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

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06-07-2007, 08:29 PM
Chapter 41 - Gift Ship

Lenin moved toward the Crazy Eddie point at one and a half gees. So did the gift ship.
The gift ship was a streamlined cylinder, swollen at the many-windowed nose, like a minaret riding a fusion flame. Sally Fowler and Chaplain Hardy were highly amused. Nobody else had noticed the clumsy phallicism -- or would admit to it.
Kutuzov hated the gift ship. The Motie ambassadors could be dealt with simply by following orders, but the gift ship was something else again. It had caught up with Lenin, taken station three kilometers away, and broadcast, a cheery message, while Lenin's gunners tracked it helplessly. Kutuzov had told himself it couldn't carry a large enough weapon to penetrate Lenin's Field.
There was a better reason to hate that ship. It was tempting Kutuzov to violate his orders. The MacArthur crewmen volunteers who went over to test it were enthusiastic about everything on it. The controls resembled a Navy cutter, but the drive was a standard Motie fusion drive, long, slender stinger guiding a plasma flow at enormous efficiencies. There were other details, all of them valuable; Admiral Lavrenti Kutuzov wanted to take that ship home.
And he was afraid to let it get near his command.

After the naval officers tested it, the civilians had to go aboard. All this traffic made nonsense of the thin fiction of plague aboard MacArthur, and Kutuzov knew it; but at least he wouldn't have to explain it to any Motie. He didn't intend to communicate with them. Let Horvath read him the expedition orders and demand his council of war. There would be no aliens aboard Lenin while Kutuzov lived. That ship, though- He looked at it floating in his screens as scientific personnel were ferried to it. They'd come to Lenin for the requiem services, and now hurried back to resume their studies of their new toy.
Every report showed that it was filled with marvels of enormous value to the Empire, yet how did he dare take it aboard? It was no good seeking advice. Captain Blaine might have been of help, but no, he was a broken man, doomed to sink deeper into his own failures, useless just when his advice might be needed. Horvath had blind faith in the good intentions of everything Motie. Then there was Bury, with equally blind hatred, despite all the evidence showing that the Moties were friendly and harmless.
"Probably they are," Kutuzov said aloud. Horace Bury looked up in surprise. He had been drinking tea with the Admiral on the bridge while they watched the Motie gift ship. The Trader shot an inquiring look at the Admiral.
"Probably the Moties are friendly. Harmless," Kutuzov repeated.
"You can't believe that!" Bury protested.
Kutuzov shrugged. "As I have told the others, what I believe is of no importance. Is my task to maximize information brought back to Government. With only this ship, any chance of loss means loss of all information. But that Motie space craft would be very valuable, would it not, Your Excellency? What would you pay to the Navy for license to produce ships with that drive?"
"I would pay much more to see the Motie threat ended forever," Bury said earnestly.
"Um." The Admiral was inclined to agree. There were enough problems in the Trans-Coalsack Sector. God only knew how many colonies were revolting, how many of the outies had made common cause against the Empire; aliens were a complexity the Navy did not need; "But still- the technology. The trade possibilities. I should think you would be interested."
"We can't trust them," Bury said. He was very careful to speak calmly. The Admiral was not impressed with men unable to control their emotions. Bury understood him very well-his own father had been the same way.
"Admiral? They have killed our midshipmen. Surely you do not believe that fable about reentry? And they released those monsters on MacArthur, and almost succeeded in getting them aboard Lenin." The Trader shuddered imperceptibly. Tiny glowing eyes. It had been that close- "Surely you will not allow these aliens into the Empire. You will not let them board your ship." Mind-reading monsters. Telepathic or not, they read minds. Bury fought to control his desperation: if even Admiral Kutuzov was beginning to believe the alien lies, what chance had the Empire? The new technology would excite the Imperial Traders Association as nothing ever had, and only the Navy had enough influence to overcome the demands for commerce the ITA would make. Beard of the Prophet, something had to be done! "I wonder if you are not being unduly influenced by Dr. Horvath?" Bury asked politely.
The Admiral scowled, and Horace Bury smiled behind his face. Horvath. That was the key, play Horvath against the Admiral. Someone had to...

Anthony Horvath was at that moment feeling very pleased and comfortable despite the 1.5 gee acceleration. The gift ship was roomy, and it had studied touches of luxury among its endless marvels. There was the shower, with half a dozen adjustable heads set at different angles, and a molecular sieve to reclaim the water. There were stocks of prefrozen Motie dinners which needed only the microwave ovens to make a variety of meals. Even the culinary failures were...interesting. There was coffee, synthetic but good, and a well-stocked wine locker.
To add to his ease, Lenin and Kutuzov were comfortably distant. Aboard the battleship everyone was stuffed together like cargo pods in a merchantman, crowded into cabins and sleeping in corridors, while here Horvath lolled at his ease. He drew the microphone closer and resumed dictating with another sigh of contentment. All was well with the worlds-
"Much of what the Moties construct has multiple purposes," he told his computer box. "This ship is an intelligence test per se, whether or not so intended. The Moties will lean much about our abilities by observing how long it takes our crew to control the drive properly. Their own Browns, I suspect, would have had it working perfectly in an hour, but to be fair, a Brown would have no difficulty concentrating on the telltales for days at a stretch. Humans intelligent enough for such tasks find them excruciatingly boring, and it is our own custom to have crewmen stand watches while their officers remain on call to deal with any problems. We thus respond more slowly, and require more personnel, to perform tasks that individual Moties find exceedingly simple.
"The Moties have also told us a great deal about themselves. For example, we employ humans as a backup to automatic systems, although we will often omit the automation in order to give constant employment to humans needed for emergencies but otherwise superfluous. The Moties appear deficient in computer technology, and seldom automate anything. Instead, they employ one or more subspecies as biological computers, and they seem to have an adequate supply of them. This is hardly an option left open for human use." He paused for thought and looked around the cabin.
"Ah. Then there are the statuettes." Horvath lifted one and smiled. He had them arrayed like toy soldiers on the table before him: a dozen Motie figurines of transparent plastic. Internal organs showed, through in vivid color and detail. He looked at them again contentedly, then grimaced slightly. These had to be brought back.
Actually, he admitted to himself, they didn't. There was nothing special about the plastic, and the statuettes were recorded in every detail; any good plastic former could be programmed to turn out thousands an hour, the same way these probably were made in the first place. But they were alien, and they were gifts, and he wanted them for his desk, or for the New Scotland Museum. Let Sparta have copies for a change!
He could identify most of the forms at a glance: Engineer, Mediator, Master; the huge Porter form; an overmuscled Engineer with broad, stubby-fingered hands and big splayed feet, probably a Farmer. A tiny Watchmaker (damn the Brownies! twice damn the Admiral who wouldn't let the Moties help with their extermination). There was a small-headed long-fingered Physician. Next to it was the spindly Runner who seemed to be all legs. Horvath spoke to his computer box again.
"The Runner's head is small, but there is a distinctly bulging forehead. It is my belief that the Runner is nonsentient but has the verbal capacity to memorize and deliver messages. It can probably carry out simple instructions. The Runner may have evolved as a specialized message carrier before civilization reached the telephone stage, and is now kept for traditional functions rather than utility. From the brain structure it becomes fairly clear that the Brownie or Watchmaker could never have memorized or delivered messages The parietal lobe is quite undeveloped." That for Kutuzov.
"These statuettes are extremely detailed. They disassemble like puzzles to reveal internal details. Although we do not yet know the function of most internal organs, we may be sure they divide differently from those of human organs, and it is possible that the Moties' conscious design philosophy of overlapping multiple functions is duplicated in their gross anatomy as well. We have identified the heart and lungs, the latter consisting of two distinct lobes of unequal size."
