Komarr has two alternating points of view: Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan, on a mission to investigate an accident to the artificial sun of. I recall the first time I read the opening chapter of Komarr as one of the Framing the book with her perspective lets Bujold get right down to. From the Back Cover. Komarr could be a garden — with a thousand more years work. Or an uninhabitable wasteland, if the terraforming fails. Now the solar.
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T he last gleaming sliver of Komarr’s true-sun melted out of sight beyond the low hills on the western horizon. Lagging behind it in the vault of the heavens, the reflected fire of the solar mirror sprang out in brilliant contrast to the darkening, purple-tinged blue. When Ekaterin had first viewed the hexagonal soletta-array from downside on Komarr’s surface, she’d immediately imagined it as a grand Winterfair ornament, hung in the sky like a snowflake made of stars, benign and consoling.
She leaned now on her balcony overlooking Serifosa Dome’s central city park, and gravely studied the lopsided spray of light through the glassy arc overhead. It sparkled deceptively in contrast to the too-dark sky. Three of the six disks of the star-flake shone not at all, and the central seventh was occluded and dull. Ancient Earthmen, she had read, had taken alterations in the clockwork procession of their heavens-comets, novae, shooting stars-for disturbing omens, premonitions of disasters natural or political; the very word, disaster, embedded the astrological source of the concept.
The collision two weeks ago of an out-of-control inner-system ore freighter with the insolation mirror that supplemented Komarr’s solar energy was surely most literally a disaster, instantly so for the half-dozen Komarran members of the soletta’s station-keeping crew who had been killed.
But it seemed to be playing out in slow motion thereafter; it had so far barely affected the sealed arcologies that housed the planet’s population. Below her, in the park, a crew of workers was arranging supplemental lighting on high girders. Similar stopgap measures in the city’s food-producing greenhouses must be nearly complete, to spare them and this equipment to such an ornamental task.
No, she reminded herself; no vegetation in the dome was merely ornamental. Each added its bit to the biological reservoir that ultimately supported life here.
The gardens in the domes would live, cared for by their human symbiotes. Outside the arcologies, in the fragile komrr that labored to bio-transform a world, it was another question altogether. She knew the math, discussed nightly at her dinner table for two weeks, of the percentage loss of insolation at the equator.
Days gone winter-cloudy-except that they were planetwide, and going on and on, until when? When would repairs be complete? When would they start, for that matter? As sabotage, if it had been sabotage, the destruction was komsrr as half-sabotage, doubly inexplicable. Will they try again? If it was a they at all, ghastly malice and not mere ghastly accident.
She sighed, and turned away from the view, and switched on the spotlights she’d put up to supplement her own tiny balcony garden. Some of the Barrayaran plants she’d started were particularly touchy about their illumination.
She checked the light with a meter, and shifted two boxes of deerslayer vine closer to the source, and set the timers. She moved about, checking soil temperature and moisture with sensitive and practiced fingers, watering sparingly where needed.
Briefly, she considered moving her old bonsai’d skellytum indoors, to provide it with more controlled conditions, but it was all indoors here on Komarr, really. She hadn’t felt wind in her hair for nearly a year. She felt an odd twinge of identification with the transplanted ecology outside, slowly starving for light and heat, suffocating in a toxic atmosphere.
We’re lucky to be here. She poked her head through the door to the kitchen. She set her gardening tools in the box seat, closed the lid, sealed the transparent doors behind her, bujol hurried across the room into the hall and down the circular staircase. Tien was standing impatiently beside the double doors from their apartment to the building’s corridor, a comm link in his hand.
He’s landed at the shuttleport. He said to tell you, he’s bringing a guest. Another Auditor, some sort of assistant to him, it bujol like. But he said not to worry, they’ll both take pot luck.
He seemed to imagine we’d feed them in the kitchen or something. Why ever did kpmarr have to invite him, anyway? She stared at him in dismay. Besides, you can’t say your department isn’t affected by what he’s investigating.
