Quara was oblivious to Ela's sarcasm-- or chose to appear oblivious, anyway. "How can we
decipher a language out of the blue? We don't have any referents. But we do have complete records
of the versions of the descolada virus. We know what it looked like before it adapted to the human
metabolism. We know how it changed after each of our attempts to kill it. Some of the changes
were functional-- it was adapting. But some of them were clerical-- it was keeping a record of what
"We don't know that," said Ela with perhaps too much pleasure in correcting Quara.
"I know it," said Quara. "Anyway, it gives us a known context, doesn't it? We know what that
language is about, even if we haven't been able to decode it."
"Well, now that you've said all that," said Ela, "I still have no idea how this new wisdom will help
us decode the language. I mean, isn't that precisely what you've been working on for months?"
"Ah," said Quara. "I have. But what I haven't been able to do is speak the 'words' that the
descolada virus recorded and see what answers we get back."
"Too dangerous," said Jane at once. "Absurdly dangerous. These people are capable of making
viruses that completely destroy biospheres, and they're callous enough to use them. And you're
proposing that we give to them precisely the weapon they used to devastate the pequeninos' planet?
Which probably contains a complete record, not only of the pequeninos' metabolism, but of ours as
well? Why not just slit our own throats and send them the blood?"
Miro noticed that when Jane spoke, the others looked almost stunned. Part of their response might
have been to the difference between Val's diffidence and the bold attitude that Jane displayed. Part
of it, too, might have been because the Jane they knew was more computerlike, less assertive. Miro,
however, recognized this authoritarian style from the way she had often spoken into his ear through
the jewel. In a way it was a pleasure for him to hear her again; it was also disturbing to hear it
coming from the lips of someone else. Val was gone; Jane was back; it was awful; it was
Because Miro was not so taken aback by Jane's attitude, he was the one to speak into the silence.
"Quara's right, Jane. We don't have years and years to work this out-- we might have only a few
weeks. Or less. We need to provoke a linguistic response. Get an answer from them, analyze the
difference in language between their initial statements to us and the later ones."
"We're giving away too much," said Jane.
"No risk, no gain," said Miro.
"Too much risk, all dead," said Jane snidely. But in the snideness there was a familiar lilt, a kind
of sauciness that said, I'm only playing. And that came, not from Jane-- Jane had never sounded
like that-- but from Val. It hurt to hear it; it was good to hear it. Miro's dual responses to everything
coming from Jane kept him constantly on edge. I love you, I miss you, I grieve for you, shut up;
whom he was talking to seemed to change with the minutes.
"It's only the future of three sentient species we're gambling with," added Ela.
With that they all turned to Firequencher.
"Don't look at me," he said. "I'm just a tourist."
"Come on," said Miro. "You're here because your people are at risk the same as ours. This is a
tough decision and you have to vote. You have the most at risk, actually, because even the earliest
descolada codes we have might well reveal the whole biological history of your people since the
virus first came among you."
"Then again," said Firequencher, "it might mean that since they already know how to destroy us,
we have nothing to lose."
"Look," said Miro. "We have no evidence that these people have any kind of manned starflight.
All they've sent out so far are probes."
"All that we know about," said Jane.
"And we've had no evidence of anybody coming around to check out how effective the descolada
had been at transforming the biosphere of Lusitania to prepare it to receive colonists from this
planet. So if they do have colony ships out there, either they're already on the way so what different
does it make if we share this information, or they haven't sent any which means that they can't."
"Miro's right," said Quara, pouncing. Miro winced. He hated being on Quara's side, because now
everybody's annoyance with her would rub off on him. "Either the cows are already out of the barn,
so why bother shutting the door, or they can't get the door open anyway, so why put a lock on it?"
"What do you know about cows?" asked Ela disdainfully.
"After all these years of living and working with you," said Quara nastily, "I'd say I'm an expert."
"Girls, girls," said Jane. "Get a grip on yourselves."
Again, everyone but Miro turned to her in surprise. Val wouldn't have spoken up during a family
conflict like this; nor would the Jane they knew-- though of course Miro was used to her speaking
up all the time.
"We all know the risks of giving them information about us," said Miro. "We also know that we're
making no headway and maybe we'll be able to learn something about the way this language works
after having some give and take."
"It's not give and take," said Jane. "It's give and give. We give them information they probably
can't get any other way, information that may well tell them everything they need to know in order
to create new viruses that might well circumvent all our weapons against them. But since we have
no idea how that information is coded, or even where each specific datum is located, how can we
interpret the answer? Besides, what if the answer is a new virus to destroy us?"
