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Posts Tagged ‘Mina’

It was the best of blogs, it was the worst of blogs, it was the beginning, it was the end, it was fire, it was ice, it was life, it was death, but most of all, it was the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  And it is, indeed, almost the end, as we reach the last chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s CryoBurn, but not, quite, the very end.  Because the book has a coda, “Aftermaths” as they’re called.  But first, here’s the math:

Chapter Twenty

Jin’s Aunt Lorna joins the Satos, and Consul Vorlynkin, for an outdoor lunch in the back garden of the consulate; Jin was a little worried about her being there, but they end up allies, because she doesn’t want him back living with her either.  She and his mother do agree that it was wrong for him to run away like that, leaving them worrying what had happened to him; Jin points out that if he hadn’t run away, he’d never have met Miles-san, and she would still be frozen.

Consul Vorlynkin has been looking more relaxed since Miles left the day before, which Jin supposes makes sense, given how quiet it’s been since the Lord Auditor left.  There have been lots of people coming to talk to them, police and lawyers and journalists, but they haven’t taken his mother away, so that’s something.

Min comes running out of the house with the box Lady Murasaki lives in, announcing that her babies have hatched; the adults seem less than impressed, and Lieutenant Johannes decrees that the baby spiders have to stay out in the garden.  As Mina is trying to find them a pretty place to live, Jin tries to reassure Johannes that the chickens will likely eat a lot of the spiderlings.

Raven comes outside, and introduces himself to Aunt Lorna, who seems taken with him; after admiring the spiderlings, he tells Lisa that her friends Mr. Kang and Ms. Khosla have been successfully revived, and Lisa thanks him sincerely.  They will also need time for their immune systems to recover, but in a couple of days they should be able to give statements to the police; in the meantime, Kareen is dealing with their security, which her family apparently has a certain talent for.

“Yes, I believe Lord Vorkosigan did say something about that, before he left. He does seem to know the most extraordinary range of people. Only to be expected, given his background.”

“What is this Lord Unpronounceable you keep talking about, anyway?” asked Aunt Lorna.

“What, or who?” said Raven-sensei. “Although I gather that for him, the two are nearly inextricable.”

“Either. Both.”

“He investigates insurance fraud for somebody,” Jin supplied. “His boss is named Gregor. He talks about him a lot.”

Vorlynkin then fills in a few gaps in Jin’s conception of Miles, informing him that “Gregor” is the Barrayaran Emperor, and Miles’s job as Auditor has a much wider scope than mere insurance fraud, in addition to his illustrious parents, the Viceroy and Vicereine of Sergyar; Jin begins re-evaluating Miles from his earliest impressions, and wonders what it would be like to be an adult and still have a living father.  Mina asks what a Viceroy is, and Vorlynkin explains it to her, and then she says he has an important job and an important family.  Aunt Lorna says that he probably has the job because of the family, but Vorlynkin says he also has a talent for ferreting things out, which leads to Jin wishing for a ferret; Vorlynkin points out that he does have a sphinx, and that should be enough for now.  Jin decides that having a mother back is also pretty good, though a ferret would be nice…

Mina is a little alarmed when they find Nefertiti eating violets, and Jin worries that the Consul will be upset, but Vorlynkin says that candied violets are often put on salads, so as long as she doesn’t eat too many at a time, she should be okay.  Jin thinks that he really likes Vorlynkin, who knows all sorts of stuff, and his mom also seems to like him…so maybe he’ll stick around for a while.

Miles and Roic meet up with Mark at the Escobar transfer station; Miles has a few hours to kill before his ship leaves for home, so Mark agrees to join him, even though they’ve already spent days together on the ship from Kibou-daini, even if a lot of that was working separately.  Mark says Kareen had sent him a message from Kibou-daini, where she and Raven are getting the new Durona clinic started; he tells Miles about the two friends of Lisa Sato that have been revived, and are now testifying, and Oki has also agreed to testify in exchange for leniency.  Miles’s name has so far managed to stay out of the issue entirely, though Mark twits him about his supposed reluctance to stay in the shadows.

Mark says when he gets back to Escobar he’ll have a lot of unanticipated work for the Duronas, and he should have the first batch sent off within a week.  He plans to give Ted Fuwa a lot of work doing repairs on the clinic, in part to keep his mind off the sale price Mark talked him into.  Miles says he had planned to stop on Sergyar to visit their parents, but his case has run late, and he’ll probably need to spend a few days on Komarr laying the trap for WhiteChrys, so he might not get the chance to see them until Winterfair.  He asks Mark if he’ll be home then, perhaps to pitch the anti-age treatment to the Count in person, and Mark says he’ll have to see how the preliminary results look.

Miles contemplating his still-unanticipated clone, mentions the uncle they never met, Aral’s elder brother who was killed by Mad Yuri’s men; Mark says he never learned much about him, since he wasn’t important to the planned impersonation scheme, and Miles says their father never talked about it much either.  It would have been so different, him not being the Count, maybe not even deciding to go into the military…  He suggests they get the Count to talk about his brother, as one of the few people who’ll still remember him, and Mark agrees.

Miles asks if Mark and Kareen are thinking about marriage and children yet; the pressure is mostly off them, the other Koudelka sisters all having children by now.  Mark admits that he’s terrified of children, since his experiences of being parented were by a psychotic terrorist with displacement issues; Miles says that at least Kareen is sane enough to be a good parent.

“There is that,” Mark admitted. “So what’s your greatest terror, now you’re a Da yourself?”

“What if . . .” Miles pulled at his hair, looking up cross-eyed to see if he could spot any of the sneaky gray ones, but this cut was still too short. “What if my children find out I’m not really a grownup? How dreadfully disappointed would they be?”

This time, Mark laughed out loud. It was a very good sound, Miles thought, and he grinned back ruefully at his brother.

“I think your wife already knows,” said Mark.

Miles asks Mark if he thinks that Vorlynkin and Madame Sato will hit it off, since he’d gotten the impression that the Consul was interested, but wasn’t as sure about her; Mark says he has no idea.

Roic spots Colonel Vorventa further down, ImpSec liaison at the embassy on the transfer station; when Vorventa spots them, he gestures for them to stay where they are and heads for a lift tube.  Miles says he’s probably there for one of them, most likely him, and he hopes that this isn’t a new assignment, since he really wants to go home now.  Roic notes that Vorventa is decked in his full dress greens, unlike his usual civilian clothes.

Vorventa’s steps slowed as he approached, and his eyes searched his quarry, though his face remained stiff. He halted at the table’s side, cast Mark and Roic a grave nod, came to attention, and offered Miles a very formal salute, though Miles was in no kind of uniform at all except his gray trousers and jacket.

The messenger moistened his lips, and said, “Count Vorkosigan, sir?”

Comments

This chapter is, of course, our true denouement.  First the cozy get-together on Kibou-daini, even Aunt Lorna there; I can’t help but compare her and her husband with the Dursleys, and at least they come off well in that comparison, but then they’re not caricatures.  We don’t get to see them much except through Jin’s eyes, which are not the most sympathetic, so I’m sure that they’re not monsters, but they could perhaps have been nicer to their niece and nephew.

Not much else in that scene; even Raven’s news about Lisa Sato’s reawakened friends is also relayed to Mark in the next scene.  In orbit over Escobar, destroying the unity of place which has heretofore kept everything on Kibou-daini, but it gives time for some things to have happened, and is a better place for the finale to take place.  The conversations about their plans for Winterfair with their father, getting him to talk about his brother, pitching the life-extension scheme to him…and not knowing that it’s already too late.

At this point I can’t remember if I was expecting anything like this when I read this the first time.  Had it already been spoiled for me?  Had I glimpsed it while paging ahead to find out how many pages there were in the book?  Probably.  Those three words, so innocuous, are one of Bujold’s spearpoints, a tiny pinprick whose setup over how many books makes it pierce your heart that much harder.  Count Aral was on the verge of death back in _Mirror Dance_, and he’s never been all that young, but it’s never a good time.


