The chapter begins with another anonymous conversation, apparently between Graff and one of his military superiors. The superior points out that Ender seems “Stuck in the Giant’s Drink.” (We don’t yet know what this means.) Graff proposes that the IF “speed up” Ender’s education in the event that the Buggers try another invasion. The superior disagrees, saying that speeding up Ender’s education will make him unstable.
We realize that Graff isn’t the supreme authority in the Battle School: his plans for speeding up Ender’s education aren’t the only point of view on the matter. In a sense, Graff’s priority is defeating the Buggers with Ender and Ender alone, while his superiors’ priority is keeping the Battle School strong and well-functioning, in the hopes that many good commanders will graduate from it. It’s unclear why Graff is given so much leeway and authority, then. The “Giant’s Drink” is a reference to the symbolic virtual reality game Ender plays on his desk.
The chapter opens with Ender being sent, along with the other new students, to the battleroom—a place with zero gravity where the students play war games. Everyone wears a jumpsuit, which makes movement very difficult, and carries a laser pistol. Ender notices that he can move in his suit, and doesn’t get hurt when he crashes into a wall. He and Shen also discover that they can use the laser guns to “freeze” other people: if they shoot, the gun will make a portion of the victim’s suit hard and rigid, so that movement is impossible.
The battleroom is another kind of game, where the students learn how to fight and develop a fondness for combat. It’s also an opportunity for the students to form bonds of friendship with each other—though the constant presence of competition and fighting makes such bonds tenuous. The battleroom will ultimately be symbolic of Ender’s growth and maturation as a commander, but for now, he starts out isolated and adrift (literally).
As Ender and Shen float through the battleroom, they notice Bernard’s best friend, a boy named Alai. Ender collides with Alai, and the two laugh. They decide to experiment with movement in zero gravity, and Alai has the bright idea of “pushing off” of Ender at the same time that Ender does the same thing with him. In this way, both Ender and Alai can move in zero gravity. Ender and Alai begin to become friends, and they make a few jokes at Bernard’s expense. Ender proposes that he, Alai, Shen, and Bernard freeze everyone else in the room. It only takes twenty minutes before everyone else is frozen—and Bernard, Shen, Ender, and Alai now seem to have become friends. Ender realizes what he’s done—he’s created a new “friend group,” with Alai as the leader.
In this section, Ender learns how to maneuver in zero gravity at the same time that he maneuver between friends and friend groups. By the end of the section, Ender has handled his rivalry with Bernard in a seemingly perfect way: he’s created a new friend group with Alai as the leader and himself as the “second in command.” It’s important to recognize that Ender was modest throughout this process—he didn’t try to make himself the new leader, and this is why his plan worked. He and Bernard can be friends, at least for now, because they’re both friendly with Alai.
One day shortly after his first experience in the battleroom, Ender is sitting in his bed, fooling around on his desk. He decides to play a popular virtual reality game. In the game, he travels through a fantasyland full of castles and lakes. In the game, Ender always comes to a Giant who kills Ender in brutal ways. This time, the Giant tells Ender to choose between two magical potions, one of which is poison and the other of which is not. Instead of playing along, Ender attacks the Giant, digging his fingers into the Giant’s eyes. As the Giant collapses, Ender finds that he’s arrived in “Fairyland.” Instead of exploring his new terrain, however, Ender signs out of the game, thinking that he’s every bit as brutal as Peter.
For not the first time in the book, Ender wins an impossible game (something like the unwinnable simulation of the Kobayashi-Maru test from Star Trek, of which Card is a huge fan) by breaking the rules altogether. Instead of choosing between two drinks, Ender “chooses” to attack his challenger head-on. This scene is remarkably similar to the scene in which Ender “breaks the rules” and kicks Stilson—the similarity is underscored by the fact that this chapter, just like the Stilson chapter, ends with Ender realizing that he and Peter are alike.