of communicating except through alphabetic scanning, spelling out messages letter by letter. In
some ways, though, spelling things out had been better. At least then Miro had been silent; he
hadn't had to listen to his own voice. The thick, awkward sound, the agonizing slowness of it. Who
in his family had the patience to listen to him? Even the ones who tried-- his next-younger sister,
Ela; his friend and stepfather, Andrew Wiggin, the Speaker for the Dead; and Quim, of course-- he
could feel their impatience. They tended to finish his sentences for him. They needed to hurry
things. So even though they said they wanted to talk with him, even though they actually sat and
listened as he spoke, he still couldn't speak freely to them. He couldn't talk about ideas; he couldn't
speak in long, involved sentences, because by the time he got to the end his listeners would have
lost track of the beginning.
The human brain, Miro had concluded, just like a computer, can only receive data at certain
speeds. If you get too slow, the listener's attention wanders and the information is lost.
Not just the listeners, either. Miro had to be fair-- he was as impatient with himself as they were.
When he thought of the sheer effort involved in explaining a complicated idea, when he anticipated
trying to form the words with lips and tongue and jaws that wouldn't obey him, when he thought of
how long it would all take, he usually felt too weary to speak. His mind raced on and on, as fast as
ever, thinking so many thoughts that at times Miro wanted his brain to shut down, to be silent and
give him peace. But his thoughts remained his own, unshared.
Except with Jane. He could speak to Jane. She had come to him first on his terminal at home, her
face taking form on the screen. "I'm a friend of the Speaker for the Dead," she had told him. "I
think we can get this computer to be a little more responsive." From then on, Miro had found that
Jane was the only person he could talk to easily. For one thing, she was infinitely patient. She never
finished his sentences. She could wait for him to finish them himself, so that he never felt rushed,
never felt that he was boring her.
Perhaps even more important, he didn't have to form his words as fully for her as he did for human
listeners. Andrew had given him a personal terminal-- a computer transceiver encased in a jewel
like the one Andrew wore in his own ear. From that vantage point, using the jewel's sensors, Jane
could detect every sound he made, every motion of the muscles in his head. He didn't have to
complete each sound, he had only to begin it and she would understand. So he could be lazy. He
could speak more quickly and be understood.
And he could also speak silently. He could subvocalize-- he didn't have to use that awkward,
barking, yowling voice that was all his throat could produce now. So that when he was talking to
Jane, he could speak quickly, naturally, without any reminder that he was crippled. With Jane he
could feel like himself.
Now he sat on the bridge of the cargo ship that had brought the Speaker for the Dead to Lusitania
only a few months ago. He dreaded the rendezvous with Valentine's ship. If he could have thought
of somewhere else to go, he might have gone there-- he had no desire to meet Andrew's sister
Valentine or anybody else. If he could have stayed alone in the starship forever, speaking only to
Jane, he would have been content.
No he wouldn't. He would never be content again.
At least this Valentine and her family would be somebody new. On Lusitania he knew everybody,
or at least everybody that he valued-- all the scientific community there, the people of education
and understanding. He knew them all so well that he could not help but see their pity, their grief,
their frustration at what had become of him. When they looked at him all they could see was the
difference between what he was before and what he was now. All they could see was loss.
There was a chance that new people-- Valentine and her family-- would be able to look at him and
see something else.
Even that was unlikely, though. Strangers would look at him and see less, not more, than those
who had known him before he was crippled. At least Mother and Andrew and Ela and Ouanda and
all the others knew that he had a mind, knew that he was capable of understanding ideas. What will
new people think when they see me? They'll see a body that's already atrophying, hunched over;
they'll see me walk with a shuffling gait; they'll watch me use my hands like paws, clutching a
spoon like a three-year-old; they'll hear my thick, half-intelligible speech; and they'll assume, they'll
know, that such a person cannot possibly understand anything complicated or difficult.
Why did I come?
I didn't come. I went. I wasn't coming here, to meet these people. I was leaving there. Getting
away. Only I tricked myself. I thought of leaving on a thirty-year voyage, which is only how it will
seem to them. To me I've been gone only a week and a half. No time at all. And already my time of
solitude is over. My time of being alone with Jane, who listens to me as if I were still a human
being, is done.
