[LMB] Cetaganda

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 24 10:55:54 BST 2018

Ok, while I wait for Vashnoi despoilerisation, I'm doing some rereads.

I'm starting with Cetaganda for no particular reason, except that it's
always fun and it's a snapshot of Miles as he starts Naismithing, he's
only been doing it for two years and it's still very new.

One thing I noticed was that Miles wasn't so invested in the Naismith/
Vorkosigan split yet. He works to protect his secret identity because it's
his secret job, but he doesn't seem personally invested in BEING Naismith

Another thing is that this visit is HUGE politically. Miles and Ivan are the
tacitly recognised two closest heirs to Gregor. In CVA the ImpSec major

acknowledges that ImpSec regarded Ivan as the first in line, and Miles
actually has a slightly better claim, because as Ezar points out in CH,
Aral has a better claim to the throne than anyone else. He just doesn't
want it. But Gregor has sent his two heirs off together to a recent enemy
empire. Losing them would really destabilize Barrayar. (Frankly I can
imagine someone in Cetagandan security having constant conniptions
about the visit, because if anything DID happen to one or both of them
it'd be close to a declaration of war. I wonder if Fletchir wondered if
Gregor sent Miles on purpose knowing that if anyone could start an
interstellar war, it's him, giving Barrayar a great excuse.)

So, Ivan and Miles are sent together, without a raft of support staff - just
two young lieutenants who are also two political minefields. And the poor
sods at the Embassy have to look after them. (They thought they were
getting two spoilt Vor twits, young lordlings pretending to be soldiers. Really,
there should have been warnings.)

Lois does infodumps brilliantly - weaves them into the story, and makes
them interesting, sometimes barely noticeable until later you realise you

needed to know THAT and she slipped it in so well.

We also see, early, that little trickle of jealousy from Miles. Ivan is a fine-
looking young officer, so Miles always adds, in his mind, some subtle put-down,
he has to be superior.

Their entire mission briefing boiled down to '...and stay out of trouble!'
All they have to do is look good, be Vorishly diplomatic, just BE there. And
nothing else (Seriously? I mean, they do KNOW Miles, right?) Well, how much
trouble can you get into at a funeral?

Idle chat about the Empress's death - was it murder? Probably not. Would
it be more interesting if it was the Emperor? Ivan points out that if so,
they'd be getting ready for far more dangerous political fallout, and possibly
Ceta civil war spilling over (he's very good on political dangers, even at this
age. Ivan's always good at spotting trouble, possibly because he's related to
so much of it.)

Apparently, a lot. The shuttle is sent to the wrong port, then they're attacked.
Ivan leaps in and knocks the disruptor away, Miles grabs the other weapon,
there's more confused freefall fighting, then the intruder manages to kick
Ivan down and get away. Great line from Ivan, "You know, if that was the
Customs inspector, we're in trouble."

Empty docking port, no people, smashed monitors, grimy and utilitarian.
This isn't too welcoming, or official. They've ended up with a neural disruptor

and a sparkly rod. Then flight control starts having fits and demanding that

they move away, it's the wrong place. The poor pilot is feeling upset - he
went to the place they told him to, now they're demanding he moves away.
He calls them 'my lords' - even though they're in uniform they're Vor lords
right now, not officers. There's some interesting identity twitching all the
way through - as officers they're very low, as Lords they outrank everyone

in the Embassy. What bliss that must have been for the Ambassador.

Ivan notes that the intruder had fake hair. He picks up on details. Miles is
busy thinking bigger, about all the possible ramifications of the attack.

Miles tells the pilot not to notify Station security about the incident - now

he's 'sir', he's back to being an officer and taking the responsibility. Sergeants
are smart.

Miles is being sneak and manipulative - he won't tell the Cetas what
happened so that he can check out their security standards (oh sure) and
he gives Ivan the disruptor to keep him sweet.

Redocking, slightly nicer chamber, actual people. Lord Vorob'yev, the
Ambassador. (Vorob'yev and Voreedi are both addressed as Lord - are they
both Counts heirs, or is it a courtesy title due to their jobs, like Lord Auditors?)
The Ambassador is in his House uniform - is this a recognition that they're
being political, not military? He wouldn't come to welcome two Lieutenants.
Nobody knows anything has happened. Miles doesn't tell.

Their baggage is removed for a slow inspection - it's all part of the game, along

with the low-grade dock. Vorob'yev isn't bothered by it, it's a ritual. Cetas are
obviously status-conscious, devious, organised, powerful... this is a dangerous

Vorob'yev calls them 'my lords', again this is politics, not military. Politics is
far more dangerous, mistakes can be much bigger.

They wait on the Embassy shuttle - Ivan makes smooth small talk with the
ambassador, Miles thinks. Are they about to be arrested? Was it a setup? Did
he just take the bait? Are they chasing the fugitive first?

Miles holds Ivan down by telling him they have to notify the ImpSec colonel
at the embassy - officially a Protocol officer, although everyone knows that's
just a cover. Diplomacy is all about telling lies that everyone knows are lies,
and everyone pretending it's real.

Another part of Ceta culture - clothes. Practically anything you wear will be
an insult, so wear uniforms, it's safer. The Ceta culture, and especially Haut

culture, seems set up to prove constantly that they're superior to everyone
else, by wrong-footing outsiders constantly.

Miles is enjoying the mystery, even thinking it might be a stepping-stone

to promotion - 'At some stage of development an officer had to stop following
orders and start generating them.'  Miles has always expected to rise to the

The shadow of Simon Illyan hovers over them all the time - he's Miles's
direct superior, and since this involves Cetaganda he's going to be expecting

reports, watching details.

So, by the end of the chapter we have two young lords sailing into the heart
of the enemy, a mystery, twisty politics, and Miles trying to figure out how to
solve this to his own benefit. And Ivan hoping to party. Say what you like
about the Cetas, they do put the fun in funeral.

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