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

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06-07-2007, 08:26 PM
Chapter 36 - Judgment

"Send the car on without us," Horst said. Whitbread's Mode twittered and the Brown opened the control panel. She worked at blinding speed. Whitbread remembered a Brown asteroid miner who had lived and died eons ago, when MacArthur was home and Moties were a friendly, fascinating unknown.
The Brown leaped off. The car hesitated a second, then accelerated smoothly. They turned to the ramp Horst had created and climbed silently.
The world was all the shades of red as they emerged. Endless rows of crops were folding their leaves against the night. An irregular ring of plants leaned drunkenly around the hole.
Something moved among the plants. Three guns came up. The twisted thing plodded toward them...and Staley said, "At ease. It's a Farmer."
Whitbread's Motie moved up beside the midshipmen. She brushed dirt off her fur with all her hands. "There'll be more of those here. They may even try to smooth out the hole. Farmers aren't too bright. They don't have to be. What now, Horst?"
"We walk until we can ride. If you see planes-hmm."
"Infrared detectors," said the Motie.
"Do you have tractors in these fields? Could we grab one?" Staley asked.
"They'll be in the shed by now. They don't usually work in the dark...of course the Farmers may bring one to smooth out that hole."
Staley thought a moment. "Then we don't want one. Too conspicuous. Let's hope we look like Farmers on an infrared screen."
They walked. Behind them the Farmer began straightening plants and smoothing the soil around their roots. She twittered to herself, but Whitbread's Motie didn't translate. Staley idly wondered if Farmers ever said anything, or if they merely cursed, but he didn't want to talk just yet. He had to think.
The sky darkened. A red point glowed overhead: Murcheson's Eye. Ahead of them was the yellow city-glow of Bird Whistle. They walked on in silence, the midshipmen alert, weapons ready, the Modes following with their torsos swiveling periodically.
By and by Staley said to the Motie, "I've been wondering what's in this for you."
"Pain. Exertion. Humiliation. Death."
"That's the point. I keep wondering why you came."
"No, you don't, Horst. You keep wondering why your Fyunch(dick) didn't."
Horst looked at her. He had wondered that. What was his twin mind doing while demons hunted her own Fyunch(click) across a world? It brought dull pain.
"We're both duty oriented, Hoist, your Fyunch(dick) and I. But your Fyunch (click)'s duty is to her, let us say, her superior officer. Gavin -- "
"I tried to talk your Fyunch(click) into coming down, but she's got this Crazy Eddie idea that we can end the Cycles by sending our surplus population to other stars. At least neither will help the others find us."
"Could they?"
"Horst, your Motie must know exactly where you are, assuming I got here; and she'll know that when she finds out about the dead Warriors."
"We'd better flip a coin the next time we get a choice. She can't predict that."
"She won't help. Nobody would expect a Mediator to help hunt down her own Fyunch(click)."
"But don't you have to obey your Master's orders?" Staley asked.
The Motie swiveled her body rapidly. It was a gesture they hadn't seen before, obviously not copied from anything human. She said, "Look. Mediators were bred to stop wars. We represent the decision makers. We speak for them. To do our job we have to have some independence of judgment. So the genetic engineers work at the balance.
Too much independence and we don't represent the Masters properly. We get repudiated. Wars start."
"Aye," Potter broke in. "And too little independence makes for inflexible demands, and you hae the wars anyway." Potter trudged in silence for a moment. "But if obedience is a species-specific thing, then ye'll be unable simply to help us alone. Ye'll be taking us to another Master because ye hae nae choice."
Staley gripped the rocket launcher tighter. "Is this true?"
"Some," Whitbread's Mode admitted. "Not as completely as you think. But, yes, it's easier to choose among many orders than try to act with none at all."
"And what does King Peter believe should be done?" Staley demanded. "Just what are we walking into?"
The other Mode twittered. Whitbread's Mode answered. The conversation went on for many seconds, very long for Modes. The sunset light died, and Murcheson's Eye blazed a hundred times brighter than Earth's full Moon. There were no other stars in the Coal Sack. Around them the fields of plants were dark red, with sharp black shadows of infinite depth.
"Honesty," Charlie said at last. "My Master believes we must be honest with you. It is better to live by the ancient pattern of the Cycles than chance total destruction and the doom of all our descendants."
"But..." Potter stammered in confusion. "But why is it nae possible to colonize other stars? The Galaxy is big enough for all. You would nae attack the Empire?"
"No, no," Whitbread's Mode protested. "My own Master wants only to buy land as bases on Empire worlds, then move outside the Empire entirely. Eventually we'd be colonizing worlds around the edges of the Empire. There'd be commerce between us. I don't think we'd try to share the same planets."
"Then why -- " Potter asked.
"I don't think you could build that many space craft," Whitbread interrupted.
"We'd build them on colony worlds and send them back," the Mode answered. "Hire commercial shipping from men like Bury. We could pay more than anyone else. But look-it couldn't last. The colonies would secede, so to speak. We'd have to start over with new colonies farther away. And on every world we settled there'd be population problems. Can you imagine what it would be like three hundred years from now?"
Whitbread tried. Ships like flying cities, millions of them. And Secession Wars, like the one that wrecked the First Empire. More and more Moties
"Hundreds of Motie worlds, all trying to ship our expanding population out to newer worlds! Billions of Masters competing for territory and security! It takes time to use your Crazy Eddie Drive. Time and fuel to move around in each system looking for the next Crazy Eddie point. Eventually the outer edge of the Mote Sphere wouldn't be enough. We'd have to expand inward, into the Empire of Humanity."
"Um." said Whitbread. The others only looked at the Motie, then plodded onward toward the city. Staley held the big rocket launcher cradled in his arms, as if the bulk gave him comfort. Sometimes he put his hand to his holster to touch the reassuring butt of his own weapon as well.
"It'd be an easy decision to reach," Whitbread's Motie said. "There'd be jealousy."
"Of us? Of what? Birth control pills?"
Staley snorted.
"Even that wouldn't be the end. Eventually there would be a huge sphere of Motie-occupied systems. The center stars couldn't even reach the edge. They'd fight among themselves. Continual war, continually collapsing civilizations. I suspect a standard technique would be to drop an asteroid into an enemy sun and figure on resettling the planet when the flare dies down. And the sphere would keep expanding, leaving more systems in the center."
Staley said, "I'm not so sure you could whip the Empire."
"At the rate our Warriors breed? Oh, skip it. Maybe you'd wipe us out. Maybe you'd save some of us for zoos; you sure wouldn't have to worry about us not breeding in captivity. I don't really care. There's a good chance we'd bring on a collapse just by converting too much of our industrial capacity to building space craft."
"If you're not planning war with the Empire," Staley said, "why are the three of us under death sentence?"
"Four. My Master wants my head as much as yours well, maybe not. You'll be wanted for dissection."
Nobody showed surprise.
"You're under death sentence because you now have enough information to have worked this out yourselves, you and MacArthur's biologists. A lot of the other Masters support the decision to kill you. They're afraid that if you escape now, your government will see us as a spreading plague, expanding through the Galaxy, eventually wiping out the Empire."
"And King Peter? He doesn't want us killed?" Staley asked. "Why not?"
The Moties twittered again. Whitbread's Mode spoke for the other one. "He may decide to kill you. I have to be honest about that. But he wants to put the djinn back in the bottle-if there's any way that humans and Moties can go back to where we were before you found our Crazy Eddie probe, he'll try it. The Cycles are better than-a whole Galaxy of Cycles!"
"And you?" Whitbread asked. "How do you see the situation?"
"As you do," the Motie said carefully. "I am qualified to judge my species dispassionately. I am not a traitor." There was a plea in the alien voice. "I am a judge. I judge that association between our species could only result in mutual envy, you for your birth control pills, us for our superior intelligence. Did you say something?"
