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

Pages : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 [18] 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58

06-07-2007, 08:15 PM
Chapter 17 - Mr. Crawford's Eviction

Midshipman Jonathon Whitbread reached his hammock much sooner than he had expected. He sagged blissfully into the netting and closed his eyes...and opened one, feeling other eyes upon him.
"Yes, Mr. Potter," he sighed.
"Mr. Whitbread, I would be obliged if you would talk to Mr. Staley."
It was not what he expected. Whitbread opened his other eye. "Uh?"
"Something's upset him. You know how he is, he won't complain, he'd rather die. But he walks around like a robot, hardly speaks to anyone except politely. He eats alone...you've known him longer than I have, I thought you might find out why."
"All right, Potter. I'll try. When I wake up." He closed his eyes. Potter was still there. "In eight hours, Potter, It can't be that urgent."

In another part of MacArthur Sailing Master Renner tossed fitfully in a stateroom not much larger than his bunk. It was the Third Lieutenant's berth, but two scientists had Renner's cabin, and the Third had moved in with a Marine officer.
Renner sat up suddenly in the darkness, his mind hunting for something that might have been a dream. Then he turned on the light and fumbled with the unfamiliar intercom panel. The rating who answered showed remarkable self-control: he didn't scream or anything. "Get me Miss Sally Fowler," Renner said.
The rating did, without comment. Must be a robot, Renner thought. He knew how he looked.
Sally was not asleep. She and Dr. Horvath had just finished installing the Motie in the Gunnery Officer's cabin. Her face and voice as she said "Yes, Mr. Renner?" somehow informed Renner that he looked like a cross between a man and a mole-a remarkable feat of nonverbal communication.
Renner skipped it. "I remembered something. Have you got your pocket computer?"
"Certainly." She took it out to show him.
"Please test it for me."
Her face a puzzled mask, Sally drew letters on the face of the flat box, wiped them, scrawled a simple problem, then a complex one that would require the ship's computer to help. Then she called up an arbitrary personal data file from ship's memory. "It works all right."
Renner's voice was thick with sleep. "Am I crazy, or did we watch the Mode take that thing apart and put it back together again?"
"Certainly. She did the same with your gun."
"But a pocket computer?" Renner stared. "You know that's impossible, don't you?"
She thought it was a joke. "No, I didn't."
"Well, it is. Ask Dr. Horvath." Renner hung up and went back to sleep.
Sally caught up with Dr. Horvath as he was turning into his cabin. She told him about the computer.
"But those things are one big integrated circuit. We don't even try to repair them." Horvath muttered other things to himself.
While Renner slept, Horvath and Sally woke the physical sciences staff. None of them got much sleep that night.

