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

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06-07-2007, 08:29 PM
Chapter 42 - A Bag of Broken Glass

Sally wasn't fuming. She'd exhausted her vocabulary earlier. While Hardy and Horvath and the others merrily explored the alien gifts, she had to be content with holographs and dictated reports.
Now she couldn't concentrate. She found she'd read the same paragraph five times and threw the report across the cabin. Damn Rod Blaine. He had no right to snub her like that. He had no right to get her brooding over him either.
There was a knock at her stateroom door. She opened it quickly. "Yes- Oh. Hello, Mr. Renner."
"Expecting someone else?" Renner asked slyly. "Your face fell a full klick when you saw it was me. Not very flattering."
"I'm sorry. No, I wasn't expecting anyone else. Did you say something?"
"I thought-Mr. Renner, I thought you said 'extinct.'"
"Getting any work done?" Renner asked. He glanced around her cabin. Her desk, usually orderly, was a litter of paper, diagrams, and computer printouts. One of Horvath's reports lay on the steel deck near a bulkhead. Renner twisted his lips into what might have been a half-smile.
Sally followed his gaze and blushed. "Not much," she admitted. Renner had told her he was going to visit Rod's cabin, and she waited for him to say something. And waited. Finally she gave up. "All right. I'm not getting anything done, and how is he?"
"He's a bag of broken glass."
"Oh." She was taken aback.
"Lost his ship. Of course he's in bad shape. Listen, don't let anyone tell you that losing a ship is like losing your wife. It isn't. It's a lot more like seeing your home planet destroyed."
"Is- Do you think I can do anything?"
Renner stared at her. "Extinct, I tell you. Of course there's something you can do. You can go hold his hand, for God's sake. Or just sit with him. If he can go on staring at the bulkhead with you in the room, he must have got hit in the fire fight."
"Hit? He wasn't wounded -- " -
"Of course not. I mean he must have got- Oh, skip it. Look, just go knock on his door, will you?" Kevin steered her out into the corridor, and without quite knowing how she found herself propelled to its end. When she looked puzzled, Renner indicated the door. "I'm going for a drink."
Well, she thought. Now merchant captains are telling the aristocracy how to be polite to each other...There was no point in standing in the corridor. She knocked.
"Come in."
Sally entered quickly. "Hi," she said. Oh, boy. He looks awful. And that baggy uniform-something's got to be done about that. "Busy?"
"No. I was just thinking about something Mr. Renner said. Did you know that deep down underneath Kevin Renner really believes in the Empire?"
She looked around for a chair. No point in waiting for him to invite her. She took a seat. "He's a Navy officer, isn't he?"
"Oh, yeah, of course he supports the Empire or he wouldn't have taken a commission-but I mean, he really believes we know what we're doing. Amazing."
"Don't we?" she asked uncertainly. "Because if we don't, the whole human race is in big trouble."
"I remember thinking I did," Rod said. Now this was faintly ridiculous. There had to be a long list of subjects to discuss with the only girl in ten parsecs before it got to political theory. "You look nice. How do you do it? You must have lost everything."
"No, I had my travel kit. Clothes I took to the Mote, remember?" Then she couldn't help herself and laughed. "Rod, have you any idea of just how silly you look in Captain Mikhailov's uniform? You two aren't the same size in any dimension. Whoa! Stop it! You will not begin brooding again, Rod Blaine." She made a face.
It took a moment, but she'd won. She knew it when Rod glanced down at the huge pleats he'd tucked in the tunic so that it wouldn't be quite so much like a tent. Slowly he grinned. "I don't suppose I'll be nominated for the Times's list of best-dressed men at Court, will I?"
"No." They sat in silence as she tried to think of something else to say. Now blast it, why is it hard to talk to him? Uncle Ben says I talk too much anyway, and here I can't think of a thing to say. "What was it Mr. Renner said?"
"He reminded me of my duties. I'd forgotten I still had some. But I guess he's right, life goes on, even for a captain who's lost his ship. There was more silence, and the air seemed thick and heavy again.
Now what do I say? "You-you'd been with MacArthur a long time, hadn't you?"
"Three years. Two as exec and a year as skipper. And now she's gone- I better not get started on that. What have you been doing with yourself?"
"You asked me, remember. I've been studying the data from Mote Prime, and the reports on the gift ship-and thinking of what I can say that will convince the Admiral that we have to take the Motie ambassadors back with us, And we must convince him, Rod, we've just got to. I wish there were something else we could talk about, and there will be lots of time after we leave the Motie system." And we'll have a lot of it together, too, now that MacArthur's gone. I wonder. Honestly, am I a little glad my rival's dead? Boy, I better never let him think I even suspect that about myself. "Right now, though, Rod, there's so little time, and I haven't any ideas at all -- "
Blaine fingered the knot on his nose. About time you stopped being the Man of Sorrows and started acting like the future Twelfth Marquis, isn't it?"
"All right, Sally. Let's see what we can come up with. Provided that you let Kelley serve us dinner here."
She smiled broadly. "My lord, you have got yourself a deal."