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

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06-07-2007, 08:20 PM
Chapter 26 - Mote Prime


Mote Prime

MOTE PRIME: Marginally habitable world in the the Trans-Coalsack Sector. Primary: G2 yellow dwarf star approximately ten parsecs from the Trans-Coalsack Sector Capital New Caledonia. Generally referred to as the Mote in Murcheson's Eye (q.v.) or the Mote. Mass 0.91 Sol;luminosity 0.78 Sol.
Mote Prime has a poisonous atmosphere breathable with the aid of commercial or standard Navy issue filters. Contraindicated for heart patients or where emphysema problems exist. Oxygen: 16 percent. Nitrogen: 79.4 cent. C02: 2.9 percent. Helium: 1 percent. Complex hydrocarbons including ketones: 0.7 percent.
Gravity: 0.780 standard. The planetary radius is 0.84 and mass is 0.57 Earth standard; a planet of normal density. Period: 0.937 standard years, or 8,750.005 hours. The planet is inclined at 18 degrees with semimajor of 0.93 AU (137 million kilometers). Temperatures cool, poles uninhabitable and covered with ice. Equatorial and tropical regions are temperate to hot. The local day is 27.33 hours.
There is one moon, small and close. It is asteroidal in origin and the back side bears the characteristic indented crater typical of planetoids in the Mote system. The moon based fusion generator and power-beaming station are critical sources for the Mote Prime civilization.
Topography: 50 percent ocean, not including extensive ice caps. Terrain is flat over most of the land area. Mountain ranges are low and heavily eroded. There are few forests. Arable lands are extensively cultivated.
The most obvious features are circular formations which are visible everywhere. The smallest are eroded to the limits of detection, while the largest can be seen only from orbit.
Although the physical features of Mote Prime are of some interest, particularly to ecologists concerned with the effects of intelligent life on planetography, the primary interest in the Mote centers on its inhabitants.

Two scooters converged at the cutter and suited figures climbed aboard. When both humans and Moties had checked over the ship, the Navy ratings who had brought her to orbit gratefully turned her over to the midshipmen and returned to MacArthur. The middies eagerly took their places in the control cabin and examined the landscape below.
"We're to tell you that all contact with you will be through this ship," Whitbread told his Motie. "Sorry, but we can't invite you aboard MacArthur."
Whitbread's Motie gave a very human shrug to express her opinion of orders. Obedience posed no strain on either her or her human. "What will you do with the cutter when you leave?"
"It's a gift," Whitbread told her. "Maybe you'll want it for a museum. There are things the Captain wants you to know about us -- "
"And things he wants to conceal. Certainly."
From orbit the planet was all circles: seas, lakes, an arc of a mountain range, the line of a river, a bay. There was one, eroded and masked by a forest. It would have been undetectable had it not fallen exactly across a line of mountains, breaking the backbone of a continent as a man's foot breaks a snake. Beyond, a sea the size of the Black Sea showed a flattish island in the exact center.
"The magma must have welled up where the asteroid tore the crust open," said Whitbread. "Can you imagine the sound it must have made?"
Whitbread's Motie nodded.
"No wonder you moved all the asteroids out to the Trojan points. That was the reason, wasn't it?"
"I don't know. Our records are-unt complete from that long ago. I imagine the asteroids must have been easier to mine, easier to make a civilization from, once they were lumped together like that."
Whitbread remembered that the Beehive had been stone cold without a trace of radiation. "Just how long ago did all this happen?"
"Oh, at least ten thousand years. Whitbread, how old are your oldest records?"
"I don't know. I could ask someone." The midshipman looked down. They were crossing the Terminator-which was a series of arcs. The night side blazed with a galaxy of cities. Earth might have looked this way during the CoDominium; but the Empire's worlds had never bee so heavily populated.
"Look ahead." Whitbread's Motie pointed to a fleck o flame at the world's rim. "That's the transfer ship. Nov we can show you our world."
"I think your civilization must be a lot older than ours," said Whitbread.

