forwardmomentum: (yes i'll be just fine)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-15 09:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Miles's eyebrow quirks. Ah, but his clone was raised by Ser Galen on a steady diet of propaganda. And Miles is starting to see the other ways in which Galen shaped him -- ways that would drill into someone's head that an adult beating on a child is a perfectly acceptable response to a situation.

"He usually intervened before it got too serious," Miles admits, because Bothari mostly just had to show up to scare off a few bullies. He doesn't particularly want to talk about the times Bothari didn't, not of negligence but Miles's terminal inability to keep his mouth shut, especially when angry, on days when the cold treatment by his peers did more than just discourage him. "But -- you know the story. He died when I was seventeen. And now you know what I really do for a living."
jacksonian: (looking down)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-16 02:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Is that grief in his voice? The clone did hear a bit about Bothari - just a bit, enough to have heard of the man's brutality and excesses. A war criminal, and therefore one of the Butcher's bosom friends. So it's strange to hear that little wistful note in Miles' voice. It...makes him a little nervous, honestly. Has Miles sought out more such criminals and torturers? Amongst the Dendarii...? He shifts a little, and decides not to keep pressing after the question of Konstantin Bothari. For his own peace of mind. To tamp down his worries about what might happen to him. He's starting to be convinced that Miles truly doesn't intend him harm - but that doesn't guarantee the behavior of the other members of his little army...

No. Stop thinking about it. He turns his attention instead to a frustration he's been feeling for a long while. "For a living is a little generous, isn't it? For a crew with this high a success rate, your profit margins are pathetic." But - "But yeah. Now you can pay for your own bodyguards."
forwardmomentum: (someday you'll be fine)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-16 04:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Mark is bouncing around from topic to topic, prying into details, and Miles realizes he's only trying to get as much of a picture as Miles is. That's how it seems, at any rate, and Miles doesn't think he can really begrudge his clone that -- he doesn't want to. Galen filled his head with enough toxic bullshit. If his clone wants to hear it from Miles himself, then Miles isn't going to withhold.

"That's because we're kept on retainer," Miles says, one eyebrow raised. "I mean, sure, the fleet takes other contracts as they come up, but whether or not Admiral Naismith comes home with a tidy profit isn't the point. And it wouldn't exactly go in my pocket, at any rate. The Barrayaran government gives the Dendarii contracts -- covertly -- and then compensate them accordingly. Plenty to pay my men a good salary -- with benefits, mind, mercenaries care about benefits -- keep the fleet up and running, up to date with the best equipment and tech the Imperium can afford. Making a profit is...sort of a circular notion here." He taps a finger to his cracked lips, frowning slightly. "And the Dendarii aren't my bodyguards. Not that they don't occasionally act in that capacity, but they aren't here to protect me. They protect Barrayaran interests. They're not my refuge, they're my responsibility."
jacksonian: (intense)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-16 07:40 pm (UTC)(link)
"That sounds like a load of crap." That's said with more caution than aggression - a careful little probe, a test of Miles' temper. He pauses a moment, searching Miles' face, and sees...nothing, really. No real anger. Nothing alarming. So he goes on, with a little less caution, "You're here because you like to be here. No one asked you to be. Don't act like you were ordered here - you chose it, didn't you? You started all this because you wanted it."

He rubs at one of his knees and frowns just a bit, still watching Miles' face closely. His gaze flicks over his eyes, mouth, nose, down to his hands, looking for signs of displeasure. This is indeed a test - every word a test, every moment a test. Pushing Miles, trying to see where he'll break, where he'll flinch. Trying to understand him. Like the unsanctioned interview where Miles had undermined his courage - or maybe exploited his courage. He doesn't know. Both at once. But on more equal footing now.
forwardmomentum: (you think this is about drugs)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-16 08:24 pm (UTC)(link)
"It's...not quite so simple as that."

No trace of anger, frustration, not even annoyance on Miles's face. Intent, almost inward. He wants Mark to understand. He rubs his jaw and lets his fork lie where it is.

"You're half-right," he concedes with a sideways tilt of his head. "I do like to be here. And that's part of the reason why I'm here. But I was ordered here. I'm ordered here every time the Imperium has a new job for the Dendarii. By Captain Illyan -- Gregor, by proxy, because technically, the Dendarii belong to him. On paper, anyway. But to say I chose it..."

