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Listen to the slow, steady ticking of the clock.  Slow down your heartbeat and breathing to match it…clear your mind…prepare yourself to receive another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  You will find yourself reading a summary of two more chapters in Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Memory, from her saga of Miles Vorkosigan and his friends and family.  Last week Miles received a horrific blow in being essentially fired, but have no fear, Miles will bounce back, though possibly not without some help.  You will begin reading in 3…2…1….

Chapter Seven

Miles keeps himself upright until he’s safely inside Vorkosigan House, whereupon he collapses into a chair and shivers for an hour.  Bladder pressure eventually drives him to get up.

I should get drunk. It’s traditional, for situations like this, isn’t it? He collected a bottle of brandy from the cellar. Wine seemed inadequately poisonous. This burst of activity dwindled to rest in the smallest room he could find, a fourth-floor chamber which, but for its window, might have passed for a closet. It was a former servants’ room, but it had an old wing chair in it. After going to all the trouble to find the brandy, he had not the ambition left to open the bottle. He crouched down small in the big chair.

On his next trip to his bathroom, sometime after midnight, he picked up his grandfather’s dagger, and brought it back with him to set it beside the sealed brandy bottle on the lamp table by his left hand. The dagger tempted him as little as the drink, but toying with it did provide a few moments of interest. He let the light slide over the blade, and pressed it against his wrists, his throat, along the thin scars from his cryonic prep already slashed there. Definitely the throat, if anything. All or nothing, no playing around.

But he’s already died once, and it didn’t fix anything.  They could just bring him back, and they might botch it worse this time.  He just doesn’t want to be alive right now.  He contemplates fleeing back to Naismith’s life, but doesn’t move.  He tries drinking less water, so he has to get up less, and by dawn he’s slowed down to one thought per hour.

Sometime after sunrise he hears Ivan’s voice, and wishes it would go away.  Eventually, though, footsteps arrive outside his room, and Ivan tells Duv Galeni that he’s found Miles.  Duv is taken aback by Miles’s appearance, but Ivan says it’s just something Miles does…though even he is nonplussed by the unopened bottle, and the knife, and admits it may be worse than usual.  Duv points out that Miles isn’t even blinking, and suggests calling for medical help, but Ivan says this is a family matter, and gets an idea.  They leave, though taking the knife with them, and Miles sits in relief for close to an hour before they reappear, take his boots off, and pick him up.  He hopes that they’re going to put him to bed, where he can sleep for a hundred years.

Instead, they take him to the bathroom, and he wonders if they’re going to drown him.  As they prepare to throw him into the huge bathtub, Miles suddenly notices that it’s full of ice, and begins, belatedly, to struggle.  Ivan tells Galeni that ever since Kyril Island Miles has hated the cold.  He begins to flail and complain, and Ivan shoves him back under repeatedly until Miles can fight him off and escape.  Miles then punches his cousin in the chin, surprising Ivan, who complains that his fingers don’t break when he tries to do that anymore.

Ivan asks him if he feels better, and Miles swears at him; Ivan tells him to change out of the wet clothes, shower and depilate, then get dressed and come out to dinner with him.  Miles says he doesn’t want to go out, and Ivan says there’s more ice in the freezer downstairs.  Miles accuses Ivan of enjoying this, which Ivan freely admits.

Once they get to the restaurant, Ivan urges Miles to eat, and once he does he realizes he’s famished.  Ivan asks what’s going on with him; Miles asks why they came, and Galeni says that Illyan asked him to check on Miles.  The gate guard told him that Miles was still inside, but there was no response on the comconsole, so he enlisted Ivan, who had more of a right to barge in, to help him.  He’d half expected to find Miles hanging from a rafter, but Ivan said that Miles was more likely to blow himself up spectacularly somewhere with lots of bystanders.  Miles promises to explain, but in private, since it’s to do with ImpSec business.

Back in Vorkosigan House, Ivan brews tea and makes him drink it, then tells him to spill.  Miles tells them about his seizures, and not informing ImpSec, or anyone except Mark and his Dendarii doctor, about them, in hopes that they could fix it medically and he could avoid a medical discharge.  Ivan pries further, and Miles tells them about Vorberg and the accidental bisection, and then the falsified report.  Galeni said Illyan had told him Miles had resigned by request, and he’d almost thought it was some kind of internal investigation, except Miles didn’t seem to be acting.

