"For your information," said Quara, "I know all about this latest ploy. Ela sent me the transcripts.
Some Chinese girl on a backwater colony planet who doesn't know anything about xenogenetics
comes up with a wild hypothesis, and you all act as if it were already proved."
"So-- prove it false."
"I can't. I've been shut out of the lab. You prove it true."
"Occam's razor proves it true. Simplest explanation that fits the facts."
"Occam was a medieval old fart. The simplest explanation that fits the facts is always, God did it.
Or maybe-- that old woman down the road is a witch. She did it. That's all this hypothesis is-- only
you don't even know where the witch is."
"The descolada is too sudden."
"It didn't evolve, I know. Had to come from somewhere else. Fine. Even if it's artificial, that
doesn't mean it isn't sentient now."
"It's trying to kill us. It's varelse, not raman."
"Oh, yes, Valentine's hierarchy. Well, how do I know that the descolada is the varelse, and we're
the ramen? As far as I can tell, intelligence is intelligence. Varelse is just the term Valentine
invented to mean Intelligence - that - we've - decided - to - kill, and raman means Intelligence - that
- we - haven't - decided - to - kill - yet."
"It's an unreasoning, uncompassionate enemy."
"Is there another kind?"
"The descolada doesn't have respect for any other life. It wants to kill us. It already rules the
pequeninos. All so it can regulate this planet and spread to other worlds."
For once, she had let him finish a long statement. Did it mean she was actually listening to him?
"I'll grant you part of Wang-mu's hypothesis," said Quara. "It does make sense that the descolada
is regulating the gaialogy of Lusitania. In fact, now that I think about it, it's obvious. It explains
most of the conversations I've observed-- the information-- passing from one virus to another. I
figure it should take only a few months for a message to get to every virus on the planet-- it would
work. But just because the descolada is running the gaialogy doesn't mean that you've proved it's
not sentient. In fact, it could go the other way-- the descolada, by taking responsibility for
regulating the gaialogy of a whole world, is showing altruism. And protectiveness, too-- if we saw
a mother lion lashing out at an intruder in order to protect her young, we'd admire her. That's all the
descolada is doing-- lashing out against humans in order to protect her precious responsibility. A
"A mother lion protecting her cubs."
"I think so."
"Or a rabid dog, devouring our babies."
Quara paused. Thought for a moment. "Or both. Why can't it be both? The descolada's trying to
regulate a planet here. But humans are getting more and more dangerous. To her, we're the rabid
dog. We root out the plants that are part of her control system, and we plant our own, unresponsive
plants. We make some of the pequeninos behave strangely and disobey her. We burn a forest at a
time when she's trying to build more. Of course she wants to get rid of us!"
"So she's out to destroy us."
"It's her privilege to try! When will you see that the descolada has rights?"
"Don't we? Don't the pequeninos?"
Again she paused. No immediate counterargument. It gave him hope that she might actually be
"You know something, Miro?"
"They were right to send you."
"Because you're not one of them."
That's true enough, thought Miro. I'll never be "one of" anything again.
"Maybe we can't talk to the descolada. And maybe it really is just an artifact. A biological robot
acting out its programming. But maybe it isn't. And they're keeping me from finding out."
"What if they open the lab to you?"
"They won't," said Quara. "If you think they will, you don't know Ela and Mother. They've
decided that I'm not to be trusted, and so that's that. Well, I've decided they're not to be trusted,
"Thus whole species die for family pride."
"Is that all you think this is, Miro? Pride? I'm holding out because of nothing nobler than a petty
"Our family has a lot of pride."
"Well, no matter what you think, I'm doing this out of conscience, no matter whether you want to
call it pride or stubbornness or anything else."
"I believe you," said Miro.
"But do I believe you when you say that you believe me? We're in such a tangle." She turned back
to her terminal. "Go away now, Miro. I told you I'd think about it, and I will.
"Go see Planter."
