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Typhoons! Earthquakes! Hurricanes! Tornados! Smog!  Amid the myriad disasters wracking the modern world, there is one shining bright spot (well, more than one, really, but no fewer than one): the Vorkosigan Saga Reread!  Holding back the zombie apocalypse and looming earth-striking asteroids, I post here my synopsis and comments for two more chapters of Lois McMaster Bujold’s book Komarr, from her award-winning and just generally awesome Vorkosigan Saga.  In Chapters Nine and Ten, Ekaterin Vorsoisson takes a stand, and Miles Vorkosigan takes a chance, which, unfortunately, does not turn out as well as could be hoped…

Chapter Nine

Ekaterin packs Miles’s possessions up for him, not sure what the odd medical device might be.

Vorkosigan’s war story of his Sergeant Beatrice burned in Ekaterin’s mind, as the marks on her wrists seemed to burn. O fortunate man, that his missed grasp had passed in a fraction of a second. What if he had had years to think about it first? Hours to calculate the masses and forces and the true arc of descent? Would it have been cowardice or courage to let go of a comrade he could not possibly have saved, to save himself at least? He’d had a command, he’d had responsibilities to others, too. How much would it have cost you, Captain Vorkosigan, to have opened your hands and deliberately let go?

She’s sent Nikolai’s to a friend’s for the night, which took longer than she’d planned, and returned the rented grav-bed.  She hoped that Miles would take the hint and decamp immediately when he returned.  She’s barely had time to start on packing her own things, though.  Looking over the remnants of her plants, she decides she’s going to have abandon most of it, just like her marriage.  She packs her library, but leaves her furniture, thinking that it’s like rescuing possessions from a fire, except in slow motion.  She can’t bear to leave behind her great-aunt’s skellytum plant, though.

As she’s trying to figure out how to transport it, Tien returns, asking about dinner; he says that Miles stayed behind at the office.  She tells Tien to sit down, then says she’s leaving him, saying she’s “come to the end of herself”.  Tien reacts with astonishment, then accusations of infidelity, which she denies levelly.  Tien presses her for a reason, grabbing her, and she finally says she found out about the trade fleet shares.  She asks if he got the money from Soudha, and he begins to accuse her of nagging him into getting more money.

As he paced, sputtering, his eye fell on the bright red skellytum, sitting in its basin on the kitchen table. “You don’t love me. You only love yourself. Selfish, Kat! You love your damned potted plants more than you love me. Here, I’ll prove it to you.”

He snatched up the pot and pressed the control for the door to the balcony. It opened a little too slowly for his dramatic timing, but he strode through nonetheless, and whirled to face her. “Which shall it be to go over the railing, Kat? Your precious plant, or me? Choose!”

She neither spoke nor moved. Now he will attempt to terrify me with suicide gestures. This made, what, the fourth time around for that ploy? His trump card, which had always before ended the game in his favor.

She says nothing, and eventually he drops the pot over the edge, and she listens for the crash.  She berates him for not checking if there was anybody to be injured by it.  Eventually his anger winds down and he asks how he can get through to her; she says she wants her honour back, but he can’t give it to her.  He says he did it all for her, and she says that apparently he never managed to find out who she was or what she wanted.  He says he can’t afford to confess, and she says all she wants is to not have to lie any more.

He says that custody of Nikki is his, by Barrayaran law, which is a tactic he’s never tried before; he belatedly realizes that Nikki is nowhere around, and says she can’t keep his son away from him.  She thinks that he can’t have custody if he’s in prison, but she also wonders whether he’d really challenge her to get Nikki.

Tien then says that he’ll fix everything, that he has a plan, and she should wait until he comes back.  She makes no promises, merely resumes her packing, but he dashes off.  Then she heads down to see what can be salvaged from the wreck of the skellytum.

Comments

A fairly short, but intense chapter, as Ekaterin finally ends it with Tien.  Would this all have happened without the events of the other plotline as a catalyst?  If Soudha was just siphoning off money from, well, government funding, I guess, and was still paying Tien off…  He wouldn’t have had any impetus to fix his behaviour, but it might never have gotten bad enough to cross Ekaterin’s threshold.  Though we can hope.

The skellytum–which was the symbol for what, again?  Well, if it was their marriage, then Tien just threw it over the ledge, and Ekaterin is going to see if she can salvage anything from its wreckage.

Chapter Ten

Miles reads through files of Waste Heat plentiful roster of employees, few of which were at the office; he assumes they must be out at the experimental station, which he now wishes he’d started the day’s investigation at.  Not that he’s sure he knows what he’d be looking for.  He hopes that ImpSec can manage to find Marie Trogir.

He hears footsteps, and looks up to see Tien Vorsoisson, out of breath, and carrying two coats and a visitor’s breath mask.  He tells Miles has to show him something that he’s just discovered…out at the Waste Heat station.  Tien says he wants to take Miles out there right now, while everyone’s gone.  Miles agrees, accepts the breath mask and checks it before putting it and the jacket on.  Tien grabs his own breath mask, and takes him down to the garage, where they get in a lightflyer.

Miles asks Tien what’s going on; Tien asks about how he might become an Imperial Witness.  Miles, not sure of the procedure, says he thinks it’s usually negotiated on a case-by-case basis, and privately thinks that it happens much more rarely in these days of fast-penta, though he admits that as an Imperial Auditor he can make it happen if he wants to.  As they lift off, Miles asks why, and Tien eventually says he’s managed to accumulate evidence of a crime, and finally has enough to come forward.  He tells Miles that Soudha is running Waste Heat as an empty shell, with ghost employees and fictitious equipment purchases, and Soudha has “tried” to bribe him to keep quiet.  Nobody knows enough to check the science, and Tien suspects they’ve manufactured most of their reports.

Miles asks if Radovas’s death is related, and Tien says he doesn’t think so, since Radovas quit before he did; Miles points out they only have Soudha’s word for that.  Soudha could have faked more than his reports; Miles realizes that much of the data he’s siphoned from the Waste Heat computers is likely worthless.  But technical staffers like Radovas must have known what was going on, and likely been in on the scam.

“I want you to remember, I found this. I turned them in. Just as soon as I was sure.”

His repeated insistence on that last point hinted broadly to Miles’s ear that his knowledge of this fascinating piece of peculation predated his assurance by a noticeable margin. Had Soudha’s bribe been not just offered, but accepted? Till the bubble burst. Was Miles witnessing an outbreak of patriotic duty on Vorsoisson’s part, or an unseemly rush to get Soudha and Company before they got him?

Belatedly, Miles wonders if going off with Tien like this, with no bodyguard and no notice to Tuomonen, was a smart thing to do.  But he suspects that ImpSec presence might put a damper on Tien’s eagerness to spill the beans.  Still, he won’t disillusion Tien about his chances for getting off scott free until he has some backup, as soon as he can get a quiet moment to call for some.  Tien also asks him to tell Ekaterin what he’s done; Miles reminds him that he still needs to see proof.

They draw near to the experimental station, which seems to be quite well-lit, not darkened as vacant as Tien seems to be expecting.  Floodlights are on, and vans are loading.  Miles almost asks Tien to land the lightflyer out of sight of the building, but Tien puts it down in the parking lot instead.  Tien says that they know him, but Miles should stay out of sight.  They get out of the lightflyer, breath masks on, Miles keeping Tien in sight.  Miles tells Tien to go into the Engineering building, though he half expects to find out that Tien is completely wrong about what’s going on.

Inside the building, they spot Soudha and Madame Radovas, who also spot them.  Miles tries to get out his stunner, but Soudha gets the drop on him and stuns him first, Miles wondering belatedly what it’ll do to his seizure stimulator.
He reawakens with a stunner migraine, bright lights shining on him, but still wearing his breath mask, so he restrains his incipient nausea.  His arms are shackled to posts of a railing outside the building.  His commlink is still on his wrist, where he can’t reach it to activate it, and it’s designed to be resistant to bumps.  He can’t tell if he had a seizure already, or if he’s still due.  Tien is chained to the railing to his right, and stil unconscious.

He smiled grimly under his mask. All things considered, he’d rather Vorsoisson were free and able to try for help. Better still, leave Vorsoisson fastened there, free himself to try for help. But twisting his hands in their tight chains merely scraped his wrists raw.

Tien still hasn’t recovered consciousness by the time Miles hears footsteps, which prove to belong to the accountant Lena Foscol, who Miles remembers from the briefing.  She greets Miles and takes out a key to their shackles, which she leaves out of reach between Miles and Tien.  Obviously they expect someone to come for Miles, and also expect to be gone themselves by that time.  She takes out a data disk which she claims contains a complete record of the bribes Tien has taken, and tapes it to the back of Miles’s jacket, saying that’s much better than just mailing it to Tuomonen.  Miles begins to ask her questions, but she says she has no plans to stay around and chat with him.  Tien begins to wake up, and Foscol lingers just long enough to be sure he isn’t going to be sick, then leaves, admonishing them not to hurt themselves before they get collected.  A lift-van leaves shortly after, leaving them in silence.  Miles half expects Soudha to have left the reactor to self-destruct, but since Foscol seems to expect the evidence to be retrieved, perhaps not.

Tien has regained full consciousness, and asks Miles what’s going on; Miles says they must have realized their time was up, and decided to run for it.  Miles and Tien were chained up to keep them out of the way.  Miles asks Tien when he first found out about the embezzlement scheme; Tien says it was just a week ago, though Foscol had claimed more like eight months.  Miles isn’t sure she didn’t invent the evidence, but that was a matter for ImpSec, for later.  He asks if Tien thanks that’s all that was going on; they must have had weeks of time to plan their retreat, but rather than sneaking out of the Empire with their money, they’re taking off vans full of equipment with them.

Vorsoisson is quiet for a few minute, then tells Miles that his oxygen is almost gone.  Miles realizes that Tien hadn’t checked his mask before they left, and Ekaterin’s earlier reminder may have indicated a certain amount of carelessness about it.  Miles almost wishes his hand bones were brittle enough for him to break them and pull his wrists out of the restraints, but now they’re hard and plastic.  Tien begins to struggle, to wrench out of his shackles, though Miles implores him to save his strength and oxygen in case he still has enough to last until rescue.  Miles hopes that the plan wasn’t to kill both of them, though killing an Imperial Auditor is an act of treason just barely short of killing the Emperor himself.

Vorsoisson wriggled his chin and tried to peer down over his nose into the dim recesses of his jacket to see the top of the canister strapped there. “Oh, God. I think it’s reading zero.”

“Those things always have some safety margin. Stay still, man! Try for some self-control!”

Instead Vorsoisson began to struggle ever more frantically. He threw himself forward and backward with all his considerable strength, trying to break the railing. Blood drops flew from the flayed skin of his wrists, and the railing reverberated and bent, but it did not break. He pulled up his knees and then flung himself down through the meter-wide opening between the posts, trying to propel his full body weight against the chains. They held, and then his backward-scrambling legs could not regain the walkway. His boot heels scraped and scrabbled on the wall. His dizzied choking, at the last, led to vomiting inside his breath mask. When it slipped down around his neck in his final paroxysms, it seemed almost a mercy, except for the way it revealed his distorted, purpling features. But the screams and pleas stopped, and then the gasps and gulpings. The kicking legs twitched, and hung limply.

Miles begins shivering in the silence left afterwards, trying to calm himself down to keep from going into a seizure, which would kill him as dead as Tien.

Comments

Tien attempts to redeem himself, belatedly, by trying to turn “State’s Evidence” on the Waste Heat embezzlers, glossing over the fact that he’s been taking their bribes happily for months.  Miles could have been to the experimental station at least twice already, and maybe if he had it would have turned out better than this, being ambushed and hung out to dry.  Or maybe not.  In any event, whatever they’re up to out there, they got away, at least for now.  And Miles is right, if it was just money, they wouldn’t have had to take so much stuff with them…unless they’d fashioned it into a solid gold lightflyer or something.

Tien died the way he lived–an idiot.  Jeopardized by his own carelessness, then dooming himself by panicking at the wrong moment.  I think it’s safe to say that he won’t be much lamented, except by those who may have wanted to fast-penta him for more information.  Ekaterin may have disconnected herself from him enough to even be able to miss out on the survivor’s guilt.  Poor Nikki, I suppose.  I don’t think he gets the whole story, at least not yet.

We’re only halfway through the book, and already we seem to have come to sort of climax.  So obviously there’s still a lot more to resolve–like what, if anything, does all of this have to do with the soletta disaster that’s our ostensible plot?  It always seems to me that it takes a long time to get back to the whole reason the Auditors were sent to Komarr in the first place, but maybe that’s just because events on the planet are happening faster than the slow accumulation of evidence in orbit.  But it all ties together, somehow.


