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

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06-07-2007, 08:19 PM
Chapter 23 - Eliza Crossing the Ice

During the weeks that followed MacArthur was a bustle of activity. Every scientist worked overtime after each data transmission from the cutter, and every one of them wanted Navy assistance immediately. There was also the problem of the escaped miniatures, but this had settled to a game, with MacArthur losing. In the mess room it was even money that they were both dead, but no bodies were found. It worried Rod Blaine, but there was nothing he could do.
He also allowed the Marines to stand watches in normal uniform. There were no threats to the cutter, and it was ridiculous to keep a dozen men uncomfortable in battle armor. Instead he doubled the watch keeping surveillance around MacArthur, but no one-or no thing-tried to approach, escape, or send messages. Meanwhile the biologists went wild over clues to Motie psychology and physiology, the astronomy section continued to map Mote Prime, Buckman dithered whenever anyone else used the astronomical gear, and Blaine tried to keep his overcrowded ship' running smoothly. His appreciation of Horvath grew every time he had to mediate a dispute between scientists.
There was more activity aboard the cutter. Commander Sinclair had gone aboard and been immediately taken to the Motie ship. Three days passed before a Brown-and-white began following Sinclair around, and it was a peculiarly quiet Motie. It did seem interested in the cutter's machinery, unlike the others who had assigned themselves to a human. Sinclair and his Fyunch(click) spent long hours aboard the alien ship, poking into corners, examining everything.
"The lad was right about the tool room," Sinclair told Blaine during one of his daily reports. "It's like the nonverbal intelligence tests BuPers worked up for new recruits. There are things wrong wi' some o' the tools, and 'tis my task to put them right."
"Wrong how?"
Sinclair chuckled, remembering. He had some difficulty explaining the joke to Blaine. The hammer with the big, flat head would hit a thumb every time. It needed to be trimmed. The laser heated too fast...and that was a tricky one. It had generated the wrong frequency of light. Sinclair fixed it by doubling the frequency-somehow. He also learned more about compact lasers than he'd ever known before. There were other tests like that. "They're good, Captain. It took ingenuity to come up wi' some of the testing gadgets wi'out giving away more than they did. But they canna keep me from learning about their ship...Captain, I already ken enough to redesign the ship's boats to be more efficient. Or make millions o' crowns designing miner ships."
"Retiring when we go back, Sandy?" Rod asked; but he grinned widely to show he didn't mean it.
In the second week, Rod Blaine also acquired a Fyunch(click).
He was both dismayed and flattered. The Motie looked like all the others: brown-and-white markings, a gentle smile in a lopsided face just high enough above the deck that Rod could have patted her on the head-if he'd ever seen the Motie face to face, which he never would.
Each time he called the cutter she was there, always eager to see Blaine and talk to him. Each time he called, her Anglic was better. They would exchange a few words, and that was that. He didn't have time for a Fyunch(click), or a need for one either. Learning Motie language wasn't his job-from the progress made, it wasn't anyone's job- and he only saw her through a phone link. What use was a guide he would never meet?
"They seem to think you're important," was Hardy's dead-pan answer.
It was something to think about while he presided over his madhouse of a ship. And the alien didn't complain at all.
The month's flurry of activity hardly affected Horace Bury. He received no news at all from the cutter, and had nothing to contribute to the scientific work on the ship. Alert to rumors, which were always helpful, he waited for news to filter down through the grapevine; but not very much did. Communications with the cutter seemed to stop with the bridge, and he had no real friends among the scientists other than Buckman. Blaine had given up putting everything on the intercom. For the first time since he left New Chicago, Bury felt imprisoned.
It bothered him more than it should have, although he was introspective enough to know why. All his life he had tried to control his environment as far as he could reach: around a world, across light years of space and decades of time-or throughout a Navy battle cruiser. The crew treated him as a guest, but not as a master; and anywhere he was not master, he was a prisoner.
He was losing money, too. Somewhere in the restricted sections of MacArthur, beyond the reach of all but the highest-ranking scientists, physicists were studying the golden stuff from the Stone Beehive. It took weeks of effort to pick up the rumor that it was a superconductor of heat.
