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

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06-07-2007, 08:25 PM
Chapter 35 - Run Rabbit Run

They saw the other midshipmen near the cathedral. Horst Staley's boots clumped hollowly as they approached. Whitbread looked up, noticed the Motie's walk, and said "Fyunch(click) ?"
"Fyunch (click)."
"We've been exploring your -- "
"Jonathon, we don't have time," the Motie said. The other Brown-and-white eyed them with an air of impatience.
"We're under a death sentence for trespassing." Staley said flatly. "I don't know why."
There was silence. Whitbread said, "Neither do I.This is nothing but a museum -- "
"Yes," Whitbread's Motie said. "You would have to land here. It's not even bad luck. Your dumb animal miniatures must have programmed the reentry cones not to hit water or cities or mountain peaks. You were bound to come down in farm lands. Well, that's where we put museums."
"Out here? Why?" Potter asked. He sounded as if he already knew. "There are nae people here -- "
"So they won't get bombed."
The silence was part of the age of the place. The Motie said, "Gavin, you aren't showing much surprise."
Potter attempted to rub his jaw. His helmet prevented it. "I don't suppose there's any chance of persuading you that we hae learned nothing?"
"Not really. You've been here three hours."
Whitbread broke in. "More like two. Horst, this place is fantastic! Museums within museums; it goes back incredibly far-is that the secret? That civilization is very old here? I don't see why you'd hide that."
"You've had a lot of wars," Potter said slowly.
The Motie bobbed her head and shoulder. "Yah."
"Big wars."
"Right. Also little wars."
"How many?"
"God's sake, Potter! Who counts? Thousands of Cycles. Thousands of collapses back to savagery. Crazy Eddie eternally trying to stop it. Well, I've had it. The whole decision-maker caste has turned Crazy Eddie, to my mind. They think they'll stop the pattern of Cycles by moving into space and settling other solar systems."
Horst Staley's tone was flat. As he spoke he looked carefully around the dome and his hand rested on his pistol butt. "Do they? And what is it we know too much on"
"I'm going to tell you. And then I'm going to try to get you to your ship, alive -- " She indicated the other Motie, who had stood impassively during the conversation. Whitbread's Motie whistled and hummed. "Best call her Charlie," she said. "You can't pronounce the name. Charlie represents a giver of orders who's willing to help you. Maybe. It's your only chance, anyway -- "
"So what do we do now?" Staley demanded.
"We try to get to Charlie's boss. You'll be protected there. (Whistle, click, whistle.) Uh, call him King Peter.
We don't have kings, but he's male now. He's one of the most powerful givers of orders, and after he talks to you he'll probably be willing to get you home."
"Probably," Horst said slowly. "Look, just what is this secret you're so afraid of?"
"Later. We've got to get moving."
Horst Staley drew his pistol. "No. Right now. Potter, is there anything in this museum that could communicate with Lenin? Find something."
"Aye aye-do ye think ye must hae the pistol?"
"Just find us a radio!"
"Horst, listen," Whitbread's Motie insisted: "The decision makers know you landed near here somewhere. If you try to communicate from here, they'll cut you off. And if you do get a message through, they'll destroy Lenin." Staley tried to speak, but the Motie continued insistently. "Oh, yes, they can do it. It wouldn't be easy. That Field of yours is pretty powerful. But you've seen what our Engineers can come up with, and you've never seen what the Warriors can do. We've seen one of your best ships destroyed now. We know how it can be done. Do you think one little battleship can survive against fleets from both here and the asteroid stations?"
"Jesus, Horst she may be right," Whitbread said.
"We've got to let the Admiral know." Staley seemed uncertain, but the pistol never wavered. "Potter, carry out your orders."
"You'll get a chance to call Lenin as soon as it's safe," Whitbread's Mode insisted. Her voice was almost shrill for a moment, then fell to a modulated tone. "Horst, believe me, it's the only way. Besides, you'll never be able to operate a communicator by yourself. You'll need our help, and we aren't going to help you do anything stupid. We've got to get out of here!"
