see it in their hesitations, their darting glances, the attempt to ignore the fact that his speech was so
hard to understand, that he walked so slowly.
He could sense their impatience. Within minutes he could see how some, at least, were
maneuvering to get away. So much to do this afternoon. See you at dinner. This whole thing was
making them so uncomfortable they had to escape, take time to assimilate this version of Miro who
had just returned to them, or perhaps plot how to avoid him as much as possible in the future.
Grego and Quara were the worst, the most eager to get away, which stung him-- once they had
worshiped him. Of course he understood that this was why it was so hard for them to deal with the
broken Miro that stood before them. Their vision of the old Miro was the most naive and therefore
the most painfully contradicted.
"We thought of a big family dinner," said Ela. "Mother wanted to, but I thought we should wait.
Give you some time."
"Hope you haven't been waiting dinner all this time for me," said Miro.
Only Ela and Valentine seemed to realize he was joking; they were the only ones to respond
naturally, with a mild chuckle. The others-- for all Miro knew, they hadn't even understood his
words at all.
They stood in the tall grass beside the landing field, all his family: Mother, now in her sixties, hair
steely-gray, her face grim with intensity, the way it had always been. Only now the expression was
etched deep in the lines of her forehead, the creases beside her mouth. Her neck was a ruin. He
realized that she would die someday. Not for thirty or forty years, probably, but someday. Had he
ever realized how beautiful she was, before? He had thought somehow that marrying the Speaker
for the Dead would soften her, would make her young again. And maybe it had, maybe Andrew
Wiggin had made her young at heart. But the body was still what time had made it. She was old.
Ela, in her forties. No husband with her, but maybe she was married and he simply hadn't come.
More likely not. Was she married to her work? She seemed to be so genuinely glad to see him, but
even she couldn't hide the look of pity and concern. What, had she expected that a month of
lightspeed travel would somehow heal him? Had she thought he would stride off the shuttle as
strong and bold as a spacefaring god from some romance?
Quim, now in priestly robes. Jane had told Miro that his next-younger brother was a great
missionary. He had converted more than a dozen forests of pequeninos, had baptized them, and,
under authority from Bishop Peregrino, ordained priests from among them, to administer the
sacraments to their own people. They baptized all the pequeninos that emerged from the
mothertrees, all the mothers before they died, all the sterile wives who tended the little mothers and
their younglings, all the brothers searching for a glorious death, and all the trees. However, only the
wives and brothers could take communion, and as for marriage, it was difficult to think of a
meaningful way to perform such a rite between a fathertree and the blind, mindless slugs who were
mated with them. Yet Miro could see in Quim's eyes a kind of exaltation. It was the glow of power
well used; alone of the Ribeira family, Quim had known all his life what he wanted to do. Now he
was doing it. Never mind the theological difficulties-- he was St. Paul to the piggies, and it filled
him with constant joy. You served God, little brother, and God has made you his man.
Olhado, his silver eyes gleaming, his arm around a beautiful woman, surrounded by six children--
the youngest a toddler, the oldest in her teens. Though the children all watched with natural eyes,
they still had picked up their father's detached expression. They didn't watch, they simply gazed.
With Olhado that had been natural; it disturbed Miro to think that perhaps Olhado had spawned a
family of observers, walking recorders taking up experience to play it back later, but never quite
involved. But no, that had to be a delusion. Miro had never been comfortable with Olhado, and so
whatever resemblance Olhado's children had to their father was bound to make Miro just as
uncomfortable with them, too. The mother was pretty enough. Probably not forty yet. How old had
she been when Olhado married her? What kind of woman was she, to accept a man with artificial
eyes? Did Olhado record their lovemaking, and play back images for her of how she looked in his
Miro was immediately ashamed of the thought. Is that all I can think of when I look at Olhado--
his deformity? After all the years I knew him? Then how can I expect them to see anything but my
deformities when they look at me?
Leaving here was a good idea. I'm glad Andrew Wiggin suggested it. The only part that makes no
sense is coming back. Why am I here?
Almost against his will, Miro turned to face Valentine. She smiled at him, put her arm around
him, hugged him. "It's not so bad," she said.
Not so bad as what?
"I have only the one brother left to greet me," she said. "All your family came to meet you."
"Right," said Miro.
Only then did Jane speak up, her voice taunting him in his ear. "Not all."
Shut up, Miro said silently.
