Enders game, p.15
Ender's Game, p.15Part #1 of Ender's Saga series by Orson Scott Card
"Talent rises to the top."
As a game, it was fun. But Valentine didn't like some of the positions Peter made Demosthenes take. Demosthenes began to develop as a fairly paranoid anti-Russian writer. It bothered her because Peter was the one who knew how to exploit fear in his writing--she had to keep coming to him for ideas on how to do it. Meanwhile, his Locke followed her moderate, empathic strategies. It made sense, in a way. By having her write Demosthenes, it meant he also had some empathy, just as Locke also could play on others' fears. But the main effect was to keep her inextricably tied to Peter. She couldn't go off and use Demosthenes for her own purposes. She wouldn't know how to use him. Still, it worked both ways. He couldn't write Locke without her. Or could he?
"I thought the idea was to unify the world. If I write this like you say I should, Peter, I'm pretty much calling for war to break up the Warsaw Pact."
"Not war, just open nets and prohibition of interception. Free flow of information. Compliance with the League rules, for heaven's sake."
Without meaning to, Valentine started talking in Demosthenes' voice, even though she certainly wasn't speaking Demosthenes' opinions. "Everyone knows that from the beginning of the League the Second Warsaw Pact was to be regarded as a single entity where those rules were concerned. International free flow is still open. But between the Warsaw Pact nations these things are internal matters. That was why they were willing to allow American hegemony in the League."
"You're arguing Locke's part, Val. Trust me. You have to call for the Warsaw Pact to lose official status. You have to get a lot of people really angry. Then, later, when you begin to recognize the need for compromise--"
"Then they stop listening to me and go off and fight a war."
"Val, trust me. I know what I'm doing."
"How do you know? You're not any smarter than me, and you've never done this before either."
"I'm thirteen and you're ten."
"And I know how these things work."
"All right, I'll do it your way. But I won't do any of these liberty or death things,"
"You will too."
"And someday when they catch us and they wonder why your sister was such a warmonger, I can just bet you'll tell them that you told me to do it."
"Are you sure you're not having a period, little woman?"
"I hate you, Peter Wiggin."
What bothered Valentine most was when her column got syndicated into several other regional newsnets, and Father started reading it and quoting from it at table. "Finally, a man with some sense," he said. Then he quoted some of the passages Valentine hated worst in her own work. "It's fine to work with these hegemonist Russians with the buggers out there, but after we win, I can't see leaving half the civilized world as virtual serfs in the Russian Empire, can you, dear?"
"I think you're taking this all too seriously," said Mother.
"I like this Demosthenes. I like the way he thinks. I'm surprised he isn't in the major nets--I looked for him in the international relations debates and you know, he's never taken part in any of them."
Valentine lost her appetite and left the table. Peter followed her after a respectable interval.
"So you don't like lying to Father," he said. "So what? You're not lying to him. He doesn't think that you're really Demosthenes, and Demosthenes isn't saying things you really believe. They cancel each other out, they amount to nothing."
"That's the kind of reasoning that makes Locke such an ass." But what really bothered her was not that she was lying to Father-- it was the fact that Father actually agreed with Demosthenes. She had thought that only fools would follow him.
A few days later Locke got picked up for a column in a New England newsnet, specifically to provide a contrasting view for their popular column from Demosthenes. "Not bad for two kids who've only got about eight pubic hairs between them," Peter said.
"It's a long way between writing a newsnet column and ruling the world," Valentine reminded him. "It's such a long way that no one has ever done it."
"They have, though. Or the moral equivalent. I'm going to say snide things about Demosthenes in my first column."
"Well, Demosthenes isn't even going to notice that Locke exists. Ever."
With their identities now fully supported by their income from writing columns, they used Father's access now only for the throwaway identities. Mother commented that they were spending too much time on the nets. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," she reminded Peter.
Peter let his hand tremble a little, and he said, "If you think I should stop, I think I might be able to keep things under control this time, I really do."
"No, no," Mother said. "I don't want you to stop. Just--be careful, that's all"
"I'm careful, Mom."
Nothing was different, nothing had changed in a year. Ender was sure of it, and yet it all seemed to have gone sour. He was still the leading soldier in the standings, and no one doubted that he deserved it now. At the age of nine he was a toon leader in Phoenix Army, with Petra Arkanian as his commander. He still led his evening practice sessions, and now they were attended by an elite group of soldiers nominated by their commanders, though any Launchy who wanted to could still come. Alai was also a toon leader, in another army, and they were still good friends; Shen was not a leader, but that was no barrier. Dink Meeker had finally accepted command and succeeded Rose the Nose in Rat Army's command. All is going well, very well, I couldn't ask for anything better--
So why do I hate my life?
He went through the paces of the practices and games. He liked teaching the boys in his toon, and they followed him loyally. He had the respect of everyone, and he was treated with deference in his evening practices. Commanders came to study what he did. Other soldiers approached his table at mess and asked permission to sit down. Even the teachers were respectful.
