Help. What a concept. She felt as though she might melt through the floor of the bubble car at the mere thought. She retreated from the terrible temptation. “I’m not ill. We don’t require assistance.” She raised her chin defiantly, and added with all the frost she could muster, “It was very wrong of you to read my private files, Lord Vorkosigan.”
   “Yes,” he agreed simply. “A wrong I do not care to compound by either concealing my breach of trust, or failing to offer what help I can command.”
   Just how much help Imperial Auditor Vorkosigan might command… was not to be thought about. Too painful. Belatedly, she realized that declaring herself unaffected was tantamount to naming Tien afflicted. She was rescued from her confusion by the bubble-car sliding to a stop at her home station. “This is very much not your business.”
   “I beg you will think of your uncle as a resource, then. I’m certain he would wish it.”
   She shook her head, and hit the canopy release sharply.
   They walked in stiff and chilled silence back to her apartment building, in awkward contrast, Ekaterin felt, to their earlier odd ease. Vorkosigan didn’t look happy either.
   Uncle Vorthys met them at the apartment door, still in shirtsleeves and with a data disk in his hand. “Ah! Vorkosigan! Back earlier than I expected, good. I almost rang your comm link.” He paused, staring at their damp and bizarre bed-ragglement, but then shrugged and went on, “We had a visit from a second courier. Something for you.”
   “A second courier? Must be something hot. Is it a break in the case?” Vorkosigan shrugged an arm free of his towel-shawl and took the proffered disk.
   “I’m not at all sure. They found another body.”
   “The missing were all accounted for. A body part, surely— a woman’s arm, perhaps?”
   Uncle Vorthys shook his head. “A body. Almost intact. Male. They’re working on the identification now. They were all accounted for.” He grimaced. “Now, it seems, we have a spare.”


   Miles boiled himself in the shower for a long time, trying to regain control of his shocky body and scattered wits. He’d realized quickly, earlier, that all Madame Vorsoisson’s anxious questions about his mother camouflaged oblique concerns about her son Nikolai, and he’d answered her as openly and carefully as he could. He’d been rewarded, through the extremely pleasant morning’s expedition, by seeing her gradually relax and grow nearly open herself. When she’d laughed, her light blue eyes had sparkled. The animated intelligence had illuminated her face, and spilled over to loosen and soften her body from its original tight defensive density. Her sense of humor, creeping slowly out from hiding, had even survived his dropping them into that idiot pond.
   Her brief appalled look when he’d half-stripped in the bubble-car had almost thrown him back into earlier modes of painful somatic self-consciousness, but not quite. It seemed he had grown comfortable at last in his own ill-used body, and the realization had given him a lunatic courage to try to clear things with her. So when all expression in her face shut down as he’d confessed his snooping… that had hurt.
   He’d handled a bad situation as well as he could, hadn’t he? Yes? No? He wished now he’d kept his mouth shut. No. His false stance with Madame Vorsoisson had been unbearable. Unbearable? Isn’t that a little strong? Uncomfortable, he revised this hastily downward. Awkward, anyway.
   But confession was supposed to be followed by absolution. If only the damned bubble-car had been delayed again, if only he’d had ten more minutes with her, he might have made it come out right. He shouldn’t have tried to piss it off with that stupid joke, I could show you how…
   Her icy, armored We don’t require assistance felt like… missing a catch. He would be forced onward, she would spin down into the fog and never be seen again.
   You’re overdramatizing, boy. Madame Vorsoisson wasn’t in a combat zone, was she?
   Yes, she is. She was just falling toward death in exquisitely slow motion.
   He wanted a drink desperately. Preferably several. Instead he dried himself off, dressed in another of his Auditor-suits, and went to see the Professor.
   Miles leaned on the Professor’s comconsole in the guest room which doubled as Tien Vorsoisson’s home office, and studied the ravaged face of the dead man in the vid. He hoped for some revelation of expression, surprise or rage or fear, that would give a clue as to how the fellow had died. Besides suddenly. But the face was merely dead, its frozen distortions entirely physiological and familiar.
   “First of all, are they sure he’s really ours?” Miles asked, pulling up a chair for himself and settling in. On the vid, the anonymous medtech’s examination recording played on at low volume, her voice-over comments delivered in that flat clinical tone universally used at moments like this. “He didn’t drift in from somewhere else, I suppose.”
   “No, unfortunately,” Vorthys said. “His speed and trajectory put him accurately at the site of our accident at the time of the smash-up, and his initial estimated time of death also matches.”
   Miles had wished for a break in the case, some new lead that would take him in a more speedily fruitful direction. He hadn’t realized his desires were so magically powerful. Be careful what you wish for…
   “Can they tell if he came from the ship, or the station?”
   “Not from the trajectory alone.”