 

The full force of that spear comes, of course, in the aftermaths.  But that’s for next week…

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Terry Pratchett described inspiration as like neutrinos; there’s unimaginable numbers of them streaking through every point of the universe all the time, but only a few will actually intersect with anything.  Which is probably why that was the only thing I could come up with to introduce this, the antepenultimate installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, about the penultimate chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s CryoBurn, the end of the Vorkosigan Saga so far, at least until next year, when the next book is due out.  But by that point I’ll likely have hung up my shingle.  Still, try to enjoy what I have to say about Chapter 19 of CryoBurn, if you can…

Chapter Nineteen

After Roic stunned Hans, he goes after Oki, who is being hampered by his grasp of Leiber; while he tries to shock a squirming Leiber, Roic points his stunner at Oki’s face and tells him to give up, which he does.  Lisa Sato checks on the unconscious Jin, who only has a small scratch on his neck; Roic apologizes, but said he thought it better to stun both them than let a hostage situation escalate, and sends Raven to get him some synergine.

M’lord strolled up, possessed himself of the shock stick, and regarded their captive with a curious and thoughtful air, like a biologist planning out the dissection of a promising new specimen.

Oki regarded him back, bewildered. “Who the hell are you people, anyway?”

“From your point of view,” said m’lord, “I suppose we’re your karma delivery service.”

Miles asks why they didn’t just run away instead of going back to their bosses, and Oki says that they have families to think about, and for the first time, he’s making good money.  Miles encourages him to turn himself in as a state witness, as long as he does it right now; he asks where they were taking Leiber, and Oki says that there’s a van outside with Akabane from NewEgypt waiting for them.  Delighted, Miles tells Roic that they should get Akabane arrested right now, red-handed, if at all possible.  Oki says that Akabane sensed that the three other heads at NewEgypt, Kim, Choi, and Napak, were going to throw them to the wolves, unless they took some action, so he recruited Hans and Oki.  As Raven returns with the medkit, Roic cuffs Oki, then takes Leiber down the stairs with him, saying he needs him to identify Akabane so he doesn’t stun the wrong man.

“You’re pretty free with that thing.”

“It’s all right. I have a license to stun.”

“I thought that was supposed to be a license to kill.”

Roic grimaced. “That, too. But you would not believe all the forms that have to be filled out, afterward.”

Leiber looked as if he weren’t sure if that was a joke or not, which was all right, since Roic wasn’t sure either. The procedures hadn’t been all that amusing at the time. Or in retrospect.

They go out a side door and circle around to the front, where the doubtless formerly landscaped front lawn, filled with elderly evacuees, is now overgrown; Roic sees emergency lights from the other end of the complex, but no fire-glow.  The facility is surrounded by a chain-link fence, but the gate has been forced open, and a familiar-looking van is parked on the street outside.  Roic says he’ll take cover behind the gate kiosk, and then Leiber can join the crowd to try to draw Akabane out; Leiber protests, but Roic says he can’t stun him through the side of the van, and Mark can charge him trespassing as soon as he’s on the grounds.  Leiber says that he thought Fuwa owned the place, but Roic says that he wouldn’t bet on it any more.  Leiber complies, and Roic watches him mill around, being sure that his face is visible; after a minute, the van creeps through the gate.  Roic wonders suddenly whether Akabane will try to crush Leiber with the van, but instead it stops and the door slides open; a figure leaps out to attack Leiber, and Roic kneecaps him with the stunner before knocking him out entirely.

They toss Akabane back into the van, Roic musing about how this is the first time he’s actually been face to face with any of the NewEgypt people that they’ve been fighting, and how odd that feels; more like space combat, almost, like Miles and his father were familiar with.  But then, from the NewEgypt point of view, the Lord Auditor had come out of nowhere to wreak havoc with their careful plans.  He spots the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle heading for the gate, and tells Leiber to head back into the crowd, then meet him at the door; he’s pretty sure that the action part of is over, and now Lord Vorkosigan can take over with the talking part.

Jin wakes up in a recovery room, feeling kind of blah, with his mother watching over him; he remembers Armsman Roic shooting him, which was a weird feeling of helplessness, and leaves him feeling a little scared of and angry at Roic.  Vorlynkin is also being treated; apparently he found some more prowlers, radical N.H.L.L. members, who hit him with a crowbar, but nothing seems to be broken.  They had been trying to break in with the crowbar and start some more fires in the tunnels; Vorlynkin did managed to tell the firefighters about the asterzine used for the other fire, which was fortunate, because asterzine ignites when it gets wet.  Jin says that the door they’d been trying to pry open is never actually locked, which amuses Vorlynkin; the firefighters helped subdue the men, who were willing enough to finger Hans and Oki as the ones who hired them.

Jin asks after Nefertiti, who seems to be just hiding under a desk, grumbling to herself; Raven checks him out, bandages the scratch on his neck and assures him the numbness on his face should pass soon.  He passes on Lord Vorkosigan’s thanks to Jin and Mina for delaying the kidnappers’ escape until the rescue party arrived, which made his job much easier; Jin catches an alarming glimpse of the men in the next room, but one is still stunned and the other is handcuffed.  He pictures what would have happened if they’d been kidnapped again, and is relieved.

Miles and Roic return, and Roic gives Jin a friendly greeting, but Jin can’t return it, remembering the scary Roic who shot him.  Miles hops on a chair to address them all, saying that the police, and some of Madame Xia’s lawyer friends, will be here soon, but first they need to get their stories straight; he says he’d like to de-emphasize his own role, in favour of Raven and Dr. Leiber.  The story will be that Raven was looking to hire Leiber for the Durona Group, and was told about the cryo-solution and commodified contracts at that point; Raven agreed to revive Lisa Sato as a witness, and Leiber’s abortive flight to Escobar was only a feint to draw pursuit off, which worked a little too well.  Raven requested Roic’s rescue services as a favour from his employer’s brother, while Miles was only along to keep an eye on his brother’s activities, and he’ll be leaving soon now that he’s been satisfied about that, which Jin hears with some disappointment.  Raven agrees to go along with the story.

Miles says he hardly needs the forensic accountant he sent for a few days earlier, but he offers their services to Lisa Sato when they do arrive.  Lisa expresses concern over keeping custody of the children; Miles says they’d need her permission to even question the children, and he encourages her not to let them.

Roic asks if he can show the children something, and Jin isn’t sure, but Mina is eager, so he goes along.  When they’re out in the corridor, Roic pulls out his stunner and offers to let them try it out, and again Jin is forced to agree when by his sister.  Roic tells Jin how to handle it safely, and lets him fire at the wall a few times before Mina gets her turn; by the end, Jin feels much safer, and not angry with Roic anymore.

Miles leaned forward and spoke earnestly into the secure holovid recorder. “I just want you to know, Gregor, that if the planet melts down over all this, it wasn’t my fault. The trip-wire was laid long before I stumbled across it.”

He considered the opening remark of his report cover for a moment, then reached out and deleted it. The one good thing about the very asynchronous vid communication entailed by Nexus info-squirts, moving at light speed between jump points and ship-carried through them, was that if you didn’t think before you spoke, you could at least think before you hit send. Not that he hadn’t generated some of his best ideas as his brain raced to catch up with his moving mouth. Also, some of my worst. He wondered which kind his recent examples would ultimately prove to be.

Miles had spent a couple of days training Johannes on the kind of information to forward to ImpSec about coming events on the planet, but now he’s got the tight-room to himself; he adds a commendation for Johannes.  He’d recently overheard a conversation between the clerk, Yuuichi Matson, and Vorlynkin, where Matson was complaining that he’d heard people’d be trying to grease his palm if he had a consulate job, but he’d been severely disappointed; Vorlynkin, amused, said he should ask the Lord Auditor for tips.  His report includes information on the Komarran scheme, which should allow ImpSec to deal with the ploy.

Meanwhile, outside the Consulate, NewEgypt executives are under arrest for conspiracy, the preservative scandal blown wide open, and Lisa Sato and her group are suing them; the other cryocorps are trying to spin this as best they can.  Vorlynkin is doing a good job managing the Consulate and looking after the Satos, and Mark is handling the Durona interests; Miles is glad of the serendipitous effects of his unplanned side-jaunt into NewEgypt business.  Miles records a personal cover message for Gregor, summarizing the fact that the WhiteChrys suspicions proved correct, and requesting a commendation for Vorlynkin, before going on to tell him about how he got embroiled with NewEgypt.

He was a little out of breath by the time he finished. Miles tried not to wince as he imagined the look on Gregor’s face as he heard all this out. Nonplussed? Pained? Bland? Gregor could out-bland Pym.

