked upright, on his knees. “My Lord Auditor,” he began quickly, and stopped. His eye took in the small army of ImpSec men crowding into the doorway behind Miles. Even then, Miles thought, Haroche might have been capable of some brilliantly extemporized explanation, to Miles, to the whole damned mob, but then Illyan shouldered forward. Miles fancied he could almost see the glib lies turning to clotted ashes on Haroche’s tongue, though the only outward sign was a little twitch at the corner of his mouth.

Miles realizes that Haroche had avoided facing his victims–staying away from Illyan in the ImpSec clinic, avoiding Miles after that while setting up the frame for him, and keeping out of the way of Galeni’s arrest.  He’s just an man of ordinary morality who gave in to temptation and then had to try to avoid the consequences.  Haroche avoids Illyan’s and Miles’s gaze while the techs extract the filter and do the spraying.  Red fluorescence is indeed revealed by the UV light.  Miles appoints General Allegre acting chief of ImpSec, and instructs him to arrest General Haroche, by his Imperial Auditor’s authority, on the charge of treason.

“Not treason,” Haroche whispered hoarsely. “Never treason.”

Miles opened his hand. “But . . . if he is willing to confess and cooperate, possibly a lesser charge of assault on a superior officer. A court-martial, a year in prison, a simple dishonorable discharge. I think . . . I will let the Service court sort that one out.”

By the looks on their faces, both Haroche and Allegre caught the nuances of that speech.

Miles suggests that they take him down to the cells and release Galeni at the same time.  Allegre drafts Ivan and two other nearby ImpSec staff to escort Haroche, who says he’s not athletic enough to try any fancy escapes.  Miles finds the briefing room that Haroche had taken the filter from, and after the evidence there is collected, seals it up and sends it down to the Evidence Rooms.  This, and the final report to Gregor, is the end of his Auditor’s responsibilities, and he’s glad he doesn’t have to deal with the court martial to come.

Miles and Illyan discuss what Haroche is likely to do next; Miles wonders if he’ll try to tough it out with a good lawyer, perhaps claiming evidence was planted.  Illyan says he doesn’t think Haroche is likely to kill himself in his cell either, and he’d prefer him to live with the consequences anyway.

When they arrive at the detention centre, Galeni is being discharged, and Haroche seems to have already been processed in.  Galeni is angry at Miles for leaving him in the cell so long, having thought he’d have come to extract him hours ago.  He vows to quit this paranoid organization, though Delia takes his hand and he calms down.  Miles apologized for having to take an entire day to muster the exonerating evidence, and Ivan points out it’s only taken him five days to solve the sabotage case in the first place, and it’ll probably take him longer just to write the report.  Miles says that after Galeni’s public arrest, which must have been done on purpose, he couldn’t just declare Galeni innocent, he actually had to prove it.

Delia complains about Galeni’s cell; Illyan says they’re better than the old cells.  After the incident with Miles and his alleged private army, when Illyan was thrown into his own prison, he had the old prison turned into evidence storage and built new cells; it was a most salutary experience, which he highly recommends.  Galeni asks who was guilty, then, and Miles tells him it was Haroche.  Once Haroche knew the prokaryotes had been discovered, he’d targeted Miles, who he disliked, and Galeni, who fit the profile, to try to take one or both of them down as plausible culprits.  Arresting the chief of ImpSec in the middle of ImpSec HQ seemed tricky enough that Miles hadn’t wanted to get Galeni’s hopes up prematurely.

Allegre urges Galeni not to resign, and Miles says that all the crap he’s had to put up with will make things easier for all the Komarran officers that come after him.  He says that Galeni has the type of perspective that ImpSec needs to be able to give to the Imperium, and notes that there will likely be an opening for the head of the Komarran Affairs department, since Allegre will probably have to take over as chief, albeit under protest.  Allegre, beginning to realize what he’s in for, excuses himself to begin trying to get ImpSec in order; Illyan tells him he’ll do fine.  Allegre tells Galeni to go home and get some sleep before he makes any big decisions, and Galeni agrees.  Ivan finally begins to notice Delia and Galeni’s inseparability and put two and two together.  Miles says he’ll break the news to Gregor right then; Galeni asks him to make sure that Laisa knows he’s innocent.

Miles calls Gregor and lets him know that Haroche was the culprit, and how they used the air filters to pin him down, and passes on Galeni’s message.  Gregor, disturbed, asks if they know why he did it, and Miles says that motive is often the hardest question.  They can’t fast-penta Haroche, of course, and if they want to get anything from him, they’ll have to do it before he recovers his equilibrium and starts fighting back.  Miles thinks that Haroche probably hates him too much, for whatever reason, to cooperate, and asks Simon if he wants to question him.  Gregor says he has a better idea.

Comments

See, the janitors come to the rescue!  If it weren’t for those air filters–which were mentioned several chapters ago, to establish that ImpSec air was scrubbed regularly–Haroche might have gotten away with it.  Of course, even if they hadn’t come up with something that actually worked, Miles might have been able to pull off a bluff to make him confess…and, in fact, at this point Haroche has no way of knowing if it’s legitimate or not.  In fact, I think the first time through the book I may have been convinced that Miles was just pulling a fast one to get him to incriminate himself.

So Guy Allegre becomes a new ImpSec head.  I think he still is in the latest book, but I’m not sure.  Now I’m picturing Duv Galeni as the head of ImpSec.  That would be interesting.  I’d actually love to see the whole universe taken forward an entire generation.  Cryoburn may have been a step in that direction, so who knows what Lois has planned?  Maybe it’s just all my time playing Sims 2, but I could totally see the Vorkosigan and Koudelka descendants populating the next batch of books.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Ivan complains about being dragooned to accompany the party that goes to Haroche’s cell half an hour later.  Miles tells Ivan that he still has one more role to play as the Auditor’s official witness, and he can also serve as a guard without inhibiting Haroche the way a former subordinate might.  He assures Ivan he’s only there to listen.

Miles is the first into Haroche’s cell; Haroche is still in his uniform, not yet in prison garb, but his ImpSec eyes have been removed.  Ivan follows Miles in, then Illyan, whose presence makes Haroche uncomfortable, but nothing compared to the next visitor, Emperor Gregor.

Shock and dismay gave way to a flash of open anguish. Haroche took a breath, and tried to look cold and stern, but only succeeded in looking congealed. He scrambled to his feet — Ivan tensed — but only said, “Sire,” in a cracked voice. He had either not enough nerve, or better sense, than to salute his commander-in-chief under these circumstances. Gregor did not look likely to return it.

Gregor leaves his Armsmen outside the cell, causing Miles to mentally work out scenarios where, if Haroche attacked, he could sacrifice his life to give Gregor time to call for reinforcements.  He and Ivan take up positions on either side of the cell door, but Haroche only has eyes for Gregor.  Gregor tells Haroche sit down, which he does, clumsily, and then asks for his last report–how and why he did what he did.  Miles takes in something he’s never seen before–Gregor being quietly angry.

Haroche tells about how he found out about the Komarran prokaryotes back when they were first retrieved.  He ascended to head of Domestic Affairs, but it was widely rumoured that Miles was being groomed as Illyan’s successor…but then Miles was killed on Jackson’s Whole.  At that point, Illyan appointed Haroche as his second-in-command and definite successor.  After Miles came back to life, though, Illyan began asking Haroche if he could mentor Miles in Domestic Affairs.  It was clear that Illyan was still planning on promoting Miles up over Haroche’s head.  He didn’t like it, but he still went along.

After Miles faked up his report and ended his own career, Haroche got to thinking that Illyan could still hang on for another five or ten years in office, and some other young hotshot might come up with Illyan liked just as well as Miles.  He thought that Illyan was getting tired, and stale, but wasn’t likely to step down, and he wanted his own chance to serve the Empire.  The very day that Miles was cashiered, he went down to the Evidence Rooms on another matter, and found himself stopping by to grab a couple of capsules of the prokaryotes.  Nobody noticed, and he was pretty sure he could gimmick the monitors later if necessary.  A few days later, he deployed the first capsule in his office, and then the second one a week later when nothing seemed to be happening.  It was almost an impulse, but once acted on, he had to follow through.

Gregor asks him when he decided to frame Galeni.  Haroche said he’d really planned on framing Miles, if he had to cast the blame on anyone, especially after he practically got away with slicing up Lieutenant Vorberg.

“Then he turned up on my front doorstep with that damned Auditor’s chain around his neck, and I realized he wasn’t just Illyan’s pet.” Haroche’s eyes, meeting Gregor’s at last, were accusing.

Gregor’s eyes were very, very cool. “Go on,” he said, utterly neutral.

If it hadn’t been for Vorkosigan pushing, Haroche says, he might not have needed the frame at all, but now he realized that he couldn’t make it stick to Miles after all.  Galeni seemed almost a better choice–disposable, not to mention Komarran, in a position to know about the prokaryotes as well.

Gregor had grown so neutral as to seem almost gray. So, that’s what rage looks like on him. Miles wondered if Haroche realized what Gregor’s extreme lack of expression meant. The general seemed caught up in his own words, indignant, speaking faster now.

He’d planned on it taking months to find the capsules, but it only took Miles three days; he couldn’t convince Miles to go off to Jackson’s Whole, or get out of his hair, so he rushed the Galeni frame and arrest as quickly as he could.  He even tried offering him a juicy bribe, and he thought Miles was going for it, but then he came back with Weddell, and that was it.

Gregor asks about the bribe, and when Haroche doesn’t answer, Miles tells him about the offer–being reinstated, as a Captain, and back with the Dendarii.  Gregor, Illyan, and Ivan are all astonished; Illyan asked him why he turned it down.  Miles said he wouldn’t have been able to stand throwing Galeni to the wolves, and leaving a weasel like Haroche in charge of ImpSec.  With what he’d already done, he’d have probably been capable of finessing Gregor’s reports to try to manipulate him, though Haroche insists that he wouldn’t have.  Miles asks if they’re done now, and Gregor says they are.  As they leave, Haroche insists that it wasn’t murder, or even treason, that Illyan wasn’t even hurt, really.  Gregor turns his back, and even Illyan can’t muster a retort scathing enough.

Illyan says he’d though Miles had been joking about wrestling with temptation.  Gregor offers to charge Haroche with bribing an Auditor, which is another capital offense, but Miles doesn’t want the whole thing brought up in a military court.

“If you wish. My Lord Auditor.” Gregor had a strange look on his face, staring down at Miles; Miles shifted uncomfortably. It wasn’t surprise or amazement, which would have unraveled to an insult, after all. Awe? Surely not. “What stopped you? I too want to know why, you know. You owe me that much.”

“I don’t . . . quite know how to put it.” He searched for, and rather to his surprise found, that odd calm place inside, still there. It helped. “Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can’t trade for your heart’s desire is your heart.”

All that’s left is for Miles to write up the report, which, it turns out, takes longer than the actual investigation had.  He spends a week compiling what he has, then keeps having to go collect information from various ImpSec departments, or Allegre himself, or Admiral Avakli; he’s determined to make it as complete as possible.  Ivan barges in to interrupt him, having finally managed to figure out what’s going on with his mother and Simon Illyan.

“Simon Illyan is sleeping with my mother, and it’s your fault!”

“I . . . don’t think it is, somehow.”

“It’s happening in your house, anyway. You’ve got some kind of responsibility for the consequences.”

“What consequences?”

“I don’t know what consequences! I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do about it. Should I start calling Illyan Da, or challenge him to a duel?”

“Well . . . you might start by considering the possibility that it’s none of your business. They are grown-ups, last I checked.”

“They’re old, Miles! It’s, it’s, it’s . . . undignified. Or something. Scandalous. She’s high Vor, and he’s, he’s . . . Illyan.”