   “Mm, I suppose not. He shouldn’t have been aboard either one. Well… we wait for the ID, then. News of this find has not yet been publicly released, I trust.”
   “No, nor leaked yet either, amazingly.”
   “Unless the explanation for his being there turns out to be rock-solid, I don’t think secondhand reports are going to be enough on this one.” He had read, God knew, enough reports in the last two weeks to saturate him for a year.
   “Bodies are your department.” The Professor ceded this one to him with a wave of his hand and a good will clearly laced with relief. Above the vid-plate, the preliminary examination wound to its conclusion; no one reached for the replay button.
   Well, strictly speaking, political consequences were Miles’s department. He really ought to visit Solstice soon, though in the planetary capital a visiting Auditor was more likely to get handled; he’d wanted this open provincial angle of view first, free of VIP choreographing.
   “Engineering equipment,” Vorthys added, “is mine. They’ve also just retrieved some of the ship’s control systems I was waiting for. I’m think I’m going to have to go back topside soon.”
   “Tonight?” Miles could move out, and into a hotel, under the cover of that avuncular withdrawal. That would be a relief.
   “If I went up now, I’d get there just in time for bed. I’ll wait till morning. They’ve also found some odd things. Not accounted for in inventory.”
   “Odd things? New or old?” There had been tons of poorly inventoried junk equipment on the station, a century’s accumulation of obsolete and worn-out technology that had been cheaper to store than haul away. If the probable-cause techs had the unenviable task of sorting it now, it must mean the highest-priority retrieval tasks were almost done.
   “New. That’s what’s odd. And their trajectories were associated with this new body.”
   “I hardly ever saw a ship where somebody didn’t have an unauthorized still or something operating in a closet somewhere.”
   “Nor a station either. But our Komarran boys are sharp enough to recognize a still.”
   “Maybe… I’ll go up with you, tomorrow,” Miles said thoughtfully.
   “I would like that.”
   Gathering up the remains of his nerve, Miles went to seek out Madame Vorsoisson. This would be, he guessed, his last chance to ever have a conversation alone with her. His footsteps echoed hollowly through the empty rooms, and his tentative speaking of her name went unanswered. She had left the apartment, perhaps to pick up Nikolai from school or something. Missed again. Damn.
   Miles took the examination recording off to the comconsole in her workroom for a more careful second run-through, and stacked up the terraforming reports from yesterday next in line. With a self-conscious twinge, he keyed on the machine. His guilty conscience irrationally expected she might pop in at any moment to check up on him. But no, more likely she would avoid him altogether. He vented a depressed sigh and started the vid.
   He found little to add to the Professor’s synopsis. The mysterious eighth victim was middle-aged, of average height and build for a Komarran, if he was a Komarran. It was not possible at this point to tell if he had been handsome or ugly in life. Most of his clothing had been ripped or burned off in the disaster, including any handy pockets containing traceable credit chits, etcetera. The shreds that were left appeared to be anonymous ship-knits, common wear for spacers who might have to slide into a pressure suit at a moment’s notice.
   What was delaying the man’s identification? Miles deliberately held in check the dozen theories his mind wanted to generate. He longed to gallop up immediately to the orbital station where the body had been taken, but his arrival in person topside, to breathe over the actual investigators’ shoulders, would only distract them and slow things down. Once you had delegated the best people to do a job for you, you had to trust both them and your judgment.
   What he could do without admitting impediment was go bother another useless high-level supervisor like himself. He punched up the private code for the Chief of Imperial Security-Komarr at his office in Solstice, which the man had properly sent him upon the Imperial Auditors’ first arrival in Komarr local space.
   General Rathjens appeared at once. He looked middle-aged, alert, and busy, all appropriate qualities for his rank and post. Interestingly, he took advantage of the latter and wore civilian Komarran-style street wear rather than Imperial undress greens, suggesting he was either subtly politically-minded, or preferred his comfort. Miles guessed the former. Rathjens was the ImpSec’s top man on Komarr, reporting directly to Duv Galeni at ImpSec HQ in Vorbarr Sultana. “Yes, my Lord Auditor. What can I do for you?”
   “I’m interested in the new corpse they found this morning topside in association, apparently, with our soletta disaster. You’ve heard of it?”
   “Only just. I haven’t had a chance to view the preliminary report yet.”
   “I just did. It’s not very informative. Tell me, what’s your standard operating procedure for identifying this poor fellow? How soon do you expect to have anything substantive?”
   “The identification of a victim of an ordinary accident, topside or downside, would normally be left to the local civil security. Since this one came within our orbit as possible sabotage, we’re running our own search in parallel with the Komarran authorities.”
   “Do you cooperate with each other?”
   “Oh, yes. That is, they cooperate with us.”
   “I understand,” said Miles blandly. “How long is ID likely to take?”
