TOR BOOKS BY ORSON SCOTT CARD
The Folk of the Fringe
Future on Fire (editor) Future on Ice (editor) Hart's Hope
Lovelock (with Kathryn Kidd) Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
The Worthing Saga
Speaker for the Dead
Children of the Mind
Shadow of the Hegemon
Shadow of the Giant
THE TALES OF ALVIN MAKER
The Crystal City
The Memory of Earth
The Call of Earth
The Ships of Earth
WOMEN OF GENESIS
Rachel & Leah
Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card (hardcover) Maps in a Mirror, Volume 1: The Changed Man (paperback) Maps in a Mirror, Volume 2: Flux (paperback) Maps in a Mirror, Volume 3: Cruel Miracles (paperback) Maps in a Mirror, Volume 4: Monkey Sonatas (paperback)
Orson Scott Card
A TOM DOHERTY ASSOCIATES BOOK
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.
Copyright (c) 1999 by Orson Scott Card All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Edited by Beth Meacham
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Tor(r) is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
First Edition: September 1999
Printed in the United States of America
TO DICK AND HAZIE BROWN
IN WHOSE HOME NO ONE IS HUNGRY
AND IN WHOSE HEARTS
NO ONE IS A STRANGER
5. Ready or Not
6. Ender's Shadow
8. Good Student
9. Garden of Sofia
13. Dragon Army
20. Trial and Error
23. Ender's Game
This book is, strictly speaking, not a sequel, because it begins about where Ender's Game begins, and also ends, very nearly, at the same place. In fact, it is another telling of the same tale, with many of the same characters and settings, only from the perspective of another character. It's hard to know what to call it. A companion novel? A parallel novel? Perhaps a "parallax," if I can move that scientific term into literature.
Ideally, this novel should work as well for readers who have never read Ender's Game as for those who have read it several times. Because it is not a sequel, there is nothing you need to know from the novel Ender's Game that is not contained here. And yet, if I have achieved my literary goal, these two books complement and fulfill each other. Whichever one you read first, the other novel should still work on its own merits.
For many years, I have gratefully watched as Ender's Game has grown in popularity, especially among school-age readers. Though it was never intended as a young-adult novel, it has been embraced by many in that age group and by many teachers who find ways to use the book in their classrooms.
I have never found it surprising that the existing sequels--Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind--never appealed as strongly to those younger readers. The obvious reason is that Ender's Game is centered around a child, while the sequels are about adults; perhaps more important, Ender's Game is, at least on the surface, a heroic, adventurous novel, while the sequels are a completely different kind of fiction, slower paced, more contemplative and idea-centered, and dealing with themes of less immediate import to younger readers.
Recently, however, I have come to realize that the 3,000-year gap between Ender's Game and its sequels leaves plenty of room for other sequels that are more closely tied to the original. In fact, in one sense Ender's Game has no sequels, for the other three books make one continuous story in themselves, while Ender's Game stands alone.
For a brief time I flirted seriously with the idea of opening up the Ender's Game universe to other writers, and went so far as to invite a writer whose work I greatly admire, Neal Shusterman, to consider working with me to create novels about Ender Wiggin's companions in Battle School. As we talked, it became clear that the most obvious character to begin with would be Bean, the child-soldier whom Ender treated as he had been treated by his adult teachers.
And then something else happened. The more we talked, the more jealous I became that Neal might be the one to write such a book, and not me. It finally dawned on me that, far from being finished with writing about "kids in space," as I cynically described the project, I actually had more to say, having actually learned something in the intervening dozen years since Ender's Game first appeared in 1985. And so, while still hoping that Neal and I can work together on something, I deftly swiped the project back.
I soon found that it's harder than it looks, to tell the same story twice, but differently. I was hindered by the fact that even though the viewpoint characters were different, the author was the same, with the same core beliefs about the world. I was helped by the fact that in the intervening years, I have learned a few things, and was able to bring different concerns and a deeper understanding to the project. Both books come from the same mind, but not the same; they draw on the same memories of childhood, but from a different perspective. For the reader, the parallax is created by Ender and Bean, standing a little ways apart as they move through the same events. For the writer, the parallax was created by a dozen years in which my older children grew up, and younger ones were born, and the world changed around me, and I learned a few things about human nature and about art that I had not known before.
Now you hold this book in your hands. Whether the literary experiment succeeds for you is entirely up to you to judge. For me it was worth dipping again into the same well, for the water was greatly changed this time, and if it has not been turned exactly into wine, at least it has a different flavor because of the different vessel that it was carried in, and I hope that you will enjoy it as much, or even more.