Will Miles be rescued in time?  What is Ekaterin doing in the meantime–since, by established convention, the next chapter will be hers?  Another week will bring those answers, barring unfortunate delay.

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Where will your dreams take you tonight?  Will you be bowling on the starship Enterprise?  Stuck in a closet with Vanna White?  Or perhaps reading the latest installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread?  I can’t speak, of course, for what you may find in your dreams, but in reality this week’s installment follows two more chapters in Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Komarr, where Miles Vorkosigan continues investing the odd appearance of an engineer’s body near a disastrous orbital collision, and Ekaterin Vorsoisson continues to lose faith in her husband’s good intentions.

Chapter Seven

Ekaterin dozes on the couch waiting for the men to return.  Considering the bruises on her wrists left by Miles’s grip, she ponders the fact that she was more aware of his odd, stunted body than any other man’s in years, especially since Tien’s accusations of infidelity.  But his scars give him the air of a survivor, and she wishes she could get some tips from him on just how to do that.

The men return–Tien and the two Auditors, no Tuomonen, just family and guests.  Vorkosigan is telling Tien that he wishes tomorrow’s inspection to come as a surprise to his staff.  Ekaterin asks if they found anything, but Vorthys said Madame Radovas doesn’t know why her husband was in space.  Tien makes a comment about middle-aged men running off with younger women, and Ekaterin wonders to herself why Tien can’t do that, instead of maintaining fidelity as his sole virtue.

The household goes to bed, and Ekaterin lies awake next to her husband, who she can tell is also not asleep.  She thinks about how his brother’s suicide was such a bad example for Tien, whose own attempts had been sadly ineffectual.  While she’s trying to sleep, Tien gets up and goes out to the kitchen.  She remembers an old family recipe for insomnia, warm milk with brandy and spices, and after a few minutes gets up to make him some.  In the kitchen, though, the only light is the comconsole; it puzzles her, since she was brought up never to call anyone this late except in cases of birth or death, and she lurks in the doorway to find out what’s going on.

Tien is talking to Administrator Soudha, asking him about Radovas’s body; Soudha seems to still be fully dressed, and doesn’t seem to be disturbed about Radovas’s fate.  Tien tells him about the surprise inspection tomorrow; Ekaterin wonders why he’s going against Vorkosigan’s orders, in the Emperor’s Voice.  Tien is worried about what they’ll find, particularly in the Waste Heat experimental station, which apparently consists mostly of fictional employees, and Soudha tells him calmly to keep the Auditors away from it, reminding him that he’s getting an extra salary out of the scam as well.  Soudha tells him to make excuses if the Auditor wants to speak to anyone fictional; Lena Foscol’s accounts are meticulous, and nobody will be able to poke any holes in them.

Tien says he’s the one who’s had Imperial Auditors in his house, and it’s making him antsy; he then asks Soudha for another twenty thousand mark advance on his stipend, or else.  Soudha isn’t impressed by his attempted threats, since Tien has as much to lose as anyone; he tells Tien not to calm down, and just cooperate with ImpSec so they don’t get suspicious.  Tien insists that there’s more like fifty thousand marks a month in imaginary salaries in Soudha’s department, and asks what happens if ImpSec decides to fast-penta their accountant.

Ekaterin, horrified at what Tien has gotten involved in, backs away, missing the end of the exchange; she slips into the bathroom to wait for Tien’s return, shaking and staring at her reflection.  When she returns to bed, she claims to be unwell.  Trying to keep from believing the worst, she asks Tien if he’s done anything for their galactic trip, but he says he was too busy, even though she knows he already transferred the money out of her account.  She offers to take care of the arrangements, but he shuts her down, telling her that can wait until her uncle’s gone home.  She’s forced to conclude that Tien’s urgent need for money has nothing to do with his promise to her.

She lies awake for the rest of the night, waiting for the dawn, reduced as it is by the soletta accident.  In the morning, she sends Nikki off to school, and Uncle Vorthys leaves for his orbital flight; Vorthys says he’s not sure if he’ll be back, but if the case drags on, his wife might come to join them.  She avoids Tien and Miles by escorting Nikki to school, and they’re gone by the time she returns.  Then she heads to Tien’s comconsole, wishing, now, that she’d taken Miles up on his offer to show her how he’d done it.

Tien’s financial accounts aren’t locked; there should have been a respectable accumulation there, but it seems to have almost all vanished, with no trace of how.  Except for the most recent transfer, her money, which turns out to have been sent to a hidden account.  Her attempt to access it requires a palm-print; all their other bank accounts have shared access, in case one or the other becomes disabled, and it’s possible that this falls under the same umbrella.

Maybe ImpSec covert ops doesn’t have all the advantages, she thought grimly, and placed her right hand in the light box. If only you were willing to betray a trust, why, the most amazing range of possible actions opened up to you.

So did the file.

She took a deep breath, and started reading.

Tien seems to have been an aficionado of Komarran trade fleets.  Komarr went from charging traders who used its wormholes to starting its own trade fleets.  Some trade fleets return with spectacular profits; some don’t return at all, or return as failures.  Many of the fleets have publicly traded shares, and buying them is Komarrans’ favourite form of gambling.  Tien, focusing on the successes as always, confident in his luck, had borrowed sixty thousand marks, and added forty thousand marks of his own money (or, more likely, money from Soudha’s fake employees, since that represents eight months’ salary) and put it all on one fleet.  That fleet had left amid much hype and fanfare, but returned tail between its legs after losing precious cargo and ships in a wormhole mishap.  Tien has now lost three-quarters of his money, and still has twenty thousand marks of his debt left to pay off, a situation which is apparently growing desperate.  She could almost feel sorry for him, if so much of the original money hadn’t been embezzled.

The scam at the terraforming project is more likely to be Soudha’s than Tien’s; most likely Soudha was just buying Tien off with his own share of the profits.  Maybe Tien’s gamble on the fleet had been an attempt to extricate himself from the scam, though privately she doubts he would necessarily have followed through if the windfall had actually come through.  Nor would she, before today, have been suspicious if he’s presented her with trade-fleet-won profits on that scale.

A Vor woman’s first loyalty was supposed to be to her husband. Even unto treason, even unto death. The sixth Countess Vorvayne had followed her husband right up to the stocks in which he had been hung to die for his part in the Saltpetre Plot, and sat at his feet in a hunger strike, and died, in fact a day before him, of exposure. Great tragic story, that one—one of the best bloody melodramas from the history of the Time of Isolation. They’d made a holovid of it, though in the vid version the couple had died at the same moment, as if achieving mutual orgasm.

Has a Vor woman no honor of her own, then? Before Tien entered my life, did I not have integrity all the same?

Yes, and I laid it on my marriage oath. Rather like buying all your shares in one fleet.

Not that she would win back her honour by turning in Tien to the authorities.  She’s honour-bound to stay with him, no matter how much she reduces herself to do so, since if she’s not a Vor woman, she has nothing left.  Could she bring herself to leave?  Maybe now, before his crimes come to light, she might be able to manage it, even though it’s still desertion; if she stays, she’s condoning his actions by her silence.  She sits silent for a long time, trying to decide what to do.

Comments

After last week I was beginning to feel that Komarr must have longer chapters than Memory, or some of the other books in the series.  I did a quick word count on the digital copies that I have, and apparently I was partly right.  Last week’s Komarr chapters, Five and Six, were over twice as long as the average chapter in either book…but the rest of them weren’t that much longer.  This one is fairly short, for instance, though highly important, because now we discover that Tien is, in fact, involved with the shenanigans that are going on.  Right now it’s not clear that it has anything to do with the soletta accident, except for the linkage of Radovas and Soudha.  Still, that could be a coincidence, couldn’t it?

Ekaterin’s impulse to make the milk-brandy drink for Tien is probably her last charitable feeling toward him.  It’d take a lot of work for him to overcome that, were he to become aware of the problem at all, and I doubt it’d work anyway.  She is now driven so far away that she is seriously considering cutting her losses and forsaking her marriage oath.  I wonder what kind of draconian divorce laws Barrayar has…I can’t recall running across any examples of divorce there, in fact, so it must be pretty unpleasant.

Chapter Eight

Miles and Tien are met by Tuomonen in Tien’s apartment building, which strikes Miles as meaning that Tuomonen means to act as Miles’s ImpSec guard whether he wants one or not.  Miles and Tuomonen get a bubble-car to themselves, Komarran commuters generally wanting to avoid riding with ImpSec officers in uniform; Tuomonen notes that he does sometimes wear civilian clothes, when he wants to catch up on Serifosan gossip.  He tells Miles that he sent the library to ImpSec Solstice with one of the guards; it turns out that ImpSec Serifosa has a staff of only four people, not counting the ten guards at the Sub-Consulate.  Serifosa tends to be fairly quiet, even during the Revolt, and Tuomonen makes up for his lack of staff by subsidizing a group of salaried local informants, though none of them, sadly, in Terraforming.

Tuomonen does note that Terraforming requires the least background checks of any government department, the presumption being that it’s more important that they love their own planet and want to improve it; sabotaging it won’t do their own people any good.  Miles wonders if Radovas was one of the disaffected.

At the Terraforming building, Tien takes them up to his office, and they makes plans for the day’s inspection.  Tuomonen says he talked to Andro Farr, and he wants to follow up by talking to some of Marie Trogir’s work-friends.  Miles says that he’ll start from the Radovas angle, then, starting by talking to Soudha.  Tien takes Miles down to Waste Heat, leaving Tuomonen behind to examine Tien’s comconsole.  Soudha isn’t there, but Miles dismisses Tien anyway, examining Soudha’s office, which is fairly sparse, containing nothing conspicuously telling.

Soudha arrives, only mildly surprised to find Miles in his office.  Miles tells him about Radovas’s death, watching for his reaction carefully.  Soudha guesses a heart attack, before Miles tells him about finding the body in space, and Soudha concludes that it must have something to do with the soletta accident, given Miles’s presence.  Soudha asks about Marie Trogir, who Miles tells him hasn’t been found yet.  Miles asks for some insight into Radovas’s personality, but Soudha merely says that he was a good worker but kept to himself.  Miles asks about Radovas’s hiring, and Soudha said that waste heat is a concern on space stations, so he brought valuable experience to the project.  Miles then asks why Radovas would have left; Soudha says he gathered the impetus came from Marie Trogir, about whom he knew even little, since Radovas had hired her and, as her supervisor, did all her evaluations.

Miles asks to examine Radovas’s work area, but Soudha says it’s already been reassigned, though they haven’t hired a replacement yet.  Miles asks to speak with some coworkers, and Soudha says that some are on vacation, and others out at the experimental station, but offers him a couple who are present.  The first, Arozzi, is a younger man, scrambling to cover Radovas’s work, who didn’t know much about him, but, Miles judged, may have had a crush on Marie Trogir.  The other, Cappell, a mathematician, is more experienced and a little cynical, and not close to either Radovas or Trogir.

He’d be glad to show my Lord Auditor a few thousand more pages of his work. No? What was Trogir like? Well-enough looking, he supposed, but rather sly. Look what she’d done to poor Radovas, eh? Did he think Trogir might be dead as well? No, women were like cats, they landed on their feet. No, he’d never actually experimented with testing that old saying on live cats; he didn’t have any pets himself. Nor a wife. No, he didn’t want a kitten, thank you for the offer, my Lord Auditor . . . .

Over lunch with Tuomonen, they wonder if they should get a female interrogator to deal with the more reticent female coworkers.  Komarran egalitarianism can be inconvenient for Barrayarans–for one thing, Barrayaran women who go to study on Komarr tend to stay there, which only exacerbates the already pronounced sexual imbalance.  Tuomonen himself, of course, just married a Komarran woman, and says that Komarrans tend to be in favour of the Emperor doing the same thing.  Even Barrayarans on Komarr seem to be in favour of the upcoming marriage, and those who disapproved of Tuomonen’s choice at the time now credit him with shrewd foresight.

Miles asks if Tuomonen found out much about Radovas; most of them knew little about him, though one women had thought Cappell was the one who was sweet on Trogir.  Miles considered this as a possible motive, but surely Andro Farr would have been a better target for a romantic rival.  Farr himself is a possible suspect, but so far they’ve found nothing to implicate him.  Tuomenen says Farr has so far been his best source of information on Trogir.  Miles debates going topside, but decides to stay down here and pursue this end of the story.

