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

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06-07-2007, 08:16 PM
Chapter 19 - Channel Two's Popularity

Chaplain David Hardy watched the miniatures only through the intercom because that way he wasn't involved in the endless speculations on what Moties were. It was a question of scientific interest to Horvath and his people; but to Chaplain Hardy there was more than intellectual curiosity at stake. It was his job to determine if Moties were human. Horvath's scientists only wondered if they were intelligent.
The one question preceded the other, of course. It was unlikely that God had created beings with souls and no intelligence; but it was quite possible that He had created intelligent beings with no souls, or beings whose salvation was brought about by ways entirely different from those of mankind. They might even be a form of angel, although an unlikelier-looking set of angels would be hard to imagine. Hardy grinned at the thought and went back to his study of the miniatures. The big Motie was asleep.
The miniatures weren't doing anything interesting at the moment either. It wasn't necessary for Hardy to watch them continuously. Everything was holographed anyway, and as MacArthur's linguist, Hardy would be informed if anything happened. He was already certain the miniatures were neither intelligent nor human.
He sighed deeply. What is man that Thou art mindful of him, 0 Lord? And why is it my problem to know what place Moties have in Thy plan? Well, that at least was straightforward. Second-guessing God is an old, old game. On paper he was the best man for the job, certainly the best man in Trans-Coalsack Sector.
Hardy had been fifteen years a priest and twelve years a Navy chaplain, but he was only beginning to think of it as his profession. At age thirty-five he had been a full professor at the Imperial University on Sparta, an expert in ancient and modern human languages and the esoteric art called linguistic archeology. Dr. David Hardy had been happy enough tracing the origins of recently discovered colonies lost for centuries. By studying their languages and their words for common objects he could tell what part of space the original colonists had come from. Usually he could pinpoint the planet and even the city.
He liked everything about the university except the students. He had not been particularly religious until his wife was killed in a landing boat crash; then, and he was not sure even yet how it happened, the Bishop had come to see him, and Hardy had looked long and searchingly at his life
-and entered a seminary. His first assignment after ordination had been a disastrous tour as chaplain to students. It hadn't worked, and he could see that he was not cut out for a parish priest. The Navy needed chaplains, and could always use linguists...
Now, at age fifty-two, he sat in front of an intercom screen watching four-armed monsters playing with cabbages. A Latin crossword puzzle lay on the desk at his left hand, and Hardy played idly with it. Domine, non sum...
"Dignis, of course." Hardy chuckled to himself. Precisely what he had said when the Cardinal gave him the assignment of accompanying the Mote expedition. "Lord, I am not worthy..."
"None of us is, Hardy," the Cardinal had said. "But then we're not worthy of the priesthood either, and that's more presumption than going out to look at aliens."
"Yes, my lord." He looked at the crossword puzzle again. It was more interesting than the aliens at the moment.

Rod Blaine would not have agreed, but then the Captain didn't get as many 'chances to watch the playful little creatures as the Chaplain did. There was work to do but for now it could be neglected. His cabin intercom buzzed insistently, and the miniatures vanished to be replaced by the smooth round face of his clerk. "Dr. Horvath insists on speaking with you."
"Put him on," said Rod.
As usual, Horvath's manner was a study in formal cordiality. Horvath must be getting used to getting along with men he could not allow himself to dislike. "Good morning, Captain. We have our first pictures of the alien ship. I thought you'd like to know."
"Thank you, Doctor. What coding?"
"They're not filed yet. I have them right here." The image split, Horvath's face on one half, and a blurred shadow on the other. It was long and narrow, with one end wider than the other, and it seemed to be translucent. The narrow end terminated in a needle spine.
"We caught this picture when the alien made mid-course turnover. Enlargement and noise eliminators gave us this and we won't have better until it's alongside." Naturally, Rod thought. The alien ship would now have its drive pointed toward MacArthur.
"The spine is probably the Motie fusion drive." An arrow of light sprang into the picture. "And these formations at the front end- Well, let me show you a density pattern."
The density pattern showed a pencil-shaped shadow circled by a row of much wider, almost invisible toroids. "See? An inner core, rigid, used for launching. We can guess what's in there: the fusion motor, the air and water regeneration chamber for the crew. We've assumed that this section was launched via linear accelerator at high thrust."
"And the rings?"
"Inflatable fuel tanks, we think. Some, of them are empty now, as you can see. They may have been kept as living space. Others were undoubtedly ditched."
"Uh huh." Rod studied the silhouette while Horvath watched him from the other side of the screen. Finally Rod said, "Doctor, these tanks couldn't have been on the ship when it was launched."
"No. They may have been launched to meet the core section. Without passengers, they could have been given a much higher thrust."
"In a linear accelerator? The tanks don't look metallic."
"Er-no. They don't seem to be metallic."
"The fuel has to be hydrogen, right? So how could those have been launched?"
"We...don't know." Horvath hesitated again. "There may have been a metal core. Also ditched."
"Urn. All right. Thank you."
After some thought, Rod put the pictures on the intercom. Nearly everything went on the intercom, which served as library, amusement center, and communications for MacArthur. In intervals between alerts, or during a battle,, one channel of the intercom~ might show anything. Canned entertainments. Chess tournaments. Spatball games between the champions of each watch. A play, if the crew had that much time on their hands-and they did, sometimes, on blockade duty.
The alien ship was naturally the main topic of conversation in the wardroom.
"There are shadows in yon hollow doughnuts," Sinclair stated. "And they move."
"Passengers. Or furniture," Renner said. "Which means that at least these first four sections are being used as living space. That could be a lot of Moties."
"Especially," Rod said as he entered ,"if they're as crowded as that mining ship was. Sit down, gentlemen. Carry on." He signaled to a steward for coffee.
"One for every man aboard MacArthur," Renner said. "Good thing we've got all this extra room, isn't it?".
Blaine winced. Sinclair looked as if the next intercom event might star the Chief Engineer and the Sailing Master, fifteen rounds...
"Sandy, what do you think of Horvath's idea?" Renner asked. "I don't care much for his theory of launching the fuel balloons with a metal core. Wouldn't metal shells around the tanks be better? More structural support. Unless..."
"Aye?" Sinclair prompted. Renner said nothing.
"What is it, Renner?' Blaine demanded
"Never mind, sir. It was a real blue-sky thought. I should learn to discipline my mind."
"Spill it, Mr. Renner."
Renner was new to the Navy, but he was learning to recognize that tone. "Yessir. It occurred to me that hydrogen is metallic at the right temperature and pressure. If those tanks were really pressurized, the hydrogen would carry a current-but it would take the kind of pressures you find at the core of a gas giant planet."
"Renner, you don't really think -- "
"No, of course not, Captain. It was just a thought."

