Professor Vorthys had been wandering gently around the room during this, one ear cocked toward the conversation, examining the travel mementos and portraits of children at various ages that were its principal decorations. He stopped before the library case on one wall, crammed with disks, and began randomly examining their titles. Madame Radovas gave him a brief curious glance.
   “Due to the unusual situation in which Dr. Radovas’s body was found, the law requires a complete medical examination,” Rigby went on. “Given your personally awkward circumstances, when it’s concluded, do you wish to have his body or his ashes returned to you, or to some other relative?”
   “Oh. Yes. To me, please. There should be a proper ceremony. For the children’s sake. For everyone’s sake.” She seemed very close to losing control now, tears standing in her eyes. “Can you… I don’t know. Do you take care of this?”
   “The Family Affairs counselor in our department will be glad to advise and assist you. I’ll give you her number before we leave.”
   “Thank you.”
   Tuomonen cleared his throat. “Due to the mysterious circumstances of Dr. Radovas’s death, ImpSec Komarr has also been asked to take an interest in the matter. I wonder if we might have your permission to examine your comconsole and personal records, to see if they suggest anything.”
   Madame Radovas touched her lips. “Barto took all his personal files. There’s not much left but my own.”
   “Sometimes a technical examination can uncover more.”
   She shook her head, but said, “Well… I suppose so.” She added more tartly, “Though I didn’t think ImpSec had to bother with my permission.”
   Tuomonen did not deny this, but said, “I like to salvage what courtesies I can, Madame, from our crude necessities.”
   Professor Vorthys added in a distant tone from the far wall, his hands full of disks, “Get the library, too.”
   With a flash of bewildered anger, Madame Radovas said, “Why do you want to take away my poor husband’s library!?”
   Vorthys looked up and gave her a kindly, disarming smile. “A man’s library gives information about the shape of his mind the way his clothing gives information about the shape of his body. The cross-connections between apparently unrelated subjects may exist only in his thoughts. There is a sad disconnectedness that overcomes a library when its owner is gone. I think I should have liked to meet your husband when he was alive. In this ghostly way, perhaps I can, a little.”
   “I don’t see why…” Her lips tightened in dismay.
   “We can arrange for it to be returned to you in a day or two,” Tuomonen said soothingly. “Is there anything you need out of it right away?”
   “No, but… oh… I don’t know. Take it. Take whatever you want, I don’t care any more.” Her eyes began to spill over at last. Group-Patroller Rigby handed her a tissue from one of her many uniform pockets and frowned at the Barrayarans.
   Tien shifted uncomfortably; Tuomonen remained blandly professional. Taking her outburst for his cue, the ImpSec captain rose and carried his case over to the comconsole in the corner by the dining ell, opened it, and plugged an ImpSec standard black box into the side of the machine. At Vorthys’s gesture, Rigby and Miles went to assist him in removing the library case intact from the wall, and sealing it for transport. Tuomonen, after sucking dry the comconsole, ran a scanner over the library, which Miles estimated contained close to a thousand disks, and generated a vid-receipt for Madame Radovas. She crumpled the plastic flimsy into the pocket of her gray trousers without looking at it, and stood with her arms crossed till the invaders assembled to depart.
   At the last moment, she bit her lip and blurted, “Administrator Vorsoisson. There won’t be… will I get… will there be any of the normal survivor’s benefits coming from Barto’s death?”
   Was she in financial need? Her two youngest children were still in university, according to Tuomonen’s files, and financially dependent on their parents; of course she was. But Vorsoisson shook his head sadly.
   “I’m afraid not, Madame Radovas. The medical examiner seems to be quite clear that his death took place after his resignation.”
   If it had been the other way around, this would be a much more interesting problem for ImpSec. “She gets nothing, then?” asked Miles. “Through no fault of her own, she’s stripped of all normal widow’s benefits just because of her,” he deleted a few pejorative adjectives, “late husband’s recklessness?”
   Vorsoisson shrugged helplessly, and turned away.
   “Wait,” said Miles. He’d been of damned little use to anyone today so far. “Gregor does not approve of widows being left destitute. Trust me on this one. Vorsoisson, go ahead and run the benefits through for her anyway.”
   “I can’t-how-do you want me to alter the date of his resignation?”
   Thus creating the curious legal spectacle of a man resigning the day after his own death? By what method, spirit writing? “No, of course not. Simply make it by an Imperial order.”
   “There are no places on the forms for an Imperial order!” said Vorsoisson, taken aback.
   Miles digested this. Tuomonen, looking faintly suffused, watched with wide-eyed fascination. Even Madame Radovas’s eyebrows crimped with bemusement. She looked directly at Miles as if seeing him for the first time. At last, Miles said gently, “A design defect you shall have to correct, Administrator Vorsoisson.”
