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, 08:20 PM
Chapter 25 - The Captain's Motie

"I appreciate your concern for the safety of the Empire, Admiral," Horvath said. He nodded sagely at the glowering figure on MacArthur's bridge screen. "Indeed I do. The fact remains, however, that we either accept the Moties' invitation or we might as well go home. There's nothing more to learn out here."
"You, Blaine. You agree with that?" Admiral Kutuzov's expression was unchanged.
Rod shrugged. "Sir, I have to take the advice of the scientists. They say that we've got about all we're going to get from this distance."
"You want to take MacArthur into orbit around the Mote planet, then? That is what you recommend? For the record?"
"Yes, sir. Either that or go home, and I don't think we know enough about the Moties simply to leave."
Kutuzov took a long, slow breath. His lips tightened.
"Admiral, you have your job, I have mine," Horvath reminded him. "It's all very well to protect the Empire against whatever improbable threat the Moties pose, but I must exploit what we can learn from Motie science and technology. That, I assure you, isn't trivial. They're so far advanced, in some respects that I-well, I haven't any words to describe it, that's all."
"Exactly." Kutuzov emphasized the word by pounding the arm of the command chair with his closed fists. "They have technology, beyond ours. They speak our language and you say we will never speak theirs. They know the Alderson effect, and now they know Langston Fields exist. Perhaps, Dr. Horvath, we should go home. Now."
"But -- " Horvath began.
"And yet," Kutuzov continued. "I would not like to fight war with these Moties without knowing more about them. What are planetary defense? Who governs Moties? I notice for all your work you cannot answer that question. You do not even know who is commanding that ship of theirs."
"True." Horvath nodded vigorously. "It's a very strange situation. Sometimes I honestly think they don't have a commander, but on the other hand they do seem to refer back to their ship for instructions sometimes...and then
There's the sex matter."
"You play games with me, Doctor?"
"No, no," Horvath said with irritation. "It's quite straightforward. All of the Brown-and-whites have been female' since their arrival. In addition, the brown female has become pregnant and has given birth to a brown-and-white pup. Now it's a male."
"I know of sex changes in aliens. Perhaps one Brown-and-white was male until shortly before embassy ship arrived?"
"We thought of that. But it seems more likely that the Brown-and-whites haven't been breeding because of population pressure. They all stay female-they may even be mules, since a Brown is mother of one. Crossbreed between the Brown and something else? That would point to a something else aboard the embassy ship."
"They got an admiral aboard their ship," Kutuzov said positively. "Just as we do. I knew it. What do you tell them when they ask of me?"
Rod heard a snort behind him and guessed that Kevin Renner was strangling. "As little as possible, sir," Rod said. "Only that we're subject to Orders from Lenin. I don't think they know your name, or if there's one man or a council aboard."
"Just so." The Admiral almost smiled. "Just what you know about their command, da? You watch, they got an admiral aboard that ship, and he's decided he wants you closer to their planet. Now my problem is, do I learn more by letting you go than he learns by getting you there?"
Horvath turned away from the screen and sent a pleading look to Heaven, Its Wonders, and All the Saints. How could he deal with a man like that, the look asked.
"Any sign of little Moties?" Kutuzov asked. "Have you still Brownies aboard His Imperial Majesty's General Class battle cruiser MacArthur?"
Rod shuddered at the heavy sarcasm. "No, sir. I've evacuated the hangar deck and opened everything in it space. Then I put all MacArthur's passengers and crew into hangar deck and opened up the ship. We fumigated the plant rooms with ciphogene, poured carbon monoxide through all the vents, opened to space again, and after we came back from hangar deck we did the same thing there. The miniatures are dead, Admiral. We have the bodies. Twenty-four of them, to be exact, although we didn't find one of them until yesterday. It was pretty ripe after three weeks..."
"And there are no signs of Brownies? Or of mice?"
