The mist from the showers dimmed the room, and the sweat was streaming down
Ender's body. Now, before the soap is carried off me. Now, while I'm still too slippery to
Ender stepped back, letting the fear he felt show in his face. "Bonzo, don't hurt me," he
It was what Bonzo was waiting for, the confession that he was in power. For other boys
it might have been enough that Ender had submitted; for Bonzo, it was only a sign that
his victory was sure. He swung his leg as if to kick, but changed it to a leap at the last
moment. Ender noticed the shifting weight and stooped lower, so that Bonzo would be
more off-balance when he tried to grab Ender and throw him.
Bonzo's tight, hard ribs came against Under's face, and his hands slapped against his
back, trying to grip him. But Ender twisted, and Bonzo's hands slipped. In an instant
Ender was completely turned, yet still inside Bonzo's grasp. The classic move at this
moment would be to bring up his heel into Bonzo's crotch, but for that move to be
effective required too much accuracy, and Bonzo expected it. He was already rising onto
his toes, thrusting his hips backward to keep Ender from reaching his groin. Without
seeing him, Ender knew it would bring his face closer, almost in Ender's hair; so instead
of kicking he lunged upward off the floor, with the powerful lunge of the soldier
bounding from the wall, and jammed his head into Bonzo's face.
Ender whirled in time to see Bonzo stagger backward, his nose bleeding, gasping from
surprise and pain. Ender knew that at this moment he might be able to walk out of the
room and end the battle. The way he had escaped from the battleroom after drawing
blood. But the battle would only be fought again. Again and again until the will to fight
was finished. The only way to end things completely was to hurt Bonzo enough that his
fear was stronger than his hate.
So Ender leaned back against the wall behind him, then jumped up and pushed off with
his arms. His feet landed in Bonzo's belly and chest. Ender spun in the air and landed on
his toes and hands; he flipped over, scooted under Bonzo, and this time when he kicked
upward into Bonzo's crotch, he connected, hard and sure.
Bonzo did not cry out in pain. He did not react at all, except that his body rose a little in
the air. It was as if Ender had kicked a piece of furniture. Bonzo collapsed, fell to the
side, and sprawled directly under the spray of streaming water from a shower. He made
no movement whatever to escape the murderous heat.
"My God!" someone shouted. Bonzo's friends leaped to turn off the water. Ender slowly
rose to his feet. Someone thrust his towel at him. It was Dink. "Come on out of here,"
Dink said. He led Ender away. Behind them they heard the heavy clatter of adults
running down a ladderway. Now the teachers would come. The medical staff. To dress
the wounds of Ender's enemy. Where were they before the fight, when there might have
been no wounds at all?
There was no doubt now in Ender's mind. There was no help for him. Whatever he
faced, now and forever, no one would save him from it. Peter might be scum, but Peter
had been right, always right; the power to cause pain is the only power that matters, the
power to kill and destroy, because if you can't kill then you are always subject to those
who can, and nothing and no one will ever save you.
Dink led him to his room, made him lie on the bed. "Are you hurt anywhere?" he asked,
Ender shook his head.
"You took him apart. I thought you were dead meat, the way he grabbed you. But you
took him apart. If he'd stood up longer, you would've killed him."
"He meant to kill me."
"I know it. I know him. Nobody hates like Bonzo. But not anymore. If they don't ice
him for this and send him home, he'll never look you in the eye again. You or anybody.
He had twenty centimeters on you, and you made him look like a crippled cow standing
there chewing her cud."
All Ender could see, though, was the way Bonzo looked as Ender kicked upward into
his groin. The empty, dead look in his eyes. He was already finished then. Already
unconscious. His eyes were open, but he wasn't thinking or moving anymore, just that
dead, stupid look on his lace, that terrible look, the way Stilson looked when I finished
"They'll ice him, though," Dink said. "Everybody knows he started it. I saw them get up
and leave the commanders' mess. Took me a couple of seconds to realize you weren't
there, either, and then a minute more to find out where you had gone. I told you not to be
"They're bound to ice him. Troublemaker. Him and his stinking honor."
Then, to Dink's surprise, Ender began to cry. Lying on his back, still soaking wet with
sweat and water, he gasped his sobs, tears seeping out of his closed eyelids and
disappearing in the water on his face.
"Are you all right?"
"I didn't want to hurt him!" Ender cried. "Why didn't he just leave me alone!"
He heard his door open softly, then close. He knew at once that it was his battle
instructions, He opened his eyes, expecting to find the darkness of early morning, before
0600. Instead, the lights were on, He was naked and when he moved the bed was soaking
wet, His eyes were puffy and painful from crying. He looked at the clock on his desk.
1820, it said. It's the same day. I already had a battle today, I had two battles today -- the
bastards know what I've been through, and they're doing this to me.
WILLIAM BEE, GRIFFIN ARMY, TALO MOMOE, TIGER ARMY, 1900
He sat on the edge of the bed. The note trembled in his hand. I can't do this, he said
silently. And then not silently. "I can't do this."
He got up, bleary, and looked for his flash suit. Then he remembered -- he had put it in
the cleaner while he showered. It was still there.
Holding the paper, he walked out of his room. Dinner was nearly over, and there were a
few people in the corridor, but no one spoke to him, just watched him, perhaps in awe of
what had happened at noon in the bathroom, perhaps because of the forbidding, terrible
look on his face. Most of his boys were in the barracks.
Ho, Ender. There gonna be a practice tonight?
Ender handed the paper to Hot Soup. "Those sons of bitches," he said. "Two at once?"
"Two armies!" shouted Crazy Tom.
"They'll just trip over each other," said Bean.
"I've got to clean up," Ender said. "Get them ready, get everybody together, I'll meet you
there, at the gate."
He walked out of the barracks. A tumult of conversation rose behind him. He heard
Crazy Tom scream, "Two farteating armies! We'll whip their butts!"
The bathroom was empty. All cleaned up. None of the blood that poured from Bonzo's
nose into the shower water. All gone. Nothing bad ever happened here.
Ender stepped under the water and rinsed himself, took the sweat of combat and let it
run down the drain. All gone, except they recycled it and we'll be drinking Bonzo's
bloodwater in the morning. All the life gone out of it, but his blood just the same, his
blood and my sweat, washed down in their stupidity or cruelty or whatever it was that
made them let it happen.
He dried himself, dressed in his flash suit, and walked to the battleroom. His army was
waiting in the corridor, the door still not opened. They watched him in silence as he
walked to the front to stand by the blank grey forcefield. Of course they all knew about
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his fight in the bathroom today; that and their own weariness from the battle that morning
kept them quiet, while the knowledge that they would be facing two armies filled them
Everything they can do to beat me, thought Ender. Everything they can think of, change
all the rules, they don't care, just so they beat me. Well, I'm sick of the game. No game is
worth Bonzo's blood pinking the water on the bathroom floor. Ice me, send me home, I
don't want to play anymore.
The door disappeared. Only three meters out there were four stars together, completely
blocking the view from the door.
Two armies weren't enough. They had to make Ender deploy his forces blind.
"Bean," said Ender. "Take your boys and tell me what's on the other side of this star."
Bean pulled the coil of twine from his waist, tied one end around him, handed the other
end to a boy in his squad, and stepped gently through the door. His squad quickly
followed. They had practiced this several times, and it took only a moment before they
were braced on the star, holding the end of the twine. Bean pushed off at great speed, in a
line almost parallel to the door; when he reached the corner of the room, he pushed off
again and rocketed straight out toward the enemy. The spots of light on the wall showed
that the enemy was shooting at him. As the rope was stopped by each edge of the star in
turn, his arc became tighter, his direction changed, and he became an impossible target to
hit. His squad caught him neatly as he came around the star from the other side. He
moved all his arms and legs so those waiting inside the door would know that the enems
hadn't flashed him anywhere.
Ender dropped through the gate.
"It's really dim," said Bean, "but light enough you can't follow people easily by the
lights on their suits. Worst possible for seeing. It's all open space from this star to the
enemy side of the room. They've got eight stars making a square around their door. I
didn't see anybody except the ones peeking around the boxes. They're just sitting there
waiting for us."
As if to corroborate Bean's statement, the enemy began to call out to them. "Hey! We be
hungry, come and feed us! Your ass is draggin'! Your ass is Dragon!"
Ender's mind felt dead. This was stupid. He didn't have a chance, outnumbered two to
one and forced to attack a protected enemy. "In a real war, any commander with brains at
all would retreat and save his army."
"What the hell," said Bean. "It's only a game."
"It stopped being a game when they threw away the rules."
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"So, you throw 'em away, too."
Ender grinned. "OK. Why not, Let's see how they react to a formation."
Bean was appalled. "A formation! We've never done a formation in the whole time
we've been an army!"
