CHAPTER FIVE

The Pressure Lies Thick

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"Fairness is a wonderful attribute, Mr. Anderson. It has nothing to do with war."

"When do you plan on making him a commander? When he's eight?"

"If Ender isn't the one, if his peak of military brilliance does not coincide with the arrival of our fleet at the bugger homeworlds, then it doesn't really matter what our training method is or isn't."

"I think you might be right about Ender. I just don't believe you, and you alone, should decide the fate of the world."

"I don't even think it's right that I decide the fate of Ender Wiggin."

-

Therapy sessions with Alexandra had become troublesome, with inadmissible results. The girl's withdrawal into her own world and thoughts had developed steadily within the passing year, and now posed as a barrier Ms. Pewter couldn't breach. Every subject she touched upon, Alexandra talked about freely in a calm manner that told the psychiatrist that the girl's mind was elsewhere.

Ms. Pewter tried several different methods to obtain that privileged part of Alex's mind - from hypnosis, to ink prints, and as far as moderating wave patterns. There were times when the youth laughed, times when she threw things, and even moments when she broke down and cried. On more than one occasion, Ms. Pewter found herself comforting the young girl, despite the oaths she had taken when she received her license. Comforting a patient stood the risk of them closing in feelings, or becoming dependable on the source of aid. However, Alex continued to remain open about her thoughts about the crewmembers, her 'unfulfilled role', her parents, and even her studies and the bugger war. She talked about how hard it was to sleep at night, and how nervous she was, now that the time of the Third Invasion was drawing steadily closer.

Still, Ms. Pewter could feel something resting in the back of Alex's mind - secret and dark, like a wraith in the night. Something both illuming and real, and yet unreal at the same time.

Something only Alex can see, Dana thought to herself, one day shortly - yet unknowingly to herself - after Ender was transferred into Rat Army in Battle School, more than sixty years' distance from where they zoomed along.

Alex rested cradled on the sofa with her head resting heavy, and a distant look glazed in her eyes. The girl's mind had begun to wonder into the Zone - as Dana called it - while her therapist inputted her thoughts into her desk. Their time together this week was almost up, and Ms. Pewter hadn't obtained anything worthwhile to document. Instead, the elderly woman found herself putting down fragments of the same thoughts she had in dozens of other sessions; attempting to pass the time.

"From skin to fur…"

The quiet mutter of words was so subtle and unexpected, that Dana wasn't sure she heard them. Raising her gaze expectedly, there was a shock of hope in her eyes as she waited tensely for Alex to say something more. Ms. Pewter didn't understand the strange sentence, and was hoping for clarification. Perhaps she had heard her wrong?

But Alex offered no explanation, and had shut her mouth firmly once more.

How long had she been dwelling on that thought? Dana pondered, stroking back her wispy, white hair in a quick, irritated gesture.

As the woman opened her mouth, perhaps to prompt her patient further, Alex sat up suddenly, and paused before throwing her legs over the side of the sofa. There was another long moment before Alex stood stiffly, and turning to Dana, said, "Session's up." A moment later, she was already heading for the door, as Dana gave a dumb nod of her head, watching the slim, retreating back.

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Alex's life had become a routine. She would wake up, eat, then speak with her parents some so as not to worry them. As Ewout and Catherina Cato headed out to do their necessary, daily tasks, Alex would turn to her studies on Battle School, the International Fleet, and the buggers. When her parents returned for their second meal of the day, Alex would tell them how she was busy hard at work with her schooling - making up some research assignment that explained her constant use of the internet. When the Catos returned to their duties, Alex turned to Ender Wiggin and the Fantasy Game. When bedtime began to roll around, she would nibble her last meal as she stayed up even after heading to bed, to actually do her homework assignments. The process was a repetitive routine that Alex never grew dreary of. The days slipped by quick during the day, and slow during the restless nights.

Assuming I am sleeping at night, according to Earth's orbit, Alex thought. She shook her head to clear it of confusing, muddled thoughts. She had done countless internet checks and formulations to attempt to keep a schedule revolved around Earth's Day and Night system, but had given it up when she realized how off balance it was to the rest of the crew's activities.

Now that her weekly session was over, Alex walked away with a zoned feeling. With every meeting with Ms. Pewter, the girl fed the woman more old feelings, putting on a show to please the woman. Alex didn't care about what her parents' thought, or about her schooling anymore. Her focus remained on Ender and the mysteries of Battle School and the bugger war. Alex felt that if she was going to be part of the Third Invasion, then she should have a much broader knowledge of what humanity was going up against.