Ivan was still processing it. “You lied to Illyan?”

“Yeah. And then I documented my lie. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, yes? I didn’t resign, Ivan. I was fired. On all of Barrayar right now, there is no one more fired than I am.”

Ivan asked if Illyan had really ripped off his ImpSec eyes, like Haroche had claimed.  Miles said that he removed them himself, after he had a seizure right there in front of Illyan.  Haroche said that it came as a shock, because everybody knew that Illyan thought the world of Miles, and Miles said that it had been a while since his coup of the Dagoola IV rescue.  Galeni said that according to Haroche, Illyan had been grooming Miles as his successor.  Miles protests that as a field agent he doesn’t have the right skill set, but Galeni said that Miles had been due for a posting as Haroche’s assistant, to fill in the gaps in the “Domestic” side of his ImpSec experience.  Haroche had stopped five different assassination plots against Gregor (including the Yarrow Incident), so Illyan had wanted some of his experience to rub off on Miles.  Ivan asked about the Yarrow Incident, and Miles and Galeni explain that it was a great success, well known inside ImpSec, and unheard of outside of it–ImpSec failures are the only ones that get attention; an isolationist faction had planned on dropping a freighter (named the Yarrow) packed with explosives on the Imperial Residence.  Miles asks when this apprenticeship was supposed to happen, and Galeni said within the year.

“Chief of ImpSec at age thirty-five. Huh. God be praised, I’m saved from that at least. Well. No joy to Haroche, to be required to paper train some Vor puppy for the express purpose of being promoted over his head. He ought to be quite relieved.”

Galeni said apologetically, “I gather he was, actually.”

Miles reminds Galeni that this story is strictly private, that officially he just got a regular medical discharge.  Ivan leaves briefly, and returns with a valise–he’s moving in for a few days, until Miles picks himself up and gets the house organized, with a proper staff, including a driver and a cook.  He threatens that if Miles doesn’t, he’ll get his mother, Lady Alys, to pick his staff instead.  Miles is still less than enthusiastic, and Ivan encourages him to live the life of a Vor lord in the capital a little bit more.  Vorkosigan House is his, and his life’s possibilities have widened again–though Miles thinks that it’s at the expense of Admiral Naismith’s possibilities.  Naismith was, it turns out, killed by that needle-grenade on Jackson’s Whole after all.

Miles had read of mutants, twins born joined together inseparably in their bodies. Sometimes, horrifically, one died first, leaving the other attached to a corpse for hours or days until they died too. Lord Vorkosigan and Admiral Naismith, body-bound twins. I don’t want to think about this anymore. I don’t want to think at all.

Comments

And this is Miles’s darkest hour.  The only comparable one that I recall, so far, was after Bothari’s death back in The Warrior’s Apprentice–even washing out of the physical exam didn’t take that much out of him.  It’s interesting how little he wants to resort to the usual outlets–suicide, or alcohol–too drained of energy to even open the bottle, and, as he said, having already tried death.

Ivan comes through in spades, though.  I remember how he got so drunk at the Emperor’s Birthday in Mirror Dance when he thought Miles was dead, so he knows now how much his cousin means to him, and is prepared to deal with it.  Kudos to Galeni for thinking of him–as a matter of fact, Simon Illyan should practically have thought of that himself, but I guess he was reluctant to bring Ivan in on the whole thing.  Even though Ivan was on the list of those who knew about Miles’s double identity, this was more of a matter of keeping Miles’s shame private, plus Illyan might not have that much respect for Ivan’s capabilities.  But he knows how to rouse Miles out of his stupor–the cryo-freezing, as much as Kyril Island, has instilled Miles with his cryophobia, or at least cryoaversion.

I’m not sure that it would have worked, trying to turn Miles into the head of ImpSec.  It would, at least, put Miles in a position where he had fewer superiors–pretty much just the Emperor himself, in fact.  It would keep him from traveling around much, so it would have forced him to abandon the Admiral Naismith persona anyway.  Unless he was the most hands-on ImpSec Chief ever, though I imagine that Gregor would have to put his foot down there.  And it is true that Haroche wouldn’t feel that good about being passed over for, and by, a young Vor lord, however stellar a record he might have had, so that is definitely a relief for him.