Ivan is also scandalized by the fact that the two of them are planning on vacationing together, down to some little resort that Illyan’s never heard of–and if ImpSec never heard about it, it must be good.  They’re taking off after the betrothal, when Lady Alys is sure she’ll need some time to sit in the sun during the day, and at night…  Miles offers to talk to his mother, and Ivan said he already has, and Cordelia seems to think that it’s healthy for both of them.  Miles says that it could be a good thing–she’ll be busy enough with her own love-life to stop worrying about Ivan’s.  Ivan admits that she has stopped nagging him and commenting on everyone else’s marriages and babies, but…

Miles makes an appointment with Dr. Chenko to calibrate his seizure-control device.  He’s heading out for that appointment when he bumps into Illyan, coming in from having a walk, all by himself.  Cordelia has given him a portable map-cube which he can use to find his way around, and an auto-indexing audionote-taker which he can use to keep track of information.

The man hadn’t had to even think about taking notes for the past thirty-five years, after all. What was he going to discover next, fire? Writing? Agriculture? “All you have to remember is where you put it down.”

“I’m thinking of chaining it to my belt. Or possibly around my neck.”

At dinner, the Countess is beginning to wonder aloud if she can convince Ma Kosti to emigrate to Sergyar…possibly by having her son transferred there.  Miles asks when the Count is going to arrive; Cordelia says it’ll be the day before the betrothal, and they’ll leave afterwards, so they can get back to the Sergyar colony, and also keep Aral from getting waylaid by old colleagues with other ideas for what he can do with his nonexistent spare time.  She invites Miles to come visit them on Sergyar, where they have a much better treatment for the worm plague now, and lots of work to do.  Miles admits he’s not sure what he’ll be doing after he finishes the investigation.

Illyan tells them that he’ll be moving into his own flat soon–close to Alys’s, but not in the same building, in case anyone gets any ideas about taking vengeance on him.  He’s hoping to put it about that he’s more brain-damaged than he actually is, in hopes of discouraging that.  When Miles asks, he says he’s not planning on doing any more work for ImpSec, that forty-five years was long enough.

Miles finished his Auditor’s report late the following afternoon, including the table of contents and the cross-referenced index, and sat back in his comconsole chair, and stretched. It was as complete as he could make it, and as straightforward as his indignation with the central crime would allow. He only now realized, looking over the finished product, just how much subtle spin he used to put on even his most truthful Dendarii field reports, making the Dendarii and Admiral Naismith look good to assure the continued flow of funding and assignments. There was a dry serenity in not having to give a damn what Lord Auditor Vorkosigan looked like, that he quite enjoyed.

He was determined that anyone after Gregor who looks at the report will have all the information they needed to make sense of it, because he’s been at the other end of inadequate reports often enough.  He makes an appointment with Gregor the next morning to deliver the report and return the Auditor’s Chain, and he hopes to have his seizure-control device implanted shortly after that; then maybe he can finally release Martin to apply to the Imperial Service.  He wanders into the apartments recently vacated by Illyan, looks them over speculatively, and shortly is organizing the household staff into moving his possessions into them.  Cordelia notes this with approval, thinking it high time, since his previous room was only where it was because it was the hardest to shoot things through the window.

His possessions spread fairly thin over the larger area, and he thinks that he’ll have to send for the rest of his stuff, still with the Dendarii, and reminds himself that he needs to settle things with Elli Quinn, who’s gotten somewhat neglected in recent weeks.  He dashes off a cheerful and reassuring message to her, thinking that it’s much easier than it was before.

Comments

Yeah, Haroche dug himself in pretty deep with that one.  His resistance must have been way down, or else he might not have come quite so clean with Gregor…but in his own mind, at least, he had always been a loyal servant of the Empire.  He’d only wanted to remove some deadwood that was keeping him from serving the Empire as well as he was sure he could.  One wonders how long he’d have been content to serve under ImpSec chief Vorkosigan if that had come about.  Though Illyan had that convenient vulnerability, in that he could be taken out more easily than anyone else.  (Though a seizure-prone Chief Vorkosigan might have also been vulnerable…)

After that, we are well and truly into the denouement.  Miles begins to settle his home life, as does Illyan, expanding into spaces that they can call their own, and becoming more comfortable with their new situations.  There’s still his future career to deal with, but that’s for the next chapter, and Elli Quinn, for the chapter after that.  Oh, yeah, and there’s still the betrothal to come, I guess.


Two more chapters, one more week, as the book winds down, but I promise you, one of the best scenes in the book is coming in the next chapter, so there’s no reason to leave the theatre yet…

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Sometimes good things come to those who wait…and sometimes they even appear early, without you have to wait quite as long after all, like this week’s installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, wherein I cover what may be one of the best chapters in this book, or maybe even the entire series…and the one before it, too.

Why early?  Well, it’s like this…one of the great things about having moved the weekly Reread posts to Wednesdays is that, after inevitably done absolutely nothing on it for the entire weekend, I can do one chapter on Monday, take a night off, then do the other chapter on Wednesday.  Whereas before I’d have to do Monday and Tuesday, two nights straight, which felt like more work somehow.  But what do I do when I have plans on Wednesday night?  Like this week?  That’s right, Monday and Tuesday.  Not that I’m bitter or anything.  Although I am wishing I hadn’t already squandered my single chapter…

Chapter Twenty-Four

Miles gives Gregor an update before the party, which makes them both late.  As they arrive, Gregor admonishes Miles to not appear too grim, or people will wonder what’s wrong; Miles echoes the sentiment, and manages to improve Gregor’s mood by reminding him of Laisa.  They find Laisa with Cordelia and Alys; once Gregor and Laisa are reunited, Cordelia urges Alys to go off and enjoy herself with Simon Illyan.  Gregor notes Illyan’s improvement with approval, which Cordelia credits to Alys as much as Miles.  Miles notices something different about Illyan’s clothing–apparently Alys has finally gotten him to go a tailor.
Miles spots Ivan, who’s squiring Martya Koudelka, but Ivan keeps being distracted by Delia, who’s sitting cozily on a couch hobnobbing with Duv Galeni.  Martya mutters that she’ll be glad when Delia finally picks someone, and she can stop living off her sister’s castoffs.  Miles asks Martya how long Duv & Delia has been going on, and she says Delia told her Duv was going to be the one a month ago.

“Um . . . and when did old Duv find out?”

“Delia’s working on it. Some fellows you have to hit with a brick to get their attention. Some you have to hit with a big brick.”

The dancing starts, and the couples head off to the ballroom; Miles manages a few dances with ladies who don’t mind his height, none of them available, then retreats to be a wallflower.  Ivan joins him briefly, and they see Illyan dance past with Lady Alys, astounding both of them with his skill.

A wisp of hair escaped Lady Alys’s elaborate beflowered coiffure, and she brushed it back from her forehead. The image of her en deshabille at breakfast burst in Miles’s memory, and he had the sudden sensation of being hit with a big brick. He choked on his own wine.

Good God. Illyan’s sleeping with my aunt.

Ivan asks him if he’s all right, and Miles says he’s fine, deciding he’ll let Ivan figure this one out by himself.  He heads for the buffet, where he encounters Galeni.  He mentions that he had been going to ask Delia; Galeni says that he had first checked whether Delia thought Miles was serious about her.  Miles asks Galeni if he’s serious, and Galeni says, “Deathly.”  She has the background, the connections, the brains, and the beauty.  Miles offers to put in a good word with Delia’s father, Commodore Koudelka, and Galeni asks Miles politely to not try to do him any more favours.  He’s learned from his earlier mistakes, and plans to propose to Delia on the ride home.

Miles heads back into the ballroom, leaning against the wall and going over the case in his head, until he realizes he’s starting to glower, and snags a dance with Laisa.  While mirror-dancing with her, he sees Galeni being accosted by an ImpSec colonel and two guards.  He moves to keep them out of Laisa’s view; Galeni seems quite angry, and Delia looks worried.  Then the colonel grabs Galeni’s arm, and when Galeni pulls free, one of the guards pulls out a stunner.  Miles excuses himself hastily from Laisa, telling her to go see Gregor, and goes to investigate.

Miles asks the colonel what’s going on, and the colonel tells him that Haroche has ordered Galeni’s arrest, and removing him immediately from the Imperial Residence.  Miles assures Galeni he has nothing to do with this, and wonders if it can be related to his case.  Martya and Ivan come over, and the guards begin to get more nervous; the colonel says that Haroche is on his way over, and Miles advises Galeni to go quietly.  Galeni asks Ivan to get Delia home, before she does anything foolish, and accompanies the guards down the corridor.

Around the corner, they throw Galeni against the wall and start frisking him; Miles forestalls Galeni’s response by admonishing them and telling them to treat him like a fellow officer.  Miles asks what the real charge is, and the colonel tells him it’s treason, which flabbergasts Miles and Galeni.  Miles tells Galeni to go along, and he’ll clear it all up with Haroche; Galeni accedes.
Miles returns to find Gregor, Laisa, Delia and Cordelia gathered to try to find out what’s going on.  Miles says he should have been informed, but all he knows is that ImpSec has arrest Galeni, though he doesn’t mention the charge in Laisa and Delia’s presence.  Haroche himself arrives then, and Gregor asks him to explain himself.  Haroche says he’s only just found out about a possible security risk in one of the guests in the Imperial Residence, and it was his first priority to assure the Emperor’s safety.

“Oh.” Gregor turned to Countess Vorkosigan, and made a vague frustrated gesture at Delia and Laisa. “Cordelia, would you . . . ?”

Countess Vorkosigan smiled very dryly. “Come, ladies. The gentlemen need to go talk.”

“But I want to know what’s going on!” protested Laisa.

“We can get it later. I’ll explain the system to you. It’s really stupid, but it can be made to work. Which, come to think of it, could also sum up a great many other Vor customs. In the meantime, we need to keep the show going out there” — she nodded toward the reception rooms — “and repair what damages we can from this, ah” — a sharp glance at Haroche, which should have made him wince — “unfortunate exercise in caution.”

Haroche, Miles and Gregor move to Gregor’s office; Haroche says he has copies of the report for both of them.  Haroche leads them to the main point of the security report, where they found that the retina scan on Miles’s faked visit was an older copy, from before his cryo-revival, which made some perceptible changes.  It could only have been done physically on the actual machine itself.  The changes to the admittance log, though, were done over the network, through Guy Allegre’s comconsole, and it originated from Galeni’s machine.

Miles points out that Galeni’s machine doesn’t mean the man himself; Haroche says that they can’t fast-penta Galeni, so they may have to settle for circumstantial evidence.  He reminds Miles that Galeni’s father was involved with the original Komarran plot, and Miles’s own clone-brother killed Galeni’s father.  He also mentions the resentment from Miles’s recent interference in Galeni’s courting of Laisa, quoting Galeni’s exact description of Miles on his first call.  Miles says it was to his face, not to his back, and asks how Haroche got that message; Haroche admits that the public Vorkosigan House comconsoles have been routinely monitored for decades.

Miles insists that he can’t believe in Galeni’s guilt, that he’d through away all his hard work like that.  Haroche encourages him to look over the reports, saying he’s not happy to find disloyalty among ImpSec personnel.  Haroche leaves, and Miles heads home as well, not wanting to have to answer questions right now.  In the groundcar, he is struck with another seizure, and comes to to find a panicked Martin leaning over him, and blood in his mouth from bitten tongue and lip.  He tells Martin to take him home, since he’s going to need some time to recover and then to look over the report before he can be of any help to Galeni.  The doctors are right–the seizures being triggered by stress will make him unfit for any sort of active duty.

Comments

So now the Duv and Delia relationship is established, as well as the Alys and Simon Illyan one–at least Miles has figured them out, even if Ivan is still a little slow on the uptake.  Not sure why Simon and Alys are being so coy about theirs, but I guess they’re worried about people’s reactions…particularly Ivan’s, I’d imagine.  I don’t think Duv and Delia are a Great Romance or anything, but they seem to have compatible goals, at least, so they’ll make a good partnership.

