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We gotcher Vorkosigan Saga Reread right here!  That’s contents: chapters, Thirteen, from Burn, Cryo-, Bujold, Lois McMaster.  Lessee, topics, topics…bringin’ the dead back to life, letters from the family at home.  Comments?  That’s extra.  You want ’em?  Sure thing.  Sign here, willya?  Thanks.  Have a nice day!

Chapter Thirteen

The next day they drive over to Dr. Seiichiro Leiber’s neighbourhood in the west of Northbridge.  Miles hadn’t found any links between Leiber and Sato in his research, which is probably he didn’t end up getting charged/killed/frozen with the rest of her group.  He’d acquired his Ph.D. at an unremarkable age, scholarship funded by cryocorps, which determined the direction of his research.

Miles tells Johannes to drop him and Raven off at the corner and Roic around the back; it’ll be too conspicuous for the lift van to hang around, so he sends Johannes off to park and get a coffee, listening on their comlinks.  Miles and Raven ring his doorbell, and when Dr. Leiber himself answers, Miles introduces himself and Raven; Leiber recognizes the Durona name, and Miles says they were there for the conference, and hoped to talk to him.  Leiber invites them in, saying that he didn’t make it to the conference; he asks about the N.H.L.L. fiasco, and Raven shares a slightly edited version of his story as a captive.  The two scientists then move into more technical discussions, until Leiber seems at ease.

Miles decided on a direct approach. “I’m actually here this morning on behalf of the next-of-kin of Lisa Sato. I believe you had some dealings with her eighteen months ago, just before her arrest?”

Shock and dismay bloomed unconcealed on Leiber’s face. Well, he was the scientist type, not a con artist, nor, probably, a very good liar. Fine by me.

“How do you know-what makes you think that?” Leiber fumbled, confirming Miles’s judgment.

“Eyewitness testimony.”

“But no one saw-there wasn’t-but Suwabi died.”

Leiber excuses himself to make them some tea, and Miles doesn’t intercept him in time; Raven congratulates Miles on his palpable hit.  Then they hear the back door open, and they check the kitchen to find him gone; Miles notifies Roic, and Roic goes after him, but is unable to catch him before he ducks into a neighbour’s house.  Miles tells Roic to go meet up with Johannes, while he and Raven search his house.  Miles finds little upstairs, and tells Raven they should leave before the police show up, but Raven says that given what he found on the bottom floor, he wouldn’t even have called them.

In the basement, Raven shows him, under an old bedspread, a portable cryochamber, plugged in, running, and occupied.  Miles wonders if this is what they’re looking for, or if it’s just a normal Kibou thing to have a frozen person in your basement.  Raven finds a garage door at one end of the room, explaining how they got it in; the cryochamber doesn’t come with a built-in float pallet, but Miles contacts Johannes and confirms that they stil have one in the back of the van, and tells him and Roic to come around to the back garage.

Raven raised his eyebrows. “Isn’t that theft? Breaking and entering?”

“No, the homeowner let us in. Breaking and exiting, maybe. If it’s theft, I’m guessing it’s the second time around for this item. And while it’s not true that you can’t cheat an honest man, crooked men are less likely to complain to the authorities, afterward. I don’t think Leiber will tell anyone.”

Roic and Johannes arrive and begin loading the cryochamber; Miles goes back upstairs and leaves an unsigned note asking to be contacted at his consulate.  He tells Roic that he’s confident that Leiber will contact them to finish their conversation, but there’s no point in waiting around for him to come back while they’re in his house.  Then they head back to Suze’s, Raven hoping they haven’t just stolen Leiber’s grandmother or something.

As Roic helps move Sato’s body into place for the cryorevival, he remembers back to his medic training back when he became an Armsman, and how he’d practiced emergency cryoprep on a realistic dummy, which is still nothing like the real thing; Lisa Sato doesn’t look like like a corpse, a living person, or a dummy.  Still, hopefully this experience will help him if he ever has to do a real cryoprep.  Miles is sure they have the right woman this time, though he didn’t use the children to identify her this time.