   Tien’s mouth opened on some other protest, but then, intelligently, closed. Professor Vorthys looked relieved. Madame Radovas, her hand pressed to her cheek in something like wonder, said, “Thank you… Lord Vorkosigan.”
   After the usual If-you-think-of-anything-more-call-this-number farewells, the herd of investigators moved off down the hallway. Vorthys handed Tien the library case to lug. Back at the building’s entrance lobby, the Group-Patroller prepared to go her own way.
   “What, if anything, does ImpSec want us to do now?” she asked Tuomonen. “Dr. Radovas’s death seems out of Serifosa’s jurisdiction. Close relatives are automatically suspects in a mysterious death, but she’s been here the whole time. I don’t see any causal chain to that body in space.”
   “Neither do I, at present,” Tuomonen admitted. “For now, continue with your normal procedures, and send my office copies of all your reports and evidence files.”
   “I don’t suppose you’d care to return the favor?” Judging by the twist of her lips, Rigby thought she knew the answer.
   “I’ll see what I can do, if anything pertinent to Dome security turns up,” Tuomonen promised guardedly. Rigby’s brows rose at even this limited concession from ImpSec.
   “I’m going to have to go back topside tomorrow morning,” said Vorthys to Tuomonen. “I am not going to have time to do a thorough examination of this library myself. I shall have to trouble ImpSec for it, I’m afraid.”
   Tuomonen, his eye taking in the thousand-disk case, looked momentarily appalled. Miles added quickly, “On my authority, requisition a high-level analyst from HQ for that job. One of the basement boffins, with engineering and math certification, I think-right, Professor?”
   “Yes, indeed, the best man you can get,” said Vorthys.
   Tuomonen looked very relieved. “What do you want him to look for, my Lord Auditor?”
   “I don’t quite know,” said the Professor. “That’s why I want an ImpSec analyst, eh? Essentially, I want him to generate an independent picture of Radovas from this data, which we may compare with impressions from other sources later.”
   “A candid view of the shape of the mind inside this library,” mused Miles. “I see.”
   “I’m sure you do. Talk to the man, Miles, you know the kinds of things they do. And the kinds of things we want.”
   “Certainly, Professor.”
   They turned the library case over to Tuomonen, and Group-Patroller Rigby took her leave. It was approaching Komarran midnight.
   “I’ll take all this lot back to my office, then,” said Tuomonen, looking at his assorted burdens, “and call HQ with the news. How much longer do you expect to be staying in Serifosa, Lord Vorkosigan?”
   “I’m not sure. I’ll stay on and have a talk with Soudha, and Radovas’s other colleagues, at least, before I go up again. I, ah, think I’ll move my things to a hotel tomorrow, after the Professor goes up.”
   “You are welcome to the hospitality of my home, Lord Vorkosigan,” said Tien formally, and very unpressingly.
   “Thank you anyway, Administrator Vorsoisson. Who knows, I may be ready to follow on topside as early as tomorrow night. We’ll see what turns up.”
   “I’d appreciate it if you’d keep my office apprised of your movements,” said Tuomonen. “It was of course your privilege to order no close security upon your person, Lord Vorkosigan, but now that your case seems to have acquired a local connection, I’d strongly request you reconsider that.”
   “ImpSec guards are generally charming fellows, but I really like not tripping over them every time I turn around,” Miles replied. He tapped the ImpSec issue chrono-comm link, which looked oversized strapped around his left wrist. “Let’s stick with our original compromise, for now. I’ll yelp for help if I need you, I promise.”
   “As you wish, my lord,” said Tuomonen disapprovingly. “Is there anything else you need?”
   “Not tonight,” said Vorthys, yawning.
   I need all this to make sense. I need half a dozen eager informers. I want to be alone in a locked room with Marie Trogir and a hypo of fast-penta. I wish I might fast-penta that poor bitter widow, even. Rigby would require a court order for such an invasive and offensive step; Miles could do it on whim and his borrowed Imperial Voice, if he didn’t mind being a very obnoxious Lord Auditor indeed. The justification was simply not yet sufficient. But Soudha had better watch his step, tomorrow. Miles shook his head. “No. Get some sleep.”
   “Eventually.” Tuomonen smiled wryly. “Good night, my lords, Administrator.”
   They left the widow’s building in opposite directions.


   Ekaterin half-dozed, curled on the sunken living room couch, waiting for the men to return. She pushed back her sleeves and studied the deep bruises darkening on her wrists in the pattern of Lord Vorkosigan’s grip.
