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

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06-07-2007, 08:28 PM
Chapter 40 - Farewell

His Imperial Majesty's President Class battleship Lenin was packed, crammed to capacity and beyond with MacArthur's crew and the scientists who had been aboard her. Able spacers shared hammocks in rotation with their duties. Marines slept in corridors, and officers were stuffed three and more into staterooms meant for one. There were Mode artifacts salvaged from MacArthur in her hangar deck, which Kutuzov insisted be kept in vacuum, constantly under guard, with inspections. There was no place aboard where the ship's company could be assembled.
If there had been an assembly point it would not have been used. Lenin would remain at battle stations until she left the Mote system, even during the funeral services, conducted by David Hardy and Lenin's chaplain, George Alexis. It was not an unusual situation for either; although it was traditional for the ship's company to assemble when possible, burial services were often conducted with the ship at battle stations. As he put on a black stole and turned to the missal a rating held open for him, David Hardy reflected that he had probably conducted more requiems this way than before an assembly.
A trumpet note sounded through Lenin. "Ship's company, at ease," the Chief Boatswain ordered quietly.
"Eternal rest grant them, 0 Lord," Hardy intoned.
"And let light perpetual shine upon them," Alexis answered. Every verse and response was familiar to anyone who had been in the Navy long enough to be part of Lenin's crew.
"I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord. Whosoever believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die."
The service went on, with the spacers responding from their duty stations, a low murmur through the ship.
"I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write. From henceforth blessed are the dead who die in the Lord: even so saith the Spirit; for they rest from their labors."
Rest, Rod thought. There's that, anyway, rest for the kids. He shivered. I've seen plenty of ships lost, and plenty of men under my command have bought it a hundred parsecs from home. Why is this one getting to me? He took a deep breath but the tightness in his chest remained unchanged.
Lights dimmed throughout Lenin, and the recorded voices of the Imperial Navy choir chanted a hymn in which the crewmen joined. "Day of wrath, and doom impending, David's words with Sybil's blending: Heavens and worlds in ashes ending.
Sybil? Rod thought. God, that must be ancient. The hymn went on and on, ending in a burst of male voices.
Do I believe any of this? Rod wondered. Hardy does, look at his face. And Kelley, ready to launch his comrades out the torpedo tubes. Why can't I believe as they do? But I do, don't I? I always thought I did, there's got to be some purpose in this universe. Look at Bury. This isn't even his religion, but it's getting to him. Wonder what he's thinking?
Horace Bury stared intently at the torpedo tubes. Four bodies and a head! The head of a Marine the Brownies had used for a Trojan horse. Bury had seen it only once, spinning through space in a cloud of fog and shattered glass and kicking, thrashing, dying Brownies. He remembered a square jaw, a wide, slack mouth, glittering dead eyes. Allah be merciful to them, and may His legions descend on the Mote...
Sally's taking it better than I am, Rod thought, and she's a civilian. We both liked those boys. Why don't I worry about the others? Five Marines killed getting the civilians out. It wouldn't be so bad if the middies had been killed in action. I expected losses when I sent the rescue party in with the cutter. I wasn't sure the kids would ever get out of Mac at all. But they did, they were safe!
"Unto Almighty God we commend the souls of our brothers departed, and we commit their bodies to the deeps of space; in sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; at whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the worlds, the seas shall yield their dead, and the deeps give forth their burdens.
Kelley pressed the keys and there was a soft whoosh, another-three, four, five. Only four bodies and a head recovered out of twenty-seven dead and missing.
"Ship's Company, atten-shut!"
And what will the Moties make of that? Rod wondered. Three broadsides fired off into space at nothing-except the third, which would vaporize the bodies launched a moment ago. The Admiral had insisted, and no one had argued.
Contralto trumpet notes died away as Lenin's-trumpeter and MacArthur's ended taps in duet. The ship was still for a moment.
"Ship's company, dismissed!"
The officers moved silently away from the torpedo room. Lights brightened in the corridors and men hurried back to their action stations or their crowded rest areas. Navy routine continues, Rod thought. Funeral services are part of the Book too. There is a regulation for everything: birth aboard ship, registration of; burial, with or without bodies; and one for captains who lose their ships. The Book demands a court-martial for that one.
"Rod. Wait a minute, Rod. Please."
