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SPOILER WARNING: Shadow Saga and Children of the Fleet plot details follow.


Achilles de Flandres (pronounced ah-sheel) was an orphan living on the streets of Rotterdam.[1] He is the main antagonist of the Shadow Saga, and was first introduced in Ender's Shadow.

History

Life in Rotterdam

Achilles was the physically malformed child of Belgian parents who somehow ended up homeless and alone on the streets of Rotterdam. He lived from day to day by eating at soup kitchens and stealing food from smaller children until Poke's Crew took him down as part of Bean's plan: acquiring Achilles' protection in order to get them past the lines of brutal bullies and into the soup kitchens. Bean told Poke to kill Achilles, but Poke refused.[1]

In his new role as the "papa" of Poke's crew, Achilles proved remarkably adept. However, he was also a sociopath, and could not bear to allow anyone who had seen him in a helpless condition to remain alive. Since Bean originally came up with the plan to waylay him, and Poke was essentially responsible for having carried out this plan, he resolved to kill them both, though he boded his time until he could find an opportunity to do so without being identified as the murderer.[1]

Soon, the new system of older street children taking care of "families" of younger street children came to the attention of Sister Carlotta, who was searching among these lost children for any that might be intelligent enough to go to Battle School. She came to give Achilles and his "family" a basic education while testing Achilles for the Battle School program, and in the process also discovered Bean's incredible intellect. It was at this point that the opportunity arose for Achilles to eliminate Poke while averting the suspicion to another bully by the name of Ulysses. When he did so, however, Bean witnessed the murder and fled to Sister Carlotta for protection.[1]

When Carlotta learned of how Bean had civilized the street children and how Achilles had lately used his lofty position in this new order to get away with murder, she immediately changed tactics, successfully advocating that Bean be accepted into Battle School while she quietly removed Achilles from the International Fleet's recruitment program and placed him in a more conventional school on Earth.[1]

Battle School

Achilles did exceptionally well academically. His test scores and grades were high, and he learned with fervor. However, his pathological need to kill anyone who had seen or made him helpless manifested itself more and more. Even his teacher, who had humiliated him when he gave a wrong answer, turned up dead. But Achilles was very careful. No suspicion ever fell on him for any of the murders he committed. So he continued his education, even as he was filled with uncontrollable and savage urges. But Sister Carlotta had sent several memos to the Battle School concerning Achilles, and the organization’s interest was piqued. When a situation with Bean at Battle School made it clear that a meeting between he and Achilles would be a major test for Bean, the decision was made to bring Achilles aloft. He was sent to the leading pediatric orthopedic surgeon in the world to correct his crippled leg. After eight surgeries, he could walk as well as any other child. Because the surgeon had put him under total anesthetic, she had to die; he killed her by inducing a heart attack with certain drugs. Her case file read “unsolved murder” and Achilles was sent to Battle School. At that time, he had committed seven murders.[1]

Achilles was the first and only Battle School student to move directly to a Battle School Army right off the shuttle. He was placed in Rabbit Army, which had been recently placed under the command of Bean himself. He attempted to subtly manipulate the army by telling stories about times when he was Bean’s superior, but Bean quickly put an end to that by banning all conversations about home. This made him Achilles' next target for elimination. So Bean gave him the perfect opportunity. He tricked Achilles into coming with him into the vents of the school. Once there, Bean had several members of Rabbit Army hoist Achilles up into a large space where he couldn’t reach any walls. Suspended in air with no chance of escaping, Achilles was forced to confess every murder he had committed while Bean stood in front of him with a voice recorder. Achilles was taken to a mental hospital where he lived for several months.[1]

Shadow of the Hegemon

Achilles escaped the mental hospital in a jailbreak perpetrated by Russian radicals. He was given command of extensive military materials simply because he had attended Battle School. The government was not informed of his mental pathology. Achilles first move was to have all the children who had been a part of Ender's Jeesh kidnapped, brought to a secret location in Russia, and put in solitary confinement until they expressed willingness to work with Achilles. Then, he put them through simulation training with terrain all over the world. But his real test was waiting for one of the students to make contact with someone outside. So while he waited, having cryptographers comb through each message sent by the students, he made contact with people in the Indian government and promised them help in organizing their military as soon as he had left Russia. Finally, the press reported on Achilles' past and how he was the one behind the kidnappings. This meant that a message had been sent out. The only item unaccounted for was a small picture sent by Petra Arkanian. Achilles allowed all the students to be rescued except Petra. He recaptured her and took her with him to India.[2]

By the time he reached India, Achilles already had contacts in China, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries. He soon gained control of the Indian strategic planners, all graduated Battle School students. With them, he planned a massive attack on Burma and Thailand. Petra came up with a brilliant and deft strategy to destroy resistance, sacrificing very few soldiers. But Achilles had planned to conquer Southeast Asia and create an empire using China as his tool. So when India made its attack on Thailand through Burma, he made sure that it would result in a much-weakened India with a starving and cold army far outside its borders. The day he began the attack, Achilles had a bomb planted in the barracks of Thai Battle School graduate Suriyawong. The bomb exploded and reports that both Suriyawong and Bean had been killed soon reached Achilles’ ears. But they were later contradicted by reports that Bean had sent an e-mail from Thai barracks requesting Sister Carlotta’s presence some hours later. Also, Petra had enlisted help from another strategist, Virlomi, to get a message to Bean. Before Achilles could kill Virlomi, she escaped into the Indian countryside. He told the others nothing about what had happened, only letting them wonder. But he arranged for Sister Carlotta’s plane to be shot out of the sky with a surface to air missile he had put in place to bring China into the war.[2]

At some point around 2 AX, Achilles organized and funded a group of South Americans who wanted the International Fleet to become involved in the Wars on Earth in order to attack the Fleet School as a way of getting his revenge against Battle School. However, when Dabeet Ochoa foiled his plan by blowing the ship loaded with Vacoplaz explosives away from the station, Achilles or his subordinates from Earth detonated them anyways in an attempt to do some damage, although the station was left unscathed.[3]

Achilles’ military plan, unlike his assassination attempt, worked very well. Soon after their initial attack, the Indian Army’s supply lines were all but cut completely by Thai raids. At the same time, Burma was stripped bare. So when China came into the war, they met little serious resistance. But Virlomi had rendezvoused with Bean and Suriyawong and given them detailed plans of the compound where Achilles was holding the strategists. The Chinese helicopters arrived to evacuate Achilles from the nation he had betrayed only moments before Thai helicopters came in to rescue Petra and the others. He was alone with a gun in a room full of former Battle Schoolers while the Chinese and Thai stood across from each other in a stand off. Achilles broke the standoff when he ran from the building with Petra toward a helicopter, which Suriyawong blew up before they could reach it. He held the gun to Petra’s head and demanded to be given the remaining Chinese helicopter. The Chinese general made a deal with Bean, however. Petra would be let go and the Indian Battle Schoolers would be left behind and the Chinese could leave with Achilles. Achilles was not willing to accept losing Petra. He turned to kill the Chinese colonel, but said colonel broke his arm at the same time Bean shot him with a tranquilizer. The unconscious Achilles was taken back to China to be given a heroes welcome. Though he had tried to betray their colonel, the Chinese gave Achilles much influence in their new empire, which spanned all of Southeast Asia.[2]

Shadow Puppets

Bean and Suriyawong are intercepting and recovering a prisoner transport in China from orders coming from the Hegemon, Peter Wiggin. While waiting for the transport, Peter and Petra Arkanian show up. Peter tells Bean and Suriyawong that Suriyawong is going to be taking over as lead of the mission as he was given information from one of Ender's Jeesh, Hot Soup (Han Tzu) and hands Suriyawong a letter with the instructions not to open until he's in the air. Bean deduces that the prisoner is actually Achilles that they're here to rescue. Realizing the danger that him and Petra are in, Bean decides to resign as Strategos and leaves before Achilles can get to him and Petra.

Once Suriyawong opens the letter and sees who the prisoner actually is, he doesn't know how to react. He could either kill Achilles as an "unfortunate accident", but decides against it. Instead, he and his team blow up the escorts leaving it up to fate whether or not he is a casualty. Once it's identified that Achilles is in the transport, he opens the hatch and throws his own knife into the transport. Achilles sees the advantage and kills his Chinese captors. Achilles asks Suriyawong what he would do if he do if he accidentally killed him during his rescue. Suriyawong, knowing that Achilles kills anyone who has ever seen him helpless, explains his reasoning telling him that he knew the great Achilles didn't need rescuing. He tells Achilles that Achilles was perfectly capable of protecting himself and he was merely "lending" him his knife for that purpose. He then shows Achilles that he was merely "lending" him his knife by taking it back and thanking him. Once in the helicopter, Suriyawong is making conversation with Achilles, yet making sure that the conversation always ends with Suriyawong being "beneath" Achilles. Worried that his men might think Suriyawong is betraying them, he asks Achilles if he's hungry for breakfast. He tells Achilles that he's always hungry after killing a man and figured he might be the same. This was a blatant lie that only his men would know. Showing them that he's not actually on board with Achilles without saying anything. They then fly off to the Hegemony Compound at Rebeiroo Preto, Brazil.

At the Hegemony Compound, Peter thinks that he can use Achilles just like every other country he's been involved thinks they can. Peter decides to make Achilles the Hegemon's assistant believing he can outsmart him if it ever comes to that point. He bugs all the technology that Achilles uses to catch him in the act if necessary. During that whole time, nothing ever comes out of that. Achilles is friendly towards everyone at the compound making nobody think he's affiliated with China anymore. He seems to especially fraternize with Suriyawong .One of the tasks that Achilles manipulates Peter into doing is freeing all prisoners imprisoned for things that aren't illegal anymore. This includes Volescu. During his time as assistant, he somehow gets a hold of Volescu, without being found through the snoopware Peter installed, and asks how they're going to get Bean and Petra's embryos. Peter's father, John Paul, is also running snoopware on Achilles. He realizes that it's not catching a single thing. Not even things he himself does. He then brings this up to Peter who tells his father the he is also doing the same thing. They head over to their head of security and they discover that both their snoopware are essentially cancelling each other out. Which is why nothing is being found and now it might be too late to find out.

Bean receives an anonymous message that Hot Soup managed to get to him through a stranger in the streets, that the information Peter received from him, wasn't from him. This means that Achilles orchestrated the whole thing. Realizing what this means, Bean and Petra set a coded message to Peter's parents, John Paul and Theresa Wiggin, personal emails. They manage to decrypt the code and tell Peter what they've found. Peter doesn't believe them thinking that he's smarter than them and he can't be wrong. He's in denial that Achilles could possibly outsmart him. After some back and forth, they manage to convince him and they flee the compound. Achilles then sets his plan in motion. During those events, it turns out that the head of security is working with Achilles which might explain why neither snoopware wasn't "working". Achilles declares that Peter is embezzling money from the Hegemony fund and declares Suriyawong general and acting Hegemon until they find a new Hegemon.

While Bean and Petra are leaving the fertility clinic, Achilles has hitmen and kidnappers ready to take Petra and kill Bean. Bean isn't aware of this, but his instincts and subconscious tell him to send Petra on the third taxi. Bean gets in the first taxi which turns out to be one of the hitmen. Bean is saved by Alai's team. Achilles manages to convince Volescu to steal Bean and Petra's embryos by bribing Bean's security personnel. Bean, taking Ender's advice that to destroy your enemy you must love your enemy, realizes that he in fact does love Achilles. The man who kept Poke's crew alive and fed. With this, he understands that Achilles stole the embryos not to implant them, but to use them as bait and take all of Bean's and Petra's hope away before killing them. Bean decides that he must take back the embryos and kill Achilles.

Meanwhile, Peter and his parents have to fly to the former Battle School in order to escape from Achilles grasp. They have secret identities while staying there. While there, Hyrum Graff tells them that they've been compromised and that someone has relayed their location from there. Whether it's to Achilles or the Chinese is unknown at the time. Through some planning, it turns out that it was the head of security that was the leak. He tells them that Achilles has his family and threatened to kill them if he didn't follow his instructions and inform him what Peter was doing. They plan a decoy shuttle to fly back to Earth with fake plans of Peter being in there. The plan being whether Achilles is personally using this information to kill Peter or if he's feeding it to the Chinese. The shuttle is destroyed over Brazil which came from the Hegemony compound. The Chinese then fully disavow Achilles and forces the International Fleet to finally act against Achilles.

Realizing that he has nothing left anymore, Achilles decides to use his plan to lure out Bean and Petra to kill them. He leaves a clue for Bean to follow which Bean finds. They set up a meeting to get the embryos back. At the compound, Bean walks in with his team that Achilles allowed him to bring, including a hidden .22 handgun and Peter. Achilles easily gives him the container of embryos. Bean, remembering that Achilles doesn't need to be there to kill him, sends the container away with one of his people deducing that it's probably a bomb. He then sends the rest of the people with him away except for Peter who told him beforehand he'd refuse to leave Bean's side. On the other side of the compound an explosion goes off that surprises Achilles. Bean tells him that he knew it was a bomb and it's been contained. Achilles tries to feign innocence, but eventually gives up. Achilles then pulls out a vial and tells Bean that it's a real embryo. He throws it to Peter, but purposely misses. Bean walks up to the embryo and stomps on it. Achilles is now afraid because Bean is doing things that he didn't expect him to do. Something that Bean knew would happen and planned for. Bean walks up to Achilles face and points the gun at his face. Achilles tells him that if he kills him he'll never find out where the embryos are. Bean tells him that he either has the embryos or he doesn't. Both of which Achilles wasn't getting out alive. Achilles pulls another vial proclaiming that this is a real embryo. Bean smacks it out of his hand and destroys that vial as well. Achilles is terrified now and tells Bean that Bean would never kill him in cold blood. Bean points the gun once again at Achilles. Achilles finally asks Suriyawong to intervene. Suriyawong simply throws him a knife once again. Achilles doesn't want that and tells him to shoot Bean. Suriyawong walks away, finally betraying his months work of trust with Achilles to lead up to this moment. Bean shoots Achilles in his right eye and finally kills him; ridding the world of Achilles.

Personality

Achilles was a sociopath, and felt that the universe revolved around him. He refused to be seen as weak in any way, casually killing doctors who healed his own wounds rather than let anyone live who saw him in a weakened state. A problem with maintaining this facade of perfection was that Achilles actually had a very obvious physical deformity, a club foot, which was only corrected after extensive surgery.

Ironically, Achilles wasn't a "real" child prodigy Battle School candidate. The reason he was sent to the Battle School was simply as a test for Bean, to be confronted with his old rival from Rotterdam. Achilles was certainly very intelligent, even brilliant, but this often took the form of a certain low cunning. His true skill was in his penchant for betrayal.

Achilles' modus operandi was to approach a national government, and offer it his services as one of the brilliant tacticians from the Battle School (despite the fact that Achilles wasn't a real candidate, and was actually thrown out of the program). After gaining the trust of one national government, and gaining access to its top-level military and strategic information, Achilles promptly betrayed that country by defecting to one of their stronger rivals with the information he has obtained. In this fashion, Achilles advanced to influence in incrementally more powerful countries as he betrayed the last one. Achilles used this tactic to gain influence in Russia, Pakistan, and then India. In the quintessential example of his pattern, he then betrayed India by weakening it from within then defecting to China.

Trivia

  • Despite having the name "Achilles of Flandres", he was actually born in Wallonia, Belgium.[1]
  • Achilles' name is pronounced "ah-sheel" using the French pronunciation, and not "uh-kill-eez" as per the English pronunciation.[1]
  • Achilles' gravestone, bought by Bean, says, "Born crippled in body and spirit, he changed the face of the world. Among all the hearts he broke and lives he ended far too young were his own heart and his own life. May he find peace."

Quotes

"It was happening again. The universe, bending to his will. He and Bean would be alone. No one would be tracking where they were. No one would know what had happened."
Ender's Shadow, page 309

References

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