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Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER TEN

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Vorkosigan's eyes became notably more intent. "Oh? Why?"

"Mm. Take Point A as all things a moment before the accident—intact ship on course, soletta passively sitting in its orbital slot. Take Point B to be some time after the accident, parts of all masses scattering off in all directions at all speeds. By good old classical physics, B must equal A plus X, X being whatever forces—or masses—were added during the accident.

We know A, pretty much, and the more of B we collect, the more we narrow down the possibilities for X. We're still missing some control systems, but the topside boys have by now retrieved most of the initial mass of the system of ship-plus-mirror. By the partial accounting done so far, X is … very large and has a very strange shape."

"Depending on when and how the engines blew, the explosion could have added a pretty damned big kick," said Vorkosigan.

"It's not the magnitudes of the missing forces that are so puzzling, it's their direction. Fragments of anything given a kick in free fall generally travel in a straight line, taking into account local gravities of course."

"And the ore ship pieces didn't?" Vorkosigan's brows rose. "So what do you have in mind for an outside force?"

Uncle Vorthys pursed his lips. "I'm going to have to contemplate this for a while. Play around with the numbers and the visual projections. My brain is getting too old, I think."

"What's the … the shape of the force, then, that makes it so strange?" asked Ekaterin, following all this with deep interest.

Uncle Vorthys set his cup down and placed his hands side by side, half open. "It's … a typical mass in space creates a gravitational well, a funnel if you will. This looks more like a trough."

"Running from the ore ship to the mirror?" asked Ekaterin, trying to picture this.

"No," said Uncle Vorthys. "Running from that nearby worm-hole jump point to the mirror. Or vice versa."

"And the ore ship, ah, fell in?" said Vorkosigan. He looked momentarily as baffled as Ekaterin felt.

Uncle Vorthys did not look much better. "I should not like to say so in public, that's certain."

Vorkosigan asked, "A gravitational force? Or maybe … a gravitic imploder lance?"

"Eh," said Uncle Vorthys neutrally. "It's certainly not like the force map of any imploder lance I've ever seen. Ah, well." He picked up his coffee, and prepared to depart for his comconsole again.

"We were just planning an outing," said Ekaterin. "Would you like to see some more of Serifosa? Pick up a present for the Professora?"

"I would, but I think it's my turn to stay in and read this morning," said her uncle. "You two go and have a good time. Though if you do see anything you think would please your aunt, I'd be extremely grateful if you'd purchase it, and I'll reimburse you."

"All right . . ." Go out with Vorkosigan alone? She'd assumed she would have her uncle along as chaperone. Still, if they stayed in public places, it should be enough to assuage any incipient suspicion on Tien's part. Not that Tien seemed to see Vorkosigan as any sort of threat, oddly. "You didn't need to see any more of Tien's department, did you?" Oh, dear, she hadn't phrased that well—what if he said yes?

"I haven't even reviewed their first stack of reports yet." Her uncle sighed. "Perhaps you'd care to take those on, Miles . . . ?"

"Yeah, I'll have a go at them." His eyes flicked up to Ekaterin's anxious face. "Later. When we get back."

Ekaterin led Lord Vorkosigan across the domed park that fronted her apartment building, heading for the nearest bubble-car station. His legs might be short, but his steps were quick, and she found she did not have to moderate her pace; if anything, she needed to lengthen her stride. That stiffness which she had seen impede his motion seemed to be something that came and went over the course of the day. His gaze, too, was quick, as he looked all around. At one point he even turned and walked backward a moment, studying something that had caught his eye.

"Is there anyplace in particular you would like to go?" she asked him.

"I don't know a great deal about Serifosa. I throw myself on your mercy, Madame, as my native guide. The last time I went shopping in any major way, it was for military ordnance."

She laughed. "That's very different."

"It's not as different as you might think. For the really high-ticket items they send sales engineers halfway across the galaxy to wait upon you. It's exactly the way my Aunt Vorpatril shops for clothes—in her case, come to think of it, also high-ticket items. The couturiers send their minions to her. I've become fond of minions, in my old age."

His old age was no more than thirty, she decided. A new-minted thirty much like her own, still worn uncomfortably. "And is that the way your mother the Countess shops, too?" How had his mother dealt with the fact of his mutations? Rather well, judging from the results.

"Mother just buys whatever Aunt Vorpatril tells her to. I've always had the impression she'd be happier in her old Betan Astronomical Survey fatigues."

The famous Countess Cordelia Vorkosigan was a galactic expatriate, of the most galactic possible sort, a Betan from Beta Colony. Progressive, high-tech, glittering Beta Colony, or corrupt, dangerous, sinister Beta Colony, take your pick of political views. No wonder Lord Vorkosigan seemed tinged with a faint galactic air; he literally was half galactic. "Have you ever been to Beta Colony? Is it as sophisticated as they say?"

"Yes. And no."

They arrived at the bubble-car platform, and she led them to the fourth car in line, partly because it was empty and partly to give herself an extra few seconds to select their destination. Quite automatically, Lord Vorkosigan hit the switch to close and seal the bubble canopy as soon as they'd settled into the front seat. He was either accustomed to his privacy, or just hadn't yet encountered the "Share the Ride" campaign now going on in Serifosa Dome. In any case, she was glad not to be bottled up with any Komarran strangers this trip.

Komarr had been a galactic trade crossroads for centuries, and the bazaar of the Barrayaran Empire for decades; even a relative backwater like Serifosa offered an abundance of wares at least equal to Vorbarr Sultana. She pursed her lips, then slotted in her credit chit and punched up the Shuttleport Locks District as their destination on the bubble-car's control panel. After a moment, they bumped into the tube and began to accelerate. The acceleration was slow, not a good sign.

"I believe I've seen your mother a few times on the holovid," she offered after a moment. "Sitting next to your father on reviewing platforms and the like. Mostly some years ago, when he was still Regent. Does it seem strange . . . does it give you a very different view of your parents, to see them on vid?"

"No," he said. "It gives me a very different view of holovids."

The bubble-car swung into a walled darkness lit by side-strips, flickering past the eye, then broke abruptly into sunlight, arching toward the next air-sealed complex. Halfway up the arc, they slowed still further; ahead of them, in the tube, Ekaterin could see other bubble-cars bunching to a crawl, like pearls on a string. "Oh, dear, I was afraid of that. Looks like we're caught in a blockage."

Vorkosigan craned his neck. "An accident?"

"No, the system's just overloaded. At certain times of day on certain routes, you can get held up from twenty to forty minutes. They're having a local political argument over the bubble-car system funding right now. One group wants to shorten the safety margins between cars and increase speeds.

Another one wants to build more routes. Another one wants to ration access."

His eyes lit with amusement. "Ah, yes, I understand. And how many years has this argument been ongoing without issue?"

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