   She was not normally very body-conscious, she thought. She watched people’s faces, giving a bare glance to anything below the neck beyond the social language of clothing. This… not aversion, screening… seemed a mere courtesy, and a part of her sexual fidelity as automatic as breathing. So it was doubly disturbing to find herself so very aware of the little man. And probably very rude, as well, given the oddness of his body. Vorkosigan’s face, once she’d penetrated his first wary opacity, was… well, charming, full of dry wit only waiting to break into open humor. It was disorienting to find that face coupled with a body bearing a record of appalling pain. Was it some kind of perverse voyeurism, that her second reaction after shock had been a suppressed desire to persuade him to tell her all the stories about his war wounds? Not from around here, those hieroglyphs carved in his flesh had whispered, exotic with promise. And, I have survived. Want to know how?
   Yes. I want to know how. She pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose, as if she might press back the incipient headache gathering behind her eyes. Her body jolted at the faint snick and shirr of the hall door opening. But familiar voices, Tien’s and her uncle’s, reassured her it was only the expected return of the information-hunting party. She wondered what strange prey they had made a prize of. She sat up, and pushed down her sleeves. It was well after midnight.
   Tuomonen was no longer with them, she found to her relief as she rounded the corner into the hallway. She could lock her household down for the night, like a proper chatelaine. Tien looked tense, Vorkosigan looked tired, and Uncle Vorthys looked the same as ever. Vorkosigan was murmuring, “I trust it goes without saying, Vorsoisson, that tomorrow will be a surprise inspection?”
   “Certainly, my Lord Auditor.”
   “Did you find out anything interesting?” Ekaterin inquired generally, resetting the lock behind them.
   “Mm, Madame Radovas had no suggestions as to how her wandering husband had wandered into our soletta wreck,” said Uncle Vorthys. “I’d been hoping she might.”
   “It’s so sad. They had seemed like such a nice couple, the few times I met them.”
   “Well, you know middle-aged men.” Tien shrugged reprovingly, clearly excluding himself from the class.
   Ah, Tien. Why couldn’t you be the one to run off with a younger, richer woman? Maybe you’d be happier. You could scarcely be less happy. Why does your one virtue have to be fidelity? As far as she knew, anyway. Though she had wondered, during that thankfully-over weird period when he’d been accusing her, why an act she found unthinkable had so obsessed him. Maybe he didn’t find it so unthinkable at all? She hardly had the energy to care.
   She offered a late-night snack, an invitation only Uncle Vorthys accepted, and they all parted company for their respective sleeping quarters. By the time her uncle had finished eating and said good night, and she tidied up and made her way to her own bedroom, checking on Nikolai on the way, Tien was already in bed on his side with his eyes closed. Not sleeping yet; he had a very distinctive near-snore when he was truly asleep. When she slipped in beside him, he rolled over and flung his arm over her, and snugged her in tight.
   He does love me, in some inept way. The thought almost made her want to weep. Yet what other human connections did Tien have, aside from her and Nikolai? His distant mother, remarried, and the ghost of his dead brother. Tien clutched her at night sometimes like a drowning man clutching his log.
   If there was a hell, she hoped Tien’s brother was in it. A Vor hell. He had done the proper thing, oh yes he had, cutting out his own mutation, and setting an example for Tien impossible to-so to speak-live up to. Tien had tried to emulate him, twice early on and once later, running up to suicide attempts so half-hearted as to barely qualify as gestures. The first two times she had been utterly terrified. For a period she had believed her loyalty and dependency were the only things holding him to life. By the third, she was numb. Much more of this, and she wouldn’t be human at all. She felt barely human now.
   Hoping to pretend her way to the real thing, she let her breathing slow, and feigned sleep. After a time, Tien, who was no more asleep than she, got up and went to the bathroom. But instead of returning to bed, he plodded quietly across the bedroom and out toward the kitchen. Maybe he’d changed his mind about that snack. Would he like it if she heated him some milk with brandy and spices in it? It was an old family recipe and remedy her great-aunt had brought to South Continent; comfort-drink for a visiting sick niece, though the larger of the generous portions had always somehow seemed to find its way into the old lady’s own cup. Ekaterin smiled in memory, and padded after Tien.
   Not the refrigerator but the kitchen comconsole terminal made the only faint light ahead of her. She paused in the doorway, puzzled. In her parents’ household, the only allowable reason to call anyone at this hour of the night was to announce either a birth or a death, a rule she’d found she had internalized.
   “What the hell was Radovas’s body doing up there?” Tien, his back to her, spoke hoarsely and lowly to the torso over the vid-plate. Startled, Ekaterin recognized his subordinate, Administrator Soudha. Soudha was not, as she would have expected, in pajamas, but still dressed for the day. Working this late at home? Well, engineers were like that. She drew back a little more into the shadows in the hallway. “You told me he’d quit.”