So Duv Galeni was the traitor all the time, eh?  Who’d have thought it?  I guess he just snapped or something.  …Yeah, I didn’t buy it either.  Don’t worry, next chapter will lead us to the real culprit.

Also…liked Martya’s “big brick” reference…followed by the big brick hitting Miles when he finally figures out what’s going on with Alys and Simon.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Miles wakes up the next morning with a postseizure hangover, and wonders if the symptoms are getting worse as time goes on, or if it’s just that the rest of his life is improving.  He spends the morning going over Haroche’s report, whose data is scanty but almost more convincing because of it.  He finds little to help Galeni, who’s being held at ImpSec “on suspicion”, a disturbingly indefinite state.  He does go to ImpSec to meet with Dr. Weddell, who is anxious to go home; he confirms that the sample the exact same prokaryote used against Illyan.  Now he also knows that it was never intended to be swallowed; it was packaged into sporelike capsules designed to be dispersed into the air and dissolve on moist mucous membranes.  They would only briefly be visible into the air, and would be odourless, but would hang around in the air for several minutes.

Haroche calls and asks Miles to stop in, and Miles releases Weddell to go home.  He tells Haroche he hasn’t changed his mind, and gives him a copy of Weddell’s report.  Haroche says that of the other Komarran Affairs analysts, two had no knowledge of the sample, and the other two had no perceptible motivation.  Miles points out it’s still circumstantial, and Haroche agrees; he asks if it’s possible Miles could somehow elicit a confession from Galeni, and Miles says he still doubts Galeni is guilty.  Haroche says it will then inevitably have to proceed to a court-martial.  Miles says he doesn’t want some military court guessing about the verdict; he wants to keep looking for other possible culprits.  Haroche protests that that amounts to a witch-hunt, tearing ImpSec apart.

“If you have nothing more concrete to offer, I’m ready to lay the charges and let the court-martial sort it out.”

You can lay the charges, but I’ll not light the fuse. . . “I could decline to close my Auditor’s case.”

“If the court-martial convicts, you’ll have to close it, my lord.”

No, I won’t. The realization made him blink. He could keep his Auditor’s inquiry open forever if he so chose, and there wasn’t a damned thing Haroche could do about it. No wonder Haroche was being so exquisitely polite today. Miles could even veto the court-martial. . . .

But he realizes that the greatest qualification for being an Auditor must be probity, so he should refrain from mucking around too much with his powers.  Haroche recognizes Miles’s reluctance, and offers to downgrade the charge from treason to assaulting a superior officer–a short prison term and a dishonourable discharge rather than the death sentence.  Miles still isn’t sure, since this will wreck Galeni’s future career, not to mention not doing Komarran relations any good.

Haroche then changes the subject, saying that he had another reason for calling Miles up.  He’s been looking at Miles’s medical records, and thinks the controller-seizure device treatment sounds promising.  He tells Miles how he’s been impressed at how he worked with Illyan over the years, and the records he’s been reading about Miles’s career, and he thinks Miles’s discharge was a mistake.  He’d like to work with the Dendarii Mercenaries again, and rather than work with an offworlder like Elli Quinn, he’d prefer to reinstate Miles.

He had to swallow, in order to breathe. “Everything . . . to be as it was before? Take up where I left off?” The Dendarii . . . Admiral Naismith . . .

“Not exactly where you left off, no. By my calculations you were about two years overdue for your promotion to captain, for one thing. But I think you and I could be a team just as you and Illyan were.” A small twinkle lit Haroche’s eye. “You will perhaps forgive me my touch of ambition if I say, maybe even better? I’d be proud to have you on board, Vorkosigan.”

Miles sat stunned. For a moment, all he could think, idiotically, was I’m sure glad I had that seizure last night, or I’d be rolling on this carpet again right now. “I . . . I . . .” His hands were shaking, his head exploding with joy. Yes! Yes! Yes! “I’d . . . have to close this case first. Give Gregor back his choke-chain. But then . . . sure!” His injured lip split again as it stretched, painfully, into an unstoppable grin. He sucked salt blood from it.

“Yes,” said Haroche patiently, “that’s exactly what I’ve been saying.”

Miles, despite the joyous visions in his mind, is suddenly uncertain, and he asks Haroche for some time to think about it.  Haroche agrees, but asks him not to take too long, since he already has a potential mission in mind.  He heads back to Vorkosigan House, somehow feeling like he’s retreating, and ends up fleeing to the small room on the fourth floor.  He realizes that he was kidding himself about how much he’d gotten over the loss of Admiral Naismith.  The Naismith part of him wants to accept the offer, to be reunited with Elli and Taura and the others, but the other part of him whispers that the price seems to be sacrificing Galeni, and letting Haroche get back to running ImpSec without Auditorial interference.

What if Galeni’s really guilty?  Can he really doubt his own character judgement that much?  He remembers the jump-pilot that he’d ordered Bothari to interrogate, back at the beginning of Naismith’s career, and who’d ended up dying; does he need to sacrifice another life now to go back to the Dendarii?  He suddenly remembers Haroche’s expression after he made the offer, and realizes that Haroche knew exactly what he was doing–he was, essentially, offering Miles a bribe.  He begins to realize how much he’s been underestimating Haroche, despite the knowledge that Illyan had appointed him to such a high ImpSec post.  Haroche must have felt sure that Miles would bite, especially with the captaincy thrown in.

Haroche certainly had no trouble figuring out where my on-switch was located. But Haroche was a loyal weasel, Miles would swear, loyal to Gregor and the Imperium, a true brother in arms. If money meant anything to the man, Miles had seen no hint of it. His passion was his ImpSec service, like Illyan himself, like Miles too. The work he had taken over from Illyan.

Miles’s breath stopped; for a moment, he felt as frozen as any cryo-corpse.

No. The work Haroche had taken away from Illyan.

Oh.

He suddenly realizes the motive, to get Illyan out of the picture, was just to allow Haroche to move into his job.  Haroche could easily have planted all of the evidence in the computer systems–who better?  Despite his conviction, though, he has no proof.  He could just accuse him out of the blue, but if he tipped his hand too soon, Haroche doubtless had other resources to marshall to get him out of the picture.  Even if he refused Haroche’s bribe, that might be enough to make him suspicious.  So he could take the bribe, and bide his time…but, he realizes, Haroche is probably not as enamoured of Admiral Naismith as he pretends, and he would be just waiting for the opportunity to bump Miles off untraceably.

His mother knocks on the door, and she and Illyan ask if he’s all right, because they’d heard him thumping around, and wondered if he was having a seizure.

He fought to keep his words even. “Just . . . wrestling with temptation.”

Illyan’s voice came back, amused. “Who’s winning?”

Miles’s eye followed the cracks in the plaster, overhead. His voice came out high and light, on a sigh: “I think . . . I’m going for the best two falls out of three.”

Even if he could trust Haroche, he thinks after they’ve left him alone, Haroche has only tempered his offer for Miles Naismith–he doesn’t know Lord Vorkosigan, which isn’t surprising since Miles hardly does, either.  Miles realizes he’s sick of trying to figure out what Haroche expects him to do.  What else can he do, though?

Who are you, boy?

. . . Who are you who asks?

On the thought a blessed silence came, an empty clarity. He took it at first for utter desolation, but desolation was a kind of free fall, perpetual and without ground below. This was stillness: balanced, solid, weirdly serene. No momentum to it at all, forward or backwards or sideways.

I am who I choose to be. I always have been what I chose . . . though not always what I pleased.

He lingers in his newfound serenity, choosing to be himself, and Haroche’s spectre dwindles.  He realizes that Haroche is likely to balk at actually having him killed, just yet, because that would draw the wrong kind of attention.  Galeni, on the other hand, is at high risk of a staged Vorish suicide, a supposed confession of guilt.

As soon as Haroche knew Miles knew, it would be a race against time. And all Miles had was a trail of mirrors and smoke.

Smoke.

Air filters.

Miles’s eyes widened.

Comments

This is the chapter.  This.

The detective realizes who the criminal is…but has no proof.  Nonetheless, he can now construct the entire chain of events, and everything fits together.  In case there was any doubt that at least one plotline in the book is a mystery–not quite a murder, but close to–that should be gone by now.

And yet, integrated with this scene is Miles wrestling with his own identity.  He realizes that he’s no longer the person that Haroche is trying to bribe, the one at the beginning of the book, who would have leapt at the chance to be reinstated.  Admiral Naismith is not completely gone, but he’s losing ground to Lord Vorkosigan, who can’t sacrifice a probably-innocent man, Duv Galeni, even to regain his heart’s desire.  So that’s Miles’s advantage, that Haroche doesn’t have his measure anymore, because he doesn’t realize how Miles has changed.  Of course, if Miles had been more willing to throw Galeni to the wolves, I’d be willing to bet that Haroche wouldn’t even have broached the subject of reinstatement…he only needed it as the bribe.

Miles’s epiphany, or revelation, or satori, or whatever he does, seems to hinge on a realization that he doesn’t have to choose to be a particular thing, and then try to shoehorn himself into it.  Which is good, because he’s rarely done that.  Was it just since the cryo-revival, when he had to try harder to be Admiral Naismith because it was slipping away from him?  Well, I’m sure he’ll fall back into that trap from time to time, because unless you live on a mountaintop somewhere you keep having to deal with a world that wants to put you in a box.

Sounds like a perfect qualification to being an Imperial Auditor, doesn’t it?


Tune in next week for…the Final Confrontation!  Good vs. Evil!  And something about air filters!

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You’re standing at a fork in the road; a man stands before each fork, one of which always tells the truth, the other of which always lies.  Also, you’re not wearing any pants.  Suddenly you wake up and discover that it’s time, once again, for the Vorkosigan Saga Reread!  It’s like a dream come true!  Yes, before your eyes is a skillful summation and insightful commentary of two more chapters of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Memory, as Lord Miles Vorkosigan works on solving the mystery of what happened to Simon Illyan’s memory chip.  And just think, all you need to do is read it…

Chapter Twenty-Two

Miles hangs around in Haroche’s office all day, mostly kibitzing, which Haroche endures patiently.  They won’t hear anything back from their galactic enquiries for weeks, but Miles doesn’t want any possible lead overlooked.  When they exhaust all their leads, Miles and Haroche wonder if Miles should go to Jackson’s Whole himself, with all of his experience dealing with Jacksonian Houses.  Miles briefly entertains the possibility of commandeering a fleet with his Auditor’s credentials, but decides against it.  He thinks there’s still something to be found somewhere in ImpSec.  He leaves the office and wanders around ImpSec, poking his head into all sorts of crannies he’s never needed to know about, and this turns into a systematic top-to-bottom survey of the entire building.

He left behind a trail of disruption and dismay, as every department head frantically searched his conscience for a reason why the Imperial Auditor might be visiting him. Ha. Guilty, every one of ’em, Miles thought dryly. Several made a point of explaining their budgetary expenditures in what Miles felt was excessive detail, though one blurted out a wholly unasked-for defense of his recent galactic vacation. Watching these normally closemouthed men babble in panic was highly entertaining, Miles had to admit. He led them on with lots of well-timed neutral noises, like “Um,” and “Hm?”, but it seemed to bring him no closer to formulating his right question.

He could have kept it up around the clock, but he decides to err on the side of thoroughness, and goes home to sleep instead.  The presence of so much household staff at Vorkosigan Staff inspires him to return to work early, starting by meeting with Gregor.  Gregor has already been brought up to speed about Avakli’s report and Haroche’s inquiries; he expresses concern over Illyan’s condition.  Miles says it seems to him like Illyan is mostly just out of practice at paying attention.  He tells Gregor that he is happier with Haroche now; he seems to be on the ball, and learns from his mistakes.  Miles just wishes he had some handle to grasp at this problem with; he asks Gregor if he’s sure he doesn’t want a real Auditor on the case.  Gregor asks if Miles wishes to be relieved; Miles thinks about it, and says he just wants to offer Gregor the option, but Gregor doesn’t take it.