Soudha supplied Miles with more human sacrifices in the form of employees called back from the experiment station. They all seemed more interested in their work than in office gossip, but perhaps, Miles reflected, that was an observer-effect. By late afternoon, Miles was reduced to amusing himself wandering around the project offices and terrorizing employees by taking over their comconsoles at random and sampling data, and occasionally emitting ambiguous little “Hm . . .” noises as they watched him in fearful fascination. This lacked even the challenge of dissecting Madame Vorsoisson’s comconsole, since the government-issue machines all opened everything immediately to the overrides in his Auditor’s seal, regardless of their security classification. He mainly learned that terraforming was an enormous project with a centuries-long scientific and bureaucratic history, and that any individual who attempted to sort clues through sheer mass data assimilation had to be frigging insane.

Now, delegating that task, on the other hand . . . Who do I hate enough in ImpSec?

While digging through Venier’s comconsole, Tien asks Miles if he needs him for anything else, or if he can go home.  Miles gives him leave to go, promising to go collect his things later that night–or maybe even just send someone for them, to avoid any further confrontation with Ekaterin.  Tuomonen comes to check on his progress, and Miles says the best thing he’s found was an encrypted file of Barrayaran jokes, which Tuomonen says his mother-in-law has already sent him.

Miles says they haven’t found anything there, maybe even a suspicious amount of nothing, and he may want to sleep on it overnight.  Maybe something will come in from the analysis of Radovas’s library, and in any event he plans to visit the Waste Heat experiment station tomorrow.  He’s tempted to call in the troops, do a full audit, fast-penta everyone in sight…but he has no reason.  Tuomonen points out that, as an Imperial Auditor, Miles doesn’t need a reason, he can just order it done; Miles remains noncommittal.  Tuomonen offers to bring Miles to the ImpSec office, but Miles wants to stay and see if he can figure out what’s bothering him.  He does accept Tuomonen’s offer to send someone else by later to pick him up, which fits in with Miles’s plan to send a minion to the Vorsoissons’.  Tuomonen leaves Miles considering Venier’s comconsole.

Comments

Another short chapter, with a lot of nothing–we know, of course, that Soudha was forewarned, and so if there had been anything incriminating, they may have had time to remove it.  Who would have done it, in the middle of the night, though?  Would Miles have noticed staff members who were suspiciously tired, or taking stim pills?  Maybe Soudha just kept the main office scrupulously clean and unincriminating on principle, or had already started cleaning up when the Auditors first arrived, or when the accident happened…

One thing is for sure, that Waste Heat experiment station (or is it an “experimental” station?) is definitely looming larger and larger.  Something is going on out there, according to Soudha and Tien’s late-night conversation, and even Miles is getting suspicious of it.  What could be out there?  Good thing Miles is going to check it out tomorrow…then we’ll definitely get to the bottom of things.

The next two chapters, in fact, I’m pretty sure things start to come to a head, if I’m remembering them correctly.  Though we’re not up to the halfway point in the book yet, so I could be getting ahead of things.


I do try to keep from rereading further ahead than the current week’s chapters (though, with Memory, I often found myself slipping, and I do wonder if it’ll happen again in A Civil Campaign, but so far Komarr doesn’t seem to be tempting me the same way), so I’m mosly going on vague memories of what comes next.  Come back next week, and you’ll see if I was right…

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As the leaves that are green turn to brown (except for the native Barrayaran plant life), so does time move ever on, and the proof of that is that here is another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  Though in Lois McMaster Bujold’s book Komarr (for it is on Komarr that our scene lies), there’s not a lot of plant life outside of the domes anyway, and most of it probably doesn’t technically have leaves anyway.  But, nonetheless, here are two more chapters of the Vorkosigan Saga for your edification, and entertainment.

Chapter Five

As they get ready for bed, Tien asks Ekaterin to keep the Auditors occupied tomorrow, so his department can get some work done.  Ekaterin says she already took her uncle out, and she doesn’t know what Vorkosigan likes to do; Tien suggests shopping, perhaps.

Ekaterin decides she’d better offer him sex soon.  She needs to do it regularly to keep his tension from building up so high that even sex won’t work any more.  It’s not for her pleasure any more, unfortunately, though Tien is determined to give her satisfaction as well, or else he accuses her of being frigid.  As a result, she finds herself retreating into private fantasies when she’s with Tien, and they’ve gotten uglier over time.  Particularly after the time, a few jobs ago now, where Tien had apparently started suspecting her of having an affair.  He’d stalked around, trying to catch her at it, and when he eventually confessed his suspicions, his suspects were so ridiculous she didn’t even know how she’d come up with them.  When she kept scrupulous out of unchaperoned male company, he only accused her of a lesbian affair instead.

That had broken something in her at last, some will to desire his good opinion. How could you argue sense into someone who believed something not because it was true, but because he was an idiot? No amount of panicky protestation or indignant denial or futile attempt to prove a negative was likely to help, because the problem was not in the accused, but in the accuser. She began then to believe he was living in a different universe, one with a different set of physical laws, perhaps, and an alternate history. And very different people from the ones she’d met of the same name. Smarmy dopplegangers all.

Still, the accusation alone had been enough to chill her friendships, stealing their innocent savor and replacing it with an unwelcome new level of awareness. With the next move, time and distance attenuated her contacts. And on the move after that, she’d stopped trying to make new friends.

She realizes that he acts so crazily because he’s afraid of losing her, and she admits that his fears are not without substance, because the only feeling she has left for him now is loyalty.  She wonders how much of this behaviour might be because of the Vorzohn’s, and then she wonders if Tien is putting off treatment because on some level he feels that once he’s well she’ll feel free to leave him.

Tien comments on her increasing tension, and she makes an effort to relax and slip into one of her fantasies.  She does crave touch, even his, but she knows she can’t be too selfish about it.  He has rights to her body, anyway, but not her mind.  After they’re done, Tien seeks reassurance that their sex life is getting better, and she tries to ease his mind.  She waits until he starts snoring, then goes into the bathroom to cry.  She hates that she still wants his touch, and wishes she could get rid of it.  Finally, her crying done, she takes some painkillers and goes back to bed, but finds Tien is awake; he asks why she was in there so long.

To try to change the subject, she brings up a call she’d received that afternoon.  His bank had called, apparently needing her approval to release his pension funds; she hadn’t thought that sounded right, so she’d put them off.  Tien swears at her angrily, and she hopes he won’t hit the wall again; she asks if she’d made a mistake.  He apologizes for losing his temper, saying he’d forgotten about the different rules on Komarr.  She asks if he’s leaving his job, and he assures her he isn’t; she asks about pension from his other jobs, and he says he’d always cashed it out at the end, and points out that she’d enjoyed the use of that money well enough.  At the moment he doesn’t see the point of saving for his old age.

She realizes that this means that if he does die, she and Nikki will be left with nothing.  Then, with some hope, she asks if this is money that he’s finally planning on using for getting the galactic Vorzohn’s treatment.  Tien is noncommittal, saying he doesn’t know if it’ll be enough, but Ekaterin offers the use of her additional stash of household money, which he says will come in handy.  She asks when they can get away, and Tien says he still needs to check it out, the arrival of the Auditors having made him too busy to get to it.  She snuggles up to him, feeling suddenly secure in newfound hope.

The next morning, after Tien and Nikki have left, Ekaterin offers to take Miles shopping.  He is surprised at the offer, then recalls he needs to buy a wedding present, for Gregor and Laisa.  Ekaterin is a little surprised to hear him referring to the Emperor and his surprising new Komarran fiancée so casually, and says she’s not sure they can find anything sufficiently fancy in Serifosa Dome.  Miles says he has to find something, as Gregor’s Second, and Ekaterin recalls a few exclusive shops she’s never dared to go into before.  Miles remembers he needs something for Duv and Delia as well.

“Delia Koudelka’s a childhood friend of mine. She’s marrying Commodore Duv Galeni, who is the new Chief of Komarran Affairs for Imperial Security. You may not have heard of him yet, but you will. He’s Komarran-born.”

“Of Barrayaran parents?”

“No, of Komarran resistance fighters. We seduced him to the service of the Imperium. We’ve agreed it was the shiny boots that turned the trick.”

He was so utterly deadpan, he had to be joking. Hadn’t he? She smiled uncertainly.

Vorthys stumbles into the kitchen in search of coffee.  Miles asks how the analysis is going, and Vorthys says things aren’t adding up like he’d hoped.  There is a mysterious vector of additional force that appeared after the collision, not attributable to an engine explosion, and some things weren’t travelling in the straight line he’d expect.  Ekaterin asks what’s strange about it, and Vorthys says it’s kind of a trough of gravitational force, rather than the funnel-shape that a regular mass would present.  Miles says it sounds like a gravitic imploder lance, and Vorthys says it doesn’t match up, and it looks like it came from the jump point towards the mirror.

Ekaterin asks her uncle to join her on the shopping trip, but he says he needs to stay behind and catch up on his reading, though they should feel free to pick something up for her aunt.  Ekaterin is a little dubious about heading out unchaperoned with Lord Auditor Vorkosigan, but she assures herself they’ll be in public, and Tien doesn’t seem to view Miles as any sort of threat.

They head out for the bubble-car station, Miles’s short legs having no trouble keeping up with hers, his stiffness from the day before seeming to be gone.  She asks where they should go, and he says the last time he went shopping was for military ordnance.

She laughed. “That’s very different.”

“It’s not as different as you might think. For the really high-ticket items they send sales engineers halfway across the galaxy to wait upon you. It’s exactly the way my Aunt Vorpatril shops for clothes—in her case, come to think of it, also high-ticket items. The couturiers send their minions to her. I’ve become fond of minions, in my old age.”

His old age was no more than thirty, she decided. A new-minted thirty much like her own, still worn uncomfortably.

She asks about his mother, and he admits she’d probably rather wear her Betan Survey fatigues.  They reach the bubble cars and Miles automatically seals the car after they enter; Ekaterin knows that she should share with other riders, but she’s happy enough not to have to sit with strangers this time.  They head for the Shuttleport Locks district, where there are pricier stores to cater to tourists.  They take off slowly, arching out into a high tube to the next complex, but they slow up even further.  Ekaterin says there’s a lot of blockages these days, due to an excess of traffic, and the politicians keep arguing over how to fix it with no clear consensus.  She hopes he’s not afraid of heights, of claustrophobic; Miles says he’s fine with enclosed spaces as long as they’re above freezing.

Returning to the topic of his mother, Ekaterin asks if she was really in the Astronomical Survey; Miles says she was in the Expeditionary Force during the Escobar War, but she started out in the Survey, doing wormhole exploration.  Ekaterin is impressed, since wormhole wildcatters always struck her as somewhat crazy.  The bubble-car starts to move again.

“I’ve met some of ’em. I confess, I never thought of the government Survey as in the same league with the entrepreneurs. The independents make blind jumps into possible death hoping for a staggering fortune. The Survey . . . makes blind jumps into possible death for a salary, benefits, and a pension. Hm.” He sat back, looking suddenly bemused. “She made ship captain, before the war. Maybe she had more practice for Barrayar than I’d realized. I wonder if she got tired of playing wall, too. I’ll have to ask her.”

“Playing wall?”

“Sorry, a personal metaphor. When you’ve taken chances a few too many times, you can get into an odd frame of mind. Adrenaline is a hard habit to kick. I’d always assumed that my, um, former taste for that kind of rush came from the Barrayaran side of my genetics. But near-death experiences tend to cause you to reevaluate your priorities. Running that much risk, that long . . . you’d end up either damn sure who you were and what you wanted, or you’d be, I don’t know, anesthetized.”

“And your mother?”

“Well, she’s certainly not anesthetized.”

Miles says, amused, that most people pump him about his father, not his mother, and Ekaterin apologizes if she’s being rude.  Miles says she’s not, and she asks whether raising him was a kind of “wall” for her.  He asks if she knows the story, and she says she only heard about the Lord Regent’s crippled son, since her family was far from the rarefied upper reaches of the Vor.  He tells her about the soltoxin grenade, and how the damage is actually not genetic, noting that it’s not as important as it used to be for him to emphasize that.  Now he prefers to act the role of a visible, successul “mutie” in hopes that it won’t matter as much to people.  He managed to get into the service, then found himself in ImpSec, where they were more interested in results than appearances; this worked well for him, except that most of his achievements were classified.  On his discharge, he was rescued from anonymity be becoming an Imperial Auditor.

She asks if he wants to be famous, and he says he just wants to be known for himself.  He has nothing but respect for his father, but he secretly hopes for a day when Aral Vorkosigan is mentioned in history books mainly for being Miles Vorkosigan’s father, which makes her laugh.  She says it sounds like hubris, which he heartily agrees with.  He turns pensive for a moment, and is about to bring up something from her comconsole the other day, when the bubble-car pulls into the station and he cuts off.