Chapter Eight

The next morning, even after sleeping late, Miles finds Ivan in the kitchen, since he’s apparently taking time off work until Miles is back on his feet.  Miles decides the easiest way to get rid of him is to hire a staff on a strictly temporary basis, then discharge them with glowing recommendations once Ivan’s gone.  Ivan encourages Miles to tell his parents what’s happened, before the rumour mill beats him to it.  Miles agrees that he should, but it’ll be difficult…he asks Ivan if he could do it instead, and Ivan refuses vehemently…unless Miles really can’t bring himself to do it.

Miles dresses in civilian clothes from three years ago, then banishes his Barrayaran and Dendarii military uniforms into another bedroom so he won’t have to look at them.  He sits down at the comconsole, but can’t manage to compose any messages to his parents, or to Elli Quinn, for that matter; he wonders if he’ll ever be able to patch things up with Quinn.

He turns his mind to the staffing problem instead.  His own discharged lieutenant’s pay would barely suffice for one servant in the hard Vorbarr Sultana job market, so he contacts the family business manager, Tsipis, to find out what other options he has.  Miles tells him only that he’ll be staying on the planet for longer than anticipated, and asks how much of the family funds he can draw on; Tsipis tells him he can use all of it.  Miles was given joint authority when his parents went off to Sergyar.  The only things he can’t do are sell off Vorkosigan House and their residence in Hassadar.  Miles asks if he can hire a driver, and Tsipis says he can staff Vorkosigan House fully if he wants to; the Viceroy’s Palace on Sergyar is paid for out of Imperial funds, apart from his father’s armsmen.

Miles says he’s not planning on reopening Vorkosigan House quite yet, and Tsipis realizes he needs money for day-to-day expenses.  He offers to deposit it into Miles’s military service account, but Miles says he’d rather keep it separate.  Tsipis says he’ll give Miles the accumulated household funds to start, and the usual weekly allotment after that–which turns out to be 80,000 marks, and 5,000 a week after that, rather more than Miles had expected.  Tsipis offers to go over the accounts in more detail, in case Miles wants to take a more active money management role, but Miles tells him some other time, and signs off.

He tries to adjust to the thought that he can buy whatever he wants…except perhaps the Dendarii.  He can’t think of much else that he wants–what he wanted was achivements.  To make admiral younger than his father, to be a Great Man, but there was no opportunity to be a Great Man at the moment.

He starts his staffing search by calling retired Vorkosigan Armsmen in the area, but they’re either too old or their wives won’t stand for them going back into service, and he won’t compel them.  Giving up that for the moment, he gathers some kitchen scraps in an attempt to woo Zap the Cat (whose orneriness rather reminds him of Mark).  At the gate, Corporal Kosti has a visitor, his younger brother Martin, and a large box which proves to contain his lunch.  They’re not sure how to deal with Miles out of uniform, so he tells them about his medical discharge.  Zap the Cat emerges and accepts the scraps with only minor clawing.

Martin complains to his brother that nobody wants to hire him for two months, before he’s old enough to enter the Service.  He’s afraid his mother will find work for him to do, probably cleaning; Miles tells them about cleaning drains on Kyril Island.  He asks Martin if he can drive, then offers him a temporary position as his driver; Corporal Kosti warns him not to get Miles killed on him.  Miles says he can start today, as they need groceries anyway, and he can live in Vorkosigan House and study up for his entrance exams.  Not wanting Martin to be taken unawares by any seizures, Miles mentions those as well, including their origin in cryo-revival; both Kostis are suitably impressed.  Martin gives the box to his brother, and Zap the Cat goes crazy meowing for it, even after Corporal Kosti gives her his regulation rations.

