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

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06-07-2007, 08:34 PM
Chapter 50 - The Art of Negotiation

The little group moved in angry silence. Horowitz' hostility was just short of audible as-he led the way deeper underground. I am the most competent xenologist in Trans-Coalsack, he was thinking. They'll have to go to Sparta to find anyone better. And this goddamn lordling and his half-educated lady doubt my professional word.
And I have to put up with it.
There wasn't much doubt about that, Horowitz reflected. The University President had personally made it clear. "For God's sake, Ziggy, do what they want! This Commission is a big deal. Our whole budget, not to mention your department, is going to be affected by theft reports. What if they say we don't cooperate and ask for a team from Sparta?"
So. At least these young aristocrats knew his time was valuable. He'd told them half a dozen times on the way to the labs.
They were deep underground in the Old University, walking on worn rock floors carved an age before. Murcheson himself had paced these corridors before the terraforming of New Scotland was complete, and legend had it that his ghost could still be seen prowling through the rock-walled passageways: a hooded figure with one smoldering red eye.
And just why is this so damned important anyway? Balaam's ass, why does the girl make such a big deal out of it?
The laboratory was another room quarried from living rock. Horowitz gestured imperiously and two graduate assistants opened a refrigerated container. A long table slid out.
The pilot of the Crazy Eddie probe lay disassembled on the smooth white plastic surface. Its organs were arranged in a semblance to the positions they'd had before dissection, with black lines drawn across the flayed skin to join them to points on the skin and the exploded skeleton. Light red and dark red and grayish green, improbable shapes: the components of a Motie Mediator were all the colors and textures of a man hit by a grenade. Rod felt his belly twist within him and remembered ground actions.
He winced as Sally leaned forward impatiently for a better look. Her face was set and grim-but it had been that way back at Horowitz' office.
"Now!" Horowitz exploded in triumph. His bony finger jabbed at peanut-sized slime-green nodes within the abdomen. "Here. And here. These would have been the testes. The other Motie variants have internal testes too."
"Yes -- " Sally agreed.
"This small?" Horowitz asked contemptuously.
"We don't know." Sally's voice was still very serious. "There were no reproductive organs in the statuettes, and the only Modes the expedition dissected were a Brown and some miniatures. The Brown was female."
"I've seen the miniatures," Horowitz said smugly.
"Well-yes," Sally agreed. "The testes in male miniatures were big enough to see -- "
"Much bigger than this in proportion. But never mind. These could not have produced sperm. I have proved it. That pilot was a mule!" Horowitz slapped the back of his hand against his open palm. "A mule!"
Sally -- studied the exploded Motie. She's really upset, Rod thought.
"Modes start- male, then turn female," Sally mumbled, almost inaudibly. "Couldn't this one have been immature?"
"A pilot?"
"Yes, of course -- " She sighed. "You're right, anyway. It was the height of a full-grown Mediator. Could it have been a freak?"
"Hah! You laughed at me when I suggested it might have been a mutation! Well, it isn't. While you were off on that jaunt we did a bit of work here. I've identified the chromosomes and gene-coding systems responsible for sexual development. This creature was a sterile hybrid of two -other forms which are fertile." Triumph.
"That fits," Rod said. "The Moties told Renner the Mediators were a hybrid -- "
"Look," Horowitz demanded. He activated a lecture screen and punched in codes. Shapes flowed across the screen. Motie chromosomes were close-packed discs connected by thin rods. There were bands and shapes on the discs-and Sally and Horowitz were speaking a language Rod didn't understand. He listened absently, then found a lab assistant making coffee. The girl sympathetically offered a cup, the other assistant joined them, and Rod was pressed for information about Moties. Again.
Half an hour later they left the university. Whatever Horowitz had said, Sally was convinced.
"Why so upset, sweetheart?" he asked. "Horowitz is right. It makes sense for the Mediators to be mules." Rod grimaced at the memory. Horowitz had pointedly added that being mules; the Mediators wouldn't be influenced by nepotism.
"But my Fyunch(click) would have told me. I'm sure she would. We did talk about sex and reproduction and she said -- "
"I don't remember exactly." Sally took out her pocket computer and scrawled the symbols for information recall. The gadget hummed, then changed tone to indicate it was using the car's radio system to communicate with the Palace data banks. "And I don't remember just when she said it -- " She scrawled something else. "I should have used a better cross-reference system when I filed the tape."
"You'll find it. Here's the Palace-we've got a conference with the Moties after lunch. Why don't you ask them about it?"
She grinned.
"You're blushing."
Sally giggled. "Remember when the little Moties first coupled? It was the first positive indication we'd had of sex changes in adult Modes, and I went running down to the lounge-Dr. Horvath still thinks I'm some kind of sex maniac!"
"Want me to ask?"
"If I don't. But, Rod, my Fyunch(click) wouldn't lie to me. She just wouldn't have."