He had so much damn respect he wanted to scream.
He watched the young kids in Petra's army, fresh out of their launch groups, watched how they played, how they made fun of their leaders when they thought no one was looking. He watched the camaraderie of old friends who had known each other in the Battle School for years, who talked and laughed about old battles and long-graduated soldiers and commanders.
But with his old friends there was no laughter, no remembering. Just work. Just intelligence and excitement about the game, but nothing beyond that. Tonight it had come to a head in the evening practice. Ender and Alai were discussing the nuances of open-space maneuvers when Shen came up and listened for a few moments, then suddenly took Alai by the shoulders and shouted, "Nova! Nova! Nova!" Alai burst out laughing, and for a moment or two Ender watched them remember together the battle where open-room maneuvering had been for real, and they had dodged past the older boys and--
Suddenly they remembered that Ender was there. "Sorry, Ender," Shen said.
Sorry. For what? For being friends? "I was there, too, you know," Ender said.
And they apologized again. Back to business. Back to respect. And Ender realized that in their laughter, in their friendship, it had not occurred to them that he could have been included.
How could they think I was part of it? Did I laugh? Did I join in? Just stood there, watching, like a teacher.
That's how they think of me, too. Teacher. Legendary soldier. Not one of them. Not someone that you embrace and whisper Salaam in his ear. That only lasted while Ender still seemed a victim. Still seemed vulnerable. Now he was the master soldier, and he was completely, utterly alone.
Feel sorry for yourself, Ender. He typed the words on his desk as he lay on his bunk. POOR ENDER. Then he laughed at himself and cleared away the words. Not a boy or girl in this school who wouldn't be glad to trade places with me.
He called up the fantasy game. He walked as he often did through the village that the dwarves had built in the hill made by the Giant's corpse. It was easy to build sturdy walls, with
He vaulted the pelvic bone at the base of the public square, and walked through the pasture. The ponies shied away from him. He did not pursue them. Ender did not understand how the game functioned anymore. In the old days, before he had first gone to the End of the World, everything was combat and puzzles to solve--defeat the enemy before he kills you, or figure out how to get past the obstacle. Now, though, no one attacked, there was no war, and wherever he went, there was no obstacle at all.
Except, of course, in the room in the castle at the End of the World. It was the one dangerous place left. And Ender, however often he vowed that he would not, always went back there, always killed the snake, always looked his brother in the face, and always, no matter what he did next, died.
It was no different this time. He tried to use the knife on the table to pry through the mortar and pull out a stone from the wall. As soon as he breached the seal of the mortar, water began to gush in through the crack, and Ender watched his desk as his figure, now out of his control, struggled madly to stay alive, to keep from drowning. The windows of his room were gone, the water rose, and his figure drowned. All the while, the face of Peter Wiggin in the mirror stayed and looked at him.
I'm trapped here, Ender thought, trapped at the End of the World with no way out. And he knew at last the sour taste that had come to him, despite all his successes in the Battle School. It was despair.
There were uniformed men at the entrances to the school when Valentine arrived. They weren't standing like guards, but rather slouched around as if they were waiting for someone inside to finish his business. They wore the uniforms of I.F. Marines, the same uniforms that everyone saw in bloody combat on the videos. It lent an air of romance to this day at school; all the other kids were excited about it.
Valentine was not. It made her think of Ender, for one thing. And for another, it made her afraid. Someone had recently published a savage commentary on Demosthenes' collected writings. The commentary, and there-fore her work, had been discussed in the open conference of the international relations net, with some of the most important people of the day attacking and defending Demosthenes. What worried her most was the comment of an Englishman: "Whether he likes it or not, Demosthenes cannot remain incognito forever. He has outraged too many wise men and pleased too many fools to hide behind his too-appropriate pseudonym much longer. Either he will unmask himself in order to assume leadership of the forces of stupidity he has marshalled, or his enemies will unmask him in order to better understand the disease that has produced such a warped and twisted mind."
Peter had been delighted, but then he would be. Valentine was afraid that enough powerful people had been annoyed by the vicious persona of Demosthenes that she would indeed be tracked down. The I.F. could do it, even if the American government was constitutionally bound not to. And here were I.F. troops gathered at Western Guilford Middle School, of all places. Not exactly the regular recruiting grounds for the I.F. Marines.
So she was not surprised to find a message marching around her desk as soon as she logged in.
PLEASE LOG OFF AND GO TO DR.
LINEBERRYS OFFICE AT ONCE.
Valentine waited nervously outside the principal's office until Dr. Lineberry opened the door and beckoned her inside. Her last doubt was re-moved when she saw the soft-bellied man in the uniform of an I.F. colonel sitting in the one comfortable chair in the room.
"You're Valentine Wiggin," he said.
"Yes," she whispered.
"I'm Colonel Graff. We've met before."
Before? When had she had any dealings with the I.F.?
"I've come to talk to you in confidence, about your brother."
It's not just me, then, she thought. They have Peter. Or is this something new? Has he done something crazy? I thought he stopped doing crazy things.