"We've still got a month to go before our training period is normally supposed to end.
About time we started doing formations. Always have to know formations," He formed
an A with his fingers, showed it to the blank door, and beckoned, A toon quickly
emerged and Ender began arranging them behind the star. Three meters wasn't enough
room to work in, the boys were frightened and confused, and it took nearly five minutes
just to get them to understand what they were doing.
Tiger and Griffin soldiers were reduced to chanting catcalls, while their commanders
argued about whether to try to use their overwhelming force to attack Dragon Army
while they were still behind the star. Momoe was all for attacking -- "We outnumber him
two to one" -- while Bee said, "Sit tight and we can't lose, move out and he can figure out
a way to beat us."
So they sat tight, until finally in the dusky light they saw a large mass slip out from
behind Ender's star. It held its shape, even when it abruptly stopped moving sideways and
launched itself toward the dead center of the eight stars where eighty-two soldiers waited.
"Doobie doe," said a Griffin. "They're doing a formation."
"They must have been putting that together for all five minutes," said Momoe. "If we'd
attacked while they were doing it, we could've destroyed them."
"Eat it, Momoe," whispered Bee. "You saw the way that little kid flew. He went all the
way around the star and back behind without ever touching a wall. Maybe they've all got
hooks, did you think of that? They've got something new there."
The formation was a strange one. A square formation of tightly-packed bodies in front,
making a wall. Behind it, a cylinder, six boys in circumference and two boys deep, their
limbs outstretched and frozen so they couldn't possibly be holding on to each other. Yet
they held together as tightly as if they had been tied -- which, in fact, they were.
From inside the formation, Dragon Army was firing with deadly accuracy, forcing
Griffins and Tigers to stay tightly packed on their stars.
"The back of that sucker is open,"said Bee. "As soon as they get between the stars, we
can get around behind--"
"Don't talk about it, do it!" said Momoe. Then he took his own advice and ordered his
boys to launch against the wall and rebound out behind the Dragon formation.
In the chaos of their takeoff, while Griffin Army held tight to their stars, the Dragon
formation abruptly changed. Both the cylinder and the front wall split in two, as boys
inside it pushed off; almost at once, the formations also reversed direction, heading back
toward the Dragon gate. Most of the Griffins fired at the formations and the boys moving
backward with them; and the Tigers took the survivors of Dragon Army from behind.
But there was something wrong. William Bee thought for a moment and realized what it
was. Those formations couldn't have reversed direction in midflight unless someone
pushed off in the opposite direction, and if they took off with enough force to make that
twenty-man formation move backward, they must be going fast.
There they were, six small Dragon soldiers down near William Bee's own door. From
the number of lights showing on their flash suits, Bee could see that three of them were
disabled and two of them damaged; only one was whole. Nothing to be frightened of. Bee
casually aimed at them, pressed the button, and--
The lights went on.
The game was over.
Even though he was looking right at them, it took Bee a moment to realize what had just
happened. Four of the Dragon soldiers had their helmets pressed on the corners of the
door. And one of them had just passed through. They had just carried out the victory
ritual. They were getting destroyed, they had hardly inflicted any casualties, and they had
the gall to perform the victory ritual and end the game right under their noses.
Only then did it occur to William Bee that not only had Dragon Army ended the game,
it was possihie that, under the rules, they had won it. After all, no matter what happened,
you were not certified as the winner unless you had enough unfrozen soldiers to touch the
corners of the gate and pass someone through into the enemy's corridor. Therefore, by
one way of thinking. you could argue that the ending ritual was victory. The battleroom
certainly recognized it as the end of the game.
The teachergate opetied and Major Anderson came into the room. "Ender," he called,
One of the frozen Dragon soldiers tried to answer him through jaws that were clamped
shut by the flash suit. Anderson hooked over to him and thawed him.
Ender was smiling. "I beat you again, sir," he said.
"Nonsense, Ender," Anderson said softly. "Yout battle was with Griffin and Tiger."
"How stupid do you think I am?" said Ender.
Loudly, Anderson said, "After that little maneuver, the rules are being revised to require
that all of the enemy's soldiers must be frozen or disabled before the gate can be
"It could only work once anyway," Ender said.
Anderson handed him the hook. Ender unfroze everyone at once. To hell with protocol.
To hell with everything. "Hey!" he shouted as Anderson moved away. "What is it next
time? My army in a cage without guns, with the rest of the Battle School against them?
