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

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06-07-2007, 08:33 PM
Chapter 48 - Civilian

They were rushed aboard a landing craft the instant Hermes made orbit around New Scotland, Sally barely had time to say her farewells to the sloop's crew, then they were strapped in.
There were clunks as the air locks were closed. "Ready, sir?" the pilot called.
"Yeah -- "
The retros fired. It wasn't a smooth reentry at all; the pilot was in too much of a hurry, They dropped low over New Scotland's craggy rocks and spouting geysers. When they arrived at the city they still had too much speed and the pilot had -to circle twice; then the boat came in slowly, hovered, and settled on the roof landing port of Admiralty House.
"There's Uncle Ben!" Sally shouted. She rushed forward to fling herself into his arms.
Benjamin Bright Fowler was eighty standard years old, and looked it; before regeneration therapy men would have guessed he was fifty and in his prime intellectual years. They would have been right about the latter guess.
He stood 174 cm and massed ninety kilos: a portly, short man, nearly bald, with a fringe of dark hair graying around a shiny dome. He never wore a hat except in the coldest weather, and usually forgot it then.
Senator Fowler was dressed outlandishly in baggy trousers flaring over soft, polished leather boots. A knee length and very battered camel's-hair coat covered his upper body. His clothes were very expensive and never properly cared for. His dreamy eyes that tended to water and his rumpled appearance did not make him an impressive figure, and his political enemies had more than once made the mistake of taking his looks as a sign of his abilities. Sometimes, when the occasion was important enough, he'd let his valet choose his clothes and dress him properly, and then, for a few hours at least, he looked appropriate; he was, after all, one of the most powerful men in the Empire. Usually, though, he put on the first thing he found in his wardrobe, and since he would never let his servants throw out anything he'd once liked, he often wore old clothes.
He grasped Sally in a bear hug while she kissed his forehead. Sally was taller than her uncle and was tempted to plant a kiss on the top of his head, but she knew better. Benjamin Fowler neglected his appearance and became angry if anyone reminded him of that, but actually he was a little sensitive about his baldness. He also absolutely refused to allow cosmetic physicians to do anything for it.
"Uncle Ben, I'm glad to see you!" Sally pushed herself away before he crushed a rib. Then, with mock anger: "You've been rearranging my life! Did you know that radiogram would make Rod propose to me?
Senator Fowler looked puzzled. "You mean he hadn't already?" He pretended to examine Rod with microscopic care. "He looks normal enough. Must be internal damage. How are you, Rod? You look good, boy." He enfolded Rod's hand in his own. His grip was strong enough to hurt. With his left hand Fowler extracted his pocket computer from beneath the disreputable folds of his thick coat. "Sorry to rush kids, but we're late. Come on, come on -- " He turned and darted for the elevator, leaving them to follow helplessly.
They went down twelve floors and Fowler led them around twists of corridors. Marines stood guard outside a door. "Inside, inside," the Senator urged. "Can't keep all those admirals and captains waiting. Come on, Rod!"
The Marines saluted and Rod absently responded. He entered in bewilderment: a large room, paneled in dark wood, with an enormous marble table across its length.
Five captains and two admirals were seated at the table. A legal officer sat at a smaller desk, and there were places for a recorder and clerks. As soon as Rod entered someone intoned, "This Court of Inquiry is now in session. Step forward and be sworn. State your name."
"Your name, Captain," the Admiral at the center of the table snapped. Rod didn't recognize him; he knew only half the officers in the room. "You do know your name, don't you?"
"Yes, sir- Admiral, I -wasn't told I was coming directly to a Court of Inquiry."
"You know it now. Please state your name,"
"Roderick Harold, Lord Blaine, Captain, Imperial Space Navy; formerly master aboard INS MacArthur."
"Thank you."
They shot questions at him. "Captain, when did you first learn-that the miniature aliens were capable of using tools and performing useful work?" "Captain, please describe the sterilization procedures you employed." "Captain, in your judgment, did the aliens outside the ship ever know you had miniatures loose aboard your vessel?"
He answered as best he could. Sometimes one officer would ask a question, only to have another say, "That's in the report, damn it. Didn't you listen to the tapes?"
The inquiry moved at blinding speed. Suddenly it was over. "You may retire for the moment, Captain," the presiding Admiral said.
