"Ela," said Ouanda, "what if we could develop a way to let the little mothers bear their children
without being devoured. A caesarean section. With a protein-rich nutrient substitute for the little
mother's corpse. Could the females survive to adulthood?"
Ela didn't have a chance to answer. Ender took them both by the arms and pulled them away.
"How dare you!" he whispered. "What if they could find a way to let infant human girls conceive
and bear children, which would feed on their mother's tiny corpse?"
"What are you talking about!" said Ouanda.
"That's sick," said Ela.
"We didn't come here to attack them at the root of their lives," said Ender. "We came here to find
a way to share a world with them. In a hundred years or five hundred years, when they've learned
enough to make changes for themselves, then they can decide whether to alter the way that their
children are conceived and born. But we can't begin to guess what it would do to them if suddenly
as many females as males came to maturity. To do what? They can't bear more children, can they?
They can't compete with the males to become fathers, can they? What are they for?"
"But they're dying without ever being alive--"
"They are what they are," said Ender. "They decide what changes they'll make, not you, not from
your blindly human perspective, trying to make them have full and happy lives, just like us."
"You're right," said Ela. "Of course, you're right, I'm sorry." To Ela, the piggies weren't people,
they were strange alien fauna, and Ela was used to discovering that other animals had inhuman life
patterns. But Ender could see that Ouanda was still upset. She had made the raman transition: She
thought of piggies as us instead of them. She accepted the strange behavior that she knew about,
even the murder of her father, as within an acceptable range of alienness. This meant she was
actually more tolerant and accepting of the piggies than Ela could possibly be; yet it also made her
more vulnerable to the discovery of cruel, bestial behaviors among her friends.
Ender noticed, too, that after years of association with the piggies, Ouanda had one of their habits:
At a moment of extreme anxiety, her whole body became rigid. So he reminded her of her
humanity by taking her shoulder in a fatherly gesture, drawing her close under his arm.
At his touch Ouanda melted a little, laughed nervously, her voice low. "Do you know what I keep
thinking?" she said. "That the little mothers have all their children and die unbaptized."
"If Bishop Peregrino converts them," said Ender, "maybe they'll let us sprinkle the inside of the
mothertree and say the words."
"Don't mock me," Ouanda whispered.
"I wasn't. For now, though, we'll ask them to change enough that we can live with them, and no
more. We'll change ourselves only enough that they can bear to live with us. Agree to that, or the
fence goes up again, because then we truly would be a threat to their survival."
Ela nodded her agreement, but Ouanda had gone rigid again. Ender's fingers suddenly dug harshly
into Ouanda's shoulder. Frightened, she nodded her agreement. He relaxed his grip. "I'm sorry," he
said. "But they are what they are. If you want, they are what God made them. So don't try to
remake them in your own image."
He returned to the mothertree. Shouter and Human were waiting.
"Please excuse the interruption," said Ender.
"It's all right," said Human. "I told her what you were doing."
Ender felt himself sink inside. "What did you tell her we were doing?"
"I said that they wanted to do something to the little mothers that would make us all more like
humans, but you said they never could do that or you'd put back the fence. I told her that you said
we must remain Little Ones, and you must remain humans."
Ender smiled. His translation was strictly true, but he had the sense not to get into specifics. It was
conceivable that the wives might actually want the little mothers to survive childbirth, without
realizing how vast the consequences of such a simple-seeming, humanitarian change might be.
Human was an excellent diplomat; he told the truth and yet avoided the whole issue.
"Well," said Ender. "Now that we've all met each other, it's time to begin serious talking."
Ender sat down on the bare earth. Shouter squatted on the ground directly opposite him. She sang
a few words.
"She says you must teach us everything you know, take us out to the stars, bring us the hive queen
and give her the lightstick that this new human brought with you, or in the dark of night she'll send
all the brothers of this forest to kill all the humans in your sleep and hang you high above the
ground so you get no third life at all." Seeing the humans' alarm, Human reached out his hand and
touched Ender's chest. "No, no, you must understand. That means nothing. That's the way we
always begin when we're talking to another tribe. Do you think we're crazy? We'd never kill you!
You gave us amaranth, pottery, the Hive Queen and the Hegemon."
"Tell her to withdraw that threat or we'll never give her anything else."
"I told you, Speaker, it doesn't mean--"
"She said the words, and I won't talk to her as long as those words stand."
Human spoke to her.
Shouter jumped to her feet and walked all the way around the mothertree, her hands raised high,
Human leaned to Ender. "She's complaining to the great mother and to all the wives that you're a
brother who doesn't know his place. She's saying that you're rude and impossible to deal with."
Ender nodded. "Yes, that's exactly right. Now we're getting somewhere."
