As a literary Long Runner, The Vorkosigan Saga has managed to not only provide awesome moments, but more awesome as the series went along, primarily because of the reader's then familiarity with all of the characters and their motivations.
[The novels are presented in internal chronological order.]
- Claire manages to break her slave mentality and overpowers a tech trying to sterilize her.She grinned in wild exhilaration, brought his arms in, out again at will. I'm stronger! I'm stronger! I'm stronger than him and I never even knew it...!
- After her shrink has a Critical Psychoanalysis Failure, Cordelia is about to be forcibly taken for "treatment." Two of her superior officers and a mook are there to make sure she goes. Cordelia holds the shrink's head in a fish tank to find out where the others are, and then faultlessly IndyPloys her way to safety.
- Infiltrating the Anti-Mutiny on the General Vorkraft and stunning every man there, before escaping back to her own ship. This is when the other best idea was a head-on assault into battlefield-grade weaponry through a choke point deliberately designed as a defensive killing ground.
- Aral Vorkosigan's first truly badass scene where he gives the guy a gun and turns his back to him.
- I told him I couldn't work with a man who made my shoulder blades itch, and this was the last chance I was going to give him for instant promotion.
- Even better, Aral admits that he never tried it before, and the only reason he tried it was that he was physically exhausted and didn't care if he got shot or not.
- Bothari, who's been a victim of Ges Vorrutyer's extensive and excruciating physical and mental rape, at first defies Ges's conditioning and flat out refuses to rape a captive, naked and bound Cordelia — and then when Ges starts to do the deed himself, Bothari slits his throat from ear to ear. Gruesome, most certainly, but it's also one of the bravest things Bothari's ever done.
- Let's start off with the Crowner of Crownersnote so far as the Vorkosigan Saga is concerned: The Shopping Trip from Barrayar.
- Cordelia, Droushnakovi, and Bothari shanghai Koudelka into helping them recover the Uterine Replicator containing Miles' fetus (which had been captured by enemy forces and will fail from lack of regular maintenance within a week) and Princess Kareen, explicitly against Aral's wishes.
- After infiltrating the capital — which is solidly held by "Emperor" Vidal Vordarian — the group finds that the missing Alys and Padma Vorpatril are hiding near the not-so-safe-house they've picked. Cordelia runs an Indy Ploy to try to rescue them. It's only partially successful: Padma is killed in the crossfire, but Alys and baby Ivan are successfully exfiltrated from the capital by Kou.
- Using Drou's knowledge of the Palace grounds from her training as Princess Kareen and Prince/Emperor Gregor's bodyguard, the remaining three successfully enter the residential wing and locate the Replicator. Cordelia Turns Kareen to their side...with a shoe. Unfortunately, Kareen's reaction is a bit extreme, and she is killed in the scuffle; most of the wing is set ablaze. Faced with the problem of leaving the palace grounds with a very uncooperative hostage (Vidal Vordarian), Cordelia has Bothari take more direct measures to deal with it. As an afterthought, she decides to put a souvenir of the expedition in a plastic shopping bag she picked up from the residence.
- Upon returning to Aral's headquarters (with Replicator and Vordarian) the classic exchange occurs. (This also counts as CMoF material to many.)Piotr: Good God, woman! Where have you been?
Cordelia (Holding up the plastic bag): Shopping. Want to see what I bought?
Vordarian's head is rolled out on the conference table to a mixture of shock, horror, and grim amusement.
Aral: [deadpan] But of course. Every Vor lady goes to the capital to shop.
Cordelia: I paid too much for it.
Aral: That, too, is traditional.
- Aral then asks all the men to leave for a moment.Aral: Gentlemen. If you will be pleased to excuse yourselves for a few minutes. I wish to be alone with my wife.
Anonymous whisperer: Brave man.
- This is followed by a comment to some of Vordarian's men in the room.Cordelia: Officers. I recommend that when this conference resumes, you surrender unconditionally upon Lord Vorkosigan's mercy. He may still have somenote . I'm tired of your stupid war. End it.