In the Shuttleport Locks district, Miles seems drawn to the seedier side first, full of the less well-off galactics, and some of the kitschier stores.  He finds a lava lamp in a store, and stares at it in fascination, but Ekaterin discourages him from getting it as a wedding present for Gregor.  At the last moment he decides to get it anyway, for a birthday present instead, and then lets Ekaterin drag into the classier section.  That area, full of well-lit antique and jewelry shops, and high-class couturiers, doubtless with minions, he finds less interesting, but then something catches his attention in a jeweler’s kiosk.

The jeweler has a whole display of miniature planets inside tiny grav-bubbles, made to exacting detail, with a terminator line moving across the surface to simulate realistic day-night cycles for the planet in question.  They have most of the planets in the nexus available–including an Earth with its moon orbiting an inconveniently accurate handspan away–and the cost alarms Ekaterin, but Miles doesn’t seem to pay the price any attention.

“Oh, yes, a typical tech toy—high-end this year, everywhere next year, nowhere after that, till the antiquarians’ revival. Still . . . it would be fun to make up an Imperial set, Barrayar, Komarr, and Sergyar. I don’t know any women with three ears . . . two earrings and a pendant, perhaps, though then you’d have the socio-political problem of how to rank the worlds.”

“You could put all three on a necklace.”

“True, or . . . I think my mother would definitely like a Sergyar. Or Beta Colony . . . no, might make her homesick. Sergyar, yes, very apropos. And there’s Winterfair, and birthdays coming up—let’s see, there’s Mother, Laisa, Delia, Aunt Alys, Delia’s sisters, Drou—maybe I ought to order a dozen sets, and a have a couple to spare.”

Ekaterin points out that if all of these women know each other (and she wonders if any of them are lovers, or prospective lovers), it might be a little crass to get them all the same thing.  She persuades him to restrain himself, buying two Komarr-Barrayar pairs, for Laisa and Delia, a Sergyar on a chain for his mother, and a last-minute Barrayar for someone he doesn’t specify.

The shopping done, Ekaterin takes him to a nearby park, with a naturally-landscaped lake in it.  They stop for a view of the downtown skyline over the lake, and Ekaterin points out that all of this was created manually, and maintained full-time.  She wonders if Komarrans will be able to deal with real forests by the time they actually have them on the surface, or if they’ll think these toy parks are the real thing.  Miles’s reply is interrupted by a loud bang from some construction site behind them, and his instant reaction is to toss the package aside, draw his stunner, and push Ekaterin behind him, before he figures out that it’s harmless.  Then they discover that he’s dropped the packet over the edge of the bluff, and it’s snagged on a bush halfway down.

Miles decides he can probably reach it, and jumps over the safety railing, lying down to reach over the edge of the bluff, but his arms are too short after all.  Ekaterin, not wanting him to fall head-first into the lake, whose depth she doesn’t know, volunteers to try herself.  Miles suggests sending for an ImpSec minion with a stick, but Ekaterin pronounces that overkill.  She crawls to the edge herself, leaning forward to try to reach it, but the edge of the bluff begins to fragment under her.

One wildly back-grappling arm was caught suddenly in a viselike grip, but the rest of her body turned as the soil gave way beneath her, and she found herself dangling absurdly feet-down over the pond. Her other arm, swinging around, was caught, too, and she looked up into Vorkosigan’s face above her. He was lying prone on the slope, one hand locked around each of her wrists. His teeth were clenched and grinning, his gray eyes alight.

“Let go, you idiot!” she cried.

The look on his face was weirdly, wildly exultant. “Never,” he gasped, “again -”

His half-boots were locked around . . . nothing, she realized, as he began to slide inexorably over the edge after her. But his death-grip never slackened. The exalted look on his face melted to sudden horrified realization. The laws of physics took precedence over heroic intent for the next couple of seconds; dirt, pebbles, vegetation, and two Barrayaran bodies all hit the chilly water more or less simultaneously.

The water turns out to be only a meter deep, and they emerge wet and muddy but unscathed, though Ekaterin has lost a shoe.

“Oh,” said Ekaterin faintly. “Drat.”

There was a meditative pause before Lord Vorkosigan spoke. “Madame Vorsoisson,” he said mildly at last, “has it ever occurred to you that you may be just a touch oversocialized?”

She couldn’t stop herself; she laughed out loud. She clapped her hand over her mouth, and waited fearfully for some masculine explosion of wrath.

From this vantage, Miles retrieves the package easily by throwing rocks at the bush until the package is dislodged, then catches it.  He offers Ekaterin his arm and escorts her to the edge of the lake, grabbing a low-hanging tree and pulling himself and then her out of the water.  Ekaterin worries briefly if they’ll get in trouble, but nobody seems to have noticed anything, and anyway, Miles is an Imperial Auditor.  She asks if he’s upset about the accident; Miles says a needle grenade is an accident, that was just an inconvenience.  He then admits to feeling a little odd, and tells her about his seizures, in case he should have one.

She takes him to a bench, and he hunches over, shivering.  He recovers in a couple of minutes, and he tells her that wasn’t a seizure, but a combat flashback.  She thinks he looks shocky and a little unhealthy; he says he was mostly just stunned by an insight, and thanks her for it.  She peevishly asks him to explain what he’s talking about, or shut up, and he is struck by the extreme justice of this remark.  He tells her how, on the escape from Dagoola IV, their shuttle had problems closing its hatch until they jettisoned the broken loading ramp, and when it did, a certain Sergeant Beatrice had fallen as well.  He’d tried to reach her, but couldn’t get hold of her hand, and it had tormented him ever since…but now he realized, based on his recent experience, that if he had grabbed her hand, he’d just have been pulled out with her.  Ekaterin agrees that he wouldn’t have let go, because she now has marks on her wrists from his unyielding grip, for which he apologizes.  He says that somehow, inside his head, he’s six feet tall.

He rubs at her wrists, and she realizes they’re both freezing cold, and says they need to get warm and dry.  She buys some towels at a kiosk, and they get into a bubble-car, and turn up the heat as far as it goes.  Miles strips out of his wet clothes, and Ekaterin is astonished at his array of scars, realizing he wasn’t joking at needle grenades.  Miles says a lot of the scars are from his various bone-replacement surgeries, too.  As he dries off and warms himself up, he apologizes for not having told her about the seizures earlier.  Then he apologizes for accidentally finding the Vorzohn’s Dystrophy file on her comconsole.

Ekaterin is dismayed, thinking she may have left it open, but Miles admits to having hacked it out of curiosity, while taking a break from autopsies, and compliments her on her gardens.  He apologizes again, pleading only old ImpSec habits, and offers to help her in any way he can.  Ekaterin refuses his help, and withdraws from him, wondering how Tien will react to finding out his secret has been found out.  Miles says that there are things that can be done for them, whoever’s suffering from the disease, but Ekaterin refuses him again, and tells him what he did was wrong.  Miles agrees, but refuses to compound the wrong by pretending he doesn’t know about the problem now; he says at the very least she should consult her uncle for help, but she says she won’t do that either.

They return to the Vorsoisson apartment in chilly silence, where they are greeted by a mostly-oblivious Vorthys.  Another courier has stopped by with some hot new evidence–they’ve found a body, an entire male one, just when they had accounted for everyone who could possibly have been in the vicinity of the crash.

Comments

Who does he buy that other Barrayar jewelry piece for?  (It isn’t clear whether it’s earrings or a pendant…)  I don’t recall if it ever comes up.  It seems like a bit of a pointed gift for Elli…maybe Elena?  Mark?  I’d love that kind of thing, anyway, though admittedly having the Moon orbiting at a realistic distance (it mentions “a handspan” in the text) would be inconvenient unless you were wearing it on a hat.

The opening scene, with the expose of Ekaterin and Tien’s sex life, is perhaps one of the more chilling ones in the series, practically on par with Mark and the Black Gang.  Like nothing else, it shows how far their relationship had degraded, though by this time we’ve gotten ample evidence of just how screwed up Tien is, from his career sabotage to his closed-mindedness and prejudice to his groundless suspicions of his wife’s fidelity.  We’re just getting the barest glimpse of his financial peculations in this chapter, to be revealed in much more horrifying detail later on, but the repeated liquidation of any pension funds is entirely typical.

It is nice to see, in this book, how much more at peace with himself Miles is.  Even something like his failure to keep Ekaterin from falling into the lake just leads to a personal epiphany, and progress towards the ability to forgive himself for something he’s been beating himself up over for years.  Though, admittedly, his screwup with peeking into their private files cancels that out a bit.  He does admit to it, so he gets points for honesty, but admitting that you did something bad to someone else doesn’t cancel out having done it in the first place.  It just avoids the even worse thing which is being found out without having admitted it.

Chapter Six

Miles takes a long shower to warm himself up.  He’d been trying to reassure her, as much as possible about the potentials in life as a mutant, because he could tell she was worried about Nikolai’s future.  She’d begun relaxing and opening up, even after the fall into the pond, and seeing him half-naked in the bubble-car.  But when he confessed to finding about the Vorzohn’s, she’d shut him out again.  He almost wishes he’d kept from telling her, but he hadn’t been able to keep on without telling her the truth.

Her icy, armored We don’t require assistance felt like . . . missing a catch. He would be forced onward, she would spin down into the fog and never be seen again.

You’re overdramatizing, boy. Madame Vorsoisson wasn’t in a combat zone, was she?

Yes, she is. She was just falling toward death in exquisitely slow motion.

Finally emerging from the shower, he dresses and rejoins Vorthys to examine the new autopsy report.  Miles asks first if they’re sure he’s from their collision, and Vorthys says that the trajectory and time of death matches perfectly.  The news hasn’t been released, or leaked, yet; Miles thinks that he’s going to have to go to Solstice soon to deal with political issues soon anyway, while Vorthys says he’ll have to go back to orbit to examine the control systems they’ve retrieved.  It would be a relief for Miles to move out of the tension-laden Vorsoisson household, though Vorthys says he’ll wait until morning at least.  Vorthys also mentions that they’ve found some odd pieces of equipment, and new things, not just old pieces of a makeshift still; Miles considers joining Vorthys on the trip tomorrow.

He goes looking for Ekaterin for one last conversation, but she’s gone, probably picking up Nikolai from school.  He takes the autopsy report to her comconsole to look over it again, not without a twinge of guilt over his earlier snooping.  The man whose body they found has no I.D. in his clothing anywhere, much of which was destroyed in the explosion.  He wonders why they haven’t identified him yet, but restrains himself from heading up to the space station to breathe over their shoulders; instead, he calls General Rathjens, head of ImpSec Komarr in Solstice.

Rathjens hasn’t had a chance to look into the preliminary report on the new body; Miles asks him how they plan to go about identifying him.  Komarran authorities perforce share all their information with ImpSec, though not vice versa; if the man’s a Komarran or a registered galactic visitor, it shouldn’t take too long, but it’ll take longer if he’s a Barrayaran, and of course longer if he’s unregistered somehow.  He doesn’t match up with any missing persons reports, which Miles finds odd if he’s a Komarran, since he would’ve been gone for three weeks by now.  Rathjens points out that Miles is on an unsecured comconsole, and Miles says he just wants general information.  He asks to be notified when they identify the man, because if he has relatives on Komarr to be notified, he’d like to go along and observe.

After that, he starts reading over the terraforming reports, leaving the office door open in case Ekaterin should happen by.  Instead, he turns around at one point to find Nikolai standing there instead.  Miles quizzes him about school, to one-word responses, but Nikolai does seem to be satisfying some of his curiosity about the odd Auditor, and Miles allows it.  Nikki asks him if he was a spy, and Miles tells him he was a courier, and describes the dull missions he went on to deliver messages, and the reading and studying he did to kill time.

“Oh,” said Nikki, sounding a little dismayed, possibly at the thought that even grownups weren’t spared from homework. He regarded Miles more sympathetically. Then a spark rose in his eye. “But you got to go on jumpships, didn’t you? Imperial fast couriers and things?”

“Oh, yes.”

“We went on a jumpship, to come here. It was a Vorsmythe Dolphin-class 776 with quadruple-vortex outboard control nacelles and dual norm-space thrusters and a crew of twelve. It carried a hundred and twenty passengers. It was full up, too.” Nikki’s face grew reflective. “Kind of a barge, compared to Imperial fast couriers, but Mama got the jump pilot to let me come up and see his control room. He let me sit in his station chair and put on his headset.” The spark had become a flame in the memory of this glorious moment.

Miles immediately recognizes that Nikki is obsessed with jumpships, and Nikki confirms that he’d love to be a pilot someday.  Miles said he’d wanted to be a strategist.  Nikki said his dad was a soldier and it sounded boring; he’d rather be a pilot and fly all over the place.  Miles recognizes that if he does carry Vorzohn’s Dystrophy, they wouldn’t let him in the military for pilot training, so he talks up Komarran trade fleets instead, telling him they’ll get much more interesting missions than dull military voyages.