Vorlynkin stops by to tell Miles about a message that came for him; this time he’s left the children with Johannes, though Miles is hopeful that he’ll be able to bring them over soon.  Raven tells the Consul he can come in and watch, if he puts on a mask, and Vorlynkin complies, as Raven begins the revival, inserting oxygenated fluid; Roic thinks that she looks a little like Ekaterin, with carefully preserved long dark hair, and Vorlynkin comments that she looks better than he expected.  Raven says the cryoprep seems to have been first-rate, much better than Lord Vorkosigan was when he came in.

“She looks like something out of a fairy tale.”

“What,” said m’lord, swinging one heel to tap upon a stool leg, “Snow White with just one dwarf?”

Vorlynkin reddened, an I-didn’t-say-that look in his eyes.

M’lord snickered at him. “Now all we need is a prince.”

“So who’s t’ frog?” asked Roic, secretly glad not to be alone in his fanciful impressions.

“Different fairy tale,” m’lord told him kindly. “I hope.”

They begin putting real blood into her, and her skin tone becomes almost lifelike, and finally they finish with the fluids and begin resuscitation; they stimulate her brain with an electrified cap, and she actually begins to breathe, raggedly at first, then more strongly.  Raven checks her peripheral nerves and reflexes, which all seem to be in order, then calls her name; her eyes open briefly, and Miles tells her, reassuringly, that she’s been rescued, her children are safe, and she’ll get to see them soon.  She moans in response, reassuring Raven that both hearing and voice both seem to be working.  Then she slips back into sleep, which Raven says is highly desirable, and they begin moving her to a gurney; Raven says she’ll need some time to rebuild her white cells before she can be moved to the consulate.

Miles asks Vorlynkin why he’s here, and the Consul says he has a sealed message from Barrayar; Miles says they’re pretty much done, and they make ready to return to the consulate, Vorlynkin exclaiming over the extraordinary experience of watching someone brought back to life.  While Miles talks to Raven one last time, Vorlynkin comments to Roic that Lord Vorkosigan isn’t what he expected from an Imperial Auditor; Roic tells him that the Auditors are a varied lot, but the Emperor is good at matching them with the right cases.

Back at the consulate, Miles checks the message, which turns out to be a regular weekly message from Ekaterin and the children, important, to him at least, but not urgent; he eagerly activates it, taking a minute to drink in Ekaterin’s appearance before moving onward.  He wonders at the lack of grey in her hair, considering how much effort she puts in wrangling the four children they’ve had in the last six years, effort which he’d greatly underestimated at the time.

“Greetings, my love,” she said. “We’ve received your latest here with much relief and rejoicing, though fortunately I didn’t tell the children about that first alarming message before the second had overtaken it. I shudder to think what your parents went through during your old career. Though I suppose your father kept his high-Vor upper lip suitably stiff, and your mother, well, I can scarcely imagine. Said tart Betan things, I suppose.”

Actually, he’d dodged those issues during his covert ops days by almost never sending any messages, or updates. It wasn’t as if his father couldn’t have demanded a report on his missions from the head of ImpSec any time he wanted one. Or nerved himself to it, he imagined his mother’s voice remarking tartly.

She brings him up to date on District matters, which reassures him that there aren’t any pressing family matters; he feels guilty for neglecting his District, but there doesn’t seem to be anything too urgent this week.  Then she cuts to a video, filmed by Helen, one of his twins, of his youngest, Taura, ten months old, taking her first steps–or, at least, a strategically restaged set of wobbly almost-first steps–with Helen’s twin Sasha and three-year-old Lizzie looking on.  She returns to tell him that Sasha has decided he now wants to be called Alex, having gone through and discarded a number of other variations on his name; Miles recalls how late Sasha/Alex ended up talking, before they realized that it was just that his sister was doing all the talking for him.  Finally she bids farewell and wishes him home soon; he almost wishes he had left Kibou-daini when he had the chance.