“So far, no criminal charges have been leveled against me, and I trust I’ll be long gone from Kibou-daini before anyone on the other side thinks of it,” he concluded in cheerful reassurance.

He ends with a mention of Mark’s experimental rejuvenation treatment, which might end up being the most important thing to come out of the affair, and recommends it to Laisa’s aunt as a potential alternate investment instead of WhiteChrys.

Comments

The tail end of the climax, with the subdual of Oki and the capture of Akabane, both reasonably effortless on Roic’s part.  I guess Roic gets to the action stuff that Miles is getting too old for, or something.  I guess when he was younger, he was more brittle, and tried to avoid the physical confrontations anyway, but then he had Bothari, and the Dendarii, and all that, and he still ended up getting more physically involved anyway.

Things tie up neatly.  Lisa Sato gets to stay conscious and in custody of her children, Leiber may get a job with the Duronas, the cryofacility is surely under Mark’s/Durona’s auspices now.  We do get one more scene with Jin in the next chapter, I see, but by that point it’s almost more of an epilogue than a denouement, despite having a chapter number.  You can’t trust those chapter numbers.  Matson turns out to have been a red herring, if you can use that term to describe something that was only alluded to once and never bothered about after that.  Yes, I’m still unsatisfied with the book.  Can you tell?

Miles and Roic seem to start off the book in jeopardy, but it gets resolved too quickly, and isn’t really related to the main plot except by letting Miles make the acquaintance of Jin.  Miles’s supposed mission is pretty much peripheral to that main plot too, and doesn’t even coincidentally tie into it at the end.  They do some risky investigations, but manage to stay mostly unscathed, until last chapter’s temporary jeopardy.  We get a cameo from a couple of beloved characters from earlier books (Mark and Kareen), not to mention Raven Durona.  It all…fails to gel.


Next week, the last chapter, as we get to one last knot introduced by the author at the end of the book.  But I’ll talk about that more then.  Until then…

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Okay, so I guess I didn’t just dream getting up in the middle of the night to bash out a blog post.  Huh.  I definitely was dreaming that ending of CryoBurn, though.  A Song of Ice and Fire crossover?  Only in my dreams, I’d wager.  Besides, Brienne was obviously actually Taura in disguise.

Anyway, this is the real Vorkosigan Saga Reread, going through the real published works of Lois McMaster Bujold, which is finishing up (over the next few weeks, at least) with CryoBurn, the last novel chronologically to feature Miles Vorkosigan and his cohorts.  (Speaking of which, she just recently posted a link to an interview online about CryoBurn which I hadn’t seen before.  I promise it’s not a rickroll…)  In Chapter Seventeen, the action starts to heat up a little…

Chapter Seventeen

Miles and Roic return, immediately noticing the lack of the prisoners (and their van) and the presence of a number of other people nearby, including, surprisingly, Mark and Kareen.  Jin tells them the story, and Miles is at least relieved that Yani isn’t worse off; Raven says it probably happened shortly after they left, and apologizes for undermedicating.  Miles tries to work out where they might have gone, whether they’d have dared to go back to NewEgypt; they hadn’t sene Miles, but they’d likely be able to describe Roic’s distinctive appearance, which would lead them to him.  NewEgypt would also thus know the location of Suze’s facility, and suspect that Leiber was there, but it was uncertain whether they knew about him having Lisa Sato’s cryocorpse; if they did, would they check security camera footage and find Miles and company’s attempted rescue?  He’d have to get more information from Leiber about his bosses.

“And hello, Mark. Why are you here? And so unexpectedly, too.”

Mark tilted his head in un-apology, smirking a bit.

Miles eyed Raven. “I thought we’d had an understanding about such surprises.”

Looking faintly guilty, Raven shrugged and mumbled, “Earlier ship.”

He greets Kareen instead, but they are interrupted by cries of “Aowt!” from the back of the van; Vorlynkin resignedly asks if he has another kidnap victim, but Miles says it’s a present for Jin, and Roic and Kareen go to help Jin unload the sphinx from the van.  Miles asks Raven how soon they’ll be able to move Lisa Sato to a safer place, i.e. the consulate; it’ll be a safer place to keep her from legal attacks, and in a few days he’ll have some help in protecting from less legal attacks.  Raven says the kids have already been compromising her isolation, and he’s already shot her up with as many immune-boosters as he can, so tomorrow should be doable; Miles asks Vorlynkin to stay there overnight and be ready to evacuate her in a hurry if necessary.  Vorlynkin asks if he really thinks that’ll be necessary, and Miles admits he’s not sure; they might just hide behind their lawyers, but they may take more aggressive action instead.

Miles asks Mark again why he’s there, and Mark tells him about the plan to buy up the building and test the life-extension treatment on the cryo-corpses that they revive; he asks Miles not to mess up his Deal, and Miles asks him in return not to screw up the case.  Mark admits that Raven hasn’t shared the details about that, and Miles tells him about the WhiteChrys project on Komarr; the NewEgypt issues came up later.

“I’m trying not to leave undue collateral damage upon a local kid who befriended me, at some cost to himself. Good intentions, Mark. My path is paved with them.”

“So glad I don’t have any of those.” Mark’s glance grew uncomfortably shrewd. “It’s not your planet, you know. You can’t fix it.”

“No, but . . . ​well, no. But.”

“Well, try not to leave too much rubble in your wake. I can use this place.”

Miles says he hopes the treatment is more successful than the last one, which killed its test subjects; Mark says that Lily herself is testing this one, though more out of desperation than extreme confidence.  Miles mentions another potential test subject, an older male, like their father; Mark is dubious that they’ll be able to talk him into it, though perhaps their mother might be able to.  Miles suggests that if they play up the risk factor, it might actually make him more likely to try it, out of a weird sense of duty.  Mark says that if the deal goes through, he’s likely to leave Raven in charge, as a kind of promotion; it’s not likely to put the clone-transplant people out of business, but he jokes that it might make him enough money to hire a band of mercenaries to attack them.

Miles grimaced. “Do you remember the last time you tried that?”

“Vividly. Don’t you?”

“Patchily,” said Miles dryly.

Mark winced.

Miles asks what their plans are next, and Mark says that they’ll be meeting with Fuwa, the building owner; he allows that Miles can sit in if he wishes, but to otherwise keep out of it.  Roic, Jin and Kareen return then with the sphinx, and Jin lobbies to take it up to show to his mother and sister; Roic prefers to stay and guard, but Vorlynkin volunteers to come up instead, Raven offers to come along to make sure his patient is okay, and Miles follows to go have another chat with Leiber.  Mark and Kareen resume their interrupted tour with Tenbury.

Jin is unsurprised that his mother is highly dubious about the prospect of keeping Nefertiti the sphinx, but Mina seems to like it, saying she’s kind of like Lucky and Gyre put together.  Jin puts the sphinx down and she flaps her wings, but he’s pretty sure she can’t fly any more than a chicken, and Raven says it’s likely designed for appearance over function.  Jin wonders if they’d lay eggs or have babies, and Raven said that they might not have made any males to breed with, so they’d have to clone them, which doesn’t sound that hard to Jin…  The sphinx says “Hum!”, and Jin tells Mina that they know about twenty words, and wonders if they can teach her more…

Jin’s mother says that they don’t even have a home to take her to, and then begins wondering what happened to her apartment and her possessions; Mina says that Aunt Lorna has some of her stuff, but had to sell some of their furniture, and Consul Vorlynkin says that these are solvable problems, and they don’t have to all be solved right away.  He says that she’s under the Auditor’s protection, and they will put her up at the consulate, and look after her needs for now.  Raven says that she needs to recover physically, which may take a few weeks yet, and her mental composure will follow; she says she never feels like she’ll have time.  Vorlynkin assures her that they have space at the consulate for the Lord Auditor’s perhaps ill-considered gift, along with the other animals, who he insists are livening up the place, and her unease subsides.

Vorlynkin lets Jin talk to Johannes at the consulate and give instructions for the animals; Miles and Roic join them after a while with a bunch of takeout food, supplied by Kareen, and they have a meal together in the recovery room.  Miles tells them about his visit to Earth with his wife on his honeymoon, skimming over the details of his previous visit.  Jin tries feeding Nefertiti some people food, which results in a mess in the corner; Ako makes Jin clean it up, and says the sphinx will have to stay outside overnight.  Jin takes Mina up to show him the rooftop hideout, Vorlynkin carrying the sphinx up for them.

