Be warned: This probably isn't worth reading. I've taken liberties for which I should probably be consigned to reading bad romance novels for the rest of my life. But once I came up with the idea, it wouldn't let me go.....
Commander VorLon, Impsec, braced to attention in front of the desk. Across from him sat Impsec's third CO in as many months, Colonel Guy Allegre, formerly the head of Komarran Affairs.
VorLon, as one of Galactic Affairs' long term field officers, was unfamiliar with Allegre, and had in fact been in transit for the past several weeks. He had been en route to a Domestic Affairs rotation to fill in his personnel jacket, and blissfully unawares of the upheaval that had struck ImpSec HQ before his arrival. In fact, when he had been whisked straight from Vorbarr Sultana Spaceport to Cockroach Central -- er, ISHQ -- "by order of the Chief," he had been engaged in a frantic round of soul-searching and expecting to be dragged before Simon Illyan himself....right up until he had received no less than three differently incomprehensible whispered "briefings" between the entrance and the center office. The most believable of those rumors had left him expecting to see plasma arc damage on the walls.
He snuck another quick look around. There was nothing apparent, but ImpSec could afford the best repair crews, after all...
VorLon snapped his attention back to Allegre. "Cap--er!....uh, Colonel?" I will not faint, I will not faint....
Allegre's lips twitched in faint acknowledgement of effects of the presence that still seemed to permeate the office.
"Commander, I'm going to come right to the point. Your assignment to Domestic has been redefined. As of now, I'm putting you in command of ImpWed."
"ImpWed, VorLon. ImpWed is a 'paper command;' it only exists on the TOE charts until it's activated temporarily when the circumstances call for it. When activated, it draws its personnel on loan from active officers of other departments, for the duration of the...situation." Allegre's lips quircked again, in some odd humor VorLon couldn't decipher. "In fact, ImpWed has been inactive for so long, I'm not surprised you haven't heard of it. ImpWed is the special security unit that coordinates all security concerns for marriages in the Imperial Family."
VorLon paused for a long moment to let the world come back into focus. "I take it that the Emporer has found a bride, Sir?" And I get to be responsible for all the security. God hates me...
The glint in Allegre's eye was that of a man about to pass on a portion of his personal hell. "And then some. She's Komarran." He waited for VorLon to show some reaction. When none was forthcoming, he prodded further: "A rich Komarran." Still no response. "A member of one of the foremoest Komarran oligarchist families. All sorts of powerful political connections."
Paralysis, VorLon decided, could be a blessed thing. Somehow, he'd managed to faint dead away for a hearbeat without falling over. Howwever, Allegre was beginning to look impatient for a response. The commander made a quick, testing swallow, and said the first thing that came to mind. "When is the wedding scheduled, Sir?"
Allegre appeared somewhat disgruntled. Likely, he'd been hoping for the temporary diversion of seeing an ImpSec commander running around in circles, screaming and pulling his hair out. "The schedule has not been finalized, as yet. In fact, there is still some discussion about holding two seperate but complete ceremonies, one here, one on Komarr."
God doesn't just hate me...he's decided to get creative. Maybe I was Mad Emporer Yuri in a previous life. "I see, sir. It would behoove me to move quickly, then. Ah...may I assume that Lady VorPatril is in charge of the domestic side of the arrangements?" OK, don't panic. If I can drag this out long enough, I may be able to unlock enough joints to walk out of here, instead of calling for a strectcher.
Allegre picked a datacard up off his desk. "You may. And correctly, at that. This is a complete list --so far-- of everyone involved in the wedding plans, the guest list to date, and an organiztion chart covering everything from janitorial staff to the seating arrangements for the guests, and through a rough itineary for the Emporer's wedding night." Allegre managed to the last with a perfectly straight face. Then again, two weeks in this job might have already been enough to grind out his sense of humor about this situation. "You and your staff will be responsible for coordinating all security arrangements for every stage of all of the ceremonies, personal security for all of the guests, security checks of all persons involved, and so on. Your actions will be subject to review and/or veto only by myself, the Emporer, Lady Alys, and..." he hesitated for a moment, "...Imperial Auditor Lord Vorkosigan."
VorLon's thought processes racheted through several distinct stages: Vorkosigan? Oh, good -- wait, I thought he was Viceroy of Sergyar -- waittaminnit, LORD Vorkosigan?!? He can't mean -- Oh, GOD!!!
