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Shadow Puppets

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Shadow Puppets

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Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tor, 2002
Series: Ender's Universe: Ender's Shadow: Book 3
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Military SF
Near-Future
Dying Earth
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Synopsis

Bestselling author Orson Scott Card brings to life a new chapter in the saga of Ender's Earth.

Earth and its society has been changed irrevocably in the aftermath of Ender Wiggin's victory over the Formics--the unity enforced upon the warring nations by an alien enemy has shattered. Nations are rising again, seeking territory and influence, and most of all, seeking to control the skills and loyalty of the children from the Battle School.

But one person has a better idea. Peter Wiggin, Ender's older, more ruthless, brother, sees that any hope for the future of Earth lies in restoring a sense of unity and purpose. And he has an irresistible call on the loyalty of Earth's young warriors. With Bean at his side, the two will reshape our future.

Here is the continuing story of Bean and Petra, and the rest of Ender's Dragon Army, as they take their places in the new government of Earth.


Excerpt

1

GROWN

From: NoAddress@Untraceable.com# 14h9cc0/SIGN
UP NOW AND STAY ANONYMOUS!
To: Trireme%Salamis@Attica-vs-Sparta.hst
Re: Final decision

Wiggin:

Subj not to be killed. Subj will be transported according to plan 2, route 1. Dep Tue. 0400, checkpoint #3 @ 0600, which is first light. Please be smart enough to remember the international dateline. He is yours if you want him.

If your intelligence outweighs your ambition you will kill him. If vice versa, you will try to use him. You did not ask my advice, but I have seen him in action: Kill him.

True, without an antagonist to frighten the world you will never retrieve the power the office of Hegemon once had. It would be the end of your career.

Let him live, and it is the end of your life, and you will leave the world in his power when you die. Who is the monster? Or at least monster #2?

And I have told you how to get him. Am I monster #3? Or merely fool #1?

Your faithful servant in motley.

Bean kind of liked being tall, even though it was going to kill him.

And at the rate he was growing, it would be sooner rather than later. How long did he have? A year? Three? Five? The ends of his bones were still like a child's, blossoming, lengthening; even his head was growing, so that like a baby he had a soft patch of cartilage and new bone along the crest of his skull.

It meant constant adjustment, as week by week his arms reached farther when he flung them out, his feet were longer and caught on stairs and sills, his legs were longer so that as he walked he covered ground more quickly, and companions had to hurry to keep up. When he trained with his soldiers, the elite company of men that constituted the entire military force of the Hegemony, he could now run ahead of them, his stride longer than theirs.

He had long since earned the respect of his men. But now, thanks to his height, they finally, literally, looked up to him.

Bean stood on the grass where two assault choppers were waiting for his men to board. Today the mission was a dangerous one--to penetrate Chinese air space and intercept a small convoy transporting a prisoner from Beijing toward the interior. Everything depended on secrecy, surprise, and the extraordinarily accurate information the Hegemon, Peter Wiggin, had been receiving from inside China in the past few months.

Bean wished he knew the source of the intelligence, because his life and the lives of his men depended on it. The accuracy up to now could easily have been a setup. Even though "Hegemon" was essentially an empty title now, since most of the world's population resided in countries that had withdrawn their recognition of the authority of the office, Peter Wiggin had been using Bean's soldiers well. They were a constant irritant to the newly expansionist China, inserting themselves here and there at exactly the moment most calculated to disrupt the confidence of the Chinese leadership.

The patrol boat that suddenly disappears, the helicopter that goes down, the spy operation that is abruptly rolled up, blinding the Chinese intelligence service in yet another country--officially the Chinese hadn't even accused the Hegemon of any involvement in such incidents, but that only meant that they didn't want to give any publicity to the Hegemon, didn't want to boost his reputation or prestige among those who feared China in these years since the conquest of India and Indochina. They almost certainly knew who was the source of their woes.

Indeed, they probably gave Bean's little force the credit for problems that were actually the ordinary accidents of life. The death of the foreign minister of a heart attack in Washington, D.C. only minutes before meeting with the U.S. president--they might really think Peter Wiggin's reach was that long, or that he thought the Chinese foreign minister, a party hack, was worth assassinating.

And the fact that a devastating drought was in its second year in India, forcing the Chinese either to buy food on the open market or allow relief workers from Europe and the Americas into the newly captured and still rebellious subcontinent--maybe they even imagined that Peter Wiggin could control the monsoon rains.

