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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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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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Welcome to the future!  You’ve been with us since the dawn of time, at least in the world of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, and now here it is again, another couple of chapters in the exquisite novel Memory, a transition point in the story of Miles Vorkosigan, as Miles achieves what he might not have realized was one of his lifelong ambitions…

Chapter Fifteen

A week passes, and Miles gets ever more impatient at the glacial progress of the Illyan situation, complaining to Gregor about it at their daily updates.  All they’ve managed to do is rule out some possible causes of the problem, such as stroke, and confirm that the chip itself is damaged somehow.  They haven’t ruled out psychological issues caused by the chip, but Miles says that he doesn’t buy it, since everyone else who succumbed to that did it much earlier in the process.  Gregor points out that Illyan is the only person in existence who’s had a memory chip this long, so there’s no data to compare him to.  Miles ponders that he’s getting third-hand information, from the ImpSec physicians via Haroche via Gregor, and wishes he had more raw data to work with, to find small details that the others may be dismissing.

When Lady Alys returns from Komarr, she calls Miles, mostly to complain about the situation with Simon Illyan, and the fact that none of them “young louts” had seen fit to inform her.  Miles pointed out that she was already en route to Komarr at the time, but admits that he hadn’t realized she’d want to know.  He asks about her Komarr trip, and she says that Laisa’s parents are very anxious about the situation, and she tried to soothe their fears.  Countess Vorkosigan, on her way home from Sergyar, will stop in and talk to the Toscanes as well; Miles isn’t sure that his mother’s bluntness will be quite appropriate, but Alys assures him that Cordelia has a way of talking people into things despite themselves.  The wedding is officially on, but Lady Alys hopes to have any potential tensions defused long before the event.

She complains that when she tried to stop in to see Illyan, General Haroche wouldn’t let her in, and asks Miles if he can do anything about it.  He protests that he’s out of the ImpSec loop right now, and reflects that for years he’s considered himself an ImpSec representative, but no longer.  He asks her to talk to Gregor, and she says even he was no help.

“Maybe he didn’t want to distress you. I gather Illyan is in a pretty disturbing mental state right now, not recognizing people and so on.”

“Well, how can he, if no one he knows is allowed to see him?”

“Um. Good point. Look, I have no intention of defending Haroche to you. I’m pretty annoyed at him myself.”

“Not annoyed enough,” snapped Lady Alys. “Haroche actually had the nerve to tell me — me! — that it was no sight for a lady. I asked him what he had been doing during the War of Vordarian’s Pretendership.” Her voice trailed off in a hiss — Miles’s ear was not quite sure, but he thought it detected suppressed barracks language.

She said that Gregor seems to be concerned with not antagonizing Haroche right away, since they’ll be working together for years, and Haroche may have convinced him that it’ll undermine his position if there’s too much interference right off the bat from people like Lady Alys.  Illyan never had a problem with Alys’s unofficial position–he’d considered her part of Gregor’s support team.  Miles says that Haroche is basically in control of the information that reaches Gregor right now, and finds that more concerning than he had when it was Illyan in that position.  He jokes that Alys could go on strike–no more wedding planning until Gregor deals with Haroche–and she says she’s seriously considering it.

The next morning Martin wakes Miles early to announce the arrival of “another ImpSec stick”–this time, Lieutenant Vorberg.  Miles tells him to arrange some coffee and some pastries and bring them, then throws on some clothes and goes to find out what Vorberg wants.  Vorberg says he’s just coming off shift–he’s been running the night security for the ImpSec clinic; this instantly gets Miles’s attention, since this means Vorberg is one of Illyan’s guards.  This must be ideal, since Vorberg is cleared, the job isn’t physically demanding, and Vorberg’s ties to anyone at HQ are looser, since he was a courier.

Vorberg’s voice went tight, almost angry. “I do think it’s bad form of you, Vorkosigan. Almost petty, under the circumstances. Illyan was your father’s man for years, passed the message on at least four times. Why haven’t you come?”

Miles sat very still. “Excuse me. I think I’ve missed the first half of something. What, ah . . . could you please tell me exactly what’s been going on in there?”

Vorberg says Illyan has been kept restrained almost all the time, and he babbles when he’s not sedated, and mumbles when he is.  He keeps flashing through various time periods in his memories, but when he seems most clearly aware of the present, he asks for Miles.

“At first I thought it was the Count your father he wanted, but it’s definitely you. Miles, he says, and Get that idiot boy in here, and Haven’t you found him yet, Vorberg? It’s not like you can mistake the hyperactive little shit. Sorry,” Vorberg added as an afterthought, “that’s just what he said.”

Miles says that sounds like Illyan, but this is the first he’s heard of it; this puzzles Vorberg, since he says he’s put it in his nightly report for days now.  Miles knows that it must be Haroche who’s not passing it on, since Gregor wouldn’t have failed to convey that.  He asks if there’s any medical testing going on, but Vorberg says he hasn’t seen any, so it must be during the day shift.
Martin brings in the coffee and pastries.  After he leaves, Vorberg says he’s heard some interesting things from Illyan’s maunderings during the late hours, before they sedate him again, and he’s figured out that Miles was never a courier; Miles confirms that he was high-level covert ops.  Vorberg says he doesn’t know why Illyan terminated him, but that even when Illyan seems to remember Miles was fired, he still asks for him.  He’s told Haroche that twice, and Haroche has remained noncommittal.  Miles finds this interesting, and tells Vorberg that they better not have had this conversation, and encourages him to substitute their earlier conversation instead.  Vorberg says he’s not sure what Miles is up to, but he’s encouraged that Miles seems to still be willing to do his Vor duty, which so few seem to be these days.

