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, 08:26 PM
Chapter 37 - History Lesson

There was a three-meter-high wall around (Bird Whistle) city. It might have been stone, or a hard plastic; the structure was difficult to see in the red-black light of Murcheson's Eye. Beyond it they could see great oblong buildings. Yellow windows loomed over their heads.
"The gates will be guarded," Whitbread's Mode said. "I'm sure," Staley muttered. "Does the Keeper live here too?"
"Yes. At the subway terminal. Keepers aren't allowed farm lands of their own. The temptation to exploit that kind of sell-sufficiency might be too much even for a sterile male."
"But how do you get to be a Keeper?" Whitbread asked. "You're always talking about competition among Masters, but how do they compete?"
"God's eyes, Whitbread!" Staley exploded. "Look, what do we do about that wall?"
"We'll have to go through it," Whitbread's Motie said. She twittered to Charlie for a moment. "There are alarms and there'll be Warriors on guard."
"Can we go over it?"
"You'd pass through an x-ray laser, Horst."
"God's teeth. What are they so afraid of?"
"Food riots."
"So we go through it. Any one place better than another?"
The Moties shrugged with Whitbread's gestures. "Maybe half a kilometer farther. There's a fast road there."
They walked along the wall, "Well, how do they compete?" Whitbread insisted. "We've got nothing better to talk about."
Staley muttered something, but stayed close to listen.
"How do you compete?" Whitbread's Mode asked. "Efficiency. We have commerce, you know. Mr. Bury might be surprised at just how shrewd some of our Traders are. Partly, Masters buy responsibilities-that is, they show they can handle the job. They get other powerful givers of orders to support them. Mediators negotiate it. Contracts-promises of services to be delivered, that kind of thing-are drawn up and published. And some givers of orders work for others, you know. Never directly. But they'll have a job they take care of, and they'll consult a more powerful Master about policy. A Master gains prestige and authority when other givers of orders start asking her for advice. And of course her daughters help."
"It sounds complex," Potter said. "I think o' nae time or place similar in human history."
"It is complex," said Whitbread's Mode. "How could it be anything else? How can a decision maker be anything but independent? That's what drove Captain Blaine's Fyunch(dick) insane, you know. Here was your Captain, Absolute Master on that ship-except that when whoever it-was on Lenin croaked frog, Captain Blaine hopped around the bridge."
"Do you really talk about the Captain that way?" Staley asked Whitbread.
"I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might tend to get me dumped into the mass converter," Whitbread said. "Besides, we're coming to a bend in the wail.
"About here, Mr. Staley," Whitbread's Mode said. "There's a road on the other side."
"Stand, back." Horst raised the rocket launcher and fired. At the second explosion light showed through the wail. More lights rippled along its top. Some shone out into the fields, showing crops growing to the edge of the wail. "OK, get through fast," Staley ordered.
They went through the gap and onto a highway. Cars and larger vehicles whizzed past, missing them by centimeters as they cowered against the wall. The three Moties walked boldly into the road.
Whitbread shouted and tried to grab his Fyunch(click). She shook him off impatiently and strolled across the street. Cars missed her narrowly, cunningly dodging past the Moties without slowing at all.
On the other side the Brown-and-whites waved theft left arms in an unmistakable sign: Come on!
Light poured through the gap in the wail. Something was out there in the fields where they'd been. Staley waved the others into the street and fired back through the gap. The rocket exploded a hundred meters away, and the light went out.
Whitbread and Potter walked across the highway.
Staley loaded the last round into the rocket launcher, but saved it. Nothing was coming through the gap yet. He stepped out into the street and began to walk. Traffic whizzed past. The urge to run and dodge was overwhelming, but he moved slowly, at constant speed. A truck whipped past in a momentary hurricane. Then others.
After a lifetime he reached the other side, alive.
No sidewalks. They were still in traffic, huddled against a grayish concrete-like wall.
Whitbread's Motie stepped into the street and gave a curious three-armed gesture. A long rectangular truck stopped with screeching brakes. She twittered to the drivers and the Browns immediately got out, went to the back of the truck, and began removing boxes from the cargo compartment. The traffic streamed past without slowing at all.
