They swung up to the south side of the star. There were no Rabbits on that face, but Crazy Tom
immediately led them in an attack around to the west face. Sure enough, there were Rabbits there,
caught in the act of attacking what they clearly thought of as the "back" of the star -- or, as Dragon
Army was trained to think of it, the bottom. So to the Rabbits, the attack seemed to come from
below, the direction they were least aware of. In moments, the six Rabbits on that face were frozen
and drifting along below the star.
The other half of the attack force would see that and know what had happened.
"Top," said Crazy Tom.
To the enemy, that would be the front of the star -- the position most exposed to fire from the
main formation. The last place they'd expect Tom's toon to go.
And once they were there, instead of continuing to attempt to engage the strike force coming
against them, Crazy Tom had them shoot at the main Rabbit formation, or what was left of it --
mostly disorganized groups hiding behind stars and firing at Dragons coming down at them from
several directions. The five of them in C toon had time to hit a couple of Rabbits each before the
strike force found them again.
Without waiting for orders, Bean immediately launched away from the surface of the star so he
could shoot downward at the strike force. This close, he was able to do four quick kills before the
whining abruptly stopped and his suit went completely stiff and dark. The Rabbit who got him
wasn't one of the strike force -- it was somebody from the main force above him. And to his
satisfaction, Bean could see that because of his firing, only one soldier from C toon was hit by the
strike force sent against them. Then he rotated out of view.
It didn't matter now. He was out. But he had done well. Seven kills that he was sure of, maybe
more. And it was more than his personal score. He had come up with the information Crazy Tom
needed in order to make a good tactical decision, and then he had taken the bold action that kept the
strike force from causing too many casualties. As a result, C toon remained in position to strike at
the enemy from behind. Without any place to hide, Rabbit would be wiped out in moments. And
Bean was part of it.
I didn't freeze once we got into action. I did what I was trained to do, and I stayed alert, and I
thought of things. I can probably do better, move faster, see more. But for a first battle, I did fine. I
can do this.
Because C toon was crucial to the victory, Wiggin used the other four toon leaders to press their
helmets to the corners of the enemy gate, and gave Crazy Tom the honor of passing through the
gate, which is what formally ended the game, bringing the lights on bright.
Major Anderson himself came in to congratulate the winning commander and supervise cleanup.
Wiggin quickly unfroze the casualties. Bean was relieved when his suit could move again. Using
his hook, Wiggin drew them all together and formed his soldiers into their five toons before he
began unfreezing Rabbit Army. They stood at attention in the air, their feet pointed down, their
heads up -- and as Rabbit unfroze, they gradually oriented themselves in the same direction. They
had no way of knowing it, but to Dragon, that was when victory became complete -- for the enemy
was now oriented as if their *own* gate was down.
Bean and Nikolai were already eating breakfast when Crazy Tom came to their table. "Ender says
instead of fifteen minutes for breakfast, we have till 0745. And he'll let us out of practice in time to
That was good news. They could slow down their eating.
Not that it mattered to Bean. His tray had little food on it, and he finished it immediately. Once he
was in Dragon Army, Crazy Tom had caught him giving away food. Bean told him that he was
always given too much, and Tom took the matter to Ender, and Ender got the nutritionists to stop
overfeeding Bean. Today was the first time Bean ever wished for more. And that was only because
he was so up from the battle.
"Smart," said Nikolai.
"Ender tells us we've got fifteen minutes to eat, which feels rushed and we don't like it. Then right
away he sends around the toon leaders, telling us we have till 0745. That's only ten minutes longer,
but now it feels like forever. And a shower -- we're supposed to be able to shower right after the
game, but now we're grateful."
"*And* he gave the toon leaders the chance to bring good news," said Bean.
"Is that important?" asked Nikolai. "We know it was Ender's choice."
"Most commanders make sure all good news comes from them," said Bean, "and bad news from
the toon leaders. But Wiggin's whole technique is building up his toon leaders. Crazy Tom went in
there with nothing more than his training and his brains and a single objective -- strike first from
the wall and get behind them. All the rest was up to him."
"Yeah, but if his toon leaders screw up, it looks bad on Ender's record," said Nikolai.
Bean shook his head. "The point is that in his very first battle, Wiggin divided his force for
tactical effect, and C toon was able to continue attacking even after we ran out of plans, because
Crazy Tom was really, truly in charge of us. We didn't sit around wondering what Wiggin wanted
us to do."
Nikolai got it, and nodded. "Bacana. That's right."
"Completely right," said Bean. By now everybody at the table was listening. "And that's because
Wiggin isn't just thinking about Battle School and standings and merda like that. He keeps
watching vids of the Second Invasion, did you know that? He's thinking about how to beat the
*Buggers*. And he knows that the way you do that is to have as many commanders ready to fight
them as you can get. Wiggin doesn't want to come out of this with Wiggin as the only commander
ready to fight the Buggers. He wants to come out of this with him *and* the toon leaders *and* the
seconds *and* if he can do it every single one of his soldiers ready to command a fleet against the
Buggers if we have to."
Bean knew his enthusiasm was probably giving Wiggin credit for more than he had actually
planned, but he was still full of the glow of victory. And besides, what he was saying was true --
Wiggin was no Napoleon, holding on to the reins of control so tightly that none of his commanders
was capable of brilliant independent command. Crazy Tom had performed well under pressure. He
had made the right decisions -- including the decision to listen to his smallest, most useless-looking
soldier. And Crazy Tom had done that because Wiggin had set the example by listening to his toon
leaders. You learn, you analyze, you choose, you act.
After breakfast, as they headed for practice, Nikolai asked him, "Why do you call him Wiggin?"
"Cause we're not friends," said Bean.
"Oh, so it's Mr. Wiggin and Mr. Bean, is that it?"
"No. *Bean* is my first name."
"Oh. So it's Mr. Wiggin and Who The Hell Are You."
Everybody expected to have at least a week to strut around and brag about their perfect won-lost
record. Instead, the next morning at 0630, Wiggin appeared in the barracks, again brandishing
battle orders. "Gentlemen, I hope you learned something yesterday, because today we're going to
do it again."
All were surprised, and some were angry -- it wasn't fair, they weren't ready. Wiggin just handed
the orders to Fly Molo, who had just been heading out for breakfast. "Flash suits!" cried Fly, who
clearly thought it was a cool thing to be the first army ever to fight two in a row like this.
But Hot Soup, the leader of D toon, had another attitude. "Why didn't you tell us earlier?"
"I thought you needed the shower," said Wiggin. "Yesterday Rabbit Army claimed we only won
because the stink knocked them out."
Everybody within earshot laughed. But Bean was not amused. He knew that the paper hadn't been
there first thing, when Wiggin woke up. The teachers planted it late. "Didn't find the paper till you
got back from the showers, right?"
Wiggin gave him a blank look. "Of course. I'm not as close to the floor as you."
The contempt in his voice struck Bean like a blow. Only then did he realize that Wiggin had taken
his question as a criticism -- that Wiggin had been inattentive and hadn't *noticed* the orders. So
now there was one more mark against Bean in Wiggin's mental dossier. But Bean couldn't let that
upset him. It's not as if Wiggin didn't have him tagged as a coward. Maybe Crazy Tom told Wiggin
about how Bean contributed to the victory yesterday, and maybe not. It wouldn't change what
Wiggin had seen with his own eyes -- Bean malingering in the shower. And now Bean apparently
taunting him for making them all have to rush for their second battle. Maybe I'll be made toon
leader on my thirtieth birthday. And then only if everybody else is drowned in a boat accident.
Wiggin was still talking, of course, explaining how they should expect battles any time, the old
rules were coming apart. "I can't pretend I like the way they're screwing around with us, but I do
like one thing -- that I've got an army that can handle it."
As he put on his flash suit, Bean thought through the implications of what the teachers were
doing. They were pushing Wiggin faster and also making it harder for him. And this was only the
beginning. Just the first few sprinkles of a snotstorm.
Why? Not because Wiggin was so good he needed the testing. On the contrary -- Wiggin was
training his army well, and the Battle School would only benefit from giving him plenty of time to
do it. So it had to be something outside Battle School.
Only one possibility, really. The Bugger invaders were getting close. Only a few years away.
They had to get Wiggin through training.
Wiggin. Not all of us, just Wiggin. Because if it were everybody, then everybody's schedule
would be stepped up like this. Not just ours.
So it's already too late for me. Wiggin's the one they've chosen to rest their hopes on. Whether I'm
toon leader or not will never matter. All that matters is: Will Wiggin be ready?
If Wiggin succeeds, there'll still be room for me to achieve greatness in the aftermath. The League
will come apart. There'll be war among humans. Either I'll be used by the I.F. to help keep the
peace, or maybe I can get into some army on Earth. I've got plenty of life ahead of me. Unless
Wiggin commands our fleet against the invading Buggers and loses. Then none of us has any life at
All I can do right now is my best to help Wiggin learn everything he can learn here. The trouble
is, I'm not close enough to him for me to have any effect on him at all.
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