Sally and Senator Fowler were waiting in the hail. There was a young woman in kilts with a businesslike brief case standing with them.
"Miss McPherson. My new social secretary," Sally introduced her.
"Very pleased to meet you, my lord. My lady, I had best be -- "
"Certainly. Thank you." McPherson left with a click of heels on marble floors, She had a nice walk. "Rod," Sally said. "Rod, do you know how many parties we've got to go to?"
"Parties! My God, woman, they're deciding my fate in there and you -- "
"Nonsense," Senator Fowler snapped. "That was decided weeks ago. When Merrill, Cranston, Armstrong, and I listened to Kutuzov's report. There I was, your appointment from His Majesty in my pocket, and you'd gone and lost your ship! It's a good thing your Admiral's an honest man, boy. Damn good thing."
The door opened. "Captain Blaine?" a clerk called.
He entered to stand in front of the table. The Admiral held up a paper and cleared his throat.
"Unanimous findings of a special Court of Inquiry convened to examine the circumstances surrounding the loss of His Imperial Majesty's General Class battle cruiser MacArthur. One. This Court finds that the vessel was lost through accidental infestation by then life forms and was properly destroyed to prevent contamination of other vessels. Two. This Court honorably acquits her master, Captain Roderick Blaine, ISN, of negligence. Three. This Court orders the surviving officers of MacArthur to prepare a detailed report of procedures whereby such losses can be prevented in future. Four. This Court notes that the search and sterilization of MacArthur was hindered by the presence of a large number of civilian scientists and their equipment property aboard, and that Minister Anthony Horvath, senior scientist, protested the sterilization and advised minimum disruption of the civilian experiments. Five. This Court notes that Captain Blaine would have been mote diligent in searching his vessel except for the difficulties noted in point four; and this court recommends- no reprimand for her master. These findings being unanimous, this Court is adjourned Captain, you may go"
"Thank you, sir"
"Yeah. That was pretty soppy, Blaine You know that, don't you?"
"Yes, sir." My God, how many times have I thought about it?
"But I doubt if anyone in the Navy could have done better. The ship must have been a madhouse with all those civilians aboard. All-right, Senator, he's all yours. They're ready in Room 67S."
"Good. -Thank you, Admiral." Fowler hustled Blaine out of the hearing room and down the corridor to the elevator. A-petty officer had one waiting.
"Now where are we going?" Rod demanded. "Six seventy five? That's retirement!"
"Of course," the senator said. They entered the elevator. "You didn't think you could stay in the Navy and be on that Commission, did you? That's why we had to hurry that Inquiry through. Until it was on the record you couldn't be retired."
"But, Senator -- "
"Ben. Call me Ben." -
"Yes, sir. Ben, I don't want out! The Navy's my career -- "
"No more." The elevator stopped and Fowler hustled Rod out. "You'd have had to leave eventually. Family's too important. Can't have the peers neglecting government to go chasing around in those ships all their lives. You knew you'd have to retire early."
"Yes, sir. After my brothers were killed there wasn't any question of it. But not yet! Look, can't they give me a leave of absence?"
"Don't be an idiot. The Motie question's going to be with us a long time. Sparta's too far away to handle it. Here we are." Fowler led him through the door.
His retirement papers were already made out. Roderick Harold, Lord Blaine: to be promoted to Rear Admiral and placed on the inactive list by order of His Imperial Majesty. "Retirement pay to be sent where, sir?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"You're entitled to retirement pay. Where do you want us to send it, my lord? To the Yeoman clerk Rod was already a civilian.
"Can I donate it to the Navy Relief Fund?"
"Yes, sir."
"Do that."
The clerk wrote rapidly. There were other questions, all trivial. The documents were made out and thrust at him, and the Yeoman held out a pen. "Just sign here, my lord."
The pen was cold in his hand. Rod didn't want to touch it.
"Come on, come on, there're a dozen appointments waiting," Senator Fowler urged. "You and, Sally- both. Come on, boy, sign!"
"Yes, sir." No point in delaying. There's nothing to argue about. If the Emperor himself named me to that damned Commission- He scrawled rapidly; then placed his thumb print on the papers.

A taxi whisked them through New Scotland's narrow streets. Traffic was thick and the cab had no official flags to open holes for them. It was an unusual experience for Rod to travel this way; usually he'd had Navy fliers to take him from rooftop to rooftop, and the last time in New Scotland he'd had his own gig with waiting crew. No more, no more.
