Miles Vorkosigan graduates from the Barrayaran Military Academy with high expectations of ship command, but is disappointed with an assignment as meteorologist to Lazkowski Base, an arctic training camp. His tenure in the windy, snow-covered north is cut short when Miles narrowly averts a massacre between the trigger-happy base commander and mutinous recruits. After a brief stay under 'house arrest', Miles is re-assigned to investigate a suspicious military build-up near a wormhole nexus. Reviving his undercover persona as mercenary Admiral Miles Naismith, his routine information-gathering duty expands to a rescue mission when the Emperor of Barrayar disappears during a political conference on a nearby space station. Miles must use his considerable negotiating skills to avoid a showdown between competing powers for control of the wormhole, find the Emperor, and watch his back for the arctic base commander seeking bloody vengeance.