Bean had no such illusions. Peter Wiggin had all kinds of contacts throughout the world, a collection of informants that was gradually turning into a serious network of spies, but as far as Bean could tell, Peter was still just playing a game. Oh, Peter thought it was real enough, but he had never seen what happened in the real world. He had never seen people die as a result of his orders.

Bean had, and it was not a game.

He heard his men approaching. He knew without looking that they were very close, for even here, in supposedly safe territory--an advance staging area in the mountains of Mindanao in the Philippines--they moved as silently as possible. But he also knew that he had heard them before they expected him to, for his senses had always been unusually keen. Not the physical sense organs--his ears were quite ordinary--but the ability of his brain to recognize even the slightest variation from the ambient sound. That's why he raised a hand in greeting to men who were only just emerging from the forest behind him.

He could hear the changes in their breathing--sighs, almost-silent chuckles--that told him they recognized that he had caught them again. As if it were a grown-up game of Mother-May-I, and Bean always seemed to have eyes in the back of his head.

Suriyawong came up beside him as the men filed by in two columns to board the choppers, heavily laden for the mission ahead.

"Sir," said Suriyawong.

That made Bean turn. Suriyawong never called him "sir."

His second-in-command, a Thai only a few years older than Bean, was now half a head shorter. He saluted Bean, and then turned toward the forest he had just come from.

When Bean turned to face the same direction, he saw Peter Wigging, the Hegemon of Earth, the brother of Ender Wiggin who saved the world from the Formic invasion only a few years before--Peter Wiggin, the conniver and gamesman. What was he playing at now?

"I hope you aren't insane enough to be coming along on this mission," said Bean.

"What a cheery greeting," said Peter. "That is a gun in your pocket, so I guess you aren't happy to see me."

Bean hated Peter most when Peter tried to banter. So he said nothing. Waited.

"Julian Delphiki, there's been a change of plans," said Peter.

Calling him by his full name, as if he were Bean's father. Well, Bean had a father--even if he didn't know he had one until after the war was over, and they told him that Nikolai Delphiki wasn't just his friend, he was his brother. But having a father and mother show up when you're eleven isn't the same as growing up with them. No one had called Bean "Julian Delphiki" when he was little. No one had called him anything at all, until they tauntingly called him Bean on the streets of Rotterdam.

Peter never seemed to see the absurdity of it, talking down to Bean. I fought in the war against the Buggers, Bean wanted to say. I fought beside your brother Ender, while you were playing your little games with rabble-rousing on the nets. And while you've been filling your empty little role as Hegemon, I've been leading these men into combat that actually made a difference in the world. And you tell me there's been a change of plans?

"Let's scrub the mission," said Bean. "Last-minute changes in plan lead to unnecessary losses in battle."

"Actually, this one won't," said Peter. "Because the only change is that you're not going."

"And you're going in my place?" Bean did not have to show scorn in his voice or on his face. Peter was bright enough to know that the idea was a joke. Peter was trained for nothing except writing essays, shmoozing with politicians, playing at geopolitics.

"Suriyawong will command this mission," said Peter.

Suriyawong took the sealed envelope that Peter handed him, but then turned to Bean for confirmation.

Peter no doubt noticed that Suriyawong did not intend to follow Peter's orders unless Bean said he should. Being mostly human, Peter could not resist the temptation to jab back. "Unless," said Peter, "you don't think Suriyawong is ready to lead the mission."

Bean looked at Suriyawong, who smiled back at him.

"Your Excellency, the troops are yours to command," said Bean. "Suriyawong always leads the men in battle, so nothing important will be different."

Which was not quite true--Bean and Suriyawong often had to change plans at the last minute, and Bean ended up commanding all or part of a mission as often as not, depending on which of them had to deal with the emergency. Still, difficult as this operation was, it was not too complicated. Either the convoy would be where it was supposed to be, or it would not. If it was there, the mission would probably succeed. If it was not there, or if it was an ambush, the mission would be aborted and they would return home. Suriyawong and the other officers and soldiers could deal with any minor changes routinely.

Unless, of course, the change in mission was because Peter Wiggin knew that it would fail and he didn't want to risk losing Bean. Or because Peter was betraying them for some arcane reason of his own.

"Please don't open that," said Peter, "until you're airborne."

Suriyawong saluted. "Time to leave," he said.

Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card


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