Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Orson Scott Card - Ender 08 - Shadow of the Giant

Orson Scott Card


  Orson Scott Card

  To Ed and Kay McVey,

  who are saving the world

  one kindness at a time

  Table of Contents





























  From: Graff%[email protected]

  To: Soup%[email protected]

  Re: Free Vacation Offer

  Destination of your choice in the known universe. And we pick you up!

  Han Tzu waited until the armoured car was completely out of sight before he ventured out into the bicycle-and-pedestrian-packed street. Crowds could make you invisible, but only if you were moving in the same direction, and that's the thing Han Tzu had never really been able to do, not since he came home to China from Battle School.

  He always seemed to be moving, not upstream, but crossways. As if he had a completely different map of the world from the one everyone around him was using.

  And here he was again, dodging bikes and forward-pressing people on their ten thousand errands in order to get from the doorway of his apartment building to the door of the tiny restaurant across the street.

  But it was not as hard as it would have been for most people. Han Tzu had mastered the art of using only his peripheral vision, so his eyes stared straight ahead. Without eye contact, the others on the street could not face him down, could not insist that he yield the right of way. They could only dodge him, as if he were a boulder in the stream.

  He put his hand to the door and hesitated. He did not know why he had not been arrested and killed or sent for retraining already, but if he was photographed taking this meeting, then it would be easy to prove that he was a traitor.

  Then again, his enemies didn't need evidence to convict—all they needed was the inclination. So he opened the door, listened to the tinkle of the little bell, and walked toward the back of the narrow corridor between booths.

  He knew he shouldn't expect Graff himself. For the Minister of Colonisation to come to Earth would be news, and Graff avoided news unless it was useful to him, which this would certainly not be. So whom would Graff send? Someone from Battle School, undoubtedly. A teacher? Another student? Someone from Ender's Jeesh? Would this be a reunion?

  To his surprise, the man in the last booth sat with his back toward the door, so all Han Tzu could see was his curly steel-grey hair. Not Chinese. And from the colour of his ears, not European. The pertinent fact, though, was that he was not facing the door and could not see Han Tzu's approach. However, once Han Tzu sat down, he would be facing the door, able to observe the whole room.

  That was the smart way to do it—after all, Han Tzu was the one who would recognise trouble if it came in the door, not this foreigner, this stranger. But few operatives on a mission this dangerous would have the brass to turn their backs on the door just because the person they were meeting would be a better observer.

  The man did not turn as Han Tzu approached. Was he unobservant, or supremely confident?

  "Hello," the man said softly just as Han Tzu came up beside him. "Please sit down."

  Han Tzu slid into the booth opposite him and knew that he knew this old man but could not name him.

  "Please don't say my name," said the man softly.

  "Easy," said Han Tzu. "I don't remember it."

  "Oh, yes you do," said the man. "You just don't remember my face. You haven't seen me very often. But the leader of the Jeesh spent a lot of time with me."

  Now Han Tzu remembered. Those last weeks in Command School— on Eros, when they thought they were in training but were really leading far-off fleets in the endgame of the war against the Hive Queens. Ender, their commander, had been kept separate from them, but they learned afterward that an old half-Maori cargo-ship captain had been working closely with him. Training him. Goading him. Pretending to be his opponent in simulated games.

  Mazer Rackham. The hero who saved the human race from certain destruction in the Second Invasion. Everyone thought he died in the war, but he had been sent out on a meaningless voyage at near-lightspeed, so that relativistic effects would keep him alive so he'd be there for the last battles of the war.

  He was ancient history twice over. That time on Eros as a part of Ender's Jeesh seemed like another lifetime. And Mazer Rackham had been the most famous man in the world for decades before that.

  Most famous man in the world, but almost nobody knew his face.

  "Everyone knows you piloted the first colony ship," said Han Tzu.

  "We lied," said Mazer Rackham.

  Han Tzu accepted that and waited in silence.

  "There is a place for you as head of a colony," said Rackham. "A former Hive world, with mostly Han Chinese colonists and many interesting challenges for a leader. The ship leaves as soon as you board it."

  That was the offer. The dream. To be out of the turmoil of Earth, the devastation of China. Instead of waiting to be executed by the angry and feeble Chinese government, instead of watching the Chinese people writhe under the heel of the Muslim conquerors, he could board a beautiful clean starship and let them fling him out into space, to a world where human feet had never stepped, to be the founding leader of a colony that would hold his name in reverence forever. He would marry, have children, and, in all likelihood, be happy.

  "How long do I have to decide?" asked Han Tzu.

  Rackham glanced at his watch, then looked back at him without answering.

  "Not a very long window of opportunity," said Han Tzu.

  Rackham shook his head.

  "It's a very attractive offer," said Han Tzu.

  Rackham nodded.

