The less effective commanders didn't understand this. Failing to recognize that Ender won because
he and his army responded fluidly and instantly to change, they could only think to imitate the
specific tactics they saw him use. Even if Bean's creative gambits were irrelevant to the outcome of
the battle, they would lead other commanders to waste time imitating irrelevancies. Now and then
something he came up with might actually be useful. But by and large, he was a sideshow.
That was fine with Bean. If Ender wanted a sideshow, what mattered was that he had chosen Bean
to create that show, and Bean would do it as well as it could be done.
But if Ender was lying awake tonight, it was not because he was concerned about Dragon Army's
battles tomorrow and the next day and the next. Ender was thinking about the Buggers and how he
would fight them when he got through his training and was thrown into war, with the real lives of
real men depending on his decisions, with the survival of humanity depending on the outcome.
In that scheme, what is my place? thought Bean. I'm glad enough that the burden is on Ender, not
because I could not bear it -- maybe I could -- but because I have more confidence that Ender can
bring it off than that I could. Whatever it is that makes men love the commander who decides when
they will die, Ender has that, and if I have it no one has yet seen evidence of it. Besides, even
without genetic alteration, Ender has abilities that the tests didn't measure for, that run deeper than
But he shouldn't have to bear all this alone. I can help him. I can forget geometry and astronomy
and all the other nonsense and concentrate on the problems he faces most directly. I'll do research
into the way other animals wage war, especially swarming hive insects, since the Formics resemble
ants the way we resemble primates.
And I can watch his back.
Bean thought again of Bonzo Madrid. Of the deadly rage of bullies in Rotterdam.
Why have the teachers put Ender in this position? He's an obvious target for the hatred of the other
boys. Kids in Battle School had war in their hearts. They hungered for triumph. They loathed
defeat. If they lacked these attributes, they would never have been brought here. Yet from the start,
Ender had been set apart from the others -- younger but smarter, the leading soldier and now the
commander who makes all other commanders look like babies. Some commanders responded to
defeat by becoming submissive -- Carn Carby, for instance, now praised Ender behind his back and
studied his battles to try to learn how to win, never realizing that you had to study Ender's training,
not his battles, to understand his victories. But most of the other commanders were resentful,
frightened, ashamed, angry, jealous, and it was in their character to translate such feelings into
violent action ... if they were sure of victory.
Just like the streets of Rotterdam. Just like the bullies, struggling for supremacy, for rank, for
respect. Ender has stripped Bonzo naked. It cannot be borne. He'll have his revenge, as surely as
Achilles avenged his humiliation.
And the teachers understand this. They intend it. Ender has clearly mastered every test they set for
him -- whatever Battle School usually taught, he was done with. So why didn't they move him on to
the next level? Because there was a lesson they were trying to teach, or a test they were trying to
get him to pass, which was not within the usual curriculum. Only this particular test could end in
death. Bean had felt Bonzo's fingers around his throat. This was a boy who, once he let himself go,
would relish the absolute power that the murderer achieves at his victim's moment of death.
They're putting Ender into a street situation. They're testing him to see if he can survive.
They don't know what they're doing, the fools. The street is not a test. The street is a lottery.
I came out a winner -- I was alive. But Ender's survival won't depend on his ability. Luck plays
too large a role. Plus the skill and resolve and power of the opponent.
Bonzo may be unable to control the emotions that weaken him, but his presence in Battle School
means that he is not without skill. He was made a commander because a certain type of soldier will
follow him into death and horror. Ender is in mortal danger. And the teachers, who think of us as
children, have no idea how quickly death can come. Look away for only a few minutes, step away
far enough that you can't get back in time, and your precious Ender Wiggin, on whom all your
hopes are pinned, will be quite, quite dead. I saw it on the streets of Rotterdam. It can happen just
as easily in your nice clean rooms here in space.
So Bean set aside classwork for good that night, lying at Ender's feet. Instead, he had two new
courses of study. He would help Ender prepare for the war he cared about, with the Buggers. But he
would also help him in the street fight that was being set up for him.
It wasn't that Ender was oblivious, either. After some kind of fracas in the battleroom during one
of Ender's early freetime practices, Ender had taken a course in self-defense, and knew something
about fighting man to man. But Bonzo would not come at him man to man. He was too keenly
aware of having been beaten. Bonzo's purpose would not be a rematch, it would not be vindication.
It would be punishment. It would be elimination. He would bring a gang.
And the teachers would not realize the danger until it was too late. They still didn't think of
anything the children did as "real."
So after Bean thought of clever, stupid things to do with his new squad, he also tried to think of
ways to set Bonzo up so that, in the crunch, he would have to take on Ender Wiggin alone or not at
all. Strip away Bonzo's support. Destroy the morale, the reputation of any bully who might go
along with him.
This is one job Ender *can't* do. But it can be done.
