Lois McMaster Bujold, "BROTHERS IN ARMS"

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Chapter Six

He ate a sandwich and slurped coffee for dinner in his cabin while he perused Dendarii fleet status reports. Repairs had been completed and approved on the Triumph's surviving combat drop shuttles. And paid for, alas, the money now passed beyond recall. Refit chores were all caught up throughout the fleet, downside leaves used up, spit spat and polish polished off. Boredom was setting in. Boredom and bankruptcy.

The Cetagandans had it all wrong, Miles decided bitterly. It wasn't war that would destroy the Dendarii, it was peace. If their enemies would just stay their hands and wait patiently, the Dendarii, his creation, would collapse all on its own without any outside assistance.

His cabin buzzer blatted, a welcome interruption to the dark and winding chain of his thoughts. He keyed the comm on his desk. "Yes?"

"It's Elli."

His hand leapt eagerly to tap the lock control. "Enter! You're back before I'd expected. I was afraid you'd be stuck down there like Danio. Or worse, with Danio."

He wheeled his chair around, the room seeming suddenly brighter as the door hissed open, though a lumen-meter might not have registered it. Elli waved him a salute and hitched a hip over the edge of his desk. She smiled, but her eyes looked tired.

"Told you," she said. "In feet there was some talk of making me a permanent guest. I was sweet, I was cooperative, I was nearly prim, trying to convince them I wasn't a homicidal menace to society and they really could let me back out on the streets, but I was making no headway till their computers suddenly hit the jackpot. The lab came back with ID's on those two men I ... killed, at the shuttleport."

Miles understood the little hesitation before her choice of terms. Someone else might have picked a breezier euphemism—blew away, or offed—distancing himself from the consequences of his action. Not Quinn.

"Interesting, I take it," he said encouragingly. He made his voice calm, drained of any hint of judgment. Would that the ghosts of your enemies only escorted you to hell. But no, they had to hang about your shoulder interminably, waiting until that service was called for. Maybe the notches Danio gouged in the hilts of his weapons weren't such a tasteless idea after all. Surely it was a greater sin to forget a single dead man in your tally. "Tell me about them."

"They turned out to be both known to and desired by the Eurolaw Net. They were—how shall I put this—soldiers of the sub-economy. Professional hit men. Locals."

Miles winced. "Good God, what have I ever done to them?"

"I doubt they were after you of their own accord. They were almost certainly hirelings, contracted by a third party or parties unknown, though I imagine we could both give it a good guess."

"Oh, no. The Cetagandan Embassy is sub-contracting my assassination now? I suppose it makes sense: Galeni said they were understaffed. But do you realize—" he rose and began to pace in his agitation, "this means I could be attacked again from any quarter. Anywhere, any time. By totally un-personally-motivated strangers."

"A security nightmare," she agreed.

"I don't suppose the police were able to trace their employer?"

"No such luck. Not yet, anyway. I did direct their attention to the Cetagandans, as candidates for the motive leg of any method-motive-opportunity triangle they may try to put together."

"Good. Can we make anything of the method and opportunity parts ourselves?" Miles wondered aloud. "The end results of their attempt would seem to indicate they were a trifle under-prepared for their task."

"From my point of view their method looked like it came awfully damn close to working," she remarked. "It suggests, though, that opportunity might have been their limiting factor. I mean, Admiral Naismith doesn't just go into hiding when you go downside, tricky as it would be to find one man among nine billion. He literally ceases to exist anywhere, zip! There was evidence these guys had been hanging around the shuttleport for some days waiting for you."

"Ugh." His visit to Earth was quite spoiled. Admiral Naismith was, it appeared, a danger to himself and others. Earth was too congested. What if his assailants next tried to blow up a whole tubeway car or restaurant to reach their target? An escort to hell by the souls of his enemies was one thing, but what if he were standing beside a class of primary-school children next round?

"Oh, by the way, I did see Private Danio when I was downside," Elli added, examining a chipped fingernail. "His case is coming up for judicial review in a couple of days, and he asked me to ask you to come."

Miles snarled under his breath. "Oh, sure. A potentially unlimited number of total strangers are trying to off me, and he wants me to schedule a public appearance. For target practice, no doubt."

Elli grinned, and nibbled her fingernail off evenly. "He wants a character witness by someone who knows him."