"They're sending us the information necessary to construct the virus," said Quara, her voice thick
with contempt, as if she thought Jane were the stupidest person who ever lived, instead of arguably
the most godlike in her brilliance. "But we're not going to build it. As long as it's just a graphic
representation on a computer screen--"
"That's it," said Ela.
"What's it?" said Quara. It was her turn to be annoyed now, for obviously Ela was a step ahead of
her on something.
"They aren't taking these signals and putting them up on a computer screen. We do that because
we have a language written with symbols that we see with the naked eye. But they must read these
broadcast signals more directly. The code comes in, and they somehow interpret it by following the
instruction to make the molecule that's described in the broadcast. Then they 'read' it by-- what,
smelling it? Swallowing it? The point is, if genetic molecules are their language, then they must
somehow take them into their body as appropriately as the way we get the images of our writing
from the paper into our eyes."
"I see," said Jane. "You're hypothesizing that they're expecting us to make a molecule out of what
they send us, instead of just reading it on a screen and trying to abstract it and intellectualize it."
"For all we know," said Ela, "this could be how they discipline people. Or attack them. Send them
a message. If they 'listen' they have to do it by reading the molecule into their bodies and letting it
have its effect on them. So if the effect is poison or a killing disease, just hearing the message
subjects them to the discipline. It's as if all our language had to be tapped out on the back of our
neck. To listen, we'd have to lie down and expose ourself to whatever tool they chose to use to send
the message. If it's a finger or a feather, well and good-- but if it's a broadaxe or a machete or a
sledgehammer, too bad for us."
"It doesn't even have to be fatal," said Quara, her rivalry with Ela forgotten as she developed the
idea in her own mind. "The molecules could be behavior-altering devices. To hear is literally to
"I don't know if you're right in the particulars," said Jane. "But it gives the experiment much more
potential for success. And it suggests that they might not have a delivery system that can attack us
directly. That changes the probable risk."
"And people say you can't think well without your computer," said Miro.
At once he was embarrassed. He had inadvertently spoken to her as flippantly as he used to when
he subvocalized so she could overhear him through the jewel. But now it sounded strangely cold of
him, to tease her about having lost her computer network. He could joke that way with Jane-in-the-
jewel. But Jane-in-the-flesh was a different matter. She was now a human person. With feelings
that had to be worried about.
Jane had feelings all along, thought Miro. But I didn't think much about them because ... because I
didn't have to. Because I didn't see her. Because she wasn't, in a sense, real to me.
"I just meant ..." Miro said. "I just mean, good thinking."
"Thank you," said Jane. There wasn't a trace of irony in her voice, but Miro knew the irony was
there all the same, because it was inherent in the situation. Miro, this uniprocessing human, was
telling this brilliant being that she had thought well-- as if he were fit to judge her.
Suddenly he was angry, not at Jane, but at himself. Why should he have to watch every word he
said, just because she had not acquired this body in the normal way? She may not have been human
before, but she was certainly human now, and could be talked to like a human. If she was somehow
different from other human beings, so what? All human beings were different from all others, and
yet to be decent and polite, wasn't he supposed to treat everyone basically alike? Wouldn't he say,
"Do you see what I mean?" to a blind person, expecting the metaphorical use of "see" to be taken
without umbrage? Well, why not say, "Good thinking," to Jane? Just because her thought processes
were unfathomably deep to a human didn't mean that a human couldn't use a standard expression of
agreement and approval when speaking to her.
Looking at her now, Miro could see a kind of sadness in her eyes. No doubt it came from his
obvious confusion-- after joking with her as he always had, suddenly he was embarrassed, suddenly
he backtracked. That was why her "Thank you" had been ironic. Because she wanted him to be
natural with her, and he couldn't.
No, he hadn't been natural, but he certainly could.
And what did it matter, anyway? They were here to solve the problem of the descoladores, not to
work out the kinks in their personal relationships after the wholesale body swap.
"Do I take it we have agreement?" asked Ela. "To send messages encoded with the information
contained on the descolada virus?"
"The first one only," said Jane. "At least to start."
"And when they answer," said Ela, "I'll try to run a simulation of what would happen if we
constructed and ingested the molecule they send us."
"If they send us one," said Miro. "If we're even on the right track."
"Well aren't you Mr. Cheer," said Quara.
"I'm Mr. Scared-From-Ass-To-Ankles," said Miro. "Whereas you are just plain old Miss Ass."
