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Simon Illyan Groaned

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"Cordelia, that would be a security nightmare," Simon Illyan said.

"Too bad," Cordelia said. "Miles, Gregor, Elena, and Ivan all want to go to BoldCon, the Vorthalia fan convention, and they will go there."

"I can have recordings made of the convention, and they can watch them! There is nothing which justifies such risk!"

"Simon," Cordelia said. "I wish that the kids were not so enamored with a holovid about Barrayarans killing each other, but I do not get to determine their tastes, and they will have as ordinary a childhood as possible."

Simon Illyan groaned.

***

ImpSec already had an agent who watched all holovids which the emperor watched, including Vorthalia the Bold. Or that was what he was supposed to do. Upon investigation, it turned out that he found watching the show to be so unbearable he had quietly assigned that particular duty to a colleage.

Simon Illyan met with the agent who was, in fact, watching the Vorthalia holovid. As soon as Simon starting asking about the show, the agent started babbling all kinds of trivia about the plots, the actors, the sets, the historical anachronisms, and the fandom. Clearly, the vid had rotted his brain.

It was very worrisome that the emperor was watching this vid.

Simon Illyan took it upon himself to do more research - on his own.

First, he went on a marathon of a bunch of episodes. Nothing less than his loyalty to the Imperium could have motivated him to watch more than two episodes, but Simon was loyal to the bone. He managed to finish watching the first season in four days.

The worst part was that Simon was going to remember every second of every episode as long as he had the damn memory chip in his head.

Simon Illyan groaned.

***

It was the day of BoldCon.

The only good thing Simon had to say about cosplay is that it was the perfect way to disguise the children.

Miles was, of course, dressed as Vorthalia the Bold. He had managed to get some stilts attached to his leg braces which made him eight feet tall, and his attire cleverly covered all of his physical irregularities. Or rather, simply made them look like they were just part of the costume.

Miles insisted that somebody had to be Emperor Xian Vorbarra. He had been trying to get Gregor to dress up as Emperor Xian until Gregor issued an imperial order for Miles to shut up. Then when Miles tried to get Ivan to dress as Emperor Xian, Ivan said that one of the strict rules his mother had laid upon him was that he should never, ever pretend to be an emperor. Though Elena had to follow even stricter rules from her parent than Ivan, none of them were 'Do Not Pretend to Be Emperor.' So it fell to Elena to dress as Emperor Xian.

Ivan was dressed as Captain Troyle, Vorthalia's loyal companion. There was no historical basis for Captain Troyle, but the scriptwriters wanted to increase the show's popularity with prole audiences.

Gregor was dressed as Spear Carrier #3, who in episode #44 actually had a line of dialogue - "Yes, sire".

Given that this vid was threatening the sanity of the emperor, it was Simon's duty to use the convention to do further investigation. He bought all of the fan zines.

He was going to have to read all of them.

Simon Illyan groaned.

***

After reading all of the zines, Simon Illyan turned to the 'net to do additional research.

On the 'net, Simon Illyan was looking through Vorthalia fanart. There was something very familiar about the way the words "Dear Captain" were scrawled on one of the drawings. That fanart had been posted by the user 'Lara_Nagisokrov.'

Simon Illyan groaned.

***

"Sire, are you a fan of Vorthalia the Bold?" Simon Illyan asked.

"Miles makes me watch it," Aral Vorkosigan replied. "Every. Week."

Simon pitied Aral.

"Does he also make you draw fanart?"

"Some of the meetings I go to are incredibly boring," Aral replied. "I can't help doodling some sketches."

"And why do you draw so many pictures of Vorthalia kissing Captain Troyle?"

"In order to find anything stimulating in that insipid vid," Aral answered, "I headcanon Vorthalia as engaging in a passionate romance with Captain Troyle, and look for the subtext. Or just look at Captain Troyle. Thankfully, they cast the most gorgeous man on Barrayar to play him - it is the vid's only saving grace."

"Why post the drawings on the 'net?"

"It is my duty to support the other parents who have to watch the dreck."

"Could you at least pick a username which is not Aral Vorkosigan spelled backwards?" Simon asked, exasperated. "Imagine what a scandal it would be if the Regent and guardian of the emperor were exposed as making homosexual fanart for a children's vid!"

"Oh, I don't think my drawings would be that scandalous," Aral said. "My art is all very cute and innocent, unlike the explicit slashfic Lady Vorpatril writes."

Simon was speechless.

***

Simon finished watching all ten seasons, and was caught up on season eleven. He had also read 3,258 Vorthalia fanfics so far.

Most of the content of the holovid and the fandom was utter trash. For a while, Simon was wondering if this was some Cetagandan plot to rot the Barrayaran psyche, but investigation revealed that the vid was strictly an act of domestic terrorism.

Simon's investigation revealed that it was not just the emperor, the emperor's hostess, and the regent who had been infected. Vorthalia fandom had taken root among the Council of Counts, the Ministers, and the high command of the military. Simon seriously considered teaming up with Cordelia to get the show banned - she alone seemed to be immune (apparently, the show had not been written for Betan audiences). He could try to pitch it as an effort to reduce violence in children's media.

The scariest thing was ... Simon himself was not immune. Simon found himself headcanoning how the villainous Lord Lirtaprov (which was, of course, 'Vorpatril' spelled backwards - Simon wondered whether the screenwriter was making political commentary, or just a joke) could have thought that the the Zoomborda Mountain Plot against the emperor was a good idea without being utterly incompetent. That was when he realized that it was too late.

Yet there was the occasional fanfic which betrayed the presence of a subtle and thoughtful mind. Perhaps this vector of brain-rot could be turned around to save Barrayar...

There was only one thing to do.

Simon Illyan groaned.

He must join the fandom, and write good fanfic, to reverse the decline of Barrayaran intellect among Vorthalia fans.

Simon started writing a fanfic in which Spear Carrier #3 had a complete background story and was an entirely fleshed-out character.