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Posts Tagged ‘Jin’

All right, it’s my move now…I roll a five, and head down the hallway and into my blog.  I suggest that it was myself, on the blog, with the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  Does anyone object?  No?  Then, I accuse myself of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread on my blog.  As evidence, I present the following, which devotes itself so a chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel CryoBurn, latest chronologically in the Vorkosigan Saga, in which Miles and Jin are reunited and Miles begins to plan some shenanigans.

Chapter Nine

When Jin knocks at the door of the consulate, he and Mina are hustled inside by Lieutenant Johannes, who runs downstairs after seating them in the kitchen, before Jin can even get a word out.  Consul Vorlynkin comes up, as expected, but then a really tall Barrayaran, whose arrival almost conceals that of Miles-san.  Jin’s first words end up being accusation of Miles-san abandoning his creatures, but Miles assures him that he left Ako in charge with a list of instructions.

“And who are you, young lady?” Miles-san addressed Mina. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”

“Sister,” muttered Jin. “It wasn’t my idea to bring her.”

“I have a name,” Mina pointed out. “It’s Mina. Want to see my blisters?”

Miles-san didn’t even blink. “Sure! Are they good ones? Have they popped yet?”

“Oh, yes-they made my socks all bloody, too.”

“Well, Miss Mina, why don’t you sit down here–” Miles-san pulled out a kitchen chair with a flourish, and half-bowed Mina into it, as if she’d been a grownup lady, “–and show me.”

They peel her socks off her feet, while Miles sends Johannes to find something suitable for the kids to eat and drink, which ends up being vat-octopus pizza; Vorlynkin brings a first-aid kit, and gives it to a slim man named Raven, an Escobaran doctor, who deals with Mina’s feet.  Mina asks Miles about Roic, who looks like a policeman, but Miles assures her that Roic works for him now, and so isn’t a real policeman anymore, which reassures her; Roic gives them some water to drink.

Jin finally gets to tell his well-rehearsed story about what happened to the money he was sent with; when he’s done, Vorlynkin says they traced the envelope to police evidence rooms, which supports his story; Miles says the Consul is grateful that Jin didn’t bring him into it, which Vorlynkin unwillingly corroborates.  Miles then skillfully extracts the story of their escape from their relatives, and when the story’s told Jin almost feels like he’s told too much.  Johannes returns with supper, and mentions that the children have been reported missing; Jin protests that they can’t turn them in to the police, and Miles says that they have no intention of doing so.  Vorlynkin says that they can’t harbour runaways, though Jin protests that he needs to get back to his animals; Miles suggests, half-seriously, granting them asylum, though Vorlynkin says that it’s out of the question.

After the meal they go downstairs, and Miles says that he’d looked into what happened to Jin’s mother, and he wonders if they know how she ended up being frozen.  Jin, uncomfortable with the topic, says he doesn’t know much about her work, since she mostly left them at school or with their aunt while she was out, which Aunt Lorna didn’t always care for; they weren’t allowed to go along to the meetings themselves.  Miles muses that he always got to sit in on his father’s meetings, which was very educational, but they were held in his home; Jin says that they didn’t have room in their apartment, so the meetings were always somewhere else.  Mina says that she remembers one time some people came over late at night, not long before she was arrested, which Jin slept right through; Mina heard them arguing in the kitchen.

“Can you remember what they were arguing about? Anything at all that was said?”

Mina scrunched her face in thought. “They were talking about the corps, and money. They were always talking about the corps, and money, only this time they seemed more excited. George-san’s voice was really boomy, and Mommy was talking all fast and sharp, except she didn’t sound mad, exactly. And the new guy yelled something about, it wasn’t any temp’rary setback-this could bring the corps to their knees, right before he came out in the hallway on the way to the bathroom and found me. And Mommy let me have an ice cream bar and put me back to bed and told me to stay there.”

“Do you know who the people were? Had you ever seen them before?”

Mina nodded. “There was George-san, he was always nice to me when he came to pick up Mommy. And old Mrs. Tennoji, she always wore a lot of perfume. They called the new one Leiber-sensei.”

Miles says that they must have had some sort of secret; he’d run across Tennoji and George Suwabi in his research, though no Dr. Leiber.  And those two are dead now, so they’ll have better luck waking up Lisa Sato to ask her.  Mina is galvanized at the prospect of getting her mother back, but Miles backpedals a bit, saying that he can’t just order it done, like he could on Barrayar; Mina says it’s mean of him to suggest it if he can’t do it.  Miles and Raven muse about the possibility of actually doing it–medically it seems feasible, if they can just get hold of her, assuming she was prepped properly in the first place, with the right supplies and facility.

Vorlynkin is disturbed at Miles’s train of thought, but Miles points out that it would solve a number of problems; most of his lines of investigation seem to converge on Lisa Sato, and it would also solve the problem of what to do with her children.  Mina, distressed, asks what they’re talking about, and Miles says that he thinks their mother would know something useful about the case he’s working on, and tells her that Dr. Durona is a cryo-revival specialist.  He says they have a doctor to revive her, now they just need to get hold of her, which he thinks he can do, and that’ll leave Consul Vorlynkin to keep her from being taken away again.

Miles asks Vorlynkin what actual protection the consulate can offer, if they need to, and Vorlynkin says they’re not quite a full embassy but more than just a consulate, so there are some ambiguous legalities; Miles says that that in itself will help them stall for time if necessary.  Jin watches Miles, wondering what exactly his “Auditor” job amounts to–something to do with insurance?–and whether he really can get their mother back…

After finding out from Johannes what vehicles they have available, Miles announces that they’ll be sending the lift van to pick up Jin’s animals tomorrow; Jin isn’t sure why they don’t just let him go back, but he supposes he’ll be fine wherever as long as he can have his menagerie.  Vorlynkin is dubious about hosting the animals, and Jin tries to assure him that they’ll be fine.  Miles adds that while they’re there, he’ll check out whether they have a working cryo-revival facility there already, which will save having to rig one up at the consulate.  Jin suggests they go early in the morning, when Suze will be sober.

The next step, Miles says, is securing Lisa Sato, who is apparently at NewEgypt’s facility in Northbridge.  Roic, alarmed, asks if they can’t just buy up her contract, but Miles says that they’re surely alert to any interest in her, and it would tip them off; though they can look into it later, to try to legitimize the operation.  Raven points out that they’ll need to fudge the readouts so they won’t notice the body’s gone, or just swap in another corpse; Miles muses that they might be able to get one of those from Suze as well.

Vorlynkin choked. “Do you have any idea how many different crimes you’ve just rattled off?”

“No, but it might not hurt to make up a list, should your lawyer need it. Could speed things up, in a pinch.”

“I thought the task of an Imperial Auditor was to uphold the law!”

Miles-san’s eyebrows flew up. “No, whatever gave you that idea? The task of an Imperial Auditor is to solve problems for Gregor. Those greasy cryocorps bastards just tried to steal a third of his empire. That’s a problem.” Despite his smiling lips, Miles-san’s eyes glittered, and Jin realized with a start that underneath, he was really angry about something. “I’m still considering the solution.”

Jin wondered who Gregor was. Miles-san’s insurance boss?

The discussion is interrupted by Mina starting to cry; at Miles’s urging, Jin comforts her, and Vorlynkin urges that they be sent to bed.  Miles agrees, suggesting they bed down in Roic’s room, and this plan is swiftly executed.  Once they’re left alone, they open up Lady Murasaki’s box and toss her in a dead moth to eat.  Mina asks if he thinks Miles can really get their mother back, and Jin says he’s not sure; he’s privately a little daunted by the unstoppable force Miles-san has turned into.

Roic is glad that M’lord has enlisted Johannes, as this will give Roic some backup at last, though Johannes is beginning to look a little out of his depth at all this covert ops talk.  M’lord says that they’ll have to tell the clerk Matson that the children are protected witnesses, and is amused at Vorlynkin’s distaste at having to lie.  Vorlynkin asks him about the risks the children are under, and questions whether they wouldn’t be safer with their legal guardians; Miles says that Lisa Sato may be a dead end, but if not, then it may be risky to wake her up.

Roic’s own conviction was that as soon as that poor frozen woman had intersected m’lord’s orbit, this chain of events had become inevitable. Worse than dangling a string in front of a cat, it was. He likely shouldn’t explain this to Vorlynkin; an armsman was supposed to be loyal in thought, word, and deed. But not blind . . . ​

Vorlynkin asks Miles if he’d want some offworlder to treat his own children that way; Miles says that if he were dead and Ekaterin frozen, he’d be happy for anyone who could reunite her with them.  He’s also reminded of his father’s experience, having his mother executed in front of him by Mad Emperor Yuri; Jin’s is similar, except that, since his mother isn’t really dead, he doesn’t get to actually mourn her.

Comments

Miles’s ease at dealing with Mina definitely shows his experience of parenthood; he mentioned to Vorlynkin later that girls seem to want their wounds appreciated, which does sound like a wee overgeneralization.  Of course, Miles was able to deal well with Nikki even before becoming a parent himself, so maybe it’s just his instinct to treat them as people rather than obstacles or chores; there was also the story he told Nikki about using a young girl as a courier.

Is it a bad sign that the children are wary of policemen?  I mentioned before that we don’t have a clear impression of how corrupt they are, but assuming that they’re not too obviously so, they still seem to be obstacles.  And they view the children as problems to be solved, rather than people whose goals are worth considering.  Which, again, is something Miles seems better able to avoid.

He is definitely manifesting a cavalier attitude toward the laws of Kibou-daini.  On Barrayar, of course, he’s above the law, or makes the law, or something, but here he really only has control of the Barrayarans, if that.  What kind of diplomatic incident would be caused if he were to be arrested doing something illegal on Kibou-daini?  It would be quite a loss of face for Gregor, because Miles’s Auditorial status makes his actions Gregor’s direct responsibility; perhaps he’d even be forced to grant concessions on Komarr to the Kibou.  Or maybe Vorlynkin could smooth the whole thing over, but considering how short-staffed his consulate is, his resources are a little limited.  So Miles is taking a substantial risk here.  But he seems confident…perhaps it’s that his opponents don’t seem to have done anything too overtly violent so far.  Unless what happened to Lisa Sato’s co-conspirators was their doing, which is far from clear.  But if he’s got them snowed with his seeming willingness to be bribed, they won’t be expecting action from him, so he’s got surprise on his side for a little while, at least.


 

Next week, nextchapter…well, probably back to the secret community we saw before, and we’ll see if Suze is on board with this plan….

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A motion is upon the floor, to publish another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  Said reread will contain a synopsis and brief critical discussion of one (1) chapter from the novel CryoBurn, by Lois McMaster Bujold, featuring her recurring protagonist, one (1) Miles Vorkosigan, as well as sundry other secondary characters.  Motion seconded…all in favour?  Sold!  To the lady with the battle-axe.

Chapter Eight

After buying some milk, Jin and Mina find a garden shed behind an empty house to hide during school hours; it’s taken longer than he thought to cross the city, and he’s afraid that they got turned around during the last day and a half.  They did find water to drink, and bathrooms in public parks, at least.   While Mina sleeps, Jin finds a wolf spider, and he ends up waking her up digging out her coin box to use for a spider house.  They discuss what to name her, and eventually settle on Lady Murasaki; after sharing a lunch bar, they refill their milk bottles with water.

Mina asks how long it’ll take to get back to his place, and Jin admits he doesn’t know, and hopes that Miles-san is taking care of his animals; he also hopes that Miles-san can forgive him for losing his money.  Mina asks if he has any children, and Jin isn’t sure, especially since Miles-san is so strange-looking he might have trouble finding a wife.  Mina says that maybe he’ll adopt them, like in a book they read for school about a man from Earth who adopted some children; Jin says he’s from Barrayar, but that might be just as good, he supposes.

A sudden picture bloomed in Jin’s mind of the odd little fellow living all alone in a cottage in the country-no, better, a big rambling old house with a vast overgrown garden. Like the book with that old professor who had taken in two children from the city during wartime-Jin didn’t know what war, except it was from a period before anybody got frozen. There’d been a horse that drew a cart, and wonderful adventures involving a cave with blind white fish. Jin had seen a horse in the Northbridge Zoo, once, on a class field trip. The braver children had all been allowed to pat its glossy neck, while one of the keepers held its lead; Jin remembered the huge beast blowing air out its soft, bellowslike nostrils in a warm whoosh across his cheek. Jin understood there were littler versions bred just for children, called ponies. Mina wouldn’t be scared of one that size. The looming beast at the zoo had alarmed even Jin, but he’d been younger then, too. A great rambling house, and animals, and . . . ​

It was all rubbish. Miles-san wasn’t a professor, or their uncle of any kind, great or regular, and for all Jin knew he lived in a cramped city apartment and wasn’t lonely at all. Jin decided he didn’t like that country daydream. It hurt too much when it stopped. He frowned at Mina. “Nobody’s going to adopt us and take us away from here. That’s a stupid idea.”

Mina isn’t happy about that, and they put on their shoes and socks, Jin feeling a little guilty of his sister’s blistered feet, then start walking again.  They pass a tube station, and Mina offers to pay their fare, but Jin reminds her of how he got caught the last time.  He does find a map, though, so he can figure out where they are, and is shocked to find they’ve gone much more east than south, and haven’t gotten any closer to his building than they’d started.  He does notice, though, that they’re close to the Barrayaran consulate; if he goes there first, and explains about how he lost the money, they may be able to give him more to give to Miles-san.

The Barrayaran party returns to the consulate, dialogue subdued on the limo ride by Aida’s presence and Vorlynkin’s quiet anger; Miles takes some headache medication and then they head downstairs to debrief in the tight-room.  Vorlynkin has already locked himself inside, though, and when he finally lets them in, he tells Miles he’s too late.

A muscle jumped by Vorlynkin’s scowling mouth. “I just sent a full report of what I witnessed by tight-beam to General Allegre at ImpSec HQ, Barrayar. I never thought I’d live to see a Vorkosigan sell himself for money. My career may be slagged, but so will yours, my Lord Auditor.”

“Ah, excellent. That’s done.” M’lord kicked the door shut; it sealed with a sigh that seemed insufficiently dramatic for Vorlynkin’s mood.

Miles says that he’d been more afraid that Wing wouldn’t come through, and he’d have to go through it all again; Roic, wary of Vorlynkin’s growing fury, encourages m’lord to stop baiting him and let him in on what’s going on.  Miles says that he’d been going to great lengths to seem bribable, and Vorlynkin, suddenly enlightened, asks if this is a sting operation; Miles says that it is now, though he hadn’t been sure what he’d find when he got to the planet.  Vorlynkin apologizes in chagrin for the report he just sent, and Miles says that he hadn’t been sure that Vorlynkin wasn’t on the take either, and this proved a good test.  Miles asks Raven for his report, which mostly just supports the infrequency of cryorevivals, and Vorlynkin then realizes that Dr. Durona is also working for Miles.

Miles tells Vorlynkin that WhiteChrys had been vetted by ImpSec and they found nothing suspicious, but they may have been looking for the wrong things.  But when they were setting up on Komarr, and collecting cryocontracts, Empress Laisa Toscane’s business-savvy great-aunt became suspicious of receiving both a sales brochure for a cryocontract and an offer to buy stocks.  Something about it sounded off, and she brought it to Laisa and Gregor, who agreed, but none of them could say what the problem was; thus it got dumped on Miles’s lap.

Komarr’s voting system had, from the beginning, awarded more voting power to those who enhanced the habitability of the planet, which has accumulated in the wealthier families; it now seems that WhiteChrys is trying to acquire those votes for itself through cryocontracts.  Komarrans are no stranger to vote chicanery, and there are certain rules, like corporations being unable to hold voting shares themselves, so the WhiteChrys attempts seemed harmless, but Miles now suspects that they’ve worked out some way around it, through legal loopholes or outright bribery.  He couldn’t figure out how they could make any short-term gains, though, until Wing mentioned being cryofrozen on Komarr; having the WhiteChrys representatives cryofrozen, likely taking turns, will give them the timeframe necessary for the takeover of Komarr to progress during their extended lifetimes.

They still need more information, though; in particular, Miles suspects that it may be a subgroup of WhiteChrys employees who are handling the Komarr scheme, gutting the home company in the process.  Vorlynkin asks how they can do anything about it on Kibou-daini, and Miles says he rather prefers trapping them on Komarr instead, closing their loopholes and leaving them stuck running a mere low-profit service company.  Miles asks Vorlynkin about the probity of the other consulate staff; Vorlynkin says he has no reason to doubt Johannes or Yuuichi Matson, but he admits they haven’t really been tested before.

“Yet routine travel visas for WhiteChrys personnel have been handled through the consulate all this time.”

“Yes, but all we ask is business or tourism? Plus a quick background check for criminal records.”

M’lord’s eyes crinkled in speculation. “I wonder if we should add a box to tick off–Reason for travel: creepy planetary conquest . . . ​no, I suppose not.”

Vorlynkin asks what would have happened if he hadn’t tried to turn Miles in, and Miles said he’d have been excluded from the briefing and added to his list of targets.  Just then, Johannes informs them over the intercom that his child courier has turned up again, with company, and they head for the door.