   “He did,” said Soudha. “It’s not our problem what happened to him afterward.”
   “The hell it’s not. We’re going to have frigging ImpSec all over the department tomorrow. The real thing, not just a VIP tour we can run around in circles and feed dinner and wave good-bye to. I could see Tuomonen getting this shitty-eyed look just thinking about it.”
   “We’ll handle them. Go back to bed, Vorsoisson.”
   Lord Auditor Vorkosigan told you point-blank he wanted to make a surprise inspection, Tien. He speaks with the Emperor’s Voice. What are you doing? She began to breathe through her mouth, soundlessly, starting to feel sick to her stomach.
   “They’re going to find out all about your sweet little scheme, and then we’ll all be in it to our eyebrows,” said Tien.
   “No, they won’t. We’re tight in town. Just keep them away from the experiment station, and we’ll grease them in and out without a squeak.”
   “The experiment station is a hollow shell. You haven’t got a department, except in the files. What if they want to interview one of your ghost employees?”
   “Such as yourself?” Soudha’s mouth twisted in a thin smile. “Relax.”
   “I am not going down with you.”
   “You think you have a choice?” Soudha snorted. “Look. It’ll be all right. They can audit all day long, and all they’ll find is a lot of columns that add perfectly. Lena Foscol in Accounting is the most meticulous thief I’ve ever met. We’re so far ahead of them they’ll never catch up.”
   “Soudha, they’re going to ask to interview people who don’t exist. Then what?”
   “Gone on vacation. Out on field work. We can stall.”
   “For how long? And then what?”
   “Go to bed, Vorsoisson, and stop twitching.”
   “Goddammit, I’ve had two Imperial Auditors in my house for the last three days.” He stopped and took a gulping breath; Soudha offered him a sympathetic shrug. Tien went on again in a lowered tone. “That’s… another thing. I need an advance on my stipend. I need another twenty thousand marks. And I need it now.”
   “Now? Oh, sure, with ImpSec looking on, no doubt. Vorsoisson, you are gibbering.”
   “Dammit, I have to have the money. Or else.”
   “Or else what? Or else you’re going to ImpSec and turn yourself in? Look, Tien.” Soudha ran his hands through his hair in a harried swipe. “Lie low. Keep your mouth shut. Be sweet like sugar to the nice ImpSec lads, give them to me, and we’ll handle them. Let’s just take this one day at a time, all right?”
   “Soudha, I know you can produce the twenty thousand. There has to be at least fifty thousand marks a month flowing out of your department’s budget and into your pockets from the dummy employees alone, and God knows how much from the rest of it-though I’m sure your pet accountant does— what if they decide to fast-penta her?”
   Ekaterin stepped backward, her bare feet seeking silence from the floor near the wall. Dear God. What has Tien done now? It was all too easy to fill in the blanks. Embezzlement and bribery at the very least, and on a grand scale. How long has this been going on?
   The muffled voices from the kitchen exchanged a few more curt words, and the blue reflection from the holovid winked out, leaving the hallway obliquely lit only by the amber lights in the park outside. Heart pounding, Ekaterin slipped back down the hall into her bathroom and locked its door. She quickly flushed the commode and stood trembling at the sink, staring at her dim reflection in the glass. The faint nightlight made drowned sparks in her dilated eyes. After another minute, the bed creaked as Tien made his way back into it.
   She waited a long time, but when she crept out, he was still awake.
   “Hm?” he said muzzily as she slid under the covers again.
   “Not feeling too well,” she muttered. Truthfully.
   “Poor Kat. Something you ate, you think?”
   “Not sure.” She curled up away from him, not having to pretend the sick ache in her belly.
   “Take something, eh? If you’re batting around all night, neither of us will get any sleep.”
   “I’ll see.” I must know. After a time she added, “Did you get anything arranged about our galactic trip today?”
   “God, no. Much too busy.”
   Not too busy to complete the transfer of her funds to his own account, she’d noticed. “Would you… like me to take over making all the arrangements? There’s no reason you should carry all that burden, I have plenty of time. I’ve already researched off-world medical facilities.”
   “Not now, Kat! We can deal with this later. Next week, after your uncle goes.”
   She let it drop, staring into the darkness. Whatever it is he needs twenty thousand marks for, it’s not to fulfill his word to me.
   Eventually, he slept, about two hours; Ekaterin watched the time ooze by, black and slow as tar. I must know.
   And after you know, then what? Will you deal with it later, too? She lay waiting for the dawn’s light.
   The light is broken, remember?
   The routine of dealing with Nikolai’s needs steadied her in the morning. Uncle Vorthys left very early, to catch his orbital flight.
   “Will you be coming back down?” she asked him a little wanly, helping him on with his jacket in the vestibule.
