Welcome back, one mo’ time, to the good ol’, down-home, fresh-baked, fat-free, low-cholesterol Vorkosigan Saga Reread! It’s always a pleasure to see so many bright and smiling faces comin’ by here to see what I’ve managed to whip up out of nothin’ more than a couple of chapters of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, as we find out what the rascally Miles Vorkosigan, and his friends, have been up to this week. And speakin’ of this week, that’s right now! So why don’t you set yourself down and dig in to a helping of Chapters Seventeen and Eighteen of A Civil Campaign, where things actually get kinda physically excitin’ for our heroes…
Pym admits Ekaterin to Vorkosigan House; he pages Miles, who says he’s up in the attic of the north wing, and tells Pym to send Ekaterin up, he has something she’d like to see. He escorts her to the lift tube and up to the fifth floor, into an enormous attic. Some of the attic contents are the usual–shabby furniture, empty picture frames, and other detritus–but past then it gets into old weapons, horse gear, and uniforms.
Miles is digging through a few tunks of flimsies, apparently sorting them; Ekaterin says he wasn’t exaggerating when he told her the attics were worth seeing. Miles says that when Duv Galeni came up here, he turned back into a history professor, gibbering over how little of this was catalogued. Ekaterin lets him ramble on, unwilling to destroy his mood with her news. He shows her a bag of what he says are Cetagandan scalps–given to his grandfather, he says, by his guerrillas, so of course he couldn’t just dispose of them. Ekaterin asks what they could possible do with them; Miles muses that Gregor could send them back to the Cetagandans, with elaborate apologies, as a subtle diplomatic insult.
Then he gets out what he really wanted to show her–an old lady’s saddle, which he said originally belonged to General Piotr’s wife, Olivia Vorbarra Vorkosigan. He said the riding tradition has kind of lapsed in their family–his parents weren’t that interested, and he hasn’t time himself in years; Ekaterin says she rode as a child, a pony that her great-aunt kept, but not much since. Miles says he’s thinking of reconditioning the saddle and putting it back into use, but Ekaterin protests that it should be in a museum.
“Ah—I had this same argument with Duv. It wasn’t just hand-made, it was custom-made, especially for the Princess. Probably a gift from my grandfather. Imagine the fellow, not just a worker but an artist, selecting the leather, piecing and stitching and carving. I picture him hand-rubbing in the oil, thinking of his work used by his Countess, envied and admired by her friends, being part of this—this whole work of art that was her life.” His finger traced the leaves around the initials.
Her guess of its value kept ratcheting up in time to his words. “For heaven’s sake get it appraised first!”
“Why? To loan to a museum? Don’t need to set a price on my grandmother for that. To sell to some collector to hoard like money? Let him hoard money, that’s all that sort wants anyway. The only collector who’d be worthy of it would be someone who was personally obsessed with the Princess-and-Countess, one of those men who fall hopelessly in love across time. No. I owe it to its maker to put it to its proper use, the use he intended.”
The weary straitened housewife in her—Tien’s pinchmark spouse—was horrified. The secret soul of her rang like a bell in resonance to Miles’s words. Yes. That was how it should be. This saddle belonged under a fine lady, not under a glass cover. Gardens were meant to be seen, smelled, walked through, grubbed in. A hundred objective measurements didn’t sum the worth of a garden; only the delight of its users did that. Only the use made it mean something. How had Miles learned that? For this alone I could love you . . .
He says he should get back into riding, for exercise if nothing else, and invites her to join him. Ekaterin says she can’t, and ruthlessly, before he can try to persuade her, before she loses her will entirely, tells him the story of her family visit. She expresses her exasperation at how they wouldn’t listen to her, taking Alexi Vormoncrief’s word over her own, along with their own perceptions of the “decadence” of the capital. She said she had to go along, or lose custody of Nikki. It occurred to her later to wonder if ImpSec would step in rather than let Vassily take Nikki away, but Miles said that they’d probably think Nikki safer on a military base in any case. If they did do anything to stop it, they’d probably do it in a way that just enhanced the murder “cover story”.