"Only one brother?" said Andrew Wiggin. "Only me?" The Speaker for the Dead stepped forward
and embraced his sister. But did Miro see awkwardness there, too? Was it possible that Valentine
and Andrew Wiggin were shy with each other? What a laugh. Valentine, bold as brass-- she was
Demosthenes, wasn't she? --and Wiggin, the man who had broken into their lives and remade their
family without so much as a dd licenVa. Could they be timid? Could they feel strange?
"You've aged miserably," said Andrew. "Thin as a rail. Doesn't Jakt provide a decent living for
"Doesn't Novinha cook?" asked Valentine. "And you look stupider than ever. I got here just in
time to witness your complete mental vegetation."
"And here I thought you came to save the world."
"The universe. But you first."
She put her arm around Miro again, and around Andrew on the other side. She spoke to the others.
"So many of you, but I feel like I know you all. I hope that soon you'll feel that way about me and
So gracious. So able to put people at ease. Even me, thought Miro. She simply handles people.
The way Andrew Wiggin does. Did she learn it from him, or did he learn it from her? Or was it
born into their family? After all, Peter was the supreme manipulator of all time, the original
Hegemon. What a family. As strange as mine. Only theirs is strange because of genius, while mine
is strange because of the pain we shared for so many years, because of the twisting of our souls.
And I the strangest, the most damaged one of all. Andrew Wiggin came to heal the wounds
between us, and did it well. But the inner twisting-- can that ever be healed?
"How about a picnic?" asked Miro.
This time they all laughed. How was that, Andrew, Valentine? Did I put them at their ease? Did I
help things go smoothly? Have I helped everyone pretend that they're glad to see me, that they have
some idea of who I am?
"She wanted to come," said Jane in Miro's ear.
Shut up, said Miro again. I didn't want her to come anyway.
"But she'll see you later."
"She's married. She has four children."
That's nothing to me now.
"She hasn't called out your name in her sleep for years."
I thought you were my friend.
"I am. I can read your mind."
You're a meddling old bitch and you can't read anything.
"She'll come to you tomorrow morning. At your mother's house."
I won't be there.
"You think you can run away from this?"
During his conversation with Jane, Miro hadn't heard anything that the others around him were
saying, but it didn't matter. Valentine's husband and children had come from the ship, and she was
introducing them all around. Particularly to their uncle, of course. It surprised Miro to see the awe
with which they spoke to him. But then, they knew who he really was. Ender the Xenocide, yes, but
also the Speaker for the Dead, the one who wrote the Hive Queen and the Hegemon. Miro knew
that now, of course, but when he had first met Wiggin it was with hostility-- he was just an itinerant
speaker for the dead, a minister of a humanist religion who seemed determined to turn Miro's
family inside out. Which he had done. I think I was luckier than they are, thought Miro. I got to
know him as a person before I ever knew him as a great figure in human history. They'll probably
never know him as I do.
And I don't really know him at all. I don't know anybody, and nobody knows me. We spend our
lives guessing at what's going on inside everybody else, and when we happen to get lucky and
guess right, we think we "understand." Such nonsense. Even a monkey at a computer will type a
word now and then.
You don't know me, none of you, he said silently. Least of all the meddling old bitch who lives in
my ear. You hear that?
"All that high-pitched whining-- how can I miss it?"
Andrew was putting luggage onto the car. There'd be room for only a couple of passengers.
"Miro-- you want to ride with Novinha and me?"
Before he could answer, Valentine had taken his arm. "Oh, don't do that," said Valentine. "Walk
with Jakt and me. We've all been cooped up on the ship for so long. "
"That's right," said Andrew. "His mother hasn't seen him in twenty-five years, but you want him to
take a stroll. You're the soul of thoughtfulness."
Andrew and Valentine were keeping up the bantering tone they had established from the first, so
that no matter which way Miro decided, they would laughingly turn it into a choice between the
two Wiggins. At no point would he have to say, I need to ride because I'm a cripple. Nor would he
have any excuse to take offense because somebody had singled him out for special treatment. It
was so gracefully done that Miro wondered if Valentine and Andrew had discussed it in advance.
Maybe they didn't have to discuss things like this. Maybe they had spent so many years together
that they knew how to cooperate to smooth things for other people without even thinking about it.
Like actors who have performed the same roles together so often that they can improvise without
the slightest confusion.
"I'll walk," said Miro. "I'll take the long way. The rest of you go on ahead."
Novinha and Ela started to protest, but Miro saw Andrew put his hand on Novinha's arm, and as
for Ela, she was silenced by Quim's arm around her shoulder.
"Come straight home," said Ela. "However long it takes you, do come home."
"Where else?" asked Miro.