"That ought to do it," Whitbread's Mode said briskly. "The Warriors will be coming to investigate the hole in the wall -- "
• The• humans got in quickly. The Brown who'd followed them patiently from the museum climbed• into the right-hand driver's seat. Whitbread's Mode started for the other driver's seat, but Charlie twittered at her. The two Brown-and-whites whistled and chirped, and Charlie gestured vehemently. Finally Whitbread's Mode climbed into the cargo compartment and closed the doors. As she did the humans saw the original drivers walking slowly down the street away from the truck.
"Where are they going?" Staley asked.
"Better than that, what was the argument about?" Whitbread demanded.
"One at a time, gentlemen," Whitbread's Mode began. The truck started. It jolted hard, and there was humming from the motors and the tires. Sounds of myriads of other vehicles filtered in.
Whitbread was jammed between hard plastic boxes, with about as much room as a coffin. It reminded him unpleasantly of his situation. The others had no more room, and Jonathon wondered if they had thought of the analogy. His nose was only centimeters from the roof.
"The Browns will go to a transport pool and report that their vehicle was commandeered by a Mediator," Whitbread's Mode said. "And the argument was over who'd stay up front with the Brown. I lost."
"Why was it an argument?" Staley demanded. "Don't you trust each other?"
"I trust Charlie. She doesn't really trust me-I mean, how could she? I've walked out on my own Master. As far as she's concerned, I'm Crazy Eddie. Best to see to things herself."
"But where are we going?" Staley asked.
"To King Peter's territory. Best available way."
"We can't stay in this vehicle long," Staley said. "Once those Browns report, they'll be looking for it-you must have police. Some way to trace a stolen truck. You do have crime, don't you?"
"Not the way you think of it. There aren't really any laws-but there are givers of orders who have jurisdiction over missing property. They'll find the truck for a price. It'll take tithe, for my Master to negotiate with them, though. First she'll have to show that I've gone insane."
"I don't suppose there's a space port here?" Whitbread asked.
"We couldn't use it anyway," Staley said flatly.
They listened to the hum of traffic for awhile. Potter said, "I thought of that too. A spacecraft is conspicuous. If a message would bring an attack on Lenin, 'tis certain we'd nae be allowed to return ourselves."
"And how are we going to get home?" Whitbread wondered aloud, He wished he hadn't asked.
"'Tis a twice-told tale," Potter said unhappily, "We know aye more than can be allowed. And what we ken is more important than our lives, is it nae so, Mr. Staley?"
"You never know when to give up, do you?" Whitbread's voice said from the dark. It took a moment for them to realize it was the Motie speaking. "King Peter may let you live, He may let you return to Lenin. If he's convinced that's best, he can arrange it. But there's no way you will send a message to that battleship without his help."
"The hell we won't," Staley said. His voice rose. "Get this through your ear flap. You've been square with us-I think. I'll be honest with you. If there's a way to get a message out I'm going to send it."
"And after that, 'tis as God wills," Potter added,
They listened to the humming of the traffic. "You won't have the chance, Horst," Whitbread's voice said.
"There's no threat you can make that would get Charlie or me to have a Brown build you the equipment you'd need. You can't use our transmitters if you could find one-even I couldn't use strange gear without a Brown to help. There might not even be the proper communications devices on this planet, for that matter."
"Come off it," Staley said. "You've got to have space communications, and there are only so many bands in the electromagnetic spectrum."
"Sure. But nothing stays idle here. If we need something, the Browns put it together. When it's not needed any more, they build something else out of the parts. And you want something that'll reach Lenin without letting anyone know you've done that"
"I'll take the chance. If we can broadcast a warning to the Admiral, he'll get the ship home." Horst was positive. Lenin might be only one ship, but President Class battlewagons had defeated whole fleets before. Against Modes without the Field she'd be invincible. He wondered why he'd ever believed anything else. Back at the museum there'd been electronics parts, and they could have put together a transmitter of some kind. Now it was too late; why had he listened to the Motie?
They drove on for nearly an hour. The midshipmen were cramped, jammed between hard boxes, in the dark. Staley felt his throat tighten and was afraid to talk any more. There might be a catch in his voice, something to communicate his fears to the others, and he couldn't let them know he was as afraid as they were. He wished for something to happen, a fight, anything- There were starts and stops. The truck jerked and turned, then came to a halt. They waited. The sliding door opened and Charlie stood framed in light.
"Don't move," she said. There were Warriors behind her, weapons ready. At least four.
Horst Staley growled in hatred. Betrayed! He reached for his pistol, but the cramped position prevented him from drawing it.
"No, Horst!" Whitbread's Mode shouted. She twittered. Charlie hummed and clacked in reply. "Don't do anything," Whitbread's Mode said. "Charlie has commandeered an aircraft. The Warriors belong to its owner. They won't interfere as long as we go straight from here to the plane."
"But who are they?" Staley demanded. He kept his grip on the pistol. The odds looked impossible-the Warriors were poised and ready, and they looked deadly and efficient.
"I told you," Whitbread's Mode said. "They're a bodyguard. All Masters have them. Nearly all, anyway. Now get out, slowly, and keep your hands off your weapons. Don't make them think you might try to attack their Master. If they get that idea, we're all dead."
Staley estimated his chances. Not good. If he had Kelley and another Marine instead of Whitbread and Potter- "OK," he said. "Do as she says." He climbed slowly out of the van.
They were in a luggage-handling area. The Warriors stood in easy postures, leaning slightly forward on the balls of their wide, horned feet. It looked, Staley thought, like a karate stance. He caught a glimpse of motion near the wall. There were at least two more Warriors over there, under cover. Good thing he hadn't tried to fight.
The Warriors watched them carefully, falling in behind the strange procession of a Mediator, three humans, another Mediator, and a Brown. Their weapons were held at the ready, not quite pointing at anyone, and they fanned out, never bunching up.
"Will nae yon decision maker call your Master when we are gone?" Potter asked.
The Modes twittered together. The Warriors seemed to pay no attention at all. "Charlie says yes. She'll notify both my Master and King Peter. But it gets us an airplane, doesn't it?"
The decision maker's personal aircraft was a streamlined wedge attended by several Browns. Charlie twittered at them and they began removing seats, bending metal, working at almost blinding speed. Several miniatures darted through the plane. Staley saw them and cursed, but softly, hoping the Moties wouldn't know why. They stood waiting. near the plan; and the Warriors watched them the whole time.
"I find this slightly unbelievable," said Whitbread "Doesn't the owner know we're fugitives?"
Whitbread's Motie nodded. "But not his fugitives. He only runs the (Bird Whistle) airport baggage section. He wouldn't assume the prerogatives of my Master. He's also talked to the (Bird Whistle) airport manager, and they both agree they don't want my Master and King Peter fighting here. Best to have us all out of here, fast."
"Ye're the strangest creatures I hae ever imagined," Potter said. "I can no see why such anarchy does nae end in -- " he stopped, embarrassed.
"It does," Whitbread's Motie said. "Given our special characteristics, it has to. But industrial feudalism works better than some things we've tried."
The Browns beckoned. When they entered the airplane there was a single Mode-shaped couch starboard aft. Charlie's Brown went to it. Forward of that were a pair of human seats, then a human seat next to a Mode seat. Charlie and another Brown went through the cargo compartment to the pilot's section. Potter and Staley sat together without conversation, leaving Whitbread and his Mode side by side. It reminded the midshipman of a more pleasant trip that had not been very long ago.
The plane unfolded an unbelievable area of wing surface. It took off slowly, straight up. Acres of city dwindled beneath them, square kilometers of more city lights rose above the horizon. They flew over the lights, endless city stretching on and on with the great dark sweep of farm land. falling far behind. Staley peered through the view port and thought he could see, away to the left, the edge of the city: beyond it was nothing, darkness, but level. More farm lands.
"You say every Master has Warriors," Whitbread said. "Why didn't we ever see any before?"
"There aren't any Warriors in Castle City," the Mode said with obvious pride.
"None at all. Everywhere else, any holder of territory or important manager goes about with a bodyguard. Even the immature decision maker is guarded by his mother's troops. But the Warriors are too obviously what they are. My Master and the decision makers concerned with you and this Crazy Eddie idea got the others in Castle City to agree, so that you wouldn't know just how warlike we are."
Whitbread laughed. "I was thinking of Dr. Horvath."
His Motie chuckled. "He had the same idea, didn't he? Hide your paltry few wars from the peaceful Moties. They might be shocked. Did I tell you the Crazy Eddie probe started a war all by itself?"
"No. You haven't told us about any of your wars."
"It was worse than that, actually. You can see the problem. Who gets put in charge of the launching lasers? Any Master or coalition of them will eventually use the lasers to take over more territory for his clan. If Mediators run the installation, some decision maker will take it away from them."
"You'd just give it up to the first Master who ordered you to?" Whitbread asked incredulously.
"For God's sake, Jonathon! Of course not. She'd have been ordered not to to begin with. But Mediators aren't good at tactics. We can't handle battalions of Warriors."
"Yet you govern the planet...
"For the Masters. We have to. If the Masters meet to negotiate for themselves, it always ends up in a fight. Anyway. What finally happened was that a coalition of Whites was given command of the lasers and their children held as hostages on Mote Prime. They were all pretty old and had an adequate number of children. The Mediators lied to them about how much thrust the Crazy Eddie probe would need. From the Masters' point of view the Mediators blew up the lasers five years early. Clever, huh? Even so..."
"Even so, what?"
"The coalition managed to salvage a couple of lasers. They had Browns with them. They had to. Potter, you're from the system the probe was aimed at, aren't you? Your ancestors must have records of just how powerful those launching lasers were."
"Enough to outshine Murcheson's Eye. There was even a new religion started about them. We had our own wars, then -- "
"They were powerful enough to take over civilization, too. What it amounts to is that the collapse came early that time, and we didn't fall all the way back to savagery. The Mediators must have planned it that way from the beginning."
"God's teeth," Whitbread muttered. "Do you always work that way?"
"What way, Jonathon?"
"Expecting everything to fall apart at any minute. Using the fact."
"Intelligent people do. Everyone but the Crazy Eddies. I think the classic case of the Crazy Eddie syndrome was that time machine. You saw it in one of the sculptures."
"Some historian decided that a great turning point in history had come about two hundred years earlier. If he could interfere with that turning point, all of Mote history from that point on would be peaceful and idyllic. Can you believe it? And he could prove it, too. He had dates, old memoranda, secret treaties..."
"What was the event?"
"There was an-Emperor, a very powerful Master. All of her siblings had been killed and she inherited jurisdiction over an enormous territory. Her mother had persuaded the Doctors and Mediators to produce a hormone that must have been something like your birth control pills. It would stimulate a Master's body into thinking she was pregnant. Massive shots, and after that she would turn male. A sterile male. When her mother died, the Mediators had the hormone used on the Emperor."
"But you do have birth control pills then!" Whitbread said. "You can use them to control the population -- "
"That's what this Crazy Eddie thought. Well, they used the hormone for something like three generations in the Empire. Stabilized the populations, all right; Not very many Masters there. Everything peaceful. Meanwhile, of course, the population explosion was happening on the other continents. The other Masters got together and invaded the Emperor's territory. They had plenty of Warriors-and plenty of Masters to control them. End of Empire. Our time machine builder had the idea she could set things up so that the Empire would control all of Mote Prime." Whitbread's Motie snorted in disgust. "It never works. How are you going to get the Masters to become sterile males? Sometimes it happens anyway, but who'd want to before having children? That's the only time the hormone can work."

"Right. Even if the Emperor had conquered all of Mote Prime and stabilized the population-and think about it, Jonathon, the only way to do that would be for the rulers to pass control on to breeders while never having any children themselves-even if they did, they'd have been attacked by the asteroid civilizations."
"But man, it's a start!" said Whitbread. "There's got to be a way -- "
"I am not a man, and there doesn't got to be a way. And that's another reason I don't want contact between your species and mine. You're all Crazy Eddies. You think every problem has a solution."
"All human problems hae at least one final solution," Gavin Potter said softly from the seat behind them.
"Human, perhaps," the alien said. "But do Moties have souls?"
"'Tis nae for me to say," Potter answered. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I am no a spokesman for the Lord."
"It isn't for your chaplain to say either. How can you expect to find out? It would take revealed knowledge-a divine inspiration, wouldn't it? I doubt if you'll get it."
"Hae ye nae religion at all, then?" Potter asked incredulously.
"We've had thousands, Gavin. The Browns and other semisentient classes don't change theirs much, but every civilization of Masters produces something else. Mostly they're variants of transmigration of souls, with emphasis on survival through children. You can see why."
"You didn't mention Mediators," Whitbread said.
