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Speedreed

ENDER'S

GAME

by

Orson

Scott

Card

Chapter

1

--

Third

"I've

watched

through

his

eyes,

I've

listened

through

his

ears,

and

tell

you

he's

the

one.

Or

at

least

as

close

as

we're

going

to

get."

"That's

what

you

said

about

the

brother."

"The

brother

tested

out

impossible.

For

other

reasons.

Nothing

to

do

with

his

ability."

"Same

with

the

sister.

And

there

are

doubts

about

him.

He's

too

malleable.

Too

willing

to

submerge

himself

in

someone

else's

will."

"Not

if

the

other

person

is

his

enemy."

"So

what

do

we

do?

Surround

him

with

enemies

all

the

time?"

"If

we

have

to."

"I

thought

you

said

you

liked

this

kid."

"If

the

buggers

get

him,

they'll

make

me

look

like

his

favorite

uncle."

"All

right.

We're

saving

the

world,

after

all.

Take

him."

***

The

monitor

lady

smiled

very

nicely

and

tousled

his

hair

and

said,

"Andrew,

I

suppose

by

now

you're

just

absolutely

sick

of

having

that

horrid

monitor.

Well,

I

have

good

news

for

you.

That

monitor

is

going

to

come

out

today.

We're

going

to

just

take

it

right

out,

and

it

won't

hurt

a

bit."

Ender

nodded.

It

was

a

lie,

of

course,

that

it

wouldn't

hurt

a

bit.

But

since

adults

always

said

it

when

it

was

going

to

hurt,

he

could

count

on

that

statement

as

an

accurate

prediction

of

the

future.

Sometimes

lies

were

more

dependable

than

the

truth.

"So

if

you'll

just

come

over

here,

Andrew,

just

sit

right

up

here

on

the

examining

table.

The

doctor

will

be

in

to

see

you

in

a

moment."

The

monitor

gone.

Ender

tried

to

imagine

the

little

device

missing

from

the

back

of

his

neck.

I'll

roll

over

on

my

back

in

bed

and

it

won't

be

pressing

there.

I

won't

feel

it

tingling

and

taking

up

the

heat

when

I

shower.

And

Peter

won't

hate

me

anymore.

I'll

come

home

and

show

him

that

the

monitor's

gone,

and

he'll

see

that

I

didn't

make

it,

either.

That

I'll

just

be

a

normal

kid

now,

like

him.

That

won't

be

so

bad

then.

He'll

forgive

me

that

I

had

my

monitor

a

whole

year

longer

than

he

had

his.

We'll

be--

not

friends,

probably.

No,

Peter

was

too

dangerous.

Peter

got

so

angry.

Brothers,

though.

Not

enemies,

not

friends,

but

brothers--

able

to

live

in

the

same

house.

He

won't

hate

me,

he'll

just

leave

me

alone.

And

when

he

wants

to

play

buggers

and

astronauts,

maybe

I

won't

have

to

play,

maybe

I

can

just

go

read

a

book.

But

Ender

knew,

even

as

he

thought

it,

that

Peter

wouldn't

leave

him

alone.

There

was

something

in

Peter's

eyes,

when

he

was

in

his

mad

mood,

and

whenever

Ender

saw

that

look,

that

glint,

he

knew

that

the

one

thing

Peter

would

not

do

was

leave

him

alone.

I'm

practicing

piano,

Ender.

Come

turn

the

pages

for

me.

Oh,

is

the

monitor

boy

too

busy

to

help

his

brother?

Is

he

too

smart?

Got

to

go

kill

some

buggers,

astronaut?

No,

no,

I

don't

want

your

help.

I

can

do

it

on

my

own,

you

little

bastard,

you

little

Third.

"This

won't

take

long,

Andrew,"

said

the

doctor.

Ender

nodded.

"It's

designed

to

be

removed.

Without

infection,

without

damage.

But

there'll

be

some

tickling,

and

some

people

say

they

have

a

feeling

of

something

missing.

You'll

keep

looking

around

for

something.

Something

you

were

looking

for,

but

you

can't

find

it,

and

you

can't

remember

what

it

was.

So

I'll

tell

you.

It's

the

monitor

you're

looking

for,

and

it

isn't

there.

In

a

few

days

that

feeling

will

pass."

The

doctor

was

twisting

something

at

the

back

of

Ender's

head.

Suddenly

a

pain

stabbed

through

him

like

a

needle

from

his

neck

to

his

groin.

Ender

felt

his

back

spasm,

and

his

body

arched

violently

backward;

hi

head

struck

the

bed.

He

could

feel

his

legs

thrashing,

and

his

hands

were

clenching

each

other,

wringing

each

other

so

tightly

that

they

ached.

"Deedee!"

shouted

the

doctor.

"I

need

you!"

The

nurse

ran

in,

gasped.

"Got

to

relax

these

muscles.

Get

it

to

me,

now!

What

are

you

waiting

for!"

Something

changed

hands;

Ender

could

not

see.

He

lurched

to

one

side

and

fell

off

the

examining

table.

"Catch

him!"

cried

the

nurse.

"Just

hold

him

steady."

"You

hold

him,

doctor,

he's

too

strong

for

me."

"Not

the

whole

thing!

You'll

stop

his

heart."

Ender

felt

a

needle

enter

his

back

just

above

the

neck

of

his

shirt.

It

burned,

but

wherever

in

him

the

fire

spread,

his

muscles

gradually

unclenched.

Now

he

could

cry

for

the

fear

and

pain

of

it.

"Are

you

all

right,

Andrew?"

the

nurse

asked.

Andrew

could

not

remember

how

to

speak.

They

lifted

him

onto

the

table.

They

checked

his

pulse,

did

other

things;

he

did

not

understand

it

all.

The

doctor

was

trembling;

his

voice

shook

as

he

spoke.

"They

leave

these

things

in

the

kids

for

three

years,

what

do

they

expect?

We

could

have

switched

him

off,

do

you

realize

that?

We

could

have

unplugged

his

brain

for

all

time."

"When

does

the

drug

wear

off'?"

asked

the

nurse.

"Keep

him

here

for

at

least

an

hour.

Watch

him.

If

he

doesn't

start

talking

in

fifteen

minutes,

call

me.

Could

have

unplugged

him

forever.

I

don't

have

the

brains

of

a

bugger."

***

He

got

back

to

Miss

Pumphrey's

class

only

fifteen

minutes

before

the

closing

bell.

He

was

still

a

little

unsteady

on

his

feet.

"Are

you

all

right,

Andrew?"

asked

Miss

Pumphrey.

He

nodded.

"Were

you

ill?"

He

shook

his

head.

"You

don't

look

well."

"I'm

OK."

"You'd

better

sit

down,

Andrew."

He

started

toward

his

seat,

but

stopped.

Now

what

was

I

looking

for?

I

can't

think

what

I

was

looking

for.

"Your

seat

is

over

there,"

said

Miss

Pumphrey.

He

sat

down,

but

it

was

something

else

he

needed,

something

he

had

lost.

I'll

find

it

later.

"Your

monitor,"

whispered

the

girl

behind

him.

Andrew

shrugged.

"His

monitor,"

she

whispered

to

the

others.

Andrew

reached

up

and

felt

his

neck.

There

was

a

bandaid.

It

was

gone.

He

was

just

like

everybody

else

now.

"Washed

out,

Andy?"

asked

a

boy

who

sat

across

the

aisle

and

behind

him.

Couldn't

think

of

his

name.

Peter.

No,

that

was

someone

else.

"Quiet,

Mr.

Stilson,"

said

Miss

Pumphrey.

Stilson

smirked.

Miss

Pumphrey

talked

about

multiplication.

Ender

doodled

on

his

desk,

drawing

contour

maps

of

mountainous

islands

and

then

telling

his

desk

to

display

them

in

three

dimensions

from

every

angle.

The

teacher

would

know,

of

course,

that

he

wasn't

paying

attention,

but

she

wouldn't

bother

him.

He

always

knew

the

answer,

even

when

she

thought

he

wasn't

paying

attention.

In

the

corner

of

his

desk

a

word

appeared

and

began

marching

around

the

perimeter

of

the

desk.

It

was

upside

down

and

backward

at

first,

but

Ender

knew

what

it

said

long

before

it

reached

the

bottom

of

the

desk

and

turned

right

side

up.

THIRD

Ender

smiled.

He

was

the

one

who

had

figured

out

how

to

send

messages

and

make

them

march--

even

as

his

secret

enemy

called

him

names,

the

method

of

delivery

praised

him.

It

was

not

his

fault

he

was

a

Third.

It

was

the

government's

idea,

they

were

the

ones

who

authorized

it--

how

else

could

a

Third

like

Ender

have

got

into

school?

And

now

the

monitor

was

gone.

The

experiment

entitled

Andrew

Wiggin

hadn't

worked

out

alter

all.

If

they

could,

he

was

sure

they

would

like

to

rescind

the

waivers

that

had

allowed

him

to

be

born

at

all.

Didn't

work,

so

erase

the

experiment.

The

bell

rang.

Everyone

signed

off

their

desks

or

hurriedly

typed

in

reminders

to

themselves.

Some

were

dumping

lessons

or

data

into

their

computers

at

home.

A

few

gathered

at

the

printers

while

something

they

wanted

to

show

was

printed

out.

Ender

spread

his

hands

over

the

child-size

keyboard

near

the

edge

of

the

desk

and

wondered

what

it

would

feel

like

to

have

hands

as

large

as

a

grown-up's.

They

must

feel

so

big

and

awkward,

thick

stubby

fingers

and

beefy

palms.

Of

course,

they

had

bigger

keyboards--

but

how

could

their

thick

fingers

draw

a

fine

line,

the

way

Ender

could,

a

thin

line

so

precise

that

he

could

make

it

spiral

seventy-nine

times

from

the

center

to

the

edge

of

the

desk

without

the

lines

ever

touching

or

overlapping.

It

gave

him

something

to

do

while

the

teacher

droned

on

about

arithmetic.

Arithmetic!

Valentine

had

taught

him

arithmetic

when

he

was

three.

"Are

you

all

right.

Andrew?"

"Yes,

ma'am."

"You'll

miss

the

bus."

Ender

nodded

and

got

up.

The

other

kids

were

gone.

They

would

be

waiting,

though,

the

bad

ones.

His

monitor

wasn't

perched

on

his

neck,

hearing

what

heard

and

seeing

what

he

saw.

They

could

say

what

they

liked.

They

might

even

hit

him

now--

no

one

could

see

anymore,

and

so

no

one

would

come

to

Ender's

rescue.

There

were

advantages

to

the

monitor,

and

he

would

miss

them.

It

was

Stilson,

of

course.

He

wasn't

bigger

than

most

other

kids,

but

he

was

bigger

than

Ender.

And

he

had

some

others

with

him.

He

always

did.

"Hey,

Third."

Don't

answer.

Nothing

to

say.

"Hey,

Third,

we're

talkin

to

you,

Third,

hey

bugger-lover,

we're

talkin

to

you."

Can't

think

of

anything

to

answer.

Anything

I

say

will

make

it

worse.

So

will

saying

nothing.

"Hey,

Third,

hey,

turd,

you

flunked

out,

huh?

Thought

you

were

better

than

us,

but

you

lost

your

little

birdie,

Thirdie,

got

a

bandaid

on

your

neck."

"Are

you

going

to

let

me

through?"

Ender

asked.

"Are

we

going

to

let

him

through?

Should

we

let

him

through?"

They

all

laughed.

"Sure

we'll

let

you

through.

First

we'll

let

your

arm

through,

then

your

butt

through,

then

maybe

a

piece

of

your

knee."

The

others

chimed

in

now.

"Lost

your

birdie,

Thirdie.

Lost

your

birdie,

Thirdie."

Stilson

began

pushing

him

with

one

hand,

someone

behind

him

then

pushed

him

toward

Stilson.

"See-saw,

marjorie

daw,"

somebody

said.

"Tennis!"

"Ping-pong!"

This

would

not

have

a

happy

ending.

So

Ender

decided

that

he'd

rather

not

be

the

unhappiest

at

the

end.

The

next

time

Stilson's

arm

came

out

to

push

him,

Ender

grabbed

at

it.

He

missed.

"Oh,

gonna

fight

me,

huh?

Gonna

fight

me,

Thirdie?"

The

people

behind

Ender

grabbed

at

him,

to

hold

him.

Ender

did

not

feel

like

laughing,

but

he

laughed.

"You

mean

it

takes

this

many

of

you

to

fight

one

Third?"

"We're

people,

not

Thirds,

turd

face.

You're

about

as

strong

as

a

fart!"

But

they

let

go

of

him.

And

as

soon

as

they

did,

Ender

kicked

out

high

and

hard,

catching

Stilson

square

in

the

breastbone.

He

dropped.

It

took

Ender

by

surprise

he

hadn't

thought

to

put

Stilson

on

the

ground

with

one

kick.

It

didn't

occur

to

him

that

Stilson

didn't

take

a

fight

like

this

seriously,

that

he

wasn't

prepared

for

a

truly

desperate

blow.

For

a

moment,

the

others

backed

away

and

Stilson

lay

motionless.

They

were

all

wondering

if

he

was

dead.

Ender,

however,

was

trying

to

figure

out

a

way

to

forestall

vengeance.

To

keep

them

from

taking

him

in

a

pack

tomorrow.

I

have

to

win

this

now,

and

for

all

time,

or

I'll

fight

it

every

day

and

it

will

get

worse

and

worse.

Ender

knew

the

unspoken

rules

of

manly

warfare,

even

though

he

was

only

six.

It

was

forbidden

to

strike

the

opponent

who

lay

helpless

on

the

ground;

only

an

animal

would

do

that.

So

Ender

walked

to

Stilson's

supine

body

and

kicked

him

again,

viciously,

in

the

ribs.

Stilson

groaned

and

rolled

away

from

him.

Ender

walked

around

him

and

kicked

him

again,

in

the

crotch.

Stilson

could

not

make

a

sound;

he

only

doubled

up

and

tears

streamed

out

of

his

eyes.

Then

Ender

looked

at

the

others

coldly.

"You

might

be

having

some

idea

of

ganging

up

on

me.

You

could

probably

beat

me

up

pretty

bad.

But

just

remember

what

I

do

to

people

who

try

to

hurt

me.

From

then

on

you'd

be

wondering

when

I'd

get

you,

and

how

bad

it

would

be."

He

kicked

Stilson

in

the

face.

Blood

from

his

nose

spattered

the

ground

nearby.

"It

wouldn't

be

this

bad,"

Ender

said.

"It

would

be

worse."

He

turned

and

walked

away.

Nobody

followed

him,

He

turned

a

corner

into

the

corridor

leading

to

the

bus

stop.

He

could

hear

the

boys

behind

him

saying,

"Geez.

Look

at

him.

He's

wasted."

Ender

leaned

his

head

against

the

wall

of

the

corridor

and

cried

until

the

bus

came.

I

am

just

like

Peter.

Take

my

monitor

away,

and

I

am

just

like

Peter.

Chapter

2

--

Peter

"All

right,

it's

off.

How's

he

doing?"

"You

live

inside

somebody's

body

for

a

few

years,

you

get

used

to

it.

I

look

at

his

face

now,

I

can't

tell

what's

going

on.

I'm

not

used

to

seeing

his

facial

expressions.

I'm

used

to

feeling

them."

"Come

on,

we're

not

talking

about

psychoanalysis

here.

We're

soldiers,

not

witch

doctors.

You

just

saw

him

beat

the

guts

out

of

the

leader

of

a

gang."

"He

was

thorough.

He

didn't

just

beat

him,

he

beat

him

deep.

Like

Mazer

Rackham

at

the--"

"Spare

me.

So

in

the

judgment

of

the

committee,

he

passes.

"Mostly.

Let's

see

what

he

does

with

his

brother,

now

that

the

monitor's

off."

"His

brother.

Aren't

you

afraid

of

what

his

brother

will

do

to

him?"

"You

were

the

one

who

told

me

that

this

wasn't

a

no-risk

business."

"I

went

back

through

some

of

the

tapes.

I

can't

help

it.

I

like

the

kid.

I

think

were

going

to

screw

him

up."

"Of

course

we

are.

It's

our

job.

We're

the

wicked

witch.

We

promise

gingerbread,

but

we

eat

the

little

bastards

alive."

***

"I'm

sorry,

Ender,"

Valentine

whispered.

She

was

looking

at

the

bandaid

on

his

neck.

Ender

touched

the

wall

and

the

door

closed

behind

him.

"I

don't

care.

I'm

glad

it's

gone."

"What's

gone?"

Peter

walked

into

the

parlor,

chewing

on

a

mouthful

of

bread

and

peanut

butter.

Ender

did

not

see

Peter

as

the

beautiful

ten-year-old

boy

that

grown-ups

saw,

with

dark,

thick,

tousled

hair

and

a

face

that

could

have

belonged

to

Alexander

the

Great.

Ender

looked

at

Peter

only

to

detect

anger

or

boredom,

the

dangerous

moods

that

almost

always

led

to

pain.

Now

as

Peter's

eyes

discovered

the

bandaid

on

his

neck,

the

telltale

flicker

of

anger

appeared.

Valentine

saw

it

too.

"Now

he's

like

us,"

she

said,

trying

to

soothe

him

before

he

had

time

to

strike.

But

Peter

would

not

be

soothed.

"Like

us?

He

keeps

the

little

sucker

till

he's

six

years

old.

When

did

you

lose

yours?

You

were

three.

I

lost

mine

before

I

was

five.

He

almost

made

it,

little

bastard,

little

bugger."

This

is

all

right,

Ender

thought.

Talk

and

talk,

Peter.

Talk

is

fine.

"Well,

now

your

guardian

angels

aren't

watching

over

you,"

Peter

said.

"Now

they

aren't

checking

to

see

if

you

feel

pain,

listening

to

hear

what

I'm

saying,

seeing

what

I'm

doing

to

you.

How

about

that?

How

about

it?"

Ender

shrugged.

Suddenly

Peter

smiled

and

clapped

his

hands

together

in

a

mockery

of

good

cheer.

"Let's

play

buggers

and

astronauts,"

he

said.

"Where's

Mom?"

asked

Valentine.

"Out,"

said

Peter.

"I'm

in

charge."

"I

think

I'll

call

Daddy."

"Call

away,"

said

Peter.

"You

know

he's

never

in."

"I'll

play,"

Ender

said.

"You

be

the

bugger,"

said

Peter.

"Let

him

be

the

astronaut

for

once,"

Valentine

said.

"Keep

your

fat

face

out

of

it,

fart

mouth,"

said

Peter.

"Come

on

upstairs

and

choose

your

weapons."

It

would

not

be

a

good

game,

Ender

knew

it

was

not

a

question

of

winning.

When

kids

played

in

the

corridors,

whole

troops

of

them,

the

buggers

never

won,

and

sometimes

the

games

got

mean.

But

here

in

their

flat,

the

game

would

start

mean,

and

the

bugger

couldn't

just

go

empty

and

quit

the

way

buggers

did

in

the

real

wars.

The

bugger

was

in

it

until

the

astronaut

decided

it

was

over.

Peter

opened

his

bottom

drawer

and

took

out

the

bugger

mask.

Mother

had

got

upset

at

him

when

Peter

bought

it,

but

Dad

pointed

out

that

the

war

wouldn't

go

away

just

because

you

hid

bugger

masks

and

wouldn't

let

your

kids

play

with

make-believe

laser

guns.

The

better

to

play

the

war

games,

and

have

a

better

chance

of

surviving

when

the

buggers

came

again.

If

I

survive

the

games,

thought

Ender.

He

put

on

the

mask.

It

closed

him

in

like

a

hand

pressed

tight

against

his

face.

But

this

isn't

how

it

feels

to

he

a

bugger,

thought

Ender.

They

don't

wear

this

face

like

a

mask,

it

is

their

face.

On

their

home

worlds,

do

the

buggers

put

on

human

masks,

and

play?

And

what

do

they

call

its?

Slimies,

because

we're

so

soft

and

oily

compared

to

them?

"Watch

out,

Slimy,"

Ender

said.

He

could

barely

see

Peter

through

the

eyeholes.

Peter

smiled

at

him.

"Slimy,

huh?

Well,

bugger-wugger,

let's

see

how

you

break

that

face

of

yours."

Ender

couldn't

see

it

coming,

except

a

slight

shift

of

Peter's

weight;

the

mask

cut

our

his

peripheral

vision.

Suddenly

there

was

the

pain

and

pressure

of

a

blow

to

the

side

of

his

head;

he

lost

balance,

fell

that

way.

"Don't

see

too

well,

do

you,

bugger?"

said

Peter.

Ender

began

to

take

off

the

mask.

Peter

put

his

toe

against

Ender's

groin.

"Don't

take

off

the

mask,"

Peter

said.

Ender

pulled

the

mask

down

into

place,

took

his

hands

away.

Peter

pressed

with

his

foot.

Pain

shot

through

Ender;

he

doubled

up.

"Lie

flat,

bugger.

We're

gonna

vivisect

you,

bugger.

At

long

last

we've

got

one

of

you

alive,

and

we're

going

to

see

how

you

work."

"Peter,

stop

it,"

Ender

said.

"Peter,

stop

it.

Very

good.

So

you

buggers

can

guess

our

names.

You

can

make

yourselves

sound

like

pathetic,

cute

little

children

so

we'll

love

you

and

be

nice

to

you.

But

it

doesn't

work.

I

can

see

you

for

what

you

really

are.

They

meant

you

to

be

human,

little

Third,

but

you're

really

a

bugger,

and

now

it

shows."

He

lifted

his

toot,

took

a

step,

and

then

knelt

on

Ender,

his

knee

pressing

into

Ender's

belly

just

below

the

breastbone.

He

put

more

and

more

of

his

weight

on

Ender.

It

became

hard

to

breathe.

"I

could

kill

you

like

this,"

Peter

whispered.

"Just

press

and

press

until

you're

dead.

And

I

could

say

that

I

didn't

know

it

would

hurt

you,

that

we

were

just

playing,

and

they'd

believe

me,

and

everything

would

be

fine.

And

you'd

be

dead.

Everything

would

be

fine."

Ender

could

not

speak;

the

breath

was

being

forced

from

his

lungs.

Peter

might

mean

it.

Probably

didn't

mean

it,

but

then

he

might.

"I

do

mean

it,"

Peter

said.

"Whatever

you

think.

I

mean

it.

They

only

authorized

you

because

I

was

so

promising.

But

I

didn't

pan

out.

You

did

better.

They

think

you're

better.

But

I

don't

want

a

better

little

brother,

Ender.

I

don't

want

a

Third."

"I'll

tell,"

Valentine

said.

"No

one

would

believe

you."

"They'd

believe

me."

"Then

you're

dead,

too,

sweet

little

sister."

"Oh,

yes,"

said

Valentine.

"They'll

believe

that.

'I

didn't

know

it

would

kill

Andrew.

And

when

he

was

dead,

I

didn't

know

it

would

kill

Valentine

too.'"

The

pressure

let

up

a

little.

"So.

Not

today.

But

someday

you

two

won't

be

together.

And

there'll

be

an

accident."

"You're

all

talk,"

Valentine

said.

"You

don't

mean

any

of

it."

"I

don't?"

"And

do

you

know

why

you

don't

mean

it?"

Valentine

asked.

"Because

you

want

to

be

in

government

someday.

You

want

to

be

elected.

And

they

won't

elect

you

if

your

opponents

can

dig

up

the

fact

that

your

brother

and

sister

both

died

in

suspicious

accidents

when

they

were

little.

Especially

because

of

the

letter

I've

put

in

my

secret

file,

which

will

be

opened

in

the

event

of

my

death."

"Don't

give

me

that

kind

of

crap,"

Peter

said.

"It

says,

I

didn't

die

a

natural

death.

Peter

killed

me,

and

if

he

hasn't

already

killed

Andrew,

he

will

soon.

Not

enough

to

convict

you,

but

enough

to

keep

you

from

ever

getting

elected."

"You're

his

monitor

now,"

said

Peter.

"You

better

watch

him,

day

and

night.

You

better

be

there."

"Ender

and

I

aren't

stupid.

We

scored

as

well

as

you

did

on

everything.

Better

on

some

things.

We're

all

such

wonderfully

bright

children.

You're

not

the

smartest,

Peter,

just

the

biggest."

"Oh,

I

know.

But

there'll

come

a

day

when

you

aren't

there

with

him,

when

you

forget.

And

suddenly

you'll

remember,

and

you'll

rush

to

him,

and

there

he'll

be

perfectly

all

right.

And

the

next

time

you

won't

worry

so

much,

and

you

won't

come

so

fast.

And

every

time,

he'll

be

all

right.

And

you'll

think

that

I

forgot.

Even

though

you'll

remember

that

I

said

this,

you'll

think

that

I

forgot.

And

years

will

pass.

And

then

there'll

be

a

terrible

accident,

and

I'll

find

his

body,

and

I'll

cry

and

cry

over

him,

and

you'll

remember

this

conversation,

Vally,

but

you'll

be

ashamed

of

yourself

for

remembering,

because

you'll

know

that

I

changed,

that

it

really

was

an

accident,

that

it's

cruel

of

you

even

to

remember

what

I

said

in

a

childhood

quarrel.

Except

that

it'll

be

true.

I'm

gonna

save

this

up,

and

he's

gonna

die,

and

you

won't

do

a

thing,

not

a

thing.

But

you

go

on

believing

that

I'm

just

the

biggest."

"The

biggest

asshole,"

Valentine

said.

Peter

leaped

to

his

feet

and

started

for

her.

She

shied

away.

Ender

pried

off

his

mask.

Peter

flopped

back

on

his

bed

and

started

to

laugh.

Loud,

but

with

real

mirth,

tears

coming

to

his

eyes.

"Oh,

you

guys

are

just

super,

just

the

biggest

suckers

on

the

planet

earth."

"Now

he's

going

to

tell

us

it

was

all

a

joke,"

Valentine

said.

"Not

a

joke,

a

game.

I

can

make

you

guys

believe

anything.

I

can

make

you

dance

around

like

puppets."

In

a

phony

monster

yoice

he

said,

"I'm

going

to

kill

you

and

chop

you

into

little

pieces

and

put

you

into

the

garbage

hole."

He

laughed

again.

"Biggest

suckers

in

the

solar

system."

Ender

stood

there

watching

him

laugh

and

thought

of

Stilson,

thought

of

how

it

felt

to

crunch

into

his

body.

This

is

who

needed

it.

This

is

who

should

have

got

it.

As

if

she

could

read

his

mind,

Valentine

whispered,

"No,

Ender."

Peter

suddenly

rolled

to

the

side,

flipped

off

the

bed,

and

got

in

position

for

a

fight.

"Oh,

yes,

Ender,"

he

said.

"Any

time,

Ender."

Ender

lifted

his

right

leg

and

took

off

the

shoe.

He

held

it

up.

"See

there,

on

the

toe?

That's

blood,

Peter."

"Ooh.

Ooh,

I'm

gonna

die,

I'm

gonna

die.

Ender

killed

a

capper-tiller

and

now

he's

gonna

kill

me."

There

was

no

getting

to

him.

Peter

was

a

murderer

at

heart,

and

nobody

knew

it

but

Valentine

and

Ender.

Mother

came

home

and

commiserated

with

Ender

about

the

monitor.

Father

came

home

and

kept

saying

it

was

such

a

wonderful

surprise,

they

had

such

fantastic

children

that

the

government

told

them

to

have

three

and

now

the

government

didn't

want

to

take

any

of

them

after

all,

so

here

they

were

with

three,

they

still

had

a

Third...

until

Ender

wanted

to

scream

at

him,

I

know

I'm

a

Third,

I

know

it,

if

you

want

I'll

go

away

so

you

don't

have

to

be

embarrassed

in

front

of

everybody,

I'm

sorry

I

lost

the

monitor

and

now

you

have

three

kids

and

no

obvious

explanation,

so

inconvenient

for

you,

I'm

sorry

sorry

sorry.

He

lay

in

bed

staring

upward

into

the

darkness...

On

the

bunk

above

him,

he

could

hear

Peter

turning

and

tossing

restlessly.

Then

Peter

slid

off

the

bunk

and

walked

out

of

the

room.

Ender

heard

the

hushing

sound

of

the

toilet

clearing;

then

Peter

stood

silhouetted

in

the

doorway.

He

thinks

I'm

asleep.

He's

going

to

kill

me.

Peter

walked

to

the

bed,

and

sure

enough,

he

did

not

lift

himself

up

to

his

bed.

Instead

he

came

and

stood

by

Ender's

head.

But

he

did

not

reach

for

a

pillow

to

smother

Ender.

He

did

not

have

a

weapon.

He

whispered,

"Ender,

I'm

sorry,

I'm

sorry,

I

know

how

it

feels.

I'm

sorry,

I'm

your

brother.

I

love

you."

A

long

time

later,

Peter's

even

breathing

said

that

he

was

asleep.

Ender

peeled

the

bandaid

from

his

neck.

And

for

the

second

time

that

day

he

cried.

Chapter

3

--

Graff

"The

sister

is

our

weak

link.

He

really

loves

her."

"I

know.

She

can

undo

it

all,

from

the

start.

He

won't

wont

to

leave

her."

"So,

what

are

you

going

to

do?"

"Persuade

him

that

he

wants

to

come

with

us

more

than

he

wants

to

stay

with

her."

"How

will

you

do

that?"

"I'll

lie

to

him."

"And

if

that

doesn't

work?"

"Then

I'll

tell

the

truth.

We're

allowed

to

do

that

in

emergencies.

We

can't

plan

for

everything,

you

know."

***

Ender

wasn't

very

hungry

during

breakfast.

He

kept

wondering

what

it

would

be

like

at

school.

Facing

Stilson

after

yesterday's

fight.

What

Stilson's

friends

would

do.

Probably

nothing,

but

he

couldn't

be

sure.

He

didn't

want

to

go.