Valentine didn't know what to make of Ender. It was only her second day on Lusitania, but
already she was sure that something was wrong. Not that there weren't grounds for Ender to be
worried, distracted. He had filled her in on the problems the xenobiologists were having with the
descolada, the tensions between Grego and Quara, and of course there was always the Congress
fleet, death looming over them from every sky. But Ender had faced worries and tensions before,
many times in his years as a speaker for the dead. He had plunged into the problems of nations and
families, communities and individuals, struggling to understand and then to purge and heal the
diseases of the heart. Never had he responded the way he was acting now.
Or perhaps he had, once.
When they were children, and Ender was being groomed to command the fleets being sent against
all the bugger worlds, they had brought Ender back to Earth for a season-- the lull before the final
storm, as it turned out. Ender and Valentine had been apart since he was five years old, not allowed
so much as an unsupervised letter between them. Then, suddenly, they changed their policy, and
brought Valentine to him. He was being kept at a large private estate near their home town,
spending his days swimming and-- more often-- floating in utter languor on a private lake.
At first Valentine had thought all was well, and she was merely glad to see him at last. But soon
she understood that something was deeply wrong. Only in those days she hadn't known Ender so
well-- after all, he'd been apart from her for more than half his life. Yet she knew that it was wrong
for him to seem so preoccupied. No, that wasn't really it. He wasn't preoccupied, he was
unoccupied. He had detached himself from the world. And her job was to reconnect him. To bring
him back and show him his place in the web of humanity.
Because she succeeded, he was able to go back into space and command the fleets that utterly
destroyed the buggers. Ever since that time, his connection with the rest of humanity seemed
Now again she had been apart from him for half a lifetime. Twenty-five years for her, thirty for
him. And again he seemed to be detached. She studied him as he took her and Miro and Plikt out by
car, skimming over the endless prairies of capim.
"We're like a little boat on the ocean," said Ender.
"Not really," she said, remembering the time that Jakt had taken her out on one of the small net-
laying launches. The three-meter waves that lifted them high, then plunged them down into the
trench between. On the large fishing boat those waves had barely jostled them as they nestled
comfortably in the sea, but in the tiny launch the waves were overwhelming. Literally breathtaking-
- she had to slide down from her seat onto the deck, embracing the plank bench with both arms,
before she could catch her breath. There was no comparison between the heaving, pitching ocean
and this placid grassy plain.
Then again, maybe to Ender there was. Maybe when he saw the acres of capim, he saw within it
the descolada virus, malevolently adapting itself to slaughter humankind and all its companion
species. Maybe to him this prairie rolled and shrugged every bit as brutally as the ocean.
The sailors had laughed at her, not mockingly but tenderly, like parents laughing at the fears of a
child. "These seas are nothing," they said. "You should try doing this in twenty-meter seas."
Ender was as calm, outwardly, as the sailors had been. Calm, unconnected. Making conversation
with her and Miro and silent Plikt, but still holding something back. Is there something wrong
between Ender and Novinha? Valentine hadn't seen them together long enough to know what was
natural between them and what was strained-certainly there were no obvious quarrels. So perhaps
Ender's problem was a growing barrier between him and the community of Milagre. That was
possible. Valentine certainly remembered how hard it had been for her to win acceptance from the
Trondheimers, and she had been married to a man with enormous prestige among them. How was it
for Ender, married to a woman whose whole family had already been alienated from the rest of
Milagre? Could it be that his healing of this place was not as complete as anyone supposed?
Not possible. When Valentine met with the Mayor, Kovano Zeljezo, and with old Bishop
Peregrino that morning, they had shown genuine affection for Ender. Valentine had attended too
many meetings not to know the difference between formal courtesies, political hypocrisies, and
genuine friendship. If Ender felt detached from these people, it wasn't by their choice.
I'm reading too much into this, thought Valentine. If Ender seems to be strange and detached, it's
because we have been apart so long. Or perhaps because he feels shy with this angry young man,
Miro; or perhaps it's Plikt, with her silent, calculating worship of Ender Wiggin, who makes him
choose to be distant with us. Or maybe it's nothing more than my insistence that I must meet the
hive queen today, at once, even before meeting any of the leaders of the piggies. There's no reason
to look beyond present company for the cause of his unconnection.
They first located the hive queen's city by the pall of smoke. "Fossil fuels," said Ender. "She's
burning them up at a disgusting rate. Ordinarily she'd never do that-- the hive queens tend their
worlds with great care, and they never make such a waste and a stink. But there's a great hurry
these days, and Human says that they've given her permission to burn and pollute as much as
"Necessary for what?" asked Valentine.
"Human won't say, and neither will the hive queen, but I have my guesses, and I imagine you will,
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