Diplomatic Immunity, written by Lois McMaster Bujold and published in May 2002 by Baen Books, is the fourteenth published novel in the Vorkosigan Saga. It was originally published in hardcover, and then in paperback June 2003. Chronologically, it follows "Winterfair Gifts" and is followed by Captain Vorpatril's Alliance; it has been collected in the omnibus Miles, Mutants and Microbes. In 2008, Blackstone Audio published an audio version read by Grover Gardner.
Diplomatic Immunity was nominated for a PEARL Award for Best Science Fiction in 2002, a Locus Award in 2003 and a Nebula Award in 2004.
A rich Komarran merchant fleet has been impounded at Graf Station, in distant Quaddiespace, after a bloody incident on the station docks involving a security officer from the convoy's Barrayaran military escort. Lord Miles Vorkosigan of Barrayar and his wife, Lady Ekaterin, have other things on their minds, such as getting home in time to attend the long-awaited births of their first children. But when duty calls in the voice of Barrayar's Emperor Gregor, Miles, Gregor's youngest Imperial Auditor (a special high-level troubleshooter) has no choice but to answer.
Waiting on Graf Station are diplomatic snarls, tangled loyalties, old friends, new enemies, racial tensions, lies and deceptions, mysterious disappearances, and a lethal secret with wider consequences than even Miles anticipates: a race with time for life against death in horrifying new forms.
The downside of being a troubleshooter comes when trouble starts shooting back . . .
- "At the edge of the vid recording, Baby's First Cell Division was interrupted by a red blinking message light."
- ―One of two babies for Miles and Ekaterin[src]
The tale began with a Barrayaran diplomatic incident at a space station involving a Komarran Trade Fleet, their military escorts, and the locals. The space station, named Graf Station, was in Quaddiespace: Anti-mutie prejudice would be notable. The Komarran fleet was 1/2 Toscane-owned: Appearances of even-handedness to Komarrans would be essential. The stories as told by the Komarrans and by the Barrayarans and by a local ImpSec observer, Bel Thorne, were sufficiently different from each other that at least some extraction of truth from lies would be needed. The situation called for an Imperial Auditor. Imperial Auditor Lord Miles Vorkosigan was therefore officially ordered to go there, clear up the troubles, and collect the fleet, all at the least cost to Barrayar. And, oh by the way, matters surrounding the Cetagandans around Rho Ceta were getting peculiar: he and Ekaterin should get home soonest.
The story as it first came out was: The fleet had been delayed getting some minor repairs. During the delay, Lieutenant Solian, a fleet beat cop for the freighter Idris, disappeared. The fleet stayed put for a time while they tried to find him, but there was no success and the search was in danger of being called off. Suddenly they found a pool of blood on the deck and the blood tested as Solian's. An urgent recall was sent out to all the crews to return to ship. However, a jump pilot, Dmitri Corbeau, was late returning because he had been with a quaddie girlfriend named Garnet Five. When the guards who tried to collect him arrived on the scene, a nasty fight broke out, and he and the guards were arrested. At this point, the Barrayaran military ships sent a squad of people armed with plasma rifles to break the entire group out of jail; the attempt failed and the quaddies arrested the squad and refused the fleet permission to leave. The only missing pieces to the story were "how did the large blood stain come about?" and "where is Lieutenant Solian?"
- ""Permanently?" said Ekaterin doubtfully. "But . . . don't you think you might wish to have children someday? Or might he?"
Garnet Five's expression grew hopeful. "We've talked about having children together. We're both interested."
"Um, er," said Miles. "Quaddies are not interfertile with downsiders, surely?"
"Well, one has to make choices, before they go into the replicators, just as a herm crossing with a monosexual has to choose whether to have the genetics adjusted to produce a boy or a girl or a herm. Some quaddie-downsider partnerships have quaddie children, some have downsiders, some have some of each—Bel, show Lord Vorkosigan your baby pictures!""
- ―Babies for Quaddies and downsiders[src]
Those two questions provided the only part of the tale that played in favor of the Barrayarans, so Miles played them extensively. He began a thorough investigation of the event, complete with acting out several possible scenarios and ordering a more complex set of tests to be performed on the blood. Meanwhile there was quite a bit of room for improving the public image of Barrayarans; Bel Thorne and Ekaterin decided that a visit to the Minchenko Auditorium to see space ballet was in order.
The first break in the case came the following morning - the blood was not precisely Lt Solian's after all; instead, it had been manufactured. While Miles was attempting to investigate this more thoroughly, the lead quaddie diplomat, Sealer Greenlaw, provided him some entertainment - he was to meet with the irate Komarran merchants and their passengers to explain to them why they couldn't leave local space yet. At the end of that meeting, one of the passengers came to him with a request. It identified itself as a Betan hermaphrodite named Ker Dubauer and stated that it was shepherding several hundred mammalian fetuses in replicators; they needed nutrients and cleaning of filters.
