Enders game, p.30
Part #1 of Ender's Saga series by Orson Scott Card
Only at the very periphery of the simulator did the M.D. field weaken. Two or three enemy ships were drifting away. Ender's own starships did not explode. But where the vast enemy fleet had been, and the planet they protected, there was nothing meaningful. A lump of dirt was growing as gravity drew much of the debris downward again. It was glowing hot and spinning visibly; it was also much smaller than the world had been before. Much of its mass was now a cloud still flowing outward.
Ender took off his headphones, filled with the cheers of his squadron leaders, and only then realized that there was just as much noise in the room with him. Men in uniform were hugging each other, laughing, shouting; others were weeping; some knelt or lay prostrate, and Ender knew they were caught up in prayer. Ender didn't understand. It seemed all wrong. They were supposed to be angry.
Colonel Graff detached himself from the others and came to Ender. Tears streamed down his face, but he was smiling. He bent over, reached out his arms, and to Ender's surprise he embraced him, held him tightly, and whispered, "Thank you, thank you, Ender. Thank God for you, Ender."
The others soon came, too, shaking his hand, congratulating him. He tried to make sense of this. Had he passed the test after all? It was his victory, not theirs, and a hollow one at that, a cheat; why did they act as if he had won with honor?
The crowd parted and Mazer Rackham walked through. He came straight to Ender and held out his hand.
"You made the hard choice, boy. All or nothing. End them or end us. But heaven knows there was no other way you could have done it. Congratulations. You beat them, and it's all over."
All over. Beat them. Ender didn't understand. "I beat you"
Mazer laughed, a loud laugh that filled the room. "Ender, you never played me. You never played a game since I became your enemy."
Ender didn't get the joke. He had played a great many games, at a terrible cost to himself. He began to get angry.
Mazer reached out and touched his shoulder. Ender shrugged him off. Mazer then grew serious and said, "Ender, for the past few months you have been the battle commander of our fleets. This was the Third Invasion. There were no games, the battles were real, and the only enemy you fought was the buggers. You won every battle, and today you finally fought them at their home world, where the queen was, all the queens from all their colonies, they all were there and you destroyed them completely. They'll never attack us again. You did it. You."
Real. Not a game. Ender's mind was too tired to cope with it all. They weren't just points of light in the air, they were real ships that he had fought with and real ships he had destroyed. And a real world that he had blasted into oblivion. He walked through the crowd, dodging their congratulations, ignoring their hands, their words, their rejoicing. When he got to his own room he stripped off his clothes, climbed into bed, and slept.
Ender awoke when they shook him. It took a moment to recognize them. Graff and Rackham. He turned his back on them. Let me sleep.
"Ender, we need to talk to you," said Graff.
Ender rolled back to face them.
"They've been playing out the videos on Earth all day, all night since the battle yesterday."
"Yesterday?" He had slept through until the next day.
"You're a hero, Ender. They've seen what you did, you and the others. I don't think there's a government on Earth that hasn't voted you their highest medal."
"I killed them all, didn't I?" Ender asked.
"All who?" asked Graff. "The buggers? That was the idea."
Mazer leaned in close. "That's what the war was for."
"All their queens. So I killed all their children, all of everything."
"They decided that when they attacked us. It wasn't your fault. It's what had to happen."
Ender grabbed Mazer's uniform and hung onto it, pulling him down so they were face to face. "I didn't want to kill them all. I didn't want to kill anybody! I'm not a killer! You didn't want me, you bastards, you wanted Peter, but you made me do it, you tricked me into it!" He was crying. He was out of control.
"Of course we tricked you into it. That's the whole point," said Graff. "It had to be a trick or you couldn't have done it. It's the bind we were in. We had to have a commander with so much empathy that he would think like the buggers, understand them and anticipate them. So much compassion that he could win the love of his underlings and work with them like a perfect machine, as perfect as the buggers. But somebody with that much compassion could never be the killer we needed. Could never go into battle willing to win at all costs. If you knew, you couldn't do it. If you were the kind of person who would do it even if you knew, you could never have understood the buggers well enough."
