In which Disian completes her schooling.
So. Not the Department, then. Instead, the Lyre Institute, clearly some relative of the Tanjalyre Institute of distant and unfond memory, Cantra’s birthplace. A reminder that even when our heroes succeed in squishing the Department once and for all, there will still be other things to make the wide universe interesting.
The Lyre Institute, we’re told, regards its people not as people but as useful objects, and gives them numbers instead of names. So where did Tolly get such an impressive name as “Tollance Berik-Jones”? Picked it up somewhere when he was out on his own, before they dragged him back in, I guess.
Tolly’s interactions with Disian suggest that he’s a good choice for the job he’d embarked on last time we saw him, of sorting out the hastily-woken and confused Admiral Bunter. Disian’s own existence is interesting, because it suggests that somebody has continued or revived the shipbuilding programme that produced Bechimo. (Though perhaps without some of Bechimo’s Old Tech-influenced special features, like the ghost drive and the bonding mechanism. And Bechimo has a Morality module instead of an Ethics module, though perhaps that’s only a difference of terminology.)
This story presumably takes place before Tolly’s appearance in Dragon in Exile (the alternative is that a future novel will feature his recapture by the Lyre Institute, which would be a bit of a downer), but it’s not yet clear how much before. Presumably there will be hints in future appearances.