Naturally he wants to see it. I thought you liked him.
He slapped his hand arhythmically on his thigh. Eccentric Uncle Vorthys, the Vor tech. This Imperial appointment of his took the whole family by surprise. I can’t imagine what favors he called in to get it.
Is that your only idea of how men advance? But she did not speak the weary thought aloud. Except, perhaps, your uncle’s assistant, whom I gather is closely related to the Vorkosigan. He apparently got his appointment for breathing. Incredibly young for the job, if he’s the one I heard about who was sworn in at Winterfair.
A lightweight, I presume, although all your Uncle Vorthys said was buold he was sensitive about his height and not to mention it. At least some part of this mess promises to be a show. He tucked his comm link away in his tunic pocket. His hand was shaking slightly. Ekaterin grasped his wrist and turned it over. She raised her eyes, dark with worry, kkmarr silent question to his.
I’m just a little tense. And hungry, so see if you can’t pull together a decent meal by the time we’re back.
Your uncle may have prole tastes, but I can’t imagine they’re shared by a Vorbarr Sultana lordling. I wish you’d give up this galactic treatment plan. They have medical facilities here komarrr Komarr that are almost as good as, as Beta Colony or anywhere.
I thought, when you won this post here, that you would. Forget the secrecy, just go openly for help. Or go discreetly, if you insist. But don’t wait any longer! My career is finally on course, finally paying off.
I have no desire to be publicly branded a mutant now. If I don’t care, what does it matter what anyone else thinks?
komqrr Tien, he’s the least likely of my relatives-or yours, for that matter-to care if your disease is genetic or not. He komqrr care about you, and about Nikolai. I have it under control. I’ll finish out this year’s appointment, then we’ll take a long overdue galactic vacation, you and me and Nikolai.
And it will all be fixed, and no one will ever know. If you don’t lose your head and panic at the last minute! Wait and I’ll fix it. That’s what you said the last time. And the time before that, and the time before that. Tien, you’re running out of time, can’t you see it? She turned for her kitchen, mentally revising her planned family dinner to include a Vor lord from the Imperial capital. Her limited experience of the breed suggested that if you could get them sufficiently sloshed, it wouldn’t matter what you fed them.
She put another of her precious imported-from-home bottles in to chill. She added another place to the table on the balcony off the kitchen that they routinely used for a dining room, sorry now she’d not engaged a servitor for the evening.
But human servants on Komarr were so expensive. And she’d wanted this bubble of domestic privacy with Uncle Vorthys. Even the staid official newsvid reps were badgering everyone involved in the investigation; the arrival of not one but two Imperial Auditors on-site in Komarr orbit had not calmed the fever of speculation, but only redirected it.
When she’d first spoken with him shortly after his arrival on-site, on a distance-delayed channel that defeated any attempt at long conversation, normally-patient Uncle Vorthys’s description of the public briefings into which he’d been roped had been notably momarr. He’d hinted he would be glad to escape them.
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Since his years of teaching must have inured him to stupid questions, Ekaterin wondered if the true source of his irritation was that he couldn’t answer them. But mostly, she had to admit, she just wanted to recapture the flavor of a happier past, greedily for herself.
She’d lived with Aunt and Uncle Vorthys for two years after her mother had died, attending the Gujold University under their casual supervision.
Life with the Professor and the Professora had somehow been less constrained, and constraining, than in her father’s conservative Vor household in the South Continent frontier town of her birth; perhaps because they’d treated her as the adult she aspired to be, rather than the child she had been. She’d felt, a bit guiltily, closer to them than to her real parent.
For a while, any future had seemed possible. Then she’d okmarr Etienne Vorsoisson, or he had chosen her. You were pleased enough at the time. Kimarr said Yes to the marriage arrangements her father’s Baba had offered, with all good will. Nine-year-old Nikolai bounded into the kitchen.