Family Matters

Here are two scenes toward the end of the novel:

First we have a scene in which Andrej actually finds, and identifies, Iosev’s body.  As the story progressed it became clear to me that there wouldn’t be any identifying anybody on the bridge of Buration after the shooting was over, except by genetic analysis; and this scene maybe didn’t add anything by way of information, except for a little wrinkle at the end.  At any rate, let’s start here.

Stoshi is a bit more deferential to Andrej in this scene; of the two of them, Andrej seems to me to be the more dominant personality, whereas they’re usually well balanced (Andrej being the autocrat he is, but Stoshi having the full weight and authority of the Malcontent behind him).  I blame residual shock.  Maybe large quantities of anodyne pharmaceuticals.


General Dierryk Rukota – artillery officer, self-assigned to the Jurisdiction Fleet Ship Ragnarok which had no real artillery mission but so long as they hadn’t noticed he wasn’t going to remind them – followed Andrej Koscuisko and his Malcontent “Cousin” Stanoczk as they paced the long row of bodies on the incline boards leaning up against the corridor walls of one of Canopy Base’s heavy freighters.

The Buration had been destroyed by the thula’s battle cannon; the command bridge had had its own protections, however, heavily shielded, and contained within a separable pod with its own life support systems.  The extra shielding had proven unequal to the shock Buration had sustained under the combined stress of the hit and its own consequent weapons failures.  No one was left alive; but the bodies from the command bridge had been recovered by the freighter’s crew, under the watchful eye of the Langsariks.

Sixty-eight souls had been in custody on board of the Buration.  Only twenty bodies had been recovered from the command bridge.  Rukota, Koscuisko, Cousin Stanoczk had loaded themselves into a Langsarik courier to make this trip, but Rukota was confident that the Ragnarok wasn’t going to leave them behind.  Koscuisko was apparently needed at Poe Station, though if anybody had heard exactly why they hadn’t mentioned it to Rukota in so many words.  Two probably had the whole story, and two or three others beside; it simply hadn’t occurred to her to share it.

“This was Deputy Sorsa,” Koscuisko said to the Langsarik who led the way, and pointed at one of the bodies.  The man’s coat was more heavily decorated with braid than those of the others, if not as extravagantly as the one Koscuisko had on.  All of the bodies were in a similar costume, boots, bloused trousers worn fuller than Fleet uniform, a long sleeveless tunic over a white underblouse, a coat with a tailored waist and wide sleeves.  Koscuisko had better lace at his cuffs and his throat where his underblouse tied closed in its loose knot. More of it, as well.  “And – ”

Koscuisko turned to Cousin Stanoczk.  “One of the seconds-in-command,” Cousin Stanoczk said.  “Lieutenant Ortenje.  The best of families.  They will be destroyed, if this gets out.”

For a man who’d just scored what had to be the intelligence coup of a lifetime Cousin Stanoczk seemed rather more depressed about it than anything else.  Past Cousin Stanoczk’s shoulder Rukota could see the sleeve and hand of the next corpse in line.  More lace than Deputy Sorsa; possibly only just slightly less than Koscuisko was wearing, though Rukota didn’t think his skills in lace estimation were up to the task of calibrating the relationships between foamy knot-work and degrees of kinship.  He could guess what was coming next, all the same.

“And my brother.  Here.”  Koscuisko stood with his hands clasped behind his back as if to say nothing to do with me.  Because the brother was dead, because Koscuisko had been on the ship that had killed him, or because his family was disgraced by association as well?

There were places where Koscuisko’s previous profession would have done that already.  Not where Koscuisko came from, apparently.  “His full name, if you need it, is Iosev Ulexeievitch.  It is spelled the same as mine.  Except for “Iosev,” “I” for I cannot believe this is my brother.  “O,” for oh, that my mother should hear.  “S” for Stoshi, there must be a way to lie kindly to my parents, “e” for even though his guilt is great, “v” for – well, it is only a letter.”

Sounded like “f” to Rukota, a much richer field for the exploration of how a man might feel to find his brother among the enemy.  Not as though it didn’t happen to people all the time.  There’d been a civil campaign in Canbei Regis, once upon a time, that had been particularly fratricidal; Rukota thought about it, sometimes, when he saw Karol Vogel.

