"They can't be seen without a microscope," said Julian.
"See that they have not been disturbed," said Sister Carlotta.
They had both become hyperalert again, especially since they had no idea what this was all about -
- nor could they be told. As soon as Julian gave her the name of doctor and hospital, Sister Carlotta
stepped onto the porch and, as she gazed at the sail-specked Aegean, she used her global and got
herself put through to the I.F. headquarters in Athens.
It would take several hours, perhaps, for either her call or Julian's to bring in the answer, so she
and Julian and Elena made a heroic effort to appear unconcerned. They took her on a walking tour
of their neighborhood, which offered views both ancient and modem, and of nature verdant, desert,
and marine. The dry air was refreshing as long as the breeze from the sea did not lag, and Sister
Carlotta enjoyed hearing Julian talk about his company and Elena talk about her work as a teacher.
All thought of their having risen in the world through government corruption faded as she
realized that however he got his contract, Julian was a serious, dedicated creator of software,
while Elena was a fervent teacher who treated her profession as a crusade. "I knew as soon as I
started teaching our son how remarkable he was," Elena told her. "But it wasn't until his pre-tests
for school placement that we first learned that his gifts were particularly suited for the I.F."
Alarm bells went off. Sister Carlotta had assumed that their son was an adult. After all, they were
not a young couple. "How old is your son?"
"Eight years old now," said Julian. "They sent us a picture. Quite a little man in his uniform. They
don't let many letters come through."
Their son was in Battle School. They appeared to be in their forties, but they might not have
started to have a family until late, and then tried in vain for a while, going through a tubal
pregnancy before finding out that Elena could no longer conceive. Their son was only a couple of
years older than Bean.
Which meant that Graff could compare Bean's genetic code with that of the Delphiki boy and find
out if they were from the same cloned egg. There would be a control, to compare what Bean was
like with Anton's key turned, as opposed to the other, whose genes were unaltered.
Now that she thought about it, of *course* any true sibling of Bean's would have exactly the
abilities that would bring the attention of the I.F. Anton's key made a child into a savant in general;
the particular mix of skills that the I.F. looked for were not affected. Bean would have had those
skills no matter what; the alteration merely allowed him to bring a far sharper intelligence to bear
on abilities he already had.
*If* Bean was in fact their child. Yet the coincidence of twenty-three fertilized eggs and the
twenty-three children that Volescu had produced in the "clean room" -- what other conclusion
could she reach?
And soon the answer came, first to Sister Carlotta, but immediately thereafter to the Delphikis.
The I.F. investigators had gone to the clinic with the doctor and together they had discovered that
the eggs were missing.
It was hard news for the Delphikis to bear, and Sister Carlotta discreetly waited outside while
Elena and Julian took some time alone together. But soon they invited her in. "How much can you
tell us?" Julian asked. "You came here because you suspected our babies might have been taken.
Tell me, were they born?"
Sister Carlotta wanted to hide behind the veil of military secrecy, but in truth there was no military
secret involved -- Volescu's crime was a matter of public record. And yet ... weren't they better off
"Julian, Elena, accidents happen in the laboratory. They might have died anyway. Nothing is
certain. Isn't it better just to think of this as a terrible accident? Why add to the burden of the loss
you already have?"
Elena looked at her fiercely. "You *will* tell me, Sister Carlotta, if you love the God of truth!"
"The eggs were stolen by a criminal who ... illegally caused them to be brought through gestation.
When his crime was about to be discovered, he gave them a painless death by sedative. They did
"And this man will be put on trial?"
"He has already been tried and sentenced to life in prison," said Sister Carlotta.
"Already?" asked Julian. "How long ago were our babies stolen?"
"More than seven years ago."
"Oh!" cried Elena. "Then our babies ... when they died ..."
"They were infants. Not a year old yet."
"But why *our* babies? Why would he steal them? Was he going to sell them for adoption? Was
"Does it matter? None of his plans came to fruition," said Sister Carlotta. The nature of Volescu's
experiments *was* a secret.
"What was the murderer's name?" asked Julian. Seeing her hesitation, he insisted. "His name is a
matter of public record, is it not?"
"In the criminal courts of Rotterdam," said Sister Carlotta. "Volescu."
Julian reacted as if slapped -- but immediately controlled himself. Elena did not see it.
He knows about his father's mistress, thought Sister Carlotta. He understands now what part of the
motive had to be. The legitimate son's children were kidnapped by the bastard, experimented on,
and eventually killed -- and the legitimate son didn't find out about it for seven years. Whatever
privations Volescu fancied that his fatherlessness had caused him, he had taken his vengeance. And
for Julian, it also meant that his father's lusts had come back to cause this loss, this pain to Julian
and his wife. The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the third and fourth
But didn't the scripture say the third and fourth generation of them that hate me? Julian and Elena
did not hate God. Nor did their innocent babies.
