The Swarm (The Second Formic War #1) - Orson Scott Card Page 0,1

prepare himself properly to exit the capsule when he reached his target.

Our brains weren’t programmed for this, he thought. A lifetime of living in a gravitational environment has trained us to process trajectories completely differently.

He wondered if he would ever get used to zero G. Even after years of training in space he still felt like an awkward novice, not because his movements were clumsy but because he was nowhere near as agile out here as he had once been on Earth.

If I had started out here as a child, he thought, or if I had begun training as a tween, this would all be second nature by now.

He envied the free-miner recruits for this very reason. Most of them were born in space on asteroid-mining vessels throughout the Kuiper or Asteroid belts. Zero G was their home. Flight came easily. Spinning, launching, mapping a trajectory. They didn’t have to think about it; they just moved.

Of course the bureaucracy at the IF kept free miners from reaching any legitimate position of influence within the Fleet. Those positions were held by experienced soldiers from Earth, the career officers who had clawed their way to the top and weren’t about to let blue-collar rock diggers give them any orders. That left free miners with the remedial jobs within the Fleet: mechanics, load operators, shipbuilders, cooks. Critical entities, to be sure. But why not train them for combat? They had more experience with the environment. Teaching them to handle a weapon seemed easier than teaching Earth-grown soldiers to think in zero G.

Or why not pair free miners with soldiers? Mazer had made the suggestion to a dozen different commanders. Have the free miner teach the marine how to fly and have the marine teach the free miner the essentials of combat. Unify the cultures. Share information and expertise. Break down the barriers and integrate the personnel to produce soldiers more capable in every way.

Oh, how Mazer’s commanding officers had laughed at that. Silly, silly Mazer. Don’t you get it? Don’t you understand your place? There are soldiers and there are worker bees, and the uneducated rock diggers will always be the bees.

Free miners saved us, Mazer had countered. If not for their help we would’ve lost the war.

But he had quickly learned that saying so only invited isolation and dismissal. Do your job, Mazer, they said. Either you’re one of us or you’re one of them. If you’re one of us, you won’t keep trying to drag outsiders into IF command.

Nobody seemed to care that Mazer had actually fought the Formic invaders, on Earth and in space. All that mattered was his official record—in which his elite training was pretty much trumped by charges of insubordination. The elite training was from New Zealand, after all—not one of the great powers, so treating him well wouldn’t give the bureaucrat any career advantage.

And there was no point in explaining that his “insubordination” consisted of him fighting the Formics in China when every other nation was obeying China’s demand that they stay out. That insubordination had led to the nuclear destruction of one of the Formics’ earthside bases and then later to the gutting of the Formic mothership. But none of that was in his file.

No, not a mothership, Mazer reminded himself. A scout ship. We thought we were facing an invasion army, but the Formics that landed on Earth were merely the advance party, the terraformers, the workers sent ahead to prepare Earth soil for Formic vegetation. Farmers, basically. And the gases they had sprayed across southeast China that had killed forty million people were not military weapons, but terraforming tools. Weed killer. They were simply clearing the land and running off the rodents so that new occupants could move in.

Mazer had helped put an end to it, but since the operation had been deemed classified, his file made no mention of his involvement. And his commanding officers went by what was in his file.

It didn’t help that the International Fleet was hopelessly broken. Infighting, bureaucracy, dogmatic command, rivalries, conflicting agendas, careerists. In the three years since joining up, Mazer had seen it all.

He had known this would happen. You couldn’t combine the militaries of the world into a single army and suddenly expect everyone to play nice. Rivalries would persist. Cultures would clash. Centuries of mistrust between enemies would linger. Plus there was the added challenge of coming to a unified consensus on discipline, structure, hierarchy, process—the most basic models of operation. And since