[LMB] GJ&RQ 15 - Heck of a birthday celebration

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 27 09:43:39 GMT 2016

The discussion was rattling along just five minutes ago! I turn away just for
a moment....

Ok, this one needs attention, and talk. I think it's the pivotal chapter in the
whole book. And that's saying something, in this book.

Oliver wakes up and wishes he hadn't. Happy birthday - we're giving you a
riot to celebrate.

Fifty. It seemed so old just ... five minutes ago? Where did those decades all
go, they whizzed past so quickly. He'd lived in Kareenburg for the last 12
years, but would be leaving soon, one way or another. New capital, or new

job. Or....? A reminder from Desplains, to answer the job offer. This should
be the peak of a brilliant career, anyone would leap at it. But he's not leaping.

Off to the picnic - Cordelia in camouflage-coloured casual clothes. Oliver in
uniform. Undress greens, but still uniform. Must have a jacket for the
opening ceremonies, shirtsleeves after that. Did he catch the uniform bug
from Aral, or do all the military catch it? (After all, Miles always wears
Dendarii grey suits.)

“You may risk plague worms, fire radials, and sand rashes in the name of fashion if you choose. I’ll stick to my nice regulation shoes, thanks.”

Praise in the military is a warning sign. Interesting mindset.

Oliver isn't really expecting to enjoy this: “Happy birthday, by the way,” she said as the aircar descended and they broke off.

“We’ll see,”

The birthday picnic is vast, with probably more than half the planet's
population there. Military organisation for the facilities, lots of family
barbecues scattered around, it's a big BIG event. I wonder - will it be
somehow turned into an annual event? These people obviously need
some excuse for a massive, regular celebration. And really, it sounds like
a great day out.

I love the way Cordelia indulges ImpSec by allowing them to do their
security routine. Few people see ImpSec agents as sweet kids who are
trying hard.

Oliver has made them plan to have all the boring talky stuff first, to leave
the rest of the day free. They sightsee while the last-minute panic is
sorted out (actually, this sort of event is great practice for minor invasions.)

Cordelia's Betan sex-worker friend is spreading the good word about
proper behaviour. Spreading civilisation, one bonk at a time.

They find the family, Miles is dancing with Simone. He'll pay for it later,
in pain, but it's worth it. That sort of sums up Vorkosigan family history.

I love it that they have to put on radial-repellent. Reminds me of every
family picnic, with bug spray vital because of the flies. (Sergyar reminds
me a LOT of Oz.)

Kaya's Cetagandan has his sensory booth set up - times are changing. (Not
all that fast, as it turns out, but still it's something.)  And he learns to NOT
slap at radials. Ouch. I wonder how many Sergyarans have little acid-patch

Official presentations - fun gifts, cake, and The Boat. Transparent, perfect
for sailing around and studying the ocean inhabitants. Something he
really likes. Not much use in Vorbarr Sultana, though. And Oliver really
loves that boat.

Oliver finally relaxes a bit, they watch the boot polo - a very Barrayaran
game, useful in wartime because you could move from game to combat
without noticing the difference. And they probably did. The refs carry
stunners - shows a lot of restraint on their part.

Miles takes the kids to see the hexapod: : “No, darling, you can’t pet the hexaped. It would bite your hand off, and then your Grandmama would execute it, which wouldn’t be fair to the poor beast, now would it?”
In his own weird way he's actually really good with the kids. Partly because
he thinks like them, and partly because he regards parenting as a military
campaign, and plans accordingly. He also treats his kids as people.
Oliver actually takes mental notes on Miles's child-wrangling
techniques, for future reference.

The university is represented, Dr Gamelin is there with the Escobaran
students.  Sergyar is a weird combination of very backward and
very Nexus modern - it's cosmopolitan, so many different planets
are represented for trade and travel, and study. A very interesting
culture is developing, pushed in certain directions by Cordelia.

Oliver's thoughts keep circling back to the decision. It's a brilliant

offer, he'd be marvellous at it, he should jump at it. But he'd lose
so much, too. (This dilemma is usually faced by women - family
or career.)

I love the view of Tech officers:

“Hey, let’s try speed-starting the fire with an infusion of pure oxygen!” Because inside every senior tech officer was a junior tech officer who’d been on a short leash for a long time.

Has anyone else noticed how scary Lizzie is? She's like a sponge
for information, any and all information, and she understands the
answers. Smart, energetic, wildly curious... this one takes after Da.

Then it turns out that times haven't changed so much after all, the
Cetagandan tent was flattened by some boot polo players (I'm amazed
that any of them could still walk). The police and MP's looked the
other way. The twins waded in to stop the destruction - not sure
which parent they were channeling.

Cordelia does scary very well, because she IS scary. And apart from
possibly causing a major diplomatic incident, and embarrassing the
Vicereine, the polo players attacked their general's daughter, and
Aral Vorkosigan's grandchildren. I love the way she picks one of them
up, questions him, and drops him again. Then drops the T word,
because Treason always makes the party go better.  Then she
spreads a little sunshine among the suspiciously late security
teams while Oliver removes the children to a safer spot.

Huge swarm of radials - how pretty and how unusual. And how
flammable, which is why a firework was possibly not the best
choice to drive them away. Especially when people are scattered
across a wide open area with no shelter.

Oliver yells 'COVER THE KIDS!' - instincts taking over. Then the
world explodes and he puts his shirt around the twins and shelters
them against himself.

And what a poetic way to end the chapter:

And then his world turned into a pelting rain of flaming snot.

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