"Can't we all get along?" said Jane, whining, teasing. "Can't we all be friends?"
Quara whirled on her. "Listen, you! I don't care what kind of superbrain you used to be, you just
stay out of family conversations, do you hear?"
"Look around, Quara!" Miro snapped at her. "If she stayed out of family conversations, when
could she talk?"
Firequencher raised his hand. "I've been staying out of family conversations. Do I get credit for
Jane gestured to quell both Miro and Firequencher. "Quara," she said quietly, "I'll tell you the real
difference between me and your brother and sister here. They're used to you because they've known
you all your life. They're loyal to you because you and they went through some lousy experiences
in your family. They're patient with your childish outbursts and your asinine bullheadedness
because they tell themselves, over and over, she can't help it, she had such a troubled childhood.
But I'm not a family member, Quara. I, however, as someone who has observed you in times of
crisis for some time, am not afraid to tell you my candid conclusions. You are quite brilliant and
very good at what you do. You are often perceptive and creative, and you drive toward solutions
with astonishing directness and perseverence."
"Excuse me," said Quara, "are you telling me off or what?"
"But," said Jane, "you are not smart and creative and clever and direct and perseverent enough to
make it worth putting up with more than fifteen seconds of the egregious bullshit you heap on your
family and everyone else around you every minute you're awake. So you had a lousy childhood.
That was a few years ago, and you are expected now to put that behind you and get along with
other people like a normally courteous adult."
"In other words," said Quara, "you don't like having to admit that anybody but you might be smart
enough to have an idea that you didn't think of."
"You aren't understanding me," said Jane. "I'm not your sister. I'm not even, technically speaking,
human. If this ship ever gets back to Lusitania, it will be because I, with my mind, send it there. Do
you get that? Do you understand the difference between us? Can you send even one fleck of dust
from your lap to mine?"
"I don't notice you sending starships anywhere right at the moment," said Quara triumphantly.
"You continue to attempt to score points off me without realizing that I am not having an
argument with you or even a discussion. What you say to me right now is irrelevant. The only thing
that matters is what I'm saying to you. And I'm saying that while your siblings put up with the
unendurable from you, I will not. Keep on the way you're going, you spoiled little baby, and when
this starship goes back to Lusitania you might not be on it."
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The look on Quara's face almost made Miro laugh aloud. He knew, however, that this would not
be a wise moment to express his mirth.
"She's threatening me," said Quara to the others. "Do you hear this? She's trying to coerce me by
threatening to kill me."
"I would never kill you," said Jane. "But I might be unable to conceive of your presence on this
starship when I push it Outside and then pull it back In. The thought of you might be so
unendurable that my unconscious mind would reject that thought and exclude you. I really don't
understand, consciously, how the whole thing works. I don't know how it relates to my feelings.
I've never tried to transport anybody I really hated before. I would certainly try to bring you along
with the others, if only because, for reasons passing understanding, Miro and Ela would probably
be testy with me if I didn't. But trying isn't necessarily succeeding. So I suggest, Quara, that you
expend some effort on trying to be a little less loathsome."
"So that's what power is to you," said Quara. "A chance to push other people around and act like
"You really can't do it, can you?" said Jane.
"Can't what?" said Quara. "Can't bow down and kiss your feet?"
"Can't shut up to save your own life."
"I'm trying to solve the problem of communicating with an alien species, and you're busy
worrying about whether I'm nice enough to you."
"But Quara," said Jane, "hasn't it ever occurred to you that once they get to know you, even the
aliens will wish you had never learned their language?"
"I'm certainly wishing you had never learned mine," said Quara. "You're certainly full of yourself,
now that you have this pretty little body to play around with. Well, you're not queen of the universe
and I'm not going to dance through hoops for you. It wasn't my idea to come on this voyage, but I'm
here-- I'm here, the whole obnoxious package-- and if there's something about me that you don't
like, why don't you shut up about it? And as long as we're making threats, I think that if you push
me too far I'll rearrange your face more to my liking. Is that clear?"
Jane unstrapped herself from her seat and drifted from the main cabin into the corridor leading
into the storage compartments of the shuttle. Miro followed her, ignoring Quara as she said to the
others, "Can you believe how she talked to me? Who does she think she is, judging who's too
irritating to live?"
