The opening conversation is between Colonel Graff and Major Imbu, who seems to be the head of the computer system--or at least the fantasy game--at Battle School. Graff wants Imbu to explain why Peter Wiggin's face appeared in Ender's game scenario, but Major Imbu does not know; Ender is beyond the "End of the World," and someone else programmed the computer to go wherever it thinks best. Imbu suggests that the End of the World represents Ender's desire to end something about his life. Besides, the computer works to help, not harm, the players.
The first half of Chapter 9 focuses on Valentine and Peter Wiggin. Valentine is celebrating Ender's eighth birthday in the woods near their new house in North Carolina. Only Valentine seems to remember Ender. As for Peter, the natural setting has only somewhat calmed his violence; Valentine saw a skinned squirrel (Peter's terrible work) one day. Somehow his teachers call him "a model student," but she sees him as a fraud who is now simply better at getting away with everything. Peter comes by, and Valentine considers that he "always, always, acted out of intelligent self-interest ... so, to keep herself safe, all she had to do was make sure it was more in Peter's interest to keep her alive than to have her dead."
Peter says that he has been tracking Russia's passenger and freight train schedules for three years, and it seems that over the last six months, Russia has been moving troops and preparing for a land war. Valentine considers that Peter often uses her to test his ideas, "to refine them," and that although she and Peter rarely agree about "how the world ought to be," they usually agree about what the world "actually was." Though he is twelve and she is ten years old, they are good at sifting the accurate information out of the generally inaccurate news. Peter notes that in a war, since the "shields" prevent the use of nuclear weapons, the humans would "have to kill each other thousands at a time instead of millions."
Peter takes the situation as an opportunity. He proposes that they begin writing anonymously, in two different personas, to try to influence world politics. After all, they write like adults, and on "the nets," no one has to know who they are. Peter essentially wants to rule the world, so he wants to produce a unified world of peace for him to rule. Valentine convinces their father to let them use his adult account so that they can get into the international debate columns. They practice by using "throw-away personas," getting the hang of adult language and style, refining away any childish tendencies or arguments. Once they are ready, the create permanent personas: Peter is "Locke," the levelheaded peacemaker, while Valentine is "Demosthenes," the anti-Russian warmonger.
They plan out debates for their personas and then post them as though they were not planned. After seven months, Valentine/Demosthenes and then Peter/Locke are asked to write newsnet columns. Valentine is dismayed that people often agree with Demosthenes over Locke--including her father, who quotes Demosthenes at the breakfast table.
Meanwhile, a year has passed since Ender was promoted and then traded to Rat Army. Things have "gone sour" in that Ender has respect but no camaraderie with his old friends. They treat him now as a commander and teacher but not as one of them. Ender still cannot get past the castle's mirror in the fantasy game.
Valentine is commissioned by Graff to try to help Ender, though he is unsure what she can do. He tells her about the fantasy game and Peter's picture, but Valentine does not understand why Peter's picture would show up--she thinks Ender and Peter are nothing alike, since Peter is evil while Ender is good and would never hurt anyone. Graff suggests that Peter and Ender are more alike than she realizes. She says that she often reassured Ender that he was not like Peter, so Graff suggests that she write to Ender to reassure him once again. She does, and later she regrets selling out her brother, despite receiving a high civilian award for her service.
Ender receives the letter, which includes signals proving that it is really Valentine's writing. But he grows upset when he realizes that Valentine has become "one of them now," agreeing to the adults' plan. He perceives that the adults now know all about his feelings about being like Peter and about the mirror in the game.
Ender returns to the game and enters the castle room at the End of the World. This time he kisses the snake on the mouth instead of killing it. It turns into Valentine, and when they touch the mirror together, the wall parts and allows them through. He thinks that "wherever he went in this world, Valentine was with him." He is distressed that the snake was Valentine all along while he kept killing it.
Graff and Anderson discuss their plan to promote Ender to commander at age 9, even though most students must wait until age 11. They sadly perceive that now that Ender is finally happy, they will ruin him again--for the sake of saving the world.
