Enders game, p.16
Part #1 of Ender's Saga series by Orson Scott Card
"Did he do this with Ender?"
Valentine shook her head.
"Are you sure? Didn't Ender have a weak place? A thing he feared most, or that he was ashamed of?"
"Ender never did anything to be ashamed of." And suddenly, deep in her own shame for having forgotten and betrayed Ender, she started to cry.
"Why are you crying?"
She shook her head. She couldn't explain what it was like to think of her little brother, who was so good, whom she had protected for so long, and then remember that now she was Peter's ally, Peter's helper, Peter's slave in a scheme that was completely out of her control. Ender never surrendered to Peter, but I have turned, I've become part of him, as Ender never was. "Ender never gave in," she said.
"To Peter. To being like Peter."
They walked in silence along the goal line.
"How would Ender ever be like Peter?"
Valentine shuddered. "I already told you."
"But Ender never did that kind of thing. He was just a little boy."
"We both wanted to, though. We both wanted to--to kill Peter."
"No, that isn't true. We never said it. Ender never said that he wanted to do that. I just--thought it. It was me, not Ender. He never said that he wanted to kill him."
"What did he want?"
"He just didn't want to be--"
"To be what?"
"Peter tortures squirrels. He stakes them out on the ground and skins them alive and sits and watches them until they die. He did that for a while, after Ender left; he doesn't do it now. But he did it. If Ender knew that, if Ender saw him, I think that he'd--"
"He'd what? Rescue the squirrels? Try to heal them?"
"No, in those days you didn't--undo what Peter did. You didn't cross him. But Ender would be kind to squirrels. Do you understand? He'd feed them."
"But if he fed them, they'd become tame, and that much easier for Peter to catch."
Valentine began to cry again. "No matter what you do, it always helps Peter. Everything helps Peter, everything, you just can't get away, no matter what."
"Are you helping Peter?" asked Graff.
She didn't answer.
"Is Peter such a very bad person, Valentine?"
"Is Peter the worst person in the world?"
"How can he be? I don't know. He's the worst person I know."
"And yet you and Ender are his brother and sister. You have the same genes, the same parents, how can he be so bad if--"
Valentine turned and screamed at him, screamed as if he were killing her. "Ender is not like Peter! He is not like Peter in any way! Except that he's smart, that's all--in every other way a person could possibly be like Peter he is nothing nothing nothing like Peter! Nothing!"
"I see," said Graff.
"I know what you're thinking, you bastard, you're thinking that I'm wrong, that Ender's like Peter. Well maybe I'm like Peter, but Ender isn't, he isn't at all, I used to tell him that when he cried, I told him that lots of times, you're not like Peter, you never like to hurt people, you're kind and good and not like Peter at all!"
"And it's true."
His acquiescence calmed her. "Damn right it's true. It's true."
"Valentine, will you help Ender?"
"I can't do anything for him now."
"It's really the same thing you always did for him before. Just comfort him and tell him that he never likes to hurt people, that he's good and kind
and not like Peter at all. That's the most important thing. That he's not like Peter at all."
"I can see him?"
"No. I want you to write a letter."
"What good does that do? Ender never answered a single letter I sent." Graff sighed. "He answered every letter he got."
It took only a second for her to understand. "You really stink."
"Isolation is--the optimum environment for creativity. It was his ideas we wanted, not the--never mind, I don't have to defend myself to you."
Then why are you doing it, she did not ask.
"But he's slacking off. He's coasting. We want to push him forward, and he won't go."
"Maybe I'd be doing Ender a favor if I told you to go stuff yourself."
"You've already helped me. You can help me more. Write to him."
"Promise you won't cut out anything I write."
"I won't promise any such thing."
"Then forget it."
"No problem. I'll write your letter myself. We can use your other letters to reconcile the writing styles. Simple matter."
"I want to see him."
"He gets his first leave when he's eighteen."
"You told him it would be when he was twelve."
"We changed the rules."
"Why should I help you!"
"Don't help me. Help Ender. What does it matter if that helps us, too?"
"What kind of terrible things are you doing to him up there?"
Graff chuckled. "Valentine, my dear little girl, the terrible things are only about to begin."
Ender was four lines into the letter before he realized that it wasn't from one of the other soldiers in the Battle School. It had come in the regular way--a MAIL WAITING message when he signed into his desk. He read four lines into it, then skipped to the end and read the signature. Then he went back to the beginning, and curled up on his bed to read the words over and over again.
THE BASTARDS WOULDN'T PUT ANY OF
MY LETTERS THROUGH TILL NOW. I
MUST HAVE WRITTEN A HUNDRED TIMES
BUT YOU MUST HAVE THOUGHT I NEVER
DID. WELL I DID. I HAVEN'T
FORGOTTEN YOU. I REMEMBER YOUR
BIRTHDAY. I REMEMBER EVERYTHING.
SOME PEOPLE MIGHT THINK THAT
BECAUSE YOU'RE BEING A SOLDIER
YOU ARE NOW A CRUEL AND HARD
PERSON WHO LIKES TO HURT PEOPLE,
LIKE THE MARINES IN THE VIDEOS,
BUT I KNOW THAT ISN'T TRUE. YOU
ARE NOTHING LIKE YOU-KNOW-WHO.