"No, sir. Rats, mice, and Moties-all dead. The other miniature, the one we had caged-it's dead too, sir. The vet thinks it was old age."
Kutuzov nodded. "So that problem is solved. What adult alien you have aboard?"
"It's sick," Blaine said. "Same symptoms as the miniature had."
"Yes, that's another thing," Horvath said quickly. I want to ask the Moties what to do for the sick miner, but Blaine won't let me without your permission."
The Admiral reached somewhere off screen. When he faced them again he held a glass of tea, which he blew on noisily. "The others know you have this miner aboard?"
"Yes," Horvath said. When Kutuzov glared, the Science Minister continued quickly, "They seem to have always known it. None of us told them, I'm sure of that."
"So they know. Have they asked for the miner? Or to see it?"
"No." Horvath frowned deeply again. His voice was incredulous. "No, they haven't. In fact, they haven't shown the least concern about the miner; no more than they might have for the miniatures-you'll have seen the pictures of the Moties evacuating their ship, Admiral? They have to kill off the little beasts too. The things must breed like hive rats." Horvath paused, his brow wrinkled even more deeply. Then, abruptly, "Anyway, I want to ask the others what to do for the sick miner. We can't just let it die."
"That might be best for all," Kutuzov mused. "Oh, very well, Doctor. Ask them. It is hardly admitting anything important about Empire to tell them we do not know proper diet for Moties. But if you ask and they insist on seeing that miner, Blaine, you will refuse. If necessary, miner will die-tragically and suddenly, by accident, but die. Is that clearly understood? It will not talk to other Moties, not now and not ever."
"Aye aye, sir." Rod sat impassively in his command chair. Now, do I agree with that? he thought. I should be shocked, but-
"Do you still wish to ask under those circumstances, Doctor?" Kutuzov asked.
"Yes. I expected nothing else from you anyway." Horvath's lips were pressed tightly against his teeth. "We now have the main question: the Moties have invited us to take orbit around their planet. Why they- have done so is a matter for interpretation. I think it is because they genuinely want to develop trade and diplomatic relations with us, and this is the logical way we should go about it. There is no evidence for any other view. You, of course, have your own theories..."
Kutuzov laughed. It was a deep, hearty laugh. "Actually, Doctor, I may believe same as you. What has that to do with anything? Is my task to keep Empire safe. What I believe has no importance." The Admiral stared coldly into the screens. "Very well. Captain, I give you discretion to act in this situation. However, you will first arm torpedo-destruct systems for your ship. You understand that MacArthur cannot be allowed to fall into Motie hands?"
"Yes, sir."
"Very well. You may go, Captain. We will follow in Lenin. You will transmit records of all information you obtain every hour-and you understand that if there is threat to your ship, I will not attempt to rescue you if there is any possibility of danger to Lenin? That my first duty is to return with information including, if this is so, how you were killed?" The Admiral turned so that h gazed directly at Horvath. "Well, Doctor, do you still want to go to Mote Prime?"
"Of course."
Kutuzov shrugged. "Carry on, Captain Blaine. Carry on."

MacArthur's towboats had retrieved an oil-drum-shape cylinder half the size of the Motie embassy ship. It was very simple: a hard, thick shell of some foamed material heavy with liquid hydrogen, spinning slowly, with a bleeder valve at the axis. Now it was strapped to the embassy ship aft the toroidal living spaces. The slender spine meant to guide the plasma flow for the fusion drive had beer altered too, bent far to the side to direct the thrust through the new center of mass. The embassy ship was tilted far back on her drive, like a smaller but very pregnant woman trying to walk.
Moties-Brown-and-whites, guided by one of the Browns-were at work disassembling the air-lock bridge melting it down, and reshaping the material into ring shaped support platforms for the fragile toroids. Others worked within the ship, and three small brown-and-white shapes played among them. Again the interior changed like dreams. Free-fall furniture was reshaped. Floors were slanted, vertical to the new line of thrust.