"I'll have to buy a flier and get a chauffeur," Rod said. "I take it Commissioners rate an air transport license?"
"Surely. You rate anything you want," Senator Fowler said. "In fact the appointment carries a titular baronage, not that you need it, but it's another reason why we're getting so popular lately."
"Just how many Commissioners will there be?"
"I've got discretion on that, too. We won't want too many." The taxi lurched as the driver nearly hit a pedestrian. Fowler took out his pocket computer. "Late again. Appointments at the Palace. You'll be staying there, of course. Servant's quarters will be crowded, but we'll squeeze your man in-got anybody, or you want my secretary to arrange it?"
"Kelley's in Lenin. I guess he'll stay with me." Another good man lost for the Navy.
"Kelley! How is the old scoundrel?"
"He's fine."
"Glad to hear that. Your father wanted me to ask about him, now I think of it. You know that Marine's my age? I can remember him in uniform when your father was a lieutenant, and that was a long time ago."
"Where's Sally?" When Rod came out of 675 she had been gone. He'd been just as pleased; with his retirement papers bulging in his tunic he didn't feel much like talking.
"Out shopping for clothes, of course. You won't have to do that. One of my people got your sizes from Navy records and brought you a couple of suits. They're at the Palace."
"Ben-you're moving pretty fast, Ben," Rod said carefully.
"Have to. By the time Lenin orbits we need some answers. Meanwhile you've got to study the political situation out here. It's all tied together. ITA wants trade, soonest. Humanity League wants cultural exchanges, ditto. Armstrong wants his fleet to deal with outies, but he's scared of Moties. That's got to be settled before Merrill can get on with the reconquest of Trans-Coalsack. Stock markets from here to Sparta are jumpy-just what will Motie technology do to the economy? What blue-chip companies are going to get ruined? Who gets rich? And every damn bit of that's in our hands, boy. We've got to make the policies."
"Oof." The full impact was just hitting him. "What about Sally? And the rest of the Commission?"
"Don't be stupid. You and I are the Commission. Sally will do what's needed."
"You mean what you want her to do. I wouldn't be too sure of that-she's got a mind of her own."
"Think I don't know that? I've lived with her long enough. Hell, you're independent too. I don't expect I can dictate to you."
You've been doing a good enough job so far, Rod thought. -
"You can guess about the commission, can't you?" Ben asked pointedly. "Parliament's been concerned about Imperial prerogatives. If there's anything that's pure prerogative it's defense against aliens. But if they're peaceful and all that, Parliament wants a say in the trade deals. Emperor isn't about to turn the Motie question over to Government until we're sure what we're up against. But he can't manage this from Sparta. Can't come out here himself-boy, that would cause problems at the Capital. Parliament couldn't stop him from turning it over to Crown Prince Lysander, but the boy's too young. Deadlock. His Majesty's one thing, but appointed agents with Imperial powers are another. Hell, I don't want to give Imperial authority to anybody but the Royal Family. One man, one family, can't personally exercise too much power no matter how much they've got in theory, but give them appointed agents and it's another matter."
"What about Merril? It's his sector."
"What about him? Same objections to him as anybody else. More. Viceroy's job is pretty carefully defined. Dealing with aliens isn't. Merrill wouldn't get too big for his britches and try to set up his own little Empire out here, but history shows one thing damn clear, you got to watch out for that. So it had to be a Commission. Parliament's not about to approve that much power for any single man, not even me. Made me chairman since I've got the votes. Put my niece on it-my brother was more popular than I am, we needed a woman, and here's Sally just been to the Mote. Fine. But I can't stay out here too long, Rod. Somebody's got to. That's you."
"I saw that coming. Why me?"
"You're a natural. Needed your old man's support to get the Commission approved anyway. Marquis is pretty popular right now. Done some good work consolidating his sector. Good war record. Besides, you're almost Royal Family. You're in line the Throne -- "
"About twenty-eighth. My sister's boy has a better claim than I do."
"Yeah, but it s not spreading the prerogative too far. The peers trust you.. Baronage likes your father; Commons too, and nobody's going to think you want to be king out here, you'd lose Crucis Court. So now the problem is to find a couple of local dummies who'll take their baronages and go along with you after I leave. You'll have to find yourself a replacement before you can go home, but you'll manage that. I did." Fowler smiled beatifically.