Comments

I don’t know particularly what books Jin and Mina are thinking about.  The one with the old professor sounds like it should be a real one, at least–makes me think of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, actually, though of course that had more children and more fantasy kingdoms, and less cave fish.  The other one, with the man from Earth, could be something made up out of whole cloth.

Here, finally, we get to the real plot; WhiteChrys planning to use the vote-proxy cryocontracts to take over Komarr.  It’s not clear to me how much power the forces of democracy (even oligarchically-weighted democracy) have on Komarr under Imperial control, but perhaps part of their takeover scheme is throwing off Barrayaran shackles…?  Yeah, probably not, that sounds a little too risky for these Kibou.  But yeah, I could see WhiteChrys attempting to present them with a fait accompli and the Emperor just sending in his troops.  Barrayaran law is, as mentioned previously, more concerned with the spirit than the letter of the law, which must make it a bit of an oddity on the galactic scene.  If the Komarran populace was also not happy with their votes being accumulated by corporations (or their representatives, which might get around the no-corporate-votes law), then they’d probably be fine with the Emperor overruling them, and backing it with Imperial forces.

If I were those guys, gambling on sleeping away the years, or decades, or centuries, until their plans come to fruition, I’d actually have been expressing a little more interest in cryorevival.  After all, they’re going to want to reduce the risk of botched revival as much as possible.  I suppose that if they get frozen under controlled conditions, they’ll already be in better shape than someone being hastily frozen under combat conditions and suffering severe bodily trauma, but there’ll still be risks.  Not to mention that there will be plenty of opportunity for backstabbing when your partners in crime are helpless in suspended animation.  So, all in all, sounds like a stupid plan to me.


Eleven chapters (plus the all-important aftermaths) left in the book.  Meanwhile, I’m five chapters (plus an epilogue) away from finishing reading Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance to my son.  That’ll probably take me a couple of weeks…and then I’ll be reading him the same book I’m summarizing here.  Yeah, I’m going to overtake myself, aren’t I?

 

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It is happening again.  That blog you like is going to come back in style.  Or at least produce another new post, which is to say, this one.  The Vorkosigan Saga Reread did not, in fact, kill Laura Palmer, but it is attempting to summarize and provide insightful commentary on the books of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, and it is now on the home stretch, in the last book chronologically, CryoBurn.  (And recent statements by the author have not indicated any particular plans for a new book in the near future.)  This week we go through the sixth chapter, in which people are reunited and other people run away again.

Chapter Six

Roic is relieved to actually talk to m’lord, but wonders why he insists that Roic bring Dr. Durona along with him.  Raven says he’d been planning to pick up his luggage and then leave, but Miles encourages him to stay, pointing out that there are daily jumpships; he even evinces willingness to pay for Raven’s time.  By midafternoon, they are being dropped off at the consulate, where Roic craves shower and sleep; the police had fed them, albeit only ration bars.  He nobly holds off, though, until he can speak to m’lord, and Johannes guides them to where Miles has taken over the basement secure-communications room.

Miles greets them both, dismisses Johannes, and debriefs them thoroughly; after they’re done telling their story, he says he’s glad Raven is all right.  He’d hoped the Duronas would send Rowan, but Raven says she’s too busy, heading up the Cryonics department and preparing for the birth of her and her husband’s second child; Raven says she hardly gets to do any real work, and reminisces over Miles’s eighteen-hour cryorevival, back in the day.  Miles confirms Roic’s suspicion that he’d invited Dr. Durona to come to the conference, though Raven notes that they’d been planning to send someone anyway, though more likely a junior resident.

Miles asks Raven if he saw anything interesting; Raven says the technology seems standard, though he notes they’re more interested in freezing people than thawing them these days.  Miles says the cryocorps are mostly interested in accumulating their “patrons'” proxy votes; he notes that the political atmosphere seems full of debate, noisier than Barrayar or Jackson’s Whole, even with incompetent crazies like the N.H.L.L.  Thanks to their interference in the conference, though, he has loads of new questions.

He tells them his own story, about the Cryocombs and the illicit freezing operation; Raven is unimpressed and doesn’t give them much chance of success, but Miles says that the cyrocorps don’t seem to feel too threatened by those kinds of operations.  In fact, the only thing that did seem to frighten them was Lisa Sato’s organization, which they put a lot of effort into breaking up; in fact, his research has turned up the fact that several others of them seem to have died or been frozen.  What he can’t find out is why, exactly, they were thought to be so troublesome, since somebody seems to have done a good job of expunging all that information.

Roic asks what all this has to do with Barrayar, and m’lord says it’s too early to tell; he’s reminded of the Emperor’s warning about Miles’s tendency to “expensive knight-errantry”, and wonders if he’s supposed to try to keep it in check.  Consul Vorlynkin arrives with news about Jin’s legal status; there’s nothing they can do, legally, because he’s not an orphan, but at least he has been released from police custody into that of his relatives.

“Damn!” M’lord slumped. “Damn. I hope Ako proves a more faithful zookeeper than I did.”

“Well, it’s not as if we could kidnap him,” said Vorlynkin, with a faint smile. M’lord eyed him. Perhaps thinking better of this mild venture into humor, Vorlynkin cleared his throat and went back to looking bland. Roic wondered if he should take Vorlynkin aside later and warn him not to say things like that around m’lord, and not because the Lord Auditor might take offense.

Roic suggests that they sleep on it, since m’lord doesn’t look any better rested than he does; he asks, knowingly, if m’lord has checked his neurotransmitter levels, and Miles mutters unconvincingly.  He dismisses Raven to go back to his hotel, though not without a secured wristcom; he laments his lack of data.  He tells Vorlynkin that if WhiteChrys or one of the other cryocorps calls looking for him, he’s to pass on that the Lord Auditor is furious with the disruptions and ready to go home and complain in the Emperor’s ear; he assures Vorlynkin that this is a test to see how much the corps want to stay in his good books, and he encourages the consul to consider bribes, if they’re offered, as long as he tells Miles about them.

They go up to the consulate’s guest bedroom and Roic prepares the seizure stimulator as Miles gets undressed; he asks m’lord if he’s supposed to be trusting the consulate staff, and Miles admits he doesn’t know, based on past experience.  He encourages Roic to sound them out when he’s not around, and see if he can come to any conclusions about them; it may just be a question of whether or not anybody thought the Barrayaran consulate staff was worth buying before now.

Roic triggers the seizure, which is a longish one, and the aftermath is, as always, unpleasant for m’lord, probably good to knock him out for at least a day, if not two.  M’lord goes to bed finally, his energy thoroughly drained.

Jin awakens in his sister’s darkened bedroom with chagrin, having wanted to stay awake to try to outwit his captors–his aunt and uncle–but had been too tired.  He’s wearing nothing but his underwear, neither of his cousins being a match in size, and he doesn’t know where Aunt Lorna took his clothes.  The window doesn’t open, Uncle Hikaru having put a rod in to block it opening further after an argument at supper.  When he’d run away last year, he’d just gone out the window, gathered up his animals from where his aunt had exiled them outside, loaded them in an old stroller, and gotten away clean.  The door is locked too, leaving with only a bucket for any bathroom needs.

He wonders if Miles-san is looking after his animals, and whether he’d blame Jin for losing his money to the police, or if he’d just think Jin had stolen it.  He makes vague plans to hide a screwdriver or something in the room to try to break the locks, though he’s not sure he knows how to do that; he knows he should wait until their suspicions are lulled, but he can’t make himself stay here that long.  Soon they’re even going to sign him up for school, which will be even harder to escape from.

The door opens, and it turns out to be his sister, Mina; Jin growls at her, asking what she wants, expecting something annoyingly trivial.  Instead, she asks if he’ll take her with him if she lets him out; caught off guard, he refuses at first, then changes his mind when she starts closing the door again, and insists they talk downstairs.

Mina asked, “Do you remember Daddy?”

“Sort of. Some.”

“I don’t. Just his picture in the family shrine Mommy set up.”

“You were three.” Jin had been seven when their father had died. Four years ago–it seemed half a lifetime. He remembered his mother’s extravagant grief and anger rather better, and how seldom he’d seen her after that–as if one death had stolen both parents, even before the policewomen had come for her. “Doesn’t Aunt Lorna keep the family shrine anymore?”

“She let me keep it in my room for a while, but then we ran out of space when I needed a desk for school, so she boxed it up and put it away. I wasn’t sure if to set your picture in it or not.”