An hour later, Miles is heading once more to ImpSec HQ.  He thinks about how Haroche is more concerned with guarding Illyan, making sure his secrets don’t leak out, than making sure he gets the best medical treatment, which makes him little more than a prisoner.  He wonders if Haroche is paranoid and stupid, or just overwhelmed.  Up to now, in Domestic Affairs, Haroche has mostly dealing with subordinates, with Illyan dealing with the Emperor and the Vor.  Illyan treated Alys Vorpatril as a valuable resource, whereas Haroche dismisses her as someone with no apparent power.  Miles agrees that Haroche should be cautious with Illyan’s head full of secrets, but he should be tempering that with some human concern and respect.

Miles marches into the foyer, trailed by Martin, and asks to see Simon Illyan.  The clerk says he’s not on the list, but Miles says he’s on the doorstep, and will stay there until he’s allowed in.  Once again Miles works his way up the chain of command to Haroche, who once again refuses Miles’s request, saying Illyan is “in no condition to socialize”.  Deciding to try a blunt approach, Miles asks what Haroche’s problem is, and says he’s trying to help; Haroche tells him to remove himself.  Miles says he won’t leave; Haroche says he can have Miles removed, and Miles says he will return.  Haroche admits he can’t have Miles shot if he persists, but he can arrest him for illegal trespass, or resisting arrest, and can have him stunned at any time.

He wouldn’t dare. “How many times?”

“How many times do you propose to make it necessary?”

Miles said through his teeth, “You can’t count past twenty-two even with your boots off, Haroche.” It was serious insult to imply extra digits, on this mutation-scarred planet. Both Martin and the listening clerk watched the rising temperature of this exchange with increasing alarm.

Haroche tells Miles again to get out, and follows it up with armed guards who manhandle Miles out the door and out to the sidewalk.  They tell the gate guards that Haroche has ordered them to stun him the next time he tries to enter the building.  Miles sits down on a nearby bench, humiliated and angry, and briefly considers leading a covert-ops-style raid to free Illyan, but decides that it would end up getting him killed.  He realizes that he’s been so intent on proving that he could succeed on his own merits that he’s been neglecting the Lord Vorkosigan side of himself.

Naismith was obsessed with winning at all costs, and being seen to have won.

But Vorkosigan . . . Vorkosigan couldn’t surrender.

It wasn’t quite the same thing, was it?

Vorkosigans throughout history have failed to surrender, preferring to die instead, and he’s just the latest; he just happened to get brought back to life.  The joke is that the Vorkosigans are too stupid to know that surrender’s even been offered, so they just keep fighting.  Admiral Naismith stole most of Lord Vorkosigan’s life, but he can’t take away the dumb hillman at the core–the owner of radioactive Vorkosigan Vashnoi.

Miles threw back his head and laughed, tasting the metallic tang of the misting rain sifting into his open mouth.

“My lord?” said Martin uneasily.

Miles cleared his throat, and tried to rub the weird smile back off his face. “Sorry. I just figured out why it was I hadn’t gone to get my head fixed yet.” And he’d thought Naismith was the sly one. Vorkosigan’s Last Stand, eh? “It struck me as funny.” Hilarious, in fact. He stood up, stifling another giggle.

He tells Martin to take him home, showers, and changes into his Vorkosigan House uniform; he’s avoided it for years, preferring military dress uniforms instead.

Counts and their heirs, honorably retired from more active Imperial service, were permitted by ancient custom to wear their military decorations on their House uniforms, in recognition of the Vor’s official and historical status as — what was that dippy phrase? “The Sinews of the Imperium, the Emperor’s Right Arm.” Nobody’d ever called them the Brains of the Imperium, Miles noted dryly. So how come no one had ever claimed to be, say, the Gall Bladder of the Imperium, or the Emperor’s Pancreas? Some metaphors were best left unexamined.

Miles has never bothered to get out all of his medals at one time, mostly because the vast majority of them are for Naismith’s classified achivements.  He lays them out now–more than one row of wound badges, a medal from the Vervani, one from the Marilacans, five Barrayaran Imperial Stars of varying metals, and even the Cetagandan Order of Merit.  When he gets them all out, it looks ridiculous, and he’s surprised at how much he’s actually accumulated.  Nonetheless, he fastens them to his house uniform and dons it ceremoniously, including his grandfather’s dagger.

“If you expect to open a can of worms,” he spoke aloud for the first time, “you’d best trouble to pack a can-opener.”

Martin does a double-take when he sees Miles; Miles says they’re going to the Imperial Residence.

Comments

Once again resisting the urge to overquote (not by much); go read the medal scene, I love it.  Miles is mustering the resources he has left to him, and is preparing to remind the Emperor what exactly he has managed to accomplish.  When I read these books originally, in publication order, it struck me that the previous book was Cetaganda, so this was the first time Miles could actually have taken out the Order of Merit.  (I suppose it would have been more mysterious if Miles had referred to it in an earlier book and it wasn’t until Cetaganda that we found out how he earned it.)  Anyway, it struck me when I was first reading it.  It is, as Miles recalls, one of the few medals that Lord Vorkosigan earned, not Admiral Naismith.

I’m still not quite sure I follow how Vorkosigan stubbornness explains why Miles hasn’t gotten his brain examined yet.  Is it just that he refuses to surrender to the seizures, to his body’s debility?  Well, I suppose that would be in character, for Lord “Who Cares If My Bones Are Brittle As Fine China, I Want To Be A Soldier” Miles Vorkosigan.