Almost. Almost he said the words that would have aborted the rendezvous. He could have stolen
Andrew's starship and taken off on a voyage that would last forever without having to face another
But such a nihilistic act was not in him, not yet. He had not yet despaired, he decided. There might
yet be something he could do that might justify his continuing to live in this body. And perhaps it
would begin with meeting Andrew's sister.
The ships were now joining, the umbilicals snaking outward and searching, groping till they met
each other. Miro watched on the monitors and listened to the computer reports of each successful
linkage. The ships were joining in every possible way so that they could make the rest of the
voyage to Lusitania in perfect tandem. All resources would be shared. Since Miro's ship was a
cargo vessel, it couldn't take on more than a handful of people, but it could take some of the other
ship's life-support supplies; together, the two ship's computers were figuring out a perfect balance.
Once they had calculated the load, they worked out exactly how fast each ship should accelerate
as they made the park shift to get them both back to near-lightspeed at exactly the same pace. It was
an extremely delicate and complicated negotiation between two computers that had to know almost
perfectly what their ships carried and how they could perform. It was finished before the passage
tube between the ships was fully connected.
Miro heard the footsteps scuffing along the corridor from the tube. He turned his chair-- slowly,
because he did everything slowly-- and saw her coming toward him. Stooped over, but not very
much, because she wasn't that tall to begin with. Hair mostly white, with a few strands of mousy
brown. When she stood he looked at her face and judged her. Old but not elderly. If she was
nervous about this meeting it didn't show. But then, from what Andrew and Jane had told him about
her, she had met a lot of people who were a good deal more fearsome than a twenty-year-old
"Miro?" she asked.
"Who else?" he said.
It took a moment, just a heartbeat, for her to process the strange sounds that came out of his mouth
and recognize the words. He was used to that pause now, but he still hated it.
"I'm Valentine," she said.
"I know," he answered. He wasn't making this any easier, with his laconic replies, but what else
was there to say? This wasn't exactly a meeting between heads of state with a list of vital decisions
to make. But he had to make some effort, if only not to seem hostile.
"Your name, Miro-- it means 'I look,' doesn't it?"
"'I look closely.' Maybe 'I pay attention.'"
"It's really not that hard to understand you," said Valentine.
He was startled that she addressed the matter so openly.
"I think I'm having more problems with your Portuguese accent than with the brain damage."
For a moment it felt like a hammer in his heart-- she was speaking more frankly about his
situation than anyone except Andrew. But then she was Andrew's sister, wasn't she? He should
have expected her to be plainspoken.
"Or do you prefer that we pretend that it isn't a barrier between you and other people?"
Apparently she had sensed his shock. But that was over, and now it occurred to him that he
probably shouldn't be annoyed, that he should probably be glad that they wouldn't have to sidestep
the issue. Yet he was annoyed, and it took him a moment to think why. Then he knew.
"My brain damage isn't your problem," he said.
"If it makes it hard for me to understand you, then it's a problem I have to deal with. Don't get
prickly with me already, young man. I have only begun to bother you, and you have only begun to
bother me. So don't get steamed up because I happened to mention your brain damage as being
somehow my problem. I have no intention of watching every word I say for fear I'll offend an
oversensitive young man who thinks the whole world revolves around his disappointments."
Miro was furious that she had judged him already, and so harshly. It was unfair-- not at all what
the author of Demosthenes' hierarchy ought to be like. "I don't think the whole world revolves
around my disappointments! But don't you think you can come in here and run things on my ship!"
That's what annoyed him, not her words. She was right-- her words were nothing. It was her
attitude, her complete self-confidence. He wasn't used to people looking at him without shock or
She sat down in the seat next to him. He swiveled to face her. She, for her part, did not look away.
Indeed, she pointedly scanned his body, head to toe, looking him over with an air of cool appraisal.
"He said you were tough. He said you had been twisted but not broken."
"Are you supposed to be my therapist?"
"Are you supposed to be my enemy?"
"Should I be?" asked Miro.
"No more than I should be your therapist. Andrew didn't have us meet so I could heal you. He had
us meet so you could help me. If you're not going to, fine. If you are, fine. Just let me make a few
things clear. I'm spending every waking moment writing subversive propaganda to try to arouse
public sentiment on the Hundred Worlds and in the colonies. I'm trying to turn the people against
the fleet that Starways Congress has sent to subdue Lusitania. Your world, not mine, I might add."
