Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Ekaterin seated herself at the comconsole in her workroom and began to triage the shambles of her life. It was actually simpler than her first fears had supposed—there was so little of it, after all.How did I grow so small?
She made a list of her resources. At the top, and most vital: medical care for the dependents of a deceased project employee was guaranteed till the end of the quarter, a few weeks away yet. A time window, of sorts. She counted the days in her head. It would be time enough for Nikki, if she didn't waste any.
A few hundred marks remained in her household account, and a few hundred marks in Tien's. Her use of this apartment also ran till the end of the quarter, when she must vacate it to make way for the next administrator to be appointed to Tien's position. That was fine; she didn't want to stay here longer. No pension, of course. She grimaced. Guaranteed passage back to Barrayar, unavailable while Tien was alive, was due her and Nikki as another death benefit, and thank heavens Tien hadn't figured out how to cash that in.
The physical objects she owned were more burden than asset, given that she must transport them by jumpship. The free weight limit was not generous. She'd apportion Nikki the bulk of their weight allowance; his little treasures meant more to him than most of her larger ones did to her. It was stupid to let herself feel overwhelmed by a few rooms of things she'd been willing to abandon altogether bare hours ago. She could still abandon them, if she chose. She'd frequented a certain secondhand shop in a seedier part of the dome to clothe herself and Nikki. She could sell Tien's clothing and ordinary effects there, a chore which need only take a few hours. For herself, she longed to travel light.
On the other side of the ledger, her debts too were simple, if overwhelming. First were the twenty thousand marks Tien had borrowed and not paid back. Then—was she honor-bound, for the sake of Vor pride and Nikki's family name, to make restitution to the Imperium for the bribe money Tien had accepted? Well, you can't do it today. Pass on to what you can do.
She had researched the medical resources on Komarr for treating genetic disorders till the information had worn grooves in her brain, fantasized solutions that Tien's paranoias—and his legal control of his heir—had blocked her from carrying out. Technically, Nikki's legal guardian now was some male third cousin of Tien's back on Barrayar whom Ekaterin had never met. Nikki not being heir to a fortune or a Countship, the transfer of his guardianship back to her was probably hers for the asking. She would deal with that legal kink later, too. For now, it took her something under nine minutes to contact the top clinic on Komarr, in Solstice, and browbeat them into setting up Nikki's first appointment for the day after tomorrow, instead of the five weeks from today they first tried to offer her.
So simple. She shook with a spasm of rage, at Tien, and at herself. This could have been done months ago, when they'd first come to Komarr, as easily as this, if only she'd mustered the courage to defy Tien.
Next she must notify Tien's mother, his closest living relative. Ekaterin could leave it to her to spread the news to Tien's more distant relatives back on Barrayar. Not feeling up to recording a vid message, she put it in writing, hoping it would not appear too cold. An accident with a breath mask, which Tien had failed to check. Nothing about the Komarrans, nothing about the embezzlement, nothing to which ImpSec could object. Tien's mother might never need to know of Tien's dishonor. Ekaterin humbly requested her preferences as to ceremonies and the disposition of the remains. Most likely she would want them returned to Barrayar to bury beside Tien's brother. Ekaterin could not help imagining her own feelings, in some future scene, if she entrusted Nikki to his bride with all bright promise only to have him returned to her later as a heap of ashes in a box. With a note. No, she would have to see this through in person. All that also must come later. She sent the message on its way.
The physical was easy; she could be finished and packed in a week. The financial was . . . no, not impossible, just not possible to solve at once. Presumably she must take out a loan on longer terms to pay off the first one—assuming anyone would loan money to a destitute and unemployed widow. Tien's antilegacy clouded the glimmerings of the new future she ached to claim for herself. She imagined a bird, released from ten years in a cage, told she could at last fly free—as soon as these lead weights were attached to her feet.
This bird's going to get there if she has to walk every step.
The comconsole chimed, startling her from this determined reverie. A man, soberly dressed in the Komarran style, appeared over the vid-plate at her touch. He wasn't anyone she knew from Tien's department.
"How do you do, ma'am," he said, looking at her uncertainly. "My name is Ser Anafi, and I represent the Rialto Sharemarket Agency. I'm trying to reach Etienne Vorsoisson."
She recognized the name of the company whose money Tien had lost on the trade fleet shares. "He's . . . not available. I'm Madame Vorsoisson. What is your question?"
Anafi's gaze at her grew more stern. "This is the fourth reminder notice of his outstanding loan balance, now overdue. He must either pay in full, or take immediate action to set up a new repayment schedule."
"How do you normally set up such a schedule?"
Anafi appeared surprised at this measured response. Had he dealt with Tien before this? He unbent slightly, leaning back in his chair. "Well … we normally calculate a percentage of the customer's salary, mitigated by any available collateral they may be able to offer."
I have no salary. I have no possessions. Anafi, she suspected, would not be pleased to learn this. "Tien . . . died in an accident last night. Things are in some disarray here today."
Anafi looked taken aback. "Oh. I'm sorry, Madame," he managed.
"I don't suppose . . . was the loan insured?"
"I'll check, Madame Vorsoisson. Let us hope …" Anafi turned to his comconsole; after a moment, he frowned. "I'm sorry to say, it was not."
Ah, Tien. "How should I pay it back?"
Anafi was silent a long moment, as if thinking. "If you would be willing to cosign for the loan, I could set up a payment schedule today for you."
"You can do that?"
At a tentative knock on the door frame of her workroom, she glanced around. Lord Vorkosigan had returned and stood leaning in the opening. How long had he been standing there? He gestured inside, and she nodded. He walked in and eyed Anafi over her shoulder. "Who is this guy?" he murmured.
"His name's Anafi. He's from the company Tien owes for the fleet shares loan."
"Ah. Allow me." He stepped up to the comconsole and tapped in a code. The view split, and a gray-haired man with colonel's tabs and Eye-of-Horus pins on his green uniform collar appeared.
"Colonel Gibbs," said Lord Vorkosigan genially. "I have some more data for you regarding Administrator Vorsoisson's financial affairs. Ser Anafi, meet Colonel Gibbs. ImpSec. He has a few questions for you. Good day."
"ImpSec!" said Anafi in startled horror. "ImpSec? What does—" He blipped out at Lord Vorkosigan's flourishing gesture.
"No more Anafi," he said, with some satisfaction. "Not for the next several days, anyway."
"Now, was that nice?" asked Ekaterin, amused in spite of herself. "They loaned that money to Tien in all good faith."
"Nevertheless, don't sign anything till you take legal advice. If you knew nothing of the loan, it's possible Tien's estate is liable for it, and not you. His creditors must squabble with each other for the pieces, and when it's gone, it's gone."