There were no Moties aboard the cutter now; they were all at work; but contact was maintained. Some of the midshipmen took their turns doing simple muscle work aboard the embassy ship.
Whitbread and Potter were working in the acceleration chamber, moving the bunks to leave room for three smaller bunks. It was a simple rewelding job, but it took muscle. Perspiration collected in beads inside their filter helmets, and soaked their armpits.
Potter said, "I wonder what a man smells like to a Motie? Dinna answer if you find the question offensive,' he added.
"'Tis a bit hard to say," Potter's Motie answered. "My duty it is, Mr. Potter, to understand everything about my Fyunch(click). Perhaps I fit the part too well. The smell of clean sweat wouldna offend me even if ye had nae been working in our own interest. What is it ye find funny, Mr. Whitbread?"
"Sorry. It's the accent."
"What accent is that?" Potter wondered.
Whitbread and Whitbread's Motie burst out laughing. "Well, it is funny," said Whitbread's Motie. "You used to have trouble telling us apart."
"Now it's the other way around," Jonathon Whitbread said. "I have to keep counting hands to know if I'm talking to Renner or Renner's Motie. Give me a hand here, will you, Gavin?...And Captain Blaine's Motie. I have to keep shaking myself out of the Attention position, and then she'll say something and I'll snap right back into it. She'll give orders like she's master of the cutter, and we'll obey, and then she'll say, 'Just a minute, Mister, and order us to forgive her. It's confusing."
"Even so," said Whitbread's Motie, "I wonder sometimes whether we've really got you figured out. Just because I can imitate you doesn't mean I can understand you..."
"'Tis our standard technique, as old as the hills, as old as some mountain ranges. It works. What else can we do?" asked Jonathon Whitbread's Fyunch(click).
"I wondered, that's all. These people are so versatile. We can't match all of your abilities, Whitbread. You find it easy to command and easy to obey; how can you do both? You're good with tools -- "
"So are you," said Whitbread, knowing it was an understatement.
"But we tire easily. You're ready to go on working, aren't you? We're not."
"And we aren't good at fighting...Well, enough of that. We play your part in order to understand you, but you each seem to play a thousand parts. It makes things difficult for an honest, hardworking bug-eyed monster."
"Who told you about bug-eyed monsters?" Whitbread exclaimed.
"Mr. Renner, who else? I took it as a compliment- that he would trust my sense of humor, that is."
"Dr. Horvath would kill him. We're supposed to be tippy-toe careful in our relationship with aliens. Don't offend taboos, and all that."
"Dr. Horvath," Potter said. "I am reminded that Dr. Horvath wanted us to ask you something. Ye' know that we have a Brown aboard MacArthur."
"Sure. A miner. Her ship visited MacArthur, then came home empty. It was pretty obvious she'd stayed with you."
"She's sick," Potter said. "She has been growing worse. Dr. Blevins says it has the marks of a dietary disease, but he has nae been able to help her. Hae you any idea what it is that she might lack?"
Whitbread thought he knew why Horvath had not asked his Motie about the Brown; if the Moties demanded to see the miner, they must be refused on orders from the Admiral himself. Dr. Horvath thought the order was stupid; he would never be able to defend it. Whitbread and Potter were not called upon to try. Orders were orders.
When the Moties did not answer at once, Jonathon said, "Between them the biologists have tried a lot of things. New foods, analysis of the Brown's digestive fluids, x-rays for tumor. They even changed the atmosphere in her cabin to match the Mote Prime atmosphere. Nothing works. She's unhappy, she whines, she doesn't move around much. She's getting thin. Her hair is coming out.
Whitbread's Motie spoke in a voice gone oddly flat. "You haven't any idea what might be wrong with her?"
"No," said Whitbread.
It was strange and uncomfortable, the way the Moties were looking at them. They seemed identical now, floating half-crouched, anchored by hand holds: identical pose, identical markings, identical faint smiles. Their individual identities didn't show now. Perhaps it was all a pose- "We'll get you some food," Potter's Motie said suddenly. "You may hae guessed right. It may be her diet."
