A Young Man with Prospects
Included in Ender in Exile
by Orson Scott Card
"Do you know what I did today, Alessandra?"
"No, Mother." Fourteen-year-old Alessandra set her book bag on the floor by
the front door and walked past her mother to the sink, where she poured
herself a glass of water.
"Got the electricity turned back on?"
"The elves would not speak to me," said Mother. It had once been funny, this
game that electricity came from elves. But it wasn't funny now, in the
sweltering Adriatic summer, with no refrigeration for the food, no air-conditioning, and no vids to distract her from the heat.
"Then I don't know what you did, Mother."
"I changed our lives," said Mother. "I created a future for us."
Alessandra froze in place and uttered a silent prayer. She had long since given
up hope that any of her prayers would be answered, but she figured each
unanswered prayer would add to the list of grievances she would take up with
God, should the occasion arise.
"What future is that, Mother?"
Mother could hardly contain herself. "We are going to be colonists."
Alessandra sighed with relief. She had heard all about the Dispersal Project in
school. Now that the Formics had been destroyed, the idea was for humans to
colonize all their former worlds, so that humanity's fate would not be tied to
that of a single planet. But the requirements for colonists were strict. There
was no chance that an unstable, irresponsible -- no, pardon me, I meant
"feckless and fay" -- person like Mother would be accepted.
"Well, Mother, that's wonderful."
"You don't sound excited."
"It takes a long time for an application to be approved. Why would they take
us? What do we know how to do?"
"You're such a pessimist, Alessandra. You'll have no future if you must frown
at every new thing." Mother danced around her, holding a fluttering piece of
paper in front of her. "I put in our application months ago, darling Alessandra.
Today I got word that we have been accepted!"
"You kept a secret for all this time?"
"I can keep secrets," said Mother. "I have all kinds of secrets. But this is no
secret, this piece of paper says that we will journey to a new world, and on that
new world you will not be part of a persecuted surplus, you will be needed, all
your talents and charms will be noticed and admired."
All her talents and charms. At the coleggio, no one seemed to notice them.
She was merely another gawky girl, all arms and legs, who sat in the back and
did her work and made no waves. Only Mother thought of Alessandra as some
extraordinary, magical creature.
"Mother, may I read that paper?" asked Alessandra.
"Why, do you doubt me?" Mother danced away with the letter.
Alessandra was too hot and tired to play. She did not chase after her. "Of
course I doubt you."