   “If the man was Komarran, or if he was a galactic who came through Customs at one of the jump point stations, we should have something within hours. If he was Barrayaran, it may take a little longer. If he was somehow unregistered… well, that becomes another problem.”
   “I take it he hasn’t been matched with any missing person report?”
   “That would have sped things up. No.”
   “So he’s been gone for almost three weeks, but nobody’s missed him. Hm.”
   General Rathjens glanced aside at some readout on his own comconsole desk. “Do you know you are calling from an unsecured comconsole, Lord Vorkosigan?”
   “Yes.” That was why all his and the Professor’s reports and digests from topside were being hand-carried to them from the local Serifosa ImpSec office. They hadn’t expected to be here long enough to bother having ImpSec install their own secured machine. Should have. “I’m only seeking background information just now. When you do find out who this fellow is, how are the relatives notified?”
   “Normally, local dome security sends an officer in person, if at all possible. In a case like this with potential ImpSec connections, we send an agent of our own with them, to make an initial evaluation and recommend further investigation.”
   “Hm. Notify me first, please. I may want to ride along and observe.”
   “It could come at an odd hour.”
   “That’s fine.” He wanted to feed his back-brain on something besides second-hand data; he wanted action for his restless body. He wanted out of this apartment. He’d thought it had been uncomfortable that first night because the Vorsoissons were strangers, but that was as nothing to how awkward it had become now he’d begun to know them.
   “Very well, my lord.”
   “Thank you, General. That’s all for now.” Miles cut the com.
   With a sigh, he turned again to the stack of terraforming reports, starting with Waste Heat Management’s excessively complete report on dome energy flows. It was only in his imagination that the gaze from a pair of outraged light blue eyes burned into the back of his head.
   He had left the workroom door open with the thought— hope?-that if Madame Vorsoisson just happened to be passing by, and just happened to want to renew their truncated conversation, she might realize she had his invitation to do so. The awareness that this left him sitting alone with his back to the door came to Miles simultaneously with the sense that he was no longer alone. At a surreptitious sniff from the vicinity of the doorway, he fixed his most inviting smile on his face and turned his chair around.
   It was Nikki, hovering in the frame and staring at him in uncertain calculation. He returned Miles’s misdirected smile shyly. “Hello,” the boy ventured.
   “Hello, Nikki. Home from school?”
   “Do you like it?”
   “Ah? How was today?”
   “What are you studying, that’s so dull?”
   What a joy such monosyllabic exchanges must be to his parents, paying for that exclusive private school. Miles’s smile twisted. Reassured, perhaps, by the glint of humor in his eye, the boy ventured within. He looked Miles up and down more openly than he had done heretofore; Miles bore being Looked At. Yes, you can get used to me, kiddo.
   “Were you really a spy?” Nikki asked suddenly.
   Miles leaned back, brows rising. “Now, wherever did you get that idea?”
   “Uncle Vorthys said you were in ImpSec Galactic operations,” Nikki reminded him.
   Ah, yes, that first night at the dinner table. “I was a courier officer. Do you know what that is?”
   “Not… ’zactly. I thought a courier was a jumpship…?”
   “The ship is named after the job. A courier is a kind of glorified delivery man. I carried messages back and forth for the Imperium.”
   Nikki’s brow wrinkled dubiously. “Was it dangerous?”
   “It wasn’t supposed to be. I generally got places only to have to turn around immediately and go back. I spent a lot of time en route reading. Composing reports. And, ah, studying. ImpSec would send these training programs along, that you were supposed to complete in your spare time, and turn back in to your superiors when you got home.”
   “Oh,” said Nikki, sounding a little dismayed, possibly at the thought that even grownups weren’t spared from homework. He regarded Miles more sympathetically. Then a spark rose in his eye. “But you got to go on jumpships, didn’t you? Imperial fast couriers and things?”
   “Oh, yes.”
   “We went on a jumpship, to come here. It was a Vorsmythe Dolphin-class 776 with quadruple-vortex outboard control nacelles and dual norm-space thrusters and a crew of twelve. It carried a hundred and twenty passengers. It was full up, too.” Nikki’s face grew reflective. “Kind of a barge, compared to Imperial fast couriers, but Mama got the jump pilot to let me come up and see his control room. He let me sit in his station chair and put on his headset.” The spark had become a flame in the memory of this glorious moment.
   Miles could recognize imprinting when he saw it. “You admire jumpships, I take it.”
   “I want to be a jump pilot when I grow up. Didn’t you ever? Or… or wouldn’t they let you?” A certain wariness returned to Nikki’s face; had he been cautioned by the adults not to mention Miles’s mutoid appearance? Yes, let us all pretend to ignore the obvious. That ought to clarify the kid’s worldview.
   “No, I wanted to be a strategist. Like my Da and my Gran’da. I couldn’t have passed the physical for jump pilot anyway.”
