"I think they would have been better with cinnamon," said Carlotta.
Ender ignored their humor. There was no such thing as Formic humor, and he was feeling very Formic right now. "They don't see any point in seeding this planet if they don't have a Hive Queen. And we have none to give them."
"At least we can get them food," said Sergeant. "And tame these feral rabs. In fact, we can kill them, if they want. The ship is theirs, so the rabs are theirs, and if they want them dead, we can sedate them and then blast them all. Make the ship safe for the drones again."
"I'll offer," said Ender. "But it won't change the pointlessness of their lives."
"Won't change the pointlessness of ours, either," said Sergeant.
On the ship, the children obeyed the drones' request that they wipe out the feral rabs. There were plenty of domestic rabs alive in the ecotat and the Hive Queen's chamber. By finding and killing all the feral rabs, the children were rendering the drones' lives bearable. They could feed on slugs to their hearts' content. Their debt of gratitude to the humans -- no, the antonines, the leguminotes -- would be considerable.
If Formics could feel gratitude. Were the drones deceiving them, too?
It took the children a couple of hours to clear out the ship, with drones leading them to every pocket of feral rabs. By this, Bean learned something else: The drones' mental abilities extended to sensing the tiny minds of the rabs. What were the individual workers capable of, if the Hive Queen had ever let them alone? Did they have mental abilities comparable to the drones'? Could they "talk" to each other directly? Or would the Queen always sense the conversation and put a stop to it?
Why did they die when the Queen died? Why didn't the drones die? They were, if anything, more dependent on the Queen, and yet when she lay down and died they flew away. Only the workers died. Why?
So many questions.
"Mission accomplished," said Cincinnatus.
"Two things left to do," said Bean. "Ender's samples -- he needs to get a sample from the drones. Enough to run their genome and compare it to the genome from the dead cocoon. So we can compare male and female, drone and worker."
"I'll try to negotiate a biopsy on some body part that contains their genome. Maybe they kept some relic of the dead ones."
"I already had this planned," said Bean. "While Ender's getting his samples, Carlotta, I need you to figure out a way to get me into the ecotat."
The children were silent.
"No," said Carlotta.
"They must have built the ark with a plan for getting large quantities of plants and animals out of there to ship it down to the planet's surface. However they plan to get that stuff out, I can go in that way."
"It'll kill you," said Ender.
"You're going to dock the Hound with Herodotus at the cargo bay. With both doors open and gravity turned off, a six-year-old could push me into the Hound. You have work to do," he said. "Carlotta, come back with a plan to get me into the ecotat, or don't come back. Ender, get a sample."
"What about me?" asked Cincinnatus.
"Stay with Ender and protect him. I don't think Carlotta will be in any danger."
"No sir," said Cincinnatus. "We stay together. We all watch while Ender gets his sample from the drones, if he can. Then we all go with Carlotta."
The children came back. Bean piloted the Hound for them again, and this time docked it directly over the cargo bay. The Herodotus was designed for this, and soon the doors opened and a much higher ceiling loomed above Bean.
He had not realized how claustrophobic he had felt all these years, how the ceiling had oppressed him as he grew larger and larger. But when it was removed, he felt a great lightening of his spirit. He was almost cheerful.
The children weren't. They were afraid that they would accidently kill him somehow in the transfer. "That's not fair," said Carlotta. "To put that guilt on us."
"No guilt," said Bean. "I'd rather die doing something than lying here like a melon."
They had never seen a melon growing on the ground.
There was work to do before the transfer. Bean insisted that they transfer all the lab equipment first. Bean watched and tried not to fret as the children learned from the drones how to build sealed laboratories in the ecotat. It was a technology well known on the ark, because when they reached the planet's surface it would take time to find or dig tunnels and caves.
Bean had imagined that he might make the transfer in just a few days, but Carlotta was methodical and slow, testing everything. She also insisted on moving a lot of computers out of Herodotus and getting them powered up and networked in the ecotat. And then the big one.