Chaplain Hardy braced himself in the doorway when the ship's acceleration dropped, then surged. After the engineers had steadied it he came into the lounge and sat quietly without speaking. Horvath waved and continued his dictation.
"The only area where the statuettes are vague and undifferentiated is in the reproductive organs." Horvath smiled and winked at the Chaplain. He really did feel contented. "The Moties have always been reticent about sex. "These statuettes may be educational toys for children; certainly they were mass produced. If this is the case-we really must ask the Moties if we get a chance-it implies that the Mote culture shares some similarities with that of humans." Horvath frowned. Sex education for the young was a periodic thing among humanity. Sometimes it was quite explicit and widespread, and at other periods of history it was nonexistent. In the civilized portions of the Empire such things were left to books at present, but there were plenty of newly discovered planets where the whole topic was forbidden knowledge to subadolescents.
"Of course, it may be simple efficiency," Horvath continued. "Statuettes made to differentiate the sex organs would require three times as many figurines, a set for the male, another for the female, and a third for the reproductive phase itself. I note that there is a single developed mammary gland on all the forms, and I believe we were told that all Moties can suckle young." He stopped dictating and punched in codes on his computer. Words flowed across the screen. "Yes. And the single working teat is always on the right side, or at least on the side opposite the single heavy-work arm. Thus the pups may be held with the strong arm, while the right arms are available for petting and grooming; this is very logical, given the ultrasensitivity and dense sensory nerve endings in the right hands." He cleared his throat and reached for the brandy snifter, waving at Hardy to help himself.
"The single teat on the higher forms argues strongly that multiple birth must be extremely rare among the upper-caste Moties. However, litters must be common with the Watchmaker caste, at least this must be the case after the creature has produced several offspring. We can be sure that the vestigial teats down the right side of the miniature develop into working organs at some stage of their development; otherwise their numbers could not have increased so rapidly aboard MacArthur." He set the box down. "How goes it, David?"
"Fairly well. That Motie toy has me fascinated. It's a game of logic, no question about it, and a very good one at that. One player selects some rule to sort the various objects into categories, and the other players attempt to deduce the rule and prove it. Very interesting."
"Ah. Perhaps Mr. Bury will want to market it."
Hardy shrugged. "The Church might buy a few-to train graduate theologians. I doubt if there'd be much mass popular interest. Too tough." He looked at the statuettes and frowned. "There seems to be at least one missing form, did you notice?"
Horvath nodded. "The nonsentient beast we saw in the zoo. The Moties wouldn't talk about it at all while we were there."
"Or afterward either," Hardy added. "I asked my Fyunch(click) but she kept changing the subject."
"Another mystery for future investigation," Horvath said. "Although we might do well to avoid the subject in the presence of Moties. We wouldn't want to ask their ambassadors, for example." He paused invitingly.
David Hardy smiled softly but didn't take the invitation.
"Well," Horvath "You know there aren't many things the Moties didn't want to talk about. I wonder why they're so shy about that caste? I'm fairly sure the thing wasn't an ancestor of the other Motie forms-not an ape or monkey, so to speak."
Hardy sipped his brandy. It was very good, and he wondered where the Moties had obtained a supply for a model. This was undoubtedly a synthetic, and Hardy thought he could detect the difference, but he had to strain. "Very thoughtful of them to put this aboard." He sipped again.
"Too bad we'll have to leave all this," Horvath said. "We're doing all right with the recording, though. Holograms, x-rays, mass densities, radon emissions, and anything that comes apart we take apart and holo the contents. Commander Sinclair has been very helpful-the Navy can be very helpful sometimes. I wish it were always so."
Hardy shrugged. "Have you thought about the problem from the Navy's view? If you guess wrong, you've lost some information. If they guess wrong, they've endangered the race."
"Bosh. One planetful of Moties? No matter how advanced they are, there just aren't enough Moties to threaten the Empire. You know that, David."