"Your brother's there." He was not about to let her claim complete altruism.
"Yes, we both have family there. And we both are concerned about keeping the pequeninos from
destruction. And we both know that Ender has restored the hive queen on your world, so that there
are two alien species that will be destroyed if Starways Congress gets its way. There's a great deal
at stake, and I am already doing all that I can possibly do to try to stop that fleet. Now, if spending
a few hours with you can help me do it better, it's worth taking time away from my writing in order
to talk with you. But I have no intention of wasting my time worrying about whether I'm going to
offend you or not. So if you're going to be my adversary, you can sit up here all by yourself and I'll
get back to my work."
"Andrew said you were the best person he ever knew."
"He reached that conclusion before he saw me raise three barbarian children to adulthood. I
understand your mother has six."
"And you're the oldest."
"That's too bad. Parents always make their worst mistakes with the oldest children. That's when
parents know the least and care the most, so they're more likely to be wrong and also more likely to
insist that they're right."
Miro didn't like hearing this woman leap to conclusions about his mother. "She's nothing like
"Of course not." She leaned forward in her seat. "Well, have you decided?"
"Are we working together or did you just unplug yourself from thirty years of human history for
"What do you want from me?"
"Stories, of course. Facts I can get from the computer."
"Stories about what?"
"You. The piggies. You and the piggies. This whole business with the Lusitania Fleet began with
you and the piggies, after all. It was because you interfered with them that--"
"We helped them!"
"Oh, did I use the wrong word again?"
Miro glared at her. But even as he did, he knew that she was right-- he was being oversensitive.
The word interfered, when used in a scientific context, was almost value-neutral. It merely meant
that he had introduced change into the culture he was studying. And if it did have a negative
connotation, it was that he had lost his scientific perspective-- he had stopped studying the
pequeninos and started treating them as friends. Of that he was surely guilty. No, not guilty-- he
was proud of having made that transition. "Go on," he said.
"All this began because you broke the law and piggies started growing amaranth."
"Yes, that's ironic, isn't it? The descolada virus has gotten in and killed every strain of amaranth
that your sister developed for them. So your interference was in vain."
"No it wasn't," said Miro. "They're learning."
"Yes, I know. More to the point, they're choosing. What to learn, what to do. You brought them
freedom. I approve wholeheartedly of what you decided to do. But my job is to write about you to
the people out there in the Hundred Worlds and the colonies, and they won't necessarily see things
that way. So what I need from you is the story of how and why you broke the law and interfered
with the piggies, and why the government and people of Lusitania rebelled against Congress rather
than send you off to be tried and punished for your crimes."
"Andrew already told you that story."
"And I've already written about it, in larger terms. Now I need the personal things. I want to be
able to let other people know these so-called piggies as people. And you, too. I have to let them
know you as a person. If it's possible, it would be nice if I could bring them to like you. Then the
Lusitania Fleet will look like what it is-- a monstrous overreaction to a threat that never existed."
"The fleet is xenocide."
"So I've said in my propaganda," said Valentine.
He couldn't bear her self-certainty. He couldn't bear her unshakable faith in herself. So he had to
contradict her, and the only way he could was to blurt out ideas that he had not yet thought out
completely. Ideas that were still only half-formed doubts in his mind. "The fleet is also self-
It had the desired effect-- it stopped her lecture and even made her raise her eyebrows, questioning
him. The trouble was, now he had to explain what he meant.
"The descolada," he said. "It's the most dangerous form of life anywhere."
"The answer to that is quarantine. Not sending a fleet armed with the M.D. Device, so they have
the capacity to turn Lusitania and everybody on it into microscopic interstellar dust."
"You're so sure you're right?"
"I'm sure that it's wrong for Starways Congress even to contemplate obliterating another sentient
"The piggies can't live without the descolada," said Miro, "and if the descolada ever spreads to
another planet, it will destroy all life there. It will."
It was a pleasure to see that Valentine was capable of looking puzzled. "But I thought the virus
was contained. It was your grandparents who found a way to stop it, to make it dormant in human
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