by Pouncer

Sent to the [LMB] mailing list 10 Sep 1999

Vorkosigan House lay beshrouded by full darkness of night. Autumn clouds obscured both the glow of stars and the pinpoint glimmer of Barrayar's moons. Even the sentry station at the outer walls was dark. (Wakeful sentinels were equipped with an array of active and passive, audio and visual detectors that only betrayed an ImpSec preference to observe rather than be observed.) The horde of residents slept secure in their appointed chambers. Servants and staff likewise slept, save one lone Armsman who quietly patrolled the upper stories.

He, too, prowled thru total darkness, his IR-bespectacle'd vision picking out hallway details in the living thermal glow of kittens. They gleamed like torches, each in a chosen niche. His boots fell upon the wooden floors in a practiced stride that neither wakened, nor would have disgraced, his catfooted companions. Armsman Roic loved Peace as only those who have known War can. He loved Peace and knew her. Peace was dark, and silent, and still.

But -- tck. Now and then again, an unfamiliar sound -- the merest hint of sound, like an echo of an acorn dropping onto dry leaves tck -- tickled his awareness. Fainter near his Lord's chambers. Slightly, oh, so slightly louder near the stairs. tck. Roic paused, leaned out over the railing, and looked into the grand entryway below.

Silence and stillness and the cool darker-than-dark darkness of the polished marble paving stones yawned beneath him. A mote of dust glittered in a security trip- beam. From the library, a thermal glow leaked from beneath the sliding doors, as always. The House comconsole was always activated ... tck. Stillness and darkness broken only by the faint echo, the merest hint, of audible feedback a comconsole key provides a typist, indicating the key has been successfully pressed. But -- once in a dozen seconds?

Roic descended to investigate. He paused at the library doors, listening. tck And, he heard a murmuring, rumbling sound like a small motor. He pressed a palm to the cool wood panel and slid it sideways, allowing a scintilla of visible comconsole light to emerge. He peered in.

Tailtip twitching, a slender cat crouched on a cushioned stool before the muted blue glow of the comconsole. It purred. But surely that noise wasn't -- no! There! Something shadowed the screen just before tck ...

Fascinated, Roic watched as, again, the large butterbug laboriously pulled itself from the keypad, clambered back to the top of the monitor, then launched itself, headfirst, into the keys. tck One more glowing letter etched across the blue screen. The cat's tail twitched. The bug wearily climbed back to the top of the unit.

Roic slid open the door, crying "Hey!" The cat leapt away, head cocked back over its shoulder, offering the Armsman an expression of utter contempt. The butterbug hissed, and likewise skittered to the deep shadows behind the comconsole, and disappeared into a crack in the wainscotting. Roic paused, his peace stolen but the perpetrators fled, and scrolled the comconsole screen back and forward, reading for some hint of what it all meant.

He read:

well dearie
transmigrating souls
can wind up anyplace
or time or space
i suppose
but it is so nice
when we wind up anyplace

tho i must say i hardly expected you here

toujours gai old girl

you may remember i
told you once how
a person may be born
so unlucky
that he runs into accidents
which started out to happen
to somebody else

if you believe in accidents
that is formerly i
had not and for my sins
and despite the time i
have previously spent in similar
you see me now demoted to


i say demoted because
of the uniform  you see

you  tho
darling seem to have
stepped up in this world
no alleycat now but
a pampered puss
of pillows and

that reminds me

let me give you something
it is not much
but i made it myself


and pillows for
my fortunate friend
whos misfortunes have
all happened to
somebody else

i thot i had figured out who
but seem to have been
mistaken, that worthy
being all smiles

as for me
i take my own misfortunes
and my fortunes
just as they come
and i should not complain
as long
as i have my freedom
and my work
and a bit to nibble

and work
i think
is more satisfying these days
than formerly

more so than nibbling
i fear

but i have found here
a most delightful
including five new plays
printed upon
the thickest creamy paper
and confess i find it
most fulfilling

of course i do still pun

and remind you
the bard and i
are often
low browe

Here the document, for Roic could only dub it such, ended. He scratched his head, beneath the frame of his IR visor, and pondered the glowing screen in wonderment. What key had the bug stumbled upon to bring up such a text file, and what complex Auditor's or Count's business was so cryptically encoded? He debated waking his Lord, then reconsidered. An attempt to "save" the text met with an error declaring no file had been established. He could, however, "send" it. But who could advise?

Roic then dimly remembered the many-times-removed cousin his Count had introduced him to; the minor noble now on Barrayar's dayside South Continent. He added the address, a brief query, and "sent" the file off to the Marquis...

The comconsole dimmed, and the library, and all of Vorkosigan House, once again plunged into darkness.

© 1999 by Pouncer (

Current version by Michael Bernardi,

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Last updated: November 9th 2002