It makes no more sense than Herod's slaughter of the babes of Bethlehem. The only comfort was
the trust that a merciful God caught up the spirits of the slain infants into his bosom, and that he
brought comfort, eventually, to the parents' hearts.
"Please," said Sister Carlotta. "I cannot say you should not grieve for the children that you will
never hold. But you can still rejoice in the child that you have."
"A million miles away!" cried Elena.
"I don't suppose ... you don't happen to know if the Battle School ever lets a child come home for
a visit," said Julian. "His name is Nikolai Delphiki. Surely under the circumstances ..."
"I'm so sorry," said Sister Carlotta. Reminding them of the child they had was not such a good
idea after all, when they did not, in fact, have him. "I'm sorry that my coming led to such terrible
news for you."
"But you learned what you came to learn," said Julian.
"Yes," said Sister Carlotta.
Then Julian realized something, though he said not a word in front of his wife. "Will you want to
return to the airport now?"
"Yes, the car is still waiting. Soldiers are much more patient than cab drivers."
"I'll walk you to the car," said Julian.
"No, Julian," said Elena, "don't leave me."
"Just for a few moments, my love. Even now, we don't forget courtesy." He held his wife for a
long moment, then led Sister Carlotta to the door and opened it for her.
As they walked to the car, Julian spoke of what he had come to understand. "Since my father's
bastard is already in prison, you did not come here because of his crime."
"No," she said.
"One of our children is still alive," he said.
"What I tell you now I should not tell, because it is not within my authority," said Sister Carlotta.
"But my first allegiance is to God, not the I.F. If the twenty-two children who died at Volescu's
hand were yours, then a twenty-third may be alive. It remains for genetic testing to be done."
"But we will not be told," said Julian.
"Not yet," said Sister Carlotta. "And not soon. Perhaps not ever. But if it is within my power, then
a day will come when you will meet your second son."
"Is he ... do you know him?"
"If it is your son," she said, "then yes, I know him. His life has been hard, but his heart is good,
and he is such a boy as to make any father or mother proud. Please don't ask me more. I've already
said too much."
"Do I tell this to my wife?" asked Julian. "What will be harder for her, to know or not know?"
"Women are not so different from men. *You* preferred to know."
Julian nodded. "I know that you were only the bearer of news, not the cause of our loss. But your
visit here will not be remembered with happiness. Yet I want you to know that I understand how
kindly you have done this miserable job."
She nodded. "And you have been unfailingly gracious in a difficult hour."
Julian opened the door of her car. She stooped to the seat, swung her legs inside. But before he
could close the door for her, she thought of one last question, a very important one.
"Julian, I know you were planning to have a daughter next. But if you had gone on to bring
another son into the world, what would you have named him?"
"Our firstborn was named for my father, Nikolai," he said. "But Elena wanted to name a second
son for me."
"Julian Delphiki," said Sister Carlotta. "If this truly is your son, I think he would be proud
someday to bear his father's name."
"What name does he use now?" asked Julian.
"Of course I cannot say."
"But ... not Volescu, surely."
"No. As far as I'm concerned, he'll never hear that name. God bless you, Julian Delphiki. I will
pray for you and your wife."
"Pray for our children's souls, too, Sister."
"I already have, and do, and will."
Major Anderson looked at the boy sitting across the table from him. "Really, it's not that important
a matter, Nikolai."
"I thought maybe I was in trouble."
"No, no. We just noticed that you seemed to be a particular friend of Bean. He doesn't have a lot
"It didn't help that Dimak painted a target on him in the shuttle. And now Ender's gone and done
the same thing. I suppose Bean can take it, but smart as he is, he kind of pisses off a lot of the other
"But not you?"
"Oh, he pisses me off, too."
"And yet you became his friend."
"Well, I didn't mean to. I just had the bunk across from him in launchy barracks."
"You traded for that bunk."
"Did I? Oh. Eh."
"And you did that before you knew how smart Bean was."
"Dimak told us in the shuttle that Bean had the highest scores of any of us."
"Was that why you wanted to be near him?"
"It was an act of kindness," said Major Anderson. "Perhaps I'm just an old cynic, but when I see
such an inexplicable act I become curious."
"He really does kind of look like my baby pictures. Isn't that dumb? I saw him and I thought, he
looks just like cute little baby Nikolai. Which is what my mother always called me in my baby
pictures. I never thought of them as *me*. I was big Nikolai. That was cute little baby Nikolai. I
used to pretend that he was my little brother and we just happened to have the same name. Big
Nikolai and Cute Little Baby Nikolai."
"I see that you're ashamed, but you shouldn't be. It's a natural thing for an only child to do."
"I wanted a brother."
"Many who have a brother wish they didn't."
