Hegemon should name a Polemarch at all. We've done without a Strategos since the League War.
Why do we need the I.F. at all?"
"To keep the missiles from flying," said Suriyawong.
"That is the only serious argument in favor of keeping the I.F.," said the Chakri. "But many
governments believe that the I.F. should be reduced to the role of policing above the atmosphere.
There is no reason for any but a tiny fraction of the I.F.'s strength to be retained. And as for the
colonization program, many are saying it is a waste of money, when war is erupting here on Earth.
Well, enough of this little school class. There is grown-up work to be done. You will be consulted
if we find that you are needed."
The Chakri's dismissive air was surprising. It revealed a high level of hostility to both of these
Battle School graduates, not just the foreign one.
It was Suriyawong who challenged the Chakri on this. "Under what circumstances would we be
called upon?" he asked. "Either the plans I drew up will work or they won't. If they work, you won't
can on me. If they don't, you'll regard that as proof that I didn't know what I was doing, and you
still won't call on me."
The Chakri pondered this for a few moments. "Why, I'd never thought of it that way. I believe
"No, you're wrong," said Suriyawong. "Nothing ever goes as planned during a war. We have to be
able to adapt. I and the other Battle School graduates are trained for that. We should be kept
informed of every development. Instead, you have cut me off from the intelligence that is flowing
in. I should have seen this information the moment I woke up and looked at my desk. Why are you
cutting me off?"
For the same reason you cut me off, Bean thought. So that when victory comes, all the credit can
flow to the Chakri. "The Battle School children advised in the planning stages, but of course during
the actual war, we did not leave it up to the children." And if things went badly, "We faithfully
executed the plans drawn up by the Battle School children, but apparently schoolwork did not
prepare them for the real world." The Chakri was covering his ass.
Suriyawong seemed to understand this also, for he gave no more argument. He arose. "Permission
to leave, sir," he said.
"Granted. To you, too, Borommakot. Oh, and we'll probably be taking back the soldiers
Suriyawong gave you to play with. Restoring them to their original units. Please prepare them to
leave at once."
Bean also rose to his feet. "So Thailand is entering the war?"
"You will be informed of anything you need to know, when you need to know it."
As soon as they were outside the Chakri's office, Suriyawong sped up his pace. Bean had to run to
"I don't want to talk to you," said Suriyawong.
"Don't be a big baby about it," said Bean scornfully. "He's only doing to you what you already did
to me. Did I run off and pout?"
Suriyawong stopped and whirled on Bean. "You and your stupid meeting!"
"He already cut you off," said Bean. "Already. Before I even asked to meet."
Suriyawong knew that Bean was right. "So I'm stripped of influence."
"And I never had any," said Bean. "What are we going to do about it?"
"Do?" said Suriyawong. "If the Chakri forbids it, no one will obey my orders. Without authority,
I'm just a boy, still too young to enlist in the army."
"What we'll do first," said Bean, "is figure out what this all means."
"It means the Chakri is an oomay careerist," said Suriyawong.
"Come, let's walk out of the building."
"They can draw our words out of the open air, too, if they want," said Suriyawong.
"They have to try to do that. Here, anything we say is automatically recorded."
So Suriyawong walked with Bean out of the building that housed the highest of the Thai high
command, and together they wandered toward the married officers' housing, to a park with
playground equipment for the children of junior officers. When they sat on the swings, Bean
realized that he was actually getting a little too big for them.
"Your strike force," said Suriyawong. "Just when it might have been most needed, it'll be
"No it won't," said Bean.
"And why not?"
"Because you drew it from the garrison protecting the capital. Those troops won't be sent away. So
they'll remain in Bangkok. The important thing is to keep all our materiel together and within easy
reach. Do you think you still have authority for that?"
"As long as I call it routine cycling into storage," said Suriyawong, "I suppose so."
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"And you'll know where these men are assigned, so when we need to, we can call them back to us."
"If I try that, I'll be cut off from the net," said Suriyawong.