The inside of the box lid turned into a clever tray or plate, with little compartments. Onto it Kosti placed two temperature-controlled jugs, a bowl, and cups; there followed an assortment of sandwiches on two different kinds of bread with variously colored fillings, cut into circle, star, and square shapes, the crusts removed; carved fruit on a stick; buttery cookies; and round tarts with flaky, fluted, sugar-sprinkled crusts, oozing dark, thick fruit syrups. From one of the jugs Kosti poured a pinkish cream soup into the bowl; from the other, some spicy hot drink. Both steamed in the cool air. For Zap the Cat there was a wad of prettily tied green leaves that unfolded to reveal a meat paste of some kind, apparently the same as filled one of the sandwiches. Zap dived in the moment Kosti spread it on the floor, growling ecstatically, tail lashing.

Miles is impressed at this; the corporal explains that his sisters are married, and only Martin is left in the house, so their mother is getting a little bored.  Miles inhales the delectable smells of the lunch, and offers Ma Kosti a job as his cook.  Ivan samples her cooking the next day at lunch, and immediately advises Miles to double her salary or else someone will steal her away.  Miles also hires Ivan’s cleaning service to stop in a couple of times a week to clean the house, but unfortunately, even now that he’s completed his staffing, Ivan is reluctant to leave Ma Kosti’s cooking.  He tries delicate hinting that Ivan’s free to go back to work anytime, so that Miles can go back to brooding, but Ivan ignores the hints.

After a week, Lady Alys contacts Miles, expressing her condolences over his medical discharge, and invites him to an “intimate luncheon” with Gregor the next day.  Gregor has “Requested & Required” Miles to show up an hour early for a personal meeting.  Miles knows the meeting is about what he did, to give him a chance to apologize to his Emperor in person.  He knows they have to clear the air between them sometime, since at the very least they’ll have to deal with each other as Count and Liege Lord at some point in the future, but he almost feels he’d rather apologize with a ritual self-disemboweling.

Comments

I always forget that Martin Kosti is only looking for temp work, until he can join the military, but I can’t remember if he does end up staying on longer than that, or if the book’s just resolved by that point, or what.  I seem to recall that Ma Kosti sticks around, though.  (What happens to the Kosti house that she and Martin were rattling around in?  Do they just sell it so they can both live in Vorkosigan House?  I guess it might not be a mansion or anything, but a family home might have some sentimental value…)

I also enjoy the conversation with Tsipis, a timely reminder that, even without his ImpSec job, Miles has plenty of resources to draw on.  He’s not going to be out on the street by any means.  (He’s more likely to end up in prison…)  Though, as Miles realizes, he doesn’t know what he wants enough to spend money on.  His immediately goal is just to get Ivan out of the house, possibly under false pretenses, so he can go back to brooding, but sooner or later he’s going to have to acquire some new goals.

It’s interesting to note that it’s with the Kosti brothers that Miles really begins to spread the story of what happened to him, compelled by simple honesty to two harmless Barrayaran souls who don’t deserve to be strung along.  So while he’s unwilling to tell Tsipis that he’s likely back on Barrayar for good, to commit to actually being back to living in Vorkosigan House, he tells the Kostis the story of his medical discharge, his seizures, and even a fair amount of the truth about how it came about.  He lets them believe that he happened to be killed by a needle-grenade while working as a simple ImpSec courier, but apart from that, the details match up.  I’m sure that, on some level, he knows that this information will begin to percolate throughout Barrayaran society, so he’s decided to promulgate a story that’s pretty much as close to the truth as he’s authorized to tell–his Dendarii job, and his forced resignation, both being classified.


Normally after I do my weekly summary, I read the next two chapters of the novel in the next day or two (often on my iPod, since I had them all as ebooks).  This is the first one where I’ve had trouble stopping.  I could not stop after Chapter Six, but went on to Chapter Seven a week early.  (And toyed with the idea of a three-chapter week, but decided not to.)  Last week I went on to Chapter Nine for the Gregor scenes early too.  I wonder if I’ll be able to hold myself back to only one chapter this week…  Seriously, my favourite book in the series.  Come back next week for two more chapters…no promises about any more.