Did they stand a chance at all? The International Fleet must have thought so, to send an army seventy years away to take out the bugger homeworlds. Did this mean they had a plan?

They can't really be relying on a single kid to pull us through this, Alex thought decisively with a shake of her head as she stepped into her living room. The broad six inch step into the living space made her fumble every time, but Alex had grown accustomed to her flaws, and where they appeared on the ship. She quickly readjusted herself, and was already heading towards her room and the desk terminal waiting there; locked up.

The computer had become a sort of sensory, drawing Alex to it like a shark to blood. She imagined it was the same hungry feeling, to devour the source, and in her case, the information from the source. The blood of the computer.

The first thing Alex saw when she powered on, was that her desk was attempting to make a connection with a force outside the ship. Giving her computer a perplexed look, Alex's finger hesitated over the input key, before pushing down and giving the terminal permission to loop the connection.

An old, yet familiar, mechanical voice stated, "Initiating Interactive Visual Simulator."

Pulling her hands back, Alex watched as Colonel Graff's unfamiliar, but unforgettable face appeared. There were lines around his mouth and brow now, and bags resting beneath sinking eyes. A smile though flittered on his transparent face, and Alex eased into an upright sitting position.

"Hello, Alex. It's been a while."

"A year," the girl told him, speaking clearly as a sense of calm came over her. Despite the man's seemingly random appearance, Alex found his smile a reassuring gesture.

Graff's holographic face froze as he entered his response, and Alex wondered what he thought when he saw the image her computer had scanned and sent to him. What did he see, when he saw her? A person with power who couldn't assert it? Or just a child set on a course of death? Alex had long since come to terms with the ultimate fate of her voyage.

Now and again, while searching the net, she found herself yearning for what children back on Earth had. To go to school, play on slides like Ender in the Fantasy Game, and have parents she could go to the beach or fair with. Maybe even friends.

My only friend doesn't know anything about me, Alex realized with a humorless chuckle to herself.

Alex looked up as Graff's head began to move again, the message coming back as; "Just about." A slight pause, and then, "I was hoping to speak with you concerning your recent research into the bugger wars."

Again, Alex felt confused, and now eyed the terminal cautiously. She had always suspected that the I.F. was watching her every action, but assumed that she wasn't the only one aboard who was interested in the bugger war, and the invasion videos.

"What about it?" she questioned simply, trying to etch away the suspicion seeping in every word.

For a minute, Graff's face remained animated, as if he was pausing in thought of how to best answer the statement. Then it froze, as Alex had expected. This time, the wait was longer than usual, as if Graff were talking slowly. The terminal however, sent it over quicker than it must have been entered.

The animated head, smile having slipped away now, replied, "There is nothing resting in the videos that has not already been available as common knowledge."

"What about the buggers? The ships? They were already dead."

This time, when the response came back, Alex was irritated to find that Graff had ignored her questions completely, saying in a flat, monotone voice, "Alex, you are best to stay away from the matters of the bugger war. You are on a one way trip. Enjoy it while you can."

Before Alex could do more than open her mouth, Graff's head flickered, folded into miniscule cubes, and disappeared. The display of her desktop came back up, and the connection was lost as the IVS shut down. The reassurance had gone, and now Alex sat numbly on her bed with new, worrisome thoughts. Graff's last entry sounded like a warning, and Alex wondered what he was hiding.

There was definitely something the I.F. wasn't telling the public, and there had to be scenes missing from the videos. But then again, what did it matter? The buggers were trying to destroy Earth. It was either them, or humanity. Everything in life came down to survival.

But what about after the buggers were gone? Would there still be an International Fleet? A Battle School? What if other alien species came to Earth? Would they really rely on children once again, to fight?

Ender, Alex thought grimly. The Third she knew, was in for a rough haul, and Graff intended to pull Ender as far as long as he could, until the boy decided to stand and walk on his own feet towards his destiny as a commander.

Alex felt like she had to give some sort of warning or comfort message to the kid, to let him know that he wasn't alone in this. However, Graff would surely intervene in the matter. If Alex learned anything about her studies when it came to Ender, it was that he was prone to violence and though easily manipulated, fought against those controlling him. He was playing the part of the jester in court, pleasing others at their will, but remaining in control of how he did so.

