What the Shopping Trip from Barrayar is to Awesome, the Dinner Party from A Civil Campaign is to Funny.
"Mother, father, I'd like to introduce you to — she's getting away!"
For some reason, Mark's line earlier in the book never fails to make me laugh every time I read it:
Mark: "I wasn't questioning her fitness. That was merely a random noise of surprise."
"Here, buggy buggy..."
Aral: "Now...that cries out for an explanation."
Particularly when the guests start to leave:
Lord Dono: Thank you, Lord Vorkosigan, for a most memorable evening. Aral: Who was that? Looks familiar somehow . . .
Cordelia: Pym! I seconded you to look after Miles. Would you care to explain this scene? Pym (after a thoughtful pause): No, Milady.
As Miles retreats in utter disarray:
Aral: Miles, are you drunk? Miles: Not yet, sir. Not nearly enough yet.
Of course, since A Civil Campaign has the secondary title: "A Comedy of Manners and Biology", the above are but a few of many. For example:
A popular (among Tropers) character-defining moment for Miles, when Simon Illyan visits Ekaterin a few days after the Party:
Simon: Do you know all those old folk tales where the count tries to get rid of his only daughter's unsuitable suitor by giving him three impossible tasks? Ekaterin: Yes. Simon: Don't ever try that with Miles. Just . . . don't.
Ivan bludgeoning his way through Miles' guards to deliver a list of chores from Lady Vorpatril.
Ivan: My strength is great because my cause is just. My mother has sent me a list of chores for you as long as my arm. With footnotes.
Miles: Your determination is relentless because you're more afraid of your mother than you are of my guardsmen.
Ivan: So are you. So are your guardsmen.
"Who in the world could [Nikki] be calling on the comconsole?"note Emperor Gregor Vorbarra, on his direct unlisted #.
Ekaterin and Gregor's ironic, outlandish solution to a subplot that's mentioned twice in the entire book. She proposes the solution, he makes it an Imperial Decree.
Miles: We want to be out of the chamber before he reaches the second page. (From inside the chamber a few moments later): DOWRIES! A hundred and eighteen dowries!
Miles grandstanding as he resolves the problem with Dr. Borgos' extradition to Escobar.
Kareen Koudelka wondering why her parents are so uncomfortable with the presence of an old sofa in Lady Vorkosigan's study:
Kareen's Thoughts: They looked like nothing so much as two guilty teenagers caught . . . hm. Like two guilty teenagers caught screwing on the living room couch, actually.
Miles's attempt to a yes-man for Emperor Gregor in Memory, which consists of him answering everything with "Yes, Sire" until Gregor (who is, fortunately, also Miles's foster brother) tells him to stop.
Miles suffering from an outbreak of limericks in the middle of an official poetry-recitation ceremony in Cetaganda probably also qualifies.
In The Vor Game, Miles has been tasered into unconsciousness by cops and sold onto an indentured servant ship in the middle of a mission far from Barrayar. Then he comes to and sees his foster brother, Gregor, on the same ship with him:
A face wavered into view. A familiar face. "Gregor! Am I glad to see you," Miles burbled inanely. He felt his burning eyes widen. His hands shot out to clench Gregor's shirt, a pale blue prisoner's smock. "What the hell are you doing here?" "It's a Long Story."
Not that Cordelia finds it funny, but this troper had to put down Barrayar and laugh for a good five minutes at the Barrayaran doctor's advice after she's just surgically given birth, hiked across a good amount of countryside while on the run from an enemy faction that wants to kill her and her family. Her feet are bloody, she has scars from her surgery, and she's severely malnourished and dehydrated. His advice?
"Have you considered starting an exercise program, Lady Vorkosigan?"
Several books—and roughly thirty years in-story—after Cordelia's CMOA, Ekaterin suggests to Miles that they go shopping. Miles can only quip, "That's an offer seldom made to the son of my mother..."
From Falling Free:
Bannerji: What are you doing with that, Dr. Yei? Dr. Yei: Applying psychology. [Whacks Van Atta on the back of his head with a wrench.] Bannerji: Dr. Yei, if you're trying to knock a man out you've got to hit him a lot harder than that. Dr. Yei: I didn't want to risk killing him.... Bannerji: Why not?
Also, the reason she gave for borrowing the wrench in the first place: "To adjust an attitude."
Miles' debut as Imperial Auditor in Memory is worth several chuckles.
Ivan (indicating the elaborate gold chain and seal around Miles' neck): My God. Is that real? Miles: You want to try to peel off the foil wrapping and eat the chocolate inside?
As Miles arrives at ImpSec headquarters:
Miles (to the gate guards): Good afternoon, gentlemen. Please get on your comconsole and tell General Haroche that the Imperial Auditor is here. I request and require him to meet me in person at his front gate. Now.
Guard: Aren't you the same fellow we threw out of here this morning? Miles: Not exactly, no. Note, please, that I am not trying to enter your premises. I have no intention of throwing you into the dilemma of trying to choose whether to disobey a direct order, or else commit an act of treason. But I do know it takes approximately four minutes to physically get from the Chief's office to the front gate. At that point, your troubles will be over. (Four minutes, twenty-nine seconds elapse.) Miles: Good afternoon, General. Haroche: Vorkosigan. I told you not to come back here. Miles: Try again. Haroche (staring at the Auditor's chain and seal): That can't be real. Miles: The penalty for counterfeiting an Imperial Auditor's credentials is death. Haroche (voice cracking): My Lord Auditor.