I’m not sure what Miles expects to accomplish with his second attempt to see Illyan.  Did he think that Haroche would change his mind, when he’d already dismissed Lady Alys so summarily?  Miles hadn’t added any new cards to his deck, no new backup, no new persuasions, just stubbornness.  Haroche was easily able to muster resources to dismiss him.  I guess he was just hoping that Haroche would not prove to be as unreasonable as he was.  He keeps excusing Haroche’s behaviour, finding it explicable, even as he deplores it, so I guess he just needed to convince himself that he had to make an end run around Haroche if he wanted to accomplish anything on the Illyan front.

And both Alys and Vorberg seem to think that it’s his responsibility to do it.  Alys lacks the access, and Vorberg wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything with it if he had it, because he’s not one of the people Illyan wants to see.  (I wonder if Vorberg, who by now has figured out that Miles was part of the Dendarii Mercenaries, has figured out Miles’s responsibility in his bisection.  If so, he doesn’t seem to hold it against Miles, at least.)

Chapter Sixteen

Gregor received Miles in the serene privacy of his office in the Residence’s north wing. He was seated behind his comconsole desk, perusing some visual display, and didn’t look up till after the majordomo had announced Miles and withdrawn. He tapped a control and the holovid vanished, revealing the small, smoldering, brown-uniformed man standing across from him.

“All right, Miles, what’s this all ab — good God.” Gregor sat up, startled; his brows climbed as he began to take in the details. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you come the Vor lord with intent.”

Miles says that he’s willing to bet that Haroche is concealing from him how bad things really are with Illyan.  Gregor admits that Haroche has to summarize, but Miles says that he’s failed to mention that Illyan has requested Miles’s presence specifically, which he found out from a reliable anonymous source.  Gregor says he’s heard that Illyan’s grip of current reality is tenuous, and Miles says they don’t know how bad it is, because they can’t actually see him–Lady Alys has been turned away, and Miles himself has been threatened with stunning if he returns.  Gregor asks how much of a pest Miles was being, and Miles says he can surely requisition the recording if he wants to, but he points out that he has a Vorish obligation to Illyan which takes an end run around ImpSec’s chain of command.

Gregor asks Miles if he thinks something’s fishy, and Miles says it may just be stupidity and incompetence.  He recalls his bout with cryo-amnesia, and bets that Illyan’s suffering something just as bad, if not worse.  Either Haroche is just mishandling the matter and needs to be corrected, or else there’s some kind of deliberate sabotage going on.  Gregor admits that Haroche has asked him to restrict how much information he passes on to Miles.  Miles says he wants in–not just to see Illyan, but to see all the raw data.  To give him the requisite authority, he asks Gregor to assign him an Imperial Auditor.  He doesn’t know what he’s looking for, but he wants to be able to get any information he needs.

Gregor asks which one he’d want, but says that Vorhovis in en route to Komarr to use his diplomatic skills to facilitate the wedding.  Vorlaisner, Valentine and Vorkalloner are a bit too conservative to Miles’s tastes, and he’s afraid they’d take Haroche’s side, and General Vorparadijs is of course mostly senile.  Gregor says that he doesn’t think Miles would be satisfied with whatever Auditor he picks anyway, if they didn’t do just what he wanted all the time.

“An Auditor,” said Gregor, “is not just my Voice. He’s my eyes and ears, as well, very much in the original sense of the word. My listener. A probe, though most surely not a robot, to go places I can’t, and report back with an absolutely independent angle of view. You” — Gregor’s lip twisted up — “have the most independent angle of view of any man I’ve ever met.”

Miles’s heart seemed to stop. Surely Gregor couldn’t be thinking of —

“I think,” said Gregor, “it will save ever so many steps if I simply appoint you as an acting Imperial Auditor. With the usual broad limits on a Ninth Auditor’s powers of course; whatever you do has to be at least dimly related to the event you are assigned to evaluate, in this case, Illyan’s breakdown.”

Miles says that Haroche will know it’s a scam, and Gregor says that he will be wrong.  He’s also been worried about events at ImpSec, but wasn’t sure what he could do about it, until now.  Miles gushes about how awesome it will be to finally not have to deal with the chain of command getting in his way all the time.  He gratefully accepts Gregor’s proposal, and Gregor has an Auditor’s chain of office fetched for him, as well as the electronic seal that grants him full systems access.

Miles says that traditionally Imperial Auditors make their first visit unannounced, but he wonders if it’ll really work at ImpSec if he gets stunned before he can make himself known.  He asks Gregor if they should call ahead, and Gregor says they should try it without, and “see what happens”.  He says that apart from the Simon Illyan matter, Haroche seems to be doing a decent job as acting head of ImpSec, but Gregor would like to test him a little further before deciding whether or not to confirm his appointment, to see if he screws things up on Miles’s visit.

Gregor notes that if what happened to Illyan’s chip was sabotage, he’d have expected some kind of followup attack to take place shortly after, or before, his indisposition, and nothing like that has occurred.  Unless, Miles suggests, the motive was just personal revenge on Illyan himself.  Gregor asks if Miles has any suspects, and Miles says the list is huge–anybody who was, or felt, victimized by ImpSec during Illyan’s tenure; it’ll be easier to start with the chip and work backwards.

