own tissue samples; then Wang-mu set about gathering tissue samples from the rest of the
household. She found most of what she needed on combs and unwashed clothing. Within days she
had samples from a dozen godspoken visitors, also taken from their clothing. No one had to take
fecal samples after all. But she would have been willing.
Qing-jao noticed her, of course, but snubbed her. It hurt Wang-mu to have Qing-jao treat her so
coldly, for they had once been friends and Wang-mu still loved her, or at least loved the young
woman that Qing-jao had been before the crisis. Yet there was nothing Wang-mu could say or do to
restore their friendship. She had chosen another path.
Wang-mu kept all the tissue samples carefully separated and labeled. Instead of taking them to a
medical technician, however, she found a much simpler way. Dressing in some of Qing-jao's old
clothing, so that she looked like a godspoken student instead of a servant girl, she went to the
nearest college and told them that she was working on a project whose nature she could not
divulge, and she humbly requested that they perform a scan on the tissue samples she provided. As
she expected, they asked no questions of a godspoken girl, even a complete stranger. Instead they
ran the molecular scans, and Wang-mu could only assume that Jane had done as she promised,
taking control of the computer and making the scan include all the operations Ela needed.
On the way home from the college, Wang-mu discarded all the samples she had collected and
burned the report the college had given her. Jane had what she needed-- there was no point in
running the risk that Qing-jao or perhaps a servant in the house who was in the pay of Congress
might discover that Han Fei-tzu was working on a biological experiment. As for someone
recognizing her, the servant Si Wang-mu, as the young godspoken girl who had visited the college-
- there was no chance of that. No one looking for a godspoken girl would so much as glance at a
servant like her.
"So you've lost your woman and I've lost mine," said Miro.
Ender sighed. Every now and then Miro got into a talky mood, and because bitterness was always
just under the surface with him, his chat tended to be straight to the point and more than a little
unkind. Ender couldn't begrudge him the talkiness-- he and Valentine were almost the only people
who could listen to Miro's slow speech patiently, without giving him a sign that they wanted him to
get on with it. Miro spent so much of his time with pent-up thoughts, unexpressed, that it would be
cruel to shut him down just because he had no tact.
Ender wasn't pleased to be reminded of the fact that Novinha had left him. He was trying to keep
that thought out of his mind, while he worked on other problems-- on the problem of Jane's
survival, mostly, and a little bit on every other problem, too. But at Miro's words, that aching,
hollow, half-panicked feeling returned. She isn't here. I can't just speak and have her answer. I can't
just ask and have her remember. I can't just reach and feel her hand. And, most terrible of all:
Perhaps I never will again.
"I suppose so," said Ender.
"You probably don't like to equate them," said Miro. "After all, she's your wife of thirty years, and
Ouanda was my girlfriend for maybe five years. But that's only if you start counting when puberty
hit. She was my friend, my closest friend except maybe Ela, since I was little. So if you think about
it, I was with Ouanda most of my life, while you were only with Mother for half of yours."
"Now I feel much better," said Ender.
"Don't get pissed off at me," said Miro.
"Don't piss me off," said Ender.
Miro laughed. Too loudly. "Feeling grumpy, Andrew?" he cackled. "A bit out of sorts?"
It was too much to take. Ender spun his chair, turning away from the terminal where he had been
studying a simplified model of the ansible network, trying to imagine where in that random
latticework Jane's soul might dwell. He gazed steadily at Miro until he stopped laughing.
"Did I do this to you?" asked Ender.
Miro looked more angry than abashed. "Maybe I needed you to," he said. "Ever think of that? You
were so respectful, all of you. Let Miro keep his dignity. Let him brood himself into madness,
right? Just don't talk about the thing that's happened to him. Didn't you ever think I needed
somebody to jolly me out of it sometimes?"
"Didn't you ever think that I don't need that?"
Miro laughed again, but it came a bit late, and it was gentler. "On target," he said. "You treated me
the way you like to be treated when you grieve, and now I'm treating you the way I like to be
treated. We prescribe our own medicine for each other."
