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Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER SEVEN

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"Can you be a genius part of the time?"

"All the geniuses I ever met were so just part of the time. To qualify, you only have to be great once, you know. Once when it matters. Ah, dessert. My, this is splendid!" He applied himself happily to a large chocolate confection with whipped cream and more pecans.

She wanted personal data, but she kept getting career synopses. She would have to take a more embarrassingly direct path. While arranging her first spoonful of her spiced apple tart and ice cream, she finally worked up her nerve to ask, "Is he married?"

"No."

"That surprises me." Or did it? "He's high Vor, heavens, the highest—he'll be a District Count someday, won't he? He's wealthy, or so I would assume, he has an important position …" She trailed off. What did she want to say? What's wrong with him that he hasn't acquired his own lady by now? What kind of genetic damage made him like that, and was it from his mother or his father? Is he impotent, is he sterile, what does he really look like under those expensive clothes? Is he hiding more serious deformities? Is he homosexual? Would it be safe to leave Nikolai alone with him? She couldn't say any of that, and her oblique hints weren't eliciting anything even close to the answers she sought. Drat it, she wouldn't have had this kind of trouble getting the pertinent information if she'd been talking to the Professora.

"He's been out of the Empire most of the past decade," he said, as if that explained something.

"Does he have siblings?" Normal brothers or sisters?

"No."

That's a bad sign.

"Oh, I take that back," Uncle Vorthys added. "Not in the usual sense, I should say. He has a clone. Doesn't look like him, though."

"That—if he's a—I don't understand."

"You'll have to get Vorkosigan to explain it to you, if you're curious. It's complicated even by his standards. I haven't met the fellow myself yet." Around a mouthful of chocolate and cream, he added, "Speaking of siblings, were you planning any more for Nikolai? Your family is going to be very stretched out, if you wait much longer."

She smiled in panic. Dare she tell him? Tien's accusation of betrayal seared her memory, but she was so tired, exhausted, sick to death of the stupid secrecy. If only her aunt were here . . .

She was dully conscious of her contraceptive implant, the one bit of galactic techno-culture Tien had embraced without question. It gave her a galactic's sterility without a galactic's freedom. Modern women gladly traded the deadly lottery of fertility for the certainties of health and result that came with the use of the uterine replicator, but Tien's obsession with concealment had barred her from that reward too. Even if he was somatically cured, his germ-cells would not be, and any progeny would still have to be genetically screened. Did he mean to cut off all future children? When she'd tried to discuss the issue, he'd put her off with an airy, First things first; when she'd persisted, he'd become angry, accusing her of nagging and selfishness. That was always effective at shutting her up.

She skittered sideways to her uncle's question. "We've moved around so much. I kept waiting for things to get settled with Tien's career."

"He does seem to have been rather, ah, restless." He raised his eyebrows at her, inviting . . . what?

"I … won't pretend that hasn't been difficult." That was true enough. Thirteen different jobs in a decade. Was this normal for a rising bureaucrat? Tien said it was a necessity, no bosses ever promoted from within or raised a former subordinate above them; you had to go around to move up. "We've moved eight times. I've abandoned six gardens, so far. The last two relocations, I just didn't plant anything except in pots. And then I had to leave most of the pots, when we came here."

Maybe Tien would stay with this Komarran post. How could he ever garner the rewards of promotion and seniority, the status he hungered for, if he never stuck with one thing long enough to earn any? His first few postings, she'd had to agree with him, had been mediocre; she'd had no problem understanding why he wanted to move on quickly. A young couple's early life was supposed to be unsettled, as they stretched into their new lives as adults. Well, as she'd stretched into hers; she'd been only twenty, after all. Tien had been thirty when they'd married. . . .

He'd started every new job with a burst of enthusiasm, working hard, or at least, very long hours. Surely no one could work harder. Then the enthusiasm dwindled, and the complaints began, of too much work, too little reward, offered too slowly. Lazy coworkers, smarmy bosses. At least, so he said. That had become her secret danger signal, when Tien began offering sly sexual slander of his superiors; it meant the job was about to end, again. A new one would be found . . . though it seemed to take longer and longer to find a new one, these days. And his enthusiasm would flame up again, and the cycle would begin anew. But her hypersensitized ear had picked up no bad signs so far in this job, and they'd been here nearly a year already. Maybe Tien had finally found his– what had Vorkosigan called it? His passion. This was the best posting he'd ever achieved; perhaps things were finally starting to break into good fortune, for a change. If she just stuck it out long enough, it would get better, virtue would be rewarded. And . . . with this Vorzohn's Dystrophy thing hanging over them, Tien had good reason for impatience. His time was not unlimited.

And yours is? She blinked that thought away.

"Your aunt was not sure if things were working out happily for you. Do you dislike Komarr?"

"Oh, I like Komarr just fine," she said quickly. "I admit, I've been a little homesick, but that's not the same thing as not liking being here."

"She did think you would seize the opportunity to place Nikki in a Komarran school, for the, as she would say, cultural experience. Not that his school we saw this morning isn't very nice, of course, which I shall report back for her reassurance, I promise."

"I was tempted. But being a Barrayaran, an off-worlder, in a Komarran classroom might have been difficult for Nikki. You know how kids can gang up on anyone who's different, at that age. Tien thought this private school would be much better. A lot of the high Vor families in the Sector send their children there. He thought Nikki could make good connections."

"I did not have the impression that Nikki was socially ambitious." His dryness was mitigated by a slight twinkle.

How was she to respond to that? Defend a choice she did not herself agree with? Admit she thought Tien wrong? If she once began complaining about Tien, she wasn't sure she could stop before her most fearful worries began to pour out. And people complaining about their spouses always looked and sounded so ugly. "Well, connections for me, at least." Not that she had been able to muster the energy to pursue them as assiduously as Tien thought she ought.

"Ah. It's good you're making friends."

"Yes, well . . . yes." She scraped at the last of the apple syrup on her plate.

When she looked up, she noticed a good-looking young Komarran man who had stopped by the outer gate to the restaurant's patio and was staring at her. After a moment, he entered and approached their table. "Madame Vorsoisson?" he said uncertainly.

"Yes?" she said warily.

"Oh, good, I thought I recognized you. My name is Andro Farr. We met at the Winterfair reception for the Serifosa terraforming employees a few months ago, do you remember?"

Dimly. "Oh, yes. You were somebody's guest . . . ?"

"Yes. Marie Trogir. She's an engineering tech in the Waste Heat Management department. Or she was. … Do you know her? I mean, has she ever talked with you?"

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