And by the time breakfast was over, he had all five on his toon. With the other four, he checked
with their toon leaders first. No one turned him down. And he got his squad to promise to call
Ducheval by his right name from then on.
Graff had Dimak and Dap in his makeshift office in the battleroom bridge when Bean came. It
was the usual argument between Dimak and Dap -- that is, it was about nothing, some trivial
question of one violating some minor protocol or other, which escalated quickly into a flurry of
formal complaints. Just another skirmish in their rivalry, as Dap and Dimak tried to gain some
advantage for their proteges, Ender and Bean, while at the same time trying to keep Graff from
putting them in the physical danger that both saw looming. When the knock came at the door,
voices had been raised for some time, and because the knock was not loud, it occurred to Graff to
wonder what might have been overheard.
Had names been mentioned? Yes. Both Bean and Ender. And also Bonzo. Had Achilles's name
come up? No. He had just been referred to as "another irresponsible decision endangering the future
of the human race, all because of some insane theory about games being one thing and genuine life-
and-death struggles being another, completely unproven and unprovable except in the blood of
some child!" That was Dap, who had a tendency to wax eloquent.
Graff, of course, was already sick at heart, because he agreed with both teachers, not only in their
arguments against each other, but also in their arguments against his own policy. Bean was
demonstrably the better candidate on all tests; Ender was just as demonstrably the better candidate
based on his performance in actual leadership situations. And Graff *was* being irresponsible to
expose both boys to physical danger.
But in both cases, the child had serious doubts about his own courage. Ender had his long history
of submission to his older brother, Peter, and the mind game had shown that in Ender's
unconscious, Peter was linked to the Buggers. Graff knew that Ender had the courage to strike,
without restraint, when the time came for it. That he could stand alone against an enemy, without
anyone to help him, and destroy the one who would destroy him. But Ender didn't know it, and he
had to know.
Bean, for his part, had shown physical symptoms of panic before his first battle, and while he
ended up performing well, Graff didn't need any psychological tests to tell him that the doubt was
there. The only difference was, in Bean's case Graff shared his doubt. There *was* no proof that
Bean would strike.
Self-doubt was the one thing that neither candidate could afford to have. Against an enemy that
did not hesitate -- that *could* not hesitate -- there could be no pause for reflection. The boys had
to face their worst fears, knowing that no one would intervene to help. They had to know that when
failure would be fatal, they would not fail. They had to pass the test and know that they had passed
it. And both boys were so perceptive that the danger could not be faked. It had to *be* real.
Exposing them to that risk was utterly irresponsible of Graff. Yet he knew that it would be just as
irresponsible not to. If Graff played it safe, no one would blame him if, in the actual war, Ender or
Bean failed. That would be small consolation, though, given the consequences of failure.
Whichever way he guessed, if he was wrong, everybody on Earth might pay the ultimate price. The
only thing that made it possible was that if either of them was killed, or damaged physically or
mentally, the other was still there to carry on as the sole remaining candidate.
If both failed, what then? There were many bright children, but none who were that much better
than commanders already in place, who had graduated from Battle School many years ago.
Somebody has to roll the dice. Mine are the hands that hold those dice. I'm not a bureaucrat,
placing my career above the larger purpose I was put here to serve. I will not put the dice in
someone else's hands, or pretend that I don't have the choice I have.
For now, all Graff could do was listen to both Dap and Dimak, ignore their bureaucratic attacks
and maneuvers against him, and try to keep them from each other's throats in their vicarious rivalry.
That small knock at the door -- Graff knew before the door opened who it would be.
If he had heard the argument, Bean gave no sign. But then, that was Bean's specialty, giving no
sign. Only Ender managed to be more secretive -- and he, at least, had played the mind game long
enough to give the teachers a map of his psyche.
"Sir," said Bean.
"Come in, Bean." Come in, Julian Delphiki, longed-for child of good and loving parents. Come in,
kidnapped child, hostage of fate. Come and talk to the Fates, who are playing such clever little
games with your life.
"I can wait," said Bean.
"Captain Dap and Captain Dimak can hear what you have to say, can't they?" asked Graff.
"If you say so, sir. It's not a secret. I would like to have access to station supplies."
"That's not acceptable, sir."
Graff saw how both Dap and Dimak glanced at him. Amused at the audacity of the boy? "Why do
you think so?"
"Short notice, games every day, soldiers exhausted and yet still being pressured to perform in
class -- fine, Ender's dealing with it and so are we. But the only possible reason you could be doing
this is to test our resourcefulness. So I want some resources."
