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Posts Tagged ‘Tuomonen’

As Spider-Man once learned, with great power comes great responsibility.  But even with minimal power comes a certain amount of responsibility, such as an obligation to make weekly posts in the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  Luckily, it’s not an onerous task, getting to read a couple more chapters from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga every week, even when I do have to post my summaries and commentary as well.  So here’s another pair of chapters from Komarr, one each from Ekaterin Vorsoisson and our hero, Miles Vorkosigan, wherein Ekaterin must face questioning under truth drugs about her husband’s death, and Miles makes a startling, and somewhat inconvenient, realization.

Chapter Thirteen

Ekaterin sits down at her comconsole and tries to organize the remains of her life.  Most urgent, she decides, is medical care for Nikki; Tien’s medical benefits last for a few more weeks, as does their lease on this apartment.  She also gets guaranteed passage back to Barrayar for her and Nikki as a death benefit.  Their weight allowance is limited, and she decides to give most of it to Nikki, whose treasures mean more to him, since she was willing to abandon most of the contents of the apartment a few hours ago.  She could get rid of Tien’s remaining effects at a second-hand store in the dome where she frequently shopped.

Thinking about Tien’s debts, and his embezzlement, starts to overwhelm her, so she pulls her mind back to Nikki.  She’s already done most of the research on potential treatment for Nikki, though Tien kept her from doing anything about it.  Legally, Nikki’s guardian is a distant cousin of Tien’s back on Barrayar, but she doesn’t anticipate any difficulty getting it transferred to herself.  In less than ten minutes, she gets an appointment with Nikki scheduled for two days hence at a top clinic in Solstice, and she is briefly furious that Tien kept this simple thing from being done for so long.

She writes a letter to Tien’s mother, unable to stomach recording a vid, describing Tien’s death as only a breath mask accident; she’s not sure how much information ImpSec would want her to share.  In the letter, she asks what her mother-in-law wanted done with Tien’s remains–likely being shipped back to Barrayar to bury beside his brother.

The physical was easy; she could be finished and packed in a week. The financial was . . . no, not impossible, just not possible to solve at once. Presumably she must take out a loan on longer terms to pay off the first one—assuming anyone would loan money to a destitute and unemployed widow. Tien’s antilegacy clouded the glimmerings of the new future she ached to claim for herself. She imagined a bird, released from ten years in a cage, told she could at last fly free—as soon as these lead weights were attached to her feet.

This bird’s going to get there if she has to walk every step.

A call comes in, from a man who introduces himself as Ser Anafi from the Rialto Sharemarket Agency, the company that Tien owed money to.  She tells him Tien is unavailable, and he asks her to pass on a warning that his loan is overdue.  Ekaterin asks about repayment options, then tells him about Tien’s death.  Anafi offers his condolences, and checks, but finds that the loan was not insured.  He offers to set up a repayment schedule for her if she can cosign for the loan.  Just then Miles knocks and enters the room; Ekaterin explains the situation.

“Ah. Allow me.” He stepped up to the comconsole and tapped in a code. The view split, and a gray-haired man with colonel’s tabs and Eye-of-Horus pins on his green uniform collar appeared.

“Colonel Gibbs,” said Lord Vorkosigan genially. “I have some more data for you regarding Administrator Vorsoisson’s financial affairs. Ser Anafi, meet Colonel Gibbs. ImpSec. He has a few questions for you. Good day.”

“ImpSec!” said Anafi in startled horror. “ImpSec? What does—” He blipped out at Lord Vorkosigan’s flourishing gesture.

Miles tells her not to sign anything without getting some legal advice; she may not be liable for Tien’s debts, which would instead have to be settled against his bankrupt estate.  Anafi may have been trying to get her to sign herself into liability anyway, probably knowing that she didn’t need to pay it, but could be talked into it in her state of recent bereavement.  Ekaterin thanks him, though she points out that she’ll need to learn to do these things herself; Miles agrees, and wishes that his family’s own financial advisor, Tsipis, was there to teach her.

He asks her what her plans are; she says she’ll likely be returning to Barrayar as soon as she can, though she’s not sure to where yet.  Her father, or her brothers, would take her in all right, but they’d likely want to marry her off again, which she doesn’t want.  Miles is silent for a little while, then asks what she would do if she could do anything.  Ekaterin isn’t used to that kind of open-ended thinking, but says that she wouldn’t mind going back to university, to learn more about the gardening that’s been her hobby up to now, biological and artistic training.

“So you could design gardens for pay?”

“More than that.” Her eyes narrowed, as she struggled for her inner vision.

“Planets? Terraforming?”

“Oh, good heavens. That training takes ten years, and another ten years of internship beyond it, before you can even begin to grasp the complexities.”

“So? They have to hire someone. Good God, they hired Tien.”

Miles says that what she needs is something in between, like a Barrayaran District, so she can work up to planets.  He quotes Elli Quinn’s saying, “Aim high.  You may still miss the target but at least you won’t shoot your foot off.”  Then he points out that she has other relatives–the Vorthyses–who would likely be glad to take her in and support her in her desire for education, and she could live in Vorbarr Sultana, near to the university, among other things…  She admits it sounds nice, particularly to have Nikki in a more settled environment, but she doesn’t like to be dependent, given the trouble it’s gotten her into so far.  Miles says not all kinds of dependency are bad, making a somewhat muddled metaphor comparing a greenhouse to a cryochamber–one promoting growth, the other retarding decay–and asserting that her aunt and uncle are likely more like the former.