“Iosev was never a man of strong will,” Cousin Stanoczk said.  Koscuisko mouthed something at him, though Rukota couldn’t see what it was; Stanoczk nodded.  “Yes, all right, character.  The point is that he was drawn in by vanity and resentment.  He may be taken as a victim, Andrej – ”

“No.”  Koscuisko cut him off in a tone of voice that was as sharp as acid.  “He came to me, that evening, Stoshi.  He said things about me.  Fit and formed for the purpose by the Holy Mother, he said.  Other things as well.”

Koscuisko had apparently given Stanoczk pause, which was impressive, in Rukota’s opinion; because although the Ragnarok’s contacts with Cousin Stanoczk had been relatively few Stanoczk had always given Rukota the impression of a man very difficult to stand in front of.  Behind, well, that was for other people to say.

Koscuisko sounded calmer, now, but just as serious.  “For that alone he deserved to die.  I’m sorry he’s dead even so.  Because he could have told us much of interest.  And – because he was my brother.”

For himself Rukota had in-laws.  He wondered what they were doing.  He got news from his wife from time to time, in packets, with pictures and letters from his children; but what he had to say to them in return was always a puzzle.  Study hard, do your best always, support your mother?  Be a credit to your own good name?  Strive never to compromise your self-respect?  Do as I say, not as I do?

“Another of whom is under orders from the Autocrat herself to invade Gonebeyond Space in less than two days if he does not meet you face-to-face at Poe Station,” Stanoczk said.  “Are there any others you recognize, Derush?  I haven’t seen Dr. Mathin.  Maybe he was not on the command bridge.”

“Or maybe he wasn’t on Buration at all,” Koscuisko said thoughtfully.  “I had him locked up in a cell in his own torture room.  Feraltz was to have seen to it he wasn’t forgotten there.  Maybe Feraltz has saved him for me, Stoshi, but I will wait, until you are finished.”

Koscuisko had started to walk, again.  Rukota had a good look at Koscuisko’s dead brother.  He didn’t see much of a family resemblance, but maybe there was one there somewhere underneath it all.  Asphyxiation was not the easiest way to die, and the man’s face was contorted and discolored by it.  “Is that why the Langsariks are here with the Ragnarok, Stoshi?” Koscuisko asked over his shoulder, walking.  “Leo, on a mission from the Autocrat?”

“Sant-Dasidar Judiciary, technically.  Yes and no.  But basically yes.”  Well, Rukota thought.  That was crystal clear.  “He carries a heavy detachment with him, in order to come in after you himself should Gonebeyond Space prove unequal to the complex task of tracking rogue Inquisitors off to visit their brothers.”

Koscuisko stopped abruptly; Stanoczk stopped; and Rukota had to side-step a little to avoid knocking the one into the other.  “How many?  Are there enough ships in Gonebeyond to stand against them?”

Rukota knew the answer, and Koscuisko had already guessed it.  “Not, perhaps,” Stanoczk said.  “So we had better not be late.  Is this the end of these dead?  Lieutenant Wynn, I think, excuse me if I mistake your name?”

“All that there are in recognizable pieces,” the Langsarik agreed, with a smile.  That was right.  Cousin Stanoczk liked Langsariks.  He’d spent more time with them than he had with the Ragnarok.  Rukota put a note in his mental scheduler to make time to consider whether the Ragnarok should feel sorry for itself on that account.

“We will go.”  They’d have to reverse direction, apparently.  Rukota faced about, hearing Koscuisko’s voice behind him now.  “I do not excuse Iosev, Stoshi.  I will not lie to my father or my mother.  But if it should happen that the body was un-found, perhaps he could have died a heroic death, for the sake of his children.”

“They won’t believe it.  But I’ll see what I can do.”

Better not to have brothers than the wrong ones, Rukota supposed.  It was nothing to him either way, and time he got back to the ship.  They’d moved Dr. Mahaffie into the Chief Medical Officer’s quarters, because they hadn’t expected to see Andrej Koscuisko again.  Mahaffie liked it there.

Rukota had been in charge of securing Chief Medical Officer’s quarters, just in case Koscuisko should absent-mindedly move in; and Rukota hadn’t had a chance to warn Mahaffie about some fixtures in the wash-room to be avoided, for the next few days, until there was a chance to get someone in to set things back to rights again.


As was established in the alternate first chapter included in the “extras” here, the overall plot driver was to have been the requirement to deliver Andrej in person to Poe Station to meet with his brother Leo.  In no iteration of the plot was that going to happen, in the end; it came down to a variety of ways in which Andrej could neutralize the threat (by pulling rank on Leo, one way or another).

