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Lois Mcmaster Bujold - Memory

Lois Mcmaster Bujold - Memory

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04/05/2013

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MEMORY
Lois McMaster Bujold
[20 sep 2001 – scanned, proofread and released for #bookz]CHAPTER ONE
Miles returned to consciousness with his eyes still closed. His brain seemed to smolder with theconfused embers of some fiery dream, formless and fading. He was shaken by a fearful conviction that hehad been killed again, till memory and reason began to place this shredded experience.His other senses tried to take inventory. He was in null-gee, his short body stretched out flat, strappedto a surface and swathed in what felt like a thin foil med wrap, standard military issue.
Wounded?
Alllimbs seemed present and accounted for. He was still wearing the soft bodysuit that had lined his now-missing space armor. The straps were not tight. The complex scent of many-times-refiltered air, cool anddry, tickled his nostrils. He secretly snaked an arm free, careful not to rattle the wrap, and touched his bare face. No control leads, no sensors—no blood— 
where are my armor, my weapons, my command headset?
The rescue mission had been going as smoothly as such missions ever did. He and Captain Quinn andtheir patrol had penetrated the hijackers' ship, found the brig. Blasted through to the captured BarrayaranImpSec courier officer, Lieutenant Vorberg, still alive though addled with sedatives. The medtech had pronounced the hostage clear of mechanical or chemical boobytraps, and they'd begun the exhilaratingtrip through the dark corridors back to the waiting Dendarii combat shuttle.The hijackers, very much occupied elsewhere, had made no attempt to jump them.
What went wrong?
The sounds around him were quiet: the bleep of equipment, the hiss of atmosphere recycling onnormal operation, the murmur of voices. One low animal moan. Miles licked his lips, just to be sure thatnoise wasn't coming from himself. He might not be wounded, but somebody nearby was not in goodshape. A tangy whiff of antiseptics escaped filtration. He slitted open his eyes, prepared to playunconscious again and think fast if he found himself in enemy hands.But he was—safely, he hoped—in his own Dendarii Fleet combat shuttle, strapped to one of the four fold-down bunks toward the rear of the fuselage. The emergency medical station was a familiar sight,though he didn't usually see it from this angle of view. Blue Squad's medtech, his back to Miles, hovered by a bunk across the aisle that held another strapped-down form. Miles couldn't see any body bags.
Onlyone other casualty.
He
would add,
Good,
except that there weren't supposed to be
any
casualties.
Only one casualty,
Miles corrected his thought. A violent headache throbbed at the base of his brain.But he bore no plasma arc burns, no nerve-disrupter paralysis. No intravenous tubing or hyposprayinjector pierced his body, pumping in blood replacements or synergine against shock. He did not float in anarcotic haze of painkillers, and no pressure bandages hampered his slight movements. No sense- blockers. The headache felt like a post-stun migraine.
 How the hell could I have been stunned throughcombat armor?
The Dendarii medtech, still combat-armored but with helmet and gloves off, turned and saw Miles'sopen eyes. "You're awake, sir? I'll notify Captain Quinn." He hovered briefly over Miles's face, andflashed a light into his eyes, doubtless checking for abnormal pupil response."How long . . . was I out? What happened?""You had some kind of seizure, or convulsion. No apparent cause. The field kit test for toxins didn'tturn up anything, but its pretty basic. We'll go over you more thoroughly as soon as we're back to theship's sick bay."
 
 Not dead again. Worse. This is still more of the leftovers from the last time. Oh, hell. What have I done? What have they seen?
He would rather have been—well, no. He would
not 
rather have been nerve-disrupted. But almost."How long?" Miles repeated."The seizure seemed to last four or five minutes."It had certainly taken more than five minutes to get from
there
to
here.
"Then?""You've been unconscious for about a half hour, I'm afraid, Admiral Naismith."He'd never been out so long before. This was the worst attack ever, by far. He'd prayed the last onewould
be
the last one. Over two months had passed since his previous unwitnessed, brief collapse.Dammit, he'd been
certain
the new medication had worked.He made to free himself, fighting out of the heat wrap and bunk straps."Please don't try to get up, Admiral.""I have to go forward and get reports."The medtech placed a cautious hand upon his chest, and pressed him back onto the bunk. "CaptainQuinn ordered me to sedate you if you tried to get up. Sir."Miles almost barked,
 And I countermand that order!
But they did not seem to be in the midst of combat now, and the tech had a medically steely look in his eye, of a man prepared to do his dutywhatever the risks.
Save me from the virtuous.
"Is that why I was out so long? Was I sedated?""No, sir. I only gave you synergine. Your vital signs were stable, and I was afraid to give youanything else till I had some better idea what we were dealing with.""What about my squad? Are we all out? The Barrayaran hostage, did we get him out all right?""Everybody got out all right. The Barrayaran, um . . . will live. I retrieved his legs; there's a goodchance the surgeon will be able to reattach them." The medtech glanced around, as if seeking comradelyassistance.
"What?
How was he injured?""Uh . . . I'll call Captain Quinn for you, sir.""You do that," growled Miles.The medtech ducked away into free fall, and murmured urgently into an intercom on the far wall. Hereturned to his patient—Lieutenant Vorberg? IVs were pumping plasma and medications into the manthrough sites on both an arm and his neck. The rest was concealed by heat foil. At a light-signal from theforward bulkhead, the medtech hastily strapped himself into his station jump seat, and the shuttle wentthrough a quick series of accelerations, decelerations, and attitude adjustments, in preparation for lockingon to its mother ship.Properly, upon docking the injured hostage was rushed out first. In two parts. Miles gritted his teethin dismay at the sight of the soldier clutching a large cold-container who followed the medtech and float pallet. There did not seem to be much blood smeared around, though. Miles had just given up waiting for Quinn and was releasing himself from his medical restraints when she appeared from the flight deck andfloated down the aisle toward him.She had doffed the helmet and gloves from her space armor, and pulled back her bodysuits hood tofree her dark, sweat-flattened curls. Her beautifully sculpted face was pale with tension, her brown eyesdark with fear. But his little three-ship fleet could be in no immediate danger, or she would be attending toit, not to him. "Are you all right?" she asked hoarsely."Quinn, what—no. Give me a general status report first.""Green Squad got the hijacked ships crew out. All of them. There was a bit of equipment damage— the insurance company's not going to be as ecstatic as the last time—but our Life Bonus is safe and
 