He declares the matter settled, to Ekaterin’s amusement, and asks about food.  She offers to fix something, and Miles says that he already sent a minion for food, who should be returning soon.  She wonders that he’s so blasé about sending ImpSec agents on errands like that, but supposes that there are security considerations.  She asks whether anything new turned up on his investigation, but he says that Soudha and Foscol et al. are still on the loose.  He realizes that he feels so odd on this case because he’s one step behind, reacting instead of acting.  They can’t have known that Imperial Auditors were coming, but they obviously had their departure planned in advance.

He does have one idea, which he shares with her–that there’s more going on than an embezzlement scheme.  He can’t help picturing a new sort of weapon, maybe something like a gravitic imploder lance.  Or it might be some other form of sabotage, possibly designed to coincide with Gregor’s upcoming Komarran wedding.  Ekaterin isn’t that sounds like Soudha’s style, given that Tien’s death seemed to have been accidental.  Miles says that the soletta disaster may have been a test, possibly one that went awry.  He plans to get a list of missing equipment and give it to Vorthys to try to figure out; Ekaterin says he’ll probably growl at Miles, but that will just be a good sign.  Miles says that the fact of Foscol leaving that packet of incriminating evidence behind implies that they’re not worried about the long-term consequences, either because they’re fleeing, or because they’re ready to act.

Ekaterin asks if ImpSec knows he babbles, and he apologizes, saying that he must still be tired, but points out that she did encourage him, minimally.  He tells her he actually came back to rest, so he must be getting old.

Both their lives were out of phase with their chronological ages, Ekaterin realized bemusedly. She now possessed the education of a child and the status of a dowager. Vorkosigan . . . was young for his post, to be sure. But this whole posthumous second life of his was surely as old as you could be at any age. “Time is out of joint,” she murmured; he looked up sharply, and seemed about to speak.

Tuomonen arrives then, and Miles asks if she’s sure she wants to go through with this; she says she wants to get it over with and go get Nikki.  Tuomonen has brought a female medtech to administer the actual dose; she gives Ekaterin an allergy test, while Tuomonen sets up recording equipment.  Tuomonen warns Miles not to interfere too much with the questioning; once the medtech gives the all-clear, she injects Ekaterin with the fast-penta.

Comments

Miles is already trying to lure Ekaterin to Vorbarr Sultana to be closer to him, whatever other enticements he’s giving her.  Though it does sound like a good plan, living with the Vorthyses and going to school.  I wonder if he has any particular District in mind for her to practice her arts on, perhaps?  By the way, it struck me at some point that none of the Districts on Barrayar seem to have names of their own–they’re all named, somewhat awkwardly, after their Counts.  So it’s not Vorkosigan District, it’s Vorkosigan’s District.  None of them ever had any common names?  After all, the Counts didn’t arise until after the Time of Isolation, right?  That leads me to wonder what the Encyclopedia Barrayara would look like.  Volume I: A-Voq.  Volume II-LX: Vora-Vorz. Volume LXI: Vos-Z, Index.  (Actually, in rereading Miles and Ivan’s conversation in Chapter 18 of ­The Warrior’s Apprentice, I see Ivan referring to “Dendarii Province” and Count Vordrozda being “Count of Lorimel”.  So now I’m just confused…or maybe Bujold just changed her mind?)

At least Miles earned himself a few points in disposing so efficiently of that loan guy.  (Loan officer?  Loan shark?  Loan arranger?)  I wonder if Komarran and Barrayaran law differs with regards to spousal liability.  Would a widow be required to redeem her husband’s debts?  Maybe not, I suppose.  It is a bit flabbergasting that, upon Tien’s death, Nikki’s guardianship did not devolve upon his wife, but upon the nearest male relative, even though that was a third cousin who had never met Nikki.  Now that’s a wee bit sexist…

Chapter Fourteen

Miles thought he could almost mark Ekaterin’s heartbeats, as the drug flooded her system. Her tightly clenched hands loosened in her lap. Tension in her face, neck, shoulders, and body melted away like snow in the sun. Her eyes widened and brightened, her pale cheeks flushed with soft color; her lips parted and curved, and she looked up at Miles, beyond Tuomonen, with an astonished sunny smile.

“Oh,” she said, in a surprised voice. “It doesn’t hurt.”

“No, fast-penta doesn’t hurt,” said Tuomonen, in a level, reassuring tone.

That isn’t what she means, Tuomonen. If a person lived in hurt like a mermaid in water, till hurt became as invisible as breath, its sudden removal—however artificial—must come as a stunning event.