At heart, the Dendarii really do belong to him -- and he knows that Gregor knows that. Miles knows that it takes a certain level of trust to give him the amount of latitude he has with his fleet. The look Miles gives his clone now is sort of funny -- almost ironic.

"I started all this by accident." He spreads his hands. "I don't know what version of the story Galen fed you -- or what he got -- but the Dendarii happened because I was depressed that I'd failed to get into the Imperial Service Academy and I wanted to do something to serve...something." He's serious, sincere. He considers that a moment, then allows wryly, "And there was that bottle of crème de meth."
jacksonian: (intense)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-16 08:37 pm (UTC)(link)
"What I got," the clone corrects - and there's a little fizz of something hot and ferocious in his manner. A snap of hunger that has nothing to do with the empty plate in front of him. A hunger that's a close cousin to Miles' own. Keep moving or die. Be smart and outwit them all or die. And watch how I move. But unlike Miles' energy, his hyperactivity, there's something defiant in how the clone displays his pride - something watchful and something angry.

"I did the research on the Dendarii. On Naismith. And I did it a hell of a lot better than any of them did their research on Miles Vorkosigan, and in about one-thirtieth of the time." His chin jerks up. "I know the timing of it. And I know that with you, your accidents aren't really accidents, are they? You made this army, and they let you into the Academy after that. That wasn't some random chain of events." The clone presses his lips together, and then allows, "And it wasn't just nepotism. That's what they always said, the Butcher making things easy on his son, but that wasn't it either."
forwardmomentum: (it's about my thirteenth bad idea)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-16 08:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Miles blinks. "You...think I planned that whole disaster in Tau Verde on purpose? Ahead of time? Just to force them to let me into the Academy?"

Maybe it's the exhaustion, but a choked, near-hysterical laugh escapes from him. Ought he to be flattered that Mark's impression of him is that sophisticated? God, no wonder he's as twitchy as he is. There is something deeply and worryingly funny about it.
jacksonian: (looking down)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-16 09:10 pm (UTC)(link)
There's no mirth in the clone's face. Shortly, he says, "Yeah." He gives a little twitch upwards of his chin. "Not consciously. And not to force them to let you into the Academy. But because you were angry and frustrated. Because you needed and wanted something." He gives a shrug. "Why the hell do you think we went after the Dendaii payrolls to force you out? You need and want to be Naismith. You weren't going to run off, pop home, let them sort themselves out. This all means as much to you as being Vorkosigan."
forwardmomentum: (nothing says "i miss you")

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-17 12:26 am (UTC)(link)
It's...a little unnerving just how close that hits, even if his clone still isn't quite on the mark. Miles doesn't quite wince, but he does nod in concession, lips twisting.

"You're right. The Dendarii, Admiral Naismith -- it does mean a lot to me. But your angle is still wrong. I didn't orchestrate any of that disaster, I was just -- " He chokes out another laugh, shaking his head. "I was just trying to keep my ass out of the fire. And I almost failed entirely. The Dendarii were nearly the death of me before they were an asset to the Empire. Did you know I was brought up on treason charges?"
jacksonian: (incredulous)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-17 12:43 am (UTC)(link)
"Those were just...rumors," the clone says. "To make it seem like the Emperor wasn't just the Butcher's puppet."

Right? That's a story that makes more sense than the other possibility. It makes more sense than the possibility that the Emperor turned on the man who controlled him. Turned, and then un-turned. No. That's ridiculous, isn't it?

But he doesn't continue on. He just says that, and then waits to see how Miles reacts. What he has to say. He wants to hear. He won't necessarily believe, but he wants to know.
forwardmomentum: (you think this is about drugs)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-17 01:03 am (UTC)(link)
"The hell they were." Miles's eyebrows raise. "Emperor Gregor was being puppeted at the time, I'll grant you, but it sure as hell wasn't by my father. In fact, he was being puppeted directly against my father, and it wouldn't have happened at all if he was, as you say, my father's puppet. Gregor had only just reached the age of majority, and he wanted to prove that he didn't need the former Regent's help in running the Empire, that he could make his own decisions as his own man. And so one of my father's greatest political enemies very deftly used that to turn Gregor against him. Convince the young Emperor that my father, who saved his life, helped raise him and stood by him at every turn, was plotting against him. That I was plotting against him. Purely for personal revenge. And his plan hinged on some very foolish mistakes I made without thinking, without seeing."