He cleared his throat. “There’s still the problem of not getting stunned at the door. I hadn’t intended to take on ImpSec single-handed. I’d assumed I’d have a real Auditor to hide behind, one of those portly retired admirals, say — and I still think I would like to have a witness. An assistant, to be sure, but really, a witness. Someone I can trust, and you can trust, someone with the requisite amount of security clearance but who is not himself in ImpSec’s hierarchy.”

“Do you have someone in mind?” asked Gregor.

“My God,” said Ivan, unconsciously echoing Gregor, as he gaped at Miles. “Is that real?” His finger reached out to tick the heavy gold chain of the Imperial Auditor’s rank and office now hanging around Miles’s neck.

Ivan says he thought it had been some sort of emergency to yank him off work like this, and asks if this is a joke.  Gregor says it’s far from a joke, and that Lord Auditor Vorkosigan’s first request was for an assistant.  Ivan says he just wanted a donkey to carry for him, and Miles says that the problems at ImpSec could leave him carrying a load of explosives–he wants someone he could rely on.  Ivan settles down, glad that somebody’s finally going to be doing something about Illyan’s problems, which should please his mother, at any rate.

Miles arrives at ImpSec’s front gate with two Imperial Guardsmen as well as Ivan, and tells the gate guards that the Imperial Auditor requests and requires his presence at the front gate.

“Aren’t you the same fellow we threw out of here this morning?” asked the sergeant in worry.

Miles smiled thinly. “Not exactly, no.” I’ve been through a few changes since then. He held out his empty hands. “Note, please, that I am not trying to enter your premises. I have no intention of throwing you into the dilemma of trying to choose whether to disobey a direct order, or else commit an act of treason. But I do know it takes approximately four minutes to physically get from the Chief’s office to the front gate. At that point, your troubles will be over.”

It takes four and a half minutes for Haroche, accompanied by Illyan’s secretary, to arrive at the gate.  Miles takes a second to enjoy Haroche’s consternation as he takes in the details.  Haroche exclaims in disbelief at the Auditor’s chain, but Miles points out that it’s a capital offense to impersonate an Auditor, and Haroche grudgingly acknowledges him.  Miles informs him that he has been tasked with auditing ImpSec’s handling of the situation, and asks to repair to Haroche’s office to continue the discussion; Haroche agrees.

Haroche, Miles and Ivan head into Illyan’s former office, currently Haroche’s, and admonishes himself to remember not to reassume the reflexes of obedience that he was used to.  Miles says that Gregor is displeased with ImpSec’s handling of Illyan’s breakdown, and so he demands to see Illyan, to talk to his medical staff, and have access to all of their information, and after that he’ll see what’s next.

Haroche says that he will of course comply, but he’s in a bit of a dilemma–his list of potential saboteurs of Illyan’s chip had Miles on it, near the top.  Suddenly Miles realizes why Haroche may have been blocking him.  Haroche says that now, unfortunately, Miles has made himself untouchable, so he can no longer keep Illyan safe from any further reprisals from him.  Miles sees Haroche’s dilemma, but decides it’s too bad; Haroche formally registers a protest.  Miles asks about motive, and Haroche says that Illyan’s termination would be considered sufficient, especially considering his falsification of reports.  Miles protests that it was one report, one time, and that Gregor is aware of it; he realizes that he’s been underestimating Haroche, who has managed to undermine his momentum by bringing this up.  Haroche says flat out that he doesn’t trust Miles, and Miles says he doubts Haroche can muster the political resources to have him impeached, and Gregor is unlikely to sympathize with his suspicions.  Though he admits that, in Haroche’s position, having to deal with untouchable but likely guilty adversary, he’d try his damnedest to nail him to the wall.  Haroche says that he hopes the whole thing is academic, that there was no sabotage, and Miles agrees, thinking that maybe he can work with Haroche after all.

Haroche’s study of Miles hung up on the magpie collection of military baubles on his tunic. His voice went unexpectedly plaintive. “Vorkosigan, tell me — is that really a Cetagandan Order of Merit?”

“Yeah.”

“And the rest of it?”

“I didn’t clean out my father’s desk drawer, if that’s what you’re asking. Everything here is accounted for, in my classified files. You may be one of the few men on the planet who doesn’t have to take my word for it.”

In the corridor on their way downstairs to the HQ clinic, Ivan murmured, “I’ve never seen a general tap-dance sitting down, before.”

He points out that Miles was practically pulling an Admiral Naismith on the General, except without the Betan accent, which Miles hadn’t thought of at the time.

Miles doesn’t enjoy the medical odours of the ImpSec clinic, which remind him too much of the times he’s been laid up there.  Right now, there are no other patients besides Simon Illyan.  A Dr. Ruibal appears to take Miles to Illyan.  Illyan is restrained, eyes glazed, unshaven, and naked; Dr. Ruibal explains that Illyan is too unruly to deal with them having to dress and undress him all the time, and Miles sees the doctor and guards all show signs of violence.

Miles addresses Simon, who is glad to see him, asking about the success of a mission from five years ago, and a moment later is asking to be released so he can supervise the Emperor’s Birthday ceremony.  Miles tells him that his memory chip is malfunctioning…over and over again, and Illyan keeps coming back from different memories.  Dr. Ruibal says the speed has increased–six times on the first day, six an hour the day before, and seems to be twice that now.  Next time Illyan insists that Miles Vorkosigan is five years old, and advises him to be careful around his grandfather the Count.

