But in their frenzy they broke into four of the tram tubes. Now the rabs inside the ecotat, as they collected slugs and put them into the trams, were really feeding the feral rabs. Only one tram continued to send unneeded slugs into the Queen's lair. The only reason the rabs left that one alone was that they were getting plenty to eat from the other four. It didn't occur to their tiny minds to search for more.

All of this Ender received through visions and feelings put into his mind. It was a constant struggle to make sense of what he was seeing, but he never lost track of the intensity of purpose that the drones felt as they, through the one drone, "talked" to him.

It finally dawned on him what they wanted. Give us the Hive Queen. He pictured each of his sibs and himself, and showed that they were also searching for the Hive Queen. He showed them searching through the Herodotus and finding nothing. He hoped they were getting the message: We have no Hive Queen.

In reply, an image came into his mind, a very clear one. A young man under the open sky of a planet, carrying a cocoon like the one Ender had in his samples case.

"They want a cocoon," said Ender. "Get the cocoon we took and give it to them."

The drones let go of him and his mind came back. No, his mind had been there all along. He had simply lost full control of it until the drones left him alone. He felt so small and empty.

Ender opened his eyes and maneuvered himself to watch as Carlotta opened the sample case and took out the cocoon.

At once the drones swarmed to it, seized it, flew with it to the middle of the room, pressed themselves against it.

After a long moment, they let go of it and flew together to a corner of the room, where they swarmed, but not in the normal way. They kept bumping into each other -- hard enough that it would bruise a human. Bumping, bumping.

And he realized: They're grieving. They're so sad.

The cocoon continued drifting. Ender moved near it, caught it, returned it to the sample case.

As soon as the case was closed, a drone came back to him, flying so fast that Ender thought he was being attacked. He caught a glimpse of the ever-alert Sergeant aiming the fog at the drone, but Ender didn't even have to say no. Carlotta put out a restraining hand.

The drone landed and latched on to him. Images flooded Ender's mind again, but not in the confused way. There was despair and hunger in the drone's message, but he was not angry. Nor were the other drones, whom Ender could sense contributing to the message.

The cocoon that Ender had offered them was empty. Dead. It was just another of the cocoons from the Queen's chamber -- they had all died with the Queen.

But they knew of a living Queen, one who had never been on this ship. They needed her now. A human had her, and they could even show Ender his face, but he had no idea who it was.

They showed him the inside of the ecotat, all the plants, the small animals. Trees, insects, grasses, flowers, roots, small climbers, creepers, all inside the cylinder.

They showed him Formic workers loading plants and animals into the huge insectile landing vehicles and launching them down through the atmosphere, where they opened and Formic workers unloaded them, planted things, reducing all the native flora and fauna to protoplasmic goo like the vile liquid in the Hive Queen's lair.

It's what they were doing on Earth during the scouring of China. Turn the native life-forms into a nutrient-rich soup and then start growing useful Formic plants and animals in it.

But as soon as it was clear that Ender understood, the messenger drone pointedly made the Formic workers disappear.

Then another image of the Formic landing vehicle opening up. Instead of a Formic worker coming out, this time it was a drone. But it wasn't flying. It was creeping on the surface. It was being crushed by the gravity of the planet. It was dying.

They need a Hive Queen. They can't live on a planet's surface unless they're clinging to a queen.

They showed him again the young man with the cocoon, only this time they showed the cocoon opening up under a bright sun on a planet full of life, and when the cocoon tore open, what came out was a Hive Queen.

Ender blotted out that image. I don't have a Hive-Queen-in-a-cocoon for you. Instead he tried to show them images of himself and Sergeant and Carlotta unloading things planting things. But the drone who was touching him rejected the image, blotting it out. It replaced the image with picture of hundreds of Formic workers swarming over the surface of the world, tending fields, carrying loads, building things -- and then he erased the workers.

For some reason they couldn't accept the idea of humans planting their flora and fauna on the planet.

No, no, Ender was missing the point, thinking like a human. They were showing him that the whole thing was pointless to them if there was no queen to populate the world.

Ender was getting more adept with the image-language, and now he repeated back to them the image of the dying Formic workers at the time of the Hive Queen's death. Why? He pushed his inquiry at them with great urgency. Why did the Formic workers die?

They answered him by showing the dead Hive Queen.

Why does the death of the Hive Queen cause the death of the workers?

He had no idea if they really understood. They simply showed the dead Hive Queen again.

So Ender tried juxtaposition. He remembered the dead Hive Queen, then the dying Formics, but then contrasted them with the swarming drones. Dying workers, living drones, dying workers, living drones, and all the time his urgent inquiry.

Tags: Orson Scott Card The Shadow Science Fiction
Source: www.StudyNovels.com