Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER TWO

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

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

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

"Historically and legally, that's so." His voice was amused, or bemused, as he turned again to watch her. "This was not always to her disadvantage. When he was executed for treason, she was presumed to be only following orders, and got off. Actually, I wonder if the underlying practical reason was that an underpopulated world just couldn't spare her labor."

"Haven't you ever found that oddly asymmetrical?"

"But simpler for her. Most women usually only had one husband at a time, but the Vor were all too frequently presented with a choice of emperors, and where was your loyalty then? Bad guesses could be lethal. Though when my grandfather General Piotr—and his army—abandoned Mad Emperor Yuri for Emperor Ezar, it was lethal for Yuri. Good for Barrayar, though."

She sipped again. From where she sat, he was silhouetted against the darkening dome, shadowed, enigmatic. "Indeed. Is your passion politics, then?"

"God, no! I don't think so."


"Only in passing." He hesitated. "It used to be the military."

"Used to be?"

"Used to be," he repeated firmly.

"And now?"

It was his turn to not answer. He stared down at his glass, tilting it to make the last of the wine swirl about. He finally said, "In Barrayaran political theory, it all connects. The ordinary subjects are loyal to their Counts, the Counts are loyal to the Emperor, and the Emperor, presumably, is loyal to the whole Imperium, the body of the Empire in the form of all its, er, bodies. Here I find it grows a trifle abstract for my taste; how can he be answerable to all, yet not answerable to each? And so we arrive back at square one." He drained his glass. "How do we be true to one another?"

I don't know anymore. . . .

Silence fell, as they both watched the last glint of mirror slip behind the hills. A pale glow in the sky still haloed its passing for a minute or two longer.

"Well. I'm afraid I'm getting rather drunk." He did not seem that drunk to her, but he rolled his glass between his hands and pushed off from the balcony rail against which he'd been leaning. "Goodnight, Madame Vorsoisson."

"Goodnight, Lord Vorkosigan. Sleep well."

He carried his glass in with him and vanished into the darkened apartment.


Miles floundered from a dream of his hostess's hair which, if not exactly erotic, was embarrassingly sensual. Unbound from the severe style she'd favored yesterday, it had revealed itself a rich dark brown with amber highlights, a mass of silk flowing coolly through his stubby hands—he presumed they were his hands, it had been his dream, after all. I woke up too soon. Rats. At least the vision had not been tinged with any of the gory grotesqueries of his occasional nightmares, from which he came awake cold and damp, with heart racing. He was warm and comfortable, in the silly elaborate grav-bed she had insisted on producing for him.

It wasn't Madame Vorsoisson's fault that she happened to belong to a certain physical type that set off old resonances in Miles's memory. Some men harbored obsessions about much stranger things … his own fixation, he had long ago ruefully recognized, was on long cool brunettes with expressions of quiet reserve and warm alto voices. True, on a world where people altered their faces and bodies almost as casually as they altered their wardrobes, there was nothing in the least unusual about her beauty. Till one remembered she wasn't from here, and realized her ivory-skinned features were almost certainly untouched by modification. . . . Had she recognized his idiot-babble, last night on her balcony, as suppressed sexual panic? Had that odd remark about a Vor woman's duties been an oblique warning to him to back off? But he hadn't been on, he didn't think. Was he that transparent?

Miles had realized within five minutes of his arrival that he should probably not have let the genial and expansive Vorthys bully him into accompanying him downside, but the man seemed constitutionally incapable of not sharing a treat. That the pleasures of this family reunion might not be equally enjoyed by an awkward outsider—or the family into which he'd been thrust—had clearly never occurred to the Professor.

Miles sighed envy of his host. Administrator Vorsoisson seemed to have achieved a perfect little Vor clan. Of course, he'd had the wit to start a decade ago. The arrival of galactic sex-selection technologies had resulted in a shortage of female births on Barrayar. This dearth of women had reached its lowest ebb in Miles's generation, though parents seemed to be coming back to their senses now. Still, every Vor woman Miles knew close to his own age was already married, and had been for years. Was he going to have to wait another twenty years for his own bride?

If necessary. No lusting after married women, boy. You're an Imperial Auditor now. The nine Imperial Auditors were expected to be models of rectitude and respectability. He could not recall ever hearing of any kind of sex scandal touching one of Emperor Gregor's handpicked agent-observers. Of course not. All the rest of the Auditors are eighty years old and have been married for fifty of 'em. He snorted. Besides, she probably thought he was a mutant, though thankfully she'd been too polite to say so. To his face.

So find out if she has a sister, eh?

He wallowed out of the grav-bed's indolence-inducing clutches and sat up, forcing his mind to switch gears. At a conservative guess, a couple hundred thousand words of new data on the soletta accident and its consequences would be incoming this shift. He would, he decided, start with a cold shower.

No comfortable ship-knits today. After selecting among the three new formal civilian suits he'd packed along from Barrayar—in shades of gray, gray, and gray—Miles combed his damp hair neatly and sauntered out to Madame Vorsoisson's kitchen, from which voices and the perfume of coffee wafted. There he found Nikolai munching Barrayaran-style groats and milk, Administrator Vorsoisson fully dressed and apparently on the verge of leaving, and Professor Vorthys, still in pajamas, sorting through a new array of data disks and frowning. A glass of pink fruit juice sat untasted at his elbow. He looked up and said, "Ah, good morning, Miles. Glad you're up," seconded by Vorsoisson's polite, "Good morning, Lord Vorkosigan. I trust you slept well?"

"Fine, thanks. What's up, Professor?"

"Your comm link arrived from ImpSec's local office." Vorthys pointed to the device beside his plate. "I notice they didn't send me one."

Miles grimaced. "Your father was not so famous in the Komarran conquest."

"True," agreed Vorthys. "The old gentleman fell in that odd generation between the wars, too young to fight the Cetagandans, too old to aggress on the poor Komarrans. This lack of military opportunity was a source of great personal regret to him, we children were given to understand."

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