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Clever ideas for blog post introductions having temporarily (I hope) forsaken me, I will prosaically welcome you back to the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, the results of my rereading the Vorkosigan Saga, as I’ve done several times in the past.  This time, though, I am endeavouring to share with you my insights into the novels and stories of Lois McMaster Bujold, at least the ones that concern the Vorkosigan family of Barrayar and their close friends and associates.  This week we cover the third and fourth chapters of Memory, the prosaically-titled but nonetheless fascinating story of what happens to Miles Vorkosigan when everything that gives his life meaning is put into jeopardy…

Chapter Three

Because they need adjoining rooms, for security reasons, Miles and Taura are obliged to take luxury suites on the ship to Tau Ceti.  After that he will have to travel as boring old Lieutenant Lord Miles Vorkosigan, and deal with people suspecting him of having a cushy courier job because of his family connections.  But he has a week until then to spend in room service-catered luxury, with Taura.

After Taura completes her security sweep of the cabins and they leave orbit, Miles tells her to take a week-long vacation.  He reminisces about their first time together, and he can still remember every time they’ve made love, both before and since his relationship with Elli Quinn.

Oh, they’d tried to be good. Dendarii regs against cross-rank fraternization were for the benefit of all, to protect the rankers from exploitation and the officers from losing control of discipline, or worse. And Miles had been quite determined, as the young and earnest Admiral Naismith, to set a good example for his troops, a virtuous resolve that had slipped away . . . somewhere. After the umpteenth we’ve-lost-count-again time he had been almost killed, perhaps.

Well, if you couldn’t be good, at least you could be discreet.

Taura kisses him and then heads to the bathroom to freshen up.  He encourages her to take her time and be decadent.  She rarely gets to indulge her feminine side, but she feels safe to do it with him.  He does sometimes have to discourage her from the extremities of pink that she keeps trying to festoon herself in.  She does not disappoint when she returns, in creamy and shimmery fabric.  She’s also trimmed her claws, to keep from leaving embarrassing scratches this time.  He notices that he feels a little defensive about his arrangement with Taura, and wonders if he’s breaking his own rules by doing this.

Later he wakes to watch her as she sleeps, a rare gift for her to feel safe enough for that.  Her flesh is hot because of her heightened metabolism, which is also shortening her lifespan, though an active Dendarii medical project is lengthening that as much as possible.  Taura already has a few grey hairs, at the age of twenty-two.

It’s a good thing she loves Admiral Naismith. Lord Vorkosigan couldn’t handle this.

He thought a bit guiltily of Admiral Naismith’s other lover, the public and acknowledged Quinn. Nobody had to explain or excuse being in love with the beautiful Quinn. She was self-evidently his match.

He was not, exactly, being unfaithful to Elli Quinn. Technically, Taura predated her. And he and Quinn had exchanged no vows, no oaths, no promises. Not for lack of asking; he’d asked her a painful number of times. But she too was in love with Admiral Naismith. Not Lord Vorkosigan. The thought of becoming Lady Vorkosigan, grounded downside forever on a planet she herself had stigmatized as a “backwater dirtball,” had been enough to send space-bred Quinn screaming in the opposite direction, or at least, excusing herself uneasily.

Admiral Naismith’s sex life is astonishing and mostly free of strings, but it’s not satisfying him anymore.  Lieutenant Lord Vorkosigan, he suddenly realizes, has no sex life at all, and he wonders when that happened.

Taura awakens and they eat, Miles feeling no guilt about ordering everything because he knows she’ll take care of any leftovers.  They reminisce about his rescue of her, and he reminds her that he was actually sent to kill her.  She says he changed that, and he seems to like rescues better than any other mission.  She wonders if he’s like one of those people who give other people the gift they want themselves–if he needs to be rescued, or wants freedom that he doesn’t have.  Miles changes the subject, and then the food arrives.

He asks if she had been surprised to find out his true identity, and she says she’d always suspected he was secretly a prince.  Miles says far from that, never having wanted the Imperium, and he wonders if Admiral Naismith is more real than Lieutenant Lord Vorkosigan; it certainly seems to be the easier identity to slip into.  Returning to the earlier topic, he says he doesn’t really want “freedom”, especially not in the sense of having no responsibilities.  He wants to be himself, to the fullest, and achieve whatever destiny that brings him.  He wonders if being Naismith is that; he’s never been able to bring himself to abandon Barrayar entirely and take the Dendarii with him, especially with the consequences Miles having a private army would bring down upon his father.  He doesn’t look forward to taking his father’s place one day, being Count, and the duties that go with that…