"And it had to be a child, Ender," said Mazer. "You were faster than me. Better than me. I was too old and cautious. Any decent person who knows what warfare is can never go into battle with a whole heart. But you didn't know. We made sure you didn't know. You were reckless and brilliant and young. It's what you were born for."
"We had pilots with our ships, didn't we."
"I was ordering pilots to go in and die and I didn't even know it."
"They knew it, Ender, and they went anyway. They knew what it was for."
"You never asked me! You never told me the truth about anything!"
"You had to be a weapon, Ender. Like a gun, like the Little Doctor, functioning perfectly but not knowing what you were aimed at. We aimed you. We're responsible. If there was something wrong, we did it."
"Tell me later," Ender said. His eyes closed.
Mazer Rackham shook him. "Don't go to sleep, Ender," he said. "It's very important."
"You're finished with me," Ender said. "Now leave me alone."
"That's why we're here," Mazer said. "We're trying to tell you. They're not through with you, not at all. It's crazy down there. They're going to start a war. Americans claiming the Warsaw Pact is about to attack, and the Russians are saying the same thing about the Hegemon. The bugger war isn't twenty-four hours dead and the world down there is back to fighting again, as bad as ever. And all of them are worried about you. All of them want you. The greatest military leader in history, they want you to lead their armies. The Americans. The Hegemon. Everybody but the Warsaw Pact, and they want you dead."
"Fine with me," said Ender.
"We have to take you away from here. There are Russian marines all over Eros, and the Polemarch is Russian. It could turn to bloodshed at any time."
Ender turned his back on them again. This time they let him. He did not sleep, though. He listened to them.
"I was afraid of this, Rackham. You pushed him too hard. Some of those lesser outposts could have waited until after. You could have given him some days to rest."
"Are you doing it, too, Graff? Trying to decide how I could have done it better? You don't know what would have happened if I hadn't pushed. Nobody knows. I did it the way I did it, and it worked. Above all, it worked. Memorize that defense, Graff. You may have to use it, too."
"I can see what it's done to him. Colonel Liki says there's a good chance he'll be permanently damaged, but I don't believe it. He's too strong. Winning meant a lot to him, and he won."
"Don't tell me about strong. The kid's eleven. Give him some rest, Rackham. Things haven't exploded yet. We can post a guard outside his door."
"Or post a guard outside another door and pretend that it's his."
They went away. Ender slept again.
Time passed without touching Ender, except with glancing blows. Once he awoke for a few minutes with something pressing his hand, pushing downward on it, with a dull, insistent pain. He reached over and touched it; it was a needle passing into a vein. He tried to pull it out, but it was taped on and he was too weak. Another time he awoke in darkness to hear people near him murmuring and cursing. His ears were ringing with the loud noise that had awakened him; he did not remember the noise. "Get the lights on,
It might have been a single day; it might have been a week; from his dreams, it could have been months. He seemed to pass through lifetimes in his dreams. Through the Giant's Drink again, past the wolf-children, reliving the terrible deaths, the constant murders; he heard a voice whispering in the forest, You had to kill the children to get to the End of the World. And he tried to answer, I never wanted to kill anybody. Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to kill anybody. But the forest laughed at him. And when he leapt from the cliff at the End of the World, sometimes it was not clouds that caught him, but a fighter that carried him to a vantage point near the surface of the buggers' world, so he could watch, over and over, the eruption of death when Dr. Device set off a reaction on the planet's face; then closer and closer, until he could watch individual buggers explode, turn to light, then collapse into a pile of dirt before his eyes. And the queen, surrounded by infants; only the queen was Mother, and the infants were Valentine and all the children he had known in Battle School. One of them had Bonzo's face, and he lay there bleeding through the eyes and nose, saying, You have no honor. And always the dream ended with a mirror or a pool of water or the metal surface of a ship, something that would reflect his face back to him. At first it was always Peter's face, with blood and a snake's tail coming from the mouth. After a while, though, it began to be his own face, old and sad, with eyes that grieved for a billion, billion murders--but they were his own eyes, and he was content to wear them.