Finally Illyan references Vorberg, and Miles realizes he’s actually in the present.  Illyan grabs Miles’s hand and asks him to swear as a Vorkosigan that Miles’ll kill him if they can’t fix it.  He then time-shifts again, and after five more times Miles has to leave the room, nauseous.  Miles insists that Ruibal have Illyan washed, shaved, and dressed in some of his own clothes.  Ruibal says that Illyan seems to behave better in Miles’s presence, and asks him to stay around to give them a better chance of accomplishing it without getting pummeled.  Miles does, and Illyan is soon clothed and eating peacefully.

Afterwards, Ruibal says the briefing is ready for him, and asks if he can return afterwards to keep Illyan behaving.  Miles agrees, and in the meantime…he turns to Ivan.

“I would rather,” stated Ivan quietly, “charge a laser-cannon site naked than be in here by myself.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” said Miles. “In the meanwhile — stay with him till I get back.”

“Yeah.” Ivan took over the chair at Illyan’s elbow as Miles vacated it.

As Miles followed Ruibal out the door, he heard Illyan’s voice, for a change more amiable than stressed: “Ivan, you idiot. What are you doing here?”

Comments

And so Miles becomes a temporary, acting, Imperial Auditor.  Craftily introduced in this book as a venerable Barrayaran institution, explained to offworlder Laisa Toscane earlier, and only alluded to once since then (by Tsipis), and now Miles’s option of last resort.  Gregor is probably correct that just having an Auditor to work with, and one he probably couldn’t order around with impunity, wouldn’t be a viable option.  Miles would be constantly trying to justify to his Auditor why the Auditor should request this or that bit of information, or order someone to do this or that thing.  Luckily Gregor sees through this and comes up with the solution that Miles didn’t dare conceive, though one wonders if he had ever one day fantasized about it.  Perhaps not–he was too busy fantasizing about being Admiral Naismith (while being Admiral Naismith), where he was very near the top of his chain of command, to have to come up with another way to be near the top of the chain of command.  And if they’re mostly retired, conservatives bores of Admirals and Generals, it might not have been the kind of thing to appeal to a younger, pre-Naismith Miles Vorkosigan, who would probably have been satisfied with just being a regular Admiral or General.

Ivan’s comment about Miles “coming the little Admiral at him” was quite perceptive.  Maybe it’s just that Miles already knows what to do when he’s in absolute charge, from his Naismithing experience, and so automatically reverts to that behaviour when he’s Auditor…or maybe, if Naismith was already some kind of dissociated personality (which I’m not as convinced of as Mark and Cordelia were), it’s a sign that he’s being reintegrated into Lord Vorkosigan.  At least he didn’t slip into Betan accent or anything.

It suddenly occurs to me how much Illyan’s memory disorder is like a horrific version of Alzheimer’s Disease.  One wonders if Alzheimer’s has been dealt with in galactic medicine–though Auditor Vorparadijs is described as “senile”, so it may still be an issue on Barrayar.  …Not much more to say about that.  Hey, I’m glad to see that the ImpSec doctor actually has a name!  Not just another anonymous physician like so many utilitarian medical non-characters in this series…

Ivan’s return to the plot is quite welcome, too.  While he’s right to protest that he’s just there to serve as Miles’s “donkey”, Gregor and Miles are right to hold him in high enough estimation to think he might be useful.  He is trustworthy and loyal (if lazy and work-averse), so he’ll make a good assistant for Miles.  But the best part is how it turns out Miles isn’t the only person that Simon Illyan will always recognize.  I gotta laugh every time I read that “Ivan, you idiot!” line at the end of the chapter.  One supposes that the Count or Countess Vorkosigan would serve as well too, which may be one reason why the author has them both on Sergyar right now.  One wonders if Aral would have been able to cut through the ImpSec issues by now, too, if he were there.  Perhaps not–he’d have more political concerns tying his hands, like Gregor, and be just as willing to send Miles in.


So now that Haroche is out of the way as an obstacle, it’s time for Lord Auditor Vorkosigan to really cut loose, and find out what’s actually going on!  Whoever’s behind Simon’s problems, though, they seem to be pretty canny.  It’ll take some time for Miles to run them to ground…  We’re past the halfway point now, in chapters and in pages, but there’s still quite a few left.  (And after last week, I managed to persuade myself not to read further ahead, so I’m now caught up with blogging the chapters I’ve read; now I’ll have to see if I can hold myself back to two chapters this week.)  Until next week…

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You may have felt it coming–the quiet building of pressure, the electricity in the air, the stifling heat and humidity.  And then, suddenly, with a crash of thunder, it’s here–this week’s installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  Like a funnel cloud, it sucks you in, and you’ll be lucky to escape intact.  Because here’s where it starts to get real.  As much as it can in a work of fiction, of course.  This week we cover chapters Thirteen and Fourteen in Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Memory, where a somewhat respirited Miles Vorkosigan emerges from his cocoon (not literally) and begins to notice things further outside of himself again…and something is rotten in the state of Vorbarr Sultana.

Chapter Thirteen

Ivan ends up getting recruited to help his mother get ready for her trip to Komarr.  Lady Alys also gives Miles a voluminous amount of historical material about Imperial weddings to study up on.  Miles hopes that they don’t try to resuscitate some of these ancient rituals, though it has been forty years since the last such wedding–Prince Serg and Princess Kareen’s.  Miles supposed that they may want to try assert their Vorness to help protect them from the upcoming infusion of Komarranness.  While he realizes his position as Gregor’s Second is important, he doesn’t think it’ll be the most useful thing he’s ever done, but it also won’t be the strangest.

During Lady Alys’s absence, her role as Gregor’s chaperone is taken by “Drou” Koudelka, who requires Miles to attend one of Gregor’s courting events.  On his way there, he runs into a crowd of military men just leaving some other ceremony.  Trailing the group, moving with some difficulty, Miles recognizes the ill-fated Lieutenant Vorberg, just having received a new medal for being wounded in Imperial Service.

Miles had half a jar full of similar ones at home in a drawer; at some point Illyan had stopped issuing them to him anymore, perhaps fearing that Miles’s threat to don them all at once sometime was not facetious.

Miles is unable to resist engaging Vorberg in conversation, since he knows that Vorberg will not recognize him as “Admiral Naismith”.  He asks Vorberg about his medal, and Vorberg tells him about getting kidnapped by hijackers, and gripes about the incompetent and cut-rate Dendarii Mercenaries who sliced his legs off with friendly fire.  Miles points out that they must have some Barrayaran links to name themselves after a feature from Vorkosigan District; Vorberg says the commander is some kind of Betan maniac who escaped from therapy, though he did meet a Barrayaran expatriate.  Miles restrains his urge to defend his former fleet, and says he’s on medical discharge himself, courtesy of a needle grenade.  Vorberg asks about his plans, and Miles admits he’s not sure, though he has social commitments to keep him in Vorbarr Sultana for a while–Gregor’s engagement is not yet common knowledge, so Miles can’t be more specific than that.  They part and Miles heads to Gregor’s garden party.

The event is mostly for Gregor to introduce Laisa to more of his acquaintances, including Count Henry Vorvolk, as well as Drou herself, who was of course his old childhood bodyguard.  Drou gets along fine with Laisa, as a fellow observer of Vor society from the outside.  Gregor and Laisa do grab some time alone, and Miles chats with Delia Koudelka.  Miles says he’ll have to go visit her father, who Delia says was sorry to hear about his medical discharge.  Delia asks after Galeni, wondering if he’s broken up over Laisa and Gregor.  Miles says that he’s been better, but he’ll get over it.  Delia says that bring courted too slowly would be a change from what she usually experiences.

Delia says that her mother is excited about the wedding, and hoping that matrimony will rub off on some of her daughters. She herself hopes for dancing, and interesting men, as opposed to overgrown boys like Ivan, who just want to get laid; Miles points out that men want to get laid too, but Delia says at least it’s not all they think about.  Miles says that everyone ends up getting married in the end, except possibly on Beta Colony.  He wonders why the Koudelka sisters are still single, and Delia says it may be that the four of them together are too daunting.

After the party, Miles goes back home.  Later that evening, Martin announces a visitor, who turns out to be Duv Galeni–luckily, not armed, and not seeming too edgy, so Miles decides he’s probably safe.  Galeni refuses a drink and settles down stiffly, and starts by apologizing to Miles for his earlier actions.  Miles says it was understandable, and just hopes that nobody else got the benefit of that kind of earful.  Galeni says that wasn’t really what he was here for, though–more or a professional issue.

Galeni frowned more deeply. “Tell me . . . have you ever caught Simon Illyan in a mistake?”

“Well, he fired me,” said Miles wryly.

Galeni’s hand twitched, rejecting the joke. “No. I mean an error.”

Miles says that Illyan has been misled, from time to time, but Galeni says he’s talking about simple errors.  Miles says he can’t recall any such thing, and Galeni says he’s run across four of them in the last three days.  The first was Illyan calling down for a report that Galeni had already delivered, which was easily corrected; the second was a memo delivered with the wrong date.  The third, that morning, was another wrong-dated memo, addressed to Galeni’s predecessor, about a trade fleet which had been back for six months; when Galeni called to ask about it, Illyan denied sending the message, until Galeni forward it to him.

Finally, that afternoon’s weekly briefing had been disjointed, with many pauses from Illyan, bewildering jumps of topic, and early dismissal.  Miles suggested that if the meeting was about Gregor’s betrothal, he might have been trying to spare Galeni’s feelings, but Galeni says that doesn’t feel right.  Galeni’s not sure what to infer, but he’s an ImpSec analyst and he’s noticing a change in patterns.  As an outsider, and a Komarran, he wants to get some corroboration before he takes it up further; he asks Miles if he knows of any stress in Illyan’s personal life right now.

“I don’t think Illyan has a personal life. Never married . . . lived in the same little apartment six blocks from work for fifteen years, till they tore the building down. He moved into one of the witness apartments on the lower level of HQ as a temporary stopgap two years ago, and still hasn’t bothered to move out. I don’t know about his early life, but there haven’t been any women lately. Nor men, either. Nor sheep. Though I suppose I could see sheep. They can’t talk, even under fast-penta. That’s a joke,” he added, as Galeni failed to smile. “Illyan’s life is regular as a clock. He likes music . . . never dances . . . notices perfumes, and flowers with a lot of scent, and odors generally. It’s a form of sensory input that isn’t routed through his chip. I don’t think it does somatic stuff either, no touch, just audio and visual.”

Galeni asks if it could be something wrong with the chip; Miles says that most of the people who went crazy because of the chip did so much earlier, so Illyan should be safe from that.  He says that Illyan was planning to retire in a few years, and he might just be getting tired; he doesn’t really like the job, he’s just very good at it.  Galeni says that ImpSec without Illyan will be much different, because Illyan has a very Vorish way of running the organization in a very personalized manner.  Miles wonders if Illyan’s unique, and sometimes almost colourless, personality, is part of what kept him saner than other chip-bearers.  Galeni asks for advice, and Miles says he doesn’t even have a theory or a problem yet, just some data, so he should wait and watch for more.  He agrees that Galeni is probably not the best person to bring this to light–in fact, only Miles himself would be worse.  Galeni says that Miles is the person besides Haroche who has the longest baseline of experience with Illyan, and he was hesitant to approach Haroche directly.