Alys and Laisa arrive, brightening up Gregor’s morning, and Miles says he doesn’t have anything else to report.  Laisa expresses ambiguous sympathies for Illyan–as a Komarran, he had a legendary reputation, but turns out to be just a man after all.  Laisa says she really came to invite Miles to a reception for her and Gregor’s friends next week, and asks Miles if he has a “young lady” to bring.  When he says he doesn’t, he senses that she’s hoping to share her happiness by trying to match him up, but she seems content to leave that until later, to consult with Lady Alys.  Gregor asks Alys to bring Illyan with her to a lunch they’re having with her and Cordelia, and Alys agrees, saying that she finds Simon’s conversations rather interesting now that they’re not principally reports.

Miles returns to his inspection of ImpSec, somewhat baffled by Cryptography, overwhelmed by Finance, and fascinated by Housekeeping and Physical Plant, where they are all too eager to show him the intricacies of the building once they learn he’s genuinely interested.  He’s impressed at the security and attention to detail, each room having a private filtration system, sufficient to keep microbes or poison gases from spreading throughout the building; the janitorial staff are all soldiers, well-paid and proud of their work.  Miles crawls through a few ducts, noting that they’re even video-monitored, basking in the camaraderie until it begins to remind him of the loss of the Dendarii.

He knocks off early, has dinner with his mother and Illyan, and chats about Sergyar; the next day, he pesters Haroche until Haroche suggests sending him to Jackson’s Whole again, and then resumes his tour.  He spends time in Analysis, talking with Galeni and the other analysts, including those working on other problems, and discussing the impending wedding with Guy Allegre.  Finally, as Miles had planned, he arrives at the Evidence Rooms last thing in the afternoon–a converted dungeon from Mad Emperor Yuri’s days, now filled with documentation, weapons, drugs, biological samples, and more bizarre items.  He plans to browse the weapons room, perhaps spend some time with the crossbow and soltoxin gas canisters responsible for his physical deformities.

The sergeant at the front desk is a little nervous at Miles’s presence, and Miles assures him he just wants to sign in and take a tour.  The sergeant is puzzled to find that Miles is listed as not cleared to enter, which turns out to be Haroche’s revocation of his access from earlier.  Miles encourages him to call Haroche and clear the matter up, which he does.  Miles is idly browsing the history of the times he’s visited the Evidence Rooms before, reminiscing, when he notices the last date is listed as twelve weeks ago–the day he’d returned to the planet, finding Illyan out of town, and the time being while he was walking home.

His eyes widened, and his teeth snapped shut. “How . . . interesting,” he hissed.

“Yes, my lord?” said the sergeant.

“Were you on duty that day?”

“I don’t remember, my lord. I’d have to check the roster. Um . . . why do you ask, sir?”

“Because I didn’t come down here that day. Or any other day since year before last.”

This is the loose end he’s been looking for, Miles suspects.  He tells the sergeant to summon Ivan Vorpatril, who arrives with alacrity from the other side of Vorbarr Sultana.  Ivan tells Miles he’s looking gleeful and manic, and Miles says that somebody has hacked ImpSec internal security records to lie about him.  Not only was the entry to the Evidence Rooms recorded, but Miles’s departure time from the building has been altered to match, and the video records of the day have gone missing.  He supposes that this could be unconnected with the memory chip sabotage, but he wouldn’t bet on it.  He tells Ivan to cancel their dinner plans, and puts him in charge of the Evidence Rooms, which he’s declaring sealed to anyone that he doesn’t personally authorize.

He asks the lieutenant in charge of the rooms about their inventory procedures, and is told that they do physical inventory once a month, and nothing has come up missing in the last year.  Miles tells Ivan to requisition some security-cleared men from Ops, unconnected with ImpSec in any way, to come in and help him inventory the Evidence Rooms.  Miles himself will stay out of it, in case there’s any suspicion that he tampered with anything, and he has witnesses that he hasn’t entered it that day.  He then takes the Evidence Room staffers with him and heads to Haroche’s office.

Haroche is unhappy to find out about the tampering, but asks Miles if he has witnesses to his walk home; Miles says he’s tolerably noticeable, and he’s sure that the police could find a witness if they tried, but also points out that, as an Imperial Auditor, he doesn’t need to alibi himself.  Miles sends the Evidence staffers outside, with strict instructions to stay put, then asks Haroche how he wants to deal with the evident mole in ImpSec.  They could shut down the whole facility until it’s been audited by outsiders, but he admits that would be a major inconvenience, but having it checked by staffers risks having the mole able to cover his own trail.  Haroche suggests assembling teams of three or more, chosen at random, to minimize chances that they’d all be moles, to check things a section at a time.  Miles supports the idea.

Haroche says he hates internal investigations, because they always turn out ugly.  Miles is still puzzled at the evidence room tampering, though–it seems like an attempt to frame him, but backwards.  It may have even been planted before Miles became an Auditor, when, as a recently-fired junior officer, he might have seemed the ideal target.

Haroche shook his head in wonder. “You confound me, Lord Vorkosigan. I believe I’m finally beginning to understand why Illyan always . . .”

“Why Illyan what?” Miles prodded after a long moment.

A lopsided smile lightened Haroche’s heavy face. “Came out of your debriefings swearing under his breath. And then promptly turned around and sent you out again on the stickiest assignments he had.”

Comments

I’m always amused when Miles’s plumbing experience is alluded to, even indirectly, as it is here.  I suspect the whole thing about the video recordings of the ducts is significant, but I can’t remember how just now; I know that the air-filtering system is, and I remember how.

Finding the extra log entry is a stroke of luck for Miles, or perhaps just a reward for being thorough.  Would he have noticed it if it hadn’t been for the delay caused by Haroche’s having locked him out earlier?  Possibly not, and who knows when it would have surfaced then?

The little scene with Gregor and Laisa seems to interrupt the flow of the chapter somehow, and doesn’t seem to come to much–I don’t remember the dance being that significant, or Laisa’s matchmaking impulses, or anything much except a little more of the growing Alys & Illyan relationship.  But I guess it is a reminder that Laisa and Gregor and Alys are still out there, while the action shifts to the heart of ImpSec HQ.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Ivan and his team check the Weapons rooms first, scheduling the Biologicals rooms for last in hopes they won’t have to do them at all.  In the wee hours of the morning, Ivan finds something in Weapons IV.

“I’m in a Weapons Room, right?” Ivan demanded, waving his inventory sheaf of plastic flimsies.

Miles tore his attention away from the chemical description of the nine-hundred-and-ninth item in alphabetical order in the Poisons Room: Ophidian Scrapings, Polian, Three Grams. “If you say so.”

“Right. So what’s a little box labeled ‘Komarran virus’ doing on Aisle Five, Shelf Nine, Bin Twenty-Seven? What the hell is it, and shouldn’t it be in Biologicals? Did somebody misclassify it? I’m not unsealing the damned thing till you find out what it is. It might make me break out in green fungus, or bloat up like those poor suckers with the Sergyaran worm plague. Or worse.”

It is on the Weapons Room list, but Miles agrees that it’s suspicious.  He pulls up its record, using his Auditor’s seal to satisfy its requirement for top-level security clearance, and begins to read it.  He quickly realizes that this isn’t actually a “weapon”, per se, nor a virus; it’s a “bioengineered apoptotic prokaryote”–the same microbes used against Illyan’s memory chip.  He and Ivan read the record together, which tells that it has been sitting on the shelf for five years, taken from Komarran terrorists in Vorbarr Sultana–terrorists associated with Ser Galen, Mark’s creator and Duv Galeni’s father.  Ivan asks if Mark could be involved with this, but Miles says Mark has been on Beta Colony for months, and the odds that he would have tried to pretend to be Miles are very slim, considering how much weight he’d have to lose, and how little Mark wants to be mistaken for his brother any more.  But he’ll have ImpSec double-check to reassure themselves, since they’re watching Mark on Beta anyway.

The microbes were created on Jackson’s Whole all right, and were intended to target Illyan as part of the overall plot which also included Count Aral Vorkosigan’s assassination at Mark’s hands.  ImpSec has already traced the prokaryotes to their creators, and Miles wonders how long it’ll take for them to realize that they’re trying to track down the same substance again.  He says that the fame was supposed to work the other way around–the prokaryotes were supposed to lead the investigators to the Evidence Rooms, which would lead to finding Miles’s fabricated visit, and making him a suspect.

Miles tries calling Dr. Weddell, but he’s not answering his comconsole, so Miles send the Imperial Guards to drag him down to ImpSec HQ instead.  By dawn Miles has assembled his team to enter the rooms.  A forensics expert examines the prokaryote container for fingerprints, but reports that it’s been moved a few times, and none of the prints are fresh; its sensors indicate it hasn’t been removed from the room, and there’s no hairs or fibers.  Ivan unlocks the box and opens it.  According the records there were six small capsules in the container originally, with one taken out and destroyed in testing five years ago.  But there are only three capsules in the box now.

“You mean,” moaned Weddell, “I racked my brains for a week reassembling that damned crap, and a whole undamaged sample was sitting downstairs all that time?”

“Yep.” Miles grinned. “I hope you like irony.”

“Not at this hour of the morning.”

The forensics man notes that the box’s lock was not forced open; Miles tells him to give it a full examination, and sends Ivan along with instructions to never let it out of his sight.  He tells Weddell to take one more capsule and confirm that it’s the same stuff that did for Illyan’s chip; no one but he is to touch the sample, and he will report to nobody but Miles himself; the other two go back on the shelf, locked under Auditor’s seal.

Haroche has actually gone home for the night, so Miles has to wait for his return to bring him up to speed on the events of the night.  Haroche says there’s no more chance it’s anything but an inside job.  They make a list of people who might have known about the sample–those who retrieved it, the Evidence Rooms staff, and their friends, plus the Komarrans and their friends…still a long list, but shorter than the entire population of the Empire.  Haroche also asks about Mark, and Miles gives him the same answer.  Miles says they can limit the list to those who knew about the weapon and also had recent access to ImpSec’s systems, but Haroche points out that there could be more than one working together.

Miles wonders about the motivations, why they tried to frame him–was he the only disgruntled employee in the right time-frame?  Haroche says speculating on motivations is too slippery, and best left for the post-mortem.  Miles says that whoever did this had to provide a scapegoat, a guilty party, because otherwise the search would continue until it found him.

“Three days.” Haroche smiled crookedly. “You went through all of ImpSec in just three days.”

“Not all of ImpSec, just the headquarters building. And it was more like four days. Still . . . somebody must be squirming. I hope. If they meant to hook ex-Lieutenant Vorkosigan, and instead got Lord Auditor Vorkosigan . . . it must have felt like putting in your line for a trout, and pulling up a shark. I may have arrived just in time downstairs after all. Given the several more weeks of lead time he was expecting, our assassin might well have thought to yank his plant in the evidence room and try something else. God, I’d love to know.”

Miles wonders who at ImpSec might have cause to hate him; the only one he can think of is Vorberg, and imaging him taking down Simon Illyan to get at Miles seems too twisted.  Haroche praises Miles for what he’s accomplished, calling it a good, solid lead.  Haroche wishes they could just fast-penta ImpSec people, but too many of them have the induced allergy; Miles says it’s too early to contemplate old-fashioned torture.  He says he’s going to get some sleep while they investigate the faked data and the forensic evidence.

Back at Vorkosigan House, he finds his mother, reading the Imperial Wedding history book, and asks where he can find Illyan.  Cordelia says he’s just sent for breakfast, and Lady Alys is with him; Miles surmises that she came by to drop off the book.  He goes up to Illyan’s quarters and knocks.

Pym had not lingered to serve the breakfast, it appeared, because instead of the retainer opening it, Illyan’s voice finally floated through the wood: “Who is it?”

“Miles. I have to talk to you.”