   “My Da was a soldier. It sounded boring. He stayed on one base for practically the whole time. I want to be an Imperial pilot, in the fastest ships, and go places.”
   Very far away from here. Yes. Miles understood that one, all right. It occurred to him suddenly that even if nothing else was done between now and then, a military physical would reveal Nikki’s Vorzohn’s Dystrophy. And even if it was successfully treated, the defect would disqualify him for military pilot’s training.
   “Imperial pilot?” Miles let his brows rise in apparent surprise. “Well, I suppose… but if you really want to go places, the military’s not your best route.”
   “Why not?”
   “Except for a very few courier or diplomatic missions, the military jump pilots just go from Barrayar to Komarr to Sergyar and back. Same old routes, round and round. And you have to wait forever for your turn on the roster, my pilot acquaintances tell me. Now, if you really want experience, going out with the Komarran trade fleets would take you much farther afield-all the way to Earth, and beyond. And they go out for much longer, and there are many more berths to be had. There are more kinds of ships. Pilots get a lot more time in the hot-seat. And when you get to the interesting places, you’re a lot freer to look around.”
   “Oh.” Nikki digested this thoughtfully. “Wait here,” he commanded abruptly, and darted out.
   He was back in moments cradling a box jammed with model jumpships. “This is the Dolphin-776 we went on,” he held one up for Miles’s inspection. He rummaged for another. “Did you ride on fast couriers like this one?”
   “The Falcon-9? Yes, a time or two.” A model caught Miles’s eye; automatically, he slid down onto the floor beside Nikki, who was arranging his collection for fleet inspection. “Good God, is that an RG freighter?”
   “It’s an antique.” Nikki held it out.
   Miles took it, his eye lighting. “I owned one of the very last of these, when I was seventeen. Now, that was a barge.”
   “A… a model like this?” asked Nikki uncertainly.
   “No, a jumpship.”
   “You owned a real jumpship? Yourself?” He inhaled alarmingly.
   “Mm, me and a bunch of creditors.” Miles smiled in reminiscence.
   “Did you get to pilot it? In normal space, I mean, not in jump space.”
   “No, I wasn’t even up to piloting shuttles then. I learned how to do that later, at the Academy.”
   “What happened to the RG? Do you still have it?”
   “Oh, no. Or… well, I’m not just sure. It met with an accident in Tau Verde local space, ramming, um, colliding with another ship. Twisted hell out of its Necklin field generator rods. It was never going to jump again after that, so I leased it as a local-space freighter, and we left it there. If Arde— he’s a jump pilot friend of mine-ever finds a set of replacement rods, I told him he can have the old RG.”
   “You had a jumpship and you gave it away!?” Nikki’s eyes widened in astonishment. “Do you have any more?”
   “Not at present. Oh, look, a General-class cruiser.” Miles reached for it. “My father commanded one of those, once, I believe. Do you have any Betan Survey ships…?”
   Heads bent together, they laid out the little fleet on the floor. Nikki, Miles was pleased to find, was well-up on all the tech-specs of every ship he owned; he expanded wonderfully, his voice, formerly shy around Miles-the-weird-adult-stranger, growing louder and faster in his unselfconscious enthusiasm as he detailed his machinery. Miles’s stock rose as he was able to claim personal acquaintance with nearly a dozen of the originals for the models, and add a few interesting nonclassified jumpship anecdotes to Nikki’s already impressive fund of knowledge.
   “But,” said Nikki after a slight pause for breath, “how do you get to be a pilot if you’re not in the military?”
   “You go through a training school and an apprenticeship. I know of at least four schools right here on Komarr, and a couple more at home on Barrayar. Sergyar doesn’t have one yet.”
   “How do you get in?”
   “Apply, and give them money.”
   Nikki looked daunted. “A lot of money?”
   “Mm, no more than any other college or trade school. The biggest cost is getting your neurological interface surgically installed. It pays to get the best on that one.” Miles added encouragingly, “You can do anything, but you have to make your chances happen. There are some scholarships and indenture-contracts that can grease your way in, if you hustle for them. You do have to be at least twenty years old, though, so you have lots of time to plan.”
   “Oh.” Nikki seemed to contemplate this vast span of time, equal again to his whole life so far, stretching out before him. Miles could empathize; suppose someone told him he had to wait thirty more years for something he passionately desired? He tried to think of something he passionately desired. That he could have. The field was depressingly blank.
   Nikki began to replace his models in their padded box. As he nestled the Falcon-9 into its space, his fingers caressed its Imperial military decals. He asked, “Do you still have your ImpSec silver eyes?”
   “No, they made me give ’em back when I was fi-when I resigned.”
   “Why d’you quit?”
   “I didn’t want to. I had health problems.”
   “So they made you be an Auditor instead?”
   “Something like that.”