"I don't remember your being commander of Dragon Army," said Graff. "I'll listen to a requisition
for specific equipment from your commander."
"Not possible," said Bean. "He doesn't have time to waste on foolish bureaucratic procedures."
Foolish bureaucratic procedures. Graff had used that exact phrase in the argument just a few
minutes ago. But Graff's voice had *not* been raised. How long *had* Bean been listening outside
the door? Graff cursed himself silently. He had moved his office up here specifically because he
knew Bean was a sneak and a spy, gathering intelligence however he could. And then he didn't
even post a guard to stop the boy from simply walking up and listening at the door.
"And you do?" asked Graff.
"I'm the one he assigned to think of stupid things you might do to rig the game against us, and
think of ways to deal with them."
"What do you think you're going to find?"
"I don't know," said Bean. "I just know that the only things we ever see are our uniforms and flash
suits, our weapons and our desks. There are other supplies here. For instance, there's paper. We
never get any except during written tests, when our desks are closed to us."
"What would you do with paper in the battleroom?"
"I don't know," said Bean. "Wad it up and throw it around. Shred it and make a cloud of dust out
"And who would clean this up?"
"Not my problem," said Bean.
"That's not acceptable, sir," said Bean.
"I don't mean to hurt your feelings, Bean, but it matters less than a cockroach's fart whether you
accept my decision or not."
"I don't mean to hurt *your* feelings, sir, but you clearly have no idea what you're doing. You're
improvising. Screwing with the system. The damage you're doing is going to take years to undo,
and you don't care. That means that it doesn't matter what condition this school is in a year from
now. That means that everybody who matters is going to be graduated soon. Training is being
accelerated because the Buggers are getting too close for delays. So you're pushing. And you're
especially pushing Ender Wiggin."
Graff felt sick. He knew that Bean's powers of analysis were extraordinary. So, also, were his
powers of deception. Some of Bean's guesses weren't right -- but was that because he didn't know
the truth, or because he simply didn't want them to know how much he knew, or how much he
guessed? I never wanted you here, Bean, because you're too dangerous.
Bean was still making his case. "When the day comes that Ender Wiggin is looking for ways to
stop the Buggers from getting to Earth and scouring the whole planet the way they started to back
in the First Invasion, are you going to give him some bullshit answer about what resources he can
or cannot use?"
"As far as you're concerned, the ship's supplies don't exist."
"As far as I'm concerned," said Bean, "Ender is *this* close to telling you to fry up your game and
eat it. He's sick of it -- if you can't see that, you're not much of a teacher. He doesn't care about the
standings. He doesn't care about beating other kids. All he cares about is preparing to fight the
Buggers. So how hard do you think it will be for me to persuade him that your program here is
crocked, and it's time to quit playing?"
"All right," said Graff. "Dimak, prepare the brig. Bean is to be confined until the shuttle is ready
to take him back to Earth. This boy is out of Battle School."
Bean smiled slightly. "Go for it, Colonel Graff. I'm done here anyway. I've got everything *I*
wanted here -- a first-rate education. I'll never have to live on the street again. I'm home free. Let
me out of your game, right now, I'm ready."
"You won't be free on Earth, either. Can't risk having you tell these wild stories about Battle
School," said Graff.
"Right. Take the best student you ever had here and put him in jail because he asked for access to
the supply closet and you didn't like it. Come on, Colonel Graff. Swallow hard and back down. You
need my cooperation more than I need yours."
Dimak could barely conceal his smile.
If only confronting Graff like this were sufficient proof of Bean's courage. And for all that Graff
had doubts about Bean, he didn't deny that he was good at maneuver. Graff would have given
almost anything not to have Dimak and Dap in the room at this moment.
"It was your decision to have this conversation in front of witnesses," said Bean.
What, was the kid a mind reader?
No, Graff had glanced at the two teachers. Bean simply knew how to read his body language. The
kid missed nothing. That's why he was so valuable to the program.
Isn't this why we pin our hopes on these kids? Because they're good at maneuver?
And if I know anything about command, don't I know this -- that there are times when you cut
your losses and leave the field?
"All right, Bean. One scan through supply inventory."
"With somebody to explain to me what it all is."
"I thought you already knew everything."
Bean was polite in victory; he did not respond to taunting. The sarcasm gave Graff a little
compensation for having to back down. He knew that's all it was, but this job didn't have many
"Captain Dimak and Captain Dap will accompany you," said Graff. "One scan, and either one of
them can veto anything you request. They will be responsible for the consequences of any injuries
resulting from your use of any item they let you have."