Taura asks after Mark; Miles says he went to Sergyar with their parents, then continued on to Beta Colony, living with their grandmother and studying accounting.  Miles doesn’t understand that choice, and wonders why they aren’t more similar; Taura says maybe he’ll learn to like accounting later.  Miles’s thoughts turn to the Duronas, and he wonders if Mark knows how they’re doing on Escobar…and if they could help him out with his medical issues, sub rosa.  If he went to visit Sergyar, he could maybe sneak from there to Escobar…and maybe even convince Illyan he’s visiting Rowan Durona for romantic reasons.  Then he could get cured and resume his duties without anyone else being the wiser.  He begins to wish he hadn’t deleted the other copy of the mission report.

Resolved to his Escobar plan, he turns back to a gastronomically-sated Taura to fulfill other appetites.

Comments

A lot of backstory in this chapter…and backstory that you’ve seen if you read all the other books.  But it does add on a few details, like the fact that Miles and Taura’s relationship is now depicted as an on-again off-again thing.  After the pass she made at Mark back in _Mirror Dance_, based only on the fact that Quinn wasn’t on the mission, it shouldn’t be that surprising.  I’m not as sanguine as Miles that Elli is, or would be, okay with it.  Maybe she knows, maybe not.  Maybe she doesn’t envision a married life with Lord Vorkosigan on Barrayar…but she might nonetheless want them to be monogamous and committed to each other with the Dendarii.  He even thinks to himself that he may be breaking his own rules.  After all, Elli was incensed when he chose Taura as a bodyguard for this trip, so I’m sure Quinn knows about the hanky-panky that was likely to ensue, and she didn’t like it.

In other words, Miles does something stupid and insensitive again, which is a little out of character for him.  He’s still in denial, or is it bargaining now?  Promising that he’ll go to Escobar and get things fixed up on the hush-hush, and then everything can go back to normal.  But there are those nagging doubts–he’s not satisfied with either of his identities right now, Lord Vorkosigan being dull and sexless, but Admiral Naismith starting to feel a little hollow.  He’s still leaning towards Naismith, but his health issues are putting Naismith in danger, and threatening to take the choice out of his hands, so he’s panicking.

Maybe it’s just me, but after so much was made of her short lifespan, I began to wonder if Taura was ever going to actually die.  They make the point, several times, throughout the later books, that they’d managed to heroically extend her life by quite a bit, but I confess that it began to wear on me a bit.  They don’t have to show her on her deathbed, coughing up blood and shedding hair by the bucketful, but…well, I suppose it’s painful to say goodbye to loved characters sometimes, even if one is the author.  And not every death can be a heroic sacrifice used as a crucial blow against the enemy.  Lois McMaster Bujold is certainly no George R.R. Martin, and it’s true that more advanced societies accept death less casually (at least, according to the Steven Pinker book I’m reading right now), and have the technology to fight it more successfully in Bujold’s far future.  But it exists, it’s a fact, and reminding us that one character is living on borrowed time, and then continuing to lend her time, can begin to wear a little thin.  I think they did establish by the time of Cryoburn that she was dead, at least.  Not that I dislike the character that much (though she’s not actually a favourite), but an author has certain obligations to follow through on these things…

Chapter Four

Upon arriving in Vorbarr Sultana, Miles is picked up by an ImpSec car, which he wishes would dawdle a little more on its way to the ugly headquarters building.  As he stands outside the door, he’s fast losing confidence in his Escobar plan, and decides he’ll have to deliver his notes on the seizure verbally to Illyan, pretending that he thought they were too sensitive to commit to even a confidential report.

Decision made, he heads inside, checking his coat and heading for Illyan’s office unescorted.  Illyan’s secretary is chatting with General Lucas Haroche, Head of ImpSec’s Domestic Affairs division, in charge of covering investigations of plots based on the homeworld, as Guy Allegre does on Komarr.  Miles generally deals with the Galactic Affairs office on Komarr, if not Illyan himself, but he hadn’t been given time to stop in there.  Miles greets them, and the secretary asks for the report; Miles says he’d rather deliver it in person, but the secretary says Illyan is out of town.  Reluctantly, Miles leaves the cipher-case with the report, rejecting the secretary’s offer to pass on Miles’s extra verbal information, and makes do with leaving a message for Illyan to contact him as soon as possible.

