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Excerpt from Shadow of The Hegemon by Orson Scott Card, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Shadow of The Hegemon by Orson Scott Card

Shadow of The Hegemon

by Orson Scott Card
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  • First Published:
  • Jan 1, 2001
  • Paperback:
  • Dec 2001
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Bean was with his family on the second day of their vacation at the beach on the island of Ithaca, but this was Petra, and he read the nets and watched the vids avidly, along with his brother, Nikolai. They both reached the same conclusion right away. "It wasn't any of the Turkish nations," Nikolai announced to their parents. "That's obvious."

Father, who had been working in government for many years, agreed. "Real Turks would have made sure to speak only Russian."

"Or Armenian," said Nikolai.

"No Turk speaks Armenian," said Mother. She was right, of course, since real Turks would never deign to learn it, and those in Turkish countries who did speak Armenian were, by definition, not really Turks and would never be trusted with a delicate assignment like kidnapping a military genius.

"So who was it?" said Father. "Agents provocateurs, trying to start a war?"

"My bet is on the Armenian government," said Nikolai. "Put her in charge of their military."

"Why kidnap her when they could employ her openly?" asked Father.

"Taking her out of school openly," said Nikolai, "would be an announcement of Armenia's military intentions. It might provoke preemptive actions by surrounding Turkey or Azerbaijan."

There was superficial plausibility in what Nikolai was saying, but Bean knew better. He had already foreseen this possibility back when all the militarily gifted children were still in space. At that time the main danger had come from the Polemarch, and Bean wrote an anonymous letter to a couple of opinion leaders on Earth, Locke and Demosthenes, urging them to get all the Battle School children back to Earth so they couldn't be seized or killed by the Polemarch's forces in the League War. The warning had worked, but now that the League War was over, too many governments had begun to think and act complacently, as if the world now had peace instead of a fragile ceasefire. Bean's original analysis still held. It was Russia that was behind the Polemarch's coup attempt in the League War, and it was likely to be Russia that was behind the kidnapping of Petra Arkanian.

Still, he didn't have any hard evidence of this and knew of no way to get it -- now that he wasn't inside a Fleet installation, he had no access to military computer systems. So he kept his skepticism to himself, and made a joke out of it. "I don't know, Nikolai," he said. "Since staging this kidnapping is having an even more destabilizing effect, I'd have to say that if she was taken by her own government, it proves they really really need her, because it was a deeply dumb thing to do."

"If they're not dumb," said Father, "who did it?"

"Somebody who's ambitious to fight and win wars and smart enough to know they need a brilliant commander," said Bean. "And either big enough or invisible enough or far enough away from Armenia not to care about the consequences of kidnaping her. In fact, I'll bet that whoever took her would be perfectly delighted if war broke out in the Caucasus."

"So you think it's some large and powerful nation close by?" asked Father. Of course, there was only one large and powerful nation close to Armenia.

"Could be, but there's no telling," said Bean. "Anybody who needs a commander like Petra wants a world in turmoil. Enough turmoil, and anybody might emerge on top. Plenty of sides to play off against each other." And now that Bean had said it, he began to believe it. Just because Russia was the most aggressive nation before the League War didn't mean that other nations weren't going to get into the game.

"In a world in chaos," said Nikolai, "the army with the best commander wins."

"If you want to find the kidnapper, look for the country that talks most about peace and conciliation," said Bean, playing with the idea and saying whatever came to mind.

Copyright © 2000 Orson Scott Card

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