HE's NICER-SEEMING BUT HE's
STILL A SLUMBITCH INSIDE.
MAYBE YOU SEEM MEAN, BUT IT
WON'T FOOL ME. STILL PADDLING
THE OLD KNEW,
ALL MY LOVE TURKEY LIPS,
DON'T WRITE BACK THEY'LL PROBLY
SIKOWANALIZE YOUR LETTER.
Obviously it was written with the full approval of the teachers. But there was no doubt it was written by Val. The spelling of psychoanalyze, the epithet slumbitch for Peter, the joke about pronouncing knew like canoe were all things that no one could know but Val.
And yet they came pretty thick, as though someone wanted to make very sure that Ender believed that the letter was genuine. Why should they be so eager if it's the real thing?
It isn't the real thing anyway. Even if she wrote it in her own blood, it isn't the real thing because they made her write it. She'd written before, and they didn't let any of those letters through. Those might have been real, but this was asked for, this was part of their manipulation.
And the despair filled him again. Now he knew why. Now he knew what he hated so much. He had no control over his own life. They ran everything. They made all the choices. Only the game was left to him, that was all, everything else was them and their rules and plans and lessons and programs, and all he could do was go this way or that way in battle. The one real thing, the one precious real thing was his memory of Valentine, the person who loved him before he ever played a game, who loved him whether there was a bugger war or not, and they had taken her and put her on their side. She was one of them now.
He hated them and all their games. Hated them so badly that he cried, reading Val's empty asked-for letter again. The other boys in Phoenix Army noticed and looked away. Ender Wiggin crying? That was disturbing. Something terrible was going on. The best soldier in any army, lying on his bunk crying. The silence in
Ender deleted the letter, wiped it out of memory and then punched up the fantasy game. He was not sure why he was so eager to play the game, to get to the End of the World, but he wasted no time getting there. Only when he coasted on the cloud, skimming over the autumnal colors of the pastoral world, only then did he realize what he hated most about Val's letter. All that it said was about Peter. About how he was not at all like Peter. The words she had said so often as she held him, comforted him as he trembled in fear and rage and loathing after Peter had tortured him, that was all that the letter had said.
And that was what they had asked for. The bastards knew about that, and they knew about Peter in the mirror in the castle room, they knew about everything and to them Val was just one more tool to use to control him, just one more trick to play. Dink was right, they were the enemy, they loved nothing and cared for nothing and he was not going to do what they wanted, he was damn well not going to do anything for them. He had had only one memory that was safe, one good thing, and those bastards had plowed it into him with the rest of the manure--and so he was finished, he wasn't going to play.
As always the serpent waited in the tower room, unraveling itself from the rug on the floor. But this time Ender didn't grind it underfoot. This time he caught it in his hands, knelt before it, and gently, so gently, brought the snake's gaping mouth to his lips.
He had not meant to do that. He had meant to let the snake bite him on the mouth. Or perhaps he had meant to eat the snake alive, as Peter in the mirror had done, with his bloody chin and the snake's tail dangling from his lips. But he kissed it instead.
And the snake in his hands thickened and bent into another shape. A human shape. It was Valentine, and she kissed him again.
The snake could not be Valentine. He had killed it too often for it to be his sister. Peter had devoured it too often for Ender to bear it that it might have been Valentine all along.
Was this what they planned when they let him read her letter? He didn't care.
She arose from the floor of the tower room and walked to the mirror. Ender made his figure also rise and go with her. They stood before the mirror, where instead of Peter's cruel reflection there stood a dragon and a unicorn. Ender reached out his hand and touched the mirror and so did Valentine; the wall fell open and revealed a great stairway downward, carpeted and lined with shouting, cheering multitudes. Together, arm in arm, he and Valentine walked down the stairs. Tears filled his eyes, tears of relief that at last he had broken free of the room at the End of the World. And because of the tears, he didn't notice that every member of the multitude wore Peter's face. He only knew that wherever he went in this world, Valentine was with him.
Valentine opened the letter that Dr. Lineberry had given her. "Dear Valentine," it said, "We thank you and commend you for your efforts on behalf of the war effort. You are hereby notified that you have been awarded the Star of the Order of the League of Humanity, First Class, which is the highest military award that can be give to a civilian. Unfortunately, I.F. security forbids us to make this award public until after the successful conclusion of current operations, but we want you to know that your efforts resulted in complete success. Sincerely, General Shimon Levy, Strategos."
When she had read it twice, Dr. Lineberry took it from her hands. "I was instructed to let you read it, and then destroy it." She took a cigarette lighter from a drawer and set the paper afire. It burned brightly in the ash-tray. "Was it good or bad news?" she asked.
"I sold my brother," Valentine said, "and they paid me for it."
"That's a bit melodramatic, isn't it, Valentine?"