"Character witness! I wish I knew where he hid his scalp collection; I'd bring it just to show the judge. Sociopath therapy was invented for people like him. No, no. The last person he wants for a character witness is someone who knows him." Miles sighed, subsiding. "Send Captain Thorne. Betan, got a lot of cosmopolitan savoir faire, should be able to lie well on the witness stand."

"Good choice," Elli applauded. "It's about time you started delegating some of your work load."

"I delegate all the time," he objected. "I am extremely glad, for instance, that I delegated my personal security to you."

She flipped up a hand, grimacing, as if to bat away the implied compliment before it could land. Did his words bite? "I was slow."

"You were fast enough." Miles wheeled and came to face her, or at any rate her throat. She had folded back her jacket for comfort, and the arc of her black T-shirt intersected her collarbone in a kind of abstract, aesthetic sculpture. The scent of her—no perfume, just woman—rose warm from her skin.

"I think you were right," she said. "Officers shouldn't go shopping in the company store—"

Dammit, thought Miles, I only said that back then because I was in love with Baz Jesek's wife and didn't want to say so—better to never say so—

"—it really does distract from duty. I watched you, walking toward us across the shuttleport, and for a couple of minutes, critical minutes, security was the last thing on my mind."

"What was the first thing on your mind?" Miles asked hopefully, before his better sense could stop him. Wake up man, you could fumble your whole future in the next thirty seconds.

Her smile was rather pained. "I was wondering what you'd done with that stupid cat blanket, actually," she said lightly.

"I left it at the embassy. I was going to bring it," and what wouldn't he give to whip it out now, and invite her to sit with him on the edge of his bed? "but I had some other things on my mind. I haven't told you yet about the latest wrinkle in our tangled finances. I suspect—" dammit, business again, intruding into this personal moment, this would-be personal moment. "I'll tell you about that later. Right now I want to talk about us. I have to talk about us."

She moved back from him slightly; Miles amended his words hastily, "and about duty." She stopped retreating. His right hand touched her uniform collar, turned it over, slid over the smooth cool surface of her rank insignia. Nervous as lint-picking. He drew his hand back, clenched it over his breast to control it.

"I ... have a lot of duties, you see. Sort of a double dose. There's Admiral Naismith's duties, and there's Lieutenant Vorkosigan's duties. And then there's Lord Vorkosigan's duties. A triple dose."

Her eyebrows were arched, her lips pursed, her eyes blandly inquiring; supernal patience, yes, she'd wait for him to make an ass of himself at his own pace. His pace was becoming headlong.

"You're familiar with Admiral Naismith's duties. But they're the least of my troubles, really. Admiral Naismith is subordinate to Lieutenant Vorkosigan, who exists only to serve Barrayaran Imperial Security, to which he has been posted by the wisdom and mercy of his Emperor. Well, his Emperor's advisors, anyway. In short, Dad. You know that story."

She nodded.

"That business about not getting personally involved with anyone on his staff may be true enough for Admiral Naismith ..."

"I'd wondered, later, whether that . . . incident in the lift tube might have been some kind of test," she said reflectively.

This took a moment to sink in. "Eugh! No!" Miles yelped. "What a repulsively lowdown, mean and scurvy trick that would have been—no. No test. Quite real."

"Ah," she said, but failed to reassure him of her conviction with, say, a heartfelt hug. A heartfelt hug would be very reassuring just now. But she just stood there, regarding him, in a stance uncomfortably like parade rest.

"But you have to remember, Admiral Naismith isn't a real man. He's a construct. I invented him. With some important parts missing, in retrospect."

"Oh, rubbish, Miles." She touched his cheek lightly. "What is this, ectoplasm?"

"Let's get back, all the way back, to Lord Vorkosigan," Miles forged on desperately. He cleared his throat and with an effort dropped his voice back into his Barrayaran accent. "You've barely met Lord Vorkosigan."

She grinned at his change of voice. "I've heard you do his accent. It's charming if, um, rather incongruous."

"I don't do his accent, he does mine. That is—I think—" he stopped, tangled. "Barrayar is bred in my bones."

Her eyebrows lifted, their ironic tilt blunted by her clear good will. "Literally, as I understand it. I shouldn't think you'd thank them, for poisoning you before you'd even managed to get born."

"They weren't after me, they were after my father. My mother—" considering just where he was attempting to steer this conversation, it might be better to avoid expanding upon the misfired assassination attempts of the last twenty-five years. "Anyway, that kind of thing hardly ever happens any more."

