Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER TEN

Every muscle of her body seemed to be spasming with tension. She felt close to vomiting. She returned to her—to the kitchen, and drank a glass of water, which helped settle her breathing and her stomach. She went to her work room to fetch a basket and some plastic sheeting and a trowel, to go scrape the mess off the walkway five floors down.


Miles sat at Administrator Vorsoisson's comconsole desk, methodically reading through the files of all the employees of the Waste Heat department. There seemed to be a lot of personnel, compared to some of the other departments; Waste Heat was definitely a favored child in the Project budget. Presumably most of them spent the bulk of their time out at the experiment station, since Waste Heat's offices here were modest. In hindsight, always acute, Miles wished he'd begun his survey of Radovas's life out there today, where there might have been some action to observe, instead of in this tower of bureaucratic boredom. More, he wished he'd dropped in on the experiment station during their first tour . . . well, no. He would not have known what to look for then.

And you know now? He shook his head in wry dismay and brought up another file. Tuomonen had taken a copy of the personnel list, and in due time would be interviewing most of these people, unless something happened to take the investigation off in another direction. Such as finding Marie Trogir—that was the first item now on Miles's wish list for ImpSec. Miles shifted to ease the twinge in his back; he could feel his body stiffening from sitting still in a cool room too long. Didn't these Serifosans know they needed to waste more heat?

Quick steps in the hallway paused and turned in at the outer office, and Miles glanced up. Tien Vorsoisson, a little out of breath, hung a moment in his office doorway, then plunged inside. He was carrying two heavy jackets, his own and the one of his wife's that Miles had used the other day, and a breath mask labeled Visitor, Medium. He smiled at Miles in suppressed agitation. "My Lord Auditor. So glad to still find you here."

Miles shut down the file and regarded Vorsoisson with interest. "Hello, Administrator. What brings you back tonight?"

"You, my lord. I need to talk with you right away. I have to … to show you something I've discovered."

Miles opened his hand, indicating the comconsole, but Vorsoisson shook his head. "Not here, my lord. Out at the Waste Heat experiment station."

Ah ha. "Right now?"

"Yes, tonight, while everyone is gone." Vorsoisson laid the spare breath mask on the comconsole, rummaged in a cabinet in the far wall, and came up with his own personal mask. He yanked the straps over his neck and hastily adjusted his chest harness to hold the supplementary oxygen bottle in place. "I've requisitioned a lightflyer, it's waiting downstairs."

"All right …" Now what was this going to be all about? Too much to hope Vorsoisson had found Marie Trogir locked in a closet out there. Miles checked his own mask—power and oxygen levels indicated it was fully recharged—and slipped it on. He took a couple of breaths in passing, to test its correct function, then slid it down out of the way under his chin and shrugged on the jacket.

"This way …" Vorsoisson led off with long strides, which annoyed Miles considerably; he declined to run to keep up with the man. The Administrator perforce waited for him at the lift tube, bouncing on his heels in impatience. This time, when they reached the garage sub-level, the vehicle was ready. It was a less-than-luxurious government issue two-passenger flyer, but appeared to be in perfectly good condition.

Miles was less certain of the driver. "What's this all about, Vorsoisson?"

Vorsoisson put his hand on the canopy and regarded Miles with an intensity of expression that was almost alarming. "What are the rules for declaring oneself an Imperial Witness?"

"Well . . . various, I suppose, depending on the situation." Miles was not, he realized belatedly, nearly as well up on the fine points of Barrayaran law as an Imperial Auditor ought to be. He needed to do more reading. "I mean … I don't think it's exactly something one does for oneself. It's usually negotiated between a potential witness and whatever prosecuting authority is in charge of the criminal case." And rarely. Since the end of the Time of Isolation, with the importation of fast-penta and other galactic interrogation drugs, the authorities no longer had to bargain for truthful testimony, normally.

"In this case, the authority is you," said Tien. "The rules are whatever you say they are, aren't they? Because you are an Imperial Auditor."

"Uh . . . maybe."

Vorsoisson nodded in satisfaction, raised the canopy, and slid into the pilot's seat. With reluctant fascination, Miles levered himself in beside him. He fastened his safety harness as the flyer lifted and glided toward the garage's vehicle lock.

"And why do you ask?" Miles probed delicately. Vorsoisson had all the air of a man anxious to spill something very interesting indeed. Not for three worlds did Miles wish to frighten him off at this point. At the same time, Miles would have to be extremely cautious about what he promised. He's your fellow Auditor's nephew-in-law. You've just stepped onto an ethical tightrope.

Vorsoisson did not answer right away, instead powering the lightflyer up into the night sky. The lights of Serifosa brightened the faint feathery clouds of valuable moisture above, which occluded the stars. But as they shot away from the dome city, the glowing haze thinned and the stars came out in force. The landscape away from the dome was very dark, devoid of the villages and homesteads that carpeted less climatically hostile worlds. Only a monorail streaked away to the southwest, a faint pale line against the barren ground.

"I believe," Vorsoisson said at last, and swallowed. "I believe I have finally accumulated enough evidence of an attempted crime against the Imperium for a successful prosecution. I hope I haven't waited too long, but I had to be sure."

"Sure of what?"

"Soudha has tried to bribe me. I'm not absolutely certain that he didn't bribe my predecessor, too."

"Oh? Why?"

"Waste Heat Management. The whole department is a scam, a hollow shell. I'm not really sure how long they've been able to keep this bubble going. They had me fooled for … for months. I mean … a building full of equipment on a quiet day, how was I supposed to know what it did? Or didn't do? Or that there weren't anything but quiet days?"

"How long—" have you known, Miles bit off. That question was premature. "Just what are they doing?"

"They're bleeding off money from the project. For all I know, it may have started small, or by accident—some departed employee mistakenly kept on the roster, an accumulation of pay that Soudha figured out how to pocket. Ghost employees—his department is full of fictitious employees, all drawing pay. And equipment purchases for the ghost employees—Soudha suborned some woman in Accounting to go along with him. They have all the forms right, all the numbers match, they've slid it through I don't know how many fiscal inspections, because the accountants HQ sends out don't know how check the science, only the forms."

"Who does check the science?"

That's the thing, my Lord Auditor. The Terraforming Project isn't expected to produce quick results, not in any immediately measurable way. Soudha produces technical reports, all right, plenty of them, right to schedule, but I think he mostly does them by copying other sectors' previous-period results and fudging."

Indeed, the Komarran Terraforming Project was a bureaucratic backwater, far down the Barrayaran Imperium's urgent list. Not critical: a good place to park, say, incompetent Vor second sons out of the way of their families. Where they could do no harm to anyone, because the project was vast and slow, and they would cycle out and be gone again before the damage could even be measured. "Speaking of ghost employees—how does Radovas's death connect with this alleged scam?"

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