Valentine went back to class without answering. That night Demosthenes published a scathing denunciation of the population limitation laws. People should be allowed to have as many children as they like, and the surplus population should be sent to other worlds, to spread mankind so far across the galaxy that no disaster, no invasion could ever threaten the human race with annihilation. "The most noble title any child can have," Demosthenes wrote, "is Third."
For you, Ender, she said to herself as she wrote.
Peter laughed in delight when he read it. "That'll make them sit up and take notice. Third! A noble title! Oh, you have a wicked streak."
"I suppose so."
"It has to be an order, Colonel Graff. Armies don't move because a commander says 1 suppose it's time to attack/ "
"I'm not a commander. I'm a teacher of little children."
"Colonel, sir, I admit I was on you, I admit I was a pain in the ass, but it worked, everything worked just like you wanted it to. The last few weeks Ender's even been, been--"
"Content. He's doing well. His mind is keen, his play is excellent. Young as he is, we've never had a boy better prepared for command. Usually they go at eleven, but at nine and a half he's top flight."
"Well, yes. For a few minutes there, it actually occurred to me to wonder what kind of a man would heal a broken child of some of his hurt, just so he could throw him back into battle again. A little private moral dilemma. Please overlook it. I was tired."
"Saving the world, remember?"
"Call him in."
"We're doing what must be done, Colonel Graff."
"Come on, Anderson, you're just dying to see how he handles all those rigged games I had you work out."
"That's a pretty low thing to--"
"So I'm a low kind of guy. Come on, Major. We're both the scum of the earth. I'm dying to see how he handles them, too. After all, our lives depend on him doing real well. Neh?"
"You're not starting to use the boys' slang, are you?"
"Call him in, Major. I'll dump the rosters into his files and give him his security system. What we're doing to him isn't all bad, you know. He gets his privacy again."
"Isolation, you mean."
"The loneliness of power. Go call him in."
"Yes sir. I'll be back with him in fifteen minutes."
"Good-bye. Yes sir yessir yezzir. I hope you had fun, I hope you had a nice, nice time being happy, Ender. It might be the last time in your life. Welcome, little boy. Your dear Uncle Graff has plans for you."
Ender knew what was happening from the moment they brought him in. Everyone expected him to go commander early. Perhaps not this early, but he had topped the standings almost continuously for three years, no one else was remotely close to him, and his evening practices had become the most prestigious group in the school. There were some who wondered why the teachers had waited this long.
He wondered which army they'd give him. Three commanders were graduating soon, including Petra, but it was beyond hope for them to give him Phoenix Army--no one ever succeeded to command of the same army he was in when he was promoted.
Anderson took him first to his new quarters. That sealed it--only commanders had private rooms. Then he had him fitted for new uniforms and a new flash suit. He looked on the forms to discover the name of his army.
Dragon, said the form. There was no Dragon Army.
"I've never heard of Dragon Army," Ender said.
"That's because there hasn't been a Dragon Army in four years. We discontinued the name because there was a superstition about it. No Dragon Army in the history of the Battle School ever won even a third of its games. It got to be a joke."
"Well, why are you reviving it now?"
"We had a lot of extra uniforms to use up."
Graff sat at his desk, looking fatter and wearier than the last time Ender had seen him. He handed Ender his hook, the small box that allowed commanders to go where they wanted in the battleroom during practices. Some said they worked magnetically, some said it was gravity. Many times during his evening practice sessions Ender had wished that he had a hook, instead of having to rebound off walls to get where he wanted to go. Now that he'd got quite deft at maneuvering without one, here it was. "It onl
Graff's official welcome speech sounded bored and over-rehearsed. Only at the end did he begin to sound interested in his own words. "We're doing something unusual with Dragon Army. I hope you don't mind. We've assembled a new army by advancing the equivalent of an entire launch course early and delaying the graduation of quite a few advanced students. I think you'll be pleased with the quality of your soldiers. I hope you are, because we're forbidding you to transfer any of them."
"No trades?" asked Ender. It was how commanders always shored up their weak points, by trading around.
"None. You see, you've been conducting your extra practice sessions for three years now. You have a following. Many good soldiers would put unfair pressure on their commanders to trade them into your army. We've given you an army that can, in time, be competitive. We have no intention of letting you dominate unfairly."
"What if I've got a soldier I just can't get along with?"
"Get along with him." Graff closed his eyes, Anderson stood up and the interview was over.
Dragon was assigned the colors grey, orange, grey; Ender changed into his flash suit, then followed the ribbons of light until he came to the barracks that contained his army. They were there already, milling around near the entrance. Ender took charge at once. "Bunking will be arranged by seniority. Veterans to the back of the room, newest soldiers to the front."
It was the reverse of the usual pattern, and Ender knew it. He also knew that he didn't intend to be like many commanders, who never even saw the younger boys because they were always in the back.
As they sorted themselves out according to their arrival dates, Ender walked up and down the aisle. Almost thirty of his soldiers were new, straight out of their launch group, completely inexperienced in battle. Some were even underage--the ones nearest the door were pathetically small. Ender reminded himself that that's how he must have looked to Bonzo Madrid when he first arrived. Still, Bonzo had had only one underage soldier to cope with.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card / Science Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes