information. If they'd had any sense of self-preservation at all, they should have returned Lieutenant Vorberg and his packets, undamaged and unexamined, immediately to the nearest drop-point, with profuse apologies.

Instead, they'd tried to sell him to the highest bidder. Slay them all, ImpSec Chief Simon Illyan had muttered. The Devil will recognize his own. Then he'd delegated the details to Miles. The Emperor did not approve of unauthorized persons impeding his couriers. Or torturing them, or attempting to market them like high-information-density slabs of meat. This was one mission where, although the Dendarii Fleet's official sponsor was the insurance company covering the Zoave Twilight ship, it wouldn't hurt to reveal that their co-backer was the Barrayaran Empire. Good publicity, for the protection of the next courier to run into similar bad luck.

Assuming it was luck. Miles itched to go oversee the interrogation of the prisoners; Illyan's second sharpest concern after the retrieval of Vorberg alive was to determine if the courier had been kidnapped by accident or on purpose. If on purpose . . . somebody had some internal investigating to do. In all, Miles was extremely glad that sort of messy job did not fall into his area of expertise.

The surgeon, still dressed in her sterile garb, entered at last. She put her hands on her hips, stared at Miles, and sighed. She looked tired.

'How's the Barrayaran?' Miles ventured. 'Will, um . . . he recover?'

'He's not too bad. The cuts were very clean, and luckily just below the knee joints, which saved a world of complications. He'll be about three centimeters shorter after this.'

Miles winced.

'But he'll be on his feet by the time he gets home,' she added, 'assuming that takes about six weeks.'

'Ah. Good.' But suppose the random blare of the plasma arc had taken Vorberg through the knees. Or about a meter higher, cutting him in half. There were limits to the miracles even his Dendarii surgical expert could perform. It would not have been a career high point, after Miles had airily assured his ImpSec chief that he could rescue Vorberg with scarcely a ripple in his routine, to return him packed in a body bag. Two body bags. Miles felt faint with a weird mixture of relief and horror.Oh, God, I'm going to hate explaining this to Illyan.

The surgeon studied Miles's scans, muttering medical incantations. 'We're still on baseline, here. No obvious abnormalities show up. The only way I can get any leverage into this is to have you monitored while you undergo an attack.'

'Hell, I thought we did every kind of stress and electroshock and stimulus known to science, to try to trigger something in the lab. I thought the pills you gave me had brought it under control.'

'The standard anticonvulsant? Were you taking it properly?' She eyed him suspiciously.

'Yes.' He bit back more profane protestations. 'Have you thought of something else to try?'

'No, which is why I gave you that monitor to wear around.' Her glance around the examining room did not disclose the device. 'Where is it?'

'In my cabin.'

Her lips thinned in exasperation. 'Let me guess. You weren't wearing it at the time.'

'It didn't fit under my combat armor.'

Her teeth clenched. 'Couldn't you have at least thought to—to disable your weapons?'

'I could hardly be of use to my squad in an emergency, disarmed. I might as well have stayed aboard the Peregrine.'

'You were the emergency. And you certainly should have stayed aboard the Peregrine.'

Or back on Barrayar. But securing Vorberg's person had been the most critical part of the operation, and Miles was the only Dendarii officer ImpSec entrusted with the Barrayaran Imperial recognition codes. 'I—' He bit his tongue on futile defenses, and started over. 'You are quite correct. It won't happen again, until . . . we get this straightened out. What do we do next?'

She opened her hands. 'I've run every test I know. Obviously, the anticonvulsant isn't the answer. This is some kind of idiosyncratic cryonic damage on a cellular or subcellular level. You need to get your head to the highest-powered cryo-neurology specialist you can find.'

He sighed, and shrugged into his black tee shirt and gray uniform jacket. 'Are we done for now? I urgently need to supervise prisoner interrogation.'

'I suppose.' She grimaced. 'But do us all a favor. Don't go armed.'

'Yes, ma'am,' he said humbly, and fled.


Miles sat before the secured comconsole in his cabin aboard the flagship Peregrine, composing what seemed like his thousandth classified field report to the Chief of Barrayaran Imperial Security, Simon Illyan. Well, it wasn't the thousandth, that was absurd. He couldn't have averaged more than three or four missions a year, and he'd been at it less than a decade, really, since the Vervain invasion adventure had made it all official. Less than forty assignments. But he could no longer name the actual number offhand without stopping to think, and add them all up, and it wasn't an effect of lingering cryo-amnesia, either.

Keep organizing, boy. His personal synopsis needed to be no more than a brief guide to the appendices of raw data, drawn from the Dendarii Fleet's own files. Illyan's intelligence analysts liked having lots of raw data to chew upon. It kept them occupied, down in their little cubicles in the bowels of ImpSec headquarters at Vorbarr Sultana. And entertained too, Miles sometimes feared.

The Peregrine, the Ariel, and the rest of 'Admiral Naismith's' select battle group now orbited the planet of Zoave Twilight. His fleet accountant had turned in a busy couple of days, settling up with the insurance company who finally had their freighter and crew back, applying for salvage fees for the hijacker's captured ships, and filing the official claims for bounty to the Vega Station Embassy. Miles entered the costs/returns spreadsheets in full into his report, as Appendix A.

The prisoners had been dumped downside, for the Vegan and Zoavan governments to divide between them—preferably in the same sense as poor Vorberg had been. The ex-hijackers were a vile crew. Miles was almost sorry the pinnace had surrendered. Appendix B was copies of the Dendarii recordings of the prisoner interrogations. The downside governments would get an edited version of these, with most of the Barrayar-specific queries and answers deleted. Lots of criminal testimony, of little direct interest to ImpSec, though the Vegans ought to be pretty excited about it.

The important thing from Illyan's point of view was that no evidence had been extracted which would indicate that the kidnapping of the Barrayaran courier was anything but an accidental side effect of the hijacking. Unless—Miles made sure to note this in his synopsis—that information had been known only to those hijackers who had been killed. Since that number included both their so-called captain and two of the higher-ranking officers, there were enough possibilities in this direction to keep Illyan's analysts earning their pay. But that lead must now be traced from the other end, through the House Hargraves representatives who had been trying to handle the sale or ransom of the courier for the hijackers. Miles hoped cordially that ImpSec would focus its best negative attentions upon the Jacksonian semicriminal Great House. Though House Hargraves's agents had been extremely, if unwittingly, useful in helping the Dendarii set up their raid.

Illyan ought to like the accountant's report. The Dendarii had not only succeeded in keeping their costs under budget this time—for a change— they had made a truly amazing profit. Illyan, who had been willing to spend Imperial marks like water on the principle of the thing, had got his courier officer retrieved

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