Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER FIVE

After a little more time spent regarding the view—it didn't change, and Nikki, though he sprang around like a flea, with his mother laboring after him, didn't quite manage to fall into the bog—they all reboarded the aircar. After a flyover of a neighboring green valley, and a pass across another dull brown unaltered one for comparison and contrast, they turned for the Serifosa Dome.

A largish installation featuring its own fusion reactor, and a riot of assorted greens spilling away from it, caught Miles's attention on the leftward horizon. "What's that?" he asked Denier.

"It's Waste Heat's main experiment station," Venier replied.

Miles touched the intercom. "Any chance of dropping in for a visit down there?" he called the forward compartment.

Vorsoisson's voice hesitated. "I'm not sure we could get back to the dome before dark. I don't like to take the chance."

Miles hadn't thought night flight was that hazardous, but perhaps Vorsoisson knew his own limitations. And he did have his wife and child aboard, not to mention all that Imperial load in the somewhat unprepossessing persons of Miles and the Professor. Still, surprise inspections were always the most fun, if you wanted to turn up the good stuff. He toyed with the idea of insisting, Auditorially.

"It would certainly be interesting," murmured Venier. "I haven't been out there in person in years."

"Perhaps another day?" suggested Vorsoisson.

Miles let it go. He and Vorthys were playing visiting firemen here, not inspectors general; the real crisis was topside. "Perhaps. If there's time."

Another ten minutes of flight brought Serifosa Dome up over the horizon. It was vast and spectacular in the gathering dusk, with its glittering strings of lights, looping bubble-car tubes, warm glow of domes, sparkling towers. We humans don't do too badly, Miles thought, if you catch us at the right angle. The aircar slid back through the vehicle lock and settled again to the garage pavement.

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

Vorsoisson's face darkened. "Don't. Nag. Me," he breathed through set teeth.

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

"Well, well," said Uncle Vorthys, also heartily pretending not to have noticed the byplay. "Everyone will feel better with a little supper aboard, eh, Ekaterin? Let me treat you all to dinner. Do you have another favorite place as splendid as the one where we ate lunch?"

The moment of tension was extinguished in another Betan debate over the dinner destination; this time, Nikki was successfully overruled by the adults. Miles wasn't hungry, and the temptation to relieve Vorthys of the day's collection of data disks and escape back to some comconsole was strong, but perhaps with another drink or three he could endure one more family dinner with the Vorsoisson clan. The last, Miles promised himself.

A trifle drunker than he had intended to be, Miles undressed for another night in the rented grav-bed. He piled the new stack of data disks on the comconsole to wait for morning, coffee, and better mental coherence. The last thing he did was rummage in his case and fish out his controlled-seizure stimulator. He sat cross-legged on the bed and regarded it glumly.

The Barrayaran doctors had found no cure for the post-cryonic seizure disorder that had finally ended his military career. The best they had been able to offer was this: a triggering device to bleed off his convulsions in smaller increments, in controlled private times and places, instead of grandly, randomly, and spectacularly in moments of public stress. Checking his neurotransmitter levels was now a nightly hygienic routine, just like brushing his teeth, the doctors had suggested. He felt his right temple for the implant and positioned the read-contact. His only sensation was a faint spot of warmth.

The levels were not yet in the danger zone. A few more days before he had to put in the mouth-guard and do it again. Having left his Armsman, Pym, who usually played valet and general servant, back on Barrayar, he would have to find another spotter. The doctors had insisted he have a spotter, when he did this ugly little thing. He would much prefer to be helpless and out-of-consciousness—and twitching like a fish, he supposed, though of course he was the one person who never got to watch—in complete privacy. Maybe he would ask the Professor.

If you had a wife, she could be your spotter.

Gee, what a treat for her.

He grimaced, and put the device carefully away in its case, and crawled into bed. Perhaps in his dreams the space wreckage would reassemble itself, just like in a vid reconstruction, and reveal the secrets of its fate. Better to have visions of the wreckage than the bodies.


Ekaterin studied Tien warily as they undressed for bed. The frowning tension in his face and body made her think she had better offer sex very soon. Strain in him frightened her, as always. It was past time to defuse him. The longer she waited, the harder it would be to approach him, and the tenser he would become, ending in some angry explosion of muffled, cutting words.

Sex, she imagined wistfully, should be romantic, abandoned, self-forgetful. Not the most tightly self-disciplined action in her world. Tien demanded response of her and worked hard to obtain it, she thought; not like men she'd heard about who took their own pleasure, then rolled over and went to sleep. She sometimes wished he would. He became upset—with himself, with her?—if she failed to participate fully. Unable to act a lie with her body, she'd learned to erase herself from herself, and so unblock whatever strange neural channel it was that permitted flesh to flood mind. The inward erotic fantasies required to absorb her self-consciousness had become stronger and uglier over time; was that a mere unavoidable side-effect of learning more about the ugliness of human possibility, or a permanent corruption of the spirit?

I hate this.

Tien hung up his shirt and twitched a smile at her. His eyes remained strained, though, as they had been all evening. "I'd like you to do me a favor tomorrow."

Anything, to delay the moment. "Certainly. What?"

"Take the brace of Auditors out and show 'em a good time. I'm about saturated with them. This downside holiday of theirs has been incredibly disruptive to my department. We've lost a week altogether, I bet, pulling together that show for them yesterday. Maybe they can go poke at something else, till they go back topside."

"Take them where, show them what?"


"I already took Uncle Vorthys around."

"Did you show him the Sector University district? Maybe he'd like that. Your uncle is interested in lots of things, and I don't think the Vor dwarf cares what he's offered. As long as it includes enough wine."

"I haven't the first clue what Lord Vorkosigan likes to do."

"Ask him. Suggest something. Take him, I don't know, take him shopping."

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