Graff gives Anderson the order to make Ender a commander, and Anderson agrees, apologizing for doubting his superior's tactics. Anderson mentions that Ender has been happy and playing well lately. After Anderson leaves to go get Ender, Graff says to himself that he hopes Ender has enjoyed being happy, because things are about to get considerably worse for his brilliant student. They make Ender the commander of Dragon Army, an army that has been defunct for several years, and give him an army of mostly untrained Launchies with several veterans. All are younger than Ender's nine and a half years, and he is forbidden to make any trades.
Ender meets his soldiers and immediately takes them to the battleroom for practice. He shows them that gravity has no meaning in the battleroom and they must leave it behind; the only thing that matters is the direction of the enemy, which he says is always down. He drills his army, learning about each of the soldiers as he does. One soldier, a small boy named Bean is very quick and good, and Ender picks on him, asking him for answers that the other soldiers do not have.
Bean confronts Ender and asks to be made a platoon leader, or "toon leader." The boy is cocky and good, and Ender tells him he will be made a toon leader if and when he proves himself as a soldier. Ender is then left wondering why he singled Bean out. Then he realizes that he has done to Bean the same thing that Graff did to him over three years before. Ender understands that Graff isolated him to make him the best soldier he could be, and he is now doing it to Bean. However, he is determined to be Bean's friend, even if his soldier does not know it.
Anderson tells Ender that he can no longer hold his informal practices, and Ender realizes that things are to be different now that he is a commander. He sees Alai in the game room, and they realize that even between them things must now be different. However, he knows that he still has the memory of the word salaam that Alai whispered in his ear those years ago, and that memory will stay with him, like his memory of Valentine. And Ender knows also that the teachers can no longer hurt him. He sees that they used Valentine as a weapon, and he determines to defeat them for it.
Ender's promotion to commander changes both his military and psychological status. He is now forced to give orders, to be a disciplinarian. However, he still cares, and even though he picked on Bean he wants to be there for him, to help him. In this way Ender actually becomes very much like Graff, even though he thinks he is his opposite. Ender believes that Graff is using him, and that is true, but he does not know that Graff really is his friend. In the same way, Bean will not know that Ender cares about him. Some manipulation is necessary in order to make soldiers the best that they can be. Ender does not understand how he is being manipulated, and it is necessary that he does not know. The only way for him to be a great commander is for him to hate the teachers, to blame them for what he has been forced to become, and he is right to do so. At the same time, they are only doing what they need to do. The way he treats his army is a miniature model of the way the adults have been manipulating him. Everyone is acting out of necessity, and each lower level blames those above.
The novel also explores the difficulty of taking responsibility in a military environment by showing that Graff and the other adults is that they have no one to blame for their actions but themselves. They can only use the fact that they are saving the world as justification for what they are doing. It is clearly worth it to them to mistreat children if it makes them into the fighters they will need to save the rest of humanity, but it does not make it any easier to do so. In Bean Ender sees himself, and he realizes that he can take Graff's path but still retain his humanity. He does not know that Graff himself is attempting the same thing.