   “I hope I might, but I can’t promise. This investigation has already gone on longer than I expected, and has taken some peculiar turns. I really have no idea how long it will take to finish up.” He hesitated. “If it drags on beyond the end of the term at the District University, perhaps the Professora might come out to join me for a time. Would you like that?” Not trusting herself to speak, she nodded. “Good. Good.” He seemed about to say more, but then just shrugged and smiled, and hugged her good-bye.
   She managed to evade almost all contact with Tien and Vorkosigan by accompanying Nikki to school in the bubble-car, an escort he scorned, and taking the long route home. As she had hoped, the apartment was empty on her return. She washed down more painkillers with more coffee, then, with reluctant steps, entered Tien’s office and sat before his comconsole. I wish I’d taken Lord Vorkosigan up on his offer to teach me how to do this. Her outrage at the mutie lord yesterday in the bubble-car now seemed to her all out of proportion. Misplaced. How much could her intimate knowledge of Tien make up for her lack of training in this sort of snooping? Not enough, she suspected, but she had to try. Get started. You are deliberately delaying. No. I am desperately delaying. She keyed on the comconsole.
   Tien’s financial accounts, on this his personal machine, were not locked under a code seal. Income matched his salary; outgo… when all the routine outgo was accounted for, the amount left over should have been a modest respectable savings. Tien did not indulge himself with unshared luxuries. But the account was almost empty. Several thousand marks had disappeared without trace, including the transfer she had made to him yesterday morning. No, wait-that transfer was still on the list, hastily entered, not erased or hidden yet. And it was a transfer, not an expenditure, to a file that had appeared nowhere else.
   She followed its transfer marker to a hidden account. The comconsole produced a palm-lock form above the vid-plate. When she and Tien had first set up their accounts on Komarr, less than a year ago, they had taken prudent thought or one or the other parent being temporarily disabled; each had emergency access to the other’s accounts. Had Tien set this up entirely separately, or as a daughter-cell of his larger financial program, letting the machine do the work for him? Maybe ImpSec covert ops doesn’t have all the advantages, she thought grimly, and placed her right hand in the light box. If only you were willing to betray a trust, why, the most amazing range of possible actions opened up to you. So did the file. She took a deep breath, and started reading.
   By far the largest portion of what was under the seal turned out to be a huge research clip-file much like her own on the subject of Vorzohn’s Dystrophy. But Tien’s new obsession, it appeared, was Komarran trade fleets.
   Komarr’s economy was founded, of course, on its worm-holes, and providing services to the trade ships of other worlds that passed through them. But once you had amassed all those profits, how to reinvest them? There were, after all, a physically limited number of wormholes in Komarr local space. So Komarr had gone on to develop its own trade fleets, going out into the wormhole nexus on long complicated circuits of months or even years, and returning, sometimes, with fabulous profits.
   And sometimes not. Stories of all the best, most legendary returns were highlighted in Tien’s files. The failures, admittedly fewer in number, were brushed aside. Tien was nothing if not an optimist, always. Every day was going to bring him his lucky break, the shot that would take him directly to the top with no intervening steps. As if he really believed that was how it was done.
   Some of the fleets were closely held to the famous family corporations, Komarr’s oligarchy, such as the Toscanes; others sold shares on the public market to any Komarran who cared to place his bet. Almost every Komarran did, at least in a small way; she’d heard one Barrayaran bureaucrat joke that it replaced the need for most other sorts of gambling in the Komarran state.
   And when on Komarr, do as the Komarrans do? With dread in her heart, she switched to the financial portion of the file.
   Where in God’s name did Tien get a hundred thousand marks to buy fleet shares? His salary was barely five thousand marks a month. And then-having done so-why had he put all hundred thousand on the same fleet?
   She turned her attention to the first question, which was at least potentially answerable with reference to facts of record, without requiring psychological theory. It took her some time to break the credit stream apart into its various sources. The partial answer was, he’d borrowed sixty thousand marks on short term at a disturbingly high interest rate, secured with his pension fund and forty thousand marks worth of fleet shares he’d bought with-what? With money that came from nowhere, apparently.
   From Soudha? Was that what he had meant by a ghost employee?
   Ekaterin read on. The fleet upon which Tien had placed his borrowed bet had departed with much hype and fanfare; shares had been trading on the secondary market at rising prices for weeks after it had departed Komarr. Tien had even made a multicolored graph to track his electronic gains. Then the fleet had encountered disaster: an entire ship, cargo, and crew lost hideously to a wormhole mishap. The fleet, now unable to complete many of its planned trade chains that had been based in the lost cargo, had rerouted and come home early, tail between its imaginary legs. Some fleets returned two for one to their investors, though the average was closer to ten percent; the Golden Voyage of Marat Galen in the previous century was famous for having returned a fabulous fortune of a hundred to one for every share its investors had purchased, founding at least two new oligarchic clans in the process.