Nikki runs off and returns with a box of jumpship models, showing them to Miles.  Miles spots an RG freighter, and tells Nikki how he used to own one, until it crashed into another ship, destroying its Necklin rods.  Soon they’re sitting on the floor together, Nikki showing off his models and knowledge of their specs, Miles relaying his personal knowledge and interesting anecdotes.  Nikki asks how he’d become a nonmilitary pilot, and Miles says he’d need to pay for a training school, and for the neurological interface, but he’s got at least ten more years before he’s eligible, and there’s the potential for scholarships and the like.

Jumpships exhausted, Nikki asks a few questions about Miles’s Auditor career, which are interrupted by the return of Tien.  Tien is dismissive of Nikki’s latest obsession, telling him he’ll grow out of it; Miles tries to supply a few more encouraging messages as well.  Tien says it’s suppertime, and so Miles suffers through one last, tense meal with the Vorsoisson family, mostly dominated by Tien holding forth ill-informedly on Komarran politics.  Miles watches them, realizing that Ekaterin’s silence is more withdrawal than serenity, and Tien’s energy is more tension and twitchiness.  He can spot some clumsiness in Tien if he looks, concluding that he is the Vorzohn’s sufferer after all.  He empathizes somewhat with Tien’s denial of his illness, so similar to Miles’s with his seizures, but has no sympathy with what Tien’s choices may mean for his family, particularly Nikolai.

In the middle of supper, the door chimes; Ekaterin goes to answer it, and Miles follows.  It proves to be an ImpSec Captain named Tuomonen, head of the Serifosa office, who has information about the identity of the extra body found in space.  They go to the living room to talk, and Miles asks Ekaterin to send Vorthys when he’s ready; Tuomonen asks for Tien as well.  He tells Miles that the body turns out to be someone from Serifosa, an employee of the Terraforming Project; Miles immediately hazards a guess, correct, as it turns out, that it is the missing Dr. Radovas.  He asks if they’ve found Marie Trogir as well, but Tuomonen says she hasn’t turned up; Miles says they shouldn’t assume she’s dead, either.

Tuomonen gives Miles a file on Radovas, mostly pulled from public sources, but notes that he was in a revolutionary group during the Komarr Revolt, when he was a university student.  Tuomonen himself, it turns out, married a Komarran woman, whose mother was a former revolutionary herself, but then so were half the Komarrans of that age, so it might not be significant on Radovas’s part.  Miles asks for his thoughts on the file, and Tuomonen suggests he read it over himself first, without prejudice.  Miles, curious, asks what Tuomonen thinks about Lord Auditor Miles Vorkosigan.

“About two-thirds of your career is locked under a need-to-know seal that requires clearance from ImpSec HQ in Vorbarr Sultana to access. But your publicly recorded awards and decorations appear in a statistically significant pattern following supposedly routine courier missions assigned to you by the Galactic Affairs office. At approximately five times the density of the next most decorated courier in ImpSec history.”

“And your conclusion, Captain Tuomonen?”

Tuomonen smiled faintly. “You were never a bloody courier, Captain Vorkosigan.”

“Do you know, Tuomonen, I believe I am going to enjoy working with you.”

Vorthys and Tien arrive, and Tuomonen tells them about Dr. Radovas, watching Tien carefully as he does so.  Tien seems to be genuinely surprised, but can’t tell them much about the man, except that he was in Soudha’s Waste Heat department, and seemed unexceptional.  He’d resigned five days before his death, so it would have been impossible for him to be on the ore ship, unless he’d joined it en route somehow.  Tuomonen says they’ll be telling Madame Radovas shortly, but Miles says it can wait until he’s gone over the report.

They all, including Tien, go over it on Tien’s computer.  Radovas lost two years of his schooling to the Revolt, and spent two years on Escobar after graduation, working in their shipyards.  Refused a government research job because of his revolutionary associations, he worked in the Komarran orbital yards, before being suddenly hired by Soudha for the Terraforming Project, without even a raise in pay.  Miles finds it odd, considering Radovas was a specialist in jump-point technologies, that he should have taken the job, which Tuomonen agrees with.  Vorthys said there could be many reasons, including his wife being tired of living on a space station.

The next step is to go speak to Madame Radovas, which the four of them do (though Miles is unsure why Tien is still with them), as well as a female dome security officer, Group-Patroller Rigby.  When Madame Radovas answers the door to see the presence of the officials, she seems to draw the obvious conclusion that it’s not good news, though to Miles’s eye she seems to be the underreacting type.  Rigby informs her officially that her husband’s body has been found; Madame Radovas says she’s not as pleased as she thought she’d be, and asks after Marie Trogir.  Rigby says they have questions for her first, and will try to answer hers as well.

Rigby tells her how his body was found in space, and asks if she knows why he would have been there.  Madame Radovas says he didn’t tell her anything, had in fact only left her a note on her comconsole, which she has unfortunately erased; his departure took her entirely by surprise.  He’d gone away for work trips before, but this time he took his personal files with him.  She says she had talked to Soudha, who hadn’t seemed to think it was any of his concern what Radovas did after he resigned.  Tien says he didn’t know she’d spoken to anyone at the project, and promises to have a word with Soudha about it.

Tuomonen asks her why her husband took the terraforming job.  She says they were tired of station life, wanted a more settled life for the children, and to do something for Komarr’s future.  Soudha had wanted people of different backgrounds on his project.  When Tuomonen asks, Madame Radovas says she wishes to have her husband’s body returned, though she seems at a loss what to do about it; Rigby offers community counseling assistance.  Tuomonen also says they will have to examine his comconsole and their personal records, which may be useful even if Radovas supposedly deleted his files from it.  Vorthys is spending time examining Radovas’s digital library, and asks them to bring that as well, to Madame Radovas’s bewilderment, because he insists it will tell him something of the shape of Radovas’s thinking.  Madame Radovas breaks down and tells them to take whatever they want, she doesn’t care anymore; Tuomonen goes to siphon the Radovases’ digital information, while the others go to help Vorthys with the library case.
As they’re leaving, Madame Radovas asks about any pension benefits; Tien says that since he’d already resigned, there won’t be any.  Miles, not seeing why she should be deprived because of her late husband’s fecklessness, decides to use his Auditorial power for good, and tells Vorsoisson to authorize her benefits anyway.

“I can’t—how—do you want me to alter the date of his resignation?”

Thus creating the curious legal spectacle of a man resigning the day after his own death? By what method, spirit writing? “No, of course not. Simply make it by an Imperial order.”

“There are no places on the forms for an Imperial order!” said Vorsoisson, taken aback.

Miles digested this. Tuomonen, looking faintly suffused, watched with wide-eyed fascination. Even Madame Radovas’s eyebrows crimped with bemusement. She looked directly at Miles as if seeing him for the first time. At last, Miles said gently, “A design defect you shall have to correct, Administrator Vorsoisson.”

Madame Radovas thanks Miles, and they leave her apartment, Tien carrying the library bundle.  Tuomonen asks Rigby to continue investigating the death, even though it happened outside of Serifosa jurisdiction, and pass any evidence to ImpSec.  Vorthys tells Tuomonen he won’t have time to analyze the library himself before going back to orbit; Miles authorizes him to requisition a “basement boffin” from HQ to help him out, to help produce an outline of Radovas’s mind based on his library.

Tuomonen asks Miles how long he’ll be in Serifosa; Miles says he isn’t sure, since he’ll probably be joining Vorthys in orbit soon.  He tells Tien he’ll probably move out into a hotel once Vorthys goes up, and Tien makes only a token effort to dissuade him.  Tuomonen asks him to keep ImpSec apprised of his movements, and asks him if he won’t reconsider an ImpSec escort, now that there is a Serifosa link to the case, but Miles insists on merely retaining the wrist commlink.

“Is there anything else you need?”

“Not tonight,” said Vorthys, yawning.

I need all this to make sense. I need half a dozen eager informers. I want to be alone in a locked room with Marie Trogir and a hypo of fast-penta. I wish I might fast-penta that poor bitter widow, even. Rigby would require a court order for such an invasive and offensive step; Miles could do it on whim and his borrowed Imperial Voice, if he didn’t mind being a very obnoxious Lord Auditor indeed. The justification was simply not yet sufficient. But Soudha had better watch his step, tomorrow. Miles shook his head. “No. Get some sleep.”

Comments

One does wonder why the Auditors don’t object more to Tien inserting himself into these proceedings.  I guess Tuomonen is content to keep an eye on him as a possible suspect, as somebody who knew the deceased.  Tien himself…well, I believe we find more about his motives later.  Though when reading this, it occurred to me to wonder if he was there to carry the library; otherwise, Tuomonen or Rigby would have had to carry it, since neither of the Auditors are particularly burly.  Of course, one also has to wonder how much data is actually in this library–Miles estimates it as a thousand disks, and given how much data we can store on disks with 21st-century technology, by Miles’s time (on Komarr, at least, if not Barrayar) they could probably fit the entire Library of Congress on a thousand disks, or the complete Wikipedia, and it would take a little time to figure out which bits of that Radovas had been particularly interested in.  (I could probably link here to a TVTropes page about technology being extrapolated insufficiently far, but I’ll refrain.  I’m sure Ms. Bujold was just trying to use something more futuristic than actual books…)

I do like the scene with Nikki and Miles, with Nikki’s encyclopedic knowledge of the jumpships.  It does give him and Miles something to talk about, at least.  Did they ever find another RG freighter for Arde Mayhew?  I don’t recall it being mentioned last time we saw him, in “Winterfair Gifts”, alas.  Just another missed plot thread, I guess.  Maybe there’s some fanfic out there that resolves the issue…  Anyway, Nikki’s best scenes are, of course, in the next book.  I also don’t recall the later books telling us whether he did actually achieve his jump-pilot ambitions, but I imagine that if he didn’t, it wasn’t because of lack of financial and familial support…

I don’t remember offhand exactly how Dr. Radovas did end up in orbit, or where poor Marie Trogir is right now, but I remember enough.  Waste Heat is up to something, that’s for sure, and both Tien and Madame Radovas know more than they’re saying…  How different would the book be if Miles had decided to fast-penta Madame Radovas after all?

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So now the mysterious accident in space is linked to Etienne Vorsoisson’s Terraforming Project office, even if we don’t know quite what the connection is yet.  Come back next week and we’ll see if Miles manages to blow the case wide open…probably not, since there’s still quite a few more chapters left, but maybe he’ll at least stumble across another clue.

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Good evening, genties and ladlemen.  I know you’ve been on eleventerhooks waiting for the next installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, but wait no longer, for here it is, following hereunder!  Thrill to the exposition of the events of the next two chapters, Chapter Three and Chapter Four, of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Komarr, as Miles Vorkosigan joins the investigation of a disaster above the titular planet, and meets a fascinating, and married, woman named Ekaterin Vorsoisson!  Here it is!

Chapter Three

Ekaterin and her uncle’s visit to Nikolai’s school is brief, since the Auditor’s presence flusters the staff, so she takes him on a tour of the prettiest spots and best lookouts in Serifosa Dome.  Only later does it occur to her that she should have looked for something more engineering-oriented, but by then it’s lunchtime.  She asks her uncle for reassurance that they won’t abandon the soletta entirely.  Vorthys says that he hopes not, it was a great achievement of the Komarrans, and any sabotage of it would be sheer vandalism.  Ekaterin recalls Komarrans telling her about the psychological blow caused by Admiral Vorkosigan’s forces took over the soletta early in the invasion of Komarr.  There’d been talk of reopening the soletta to tourism again, but luckily it hadn’t happened yet; Vorthys says he thinks it would be a good idea.

They discuss some of the wild creatures that have been brought to the domes–rats and roaches, but also gerbils and hamsters, and even wild cockatoos.  Ekaterin takes advantage of the arrival to lunch to change the subject to Miles, asking if he was really in ImpSec.  Vorthys can’t give her full details on Miles’s classified career, but he does confirm that Miles spent a decade in ImpSec, and tells her about the Dagoola rescue, since it’s foolish to consider if classified when the Marilacans are making movies about it.  She asks why he quit, and her uncle tells her about the cryo-revival and that it occasioned a medical discharge, but doesn’t share most of the details.

He tells her the Emperor found Imperial Auditor to be a good use for Miles’s skills, and admits that he’s been glad to send someone younger and more vigorous to do the more physical tasks, like long pressure-suit excursions.  He denies that Miles is his assistant though, insisting that they’re equals, working together mostly to learn each other’s methods.