"Thank you, sir," said Bean. "In all likelihood I won't find anything useful. But I appreciate your
fair-mindedness in letting us search the station's resources to further the educational objectives of
the Battle School."
The kid had the jargon down cold. All those months of access to the student data, with all the
notations in the files, Bean had clearly learned more than just the factual contents of the dossiers.
And now Bean was giving him the spin that he should use in writing up a report about his decision.
As if Graff were not perfectly capable of creating his own spin.
The kid is patronizing me. Little bastard thinks that he's in control.
Well, I have some surprises for him, too.
"Dismissed," said Graff. "All of you."
They got up, saluted, left.
Now, thought Graff, I have to second-guess all my future decisions, wondering how much my
choices are influenced by the fact that this kid really pisses me off.
As Bean scanned the inventory list, he was really searching primarily for something, anything,
that might be made into a weapon that Ender or some of his army could carry to protect him from
physical attack by Bonzo. But there was nothing that would be both concealable from the teachers
and powerful enough to give smaller kids sufficient leverage over larger ones.
It was a disappointment, but he'd find other ways to neutralize the threat. And now, as long as he
was scanning the inventory, *was* there anything that he might be able to use in the battleroom?
Cleaning supplies weren't very promising. Nor would the hardware stocks make much sense in the
battleroom. What, throw a handful of screws?
The safety equipment, though ...
"What's a deadline?" asked Bean.
Dimak answered. "Very fine, strong cord that's used to secure maintenance and construction
workers when they're working outside the station."
"With links, we can assemble several kilometers of secure deadline," said Dimak. "But each coil
unspools to a hundred meters."
"I want to see it."
They took him into parts of the station that children never went to. The decor was far more
utilitarian here. Screws and rivets were visible in the plates on the walls. The intake ducts were
visible instead of being hidden inside the ceiling. There were no friendly lightstripes for a child to
touch and get directions to his barracks. All the palm pads were too high for a child to comfortably
use. And the staff they passed saw Bean and then looked at Dap and Dimak as if they were crazy.
The coil was amazingly small. Bean hefted it. Light, too. He unspooled a few decameters of it. It
was almost invisible. "This will hold?"
"The weight of two adults," said Dimak.
"It's so fine. Will it cut?"
"Rounded so smoothly it can't cut anything. Wouldn't do us any good if it went slicing through
things. Like spacesuits."
"Can I cut it into short lengths?"
"With a blowtorch," said Dimak.
"This is what I want."
"Just one?" asked Dap, rather sarcastically.
"And a blowtorch," said Bean.
"Denied," said Dimak.
"I was joking," said Bean. He walked out of the supply room and started jogging down the
corridor, retracing the route they had just taken.
They jogged after him. "Slow down!" Dimak called out.
"Keep up!" Bean answered. "I've got a toon waiting for me to train them with this."
"Train them to do what!"
"I don't know!" He got to the pole and slid down. It passed him right through to the student levels.
Going this direction, there was no security clearance at all.
His toon was waiting for him in the battleroom. They'd been working hard for him the past few
days, trying all kinds of lame things. Formations that could explode in midair. Screens. Attacks
without guns, disarming enemies with their feet. Getting into and out of spins, which made them
almost impossible to hit but also kept them from shooting at anybody else.
The most encouraging thing was the fact that Ender spent almost the entire practice time watching
Bean's squad whenever he wasn't actually responding to questions from leaders and soldiers in the
other toons. Whatever they came up with, Ender would know about it and have his own ideas about
when to use it. And, knowing that Ender's eyes were on them, Bean's soldiers worked all the harder.
It gave Bean more stature in their eyes, that Ender really did care about what they did.
Ender's good at this, Bean realized again for the hundredth time. He knows how to form a group
into the shape he wants it to have. He knows how to get people to work together. And he does it by
the most minimal means possible.
If Graff were as good at this as Ender, I wouldn't have had to act like such a bully in there today.
The first thing Bean tried with the deadline was to stretch it across the battleroom. It reached, with
barely enough slack to allow knots to be tied at both ends. But a few minutes of experimentation
showed that it would be completely ineffective as a tripwire. Most enemies would simply miss it;
those that did run into it might be disoriented or flipped around, but once it was known that it was
there, it could be used like part of a grid, which meant it would work to the advantage of a creative
The deadline was designed to keep a man from drifting off into space. What happens when you
get to the end of the line?
Bean left one end fastened to a handhold in the wall, but coiled the other end around his waist
several times. The line was now shorter than the width of the battleroom's cube. Bean tied a knot in
the line, then launched himself toward the opposite wall.
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