He stopped at Sally's call. They stood in the corridor while the other officers and crew split around them. Rod wanted to join them, to get back to the solitude of his cabin where no one would ask him what happened aboard MacArthur. Yet here was Sally, and something way inside wanted to talk to her, or just be close to her- "Rod, Dr. Horvath says the Modes have sent ambassadors to meet us at the Crazy Eddie point, but Admiral Kutuzov won't let them aboard! Is that right?"
Damn! he thought. Moties again, Moties- "It's right." He turned away.
"Rod, wait! We've got to do something! Rod, where are you going?" She stared at his back as he walked rapidly away. Now what did I do? she wondered.

Blaine's door was closed but the telltale showed that it wasn't locked. Kevin Renner hesitated, then knocked. Nothing happened. He waited a moment, then knocked again.
"Come in."
Renner opened the door. It seemed strange to walk directly into Blaine's cabin: no Marine sentry on duty, none of the mysterious aura of command that surrounds a captain. "Hi, Captain. Mind if I join you?"
"No. Can I get you anything?" Blaine clearly didn't care one way or another. He didn't look at Renner, and Kevin wondered what would happen if he took the polite offer seriously. He could ask for a drink...
No. Not time to push. Not just yet. Renner took a seat and looked around.
Blaine's cabin was big. It would have been a tower room if Lenin had been designed with a tower. There were only four men and one woman who rated cabins to themselves, and Blaine wasn't using the precious room; he booked to have been sitting in that chair for hours, probably ever since the funeral services. Certainly he hadn't changed. He'd had to borrow one of Mikhailov's dress uniforms and it didn't fit at all.
They sat silently, with Blaine staring into some internal space-time that excluded his visitor.
"I've been going over Buckman's work," Renner said at random. He had to start somewhere, and it probably shouldn't be with Moties.
"Oh? How goes it?" Blaine asked politely.
"Way over my head. He says he can prove there's a protostar forming in the Coal Sack. In a thousand years it'll be shining by its own light. Well, he can't prove it to me, because I don't have the math."
"How are you making out?" Renner showed -no indication of leaving. "Enjoying your vacation from duties?"
Blaine finally lifted haunted eyes. "Kevin, why did the kids try to do a reentry?"
"God's eyes, Captain, that's plain silly. They wouldn't have tried anything of the kind." Jesus, he's not even thinking straight. This is going to be tougher than I thought.
"Then you tell me what happened."
Renner looked puzzled, but obviously Blaine meant it. "Captain, the ship was lousy with Brownies-everywhere nobody was looking. They must have got to the lifeboat storage area pretty early. If you were a Motie, how would you redesign an escape craft?"
"Superbly." Blaine actually smiled. "Even a dead man couldn't pass up a straight line like that."
"You had me wondering." Renner grinned, then turned serious. "No, what I mean is, they'd redesign for every new situation. In deep space the boat would decelerate and scream for rescue. Near a gas giant it would-orbit. Always automatic, mind, because the passengers could be hurt or unconscious. Near a habitable world the boat would reenter."
"Eh?" Blaine frowned. There was a spark of life in his eyes. Renner held his breath,
"Yeah, but Kevin, what went wrong? If the Brownies got to the boats they'd have designed them right. Besides, there'd be controls; they wouldn't make you reenter."
Renner shrugged. "Can you figure Out Motie control panels at a glance? I can't, and I doubt that the middies could. But the Brownies would expect them to. Captain, maybe the boats weren't finished, or got damaged in a fire fight."
"Maybe -- "
"Maybe a lot of things. Maybe they were designed for Brownies. The kids would have had to crowd in, rip out a dozen fifteen-centimeter Motie crash couches or something. There wasn't much time, with the torpedoes due to go in three minutes."
"Those goddamn torpedoes! The casings were probably full of Brownies and a rat ranch, if anyone had looked!"
Renner nodded. "But who'd know to look?"
"I should have."
"Why?" Renner asked it seriously. "Skipper, there's -- "
"I'm not a skipper."
Aha! Renner thought. "Yes, sir. There's still not a man in the Navy who'd have looked. Nobody. I didn't think of it. The Tsar was satisfied with your decontamination procedure, wasn't he? Everybody was. What bloody good does it do to blaine yourself for a mistake we all made?'
Blaine looked up at Renner and wondered. The Sailing Master's face was slightly red. Now why's he so stirred up? "There's another thing," Rod said. "Suppose the lifeboats were properly designed. Suppose the kids made a perfect reentry, and the Moties lied."
"I thought of that," said Renner. "Do you believe it?"
"No, but I wish I could be sure."
