Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER FOURTEEN

"Lovely, yes. You see, suppose . . . suppose this thing of Soudha's is more than a mere embezzlement scheme. Maybe they were diverting all those Imperial funds to support a real research and development project, although nothing to do with Waste Heat Management. It may be a prejudice of my military background, but I keep thinking they might have been building a weapon. Some new variation on the gravitic imploder lance, I don't know." He gulped tea.

"I never had the impression that Soudha or any of the other Komarrans in the Terraforming Project were very military-minded. Quite the opposite."

"They needn't be, for an act of sabotage. Some grand stupid vile gesture—I keep worrying about Gregor's wedding coming up."

"Soudha isn't grandiose," said Ekaterin slowly. "Nor vile, particularly." She didn't doubt that Tien's death had been unintended.

"Nor stupid." Vorkosigan sighed regretfully. "I merely suggest that timetable to make myself nervous. Keeps me awake. But suppose it was a weapon. Did they perhaps attack that ore ship, as a test? Vile enough. Did their smoke test go very wrong? Was the subsequent damage to the mirror accidental, or deliberate? Or was it the other way around? The condition of Radovas's body suggests something backfired. A falling-out among thieves? Anyway, to anchor this spate of speculation to some sort of physical fact, I plan to get a list of every piece of equipment Soudha bought for his department, subtract from it everything they left there, and produce a parts list for their secret weapon. At this point my brilliance fails, and I plan to dump it on your uncle."

"Oh!" said Ekaterin. "He'll like that. He'll growl at you."

"Is that a good sign?"


"Hm. So, positing a secret-weapon sabotage-attack . . . how close are they to success? I keep coming back—sorry—to Foscol's odd behavior in providing that data packet of evidence against Tien. It seems to proclaim: it doesn't matter if the Komarrans are incriminated, because—fill in the blank. Because why? Because they will not be here to suffer the consequences? That suggests flight, which runs counter to the weapon hypothesis, which requires that they linger to use it."

"Or that they believed you would not be here to inflict the consequences," said Ekaterin. Had they meant Vorkosigan to die, too? Or … what?

"Oh, nice. That's reassuring." He bit rather aggressively into the last of his sandwich.

She rested her chin on her hand and regarded him with wry curiosity. "Does ImpSec know you babble like this?"

"Only when I'm very tired. Besides, I like to think out loud. It slows it down so I can get a good look at it. It gives you some idea of what living in my head is like. I admit, very few people can stand to listen at length." He shot her an odd sideways look. Indeed, whenever his animation slowed—which was not often—a gray weariness flashed underneath. "Anyway, you encouraged me. You sang Hmm."

She stared in amused indignation and refused to rise to the bait.

"Sorry," he said in a smaller voice. "I think I'm a little disoriented just now." He gave her an apologetic grimace. "I actually came back here to rest. Is that not sensible of me? I must be getting old."

Both their lives were out of phase with their chronological ages, Ekaterin realized bemusedly. She now possessed the education of a child and the status of a dowager. Vorkosigan . . . was young for his post, to be sure. But this whole posthumous second life of his was surely as old as you could be at any age. "Time is out of joint," she murmured; he looked up sharply, and seemed about to speak.

Voices from the vestibule interrupted whatever he'd been about to say. Ekaterin's head turned. "Tuomonen, so soon?"

"Do you want to put this off?" Vorkosigan asked her.

She shook her head. "No. I want to get it over with. I want to go get Nikki."

"Ah." He drained his tea mug and rose, and they both went out to her living room. It was indeed Captain Tuomonen. He nodded to Vorkosigan, and greeted her politely. He had brought a female medtech with him, in the uniform of the Barrayaran military medical auxiliary, whom he also introduced. She carried a medkit, which she placed on the round table and opened. Ampoules and hyposprays glittered in their gel slots. Other first-aid supplies hinted at more sinister possibilities.

Tuomonen indicated Ekaterin should sit on the circular couch. "Are you ready, Madame Vorsoisson?"

"I suppose so." Ekaterin watched with concealed fear and some loathing as the medtech loaded her hypospray and showed it to Tuomonen to cross-check.

The medtech laid a second hypospray out at the ready, and pulled a small, burr-like patch off a plastic strip. "Would you hold out your wrist, Madame?"

Ekaterin did so; the woman pressed the allergy test patch firmly against her skin, then peeled it up again. She continued to hold Ekaterin's wrist while she marked time on her chrono. Her fingers were dry and cold.

Tuomonen dispatched the two guards to the perimeter, namely the hallway and the balcony, and set up a vid recorder on a tripod. He then turned to Vorkosigan, and with a rather odd emphasis, said, "May I remind you, Lord Vorkosigan, that more than one questioner can create unnecessary confusion in a fast-penta interrogation."

Vorkosigan gave him an acknowledging hand wave. "Quite. I know the drill. Go ahead, Captain."

Tuomonen glanced at the medtech, who stared closely at Ekaterin's wrist, then released it. "She's clear," the woman reported.

"Proceed, please."

At the medtech's direction, Ekaterin rolled up her sleeve. The hypospray hissed against her skin with a cold bite.

Count backwards slowly from ten," Tuomonen told her.

"Ten," Ekaterin said obediently. "Nine . . . eight . . . seven . . ."


Two … one …" Ekaterin's voice, almost inaudible at first, grew more firm as she counted down.

Miles thought he could almost mark Ekaterin's heartbeats, as the drug flooded her system. Her tightly clenched hands loosened in her lap. Tension in her face, neck, shoulders, and body melted away like snow in the sun. Her eyes widened and brightened, her pale cheeks flushed with soft color; her lips parted and curved, and she looked up at Miles, beyond Tuomonen, with an astonished sunny smile.

"Oh," she said, in a surprised voice. "It doesn't hurt."

"No, fast-penta doesn't hurt," said Tuomonen, in a level, reassuring tone.

That isn't what she means, Tuomonen. If a person lived in hurt like a mermaid in water, till hurt became as invisible as breath, its sudden removal—however artificial—must come as a stunning event. Miles breathed covert relief that Ekaterin apparently wasn't going to be a giggler or a drooler, nor was she one of the occasional unfortunates in whom the drug released a torrent of verbal obscenities, or an almost equally embarrassing torrent of tears.

No. The kicker here is going to be when we take it away again. The realization chilled him. But my God, isn't she beautiful when she is not in pain? Her open, smiling warmth looked strangely familiar to him, and he tried to remember just when he'd seen that sweet air about her before. Not today, not yesterday . . .

It was in your dream.


He sat back and rested his chin in his hand, fingers across his mouth, as Tuomonen started down the list of standard neutral questions: name, birth date, parents' names, the usual. The purpose was not only to give the drug time to take full effect, but also to set up a rhythm of question-and-answer which would help carry the interrogation along when the questions, and answers, became more difficult. Ekaterin's birthday was just three weeks before his own, Miles noted in passing, but the War of Vordarian's Pretendership, which had so disrupted their mutual birth year in the regions around Vorbarr Sultana, had scarcely touched the South Continent.

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