How about a little equality?"
There was a loud murmur of agreement from the other boys, and not all of it came from
Dragon Army. Anderson did not so much as turn around to acknowledge Ender's
challenge. Finally, it was William Bee who answered. "Ender, if you're on one side of the
battle, it won't be equal no matter what the conditions are."
Right! called the boys. Many of them laughed. Talo Momoe began clapping his hands.
"Ender Wiggin!" he shouted. The other boys also clapped and shouted Ender's name.
Ender passed through the enemy gate. His soldiers followed him. The sound of them
shouting his name followed him through the corridors.
"Practice tonight?" asked Craty Tom.
Ender shook his head.
"Tomorrow morning then?"
"Never again, as far as I'm concerned."
He could hear the murmurs behind him.
"Hey, that's not fair," said one of the boys. "It's not our fault the teachers are screwing
up the game. You can't just stop teaching us stuff because--"
Ender slammed his open hand against the wall and shouted at the boy. "I don't care
about the game anymore!" His voice echoed through the corridor. Boys from other
armies came to their doors. He spoke quietly into the silence -- "Do you understand that?"
And he whispered. "The game is over."
He walked back to his room alone. He wanted to lie down, but he couldn't because the
bed was wet. It reminded him of all that had happened today, and in fury he tore the
mattress and blankets from the bedframe and shoved them out into the corridor. Then he
wadded up a unifortn to serve as a pillow and lay on the fabric of wires strung across the
frame. It was uncomfortable, but Ender didn't care enough to get up.
He had only been there a few minutes when someone knocked on his door.
"Go away," he said softly. Whoever was knockine didn't hear him or didn't care. Finally,
Ender said to come in.
It was Bean.
"Go away, Bean."
Bean nodded but didn't leave. Instead he looked at his shoes. Ender almost yelled at
him, cursed at him, screamed at him to leave. Instead he noticed how very tired Bean
looked, his whole body bent with weariness, his eyes dark from lack of sleep; and yet his
skin was still soft and translucent, the skin of a child, the soft curved cheek, the slender
limbs of a little boy. He wasn't eight years old yet. It didn't matter he was brilliant und
dedicated and good. He was a child. He was *young*.
No he isn't, thought Ender. Small, yes. But Bean has been through a battle with a whole
army depending on him and on the soldiers that he led, and he performed splendidly, and
they won. There's no youth in that. No childhood.
Taking Ender's silence and softening expression as permission to stay, Bean took
another step into the room. Only then did Ender see the small slip of paper in his hand.
"You're transferred?" asked Ender. He was incredulous, but his voice came out sounding
"To Rabbit Army."
Ender nodded. Of course. It was obvious. If I can't be defeated with my army, they'll
take my army away. "Carn Carby's a good man," said Ender. "I hope he recognizes what
"Carn Carby was graduated today. He got his notice while we were fighting our battle."
"Well, who's commanding Rabbit then?"
Bean held his hands out helplessly. "Me."
Ender looked at the ceiling and nodded. "Of course. After all, you're only four years
younger than the regular age."
"It isn't funny. I don't know what's going on here. All the changes in the game. And now
this. I wasn't the only one transferred, you know. They graduated half the commanders,
and transferred a lot of our guys to command their armies."
"It looks like -- every toon leader and every assistant."
"Of course. If they decide to wreck my army, they'll cut it to the ground. Whatever
they're doing, they're thorough.""
"You'll still win, Ender. We all know that. Crazy Tom, he said, 'You mean I'm supposed
to figure out how to beat Dragon Army?' Everybody knows you're the best. They can't
break you down, no matter what they--"
"They already have."
"No, Ender, they can't--"
"I don't care about their game anymore, Bean. I'm not going to play it anymore. No
more practices. No more battles. They can put their little slips of paper on the floor all
they want, but I won't go. I decided that before I went through the door today. That's why
I had you go for the gate. I didn't think it would work, but I didn't care. I just wanted to
go out in style."
"You should've seen William Bee's face. He just stood there trying to figure out how he
had lost when you only had seven boys who could wiggle their toes and he only had three
"Why should I want to see William Bee's face? Why should I want to beat anybody?"
Ender pressed his palms against his eyes. "I hurt Bonzo really bad today, Bean. I really
hurt him bad."
"He had it coming."
"I knocked him out standing up. It was like he was dead, standing there. And I kept
Bean said nothing.
"I just wanted to make sure he never hurt me again."
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