“Our Imperial charge doesn’t come with a manual, you see. It was once proposed the Auditors create one for themselves, but they—wisely, I think—concluded it would do more harm than good. Instead, we just have our archives of Imperial reports; precedents, without rules. Lately, several of us more recent appointees have been trying to read a few old reports each week, and then meet for dinner to discuss the cases and analyze how they were handled. Fascinating. And delicious. Vorkosigan has the most extraordinary cook.”

“But this is his first assignment, isn’t it? And . . . he was designated just like that, on the Emperor’s whim.”

“He had a temporary appointment as a Ninth Auditor first. A very difficult assignment, inside ImpSec itself. Not my kind of thing at all.”

She was not totally oblivious to the news. “Oh, dear. Did he have anything to do with why ImpSec changed chiefs twice last winter?”

She tries to decide why Vorkosigan disturbs her so much–in the Time of Isolation, he would have doubtless been killed as a mutant, though Nikki would have escaped detection, but she doesn’t think anti-mutant prejudice is the reason.  Her uncle says that he and his wife both like Miles, that he’s quiet at first but can get quite witty once he gets going.  He reminds her of finding a gifted, or even genius, among his students, which was a genuine privilege.  Ekaterin is surprised to hear him consider Miles a genius; Vorthys insists he is, though, at least part of the time–and nobody is ever a genius all the time, but all it takes is once, at the right time.

Her uncle isn’t telling her anything about Miles that she really wants to know, so she asks outright if he’s married, and is mildly surprised to find that he isn’t, wondering to herself what’s wrong with him, and if he’s a danger to Nikki.  She wishes Vorthys’s wife was there, who would have been more forthcoming.  Vorthys does say he’s been out of the Empire a lot.  Ekaterin asks about siblings, and Vorthys says he doesn’t have any, except for his clone-brother, though they don’t look alike, which confuses her.  Vorthys then asks if they’re planning any siblings for Nikki, which puts her back on the defensive.  She’s gotten a contraceptive implant, and she can’t get a straight answer from Tien about how they might be able to have more children, since his sperm will still carry the mutation even if it’s fixed in him.  She claims to be waiting for Tien’s career to settle down, and Vorthys points out that it seems to be taking a while.

“I . . . won’t pretend that hasn’t been difficult.” That was true enough. Thirteen different jobs in a decade. Was this normal for a rising bureaucrat? Tien said it was a necessity, no bosses ever promoted from within or raised a former subordinate above them; you had to go around to move up. “We’ve moved eight times. I’ve abandoned six gardens, so far. The last two relocations, I just didn’t plant anything except in pots. And then I had to leave most of the pots, when we came here.”

She admits to herself that his first few postings were mediocre, but now she’s beginning to wonder how he’s ever going to expect promotion if he never stays long enough to gain much useful experience.  Each new job, Tien starts with a burst of enthusiasm and long hours, before the charm wears off and he begins to complain of overwork and bad coworkers, which Ekaterin has learned means they’ll be moving soon.  This posting has been going well for surprisingly long, almost a year, and maybe this will finally be it, if they stick it out long enough.  With Tien’s hidden Vorzohn’s Dystrophy clock ticking down, she supposes that he has some grounds for impatience.

Vorthys says his wife has been wondering if they’re happy on Komarr.  Ekaterin says she’s a little homesick, but insists she likes it fine.  Her aunt was surprised that she didn’t put Nikki into a Komarran school, but Vorthys says the Barrayaran school he’s in is just fine.  Ekaterin says Tien wanted to give Nikki the chance to make social connections with other Vor children in the sector.  Ekaterin is silent, since she didn’t agree with Tien’s choice in the first place.

As they finish up their desserts, a Komarran man comes over to their table, greeting her by name and introducing himself as Andro Farr, from the Winterfair reception at Tien’s workplace.  He was there with Marie Trogir, who worked at Waste Heat Management, and wonders if Ekaterin knows her.  Ekaterin says she doesn’t, really, and Farr slumps in disappointment.  He says he’s talked to all of Marie’s friends that he can find, but none of them know where she is.  Six weeks ago, she was going out of town on work, but she should have been back a week ago.  He’d talked to Administrator Soudha, her department head, and eventually, when he pinned Soudha down in person, he was told that she and her boss, Radovas, had run off together six weeks ago, and hadn’t been seen since.

Ekaterin can think of reasons why either one of them may have wanted to leave their current relationship, but keeps them to herself.  She asks if he’s talked to Radovas’s wife, and he says she refused to talk with him.  Vorthys asks if he’s filed a Missing Persons report, and Farr says he hasn’t, but maybe he will.  He mentions that she left her clothes and her cats, which doesn’t make any sense.

After Farr leaves, Ekaterin asks if she should bring lunch for Miles as well, and Vorthys says it may be a good idea, since Miles doesn’t always seem to notice when he misses meals, when he’s wrapped up in a problem.  She hopes that she’ll be able to find out something about how Miles Vorkosigan seems to cope so well with his mutations, and get some tips that might be helpful for Nikolai some day.

Comments

Not the most stirring chapter, being fairly talky.  Most of what it reveals about Miles, long-time readers like us will, of course, already know, but it’s interesting to see what impressions Ekaterin gets from the revelations.  She’s still labouring under the misapprehension that he’s a mutant, though of course from a Barrayaran social standpoint, it makes little difference if you are as long as you look like one.  What we get from Ekaterin’s thoughts is mostly a reinforcement of how unhappy she is in her life with Tien, though she’s still trying to stay loyal to him, and hopes that it will get better someday.  She hasn’t–quite–given up on him yet.

Andro Farr’s appearance, and the mysterious disappearance of Marie Trogir and Radovas, is the only thing in the chapter of much relevance to the main plot, though of course right now it mostly seems just a little odd, and probably quite unrelated to the soletta disaster.  But this is a mystery plot again, mostly, so it is, at least, a clue.

Chapter Four

Etienne Vorsoisson’s group occupies two floors in an ordinary office building, near the edge of the dome and not entirely contained within it.  Miles is a little uncomfortable with the glass windows being all that separates them from the planet’s atmosphere, but Vorthys points out that the pressure differential is not that high, not like a space station.  Air inside the domes is made from air outside, by concentrating the sparse oxygen and filtering out a few unpleasant substances like carbon dioxide.  They do have emergency breath masks, but Miles doesn’t think they’ve been checked recently, and almost calls an emergency inspection right then, but decides to restrain himself.

Vorsoisson escorts them into a conference room where he introduces the Auditors to the department heads of the Serifosa Dome branch of the terraforming project.  They’re all Komarrans, saving only Vorsoisson himself; Tien’s assistant Venier is to give them a general presentation followed by Q&A.  The presentation starts with a historical overview of Komarran colonization; Miles notes that these days a marginal world like Komarr would be less likely to be actually colonized, despite its rich wormhole nexus.  They had begun by bombarding the planet with comets for their ice, before the icecaps were found to contain all the water necessary; after that they concentrated on the mirrors to increase solar radiation, leading to the current seven-mirror soletta.  This allowed liquid water and plant life at the equator, to begin converting the CO2 in the atmosphere, and extra greenhouse gases were added to help trap more heat.  And then, of course, the soletta accident.

“There was mention of a cooling projection? With figures?” Vorthys prodded gently.

“Yes, my Lord Auditor.” Venier slid a disk across the polished surface toward the Professor. “Administrator Vorsoisson said you were an engineer, so I left in all the calculations.”

The Waste Heat Management fellow, Soudha, also an engineer, winced and bit his thumb at this innocent ignorance of Vorthys’s stature in his field. Vorthys merely said, “Thank you. I appreciate that.”

So where’s my copy? Miles did not ask aloud.

He asks for the layman’s summary, and Venier says that it’ll only take a season for effects to be felt at the most extreme latitudes, and by five years it’ll be difficult to recover the lost ground.  Soudha says they’re hoping for other sources of heat to help with the shortfall; they’ve been trying to use waste heat from the domes to help with the planetary warming, but it’s only a drop in the bucket, just good to keep the domes’ immediate area warm enough for some of the plant life to survive in their immediate vicinity.  Vorthys muses on the strangeness of wanting to produce more waste heat, rather than less; he asks about devoting fusion reactors to nothing but producing heat.  Soudha says it’s possible, but not economical, certainly more expensive than repairing the orbital mirrors, and using reactors to power domes produces the same amount of heat in the end.

Next up is the head of “Microbial Reclassification”, who discusses the bacterial life which is thriving on the planet, but adapting so furiously as to be hard to keep track of, and not adding anything much to drawing carbon out of the atmosphere.  “Carbon Draw-Down” is having some success with higher forms of plant life, particularly peat bogs, though they require water and heat, and ideally they’ll end up buried under lakes for long term carbon sequestration.  All the departments have the same needs, for funding, as well as a restoration, or even expansion, of heat and light; few of them bothered to bring copies of their reports for Miles, though he’s not sure how much of them he wanted to read in the first place.  He is stiff and sore by the time the meeting ends.

Vorthys buttonholes Soudha and asks about Marie Trogir; Soudha claims not to know anything more, mostly finding it annoying that she left without notice, leaving a gap in his staff.  Vorthys comments on the oddity of her leaving her cats behind, but Soudha know nothing more.  As they continue on the tour, Miles asks Vorthys what that was about, and Tien tells them about the scandal of Marie Trogir and Radovas running off together.  Vorthys explains how they ran into Andro Farr in the restaurant.  Miles thinks that running off like that doesn’t sound very Komarran, more like a Barrayaran backcountry elopement.

They reach the garage, where their promised vehicle is missing; Vorsoisson and Vorthys go to see about it, and Miles decides to take the opportunity to take Venier’s measure.  Venier asks if he’s ever visited the Massacre Shrine in Solstice, a pointed reference to the Solstice Massacre, supposedly engineered by Miles’s father, earning him the name “The Butcher of Komarr”.  Miles comments that he went there with a relative of a Martyr, which surprises Venier.

Venier’s brows tweaked up. “Well . . . there is a theory that the massacre was ordered by Emperor Ezar without the knowledge of Admiral Vorkosigan. Ezar was certainly ruthless enough.”

“Ruthless enough, yes. Stupid enough, never. It was the Barrayaran expedition’s chief Political Officer’s own bright idea, for which my father made him pay with his life, not that that did much good for anyone after the fact. Leaving aside every moral consideration, the massacre was a supremely stupid act. My father has been accused of many things, but stupidity has never, I believe, been one of them.” His voice was growing dangerously clipped.

“We’ll never know the whole truth, I suppose,” said Venier.

Was that supposed to be a concession? “You can be told the whole truth all day long, but if you won’t believe it, then no, I don’t suppose you ever will know it.”

Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Ekaterin and Nikki, who are apparently going to join them on the excursion, which should be educational.  She brought jackets for them, in case they venture out on foot.  The aircar arrives then, and they discuss who will sit where; Nikki wants to sit with his father and Uncle Vorthys, and Ekaterin suggests diffidently that Venier fly, but Tien nixes this, insisting he’s utterly capable.  Miles wonders whether a Komarran with strong opinions is any safer a driver than somebody potentially coming down with Vorzohn’s Dystrophy.

Vorsoisson distributes breath masks, and Ekaterin checks hers and Nikki’s carefully, despite her husband’s insistence that it’s unnecessary.  Miles ends up sitting in the back of the aircar with Venier and Ekaterin; he wishes he could chat with either of them without the other present, but no luck.  Venier reverts to lecture mode, and Ekaterin provides enough intelligent questions to cover Miles’s tiredness.  Miles asks why she hasn’t tried to use her interest in botany by working for her husband’s department, and Ekaterin seems to find the idea new and unsettling.  She says it smacks of nepotism, but Miles points out that the Vor system runs on nepotism, as long as people do their jobs well.  She could start off as an assistant, and take courses to bring her up to a more interesting position.  Unless, he thinks to himself, she’s the one with Vorzohn’s, which might explain her lack of ambition.  He wishes he knew which of them it was, but admonishes himself to not abuse his Auditor’s powers to find out.  Venier speaks up unexpectedly to support Miles’s suggestion; Ekaterin says she’ll have to see if Tien plans to stay at this job, first.

Vorsoisson’s voice, over the intercom from the front compartment, interrupted to point out the upcoming peat bog, lining a long narrow valley below. It was a more impressive sight than Miles had expected. For one thing, it was a true and bright Earth-green; for another, it ran on for kilometers.

“This strain produces six times the oxygen of its Earth ancestor,” Venier noted with pride.

“So . . . if you were trapped outside without a breath mask, could you crawl around in it and survive till you were rescued?” Miles asked practically.

“Mm . . . if you could hold your breath for about a hundred more years.”

Tien brings the aircar down to a landing on blessedly solid rock, avoiding the frozen bog that Miles was afraid of, based on past experience.