On the way out of the meeting, the trio of Miles, Dubauer, and Bel were attacked by an assailant wielding a hot riveter with the safeties removed. The riveter shot hot brass at the three, but only managed to slightly wound Dubauer. After this, Bel accompanied Dubauer onto the freighter to tend to the fetuses..
- "The Star Crèche is the innermost core of the innermost ring of the whole damned giant genetic engineering project that is the Cetagandan Empire. The haut ladies' own gene bank. They design their emperors, there. Hell, they design the whole haut race, there. The haut ladies don't work in animal genes. They think it would be beneath them."
- ―Babies for Cetagandan haut[src]
Dubauer's body language seemed off to Bel; when Miles learned this, he decided to check out the cargo - the fetuses turned out to be not sheep and goats but 1000 Cetagandan haut babies. Suddenly the passenger, far more likely to be a Cetaganda ba than a Betan herm, was much more interesting. Meanwhile, Miles's investigation had him checking on-ship blood synthesizers more closely; this turned up a very strange passenger on the Rudra (another one of the freighters), who'd asked a lot of questions about them. This passenger was self-identified as an amphibious man, heavily gengineered.
Miles put out a request to the passengers' hotel security to find both people, the ba and the amphibian. At this point, some very unwelcome news came out: Bel Thorne had disappeared. Further news determined that it was last seen with Garnet Five, and she had also disappeared. Some hours later, she turned up at the police station without Bel. She and Bel had been following the amphibian when it turned on them and hit them with a gas that put them both to sleep. She awoke in a trash bin and with no sign of Bel anywhere.
The police put out a public announcement seeking the amphibian's arrest; soon afterwards a group of Locks and Docks quaddies showed up with him tied to a pole. Questioning him, Miles and the quaddies learned that he was Russo Gupta, a smuggler from Jackson's Whole, and that he and his former shipmates had made a cargo run for the Cetagandan ba; it had thanked them by killing his companions with a bioweapon, a disease that melted people (Gupta survived the attack). Gupta had been trying to kill the ba, but now that it had seen him, he figured himself for dead sooner or later.
Investigation of these new facts took Miles and the quaddies to the Idris. Matters got complex when it turned out that 1) Bel Thorne was on the ship and infected with the same bioweapon, 2) the Ba was also on the ship, and 3) Miles managed to get himself infected with that same bioweapon while dealing with the emergencies associated with 1) and 2). The ba then took over Navigation and Communications on the ship, demanding a jump pilot be brought aboard, or else it would kill the people on board and leave behind a biobomb somewhere on Graf Station. Corbeau volunteered; soon after, Miles and his armsman Roic broke into Nav and Comm and apprehended the ba. Miles learned from Bel where the biobomb was closely enough to enable the quaddies to find and defuse it, and the emergency was over.
- "The ba, it seems," she said slowly, "desired more than Lisbet's vision. It planned a new empire—with itself as both emperor and empress. It stole the haut children of Rho Ceta not just as a core population for its planned new society, but as ... mates. Consorts. Aspiring to even more than Fletchir Giaja's genetic place, which, while part of the goal of haut, does not imagine itself the whole. Hubris," she sighed. Madness."
"In other words," breathed Miles, "the ba wanted children. In the only way it could ... conceive."
- ―No babies for the ba[src]
The quaddies were sufficiently impressed by Corbeau's (and Miles') actions that they agreed to allow the fleet to leave, taking their arrested compatriots with them. Miles had deduced that the ba was a renegade and that the uproar Gregor had mentioned at Rho Ceta was the beginning stages of a new war started over the Cetagandans' belief that the Barrayarans had stolen their babies; so he, Bel, Gupta, a doctor, and Ekaterin rushed back to Rho Ceta, taking the haut babies along. War was prevented, Miles and Bel were successfully treated, and Gupta was free to join the Dendarii Mercenaries, if he wished.
- "So, Miles thought wearily. Are we heroes here today, or the greatest traitors unhung? What would these tiny, high haut hopefuls grow into, in time? Great men and women? Terrible foes? Had he, all unknowing, saved here some future nemesis of Barrayar—enemy and destroyer of his own children still unborn?"
- ―The unknowable future regarding infants[src]
- Dmitri Corbeau
- Eugin Vorpatril
- Garnet Five
- Sealer Greenlaw
- Boss Watts
- Crew Chief Venn
- Russo Gupta
- "Ker Dubauer"
- Admiral Eugin Vorpatril
- Adjudicator Leutwyn
- Ensign Deslaurier
- Senior Cargomaster Molino
- Captain Brun
- Lieutenant Solian
- haut Pel Navarr
Behind the scenes
A rather fascinating view of the prior-to-tale events for Diplomatic Immunity can be seen here.