Miles thinks about how beautiful she looks without the pain, just like in his dream.  It’s hard for him to contemplate how the pain will return when the fast-penta goes.  Tuomonen starts the questioning gradually, with innocuous questions, to which Ekaterin responds with fast-penta’s usual geniality; Miles wonders whether the med-tech being female was consideration on Tuomonen’s part, or just luck of the draw.  The questions draw closer to Tien’s job on Komarr, and then to the embezzlement scheme; Ekaterin’s story is substantially the same as she’d already told Miles.  Tuomonen asked about the money she’d transferred to him, and Miles manages to elicit that this was the money she’d saved for Nikki’s treatment; unfortunately, it’s already been paid to Rialto, so they likely won’t be able to get it back.

Tuomonen moves on to questions about Tien’s death–whether Ekaterin was involved in it or not (which she was not); she says she didn’t love him, or even hate him, any more.  She admits, when asked, that his death is somewhat of a relief, but she starts weeping about being glad.  Tuomonen asks more neutral questions to let her recover from this, then comes out and asks if, since her and Miles’s baggage were both in the hall, if they’d been planning to leave together.  Ekaterin says yes, but Miles managed to get her to clarify that it was more like “at the same time”.

Tuomonen, trying desperately for clarity and still with one eye on Miles, repeated, “Were you going to elope with Lord Vorkosigan?”

Her brows flew up. “No!” she said in astonishment.

No, of course not. Miles tried to recapture his first properly stunned reaction to the accusation, except that it now came out, What a great idea. Why didn’t I think of it? which rather blunted the fine edge of his outrage. Anyway, she’d never have run off with him. It was all he could do to get a Barrayaran woman to walk down the street with a sawed-off mutie like him . . . .

Oh hell. Have you fallen in love with this woman, idiot boy?

Um. Yeah.

He’d been falling for days, he realized in retrospect. It was just that he’d finally hit the ground. He should have recognized the symptoms. Oh, Tuomonen. The things we learn under fast-penta.

Tuomonen’s scenario does have a certain neatness to it, though Miles says it gives him a little too much credit for fast work.  Tuomonen merely replies that if he could think of it, so could somebody else, and it was best to clear it up when they could, since Miles himself isn’t a suitable fast-penta witness.  Ekaterin, meanwhile, is nattering on unashamedly random speculations about Miles’s scars and sex life, before Tuomonen stops her; Miles almost wishes he hadn’t.  Tuomonen says he’s finished with his questioning, and asks Miles if he has anything to add.  Miles refrains from adding any romantic questions, and merely points out that she managed not to contradict anything she said while not under fast-penta.

The medtech administers the antagonist, and Miles watches Ekaterin draw in upon herself as the fast-penta washes out of her system.  She doesn’t weep, though, but she does look exhausted; she apologizes for the confusion with hers and Miles’s bags.  Tuomonen thanks her for her cooperation, and suggests she rest for a while; the medtech takes her off the lie down.  Tuomonen apologizes to Miles for the questioning; Miles asks what’s next for ImpSec.  Tuomonen says they really need to find the fugitives, since everything seems to be in hand at the experiment station and the Terraforming offices.  Miles says it sounds like time for them both to get some rest.

Miles goes into Ekaterin’s workroom before he remembers the absence of the grav-bed; he spots the remains of the skellytum in the trash bin, and digs it out.  He tries to reassemble it, though he suspects it’s already too late; he gathers up the remnants of Barrayaran soil in a pan.  While he’s absently eulogizing it, he notices Ekaterin in the doorway, who seems puzzled at his activities.  He explains that he’s trying to see if anything can be salvaged of the skellytum, though he admits he’s not much of a gardener himself–he used to keep digging up his seeds to see if they’d sprouted yet.

She smiled, a real smile, not a fast-penta grin. We did not break her after all.

“No, you can’t put it back together,” she said. “The only way is to start over. What I could do is take the strongest root fragments—several of them, to make sure,” her long hands sorted through his pile, “and set them to soak in a hormone solution. And then when it starts to put out new growth, repot it.”

She suits actions to words, putting some fragments into her solution and setting them aside, with the remains of the dirt.  She says she was just going to leave it behind when she left, but now she should be able to ship these bits home in a sealed container, and hopefully replant it there.

Miles wishes he hadn’t realized his feelings for Ekaterin quite yet, because it’s lousy timing, and now he’s going to have to wait to do anything about them.  Ekaterin apologizes for anything inappropriate she might have said; Miles said he’d invited himself there, to be a “spotter” for her like she was for him.

She says she’d wanted the interrogation over with so she could go get Nikki, but now she’s not sure what to tell him, what she can tell him.  Miles says she can’t tell him much for details, since most of it is still classified; Ekaterin says she hadn’t even told him she was leaving Tien.  Miles says that, for now, she should just tell him it was a breath mask accident, and he offers to be the person who tells Nikki the rest of the story later, or even just tells him that they can’t tell him.  He offers to introduce Nikki to a friend of his back in Vorbarr Sultana (i.e. Gregor) who went through something similar, finding out sordid details about his father’s death and having trouble dealing with it.

Ekaterin says she also has to tell Nikki about Vorzohn’s Dystrophy, now that he has an actual appointment for it; Tien never let her mention it before.  She asks Miles about his own history of medical procedures, and he offers some bits of advice–don’t lie about what’s going to hurt, don’t leave him alone…  He offers to accompany them to Solstice if he can; when she protests he must have duties, he says that there’s little more they can do until they turn up Soudha and confederates.  She admits she would be grateful for the company.

