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Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER THREE

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"This is not how I left my things," Vorkosigan observed mildly to her when they fetched up in the vestibule again after their first short survey.

"It's not how I left them either," she said a bit desperately. "I thought you would be coming back with Tien, and then leaving, so I'd packed them all for you, ready to take away."

"Touch nothing, especially the comconsoles, till the forensics folks get here," Vorkosigan told her. She nodded understanding. They both shucked their heavy jackets; automatically, Ekaterin hung them up.

Vorkosigan then proceeded to ignore his own dictate, and kneel in the vestibule to sort through the heaps. "Did you pack my code-locked data case?"

"Yes."

"It's gone now." He sighed, rose, and raised his wrist-comm to report these new developments to Captain Tuomonen, still at the experiment station. The overburdened Tuomonen, apprised, swore briefly and ordered his soldier to stick with the Lord Auditor like glue until relieved. For once, Vorkosigan didn't object.

Vorkosigan returned to the mess, turning over an untidy pile of Ekaterin's clothing. "Ha!" he cried, and pounced on the gel-pack case which contained that odd device. He opened it hurriedly, his hands shaking a little. "Thank God they didn't take this." He looked up at her, measuringly. "Madame Vorsoisson …" his normally forceful tone grew uncertain. "I wonder if I could trouble you to … assist me in this."

She almost said Yes, without thinking, but managed to alter the word to "What?" before it left her mouth.

He smiled tightly. "I mentioned my seizure disorder to you. It doesn't have a cure, unfortunately. But my Barrayaran doctors came up with a palliative, of sorts. I use this little machine to stimulate seizures, bleed them off in a controlled time and place, so they don't happen in an uncontrolled time and place. They tend to be exacerbated by stress." By his grimace, she could see him picturing the cold walkway on the backside of the Engineering building. "I suspect I'm now overdue. I would like to get it over with at once."

"I understand. But what do I do?"

"I'm supposed to have a spotter. To see I don't spit out my mouth guard, or, or injure myself or damage anything while I'm out. There shouldn't be much to it."

"All right …"

Under the dubious eye of the ImpSec guard, she followed him to the living room. He headed for the curved couch. "If you lie on the floor," Ekaterin suggested diffidently, still not sure how spectacular a show to expect, "you can't fall any further."

"Ah. Right." He settled himself on the carpet, the case open in his hand. She made sure the space around them was clear, and knelt beside him.

He unfolded the device, which resembled a set of headphones with a pad on one end and a mysterious knob on the other. He fitted it over his head and adjusted it to his temples. He smiled at Ekaterin in what she belatedly realized was extreme embarrassment, and muttered, "I'm afraid this looks a little stupid," fitted a plastic mouthguard onto his teeth, and lay back.

"Wait," said Ekaterin suddenly as his hand reached for his temple.

"Wha'?"

"Could . . . whoever came in here have tampered with that thing? Maybe it ought to be checked first."

His wide eyes met hers; as certainly as if she had been telepathic, she knew she shared with him at that moment a vision of his head being blown off at the touch of his hand on the stimulator's trigger. He ripped it back off his head, sat up, spat out his mouthguard, and cried, "Shit!" He added after a moment, in a tone level but about half an octave higher than his norm, "You're quite right. Thank you. I wasn't thinking. I made . . . many cosmic promises, that if I made it back here, I'd do this first thing, and never never never put it off just one extra day again." Hyperventilating, he stared in consternation at the device clutched in his hand.

Then his eyes rolled up, and he fell over backwards. Ekaterin caught his head just before it banged into the carpet. His lips were drawn back in a strange grin. His body shuddered, in waves passing down to his toes and fingertips, but he did not flail wildly about as she'd half-expected. The guard hovered, looking panicked. She rescued the mouth guard, and fitted it back over his teeth, not as difficult a task as it at first appeared; despite an impression to that effect, he was not rigid.

She sat back on her heels, and stared. Triggered by stress. Yes. I see. His face was . . . altered, his personality clearly not present but in a way that resembled neither sleep nor death. It seemed terribly rude to watch him so, in all his vulnerability; courtesy urged her to look away. But he had explicitly appointed her to this task.

She checked her chrono. About five minutes, he'd said these things lasted. It seemed a small eternity, but was in fact less than three minutes when his body stilled. He lay slumped in alarmingly flaccid unconsciousness for another minute beyond that, then drew in a shuddering breath. His eyes opened and stared about in palpable incomprehension. At least his dilated pupils were the same size.

"Sorry. Sorry . . ."he muttered inanely. "Didn't mean to do that." He lay staring upward, his eyebrows crooked. He added after a moment, "What does it look like, anyway?"

"Really strange," Ekaterin answered him honestly. "I like your face better when you're at home in your head." She had not realized how powerfully his personality enlivened his features, or how subtly, until she'd seen it removed.

"I like my head better when I'm at home in it, too," he breathed. He squeezed his eyes shut, and opened them again. "I'll get out of your way now." His hands twitched, and he tried to sit up.

Ekaterin didn't think he ought to be trying to do anything yet. She pressed him firmly back down with a hand on his chest. "Don't you dare take away that guard till my door gets fixed." Not that its expensive electronic lock had appeared to do the least good.

"Oh. No, of course not," he said faintly.

It was abundantly apparent that Vorkosigan's implicit claim that he bounced back out of his seizures with no ill effects was a, well, if not a lie, a gross exaggeration. He looked terrible.

She raised her gaze to catch that of the disturbed guard. "Corporal. Would you please help me to get Lord Vorkosigan to bed until he is more recovered. Or at least until your people arrive."

"Sure, ma'am." He seemed relieved to have this direction provided for him, and helped her pull Vorkosigan to his unsteady feet.

Ekaterin made a lightning calculation. Nikki's bed was the only one instantly available, and his room had no comconsole. If Vorkosigan went to sleep, which he obviously desperately needed to do after this night's ordeal, there was a chance he might be let to stay that way even when the ImpSec forensic invasion arrived. "This way," she nodded to the guard, and led them down the hall.

The incoherence of Vorkosigan's mumbled protests assured Ekaterin that she was doing precisely the right thing. He was shivering again. She helped him off with his tunic, made him lie down, dragged off his boots, covered him with extra blankets, turned the room's heat up to high, doused the lights, and withdrew.

There was no one to put her to bed, but she did not care to attempt conversation with the guard, who took up station in her living room to wait for his overextended reinforcements. Her whole body felt as though it had been beaten. She took some painkillers and lay down fully dressed in her own bedroom, a thousand uncertainties and conflicting scenarios for what she must do next jostling in her mind.

Tien's body, which had breathed beside her in this space last night, must be in the hands of the ImpSec medical examiner by now, laid out naked and still on a cold metal tray in some clinical laboratory here in Serifosa. She hoped they would treat his congealed husk with some measure of dignity, and not the nervous jocularity death sometimes evoked.

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