So she began to trace the line, follow it carefully to the wall. A couple of times she moved so
quickly that she lost the line, forgot which one it was; but soon she found it again, or thought she
did, and followed it to the wall. Was it good enough? Were the gods satisfied?
Almost, but not quite-- she couldn't be sure that when her gaze slipped from the line she had
returned to the right one. Petals didn't skip from stream to stream. She had to follow the right one,
along its entire length. This time she started at the wall and bowed very low, so her eyes wouldn't
be distracted even by the movement of her own right hand. She inched her way along, never letting
herself so much as blink, even when her eyes burned. She knew that if she lost the grain she was
following she'd have to go back and start over. It had to be done perfectly or it would lose all its
power to cleanse her.
It took forever. She did blink, but not haphazardly, by accident. When her eyes burned too much,
she would bow down until her left eye was directly over the grain. Then she would close the other
eye for a moment. Her right eye relieved, she would open it, then put that eye directly over the line
in the wood and close the left. This way she was able to make it halfway across the room until the
board ended, butting up against another.
She wasn't sure whether that was good enough, whether it was enough to finish the board or if she
needed to find another woodgrain line to follow. She made as if to get up, testing the gods, to see if
they were satisfied. She half-rose, felt nothing; she stood, and still she was at ease.
Ah! They were satisfied, they were pleased with her. Now the grease on her skin felt like nothing
more than a little oil. There was no need for washing, not at this moment, for she had found another
way to cleanse herself, another way for the gods to discipline her. Slowly she lay back on the floor,
smiling, weeping softly in joy. Li Qing-jao, my ancestor-of-the-heart, thank you for showing me
the way. Now I have been joined to the gods; the separation is over. Mother, I am again connected
to you, clean and worthy. White Tiger of the West, I am now pure enough to touch your fur and
leave no mark of filthiness.
Then hands touched her-- Father's hands, picking her up. Drops of water fell onto her face, the
bare skin of her body-- Father's tears. "You're alive," he said. "My godspoken one, my beloved, my
daughter, my life, Gloriously Bright, you shine on."
Later she would learn that Father had had to be tied and gagged during her test, that when she
climbed the statue and made as if to press her throat against the sword, he flung himself forward
with such force that his chair fell and his head struck the floor. This was regarded as a great mercy,
since it meant he didn't see her terrible fall from the statue. He wept for her all the time she lay
unconscious. And then, when she rose to her knees and began to trace the woodgrains on the floor,
he was the one who realized what it meant. "Look," he whispered. "The gods have given her a task.
The gods are speaking to her."
The others were slow to recognize it, because they had never seen anyone trace woodgrain lines
before. It wasn't in the Catalogue of Voices of the Gods: Door-Waiting, Counting-to-Multiples-of-
Five, Object-Counting, Checking-for-Accidental-Murders, Fingernail-Tearing, Skin-Scraping,
Pulling-Out-of-Hair, Gnawing-at-Stone, Bugging-Out-of-Eyes-- all these were known to be
penances that the gods demanded, rituals of obedience that cleansed the soul of the godspoken so
that the gods could fill their minds with wisdom. No one had ever seen Woodgrain-Tracing. Yet
Father saw what she was doing, named the ritual, and added it to the Catalogue of Voices. It would
forever bear her name, Han Qing-jao, as the first to be commanded by the gods to perform this rite.
It made her very special.
So did her unusual resourcefulness in trying to find ways to cleanse her hands and, later, kill
herself. Many had tried scraping their hands on walls, of course, and most attempted to wipe on
clothes. But rubbing her hands to build up the heat of friction, that was regarded as rare and clever.
And while head-beating was common, climbing a statue and jumping off and landing on her head
was very rare. And none who had done it before had been strong enough to keep their hands behind
their back so long. The temple was all abuzz with it, and word soon spread to all the temples in
It was a great honor to Han Fei-tzu, of course, that his daughter was so powerfully possessed by
the gods. And the story of his near-madness when she was trying to destroy herself spread just as
quickly and touched many hearts. "He may be the greatest of the godspoken," they said of him, "but
he loves his daughter more than life." This made them love him as much as they already revered
It was then that people began whispering about the possible godhood of Han Fei-tzu. "He is great
and strong enough that the gods will listen to him," said the people who favored him. "Yet he is so
affectionate that he will always love the people of the planet Path, and try to do good for us. Isn't
this what the god of a world ought to be?" Of course it was impossible to decide now-- a man could
not be chosen to be god of a village, let alone of a whole world, until he died. How could you judge
what sort of god he'd be, until his whole life, from beginning to end, was known?
These whispers came to Qing-jao's ears many times as she grew older, and the knowledge that her
father might well be chosen god of Path became one of the beacons of her life. But at the time, and
forever in her memory, she remembered that his hands were the ones that carried her bruised and
twisted body to the bed of healing, his eyes were the ones that dropped warm tears on to her cold
skin, his voice was the one that whispered in the beautiful passionate tones of the old language,
"My beloved, my Gloriously Bright, never take your light from my life. Whatever happens, never
harm yourself or I will surely die."
Chapter 4 -- JANE
<So many of your people are becoming Christians. Believing in the god these humans brought
<You don't believe in God?>
<The question never come up. We have always remembered how we began.>
<You evolved. We were created.>
<By a virus.>
<By a virus that God created in order to create us.>
<So you, too, are a believer.>
<I understand belief.>
<No-- you desire belief.>
<I desire it enough to act as if I believed. Maybe that's what faith is.>
<Or deliberate insanity>
It turned out not to be just Valentine and Jakt who came over to Miro's ship. Plikt also came,
without invitation, and installed herself in a miserable little cubicle where there wasn't even room to
stretch out completely. She was the anomaly on the voyage-- not family, not crew, but a friend.
Plikt had been a student of Ender's when he was on Trondheim as a speaker for the dead. She had
figured out, quite independently, that Andrew Wiggin was the Speaker for the Dead and that he was
also the Ender Wiggin.
Why this brilliant young woman should have become so fixed on Ender Wiggin, Valentine could
not really understand. At times she thought, Perhaps this is how some religions start. The founder
doesn't ask for disciples; they come and force themselves upon him.
In any event, Plikt had stayed with Valentine and her family for all the years since Ender left
Trondheim, tutoring the children and helping in Valentine's research, always waiting for the day
that the family journeyed to be with Ender-- a day that only Plikt had known would come.
So during the last half of the voyage to Lusitania, it was the four of them who traveled in Miro's
ship: Valentine, Miro, Jakt, and Plikt. Or so Valentine thought at first. It was on the third day since
the rendezvous that she learned of the fifth traveler who had been with them all along.
That day, as always, the four of them were gathered on the bridge. There was nowhere else to go.
This was a cargo ship-- besides the bridge and the sleeping quarters, there was only a tiny galley
and the toilet. All the other space was designed to hold cargo, not people-- not in any kind of
Valentine didn't mind the loss of privacy, though. She was slacking off now on her output of
subversive essays; it was more important, she felt, to get to know Miro-- and, through him,
Lusitania. The people there, the pequeninos, and, most particularly, Miro's family-- for Ender had
married Novinha, Mira's mother. Valentine did glean much of that kind of information, of course--
she couldn't have been a historian and biographer for all these years without learning how to
extrapolate much from scant bits of evidence.
The real prize for her had turned out to be Miro himself. He was bitter, angry, frustrated, and filled
with loathing for his crippled body, but all that was understandable-- his loss had happened only a
few months before, and he was still trying to redefine himself. Valentine didn't worry about his
future-- she could see that he was very strong-willed, the kind of man who didn't easily fall apart.
He would adapt and thrive.
What interested her most was his thought. It was as if the confinement of his body had freed his
mind. When he had first been injured his paralysis was almost total. He had had nothing to do but
lie in one place and think. Of course, much of his time had been spent brooding about his losses, his
mistakes, the future he couldn't have. But he had also spent many hours thinking about the issues
that busy people almost never think about. And on that third day together, that's what Valentine was
trying to draw out of him.
"Most people don't think about it, not seriously, and you have," said Valentine.
"Just because I think about it doesn't mean I know anything," said Miro. She really was used to his
voice now, though sometimes his speech was maddeningly slow. It took a real effort of will at
times to keep from showing any sign of inattention.
"The nature of the universe," said Jakt.
"The sources of life," said Valentine. "You said you had thought about what it means to be alive,
and I want to know what you thought."
"How the universe works and why we all are in it." Miro laughed. "It's pretty crazy stuff."
"I've been trapped alone in an ice floe in a fishing boat for two weeks in a blizzard with no heat,"
said Jakt. "I doubt you've come up with anything that'll sound crazy to me."
Valentine smiled. Jakt was no scholar, and his philosophy was generally confined to holding his
crew together and catching a lot of fish. But he knew that Valentine wanted to draw Miro out, and
so he helped put the young man at ease, helped him know that he'd be taken seriously.
And it was important for Jakt to be the one who did that-- because Valentine had seen, and so had
Jakt, how Miro watched him. Jakt might be old, but his arms and legs and back were still those of a
fisherman, and every movement revealed the suppleness of his body. Miro even commented on it
once, obliquely, admiringly: "You've got the build of a twenty-year-old." Valentine heard the ironic
corollary that must have been in Miro's mind: While I, who am young, have the body of an arthritic
ninety-year-old. So Jakt meant something to Miro-- he represented the future that Miro could never
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have. Admiration and resentment; it would have been hard for Miro to speak openly in front of
Jakt, if Jakt had not taken care to make sure Miro heard nothing but respect and interest from him.
Plikt, of course, sat in her place, silent, withdrawn, effectively invisible.
"All right," said Miro. "Speculations on the nature of reality and the soul."
"Theology or metaphysics?" asked Valentine.
"Metaphysics, mostly," said Miro. "And physics. Neither one is my specialty. And this isn't the
kind of story you said you needed me for."
"I don't always know exactly what I'll need."
"All right," said Miro. He took a couple of breaths, as if he were trying to decide where to begin.
"You know about philotic twining."
"I know what everybody knows," said Valentine. "And I know that it hasn't led anywhere in the
last twenty-five hundred years because it can't really be experimented with." It was an old
discovery, from the days when scientists were struggling to catch up with technology. Teenage
physics students memorized a few wise sayings: "Philotes are the fundamental building blocks of
all matter and energy. Philotes have neither mass nor inertia. Philotes have only location, duration,
and connection." And everybody knew that it was philotic connections-- the twining of philotic
rays-- that made ansibles work, allowing instantaneous communication between worlds and
starships many light-years apart. But no one knew why it worked, and because philotes could not
be "handled," it was almost impossible to experiment with them. They could only be observed, and
then only through their connections.
"Philotics," said Jakt. "Ansibles?"
"A by-product," said Miro.
"What does it have to do with the soul?" asked Valentine.
Miro was about to answer, but he grew frustrated, apparently at the thought of trying to give a
long speech through his sluggish, resisting mouth. His jaw was working, his lips moving slightly.
Then he said aloud, "I can't do it."
"We'll listen," said Valentine. She understood his reluctance to try extended discourse with the
limitations of his speech, but she also knew he had to do it anyway.
"No," said Miro.
Valentine would have tried further persuasion, but she saw his lips were still moving, though little
sound came out. Was he muttering? Cursing?
No-- she knew it wasn't that at all.
It took a moment for her to realize why she was so sure. It was because she had seen Ender do
exactly the same thing, moving his lips and jaw, when he was issuing subvocalized commands to
the computer terminal built into the jewel he wore in his ear. Of course: Miro has the same
computer hookup Ender has, so he'll speak to it the same way.
In a moment it became clear what command Miro had given to his jewel. It must have been tied in
to the ship's computer, because immediately afterward one of the display screens cleared and then
showed Miro's face. Only there was none of the slackness that marred his face in person. Valentine
realized: It was Miro's face as it used to be. And when the computer image spoke, the sound
coming from the speakers was surely Miro's voice as it used to be-- clear. Forceful. Intelligent.
"You know that when philotes combine to make a durable structure-- a meson, a neutron, an atom,
a molecule, an organism, a planet-- they twine up."