Vorthys arrives then, and Ekaterin goes to greet him; he greets his niece with a sympathetic hug.  Vorthys decides to go with Ekaterin to fetch Nikki, Miles successfully curbing his lovesick impulse to volunteer to go along.  He wanders around the apartment, telling himself he should move out to a hotel like he keeps saying he will, since apparently his presence is beginning to raise a few rumours among the guards.  Instead, he finds himself asking for a military bedroll, before napping on the couch.

When the other return, Nikki seems quiet, turning inward like his mother.  Miles sends ImpSec minions for more food, and later he and Vorthys head off to compare notes.  Some of the equipment found in space seems to be interesting indeed, including heavy-duty power-transfer equipment Miles would have expected to see on a jumpship, which had exploded quite spectacularly.  Gibbs calls them in the middle of their examination, quite pleased about something; it turns out that he’s found a definite link: serial number from equipment found in orbit that trace back to a Waste Heat purchase.  Miles is quite happy for this proof that there is a relationship between the two cases after all.

Comments

Okay, so the interrogation was from Miles’s point of view.  I guess I did remember the part where the fast-penta seemed to make her so cheerful, but I couldn’t recall if we saw that from inside or outside.  Outside does make more sense, I suppose.  Plus I wasn’t sure if there was a full chapter’s worth of events before the interrogation, for Ekaterin to do.  But the smarmy shareholder guy was there to fill in the gap.

The big news in this chapter, of course, is that Miles realizes that he’s in love with Ekaterin.  Once again, Bujold comes through with the “worst possible thing”.  Or maybe not, after twice falling in love with women who couldn’t stand the whole “being on Barrayar” part of being married to Miles.  At least Ekaterin (whose name, like the other two, also starts with “E”) doesn’t have that problem.  No, she just happens to be recently widowed from a horrible ordeal of a marriage, and of course probably nowhere close to being in the mood to start a new relationship.  Oh, well, patience is one of Miles’s virtues, right?

Plus, finally, solid proof that the whole Waste Heat/Terraforming plot is indeed inextricably tied to the soletta accident–which one could be forgiven for having practically forgotten about, by this point in the book.  It loomed so large in the first few chapters, as a horrible blow to the terraforming of Komarr–but it’s barely been mentioned directly for chapters now.  The closest we’ve gotten for a while are allusions to debris being collected in orbit…though Miles does think of the soletta as he’s reassembling the skellytum.  (Which is definitely a metaphor for Ekaterin’s marriage, as she searches through the debris for a few pieces which may be able to sprout again on Barrayar.)


And that’s it for another week, two more chapters, though there were times I felt like I’d only be able to do one.  I did want to get the fast-penta scene, though, which gave me enough momentum to do both chapters.  I don’t necessarily promise two for next week, but I guess we’ll see how I do.

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If this were the last night of world, what would you be doing?  Probably spending time with your loved ones, or perhaps looting.  Certainly not reading the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  So, with any luck, there will be a tomorrow, and you can go ahead and read the next installment guilt-free.  This week we cover two more chapters of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel Komarr, in which Ekaterin rescues Miles Vorkosigan from his shackles, and deals with her husband’s death.

Chapter Eleven

Ekaterin is just making one last check of the apartment before leaving for good, when the comconsole chimes.  She almost doesn’t answer, but she considers that it might be Tuomonen or somebody looking for Miles, or her uncle; on the other hand, it could be Tien.  She decides to answer, though vowing to hang up immediately if it is Tien.

It turns out to be Lena Foscol, from Tien’s department; Ekaterin immediately recalls her name coming up in the overheard call from the night before, as a “meticulous thief”, so she must be involved in the whole embezzlement plot.  Foscol is wearing a parka, as if she just came in from outside.  She tells Ekaterin to come pick up her husband at the Waste Heat station, and where she can find him.  Ekaterin asks if he can’t get a ride with anyone else, but Foscol, smiling, says everyone else has left, and cuts off.

This will be a major hassle for her; she’ll have to rent a flyer from out of her meagre funds, and she was already wondering if she wanted to pay for lodgings that night or not.  Foscol hadn’t mentioned Miles, and if he’s not there, then Tien would insist on piloting on the return trip, and he might try to kill himself again, and take her with him…  Only the thought of Nikki, and the fact that she and Tien will still have to have some sort of working relationship for taking care of him, keeps her from deciding to just leave Tien out there.

The bubble-car trip to the rental place is delayed half an hour, and the flyer she rents isn’t in the best condition, but she feels better when she’s actually flying through the solitude of the Komarran night.  She briefly entertains a fantasy of just flying off somewhere, but she has obligations–for one, she’ll have to earn herself some money just to pay her and Nikki’s passage home to Barrayar, or else resort to borrowing money from her family.  She sternly admonishes herself to do whatever is necessary to accomplish what she needs to.