  "But I wasn't born for such happiness," said Han Tzu. "The present government of China has lost the mandate of heaven. If I live through the transition, I might be useful to the new government."

  "And that's what you were born for?" asked Rackham.

  "They tested me," said Han Tzu, "and I'm a child of war."

  Rackham nodded. Then he reached inside his jacket and took out a pen and laid it on the table.

  "What's that?" asked Han Tzu.

  "The mandate of heaven," said Rackham.

  Han Tzu knew then that the pen was a weapon. Because the mandate of heaven was always bestowed in blood and war.

  "The items in the cap are extremely delicate," said Rackham. "Practice with round toothpicks."

  Then he got up and walked out the back door of the restaurant.

  No doubt there was some kind of transport waiting there.

  Han Tzu wanted to leap to his feet and run after him so he could be taken out into space and
set free of all that lay ahead.

  Instead he put his hand over the pen and slid it across the table, then put it into the pocket of his trousers. It was a weapon. Which meant Graff and Rackham expected him to need a personal weapon soon. How soon?

  Han Tzu took six toothpicks out of the little dispenser that stood on the table against the wall, beside the soy sauce. Then he got up and went to the toilet.

  He pulled the cap off the pen very carefully, so he didn't spill out the four feather-ended poison darts bunched in it. Then he unscrewed the top of the pen. There were four holes there, besides the central shaft that held the tube of ink. The mechanism was cleverly designed to rotate automatically with each discharge. A blow-gun revolver.

  He loaded four toothpicks into the four slots. They fit loosely. Then he screwed the pen back together.

  The fountain pen writing tip covered the hole where the darts would emerge. When he held the top of the pen in his mouth, the point of the writing tip served as the sighting device. Point and shoot.

  Point and blow.

  He blew.

  The toothpick hit the back wall of the bathroom more or less where he was aiming, only a foot lower. Definitely a close-range weapon.

  He used up the rest of the toothpicks learning how high to aim in order to hit a target six feet away. The room wasn't large enough for him to practice aiming at anything farther. Then he gathered up the toothpicks, threw them away, and carefully loaded the pen with the real darts, handling them only by the feathered part of the shaft.

  Then he flushed the toilet and re-entered the restaurant. No one was waiting for him. So he sat down and ordered and ate methodically. No reason to face the crisis of his life with an empty stomach and the food here wasn't bad.

  He paid and walked out into the street. He would not go home. If he waited there to be arrested, he would have to deal with any number of low-level thugs who would not be worth wasting a dart on.

  Instead, he flagged down a bicycle taxi and headed for the ministry of defence.

  The place was as crowded as ever. Pathetically so, thought Han Tzu. There was a reason for so many military bureaucrats a few years ago, when China was conquering Indochina and India, its millions of soldiers spread out to rule over a billion conquered people.

  But now, the government had direct control only over Manchuria and the northern part of Han China. Persians and Arabs and Indonesians administered martial law in the great port cities of the south, and large armies of Turks were poised in Inner Mongolia, ready to slice through Chinese defences at a moment's notice. Another large Chinese army was isolated in Sichuan, forbidden by the government to surrender any portion of their troops, forcing them to sustain a multi-million-man force from the production of that single province. In effect, they were under siege, getting weaker—and more hated by the civilian population—all the time.

  There had even been a coup, right after the ceasefire—but it was a sham, a reshuffling of the politicians. Nothing but an excuse for repudiating the terms of the ceasefire.

  No one in the military bureaucracy had lost his job. It was the military that had been driving China's new expansionism. It was the military that had failed.

  Only Han Tzu had been relieved of his duties and sent home.

  They could not forgive him for having named their stupidity for what it was. He had warned them every step of the way. They had ignored every warning. Each time he had shown them a way out of their self-induced dilemmas, they had ignored his offered plans and proceeded to make decisions based on bravado, face-saving, and delusions of Chinese invincibility.

  At his last meeting he had left them with no face at all. He had stood there, a very young man in the presence of old men of enormous authority, and called them the fools they were. He laid out exactly why they had failed so miserably. He even told them that they had lost the mandate of heaven—the traditional excuse for a change of dynasty. This was the unforgivable sin, since the present dynasty claimed not to be a dynasty at all, not to be an empire, but rather to be a perfect expression of the will of the people.

  What they forgot was that the Chinese people still believed in the mandate of heaven—and knew when a government no longer had it.

  Now, as he showed his expired i.d. at the gate of the complex and was admitted without hesitation, he realised that there was only one fathomable reason why they hadn't already arrested him or had him killed:

  They didn't dare.

