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

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06-07-2007, 08:27 PM
Chapter 39 - Departure

"Boats report no trace of our midshipmen, my Admiral" Captain Mikhailov's tone was both apologetic and defensive; few officers wanted to report failure to Kutuzov. The burly Admiral sat impassively in his command chair on Lenin's bridge. He lifted his glass of tea and sipped, his only acknowledgment a brief grunt.
Kutuzov turned to the others grouped around him at staff posts. -Rod Blaine still occupied the flag Lieutenant's chair; he was senior to Commander Borman, and Kutuzov was punctilious about such matters.
"Eight scientists," Kutuzov said. "Eight scientists, five officers, fourteen spacers and Marines. All killed by Moties."
"Moties!" Dr. Horvath swiveled his command chair toward Kutuzov. "Admiral, nearly all those men were aboard MacArthur when you destroyed her. Some might still have been alive. As for the midshipmen, if they were foolish enough to try to land with lifeboats...His voice, trailed off as Rod turned dead eyes toward him. "Sorry, Captain. I didn't mean it that way. Truly, I am sorry. I liked those boys too. But you can't blaine the Moties for what happened! The Moties have tried to help, and they can do so much for us- Admiral, -when can we get back to the embassy ship?"
Kutuzov's explosive sound might have been a laugh. "Hah! Doctor, we are going home as soon as boats are secured. I thought I had made that clear."
The Science Minister pressed his lips tightly against his wide teeth. "I was hoping that you had regained your sanity." His voice was a cold, feral snarl. "Admiral, you are ruining the best hopes mankind ever had. The technology we can buy-that they'll give us!-is orders of magnitude above anything we could expect for centuries. The Moties have gone to enormous expense to make us welcome. If you hadn't forbidden us to tell them about the escaped miniatures I'm sure they'd have helped. But you had to keep your damned secrets-and because of your stupid xenophobia we lost the survey ship and most of our instruments. Now you antagonize them by going home when they planned more conferences- My God, man, if they were warlike nothing could provoke them as you have!"
"You are finished?" Kutuzov asked contemptuously.
"I'm finished for now. I won't be finished when we get back."
Kutuzov touched a button on the arm of his chair. "Captain Mikhaiov, please make ready for departure to the Alderson entry point. One and one-half gravities, Captain."
"Aye aye, sir."
"You are determined to be a damn fool, then," Horvath protested. "Blaine, can't you reason with him?"
"I am determined to carry out my orders, Doctor," Kutuzov said heavily. If Horvath's threats meant anything to him, he didn't show it. The Admiral turned to Rod. "Captain, I will welcome your advice. But I will do nothing to compromise safety of this ship, and I cannot allow further personal contact with Moties. Have you suggestions, Captain Lord Blaine?"
Rod had listened to the conversation without interest, his thoughts a confused blur. What could I have done? He asked himself endlessly. There was nothing else to concern him. The Admiral might ask his advice, but that was courtesy. Rod had no command and no duties. His ship was lost; his career finished- Brooding in self-pity wasn't doing any good, though. "I do think, sir, that we should try to keep the Moties' friendship. We shouldn't make the Government's decisions..."
"You are saying I do that?" Kutuzov demanded.
"No, sir. But it is likely the Empire will want to trade with the Mote. As Dr. Horvath says, they have done nothing hostile."
"What of your midshipmen?"
Rod swallowed hard. "I don't know, sir. Possibly Potter or Whitbread weren't able to control their lifeboats and Staley tried a rescue. It would be like him -- "
Kutuzov scowled. "Three lifeboats, Captain. All three reenter, and all three burn." He examined the displays around him. A boat was being winched into Lenin's hangar deck, where Marines would flood it with poison gas. No aliens would get loose in his flagship! "What would you like to say to Moties, Doctor?"
"I won't tell them what I'd like to say, Admiral," Horvath said pointedly. "I will stay with your story of plague. It's almost true, isn't it? A plague of miniatures. But, Admiral, we must leave open the possibility of a returning expedition."
"They will know you lie to them," Kutuzov said flatly. "Blaine, what of that? Is better Moties hear explanations they do not- believe?"
Damn it, doesn't he know I don't want to think about Moties? Or anything else? What good is my advice? Advice front a man who lost his ship- "Admiral, I don't see what harm it would do to let Minister Horvath speak to the Moties," Rod emphasized "Minister"; not only was Horvath a ranking Council Minister, but he had powerful connections with the Humanity League, and influence in the Imperial Traders' Association as well. That combination had nearly as much clout as the Navy. "Somebody ought to talk to them, it doesn't matter much who. There's not a man aboard who can lie to his Fyunch(dick)."
"Very well. Da. Captain Mikhailov, please have communications call Mote embassy ship. Dr. Horvath will speak to them."
The screens lit to show a brown-and-white half-smiling face. Rod grimaced, then glanced up quickly to confirm that his own image pickup wasn't on.
The Motie looked at Horvath. "Fyunch(click)."
"Ah. I was hoping to speak to you. We are leaving now. We must."
The Motie's expression didn't change. "That seemed obvious, but we are very distressed, Anthony. We have much more to discuss, trade agreements, rental of bases in your Empire -- "
"Yes, yes, but we haven't the authority to sign treaties or trade agreements," Horvath protested. "Really, we did accomplish a lot, and now we have to go. There was plague on MacArthur, something new to our doctors, and we don't know the focal infection center or the vector. And since this ship is our only way home, the Ad-our decision makers think it best we leave while there is a full astrogation crew. We'll be back!"