Allegre was watching his face, and obviously caught something of the commander's internal dialogue. "You have been rather out of touch for a while, haven't you?" he asked, not unkindly.
Numb lips couldn't be a sign of a coronary attack...he couldn't get that lucky. He forced them to operate. "I, ah...shared a few classes with Lord Vorkosigan during a refresher course at the Advanced Tactics School at the Academny. I'm afraid that the news of him being appointed an Imperial Auditor...well..." Words failed him. Allegre looked completely sympathetic. Suddenly, some of those crazy stories about Allegre's ascension to head of ImpSec were becoming frighteningly clear....
He was surprised to realize that he was holding the datacard. "Well, Sir, I suppose I should get started. I'll set up a meeting with my staff this for this afternoon. Will there be anything else?"
Allegre studied him for a long moment from behind the desk, his expression turning inward and...apprehensive? Seeming to come to a decision, he stood up suddenly. "Yes, commander, there is one more thing. I may -- repeat, may -- be able to give you a hint of what vector to concentrate your attention on...come here."
Allegre stepped away from the door, towards one of the blank walls of the office. He reached towards a seemingly ordinary spot on the wall, and turned his head back to VorLon. "Commander. For the record: what you are about to see is, quite simply, ImpSec's greatest secret in history. There are no official ImpSec penalties for revealing it, however." He smiled thinly at VorLon's raised eyebrows. "That is for two reasons. One is that no one would ever believe you. Ever. Reason Two is, quite simply, this secret has its own protections....protections which make ImpSec's worst pale by comparison. If you were to violate this secrecy, your punishment would be...well, let's just say it would be, without a doubt, the absolute worst thing that could happen to you short of death." He snorted at VorLon's expression. "You'll understand in a moment, beleive me."
He touched the wall in a manner that seemed almost...prayerful. There was a silent pause, then a part of the wall vanished with shimmer.
"Your Ladyship?" Allegre required in the most reverant of tones.
Past his shoulder, VorLon saw a tall woman with brownish hair with red highlights, dressed in most un-Vorish fashion, seated at a desk surrounded by chaotically organized stacks of paper. At the sound of Allegre's voice, she looked up from her primitive-looking comconsole, tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear along with a chewed-looking wooden stylus. "Yes, Guy, what is it? I'm in the middle of --" Her annoyed gaze suddenly tightened sharply on VorLon, who felt a sudden urge to make obeisance. "Dammit, who's this?"
"Fanfic character, Your Ladyship," Allegre said dismissively. "No effect on the main plotline. However, I was wondering if you might have...you know?" His eyebrose raised hopefully along with his voice. The woman sighed.
"Dammit, Guy, you're as bad as the listies. I can't keep giving hints...I don't have the damn thing finished yet. Hell, I'm in the middle of re-writing the first seven chapters, and..." Allegre's hangdog expression was too much for her. "Ah, dammit...you're as bad as Pat, and less helpful...here, read it for yourself!" she shoved a stack of much-scribbled-upon paper in Allegre's direction.
He thumbed through them quickly, paying particular attention to the red revision marks...and went pale. For a moment, VorLon was afraid he would have to perform CPR on his commanding officer. But Allegre recovered his equilibrium and handed the papers back, with a ghost of a gallows grin hanging about his lips. "You know, milady, if I thought it would do any good, I might protest that people who've served you as long and loyally as we have really deserve a vacation from this ongoing chaos."
She grinned back at him. "Ah, tell it to Miles. Besides, I have to make a living, Guy. How much money can I make if you guys are all living 'happily ever after'?"
Allegre bowed, rather overdramatically. "I will, as always, be guided by you in this, Your Ladyship."
"Damn straight." Her smile, VorLon thought, was quite attractive, if a bit frightening. "I own you, kiddo. Oh, and by the way," she called out as the door began to shimmer back into being, "let me know how Chapter 13 comes out, will you?"
"I don't know why," Allegre grumbled (once the wall was safely back in place). "My life would be so much simpler if she'd just stop having Better Ideas all the time. And to think I used to think it was Vorkosigan who drove Simon to such distraction..."
WARNING: REALITY.SYS CORRUPTED. (A)BORT, (R)ETRY, (P)ANIC?
© 1998 by David McMillan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Current version by Michael Bernardi, email@example.com
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Last updated: November 17th 2002