Then the gods are very stupid, if they think that it was your laughter that made me angry. Either
that or they're lying to you. I hate your gods and how they humiliate you without ever telling you a
single thing worth knowing. So let them strike me dead for thinking that thought!
But Wang-mu knew that wouldn't happen. The gods would never lift a finger against Wang-mu
herself. They'd only make Qing-jao-- who was her friend, in spite of everything-- they'd make
Qing-jao bow down and trace the floor until Wang-mu felt so ashamed that she wanted to die.
"Mistress," said Wang-mu, "you did nothing wrong and I was never offended."
It was no use. Qing-jao was on the floor. Wang-mu turned away, buried her face in her hands--
but kept silent, refusing to make a sound even in her weeping, because that would force Qing-jao to
start over again. Or it would convince her that she had hurt Wang-mu so badly that she had to trace
two lines, or three, or-- let the gods not require it! --the whole floor again. Someday, thought
Wang-mu, the gods will tell Qing-jao to trace every line on every board in every room in the house
and she'll die of thirst or go mad trying to do it.
To stop herself from weeping in frustration, Wang-mu forced herself to look at the terminal and
read the report that Qing-jao had read. Valentine Wiggin was born on Earth during the Bugger
Wars. She had started using the name Demosthenes as a child, at the same time as her brother
Peter, who used the name Locke and went to on to be Hegemon. She wasn't simply a Wiggin-- she
was one of the Wiggins, sister of Peter the Hegemon and Ender the Xenocide. She had been only a
footnote in the histories-- Wang-mu hadn't even remembered her name till now, just the fact that
the great Peter and the monster Ender had a sister. But the sister turned out to be just as strange as
her brothers; she was the immortal one; she was the one who kept on changing humanity with her
Wang-mu could hardly believe this. Demosthenes had already been important in her life, but now
to learn that the real Demosthenes was sister of the Hegemon! The one whose story was told in the
holy book of the speakers for the dead: the Hive Queen and the Hegemon. Not that it was holy only
to them. Practically every religion had made a space for that book, because the story was so strong-
- about the destruction of the first alien species humanity ever discovered, and then about the
terrible good and evil that wrestled in the soul of the first man ever to unite all of humanity under
one government. Such a complex story, and yet told so simply and clearly that many people read it
and were moved by it when they were children. Wang-mu had first heard it read aloud when she
was five. It was one of the deepest stories in her soul.
She had dreamed, not once but twice, that she met the Hegemon himself-- Peter, only he insisted
that she call him by his network name, Locke. She was both fascinated and repelled by him; she
could not look away. Then he reached out his hand and said, Si Wang-mu, Royal Mother of the
West, only you are a fit consort for the ruler of all humanity, and he took her and married her and
she sat beside him on his throne.
Now, of course, she knew that almost every poor girl had dreams of marrying a rich man or
finding out she was really the child of a rich family or some other such nonsense. But dreams were
also sent from the gods, and there was truth in any dream you had more than once; everyone knew
that. So she still felt a strong affinity for Peter Wiggin; and now, to realize that Demosthenes, for
whom she had also felt great admiration, was his sister-- that was almost too much of a coincidence
to bear. I don't care what my mistress says, Demosthenes! cried Wang-mu silently. I love you
anyway, because you have told me the truth all my life. And I love you also as the sister of the
Hegemon, who is the husband of my dreams.
Wang-mu felt the air in the room change; she knew the door had been opened. She looked, and
there stood Mu-pao, the ancient and most dreaded housekeeper herself, the terror of all servants--
including Wang-mu, even though Mu-pao had relatively little power over a secret maid. At once
Wang-mu moved to the door, as silently as possible so as not to interrupt Qing-jao's purification.
Out in the hall, Mu-pao closed the door to the room so Qing-jao wouldn't hear.
"The Master calls for his daughter. He's very agitated; he cried out a while ago, and frightened
"I heard the cry," said Wang-mu. "Is he ill?"
"I don't know. He's very agitated. He sent me for your mistress and says he must talk to her at
once. But if she's communing with the gods, he'll understand; make sure you tell her to come to
him as soon as she's done."
"I'll tell her now. She has told me that nothing should stop her from answering the call of her
father," said Wang-mu.
Mu-pao looked aghast at the thought. "But it's forbidden to interrupt when the gods are--"
"Qing-jao will do a greater penance later. She will want to know her father is calling her." It gave
Wang-mu great satisfaction to put Mu-pao in her place. You may be ruler of the house servants,
Mu-pao, but I am the one who has the power to interrupt even the conversation between my
godspoken mistress and the gods themselves.
As Wang-mu expected, Qing-jao's first reaction to being interrupted was bitter frustration, fury,
weeping. But when Wang-mu bowed herself abjectly to the floor, Qing-jao immediately calmed.