Ekaterin wonders if somebody convinced Alexi to send the letter, hoping to have just that result. Miles suggests that it would be better if her uncle could deal with the issue inside the family, but he’s not due back until the wedding, assuming that his technical matters on Komarr don’t take too long. Miles says that if it does come to court, it’ll be in Vorbretten’s District, and he can try to get René to help, assuming he’s still Count at that point; Ekaterin says she’d rather avoid it entirely. Miles reassures her that, after the Council of Counts vote in two days, the slander should die down with its political motivation…or so he hopes.
“I shouldn’t have suggested putting you in quarantine till my mourning year was over. I should have tried Vassily on Winterfair first. I thought of that too late. But I can’t risk Nikki, I just can’t. Not when we’ve come so far, survived so much.”
“Sh, now. I think your instincts are right. My grandfather had an old cavalry saying: `You should get over heavy ground as lightly as you can.’ We’ll just lie low for a little while here so as not to rile poor Vassily. And when your uncle gets back, he’ll straighten the fellow out.” He glanced up at her, sideways. “Or, of course, you could simply not see me for a year, eh?”
“I should dislike that exceedingly,” she admitted.
“Ah.” One corner of his mouth curled up. After a little pause, he said, “Well, we can’t have that, then.”
“But Miles, I gave my word. I didn’t want to, but I did.”
“Stampeded into it. A tactical retreat is not a bad response to a surprise assault, you know. First you survive. Then you choose your own ground. Then you counterattack.”
Ekaterin fights an urge to give in to his physical closeness. Miles admits he’d forgotten about Vassily on his list of people whose opinions mattered. He explains to her what his father said about reputation and honour. Ekaterin talks about how she became an oathbreaker, inside, after she made the decision to leave Tien, but she still has to go on somehow; most people, even her aunt, tell her that it was okay because Tien was an ass. Miles says he knows exactly how she feels, though.
“In my experience,” he said, “the trouble with oaths of the form, death before dishonor, is that eventually, given enough time and abrasion, they separate the world into just two sorts of people: the dead, and the forsworn. It’s a survivor’s problem, this one.”
“Yes,” she agreed quietly. He knows. He knows it all, right down to that bitter muck of regret at the bottom of the soul’s well. How does he know?
He tells her the truth about his discharge from ImpSec, for falsifying reports, rather than for medical reasons. He’d been so desperate to hold onto Admiral Naismith, and he’d gotten into a habit of “lie now, fix it later”. Which didn’t work with his seizures, and it didn’t work with her either. Ekaterin gives him a single squeeze, and agrees with him about the difficulty of overcoming old habits. Miles tells her then how he killed his grandfather, failing out of his entrance exams.
“Of course,” she said dryly, “you were the cause. It couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with his being nearly a hundred years old.”
“Yeah, sure, I know.” Miles shrugged, and gave her a sharp look up from under his dark brows. “The same way you know Tien’s death was an accident.”
“Miles,” she said, after a long, thoughtful pause, “are you trying to one-up my dead?”
Taken aback, his lips began to form an indignant denial, which weakened to an, “Oh.” He gently thumped his forehead on her shoulder as if beating his head against a wall. When he spoke again, his ragging tone did not quite muffle real anguish. “How can you stand me? I can’t even stand me!”
I think that was the true confession. We are surely come to the end of one another.
Ekaterin notes that she has, as Kareen would say, a “Thing” about oaths. She asks how, forsworn as he was, he could bring himself to take oath again, as an Imperial Auditor. Miles says that his honour came with a reset button, and she is startled into laughter, which feels like it’s bringing light into her soul. He tells her that a wise woman told him once “You just go on”, which in his opinion is what all the rest of the advice boils down to.
He’s taken her hand in his, and she is almost overwhelmed by his physical proximity, but she is determined not to start any physical intimacy with him, when she’s supposed to be giving him up. Deliberately pulling a little apart, she asks him if he thinks Alexi’s ploy is a trap. Miles tells her about what happened with Richars, how he’d attempted to blackmail Miles into going along, and instead Miles threw all his weight behind Dono. As a result, if Richars does become Count, he’ll be obliged to follow through on his threat to press charges, although he may wait until after the Imperial wedding. If it does go to court, Richars will probably be unable to prove anything, but Miles won’t be able to produce proof on his side either–but before the charge is eventually dismissed, things could get ugly, for Ekaterin as well as himself.
