Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER ELEVEN

Vorsoisson shook his head, which shifted his breath mask slightly; he had to rub his face against the railing to reseat it. After a few minutes he said in a small voice, "Vorkosigan . . . ?"

Miles hoped from the humbler tone the man might be going to edge toward true confession after all. "Yes?" he said encouragingly.

"I'm almost out of oxygen."

"Didn't you check—" Miles tried to bring up the image in his pulsing brain of the moment Vorsoisson had snatched his breath mask out of the cabinet, back in his office, and donned it. No. He hadn't checked anything about it. A fully-charged mask would support twelve to fourteen hours of vigorous outdoor activity, under normal circumstances. Miles's visitor's mask had presumably been taken from a central store, where some tech had the job of processing and recharging used masks before setting them on the rack ready for reuse. Don't forget to put your mask on the recharger, Vorsoisson's wife had said to him, and been snapped at for nagging. Was Vorsoisson in the habit of stuffing his equipment away uncleaned? In his office, Madame Vorsoisson couldn't very well pick up after him the way she doubtless did at home.

At one time, Miles could have crushed his own fragile hand bones and drawn his hand out through a restraint before his flesh began to swell enough to trap it again. He'd actually done that once, on a hideously memorable occasion. But the bones in his hands were all sturdy synthetics now, less breakable even than normal bone. All that his applied strength could do was make his chafed wrists bleed.

Vorsoisson's wrists began to bleed too, as he struggled more frantically against his chains.

"Vorsoisson, hold still!" Miles called urgently to him. "Conserve your oxygen. There's supposed to be someone coming. Go limp, breathe shallowly, make it last." Why hadn't the idiot mentioned this earlier, to Miles, to Foscol even . . . had Foscol intended this result? Maybe she'd meant both Miles and Vorsoisson to die, one after the other . . . how long till the promised someone came to collect them? A couple of days? Murdering an Imperial Auditor in the middle of a case was considered an act of treason worse than murdering a ruling District Count and only barely short of assassinating the Emperor himself. Nothing could be more surely calculated to send ImpSec's entire forces in frenzied pursuit of the fleeing embezzlers, with an implacable concentration reaching, potentially, across decades and distance and diplomatic barriers. It was a suicidal gesture, or unbelievably foolhardy. "How much do you have left?"

Vorsoisson wriggled his chin and tried to peer down over his nose into the dim recesses of his jacket to see the top of the canister strapped there. "Oh, God. I think it's reading zero."

"Those things always have some safety margin. Stay still, man! Try for some self-control!"

Instead Vorsoisson began to struggle ever more frantically. He threw himself forward and backward with all his considerable strength, trying to break the railing. Blood drops flew from the flayed skin of his wrists, and the railing reverberated and bent, but it did not break. He pulled up his knees and then flung himself down through the meter-wide opening between the posts, trying to propel his full body weight against the chains. They held, and then his backward-scrambling legs could not regain the walkway. His boot heels scraped and scrabbled on the wall. His dizzied choking, at the last, led to vomiting inside his breath mask. When it slipped down around his neck in his final paroxysms, it seemed almost a mercy, except for the way it revealed his distorted, purpling features. But the screams and pleas stopped, and then the gasps and gulpings. The kicking legs twitched, and hung limply.

Miles had been right; Vorsoisson might have had a full twenty or thirty minutes more oxygen if he had hunkered down quietly. Miles stood very still, and breathed very shallowly, and shivered in the cold. Shivering, he recalled dimly, used more oxygen, but he could not make himself stop. The silence was profound, broken only by the hiss of Miles's regulators and filters, and the beating of the blood in his own ears. He had seen many deaths, including his own, but this was surely one of the ugliest. The shocky shudders traveled up and down his body, and his thoughts spun uselessly: they kept circling back to the spuriously calm observation that a barrel of fast-penta would be no damned use to him now.

If he went into a convulsion and dislodged his breath mask in the process, he could be well on his way to asphyxiating before he even returned to consciousness. ImpSec would find him hanging there beside Vorsoisson, choked identically on his own spew. And nothing was more likely to set off one of his seizures than stress.

Miles watched the slime begin to freeze on the sagging corpse's face, scanned the dark skies in the wrong direction, and waited.


Ekaterin set down her cases next to Lord Vorkosigan's in the vestibule, and turned for one last automatic check of the premises, one last patrol of her old life. All lights were out. All windows were sealed. All appliances were off … the comconsole chimed just as she was leaving the kitchen.

She hesitated. Let it go. Let it all go. But then she reflected it might be Tuomonen or someone, trying to reach Lord Vorkosigan. Or Uncle Vorthys, though she was not sure she even wanted to talk to him, tonight. She turned back to the machine, but her hand hesitated again with the thought that it might be Tien. In that case, I will simply cut the com. If it was Tien, about to attempt some other plea or threat or persuasion, at least it was a guarantee he was someplace else, and not here, and she could still walk away.

But the face that formed over the vid-plate at her reluctant touch was that of a Komarran woman from Tien's department, Lena Foscol. Ekaterin had only met her in person a couple of times, but Soudha's words over this same vid-plate last night leapt to her mind: Lena Foscol in Accounting is the most meticulous thief I've ever met. Oh, God. She was one of them. The background was out of focus, but the woman was wearing a parka, thrown open over dome-wear, suggesting she was either on her way to or on her way back from some outside expedition. Ekaterin regarded her with concealed revulsion.

"Madame Vorsoisson?" Foscol said brightly. Without waiting for Ekaterin's answer, she went on, "Please come pick up your husband at the Waste Heat experiment station. He'll be waiting for you outside on the northwest side of the Engineering building."

"But—" What was Tien doing out there at this time of night? "How did he get out there, doesn't he have a flyer? Can't he get a ride back with someone else?"

"Everyone else has left." Her smile widened, and she cut the com.

"But—" Ekaterin raised a hand in futile protest, too late. "Drat." And then, after a moment, "Damn it!"

Retrieving Tien from the experiment station would be a two-hour chore, at least. She would first have to take a bubble-car to a public flyer livery, and rent a flyer, since she had no authority to requisition one from Tien's department. She'd been seriously considering sleeping on a park bench tonight, just to save her pittance of funds for the uncertain days to come until she found some form of paying work, except that the dome patrollers didn't permit vagrants to loiter in any of the places where she might feel safe. Foscol hadn't said if Lord Vorkosigan was with Tien, which suggested he was not, which meant that she'd have to fly back to Serifosa alone with Tien, who would insist on taking the controls, and what if he finally got serious about his suicide threats when they were halfway back, and decided to take her down with him? No. It wasn't worth the risk. Let him rot out there till morning, or let him call someone else.

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