"What was that out there on the shuttleport today, street ballet?"

"It wasn't a Barrayaran assassination."

"You don't know that," she remarked cheerfully.

Miles opened his mouth and hung, stunned by a new and even more horrible paranoia. Captain Galeni was a subtle man, if Miles had read him aright. Captain Galeni could be far ahead down any linked chain of logic of interest to him. Suppose he was indeed guilty of embezzlement. And suppose he had anticipated Miles's suspicions. And suppose he'd spotted a way to keep money and career both, by eliminating his accuser. Galeni, after all, had known just when Miles was to be at the shuttleport. Any local dealer in death that the Cetagandan embassy could hire, the Barrayaran embassy could hire just as readily, just as covertly. "We'll talk about that—later—too," he choked.

"Why not now?"

"BECAUSE I'M—" he stopped, took a deep breath, "trying to say something else," he continued in a small, tightly contained voice.

There was a pause. "Say on," Elli encouraged.

"Um, duties. Well, just as Lieutenant Vorkosigan contains all of Admiral Naismith's duties, plus others of his own, so Lord Vorkosigan contains all of Lieutenant Vorkosigan, plus duties of his own. Political duties separate from and overarching a lieutenant's military duties. And, um . . . family duties." His palm was damp; he rubbed it unobtrusively on the seam of his trousers. This was even harder than he'd thought it would be. But no harder, surely, than someone who'd had her face blown away once having to face plasma fire again.

"You make yourself sound like a Venn diagram. 'The set of all sets which are members of themselves' or something."

"I feel like it," he admitted. "But I've got to keep track somehow."

"What contains Lord Vorkosigan?" she asked curiously. "When you look in the mirror when you step out of the shower, what looks back? Do you say to yourself, Hi, Lord Vorkosigan?"

I avoid looking in mirrors. . . . "Miles, I guess. Just Miles."

"And what contains Miles?"

His right index finger traced over the back of his immobilized left hand. "This skin."

"And that's the last, outer perimeter?"

"I guess."

"Gods," she muttered. "I've fallen in love with a man who thinks he's an onion."

Miles snickered; he couldn't help it. But—"fallen in love?" His heart lifted in vast encouragement. "Better than my ancestoress who was supposed to have thought herself—" no, better not bring that one up either.

But Elli's curiosity was insatiable; it was why he'd first assigned her to Dendarii Intelligence, after all, where she'd been so spectacularly successful. "What?"

Miles cleared his throat. "The fifth Countess Vorkosigan was said to suffer from the periodic delusion that she was made of glass."

"What finally happened to her?" asked Elli in a tone of fascination.

"One of her irritated relations eventually dropped and broke her."

"The delusion was that intense?"

"It was off a twenty-meter-tall turret. I don't know," he said impatiently. "I'm not responsible for my weird ancestors. Quite the reverse. Exactly the inverse." He swallowed. "You see, one of Lord Vorkosigan's non-military duties is to eventually, sometime, somewhere, come up with a Lady Vorkosigan. The eleventh Countess-Vorkosigan-to-be. It's rather expected from a man from a strictly patrilinear culture, y'see. You do know," his throat seemed to be stuffed with cotton, his accent wavered back and forth, "that these, uh, physical problems of mine," his hand swept vaguely down the length, or lack of it, of his body, "were teratogenic. Not genetic. My children should be normal. A fact which may have saved my life, in view of Barrayar's traditional ruthless attitude toward mutations. I don't think my grandfather was ever totally convinced of it, I've always wished he could have lived to see my children, just to prove it. ..."

"Miles," Elli interrupted him gently.

"Yes?" he said breathlessly.

"You're babbling. Why are you babbling? I could listen by the hour, but it's worrisome when you get stuck on fast-forward."

"I'm nervous," he confessed. He smiled blindingly at her.

"Delayed reaction, from this afternoon?" She slipped closer to him, comfortingly. "I can understand that."

He eased his right arm around her waist. "No. Yes, well, maybe a little. Would you like to be Countess Vorkosigan?"

She grinned. "Made of glass? Not my style, thanks. Really, though, the title sounds more like something that would go with black leather and chromium studs."

The mental image of Elli so attired was so arresting, it took him a full half minute of silence to trace back to the wrong turn. "Let me rephrase that," he said at last. "Will you marry me?"

The silence this time was much longer.

"I thought you were working up to asking me to go to bed with you," she said finally, "and I was laughing. At your nerves." She wasn't laughing now.

"No," said Miles. "That would have been easy."

"You don't want much, do you? Just to completely rearrange the rest of my life."

"It's good that you understand that part. It's not just a marriage. There's a whole job description that goes with it."

"On Barrayar. Downside."

"Yes. Well, there might be some travel."

She was quiet for too long, then said, "I was born in space. Grew up on a deep-space transfer station. Worked most of my adult life aboard ships. The time I've spent with my feet on real dirt can be measured in months."

"It would be a change," Miles admitted uneasily.

"And what would happen to the future Admiral Quinn, free mercenary?"

"Presumably—hopefully—she would find the work of Lady Vorkosigan equally interesting."

"Let me guess. The work of Lady Vorkosigan would not include ship command."

"The security risks of allowing such a career would appall even me. My mother gave up a ship command—Betan Astronomical Survey—to go to Barrayar."

"Are you telling me you're looking for a girl just like Mom?"

"She has to be smart—she has to be fast—she has to be a determined survivor," Miles explained unhappily. "Anything less would be a slaughter of the innocent. Maybe for her, maybe for our children with her. Bodyguards, as you know, can only do so much."

Her breath blew out in a long, silent whistle, watching him watching her. The slippage between the distress in her eyes and the smile on her lips tore at him. Didn't want to hurt you—the best I can offer shouldn't be pain to you—is it too much, too little ... too awful?

"Oh, love," she breathed sadly, "you aren't thinking."

"I think the world of you."

"And so you want to maroon me for the rest of my life on a, sorry, backwater dirtball that's just barely climbed out of feudalism, that treats women like chattel—or cattle—that would deny me the use of every military skill I've learned in the past twelve years from shuttle docking to interrogation chemistry . . . I'm sorry. I'm not an anthropologist, I'm not a saint, and I'm not crazy."

"You don't have to say no right away," said Miles in a small voice.

"Oh, yes I do," she said. "Before looking at you makes me any weaker in the knees. Or in the head."

And what am I to say to that? Miles wondered. If you really loved me, you'd be delighted to immolate your entire personal history on my behalf? Oh, sure. She's not into immolation. This makes her strong, her strength makes me want her, and so we come full circle. "It's Barrayar that's the problem, then."

"Of course. What female human in her right mind would voluntarily move to that planet? With the exception of your mother, apparently."

"She is exceptional. But. . . when she and Barrayar collide, it's Barrayar that changes. I've seen it. You could be a force of change like that."

Elli was shaking her head. "I know my limits."

"No one knows their limits till they've gone beyond them."

She eyed him. '"You would naturally think so. What's with you and Barrayar, anyway? You let them push you around like . . . I've never understood why you've never just grabbed the Dendarii and taken off. You could make it go, better than Admiral Oser ever did, better than Tung even. You could end up emperor of your own rock by the time you were done."

"With you at my side?" He grinned strangely. "Are you seriously suggesting I embark on a plan of galactic conquest with five thousand guys?"

She chuckled. "At least I wouldn't have to give up fleet command. No, really seriously. If you're so obsessed with being a professional soldier, what do you need Barrayar for? A mercenary fleet sees ten times the action of a planetary one. A dirtball may see war once a generation, if it's lucky—"

"Or unlucky," Miles interpolated.

"A mercenary fleet follows it around."

"That statistical fact has been noted in the Barrayaran high command. It's one of the chief reasons I'm here. I've had more actual combat experience, albeit on a small scale, in the past four years than most other Imperial officers have seen in the last fourteen. Nepotism works in strange ways." He ran a finger along the clean line of her jaw. "I see it now. You are in love with Admiral Naismith."

"Of course."

"Not Lord Vorkosigan."

"I am annoyed with Lord Vorkosigan. He sells you short, love."

He let the double entendre pass. So, the gulf that yawned between them was deeper than he'd truly realized. To her, it was Lord Vorkosigan who wasn't real. His fingers entwined around the back of her neck, and he breathed her breath as she asked, "Why do you let Barrayar screw you over?"

"It's the hand I was dealt."

"By whom? I don't get it."

"It's all right. It just happens to be very important to me to win with the hand I was dealt. So be it."

"Your funeral." Her lips were muffled on his mouth.