The other Mode trilled. Whitbread's Motie answered, and they twittered back and forth. Whitbread's Mode translated. "If my own Master's troops don't get here, the Museum Keeper's Warriors will. I don't know where the Keeper stands on this. Charlie doesn't know either. Keepers are sterile, and they're not ambitious, but they're very possessive of what they already have."
"Will they bomb us?" Whitbread asked.
"Not as long as we're in here. It would wreck the museum, and museums are important. But the Keeper will send troops-if my own Master's don't get here first."
"Why aren't they here yet?" Staley demanded. "I don't hear anything."
"For God's sake, they may be coming already! Look, my Master-my old Master-won jurisdiction over human studies. She won't, give that up, so she won't invite anybody else in. She'll try to keep the locals out of this, and since her holdings- are around the Castle it'll take a while to get Warriors her& It's about two thousand kilometers."
"That plane of yours was a fast one," Staley said flatly.
"An emergency Mediator's vehicle. Masters forbid each other to use them. Your coming to our system almost started a war over jurisdiction anyway, and putting Warriors in one of those could certainly do it..
"Don't your decision makers have any military planes at all?" Whitbread asked.
"Sure, but they're slower. They might drive you to cover anyway. There's a subway under this building -- "
"Subway?" Staley said carefully. Everything was happening too fast. He was in command here, but he didn't know what to do.
"Of course. People do visit museums sometimes. And it'll take a while to get here by subway from the Castle. Who knows what the Keeper will be doing meantime? He might even forbid my Master's invasion. But if he does, you can be sure he'll kill you, to keep any other Masters from fighting here."
"Find anything, Gavin?" Staley shouted.
Potter appeared at the doorway of one of the modernistic glass-and-steel pillars. "Nothing I can operate as a communicator. Nothing I can even be sure is one. And this is all the newer stuff, Horst. Anything in the older buildings may be rusted through."
"Horst, -- we've got to get out of here!" Whitbread's Motie insisted again. "There's no time for talk -- "
"Those Warriors could come in planes to the next station and then take the subway from there," Whitbread reminded them. "We'd better do something, Horst."
Staley nodded slowly. "All right. How do we leave? In your plane?"
"It won't hold all of-us," Whitbread's Mode said. "But we can send two with Charlie and I could -- "
"No." Staley's tone was decisive. "We stay together. Can you call a larger plane?"
"I can't even be sure that one would escape. You're probably right. It would be better to stay together. Well, there's nothing left but the subway." -
"Which might be full of enemies right now." Staley thought for a moment. The dome was a bomb shelter and the mirror was a good defense against lasers. They could hole up here-but for how long? He began to feel the necessary paranoia of a soldier in enemy territory.
"Where do we have to go to get a message through to Lenin?" he demanded. That was obviously the first thing.
"King Peter's territory. It's a thousand kilometers, but that's the only place you could get equipment to send a message that couldn't be detected. Even that might not do it, but there's certainly nowhere else."
"And we can't go by plane-OK. Where's the subway? We'll have to set up an ambush."
"Ambush?" The Motie nodded agreement. "Of course. Horst. I'm not good at tactics. Mediators don't fight. I'm just trying to get you to Charlie's Master. You'll have to worry about them trying to kill us on the way. How good are your weapons?"
"Just hand weapons. Not very powerful."
"There are others in the museum. It's part of what museums are for. I don't know which ones still work."
"It's worth a try. Whitbread. Potter. Get to looking for weapons. Now where's that subway?"
The Modes looked around. Charlie evidently understood what was said, although she attempted no word of Anglic. They twittered for a moment, and Whitbread's Mode pointed. "In there." She indicated the cathedral-like building. Then she pointed at the statues of "demons" along the cornices. "Anything you see is harmless except those. They're the Warrior class, soldiers, bodyguards, police. They're killers, and they're good at it. If you see anything like that, run."