Miles notes that another way to avert the problem would be to not vote against Richars–maybe even abstaining wouldn’t be enough, he might have to actively vote for Richars. He admits that Gregor and ImpSec have not asked him to do that, but he thought he’d offer it to her; after some thought, she says they’d both have to reset their honour after that one. Miles says it doesn’t look like Dono has enough votes, just so she knows; she says she’s satisfied that he has Miles’s.
Ekaterin asks him the last time he used his seizure stimulator, and Miles admits it’s been a while. Ekaterin sternly admonishes him to use it that night, so he doesn’t get struck down in the middle of the vote, and he humbly accedes. He offers her a ride home, and ends up accompanying her; they keep scrupulously to small talk.
Ivan is serving at a reception for Komarran guests at Vorhartung Castle, squiring around Laisa’s aunt. It’s meant as a celebration of the soletta array repairs as much as for the arrival of Laisa’s guests. Once he manages to get rid of Aunt Anna, he manages to withdraw. He bumps into Cassia Vorgorov, recently engaged to Count Vortashpula’s heir; Count Falco Vorpatril, nearby, twits Ivan about having missed his chance yet again, since Cassia apparently used to have a crush on him. Ivan asserts that he chooses to play the field, and bows politely to Count Vorhalas, who is wooing the notoriously fence-sitting Count Vorpatril’s vote.
Miles arrives, looking a little tired, and, to Ivan’s relief, doesn’t seem to be seeking volunteers for some hare-brained scheme. He greets the two Counts; Falco asks if he’s going to the reception at Vorsmyth House, and Miles says he’ll be with Gregor’s party…unless they want to discuss Lord Dono’s suit again. Falco says the Progressives will just have to give up on that one, and be satisfied with the soletta repairs bill. Miles says he can’t wait for this vote to be over, before departing.
Vorhalas notes that Miles’s looks unwell; Falco says it’s probably due to his old troubles, but Ivan says it’s probably due to his more recent injuries on duty–one of his seizures, he expects. Vorhalas asks about the rumour about Miles and Ekaterin, and Ivan stoutly denies it, and Falco says that Lady Alys did as well. Vorhalas will only say that he supposes they’ll never know the truth. Ivan is getting a bit annoyed at all the people asking him, and wonders if Miles is getting as bad, or if more people are asking Ivan because they don’t want to bother him about it. Falco invites Vorhalas back to Vorpatril House to talk about a potential project, and Vorhalas agrees.
Ivan spots Olivia Koudelka, and consider that while Delia, Kareen and Martya have rejected him, there’s still one who hasn’t. He starts to chat her up, trying to figure out if she’s with someone; she does seem happy to see someone, but all Ivan sees are Lord Dono and Countess Vormuir, who seem to be sharing a private joke. Olivia says they’re heading for Vorsmythe House, and Ivan proposes to come along; Olivia offers him a ride, which he accepts. Lord Dono joins them, proving to be the one offering the ride, which Ivan doesn’t particularly like, but he’s forced to live with it. Byerly Vorrutyer stops by, refusing the offer of a ride to Vorsmythe’s, but asking for one home from there.
Dono says he’s talked to several of the Counts, but few of them were helpful. Vorhalas and Vorpatril hadn’t listened to his pitch, and Vorfolse hadn’t even answered his door. The vote tally is running close, but Dono says it’s still short. Olivia and By reassure him, and By says that something might still happen.
Ivan ends up sitting between two Armsmen in Dono’s car, with Olivia next to Dono and Szabo. On the way to Vorsmythe House, Donno suddenly decides to give Vorfolse one more try first. Vorfolse’s family has had horrible luck in the last century, making bad choices like collaborating with the Cetagandans, and siding with Vordarian during the Pretendership; as a result, they’re quite impoverished, and Vorfolse lives in a small apartment, renting Vorfolse House to an ambitious, rich merchant. The current Count Vorfolse, as a result, refuses to commit to much of anything, which, Ivan supposes, at least means he’s not a certain vote for Richars…
There’s no parking available for the groundcar, so Dono’s driver drops them off, Ivan perforce getting out too when Olivia does. Szabo sets up a couple of Armsmen as a guard, and the rest of them enter the building lobby. Dono buzz Vorfolse’s apartment, and at least gets a response this time. Dono introduces himself and his companions, and asks to talk about the vote. Vorfolse refuses, saying that Vorrutyers are all crazy, and he doesn’t care which of them is Count. Dono points out that if the vote falls short, it’ll have to be redone, and that will doubtless be inconvenient for Vorfolse, and that Richars would also be much less “restful” as a count. Olivia puts in her own word, and Vorfolse notes that the Vorkosigans must be supporting it, and Miles seems to be very unrestful just now. He refuses to commit to a vote, but Dono thanks him, noting as they leave that that’s better than some of the responses he’s gotten. He also gives Vorfolse credit for, at least, not milking his District for funds to support a more lavish lifestyle.