"But the brother I made up for myself, he and I got along fine." Nikolai laughed at the absurdity of
"And you saw Bean and thought of him as the brother you once imagined."
"At first. Now I know who he really is, and it's better. It's like ... sometimes he's the little brother
and I'm looking out for him, and sometimes he's the big brother and he's looking out for me."
"A boy that small -- how does he look out for you?"
"He gives me advice. Helps me with classwork. We do some practice together. He's better at
almost everything than I am. Only I'm bigger, and I think I like him more than he likes me."
"That may be true, Nikolai. But as far as we can tell, he likes you more than he likes anybody else.
He just ... so far, he may not have the same capacity for friendship that you have. I hope that my
asking you these questions won't change your feelings and actions toward Bean. We don't assign
people to be friends, but I hope you'll remain Bean's."
"I'm not his friend," said Nikolai.
"I told you. I'm his brother." Nikolai grinned. "Once you get a brother, you don't give him up
CHAPTER 15 -- COURAGE
"Genetically, they're identical twins. The only difference is Anton's key."
"So the Delphikis have two sons."
"The Delphikis have one son, Nikolai, and he's with us for the duration. Bean was an orphan
found on the streets of Rotterdam."
"Because he was kidnapped."
"The law is clear. Fertilized eggs are property. I know that this is a matter of religious sensitivity
for you, but the I.F. is bound by law, not --"
"The I.F. uses law where possible to achieve its own ends. I know you're fighting a war. I know
that some things are outside your power. But the war will not go on forever. All I ask is this: Make
this information part of a record -- part of many records. So that when the war ends, the proof of
these things can and will survive. So the truth won't stay hidden."
"No, not of course. You know that the moment the Formics are defeated, the I.F. will have no
reason to exist. It will try to continue to exist in order to maintain international peace. But the
League is not politically strong enough to survive in the nationalist winds that will blow. The I.F.
will break into fragments, each following its own leader, and God help us if any part of the fleet
ever should use its weapons against the surface of the Earth."
"You've been spending too much time reading the Apocalypse."
"I may not be one of the genius children in your school, but I see how the tides of opinion are
flowing here on Earth. On the nets a demagogue named Demosthenes is inflaming the West about
illegal and secret maneuvers by the Polemarch to give an advantage to the New Warsaw Pact, and
the propaganda is even more virulent from Moscow, Baghdad, Buenos Aires, Beijing. There are a
few rational voices, like Locke, but they're given lip service and then ignored. You and I can't do
anything about the fact that world war will certainly come. But we *can* do our best to make sure
these children don't become pawns in that game."
"The only way they won't be pawns is if they're players."
"You've been raising them. Surely you don't *fear* them. Give them their chance to play."
"Sister Carlotta all my work is aimed at preparing for the showdown with the Formics. At turning
these children into brilliant, reliable commanders. I can't look beyond that mark."
"Don't *look*. Just leave the door open for their families, their nations to claim them."
"I can't think about that right now."
"Right now is the only time you'll have the power to do it."
"You overestimate me."
"You underestimate yourself."
Dragon Army had only been practicing for a month when Wiggin came into the barracks only a
few seconds after lights-on, brandishing a slip of paper. Battle orders. They would face Rabbit
Army at 0700. And they'd do it without breakfast.
"I don't want anybody throwing up in the battleroom."
"Can we at least take a leak first?" asked Nikolai.
"No more than a decaliter," said Wiggin.
Everybody laughed, but they were also nervous. As a new army, with only a handful of veterans,
they didn't actually expect to win, but they didn't want to be humiliated, either. They all had
different ways of dealing with nerves -- some became silent, others talkative. Some joked and
bantered, others turned surly. Some just lay back down on their bunks and closed their eyes.
Bean watched them. He tried to remember if the kids in Poke's crew ever did these things. And
then realized: They were *hungry*, not afraid of being shamed. You don't get this kind of fear until
you have enough to eat. So it was the bullies who felt like these kids, afraid of humiliation but not
of going hungry. And sure enough, the bullies standing around in line showed all these attitudes.
They were always performing, always aware of others watching them. Fearful they would have to
fight; eager for it, too.
What do I feel?
What's wrong with me that I have to think about it to know?
Oh ... I'm just sitting here, watching. I'm one of *those*.
Bean pulled out his flash suit, but then realized he had to use the toilet before putting it on. He
dropped down onto the deck and pulled his towel from its hook, wrapped it around himself. For a
moment he flashed back to that night he had tossed his towel under a bunk and climbed into the
ventilation system. He'd never fit now. Too thickly muscled, too tall. He was still the shortest kid in
Battle School, and he doubted if anyone else would notice how he'd grown, but he was aware of
how his arms and legs were longer. He could reach things more easily. Didn't have to jump so often
just to do normal things like palming his way into the gym.
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