"I'll think about that, too." Her fingers hovered over the keyboard. "He is my friend, you know.
I'm not inhuman. I'll go see him, you can be sure of that. "
He started for the door.
"Miro," she said.
He turned, waited.
"Thanks for not threatening to have that computer program of yours crack my files open if I didn't
open them myself."
"Of course not," he said.
"Andrew would have threatened that, you know. Everybody thinks he's such a saint, but he always
bullies people who don't go along with him."
"He doesn't threaten."
"I've seen him do it."
"Oh. Excuse me. Is there a difference?"
"Yes," said Miro.
"The only difference between a warning and a threat is whether you're the person giving it or the
person receiving it," said Quara.
"No," said Miro. "The difference is how the person means it."
"Go away," she said. "I've got work to do, even while I'm thinking. So go away."
He opened the door.
"But thanks," she said.
He closed the door behind him.
As he walked away from Quara's place, Jane immediately piped up in his ear. "I see you decided
against telling her that I broke into her files before you even came."
"Yes, well," said Miro. "I feel like a hypocrite, for her to thank me for not threatening to do what
I'd already done."
"I did it."
"We did it. You and me and Ender. A sneaky group."
"Will she really think about it?"
"Maybe," said Miro. "Or maybe she's already thought about it and decided to cooperate and was
just looking for an excuse. Or maybe she's already decided against ever cooperating, and she just
said this nice thing at the end because she's sorry for me."
"What do you think she'll do?"
"I don't know what she'll do," said Miro. "I know what I'll do. I'll feel ashamed of myself every
time I think about how I let her think that I respected her privacy, when we'd already pillaged her
files. Sometimes I don't think I'm a very good person."
"You notice she didn't tell you that she's keeping her real findings outside the computer system, so
the only files I can reach are worthless junk. She hasn't exactly been frank with you, either."
"Yes, but she's a fanatic with no sense of balance or proportion."
"That explains everything."
"Some traits just run in the family," said Miro.
The hive queen was alone this time. Perhaps exhausted from something-- mating? Producing
eggs? She spent all her time doing this, it seemed. She had no choice. Now that workers had to be
used to patrol the perimeter of the human colony, she had to produce even more than she had
planned. Her offspring didn't have to be educated-- they entered adulthood quickly, having all the
knowledge that any other adult had. But the process of conception, egg-laying, emergence, and
cocooning still took time. Weeks for each adult. She produced a prodigious number of young,
compared to a single human. But compared to the town of Milagre, with more than a thousand
women of childbearing age, the bugger colony had only one producing female.
It had always bothered Ender, made him feel uneasy to know that there was only one queen. What
if something happened to her? But then, it made the hive queen uncomfortable to think of human
beings having only a bare handful of children-- what if something happened to them? Both species
practiced a combination of nurturance and redundancy to protect their genetic heritage. Humans
had a redundancy of parents, and then nurtured the few offspring. The hive queen had a redundancy
of offspring, who then nurtured the parent. Each species had found its own balance of strategy.
<Why are you bothering us about this?>
"Because we're at a dead end. Because everybody else is trying, and you have as much at stake as
"The descolada threatens you as much as it threatens us. Someday you probably aren't going to be
able to control it, and then you're gone."
<But it's not the descolada you're asking me about.>
"No." It was the problem of faster-than-light flight. Grego had been wracking his brains. In jail
there was nothing else for him to think about. The last time Ender had spoken with him, he wept--
as much from exhaustion as frustration. He had covered reams of papers with equations, spreading
them all over the secure room that was used as a cell. "Don't you care about faster-than-light
<It would be very nice.>
The mildness of her response almost hurt, it so deeply disappointed him. This is what despair is
like, he thought. Quara a brick wall on the nature of descolada intelligence. Planter dying of
descolada deprivation. Han Fei-tzu and Wang-mu struggling to duplicate years of higher study in
several fields, all at once. Grego worn out. And nothing to show for it.