"What is this?" demanded Jakt. He hadn't yet figured out why the computer was doing the talking.
The computer image of Miro froze on the screen and fell silent. Miro himself answered. "I've been
playing with this," he said. "I tell it things, and it remembers and speaks for me."
Valentine tried to imagine Miro experimenting until the computer program got his face and voice
just right. How exhilarating it must have been, to re-create himself as he ought to be. And also how
agonizing, to see what he could have been and know that it could never be real. "What a clever
idea," said Valentine. "Sort of a prosthesis for the personality."
Miro laughed-- a single "Ha!"
"Go ahead," said Valentine. "Whether you speak for yourself or the computer speaks for you, we'll
The computer image came back to life, and spoke again in Miro's strong, imaginary voice.
"Philotes are the smallest building blocks of matter and energy. They have no mass or dimension.
Each philote connects itself to the rest of the universe along a single ray, a one-dimensional line
that connects it to all the other philotes in its smallest immediate structure-- a meson. All those
strands from the philotes in that structure are twined into a single philotic thread that connects the
meson to the next larger structure-- a neutron, for instance. The threads in the neutron twine into a
yarn connecting it to all the other particles of the atom, and then the yarns of the atom twine into
the rope of the molecule. This has nothing to do with nuclear forces or gravity, nothing to do with
chemical bonds. As far as we can tell, the philotic connections don't do anything. They're just
"But the individual rays are always there, present in the twines," said Valentine.
"Yes, each ray goes on forever," answered the screen.
It surprised her-- and Jakt, too, judging from the way his eyes widened-- that the computer was
able to respond immediately to what Valentine said. It wasn't just a preset lecture. This had to be a
sophisticated program anyway, to simulate Miro's face and voice so well; but now to have it
responding as if it were simulating Miro's personality ...
Or had Miro given some cue to the program? Had he subvocalized the response? Valentine didn't
know-- she had been watching the screen. She would stop doing that now-- she would watch Miro
"We don't know if the ray is infinite," said Valentine. "We only know that we haven't found where
the ray ends."
"They twine together, a whole planetful, and each planet's philotic twine reaches to its star, and
each star to the center of the galaxy--"
"And where does the galactic twine go?" said Jakt. It was an old question-- schoolchildren asked it
when they first got into philotics in high school. Like the old speculation that maybe galaxies were
really neutrons or mesons inside a far vaster universe, or the old question, If the universe isn't
infinite, what is beyond the edge?
"Yes, yes," said Miro. This time, though, he spoke from his own mouth. "But that's not where I'm
going. I want to talk about life."
The computerized voice-- the voice of the brilliant young man-- took over. "The philotic twines
from substances like rock or sand all connect directly from each molecule to the center of the
planet. But when a molecule is incorporated into a living organism, its ray shifts. Instead of
reaching to the planet, it gets twined in with the individual cell, and the rays from the cells are all
twined together so that each organism sends a single fiber of philotic connections to twine up with
the central philotic rope of the planet."
"Which shows that individual lives have some meaning at the level of physics," said Valentine.
She had written an essay about it once, trying to dispel some of the mysticism that had grown up
about philotics while at the same time using it to suggest a view of community formation. "But
there's no practical effect from it, Miro. Nothing you can do with it. The philotic twining of living
organisms simply is. Every philote is connected to something, and through that to something else,
and through that to something else-- living cells and organisms are simply two of the leels where
those connections can be made."
"Yes," said Miro. "That which lives, twines."
Valentine shrugged, nodded. It probably couldn't be proven, but if Miro wanted that as a premise
in his speculations, that was fine.
The computer-Miro took over again. "What I've been thinking about is the endurance of the
twining. When a twined structure is broken-- as when a molecule breaks apart-- the old philotic
twining remains for a time. Fragments that are no longer physically joined remain philotically
connected for a while. And the smaller the particle, the longer that connection lasts after the
breakup of the original structure, and the more slowly the fragments shift to new twinings."
Jakt: frowned. "I thought the smaller things were, the faster things happened."
"It is counterintuitive," said Valentine.
