"Open the airlock!" shouted Carlotta. Sergeant apparently had the presence of mind to remember where the lever was that controlled the outer door.
"Catch one and hold on to it," said Ender.
"You're a cold marubo," said Carlotta, not admiringly. But it was the right thing to do, and they both knew it.
The creature partially blocking the helmet's viewers blew away.
"I've got the one on my body," said Sergeant. "It's trying to eat through my suit."
"Get rid of it," said the Giant urgently.
"No, I'm holding it by the back now, away from me. It's just wriggling now. It's not sentient."
"How do you know?" asked the Giant.
"Because it's stupid," said Sergeant. "Quick but dumb, like a crab maybe."
"Get back to the Puppy," said the Giant.
"It's an air-breather," said the Sergeant. "Or maybe it just likes atmospheric pressure, because it finally stopped wriggling."
"Flash frozen," said Ender. "Good way to gather specimens. Except for the destruction of every cell in its body."
"We'll still be able to tell a lot about it," said Carlotta. "When he gets it back here."
"You mean I'll be able to tell a lot about it," said Ender.
"Are you going to keep what you find a secret from us?" asked Sergeant. "Or will we all know?"
"He's just being a brat," said Carlotta. "I don't know what's got into him."
"He's jealous because I got to do something important for once," said Sergeant.
The words stung because they were more than a little bit true.
"It looks to me," said Ender, "as if the rats have taken over the ship."
"Oh, that's too much," said Carlotta, standing up and facing Ender in a rage. "Sergeant risked his life while you sat here all cozy and --"
"Carlotta, stand down," said the Giant's voice -- over the intercom this time, instead of coming through the computer. "Ender wasn't talking about our ship."
Carlotta instantly understood. "So you think that creature Sergeant caught is just ... vermin?"
"Maybe it had some other function before," said Ender, "or they wouldn't have had them on their ship. But they're vermin now."
"Sergeant will be back in a minute," the Giant said, "and we have to take this creature apart and analyze it. And keep this in mind, please: Somebody or something on that ship parked it in geosynchronous orbit. Until we know who or what did that, we have no idea what kind of danger or opportunity we've run into here."
While Ender analyzed the half-exploded corpse of the alien rat-crab, Carlotta and Cincinnatus made repeated trips to the alien vessel in the Puppy. They did not return to the airlock. Instead, with Sergeant to protect her in case the ship started trying to defend itself and repel their tiny invasion, Carlotta opened all the maintenance hatches and took measurements and charted wiring and did whatever other engineering tasks were within her reach to figure out how the ship worked and, if possible, get some idea of what awaited them inside.
Both projects were getting fascinating results; Bean checked in on them every hour or so, and kept the audio channels on so that if they said anything, he could respond, just so they thought he was looking over their shoulders.
He wasn't, though. He had a project of his own. He was using the Herodotus's instruments and drones to probe the planet they were orbiting.
After two days of study, Ender had his report ready, and so did Carlotta and Sergeant. They gathered in the cargo hold for show and tell.
Ender began it.