Outside, the car is nowhere to be found; Olivia wonders if somebody else wanted to come in, forcing the driver to leave and come back. Just then, Ivan hears a familiar sound, as Szabo drops to a stunner beam. Ivan ducks behind a pillar, Olivia and Dono ducking another way, as the two other Armsmen with him also drop to stunners. Ivan peers into the darkness, trying to spot their enemies, and wishing he had a stunner of his own. He overhears two men talking about a third, and tries to make his way out of his refuge before they come after him. It must be a kidnapping, he thinks, or they wouldn’t be using stunners.
He catches a glimpse of Olivia, and hears a thunk as she takes out an enemy; he is reminded that her mother used to be a bodyguard. Dono makes a break for it, and the enemies go after him, grabbing him and dragging him towards a liftvan; Ivan manages to snatch one of the felled Armsmen’s stunners. They want to “do the job” on Dono and dump him as soon as they can, if they can take out the girl and “the big officer”. Ivan, watching, can’t tell what they’re going to do, but it’s not a kidnapping… One man bends over Dono with a vibra knife, and Ivan, taking a chance, stuns one of the others and sends the others fleeing behind the van, leaving Dono on the pavement.
Olivia stuns the other two and emerges from cover; they to go to check on Dono. Olivia exclaims to find him soaked in blood, but Dono says they only cut his leg. She improvises a bandage torn from her party dress to try to stop the bleeding, while Ivan drags their stunned foes into a heap.
Olivia now had Dono half sitting up, his head cradled between her breasts as she anxiously stroked his dark hair. Dono was pale and shaking, his breathing disrupted.
“Take a punch in the solar plexus, did you?” Ivan inquired.
“No. Further down,” Dono wheezed. “Ivan . . . do you remember, whenever one of you fellows got kicked in the nuts and went over, doing sports or whatever, how I laughed? I’m sorry. I never knew. I’m sorry . . .”
The bleeding seems to be slowing. Ivan finds a bottle of liquid bandage nearby, and says that they must have been trying to undo Dono’s sex change operation, hoping to disqualify him before the vote. Without anesthetic, but with the intention of leaving him alive. Dono says it’s probably Richars. Ivan says that however he feels about what Dono did, this is just wrong. Dono says he hasn’t even used his new genitalia yet, wanting to be a “virgin” on his wedding night. Ivan goes to check on the others–the one Olivia downed doesn’t look to be in good shape, but Szabo and the others seem like they’ll be okay. He goes down the street and finds Dono’s groundcar, the driver stunned; he backs it carefully up to where Dono and Olivia are.
He asks Dono if he recognizes any of the goons, which he doesn’t. Ivan and Olivia load them into their own van, and Dono’s Armsmen into the groundcar. Olivia and Dono take the groundcar, and Ivan the lift van; Ivan tells them to head for Vorpatril House.
Not much to say about the Miles and Ekaterin scene, except that the increased honesty between them does seem to be drawing them together. As well as shared adversity, placing them back to back against a common enemy, as it were.
Ivan the oblivious once again fails to clue in that the girl he’s latched onto is not into him at all. We don’t get nearly as much screen time with Olivia as we do with her sisters, but it’s apparent that she’s become attached to Dono already. Still, it’s lucky for Dono that Ivan came along–without him, it would have ended up just Olivia against Dono’s assailants. It took me a second to recognize Ivan when the thugs were referring to “that big officer”–I guess Ivan is supposed to kind of big, at that.