He hopes Leiber shows up soon, and wonders why the man was so alarmed when they showed up, who he thought they represented; unfortunately, they don’t have the manpower to hunt him down right now.  He sends off a requisition to Escobar for an ImpSec team, with a potential need for forensic accountants and lawyers in the near future, though it’ll take at least five days for them to arrive.  He hopes that Lisa Sato regains her voice soon, too, so he can find out what he needs to know from her if not from Leiber.

Comments

So they’ve found this Dr. Leiber, brazen their way in, and then scare him off…but they find Lisa Sato’s body in the basement anyway, and just drag her away.  That’s good, I guess?  The revival goes smoothly this time, too.  So we’re two thirds of the way through, and maybe we’ll finally get to find out what’s _really_ going on.  I suppose it’s the right time for it, but it still feels like they’ve met too little opposition.  The activist guys at the beginning have faded away, the cryocorps themselves haven’t done anything actually threatening, nobody’s been shot or killed or turned up dead, apart from that frozen woman they tried reviving last chapter.  The tension just…isn’t there.

The best part of this chapter is, pretty much, the message from home, a glimpse, finally, at the growing Vorkosigan family–Helen and Aral Alexander/Sasha/Alex, Lizzie (named after Elizabeth Naismith, apparently), and now Taura.  Three girls and only one boy; not sure why they’re not trying to balance it out, keep a spare for their heir, but maybe they’re still not done yet?  A very small slice of life, which makes me want to spend more time back on Barrayar with them, perhaps a little older?  It might be time to advance the years again, put Count Miles on the back burner and see what Alex is like growing up.

I find Dr. Leiber’s highly Japanese first name somewhat incongruous, in an amusing way.  I suppose it’s no worse than having someone with a highly Ukrainian surname and a first name like Bob or Rick or something; still, I’d almost expect “Leiber” to have been assimilated a little into Japanese phonotactics, an extra vowel on the end or something.  I guess they all do seem to speak Galactic Standard, even Jin and Mina…so why the Japanese names at all, then?  Well, whatever.

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

Chapter Twelve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments

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

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

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


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

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

Chapter Eleven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments

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

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

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

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


 

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

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As our scene opens, we see a new blog post arriving on the Internet.  According to the caption, the blog is something called the Vorkosigan Saga Reread; from previous information, you realize that this means it probably has to do with Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga…but what?  Could our intrepid blogger be trying to summarize and make insightful comments on the books in the series, a chapter or two at a time?  Right now it seems to be close to the end of the series, in the book CryoBurn, though of course the series is theoretically open-ended, so who knows what will come in the future.  The lights go down, and we begin the chapter…

Chapter Ten

With Jin’s anxious guidance, Johannes brings the lift van up to the rooftop menagerie, and under the canopy, hopefully to conceal their activities from anyone watching.  Ako, who’s been trying to feed the falcon, is waiting for them; Miles and Jin get out to talk to her alone.  Ako is happy to see Jin back, at last, and Miles thanks her for her efforts looking after the animals.  Jin says that they’re going to be moving the animals somewhere else, and Miles says that he needs to talk to Suze first.

Rowan, Roic and Johannes emerge from the lift-van, and Jin introduces them to Ako, assuring her that they’re offworlders, not cops.  Raven joins Miles and Jin (Roic staying behind with Johannes, under protest) to head inside; Miles picks up some coffee in the kitchen, and they head up to Suze’s room, where he asks Jin to let him do the talking.  They knock on her door, and Suze greets them blearily and suspiciously, grumpy as always, but the coffee seems to sway her to let them inside.  She says that Miles seems to have recovered his resources, and Miles says he’s back in business, on an investigation; Jin assures her that it’s some kind of insurance fraud, and Miles reminds himself to tell him sometimes what his real job is.