That was the world Ender lived in for many lifetimes during the five days of the League War.
When he awoke again he was lying in darkness. In the distance he could hear the thump, thump of explosions. He listened for a while. Then he heard a soft footstep.
He turned over and flung out a hand, to grasp whoever was sneaking up on him. Sure enough, he caught someone's clothing and pulled him down toward his knees, ready to kill him if need be.
"Ender, it's me, it's me!"
He knew the voice. It came out of his memory as if it were a million years ago.
"Salaam, pinprick. What were you trying to do, kill me?"
"Yes. I thought you were trying to kill me."
"I was trying not to wake you up. Well, at least you have some survival instinct left. The way Mazer talks about it, you were becoming a vegetable."
"I was trying to. What's the thumping?"
"There's a war going on here. Our section is blacked out to keep us safe." Ender swung his legs out to sit up. He couldn't do it, though. His head hurt too bad. He winced in pain.
"Don't sit up, Ender. It's all right. It looks like we might win it. Not all the Warsaw Pact people went with the Polemarch. A lot of them came over when the Strategos told them you were loyal to the I.F."
"I was asleep."
"So he lied. You weren't plotting treason in your dreams, were you? Some of the Russians who came in told us that when the Polemarch ordered them to find you and kill you, they almost killed him. Whatever they may feel about other people, Ender, they love you. The whole world watched our battles. Videos, day and night. I've seen some. Complete with your voice giving the orders. It's all there, nothing censored. Good stuff. You've got a career in the vids."
"I don't think so," said Ender.
"I was joking. Hey, can you believe it? We won the war. We were so eager to grow up so we could fight in it, and it was us all the time. I mean, we're kids, Ender. And it was us." Alai laughed. "It was you, anyway. You were good, bosh. I didn't know how you'd get us out of that last one. But you did. You were good."
Ender noticed the way he spoke in the past. I was good. "What am I now, Alai?"
"At--anything. There's a million soldiers who'd follow you to the end of the universe."
"I don't want to go to the end of the universe."
"So where do you want to go? They'll follow you."
I want to go home, thought Ender, but I don't know where it is.
The thumping went silent.
"Listen to that," said Alai.
They listened. The door opened. Someone stood there. Someone small. "It's over," he said. It was Bean. As if to prove it, the lights went on.
"Ho, Bean," Ender said.
Petra followed him in, with Dink holding her hand. They came to Ender's bed. "Hey, the hero's awake," said Dink.
"Who won?" asked Ender.
"We did, Ender," said Bean. "You were there."
"He's not that crazy, Bean. He meant who won just now." Petra took Ender's hand. "There was a truce on Earth. They've been negotiating for days. They finally agreed to accept the Locke Proposal."
"He doesn't know about the Locke Proposal--"
"It's very complicated, but what it means here is that the I.F. will stay in existence, but without the Warsaw Pact in it. So the Warsaw Pact marines are going home. I think Russia agreed to it because they're facing a revolt of the Islamic States. Everybody's got troubles. About five hundred died here, but it was worse on Earth."
"The Hegemon resigned," said Dink. "It's crazy down there. Who cares."
"You OK?" Petra asked him, touching his head. "You scared us. They said you were crazy, and we said they were crazy."
"I'm crazy," said Ender. "But I think I'm OK."
"When did you decide that?" asked Alai.
"When I thought you were about to kill me, and I decided to kill you first. I guess I'm just a killer to the core. But I'd rather be alive than dead."
They laughed and agreed with him. Then Ender began to cry and embraced Bean and Petra, who were closest. "I missed you," he said. "I wanted to see you so bad."