"Mmm."

She drew back a moment. "Can I still jump your bones? Carefully, of course. You'll not go away mad, for turning you down? Turning Barrayar down, that is. Not you, never you ..."

I'm getting used to it. Almost numb . . . "Am I to sulk?" he inquired lightly. "Because I can't have it all, take none, and go off in a huff? I'd hope you'd bounce me down the corridor on my pointed head if I were so dense."

She laughed. It was all right, if he could still make her laugh. If Naismith was all she wanted, she could surely have him. Half a loaf for half a man. They tilted bedward, hungry-mouthed. It was easy, with Quinn; she made it so.

Pillow talk with Quinn turned out to be shop talk. Miles was unsurprised. Along with a sleepy body-rub that turned him to liquid in danger of pouring over the edge of the bed into a puddle on the deck, he absorbed the rest of her complete report on the activities and discoveries of the London police. He in turn brought her up to date on the events of the embassy, and the mission on which he'd dispatched Elena Bothari-Jesek. And all these years he'd thought he needed a conference room for debriefing. Clearly, he'd stumbled into an unsuspected universe of alternative command style. Sybaritic had it all over cybernetic.

"Ten more days," Miles complained smearily into his mattress, "until Elena can possibly return from Tau Ceti. And there's no guarantee she can bring the missing money with her even then. Particularly if it's already been sent once. While the Dendarii fleet hangs idly in orbit. You know what we need?"

"A contract."

"Damn straight. We've taken interim contracts before, in spite of Barrayaran Imperial Security having us on permanent retainer. They even like it; it gives their budget a break. After all, the less taxes they have to squeeze out of the peasantry, the easier Security gets on the domestic side. It's a wonder they've never tried to make the Dendarii Mercenaries a revenue-generating project. I'd have sent our contract people out hunting weeks ago if we weren't stuck in Earth orbit till this mess at the embassy gets straightened out."

"Too bad we can't put the fleet to work right here on Earth," said Elli. "Peace seems to have broken out all over the planet, unfortunately." Her hands unknotted the muscles in his calves, fiber by fiber. He wondered if he could persuade her to work on his feet next. He'd done hers a while ago, after all, albeit with higher goals in view. Oh, joy, he wasn't even going to have to persuade her ... he wriggled his toes in delight. He'd never suspected that his toes were sexy until Elli'd pointed it out. In fact, his satisfaction with his entire pleasure-drenched body was at an all-time high.

"There's a blockage in my thinking," he decided. "I'm looking wrong at something. Let's see. The Dendarii fleet isn't tied to the embassy, though I am. I could send you all off . . ."

Elli whimpered. It was such an unlikely noise, coming from her, that he risked muscle spasm to twist his neck and look over his shoulder at her. "Brainstorming," he apologized.

"Well, don't stop with that one."

"And anyway, because of the mess at the embassy, I'm not anxious to strip myself of my private backup. It's—there's something very wrong going on there. Which means that any more sitting around waiting for the embassy to come through is dumber than rocks. Well. One problem at a time. The Dendarii. Money. Odd jobs . . . hey!"

"Hey?"

"What says I've got to contract out the entire fleet at a time? Work. Odd jobs. Interim cash flow. Divide and conquer! Security guards, computer techs, anything and everything anyone can come up with that will generate a little cash income—"

"Bank robberies?" said Elli in a tone of rising interest.

"And you say the police let you out? Don't get carried away. But I'm sitting on a labor pool of five thousand variously and highly trained people. Surely that's a resource of even greater value than the Triumph. Delegate! Let them spread out and go scare up some bloody cash!"

Elli, sitting cross-legged on the foot of his bed, remarked in aggravation, "I worked for an hour to get you relaxed, and now look! What are you, memory-plastic? Your whole body is coiling back up right before my eyes . . . Where are you going?"

"To put the idea into action, what else?"

"Most people go to sleep at this point. ..." Yawning, she helped him sort through the pile of uniform bits on the floor nearby. The black T-shirts proved nearly interchangable. Elli's was distinguishable by the faint scent of her body lingering in it—Miles almost didn't want to give it back, but reflected that keeping his girlfriend's underwear to sniff probably wouldn't score him points in the savoir-faire department. The agreement was unspoken but plain: this phase of their relationship must stop discreetly at the bedroom door, if they were to disprove Admiral Naismith's fatuous dictum.

