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Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER TWO

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"Leave that," said Lord Vorkosigan more sharply. "Please." And then, in more of a rush, stuttering in his shivering, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I c-couldn't b-break the chains. Hell, he couldn't either, and he's s-stronger than I am. … I thought I c-could break my hand and get it out, but I couldn't. I'm sorry. …"

"You need to come inside, where it's warm. Here." She helped pull him to his feet; with a last look over his shoulder at Tien, he suffered himself to be led, hunched over, leaning on her and lurching on his unsteady legs.

She led him through the airlock into the office building, and guided him to an upholstered chair in the lobby. He more fell than sat in it. He shivered violently. "B-b-button," he muttered to her, holding up his hands like paralyzed paws toward her.

"What?"

"Little button on the s-side of wrist-comm. Press it!"

She did so; he sighed and relaxed against the seat back. His stiff hands yanked at his breath mask; she helped him pull it off over his head, and pulled down her own mask.

"God I am glad to get out of that thing. Alive. I th-thought I was gonna have a seizure out there. . . ."He rubbed his pale face, scrubbing at the red pressure-lines engraved in the skin from the edges of the mask. "And it itched." Ekaterin spotted the control on a nearby wall and hastily tapped in an increase of the lobby's temperature. She was shivering too, though not from the cold, in suppressed shocky shudders.

"Lord Vorkosigan?" Captain Tuomonen's anxious voice issued thinly from the wrist com. "What's going on? Where the hell are you?!"

Vorkosigan lifted his wrist toward his mouth. "Waste Heat experiment station. Get out here. I need you."

"What are you– Should I bring a squad?"

"Don't need guns now, I don't think. You'll need forensics, though. And a medical team."

"Are you injured, my lord?" Tuomonen's voice grew sharp with panic.

"Not to speak of," he said, apparently oblivious to the blood still leaking from his wrists. "Administrator Vorsoisson is dead, though."

"What the hell—you didn't check in with me before you left the dome, dammit! What the hell is going on out there?!"

"We can discuss my failings at length, later. Carry on, Captain. Vorkosigan out." He let his arm fall, wearily. His shivering was lessening, now. He leaned his head back against the upholstery; the dark smudges of exhaustion under his eyes looked like bruises. He stared sadly at Ekaterin. "I am sorry, Madame Vorsoisson. There was nothing I could do."

"I would scarcely think so!"

He looked around, squinting, and added abruptly, "Power plant!"

"What about it?" asked Ekaterin.

"Gotta check before the troops arrive. I spent a lot of time wondering if it might have been sabotaged, when I was tied up out there."

His legs were still not working right. He almost fell over again as he tried to turn on his heel; she rose and just caught him, under his elbow.

"Good," he said vaguely to her, and pointed. "That way."

She was evidently drafted as support. He hobbled off in determination, clinging to her arm without apology. The forced action actually helped her to recover, if not calm, a sort of tenuous physical coherence; her shudders damped out, and her incipient nausea passed, leaving her belly feeling hot and odd. Another pedestrian tube led down to the power plant, next to the river. The river was the largest in the Sector, and the proximate reason for siting the experiment station here. By Barrayaran standards it would have been called a creek. Vorkosigan barged awkwardly around the power plant's control room, examining panels and readouts. "Nothing looks abnormal," he muttered. "I wonder why they didn't set it to self-destruct? I would have. . . ." He fell into a station chair. She pulled up another one, and sat opposite him, watching him fearfully. "What happened!"

"I—we came out, Tien brought me out here—how the devil did you come here?"

"Lena Foscol called me at home, and told me Tien wanted a ride. She almost didn't catch me. I'd been about to leave. She didn't even tell me you were out here. You might still be . . ."

"No . . . no, I'm almost certain she'd have made some other arrangement, if she'd missed you altogether." He sat up straighter, or tried to. "What time is it now?"

"A little before 2100."

"I … would have guessed it was much later. They stunned us, you see. I don't know how long . . . What time did she call you?"

"It was just after 1900 hours."

His eyes squeezed shut, then opened again. "It was too late. It was already too late by then, do you understand?" he asked urgently. His hand jerked toward hers, on her knee as she leaned toward him to catch his hoarse words, but then fell back.

"No …"

"There was something questionable going on in the Waste Heat department. Your husband brought me out here to show me—well, I don't quite know what he thought he was going to show me, but we ran headlong into Soudha and his accomplices in the process of decamping. Soudha got the drop on me—stunned us both. I came to, chained to that railing out there. I don't think—I don't know. … I don't think they meant to kill your husband. He hadn't checked his breath mask, y'see. His reservoirs were almost empty. The Komarrans didn't check it either, before they left us. I didn't know, no one did."

"Komarrans wouldn't," Ekaterin said woodenly. "Their mask-check procedures are ingrained by the time they're three years old. They'd never imagine an adult would go outside the dome with deficient equipment." Her hands clenched, in her lap. She could picture Tien's death now.

"It was . . . quick," Vorkosigan offered. "At least that."

It was not. Neither quick nor clean. "Please do not lie to me. Please do not ever lie to me."

"All right …" he said slowly. "But I don't think … I don't think it was murder. To set up that scene, and then call you . . ."He shook his head. "Manslaughter at most. Death by misadventure."

"Death from stupidity," she said bitterly. "Consistent to the end."

He glanced up at her, his eyes not so much startled as aware, and questioning. "Ah?"

"Lord Auditor Vorkosigan." She swallowed; her throat was so tight it felt like a muscle spasm. The silence in the building, and outside, was eerie in its emptiness. She and Vorkosigan might as well have been the only two people left alive on the planet. "You should know, when I said Foscol called as I was leaving … I was leaving. Leaving Tien. I'd told him so, when he came home from the department tonight, and just before he went back, I suppose, to get you. What did he do?"

He took this in without much response at first, as if thinking it over. "All right," he echoed himself softly at last. He glanced across at her. "Basically, he came in babbling about some embezzlement scheme which had been going on in Waste Heat Management, apparently for quite some time. He sounded me out about declaring him an Imperial Witness, which he seemed to think would save him from prosecution. It's not quite that simple. I didn't commit myself."

"Tien would hear what he wanted to hear," she said softly.

"I … so I gathered." He hesitated, watching her face. "How long . . . what do you know about it?"

"And how long have I known it?" Ekaterin grimaced, and rubbed her face free of the lingering irritation of her own mask. "Not as long as I should have. Tien had been talking for months . . . You have to understand, he was irrationally afraid of anyone finding out about his Vorzohn's Dystrophy."

"I actually do understand that," he offered tentatively.

"Yes . . . and no. It's Tien's older brother's fault, in part. I've cursed the man for years. When his symptoms began, he took the Old Vor way out and crashed his lightflyer. It made an impression on Tien he never shook off. Set an impossible example. We'd had no idea his family carried the mutation, till Tien, who was his brother's executor, was going through the records and effects, and we realized both that the accident was deliberate, and why. It was just after Nikki was born …"

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