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From: PW


Re: Reconciliation of keyboard [?]cogs

You'll be happy to learn that we were able to sort out oil the [?]cogs. We have tracked every computer entry by the person in question. All his entries dealt with official business and assignments he was carrying out for me. Nothing that was in any way improper was done.

Personally, I find this disturbing. Either he found a way to fool both our programs (not likely), or he is actually doing nothing but what he should (even less likely), or he is playing a very deep game about which we have no idea (extremely likely).

Let's talk tomorrow.

Theresa woke up when John Paul got out of bed to pee at four AM. It worried her that he couldn't make it through the night anymore. He was still a little young to be having prostate problems.

But it wasn't her husband's slackening bladder capacity that kept her awake. It was the memo from Peter informing them that Achilles had done absolutely nothing but what he was supposed to do.

This was impossible. Nobody does exactly what they're supposed to and nothing else. Achilles should have had some friend, some ally, some contact whom he needed to notify that he was out of China and safe. He had a network of informants and agents, and as he showed when he hopped from Russia to India to China, he was always one step ahead of everybody. The Chinese finally wised up to his pattern and short-circuited it, but that didn't mean Achilles didn't have his next move planned. So why hadn't he done anything to set it in motion?

There were more possibilities than the ones Peter listed, of course. Maybe Achilles had a means of bypassing the electromagnetic shield that surrounded the Ribeirao Preto compound. Of course, he couldn't have brought such a device with him when he was rescued, or it would have shown up in the search that was conducted during his first bath in Ribeirao. So someone would have to have brought it to him. And Peter was convinced that no such device could exist. Maybe he was right.

Maybe Achilles's next move was something he planned to do entirely alone.

Maybe there was something he had that he was able to smuggle into Brazil inside his body. Did the surveillance cameras show him, perhaps, combing through his bowel movements? Peter must surely have checked for that.

While she lay there thinking. John Paul had come back from the bathroom. But now she noticed that he had not resumed snoring.

"You're awake?" she asked.

"Sorry I woke you."

"I can't sleep anyway," she said.

"The Beast?"

"We're missing something," said Theresa. "He hasn't suddenly become a loyal servant of the Hegemony."

"I'm not going to get back to sleep either," said John Paul. He got up and padded in bare feet to his computer She heard him typing and knew that he was checking his mail first.

Busy work, but it was better than lying here staring at the dark ceiling. She got up also, took her desk from the table, and brought it back to bed, where she began checking her own email.

One of the benefits of being the mother of the Hegemon was that she didn't actually have to answer the tedious mail-she could forward it on to one of Peter's secretaries to deal with, since it consisted mostly of tedious attempts of people trying to get her to use her supposed influence with Peter to get him to do something that was not within his power to do, was illegal even if he could do it, and which he would certainly not do even if it were legal.

It left her with very few pieces of mail that she needed to deal with personally.

Most of it could be answered with a few sentences and she dealt with it quickly, if a bit sleepily.

She was about to shut down her desk and try again to get back to sleep when a new piece of mail came in.

To: T%Hegmom@Hegemony.gov

From: Rock%HardPlace@IComeAnon.com

Re: And when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.

What was this? Some religious fanatic? But the address was her most private one, used only by John Paul, Peter, and a handful of people she actually liked and knew well.

So who sent it?

She skipped to the bottom. No signature. The message was short. You'll never guess. There I was at a party-the boring but dangerous kind, with fine china that you know you're going to break, and a tablecloth you're bound to spill India ink on-and do you know what happens? Along comes the very man with whom I wanted to tie the knot. He thinks he's rescuing me from the party. But in fact, he was the very reason I came to the party in the first place. Not that I'll ever tell him. He would BLOW UP if he knew. And then, of course, I'm so nervous I bump into the tureen and hot soup spills all aver everything. But . - - you know met just a big oaf.

That was the complete text of the message. It was really annoying, because it didn't sound like anyone she knew. She didn't have friends who sent letters as empty and pointless as this one. Gossip about a party. Somebody hoping to marry somebody else.

But before she could make any progress on figuring it out, another piece of mail came in.

To: T%Hegmom@Hegemony.gov

From: Sheep%NotGoats@IComeAnon.com

Re: Even as ye have done it unto the least of these - . -

Another biblical quote. Same person? Bound to be.

But the message was not chatty at all. In fact, it continued the scriptural motif from the subject line. It had nothing to do with the previous message.

