The chapter begins with a conversation between Graff and a colleague. Graff and the colleague discuss how Ender is capable of “the impossible”—defeating the Giant in the virtual reality game. They also agree that Ender handled the conflict with Bernard perfectly: he brought peace to his peers without any more fighting. Graff tells his colleague that he won’t hurt Ender any more than is necessary.
In each incarnation of these conversations, Graff seems determined in his goals. He insist that he’s going to hurt Ender, but always for a good reason—defeating the Buggers, thereby supposedly saving humanity. Graff has, of course, noticed how Ender maneuvered his way into becoming friends with Bernard and Alai.
As the chapter begins, Alai tells Ender that he’s finally figured out how Ender hacked into the messaging system and humiliated Bernard: he added a “space” key after Bernard’s name, meaning that he could send messages under a new account. Alai also notes that he can send messages with everyone’s name in this way—except Ender’s. Somehow, Ender has established a security system. He offers to pass on his security system to Alai.
At this time, Ender and Alai seem to be best friends—they talk all the time, and Alai is comfortable asking Ender to tell him the secret of how he hacked into the security system (and Ender is willing to oblige). The very nature of Battle School, however, means that such friendships are often broken by competition or outside manipulation.
Ender and Alai go to their barracks to set up a security system on Alai’s desk. Inside, Ender finds a note on his bed, explaining that he’s been transferred to the Salamander Army, effective immediately. Alai is surprised with this sudden order—he admits that Ender is clever, but he doubts that Ender is coordinated enough to join a team and play the war game so early. Ender is heartbroken: just as he was beginning to make friends, he’s been isolated once again. Ender hugs Alai, and they promise that they’ll always be friends. Alai kisses Ender’s check and whispers “Salaam”—a gesture that Ender recognizes to be sacred and affectionate, even if he doesn’t exactly know what it means.
Just as Ender and Alai seem poised to cement their friendship, Ender is sent to another army. This reminds us of Graff’s plan to isolate Ender from any friends he might make, and to essentially take total control over his development. The kiss and whisper that Alai passes on to Ender are ambiguous—an intimate sign of cultural identity that seemingly has no place in the impersonal Battle School. Alai’s friendship with Ender seems deep and sincere, but, tragically, it seems unlikely to survive Graff’s manipulations.
Ender goes to the game room to wait to join up with his new Salamander teammates. To pass time, he plays the Giant game, picking up where he left off, with the Giant’s death. He walks to a playground, where a group of children pushes him around. The children turn into wolves and attack him. No matter how hard Ender fights, he can’t defend himself from the vicious animals. Suddenly, a message flashes on the screen: Ender must report to his new commander immediately—he is late. Ender rushes out of the game room to join the Salamander Army barracks.
Every time that Ender solves a new challenge (Stilson, Peter, Bernard, the Giant), he faces a new, more dangerous challenge. Thus, as soon as he defeats the Giant, Ender is forced to contend with a pack of wolves. Ender gets so invested in fighting new enemies and solving new challenges that he sometimes loses track of other responsibilities.
Ender rushes to the Salamander Army barracks, where he finds a group of boys who are much older than he is—between 8 and 11 years old. As he sees this, Ender’s heart sinks. He has nothing to offer these people—he has no military training, or battleroom training, to speak of. A tall, attractive boy approaches Ender and asks him for his name and combat experience. Ender explains that he’s young and inexperienced. The boy, whose name is Bonzo Madrid, explains that he is the commander of the Salamander Army, and won’t be using Ender in the teams. As Bonzo explains this, a girl—who introduces herself as Petra—makes a joke about Bonzo. Bonzo slaps Petra and orders her to be silent.
Bonzo Madrid is a new kind of bully, seemingly the next in line after Bernard and Stilson. Here we’re also introduced to Petra, one of the few girls in the Battle School. Graff has implied that women generally don’t reach Battle School because they’re by nature more meek and docile. Card presents Petra as existing in opposition to this stereotype, but it’s also telling that Petra is his only example of this—Card too seems to find it unlikely that many girls would be in Battle School, even in a futuristic society where physical strength has nothing to do with martial skill.