"Your mother and I are still married," Ender said.
"Let me tell you something," said Miro, "out of the wisdom of my twenty years or so of life. It's
easier when you finally start admitting to yourself that you'll never have her back. That she's
permanently out of reach."
"Ouanda is out of reach. Novinha isn't."
"She's with the Children of the Mind of Christ. It's a nunnery, Andrew."
"Not so," said Ender. "It's a monastic order that only married couples can join. She can't belong to
them without me."
"So," said Miro. "You can have her back whenever you want to join the Filhos. I can just see you
as Dom Cristao."
Ender couldn't help chuckling at the idea. "Sleeping in separate beds. Praying all the time. Never
touching each other."
"If that's marriage, Andrew, then Ouanda and I are married right now."
"It is marriage, Miro. Because the couples in the Filhos da Mente de Cristo are working together,
doing a work together."
"Then we're married," said Miro. "You and I. Because we're trying to save Jane together."
"Just friends," said Ender. "We're just friends."
"Rivals is more like it. Jane keeps us both like lovers on a string."
Miro was sounding too much like Novinha's accusations about Jane. "We're hardly lovers," he
said. "Jane isn't human. She doesn't even have a body."
"Aren't you the logical one," said Miro. "Didn't you just say that you and Mother could still be
married, without even touching?"
It was an analogy that Ender didn't like, because it seemed to have some truth in it. Was Novinha
right to be jealous of Jane, as she had been for so many years?
"She lives inside our heads, practically," said Miro. "That's a place where no wife will ever go."
"I always thought," said Ender, "that your mother was jealous of Jane because she wished she had
someone that close to her."
"Bobagem," said Miro. "Lixo." Nonsense. Garbage. "Mother was jealous of Jane because she
wanted so badly to be that close to you, and she never could."
"Not your mother. She was always self-contained. There were times when we were very close, but
she always turned back to her work."
"The way you always turned back to Jane."
"Did she tell you that?"
"Not in so many words. But you'd be talking to her, and then all of a sudden you'd fall silent, and
even though you're good at subvocalizing, there's still a little movement in the jaw, and your eyes
and lips react a little to what Jane says to you. She saw. You'd be with Mother, close, and then all
of a sudden you were somewhere else."
"That's not what split us apart," said Ender. "It was Quim's death."
"Quim's death was the last straw. If it hadn't been for Jane, if Mother had really believed you
belonged to her, heart and soul, she would have turned to you when Quim died, instead of turning
Miro had said the thing that Ender had dreaded all along. That it was Ender's own fault. That he
had not been the perfect husband. That he had driven her away. And the worst thing was that when
Miro said it, Ender knew that it was true. The sense of loss, which he had already thought was
unbearable, suddenly doubled, trebled, became infinite inside him.
He felt Miro's hand, heavy, clumsy, on his shoulder.
"As God is my witness, Andrew, I never meant to make you cry."
"It happens," said Ender.
"It's not all your fault," said Miro. "Or Jane's. You've got to remember that Mother's crazy as a
loon. She always has been."
"She had a lot of grief as a child."
"She lost everybody she ever loved, one by one," said Miro.
"And I let her believe that she had lost me, too."
"What were you going to do, cut Jane off? You tried that once, remember?"
"The difference is that now she has you. The whole time you were gone, I could have let Jane go,
because she had you. I could have talked to her less, asked her to back off. She would have
"Maybe," said Miro. "But you didn't."
"Because I didn't want to," said Ender. "Because I didn't want to let her go. Because I thought I
could keep that old friendship and still be a good husband to my wife."
"It wasn't just Jane," said Miro. "It was Valentine, too."
"I suppose," said Ender. "So what do I do? Go join up with the Filhos until the fleet gets here and
blows us all to hell?"
"You do what I do," said Miro.
"You take a breath. You let it out. Then you take another."
