The list of his victims was interesting. He had a pattern of killing anyone who had ever made him
feel or seem helpless or vulnerable. Including the doctor who had repaired his leg. Apparently he
wasn't much for gratitude.
Putting together the information, Peter could see that his unknown correspondent was right. If in
fact this sicko was running the operation that was using these kids for military planning, it was
almost certain that the Russian officers working with him did not know his criminal record.
Whatever agency liberated Achilles from the mental hospital would not have shared that
information with the military who were expected to work with him. There would be outrage that
would be heard at the highest levels of the Russian government.
And even if the government did not act to get rid of Achilles and release the kids, the Russian
Army jealously guarded its independence from the rest of the government, especially the
intelligence-and-dirty-jobs agencies. There was a good chance that some of these children might
"escape" before the government acted-indeed, such unauthorized actions might force the
government to make it official and pretend that the "early releases" had been authorized.
It was always possible, of course, that Achilles would kill one or more of the kids as soon as he was
exposed. At least Peter would not have to face those particular children in battle. And now that he
knew something about Achilles, Peter was in a much better position to face him in a head-to-head
struggle. Achilles killed with his own hands. Since that was a very stupid thing to do, and Achilles
did not test stupid, it had to be an irresistible compulsion. People with irresistible compulsions
could be terrifying enemies-but they could also be beaten.
For the first time in weeks, Peter felt a glimmer of hope. This was how his work as Locke and
Demosthenes paid off-people with certain kinds of secret information that they wanted to make
public found ways to hand it to Peter without his even having to ask for it. Much of his power came
from this disorganized network of informants. It never bothered his pride that he was being "used"
by this anonymous correspondent. As far as Peter was concerned, they were using each other. And
besides, Peter had earned the right to get such helpful gifts.
Still, Peter always looked gift horses in the mouth. As either Locke or Demosthenes, he emailed
friends and contacts in various government agencies, trying to get confirmation of various aspects
of the story he was preparing to write. Could the break-in at the mental institution have been carried
out by Russian agents? Did satellite surveillance show any kind of activity near the sixty-fourth
parallel that might correspond with the arrival or departure of the ten kidnapped kids? Was
anything known about the whereabouts of Achilles that would contradict the idea of his being in
control of the whole kidnap operation?
It took a couple of days to get the story right. He tried it first as a column by Demosthenes, but he
soon realized that since Demosthenes was constantly putting out warnings about Russian plots, he
might not be taken very seriously. It had to be Locke who published this. And that would be
dangerous, because up to now Locke had been scrupulous about not seeming to take sides against
Russia. That would now make it more likely that his exposure of Achilles would be taken
seriously-but it ran a grave risk of costing Locke some of his best contacts in Russia. No matter
how much a Russian might despise what his government was doing, the devotion to Mother Russia
ran deep. There was a line you couldn't cross. For more than a few of his contacts there, publishing
this piece would cross that line.
Until he hit upon the obvious solution. Before submitting the piece to International Aspects, he
would send copies to his Russian contacts to give a heads-up on what was coming. Of course the
expose would fly through the Russian military. It was possible that the repercussions would begin
even before his column officially appeared. And his contacts would know he wasn't trying to hurt
Russia-he was giving them a chance to clean house, or at least put a spin on the story before it ran.
It wasn't a long story, but it named names and opened doors that other reporters could follow up on.
And they would follow up. From the first paragraph, it was dynamite.
The mastermind behind the kidnapping of Ender's "jeesh" is a serial killer named Achilles. He was
taken from a mental institution during the League War in order to bring his dark genius to bear on
Russian military strategy. He has repeatedly murdered with his own hands, and now ten brilliant
children who once saved the world are completely at his mercy. What were the Russians thinking
when they gave power to this psychopath? Or was Achilles' bloody record concealed even from
There it was-in the first paragraph, right along with the accusation, Locke was generously
providing the spin that would allow the Russian government and military to extricate themselves
from this mess.
It took twenty minutes to send the individual messages to all his Russian contacts. In each message,
he warned them that they had only about six hours before he had to turn in his column to the editor
at International Aspects. IA's fact-checkers would add another hour or two to the delay, but they
would find complete confirmation of
Peter pushed SEND, SEND, SEND.
Then he settled down to pore over the data to figure out how it revealed to him the identity of his
correspondent. Another mental patient? Hardly likely-they were all brought back into confinement.
An employee of the mental hospital? Impossible for someone like that to find out who was behind
Locke and Demosthenes. Someone in law enforcement? More likely-but few names of
investigators were offered in the news stories. Besides, how could he know which of the
investigators had tipped him off? No, his correspondent had promised, in effect, a unique solution.
Something in the data would tell him exactly who his informant was, and exactly how to reach him.