I’m including this scene because it has some choice Andrej-to-Leo dialogue that dropped out along the way from the third draft to the fifth and final one.

We’re on the Ragnarok, it’s near the end of the novel, and as is so frequently the case there are some glitches here.  You know the drill (grin).


“Now, Leo Ulexeievitch.  Tell me what this is all about,” Koscuisko suggested.  The Ragnarok had Direwolf’s captain on screen; by agreement Poe Station was skein in braid, though the Ragnarok didn’t have them on visual.  Karol didn’t think Poe Station could sustain a split contact over the distances involved, especially since the Ragnarok was on vector.

It was too late to make muster at Poe Station and everybody had known it from the moment the Ragnarok had dropped vector into the middle of a fire-fight.  Half a day remained of the time Captain Leo had given them; now it was up to Andrej Koscuisko to stop the threatened invasion.

“It’s good to see you, Andrej, my brother.”  Captain Leo appeared to be alone in what was perhaps his private cabin.  Karol could see no equipment tell-tales on the wall behind Captain Leo, and he appeared to be standing in front of his viewer, not seated at a desk.  His uniform was nonetheless perfect in every detail that Karol could see; whereas Andrej Koscuisko was not in uniform at all, but dressed as a private gentleman of rank.  “I’ve brought you letters.  You are on vector, I understand?”

Koscuisko had stripped out much of the lace from his sleeves and his shirt, Karol noted.  He appeared to be somber, sober, and not in a very good mood.  Koscuisko stood behind the Ragnarok’s Captain where she sat in the meeting area just in front of her comm-screen; Karol had decided to sit down.  Karol, Koscuisko, Jennet ap Rhiannon, the Ragnarok’s intelligence officer; there was no one else present.  First Officer and Engineering were listening, of course, but in their own places, to cut down on the crowding.

“You do not bring warships and threats in order to deliver letters, Leo Ulexeievitch.”  Koscuisko was being formal:  he was apparently angry, if in a beaten-down sort of way.  Karol wasn’t worried about that.  He’d seen Koscuisko fall under far worse than what had happened to him at Canopy Base and come up from it with his spine, his bad attitude, and his lefrols-case intact.

On the other hand Karol didn’t know exactly what had happened on Canopy Base, but with one man and one Malcontent sustaining injuries consistent with torture it wasn’t likely to have been pleasant.  “I ask you again to tell me what this is all about.  You have thrown Gonebeyond Space into confusion, and caused a muster at great trouble and expense.  The reasons must be imperative.  I wait to hear them.”

Captain Leo seemed to take a deep breath, apparently nerving himself up to something.  Something distasteful.  He was on record, because the communication was official business; now, Karol thought.  Now maybe we’ll get the truth.

“My reasons are simple.”  Captain Leo spoke with determination – and Karol thought he heard a subtle undernote of shame.  Family trait, maybe.  He thought he’d heard hints of something similar in Koscuisko’s voice more than once, and – recently – when Koscuisko spoke of or to the Malcontent Cousin Stanoczk.  Wait, Karol told himself, suddenly.  What?  “I am under orders, and I have sworn the oath.  But I admit.  There is more to it than that.”

Of course there was, because “I am under orders” was a dodge.  Karol didn’t say anything, and ap Rhiannon was keeping her peace.  When she spoke it would be because she had something to say.  Captain Leo continued.

“I ask you to consider that there are very delicate matters, and to keep confidence therefore.  Andrej, we need you, and the Ragnarok.  I did not mislead when I said to the Bench specialist that Inquisitors are going missing.  I declined to mention that a brother of ours has gone missing as well, and we dread the reason.”

Koscuisko twitched.  From the tension in Koscuisko’s body Karol concluded that he had his fists clenched, behind his back.  “Where is our brother Mikhel, Leo?  Making the circuit, for Saint Pilar?  Yes.  It is that time.  Nikosha, is he well?  Pursuing his course of study?  I am glad to hear it.  I see you before me, Leo.  This means that I know where all of my brothers are, or were, and we have no need to search for any of them any further.  You will turn around and go home.  You have no warrant to proceed into Gonebeyond Space.”