"I told you-we don't have children. There are Mediators who accept the transmigration idea. Reincarnation as Masters. That sort of thing. The closest thing to ours I've heard of in human religions is Lesser-Way Buddhism. I talked to Chaplain Hardy about this. He says Buddhists believe they can someday escape from what they call the Wheel of Life. That sounds an awful lot like the Cycles. I don't know, Jonathon. I used to think I accepted reincarnation, but there's no knowing, is there?"
"And you hae nothing like Christianity?" Potter demanded.
"No. We've had prophecies of a Savior who'd end the Cycles, but we've had everything, Gavin. It's for damn sure there's been no Savior yet."
The endless city unrolled beneath them. Presently Potter leaned back in his chair and began to snore softly. Whitbread watched in amazement.
"You should sleep too," said the Motie. "You've been up too long."
"I'm too scared. You tire easier than we do-you ought to sleep."
"I'm too scared."
"Brother, now I'm really scared." Did I really call him brother? No, I called her brother. Hell with it. "There was more to your museum of art than we understood, wasn't there?"
"Yeah. Things we didn't want to go into detail about. Like the massacre of the Doctors. A very old event, almost legend now. Mother Emperor, sort of, decided to wipe the entire Doctor breed off the planet. Damn near succeeded, too." The Motie stretched. "It's good to talk to you without having to lie. We weren't made to lie, Jonathon."
"Why kill off the Doctors?"
"To keep the population down, you idiot! Of course it didn't work. Some Masters kept secret stables, and after the next collapse they -- "
" -- were worth their weight in iridium."
"It's thought that they actually became the foundation of commerce. Like cattle on Tabletop."
The city fell behind at last, and the plane moved over oceans dark beneath the red light of Murcheson's Eye. The red star was setting, glowing balefully near the horizon, and other stars rose in the east below the inky edge of the Coal Sack.
"If they're going to shoot us down, this is the place," Staley said. "Where the crash won't hit anything. Are you sure you know where we're going?"
Whitbread's Mode shrugged. "To King Peter's jurisdiction. If we can get there." She looked back at Potter. The midshipman was curled into his seat, his mouth slightly open, gently snoring. The lights in the plane were dim and everything was peaceful, the only jarring note the rocket launcher that Staley clutched across his lap. "You ought to get some sleep too."
"Yeah" Horst leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. His hands never relaxed their tight grip on the weapon.
"He even sleeps at attention," Whitbread said. "Or tries to. I guess Horst is as scared as we are."
"I keep wondering if any of this does any good," the alien said. "We're damned close to falling apart anyway. You missed a couple of other things in that zoo, you know. Like the food beast. A Motie variant, almost armless, unable to defend itself against us but pretty good at surviving. Another of our relatives, bred for meat in a shameful age, a long time ago
"My God." Whitbread took a deep breath. "But you wouldn't do anything like that now,"
"Oh, no."
"Then why bring it up?"
"A mere statistical matter, a coincidence you may find interesting. There isn't a zoo on the planet that doesn't have breeding stock of Meats. And the herds are getting larger..."
"God's teeth! Don't you ever stop thinking about the next collapse?"

Murcheson's Eye had long since vanished. Now the east was blood-red in a sunrise that still startled Whitbread. Red sunrises were rare on inhabitable worlds. They passed over a chain of islands. Ahead to the west lights glowed where it was still dark. There was a cityscape like a thousand Spartas set edge to edge, crisscrossed everywhere by dark strips of cultivated land. On man's worlds they would be parks. Here they were forbidden territory, guarded by twisted demons.
Whitbread yawned and looked at the alien beside him. "I think I called you brother, some time last night."
"I know. You meant sister. Gender is important to us, too. A matter of life and death."
"I'm not sure I mean that either. I meant friend," Whitbread said with some awkwardness.
"Fyunch(click) is a closer relationship. But I am glad to be your friend," said the Motie. "I wouldn't have given up the experience of knowing you."
The silence was embarrassing. "I better wake up the others," Whitbread said softly.
The plane banked sharply and turned northwards, Whitbread's Mode looked out at the city below, across to the other side to be sure of the location of the sun, then down again. She got up and went forward into the pilot's compartment, and twittered. Charlie answered and they twittered again.
"Horst," Whitbread said. "Mr. Staley. Wake up."
Horst Staley had forced himself to sleep. He was still as rigid as a statue, the rocket launcher across his lap, his hands gripping it tightly.
"I don't know. We changed course, and now-listen," Whitbread said. The Moties were still chattering. Their voices grew louder.