- "A little romance on the side was one thing; the change of career he was thinking of proposing to her—nice turn of phrase, that—would overturn her existence. Elli the space-born, who called all downsiders dirtsuckers in careless moments, Elli with a career agenda of her own. Elli who walked on land with all the dubious distaste of a mermaid out of water. Elli was an independent country. Elli was an island."
- ―Miles, considering proposing to Elli[src]
Born and raised on Kline Station, Elli Quinn served with the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet under Miles Vorkosigan. During a battle in The Warrior's Apprentice, she was shot in the face with a plasma arc, necessitating reconstructive surgery on Beta Colony. Miles bought her the most expensive reconstructive work available; the surgeons created for her a particularly beautiful face, which made it difficult for her to blend in.
Later, Miles assigned her to Fleet Intelligence and sent her on a mission to Kline Station, her original home, to investigate a Cetagandan genetics project known only as L-X-10-Terran-C. While there, she met up with Dr. Ethan Urquhart, who persuaded her to donate an ovary to Athos, his home planet.
She had a long-term romantic relationship with Miles beginning in Brothers in Arms. Unfortunately, as Miles eventually realized, it was the 'Little Admiral' she was in love with. She was not only uninterested in Lord Vorkosigan but actively disliked him - and Barrayar. The couples' differences in goals and priorities eventually broke up the relationship. Love was not enough, to be together one or the other would have had to give up the core of his/her identity.
After Miles was forced to retire from the Dendarii, Quinn took over as head of the mercenaries as Admiral. She, as of the conclusion of the Vorkosigan timeline, still retained the Barrayaran contract.
Personality and traits
- "Trouble is, you don't want me to be Madame Naismith, Dread of the Dendarii. You want me to be Lady Vorkosigan of Barrayar. That's a downside post. I'm spacer-born. Even if I did marry a dirtsucker, go down into some gravity well and never come up again . . . Barrayar is not the pit I'd pick."
- ―Elli's opinion of Barrayar and downsider life in general[src]
Elli had dark hair, an extraordinarily beautiful face, an athletic body, and a wicked sense of humor. When under stress, she chewed her fingernails.
A spacer born-and-bred, she did not relish the idea of becoming stuck on a planet and unable to travel.
Shortly before he promoted her to admiral, Miles said of her: "She's in her mid-thirties, at the peak of her performance. She's creative, she's determined, and she gets amazingly streamlined in emergencies, of which she's encountered a fair number, in my wake. If she's not ready to move up ... then I'm not the commander I thought I was." (Memory)