Sally's equipment and personal effects were packed and ready in the cutter's lounge, and her minuscule cabin seemed bare and empty now. She stood at the view port and watched the silver arrowhead approach MacArthur Her Motie was not watching.
"I, um, I have a rather indelicate question," Sally's Fyunch(click) said.
Sally turned from the view port. Outside, the Motie ship had come alongside and a small boat was approaching from MacArthur. "Go ahead."
"What do you do if you don't want children yet?"
"Oh, dear," said Sally, and she laughed a little. She was the only woman among nearly a thousand men-and in a male-oriented society. She had known all this before she came, but still she missed what she thought of as girl talk. Marriage and babies and housekeeping and scandals: they were part of civilized life. She hadn't known how big a part until the New Chicago revolt caught her up, and she missed it even more now. Sometimes in desperation she had talked recipes with MacArthur's cooks as a poor substitute, but the only other feminine-oriented mind within light years was-her Fyunch(click).
"Fyunch(click)," the alien reminded her. "I wouldn't raise the subject but I think I ought to know-do you have children aboard MacArthur?"
"Me? No!" Sally laughed again. "I'm not even married."
Sally told the Motie about marriage. She tried not to skip any basic assumptions. It was sometimes hard to remember that the Motie was an alien. "This must sound a bit weird," she finished.
"'Come, I will conceal nothing from you,' as Mr. Renner would say." The mimicry was perfect, including gestures. "I think your customs are strange. I doubt that we'll adopt many of them, given the differences in physiology."
"But you marry to raise children. Who raises children born without marriage?"
"There are charities," Sally said grimly. Her distaste was impossible to disguise.
"I take it you've never..." The Motie paused delicately.
"No, of course not."
"How not? I don't mean why not, I mean how?"
"Well-you know that men and women have to have sexual relations to make a baby, the same as you-I've examined you pretty thoroughly."
"So that if you aren't married you just don't-get together?"
"That's right. Of course, there are pills a woman can take if she likes men but doesn't want to take the consequences.
"Pills? How do they work? Hormones?" The Motie seemed interested, if somewhat detached.
"That's right." They had discussed hormones. Motie physiology employed chemical triggers also, but the chemicals were quite different.
"But a proper woman doesn't use them," Sally's Motie suggested.

"When will you get married?"
"When I find the right man." She thought for a moment, hesitated, and added, "I may have found him already." And the damn fool may already be married to his ship, she added to herself.
"Then why don't you marry him?"
Sally laughed. "I don't want to jump into anything. 'Marry in haste, repent at leisure.' I can get married an time." Her trained objectivity made her add, "Well, an time within the next five years. I'll be something of spinster if I'm not married by then."
"People would think it odd." Curious now, she asked, "What if a Motie doesn't want children?"
"We don't have sexual relations," Sally's Motie said primly.
There was an almost inaudible clunk as the ground-to orbit ship secured alongside.

The landing boat was a blunt arrowhead coated with ablative material. The pilot's cabin was a large wrap-around transparency, and there were no other windows. When Sally and her Motie arrived at the entryway; she was startled to see Horace Bury just ahead of her.
"You're going down to the Mote, Your Excellency? Sally asked.
"Yes, my lady." Bury seemed as surprised as Sally. He entered the connecting tube to find that the Moties had employed an old Navy trick-the tube was pressurize with a lower pressure at the receiving end, so that the passengers were wafted along. The interior was surprisingly large, with room for all: Renner, Sally Fowler, Chaplain Hardy-Bury wondered if they would ship him back up to MacArthur every Sunday-Dr. Horvath, Midshipmen Whitbread and Staley, two ratings Bury did not recognize-and alien counterparts for all but three of the humans. He noted the seating arrangements with an amusement that only partly covered his fears: four abreast, with a Motie seat beside each of the human seats~. As they strapped in he was further amused. They were one short.
But Dr. Horvath moved forward into the control cabin and took a seat next to the brown pilot. Bury settled into the front row, where seats were only two abreast-and a Motie took the other. Fear surged into his throat. Allah is merciful, I witness that Allah is One- No! There was nothing to fear and he had done nothing dangerous.
And yet-he was here, and the alien was beside him, while behind him on MacArthur, any accident might bring the ship's officers to discover what he had done to his pressure suit.
A pressure suit is the most identity locked artifact a man of space can own. It is far more personal than a pipe or a toothbrush. Yet others had exposed their suits to the ministrations of the unseen Brownies. During the long voyage to Mote Prime, Commander Sinclair had examined the modifications the Brownies had made.
Bury had waited. Presently he learned through Nabil that the Brownies had doubled the efficiency of the recycling systems. Sinclair had returned the pressure suits to their owners-and begun modifying the officers suits in a similar fashion.
One of the air tanks on Bury's suit was now a dummy. It held half a liter of pressurized air and two miniatures in suspended animation. The risks were great. He might be caught. The miniatures might die from the frozen-sleep drugs. Someday he might need air that was not there. Bury had always been willing to take risks for sufficient profit.
When the call came, he had been certain he was discovered. A Navy rating had appeared on his room screen, said, "Call for you, Mr. Bury," smiled evilly, and switched over. Before he could wonder Bury found himself facing an alien.
"Fyunch(click) ," said the alien. It cocked its head and shoulders at him. "You seem confused. Surely you know the term."
Bury had recovered quickly. "Of course. I was not aware that any Motie was studying me." He did not like the idea at all.
"No, Mr. Bury, I have only just been assigned. Mr. Bury, have you thought of coming to Mote Prime?"
"No, I doubt that I would be allowed to leave the ship."
"Captain Blaine has given permission, if you-urr willing. Mr. Bury, we would deeply appreciate your comments regarding the possibilities for trade between the Mote and the Empire. It seems likely we would both profit."
Yes! Beard of the Prophet, an opportunity like that- Bury had agreed quickly. Nabil could guard the hidden Brownies.
But now, as he sat aboard the landing boat, it was difficult to control his fears. He looked at the alien beside him.
"I am Dr. Horvath's Fyunch(click)," the Motie said. "You should relax. These boats are well designed."
"Ah," said Bury, and he relaxed. The worst was hours away. Nabil had by now safely removed the dummy tank into MacArthur's main air lock with hundreds of others, and it would be safe. The alien ship was undoubtedly superior to similar human craft, if for no other reason than the Moties' desire to avoid risk to the human ambassadors. But it was not the trip down that kept fear creeping into his throat until it tasted bright and sharp like new copper-there was a slight lurch. The descent had begun.