warm.""Praise be to God and Sergeant Taura. And our hijackers?""We took their big ship and nineteen prisoners. Three enemy killed. All secured there; our prize crewis aboard cleaning up. Six or eight of the bastards escaped in their jump-pinnance. It's weak on armament —this far from the nearest jump point, the
 Ariel 
can overtake them at our leisure. Your decision, whether to stand off and blow them up, or attempt capture."Miles rubbed his face. "Interrogate those prisoners. If this is the same bloody-handed lot that took the
Solera
last year, and murdered all the passengers and crew, Vega Station will pay a reward, and we cancollect three times for the same mission. Since the Vegans are offering the same reward for the proof otheir deaths, record everything carefully. We'll demand surrender. Once." He sighed. "I take it things didnot run exactly according to plan. Again.""Hey. Any hostage-rescue ploy that gets everyone out alive is a success by any sane standard.Assuming our fleet surgeon doesn't reattach your poor Barrayaran's legs left-to-right or backwards, this isa one-hundred-percenter.""Er . . . yes. What
happened 
when ... I went down? What happened to Vorberg?""Friendly fire, unfortunately. Though it didn't seem all that friendly at the time. You fell over— surprised the hell out of us. Your suit emitted a lot of garbage telemetry, then your plasma arc locked on."She raked her hands through her hair.Miles glanced at the heavy-duty plasma arc built into the right arm of Quinn's space armor, twin tohis own. His heart sank into his churning stomach. "Oh, no. Oh, shit. Don't tell me.""I'm afraid so. You kneecapped your own rescuee. Neat as could be, right across both legs. Luckily— I guess—the beam cauterized as it sliced, so he didn't bleed to death. And he was so tanked on drugs, I'mnot even sure he felt much. For a moment I thought some enemy had taken over remote control of your suit, but the engineers swear that isn't possible anymore. You blew out a bunch of walls—it took four of us to sit on your arm till we could take the medic's can-opener to your armor and get in and get youdisconnected. You were thrashing around—you damn near took us out too. In pure desperation, I stunnedyou on the back of your neck, and you went limp. I was afraid I'd killed you."Quinn was a little breathless, describing this. Her lovely face was not, after all, the original, but areplacement after her own violent encounter with plasma fire, over a decade ago. "Miles, what the hellwas going on with you?""I think I had . . . some kind of seizure. Like epilepsy, except that it doesn't seem to leave anyneurological tracks. I'm afraid it might be an aftereffect from my cryo-revival last year." You
knowdamned well it is.
He touched the twin scars on either side of his neck, now grown faint and pale, thelesser souvenirs of that event. Quinn's emergency stunner-treatment explained his lengthy bout of unconsciousness and subsequent headache. So, the seizures were no
worse
than before. . . ."Oh, dear," said Quinn. "But is this the first—" She paused, and looked at him more closely. Her voice went flatter. "This isn't the first time you've done this, is it."The silence stretched; Miles forced himself to speak before it snapped. "It happened three or four,"
or  five
"times soon after I was brought back from stasis. My cryo-revival surgeon said they might go awayon their own, the way the memory loss and the shortness of breath have. And after that they seemed tostop.""And ImpSec let you go out on a covert ops field mission with that kind of time bomb in your head?""ImpSec . . . does not know."
"Miles
...""Elli," he said desperately, "they'd pull me right off line duty, you know they would. Nail my boots tothe floor behind some desk at best. Medical discharge at worst—and that would be the end of Admiral

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