   Tien’s fleet, however, had returned a loss of four for one.
   With his twenty-five thousand marks of residue, Ekaterin’s four thousand marks, his personal savings, and his meager pension fund, Tien had been placed to pay back only two-thirds of his loan, now due. Pressingly overdue, apparently, judging from the aggressively-worded dunning notices accumulating in the file. When he had cried to Soudha that he needed twenty thousand marks now, Tien had not been exaggerating. She could not help calculating how many years it would take to scrimp twenty thousand marks from her household budget.
   What a nightmare. It was almost possible to feel sorry for the man.
   Except for the little problem of the origin of that magical first forty thousand marks.
   Ekaterin sat back and rubbed her numb face. She had a horrible feeling she could guess the hidden parts of this whole chain of reasoning. This apparently complex and deeply entrenched scam in the Terraforming Project had not, she thought, originated with Tien. All his previous dishonesties had been petty: wrong change not returned, a little padding here and there on expense reports, the usual minor erosion of character almost every adult suffered in weak moments, but not grand theft. Soudha had been here in his job for over five years. This was surely a home-grown Komarran crime. But Tien, newly made head of the Serifosa Sector, had perhaps stumbled upon it, and Soudha had bought his silence, So… had the previous Barrayaran Administrator whom Tien had replaced been on the take as well? A question for ImpSec, to be sure.
   But Tien was in far over his head and must have realized it. Hence the gamble with the trade fleet shares. If the fleet had returned four for one, instead of the other way around, Tien would have been placed to return his bribe, make restitution, get out from under. Had some such panicked thought been in the back of his mind?
   And if he had been lucky instead of unlucky, would the impulse have survived to become reality?
   And if Tien had pulled a hundred thousand marks out of his hat, and told you he won them on trade fleet shares, would you have asked the first question about their origin? Or would you have been overjoyed and thought him a secret genius?
   She sat now bent over, aching in every part of her body, up her back, her neck, inside and outside her head. In her heart. Her eyes were dry.
   A Vor woman’s first loyalty was supposed to be to her husband. Even unto treason, even unto death. The sixth Countess Vorvayne had followed her husband right up to the stocks in which he had been hung to die for his part in the Saltpetre Plot, and sat at his feet in a hunger strike, and died, in fact a day before him, of exposure. Great tragic story, that one-one of the best bloody melodramas from the history of the Time of Isolation. They’d made a holovid of it, though in the vid version the couple had died at the same moment, as if achieving mutual orgasm.
   Has a Vor woman no honor of her own, then? Before Tien entered my life, did I not have integrity all the same?
   Yes, and I laid it on my marriage oath. Rather like buying all your shares in one fleet.
   If Tien had been afflicted with some great misguided political passion-thrown in his lot with the wrong side in Vordarian’s Pretendership, whatever-if he had followed his convictions, she might well have followed him with all good will. But this was not allegiance to some greater truth, or even to some grandly tragic mistake.
   It was just stupidity, piled on venality. It wasn’t tragedy, it was farce. It was Tien all over. But if there was any honor to be regained by turning her own sick husband over to the authorities, she surely did not see it either.
   If I grow much smaller, trying to keep my height under his, I believe I must soon disappear altogether.
   But if she was not a Vor woman, what was she? To step away from her oath-sworn place at Tien’s side was to step across a precipice into the dark, naked of any identity at all.
   It was, what did they call it, a window of opportunity. If she left before the crisis broke, before this whole hideous mess came out in some public way, she would not be deserting Tien in his hour of greatest need, would she?
   Ask your soldier’s heart, woman. Is deserting the night before the battle any better than deserting in the heat?
   Yet if she did not go, she tacitly acquiesced to this farce. Only ignorance was innocence, was bliss. Knowledge was… anything but power.
   No one else would save her. No one else could. And even to open her lips and whisper “help” was to choose Tien’s destruction.
   She sat still as stone, in silence, for a very long time.


   Captain Tuomonen arranged to rendezvous with Miles and Tien in the lobby of the Vorsoissons’ residence building, rather than at the Terraforming Project offices, a blandly sociable gesture that did not fool Miles for a moment. The Imperial Auditor was to be saddled with an ImpSec guard whether he’d ordered one or not, it appeared. Miles almost looked forward to seeing the test of Tuomonen’s polite ingenuity this security determination was doubtless going to demonstrate.
   At the bubble-car platform across the park, Miles seized the opportunity to shunt Tien into another car and claim a private one for himself and Tuomonen, the better to decant the night’s news from him. A few early morning commuters crowded in with the administrator, and his car slid away into the tubes. But as soon as the next pair of Komarrans, already hesitant at the sight of the green Imperial uniform, got close enough to make out the ImpSec eyes on the captain’s collar, they sheered off hastily from any attempt to join Miles’s little party.