The book, being mostly about relationships and such, is a little short on actual action scenes, but near the end, they start to show up a bit. The attempted assault on Dono is probably the biggest one, but the next chapter has a couple more, as I recall…
Miles arrives early at the Counts’ Chamber, but finds René Vorbretten is there even before him. René is not optimistic, saying that they’re close, but don’t have quite enough votes. Miles tries to reassure him, telling him that anyone could change their mind at the last minute, but René points out that that works both ways. Miles wishes for a little more redundancy in future, and almost wishes for a good honest shootout. Miles says he thinks he secured Vorgarin’s vote for René, if not necessarily for Dono. René said that Dono never showed up at Vorsmythe’s; Byerly had been looking for him, and eventually left to try to find him. Miles wonders if Dono had been assassinated, but reassures himself that he would have heard by now, if so.
As more people start to arrive, René asks what they’ll do if Dono doesn’t show up. Miles assures him that the Conservatives will also want to wait for all their Counts to show up, and since some of them will be delayed indefinitely, they’ll be forced to filibuster as long as they can, though Miles will willingly stretch it out too, if he needs to. Miles hopes that Dono is not just reverting to Lady Donna’s habit of arriving fashionable late. Eventually he calls Pym and asks him to try to find Dono, and do anything he can to help get him to the vote on time. Richars shows up, dressed as Count Vorrutyer already, and pays Miles a visit.
“They say,” Richars growled to him in an undervoice, not concealing rage quite so well, Miles fancied, “that an honest politician is one who stays bought. It seems you don’t qualify, Vorkosigan.”
“You should choose your enemies more wisely,” Miles breathed back.
Richars grunted. “So should you. I don’t bluff. As you’ll find out before this day is over.” He stalked away to confer with the group of men now clustered around Vormoncrief’s desk.
More Counts arrive, and Miles makes a few last-minute visits to canvass for Dono and René again. Gregor arrives with a minute to spare, and the session officially begins. As Miles had predicted, Conservative Counts start exercising their two-minute speaking rights, drawing it out as long as they can get away with; everyone starts settling in for a long wait.
Ekaterin is dismayed to answer her door and find Vassily and Hugo there again. She stops herself from protesting that she’s been following their rules, and merely asks what they want. They ask to come in, on an urgent matter, and, grudgingly, Ekaterin lets them in. Vassily tells her that he wants to get Nikki out of the capital as soon as possible. He says it’s nothing to do with what Ekaterin has or hasn’t done, but he has new information, this time confirmed by Lord Richars Vorrutyer himself. Once Richars is voted in as Count, he’ll lay a murder charge against Miles, and then, he predicts, the capital will doubtless erupt into open fighting. Aunt Vorthys and Nikki come in to see what’s going on, greeting the visitors uncertainly.
Hugo gave her a respectful nod of greeting, and continued heavily, “I have to agree with Ekaterin, but it only supports Vassily’s worries. I can’t imagine what has possessed Vorrutyer to make such a move while Aral Vorkosigan himself is in town. You’d think he’d at least have the sense wait till the Viceroy returned to Sergyar before attacking his heir.”
“Aral Vorkosigan!” cried Ekaterin. “Do you really think Gregor will blithely accept this assault on one of his chosen Voices? Not to mention look forgivingly on someone trying to start a huge public scandal two weeks before his wedding . . . ! Richars isn’t a fool, he’s mad.” Or acting in some kind of blind panic, but what did Richars have to be panicked about?
Vassily reminds her what happened during Vordarian’s Pretendership, and says he wants to get Nikki safe before it’s impossible to leave Vorbarr Sultana. Ekaterin tries to convince him that even during the Pretendership it wasn’t that violent everywhere, but Vassily insists they have to go, and urges Ekaterin and Madame Vorthys to evacuate as well, especially since Ekaterin has already drawn Miles’s attention. Ekaterin says that he’s making a big deal over nothing–Richars might not even win the Countship–but they can’t conceive that Dono’s suit could possibly succeed, and in any case Vassily is unwilling to risk it.
Nikki tries to reassure his relatives that Miles didn’t kill Tien, but Vassily says that there’s no way to know for sure, and Nikki is obviously unsure how much of what the Emperor told him he’s allowed to share. Ekaterin says that ImpSec is surely on top of any activity in the capital, this close to the wedding, and will stop any unrest before it starts.
Vassily tells Nikki to get his things and get ready to go. Nikki looks to his mother, and she decides that she has no obligation to make things any easier for Vassily, so she says nothing.