“Just a minute.”

The minute became two or three or four, as he leaned against the door frame and scuffed his boot on the patterned carpet. He knocked again. “C’mon, Simon, let me in.”

“Don’t be so impatient, Miles,” his aunt’s voice admonished him firmly. “It’s a bit rude.”

Eventually Lady Alys opens the door and greets him cheerfully; she’s wearing a dinner gown and her hair is loose, and Illyan is still getting dressed.  He tries to send Lady Alys away before giving Illyan the news, but she refuses to leave, and Illyan insists she stay.  So Miles briefs both of them on the night’s activities, Lady Alys approving her son’s achivements.  He asks Illyan if he remembers anything about the Komarran plot; Illyan mostly remembers the events on Earth, but has no memory of the prokaryote’s existence being reported to him, presumably lost with the rest of the memory chip.

He asks if Duv Galeni has been asked about it, since his father was involved in the plot.  Miles says he hasn’t brought Galeni up with Haroche yet, because he’s sure he’ll show up on the list eventually, but he doesn’t want to point Haroche in Galeni’s direction.  Illyan wonders if he’s leaping to conclusions, but Miles says he knows Galeni better than that.  Miles asks Illyan if he remembers taking a small brown capsule, and Illyan is positive that he doesn’t remember it, not even from his own doctor.  Miles heads off to bed before he incapacitates himself any further.  He awakens in midafternoon, checks on Weddell, who reports no progress.  Ivan calls, saying the forensics examination is finished and asking to be relieved to go home now; Miles guiltily authorized him to take it back to Evidence and then get some sleep.

Later that day, Dr. Chenko calls him to say they’ve prepared the seizure-triggering device, and want to know when he can have it implanted.  Miles says it’s not a good time right now, since there’s so much going on; Dr. Chenko warns him to avoid stress, as another seizure may be building up.  After signing off from the call, Miles remembers that this is the night of Laisa’s party, and he should, luckily, be able to attend.  He calls Delia Koudelka to ask if she’s free that night, but she says she’s busy…as, alas, are her sisters, leaving Miles obliged to attend on his own.

Comments

Oh, now I remember what’s happening with Laisa’s party.  But the party itself will have to wait for the next chapter.  Any guesses who Delia’s date is?  Miles is clueless, of course, as he is to most of the romantic undercurrents in this book.  For instance, Lady Alys is having breakfast with Illyan, wearing last night’s clothes, and they take a few minutes to answer the door, and it goes right over his head.  I guess Lord Vorkosigan really is on the verge of sexlessness.

I’m not sure if the prokaryote sample was deliberately misfiled in Weapons, or if it was a mistake, or if it was somehow considered the right place to put it at the time.  Either way, it’s an oddity, which is of course why Ivan eventually managed to notice it there.  It can’t really have been planted there for the Illyan attack, though, if it hasn’t been taken out in five years…unless someone was canny enough to tamper with the records to backdate its movement to the Weapons room.  And did Illyan really forget being briefed about it…or did it somehow get omitted from the briefing entirely?  Did someone manage to hide its very existence from Illyan, and hence from anyone who could told him?  It’s all highly suspicious…so things are going to have to come to a head soon.  Possibly more than one.


Six chapters left, three weeks…with luck, that’ll leave my week off just in time for the weekend I’m gone for a convention.  The plot’s gotta wrap up soon, as all good things must come to an end, and sometimes they even have a denouement.

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The night was hot.  Hot and humid.  The night was…sultry.  From the cool depths of the basement, a torrent of bashing keys finally subsided, signaling that another week’s installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread was about to burst forth onto the Internet.  Two more chapters of Memory, from Lois McMaster Bujold’s saga of Miles Vorkosigan, were going to be laid bare, dissected and displayed for all to see, like a dead butterfly, or maybe a prokaryote under a microscope.  On the other hand, maybe it won’t be that bad.

Chapter Twenty

Days pass, and still no sign of any deliberate sabotage on the chip.  Haroche seems to be relaxing, and Miles can’t blame him, when nobody seems to have been trying to take advantage of Illyan’s absence, and the transition of power has gone smoothly.
Not ready to face his mother’s return quite yet, Miles proposes an outing to Vorkosigan Surleau with Illyan, so he can work up his courage, and Illyan can be far from potential urban threats.  Bringing Martin with him allows him to lure Ma Kosti to cook for them as well.  Illyan allows himself to be talked into it, to see how it holds up to his memories.

That afternoon they sit on the porch, well fed by Ma Kosti.

If this went on, Miles thought, he was going to have to take up an exercise program, or end up looking like his clone-brother Mark, which would rather defeat Mark’s purposes. He made a mental note to keep Mark and Ma Kosti separated for as long as possible.

Illyan conjures up a few memories of Vordarian’s coup–he wasn’t at Vorkosigan Surleau when Negri arrived with young Gregor, but he can reconstruct a few images from events in the capital, including the gut-wrenching turmoil he was feeling.  His recorded memories didn’t include emotions, but he was usually able to reconstruct them.  Investigating his predecessor’s death was his first job as ImpSec chief, sort of like Negri’s first job before him, so it’s kind of a tradition now.  Illyan somehow managed to get out alive, more or less, as did Miles’s father on his recent retirement.  Miles asks if that was when Illyan started thinking of him as a successor, and Illyan admits he’d been thinking that for much longer.  Miles asks if he thinks the chip failed naturally, rather than being sabotaged, and Illyan points out that nothing lasts forever.

Illyan asks what two retired officers can do out in the country.  Miles suggests sleeping in, horseback riding, hiking, and swimming, but Illyan says they’ve already done the first, he never cared for the second, and it’s too cold for the last.  Miles suggests fishing, which Illyan thinks sounds better.

“Tradition is, you take the local beer from the village — there’s a woman there who home-brews it, extraordinary stuff — and hang the bottles over the side of the boat to stay cold. When the beer gets too warm to drink, it’s too hot to fish.”

“What season is that?”

“Never, as far as I could tell.”

“Let us by all means observe tradition,” said Illyan gravely.

The next afternoon the two of them are out on the lake in a boat, fishing with protein cubes for bait, and the beer hanging over the side, with an ImpSec guard watching from the shore.  Illyan compares this to a stakeout, except that fish don’t shoot back, and they speculate on what bait fish would use to catch men.  Illyan recounts the story of a Polian ambassador, on the verge of signing a wormhole treaty, who asked for an elephant…which Illyan himself passed down to a poor ImpSec agent.  Who dutifully delivered a small elephant to the Polian embassy, without letting on to ten-year-old Gregor, who would have likely wanted to keep it.

Miles ruminates on his own motivations.  He’s never really wanted for money, except on behalf of the Dendarii; he never really wanted power, except to be free from others having power over him, which was more like fear.  Like the fear of being killed as a useless mutant if he didn’t constantly prove his worth.  What he’s really after, he decides, is his identity, to want to be.

After a while, Illyan asks if Miles is sure there are fish in the lake.  Miles assures him there are, that it was terraformed by dumping organic waste into it generations ago, and it’s been well stocked with fish.  Illyan checks, and his bait-cube is gone.  Illyan notes that this is inefficient, and Miles says he believes it’s a way for men to look productive while really not doing any work.  Illyan says that he’s tired of doing nothing; Miles points out that his card playing has been improving slightly.

Illyan says that he doesn’t think he’ll regain his edge, though, well enough to go back to ImpSec.  He’s done over forty years in the Emperor’s service, and he’d never planned on doing sixty, so maybe it’s time to stop.  He’s done his part to bring Gregor safely to adulthood, though he would have liked to see the wedding through; Miles says there’d always be one more crisis, another reason to stick around…

He added after a time, “Do you suppose all the fish in your lake have been stolen?”

“They’d have to catch ’em first.”

“Ah. Good point.”

Illyan says he’s glad that Miles has survived the loss of the Dendarii, though Miles notices that he doesn’t actually apologize.  Miles says that he seems to have gone past the urge to suicide–death will come for him whether he wants it or not, and in the meantime he should do something with the life he has.  Illyan asks if he’ll be able to patch things up with Quinn, and Miles says that she never cared much for Lord Vorkosigan before, but he will give it one more try.  He says he’s noticed himself slowing down, craving the frontline action less; he still liked winning, and always seemed to get away with it, until the seizures came along.  He feels odd, now, to have lost without being killed.

Sensing that Illyan is getting bored with fishing, Miles offers to show him the trick of stunner-fishing.  He says that hungry Dendarii hill-folk didn’t have to time to dangle strings into the water, so they turned their stunner-packs into bombs.  Illyan has a stunner with him, which he donates to the cause.  Miles hotwires it and tosses it over the side, both of them hoping that it goes deep enough before going off.  There is a miniature explosion under the water half a minute later, causing a small swell in the water, momentarily alarming the ImpSec observer until Miles reassures him with a wave.  A couple of minutes later, stunned fish begin bobbing up to the surface, four sizable ones which they haul aboard.  They somewhat tipsily make their way back to the dock, then lug the fish ashore, Miles turning his burden in relief over to Martin to give to his mother.

The smallest fish, prepared delectably that evening, is enough to feed all of them.  Illyan asks if Miles often fished for his family that way, and Miles says he used to, until he noticed his mother, uncomfortable with actual formerly-live meat, was having to force it down.

After the dinner, feeling completely relaxed, Miles is, of course, interrupted by Martin, who says there’s a call for him–Admiral Avakli.  Avakli urges him to return as soon as possible so he can present his findings to Miles and Haroche, and adds that it’s not something to be discussed over a comconsole.  Miles realizes this means they found something, and says he’ll be back and ready for a midnight meeting.

Comments

Another great, but talky, chapter, with Illyan and Miles probing the remains of their old lives under the influence of mild alcohol.  Great conversation, horribly slashed to pieces by the requirement of summary, so, once again, go read it all yourself.

I always remember the stunner-fishing scene, though somehow I keep thinking that it’s Mark in the boat with Miles.  I never really saw the point of fishing, myself, partly because I don’t like eating fish, or drinking beer, or, particularly, sitting in boats.  I’m almost amazed that their ImpSec guards would let them do it, but I guess neither of them is indispensable at the moment–Miles is only a Count’s heir, not a Count, and he has a brother now, and Illyan is now retired.

Chapter Twenty-One

Miles throws Avakli’s conference off balance, and short of seating, by bring Simon Illyan with him, though he does point out that Illyan has a perfect right to know, and this will save Miles from having to repeat it all from memory later.  Miles is in his House uniform, minus the medals, but still with the Auditor’s chain.  Haroche is startled to see Illyan there, but greets him warmly enough, though he asks Miles if he’s sure Illyan is up to this.

Avakli starts his briefing by announcing that, as they might have guessed, they have found that the damage to the memory chip was “artificially created”, though he stops short of calling it deliberate sabotage.  He lets Dr. Weddell explain what they found.

“If you would like to look at the culprit — the immediate culprit, that is — here is its portrait.” Weddell fiddled with the holovid control; the plate projected a bright green, topologically complex blob, which turned slowly in air. “The color is a computer enhancement, of course — I took a little artistic license there — and the magnification several million times. That, gentlemen, is a bioengineered apoptotic prokaryote. Or so I have reconstructed it.”

“A what?” said Miles. “Simplify, please.”

Weddell flashed a pained smile, doubtless searching his mind for words of one syllable. Miles regretted his last four beers. “A little bug that eats things,” Weddell essayed, by way of further translation.

“Not that simplified,” said Miles dryly. The Barrayarans around the table, knowing the power of an Imperial Auditor, cringed at his tone; immigrant Weddell did not. Never argue with a pedant over nomenclature. It wastes your time and annoys the pedant. Miles let it go.