Two days later, Miles is going through his closets, with Illyan calls on the comconsole.  He asks Miles why he’s at home, and not in his office for the 0900 briefing, as per his orders.  Miles asks for more details, and Illyan begins to tell him about a breakout mission, rescuing a certain Colonel Tremont from a Cetagandan prison camp on Dagoola IV, to help bolster the Marilacan resistance.  Miles tells Illyan that he did that mission five years ago, the Cetagandans haven’t been on Marilac for a year, and that he hasn’t worked for ImpSec in over a month.  Illyan asks what he’s talking about, then stops, excuses himself, and signs off.

Miles just sat, staring at the empty vid plate. He’d never before felt his heart pound like this while sitting perfectly still in an empty room. Galeni’s report had worried him.

Now he was terrified.

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So, yeah, there does seem to be something a little bit wrong with Simon Illyan right now.  Possibly something to do with his memory chip.  (See what I did there?)  Maybe Galeni’s anecdotes weren’t particularly persuasive…but the call to Miles at the end of the chapter doesn’t leave a lot of room for ambiguity.  Something is wrong with Illyan’s brain, or its prosthetic memory.  And here, like I said, is where the story really starts.

On another note, I’m struck again, on this read-through, about the subtle hints of some interest growing between Delia Koudelka and Duv Galeni.  Maybe not reciprocated, yet, but Delia seems to like him, at least.  Ivan is not even on the table, dismissed as a “boy” emotionally despite being several years older than her.  And the reappearance of Ludmilla Droushnakovi “Drou” Koudelka!  Well, she doesn’t actually get much screen time, but she’s mentioned, at least.  I sometimes forget how little we see of the Koudelka family for so many books, what with Miles spending so little time on Barrayar.  Their part in Barrayar is so memorable that their presence seems to linger.  The daughters, at least, have been popping up more frequently, Kareen in Mirror Dance, Delia here, and even Olivia and Martya in A Civil Campaign.

Chapter Fourteen

Miles realizes that Illyan’s worse than Galeni had thought–he’s not just forgetting things, he’s flashing back to old memories somehow.  After sitting there stunned for several minutes, he tries to think of what he can do about it.  The problem is that he can’t, himself, publicly find fault with Illyan’s behaviour, because it will be dismissed as spite, or worse.  But he can’t just do nothing.  Illyan could easily start issuing orders based on, say, the Komarr Revolt, and people would go along with him for far too long before realizing something was up.  He may already have been issuing spurious orders for some time, and nobody’s noticed yet.  Is the problem with Illyan’s chip, Miles wonders, or with his brain, or some combination of the two?

In the end, all Miles can think to do is pass the information on to someone else who can do something about it.  He calls up General Haroche at ImpSec, who is not there, and leaves a message for him.  Haroche doesn’t call back, but Miles eventually tracks him down.  All he tells Haroche is to check the last call that Illyan made to him, not wanting to seem to be trying to lead Haroche to any conclusion.  Haroche is impatient and dubious, but he allows that he might check out the call.

After signing off, Miles wonders if he should do more, perhaps try to call Gregor, but decides to leave it in Haroche’s lap.  Haroche will doubtless put Illyan in medical care, take over as acting ImpSec chief, and then be obliged to notify Gregor himself, before the end of the day.  Maybe it’ll be a simple malfunction in the chip, easily replaced.  Miles occupies himself with busywork, but doesn’t hear anything, so he gives in and tries calling Haroche and Gregor, but is unable to reach either.

The next evening, Miles is near to climbing the walls.  Galeni turns up, fresh from work, and tells Miles that it’s over.  Illyan had a complete breakdown in the all-departments briefing that afternoon; Miles is surprised that Haroche hadn’t already acted.

“The briefing started out almost normally. The department heads gave their weekly precis reports, and listed all the red flag items they want the other departments to watch out for. Illyan seemed nervous, more restless than usual, fiddling with objects on the table . . . he snapped a data card in half, then muttered some apology. He stood up to give his usual list of chores for everyone, and it came out . . . one line never tracked another. He was all over the map. Not as if he thought it were the wrong day, but as if it were the wrong twenty days. Every sentence was grammatically correct and completely incoherent. And he didn’t even seem to be aware of it, till he began looking at all of us staring at him with our jaws hanging open, and ran down.

Haroche stood up and asked Illyan to submit himself for medical evaluation, but Illyan refused, though he seemed as much confused as angry; he didn’t want to leave in the middle of the crisis caused by the Cetagandan invasion of Vervain.  Haroche tried to remove him by force, but Illyan, a dirty fighter, injured him and two others before the medic arrived, sedating Illyan and tying him down.

Miles decides that that couldn’t have been a worse or more humiliating way for Illyan’s problem to come out.  Galeni says he wasn’t supposed to tell Miles about this, so the information didn’t come from him.  Miles again wonders why Haroche hadn’t taken care of this the night before, but decides he wasn’t the man on the ground, so he shouldn’t second-guess Haroche’s decision.  He also wonders if the stress of the wedding helped bring it on, but decides Illyan has probably faced worse crises; still, the timing is less than optimal.  Galeni asks if Miles’s firing could have been a symptom as well, but Miles is forced to admit that Illyan was unfortunately quite right to do it.