Vassily reached for Nikki’s hand. Nikki dodged around Ekaterin, and cried, “Mama, I don’t have to go, do I? I was supposed to go to Arthur’s tonight! I don’t want to go with Vassily!” His voice was edged with sharp distress.
Vassily inhaled, and attempted to recover his balance and his dignity. “Madame, control your child!”
She stared at him for a long moment. “Why, Vassily,” she said at last, her voice silky, “I thought you were revoking my authority over Nikki. You certainly don’t seem to trust my judgment for his safety and well-being. How shall I control him, then?”
Aunt Vorthys, catching the nuance, winced; Hugo, father of three, also got it. She had just given Nikki tacit permission to go to his limit. Bachelor Vassily missed the curve.
Vassily tells Nikki they have to catch the train, and threatens to carry him; Nikki says that he’ll scream, and tell everyone this man isn’t his father, and is kidnapping him. Vassily tries to grab Nikki, but he dodges out of the way. Hugo tries to convince Nikki to come with him and visit his cousins instead; Nikki hesitates, but Vassily makes another try then, grabbing Nikki’s arm. Nikki yells out in pretended pain and Vassily relaxes his grip, allowing Nikki to make his way up the stairs. He shouts back at them that he doesn’t want to go, and they’ll be sorry they made his mama unhappy.
Vassily chases him up the stairs, Hugo following more slowly. Nikki locks himself in his uncle’s study and Vassily tells at him to open the door. He asks Ekaterin for help, and Ekaterin says that the only man she ever knew who could talk Nikki out of a locked room doesn’t happen to be there. Hugo suggests waiting for him to get hungry, but Madame Vorthys says Nikki knows where his uncle keeps his store of cookies. Ekaterin refuses to let Vassily break down the door, or help him take apart the hinges, and neither she nor her aunt point out that there is a back door through a bathroom off the next room.
“I hear two voices. Who in the world could he be calling on the comconsole?” asked Vassily, in a dismissive tone that didn’t invite an answer.
Suddenly, Ekaterin thought she knew. Her breath caught. “Oh,” she said faintly, “dear.” Aunt Vorthys stared at her.
For a hysterical moment, Ekaterin considered dashing around and diving through the alternate doors, to shut down the comconsole before it was too late. But the echo of a laughing voice drifted through her mind . . . Let’s see what happens.
Back at the Council of Counts, Miles waits while more Conservatives drone on. Gregor’s Armsman comes out and speaks to the Emperor; Gregor them summons the Lord Guardian of the Speaker’s Circle to have a quick word, and then disappears behind the dais. Miles wonders what’s going on, but supposes that Gregor just needs a bathroom break. He calls Pym again, who tells him that Lord Dono had only arrived at Vorrutyer House about an hour ago, but Captain Vorpatril is escorting him to the vote as they speak.
Gregor returns after a couple of minutes, and gives Miles an odd, exasperated look, before returning to impassively watching the speakers. Miles checks for missing Counts–Vortugalov, as Lady Alys had promised, but also Counts Vormuir, Vorpatril, Vorfolse, and Vorhalas. Most or all of those were expected to be Conservative votes, so Miles wouldn’t miss them much.
In Vorkosigan House, Enrique is inventorying the returned Vorkosigan butter bugs, and announces that only nine are missing, which is acceptable, especially since the queen had been returned by Jankowski’s daughter the night before. He takes the queen out and offers to let Martya pet her; the queen hisses in what Enrique insists is a sound of happiness.
Privately, Kareen thought any man whose idea of a good time was to feed, pet, and care for a creature that mainly responded to his worship with hostile noises was going to get along great with Martya.
Kareen is trying to figure out what to call their various proposed butter bug food products. The house is very quiet, most of its inhabitants either with Miles, or with his parents at a political breakfast. Even Ma Kosti has gone with Mark to look at a prospective packaging plant. Kareen had spent his first night at Vorkosigan House with Mark, and everyone was perfectly civilized about it, and she’s quite happy about that.
A maidservant knocks on the door, telling them that they have visitors. Two rumpled-looking men in Escobaran suits–one of them quite large–enter and greet Enrique, delighted to have finally found him. The thin man, Parole Officer Oscar Gustioz, tells Enrique he’s under arrest for fraud, grand theft, and bond jumping. Enrique protests that they can’t arrest him on Barrayar, and Gustioz brandishes a file folder, showing him all of the manifold permissions he has managed to get signed, including for all eighteen intervening jump points, which has taken him a month to get. He tells Enrique to pack one bag, because he means to be offplanet within the hour.
