This blog post opens in Ivan Xav’s apartment on Komarr. In another sense, it opens in the Student Union at UC Storrs where I am writing while my students argue about international affairs. Were I not committed to this for the weekend, I would be knocking on doors to get out the vote. Instead, I’m writing to you. We are just two days away from the midterm elections—and by the time you read this, it will be tomorrow. If there is one thing I have learned about Vorkosigan fans in the last three years, it’s that they’re phenomenally diverse in their views and phenomenally passionate about those views. The most important way to express passionately held views in the US is to vote. If you’re reading this and you’re a registered voter in the US, please make sure you vote! I don’t know or care how you will vote, just vote. In some states it’s possible to register to vote on election day, so if you’re a US citizen but not a registered voter, check your state’s rules—you might still be able to vote.
Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post about refugees fleeing violence and the militaristic-but-slowly-liberalizing quasi-feudal regime to which they have fled.
Tej and Rish are concerned about refoulement. It’s not clear to me what rights refugees have in the Galactic Nexus, if any, or what interplanetary agreements determine what individuals may be considered refugees, or whether Barrayar participates in any standing interplanetary agreements. I don’t think these things are clear to Tej and Rish either. Their concerns have prevented them from taking Ivan up on his suggestion that they talk to ImpSec. As an imperial agency, ImpSec protects the interests of the Empire, and there is nothing Tej and Rish can offer that will persuade ImpSec to protect them if if the Empire decides that it wants to make a really generous gesture to the Prestene Syndicate. The wedding makes Tej a Barrayaran subject and puts Ivan in a position to use his husbandly powers to protect her.
I’m still worried about Rish, but she’s along for the ride and doesn’t have better choices.
The ride, in this case, is a bubble car ride to the ImpSec office on the… military base? At ImpMil’s Komarran HQ? I’m kind of assuming here. I’m not one hundred percent clear on the nature of the facility Ivan is working from this week. Nor do I care. It’s very secure. The Prestene Syndicate does not have an agent in position to infiltrate the building this morning, and there is a cafeteria. Ivan leaves Lady Tej and Rish with Morozov, who he has introduced to them as an ImpSec boffin.
Ivan then goes off to demonstrate his value to Ops. Are you still on the fence about Ivan’s competence? Fences aren’t all that comfortable—you should get down. The grass is really green here on the Competent Ivan side of the fence. Ivan’s skills this week include running while conveying a message to onlookers (“I’m late” vs. “This building is about to explode”) and persuading his superior officer to change plans based on heavily redacted information. The Vor Horseman—who have waited at least half an hour for Ivan to arrive on a day that has fewer than twenty hours in it—change plans and inspect the Kanzian, where Ivan knows a group of conspirators are hiding smuggled military surplus. If Miles had had Ivan’s boss, he might never have rejoined the Dendarii.
The Kanzian is, of course, named after a deceased Barrayaran Admiral. Aral proposed Kanzian as a candidate for regent back in Shards of Honor. I *think* he was Aral’s chosen successor to the office of Prime Minister whose untimely accidental death delayed Aral’s planned political retirement. I don’t have a copy of Mirror Dance on hand. I would welcome confirmation or correction on this point. Regardless, this is a reminder of the people who dedicated their lives to the Empire in our time in the Nexus—the men and women who rebuilt Barrayar after the Escobaran Invasion and their ongoing efforts to repay their incalculable debts to one another. Like a lot of romances, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance focuses on remembering who characters are and where they come from, and this is one of the more subtle parts of that theme.
Tej and Rish are Jacksonian, and they focus on the Deal. Morozov doesn’t need to be told that he’s trading for information. He makes it clear that he knows a great deal already, and offers plenty of information in trade. I’m sorry that Morozov stays behind on Komarr and I hope that he and Tej meet again. I’m sure he got plenty of confirmation for his guesses about events on Cordonah Station, plus the exciting story of Ivan’s surprise wedding—valuable for such a wide variety of reasons. But mostly, he provides information. For example, he offers a pretty clear explanation of Ivan’s family tree and the Vorkosigan family’s political motivations. In short, Ivan wasn’t *really* next in line to the throne after Gregor, but if push came to shove, he would have been. Gregor has a few sons now—“the boys”—and this has put Ivan in a less perilous place in Imperial politics. Tej has acquired a powerful and formidable set of in-laws. And Ivan is, himself, a highly valued asset in his position in Ops.
When Ivan returns, Morozov is losing a round of Great House, the classic Jacksonian board game. It sounds a lot like Monopoly, but there is an intriguing electronic component and a system that awards certain kinds of cheating. Morozov is losing on points, not that he cares. He offers Ivan thoughtful relationship advice. A man who can’t persuade his wife to trust him is a man in trouble in many ways. Ivan doesn’t have Tej’s trust, but given her circumstances, everyone should expect this to be challenging to earn.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.