"Morning" on a warship is a relative thing. The morning watch is from 0400 to 0800, a time when the human species would normally sleep; but space knows nothing of this. A full crew is needed on the bridge and in the engine rooms no matter what the time. As a watchkeeping officer, Whitbread stood one watch in three, but MacArthur's orderly quarter bill was confused beyond repair. He had both the morning and forenoon watches off, eight glorious hours of sleep; yet, somehow, he found himself awake and in the warrant officers' mess at 0900.
"There's nothing wrong with me," Horst Staley protested. "I don't know where you got that idea. Forget it."
"OK, Whitbread said easily. He chose juice and cereal and put them on his tray. He was just behind Staley in the cafeteria line, which was natural enough since he had followed Staley in.
"Though I appreciate your concern," Staley told him. There was no trace of emotion in the voice.
Whitbread nodded agreeably. He picked up his tray and followed Staley's unnaturally straight back. Predictably, Staley chose an empty table. Whitbread joined him.
In the Empire were numerous worlds where the dominant races were white caucasian. On such worlds the pictures on Navy enlistment posters always looked like Horst Staley. His jaw was square, his eyes icy blue. His face was all planes and angles, bilaterally symmetrical, and without expression. His back was straight, his shoulders broad, his belly was fiat and hard and ridged with muscle. He contrasted sharply with Whitbread, who would fight a weight problem all his life, and was at least slightly rounded everywhere.
They ate in silence, a long breakfast. Finally, too casually, Staley asked, as if he had to ask, "How went your mission?"
Whitbread was ready. "Rugged. The worst hour and a half the Motie spent staring at me. Look." Whitbread stood. He twisted his head sideways and let his knees sag and shoulders slump, to fit him into an invisible coffin 130 cm high. "Like this, for an hour and a half." He sat down again. "Torture, I tell you. I kept wishing they'd picked you."
Staley flushed. "I did volunteer."
Bull's-eye. "It was my turn. You were the one who accepted Defiant's surrender, back off New Chicago."
"And let that maniac steal my bomb!"
Whitbread put his fork down. "Oh?"
"You didn't know?"
"Of course not. Think Blaine would spread it all over the ship? You did come back a bit shaken after that mission. We wondered why."
"Now you know. Some jackass tried to renege. Defiant's captain wouldn't let him, but he might have." Staley rubbed his hands together, painfully hard. "He snatched the bomb away from me. And I let him! I'd have given anything for the chance to -- " Staley stood up suddenly, but Whitbread was quick enough to catch him by the arm.
"Sit down," he said. "I can tell you why you weren't picked."
"I suppose you can read the Captain's mind?" They kept their voices low by tacit consent. MacArthur's interior partitions were all sound-absorbent anyway, and their voices were very clear, if soft.
"Second-guessing officers is good practice for a middie," said Whitbread.
"Why, then? Was it because of the bomb?"
"Indirectly. You'd have been tempted to prove yourself. But even without that, you're too much the hero, Horst. Perfect physical shape, good lungs-ever meet an admiral with a soft voice?-utter dedication, and no sense of humor."
"I do too have a sense of humor." -
"No, you don't."
"I don't?"
"Not a trace. The situation didn't call for a hero, Horst. It called for sotheone who didn't mind being made ridiculous in a good cause."
"You're kidding. Damn, I never know when you're kidding'
"Now would be a poor time. I'm not making fun of you, Horst. Listen, I shouldn't have to explain this. You watched it all, didn't you? Sally told me I was on all the intercom screens, live, in color and 3D."
"You were." Staley smiled briefly. "We should have had a view of your face. Especially when you started swearing. We got no warning at all. The view jumped a bit, then you screamed at the alien, and everybody cracked up."
"What would you have done?"
"Not that. I don't know. Followed orders, I guess." The icy eyes narrowed. "I wouldn't have tried to shoot my way out, if that's what you're thinking."
"Maybe a second of cutting laser into the control panel? To kill the force field?"
"Not without orders."
"What about the sign language? I spent some time making gestures, hoping the alien would understand me, but it never did."
"We couldn't see that. What about it?"
"I told you," Whitbread-said. "The mission took someone willing to make a fool of himself in a good cause. Think about how often you heard people laugh at me while I was bringing back the Motie."
Staley nodded.
"Now forget them and think about the Mode. What about her sense of humor? Would you like a Mode laughing at you, Horst? You might never be sure if she was or wasn't; you don't know what it looks like or sounds like -- "
"You're being ridiculous."
"All anyone knew was that the situation called for someone to find out whether the aliens were willing to talk to us. It didn't need someone to uphold the Imperial honor. Plenty of time for that after we know what we're facing~ There'll be room for heroes, Horst. There always is."
"That's reassuring," said Staley. He had finished breakfast. Now he stood and walked out fast, with his back very straight, leaving Whitbread wondering.
Oh, well, Whitbread thought. I tried. And just maybe...