On the way they pass a person looking for Ako to help someone who collapsed in the cafeteria, which Jin says is a reasonably common occurrence.  They descend down into the tunnels, Jin leading the way, then back up five flights to the rooftop; Jin shows them around, though a lot of the useful things have already been taken over to the consulate.  It’s dark outside, apparently having gotten quite late while they were inside.  They let Nefertiti out to explore, which she does cautiously, though Jin follows her around, not wanting her to go over the edge in case she plummets to her death; he says he should tie a line around her leg, like he did with Miles, and explains the earlier tethering to Vorlynkin, who seems amused by it.  He wonders if he should spend the night out there with her, or stay with his mother.

Nefertiti does peer over one parapet, but doesn’t try to go over the edge, and then goes to check out the other side; there, she sees something which seems to disturb her, and begins crying “Foes!”  Jin can’t see much in the dark, but there is a van parked down there, and some men in dark clothing moving around; then one of them breaks a window, and Jin realizes they’re breaking in.  They lug a barrel out of the van; Vorlynkin gets a whiff of the liquid inside as they shove it through the window, and says they’re trying to set fire to the place.  They toss something inside and then drive off in the van; they hear an explosion and see flames start up inside.

Vorlynkin asks how they can get down, and Jin tells him about the ladder; he leaves the sphinx with Vorlynkin and climbs down to unlatch the ladder to its full extension.  Mina comes down cautiously, and Jin helps her down after he reaches the ground; Nefertiti jumps over the edge of the building, and is apparently able to use her wings to break her momentum enough to land with little more than a thump.  Vorlynkin comes down last, a scratch visible on his face, and tells them to go to their mother and Dr. Durona, and do what they say; he begins to make calls with his wristcom, telling them to leave the sphinx behind.

Comments

Some good snarky Miles-Mark dialogue in this chapter, so there is that, at least.  And I guess that one of them did think of Count Aral as a potential test subject for the life extension treatment; I like the suggestion that playing up the risk will make him more willing to do it.  Would Cordelia think the same way?  Not sure.

The sphinx seems like an interesting creature, but just a novelty, really.  One doubts that all the potential problems of its hodgepodge nature have been worked out, and one wonders about how it’s brain is wired, too.  Does it have more intelligence than a regular pet, or does it just have the words it can speak hard-wired into it for various emotional state?  Though it does seem to be smart enough to recognize “Foes”; would that really be one of the 20 most important words?  I suppose it could use that for when it sees the neighbour’s cat outside the window or something…

And now we do have some actual violence, or enemy action, at least.  Must be linked to the NewEgypt people, though whether it’s the thugs who escaped coming back on their own initiative or if it’s organized by the Gang of Four themselves.  It wasn’t clear on the first read-through that the building that was set alight wasn’t the same building the rest of the characters are in, but presumably they’re hoping to spread through the entire complex.  I’d actually forgotten that it was more than one building, since it’s been a few chapters (and months, for me) since Jin first showed Miles through them.


Getting down to the climax now, one hopes, three chapters left, and I’m pretty sure the last one should be denouement, by this time.  Still on track to finish this month, at last.  See me next week…

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Time, like an ever-flowing river, has moved forward another week, and so we have arrived at an odd structure on the shores of that river: another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  It marks a spot close to the end (so far) of the river flowing through Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, in the swamps of CryoBurn, where I managed to slog through Chapter Fifteen, just for you.

Chapter Fifteen

Before seeing to Leiber, Miles goes to check on the other captives, sedated into unconsciousness; Roic has been searching them and their van, and says that not only is the van registered to NewEgypt, but their outfits are company issue and their IDs have their real names.  One of them is in charge of plant security, and the other one is his personal assistant, promoted there eighteen months earlier; Roic surmises that they threw together this operation in a hurry.

Roic asks what they should do with them, since they can’t really keep them forever; he suggests just leaving them to wake up in their van near Leiber’s hotel.  Miles notes that they saw Roic, if not Johannes, and that they might bring charges; he suggests having Suze freeze store them, which Roic doesn’t think much of, so they put off the decision for now.

Miles sets up his interrogation chamber next to Lisa Sato’s, and gives her a wristcom to listen in, and a window to peek through; he wants to start the questioning without Leiber knowing of Sato’s presence.  Raven and Roic bring him in and sit him down; Raven gives an injection of synergine, which alarms Leiber at first, but he soon realizes it’s not actually fast-penta.  Miles assures Leiber that they’re now in private, so they can talk freely, mentioning the bug on his comconsole, which Leiber says he thought he’d gotten rid of.  Leiber is familiar with the thugs who tried to grab him, Hans and Oki, the “Gang of Four’s pet muscle”; Miles says that Roic stunned the thugs to get him away from them.

Leiber asks who they are, and if they stole Lisa; Miles hedges and tells him that her cryochamber is perfectly safe, and they’re holed up in an old cryofacility.  Miles says he’ll tell Leiber what he knows, and Leiber can fill in the gaps; he describes his mission as investigating how Kibou-daini has dealt with the legalities of cryonics, which is probably at least partly true, but he only found technical issues at the conference he was sent to.  Since then, he says he’s found out the problems with the proxy votes, and, to Leiber’s surprise, the flawed cryo-preservative that the cryocorps, especially NewEgypt, are trying to keep from getting discovered.  He then mentions how Leiber sent to Lisa Sato’s group, which led to the ill-fated rally; Leiber says he didn’t mean to draw NewEgypt down on them, and he insists that the “bribe” they paid him (which Miles hadn’t even found yet) was just to make it look an intentional betrayal.

Leiber says he’d been assigned the investigation of a series of bad revivals, which is how he found out about the flawed cryo-fluid; he told his boss, who told his bosses, but nobody seemed to be doing anything about it.

“Who were these bosses? Which men were told about this?”

“The Gang of Four? There was my R & D supervisor, Roger Napak. And Ran Choi, the chief operating officer, and Anish Akabane, he’s chief of finance, and Shirou Kim, the NewEgypt president. They clamped down and kept the information tight right away.

He soon realized that they were more interested in covering their own asses than doing anything about the actual problem; when he protested they threatened to fire him, but he said he’d go public if they did, so they promised to work something out.  By then he’d lost faith in them, and searched out Sato’s group, who seemed to be the only ones complaining about anything except money; he met them, they organized the rally, and then the next time he went into work he got dragged off and interrogated under fast-penta, which was quasi-legal for employees.  They held him for two days, by which time the rally was all over.

However, Lisa Sato had told him to place evidence in a secret place with instructions to make it public in case he died or disappeared, and Lisa and George also hid copies; they found Leiber’s, of course, but not the other two, which Leiber surmises is why they kept him alive and unfrozen.  Hans and Oki were behind the capture and involuntary freezing of Lisa and most of her friends, and probably the deaths of the others; nonetheless, the Gang keep the around, under threat of mutual blackmail, and hopes that they will be useful in future.

Leiber felt guilty about what he’d done to Lisa and her friends, and their cause, but he still accepted his employers’ bribe, in delayed stock options, to try to pacify them; he’s been working on a way to detect the people frozen with the bad solution, because he’s the only one who knows about it and can work on it.  But he says he mostly stayed at his job all this time to keep access to Lisa’s cryochamber; he’d planned to take her to Escobar to be unfrozen there, her two friends being beyond his budget, where he could support her, maybe get a job with the Durona group….  Lisa tears back the curtain and pounds on the glass, her protests inaudible, startling Leiber with her appearance; Raven gets her a filter-mask and she barges into their booth.

“Seiichiro Leiber, you moron!” cried Madame Sato, which was approximately what Miles had guessed she’d been trying to say, since he’d been hard-pressed not to say it himself. “What were you thinking? You were going to kidnap me, take me off-planet, and abandon my children? And trap me there, with no money to get home?”

“No, no!” said Leiber, rising hastily and turning his hands out in pleading. “It wasn’t like that! Wasn’t going to be like that!”

It had been going to be exactly like that, in Leiber’s mind, Miles guessed. A princely rescue, with Leiber in the starring role, and the happily-ever-after, if not planned, at least much wished upon. Had Snow White in her glass coffin ever had a vote? Or a voice?