Ye took me in, but I was not naked. I took you in, because you were foolish. Ye never knew me, but I knew you.

When does the judgment day come? Like a thief in the night. In an hour when ye look not for me. The fool says, He is not coming. Let us eat drink and be merry for he is not coming. Behold I stand at the door and knock In sorrow shall ye bear children, will have the power to crush your head but ye will have the power to bite my heel.

A time to sow, and a time to reap. A time to gather stones together, a time to run like hell.

She who has ears to hear. How beautiful upon the mountains

are the feet. I come to bring not peace but a sword.

Theresa got out of bed. John Paul had to see these letters. They meant something, she knew that, especially arriving together like this. The number of people who knew this address was very, very small. And not one of them would write either of these letters.

Therefore either this address had been compromised-but who would bother? She was only the mother of the Hegemon-or these letters were meant to convey a message. And it was from someone who thought that even at this address, her mail might be intercepted by someone else.

Who was that paranoid, but Bean?

Big oaf, that's who he said he was. Bean, definitely.

"John Paul," she said as she padded up behind him.

"This is so strange," he said.

She assumed he was going to tell her about a similar pair of messages, so she waited.

"The Chinese have imposed a completely absurd law in India. About rocks! People aren't allowed to carry rocks without a permit! Anyone caught with rocks is subject to arrest-and they're actually enforcing it. Have they lost their minds?"

She found it impossible to be interested in the idiocies of China's policies in India. "John Paul, I have to show you something."

"Sure," he said, turning to look at the desk she set down on the table next to his computer

"Read these letters," she said.

He glanced at one, and before she could imagine he had actually read the whole thing, he flipped to the next one. "Yeah, I got them too," he said. "A dullbob and a crenchee. You shouldn't let these things get to you."

"No," she said. "Look at them closer They came to my private address. I think they're from Bean."

He looked up at her, then turned to his own computer and called up his own copies of the letters. "Me too," he said. "I didn't notice that. Just looked like junk mail, but nobody uses this address."

"The subject lines-"

"Yes," said John Paul. "Both scriptures, even though the first one-"

"Yes, and the first one is about left and right hands, and the second one is from the parable or whatever it is when Jesus speaks to the people on his right hand and the people on his left hand."

"So they both have left and right hands." said John Paul.

"Two parts to the same message.

"Could be," he said.

"The scriptures are all twisted." said Theresa.

"You Mormons learn your scriptures," said John Paul. "We Catholics regard that as a really Protestant thing to do."

"The real scripture says, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was homeless or something like that and you took me in."

"I was a stranger and you took me in," said John Paul.

"So you did read scripture."

"I woke up once during the homily."

"It's word games." said Theresa. "I think the second 'took you in' means 'fooled you.' not 'provided shelter for you.'"

By now John Paul was studying the other letter "This one's geopolitical. Fine China. India ink. And it ends with 'blow up' in all caps.

'Tie the knot,' " said Theresa, looking at the first letter "The 'tie' could mean somebody from Thailand.'"

"That's stretching it a little," said John Paul, chuckling.

"It's all word games." said Theresa. " 'Power to bite my heel'- that has to refer to the Beast, don't you think? Achilles, who could only be hurt in the heel."

"And Achilles was rescued by a Thai-Suriyawong."

"So now you think 'tie' might be 'Thai'?"

"Yes, you told me so."

"The Thai thinks he's rescuing this person from a party. Suri rescues Achilles, but Achilles is keeping a secret. He would blow up if he knew."

Now John Paul was looking at the second letter "A time to run like hell. Is this a warning?"

"That's what the last line has to be. She who has ears, let her hear. Use your feet. Because he comes to bring not peace but the sword."

"Mine says 'He who has ears to hear'

"You're right, they weren't identical."

"Who's the 'I' in these scriptures?"


"No, no, I mean, what does the message mean by 'I'? I think it's Achilles. I think it's written as if Achilles were talking. I took you in because you were foolish. Thief in the night, when we aren't looking for him. We're stupid because we think he's not coming but he's here at the door"

"A time to run like hell," said Theresa.

John Paul leaned back and closed his eyes. "A warning from Bean, maybe. Suri thought he was rescuing Achilles but it was exactly what Achilles wanted him to do. And the other letter-that reference to stones, that has to be Petra. They sent us a pair of messages that fit together."

And now it all fell into place. "This is what's been bothering me, said Theresa. "This is why I couldn't sleep."

"You didn't get these letters till just now," said John Paul.

"No, the thing that was keeping me awake, it was how Achilles has done nothing since he got here except his official duties. I was thinking that even though he was short-circuited by the Chinese arresting him, it made no sense for him not to make contact with his network. But what if the Chinese didn't arrest him at all? What if that was a setup? 'You took me in but I was not naked.'"

John Paul nodded. "And I took you in, because you were foolish." "So the whole point of this was to get Achilles inside the compound."

"But so what?" said John Paul. "We've been suspicious of him anyway."

"But this is more than suspicion," said Theresa. "Or they wouldn't have sent it."

"There's no evidence here. Nothing that would persuade Peter"

"Yes there is," said Theresa. "Hot soup." He looked at her blankly.

"From Ender's jeesh. Han Tzu. Inside China. He would know. He's the authority. He 'spilled everything.' Definitely a setup."

"OK," said John Paul, "so we have the evidence. We know Achilles wasn't really a prisoner, he wanted to be taken."

"Don't you see? This means he really understands Peter. He knew that Peter couldn't resist rescuing him. Maybe he even knew that Bean and Petra would leave. Think about it-we all knew how dangerous Achilles could be, so maybe he was counting on that."

"Everybody closest to Peter left, except us-"

"And Peter tried to get us to go.

"And Suriyawong."

"And Achilles has coopted him."

"Or Suri has Achilles convinced he has."

They'd been back and forth on that one before. "Whatever," said Theresa. "Simply by arriving here, Achilles has succeeded in isolating Peter Then he's spent his whole time being Mr Nice Guy, doing everything right-and making friends with everybody while he's at it. Everything's going smoothly. Except-"

"Except that he's in a position to kill Peter"

"If he can do it in a way that doesn't implicate him."

"Ready to step in, as Peter's assistant, and say, 'Everything's going smoothly at the Hegemony, we'll just keep things going till a new Hegemon is chosen,' and long before they can choose one, he's compromised all the codes, he's neutralized the army, and China is completely rid of the Hegemony once and for all. They'll get advance word of one of Suri's missions and they wipe out our brave little army and-"

"Why wipe it out, if it already obeys you?" said Theresa.

"We don't know that Suri-"

"What do you think would happen if Peter tried to leave?" she asked.

John Paul thought about that. "Achilles would take over while he was gone. There's a long tradition of that maneuver."

"And just as long a tradition of declaring him sick and keeping anyone from having access to him."

"Well, he can't restrict access to Peter as long as we're here," said John Paul.

They looked at each other for a long moment.

"Get your passport," said Theresa.

"We can't pack anything."

"Wipe the computers."

"What do you think he'll use? Poison? Some bio-agent?"

"Bio-agent is likeliest. He could have smuggled that in."

"Does it matter?"

"Peter's not going to believe us.

"He's stubborn and self-willed and he thinks we're idiots," said John Paul. "But that doesn't mean he's stupid."

"But he might think he can handle it."

John Paul nodded. "You're right. He is exactly that stupid."

"Wipe all your files on the system and-"

"It doesn't matter," said John Paul. "There are backups."

"Not of these letters, at least."

John Paul printed them out and then destroyed them in the computer's memory, while Theresa wiped them from her desk.

Carrying the paper copies of the letters, they headed for Peter's room.

Peter was sleepy, surly, and impatient with them. He kept dismissing their concerns and insisting they wait till morning until finally John Paul lost his temper and dragged Peter out of bed like a teenager He was so shocked at being treated in such a way that he actually fell silent.

"Stop thinking this is between you and your parents," John Paul said. "These letters are from Bean and Petra, and they're relaying a message from Han-Tzu in China. These are three of the smartest military minds alive, and all three of them have been proven to be smarter than you."

Peter's face reddened with anger.

"Have I got your attention now?" said John Paul. "Will you actually listen?"

"What does it matter if I listen?" said Peter. "Let one of them be Hegemon, they're so much smarter than me.

Theresa bent down and got right in his face. "You're acting like a rebellious teenager while we're trying to tell you the house is on fire."

"Process this information," said John Paul, "as if we were a couple of your informants. Pretend that you think we actually know something. And while you're at it, take a quick poll and see how effectively Achilles has driven away everybody around you who was completely trustworthy-except us."

"I know you mean well," said Peter, but his voice betrayed his anger.

"Shut up," said Theresa. "Just shut up with your patronizing tone. You saw the letters. We didn't make that up. Hot Soup found a way to tell Bean and Petra that the whole rescue was a setup. You were had, smart boy. Achilles has this whole place sussed by now. Every move you make, somebody tells him."

"For all we know," said John Paul, "the Chinese have an operation ready to roll."

"Or you're going to be arrested by Suri's soldiers," said Theresa.

"In other words, you have no idea what I'm even supposed to be afraid of."

"That's right," said Theresa. "That's exactly right. Because you played into his hands as if he handed you a script and you read your lines like a robot."

"You're the puppet right now, Peter," said John Paul. "You thought you held the strings, but you're the puppet."

"And you have to leave now," said Theresa.

"What's the emergency?" said Peter impatiently. "You don't know what he's going to do or when."

"Sooner or later you're going to have to go," said Theresa. "Or do you plan to wait until he kills you? Or us? And when you do go, it has to be sudden, unexpected, unplanned. There's no better opportunity than now. While the three of us are still alive. Can you guarantee that will still be true tomorrow? This afternoon? I didn't think so."

"Before dawn," said John Paul. "Out of the compound, into the city, onto a plane, out of Brazil."

Peter just sat there, looking from one to the other But the irritated look was gone from his face. Was it possible? Could he have actually heard something that they said?

"If I leave," said Peter, "they'll say I abdicated."

"You can say that you didn't."

"I'll look like a fool. I'll be completely discredited."

"You were a fool," said Theresa. "If you say it first, nobody else gets any points for saying it. Cover up nothing. Get a press release out while you're in the air You're Locke. You're Demosthenes. You can spin anything."

Peter stood up. started pulling clothes out of his dresser drawers. "I think you're right," he said. "I think your analysis is absolutely right."

Theresa looked at John Paul.

John Paul looked at Theresa.

Was this Peter talking?

"Thank you for not giving up on me," he said. "But this Hegemon thing is done. I've lost any chance of making it work. I had my chance, and I blew it. Everybody told me not to bring Achilles here. I had all these plans on how to lead him into a trap. But I was already caught in his."

"I've already told you to shut up once this morning," said Theresa. "Don't make me do it again."

Peter didn't bother buttoning his shirt. "Let's go," he said.

Theresa was glad to see that he didn't try to take anything with him. He only stopped at his computer and typed in a single command.

Then he headed for the door

"Aren't you going to wipe out your files?" asked John Paul. "Alert your head of security?"

"I just did," said Peter

So he had been prepared for such a day as this. He already had the program in place that would automatically destroy everything that needed destroying. And it would alert those who needed to be alerted.

"We have ten minutes before the people I used to trust get warned to evacuate," said Peter. "Since we don't know which of them we can still trust, we have to be out of here by then."

His plan included looking after those who were still loyal to him, whose lives would be in danger when Achilles took over. Theresa had not imagined Peter would think of such a thing. It was a good thing to know about him.

They didn't skulk or run, just walked through the grounds toward the nearest gate, engaged in animated conversation. It might be early in the morning, but who would imagine that the Hegemon and his parents were making a getaway? No luggage, no hurry, no stealth. Arguing. A perfectly normal scene.

And the argument was real enough. They spoke softly, because in the stillness of dawn they might be overheard even at a distance. But there was plenty of intensity in their hushed voices.

"Skip the melodrama," said John Paul. "Your life isn't over. You made a huge mistake, and there are people who are going to say that running out like this is an even bigger one. But your mother and I know that it isn't. As long as you're alive, there's hope."

"The hope is Bean," said Peter "He hasn't shot himself in the foot. I'll throw my support behind Bean. Or maybe I shouldn't. Maybe my support would just be the kiss of death."

"Peter," said John Paul, "you're the Hegemon. You were elected. You, not this compound. In fact, you're the one who moved the Hegemony offices here. Now you're going to move them somewhere else. Wherever you are, that's the Hegemony. Don't you ever say one thing to imply otherwise. Even if your entire power in the world consists of you and me and your mother, that's not nothing. Because you are Peter Wiggin, and dammit, we're John Paul Wiggin and Theresa Wiggin and underneath our charming and civilized exteriors, we're some pretty tough bunducks."

Peter said nothing.

"Well, actually," said Theresa to John Paul, "we're the bunducks. Peter's the big sabeek."