As she approaches the Waste Heat station, she sees lights on and plenty of vehicles in the light, and is annoyed that Foscol evidently lied to her.  On the bright side, maybe she won’t have to ride back with Tien after all.  After she lands, she goes inside to try to arrange another ride, but finds the station deserted, and in disarray, with vacant rooms, and a slagged comconsole.  She isn’t quite sure where to find Tien, from Foscol’s directions, so she heads back outside to circle the building.

Halfway around, she spots two odd figures up against the railing, and hurries over to find Miles and Tien; it’s immediately obvious that Tien is dead.  Miles, on the other hand, is still alive, to her relief, though both are still shackled to the railing.  She’s very glad that Nikki isn’t with her, and she wonders how she’ll break the news to him.  She tells Miles she’s going to get some cutters, but he tells her there’s supposed to be a key on the walkway.  She finds it and fumblingly unlocks Miles, though she has to unstick the cuffs from his bloody flesh, and grab him to keep him from pitching forward once he’s fully free.  His legs feel cold and stiff, and she rubs them to try to get the warmth back into them.

Miles tells her to leave Tien’s body for Tuomonen, as well as the packet of information on his back.  He apologizes for having been unable to do anything; Ekaterin tells him they need to get inside to the warmth, and she helps him to the building entrance.  Once inside, he asks her to hit the button on his wristcom, his fingers too numb to do much yet, and she removes their breath masks.  Miles tells Tuomonen to come out to the Waste Heat station, with forensics and a medical team; Tuomonen is furious that Miles went out there without checking with him, especially after learning that Tien is dead, but promises to get there as soon as possible.

Miles apologizes again for being unable to save Tien, then suddenly remembers the power plant.  He tells Ekaterin they might have sabotaged it to blow up, and she helps him to go check it out.  He examines all the readouts, and says it doesn’t look like it’s set for self-destruct, but he’s not sure why not.  He tells her how he and Tien came out, and asks what she’s doing there; she tells him about Lena Foscol’s call, which she almost didn’t answer.  Miles assures her that Foscol would certainly have called someone else if Ekaterin hadn’t been there; he asks about the time of the call, then tells her fiercely that Tien was already dead by the time Foscol had called, so she couldn’t have saved him.  He tells her how Soudha had stunned them, and it was Tien’s own bad breath-mask habits that had killed him.  Ekaterin says that it wouldn’t have occurred to Komarrans that anybody might go out without a fully charged breath mask.  He tells her that he doesn’t think it was intentional murder, at least.

“Death from stupidity,” she said bitterly. “Consistent to the end.”

He glanced up at her, his eyes not so much startled as aware, and questioning. “Ah?”

“Lord Auditor Vorkosigan.” She swallowed; her throat was so tight it felt like a muscle spasm. The silence in the building, and outside, was eerie in its emptiness. She and Vorkosigan might as well have been the only two people left alive on the planet. “You should know, when I said Foscol called as I was leaving . . . I was leaving. Leaving Tien. I’d told him so, when he came home from the department tonight, and just before he went back, I suppose, to get you. What did he do?”

He took this in without much response at first, as if thinking it over. “All right,” he echoed himself softly at last. He glanced across at her. “Basically, he came in babbling about some embezzlement scheme which had been going on in Waste Heat Management, apparently for quite some time. He sounded me out about declaring him an Imperial Witness, which he seemed to think would save him from prosecution. It’s not quite that simple. I didn’t commit myself.”

“Tien would hear what he wanted to hear,” she said softly.

She tells him about Tien’s pathological fear that someone might find out about his Vorzohn’s; he’d only found out himself after his brother had killed himself over it.  Nikki, who was a baby then, had been a body-birth–which had seemed romantic and heroic at the time–so he’d never gotten gene-scanned either.  He’d planned to get it treated offplanet, which added to the cost, and they’d never managed to save up enough for it.  For the past few months, he’d seemed more confident about it, because of this embezzlement scheme of Soudha’s, which he was taking a cut of.  She said she found the bribes in his financial records, and apologizes to Miles for being so angry at him for looking at hers.  She tells him about the money he’d gotten which he had then mostly blown on trade fleet shares.

All?

“Well, no, not quite all. About three-quarters of it.” At his astonished look, she added, “Tien’s luck has always been like that.”

“I always used to say you made your own luck. Though I’ve been forced to eat those words often enough, I don’t say it so much anymore.”

“Well . . . I think it must be true, or how else could his luck have been so consistently bad? The only common factor in all the chaos was Tien.” She leaned her head back wearily. “Though I suppose it might have been me, somehow.” Tien often said it was me.

Miles asks if she loved her husband, and Ekaterin, forced to honesty, said she must have, once, but for a long time it’s been reduced to cleaning up after him, until she stopped caring at all.  She felt like he’d fall down without her, and it turned out she was right.  She thinks to herself that Tien’s death won’t have simplified her life at all–instead of divorcing him, she has to clean up his bankrupt estate.  But at least she won’t have to deal with Tien while doing it.  She asks if Tien will be charged, and Miles says that only rarely, in Barrayaran law, are charges pressed against the dead, but she’ll probably have to testify.