"I judge that spreading my species across space would involve ridiculous risks and would not end the pattern of the Cycles. It would only make each collapse more terrible. We would breed faster than we could spread, until collapse came for hundreds of planets at a stroke, routinely..."
"But," said Potter, "ye've reached your dispassionate judgment by adopting our viewpoint-or rather, Whitbread's. You act so much like Jonathon the rest of us have to keep counting your arms. What will happen when you give up the human viewpoint? Might not your judgment- Ugh!"
The alien's left arm closed on the front of Potter's uniform, painfully tight, and drew him down until his nose was an inch from the Motie's sketched-in face. She said, "Never say that. Never think that. The survival of our civilization, any civilization, depends entirely on the justice of my class. We understand all viewpoints, and judge between them, If other Mediators come to a different conclusion from mine, that is their affair, It may be that their facts are incomplete, or their aims different. I judge on the evidence."
She released him, Potter stumbled backward. With the fingers of a right hand the Motie picked Staley's gunpoint out of her ear.
"That wasna' necessary," said Potter.
"It got your attention, didn't it? Come on, we're wasting time."
"Just a minute." Staley spoke quietly, but they all heard him easily in the night silence. "We're going to find this King Peter, who may or may not let us report to Lenin. That's not good enough. We've got to tell the Captain what we know."
"And how will you do that?" Whitbread's Motie asked. "I tell you, we won't help you, and you can't do it without us. I hope you don't have something stupid in mind, like threatening us with death? If that scared me, do you think I'd be here?"
"But -- "
"Horst, get it through that military mind of yours that the only thing keeping Lenin alive is that my Master and King Peter agree on letting it live! My Master wants Lenin to go back with Dr Horvath and Mr. Bury aboard. If we've analyzed you right, they'll be very persuasive. They'll argue for free trade and peaceful relationships with us -- "
"Aye," Potter said thoughtfully. "And wi'out our message, there'll be nae opposition...why does this King Peter no call Lenin himself?"
Charlie and Whitbread's Motie twittered. Charlie answered. "He is not sure that the Empire will not come in strength to destroy the Mote worlds once you know the truth. And until he is sure..."
"How in God's name can he be sure of anything like that from talking to us?" Staley demanded. "I'm not sure myself. If His Majesty asked me, right now, I don't know what I'd advise-for God's sake, we're only three midshipmen from one battle cruiser. We can't speak for the Empire."
"Could we do it?" Whitbread asked. "I'm beginning to wonder if the Empire would be able to wipe you out."
"Jesus, Whitbread," Staley protested.
"I mean it. By the time Lenin gets back and reports to Sparta, they'll have the Field. Won't you?"
Both Modes shrugged. The gestures were exactly alike-and exactly like Whitbread's shrug. "The Engineers will work on it now that they know it exists," Whitbread's Mode said. "Even without it, we've got some experience in space wars. Now come on. God's teeth, you don't know how close to war we are right now! If my Master thinks you've told all this to Lenin she'll order an attack on the ship. If King Peter isn't convinced there's a way to make you leave us alone, he might order it."
"And if we do no hurry, the Admiral will already hae taken Lenin back to New Caledonia," Potter added. "Mr. Staley, we hae nae choices at all. We find Charlie's Master before the other Masters find us. 'Tis as simple as that."
"Jonathon?" Staley asked.
"You want advice? Sir?" Whitbread's Mode clucked in disapproval. Jonathon Whitbread looked at her irritably, then grinned. "Yes, sir. I agree with Gavin. What else can we do? We can't fight a whole goddamn planet, and we're not going to build secure communications out of anything we'll find around here."
Staley lowered his weapon. "Right. Lead on, then." He looked at his small command. "We're a damn sorry lot to be the ambassadors of the human race."
They struck out across the darkened fields toward the brightly lit city beyond.