"You're

not

eating,

Andrew,"

his

mother

said.

Peter

came

into

the

room.

"Morning.

Ender.

Thanks

for

leaving

your

slimy

washcloth

in

the

middle

of

the

shower."

"Just

for

you,"

Ender

murmured.

"Andrew,

you

have

to

eat."

Ender

held

out

his

wrists,

a

gesture

that

said,

So

feed

it

to

me

through

a

needle.

"Very

funny."

Mother

said.

"I

try

to

be

concerned,

but

it

makes

no

difference

to

my

genius

children."

"It

was

all

your

genes

that

made

us,

Mom."

said

Peter.

"We

sure

didn't

get

any

from

Dad."

"I

heard

that,"

Father

said,

not

looking

up

from

the

news

that

was

being

displayed

on

the

table

while

he

ate.

"It

would've

been

wasted

if

you

hadn't."

The

table

beeped.

Someone

was

at

the

door.

"Who

is

it?"

Mother

asked.

Father

thumbed

a

key

and

a

man

appeared

on

hts

video.

He

was

wearing

the

only

military

uniform

that

meant

anything

anymore,

the

IF,

the

International

Fleet.

"I

thought

it

was

over,"

said

Father.

Peter

said

nothing,

just

poured

milk

over

his

cereal.

And

Ender

thought,

Maybe

I

won't

have

to

go

to

school

today

after

all.

Father

coded

the

door

open

and

got

up

from

the

table.

"I'll

see

to

it,"

he

said.

"Stay

and

eat."

They

stayed,

but

they

didn't

eat.

A

few

moments

later,

Father

came

back

into

the

room

and

beckoned

to

Mother.

"You're

in

deep

poo,"

said

Peter.

"They

found

out

what

you

did

to

Stilson,

and

now

they're

gonna

make

you

do

time

out

in

the

Belt."

"I'm

only

six,

moron.

I'm

a

juvenile."

"You're

a

Third,

turd.

You've

got

no

rights."

Valentine

came

in,

her

hair

in

a

sleepy

halo

around

her

face.

"Where's

Mom

and

Dad?

I'm

too

sick

to

go

to

school."

"Another

oral

exam,

huh?"

Peter

said.

"Shut

up,

Peter,"

said

Valentine.

"You

should

relax

and

enjoy

it,"

said

Peter.

"It

could

be

worse."

"I

don't

know

how."

"It

could

be

an

anal

exam."

"Hyuk

hyuk,"

Valentine

said.

"Where

are

Mother

and

Father?"

"Talking

to

a

guy

from

IF."

Instinctively

she

looked

at

Ender.

After

all,

for

years

they

had

expected

someone

to

come

and

tell

them

that

Ender

had

passed,

that

Ender

was

needed.

"That's

right,

look

at

him,"

Peter

said.

"But

it

might

he

me,

you

know.

They

might

have

realized

I

was

the

best

of

the

lot

after

all."

Peter's

feelings

were

hurt,

and

so

he

was

being

a

snot,

as

usual.

The

door

opened.

"Ender,"

said

Father,

"you

better

come

in

here."

"Sorry,

Peter,"

Valentine

taunted.

Father

glowered.

"Children,

this

is

no

laughing

matter."

Ender

followed

Father

into

the

parlor.

The

IF

officer

rose

to

his

feet

when

they

entered,

but

he

did

not

extend

a

hand

to

Ender.

Mother

was

twisting

her

wedding

band

on

her

finger.

"Andrew,"

she

said.

"I

never

thought

you

were

the

kind

to

get

in

a

fight."

"The

Stilson

boy

is

in

the

hospital,"

Father

said.

"You

really

did

a

number

on

him.

With

your

shoe,

Ender,

that

wasn't

exactly

fair."

Ender

shook

his

head.

He

had

expected

someone

from

the

school

to

come

about

Stilson,

not

an

officer

of

the

fleet.

This

was

more

serious

than

he

had

thought.

And

yet

he

couldn't

think

what

else

he

could

have

done.

"Do

you

have

any

explanation

for

your

behavior,

young

man?"

asked

the

officer.

Ender

shook

his

head

again.

He

didn't

know

what

to

say,

and

he

was

afraid

to

reveal

himself

to

be

any

more

monstrous

than

his

actions

had

made

him

out

to

be.

I'll

take

it,

whatever

the

punishment

is,

he

thought.

Let's

get

it

over

with.

"We're

willing

to

consider

extenuating

circumstances,"

the

officer

said.

"But

I

must

tell

you

it

doesn't

look

good.

Kicking

him

in

the

groin,

kicking

him

repeatedly

in

the

face

and

body

when

he

was

down--

sounds

like

you

really

enjoyed

it."

"I

didn't,"

Ender

whispered.

"Then

why

did

you

do

it?"

"He

had

his

gang

there,"

Ender

said.

"So?

This

excuses

anything?"

"No."

"Tell

me

why

you

kept

on

kicking

him.

You

had

already

won."

"Knocking

him

down

won

the

first

fight.

I

wanted

to

win

all

the

next

ones,

too,

right

then,

so

they'd

leave

me

alone."

Ender

couldn't

help

it,

he

was

too

afraid,

too

ashamed

of

his

own

acts:

though

he

tried

not

to,

he

cried

again.

Ender

did

not

like

to

cry

and

rarely

did;

now,

in

less

than

a

day,

he

had

done

it

three

times.

And

each

time

was

worse.

To

cry

in

front

of

his

mother

and

father

and

this

military

man,

that

was

shameful.

"You

took

away

the

monitor,"

Ender

said.

"I

had

to

take

care

of

myself,

didn't

I?"

"Ender,

you

should

have

asked

a

grown-up

for

help,"

Father

began.

But

the

officer

stood

up

and

stepped

across

the

room

to

Ender.

He

held

out

his

hand.

"My

name

is

Graff.

Ender.

Colonel

Hyrum

Graff.

I'm

director

of

primary

training

at

Battle

School

in

the

Belt.

I've

come

to

invite

you

to

enter

the

school."

After

all.

"But

the

monitor--"

"The

final

step

in

your

testing

was

to

see

what

would

happen

if

the

monitor

comes

off.

We

don't

always

do

it

that

way,

but

in

your

case--"

"And

I

passed?"

Mother

was

incredulous.

"Putting

the

Stilson

boy

in

the

hospital?

What

would

you

have

done

if

Andrew

had

killed

him,

given

him

a

medal?"

"It

isn't

what

he

did,

Mrs.

Wiggin.

It's

why."

Colonel

Graff

handed

her

a

folder

full

of

papers.

"Here

are

the

requisitions.

Your

son

has

been

cleared

by

the

IF

Selective

Service.

Of

course

we

already

have

your

consent,

granted

in

writing

at

the

time

conception

was

confirmed,

or

he

could

not

have

been

born.

He

has

been

ours

from

then,

if

he

qualified."

Father's

voice

was

trembling

as

he

spoke.

"It's

not

very

kind

of

you,

to

let

us

think

you

didn't

want

him,

and

then

to

take

him

after

all."

"And

this

charade

about

the

Stilson

boy,"

Mother

said.

"It

wasn't

a

charade,

Mrs.

Wiggin.

Until

we

knew

what

Ender's

motivation

was,

we

couldn't

be

sure

he

wasn't

another--

we

had

to

know

what

the

action

meant.

Or

at

least

what

Ender

believed

that

it

meant."

"Must

you

call

him

that

stupid

nickname?"

Mother

began

to

cry.

"I'm

sorry,

Mrs.

Wiggin.

But

that's

the

name

he

calls

himself."

"What

are

you

going

to

do,

Colonel

Graff?"

Father

asked.

"Walk

out

the

door

with

him

now?"

"That

depends,"

said

Graff.

"On

what?"

"On

whether

Ender

wants

to

come."

Mother's

weeping

turned

to

bitter

laughter.

"Oh,

so

it's

voluntary

after

all,

how

sweet!"

"For

the

two

of

you,

the

choice

was

made

when

Ender

was

conceived.

But

for

Ender,

the

choice

has

not

been

made

at

all.

Conscripts

make

good

cannon

fodder,

but

for

officers

we

need

volunteers."

"Officers?"

Ender

asked.

At

the

sound

of

his

voice,

the

others

fell

silent.

"Yes,"

said

Graff.

"Battle

School

is

for

training

future

starship

captains

and

commodores

of

flotillas

and

admirals

of

the

fleet."

"Let's

not

have

any

deception

herc!"

Father

said

angrily.

"How

many

of

the

boy's

at

the

Battle

School

actually

end

up

in

command

of

ships!"

"Unfortunately,

Mr.

Wiggin,

that

is

classified

information.

But

I

can

say

that

none

of

our

boys

who

makes

it

through

the

first

year

has

ever

failed

to

receive

a

commission

as

an

officer.

And

none

has

served

in

a

position

of

lower

rank

than

chief

executive

officer

of

an

interplanetary

vessel.

Even

in

the

domestic

defense

forces

within

our

own

solar

system,

there's

honor

to

be

had."

"How

many

make

it

through

the

first

year?"

asked

Ender.

"All

who

want

to,"

said

Graff.

Ender

almost

said,

I

want

to.

But

he

held

his

tongue.

This

would

keep

him

out

of

school,

but

that

was

stupid,

that

was

just

a

problem

for

a

few

days.

It

would

keep

him

away

from

Peter--

that

was

more

important,

that

might

be

a

matter

of

life

itself.

But

to

leave

Mother

and

Father,

and

above

all,

to

leave

Valentine.

And

become

a

soldier.

Ender

didn't

like

fighting.

He

didn't

like

Peter's

kind,

the

strong

against

the

weak,

and

he

didn't

like

his

own

kind

either,

the

smart

against

the

stupid.

"I

think,"

Graff

said,

"that

Ender

and

I

should

have

a

private

conversation."

"No,"

Father

said.

"I

won't

take

him

without

letting

you

speak

to

him

again,"

Graff

said.

"And

you

really

can't

stop

me."

Father

glared

at

Graff

a

moment

longer,

then

got

up

and

left

the

room.

Mother

paused

to

squeeze

Ender's

hand.

She

closed

the

door

behind

her

when

she

left.

"Ender,"

Graff

said,

"if

you

come

with

me,

you

won't

be

back

here

for

a

long

time.

There

aren't

any

vacations

from

Battle

School.

No

visitors,

either.

A

full

course

of

training

lasts

until

you're

sixteen

years

old--

you

get

your

first

leave,

under

certain

circumstances,

when

you're

twelve.

Believe

me,

Ender,

people

change

in

six

years,

in

ten

years.

Your

sister

Valentine

will

be

a

woman

when

you

see

her

again,

if

you

come

with

me.

You'll

be

strangers.

You'll

still

love

her,

Ender,

but

you

won't

know

her.

You

see

I'm

not

pretending

it's

easy."

"Mom

and

Daddy?"

"I

know

you,

Ender.

I've

been

watching

the

monitor

disks

for

some

time.

You

won't

miss

your

mother

and

father,

not

much,

not

for

long.

And

they

won't

miss

you

long,

either."

Tears

came

to

Ender's

eyes,

in

spite

of

himself.

He

turned

his

face

away,

but

would

not

reach

up

to

wipe

them.

"They

do

love

you,

Ender.

But

you

have

to

understand

what

your

life

has

cost

them.

They

were

born

religious,

you

know.

Your

father

was

baptized

with

the

name

John

Paul

Wieczorek.

Catholic.

The

seventh

of

nine

children."

Nine

children.

That

was

unthinkable.

Criminal.

"Yes,

well,

people

do

strange

things

for

religion.

You

know

the

sanctions,

Ender--

they

were

not

as

harsh

then,

but

still

not

easy.

Only

the

first

two

children

had

a

free

education.

Taxes

steadily

rose

with

each

new

child.

Your

father

turned

sixteen

and

invoked

the

Noncomplying

Families

Act

to

separate

himself

from

his

family.

He

changed

his

name,

renounced

his

religion,

and

vowed

never

to

have

more

than

the

allotted

two

children.

He

meant

it.

All

the

shame

and

persecution

he

went

through

as

a

child--

he

vowed

no

child

of

his

would

go

through

it.

Do

you

understand?"

"He

didn't

want

me."

"Well,

no

one

wants

a

Third

anymore.

You

can't

expect

them

to

be

glad.

But

your

father

and

mother

are

a

special

case.

They

both

renounced

their

religions--

your

mother

was

a

Mormon--

but

in

fact

their

feelings

are

still

ambiguous.

Do

you

know

what

ambiguous

means?"

"They

feel

both

ways."

"They're

ashamed

of

having

come

from

noncompliant

families.

They

conceal

it.

To

the

degree

that

your

mother

refuses

to

admit

to

anyone

that

she

was

born

in

Utah,

lest

they

suspect.

Your

father

denies

his

Polish

ancestry,

since

Poland

is

still

a

noncompliant

nation,

and

under

international

sanction

because

of

it.

So,

you

see,

having

a

Third,

even

under

the

government's

direct

instructions,

undoes

everything

they've

been

trying

to

do."

"I

know

that."

"But

it's

more

complicated

than

that.

Your

father

still

named

you

with

legitimate

saints'

names.

In

fact,

he

baptized

all

three

of

you

himself

as

soon

as

he

got

you

home

after

you

were

born.

And

your

mother

objected.

They

quarreled

over

it

each

time,

not

because

she

didn't

want

you

baptized,

but

because

she

didn't

want

you

baptized

Catholic.

They

haven't

really

given

up

their

religion.

They

look

at

you

and

see

you

as

a

badge

of

pride,

because

they

were

able

to

circumvent

the

law

and

have

a

Third.

But

you're

also

a

badge

of

cowardice,

because

they

dare

not

go

further

and

practice

the

noncompliance

they

still

feel

is

right.

And

you're

a

badge

of

public

shame,

because

at

every

step

you

interfere

with

their

efforts

at

assimilation

into

normal

complying

society."

"How

can

you

know

all

this?"

"We

monitored

your

brother

and

sister,

Ender.

You'd

be

amazed

at

how

sensitive

the

instruments

are.

We

were

connected

directly

to

your

brain.

We

heard

all

that

you

heard,

whether

you

were

listening

carefully

or

not.

Whether

you

understood

or

not.

We

understand."

"So

my

parents

love

me

and

don't

love

me?"

"They

love

you.

The

question

is

whether

they

want

you

here.

Your

presence

in

this

house

is

a

constant

disruption.

A

source

of

tension.

Do

you

understand?"

"I'm

not

the

one

who

causes

tension."

"Not

anything

you

do,

Ender.

Your

life

itself.

Your

brother

hates

you

because

you

are

living

proof

that

he

wasn't

good

enough.

Your

parents

resent

you

because

of

all

the

past

they

are

trying

to

evade."

"Valentine

loves

me."

"With

all

her

heart.

Completely,

unstintingly,

she's

devoted

to

you,

and

you

adore

her.

I

told

you

it

wouldn't

be

easy."

"What

is

it

like,

there?"

"Hard

work.

Studies,

just

like

school

here,

except

we

put

you

into

mathematics

and

computers

much

more

heavily.

Military

history.

Strategy

and

tactics.

And

above

all,

the

Battle

Room."

"What's

that?"

"War

games.

All

the

boys

are

organized

into

armies.

Day

after

day,

in

zero

gravity,

there

are

mock

battles.

Nobody

gets

hurt,

but

winning

and

losing

matter.

Everybody

starts

as

a

common

soldier,

taking

orders.

Older

boys

are

your

officers,

and

it's

their

duty

to

train

you

and

command

you

in

battle.

More

than

that

I

can't

tell

you.

It's

like

playing

buggers

and

astronauts--

except

that

you

have

weapons

that

work,

and

fellow

soldiers

fighting

beside

you,

and

your

whole

future

and

the

future

of

the

human

race

depends

on

how

well

you

learn,

how

well

you

fight.

It's

a

hard

life,

and

you

won't

have

a

normal

childhood.

Of

course,

with

your

mind,

and

as

a

Third

to

boot,

you

wouldn't

have

a

particularly

normal

childhood

anyway."

"All

boys?"

"A

few

girls.

They

don't

often

pass

the

tests

to

get

in.

Too

many

centuries

of

evolution

are

working

against

them.

None

of

them

will

be

like

Valentine,

anyway.

But

there'll

be

brothers

there,

Ender."

"Like

Peter?"

"Peter

wasn't

accepted,

Ender,

for

the

very

reasons

that

you

hate

him."

"I

don't

hate

him.

I'm

just--"

"Afraid

of

him.

Well,

Peter

isn't

all

bad,

you

know.

He

was

the

best

we'd

seen

in

a

long

time.

We

asked

your

parents

to

choose

a

daughter

next

they

would

have

anyway

hoping

that

Valentine

would

be

Peter,

but

milder.

She

was

too

mild.

And

so

we

requisitioned

you."

"To

be

half

Peter

and

half

Valentine."

"If

things

worked

out

right."

"Am

I?"

"As

far

as

we

can

tell.

Our

tests

are

very

good,

Ender.

But

they

don't

tell

us

everything.

In

fact,

when

it

comes

down

to

it,

they

hardly

tell

us

anything.

But

they're

better

than

nothing."

Graff

leaned

over

and

took

Ender's

hands

in

his.

"Ender

Wiggin,

if

it

were

just

a

matter

of

choosing

the

best

and

happiest

future

for

you,

I'd

tell

you

to

stay

home.

Stay

here,

grow

up,

be

happy.

There

are

worse

things

than

being

a

Third,

worse

things

than

a

big

brother

who

can't

make

up

his

mind

whether

to

be

a

human

being

or

a

jackal.

Battle

School

is

one

of

those

worse

things.

But

we

need

you.

The

buggers

may

seem

like

a

game

to

you

now,

Ender,

but

they

damn

near

wiped

us

out

last

time.

But

it

wasn't

enough.

They

had

us

cold,

outnumbered

and

outweaponed.

The

only

thing

that

saved

us

was

that

we

had

the

most

brilliant

military

commander

we've

ever

found.

Call

it

fate,

call

it

God,

call

it

damnfool

luck,

we

had

Mazer

Rackham."

"But

we

don't

have

him

now,

Ender.

We've

scraped

together

everything

mankind

could

produce,

a

fleet

that

makes

the

one

they

sent

against

us

last

time

seem

like

a

bunch

of

kids

playing

in

a

swimming

pool.

We

have

some

new

weapons,

too.

But

it

might

not

be

enough,

even

so.

Because

in

the

eighty

years

since

the

last

war,

they've

had

as

much

time

to

prepare

as

we

have.

We

need

the

best

we

can

get,

and

we

need

them

fast.

Maybe

you're

not

going

to

work

out

for

us,

and

maybe

you

are.

Maybe

you'll

break

down

under

the

pressure,

maybe

it'll

ruin

your

life,

maybe

you'll

hate

me

for

coming

here

to

your

house

today.

But

if

there's

a

chance

that

because

you're

with

the

fleet,

mankind

might

survive

and

the

buggers

might

leave

us

alone

forever

then

I'm

going

to

ask

you

to

do

it.

To

come

with

me."

Ender

had

trouble

focusing

on

Colonel

Graff.

The

man

looked

far

away

and

very

small,

as

if

Ender

could

pick

him

up

with

tweezers

and

drop

him

in

a

pocket.

To

leave

everything

here,

arid

go

to

a

place

that

was

very

hard,

with

no

Valentine,

no

Mom

and

Dad.

And

then

he

thought

of

the

films

of

the

buggers

that

everyone

had

to

see

at

least

once

a

year.

The

Scathing

of

China.

The

Battle

of

the

Belt.

Death

and

suffering

and

terror.

And

Mazer

Rackham

and

his

brilliant

maneuvers,

destroying

an

enemy

fleet

twice

his

size

and

twice

his

firepower,

using

the

little

human

ships

that

seemed

so

frail

and

weak.

Like

children

fighting

with

grown-ups.

And

we

won.

"I'm

afraid,"

said

Ender

quietly.

"But

I'll

go

with

you."

"Tell

me

again,"

said

Graff.

"It's

what

I

was

born

for,

isn't

it?

If

I

don't

go,

why

am

I

alive?"

"Not

good

enough,"

said

Graff.

"I

don't

want

to

go,"

said

Ender,

"but

I

will."

Graff

nodded.

"You

can

change

your

mind.

Up

until

the

time

you

get

in

my

car

with

me,

you

can

change

your

mind.

After

that,

you

stay

at

the

pleasure

of

the

International

Fleet.

Do

you

understand

that?"

Ender

nodded.

"All

right.

Let's

tell

them."

Mother

cried.

Father

held

Ender

tight.

Peter

shook

his

hand

and

said,

"You

lucky

little

pinheaded

fart-eater."

Valentine

kissed

him

and

left

her

tears

on

his

cheek.

There

was

nothing

to

pack.

No

belongings

to

take.

"The

school

provides

everything

you

need,

from

uniforms

to

school

supplies.

And

as

for

toys--

there's

only

one

game."

"Good-bye,"

Ender

said

to

his

family.

He

reached

up

and

took

Colonel

Graff's

hand

and

walked

out

the

door

with

him.

"Kill

some

buggers

for

me!"

Peter

shouted.

"I

love

you,

Andrew!"

Mother

called.

"We'll

write

to

you!"

Father

said.

And

as

he

got

into

the

car

that

waited

silently

in

the

corridor,

he

heard

Valentine's

anguished

cry.

"Come

back

to

me!

I

love

you

forever!"

Chapter

4

--

Launch

"With

Ender,

we

have

to

strike

a

delicate

balance.

Isolate

him

enough

that

he

remains

creative--

otherwise

he'll

adopt

the

system

here

and

we'll

lose

him.

At

the

same

time,

we

need

to

make

sure

he

keeps

a

strong

ability

to

lead."

"If

he

earns

rank,

he'll

lead."

"lt

isn't

that

simple.

Mazer

Rackham

could

handle

his

little

fleet

and

win.

By

the

time

this

war

happens,

there'll

be

too

much,

even

for

a

genius.

Too

many

little

coats.

He

has

to

work

smoothly

with

his

subordinates."

"Oh.

good.

He

has

to

be

a

genius

and

nice.

too."

"Not

nice.

Nice

will

let

the

buggers

have

us

all,"

"So

you're

going

to

isolate

him."

"I'll

have

him

completely

separated

from

the

rest

of

the

boys

by

the

time

we

get

to

the

School."

"I

have

no

doubt

of

it.

I'll

be

waiting

for

you

to

get

here.

I

watched

the

vids

of

what

he

did

to

the

Stilson

boy.

This

is

not

a

sweet

little

kid

you're

bringing

up

here."

"That's

where

you're

mistaken.

He's

even

sweeter.

But

don't

worry.

We'll

purge

that

in

a

hurry."

"Sometimes

I

think

you

enjoy

breaking

these

little

geniuses."

"There

is

an

art

to

it,

and

I'm

very,

very

good

at

it.

But

enjoy?

Well,

maybe.

When

they

put

back

the

pieces

afterward,

and

it

makes

them

better."

"You're

a

monster."

"Thanks.

Does

this

mean

I

get

a

raise?"

"Just

a

medal.

The

budget

isn't

inexhaustible."

***

They

say

that

weightlessness

can

cause

disorientation,

especially

in

children,

whose

sense

of

direction

isn't

yet

secure.

But

Ender

was

disoriented

before

he

left

Earth's

gravity.

Before

the

shuttle

launch

even

began.

There

were

nineteen

other

boys

in

his

launch.

They

filed

out

of

the

bus

and

into

the

elevator.

They

talked

and

joked

and

bragged

and

laughed.

Ender

kept

his

silence.

He

noticed

how

Graff

and

the

other

officers

were

watching

them.

Analyzing.

Everything

we

do

means

something,

Ender

realized.

Them

laughing.

Me

not

laughing.

He

toyed

with

the

idea

of

trying

to

be

like

the

other

boys.

But

he

couldn't

think

of

any

jokes,

and

none

of

theirs

seemed

funny.

Wherever

their

laughter

came

from,

Ender

couldn't

find

such

a

place

in

himself.

He

was

afraid,

and

fear

made

him

serious.

They

had

dressed

him

in

a

uniform,

all

in

a

single

piece;

it

felt

funny

not

to

have

a

belt

cinched

around

his

waist.

He

felt

baggy

and

naked,

dressed

like

that.

There

were

TV

cameras

going,

perched

like

animals

on

the

shoulders

of

crouching,

prowling

men.

The

men

moved

slowly,

catlike,

so

the

camera

motion

would

be

smooth.

Ender

caught

himself

moving

smoothly,

too.

He

imagined

himself

being

on

TV,

in

an

interview.

The

announcer

asking

him,

How

do

you

feel,

Mr.

Wiggin?

Actually

quite

well,

except

hungry.

Hungry?

Oh,

yes,

they

don't

let

you

eat

for

twenty

hours

before

the

launch.

How

interesting,

I

never

knew

that.

All

of

us

are

quite

hungry,

actually.

And

all

the

while,

during

the

interview,

Ender

and

the

TV

guy

would

slink

along

smoothly

in

front

of

the

cameraman,

taking

long,

lithe

strides.

For

the

first

time,

Ender

felt

like

laughing.

He

smiled.

The

other

boys

near

him

were

laughing

at

the

moment,

too,

for

another

reason.

They

think

I'm

smiling

at

their

joke,

thought

Ender.

But

I'm

smiling

at

something

much

funnier.

"Go

up

the

ladder

one

at

a

time,"

said

an

officer.

"When

you

come

to

an

aisle

with

empty

seats,

take

one.

There

aren't

any

window

seats."

It

was

a

joke.

The

other

boys

laughed.

Ender

was

near

the

last,

but

not

the

very

last.

The

TV

cameras

did

not

give

up,

though.

Will

Valentine

see

me

disappear

into

the

shuttle?

He

thought

of

waving

at

her,

of

running

to

the

cameraman

and

saying,

"Can

I

tell

Valentine

good-bye?"

He

didn't

know

that

it

would

be

censored

out

of

the

tape

if

he

did,

for

the

boys

soaring

out

to

Battle

School

were

all

supposed

to

be

heroes.

They

weren't

supposed

to

miss

anybody.

Ender

didn't

know

about

the

censorship,

but

he

did

know

that

running

to

the

cameras

would

be

wrong.

He

walked

the

short

bridge

to

the

door

in

the

shuttle.

He

noticed

that

the

wall

to

his

right

was

carpeted

like

a

floor.

That

was

where

the

disorientation

began.

The

moment

he

thought

of

the

wall

as

a

floor,

he

began

to

feel

like

he

was

walking

on

a

wall.

He

got

to

the

ladder,

and

noticed

that

the

vertical

surface

behind

it

was

also

carpeted.

I

am

climbing

up

the

floor.

Hand

over

hand,

step

by

step.

And

then,

for

fun,

he

pretended

that

he

was

climbing

down

the

wall.

He

did

it

almost

instantly

in

his

mind,

convinced

himself

against

the

best

evidence

of

gravity.

He

found

himself

gripping

the

seat

tightly,

even

though

gravity

pulled

him

firmly

against

it.

The

other

boys

were

bouncing

on

their

seats

a

little,

poking

and

pushing,

shouting.

Ender

carefully

found

the

straps,

figured

out

how

they

fit

together

to

hold

him

at

crotch,

waist,

and

shoulders.

He

imagined

the

ship

dangling

upside

down

on

the

undersurface

of

the

Earth,

the

giant

fingers

of

gravity

holding

them

firmly

in

place.

But

we

will

slip

away,

he

thought.

We

are

going

to

fall

off

this

planet.

He

did

not

know

its

significance

at

the

time.

Later,

though,

he

would

remember

that

it

was

even

before

he

left

Earth

that

he

first

thought

of

it

as

a

planet,

like

any

other,

not

particularly

his

own.

"Oh,

already

figured

it

out,"

said

Graff.

He

was

standing

on

the

ladder.

"Coming

with

us?"

Ender

asked.

"I

don't

usually

come

down

for

recruiting,"

Graff

said.

"I'm

kind

of

in

charge

there.

Administrator

of

the

School.

Like

a

principal.

They

told

me

I

had

to

come

back

or

I'd

lose

my

job."

He

smiled.

Ender

smiled

back.

He

felt

comfortable

with

Graff.

Graff

was

good.

And

he

was

principal

of

the

Battle

School.

Ender

relaxed

a

little.

He

would

have

a

friend

there.

The

other

boys

were

belted

in

place,

those

who

hadn't

done

as

Ender

did.

Then

they

waited

for

an

hour

while

a

TV

at

the

front

of

the

shuttle

introduced

them

to

shuttle

flight,

the

history

of

space

flight,

and

their

possible

future

with

the

great

starships

of

the

IF.

Very

boring

stuff.

Ender

had

seen

such

films

before.

Except

that

he

had

not

been

belted

into

a

seat

inside

the

shuttle.

Hanging

upside

down

from

the

belly

of

Earth.

The

launch

wasn't

bad.

A

little

scary.

Some

jolting,

a

few

moments

of

panic

that

this

might

be

the

first

failed

launch

in

the

history

of

the

shuttle.

The

movies

hadn't

made

it

plain

how

much

violence

you

could

experience,

lying

on

your

back

in

a

soft

chair.

Then

it

was

over,

and

he

really

was

hanging

by

the

straps,

no

gravity

anywhere.

But

because

he

had

already

reoriented

himself,

he

was

not

surprised

when

Graff

came

up

the

ladder

backward,

as

if

he

were

climbing

down

to

the

front

of

the

shuttle.

Nor

did

it

bother

him

when

Graff

hooked

his

feet

under

a

rung

and

pushed

off

with

his

hands,

so

that

suddenly

he

swung

upright,

as

if

this

were

an

ordinary

airplane.

The

reorientations

were

too

much

for

some.

One

boy

gagged;

Ender

understood

then

why

they

had

been

forbidden

to

eat

anything

for

twenty

hours

before

the

launch.

