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

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06-07-2007, 08:14 PM
Chapter 15 - Work

The Engineer's mouth was wide and lipless, turned up at the corners. It looked like a half-smile of gentle happiness, but it was not. It was a permanent fixture of her cartoon face.
Nonetheless, the Engineer was happy.
Her joy had grown and grown. Coming through the Langston Field had been a new experience, like penetrating a black bubble of retarded time. Even without instruments, that told her something about the Field. She was more eager than ever to see that generator.
The ship within the bubble seemed unnecessarily crude, and it was rich, rich! There were parts in the hangar deck that seemed unattached to anything else, mechanisms so plentiful that they didn't have to be used! And many things she could not understand at a glance.
Some would be structural adaptations to the Field, or to the mysterious drive that worked from the Field. Others must be genuinely new inventions to do familiar things, new circuits, at least new to an unsophisticated Engineer miner. She recognized weapons, weapons on the big ship, weapons on the boats in the hangar space, personal weapons carried by the aliens clustered around the other side of the air lock.
This did not surprise her. She had known this new class were givers of orders, not takers of orders. Naturally they would have weapons. They might even have Warriors.
The double-door air lock was too complex, too easy to jam, primitive, and wasteful of metals and materials. She was needed here, she could see that. The new class must have come here to get her, there couldn't be any Engineers aboard the ship if they used things like this. She started to take the mechanism apart, but the stranger pulled at her arm and she abandoned the idea. She didn't have the tools anyway, and she didn't know what it would be lawful to use to make the tools. There would be time for all that...
A lot of others, much like the first one, clustered around her. They wore strange coverings, most of it alike, and carried weapons, but they didn't give orders. The stranger kept trying to talk to her.
Couldn't they see she wasn't a Mediator? They were not too bright, this primitive new class. But they were givers of orders. The first one had shouted a clear command.
And they couldn't speak Language.
The situation was remarkably free of decisions. An Engineer need only go where she was led, repair and redesign where the opportunity arose, and wait for a Mediator. Or a Master. And there was so much to do, so much to do...

The petty officers' lounge had been converted into a reception room for alien visitors. The petty officers had to take over one of the Marine messes, doubling the joeys into the other. All over the ship adjustments had to be made to accommodate the swarms of civilians and their needs.
As a laboratory the lounge might lack something, but it was secure, and had plenty of running water, wall plugs, hot plates, and refreshment facilities. At least there was nothing to smack of the dissection table.
After some argument it had been decided not to attempt to build furniture to fit the aliens. Anything they built would only accommodate the passenger aboard the probe, and that seemed absurd.
There were plenty of tv pickups, so that although only a few key personell were allowed in the lounge, nearly everyone aboard the ship could watch. Sally Fowler waited with the scientists, and she was determined to win the Motie's trust. She didn't care who was watching or what it would take to do that.
As it turned out, the Motie's trust was easy to come by. She was as trustful as a child. Her first move on coming out of the air lock wth to tear open the plastic sack containing the miniatures, and give it to the first hand that reached for it. She never bothered about them again.
She went where she was led, walking between the Marines until Sally took her by the hand at the reception room door, and everywhere she went she looked about, her body swiveling like an owl's head. When Sally let go, the Motie simply stood and waited for further instructions, watching everyone with that same gentle smile.
She did not seem to understand gestures. Sally and Horvath and others tried to talk to the Motie, with no result. Dr. Hardy, the Chaplain linguist, drew mathematical diagrams and nothing happened. The Motie did not understand and was not interested.
She was interested in tools, though. As soon as she was inside she reached for Gunner Kelley's sidearm. At a command from Dr. Horvath the Marine reluctantly unloaded the weapon and let her handle one of the cartridges before surrendering the gun. The Motie took it completely apart, to Kelley's annoyance and everyone else's amusement, then put it back together again, correctly, to Kelly's amazement. She examined the Marine's hand, bending the fingers to the limit and working them in their joints, using her own fingers to probe the muscles and the complex bones of the wrist. She examined Sally Fowler's hand in the same way for comparison.
The Motie took tools from her belt and beg~ pork on the grip of the pistol, building it up with plastic squeezed from a tube.
"The little ones are female," one of the biologists announced. "Like the big one."
"A female asteroid miner," Sally said. Her eyes took on a faraway look. "If they use females in a hazardous job like that, they're going to have a culture a lot different from the Empire's." She regarded the Motie speculatively. The alien smiled back.
"We would be better occupied in learning what it eats," Horvath mused. "It doesn't seem to have brought a food supply, and Captain Blaine informs me that its ship has departed for parts unknown." He glanced at the miniature Moties, who were moving about on the big table originally used for spatball. "Unless those are a food supply."
"We'd best not try cooking them just yet," Renner announced from near the door. "They could be children. Immature Moties."
Sally turned suddenly and half gasped before regaining her scientific detachment. Not that she'd be part of cooking anything before she knew what it was.
Horvath spoke. "Mr. Renner, why is MacArthur's Sailing Master concerning himself with an investigation of extraterrestrial anatomy?"
"The ship's at rest, the Captain secured from general quarters, and I'm off duty," Renner said. He conveniently neglected to mention the Captain's standing orders about crew getting in the scientists' way. "Are you ordering me out?"
Horvath thought about it. On the bridge, so did Rod Blaine, but he didn't like Horvath much anyway. The Science Minister shook his head. "No. But I think your suggestion about the small aliens was frivolous."
"Not at all. They could lose the second left arm the way we lose our baby teeth." One of the biologists nodded agreement. "What other differences are there? Size?"
"Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," someone said. Someone else said, "Oh, shut up."
The alien gave Kelley back his sidearm and looked around. Renner was the only naval officer in the room, and the alien went up to him and reached for his pistol. Renner unloaded the weapon and handed it over, then submitted-to the same ridiculous examination of his hand. This time the Motie worked much faster, its hands moving with almost blinding speed.
"Me, I think they're monkeys," Renner said. "Ancestors to the intelligent Moties. Which could mean you were right, too. There are people who eat monkey meat on a dozen planets. But we can hardly risk it yet."
The Motie worked on Renner's weapon, then laid it on the table. Renner picked it up. He frowned, for the fiat butt had been built up into curving ridges which were now as hard as the original plastic. Even the trigger had been built up. Renner shifted the piece in his hand, and suddenly it was perfect. Like part of his hand, and it aimed itself.
He savored it for a moment, and noted that Kelley had already reloaded and holstered his own sidearm after a puzzled look. The pistol was perfect, and Renner would hate to lose it; no wonder the Marine hadn't spoken. The Sailing Master handed the piece to Horvath.
The elderly Science Minister took the pistol. "Our visitor seems to know tools," he said. "I don't know guns, of course, but the weapon seems well tailored to the human hand,"
Renner took it back. Something nagged him about Horvath's comment. It lacked enthusiasm. Could the gun have fit his own hand better than Horvath's?
The Mode looked around the lounge, swiveling at the torso, staring at each of the scientists, then at other equipment,looking and waiting, waiting.
One of the miniatures sat cross-legged in front of Renner, also watching and waiting. It seemed totally unafraid. Rennet reached to scratch it behind the ear, the right ear. Like the big Motie, it had no left ear; shoulder muscles for the upper left arm depended from the top of the head. But it seemed to enjoy the scratching, Renner carefully avoided the ear itself, which was large and fragile.
Sally watched, wondering what to do next, and wondering also what bothered her about Renner's performance. Not the incongruity of a ship's qfficer scratching the ear of what seemed to be an alien monkey, but something else, somOthing about the ear itself...