The prokaryote, tinier than most bacteria, is a simple creature whose aim is simply to eat proteins like those found in Illyan’s chip, and then self-destruct after a certain number of cell divisions, which made it hard but not impossible to track it down and reconstruct it, though after another week it would have become impossible in fact.  Weddell says he was able to find a lot of information in its structure–it was based off of an organism designed to destroy neural plaque, with its galactic patent still visible, but this modified version was unsigned.  The original patent was ten years old, so it can’t have been created earlier than that.  The modification was probably a one-time creation, a commission for a single customer.  Weddell says that it’s likely Jacksonian, but not something he’s familiar with, i.e. not Bharaputran.  Miles asks about cost, and Weddell says at least 50,000 Betan dollars, more if it were to be kept secret.

Haroche asks if it could be Cetagandan, and Weddell says it’s not their style at all–too inelegant.  Miles asks if they can pinpoint when it was administered; Weddell asks when the first gross symptoms appeared, and Miles says about a week before the fateful briefing, and Illyan doesn’t contradict him.  Weddell says it could have been stored in a dry state for years, and would be activated by reaching moist mucous membranes; it could have been inhaled or injected, probably not ingested without expecting to lose most of it via digestion.  His best guess is a range of one to ten weeks before symptoms appeared, and, when asked, Illyan doesn’t remember anything suspicious in that time.  Miles asks them to check and see if anyone else on Barrayar suffered similar effects, though he’s not sure if there even is any similar tech on the planet; Avakli reassures him that jump-pilot neural implants are different enough to be unaffected, and Weddell adds that it’s not communicable.

Miles concludes that it is, in fact, sabotage, deliberate and subtle; they know the how, now, and have narrowed down the when, but still need the why, and the who.  It could be any of ImpSec’s enemies; Miles asks Simon if he was carrying on any affairs that might have caused personal offense, but Simon says he wasn’t.  Going on Weddell’s estimate of how long it would have taken to produce the bug, Miles concludes it must have taken at least six months to carry out the plot.  Haroche, saying that it likely originated offplanet, offers to put Galactic Affairs to work on tracking it down, on Jackson’s Whole, or Escobar, or anywhere else that it could have been created.  Miles agrees, thinking that a real Imperial Auditor would have a staff, so he wouldn’t have to rely on ImpSec manpower.  Haroche also wants to prepare a list of any galactic visitors Illyan might have encountered during the window of opportunity.

Miles comments that it’s puzzling, aimed at Illyan’s chip, and not his life, though Ruibal points out that the stress may have worn Illyan down, or made him vulnerable to some sort of accident.  Haroche commends his staff and dismisses them–Weddell is particularly anxious to return to his private lab–and then turns to Miles to formally adjourn the meeting.  Illyan shares with Haroche the ImpSec tradition of each chief solving the murder of the previous one.

“You weren’t murdered, at least,” said Haroche.

“Ah.” Illyan’s smile thinned. “I . . . forgot.” He glanced at Haroche, and his voice fell to a murmur that Haroche had to bend his head to hear. “Get the bastards for me, will you, Lucas?”

“I’ll do my best, sir. We all will.” Gravely, and despite Illyan’s civilian garb, Haroche saluted him as they turned to leave.

That night, a sleepless Miles contemplates how his initial plan, to temporarily borrow an Auditor’s chain to get Illyan out of ImpSec, has turned into a real, and quite challenging investigation.  He wishes he’d managed to organize a real staff, perhaps of imminent ImpSec retirees, and makes a note to find out from the other Auditors what kind of staff they do have.  He considers what he can do next for the investigation–he would like to leave Jackson’s Whole to ImpSec, though he has to allow for the possibility that ImpSec itself is compromised, so he’ll have to double-check them.  There are no real Jacksonian suspects, Houses Fell and Bharaputra being insufficiently motivated, and Ryoval have been destroyed by Mark.  The crime itself had been committed on Barrayar, so he decides he’ll be most productive investigating here.  As an Imperial Auditor, he’s one of the few people who can actually rummage around in ImpSec, so he makes that his goal.

Late the next morning, as Miles is waiting for Martin to bring the car around, there is a commotion outside, which he quickly determines is his mother and her staff arriving at the house.  He forestalls a maternal embrace, telling her he has to go to work soon, and she promises to get the full story of that from him later.  She asks how he is, and he says he’s fine, really.  She says he looks better than in his recent messages, and he admits he had a few bad days, but is better.

“I might still have had my head up my ass,” he admitted ruefully, “but events intervened. You’ve heard about Simon.”

“Yes, but not all about Simon. Though Alys has been more helpful than either you or Gregor. How is he?”

“He’s fine. He’s here. Sleeping in. We had a late night last night. I think . . . I’d better let him tell you about it. As much as he can.” He added cautiously, “He’s physically recovered, but he’s a little . . . well, he’s a lot vaguer than the Simon you’re used to, I’m afraid. You’ll figure it out pretty quickly when you talk to him.”

Cordelia says she’s to meet Laisa soon; the Toscane parents have mixed feelings, though they are hopeful for possible advantages to come from being linked to the Imperial family.  Miles says that Gregor will doubtless be careful to avoid showing any actual favouritism.

“So I gently let them know. They’re not without wit, I am happy to say. Their excitement was dampened by a genuine concern for their daughter’s safety and personal happiness, though they are certainly as puzzled how this is to be achieved as any other set of parents.” She smiled dryly at him.

Was that to his address? Unquestionably. “So . . . how is Father? How did he take . . . all this?” A shrug of Miles’s shoulder in no particular direction indicated his new civilian life.

She cleared her throat. “Mixed feelings, mixed reactions. He gave me all sorts of logically conflicting assurances for you, which I think I shall simply boil down to: you have his support. Always.”

Miles asks if he’s disappointed, and his mother evades the question, though she does say that Aral is more worried about what Miles will do with his life now; she says the Auditor idea was very clever, but Miles gripes about the case he’s now expected to solve.  He says he gets to prod ImpSec into motion, though he can’t blame them for being cautious about leaping to conclusions; Cordelia says that that hasn’t always stopped them in the past.

She called after him, “I’m glad to find you here, anyway.”

“Where else?”

She hesitated, then admitted wryly, “I bet Aral that you would choose the little Admiral.”

Comments

The sabotage is exposed!  Or at least discovered…and Dr. Hugh Canaba shows how he earned his way off of Jackson’s Whole and into a new identity on Barrayar.  Personally, I thought a prokaryote was a bacterium, but I guess that’s probably an oversimplification (especially given that I learned it via SimEarth and The Cartoon History of The Universe).  Haroche certainly seemed to be disquieted by some of the revelations at the meeting, and perhaps a little eager to direct the investigation offplanet…  If it’s not the Cetagandans, it seems like most of the suspects would be on Barrayar, so it’s probably a good thing that Miles is going to be focusing on that end of it.

It’s always nice to see Cordelia, of course, though Miles is understandably a little skittish about being put under her microscope right now.  Actually, this may be the first book where Cordelia is being depicted as being, well, fallible.  After all, she was mostly mistaken about what would happen when Miles was forcibly de-Admiraled.  For a while she’s seemed a bit like the author’s mouthpiece, the one who really knows why everyone behaves the way they do and can cut through all the Barrayaran masculinist claptrap.  Or maybe it’s just that everyone has to grow up and realize that their parents don’t know everything, because adulthood and parenthood don’t magically bestow omniscience.


Only eight chapters left now, apparently…so with any luck the plot will be moving along quickly, because I recall at least a little denouement in there somewhere.  Four more weeks of the Memory reread, assuming I don’t fall behind over summer vacation or anything…

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What with one thing and another–“one thing” being Canada Day celebrations on Monday, and “another” being the heat wave that disrupted our activities over the last few days–it’s a tug of war.  Which is to say, I only got one chapter done this week in the Vorkosigan Saga Reread; luckily the current novel, Memory, has an odd number of chapters, so I knew I could get away with this once without delaying completing of the book.  Whether it was a good idea to do this when there’s still summer vacation and the like to come…well, that remains to be seen.  Also, I’m not sure if it actually was, but Chapter Nineteen felt longer than some of the others I’ve done, so I’m just as happy to just do the one this week…

Chapter Nineteen

The next day, Miles makes himself call up ImpMil and make an appointment to have his seizures checked out; he chooses ImpMil because of their experience with cryo-revival, and the access they’ll have to classified records like his Dendarii fleet surgeon’s notes.  That done, he wanders around Vorkosigan House, missing Ivan’s company, or anyone’s really.

Vorkosigan House wasn’t meant to be this quiet. It had been designed to host a full-time roaring circus, with its complement of guardsmen and staff, maids and grooms and gardeners, hurrying couriers and languid courtiers, Vor visitors trailing their retinues, children . . . with the successive Counts Vorkosigan as ringmasters, the hubs around which the whole great gaudy wheel turned. Counts and Countesses Vorkosigan. The party had been at its height in his great-grandparents’ day, Miles supposed, just before the end of the Time of Isolation. He paused before a window overlooking the curving drive, and pictured horses and carriages pulling up below, officers and ladies disembarking with a glitter of swords and a swirl of fabrics.

It reminds him of running the Dendarii Mercenaries, and wonders if in the Dendarii he’s created something that will last as long as Vorkosigan House, like a child.  He assures himself that Elli Quinn will do fine running them, and wonders if he or Haroche should formally make her Admiral…and if he really trusts Haroche to deal properly with the Dendarii.

He finds himself in the second-floor suite where old Count Piotr had lived out his last days.  His parents had stayed in their third-floor rooms, but they’d had Count Piotr’s rooms refurbished as a luxurious guest suite, which not even Ivan had had the nerve to claim during his recent visit.  Miles has an inspiration, and the next morning he approaches Haroche with an offer to relocate Illyan to Vorkosigan House.  Haroche is dubious, pointing out that sabotage hasn’t been ruled out yet, and questions the safety of Vorkosigan House; Miles says that if ImpSec can’t secure Vorkosigan House, it will come as a nasty shock to the former Lord Regent.  Haroche asks Dr. Ruibal’s opinion, and Ruibal says that this will allow Illyan to get some more activity without being sucked into ImpSec business, or looking over Haroche’s shoulder.

Miles asks about Illyan’s current condition; Ruibal says that he’s recovering, physically, from his ordeal, but his short-term memory is suffering right now.  It’s too early to tell if this is a permanent debility or if he’ll recover in time, so Ruibal wants to give him a couple of weeks of varied activity and see how he does.  Haroche agrees, reluctantly.  Miles goes to make the offer to Illyan, where Lady Alys approves heartily, and adds that Cordelia would as well, overriding Illyan’s hesitation.  Miles mentions the windows in the suite–a lack in the ImpSec building–and Illyan points out that windows can be a point of vulnerability, but Miles says that they’ve had been force-screened since then.  He also mentions the new cook, and Alys mentions that he’ll be able to entertain visitors more comfortably, and Illyan decides to accept.

Miles has his car ready to bring Illyan to his home, and Lady Alys says she’ll meet them there, since they’ve probably forgotten something.

“Whatever can she intend to provide that Vorkosigan House doesn’t already have?” Illyan wondered in some bemusement.

“Flowers?’ hazarded Miles. “Dancing maids?” Er. . . soap and towels? She was right, he hadn’t thought of everything.

Illyan muses that Lady Alys was there during some of his more unpleasant moments, then says that it’s time to get out of this dismal place.  One small valise later, Illyan is ready to leave the ImpSec HQ.  At Vorkosigan House, Alys is already directing cleaning crews and bringing in supplies–soap, towels, and fresh sheets.  Martin puts away Illyan’s meager supplies and then goes to fetch a tea cart of Ma Kosti’s delicacies.  As they sit, replete, in Illyan’s suite, Miles asks Illyan how his memory is.

Illyan, half-engulfed by the soft upholstery of the armchair in which he leaned back, grimaced. “The last few weeks seem very fragmentary. Before that . . . is fragmentary too.” The hand twitch, again. “It feels like . . . as if a man who’d always had perfect vision had a glass helmet all smeared with grease and mud fastened over his head. Except. . . I can’t get it off. Can’t break it. Can’t breathe.”

