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

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06-07-2007, 08:32 PM
Chapter 47 - Homeward Bound

Kutuzov and Mikhailov went all out in preparing for Rod and Sally's farewell dinner party. Lenin's cooks worked all day to turn out a traditional Ekaterina banquet: dozens of courses, soups, pastries, roasts, stuffed grape leaves from the hydroponics farm, shish kebab, an endless stream of food; and between courses there were thimble glasses of vodka. It was impossible to talk during the meal, for as soon as one course was finished MacArthur's stewards brought another; or, to give a respite for digestion, Lenin's Marines performed dances transported from the Russian steppes to St. Ekaterina's hills and preserved nine hundred years by fanatics like Kutuzov.
Finally the bandsmen left and the stewards removed the dishes, leaving the guests with tea and more vodka. Lenin's junior midshipman toasted the Emperor, and Captain Mikhailov toasted the Tsarevitch Alexander, while the Admiral beamed.
"He can put on quite a show when he's not scared silly," Renner whispered to Cargill. "Never thought I'd say that- Here it comes. The Tsar himself's going to give a toast. Who's left?"
The Admiral stood and lifted his glass. "I will reserve my toast for one moment," he said thickly. It was possible that the endless glasses of vodka had affected him, but no one could be certain. "Captain Blaine, when next we meet roles will be reversed. Then you must tell me how to deal with Moties. I do not envy you that task."
"What's Horvath scowling about?" Cargill whispered. "He looks like somebody put a frog in his bunk."
"Aye. Is it nae possible he wants a place on yon Commission?" Sinclair asked.
"Bet that's it," Renner put in. "I wouldn't mind being on it myself -- "
"You and everybody else," Cargill said. "Now shut up and listen."
"There is more we must congratulate Lord Blaine about," Kutuzov was saying "and that is why I reserve toast. Chaplain Hardy has announcement."
David Hardy stood. His smile was broad and merry. "Lady Sandra has given me the honor of formally announcing her engagement to Lord Commissioner Blaine," Hardy said. "I've already extended my private congratulations-let me be the first to give, them publicly."
Everyone spoke at once, but the Admiral cut them off. "And now my toast," Kutuzov said. "To the future Marquise of Crucis."
Sally blushed as she sat while the others stood and lifted their glasses. Well, it's official now, she thought. No way to get out of it if I wanted to-not that I do, but it's so inevitable now...
"Also to Lady Commissioner," Kutuzov added. Everyone drank again. "And to Lord Commissioner. Long life and many children. May you protect our Empire when you negotiate with Moties,"
"Our thanks," Rod said. "We'll do our best, and of course I'm the luckiest man alive."
"Perhaps her ladyship will speak," ICutuzov prompted.
She stood but she could think of noting to say. "Thank you all." she blurted and sat.
"Out of words again?" Rod asked wickedly. "And with all these people around-I've lost a rare opportunity!"
After that the formality vanished. Everyone pressed around them. "All the happiness in the world," Cargill said. He pumped Rod's hand vigorously. "I really mean that, sir. And the Empire couldn't have made a better choice for the Commission."
"You will nae be married before we arrive?" Sinclair asked. "Twould nae be fair, to be married in my city wi'out me present."
"We don't quite know when," Sally told him. "But certainly not before Lenin gets in. You're all invited to the wedding, of course." So are the Moties, she added to herself. And I wonder what they'll make of it?
The party dissolved into a kaleidoscope of small groups with Rod and Sally at the focus. The wardroom table was lowered into the deck to give them more room as stewards circulated with coffee and tea.
"You will of course allow me to offer my congratulations," Bury told them smoothly. "And I hope you will not think I am trying to bribe you when I send a wedding gift."
"Why would anyone think that?" Sally asked innocently. "Thank you, Mr. Bury." If her first remark had been ambiguous, her smile was warm enough to cover it. Sally didn't care for Bury's reputation, but he'd been charming enough while she'd known him; if only he'd get over this insane fear of Moties!
Eventually Rod was able to move away from the center of the party. He found Dr. Horvath in a corner of the room. "You've been avoiding me all night, Doctor," Rod said affably. "I'd like to know why."
Horvath tried to smile but realized it was thin. His brows knitted for a moment, then relaxed in decision. "No point in anything but honesty. Blaine, I didn't want you on this expedition. You know why. OK, your man Renner convinced me you couldn't have done anything else about the probe. We've had our differences, but all in all I have to approve of the way you've handled the command. With your rank and experience it was inevitable that you'd be given a place on the Commission."
I hadn't expected it," Rod answered. "In hindsight and from Sparta's viewpoint I suppose you're right. Is that why you're upset with me?"
"No," Horvath said honestly. "As I said, it was inevitable, and I don't let laws of nature upset me. But I expected a place on that Commission, Blaine. I was senior scientist on this expedition. I had to fight for every scrap of information we got. By God, if they're giving two seats to expedition members I've earned a place."
"And Sally hasn't," Rod said coldly.
"She was very useful," Horvath said. "And she's charming and bright, and of course you're hardly going to be objective about her-but honestly, Blaine, do you really equate her competence with mine?"
Rod's frown vanished. He smiled broadly, and almost laughed. Horvath's professional jealousy was neither comic nor pathetic, merely inevitable; as inevitable as his belief that the appointment questioned his competence as a scientist. "Relax, Doctor," Rod said. "Sally isn't on that Commission because of scientific ability any more than I am. The Emperor's not concerned with competence, but interest." He almost said loyalty, but that wouldn't have done at all. "In a way, your not being named immediately," -- Rod emphasized that word -- "is a compliment."
Horvath's brows shot up. "I beg your pardon?"
"You're a scientist, Doctor. Your whole training and really your whole philosophy of life is objectivity, right?"
"More or less," Horvath agreed. "Although since I left the laboratory..."
"You've had to fight for budgets. Even then you've been involved in politics only to help your colleagues do the things you'd do if you were free of administrative duties."
"Well-yes. Thank you. Not many people seem to realize that."
"Consequently, your dealings with Moties would be the same. Objective. Nonpolitical. But that may not be the best course for the Empire. Not that you'd be lacking in loyalty, Doctor, but His Majesty knows Sally and I put the Empire first. We've been indoctrinated that way from the day we were born. We can't even pretend to scientific objectivity where Imperial interests are concerned." And if that doesn't smooth his feathers, the hell with him.
It did, though. Horvath still wasn't happy, and be obviously wasn't going to give up trying for a seat on the Commission; but he smiled-and wished Rod and Sally a happy marriage. Rod excused himself and went back to Sally with a feeling of accomplishment.
"But can't we even say good-by to the Moties?" she was pleading. "Rod, can't you convince him?"
Rod looked helplessly at the Admiral.
"My lady," Kutuzov said heavily. "I do not wish to disappoint you. When Moties arrive in New Scotland they will be your concern, not mine, and you will then tell me what to do about them. Until that time, Moties are my responsibility, and I intend no changes in policies agreed before they- came aboard. Dr. Hardy can deliver any message to them?"
What would he do if Rod and I ordered him to let us see them? she thought. As Commissioners. But that would make a scene, and Rod seems to think the Admiral's a pretty useful man. They could never work together again if we did that. Besides, Rod might not do it even if I ask him to. Don't push.
"It's not as if these Moties were special friends," Hardy reminded her. "They've had so little contact with people I hardly know them myself. I'm sure that will change when we get to New Scotland." Hardy smiled and changed the subject. "I trust you will keep your promise and wait for Lenin before you're married."

