Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapters 8 and 9

Chapters 8 and 9 of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen focus rather more on the Red Queen than on Gentleman Jole. The key issue is that Jole and Cordelia aren’t acknowledging the exact nature of their relationship in public. Rykov, Cordelia’s armsman, supports this decision—which was very definitely NOT Cordelia’s decision—because he’s in favor of discretion in all things. He’s also younger than Cordelia (and probably also Jole) and less aware of the full and complex range of issues that Cordelia needs to consider. These issues are going to make themselves felt.

Jole and Cordelia find themselves very busy with work this month, something that occasionally happens to adults who are running a planet. They find time for another few visits to Lake Serena, still termed as inspections, and they have a discreet and well-chaperoned dinner together in Kareenburg’s unnamed pleasant restaurant. The watchful eye of ImpSec has a quelling affect on their public expressions of affection. ImpSec’s concerns about Jole’s out-dated personal security training have reached his ear now as well. While Jole acknowledges Rykov’s position on discretion, he privately thinks it’s a hard habit to break.

Possibly, a little less discretion would help people figure out why Lake Serena has been subjected to so many “inspections” lately. Speculation on the issue is rampant, and is potentially responsible for the construction project Jole and Cordelia noticed on their most recent visit. The issue comes up during a meeting between Cordelia and her staff, a meeting that is a delightful catalog of Cordelia’s projects—she unionized Sergyar’s sex workers!—and community concerns—should it be illegal to deliberately contract the Sergyaran worm plague for the purposes of decorative scarification? As Vicereine, Cordelia is also responsible for considering death sentences handed down by Sergyaran courts. This is an interesting throwback to the way this issue arose in Barrayar, complete with Cordelia repeating Aral’s assertion about not making theater out of lives. No one lobs a soltoxin grenade through the window on this round. Cordelia is considering experimenting with Betan therapy as an alternative to the death penalty, but she needs a willing subject first. I approve—partly because I oppose the death penalty and partly because, despite my reservations about Betan therapy in some situations, it seems to have done Mark a lot of good.

Jole and Rykov’s continued preference for discretion means that Jole can’t spend the night at the Vicereine’s Palace. Their respective positions at this point—by which I mean their positions as Vicereine and Admiral of the Sergyar Fleet, and not their positions lying in bed at the moment Jole considers this—mean that he has some protection from the position he found himself in when Aral had his heart attack. Everyone knew that he and Aral had worked together, and some assumed that they might have become friends, but no one knew what Aral meant to Jole and he couldn’t leave his position with the fleet convoy he was serving with to be at Aral’s side. Cordelia sent him bulletins. No one knows what Cordelia means to Jole now, but if something were to happen to her, it could be construed as part of his job to see to her needs personally. Alternately, in that kind of emergency he might be busy with something else.

I think these possibilities are very much on Cordelia’s mind when she composes a series of slightly overdue tightbeam recordings announcing the impending arrival of Aurelia Kosigan Naismith. Gregor gets all the information Cordelia has to give—her plans to retire, her plans to have more children, the enucleated eggs she has offered to Jole, and the news that the two of them are dating. She declines to make predictions about the future, but is pleased to share that she’s happy now. Miles gets to know that he’s going to be a big brother (as does Ekaterin, who Cordelia says Miles should share the recording with). Illyan and Alys get to know about Aurelia. Cordelia wants to have a long chat with Alys about dating Jole, but thinks it might be too much for Illyan, who found Aral’s relationship with Jole a significant security complication. Illyan might have preferred more discretion. She settles for telling the two of them about her relationship with Jole and leaving the details for another time. Illyan will probably notice that Cordelia cut and restarted the recording so he can guess that there was more she would like to say.

Meanwhile, Jole goes off on an inspection tour of the wormhole stations that takes—I’m guessing here—roughly as long as it does to travel from Barrayar to Sergyar. His homecoming “conference” with Cordelia is interrupted by the entirely unexpected arrival of Miles and his family.

Fun facts:

  • Miles has six children now. Alex and Helen, the oldest, last seen toddling around naked and throwing their breakfasts at the cat, are about eleven now. Elizabeth is eight, little Taura is five, and Selig and Simone are about two.
  • Their arrival is a surprise. Their Da said so!

People, I’m writing this ON Mother’s Day (it will be past Mother’s Day by the time anyone reads it, but Mother’s Day will come again). This is a bad thing to do. If you live in town and you’re planning to stay for 20 minutes tops, you can drop by your mother’s house with your six children almost unannounced. You should still call first. When there’s intergalactic travel that interrupts your children’s school schedules involved, you should definitely inform your parents before you show up. DEFINITELY. Ekaterin knows this, and seems properly embarrassed. Although comm links work for her too, and she could have used one earlier, so maybe not embarrassed enough, but who knows what Miles told her. Miles seems entirely unashamed. Let’s think carefully, back to a time when Miles’s spontaneous, unannounced actions have been entirely well-intentioned and led only to good things.

If anyone thinks of one, let me know.

Miles’s arrival is quite definitely not the worst thing that could happen to Cordelia and Jole right now. Kareenburg could have that volcanic eruption Cordelia has been so concerned about, or a Cetagandan fleet could destroy the wormhole station and possibly the replicator center and Jole and Cordelia could have to fight a guerrilla campaign.

This isn’t a good thing, though. It certainly cuts short Jole and Cordelia’s plans for the evening, which had been moving in a delightfully horizontal direction and might have included a valuable conversation about the waning value of discretion.

Instead, Jole leaves Cordelia to the tender mercies of her family with a warning word about making sure she gets enough sleep. She has six grandchildren in her house right now, and no one was warned to make up the guest beds, so that will not be happening.

Join me next week when the Vorkosigan clan tours Sergyar and Freddie Haines gets involved!

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

 

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