Leiber protests his good intentions, but Lisa doesn’t buy it; Raven points out that getting upset is not good for her immune system, and Miles reassures her that his scheme is scuttled now, and invites her to join them.  She sits down, out of breath, and wonders what her planet is coming to, if the corps can get away with murder, but she refuses to leave her children, or anyone else’s in this situation.

Miles points out that NewEgypt is still vulnerable if this news gets out, and tells Roic to interrogate the goons downstairs and find out who hired them.  Roic points out the testimony may not be admissible, but Miles says he at least wants it for their own purposes; he agrees they should be tested for allergy first, but isn’t sure what to do with them after the questioning’s done.  He muses on whether they can get Kibou-daini out of this situation, and keep other planets, particularly Barrayar, from getting into the same pickle.

At that point Vorlynkin arrives with the kids, and there follows a happy family reunion; Lisa is surprised at how much Mina has grown, as it finally sinks in that she’s been gone for eighteen months.  Jin and Mina introduce her to Vorlynkin, the nice man who’s letting them stay in his house, with its big garden; Vorlynkin helps her to her feet, introduces himself formally, and compliments her on her children.  Raven takes her back to her room, the children following to try to bring her up to date.  Vorlynkin says that it’s a relief to have her awake, so he can legitimately help protect the children.

Leiber asks what they’re going to do with him, and Miles says he’s free to go; he’s not a Barrayaran, so they can’t arrest him.

“Uh, but what about Hans and Oki?”

“I didn’t arrest them, I kidnapped them. According to Roic. I see I shall have to explain to you the difference between permission and forgiveness, sometime.”

“And what is the difference?” inquired Vorlynkin, brows rising.

“Success, usually. In any case, Dr. Leiber, you are free to leave at any time. I just don’t recommend it, not unless you have a better plan for hiding out than your last one. Presuming Hans and Oki are not your bosses’ only resource for legwork.”

He tells Leiber he’s free to stay here, where he’s less likely to be found, and says he does not recommend trying to catch the orbital shuttle.  Vorlynkin asks Miles what he’s going to do next, and Miles says he’s going to look for allies.

Comments

The whole chapter is from Miles’s viewpoint; is this the first such chapter in the book?  Well, that’s fine, because this is sort of like the scene with Guppy in Diplomatic Immunity, or…well, maybe that’s the only one like that.  But we finally get a bunch more background, and everything pretty much fits into place.  More or less.  With some venal and venial corporate drones as our villains, instead of a homicidal deranged Cetagandan ba.  And the title even kind of makes sense, because these people who thought they were safely frozen have now gotten…(removes shades)…Cryo-burned.

But I am not feeling like our main characters are in any way threatened.  The fiendish corps have done nothing except send their goons after Leiber, and those goons were dealt with so easily that they scarcely seemed any danger at all.  They have no inkling that they have earned the enmity of Our Heroes, and so they are likely to be caught flat-footed.  Again, unlike the ba, or Ilsum Kety, or Cavilo, or even Baron Bharaputra.  They are being ineffectual because Our Heroes have been so extremely clever/fortunate as to not have been detected.  Ho hum.  The only serious threat so far was the N.H.L.L., and we haven’t seen them since the first few chapters.

Are they trying to set up a Lisa Sato-Vorlynkin romance here?  It would explain why we got that earlier scene establishing that Vorlynkin is divorced, and the kids may be trying to help things out, in their own clumsy way.  Makes me think of Vorob’yev and Mia Maz in Cetaganda, except that Miles can probably claim a little more credit for this one; those two might have gotten together on their own.  I don’t remember if they do, but now is when I would start beginning to expect something to develop.


 

 

Five chapters left now, not counting Aftermaths.  And then I’ll be done with the Reread…which has definitely seemed more of a burden over these last couple of books, less favourite of mine.  Though Ms. Bujold has recently announced a new book forthcoming, starting Cordelia (!), called Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.  So that’s exciting…assuming she can get back into her game, anyway.

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You can get anything you want at the Vorkosigan Saga Reread…as long as what you want is synopsizing, summarizing and rhapsodizing about the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.  She wrote a whole bunch of books about the Vorkosigans, mostly a guy named Miles, and this one is the one named CryoBurn, which is the last one that she wrote, except for the one that came before it.  So now sit back and relax, and we’ll cover Chapter Fourteen as soon it comes around again on the guitar…

Chapter Fourteen

After a day or so, Miles eventually concludes that he may have been wrong about Leiber coming to the consulate, so he sends Roic and Johannes out to look for him.  Leiber has apparently called in sick at work, and doesn’t answer at home, so they head back over to his house.  On the way, they pass a building that advertises itself as for people born in a particular couple of decades in the last century; Johannes explains that people who’ve been revived and miss their old time often gravitate together.

At the house, they find the garage unlocked and the float-bike gone; toiletries and a few clothes seem to have been taken, the house tidied, Miles’s note gone.  Johannes begins dumping the contents of Leiber’s comconsole, noticing after a while that it’s monitored; he assures Roic that this activity won’t be noticed, and they might be able to trace it back to its source.  They check the last two days’ worth of communications; apart from calling in sick, Leiber seems to have emptied his bank accounts and purchased passage to Escobar on a ship that will be arriving at the planet that afternoon.  Roic considers asking the neighbours if they know anything, but decides that after their last visit, they’re not likely to trust him.

Johannes suggests he might have gone to hide with a friend, but Roic thinks he wouldn’t want to endanger them, so they head out to the shuttleport to look at lodgings nearby.  Roic starts with the cheapest, a self-serve place with no employees to remember faces, but they find Leiber’s float-bike parked around back; Roic accepts Johannes’s admiration for finding him so quickly modestly, thinking that it’s partly luck and partly practice gained trailing around with the Lord Auditor.  They sit in the float-van for a while trying to puzzle out Leiber’s enemies’ next move; a cryocorp might be able to get Leiber arrested on trumped-up charges, but that would call attention to themselves, so they might prefer to sending some goons to pick him up, and they might not have any more trouble tracking him down than Roic did.

Roic’s attention is caught by an emergency vehicle, with flashing blue lights, pulling up in front of the building; two burly men in scrubs jump out with a float pallet and run inside.  Roic, suspicious, goes inside and asks the desk clerk what’s going on, and she says one of their guests just called for medical assistance, some kind of seizure or something; she says she needs to go back and make sure his property is taken care of, and Roic waits in the lobby.   The men come back out with a float pallet, Dr. Leiber strapped onto it with an oxygen mask over his face.  Roic follows them as they leave, asking with concern what happened to the man, if they need help, if this hotel is too dangerous to stay at…annoyed, they tell him it’s perfectly safe.

The pair swung the van doors wide and slid the pallet aboard, both climbing inside to secure it.

Roic stuck his head in after. “You sure?”

“Yes, it’s safe,” said the tall one, exasperated, from the windowless cargo area.

“Good,” said Roic, pulled his stunner, and shot them both.

Roic quickly checks the two goons to make sure they haven’t had bad stunner reactions, and secures them for a bit longer; Leiber has lost consciousness as well, but seems to otherwise be all right.  Roic tells Johannes to lead him back to Suze’s place, and drives the ambulance after him, calling m’lord to notify him, and wondering if working for the Lord Auditor is being a bad influence on his respect for due process.

Jin and Mina, feeling rich after Roic paid them their informant fees, talk about what they want to do with their newfound wealth.  Jin thinks first about food for his pets, or even new pets, maybe some fish, though Mina isn’t sure they’re going to stay here that long.  Mina asks if she has enough for a pony, but Jin says they don’t have room for one, and points out that Lady Murasaki has twice as many legs, so she’s twice as good; Mina, unconvinced, says you can’t ride a spider.

Miles and Vorlynkin pass through on their way out, saying they’re going down to Madame Suze’s again; Jin wonders why they’re spending so much time there, and why Raven hasn’t come back.  Miles says that Yuuichi Matson will still be there, but they should try to stay out of sight if any strangers come by on business.  Mina asks if they’ll find Mommy soon, and Miles says he hopes to have good news soon; Jin can’t tell if he’s telling the truth or not.

 “Lord Vorkosigan, if you had children you’d give them ponies, wouldn’t you? Not spiders?”

He looked a little taken aback. “I do and I have. Ponies, not spiders. Although I suppose they could have spiders if they wanted some. God knows we have butterbugs. Monogrammed. Didn’t I ever show you my pictures?”

