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A Mile Away And Have His Shoes

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The floor was tilted, Simon was sure of it. He found himself hoping that maybe, the foundations of the headquarters of Imperial Security had just been badly poured. A few hundred thousand marks of repairs, and nothing to worry about. But his eyes slowly tracked the smooth synthacrete floor to the drain at the far edge, and he found his boots scraping at dried stains on the floor that were a telltale brown color. Behind him, he was sure, there was a convenient spigot in the wall. He didn’t want to turn and look at it. There were a lot of things since Negri’s death that he wished he could forget. He didn’t want to add more details to the list. Instead, he just blindly jabbed back at it with a finger. “Find the hose that goes with that.” The usual clicking of someone taking his words down started up, along with a distinct sound of surprise. Cultivate a reputation for knowing everything, Simon, and people wont guard their secrets from you because theyll assume you already know. Lady Vorkosigan had told him that.

           

            Carefully, he took a few steps towards the opposite wall, his steps even and measured. If he ever let himself start shaking —or god forbid, throwing up— he was afraid he might never stop. One of the lieutenants who had been tailing him for the trek though the bowels of ImpSec followed dutifully. Simon didn’t stop until he reached the opposite wall, tracing his fingers along it. Up to his knees, the wall was more of the dull synthacrete that every nook and cranny of the building was made from. From there to the ceiling, it was rough-hewn wood. At shoulder height, the wood was pockmarked with holes, hundreds of them. He turned, his eyes meeting those of the trailing lieutenant. The man was looking around, clearly confused by the purpose of the place. Simon sighed. “Mad Yuri had enough nerve disruptors and plasma arcs to go around. I think he just liked the idea of doing it with Old Earth rifles.”

 

            Light dawned in the young man’s face. His eyes darted down to the large stain he was standing on, and he took a quick, judicious step to the right. Simon stepped past him, back up the slight slope to the door, his gaze still avoiding the spigot. He was tempted to order the room simply filled in, floor to ceiling. Instead… “Strip the soundproofing on the sidewalls. Tear down the wood, and burn it. And once we’ve figured out where the drain goes, fill it in. And level the floor-“ for godssake, he cut himself off. Negri would have never been caught making an unnecessary remark like that. Acerb. Efficient. Terse. That was the biggest trick of it, Ilyan had found. If you acted the way people expected the head of Imperial Security to act, no one questioned the promotion. Show weakness, and people started whispering about the Regent playing favorites with appointments which could shape the future of Barrayar. He kept his steps as even going up as they had been going down, out through the door, where more officers milled to take more orders. His hand paused on the heavy steel door, fingers against the padding on the inside surface. All it takes to keep control is to be Negri. Slowly, he peeled his fingers away from the door, letting it swing shut. But a little less Negri.