The initial Dendarii staff conference, at the start of a mission when Miles arrived on fleet station with a new contract in hand, always gave him the sense of seeing double. He was an interface, conscious of both halves, trying to be a one-way mirror between the Dendarii and their true employer the Emperor. This unpleasant sensation usually faded rapidly, as he concentrated his faculties around the mission in question, re-centering his personality; Admiral Naismith came very near to occupying his whole skin then. "Relaxing" wasn't quite the right term for this alpha-state, given Naismith's driving personality; "unconstrained" came closer.

He had been with the Dendarii an unprecedented five months straight, and the sudden re-intrusion of Lieutenant Vorkosigan into his life had been unusually disruptive this time. Of course, it wasn't normally the Barrayaran side of things that was screwed up. He'd always counted on that command structure to be solid, the axiom from which all action flowed, the standard by which subsequent success or failure was measured. Not this time.

This night he stood in the Triumph's briefing room before his hastily called department heads and ship captains, and was seized by a sudden, schizoid paralysis: what was he to say to them? You're on your own, suckers. . . .

"We're on our own for a while," Admiral Naismith began, emerging from whatever cave in Miles's brain he dwelt in, and he was off and running. The news, made public at last, that there was a glitch in their contract payment inspired the expected dismay; more baffling was their apparently serene reassurance when he told them, his voice heavy with menacing emphasis, that he was personally investigating it. Well, at least it accounted from the Dendarii point of view for all the time he'd spent stuffing the computers in the bowels of the Barrayaran embassy. God, thought. Miles, I 'swear I could sell them all radioactive farmland.

But when challenged they unleashed an impressive flurry of ideas for short-term cash creation. Miles was intensely relieved, and left them to it. After all, nobody arrived on the Dendarii general staff by being dense. His own brain seemed drained. He hoped it was because its circuits were subconsciously working on the Barrayaran half of the problem, and not a symptom of premature senile decay.

He slept alone and badly, and woke tired and sore. He attended to some routine internal matters, and approved the seven least harebrained schemes for cash creation evolved by his people during the night. One officer had actually come up with a security guard contract for a squad of twenty, never mind that it was for the grand opening of a shopping mall in—where the hell was Xian?

He arrayed himself carefully in his best—grey velvet dress tunic with the silver buttons on the shoulders, trousers with the blinding white side trim, his shiniest boots—and accompanied Lieutenant Bone downside to the London bank. Elli Quinn backed him with two of his largest uniformed Dendarii and an unseen perimeter, before and behind, of civilian-dressed guards with scanners.

At the bank Admiral Naismith, quite polished and urbane for a man who didn't exist, signed away questionable rights to a warship he did not own to a financial organization who did not need or want it. As Lieutenant Bone pointed out, at least the money was real. Instead of a piecemeal collapse beginning that afternoon—the hour when Lieutenant Bone had calculated the first Dendarii payroll chits would start bouncing—it would be just one great crash at an undefined future date. Hooray.

He peeled off guards, as he approached the Barrayaran Embassy, until only Elli remained. They paused before a door in the underground utility tunnels marked danger: toxic: authorized personnel only.

"We're under the scanners now," Miles remarked warningly.

Elli touched her finger to her lips, considering. "On the other hand, you may go in there to find orders have arrived to spirit you off to Barrayar, and I won't see you for another year. Or ever."

"I would resist that—" he began, but she touched the finger to his lips now, bottling whatever stupidity he'd been about to utter, transferring the kiss. "Right." He smiled slightly. "Ill be in touch, Commander Quinn."

A straightening of her spine, a small ironic nod, an impressionistic version of a salute, and she was gone. He sighed and palmed open the intimidating door's lock.

On the other side of the second door, past the uniformed guard at the scanner console, Ivan Vorpatril was waiting for him. Shifting from foot to foot with a strained smile. Oh, God, now what? It was doubtless too much to hope that the man merely had to take a leak.

"Glad you're back, Miles," Ivan said. "Right on time."

"I didn't want to abuse the privilege. I might want it again. Not that I'm likely to get it—I was surprised that Galeni didn't just yank me back to the embassy permanently after that little episode at the shuttleport yesterday."

"Yes, well, there's a reason for that," said Ivan.

"Oh?" said Miles, in a voice drained to neutrality.

"Captain Galeni left the embassy about half an hour after you did yesterday. He hasn't been seen since.

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