Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER NINETEEN

Probably not. But if Riva spoke straight, the process was not reversible; the wormhole, once collapsed, could not be reopened. The deed would be done, and no tears or prayers would undo it. Like an assassination. Soudha and his friends might imagine themselves as a new and more effective generation of Martyrs, content to be enshrined after death. They had seemed too practical, but who knew? One could be hypnotized by the hard choices in ways that had nothing to do with one's intelligence.

Yes. Miles now knew where the Komarrans were going, if they weren't there already. The civilian—or the military? No, the civilian transfer station which served the wormhole jump to Barrayar.

You just sent Ekaterin there. She's there now.

So was the Professora, and so were several thousand other innocent people, he reminded himself. He fought panic, to follow out his thread of thought to the end. Soudha might have a bolthole of some kind set up on the station, prepared perhaps months or years in advance. He would plan to set up his novel device, aim it at the wormhole, draw power from—where? If from the station, someone might notice. If they mounted it aboard a ship (and it had to have been on some kind of ship to get out there), they could draw ship's power. But traffic control and the Barrayaran military were unlikely to tolerate any ship hanging around the wormhole without a filed flight plan, from which it had better not deviate.

Ship, or station? He had insufficient data to decide. But if Soudha had not seriously modified his device, the plot which began with a bloodless plan to collapse the wormhole could end in the bloody chaos of a major disaster to the transfer station. Miles had seen space disasters on various scales. He didn't want to ever see another.

Miles could imagine a dozen different scenarios from the data they had in hand, but only this one gave him no time or room to be wrong. Go. He reached for the secured comconsole and punched up ImpSec Komarr HQ at Solstice.

"This is Lord Auditor Vorkosigan. Give me General Rathjens, immediately. It's an emergency."

Vorthys looked up from the long table. "What?"

"I've just figured out that if there's any action coming up, it's got to be at the transfer station by the Barrayar jump."

"But Miles—surely Soudha would not be so foolish as to try again, after his initial disaster!"

"I don't trust Soudha in any way. Have you heard from Ekaterin or your wife?"

"Yes, Ekaterin messaged when you were out getting your, ah, supplies. She'd reached her hostel safely and was off to meet the Professora."

"Did she leave a number?'

"Yes, it's on the comconsole—"

General Rathjen's face appeared above the vid-plate. "My Lord Auditor?"

"General. I have new data suggesting our escaped Komarrans are at or are heading for the Barrayar Transfer Station. I want a max-penetration ImpSec search-sweep for them on the station and aboard any in-bound traffic, to commence as quickly as possible. I want ImpSec courier transport for myself out to there as fast as you can scramble it. I'll give you the details once I'm en route. When all that's in motion, I want to send a tight-beam personal message to, um—" he did a quick search "—this number."

Rathjens's brows rose, but he said only, "Yes, my Lord Auditor. I'll be most interested in those details."

"Indeed you will. Thanks."

Rathjens's face vanished; in a few moments, the tight-beam link blinked its go-ahead.

"Ekaterin," Miles spoke rapidly and with all his will into the vid pickup, as if he might so speed the message. "Take the Professora and get yourselves aboard the first outbound transport you can find, any local space destination—Komarr orbit, one of the other stations, anywhere. We'll arrange to pick you both up later and get you home right and tight. Just get yourselves off the station, and go at once."

He hesitated over his closing; no, this was not the time or place to declare, I love you, no matter what dangers he imagined threatening her. By the time this message arrived, she might well be back in her hostel room, with the Professora listening over her shoulder. "Be careful. Vorkosigan out."

As Miles rose to go, Vorthys said doubtfully, "Do you think I should go with you?"

"No. I think you all should stay here and figure out what the hell happens when somebody tries to turn that infernal device off. And when you do, please tight-beam me the instructions."

Vorthys nodded. Miles gave the lot of them an ImpSec analyst's salute, which was a vague wave of the hand in the vicinity of one's forehead, turned, and strode for the door.


Ekaterin watched morosely as the sonic toilet ate her shoes with scarcely a burp.

"It was worth a try, dear," said Aunt Vorthys, glancing at her expression.

"There are too many fail-safe systems on this space station," Ekaterin said. "This worked for Nikki, on the jumpship coming out here. What an uproar there was. The ship's steward was so upset with us."

"My grandchildren could make short work of this, I'll bet," agreed the Professora. "It's too bad we don't have a few nine-year-olds with us."

"Yes," sighed Ekaterin. And no. That Nikki was safely back on Komarr right now was a source of liberating joy in some secret level of her mind. But there ought to be some way to sabotage a sonic toilet that would light up a station tech's board and bring an investigation. How to turn a sonic toilet into a weapon was just not in Ekaterin's job training. Vorkosigan probably knew how, she reflected bitterly. Just like a man, to be underfoot in her life for days and then a quarter of a solar system away when she really needed him.

For the tenth time, she felt the walls, tried the door, inventoried their clothes. Practically the only flammable item in the room was the women's hair. Setting a fire in a room in which one was locked did not much recommend itself to Ekaterin's mind, though it was a possible last resort. She stuck her hands in the wall slot and turned them, letting the sonic cleaner loosen the dirt, and the UV light bathe away the germs, and the air fan, presumably, whisk their little corpses away. She drew her hands out again. The engineers might swear the system was more effective, but it never made her feel as fresh is an old-fashioned water wash. And how were you supposed to put a baby's bottom in the thing? She glowered at the sanitizer. "If we had any kind of a tool at all, we ought to be able to dosomething with this."

"I had my Vorfemme knife," said the Professora sadly. "It was my best enameled one."


"It was in my boot-sheath. The boot I threw, I believe."


"You don't carry yours, these days?"

"Not on Komarr. I was trying to be, I don't know, modern." Her lips twisted. "I do wonder about the cultural message in the Vorfemme knife. I mean, yes, it made you better armed than the peasants, but never as well-armed as the two-sword men. Were the Vor lords afraid of their wives getting the drop on them?"

"Remembering my grandmother, it's possible," said the Professora.

"Mm. And my Great-Aunt Vorvayne." Ekaterin sighed, and glanced worriedly at her present aunt.

The Professora was leaning on the wall with one hand supporting her, looking still very pale and shaky. "If you are done with the attempted sabotage, I think I would like to sit down again."

"Yes, of course. It was a stupid idea anyway."

The Professora sank gratefully onto the only seat in the tiny lavatory, and Ekaterin took her turn leaning on the wall. "I am so sorry I dragged you into this. If you hadn't been with me . . . One of us must get away."

"If you see a chance, Ekaterin, take it. Don't wait for me."

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