The Palace loomed up ahead of them. Kilted guards stood outside in ceremonial uniforms, but the officer who checked their credentials against his appointment list before waving them through the gates was a Marine.
"Got to hurry," Senator Fowler said as they drove around the circular way to the bright red-and-yellow-rock steps. "Rod, if those Moties are a threat, could you order Kutuzov in there with a battle fleet?"
"You heard me. What are you smiling about?"
"I had this conversation with one of my officers back at Mote Prime. Only I was in your seat. Yes, sir. I wouldn't want to, but I could. And I can answer so fast because I decided the question on the way home, otherwise I'd have had to tell you to stuff your Commission." He paused a moment. "Sally couldn't, though."
"Wouldn't expect her to. She wouldn't fight it, either. Any evidence that would make you -- or me order something like that would make her resign. Look, I've been over those reports until I'm deaf and blind, and I don't find much wrong-there are a few things, though. Like your middies. I'm having trouble swallowing that frog."
"So am I -- "
The cab pulled up at the Palace steps and the driver opened the doors for them. Rod fished for bills to pay the fare, and he gave too large a tip because he wasn't used to riding in cabs.

"Will that be all, my lord?" the waiter asked.
Rod glanced at his pocket computer. "Yes, thank you. We're going to be late, Sally." He made no attempt to stand. "Angus-we'll have coffee. With brandy."
"Yes, my lord."
"Rod, we really will be late.." Sally didn't get up either. They looked at each other and laughed. "When was the last time we had lunch together?" she asked.
"A week? Two? I don't remember. Sally, I've never been so busy in my life. Right now a main fleet action would be a relief." He grimaced. "Another party tonight. Lady Riordan. Do we have to go?"
"Uncle Ben says Baron Riordan is very influential on New Ireland, and we may need some support there."
"Then I suppose we have to" Angus arrived with coffee Rod tasted it and sighed in satisfaction "Angus, that is the best coffee and brandy I've ever had Your quality has improved in the last week"
"Yes, my lord. It is reserved for you"
"For me? Sally, is this your-?'
"No." She was as puzzled as he. "Where did you get it, Angus?" "A merchant captain personally brought it to Government House, my lady. He said it was for Lord Blaine. The chef tried it and said it was fit to serve,"
"And that it is," Rod agreed enthusiastically. "Who was the captain?"
"I'll find out, my lord." -
"Some officer seeker," Rod said thoughtfully after the waiter left. "Although you'd think he'd have let me know -- " He glanced at his computer again. "I suppose we haven't long. We can't keep the Viceroy waiting all afternoon."
"We might as well. You and Uncle Ben won't agree to my suggestion, and -- " "Let's leave that until the conference, sweetheart" The Viceroy was demanding an immediate Commission decision on what to do about the Moties. He was only one of many. War Minister Armstrong wanted to know how large a battle fleet it would take to disarm the Moties-just in case, he said, so that Admiral Cranston's War Plans Division could go to work.
The Imperial Traders' Association insisted that everything Bury knew about trade possibilities be made available to all members. The Grand Deacon of the Church of Him wanted proof that the Moties were angels. Another Himmist faction was sure they were devils and the Empire was suppressing the information. Cardinal Randolph of the Imperial Church wanted tapes of Motie life broadcast on tri-v to finish the Himnists once and for all.
And everyone in two hundred parsecs wanted a seat on the Commission.
"At least we'll be in the same meeting," Sally said.
"Yeah." Their Palace quarters were in the same corridor but they never saw each other except at parties. During the confused blur of the past weeks Rod and Sally had seldom been in the same conferences.
Angus returned and bowed. "Captain Anderson, Ragnarok, my lord."
"I see. Thank you, Angus. That's an Imperial Autonctics ship, Sally."
"Then Mr. Bury sent the coffee and brandy! That was very nice of him -- " -- -
"Yeah." Rod sighed. "We really do have to go." They went upstairs from the executive dining room to Viceroy Merrill's working office. Senator Fowler, War Minister Armstrong, and Fleet Admiral Cranston were waiting impatiently.
"Our first lunch together in two weeks," Rod explained. "My apologies." They sounded perfunctory.