Both Moties left. Presently Whitbread's Motie returned with a pressure bag that contained grain and plum-sized fruits and a chunk of red meat. "Boil the meat, soak the grain, and give her the fruit raw," she said. "And test the ionization in her cabin air." She ushered them out.
The boys boarded an open scooter to return to the cutter. Presently Potter said, "They behaved verra strangely. I canna but think that something important happened a minute ago."
"Then what was it?"
"Maybe they think we've been mistreating the Brown. Maybe they wonder why we won't bring her here. Maybe the other way around: they're shocked that we take so much trouble for a mere Brown."
"And perhaps they were tired and we imagined it." Potter fired thruster clusters to slow the scooter.
"Gavin. Look behind us."
"Not now. I must see to the safety o' my command." Potter took his time docking the scooter, then looked around.
More than a dozen Moties had been working outside the ship. The bracing for the toroids was conspicuously unfinished...but the Moties were all streaming into the airlock..

The Mediators came streaming into the toroid, bouncing gently from the walls in their haste to get out of each other's way. Most of them showed in one way or another that they were Fyunch(click) to aliens. They tended to underuse their lower right arms. They wanted to line themselves with their heads pointing all in the same direction.
The Master was white. The tufts at her armpits and groin were long and silky, like the fur of an Angora cat. When they were all there, the Master turned to Whitbread's Motie and said, "Speak."
Whitbread's Motie told of the incident with the midshipmen. "I'm certain they meant it all," she concluded.
To Potter's Motie the Master said, "Do you agree?"
"Yes, completely."
There was a panicky undercurrent of whispers, some Motie tongues, some in Anglic. It cut off when the Master said, "What did you tell them?"
"We told them the disease might well be a diet deficiency -- "
There was shocked human-sounding laughter amoung the Mediators, none at all among the few who had not been assigned Fyunch(click)s.
" -- and gave them food for the Engineer. It will not help, of course."
"Were they fooled?"
"Difficult to tell. We are not good at lying directly. It is not our specialty," said Potter's Motie.
A buzz of talk rose in the toroid. The Master allots it for a time. Presently she spoke. "What can it mean? Speak of this."
One answered. "They cannot be so different from us. They fight wars. We have heard hints of whole plan rendered uninhabitable."
Another interrupted. There was something gracefully human-feminine, in the way she moved. It seemed grotesque to the Master. "We think we know what causes humans to fight. Most animals on our world and the have a surrender reflex that prevents one member of a species from killing another. Humans use weapons instinctively. It makes the surrender reflex too slow."
"But it was the same with us, once," said a third. "Evolution of the Mediator mules put an end to that. Do you say that humans do not have Mediators?"
Sally Fowler's Motie said, "They have nothing that bred for the task of communicating and negotiating between potential enemies. They are amateurs at everything, second-best at everything they do. Amateurs do their negotiating. When negotiations break down, they fight.
"They are amateurs at playing Master, too," one said. Nervously she stroked the center of her face. "They take turns at playing Master. In their warships they station Marines between fore and aft, in case the aft section should wish to become masters of the ship. Yet, when Lenin speaks, Captain Blaine obeys like a Brown. It is," she said, "difficult to be Fyunch(click) to a part-time Master."
"Agreed," said Whitbread's Motie. "Mine is not a Master, but will be someday."
Another said, "Our Engineer has found much that needs improvement in their tools. There is now no class to fit Dr. Hardy -- "
"Stop this," said the Master, and the noise stopped. "Our concern is more specific. What have you learned of their mating habits?"
"They do not speak of this to us. Learning will be difficult. There seems to be only one female aboard."
"ONE female?"
"To the best that we can learn."
"Are the rest neuters, or are most neuters?"
"It would seem that they are not. Yet the female is not pregnant, has not been pregnant at any time since our arrival."