   “Do you always get a bubble-car to yourself?” Miles inquired of Tuomonen as the canopy closed and the car began to move.
   “When I’m in uniform. Works like a charm.” Tuomonen smiled slightly. “But if I want to eavesdrop on Serifosans, I make sure to wear civvies.”
   “Ha. So what’s the status on Radovas’s library this morning?”
   “I dispatched one of the compound guards last night to hand-carry it to HQ in Solstice. Solstice is three time zones ahead of us; their analyst should have started on it by now.”
   “Good.” Miles’s brow wrinkled. Compound guards? “Um… just how big is ImpSec Serifosa, Captain Tuomonen?”
   “Well… there’s myself, my desk sergeant, and two corporals. We keep the data base, coordinate information flow to HQ, and provide support for any investigators HQ sends out on special projects. Then there is my lieutenant who commands the guards at the Sector Sub-Consulate compound. He has a unit of ten men to cover security there.”
   The Imperial Counselor was how the Barrayaran Viceroy of Komarr was styled, in deference to local custom. Miles’s incognito arrival in Serifosa had excused him, or so he’d chosen to pretend, from a courtesy call on the Counselor’s Serifosa Sector regional deputy. “Only ten men? For around the clock, all week?”
   “I’m afraid so.” Tuomonen smiled wryly. “Not much goes on in Serifosa, my lord. It was one of the least active Domes in the Komarr Revolt, a tradition of political apathy it has since maintained. It was the first Sector to have its occupying Imperial garrison withdrawn. One of my Komarran in-laws facetiously blames the lack of urban renewal in the Dome’s central section on the previous generation’s failure to arrange for it to have been leveled by Imperial forces.” That aging and decrepit area was visible now in the distance, as the car reached the top of an arc and bumped into an intersecting tube. They rotated and began to descend toward Serifosa’s newer rim.
   “Still-apathetic or not-how do you stay on top of things?”
   “I have a budget for paid informers. We used to pay them on a piecework-basis, till I discovered that when they had no real news to sell, they’d make some up. So I cut their numbers in half and put the best ones on a part-time regular salary, instead. We meet about once a week, and I give them a little security workshop and we have a gossip swap. I try to get them to think of themselves as low-level civilian analysts, rather than merely informers. It seems to have significantly helped the reliability of my information flow.”
   “I see. Do you have anyone planted in the Terraforming Project?”
   “No, unfortunately. Terraforming is not considered security-critical. I do have people at the shuttleport, in the Locks district, in the Dome police, and a few in the local Dome government offices. We also cover the power plant, atmosphere cycling, and water treatment both independently and in cooperation with local authorities. They check their job applicants for criminal records and psychological instability, we check them for potentially dangerous political associations. Terraforming has always been just too damn far down the list for my budget to cover. I will say its employment background check standards are among the lowest in the civil service.”
   “Hm. Wouldn’t that policy tend to concentrate the disaffected?”
   Tuomonen shrugged. “Many intelligent Komarrans still do not love the Imperium. They have to do something for a living. To qualify for the Terraforming Project, it is perhaps enough that they love Komarr. They have simply no political motivation for sabotage there.”
   Barto cared about the future of Komarr, his widow had said. Might Radovas have been among the disaffected? And if he were, so what? Miles frowned in puzzlement as the car pulled into the stop in the station beneath the Terraforming Project offices.
   As instructed, Tien Vorsoisson was waiting for them on the platform. He escorted them as before up through the atrium of his building to the floors of his domain; though a few doors were open on early morning activity in various departments as they passed, they were the first to arrive in Vorsoisson’s office.
   “Do you have any preference as to how to divide this up?” Miles asked Tuomonen, staring around meditatively as Vorsoisson brought up the lights.
   “I managed to squeeze in a short interview with Andro Farr this morning,” said Tuomonen. “He gave me some names of Marie Trogir’s particular acquaintances at work. I believe I’d like to start with them.”
   “Good. If you want to start with Trogir, I’ll start with Radovas, and we can meet in the middle. I want to begin by interviewing his boss, Soudha, I believe, Administrator Vorsoisson.”
   “Certainly, my Lord Auditor. Do you wish to use my office?”
   “No, I think I want to see him in his own territory.”
   “I’ll take you downstairs, then. I’ll be at your disposal in just a moment, Captain Tuomonen.”
   Tuomonen seated himself at Vorsoisson’s comconsole and eyed it thoughtfully. “Take your time, Administrator.”
