"Yours too, sir, begging your pardon."
Bean worked his way through every student at Battle School, reading the records of a half dozen
or so per day. Their original scores, he found, were the least interesting thing about them. Everyone
here had such high scores on all the tests given back on Earth that the differences were almost
trivial. Bean's own scores were the highest, and the gap between him and the next highest, Ender
Wiggin, was wide -- as wide as the gap between Ender and the next child after him. But it was all
relative. The difference between Ender and Bean amounted to half of a percentage point; most of
the children clustered between 97 and 98 percent.
Of course, Bean knew what they could not know, that for him getting the highest possible score
on the tests had been easy. He could have done more, he could have done better, but he had reached
the boundary of what the test could discover. The gap between him and Ender was much wider than
And yet ... in reading the records, Bean came to see that the scores were merely a guide to a child's
potential. The teachers talked most about things like cleverness, insight, intuition; the ability to
develop rapport, to outguess an opponent; the courage to act boldly, the caution to make certain
before committing, the wisdom to know which course was the appropriate one. And in considering
this, Bean realized that he was not necessarily any better at *these* things than the other students.
Ender Wiggin really did know things that Bean did not know. Bean might have thought to do as
Wiggin did, arranging extra practices to make up for being with a commander who wouldn't train
him. Bean even might have tried to bring in a few other students to train with him, since many
things could not be done alone. But Wiggin had taken all comers, no matter how difficult it became
to practice with so many in the battleroom, and according to the teachers' notes, he spent more time
now training others than in working on his own technique. Of course, that was partly because he
was no longer in Bonzo Madrid's army, so he got to take part in the regular practices. But he still
kept working with the other kids, especially the eager launchies who wanted a head start before
they were promoted into a regular army. Why?
Is he doing what I'm doing, studying the other students to prepare for a later war on Earth? Is he
building some kind of network that reaches out into all the armies? Is he somehow mistraining
them, so he can take advantage of their mistakes later?
From what Bean heard about Wiggin from the kids in his launch group who attended those
practices, he came to realize that it was something else entirely. Wiggin seemed really to care about
the other kids doing their best. Did he need so badly for them to like him? Because it was working,
if that's what he was trying for. They worshiped him.
But there had to be more to it than some hunger for love. Bean couldn't get a handle on it.
He found that the teachers' observations, while helpful, didn't really help him get inside Wiggin's
head. For one thing, they kept the psychological observations from the mind game somewhere else
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that Bean didn't have access to. For another, the teachers couldn't really get into Wiggin's mind
because they simply didn't think at his level.
But Bean's project wasn't to analyze Wiggin out of scientific curiosity, or to compete with him, or
even to understand him. It was to make himself into the kind of child that the teachers would trust,
would rely on. Would regard as fully human. For that project, Wiggin was his teacher because
Wiggin had already done what Bean needed to do.
And Wiggin had done it without being perfect. Without being, as far as Bean could tell,
completely sane. Not that anyone was. But Wiggin's willingness to give up hours every day to
training kids who could do nothing for him -- the more Bean thought about it, the less sense it
made. Wiggin was not building a network of supporters. Unlike Bean, he didn't have a perfect
memory, so Bean was quite sure Wiggin was not compiling a mental dossier on every other kid in
Battle School. The kids he worked with were not the best, and were often the most fearful and
dependent of the launchies and of the losers in the regular armies. They came to him because they
thought being in the same room with the soldier who was leading in the standings might bring some
luck to them. But why did Wiggin keep giving his time to *them*?
Why did Poke die for me?
That was the same question. Bean knew it. He found several books about ethics in the library and
called them up on his desk to read. He soon discovered that the only theories that explained
altruism were bogus. The stupidest was the old sociobiological explanation of uncles dying for
nephews -- there were no blood ties in armies now, and people often died for strangers. Community
theory was fine as far as it went -- it explained why communities all honored sacrificial heroes in
their stories and rituals, but it still didn't explain the heroes themselves.