Luxury in a warship is relative.
Gunnery Officer Crawford's stateroom was the size of his bed. When the bed was up, he had room to change clothes and a small sink to brush his teeth. To lower the bed for sleeping he had first to step into the corridor; and being tall for a Navy man, Crawford had learned to sleep curled up. -- - -
A bed and a door with a lock on it, instead of a hammock or one tier of many bunks: luxury. He would have fought to keep it; but he had lost the toss. Now he bunked in MacArthur's cutter while an alien monster occupied his quarters.
"She's only a little more than a meter tall, of course she fits," Sally Fowler said judiciously. "Still, it's only a tiny room. Do you think she can stand it? Otherwise we'll have to keep her in the lounge."
"I saw the cabin of her ship. It wasn't any bigger. She can stand it," Whitbread said. It was too late to try sleeping in the gun room, and he was supposed to tell the scientists everything he knew: at least that ought to work if Cargill asked why he'd been pestering Sally. "I suppose you've got someone watching her through the intercom?"
She nodded. Whitbread followed her into the scientists' lounge. Part of the room had been screened off with wire netting and the two miniatures were in there. One was nibbling at a head of cabbage, using four arms to hold it to her chest. The other, her abdomen swollen with pregnancy, was playing with a flashlight.
Just like a monkey, Whitbread thought. It was the first chance he'd had to look at the miniatures. Their fur was thicker, and mottled brown and yellow where the large one was uniformly soft brown. The four arms were nearly alike, five fingers on the left hands and six on the rights; but the arms and fingers were identically slender, identically jointed. Yet the muscles of the upper left shoulder were anchored to the top of the skull. Why, if not for greater strength and leverage?
He was delighted when Sally led him to a small corner table away from where the biosciences people were scratching their heads and arguing loudly. He got coffee for both of them and asked her about the strange musculature of the miniatures; it wasn't what he'd really like to talk to her about, but it was a start...
"We think it's vestigial," she said. "They obviously don't need it; the left arms aren't sized for heavy work anyway."
"Then the little ones aren't monkeys! They're an offshoot of the big ones."
"Or they're both an offshoot of something else. Jonathon, we've got more than two classifications already. Look." She turned to the intercom screen and a view of the Motie's room appeared.
"She seems happy enough," said Whitbread. He grinned at what the Motie had been doing. "Mr. Crawford isn't going to like what she's done to his bunk."
"Dr. Horvath didn't want to stop her. She can fiddle with anything she likes as long as it isn't the intercom.
Crawford's bunk had been shortened and contoured. The contours were exceedingly strange, not only because of the complex joints in the Motie's back, but also because she apparently slept on her side. The mattress had been cut and sewn, the underlying steel bent and twisted. Now there were grooves for two right arms and a pit for a projecting hipbone and a high ridge to serve as a pillow- "Why would she sleep only on her right side?" Whitbread asked.
"Maybe she'd rather defend herself with her left, if she happened to be surprised in her sleep. The left is so much stronger."
"Could be. Poor Crawford. Maybe she's expecting his to try and cut her throat some night." He watched the alien at work on the overhead lamp. "She does have one-track mind, doesn't she? We could get some good out of this. She might improve something."
"Perhaps. Jonathon, did you study sketches of the dissected alien?"
She sounded like a schoolmistress. She was old enough to be one, too; but much too pretty, Whitbread thought He said, "Yes, ma'am."
"Do you see any differences?"
"The color of the fur is different. But that's nothing. The other one was in suspended animation for hundred of years."
"Anything else?"
"The other one was taller, I think. I wouldn't swear."
"Look at her head."
Whitbread frowned. "I don't see it."
Sally used her pocket computer. It hummed slightly, indicating that it was in communication with the main ship's memory. Somewhere in MacArthur a laser moved across holographic lines. The ship's memory held everything humanity knew of Moties-such as it was. It found the information Sally asked for and sent it to her pocket computer; a sketch appeared on the face of the flat box.
Whitbread studied the sketch, then looked to the screen and the Motie. "Her forehead. It slopes!"
"That's what we thought, Dr. Horvath and I."
"It's not easy to see. The Motie's head is so flunking lopsided anyway!'
"I know. But it's there. We think there's a difference in the hands, too, but it's very small." Sally frowned and three short grooves appeared between brown eyes. She'd cut her hair short for space, and the frown and short hair made her look very efficient. Whitbread didn't like it. "That gives us three different kinds of Motie," she said. "And only four Moties. That's a high mutation rate, wouldn't you say?"
"I...wouldn't be surprised." Whitbread remembered the history lessons Chaplain Hardy had held for the midshipmen during the trip out. "They're trapped in this system. Bottled up. If they had an atomic war, they'd have to live with it afterwards, wouldn't they?" He thought of Earth and shuddered.
"We haven't seen any evidence of atomic wars."
"Except the mutation rate."
Sally laughed. "You're arguing in circles. Anyway, it doesn't hold up. None of these three types is a cripple, Jonathon. They're all very well adapted, all healthy-except the dead one, of course, and she hardly counts. They wouldn't choose a cripple to pilot the probe."
"No. So what's the answer?"
"You saw them first, Jonathon. Call the one in the probe Type A. What was the relationship between Types B and C?"
"I don't know."
"But you saw them together."
"It didn't make sense. The little ones stayed out of the big one's way, at first, and the big one let them alone. Then I signaled the big one that I wanted her to go with me to MacArthur. She forthwith picked the first two little ones that came to hand, made sure they were safe, and killed the rest without warning!"
Whitbread paused, thinking of the whirlwind that had blown him out the Motie ship air lock. "So you tell me. What are the little ones? Pets? Children? But she killed them. Vermin? Why save two of them? Food animals? Have you tried that?"
Sally grimaced. It was almost a snarl, remarkable on her pretty face, an expression she would never have worn any social occasion. "Tried what? Fricassee one of I little beasts and offer it to the big one? Be reasonable."
The alien in Crawford's room poured a handful of some kind of seed-and ate it. "Popcorn," said Sally. "We tried it on the little ones first. Maybe that's what they were for, food testers."
"She eats cabbage too. Well, she won't starve, but she may die of vitamin deficiencies. All we can do is watch and wait- I suppose we'll go to the alien's home planet pretty soon. In the meantime, Jonathon, you're the only man who's seen the Motie ship. Was the pilot's seat contoured? I only got a glimpse of it through your helmet camera."
"It was contoured. In fact, it fitted her like a glove. I noticed something else. The control board ran along the right side of the seat. For right hands only...
He remembered a great deal about the mining ship, it turned out. It kept him in Lady Sally's enjoyable company until he had to go on watch. But none of it was particularly useful.