"If we try that," said Bean, "it will be because the net doesn't matter."
"Because the war is lost."
"Think about it," said Bean. "Only a stupid careerist would openly disdain you like this. He wanted
to shame and discourage you. Have you given him some offense?"
"I always give offense," said Suriyawong. "That's why everyone called me Surly behind my back in
Battle School. The only person I know who is more arrogant than I seem is you."
"Is Naresuan a fool?" asked Bean.
"I had not thought so," said Suriyawong.
"So this is a day for people who are not fools to act like fools."
"Are you saying I am also a fool?"
"I was saying that Achilles is apparently a fool."
"Because he is attacking with massed forces? You told us that was what we should expect.
Apparently Petra did not give him the better plan."
"Or he's not using it."
"But he'd have to be a fool not to use it," said Suriyawong.
"So if Petra gave him the better plan, and he declined to use it, then he and the Chakri are both
fools today. As when the Chakri pretended that he has no influence over foreign policy."
"About China, you mean?" Suriyawong thought about this for a moment. "You're right, of course
he has influence. But perhaps he simply didn't want us to know what the Chinese were doing.
Perhaps that was why he was so sure he didn't need us, that he didn't need to enter Burma. Because
he knows the Chinese are coming in."
"So," said Bean. "While we sit here, watching the war, we will learn much from the plain events as
they unfold. If China intervenes to stop the Indians before Achilles ever gets to Thailand, then we
know Chakri Naresuan is a smart careerist, not a stupid one. But if China does not intervene, then
we have to wonder why Naresuan, who is not a foolish man, has chosen to act like one."
"What do you suspect him of?" asked Suriyawong.
"As for Achilles," said Bean, "no matter how we construe these events, he has been a fool."
"No, he's only a fool if Petra actually gave him the better plan and he's ignoring it."
"On the contrary," said Bean. "He's a fool no matter what. To enter into this war with even the
possibility that China will intervene, that is foolish in the extreme."
"So perhaps he knows that China will not intervene, and then the Chakri would be the only fool,"
"Let's watch and see."
"I'll watch and grind my teeth," said Suriyawong.
"Watch with me," said Bean. "Let's drop this stupid competition between us. You care about
Thailand. I care about figuring out what Achilles is doing and stopping him. At this moment, those
two concerns coincide almost perfectly. Let's share everything we know."
"But you know nothing."
"I know nothing that you know," said Bean. "And you know nothing that I know."
"What can you possibly know?" said Suriyawong. "I'm the eemo who cut you off from the
"I knew about the deal between India and Pakistan."
"So did we."
"But you didn't tell me," said Bean. "And yet I knew."
Suriyawong nodded. "Even if the sharing is mostly one way, from me to you, it's long overdue,
don't you think?"
"I'm not interested in what's early or late," said Bean. "Only what happens next."
They went to the officers' mess and had lunch, then walked back to Suriyawong's building,
dismissed his staff for the rest of the day, and, with the building to themselves, sat in Suriyawong's
office and watched the progress of the war on Worldnet. Burmese resistance was brave but futile.
"Poland in 1939," said Bean.
"And here in Thailand," said Suriyawong, "we're being as timid as France and England."
"At least China isn't invading Burma from the north, the way Russia invaded Poland from the east,"
"Small mercies," said Suriyawong.
But Bean wondered. Why doesn't China step in? Beijing wasn't saying anything to the press. No
comment, about a war on their doorstep? What does China have up its sleeve?
"Maybe Pakistan wasn't the only country to sign a nonaggression pact with India," said Bean.
"Why? What would China gain?" asked Suriyawong.
"Vietnam?" said Bean.
"Worthless, compared to the menace of having India poised with a vast army at the underbelly of
Soon, to distract themselves from the news-and from their loss of any kind of influence-they
stopped paying attention to the vids and reminisced about Battle School. Neither of them brought
up the really bad experiences, only the funny things, the ridiculous things, and they laughed their
way into the evening, until it was dark outside.
This afternoon with Suriyawong, now that they were friends, reminded Bean of home-in Crete,
with his parents, with Nikolai. He tried to keep from thinking about them most of the time, but
now, laughing with Suriyawong, he was filled with a bittersweet longing. He had that one year of
something like a normal life, and now it was over. Blown to bits like the house they had been
vacationing in. Like the government-protected apartment Graff and Sister Carlotta had taken them
away from in the nick of time.
Suddenly a thrill of fear ran through Bean. He knew something, though he could not say how. His
mind had made some connection and he didn't understand how, but he had no doubt that he was
"Is there any way out of this building that can't be seen from the outside?" asked Bean, in a whisper
so faint he could hardly hear himself.
Suriyawong, who had been in the middle of a story about Major Anderson's penchant for nose-
picking when he thought nobody was watching, looked at him like he was crazy. "What, you want
to play hide-and-seek?"
Bean continued to whisper. "A way out."
Suriyawong took the hint and whispered back. "I don't know. I always use the doors. Like most
doors, they're visible from both sides."
"A sewer line? A heating duct?"
"This is Bangkok. We don't have heating ducts."
"Any way out."
Suriyawong's whisper changed back to voice. "I'll look at the blueprints. But tomorrow, man,
tomorrow. It's getting late and we talked right through dinner."
Bean grabbed his shoulder, forced him to look into his eyes.
"Suriyawong," he whispered, even more softly "I'm not joking. Right now, out of this building
Finally Suriyawong got it: Bean was genuinely afraid. His whisper was quiet again. "Why, what's
"Just tell me how."
Suriyawong closed his eyes. "Flood drainage," he whispered. "Old ditches. They just laid these
temporary buildings down on top of the old parade ground. There's a shallow ditch that runs right
under the building. You can hardly tell it's there, but there's a gap."
"Where can we get under the building from inside?"
Suriyawang rolled his eyes. "These temporary buildings are made of lint." To prove his point, he
pulled away the comer of the large rug in the middle of the room, rolled it back, and then, quite
easily, pried up a floor section.
Underneath it was sod that had died from lack of sunlight. There were no gaps between floor and
"Where's the ditch?" asked Bean.
Suriyawong thought again. "I think it crosses the hall. But the carpet is tacked down there."
Bean turned up the volume of the vid and went out the door of Suriyawong's office and through the
anteroom to the hall. He pried up a corner of the carpet and ripped. Carpet fluff flew, and Bean kept
pulling until Suriyawong stopped him. "I think about here," he said.
They pulled up another floor section. This time there was a depression in the yellowed sod.
"Can you get through that?" asked Bean.
"Hey, you're the one with the big head," said Suriyawong.
Bean threw himself down. The ground was damp-this was Bangkok-and he was clammy and filthy
in moments as he wriggled along. Every floor joist was a challenge, and a couple of times he had to
dig with his army-issue knife to make way for his head. But he made good progress anyway, and
wriggled out into the darkness only a few minutes later. He stayed down, though, and saw that
Suriyawong, despite not knowing what was going on, did not raise his head when he emerged from
under the building, but continued to creep along just as Bean was doing. They kept going until they
reached the next point where the old eroded ditch went under another temporary building.
"Please tell me we're not going under another building."
Bean looked at the pattern of lights from the moon, from nearby porches and area lights. He had to
count on his enemies being at least a little careless. If they were using infrared, this escape was
meaningless. But if they were just eyeballing the place, watching the doors, he and Surly were
already where slow, easy movement wouldn't be seen.
Bean started to roll himself up the incline.
Suriyawong grabbed him by the boot. Bean looked at him. Suriyawong pantomimed rubbing his
cheeks, his forehead, his ears.
Bean had forgotten. His Greek skin was lighter than Suriyawong's. He would catch more light.
He rubbed his face, his ears, his hands with damp soil from under the grass. Suriyawong nodded.
They rolled-at a deliberate pace-up out of the ditch and wriggled slowly along the base of the
building until they were around the comer. Here there were bushes to offer some shelter. They
stood in the shadows for a moment, then walked, casually, away from the building as if they had
just emerged from the door. Bean hoped not to be visible to anyone watching Suriyawong's
building, but even if they could be seen, they shouldn't attract any attention, as long as no one
noticed that they seemed to be just a little undersized.
Not until they were a quarter mile away did Suriyawong finally speak. "Do you mind telling me the
name of this game?"
"Staying alive," said Bean.
"I never knew paranoid schizophrenia could strike so fast."
"They've tried twice," said Bean. "And they had no qualms about killing my family along with me."
"But we were just talking," said Suriyawong. "What did you see?"
"Nothing," said Bean. "I had a feeling."
"Please don't tell me that you're a psychic."
"No, I'm not. But something about the events of the past few hours must have made some
unconscious connection. I listen to my fears. I act on them."
"And this works?"
"I'm still alive," said Bean. "I need a public computer. Can we get off the base?"
"It depends on how all-pervasive this plot against you is," said Suriyawong. "You need a bath, by
"What about some place with ordinary public computer access?"
"Sure, there are visitor facilities near the tram station entrance. But would it be ironic if your
assassins were using it?"
"My assassins aren't visitors," said Bean.
This bothered Suriyawong. "You don't even know if anybody's really out to kill you, but you're sure
it's somebody in the Thai Army?"
"It's Achilles," said Bean. "And Achilles isn't in Russia. India doesn't have any intelligence service
that could carry out an operation like this inside the high command. So it has to be somebody that
Achilles has corrupted."
"Nobody here is in the pay of India," said Suriyawong.
"Probably not," said Bean. "But India isn't the only place Achilles has friends by now. He was in
Russia for a while. He has to have made other connections."
"It's so hard to take this seriously, Bean," said Suriyawong. "If you suddenly start laughing and say
Gotcha that time, I will kill you."
"I might be wrong," said Bean, "but I'm not joking."
They got to the visitor facility and found no one using any of the computers. Bean logged on using
one of his many false identities and wrote a message to Graff and Sister Carlotta.
You know who this is. I believe an attempt is about to be made on my life. Would you send
immediate messages to contacts within the Thai government, warning them that such an attempt is
coming and tell them that it involves conspirators inside the Chakri's inner circle. No one else could
have the access. And I believe the Chakri had prior knowledge. Any Indians supposedly involved
are fall guys.
"You can't write that," said Suriyawong. "You have no evidence to accuse Naresuan. I'm annoyed
with him, but he's a loyal Thai."
"He's a loyal Thai," said Bean, "but you can be loyal and still want me dead."
"But not me," said Suriyawong.
"If you want it to look like the evil action of outsiders," said Bean, "then a brave Thai has to die
along with me. What if they make our deaths look as if an Indian strike force did it? That would be
provocation for a declaration of war, wouldn't it?"
"The Chakri doesn't need a provocation."
"He does if he wants the Burmese to believe that Thailand isn't just grabbing for a piece of Burma."
Bean went back to his note.
Please tell them that Suriyawong and I are alive. We will come out of hiding when we see Sister
Carlotta with at least one high government official who Suriyawong would recognize on sight.
Please act immediately. If I am wrong, you will be embarrassed. If I am right, you will have saved
"I'm sick to my stomach thinking of how humiliated I'm going to be. Who are these people you're
"People I trust. Like you."
Then, before sending the message, he added Peter's "Locke" address to the destination box.
"You know Ender Wiggin's brother?" asked Suriyawong.
Bean logged off.
"What now?" asked Suriyawong.
"We hide somewhere, I guess," said Bean.
Then they heard an explosion. Windows rattled. The floor trembled. The power flickered. The
computers began to reboot.
"Got that done just in time," said Bean.
"Was that it?" asked Suriyawong.
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