He tells her again that she can’t come with him, even as she’s putting her shoes on; he says it’s too far, and wonders why she’d want to go anyway.  She says her cousins tease her a lot, though Jin doesn’t see why that should upset her so.  She says she wants her own brother, she doesn’t want her aunt and uncle to adopt her, like they’re planning.  She says she’ll scream and holler if he tries to leave without her, and he realizes she probably isn’t bluffing; she adds that she has saved up some money, too, and helps him find his clothes and shoes, so he gives in.

Mina is a little uncomfortable being out in the dark, but determined; she mentions Aunt Lorna’s threat to have Jin frozen as a repeat runaway, and Jin says she was probably just making that up to scare him.

An unwelcome memory rose in Jin’s mind. It wasn’t the clammy smell of the night that triggered it, because the policewomen had come for his mother in the daytime, but the clammy chill in his gut that day had felt much like this. Mom kneeling down, gripping his shoulders, saying, Jin, help look after Mina, all right? Be a good big brother, and do what Aunt Lorna tells you.

Jin had given up on that last when Aunt Lorna had insisted that he get rid of all of his pets, yes, all, a clean sweep, there was no room and they smelled and pooped too much and that bird was homicidal and to top everything, Ken was supposedly allergic to Lucky, who was too lazy to scratch anyone. Jin just figured his cousin was doing all that sniffling and blowing on purpose, to be annoying, in which he certainly succeeded. Jin had forgotten the first part of that maternal parting . . . ​blessing, curse, whatever it was, because, after all, nobody yelled at Mina they way they’d yelled at him and his pets.

Comments

Maybe I missed it, but while Roic talks about Miles checking his neurotransmitter levels, all we see him do is just trigger his seizure.  Does he not normally check?  Was he just sure that it was time?  Or did he just figure that it was better to get it out of the way now anyway?  I suppose he’s used to them by now, but not, apparently wholly reconciled to them yet.  Did they get any worse after the whole Cetagandan bioweapon incident?

I suppose it’s not that surprising that Raven is there because of Miles, or at least partially.  Even if the Duronas probably owe more to Mark than they do to Miles, he does have a few favours he can call in.  I suppose that Lily is over Miles now, given that she’s married to an Escobaran and has children, but it might still have been nicer to see her instead of Raven.  For one thing, there’s a shortage of female characters; I suppose there are a few so-far minor characters back at the illicit cryohouse, but the Barrayarans are, of course, all male.

It’s a bit weird to be getting Roic POV when Miles is around.  It’s like the author is deliberately trying to keep us out of Miles’s head.  When we were in his head, he was thinking more about his current situation and speculation, but from what Roic saw there’s some kind of scheme going on, Miles trying to invite bribery from the cryocorps and all that.  It’s time to unpack, Miles.

Jin’s aunt and uncle totally sound like the Dursleys, except that there are two Dudleys…and Jin’s sister in the mix.  We don’t get to actually see any of them except the sister, though, just vague second-hand reports in Jin’s head.  And just like that, he’s out on the loose again, with his sister in tow.  So…another potential complication has been swept aside, or at least transformed into something different.  Not so much of Jin being trapped until Miles could rescue him, or he rescue himself, but more of a way for him to collect Mina.

Jin’s mother seems to be increasing in importance, which also makes Jin a little more important.  Though, of course, I always get a little suspicious when randomly encountered characters turn out to be significant–it just seems too much of a coincidence.  If it’s not intentional on one side or the other, then somehow it just seems too convenient for the author…


I’m sure you can count on me for another chapter next week…why not?

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Baby!  Sweetie-doll!  So nice to see you!  You remember me, don’t you?  The Vorkosigan Saga Reread?  Yeah, yeah, the one who talks about those Bujold books, about the Vorkosigan guys.  Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’ve been up to.  Like right now, I’m doing this one called CryoBurn, which is actually the last one, about this guy named Miles who’s on this planet called Kibou-daini, hiding out with the help of a kid named Jin, but Miles’s armsman Roic has been captured, and…you know what?  It’s too complicated.  Just follow along with me.

Chapter Four

After Jin’s departure, Miles makes his way carefully back down to the basement cafeteria, realizing that he fits in better in his current tattered clothes than he would in his best.  He starts a conversation with the woman behind the counter, who says he can use whatever he wants as long as he cleans up after himself and replaces what he takes; he settles for a cup of tea.  He hears a familiar voice and sees an old man who must be Yani, grumpy and confrontational, but Miles lures him into conversation by listening sympathetically to his complaints about how things went downhill during the century he was frozen; Miles had plenty of practice with this listening to his grandfather when he was younger.  He wonders what it would be like if people from his grandfather’s generation had been frozen instead, and whether they’d hold back the tide of change when they were thawed.

When Yani starts to repeat himself, Miles ducks out to get them more tea, and chats with the cook some more.  The cook asks if he’s here because he’s sick; Miles says he has a chronic medical condition, wondering how she guessed, and then wonders what she really means by her question.  She interrupts his thought to greet a hairy man named Tenbury, who’s there to pick up his lunch; he notices Miles, who says that he’s a friend of Jin, who’s off running him an errand.  He leaves after promising to fix a leaky faucet; the cook explains that Tenbury is the custodian.  Miles, interested in the utilities feeding into the building, wonders what else he does.

On impulse, he drops Yani’s refilled teacup at his table and heads off in Tenbury’s wake, down a darkened stairwell following his quarry’s flashlight, then through a door into a similarly dark hallway lined with cryo-drawers, active ones.  He realizes that this building is a secret cryo-cooperative for the disadvantaged, which Suze and her friends have managed to keep functioning off the grid.  He wonders how much danger he’s in, if he’s liable to find himself stuffed into a cryochamber himself, frozen, alive or dead.

He knocks on Tenbury’s door, who lets him in after Miles tells him he talked to Suze that morning–omitting that it wasn’t to admit them to their community or anything.  Tenbury also asks after his health, and Miles tells him about the seizure disorder, not correcting Tenbury’s impression that he’s broke.  Tenbury shows him the cryochambers, most of which he says he keeps working by cannibalizing some of them; after twenty years they’re only 10% full, and they can keep on for decades yet, though he muses that he’ll need someone to learn his trade.

Miles still finds it odd to think of being cryofrozen voluntarily, rather than as a last resort.  Tenbury says that a lot of people don’t want to risk dying without a chance of being frozen, but he thinks the corps are pushing it a little too much; Miles agrees that this seems like a self-limiting strategy.  Tenbury notes that there are still refusers, a term that Miles hadn’t heard before, but seems obvious; he considers this a self-limiting strategy as well.  He takes Miles out to see one of the cryo-drawers.

“It seems . . . ​small,” said Miles.

“Not much head room,” Tenbury agreed. “But you’re past sitting up suddenly by the time you arrive in it. I’ve often wondered if folks would retain any memory of their time in these, but the revives I’ve met all say not.” He slid the drawer closed and gave it a fond thump to seat the latch.

“You just go to sleep, and then wake up in a future somebody else picked for you. No dreams,” Miles agreed. “Blink out, blink back in. Like anesthesia, but longer.” An intimate preview of death, and doubtless a lot less traumatic when the blink out part wasn’t accomplished by a needle-grenade blowing out one’s chest, Miles had to allow. He spread his palm on the drawer-front. “What happens to all the poor frozen people”-or frozen poor people-“if this place is discovered by the authorities?”

A brief, humorless grin ruffled the beard-thatch. “Well, they can’t just let us thaw and rot, then bury us. That’s illegal.”

Miles realizes that this makes this more of a worthwhile endeavour, then, though he notes that the law could always change; Tenbury says that at least the deaths would be painless, and he’d rather not wake up in a world like that anyway.  He then says he needs to get back to work, and Miles says he needs to go feed Jin’s animals; Tenbury gives him directions to the stairs back up, and Miles heads up to the roof, hoping Jin is back soon.

Jin is having trouble finding his way around the downtown tram station; he also wonders what’s in the thick envelope Vorlynkin gave him for Miles, but it’s sealed too securely for him to peek.  He eventually finds his way up, his thoughts turning to Miles-san and whether he’ll be properly taking care of the animals; it’s always hard to tell if adults are taking you seriously.

In his distraction, he jumps at a hand on his shoulder, which turns out to belong to a policewoman, a person he emphatically did not want to run into just then.  She asks his name and he claims to be Jin Vorkson, son of an offworlder, on an errand for his mother, but when she insists that they his mother from the security booth, he tries to make a break for it, and fails; she grabs the envelope from him, and calls for backup.  She (Michiko) and her companion (Dan) haul Jin to the booth and give him a retina scan, which turns up his real identity quickly enough; Dan notes that Jin Sato has been listed as missing for over a year.

Michiko asks him about the envelope, which Jin claims is a personal letter he’s delivering for some men; the cops take this as a warning signal, and ask for more details, which Jin refuses to provide.  They open the envelope to reveal a large chunk of cash, and a note which just says “We must trust that you know what you are doing.  Please contact us in person as soon as possible.”  They discuss whether this is about drugs, or feelie-dreams, or what.  Jin refuses to tell them more, insisting he didn’t know there was money in there; Michiko says he’s safe from the men now, and they begin making arrangements to send him home; Jin, knowing he’s screwed up big time, hopes he can keep the secrets about Suze and Ako and Tenbury and the rest, but he worries about what is going to happen to his animals.

With a grating noise and a puff of powder, the bolt popped out of the concrete.

Finally,” breathed Roic.

Comments

The frustrating part about having (or being) a young protagonist is that there is, generally, no really good reason why it has to be a young person doing these things.  Children need to be protected, after all, and shouldn’t be off risking themselves when an adult could probably do it more safely.  But adults are notoriously hard to convince about the things that kids consider to be important, having different priorities.  And when your kid is the protagonist, then, of course, their priorities are right, the adults are wrong, so therefore they become a threat, because, with the best of intentions, they will ruthlessly act for kid’s own good, as they see it, no matter what they want.  On the one hand–I know that you shouldn’t let your kid run back inside a burning house to rescue a favourite toy, or pet, or whatever.  But Michiko and Dan can’t help but come across as villains here.

Admittedly, Jin doesn’t, and can’t, tell them much, because of his illicit living situation, and I’m sure he doesn’t get much sympathy for disliking his relatives, though we haven’t met them yet, so we don’t know how much it’s justified…though I can imagine.  Should he have told them about the Barrayarans?  It would have provided a better explanation for the money and the message, but then it would have led to questions about Miles, and maybe turned the wrong kind of attention on the Barrayarans from the people whose scrutiny Miles is trying to avoid.  Are the police actually corrupt, or is it just Jin’s situation that makes him want to avoid them?  If the government’s under the thumbs of the cryocorps, then I guess they could suborn the police if they want to…

I’m not sure personally how I feel about voluntary cryo-freezing.  Yani should be a cautionary tale about the risks of being revived just to find out that things haven’t improved any.  And presumably it’s not a risk-free process, even if Kibou-daini has it down pat; it’s probably at least as risky as what we would consider routine surgery, which is to say non-zero.  In the case of incurable disease or injury, I guess I could see it as an alternative to swift and certain death, though it does presume a future where they’ve got resources to spare to heal sick people from the past, and add them to their own population.  Something like Spider Robinson’s Deathkiller, I guess.  But I’m not laying odds on that happening any time soon.  I suppose, if you just couldn’t wait for the last Song of Ice And Fire or Stormlight Archive books to be released, then you could freeze yourself for a couple of years, but then you’d find yourself having missed out on years, or decades, of life and popular culture, and these days it’s pretty much impossible to keep up with it as it is.  Okay, maybe Kibou-daini’s cultural scene is a little bit different, but we don’t get into that, do we?

Roic getting free is a great ending for a chapter, too.  Especially now that Jin’s been captured and is likely to be shipped off to his hated relatives, and Miles is stuck waiting for Jin’s return, so at least one of our characters can actually, you know, do something.  Or so we hope.


Next chapter: Roic does something?  Maybe?  Also, it won’t be next week, because Christmas and all that.  Hmmm, and the one after that is New Year’s Eve.  Maybe I’ll try for a post in the middle there somewhere, before going back to the Wednesday schedule.  Sound good?

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The First Thing: This is the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.

The Second Thing: The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of books written by Lois McMaster Bujold.

The Third Thing: I’m on the last book chronologically, CryoBurn.  This week I cover Chapter Three.

The Fourth Thing: Miles Vorkosigan is on the planet of Kibou-daini, befriended by a boy named Jin while he tries to figure out what’s going on on the planet.

Chapter Three

Jin leads Miles down to a tunnel and into another building, which seems to be occupied; they pass a kitchen where some cooks and diners watch them warily.  A woman named Ako asks Jin to have breakfast, but Jin says he has a guest.  They go up two flights of stairs into offices-turned-apartments; most of the inhabitants seem elderly, but Miles supposes that those more capable might be busy doing things.  He notes that there seems to be some usage of public utilities, and wonders how they’re getting away with it.  One floor further up, Jin knocks on a door and is answered gruffly from within.

Suze turns out to be a hunched, elderly woman, somewhat grumpy in demeanour, who is dubious about Miles, referring to him as “Yani’s druggie”, though Miles claims that he had an allergic reaction to some medication, was robbed, and got lost in the Cryocombs.  Jin asks if Miles can use his comconsole; Suze claims that it can’t send out, which Miles finds unlikely, but doesn’t complain.  In a secretive community like this one, he knows, trust has to be earned, and being a stranger can be dangerous.  He says he only wants to read the news, and is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers, which is, admittedly, a situation that has turned out well for him in the past.  Suze allows Miles access, and he checks on the news, not taking long to find an item on the cryo-conference incident.  He, Roic, and Dr. Durona are all listed among the missing, and two different extremist organizations are claiming responsibility.

“That’s you!” said Jin in excitement, pointing to Miles’s face on the holovid. Miles didn’t think it a flattering shot, but apparently it was recognizable. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, just now. Jin went on, “Miles Vor-vor-vorkaseegain.”

“Vor-ko-suh-g’n,” Miles corrected automatically.

Suze, aware of the incident, asks Miles if he’s an offworlder; Miles admits he is, and that they tried to kidnap him, but the sedative they used made him manic instead, and he escaped.  Miles contemplates his position–nobody knows where he is, and he’s tempted to take advantage of the fact, but news of his disappearance or capture has surely already been sent home, and he has loved ones who would take it hard.  He could go to some public place and call for help, but he’s worried someone else might be able to find him if he does; he suspects that the authorities are somewhat under the thumb of shady people whose attention he’d rather not draw.

Jin, bored, asks if he can get them something from the kitchen, and Miles asks for coffee; Jin expresses bewilderment that anybody could like that, but Suze asks for some too, and Jin heads off in search.  Miles takes advantage of Jin’s absence to ask Suze about him, volunteering the information that Jin had already given him.  Suze says that Jin’s father was killed in a construction accident, and without insurance he was denied freezing until it was too late; this drove Jin’s mother into campaigning for freezing as a public right, until she was blamed for a violent rally and frozen herself as a potential mental health risk.  Her family kept quiet, shamed by her behaviour and daunted by the enemies she’d made; Miles doesn’t find any of this surprising, having experience with lots of corruption over the years.

Suze tells him that the system wasn’t too bad for a while, the companies being small and varied enough that they didn’t have a huge sway over the government, but a couple of decades ago the cryocompanies were beginning to agglomerate, and now there’s half a dozen that are in charge of everything.  Miles asks Suze about herself; she says she was secretary of the family corporation that owned this building, bought out and sold off by one of the cryocorps, which itself got swallowed up by WhiteChrys.

Before Miles can question her further, Jin returns with coffee and cinnamon rolls; Suze doctors her coffee with some booze, which Miles declines.  Suze seems to feel like she’s said too much, because she tells him to go to Ayako’s Cafe to get his friends to pick him up; Jin wants him to stay longer, but Suze says he has to go.  Miles says that he came to the planet to learn about cryo-law and -science on Kibou-daini, but he feels like the conference left out rather a lot, and he wants to find out more about it; Suze tells him to look elsewhere, but Miles says he’d like to stay for one more day, if he can send a message with Jin.

Suze offers to spring for his tram fare if he goes; Miles obliquely threatens to tell the police about them, unless they give him some more information.  He mentions that WhiteChrys has also tried to bribe him, which mostly made him curious what they were hiding, and also makes him want to hide from them a little longer.  He assures her that the recipient of his message will do what he says.  Jin says he’ll be happy to carry the message, and Suze, still grumpy about the trouble this little man seems likely to bring down on them, tells Jin to get him something to write his message with, and on.
Jin takes “Miles-san” down to the storeroom, where Miles spends some time looking through an assortment of notepaper, mostly fancy flowered stationery.  Miles selects a pen as well, then looks around at the room.

“This place looks like a junk shop. Or the attic of Vorkosigan House . . .”

“Whenever anybody has findings that they don’t want, they bring them down here for anybody to use,” Jin explained. “Or else when . . . ​um.” When they go downstairs to Tenbury for the last time, but he couldn’t say that. He wasn’t sure he was even supposed to know that.

Miles spots a pile of discarded shoes, and Jin helps him find a pair of girly but wearable sport shoes; then he finds himself a sturdy wooden cane.  Jin leads him back up to the roof, where Miles sits down at the table and composes the note; after he’s done, Miles asks him for something sharp, and Jin finds him a scalpel.  Miles pricks his thumb with it and makes a bloody thumbprint on the sealed envelope; Jin asks him why, and Miles says it’s traditional, but also contains a good DNA sample to prove it comes from him.  Miles tells him where to deliver the note, and writes down the address as well; he instructs Jin to give it only to Lieutenant Johannes of Consul Vorlynkin.  Jin gets tramfare from his limited cache of coins, which Miles promises him he’ll get back; Jin gives Miles instructions for dealing with any animal-related emergencies, and then heads down to the street.

He nervously takes the tram to the unfamiliar east side of the city, and manages to find the Barrayaran Consulate in a neighbourhood of houses in walled gardens; it’s not nearly so impressive as the huge mansion of the Escobaran embassy, though.  He walks through the open gate and presses the buzzer; the man who answers tries to put him off, but Jin says he has a letter, and the man identifies himself as Lieutenant Johannes, so Jin gives him the letter.  When Jin says it’s from Miles Vorkosigan, though, Johannes pulls him inside, opens the envelope, and shouts for someone named Stefin; he is relieved when the letter’s contents announce that Miles is alive after all.  A second man comes down the stairs.

“Look at this! A letter from Lord Vorkosigan-he’s free!”

The second man looked over his shoulder, and echoed, “Thank God! But why didn’t he call in?” Then, after a moment more, “What? What?

The lieutenant turned the letter over and they both read on. “Is he insane?”

They look at Jin doubtfully, and Jin says the thumbprint on the envelope was done in Miles-san’s own blood; Johannes takes the envelope and goes to get it checked out.  Jin asks the other man if he’s Consul Vorlynkin, with the man confirms, even though he’s not as old as Jin expected.  He starts asking Jin about how he met Miles, and Jin tells him about meeting him after he got out of the Cryocombs; he tries to reassure the consul that Miles is okay, but the consul says that he’ll put Jin under fast-penta if anything about the story doesn’t check out.  Luckily, the consul doesn’t press the question of where exactly Miles _is_, muttering to himself about why he sent a child with the letter.

Johannes returns with the news that the thumbprint is genuine, so the consul supposes they’ll have to do as the letter tells them, but they’ll send a copy of ImpSec on Komarr; they’re not likely to override Miles’s orders without approval from very high up, though.  Miles also seems to think Roic was taken, which they’ll have to pursue.  Jin diffidently tells them that Miles has asked for a reply; the consul says he’ll provide one, and tells him to wait, and the two men leave him there.  Jin pokes around a little, but another man discourages this, so he sits and waits; the consul returns with an envelope and gives it to him, with orders to give it to Lord Vorkosigan only, something Jin assures him he can do.  He leaves a little apprehensively, but somewhat reassures that Miles-san seems to have some sort of friends on the planet.

Comments

I can’t help but think that Miles’s correction of Jin’s pronunciation is aimed at some readers.  Well, getting your readers to pronounce your character’s names right is a spotty affair at best.  By now, even if the author declares firmly that the second syllable of Vorkosigan is “ko” to rhyme with “snow”, I’m still going to say “Vor-koss-i-gan”.  It’s still closer than “Vor-ka-see-gin”, right?

Suze explains how the planet got to its current sorry state, as the little cryo-company voting blocs got subsumed in mergers until all that was left were the big companies.  Sounds a bit more plausible than people picking big companies to give their votes to.  It seems like a lack of planning and foresight.   I mean, signing your voting proxies over to the company that’s holding you frozen is one thing if you have assurances that they’re just as liberal or conservative or libertarian or whatever as you are.  But if you don’t have any assurance that they’re going to keep voting that way forever, then it’s just bad planning.

It’s not clear yet whether most of the people who are frozen were frozen because of illness or injury, or if some of them just wanted to fast-forward to the future or something; the latter would be more likely to want to channel their votes into a direction they’d want to specify, while the former may be more focused on supporting first the cryocorps themselves, to keep them frozen, and secondly the medical research that would make it possible to fix their health up when they’re finally thawed.  But once the big companies are in place, then they’re likely going to use their votes to entrench themselves more firmly and maybe try to sabotage their rivals.  So, seems like a good time for Lord Auditor Vorkosigan to step in and fix things…though I can’t remember if that’s what he does.  It’s not really his mission, but then his true mission is a little unclear, except that it seemed to have something to do with investing the cryocorps for the Toscanes.  Unless that’s just a cover story…

The relief of the embassy staff to find out that Miles is still alive and well is palpable, since surely it’d be a black mark on their records for a Lord Auditor, and Count’s Heir, to go missing or die on their watch.  And if it turned out that the planetary authorities were in any way responsible for it, it might lead to some kind of heavy-handed intervention on Barrayar’s part.  Which, again, makes me wonder what the heck is really going on here.  Anyway, we don’t know much about Johannes and Vorlynkin, whether they’re on the up-and-up or if one of them is collaborating with the enemy or something.  Vorlynkin, at least, didn’t seem to be digging too hard to find out where Miles was, which would be a bit of a danger sign.  What the heck is in that letter, though?  What is Miles telling them to do?  I guess we’ll have to wait to find that out too, with any luck.

Also, what the heck is “going downstairs to Tenbury”?  Another cryo-freezing thing?  Another tidbit for later, I guess.


And that’s the Reread for another week, I guess.  Another chapter, likely, next week…week after that is Christmas Eve, so I might take a break, or if I’m feeling ambitious I might do up an entry in advance to post on a timer.  But I wouldn’t count on it; I haven’t finished my Christmas shopping yet, after all.

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Name: The Vorkosigan Saga Reread

Real Name: CryoBurn, Chapter 2

Origin: CryoBurn is the second most-recently published book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, but takes place most recently chronologically, with a several-year gap between it and the last couple of books.

Powers: Multiple viewpoints (Miles Vorkosigan and his Armsman, Roic)

Known weaknesses: Difficulty removing bolts from walls; recent injuries and lack of immediate resources

Chapter Two

Roic wakes, not for the first time, with the effects of the drugs partly worn off.  His wristcom is gone and he’s lying on a mattress on the floor of what he suspects is an abandoned hotel room; one ankle is chained to a bolt in the wall, the chain just long enough to let him reach the bathroom.  The bathroom has a window in it, but the glass seems designed to be unbreakable; there’s another picture window he can see out of, but outside he sees nothing but taiga and scrub, so he must be outside the city of Northbridge.  He begins trying to pull the bolt out of the wall, but it’s too small for him to get a decent grip on.

He thinks back to how he got into this situation.  Four weeks ago, M’lord had been given a new Auditorial assignment, and they were headed offplanet.  Roic was kept busy arranging for M’lord’s travel, and arranging things for his absence from the planet; more difficult was Roic’s absence from his own affairs, which includes his cautious courtship of Armsman Pym’s daughter Aurie.  All told it took less than a day before they left the planet on the way to the planet named New Hope II, but called Kibou-daini by its inhabitants; Roic and M’lord both studied up on the planet during the three-week voyage.

They’re supposed to be attending a conference on cryonics, hosted by several cryorevival companies on the planet; Roic isn’t sure that M’lord’s personal experience with cryorevival, not to mention comfort with galactics and offplanet reproductive technologies, is enough to qualify him for the conference, though.  He also doesn’t see that they’re enough of a threat to warrant M’lord bringing him along as a bodyguard, and yet he’s been assigned to keep watch over him in all of the program rooms.

And he had just about come to the conclusion that the entire jaunt was a put-up job between Lady Vorkosigan and Empress Laisa, to give Ekaterin a much-needed holiday from a spouse who diagnosed all complaints as a sign of boredom, to be alleviated with an exciting new task. Since Lady Vorkosigan already ran an enormous household, rode herd on four children under the age of six and a teenage son from a prior marriage, played political hostess for her husband in his roles both as an Imperial Auditor and as the Count’s heir, had undertaken supervisory responsibilities for agriculture and terraforming in the Vorkosigan’s District, and tried desperately, in her spare seconds, to maintain a garden design business, bets were on below-stairs as to when she would break and respond to m’lord’s idea of husbandly help by defenestrating the little man from the fourth floor of Vorkosigan House. This trip seemed a reasonable substitute to Roic.

Roic wasn’t comfortable not having a backup man, either.  Just a day or two ago he’d come back from a bathroom visit to find M’lord vanished upstairs to a private party, and barely restrained himself from bursting in without being called.  M’lord had been quite happy after that meeting, and later he told Roic that he’d just received his first bribe attempt, which seems to substantiate Empress Laisa’s hunch about what was going on here.  M’lord explained that offers of bribes are excellent if you want to follow the strings back to find out who’s pulling them, and generally you should accept them until you have the information you need.  The bribe was an offer of (non-voting) shares in White Chrysanthemum Cryonics Corporation, a.k.a. WhiteChrys, which is working on setting up a facility on Komarr.  Roic has trouble understanding the odd Kibou-daini system whereby the cryofrozen leave voting proxies in the hands of the cryocompanies storing their bodies, a practice that had been started a couple of centuries earlier when the cryofreezing trend had been on the upswing.

The next day things had gone quite unexpectedly, what with the melee in the lobby, getting separated from M’lord, and Roic getting captured.  He wonders if M’lord is nearby, in the same building, and starts rapping on the walls to see if he gets an answer; receiving none, he goes back to the bolt.  He’d been busily trying to help potential hostages escape when he was taken down by a stunner beam, and now he can only help that M’lord will show up to rescue him.

The door is unbolted from the outside, and opened to reveal a skinny, bruised man who brings in a Reddi-Meal and cautiously pushes it towards Roic, careful to stay out of range.  Roic tells the man he recognizes him from the lobby, one of the less-skilled men who’d participated in the mass hostage-taking.  Roic asks who they are, and the skinny man identifies himself as part of the New Hope Legacy Liberators; as he holds forth on their manifesto, Roic manages to deduce that they’re trying to take back power from the companies and their vast proxy voting blocs, “Burn the Dead” being one of their slogans.  They’re taking offworld hostages in an attempt to gain galactic attention to their struggle; Roic offers to pay some random or reward instead, and begins asking after Lord Vorkosigan, emphasizing that he needs to look after M’lord’s medical issues.  Eventually the skinny man agrees to ask around, but he doesn’t think he’s seen anybody like that around.

Roic has Skinny pegged as a minion, having been convinced by someone that someone else is to blame for all their problems, following happily but not especially bright or reliable.  The N.H.L.L. doesn’t seem to be using particularly lethal methods so far, so hopefully they won’t start killing their hostages.

Because if m’lord died on Roic’s watch, there would be nothing for it but to file the testimony by secured comlink and slit his own throat right here. Death would be better than making that report to certain persons in person. He pictured the faces of Count and Countess Vorkosigan, of Lady Ekaterin, hearing the news. Of Commander Pym, of Aurie. He imagined Sasha and little Helen, five years old-he’d have to kneel to look them in the eye-Where’s Papa, Roic?

He lacked a suitable blade. He’d heard of prisoners choking themselves by swallowing their own tongues-he curled his experimentally-but he doubted it would work for him. There was the wall. Strong enough to hold that damned bolt, certainly. Could he run against that wall hard enough to break his own sturdy neck?

Miles wakes up with a cat sitting on his chest, relieved to find out that the visual hallucinations seem to have gone away, and his surroundings, while odd, seem to be entirely real; in addition to the animals he’d already seen, he sees shelves holding cages and terrariums.  He’s still tethered by the ankle; Jin is sitting nearby at a small table, and proves to an ordinary, dark-haired multiracial prepubescent kid dressed in ill-fitting clothes.  He offers fresh-laid eggs for breakfast, but Miles asks if he can wash up first; Jin scrounges up some supplies and unties him, and Miles gives himself a thorough wash under the water tap around the corner.

Jin boils up some water and puts the eggs in it; he makes sure that Miles knows exactly where eggs come from, which he says some outworlders can’t handle.  Miles tells him that he’s familiar with a lot of Earth animals that were imported to Barrayar; Kibou-daini is more like Komarr, still being terraformed.  He tells Jin about Sergyar, with its more complete native ecosystem, since Jin seems to find the topic interesting.  Miles asks about coffee or tea, but all Jin has to offer is warm bulbs of cola, which Miles decides doesn’t look too appealing.

Miles asks about the building–different from anything the cryocorps would have shown him–and Jin says he’s not quite sure how many people live there, one or two hundred, but his friend Suze might know.  He was brought there by some people who find him sleeping in a park.  Miles asks about family, and Jin says he doesn’t have any here, with uncharacteristic terseness.

“My dad’s dead.” A hesitation. “My mom’s frozen.”

A distinction with a difference, on this planet. “Siblings?”

“I have a little sister. Somewhere. With relatives.”

That last word had almost been spit out. Miles controlled his brows, maintaining an empty, inviting silence.

“She was too little to take with me,” Jin went on, a bit defensively, “and she didn’t understand anything that was going on anyway.”

Jin changes his subject, noting that the eggs are done, and serves them, providing some salt from Ayako’s Cafe.  Miles wonders if Jin is an orphan or a runaway, and what Kibou-daini’s social services would think about his situation.  Miles asks about the comconsole Jin had mentioned earlier, and Jin says his friend Suze has it; he promises, reluctantly, to takes Miles to meet her, though he doesn’t seem happy at the prospect of losing his new friend.

Jin feeds the animals and cleans their cages, but eventually finishes and leads Miles back down the ladder.

Comments

So Roic gets the flashback, not Miles, and manages to fill us in on at least some of what happened, though of course not the stuff Miles did when he wasn’t there, or Miles’s unexpressed thoughts, so there’s still a few gaps.  And Miles’s POV is too concerned with the current situation to spend much time thinking about the recent past…or perhaps his memory is still a bit muddied from the drugs they gave him.

Roic is courting Pym’s daughter, eh?  I’d forgotten that part.  I still remember how Pym was “the new guy” way back in “The Mountains of Mourning”, and now he’s got a grown daughter?  His son was young enough to play with Nikki, nine years ago, at least, so it’s not clear whether Aurie is older or younger than Arthur (or a twin?  Or did Arthur get a sex change?).  Anyway, we haven’t actually met her yet, but then we never did actually see Arthur, did we?  Except maybe as one of the bug-hunting armsman kids back in A Civil Campaign.  For that matter, Aurie might have been one of those, too.  (Is Aurie short for something?  Aurelia, perhaps?  Aurora?)

And, also, Roic is being imprisoned by anti-cryocorp fanatics, “Burn the Dead” people, which may explain the graffiti Miles saw earlier.  It does sound like a highly dodgy situation, cryocorps collecting the proxy votes of their clientele, turning into voting monoliths.  Sounds like one of things that seemed like a good idea at the time and now it’s too late to do anything about it.  Except that that’s what Miles is here for, to smash the cryocorp cartels and free the frozen.  Well, those of them that can be thawed safely, anyway.  It’s not clear yet if most of these people are like the guy who wanted to be frozen until they could fix old age, or if some of them just wanted to skip into the future (like in that Vernor Vinge story), or if there are a lot of people with serious medical conditions who would die if awakened, more like the rest of the galaxy seems to use cryofreezing.

There’s the slightly more minor mystery of Jin’s family, what happened to his mother, why he doesn’t seem to like the relatives who are looking after his sister, and maybe why his dad’s dead, though that could conceivably be innocent.  Jin getting a POV means, of course, that he’s going to be integral to the plot, even after Miles manages to contact his people and get retrieved.  Which may very well happen in the next chapter, of course.


And that chapter will, of course, be winging its way to you next week, barring untoward circumstances.  The electronic copy of the book (from the CD enclosed with the hardcover) says there’s 20 chapters, and there doesn’t seem to be an authorial afterword like in the omnibized books, so that should be exactly what we get.  Well, except for the “Aftermaths”, which are tacked onto the end of that chapter.  I’ll have to see whether I want to devote an entire week to those five drabbles, brief in words but dense with meaning…

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Your name: The Vorkosigan Saga Reread

Your quest: To summarize and comment on the books of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga

One thing most people don’t know about you: Why Miles Vorkosigan is on the planet of Kibou-daini in the first chapter of CryoBurn, the book that we’re starting this week.

When nobody is looking you like to: Wander through subterranean cryocorpse storage facilities; hallucinate angels, insects, and lizards; squat on the rooftops of abandoned buildings and raise animals.

Chapter One

Miles has been on the planet of Kibou-daini for five days, and is currently lost in the “Cryocombs”, with cryo-frozen bodies all around him; he estimates that there’s about a hundred of them every ten meters, and there’s one or two million of them stored under the city.  It’s pitch-dark, but he’s seeing golden flashes in front of his eyes, hallucinating them as angels; he worried more about what he can’t see.  He lost his cane in a scuffle, hours ago now, and the knees of his pants are torn and damp; he escaped through crawlspaces and ducts and utility tunnels to find his way here.