For that was what Bean saw in Wiggin. This was the hero at his root.
Wiggin really does not care as much about himself as he does about these other kids who aren't
worth five minutes of his time.
And yet this may be the very trait that makes everyone focus on him. Maybe this is why in all
those stories Sister Carlotta told him, Jesus always had a crowd around him.
Maybe this is why I'm so afraid of Wiggin. Because *he's* the alien, not me. He's the
unintelligible one, the unpredictable one. He's the one who doesn't do things for sensible,
predictable reasons. I'm going to survive, and once you know that, there's nothing more to know
about me. Him, though, he could do anything.
The more he studied Wiggin, the more mysteries Bean uncovered. The more he determined to act
like Wiggin until, at some point, he came to see the world as Wiggin saw it.
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But even as he tracked Wiggin -- still from a distance -- what Bean could not let himself do was
what the younger kids did, what Wiggin's disciples did. He could not call him Ender. Calling him
by his last name kept him at a distance. A microscope's distance, anyway.
What did Wiggin study when he read on his own? Not the books of military history and strategy
that Bean had blown through in a rush and was now rereading methodically, applying everything to
both space combat and modem warfare on Earth. Wiggin did his share of reading, too, but when he
went into the library he was just as likely to look at combat vids, and the ones he watched most
often were of Bugger ships. Those and the clips of Mazer Rackham's strike force in the heroic
battle that broke the back of the Second Invasion.
Bean watched them too, though not over and over again -- once he saw them, he remembered
them perfectly and could replay them in his mind, with enough detail that he could notice things
later that he hadn't realized at first. Was Wiggin seeing something new each time he went back to
these vids? Or was he looking for something that he hadn't yet found?
Is he trying to understand the way the Buggers think? Why doesn't he realize that the library here
simply doesn't have enough of the vids to make it useful? It's all propaganda stuff here. They
withheld all the terrible scenes of dead guys, of fighting and killing hand to hand when ships were
breached and boarded. They didn't have vids of defeats, where the Buggers blew the human ships
out of the sky. All they had here was ships moving around in space, a few minutes of preparation
War in space? So exciting in the made-up stories, so boring in reality. Occasionally something
would light up, mostly it was just dark.
And, of course, the obligatory moment of Mazer Rackham's victory.
What could Wiggin possibly hope to learn?
Bean learned more from the omissions than from what he actually saw. For instance, there was not
one picture of Mazer Rackham anywhere in the library. That was odd. The Triumvirates' faces were
everywhere, as were those of other commanders and political leaders. Why not Rackham? Had he
died in the moment of victory? Or was he, perhaps, a fictitious figure, a deliberately-created legend,
so that there could be a name to peg the victory to? But if that were the case, they'd have created a
face for him -- it was too easy to do that. Was he deformed?
Was he really, really small?
If I grow up to be the commander of the human fleet that defeats the Buggers, will they hide my
picture, too, because someone so tiny can never be seen as a hero?
Who cares? I don't want to be a hero.
That's Wiggin's gig.
Nikolai, the boy across from him. Bright enough to make some guesses Bean hadn't made first.
Confident enough not to get angry when he caught Bean intruding on him. Bean was so hopeful
when he came at last to Nikolai's file.
The teacher evaluation was negative. "A place-holder." Cruel -- but was it true?
Bean realized: I have been putting too much trust in the teachers' evaluations. Do I have any real
evidence that they're right? Or do I believe in their evaluations because I am rated so highly? Have
I let them flatter me into complacency?
What if all their evaluations were hopelessly wrong?
I had no teacher files on the streets of Rotterdam. I actually knew the children. Poke -- I made my
own judgment of her, and I was almost right, just a few surprises here and there. Sergeant -- no
surprises at all. Achilles -- yes, I knew him.