The canopy rose to admit a blast of chill unbreatheable outside air, and they exited for a clamber over the rocks and down to personally examine the squishy green plants. They were squishy green plants, all right. There were lots of them. Stretching to the horizon. Lots. Squishy. Green. With an effort, Miles stopped his back-brain from composing a lengthy Report to the Emperor in this style, and tried instead to appreciate Venier’s highly technical disquisition on potential deep-freeze damage to the something-chemical cycle.

They don’t spend long there before heading back into the air, to fly over a couple more valleys, then turn back towards Serifosa.  Miles spots an installation with a fusion reactor, surrounded by greenery, and asks about it; Venier says it’s Waste Heat’s experimental station.  Miles asks Tien if they could stop there, and Tien says he’d rather not it, since he wants to be back before dark.  Miles considers insisting on it, since he always enjoys surprise inspections, and Venier thinks it might be interesting, but Tien suggests another day instead.  Miles reminds himself that they’re looking into the soletta affair, not inspecting random facilities.  They return to the dome, sparkling in the fading light, and back to the office garage.

Venier went off with the aircar, and Vorsoisson collected the spare breath masks. Madame Vorsoisson’s face was bright and glowing, exhilarated by her field trip. “Don’t forget to put your mask back on the recharger,” she chirped to her husband as she handed him hers.

Vorsoisson’s face darkened. “Don’t. Nag. Me,” he breathed through set teeth.

She recoiled slightly, her expression closing as abruptly as a shutter. Miles stared off through the pillars, politely pretending not to have heard or noticed this interplay. He was hardly an expert on marital miscommunication, but even he could see how that one had gone awry. Her perhaps unfortunately-chosen expression of love and interest had been received by the obviously tense and tired Vorsoisson as a slur on his competence. Madame Vorsoisson deserved a better hearing, but Miles had no advice to offer. He had never even come near to capturing a wife to miscommunicate with. Not for lack of trying . . . .

Vorthys diverts the conversation to discussion of a supper destination, and Miles promises himself that this will be the last dinner he spends with the Vorsoisson family.  He drinks a little more than he planned, but before going to bed, he checks his neurotransmitter levels, and judges them not yet ready to be discharged by induced seizure.  A few days more and they will be, though; he’ll have to enlist himself a spotter, since he left his Armsman behind.  He doesn’t have a wife to spot for him yet either; perhaps the Professor?  He goes to bed and hopes not to dream of frozen corpses.

Comments

Wasn’t there something in the last chapter of The Warrior’s Apprentice, in the training exercise, where the supposed safety equipment had empty oxygen reservoirs?  And then there’s those uninspected breath masks, with the thought that they might be in poor condition brought up not only by Miles’s brain, but also by Ekaterin.  It seems that Tien might have a history of being careless about checking them, you know.  But he’s oversensitive about anything that might cast him in a poor light with…well, with anyone else, really, so he lashes out when Ekaterin makes a harmless reminder.

All the talk of carbon sequestration and the like seems very timely these days, with so many people concerned about greenhouse gases.  Though Komarr really has the opposite problem–they need to take the CO2 out of the air (or the carbon out of the CO2) to free up breathable oxygen, not to cut down on planetary heat retention; they actually need more greenhouse gases to help with that.  It makes me think of all the time I spent playing SimEarth, where I kept draining out too much CO2 and triggering an ice age.  So heating up the planet and “carbon draw-down” are goals at odds with each other.

Venier is practically the first Komarran we see for any length of time (apart from Andro Farr, I suppose), and I suppose it’s not that unlikely that he should happen to be one of those who’s sensitive about the Solstice Massacre, and how the name of Vorkosigan is associated with it.  One wonders whether sending Miles to Komarr is also a bit of calculation on Gregor’s part, though I guess I’m not sure what it would accomplish.  One wouldn’t think he’d want to do anything too provocative with his wedding to Laisa coming up.  But I also can’t think that the ramifications wouldn’t occur to him at all…


And that’s it for another week; the plot hasn’t yet thickened much , but perhaps the characters have.  (Can characters thicken?  Well, Tien and Vorthys both seem thick, if in different ways.)  Who knows how much deeper we’ll get into the thick of things in the next two chapters?  You will, if you come back next week, that’s who.

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Ever wonder what makes the world go around?  Love?  Money?  Or maybe, just possibly, the Vorkosigan Saga Reread?  Because here it is again, after a week off, and, just between you and me, didn’t the rotations seem to go by a little more slowly?  Well, fret not, because we’re starting a new book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga–Komarr, omnibized as the first part of Miles In Love, because Miles Vorkosigan’s lack of love life, which he was beginning to worry about in Memory, is beginning to turn around at last.  Though, of course, this is Miles–nothing about it is going to be easy for him.  Because, after all, his author is accustomed to come up with the worst curves for life to throw at him: in this case, getting hung up on a married woman, the narrator he shares POV with in this book, a woman named Ekaterin Vorsoisson…

Chapter One

Ekaterin Vorsoisson looks up at the sky from the balcony of her apartment in Serifosa Dome on Komarr.  The soletta array of mirrors in orbit around the planet, designed to help terraform the planet by increasing the incoming solar radiation, has been damaged, half of its mirrors out of commission.  An ore freighter had collided with it two weeks earlier.  Inside the domes, it’s mostly a matter of putting up extra lights, but outside the domes, it could be fatal to the fragile plantations that are also part of the terraforming effort.  She’s put up extra lights herself for the garden of Barrayaran plants on her balcony.

Briefly, she considered moving her old bonsai’d skellytum indoors, to provide it with more controlled conditions, but it was all indoors here on Komarr, really. She hadn’t felt wind in her hair for nearly a year. She felt an odd twinge of identification with the transplanted ecology outside, slowly starving for light and heat, suffocating in a toxic atmosphere . . . Stupid. Stop it. We’re lucky to be here.

Her husband, Etienne (or “Tien”), calls her inside, and when she comes, he tells her that her uncle has called to say he’s arrived at the shuttleport.  Her uncle, Auditor Vorthys, also said that he brought another Auditor with him, annoying Tien at being expected to feed another Auditor at short notice.  He speculates about what favours Vorthys must have called in to get the position; Ekaterin says that surely Imperial Auditors don’t get their jobs that way, and Tien just calls her naive.  He points out that Vorthys’s guest, Auditor Vorkosigan, presumably got his position just for being alive, being incredibly young for the job.

Ekaterin notices Tien’s hand shaking, but he insists that he’s just tired and tense.  Ekaterin says he’s older than his brother had been when it started, but Tien reminds her that it could start at any time.  He promises they’ll go offplanet to get it treated soon; Ekaterin asks why they can’t do it on Komarr, and Tien says he has no desire to be branded a mutant at this point in his career.  He forbids her to tell her uncle about it; she asks him to promise not to kill himself like his brother did.  Tien says they’ll go on their galactic “vacation” with their son Nikolai after his current appointment is done.  After he leaves, Ekaterin thinks to herself that he’s the one who keeps putting off the treatments.

She modifies her meal plans for the extra guest, mostly be bringing out two more bottles of wine, hoping to get their guest so drunk he won’t notice the food.  She wishes she’d hired a servitor, but they’re expensive, and the press are speculating enough about the soletta accident that she didn’t want to add to the Auditors’ social pressure.  She’d lived with the Vorthyses after her mother’s death, while she went to Imperial University, before she married Etienne.  Long before they found out about the Vorzohn’s Dystrophy.

Nikolai, nine years old, comes out and she gets him a glass of juice; she asks if he remembers his uncle, and he remembers a visit to his lab.  She asks to check the size of his hands–almost as large as hers–but is really checking for tremula.  Vorzohn’s Dystrophy could start as early as puberty, but so far Nikolai’s shown no symptoms.

Etienne returns with the guests, and Nikki runs to greet them, swept up into a hug by Uncle Vorthys, who then gives his niece a hug as well.  Only then does she notice Auditor Vorkosigan, and is struck by his size and odd shape, as well as the expensive custom fit of his clothes.  She greets him courteously, realizing she doesn’t know his name, and he introduces himself as Miles Vorkosigan.  As Nikki and Tien take Vorthys off to the guest room, Ekaterin swiftly revises her plans to put Miles in Nikki’s bed, because it might seem too much of a comment on his size.  Instead she takes him to her office/planting room, where she promises they’ll put in a grav-bed for him.

“It’s fine,” he assured her. He stepped to the window and stared out over the domed park. The lights in the encircling buildings gleaming warmly in the luminous twilight of the half-eclipsed mirror.

“I know it’s not what you’re used to.”

One corner of his mouth twitched up. “I once slept for six weeks on bare dirt. With ten thousand extremely grubby Marilacans, many of whom snored. I assure you, it’s just fine.”

She smiled in return, not at all certain what to make of this joke, if it was a joke.

Miles foils her plans to get him drunk by asking for only half a glass of wine, saying he’s tired from spending hours in a pressure suit, and it’d put him right to sleep.  Once the food is served, she begins asking her uncle about their plans.  He says they’re mostly onplanet now because they’re waiting for the rest of the pieces in space to be collected, in particular anything from the control systems, which hopefully shouldn’t take more than three days.  Tien asks if it was sabotage, and Vorthys says they’ll have trouble proving it, with the pilot dead.  It hit the mirror edge-on, which was the worst angle for the collision; Miles says that it was so perfect, it makes it seem more like an accident, because of how difficult it would have been to actually calculate it that way.  Ekaterin watches Tien, wondering what he thinks of Lord Vorkosigan, an obvious mutant who’s obviously so successful.

Tien says that Vorthys’s specialty in failure analysis is well-known, and asks what Miles’s role in the investigation is.  Miles says he does have some experience with space stations, but he’s mostly there to observe Vorthys’s investigation, and because of the sensitivity of relations with Komarr with the Imperial wedding coming up.  He asks about the local terraforming project, where Tien works, and Tien promises to take them on a tour the next day.

Tien asks how long before the mirror is likely to be repaired; Miles says that it will depend on how much money Barrayar is willing to spend, with terraforming on Barrayar still ongoing as well as active colonization of Sergyar.  Ekaterin protests that they can’t stop the project now, three hundred years in.  Miles continues, saying that some military elements think that it might be preferable to keep Komarrans in domes, to keep the conquered people safely restricted, though he wonders if they think that Komarrans will still be “conquered people” three centuries later when the terraforming is supposed to be complete.  Gregor’s policy is assimilation-oriented, which means that potential suspects could be isolationist Barrayarans or Komarran extremists, but even the average Komarran may question the short-term costs of terraforming.

Miles asks Tien what he thinks of Komarr; Tien says it’s fine except for the Komarrans, who he tends to find either greedy or surly, liking nothing better than cheating Barrayarans.  Miles asks Ekaterin, who considers her answer carefully, already wondering if Miles is really there as the political side of the investigation.  She admits she hasn’t made many Barrayaran friends, Nikki going to a Barrayaran school, and she has no work outside the home.  Tien points out that she hardly needs to work.

“That depends on your ability to choose the right parents,” said Tien, a touch sourly. He glanced across at Vorkosigan. “Relieve my curiosity. Are you related to the former Lord Regent?”

“My father,” Vorkosigan replied, with quelling brevity. He did not smile.

“Then you are the Lord Vorkosigan, the Count’s heir.”

“That follows, yes.”

Ekaterin tries to keep the conversation from getting too awkward, but Tien asks if his father was disappointed in his lack of military career.  Miles says briefly that it was more his grandfather who wanted it.  Tien then points out that not every Vor need be a soldier, indicating Vorthys as an example; Vorthys then mentions that Miles spend thirteen years working for ImpSec, which Miles adds were far from dull.  Ekaterin fleeds to serve the dessert, and returns to find that Nikki has lightened the conversation with talk of his favourite game; the grav-bed arrives, and the menfolk head off to set it up.

Tien returns once Miles is settled, and Ekaterin points out that Miles, an apparent mutant Vor lord, seems to be living a normal enough life; Tien says that it’s all because of his family connections.  Ekaterin wonders if Miles is really sent to judge the whole Komarran terraforming project on behalf of the Emperor, but Tien dismisses him as a “high Vor twit”.  He accuses her of arguing with him, insulting his intelligence in front of her uncle; while she nervously protests, he reminds her that having an exalted relative doesn’t make her anybody of note, and then stalks out.  She almost follows, to try to smooth things over, but can’t muster the energy for the attempt.

She heads out onto the balcony again with a glass of wine, watching the soletta set.  She is startled to see Miles in the kitchen; she offers to get him a glass of wine, but he gets it for himself and comes out to join her.  She says the western view is the best thing about their apartment, but mirror-set isn’t as pretty as it used to be.  Miles drinks deeply of his wine, and she wonders if he’s actively seeking sleep out now.  He asks where she’s from, and she says she’s from the Southern Continent.