Jin is dismayed when Miles shows him that he already has a wife and four children, and wonders again who exactly he is, to seem to have such power.

“And here’s Helen on her pony down at Vorkosigan Surleau-it’s a place we have in the country, on a lake-and here’s Sasha petting his. Xander. Alex, I mean.”

Jin wondered what kind of inattentive father Miles-san was, that he couldn’t seem to remember his own son’s name. There was only the one boy, after all. It wasn’t as if he needed to run down a list till he got to the one who was irritating him, the way Uncle Hikaru had with him and Tetsu and Ken sometimes.

He’s impressed with the ponies, though, and the big place in the country, and all the animals, tame and wild, that must be living around there.  All of it belonging to other children, with living parents, and none of it for them; he’s angry and envious, even though he knows it’s ridiculous.  Miles tells them about how his grandfather would have thought it vital for them all to learn how to ride, calling it a sort of tradition, though he doesn’t sound sure how he thinks about it.

Miles and Vorlynkin depart, leaving Jin and Mina feeling sad, disappointed, and less rich than before; they admit it was probably a stupid idea, him wanting to take them away, and Mina wonders if they shouldn’t just go back to their aunt and uncle’s.  Jin says he’s going to stay, and says she has to stay too, or else she’ll tell them where he is; Mina is not happy about this, and points out that two ponies would have eight legs.

Matson comes in, asking Jin if he’s cryo-activist Lisa Sato’s son; Jin says he is, not sure whether it’s supposed to be a secret, but since Matson already knows…  He asks Jin if he needs somebody to call the police to rescue him from the Barrayarans; Jin, horrified, says the police took his mother away in the first place, and his relatives are even worse.  He denies that they’re prisoners, and Matson apologizes, but says he’ll help them out if they change their mind.

At Suze’s place, Miles goes to talk to Lisa Sato.  She’s still in bed in her isolation booth, but looking healthy for a revive; Miles puts on a mask and joins her, introducing himself.  She asks about him and the doctor who revived her, seeming suspicious of everything at the moment; Miles tells her about Dr. Durona and the facility they’re staying it, confirming that it’s in Northbridge.  She asks if he really has her children, and he tries to assure her that they’re safe, being sure to mention the menagerie to help convince her of his good intentions; she is surprised at his mention of the Barrayaran consulate, asking who he is and why he’s there.

Miles asks about the last thing that she remembers, but she stays mum on that; he says he knows little between her arrest, witnessed by her children, and her discovery in Dr. Leiber’s basement.  He explains how he works for the Barrayaran Emperor, and he’s investigating WhiteChrys’s odd behaviour on Komarr; he describes what he’s found, and his bribery sting, and she seems to approve.  Then he mentions the conference and N.H.L.L., of whom she does not approve, and how he got lost until found by Jin.  She says she thought she’d only be held a day or two before her lawyer sprung her, and she wonders why her children aren’t still with her sister; she’d been sedated while at the police station, and hadn’t realized she was going to be frozen.  Miles says that Jin seemed to be in conflict with his aunt over his animals, which is why he ran away, and Mina joined him more recently; he says Jin can tell her the full story.

Miles changes the subject to ask about her relation with Dr. Leiber; she says he’d come across a secret at his work, and thought that her group–whose names had all come up in talking to Mina and Jin–should know about it.  They met with him a few times, then planned to go public at a big rally.  However, the N.H.L.L. were having a rally in the same park that night, a fight started, and the police showed up suspiciously swiftly and in force to deal with it.

Miles asks about Dr. Leiber’s secret, pointing out that he already knows that Leiber worked with cryo-preservation fluids, and Sato decides that if he’s a spy he already knows anyway; she says that he found that a previous commonly-used preservation solution only lasted a few decades before breaking down.  As a result, a lot of the frozen are not really revivable, which means that they’re legally dead, their possessions due to their heirs and their votes lost to the corps; there’s a lot of money at stake, including legal fees and the costs of determining who is dead.  Miles is glad to finally have this piece to his puzzle, and wishes he had an analyst to determine the effects this is likely to have on the planetary economy; this probably also explains Alice Chen’s failure to revive.

Sato said she was sure this would strike a major blow to the cryocorps, and is amazed they’ve kept a lid on it for a year and a half; Miles says that three of her group were frozen under suspicious circumstances, and two more of them died suspiciously.  What he wants to know is why Dr. Leiber has kept his mouth shut this long; he tells her how Leiber had tried to flee the planet and was narrowly rescued from cryocorp goons, and is now sedated at this same facility.  Taking a leap of faith, he asks her if she wants to sit in on his interrogation.

Comments

So Roic says first that this is a self-serve hotel, but there turns out to be a lady at the front desk anyway, so…is she like a modern circulation librarian, job mostly obviated by automated service, but still required in case of emergency or unusual situation?  Or perhaps required by law, if only to buzz security if somebody tries to cause trouble?

I seem to recall that Matson wasn’t cleared quite as thoroughly as the others, and in this chapter I was watching him to see if he was going to get up to no good.  He didn’t seem to be guilty of anything other than being suspicious of the Barrayarans’ intentions, but I’m still suspicious of his motives.  Could just be a red herring; it’s hard to tell the purpose of some of the scenes in the book, if they’re setting up plot points, or if it’s more character-building for Jin or something.

So now we know why their previous revive attempt died, and why Sato’s group was so forcefully disbanded.  And maybe even an explanation for the title of the book–“Cryoburn”, kind of like “freezer burn”, perhaps?  The cryocorps have started doing something, going after Dr. Leiber, but luckily Miles doesn’t seem to be on their radar yet, at least as a threat.  They probably still think of him as safely bought.  Or maybe there’s not much of a “they” yet–the corps are probably working independently, WhiteChrys bribing Miles to go after Komarr, while Dr. Leiber is at NewEgypt.  They’re probably all affected by the preservative issue, but I’m not sure if they’re organized enough to do much except try to keep it all hidden.  Maybe only NewEgypt even knows about the problem.

I know it’s SF technology, but the cryofreeze thing seems a little implausible, when I think about it.  I was under the impression that freezing a person was dangerous because of the formation of water ice in their tissues.  Maybe the cryopreservation technology doesn’t use actual subzero temperatures, more like a refrigerator, but it seems like freezing would be safer for the long term.  There is the whole thing where the blood is replaced with cryofluid, and one presumes other fluids as well, because frozen lymph would probably be just as bad for you.  Can you get rid of all the water in the brain and other tissues as well, though?  That seems a lot harder, but maybe that’s just part of the technology; replacing it seems like it would be even harder.  I suppose they’ve had a few hundred years to work out the kinks in the technology…


Lisa Sato’s awake and talking, so things are moving ahead.  Next week we’ll see what Leiber has to say for himself, and maybe Jin and Mina will finally be reunited with their mother…

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Good evening, Bruce, and welcome to the Literature department of the University of Woolloomooloo.  Bruce and myself have been spending some time going over the works of Bruce McMaster Bujold, particularly the Vorkosigan Saga, about the adventures of one Bruce Vorkosigan.  This week we look at another chapter in the novel CryoBruce, where, in Chapter 12, Bruce tries to figure out what happened to the real body of Bruce Sato, Bruce and Bruce’s mother.  So crack a beer, sit back, and enjoy the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.

Chapter Twelve

Miles just barely kept himself from blurting, idiotically, Are you sure? Neither set young face held the least doubt. “Then who,” he choked, wheeling to stare at Raven, at the draped figure on the table, “was it that we just . . .” Murdered was unfair, as well as inaccurate. And, he suspected, would also be deeply offensive to the upset cryorevival specialist. “That we just . . .” Fortunately, no one here seemed to expect him to fill in the blank.

Raven says the numbers matched the ones Miles gave him, which meant that either he got the wrong drawer number, or somebody fudged the numbers somehow, either to deliberately hide Lisa Sato’s body, or by accident; the last possibility is so depressing that Miles discounts it for now.  Or, it occurs to him, they might just have been pre-empted–somebody else might have substituted a body for Sato’s.