Miles says they probably took his stunner, searches his pockets, then looks alarmed and says they’ve taken his Auditor’s Seal.  While it will give them access to a lot of government computers, though, it is also traceable by ImpSec.  He calls Tuomonen back and informs him of this circumstance.  Somewhat recovered, he insists on searching the building, with only occasional assistance from Ekaterin; by the time they reach the lobby, Tuomonen and his men have arrived.

“My lord!” said Tuomonen, pulling down his breath mask. His tone of voice sounded familiarly maternal to Ekaterin’s ear, halfway between Thank God you’re safe and I’m going to strangle you with my bare hands.

“Good evening, Captain,” said Vorkosigan genially. “So glad to see you.”

“You didn’t notify me!”

“Yes, it was entirely my mistake, and I’ll be certain to note your exoneration in my report,” Vorkosigan said soothingly.

He assures Tuomonen that most of his injuries are self-inflicted.  He tell Tuomonen to come with him to the back of the building, where they should record everything they find, and retrieve Tien’s body; Ekaterin gives them the key to the restraints, and Miles tells her to wait there.  When they return, Miles finally submits to having his wounded wrists treated, though he’s more concerned about an incipient seizure, and insists he needs to get back to Serifosa.  Miles asks Ekaterin if Tien had ever mentioned anything going on with the scam apart from the money, but she had never heard anything to that effect.  Tuomonen tells Miles that, even if they didn’t know about Miles’s seizures and Tien’s breath mask, he wants to call it attempted murder for the purposes of issuing a security alert.

Miles says that there’s still something funny about this.  Even Komarran patriots, who might not balk at robbing Barrayarans blind, should stop short of robbing their own terraforming project.  If they weren’t just trying to get rich, what were they spending the money on?  They took two vans of equipment but left their personal effects behind; they didn’t split up to make it easier to escape, but left in a group.  They were working on something out here, and Miles hopes that the techs can find out what it was.  He wishes they had Marie Trogir, or that he’d fast-penta’d Madame Radovas.  He insists again that he has to go back to Serifosa; Tuomonen insists on a guard, and Ekaterin, feeling foolish, says she has to return the rented flyer.  Then she recalls that she can go back to her own apartment now after all.

The presence of Miles and the guard causes some odd looks at the rental office, but their bubble-car trip is private and undelayed.  When they reach her apartment, though, they find the lock broken and the door ajar.  The guard goes inside, stunner out, and emerges a few minutes later to confirm that someone was in there, but they’re gone now.  Her and Miles’s respective suitcases had been broken open and searched, and a few drawers searched, but little else seems to have been done.  Miles takes a brief look and reports that his data-case had been taken, and he calls Tuomonen to report the situation.

He does find his odd device in its gel-pack case, and asks Ekaterin for her help.  He explains that the device is used to trigger seizures in a controlled situation to keep them from happening at inconvenient times.  With all his recent stress, he suspects he’s overdue, and wants to get it over with.  He says he prefers to have a spotter to make sure nothing goes wrong while he’s under.  They head for the living room, where she encourages him to lie on the floor so he won’t be able to fall.  He inserts a plastic mouthguard and is about to trigger the device when Ekaterin asks if it could have been sabotaged.  Miles swears to himself, and says all he was thinking was that he should stop putting off his seizure.

Then his eyes roll up and he falls over in a seizure.  Ekaterin puts his mouthguard back in, watching his body twitch and shudder, his face oddly free of his personality.  It seems like a long time, but it’s only three minutes before the seizure is over, and another minute after that before he awakens again.  He apologizes, and promises to get out of her way soon; she asks him to keep the guard there, at least, until her lock is repaired.  In fact, she enlists the guard to put him to bed, since he doesn’t seem as unaffected by the aftermath of the seizure as he’d led her to believe.  They put him in Nikki’s room, which lacks a comconsole and so gives Miles a greater chance of uninterrupted sleep.  The guard takes up station in the living room, and Ekaterin takes some painkillers and lies down fully dressed on her own bed, where, despite everything, she manages to drift off to sleep.

Comments

When I stopped after the last chapter, I was trying to remember what Ekaterin was doing while Miles was being rescued from the Waste Heat station.  Apparently I had completely forgotten that she was the one who was sent to pick him up.  A good call on the part of the author–and justified plotwise too, since they took the opportunity to toss the apartment while she was out–for dealing with the potential difficulty of having strictly alternating POV chapters and then having to find something for one character to do when something exciting is happening to the other character.

I remember, in the earlier books, that I always wanted to avoid trying to use the past tense of “fast-penta”, since I wasn’t sure how it might be spelled, and I don’t recall if the author ever used it herself.  It looks like by this point, at least, she had settled on “fast-penta’d”, which I guess is okay.  I’ve long been under the impression that this is a reasonably legitimate use of the apostrophe, for adding a suffix to a word in an unorthodox way, even for plurals, as in “60’s” or “straight A’s”, so I guess it’ll work in this case.  People will often use something in spoken language that can’t be written without breaking any number of rules, in any case, and brave writers will then try to write it down anyway.

It’s a little bit funny for Miles to have a spontaneous seizure when he was about to use his seizure stimulator anyway.  I almost picture the first draft having him using the stimulator as intended, and then an early reader pointing out that they should check to see if it had been sabotaged first…so she came up with a revised version of the scene.  Miles is definitely lucky not to have had his seizure while shackled up like that, at least, but it was a good point of tension.