Miles turns his hand, showing his clone an open palm. "That spectacle in Tau Verde might have given birth to something great, but it almost destroyed my father, and it damn near killed me. Does that sound like something I'd orchestrate for my own benefit?"
jacksonian: (stressed the fuck out)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-17 01:30 pm (UTC)(link)
The clone doesn't answer that, which is confirmation enough. No, it doesn't. Not at all. Galen would have a quick answer for that - a description of the endless sadistic perversions of the Vorkosigan clan, firm assurances that not only would the twisted mutated creature turn his father against his Emperor, parricide and regicide both, he would do it happily. Sins of the father turned back on the father. The creature's crazed mind, all those genetic perversions, becoming a curse to the Butcher. Not only was it possible, it was inevitable - oh, yes, Miles Vorkosigan's treachery was inscribed on his very genome.

Maybe that's true. Here I am, after all. Dining willingly with the enemy...

"Why would he have let that happen?" He shifts uncomfortably in his chair. "The Butcher has ways of dealing with his political enemies."
forwardmomentum: (on the back of a natural disaster)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-17 01:38 pm (UTC)(link)
That the clone keeps referring to his father -- their father, Miles corrects himself, because much though his clone won't acknowledge it, they are family -- as the Butcher, nothing else, and Miles has to resist the urge to repeat his father's name every time. It's like an itch. But being combative with Mark right now wouldn't be productive, and Miles is, honestly, a bit too tired to be combative right now. He gulps down the rest of his coffee and gives his clone a small, thin smile.

"What ways?"

Go on. Tell me what lies Galen filled your head with, so I can show you the truth. Show me where Galen distorted the truth where he couldn't lie. Let me justify to you the truth where Galen didn't need to lie at all.
jacksonian: (intense)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-17 01:49 pm (UTC)(link)
The clone shifts in his chair, his expression hard and suspicious and wary, unblinking as he stares into Miles' face. Is he screwing with me right now? This is the sort of game he's used to - being given an opportunity to fuck up. Having the door thrown wide open so he can screw up massively and suffer the consequences. Always easier, after all, than waiting for him to screw up organically...But what'll be the price if he does fuck up? Miles' smile looks natural enough, if exhausted; there's none of the tension in his face that signals that there's some hidden fury there. But anger isn't the only possible outcome of you showing your weaknesses - and anger isn't really Miles' way, either. Head games, that's his way.

So he starts small. Just a single word. He puts it out there like sticking your hand under the spray of the shower, to test...Well, to test whether the water is secretly acid.

"Murder."
forwardmomentum: (nothing says "i miss you")

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-17 02:03 pm (UTC)(link)
Ah. Miles settles back in his chair, regarding his clone carefully. A bit unsubtle, but then, Galen believes his father to be a murderous would-be despot, and given his opinions on Barrayar...Miles can't really say he's surprised. He tilts his head to the side, not quite in concession.

"I'd be lying if I said the Barrayaran political scene was a clean one," he says mildly. "You know our history, or well enough at least, I trust -- the Pretendership alone was an exercise in blood politics. But my father..." Miles lifts a finger, then curls his hand into a light fist, gesturing vaguely. "The only murder he's ever committed was on Komarr. His political officer. Just after the Solstice Massacre."

Miles cannot say in good faith that he knows exactly which version of that course of events is the true one. Without his political officer to testify or fast-penta, it was his father's word against a dead man's, and you can't prove a negative. And so it had thusly gone down in history as it had been perceived, but Miles...Miles would rather believe otherwise.
jacksonian: (incredulous)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-17 02:12 pm (UTC)(link)
"To cover it up." Now, this is a story he knows backwards and forwards. He could probably recite the name of every martyr of the Massacre from memory. And it's not exactly that he cares. There was a time when he did care, intensely, deeply - when he practically felt every bullet fired lancing through his own flesh, through his heart and soul. But there came a point, sometime in the last year, where his concern for Komarr and her dead had just evaporated - where he just became too exhausted. Maybe when he realized that all the pain he'd felt for the Solstice Martyrs simply didn't stack up to the pain of the surgery to replace his bones with synthetics. The faint heat in his voice when he speaks isn't for the dead, as it once would have been. It's simply anger at being lied to so transparently.

"Everyone knows that. He didn't get called the Butcher for killing one man."
forwardmomentum: (but i declined)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-17 02:43 pm (UTC)(link)
"Everyone believes that," Miles corrects, maybe a bit stubbornly, but he relents. Without the fork in his hand, his fingertips take to drumming restlessly on the tabletop between them.

