unmarred: (8. display)
Mark Pierre Vorkosigan ([personal profile] unmarred) wrote2015-06-15 05:26 pm

only too real

He studies his uniform in the mirrored door of the public comconsole booth, assessing structure and detail. The fragmented reflection thrown by the artistically misaligned panes is a good way to isolate sectors for scrutiny. Jacket, trousers, boots—the door opens; he looks up; the woman stepping out looks down. When her eyes meet his, she physically flinches back. He winces and switches on Miles a little early, to be sure of getting the smile right: apologetic, just a little tired, no need to worry. She accepts this revision of her reality, smiles back, and moves on; he steps into the booth and shuts the door.

Another mirror awaits within, this one flat and clear and broad, meant for practical use. Curious now, he switches Miles off again and closes his eyes briefly to recapture the moment.

When he opens his eyes, he nearly flinches himself. Shit, no wonder she was upset. He looks like a man pursued by the legions of Hell. Come on, Mark, shape up. He flips the inner switch again and relaxes immediately; the man in the mirror turns from haggard wretch to tired but friendly, just like that.

All right. Time to make a call.

He settles the Betan accent in his mind while his hands input credit information and comm code. The accent's the trickiest part by far; he's had time to practice it, but not to get it bone-deep and quick as breathing like the Barrayaran one.

The image of a face materializes above the vid plate, interposing itself between him and the mirror. Her grey-and-white uniform is better kept than his, properly adorned with a lieutenant's insignia and a name patch. "Comm Officer Hereld, Triumph, Dendarii Free... Corporation," she says, not quite stumbling over the substitution; in peaceful Escobaran space, a mercenary fleet must pass with weapons sealed and good intentions verified and even its name slightly censored.

Mark—Miles—flashes her the Naismith grin. "Good to see you, Lieutenant," he says. Betan pronunciation, the fluid -eu- instead of the sibilant -eff- of a Barrayaran or Londoner.

She lights up instantly. "Admiral Naismith, sir! You're back!" Her smile is like a hit of some intensely addictive drug, juba or dreamline, something that takes you higher than an orbital flight and then burns you up on reentry. It feels good now, oh yes, but the comedown is going to be hell... can't think about that now. Miles wouldn't. "What's up? Are we going to be moving out soon?"

"In good time, Lieutenant," he says, smiling a wait-for-it smile. "You'll see. And in the meanwhile, I want a pick-up from this station."

"Yes, sir," nods Hereld. "I can get that for you. Is Captain Quinn with you?"

If he were really Miles, she would be, almost certainly; but Hereld doesn't know that. Mark shakes his head. "Not at the moment."

"Oh? When will she be following?"

"Later," he says smoothly.

"Right, sir. Let me just get clearance for—are we loading any equipment?"

He shakes his head again. "Just me."

"For a personnel pod, then." She shifts her eyes from the vid pickup for a few seconds, then reports, "I can have someone at docking bay E17 in about twenty minutes."

Which is just about the time it would take him to reach docking bay E17 from this comm booth at a dead run. "Perfect. I want to be transferred directly to the Ariel."

"Right, sir. Shall I notify Captain Thorne?"

"Yes. Tell it to make ready to break orbit," he says.

"Just the Ariel?" she asks, lifting curious eyebrows.

"Yes, Lieutenant," he says, with a gently chiding tone that causes her to straighten up slightly.

"Will do, Admiral."

"Naismith out," he says breezily, and cuts the com. Lieutenant Herald's face dissolves into twinkling lights. Admiral Naismith takes a deep breath. He's in it now, all right. The energy of Miles's soul fills him to overflowing, issuing from that bottomless well in the back of his mind. He pulls his credit chit from the slot, tucks it securely in one of his many pockets, and bolts down the station corridors toward the appropriate docking bay.
whyexit: (c ~ wink)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-16 11:31 pm (UTC)(link)
A personnel pod fetches him. The pilot is professional about the entire thing, only the edges of his facial expression and his general pleased deference radiating effervescent pride at conveying his admiral from point A to point B.

The Ariel is a short jaunt away, and when dismissed the pilot goes without a fuss or any sign of recognition (or rather, any sign of accurate recognition). Captain Thorne is there to greet him.

"Welcome aboard, sir!" it says brightly, and then, more or less without warning, it hugs him.
thisvorlunatic: (② conspirator)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-16 11:36 pm (UTC)(link)
And unfreezes almost immediately, hugging back with a very Miles little half-laugh. "Missed me, eh?"

(He should have known this was coming - the fact that he didn't know this was coming indicates potentially dangerous further unknowns with respect to Naismith's exact relationship with Thorne - hopefuly they don't have some kind of complex arrangement which Mark will need to navigate. He's absolutely certain Miles would not betray his wife, but much less certain of precisely what Miles's wife would consider a betrayal.)
whyexit: (d ~ lipstick)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-16 11:37 pm (UTC)(link)
"It's a natural state to fall into. Do you want me to assemble the whole crew?"
thisvorlunatic: (④ farmland)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-16 11:43 pm (UTC)(link)
As risky as it is to hang around Bel, plunging into extensive contact with large numbers of Dendarii before he's had a chance to inhale their personnel records is riskier still.