- The War of Vordarian's Pretendership comes to a rapid conclusion, and a Barrayaran legend is born. Becomes a Brick Joke in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen when she complains she only brought home one body part once, and no one will forget it.
- Cordelia and Bothari executing Vordarian counts even just by itself! Think of it as a CMOA within a CMOA.
- The judo practice scene is pretty awesome, from Drou proving herself against Bothari, to the final line:
- Aral: (to soldiers) And that is how we used to play the game on the old General Vorkraft. (sits next to Cordelia)
Cordelia: (quiet aside to Aral) And with all that, how often did you get into an actual fight?
Aral: (quiet aside to Cordelia) Very, very rarely. But when we did, we won.
- Drou gets her own dose of Awesome by being able to score a point off Bothari, who is more than twice her size.
- Aral and Piotr are having an extremely heated exchange, but when they learn Vordarian has started his coup, both Aral and Piotr become united as if the argument never existed, and turn extremely pragmatic in their plans to combat him. Thanks to Cordelia nudging Illyan to keep his eye on Vordarian, Aral was even prepared for it.Despite Negri's surprise, neither Piotr nor Aral seemed at all panicked. No wasted motion; no wasted words.
Aral: (to Piotr) You, take the boy. (Piotr nods) Meet us — no. Don't tell even me where. You contact us.
Aral: Take Cordelia.
Piotr: (beat) Ah.
Aral: And Sergeant Bothari. For Cordelia. Drou being temporarily off duty.
Piotr: I must have Esterhazy, then.
Aral: I'll want the rest of your men.
- Aral has a very low-key moment when confronting his father after Piotr tries to have Miles' fetus dumped. As Cordelia mentally remarks, One day only: The Irresistible Force Meets the Immovable Object. Tickets, five marks.
- Miles' scheme for rescuing Gregor from Cavilo, culminating with the Shoot the Hostage gambit. Bonus points for Gregor picking up the ball and completing his own rescue by seducing his seducer, convincing her she can marry him and become Empress, and then leads her into scrapping her own plans before Miles gets him to safety. This is the time where Gregor gets to shine, and his gloating to Cavilo says it all:"Commander Cavilo, both my parents died violently in political intrigue before I was six years old. A fact you might have researched. Did you think you were dealing with an amateur?"
- There's a tinge of sadness when Gregor softly tells Miles afterward, "I wish she were real."
- Miles not only brags to Cavilo that he got paid three times over, including from the planetary government she betrayed (the other two being the Barrayarans and their original employers in the Hub), but foils her last attempt to annoy him (by wearing perfume he has a severe allergy to) by producing nose plugs.
- A lovely Ironic Echo, too, as Cavilo's original plans were supposed to culminate in her getting paid three times over. (her fee from the planetary government she was betraying, a price from the Cetagandans for betraying them, and the loot she would steal from the planet when she betrayed them)
- Cavilo has her own Crowning Moment when she kills Metzov with his own nerve disruptor, after he'd raped her: "Stanis, darling. 'Spread your legs for me, you bitch, or I'll blow your brains out'."
- Miles and Gregor messing with Cavilo. The first phase: Miles portrays himself to Cavilo as an Evil Chancellor, ready to betray Gregor, Aral, and the entire Council of Counts. The second phase: Gregor (who's been isolated from everyone except Cavilo) is shown evidence of Miles' "betrayal", and segues into a portrayal of Miles as an unstable, hilariously incompetent schemer with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, generally harmless so long as he's properly medicated. (Elena, who's known both of them since she was born, is literally rolling on the floor at this point, biting her sleeve to stifle the laughter.) The third phase:Miles: Deactivate your weapons and freeze, or I'll blow Gregor to atoms!
Gregor: His meds must be further off dose than I thought. No, watchhe's bluffing. I'll prove it.
- Gregor then proceeds to walk right up to the (deactivated; although Gregor didn't know that, he suspected it) muzzles of the large energy weapons pointed at him, so mesmerizing those watching that they don't notice he's crossed the hangar blast door threshold—until Miles bangs down the blast doors. Only then does Cavilo realize how completely Gregor and Miles, without any chance to coordinate, have, in concert, tricked her into doing just what they'd wanted.
