Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER SEVEN

"I'm going to have to go back topside tomorrow morning," said Vorthys to Tuomonen. "I am not going to have time to do a thorough examination of this library myself. I shall have to trouble ImpSec for it, I'm afraid."

Tuomonen, his eye taking in the thousand-disk case, looked momentarily appalled. Miles added quickly, "On my authority, requisition a high-level analyst from HQ for that job. One of the basement boffins, with engineering and math certification, I think—right, Professor?"

"Yes, indeed, the best man you can get," said Vorthys.

Tuomonen looked very relieved. "What do you want him to look for, my Lord Auditor?"

"I don't quite know," said the Professor. "That's why I want an ImpSec analyst, eh? Essentially, I want him to generate an independent picture of Radovas from this data, which we may compare with impressions from other sources later."

"A candid view of the shape of the mind inside this library," mused Miles. "I see."

"I'm sure you do. Talk to the man, Miles, you know the kinds of things they do. And the kinds of things we want."

"Certainly, Professor."

They turned the library case over to Tuomonen, and Group-Patroller Rigby took her leave. It was approaching Komarran midnight.

"I'll take all this lot back to my office, then," said Tuomonen, looking at his assorted burdens, "and call HQ with the news. How much longer do you expect to be staying in Serifosa, Lord Vorkosigan?"

"I'm not sure. I'll stay on and have a talk with Soudha, and Radovas's other colleagues, at least, before I go up again. I, ah, think I'll move my things to a hotel tomorrow, after the Professor goes up."

"You are welcome to the hospitality of my home, Lord Vorkosigan," said Tien formally, and very unpressingly.

"Thank you anyway, Administrator Vorsoisson. Who knows, I may be ready to follow on topside as early as tomorrow night. We'll see what turns up."

"I'd appreciate it if you'd keep my office apprised of your movements," said Tuomonen. "It was of course your privilege to order no close security upon your person, Lord Vorkosigan, but now that your case seems to have acquired a local connection, I'd strongly request you reconsider that."

"ImpSec guards are generally charming fellows, but I really like not tripping over them every time I turn around," Miles replied. He tapped the ImpSec issue chrono-comm link, which looked oversized strapped around his left wrist. "Let's stick with our original compromise, for now. I'll yelp for help if I need you, I promise."

"As you wish, my lord," said Tuomonen disapprovingly. "Is there anything else you need?"

"Not tonight," said Vorthys, yawning.

I need all this to make sense. I need half a dozen eager informers. I want to be alone in a locked room with Marie Trogir and a hypo of fast-penta. I wish I might fast-penta that poor bitter widow, even. Rigby would require a court order for such an invasive and offensive step; Miles could do it on whim and his borrowed Imperial Voice, if he didn't mind being a very obnoxious Lord Auditor indeed. The justification was simply not yet sufficient. But Soudha had better watch his step, tomorrow. Miles shook his head. "No. Get some sleep."

"Eventually." Tuomonen smiled wryly. "Good night, my lords, Administrator."

They left the widow's building in opposite directions.


Ekaterin half-dozed, curled on the sunken living room couch, waiting for the men to return. She pushed back her sleeves and studied the deep bruises darkening on her wrists in the pattern of Lord Vorkosigan's grip.

She was not normally very body-conscious, she thought. She watched people's faces, giving a bare glance to anything below the neck beyond the social language of clothing. This . . . not aversion, screening . . . seemed a mere courtesy, and a part of her sexual fidelity as automatic as breathing. So it was doubly disturbing to find herself so very aware of the little man. And probably very rude, as well, given the oddness of his body. Vorkosigan's face, once she'd penetrated his first wary opacity, was . . . well, charming, full of dry wit only waiting to break into open humor. It was disorienting to find that face coupled with a body bearing a record of appalling pain. Was it some kind of perverse voyeurism, that her second reaction after shock had been a suppressed desire to persuade him to tell her all the stories about his war wounds? Not from around here, those hieroglyphs carved in his flesh had whispered, exotic with promise. And, I have survived. Want to know how?

Yes. I want to know how. She pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose, as if she might press back the incipient headache gathering behind her eyes. Her body jolted at the faint snick and shirr of the hall door opening. But familiar voices, Tien's and her uncle's, reassured her it was only the expected return of the information-hunting party. She wondered what strange prey they had made a prize of. She sat up, and pushed down her sleeves. It was well after midnight.

Tuomonen was no longer with them, she found to her relief as she rounded the corner into the hallway. She could lock her household down for the night, like a proper chatelaine. Tien looked tense, Vorkosigan looked tired, and Uncle Vorthys looked the same as ever. Vorkosigan was murmuring, "I trust it goes without saying, Vorsoisson, that tomorrow will be a surprise inspection?"

"Certainly, my Lord Auditor."

"Did you find out anything interesting?" Ekaterin inquired generally, resetting the lock behind them.

"Mm, Madame Radovas had no suggestions as to how her wandering husband had wandered into our soletta wreck," said Uncle Vorthys. "I'd been hoping she might."

"It's so sad. They had seemed like such a nice couple, the few times I met them."

"Well, you know middle-aged men." Tien shrugged reprovingly, clearly excluding himself from the class.

Ah, Tien. Why couldn't you be the one to run off with a younger, richer woman? Maybe you'd be happier. You could scarcely be less happy. Why does your one virtue have to be fidelity? As far as she knew, anyway. Though she had wondered, during that thankfully-over weird period when he'd been accusing her, why an act she found unthinkable had so obsessed him. Maybe he didn't find it so unthinkable at all? She hardly had the energy to care.

She offered a late-night snack, an invitation only Uncle Vorthys accepted, and they all parted company for their respective sleeping quarters. By the time her uncle had finished eating and said good night, and she tidied up and made her way to her own bedroom, checking on Nikolai on the way, Tien was already in bed on his side with his eyes closed. Not sleeping yet; he had a very distinctive near-snore when he was truly asleep. When she slipped in beside him, he rolled over and flung his arm over her, and snugged her in tight.

He does love me, in some inept way. The thought almost made her want to weep. Yet what other human connections did Tien have, aside from her and Nikolai? His distant mother, remarried, and the ghost of his dead brother. Tien clutched her at night sometimes like a drowning man clutching his log.

If there was a hell, she hoped Tien's brother was in it. A Vor hell. He had done the proper thing, oh yes he had, cutting out his own mutation, and setting an example for Tien impossible to—so to speak—live up to. Tien had tried to emulate him, twice early on and once later, running up to suicide attempts so half-hearted as to barely qualify as gestures. The first two times she had been utterly terrified. For a period she had believed her loyalty and dependency were the only things holding him to life. By the third, she was numb. Much more of this, and she wouldn't be human at all. She felt barely human now.

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