He plays the game, but bends the rules, Alex realized, giving a slow nod to her terminal, as if bouncing ideas off of it. Rat Army…

Bringing up the internet, Alex attempted to access the Battle School records again. She found though, to her great alarm, that her usual method had been warded off, and she received a warning message. Trembling hands hovering over the keyboard, Alex stared at the blinking words. Pressing a key closed the process entirely. For several minutes, Alex sat, leaning back against the wall with her desk resting pressed against her crossed knees.

Security had been strengthened once more, and this time, around all of Battle School's files. Was Graff testing her, or did he want her to stay out, now that she had passed some boundary line?

Deciding she didn't care anymore, Alex hunched herself forward, and tried a backdoor she hadn't used before. At first, she was denied access, so Alex used a backdoor for that backdoor. Sure enough, folders she sought popped up, and no alert or warning message came with them.

Relieving a deep breath, Alex knew that her access to Ender's files was probably restricted. Graff hadn't wanted her in Battle School files at all. Any message she sent Ender's way would surely be picked up and deleted automatically. But would Graff bother checking messages to all the other students as well?

Not unless he has a lot of free time, Alex told herself, a sly smirk spreading over her face. Someone would have to filter through every message sent, and then depict their significance or threat, if any.

Picking through the list of members in Rat Army, Alex scanned through their files without a problem. One file though, caught her eye especially. The boy's name was Dink Meeker, and though he was of rightful age, he had never been labeled as a commander of an army in Battle School. His stats and evaluations were exceptionally good.

Alex wondered if Meeker merely just refused to give in to Graff's control. It was then that Alex realized that Graff had only been amusing her. He had given her the freedom to hack into the files, and then had rejected her harshly, probably suspecting that Alex's disability ran beyond her reaction timing.

Well, you're wrong Graff, Alex thought defiantly. Bringing up Meeker's desk, she paused with her fingers in mid-stroke, debating on what to say. She wanted Meeker to warn Ender. From the recent files she read, Graff was planning on making Ender a commander of an army, and putting the odds against him. They were planning on pushing Ender beyond the limits they should.

Alex was hoping that someone would be able to aid Ender through the mess soon to come, but her message had to be discreet, and yet clear. Graff watched everything the kids in Battle School did. There was little he could do once things were set into motion.

Finally deciding on a simple message, Alex sent to Meeker's desktop:

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WATCH THE SCORES

-

Alex hoped that would be hint enough for now. When time came, she would send a second part to the message to clarify what she meant. Accessing Ender's score sheet, she saw that he had dropped in the standings, but his shots and activity had improved. Had Ender gave in to Graff's games?

Ender hadn't played the Fantasy Game in a while, and no matter what she did, Alex couldn't gain access to the 'End of the World' room. She had finally come across the Giant, and found that no matter what she chose, her figure died from the drink. After the third time this happened, Alex decided she would have to take a different approach. She tried reasoning with the Giant, but the creature just laughed and slammed his fist dangerously close to her mouse, demanding she choose.

Alex hadn't wanted to take the 'Ender Wiggin Approach', but it seemed there was no other way. In a fit of rage uncommon to her, Alex sent her figure into the Giant's large, open mouth as he released his harsh, taunting laughter, and bit down hard on his tongue. The Giant shifted and roared in his chair until he fell back, and clunked his head. Then he was still, and Alex was able to crawl out of his mouth safely. The Giant had bothered her since. Every time she returned to the hilltop, the Giant had decayed a little more since the last time.

The forest didn't emerge to a playground though, and no matter which direction she headed, Alex was brought back to the valley where her figure promptly turned into a snake. It was here that she closed the game down before even heading into the grass.

Deciding to give it a try though, since there was no apparent activity concerning the Wiggin boy to look into, Alex logged into the God account. She had noticed that it had remained unused, and yet open. It had been over a year, and it hadn't been shut down either. Had Graff set up the account to attract her attention? Did he keep it there for her?

Alex couldn't imagine why the Colonel would now, after he had closed her off from the files. Maybe he thought his little hacker wouldn't gain access again, and thus, hadn't bothered.

With a wry smirk as she pulled up the Fantasy Game, Alex thought, Well Graff, I hope you're watching. So you can see that you're wrong.

Figure appearing at the hilltop, Alex ignored the gnomes there beginning to build a cavern of homes from the Giant's bone remains, and headed for the edge of the forest. As the screen faded in, her figure appeared as a snake - long and lithe. The grass towered before her in an ominous manner, and Alex hesitated before slipping her figure forward. Despite how long it had been since she played in this part of the game, Alex could still remember the feeling of being watched. A distant rustling alerted her to the dangers resting in the tall grass, but this time, she didn't pause. Her heart leapt to her throat as a mongoose went leaping past her figure, and into the shadows of the corner of her screen. It had passed the invisible barrier and was gone.

