Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Warrior’s Apprentice, Chapters 10-12

This week, the re-read delves into chapters 10-12 of The Warrior’s Apprentice. The Dendarii go recruiting, and their new trainees have some very important questions. Miles does his best to distract them with an air of authority, a rigorous training schedule, and some fortuitous rumors about Betan rejuvenation treatments.

If you’d like to catch up on previous posts in the re-read, the index is here. At this time, the spoiler policy permits discussion of all books EXCEPT Gentlemen Jole and the Red Queen. Discussion of any and all revelations from or about that book should be whited out.

SUMMARY

Overwhelmed by the demands of keeping the Ariel’s crew prisoner, Miles introduces them to the Dendarii mercenaries and makes them recruits-trainees. The former-Oseran now-Dendarii crew has some questions about their compensation. When Miles’s tiny fleet arrives at Daum’s rendezvous point, a refinery, they discover that it has been captured. A combat force led by Bel Thorne re-captures it. Arde rams the RG freighter into the Oseran ship that counter-attacks, bending the Necklin rods.

COMMENTARY

Finally, Miles makes the connection between mercenaries and money. Really, he should have made it long before, but he’s only posing as a mercenary himself, and money has never before been an actual concern for him. The fact that they get paid is literally in the definition of the word mercenary. Of course they’re worried about their pensions—that’s their money. Miles’s visions of military service turn out to have very little to do with monetary compensation. If he’d gotten into the Academy straight away, he probably would have been shocked by the existence of his first paycheck. Miles has been heavily influenced by the stories of Vorthalia the Bold. Miles will discuss this further in Komarr when he admits that Vorthalia the Bold, Legendary Hero from the Time of Isolation was the subject of a holovid drama, and that he can still sing all nine verses of the theme song. Nine verses is a lot for a theme song; I infer that Barrayaran audiences are expected to have long attention spans. Miles gets a chuckle out of imagining Vorthalia the Bold demanding a whole life policy from the Emperor. That sounds completely realistic to me. The recruit-trainees’ entirely logical questions about their salary and benefits point out that distracting these prisoners is rapidly becoming very expensive. It’s a good thing Miles is in the Pelian system—he’s on the verge of making his delivery and getting paid.

I’m not really sure why the RG freighter is crawling so slowly towards the refinery. I know it is not fast, and there must be significant distance between the wormhole and the solar system, or there would not be a solar system, but this is still taking much longer than similar trips did in Falling Free. Long enough for a General Inspection of the captured Oseran ship, and a funeral for the dead pilot. Long enough for Miles to rewrite the Imperial Service Regulations and pass them off as Dendarii corporate material. Long enough for Elena to get a lot more experience as a hand-to-hand combat instructor. I believe that this is not so much a function of the limitations of the aging freighter’s in-system drive, but rather a concession to the needs of the plot. If the Ariel’s crew was within a day’s training of being an effective fighting force, Miles wouldn’t have been able to take down that drunk guy in the last section, or to take over the Ariel. I’m inclined to think that Bothari would still have had a pretty easy time of it, but I have a lot of faith in Bothari’s combat experience.

At this point, Miles, acting as the public face of the Dendarii Free Mercenaries, holds one freighter, one Illyrican cruiser, and the weapons in the hold of the freighter. His holdings, and the associated problems, are about to expand. The Pelian capture of the Felician refinery is a setback. Taking the refinery back with a small force is pretty impressive. Bel gets all the credit for the planning there—Miles made them do it. Bothari insisted that Miles remain on board the Ariel so he’s stuck waiting in the briefing room. His ingenuity and captured Oseran Captain Auson’s knowledge of Oseran codes will have a major influence on the battle anyway; Miles uses the time to interfere with enemy power suit controls. He is very impressed with his own cleverness. I am too. I especially like the suit he programs to perform every third command on a half second lag and fire ten degrees to the right of aim. I hope the Oserans are carrying a chiropractor for the soldier whose suit helmet was locked in the fully torqued position.

Bel’s plan to take the refinery is sound, but the Dendarii have not planned for backup. It’s fortunate that Arde was there, and that he is so deeply committed to feudal duty. Remember, just a few weeks ago, Arde was Betan. At the end of this battle, Miles has added a small dreadnought and a refinery to his holdings, and 46 former prisoners to his crew. He awards Bel command of the Ariel, and Auson command of the impaled dreadnought. This looks like winning. Unfortunately, it’s not compatible with Miles’s exit plan.

Arde’s decision to be a right-and-proper armsman has major consequences for his Necklin rods. These are not replaceable; They are no longer being manufactured. This renders Miles’s plan to dump his prisoners and head for the hills moot; the freighter can’t go. He’s going to have to take one of the Oseran ships, and he doesn’t have anyone in his inner circle who can fly one of those. The situation is so dire, Miles contemplates calling his dad for help.

But while she doesn’t want to stay in the Tau Verde system (or at least she doesn’t say she wants to stay), it’s starting to look like Elena Bothari might not want to go back to Barrayar either. She’s having a great time doing new things and seeing the galaxy. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that Baz is falling in love with her. I imagine this experience has a permanent impact on Elena’s views on travel. I wonder what galactic family vacations will be like for the Bothari-Jesek clan.

Elli Quinn made her first appearance here, asking about benefits, and was burned in battle. She will require major reconstructive surgery. The Dendarii have captured Admiral Tung. We will be seeing more of both of them next week, when Miles proves that I was totally right about space-fighting.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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