Whitbread had no sooner taken his station on the bridge than Dr. Buckman called for the Captain.
"A ship, Blaine," Buckman said. "From the inhabited world, Mote Prime. We didn't find it because it was hidden by that damned laser signal."
Blaine nodded. His own screens had shown the Motie ship nine minutes before; Chief Shattuck's crew wasn't about to let civilians keep a better watch than the Navy.
"It will reach us in about eighty-one hours," Buckman said. "It's accelerating at point eight seven gees, which is the surface gravity of Mote Prime by some odd coincidence. It's spitting neutrinos. In general it behaves like the first ship, except that it's far more massive. I'll let you know if we get anything else."
"Fine. Keep an eye on it, Doctor." Blaine nodded and Whitbread cut the circuit. The Captain turned to his exec. "Let's compare what we know with Buckman's file, Number One."
"Aye aye, sir." Cargill toyed with the computer controls for a few minutes. "Captain?"
"Look at the starting time. That alien ship got under way in not much more than an hour after we broke out."
Blaine whistled to himself. "Are you sure? That gives ten minutes to detect us, another ten for us to dee them, and forty minutes to get ready and launch. Jack, what kind of ship launches in forty minutes?"
Cargill frowned. "None I ever heard of. The Navy could do it, keep a ship with a full crew on ready alert...
"Precisely. I think that's a warship coming at us, Number One. You'd better tell the Admiral, then Horvath. Whitbread, get me Buckman."
"Yes?" The astrophysicist looked harried.
"Doctor, I need-~everything your people can get about that Motie ship. Now. And would you give some thought to their rather strange acceleration?"
Buckman studied the numbers Blaine sent down to his screen. "This seems straightforward enough. They launched from Mote Prime or a closely orbiting moon forty minutes after we arrived. What's the problem?"
"If they launched that fast, it's almost certainly a warship. We'd like to believe otherwise."
Buckman was annoyed. "Believe what you like, but you'll ruin the math, Captain. Either they launched in forty minutes, or...well, you could start the Motie vehicle something over two million kilometers this side of Mote Prime; that would give them' more time...but I don't believe it."
"No more do I. I want you to satisfy yourself about this, Dr. Buckman. What could we assume that would give them more time to launch?"
"Let me see...I'm not used to thinking in terms rocketry, you know. Gravitational accelerations are more my field, if you'll pardon the pun. Hmmm." Buckman's eyes went curiously blank. For a moment he looked like an idiot. "You'd have to assume a period of coasting. And a much higher acceleration in the launching mechanism. Much higher."
"How long to coast?"
"Several hours for every hour you want to give them make up their minds. Captain, I don't understand your problem. Why can't they have launched a scientific survey ship in forty minutes? Why assume a warship? After all, MacArthur is both, and it took you an unreasonably long time to launch. I was ready days early."
Blaine turned him off. I'll break his scrawny neck, I told himself. They'll court-martial me, but I'll claim justifiable homicide. I'll subpoena everyone who knew him. They're bound to let me off. He touched keys. "Number One, what have you got?"
"They launched that ship in forty minutes."
"Which makes it a warship."
"So the Admiral thinks, sir. Dr. Horvath wasn't convinced."
"Neither am I, but we'll want to be ready for them. And we'll want to know more about Moties than Horvath's people are learning from our passenger. Number One, want you to take the cutter and get over to that asteroid the Motie came from. There's no sign of activity there, it should be safe enough-and I want to know just what the Motie was doing there. It might give us a clue."