Miro followed Jane into a storage compartment. She was clinging to a handhold on the far wall,
bent over and heaving in a way that made Miro wonder if she was throwing up. But no. She was
crying. Or rather, she was so enraged that her body was sobbing and producing tears from the sheer
uncontainability of the emotion. Miro touched her shoulder to try to calm her. She recoiled.
For a moment he almost said, Fine, have it your way; then he would have left, angry himself,
frustrated that she wouldn't accept his comfort. But then he remembered that she had never been
this angry before. She had never had to deal with a body that responded like this. At first, when she
began rebuking Quara, Miro had thought, It's about time somebody laid it on the line. But when the
argument went on and on, Miro realized that it wasn't Quara who was out of control, it was Jane.
She didn't know how to deal with her emotions. She didn't know when it wasn't worth going on.
She felt what she was feeling, and she didn't know how to do anything but express it.
"That was hard," Miro said. "Cutting off the argument and coming in here."
"I wanted to kill her," said Jane. Her voice was almost unintelligible from the weeping, from the
savage tension in her body. "I've never felt anything like it. I wanted to get out of the chair and tear
her apart with my bare hands."
"Welcome to the club," said Miro.
"You don't understand," she said. "I really wanted to do it. I felt my muscles flexing, I was ready
to do it. I was going to do it."
"As I said. Quara makes us all feel that way."
"No," said Jane. "Not like this. You all stay calm, you all stay in control."
"And you will, too," said Miro, "when you have a little more practice."
Jane lifted her head, leaned it back, shook it. Her hair swung weightlessly free in the air. "Do you
really feel this?"
"All of us do," said Miro. "That's why we have a childhood-- to learn to get over our violent
tendencies. But they're in us all. Chimps and baboons do it. All the primates. We display. We have
to express our rage physically."
"But you don't. You stay so calm. You let her spout off and say these horrible--"
"Because it's not worth the trouble of stopping her," said Miro. "She pays the price for it. She's
desperately lonely and nobody deliberately seeks an opportunity to spend time in her company."
"Which is the only reason she isn't dead."
"That's right," said Miro. "That's what civilized people dothey avoid the circumstance that enrages
them. Or if they can't avoid it, they detach. That's what Ela and I do, mostly. We just detach. We
just let her provocations roll over us."
"I can't do it," said Jane. "It was so simple before I felt these things. I could tune her out."
"That's it," said Miro. "That's what we do. We tune her out."
"It's more complicated than I thought," said Jane. "I don't know if I can do it."
"Yeah, well, you don't have much choice right now, do you," he said.
"Miro, I'm so sorry. I always felt such pity for you humans because you could only think of one
thing at a time and your memories were so imperfect and ... now I realize that just getting through
the day without killing somebody can be an achievement."
"It gets to be a habit. Most of us manage to keep our body count quite low. It's the neighborly way
It took a moment-- a sob, and then a hiccough-- but then she did laugh. A sweet, soft chuckle that
was such a welcome sound to Miro. Welcome because it was a voice he knew and loved, a laugh
that he liked to hear. And it was his dear friend who was doing the laughing. His dear friend Jane.
The laugh, the voice of his beloved Val. One person now. After all this time, he could reach out his
hand and touch Jane, who had always been impossibly far away. Like having a friendship over the
telephone and finally meeting face-to-face.
He touched her again, and she took his hand and held it.
"I'm sorry I let my own weakness get in the way of what we're doing," said Jane.
"You're only human," said Miro.
She looked at him, searched his face for irony, for bitterness.
"I mean it," said Miro. "The price of having these emotions, these passions, is that you have to
control them, you have to bear them when they're too strong to bear. You're only human now.
You'll never make these feelings go away. You just have to learn not to act on them."
"Quara never learned."
"Quara learned, all right," said Miro. "It's just my opinion, but Quara loved Marcao, adored him,
and when he died and the rest of us felt so liberated, she was lost. What she does now, this constant
provocation-- she's asking somebody to abuse her. To hit her. The way Marcao always hit Mother
whenever he was provoked. I think in some perverse way Quara was always jealous of Mother
when she got to go off alone with Papa, and even though she finally figured out that he was beating
her up, when Quara wanted her papa back the only way she knew of to demand his attention was--
this mouth of hers." Miro laughed bitterly. "It reminds me of Mother, to tell the truth. You've never
heard her, but in the old days, when she was trapped in marriage with Marcao and having Libo's
babies-- oh, she had a mouth on her. I'd sit there and listen to her provoking Marcao, goading him,
stabbing at him, until he'd hit her-- and I'd think, Don't you dare lay a hand on my mother, and at
the same time I'd absolutely understand his impotent rage, because he could never, never, never say
anything that would shut her up. Only his fist could do it. And Quara has that mouth, and needs that
"Well, how happy for us all, then, that I gave her just what she needed."