Ender walks with the other soldiers to his new barracks. Inside, he notices Petra, and joins her. Petra explains that she’s a talented soldier—the finest sharpshooter in Salamander—but hasn’t been given a suitable command position. Petra jokes about Bonzo, and offers to teach Ender how to be a soldier (how to shoot, maneuver in the battleroom, etc.). Ender grins and agrees.
It’s implied that Petra hasn’t been given a good command position because she’s a girl, and Bonzo (and perhaps the teachers as well) respect her less. It’s probably because Ender and Petra are both outsiders that they become friends so quickly—Petra recognizes a kindred spirit in the small, lonely Ender.
For the rest of the day, Ender notices the way Bonzo runs his team. He orders everyone to wear their jumpsuits at all times, except for Petra. Ender finds this absurd, since it isolates Petra from the rest of the team. Ender also runs into a soldier named Dink who criticizes Ender for being short and weak. Another Salamander soldier tells Dink that Ender is the soldier who did well in the game room. Privately, Ender is proud of being recognized for his abilities. He plans to run an army one day—hopefully soon.
Even as an isolated member of the Salamander Army, Ender is smart enough to recognize when Bonzo is and isn’t being a good commander. A good commander unites his soldiers together instead of isolating them from each other. Ender also shows that he has an ego and a sense of ambition—he wants to be the best soldier in Battle School, and to prove himself to his detractors.
The next day, Ender proceeds with his practices with Petra, even though other soldiers have warned him that Bonzo doesn’t like other soldiers associating with her. In the battleroom, Petra teaches Ender how to shoot straight, passing on the lessons she’s learned over the years. In the coming weeks, Ender and Petra continue their practices. Ender neglects his schoolwork, recognizing that it’s more important for him to learn how to fight in the battleroom.
Ender recognizes almost right away that the battleroom is more important than Battle School—school is important, but learning how to achieve victory in direct combat is more relevant to Ender’s long-term goals. Ender sacrifices his loyalty to Bonzo by training with Petra, but this investment seems to be paying off: he becomes a much better soldier.
In the evening, Ender attends a mandatory practice with the other Salamander soldiers. Although Ender isn’t yet a good soldier, he notices ways that Bonzo could be a better commander. Bonzo insists on strict regimentation in all maneuvers—but this makes his soldiers bad at improvisation.
Ender continues to notice Bonzo’s mistakes as a leader—mirroring Ender’s own self-education as a future commander. He doesn’t have any subordinates of his own yet, but Ender is always learning from others and developing future plans.
One evening, Petra leaves Ender to himself. Ender decides to return to his old barracks. There, he finds Bernard, along with Alai. He invites them to practice maneuvers in the battleroom. Together, Ender, Shen, Alai, and Bernard practice aiming, and Ender passes on some of the lessons that Petra taught him.
Ender isn’t selfish about his new training and knowledge—he tries to keep his friendships going by passing on his new information to his peers.
The next day, Bonzo confronts Ender about practicing with his old friends. Ender explains that the only way he’ll become a better soldier is by practicing. He adds that Bonzo doesn’t have the authority to control what Ender does in his free time. Bonzo is furious, but only says that Ender must obey him, “or else.” He grudgingly tells Ender that he’s allowed to continue practicing. Ender is privately disgusted by Bonzo because of his amateurish commanding abilities—a real commander, Ender thinks, controls his emotions instead of making foolish threats.
In this tense confrontation, it’s clear enough who the real authority is. Bonzo may be bigger and older, but Ender is calmer, more clear-headed, and more rational. These qualities make Ender the deadliest of opponents—he can use his anger intelligently, rather than lettering it control him, as it controls Bonzo. All the time, Ender is compiling a list of what it means to be a good leader.
Four days after his run-in with Bonzo, Ender is preparing for his first battle with Salamander Army. The army is about to begin a game in the battleroom. They step out and notice that the room is full of large, brown boxes called “stars”—these will be important in the war games they’re about to play. Bonzo pulls Ender aside and orders him not to take his gun out during the battle.
Bonzo is clearly insecure, and tries to prove his authority and machismo by isolating Ender and giving him counterproductive orders. Ender seems to see the bigger picture, though, and recognizes that the battleroom isn’t about winning or losing—it’s about gaining skills, knowledge, and respect. One of these skills is how to be a good leader.