Vomit

in

null

gravity

wouldn't

be

fun.

But

for

Ender,

Graff's

gravity

game

was

fun,

And

he

carried

it

further,

imagining

that

Graff

was

actually

hanging

upside

down

from

the

center

aisle,

and

then

picturing

him

sticking

straight

out

from

a

side

wall.

Gravity

could

go

any

which

way.

However

I

want

it

to

go.

I

can

make

Graff

stand

on

his

head

and

he

doesn't

even

know

it.

"What

do

you

think

is

so

funny,

Wiggin?"

Graff's

voice

was

sharp

and

angry.

What

did

I

do

wrong,

thought

Ender.

Did

I

laugh

out

loud?

"I

asked

you

a

question,

soldier!"

barked

Graff.

Oh

yes.

This

is

the

beginning

of

the

training

routine.

Ender

had

seen

some

military

shows

on

TV,

and

they

always

shouted

a

lot

at

the

beginning

of

training

before

the

soldier

and

the

officer

became

good

friends.

"Yes

sir,"

Ender

said.

"Well

answer

it,

then!"

"I

thought

of

you

hanging

upside

down

by

your

feet.

I

thought

it

was

funny."

It

sounded

stupid,

now,

with

Graff

looking

at

him

coldly.

"To

you

I

suppose

it

is

funny.

Is

it

funny

to

anybody

else

here?"

Murmurs

of

no.

"Well

why

isn't

it?"

Graff

looked

at

them

all

with

contempt.

"Scumbrains,

that's

what

we've

got

in

this

launch.

Pinheaded

little

morons.

Only

one

of

you

had

the

brains

to

realize

that

in

null

gravity

directions

are

whatever

you

conceive

them

to

be.

Do

you

understand

that,

Shafts?"

The

boy

nodded.

"No

you

didn't.

Of

course

you

didn't.

Not

only

stupid,

but

a

liar

too.

There's

only

one

boy

on

this

launch

with

any

brains

at

all,

and

that's

Ender

Wiggin.

Take

a

good

look

at

him,

little

boys.

He's

going

to

he

a

commander

when

you're

still

in

diapers

up

there.

Because

he

knows

how

to

think

in

null

gravity,

and

you

just

want

to

throw

up."

This

wasn't

the

way

the

show

was

supposed

to

go.

Graff

was

supposed

to

pick

on

him,

not

set

him

up

as

the

best.

They

were

supposed

to

be

against

each

other

at

first,

so

they

could

become

friends

later.

"Most

of

you

are

going

to

ice

out.

Get

used

to

that,

little

boys.

Most

of

you

are

going

to

end

up

in

Combat

School,

because

you

don't

have

the

brains

to

handle

deep-space

piloting.

Most

of

you

aren't

worth

the

price

of

bringing

you

up

here

to

Battle

School

because

you

don't

have

what

it

takes.

Some

of

you

might

make

it.

Some

of

you

might

be

wotth

something

to

humanity.

But

don't

bet

on

it.

I'm

betting

on

only

one."

Suddenly

Graff

did

a

backflip

and

caught

the

ladder

with

his

hands,

then

swung

his

feet

away

from

the

ladder.

Doing

a

handstand,

if

the

floor

was

down.

Dangling

by

his

hands,

if

the

floor

was

up.

Hand

over

hand

he

swung

himself

back

along

the

aisle

to

his

seat.

"Looks

like

you've

got

it

made

here,"

whispered

the

boy

next

to

him.

Ender

shook

his

head.

"Oh,

won't

even

talk

to

me?"

the

boy

said.

"I

didn't

ask

him

to

say

that

stuff,"

Ender

whispered.

He

felt

a

sharp

pain

on

the

top

of

his

head.

Then

again.

Some

giggles

from

behind

him.

The

boy

in

the

next

seat

back

must

have

unfastened

his

straps.

Again

a

blow

to

the

head.

Go

away,

Ender

thought.

I

didn't

do

anything

to

you.

Again

a

blow

to

the

head.

Laughter

from

the

boys.

Didn't

Graff

see

this?

Wasn't

he

going

to

stop

it?

Another

blow.

Harder.

It

really

hurt.

Where

was

Graff?

Then

it

became

clear.

Graff

had

deliberately

caused

it.

It

was

worse

than

the

abuse

in

the

shows.

When

the

sergeant

picked

on

you,

the

others

liked

you

better.

But

when

the

officer

prefers

you,

the

others

hate

you.

"Hey,

fart-eater,"

came

the

whisper

from

behind

him.

He

was

hit

in

the

head

again.

"Do

you

like

this?

Hey,

super-brain,

this

is

fun?"

Another

blow,

this

one

so

hard

that

Ender

cried

out

softly

with

the

pain.

If

Graff

was

setting

him

up,

there'd

be

no

help

unless

he

helped

himself.

He

waited

until

he

thought

another

blow

was

about

to

come.

Now,

he

thought.

And

yes,

the

blow

was

there.

It

hurt,

but

Ender

was

already

trying

to

sense

the

coming

of

the

next

blow.

Now.

And

yes,

right

on

time.

I've

got

you,

Ender

thought.

Just

as

the

next

blow

was

coming,

Ender

reached

up

with

both

hands,

snatched

the

boy

by

the

wrist,

and

then

pulled

down

on

the

arm,

hard.

In

gravity,

the

boy

would

have

been

jammed

against

Ender's

seat

back,

hurting

his

chest.

In

null

gravity,

however,

he

flipped

over

the

seat

completely,

up

toward

the

ceiling.

Ender

wasn't

expecting

it.

He

hadn't

realized

how

null

gravity

magnified

even

a

child's

strength.

The

boy

sailed

through

the

air,

bouncing

against

the

ceiling,

then

down

against

another

boy

in

his

seat,

then

out

into

the

aisle,

his

arms

flailing

until

he

screamed

as

his

body

slammed

into

the

bulkhead

at

the

front

of

the

compartment,

his

left

arm

twisted

under

him.

It

took

only

seconds.

Graff

was

already

there,

snatching

the

boy

out

of

the

air.

Deftly

he

propelled

him

down

the

aisle

toward

the

other

man.

"Left

arm.

Broken.

I

think,"

he

said.

In

moments

the

boy

had

been

given

a

drug

and

lay

quietly

in

the

air

as

the

officer

ballooned

a

splint

around

his

arm.

Ender

felt

sick.

He

had

only

meant

to

catch

the

boy's

arm.

No.

No,

he

had

meant

to

hurt

him,

and

had

pulled

with

all

his

strength.

He

hadn't

meant

it

to

be

so

public,

but

the

boy

was

feeling

exactly

the

pain

Ender

had

meant

him

to

feel.

Null

gravity

had

betrayed

him,

that

was

all.

I

am

Peter.

I'm

just

like

him.

And

Ender

hated

himself.

Graff

stayed

at

the

front

of

the

cabin.

"What

are

you,

slow

learners?

In

your

feeble

little

minds,

hayen't

you

picked

up

one

little

fact?

You

were

brought

here

to

be

soldiers.

In

your

old

schools,

in

your

old

families,

maybe

you

were

the

big

shot,

maybe

you

were

tough,

maybe

you

were

smart.

But

we

chose

the

best

of

the

best,

and

that's

the

only

kind

of

kid

you're

going

to

meet

now.

And

when

I

tell

you

Ender

Wiggin

is

the

best

in

this

launch,

take

the

hint,

pinheads.

Don't

mess

with

him.

Little

boys

have

died

in

Battle

School

before.

Do

I

make

myself

clear?"

There

was

silence

the

rest

of

the

launch.

The

boy

sitting

next

to

Ender

was

scrupulously

careful

not

to

touch

him.

I

am

not

a

killer,

Ender

said

to

himself

over

and

over.

I

am

not

Peter.

No

matter

what

he

says,

I

wouldn't.

I'm

not.

I

was

defending

myself.

I

bore

it

a

long

time.

I

was

patient.

I'm

not

what

he

said.

A

voice

over

the

speaker

told

them

they

were

approaching

the

school;

it

took

twenty

minutes

to

decelerate

and

dock.

Ender

lagged

behind

the

others.

They

were

not

unwilling

to

let

him

be

the

last

to

leave

the

shuttle,

climbing

upward

in

the

direction

that

had

been

down

when

they

embarked.

Graff

was

waiting

at

the

end

of

the

narrow

tube

that

led

from

the

shuttle

into

the

heart

of

the

Battle

School.

"Was

it

a

good

flight,

Ender?"

Graff

asked

cheerfully.

"I

thought

you

were

my

friend."

Despite

himself,

Ender's

voice

trembled.

Graff

looked

puzzled.

"Whatever

gave

you

that

idea,

Ender?"

"Because

you--"

Because

you

spoke

nicely

to

me,

and

honestly.

"You

didn't

lie."

"I

won't

lie

now,

either,"

said

Graff.

"My

job

isn't

to

be

friends.

My

job

is

to

produce

the

best

soldiers

in

the

world.

In

the

whole

history

of

the

world.

We

need

a

Napoleon.

An

Alexander.

Except

that

Napoleon

lost

in

the

end,

and

Alexander

flamed

out

and

died

young.

We

need

a

Julius

Caesar,

except

that

he

made

himself

dictator,

and

died

for

it.

My

job

is

to

produce

such

a

creature,

and

all

the

men

and

women

he'll

need

to

help

him.

Nowhere

in

that

does

it

say

I

have

to

make

friends

with

children."

"You

made

them

hate

me."

"So?

What

will

you

do

about

it?

Crawl

into

a

corner?

Start

kissing

their

little

backsides

so

they'll

love

you

again?

There's

only

one

thing

that

will

make

them

stop

hating

you.

And

that's

being

so

good

at

what

you

do

that

they

can't

ignore

you.

I

told

them

you

were

the

best.

Now

you

damn

well

better

be."

"What

if

I

can't?"

"Then

too

bad.

Look,

Ender.

I'm

sorry

if

you're

lonely

and

afraid.

But

the

buggers

are

out

there.

Ten

billion,

a

hundred

billion,

a

million

billion

of

them,

for

all

we

know.

With

as

many

ships,

for

all

we

know.

With

weapons

we

can't

understand.

And

a

willingness

to

use

those

weapons

to

wipe

us

out.

It

isn't

the

world

at

stake,

Ender.

Just

us.

Just

humankind.

As

far

as

the

rest

of

the

earth

is

concerned,

we

could

be

wiped

out

and

it

would

adjust,

it

would

get

on

with

the

next

step

in

evolution.

But

humanity

doesn't

want

to

die.

As

a

species,

we

have

evolved

to

survive.

And

the

way

we

do

it

is

by

straining

and

straining

and,

at

last,

every

few

generations,

giving

birth

to

genius.

The

one

who

invents

the

wheel.

And

light.

And

flight.

The

one

who

builds

a

city,

a

nation,

an

empire.

Do

you

understand

any

of

this?"

Ender

thought

he

did,

but

wasn't

sure,

and

so

said

nothing.

"No.

Of

course

not.

So

I'll

put

it

bluntly.

Human

beings

are

free

except

when

humanity

needs

them.

Maybe

humanity

needs

you.

To

do

something.

I

think

humanity

needs

me--

to

find

out

what

you're

good

for.

We

might

both

do

despicable

things,

Ender,

but

if

humankind

survives,

then

we

were

good

tools."

"Is

that

all?

Just

tools?"

"Individual

human

beings

are

all

tools,

that

the

others

use

to

help

us

all

survive."

"That's

a

lie."

"No.

It's

just

a

half

truth.

You

can

worry

about

the

other

half

after

we

win

this

war."

"It'll

be

over

before

I

grow

up,"

Ender

said.

"I

hope

you're

wrong,"

said

Grail.

"By

the

way,

you

aren't

helping

yourself

at

all,

talking

to

me.

The

other

boys

are

no

doubt

telling

each

other

that

old

Ender

Wiggin

is

back

there

licking

up

to

Graff.

If

word

once

gets

around

that

you're

a

teachers'

boy,

you're

iced

for

sure."

In

other

words,

go

away

and

leave

me

alone.

"Goodbye,"

Ender

said.

He

pulled

himself

hand

over

hand

along

the

tube

where

the

other

boys

had

gone.

Graff

watched

him

go.

One

of

the

teachers

near

him

said,

"Is

that

the

one?"

"God

knows,"

said

Graff.

"If

it

isn't

Ender,

then

he'd

better

show

up

soon."

"Maybe

it's

nobody,"

said

the

teacher.

"Maybe.

But

if

that's

the

case,

Anderson,

then

in

my

opinion

God

is

a

bugger.

You

can

quote

me

on

that."

"I

will."

They

stood

in

silence

a

while

longer.

"Anderson."

"Mmm."

"The

kid's

wrong.

I

am

his

friend."

"I

know."

"He's

clean.

Right

to

the

heart,

he's

good."

"I've

read

the

reports."

"Anderson,

think

what

we're

going

to

do

to

him."

Anderson

was

defiant.

"We're

going

to

make

him

the

best

military

commander

in

history."

"And

then

put

the

fate

of

the

world

on

his

shoulders.

For

his

sake,

I

hope

it

isn't

him.

I

do."

"Cheer

up.

The

buggers

may

kill

us

all

before

he

graduates."

Graff

smiled.

"You're

right.

I

feel

better

already."

Chapter

5

--

Games

"You

have

my

admiration.

Breaking

an

arm--

that

was

a

master

stroke."

"That

was

an

accident."

"Really?

And

I've

already

commended

you

in

your

official

report."

"It's

too

strong.

It

makes

that

other

little

bastard

into

a

hero.

It

could

screw

up

training

for

a

lot

of

kids.

I

thought

he

might

call

for

help."

"Call

for

help?

I

thought

that

was

what

you

valued

most

in

him

that

he

settles

his

own

problems.

When

he's

out

there

surrounded

by

an

enemy

fleet,

there

ain't

gonna

be

nobody

to

help

him

if

he

calls."

"Who

would

have

guessed

the

little

sucker'd

be

out

of

hs

seat?

And

that

he'd

land

just

wrong

against

the

bulkhead?"

"Just

one

more

example

of

the

stupidity

of

the

military.

If

you

had

any

brains,

you'd

be

in

a

real

career,

like

selling

life

insurance."

"You,

too,

mastermind."

"We've

just

got

to

face

the

fact

that

we're

second

rate.

With

the

fate

of

humanity

in

our

hands.

Gives

you

a

delicious

feeling

of

power,

doesn't

it?

Especially

because

this

time

if

we

lose

there

won't

be

any

criticism

of

us

at

all."

"I

never

thought

of

it

that

way.

But

let's

not

lose."

"See

how

Ender

handles

it.

If

we've

already

lost

him,

if

he

can't

handle

this,

who

next?

Who

else?"

"I'll

make

up

a

list."

"In

the

meantime,

figure

out

how

to

unlose

Ender."

"I

told

you.

His

isolation

can't

be

broken.

He

can

never

come

to

believe

that

anybody

will

ever

help

him

out.

ever.

If

he

once

thinks

there's

an

easy

way

out,

he's

wrecked."

"You're

right.

That

would

be

terrible,

if

he

believed

he

had

a

friend."

"He

can

have

friends.

It's

parents

he

can't

have."

***

The

other

boys

had

already

chosen

their

bunks

when

Ender

arrived.

Ender

stopped

in

the

doorway

of

the

dormitory,

looking

for

the

sole

remaining

bed.

The

ceiling

was

low

Ender

could

reach

up

and

touch

it.

A

child-size

room,

with

the

bottom

bunk

resting

on

the

floor.

The

other

boys

were

watching

him,

cornerwise.

Sure

enough,

the

bottom

bunk

right

by

the

door

was

the

only

empty

bed.

For

a

moment

it

occurred

to

Ender

that

by

letting

the

others

put

him

in

the

worst

place,

he

was

inviting

later

bullying.

Yet

he

couldn't

very

well

oust

someone

else.

So

he

smiled

broadly.

"Hey,

thanks,"

he

said.

Not

sarcastically

at

all.

He

said

it

as

sincerely

as

if

they

had

reserved

for

him

the

best

position.

"I

thought

I

was

going

to

have

to

ask

for

low

bunk

by

the

door."

He

sat

down

and

looked

in

the

locker

that

stood

open

at

the

foot

of

the

bunk.

There

was

a

paper

taped

to

the

inside

of

the

door.

Place

your

hand

on

the

scanner

at

the

head

of

your

bunk

and

speak

your

name

twice.

Ender

found

the

scanner,

a

sheet

of

opaque

plastic.

He

put

his

left

hand

on

it

and

said,

"Ender

Wiggin.

Ender

Wiggin."

The

scanner

glowed

green

for

a

moment.

Ender

closed

his

locker

and

tried

to

reopen

it.

He

couldn't.

Then

he

put

his

hand

on

the

scanner

and

said,

"Ender

Wiggin."

The

locker

popped

open.

So

did

three

other

compartments.

One

of

them

contained

four

jumpsuits

like

the

one

he

was

wearing,

and

one

white

one.

Another

compartment

contained

a

small

desk,

just

like

the

ones

at

school.

So

they

weren't

through

with

studies

yet.

It

was

the

largest

compartment

that

contained

the

prize.

It

looked

like

a

spacesuit

at

first

glance,

complete

with

helmet

and

gloves.

But

it

wasn't.

There

was

no

airtight

seal.

Still,

it

would

effectively

cover

the

whole

body.

It

was

thickly

padded.

It

was

also

a

little

stiff.

And

there

was

a

pistol

with

it.

A

lasergun,

it

looked

like,

since

the

end

was

solid,

clear

glass.

But

surely

they

wouldn't

let

children

have

lethal

weapons--

"Not

laser,"

said

a

man.

Ender

looked

up.

It

was

one

he

hadn't

seen

before.

A

young

and

kind-looking

man.

"But

it

has

a

tight

enough

beam.

Well-focused.

You

can

aim

it

and

make

a

three-inch

circle

of

light

on

a

wall

a

hundred

meters

off."

"What's

it

for?"

Ender

asked.

"One

of

the

games

we

play

during

recreation.

Does

anyone

else

have

his

locker

open?"

The

man

looked

around.

"I

mean,

have

you

followed

directions

and

coded

in

your

voices

and

hands?

You

can't

get

into

the

lockers

until

you

do.

This

room

is

your

home

for

the

first

year

or

so

here

at

the

Battle

School,

so

get

the

bunk

you

want

and

stay

with

it.

Ordinarily

we

let

you

elect

your

chief

officer

and

install

him

in

the

lower

bunk

by

the

door,

but

apparently

that

position

has

been

taken.

Can't

recode

the

lockers

now.

So

think

about

whom

you

want

to

choose.

Dinner

in

seven

minutes.

Follow

the

lighted

dots

on

the

floor.

Your

color

code

is

red

yellow

yellow--

whenever

you're

assigned

a

path

to

follow,

it

will

be

red

yellow

yellow,

three

dots

side

by

side--

go

where

those

lights

indicate.

What's

your

color

code,

boys?"

"Red,

yellow,

yellow."

"Very

good.

My

name

is

Dap.

I'm

your

mom

for

the

next

few

months."

The

boys

laughed.

"Laugh

all

you

like,

but

keep

it

in

mind.

If

you

get

lost

in

the

school,

which

is

quite

possible,

don't

go

opening

doors.

Some

of

them

lead

outside."

More

laughter.

"Instead

just

tell

someone

that

your

mom

is

Dap,

and

they'll

call

me.

Or

tell

them

your

color,

and

they'll

light

up

a

path

for

you

to

get

home.

If

you

have

a

problem,

come

talk

to

me.

Remember,

I'm

the

only

person

here

who's

paid

to

be

nice

to

you,

but

not

too

nice.

Give

me

any

lip

and

I'll

break

your

face,

OK?"

They

laughed

again.

Dap

had

a

room

full

of

friends,

Frightened

children

are

so

easy

to

win.

"Which

way

is

down,

anybody

tell

me?"

They

told

him.

"OK,

that's

true.

But

that

direction

is

toward

the

outside.

The

ship

is

spinning,

and

that's

what

makes

it

feel

like

that

is

down.

The

floor

actually

curves

around

in

that

direction.

Keep

going

long

enough

that

way,

and

you

come

back

to

where

you

started.

Except

don't

try

it.

Because

up

that

way

is

teachers'

quarters,

and

up

that

way

is

the

bigger

kids.

And

the

bigger

kids

don't

like

Launchies

butting

in.

You

might

get

pushed

around.

In

fact,

you

will

get

pushed

around.

And

when

you

do,

don't

come

crying

to

me.

Got

it?

This

is

Battle

School,

not

nursery

school."

"What

are

we

supposed

to

do,

then?"

asked

a

boy,

a

really

small

black

kid

who

had

a

top

hunk

near

Ender's.

"If

you

don't

like

getting

pushed

around,

figure

out

for

yourself

what

to

do

about

it,

but

I

warn

you--

murder

is

strictly

against

the

rules.

So

is

any

deliberate

injury.

I

understand

there

was

one

attempted

murder

on

the

was

up

here.

A

broken

arm.

That

kind

of

thing

happens

again,

somebody

ices

out.

You

got

it?"

"What's

icing

out?"

asked

the

boy

with

his

arm

puffed

up

in

a

splint.

"Ice.

Put

out

in

the

cold.

Sent

Earthside.

Finished

at

Battle

School."

Nobody

looked

at

Ender.

"So,

boys,

if

any

of

you

are

thinking

of

being

troublemakers,

at

least

be

clever

about

it.

OK?"

Dap

left.

They

still

didn't

look

at

Ender.

Ender

felt

the

fear

growing

in

his

belly.

The

kid

whose

arm

he

broke--

Ender

didn't

feel

sorry

for

him.

He

was

a

Stilson.

And

like

Stilson,

he

was

already

gathering

a

gang.

A

little

knot

of

kids,

several

of

the

bigger

ones,

they

were

laughing

at

the

far

end

of

the

room,

and

every

now

and

then

one

of

them

would

turn

to

look

at

Ender.

With

all

his

heart,

Ender

wanted

to

go

home.

What

did

any

of

this

have

to

do

with

saving

the

world?

There

was

no

monitor

now.

It

was

Ender

against

the

gang

again,

only

they

were

right

in

his

room.

Peter

again,

but

without

Valentine.

The

fear

stayed,

all

through

dinner

as

no

one

sat

by

him

in

the

mess

hall.

The

other

boys

were

talking

about

things--

the

big

scoreboard

on

one

wall,

the

food,

the

bigger

kids.

Ender

could

only

watch

in

isolation.

The

scoreboards

were

team

standings.

Won-loss

records,

with

the

most

recent

scores.

Some

of

the

bigger

boy's

apparently

had

bets

on

the

most

recent

games.

Two

teams,

Manticore

and

Asp,

had

no

recent

score--

that

box

was

flashing.

Ender

decided

they

must

be

playing

right

now.

He

noticed

that

the

older

boys

were

divided

into

groups,

according

to

the

uniforms

they

wore.

Some

with

different

uniforms

were

talking

together,

but

generally

the

groups

each

had

thcir

own

area.

Launchies--

their

own

group,

and

the

two

or

three

next

older

groups

all

had

plain

blue

uniforms.

But

the

big

kids,

the

ones

that

were

on

teams,

they

were

wearing

much

more

flamboyant

clothing.

Ender

tried

to

guess

which

ones

went

with

which

name.

Scorpion

and

Spider

were

easy.

So

were

Flame

and

Tide.

A

bigger

boy

came

to

sit

by

him.

Not

just

a

little

bigger-

he

looked

to

be

twelve

or

thirteen.

Getting

his

man's

growth

started.

"Hi,"

he

said.

"Hi,"

Ender

said.

"I'm

Mick."

"Ender."

"That's

a

name?"

"Since

I

was

little.

It's

what

my

sister

called

me."

"Not

a

bad

name

here.

Ender.

Finisher.

Hey."

"Hope

so."

"Ender,

you

the

bugger

in

your

launch?"

Ender

shrugged.

"I

noticed

you

eating

all

alone.

Every

launch

has

one

like

that.

Kid

that

nobody

takes

to

right

away.

Sometimes

I

think

the

teachers

do

it

on

purpose.

The

teachers

aren't

very

nice.

You'll

notice

that."

"Yeah."

"So

you

the

bugger?"

"I

guess

so."

"Hey.

Nothing

to

cry

about,

you

know?"

He

gave

Ender

his

roll,

and

took

Ender's

pudding.

"Eat

nutritious

stuff.

It'll

keep

you

strong."

Mick

dug

into

the

pudding.

"What

about

you?"

asked

Ender.

"Me?

I'm

nothing.

I'm

a

fart

in

the

air

conditioning.

I'm

always

there,

but

most

of

the

time

nobody

knows

it."

Ender

smiled

tentatively.

"Yeah,

funny,

but

no

joke.

I

got

nowhere

here.

I'm

getting

big

now.

They're

going

to

send

me

to

my

next

school

pretty

soon.

No

way

it'll

be

Tactical

School

for

me.

I've

never

been

a

leader,

you

see.

Only

the

guys

who

get

to

be

leaders

have

a

shot

at

it."

"How

do

you

get

to

be

a

leader?"

"Hey,

if

I

knew,

you

think

I'd

be

like

this?

How

many

guys

my

size

you

see

in

here?"

Not

many.

Ender

didn't

say

it.

"A

few.

I'm

not

the

only

half-iced

bugger-fodder.

A

few

of

us.

The

other

guys--

they're

all

commanders.

All

the

guys

from

my

launch

have

their

own

teams

now.

Not

me."

Ender

nodded.

"Listen,

little

guy.

I'm

doing

you

a

favor.

Make

friends.

Be

a

leader.

Kiss

butts

if

you've

got

to,

but

if

the

other

guys

despise

you--

you

know

what

I

mean?"

Ender

nodded

again.

"Naw,

you

don't

know

anything.

You

Launchies

are

all

alike.

You

don't

know

nothing.

Minds

like

space.

Nothing

there.

And

if

anything

hits

you,

you

fall

apart.

Look,

when

you

end

up

like

me,

don't

forget

that

somebody

warned

you.

It's

the

last

nice

thing

anybody's

going

to

do

for

you."

"So

why

did

you

tell

me?"

asked

Ender.

"What

are

you,

a

smart

mouth?

Shut

up

and

eat."

Ender

shut

up

and

ate.

He

didn't

like

Mick.

And

he

knew

there

was

no

chance

he

would

end

up

like

that.

Maybe

that

was

what

the

teachers

were

planning,

but

Ender

didn't

intend

to

fit

in

with

their

plans.

I

will

not

be

the

bugger

of

my

group,

Ender

thought.

I

didn't

leave

Valentine

and

Mother

and

Father

to

come

here

just

to

be

iced.

As

he

lifted

the

fork

to

his

mouth,

he

could

feel

his

family

around

him,

as

they

always

had

been.

He

knew

just

which

way

to

turn

his

head

to

look

up

and

see

Mother,

trying

to

get

Valentine

not

to

slurp.

He

knew

just

where

Father

would

be,

scanning

the

news

on

the

table

while

pretending

to

be

part

of

the

dinner

conversation.

Peter,

pretending

to

take

a

crushed

pea

out

of

his

nose--

even

Peter

could

he

funny.

It

was

a

mistake

to

think

of

them.

He

felt

a

sob

rise

in

his

throat

and

swallowed

it

down;

he

could

not

see

his

plate.

He

could

not

cry.

There

was

no

chance

that

he

would

be

treated

with

compassion.

Dap

was

not

Mother.

Any

sign

of

weakness

would

tell

the

Stilsons

and

Peters

that

this

boy

could

be

broken.

Ender

did

what

he

always

did

when

Peter

tormented

him.

He

began

to

count

doubles.

One,

two,

four,

eight.

sixteen,

thirty-two,

sixty-four.

And

on,

as

high

as

he

could

hold

the

numbers

in

his

head:

128,

256,

512,

1024,

2048,

4096,

8192,

16384,

32768,

65536,

131072,

262144.

At

67108864

he

began

to

be

unsure--

had

he

slipped

out

a

digit?

Should

he

be

in

the

ten

millions

or

the

hundred

millions

or

just

the

millions?

He

tried

doubling

again

and

lost

it.

1342

something.

16?

Or

17738?

It

was

gone.

Start

over

again.

All

the

doubling

he

could

hold.

The

pain

was

gone.

The

tears

were

gone.

He

would

not

cry.

Until

that

night,

when

the

lights

went

dim,

and

in

the

distance

he

could

hear

several

boys

whimpering

for

their

mothers

or

fathers

or

dogs.

He

could

not

help

himself.

His

lips

formed

Valentine's

name.

He

could

hear

her

voice

laughing

in

the

distance,

just

down

the

hall.

He

could

see

Mother

passing

his

door,

looking

in

to

he

sure

he

was

all

right.

He

could

hear

Father

laughing

at

the

video.

It

was

all

so

clear,

and

it

would

never

he

that

way

again.

I'll

be

old

when

I

ever

see

them

again,

twelve

at

the

earliest.

Why

did

I

say

yes?

What

was

I

such

a

fool

for?

Going

to

school

would

have

been

nothing.

Facing

Stilson

every

day.

And

Peter.

He

was

a

pissant.

Ender

wasn't

afraid

of

him.

I

want

to

go

home,

he

whispered.

But

his

whisper

was

the

whisper

he

used

when

he

cried

out

in

pain

when

Peter

tormented

him.

The

sound

didn't

travel

farther

than

his

own

ears,

and

sometimes

not

that

far.

And

his

tears

could

fall

unwanted

on

his

sheet,

but

his

sobs

were

so

gentle

that

they

did

not

shake

the

bed;

so

quiet

they

could

not

be

heard.

But

the

ache

was

there,

thick

in

his

throat

and

the

front

of

his

face,

hot

in

his

chest

and

in

his

eyes.

I

want

to

go

home.

Dap

came

to

the

door

that

night

and

moved

quietly

among

the

beds,

touching

a

hand

here.