Ender thought about it for a moment. "I can do that. I've been doing that since I was little."
Just a moment longer, Miro's hand on his shoulder. This is why I should have had a son of my
own, thought Ender. To lean on me when he was small, and then for me to lean on when I'm old.
But I never had a child from my own seed. I'm like old Marcao, Novinha's first husband.
Surrounded by these children and knowing they're not my own. The difference is that Miro is my
friend, not my enemy. And that's something. I may have been a bad husband, but I can still make
and keep a friend.
"Stop pitying yourself and get back to work." It was Jane, speaking in his ear, and she had waited
almost long enough before speaking, almost long enough that he was ready to have her tease him.
Almost but not quite, and so he resented her intrusion. Resented knowing that she had been
listening and watching all along.
"Now you're mad," she said.
You don't know what I'm feeling, thought Ender. You can't know. Because you're not human.
"You think I don't know what you're feeling," said Jane.
He felt a moment of vertigo, because for a moment it seemed to him that she had been listening to
something far deeper than the conversation.
"But I lost you once, too."
Ender subvocalized: "I came back."
"Never completely," said Jane. "Never like it was before. So you just take a couple of those self-
pitying little tears on your cheeks and count them as if they were mine. Just to even up the score."
"I don't know why I bother trying to save your life," said Ender silently.
"Me neither," said Jane. "I keep telling you it's a waste of time."
Ender turned back to the terminal. Miro stayed beside him, watching the display as it simulated
the ansible network. Ender had no idea what Jane was saying to Miro-- though he was sure that she
was saying something, since he had long ago figured out that Jane was capable of carrying on many
conversations at once. He couldn't help it-- it did bother him a little that Jane had every bit as close
a relationship with Miro as with him.
Isn't it possible, he wondered, for one person to love another without trying to own each other? Or
is that buried so deep in our genes that we can never get it out? Territoriality. My wife. My friend.
My lover. My outrageous and annoying computer personality who's about to be shut off at the
behest of a half-crazy girl genius with OCD on a planet I never heard of and how will I live without
Jane when she's gone?
Ender zoomed in on the display. In and in and in, until the display showed only a few parsecs in
each dimension. Now the simulation was modeling a small portion of the network-- the
crisscrossing of only a half-dozen philotic rays in deep space. Now, instead of looking like an
involved, tightlywoven fabric, the philotic rays looked like random lines passing millions of
kilometers from each other.
"They never touch," said Miro.
No, they never do. It's something that Ender had never realized. In his mind, the galaxy was flat,
the way the starmaps always showed it, a topdown view of the section of the spiral arm of the
galaxy where humans had spread out from Earth. But it wasn't flat. No two stars were ever exactly
in the same plane as any other two stars. The philotic rays connecting starships and planets and
satellites in perfectly straight lines, ansible to ansible-- they seemed to intersect when you saw them
on a flat map, but in this three-dimensional close-up in the computer display, it was obvious that
they never touched at all.
"How can she live in that?" asked Ender. "How can she possibly exist in that when there's no
connection between those lines except at the endpoints?"
"So-- maybe she doesn't. Maybe she lives in the sum of the computer programs at every terminal."
"In which case she could back herself up into all the computers and then--"
"And then nothing. She could never put herself back together because they're only using clean
computers to run the ansibles."
"They can't keep that up forever," said Ender. "It's too important for computers on different
planets to be able to talk to each other. Congress will find out pretty soon that there aren't enough
human beings in existence to key in by hand, in a year, the amount of information computers have
to send to each other by ansible every hour."
"So she just hides? Waits? Sneaks in and restores herself when she sees a chance five or ten years
"If that's all she is-- a collection of programs."
"There has to be more to her than that," said Miro.
"Because if she's nothing more than a collection of programs, even self-writing and self-revising
programs, ultimately she was created by some programmer or group of programmers somewhere.
In which case she's just acting out the program that was forced on her from the beginning. She has
no free will. She's a puppet. Not a person."
