been willing to take that 90% risk for the 10% reward, or rather, had been willing for a disposable young officer to take it for him. Ezar in pursuit of his policies had disposed of thousands of soldiers like Illyan, in his lifetime.

    But Ezar had died soon after, and left Illyan, like a wandering planetoid, to fall into orbit around Admiral Aral Vorkosigan, who proved to be one of the major political stars of the century. Illyan had worked Security for Miles's father, one way or another, for the next thirty years.

    Miles wondered what it would be like to have thirty-five years of memories at your beck and call, as sharp and instantaneous as if just experienced. The past would never be softened by that welcome roseate fog of forgetfulness. To be able to rerun every mistake you'd ever made, in perfect sound and color . . . it had to be something like eternal damnation. No wonder the chip-bearers had gone mad. Although maybe remembering other people's mistakes was not so painful. You learned to watch your mouth, around Illyan. He could quote you back every idiotic, stupid, or ill-considered thing you'd ever said, verbatim, with gestures.

    In all, Miles didn't think he'd care for a chip, himself, even if he were medically qualified. He felt close enough to schizoid dementia already without any further technological boost in that direction, thanks.

    Galeni, now, seemed the bland unimaginative sort who would qualify; but Miles had reason to believe Galeni harbored hidden depths, as hidden as his father Ser Galen's terrorist past. No. Galeni was not a suitable candidate either. Galeni would just go insane so quietly, he would rack up huge damages before anyone caught on.

    Miles stared at his comconsole, willing it to light up. Call. Call. Call. Give me my goddamn mission. Get me out of here. Its silence seemed almost mocking. At length, he gave up and went to get another bottle of wine.



    It was evening two full days later before the personal comconsole in his bedchamber chimed again. Miles, who had been sitting next to it all day, nearly flinched out of his chair. He let it chime again, deliberately, while he tried to slow his racing heart and catch his breath. Right. This has to be it. Cool, calm, and collected, boy. Don't let Illyan's secretary see you sweat.

    But to his bitter disappointment, the face that formed over the vid plate was only his cousin Ivan. He'd obviously just blown in from his day's work at Imperial Service Headquarters, still wearing his undress greens . . . with blue, not red, rank rectangles on the collar behind his bronze Ops pins. Captain's tabs? Ivan is wearing captain's tabs?

    "Hi, coz," said Ivan cheerily. "How was your day?"

    "Slow." Miles fixed his features into a polite smile, hoping to conceal the sinking feeling in his gut.

    Ivan's smile broadened; he ran a hand over his hair, preening. "Notice anything?"

    You know damned well I noticed instantly. "You have a new hairstylist?" Miles feigned to hazard uncertainly.

    "Ha." Ivan tapped a tab with a fingernail, making it click.

    "You know, impersonating an officer is a crime, Ivan. True, they've never caught you yet. . . ." Ivan got promoted to captain before me . . . ?!

    "Ha," Ivan repeated smugly. "It's all official, as of today. My new pay grade started at reveille this morning. I knew this was in the pipeline, but I've been sitting on the news. Thought you all deserved a little surprise."

    "How come they promoted you before me ? Who the hell have you been sleeping with?" boiled off Miles's lips before he could bite it back down. He hadn't meant his tone of voice to come out quite that harsh.

    Ivan shrugged, smirking. "I do my job. And I do it without going around bending all the rules into artistic little origami shapes, either. Besides, you've spent I don't know how much time on medical leave. Deduct that, and I've probably got years of seniority on you."

    Blood and bone. Every bit of that unwelcome

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