Miles points out that he remembers who he is, at least, as compared to his own cryo-amnesia.  Illyan expresses frustration of his inability to remember clearly, and Alys points out that that’s how it is all the time, for most people.  She encourages him to compare his current memories with those from before the chip was implanted.

Miles explains how he became an Imperial Auditor to help Illyan, and that it still remains to be determined if there was any sabotage done to the chip; he asks Illyan if he remembers anything that might be relevant.  Illyan says that he could have, easily, with the help of his chip, but as it is, they seem to have covered their tracks.

Miles changes the subject to the arrangements for Gregor’s betrothal ceremony; Illyan asks after the security arrangements, which Haroche has delegated to Colonel Lord Vortala, who Alys approves of.  After Alys rambles on various etiquette-related subjects for a while, Miles proposes a card game, at least partly to check on Illyan’s capabilities.  Previously, Illyan was nigh-unbeatable at Star-tarot One-up, but now he can’t win a single hand, which disturbs him greatly; his short-term memory is, indeed, pretty much shot.  Miles tests this by bringing up security for the betrothal again, where Illyan once again asks who’s in charge, having forgotten about Vortala already.

They quickly settle down to a household routine, Miles and Illyan living quietly and separately in the house, mostly meeting for meals.  Miles makes his visit to ImpMil, which turn into daily visits, his service expedited by his mention of acting-Imperial-Auditor status.  Lady Alys visits often, as does Ivan, and some of Illyan’s old cronies, including Guy Allegre, all of them happy to experience Ma Kosti’s cooking when they have the opportunity.  Duv Galeni happens by, not aware of Illyan’s presence, and seems stiff and uncomfortable through their dinner.  The ImpSec guard is increased to three men.

Avakli’s investigation continues, still mostly negative, but Miles doesn’t press him.  More progress is made on Miles’s own case, where they manage to trigger one of his seizures and gather valuable data from it.

Colonel Dr. Chenko, the neurologist, and Captain Dr. D’Guise, the cryonicist, were bouncing up and down and chortling, loudly pointing out fascinating readouts to each other. It was apparently the best show since the cycle-riding bear had come to the Hassadar Fair and spooked the horses. Miles groaned, but it did not gain any immediate attention; the monitors were apparently much more engrossing.

The doctors didn’t really start talking to him, instead of each other, until he was dressed again and awaited in Dr. Chenko s office. Even his Imperial Auditor’s status didn’t rush them this time. Chenko, a fit and energetic middle-aged man who seemed a walking advertisement for the medical profession, came in at last, assortment of data disks in his hand; his initial air of pleased excitement had by this time subsided to mere smugness.

They explain that his seizures seem to be caused by excess production of neurotransmitters in his brain, which build up until they discharge all at once, particularly under stressful conditions, which causes the seizures.  Afterwards, the neurotransmitter levels are low, so he becomes unconscious until they begin to replenish.  They rule out surgical treatments, which Miles isn’t keen on anyway, and asks about alternatives.

“Ah.” Dr. Chenko hesitated. Actually, he fell silent. “Ah. Hm,” he added after a time.

Miles waited, clutching his fragile patience. Dr. Chenko’s medical creativity would surely not be enhanced by having an Imperial Auditor launch himself over the comconsole and attempt to strangle him. Miles also wasn’t sure if his Auditor’s legal immunity extended to personal assault.

Chenko mentions biochips used for epileptics, but not quite right for Miles’s case, which is okay since Miles is a little dubious about biochips right now.  They’ll have to do some thinking and testing to see if they can find a viable solution for him, but it should only be a matter of days, weeks at most.

Miles arrives home to find Illyan dressed up, and has a horrible thought that Illyan somehow thinks he’s supposed meet with the Emperor, but it turns out that Lady Alys is taking him to see a concert.  He’s run security at the concert hall many times, but never got to sit down and listen to the music, so he’s going to try that see if he likes it.  Miles wonders if it’s a good idea for Illyan to go out in public, for the first time since his breakdown, and if there may be another attempt; Illyan says it’s ImpSec’s problem now, not his.

As they leave, Illyan remembers that there was a message for Miles–that his mother was on her way there from Komarr, due in five days.  Miles isn’t sure how he feels about this, pointing out his mother’s tendency to psychoanalyze everyone, Betan-style; Alys tells him not to be childish.  Miles spends the evening at loose ends, wondering what’s going to happen with his life once Illyan’s problems and his seizures are resolved, if he’s going to be taking ladies to concerts, or if he’ll be stuck in limbo, a young retired Vor.

Illyan isn’t home until quite late; Miles is starting to get worried, recalling how easily Illyan got lost the one time he went walking a few blocks away from Vorkosigan House.  Illyan says that after the concert, he and Lady Alys had a late supper, rode around, talked…he’s decided he likes concerts, after all.

Dammit, the rest of us are going crazy over this chip thing. Why aren’t you? No, unfair to blame Illyan for declining to, well, to go into a decline. Perhaps the ImpSec chief had concluded the failure was natural, and was dealing with it. Or perhaps he was just more patient and subtle than Miles about stalking his stalker. That would not be news.

Dr. Chenko’s proposed treatment, it emerges, is to artificially trigger the seizures under controlled conditions, which will give him periods of guaranteed seizure-free time before the neurotransmitters start to build up again.  They can put a receiver in his head, which can also detect high neurotransmitter levels, and give him a remote control to do the triggering.  This should free him up to engage in normal activities, even flying, as long as his levels are monitored.

Miles asks if his medical discharge might be rescinded, and Chenko says that’s not really his department, since for some reason he wasn’t sent to ImpMil before his dismissal.  Outside of ImpSec he would certainly be relegated to desk work, but he admits that ImpSec makes its own rules, so it’s hard to say.  Miles considers whether he’d be willing to settle for a desk job in the bowels of ImpSec, going home to Vorkosigan House every night…but there is, of course, the issue of the falsified report.

Chenko says that the trigger procedure should work until someone brighter comes along to fix the problem, and even if nobody does, he has no idea whether Miles will have to deal with his seizures for the rest of his life or not.  Miles decides to give it a try and see what happens.  They schedule an appointment to proceed, and Chenko asks idly why an Imperial Auditor would want to be reinstated as an ImpSec Lieutenant.  Miles says he’s only an acting Auditor, and doesn’t add that he really wants to be a Captain, not a Lieutenant…but he’s not sure how to answer the question.

Comments

Yay, Miles has his seizures checked out, finally!  I’m not sure if the explanation put forth here is at all plausible, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?  Neurotransmitters seem to be involved in lots of things–I’m constantly hearing about dopamine this and serotonin that, oxytocin and melatonin and endorphin–so it sounds plausible, but I don’t know if it really works that way.  No miracle cure, now that it’s been diagnosed–would there have been one on Escobar, I wonder?–but at least he can manage his condition.  So that’s good.

Not sure why, when he knows damn well that his discharge was only partially medical, he pursues the possibility of reinstatement.  I mean, Haroche is certainly aware of the falsified report, and I’m not sure that being forced to work with Miles has improved his opinion of the hyperactive little runt.

Illyan’s now out of danger and now living at Vorkosigan House…and staying out long past curfew with Lady Alys.  Still no hint that anyone else has figured out that there’s something going on between the two of them, or at least Miles doesn’t seem to have put it together yet…  I’m sure it wouldn’t have taken Cordelia all that long.  A brief appearance by Duv Galeni, who seems uncomfortable in Illyan’s company…I wonder if he has something to hide?  A guilty conscience, perhaps?  Heh.

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I promise I’ll try harder to do two full chapters next week.  The plot will progress a little farther then, though the next big plot twist is not until a little after that, I think.  Still, as I said, the memory-chip-sabotage plot is not the only plot: it’s just the most “public stakes” kind of plot.  I enjoy watching Miles try to figure out what to do now that he’s been forced to grow up, and Illyan trying to figure out what to do now that he’s been forced to retire, and all that sort of thing.  But I like to throw a bone to you excitement junkies out there too, from time to time…

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Once upon a time, there was a young Vor lord named Miles Vorkosigan, who was born without a decent skeleton.  Thirty years later, he found himself back on his home planet of Barrayar, in the book Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Will he live happily ever after?  Not quite yet, unless Ms. Bujold decides to stop writing books about him…  In any event, this week I’ll be covering chapters Seventeen and Eighteen of Memory, where temporary Lord Auditor Miles Vorkosigan finally gets to figure out what to do about Simon Illyan’s decaying memory chip.

Chapter Seventeen

Ruibal brings Miles to a conference room with three other men–apart from Miles, nobody under the rank of colonel.  Miles reminds himself that he’s an Imperial Auditor, outside of the military hierarchy, and most of them haven’t dealt with an Imperial Auditor since ImpSec’s finances were audited a few years ago (while he was in the hospital, after the Dagoola rescue).  The next most important man in the room, Admiral Dr. Avakli, is a biocyberneticist, part of the group who install neural implants for jump pilots, which are vaguely close to Illyan’s chip in nature.

Ruibal begins listing the tests they performed, until Miles tells them to skip the negative results.  Ruibal summarizes them by saying that the problem definitely seems to be with the chip, rather than with anything in Illyan’s brain.  Avakli shows him the information they have on the chip itself and its complex array of connections to the brain, but points out that the chip was largely self-wiring once it was installed in the brain, so their information on that is limited.  It’s a mix of organic and inorganic, and it’s the organic portions which are deteriorating.  Avakli says there’s no provision for being able to download the chip’s contents, which doesn’t surprise Miles, considering that Emperor Ezar wouldn’t have wanted that information easily retrievable.

Avakli confirms Miles’s understanding that the chip supplemented, rather than replaced, Illyan’s natural memory, pointing out that that was a major reason why many of the test subjects developed schizophrenia, because of the doubling of memories.  Avakli describes some complicated and jerry-rigged possibilities for extracting the data; Miles interrupts to ask what happens if they take the chip out, and Avakli says that in that circumstance the chip is designed to “die”.  If it’s not taken out, the proteins will continue to degenerate–“turning to snot”, as Illyan had quoted one of Avakli’s techs.

Miles asks Avakli for his theories on why this happened; Avakli says it could be natural senescence, which he considers more likely than deliberate sabotage, but he’d have to examine it to rule out the latter theory.  Miles summarizes by saying that they can’t remove the chip, fix it, and put it back, they can’t find out why it’s breaking down without removing it, and they can’t try to repair it in place without finding out why it’s breaking down.  Avakli says he’s been focusing on data extraction rather than repairing the chip.

Miles asks what happens to Illyan if the chip is removed.  Avakli defers to Ruibal, who says it’s difficult to tell.  He won’t instantly revert to what he was like before the chip, but much of his brain will have adapted to the chip’s capabilities, and will be thrown out of balance by its loss.  Ruibal says they haven’t managed to find any galactic experts in this technology, which is considered obsolete, and it might take months to do so; Miles says that Illyan isn’t likely to have months.  Miles asks why they haven’t just removed the chip, and Avakli says they were ordered to save the chip, or as much of its data as possible, presumably because the data on the chip is vital.

“Is it?” Miles leaned forward, staring into the brightly colored, biocybernetic nightmare chip-map hanging before his eyes above the table’s central vid plate. “The chip was never installed to make Illyan into a superman. It was just a toy for Emperor Ezar, who fancied owning a vid recorder with legs. I admit, it’s been handy for Illyan. Gives him a nice aura of infallibility that scares hell out of people, but that’s a crock and he knows it even if they don’t.

“The chip has nothing to do with running ImpSec, really. He was promoted to the job because he was standing at my father’s right hand the day Vordarian’s forces murdered his predecessor, and my father liked and trusted him. There was no time for a talent search, in the middle of a raging civil war. Of all the qualities that made Illyan the best chief in ImpSec s history . . . the chip is surely the most trivial.” His voice had fallen to nearly a whisper. Avakli and Ruibal were leaning forward to hear him. He cleared his throat, and sat up.