“So you grew up around terraforming.”

“The Komarrans would say, that wasn’t terraforming, that was just soil conditioning.” He chuckled along with her, at her deadpan rendition of Komarran techno-snobbery.

She says she misses the open horizons, though she enjoyed Vorbarr Sultana with its intellectual horizons.  Miles asks if she studied botany, but she says it’s just a hobby.  He says it looks like more of a passion.  He examines the plants on the balcony, then asks what the bonsai’d plant is.  She says it’s a skellytum, and he’s amazed, since they’re normally five meters tall.  She says she inherited from a great-aunt on her father’s side; it’s over seventy years old, and it’s the only plant she brought with her from Barrayar.

He had a presence which, by ignoring his elusive physical peculiarities himself, defied the observer to dare comment. But the little lord had had all his life to adjust to his condition. Not like the hideous surprise Tien had found among his late brother’s papers, and subsequently confirmed for himself and Nikolai through carefully secret testing. You can get tested anonymously, she had argued. But I can’t get treated anonymously, he had countered.

Since coming to Komarr, she’d been so close to defying custom, law, and her lord-and-husband’s orders, and unilaterally taking his son and heir for treatment. Would the Komarran doctors know a Vor mother was not her son’s legal guardian? Maybe she could pretend the genetic defect had come from her, not from Tien? But the geneticists, if they were any good, would surely figure out the truth.

After a while, she said elliptically, “A Vor man’s first loyalty is supposed to be to his Emperor, but a Vor woman’s first loyalty is supposed to be to her husband.”

Miles says that this could be a good deal for the wife, since she would be protected from her husband’s crimes; in addition, loyalty was clearer, because sometimes there were multiple Emperors to choose from, but only one husband per woman.  He alludes to his grandfather’s choice to abandon Mad Emperor Yuri.  She asks if his passion is politics, or history; he says it used to be the military, but isn’t any more.  He muses that people are loyal to their Counts, their Counts are loyal to the Emperor, and the Emperor is loyal to the Imperium, which is made up of the people…but he still hasn’t figure out how the Emperor can be loyal to everybody at once.  Then he says he’s getting a little drunk, so he bids her good night.

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The first chapter starts with Ekaterin, establishing her situation–living on Komarr in what certainly looks like an unhappy marriage.  Tien certainly has a few problems–his hidden medical ones, the looming Vorzohn’s Dystrophy, but he’s also just not that nice a guy.  He belittles his wife, he doesn’t seem to believe that person can get ahead on merit without personal connections, and he doesn’t seem to like Komarrans.  I’m sure more will come up later.

The skellytum seems like another rich image.  Does it represent Miles, a fully functional organism in a small package?  Does it represent Ekaterin herself, starved of nourishment so that it can be handled easily, shrunken from its normal daunting size to be kept as a conversation piece?  A little piece of Barrayar brought to a foreign place, careful to keep within its limited bounds?

I was noticing that Ekaterin and Etienne are both ‘E’ names, which tend to be a no-no for writers.  Bujold gets out of this one mostly by referring to Etienne by his nickname, Tien…which changes his name from French to something more Chinese-looking.  “Soisson” certainly looks French, too.  I don’t think we find out Ekaterin’s maiden name this book, though it does come up later.  You could be excused for thinking it was “Vorthys”, but apparently not.

Chapter Two

Miles awakens from an embarrassingly sensual dream of running his hands through Ekaterin’s hair.  She seems, unfortunately perhaps, to be of a type that appeals to him: “long cool brunettes with expressions of quiet reserve and warm alto voices”.  At least part of his babble on the balcony the night before had been sexual panic, which he hoped she hadn’t recognized as such.  He wishes he hadn’t let Vorthys talk him into coming along, since Miles’s presence at this family affair doesn’t seem to be an improvement.  He envies Vorsoisson his seemingly successful family, having apparently snatched his wife before the sex-selected shortage of Vor women reached its full depth, leaving Miles and so many others with nobody to choose from.

He admonishes himself to keep himself under control, and not shame the office of Imperial Auditor, though he admits that, unlike him, most Auditors are long past the age of getting involved in sex scandals.  Maybe Ekaterin has a sister…
He gets up, has a cold shower, dresses in a nice grey suit, and heads out to breakfast.  Tien is ready to head out for work, Nikolai is breakfasting, and Vorthys is sorting through newly-arrived data.  A comlink has arrived for Miles–Vorthys asks why he didn’t get one, and Miles says that his father is more notorious on Komarr.  ImpSec on Komarr had wanted to surround him with a constant escort, and he’d gotten them to back off using his Auditorial powers, so the comlink to impSec, with built-in tracking device, represents a compromise.  The new data is mostly newly-discovered pieces of debris, but there is a preliminary autopsy of the pilot, based on pieces they’ve recoved, for Miles, who’d volunteered to look at the medical end of things.

Ekaterin arrives to overhear their discussion of the body, and seems mildly disturbed by it; Nikki is fascinated, but Vorthys discourages him from asking for more information.  Ekaterin is dressed modestly, her hair still done up, to Miles’s relief.  The pilot was the last missing body, so Miles is relieved that they found it at last.  Tien says that his department will do a presentation for Vorthys in the afternoon, and in the morning Vorthys can visit Nikki’s school.  Miles says he’ll stay behind and go over data, receiving Ekaterin’s permission to use her comconsole in the workroom.

After breakfast, Miles takes the data discs to the workroom and loads them into the comconsole.  He checks over the new pieces of wreckage, thinking that in theory they would be able to track every piece back to its origin and determine the forces that caused it, but in practice it never worked out that neatly.  ImpSec has been looking for anyone who might have happened to be recording that area of space, but he suspects that if anyone had, they’d have already come forward.  Vorthys has begun to think that the ore freighter had already begun to break up before it hit the mirror, though they’re not sure if that explains all of the distortions in the pieces they’ve found.

The ore freighter had been on a routine run in from the asteroid belt, coasting between acceleration and deceleration, running early and a little off course, but within normal parameters and, actually, farther from the soletta than normal.  It had, however, crossed the three-space location of one of Komarr’s unused jump points, one that led to nowhere of any use.  A popular theory with the media, unsupported by any evidence, had a ship popping out of its hideout and destroying the freighter before disappearing again.  No trace of an actual attack on the ore freighter has been found, or any of the residues such a ship would have left.  The jump point itself shouldn’t have affected any ship without Necklin rods and jump capability, but it was nonetheless there, so they can’t discount it completely.

Miles turns to the autopsy of the Komarran pilot, a woman in her mid-fifties, which Miles finds less pleasant than a male corpse.  The accident’s results are grisly, but there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual based on the information they have on the collision; no signs of drugs or alcohol, either.  Also included are the final reports on the soletta crew, and a note asking if the bodies can be released to their families; Miles authorized it, surprised and a little annoyed that it hasn’t already been done.  The final reports don’t include much new or surprising information either.

Needing a break from the grisly data, he begins idly browsing through the data files on Ekaterin’s computer.  Interested by the title Virtual Gardens, which proves to contain files from a landscape design program, he begins looking through them.  The most active is one called Barrayaran Garden, which he decides to check out in holographic view.

It was not a garden of pretty Earth-plants set on some suitably famous site on Barrayar; it was a garden made up entirely and exclusively of native species, something he would not have guessed possible, let alone lovely. He’d always considered their uniform red-brown hues and stubby forms boring at best. The only Barrayaran vegetation he could identify and name offhand was that to which he was violently allergic. But Madame Vorsoisson had somehow used shape and texture to create a sepia-toned serenity. Rocks and running water framed the various plants—there was a low carmine mass of love-lies-itching, forming a border for a billowing blond stand of razor-grass, which, he had once been assured, botanically was not a grass. Nobody argued about the razor part, he’d noticed. Judging from the common names, the lost Barrayaran colonists had not loved their new xenobotany: damnweed, henbloat, goatbane . . . It’s beautiful. How did she make it beautiful? He’d never seen anything like it. Maybe that kind of artist’s eye was something you just had to be born with, like perfect pitch, which he also lacked.

In the Imperial capital of Vorbarr Sultana, there was a small and dull green park at the end of the block beside Vorkosigan House, on a site where another old mansion had been torn down. The little park had been leveled with more of an eye to security concerns for the neighboring Lord Regent than any aesthetic plan. Would it not be splendid, to replace it with a larger version of this glorious subtlety, and give the city-dwellers a taste of their own planetary heritage? Even if it would—he checked—take fifteen years to grow to this mature climax . . . .

The virtual garden program is intended to allow gardeners to check out their ideas before committing to them, but Miles supposes that if Ekaterin can’t have the actual gardens, this might be a substitute.  Though not, he suspects, a sufficient one.  Then, out of habit, he begins checking out her financial records.  She seems more economical than Tien’s salary would account for, not even spending much on gardening supplies, or any other vices that he could find.  He does discover a private account called “Nikolai’s Medical” which she’s funneling money into, as much as she can spare, apparently.  This puzzles Miles, since their family medical expenses should be covered by the Imperium because of Tien’s position.

Puzzled, he finds a nameless, encrypted file, which he manages to crack into in a few minutes, which turns out to be on the subject of Vorzohn’s Dystrophy.  The disease arose during the Time of Isolation, but wasn’t even labelled a genetic mutation until afterwards.  When it does start having effects, they can be nasty, but it’s treatable by modern medicine…though expensively, because of its rarity.  If Ekaterin or Tien has it, though, it should have been picked up when Nikolai was put into the uterine replicator…unless they’d gone through a body-birth for some benighted reason.  He suddenly realizes the abnormality of the Vorsoisson family–no other children, which means that they must have found out after his birth.  He begins to wish he hadn’t begun snooping into their family affairs, an ImpSec habit highly inappropriate for an Imperial Auditor.

He’d chafed for years under military regulations, till he’d come to a job with no written regs at all. His sense of having died and gone to heaven had lasted about five minutes. An Imperial Auditor was the Emperor’s Voice, his eyes and ears and sometimes hands, a lovely job description till you stopped to wonder just what the hell that poetic metaphor was supposed to mean.

So was it a useful test to ask himself, Can I imagine Gregor doing this or that thing? Gregor’s apparent Imperial sternness hid an almost painful personal shyness. The mind boggled. All right, should the question instead be, Could I imagine Gregor in his office as Emperor doing this? Just what acts, wrong for a private individual, were yet lawful for an Imperial Auditor carrying out his duties? Lots, according to the precedents he’d been reading. So was the real rule, “Ad lib till you make a mistake, and then we’ll destroy you”? Miles wasn’t sure he liked that one at all.

Embarrassed by his actions, he removes all traces and goes back to the autopsy reports, turning up the heat slightly against the perceived chill of death.

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So why does Miles begin snooping on Ekaterin’s computer?  Bored of the autopsies, tired of looking at death, I suppose that it’s understandable he might want to look at garden files.  And I suppose that once or twice I may have gone wandering in odd folders on strange computers, just to see what’s there (usually not much), including once raising a few flags by trying to access restricted folders on the college VAX mainframe…  But, as Miles belatedly realizes, he does go too far looking into finances, and decrypting files to learn family secrets.  I guess I’m just not buying why he did it in the first place, or why, at least, the qualms didn’t start a little sooner.

The beginnings of his attraction to Ekaterin begin right away, too.  At least that he realizes is wrong right away, but I suppose he can’t blame his subconscious.  Although I thought he was more subconsciously attracted to redheads–or did the aftermath of the Dagoola escape quash that one?  Was Rowan Durona a “long cool brunette with an expression of quiet reserve and a warm alto voice”?  Or Elli Quinn?  Elena Bothari?  Well, I guess a person can have more than one turn-on…  Maybe this is why he was snooping on her computer, to find out more about her?  Or at least why his inhibitions didn’t surface sooner…

I was surprised to read here that jump points don’t normally interact with normal matter.  No ships wandering accidentally into a wormhole, apparently, in Bujold’s universe.  It makes me wonder how they discovered them in the first place; they must have discovered enough “five-space” physics to deduce their existence, and find something that would detect them, and then invent Necklin rods, or their predecessors, to take advantage of them.  I kind of like the idea of pirates setting up hidden bases in abandoned wormholes, though perhaps it’s not really Bujold’s kind of thing.  As the plot goes on, it seems to get further away from the actual soletta-array accident, and this may be our first clue about what’s really going on, although it doesn’t have anything to attach to yet…

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Komarr is in many ways the beginning of a new phase of Miles’s life–not only the Imperial Auditor phase, but the Ekaterin phase.  Even if that takes a book or two to come to fruition…depending on whether you’re reading the omnibus or not, perhaps.  Certainly it’s not going to happen by next week, but come back anyway…

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