"It won't be so bad when Lenin gets in," Senator Fowler said. "Horvath's scientists can make most of the public appearances...they'll eat it up."
"Assuming you give them permission to appear," Prince Merrill drawled. "You haven't let your protégés say much for all the talking they've done."
"Your pardon, Highness," Admiral Cranston said. "I'm in a hurry. What do I do about Lenin's arrival? The ship orbits in sixty hours, and I have to send orders to Kutuzov."
"We'd have that settled if you'd agree to my suggestion, Uncle Ben," said Sally. "Give them quarters in the Palace, assign them servants and guards, and let the Moties decide whom they want to see."
"She has a point, Benjie," Merrill observed. "After all, they are the representatives of a sovereign power. Hard to justify keeping them penned up, eh? Make a big stink, and for what?"
"Admiral Kutuzov is convinced the Modes are a threat," the War Minister said. "He says they are very persuasive. Give them a chance to speak to whom they will and there is no telling what they might do. They could make political trouble for us, Your Highness, and we do no need that."
"But you have to agree that three Moties aren't any military threat," Sally insisted.
Benjamin Fowler sighed heavily. "We've been over this before. It isn't the military threat I worry about! If we turn the Moties loose they will make deals. Bury's report convinces me of that. The Moties can get interest groups formed to support them. Negotiate trade agreements."
"The Commission has a veto on any agreement, Uncle Ben."
"Harder to kill a deal than see one isn't made to begin with. Look, if the Modes are everything Horvath -- thinks they are: peaceful, anxious to sell or give us new technology, no competition for living space-and how in hell can he know that?-no military threat, never going to ally with the outies...
Admiral Cranston growled deep in his throat.
"And all the rest of it, even if they're all that and more, they are still problems. For one thing, their technology's going to shake up the whole Empire. We can't just turn all that loose without some plans for readjustment."
"Labor people are on to that," Merrill said dryly. "President of IF of L was in here not an hour ago demanding that we bottle up the Moties until his staff can study unemployment problems. Not against new technology, but wants us to be cautious. Can't say I blame him."
"The ITA isn't solid any more either," Rod added. "At Lady Malcolm's last night a couple of Traders told me they've got second thoughts about Moties." Rod fingered the lapels of his brightly colored knit tunic. Civilian clothes fit better and should have been more comfortable than Navy uniform, but they didn't seem more comfortable. "Damn it, I don't know what to say! I've been so busy with meaningless speeches and conferences and these goddamn parties I haven't had a chance to do any constructive thinking."
"Course, of course," Merrill soothed. "Still and all, my lord, my orders from HM are clear. I have to take the advice of your Commission. And I am still waiting for that advice. Lady Sandra -- "
"Sally. Please." She'd never liked her given name, for no reason she could have told anyone.
"Lady Sally has at least offered us something. Senator, you and Blaine have to do more than protest that you don't know enough I"
"There is the small matter of my fleet," Armstrong put in. "I must know if Cranston's battleships can go back to chasing outies, or must they stand by in this corner of the sector? We'll have more revolts if we do no show the flag in the distant provinces..."
"Same demands?' Rod asked.
"Aye. They want ships o' their own. More say in Imperial policy too, but mostly the ships. 'Tis enough to drive me mad! They hae control o' their internal affairs. They do no pay more taxes than we. When the outies stir about they shout for the Navy and we come. But these are no your problems, my lord. If we need ships to defend mankind from alien monsters I'll find them for you if I hae to work in MacPherson's yards myself."
"Would almost be worthwhile if the Moties were hostile," Merrill said thoughtfully. "A real threat to the Empire would consolidate the provinces-Wonder if we could sell that story to the barons?"
"Your Highness!" Sally protested.
"Just a thought, just a thought."
"Dazzle 'em with footwork," Fowler growled. They all turned to stare at him. "It's obvious. Let the press corps have a field day. When Lenin gets in, we'll put on a show like New Scotland's never seen. Big reception for the Moties. Full honors. Lots of formalities, parades, reviews, tours. Conferences with the Foreign Office people. Nobody can object if the Motie public appearances are ceremonial and the Foreign Office monopolizes the rest of their time. Meanwhile, we get to work. Your Highness, we'll have advice for you as soon as possible, but Leoni-His Majesty did not send me out here to make snap judgments. Until I know more, we'll just have to make do."