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Shoot Straight - Chapter 4: Launch

An Ender's Game reread

From here on out there is a huge spoiler warning: do not keep reading if you haven't read the book and are afraid of having something ruined for you. Go finish the novel! Then come back and chat with us. :)

New Characters: Bernard, Major Anderson

What Happens

International Fleet: The plan for Ender is pretty simple: he's to be isolated at Battle School, otherwise he'll "adopt the system" like the other boys and be completely useless to the IF. To get his plan rolling, Graff jokes that he will make sure all the other boys in Ender's launch group either fear or despise the boy by the time they reach the station.

Ender: They've put a bit of a spectacle together for the launch: camera crews are everywhere, filming the group of boy geniuses as they leave Earth. Even in the future, a crowd gathers for a shuttle launch! Ender imagines what he would say if he were interviewed by some of the press. He pictures himself running to the camera to tell Valentine goodbye, not realizing it would be censored out of the video if he did because these 6 year olds are meant to be heroes, not crybabies who miss their sisters.

The launch group consists of 20 boys all together - no girls, of course; evolution hasn't prepared females for games where one has to be brilliant, apparently. Anyway, I actually really like this scene because Ender's description of the other boys always makes me laugh. You know how a group of boys behave when they get together, right? Shoving each other, fart jokes, friendly punches and obnoxious laughter. I always picture Ender standing off to the side staring at them, all "You've got to be kidding me." He's afraid, which makes him serious, and he can't come up with anything that would help him fit in with this group of strangers.

I'm not sure Graff is going to have to try too hard.

Ender's description of the shuttle is where we are first introduced to the disorientation one experiences in Null G. He notices all the walls are carpeted like floors, a thought which initially makes him nauseous. He begins training his brain to get over it by picturing himself climbing up and down walls while the other boys are busy flopping around in their seats and throwing spitballs, probably.
He imagined the ship dangling upside down on the undersurface of the Earth, the giant fingers of gravity holding them firmly in place. But we will slip away, he thought. We are going to fall off this planet.
Graff is accompanying them all the ship, which pleases Ender. He is happy to find out the man is in charge at Battle School, thinking he will at least have one friend there.

They kids are all buckled in, sit through some dull video, and then they are off. As soon all gravity leaves the shuttle and Graff starts showing off his null-g acrobatic skills, many of the boys are nauseous and begin gagging. Ender is fine, though, because he's already oriented himself to the idea that the "up and down" which exists on Earth has no place in space. Graff knows he has figured this out and uses this to ostracize him from the other boys.
"There's only one boy on this launch with any brains at all, and that's Ender Wiggin. Take a good look at him, little boys. He's going to be a commander when you're still in diapers up there. Because he knows how to think in null gravity, and you just want to throw up."
In a childish act of retaliation, one of the boys unstraps himself from his seat and begins whacking Ender over the head. Knowing that Graff deliberately set him up, our hero realizes he can expect no help from that corner and decides to take care of it himself. He times the blows and, when the next assault comes, he reaches up, grabs the jerk's wrist, and pulls down hard. He only meant to slam the kid against the back of his seat, hoping that would be enough, but he hadn't counted on the fact that the body would behave differently in null gravity. The kid goes flying up and over the seat, bounces against the ceiling as well as several of the boys on the way, and slams into the bulkhead, breaking his arm. There's silence the rest of the flight.
"Was it a good flight, Ender?" Graff asked cheerfully.

"I thought you were my friend." Despite himself, Ender's voice trembled. Graff looked puzzled. "Whatever gave you that idea, Ender?"

"Because you—" Because you spoke nicely to me, and honestly. "You didn't lie."
Graff assures him he's not going to lie now, either. He gives him the same spiel he gave him back on Earth: the Buggers are coming and it is Graff's job to see to it that they have a Commander ready to meet them. Essentially, if Ender gets thrown under the bus on his way to meeting this goal, that's not Graff's problem. He points out that the other boys are probably watching him "suck up" to a teacher, so he best be on his way.

Anderson pops in behind Graff, asking if the boy that just left was "the one." Graff isn't sure, but  insists that if it's not Ender, his replacement better show up soon. He then admits that he is the boy's friend and that he absolutely dreads what they are going to have to do to him.

Thoughts

- How often they send a new shuttle of geniuses up into space? Was it a rare occasion? Surely it wouldn't have been that often or there wouldn't be camera crews there recording the event.

- I like that we don't find out any of the other boys' names on this trip. Who do we think was the boy sitting next to Ender on the flight? Probably someone we don't know, but I like the idea that it could have been Shen or Alai.

- Is Combat School ever mentioned in the series again?

Favorite Quotes

They talked and joked and bragged and laughed. Ender kept his silence. He noticed how Graff and the other officers were watching them. Analyzing. Everything we do means something, Ender realized. Them laughing. Me not laughing.

Later, though, he would remember that it was even before he left Earth that he first thought of it as a planet, like any other, not particularly his own.

"There's only one thing that will make them stop hating you. And that's being so good at what you do that they can't ignore you."

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