   Nikki groped around for some way to continue this polite adult conversation. “Do you like it?”
   “It’s a little early to tell. It seems to involve a lot of homework.” He glanced up guiltily at the stack of report disks waiting for him on the comconsole.
   Nikki gave him a look of sympathy. “Oh. Too bad.” Tien Vorsoisson’s voice made them both jump. “Nikki, what are you doing in here? Get up off the floor!”
   Nikki scrambled to his feet, leaving Miles sitting cross-legged and abruptly conscious that his recently-chilled body had stiffened up again.
   “Are you pestering the Lord Auditor? My apologies, Lord Vorkosigan! Children have no manners.” Vorsoisson entered and loomed over them.
   “Oh, his manners are fine. We were having an interesting discussion on the subject of jump ships.” Miles contemplated the problem of standing gracefully in front of a fellow Barrayaran, without any unfortunate lurch or stumble to give a false impression of disability. He stretched, sitting, by way of preparation.
   Vorsoisson grimaced wryly. “Ah, yes, the most recent obsession. Don’t step barefoot on one of those damn things, it’ll cripp-it’ll hurt. Well, every boy goes through that phase, I suppose. We all outgrow it. Pick up all that mess, Nikki.”
   Nikki’s eyes were downcast, but narrowed in brief resentment at this, Miles could see from his angle of view. The boy bent to scoop up the last of his miniature fleet.
   “Some people grow into their dreams, instead of out of them,” Miles murmured.
   “That depends on whether your dreams are reasonable,” said Vorsoisson, his lips twitching in rather bleak amusement. Ah, yes. Vorsoisson must be fully aware of the secret medical bar between Nikki and his ambition.
   “No, it doesn’t.” Miles smiled slightly. “It depends on how hard you grow.” It was difficult to tell just how Nikki took that in, but he heard it; his eyes flicked back to Miles as he carried his treasure box toward the door.
   Vorsoisson frowned, suspicious of this contradiction, but said only, “Kat sent me to tell everyone supper is ready. Go wash your hands, Nikki, and tell your Uncle Vorthys.”
   Miles’s last family dinner with the Vorsoisson clan was a strained affair. Madame Vorsoisson made herself very busy with serving admittedly excellent food, her faintly harried pose as effective as a placard saying Leave me alone. The conversation was left to the Professor, who was abstracted, and Tien, who, bereft of direction, spoke forcefully and without depth of local Komarran politics, authoritatively explaining the inner workings of the minds of people he had never, so far as Miles could discern, actually met. Nikolai, wary of his father, did not pursue the subject of jumpships in front of him.
   Miles wondered now how he could have mistaken Madame Vorsoisson’s silence for serenity, that first night, or Etienne Vorsoisson’s tension for energy. Until seeing those brief glimpses of her animation earlier today, he had not guessed how much of her personality was missing from view, or how much went underground in the presence of her husband.
   Now that he knew what clues to look for, he could see the faint grayness underlying Tien’s dome-pallor, and spot his betraying tiny physical twitches masked as a big man’s clumsiness with small objects. At first Miles had feared the illness was hers, and he’d been nearly ready to challenge Tien to a duel for his failure to take immediate and massive measures to solve the problem. If Madame Vorsoisson had been his wife… But apparently Tien was playing these little delaying head-games with his own condition. Miles knew, none better, the bone-deep Barrayaran fear of any genetic distortion. Mortal embarrassment was more than a turn of phrase. He didn’t exactly go around advertising his own invisible seizure-disorder, either-though he’d been privately relieved to have that secret out with her. Not that it mattered, now that he was leaving. Denial was Tien’s choice, stupid though it seemed; maybe the man was hoping to be hit by a meteor before his disease manifested itself. Miles’s stifled impulse toward homicide was renewed with the thought, But he’s chosen the same for her Nikolai.
   Halfway through the main course-exquisitely aromatic vat-raised fish fillets baked on a bed of garlic potatoes-the door chimed. Madame Vorsoisson hastily rose to answer it. Feeling obscurely that it was bad security to send her off by herself, Miles followed. Nikolai, perhaps sensing adventure, tried to accompany them, but was roped back to face the remains of his dinner by his father. Madame Vorsoisson glanced at Miles over her shoulder, but said nothing.
   She checked the welcome monitor beside the door. “It’s another courier. Oh, it’s a captain this time. Usually you get a sergeant.” Madame Vorsoisson keyed open the hall door to reveal a young man in Barrayaran undress greens, with ImpSec’s eye-of-Horus pins on his collar. “Do come in.”
   “Madame Vorsoisson.” The man nodded to her, trod inside, and shifted his gaze to Miles. “Lord Auditor Vorkosigan. I’m Captain Tuomonen. I head up ImpSec’s office here in Serifosa.” Tuomonen appeared to be in his late twenties, dark haired and brown eyed like most Barrayarans, and a bit more trim and fit than the average desk soldier, though with dome-pale skin. He had a disk case in one hand and a larger case in the other, so nodded cordially rather than offering any salutelike gesture.
