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Shadow of the Giant

Shadow of the Giant
sequel to Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets


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Chapter Two
Mother

From: HMebane%GeneticTherapy@MayoFlorida.org.us
To: JulianDelphiki%Carlotta@DelphikiConsultations.com
Re: Prognosis

Dear Julian,

I wish I had better news. But yesterday's tests are conclusive. Estrogen therapy has had no effect on the epiphyses. They remain open, even though you definitely do not have any defect in the estrogen receptors on the growth plates of your bones.

As to your second request, of course we will continue to study your DNA, my friend, whether any of your missing embryos are found or not. What was done once can be done again, and Volescu's mistakes may be repeated with some other genetic alteration in the future. But the history of genetic research is fairly consistent. It takes time to map and isolate an unusual sequence and then perform animal experiments in order to determine what each portion of it does and how to counteract its effects.

There is no way to expedite such research. If we had ten thousand working on the problem, they would perform the same experiments in the same order and it would take the same amount of time. Someday we will understand why your astonishing intellect is so incurably linked with uncontrolled growth. Right now, to be candid, it seems to be almost malicious on the part of nature, as if there were some law that the price for the unleashing of human intellect is either autism or giantism.

If only, instead of military training, you had been taught biochemestry so that at your present age you could be up to speed in this field. I have no doubt that you would be more likely to have the kind of insights we need than we of fettered intellect. That is the bitter irony of your condition and your personal history. Even Volescu could not have anticipated the consequence of his alteration of your genes.

I feel like a coward, delivering this information in an email instead of face to face, but you insisted on no delay and a written report. The technical data will, of course, be forwarded to you as the final reports become available.

If only cryogenics had not proven to be such a barren field.

Sincerely,
Howard


As soon as Bob left for his shift as night manager of the grocery store, Randi sat down in front of the screen and started the special on Achilles Flandres over again from the beginning.

It galled her to hear how they slandered him, but by now she was adept at tuning it out. Megalomaniac. Madman. Murderer.

Why couldn't they see him as he really was? A genius like Alexander the Great, who came this close to uniting the world and ending war forever.

Now the dogs would fight over the scraps of Achilles' achievements, while his body rested in an obscure grave in some miserable tropical village in Brazil.

And the assassin who had ended Achilles' life, who had thwarted his greatness, he was being honored as if there were something heroic about putting a bullet into the eye of an unarmed man. Julian Delphiki. Bean. The tool of the evil Hegemon Peter Wiggin.

Delphiki and Wiggin. Unworthy to be on the same planet with Achilles. And yet they claimed to be his heirs, the rightful rulers of the world.

Well, poor fools, you're the heirs of nothing. Because I know where Achilles' true heir is.

She patted her stomach, though that was a dangerous thing to do, what with her puking at a moment's notice ever since the pregnancy really took hold. She didn't show yet, and when she did, it was a fifty-fifty chance whether Bob would throw her out or keep her and accept the child as his own. Bob knew he couldn't father children -- they'd had enough tests -- and there was no point in pretending since he'd ask for a DNA test and then he'd know anyway.

And she had sworn never to tell that she had received an implant after all. She would have to pretend that she had had an affair with somebody and wanted to keep the baby. Bob would not like that at all. But she knew that her baby's life depended on keeping the secret.

The man who interviewed her at the fertility clinic had been adamant about that. "It doesn't matter whom you tell, Randi. The enemies of the great man know that this embryo exists. They'll be searching for it. They'll be watching all the women in the world who give birth within a certain timeframe. And any rumor that a baby was implanted rather than naturally conceived will bring them like hounds. Their resources are unlimited. They will spare no effort in their search. And when they find a woman that they even think might be the mother of his child, they will kill her, just in case."

"But there must be hundreds. Thousands of women who have babies implanted," Randi protested.

"Are you a Christian?" asked the man. "You've heard of the slaughter of the innocents? However many you have to kill, it's worth it to these monsters, as long as it means they can prevent the birth of this child."

Randi watched the stills of Achilles during his Battle School days and soon after, during his time at the asylum where his enemies had him confined after it became clear that he was a better commander than their precious Ender Wiggin. She had read it on the nets in many places, the fact that Ender Wiggin actually used plans devised by Achilles in order to beat the Buggers. They could glorify their phony little hero all they wanted -- but everyone knew it was only because he was Peter Wiggin's little brother that Ender was given all the credit.

It was Achilles who had saved the world. And Achilles who had fathered the baby she had been chosen to bear.

Randi's only regret was that she could not be the biological mother as well, and that the child could not have been naturally conceived. But she knew that the bride of Achilles must have been very carefully chosen -- a woman who could contribute the right genes so as not to dilute his brilliance and goodness and creativity and drive.

But they knew about the woman Achilles loved, and if she had been pregnant when he died, they would have torn the womb out of her so she could lie there in agony and watch them burn the fetus before her eyes.

So to protect the mother and the baby, Achilles had arranged for their embryo to be taken secretly and implanted in the womb of a woman who could be trusted to take the child to term and give him a good home and raise him with full awareness of his vast potential. To teach him secretly who he really was and whose cause he served, so he could grow up to fulfil his father's cruelly-blocked destiny. It was a sacred trust, and Randi was worthy of it.

Bob was not. It was that simple. Randi had always known that she married beneath herself. Bob was a good provider, but he hadn't the imagination to understand anything more important than making a living and planning his next fishing trip. She could just imagine how he would respond if she told him that not only was she pregnant, but the baby was not even hers.