"Nah, you can brief them yourself after I give you the dirt on our new job."
whyexit: (b ~ adventure)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-16 11:44 pm (UTC)(link)
"Dirt. So not a spaceport destination, then," jokes Bel. "All right, come to my cabin, I'll put tea on, we can put our feet up."
thisvorlunatic: (⑤ miles)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-16 11:47 pm (UTC)(link)
Admiral Naismith greets this joke with the affectionately derisive snort it deserves. "Sounds good to me," he says, and politely allows Bel to lead him to its cabin.
whyexit: (e ~ soft)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-16 11:48 pm (UTC)(link)
The cabin has little personality, but Thorne's authentic china tea set displays some. It investigates the tea selection available. "What can I get you?"
thisvorlunatic: (⑦ negotiation)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-16 11:57 pm (UTC)(link)
"Oh, I'll have the usual," he says absently, depositing himself in a slightly-too-tall chair.
whyexit: (c ~ wink)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-16 11:58 pm (UTC)(link)
"Typical," says Thorne, snorting, picking a tea. "When are you going to let me introduce you to something more interesting?"
thisvorlunatic: (⑥ ivan)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-17 12:04 am (UTC)(link)
"If only I wasn't allergic to half your exquisitely curated tea cupboard," he says dryly. (Half's an overgenerous estimate, and Mark in fact does not share most of Miles's allergies, but in any given collection of more than twenty plants it's good odds Miles will have at least a mild reaction to one of them.)
whyexit: (d ~ lipstick)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-17 12:05 am (UTC)(link)
"I've seen you eat things with cinnamon in, at least," it counters, but it brews and eventually presents a tray and pours him a cup.
thisvorlunatic: (③ inspiring)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-17 12:09 am (UTC)(link)
"Thanks, Bel." He inhales a breath of tea-scented steam. Thorne has indeed presented him with one of the more mainstream options available. That fits. He takes a temperature-testing sip and settles back in his chair, trying to inhabit Miles's comfort more fully.
whyexit: (a ~ best of both)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-17 12:16 am (UTC)(link)
"You're welcome. So you were very excited, does that mean we should be excited too or worried? Is your wife even now wringing her hands and pacing the dimensions of her undisclosed location?"
thisvorlunatic: (④ farmland)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-17 12:18 am (UTC)(link)
"It's definitely more a case of 'Admiral Naismith is excited, everyone take cover' than the other kind," he snorts. "But I wouldn't say it's much harder than some of the shit we've pulled off in the past. It is—well, our part in this scheme is—a pickup, of a sort."
whyexit: (g ~ it)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-17 12:19 am (UTC)(link)
"Of a sort. Okay, I'm sitting down, continue."
thisvorlunatic: (⑦ negotiation)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-17 12:27 am (UTC)(link)
"We're going to Jackson's Whole, and we're going to confiscate House Bharaputra's entire inventory of clones and take them back here to Escobar, where our shy yet noble-hearted employer will arrange for a welcoming reception at a discreet local orphanage."
whyexit: (i ~ observant)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-17 12:29 am (UTC)(link)
"How... noble-hearted. Really, it is, I'd as soon all the butchers found themselves obliged to take up stonemasonry, but is the Ariel the best choice here? It'll be conspicuous as hell on Jackson's Whole to some less-than-friendlies and I don't think anyone's done in Ryoval yet."
thisvorlunatic: (⑪ theoretical)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-17 12:47 am (UTC)(link)
What?

"If all goes well, we won't have to go near Ryoval," he says, as his mind traces out the implications. Oh, shit. Now that he knows Bel is wary of Ryoval, that rumour of somebody cleaning out House Ryoval's gene samples begins to take on a distinct odour of Naismith. Well, too late now.

"And yours is the best ship for the job. All conflict on the ground: show up, grab the clones, and bolt - we need the most effective commando squad in the fleet, and the speed to get us in and out ahead of better-armed pursuit, and the Ariel has both."
whyexit: (Default)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-17 12:57 am (UTC)(link)
"I'm game. Is our philanthropist purely philanthropizing, here, or is there a more self-interested layer under that entirely agreeable cover motive?"
thisvorlunatic: (⑥ ivan)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-17 01:03 am (UTC)(link)
"Between you and me? I'm pretty well convinced it's a takedown," he says. "Somebody wants House Bharaputra wiped from that planet's inhospitable surface, and this is the first open move in the game. But our philanthropist hasn't directly said as much. Just paid us a respectable sum, half in advance and half on delivery, the second half to be proportionately docked for every clone out of the batch of fifty-six that doesn't make it to Escobar alive and well."
whyexit: (g ~ it)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-17 01:06 am (UTC)(link)
"Ha. They deserve it, too, the bastards, this is going to be fun and the whole crew's good deed for the year. What have we got in the way of local support in our wretched hive? Backup?"
thisvorlunatic: (④ farmland)

[personal profile] thisvorlunatic 2015-06-17 01:08 am (UTC)(link)
"Nil and nil, I'm afraid."
whyexit: (Default)

[personal profile] whyexit 2015-06-17 01:10 am (UTC)(link)
"Joy. Rapture. And besides Bharaputra themselves and Ryoval for incidental frothing rage, who's the projected secondary villainy in this piece?"
Edited 2015-06-17 01:11 (UTC)

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