He asks if Illyan left any orders for him, but he didn’t, despite the supposed urgency of Miles’s return.  Miles asks if he can go visit his parents, hoping to skive off to Escobar after all, but he’s told that he has to keep himself available on one-hour notice.  Haroche asks after Miles’s parents, but Miles says his mail hasn’t caught up with him yet, and Haroche likely has more up-to-date information than he does, but Haroche tells him that Sergyar has been split off from Domestic Affairs into its own bureau, despite the small size of its colony.  Miles expresses surprise, but allows that Sergyar’s position in the nexus gives it a certain importance.  He bids them farewell and says he might as well head home.

On his way out, he bumps into Duv Galeni.  Last Miles had heard, Galeni had been working on Komarr, but Galeni says he’d requested a transfer back to Barrayar…  He’s interested in a Komarran woman from the Toscane family, who has come to Vorbarr Sultana as a government lobbyist, and decided to follow her.  Galeni admits his relationship is still more hopeful than actual, and Miles wishes him luck.  Miles says he’s headed home, and Galeni bids him farewell.  At the exit, Miles pauses to consider how exactly he’ll get home, since the entire Vorkosigan household has decamped to Sergyar, and so there won’t be any Armsmen there to pick him up.  He considers the safety of ordering a public taxi, and decides that the weather is not awful, so he’ll walk home.

His walk is uneventful–no attention spared for his deformities, and he’s not sure whether having his spine straightened had that much of an effect, or if Vorbarr Sultana’s denizens are getting better.  Vorkosigan House is situated on a block that used to have three mansions; one of them was torn down to make a park, and the other bought by the Imperium and turned into offices.

Vorkosigan House sat in the center, set off from the street by a narrow green strip of lawn and garden in the loop of the semicircular drive. A stone wall topped with black wrought-iron spikes surrounded it all. The four stories of great gray stone blocks, in two main wings plus some extra odd architectural bits, rose in a vast archaic mass. All it needed was window slits and a moat.

The guard kiosk is manned only an ImpSec corporal who salutes Miles, telling him that his luggage has already arrived.  He says the most excitement they’ve had since the Count and Countess left was a stray cat getting caught in the defenses; Miles spots a few signs that the cat is none the worse for wear and has in fact been adopted by the guards.  Keeping a pet on duty is against regulations, but Miles realizes the man must be bored and decides to overlook it; he asks what they named it, and the corporal admits they called it “Zap”.  Miles heads inside, considering how young the corporal seems to him.  He opens the automatic door and enters the disconcertingly empty house.

Keeping the lights down, he explores in unaccustomed solitude, finding half the furniture gone and the rest covered up.  There is a lightflyer and a groundcar, but the risk of seizures makes him an unsafe driver or pilot.  He’s been cadging a lot of rides since his cryo-revival.  The kitchen is empty of food, which he makes a note to get some of if he’s going to be here for any length of time.  Maybe a servant, too–not a stranger, but maybe some pensioner could come back for a few days.  Or maybe he can just get some instant meals.  There’s still wine in the cellar, so he brings up a couple of bottles of “a particularly chewy red” from his grandfather’s day.

He heads up to his third-floor room, turning on the lights this time; his room hasn’t really been lived in for a while, even when he was recuperating a few months ago.  He considers his utter freedom to do whatever he wants, except go to Escobar to get his head examined.  He unpacks his clothing and changes into more comfortable clothes.  He’s been avoiding alcohol in case it exacerbates his seizures, but now he’s planning to stay in until Illyan calls for him, so he pours himself some.  Planning to have some food later, he instead drops off to sleep after two-thirds of a bottle.

By noon the next day the problem of food was becoming acute, despite a couple of painkillers for breakfast, and the absence of coffee and tea turning downright desperate. I’m ImpSec trained. I can figure out this problem. Somebody must have been going for groceries all these years . . . no, come to think of it, kitchen supplies had been delivered daily by a lift-van; he remembered the Armsmen inspecting it.

He inspects the computer records, finds the name of the supplier, boggles at the quantities they were ordering, and instead just walks down to a nearby store.  He grabs coffee, tea, eggs, and some prepackaged food (“Reddi-Meals!”), as well as some cat food.