   “Yes, General Rathjens mentioned you. We’re honored to have such a courier.”
   Tuomonen shrugged. “ImpSec Serifosa is a very small office, my lord. General Rathjens directed you were to be informed as soon as possible after the new body was identified.”
   Miles’s eye took in the secured disk case in the captain’s hand. “Excellent. Come sit down.” He led the captain to the conversation circle, a deeply-padded sunken bench which was the centerpiece of the Vorsoisson’s living room. Like most of the rest of the furnishings, it was Komarran dome standard-issue. Did Madame Vorsoisson sometimes feel she was camping in a hotel, rather than making a home here? “Madame Vorsoisson, would you ask your uncle to join us? Let him finish eating first, though.”
   “I would like to speak with Administrator Vorsoisson, also, when he’s finished,” Tuomonen called after her. She nodded and withdrew, eyes dark with interest but posture still self-effacing, self-erasing, as if she wished she might become invisible to Miles’s eyes.
   “What do we have?” continued Miles, settling himself. “I told Rathjens I might like to accompany and observe the first ImpSec contact on this matter.” He could pack his bag and take it along tonight, and not have to come back.
   “Yes, my lord. That’s why I’m here. Your mysterious body turns out to be a local fellow, from Serifosa. He is, or was, listed as an employee of the Terraforming Project here.”
   Miles blinked. “Not an engineer named Dr. Radovas, is it?”
   Tuomonen stared at him, startled. “How did you know?”
   “Wild-ass guess, because he went missing a few weeks ago. Oh, hell, I’ll bet Vorsoisson could have identified him at a glance. Or… maybe not. He was pretty battered. Hm. Radovas’s boss thought he’d eloped with his tech, a young lady named Marie Trogir. Her body hasn’t turned up topside, has it?”
   “No, my lord. But it sounds as though we ought to start looking for it.”
   “Yes. A full ImpSec search and background check, I think. Don’t assume she’s dead-if she’s alive, we surely want to question her. Do you need a special order from me?”
   “Not necessarily, but I’ll bet it would expedite things.” A faint enthusiastic gleam lit Tuomonen’s eye.
   “You have it, then.”
   “Thank you, my lord. I thought you’d want this.” He handed Miles the secured case. “I pulled the complete dossier on Radovas before I left the office.”
   “Does ImpSec keep files on every Komarran citizen, or was he special?”
   “No, we don’t keep universal files. But we have a search program that can pull records of good depth from the information net very quickly. The first part of this is his public biography, school records, medical records, financial and travel documents, all the usual. I only had time to glance over it. But Radovas also does have a small ImpSec file, dating back to his student days during the Komarr Revolt. It was closed at the amnesty.”
   “Is it interesting?”
   “I would not draw too many inferences from it alone. Half the population of Komarr of that age group was part of some student protest or would-be revolutionary group back then, including my mother-in-law.” Tuomonen waited stiffly to see what response Miles would make to this tidbit.
   “Ah, you married a local girl, did you?”
   “Five years ago.”
   “How long have you been posted to Serifosa?”
   “About six years.”
   “Good for you.” Yes! That leaves one more Barrayaran woman for the rest of us. “You get along well with the locals, I take it.”
   Tuomonen’s stiffness eased. “Mostly. Except for my mother-in-law. But I don’t think that’s entirely political.” Tuomonen suppressed a small grin. “But our little daughter has her under complete control, now.”
   “I see.” Miles smiled back at him. With a more thoughtful frown, he turned the case over, dug his Auditor’s seal out of his pocket, and keyed it open. “Has your Analysis section red-flagged anything in this for me?”
   “I am Serifosa’s Analysis section,” Tuomonen admitted ruefully. His glance at Miles sharpened. “I understand you’re former ImpSec yourself, my lord. I think I’d rather let you read it over first, before I comment.”
   Miles’s brows twitched up. Did Tuomonen not trust his own judgment, had the arrival of two Imperial Auditors in his sector unnerved him, or was he merely seizing the opportunity for some mutual brainstorming? “And what sort of dossier did you pull off the net on one Miles Vorkosigan, and speed-read before you left the office just now?”
   “I did that day before yesterday, actually, my lord, when I was notified you would be arriving in Serifosa.”
   “And what was your analysis of it?”
   “About two-thirds of your career is locked under a need-to-know seal that requires clearance from ImpSec HQ in Vorbarr Sultana to access. But your publicly recorded awards and decorations appear in a statistically significant pattern following supposedly routine courier missions assigned to you by the Galactic Affairs office. At approximately five times the density of the next most decorated courier in ImpSec history.”