Miles says he wants to talk to her about using her facilities; Suze says they don’t want to draw attention, and Miles says he doesn’t either.  Suze asks if he wants to illegally freeze someone, in a way that makes Miles think that she’s done that before, and he wonders if she’s used that to help secure their protection, but she refuses to confirm this.  Miles says they want to revive someone instead, which takes her aback; he assures her that Dr. Durona has the necessary skills, and they just need some facilities.  In lieu of money, Miles offers them another free cryorevival, which Suze finds a startling, and tempting, offer; he shows them his own needle-grenade scars as proof of Raven’s skill, omitting that he was only assisting at the time.  Raven suggests that they make up a list of candidates and he’ll figure out which ones have the best chance.

Suze considers it for a while, and Jin implores her to do it; she asks why he cares so much, and Jin says that they’re going to bring his mother back.  Suze says that Lisa Sato will draw attention if nothing else does, but Miles says they’ll take her back to the Barrayaran embassy right away, so any attention should end up focused there first; Suze says they’ll still want to find out who unfroze her in the first place.  Miles makes vague promises to give them something more important to worry about first, his plans being far from firm yet; he notes that Madame Sato may have to recover from cryoamnesia first.

Miles…turned again to Suze. “I need one more favor. I’d like to borrow a cryo-corpse.”

What,” Suze began in a towering tone, which weakened to, “. . . kind?”

“Female, about fifty kilos. As young as you have available. Anything else, Raven?”

Raven shook his head. “That should do it.”

“We undertake not to damage her in any way that would compromise her future revival,” Miles went on, hoping he didn’t sound too airy.

Miles notes that there will be some risks in their operation, and Suze is less than reassured, so he ups his offer to two free cryorevivals; eventually she gives in and sends them on to Vristi Tanaka, the medtech, and says she’ll go along if they can get Tanaka’s buy-in.  Miles promises her it will be interesting, since he can’t bring himself to promise that she won’t regret it.

Jin leads them up to the infirmary on the second floor; Tenbury is outside, and greets Jin warmly and Miles and Raven warily.  Jin says they need to see Tanaka; Tenbury says she’s busy preparing, and Raven says he’d like to see it.  Jin introduces Raven as a doctor from Escobar, which doesn’t reassure Tenbury that much, but Miles goes ahead and knocks.

Tanaka opens the door, a woman of an age with Suze, also pleased to see Jin but expecting him to be bringing news of another person hurt by his animals.  Jin says Suze sent them, and it’s kind of urgent, and introduces his companions yet again; Miles mentions the plan to use their facilities for a revival.  She looks askance at Raven, and Miles wonders if they should have made him look less respectable so he wouldn’t look quite so out of place.

An old man is in cryoprep, his brain being chilled and his blood replaced with cryofluid; Jin stares, and Miles belatedly wonder if the boy finds it disturbing, perhaps a reminder of what happened to his mother, or if he’d seen it before.  Ako asks if they’re getting a real doctor, and Miles explains that they’re just visiting.  Raven asks about the provenance of the cryofluid, a crucial part of the process, and Tanaka says it’s black-market fluid, past the use-by date; Raven allows that might be okay if the date was conservative in the first place, and Miles thinks that they don’t have much choice about it.

They finish prepping the body, and load it onto a float pallet, where Tenbury prepares to take it down to storage; he invites Jin to join him, but Jin prefers to stay in the infirmary with the others.  While Ako cleans up, Miles trots out his pitch for Tanaka, heavily implying Suze’s approval already given, and letting Jin chime in to implore their help.  Tanaka is dubious, but mostly because she’s not sure how much functional equipment they have for revival purposes, but she can go look.

Miles asks about Suze, and Tanaka says her full name is Susan Suzuki; Tanaka, Suze, and her sister were the three founders of the scheme, with Tenbury added soon after.  She’s surprised it’s lasted this long, since it started out as just a symbolic protest, but the street people needed their services, and that’s kept them going.  Ako came to them after her great-aunt got sick, and she proved a willing worker, so she was allowed to help.