Ender becomes commander of a reconstituted army called Dragon, which had been known for poor scores. Ender's soldiers are mainly young and inexperienced soldiers. When Ender arrives at his army's barracks, he immediately goes to work forming them into a respectable force. He hustles them out the door to practice after just three minutes, despite the fact that some of the boys are still naked.
Ender trains them to jump quickly into the battleroom, and he reminds them to think of the enemy gate as down. One small child, Bean, is very smart and takes the training well. This situation reminds Ender of his own experience, and it seems to him that he is isolating Bean just as Ender himself was isolated before. After practice, Bean corners Ender and says in Ender-like fashion, "I can be the best man you've got, but don't play games with me ... Or I'll be the worst man you've got. One or the other." Bean and Ender share a conversation characterized by respect, though Ender hides his respect for Bean. He senses that he is becoming mean like Bonzo: "Everything I hated in a commander, and I'm doing it."
The adults pass a new rule stating that soldiers may only practice with their own armies and that Ender's army may only hold an extra practice once every four days. The teachers are again isolating Ender by keeping him from relying on Alai and Shen in the training sessions. Alai and Ender later discuss how they are "enemies" now--they are now colleagues at best, and Ender feels as though he has truly lost his friend. Ender says "Salaam" to Alai, but Alai answers, "Alas, it is not to be," explaining that they no longer share peace. These words remind Ender of Biblical words his mother read to him when he was very young: "Think not that I am come to bring peace on earth. I came not to bring peace, but a sword." Even so, the memory of the friendship, "the kiss, the word, the peace[were] so intense that they can't tear him out. Like Valentine, the strongest memory of all." Sadly, Ender perceives that Alai is "glad of the separation, and was ready to be Ender's enemy." Ender once again sulks over Valentine and the idea that she was made a stranger to him when she was persuaded to write him that letter.
The fantasy game at the beginning of Chapter 9 has outrun the ability of humans to manipulate or control it. Major Imbu cannot tell Graff what the "End of the World" means or why Peter's face has been showing up in Ender's mirror. The computer is automatically cleared to get a recent picture of Peter, while the officers of the I.F. would have to requisition one. Moreover, the power that the fantasy game has in the students' lives at Battle School is astounding, considering that no one really understands it. Someone in the past programmed it, so it is unclear why the teachers trust it to only help the students. Can technology really be reliable enough to trust with the independent development of a child's mind and character? Graff also is extremely surprised when Major Imbu says that the computer is essentially making up the plan as it goes along. How far into the future can it plan, after all? And if Ender is unique, it seems that the computer needs to let Ender be in charge of his own game to some degree, since Ender's ability might outstrip the ability of the computer.
It is curious that Valentine will play Demosthenes (named after the ancient Greek general) while Peter will play Locke (named after the modern political theorist). Valentine understands that Peter is using the warlike persona as a way to control her--she will need help from Peter understanding Demosthenes' point of view--but at the same time, Peter now needs Valentine to in order to write as Locke. In fact, both Peter and Valentine will become more moderate in their views after writing in the guise of people with opposite opinions. Valentine admits that she has started occasionally thinking like Demosthenes, and soon she can write his pieces without Peter. Peter also seems to pick up how Locke would think and write, and it is reasonable to assume that Locke's "personality" has softened some of Peter's more ruthless characteristics. Even so, from the beginning Peter and Valentine may have had more in common than they ever thought. More generally, the ability to think from the perspective of one's enemy is essential to peacemaking, and in battle against the buggers, it will be essential in war.
At the room in the castle at the End of the World, Ender realizes that the sour taste that had come to him was despair. At this point, Ender has lost all hope, all desire to keep striving at Battle School. There is no one to pick him up or remind him why he works as hard as he does. No one reminds him that his life matters--that he is going to save the world. Most importantly, no one is his friend, because everyone is too busy being his student or his teacher. Ender is living inside a huge training game, and he has had enough of it. It is not the life he wants.