"We must learn," said the Master. "But you must also conceal. A casual question. It must be asked very carefully, to reveal as little as possible. If what we suspect is true-can it be true?"
One said, "All of evolution is against it. Individuals that survive to breed must carry the genes for the next generation. How, then-?"
"They are alien. Remember, they are alien," said Whitbread's Motie.
"We must find out. Select one among you, and formulate your question, and select the human you will ask. The rest of you must avoid the subject unless the aliens introduce it."
"I think we must conceal nothing." One stroked the center of her face as if for reassurance. "They are alien. They may be the best hope we have ever had. With their help we may break the ancient pattern of the Cycles."
The Master showed her surprise. "You will conceal the crucial difference between Man and ourselves. They will not learn of it."
"I say we must not!" cried the other. "Listen to me! They have their own ways-they solve problems, always -- " The others converged on her. "No, listen! You must listen!"
"Crazy Eddie," the Master said wonderingly. "Confine her in comfort. We will need her knowledge. No other must be assigned to her Fyunch(click), since the strain has driven her mad."

Blaine let the cutter lead MacArthur to Mote Prime at.780 gee. He was acutely aware that MacArthur was at alien warship capable of devastating half the Motie planet, and did not like to think of what weaponry might be trained on her by uneasy Moties. He wanted the embassy ship to arrive first-not that it would really help, but it might.
The cutter was almost empty now. The scientific personnel were living and working aboard MacArthur, reading endless data into the computer banks, cross-checking and codifying, and reporting their findings to the Captain for transmission to Lenin. They could have reported directly, of course, but there are many privileges to rank, MacArthur's dinner parties and bridge games tended to become discussion groups.
Everyone was concerned about the brown miner. She became steadily worse, eating as little of the food provided by the Moties as she had of MacArthur's provisions. It was frustrating, and Dr. Blevins tried endless tests with no results. The miniatures had waxed fat and fecund while loose aboard MacArthur, and Blevins wondered if they had been eating something unexpected, like missile propellant, or the insulation from cables. He offered her a variety of unlikely substances, but the Brown'5 eyesight grew dim, her fur came out in patches, and she howled. One day she stopped eating. The next she was dead.
Horvath was beside himself with fury.
Blaine thought it fitting to call the embassy ship. The gently smiling Brown-and-white that answered could only be Horvath's Motie, although Blaine would have been hard-pressed to say how he knew. "Is my Fyunch(click) available?" Rod asked. Horvath's Motie made him uncomfortable.
"I'm afraid not, Captain."
"All right. I called to report that the Brown we had aboard this ship is dead. I don't know how much it means to you, but we did our best. The entire scientific staff of MacArthur tried to cure her."
"I'm sure of that, Captain. It doesn't matter. May we have the body?"
Rod considered it a moment. "I'm afraid not." He couldn't guess what the Moties could learn from the corpse of an alien that had never communicated when alive; but perhaps he was learning from Kutuzov. Could there have been microtattooing below the fur...? And why weren't the Moties more concerned about the Brown? That was something he certainly couldn't ask. Best to be thankful they weren't upset. "Give my regards to my Fyunch(click)."
"I have bad news also," said Horvath's Motie. "Captain, you no longer have a Fyunch(click). She has gone mad."
"What?" Rod was more shocked than he would have believed. "Mad? Why? How?"
"Captain, I don't imagine you can grasp what a strain it has been for her. There are Moties who give orders and there are Moties who make and fix tools. We are neither: we communicate. We can identify with a giver of orders and it is no strain, but an alien giver of orders? It was too much. She- How shall I put it? Mutiny. Your word is mutiny. We have none. She is safe and under confinement, but it is best for her that she does not speak with aliens again."
"Thank you," Rod said. He watched the gently smiling image fade from the screen and did nothing more for five minutes. Finally he sighed and began dictating reports for Lenin. He worked alone and it was as if he had lost a part of himself and was waiting for it to come back.