Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Mirror Dance, Chapter 8

This week, the Dendarii have a staff meeting. I don’t think I would enjoy participating in the Dendarii staff meeting, which has to deal with a particularly dire topic. However, I admire the efficiency with which Elena Bothari-Jesek approaches the agenda.

This reread has an index, which you can consult if you feel like exploring previous books and chapters. Spoilers are welcome in the comments if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Comments that question the value and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

The main business of this meeting is to go through all the combat helmet data recorders to see where Norwood might have left the cryo-chamber containing Miles. This business is complicated by Norwood having been killed in action and his helmet destroyed. Framingham has survived, and reports that Norwood ran down a hall with the cryo-chamber and came back without it, proclaiming that the Admiral would get out of here even if the rest of them didn’t. Please recall that “here” was a secured Bharaputran medical complex. This account is corroborated by the available helmet data.

I read space opera, cozy mysteries, and books where people with psychic animal companions have ill-advised romantic relationships. And I have read Mirror Dance before. It’s obvious to ME that Norwood has popped Miles’s cryo-chamber in the mail. AND LET’S TAKE A MINUTE TO CONSIDER THAT. In the bowels of their secured medical complex, Bharaputra has a mail drop, AND in the aftermath of a firefight in that complex, an experienced Dendarii trooper is confident that the mail service will continue uninterrupted. On a planet noted for its flagrant libertarianism, in the middle of a situation in which a large chunk of the building has been destroyed by fire. NEITHER SNOW NOR BOTCHED DENDARII RESCUE MISSION NOR GLOOM OF NIGHT STAYS THESE COURIERS FROM THE SWIFT COMPLETION OF THEIR APPOINTED ROUNDS. The mail carrier is going to wade through the charred rubble and unlock the absolutely enormous drop box, and then just tote Miles’s cryo-chamber—which took Norwood less than six minutes to package, so I think he probably just smacked an address label on it—off to the processing center. Without comment. The same way they handle all the other occupied cryo-chambers that people stick in the mail. What does shipping cost for a package the combined weight of Miles and a cryo-chamber? Who paid for it? How? Do the Dendarii routinely carry credit cards in combat? It doesn’t matter—House Bharaputra’s internal security is going to look the other way BECAUSE OF THE SACRED PRIVACY OF POSTAL MAIL.

WELL THANK GOODNESS, BECAUSE I WAS WORRIED THAT THE CITIZENS OF JACKSON’S WHOLE MIGHT ENCOUNTER EXCESSIVE SCRUTINY FROM THE LAWLESS CORPORATE HOUSES THAT DOMINATE THEIR PLANETARY ECONOMY AND APPARENTLY GOVERNMENT, AND THAT IT MIGHT CAUSE THEM DIFFICULTY IN SENDING PRIVATE CORPSICLES AND OTHER CORRESPONDENCE THROUGH THE MAIL. If the Dendarii employed Miss Marple, she would simply call the post office and ask them if they had any record of the package she had sent yesterday, because of her concern that she might have accidentally addressed it to the wrong cryo-revival facility, because you know how scatterbrained older ladies can be. And they would cough up the address without a moment’s hesitation, because who doesn’t trust a dotty old lady? Elli and Elena don’t appear to have read that story. I haven’t yet re-read the part of the story where the Dendarii figure out what Norwood did, so I cannot, at this moment, evaluate what Bujold did to make mailing a cryo-unit sound plausible. I’m looking forward to rediscovering it.

Other business this week: Quinn relieves Bel of command. Bel is under house arrest, remanded to their own custody. I’m surprised that more of Quinn’s rage doesn’t rub off on Bel—she’s so angry at Mark that at one point she refuses to look at him. I agree that Mark did a lot of things that contributed to Miles’s death; None of those things would have been possible if Bel had answered the comm or admitted that they knew that Mark wasn’t Miles.

Art by Esad Ribic

Elena is not a sworn Armsman—she can’t be. But in some ways she is still her father’s daughter, and her attitude towards Mark is a reminder of this. She tells Mark that one day Cordelia will ask what Elena did for her son. And then she tells Mark that Cordelia will be talking about him. I love Cordelia so much. It makes my heart ache that she’s not here. I don’t think there’s any way she possibly could be; Cordelia ordered the intelligence report on Mark’s life, but she doesn’t know where he is, or where Miles is. She’s not tracking their every move. Obviously, it would be a very different book if she were here. Cordelia made the decision not to attempt cryo-revival when Aral died. Given her description of those circumstances, it’s unlikely to have worked, but she was the only person who had the authority to say so. Cordelia might have been able to call off efforts to rescue Miles and the cryo-unit when Elli and Elena could not. And she might have.

In a Barrayaran mirror dance, partners mirror each other’s movement, and either can lead. I love a metaphor, so I’m looking for the moves. Mark and Miles both went to Jackson’s Whole. Now Miles is frozen and on a journey through uncertain dangers. He’s made the leading move here; Mark is in a sort of stasis, waiting to find out what the women he sees as Miles’s harem will do to him. Oh look, everyone is frozen.

Tune in next week, when I think something probably has to thaw!

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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