Koscuisko’s deliberate exclusion of Iosev Ulexeievitch was impossible to misinterpret.  It was unlikely that Captain Leo didn’t know how many brothers he had.  “Then you know why we must complete our mission.  Gonebeyond Space has not the resources for what must be done, nor should it be their battle, this is for us to solve.  Speak for us, eldest and second born.  Explain what you can.  Bench specialist, you will understand.”

So it all came down to the Angel of Destruction, a shame that ran so deep within the Dolgorukij Combine that it could not be spoken of before outsiders.  Karol stood up and bowed to Captain ap Rhiannon before he spoke – just to make a point.  She, and not he, was the ranking officer on board.

“With your permission, your Excellency,” Karol said, and waited for her nod before continuing.  “Captain Koscuisko, Gonebeyond Space is fully capable of policing its own internal affairs.  Even now a Langsarik fleet is engaged in clearing an entrenched criminal organization from its area of responsibility.”

This would come as no surprise to Poe Station; they’d been briefed at the same time that Karol had spoken to the Langsarik’s flag captain.  “I’m willing to speak off the record when we reach Poe Station, but not before.  And I expect to find you in stand-down when I get there.”

That was a little presumptuous of him, perhaps, a strong suggestion with the force of a direct order.  Old habits died hard.  Old habits.  Andrej Koscuisko.  Cousin Stanoczk.  Shame.  Something was there.

“I begin to understand,” Captain Leo said.  He said it sorrowfully, with allowances made for the formality of his position.  “And, forgive me, Andrej, you know this to be a truth?”  The first reaction to the sudden death of a family member.  It’s not true.  Koscuisko’s family was so highly placed within his society and economic structure that Karol found it easy to forget that they were a family, underneath it all.

“I have had several conversations with our brother Iosev in the past few days,” Koscuisko said.  They were calm words, but the emotion that they carried was convincing.  “None of them very satisfactory.  But the last time I saw Iosev he had nothing whatever to say.  Nothing at all.”

Captain Leo lowered his head, looking at the floor.  When he raised his eyes again his entire demeanor had changed.  “Poe Station?”  Yes, Poe Station was on line.  “I am ready to declare all terms of my mission fulfilled, in substance.  There is no further requirement for me to seek out my brother.  We have found him.”

And, since Captain Leo was rescinding his ultimatum prior to the expiration of its term, Poe Station could not be said to have failed.  Direwolf had no real knowledge of where, exactly, Ragnarok was, on vector.  It could be convincingly claimed that Captain Leo had no reason to suspect that Ragnarok would not make rendezvous in time, regardless of when the ship actually arrived.  Captain Leo was withdrawing his demands, without consideration.  There was no hurry now.

“I’m glad to hear it, Captain Koscuisko, but that’s not entirely satisfactory.”  That was Torriben, Poe Station’s senior Checkpoint Control officer.  His voice was inimitable.  “Your original ultimatum was inappropriate, and tantamount to a declaration of war.  We demand consideration before we will consider the wrong redressed, and agree to open channels for market access.”

Maybe not what Karol would have done; but he could see the logic.  It wasn’t good enough for Direwolf to say never mind, we take it back, we won’t invade you after all.  Gonebeyond Space had been threatened, and had mustered ships at cost of fuel and lost opportunities for more productive use of their resources over the past week and more.  Reparations were due.”

“Acknowledged,” Captain Leo said.  “I respectfully request permission to stand by at Poe Station until the Ragnarok arrives.  We can begin the process of selecting mutually acceptable negotiations in the interim.”

That’d be him, Karol knew.  Maybe some Malcontent or other to speak for Direwolf and the Dolgorukij Combine and Sant-Dasidar Judiciary, since it’d been the Sixth Judge who’d authorized the expedition.  Cousin Stanoczk was on board, but he’d been drinking with Andrej Koscuisko, from what Karol had heard.  He was probably too much in the Langsarik camp to be acceptable to Sant-Dasidar Judiciary as their proxy anyway.  The drinking part had made perfect sense to Karol; with Andrej Koscuisko?  Maybe less sense.  Maybe more.

“Granted and agreed,” Torriben said.  “Communication ends.  Thank you, Ragnarok.  Poe Station, away, here.”

Ragnarok away,” ap Rhiannon said, the first time she’d spoken since the beginning of the conversation.  They hadn’t needed her voice, as it had turned out.  Just her presence, to represent equivalent levels of rank between three parties.

Direwolf away.”  And that was that.