This is why I love her and why I can bear serving her, thought Wang-mu, because she does not love
the power she has over me and because she has more compassion than any of the other godspoken I
have heard of. Qing-jao listened to Wang-mu's explanation of why she had interrupted, and then
embraced her. "Ah, my friend Wang-mu, you are very wise. If my father has cried out in anguish
and then called to me, the gods know that I must put off my purification and go to him."
Wang-mu followed her down the hallway, down the stairs, until they knelt together on the mat
before Han Fei-tzu's chair.
Qing-jao waited for Father to speak, but he said nothing. Yet his hands trembled. She had never
seen him so anxious.
"Father," said Qing-jao, "why did you call me?"
He shook his head. "Something so terrible-- and so wonderful-- I don't know whether to shout for
joy or kill myself." Father's voice was husky and out of control. Not since Mother died-- no, not
since Father had held her after the test that proved she was godspoken-- not since then had she
heard him speak so emotionally.
"Tell me, Father, and then I'll tell you my news-- I've found Demosthenes, and I may have found
the key to the disappearance of the Lusitania Fleet."
Father's eyes opened wider. "On this day of all days, you've solved the problem?"
"If it is what I think it is, then the enemy of Congress can be destroyed. But it will be very hard.
Tell me what you've discovered!"
"No, you tell me first. This is strange-- both happening on the same day. Tell me!"
"It was Wang-mu who made me think of it. She was asking questions about-- oh, about how
computers work-- and suddenly I realized that if there were in every ansible computer a hidden
program, one so wise and powerful that it could move itself from place to place to stay hidden, then
that secret program could be intercepting all the ansible communications. The fleet might still be
there, might even be sending messages, but we're not receiving them and don't even know that they
exist because of these programs."
"In every ansible computer? Working flawlessly all the time?" Father sounded skeptical, of
course, because in her eagerness Qing-jao had told the story backward.
"Yes, but let me tell you how such an impossible thing might be possible. You see, I found
Father listened as Qing-jao told him all about Valentine Wiggin, and how she had been writing
secretly as Demosthenes all these years. "She is clearly able to send secret ansible messages, or her
writings couldn't be distributed from a ship in flight to all the different worlds. Only the military is
supposed to be able to communicate with ships that are traveling near the speed of light-- she must
have either penetrated the military's computers or duplicated their power. And if she can do all that,
if the program exists to allow her to do it, then that same program would clearly have the power to
intercept the ansible messages from the fleet."
"If A, then B, yes-- but how could this woman have planted a program in every ansible computer
in the first place?"
"Because she did it at the first! That's how old she is. In fact, if Hegemon Locke was her brother,
perhaps-- no, of course-- he did it! When the first colonization fleets went out, with their philotic
double-triads aboard to be the heart of each colony's first ansible, he could have sent that program
Father understood at once; of course he did. "As Hegemon he had the power, and the reason as
well-- a secret program under his control, so that if there were a rebellion or a coup, he would still
hold in his hands the threads that bind the worlds together."
"And when he died, Demosthenes-- his sister-- she was the only one who knew the secret! Isn't it
wonderful? We've found it. All we have to do is wipe all those programs out of memory!"
"Only to have the programs instantly restored through the ansible by other copies of the program
on other worlds," said Father. "It must have happened a thousand times before over the centuries, a
computer breaking down and the secret program restoring itself on the new one."
"Then we have to cut off all the ansibles at the same time," said Qing-jao. "On every world, have a
new computer ready that has never been contaminated by any contact with the secret program. Shut
the ansibles down all at once, cut off the old computers, bring the new computers online, and wake
up the ansibles. The secret program can't restore itself because it isn't on any of the computers,
Then the power of Congress will have no rival to interfere!"
"You can't do it," said Wang-mu.
Qing-jao looked at her secret maid in shock. How could the girl be so ill-bred as to interrupt a
conversation between two of the godspoken in order to contradict them?
But Father was gracious-- he was always gracious, even to people who had overstepped all the
bounds of respect and decency. I must learn to be more like him, thought Qing-jao. I must allow
servants to keep their dignity even when their actions have forfeited any such consideration.
"Si Wang-mu," said Father, "why can't we do it?"
"Because to have all the ansibles shut off at the same time, you would have to send messages by
ansible," said Wang-mu. "Why would the program allow you to send messages that would lead to
its own destruction?"
Qing-jao followed her father's example by speaking patiently to Wang-mu. "It's only a program--
it doesn't know the content of messages. Whoever rules the program told it to hide all the
communications from the fleet, and to conceal the tracks of all the messages from Demosthenes. It
certainly doesn't read the messages and decide from their contents whether to send them."
"How do you know?" asked Wang-mu.
"Because such a program would have to be-- intelligent!"
"But it would have to be intelligent anyway," said Wang-mu. "It has to be able to hide from any
other program that would find it. It has to be able to move itself around in memory to conceal itself.
How would it be able to tell which programs it had to hide from, unless it could read them and
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