"As should be expected from a boy of such remarkable ability, you are exactly correct. Only this
boy's unusually small stature prevented Nero from being correct about there being one child with
higher scores than everybody else." He turned to Nero. "So close to not being a complete fool," he
said. "And yet ... even if you had been right, it would only have been by accident. A broken clock is
right two times a day. Sit down now, Bean, and put on your harness. The refueling is over and
we're about to boost."
Bean sat down. He could feel the hostility of the other children. There was nothing he could do
about that right now, and he wasn't sure that it was a disadvantage, anyway. What mattered was the
much more puzzling question: Why did the man set him up like that? If the point was to get the
kids competing with each other, they could have passed around a list with everyone's scores on all
the tests, so they all could see where they stood. Instead, Bean had been singled out. He was
already the smallest, and knew from experience that he was therefore a target for every mean-
spirited impulse in a bully's heart. So why did they draw this big circle around him and all these
arrows pointing at him, practically demanding that he be the main target of everyone's fear and
Draw your targets, aim your darts. I'm going to do well enough in this school that someday I'll be
the one with the authority, and then it won't matter who likes *me*. What will matter is who *I*
"As you may remember," said the man, "before the first fart from the mouthhole of Nero
Bakerboy here, I was starting to make a point. I was telling you that even though some child here
may seem like a prime target for your pathetic need to assert supremacy in a situation where you
are unsure of being recognized for the hero that you want people to think you are, you must control
yourself, and refrain from poking or pinching, jabbing or hitting, or even making snidely
provocative remarks or sniggering like warthogs just because you think somebody is an easy target.
And the reason why you should refrain from doing this is because you don't know who in this
group is going to end up being *your* commander in the future, the admiral when you're a mere
captain. And if you think for one moment that they will forget how you treated them now, today,
then you really are a fool. If they're good commanders, they'll use you effectively in combat no
matter how they despise you. But they don't have to be helpful to you in advancing your career.
They don't have to nurture you and bring you along. They don't have to be kind and forgiving. Just
think about that. The people you see around you will someday be giving you orders that will decide
whether you live or die. I'd suggest you work on earning their respect, not trying to put them down
so you can show off like some schoolyard punk."
The man turned his icy smile on Bean one more time.
"And I'll bet that Bean, here, is already planning to be the admiral who gives you all orders
someday. He's even planning how he'll order *me* to stand solitary watch on some asteroid
observatory till my bones melt from osteoporosis and I ooze around the station like an amoeba."
Bean hadn't given a moment's thought to some future contest between him and this particular
officer. He had no desire for vengeance. He wasn't Achilles. Achilles was stupid. And this officer
was stupid for thinking that Bean would think that way. No doubt, however, the man thought Bean
would be grateful because he had just warned the others not to pick on him. But Bean had been
picked on by tougher bastards than these could possibly be; this officer's "protection" was not
needed, and it made the gulf between Bean and the other children wider than before. If Bean could
have lost a couple of tussles, he would have been humanized, accepted perhaps. But now there
would be no tussles. No easy way to build bridges.
That was the reason for the annoyance that the man apparently saw on Bean's face. "I've got a
word for you, Bean. I don't care what you do to me. Because there's only one enemy that matters.
The Buggers. And if you can grow up to be the admiral who can give us victory over the Buggers
and keep Earth safe for humanity, then make me eat my own guts, ass-first, and I'll still say, Thank
you, sir. The Buggers are the enemy. Not Nero. Not Bean. Not even me. So keep your hands off
He grinned again, mirthlessly.
"Besides, the last time somebody tried picking on another kid, he ended up flying through the
shuttle in null-G and got his arm broken. It's one of the laws of strategy. Until you know that you're
tougher than the enemy, you maneuver, you don't commit to battle. Consider that your first lesson
in Battle School."
First lesson? No wonder they used this guy to tend children on the shuttle flights instead of having
him teach. If you followed *that* little piece of wisdom, you'd be paralyzed against a vigorous
enemy. Sometimes you *have* to commit to a fight even when you're weak. You *don't* wait till
you *know* you're tougher. You *make* yourself tougher by whatever means you can, and then
you strike by surprise, you sneak up, you backstab, you blindside, you cheat, you lie, you do
whatever it takes to make sure that you come out on top.
This guy might be real tough as the only adult on a shuttle full of kids, but if he were a kid on the
streets of Rotterdam, he'd "maneuver" himself into starvation in a month. If he wasn't killed before
that just for talking like he thought his piss was perfume.
The man turned to head back to the control cabin.
Bean called out to him.
"What's your name?"
The man turned and fixed him with a withering stare. "Already drafting the orders to have my
balls ground to powder, Bean?"
Bean didn't answer. Just looked him in the eye.
"I'm Captain Dimak. Anything else you want to know?"
Might as well find out now as later. "Do you teach at Battle School?"
"Yes," he said. "Coming down to pick up shuttle-loads of little boys and girls is how we get
Earthside leave. Just as with you, my being on this shuttle means my vacation is over."
The refueling planes peeled away and rose above them. No, it was their own craft that was
sinking. And the tail was sinking lower than the nose of the shuttle.
Metal covers came down over the windows. It felt like they were falling faster, faster ... until, with
a bone-shaking roar, the rockets fired and the shuttle began to rise again, higher, faster, faster, until
Bean felt like he was going to be pushed right through the back of his chair. It seemed to go on
Then ... silence.