   “And your conclusion, Captain Tuomonen?”
   Tuomonen smiled faintly. “You were never a bloody courier, Captain Vorkosigan.”
   “Do you know, Tuomonen, I believe I am going to enjoy working with you.”
   “I hope so, sir.” He glanced up as the Professor entered the living room, flanked by Tien Vorsoisson.
   Vorthys finished wiping his mouth with his dinner napkin, stuffed it absently into his pocket, and greeted Tuomonen with a handshake, then introduced his nephew-in-law. As they all sat again, Miles said, “Tuomonen has brought us the identification of our extra body.”
   “Oh, good,” said Vorthys. “Who was the poor fellow?”
   Miles watched Tuomonen watch Tien and say, “Strangely enough, Administrator Vorsoisson, one of your employees. Dr. Barto Radovas.”
   Tien’s grayness became a shade paler. “Radovas! What the hell was he doing up there?” The shock and horror on Tien’s face was genuine, Miles would have sworn, the surprise in his voice unfeigned.
   “I was hoping you might have some ideas, sir,” said Tuomonen.
   “My God. Well… was he aboard the station, or the ship?”
   “We haven’t determined that yet.”
   “I really can’t tell you that much about the man. He was in Soudha’s department. Soudha never made any complaints about his work to me. He got all his merit raises right to schedule.” Tien shook his head. “But what the hell was he doing…”He glanced worriedly at Tuomonen. “He’s not actually my employee, you know. He resigned several weeks ago.”
   “Five days before his death, according to our calculations,” said Tuomonen.
   Tien’s brows wrinkled. “Well… he couldn’t have been aboard that ore ship, then, could he? How could he have gotten all the way out to the second asteroid belt and boarded it before he even left Komarr?”
   “He might have joined the ore ship en route,” said Tuomonen.
   “Oh. I suppose that’s possible. My God. He’s married. Was married. Is his wife still here in town?”
   “Yes,” said Tuomonen. “I’ll be meeting shortly with the dome civil security officer who’s taking the official notification of death to her.”
   “She’s waited three weeks with no word from him,” said Miles. “Another hour can’t matter much at this point. I think I’d like to review your report before we leave, Captain.”
   “Please do, my lord.”
   “Professor, will you join me?”
   They all ended up trooping into Vorsoisson’s study. Miles privately felt he could do without Tien, but Tuomonen made no move to exclude him.
   The report was not yet an in-depth analysis, but rather a wad of raw data bundled logically, with hasty preliminary notes and summations supplied by Tuomonen. A full analysis would doubtless arrive eventually from ImpSec-Komarr HQ. They all pulled up chairs and crowded around the vid display. After the initial overview, Miles let the Professor follow the thread of Radovas’s career.
   “He lost two years out of the middle of his undergraduate schooling to the Revolt,” Vorthys noted. “Solstice University was shut down entirely, for a time then.”
   “But it looks like he made up some points with that two-year postgraduate stint on Escobar,” Miles said.
   “Anything could have happened to him there,” opined Tien.
   “But not much did, according to this,” said Vorthys a bit dryly. “Commercial work in their orbital shipyards… he didn’t even get a good research topic out of it. Solstice University did not renew his contract. Not a man with a gift for teaching, one feels.”
   “He was refused a job in the Imperial Science Institute because of his associations in the Revolt,” Tuomonen pointed out, “despite the amnesty.”
   “All the amnesty promised was that he’d never be taken out and shot,” said Miles a shade impatiently.
   “But he was not refused it on the basis of inadequate technical competence,” murmured Vorthys. “Here he goes on to a job rather below his educational level, in the Komarran orbital yards.”
   Miles checked. “He had three small children by then. He had to go for the money.”
   “Several bland years follow,” the Professor droned on.
   “Changes companies only once, for a respectable increase in salary and position. Then he is hired by-Soudha was fairly new then, but hired by Soudha for the Terraforming Project, and moves downside permanently.”
   “No pay raise that time. Professor…” Miles said plaintively. He touched his finger to air on the vid display at this juncture in the late Dr. Radovas’s career. “Doesn’t this downside move strike you as odd for a man trained and experienced in jump technologies? He was a five-space-math man.”
   Tuomonen smiled tightly, by which Miles deduced he had put his finger rather literally upon the same point that had bothered the captain.
   Vorthys shrugged. “There could be many compelling reasons. He could have felt stale in his old work. He could have grown into new interests. Madame Radovas might have refused to live on a space station for one more day. I think you’ll have to ask her.”
   “But it is unusual,” said Tuomonen tentatively.
   “Maybe,” said Vorthys. “Maybe not.”
   “Well,” sighed Miles after a long silence. “Let’s go do the hard part.”