"Will you come yourself?" the Motie asked.
"If at all possible. I'd love to." He had no trouble sounding sincere about that.
"You will be welcome. All humans will be welcome. We have great hopes for trade between our races, Anthony. There is much we can learn from each other. We have gifts as well-can you not take them on your ship?"
"Why, thank you-I -- " Horvath looked at Kutuzov. The Admiral was about to explode. He shook his head violently.
"It would not be wise," Horvath said sadly. "Until we know what caused the plague, it is best we add nothing we have not already been exposed to. I'm very sorry."
"So am I, Anthony. We have noted that your engineers are-how can I put this delicately? Are not so advanced as ours in many ways. Underspecialized, perhaps. We have thought partially to remedy this with our gifts."
"I-excuse me a moment," Horvath said. He turned to Kutuzov after switching off the sound pickup. "Admiral, you cannot refuse such an opportunity! This may be the most significant event in the history of the Empire!"
The Admiral nodded slowly. His dark eyes narrowed. "It is also true that Moties in possession of Langston Field and Alderson Drive may be most significant threat in history of human race, Minister Horvath."
"I'm aware of it," Horvath snapped. He turned the sound pickup on. "I am afraid that -- "
The Motie interrupted. "Anthony, can you not inspect our gifts? You may take pictures of them, learn them well enough to duplicate them later. Surely that would be no danger to persons who have been on the Mote planet itself?"
Horvath thought furiously. He had to have those! The pickup was switched off, and Horvath smiled thinly at the Admiral. "He's right, you know. Can't we put them in the cutter?"
Kutuzov seemed to taste sour milk. Then he nodded. Horvath turned back to the Mode in relief. "Thank you. If you will place the gifts in the cutter, we will study them on the way out and you may retrieve both the gifts and the cutter, our gift to you, at the Crazy Eddie point in two and a half weeks." -
"Excellent," the Motie said warmly. "But you will not need the cutter. One of our gifts is a space craft with controls suitable for human hands and minds. The others will be aboard it."
Kutuzov looked surprised and nodded quickly. Horvath caught it with an inward smile. "That's wonderful. We will bring gifts for you on our return. We want very much to repay your hospitality -- "
Admiral Kutuzov was saying something. Horvath leaned away from the screen pickup to listen. "Ask about the midshipmen," the Admiral commanded.
Horvath gulped and said, "Is there any other word about our midshipmen?"
The Mode's voice took on a pained note. "How could there be, Anthony? They were killed attempting reentry, and their craft burned away completely. We have sent you pictures, did you not receive them?"
"Uh-I didn't see them, Horvath replied. Which was true, but it didn't make saying it any easier. The damned Admiral didn't believe anything! What did he think, that the boys were captured somewhere and being tortured for information? "I'm sorry, I was instructed to ask."
"We understand. Humans are very concerned about their young decision makers. So are Moties. Our races do have much in common. It has been good to speak with you again, Anthony. We hope you will return soon."
An alarm flashed on the bridge consoles. Admiral Kutuzov frowned and listened attentively to something Horvath couldn't hear. Simultaneously a speaker announced the quartermaster's report. "Ship's boats secure, sir. Ready to depart."
The Motie had evidently overheard. She said, "The gift ship is quite capable of catching up with you, provided you do not accelerate at more than" -- there was a pause as the Mode listened to something -- "three of your gravities."
Horvath shot an inquiring eye at the Admiral. The officer was brooding heavily, evidently about to say something. Instead he nodded to Horvath. "One and a half of our gees for this trip," Horvath told the Motie.
"Our gifts will join you in five hours'" the Motie said. The screens flashed and Horvath's pickup went dead.
Admiral Kutuzov's voice grated in the Minister's ear. "I am informed that a ship has left Mote Prime and is traveling toward Alderson point at one point seven four of our gravities. Two Mote gravities. You will please have them explain what that ship is doing." The Admiral's voice was calm enough, but the tone was imperative.
Horvath gulped and turned back to the Motie. His screen came active again. He asked hesitantly, afraid to offend them. "Do you know?" he finished.
"Certainly," the Motie replied smoothly. "I have only just learned of it myself. The Masters have sent our ambassadors to the Empire to rendezvous with you. There will be three of them, and we request that you convey them to your Imperial capital where they will represent our race. They have full authority to negotiate for us."
Kutuzov took a deep breath. He seemed about to scream, and his face was almost purple with effort, but he only said, very quietly so that the Motie could not hear, "Tell them we must discuss this. Captain Mikhailov, accelerate when convenient."
"Aye aye, sir."
"We're leaving now," Horvath told the Motie. "I-we-must discuss the question of ambassadors. This is a surprise-I would have hoped that you would come yourself. Will there be any of our Fyunch(click) s sent as ambassadors?" He spoke rapidly as the warning tones sounded behind him.
"There will be time for any discussions needed," the Motie assured him. "And no, no Mode ambassador could identify with any individual human; all must represent our race, surely you can understand that? The three have been selected to represent all views, and unanimously acting they can commit all Modes to an agreement. Given the plague menace, they would expect to be quarantined until you are certain they are no threat to your health -- " A loud tone sounded through Lenin. "Farewell, Anthony. To all of you. And return soon."
The final warning horns blared and Lenin surged forward. Horvath -stared at the blank screen as behind him the others broke into astonished chatter.