"You would be if you knew Moties as well as I do. Convince yourself. Study the data. We've got plenty aboard this ship, and you've got the time. You've got to learn about Moties, you're the Navy's heaviest expert on them."
"Me?" Rod laughed. "Kevin, I'm not an expert on anything. The first thing I've got to do when we get back is convince a court-martial -- "
"Oh, rape the court-martial," Renner said impatiently. "Really, Captain, are you sitting here brooding over that formality? God's teeth!"
"And what do you suggest I brood over, Lieutenant Renner?"
Kevin grinned. Better Blaine irritated than the way he'd been. "Oh, about why Sally's so glum this afternoon-I think she's hurt because you're mad at her. About what you're going to say when Kutuzov and Horvath have it out over the Motie ambassadors. About revolts and secessions in the colony worlds, or the price of iridium, or inflation of the crown -- " -
"Renner, for God's sake shut up!"
Kevin's grin broadened. " -- or how to get me out of your cabin. Captain, look at it this way. Suppose a court finds you guilty of negligence. Certainly nothing worse. You didn't surrender the ship to an enemy or anything. So suppose they seriously want your scalp and they hang that on you. Worse thing they could do would be ground you. They wouldn't even cashier you. So they ground you, and you resign-you're still going to be Twelfth Marquis of Crucis."
"Yeah. So what?"
"So what?" Renner was suddenly angry. His brows knitted, and one fist clenched. "So what? Look, Captain, I'm just a merchant skipper. All my family's ever been, and all we ever want to be. I put in a hitch in the Navy because we all do-maybe back home we're not so thick on Imperialism as you are in the Capital, but part of that's because we trust you aristocrats to run the show. We do our part, and we expect you characters with all the privileges to do yours!"

"Well -- " Blaine looked sheepish, and a little embarrassed by Renner's outburst. "And just what do you see as my part?"
"What do you think? You're the only aristocrat in the Empire who knows a bloody thing about Moties, and you're asking me what to do? Captain, I expect you to put your arse in gear, that's what. Sir. The Empire's got to develop a sensible policy about Moties, and the Navy's influence is big- You can't let the Navy get its views from Kutuzov! You can start by thinking about those Motie ambassadors the Admiral wants to leave stranded here,"
"I'll be damned. You really are worked up about this, aren't you?"
Renner grinned. "Well, maybe a little. Look, you've got time. Talk to Sally about the Moties. Go over the reports we sent up from Mote Prime. Learn about them so when the Admiral asks your advice you'll have some sensible arguements to give him. We've got to take those ambassadors back with us -- "
Rod grimaced. Moties aboard another ship! Good Lord-
"And stop thinking like that," Renner said. "They won't get loose and multiply all over Lenin. They wouldn't have time, for that matter. Use your head, sir. The Admiral will listen to you. He's got it in for Horvath, anything Doc suggests the Tsar's going to turn down, but he'll listen to you..."
Rod shook his head impatiently. "You're acting as if my judgment were worth something. The evidence is against that."
"Good Lord. You're really down in the dumps, aren't you? Do you know what your officers and men think of you? Have you any idea? Hell, Captain, it's because of guys like you that I can accept the aristocracy -- " Kevin stopped, embarrassed at having said more than he intended. "Look, the Tsar's got to ask your opinion. He doesn't have to take your advice, or Horvath's, but he does have to ask both of you. That's in the expedition orders -- "
"How the devil do you know that?"
"Captain, my division had the job of rescuing the logs and order books from MacArthur, remember? They weren't marked SECRET."
"The hell they weren't."
"Well, maybe the light was bad and I didn't see the security stamps. Besides, I had to be sure they had the right books, didn't I? Anyway, Dr. Horvath knows all about that regulation. He's going to insist on a council of war before Kutuzov makes, a final decision on the ambassador question."
"I see." Rod fingered the bridge of his nose. "Kevin, just who put you up to coming in here? Horvath?"
"Of course not. I thought of it myself." Renner hesitated. "1 did have some encouragement, Captain." He waited for Blaine to respond, but got only a blank stare. Renner snorted. "I sometimes wonder why the aristocracy isn't extinct, the lot of you seem so stupid sometimes. Why don't you give Sally a call? She's sitting in her cabin with a bleak look and a lot of notes and books she can't get interested in right now -- " Renner stood abruptly. "She could use some cheering up."
"Sally? Worried about -- "
"Jee-sus Christ," Rennet muttered. He turned and strode out.