His would-be kidnappers hadn’t roughed him up too badly in the botched snatch, relying instead on a hypospray of sedative to keep their captive under control. Too bad it had been in the same class of sedatives to which Miles was violently allergic-or even, judging by his present symptoms, the identical drug. Expecting a drowsy deadweight, they’d instead found themselves struggling with a maniacal little screaming man. This suggested his snatchers hadn’t known everything about him, a somewhat reassuring thought.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t know anything about them, either.

He’s currently trying to go straight ahead as much as possible, since taking side corridors is how he ended up so horribly lost.  His fingers, used to running over the banks of drawers on either side, encounter something different, which he manages to identify as a door; hoping it’s not just another closet, he manages to open it, rusty as it is.  He drops to all fours and feels around cautiously on the other side, and discovers emergency stairs, going both up and down; he decides to go up, since it feels like “down” could go on forever, though he tries to tell himself that it would have to stop before it hit magma.  He climbs the stairs on all fours as well, testing each step for weight, and avoiding any other exit doors until he reaches the top.

Finally he begins to see a bit of dim light, coming from a window in a door; he pushed it open cautiously, finding himself in an alley at ground level, between his current building, only one storey above ground, and the taller building opposite.  No houses or stores nearby, probably an industrial zone; he judges he’s still in Northbridge a.k.a. Kitahashi, Territorial Prefecture capital, since he can’t have wandered that far, or at least not in a straight line.  He turns right up the alley, his nearly-bare feet almost numb.  He spots a graffiti he’s seen before on the planet, Burn The Dead, and wonders again what it means.

Turning onto the next street, he sees two figures coming towards him, which his addled perceptions tell him are a 6′ butterbug and and a Tau Cetan beaded lizard carrying sacks.  Miles tries to greet them, and the butterbug warns the lizard, Jin, that he looks like a druggie and they should stay clear.

“Hey,” said Miles, annoyed.  “I can’t look nearly as bad to you as you look to me.  Deal with it.”  Perhaps he had wandered into some talking animal story like the ones he’d read, over and over, in the nursery to Sasha and little Hellion.  Except the creatures encountered in such tales were normally furrier, he though.  Why couldn’t his chemically-enhanced neurons have spat out giant kittens?

He put on his most austere diplomat’s tones, and said, “I beg your pardon, but I seem to have lost my way.”  Also my wallet, my wristcom, half my clothes, my bodyguard, and my mind.  And–his hand felt around his neck–his Auditor’s seal-ring on its chain.

His Auditor’s seal wouldn’t have been as useful here as it would be on Barrayar, but at least Roic could use it to track him; he was alive the last time Miles saw him, anyway, before the panicking mob pushed them apart.  He babbles about how he knows that the butterbug image, at least, comes from his own mind, and the pair withdraws a little further.  The butterbug says they should just walk away, but Jin wants to know if they can help him; the butterbug says something about getting findings to the secretaries before dark.  Jin asks Miles where he wants to go, and Miles confesses that he doesn’t know yet.  He had been at a cryonics conference, but he doesn’t dare try to go back until he knows if his enemies will be waiting for him there; after yesterday’s events, he’s not sure he wants to go home just yet, either.

Miles asks humbly if he could at least have some water, since he was probably wandering in the tunnels for at least half a day, probably more.  Jin offers to get him some, before yielding to the efforts of his companion (Yani, and not his parent) to drag him away before the custodian closes up.  Miles slumps down against the wall in exhaustion, shivering in the chill, but telling himself that at least it’s not pitch dark.

He dozes for a while, then awakens when Jin (looking less reptilian than before) returns and offers to take him to his hideout, where he’s got some water bottles.  Miles agrees, struggles to his feet and follows.

Jin thinks the little man is definitely a grown up, from his voice, despite its strange accent, even if he’s no taller than Jin himself; he looks like a habitually cheerful person, too, and his clothes look like they used to be nice.  They reach the ladder and Jin asks the man if he can climb, reassuring him that it’s only three stories to his hideout; the man offers to go last, in case he falls, but Jin says he has to go first so he can raise the ladder after them.  The man balks at the edge, though, apparently unable to see how far down it is over the ledge; Jin tells him that it’s only half a meter, and the man rolls over onto the roof, explaining that he’s a little dizzy.

The man is a little dismayed to see Jin’s chickens on the roof, thinking they’re hallucinations like the angels, until Jin assures him that they’re real.  He leads the man over to his hideout, a makeshift tent made out of tarps and drop cloths, where his other animal friends live–Lucky the three-legged cat, Gyre the falcon, and his caged pet rats.  The man seems a little nervous, and rejects Jin’s offer to hold one of the rats, though he says it’s because he’s still shaky.  He reminds Jin of his offer of water, and accepts Jin’s offer of his only chair; Jin gets him a water bottle, and assures him he can refill it from a tap on the roof.  The custodian had helped him hook it up, and also helped him with his tent.

Jin is curious about the man, his appearance and odd body shape, but he settles for asking him his name.  The man introduces himself as Miles, with a last name that most people on the planet seem to have trouble saying; Jin introduces himself in return, adding that he’s almost twelve.  He asks about Miles’s funny accent, and Miles tells him he’s from Barrayar, which he then explains is an empire of three planets.  Jin is excited to meet a real offworlder, though a little disappointed because that probably means he’ll be leaving as soon as he get in touch with his friends or hotel.

Jin tells Miles that the building was an old cryofacility, but he and several others are sort of hiding out in it.  Miles asks about Yani, and Jin says he’s a revive; his cryocorp thawed him out after a hundred years, like his contract says, but Yani really wanted to stay frozen until they figured out a cure for being old, so now he’s all grumpy about it.
Miles grumbles about his head still being confused, and Jin offers to let him sleep for a while; he asks about bathroom facilities, and Jin admits that he mostly just uses the gutter and rinses it down the drainpipe.  Jin offers Miles some food after his lie-down, and Miles allows that by that time he’ll probably be ready for it.  Jin has another thought about the gutter, that it might be a little dangerous if Miles is dizzy, and offers to tie a rope to his ankle (like he did with the baby chicks) if that’ll help; Miles thinks that’ll be a good idea, and Jin fetches the rope and ties him with it, though Miles is asleep by that time.  Then he heads down to see if he can get some scraps at Ayako’s Cafe.

Comments

Once again, not two chapters.  Sorry about that.  I do have this one in HTML format (from the CD included with the hardcover) so I can’t blame the difficulty of working with the book copy, like it was with Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance.  As I’ve said before, I don’t like this book as much, but also I’m less familiar with it, so it takes more work for me to figure out what’s happening so I can summarize it properly.

Kibou-daini sounds like it’s somewhat Japanese, culturally.  They have trouble saying “Vorkosigan”, possibly because of its consonant cluster or something (and before all us skilled English speakers get smug, try saying “Tkvarcheli” sometime).  “Jin Sato” (Jin’s full name), Ayako, Yani, Kitahashi, all sound nice and Japanese.  More than Kibou-daini, to my ears, actually, but maybe that’s also good Japanese, or maybe it’s not all Japanese, just this one area?  Oh, and apparently there’s tons of people cryo-frozen, which the title is liable to make one thing is important to the plot of the book.

I’m not really that big of a fan of Jin’s POV, not yet, at least.  Seeing things from a native’s viewpoint, in third person, is great if you don’t mind tons of unexplained references to things that said native already knows about and doesn’t have to explain to oneself.  Often first-person narrators are obliging enough to explain things to the person they’re telling the story to.  For instance, Jin’s story about Yani is full of references that probably go right over Miles’s head, and he isn’t quite self-aware enough to really think that maybe offworlders wouldn’t know everything he’s talking about.  There’s also something about his mother, who’s obviously not around, but he doesn’t tell us about that either.

Of course, Miles starts out so in medias res that we’re left disoriented with how he got there, too.  He starts this story off so isolated; Roic is onplanet somewhere, but they got separated, apparently.  There was a kidnapping attempt or something, with attempted drugging resulting in hallucinations; this must be something from the fast-penta family, I guess, though slightly different.  So it’s good for him to have someone to talk to, and to help him, and maybe a kid is the only one who’d help a stranger like this, but still.  In some ways it makes me think of Steven Brust’s Athyra, except there we get all or most of the book from Savn’s point of view, rather than from Vlad Taltos’s.  (It’s not my favourite Vlad Taltos book, either.)


 

Another chapter next week, or maybe two if things pick up, but don’t get your hopes up.  Oh, it looks like Chapter Two starts with Armsman Roic’s POV, so hopefully we’ll find out more of the backstory.  Because we get at least those three viewpoint characters in this book; I don’t recall any others, but I’d forgotten until a little while ago that we got Roic, either.  Not up to the five from A Civil Campaign, but at least the chapters are shorter…

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