To everyone's surprise it was dull. There were occasional shifts in gravity but no turbulence. Three separate times they felt almost subliminal clunks, as of landing gear coming down-and then there was a rolling sensation. The ship had come to rest.
They filed out into a pressurized chamber. The air was good but scentless, and there was nothing to see but the big inflated structure around them. They looked back at the ship and stared unashamedly.
It was gull-winged now, built like a glider. The edges of the crazy arrowhead had sprouted a bewildering variety of wings and flaps.
"That was quite a ride," Horvath said jovially as he came to join them. "The whole vehicle changes shape. There aren't any hinges on the wings-the flaps come out as if they were alive! The jet scoops open and closes like mouths! You really should have seen it. If Commander Sinclair ever comes down we'll have to give him the window seat," he chortled. He did not notice the glares.
An inflated air lock opened at the far end of the building, and three brown-and-white Moties entered. Fear rose in Bury's throat again as they separated, one joining each of the Navy ratings, while the other came directly to Bury.
"Fyunch(click)," it said.
Bury's mouth was very dry.
"Don't be afraid," said the Motie. "I can't read your mind."
It was definitely the wrong thing to say if the Motie wanted Bury at ease. "I'm told that is your profession."
The Motie laughed. "It's my profession, but I can't do it. All I will ever know is what you show me." It didn't sound at all as Bury sounded to himself. It must have studied humans in general; only that.
"You're male," he noticed.
"I am young. The others were female by the time they reached MacArthur. Mr. Bury, we have vehicles outside and a place of residence for you nearby. Come and see our city, and then we can discuss business." It took his arm in two small right arms, and the touch was very strange. Bury let himself be led to the air lock.
"Don't be afraid. I can't read your mind," it had said, reading his mind. On many rediscovered worlds of the First Empire there were rumors of mind readers, but none had ever been found, praise the mercy of Allah. This thing claimed that it was not; and it was very alien. The touch was not abhorrent, although people of Bury's culture hated to be touched. He had been among far too many strange customs and peoples to worry about his childhood prejudices. But this Motie was reassuringly strange-and Bury had never heard of anybody's Fyunch(click) acting that way. Was it trying to reassure him?
Nothing could have lured him but the hope of profit-profit without ceiling, without limit, profit from merely looking around. Even the terraforming of the New Caladonia worlds by the First Empire had not shown the industrial power that must have moved the asteroids to Mote Beta's Trojan points.
"A good commercial product," the Motie was saying "should not be bulky or massive. We should be able to find items scarce here and plentiful in the Empire, or vice versa. I anticipate great profit from your visit..."
They joined the others in the air lock. Large windows showed the airfield. "Blasted show-offs," Renner muttered to Bury. When the Trader looked at him quizzically Renner pointed. "There's city all around, and the airport'~ got not one meter of extra space."
Bury nodded. Around the tiny field were skyscrapers, tall and square-built, jammed close together, with only single belt of green running out of the city to the east. II there were a plane crash it would be a disaster-but the Moties didn't build planes to crash.
There were three ground cars, limousines, two for passengers and one for luggage, and the human seats took up two-thirds of the room in each. Bury nodded reflectively Moties didn't mind being crowded together. As soon as they took their seats the drivers, who were Browns, whipped the cars away. The vehicles ran soundlessly, with a smooth feeling of power, and there was no jolt at all. The motors were in the 'hubs of the tall balloon tires, much like those of cars on 'Empire worlds.
Tall, ugly buildings loomed above them to shoulder out the sky. The black streets were wide but very crowded and the Moties drove like maniacs. Tiny vehicles passed each other in intricate curved paths with centimeters of clearance. The traffic was not quite silent. There was a steady low hum that might have been all the hundreds of motors sounding together, and sometimes a stream of high-pitched gibberish that might have been cursing.
Once the humans were able to stop wincing away from each potential collision, they noticed that all the other drivers were Browns, too. Most of the cars earned a passenger, sometimes a Brown-and-white, often a pure White. These Whites were larger than the Brown-and-whites, and their fur was very clean and silky-and they were doing all the cursing as their drivers continued in silence.
Science Minister Horvath turned back to the humans in the seats behind him. "I had a look at the buildings as we came down-roof gardens on every one of them. Well, Mr. Renner, are you glad you Came? We were expecting a Navy officer, but hardly you."
"It seemed most reasonable to send me," Kevin Renner said. "I was the most thoroughly available officer aboard, as the Captain put it. I won't be needed to chart courses for a while."
"And that's why they sent you?" Sally asked.
"No, I think what really convinced the Captain was the way I screamed and cried and threatened to hold my breath. Somehow he got the idea I really wanted to come. And I did." The way the navigating officer leaned forward in his seat reminded Sally of a dog sticking its head out of a car window into the wind.
They had only just noticed the walkways that ran one floor up along the edges of the buildings, and they could not see the pedestrians well at all. There were more Whites, and Brown-and-whites, and...others.
Something tall and symmetrical came walking like a giant among the Whites. Three meters tall it must have been, with a small, earless head that seemed submerged beneath the sloping muscles of the shoulders. It carried a massive-looking box of some kind under each of two arms. It walked like a juggernaut, steady and unstoppable.
"What's that?" Renner asked.
"Worker," Sally's Motie replied. "Porter. Not very intelligent."
There was something else Renner strained to see, for its fur was rust-red, as if it had been dipped in blood. It was the size of his own Motie, but with a smaller head, and as it raised and flexed its right hands it showed fingers so long and delicate that Renner thought of Amazon spiders. He touched his Fyunch (click)'s shoulder and pointed. "And that?"
"Physician. Emm Dee," Renner's Motie said. "We're a differentiated species, as you may have gathered by now. They're all relatives, so to speak...
"Yah. And the Whites?"
"Givers of orders. There was one aboard ship, as I'm sure you know."
"Yah, we guessed that." The Tsar had, anyway. What else was he right about?
"What do you think of our architecture?"
"Ugly. Industrial hideous," said Renner. "I knew your ideas of beauty would be different from ours, but-on your honor. Do you have a standard of beauty?"
"Come, I will conceal nothing from you. We do, but it doesn't resemble yours. And I still don't know what you people see in arches and pillars -- "
"Freudian symbolism," Renner said firmly. Sally snorted.
"That's what Horvath's Motie keeps saying, but I've never heard a coherent explanation," Renner's Motie said. "Meanwhile, what do you think of your vehicles?"
The limousines were radically different from the two-seaters that zipped past them. No two of the two-seaters were alike either-the Moties did not seem to have discovered the advantages of standardization. But all the other vehicles they had seen were tiny, like a pair of motorcycles, while the humans rode in low-slung stream- lined vehicles with soft curves bright with polish.
"They're beautiful," said Sally. "Did you design them just for us?"
"Yes," her Motie replied. "Did we guess well?"
"Perfectly. We're most flattered," Sally said. "You must have put considerable expense into...this..." She trailed off. Renner turned to see where she was looking, and gasped.
There had been castles like this in the Tyrolean Alps of Earth. They were still there, never bombed, but Renner had only seen copies on other worlds. Now a fairy-tale castle, graceful with tall spires, stood among the square buildings of the Motie city. At one corner a reaching minaret was circled by a thin balcony.
"What is that place?" Renner asked.
Sally's Motie answered. "You will stay there. It is pressurized and self-enclosed, with a garage and cars for your convenience."
Horace Bury spoke into the admiring silence. "You are most impressive hosts."

From the first they called it the Castle. Beyond question it had been designed and built entirely for them. It was large enough for perhaps thirty people. Its beauty and luxury were in the tradition of Sparta-with a few jarring notes.
Whitbread, Staley, Sally, Drs. Hardy and Horvath-they knew their manners. They kept firm rein on their laughter as their Fyunch(click) s showed them about their respective rooms. Able Spacers Jackson and Weiss were awed to silence and wary of saying something foolish. Horace Bury's people had rigid traditions of hospitality; aside from that, he found all customs strange except on Levant.
But Renner's people respected candor; and candor, he had found, made life easier for everyone. Except in the Navy. In the Navy he had learned to keep his mouth shut. Fortunately his Fyunch(click) held views similar to his own.
He looked about the apartment assigned him. Double bed, dresser, large closet, a couch and coffee table, all vaguely reminiscent of the travelogues he had shown the Moties. It was five times the size of his cabin aboard MacArthur.
"Elbow room," he said with great satisfaction. He sniffed. There was no smell at all. "You do a great job of filtering the planet's air."
"Thanks. As for the elbow room -- " Rennet's Motie wiggled all her elbows. "We should need more than you, but we don't."
The picture window ran from floor to ceiling, wall to wall. The city towered over him; most of the buildings in view were taller than the Castle. Rennet found that he was looking straight down a city street toward a magnificent sunset that was all the shades of red. The pedestrian level showed a hurrying horde of colored blobs, mostly Reds and Browns, but also many Whites. He watched for a time, then turned back.
There was an alcove near the head of his bed. He looked into it. It held a dresser and two odd-looking pieces of furniture that Renner recognized. They resembled what the Brown had done to the bed in Crawford's stateroom.
He asked, "Two?"
"We will be assigned a Brown."
"I'm going to teach you a new word. It's called 'privacy.' It refers to the human need -- "
"We know about privacy." The Motie did a double take. "You aren't suggesting it should apply between a man and his Fyunch(click)!"
Rennet nodded solemnly.
"But...but...Renner, do you have any respect for tradition?"
"Do I?"
"No. Dammit. All right, Renner. We'll sling a door there. With a lock?"
"Yah. I might add that the rest probably feel the same way, whether they say so or not."
The bed, the couch, the table showed none of the familiar Motie innovations. The mattress was a bit too firm, but what the hell. Renner glanced into the bathroom and burst out laughing. The toilet was a free-fall toilet, somewhat changed from those in the cutter; it had a gold flush, carved into the semblance of a dog's head. The bathtub was...strange.
"I've got to try that bathtub," said Rennet.
"Let me know what you think. We saw some pictures of bathtubs in your travelogues, but they looked ridiculous, given your anatomy."
"Right. Nobody's ever designed a decent bathtub. There weren't any toilets in those pictures, were there?"
"Oddly enough, there weren't."
"Mmm." Renner began sketching. When he had finished, his Motie said, "Just how much water do these Use?"
"Quite a lot. Too much for space craft."
"Well, we'll see what we can do."
"Oh, and you'd better hang another door between the bathroom and the living room."
"More privacy?"