Trying to stick to facts they can actually obtain, he asks Raven to identify the actual body; Vorlynkin reminds him of the presence of the children, and Miles realizes he should deal with them before they get too disturbed.  He takes them back outside and apologizes to them, saying that he still wants to find their mother, he just needs more information.  They ask him if they’ll have to go back to their aunt and uncle, and Miles says they can go back to the consulate with Vorlynkin, until they turn up some more data; he’ll go back there after he helps with the cleanup.  He tells the Consul to get Johannes to look for Lisa Sato’s acquaintance Dr. Leiber, the only solid lead they had.

Roic, awakened by the commotion, emerges from the room he’d been bunking in and asks what’s going on; Miles brings him up to date, and is rewarded by a particular type of Armsman-bland that conveys Roic’s opinion of the situation; he reinforces it by noting that they could have been on their way home by now if they’d left after the meeting with Wing, though Miles notes that they can’t stop now.

They go back into the lab, where Raven and Tanaka have cleaned up from the aborted revival and are preparing for the autopsy; Tanaka asks if they still get the free revivals, and Miles says he’ll hold to that, since they’re likely to be back.  Raven asks if they want to send samples to a commercial lab, or make do with what equipment they can scrounge; to do the job as good a commercial lab, he’d need to bring in some of his team from Escobar, which will take longer.  Miles says he doesn’t want this information getting out yet, so he tells Raven to go as far as he can without help, and then they’ll reassess; he tells them his theory, that this was a deliberate substitution, and he hopes that this woman’s identity will lead them to whoever took Sato’s body in the first place.

He notes the possibility that Lisa Sato might never have been frozen at all, and Raven comments that that seems a needlessly cruel thing to do to her children; Miles says that it might have been more dangerous for her to stay with them.  Tanaka, inspecting the woman’s wrapping, mentions that it’s the kind used decades ago, back when she was a student; Miles presses her for more information, and she says it was used from about fifty years ago to about thirty.

Jin and Mina are quiet in the lift van back to the consulate; Vorlynkin apologizes to them for the mixup, and Jin says it’s not his fault.  Vorlynkin says he’d have been furious if his daughter had been the one dragged into this; Mina asks about his daughter, and Vorlynkin says she’s on Escobar with his ex-wife, her mother.

“Why are you divorced?” asked Mina. If they’d been sitting together, Jin could have kicked her in the ankle to shut her up, but unfortunately she was out of reach.

Vorlynkin shrugged. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault, really. She was an Escobaran. I met her when I was stationed at the embassy there as a junior secretary. When we first married, I thought it was understood that she would follow where my career took me. But by the time I was offered the promotion and the transfer to the Barrayaran embassy on Pol, Annah had come along. And my wife changed her mind. With a baby to look out for, she didn’t want to leave the security of her family and her homeworld. Or she didn’t trust me enough. Or something.”

He says that now she’s remarried, and her new husband wants to adopt Annah, and he wonders if that’s for the best; Mina says she’d want her real  daddy, and Jin says that it’d depend on if he was a nice guy.  Jin asks if he couldn’t have just refused the transfer, being a diplomat rather than a soldier, and Vorlynkin says that he’d made the choice back then, though he’s not sure he’d make the same choice again.

Back at the consulate, Vorlynkin gets them some food, then Mina goes upstairs with the cat while Jin goes to check on his creatures; afterwards he goes upstairs too.

As he sat on his bed and plotted his recapture of the cat, Mina sniffed and said, “They lied.”

“Grownups always lie.” Jin brooded. “Mom lied. She always said everything was going to be all right, and it wasn’t.”

Mina drifts off to sleep, and Jin sneaks the cat away from her and goes to lie on his own bed; he wishes he were back at Suze-san’s, and wonders if he should have left Miles in the street after all.  He dozes until awakened by Roic, a couple of hours later, who asks him if he can come to look at something on the comconsole.  Roic waits until the kids are ready and leads them downstairs.

Now that he was getting used to the big man, Jin kind of liked Roic. For Miles-san, it must be like owning your own private grownup, following you around and doing stuff for you. Except you got to tell him what to do, instead of the other way around. Jin wished he owned a Roic.

They go down to the room in the basement with all the spy equipment, where they join Miles, Raven, Vorlynkin and Johannes.  Raven is using a machine that he identifies as a DNA scanner, which he is happy to find at the consulate; Miles calls them over to his comconsole, where he’s brought up pictures of different Dr. Leibers for them to look at.  Mina has trouble deciding between them, not having caught more than a glimpse of the man and that years ago, but she is sure that he had black hair and was old, at least thirty.  They narrow it down to two men, and Mina thinks it’s probably the skinnier one, but Roic says it’s probably that’s as far as she’ll be able to help them; Miles points out that the skinny one works at NewEgypt Cryonics, while the other is an obstetrician, so he’s inclined to pick the skinny one.  Roic notes that this Dr. Leiber seems to have taken the corporate route rather than fleeing like Miles had predicted, but Miles says they just need to find out the whole story.

Meanwhile, Raven and Johannes have found a DNA match, with a picture that matches the cryocorpse they’d failed to revive; she seems to have been a woman named Alice Chen, frozen about 45 years ago, and they have a wealth of information about her from the public database.  She seems to have had a blood disease, probably why she was frozen, though Raven says it shouldn’t have affected her revival, and the disease is curable these days.  Miles wonders again why she was switched with Lisa Sato, which is now his working theory; Chen was frozen at a different facility and moved to the Cryopolis later, and then swapped with Lisa Sato.  Mina asks if somebody stole her mommy, and Miles says it looks that way, but hastens to reassure her that that means they probably cared enough about her to keep her safe.

Miles says the next step is to meet with Dr. Leiber, somewhere outside of work; Roic says he needs a proper perimeter this time, and Miles agrees, and says he can even take Johannes along.  He adds, to the children, that if Dr. Leiber is a solid lead, then they’ve definitely earned payment as informants, and couriers as well, even if Jin was captured before he could finish his job.

“You propose to pay them adult rates?” asked Vorlynkin. Jin thought he sounded more startled than disapproving, and hoped he wouldn’t try to talk Miles-san out of this wonderful idea.

“Damn straight.” Miles-san added, “My case budget allows for a lot of discretion, you know.”

“Then I wish you’d buy some,” snapped Vorlynkin. He shut his mouth abruptly, as if startled at what had fallen out of it.

Comments

I’m not sure why Raven suggested going to a public lab, since it must be clear that Miles wants to keep this all on the hush-hush; he seems a little more practical than that, being a Jacksonian and all.  Perhaps he’s thinking that a sufficient fee will be enough to ensure their secrets are kept, or perhaps he’s just pessimistic about what he can achieve with limited equipment.  Unwarrantedly, apparently, since he’s able to identify her just given the DNA scanner and comconsole access at the consulate.

Not sure about the significance of the conversation about Vorlynkin’s divorce–character-building?  Thematic resonance?  Surely it doesn’t come into the plot later or anything…  I suppose that Vorob’yev got a romance somewhere in the back corner of Cetaganda, but I just wasn’t sure that we were devoting that much attention to Vorlynkin.

This is the point of the book where I begin to lose track of why we’re doing this.  It’s like in Komarr, where we started out looking at the soletta disaster and then kept spending time on the embezzlement at the terraforming station, until, luckily, it looped back around.  Miles was sent to Kibou-daini to investigate this new cryocompany setting up on Komarr, and now he’s chasing after a frozen protester who happens to be the mother of a runaway he bumped into by chance.  Why does he think that this is going to pay off, again?  I’m all for serendipity, but I guess what I prefer is for the protagonist not to be counting on it paying off.


Come back next week for another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread…probably with less lame Monty Python references.  There’s still several more chapters before I ring down the curtain and the book joins the choir invisibule…

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I almost went out to see a movie tonight, but luckily I was spared this horror and was able to devote my time to finishing up this blog post for you, my readers.  I did not have to see Jupiter ascend, or any King’s men, or any shadows of grey, or anything like that.  Instead I was able to focus on the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, covering another chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel CryoBurn, the last (to date, and for the foreseeable future) of her novels of Miles Vorkosigan.  In this chapter, Chapter Eleven, things go off easily…maybe a little too easily.  Or do they?

Chapter Eleven

The body-stealing expedition sets out at high noon, rather than the stormy midnight Roic had half-hoped for; they drive a lift-van into the NewEgypt facility, and are passed without even having to use the floral excuses they’d come up with.  Miles explains that it’s visiting hours, and they don’t want to offend any potential clients; they’d be more worried about vandalism at night, or theft from employees.  Roic, Miles and Raven are dressed in hospital uniforms, Roic’s a little small and Miles’s too big; they drive to the loading dock to deliver their frozen corpse, which they unload on a float-pallet in a hidden insulated body-bag, and Johannes drives off to park the van.