"You saw us pretty bad," Petra answered. She kissed his cheek.
"I saw you magnificent," said Ender. "The ones I needed most, I used up soonest. Bad planning on my part."
"Everybody's OK now," said Dink. "Nothing was wrong with any of us that five days of cowering in blacked-out rooms in the middle of a war couldn't cure."
"I don't have to be your commander anymore, do I?" asked Ender. "I don't want to command anybody again."
"You don't have to command anybody," said Dink, "but you're always our commander."
Then they were silent for a while.
"So what do we do now?" asked Alai. "The bugger war's over, and so's the war down there on Earth, and even the war here. What do we do now?"
"We're kids," said Petra. "They'll probably make us go to school. It's a law. You have to go to school till you're seventeen."
They all laughed at that. Laughed until tears streamed down their faces.
SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD
The lake was still; there was no breeze. The two men sat together in chairs on the floating dock. A small wooden raft was tied up at the dock; Graff hooked his foot in the rope and pulled the raft in, then let it drift out, then pulled it in again.
"You've lost weight."
"One kind of stress puts it on, another takes it off. I am a creature of chemicals."
"It must have been hard."
Graff shrugged. "Not really. I knew I'd be acquitted."
"Some of us weren't so sure. People were crazy for a while there. Mistreatment of children, negligent homicide--those videos of Bonzo's and Stilson's deaths were pretty gruesome. To watch one child do that to another."
"As much as anything, I think the videos saved me. The prosecution edited them, but we showed the whole thing. It was plain that Ender was not the provocateur. After that, it was just a second-guessing game. I said I did what I believed was necessary for the preservation of the human race, and it worked; we got the judges to agree that the prosecution had to prove beyond doubt that Ender would have won the war without the training we gave him. After that, it was simple. The exigencies of war."
"Anyway, Graff, it was a great relief to us. I know we quarreled, and I know the prosecut
"I know, Anderson. My lawyers told me."
"So what will you do now?"
"I don't know. I'm still relaxing. I have a few years of leave accrued. Enough to take me to retirement, and I have plenty of salary that I never used, sitting around in banks. I could live on the interest. Maybe I'll do nothing."
"It sounds nice. But I couldn't stand it. I've been offered the presidency of three different universities, on the theory that I'm an educator. They don't believe me when I say that all I ever cared about at the Battle School was the game. I think I'll go with the other offer."
"Now that the wars are over, it's time to play games again. It'll be almost like vacation, anyway. Only twenty-eight teams in the league. Though after years of watching those children flying, football is like watching slugs bash into each other."
They laughed. Graff sighed and pushed the raft with his foot.
"That raft. Surely you can't float on it."
Graff shook his head. "Ender built it."
"That's right. This is where you took him."
"It's even been deeded over to him. I saw to it that he was amply rewarded. He'll have all the money he ever needs."
"If they ever let him come back to use it."
"They never will."
"With Demosthenes agitating for him to come home?"
"Demosthenes isn't on the nets anymore."
Anderson raised an eyebrow. "What does that mean?"
"Demosthenes has retired. Permanently."
"You know something, you old farteater. You know who Demosthenes is."
"Well, tell me!"
"You're no fun anymore, Graff."
"I never was."
"At least you can tell me why. There were a lot of us who thought Demosthenes would be Hegemon someday."
"There was never a chance of that. No, even Demosthenes' mob of political cretins couldn't persuade the Hegemon to bring Ender back to Earth. Ender is far too dangerous."
"He's only eleven. Twelve, now."
"All the more dangerous because he could so easily be controlled. In all the world, the name of Ender is one to conjure with. The child-god, the miracle worker, with life and death in his hands. Every petty tyrant-to-be would like to have the boy, to set him in front of an army and watch the world either flock to join or cower in fear. If Ender came to Earth, he'd want to come here, to rest, to salvage what he can of his childhood. But they'd never let him rest."
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card / Science Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes