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Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER EIGHT

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She smiled happily, by which Miles deduced her department's responsibilities were going well this year. "Yes, my lords. We've a number of higher forms of vegetation coming along both in major test plots, and undergoing genetic development or improvement. By far our greatest success is with the cold– and carbon-dioxide-hardy peat bogs. They do require liquid water, and as always, would do better at higher temperatures. Ideally, they should be sited in subduction zones, for really long-term carbon sequestration, but Serifosa Sector lacks these. So we've chosen low-lying areas which will, as water is released from the poles, eventually be covered with lakes and small seas, locking the captured carbon down under a sedimentary cap. Properly set up, the process will run entirely automatically, without further human intervention. If we could just get the funding to double or triple the area of our plantations in the next few years . . . well, here are my projections." Vorthys collected another data disk. "We've started several test plots of larger plants, to follow atop the bogs. These larger organisms are of course infinitely more controllable than the rapidly mutating microflora. They are ready to scale up to wider plantations right now. But they are even more severely threatened by the reduction in heat and light from the soletta. We really must have a reliable estimate of how long it will take to effect repairs in space before we dare continue our planting plans."

She gazed longingly at Vorthys, but he merely said, "Thank you, Madame."

"We plan a flyover of the peat plantations later this afternoon," Vorsoisson told her. She settled back, temporarily content.

And so it continued around the table: more than Miles had ever wanted to know about Komarran terraforming, interspersed with oblique, and not so oblique, pleas for increased Imperial funding. And heat and light. Power corrupts, but we want energy. Only Accounting and Waste Heat Management had managed to arrive at the meeting with duplicate copies of their pertinent reports for Miles. He stifled an impulse to point this out to somebody. Did he really want another several hundred thousand words of bedtime reading? His newer scars were starting to twinge by the time everyone had had their say, without even yesterday's excuse of the physical stresses of buzzing around wreckage in a pressure suit. He rose from his chair much more stiffly than he had intended; Vorthys made a gesture of a helping hand to his elbow, but at Miles's frown and tiny head shake, suppressed it. He didn't really need a drink, he just wanted one.

"Ah, Administrator Soudha," Vorthys said, as the Waste Heat department head stepped past them toward the door. "A word, please?"

Soudha stopped, and smiled faintly. "My Lord Auditor?"

"Was there some special reason you could not help that young fellow, Farr, find his missing lady?"

Soudha hesitated. "I beg your pardon?"

"The fellow who was looking for your former employee, Marie Trogir, I believe he said her name was. Was there some reason you could not help him?"

"Oh, him. Her. Well, uh . . . that was a difficult thing, there." Soudha looked around, but the room had emptied, except for Vorsoisson and Venier waiting to convey their high-ranking guests on the next leg of their tour.

"I recommended he file a missing person complaint with Dome Security. They may be making inquiries of you."

"I … don't think I'll be able to help them any more than I could help Farr. I'm afraid I really don't know where she is. She left, you see. Very suddenly, only a day's notice. It put a hole in my staffing at what has proved to be a difficult time. I wasn't too pleased."

"So Farr said. I just thought it was odd about the cats. One of my daughters keeps cats. Dreadful little parasites, but she's very fond of them."

"Cats?" said Soudha, looking increasingly mystified.

"Trogir apparently left her cats in the keeping of Farr."

Soudha blinked, but said, "I've always considered it out of line to intrude on my subordinate's personal lives. Men or pets, it was Trogir's business, not mine. As long as they're kept off project time. I … was there anything else?"

"Not really," said Vorthys.

"Then if you will excuse me, my Lord Auditor." Soudha smiled again, and ducked away.

"What was that all about?" Miles asked Vorthys as they turned down the corridor in the opposite direction.

Vorsoisson answered. "A minor office scandal, unfortunately. One of Soudha's techs—female—ran off with one of his engineers, male. Completely blindsided him, apparently. He's fairly embarrassed about it. However did you run across it?"

"Young Farr accosted Ekaterin in a restaurant," said Vorthys.

"He really has been a pest." Vorsoisson sighed. "I don't blame Soudha for avoiding him."

"I always thought Komarrans were more casual about such things," said Miles. "In the galactic style and all that. Not as casual as the Betans, but still. It sounds like a Barrayaran backcountry elopement." Without, surely, the need to avoid backcountry social pressures, such as homicidal relatives out to defend the clan honor.

Vorsoisson shrugged. "The cultural contamination between the worlds can't run one way all the time, I suppose."

The little party continued to the underground garage, where the aircar Vorsoisson had requisitioned was not in evidence. "Wait here, Venier." Swearing under his breath, Vorsoisson went off to see what had happened to it; Vorthys accompanied him.

The opportunity to interview a Komarran in apparently-casual mode was not to be missed. What kind of Komarran was Venier? Miles turned to him, only to find him speaking first: "Is this your first visit to Komarr, Lord Vorkosigan?"

"By no means. I've passed through the topside stations many times. I haven't got downside too often, I admit. This is the first time I've been to Serifosa."

"Have you ever visited Solstice?"

The planetary capital. "Of course."

Venier stared at the middle distance, past the concrete pillars and dim lighting, and smiled faintly. "Have you ever visited the Massacre Shrine there?"

A cheeky damned Komarran, that's what kind. The Solstice Massacre was infamous as the ugliest incident of the Barrayaran conquest. The two hundred Komarran Counselors, the then-ruling senate, had surrendered on terms—and subsequently been gunned down in a gymnasium by Barrayaran security forces. The political consequences had run a short range from dire to disastrous. Miles's smile became a little fixed. "Of course. How could I not?"

"All Barrayarans should make that pilgrimage. In my opinion."

"I went with a close friend. To help him burn a death offering for his aunt."

"A relative of a Martyr is a friend of yours?" Venier's eyes widened in a moment of genuine surprise, in what otherwise felt to Miles to be a highly choreographed conversation. How long had Venier been rehearsing his lines in his head, itching for a chance to try them out?

"Yes." Miles let his gaze become more directly challenging.

Venier apparently felt the weight of it, because he shifted uneasily, and said, "As you are your father's son, I'm just a little surprised, is all."

By what, that I have any Komarran friends? "Especially as I am my father's son, you should not be."

Venier's brows tweaked up. "Well . . . there is a theory that the massacre was ordered by Emperor Ezar without the knowledge of Admiral Vorkosigan. Ezar was certainly ruthless enough."

"Ruthless enough, yes. Stupid enough, never. It was the Barrayaran expedition's chief Political Officer's own bright idea, for which my father made him pay with his life, not that that did much good for anyone after the fact. Leaving aside every moral consideration, the massacre was a supremely stupid act. My father has been accused of many things, but stupidity has never, I believe, been one of them." His voice was growing dangerously clipped.

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