Where

he

went

there

was

more

crying,

not

less.

The

touch

of

kindness

in

this

frightening

place

was

enough

to

push

some

over

the

edge

into

tears.

Not

Ender,

though.

When

Dap

came,

his

crying

was

over,

and

his

face

was

dry.

It

was

the

lying

face

he

presented

to

Mother

and

Father,

when

Peter

had

been

cruel

to

him

and

he

dared

not

let

it

show.

Thank

you

for

this,

Peter.

For

dry

eyes

and

silent

weeping.

You

taught

me

how

to

hide

anything

I

felt.

More

than

ever,

I

need

that

now.

***

There

was

school.

Every

day,

hours

of

classes.

Reading.

Numbers.

History.

Videos

of

the

bloody

battles

in

space,

the

Marines

spraying

their

guts

all

over

the

walls

of

the

bugger

ships.

Holos

of

clean

wars

of

the

fleet,

ships

turning

into

puffs

of

light

as

the

spacecraft

killed

each

other

deftly

in

the

deep

night.

Many

things

to

learn.

Ender

worked

as

hard

as

anyone;

all

of

them

struggled

for

the

first

time

in

their

lives,

as

for

the

first

time

in

their

lives

they

competed

with

classmates

who

were

at

least

as

bright

as

they,

But

the

games--

that

was

what

they

lived

for.

That

was

what

filled

the

hours

between

waking

and

sleeping.

Dap

introduced

them

to

the

game

room

on

their

second

day.

It

was

up,

way

above

the

decks

where

the

boys

lived

and

worked.

They

climbed

ladders

to

where

the

gravity

weakened,

and

there

in

the

cavern

they

saw

the

dazzling

lights

of

the

games.

Some

of

the

games

they

knew;

some

they

had

even

played

at

home.

Simple

ones

and

hard

ones.

Ender

walked

past

the

two-dimensional

games

on

video

and

began

to

study

the

games

the

bigger

boys

played,

the

holographic

games

with

objects

hovering

in

the

air.

He

was

the

only

Launchy

in

that

part

of

the

room,

and

every

now

and

then

one

of

the

bigger

boys

would

shove

him

out

of

the

way.

What're

you

doing

here?

Get

lost.

Fly

off.

And

of

course

he

would

fly,

in

the

lower

gravity

here,

leave

his

feet

and

soar

until

he

ran

into

something

or

someone.

Every

time,

though,

he

extricated

himself

and

went

back,

perhaps

to

a

different

spot,

to

get

a

different

angle

on

the

game.

He

was

too

small

to

see

the

controls,

how

the

game

was

actually

done.

That

didn't

matter.

He

got

the

movement

of

it

in

the

air.

The

way

the

player

dug

tunnels

in

the

darkness,

tunnels

of

light,

which

the

enemy

ships

would

search

for

and

then

follow

mercilessly

until

they

caught

the

player's

ship.

The

player

could

make

traps:

mines,

drifting

bombs,

loops

in

the

air

that

forced

the

enemy

ships

to

repeat

endlessly.

Some

of

the

players

were

clever.

Others

lost

quickly.

Ender

liked

it

better,

though,

when

two

boys

played

against

each

other.

Then

they

had

to

use

each

other's

tunnels,

and

it

quickly

became

clear

which

of

them

were

worth

anything

at

the

strategy

of

it.

Within

an

hour

or

so,

it

began

to

pall.

Ender

understood

the

regularities

by

then.

Understood

the

rules

the

computer

was

following,

so

that

he

knew

he

could

always,

once

he

mastered

the

controls,

outmaneuver

the

enemy.

Spirals

when

the

enemy

was

like

this;

loops

when

the

enemy

was

like

that.

Lie

in

wait

at

one

trap.

Lay

seven

traps

and

then

lure

them

like

this.

There

was

no

challenge

to

it,

then,

just

a

matter

of

playing

until

the

computer

got

so

fast

that

no

human

reflexes

could

overcome

it.

That

wasn't

fun.

It

was

the

other

boys

he

wanted

to

play.

The

boys

who

had

been

so

trained

by

the

computer

that

even

when

they

played

against

each

other

they

each

tried

to

emulate

the

computer.

Think

like

a

machine

instead

of

a

boy.

I

could

beat

them

this

way.

I

could

beat

them

that

way.

"I'd

like

a

turn

against

you,"

he

said

to

the

boy

who

had

just

won.

"Lawsy

me,

what

is

this?"

asked

the

boy.

"Is

it

a

bug

or

a

bugger?"

"A

new

flock

of

dwarfs

just

came

aboard,"

said

another

boy.

"But

it

talks.

Did

you

know

they

could

talk?"

"I

see,"

said

Ender.

"You're

afraid

to

play

me

two

out

of

three."

"Beating

you,"

said

the

boy,

"would

be

as

easy

as

pissing

in

the

shower."

"And

not

half

as

fun,"

said

another.

"I'm

Ender

Wiggin."

"Listen

up,

scrunchface.

You

nobody.

Got

that?

You

nobody,

got

that?

You

not

anybody

till

you

gots

you

first

kill.

Got

that?"

The

slang

of

the

older

boys

had

its

own

rhythm.

Ender

picked

it

up

quick

enough.

"If

I'm

nobody,

then

how

come

you

scared

to

play

me

two

out

of

three?"

Now

the

other

guys

were

impatient.

"Kill

the

squirt

quick

and

let's

get

on

with

it."

So

Ender

took

his

place

at

the

unfamiliar

controls.

His

hands

were

small,

but

the

controls

were

simple

enough.

It

took

only

a

little

experimentation

to

find

out

which

buttons

used

certain

weapons.

Movement

control

was

a

standard

wireball.

His

reflexes

were

slow

at

first.

The

other

boy,

whose

name

he

still

didn't

know,

got

ahead

quickly.

But

Ender

learned

a

lot

and

was

doing

much

better

by

the

time

the

game

ended.

"Satisfied,

launchy?"

"Two

out

of

three."

"We

don't

allow

two

out

of

three

games."

"So

you

beat

me

the

first

time

I

ever

touched

the

game,"

Ender

said.

"If

you

can't

do

it

twice,

you

can't

do

it

at

all."

They

played

again,

and

this

time

Ender

was

deft

enough

to

pull

off

a

few

maneuvers

that

the

boy

had

obviously

never

seen

before.

His

patterns

couldn't

cope

with

them.

Ender

didn't

win

easily,

but

he

won.

The

bigger

boys

stopped

laughing

and

joking

then.

The

third

game

went

in

total

silence,

Ender

won

it

quickly

and

efficiently.

When

the

game

ended,

one

of

the

older

boys

said,

"Bout

time

they

replaced

this

machine.

Getting

so

any

pinbrain

can

beat

it

now."

Not

a

word

of

congratulation.

Just

total

silence

as

Ender

walked

away.

He

didn't

go

far.

Just

stood

off

in

the

near

distance

and

watched

as

the

next

players

tried

to

use

the

things

he

had

shown

them.

Any

pinbrain?

Ender

smiled

inwardly.

They

won't

forget

me.

He

felt

good.

He

had

won

something,

and

against

older

boys.

Probably

not

the

best

of

the

older

boys,

but

he

no

longer

had

the

panicked

feeling

that

he

might

be

out

of

his

depth,

that

Battle

School

might

he

too

much

for

him.

All

he

had

to

do

was

watch

the

game

and

understand

how

things

worked,

and

then

he

could

use

the

system,

and

even

excel.

It

was

the

waiting

and

watching

that

cost

the

most.

For

during

that

time

he

had

to

endure.

The

boy

whose

arm

he

had

broken

was

out

for

vengeance.

His

name,

Ender

quickly

learned,

was

Bernard.

He

spoke

his

own

name

with

a

French

accent,

since

the

French,

with

their

arrogant

Separatism,

insisted

that

the

teaching

of

Standard

not

begin

until

the

age

of

four,

when

the

French

language

patterns

were

already

set.

His

accent

made

him

exotic

and

interesting;

his

broken

arm

made

him

a

martyr;

his

sadism

made

him

a

natural

focus

for

all

those

who

loved

pain

in

others.

Ender

became

their

enemy.

Little

things.

Kicking

his

bed

every

time

they

went

in

and

out

of

the

door.

Jostling

him

with

his

meal

tray.

Tripping

him

on

the

ladders.

Ender

learned

quickly

not

to

leave

anything

of

his

outside

his

lockers;

he

also

learned

to

be

quick

on

his

feet,

to

catch

himself.

"Maladroit,"

Bernard

called

him

once,

and

the

name

stuck.

There

were

times

when

Ender

was

very

angry.

With

Bernard,

of

course,

anger

was

inadequate.

It

was

the

kind

of

person

he

was--

a

tormentor.

What

enraged

Ender

was

how

willingly

the

others

went

along

with

him.

Surely

they

knew

there

was

no

justice

in

Bernard's

revenge.

Surely

they

knew

that

he

had

struck

first

at

Ender

in

the

shuttle,

that

Ender

had

only

been

responding

to

violence.

If

they

knew,

they

acted

as

if

they

didn't;

even

if

they

did

not

know,

they

should

be

able

to

tell

from

Bernard

himself

that

he

was

a

snake.

After

all,

Ender

wasn't

his

only

target.

Bernard

was

setting

up

a

kingdom,

wasn't

he?

Ender

watched

from

the

fringes

of

the

group

as

Bernard

established

the

hierarchy.

Some

of

the

boys

were

useful

to

him,

and

he

flattered

them

outrageously.

Some

of

the

boys

were

willing

servants,

doing

whatever

he

wanted

even

though

he

treated

them

with

contempt.

But

a

few

chafed

under

Bernard's

rule.

Ender,

watching,

knew

who

resented

Bernard.

Shem

was

small,

ambitious,

and

easily

needled.

Bernard

had

discovered

that

quickly,

and

started

calling

him

Worm.

"Because

he's

so

small,"

Bernard

said,

"and

because

he

wriggles.

Look

how

he

shimmies

his

butt

when

he

walks."

Shen

stormed

off,

but

they

only

laughed

louder.

"Look

at

his

butt.

Seeya,

Worm!"

Ender

said

nothing

to

Shen--

it

would

be

too

obvious,

then,

that

he

was

starting

his

own

competing

gang.

He

just

sat

with

his

desk

on

his

lap,

looking

as

studious

as

possible.

He

was

not

studying.

He

was

telling

his

desk

to

keep

sending

a

message

into

the

interrupt

queue

every

thirty

seconds.

The

message

was

to

everyone,

and

it

was

short

and

to

the

point.

What

made

it

hard

was

figuring

out

how

to

disguise

who

it

was

from,

the

way

the

teachers

could.

Messages

from

one

of

the

boys

always

had

their

name

automatically

inserted.

Ender

hadn't

cracked

the

teachers

security

system

yet,

so

he

couldn't

pretend

to

be

a

teacher.

But

he

was

able

to

set

up

a

file

for

a

nonexistent

student,

whom

he

whimsically

named

God.

Only

when

the

message

was

ready

to

go

did

he

try

to

catch

Shen's

eye.

Like

all

the

other

boys,

he

was

watching

Bernard

and

his

cronies

latigh

and

joke,

making

fun

of

the

math

teacher,

who

often

stopped

in

midsentence

and

looked

around

as

if

he

had

been

let

off

the

bus

at

the

wrong

stop

and

didn't

know

where

he

was.

Eventually,

though,

Shen

glanced

around.

Ender

nodded

to

him,

pointed

to

his

desk,

and

smiled.

Shen

looked

puzzled.

Ender

held

up

his

desk

a

little

and

then

pointed

at

it.

Shen

reached

for

his

own

desk.

Ender

sent

the

message

then,

Shen

saw

it

almost

at

once.

Shen

read

it,

then

laughed

aloud.

He

looked

at

Ender

as

if

to

say,

Did

you

do

this?

Ender

shrugged,

to

say,

I

don't

know

who

did

it

but

it

sure

wasn't

me.

Shen

laughed

again,

and

several

of

the

other

boys

who

were

not

close

to

Bernard's

group

got

out

their

desks

and

looked.

Every

thirty

seconds

the

message

appeared

on

every

desk,

marched

around

the

screen

quickly,

then

disappeared.

The

boys

laughed

together.

"What's

so

funny?"

Bernard

asked,

Ender

made

sure

he

was

not

smiling

when

Bernard

looked

around

the

room,

imitating

the

fear

that

so

many

others

felt.

Shen,

of

course,

smiled

all

the

more

defiantly.

It

took

a

moment;

then

Bernard

told

one

of

his

boy's

to

bring

out

a

desk.

Together

they

read

the

message.

COVER

YOUR

BUTT.

BERNARD

IS

WATCHING.

--GOD

Bernard

went

red

with

anger.

"Who

did

this!"

he

shouted.

"God,"

said

Shen.

"It

sure

as

hell

wasn't

you,"

Bernard

said.

"This

takes

too

much

brains

for

a

worm."

Ender's

message

expired

after

five

minutes.

After

a

while,

a

message

from

Bernard

appeared

on

his

desk.

I

KNOW

IT

WAS

YOU.

--BERNARD

Ender

didn't

look

up.

He

acted,

in

fact,

as

if

he

hadn't

seen

the

message.

Bernard

just

wants

to

catch

me

looking

guilty.

He

doesn't

know.

Of

course,

it

didn't

matter

if

he

knew.

Bernard

would

punish

him

all

the

more,

because

he

had

to

rebuild

his

position.

The

one

thing

he

couldn't

stand

was

having

the

other

boys

laughing

at

him.

He

had

to

make

clear

who

was

boss.

So

Ender

got

knocked

down

in

the

shower

that

morning.

One

of

Bernard's

boys

pretended

to

trip

over

him,

and

managed

to

plant

a

knee

in

his

belly.

Ender

took

it

in

silence.

He

was

still

watching,

as

far

as

the

open

war

was

concerned.

He

would

do

nothing.

But

in

the

other

war,

the

war

of

desks,

he

already

had

his

next

attack

in

place.

When

he

got

back

from

the

shower,

Bernard

was

raging,

kicking

beds

and

yelling

at

boys.

"I

didn't

write

it!

Shut

up!"

Marching

constantly

around

every

boy's

desk

was

this

message:

I

LOVE

YOUR

BUTT.

LET

ME

KISS

IT.

--BERNARD

"I

didn't

write

that

message!"

Bernard

shouted.

After

the

shouting

had

been

going

on

for

some

time,

Dap

appeared

at

the

door.

"What's

the

fuss?"

he

asked.

"Somebody's

been

writing

messages

using

my

name."

Bernard

was

sullen.

"What

message."

"It

doesn't

matter

what

message!"

"It

does

to

me."

Dap

picked

up

the

nearest

desk,

which

happened

to

belong

to

the

boy'

who

bunked

above

Ender.

Dap

read

it,

smiled

very

slightly,

gave

back

the

desk.

"Interesting,"

he

said.

"Aren't

you

going

to

find

out

who

did

it?"

demanded

Bernard.

"Oh,

I

know

who

did

it,"

Dap

said.

Yes,

Ender

thought.

The

system

was

too

easily

broken.

They

mean

us

to

break

it,

or

sections

of

it.

They

know

it

was

me.

"Well,

who,

then?"

Bernard

shouted.

"Are

you

shouting

at

me,

soldier?"

asked

Dap,

very

softly.

At

once

the

mood

in

the

room

changed.

From

rage

on

the

part

of

Bernard's

closest

friends

and

barely

contained

mirth

among

the

rest,

all

became

somber.

Authority

was

about

to

speak.

"No,

sir,"

said

Bernard.

"Everybody

knows

that

the

system

automatically

puts

on

the

name

of

the

sender."

"I

didn't

write

that!"

Bernard

said.

"Shouting?"

asked

Dap.

"Yesterday

someone

sent

a

message

that

was

signed

GOD,"

Bernard

said.

"Really?"

said

Dap.

"I

didn't

know

he

was

signed

onto

the

system."

Dap

turned

and

left,

and

the

room

filled

with

laughter.

Bernard's

attempt

to

be

ruler

of

the

room

was

broken--

only

a

few

stayed

with

him

now.

But

they

were

the

most

vicious.

And

Ender

knew

that

until

he

was

through

watching,

it

would

go

hard

on

him.

Still,

the

tampering

with

the

system

had

done

its

work,

Bernard

was

contained,

and

all

the

boys

who

had

some

quality

were

free

of

him.

Best

of

all,

Ender

had

done

it

without

sending

him

to

the

hospital.

Much

better

this

way.

Then

he

settled

down

to

the

serious

business

of

designing

a

security

system

for

his

own

desk,

since

the

safeguards

built

into

the

system

were

obviously

inadequate.

If

a

six-yearold

could

break

them

down,

they

were

obviously

put

there

as

a

plaything,

not

serious

security.

Just

another

game

that

the

teachers

set

up

for

us.

And

this

is

one

I'm

good

at.

"How

did

you

do

that?"

Shen

asked

him

at

breakfast.

Ender

noted

quietly

that

this

was

the

first

time

another

Launchy

from

his

own

class

had

sat

with

him

at

a

meal.

"Do

what?"

he

asked.

"Send

a

message

with

a

fake

name.

And

Bernard's

name!

That

was

great.

They're

calling

him

Buttwatcher

now.

Just

Watcher

in

front

of

the

teachers,

but

everybody

knows

what

he's

watching."

"Poor

Bernard,"

Ender

murmured.

"And

he's

so

sensitive."

"Come

on,

Ender.

You

broke

into

the

system.

How'd

you

do

it?"

Ender

shook

his

head

and

smiled.

"Thanks

for

thinking

I'm

bright

enough

to

do

that.

I

just

happened

to

see

it

first,

that's

all."

"OK,

you

don't

have

to

tell

me,"

said

Shen.

"Still,

it

was

great."

They

ate

in

silence

fora

moment.

"Do

I

wiggle

my

butt

when

I

walk?"

"Naw."

Ender

said.

"Just

a

little.

Just

don't

take

such

big

long

steps,

that's

all."

Shen

nodded.

"The

only

person

who'd

ever

notice

was

Bernard."

"He's

a

pig,"

said

Shen.

Ender

shrugged.

"On

the

whole,

pigs

aren't

so

bad."

Shen

laughed.

"You're

right.

I

wasn't

being

fair

to

the

pigs."

They

laughed

together,

and

two

other

Launchies

joined

them.

Ender's

isolation

was

over.

The

war

was

just

beginning.

Chapter

6

--

The

Giant's

Drink

"We've

had

our

disappointments

in

the

past,

hanging

on

for

years,

hoping

they'll

pull

through,

and

then

they

don't.

Nice

thing

about

Ender,

he's

determined

to

ice

within

the

first

six

months."

"Oh?"

"Don't

you

see

what's

going

on

here?

He's

stuck

at

the

Giant's

Drink

in

the

mind

game.

Is

the

boy

suicidal?

You

never

mentioned

it."

"Everybody

gets

the

Giant

sometime."

"But

Ender

won't

leave

it

alone.

Like

Pinual."

"Everybody

looks

like

Pinual

at

one

time

or

another.

But

he's

the

only

one

who

killed

himself.

I

don't

think

it

had

anything

to

do

with

the

Giant's

Drink."

"You're

betting

my

life

on

that.

And

look

what

he's

done

with

his

launch

group."

"Wasn't

his

fault,

you

know."

"I

don't

care.

His

fault

or

not,

he's

poisoning

that

group.

They're

supposed

to

bond,

and

right

where

he

stands

there's

a

chasm

a

mile

wide."

"I

don't

plan

to

leave

him

there

very

long,

anyway."

"Then

you'd

better

plan

again.

That

launch

is

sick,

and

he's

the

source

of

the

disease.

He

stays

till

it's

cured."

"I

was

the

source

of

the

disease.

I

was

isolating

him,

and

it

worked."

"Give

him

time.

To

see

what

he

does

with

it."

"We

don't

have

time."

"We

don't

have

time

to

rush

a

kid

ahead

who

has

as

much

chance

of

being

a

monster

as

a

military

genius."

"Is

this

an

order?"

"The

recorders

on,

it's

always

on,

your

ass

is

covered,

go

to

hell."

"If

it's

an

order,

then

I'll--"

"It's

an

order.

Hold

him

where

he

is

until

we

see

now

he

handles

things

in

his

launch

group.

Graff,

you

give

me

ulcers."

"You

wouldn't

have

ulcers

if

you'd

leave

the

school

to

me

and

take

care

of

the

fleet

yourself."

"The

fleet

is

looking

for

a

battle

commander.

There's

nothing

to

take

care

of

until

you

get

me

that."

***

They

filed

clumsily

into

the

battleroom,

like

children

in

a

swimming

pool

for

the

first

time,

clinging

to

the

handholds

along

the

side.

Null

gravity

was

frightening,

disorienting;

they

soon

found

that

things

went

better

if

they

didn't

use

their

feet

at

all.

Worse,

the

suits

were

confining.

It

was

harder

to

make

precise

movements,

since

the

suits

bent

just

a

bit

slower,

resisted

a

bit

more

than

any

clothing

they

had

ever

worn

before.

Ender

gripped

the

handhold

and

flexed

his

knees.

He

noticed

that

along

with

the

sluggishness,

the

suit

had

an

amplifying

effect

on

movement.

It

was

hard

to

get

them

started,

but

the

suit's

legs

kept

moving,

and

strongly,

after

his

muscles

had

stopped.

Give

them

a

push

this

strong,

and

the

suit

pushes

with

twice

the

force.

I'll

be

clumsy

for

a

while.

Better

get

started.

So,

still

grasping

the

handhold,

he

pushed

off

strongly

with

his

feet.

Instantly

he

flipped

around,

his

feet

flying

over

his

head,

and

landed

fiat

on

his

back

against

the

wall.

The

rebound

was

stronger,

it

seemed,

and

his

hands

tore

loose

from

the

handhold.

He

flew

across

the

battleroom,

tumbling

over

and

over.

For

a

sickening

moment

he

tried

to

retain

his

old

up-and-down

orientation,

his

body

attempting

to

right

itself,

searching

for

the

gravity

that

wasn't

there.

Then

he

forced

himself

to

change

his

view.

He

was

hurtling

toward

a

wall.

That

was

down.

And

at

once

he

had

control

of

himself.

He

wasn't

flying,

he

was

falling.

This

was

a

dive.

He

could

choose

how

he

would

hit

the

surface.

I'm

going

too

fast

to

catch

ahold

and

stay,

but

I

can

soften

the

impact,

can

fly

off

at

an

angle

if

I

roll

when

I

hit

and

use

my

feet--

It

didn't

work

at

all

the

way

he

had

planned.

He

went

off

at

an

angle,

but

it

was

not

the

one

he

had

predicted.

Nor

did

he

have

time

to

consider.

He

hit

another

wall,

this

time

too

soon

to

have

prepared

for

it.

But

quite

accidently

he

discovered

a

way

to

use

his

feet

to

control

the

rebound

angle.

Now

he

was

soaring

across

the

room

again,

toward

the

other

boys

who

still

clung

to

the

wall.

This

time

he

had

slowed

enough

to

be

able

to

grip

a

rung.

He

was

at

a

crazy

angle

in

relation

to

the

other

boys,

but

once

again

his

orientation

had

changed,

and

as

far

as

he

could

tell,

they

were

all

lying

on

the

floor,

not

hanging

on

a

wall,

and

he

was

no

more

upside

down

than

they

were.

"What

are

you

trying

to

do,

kill

yourself?"

asked

Shen.

"Try

it,"

Ender

said.

"The

suit

keeps

you

from

hurting

yourself,

and

you

can

control

your

bouncing

with

your

legs,

like

this."

He

approximated

the

movement

he

had

made.

Shen

shook

his

head--

he

wasn't

trying

any

fool

stunt

like

that.

But

one

boy

did

take

off,

not

as

fast

as

Ender

had,

because

he

didn't

begin

with

a

flip,

but

fast

enough.

Ender

didn't

even

have

to

see

his

face

to

know

that

it

was

Bernard.

And

right

after

him,

Bernard's

best

friend,

Alai.

Ender

watched

them

cross

the

huge

room,

Bernard

struggling

to

orient

himself

to

the

direction

he

thought

of

as

the

floor,

Alai

surrendering

to

the

movement

and

preparing

to

rebound

from

the

wall.

No

wonder

Bernard

broke

his

arm

in

the

shuttle,

Ender

thought.

He

tightens

up

when

he's

flying.

He

panics.

Ender

stored

the

information

away

for

future

reference.

And

another

bit

of

information,

too.

Alai

did

not

push

off

in

the

same

direction

as

Bernard.

He

aimed

for

a

corner

of

the

room.

Their

paths

diverged

more

and

more

as

they

flew,

and

where

Bernard

made

a

clumsy,

crunching

landing

and

bounce

on

his

wall,

Alai

did

a

glancing

triple

bounce

on

three

surfaces

near

the

corner

that

left

him

most

of

his

speed

and

sent

him

flying

off

at

a

surprising

angle.

Alai

shouted

and

whooped,

and

so

did

the

boys

watching

him.

Some

of

them

forgot

they

were

weightless

and

let

go

of

the

wall

to

clap

their

hands.

Now

they

drifted

lazily

in

many

directions,

waving

their

arms,

trying

to

swim.

Now,

that's

a

problem,

thought

Ender.

What

if

you

catch

yourself

drifting?

There's

no

way

to

push

off.

He

was

tempted

to

set

himself

adrift

and

try

to

solve

the

problem

by

trial

and

error.

But

he

could

see

the

others,

their

useless

efforts

at

control,

and

he

couldn't

think

of

what

he

would

do

that

they

weren't

already

doing.

Holding

onto

the

floor

with

one

hand,

he

fiddled

idly

with

the

toy

gun

that

was

attached

to

his

suit

in

front,

just

below

the

shoulder.

Then

he

remembered

the

hand

rockets

sometimes

used

by

marines

when

they

did

a

boarding

assault

on

an

enemy

station.

He

pulled

the

gun

from

his

suit

and

examined

it.

He

had

pushed

all

the

buttons

back

in

the

room,

but

the

gun

did

nothing

there.

Maybe

here

in

the

battleroom

it

would

work.

There

were

no

instructions

on

it.

No

labels

on

the

controls.

The

trigger

was

obvious--

he

had

had

toy

guns,

as

all

children

had,

almost

since

infancy.

There

were

two

buttons

that

his

thumb

could

easily

reach,

and

several

others

along

the

bottom

of

the

shaft

that

were

almost

inaccessible

without

using

two

hands.

Obviously,

the

two

buttons

near

his

thumb

were

meant

to

be

instantly

usable.

He

aimed

the

gun

at

the

floor

and

pulled

back

on

the

trigger.

He

felt

the

gun

grow

instantly

warm;

when

he

let

go

of

the

trigger,

it

cooled

at

once.

Also,

a

tiny

circle

of

light

appeared

on

the

floor

where

he

was

aiming.

He

thumbed

the

red

button

at

the

top

of

the

gun,

and

pulled

the

trigger

again.

Same

thing.

Then

he

pushed

the

white

button.

It

gave

a

bright

flash

of

light

that

illuminated

a

wide

area,

but

not

as

intensely.

The

gun

was

quite

cold

when

the

button

was

pressed.

The

red

button

makes

it

like

a

laser--

but

it

is

not

a

laser,

Dap

had

said--

while

the

white

button

makes

it

a

lamp.

Neither

will

be

much

help

when

it

comes

to

maneuvering.

So

everything

depends

on

how

you

push

off,

the

course

you

set

when

you

start.

It

means

we're

going

to

have

to

get

very

good

at

controlling

our

launches

and

rebounds

or

we're

all

going

to

end

up

floating

around

in

the

middle

of

nowhere.

Ender

looked

around

the

room.

A

few

of

the

boys

were

drifting

close

to

walls

now,

flailing

their

arms

to

catch

a

handhold.

Most

were

bumping

into

each

other

and

laughing;

some

were

holding

hands

and

going

around

in

circles.

Only

a

few,

like

Ender,

were

calmly

holding

onto

the

walls

and

watching.

One

of

them,

he

saw,

was

Alai.

He

had

ended

up

on

another

wall

not

too

far

from

Ender.

On

impulse,

Ender

pushed

off

and

moved

quickly

toward

Alai.

Once

in

the

air,

he

wondered

what

he

would

say.

Alai

was

Bernard's

friend.

What

did

Ender

have

to

say

to

him?

Still,

there

was

no

changing

course

now.

So

he

watched

straight

ahead,

and

practiced

making

tiny

leg

and

hand

movements

to

control

which

way

he

was

facing

as

he

drifted.

Too

late,

he

realized

that

he

had

aimed

too

well.

He

was

not

going

to

land

near

Alai--

he

was

going

to

hit

him.

"Here,

snag

my

hand!"

Alai

called.

Ender

held

out

his

hand.

Alai

took

the

shock

of

impact

and

helped

Ender

make

a

fairly

gentle

landing

against

the

wall.

"That's

good,"

Ender

said.

"We

ought

to

practice

that

kind

of

thing."

"That's

what

I

thought,

only

everybody's

turning

to

butter

out

there,"

Alai

said.

"What

happens

if

we

get

out

there

together?

We

should

be

able

to

shove

each

other

in

opposite

directions."

"Yeah."

"OK?"

It

was

an

admission

that

all

might

not

be

right

between

them.

Is

it

OK

for

us

to

do

something

together?

Ender's

answer

was

to

take

Alai

by

the

wrist

and

get

ready

to

push

off.

"Ready?"

said

Alai.

"Go."

Since

they

pushed

off

with

different

amounts

of

force,

they

began

to

circle

each

other.

Ender

made

some

small

hand

movements,

then

shifted

a

leg.

They

slowed.

He

did

it

again.

They

stopped

orbiting.

Now

they

were

drifting

evenly.

"Packed

head,

Ender."

Alai

said.

It

was

high

praise.

"Let's

push

off

before

we

run

into

that

bunch."

"And

then

let's

meet

over

in

that

corner."