They go upstairs to look at the revival facilities, mostly gutted, but with one functioning operating room; Tanaka and Raven consult in upbeat-sounding medspeak, which requires Tenbury to be brought in.  Miles asks who legally owns the building; Tanaka says it’s a contractor, who only found out about the cryocorpses on the premises after he bought it, and now he can’t sell it because of the legal liability.  Suze has him under control, but they’re afraid that someday he might try to get rid of the place by burning it down; they just keep going day to day.  Tenbury returns upstairs, and the inspection continues; Raven eventually says that it should work out, with some improvising.

Miles asks Raven when he’ll be ready for the operation; he says he’d like to bring Raven along on snatching Lisa Sato’s body, if he’s up for it.  Raven isn’t afraid of arrest, knowing Mark will get him out if Miles doesn’t, and they can go any time; Miles says he’d rather do it sooner than later, both to get home sooner and give himself time to deal with whatever complications arise from Sato’s revival.  Raven says he’ll stay there and get things set up, and encourages Miles to take Jin and the animals back to the consulate; he will want to use the tight-beam later to contact Mark and/or Lily, because he thinks he’s found something of interest to the Duronas.

Back at the consulate, Mina is happy to be reunited with the cat, Lucky, and Jin shows her the pet rats as well; Vorlynkin admires the falcon, and the chickens seem happy in the green grass, while Roic unloads the terrariums against the back of the house.  Lucky ingratiates himself with the Consul, and Mina convinces them to keep Lucky inside, as long as she and Jin look after her.

Miles-san strolled past. “All shipshape here, Jin? Then I need Johannes back.” He added to Consul Vorlynkin, “We’ll be in your tight-room for a time. A lot of detail-work still to do.” At his gesture, Roic rose and took up what seemed his accustomed place at his shoulder.

“Is your scheme going to fly, then?” Vorlynkin asked. Miles-san nodded. Vorlynkin grimaced.

Miles-san returned a wry smile. “Flexibility, Vorlynkin. That’s the key.” He trod indoors, swinging his cane. Jin and Vorlynkin stared after him.

Vorlynkin voiced Jin’s own half-formed thought: “Was that supposed to be reassuring?”

Comments

Suze seems really shocked at the offer a free cryorevival, like there’s someone that she has in mind, and Miles knows it; he seems not to be surprised by her reaction, but I guess I missed this.  Who is frozen that she wants back?  Another scene spent outside of Miles’s head so he can keep secrets from us.  Suze is fairly old, so maybe someone frozen when she was younger?  Not sure.

What did Raven find that he thinks the Duronas will be interested in?  Well, the actual quote is “I may have found some elements of interest to the Durona group, here.”  Is “here” the secret cryofacility, or Kibou-daini itself?  Is it to do with the cryorevival?  Some piece of equipment?  The whole cryocorp scam?  Not sure if this comes out later or not, though I do know that we do see Mark before the end of the book, so perhaps it does.

So Miles goes ahead and manages to talk everyone into doing what he wants, getting Suze and Tanaka to go along with his idea, having Jin’s buy-in because he wants his mother back, and of course generally being able to order the Barrayarans around from his rank and Raven because of whatever deal he made with Lily.  Raven is really part of the secret preparation he made for this mission, part of the background that we haven’t been actually told about because most of the flashbacks have been on Roic’s part.  Even when we get Miles’s point of view we don’t get to see much of his plan; he’s turned into an unreliable narrator for this book, which is frankly a little annoying after the previous books, where we tended to get deep inside him and his head.  Maybe that’s one of the several reasons I’m not as fond of this book.


Next chapter: the actual body-heist.  Now, some excitement!  At last!  Or, rather: next week, some excitement!  At last!