He gathered up his spoils and took them to the checkout, where the clerk looked him up and down and gave him a peculiar smile. He braced himself inwardly for some snide remark, Ah, mutant? He should have worn his ImpSec uniform; nobody dared sneer at that Horus-eye winking from his collar. But what she said was, “Ah. Bachelor?”

After he’s finally had some food, he still has lots of time to kill, some of which he spends looking up medical clinics and ranking them by reputation and likelihood they’ll keep his visit secret from ImpSec.  He paces around the house, dredging up old memories.

For his evening meal, Miles decided to keep up the standards. He donned his dress greens, pulled all the covers off the furniture in the State dining room, and set up his wine with a proper crystal glass at the head of the meters-long table. He almost hunted up a plate, but reflected he could save the washing up by eating the Reddi-Meal! out of its packet. He piped in soft music. Other than that, dinner took about five minutes. When he’d finished, he dutifully put the covers back on the polished wood and fine chairs.

He wishes some of the Dendarii were there so he could have a real party.  The next evening, he’s driven to call Ivan, who’s surprised to see him back in town.  He tells Ivan about how he’s rattling around in Vorkosigan House; Ivan says it’s appropriate for the formerly-dead Miles to be in such a mausoleum.  Ivan says there’s not much going on, between Emperor’s Birthday (where he’d had to deliver the Vorkosigans’ bag of gold) and Winterfair, but apparently Gregor is having a state dinner in a couple of days, and Lady Alys had asked Ivan to bring some younger people for dancing later.  Miles surmises she really wants Ivan to bring a date, or a fiancée; he says he doesn’t have a date, and Ivan says he should ask one of the Koudelka girls.

“Did you ask Delia?” said Miles thoughtfully.

“Yeah. But I’ll cede her to you if you like, and take Martya. But if you’re escorting Delia, you have to promise not to make her wear high heels. She hates it when you make her wear high heels.”

“But she’s so . . . impressive in them.”

Miles asks Ivan for a ride, pretending his is in the shop, before he realizes that would result in Ivan driving him.  Instead, he remembers Duv Galeni and offers to invite him along.  Galeni can bring this Komarran girl along, impressing her with an official state dinner, and he can drive Miles instead.  Ivan says he’d been to do something to welcome Galeni to the capital anyway, and this is just the ticket.

Comments

I enjoy the scenes with Miles in the empty Vorkosigan House, living the bachelor lifestyle.  I’m almost surprised that Vorkosigan House is quite that deserted, but I guess it is still under guard, so it’s not likely that squatters are going to break in and set up house there.  At the moment he’s still convinced he’s going to be out of there soon and back to the fleet, so he’s not putting down any roots yet.

Illyan does seem to be deliberately avoiding Miles at this point.  He should have been able to determine when Miles would be returning to the capital and make himself available, if he’d wanted to–there doesn’t seem to be any actual crisis calling him away, though I suppose that part’s a bit vague.  So it seems that summoning Miles back, just to make him wait, is less an urgent need for Miles than it is an urgent need for Miles to not be with the Dendarii right then.  Could it be that Illyan has some dire suspicion about Miles’s intentions?  Or perhaps he knows something that would make it dangerous to leave Miles in charge of a mercenary fleet?  Or to be doing combat missions in space armour?  Nah, couldn’t be.

Finally, we have one of the more fateful conversations in Barrayaran history.  If it hadn’t been for Miles not wanting to drive but not wanting Ivan to drive either, would they have thought to invite Duv Galeni along?  Would the meeting between Gregor and Ms. Toscane have taken place at the right time, before she gave in to Duv’s deliberate charms?  Also, the return of the Koudelkas, or at least Delia; probably we won’t see much of Kareen, who may very well be on Beta Colony right now, if Mark is…

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It’s the Barrayar scenes–most of the book, from Chapter Four onward, really–that make Memory one of my favourites, so I’m glad that there’s a lot of them coming up.  Though admittedly they’re not all cheerful ones…as we’ll probably find out in the next couple of weeks.  Oh, sure, a lot of them just look like Miles being at loose ends, but I enjoy them nonetheless.  So come back next week, and we’ll see…

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