Dinner that night was like a formal dinner in Sally's old home on Sparta, but weirdly changed. The servants-silent, attentive, deferential, guided by the host who in deference to rank was Dr. Horvath's Motie-were Laborers a meter and a half tall. The food was from MacArthur's stores-except for an appetizer, which was a melon like fruit Sweetened with a yellow sauce. "We guarantee it nonpoisonous," said Rennet's Motie. "We've found a few foods we can guarantee, and we're looking for more. But you'll have to take your chances on the taste." The sauce killed the melon's sour taste and made it delicious.
"We can use this as a trade item," said Bury. "We would rather ship the seeds, not the melon itself. Is it hard to grow?"
"Not at all, but it requires cultivation," said Bury's Motie. "We'll give you the opportunity to test the soil. Have you found ether things that might be worth trading?"
Bury frowned, and looked down at his plate. Nobody had remarked on those plates..they were gold: plates, silverware, even the wine goblets, though they were shaped like fine crystal. Yet they couldn't be gold, because they didn't conduct heat; and they were simple copies of the plastic free-fall utensils aboard MacArthur's cutter, even to the trademarks stamped on the edges.
Everyone was waiting for his answer. Trade possibilities would profoundly affect the relationship between Mote and Empire. "On our route to the Castle I looked for signs of luxuries among you. I saw none but those designed specifically for human beings. Perhaps I did not recognize them."
"I know the word, but we deal very little in luxuries. We-I speak for the givers of orders, of course-we put more emphasis on power, territory, the maintenance of a household and a dynasty. We concern ourselves with providing a proper station in life for our children."
Bury filed the information: "We speak for the givers of orders." He was dealing with a servant. No. An agent. He must keep that in mind, and wonder how binding were his Fyunch(click)'s promises. He smiled and said, "A pity. Luxuries travel well. You will understand my problem in finding trade goods when I tell you that it would hardly be profitable to buy gold from you."
"I thought as much. We must see if we can find something more valuable."
"Works of art, perhaps?"
"Let me," said Renner's Motie. She switched to a high-pitched, warbling language, talked very fast for perhaps twenty seconds, then looked about at the assembled company. "Sorry, but it was quicker that way."
Bury's Motie said, "Quite so. I take it you would want the originals?"
"If possible."
"Of course. To us a copy is as good as the original. We have many museums; I'll arrange some tours."
It developed that everyone wanted to go along.

When they returned from dinner, Whitbread almost laughed when he saw there was now a door on the bathroom. His Motie caught it and said, "Mr. Renner had words to say about privacy." She jerked a thumb at the door that now closed off her alcove.
"Oh, that one wasn't necessary," said Whitbread. He was not used to sleeping alone. If he woke in the middle of the night, who would he talk to until he fell asleep again?
Someone knocked on the door. Able Spacer Weiss- from Tabletop, Whitbread recalled. "Sir, may I speak with you privately?"
"Right," said Whitbread's Motie, and she withdrew to the alcove. The Moties had caught on to privacy fast. Whitbread ushered Weiss into the room.
"Sir, we've got sort of a problem," Weiss said. "Me and Jackson, that is. We came down to help out, you know, carrying luggage and cleaning up and like that."
"Right. You won't be doing any of that. We've each been assigned an Engineer type."
"Yes, sir, but it's more than that. Jackson and me, we've been assigned a Brown each too. And, and -- "
"Fyunch (click) s."
"Well, there are certain things you can't talk about." Both ratings were stationed in hangar deck and wouldn't know much about Field technology anyway.
"Yes, sir, we know that. No war stories, nothing about ship's weapons or drive." -
"All right. Aside from that, you're on vacation. You're traveling first class, with a servant and a native guide. Enjoy it. Don't say anything the Tsar would hang you for, don't bother to ask about the local red-light district, and don't worry about the expense. Have a ball, and hope they don't send you up on the next boat."
"Aye aye, sir." Weiss grinned suddenly. "You know? This is why I joined the Navy. Strange worlds. This is what the enlistment men promised us."
"'Golden cities far...' Me too."
Afterwards Whitbread stood by the picture window. The city glowed with a million lights. Most of the tiny cars had disappeared, but the streets were alive with huge silent trucks. The pedestrians had slacked off somewhat. Whitbread spotted something tall and spindly that ran among the Whites as if they were stationary objects. It dodged around a huge Porter type and was gone.