   The Radovas’s apartment proved to be about a third of the way across the city from the Vorsoissons’, but at this hour of the evening there were no delays in the bubble-car system. With Tuomonen leading, Miles, Vorthys, and Tien-whom Miles did not remember inviting, but who somehow had attached himself to the expedition-entered the lobby, where they found a youngish woman in a Serifosa Dome Security uniform waiting for them, none too patiently.
   “Ah, the dome cop is female,” Miles murmured to Tuomonen. He looked back over their cavalcade. “Good. We’ll seem less like an invading army.”
   “So I hoped, my lord.”
   After brief introductions all around, they took a lift tube to a hallway nearly identical to every other dome residence building Miles had so far seen. The dome cop, who was styled Group-Patroller Rigby, rang the door chime.
   After a pause long enough to start Miles wondering, Is she home? the door slid open. The woman framed there was slender and neatly dressed, appearing to Miles’s Barrayaran eye to be in her mid-forties, which probably meant she was in her late fifties. She wore the usual Komarran trousers and blouse, and hunched into a heavy sweater. She looked pale and chilled, but there was certainly nothing else in her appearance to repel any husband.
   Her eyes widened as she took in the uniformed people facing her, radiating the message bad news. “Oh,” she sighed wearily. Miles, who had braced himself for hysterics, relaxed a little. She was going to be the underreacting type, it appeared. Her response would likely emerge oddly, and obliquely, and later.
   “Madame Radovas?” the dome cop said. The woman nodded. “My name is Group-Patroller Rigby. I regret to inform you that your husband, Dr. Barto Radovas, has been found dead. May we please come in?”
   Madame Radovas’s hand went to her lips; she said nothing for a moment. “Well.” She looked away. “I am not so pleased as I thought I’d be. What happened to him? That young woman-is she all right?”
   “May we come in and sit down?” Rigby reiterated. “I’m afraid we are going to have to trouble you with some questions. We’ll try to answer yours.”
   Madame Radovas’s eye warily took in Tuomonen, in his ImpSec greens. “Yes. All right.” She gave way, stepping backward, and gestured them all inside.
   Her living room featured another standard conversation circle; Miles seated himself to one side, letting Tuomonen share line-of-sight across from Madame Radovas with the Group-Patroller, who introduced the rest of them. Tien joined them, folding himself onto the bench, a picture of awkward discomfort. Professor Vorthys shook his head slightly and remained standing, his gaze taking in the room.
   “What happened to Barto? Was there an accident?” Madame Radovas’s voice was husky, barely controlled, now that the news was sinking in.
   “We’re not certain,” said Rigby. “His body was found in space, apparently associated with the disaster to the soletta three weeks ago. Did you know he had gone topside? Had he said anything before he left that would shed some light on this?”
   “I…” She looked away. “He didn’t speak to me before he left. I think he was not very brave about this. He left me a note on the comconsole. Until I found it, I thought this was an ordinary work trip.”
   “May we see it?” Tuomonen spoke for the first time.
   “I erased it. Sorry.” She frowned at him.
   “The plan for this… leaving, do you think it was your husband’s, or Marie Trogir’s?” asked Rigby.
   “You know all about them, I see. I have no idea. I was surprised. I don’t know.” Her voice grew sharper. “I wasn’t consulted.”
   “Did he often make work trips?” asked Rigby.
   “He went out on field tests fairly often. Sometimes he went to the terraforming conferences in Solstice. I usually went along on those.” Her voice fluttered raggedly, then came back under her control.
   “What did he take with him? Anything unusual?” asked Rigby patiently.
   “Just what he normally took on a long field trip.” She hesitated. “He took all his personal files. That’s how I first knew for sure that he wasn’t coming back.”
   “Did you talk to anyone at his work about this absence?”
   Tien shook his head, but Madame Radovas replied, “I spoke to Administrator Soudha. After I found the note. Trying to figure out… what had gone wrong.”
   “Was Administrator Soudha helpful to you?” asked Tuomonen.
   “Not very.” She frowned again. “He didn’t seem to feel it was any of his business what happened after Barto resigned.”
   “I’m sorry,” said Vorsoisson. “Soudha didn’t tell me about that part of it. I’ll reprimand him. I didn’t know.”
   And you didn’t ask. But much as Miles would like to, even he found it hard to blame Tien for steering clear of what had looked to be an embarrassing domestic situation. Madame Radovas’s frown at Vorsoisson became almost a glower.
   “I understand you and your husband moved downside about four years ago,” said Tuomonen. “It seemed an unusual change of careers, from five-space to what is effectively a form of civil engineering. Did he have a long-time interest in terra-forming?”
   She looked momentarily nonplused. “Barto cared about the future of Komarr. I… we were tired of station life. We wanted something more settled for the children. Dr. Soudha was looking for people for his team with different backgrounds, different kinds of problem-solving experience. He considered Barto’s station experience valuable. Engineering is engineering, I suppose.”