Also amused to note that this time Ekaterin has no compunctions about putting Miles in Nikki’s bed, whereas before she balked because the congruence of sizes seemed too insulting.  Good to know she’s gotten past that.

Chapter Twelve

Miles awakens with a horrible combination of post-seizure and stun hangover, to find himself in Nikki’s room; Ekaterin is waking him up to tell him of Tuomonen’s arrival.

“Ah,” said Miles thickly. He struggled upright. Madame Vorsoisson was holding out a tray with a large mug of black coffee and a bottle of painkiller tablets. Two tablets had already been extracted from the bottle, and lay ready for ingestion beside the cup. Only in his imagination did a heavenly choir supply background music. “Oh. My.”

Miles has only been asleep for about four hours, but, considering what might have been going on in those hours, he refuses to go back to bed.  Ekaterin tells him that Tuomonen found his seal, so he decides against having a shower before talking to him.  He does a few stretches to work out stiffness, trying to figure out what to say to Ekaterin; he settles on asking if she’s all right, and wishing he could fix it somehow.

He goes out to the living room, where Tuomonen is waiting, and deliberately does not stop Ekaterin from joining them.  Tuomonen gives Miles his seal, which seems freshly washed, and Miles guesses, correctly, that it was found in a sewer pipe; Tuomonen says they luckily acquired technical help in retrieving it, rather than just blasting the pipe open with plasma arcs.  Miles surmises that they’d deliberately lured Ekaterin out of the apartment before breaking in and opening up his data case, and then disposing of it down the toilet.  The data case mostly contained classified reports about the soletta accident.

Tuomonen says they plan to head over the Terraforming offices, fast-penta everyone there, and try to figure out who’s missing because they’ve fled and who are just fictional.  Miles says they probably won’t find out anything new, but they might as well try.  Tuomonen tells Ekaterin that because of her husband’s suspicious death, she’ll need to be fast-penta’d as well.  Miles protests that there wasn’t anything suspicious about Tien’s death, since he was right there, but Tuomonen points out that she can be cleared as a suspect.  Ekaterin merely asks Tuomonen when he wants to do it, and he says it won’t be until afternoon, and asks her to stay put until then.  She says she will need to pick up Nikki sometime, but on the whole prefers it to be after her interrogation, once Tuomonen assures her that he won’t be hearing about his father’s death from anyone else first.  He also tells her, at Miles’s urging, that ImpSec will be monitoring her comconsoles for any calls, in case anyone tries to contact Tien, not realizing he’s dead.

Miles asks for a secure vid-link so he can make some calls himself, in particular to Vorthys, and also asks Tuomonen to check his medical equipment for tampering.  He asks about the data-packet left with Tien–not elaborating on its contents in Ekaterin’s presence–and Tuomonen says it’s been turned over to an ImpSec analyst; ImpSec HQ has sent him reinforcements.  He says that the data could be quite helpful in untangling the embezzlement scheme, which is puzzling, of course, since it will incriminate the Komarrans conspirators as much as Tien.  An ImpSec tech leaves, having copied all the comconsole data, and Miles asks for someone to repair her broken door-lock as well, and leave a guard on duty until then.

Tuomonen leaves, and Miles finally bathes and dresses, beginning to feel human; he goes to the kitchen for breakfast and coaxes Ekaterin, who hasn’t eaten yet either, into having breakfast as well.  She makes them some groats; while they eat, she asks about fast-penta.  He tells her about his own idiosyncratic, manic reaction; he said that the degree of ugliness that comes out in the interrogation with most people generally depends on whether you fight the effects or not, and if you cooperate then you mostly just say what you would have said anyway.  He tells her he’s noticed that she tends to underreact, and she says it came of growing up with three older brothers, the youngest of whom would tease her mercilessly.  He was witty enough to get away with it, and her mother mostly told her to just not react.

Miles bit his knuckles, hard. Right. So at the dawn of puberty, she’d learned no one would defend her, she could not defend herself, and the only way to survive was to pretend to be dead. Great. And if there were a more fatally wrong move some awkward fellow could possibly make at this moment than to take her in his arms and try to comfort her, it escaped his wildest imaginings. If she needed to be stone right now because it was the only way she knew how to survive, let her be marble, let her be granite. Whatever you need, you take it, Milady Ekaterin; whatever you want, you’ve got it.

Miles tells her about his own loutish relative, cousin Ivan, though he had Sergeant Bothari to keep things from going too far.  She asks where the Sergeant is now, and Miles says he’d dead, partly because of Miles’s actions, but he taught Miles how to keep going, which he silently hopes Ekaterin will find encouraging.  He adds that she is, at the very least, level-headed in an emergency, which seems to please her, enough that Miles wonders how starved for praise she’s become.