The battle begins. The Salamander Army faces a tough opponent: the Condor Army. Ender notices that the Condor soldiers are good shooters, and freeze many Salamander soldiers. He decides to minimize his visible surface area by pointing his legs at Condor soldiers—this way, he’s a much smaller target. Ender sees Petra shooting many enemy soldiers. He feels himself being shot and frozen, and watches as the Condor soldiers quickly shoot the remaining Salamander soldiers. The Condor army wins the game by sending five soldiers through the Salamander army’s side of the battleroom. Ender notes that if he’d disobeyed Bonzo and shot even one soldier, the Condor army wouldn’t have been able to muster the five necessary soldiers.
Ender’s first real experience in the battleroom is highly educational. He sees soldiers executing complicated maneuvers, and naturally arranges himself in a strategic way. The zero-gravity battleroom is all about position, orientation, and movement, and Ender seems to excel at this kind of spatial thinking. Just as Ender observes Bonzo to learn what a commander should and shouldn’t do, he observes the battleroom to learn how he should and shouldn’t fight. It’s clear that Bonzo is more concerned with maintaining authority than learning from others—or even winning.
After the battle, Ender expects Bonzo to tell him that it’s all right for him to shoot. Instead, Bonzo says nothing to him. The other Salamander soldiers ask Ender why he didn’t fire his weapon—he could have turned defeat into a draw. Ender calmly replies that he followed Bonzo’s orders. A few days later, the Salamander soldiers prepare for another battle. Bonzo pulls Ender aside and gives him the same order: Ender is not to fire his weapon for any reason.
Ender assumes that Bonzo’s highest priority is winning the battle, but this isn’t the case—Bonzo is incredibly stubborn, and cares more about honor and his own pride. He can’t stand to contradict himself in front of Ender, a soldier who’s already disobeyed him multiple times, even when it means potentially sacrificing victory for his entire team.
Over the coming weeks, Ender practices shooting in his free time. He turns seven, but doesn’t celebrate his birthday with anyone. Soldiers don’t talk about their lives at home, and certainly don’t celebrate birthdays.
Card moves the story along so quickly here that we’re only dimly aware that the characters are growing older. Ender turns seven, but the date is essentially meaningless to him. His growth is no longer measured in years, but in his experiences in the battleroom.
One day, Salamander Army faces a fight with the Leopard Army. Although the Leopard Army is new and weak, they have novel strategies, and use tactics that confuse Bonzo’s overly regimented troops. As Ender watches Leopard defeat Salamander, he decides to fight. He freezes his own legs, thereby creating a protection for the rest of his body, and pushes himself outward toward Leopard’s gate. Ender shoots five opponents before he’s frozen himself. As a result, the game is a draw: neither side has the minimum five troops needed to win.
Ender decides that by now, he’s made his point by being obedient to Bonzo, and it’s time to prove that Bonzo is abusing his authority. Also Ender’s desire to act and his ambition for victory proves stronger than any loyalty he still might have for Bonzo. In the end, Ender’s ambition pays off, but there will surely be consequences from the bullying Bonzo. As usual, Ender invents a new strategy as soon as he starts to fight.
After the game, Salamander troops mutter about how Ender turned defeat into a draw by disobeying Bonzo’s orders. The next day, Bonzo approaches Ender and tells him that he’s been traded to the Rat Army. Bonzo then hits Ender, hard, and yells at him for disobeying his order. Although Ender is in pain, he’s secretly happy—Bonzo has made himself look foolish by punishing a soldier for success in battle.
Ender is satisfied that he’s created a mood of disobedience in Salamander Army. Bonzo had maintained an atmosphere of tight control, but now, everyone can see that his control is meaningless and even damaging, since it doesn’t translate into victories in the battleroom.
Ender says goodbye to Petra and thanks her for all her help. Then he leaves Salamander, is issued a new uniform, and goes to join Rat Army. He also registers for a self-defense class in his free time, so that nobody will be able to beat him up the way Bonzo did.
Ender still thinks of himself as a defensive fighter, but as was the case with Stilson and Bernard, Ender wants to learn how to not just defend himself, but also to fight back—and even intimidate.