She must have heard his anguish as clearly as if he had howled it.
"You've done it," he said. "It must be possible."
<We've never traveled faster than light.>
"You projected an action across light-years. You found me."
<You found us, Ender.>
"Not so," he said. "I never even knew we had made mental contact until I found the message you
had left for me." It had been the moment of greatest strangeness in his life, to stand on an alien
world and see a model, a replication of the landscape that had existed in only one other place-- the
computer on which he had played his personalized version of the Fantasy Game. It was like having
a total stranger come up to you and tell you your dream from the night before. They had been inside
his head. It made him afraid, but it also excited him. For the first time in his life, he felt known. Not
known of-- he was famous throughout humanity, and in those days his fame was all positive, the
greatest hero of all time. Other people knew of him. But with this bugger artifact, he discovered for
the first time that he was known.
<Think, Ender. Yes, we reached out toward our enemy, but we weren't looking for you. We were
looking for someone like us. A network of minds linked together, with a central mind controlling it.
We find each other's minds without trying, because we recognize the pattern. Finding a sister is like
"How did you find me, then?"
<We never thought about how. We only did it. Found a hot bright source. A network, but very
strange, with shifting membership. And at the center of it, not something like us, but just another--
common one. You. But with such intensity. Focused into the network, toward the other humans.
Focused inward on your computer game. And focused outward, beyond all, on us. Searching for
"I wasn't searching for you. I was studying you." Watching every vid they had at the Battle
School, trying to understand the way the bugger mind worked. "I was imagining you."
<So we say. Searching for us. Imagining us. That's how we search for each other. So you were
"And that was all?"
<No, no. You were so strange. We didn't know what you were. We couldn't read anything in you.
Your vision was so limited. Your ideas shifted so rapidly, and you thought of only one thing at a
time. And the network around you kept shifting so much, each member's connection with you
waxing and waning over time, sometimes very quickly-->
He was having trouble making sense of what they were saying. What kind of network was he
<The other soldiers. Your computer.>
"I wasn't connected. They were my soldiers, that's all."
<How do you think we're connected? Do you see any wires?>
"But humans are individuals, not like your workers."
<Many queens, many workers, changing back and forth, very confusing. Terrible, frightening
time. What were these monsters that had wiped out our colony ship? What kind of creature? You
were so strange we couldn't imagine you at all. We could only feel you when you were searching
Not helpful at all. Nothing to do with faster-than-light flight. It all sounded like mumbo-jumbo,
not like science at all. Nothing that Grego could express mathematically.
<Yes, that's right. We don't do this like science. Not like technology. No numbers or even thought.
We found you like bringing forth a new queen. Like starting a new hive.>
Ender didn't understand how establishing an ansible link with his brain could be like hatching out
a new queen. "Explain it to me."
<We don't think about it. We just do it.>
"But what are you doing when you do it?"
<What we always do.>
"And what do you always do?"
<How do you make your penis fill with blood to mate, Ender? How do you make your pancreas
secrete enzymes? How do you switch on puberty? How do you focus your eyes?>
"Then remember what you do, and show it to me."
<You forget that you don't like this, when we show you through our eyes.>
It was true. She had tried only a couple of times, when he was very young and had first discovered
her cocoon. He simply couldn't cope with it, couldn't make sense of it. Flashes, a few glimpses
were clear, but it was so disorienting that he panicked, and probably fainted, though he was alone
and couldn't be sure what had happened, clinically speaking.
"If you can't tell me, we have to do something."
<Are you like Planter? Trying to die?>
"No. I'll tell you to stop. It didn't kill me before."
<We'll try-- something in between. Something milder. We'll remember, and tell you what's
happening. Show you bits. Protect you. Safe.>
She gave him no time to reflect or prepare. At once he felt himself seeing out of compound eyes,
not many lenses with the same vision, but each lens with its own picture. It gave him the same
vertiginous feeling as so many years before. But this time he understood a little better-- in part
because she was making it less intense than before, and in part because he knew something about
the hive queen now, about what she was doing to him.