"I suppose, Anthony. I don't think the Moties are a threat either. On the other' hand, I can't believe they're quite as simple and open as you seem to think. Of course I've had more time to think about them than you have."
"Eh?" Horvath prompted. He liked Chaplain Hardy. The clergyman always had interesting stories and ideas. Of course he'd be easy to talk to, his profession demanded it, but he wasn't a typical priest-or a typical Navy blockhead either.
Hardy smiled. "I can't perform any of my regular jobs, you know. Linguistic archeology? I'll never even learn the Motie language. As to the commission the Church gave me, I doubt if there's enough evidence to decide anything. Ship's chaplain isn't that time-consuming-what's left but to think about Moties?" He grinned again. "And contemplate the problems the missionaries will have on the next expedition -- "
"Think the Church will send a mission?"
"Why not? Certainly no theological objections I can raise. Probably useless, though." Hardy chuckled. "I recall a story about missionaries in Heaven. They were discussing their former work, and one told of the thousands he'd converted. Another boasted of a whole planet of the fallen whom he had brought back to the Church. Finally they turned to this little chap at the end of the table and asked him how many souls he'd saved. 'One.' Now that story Is supposed to illustrate a moral principle, but I can't help thinking that the missions to Mote Prime may produce it in, uh, real life...
"David," Horvath said. There was a note of urgency in his voice, "The Church is going to be an important influence on Imperial policy regarding Moties. And I'm sure you know that the Cardinal will give great weight to your opinions when he reports to New Rome. Do you realize that what you conclude about Moties will be as influential as- Damn it, more influential. More influential than the scientific report, or perhaps even the Navy's."
"I'm aware of it." Hardy was serious. "It's influence I didn't ask for, Anthony. But I'm aware of the situation."
"All right." Horvath wasn't a pusher either. Or tried not to be, although sometimes he got carried away. Since he'd gone into scientific administration he'd had to learn to fight for his budgets, though. He sighed deeply and changed tactics. "I wish you'd help me with something right now. I'd like to take these statuettes back with us."
"Why not wish for the whole ship?" Hardy asked. "I do." He sipped his brandy again and cleared his throat. It was much easier to talk about Moties than about Imperial policies. "I noticed you were giving rather a lot of attention to the blank areas on the figures," he said mischievously.
Horvath frowned. "I did? Well, perhaps. Perhaps I did."
"You must have spent considerable time thinking about it. Didn't it strike you as odd that that's another area of Motie reticence?"
"Not really."
"It did me. It puzzles me."
Horvath shrugged, then leaned forward to pour more brandy for both of them. No point in saving it to be abandoned later. "They probably think theft sex lives are none of our business. How much detail did we give them?"
"Quite a lot. I had a long and happy married life," said Chaplain Hardy. "I may not be an expert on what makes a happy love life, but I know enough to teach Moties all they'll ever need to know. I didn't conceal anything, and I gather Sally Fowler didn't either. After all, they're aliens-we're scarcely tempting them with prurient desire." Hardy grinned.
Horvath did too. "You have a point, Doctor." He nodded thoughtfully. "Tell me, David-why did the Admiral insist on blasting the bodies after the funeral?"
"Why, I should have thought that-ah. Yes. And no one protested. We didn't want aliens dissecting our comrades."
"Precisely. Nothing to hide, just squeamish about aliens dissecting dead men. One thing the Tsar and I could agree on. Now, David, could the Moties feel the same way about reproductions of themselves?"
Hardy thought about that for a moment. "Not impossible, as well you know. Plenty of human societies have felt the same way about, say, photographs. Many still do." He sipped the brandy again. "Anthony, I just don't believe it. I don't have anything better to offer, but I don't believe you've put your finger on it. What we need is a long conference with an anthropologist."
"The damned Admiral wouldn't let her come aboard," Horvath growled, but he let the anger pass quickly. "I'll bet she's still fuming."