The lake was still; there was no breeze. The two men sat together in chairs on the floating dock. A small wooden raft was tied up at the dock; Graff hooked his foot in the rope and pulled the raft in, then let it drift out, then pulled it in again.
"You've lost weight."
"One kind of stress puts it on, another takes it off. I m a creature of chemicals."
"It must have heen hard."
Graff shrugged. "Not really. I knew I'd be acquitted."
"Some of us weren't so sure. People were crazy for a while there. Mistreatment of children, negligent homicide -- those videos of Bonzo's and Stilson's deaths were pretty gruesome. To watch one child do that to another."
"As much as anything, I think the videos saved me. The prosecution edited them, but we showed the whole thing. It was plain that Ender was not the provocateur. After that, it was just a second-guessing game. I said I did what I believed was necessary for the preservation of the human race, and it worked; we got the judges to agree that the prosecution had to prove beyond doubt that Ender would have won the war without the training we gave him. After that, it was simple. The exigencies of war."
"Anyway, Graff, it was a great relief to us. I know we quarreled, and I know the prosecution used tapes of our conversations against you. But by then I knew that you were right, and I offered to testify for you."
"I know, Anderson. My lawyers told me."
"So what will you do now?"
"I don't know. Still relaxing. I have a few years of leave accrued. Enough to take me to retirement, and I have plenty of salary that I never used, sitting around in banks. I could live on the interest. Maybe I'll do nothing."
"It sounds nice. But I couldn't stand it. I've been offered the presidency of three different universities, on the theory that I'm an educator. They don't believe me when I say that all I ever cared about at the Battle School was the game. I think I'll go with the other offer."
"Now that the wars are over, it's time to play games again. It'll be almost like vacation, anyway. Only twenty-eight teams in the league. Though after years of watching those children flying, football is like watching slugs bash into each other."
They laughed. Graff sighed and pusned the raft with his foot.
"That raft. Surely you can't float on it."
Graff shook his head. "Ender built it."
"That's right. This is where you took him."
"It's even been deeded over to him. I saw to it that he was amply rewarded. He'll have all the money he ever needs."
"If they ever let him come back to use it."
"They never will."
"With Demosthenes agitating for him to come home?"
"Demosthenes isn't on the nets anymore."
Anderson raised an eyebrow. "What does that mean?"
"Demosthenes has retired. Permanently."
"You know something, you old farteater. You know who Demosthenes is."
"Well, tell me!"
"You're no fun anymore, Graff."
"I never was."
"At least you can tell me why. There were a lot of us who thought Demosthenes would be Hegemon someday."
"There was never a chance of that. No, even Demosthenes' mob of political cretins couldn't persuade the Hegemon to bring Ender back to Earth. Ender is far too dangerous."
"He's only eleven. Twelve, now."
"All the more dangerous because he could so easily be controlled. In all the world, the name of Ender is one to conjure with. The child-god, the miracle worker, with life and death in his hands. Every petty tyrant-to-be would like to have the boy, to set him in front of an army and watch the world either flock to join or cower in fear. If Ender came to Earth, he'd want to come here, to rest, to salvage what he can of his childhood. But they'd never let him rest."
"I see. Someone explained that to Demosthenes?"
Graff smiled. "Demosthenes explained it to someone else. Someone who could have used Ender as no one else could have, to rule the world and make the world like it."
"Locke is the one who argued for Ender to stay on Eros."
"All is not always as it seems."
"It's too deep for me, Graff. Give me the game. Nice, neat rules. Referees. Beginnings and endings. Winners and losers and then everybody goes home to their wives."
"Get me tickets to some games now and then, all right?"
"You won't really stay here and retire, will you?"
"You're going into the Hegemony, aren't you?"
"I'm the new Minister of Colonization."
"So they're doing it."
"As soon as we get the reports back on the bugger colony worlds. I mean, there they are, already fertile, with housing and industry in place, and all the buggers dead. Very convenient. We'll repeal the population limitation laws--"
"Which everybody hates--"
"And all those thirds and fourths and fifths get on starships and head out for worlds known and unknown."
"Will people really go?"
"People always go. Always. They always believe they can make a better life than in the old world."
"What the hell, maybe they can."
At first Ender believed that they would bring him back to Earth as soon as things quieted down. But things were quiet now, had been quiet for a year, and it was plain to him now that they would not bring him back at all, that he was much more useful as a name and a story than he would ever be as an inconvenient flesh-and-blood person.
And there was the matter of the court martial on the crimes of Colonel Graff. Admiral Chamrajnagar tried to keep Ender from watching it, but failed -- Ender had been awarded the rank of admiral, too, and this was one of the few times he asserted the privileges the rank implied. So he watched the videos of the fights with Stilson and Bonzo, watched as the photographs of the corpses were displayed, listened as the psychologists and lawyers argued whether murder had been committed or the killing was in self-defense. Ender had his own opinion, but no one asked him, Throughout the trial, it was really Ender himself under attack. The prosecution was too clever to charge him directly, but there were attempts to make him look sick, perverted, criminally insane.
