Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 12-14

We’ve made the rounds of the interesting covers of Cryoburn. This week, I’m returning to my favorite, which is Esad Ribic’s. I don’t always like his work, but he did a nice job here.

In Chapter 12, we finally catch up with Dr. Lieber, the man on whom this entire plot hinges. If you’ve had a question up until now, Lieber either is the answer or knows it. Where is Lisa Sato? Who froze her? Why? What’s up with the cryocorps? Dr. Lieber knows all of this. He was the man with one foot in the cryocorporations and one in Lisa Sato’s protest movement. Only a few people knew he even existed, and of those, the only one who isn’t dead or frozen is Mina.

Lieber would prefer not to share his information. His immediate response to Miles’s effort to approach him is to flee to his neighbor’s house. It sounds like that was a little awkward. Miles and Roic search his house while he’s away and make the exciting discovery that Lisa Sato’s cryochamber is in Lieber’s basement. They remove it. Miles leaves a note asking Lieber to contact him at the consulate. Instead, Lieber books passage to Escobar and hunkers down at a cheap motel.

Cheap motels have terrible security and can’t keep their patrons from being kidnapped by unscrupulous corporate agents. The bad guys arrive at Lieber’s motel in a lift van with blue flashing lights and claim to be emergency medical personnel responding to an emergency services call from an individual who has taken ill. Lieber looks convincingly ill because it’s not difficult to make a person look ill.

I have so many thoughts about this.

The first is that, if you think people are after you and you need to flee the country (or, in this case, the planet) you should probably not be making important decisions based on price. Lieber’s resources are finite, and people with finite resources are used to making decisions based on price. He really should be looking at the bigger picture. He knows that someone is after him, because Miles is. He also knows that his employer keeps a close eye on him because he knows too much. He’s savvy enough to convert his savings account to untraceable credit chits, which maybe is something he should have been doing on a regular basis for the last few years to help make sure he didn’t set off any alarms when he drained the accounts. Alternately, he shouldn’t have bothered trying to be subtle, because buying a ticket to Escobar was a pretty unsubtle announcement of his intention to flee. Roic says that once people cross the shuttleport security perimeter their location is public, but Lieber isn’t hard to trace outside it.

Being within the shuttleport security perimeter might have been a better move. I don’t know what airport security is like on Kibou, but I presume that emergency vehicles have to be verified in some way. That might be an overly generous assumption on my part. It’s possible that Kibou lets anyone who feels like it drive an ice cream truck around the landing tarmac at their shuttle port. But it seems to me like a plausible basic precaution that local authorities responding to emergencies at the shuttleport would have to be in touch with shuttleport security and couldn’t just be two random guys from New Egypt’s corporate security in a lift van with a blue light on it. HAVING SAID THAT, I acknowledge that Miles was once nearly smooshed to death with a lift van at a shuttleport. Apparently, it is possible to get a lift van onto the tarmac at a shuttleport even if it’s probable that shuttleport security would rather that didn’t happen. Associated hostelry are probably less secure than launch and landing surfaces. Maybe Lieber wouldn’t have been safe anywhere.

And if Lieber isn’t safe anywhere, Mina isn’t safe either. She’s the one person still walking around who knows that Lieber had a connection to Sato. If Lieber needs to be careful about New Egypt, Jin and Mina need to as well. Miles has won their loyalty by paying them adult rates for providing information and courier services. But Jin and Mina are capable of evaluating their potential futures. Their mom is still frozen (they think) and no one knows where she is. They aren’t getting their parents back, and they aren’t exactly making progress towards their personal goals. This is represented by their conversation with Miles about ponies. Animal-loving Jin and six-year-old girl Mina would like a pony. They have a spider. They ask Miles what he would get his children, and he helpfully shows them his holocube photos of his family, including Helen and Alex with their ponies.

It is my completely objective opinion that those are some nice ponies.

I don’t think it would ever occur to Miles that children who could handle walking across New Hope with blistered feet and being arrested on public transit could not handle being shown pictures of his family. But that’s hard. I don’t know what Miles should have done in response to the ponies vs. spiders question, but not that. It would be dangerous for Jin and Mina to return to their aunt’s house at this point, but they’re thinking about it and they could do it. Meanwhile, Miles and Raven are thawing out Lisa Sato. They didn’t tell Jin and Mina this time.

I think Lieber is kind of creepy, and the next few chapters will not change my mind. But Lisa’s revival is going to improve matters substantially for Jin and Mina. Once she can talk, Lisa tells Miles about Lieber’s discovery—an older version of cryopreservation fluid broke down after a few decades. Large numbers of frozen people are dead and the cryocorporations should determine who they are and return their votes and property to their heirs. The corporations aren’t excited to take the hit. Lisa Sato’s cryofreezing, though it appears in her public records, was completely extra-legal and carried out without her consent.

That puts Lisa on the witness protection list as well. Join me next week for the family reunion!

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

citation

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