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

Chapter Nine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments

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

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

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


 

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

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

Chapter Eight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments

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

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

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


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

 

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What’s that, Mr. Scruffy?  You say it’s time for another Vorkosigan Saga Reread post?  Okay, here it is!  Another chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s CryoBurn, last chronologically in her Vorkosigan Saga, in which our frequent protagonist, Miles Vorkosigan, is investigating something odd about the cryonics businesses on the planet of Kibou-daini.  No, Mr. Scruffy, there are no cats in Chapter 7.  Well, some sphinx statues, but that’s about it.  Maybe in one of the other chapters.  Until then, enjoy this chapter despite its lack of felinity.

Chapter Seven

Miles is mostly recovered from his seizure two days later when WhiteChrys send a luxurious groundcar to collect him and his party–Roic, Vorlynkin, and Raven Durona.  As they watch the car arrive, Miles instructs Vorlynkin to play along with whatever he says, and generally be a yes-man.  The car comes to a stop and an attractive Kibou woman steps out–dressed in Kibou business formal, somewhat geisha-like, with a short skirt to enhance her sex appeal, and her diminituve height and flat shoes seem aimed specifically at Miles.  She greets them and introduces herself as Aida, assistant to Mr. Ron Wing; Miles suspects she’d been specially selected in an attempt to appeal to him.

He’d been hoping to meet with Ron Wing, and held out for him during yesterday’s repeated wooings, driving Vorlynkin to distraction in the process.  Wing was the man in charge of the Komarran expansion effort, and his underlings had been the ones who had been courting Miles at the conference; Miles is eager to see who’s been pulling the strings.  The groundcar is very roomy inside, reminding Miles of his father’s, but Roic says it doesn’t feel like it has nearly enough armour plating.  Miles looks out at the city, which looks fairly galactic-standard, with no hint of the endless Cryocombs beneath it.

“The Cryopolis began to be developed some forty years ago,” Aida informed them in good guide style, “when further extension of cryofacilities beneath the city grew too expensive. Now Northbridge has grown out to meet it, and it has become its own municipality, named Western Hope.”

“And how many representatives does Western Hope field to the Territorial Prefecture’s legislature?” Miles inquired.

“Fourteen,” she replied brightly.

As many as the parent-city itself, though it occupied a fraction of the area. “Interesting.”

Several of WhiteChrys’s competitors have showy facilities–NewEgypt has pyramids (and sphinxes, and Anubis-headed mascots), and somehow manages to charge more for space near the top of the pyramid.  Shinkawa Consolidated has lights and music, and Aida says they’re trying to appeal to a younger crowd, trying to lock them in earlier into paying their fees over a potentially longer period of time; Northern Spring seems to be on the way down, with a downright stodgy look, though Miles is aware that they’re still in the top half-dozen.

They finally reach WhiteChrys itself, where they debark and walk through a traditional-style garden and into the lobby.  Ron Wing is dressed in more traditional formal Kibou business attire, in the most expensive style.  With him is Hideyuki Storrs, a high-ranking minion who had been the one trying to bribe Miles before the kidnapping.  He notes that Wing seems fully as interested in him as he is in Wing, and wonders why.

Wing expresses regret for Miles’s unfortunate experiences, and hopes that he’ll be able to make up for it with a detailed tour of the facility.  They are held to Miles slow pace with his cane, only partially feigned, as his recent experiences, and the seizure, have left him achier than usual.  After a brief look through the headquarters building, they head over to the intake building; Wing says that while some of their clients are sent in after being frozen at the hospital, but some come in while still alive to be frozen while still in good health.  He offers to let them observe some of the scheduled freezings, but Miles passes on the opportunity, the smell getting to him a little bit; Raven goes off with Storrs, though.

Miles asks how many revivals they do in a day, and Wing hedges, saying he’d have to look it up, and then changes the subject to their acquaintance with Dr. Durona; Miles merely says that he and Roic bonded as captives.  Wing mentions a Mark Vorkosigan, who invests in the Durona group, and Miles says it’s his younger brother; Wing asks if he should be involved in the Komarr deal, and Miles pretends a bit of sibling rivalry, expressing a desire to come out ahead of Mark in a business dealing for once.