Again Shouter squatted across from Ender. She spoke in Males' Language.
"She says she'll never kill any human or let any of the brothers or wives kill any of you. She says
for you to remember that you're twice as tall as any of us and you know everything and we know
nothing. Now has she humiliated herself enough that you'll talk to her?"
Shouter watched him, glumly waiting for his response.
"Yes," said Ender. "Now we can begin."
Novinha knelt on the floor beside Miro's bed. Quim and Olhado stood behind her. Dom Crist o
was putting Quara and Grego to bed in their room. The sound of his off-tune lullaby was barely
audible behind the tortured sound of Miro's breathing.
Miro's eyes opened.
"Miro," said Novinha.
"Miro, you're home in bed. You went over the fence while it was on. Now Dr. Navio says that
your brain has been damaged. We don't know whether the damage is permanent or not. You may be
partially paralyzed. But you're alive, Miro, and Navio says that he can do many things to help you
compensate for what you may have lost. Do you understand? I'm telling you the truth. It may be
very bad for a while, but it's worth trying."
He moaned softly. But it was not a sound of pain. It was as if he were trying to talk, and couldn't.
"Can you move your jaw, Miro?" asked Quim.
Slowly Miro's mouth opened and closed.
Olhado held his hand a meter above Miro's head and moved it. "Can you make your eyes follow
the movement of my hand?"
Miro's eyes followed. Novinha squeezed Miro's hand. "Did you feel me squeeze your hand?"
Miro moaned again.
"Close your mouth for no," said Quim, "and open your mouth for yes."
Miro closed his mouth and said, "Mm."
Novinha could not help herself; despite her encouraging words, this was the most terrible thing
that had happened to any of her children. She had thought when Lauro lost his eyes and became
Olhado-- she hated the nickname, but now used it herself-- that nothing worse could happen. But
Miro, paralyzed, helpless, so he couldn't even feel the touch of her hand, that could not be borne.
She had felt one kind of grief when Pipo died, and another kind when Libo died, and a terrible
regret at Marc o's death. She even remembered the aching emptiness she felt as she watched them
lower her mother and father into the ground. But there was no pain worse than to watch her child
suffer and be unable to help.
She stood up to leave. For his sake, she would do her crying silently, and in another room.
"Mm. Mm. Mm."
"He doesn't want you to go," said Quim.
"I'll stay if you want," said Novinha. "But you should sleep again. Navio said that the more you
sleep for a while--"
"Mm. Mm. Mm."
"Doesn't want to sleep, either," said Quim.
Novinha stifled her immediate response, to snap at Quim and tell him that she could hear his
answers perfectly well for herself. This was no time for quarreling. Besides, it was Quim who had
worked out the system that Miro was using to communicate. He had a right to take pride in it, to
pretend that he was Miro's voice. It was his way of affirming that he was part of the family. That he
was not quitting because of what he learned in the praqa today. It was his way of forgiving her, so
she held her tongue.
"Maybe he wants to tell us something," said Olhado.
"Or ask a question?" said Quim.
"That's great," said Quim. "If he can't move his hands, he can't write."
"Sem problema," said Olhado. "Scanning. He can scan. If we bring him in by the terminal, I can
make it scan the letters and he just says yes when it hits the letters he wants.
"That'll take forever," said Quim.
"Do you want to try that, Miro?" asked Novinha.
He wanted to.
The three of them carried him to the front room and laid him on the bed there. Olhado oriented the
terminal so it displayed all the letters of the alphabet, facing so Miro could see them. He wrote a
short program that caused each letter to light up in turn for a fraction of a second. It took a few trial
runs for the speed to be right-- slow enough that Miro could make a sound that meant this letter
before the light moved on to the next one.
Miro, in turn, kept things moving faster yet by deliberately abbreviating his words.
"Piggies," said Olhado.
"Yes," said Novinha. "Why were you crossing the fence with the piggies?"
"He's asking a question, Mother," said Quim. "He doesn't want to answer any."
"Do you want to know about the piggies that were with you when you crossed the fence?" asked
Novinha. He did. "They've gone back into the forest. With Ouanda and Ela and the Speaker for the
Dead." Quickly she told him about the meeting in the Bishop's chambers, what they had learned
about the piggies, and above all what they had decided to do. "When they turned off the fence to
save you, Miro, it was a decision to rebel against Congress. Do you understand? The Committee's
rules are finished. The fence is nothing but wires now. The gate will stand open."
Tears came to Miro's eyes.
"Is that all you wanted to know?" asked Novinha. "You should sleep."
No, he said. No no no no.
"Wait till his eyes are clear," said Quim. "And then we'll scan some more."
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