The many different visions were what each of the workers was seeing, as if each were a single eye
connected to the same brain. There was no hope of Ender making sense of so many images at once.
<We'll show you one. The one that matters.>
Most of the visions dropped out immediately. Then, one by one, the others were sorted out. He
imagined that she must have some organizing principle for the workers. She could disregard all
those who weren't part of the queen-making process. Then, for Ender's sake, she had to sort through
even the ones who were part of it, and that was harder, because usually she could sort the visions
by task rather than by the individual workers. At last, though, she was able to show him a primary
image and he could focus on it, ignoring the flickers and flashes of peripheral visions.
A queen being hatched. She had shown him this before, in a carefully-planned vision when he had
first met her, when she was trying to explain things to him. Now, though, it wasn't a sanitized,
carefully orchestrated presentation. The clarity was gone. It was murky, distracted, real. It was
memory, not art.
<You see we have the queen-body. We know she's a queen because she starts reaching out for
workers, even as a larva.>
"So you can talk to her?"
<She's very stupid. Like a worker.>
"She doesn't grow her intelligence until cocooning?"
<No. She has her-- like your brain. The memory-think. It's just empty.>
"So you have to teach her."
<What good would teaching do? The thinker isn't there. The found thing. The binder-together.>
"I don't know what you're talking about."
<Stop trying to look and think, then. This isn't done with eyes.>
"Then stop showing me anything, if it depends on another sense. Eyes are too important to
humans; if I see anything it'll mask out anything but clear speech and I don't think there's much of
that at a queen-making."
"I'm still seeing something."
<Your brain is turning it into seeing.>
"Then explain it. Help me make sense of it."
<It's the way we feel each other. We're finding the reaching-out place in the queen-body. The
workers all have it, too, but all it reaches for is the queen and when it finds her all the reaching is
over. The queen never stops reaching. Calling.>
"So then you find her?"
<We know where she is. The queen-body. The worker-caller. The memory-holder.>
"Then what are you searching for?"
<The us-thing. The binder. The meaning-maker.>
"You mean there's something else? Something besides the queen's body?"
<Yes, of course. The queen is just a body, like the workers. Didn't you know this?>
"No, I never saw it."
<Can't see it. Not with eyes.>
"I didn't know to look for anything else. I saw the making of the queen when you first showed it to
me years ago. I thought I understood then."
<We thought you did too.>
"So if the queen's just a body, who are you?"
<We're the hive queen. And all the workers. We come and make one person out of all. The queen-
body, she obeys us like the worker-bodies. We hold them all together, protect them, let them work
perfectly as each is needed. We're the center. Each of us.>
"But you've always talked as if you were the hive queen."
<We are. Also all the workers. We're all together.>
"But this center-thing, this binder-together--"
<We call it to come and take the queen-body, so she can be wise, our sister.>
"You call it. What is it?"
<The thing we call.>
"Yes, what is it?"
<What are you asking? It's the called-thing. We call it.>
It was almost unbearably frustrating. So much of what the hive queen did was instinctive. She had
no language and so she had never had a need to develop clear explanations of that which had never
needed explaining till now. So he had to help her find a way to clarify what he couldn't perceive
"Where do you find it?"
<It hears us calling and cornes.>
"But how do you call?"
<As you called us. We imagine the thing which it must become. The pattern of the hive. The
queen and the workers and the binding together. Then one comes who understands the pattern and
can hold it. We give the queen-body to it.>
"So you're calling some other creature to come and take possession of the queen."
<To become the queen and the hive and all. To hold the pattern we imagined.>
"So where does it come from?"
<Wherever it was when it felt us calling.>
"But where is that?"
"Fine, I believe you. But where does it come from?"
<Can't think of the place.>
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