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Книга Komarr. Содержание - CHAPTER FIFTEEN

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"I can't take you away from your duties!"

"My experience suggests to me that if Soudha hasn't been arrested by then, what I will be doing by day after tomorrow is spinning my mental wheels. A day away from the problems may be just what I will need to give me a fresh approach. You would be doing me a service, I assure you."

She pursed her lips doubtfully. "I admit … I would be grateful for the company."

Did she mean any company, generally, or his company particularly? Down, boy. Don't even think about it. "Good."

Voices drifted in from the vestibule: one of the guards, and a familiar rumble. Ekaterin jumped up. "My uncle is here!"

"He made very good time." Miles followed her into the hallway.

Professor Vorthys, his broad face wrinkled with concern, gave his valise over to the guard and folded his niece in his arms, murmuring condolences. Miles watched in exquisite envy. Her uncle's warm sympathy almost broke her down, as all of ImpSec's cool professionalism had not; Miles made a mental note. Cool and practical, that was the ticket. She dashed tears from her eyes, dispatched the guard with his case to Tien's old office as before, and led her uncle to the living room.

After a very brief conference, it was decided the Professor would accompany her to go collect Nikolai. Miles seconded this despite what he ironically recognized as his present lovesick mania for volunteerism. Vorthys had a family right, and Miles himself was too close to Tien's death. He was also swaying on his feet as the set of painkillers and stimulants he'd taken before lunch wore off. Taking a third dose today would be a bad mistake. Instead he saw the Professor and Ekaterin out, then checked in with ImpSec HQ in Solstice on the secured comconsole.

No new news. He wandered back toward the living room. Ekaterin's uncle was here; Miles should go, now. Collect his things and decamp to that mythical hotel he'd been gassing about for the last week. There was no room for him in this little apartment, with Vorthys reinstalled in the guest room. Nikki would need his own bed back, and he was damned if he was going to trouble Ekaterin to rustle up another grav-bed, or worse, for his Vor lordly use. What had she been expecting, when she'd ordered in that thing? He should definitely go. He was obviously not being as civilly neutral toward his hostess as he'd imagined, if that blasted guard could make whatever comment it had been that had set off Tuomonen on that list of embarrassing questions about the suitcases.

"Do you need anything, my lord?" The door guard's voice at Miles's elbow startled him awake.

"Um . . . yeah. Next time one of your boys comes over from Solstice HQ, have him bring me a standard military-issue bedroll."

In the meanwhile, Miles staggered over and curled up on the couch after all. He was asleep in minutes.

Miles awoke when the little party returned with Nikki. He sat up and managed to be reasonably composed by the time he had to face the boy. Nikki looked subdued and scared, but was not weeping or hysterical; he evidently turned his reactions inward rather than outward. Like his mother.

In the absence of female friends of Ekaterin's bearing casseroles and cakes in the Barrayaran manner, Miles caused ImpSec to supply dinner. The three adults kept the conversation neutral in front of Nikki, after which he went off to play by himself in his room, and Miles and the Professor retired to the study for a data-exchange. The new equipment found topside was indeed peculiar, including some power-transfer equipment heavy-duty enough for a small jumpship, parts of which had ripped apart, melted, and apparently exploded in a shower of plasma. The Professor called it, "Truly interesting," an engineering code-phrase that caught Miles's full attention.

In the middle of this, Colonel Gibbs reported in via comconsole. He smiled dryly at both Imperial Auditors, an expression which Miles was beginning to recognize as Gibbs's version of ecstasy.

"My Lord Vorkosigan. I have the first documented connection you were looking for. We've traced the serial numbers of a pair of hastings converters my Lord Vorthys's people found topside back through the chain to a Waste Heat purchase eight months ago. The converters were originally delivered to their experiment station."

"Right," breathed Miles. "Finally, more of a link than just Radovas's body. We have hold of the real string, all right, thank you, Colonel. Carry on."


Ekaterin slept better than she'd expected to, but woke to the realization that she'd got through most of yesterday on adrenaline. Today, with its enforced wait for action, was going to be harder. I've been waiting nine years. I can manage nineteen more hours. Lying in bed allowed a kind of numb, foggy grief to descend, despite her release from the late chaos of Tien's life. So she rose, dressed carefully, ducked around the guard in her living room, made breakfast, and waited.

The Auditors stirred soon thereafter and came out gratefully for food, but carried off their coffee to the secured comconsole. She ran out of things to clean up, and went out to her balcony, but found the presence of another guard on post inhibited her from resting there. So she gave the guards coffee, and retreated to her kitchen, and waited some more.

Lord Vorkosigan emerged again. He fended off her offers of more coffee, and instead seated himself at her table. "ImpSec sent me the autopsy report on Tien this morning. How much do you want to know about it?"

The vision of Tien's congealed body, hanging in the frost, flashed in her memory. "Was there anything unexpected?"

"Not with respect to cause of death. They found his Vorzohn's Dystrophy, of course."

"Yes. Poor Tien. To spend all those years in a suppressed panic over his disease, only to die of another cause altogether." She shook her head. "So much effort, so misplaced. How far advanced was it, could they tell?"

"The nervous lesions were very distinct, according to the examiner. Though how they can tell one microscopic blob from another . . . The outward symptoms, if I interpret the medical jargon correctly, would have been impossible to conceal very soon."

"Yes. I think I knew that. It was the inward progress I wondered about. When did it start. How much of Tien's, oh, bad judgment and other behavior was his disease." Should she have somehow held on longer? Could she have? Until what other desperate denouement had played itself out?

"The damage builds slowly for a long time. Which parts of the brain are affected varies from person to person. For what it's worth, his seemed concentrated in the motor regions and peripheral nervous system. Though it may be possible to blame some of his actions on the disease, later, if a face-saving gesture is needed."

"How . . . politic. Face-saving for whom? I don't wish it."

He smiled a bit grimly. "I didn't think you did. But I have the unpleasant conviction that this case is going to shift from its nice clean engineering parameters into some very messy politics sooner or later. I never discard a possible reserve." He looked down at his hands, clasped loosely before him on the table. His gray sleeves imperfectly concealed the white bandages ringing his wrists. "How did Nikki take the news, last night?"

"That was hard. He started out—before I told him—trying to argue me into letting him stay and play another night. Getting passionate and sulking, you know how kids are. I so much wished I could simply let him go on, not having to know. I wasn't able to prepare him as much as I would have liked. I finally had to sit him down and tell him straight out,Nikki, you have to come home now. Your Da was killed in a breath mask accident last night. It just . . . wiped him blank. I almost wished for the whining back." Ekaterin looked away. She wondered what oblique forms Nikki's reactions might eventually take, and whether she would recognize them. Or handle them well. Or not … "I don't know how it's going to go in the long run. When I lost my mother … I was older, and we knew it was coming, but it was still a shock, that day, that hour. I always thought there would be more time."

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