Renner's oddball idea bothered Sandy Sinclair well into the next watch. Engineer officers normally stand no watches on the bridge, but Sinclair's artificers had just finished an overhaul of the bridge life-support systems and Sinclair wanted to test them. Rather than keep another watch officer in armor while the bridge was exposed to vacuum, Sandy took the watch himself.
His repairs worked perfectly, as they always did. Now, his armor stripped off, Sinclair relaxed in the command chair watching the Moties. The Motie program had tremendous popularity throughout the ship, with attention divided between the big Motie in Crawford's stateroom and the miniatures. The big Motie had just finished rebuilding the lamp in her quarters. Now it gave a redder, more diffused light, and she was cutting away at the length of Crawford's bunk to give herself nearly a square meter of working space. Sinclair admired the Motie's work; she was deft, as sure of herself as anyone Sinclair had ever seen. Let the scientists debate, Sandy thought; that beastie was intelligent.
On Channel Two, the miniatures played. People watched them even more than the big Motie; and Bury, watching everyone watch the little Moties, smiled to himself.
Channel Two caught Sinclair's eye and he looked away from the big Motie,' then suddenly sat bolt upright. The miniatures were having sexual intercourse. "Get that off the intercom!" Sinclair ordered. The signal rating looked pained, but switched the screen so that Channel Two went blank. Moments later, Renner came onto the bridge.
"What's the matter with the intercom, Sandy?" he asked.
"There is nothing wrong with the intercom," Sinclair said stiffly.
"There is too. Channel Two is blank."
"Aye, Mr. Renner. "Tis blank at my orders." Sinclair looked uncomfortable.
Renner grinned. "And who did you think would object to the-ah, program?" he asked.
"Mon, we will nae show dirty pictures aboard this ship-and with a chaplain aboard! Not to mention the lady." The lady in question had been watching Channel Two also, and when it faded Sally Fowler put down her fork and left the mess room. Beyond that point she practically ran, ignoring the looks of those she passed. She was puffing when she reached the lounge,where the miniature Modes were still in flagrante delicto. She stood beside the cage and watched them for almost a minute. Then she said, not to anyone in particular, "The last time anyone looked, those two were both female."
Nobody said anything.
"They change sex!" she exclaimed. "I'll bet it's pregnancy that triggers it. Dr. Horvath, what do you think?"
"It seems likely enough," Horvath said slowly. "In fact I'm almost sure the one on top was the mother of the little one." He seemed to be fighting off a stutter. Definitely he was blushing.
"Oh, good heavens," said Sally.
It had only just occurred to her what she must have looked like. Hurrying out of the mess room the moment the scene went off the intercom. Arriving out of breath. The Trans-Coalsack cultures had almost universally developed intense prudery within their cultures..
And she was an Imperial lady, hurrying to see two aliens make love, so to speak.
She wanted to shout, to explain. It's important! This change of sex, it must hold for all the Moties. It will affect their life styles, their personalities, their history. It shows that young Moties become nearly independent at fantâstically low ages...Was the pup weaned already, or did the "mother," now male, secrete milk even after the sex change? This will affect everything about Moties, everything. It's crucial. That's why I hurried- Instead, she left. Abruptly.