PART FIVE -- LEADER
CHAPTER 17 -- DEADLINE
"I don't even know how to interpret this. The mind game had only one shot at Bean, and it puts up
this one kid's face, and he goes off the charts with -- what, fear? Rage? Isn't there anybody who
knows how this so-called game works? It ran Ender through a wringer, brought in those pictures of
his brother that it couldn't possibly have had, only it got them. And this one -- was it some deeply
insightful gambit that leads to powerful new conclusions about Bean's psyche? Or was it simply the
only person Bean knew whose picture was already in the Battle School files?"
"Was that a rant, or is there any particular one of those questions you want answered?"
"What I want you to answer is this question: How the hell can you tell me that something was
'very significant' if you have no idea what it signifies!"
"If someone runs after your car, screaming and waving his arms, you know that something
significant is intended, even if you can't hear a word he's saying."
"So that's what this was? Screaming?"
"That was an analogy. The image of Achilles was extraordinarily important to Bean."
"Important positive, or important negative?"
"That's too cut-and-dried. If it was negative, are his negative feelings because Achilles caused
some terrible trauma in Bean? Or negative because having been torn away from Achilles was
traumatic, and Bean longs to be restored to him?"
"So if we have an independent source of information that tells us to keep them apart ..."
"Then either that independent source is really really right ..."
"Or really really wrong."
"I'd be more specific if I could. We only had a minute with him."
"That's disingenuous. You've had the mind game linked to all his work with his teacher-identity."
"And we've reported to you about that. It's partly his hunger to have control -- that's how it began -
- but it has since become a way of taking responsibility. He has, in a way, *become* a teacher. He
has also used his inside information to give himself the illusion of belonging to the community."
"He does belong."
"He has only one close friend, and that's more of a big brother, little brother thing."
"I have to decide whether I can put Achilles into Battle School while Bean is there, or give up one
of them in order to keep the other. Now, from Bean's response to Achilles's face, what counsel can
you give me."
"You won't like it."
"From that incident, we can tell you that putting them together will be either a really really bad
thing, or --"
"I'm going to have to take a long, hard look at your budget."
"Sir, the whole purpose of the program, the way it works, is that the computer makes connections
we would never think of, and gets responses we weren't looking for. It's not actually under our
"Just because a program isn't out of control doesn't mean intelligence is present, either in the
program or the programmer."
"We don't use the word 'intelligence' with software. We regard that as a naive idea. We say that it's
'complex.' Which means that we don't always understand what it's doing. We don't always get
"Have you *ever* gotten conclusive information about anything?"
"*I* chose the wrong word this time. 'Conclusive' isn't ever the goal when we are studying the
"Try 'useful.' Anything useful?"
"Sir, I've told you what we know. The decision was yours before we reported to you, and it's still
your decision now. Use our information or not, but is it sensible to shoot the messenger?"
"When the messenger won't tell you what the hell the message *is*, my trigger finger gets
Nikolai's name was on the list that Ender gave him, but Bean ran into problems immediately.
"I don't want to," said Nikolai.
It had not occurred to Bean that anyone would refuse.
"I'm having a hard enough time keeping up as it is."
"You're a good soldier."
"By the skin of my teeth. With a big helping of luck."
"That's how *all* good soldiers do it."
"Bean, if I lose one practice a day from my regular toon, then I'll fall behind. How can I make it
up? And one practice a day with you won't be enough. I'm a smart kid, Bean, but I'm not Ender. I'm
not you. That's the thing that I don't think you really get. How it feels *not* to be you. Things just
aren't as easy and clear."
"It's not easy for me, either."
"Look, I know that, Bean. And there are some things I can do for you. This isn't one of them.
It was Bean's first experience with command, and it wasn't working. He found himself getting
angry, wanting to say Screw you and go on to someone else. Only he couldn't be angry at the only
true friend he had. And he also couldn't easily take no for an answer. "Nikolai, what we're doing
won't be hard. Stunts and tricks."
Nikolai closed his eyes. "Bean, you're making me feel bad."
"I don't want you to feel bad, Sinterklaas, but this is the assignment I was given, because Ender
thinks Dragon Army needs this. You were on the list, his choice not mine."
"But you don't have to choose me."
"So I ask the next kid, and he says, 'Nikolai's on this squad, right?' and I say, No, he didn't want to.
That makes them all feel like they can say no. And they'll *want* to say no, because nobody wants
to be taking orders from me."
"A month ago, sure, that would have been true. But they know you're a solid soldier. I've heard
people talk about you. They respect you."
Again, it would have been so easy to do what Nikolai wanted and let him off the hook on this.
And, as a friend, that would be the *right* thing to do. But Bean couldn't think as a friend. He had
to deal with the fact that he had been given a command and he had to make it work.
Did he really need Nikolai?
"I'm just thinking out loud, Nikolai, because you're the only one I can say this to, but see, I'm
scared. I wanted to lead a toon, but that's because I didn't know anything about what leaders do. I've
had a week of battles to see how Crazy Tom holds the group of us together, the voice he uses for
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