The ceiling was low in the room. Peter's hair brushed the ceiling as he walked in. This room was made for six-year-old not nine. Most of the boys had chosen a bunk already. Peter chose one that was on the bottom, near the middle of the room.

He sat down and looked in the locker that stood open at the foot of the bunk. There was a paper taped to the inside of the door.


Peter found the scanner, a sheet of opaque plastic. He put his right hand on it and said, "Peter Wiggin, Peter Wiggin."

The scanner glowed green for a moment. Peter closed his locker and tried to reopen it. He couldn't. Then he put his hand on the scanner and said," Peter Wiggin." The locker popped open. So did three other compartments.

One of them contained four jumpsuits like the one he was wearing except they were smaller. Peter guess the one they had given him before the launch was a bigger on they had lying around and he assumed he would get proper sized ones at a later time. Another compartment contained a small desk, just like the one Peter had at home.

The largest compartment contained what looked like a spacesuit at first glance, complete with helmet and gloves. But it wasn't. There was no airtight seal. Still, it would effectively cover the whole body. It was thickly padded. It was also a little stiff.

And there was a pistol within. A laser gun it looked like, since the end was solid, clear glass. But surely they wouldn't let children have lethal weapons-

"Not laser," said a man. Peter looked up. It was one he hadn't seen before. A young and kind-looking man. "But it has a tight enough beam. Well-focused. You can aim it and make a three-inch circle of light on a wall a hundred meters off."

"What's it for?" Peter asked.

"One of the games we play during recreation. Does anyone else have his locker open" The man looked around. "I mean, have you followed the directions and coded in your voice and hands? You can't get into your lockers until you do. This room is your home for the first year or so here at Battle School, so get the bunk you want and stay with it. Dinner in seven minutes. Follow the lighted dots on the floor. Your color code is red yellow yellow-whenever you're assigned a path to follow, it will be red yellow yellow, three dots side by side-go where those lights indicate. What's your color boys?"

"Red, yellow, yellow."

"Very good. My name is Dap. I'm your mom for the next few months."

Everyone laughed.

"Laugh all you like, but keep it in mind. If you get lost in school, which is quite possible, don't go opening doors. Some of them lead outside." More laughter." Instead just tell someone that your mom is Dap, and they will call me. Or tell them your color code, and they will light up a path for you to get home. If you have a problem, come talk to me. Remember, I'm the only person here who's paid to be nice to you. But not too nice. Give me any lip and I'll break your face. Okay?"

They laughed again. Dap had a room full of friends. frightened children are so easy to win.

"Which way is down, anybody tell me?"

"Okay, that's true. But that direction is towards the outside. The ship is spinning, and that's what makes it feel like that is down. The floor actually curves in that direction. Keep going long enough that way, and you come back to where you started. Except don't try it. Because up that way is teachers' quarters and up that way is the bigger kids. And bigger kids don't like lauchies butting in. You might get pushed around. In fact, you will get pushed around. And when you do, don't come crying to me. Got it? This is Battle School not nursery school.

""What are we supposed to do, then?" asked a boy. a really small black kid who had the top bunk right above Peter's.

"If you don't like getting pushed around, figure it out for yourself what to do about it. But I warn you-murder is strictly against the rules. So is any deliberate injury. Anything like that happens, somebody ices out. You got it?"

"What's icing out?" asked a boy near the back of the room.

"Ice. put out in the cold. Sent Earthside. Finished at Battle School."

Peter thought about what all Dap had said. Though Peter knew it would be difficult he would not cause any harm to the launchies that surrounded him. At least not yet, not until the teachers saw him as a golden boy. Then he could cause harm to anyone that pissed him off. Peter had a feeling a lot of people would piss him off but he would be patient.

"So, boys, if any of you are thinking of being troublemakers, at least be clever about it. Okay?"

Dap left.

They went to the mess hall. Peter sat away from all the other boys. The other boys were talking about things-the big score board on one wall, the food, the bigger kids. Peter didn't want to talk no, he wanted to plan the best way to become a golden boy, then he could do whatever the hell he wanted.

After thinking out a plan, Peter admired what the other boys already had.

The scoreboards were team standings. Win-loss records, with the most recent scores. Some of the older boys apparently had bets on the most recent games. Two teams, Manticore and ASP, had no recent score-these boxes were flashing. Peter assumed that meant they were playing at the moment.

He noticed that the older boys were divided into groups, according to the uniforms they wore. Some with different uniform were talking together, but generally the groups each had their own area. Launchies-their own group, and two or three next older groups-all had plain blue uniform. But the big kids, the ones that were on teams, they had were wearing much more flamboyant clothing.

An older boy came to sit by Peter. He looked like he was twelve of thirteen.

"Hi," he said.

"Hi," Peter said"

"I'm Mick."


"Were you given steroids or something? You two heads taller than all the other lauchies."

Peter shrugged. He had to hold his tongue as annoying as this kid was being, Peter was not going to get iced.

"I noticed you eating all alone. Every launch has one like that. Kid that nobody takes to right away. Sometimes I think the teachers do it on purpose. The teachers aren't 'll notice that."

"Ever think I just don't want to talk to any of them?"

"Listen, I'm doing you a favor. Make friends. Be a leader. Suck up. Kiss butts if you've got to, but if the other guys despise you-you are nothing more than a fart to them."

Peter nodded. Even though he agreed with nothing Mick had just told him.

"Naw, you don't know nothing." Mick said, then he walked away back to his table.

Peter just thought to himself, why the hell bother me if you didn't think I would understand your lame advice.

Peter ate silently for the rest for dinner.

That night, when the lights went dim, he could hear several boy whimpering for their mothers or fathers or dogs. Peter then thought of Valentine. He could hear her voice. It was so clear, as if she was right there. I'll be old when I see her again. Why did I say yes? What was?I such a fool for? He had never missed or realized how much he loved his sister until now. He had alway been annoying and cruel when he was around her, but it was true what Graff had said. He was jealous that she loved Ender more than him.

Now he thought of Ender. The brother he killed on purpose. And for what reason? Jealousy. Envy. Before Ender was born Peter and Val got along fine, but when he was born they drifted apart. No longer friends as well as siblings.

Peter cried. For the second time he shed real tears, not the fake one while he was telling the story of Ender's death. He cried until Dap came to the door that night and moved quietly among the beds, Touching a hand here, a forehead there. Where he went there was more crying, not touch of kindness. in this frightening place was enough to push some over the edge into tears. Not Peter, though. When Dap came over his face was dry. Peter did not anyone to see him in a true state of weakness.