Valentine tells Graff that "if there's ever anybody who was the opposite of Ender, it's Peter," so she does not understand why Peter's picture would show up in the mirror in Ender's fantasy game. Unlike Peter, Ender does not want to take over the world. But both do have a ruthless streak, and Ender's continuing identity crisis comes in his recognition that he has something of Peter's viciousness after all. Valentine has often taken up the responsibility of reassuring Ender that he is not like Peter, but in doing so, she has hidden from herself the fact that they do have something in common. It is important to point out, however, that Ender's viciousness shows itself in times of necessity, whereas Peter's is just a common part of his personality. When Valentine says that the two brothers are opposites, neither she nor Ender knows that Ender killed Stilson. All they know is that he hurt Stilson badly and that Stilson essentially deserved it. Graff, knowing that Ender has killed before, is in a better position to see that Ender could be like Peter. Peter has killed a squirrel, but he has probably never killed a person, despite his threats. But Graff encourages Valentine to reassure Ender once again, for the sake of putting off until later the major character crisis that Ender faces.
It is interesting that Ender and Valentine share a similar reaction to the fact that she wrote the letter to him for the International Fleet. He feels like she betrayed him, that she became one of them, just another tool for Graff, and she feels the same way, saying that they "paid" her for selling out her brother. Despite their disgust, Ender does change after reading her letter, understanding that Valentine did intend to help him. In the game, he chooses to kiss the snake instead of killing it, choosing love over hate.
Graff needs a commander who is willing to kill, but Ender is not ready to accept that he can be a killer. He has to move on in the game by choosing love. He will have to become ready to do whatever is necessary to end the war, it seems, but he is not ready to become the necessary killer. Being a killer just sends him into loneliness and despair. but At this point, the letter from Valentine brings back Ender's kindness, not his ruthlessness.
In Chapter 10, Ender isolates Bean in his first day as commander the same way that Graff did to him on their flight to Battle School. Even while he is doing it, he does not understand why-he asks himself, "What does this have to do with being a good commander, making one boy the target of all the others? Just because they did it to me, why should I do it to him?" He decides that he cannot undo it, needing to preserve his authority, because "on the first day, even his mistakes had to look like part of a brilliant plan."
Why does Ender isolate Bean? Bean's isolation might be painful for him, but it might also unite the rest of the army around a common enemy. Besides, Ender knows that his own isolation has made him more independent and a better commander. As Graff says many times throughout the book, Ender must understand that no one will be there to catch him. He must be able to handle everything himself. Isolation forces one to struggle, to earn friendship and respect by proving that one is better than everyone else, and Ender probably realizes that Bean also needs this isolation in order to prepare for the war.
Bean is clearly the youngest of the group, but he is just as obviously the smartest, and he is very talented in the battleroom. Although the two are in many ways different, Ender and Bean are also very alike, and, Bean has the makings of a commander. (In a sequel, Ender's Shadow, Bean is the International Fleet's backup commander in case Ender cannot serve.) Ender might also have a fear of competition, although the age difference suggets that Ender is simply doing what he can to make Bean as good as he can be.
Ender analyzes his actions himself, after the conversation with Bean in the corridor:
That's what I'm doing to you, Bean. I'm hurting you to make you a better soldier in every way. To sharpen your wit. To intensify your effort. To keep you off balance, never sure what's going to happen next, so you always have to be ready for anything, ready to improvise, determined to win no matter what. I'm also making you miserable. That's why they brought you to me, Bean. So you could be just like me. So you could grow up to be just like the old man ... Well, what I've done to you this day, Bean, I've done. But I'll be watching you, more compassionately than you know, and when the time is right you'll find that I'm your friend, and you are the soldier you want to be.
Ender clearly sees much of himself in Bean and, in describing the plan of training, demonstrates his understanding of what has been done to Ender himself.
In his actions and attitude toward Bean, Ender is becoming much like Graff. He is beginning to perceive that manipulation can be an important part of a soldier's experience at Battle School, even though he prefers that his commanders be honest in his own case.