Everything was decided. Aral had signed more than a dozen arrest warrants; Negri had assembled the team that would take Vordarian House. ImpSec was prepared to shut down the capital at a moment’s notice. And Aral would come himself to command the operation.
At last Negri looked up from his notes at Aral and asked, “Should I inform the Princess, my lord?”
Yes, of course, Aral was about to say. In fact, they should move the Princess and the young Emperor out of the capital itself. They hadn’t got all of Vordarian’s allies, and there would be fighting in the city even if all went according to plan. Aral ran through a dozen safe places in his head – secret houses in Vorbarra’s district, even Vorkosigan Surleau. He could order it.
But if he ordered it, the Princess would have to be told why.
Aral paused, and an image rose in his mind. The Emperor’s birthday ball: Count Vordarian, resting his hand on the Princess’s knee in full sight of all the Counts. And the reserved, solemn Princess laughing, and just for a moment, caressing Vordarian’s hand with her own. Aral had seen with his own eyes that the Princess’s friendship with Vordarian was no such thing.
He remembered another image; the Princess at Prince Serg’s funeral, covered in black, her face pale and tear-streaked, the face of a grieving widow. As Serg’s wife she had learned to be a fine actor; better, certainly, than Count Vordarian.
If he were to order Negri to move the Princess and her son to safety, would she obey? Would she return to the capital to cast the Vorbarra vote at the traitor’s trial, and watch him die? Or would she call Count Vordarian?
Aral wondered if the Princess was now his enemy, and how he would deal with it if she was. She was Vorbarra and would have been dangerous in her own right, but as Gregor’s guardian he could not ignore her.
At this moment, he couldn’t take the risk. “No,” he said. “Increase the Princess’s security. But tell her nothing.”
For a moment he wondered if Negri would obey; Ezar had willed Negri to Gregor, not Aral. But Negri nodded his head and cut the comm.