View Full Version : Mote In God's Eye, The - Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

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06-07-2007, 08:13 PM
Chapter 13 - Look Around You


Look Around You

She was the first to find the intruders.
She had been exploring a shapeless mass of stony asteroid that turned out to be mostly empty space. Some earlier culture had carved out rooms and nooks and tankages and storage chambers, then fused the detritus into more rooms and chambers, until the mass was a stone beehive. It had all happened very long ago, but that was of no interest to her.
In later ages meteoroids had made dozens of holes through the construct. Thick walls had been gradually thinned so that air might be chemically extracted from the stone. There was no air now. There was no metal anywhere. Dry mummies, and stone, stone, little else and nothing at all for an Engineer.
She left via a meteoroid puncture; for all the air locks had been fused shut by vacuum welding. A long time after that someone had removed their metal working parts.
After she was outside, she saw them, very tar away, a tiny glimmer of golden light against the Coal Sack. It was worth a look. Anything was worth a look.
The Engineer returned to her ship.
Telescope and spectrometer failed her at first. There were two of the golden slivers, and some bulk inside each of them, but something was shutting out her view of the masses inside. Patiently the Engineer went to work on her instruments, redesigning, recalibrating, rebuilding, her hands working at blinding speed guided by a thousand Cycles of instincts.
There were force fields to be penetrated. Presently she had something that would do that. Not well, but she could see large objects.
She looked again.
Metal. Endless, endless metal.
She took off immediately. The call of treasure was not to be ignored. There was little of free will in an Engineer.


Blaine watched a flurry of activity through a red fog as he fought to regain control of his traitor body after return to normal space. An all-clear signal flashed from Lenin, and Rod breathed more easily. Nothing threatened, and he could enjoy the view.
It was the Eye he saw first. Murcheson's Eye was a tremendous ruby, brighter than a hundred full moons, all alone on the black velvet of the Coal Sack.
On the other side of the sky, the Mote was the brightest of a sea of stars. All systems looked this way at breakout: a lot of stars, and one distant sun. To starboard was a splinter of light, Lenin, her Langston Field radiating the overload picked up in the Eye.
Admiral Kutuzov made one final check and signaled Blaine again. Until something threatened, the scientists aboard MacArthur were in charge. Rod ordered coffee and waited for information.
At first there was maddeningly little that he hadn't already known. The Mote was only thirty-five light years from New Scotland, and there had been a number of observations, some dating back to Jasper Murcheson himself. A G2 star, less energetic than Sol, cooler, smaller and a bit less massive. It showed almost no sunspot activity at the moment, and the astrophysicists found it dull.
Rod had known about the gas giant before they started. Early astronomers had deduced it from perturbations in the Mote's orbit around the Eye. They knew the gas giant planet's mass and they found it almost where they expected, seventy degrees around from them. Heavier than Jupiter, but smaller, much denser, with a degenerate matter core. While the scientists worked, the Navy men plotted courses to the gas giant, in case one or the other warship should need to refuel. Scooping up hydrogen by ramming through a gas giant's atmosphere on a hyperbolic orbit was hard on ships and crew but a lot better than being stranded in an alien system.
"We're searching out the Trojan points now, Captain," Buckman told Rod two hours after breakout
"Any sign of the Mote planet?"
"Not yet." Buckman hung up.
Why was Buckman concerned with Trojan points? Sixty degrees ahead of the giant planet in its orbit, and sixty degrees behind, would be two points of stable equilibrium, called Trojan points after the Trojan asteroids that occupy similar points in Jupiter's orbit. Over millions of years they ought to have collected dust clouds and clusters of asteroids. But why would Buckman bother with these?
Buckman called again when he found the Trojans. "They're packed!" Buckman gloated. "Either this whole system is cluttered with asteroids from edge to edge or there's a new principle at work. There's more junk in Mote Beta's Trojans than has ever been reported in another system. It's a wonder they haven't all collected to form a pair of moons -- "
"Have you found the habitable planet yet?"
"Not yet," said Buckman, and faded off the screen. That was three hours after breakout.

He called back hail an hour later. "Those Trojan point asteroids have very high albedos, Captain. They must be thick with dust. That might explain how so many of the larger particles were captured. The dust clouds slow them down, then polish them smooth -- "
"Dr. Buckman! There is an inhabited world in this system and it is vital that we find it. These are the first intelligent aliens -- "
"Dammit Captain, we're looking! We're looking!" Buckman glanced to one side, then withdrew. The screen was blank for a moment, showing only a badly focused shot of a technician in the background.
Blaine found himself confronting Science Minister Horvath, who said, "Please excuse the interruption, Captain~ Do I understand you are not satisfied with our search methods?"
"Dr. Horvath, I have no wish to intrude on your prerogatives. But you've taken over all my instruments, and I keep hearing about asteroids. I wonder if we're all looking for the same thing?"
Horvath's reply was mild. "This is not a space battle, Captain." He paused. "In a war operation, you would know your target. You would probably know the ephemeris of the planets in any system of interest -- "
"Hell, survey teams find planets."
"Ever been on one, Captain?"

