From Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan’s personal correspondence:
Our dearest Cordelia:
Thank you so much for the lovely vid of Aurelia. We watch it frequently. Simon doesn’t quite understand my fascination with infants, but she is so, so precious! She’s also definitely a Vorbarra. Aral always favored his mother, but Aurelia’s resemblance to his aunt is truly remarkable. Is it fanciful to say that Aurelia is probably the daughter Padma and I pictured when we began planning our family?
Much love, Alys & Simon
Congratulations on uncorking the new sprog! My baby sister is adorable. I look forward to holding her in a few months. As for Ekaterin, she’s flattered beyond measure that you’ve named Nile for her. So am I.
Love, Your Firstborn
Thank you so much for the new drafting table. I’ve been doing lots of sketching. Mama especially loves the one of Nikki in his dress greens. And Uncle Gregor put the one of Cousin Dmitri on his desk!
Do you think Aurelia and Nile will let me draw them when we visit? Mama says I should sketch Helen and Nile together. She bought me some new ink that perfectly matches their hair. Helen’s a little weird about it. I think she liked being the only one in the family with your hair. Nikki says to ignore her. Don’t tell Mama or Da, but I think Nikki’s got a girlfriend. He keeps talking about this captain at work.
Love, Aral Alexander
Gregor and I were distraught to hear of your and Oliver’s personal losses in the Kareenburg earthquake. It is inconceivable that the power systems in reproduction centers do not have fail safes to prevent such tragedies. That will change. Gregor has assigned Lord Auditor Vorthys to lead an Imperium-wide assessment and upgrade. There is already widespread support for the necessary appropriations. Count Voreliades, whose District experiences occasional seismic activity, has personally vowed to ensure the Council of Counts passes whatever measures necessary to ensure the future of the Imperium.
And now the reason for the eyes-only communication. Gregor is planning a State Visit to Escobar after Midsummer. We’ll be making an official visit to Sergyar en route. If it’s convenient, we’d like to add a discreet family vacation on the return. The children would love to swim all day, Gregor is anxious to explore in Oliver’s crystal boat, and I want to hug the little ones. All of them, including Everard Xav, who should have been a big brother by now.
Speaking of big brothers, Nikki – excuse me, Lieutenant Vorsoisson – is building quite a fan club since being assigned to Residence Security. At least once a month, he and the children ‘escape’ the Residence for impromptu, incognito adventures. Kareen and Pavel are convinced neither ImpSec nor the armsmen have any idea what they’re up to. Alexei and Dmitri are aware of the security perimeter, but enjoy the freedom nonetheless. Gregor won’t admit it, but he’s madly jealous. I keep reminding him that our children are reaping the sacrifices of his childhood and his drive to make Barrayar a stable, safe, modern world. And if Nikki lets them have a bit too much sugar, well, it’s worth it to see our children happy.
All our love, Laisa & Gregor
Dear Tante Cordelia,
Great news – MPVK has won the bid to build the new commercial vat protein facility at Gridgrad. Project specs should put us on-planet very close to Alani’s arrival. It would mean so much to Mark to see his sister born. Plus you know how much we adore Aurelia and Nile! Warning – someone commissioned some very awesome Big Sister presents from the Whole. Nothing that needs feeding, an addition to your house, or more staff. He’s learned his lesson after the petting zoo fiasco!
Love and kisses, Kareen & Mark
Dear Tante Cordelia,
I can’t express how much we enjoyed our visit. Duv and I so needed to get away. I don’t know how Aunt Alys balanced being Gregor’s hostess and a single mother. There are days when if not for our suite in the Residence, neither of us would ever see our children awake. Cuddling Alani and Perrin really brought back memories!
Work was waiting. The usual, plus some very special personal requests. It’s more than a year out, which gives us plenty of time to plan a gala celebration for Miles’ 50th birthday. Gregor also wants to host a 50th anniversary party for my parents. Laisa says it’s a devious plan to bring you and the girls back to Barrayar for a long visit. Oliver and the boys, too, of course. Duv says there are plenty of people in Ops and ImpSec who’d appreciate educated input on the strategic implications of recent biological discoveries. Don’t worry about transport. Gregor has promised a child-friendly yacht with plenty of room for nannies, tutors, and luggage.
Please say yes so we can get the party planning going!
Love you! Delia & Duv
Dear Cordelia –
Just a quick note to say everything’s in place for your visit. Your brother managed to find a huge rental apartment very close to mine with room for you, Oliver, and the children. He’s also made arrangements to watch the children while Mr. and Mrs. Jones visit the Orb. I can’t believe you haven’t been there in over 50 years!
Hey Sis –
It was so great to see you! As much as I think you’re crazy to start the baby roller-coaster all over again – Sarah and I like playing with our grandchildren and giving them back – there’s no denying that you and Oliver have parenting down cold. And Mother’s right, Aurelia is exactly what Miles would’ve been without the soltoxin. I can’t believe you ever worried about her verbal skills. You obviously haven’t totally retired from politics or a 6-year-old wouldn’t have been asking such pointed question when we toured the presidential mansion!
As for Miles’ birthday gala, how can you possibly be hesitating about attending? Yeah, there’ll be gossip. You’ve been the subject of Barrayaran gossip since the day you and Aral met. Why care now? So what if you’re dating a younger man? Nobody would blink if the genders were reversed. And the girls’ parentage, well, it’s none of anyone’s business. If Aurelia and Alani weren’t so obviously Vorkosigans, I’d suggest telling everyone they’re clones. Hell, it’s totally believable if you want to claim Nile’s a clone. You know your sons would back your story. I think Aral would, too, just for the pleasure of seeing gullible people’s reactions.
Regarding Aral, I hope the 10th anniversary of his passing was as benign as such things can be. Mother and I agree that traveling to Barrayar to participate in grandiose memorials would’ve been unnecessarily painful. That said, you owe it to the girls to introduce them to the planet their father spent his life defending. All of it, from the sledding hill at Vorkosigan Surleau to Winterfair in Vorbarr Sultana. Mother still talks about the Winterfair season she spent there so many years ago. She said it was absolutely magical. I’m sure the girls will think so, too.
Loads of love, John
P.S. Sarah is sending a separate letter along with a package for the children. I am NOT responsible for the contents! JMN
My dearest Cordelia,
Escobar is terrific. I’m so glad I came for the conference on medical applications of newly discovered flora and fauna. Amiri’s panel was particularly interesting. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading his paper. You also need to see the Durona clinic. You’ve always complained that Barrayaran medicine was primitive by galactic standards. After seeing the cutting edge, I agree the Empire still has a long, long way to go.
Mark and Kareen are wonderful hosts. The vids don’t do their house or Ekaterin’s gardens justice. It’s so THEM, a perfect mix of Mark’s obsession with technology and Kareen’s comfortable, welcoming style. You’ll love the newest improvements: a wonderfully-equipped playroom for little ones and a media/game room that would make teens the envy of all their friends. Olivia & Dono’s children chose the climbing apparatus in the back garden. I’m sure Aurelia, Everard, and Nile could spend hours swinging and yelling while Alani and Perrin play in the sand pit.
Da confession here. I had no idea how much I’d miss my sons. Amazing how long space tours didn’t use to bother me and now I can’t go two weeks without missing the feel of sticky arms around my neck. I miss your arms, too, but that’s a very different longing. Silly me even misses Perrin’s night terrors.
I’m a bit worried about my luggage allowance. Loads of stuff for the children, plus Escobar has some VERY interesting sex shops!
Nakedly yours, Oliver