So why have I stayed apart from the other students? Because they isolated me at first, and because
I decided that the teachers had the power. But now I see that I was only partly right. The teachers
have the power here and now, but someday I will not be in Battle School, and what does it matter
then what the teachers think of me? I can learn all the military theory and history that I want, and it
will do me no good if they never entrust me with command. And I will never be placed in charge of
an army or a fleet unless they have reason to believe that other men would follow me.
Not men today, but boys, most of them, a few girls. Not men, but they *will* be men. How do
they choose their leaders? How do I make them follow one who is so small, so resented?
What did Wiggin do?
Bean asked Nikolai which of the kids in their launch group practiced with Wiggin.
"Only a few. And they on the fringes, neh? Suckups and brags."
"But who are they?"
"You trying to get in with Wiggin?"
"Just want to find out about him."
"What you want to know?"
The questions bothered Bean. He didn't like talking so much about what he was doing. But he
didn't sense any malice in Nikolai. He just wanted to know.
"History. He the best, neh? How he get that way?" Bean wondered if he sounded quite natural
with the soldier slang. He hadn't used it that much. The music of it, he still wasn't quite there.
"You find out, you tell me." He rolled his eyes in self-derision.
"I'll tell you," said Bean.
"I got a chance to be best like Ender?" Nikolai laughed. "*You* got a chance, the way you learn."
"Wiggin's snot ain't honey," said Bean.
"What does that mean?"
"He human like anybody. I find out, I tell you, OK?"
Bean wondered why Nikolai already despaired about his own chances of being one of the best.
Could it be that the teachers' negative evaluation was right after all? Or had they unconsciously let
him see their disdain for him, and he believed them?
From the boys Nikolai had pointed out -- the brags and suckups, which wasn't an inaccurate
evaluation as far as it went -- Bean learned what he wanted to know. The names of Wiggin's closest
Shen. Alai. Petra -- her again! But Shen the longest.
Bean found him in the library during study time. The only reason to go there was for the vids -- all
the books could be read from the desks. Shen wasn't watching vids, though. He had his desk with
him, and he was playing the fantasy game.
Bean sat down beside him to watch. A lion-headed man in chain mail stood before a giant, who
seemed to be offering him a choice of drinks -- the sound was shaped so that Bean couldn't hear it
from beside the desk, though Shen seemed to be responding; he typed in a few words. His lion-man
figure drank one of the substances and promptly died.
Shen muttered something and shoved the desk away.
"That the Giant's Drink?" said Bean. "I heard about that."
"You've never played it?" said Shen. "You can't win it. I *thought*."
"I heard. Didn't sound fun."
"*Sound* fun? You haven't tried it? It's not like it's hard to find."
Bean shrugged, trying to fake the mannerisms he'd seen other boys use. Shen looked amused.
Because Bean did the cool-guy shrug wrong? Or because it looked cute to have somebody so small
"Come on, you don't play the fantasy game?"
"What you said," Bean prompted him. "You *thought* nobody ever won it."
"I saw a guy in a place I'd never seen. I asked him where it was, and he said, 'Other side of the
"He tell you how to get there?"
"I didn't ask."
Shen grinned, looked away.
"It be Wiggin, neh?" asked Bean.
The grin faded. "I didn't say that."
"I know you're his friend, that's why I came here."
"What is this? You spying on him? You from Bonzo?"
This was not going well. Bean hadn't realized how protective Wiggin's friends might be. "I'm from
me. Look, nothing bad, OK? I just -- look, I just want to know about -- you know him from the
start, right? They say you been his friend from launchy days."
"Look, he got friends, right? Like you. Even though he always does better in class, always the best
on everything, right? But they don't hate him."
"Plenty bichƒo [bichao] hate him."
"I got to make some friends, man." Bean knew that he shouldn't try to sound pitiful. Instead, he
should sound like a pitiful kid who was trying really hard *not* to sound pitiful. So he ended his
maudlin little plea with a laugh. As if he was trying to make it sound like a joke.
"You're pretty short," said Shen.
"Not on the planet I'm from," said Bean.
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