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, 08:30 PM
Chapter 43 - Trader's Lament

Horace Bury was not a happy man.
If MacArthur's crew had been difficult to deal with, Lenin's was an order of magnitude worse. They were Ekaterinas, Imperial fanatics, and this was a picked crew under an admiral and a captain from their home world. Even the Spartan Brotherhoods would have been easier to influence.
Bury knew all this in advance, but there was this damnable urge to dominate and control his environment under all circumstances; and he had almost nothing to work with.
His status aboard was more ambiguous than before. Captain Mikhailov and the Admiral knew that he was to remain under Blaine's personal control, not charged with any crime, but not allowed freedom either. Mikhailov had solved the problem by assigning Bury Marine servants and putting Blaine's man Kelley in charge of the Marines. Thus, whenever he left his cabin, Bury was followed through the ship.
He tried to talk to Lenin's crewmen. Few would listen. Perhaps they had heard rumors of what he could offer, and were afraid that MacArthur's Marines would report them. Perhaps they suspected him of treason and hated him.
A Trader needs patience, and Bury had more than most. Even so, it was hard to control himself when he could control nothing else; when there was nothing to do but sit and wait, his hair-trigger temper would flare into screaming rages and smashed furniture, but never in public. Outside his cabin Bury was calm, relaxed, a skilled conversationalist, comfortable even with-most especially with- Admiral Kutuzov.
This gave him access to Lenin's officers, but they were very formal, and suddenly busy when he wanted to talk. Bury soon found that there were only three safe subjects: card games, Moties, and tea. If MacArthur had been fueled by coffee, Lenin's drive operated on tea; and tea drinkers are more knowledgeable about the subject than coffee drinkers. Bury's ships traded in tea as they traded in anything else men would pay for, but he was carrying none; and he did not drink it.
Thus Bury spent endless hours at the bridge table; in threes, officers of both Lenin and MacArthur were willing to sit with him in his cabin, which was always less crowded than the wardroom. It was easy to talk to Lenin's officers about Moties, too-always in groups, but they were curious. After ten months in the Mote system, most had never seen a Motie. Everyone wanted to hear about aliens, and Bury was ready to tell them.
The intervals between rubbers stretched as Bury spoke animatedly of the Motie world, the Mediators who could read minds though they said they could not, the zoo, the Castle, the baronial estates with their fortified look-Bury had certainly noticed that. And the conversation would move to the dangers. The Moties had not sold weapons or even shown them, because they planned an attack and would keep its nature a surprise. They had seeded MacArthur with Brownies-it was almost the first act of the first Mode they'd ever encountered-and the insidiously helpful and likable beasts had seized the ship and nearly escaped with all the military secrets of the Empire. Only Admiral Kutuzov's vigilance had prevented total disaster.
And the Moties thought themselves more intelligent than humans. They saw humanity as beasts to be tamed, with gentleness if possible, but tamed, converted into another caste to serve the nearly invisible Masters.
He spoke of Moties and he hated them. Pictures flashed through his mind, sometimes at the mere thought of a Motie, and always at night when he tried to sleep. He had nightmares of a Marine space suit and battle armor. It approached from behind, and three thy pairs of eyes glittered through the faceplate. Sometimes the dream would end in a cloud of spidery six-limbed aliens thrashing, dying in vacuum, flopping around a human head; and Bury would sleep. But sometimes the nightmare ended with Bury mutely screaming at Lenin's guards while the suited figure entered the battleship, and Bury would wake in cold sweat. The Ekaterinas had to be warned.
They listened, but they did not believe. Bury sensed it. They had heard him screaming before he came aboard, and they had heard the screams at night; and they thought he was mad.
More than once Bury thanked Allah for Buckman. The astrophysicist was a strange person, but Bury could talk to him. At first the Marine "honor guard" that stood outside Bury's door had puzzled Buckman, but before long the scientist ignored it as he ignored most inexplicable activities of his fellow men.
Buckman had been going over the Moties' work on Murcheson's Eye and the Coal Sack. "Fine work! There are some things I want to check for myself, and I'm not sure about some of their assumptions...but that damned Kutuzov won't let me have Lenin's telescope facilities."
"Buckman, is it possible that the Moties are more intelligent than we are?"
"Well, the ones I dealt with are brighter than most of the people I know. Take my brother-in-law...But you mean in general, don't you?" Buckman scratched his jaw thinking. "They could be smarter than I am. They've done some damn fine work. But they're more limited than they know. In all their million years, they've had a chance to examine only two stars close up." Buckman's definition of intelligence was a limited one.
Bury early gave up trying to warn Buckman against the Mode threat. Buckman too thought Bury was crazy; but Buckman thought everyone was crazy.
Thank Allah for Buckman.
The other civilian scientists were friendly enough, but with the exception of Buckman they wanted just one thing from Bury: an analysis of trade possibilities with Moties. Bury could give that in six words: Get them before they get us! Even Kutuzov thought that judgment premature.
The Admiral listened politely enough, and Bury thought he had convinced him that the Motie ambassadors should be left behind, that only idiots like Horvath would take an enemy aboard the only ship capable of warning the Empire about the aliens; but even that wasn't certain.
It all made for a splendid opportunity for Horace Bury to practice patience. If his patience ever cracked, only Nabil knew it; and Nabil was beyond surprise.