Colonel Graff and Major Anderson are talking. Anderson notes that the computer has finished setting a schedule of battles and game alterations to further stack the deck against Ender. Graff is hesitant to give Dragon Army their first battle after only about three weeks (most armies get three months). But Anderson points out that the computers have predicted that Ender's army would be ready. Graff reamins distressed about ruining Ender's life outside of his Spartan training.
Ender believes his army is ready for battle. In their first battle against Rabbit Army, commanded by Carn Carby, Ender gives his toons general directions, but he lets the toon leaders direct their own soldiers. Dragon Army destroys Rabbit magnificently, proving the quality of Ender's training regimen. Ender lines up his army in formation, and Carn Carby congratulates Ender with dignity and honor.
At practice later that morning, Ender points out several things that they could have done better during the battle, and then he sets them to work. Ender eats lunch for the first time in the Commander's mess, and he notices that Dragon Army is first in all of the rankings on the scoreboard. Dink sits with him and warns him not to get too cocky. Ender wonders whether Petra and Dink are still his friends, but Carn talks with Ender with respect: "Usually new commanders are cheered when they first join the mess. But then, usually a new commander has had a few defeats under his belt before he first makes it in here."
Ender wakes up later than usual the next morning, and after his shower, he notices a slip of paper announcing a battle against Petra's Phoenix Army (his previous army) in half an hour. It is unprecedented to have two battles in two days, but Dragon wins handily and Petra becomes furious and humiliated.
After seven battles in one week--all victories--Ender's Dragon Army remains at the top of the rankings. The other commanders are divided between those who try to learn from Ender and those who try to learn how to beat Dragon by talking with the beaten commanders. Some of them hate him, and some students turn violent. Ender despises them and fears them, since he is reminded of Peter's violent jealousy.
Ender studies videos of the first two bugger invasions, trying to learn from the bugger formations and the fleets that beat them back. Most of the films are meaningless propaganda, however. The other commanders start going to the library too, but the videos are not very revealing to anyone. Ender finds it strange that despite all of the talk about Mazer Rackham, the hero of the Second Invasion, there is little actual video from his battle. All they show is Mazer's fleet being horribly outnumbered by the bugger ships, then one shot from Mazer's cruiser, one enemy ship being destroyed, and the end of the battle with soldiers entering the bugger ships to find them already dead.
It is just one week after Dragon's first battle when Graff and Anderson ask him how his army is doing. Ender replies that all are now veterans, and although they are tired and not really studying for class, they have not yet reached their limits. Graff asks why Ender no longer plays the fantasy game, and Ender replies that he won--but Graff says, "You never win everything in that game." Finally, after Graff says that they want to make Ender as happy as possible, Ender retorts that they only want to make him the best soldier possible--and considering his rankings, they are succeeding.
Dragon immediately is sent to fight Bonzo's Salamander Army. It is their second battle of the day, and Salamander was told about the battle far ahead of time and already was in ambush position. Ender sets up his soliders in pairs, freezing one in a kneeling L as a shield for the other. The pairs achieve vast amounts of damage, and Ender's army still wins. Ender has Bean openly tell Bonzo what he should have done. Ender also tells Anderson that next time, he should be given a good enemy. Ender thaws both armies and storms out without waiting for Bonzo's "dignified surrender." Bonzo takes this act as an insult to his Spanish pride, and he hates Ender even more.
That night, Ender asks Bean why the two of them were promoted while they were so young, and Bean reluctantly replies, "Because they need us, that's why. Because they need somebody to beat the buggers. That's the only thing they care about." Ender emphasizes the importance of this understanding--too many people think that the game is important for itself, not because it shows the teachers who might make good commanders of the fleet. Both boys are getting tired, and though Bean tells him, "They can't break you," Ender says, "You'd be surprised." Bean realizes that Ender is confiding in him. Bean is given his own toon and a high degree of independence.
The opening conversation is between Colonel Graff and a head of the I.F. military police, General Pace. Pace is worried about how Graff is dealing with the situation between Ender and some of his antagonists led by Bonzo Madrid. Ender cannot be hurt so badly that he cannot command. But Graff emphasizes that Ender can never believe that the teachers will help him out.
At practice, Bean tries out a thin wire that allows him to change direction in midair in a surprising way. On their way back to the barracks after the long practice, Ender notices a large number of older boys, mainly from hostile armies, hanging out in the corridors. Petra warns him that Bonzo and others are planning on trying to kill him, but Ender is already aware of the danger. Dink also warns him never to be alone. Thus both of his old friends show their concern. Ender's toon leaders guard him that day, and at night, Ender dreams that Stilson and his buddies tie him up and beat him badly.
The next morning's battle is one of the hardest yet. Pol Slattery's Badger soldiers actually thaw after being frozen for about five minutes. Dragon wins, and Pol complains that Dragon should not have been disadvantaged unfairly.
Afterwards, Ender is alone in the shower, and his absence from the Commanders' Mess is noticed. Seven older boys, led by Bonzo and including Bernard, enter. Ender calls on Bonzo's honor to trick Bonzo into telling the other boys to let him fight Ender alone--who would need six friends against a naked boy? Bonzo protects his honor and strips naked to even the playing field. Ender turns on the shower, letting the soap make him too slippery to hold. Ender pretends to ask Bonzo to stop, and then when Bonzo attacks him, he twists in Bonzo's grasp and shoves his head into Bonzo's nose. At that point, Ender realizes that he could have escaped, but again it was more important to win decisively. Thus, he continues beating Bonzo, kicking him in the chest and then kneeing him in the crotch. Bonzo shows no reaction and simply collapses. Bonzo's friends leap to help him. Ender leaves and tells Dink, crying, "I didn't want to hurt him! Why didn't he just leave me alone!"
Ender sleeps and wakes that evening to notice that his army is to battle Griffin and Tiger Armies simultaneously. Ender is physically and mentally exhausted, and does not want to fight, but when Ender tells his army, they are excited. In the battleroom, there is a cube of four "stars" directly in front of Ender's gate, so he cannot see the enemy. For reconnaisance, he sends Bean around with the thin wire. After the report, Ender decides to throw them off by using a formation instead of their normal fluid attack. The formation distracts the armies, leaving open a path to victory at the enemy gate. Dragon soldiers perform the closing "victory" maneuver and win on that technicality. Anderson then changes the rules to prevent such a "win" from happening again. Ender and many of the soldiers complain to Anderson about the recent unfairness of the battles. That night, when Crazy Tom asks about practicing, Ender replies that they will never practice again, because he does not "care about the game anymore! ... The game is over."
Later that night, Bean visits Ender in his room, noting that he has been promoted to commander of Rabbit Army. Bean insists that the teachers can never break Ender down, but Ender replies that they already have. Graff and Anderson enter, and Graff says that Ender's "display of temper" in the battleroom was "insubordinate," but Bean responds that it is about time somebody told the teachers how everyone has been feeling. The officers give Ender notice that he is being promoted, beyond several levels of training, straight to Command School. Bean is left to say goodbye to Ender's army, and Bean cries from the pain of never being able to see Ender again.
On the shuttle home, Ender is accompanied by Graff and Pace. Anderson is now in charge of Battle School, and Colonel Graff has been assigned to go back to Earth with Ender for a "short landside leave." In Florida, Earth's gravity and all of his surroundings disorient Ender. "He wanted to go back home, back to the Battle School, the only place in the universe where he belonged."
Chapter 12, unlike the others, ends with another conversation between two adults, probably Imbu and Anderson. They are discussing Ender's situation and reveal that Bonzo was actually killed during the fight.
The chapters get longer toward the end of the book, and much of the excitement in the chapters comes from the battle scenes, which are provided in detail. The important thing about the battles is that despite extremely difficult conditions, Ender's army continues to win and to improve. Still, readers can enjoy the smart maneuvers that Ender develops, expressing an increasing ability that we already know very well.
When Colonel Graff and Major Anderson talk, they are concerned not only about the war of buggers and humans. They also worry about the fact that Russia is angry that some of the "active citizens on the nets" are talking about how the United States should use the International Fleet to break up the Warsaw Pact after the bugger war is over. The most prominent "active citizen" is Demosthenes, and Locke might also be a concern to the Russians, although he is more moderate. The world can be united for a time when there is a common enemy, but the underlying tensions remain, and they will resurface after the enemy is no longer a threat (if not before). After the war, it will matter which nations control the International Fleet.
It is dramatic irony when Graff calls Demosthenes and Locke, and therefore Valentine and Peter, "short-sighted, suicidal people," and that he implies that pushing Ender "to the edge of human endurance" is too much of a sacrifice in order to save the lives of such people. If Graff knew who the writers actually were, of course, he would know that Ender would want to save Valentine, at least. Valentine is, in fact, the only person who can help Graff, who comes to her more than once in order to convince Ender to keep pushing himself. Valentine is Ender's one real connection with Earth.
After their first battle as an army, Ender knows that he has trained his soldiers well. He tells his boys to be at practice fifteen minutes after leaving the battleroom, after a quick breakfast--but he then immediately has his toon leaders tell the rest that they can have extra time. In this scenario, Ender is thinking strategically about the morale of his soldiers. He wants the discipline to come from him, the commander, and the leniency come from the toon leaders. He thinks that this will make their toons, and thus the entire army, more united and better able to work together.
Ender admires Bean's good qualities. He wants to make sure that Bean knows that the game, the battles, and the rankings are not important in themselves. The games are only important because they help the teachers and officers decide who might make good commanders for the Fleet later on. Ender notes that most of the students do not understand this point; they think that the game is important, as though the standings are primarily what will determine who will be promoted. Like many people, most of the boys forget the purpose of competition in a game, focusing too narrowly on the immediate objective of winning. The games are an important part of Battle School and this book, but in actuality, most of the individual skills have nothing to do with the kinds of skills that will be needed for fleet commanders or for Ender as their leader. The leadership and tactical skills that Ender is developing are what the other leaders will need as well.
The real battles are fought by ships, with ships' weapons, not with battleroom guns and flash suits. In terms of education, the winner of any particular game does not matter.
The video from the Second Invasion is curious. What made it so easy to board the enemy vessels, and why are the aliens all dead in the ships? Somehow, a defeat elsewhere seems to have incapacitated the aliens on the other ships. In a later chapter we will discover why.
In Chapter 12, Ender's fight with Bonzo is very similar to that with Stilson. He does not want to hurt either one, but they both pushed him to act decisively, as he sees it, in order to avoid future attacks. In both cases, he kills his antagonist. This time, however, Ender does not wonder if he is like Peter. He realizes that there really was no choice in the fight with Bonzo, that he either had to hurt Bonzo enough to stop him or be killed by Bonzo. Even so, afterward, Ender is sad again that he has needed to act so violently. Ender might have tried to hurt Bonzo less in order to teach him a lesson without injuring him so severely, but the risks there were great. Perhaps it was more moral for Ender to try a lesser response anyway, and readers may be tempted to think that Ender chose the easier, more decisive path. But we have seen in the fantasy game that Ender's usual motivation is to try to move peacefully before choosing violence as a last resort. The one exception is the snake in the tower, although with Valentine's influence, he returns to his pattern of peaceful interaction wherever possible.
Major Imbu says to Colonel Anderson in their conversation at the end of the chapter, "That kid is scary." Really, Bonzo is the one who is practically insane with hate and pride. Still, Imbu is right that nobody should want to be Ender's enemy.
By Chapter 12, Ender has been worn down. When he wakes up after his fight with Bonzo and finds out that he has been assigned another battle, he says out loud, "I can't do this anymore." In his strategy to have Bean's soldiers perform the victory ritual before the game normally would be over, it seems that Ender is looking for a quick end to the game, not through some brilliant strategy but through a manipulation of the rules. Ender expresses his position that his choice was a sign that Ender had given up on the games, since they were unfair. The adults know that they are making the games unfair in order to improve Ender's skills, but Ender is so worn down that he no longer sees a way to improve himself through the games in any skill that he might want. Throughout the novel, Graff and the other officers of the International Fleet are running a delicate balance between pushing Ender to the edge and pushing him over it, and atthis point, Ender's reaction to his final battle at the school shows that he has finally been pushed over the edge. He has no need or desire to go on in the battles, or games, or anything. He is through. Thus, it makes sense that Ender needs some down time in order to be refreshed.
It is interesting, therefore, that he wants to go back to Battle School when he gets down to Earth. He realizes that it is the only place that he feels truly at home, despite its being the place where he was ruined. His complete surrender at the end of his days at Battle School leads to his three-month landside leave, but it is not clear that Ender has anything back on Earth to return to.
When Ender gets on the shuttle back to Earth, he notices that Graff has no luggage. This observation comforts Ender: "Graff also came up empty." To Ender, Graff's lack of luggage suggests that Graff is in some way like him, a tool of society rather than his own man. There are to be no possessions, no sympathetic tokens, holding either one of them. If they have anything of substance, it will have to be internal. But Ender feels empty and destroyed inside. He is frequently being torn apart in order to be rebuilt as a stronger man, and at this stage it is unclear what materials are left with which to rebuild him.
When Major Imbu tells Anderson that he thinks Ender is scary, Anderson replies, "Ender Wiggin isn't a killer. He just wins-thoroughly. If anyone's going to be scared, let it be the buggers." This statement is important because it sums up almost everything that the teachers have wanted Ender to be. Anderson sees that Ender hates hurting people but is willing to act decisively in order to protect himself. This outlook will be vital if he is going to win decisively against the buggers. What kind of destruction will he need to achieve in order to finish off the buggers once and for all? Will he need to exterminate them altogether? That seems to be the point of the Third Invasion. But if Ender hates killing one person, how is he ever going to accept the idea of killing billions, most of whom are innocent?