"Well, think about the problem we face. Until we located the gas giant and the Trojan asteroids we weren't precise about the plane of the system. From the probe's instruments we have deduced the temperature the Modes find comfortable, and from that we deduce how far from their sun their planet should be-and we still must searth out a toroid a hundred and twenty million kilometers in radius. Do you follow me?"
Blaine nodded.
"We're going to have to search that entire region. We know the planet isn't hidden behind the sun because we're above the plane of the system. But when we finish photographing the system we have to examine this enormous star field for the one dot of light we want."
"Perhaps I was expecting too much."
"Perhaps. We're all waiting as fast as we can." He smiled-a spasm that lifted his whole face for a split second-and vanished.
Six hours after breakout Horvath reported again. There was no sign of Buckman. "No, Captain, we haven't found the inhabited planet. But Dr. Buckman's time-wasting observations have identified a Motie civilization. In the Trojan points."
"They're inhabited?"
"Definitely. Both Trojan points are seething with microwave frequencies. We should have guessed from the high albedos of the larger bodies. Polished surfaces are a natural product of civilization-I'm afraid Dr. Buckman's people think too much in terms of a dead universe."
"Thank you, Doctor. Is any of that message traffic for us?"
"I don't think so, Captain. But the nearest Trojan point is below us in this system's plane-about three million kilometers away. I suggest we go there. From the apparent density of civilization in the Trojan points it may be that the inhabited planet is not the real nexus of Motie civilization. Perhaps it is like Earth. Or worse."
Rod was shocked. He had found Earth herself shocking, not all that many years ago. New Annapolis was kept on Manhome so that Imperial officers would know just how vital was the great task of the Empire.
And if men had not had the Alderson Drive before Earth's last battles, and the nearest star had been thirtyfive light years away instead of four- "That's a horrible thought."
"I agree. It's also only a guess, Captain. But in any event there is a viable civilization nearby, and I think we should go to it."
"I-just a moment." Chief Yeoman Lud Shattuck was at the bridge companionway gesturing frantically at Rod's number-four screen.
"We used the message-sending locator scopes, Skipper," Shattuck shouted across the bridge. "Look, sir."
The screen showed black space with pinhole dots of stars and a blue-green point circled by an indicator lightring. As Rod watched, the point blinked, twice.
"We've found the inhabited planet," Rod said with satisfaction. He couldn't resist. "We beat you to it, Doctor."

After all the waiting, it was as if everything broke at once.The light was first. There might have been an Earthilke world behind it; there probably was, for it was in the doughnut locus Horvath was searching. But the light hid whatever was behind it, and it wasn't surprising that the communications people had found it first. Watching for signals was their job.
Cargill and Horvath's team worked together to answer the pulses. One, two, three, four blinked the light, and Cargill used the forward batteries to send five, six, seven. Twenty minutes later the light sent three one eight four eleven, repeated, and the ship's brain ground out: P1, base twelve. Cargill used the computer to find e to the same base and replied with that.
But the true message was, We want to talk to you. And MacArthur's answer was, Fine. Elaborations would have to wait.
And the second development was already in.
"Fusion light," said Sailing Master Renner. He bent close over his screen. His fingers played strange, silent music on his control board. "No Langston Field. Naturally. They're just enclosing the hydrogen, fusing it and blasting it out. A plasma bottle. It's not as hot as our drives, which means lower efficiency. Red shift, if I'm reading the impurities right...it must be aimed away from us."
"You think it's a ship coming to meet us?"
"Yessir. A small one. Give us a few minutes and I'll tell you its acceleration. Meanwhile, we assume an acceleration of one gee...Renner's fingers had been tapping all the while "...and get a mass of thirty tons. Later we'll readjust that."
"Too big to be a missile," Blaine said thoughtfully. "Should we meet him halfway, Mr. Renner?"
Renner frowned. "There's a problem. He's aiming at where we are now. We don't know how much fuel he's got, or how bright he is."
"Let's ask, anyway. Eyes! Get me Admiral Kutuzov." The Admiral was on his bridge. Blurs out of focus behind him showed activity aboard Lenin. "I've seen it, Captain," Kutuzov said. "What do you want to do about it?"
"I want to go meet that ship. But in case it can't change course or we can't catch it, it will come here, sir. Lenin could wait for it."
"And do what, Captain? My instructions are clear, Lenin is to have nothing to do with aliens."
"But you could send out a boat, sir. A gig, which we'll pick up with your men. Sir."
"How many boats do you think I have, Blaine? Let me repeat my instructions. Lenin is here to protect secret of Alderson Drive and Langston Field. To accomplish task we will not only not communicate with aliens, we will not communicate with you when message might be intercepted."
"Yes, sir." Blaine stared at the burly man on the screen. Didn't he have a shred of curiosity? Nobody could be that much of a machine...or could he? "We'll go to the alien ship, sir. Dr. Horvath wants to anyway."
"Very good, Captain. Carry on."
"Yes, sir." Rod cut off the screen with relief, then tuned to Renner. "Let's go make first contact with an alien, Mr. Renner."
"I think you just did that," said Renner. He glanced nervously at the screens to be sure the Admiral was gone.

