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somewhere in Vorbarr Sultana was a very clever ImpSec-trained man who had made
Miles his special target. Did Chenko s experimental gizmo use any protein
circuits, and what had happened to that missing capsule? The thought of people
he didn t know very well installing devices he didn t understand into his
brain gave him cold chills, just now. "I... probably not tomorrow. I ll have
to get back to you on scheduling, Doctor."
Chenko looked disappointed. "Have you had any more episodes since the one we
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forced in the lab?"
"Not so far."
"Hm. Well, I d advise you not to wait too long, my lord."
"I understand. I ll do my best."
"And avoid stress," Chenko added as an afterthought, as Miles reached for the
"Thank you, Doctor," Miles growled at the empty vid plate.
He was halfway through his shower when he suddenly recalled that this was the
night of Laisa s party. His attendance had been just short of Imperially
commanded; and his duties, it appeared, were going to permit. At the very
least, it would be well to seize the chance beforehand to get in an interim
report to Gregor. All he needed was to dredge up a dance partner.
He dressed carefully, and called Delia Koudelka.
"Hi," he greeted her blondness. At least he didn t get a crick in his neck
looking up, over a comconsole. "What are you doing tonight?"
"I m... rather busy," she responded politely. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh." Damn. His own fault, for waiting till the last minute, and just
"Or - this doesn t have anything to do with your Imperial Auditor thing, does
it?" she added in worry.
A vision of a splendid opportunity to abuse his new powers danced in his head,
briefly. Regretfully, he pushed it aside. "No.
Just a Miles-thing."
"Sorry," she said, sounding sincere.
"Um... is Martya in?"
"She s busy tonight too, I m afraid."
"And Olivia?"
"Her, too."
"Ah. Well, thanks anyway."
"Whatever for?" She cut the com.
Miles s verbal report to Gregor made them both late for the party; Gregor had
dozens of questions, most of which Miles could not yet answer. He chewed on
his lip in frustration as they paused in the shadowed vestibule opening onto
one of the Imperial
Residence s smaller reception rooms. It was already bright and crowded with
people. In the chamber next to it, visible through arched doors thrown open, a
small orchestra was tuning up.
Colonel Lord Vortala the younger, in charge of the Residence s security
tonight, had escorted Miles and the Emperor there personally. Vortala, who
looked both neat and harried simultaneously, now saluted and broke away back
into the hallway, already answering some subordinate though his headset.
"It s hard to get used to not having Illyan at my back," sighed Gregor,
staring after him. "Though Vortala s doing a fine job,"
he added hastily. He glanced down at Miles. "Try not to look so grim. Even
without your Auditor s chain, it will make people curious what we ve been up
to, and then we ll both have to spend the rest of the evening trying to
squelch gossip."
Miles nodded. "Same goes for you." He couldn t think of any good, or even
awful, jokes just at the moment. "Think of Laisa,"
he advised.
Gregor s face lightened right up; smiling dryly in turn, Miles followed him
into the chamber. There they completed Gregor s happiness by finding Dr.
Toscane, under Lady Alys s wing as usual. Countess Vorkosigan also stood with
them, chatting amiably.
"Oh, good," said the Countess. "Here they are." Gregor captured Laisa s hand,
and placed it on his arm, possessively; she smiled up at him with starry eyes.
The Countess continued, "Alys, now that her proper escort is here, why don t
you let me play
Baba for a while. You ought to relax and enjoy yourself at one of these things
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for a change." A slight inclination of her head:
Miles followed the nod to notice Illyan, quite sharp in a dark and unusually
well cut civilian-style tunic and trousers, yet managing by pure habit to look
not-quite-there, as if light parted to flow around him.
"Thank you, Cordelia," murmured Lady Alys. After Gregor greeted his former
security chief, and they exchanged some standard how-are-you-feeling, fine,
Sire, you-look-well party chat, Alys determinedly bore Illyan off, before he
could slip back into any land of attempted work-mode.
"His convalescence does seem to be going well," said Gregor, watching this
byplay in approval.
"You can thank Lady Alys for that," Countess Vorkosigan told him.
"Your son too."
"So I understand."
Miles bowed slightly, and not altogether ironically. He glanced after Illyan
and his aunt, who were apparently heading for the refreshment tables. "Not
that I m intimately familiar with the contents of Illyan s closet, but...
there s something different about the way he s dressed, I swear. Conservative
as hell, as always, but..."
Countess Vorkosigan smiled. "Lady Alys finally persuaded him to let her
recommend a tailor. His taste, or lack of it, in clothing has made her tear
her hair for years."
"I always thought it was part of his ImpSec persona. Blandly invisible."
"That, too, certainly."
Gregor and Laisa began comparing what they had been doing for the interminable
four hours since they d last met, a conversation mainly absorbing to its
principals; Miles, having spotted Ivan across the room, left them together
under his mother s indulgent eye. Ivan was escorting Martya Koudelka, ah ha.
Martya was a younger, shorter, and tawnier version of Delia, though no less
striking in her own way. She wore something pale green tonight, in a shade
perfectly calculated to complement Imperial dress uniforms.
As Miles neared them, Martya poked her partner and said, "Ivan, you twit, stop
watching my sister. You asked me to this dance, remember?"
"Yes, but... I asked her first."
"You were too slow off the mark. Serve you right if I step on your boots and
spoil the shine." She glanced aside at Miles, and added to him, "I m going to
be so glad when Delia finally picks someone, and moves out. I m getting as
tired of hand-me-down men as I am of hand-me-down clothes."
"As well you should be, milady." Miles bowed over her hand, and kissed it.
That got Ivan s attention; he repossessed Martya s hand, and patted it
soothingly. "Sorry," he apologized. But his eyes shifted left for one more
surreptitious glance.
Miles looked too, and spotted the bright blond head at once. Delia Koudelka
was seated on one of the little sofas next to Duv
Galeni; they were apparently sharing the plate of hors d oeuvres balanced on
Galeni s knee. The dark head and the blond bent together for a moment, then
Delia laughed. Galeni s long teeth flashed in one of his more saturnine [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]