Shortly afterwards in Haroche's office, Haroche comments on Miles' Bling of War:
Haroche (somewhat plaintively): Vorkosigan, tell me—is that really a Cetagandan Order of Merit? Miles: Yeah. Haroche: And the rest of it? Miles: I didn't clean out my father's desk drawer, if that's what you're asking. Everything here is accounted for, in my classified files. You may be one of the few men on the planet who doesn't have to take my word for it.
To understand why Haroche was so intimidated, understand that for a junior Barrayaran officer (actually, ex-Barrayaran officer by this point) to have a Cetagandan Order of Merit would be like a junior US officer having a Hero of the Soviet Union award.
Leiber: You're pretty free with that thing. Roic: It's all right. I have a license to stun. Leiber: I thought that was supposed to be a license to kill. Roic: That, too. But you would not believe all the forms that have to be filled out, afterward.
In one of the books, Ivan gripes about the trouble Miles causes for "innocent bystanders." Miles asks if he considers himself part of that class. Ivan sighs, "God knows I try to be."
"Unhand Lady Vorpatril!"
Byerly pecking Tej on the cheek en route to the door is a brief, but brilliant detail.
In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance when Ivan goes to Count Falco Vorpatril to get out of his emergency marriage of convenience with Tej
Falco: Do either of you accuse the other of adultery?” Ivan: There’s hardly been time, sir!”
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance has a whopper of one at the climax. Beginning with, "Guy...has ImpSec HQ always been sort of...tilted up on one side?", and ending with Simon's outright delight at the learning that ImpSec HQ will have to be replaced.
And made even funnier by the brief summary of the events in the novel in the timeline at the end of the book: "ImpSec Headquarters suffers a problem with moles."
In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, pretty much every part of Ivan and Tej's divorce proceeding. Particularly Tej's open praise of Ivan's bedroom abilities in a Barrayaran court.
Admiral Desplains: May I ask why, if Lady Alys Vorpatril wishes to know what is going on in her only son’s life, she applies to me and not to you? Ivan Vorpatril: Experience?
From The Vor Game:
“Damn,” said Elena in a hushed voice. “If I didn’t know you, I’d think you were Mad Yuri’s understudy. The look on your face . . . am I reading too much into all that innuendo, or did you in fact just connive to assassinate Gregor in one breath, offer to cuckold him in the next, accuse your father of homosexuality, suggest a patricidal plot against him, and league yourself with Cavilo—what are you going to do for an encore?”
Arde Mayhew's horrified realization, in The Warrior's Apprentice, that Miles' almost manic energy was his normal state, and not the result of the stimulant drink the two had been sharing.
Gregor going awooing in Memory. His tactics include planning a luncheon four days in advance, and having the ideal horse for Laisa to ride flown in from three districts over. Miles's snarky internal commentary implies that the horse is doped up to prevent it from acting out and ruining the show, the animal itself was shampooed to within an inch of its life before Gregor let it anywhere near Laisa, and the Emperor is possibly using the excuse of giving her a boost into the saddle to cop a feel.
Ivan reflecting on Simon Illyan's only secret vice, so to speak:
They had somehow got on to just what Illyan did and did not recall or miss from his memory chip, at which point Ivan had learned just where the largest and most arcane pornography collection on Barrayar had been secreted... It's not as if I acquired most of it on purpose, Illyan had protested. But the damned chip didn't allow me to delete anything, whether I picked it up inadvertently or in a moment of bad mood or bad judgment or bad company, and then I was stuck with it forever. Or in the line of work, oh, God, those were the worst. Do you have any idea how many truly appalling surveillance vids I had to review in forty years...?
In the epilogue of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Mark buying the former ImpSec HQ and turning it into a tourist trap.
The opening scene of Diplomatic Immunity, where Miles is looking at "baby pictures" of Aral and Helen in their replicators. The only problem is, Miles is basically watching his sperm go into his wife's egg, which manages to be simultaneously heartwarming, hilarious, and just a little bit creepy.
Ekaterin: "Ah, admiring your sperm again, I see." Miles: "And your excellent egg, my lady."!
In Memory Miles intrudes on the convalescent Simon Illyan sharing breakfast with a startlingly deshabille Lady Alys and completely fails to draw the obvious conclusion - possibly because he thinks of them as 'Aunt' and 'Uncle'. Even funnier is when the shoe finally drops as he watches the couple dance several evenings later.
Good God. Illyan is sleeping with my aunt.
And then later, * Ivan's reaction to his mother's new....paramour:
Miles: You don't need to bellow. Ivan: I am not bellowing. I'm being firm. Miles: Could you please be firm at a lower volume? Ivan: No. Simon Illyan is sleeping with my mother, and it's your fault!
In The Warrior's Apprentice, Tung accuses "Admiral Naismith" of having delusions of grandeur:
Tung: Who do you think you are? Lord Vorkosigan?note meaning Aral, whom Tung idolizes; still, Miles almost chokes on his food.
Cordelia accidentally setting her hair on fire in Shards Of Honor.
Later, when she escapes Beta Colony, she bluffs her way onto a ship claiming she's on a secret mission. When asked why she's wearing slippers, she says, essentially, "Uh... it's classified."
During his recounting of the Tau Verde War at the end of The Warrior's Apprentice, Miles pauses to take some antacid. His father borrows the flask and takes a hearty swig himself. One gets the impression that this will not be the last time that Miles will cause this reaction over the course of his very eventful life full of zany schemes...
The Running Gag of "What the HELL, Simon?" in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, culminated by Gregor himself.
You have to wonder if Gregor secretly enjoyed the opportunity to be sarcastic behind closed doors with Illyan - Illyan sure thinks he did.