--Greensboro, North Carolina, January 1999
"You think you've found somebody, so suddenly my program gets the ax?"
"It's not about this kid that Graff found. It's about
the low quality of what you've been finding."
"We knew it was long odds. But the kids I'm working with are actually fighting a war just to stay alive."
"Your kids are so malnourished that they suffer serious mental degradation before you even begin testing them. Most of them haven't formed any normal human bonds, they're so messed up they can't get through a day without finding something they can steal, break, or disrupt."
"They also represent possibility, as all children do."
"That's just the kind of sentimentality that discredits your whole project in the eyes of the I.F."
Poke kept her eyes open all the time. The younger children were supposed to be on watch, too, and sometimes they could be quite observant, but they just didn't notice all the things they needed to notice, and that meant that Poke could only depend on herself to see danger.
There was plenty of danger to watch for. The cops, for instance. They didn't show up often, but when they did, they seemed especially bent on clearing the streets of children. They would flail about them with their magnetic whips, landing cruel stinging blows on even the smallest children, haranguing them as vermin, thieves, pestilence, a plague on the fair city of Rotterdam. It was Poke's job to notice when a disturbance in the distance suggested that the cops might be running a sweep. Then she would give the alarm whistle and the little ones would rush to their hiding places till the danger was past.
But the cops didn't come by that often. The real danger was much more immediate--big kids. Poke, at age nine, was the matriarch of her little crew (not that any of them knew for sure that she was a girl), but that cut no ice with the eleven-and twelve-and thirteen-year-old boys and girls who bullied their way around the streets. The adult-size beggars and thieves and whores of the street paid no attention to the little kids except to kick them out of the way. But the older children, who were among the kicked, turned around and preyed on the younger ones. Any time Poke's crew found something to eat--especially if they located a dependable source of garbage or an easy mark for a coin or a bit of food--they had to watch jealously and hide their winnings, for the bullies liked nothing better than to take away whatever scraps of food the little ones might have. Stealing from younger children was much safer than stealing from shops or passersby. And they enjoyed it, Poke could see that. They liked how the little kids cowered and obeyed and whimpered and gave them whatever they demanded.
So when the scrawny little two-year-old took up a perch on a garbage can across the street, Poke, being observant, saw him at once. The kid was on the edge of starvation. No, the kid was starving. Thin arms and legs, joints that looked ridiculously oversized, a distended belly. And if hunger didn't kill him soon, the onset of autumn would, because his clothing was thin and there wasn't much of it even at that.
Normally she wouldn't have paid him more than passing attention. But this one had eyes. He was still looking around with intelligence. None of that stupor of the walking dead, no longer searching for food or even caring to find a comfortable place to lie while breathing their last taste of the stinking air of Rotterdam. After all, death would not be such a change for them. Everyone knew that Rotterdam was, if not the capital, then the main seaport of Hell. The only difference between Rotterdam and death was that with Rotterdam, the damnation wasn't eternal.
This little boy--what was he doing? Not looking for food. He wasn't eyeing the pedestrians. Which was just as well--there was no chance that anyone would leave anything for a child that small. Anything he might get would be taken away by any other child, so why should he bother? If he wanted to survive, he should be following older scavengers and licking food wrappers behind them, getting the last sheen of sugar or dusting of flour clinging to the packaging, whatever the first comer hadn't licked off. There was nothing for this child out here on the street, not unless he got taken in by a crew, and Poke wouldn't have him. He'd be nothing but a drain, and her kids were already having a hard enough time without adding another useless mouth.
He's going to ask, she thought. He's going to whine and beg. But that only works on the rich people. I've got my crew to think of. He's not one of them, so I don't care about him. Even if he is small. He's nothing to me.
A couple of twelve-year-old hookers who didn't usually work this strip rounded a corner, heading toward Poke's base. She gave a low whistle. The kids immediately drifted apart, staying on the street but trying not to look like a crew.
It didn't help. The hookers knew already that Poke was a crew boss, and sure enough, they caught her by the arms and slammed her against a wall and demanded their "permission" fee. Poke knew better than to claim she had nothing to share--she always tried to keep a reserve in order to placate hungry bullies. These hookers, Poke could see why they were hungry. They didn't look like what the pedophiles wanted, when they came cruising through. They were too gaunt, too old-looking. So until they grew bodies and started attracting the slightly-less-perverted trade, they had to resort to scavenging. It made Poke's blood boil, to have them steal from her and her crew, but it was smarter to pay them off. If they beat her up, she couldn't look out for her crew now, could she? So she took them to one of her stashes and came up with a little bakery bag that still had half a pastry in it.
It was stale, since she'd been holding it for a couple of days for just such an occasion, but the two hookers grabbed it, tore open the bag, and one of them bit off more than half before offering the remainder to her friend. Or rather, her former friend, for of such predatory acts are feuds born. The two of them started fighting, screaming at each other, slapping, raking at each other with clawed hands. Poke watched closely, hoping that they'd drop the remaining fragment of pastry, but no such luck. It went into the mouth of the same girl who had already eaten the first bite--and it was that first girl who won the fight too, sending the other one running for refuge.
Poke turned around, and there was the little boy right behind her. She nearly tripped over him. Angry as she was at having had to give up food to those street-whores, she gave him a knee and knocked him to the ground. "Don't stand behind people if you don't want to land on your butt," she snarled.
He simply got up and looked at her, expectant, demanding.
"No, you little bastard, you're not getting nothing from me," said Poke. "I'm not taking one bean out of the mouths of my crew, you aren't worth a bean."
Her crew was starting to reassemble, now that the bullies had passed.
"Why you give your food to them?" said the boy. "You need that food."
"Oh, excuse me!" said Poke. She raised her voice, so her crew could hear her. "I guess you ought to be the crew boss here, is that it? You being so big, you got no trouble keeping the food."
"Not me," said the boy. "I'm not worth a bean, remember?"
Her crew laughed.
But the little boy didn't. "You got to get your own bully," he said.
"I don't get bullies, I get rid of them," Poke answered. She didn't like the way he kept talking, standing up to her. In a minute she was going to have to hurt him.
"You give food to bullies every day. Give that to one bully and get him to keep the others away from you."
"You think I never thought of that, stupid?" she said. "Only once he's bought, how I keep him? He won't fight for us."
"If he won't, then kill him," said the boy.
That made Poke mad, the stupid impossibility of it, the power of the idea that she knew she could never lay hands on. She gave him a knee again, and this time kicked him when he went down. "Maybe I start by killing you."
"I'm not worth a bean, remember?" said the boy. "You kill one bully, get another to fight for you, he want your food, he scared of you too."
She didn't know what to say to such a preposterous idea.
"They eating you up," said the boy. "Eating you up. So you got to kill one. Get him down, everybody as small as me. Stones crack any size head."
"You make me s
ick," she said.
"Cause you didn't think of it," he said.
He was flirting with death, talking to her that way. If she injured him at all, he'd be finished, he must know that.
But then, he had death living with him inside his flimsy little shirt already. Hard to see how it would matter if death came any closer.
Poke looked around at her crew. She couldn't read their faces.
"I don't need no baby telling me to kill what we can't kill."
"Little kid come up behind him, you shove, he fall over," said the boy. "Already got you some big stones, bricks. Hit him in the head. When you see brains you done."
"He no good to me dead," she said. "I want my own bully, he keep us safe, I don't want no dead one."
The boy grinned. "So now you like my idea," he said.
"Can't trust no bully," she answered.
"He watch out for you at the charity kitchen," said the boy. "You get in at the kitchen." He kept looking her in the eye, but he was talking for the others to hear. "He get you all in at the kitchen."
"Little kid get into the kitchen, the big kids, they beat him," said Sergeant. He was eight, and mostly acted like he thought he was Poke's second-in-command, though truth was she didn't have a second.
"You get you a bully, he make them go away."
"How he stop two bullies? Three bullies?" asked Sergeant.
"Like I said," the boy answered. "You push him down, he not so big. You get your rocks. You be ready. Ben't you a soldier? Don't they call you Sergeant?"
"Stop talking to him, Sarge," said Poke. "I don't know why any of us is talking to some two-year-old."
"I'm four," said the boy.
"What your name?" asked Poke.
"Nobody ever said no name for me," he said.
"You mean you so stupid you can't remember your own name?"
"Nobody ever said no name," he said again. Still he looked her in the eye, lying there on the ground, the crew around him.
"Ain't worth a bean," she said.
"Am so," he said.
"Yeah," said Sergeant. "One damn bean."
"So now you got a name," said Poke. "You go back and sit on that garbage can, I think about what you said."
"I need something to eat," said Bean.
"If I get me a bully, if what you said works, then maybe I give you something."
"I need something now," said Bean.
She knew it was true.
She reached into her pocket and took out six peanuts she had been saving. He sat up and took just one from her hand, put it in his mouth and slowly chewed.