“At least the laundry connects to the base HQ”.
Small favors were about all Lieutenant Alexi Vormoncrief could appreciate. His exile at Lazkowski Base was approaching its nadir as Winterfair season was drawing to a close. The flu virus that seemed to make the rounds every year was just beginning to make its presence known. His grades from VSU were late coming back, and now he had been summoned to General Vorlakail’s office with very little notice.
Arriving through the tunnel, he was met by a corporal who led him directly to the General’s office. After a brief wait, the orderly announced him in.
“Lieutenant, I must congratulate you. This is the first time you have come to my attention since your assignment here. Considering the nature of your assignment, this is of course a good thing.”
Alexi thanked the General, but was still confused.
“As it stands, you have earned your way out of this assignment, and indeed this place. You have not seen your grades from VSU yet, have you?”
“I have. More to the point, Admiral Vorkalloner has. Apparently you are the most promising tech officer we have encountered in quite some time.
You are being assigned detached duty, to continue your classes full time on campus. A transport departs in three hours, if you can be ready.”
The General permitted himself a brief smile. “I suspect that won’t be a problem. Oh, further congratulations are in order, Captain Vormoncrief.”
Vorbarra Sultana University could be a cliquish place.
One of the more well known female groups didn’t have an official name, though some of the more irreverent members called it the FVD (Future Vor Dragons) , a name bestowed upon it by unknown male observers. The criteria for membership seemed to be wealth and attractiveness. “High Prole” of course, the Vor had their own packs. Though the criteria for dating one of the members was clearly possessing either millions of marks, or one extra syllable. Preferably both.
Official or not, the clique had their own table not only at McBlarney’s but in the Vorsmythe Student Center. It was nicknamed the “Sam Site”, because of what typically happened to males foolhardy enough to approach. Unfortunately for Alexi, it was near the student affairs office entrance where he had business that day.
Several weeks into his on campus studies, Alexi had stayed well clear of the supercharged social scene. “You Are Not Ready For That” had been the advice of his cousin Lord Vormoncrief, and he was inclined to agree. The debacle with Ekaterin Vorsoisson still fresh in his mind, he was very uninclined to trip over his social ineptitude again, at least soon.
Too bad, because the redhead in particular was simply incredible.
Alexi gave it a wide birth. Not wide enough to avoid hearing a giggle or few, he supposed he was being obvious about his avoidance.
“Well *he’s* geeky. Dress greens too. I suppose they don’t have enough slots at Ops for all the spare ensigns these days, so they send them here.”
“It might be fun to listen to him attempt to talk to a woman!”
“I don’t know, it could be a relief from all the Lieutenant Vorgodsgifts. Especially when they apparently have octopus genes somewhere in their scan.”
A new hanger on, Marie chimed in. “No doubt, and it doesn’t change when they are older. I went out with this guy Ivan last year, a little older and a captain even. Nothing but schmooze. And hands.”
“You dumped Sirel for awhile? You should have left him dumped.”
“Aww, he’s okay. I was just trying to make him jealous. It worked too.”
At this point the object of Alexi’s brief notice, the ringleader of sorts, cut in.
“Ummm, Ivan who?”
“Vorpatril, Louise. Ivan Vorpatril. A couple people called him Lord Ivan, but he’s not a heir or anything. It didn’t make sense. Wait, what?”
The whole group was paying attention. Louise Renault just shook her head.
Anni Kardinkas took back over. “You Must Be Kidding. You got Ivan Flipping Vorpatril to take you out and you kicked him to the curb for *Sirel*?”
“He’s not an heir or anything. And he was kind of boring.”
“He’s the Emperor’s *cousin*. He’s third in line for the Vorkosigan countship and possibly sixth for the damned *Imperium*. If you wanted to, oh I don’t know, sit at the Imperial Table at the Winterfair Ball or anything like that, he was your chance.”
Carel Schazi chimed in “He’s not dumb either. He was with my sister for a year or so. Helped Dad with some business organization matters. He loved him. Gave him some stock in return, and with what that’s done, if he was tight for money before he’s not now.”
Louise just shook her head. “Alys Vorpatril’s son. Cordelia Vorkosigan’s nephew. Even my mom is impressed with those two. And that happens about never.”
“He’s good other places, too.” Carel proceeded to regale the group with some stories her sister had told her.
Well hearing that would have turned the ensign bright red, and sent him running instead of walking fast. Louise Renault considered that, and recalled a couple assignations of her own with him. If anything, Carel’s risque little tales were an understatement. She had been tempted. Very tempted. But she had no desire to attempt to remake his mother’s son and aunt’s nephew. Out of her weight class. She wanted someone a bit more pliable.
“Here comes Ensign Geeky back”.
Louise looked up dismissively. Then did a double take.
“Umm, those are Captain’s tabs. He looks about twenty five. How the hell does that happen? Since we’re not at actual war or anything.”
Marta Frostov looked closer. “Oh hell, that’s Alexi Vormoncrief. He’s in my history class. Smart as hell, tech major, but very closed off socially. I didn’t recognize him in uniform. ”
Louise answered that one. “Ever deal with Student Affairs when they want to be stubborn? Active duty officers don’t have to put up with any of that. Like you said, smart.”
“Well not smart socially. Heard he had a run in with Miles Vorkosigan, over the new Lady Vorkosigan.”
“Ouch, yeah that’ll close off anyone. Miles lets his mom and dad help with his battles. And his ummmm…..cousin. Not Ivan. The other.”
Most of the group shuddered, but Marie looked confused.
“Lord Auditor Vorkosigan would call him Cousin Gregor”.
We’re actually from Vormoncrief District. I met Alexi years ago at a ball. He wasn’t closed off then. Sort of like a puppy. And just as prone to peeing on the carpet. He’s about 30 or so now actually.”
“Meh, that can be worked with. You should see my dad outside the kitchen. Or my Uncle Jean without his viola. People who are smart at One Big Thing can be like that. Nothing new there at all.
Geeks age well too.”
Louise Renault, daughter of the owners of the planet’s best restaurant, and leader of this particular pack, thought for a moment, then said the magic word.
By the unspoken rules of the group, that was an exclusive claim. And a call to action.
The primary function of the “FVD” often seemed defensive. Uninvited males approaching the table with conquest in mind were ruthlessly shot down.
When a young man was claimed, things were very different. The social network fired up. Parties had their guest lists adjusted. Sometimes they were freshly scheduled. All to set up the FVD member with her usually unwitting prey.
There was a saying among the young women of Barrayar: “Some guys you have to hit with a brick. Sometimes you need a really big brick."
Alexi Tomas Vormoncrief was about to meet enough to build a skyscraper.