Peter shook his head.

"You are," Theresa insisted. "And do you know how I know you are? Because you were smart enough to listen to us and get out in time."

"I was just thinking," said Peter quietly.

"What?" prompted Theresa, before John Paul could give his standard joking reply: It's about time. It would be the wrong joke for this moment, but John Paul was never very good about knowing when it was the wrong time for his standard jokes. They came out by reflex, without being processed through his brain first.

"I've underestimated you two," he said.

"Well, yes," said Theresa.

"In fact, I've been a little shit to you for a long time."

"Not so little," said John Paul.

Theresa cocked a warning eyebrow at him.

"But I still never did anything as dumb as flying to get into his bedroom to kill him," said Peter.

Theresa looked at him sharply. He was grinning at her.

John Paul laughed. She couldn't blame him. He couldn't help retaliating. After all, she had just given him the dreaded eyebrow.

"OK, well, you're right," said Theresa. "That was pretty stupid. But I didn't know what else to do to save you."

"Maybe saving me isn't such a great idea."

"You're the only copy of our DNA left on Earth," said John Paul. "We really don't want to have to start all over, making babies. That's for younger people now.

"Besides," said Theresa. "Saving you means saving the world."

"Right," said Peter derisively.

"You're the only hope," said Theresa.

"Then good luck, world."

"I do believe," said John Paul, "that that was almost a prayer. Don't you think so, Theresa? I think Peter said a prayer.

Peter chuckled. "Yeah, why not. Good luck, world. Amen."

They got to the gate well before the ten minutes were up. There was a cab driver asleep at a cab stand in front of the biggest hotel outside the compound. John Paul woke him and handed him a very large sum of money.

"Take us to the airport," said Theresa.

"But not this one," said John Paul. "I think we want to fly out of Araraquara."

"That's an hour away," said Theresa.

"And we have an hour till the earliest flight anywhere," said John Paul. "Do you want to spend that hour just sitting in an airport that's fifteen minutes away from the compound?"

Peter laughed. "That is so paranoid," he said. "just like Bean."

"Bean's alive," said John Paul.

"I'm OK with that," said Peter. "Being alive is good."

Peter had his press release out from one of the computers in the Araraquara airport. But Achilles didn't waste any time, either.

Peter's story was all flue, though he left a few things out. He admitted that he had been fooled into thinking that he was rescuing Achilles when in fact he was bringing the Trojan Horse inside the walls of Troy. It was a terrible mistake because Achilles was serving the Chinese Empire all along, and Hegemony headquarters was completely compromised. Peter declared that he was moving Hegemony headquarters to another location and urged all Hegemony employees who were still loyal to him to wait for word about where to reassemble.

Achilles's press release declared that he, General Suriyawong, and Ferreira, the head of Hegemony computer security, had discovered that Peter was embezzling Hegemony funds and hiding them in secret accounts-money that should have gone to paying Hegemony debts and feeding the poor and trying to achieve world peace. He declared that the office of the Hegemon would continue to function under the control of Suriyawong as the ranking military leader of Hegemony forces, and that he would help Suriyawong only if he was asked. Meanwhile, a warrant had been issued for Peter Wiggin's arrest to answer charges of embezzlement, malfeasance in office, and high treason against the International Defense League.

In a press release later that day he announced that Hyrum Graff had been removed as Minister of Colonization and was to be arrested for complicity with Peter Wiggin in the conspiracy to defraud the Hegemony.

"The son of a bitch," said John Paul.

"Graff won't obey him," said Theresa. "He'll simply declare that you're still Hegemon and that he answers only to you and Admiral Chamrajnagar."

"But it'll dry up a lot of his funds," said Peter. "He'll have a lot less freedom of movement. Because now there's a price on his head, and in some countries they'd just love to arrest him and turn him over to the Chinese."

"Do you really think Achilles is serving the Chinese interest?" asked Theresa.

"Every bit as loyally as he served mine," said Peter.

Before the plane landed in Miami, Peter had his safe haven. In, of all places, the USA.

"I thought America was determined not to get involved," said John Paul.

"It's just temporary," said Peter

"But it puts them clearly on our team," said Theresa.

"'Them'?" said Peter. "You're Americans. So am I. The U.S. isn't 'them,' it's us."

"Wrong," said Theresa. "You're the Hegemon. You're above nationality. And so, I might add, are we."