   Vorsoisson, with a worried look over his shoulder, led Miles down one flight to the Department of Waste Heat Management. Soudha had not yet arrived; Miles dispatched Tien back to Tuomonen, then circled the engineer’s office slowly, examining its decor and contents.
   It was a rather bare place. Perhaps the department head had another, more occupied work area out at his experiment station. The book rack on the wall was sparsely filled, mostly with disks on management and technical references. There were works on space stations and their construction, to be sure close cousins of domes, but unlike Radovas’s library, no more specialized texts on wormholes or five-space math than might be residue from Soudha’s university days.
   A heavy tread announced the room’s owner; the curious look on Soudha’s face to find his office open and lit as he entered gave way to understanding as he saw Miles.
   “Ah. Good morning, Lord Auditor Vorkosigan.”
   “Good morning, Dr. Soudha.” Miles replaced the handful of disks in their former slots.
   Soudha looked a bit tired; perhaps he was not a morning person. He gave Miles a weary smile of greeting. “To what do I owe the honor of this visit?” He muffled a yawn, pulled a chair up near his desk, and gave Miles a gesture of invitation to it. “Can I get you some coffee?”
   “No, thank you.” Miles sat, and let Soudha settle himself behind his comconsole desk. “I have some unpleasant news.” Soudha’s face composed itself attentively. “Barto Radovas is dead.” He watched for Soudha’s response.
   Soudha blinked, his lips parting in dismay. “That’s a shock. I thought he was in good health, for his age. Was it his heart? Oh, my, poor Trogir.”
   “No one’s health stands up to exposure to vacuum without a pressure suit, regardless of their age.” Miles decided not to include the details of the corpse’s massive trauma, for now. “His body was found in space.”
   Soudha glanced up, his brows rising. “Do they think it has some connection to the soletta accident, then?”
   Or why else would Miles be taking an interest, right. “Perhaps.”
   “Have they-what about Marie Trogir?” Soudha’s lips thinned thoughtfully. “You didn’t say she…?”
   “She’s not been found. Or not yet. The probable-cause crews are continuing search sweeps topside, and ImpSec is now looking everywhere else. Their next task, of course, is to try to trace the couple from the time and place they were last seen, which was several weeks ago and here, apparently. We’ll be requesting the cooperation of your department, of course.”
   “Certainly. This is… this is really a very horrifying turn of events. I mean, regardless of one’s opinion of the way they chose to pursue their personal choices…”
   “And what is your opinion, Dr. Soudha? I’d really like to get a sense of the man, and of Trogir. Do you have any ideas?”
   Soudha shook his head. “I confess, this turn in their relationship took me by surprise. But I don’t pry into my employees’ private lives.”
   “So you’ve said. But you worked closely with the man for five years. What were his outside interests, his politics, his hobbies, his obsessions?”
   “I…” Soudha shrugged in frustration. “I can give you his complete work record. Radovas was a quiet sort of fellow, never made trouble, did first-rate technical work-”
   “Yes, why did you hire him? Waste Heat Management does not appear to have been his previous specialty.”
   “Oh, he had a great deal of station expertise-as you may know, getting rid of excess heat topside is a standard engineering challenge. I thought his technical experience might bring some new perspectives to our problems, and I was right. I was very pleased with his work-Section Two of the reports I gave you yesterday was mostly his, if you would like to examine them to get a real sense of the man. Power generation and distribution. Hydraulics, in Section Three, was mostly mine. The basis of heat exchange through liquid transfer is most promising-”
   “I’ve looked over your report, thanks.”
   Soudha looked startled. “All of it? I had really understood Dr. Vorthys would be wanting it. I’m afraid it’s a bit thick on the technical detail.”
   Oh, sure, I speed-read all two hundred thousand words before bed last night. Miles smiled blandly. “I accept your evaluation of Dr. Radovas’s technical competence. But if he was so good, why did he leave? Was he bored, happy, frustrated? Why did this change in his personal circumstances lead to change in his work? I don’t see a necessary connection.”
   “For that,” said Soudha, “I’m afraid you will have to ask Marie Trogir. I strongly suspect the driving force in this peculiar decision came from her, though they both resigned and left together. She had far less to lose, leaving here, in pay and seniority and status.”
   “Tell me more about her.”
   “Well, I truly can’t. Barto hired her himself and worked with her on a daily basis. She barely came to my attention. Her technical ability appears to have been adequate-although, come to think of it, those evaluations were all supplied by Barto. I don’t know.” Soudha rubbed his forehead. “This is all pretty upsetting. Barto, dead. Why?” The distress in his voice seemed genuine to Miles’s experienced ear, but his shock appeared more surprise than the deep grief from loss of a close friend; Miles would, perhaps, have to look elsewhere for the insights into Radovas he now sought.