Ender

did

not

want

this

bridge

into

the

enemy

camp

to

fail.

"Last

one

there

saves

farts

in

a

milk

bottle,"

Alai

said.

Then,

slowly,

steadily,

they

maneuvered

until

they

faced

each

other,

spread-eagled,

hand

to

hand,

knee

to

knee.

"And

then

we

just

scrunch?"

asked

Alai.

"I've

never

done

this

before

either,"

said

Ender.

They

pushed

off.

It

propelled

them

faster

than

they

expected.

Ender

ran

into

a

couple

of

boys

and

ended

up

on

a

wall

that

he

hadn't

expected.

It

took

him

a

moment

to

reorient

and

find

the

corner

where

he

and

Alai

were

to

meet.

Alai

was

already

headed

toward

it.

Ender

plotted

a

course

that

would

include

two

rebounds,

to

avoid

the

largest

clusters

of

boys.

When

Ender

reached

the

corner,

Alai

had

hooked

his

arms

through

two

adjacent

handholds

and

was

pretending

to

doze.

"You

win."

"I

want

to

see

your

fart

collection,"

Alai

said.

"I

stored

it

in

your

locker.

Didn't

you

notice?"

"I

thought

it

was

my

socks."

"We

don't

wear

socks

anymore."

"Oh

yeah."

A

reminder

that

they

were

both

far

from

home.

It

took

some

of

the

fun

out

of

having

mastered

a

bit

of

navigation.

Ender

took

his

pistol

and

demonstrated

what

he

had

learned

about

the

two

thumb

buttons.

"What

does

it

do

when

you

aim

at

a

person?"

asked

Alai.

"I

don't

know."

"Why

don't

we

find

out?"

Ender

shook

his

head.

"We

might

hurt

somebody."

"I

meant

why

don't

we

shoot

each

other

in

the

foot

or

something.

I'm

not

Bernard,

I

never

tortured

cats

for

fun."

"Oh."

"It

can't

be

too

dangerous,

or

they

wouldn't

give

these

guns

to

kids."

"We're

soldiers

now."

"Shoot

me

in

the

foot."

"No,

you

shoot

me."

"Let's

shoot

each

other."

They

did.

Immediately

Ender

felt

the

leg

of

the

suit

grow

stiff,

immobile

at

the

knee

and

ankle

joints.

"You

frozen?"

asked

Alai.

"Stiff

as

a

board."

"Let's

freeze

a

few,"

Alai

said.

"Let's

have

our

first

war.

Us

against

them."

They

grinned.

Then

Ender

said,

"Better

invite

Bernard."

Alai

cocked

an

eyebrow.

"Oh?"

"And

Shen."

"That

little

slanty-eyed

butt-wiggler?"

Ender

decided

that

Alai

was

joking.

"Hey,

we

can't

all

be

niggers."

Alai

grinned.

"My

grandpa

would've

killed

you

for

that."

"My

great

great

grandpa

would

have

sold

him

first,"

"Let's

go

get

Bernard

and

Shen

and

freeze

these

bugger-lovers."

In

twenty

minutes,

everyone

in

the

room

was

frozen

except

Ender,

Bernard,

Shen,

and

Alai.

The

four

of

them

sat

there

whooping

and

laughing

until

Dap

came

in.

"I

see

you've

learned

how

to

use

your

equipment,"

he

said.

Then

he

did

something

to

a

control

he

held

in

his

hand.

Everybody

drifted

slowly

toward

the

wall

he

was

standing

on.

He

went

among

the

frozen

boys,

touching

them

and

thawing

their

suits.

There

was

a

tumult

of

complaint

that

it

wasn't

fair

how

Bernard

and

Alai

had

shot

them

all

when

they

weren't

ready.

"Why

weren't

you

ready?"

asked

Dap.

"You

had

your

suits

just

as

long

as

they

did.

You

had

just

as

many

minutes

flapping

around

like

drunken

ducks.

Stop

moaning

and

we'll

begin."

Ender

noticed

that

it

was

assumed

that

Bernard

and

Alai

were

the

leaders

of

the

battle.

Well,

that

was

fine.

Bernard

knew

that

Ender

and

Alai

had

learned

to

use

the

guns

together.

And

Ender

and

Alai

were

friends.

Bernard

might

believe

that

Ender

had

joined

his

group,

but

it

wasn't

so.

Ender

had

joined

a

new

group.

Alai's

group.

Bernard

had

joined

it

too.

It

wasn't

obvious

to

everyone;

Bernard

still

blustered

and

sent

his

cronies

on

errands.

But

Alai

now

moved

freely

through

the

whole

room,

and

when

Bernard

was

crazy,

Alai

could

joke

a

little

and

calm

him

down.

When

it

came

time

to

choose

their

launch

leader,

Alai

was

the

almost

unanimous

choice.

Bernard

sulked

for

a

few

days

and

then

he

was

fine,

and

everyone

settled

into

the

new

pattern.

The

launch

was

no

longer

divided

into

Bernard's

in-group

and

Ender's

outcasts.

Alai

was

the

bridge.

***

Ender

sat

on

his

bed

with

his

desk

on

his

knees.

lt

was

private

study

time,

and

Ender

was

doing

Free

Play.

It

was

a

shifting,

crazy

kind

of

game

in

which

the

school

computer

kept

bringing

up

new

things,

building

a

maze

that

you

could

explore.

You

could

go

back

to

events

that

you

liked,

for

a

while;

if

you

left

them

alone

too

long,

they

disappeared

and

something

else

took

its

place.

Sometimes

funny

things.

Sometimes

exciting,

and

he

had

to

be

quick

to

stay

alive.

He

had

lots

of

deaths,

but

that

was

OK,

games

were

like

that,

you

died

a

lot

until

you

got

the

hang

of

it.

His

figure

on

the

screen

had

started

out

as

a

little

boy.

For

a

while

it

had

changed

into

a

bear.

Now

it

was

a

large

mouse,

with

long

and

delicate

hands.

He

ran

his

figure

under

a

lot

of

large

items

of

furniture.

He

had

played

with

the

cat

a

lot,

but

now

it

was

boring--

too

easy

to

dodge,

he

knew

all

the

furniture.

Not

through

the

mousehole

this

time,

he

told

himself.

I'm

sick

of

the

Giant.

It's

a

dumb

game

and

I

can't

ever

win.

Whatever

I

choose

is

wrong.

But

he

went

through

the

mousehole

anyway,

and

over

the

small

bridge

in

the

garden.

He

avoided

the

ducks

and

the

divebombing

mosquitoes--

he

had

tried

playing

with

them

but

they

were

too

easy,

and

if

he

played

with

the

ducks

too

long

he

turned

into

a

fish,

which

he

didn't

like.

Being

a

fish

reminded

him

too

much

of

being

frozen

in

the

battleroom,

his

whole

body

rigid,

waiting

for

the

practice

to

end

so

Dap

would

thaw

him.

So,

as

usual,

he

found

himself

going

up

the

rolling

hills.

The

landslides

began.

At

first

he

had

got

caught

again

and

again,

crushed

in

an

exaggerated

blot

of

gore

oozing

out

from

under

a

rock

pile.

Now,

though,

he

had

mastered

the

skill

of

running

up

the

slopes

at

an

angle

to

avoid

the

crush,

always

seeking

higher

ground.

And,

as

always,

the

landslides

finally

stopped

being

jumbles

of

rock.

The

face

of

the

hill

broke

open

and

instead

of

shale

it

was

white

bread,

puffy,

rising

like

dough

as

the

crust

broke

away

and

fell.

It

was

soft

and

spongy;

his

figure

moved

more

slowly.

And

when

he

jumped

down

off

the

bread,

he

as

standing

on

a

table.

Giant

loaf

of

bread

behind

him;

giant

stick

of

butter

beside

him.

And

the

Giant

himself

leaning

his

chin

in

his

hands,

looking

at

him.

Ender's

figure

was

about

as

tall

as

the

Giant's

head

from

chin

to

brow.

"I

think

I'll

bite

your

head

off,"

said

the

Giant,

as

he

always

did.

This

time,

instead

of

running

away

or

standing

there,

Ender

walked

his

figure

up

to

the

Giant's

face

and

kicked

him

in

the

chin.

The

Giant

stuck

out

his

tongue

and

Ender

fell

to

the

ground.

"How

about

a

guessing

game?"

asked

the

Giant.

So

it

didn't

make

any

difference--

the

Giant

only

played

the

guessing

game.

Stupid

computer.

Millions

of

possible

scenarios

in

its

memory,

and

the

Giant

could

only

play

one

stupid

game.

The

Giant,

as

always,

set

two

huge

shot

glasses,

as

tall

as

Ender's

knees,

on

the

table

in

front

of

him.

As

always,

the

two

were

filled

with

different

liquids.

The

computer

was

good

enough

that

the

liquids

had

never

repeated,

not

that

he

could

remember.

This

time

the

one

had

a

thick,

creamy

looking

liquid.

The

other

hissed

and

foamed.

"One

is

poison

and

one

is

not,"

said

the

Giant.

"Guess

right

and

I'll

take

you

into

Fairyland."

Guessing

meant

sticking

his

head

into

one

of

the

glasses

to

drink.

He

never

guessed

right.

Sometimes

his

head

was

dissolved.

Sometimes

he

caught

on

fire.

Sometimes

he

fell

in

and

drowned.

Sometimes

he

fell

out,

turned

green,

and

rotted

away.

It

was

always

ghastly,

and

the

Giant

always

laughed.

Ender

knew

that

whatever

he

chose

he

would

die.

The

game

was

rigged.

On

the

first

death,

his

figure

would

reappear

on

the

Giant's

table,

to

play

again.

On

the

second

death,

he'd

come

back

to

the

landslides.

Then

to

the

garden

bridge.

Then

to

the

mousehole.

And

then,

if

he

still

went

back

to

the

Giant

and

played

again,

and

died

again,

his

desk

would

go

dark,

"Free

Play

Over"

would

march

around

the

desk

and

Ender

would

lie

back

on

his

bed

and

tremble

until

he

could

finally

go

to

sleep.

The

game

was

rigged

but

still

the

Giant

talked

about

Fairyland,

some

stupid

childish

three-year-old's

Fairyland

that

probably

had

some

stupid

Mother

Goose

or

Pac-Man

or

Peter

Pan,

it

wasn't

even

worth

getting

to,

but

he

had

to

find

some

way

of

beating

the

Giant

to

get

there.

He

drank

the

creamy

liquid.

Immediately

he

began

to

inflate

and

rise

like

a

balloon.

The

Giant

laughed.

He

was

dead

again.

He

played

again,

and

this

time

the

liquid

set,

like

concrete,

and

held

his

head

down

while

the

Giant

cut

him

open

along

the

spine,

deboned

him

like

a

fish,

and

began

to

eat

while

his

arms

and

legs

quivered.

He

reappeared

at

the

landslides

and

decided

not

to

go

on.

He

even

let

the

landslides

cover

him

once.

But

even

though

he

was

sweating

and

he

felt

cold,

with

his

next

life

he

went

back

up

the

hills

till

then

turned

into

bread,

and

stood

on

the

Giant's

table

as

the

shot

glasses

were

set

before

him.

He

stared

at

the

two

liquids.

The

one

foaming,

the

other

with

waves

in

it

like

the

sea.

He

tried

to

guess

what

kind

of

death

each

one

held.

Probably

a

fish

will

come

out

of

the

ocean

one

and

eat

me.

The

foamy

one

will

probably

asphyxiate

me.

I

hate

this

game.

It

isn't

fair.

It's

stupid.

It's

rotten.

And

instead

of

pushing

his

face

into

one

of

the

liquids,

he

kicked

one

over,

then

the

other,

and

dodged

the

Giant's

huge

hands

as

the

Giant

shouted,

"Cheater,

cheater!"

He

jumped

at

the

Giant's

face,

clambered

up

his

lip

and

nose,

and

began

to

dig

in

the

Giant's

eye.

The

stuff

came

away

like

cottage

cheese,

and

as

the

Giant

screamed,

Ender's

figure

burrowed

into

the

eye,

climbed

right

in,

burrowed

in

and

in.

The

Giant

fell

over

backward,

the

view

shifted

as

he

fell,

and

when

the

Giant

came

to

rest

on

the

ground,

there

were

intricate,

lacy

trees

all

around.

A

bat

flew

up

and

landed

on

the

dead

Giant's

nose.

Ender

brought

his

figure

up

out

of

the

Giant's

eye.

"How

did

you

get

here?"

the

bat

asked.

"Nobody

ever

comes

here."

Ender

could

not

answer,

of

course.

So

he

reached

down,

took

a

handful

of

the

Giant's

eyestuff,

and

offered

it

to

the

bat.

The

bat

took

it

and

flew

off,

shouting

as

it

went,

"Welcome

to

Fairyland."

He

had

made

it.

He

ought

to

explore.

He

ought

to

climb

down

from

the

Giant's

face

and

see

what

he

had

finally

achieved.

Instead

he

signed

off,

put

his

desk

in

his

locker,

stripped

off

his

clothes

and

pulled

his

blanket

over

him.

He

hadn't

meant

to

kill

the

Giant.

This

was

supposed

to

be

a

game.

Not

a

choice

between

his

own

grisly

death

and

an

even

worse

murder.

I'm

a

murderer,

even

when

I

play.

Peter

would

be

proud

of

me.

Chapter

7

--

Salamander

"Isn't

it

nice

to

know

that

Ender

can

do

the

impossible?"'

"The

player's

deaths

have

always

been

sickening.

I've

always

thought

the

Giant's

Drink

was

the

most

perverted

part

at

the

whole

mind

game,

but

going

for

the

eye

like

that--

this

is

the

one

we

want

to

put

in

command

of

our

fleets?"

"What

matters

is

that

he

won

the

game

that

couldn't

be

won."

"I

suppose

you'll

move

him

now."

"We

were

waiting

to

see

how

he

handled

the

thing

with

Bernard.

He

handled

it

perfectly."

"So

as

soon

as

he

can

cope

with

a

situation,

you

move

him

to

one

he

can't

cope

with.

Doesn't

he

get

any

rest?"

"He'll

have

a

month

or

two,

maybe

three,

with

his

launch

group.

That's

really

quite

a

long

time

in

a

child's

life."

"Does

it

ever

seem

to

you

that

these

boys

aren't

children?

I

look

at

what

they

do,

the

way

they

talk,

and

they

don't

seem

like

little

kids."

"They're

the

most

brilliant

children

in

the

world,

each

in

his

own

way."

"But

shouldn't

they

still

act

like

children?

They

aren't

normal.

They

act

like--

history.

Napoleon

and

Wellington.

Caesar

and

Brutus."

"We're

trying

to

save

the

world,

not

heal

the

wounded

heart.

You're

too

compassionate."

"General

Levy

has

no

pity

for

anyone.

All

the

videos

say

so.

But

don't

hurt

this

boy."

"Are

you

joking?"

"I

mean,

don't

hurt

him

more

than

you

have

to."

***

Alai

sat

across

from

Ender

at

dinner.

"I

finally

figured

out

how

you

sent

that

message.

Using

Bernard's

name."

"Me?"

asked

Ender.

"Come

on.

who

else?

It

sure

wasn't

Bernard.

And

Shen

isn't

too

hot

on

the

computer.

And

I

know

it

wasn't

me.

Who

else?

Doesn't

matter.

I

figured

out

how

to

fake

a

new

student

entry.

You

just

created

a

student

named

Bernard-blank,

B-E-R-N-A-R-D-space,

so

the

computer

didn't

kick

it

out

as

a

repeat

of

another

student."

"Sounds

like

that

might

work,"

said

Ender.

"OK,

OK.

It

does

work.

But

you

did

that

practically

on

the

first

day."

"Or

somebody.

Maybe

Dap

did

it,

to

keep

Bernard

from

getting

too

much

control."

"I

found

something

else.

I

can't

do

it

with

your

name."

"Oh?"

"Anything

with

Ender

in

it

gets

kicked

out.

I

can't

get

inside

your

files

at

all,

either.

You

made

your

own

security

system."

"Maybe."

Alai

grinned.

"I

just

got

in

and

trashed

somebody's

files.

He's

right

behind

me

on

cracking

the

system.

I

need

protection,

Ender.

I

need

your

system."

"If

I

give

you

my

system,

you'll

know

how

I

do

it

and

you'll

get

in

and

trash

me."

"You

say

me?"

Alai

asked.

"I

the

sweetest

friend

you

got!"

Ender

laughed.

"I'll

setup

a

system

for

you."

"Now?"

"Can

I

finish

eating?"

"You

never

finish

eating."

It

was

true.

Ender's

tray

always

had

food

on

it

after

a

meal.

Ender

looked

at

the

plate

and

decided

he

was

through.

"Let's

go

then."

When

they

got

to

the

barracks.

Ender

squatted

down

by

his

bed

and

said,

"Get

your

desk

and

bring

it

over

here.

I'll

show

you

how."

But

when

Alai

brought

his

desk

to

Ender's

bed,

Ender

was

just

sitting

there,

his

lockers

still

closed.

"What

up?"

asked

Alai.

In

answer

Ender

palmed

his

locker.

"Unauthorized

Access

Attempt,"

it

said.

It

didn't

open.

"Somebody

done

a

dance

on

your

head,

mama,"

Alai

said.

"Somebody

eated

your

face."

"You

sure

you

want

my

security

system

now?"

Ender

got

up

and

walked

away

from

his

bed.

"Ender,"

said

Alai.

Ender

turned

around.

Alai

was

holding

a

little

piece

of

paper.

"What

is

it?"

Alai

looked

up

at

him.

"Don't

you

know?

This

was

on

your

bed.

You

must

have

sat

on

it."

Ender

took

it

from

him.

ENDER

WIGGIN

--

ASSIGNED

SALAMANDER

ARMY

--

COMMANDER

BONZO

MADRID

--

EFFECTIVE

IMMEDIATELY

--

CODE

GREEN

GREEN

BROWN

--

NO

POSSESSIONS

TRANSFERRED

"You're

smart,

Ender,

but

you

don't

do

the

battle-room

any

better

than

me."

Ender

shook

his

head.

It

was

the

stupidest

thing

he

could

think

of,

to

promote

him

now.

Nobody

got

promoted

before

they

were

eight

years

old.

Ender

wasn't

even

seven

yet.

And

launches

usually

moved

into

the

armies

together,

with

most

armies

getting

a

new

kid

at

the

same

time.

There

were

no

transfer

slips

on

any

of

the

other

beds.

Just

when

things

were

finally

coming

together.

Just

when

Bernard

was

getting

along

with

everybody,

even

Ender.

Just

when

Ender

was

beginning

to

make

a

real

friend

out

of

Alai.

Just

when

his

life

was

finally

getting

livable.

Ender

reached

down

to

pull

Alai

up

from

the

bed.

"Salamander

Army's

in

contention,

anyway,"

Alai

said.

Ender

was

so

angry

at

the

unfairness

of

the

transfer

that

tears

were

coming

to

his

eyes.

Mustn't

cry,

he

told

himself.

Alai

saw

the

tears

but

had

the

grace

not

to

say

so.

"They're

fartheads,

Ender,

they

won't

even

let

you

take

anything

you

own."

Ender

grinned

and

didn't

cry

after

all.

"Think

I

should

strip

and

go

naked?"

Alai

laughed,

too.

On

impulse

Ender

hugged

him,

tight,

almost

as

if

he

were

Valentine.

He

even

thought

of

Valentine

then

and

wanted

to

go

home.

"I

don't

want

to

go,"

he

said.

Alai

hugged

him

back.

"I

understand

them,

Ender.

You

are

the

best

of

us.

Maybe

they're

in

a

hurry

to

teach

you

everything."

"They

don't

want

to

teach

me

everything,"

Ender

said.

"I

wanted

to

learn

what

it

was

like

to

have

a

friend."

Alai

nodded

soberly.

"Always

my

friend,

always

the

best

of

my

friends,"

he

said.

Then

he

grinned.

"Go

slice

up

the

buggers."

"Yeah."

Ender

smiled

back.

Alai

suddenly

kissed

Ender

on

the

cheek

and

whispered

in

his

ear.

"Salaam."

Then,

red

faced,

he

turned

away

and

walked

to

his

own

bed

at

the

back

of

the

barracks.

Ender

guessed

that

the

kiss

and

the

word

were

somehow

forbidden.

A

suppressed

religion,

perhaps.

Or

maybe

the

word

had

some

private

and

powerful

meaning

for

Alai

alone.

Whatever

it

meant

to

Alai,

Ender

knew

that

it

was

sacred;

that

he

had

uncovered

himself

for

Ender,

as

once

Ender's

mother

had

done

when

he

was

very

young,

before

they

put

the

monitor

in

his

neck,

and

she

had

put

her

hands

on

his

head

when

she

thought

he

was

asleep,

and

prayed

over

him.

Ender

had

never

spoken

of

that

to

anyone,

not

even

to

Mother,

but

had

kept

it

as

a

memory

of

holiness,

of

how

his

mother

loved

him

when

she

thought

that

no

one,

not

even

he,

could

see

or

hear.

That

was

what

Alai

had

given

him:

a

gift

so

sacred

that

even

Ender

could

not

be

allowed

to

understand

what

it

meant.

After

such

a

thing

nothing

could

be

said.

Alai

reached

his

bed

and

turned

around

to

see

Ender.

Their

eyes

held

for

only

a

moment,

locked

in

understanding.

Then

Ender

left.

***

There

would

be

no

green

green

brown

in

this

part

of

the

school;

he

would

have

to

pick

up

the

colors

in

one

of

the

public

areas.

The

others

would

be

finished

with

dinner

very

soon;

he

didn't

want

to

go

near

the

mess

hall.

The

game

room

would

be

nearly

empty.

None

of

the

games

appealed

to

him,

the

way

he

felt

now.

So

he

went

to

the

bank

of

public

desks

at

the

back

of

the

room

and

signed

on

to

his

own

private

game.

He

went

quickly

to

Fairyland.

The

Giant

was

dead

when

he

arrived

now;

he

had

to

climb

carefully

down

the

table,

jump

to

the

leg

of

the

Giant's

overturned

chair,

and

then

make

the

drop

to

the

ground.

For

a

while

there

had

been

rats

gnawing

at

the

Giant's

body,

but

Ender

had

killed

one

with

a

pin

from

the

Giant's

ragged

shirt,

and

they

had

left

him

alone

after

that.

The

Giant's

corpse

had

essentially

finished

its

decay.

What

could

be

torn

by

the

small

scavengers

was

torn;

the

maggots

had

done

their

work

on

the

organs,

now

it

was

a

dessicated

mummy,

hollowed-out,

teeth

in

a

rigid

grin,

eyes

empty,

fingers

curled.

Ender

remembered

burrowing

through

the

eye

when

it

had

been

alive

and

malicious

and

intelligent.

Angry

and

frustrated

as

he

was,

Ender

wished

to

do

such

murder

again.

But

the

Giant

had

become

part

of

the

landscape

now,

and

so

there

could

be

no

rage

against

him.

Ender

had

always

gone

over

the

bridge

to

the

castle

of

the

Queen

of

Hearts,

where

there

were

games

enough

for

him;

but

none

of

those

appealed

to

him

now.

He

went

around

the

giant's

corpse

and

followed

the

brook

upstream,

to

where

it

emerged

from

the

forest.

There

was

a

playground

there,

slides

and

monkeybars,

teeter-totters

and

merry-gorounds,

with

a

dozen

children

laughing

as

they

played.

Ender

came

and

found

that

in

the

game

he

had

become

a

child,

though

usually

his

figure

in

the

games

was

adult.

In

fact,

he

was

smaller

than

the

other

children.

He

got

in

line

for

the

slide.

The

other

children

ignored

him.

He

climbed

up

to

the

top,

watched

the

boy

before

him

whirl

down

the

long

spiral

to

the

ground.

Then

he

sat

and

began

to

slide.

He

had

not

slid

for

a

moment

when

he

fell

right

through

the

slide

and

landed

on

the

ground

under

the

ladder.

The

slide

would

not

hold

him.

Neither

would

the

monkey

bars.

He

could

climb

a

ways,

but

then

at

random

a

bar

seemed

to

be

insubstantial

and

he

fell.

He

could

sit

on

the

see-saw

until

he

rose

to

the

apex;

then

he

fell.

When

the

merry-go-round

went

fast,

he

could

not

hold

onto

any

of

the

bars,

and

centrifugal

force

hurled

him

off.

And

the

other

children:

their

laughter

was

raucous,

offensive.

They

circled

around

him

and

pointed

and

laughed

for

many

seconds

before

they

went

back

to

their

play.

Ender

wanted

to

hit

them,

to

throw

them

in

the

brook.

Instead

he

walked

into

the

forest.

He

found

a

path,

which

soon

became

an

ancient

brick

road,

much

overgrown

with

weeds

but

still

usable.

There

were

hints

of

possible

games

off

to

either

side,

but

Ender

followed

none

of

them.

He

wanted

to

see

where

the

path

led.

It

led

to

a

clearing,

with

a

well

in

the

middle,

and

a

sign

that

said,

"Drink,

traveler."

Ender

went

forward

and

looked

at

the

well.

Almost

at

once,

he

heard

a

snarl.

Out

of

the

woods

emerged

a

dozen

slavering

wolves

with

human

faces.

Ender

recognized

them--

they

were

the

children

from

the

playground.

Only

now

their

teeth

could

tear;

Ender,

weaponless,

was

quickly

devoured.

His

next

figure

appeared,

as

usual,

in

the

same

spot,

and

was

eaten

again,

though

Ender

tried

to

climb

down

into

the

well.

The

next

appearance,

though,

was

at

the

playground.

Again

the

children

laughed

at

him.

Laugh

all

you

like,

Ender

thought.

I

know

what

you

are.

He

pushed

one

of

them.

She

followed

him,

angry.

Ender

led

her

up

the

slide.

Of

course

he

fell

through;

but

this

time,

following

so

closely

behind

him,

she

also

fell

through.

When

she

hit

the

ground,

she

turned

into

a

wolf

and

lay

there,

dead

or

stunned.

One

by

one

Ender

led

each

of

the

others

into

a

trap.

But

before

he

had

finished

off

the

last

of

them,

the

wolves

began

reviving,

and

were

no

longer

children.

Ender

was

torn

apart

again.

This

time,

shaking

and

sweating,

Ender

found

his

figure

revived

on

the

Giant's

table.

I

should

quit,

he

told

himself.

I

should

go

to

my

new

army.

But

instead

he

made

his

figure

drop

down

from

the

table

and

walk

around

the

Giant's

body

to

the

playground.

This

time,

as

soon

as

the

child

hit

the

ground

and

turned

into

a

wolf,

Ender

dragged

the

body

to

the

brook

and

pulled

it

in.

Each

time,

the

body

sizzled

as

though

the

water

were

acid;

the

wolf

was

consumed,

and

a

dark

cloud

of

smoke

arose

and

drifted

away.

The

children

were

easily

dispatched,

though

they

began

following

him

in

twos

and

threes

at

the

end.

Ender

found

no

wolves

waiting

for

him

in

the

clearing,

and

he

lowered

himself

into

the

well

on

the

bucket

rope.

The

light

in

the

cavern

was

dim,

but

he

could

see

piles

of

jewels.

He

passed

them

by,

noting

that,

behind

him,

eyes

glinted

among

the

gems.

A

table

covered

with

food

did

not

interest

him.

He

passed

through

a

group

of

cages

hanging

from

the

ceiling

of

the

cave,

each

containing

some

exotic,

friendly-looking

creature.

I'll

play

with

you

later,

Ender

thought.

At

last

he

came

to

a

door,

with

these

words

in

glowing

emeralds:

THE

END

OF

THE

WORLD

He

did

not

hesitate.

He

opened

the

door

and

stepped

through.

He

stood

on

a

small

ledge,

high

on

a

cliff

overlooking

a

terrain

of

bright

and

deep

green

forest

with

dashes

of

autumn

color

and

patches

here

and

there

of

cleared

land,

with

oxdrawn

plows

and

small

villages,

a

castle

on

a

rise

in

the

distance,

and

clouds

riding

currents

of

air

below

him.

Above

him,

the

sky

was

the

ceiling

of

a

vast

cavern,

with

crystals

dangling

in

bright

stalactites.

The

door

closed

behind

him.

Ender

studied

the

scene

intently.

With

the

beauty

of

it,

he

cared

less

for

survival

than

usual.

He

cared

little,

at

the

moment,

what

the

game

of

this

place

might

be.

He

had

found

it,

and

seeing

it

was

its

own

reward.

And

so,

with

no

thought

of

consequences,

he

jumped

from

the

ledge.

Now

he

plummeted

downward

toward

a

roiling

river

and

savage

rocks;

but

a

cloud

came

between

him

and

the

ground

as

he

fell,

and

caught

him,

and

carried

him

away.

It

took

him

to

the

tower

of

the

castle,

and

through

the

open

window,

bearing

him

in.

There

it

left

him,

in

a

room

with

no

apparent

door

in

floor

or

ceiling,

and

windows

looking

out

over

a

certainly

fatal

fall.

A

moment

ago

he

had

thrown

himself

from

a

ledge

carelessly;

this

time

he

hesitated.

The

small

rug

before

the

fire

unraxeled

itself

into

a

long,

slender

serpent

with

wicked

teeth.

"I

am

your

only

escape,"

it

said.

"Death

is

your

only

escape.

Ender

looked

around

the

room

for

a

weapon,

when

suddenly

the

screen

went

dark.

Words

flashed

around

the

rim

of

the

desk.

REPORT

TO

COMMANDER

IMMEDIATELY.

YOU

ARE

LATE.

--

GREEN

GREEN

BROWN.

Furious,

Ender

snapped

off

the

desk

and

went

to

the

color

wall,

where

he

found

the

ribbon

of

green

green

brown,

touched

it,

and

followed

it

as

it

lit

up

before

him.

The

dark

green,

light

green,

and

brown

of

the

ribbon

reminded

him

of

the

early

autumn

kingdom

he

had

found

in

the

game.

I

must

go

back

there,

he

told

himself.

The

serpent

is

a

long

thread;

I

can

let

myself

down

from

the

tower

and

find

my

way

through

that

place.

Perhaps

it's

called

the

end

of

the

world

because

it's

the

end

of

the

games,

because

I

can

go

to

one

of

the

villages

and

become

one

of

the

little

boys

working

and

playing

there,

with

nothing

to

kill

and

nothing

to

kill

me,

just

living

there.

As

he

thought

of

it,

though,

he

could

not

imagine

what

"just

living"

might

actually

be.

He

had

never

done

it

in

his

life.

But

he

wanted

to

do

it

anyway.

***

Armies

were

larger

than

launch

groups,

and

the

army

barracks

room

was

larger,

too.

It

was

long

and

narrow,

with

bunks

on

both

sides;

so

long,

in

fact,

that

you

could

see

the

curvature

of

the

floor

as

the

far

end

bent

upward,

part

of

the

wheel

of

the

Battle

School.

Ender

stood

at

the

door.

A

few

boys

near

the

door

glanced

at

him,

but

they

were

older,

and

it

seemed

as

though

they

hadn't

even

seen

him.

They

went

on

with

their

conversations,

lying

and

leaning

on

bunks.

They

were

discussing

battles,

of

course;

the

older

boys

always

did.

They

were

all

much

larger

than

Ender.

The

ten-

and

eleven-yearolds

towered

over

him;

even

the

youngest

were

eight,

and

Ender

was

not

large

for

his

age.

He

tried

to

see

which

of

the

boys

was

the

commander,

but

most

were

somewhere

between

battle

dress

and

what

the

soldiers

always

called

their

sleep

uniform--

skin

from

head

to

toe.

Many

of

them

had

desks

out,

but

few

were

studying.

Ender

stepped

into

the

room.

The

moment

he

did,

he

was

noticed.

"What

do

you

want?"

demanded

the

boy

who

had

the

upper

bunk

by

the

door.

He

was

the

largest

of

them.

Ender

had

noticed

him

before,

a

young

giant

who

had

whiskers

growing

raggedly

on

his

chin.

"You're

not

a

Salamander."

"I'm

supposed

to

be,

I

think,"

Ender

said.

"Green

green

brown,

right?

I

was

transferred."

He

showed

the

boy,

obviously

the

doorguard,

his

paper.

The

doorguard

reached

for

it.

Ender

withdrew

it

just

out

of

reach.

"I'm

supposed

to

give

it

to

Bonzo

Madrid."

Now

another

boy

joined

the

conversation,

a

smaller

boy,

but

still

larger

than

Ender,

"Not

bahn-zoe,

pisshead.

Bone-So.

The

name's

Spanish.

Bonzo

Madrid.

Aqui

nosotros

hablamos

espa¤ol,

Se¤or

Gran

Fedor."

"You

must

be

Bonzo,

then?"

Ender

asked,

pronouncing

the

name

correctly.

"No,

just

a

brilliant

and

talented

polyglot.

Petra

Arkanian.

The

only

girl

in

Salamander

Army.

With

more

balls

than

anybody

else

in

the

room."

"Mother

Petra

she

talking?"

said

one

of

the

boys.

"She

talking,

she

talking."

Another

one

chimed

in.

"Shit

talking

...

shit

talking,

shit

talking!"

Quite

a

few

laughed.

"Just

between

you

and

me,"

Petra

said,

"if

they

gave

the

Battle

School

an

enema,

they'd

stick

it

in

at

green

green

brown."

Ender

despaired.

He

already

had

nothing

going

for

him:

grossly

undertrained,

small,

inexperienced,

doomed

to

be

resented

for

early

advancement.

And

now,

by

chance,

he

had

made

exactly

the

wrong

friend.

An

outcast

in

Salamander

Army,

and

she

had

just

linked

him

with

her

in

the

minds

of

the

rest

of

the

army.

A

good

day's

work.

For

a

moment,

as

Ender

looked

around

at

the

laughing,

jeering

faces,

he

imagined

their

bodies

covered

with

hair,

their

teeth

pointed

for

tearing.

Am

I

the

only

human

being

in

this

place?

Are

all

the

others

animals,

waiting

only

to

devour?

Then

he

remembered

Alai.

In

every

army,

surely,

there

was

at

least

one

worth

knowing.

Studdenly,

though

no

one

said

to

be

quiet,

the

laughter

stopped

and

the

group

fell

silent.

Ender

turned

to

the

door.

A

boy

stood

there,

tall

and

dark

and

slender,

with

beautiful

black

eyes

and

slender

lips

that

hinted

at

refinement.

I

would

follow

such

beauty,

said

something

inside

Ender.

I

would

see

as

those

eyes

see.

"Who

are

you?"

asked

the

boy

quietly.

"Ender

Wiggin,

sir,"

Ender

said.

"Reassigned

from

launch

to

Salamander

Army."

He

held

out

the

orders.

The

boy

took

the

paper

in

a

swift,

sure

movement,

without

touching

Ender's

hand.

"How

old

are

you,

Wiggin?"

he

asked.

"Almost

seven."

Still

quietly,

he

said,

"I

asked

how

old

you

are,

not

how

old

you

almost

are."

"I

am

six

years,

nine

months,

and

twelve

days

old."

"How

long

have

you

been

working

in

the

batle

room?"

"A

few

months,

now.

My

aim

is

better."

"Any

training

in

battle

maneuvers?

Have

you

ever

been

part

of

a

toon?

Have

you

ever

carried

out

a

joint

exercise?"

Ender

had

never

heard

of

such

things.

He

shook

his

head.

Madrid

looked

at

him

steadily.

"I

see.

As

you

will

quickly

learn,

the

officers

in

command

of

this

school,

most

notably

Major

Anderson,

who

runs

the

game,

are

fond

of

playing

tricks.

Salamander

Army

is

just

beginning

to

emerge

from

indecent

obscurity.

We

have

won

twelve

of

our

last

twenty

games.

We

have

surprised

Rat

and

Scorpion

and

Hound,

and

we

are

ready

to

play

for

leadership

in

the

game.

So

of

course,

of

course

I

am

given

such

a

useless,

untrained,

hopeless

specimen

of

of

underdevelopment

as

yourself."

Petra

said,

quietly,

"He

isn't

glad

to

meet

you."

"Shut

up,

Arkanian,"

Madrid

said.

"To

one

trial

we

now

add

another.

But

whatever

obstacles

our

officers

choose

to

fling

in

our

path,

we

are

still--"

"Salamander!"

cried

the

soldiers,

in

one

voice.

Instinctively,

Ender's

perception

of

these

events

changed.

It

was

a

pattern,

a

ritual.

Madrid

was

not

trying

to

hurt

him,

merely

taking

control

of

a

surprising

event

and

using

it

to

strengthen

his

control

of

his

army.

"We

are

the

fire

that

will

consume

them,

belly

and

bowel,

head

and

heart,

many

flames

of

us,

but

one

fire."

"Salamander!"

they

cried

again.

"Even

this

one

will

not

weaken

us."

For

a

moment,

Ender

allowed

himself

to

hope.

"I'll

work

hard

and

learn

quickly,"

he

said.

"I

didn't

give

you

permission

to

speak,"

Madrid

answered.

"I

intend

to

trade

you

away

as

quickly

as

I

can.

I'll

probably

huve

to

give

up

someone

valuable

along

with

you,

but

as

small

as

you

are

you

are

worse

than

useless.

One

more

frozen,

inevitably,

in

every

battle,

that's

all

you

are,

and

we're

now

at

a

point

where

every

frozen

soldier

makes

a

difference

in

the

standings.

Nothing

personal,

Wiggin,

but

I'm

sure

you

can

get

your

training

at

someone

else's

expense."

"He's

all

heart,"

Petra

said.

Madrid

stepped

closer

to

the

girl

and

slapped

her

across

the

face

with

the

back

of

his

hand.

It

made

little

sound,

for

only

his

fingernails

had

hit

her.

But

there

were

bright

red

marks,

four

of

them,

on

her

cheek,

and

little

pricks

of

blood

marked

where

the

tips

of

his

fingernails

had

struck.

"Here

are

your

instructions,

Wiggin.

I

expect

that

it

is

the

last

time

I'll

need

to

speak

to

you.

You

will

stay

out

of

the

way

when

we're

training

in

the

battleroom.

You

have

to

be

there,

of

course,

but

you

will

not

belong

to

any

toon

and

you

will

not

take

part

in

any

maneuvers.

When

we're

called

to

battle,

you

will

dress

quickly

and

present

yourself

at

the

gate

with

everyone

else.

But

you

will

not

pass

through

the

gate

until

four

full

minutes

after

the

beginning

of

the

game,

and

then

you

will

remain

at

the

gate,

with

your

weapon

undrawn

and

unfired,

until

such

time

as

the

game

ends."

Ender

nodded.

So

he

was

to

be

a

nothing.

He

hoped

the

trade

happened

soon.

He

also

noticed

that

Petra

did

not

so

much

as

cry

out

in

pain,

or

touch

her

cheek,

though

one

spot

of

blood

had

beaded

and

run,

making

a

streak

down

to

her

jaw.

Outcast

she

may

be,

but

since

Bonzo

Madrid

was

not

going

to

be

Ender's

friend,

no

matter

what,

he

might

as

well

make

friends

with

Petra.

He

was

assigned

a

bunk

at

the

far

end

of

the

room.

The

upper

bunk,

so

that

when

he

lay

on

his

bed

he

couldn't

even

seen

the

door;

the

curve

of

the

ceiling

blocked

it.

There

were

other

boys

near

him,

tired-looking

boys,

sullen,

the

ones

least

valued.

They

had

nothing

of

welcome

to

say

to

Ender.

Ender

tried

to

palm

his

locker

open,

but

nothing

happened.

Then

he

realized

the

lockers

were

not

secured.

All

four

of

them

had

rings

on

them,

to

pull

them

open.

Nothing

would

be

private,

then,

now

that

he

was

in

an

army.

There

was

a

uniform

in

the

locker.

Not

the

pale

green

of

the

Launchies,

but

the

orangetrimmed

dark

green

uniform

of

Salamander

Army.

It

did

not

fit

well.

But

then,

they

had

probably

never

had

to

provide

such

a

uniform

for

a

boy

so

young.

He

was

starting

to

take

it

off

when

he

noticed

Petra

walking

down

the

aisle

toward

his

bed.

He

slid

off

the

bunk

and

stood

on

the

floor

to

greet

her.

"Relax,"

she

said.

"I'm

not

an

officer."

"You're

a

toon

leader,

aren't

you?"

Someone

nearby

snickered.

"Whatever

gave

you

that

idea,

Wiggin?"

"You

have

a

bunk

in

the

front."

"I

bunk

in

the

front

because

I'm

the

best

sharpshooter

in

Salamander

Army,

and

because

Bonzo

is

afraid

I'll

start

a

revolution

if

the

toon

leaders

don't

keep

an

eye

on

me.

As

if

I

could

start

anything

with

boys

like

these."

She

indicated

the

sullen-faced

boys

on

the

nearby

bunks.

What

was

she

trying

to

do,

make

it

worse

than

it

already

was?

"Everybody's

better

than

I

am,"

Ender

said,

trying

to

dissociate

himself

from

her

contempt

for

the

boys

who

would,

after

all,

be

his

near

bunkmates.

"I'm

a

girl,"

she

said,

"and

you're

a

pissant

of

a

six-year-old.

We

have

so

much

in

common,

why

don't

we

be

friends?"

"I

won't

do

your

deskwork

for

you,"

he

said.

In

a

moment

she

realized

it

was

a

joke.

"Ha,"

she

said.

"It's

all

so

military,

when

you're

in

the

game.

School

isn't

like

it

is

for

Launchies.

Histories

and

strategy

and

tactics

and

buggers

and

math

and

stars,

things

you'll

need

as

a

pilot

or

a

commander.

You'll

see."

"So

you're

my

friend.

Do

I

get

a

prize?"

Ender

asked.

He

was

imitating

her

swaggering

way

of

speaking,

as

if

she

cared

about

nothing.

"Bonzo

isn't

going

to

let

you

practice.

He's

going

to

make

you

take

your

desk

to

the

battleroom

and

study.

He's

right,

in

a

way--

he

doesn't

want

a

totally

untrained

little

kid

start

screwing

up

his

precision

maneuvers."

She

lapsed

into

giria,

the

slangy

talk

that

imitated

the

pidgin

English

of

uneducated

people.

"Bonzo,

he

pre-cise.

He

so

careful,

he

piss

on

a

plate

and

never

splash."

Ender

grinned.

"The

battleroom

is

open

all

the

time.

If

you

want,

I'll

take

you

in

the

off

hours

and

show

you

some

of

the

things

I

know,

I'm

not

a

great

soldier,

but

I'm

pretty

good,

and

I

sure

know

more

than

you."

"If

you

want,"

Ender

said.

"Starting

tomorrow

morning

after

breakfast."

"What

if

somebody's

using

the

room?

We

alway's

went

right

after

breakfast,

in

my

launch."

"No

problem.

There

are

really

nine

battlerooms."

"I

never

heard

of

any

others."

"They

all

have

the

same

entrance.

The

whole

center

of

the

battle

school,

the

hub

of

the

wheel,

is

battlerooms.

They

don't

rotate

with

the

rest

of

the

station.

That's

how

they

do

the

nullg,

the

no-gravity--

it

just

holds

still.

No

spin,

no

down.

But

they

can

set

it

up

so

that

any

one

of

the

rooms

is

at

the

battleroom

entrance

corridor

that

we

all

use.

Once

you're

inside,

they

move

it

along

and

another

battleroom's

in

position."

"Oh."

"Like

I

said.

Right

after

breakfast."

"Right,"

Ender

said.

She

started

to

walk

away.

"Petra,"

he

said.

She

turned

back.

"Thanks."

She

said

nothing,

just

turned

around

again

and

walked

down

the

aisle.

Ender

climbed

back

up

on

his

bunk

and

finished

taking

off

his

uniform.

He

lay

naked

on

the

bed,

doodling

with

his

new

desk,

trying

to

decide

if

they

had

done

anything

to

his

access

codes.

Sure

enough,

they

had

wiped

out

his

security

system.

He

couldn't

own

anything

here,

not

even

his

desk.

The

lights

dimmed

a

little.

Getting

toward

bedtime.

Ender

didn't

know

which

bathroom

to

use.

"Go

left

out

of

the

door,"

said

the

boy

on

the

next

bunk.

"We

share

it

with

Rat,

Condor,

and

Squirrel."

Ender

thanked

him

and

started

to

walk

on

past.

"Hey,"

said

the

boy.

"You

can't

go

like

that.

Uniforms

at

all

times

out

of

this

room."

"Even

going

to

the

toilet?"

"Especially.

And

you're

forbidden

to

speak

to

anyone

from

any

other

army.

At

meals

or

in

the

toilet.

You

can

get

away

with

it

sometimes

in

the

game

room,

and

of

course

whenever

a

teacher

tells

you

to,

but

if

Bonzo

catch

you,

you

dead,

eh?"

"Thanks."

"And,

uh,

Bonzo

get

mad

if

you

skin

by

Petra."

"She

was

naked

when

I

came

in,

wasn't

she?"

"She

do

what

she

like,

but

you

keep

you

clothes

on.

Bonzo's

orders."

That

was

stupid.

Petra

still

looked

like

a

boy,

it

was

a

stupid

rule.

It

set

her

apart,

made

her

different,

split

the

army.

Stupid

stupid.

How

did

Bonzo

get

to

be

a

commander,

if

he

didn't

know

better

than

that?

Alai

would

be

a

better

commander

than

Bonzo.

He

knew

how

to

bring

a

group

together.

I

know

how

to

bring

a

group

together,

too,

thought

Ender.

Maybe

I'll

be

commander

someday.

In

the

bathroom,

he

was

washing

his

hands

when

somebody

spoke

to

hmm.

"Hey,

they

putting

babies

in

Salamander

uniforms

now?"

Ender

didn't

answer

just

dried

off

his

hands.

"Hey,

look!

Salamander's

getting

babies

now!

Look

at

this!

He

could

walk

between

my

legs

without

touching

my

balls!"

"Cause

you

got

none,

Dink,

that's

why,"

somebody

answered.

As

Ender

left

the

room,

he

heard

somebody

else

say,

"It's

Wiggin.

You

know,

the

smartass

from

the

game

room."

He

walked

down

the

corridor

smiling.

He

may

be

short,

but

they

knew

his

name.

From

the

game

room,

of

course,

so

it

meant

nothing.

But

they'd

see.

He'd

be

a

good

soldier,

too.

They'd

all

know

his

name

soon

enough.

Not

in

Salamander

Army,

maybe,

but

soon

enough.

***

Petra

was

waiting

in

the

corridor

that

led

to

the

battleroom.

"Wait

a

minute,"

she

said

to

Ender.

"Rabbit

Army

just

went

in,

and

it

takes

a

few

minutes

to

change

to

the

next

battleroom."

Ender

sat

down

beside

her.

"There's

more

to

the

battleroom

than

just

switching

from

one

to

the

next,"

he

said.

"For

instance,

why

is

there

gravity

in

the

corridor

outside

the

room,

just

before

we

go

in?"

Petra

closed

her

eyes.

"And

if

the

battlerooms

are

really

free-floating,

what

happens

when

one

is

connected?

Why

doesn't

it

start

to

move

with

the

rotation

of

the

school?"

Ender

nodded.

"These

are

the

mysteries,"

Petra

said

in

a

deep

whisper.

"Do

not

pry

into

them.

Terrible

things

happened

to

the

last

soldier

who

tried.

He

was

discovered

hanging

by

his

feet

from

the

ceiling

of

the

bathroom,

with

his

head

stuffed

in

the

toilet."

"So

I'm

not

the

first

person

to

ask

the

question."

"You

remember

this,

little

boy."

When

she

said

little

boy

it

sounded

friendly,

not

contemptuous.

"They

never

tell

you

any

more

truth

than

they

have

to.

But

any

kid

with

brains

knows

that

there've

been

some

changes

in

science

since

the

days

of

old

Mazer

Rackham

and

the

Victorious

Fleet.

Obviously

we

can

now

control

gravity.

Turn

it

on

and

off,

change

the

direction,

maybe

reflect

it--

I've

thought

of

lots

of

neat

things

you

could

do

with

gravity

weapons

and

gravity

drives

on

starships.

And

think

how

starships

could

move

near

planets.

Maybe

tear

big

chunks

out

of

them

by

reflecting

the

planet's

own

gravity

back

on

itself,

only

from

another

direction,

and

focused

down

to

a

smaller

point.

But

they

say

nothing."

Ender

understood

more

than

she

said.

Manipulation

of

gravity

was

one

thing;

deception

by

the

officers

was

another;

but

the

most

important

message

was

this:

the

adults

are

the

enemy,

not

the

other

armies.

They

do

not

tell

us

the

truth.

"Come,

little

boy,"

she

said.

"The

battleroom

is

ready.

Petra's

hands

are

steady.

The

enemy

is

deady."

She

giggled.

"Petra

the

poet,

they

call

me."

"They

also

say

you're

crazy

as

a

loon."

"Better

believe

it,

baby

butt."

She

had

ten

target

balls

in

a

bag.

Ender

held

onto

her

suit

with

one

hand

and

the

wall

with

the

other,

to

steady

her

as

she

threw

them,

hard,

in

different

directions.

In

the

null

gravity,

they

bounced

every

which

way.

"Let

go

of

me,"

she

said.

She

shoved

off,

spinning

deliberately;

with

a

few

deft

hand

moves

she

steadied

herself,

and

began

aiming

carefully

at

ball

after

ball.

When

she

shot

one,

its

glow

changed

from

white

to

red.

Ender

knew

that

the

color

change

lasted

less

than

two

minutes.

Only

one

ball

had

changed

back

to

white

when

she

got

the

last

one.

She

rebounded

accurately

from

a

wall

and

came

at

high

speed

back

to

Ender.

He

caught

her

and

held

her

against

her

own

rebound,

one

of

the

first

techniques

they

had

taught

him

as

a

Launchy.

"You're

good,"

he

said.

"None

better.

And

you're

going

to

learn

how

to

do

it."

Petra

taught

him

to

hold

his

arm

straight,

to

aim

with

the

whole

arm.

"Something

most

soldiers

don't

realize

is

that

the

farther

away

your

target

is,

the

longer

you

have

to

hold

the

beam

within

about

a

two-centimeter

circle.

It's

the

difference

between

a

tenth

of

a

second

and

a

half

a

second,

but

in

battle

that's

a

long

time.

A

lot

of

soldiers

think

they

missed

when

they

were

right

on

target,

but

they

moved

away

too

fast.

So

you

can't

use

your

gun

like

a

sword,

swish

swish

slice-em-in-half.

You

got

to

aim."

She

used

the

ballcaller

to

bring

the

targets

back,

then

launched

them

slowly,

one

by

one.

Ender

fired

at

them.

He

missed

every

one.

"Good,"

she

said.

"You

don't

have

any

bad

habits."

"I

don't

have

any

good

ones,

either,"

he

pointed

out.

"I

give

you

those."

They

didn't

accomplish

much

that

first

morning.

Mostly

talk.

How

to

think

while

you

were

aiming.

You've

got

to

hold

your

own

motion

and

your

enemy's

motion

in

your

mind

at

the

same

time.

You've

got

to

hold

your

arm

straight

out

and

aim

with

your

body,

so

in

case

your

arm

is

frozen

you

can

still

shoot.

Learn

where

your

trigger

actually

fires

and

ride

the

edge,

so

you

don't

have

to

pull

so

far

each

time

you

fire.

Relax

your

body,

don't

tense

up;

it

makes

you

tremble.

It

was

the

only

practice

Ender

got

that

day.

During

the

army's

drills

in

the

afternoon,

Ender

was

ordered

to

bring

his

desk

and

do

his

schoolwork,

sitting

in

a

corner

of

the

room.

Bonzo

had

to

have

all

his

soldiers

in

the

battleroom,

but

he

didn't

have

to

use

them.

Ender

did

not

do

his

schoolwork,

however.

If

he

couldn't

have

drill

as

a

soldier,

he

could

study

Bonzo

as

a

tactician.

Salamander

Army

was

divided

into

the

standard

four

toons

of

ten

soldiers

each.

Some

commanders

set

up

their

toons

so

that

A

toon

consisted

of

the

best

soldiers,

and

D

toon

had

the

worst.

Bonzo

had

mixed

them,

so

that

each

consisted

of

good

soldiers

and

weaker

ones.

Except

that

B

toon

had

only

nine

boys.

Ender

wondered

who

had

been

transferred

to

make

room

for

him.

It

soon

became

plain

that

the

leader

of

toon

B

was

new.

No

wonder

Bonzo

was

so

disgusted--

he

had

lost

a

toon

leader

to

get

Ender.

And

Bonzo

was

right

about

another

thing.

Ender

was

not

ready.

All

the

practice

time

was

spent

working

on

maneuvers.

Toons

that

couldn't

see

each

other

practiced

performing

precision

operations

together

with

exact

timing;

toons

practiced

using

each

other

to

make

sudden

changes

of

direction

without

losing

formation.

All

these

soldiers

took

for

granted

skills

that

Ender

didn't

have.

The

ability

to

make

a

soft

landing

and

absorb

most

of

the

shock.

Accurate

flight.

Course

adjustment

using

the

frozen

soldiers

floating

randomly

through

the

room.

Rolls,

spins,

dodges.

Sliding

along

the

walls--

a

very

difficult

maneuver

and

yet

one

of

the

most

valuable,

since

the

enemy

couldn't

get

behind

you.

Even

as

Ender

learned

how

much

he

did

not

know,

he

also

saw

things

that

he

could

improve

on.

The

well-rehearsed

formations

were

a

mistake.

It

allowed

the

soldiers

to

obey

shouted

orders

instantly,

but

it

also

meant

they

were

predictable.

Also,

the

individual

soldiers

were

given

little

initiative.

Once

a

pattern

was

set,

they

were

to

follow

it

through.

There

was

no

room

for

adjustmemmt

to

what

the

enemy

did

against

the

formation.

Ender

studied

Bonzo's

formations

like

an

enemy

commander

would,

noting

ways

to

disrupt

the

formation.

During

free

play

that

night,

Ender

asked

Petra

to

practice

with

him.

"No,"

she

said.

"I

want

to

be

a

commander

someday,

so

I've

got

to

play

the

game

room."

It

was

a

common

belief

that

the

teachers

monitored

the

games

and

spotted

potential

commanders

there.

Ender

doubted

it,

though.

Toon

leaders

had

a

better

chance

to

show

what

they

might

do

as

commanders

than

any

video

player.

But

he

didn't

argue

with

Petra.

The

after-breakfast

practice

was

generous

enough.

Still,

he

had

to

practice.

And

he

couldn't

practice

alone,

except

a

few

of

the

basic

skills.

Most

of

the

hard

things

required

partners

or

teams.

If

only

he

still

had

Alai

or

Shen

to

practice

with.

Well,

why

shouldn't

he

practice

with

them?

He

had

never

heard

of

a

soldier

practicing

with

Launchies,

but

there

was

no

rule

against

it.

It

just

wasn't

done;

Launchies

were

held

in

too

much

contempt.

Well,

Ender

was

still

being

treated

like

a

Launchy

anyway.

He

needed

someone

to

practice

with,

and

in

return

he

could

help

them

learn

some

of

the

things

he

saw

the

older

boys

doing.

"Hey,

the

great

soldier

returns!"

said

Bernard.

Ender

stood

in

the

doorway

of

his

old

barracks.

He'd

only

been

away

for

a

day,

but

already

it

seemed

like

an

alien

place,

and

the

others

of

his

launch

group

were

strangers.

Almost

he

turned

around

and

left.

But

there

was

Alai,

who

had

made

their

friendship

sacred.

Alai

was

not

a

stranger.

Ender

made

no

effort

to

conceal

how

he

was

treated

in

Salamander

Army.

"And

they're

right.

I'm

about

as

useful

as

a

sneeze

in

a

spacesuit."

Alai

laughed,

and

other

Launchies

started

to

gather

around.

Ender

proposed

his

bargain.

Free

play,

every

day,

working

hard

in

the

battleroom,

under

Ender's

direction.

They

would

learn

things

from

the

armies,

from

the

battles

Ender

would

see;

he

would

get

the

practice

he

needed

in

developing

soldier

skills.

"We'll

get

ready

together."

A

lot

of

boys

wanted

to

come,

too.

"Sure,"

Ender

said.

"If

you're

coming

to

work.

If

you're

just

farting

around,

you're

out.

I

don't

have

any

time

to

waste."

They

didn't

waste

any

time.

Ender

was

clumsy,

trying

to

describe

what

he

had

seen,

working

out

ways

to

do

it.

But

by

the

time

free

play

ended,

they

had

learned

some

things.

They

were

tired,

but

they

were

getting

the

knack

of

a

few

techniques.

"Where

were

you?"

asked

Bonzo.

Ender

stood

stiffly

by

his

commander's

bunk.

"Practicing

in

a

battleroom."

"I

hear

you

had

some

of

your

oid

Launchy

group

with

you."

"I

couldn't

practice

alone."

"I

won't

have

any

soldiers

in

Salamander

Army

hanging

around

with

Launchies.

You're

a

soldier

now."

Ender

regarded

him

in

silence.

"Did

you

hear

me,

Wiggin?"

"Yes,

sir."

"No

more

practicing

with

those

little

farts."

"May

I

speak

to

you

privately?"

asked

Ender.

It

was

a

request

that

commanders

were

required

to

allow.

Bonzo's

face

went

angry,

and

he

led

Ender

out

into

the

corridor.

"Listen,

Wiggin,

I

don't

want

you,

I'm

trying

to

get

rid

of

you,

but

don't

give

me

any

problems

or

I'll

paste

you

to

the

wall."

A

good

commander,

thought

Ender,

doesn't

have

to

make

stupid

threats.

Bonzo

grew

annoyed

at

Ender's

silence.

"Look,

you

asked

me

to

come

out

here,

now

talk."

"Sir,

you

were

correct

not

to

place

me

in

a

toon.

I

don't

know

how

to

do

anything."

"I

don't

need

you

to

tell

me

when

I'm

correct."

"But

I'm

going

to

become

a

good

soldier.

I

won't

screw

up

your

regular

drill,

but

I'm

going

to

practice,

and

I'm

going

to

practice

with

the

only

people

who

will

practice

with

me,

and

that's

my

Launchies."

"You'll

do

what

I

tell

you,

you

little

bastard."

"That's

right,

sir.

I'll

follow

all

the

orders

that

you're

authorized

to

give.

But

free

play

is

free.

No

assignments

can

be

given.

None.

By

anyone.

He

could

see

Bonzo's

anger

growing

hot.

Hot

anger

was

bad.

Ender's

anger

was

cold,

and

he

could

use

it.

Bonzo's

was

hot,

and

so

it

used

him.

"Sir,

I've

got

my

own

career

to

think

of.

I

won't

interfere

in

your

training

and

your

battles,

but

I've

got

to

learn

sometime.

I

didn't

ask

to

be

put

into

your

army,

you're

trying

to

trade

me

as

soon

as

you

can.

But

nobody

will

take

me

if

I

don't

know

anything,

will

they?

Let

me

learn

something,

and

then

you

can

get

rid

of

me

all

the

sooner

and

get

a

soldier

you

can

really

use."

Bonzo

was

not

such

a

fool

that

anger

kept

him

from

recognizing

good

sense

when

he

heard

it.

Still,

he

couldn't

let

go

of

his

anger

immediately.

"While

you're

in

Salamander

Army,

you'll

obey

me."

"If

you

try

to

control

my

free

play,

I

can

get

you

iced."

It

probably

wasn't

true.

But

it

was

possible.

Certainly

if

Ender

made

a

fuss

about

it,

interfering

with

free

play

could

conceivably

get

Bonzo

removed

from

command.

Also,

there

was

the

fact

that

the

officers

obviously

saw

something

in

Ender,

since

they

had

promoted

him.

Maybe

Ender

did

have

influence

enough

with

the

teachers

to

ice

somebody.

"Bastard,"

said

Bonzo.

"It

isn't

my

fault

you

gave

me

that

order

in

front

of

everybody,"

Ender

said.

"But

if

you

want,

I'll

pretend

you

won

this

argument.

Then

tomorrow

you

can

tell

me

you

changed

your

mind."

"I

don't

need

you

to

tell

me

what

to

do."

"I

don't

want

the

other

guys

to

think

you

backed

down.

You

wouldn't

be

able

to

command

as

well."

Bonzo

hated

him

for

it,

for

the

kindness.

It

was

as

if

Ender

were

granting

him

his

command

as

a

favor.

Galling,

and

yet

he

had

no

choice.

No

choice

about

anything.

It

didn't

occur

to

Bonzo

that

it

was

his

own

fault,

for

giving

Ender

an

unreasonable

order.

He

only

knew

that

Ender

had

beaten

him,

and

then

rubbed

his

nose

in

it

by

being

magnanimous.

"I'll

have

your

ass

someday,"

Bonzo

said.

"Probably,"

said

Ender.

The

lights

out

buzzer

sounded.

Ender

walked

back

into

the

room,

looking

dejected.

Beaten.

Angry.

The

other

boy's

drew

the

obvious

conclusion.

And

in

the

morning,

as

Ender

was

leaving

for

breakfast,

Bonzo

stopped

him

and

spoke

loudly.

"I

changed

my

mind,

pinprick.

Maybe

by

practicing

with

your

Launchies

you'll

learn

something,

and

I

can

trade

you

easier.

Anything

to

get

rid

of

you

faster."

"Thank

you,

sir,"

Ender

said.

"Anything,"

whispered

Boozo.

"I

hope

you're

iced."

Ender

smiled

gratefully

and

left

the

room.

After

breakfast

he

practiced

again

with

Petra.

All

afternoon

he

watched

Bonzo

drill

and

figured

out

ways

to

destroy

his

army.

During

free

play

he

and

Alai

and

the

others

worked

themselves

to

exhaustion.

I

can

do

this,

thought

Ender

as

he

lay

in

his

bed,

his

muscles

throbbing,

unknotting

themselves.

I

can

handle

it.

***

Salamander

Army

had

a

battle

four

days

later.

Ender

followed

behind

the

real

soldiers

as

they

jogged

along

the

corridors

to

the

battleroom.

There

were

two

ribbons

along

the

walls,

the

green

green

brown

of

Salamander

and

the

black

white

black

of

Condor.

When

they

came

to

the

place

where

the

battleroom

had

always

been,

the

corridor

split

instead,

with

green

green

brown

heading

to

the

left

and

black

white

black

to

the

right.

Around

another

turn

to

the

right,

and

the

army

stopped

in

front

of

a

blank

wall.

The

toons

formed

up

in

silence.

Ender

stayed

behind

them

all.

Bonzo

was

giving

his

instructions.

"A

take

the

handles

and

go

up.

B

left,

C

right,

D

down."

He

saw

that

the

toons

were

oriented

to

follow

instructions,

then

added,

"And

you,

pinprick,

wait

four

minutes,

then

come

just

inside

the

door.

Don't

even

take

your

gun

off

your

suit."

Ender

nodded.

Suddenly

the

wall

behind

Bonzo

became

transparent.

Not

a

wall

at

all,

then,

but

a

forcefield.

The

battleroom

was

different,

too.

Huge

brown

boxes

were

suspended

in

midair,

partially

obstructing

the

view.

So

these

were

the

obstacles

that

the

soldiers

called

stars.

They

were

distributed

seemingly

at

random.

Bonzo

seemed

not

to

care

where

they

were.

Apparently

the

soldiers

already

knew

how

to

handle

the

stars.

But

it

soon

became

clear

to

Ender,

as

he

sat

and

watched

the

battle

from

the

corridor,

that

they

did

not

know

how

to

handle

the

stars.

They

did

know

how

to

softland

on

one

and

use

it

for

cover,

the

tactics

of

assaulting

the

enemy's

position

on

a

star.

They

showed

no

sense

at

all

of

which

stars

mattered.

They

persisted

in

assaulting

stars

that

could

have

been

bypassed

by

wall-sliding

to

a

more

advanced

position.

The

other

commander

was

taking

advantage

of

Bonzo's

neglect

of

strategy.

Condor

Army

forced

the

Salamanders

into

costly

assaults.

Fewer

and

fewer

Salamanders

were

unfrozen

for

the

attack

on

the

next

star.

It

was

clear,

after

only

five

or

six

minutes,

that

Salamander

Army

could

not

defeat

the

enemy

by

attacking.

Ender

stepped

through

the

gate.

He

drifted

slightly

downward.

The

battlerooms

he

had

practiced

in

always

had

their

doors

at

floor

level.

For

real

battles,

however,

the

door

was

set

in

the

middle

of

the

wall,

as

far

from

the

floor

as

from

the

ceiling.

Abruptly

he

felt

himself

reorient,

as

he

had

in

the

shuttle.

What

had

been

down

was

now

up,

and

now

sideways.

In

null-g,

there

was

no

reason

to

stay

oriented

the

way

he

had

been

in

the

corridor.

It

was

impossible

to

tell,

looking

at

the

perfectly

square

doors,

which

way

had

been

up.

And

it

didn't

matter.

For

now

Ender

had

found

the

orientation

that

made

sense.

The

enemy's

gate

was

down.

The

object

of

the

game

was

to

fall

toward

the

enemy's

home.

Ender

made

the

motions

that

oriented

himself

in

his

new

direction.

Instead

of

being

spread

out,

his

whole

body

presented

to

the

enemy,

now

Ender's

legs

pointed

toward

them.

He

was

a

much

smaller

target.

Someone

saw

him.

He

was,

after

all,

drifting

aimlessly

in

the

open.

Instinctively

he

pulled

his

legs

up

under

him.

At

that

moment

he

was

flashed

and

the

legs

of

his

suit

froze

in

position.

His

arms

remained

unfrozen,

for

without

a

direct

body

hit,

only

the

limbs

that

were

shot

froze

up.

It

occurred

to

Ender

that

if

he

had

not

been

presenting

his

legs

to

the

enemy,

it

would

have

been

his

body

they

hit.

He

would

have

been

immobilized.

Since

Bonzo

had

ordered

him

not

to

draw

his

weapon,

Ender

continued

to

drift,

not

moving

his

head

or

arms,

as

if

they

had

been

frozen,

too.

The

enemy

ignored

him

and

concentrated

their

fire

on

the

soldiers

who

were

firing

at

them.

It

was

a

bitter

battle.

Outnumbered

now,

Salamander

Army

gave

ground

stubbornly.

The

battle

disintegrated

into

a

dozen

individual

shootouts.

Bonzo's

discipline

paid

off

now,

for

each

Salamander

that

froze

took

at

least

one

enemy

with

him.

No

one

ran

or

panicked,

everyone

remained

calm

and

aimed

carefully.

Petra

was

especially

deadly.

Condor

Army

noticed

it

and

took

great

effort

to

freeze

her.

They

froze

her

shooting

arm

first,

and

her

stream

of

curses

was

only

interrupted

when

they

froze

her

completely

and

the

helmet

clamped

down

on

her

jaw.

In

a

few

minutes

it

was

over.

Salamander

Army

offered

no

more

resistance.

Ender

noted

with

pleasure

that

Condor

could

only

muster

the

minimal

five

soldiers

necessary

to

open

the

gate

to

victory.

Four

of

them

touched

their

helmets

to

the

lighted

spots

at

the

four

corners

of

Salamander's

door,

while

the

fifth

passed

through

the

forcefield.

That

ended

the

game.

The

lights

came

back

on

to

their

full

brightness,

and

Anderson

came

out

of

the

teacher

door.

I

could

have

drawn

my

gun,

thought

Ender,

as

the

enemy

approached

the

door.

l

could

have

drawn

my

gun

and

shot

just

one

of

them,

and

they

would

have

been

too

few.

The

game

would

have

been

a

draw.

Without

four

men

to

touch

the

four

corners

and

a

fifth

man

to

pass

through

the

gate,

Condor

would

have

had

no

victory.

Bonzo,

you

ass,

I

could

have

saved

you

from

this

defeat.

Maybe

even

turned

it

to

victory,

since

they

were

sitting

there,

easy

targets,

and

they

wouldn't

have

known

at

first

where

the

shots

were

coining

from.

I'm

a

good

enough

shot

for

that.

But

orders

were

orders,

and

Ender

had

promised

to

obey.

He

did

get

some

satisfaction

out

of

the

fact

that

on

the

official

tally

Salamandem

Army

recorded,

not

the

expected

forty-one

disabled

or

eliminated,

but

rather

forty

eliminated

and

one

damaged.

Bonzo

couldn't

understand

it,

until

he

consulted

Anderson's

book

and

realized

who

it

was.

Damaged,

Bonzo,

thought

Ender.

I

could

still

shoot,

He

expected

Bonzo

to

come

to

him

and

say,

"Next

time,

when

it's

like

that,

you

can

shoot."

But

Bonzo

didn't

say

anything

to

him

at

all

until

the

next

morning

after

breakfast.

Of

course,

Bonzo

ate

in

the

commanders

mess,

but

Ender

was

pretty

sure

the

odd

score

would

cause

as

much

stir

there

as

it

did

in

the

soldiers

dining

hall.

In

every

other

game

that

wasn't

a

draw,

every

member

of

the

losing

team

was

either

eliminated--

totally

frozen--

or

disabled,

which

meant

they

had

some

body

parts

still

unfrozen,

but

were

unable

to

shoot

or

inflict

damage

on

the

enemy.

Salamander

was

the

only

losing

army

with

one

man

in

the

Damaged

but

Active

category.

Ender

volunteered

no

explanation,

but

the

other

members

of

Salamander

Army

let

it

be

known

why

it

had

happened.

And

when

other

boys

asked

him

why

he

hadn't

disobeyed

orders

and

fired,

he

calmly

answered,

"I

obey

orders."

After

breakfast,

Bonzo

looked

for

him.

"The

order

still

stands,"

he

said,

"and

don't

you

forget

it."

It

will

cost

you,

you

fool.

I

may

not

be

a

good

soldier,

but

I

can

still

help

and

there's

no

reason

you

shouldn't

let

me.

Ender

said

nothing.

An

interesting

side

effect

of

the

battle

was

that

Ender

emerged

at

the

top

of

the

soldier

efficiecies

list.

Since

he

hadn't

fired

a

shot,

he

had

a

perfect

record

on

shooting--

no

misses

at

all.

And

since

he

had

never

been

eliminated

or

disabled,

his

percentage

there

was

excellent.

No

one

else

came

close.

It

made

a

lot

of

boys

laugh,

and

others

were

angry,

but

on

the

prized

efficiency

list,

Ender

was

now

the

leader.

He

kept

sitting

out

the

army

practice

sessions,

and

kept

working

hard

on

his

own,

with

Petra

in

the

mornings

and

his

friends

at

night.

More

Launchies

were

joining

them

now,

not

on

a

lark

but

because

they

could

see

results--

they

were

getting

better

and

better.

Ender

and

Alai

stayed

ahead

of

them,

though.

In

part,

it

was

because

Alai

kept

trying

new

things,

which

forced

Ender

to

think

of

new

tactics

to

cope

with

them.

In

part

it

was

because

they

kept

making

stupid

mistakes,

which

suggested

things

to

do

that

no

selfrespecting,

well-trained

soldier

would

even

have

tried.

Many

of

the

things

they

attempted

turned

out

to

be

useless.

But

it

was

always

fun,

always

exciting,

and

enough

things

worked

that

they

knew

it

was

helping

them.

Evening

was

the

best

time

of

the

day.

The

next

two

battles

were

easy

Salamander

victories;

Ender

came

in

after

five

minutes

and

remained

untouched

by

the

defeated

enemy.

Ender

began

to

realize

that

Condor

Army,

which

had

beaten

them,

was

unusually

good;

Salamander,

weak

as

Bonzo's

grasp

of

strategy

might

be,

was

one

of

the

better

teams,

climbing

steadily

in

the

ratings,

clawing

for

fourth

place

with

Rat

Army.

Ender

turned

seven.

They

weren't

much

for

dates

and

calendars

at

the

Battle

School,

but

Ender

had

found

out

how

to

bring

up

the

date

on

his

desk,

and

he

noticed

has

birthday.

The

school

noticed

it,

too:

they

took

his

measurements

and

issued

him

a

new

Salamander

uniform

and

a

new

flash

suit

for

the

battleroom.

He

went

back

to

the

barracks

with

the

new

clothing

on.

It

felt

strange

and

loose,

like

his

skin

no

longer

fit

properly.

He

wanted

to

stop

at

Petra's

bunk

and

tell

her

about

his

home,

about

what

his

birthdays

weme

usually

like,

just

tell

her

it

was

his

birthday

so

she'd

say

something

about

it

being

a

happy

one.

But

nobody

told

birthdays.

It

was

childish.

It

was

what

landsiders

did.

Cakes

and

silly

customs.

Valentine

baked

him

his

cake

on

his

sixth

birthday.

It

fell

and

it

was

terrible.

Nobody

knew

how

to

cook

anymore;

it

was

the

kind

of

crazy

thing

Valentine

would

do.

Everybody

teased

Valentine

about

it,

but

Ender

saved

a

little

bit

of

it

in

his

cupboard.

Then

they

took

out

his

monitor

and

he

left

and

for

all

he

knew,

it

was

still

there,

a

little

piece

of

greasy

yellow

dust.

Nobody

talked

about

home,

not

among

the

soldiers;

there

had

been

no

life

before

Battle

School.

Nobody

got

letters,

and

nobody

wrote

any.

Everybody

pretended

that

they

didn't

care.

But

I

do

care,

thought

Ender.

The

only

reason

I'm

here

is

so

that

a

bugger

won't

shoot

out

Valentine's

eye,

won't

blast

her

head

open

like

the

soldiers

in

the

videos

of

the

first

battles

with

the

buggers.

Won't

split

her

head

with

a

beam

so

hot

that

her

brains

burst

the

skull

and

spill

out

like

rising

bread

dough,

the

way

it

happens

in

my

worst

nightmares,

in

my

worst

nights,

when

I

wake

up

trembling

but

silent,

must

keep

silent

or

they'll

hear

that

I

miss

my

family.

I

want

to

go

home.

It

was

better

in

the

morning.

Home

was

merely

a

dull

ache

in

the

back

of

his

memory.

A

tiredness

in

his

eyes.

That

morning

Bonzo

came

in

as

they

were

dressing.

"Flash

suits!"

he

called.

It

was

a

battle.

Ender's

fourth

game.

The

enemy

was

Leopard

Army.

It

would

be

easy.

Leopard

was

new,

and

it

was

always

in

the

bottom

quarter

in

the

standings.

It

had

been

organized

only

six

months

ago,

with

Pol

Slattery

as

its

commander.

Ender

put

on

his

new

battle

suit

and

got

into

line;

Bonzo

pulled

him

roughly

out

of

line

and

made

him

march

at

the

end.

You

didn't

need

to

do

that,

Ender

said

silently.

You

could

have

let

me

stay

in

line.

Ender

watched

from

the

corridor.

Pol

Slattery

was

young,

but

he

was

sharp,

he

had

some

new

ideas.

He

kept

his

soldiers

moving,

darting

from

star

to

star,

wallsliding

to

get

behind

and

above

the

stolid

Salamanders.

Ender

smiled.

Bonzo

was

hopelessly

confused,

and

so

were

his

men.

Leopard

seemed

to

have

men

in

every

direction.

However,

the

battle

was

not

as

lopsided

as

it

seemed.

Ender

noticed

that

Leopard

was

losing

a

lot

of

men,

too--

their

reckless

tactics

exposed

them

too

much.

What

mattered,

however,

was

that

Salamander

was

defeated.

They

had

surrendered

the

initiative

completely.

Though

they

were

still

fairly

evenly

matched

with

the

enemy,

they

huddled

together

like

the

last

survisors

of

a

massacre,

as

if

they

hoped

the

enemy

would

overlook

them

in

the

carnage.

Ender

slipped

slowly

through

the

gate,

oriented

himself

so

the

enemy's

gate

was

down,

and

drifted

slowly

eastward

to

a

corner

where

he

wouidn't

be

noticed.

He

even

fired

at

his

own

legs,

to

hold

them

in

the

kneeling

position

that

offered

him

the

best

protection.

He

looked

to

any

casual

glance

like

another

frozen

soldier

who

had

drifted

helplessly

out

of

the

battle.

With

Salamander

Army

waiting

abjectly

for

destrucdon,

Leopard

obligingly

destroyed

them.

Tney

had

nine

boys

left

when

Salamander

finally

stopped

firing.

They

formed

up

and

started

to

open

the

Salamander

gate.

Ender

aimed

carefully

with

a

straight

arm,

as

Petra

had

taught

him.

Before

anyone

knew

what

was

happening,

he

froze

three

of

the

soldiers

who

were

about

to

press

their

helmets

against

the

lighted

corners

of

the

door.

Then

some

of

the

others

spotted

him

and

fired--

but

at

first

they

hit

only

his

already

frozen

legs.

It

gave

him

time

to

get

the

last

two

men

at

the

gate.

Leopard

had

only

four

men

left

unfrozen

when

Ender

was

finally

hit

in

the

arm

and

disabled.

The

game

was

a

draw,

and

they

never

had

hit

him

in

the

body.

Pol

Slattery

was

furious,

but

there

had

been

nothing

unfair

about

it.

Everyone

in

Leopard

Army

assumed

that

it

bad

been

a

strategy

of

Bonzo's,

to

leave

a

man

till

the

last

minute.

It

didn't

occur

to

them

that

little

Ender

had

fired

against

orders.

But

Salamander

Army

knew.

Bonzo

knew,

and

Ender

could

see

from

the

way

the

commander

looked

at

him

that

Bouzo

hated

him

for

rescuing

him

from

total

defeat.

I

don't

care,

Ender

told

himself.

It

will

just

make

me

easier

to

trade

away,

and

in

the

meantime

you

won't

drop

so

far

in

the

standings.

You

trade

me.

I've

learned

all

I'm

ever

going

to

learn

from

you.

How

to

fail

with

style,

that's

all

you

know,

Bonzo.

What

have

I

learned

so

far?

Ender

listed

things

in

his

mind

as

he

undressed

by

his

bunk.

The

enemy's

gate

is

down.

Use

my

legs

as

a

shield

in

battle.

A

small

reserve,

held

back

until

the

end

of

the

game,

can

be

decisive.

And

soldiers

can

sometimes

make

decisions

that

are

smarter

than

the

orders

they've

been

given.

Naked,

he

was

about

to

climb

into

bed

when

Bonzo

came

toward

him,

his

face

hard

and

set.

I

have

seen

Peter

like

this,

thought

Ender,

silent

with

murder

in

his

eye.

But

Bonzo

is

not

Peter.

Bonzo

has

more

fear.

"Wiggin,

I

finally

traded

you.

I

was

able

to

persuade

Rat

Army

that

your

incredible

place

on

the

efficiency

list

is

more

than

an

accident.

You

go

over

there

tomorrow."

"Thank

you,

sir,"

Ender

said.

Perhaps

he

sounded

too

grateful.

Suddenly

Bonzo

swung

at

him,

caught

his

jaw

with

a

vicious

open-handed

slap.

It

knocked

Ender

sideways,

into

his

bunk,

and

he

almost

fell.

Then

Bonzo

slugged

him,

hard,

in

the

stomach.

Ender

dropped

to

his

knees.

"You

disobeyed

me,"

Bonzo

said.

Loudly,

for

all

to

hear.

"No

good

soldier

ever

disobeys."

Even

as

he

cried

from

the

pain,

Ender

could

not

help

but

take

vengeful

pleasure

in

the

murmurs

he

heard

rising

through

the

barracks.

You

fool,

Bonzo.

You

aren't

enforcing

discipline,

you're

destroying

it.

They

know

I

turned

defeat

into

a

draw.

And

now

they

see

how

you

repay

me.

You

made

yourself

look

stupid

in

front

of

everyone.

What

is

your

discipline

worth

now?

The

next

day,

Ender

told

Petra

that

for

her

sake

the

shooting

practice

in

the

morning

would

have

to

end.

Bonzo

didn't

need

anything

that

looked

like

a

challenge

now,

and

so

she'd

better

stay

clear

of

Ender

for

a

while.

She

understood

perfectly.

"Besides,"

she

said,

"you're

as

close

to

being

a

good

shot

as

you'll

ever

be."

He

left

his

desk

and

flash

suit

in

the

locker.

He

would

wear

his

Salamander

uniform

until

he

could

get

to

the

commissary

and

change

it

for

the

brown

and

black

of

Rat.

He

had

brought

no

possessions

with

him;

he

would

take

none

away.

There

were

none

to

have--

everything

of

value

was

in

the

school

computer

or

his

own

head

and

hands.

He

used

one

of

the

public

desks

in

the

game

room

to

register

for

an

earth-gravity

personal

combat

course

during

the

hour

immediately

after

breakfast.

He

didn't

plan

to

get

vengeance

on

Bonzo

for

hitting

him.

But

he

did

intend

that

no

one

would

he

able

to

do

that

to

him

again.

Chapter

8

--

Rat

"Colonel

Graff,

the

games

have

always

been

run

fairly

before.

Either

random

distribution

of

stars,

or

symmetrical."

"Fairness

is

a

wonderful

attribute,

Major

Anderson.

It

has

nothing

to

do

with

war."

"The

game

will

be

compromised.

The

comparative

standings

will

become

meaningless."

"Alas."

"It

will

take

months.

Years,

to

develop

the

new

battlerooms

and

run

the

simulations."

"That's

why

I'm

asking

you

now.

To

begin.

Be

creative.

Think

of

every

stacked,

impossible,

unfair

star

arrangement

you

can.

Think

of

other

ways

to

bend

the

rules.

Late

notification.

Unequal

forces.

Then

run

the

simulations

and

see

which

ones

are

hardest,

which

easiest.

We

want

an

intelligent

progression

here.

We

want

to

bring

him

along."

"When

do

you

plan

to

make

him

a

commander?

When

he's

eight?"

"Of

course

not.

I

haven't

even

assembled

his

army

yet."

"Oh,

so

you're

stacking

it

that

way,

too?"

"You're

getting

too

close

to

the

game,

Anderson.

You're

forgetting

that

it

is

merely

a

training

exercise.

"It's

also

status,

identity,

purpose,

name;

all

that

makes

these

children

who

they

are

comes

out

of

this

game.

When

it

becomes

known

that

the

game

can

be

manipulated,

weighted,

cheated,

it

will

undo

this

whole

school.

I'm

not

exaggerating."

"I

know."

"So

I

hope

Ender

Wiggin

truly

is

the

one,

because

you'll

have

defeated

the

effectiveness

of

our

training

method

for

a

long

time

to

come."

"If

Ender

isn't

the

one,

if

his

peak

of

military

brilliance

does

not

coincide

with

the

arrival

of

our

fleets

at

the

bugger

homeworlds,

then

it

doesn't

really

matter

what

our

training

method

is

or

isn't."

"I

hope

you

will

forgive

me,

Colonel

Graff,

but

I

feel

that

I

must

report

your

orders

and

my

opinion

of

their

consequences

to

the

Strategos

and

the

Hegemon."

"Why

not

our

dear

Polemarch?"

"Everybody

knows

you

have

him

in

your

pocket."

"Such

hostility

Major

Anderson.

And

I

thought

we

were

friends."

"We

are.

And

I

think

you

may

ne

right

about

Ender.

I

just

don't

believe

you,

and

you

alone,

should

decide

the

fate

of

the

world."

"I

don't

even

think

it's

right

for

me

to

decide

the

fate

of

Ender

Wiggin."

"So

you

won't

mind

if

I

notify

them?"

"Of

course

I

mind,

you

meddlesome

ass.

This

is

something

to

be

decided

by

people

who

know

what

they're

doing,

not

these

frightened

politicians

who

got

their

office

because

they

happen

to

be

politically

potent

in

the

country

they

came

from."

"But

you

understand

why

I'm

doing

it."

"Because

you're

such

a

short-sighted

little

bureaucratic

bastard

that

you

think

you

need

to

cover

yourself

in

case

things

go

wrong.

Well,

if

things

go

wrong

we'll

all

be

bugger

meat.

So

trust

me

now,

Anderson,

and

don't

bring

the

whole

damn

Hegemony

down

on

review.

What

I'm

doing

is

hard

enough

without

them."

"Oh,

is

it

unfair?

Are

things

stacked

against

you?

You

can

do

it

to

Ender,

but

you

can't

take

it,

is

that

it?"

"Ender

Wiggin

is

ten

times

smarter

and

stronger

than

am.

What

I'm

doing

to

him

will

bring

out

his

genius.

If

I

had

to

go

through

it

myself,

it

would

crush

me.

Major

Anderson,

I

know

I'm

wrecking

the

game,

and

I

know

you

love

it

better

than

any

of

the

boys

who

play.

Hate

me

if

you

like,

but

don't

stop

me."

"I

reserve

the

right

to

communicate

with

the

Hegemony

and

the

Strategoi

at

any

time.

But

for

now

do

what

you

want."

"Thank

you

ever

so

kindly."

***

"Ender

Wiggin,

the

little

farthead

who

leads

the

standings,

what

a

pleasure

to

have

you

with

us."

The

commander

of

Rat

Army

lay

sprawled

on

a

lower

bunk

wearing

only

his

desk.

"With

you

around,

how

can

any

army

lose?"

Several

of

the

boys

nearby

laughed.

There

could

not

here

been

two

more

opposite

armies

than

Samamander

and

Rat.

The

room

was

rumpled,

cluttered,

noisy.

Alter

Bonzo

Ender

had

thought

that

indiscipline

would

be

a

welcome

relief.

Instead,

he

found

that

he

had

come

to

expet

quiet

and

order,

and

the

disorder

here

made

him

uncomfortable.

"We

doing

OK,

Ender

Bender.

I

Rose

de

Nose,

Jewboy

extraordinaire,

and

you

ain't

nothin

but

a

pinheaded

pinprick

of

a

goy.

Don't

you

forget

it."

Since

the

IF

was

formed

the

Strategos

of

the

military

forces

had

always

been

a

Jew.

There

was

a

myth

that

Jewish

generals

didn't

lose

wars.

And

so

far

it

was

still

true.

It

made

any

Jew

at

the

Battle

School

dream

of

being

Strategos,

and

conferred

prestige

on

him

from

the

start.

It

also

caused

resentment.

Rat

Army

was

often

called

the

Kike

Force,

half

in

parody

of

Mazer

Rackham's

Strike

Force.

There

were

many

who

liked

to

remember

that

during

the

Second

Invasion,

even

though

an

American

Jew,

as

President,

was

Hegemon

of

the

alliance,

an

Israeli

Jew

was

Strategos

in

overall

command

of

IF,

and

a

Russian

Jew

was

Polemarch

of

the

fleet,

it

was

Mazer

Rackham,

a

little-known,

twicecourt-martialled,

half-Maori

New

Zealander

whose

Strike

Force

broke

up

and

finally

destroyed

the

bugger

fleet

in

the

action

around

Saturn.

If

Mazer

Rackham

could

save

the

world,

then

it

didn't

matter

a

bit

whether

you

were

a

Jew

or

not,

people

said.

But

it

did

matter,

and

Rose

the

Nose

knew

it.

He

mocked

himself

to

forestall

the

mocking

comments

of

anti-semites--

almost

everyone

he

defeated

in

battle

became,

at

least

for

a

time,

a

Jew-hater--

but

he

also

made

sure

everyone

knew

what

he

was.

His

army

was

in

second

place,

bucking

for

first.

"I

took

you

on,

goy,

because

I

didn't

want

people

to

think

I

only

win

because

I

got

great

soldiers.

I

want

them

to

know

that

even

with

a

little

puke

of

a

soldier

like

you

I

can

still

win.

We

only

got

three

rules

here.

Do

what

I

tell

you

and

don't

piss

in

the

bed."

Ender

nodded.

He

knew

that

Rose

wanted

him

to

ask

what

the

third

rule

was.

So

he

did.

"That

was

three

rules.

We

don't

do

too

good

in

math

here."

The

message

was

clear.

Winning

is

more

important

than

anything.

"Your

practice

sessions

with

half-assed

little

Launchies

are

over,

Wiggin.

Done.

You're

in

a

big

boys'

army

now.

I'm

putting

you

in

Dink

Meeker's

toon.

From

now

on,

as

far

as

you're

concerned,

Dink

Meeker

is

God."

"Then

who

are

you?"

"The

personnel

officer

who

hired

God."

Rose

grinned.

"And

you

are

forbidden

to

use

your

desk

again

until

you've

frozen

two

enemy

soldiers

in

the

same

battle.

This

order

is

out

of

self-defense.

I

hear

you're

a

genius

programmer.

I

don't

want

you

screwing

around

with

my

desk.

Everybody

erupted

in

laughter.

It

took

Ender

a

moment

to

understand

why.

Rose

had

programmed

his

desk

to

display--

and

animate--

a

bigger-than-life

sized

picture

of

male

genitals,

which

waggled

back

and

forth

as

Rose

held

the

desk

on

his

naked

lap.

This

is

just

the

sort

of

commander

Bonzo

would

trade

me

to,

thought

Ender.

How

does

a

boy

who

spends

his

time

like

this

win

battles?

Ender

found

Dink

Meeker

in

the

game

room,

not

playing,

just

sitting

and

watching.

"A

guy

pointed

you

out,"

Ender

said.

"I'm

Ender

Wiggin."

"I

know,"

said

Meeker.

"I'm

in

your

toon."

"I

know,"

he

said

again.

"I'm

pretty

inexperienced."

Dink

looked

up

at

him.

"Look,

Wiggin,

I

know

all

this.

Why

do

you

think

I

asked

Rose

to

get

you

for

me?"

He

had

not

been

dumped,

he

had

been

picked

up,

he

had

been

asked

for.

Meeker

wanted

him.

"Why?"

asked

Ender.

"I've

watched

your

practice

sessions

with

the

Launchies.

I

think

you

show

some

promise.

Bonzo

is

stupid

and

I

wanted

you

to

get

better

training

than

Petra

could

give

you.

All

she

can

do

is

shoot."

"I

needed

to

learn

that."

"You

still

move

like

you

were

afraid

to

wet

your

pants."

"So

teach

me."

"So

learn."

"I'm

not

going

to

quit

my

freetime

practice

sessions."

"I

don't

want

you

to

quit

them."

"Rose

the

Nose

does."

"Rose

the

Nose

can't

stop

you.

Likewise,

he

can't

stop

you

from

using

your

desk."

"I

thought

commanders

could

order

anything."

"They

can

order

the

moon

to

turn

blue,

too,

but

it

doesn't

happen.

Listen,

Ender,

commanders

have

just

as

much

authority

as

you

let

them

have.

The

more

you

obey

them,

the

more

power

they

have

over

you."

"What's

to

stop

them

from

hurting

me?"

Ender

remembered

Bonzo's

blow.

"I

thought

that

was

why

you

were

taking

personal

attack

classes."

"You've

really

been

watching

me,

haven't

you?"

Dink

didn't

answer.

"I

don't

want

to

get

Rose

mad

at

me.

I

want

to

be

part

of

the

battles

now,

I'm

tired

of

sitting

out

till

the

end."

"Your

standings

will

go

down."

This

time

Ender

didn't

answer.

"Listen,

Ender,

as

long

as

you're

part

of

my

toon,

you're

part

of

the

battle."

Ender

soon

learned

why.

Dink

trained

his

toon

independently

from

the

rest

of

Rat

Army,

with

discipline

and

vigor;

he

never

consulted

with

Rose,

and

only

rarely

did

the

whole

army

maneuver

together.

It

was

as

if

Rose

commanded

one

army,

and

Dink

commanded

a

much

smaller

one

that

happened

to

practice

in

the

battleroom

at

the

same

time.

Dink

started

out

the

first

practice

by

asking

Ender

to

demonstrate

his

feet-first

attack

position.

The

other

boys

didn't

like

it.

"How

can

we

attack

lying

on

our

backs?"

they

asked.

To

Ender's

surprise,

Dink

didn't

correct

them,

didn't

say,

"You

aren't

attacking

on

your

back,

you're

dropping

downward

toward

them."

He

had

seen

what

Ender

was

doing,

but

he

had

not

understood

the

orientation

that

it

implied.

It

soon

became

clear

to

Ender

that

even

though

Dink

was

very,

very

good,

his

persistence

in

holding

onto

the

corridor

gravity

orientation

instead

of

thinking

of

the

enemy

gate

as

downward

was

limiting

his

thinking.

They

practiced

attacking

an

enemy-held

star.

Before

trying

Ender's

feet-first

method,

they

had

always

gone

in

standing

up,

their

whole

bodies

available

as

a

target.

Even

now,

though,

they

reached

the

star

and

then

assaulted

the

enemy

from

one

direction

only;

"Over

the

top,"

cried

Dink,

and

over

they

went.

To

his

credit,

he

then

repeated

the

exercise,

calling,

"Again,

upside

down,"

but

because

of

their

insistence

on

a

gravity

that

didn't

exist,

the

boys

became

awkward

when

the

maneuver

was

under,

as

if

vertigo

seized

them.

They

hated

the

feet-first

attack.

Dink

insisted

that

they

use

it.

As

a

result,

they

hated

Ender.

"Do

we

have

to

learn

how

to

fight

from

a

Launchy?"

one

of

them

muttered,

making

sure

Ender

could

hear.

"Yes,"

answered

Dink.

They

kept

working.

And

they

learned

it.

In

practice

skirmishes,

they

began

to

realize

how

much

harder

it

was

to

shoot

an

enemy

attacking

feet

first.

As

soon

as

they

were

convinced

of

that,

they

practiced

the

maneuver

more

willingly.

That

night

was

the

first

time

Ender

had

come

to

a

practice

session

after

a

whole

afternoon

of

work.

He

was

tired.

"Now

you're

in

a

real

army,"

said

Alai.

"You

don't

have

to

keep

practicing

with

us."

"From

you

I

can

learn

things

that

nobody

knows,"

said

Ender.

"Dink

Meeker

is

the

best.

I

hear

he's

your

toon

leader."

"Then

let's

get

busy.

I'll

teach

you

what

I

learned

from

him

today."

He

put

Alai

and

two

dozen

others

through

the

same

exercises

that

had

worn

him

out

all

afternoon.

But

he

put

new

touches

on

the

patterns,

made

the

boys

try

the

maneuvers

with

one

leg

frozen,

with

both

legs

frozen,

or

using

frozen

boys

for

leverage

to

change

directions.

Halfway

through

the

practice,

Ender

noticed

Petra

and

Dink

together,

standing

in

the

doorway,

watching.

Later,

when

he

looked

again,

they

were

gone.

So

they're

watching

me,

and

what

we're

doing

is

known.

He

did

not

know

whether

Dink

was

his

friend;

he

believed

that

Petra

was,

but

nothing

could

be

sure.

They

might

be

angry

that

he

was

dome

what

only

commanders

and

toon

leaders

were

supposed

to

do--

drilling

and

training

soldiers.

They

might

be

offended

that

a

soldier

would

associate

so

closely

with

Launchies.

It

made

him

uneasy,

to

have

older

chiidrcn

watching.

"I

thought

I

told

you

not

to

use

your

desk."

Rose

the

Nose

stood

by

Ender's

bunk.

Ender

did

not

look

up.

"I'm

completing

the

trigonometry

assignment

for

tomorrow."

Rose

bumped

his

knee

into

Ender's

desk.

"I

said

not

to

use

it."

Ender

set

the

desk

on

his

bunk

and

stood

up.

"I

need

trigonometry

more

than

I

need

you."

Rose

was

taller

than

Ender

by

at

least

forty

centimeters.

But

Ender

was

not

particularly

worried.

It

would

not

come

to

physical

violence,

and

if

it

did,

Ender

thought

he

could

hold

his

own.

Rose

was

lazy

and

didn't

know

personal

combat.

"You're

going

down

in

the

standings,

boy,"

said

Rose.

"I

expect

to.

I

was

only

leading

the

list

because

of

the

stupid

way

Salamander

Army

was

using

me."

"Stupid?

Bonzo's

strategy

won

a

couple

of

key

games."

"Bonzo's

strategy

wouldn't

win

a

salad

fight.

I

was

violating

orders

every

time

I

fired

my

gun."

Rose

hadn't

known

that.

It

made

him

angry.

"So

everything

Bonzo

said

about

you

was

a

lie.

You're

not

only

short

and

incompetent,

you're

insubordinate,

too."

"But

I

turned

defeat

into

stalemate,

all

by

myself."

"We'll

see

how

you

do

all

by

yourself

next

time."

Rose

went

away.

One

of

Ender's

toonmates

shook

his

head.

"You

dumb

as

a

thumb."

Ender

looked

at

Dink,

who

was

doodling

on

his

desk.

Dink

looked

up,

noticed

Ender

watching

him,

and

gazed

steadily

back

at

him.

No

expression.

Nothing.

OK,

thought

Ender,

I

can

take

care

of

myself.

Battle

came

two

day's

later.

It

was

Ender's

first

time

fighting

as

part

of

a

toon;

he

was

nervous.

Dink's

toon

lined

up

against

the

right-hand

wall

of

the

corridor

and

Ender

was

very

careful

not

to

lean,

not

to

let

his

weight

slip

to

either

side.

Stay

balanced.

"Wiggin!"

called

Rose

the

Nose.

Ender

felt

dread

come

over

him

from

throat

to

groin.

a

tingle

of

fear

that

made

him

shudder.

Rose

saw

it.

"Shivering?

Trembling?

Don't

wet

your

pants,

little

Launchy."

Rose

hooked

a

finger

over

the

butt

of

Ender's

gun

and

pulled

him

to

the

forcefield

that

hid

the

battleroom

from

view.

"We'll

see

how

well

you

do

now,

Ender.

As

soon

as

that

door

opens,

you

jump

through,

go

straight

ahead

toward

the

enemy's

door."

Suicide.

Pointless,

meaningless

self-destruction.

But

he

had

to

follow

orders

now,

this

was

battle,

not

school.

For

a

moment

Ender

raged

silently;

then

he

calmed

himself.

"Excellent,

sir,"

he

said.

"The

direction

I

fire

my

gun

is

the

direction

of

their

main

contingent."

Rose

laughed.

"You

won't

have

time

to

fire

anything,

pinprick."

The

wall

vanished.

Ender

jumped

up,

took

hold

of

the

ceiling

handholds,

and

threw

himself

out

and

down,

speeding

toward

the

enemy

door.

It

was

Centipede

Army,

and

they

only

beginning

to

emerge

from

their

door

when

Ender

was

halfway

across

the

battleroom.

Many

of

them

were

able

to

get

under

cover

of

stars

quickly

but

Ender

had

doubled

up

his

legs

under

him

and,

holding

his

pistol

at

his

crotch,

he

was

firing

between

his

legs

and

freezing

many

of

them

as

they

emerged.

They

flashed

his

legs,

but

he

had

three

precious

seconds

before

they

coud

hit

his

body

and

put

him

out

of

action.

He

froze

several

more,

then

flung

out

his

arms

in

equal

and

opposite

directions.

The

hand

that

held

his

gun

ended

up

pointing

toward

the

main

body

of

Centipede

Army.

He

fired

into

the

mass

of

the

enemy,

and

then

they

froze

him.

A

second

later

he

smashed

into

the

forcefield

of

the

enemy's

door

and

rebounded

with

a

crazy

spin.

He

landed

in

a

group

of

enemy

soldiers

behind

a

star;

they

shoved

him

off

and

spun

him

even

more

rapidly.

He

rebounded

out

of

control

through

the

rest

of

the

battle,

though

gradually

friction

with

the

air

slowed

him

down.

He

had

no

way

of

knowing

how

many

men

he

had

frozen

before

getting

iced

himself,

but

he

did

get

the

general

idea

that

Rat

Army

won

again,

as

usual.

After

the

battle

Rose

didn't

speak

to

him.

Ender

was

still

first

in

the

standings,

since

he

had

frozen

three,

disabled

two,

and

damaged

seven.

There

was

no

more

talk

about

insubordination

and

whether

Ender

could

use

his

desk.

Rose

stayed

in

his

part

of

the

barracks,

and

left

Ender

alone.

Dink

Meeker

began

to

practice

instant

emergence

from

the

corridor--

Ender's

attack

on

the

enemy

while

they

were

still

coming

out

of

the

door

had

been

devastating.

"If

one

man

can

do

that

much

damage,

think

what

a

toon

can

do."

Dink

got

Major

Anderson

to

open

a

door

in

the

middle

of

a

wall,

even

during

practice

sessions,

instead

of

just

the

floor

level

door,

so

they

could

practice

launching

under

battle

conditions.

Word

got

around.

From

now

on

no

one

could

take

five

or

ten

ar

fifteen

seconds

in

the

corridor

to

size

things

up.

The

game

had

changed.

More

battles.

This

time

Ender

played

a

proper

role

within

a

toon.

He

made

mistakes.

Skirmishes

were

lost.

He

dropped

from

first

to

second

in

the

standings,

then

to

fourth.

Then

he

made

fewer

mistakes,

and

began

to

feel

comfortable

within

the

framework

of

the

toon,

and

he

went

back

up

to

third,

then

second,

then

first.

After

practice

one

afternoon,

Ender

stayed

in

the

battleroom.

He

had

noticed

that

Dink

Meeker

usually

came

late

to

dinner,

and

he

assumed

it

was

for

extra

practice.

Ender

wasn't

very

hungry,

and

he

wanted

to

see

what

it

was

Dink

practiced

when

no

one

else

could

see.

But

Dink

didn't

practice.

He

stood

near

the

door,

watching

Ender.

Ender

stood

across

the

room,

watching

Dink.

Neither

spoke.

It

was

plain

Dink

expected

Ender

to

leave.

It

was

just

as

plain

that

Ender

was

saying

no.

Dink

turned

his

back

on

Ender,

methodically

took

off

his

flash

suit,

and

gently

pushed

off

from

the

floor.

He

drifted

slowly

toward

the

center

of

the

room,

very

slowly,

his

body

relaxing

almost

completely,

so

that

his

hands

and

arms

seemed

to

be

caught

by

almost

nonexistent

air

currents

in

the

room.

After

the

speed

and

tension

of

practice,

the

exhaustion,

the

alertness,

it

was

restful

just

to

watch

him

drift.

He

did

it

for

ten

minutes

or

so

before

he

reached

another

wall.

Then

he

pushed

off

rather

sharply,

returned

to

his

flash

suit,

and

pulled

it

on.

"Come

on,"

he

said

to

Ender.

They

went

to

the

barracks.

The

room

was

empty,

since

all

the

boys

were

at

dinner.

Each

went

to

his

own

bunk

and

changed

into

regular

uniforms.

Ender

walked

to

Dink's

bunk

and

waited

for

a

moment

till

Dink

was

ready

to

go.

"Why

did

you

wait?"

asked

Dink.

"Wasn't

hungry."

"Well,

now

you

know

why

I'm

not

a

commander."

Ender

had

wondered.

"Acttually,

they

promoted

me

twice,

and

I

refused."

"Refused?"

"They

took

away

my

old

locker

and

bunk

and

desk,

assigned

me

to

a

commander

cabin

and

gave

me

an

army.

But

I

just

stayed

in

the

cabin

until

they

gave

in

and

put

me

back

into

somebody

else's

army."

"Why?"

"Because

I

won't

let

them

do

it

to

me.

I

can't

believe

you

haven't

seen

through

all

this

crap

yet,

Ender.

But

I

guess

you're

young.

These

other

armies,

they

aren't

the

enemy.

It's

the

teachers,

they're

the

enemy.

They

get

us

to

fight

each

other,

to

hate

each

other.

The

game

is

everything.

Win

win

win,

it

amounts

to

nothing.

We

kill

ourselves,

go

crazy

trying

to

beat

each

other,

and

all

the

time

the

old

bastards

are

watching

us,

studying

us,

discovering

our

weak

points,

deciding

whether

we're

good

enough

or

not.

Well,

good

enough

for

what?

I

was

six

years

old

when

they

brought

me

here.

What

the

hell

did

I

know?

They

decided

I

was

right

for

the

program,

but

nobody

ever

asked

me

if

the

program

was

right

for

me."

"So

why

don't

you

go

home?"

Dink

smiled

crookedly.

"Because

I

can't

give

up

the

game."

He

tugged

at

the

fabric

of

his

flash

suit,

which

lay

on

the

bunk

beside

him.

"Because

I

love

this."

"So

why

not

be

a

commander?"

Dink

shook

his

head.

"Never.

Look

what

it

does

to

Rosen.

The

boy's

crazy.

Rose

de

Nose.

Sleeps

in

here

with

us

instead

of

in

his

cabin.

Why?

Because

he's

scared

to

be

alone,

Ender.

Scared

of

the

dark."

"Rose?"

"But

they

made

him

a

commander

and

so

he

has

to

act

like

one.

He

doesn't

know

what

he's

doing.

He's

winning,

but

that

scares

him

worst

of

all,

because

he

doesn't

know

what

he's

winning,

except

that

I

have

something

to

do

with

it.

Any

minute

somebody

could

find

out

that

Rosen

isn't

some

magic

Israeli

general

who

can

win

no

matter

what.

He

doesn't

know

why

anybody

wins

or

loses.

Nobody

does."

"It

doesn't

mean

he's

crazy,

Dink."

"I

know,

you've

been

here

a

year,

you

think

these

people

are

normal.

Well,

they're

not.

We're

not.

I

look

in

the

library,

I

call

up

books

on

my

desk.

Old

ones,

because

they

won't

let

us

have

anything

new,

but

I've

got

a

pretty

good

idea

what

children

are,

and

we're

not

children.

Children

can

lose

sometimes,

and

nobody

cares.

Children

aren't

in

armies,

they

aren't

commanders,

they

don't

rule

over

forty

other

kids,

it's

more

than

anybody

can

take

and

not

get

a

little

crazy."

Ender

tried

to

remember

what

other

children

were

like,

in

his

class

at

school,

back

in

the

city.

But

all

he

could

think

of

was

Stilson.

"I

had

a

brother.

Just

a

normal

guy.

All

he

cared

about

was

girls.

And

flying.

He

wanted

to

fly.

He

used

to

play

ball

with

the

guys.

A

pickup

game,

shooting

balls

at

a

hoop,

dribbling

down

the

corridors

until

the

peace

officers

confiscated

your

ball.

We

had

a

great

time.

He

was

teaching

me

how

to

dribble

when

I

was

taken."

Ender

remembered

his

own

brother,

and

the

memory

was

not

fond.

Dink

misunderstood

the

expression

on

Ender's

face.

"Hey,

I

know,

nobody's

supposed

to

talk

about

home.

But

we

came

from

somewhere.

The

Battle

School

didn't

create

us,

you

know.

The

Battle

School

doesn't

create

anything.

It

just

destroys.

And

we

all

remember

things

from

home.

Maybe

not

good

things,

but

we

remember

and

then

we

lie

and

pretend

that--

look,

Ender,

why

is

that

nobody

talks

about

home,

ever?

Doesn't

that

tell

you

how

important

it

is?

That

nobody

even

admits

that--

oh

hell."

"No,

it's

all

right,"

Ender

said.

"I

was

just

thinking

about

Valentine.

My

sister."

"I

wasn't

trying

to

make

you

upset."

"It's

OK.

I

don't

think

of

hut

very

much,

because

I

always

get

like

this."

"That's

right,

we

never

cry.

Christ,

I

never

thought

of

that.

Nobody

ever

cries.

We

really

are

trying

to

be

adult.

Just

like

our

fathers.

I

bet

your

father

was

like

you.

I

bet

he

was

quiet

and

took

it,

and

then

busted

out

and--"

"I'm

not

like

my

father."

"So

maybe

I'm

wrong.

But

look

at

Bonzo,

your

old

commander.

He's

got

an

advanced

case

of

Spanish

honor.

He

can't

allow

himself

to

have

weaknesses.

To

be

better

than

him,

that's

an

insult.

To

be

stronger,

that's

like

cutting

off

his

balls.

That's

why

he

hates

you,

because

you

didn't

suffer

when

he

tried

to

punish

you.

He

hates

you

for

that,

he

honestly

wants

to

kill

you.

He's

crazy.

They're

all

crazy."

"And

you

aren't?"

"I

be

crazy

too,

little

buddy,

but

at

least

when

I

be

craziest,

I

be

floating

all

alone

in

space

and

the

crazy,

she

float

out

of

me,

she

soak

into

the

walls,

and

she

don't

come

out

till

there

be

battles

and

little

boy's

bump

into

the

walls

and

squish

out

de

crazy."

Ender

smiled.

"And

you

be

crazy

too,"

said

Dink.

"Come

on,

let's

go

eat."

"Maybe

you

can

be

a

commander

and

not

be

crazy.

Maybe

knowing

about

the

craziness

means

you

don't

have

to

fall

for

it."

"I'm

not

going

to

let

the

bastards

run

me,

Ender.

They've

got

you

pegged,

too,

and

they

don't

plan

to

treat

you

kindly,

look

what

they've

done

to

you

so

far."

"They

haven't

done

anything

except

promote

me."

"And

she

make

you

life

so

easy,

neh?"

Ender

laughed

and

shook

his

head.

"So

maybe

you're

right."

"They

think

they

got

you

on

ice.

Don't

let

them."

"But

that's

what

I

came

for,"

Ender

said.

"For

them

to

make

me

into

a

tool.

To

save

the

world."

"I

can't

believe

you

still

believe

it."

"Believe

what?"

"The

bugger

menace.

Save

the

world.

Listen.

Ender,

if

the

buggers

were

coming

back

to

get

us,

they'd

he

here.

They

aren't

invading

again.

We

beat

them

and

they're

gone.

"But

the

videos--"

"All

from

the

First

and

Second

Invasions.

Your

grandparents

weren't

born

yet

when

Mazer

Rackham

wiped

them

out.

You

watch.

It's

all

a

fake.

There

is

no

war,

and

they're

just

screwing

around

with

us."

"But

why?"

"Because

as

long

as

people

are

afraid

ot

the

buggers,

the

IF

can

stay

in

power,

and

as

long

as

the

IF

is

in

power,

certain

countries

can

keep

their

hegemony.

But

keep

watching

the

vids,

Ender.

People

will

catch

onto

this

game

pretty

soon,

and

there'll

be

a

civil

war

to

end

all

wars.

That

is

the

menace,

Ender,

not

the

buggers.

And

in

that

war,

when

it

comes,

you

and

I

won't

be

friends.

Because

you're

American,

just

like

our

dear

teachers.

And

I

am

not."

They

went

to

the

mess

hall

and

ate,

talking

about

other

things.

But

Ender

could

not

stop

thinking

about

what

Dink

had

said.

The

Battle

School

was

so

enclosed,

the

game

so

important

in

the

minds

of

the

children,

that

Ender

had

forgotten

there

was

a

world

outside.

Spanish

honor.

Civil

war.

Politics.

The

Battle

School

was

really

a

very

small

place,

wasn't

it?

But

Ender

did

not

reach

Dink's

conclusions.

The

buggers

were

real.

The

threat

was

real.

The

IF

controlled

a

lot

of

things,

but

it

didn't

control

the

videos

and

the

nets.

Not

where

Ender

had

grown

up.

In

Dink's

home

in

the

Netherlands,

with

three

generations

under

Russian

hegemony,

perhaps

it

was

all

controlled,

but

Ender

knew

that

lies

could

not

last

long

in

America.

So

he

believed.

Believed,

but

the

seed

of

doubt

was

there,

and

it

stayed,

and

every

now

and

then

sent

out

a

little

root.

It

changed

everything,

to

have

that

seed

growing.

It

made

Ender

listen

more

carefully

to

what

people

meant,

instead

of

what

they

said.

It

made

him

wise.

***

There

weren't

as

many

boys

at

the

evening

practice,

not

by

half.

"Where's

Bernard?"

asked

Ender.

Alai

grinned.

Shen

closed

his

eves

and

assumed

a

look

of

blissful

meditation.

"Haven't

you

heard?"

said

another

boy,

a

Launchy

from

a

younger

group.

"Word's

out

that

any

Launchy

who

comes

to

your

practice

sessions

won't

ever

amount

to

anything

in

anybody's

army.

Word's

out

that

the

commanders

don't

want

any

soldiers

who've

been

damaged

by

your

training."

Ender

nodded.

"But

the

way

I

brain

it,"

said

the

Launchy,

"I

be

the

best

soldier

I

can,

and

any

commander

worth

a

damn,

he

take

me.

Neh?"

"Eh,"

said

Ender,

with

finality.

They

went

on

with

practice.

About

a

half

hour

into

it,

when

they

were

practicing

throwing

off

collisions

with

frozen

soldiers,

several

commanders

in

different

uniforms

came

in.

They

ostentatiously

took

down

names.

"Hey,"

shouted

Alai.

"Make

sure

you

spell

my

name

right!"

The

next

night

there

were

even

fewer

boys.

Now

Ender

was

hearing

the

stories

little

Launchies

getting

slapped

around

in

the

bathrooms,

or

having

accidents

in

the

mess

hall

and

the

game

room,

or

getting

their

files

trashed

by

older

boys

who

had

broken

the

primitive

security

system

that

guarded

the

Launchies'

desks.

"No

practice

tonight,"

Ender

said.

"The

hell

there's

not,"

said

Alai.

"Give

it

a

few

days.

I

don't

want

any

of

the

little

kids

getting

hurt."

"If

you

stop,

even

one

night,

they'll

figure

it

works

to

do

this

kind

of

thing.

Just

like

if

you'd

ever

backed

down

to

Bernard

back

when

he

was

being

a

swine."

"Besides,"

said

Shen.

"We

aren't

scared

and

we

don't

care,

so

you

owe

it

to

us

to

go

on.

We

need

the

practice

and

so

do

you."

Ender

remembered

what

Dink

had

said.

The

game

was

trivial

compared

to

the

whole

world.

Why

should

anybody

give

every

night

of

his

life

to

this

stupid,

stupid

game?

"We

don't

accomplish

that

much

anyway,"

Ender

said.

He

started

to

leave.

Aiai

stopped

him.

"They

scare

you,

too?

They

slap

you

up

in

the

bathroom?

Stick

you

head

in

the

pissah?

Somebody

gots

a

gun

up

you

bung?"

"No,"

Ender

said.

"You

still

my

friend?"

asked

Alai,

more

quietly.

"Yes."

"Then

I

still

you

friend,

Ender,

and

I

stay

here

and

practice

with

you."

The

older

boys

came

again,

but

fewer

of

them

were

commanders.

Most

were

members

of

a

couple

of

armies.

Ender

recognized

Salamander

uniforms.

Even

a

couple

of

Rats.

They

didn't

take

names

this

time.

Instead,

they

mocked

and

shouted

and

ridiculed

as

the

Launchies

tried

to

master

difficult

skills

with

untrained

muscles.

It

began

to

get

to

a

few

of

the

boys.

"Listen

to

them,"

Ender

said

to

the

other

boys.

"Remember

the

words.

If

you

ever

want

to

make

your

enemy

crazy,

shout

that

kind

of

stuff

at

them.

It

makes

them

do

dumb

things,

to

be

mad.

But

we

don't

get

mad."

Shen

took

the

idea

to

heart,

and

after

each

jibe

from

the

older

boys,

he

had

a

group

of

four

Launchies

recite

the

words,

loudly,

five

or

six

times.

When

they

started

singing

the

taunts

like

nursery

rhymes,

some

of

the

older

boys

launched

themselves

from

the

wall

and

came

out

for

a

fight.

The

flash

suits

were

designed

for

wars

fought

with

harmless

light;

they

offered

little

protection

and

seriously

hampered

movement

if

it

came

to

hand-to-hand

fighting

in

nullo.

Half

the

boys

were

flashed,

anyway,

and

couldn't

fight;

but

the

stiffness

of

their

suits

made

them

potentially

useful.

Ender

quickly

ordered

his

Launchies

to

gather

in

one

corner

of

the

room.

The

older

boys

laughed

at

them

even

more,

and

some

who

had

waited

by

the

wall

came

forward

to

join

in

the

attack,

seeing

Ender's

group

in

retreat.

Ender

and

Alai

decided

to

throw

a

frozen

soldier

in

the

face

of

an

enemy.

The

frozen

Launchy

struck

helmet

first,

and

the

two

careened

off

each

other.

The

older

boy

clutched

his

chest

whcrc

the

helmet

had

hit

him,

and

screamed

in

pain.

The

mockery

was

over.

The

rest

of

the

older

boys

launched

themselves

to

enter

the

battle.

Ender

didn't

really

have

much

hope

of

any

of

the

boy's

getting

away

without

some

injury.

But

the

enemy

was

coming

haphazardly,

uncoordinatedly;

they

had

never

worked

together

before,

while

Ender's

little

practice

army,

though

there

were

only

a

dozen

of

them

now,

knew

each

other

well

and

knew

how

to

work

together.

"Go

nova!"

shouted

Ender.

The

other

boys

laughed.

They

gathered

into

three

groups,

feet

together,

squatting,

holding

hands

so

they

formed

small

stars

against

the

back

wall.

"We'll

go

around

them

and

make

for

the

door.

Now!"

At

his

signal,

the

three

stars

burst

apart,

each

boy

launching

in

a

different

direction,

but

angled

so

he

could

rebound

off

a

wall

and

head

for

the

door.

Since

all

of

the

enemy

were

in

the

middle

of

the

room,

where

course

changes

were

far

more

difficult,

it

was

an

easy

maneuver

to

carry

out.

Ender

had

positioned

himself

so

that

when

he

launched,

he

would

rendezvous

with

the

frozen

soldier

he

had

just

used

as

a

missile.

The

boy

wasn't

frozen

now,

and

he

let

Ender

catch

him,

whirl

him

around

and

send

him

toward

the

door,

Unfortunately,

the

necessary

result

of

the

action

was

for

Ender

to

head

in

the

opposite

direction,

and

at

a

reduced

speed.

Alone

of

all

his

soldiers,

he

was

drifting

fairly

slowly,

and

at

the

end

of

the

battleroom

where

the

older

boys

were

gathered.

He

shifted

himself

so

he

could

see

that

all

his

soldiers

were

sarely

gathered

at

the

far

wall.

In

the

meantime,

the

furious

and

disorganized

enemy

had

just

spotted

him.

Ender

calculated

how

soon

he

would

reach

the

wall

so

he

could

launch

again.

Not

soon

enough.

Several

enemies

had

already

rebounded

toward

him.

Ender

was

startled

to

see

Stilson's

face

among

them.

Then

he

shuddered

and

realized

he

had

been

wrong.

Still,

it

was

the

same

situation,

and

this

time

they

wouldn't

sit

still

for

a

single

combat

settlement.

There

was

no

leader,

as

far

as

Ender

knew,

and

these

boys

were

a

lot

bigger

than

him.

Still,

he

had

learned

some

things

about

weightshifting

in

personal

combat

class,

and

about

the

physics

of

moving

objects.

Game

battles