Miro laughed. "But she didn't need it from you. She needed it from Marcao, and he's dead."
And then, suddenly, Jane burst into real tears. Tears of grief, and she turned to Miro and clung to
"What is it?" he said. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, Miro," she said. "Ender's dead. I'll never see him again. I have a body at last, I have eyes to
see him, and he isn't there."
Miro was stunned. Of course she missed Ender. She had thousands of years with him, and only a
few years, really, with me. How could I have thought she could love me? How can I ever hope to
compare with Ender Wiggin? What am I, compared to the man who commanded fleets, who
transformed the minds of trillions of people with his books, his speakings, his insight, his ability to
see into the hearts of other people and speak their own most private stories back to them? And yet
even as he resented Ender, even as he envied him because Jane would always love him more and
Miro couldn't hope to compete with him even in death, despite these feelings it finally came home
to him that yes, Ender was dead. Ender, who had transformed his family, who had been a true
friend to him, who had been the only man in Miro's life that he longed with all his heart to be,
Ender was gone. Miro's tears of grief flowed along with Jane's.
"I'm sorry," said Jane. "I can't control any of my emotions."
"Yes, well, it's a common failing, actually," said Miro.
She reached up and touched the tears on his cheek. Then she touched her damp finger to her own
cheek. The tears commingled. "Do you know why I thought of Ender right then?" she said.
"Because you're so much like him. Quara annoys you as much as she annoys anyone, and yet you
look past that and see what her needs are, why she says and does these things. No, no, relax, Miro,
I'm not expecting you to be like Ender, I'm just saying that one of the things I liked best about him
is also in you-- that's not bad, is it? The compassionate perception-- I may be new at being human,
but I'm pretty sure that's a rare commodity."
"I don't know," said Miro. "The only person I'm feeling compassion for right now is me. They call
it self-pity, and it isn't an attractive trait."
"Why are you feeling sorry for yourself?"
"Because you'll go on needing Ender all your life, and all you'll ever find is poor substitutes, like
She held him tighter then. She was the one giving comfort now. "Oh, Miro, maybe that's true. But
if it is, it's true the way it's true that Quara is still trying to get her father's attention. You never stop
needing your father or your mother, isn't that right? You never stop reacting to them, even when
Father? That had never crossed Miro's mind before. Jane loved Ender, deeply, yes, loved him
forever-- but as a father?
"I can't be your father," said Miro. "I can't take his place." But what he was really doing was
making sure he had understood her. Ender was her father?
"I don't want you to be my father," said Jane. "I still have all these old Val-feelings, you know. I
mean, you and I were friends, right? That was very important to me. But now I have this Val body,
and when you touch me, it keeps feeling like the answer to a prayer." At once she regretted saying
it. "Oh, I'm sorry, Miro, I know you miss her."
"I do," said Miro. "But then, it's hard to miss her quite the way I might, since you do look a lot
like her. And you sound like her. And here I am holding you the way I wanted to hold her, and if
that sounds awful because I'm supposedly comforting you and I shouldn't be thinking of base
desires, well then I'm just an awful kind of guy, right?"
"Awful," she said. "I'm ashamed to know you." And she kissed him. Sweetly, awkwardly.
He remembered his first kiss with Ouanda years ago, when he was young and didn't know how
badly things could turn out. They had both been awkward then, new, clumsy. Young. Jane, now,
Jane was one of the oldest creatures in the universe. But also one of the youngest. And Val-- there
would be no reflexes in the Val body for Jane to draw upon, for in Val's short life, what chance had
she had to find love?
"Was that even close to the way humans do that?" asked Jane.
"That was exactly the way humans sometimes do it," said Miro. "Which isn't surprising, since
we're both human."
"Am I betraying Ender, to grieve for him one moment, and then be so happy to have you holding
me the next?"
"Am I betraying him, to be so happy only hours after he died?"
"Only he's not dead," said Jane. "I know where he is. I chased him there."
"If he's exactly the same person he was," said Miro, "then what a shame. Because good as he was,
he wasn't happy. He had his moments, but he was never-- what, he was never really at peace.
Wouldn't it be nice if Peter could live out a full life without ever having to bear the guilt of
xenocide? Without ever having to feel the weight of all of humanity on his shoulders?"
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