Enders game, p.7
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       Ender's Game, p.7
 

         Part #1 of Ender's Saga series by Orson Scott Card

  But a few chafed under Bernard's rule.

  Ender, watching, knew who resented Bernard. Shen 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. See ya, 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 laugh 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 boys 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-year-old 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 for a 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.

  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 the
re'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 with the group. To see what he does with it."

  "W e don't have time."

  "We don't have time to rush too fast with a kid who has as much chance of being a monster as a military genius."

  "Is this an order?"

  "The recorder's 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 how 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 flat 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, I 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 to-ward 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.

&
nbsp; "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 be-fore 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.

 
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