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Inevitable spoilers for Lois McMaster Bujold's book Memory ahead.

At the end of Memory, why does Miles turn down Gregor's offer of the job of chief of security? Yes, he says earlier in the book that he would hate the job, but consider: during his whole life, he has said that he wants to serve the emperor. Gregor says earlier in the book that if Miles had become chief of security, he would have been the first man of his generation that Gregor was able to put into a position of real power. It seems out of character to me that Miles turns this opportunity down because he wouldn't enjoy the job. Is there another reason?

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Miles is, at this point in his life, something of an adrenaline junkie. He's fiercely proud of all the work he's done as Admiral Naismith with the Dendarii. Up to this point in the series, he's a very hands-on leader, and always in the thick of the action. It's won him numerous accolades, albeit classified ones. As he tells Haroche when he goes to him as Imperial Auditor:

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.

Earlier, after his ice bath, Miles tells Ivan and Galeni:

You can see why I was afraid it would be a one-way ticket to a medical discharge, at worst. A desk job at best, and no more Dendarii Mercenaries, no more field work.

A little later in the conversation:

Miles's brows rose in startlement. "Impossible. Being a desk driver requires very different qualities than being a field agent. A diametrically opposed attitude to the rules, for starters. I'm not... wasn't nearly ready for Illyan's job."

[...]

"Chief of ImpSec at age thirty-five. Huh. God be praised, I'm saved from that at least."

To be fair, this was all before Miles's voyage of self-discovery that takes place over the course of the novel. I'm quoting it here because I think it's still relevant. Just because Miles comes to a new understanding of who he is doesn't mean he's fundamentally changed.

So when he tells the emperor:

[Miles:] "I'm not playing hard-to-get. It's a desk job stuffed with the most tedious routine, in between the terror-weeks, and the chief of ImpSec not only almost never gets off-planet further than Komarr, he scarcely ever gets out of Cockro— out of ImpSec HQ. I would hate it."

[Gregor:] "I think you could do it."

"I think I could do almost anything I had to do, if you ordered it, Gregor."

I believe him. He's not ready to settle down in one spot yet. He would have the terror and adrenaline rush when ImpSec was dealing with a crisis, but it would, in many respects, be a remarkably helpless sort of terror. He would be stuck behind a desk, directing divisions of analysts and agents, and waiting for what came back. He would not and could not be in the thick of the action like he was as the Little Admiral. The rest of the time, he'd be looking over reports from various departments, not commanding a mercenary fleet looking for action.

He wants to serve the emperor, yes, but he knows that there are people better suited to the job than he is. Because he knows he would hate it, he probably would not be able to do the job to the best of his ability, and therefore he would not truly be serving the emperor. Allegre is much better suited and prepared for the job, and Miles wholeheartedly recommends him for the position.

Contrast this to the position of Imperial Auditor. Every case is different, and auditors are used when normal means of problem solving have failed. This allows an individual auditor to get stuck into the problem, and tackle it head on, just like Miles did as Admiral Naismith, and allows him to serve the emperor by solving some of the thorniest Imperial problems.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer! I think you've hit on the best answer with the point that he knows another person would be better suited to the job. I'm still not sure I find that a very satisfactory reason in-universe (remember, the auditor job wasn't on the table yet), but of course, it was necessary to the plot that he turn the job down. – Pixel Aug 14 '17 at 23:55
  • @Pixel No need for thanks - all part of the service. I contrasted the ImpSec Chief position with Imperial Auditor to double down on the point of why Miles would be and knows he would be the wrong person for the ImpSec Chief job. You're right that the offer wasn't there yet when he refused the chief position and the auditor job offer came as a complete surprise to him. – Dranon Aug 15 '17 at 2:07
  • @Pixel Going farther afield to other books - and what might be worth a separate answer altogether that I really don't have time for now - Miles also has a somewhat, shall we say, flexible interpretation of what it means to serve the emperor. I'm thinking particularly of all the times he bucked the chain of command because he justified it as serving a higher good. It turns was right, but properly studying and working to eventually be a count, and following legal military orders are also part of serving the emperor that he wasn't so good at. – Dranon Aug 15 '17 at 2:09

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