Miles says that information on the chip is either obsolete, personal, current and thus known elsewhere, and maybe only a dozen or so real secrets, some of which probably shouldn’t even be preserved.  Miles tells them to prepare for removing the chip, with the best surgical personnel available, while he talks to one more person–Gregor.  Miles brings Gregor up to speed, that the chip is flooding Illyan’s mind with memories every few minutes, and the only practical thing they can do with the chip is remove it.  He notes that Illyan is in little condition to actually consent to the operation, and they don’t know what effect losing the chip will have on him.  He asks if Gregor knows of any old secrets that should be preserved, but Gregor says that only Count Vorkosigan would know for sure.  Gregor asks if Miles advises pulling the chip, and at his assent gives him the authorization.

Miles goes to see Haroche, who asks ironically if his subordinates’ cooperation was satisfactory.  He’s been reading up on Miles’s record, and now has a better picture of why Illyan thought so much of him, and has revised his earlier estimation.  Miles informs him that the chip has to be removed.

Haroche sighed. “I’d hoped that could be avoided. It seems so permanent. And so crippling.”

“Not nearly as crippling as what’s going on right now. Incidentally, Illyan definitely should have had someone familiar by him from the start, for his comfort. It seems to make a tremendous difference in his level of combativeness. He could possibly have avoided most of the sedation. And the humiliating restraints. Not to mention the wear and tear on the corpsmen.”

Haroche says he didn’t know what they were dealing with, and admits he couldn’t face Illyan after the first day.  Miles says that he and Ivan have done a lot with their mere presence, and argues for bringing in Lady Alys Vorpatril as well.  Haroche protests that she’s a civilian, and unable, as a woman, to swear the appropriate oaths in any case.  Miles says he can order Haroche to admit her, but he gives Haroche the chance to make amends on his own.  He will need to deal with her until the wedding, at least, and while the military tries to pretend that Vor doesn’t matter, Lady Alys represents a large class to whom it does, and Haroche will have to deal with both of them too.

“So how did Illyan get along so well with you all? He was no more Vor than I.”

“Actually, I think he rather enjoyed the spectacle. I don’t know what he thought when he was younger, but by the time I really came to know him, in the last ten years or so . . . I think he’d come to feel that the Imperium was a creation he helped to maintain. He seemed to have a vested interest in it. An almost Cetagandan attitude, in a weird way; more of an artist to his medium than a servant to his master. Illyan played Gregor’s servant with great panache, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a less servile human being.”

Haroche thinks it over for a minute, which Miles considers a promising sign, then calls Lady Alys, formally apologizes, and grants her request for admittance to the clinic.  Alys merely accepts it as her due, promising to be at the clinic in fifteen minutes–a major concession, for a Vor lady–and thanks Haroche and Miles, whose hand she obviously perceived in Haroche’s change of heart.  Miles praises Haroche’s apology, and Haroche says that, no matter what Miles may think, he wants to do a good job, even if he lacks Illyan’s suavity.

Miles returns to the clinic, where Ivan is relieved to be relieved, calling Illyan’s situation a nightmare.  Miles says he’s called Ivan’s mother, and Ivan is pleased to hear it; he says she’ll do better at this duty than he does.  Ivan leaves as soon as Miles lets him, and Miles sits through another grueling succession of Simon Illyans from various time periods, telling each one about the problem with the chip, until finally the present-day Illyan manifests again.  Miles tells Illyan he won’t kill him, but that they’re going to remove his chip, as soon as possible.  Illyan is dubious, not sure what will happen to his memories, but before long is swept away again.

When Lady Alys enters, Illyan offers his condolences on the death of her husband (which happened around the time Ivan was born, of course).  Miles briefs Illyan, Lady Alys watching carefully, then leaves her holding Illyan’s hand and briefing him herself.  Ruibal notes that Illyan’s blood pressure has dropped in her presence.  Miles gets Ruibal and Avakli and they discuss the surgeon–one of Avakli’s best neural implant surgeons, who’s done most of the fast courier pilots in recent years, including the Emperor’s personal pilot.  Avakli prefers to give him one more good night’s sleep, and let him have a day to study up on the problem, pushing the surgery itself a day longer than Miles would have preferred, but he acquiesces.  He also tells Avakli that his team will be the chip’s “coroners”, doing an autopsy on it to determine what happened to it.  He suggests that they bring in Dr. Vaughn Weddell (formerly known as Dr. Hugh Canaba of Jackson’s Whole, Taura’s creator) as an outside source, and Avakli takes the Auditor’s suggestion as a command.

Miles stays at the clinic that night, he and Alys trading off shifts, as Illyan’s transition periods get closer and closer together.

Comments

So, of course, the previous Imperial Audit that Miles refers to was the one in the Borders of Infinity framing story, though I don’t recall actual “Imperial Auditors” being mentioned at the time, at least not capitalized ones.  Another nice piece of retconning, though.  I can’t help but think that among those secrets which are going to disappear with the chip (except for Miles’s parents, of course) would be Ezar and Aral’s plan to dispose of Prince Serg, from back in Shards of Honour, though of course Miles doesn’t know that.  Finally, of course, the reference to Dr. Canaba, from back in “Labyrinth”, who of course has been on Barrayar this whole time.  Not really a retconning so much as a “conservation of characters” situation.

Haroche does seem, in some ways, to be willing to learn from Miles, now that he has no choice but to listen to him, mending fences with Lady Alys.  It’s possible he still doesn’t truly “get” how a woman can be of any importance to ImpSec, and I’m sure Cordelia would love to slap him silly over it.  It’s tempting to think of Haroche as stupid, with such willfully wrong-headed sexist ideas, but it’s a common Barrayaran failing, as Elena would attest.

Chapter Eighteen

It takes three days, not two, to prepare for the surgery, by which point Simon Illyan’s memory flashes are coming too swiftly for him to even have time to speak in between.  Alys’s stamina flags, leaving Miles to pick up the slack.  Illyan’s motions aren’t hostile, but they are unpredictable, so they give up on the possibility of leaving him conscious for the surgery, which would enable them to monitor his higher brain functions as they operate, and just anesthetize him.

Nobody tries to keep Miles out of the operating room, where he feels duty-bound to watch, as Gregor’s observer.

Where does the forty kilo Imperial Auditor sit? Anywhere he wants to.

They put him into sterile clothing and give him a good view of the monitors, which Miles prefers to watching the actual surgery.  They cut a tiny slot in Illyan’s skull, then they send in the microwaldoes to cut the chip’s connections, and finally they delicately pull it out and deliver it to Dr. Avakli, who hustles it off to be autopsied.  Miles elects not to follow Avakli, but to wait as Illyan’s skull is closed back up, and the surgeon relinquishes him back into Dr. Ruibal’s care.  Miles comments that the surgery seems to have been less complicated than he expected; the surgeon agrees, saying that he just left the severed ends of the neural connections in place, where they will be harmless, rather than trying to dig them all out individually.  Ruibal authorizes them to wake Illyan back up.

Illyan’s first words seem like a replay of the questions he’s asked over the last several days, but he’s tracking better, and seems to absorb Miles’s response this time.  Illyan doesn’t remember much about the last few days except vague nightmare images.  Miles tells him that he and Gregor decided on the surgery, and that Haroche is in charge of ImpSec, which seems to reassure him.  Illyan seems, a few times, to be trying to call up memories from his chip, which of course fails.  Ruibal administers a few tests, which don’t show any immediate effects, and they put Illyan back to bed.

Ruibal says that they’ll need to do some tests on him, but they might release Illyan to go home in as little as two days, though with daily followups.  Miles tells Alys the surgery is over, and she goes back in to sit at Illyan’s bedside, while Miles goes to see how Avakli is doing with the chip.  Dr. Weddell/Canaba is in attendance, and Miles takes him aside to speak to.  Canaba/Weddell quickly realizes that it’s Lord Auditor Vorkosigan’s fault that he’s been pulled away from his research, but Miles reminds him that it’s a condition of his rescue from Jackson’s Whole.

“At least,” sighed Weddell, “your climate is an improvement.”

Over Jackson’s Whole, indeed. And Weddell was not referring only to the weather. “I’m very pleased things have worked out satisfactorily for you,” said Miles. “If I had realized I was going to be seeing you, I’d have brought greetings from Sergeant Taura.”

“My word, is she still alive?”

“Oh, yes.” No thanks to you.

Miles tells Weddell that he hopes he’ll be able to spot any galactic connections in the chip’s deterioration; Weddell says he’ll start presuming sabotage, and only settle for “natural causes” when he’s ruled out everything else.  Miles tells Weddell that he should not report to ImpSec, but to Miles directly.  Miles calls Gregor to report on the surgery, then goes back to check on Illyan one more time.  Illyan is awake and dressed, and even mildly cheerful.

Illyan too studied his House uniform and its assorted ornaments. He reached out to lightly tick the gold Auditor’s chain across Miles’s shoulders. It rang with a faint, pure note. “Now that’s . . . rather unexpected.”

“General Haroche didn’t want to let me in. Gregor decided this would save argument.”

“How creative of Gregor.” Illyan vented a brief surprised laugh, which Miles was not quite sure how to interpret. “I would never have thought of it. But waste not, want not.”

Alys volunteers to stay for a while, so Miles can take a break and go home.  She tells Miles he did well, and he says he didn’t do much more than get the techs to work on the problem.

At home, Miles puts away his decorations and his House uniform, then considers the Auditor’s chain; that was fun, he thought, but it’s almost time to put it away again.  Still, he needs to write the reports, and get the rest of the actual data from the chip, so he supposes he’ll need to hold on it until then.

Comments

The actual surgery is a bit of an anticlimax, I guess.  I’m not quite as sanguine as the (nameless) surgeon about leaving loose nerve cells just lying around loose in the brain, but perhaps Bujold did her research here and this is actually right.  I’m just picturing some kind of weird short circuit happening if two of the loose ends that used to meet at the chip happen to get connected to each other.  But I guess nerve cells probably don’t actually work like electrical wires, so it’s probably more like leaving two electrical cords sitting next to each other after unplugging them.

Ivan isn’t mentioned here, so I guess he didn’t get dragged in for more Illyan-soothing, despite what must be very wearing shifts split between Alys and Miles.  Or maybe he was, and it’s just not mentioned.  It sounds like near the end he may not have even had time to register who was with him anyway, so it might not have made much of a difference.  It still squicks me out a little, to think of brain surgery with a conscious patient–it’s just…wrong.  I know there’s no pain nerves in the brain, but still…ugh.

Miles seems a little too ready to get rid of his Auditor’s chain.  I guess he’d love to hold onto it, but he knows that it’s just temporary, for the duration of the Illyan issue, and that seems to be almost wrapped up.  Except for the pesky question of who might have sabotaged the chip, if someone actually did.  But who could have done it, and how?  Illyan’s “Waste not, want not” comment makes me wonder if he thinks that Miles’s appointment as Auditor is permanent, since it might seem like a good way to make use of Miles’s skills, now that he’s prevented actually using them for ImpSec any more…  I’m sure somebody will disabuse Illyan of that silly notion soon enough.


Looks like we’ve wrapped up the Simon Illyan plotline, then!  Or have we?  I guess there’s still the question of what happened to the chip in the first place–was it natural causes, or sabotage?  After all this, which do you think would be more likely?  Well, anyway, now that we’ve dealt with Simon Illyan’s brain, Miles is now finally ready to start looking at what’s up with his own brain…next week, on the Vorkosigan Saga Reread!

(Almost forgot to mention, but, as WordPress reminded me, this is my 100th post in this blog!  I’ve already passed the two-year mark, what with the weeks off between books, and those I skipped during the move earlier in the year, but it’s still a milestone.  I wonder if there’s enough left in the series for me to reach 200?)

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