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red uniform and lurid face paint, freshly and perfectly applied. By the time
they'd all finished going through the polite greetings once more, and everyone
was reseated, Miles had his breathing and heartbeat under control. Ivan
concealed his nerves in an expression of blank benevolence that made him
look, in Miles's opinion, remarkably sappy.
"Lord Vorkosigan," ghem-Colonel Benin began. "I understand you work as a
courier officer."
"When I'm on duty." Miles decided to repeat the party line for Benin's benefit.
"It's an honorable task, that's not too physically demanding for me."
"And do you like your duties?"
Miles shrugged. "I like the travel. And, ah ... it gets me out of the way, an
advantage that cuts two ways. You know about Barrayar's backward attitude
to mutations." Miles thought of Yenaro s longing for a post. "And it gives me
an official position, makes me somebody"
"I can understand that," conceded Benin.
Yeah, I thought you would.
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"But you're not on courier duty now?"
"Not this trip. We were to give our diplomatic duties our undivided attention,
and, it was hoped, maybe acquire a little polish."
"And Lord Vorpatril here is assigned to Operations, is that right?"
"Desk work," Ivan sighed. "I keep hoping for ship duty."
Not really true, Miles reflected; Ivan adored being assigned to HQ at the
capital, where he kept up his own apartment and a social life that was the
envy of his brother-officers. Ivan just wished his mother Lady Vorpatril might
be assigned ship duty, someplace far away.
"Hm." Benin's hands twitched, as if in memory of sorting stacks of plastic
flimsies. He drew breath, and looked Miles straight in the eyes. "So, Lord
Vorkosigan-the funeral rotunda was not the first time you saw the Ba Lura,
was it?"
Benin was trying for the rattling unexpected straight shot, to unnerve his
quarry. "Correct," Miles answered, with a smile.
Expecting denial, Benin already had his mouth open for the second strike,
probably the presentation of some telling piece of evidence that would give
the Barrayaran the lie. He had to close it again, and start over. "If ... if you
wished to keep it a secret, why did you as much as flat tell me to look where I
would be sure to find you? And," his tone sharpened with baffled annoyance,
"if you didn't want to keep it a secret, why didn't you tell me about it in the
first place?"
"It provided an interesting test of your competence. I wanted to know if it
would be worth my while to persuade you to share your results. Believe me,
my first encounter with the Ba Lura is as much a mystery to me as I'm sure it
is to you."
Even from beneath the gaudy face paint, the look Benin gave Miles reminded
him forcibly of the look he got all too often from superiors. He even
capitalized it in his mind, The Look. In a weird backhanded way, it made him
feel quite comfortable with Benin. His smile became slightly cheerier.
"And . . . how did you encounter the Ba?" said Benin.
"What do you know so far?" 'Miles countered. Benin would, of course, keep
something back, to cross-check Miles s story. That was quite all right, as Miles
proposed to tell almost the whole truth, next.
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"Ba Lura was at the transfer station the day you arrived. He left the station at
least twice. Once, apparently, from a pod docking bay in which the security
monitors were deactivated and unchecked for a period of forty minutes. The
same bay and the same period in which you arrived, Lord Vorkosigan."
"Our first arrival, you mean."
"... Yes."
Vorreedi's eyes were widening and his lips were thinning. Miles ignored him,
for now, though Ivan's gaze cautiously shifted to check him out.
"Deactivated? Torn out of the wall, I'd call it. Very well, ghem-Colonel. But tell
me-was our encounter in the pod dock the first or second time the Ba
appeared to leave the station?"
"Second," Benin said, watching him closely.
"Can you prove that?"
"Yes."
"Good. It may be very important later that you can prove that." Ha, Benin
wasn't the only one who could cross-check the truth of this conversation.
Benin, for whatever reason, was being straight with him so far. Turn and
turnabout. "Well, this is what happened from our point of view-"
In a flat voice, and with plenty of corroborative physical details, Miles
described their confusing clash with the Ba. The only item he changed was to
report the Ba reaching for its trouser pocket before he'd yelled his warning.
He brought the tale up to the moment of Ivan's heroic struggle and his own
retrieval of the loose nerve disrupter, and bounced it over to Ivan to finish.
Ivan gave him a dirty look, but, taking his tone from Miles, offered a brief
factual description of the Ba's subsequent escape.
Since it lacked face paint, Miles could watch Vorreedi's face darken, out of the
corner of his eye. The man was too cool and controlled to actually turn purple
or anything, but Miles bet a blood pressure monitor would be beeping in
plaintive alarm right now.
"And why did you not report this at our first meeting, Lord Vorkosigan?"
Benin asked again, after a long, digestive pause. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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