Miles would like the conversation to continue, but breakfast is over, and then the ImpSec tech arrives with the secure comconsole.  Ekaterin turns to cleaning as the tech sets up the station in Tien’s office.  Miles prepares to face a several-second time-lagged conversation with Vorthys.  He starts out with a bald announcement of the facts, then waits for Vorthys’s responses to the news.  He goes on to give details about the previous day’s events; by the end, Vorthys is appalled, and promises to come back down planetside.  He had been thinking of asking Miles to come up to look at some odd, and distorted, pieces of equipment, in case he’d seen anything like it before; some of it has serial numbers on it, too, which Miles asks him to send to Colonel Gibbs at ImpSec, who’s tracing purchases made by the Terraforming Project.
Miles tells Vorthys about the impending fast-penta interrogation of Ekaterin; Vorthys says he wouldn’t want to be there himself, as a conflict of interest, and asks Miles to sit in on it instead to keep the interrogators in line.  Miles suggests that Vorthys send for his wife to come join Ekaterin, which Vorthys finds an excellent idea.  Miles says it’s almost time to bring in Ekaterin to talk to him herself, but before he does, he wants to ask what Vorthys’s impression of the Vorsoissons’ marriage is, so he can try to keep the interrogator from getting into bad territory.

Vorthys doesn’t want to speak ill of the dead, but tries to give a summary of the facts.  Ekaterin’s father had known Tien’s, and Tien had just left the military for the civil service, and seemed to have a bright future ahead of him, though he hadn’t risen too far in the military…  Ekaterin’s father was a widower looking to remarry, and felt that he should get Ekaterin “settled”, i.e. married, before he did.  Tien sent a Baba to arrange the marriage, and Ekaterin seemed flattered, so they went ahead with it.  Her father, low Vor but still a Vor snob for all of that, hadn’t wanted her to settle for some non-Vor type.  Things seemed to start out well, and Nikki arrived, but Tien changed jobs frequently, and never did seem to settle down, and Ekaterin seemed to draw in on herself over time.  Miles says that Ekaterin may be able to explain more of it herself, and goes to fetch her.

Ekaterin. He tasted the syllables of her name in his mind. It had been so easy, speaking with her uncle, to slip into the familiar form. But she had not yet invited him to use her first name. Her late husband had called her Kat. A pet name. A little name. As if he hadn’t had time to pronounce the whole thing, or wished to be bothered. It was true her full array, Ekaterin Nile Vorvayne Vorsoisson, made an impractical mouthful. But Ekaterin was light on the teeth and the tip of the tongue, yet elegant and dignified and entirely worth an extra second of, of anyone’s time.

The door repair tech and another guard arrive, and Miles enjoins them both to stay and guard Ekaterin until he returns, and do any other repairs she may need; then he heads off to the Terraforming offices.  It’s quite well-guarded now, with ImpSec everywhere, though a little too late to do any good now.  Colonel Gibbs is in the office with Venier, who Miles is somewhat gratified not to have been one of those who fled.  Gibbs tells Miles he’s figured out most of the fictitious employees, and Lena Foscol’s report seems clear.  Miles warns him to be careful of any data she’s touched, and Gibbs says he’s acquired the utmost respect for her, and looks forward to dealing with her.

Miles tells Gibbs to try to track down equipment purchases; Gibbs says he’s found some dummy companies they would have used for them, and he hopes to have all the missing money accounted for soon.  Miles says he’s more interested in the actual equipment, in particular anything which was bought but not found at the Waste Heat station or anywhere else, though sifting it out may be a tedious job.  Gibbs says it sounds like a job for enlisted men.  In particular, Miles says, he wants to know about anything odd, or anything that might match equipment found in the soletta accident; Gibbs is enlightened about why the Imperial Auditors are involved in this embezzlement scam.

Miles goes to check in with Tuomonen, who is organizing the fast-penta interrogations, which he says will take several days to get through; he says they haven’t tracked down Soudha and his friends yet.  Miles passes on overseeing any of the employee interrogations, and says he’ll see Tuomonen for Ekaterin’s questioning, after he’s had some rest.

Comments

Is this where we first begin to see Miles falling for Ekaterin?  He was attracted to her from the beginning, it seemed, but was trying to keep such thoughts firmly in rein, what with her being married and all.  Now he’s allowing himself to think the thoughts, but, of course, being recently widowed (even if she was planning to leave him anyway), and involved in his investigation, she’s still off-limits.  He’s still trying to make discreet offers of help, but they are also opening up to each other.

Ekaterin seems fairly equable about the fast-penta interrogation, though perhaps she’s just underreacting again.  She does ask Miles for some reassurances, which of course he tries to give her.  I presume we’ll see that scene in the next chapter or two.  Is it from her point of view, or Miles’s?  I can’t recall, but I suspect that it will be from hers.

As for the actual investigation, nothing much new.  We’re not even two-thirds of the way through the book, so there’s room for a few more plot twists, but I can’t recall when they find out what’s really going on.  Why these Komarrans were stealing money from their own terraforming project, what the equipment was that they carted off with them, and what this all has to do with the soletta accident…  All open questions, still.

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I recall a couple more scenes that should be coming up soon, but I don’t quite recall how we transition to the climax that I recall.  I guess we’ll just keep going and eventually it will become clear.  Still another nine chapters, probably five more weeks; I’m almost impatient to get on to the post-Komarr reward which is A Civil Campaign, but it will come in due time.  Until next week, then…

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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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