"Well, when it comes to that, maybe you're defining free will too narrowly," said Ender. "Aren't
human beings the same way, programmed by our genes and our environment?"
"No," said Miro.
"What else, then?"
"Our philotic connections say that we aren't. Because we're capable of connecting with each other
by act of will, which no other form of life on Earth can do. There's something we have, something
we are, that wasn't caused by anything else."
"What, our soul?"
"Not even that," said Miro. "Because the priests say that God created our souls, and that just puts
us under the control of another puppeteer. If God created our will, then he's responsible for every
choice we make. God, our genes, our environment, or some stupid programmer keying in code at
an ancient terminal-- there's no way free will can ever exist if we as individuals are the result of
some external cause."
"So-- as I recall, the official philosophical answer is that free will doesn't exist. Only the illusion
of free will, because the causes of our behavior are so complex that we can't trace them back. If
you've got one line of dominoes knocking each other down one by one, then you can always say,
Look, this domino fell because that one pushed it. But when you have an infinite number of
dominoes that can be traced back in an infinite number of directions, you can never find where the
causal chain begins. So you think, That domino fell because it wanted to."
"Bobagem," said Miro.
"Well, I admit that it's a philosophy with no practical value," said Ender. "Valentine once
explained it to me this way. Even if there is no such thing as free will, we have to treat each other
as if there were free will in order to live together in society. Because otherwise, every time
somebody does something terrible, you can't punish him, because he can't help it, because his genes
or his environment or God made him do it, and every time somebody does something good, you
can't honor him, because he was a puppet, too. If you think that everybody around you is a puppet,
why bother talking to them at all? Why even try to plan anything or create anything, since
everything you plan or create or desire or dream of is just acting out the script your puppeteer built
"Despair," said Miro.
"So we conceive of ourselves and everyone around us as volitional beings. We treat everyone as if
they did things with a purpose in mind, instead of because they're being pushed from behind. We
punish criminals. We reward altruists. We plan things and build things together. We make promises
and expect each other to keep them. It's all a made-up story, but when everybody believes that
everybody's actions are the result of free choice, and takes and gives responsibility accordingly, the
result is civilization."
"Just a story."
"That's how Valentine explained it. That is, if there's no free will. I'm not sure what she actually
believes herself. My guess is that she'd say that she is civilized, and therefore she must believe the
story herself, in which case she absolutely believes in free will and thinks this whole idea of a
made-up story is nonsense-- but that's what she'd believe even if it were true, and so who can be
sure of anything."
Then Ender laughed, because Valentine had laughed when she first told him all this many years
ago. When they were still only a little bit past childhood, and he was working on writing the
Hegemon, and was trying to understand why his brother Peter had done all the great and terrible
things he did.
"It isn't funny," said Miro.
"I thought it was," said Ender.
"Either we're free or we're not," said Miro. "Either the story's true or it isn't."
"The point is that we have to believe that it's true in order to live as civilized human beings," said
"No, that's not the point at all," said Miro. "Because if it's a lie, why should we bother to live as
civilized human beings?"
"Because the species has a better chance to survive if we do," said Ender. "Because our genes
require us to believe the story in order to enhance our ability to pass those genes on for many
generations in the future. Because anybody who doesn't believe the story begins to act in
unproductive, uncooperative ways, and eventually the community, the herd, will reject him and his
opportunities for reproduction will be diminished-- for instance, he'll be put in jail-- and the genes
leading to his unbelieving behavior will eventually be extinguished."
"So the puppeteer requires that we believe that we're not puppets. We're forced to believe in free
"Or so Valentine explained it to me."
"But she doesn't really believe that, does she?"
"Of course she doesn't. Her genes won't let her."
Ender laughed again. But Miro was not taking this lightly, as a philosophical game. He was
outraged. He clenched his fists and swung out his arms in a spastic gesture that plunged his hand
into the middle of the display. It caused a shadow above it, a space in which no philotic rays were
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