  It confirmed that Rackham was right to hand him a four-shot weapon and call it the mandate of heaven. There were forces at work here within the defence department that Han Tzu could not see, waiting in his apartment for someone to decide what to do with him. They had not even cut off his salary. There was panic and confusion in the military and now Han Tzu knew that he was at the centre of it. That his silence, his waiting, had actually been a pestle constantly grinding at the mortar of military failure.

  He should have known that his j'accuse speech would have more effects than merely to humiliate and enrage his "superiors." There were aides standing against the walls listening. And they would know that every word that Han Tzu said was true.

  For all Han Tzu knew, his death or arrest had already been ordered a dozen times. And the aides who had been given those orders no doubt could prove that they had passed them along. But they would also have passed along the story of Han Tzu, the former Battle Schooler who had been part of Ender's Jeesh. The soldiers ordered to arrest him would have also been told that if Han Tzu had been heeded, China would not have been defeated by the Muslims and their strutting boy-Caliph.

  The Muslims won because they had the brains to put their member of Ender's Jeesh, Caliph Alai, in charge of their armies—in charge of their whole government, their religion itself.

  But the Chinese government had rejected their own Ender man, and now were giving orders for his arrest.

  In these conversations, the phrase "mandate of heaven" would certainly have been spoken.

  And the soldiers, if they left their quarters at all, seemed unable to locate Han Tzu's apartment.

  For all these weeks since the war ended, the leadership must already have come face to face with their own powerlessness. If the soldiers would not follow them on such a simple matter as arresting the political enemy who had shamed them, then they were in grave danger.

  That's why Han Tzu's i.d. was accepted at the gate. That's why he was allowed to walk un-escorted among the buildings of the defence department complex.

  Not completely un-escorted. For he saw through his peripheral vision that a growing number of soldiers and functionaries were shadowing him, moving among the buildings in paths parallel to his own. For of course the gate guards would have spread the word at once: He's here.

  So when he walked up to the entrance of the highest headquarters, he paused at the top step and turned around. Several thousand men and women were already in the space between buildings, and more were coming all the time. Many of them were soldiers under arms.

  Han Tzu looked them over, watching as their numbers grew. No one spoke.

  He bowed to them.

  They bowed back.

  Han Tzu turned and entered the building. The guards inside the doors also bowed to him. He bowed to each of them and then proceeded to the stairs leading to the second floor office suites where the highest officers of the military were certainly waiting for him.

  Sure enough, he was met on the second floor by a young woman in uniform who bowed and said, "Most respectfully, sir, will you come to the office of the one called Snow Tiger?"

  Her voice was devoid of sarcasm, but the name "Snow Tiger" carried its own irony these days. Han Tzu looked at her gravely. "What is your name, soldier?"

  "Lieutenant White Lotus," she said.

  "Lieutenant," said Han Tzu, "If heaven should bestow its mandate upon the true emperor today, would you serve him?"

  "My life will be his," she said.

  "And your pistol?"

e bowed deeply.

  He bowed to her, then followed her to Snow Tiger's office.

  They were all gathered there in the large anteroom—the men who had been present weeks ago when Han Tzu had scorned them for having lost the mandate of heaven. Their eyes were cold now, but he had no friends among these high officers.

  Snow Tiger stood in the doorway of his inner office. It was unheard of for him to come out to meet anyone except members of the Politburo, none of whom were present.

  "Han Tzu," he said.

  Han Tzu bowed slightly. Snow Tiger bowed almost invisibly in return.

  "I am happy to see you return to duty after your well-earned vacation," said Snow Tiger.

  Han Tzu only stood in the middle of the room, regarding him steadily.

  "Please come into my office."

  Han Tzu walked slowly toward the open door. He knew that Lieutenant White Lotus stood at the door, watching to make sure that no one raised a hand to harm him.

  Through the open door, Han Tzu could see two armed soldiers flanking Snow Tiger's desk. Han Tzu stopped, regarding each of the soldiers in turn. Their faces showed nothing; they did not even look back at him. But he knew that they understood who he was. They had been chosen by Snow Tiger because he trusted them. But he should not have.

  Snow Tiger took Han Tzu's pause as an invitation for him to enter the office first. Han Tzu did not follow him inside until Snow Tiger was seated at his desk.

  Then Han Tzu entered.

  "Please close the door," said Snow Tiger.

  Han Tzu turned around and pulled the door all the way open.

  Snow Tiger took his disobedience without blinking. What could he do or say without making himself seem pathetic?

  Snow Tiger pushed a paper toward Han Tzu. It was an order, giving him command over the army that was slowly starving in Sichuan province. "You have proved your great wisdom many times," said Snow Tiger. "We ask you now to be the salvation of China and lead this great army against our enemy."

  Han Tzu did not even bother to answer. A hungry, ill-equipped, demoralised, surrounded army was not going to accomplish miracles. And Han Tzu had no intention of accepting this or any other assignment from Snow Tiger.