"It wasn't a very good cover-up, though, was it? He was still charged with responsibility. Demoted to Captain for it. In fact, killing his political officer was the worst thing he could've done in order to evade responsibility, claim innocence by ignorance of the order given without his conset. But he was angry -- he was so very angry that one of his subordinates not only issued an order without his consent, but shattered his honor in the process, that he killed with his bare hands the one man whose fast-penta testimony could have exonerated him. A dead man can't testify. And so he bore the consequence and responsibility."

Miles has no way of knowing if that's how it really went down, save for asking his father, and he...doesn't know if he can do that. But it's what he'd like to believe. Miles leans forward then, cupping his chin in his other hand.

"So tell me -- if the Prime Minister of Barrayar solves his political problems with murder -- then how is it that my treason charges were resolved, Vorhalas's plot dismantled, without a single drop of blood spilled?" He leans forward a little more. "Do you know how those charges were resolved?"
jacksonian: (displeased)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-17 02:52 pm (UTC)(link)
The clone bristles a bit at that rhetorical question. "If I wasn't able to get my hands on more than a rumor of the charges themselves, how the hell would I know how the charges were resolved?" he snaps back. Irritably, he speaks those last few words in a flawless imitation of Miles' own voice. He's been using his own natural accent - a sort of melange of Jacksonian and educated Komarran and bits of Barrayaran. The switch back to Miles' accent is both mockery and a firm reminder of who he is, what he is - an enemy, a tool, not a damned prop in Miles' grand theater.

Still, after that reminder, he relents a little, dropping the imitation in favor of his own voice again. "I assume blood was spilled and it was covered up. The Barrayaran government is damned good at keeping secrets."
forwardmomentum: (i guess i still do that)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-17 07:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Miles can't really deny that last point. Imperial Security does a damned good job of keeping the Empire's secrets, and there are a lot to keep. He flinches at that shift in accent, wondering if it sounds just as jarring and abrupt to others when he switches -- but he couldn't possibly have that stinging effect that his clone does.

But he doesn't lean away, just moves to fiddling with his coffee cup, swirling it idly, seeing if there are any last drops he can gather. One cup might not prove to be enough. He can feel some of the energy returning to him, but it feels disconnected, disjointed. It's not quite reaching the rest of his body.

"The charges against me were, specifically, conspiracy against the Emperor and the violation of Vorloupulous's Law -- an edict against assembling private militia beyond a certain capacity -- both of which constituted treason. The conspiracy plot was concocted by some other scheming Vor lord to be used against the Prime Minister -- dismissed once I actually managed to show up and made my case to Gregor. The whole plot sort of hinged on me not making it back on time for my hearing, or at all, because it was utter nonsense. But I did, technically, very much break Vorloupulous's Law by amassing the Dendarii in the way I did -- without even thinking about it."

Yes, he'd been seventeen, and yes, he'd been in a constant panic, trying to take things one crisis at a time, and yes, hindsight might be twenty-twenty -- but he still thinks about that private conference with Gregor and his father and Vorhalas and Henri, how agonizingly tense it had been.

"Vorhalas," he says, studying his empty coffee cup with an odd expression, "had a very serious grudge. He wanted my father to suffer in a very specific and exacting way. Even if they couldn't get me up on conspiracy, there was still plenty of rope to hang me with -- so to speak. As I'm sure you know, the official sentence for treason on Barrayar is death by public starvation and exposure." The thin smile on his face is bleak, razor sharp, but inward. "I explained it all to Gregor, how the Dendarii came to be, that entire debacle at Tau Verde -- everything. At that point, no official charges on that count had been brought before the Council. Gregor certainly had no interest in it. No one in the room but Vorhalas...Vorhalas made my father get on his knees in front of him and beg him for mercy. And my father did."
jacksonian: (brooding)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-17 09:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Public starvation and exposure catches the clone's imagination for a moment. Is that what's going to happen to him? When all of this is over? A case could be made for him as a Barrayaran citizen, after all, in some weird roundabout way. And if he's a Barrayaran, he's definitely a treasonous one. And Barrayarans like that kind of thing, right? They enjoy public executions. And even if Miles seems...not entirely malicious...what about the rest of them? They'd probably like to watch him die. At least starving to death doesn't have any real terror for him. Or...Well. No. It does have terror. At least it doesn't have any mystery.

