Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER FOUR

"No, not really." Ekaterin had met the young Komarran woman perhaps three times, at carefully choreographed Project events. She had usually been too conscious of herself as a representative of Tien, of the need to cordially meet and greet everyone, to get into any very intimate conversations. "Had she intended to talk to me?"

The young man slumped in disappointment. "I don't know. I thought you might have been friends, or at least acquaintances. I've talked to all her friends I can find."

"Urn . . . oh?" Ekaterin was not at all sure she wished to encourage this conversation.

Farr seemed to sense her wariness; he flushed slightly. "Excuse me. I seem to have found myself in a rather painful domestic situation, and I don't know why. It took me by surprise. But . . . but you see . . . about six weeks ago, Marie told me she was going out of town on a field project for her department, and would be back in about five weeks, but she wasn't sure exactly. She didn't give me any comconsole codes to reach her, she said she'd probably not be able to call, and not to worry."

"Do you, um, live with her?"

"Yes. Anyway, time went by, and time went by, and I didn't hear … I finally called her department head, Administrator Soudha. He was vague. In fact, I think he gave me a run-around. So I went down there in person and asked around.

When I finally pinned him, he said," Farr swallowed, "she'd resigned abruptly six weeks ago and left. So had her engineering boss, Radovas, the one she'd said she was going on the field project with. Soudha seemed to think they'd . . . left together. It makes no sense."

The idea of running away from a relationship and leaving no forwarding address made perfect sense to Ekaterin, but it was hardly her place to say so. Who knew what profound dissatisfactions Farr had failed to detect in his lady? "I'm sorry. I know nothing about this. Tien never mentioned it."

"I'm sorry to bother you, Madame." He hesitated, balanced upon turning away.

"Have you talked to Madame Radovas?" Ekaterin asked tentatively.

"I tried. She refused to talk with me."

That, too, was understandable, if her middle-aged husband had run off with a younger and prettier woman.

"Have you filed a missing person report with Dome Security?" Uncle Vorthys inquired. Ekaterin realized she hadn't introduced him and, on reflection, decided to leave it that way.

"I wasn't sure. I think I'm about to."

"Mm," said Ekaterin. Did she really want to encourage the fellow to persecute this girl? She had apparently got away clean. Had she chosen this cruel method of ending their relationship because she was a twit, or because he was a monster? There was no way to tell from the outside. You could never tell what secret burdens anyone carried, concealed by their bright smiles.

"She left all her things. She left her cats. I don't know what to do with them," he said rather piteously.

Ekaterin had heard of desperate women leaving everything up to and including their children, but Uncle Vorthys put in, "That does seem odd. I'd go to Security if I were you, if only to put your mind at ease. You can always apologize later, if necessary."

"I … I think I might. Good day, Madame Vorsoisson. Sir." He ran his hands through his hair, and let himself back out the little fake wrought-iron gate to the park.

"Perhaps we ought to be getting back," Ekaterin suggested as the young man turned out of sight. "Should we take Lord Vorkosigan some lunch? They'll make up a carry-out."

"I'm not sure he notices missing meals, when he's wound up in a problem, but it does seem only fair."

"Do you know what he likes?"

"Anything, I would imagine."

"Does he have any food allergies?"

"Not as far as I know."

She made a hasty selection of a suitably balanced and nutritious meal, hoping that the prettily-arranged vegetables wouldn't end up in the waste disposer. With males, you never knew. When the order was delivered, they took their leave, and Ekaterin led the way to the nearest bubble-car station to get back to her own dome section. She still had no clear idea how Vorkosigan had so successfully handled his mutant-status on their mutagen-scarred homeworld, except, perhaps, by pursuing most of his career off it. Was that likely to be any help to Nikolai?


Etienne Vorsoisson's bureaucratic domain occupied two floors partway up a sealed tower otherwise devoted to local Serifosa Dome government offices. The tower, on the edge of the dome-sprawl, was not housed inside any other atmosphere-containing structure. Miles eyed the glass-roofed atrium with disfavor as they ascended a curving escalator within it. He swore his ear detected a faint, far off whistle of air escaping some less-than-tight seal. "So what happens if somebody lobs a rock through a window?" he murmured to the Professor, a step behind him.

"Not much," Vorthys murmured back. "It would vent a pretty noticeable draft, but the pressure differential just isn't that great."

"True." Serifosa Dome was not really like a space installation, despite occasional misleading similarities of architecture. They made the air in here from the air out there, for the most part. Vent shafts spotted all over the dome complex sucked in Komarr's free volatiles, filtered out the excess carbon dioxide and some trace nasties, passed the nitrogen through unaltered, and concentrated the oxygen to a humanly-bearable mix. The percentage of oxygen in Komarr's raw atmosphere was still too low to support a large mammal without the technological aid of a breath mask, but the absolute amount remained a vast reservoir compared to the volume of even the most extensive dome complexes. "As long as their power system keeps running."

They stepped from the escalator and followed Vorsoisson into a corridor branching off the central atrium. The sight of a case of emergency breath masks affixed to a wall next to a fire extinguisher reassured Miles slightly, in passing, that the Komarrans here were not completely oblivious to their routine hazards. Though the case looked suspiciously dusty; had it ever been used since it had been installed, however many years ago? Or checked? If this were a military inspection, Miles could amuse himself by stopping the party right now, and tearing the case apart to determine if the masks' power and reservoir levels still fell within spec. As an Imperial Auditor, he could also do so, of course, or take any other action which struck his fancy. When a younger man, his besetting sin had been his impulsiveness. In the dark doubts of night, Miles sometimes wondered if Emperor Gregor had quite thought through his most recent Auditorial appointment. Power was supposed to corrupt, but this felt more like being a kid turned loose in a candy store. Control yourself, boy.

The mask case fell behind without incident. Vorsoisson, as tour guide, continued to point out the offices of his various subordinate departments, without, however, inviting his visitors inside. Not that there was that much to see in these administrative headquarters. The real interest, and the real work, lay outside the domes altogether, in experimental stations and plots and pockets of biota all over Serifosa Sector. All Miles would find in these bland rooms were . . . com-consoles. And Komarrans, of course, lots of Komarrans.

"This way, my lords." Vorsoisson shepherded them into a comfortably spacious room featuring a large round holovid projection table. The place looked, and smelled, like every other conference chamber Miles had ever been in for military and security briefings and debriefings during his truncated career. More of the same. I predict my greatest challenge this afternoon will be to stay awake. A half a dozen men and women sat waiting, nervously fingering recording pads and vid disks, and a couple more scurried in behind the two Auditors with murmured apologies. Vorsoisson indicated seats set aside for the visitors, at his right and left hand. With a brief general smile of greeting, Miles settled in.

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