Silence, and then a wave of panic. They were falling again, but this time there was no downward
direction, just nausea and fear.
Bean closed his eyes. It didn't help. He opened them again, tried to reorient himself. No direction
provided equilibrium. But he had schooled himself on the street not to succumb to nausea -- a lot of
the food he had to eat had already gone a little bad, and he couldn't afford to throw it up. So he
went into his anti-nausea routine -- deep breaths, distracting himself by concentrating on wiggling
his toes. And, after a surprisingly short time, he was used to the null-G. As long as he didn't expect
any direction to be down, he was fine.
The other kids didn't have his routine, or perhaps they were more susceptible to the sudden,
relentless loss of balance. Now the reason for the prohibition against eating before the launch
became clear. There was plenty of retching going on, but with nothing to throw up, there was no
mess, no smell.
Dimak came back into the shuttle cabin, this time standing on the ceiling. Very cute, thought
Bean. Another lecture began, this time about how to get rid of planetside assumptions about
directions and gravity. Could these kids possibly be so stupid they needed to be told such obvious
Bean occupied the time of the lecture by seeing how much pressure it took to move himself
around within his loosely-fitting harness. Everybody else was big enough that the harnesses fit
snugly and prevented movement. Bean alone had room for a little maneuvering. He made the most
of it. By the time they arrived at Battle School, he was determined to have at least a little skill at
movement in null-G. He figured that in space, his survival might someday depend on knowing just
how much force it would take to move his body, and then how much force it would take to stop.
Knowing it in his mind wasn't half so important as knowing it with his body. Analyzing things was
fine, but good reflexes could save your life.
CHAPTER 6 -- ENDER'S SHADOW
"Normally your reports on a launch group are brief. A few troublemakers, an incident report, or --
best of all -- nothing."
"You're free to disregard any portion of my report, sir."
"Sir? My, but aren't we the prickly martinet today."
"What part of my report did you think was excessive?"
"I think this report is a love song."
"I realize that it might seem like sucking up, to use with every launch the technique you used with
Ender Wiggin --"
"You use it with every launch?"
"As you noticed yourself, sir, it has interesting results. It causes an immediate sorting out."
"A sorting out into categories that might not otherwise exist. Nevertheless, I accept the
compliment implied by your action. But seven pages about Bean -- really, did you actually learn
that much from a response that was primarily silent compliance?"
"That is just my point, sir. It was not compliance at all. It was -- I was performing the experiment,
but it felt as though his were the big eye looking down the microscope, and I were the specimen on
"So he unnerved you."
"He would unnerve anyone. He's cold, sir. And yet"
"And yet hot. Yes, I read your report. Every scintillating page of it."
"I think you know that it is considered good advice for us not to get crushes on our students."
"In this case, however, I am delighted that you are so interested in Bean. Because, you see, I am
not. I already have the boy I think gives us our best chance. Yet there is considerable pressure,
because of Bean's damnable faked-up test scores, to give him special attention. Very well, he shall
have it. And you shall give it to him."
"But sir ..."
"Perhaps you are unable to distinguish an order from an invitation."
"I'm only concerned that ... I think he already has a low opinion of me."
"Good. Then he'll underestimate you. Unless you think his low opinion might be correct."
"Compared to him, sir, we might all be a little dim."
"Close attention is your assignment. Try not to worship him."
All that Bean had on his mind was survival, that first day in Battle School. No one would help him
-- that had been made clear by Dimak's little charade in the shuttle. They were setting him up to be
surrounded by ... what? Rivals at best, enemies at worst. So it was the street again. Well, that was
fine. Bean had survived on the street. And would have kept on surviving, even if Sister Carlotta
hadn't found him. Even Pablo -- Bean might have made it even without Pablo the janitor finding
him in the toilet of the clean place.
So he watched. He listened. Everything the others learned, he had to learn just as well, maybe
better. And on top of that, he had to learn what the others were oblivious to -- the workings of the
group, the systems of the Battle School. How teachers got on with each other. Where the power
was. Who was afraid of whom. Every group had its bosses, its suckups, its rebels, its sheep. Every
group had its strong bonds and its weak ones, friendships and hypocrisies. Lies within lies within
lies. And Bean had to find them all, as quickly as possible, in order to learn the spaces in which he
They were taken to their barracks, given beds, lockers, little portable desks that were much more
sophisticated than the one he had used when studying with Sister Carlotta. Some of the kids
immediately began to play with them, trying to program them or exploring the games built into
them, but Bean had no interest in that. The computer system of Battle School was not a person;
mastering it might be helpful in the long run, but for today it was irrelevant. What Bean needed to
find out was all outside the launchy barracks.
Which is where, soon enough, they went. They arrived in the "morning" according to space time --
which, to the annoyance of many in Europe and Asia, meant Florida time, since the earliest stations
had been controlled from there. For the kids, having launched from Europe, it was late afternoon,
and that meant they would have a serious time-lag problem. Dimak explained that the cure for this
was to get vigorous physical exercise and then take a short nap -- no more than three hours -- in the
early afternoon, following which they would again have plenty of physical exercise so they could
fall asleep that night at the regular bedtime for students.
They piled out to form a line in the corridor. "Green Brown Green," said Dimak, and showed them
how those lines on the corridor walls would always lead them back to their barracks. Bean found
himself jostled out of line several times, and ended up right at the back. He didn't care -- mere
jostling drew no blood and left no bruise, and last in line was the best place from which to observe.
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