"Never mind," said Mazer Rackham. "The politicians are afraid of you, but they can't destroy your reputation yet. That won't be done until the historians get at you in thirty years."
Ender didn't care about his reputation. He watched the videos impassively, but in fact he was amused. In battle I killed ten billion buggers, who were as alive and wise as any man, who had not even launched a third attack against us, and no one thinks to call it a crime.
All his crimes weighed heavy on him, the deaths of Stilson and Bonzo no heavier and no lighter than the rest.
And so, with that burden, he waited through the empty months until the world that he had saved decided he could come home.
One by one, his friends reluctantly left him, called home to their families, to be received with heroes' welcomes in their towns. Ender watched the videos of their homecomings, and was touched when they' spent much of their time praising Ender Wiggin, who taught them everything, they said, who taught them and led them into victory. But if they called for him to be brought home, the words were censored from the videos and no one heard the plea.
For a time, the only work in Eros was cleaning up after the bloody League War and receiving the reports of the starships, once warships, that were now exploring the bugger colony worlds.
But now Eros was busier than ever, more crowded than it bad ever been during the war, as colonists were brought here to prepare for their voyages to the empty bugger worlds. Ender took part in the work, as much as they would let him, but it did not occur to them that this twelve-year-old boy might be as gifted at peace as he was at war. But he was patient with their tendency to ignore him, and learned to make his proposals and suggest his plans through the few adults who listened to him, and let them present them as their own. He was concerned, not about getting credit, but about getting the job done.
The one thing he could not bear was the worship of the colonists. He learned to avoid the tunnels where they lived, because they would always recognize him -- the world had memorized his face -- and the they would scream and shout and embrace him and congratulate him and show him the children they had named after him and tell him how he was so young it broke their hearts and *they* didn't blame him for any of his murders because it wasn't his fault he was just a *child*--
He hid from them as best he could.
There was one colonist, though, he couldn't hide from.
He wasn't inside Eros that day. He had gone up with the shuttle to the new ISL, where he had been learning to do surface work on the starships; it was unbecoming to an officer to do mechanical labor, Chamrajnagar told him, but Ender answered that since the trade he had mastered wasn't much called for now, it was about time he learned another skill.
They spoke to him through his helmet radio and told him that someone was waiting to see him as soon as he could come in. Ender couldn't think of anyone he wanted to see, and so he didn't hurry. He finished installing the shield for the ship's ansible and then hooked his way across the face of the ship and pulled himself up into the airlock.
She was waiting for him outside the changing room. For a moment he was annoyed that they would let a colonist come to bother him here, where he came to be alone; then he looked again, and realized that if the young woman were a little girl, he would know her.
"Valentine," he said.
"What are you doing here?"
"Demosthenes retired. Now I'm going with the first colony."
"It's fifty years to get there--"
"Only two years if you're aboard the ship."
"But if you ever came back, everybody you knew on Earth would be dead--"
"That was what I had in mind. I was hoping, though, that someone I knew on Eros might come with me.
"I don't want to go to a world we stole from the buggers. I just want to go home."
"Ender, you're never going back to Earth. I saw to that before I left."
He looked at her in silence.
"I tell you that now, so that if you want to hate me, you can hate me from the beginning."
They went to Ender's tiny compartment in the ISL and she explained. Peter wanted Ender back on Earth, under the protection of the Hegemon's Council. "The way things are right now, Ender, that would put you effectively under Peter's control, since half the council now does just what Peter wants. The ones that aren't Locke's lapdogs are under his thumb in other ways."
"Do they know who he really is?"
"Yes. He isn't publicly known,. but people in high places know him. It doesn't matter any more. He has too much power for them to worry about his age. He's done incredible things, Ender."
"I noticed the treaty a year ago was named for Locke."
"That was his breakthrough. He proposed it through his friends from the public policy nets, and then Demosthenes got behind it, too. It was the moment he had been waiting for, to use Demosthenes' influence with the mob and Locke's influence with the intelligentsia to accomplish something noteworthy. It forestalled a really vicious war that could have lasted for decades."
"He decided to be a statesman?"
"I think so. But in his cynical moments, of which there are many, he pointed out to me that if he had allowed the League to fall apart completely, he'd have to conquer the world piece by piece. As long as the Hegemony exists, he can do it in one lump."
Ender nodded. "That's the Peter that I knew."
"Funny, isn't it? That Peter would save millions of lives."
"While I killed billions."
"I wasn't going to say that."
"So he wanted to use me?"
"He had plans for you, Ender. He would publicly reveal himself when you arrived, going to meet you in front of all the videos. Ender Wiggin's older brother, who also happened to be the great Locke, the architect of peace. Standing next to you, he would look quite mature. And the physical resemblance between you is stronger than ever. It would be quite simple for him, then, to take over."
"Why did you stop him?"
"Ender, you wouldn't be happy spending the rest of your life as Peter's pawn."
"Why not? I've spent my life as someone's pawn."
"Me too. I showed Peter all the evidence that I had assembled, enough to prove in the eyes of the public that he was a psychotic killer. It included full-color pictures of tortured squirrels and some of the monitor videos of the way he treated you. It took some work to get it all together, but by the time he saw it, he was willing to give me what I wanted. What I wanted was your freedom and mine."
"It's not my idea of freedom to go live in the house of the people that I killed."
"Ender, what's done is done. Their worlds are empty now, and ours is full. And we can take with us what their worlds have never known -- cities full of people who live private, individual lives, who love and hate each other for their own reasons. In all the bugger worlds, there was never more than a single story to be told; when we're there, the world will be full of stories, and we'll improvise their endings day by day. Ender, Earth belongs to Peter. And if you don't go with me now, he'll have you there, and use you up until you wish you'd never been born. Now is the only chance you'll get to get away."
Ender said nothing.
"I know what you're thinking, Ender. You're thinking that I'm trying to control you just as much as Peter or Graff or any of the others."
"It crossed my mind."
"Welcome to the human race. Nobody controls his own life, Ender. The best you can do is choose to be controlled by good people, by people who love you. I didn't come here because I wanted to be a colonist. I came because I've spent my whole life in the company of the brother that I hated. Now I want a chance to know the brother that I loved, before it's too late, before we're not children anymore."
"It's already too late for that."
"You're wrong, Ender. You think you're grown up and tired and jaded with everything, but in your heart you're just as much a kid as I am. We can keep it secret from everybody else. While you're governing the colony and I'm writing political philosophy, they'll never guess that in the darkness of night we sneak into each other's room and play checkers and have pillowfights."
Ender laughed, but he had noticed some things she dropped too casually for them to be accidental. "Governing?"
"I'm Demosthenes, Ender, I went out with a bang. A public announcement that I believed so much in the colonization movement that I was going in the first ship myself. At the same time, the Minister of Colonization, a former colonel named Graff, announced that the pilot of the colony ship would be the great Mazer Rackham, and the governor of the colony would be Ender Wiggin."
"They might have asked me."
"I wanted to ask you myself."
"But it's already announced."
"No. They'll be announcing it tomorrow, if you accept. Mazer accepted a few hours ago, back in Eros."
"You're telling everyone that you're Demosthenes? A fourteen-year-old girl?"
"We're only telling them that Demosthenes is going with the colony. Let them spend the next fifty years poring over the passenger list, trying to figure out which one of them is the great demagogue of the Age of Locke."
Ender laughed and shook his head. "You're actually having fun, Val."
"I can't think why I shouldn't."
"All right," said Ender. "I'll go. Maybe even as governor, as long as you and Mazer are there to help me. My abilities are a little underused at present."
She squealed and hugged him, for all the world like a typical teenage girl who just got the present that she wanted from her little brother.
"Val," he said, "I just want one thing clear. I'm not going for you. I'm not going in order to be governor, or because I'm bored here. I'm going because I know the buggers better than any other living soul, and maybe if I go there I can understand them better. I stole their future from them; I can only begin to repay by seeing what I can learn from their past."
The voyage was long. By the end of it, Val had finished the first volume of her history of the bugger wars and transmitted it by ansible, under Demosthenes' name, back to Earth, and Ender had won something better than the adulation of the passengers. They knew him now, and he had won their love and their respect.
He worked hard on the new world, governing by persuasion rather than fighting, and working as hard as anyone at the tasks involved in setting up a self-sustaining economy. But his most important work, as everyone agreed, was exploring what the buggers had left behind, trying to find among structures, machinery, and fields long untended some things that human beings could use, could learn from. There were no books to read -- the buggers never needed them. With all things present in their memories, all things spoken as they were thought, when the buggers died their knowledge died with them.
And yet. From the sturdiness of the roofs that covered their animal sheds and their food supplies, Ender learned that winter would be hard, with heavy snows. From fences with sharpened stakes that pointed outward he learned that there were marauding animals that were a danger to the crops or the herds. From the mill he learned that the long, foul-tasting fruits that grew in the overgrown orchards were dried and ground into meal. And from the slings that once were used to carry infants along with adults into the fields, he learned that even thougn the buggers were not much for individuality, they did love their children.
Life settled down, and years passed. The colony lived in wooden houses and used the tunnels of the bugger city for storage and manufactories. They were governed by a council now, and administrators were elected, so that Ender, though they still called him governor, was in fact only a judge. There were crimes and quarrels alongside kindness and cooperation; there were people who loved each other and people who did not; it was a human world. They did not wait so eagerly for each new transmission from the ansible; the names that were famous on Earth meant little to them now. The only name they knew was that of Peter Wiggin, the Hegemon of Earth; the only news that came was news of peace, of prosperity, of great ships leaving the littoral of Earth's solar system, passing the comet shield and filling up the bugger worlds. Soon there would be other colonies on this world, Ender's World; soon there would be neighbors; already they were halfway here; but no one cared. They would help the newcomers when they came, teach them what they had learned, but what mattered in life now was who would marry whom, and who was sick, and when was planting time, and why should I pay him when the calf died three weeks after I got it.
"They've become people of the land," said Valentine. "No one cares now that Demosthenes is sending the seventh volume of his history today. No one here will read it."
Ender pressed a button and his desk showed him the next page. "Very insightful, Valentine. How many more volumes until you're through?"
"Just one. The story of Ender Wiggin."
"What will you do, wait to write it until I'm dead?"
"I have a better idea. Take it up to the day we won the final battle. Stop it there. Nothing that I've done since then is worth writing down."
"Maybe," said Valentine. "And maybe not."
The ansible had brought them word that the new colony ship was only a year away. They asked Ender to find a place for them to settle in, near enough to Ender's colony that the two colonies could trade, but far enough apart that they could be governed separately. Ender used the helicopter and began to explore. He took one of the children along, an eleven-year-old boy named Abra; he had been only three when the colony was founded, and he remembered no other world than this. He and Ender flew as far as the copter would carry them, then camped for the night and got a feel for the land on foot the next morning.
It was on the third morning that Ender suddenly began to feel an uneasy sense that he had been in this place before. He looked around; it was new land, he had never seen it. He called out to Abra.
"Ho, Ender!" Abra called. He was on top of a steep low hill. "Come up!"
Ender scrambled up, the turves coming away from his feet in the soft ground. Abra was pointing downward.
"Can you believe this?" he asked.
The hill was hollow. A deep depression in the middle, partially filled with water, was ringed by concave slopes that cantilevered dangerously over the water. In one direction the hill gave way to two long ridges that made a V-shaped valley: in the other direction the rose to a piece of white rock, grinning like a skull with a tree growing out of its mouth.
"It's like a giant died here," said Abra, "and the Earth grew up to cover his carcass,"
Now Ender knew why it had looked familiar. The Giant's corpse. He had played here too many times as a child not to know this place. But it was not possible. The computer in the Battle School could not possibly have seen this place. He looked through his binoculars in a direction he knew well, fearing and hoping that he would see what belonged in that place.
Swings and slides. Monkey bars. Now overgrown, but the shapes still unmistakable.
"Somebody had to have built this," Abra said, "Look, this skull place, it's not rock, look at it. This is concrete."
"I know," said Ender. "They built it for me."
"I know this place, Abra. The buggers built it for me."
"The buggers were all dead fifty years before we got here."
"You're right, it's impossible, but I know what I know. Abra, I shouldn't take you with me. It might be dangerous. If they knew me well enough to build this place, they might be planning to--"
"To get even with you."
"For killing them."
"So don't go, Ender. Don't do what they want you to do."
"If they want to get revenge, Abra, I don't mind. But perhaps they don't. Perhaps this is the closest they could come to talking. To writing me a note."
"They didn't know how to read and write."
"Maybe they were learning when they died."
"Well, I'm sure as hell not sticking around here if you're taking off somewhere. I'm going with you."
"No. You're too young to take the risk of--"
"Come on! You're Ender Wiggin. Don't tell me what eleven-year-old kids can do!"
Together they flew in the copter, over the playground, over the woods, over the well in the forest clearing. Then out to where there was, indeed, a cliff, with a cave in the cliff wall and a ledge right where the End of the World should be. And there in the distance, just where it should be in the fantasy game, was the castle tower.
He left Abra with the copter. "Don't come after me, and go home in an hour if I don't come back."
"Eat it, Ender, I'm coming with you."
"Eat it yourself, Abra, or I'll stuff you with mud."
Abra could tell, despite Ender's joking tone, that he meant it, and so he stayed.
The walls of the tower were notched and ledged for easy climbing. They meant him to get in.
The room was as it had always been. Ender remembered well enough to look for a snake on the floor, but there was only a rug with a carved snake's head at one corner. Imitation, not duplication; for a people who made no art, they had done well. They must have dragged these images from Ender's own mind, finding him and learning his darkest dreams across the lightyears. But why? To bring him to this room, of course. To leave a message for him. But where was the message, and how would he understand it?