"Run, hell," Staley muttered. He clutched his pistol. "Sec you below," he called to the others. "Now what about your Brown?"
"I'll call her," Whitbread's Motie said. She trilled.
The Brown came inside carrying several somethings, which she handed to Charlie. The Modes inspected them I for a moment, and Whitbread's Mode said, "You'll want these. Air filters. You can take off the helmets and wear these masks."
"Our radios -- " Horst protested.
"Carry them. The Brown can work on the radios later, too. Do you really want your ears inside those damn helmets? The air bottles and filters can't last anyway."
"Thanks," Horst said. He took the filter and strapped it on. A soft cup covered his nose, and a tube led to a small cannister that attached to his belt. It was a relief to get the helmet off, but he didn't know what to do with it. Finally he tied it to his belt, where it bobbled along uncomfortably. "OK, let's get moving." It was easier to speak without the helmet, but he'd have to remember not to breathe through his mouth.
The ramp was a spiral leading down. Far down. Nothing big moved in the shadowless lighting, but Staley pictured himself as a target to anyone below. He wished for grenades and a troop of Marines. Instead there was only himself and his two brother midshipmen. And the Moties. Mediators. "Mediators don't fight," Whitbread's Mode had said. Have to remember that. She acted so like Jonathon Whitbread that he had to count arms to be sure whom he was talking to, but she didn't fight. Browns didn't fight either.
He moved cautiously, leading the aliens down the spiral ramp with his pistol drawn. The ramp ended at a doorway and he paused for a moment. There was silence beyond it. Hell with it, he thought and moved through.
He was alone in a wide cylindrical tunnel with tracks along the bottom and a smoothed ramp to one side. To his left the tunnel ended in a wall of rock, The other end seemed to stretch on forever into darkness. There were scars in the tunnel rock where ribs would have been in a giant whale.
The Motie came up behind him and saw where he was looking. "There was a linear accelerator here; before rising civilization robbed it for metal."
"I don't see any cars. How do we get one?"
"I can call -- one. Any Mediator can." /
"Not you, Charlie," Horst said. "Or do they know she's in the conspiracy too?"
"Horst, if we wait for a car, it'll be full of Warriors. The keeper knows you opened his building. I don't know why his people aren't here yet. Probably a jurisdictional fight between him and my Master. Jurisdiction is a big thing with decision makers...and King Peter will be trying to keep things confused too."
"We can't escape by plane. We can't walk across the fields. And we can't call a car," Staley said. "OK. Sketch a subway car for me."
She drew it on Staley's- hand computer screen. It was a box on wheels, the universal space-filling shape of vehicles that must hold as many as possible and must be parked in limited space. "Motors here on the wheels. Controls may be automatic -- "
"Not on a war car."
"Controls here at the front, then. And the Browns and Warriors may have made all kinds of changes. They do that, you know...
"Like armor. Armored glass and sides. Bow guns." The three Moties stiffened and Horst listened. He heard nothing.
"Footsteps," the Motie said, "Whitbread and Potter." "Maybe." Staley moved catlike toward the entrance. "Relax, Horst. I recognize the rhythms."
They had found weapons. "This one's the prize," said Whitbread. He held up a tube with a lens in the business end and a butt clearly meant for Mode shoulders. "I don't know how long the power lasts, but it cut a hole all the way through a thick stone wall. Invisible beam."
Staley took it. "That's what we need. Tell me about the others later. Now get into the doorway and stay there." Staley positioned himself where the passenger ramp ended, just to one side of the tunnel entrance. Nothing would see him until it was coming out of that tunnel. He wondered how good Motie armor was. Would it stop an x-ray laser? There was no sound, and he waited, impatiently.
This is silly, he told himself. But what else is there? Suppose they come in planes and land outside the dome? Should have closed the door and left somebody. Not too late for that, either.
He started to turn toward the others behind him, but then he heard it; a low bumming from far down the track.
It actually relaxed him. There were no more choices to make. Horst moved cautiously and took a better grip on the unfamiliar weapon. The car was coming fast...
It was much smaller than Staley had expected: a toy of a streetcar, whistling past him. Its wind buffeted his face. The car stopped with a jerk, while Staley waved the gun like a magician's wand, back and forth across it. Was anything coming out the other side? No. The gun was working properly. The beam was invisible, but crisscross lines of red-hot metal lined the vehicle. He swiped the beam across the windows, where nothing showed, and along the roof, then stepped quickly out into the tunnel and fired down its length.
There was another car there. Staley ducked back to cover most of his body but continued to fire, aiming the gun at the oncoming car. How the hell would he know when the battery-or whatever it used for power-quit? A museum piece, for God's sake! The second car was past, and there were cherry-red lines across it. He swept the weapon along it, then stepped out to fire down the tunnel again. There was nothing there.
No third car. Good, Systematically he fired at the second car. Something had stopped it just behind the first-some kind of collision avoidance system? He couldn't know. He ran toward the two cars. Whitbread and Potter came out to join him.
"I told you to stay put!"
Whitbread said, "Sorry, Horst."
"This is a military situation, Mr. Whitbread. You can call me Horst when people aren't shooting at us."
"Yes, sir. I wish to point out that nobody has fired except you."
There was a smell from the car: burning meat. The Moties came out from hiding. Staley carefully approached the cars and looked inside. "Demons," he said.7
They examined the bodies with interest. Except for statues they'd never seen the type before. Compared to the Mediators and Engineers they seemed wire-thin and agile, like greyhounds next to pugs. The right arms were long, with short thick fingers and only one thumb; the other edge of the right hand was smooth with callus. The left arm was longer, with fingers like sausages. There was something under the left arm.
The demons had teeth, long and sharp, like true monsters from childhood books and half-forgotten legends.
Charlie twittered to Whitbread's Motie. When there was no answer she twittered again, more shrill, and waved at the Brown. The Engineer approached the door and began to examine it closely. Whitbread's Mode stood petrified, staring at the dead Warriors.
"Look out for booby traps!" Staley yelled. The Brown paid no attention and began to feel cautiously at the door.
"Watch out!"
"They will have traps, but the Brown will see them," Charlie said very slowly. "I will tell her to be careful." The voice was precise and had no accent at all.
"You can talk," Staley said.
"Not well. It is difficult to think in your language."
"What's wrong with my Fyunch(click)" Whitbread demanded.
Instead of answering, Charlie twittered again. The tones rose sharply. Whitbread's Motie seemed to jerk and turned toward them.
"Sorry," she said. "Those are my Master's Warriors. Damn, damn, what am I doing?"
"Let's get in there," Staley said nervously. He raised his gun to cut through the side of the car. The Brown was still inspecting the door, very carefully, as if afraid of it.
"Allow me, sir." Whitbread must have been kidding. He was holding a thick-handled short sword. Horst watched him cut a square doorway in the metal side of the subway car with one continuous smooth, slow sweep of the blade.
"It vibrates," he said. "I think."
A few smells got through theft air filters. It must have been worse for the Moties, but they didn't seem to mind. They crawled inside the second car.
"You better look these over," Whitbread's Motie said. She sounded much better now. "Know your enemy." She twittered at the Brown, and it went to the controls of the car and examined them carefully, then sat in the driver's seat. She had to toss a Warrior out to do it.
"Have a look under the left arm," Whitbread's Motie said. "That's a second left arm, vestigial in most Mote subspecies. Only thing is, it's all one nail, like a -- " She thought for a moment. "A hoof. It's a gutting knife. Plus enough muscle to swing it."
Whitbread and Potter grimaced. At Staley's direction they began to heave demon bodies out the hole in the side of the car. The Warriors were like twins of each other, all identical except for the cooked areas where the x-ray laser had swept through them. The feet were sheathed in sharp horn at toe and heel. One kick, backward or forward, and that Would be all. The heads were small.
"Are they sentient?" Whitbread asked.
"By your standards, yes, but they aren't very inventive," Whitbread's Mode said. She sounded like Whitbread reciting lessons to the First Lieutenant, her voice very precise but without feelings. "They can fix any weapon that ever worked, but they don't tend to invent their own. Oh, and there's a Doctor form, a hybrid between the real Doctor and the Warrior. Semisentient. You should be able to guess what they look like. You'd better have the Brown look at any weapons you keep -- "
Without warning the car began to move. "Where are we going?" Staley asked.
Whitbread's Mode twittered. It sounded a little like a mockingbird whistle. "That's the next city down the line..."
"They'll have a roadblock. Or an armed party waiting for us," Staley said. "How far is it?"
"Oh-fifty kilometers."
"Take us halfway and stop," Staley ordered.
"Yes, sir." The Mode sounded even more like Whitbread. "They've underestimated you, Horst. That's the only way I can explain this. I've never heard of a Warrior killed by anything but another Warrior. Or a Master, sometimes, not often. We fight the Warriors against each other. It's how we keep their population down."
"Ugh," Whitbread muttered. "Why not just-not breed them?"
The Motie laughed. It was a peculiarly bitter laugh, very human, and very disturbing. "Didn't any of you ever wonder what killed the Engineer aboard your ship?"
"Aye." "Of course." "Sure." They all answered together. Charlie twittered something.
"They may as well know," Whitbread's Mode said. "She died because there was nobody to get her pregnant." There was a long silence. "That's the whole secret. Don't you get it yet? Every variant of my species has to be made pregnant after she's been female for a while. Child, male, female, pregnancy, male, female, pregnancy, 'round and 'round. If she doesn't get pregnant in time, she dies. Even us. And we Mediators can't get pregnant. We're mules, sterile hybrids."
"But -- " Whitbread sounded like a kid just told the truth about Santa. "How long do you live?"
"About twenty-five of your years. Fifteen years after maturity. But Engineers and Farmers and Masters-especially Masters!-have to be pregnant within a couple of our years. That Engineer you picked up must have been close to the deadline already."
They drove on in silence. "But-good Lord," Potter said carefully. "That's terrible."
"'Terrible.' You son of a bitch. Of course it's terrible. Sally and her -- "
"What's eating you?" Whitbread demanded.
"Birth control pills. We asked Sally Fowler what a human does when she doesn't want children just yet. She uses birth control pills. But nice girls don't use them. They just don't have sex," she said savagely.
The car was speeding down the tracks. Horst sat at the rear, which was now the front, staring out with his weapon poised. He turned slightly. The Modes were both glaring at the humans, their lips parted slightly to show teeth, enlarging their smile, but the bitterness of the words and tones belied the friendly looks. "They just don't have sex!" Whitbread's Motie said again. "Pyoofwuffle" (whistle) I "Now you know why we have wars. Always wars..."
"Population explosion," Potter said.
"Yeah. Whenever a civilization rises from savagery, Moties stop dying from starvation! You humans don't know what population pressure is! We can keep the numbers down in the lesser breeds, but what can the givers of orders do about their own numbers? The closest thing we've got to a birth control pill is infanticide!"
"And you can nae do that," Potter said. "Any such instinct would be bred out o' the race. So presently everyone is fighting for what food is left."
"Of course." Whitbread's Motie was calmer now. "The higher the civilization, the longer the period of savagery. And always there's Crazy Eddie in there pitching, trying to break the pattern of the Cycles, fouling things up worse. We're pretty close to a collapse now, gentlemen, in case you didn't notice. When you came there was a terrible fight over jurisdiction. My Master won -- "
Charlie whistled and hummed for a second.
"Yeah. King Peter tried for that, but he couldn't get enough support. Wasn't sure he could win a fight with my Master...What we're doing now will probably cause that war anyway. It doesn't matter. It was bound to start soon."
"You're so crowded you grow plants on the rooftops," said Whitbread.
"Oh, that's just common sense. Like putting strips of cropland through the cities. Some always live, to start the Cycles over."
"It must be tough, carving out a civilization without even radioactives," said Whitbread. "You'd have to go direct to hydrogen fusion every time?"
"Sure. You're getting at something."
"I'm not sure what."
"Well, it's been that way for all of recorded history, -- a long time by your standards. Except for one period when they found radioactives in the Trojan asteroids. There were a few alive up there and they brought civilization here.
The radioactives had been pretty thoroughly mined by some older civilization, but there were still some there."
"God's eyes," said Whitbread. "But -- "
"Stop the car, please," Staley ordered. Whitbread's Mode twittered and the car came smoothly to a halt. "I'm getting nervous about what we're running into," Staley explained. "They must be waiting for us. Those soldiers we killed haven't reported in-and if those were your Master's men, where are the Keeper's? Anyway, I want to test the Warriors' weapons."
"Have the Brown look them over," Whitbread's Mode said. "They may be rigged."
They looked deadly, those weapons. And no two were identical. The most common type was a slug thrower, but there were also hand lasers and grenades. The butt of each weapon had been individualized. Some balanced only against the upper right shoulder, some squared against both. The gun sights differed. There were two left-handed models. Staley dimly remembered heaving out a lefthanded body.
There was a rocket launcher with a fifteen-centimeter aperture. "Have her look at this," Staley said.
Whitbread's Motie handed the weapon to the Brown, accepting a slug thrower in return which she put under a bench. "This was rigged." The Brown looked at the rocket launcher and twittered. "OK," Whitbread's Mode said.
"How about the loads?" Staley passed them over. There were several different kinds, and none exactly alike. The Brown twittered again.
"The biggest rocket would explode if you tried to load it," Whitbread's Motie said. "They may have figured you right at that. Anyway, they certainly prepared enough traps. I've been assuming that the Masters think you're a kind of inept Mediator. It was what we thought, at first. But these traps mean they think you could kill Warriors."
"Great. I'd rather they thought we were stupid. We'd still be dead without the museum weapons. Come to that, Why keep live guns in a museum?"
"You don't see the point of a museum, Horst. It's for the next rise in the Cycles. Savages come to put together another civilization. The faster they can do it, the longer it'll be before another collapse because they'll be expanding their capabilities faster than the population. See? So the savages get their choice of a number of previous civilizations, and -the weapons to put a new one into action. You noticed the lock?"
"I did," said Potter. "You need some astronomy to solve it. I presume that's to keep the savages from getting the goods before they're ready."
"Right." The Brown handed over a big-nosed rocket with a twitter. "She fixed this one. It's safe. What are you planning to do with it, Horst?"
"Pick me some more. Potter, you carry that x-ray laser. How close are we to- the surface?"
"Oh. Hm. The" -- Bird Whistle -- "terminus is only one flight of stairs below the surface. The ground is pretty level in that region. I'd say we're three to ten meters underground."
"How close to other transportation?"
"An hour's walk to- Bird Whistle. Horst, are you going to damage the tunnel? Do you know how long this subway has been in use?"
"No." Horst slid through the makeshift hatch in the side of the car. He walked a score of meters back the way they had come, then doubled that. The weapons could still be booby-trapped.
The tunnel was infinitely straight ahead of him. It must have been trued with a laser, then dug with something like a hot rock boring machine.
Whitbread's Motie's voice carried down the tunnel. "Eleven thousand years!"
Staley fired.
The projectile touched the roof of the tunnel, far down. Horst curled up against the shock wave. When he raised his eyes there was considerable dirt in the tunnel.
He chose another projectile and fired it.
This time there was reddish daylight. He walked down to look at the damage. Yes, they could climb that slope.
Eleven thousand years,