Miles goes to ImpSec HQ the next day to visit Illyan, but the security clerk won’t let him in.  He asks the clerk to call his superior, Major Jarlais, who Miles knows personally, but Jarlais doesn’t think he can let Miles in either.  Miles decides to cut to the chase, pull Vor rank and go straight to Haroche.  Haroche tells Miles that it’s impossible to let him in, and Miles asks why.  Haroche asks Miles to take the message privately, and then asks Miles how he heard; Miles just says he called Gregor, letting Haroche conclude that’s how he found out.  Haroche says that Illyan is babbling, all sorts of high-security info, but Miles points out he’s still cleared for all of it.  Haroche is surprised to find that Miles’s clearance is still on file even after his dismissal, so he revokes it right then and there.

You can’t do that! Miles bit back the outraged scream. Haroche most certainly could. Miles stared at him, frustrated. So what was he going to do? Flounce out of ImpSec with an angry cry of, We’ll just see about that! I’m going to tell my big brother on you! No. Gregor was a card he dared only play once, and only in the direst emergency. He let out his breath, and his anger, in a carefully controlled sigh. “General. Prudence is one thing. Paranoia that can’t tell friend from foe is quite another.”

“Lord Vorkosigan,” said Haroche, equally tightly. “We don’t yet know what we have here. I don’t have time to spend entertaining idly curious civilians this morning, friendly or not. Please do not pester my staff any more. Whatever the Emperor chooses to pass on to you is his business. My only duty is to report to him. Good day.”

Upon returning home, Miles tries to get through to Gregor, eventually succeeding, and asks him point-blank what’s up with Illyan.  With Gregor, he pretends only to know what Gregor told him two days ago, and his own call, and asks for news.  Gregor gives the summary of Galeni’s staff meeting, and says Illyan is in the ImpSec clinic.  Miles tells Gregor that Haroche wouldn’t let him see Illyan, and Gregor says that Haroche’s hands are full. and he needs some time to get ImpSec organized; he advise Miles to give Haroche a few days to relax.

“You have to admit, Simon would be the first to approve a cautious approach to such an emergency.”

“True. Simon would prefer to be in the hands of people who really cared about security. But I’m beginning to think I would prefer it if there were any signs he was in the hands of people who really cared about Simon Illyan.”

Miles remembers his own cryo-amnesia, the sense of having lost himself, and wonders if what Illyan’s experiencing is similar, or even worse.  Miles says he’ll give Haroche some time, but pleads with Gregor to keep him updated.  Illyan was a mentor to him, and his “Uncle Simon” until he went into the Academy; he’s never had any family of his own, so Miles feels like he’s part of his family, maybe even like a family retainer, a Vor responsibility.  Gregor says it’s nice to see Miles remembering he’s Vor once in a while, loyal as a Vorkosigan, and promises to give him daily updates.

Miles signs off, partly satisfied, telling himself that it’s too early to conclude that there’s something funny going on, but feeling it nonetheless.  Still, he doesn’t want to make a fool of himself in public again just yet.

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It is tempting, at this point, to think of Haroche as the bad guy, because he just wants to thwart our hero’s aims.  Just like Miles’s superiors always used to do, like whatsisname in Cetaganda, or in The Vor Game, or Brothers in Arms…Lieutenant Lord Miles Vorkosigan always chafed at his limitations, until he finally got the freedom to act as Admiral Naismith with much fewer brakes on his actions.  So maybe he’s not really so bad, he’s just trying to deal with a crisis, and tired of being pestered by someone who’s no longer authorized to be directly involved.  Haroche isn’t Vor, he’s from the supposedly egalitarian military, at least the ImpSec branch of it, and he does show some evidence of not truly understanding the Vor way of doing things–which is an odd failing for someone tasked with running security on Barrayar itself.  Maybe it’s that very task that shows him that Vor are no better than anyone else, and gives him some contempt for the values they espouse, because he gets to see them when they’re at their most hypocritical, or at least wrongheaded.

So Galeni was not supposed to tell Miles, and Miles pretends that he heard about it from someone else.  But Galeni visits Vorkosigan House right after work that day, Vorkosigan House has ImpSec guards (maybe it’s just Kosti, but he must trade off with others, and, in any case, Kosti has to obey orders), and after Galeni’s visit, Miles knows that something’s going on with Illyan.  He offers alternative explanations, true, but I’d think that it wouldn’t be too hard to surmise that Miles found out from Galeni.  They might even have access to the angry call that Galeni made to Miles, and find it odd that Galeni came to visit him not once but twice after that.  Okay, apology and rapprochement is not an impossible explanation either, but…it’s a theory.  I guess it’s just that nobody really cares enough to spend time digging into those two.  Or maybe they’ve already assumed that Miles and Galeni were the ones who were conspiring to bring Illyan down, and are just waiting to let them incriminate themselves before pouncing.


This is a bad chapter to stop on, frankly.  Like Miles, we’re pretty sure that something is wrong, and we have to keep reading long enough to find out what that is.  I’ve been generally trying to keep myself to reading two chapters a week–after my week’s blog post, I read the next two chapters before I start writing the next week’s summary.  A few weeks ago I found myself unable to stop, and went on for a third chapter.  This week, I read three more chapters, so I’m now two full chapters ahead.  Will I be able to keep myself from reading two chapters further ahead this week?  I guess I can try.  But Chapter Sixteen is just such a great chapter…  Next week.

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