That would be priceless stuff, and he knew he must obtain a sample. He even knew how it might be done, but forced himself to idleness. Not yet! The time to steal his sample would be just before MacArthur docked in New Scotland. Ships would be waiting there despite the cost, not only a ship openly acknowledging him as owner, but at least one other. Meanwhile, listen, find out, know what else he should have when he left MacArthur.
He had several reports on the Stone Beehive to crosscheck against each other. He even tried to gain information from Buckman; but the results were more amusing than profitable.
"Oh, forget the Stone Beehive," Buckman had exclaimed. "It was moved into place. It's no damned use at all. The Beehive's got nothing to do with the formation of the Trojan point clusters, and the Moties have messed up the internal structure to the point where you can't tell anything about the original rock..."
So. The Moties could and did make superconductors of heat. And there were always the little Moties. He enjoyed the search for the escaped miniatures. Naturally most of the Navy personnel were silently rooting for the underdog, the fleeing miniature and the child, Eliza crossing the ice. And the miniature was winning. Food disappeared from odd places: staterooms, lounges, everywhere but the kitchen itself. The ferrets could find no scent. How could the miniatures have made truce with the ferrets? Bury wondered. Certainly the aliens were...alien, yet the ferrets had had no trouble scenting them the first night.
Bury enjoyed the hunt, but...He took the lesson: a miniature was harder to catch than to keep. If he expected to sell many as pets he had better sell them in foolproof cages. Then there was the matter of acquiring a breeding pair. The longer the miniatures remained free, the less grew Bury's chances of persuading the Navy that they were harmless, friendly pets.
But it was fun seeing the Navy look foolish. Bury rooted for both sides, and practiced patience; and the weeks went on.

While six Fyunch(click)s bunked aboard the cutter, the rest of the Moties worked. The interior of the alien ship changed like dreams; it was different every time anyone went aboard. Sinclair and Whitbread made a point of touring it periodically to see that no weapons were built; perhaps they would have known and perhaps not.
One day Hardy and Horvath stopped by the Captain's watch cabin after an hour in MacArthur's exercise rooms.
"The Moties have a fuel tank coming," Horvath told Rod. "It was launched at about the same time as their own ship, by linear accelerator, but in a fuel-saving orbit. It should arrive in two weeks."
"So that's what it is." Blaine and his officers had worried about that silent object coasting at leisure toward their position.
"You knew about it? You might have mentioned it to us.'
"They'll need to retrieve it," Blaine speculated. "Hmm. I wonder if one of my boats might get it for them. Would they let us do that?"
"I see no reason why not. We'll ask," said David Hardy. "One more thing, Captain."
Rod knew something tricky was coming. Horvath had Dr. Hardy ask for all the things Rod might refuse.
"The Moties want to build an air-lock bridge between the cutter and the embassy ship," Hardy finished.
"It's only a temporary structure and we need it." Horvath paused. "It's only a hypothesis, you understand, but, Captain, we now think that every structure is only temporary to them. They must have had high-gee couches at takeoff, but they're gone now. They arrived with no fuel to take them home. They almost certainly redesigned their life-support system for free fall in the three hours following their arrival."
"'And this too shall pass away,'" Hardy added helpfully. "But the idea doesn't bother them. They seem to like it."
"It's a major departure from human psychology," Horvath said earnestly. "Perhaps a Motie would never try to design anything permanent at all. There will be no sphinx, no pyramids, no Washington Monument, no Lenin's Tomb."
"Doctor, I don't like the idea of joining the two ships."
"But, Captain, we need something like this. People and Moties are constantly passing back and forth, and they have to use the taxi every time. Besides, the Moties have already started work -- "
"May I point out that if they join those two ships, you and everyone aboard will thenceforth be hostage to the Moties' good will?"
Horvath was ruffled. "I'm sure the aliens can be trusted, Captain. We're making very good progress with them."
"Besides," Chaplain Hardy added equably, "we're hostage now. There was never a way to avoid the situation. MacArthur and Lenin are our protection, if we need protection. If two battleships don't scare them-well, we knew the situation when we boarded the cutter."