"After nuclear fission it takes hours for the philotic rays to sort themselves back out again," said
the computer-Miro. "Split a smaller particle than an atom, and the philotic connection between the
fragments will last much longer than that."
"Which is how the ansible works," said Miro.
Valentine looked at him closely. Why was he talking sometimes in his own voice, sometimes
through the computer? Was the program under his control or wasn't it?
"The principle of the ansible is that if you suspend a meson in a powerful magnetic field," said
computer-Miro, "split it, and carry the two parts as far away as you want, the philotic twining will
still connect them. And the connection is instantaneous. If one fragment spins or vibrates, the ray
between them spins and vibrates, and the movement is detectable at the other end at exactly the
same moment. It takes no time whatsoever for the movement to be transmitted along the entire
length of the ray, even if the two fragments are carried light-years away from each other. Nobody
knows why it works, but we're glad it does. Without the ansible, there'd be no possibility of
meaningful communication between human worlds."
"Hell, there's no meaningful communication now," said Jakt. "And if it wasn't for the ansibles,
there'd be no warfleet heading for Lusitania right now."
Valentine wasn't listening to Jakt, though. She was watching Miro. This time Valentine saw when
he moved his lips and jaw, slightly, silently. Sure enough, after he subvocalized, the computer
image of Miro spoke again. He was giving commands. It had been absurd for her to think
otherwise-- who else could be controlling the computer?
"It's a hierarchy," said the image. "The more complex the structure, the faster the response to
change. It's as if the smaller the particle is, the stupider it is, so it's slower to pick up on the fact that
it's now part of a different structure."
"Now you're anthropomorphizing," said Valentine.
"Maybe," said Miro. "Maybe not."
"Human beings are organisms," said the image. "But human philotic twinings go way beyond
those of any other life form."
"Now you're talking about that stuff that came from Ganges a thousand years ago," said Valentine.
"Nobody's been able to get consistent results from those experiments." The researchers-- Hindus
all, and devout ones-- claimed that they had shown that human philotic twinings, unlike those of
other organisms, did not always reach directly down into the planet's core to twine with all other
life and matter. Rather, they claimed, the philotic rays from human beings often twined with those
of other human beings, most often with families, but sometimes between teachers and students, and
sometimes between close co-workers-- including the researchers themselves. The Gangeans had
concluded that this distinction between humans and other plant and animal life proved that the
souls of some humans were literally lifted to a higher plane, nearer to perfection. They believed that
the Perfecting Ones had become one with each other the way that all of life was one with the world.
"It's all very pleasingly mystical, but nobody except Gangean Hindus takes it seriously anymore."
"I do," said Miro.
"To each his own," said Jakt.
"Not as a religion," said Miro. "As science."
"You mean metaphysics, don't you?" said Valentine.
It was the Miro-image that answered. "The philotic connections between people change fastest of
all, and what the Gangeans proved is that they respond to human will. If you have strong feelings
binding you to your family, then your philotic rays will twine and you will be one, in exactly the
same way that the different atoms in a molecule are one."
It was a sweet idea-- she had thought so when she first heard it, perhaps two thousand years ago,
when Ender was speaking for a murdered revolutionary on Mindanao. She and Ender had
speculated then on whether the Gangean tests would show that they were twined, as brother and
sister. They wondered whether there had been such a connection between them as children, and if it
had persisted when Ender was taken off to Battle School and they were separated for six years.
Ender had liked that idea very much, and so had Valentine, but after that one conversation the
subject never came up again. The notion of philotic connections between people had remained in
the pretty-idea category in her memory. "It's nice to think that the metaphor of human unity might
have a physical analogue," said Valentine.
"Listen!" said Miro. Apparently he didn't want her to dismiss the idea as "nice."
Again his image spoke for him. "If the Gangeans are right, then when a human being chooses to
bond with another person, when he makes a commitment to a community, it is not just a social
phenomenon. It's a physical event as well. The philote, the smallest conceivable physical particle--
if we can call something with no mass or inertia physical at all-- responds to an act of the human
"That's why it's so hard for anyone to take the Gangean experiments seriously."
"The Gangean experiments were careful and honest."
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