"Valentine, you seem frightened. There's no need to be. Please, sit down. I assure you that your brother is well. He has more than fulfilled our expectations."
And now, with a great inward gush of relief, she realized that it was Ender they had come about. This must be the officer who had taken him away. Ender. It wasn't punishment at all, it was little Ender, who had disappeared so long ago, who was no part of Peter's plots now. You were the lucky one, Ender. You got away before Peter could trap you into his conspiracy.
"How do you feel about your brother, Valentine?"
"How can I feel about him? I haven't seen him or heard from him since I was eight."
"Dr. Lineberry, will you excuse us?"
Lineberry was annoyed.
"On second thought, Dr. Lineberry, I think Valentine and I will have a much more productive conversation if we walk. Outside. Away from the recording devices that your assistant principal has placed in this room."
It was the first time Valentine had seen Dr. Lineberry speechless. Colonel Graff lifted a picture out from the wall and peeled a sound-sensitive membrane from the wall, along with its small broadcast unit. "Cheap," said Graff, "but effective. I thought you knew."
Lineberry took the device and sat down heavily at her desk. Graff led Valentine outside.
They walked out into the football field. The soldiers followed at a discreet distance; they split up and formed a large circle, to guard them from the widest possible perimeter.
"Valentine, we need your help for Ender."
"What kind of help?"
"We aren't even sure of that. We need you to help us figure out how you can help us."
"Well, what's wrong?"
"That's part of the problem. We don't know."
Valentine couldn't help but laugh. "I haven't seen him in three years! You've got him up there with you all the time!"
"Valentine, it costs more money than your father will make in his lifetime for me to fly to Earth and back to the Battle School again. I don't commute casually."
"The king had a dream," said Valentine, "but he forgot what it was, so he told his wise men to interpret the dream or they'd die. Only Daniel could interpret it, because he was a prophet."
"You read the Bible?"
"We're doing classics this year in advanced English. I'm not a prophet."
"I wish I could tell you everything about Ender's situation. But it would take hours, maybe days, and afterward I'd have to put you in protective confinement because so much of it is strictly confidential. So let's see what we can do with limited information. There's a game that our students play with the computer." And he told her about the End of the World and the closed room and the picture of Peter in the mirror.
"It's the computer that puts the picture there, not Ender. Why not ask the computer?"
"The computer doesn't know."
"I'm supposed to know?"
"This is the second time since Ender's been with us that he's taken this game to a dead end. To a game that seems to have no solution."
"Did he solve the first one?"
"Then give him time, he'll probably solve this one."
"I'm not sure. Valentine, your brother is a very unhappy little boy."
"I don't know."
"You don't know much, do you?"
Valentine thought for a moment that the man might get angry. Instead, though, he decided to laugh. "No, not much. Valentine, why would Ender keep seeing your brother Peter in the mirror?"
"He shouldn't. It's stupid."
"Why is it stupid?"
"Because if there's ever anybody who was the opposite of Ender,
Valentine could not think of a way to answer him that wasn't dangerous. Too much questioning about Peter could lead to real trouble. Valentine knew enough about the world to know that no one would take Peter's plans for world domination seriously, as a danger to existing governments. But they might well decide he was insane and needed treatment for his megalo-mania.
"You're preparing to lie to me," Graff said.
"I'm preparing not to talk to you anymore," Valentine answered.
"And you're afraid. Why are you afraid?"
"I don't like questions about my family. Just leave my family out of this."
"Valentine, I'm trying to leave your family out of this. I'm coming to you so I don't have to start a battery of tests on Peter and question your parents. I'm trying to solve this problem now, with the person Ender loves and trusts most in the world, perhaps the only person he loves and trusts at all. If we can't solve it this way, then we'll sequester your family and do as we like from then on. This is not a trivial matter, and I won't just go away."
The only person Ender loves and trusts at all. She felt a deep stab of pain, of regret, of shame that now it was Peter she was close to, Peter who
was the center of her life. For you, Ender, I light fires on your birthday. For Peter I help fulfil all his dreams. "I never thought you were a nice man. Not when you came to take Ender away, and not now."
"Don't pretend to be an ignorant little girl. I saw your tests when you were little, and at the present moment there aren't very many college professors who could keep up with you."
"Ender and Peter hate each other."
"I knew that. You said they were opposites. Why?"
"Peter--can be hateful sometimes."
"Hateful in what way?"
"Mean. Just mean, that's all."
"Valentine, for Ender's sake, tell me what he does when he's being mean."
"He threatens to kill people a lot. He doesn't mean it. But when we were little, Ender and I were both afraid of him. He told us he'd kill us. Actually, he told us he'd kill Ender."
"We monitored some of that."
"It was because of the monitor."
"Is that all? Tell me more about Peter."
So she told him about the children in every school that Peter attended. He never hit them, but he tortured them just the same. Found what they were most ashamed of and told it to the person whose respect they most wanted. Found what they most feared and made sure they faced it often.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card / Science Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes