Sergeant choked and gasped.
"Here's how it's going to be," said Ender. "Your reign of terror is over. You proposed murder and you meant it."
"He didn't mean it," said Carlotta.
"He meant it and you would have helped him with it," said Ender. "If you try to give orders to anybody again, I'll kill you. Do you understand me?"
"You would never kill me," croaked Sergeant.
"I think you're terrified by the fact that nobody ever stopped you from doing anything. Well, this is your lu
cky day. I'm stopping you from now on. Got it?"
"The Giant's going to ask what happened to Sergeant," Carlotta said.
"He won't have to ask," said Ender. "I'm going to repeat our conversation to him, verbatim, and the two of you will be there to listen."
Bean looked at his three children and it was only with effort that he concealed the depth of his grief and fear for them. He had known it was only a matter of time, and while he was relieved that Ender had finally woken out of his long pacifist slumber to end Sergeant's domination, he knew that they had only set the scene for conflict to come. What will happen when I'm gone? thought Bean.
Petra, I have botched this completely, but I don't know how I could have done it better. They've had too much freedom, but I couldn't chase them through corridors where my body no longer fit.
"Andrew," said Bean, "I appreciate your loyalty to me, and the fact that you repeated all conversations verbatim, including the incredibly stupid and dangerous things you said."
Bean watched as Ender blushed a little -- not from embarrassment, but from anger. He also saw how Carlotta looked a little relieved, and Cincinnatus -- Bean had always hated the nickname "Sergeant" -- got a sudden look of triumphant hope.
"Cincinnatus," said Bean. "The fact that Ender is not a killer does not mean he won't kill you, if he feels the need. You see, you're an attacker, a competitor, and you don't understand what Ender is -- a defender, like the boy I named him for. Just because he feels no need to control other people doesn't mean he'll let you take what he doesn't mean for you to have -- including my life. Including his own."
"He sprang on me without warning!" Sergeant shouted.
"You were introducing an entirely new element into your little world -- the murder of Ender's father. And you were so hopelessly ignorant of him that it never crossed your mind that he would react differently to this threat than he had to all your previous bullying," said Bean.
"He wasn't my enemy," said Sergeant.
"He's been the only enemy you faced since you first met him when Petra and I finally located all of you and brought you together when you were one year old. The other male antonine. The rival. You've done nothing that wasn't designed to keep him under your thumb for the past five years. Your imaginary enemies are all surrogates for Andrew Delphiki. You've designed humiliation after humiliation for him, manipulating your sister to side with you against Ender, and here's the sad result. Ender and Carlotta are productive members of our little four-person society, as am I. But you, Cincinnatus Delphiki, are a drain on our resources, producing nothing of value and disrupting the functioning of everyone else. Not to mention criminal conspiracy to commit first-degree murder."
To Bean's surprise, tears filled Sergeant's eyes. "I didn't ask to be on this voyage! I didn't want to go! I didn't like you, I liked Petra, but you never even asked what I wanted!"
"You were only a year old," said Bean.
"You weren't even a year old when you escaped from the lab where they were disposing of your fellow experiments! We could talk, we could think, we had feelings, and you didn't even ask, we were just ripped out of our homes and you and Petra announced that you were our real parents. This big ugly giant and an Armenian military genius. I wanted to stay with the family that was raising me, the woman I called Mother, the ordinary-sized, hardworking man I called Father, but no, you and your wife owned us. Like slaves! Taken here, sent there, your property. And I end up here? In space, near lightspeed, while the rest of the human race moves through time eighty-five times faster than we do. Each year of our lives is a whole lifetime for members of the human race. And you talk to me about my crimes? I'll tell you why I want you dead. You stole me from my real family! You gave me your emossin' Anton's Key and then you took away everybody who ever cared about me and trapped me here with an inert giant and two weaklings who don't even have the sense to know they're slaves!"
Bean had no answer. In the five years of this voyage so far, it had never crossed his mind that the children might remember the women who had borne them when, as embryos, they were stolen and dispersed around the world, implanted in women who had no reason to suspect they were the in vitro offspring of the great generals Julian Delphiki and Petra Arkanian.
"Our birth families were all stupid," said Ender, "and they were terrified of us. Yours was no different. They could hardly bear to touch you, they thought you were a monster, you told us that yourself."
"Well what's this family," Sergeant whispered fiercely. "Father is a talking mountain in the cargo hold, and Mother is a hologram who says the same things over and over and over and over and over and over."
Bean lay back and stared at the ceiling. Then he closed his eyes because he couldn't see the ceiling anyway. Closing his eyes squeezed out the tears that had filled them.
"It was a terrible choice," said Bean softly. "No matter what we did it would be wrong. We didn't talk to you about it because you didn't have enough experience of life to make an intelligent choice. You three were doomed to die by age twenty or so. We thought we'd find a cure quickly -- ten years, twenty -- and you could come back to Earth while you were still young enough to have your whole lives ahead of you." Bean sighed. It took great effort to expel the air from his lungs. "When Petra and I conceived you, it was because we believed there was a scientist who could sort things out. He was the one who turned Anton's Key in me in the first place. The one who killed all my fellow experiments. We never meant to do this to you. But it was done, and all we could think to do was whatever it took to give you a real life."
"Your life is real," said Ender. "I'd be content with a life like yours."
"I'm living in a box that I can never leave," said Bean, clenching his fists. He had never meant to say anything like this to them. The humiliation of his own self-pity was unbearable to him, but they had to understand that he was right to do whatever it took to keep them from getting cheated the way he had been. "If you spend the first five or ten years of your life in space like this, so what? As long as it gives you the next ninety years -- and children who will have their century, and grandchildren. I'll never see any such thing -- but you will."
"No we won't," whispered Sergeant. "There is no cure. We're a new species that has a life span of twenty-two years, apparently, as long as we spend our last five years at ten percent gravity."