Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapters 7-10

In chapter 6, we went to the ballet and soaked up Graf Station’s local color. Chapter 7 opens with a dramatic discovery—the blood in the docking bay was synthesized. This launches us out of the tourist section of the story and back into the mystery.

The important thing about this section is the clues:

  • Someone synthesized Solian’s blood, then dumped a large quantity of it on the floor in the docking bay.
  • Someone shoots and Miles and Bel as they leave a meeting with the convoy’s passengers. At the time, they are accompanied by one of the convoy’s passengers, another Betan herm named Ker Dubauer.
  • The weapon used in the shooting was a modified rivet gun.
  • The attacker is not immediately apprehended.
  • Ker Dubauer is a dealer in exotic animals, and is travelling with uterine replicators full of merchandise. Ker needs to service the replicators, and may need to sacrifice their contents if the convoy cannot proceed in a timely fashion. Miles thinks Ker looks familiar, but can’t figure out where from.
  • In the aftermath of the attack, Ker bleeds on one of Miles’s hankies (it’s the future of space, and Miles is carrying a hankie), inadvertently and unavoidably giving Miles a blood sample.
  • Miles arranges for Ker to return to their cargo on the Idris in order to service the replicators.
  • Ker is a lying liar who lies, because *as you might expect* no one travels with animals actually in replicators if they can help it—what if they were delayed en route? Frozen embryos are much easier to transport. Miles remembers this because Count Piotr used to import horses.
  • The replicators (over a thousand of them) come from the Star Creche on Cetaganda, and they are carrying Cetagandan fetuses.
  • Ker’s blood sample reveals that Ker is a Ba.
  • A strange passenger with a lot of genetic modifications bought passage on the Rudra while the convoy was docked and before it was detained. He was very concerned about the blood synthesizer in the Rudra’s infirmary.
  • And indeed, that was the synthesizer used to manufacture Solian’s blood.
  • The strange passenger, Firka, was an amphibian, and Ekaterin and Bel encountered him when Bel took Ekaterin on a tour of the station.
  • Solian was prone to nosebleeds.
  • Solian left the Idris five times while at Graf Station, but did not proceed through Customs and into the main part of the station. He seems to have stayed in the area where the ships in the convoy were docked. No one knows why Solian left the ship the fifth time, but he looked grim.
  • Firka and Dubauer are missing from their hostels. And it turns out Bel is missing too.

Roic gets to use his police expertise here—he reminds Miles that many police departments aren’t used to investigating murders. Outside of large population centers, murders are infrequent. Even in areas populated enough to have investigation teams dedicated to homicides, most murders are not mysterious. According to Chief Venn, Graf Station has had two murders in the last seven years. Both of the murderers and one of the victims were visiting Downsiders. Neither murder was mysterious. The station does not have a crack homicide investigation squad on site. As a reward for pointing this out, Roic gets to try to trace Solian’s movements in his last few days.

Ekaterin discovered Solian’s nosebleeds while having dinner in the officers’ mess on board the Prince Xav. Miles sent her off the station after the rivet-gun thing. I reread Diplomatic Immunity in its entirety just before I started blogging about it, but I don’t remember all the details now. I know where Solian is. I know who synthesized the blood. I honestly can’t remember how or why the blood hit the floor. That seems like a terrible way to cover up a murder. Plus, as Miles points out, the murder didn’t need covering up; Solian’s superiors suspected him of deserting. Even Vorpatril had to acknowledge the possibility. Given enough time with no sign of the man, the fleet would have moved on. If the murderer wanted to get away with killing Solian, it would have been much more clever to not drop a large quantity of synthesized blood. The synthetic bloodbath in the docking bay only makes sense if someone wanted to draw attention to the murder without doing something simple and logical like making a report to fleet security or to the authorities on Graf Station. It implies that whoever spilled the blood had a lot to hide. Or, perhaps, they were trying very hard to make a novel happen.

Discovering a cargo hold full of Cetagandan fetuses would also seem to be a situation in which one would immediately alert higher authorities, Or possibly, if one is an Imperial Auditor and therefore the highest authority short of Emperor Gregor, more numerous authorities. Miles has sent a message off to Gregor. It will have to travel through the wormholes and relays back to Barrayar. Miles has explained the Star Creche and the uterine replicator situation to Bel. He has not filled in local authorities—he asserts that Bel stands in for Graf Station in this matter, and Graf Station does not have a Cetagandan consulate, just a lawyer who handles paperwork (the same one who handles paperwork for Barrayar). He also hasn’t informed Admiral Vorpatril. While I think some sort of military security is probably warranted for cargo the Cetagandans value so highly, I can see why Miles might prefer to hold off; Vorpatril and his crew over-reacted to the last crisis.

The art of writing mysteries requires that information be delivered in a way that feels natural, and not like the detective’s case notes. In the course of collecting our clues in this section, we also get an explanation of the connotations of the word “it” on Beta Colony, from Bel. It is a completely appropriate pronoun to use for people on Beta Colony! Bel acknowledges that the connotations of the word are different on other planets. I also enjoyed Venn’s night duty supervisor, Teris Three. I appreciate her willingness to find some charges on which Firka and Dubauer could be apprehended—she and Miles settle on littering.

Tune in next week when we try to find Bel!

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.


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