They make their way through the facility, encountering a few employees and visitors but arousing no suspicion, Miles guiding them to their destination using a map on his wristcom.  Miles picks an electronic lock in an underground passage, which leads them into an unfinished, less well-lit corridor; this area is designed like four concentric circles with spokes crossing them.  Miles guides them to a more finished corridor, not as flashy as Roic was expecting, and counts his way to the prospective drawer, whose serial number Raven confirms.

Miles gives them his electronic lockpick and heads off to turn off the power to this section, which turns out to be the best way to conceal opening a single drawer; as he trots off, Raven and Roic open up the body bag and wait for the lights to go out.  When they do, they open the drawer and Roic lifts out the body within, then slides in their replacement with Raven’s help, hoping the difference in the wrappings won’t be too noticeable.  They exchange signals with Miles confirming that all’s gone well, and he reactivates the power, while Roic and Raven clean things up and hope that any techs coming to check out the failure won’t get there too quickly.  Miles returns and urges them on, visibly enjoying the activity, and they manage to make their way back out just as the sound of technicians is drifting down the corridors.

They arrive back at the exit without incident, and summon Johannes to pick them up; by the time they’re loaded and out of the facility, Miles notes that it only took sixteen minutes.  Roic and Miles, looking less Kibou than the other two, stay in the back keeping an eye on the body, making sure it doesn’t roll around and get damaged.  Roic says the whole thing reminds him of Sergeant Taura, and wonders if they should have frozen her, too, when she was dying in the Durona clinic; Miles recalls that they all failed to talk her into it.

What, wake up, still a freak, in some strange place and time, with all my friends gone? Taura had said to the protesting Roic, in that terribly-wrong-for-her thready voice. But you could make new friends! was an argument that had failed to move her, in the exhaustion of her failing metabolism.

Roic made a helpless gesture. “You could have overridden her. After she was too far gone to tell, ordered her cryoprepped.” God knew m’lord was capable of riding over any number of other people’s wills.

M’lord shrugged, face sobered in the shared memory. “That would have been for our benefit, then. Not for hers. But Taura chose fire over ice. That, at least, I had no trouble understanding. High temperature cremation leaves no DNA.”

She’d been indifferent to where her ashes would be scattered, except not Jackson’s Whole, so m’lord had provided a burial plot for her urn in his own family cemetery at Vorkosigan Surleau, overlooking the long lake, a task m’lord and Roic had seen to personally.

“Nobody,” muttered Roic, “should die of old age at thirty-standard.” Certainly not such a blazing spirit as Taura’s had been.

Miles muses about whether their current lifespans will seem unreasonable, if anyone really gets this life-extension thing figured out.  He notes that even if nobody’s body aged, it’s been calculated that 800 years will be a likely median lifespan before encountering a fatal accident of some sort; he adds that even those who worry about dying don’t seem to consider all the time they didn’t exist before they were born, which Roic doesn’t want to think too hard about.

They wait at the lab for hours as the bring Lisa Sato’s body temperature up to almost freezing; Johannes goes back to the consulate, and Miles and Roic take turns napping in a nearby toom, with Raven and Tanaka also alternating shifts.  By dawn they’re ready to start, replacing the cryo-fluid with synthesized blood, which improves the frozen body’s colour immensely; the blood, being wholly artificial, lacks the body’s built-in antibodies, so it’ll require some time in isolation to build up the immune system.

Miles is allowed to watch the procedure, but only with a sophisticated medical mask keeping him from becoming a source of contagion.  As the operation proceeds, though, Raven becomes concerned about the lack of activity in the brain; they try applying electric shock to the head, but then Raven announces that this isn’t working.

The bottom fell out of Miles’s stomach in a sickening lurch. “Raven, you can’t stop.” My God, we can’t afford to botch this one. Those poor kids are waiting for us to deliver their mother back to them. I promised . . .

“Miles, I’ve done over seven thousand revivals. I don’t need to spend the next half hour jumping on this poor woman’s corpse to know she’s gone. Her brain is slush, on a micro-level.” Raven sighed and turned away from the table, peeling down his mask and drawing off his gloves. “I know a bad prep when I see one, and that was a bad prep. This wasn’t my fault. There was nothing I could do. There was nothing I could ever have done.” Raven was far too controlled a man to throw his gloves across the room and swear, but he hardly needed to; Miles could read his emotions in his set face, the more fierce for the sharp contrast with his usual easy-going cheer.

Miles asks if he thinks it was murder; Raven points out that people do die in these things, but he supposes that in Miles’s vicinity the odds are a little different.  He plans to do an autopsy to find out exactly what was done to this body, because something didn’t seem quite right, and he doesn’t like being set up for failure like this.  Miles goes over to look at the inert body, and wonders how he’s going to break the news to Jin and Mina, that the false hope he gave them is now gone.  He’s now extra-motivated to avenge her, though.

A knock on the door proves, unfortunately, to be Vorlynkin, with Jin and Mina; Miles slips out of the room, blocking the door, and reminds them that they were supposed to wait.  Vorlynkin says that they couldn’t bear to wait any longer, even if they could only see her through glass, and he thought he’d let them at least catch a glimpse in hopes it would settle them down.  The consul swiftly figures out that something is wrong from Miles’s mood, though he doesn’t ask out loud.

Miles is not ready for this; he’s broken the news of death before, but never to children like this.  The children can also sense something from Miles’s mood, so he can’t hold back any longer.  He tells them that their mother probably died in the cryoprep, months ago, and that there wasn’t anything they could have done.  In shock, the children still insist on seeing their mother, at least, and Miles agrees reluctantly.

He slips back into the lab and asks Raven to make her ready for her children to see her; Raven is shaken at the prospect, but they clean her up hastily and then let the children in.

Jin and Mina and Vorlynkin filed through. The look Vorlynkin flicked at Miles in passing had very little love in it. Jin took the consul’s free hand as they came up to the tableside. Because who else was there left to hang onto, in this spinning hour?

The children stared some more. Mina’s lips parted in bewilderment; Jin raised his eyes to Miles with a half-voiced Huh?

Drawing back in something between outrage and scorn, Mina said, “But that’s not our mommy!”

Comments

After reading the previous chapter, I decided to read a little ahead, so I did the first part of this chapter, the body-snatching.  I thought that it might be exciting, perhaps.  Instead, it was dull as dishwater.  They make their way into the facility unremarked, they find the cryocorpse just fine, their plan to interrupt the power works fine, they make the swap, and they get away clean in mere minutes.  Ho hum.  I didn’t finish reading that chapter until I was ready to start this week’s entry…though my wife reminded me that something went wrong with the body…

So I guess it is a nice twist for the body to be the wrong one.  That part works well, the cryorevival going badly, and the tension of Miles not wanting to have to tell the children about it.  It’s a palpable relief, really, when Jin and Mina point out the mistake.  Except that, thinking about it, it’s maybe too much of a fake-out, like one of those Disney movie scenes where you think for about thirty seconds that a character is dead, and then they regain consciousness and everything’s okay.  Not quite that bad, but it transforms a tragedy into an inconvenience, making the reader feel foolish about having begun to feel sad for the children or anything.

Starting with no immune system seems like more of a problem than they make it out to be here.  They say something about having to isolate someone for a few days until their marrow begins making antibodies on their own; I certainly hope that it’s followed by a rigorous schedule of vaccination, or else you’re still going to catch everything once before you build up those immunities again.  I suppose that medicine is advanced enough to deal with that by this point, so it’s not a big deal, but it seemed like an oversight.

More moving, really, is the mention of Taura’s death.  It was almost a relief, when I read this, to find that Taura’s long-delayed death had finally caught up to her.  As an author, you have to prove you’re serious about killing off characters that you’ve given a short time to live, or else there’s no point.  You’re just a chicken or something.  Step up to the plate and kill off them characters.


 

So now they have to find Lisa Sato’s real body, or, failing that, some other clue about what was going on.  I guess this counts as a try-fail, then; how many are they up to now?  Where do we start counting?  Next week we’ll see what they do next…

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