Blaine ground his teeth. If the cutter was expendable, the cutter's personnel were not. Sinclair, Sally Fowler, Dr. Horvath, the Chaplain-MacArthur's most valuable people were living aboard the cutter. Yet the Chaplain was clearly right. They were all subject to murder at any moment, save for the risk of MacArthur's vengeance.
"Tell them to go ahead," Rod said. The air-lock bridge would not increase the danger at all.

The lock was begun as soon as Rod gave permission. A tube of thin metal, flexibly jointed, jutting from the hull of the Motie ship, it snaked toward them like a living creature. Moties swarmed around it in fragile-seeming suits. As seen from the cutter's main port, they might almost have been men-almost.
Sally's eyes blurred as she watched. The lighting was strange-dim Mote light and space-black shadows, and occasional flares of artificial light, everything reflected from the bright, curved metal surface. The perspective was all wrong, and it gave her a headache.
"I keep wondering, where they're getting the metal," said Whitbread. He sat near her, as he usually did when they were both between jobs. "There wasn't any spare mass aboard the ship, not the first time I went through it and not now. They must be tearing their ship apart."
"That would fit," said Horvath.
They had gathered around the main window after dinner, with tea and coffee bulbs in their hands. The Moties had become tea and chocolate fanciers; they could not stomach coffee. Human, Motie, human, Motie, they circled the window on the horseshoe-shaped free-fall bench. The Fyunch(click)s had learned the human trick of aligning themselves all in the same direction.
"Look how fast they work," Sally said. "The bridge seems to grow before your very eyes." Again her eyes tried to cross. It was as if many of the Moties were working farther back, well behind the others. "The one marked with the orange strips must be a Brown. She seems to be in charge, don't you think?"
"She's also doing most of the work," said Sinclair. "That makes an odd kind of sense," said Hardy. "If she knows enough to give the orders, she must be able to do the work better than any of the others, too, wouldn't you think?" He rubbed his eyes. "Am I out of my mind, or are some of those Moties smaller than others?"
"It does look that way," said Sally.
Whitbread stared at the bridge builders. Many of the Moties seemed to be working a long way behind the embassy ship-until three of them passed in front of it Carefully he said, "Has anyone tried watching this through the scope? Lafferty, get it on for us, will you?"
In the telescope screen it was shockingly clear. Some of the Motie workmen were tiny, small enough to crawl into any crevice. And they had four arms each.
"Do-do you often use those creatures as workmen?, Sally asked her Fyunch(click).
"Yes. We find them very useful. Are there not-equal creatures in your ships?" The alien seemed surprised. Of all the Moties, Sally's gave the impression of being most often surprised at the humans. "Do you think Rod will be worried?"
"But what are they?" Sally demanded. She ignored the question the Motie had asked.
"They are-workers," the Motie answered. "Useful animals. You are surprised because they are small? Yours are large, then?"
"Uh, yes," Sally answered absently. She looked to the others. "I think I'd like to go see these-animals -- close up. Anyone want to come along?" But Whitbread was already getting into his suit, and so were the others.

"Fyunch(click)," said the alien.
"God Almighty!" Blaine exploded. "Have they got you answering-the phones now?"
The alien spoke slowly, with care for enunciation. Her grammar was not perfect, but her grasp of idiom and inflection was freshly amazing every time she spoke. "Why not? I talk well enough. I can remember a message. I can use the recorder. I have little to do when you are not available."
"I can't help that."
"I know." With a touch of complacence the alien added, "I startled a rating."
"God's teeth, you startled me. Who's around?"
"Coxswain Lafferty. All the other humans are absent."
They have gone to look at the tunnel. When it is finished the ratings will not have to go with them when they wish to visit the other ship. Can I pass on a message?"
"No, thanks, I'll call back."
"Sally should be back soon," said Blaine's Motie. "How are you? How goes the ship?"
"Well enough."
"You always sound so cautious when you speak of the ship. Am I stepping on Navy secrets? It-is not the ship that concerns me, Rod. I'm Fyunch(click) to you. It means considerably more than just guide." The Motie gestured oddly. Rod had' seen her do that before, when she was upset or annoyed.