“And the rest of your famous family? Are you on warmer terms with them?”

“Oh, yes. Though a chance to show them all up doesn’t come along every day.” Miles let his voice turn faintly whiny. “I’ve always had more to prove, on Barrayar.” There, let Wing digest that. A nice balance between jealous greed and the promise of an influence worth peddling. And it would stand up to surface inquiry. Thank you, Brother.

Miles implies that he’s working on suborning Raven Durona as well, to keep him from reporting back to his brother; he tells Wing that Raven doesn’t need to be invited to a presentation on the Komarr Project, implying that Raven is more interested in science than business (which, as a Jacksonian, is highly improbable).  Wing, though, apparently hasn’t spent much time off-world.

The presentation seems entirely aboveboard, unfortunately; ImpSec’s investigation of the Komarr project so far has only turned up a few unscrupulous contractors and the like, which WhiteChrys was pleased enough to have rooted out.  Miles asks why they’re going for Komarr, rather than Escobar; Wing says that Escobar has some very restrictive cryonics regulations, but Komarr was more open for growth.  Miles muses that he supposes they’d have to look offplanet once everyone Kibou-daini already had a contract; Wing agrees, though he notes that they’ve been doing some trading in cryo-contracts, though not, he reassures them, the frozen bodies themselves.  They don’t plan to do this on Komarr, though, which Miles presumes is because WhiteChrys plans to have a monopoly there.

Miles asks Vorlynkin his opinion, and if he’s ready to sign up for a cryo-contract; Vorlynkin says he’s more concerned with the living, and mentions some of the bodies he’s had to deal with transporting to and from the planet.  They are fed lunch in a Japanese-style building, where Aida turns her sex appeal on Miles full blast.  He doesn’t believe it’s worth stringing her along, though, so he provides evidence of being happily married, and she backs off; instead, he complains of financial woes instead, which piques Wing’s interest.  Wing manages to delicately convey a nice bribe of company shares to Miles, which Miles of course accepts, though he wishes he knew why they were bothering to bribe him.  Wing claims to believe solidly in the Solstice Dome project, and says that he’s transferred his own contract there.

And Miles, connections boiling up at last, thought, Ye gods. I think you’ve just handed me your head.

Comments

The last few chapters have been divided fairly neatly between two scenes, from either Jin, Roic, or Miles’s POV.  This one, though, is only Miles’s…which is good, I suppose, because I have been complaining about not spending enough time in his head.  He spends the whole time acting, though, pretending to be less competent and more susceptible to bribery than he actually is.  And I guess, at the end, they give something away, though I’m not sure what.  And the next chapters starts with a Jin scene, so I’ll have to wait to find out what the heck our main character was thinking about…

Wing’s evasive answer about not knowing how many cryo-revivals they do is just another sign that these companies aren’t interested in bringing the people back, just accumulating more and more cryocorpses, and their votes.  The whole business about trading the contracts as a commodity is just another way of vote-buying, too; after all, if your contract specifies that Company X gets your proxy vote, and Company Y buys the contract, then surely they get the vote, too.  And so the system perpetuates.  But if they reach saturation, then all they can do is spread out to other worlds.

How is their system going to work on Komarr?  I guess there is the whole “planetary share” thing, though surely even a majority shareholder in the planet, if one were to exist, wouldn’t be able to override the Emperor.  Do they have some plan to deal with that, too, or have they just not thought this thing through?  Or is their plan just too sinister?  I guess we’ll find out.  Eventually.  (Because I seriously don’t remember how the main plot turns out.)


I almost considered doing two chapters, because this one felt shorter, but I’m not sure it was.  Plus, the new Order of the Stick book came in, so that’s been distracting me a lot.  I should be done it in plenty of time to do another chapter next week, though, so till then…

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