8 Years Later...
Graff stepped out of the elevator and out onto the deck that housed several small shuttles, hoping he would find who he was looking for there. He wasted only a brief moment looking for Ender, almost expecting to see him repairing a ship or chatting with a crew member, though he knew the Wiggin boy was long gone. His sister, bless her, bless her a thousand times, had taken the first colony ship to settle the worlds left behind by the buggers.
He took a moment to relish that thought, not for the first time. The buggers were gone. Ender had done it.
It had all been worth it.
Finally he spotted the figure he had been looking for. She wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the girl he remembered Ã¢â‚¬â€œ she was almost a woman now, a rather impressive woman who directed the workmen around with the ease of an experienced commander. She had done well for herself here, had made the best of her confinement.
Now he could offer her a bid for freedom.
She turned around, sharply, and looked Graff up and down. For a moment he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if she was going to answer him or spit in his face, but eventually she managed a gruff reply.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“They donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t call me that any more. Not sinceÃ¢â‚¬Â¦not anymore.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Graff didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what they called her now, and didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ask.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m here to offer you a place on the next colony ship.Ã¢â‚¬Â
BizzBizz threw back her head and laughed. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Are you now? What, you want to send me even Ã¢â‚¬â€œfarther- away? No thanks.Ã¢â‚¬Â A pause. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not that I believe youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re serious anyway. You always did tend to think you were God, but I doubt even He could get me passage.Ã¢â‚¬Â
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d been expecting that. He showed her his badge.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Minister of Colonization? They let youÃ¢â‚¬Â¦my Ã¢â‚¬â€œGod-Ã¢â‚¬Â¦you got away scott free, didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You might say we all did. In the sense that our home planet wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ravaged by buggers and turned into another world for their kind.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Oh, yes, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right,Ã¢â‚¬Â BizzBizz spat. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Your precious Ender. I got to meet him, you know. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s crazy. Completely out of his mind. Congratulations.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Graff spoke quietly. Ã¢â‚¬Å“And you? How are you?Ã¢â‚¬Â
She turned away, almost before he could see the tears spring from her eyes.
She sniffed. Ã¢â‚¬Å“God Ã¢â‚¬â€œ yes, -still-. What, you think you get over something like that?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Graff shook his head, knowing all too well. Ã¢â‚¬Å“No. I suppose you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. AndÃ¢â‚¬Â¦it was harder for you, I suppose. You knew more than the others.Ã¢â‚¬Â
A dark laugh. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yeah, sure. Much good did it do me.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It did some good.Ã¢â‚¬Â
BizzBizz didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t answer. Instead, she turned back to her ship and made to take off a panel.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The new colony needs a chief of police. A town sheriff, you might say. Think about it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He walked away, but not before he saw her hesitate in her work.
She was in.
Dimak couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait to get out of here, to leave all of his demons behind and start fresh on another world. He had jumped at the offer Graff made right away, but, as were all things with the Minister, it was conditional.
And so he made his way to the infirmary. Graff had asked him to extend an invitation, thinking it would be better received from him. Why, Dimak had no idea.
She was stitching up a little boyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cut, a rather nasty gash on his chin, and so he waited silently while she worked. It was obvious that she knew he was there, but she said nothing until she had sent the boy on his way.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Strip and put on a gown. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be back in a minute.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Dimak was sure he could not look more embarrassed. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Najada, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not here forÃ¢â‚¬Â¦IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m...fine, I just wanted to talk to you.Ã¢â‚¬Â Oh, this was going really well Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Graff was going to be thrilled.
Najda peered at him for a long moment, holding up her stethoscope threateningly. Dimak wondered if she had put it in the freezer recently.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Fine. What do you want?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Surprised at this simple acquiescence, Dimak took a moment to collect his thoughts while Najda tapped her foot impatiently. He was reminded that he was keeping her from patients, and kept his offer brief.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a place on the next colony ship for you, if you want it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Najda looked tempted to make a rude gesture, but instead simply gave him a curt nod.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Fine. Is that all you had to say to me?Ã¢â‚¬Â At his mute affirmation, she stepped briskly to the door and opened it, silently inviting him to get the hell out of her office. Leaving seemed like a pretty good idea to him; it had been stupid to come.
He did, however, offer a parting shot as he left.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“All the other Dragons are going. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure what theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll do without you.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He thought he heard her weeping as he closed the door.
Willie was there, and Grenn. Dap scanned the crowd and spotted Talia and Janie. BizzBizz and Najda stood in front, ready to board as soon as the captain finished his final preflight.
This was the last of them, the last of the first Dragons. How they had escaped the wrath of the vicious gang intent on destroying the weakest students was beyond him Ã¢â‚¬â€œ whether by luck, or by skill, it didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter any more. They owed these children so much, and they could never, ever pay it back.
And then there was the other one, the solo artist. Some thought he was trying to send a message, though to whom, and what he was trying to say, no one ever truly understood. Forensics had eventually revealed what deduction could not; underneath the quiet, disenfranchised exterior of one Zenan X Clark, a vicious murderer lied in wait. If these others, the survivors, had ever been able to make sense of any of this, they had never shared. Dap thought that was only fair, after the teachers had told them so very little.
He sighed and watched the children board the spacecraft. These survivors were damaged, yes, but they had survived, and together they would build a new world. He could not forget that once these children had murdered too, and with alarming brutality at that, but they could hardly be blamed. Dap knew the guilt rested with the teachers. And it was so easy, watching the last of them disappear, to believe that mistakes didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to haunt you for the rest of your life, that the future was unwritten. That there was hope in this world, and in the next.