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Hidden Empire

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Hidden Empire

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Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tor, 2009
Series: Empire: Book 2

1. Empire
2. Hidden Empire

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Military SF
Avg Member Rating:
(17 reads / 11 ratings)


The war of words between right and left collapsed into a shooting war, and raged between the high-technology weapons on each side, devastating cities and overrunning the countryside.

At the close of Empire, political scientist and government adviser Averell Torrent had maneuvered himself into the presidency of the United States. And now that he has complete power at home, he plans to expand American imperial power around the world.

Opportunity comes quickly. There's a deadly new plague in Africa, and it is devastating the countryside and cities. President Torrent declares American solidarity with the victims, but places all of Africa in quarantine until a vaccine is found or the disease burns itself out. And he sends Captain Bartholomew Coleman, Cole to his friends, to run the relief operations and protect the American scientists working on identifying the virus. If Cole and his team can avoid dying of the plague, or being cut down by the weapons of fearful African nations, they might do some good. Or they might be out of the way for good.




THIS IS a dangerous planet. Only a politician would try to tell you otherwise. And I'm not talking about wars--we're America, we win our wars.There are earthquakes, storms, volcanos. Plagues can appear out of nowhere and slaughter millions of people. Blights can wipe out our crops. A meteor the size of a bus could hit the earth and send us back to the Stone Age. An extraordinary solar .are could destroy our electronics or heat our atmosphere so much our crops all die and we starve.

And whom do we put in charge of helping us prepare to cope with such disasters? People whose only talent is for getting elected, and whose entire future consists of the runup to the next election. It's not their fault-- anybody who doesn't think and act that way won't win. It's the fundamental problem with democracy. No long-range thinking. So we're just sitting ducks, waiting for the next disaster.

If you want to know what destroyed the Roman Empire, it was two plagues, a century apart, that killed about thirty percent of the population each time. That's why there weren't enough soldiers to keep the legions at full strength.That's why the emperors had to invite in the barbarian tribes to farm the abandoned land and .ll the abandoned cities.

Only now we're talking about the whole world.Whom do we invite in to settle the empty land when it's the whole world that's been depopulated?

CHINMA WAS the fourth son of the third wife of the aging chief of his small tribe in the Kwara state of Nigeria.There was no shortage of

other sons, most of them adult, and nothing much was expected of Chinma. People constantly told him to shut up, even his mother, even when he wasn't saying anything.

He got the idea at a very young age that his very presence was annoying to everyone.

The easiest way to avoid getting cuffed or shoved or slapped or yelled at was to disappear. And the easiest way to disappear was to go up. People didn't look up very much. He could go up into the trees and keep company with the monkeys.They yelled at him, too, and threw things at him, but they were more afraid of him than he was of them, so it was actually fun.

That's why by the time he was twelve years old Chinma could climb any tree to the smallest branches that could bear his weight, and catch monkeys by enticing them with fruit while holding very, very still and looking in another direction until they were close enough for Chinma to make his grab.

All of this was useless to everyone until the happy day when Ire, the second son of the .rst wife, came back to the village from the big city, Ilorin, with news. "They're paying money for white- face monkeys, especially if you can get the whole family."

Ire sat there in the yard in front of the big house, telling Father and the important brothers how much money, and who was paying, and how he found out about it, and then they started arguing about how they could go about catching the monkeys.

Meanwhile, Chinma ran to a good white- face monkey tree, climbed it, caught the papa- monkey, scampered back down, and brought the monkey to Ire.

All the men fell silent.

"What's your name?" asked Father.

"Monkey- catcher," said Ire. And that became Chinma's new name.

Father was against paying Chinma anything for the monkeys he caught. "We've been feeding him for all these years, it's about time he started earning his way." But Ire said it was business, and in business you pay everybody something, so they'll work harder.

So now Chinma was important and had money, a hundred naira for every monkey, .ve hundred for the papa monkeys, two thousand if he brought in a whole family. He almost always got the families-- once he got the papa monkey, it was pretty easy to get the babies, and once he had the babies, he could use them as bait to get the mamas.

Ire bought cages for the monkeys and it didn't take many weeks before all the white- face monkeys in their neighborhood were gone or hiding.

So they got in the family truck and began to range far out into the country. Father and Ire had bribed all the right people, so there was no trouble with police-- or the roaming gangs of thugs and brigands who, as often as not, were the police out of uniform, or their brothers- in- law. It seemed like a safe way to make money-- and it all depended on Chinma's knack for climbing trees, winning the trust of monkeys, and bringing them down in good condition, every member of the family.

Ire said that somewhere far away-- South Africa or Great Britain or America-- scientists were studying the white- face monkey because its cries seemed to be like language. "Not our language," said Father, and everyone laughed. Only it wasn't really all that funny, since only about three thousand people spoke their language, Ayere, and all of them lived right there in Kwara state.

They knew that other tribes had lost their language, for to survive in Nigeria you had to know at least one of the major languages-- Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa-- and if you had any hope of becoming educated, you had to learn En glish as well. How many languages could one head hold?

"They ought to take us to America and study our language," said Ire.

"With our luck," said Father, "they'd take us to Liberia."

But the truth was they were very lucky. This white- face monkey trade was bringing in cash, which there had never been very much of in their village of Oyi. "Our oil well," Father called it. But he meant the monkeys-- not Chinma, even though Chinma caught every single monkey they sold.

When he mentioned this thought to Mother, she slapped his shoulder, twice, and very sternly told him, "And who drives the truck? And who found out that these monkeys were worth something? And who fed you all your life till now? You think you're so important."

He apologized. But he was important, and he knew it. Nobody told him to shut up now, nobody in the family forgot his name. He was Monkey- catcher, and when the family was making money, he was right there, up a tree, catching it and bringing it down to them.

Until one day, in a remote stand of trees, not even large enough to call it a woods, surrounded by grassland on all sides, Chinma climbed a tree and found a troop of white- face monkeys that had no timidity at all. They did not scamper away from him. He did not have to coax them. They just sat there, waiting for him. The papa monkey hissed and showed his teeth. He snapped at Chinma, too. But he did not run away.

Chinma avoided the teeth and carried him down the tree. "He's a biter," said Chinma to Ire.

"So am I," said Ire, and laughed. Whereupon the papa monkey twisted around in Ire's hand and bit him savagely on the thumb. Ire shouted and dropped the monkey, but Chinma immediately caught it again-- it was easy, because the monkey ran away so slowly.

"Are you all right?" Chinma asked Ire.

"Just put it in the cage," said Ire testily, and he resumed sucking on the wound. "Get the rest of the family."

As Chinma brought down each of the babies, it was one of the other brothers, not Ire, who put them in the cages. Ire sat in the cab of the truck sucking on his wound and keeping up a low murmur of cursing.

There were only two females-- it was not a large troop, because it shared the stand of trees with an aggressive troop of red- bellied guenon monkeys. Chinma only recognized them because his family had brought him books about monkeys after he became valuable to them. These guenons were very rare, especially such a large group, and most people thought the only ones still alive were in the West Africa Biodiversity Hot Spot. It was very important that these monkeys were here.

Chinma decided not to tell the brothers about them.They would want to catch them and sell them, too, and Chinma knew it would take a lot more bribes because these monkeys were so endangered.

Instead, Chinma would tell a scientist about them, so they could get protected. Of course, that would mean going in to Ilorin, where they turned in the white- faces, which they had never let him do. But he had never asked, either. Maybe he was valuable enough now that they would let him.

Up a tree, he went for the largest female. Like the papa monkey, she didn't try to move away. As Chinma inched closer, she seemed to snarl and he expected her to try to bite. But she didn't. Instead, just as he got hold of her by the back and neck, she sneezed in his face.

Sneezed or gave him a raspberry-- he wasn't sure which-- but it amounted to the same thing. Monkey spit and snot all over his face. And he couldn't even wipe it off, because he needed one hand to hold her and the other hand to help him climb. And by the time he got down the tree, the stuff had dried on his face.

"This one spits," he said. "Or sneezes."

And this time he was listened to-- they held the she- monkey away from them as they took her to the cages in the back of the truck.

When all the white- face monkeys were in the back of the truck, Ire slid over on the front seat. "I'm not driving," he said.

"I will!" said Ade, who was the .rstborn son of Chinma's mother.

"I don't care," said Ire.

Ade was stunned. Ire never let a son of one of the other mothers drive the truck. But when Ade climbed into the cab and turned the key to start the truck, Ire just looked out the window.

"Don't go home," said Ire. "We're going straight to Ilorin."

"Why?" asked Ade.

"Shut up," said Ire. But then Ire looked at...

Copyright © 2009 by Orson Scott Card


Hidden Empire

- thegooddoctor


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