Horace Bury was just leaving his cabin-on the theory that he might be less bored somewhere else-when Buckman's head popped out of a companionway.
Bury changed his mind at once. "Dr. Buckman! May I offer you coffee?"
Protuberant eyes turned, blinked, focused. "What? Oh. Yes, thank you, Bury. It might wake me. There's been so much to do-I can only stay a moment -- "
Buckman dropped into Bury's guest chair, limp as a physician's display skeleton. His eyes were red; his eyelids drooped at half-mast. His breathing was too loud. The stringy muscle tissue along his bare arm drooped. Bury wondered what an autopsy would show if Buckman were to die at this moment: exhaustion, malnutrition, or both?
Bury made a difficult decision. "Nabil, some coffee. With cream, sugar, and brandy for Dr. Buckman."
"Now, Bury, I'm afraid that during working hours-Oh, well. Thank you, Nabil." Buckman sipped, then gulped. "Ah! That's good. Thank you, Bury, that ought to wake me."
"You seemed to need it. Normally I would never adulterate good coffee with distilled spirits. Dr. Buckman, have you been eating?"
"I don't remember."
"You haven't. Nabil, food for our guest. Quickly."
"Bury, we're so busy, I really haven't time. There's a whole solar system to explore, not to mention the jobs for the Navy-tracing neutrino emissions, tracking that damned light -- "
"Doctor, if you were to die at this moment, many of yours notes would never be written down, would they?"
Buckman smiled. "So theatrical, Bury. But I suppose I can spare a few minutes. All we're doing now is waiting for that signal light to go off."
"A signal from the Mote planet?"
"From Mote Prime, yes, at least it came from the right place. But we can't see the planet until they turn off the laser, and they won't. They talk and talk, and for what? What can they tell us if we don't speak a common language?"
"After all, Doctor, how can they tell us anything until they teach us their language? I presume that's what they're trying to do now. Isn't anyone working on that?"
Buckman gave a feral snarl. "Horvath has all the instruments feeding information to Hardy and the linguists. Can't get any decent observations of the Coal Sack-and no one's ever been this close to it before!" His look softened. "But we can study the Trojan asteroids."
Buckman's eye took on that look, the focus on infinity. "There are too many of them. And not enough dust. I was wrong, Bury; there's not enough dust to capture so many rocks, or to polish them either. The Modes probably did the polishing, they must be all through those rocks, the neutrino emissions are fantastic. But how did so many rocks get captured?"
"Neutrino emissions. That means a fusion technology."
Buckman smiled. "One of a high order. Thinking of trade possibilities?"
"Of course. Why else would I be here?" And I would be here even if the Navy had not made it clear that the alternative was a formal arrest...but Buckman wouldn't know that. Only Blaine did. "The higher their civilization, the more they'll have to trade," And the harder they'd be to cheat; but BuckmEn wouldn't be interested in such things.
Buckman complained, "We could move so much faster if the Navy didn't use our telescopes. And Horvath lets them! Ah, good." Nabil entered, pushing a tray.
Buckman ate like a starved rat. Between ntouthfuls he said, "Not that all the Navy's projects are totally without interest. The alien ship -- "
"There's a ship coming to meet us. Didn't you know?"
"Well, its point of departure is a large, stony asteroid well outside the main cluster. The point is, it's very light. It must have a very odd shape, unless there are gas bubbles all through the rock, which would mean -- "
Bury laughed outright. "Doctor, surely an alien space craft is more interesting than a stony meteorite!"
Buckman looked startled. "Why?"

The slivers turned red, then black. Clearly the things were cooling; but how had they become hot in the first place?
The Engineer had stopped wondering about that when one of the slivers came toward her. There were power sources inside the metal bulks.
And they were self-motivated. What were they? Engineers, or Masters, or senseless machinery? A Mediator on some incomprehensible task? She resented the Mediators, who could so easily and so unreasonably interfere with fin portant work.
Perhaps the slivers were Watchmakers; but more likely they contained a Master. The Engineer considered running, but the approaching bulk was too powerful. It ac celerated at 1.14 gravities, nearly the limit of her ship. There was nothing for an Engineer to do but meet it.
Besides...all that metal! In useful form, as far as she could tell. The Clusters were full of metal artifacts, but in alloys too tough to convert.
All that metal.
But it must meet her, not the other way around. She had not the fuel or the acceleration. She worked out turnover points in her head. The other would do the same, of course. Luckily the solution was unique, assuming constant acceleration. There would be no need for communication.
Engineers were not good at communication.