"That must have been satisfying for you." The clone's feet swing slightly in his chair. "Seeing how far he'd go for you." It doesn't prove anything aside from that, really. The Butcher would humble himself for his progeny - fine. No real surprise there. Doesn't mean he's soft or compassionate or good or any of it. Just means he defends his own.
forwardmomentum: (with a stanley knife)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-17 10:22 pm (UTC)(link)
Miles's smile turns slightly nauseated. He's decided to let Mark lead this conversation, to let the kid have some measure of control over something in this situation, but it's not just about answering his questions anymore, not at this point. Now he's back to that deep need for his clone to understand.

"Ah. No." He doesn't look up from his coffee cup. "It scared the hell out of me."
jacksonian: (incredulous)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-17 10:29 pm (UTC)(link)
The clone shakes his head, his mouth twisting in a mixture of disbelief and confusion. "Why?" he asks incredulously. No. What would be scary would be if he didn't give a shit and left him to die. This meant Miles got to live. What's scary about that?
forwardmomentum: (i used to rely)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-17 11:48 pm (UTC)(link)
"Because -- " Miles gropes for a way to explain it, to explain the feeling in that room that day, the tension between his father and Vorhalas. The venom in Vorhalas's voice, even as barely audible as it was to Miles. Shove it, Vorkosigan. Miles's hand opens in a useless gesture, and he closes it again.

"Because Vorhalas hated my father so much, wanted to get back at him so badly that he was willing to have me sent to my death for my own foolishness -- nothing to do with my father at all, nothing he had so much as laid eyes on -- just to get back at him. Just to hurt him. And that threat alone was enough that my father didn't fight back -- didn't even argue. Until that day, I had never seen him bend a knee to anyone but Gregor."

But those sentiments -- he doesn't even know if they would permeate his clone's thinking, if they would mean anything at all. Miles gropes for another angle instead. "You have to understand. It wasn't me Vorhalas wanted to suffer. That was just a means to an end. I wasn't a traitor to him. I was a tool, a handle he could use, because he wanted to get back at my father." He looks up at his clone, then, all traces of hysteria or humor gone, gray eyes utterly serious. "The very same way Galen was going to use you to get back at him."
jacksonian: (looking down)

[personal profile] jacksonian 2017-04-18 12:05 am (UTC)(link)
The clone looks away from those eyes. It's not that the sentiment makes him uncomfortable. It's not like thinking about Galen's desire to use him is some uncomfortable, alien thing. He's known he was a tool since the day that the Komarrans came to get him from Bharaputra's labs - no, since even before that. All clones are tools, after all. All clones exist to be used up and thrown away. And they're not unique in that, either - if growing up on Jackson's Whole taught him anything, it taught him that people are always looking for a handle on everyone else. To get power, to get money, to get satisfaction - doesn't matter. When a person looks at a person, all they see is someone to use.

No. What makes him uncomfortable is that Miles talks about it like it's something that ought to shock him. Like he really expects that the clone will be horrified and moved by the knowledge that Galen didn't have his best interests in mind. And who the hell is Miles Vorkosigan, and how the hell did he get to this age and this amount of experience, still acting like that sort of malice is anything other than the norm? And how little have I understood him, all this time?

"And you turned out to be the Butcher's weakness after all," the clone says, swinging his feet a little more energetically, staring down at his toes. "Am I supposed to be shocked by the fact that he's not murderous towards everyone? It's not any sort of revelation. It's always been public knowledge how much Aral Vorkosigan doted on you. That's why they made me look like you - so that he'd think it was his son killing him."
Edited 2017-04-18 00:05 (UTC)
forwardmomentum: (fixed with parcel tape)

[personal profile] forwardmomentum 2017-04-18 02:15 am (UTC)(link)
Miles had had his clone convinced enough of -- enough of something that he helped spring Miles and Duv from that safehouse, but there's still too wide a rift. And every reach Miles makes at trying to close it, to bring his clone closer, seems to be falling short. There has to be a hook. There's always a hook.

But he can't push too hard. Too hard and he risks losing his clone altogether, and Miles -- Miles can't afford that. He can't let it happen. It's starting to feel like trying to push two magnets of the same polarity together. Every time he starts to get close, there's that push back.

"An ultimately much shorter-lived torture than Vorhalas intended," Miles allows neutrally, inwardly scrambling for something, anything. Outwardly, he offers Mark a shrug. "But you asked." A beat, then he tilts his head, genuinely curious. "Still thinking about killing me?"

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