Already she had found several places on the web where people were searching for "lost" or "kidnapped" embryos. She knew -- the man who spoke to her had warned her -- that these were likely to originate from Achilles' enemies, trolling for information that would lead them to ... to her.

She wondered if maybe the very act of searching for people searching for embryos would alert them. The search companies claimed that no government had access to their databases, but it was possible that the International Fleet was intercepting all the messages and monitoring all the searches. People said that the I.F. was really under the control of the United States government, that America's isolationism was a façade and it ran everything through the I.F. Then there were the people who said that it was the other way around -- the U.S. was isolationist because that was the way the I.F. wanted it, since most of the space technology they depended on was developed and built in the U.S.

It couldn't be an accident that Peter the Hegemon was American himself.

She would stop searching for information about kidnapped embryos. It was all lies and traps and tricks. She knew she would seem paranoid to anyone else, but that's only because they didn't know what she knew. There really were monsters in the world, and those who kept secrets from them had to live with constant vigilance.

There on the screen was that terrible picture. They showed it over and over again: Achilles' poor broken body lying on the floor in the Hegemon's palace, looking so peaceful, not a wound on his body. Some on the nets said that Delphiki didn't shoot him through the eye at all; that if he had, Achilles' face would have been powder-burned and there would have been an exit wound and blood all over.

No, Delphiki and Wiggin imprisoned Achilles and faked some kind of phony standoff with the police, pretending that Achilles was taking hostages or something, so they'd have an excuse for killing him. But in fact they gave him a lethal injection. Or poisoned his food. Or infected him with a hideous disease so he died writhing on the floor in agony while Delphiki and Wiggin looked on.

Like Richard III murdering those poor princes in the tower.

But when my son is born, Randi told herself, then all these false histories will be destroyed. The liars will be eliminated, and so will their lies.

Then this footage will be used in a true story. My son will see to that. No one will ever even hear the lies they're telling now. And Achilles will be known as the great one, even greater than the son who will have completed his life's work.

And I will be remembered and honored as the woman who sheltered him and gave him birth and raised him up to rule the world.

All I have to do to accomplish that is: nothing.

Nothing that calls attention to me. Nothing that makes me unusual or strange.

Yet the one thing she couldn't bear to do was nothing. Just to sit here, watching the television, worrying, fretting -- it had to be harmful for the baby, to have so much adrenalin coursing through her system.

It was the waiting that was making her crazy. Not waiting for the baby -- that was natural and she would love every day of her pregnancy.

It was waiting for her life to change. Waiting ... for Bob.

Why should she wait for Bob?

She got up from the couch, switched off the television, went into the bedroom, and started packing her clothing and other things into cardboard boxes. She emptied out Bob's obsessive financial records in order to empty the boxes -- let him amuse himself by sorting them out later.

Only after she had packed and taped up the fourth box did it occur to her that the normal pattern would have been to tell him about the baby and then make him move out.

But she didn't want a connection with him. Didn't want any dispute about paternity. She just wanted to be gone. Out of his ordinary, meaningless life, out of this pointless town.

Of course she couldn't just disappear. Then she'd be a missing person. She'd be added to databases. Someone would be alerted.

So she took her boxes of clothing and a few favorite pots, pans, and recipe books and loaded them into the car that she had owned before she married Bob and that was still in her name alone. Then she spent half an hour writing different versions of a letter to Bob explaining that she didn't love him any more and was leaving and didn't want him to look for her.

No. Nothing in writing. Nothing that can be reported to anyone.

She got in the car and drove to the grocery store. On the way in from the parking lot she took a cart that someone had left blocking a parking space and pushed it into the store. Helping keep the parking lot clear of abandoned carts proved that she wasn't vindictive. She was a civilized person who wanted to help Bob do well in his business and his ordinary, ordinary, ordinary life. It would help him not to have such an extraordinary woman and child in that life.

He was out on the floor and instead of waiting in his office, she went in search of him. She found him supervising the unloading of a truck that was late because of a breakdown on the highway, making sure that the frozen foods were at a low enough temperature to be safely offloaded and shelved.

"Can you wait just a minute?" he said. "I know it's important or you wouldn't have come down here, but ..."

"Oh, Bob, it won't take more than a second." She leaned close to him. "I'm pregnant and it's not yours."

Being a two-part message, it didn't entirely register right away. For a moment he looked happy. Then his face started to turn red.

She leaned in close again. "Don't worry, though. I'm leaving you. I'll let you know where to mail the divorce papers. Now, you get back to work."

She started to walk away. "Randi," he called after her.

"Not your fault, Bob!" she called over her shoulder. "Nothing was your fault. You're a great guy."

She felt liberated as she walked back through the store. Her mood was so generous and expansive that she bought a little container of lip balm and a bottle of water. The tiny amount of profit from the sale would be her last contribution to Bob's life.

Then she got into the car and drove south, because that way was a right turn coming out of the parking lot, and traffic was too heavy to wait for a chance to go left. She'd drive wherever the currents of the traffic led her. She wouldn't try to hide from anybody. She'd let Bob know where she was as soon as she decided she was there, and she'd divorce him in a perfectly ordinary way. But she wouldn't bump into anyone she knew or anyone who knew her. She would become effectively invisible, not like someone trying to hide, but like someone who had nothing to hide at all but who never became important to anyone.

Except to her beloved son.

Copyright © 2004 Orson Scott Card


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