Kareen says, in confusion, that they paid Enrique’s bond, but Gustioz explains that that didn’t mean that they could take him offplanet with them. Martya asks why they’re not arrest Mark, and Gustioz said he’d love to, but he has diplomatic immunity, and merely mentioning the name ‘Vorkosigan’ results in stonewalling from every bureaucrat he encountered. Kareen protests that they can’t just take Enrique away, they need him for their new company–it’ll all collapse without his genius. Gustioz, unconcerned, says he can and will, and he hopes that he goes to jail on Escobar for a very long time. He though it would only take a couple of weeks, and it’s been two months instead… It even took him forty minutes to get past the ImpSec guard at the gate, showing him every page.
Martya asks if any of the Armsmen are around, but Pym and Jankowski are out, and Roic was on night shift, and is still asleep. She sends the maid to wake him up anyway and get him down here. Gustioz tells the big man, Muno, to grab Enrique; Martya grabs him too, in a tug of war. Kareen trips Muno with a meter stick, and as he falls he knocks the Barrayaran butter bugs loose again.
The stainless steel box flipped into the air. One-hundred-ninety-two astonished brown-and-silver butter bugs were launched in a vast chittering madly fluttering trajectory out over the lab. Since butter bugs had the aerodynamic capacity of tiny bricks, they rained down upon the struggling humans, and crunch-squished underfoot. The hutch clanged to the floor, along with Muno. Gustioz, attempting to shield himself from this unexpected air assault, lost his grip on his folder; colorfully-stamped documents joined butter bugs in fluttering flight. Enrique howled like a man possessed. Muno just screamed, frantically batted bugs off himself, and tried to climb up on the lab stool.
“Now see what you’ve done!” Kareen yelled at the Escobaran officers. “Vandalism! Assault! Destruction of property! Destruction of a Vor lord’s property, on Barrayar itself! Are you in trouble now!”
Martya tells the Escobarans that the bugs are poisonous, though Enrique spoils her ploy by hotly denying it. Muno grabs Enrique again, more successfully this time, and he and Gustioz drag him out of the lab, not even giving him time to pack his one bag. Kareen and Martya, desperate to keep them from getting away, notice the teetering stacks of bug butter tubs, grab one each, and prepare to fling them.
More action scenes! Vassily Vorsoisson chasing Nikki around the house! Escobaran bail bondsmen managing, against insurmountable odds, to track down Enrique, with all of the necessary paperwork in hand, and then fending off his outraged Barrayaran defenders! It’s all very exciting, and after all these pages of, well, much less action, it’s a delightful change. In fact, Miles, who aches to doing something more active than sitting and waiting in the Council of Counts, is the one who’s left sitting on his hands. Probably because, after what happened to Vorwhatsisname at the end of The Warrior’s Apprentice, bringing a weapon into the council chamber, nobody wants to try that again.
The intercutting between Miles and Ekaterin is quite well done, because, by this point, you should have enough information to guess just who Nikki might be calling for help on that comconsole, and seeing Gregor duck into his private chamber is just confirmation for it. Actually, Miles is not only sitting on his hands, he’s also out of the loop. He doesn’t know what’s going on with Ekaterin and Nikki, he doesn’t know what’s going on with Enrique and the Escobarans, and he doesn’t even really know what’s going on with Ivan and Lord Dono. I guess he’s adjusted to his new sedentary life as an Imperial Auditor, not having to rush about and do things all the time; he can just let other people do things for him now. Well, no, it’s more just an artifact of this book’s ensemble cast, giving them all something to do–but it is true that Miles has been less active than usual this book. Next book should more than make up for it, I’d think.
Looks like I miscounted last time, or rather was misled by looking at the table of contents for Miles In Love rather than A Civil Campaign itself, which of course has “Winterfair Gifts” wedged in at the end. So, rather than there being three more chapters after this, there is, in fact, only one more chapter and an epilogue. So, one more week to finish this book off! I haven’t decided if I’ll take a week before and after “Winterfair Gifts”, but I wouldn’t rule it out at this point.
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