- Duv Galeni, who is an ImpSec captain and therefore trained in combat, hand-to-hand or otherwise, but not to the standards of someone expected to need it frequently, has just had a Very Bad Week involving some epic Daddy Issues. He's chatting with his Cetagandan counterpart, playing I-know-you-know-I-know, when he's surprised and stunned by an actual commando, a Cetagandan Century-captain. He was only Mostly Stunned, though, and when he's started to recover a bit, he takes on both officers in a bout of Percussive Therapy that leaves deep skull-shaped dents in the fender of a nearby car. This was all offscreen, so we get it in bits and flashes from Miles's increasingly impressed/disturbed perspective.
- The short story is one big CMOA for Miles. Drop a single man in a prisoner camp. He's a dwarf with brittle bones. He has nothing, not even clothes on. What do you think will happen ? He liberates the whole camp, of course.
- Mark, when he realizes he can deal with Ryoval: "You see me, Baron. But I see you, too."
- Mark's Pre-Mortem One-Liner to Ryoval: "I am too a Vorkosigan. The one who was trained as a deep-penetration mole and assassin. It really pisses me off when people underestimate me, y'know?" He then proceeds to bludgeon Ryoval to death with his bare feet, and retain enough composure to secure Ryoval's passcodes and find a way out of the Baron's stronghold without getting caught — and then he Deals with Baron Fell, giving him control over House Ryoval in exchange for liberating the Durona group. Miles, a disbelieving observer, is in complete awe.
- Meta example: The scene where Simon fires Miles. Exquisitely painful to read each time even when you know that in the end it will all turn out for the better. Not an easy writer's feat.
- "The Assault on Cockroach Central" shows Miles' Guile Hero talents in all their glory. He's not just a master of the Indy Ploy; given time to set up his Batman Gambit, he can plot with the best of them, doing an admirable job of covering all the bases and setting up his supporting cast to supply needed lines at the proper time. (Granted, Bujold follows the Unspoken Plan Guarantee trope by not letting the reader in on the scheme in advance, helping to ensure it goes off without a hitch...)
- Once Miles gets on the case, he unravels it in less than a week. Gregor notes that writing the report will take longer than solving it, which considering the conspiracy was perpetrated by the new acting head of Imp Sec and had repercussions for long-term Imperium security, is saying enough.
- Aunt Alys gets one of her own, calling Miles, the head of ImpSec General Haroche and Emperor Gregor idiots for not letting her see an afflicted Illyan. Yes, she called two of the most powerful people on Barrayar morons.
- After instigating his greatest failure at the beginning of the book, Miles redeems himself in epic fashion by refusing Haroche's bribe of everything Miles' thought he'd ever wanted, but at the cost of an innocent man and his own self-respect. As Miles puts it, "The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart."
- Ekaterin stands up to her emotionally abusive husband Etienne, and tells him point blank that she's going to leave him and file for divorce, never losing her temper or showing fear...even when he throws one of her prized plants over the balcony of their flat. Miles himself understands just how brave she was in that moment, as he knows full well how dangerous it can be to challenge someone bigger and stronger than you.
- Miles is shocked the widowed Radovas was going to be left destitute through no fault of her own, leading to this line when he decides to use his Imperial Auditor leverage:Miles: She gets nothing, then? Through no fault of her own, she's stripped of all normal widow's benefits just because of her... late husband's recklessness?
(Vorsoisson shrugs helplessly.)
Miles: Wait. Gregor does not approve of widows being left destitute. Trust me on this one. Vorsoisson, go ahead and run the benefits through for her anyway.
Vorsoisson: I can'thowdo you want me to alter the date of his resignation?
Miles: No, of course not. Simply make it by an Imperial order.
Vorsoisson: (taken aback) There are no places on the forms for an Imperial order!
Miles: A design defect you shall have to correct, Administrator Vorsoisson.
- It becomes rather heartwarming when that widow turns out to be the deciding vote in whether or not the terrorists agree to surrender quietly, and she cites that moment as the reason she gives up.
- Ekaterin scores a nice one toward the end of the novel. Her Adrenaline Makeover prods her into creating a mess that even Miles would be proud to call his own. (Start with a standard Sick Old Lady ploy to distract your guard. Run for a sealed control booth in the ensuing confusion. Use the remote control for a float pallet on which a Nefarious Device is loaded to first raise it to a height of 4 meters, invert it, then shut off the anti-grav. Bounce the rubble on the floor a few times just to make sure. Then use the comconsole in the booth call for help, as it was too late for any errors on ImpSec's part to screw up the important matter.)
- Cordelia and the couch. Also a Funny Moment. Miles succinctly informs Mark that he needn't worry about Cordelia being able to influence Kou and Drou.Miles: Butter, meet laser beam. Laser beam, butter. Oops.
- The same couch that Kou and Drou used to umm... consummate their relationship in Barrayar
- It was just as awesome when she got Kou and Drou together by doing pretty much the same thing in Barrayar. While on a covert mission deep in enemy territory, no less.
- Count Falco Vorpartil's "The Reason You Suck" Speech regarding Rule #1 to Richars:
- Falco: There is an unwritten rule among us, Richars; if you attempt any ploy on the far side of ethical, you'd damned well better be good enough at your game not to get caught. You're not good enough.
- Ekaterin's marriage proposal. In front of the entire Council of Counts in session. Also a Funny Moment. "Twit." That scene was arguably a CMOA for several other characters as well. Ivan, Dono, and Count Vorhalas all had a hand in the awesome there.
- Aral gets a subtle one in that scene, too. The Council of Counts moderator begins to stop her from calling Richars out, but:
- Behind Ekaterin, the Viceroy of Sergyar stared down at the Lord Guardian, tapped his index finger suggestively against the side of his nose, and made a small two-fingered sweeping gesture taking in Richars below: No; let him hang himself. Ivan, glancing over his shoulder, grinned abruptly and swiveled back.
- Before that, Ivan gets to out-Miles Miles, savoring every second of it.Miles: (in awe) Busy night, was it, Ivan?
- Before that, when Richars tries to recruit Miles but inadvertently turns him against him, with Miles giving him a subtle warning. (Richars is not a subtle man.)Miles: My grandfather... learned his political science from the Cetagandans. Mad Emperor Yuri offered him a postgraduate education after that. My grandfather schooled my father. (thinking) And both of them schooled me. This is the only warning you will receive, Richars.
- Nikki Vorsoisson in A Civil Campaign. A paternal relation is trying to take custody of Nikki against his will - so he calls Gregor for help. To repeat: he calls the freaking emperor. Gregor answers, summons all concerned to his closest office via Secret Police, and cuts out of a parliamentary hearing to straighten said relation out in person by sending the provocateur someplace distant, a fitting punishment for someone too stupid to be in any sort of authority. Gregor then tells young Nikki why and how his father died in ways that Nikki can understand, all the while protecting his father's reputation in his eyes. Ekaterin at first begins to protest, but realizes that Gregor was giving Nikki the softened version of his father's actions, which were completely self-interest and self-destructive. In addition, Gregor is also dealing with an incident related to Tien's death that would have caused a civil war between Barrayar and Komarr, so it was a highly classified state secret. The way he worded it gave Nikki a stake in keeping it secret to preserve his father's rep, so Gregor killed two birds with one stone.
- Sergeant Taura is the first person to notice there's something fishy about Ekaterin's illness, and uses her own genetic modifications and Roic's help to suss out the source of it...which just so happens to be some doctored pearls that passed the gift screening, thus saving Ekaterin's life.
- Ekaterin then taunts her would-be assassin by having the necklace cleaned and safe, then wearing it. When asked about the price, she wryly says that the necklace cost its purchaser everything they had; she and everyone in the know know it means the perpetrator's life.
- The Zero-G Quaddie ballet. After that slice of awesome, Miles thinks to himself that nobody could see that and imagine that the Quaddies were some kind of cripples or mutants.
- Russo Gupta only survives the Cetaganda contagion that he was infected with by sheer luck, and his friends end up dying horribly. It would be understandable if Gupta had cut his losses at that point — but instead he sets off after the person who murdered his friends and ingeniously tracks them across the galaxy by focusing on the weight of their cargo, determined to make them pay.
- Ekaterin's motivational speech to Miles:Ekaterin: If you die on me out here, I will not be grieved, I will be pissed. This is all very fine, love, but may I point out that you don't have time to indulge in angst right now. You're the man who used to rescue hostages for a living. You are not allowed to not get out of this one. So stop worrying about me and start paying attention to what you are doing. Are you listening to me, Miles Vorkosigan? Don't you dare die! I won't have it!
Miles: (meekly) Yes, dear.
- At the end of the novel, Miles is called upon by the Star Creche to donate his genetic material. That's right, the superhuman haut ladies think that Miles is awesome enough to have his genes studied for possible inclusion in a future generation.
- Consul Vorlynkin holding off the
ninjasarsonists attempting to torch a cryo-clinic, saving hundreds (or even thousands) of lives in the process. Single-handedly. With a crowbar. Which he took away from them; he was empty-handed at the start of the fight.
- Ivan, after putting up with his wife's family with superhuman patience, has -_ because of their greed and attempts to reclaim a Cetaganda treasure stash -_ ended up trapped with them in an underground chamber that is both running out of air and filling up with water. (Keep in mind that Ivan, thanks to a misadventure a few books back, is claustrophobic.) Then one of Tej's sisters manages to set herself on fire thanks to some dodgy aged perfume. While everyone else is panicking, Ivan swiftly gets her to stop, drop and roll, and puts the fire out with a bin. Then, finally having had enough, he climbs up onto the bin and Tej realises that 'goodness, he could yell':
- "Could you people stop trying to come up with novel ways to kill me for just one hour? Or maybe the rest of the night? I would so like that. Just the rest of the night. Just sit down. Just stop doing anything. Sit down and wait sensibly. Earth, water, air, fire - you're running out of elements, here!
- This helps in finally gaining him the respect of his in-laws, since they actually start listening to what he has to say after that and taking him seriously.
- Earlier in the book, Ivan graciously handled Moira's status. She was someone who was removed from the Star Crèche, an honor she valued more than anything, and basically Reassigned to Antarctica, and who had just suffered the humiliation of having her hair cut to the nub by a fetishistnote . However, Ivan, thanks to his experience with haut ladies, treated her as someone deserving of full haut lady honor and his service as one lower status than her. While she remained somewhat aloof, she had the air of "this one can be trained", a compliment to what haut women normally dismiss as "outlander barbarians".
- Tej's grandmother, Moira, rediscovers the Cetagandan gene survey of Barrayar and then offers to sell it back to the Star Creche. Note that Moira is still somewhat pissed off about being culled from the haut genepool, even after a hundred plus years, besides her ghem husband and various other compatriots being screwed over by the Cetagandan Empire. So, when the buyer from the Star Creche is right in front of her, Moira vaporizes the brooch in which the gene survey is stored.
- Shiv and Udine's reported reactions, as well. Udine merely thinks it was wasteful (setting fire to ten million Betan dollars), while Shiv laughs — because it was he who taught her how to be her own woman and beholden to no one. Best Served Cold indeed.
- Jole saving Miles' eldest children from being scalded by acidic body parts raining from the sky (It Makes Sense in Context) by taking off his jacket, covering them both, then being a Human Shield. Jole suffers extensive burns, but saves the kids.
- In the B plot, Kareen Koudelka and Mark comes to Cordelia's rescue from being indebted to a sleazy construction company by securing a contract from Escobar, which involves dropping a factory from orbit.note Cordelia grins and prepares to tell PlasDan what to go do with itself.
- Jole shows he rivals Kareen in 100% Adoration Rating, managing to make even Miles approve of his relationship with his mother and father and basically having kids with Joles' and Aral's DNA.Jole: (thinking) I win. We all do.