Emailing investigators indiscriminately would serve only to risk exposing Peter with no guarantee
that any of the people he contacted would be the right one.
The one thing that did not happen as he searched for his correspondent's identity was any kind of
response from any of his Russian friends. If the story had been wrong, or if the Russian military
had already known about Achilles' history and wanted to cover it up, he would have been getting
constant emails urging him not to run the story, then demanding, and finally threatening him. So
the fact that no one wrote him at all served as all the confirmation he needed from the Russian end.
As Demosthenes, he was anti-Russian. As Locke, he was reasonable and fair to all nations. As
Peter, though, he was envious of the Russian sense of national identity, the cohesiveness of
Russians when they felt their country was in danger. If Americans had ever had such powerful
bonds, they had expired long before Peter was born. To be Russian was the most powerful part of a
person's identity. To be American was about as important as being a Rotarian-very important if you
were elected to high office, but barely noticeable in most citizens' sense of who they were. That
was why Peter never planned his future with America in mind. Americans expected to get their
way, but they had no passion for anything. Demosthenes could stir up anger and resentment, but it
amounted to spitefulness, not purpose. Peter would have to root himself elsewhere. Too bad Russia
wasn't available to him. It was a nation that had a vast will to greatness, coupled with the most
extraordinary run of stupid leadership in history, with the possible exception of the kings of Spain.
And Achilles had got there first.
Six hours after sending the article to his Russian contacts, he pushed SEND once more, submitting
it to his editor. As he expected, three minutes later he got a response.
To which Peter replied, "Check it. My sources confirm."
Then he went to bed.
And woke up almost before he had gone to sleep. He couldn't have closed his book, and then his
eyes, for more than a couple of minutes before he realized that he had been looking in the wrong
direction for his informant. It wasn't one of the investigators who tipped him off. It was someone
connected to the I.F. at the highest level, someone who knew that Peter Wiggin was Locke and
Demosthenes. But not Graff or Chamrajnagar-they would not have left hints about who they really
were. Someone else, someone in whom they confided, perhaps.
But no one from the I.F. had turned up in the information about Achilles' escape. Except for the nun
who found Achilles in the first place.
He reread the message. Could this have come from a nun? Possibly, but why would she be sending
the information so anonymously? And why would the kidnapped children smuggle a message to
Had she recruited one of them?
Peter got out of bed and padded to his desk, where he called up the information on all the
kidnapped children. Every one of them came to Battle School through the normal testing process;
none had been found by the nun, and so none of them would have any reason to smuggle a message
What other connection could there be? Achilles was an orphan on the streets of Rotterdam when
Sister Carlotta identified him as having military talent-he couldn't have had any family connections.
Unless he was like that Greek kid from Ender's jeesh who was killed in a missile attack a few
weeks ago, the supposed orphan whose real family was identified while he was in Battle School.
Orphan. Killed in a missile attack. What was his name? Julian Delphiki. Called Bean. A name he
picked up when he was an orphan ... where? Rotterdam. Just like Achilles.
It was not a stretch to imagine that Sister Carlotta found both Bean and Achilles. Bean was one of
Ender's companions on Eros during the last battle. He was the only one who, instead of being
kidnapped, had been killed. Everyone assumed it was because he was so heavily protected by the
Greek military that the would-be kidnappers gave up and settled for keeping rival powers from
using him. But what if there was never any intention to kidnap him, because Achilles already knew
him and, more to the point, Bean knew too much about Achilles?
And what if Bean was not dead at all? What if he was living in hiding, protected by the widespread
belief that he was dead? It was absolutely believable that the captive kids would choose him to
receive their smuggled message, since he was the only one of their group, besides Ender himself,
who wasn't in captivity with them. And who else would have such a powerful motive to work to get
them out, along with the proven mental ability to think of a strategy like the one the informant had
laid out in his letter?
A house of cards, that's what he was building, one leap after another-but each intuitive jump felt
absolutely right. That letter was written by Bean. Julian Delphiki. And how would Peter contact
him? Bean could be anywhere, and there was no hope of contacting him since anybody who knew
he was alive would be all the more certain to pretend that he was dead and refuse to accept a
message for him.
Again, the solution should be obvious from the data, and it was. Sister Carlotta.
Peter had a contact in the Vatican-a sparring partner in the wars of ideas that flared up now and
then among those who frequented the discussions of international relations on the nets. It was
already morning in Rome, though barely. But if anyone was at his desk early in Italy, it would be a
hardworking monk attached to the Vatican foreignaffairs office.
Sure enough, an answer came back within fifteen minutes.
Sister Carlotta's location is protected. Messages can be forwarded. I will not read what you send via
me. (You can't work here if you don't know how to keep your eyes closed. )
Peter composed his message to Bean and sent it-to Sister Carlotta. If anyone knew how to reach
Julian Delphiki in hiding, it would be the nun who had first found him. It was the only possible
solution to the challenge his informant had given him.
Finally he went back to bed, knowing that he wouldn't sleep long-he'd undoubtedly keep waking
through the night and checking the nets to see the reaction to his column.
What if no one cared? What if nothing happened? What if he had fatally compromised the Locke
persona, and for no gain?
As he lay in bed, pretending to himself that he might sleep, he could hear his parents snoring in
their room across the hall. It was both strange and comforting to hear them. Strange that he could
be worrying about whether something he had written might not cause an international incident, and
yet he was still living in his parents' house, their only child left at home. Comforting because it was
a sound he had known since infancy, that comforting assurance that they were alive, they were
close by, and the fact that he could hear them meant that when monsters leapt from the dark comers
of the room, they would hear him screaming.
The monsters had taken on different faces over the years, and hid in comers of rooms far from his
own, but that noise from his parents' bedroom was proof that the world had not ended yet.
Peter wasn't sure why, but he knew that the letter he had just sent to Julian Delphiki, via Sister
Carlotta, via his friend in the Vatican, would put an end to his long idyll, playing at world affairs
while having his mother do his laundry. He was finally putting himself into play, not as the cool
and distant commentator Locke or the hotblooded demagogue Demosthenes, both of them
electronic constructs, but as Peter Wiggin, a young man of flesh and blood, who could be caught,
who could be harmed, who could be killed.
If anything should have kept him awake, it was that thought. But instead he felt relieved. Relaxed.
The long waiting was almost over. He fell asleep and did not wake until his mother called him to
breakfast. His father was reading a newsprint at breakfast. "What's the headline, Dad?" asked Peter.
"They're saying that the Russians kidnapped those kids. And put them under the control of a known
murderer. Hard to believe, but they seem to know all about this Achilles guy. Got busted out of a
mental hospital in Belgium. Crazy world we live in. Could have been Ender." He shook his head.
Peter could see how his mother froze for just a moment at the mention of Ender's name. Yes, yes,
Mother, I know he's the child of your heart and you grieve every time you hear his name. And you
ache for your beloved daughter Valentine who has left Earth and will never return, not in your
lifetime. But you still have your firstborn with you, your brilliant and good-looking son Peter, who
is bound to produce brilliant and beautiful grandchildren for you someday, along with a few other
things like, oh, who knows, maybe bringing peace to Earth by unifying it under one government?
Will that console you just a little bit?
"The killer's name is ... Achilles?"
"No last name. Like some kind of pop singer or something."
Peter cringed inside. Not because of what his father had said, but because Peter had come this close
to correcting his father's pronunciation of "Achilles." Since Peter couldn't be sure that any of the
rags mentioned the French pronunciation of Achilles' name, how would he explain knowing the
correct pronunciation to Father?
"Has Russia denied it, of course?" asked Peter.
Father scanned the newsprint again. "Nothing about it in this story," he said.
"Cool," said Peter. "Maybe that means it's true."
"If it was true," said Father, "they would deny it. That's the way Russians are."
As if Father knew anything at all about the "way Russians are."
Got to move out, thought Peter, and live on my own. I'm in college. I'm trying to spring ten
prisoners from custody a third of the way around the world. Maybe I should use some of the money
I've been earning as a columnist to pay rent. Maybe I should do it right away, so that if Achilles
finds out who I am and comes to kill me, I won't bring danger down on my family.
Only Peter knew even as he formed this thought that there was another, darker thought hidden deep
inside himself: Maybe if I get out of here, they'll blow up the house when I'm not there, the way
they must have done with Julian Delphiki. Then they'll think I'm dead and I'll be safe for a while.
No, I don't wish for my parents to die! What kind of monster would wish for that? I don't want that.
But one thing Peter never did was lie to himself, or at least not for long. He didn't wish for his
parents to die, certainly not violently in an attack aimed at him. But he knew that if it did happen,
he'd prefer not to be with them at the time. Better, of course, if no one was home. But ... me first.
Ah yes. That was what Valentine hated about him. Peter had almost forgotten. That's why Ender
was the son that everyone loved. Sure, Ender wiped out a whole species of aliens, not to mention
offing a kid in a bathroom in Battle School. But he wasn't selfish like Peter.
"You aren't eating, Peter," said Mother.
"Sorry," said Peter. "I'm getting some test results back today, and I was brooding I guess."
"What subject?" asked Mother.
"World history," said Peter.
"Isn't it strange to realize that when they write history books in the future, your brother's name will
always be mentioned?" said Mother.
"Not strange," said Peter. "That's just one of the perks you get when you save the world."
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