"Indeed. I'll take you both on a tour tomorrow," Tien promised. "I'm having a full technical report prepared for you by my Komarran assistants, with all the numbers. But the most important number is still pure speculation. How fast is the mirror going to be repaired?"
Vorkosigan grimaced and held out a small hand, palm-up. "How fast depends in part on how much money the Imperium is willing to spend. And that's where things become very political indeed. With parts of Barrayar itself still undergoing active terraforming, and with the planet of Sergyar drawing off immigrants from both the worlds damned near as fast as they can board ship, some members of the government are wondering openly why we are spending so much Imperial treasure dinking with such a marginal world as Komarr."
Ekaterin could not tell from his measured tone whether he agreed with those members or not. Startled, she said, "The terraforming of Komarr was going on for three centuries before we conquered it. We can hardly stop now."
"So are we throwing good money after bad?" Vorkosigan shrugged, declining to answer his own question. "There's a second layer of thinking, a purely military one. Restricting the population to the domes makes Komarr more militarily vulnerable. Why give the citizenry of a conquered world extra territory in which to fall back and regroup? This line of thought makes the interesting assumption that three hundred or so years from now, when the terraforming is at last complete, the populations of Komarr and Barrayar will still not have assimilated each other. If they did, then they would be our domes, and we certainly wouldn't want them to be vulnerable, eh?"
He paused for a bite of bread and stew, washed down by wine, then went on, "Since assimilation is Gregor's avowed policy, and he's putting his Imperial person where his policy is . . . the question of motivation for sabotage becomes, er, complex. Could the saboteurs have been isolationist Barrayarans? Komarran extremists? Either, hoping to publicly throw the blame on the other? How emotionally attached is the average Komarran-in-the-dome to a goal whom none now living will ever survive to see realized, or would they rather save the money today? Sabotage versus accident makes no engineering difference, but does make a profound political one." He and Uncle Vorthys exchanged a wry look.
"So I watch, and listen, and wait," Vorkosigan concluded. He turned to Tien. "And how do you like Komarr, Administrator Vorsoisson?"
Tien grinned, and shrugged. "It's all right except for the Komarrans. I've found them a damned touchy bunch."
Vorkosigan's brows twitched up. "Have they no sense of humor?"
Ekaterin glanced up warily, wincing at that dry edge in his drawling voice, but apparently it slipped past Tien, who only snorted. "They're divided about equally between the greedy and the surly. Cheating Barrayarans is considered a patriotic duty."
Vorkosigan raised his empty wineglass to Ekaterin. "And you, Madame Vorsoisson?"
She refilled it to the top before he could stop her, cautious of her reply. If her uncle was the technical expert in this Auditorial duo, did that leave Vorkosigan as the . . . political one? Who was really the senior member of the team? Had Tien caught any of the subtle flashing implications in the little lord's speech? "It hasn't been easy to make Komarran friends. Nikolai goes to a Barrayaran school. And I have no work as such."
"A Vor lady hardly needs to work." Tien smiled.
"Nor a Vor lord," added Vorkosigan, almost under his breath, "yet here we are . . ."
"That depends on your ability to choose the right parents," said Tien, a touch sourly. He glanced across at Vorkosigan. "Relieve my curiosity. Are you related to the former Lord Regent?"
"My father," Vorkosigan replied, with quelling brevity. He did not smile.
Copyright Lois McMaster Bujold 1998. All rights reserved. Published with the permission of the publisher - Baen.
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