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.
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 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 bided his time until he could find an opportunity to do so without being identified as the murderer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Despite having the name "Achilles of Flandres", he was actually born in Wallonia, Belgium.
- Achilles' name is pronounced "ah-sheel" using the French pronunciation, and not "uh-kill-eez" as per the English pronunciation.
- "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