"Just what does Fyunch(click) mean?"
"I am assigned to you. You are a project, a masterwork. I am to learn as much about you as there is to know. I am to become an expert on you, My Lord Roderick Blaine, and you are to become a field of study to me. It-is not your gigantic, rigid, badly designed ship that interest-ss me, it-ss your attitudes toward that ship and the humans aboard, your degree of control over them, your interess-t in their welfare, et cetera."
How would Kutuzov handle this? Break contact? Hell. "Nobody likes being watched. Anyone would feel a bit uncomfortable being studied like that."
"We guessed you would take it that way. But, Rod, you're here to study us, are-unt you? Surely we are, entitled to study you back."
"You have that right." Rod's voice was stiff despite himself. "But if someone becomes embarrassed while you're talking to him, that's probably the reason."
"God damn it to hell," said Blaine's Motie. "You are the first intelligent beings we've ever met who are-unt relatives. Why should you expect to be comfortable with us?" She rubbed the flat center of her face 'with her upper right forefinger, then dropped her hand as if embarrassed. It was the same gesture she'd used a moment before.
There were noises off screen. Blaine's Motie said, "Hang on a moment. Okay, it-ss Sally and Whitbread." Her voice rose. "Sally? The Captain's on screen." She slid out of the chair. Sally Fowler slid in. Her smile seemed forced as she said, "Hello, Captain. What's new?"
"Business as usual. How goes it at your end?"
"Rod, you look flustered. It's a strange experience, isn't it? Don't worry, she can't hear us now."
"Good. I'm not sure I like an alien reading my mind that way. I don't suppose they really read minds."
"They say not. And they guess wrong sometimes." She ran a hand through her hair, which was in disarray, perhaps because she had just doffed a pressure suit helmet. "Wildly wrong. Commander Sinclair's Fyunch(dick) wouldn't talk to him at first. They thought he was a Brown; you know, an idiot carpenter type. How are you doing with the miniatures?"
That was a subject they'd both learned to avoid. Rod wondered why she'd brought it up. "The loose ones are still loose. No sign of them. They might even have died somewhere we wouldn't find them. We've still got the one that stayed behind. I think you'd better have a look at her, Sally, next time you're over. She may be sick."
Sally nodded. "I'll come over tomorrow. Rod, have you been watching the alien work party?"
"Not particularly. The air lock seems almost finished already."
"Yes...Rod, they've been using trained miniatures to do part of the work."
Rod stared stupidly.
Sally's eyes shifted uneasily. "Trained miniatures. In pressure suits. We didn't know there were any aboard. I suppose they must be shy; they must hide when humans are aboard. But they're only animals, after all. We asked."
"Animals." Oh my God. What would Kutuzov say?
"Sally, this is important. Can you come over tonight and brief me? You and anyone else who knows anything about this."
"All right. Commander Sinclair is watching them now. Rod, it's really fantastic how well the little beasts are trained. And they can get into places where you'd have to use jointed tools and spy eyes."
"I can imagine. Sally, tell me the truth. Is there the slightest chance the miniatures are intelligent?"
"No. They're just trained."
"Just trained." And if there were any alive aboard MacArthur they'd have explored the ship from stem to stern. "Sally, is there the slightest chance that any of the aliens can hear me now?"
"No. I'm using the earphone, and we haven't allowed them to work on our equipment."
"So far as you know. Now listen carefully, then I want to talk privately to everyone else on that cutter, one at a time. Has anyone said anything-anything at all-about there being miniatures loose aboard MacArthur?"
"No-oo. You told us not to, remember? Rod, what's wrong?"
What's wrong? "For God's sake, don't say anything about the loose miniatures. I'll tell the others as you put them on. And I want to see all of you, everyone except the cutter's regular crew, tonight. It's time we pooled our knowledge about Moties, because I'm going to have to report to the Admiral tomorrow morning." He looked almost pale. "I guess I can wait that long."
"Well, of course you can," she said. She smiled enchantingly, but it didn't come off very well. She didn't think she'd ever seen Rod so concerned, and it upset her. "We'll be over in an hour. Now here's Mr. Whitbread, and please, Rod, stop worrying."