"But I insist you marry us," Sally said quickly. "We'll have to wait for you!"
"Thank you." Hardy was going to say something else, but Kelley came purposefully across the wardroom and saluted.
"Cap'n, I've got your gear sent off to Hermes, and Lady Sally's as well, and them orders did say 'soonest.'"
"My conscience," Rod laughed. "But he's right. Sally, we'd better get ready." He groaned. "It's going to be tough facing three gravs after that dinner -- "
"I must leave also," Kutuzov said. "I have dispatches to put aboard Hermes." He smiled awkwardly. "Farewell, my lady. And you also, Captain. Godspeed. You have been good officer."
"Why-Thank you, sir." Rod looked around the wardroom and spotted Bury across the compartment. "Kelley, the Admiral's assuming responsibility for His Excellency -- "
"With your permission I will continue Gunner Kelley in command of Marine guards," Kutuzov said.
"Certainly, sir. Kelley, be damn careful when we get to New Scotland. He may or may not fly to escape. I don't have any idea of what he's got to face when we get there, but the orders are plain enough, we're to keep him in custody. He may try to bribe one of your men -- "
Kelley snorted. "He'd better not."
"Yeah. Well, so long, Kelley. Don't let Nabil put a dagger in your ribs. I'll want you with me on New Scotland."
"Yes, sir, you be careful, Captain. The Marquis will kill me if something happens to you. Told me that before we left Crucis Court."
Kutuzov cleared his throat loudly. "Our guests must leave immediately," he announced. "With our final congratulations."
Rod and Sally left the wardroom to a chorus of shouts, some overloud. The party seemed destined to last a long time.

The message sloop Hermes was a tiny affair. Her living space was no larger than MacArthur's cutter, although overall she was much bigger. Mt of the life-support systems she was tankage and engines and little else but access crawlways. They were hardly aboard before they were under way.
There was little to do in the tiny ship, and the heavy acceleration made real work impossible anyway. The surgeon's mate examined his passengers at eight-hour intervals to be sure they were able to take Hermes' three gees, and approved Rod's request that they get it over with sooner and boost up to 3.5 grays. Under that weight it was better to sleep as much as possible and confine mental activities to light conversation.
Murcheson's Eye was enormous behind them when they reached the Alderson Point. An instant later, the Eye was only a bright redstar against the Coal Sack. It had a small yellow mote.