How long Alex spent in the field, maneuvering her way around through the stalks and avoiding the deathly pounces of her creature's mortal enemy, Alex didn't know. Eyelids growing heavy from watching the screen so intensely, she was about to call it quits and close the Fantasy Game when the stalks began to thin. Moments later, she had appeared on the other side of the valley. There was a few more feet of thin grass until it gave way to barren, brown earth. The high cliffs of a mountainside offered solace as Alex watched her figure start to morph into the shape of a child. This time however, much to her shock, it was a girl, with long dark hair much like Alex's own.

Alex sat there for a few minutes, staring at the figure in puzzlement. The God account was genderless. Her figure had never taken the form of a girl before. The game offered no explanation of course, but instead seemed to have paused - as if waiting for Alex to make the first move.

Move the pawn forward, Alex thought to herself. It's like a game of chest, and I have only one piece, that can become any other.

Just as Alex began to slowly move her figure towards the rock wall, eyes straying to a cave further up on a ledge, the Fantasy Game minimized. It was a moment before the reason popped up in a separate, black window. The bar gave its identification as a serial number, and Alex recognized it immediately as Dink Meeker's. She had read his file enough to have most of his information memorized.

The message was simple and to the point; a branch-off of her own:

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AS THEY DROP

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Alex sat in bewilderment as she stared at the three simple words. How had this Meeker kid gained access to her computer? Thinking about it, Alex realized that he must have been replying to the God account, which she was still logged into. Thus, the message had been sent her way.

This passed a smile of amusement over the girl's weary features. Her hands hovered in anticipation over the keyboard, as she waited for her mind to think of something clever to say. Once again, she was fully aware that Graff would be able to read anything that she sent towards Meeker, and could easily put an end to their interaction by closing the God account. Alex could try and make a new account disguised as a student, but she was sure that would be quickly shut down as well.

Finally deciding on what she would say, Alex sent back:

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AND OUR HOPES DROP WITH THEM

-

Sitting back, Alex imagined that the response would take awhile. She sat, twiddling her thumbs and highlighting the text, enlarging it so that she couldn't read it anymore on the display, or making it so small it was a dot.

Growing impatient as her hands quivered in expectancy and the greedy want to send another message to this outside source, Alex forced herself from her bed. She would find some task to distract herself that didn't involve her desk. The Meeker kid might not reply at all, and sitting to wait for him wasn't going to change the probability of that likelihood. She rested it on her lockers' top, and sent it into hibernation. New activity would awaken it.

He probably thinks it's just another student from Battle School, Alex realized as she walked out of her room and entered the living space.

Ewout and Catherina were seated in the kitchen, and Alex walked to stand where she could observe their actions. Ewout was resting at the white table, bent with an absorbed stare over his desk as his wife set about preparing their third meal from the rations they had been given. Neither looked up from their actions to even greet the lonely child standing with a glint of hope in her eyes.

But that light quickly flickered and died when Alex realized they weren't going to even greet her. Everyone aboard the ship had grown accustom to each other's company, and to seeing the same faces every day. In the small space of the ship, it was sometimes almost too much to bear, and the crew was prone to arguments and breakdowns.

That's why we have Ms. Pewter, Alex thought with a nod as she headed for the doorway. Stepping into the hallway, she gave a low, dry chuckle as she wondered how the crew aboard the ship would be fairing without a therapist. Ms. Pewter was training a man in his forties - also born aboard their craft - to take her place in a year or so. This Alex saw, as a good thing. It meant that the emotional crap she had sent Ms. Pewter's way, could be repeated - thanks to client-privilege - and Alex could continue with her secret affairs without fear.

Deciding to head for the game room, Alex felt like being challenged. She hadn't played since Ender had been emitted into Salamander Army, and now she was curious to see how the Battleship simulator reacted to her presence this time. Alex had tested the other games, but they didn't hold any surprises for her.

Garret said that the Battleship simulator was running fine. Alex had reported the Salamander incident, and the technician gave the same report.

Maybe it will be a rat styled ship this time, Alex thought with a snort. She had asked Garret if there were reports from any other of the other crewmembers, but the answer to everything remained a skeptical 'no'. Alex stopped asking from there on. The simulation could be reaching into my conscience, the girl considered as she approached the large machine, resting forebodingly in the back of the room - larger than the other game set ups. Stepping onto the lift, Alex shifted slightly as the it raised itself the six inches to accommodate her height.

But how could the game pick up on her brain waves? And why only now? Why not with everyone else?

The answers to these questions, Alex was sure she would probably never be told. This hadn't started happening until she began her research on Ender Wiggin. Had Graff done this in an attempt to push her limits? Or was it a backdoor to send her a message that the I.F. couldn't read?

I can't ask him now, Alex realized with a light grimace as she shifted through the array of player ships, without really looking at any of them. He has already attempted to shut me out.

Picking a bulky, strong shooter, Alex thought it was probably best for her reaction timing. This ship's frame was built to take several hard hits before it crashed. Alex assumed it was her best chance of survival against whatever the simulator threw at her.

The image that appeared startled Alex to the point where she almost fell back off the lift. A straying hand caught the rail though, and held her firmly. The ship that appeared before her was a mix between an ant and a praying mantis. Alex recognized it immediately from the visuals in all the old videos, as a bugger. At first, she thought she just needed sleep, but as the moments passed and the ship continued to hover in wait, Alex concluded the simulator hadn't made a mistake, and her own exhaustion didn't play a factor here.

Placing her stray foot back into place, Alex watched as the ship steadily began to power up, beams of light forming at its antennas' tips. Knowing that the hit would be devastating, Alex began to slowly shift her ship in hopes to reduce some of the damage, while charging herself. She didn't know how long the bugger would take to finish its preparation, and it already had a head start. Alex had barely moved her ship more than two grid squares before the bugger's antennas grew brighter. A moment later, two bright beams spread and shot towards her. At the same time, Alex released her own half charge, knowing that her ship's firing equipment could be destroyed from this attack. She would at least go down knowing that the simulated bugger ship would have been brutalized as well.

The area was illumined in a bright, white glow that made Alex raise her arms to shield her eyes. Though she couldn't see, the girl knew her ship was being broken down as easily as a chain of paper links - burning to nothing. The steady rhythm of her ship's parts being incinerated sent a series of painful pricks down her throat, as if she were swallowing small glass fragments.

When the light dimmed and she could lower her arms, Alex was disheartened, but not surprised, to find no remains of her ship. There was a small satisfaction however, in discovering that the enemy ship was half gone itself.

Deciding that she had had enough, Alex stepped back off the lift. This time, the Battleship simulator seemed to agree that it was enough, and shut down.

Returning to her room, Alex's thoughts were filled with sleep and possible dreams. Maybe there she would find some answers. Her parents were caught in a staff meeting concerning their course and steady approach to the bugger world. There would be an asteroid belt to maneuver around carefully without drawing too much attention to themselves. Their chosen course would lead the rest of the fleet into bugger territory. They couldn't afford any mistakes that could result in damaged parts, or losses.

Some of the best minds at work won't stop the buggers from attacking us, Alex noted as she entered the living room, and made her way towards her own personal space. Once they spot us, that's it. Commander or no commander - Ender or no Ender - the battle begins then.

Flopping down onto her comforters with a soft sigh, Alex enjoyed their soft caress in a way she had never felt towards a comforting arm. Her blankets acted as a replacement for her father's closure, and her mother's lack of patience and time. Here, Alex rested wearily, with the feeling that things would turn out right, as long as she awoke to live another day.

The darkness her eyelids provided was pierced by a sharp, consistent flash. Eyes struggling against the disturbance, Alex opened one and then the other to peer at the source. Her desk rested on her locker, acting as the source of the light flashes. Sitting up and rubbing at her eyes, Alex peered at the darkened screen, and a box that had appeared in one corner of her desktop.

Standing and retrieving the bulky form, Alex sat back down and rested it on her lap as she leaned back against the wall. The source drove all thoughts of slumber and peaceful dreams from the girl's mind. The message had been sent from Dink Meeker's terminal.

It read thus:

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ACCIDENTAL COLLISION IN NULL G

-

This message thoroughly confused Alex, and she sat back to contemplate why Meeker would send her it. She recognized the wording from the results of a Launch incident when Ender was on his way to Battle School. He had broken a kid's arm, and went unpunished for it. Did Meeker understand her last message? Did this have something to do with Ender?

Null G, Alex thought, drumming her fingers slowly one by one on her terminal.

"Okay, Dink," Alex muttered as she sat forward. "Let's see what you're trying to tell me, huh…"

Doing a search for recent files emitted in the Battle School records, revealed incident reports. Picking through them until she found those labeled under 'Null G', Alex read the brief:

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Incident within Null G Battleroom resulted in few injuries. Battleroom malfunction.

-

This brought a sweep of confusion. Why would Meeker send her this? Was it possible that he hadn't understood what she meant? Scanning the list of causalities and the injuries as a result in separate, medical files, Alex knew there was something more here than what the incident file reported. There were reports of damaged ears, legs, shoulders, and even a broken nose. What could have caused that?

Ender.

The single thought that came, slapped Alex hard, like the first cold exhaust around her ankles, of the day as she entered an anti-gravity hallway. Meeker had sent her the message because there hadn't been no 'accident' in the room, but an assault. Ender had caused these injuries. But why?

From what Alex knew, she could already discard the thought that Ender went searching for a fight. Just from watching him play the Fantasy Game, Alex knew that Ender was an explorer, and resorted to violence only when necessary. The Giant's Drink was perfect proof of this, and supported her theory strongly.

No…Ender had been attacked, and Meeker had sent her this message because he understood the trouble Ender was in. The children in Battle School were taught to be competitive - to strive to be the best. The first rule of survival was to kill anything that posed a threat to your own. The strong survive, and the weak perish. It was simple, and at the same time, a cruel and harsh reality.

Deciding to check in on Ender, hands shaking, Alex attempted to tap into the youth's desk. There was little resistance, and the girl wasn't surprised to find that he was busy playing the Fantasy Game. Ender used it as an escape from his present, and a distraction for his mind.

Alex watched Ender move his figure past the empty playground, through the forest, and into the well. He had a mission, and nothing would distract him from finding the answers in the End of the World. Together, they watched the snake unweave in the lone tower, and Alex's stomach curled as Ender slammed his foot onto the snake's head, crushing the skull. It resembled so much like her own figure, that it was if Ender was killing her figure, and not just a snake.

The serpent twisted beneath his foot uselessly, being pushed further into cold stone. He picked it up and shook it, then turned and carried it, attempting to find a way safely out of the tower. Ender must have been just as shocked as Alex, when he found something else, because his figure took no action.

In a large mirror inlaid into the wall, was the sniveling face of Ender's older brother, Peter. Despite the fact that Alex hadn't checked on the other Wiggin children in months, she recognized him immediately. Blood seeped down Peter's chin like rum from a drunken mouth, and a snake tail emerged from a corner of his wide, straining mouth. In his eyes flashed a dangerousness that unnerved Alex, and made her want to shut her desk down.

There was a cascading of the image that thoroughly confused the girl. When minutes passed and nothing happened, Alex assumed that Ender had abandoned his desk altogether. However, as she straightened and rested a finger over the power button, she was startled to see Ender thrust the dead snake into the mirror, breaking the glass. Behind the mirror rested a dark hole, but before the boy's figure could do anything, a countless number of mini serpents writhed their way free. Together, they nibbled and chewed away at Ender's figure until it collapsed in a dying heap.

The words, 'Play Again?' appeared on Ender's screen, and thus on Alex's. Ender must have shut his desk down, because the window closed altogether. When nothing more happened for a few minutes, Alex rested back with a sigh, trying to relax her shaking limbs.

She must have drifted off, because there was a sharp strike of light to her eyes - this time brighter. With each flare, a headache began to grow stronger in the back of her head. Opening her eyes, Alex saw that Meeker had sent her another message. She was tempted to close her desk, and wait until after she had slept, before answering.

However, Alex knew that it must have concerned Ender, and thus, she decided she would read and reply, and then head to sleep.

It read:

-

HE'S WAITING…THEY'RE NOT

-

Was Meeker talking about Ender? Or Graff?

Reading it again, Alex was sure that 'he' was Ender. 'They' must have been Graff, and those running Battle School. What was Ender waiting for? A sign? Thinking back to the conversations between Graff and Anderson, Alex thought to how they were trying to rush Ender because of how short a time was left.

Nodding slowly, Alex decided that that must have been what Meeker was talking about. Graff was putting the pressure onto Ender now, and Alex knew, that the Wiggin child would take it, but he would also break. There would come a time, when Ender Wiggin would say enough, and then Graff's ploys, Earth's hope, Alex's research, and this seventy year trip…were going to amount to nothing.