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

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06-07-2007, 08:24 PM
Chapter 32 - Lenin

The young Russian midshipman carried himself proudly. His battle armor was spotless, and all his equipment arranged properly by the Book. "The Admiral requests that you conic to the bridge," he chirped in flawless Anglic.
Rod Blaine followed listlessly. They floated through the air lock from Lenin's number-two hangar deck to a flurry of salutes front Kutuzov's Marines. The full honors of a visiting captain only stirred his grief. He'd given his last orders, and he'd been the last man to leave his ship. Now he was an observer, and this was probably the last time anyone would render him boarding honors.
Everything aboard the battleship seemed too large, yet he knew it was only an illusion. With few exceptions the compartments and corridors of capital ships were standardized, and -- he might as well have been aboard MacArthur. Lenin was at battle stations, with all her airtight doors closed and dogged. Marines were posted at the more important passageway controls, but otherwise they saw no one, and Rod was glad of that. He could not have faced any of his former crew. Or passengers.
Lenin's bridge was enormous. She was fitted out as a flagship, and in addition to the screens and command posts for the ship herself there were a dozen couches for the Admiral's battle staff. Rod woodenly acknowledged the Admiral's greeting and sank gratefully into the flag Captain's chair. He didn't even wonder where Commander Borman, Kutuzov's flag lieutenant and chief of staff, had gone. He was alone with the Admiral at the flag command station.
MacArthur was displayed from half a dozen views on the screens above him. The last of Lenin's boats were pulling away from her. Staley must have accomplished his mission, Rod thought. Now she has only a few minutes to live. When she's gone I'll really be finished. A newly promoted captain who lost his ship on her first mission -- -even the Marquis' influence would not overcome that. Blind hatred for the Mote and all its inhabitants welled up inside him.
"Dammit, we ought to be able to get her back from a bunch of-of goddamn animals!" he blurted.
Kutuzov looked up in surprise. His craggy eyebrows came closer together in a frown, then relaxed slightly. "Da. If that is all they are. But suppose they are more than that? In any event is too late."
"Yes, sir. They triggered the torpedoes." Two hydrogen bombs. The Field generator would vaporize in milliseconds, and MacArthur would- He writhed in pain at the thought. When the screens flared, she'd be gone. He looked up suddenly. "Where are my midshipmen, Admiral?"
Kutuzov grunted. "They have decelerated to a lower orbit and are beyond the horizon. I will send a boat for them when everything is clear."
Strange, Rod thought. But they couldn't come directly to Lenin by the Admiral's orders, and the boats wouldn't provide any real protection when MacArthur exploded. What they had done was unnecessary caution since the torpedoes did not give off a large fraction of their energy in K-rays and neutrons, but it was understandable caution.
The timers twirled noiselessly to zero. Kutuzov watched grimly as another minute, and another, Went past. "The torpedoes did not fire," he said accusingly.
"No, sir." Rod's misery was complete. And now- "Captain Mikhailov. You will please prepare main battery to fire on MacArthur." Kutuzov turned his dark gaze to Rod. "I dislike this, Captain. Not so much as you. But I dislike it. Do you prefer to give order yourself? Captain Mikhailov, you permit?"
"Da, Admiral."
"Thank you, sir." Rod took a deep breath. A man ought to kill his own dog. "Shoot!"

Space battles are lovely to see. The ships approach like smooth black eggs, their drives radiating dazzling light. Scintillations in the black flanks record -- the explosions of torpedoes that have escaped destruction from the stabbing colors of the secondary lasers. The main batteries pour energy into each other's Fields, and lines of green and ruby reflect interplanetary dust.
Gradually the Fields begin to glow. Dull red, brighter yellow, glaring green, as the Fields become charged with energy. The colored eggs are linked by red and green threads from the batteries, and the colors change.
Now three green threads linked Lenin and MacArthur. Nothing else happened. The battle cruiser did not move and made no attempt to fight back. Her Field began to glow red, shading to yellow where the beams converged amidships. When it became white it would overload and the energy stored in it would be released-inward and out. Kutuzov watched in growing puzzlement.
"Captain Mikhailov. Please take us back a klick." The lines on the Admiral's brow deepened as Lenin's drive moved her gently away from MacArthur.
MacArthur shaded green with faintly bluish spots. The image receded on the screens. Hot spots vanished as the lasers spread slightly. A thousand kilometers away she glowed richly in the telescopes.
"Captain, are le at rest with respect to MacArthur?" Kutuzov asked.
"Da, Admiral."
"She appears to move closer."
"Da, Admiral. Her Field is expanding."
"Expanding?" Kutuzov turned to Rod. "You have explanation?"
"No, sir?' He wanted nothing more than oblivion. Speaking was pain, awareness agony. But he tried to think. "The Brownies must have rebuilt the generator, sir. And they always improve anything they work on."
"It seems pity to destroy it," Kutuzov muttered. "Expanded like that, with that great radiating surface, Mac.Arthur would be match for any vessel in Fleet...
MacArthur's Field was violet now, and huge. It filled the screens, and Kutuzov adjusted his to drop the magnification by a factor of ten. She was a great violet balloon tethered by green threads. They waited, fascinated, as ten minutes went by. Fifteen.
"No ship has ever survived that long in violet," Kutuzov muttered. "Are you still convinced we deal only with animals, Captain Blaine?"
"The scientists are convinced, sir. They convinced me," he added carefully. "I wish Dr. Horvath were here now."
Kutuzov grunted as if struck in the belly. "That fool. Pacifist. He would not understand what he saw." They watched in silence for another minute.
The intercom buzzed. "Admiral, there is a signal from the Mote embassy ship," the communications officer announced.
Kutuzov scowled. "Captain Blaine. You will take that call."
"I beg your pardon, sir?"
"Answer the call from the Moties. I will not speak to any alien directly."
"Aye aye, sir."
Its face was any Motie's face, but it sat uncomfortably erect, and Rod was not surprised when it announced, "I am Dr. Horvath's Fyunch (click). I have distressing news for you, Captain Blaine. And by the way, we appreciate the warning you gave us-we don't understand why you wish to destroy your ship, but if we had been alongside -- "
Blaine rubbed the bridge of his nose. "We're fighting a plague. Maybe killing MacArthur stopped it. We can hope. Listen, we're a little busy now. What's your message?"
"Yes, of course. Captain, the three small craft which escaped from MacArthur have attempted reentry to Mote Prime. I am sorry, but none survived."
Lenin's bridge seemed to fog. "Reentry with lifeboats? But that's plain silly. They wouldn't -- "
"No, no, they tried to land. We tracked them part way- Captain, we have recordings of them, They burned up, completely -- "
"God damn it to hell! They were safe!"
"We're terribly sorry."
Kutuzov's face was a mask. He mouthed; "Recordings."
Rod nodded. He felt very tired. He told the Motie, "We would like those recordings. Are you certain that none of my young officers survived?"
"Quite certain, Captain. We are very distressed by this. Naturally, we had no idea they would attempt such a thing, and there was absolutely nothing we could do under the circumstances."
"Of course not. Thank you." Rod turned off the screen and looked back at the battle display in front of him.
Kutuzov muttered, "So there are no bodies and no wreckage. Very convenient." He touched a button on the arm of his command couch and said, "Captain Mikhailov, please send cutter to look for the midshipmen." He turned back to Rod. "There will be nothing, of course."
"You don't believe the Moties, do you, sir?" Rod asked.
"Do you, Captain?"
"I-I don't know, sir. I don't see what we can do about it."
"Nor I, Captain. The cutter will search, and will find nothing. We do not know where they attempted reentry. The planet is large. Even if they survive and are free, we could search for days and not find them. And if they are captives-they will never be found." He grunted again and spoke into his command circuit. "Mikhailov, see that the cutter searches well. And use torpedoes to destroy that vessel, if you please."
"Yes, sir." Lenin's captain spoke quietly at his post on the opposite side of the big bridge. A score of torpedoes arced out toward MacArthur. They couldn't go through the Field; the stored energy there would fuse them instantly. But they exploded all at once, a perfect time-on-target salvo, and a great ripple of multicolored light swept around MacArthur's violet-glowing surface. Bright white spots appeared and vanished.
"Burn-through in nine places," the gunnery officer announced.
"Burn-through into what?" Rod asked innocently. She was still his ship, and she was fighting valiantly for her life...
The Admiral snarled. The ship was five hundred meters inward from that hellish violet surface-the bright flashes might never have reached her, or might have missed entirely.
"Guns will continue to fire. Launch another torpedo attack," Kutuzov ordered.
Another fleet of glowing darts arced out. They exploded all across the violet shimmering surface. More white spots rippled across, and there was an expanding ripple of violet flame.
And then MacArthur was as she was. A violet fire balloon a full kilometer in diameter, tethered by threads of green light.
A mess steward handed Rod a cup of coffee. Absently he sipped. It tasted terrible.
"Shoot!" Kutuzov commanded. He glared at the screens in hatred. "Shoot!"
And suddenly it happened. MacArthur's Field expanded enormously, turned blue, yellow-and vanished. Automatic scanners whirred and the magnification of the screens increased. The ship was there.
She glowed red, and parts had melted. She should not have been there at all. When a Field collapses, everything inside it vaporizes...
"They must have fried in there," Rod said mechanically.
"Da. Shoot!"
The green lights stabbed out. MacArthur changed, bubbled, expanded, fuming air into space. A torpedo moved almost slowly to her and exploded. Still the laser batteries fired. When Kutuzov finally ordered them off, there was nothing left but vapor.
Rod and the Admiral watched the empty screen for a long time. Finally the Admiral turned away. "Call in the boats, Captain Mikhailov. We are going home,"