The chapter begins with another anonymous conversation, apparently between X and Y again. Now talking explicitly about Ender, they agree that they’ll need to educate Ender very carefully if he’s to become the next Mazer Rackham. The most important step, X suggests, will be “purging” Ender of his kindness and sweetness.
We had already sensed that Ender was very special, even by the standards of Battle School—that’s why the government wanted Ender’s parents to have another child. But in order for Ender to become the ultimate commander that Graff and the government want, he’ll need to be willing to use violence without hesitation—and this will require a brutal training program in Battle School.
Ender is sitting in a space shuttle, preparing to be sent to Battle School. There are 19 other boys in his shuttle. He notices that they laugh and talk very loudly, which makes him feel lonely and sad. Ender thinks that somewhere, people are watching him. Ender thinks about trying to laugh along with his peers, but finds that he can’t. He remembers walking to the shuttle and being filmed by a cameraman. He’d considered trying to wave to Valentine. The narrator notes that if he’d done so, the footage would have been censored, since the government wants students to seem strong and determined.
So far, the story has been told entirely from Ender’s perspective, or from the perspective of X and Y (one of whom is Graff). In this quick aside, though, the narrator tells us that, unbeknownst to Ender, the footage of children going to Battle School is carefully censored. We begin to realize just how repressive and tyrannical the governments of the future really are: they manipulate their citizens through lies and propaganda—just as Graff lies to and manipulates Ender.
As Ender sits in his shuttle seat, he notices that the wall above him is carpeted, like a floor. He realizes that he might as well be walking on a wall—pretty soon he’ll be in a place with no gravity, after all. He imagines the shuttle “dangling” at the bottom of the Earth, about to “fall” away into space. As Ender thinks, he hears a voice—it’s Graff, greeting him. Graff smiles and jokes, and Ender feels at ease—he’ll have a friend.
We get a sense for why Ender’s calmness and quietness might be assets to him in Battle School. While the other children laugh and talk, Ender thinks about the space he’s in—he reorients himself, refusing to think in terms of up and down, as someone on Earth naturally would. It’s sad to see that Ender thinks of Graff as his friend, as we already know that Graff is nothing of the sort.
The launch proceeds quickly, and before long, Ender finds himself floating in space, “no gravity anywhere.” Because Ender has already been thinking about the arbitrariness of gravity, he’s unsurprised when he sees Graff walking “upside down” through the shuttle. He notices the other boys gagging and vomiting—being in “null gravity” is highly disorienting. Ender smiles, thinking about Graff walking upside down, to the side, etc.—in zero gravity, Ender can imagine Graff walking whatever way he wants.
Ender continues exploring the possibilities of zero gravity. There are long sections of the novel which consist entirely of Card’s descriptions of Ender’s thoughts—but these are interesting and even exciting to read, because of Ender’s portrayal as a genius. Ender is always separate from the rest of the children—this is because he is smarter and more resourceful, but it also means that he lives in perpetual isolation, and without any real friends or experience of fun.
Graff yells at Ender and asks why Ender is smiling. Ender is surprised that Graff is being so angry with him. Ender explains some of his thoughts on zero gravity. Surprisingly, Graff nods and says that Ender is exactly right to have reoriented himself—indeed, Ender is probably the only smart kid on the shuttle. With this, Graff climbs back into his private room, leaving Ender alone with his new peers.
It seems that Graff has already begun his harsh “tests” for Ender by singling Ender out, and then leaving him alone in a shuttle with the resentful other boys. In a way, Graff has been doing this for as long as Ender has been alive: by equipping him with a monitor and isolating him from Peter and his classmates.
Ender hears a boy behind him, muttering that Ender “has it made here.” The boy pokes Ender, and Ender wonders why none of the adults are keeping order. Then he realizes the truth—Ender is being tested for combat. He decides to fight back—when the boy pokes him again, Ender pulls the boy’s hand down. To Ender’s surprise, the boy shoots out of his seat, toward a nearby wall. The boy screams—he’s broken his arm. Graff emerges from his room, sedates the boy and sends him to a medical facility. He yells to the other boys not to mess with Ender Wiggin.
For the second time in the novel, we see Ender fighting defensively—but then going beyond merely defending himself, and severely hurting his opponent when it seems expedient. This tension between self-defense and preemptive attack is essentially a symbol for the larger conflict in the war between the humans and Buggers. As we will learn, the Buggers have made no moves to attack Earth again since their defeat 70 years ago, but commanders like Graff still feel that the best way to ensure there are no more attacks is by preemptively striking out at and destroying the Buggers—just as Ender hurt Stilson excessively to not only defend himself, but also to prevent “all future fights.”
The rest of the flight proceeds uneventfully. The shuttle lands at Battle School, and the boys are sent to disembark (the narrator doesn’t give many details about what Battle School looks like, or what the docking process consists of). As he climbs off the shuttle, Ender sees Graff, and asks him why Graff tried to manipulate the other children into fighting. Graff tells Ender that it’s his job to make Ender a good soldier. The stakes of Battle School—the extermination of the Buggers—are so high that Graff will do everything in his power to make Ender strong enough to protect the human race. Graff dismisses Ender.
Graff is an interesting character because he is essentially an embodiment of the conflict between morality and survival—the question of when a preemptive attack is justified, or when the ends justify the means. Graff truly believes he is doing the right thing and saving millions of human lives, but to do this he must endanger and psychologically damage a child, as well as destroy an entire species that might not even be a real threat.
As Ender walks away, Graff turns and talks to a teacher named Anderson, who’s been watching the conversation. Graff tells Anderson that Ender is wrong—Graff is the best friend Ender has. Graff adds that Ender is a “good” kid. Anderson warns Graff that while Ender has great potential, the Buggers might defeat humans before Ender is ready to fight.
Card closes the chapter with a conversation, consisting entirely of dialogue, between Graff and Anderson. This echoes the openings of previous chapters, and seems like a confirmation that X and Y are Anderson and Graff: Graff the eager (even gleeful) manipulator, and Anderson his reluctant accomplice.