They ate in the executive dining room, and Rod ordered another brandy and coffee. He sipped and said thoughtfully, "There was a message with this -- "
"Oh? Have you talked to Mr. Bury?"
"Only to thank him. The Navy's still entertaining him as a guest. No, the message was the gift itself. It told me he could send messages, even before Lenin made orbit."
She looked shocked. "You're right-why didn't we -- "
"Too busy. By the time I thought of it, it didn't seem important enough to report, so I haven't. The question is,
Sally: What other messages did he send, and why did he want me to know he could do it?"
She shook her head. "I'd rather try to analyze the motivations of aliens than of Mr. Bury. He's a very strange man."
"Right. But, not a stupid one." He stood and helped Sally out of her chair. "Time for the conference."
They met in the Mode quarters of the Palace. This was supposed to be a working conference, and Senator Fowler was running political interference elsewhere so that Rod and Sally could ask questions.
"I'm glad you co-opted Mr. Renner for the advisory staff," Sally told Rod as they got off the elevator. "He's got a-well, a different outlook about the Modes."
"Different. That's the word." Rod had also been assigned others from the expedition: Chaplain Hardy, Sinclair, and several scientists. Until Senator Fowler made up his mind about Dr. Horvath's request for Commission membership they couldn't use him, though; the Science Minister might refuse to become a subordinate to the Commissioners.
The Marines outside the Motie quarters snapped to attention as Rod and Sally approached. "See. You worry too much," Rod said as he acknowledged the salutes. "The Moties haven't complained about the guards."
"Complained? Jock told me the Ambassador likes having guards," Sally said. "I guess he's a little afraid of us."
Rod shrugged. "They watch a lot of tri-v. God knows what they think of the human race now." They entered to hear an animated conversation in progress.
"Of course I expected no direct evidence," Chaplain Hardy was insisting. "But although I didn't expect it, I would have been pleasantly surprised to find something concrete: scripture, or a religion similar to ours, something like that. But expect it, no."
"I still wonder what you think you could have found," Charlie said. "Were it my problem 'to prove that humans had souls, I shouldn't know where to begin looking."
Hardy shrugged. "Nor do I. But begin with your own beliefs-you think you possess something like an immortal soul."
"Some do, some don't," Charlie said. "Most Masters believe it. Like humans, Modes do not care to think their lives are purposeless. Or that they can and will be terminated. Hello, Sally. Rod. Please be seated."
"Thanks." Rod nodded greetings to Jock and Ivan. The Ambassador looked like a surrealist rendition of an Angora cat as he lay sprawled on the edge of a couch. The Master flicked the lower right hand, a gesture which Rod had learned meant something similar to "I see you." There were evidently other greetings, but they were reserved for other Masters: equals, not creatures with whom Mediators discussed business.
Rod activated his pocket computer to get the agenda for the day's meeting. The readout was coded to remind him of both the formal items for discussion and the questions Senator Fowler wanted answered without the Modes' knowing the questions had been asked; questions such as why the Modes hadn't ever asked about the fate of -the Crazy Eddie probe. That one needed no code at all; Rod was as puzzled as the Senator. He was also reluctant to get the Modes asking, since he would have to explain what, he'd done to the probe.
"Before we begin," Rod said. "The Foreign Office requests that you attend a reception tonight. For the baronage and some representatives of Parliament."
The Moties twittered. Ivan twittered back. "We will be honored," Jock said formally. There was no expression in the voice.
"OK. So now we're back to the same problems we've always had. Are you a threat to the Empire, and just what will your technology do to- our economy."
"Oddly enough," Jock said, "the same questions concern us. Except in reverse."
"But we never seem to settle anything," Sally protested. "How could we?" Hardy asked reasonably. "Assuming that the threat question is negligible, until we know what our friends will sell the economists can't predict what they'll do to us-and the Moties have the same difficulty."
"They aren't as concerned about them as we are," Renner said impatiently. "I'm with Sally. We talk a lot, but we don't get much done."
"We won't get any of it done if we don't get started." Rod looked at his computer readout "The first item is superconductors. The physics boys are happy enough, but the econ section wants better cost data. I'm supposed to ask -- " He touched the control to let the questions roll across the tiny screen.
"Are you mules?" Sally blurted.
There was silence. Hardy's eyes narrowed slightly; otherwise he didn't react. Renner lifted his left eyebrow. They stared, first at Sally, then at the Moties.
"You mean Mediators," Jock said carefully. "Yes. Of course."
There was more silence. "All of you?" Renner asked.
"Certainly. We are hybrid forms. None of you seem to like that answer. Sally, what is troubling you? Mediators were a late evolutionary development, and evolution is by groups and tribes as often as by individuals-that's true for humans too, isn't it?"
Hardy nodded. "Not only us. Most alien life forms we've found, too."
"Thank you. We assume that tribes with Mediators survived better than those without. We have never seen a fertile Mediator, but if ever there were one, she must have acted in her children's interests rather than the -- tribe's." The Mode shrugged. "That's all speculation, of course. Our history doesn't go back that far. As for me, I would like to have children, but I have always known I would not -- " The Mode shrugged- again. "Still, it is a pity. The sex act is the ultimate in enjoyment We know this We empathize all too well with Masters"
There was more silence. Hardy cleared, hit throat but said nothing.
"Sally, while we are speaking of Motie problems, there is something else you must know about us."
"You could cut the gloom in here with a knife, Rod thought. Now just why is it so depressing that...
"Compared with your species, ours is short-lived. We three were chosen for our experience and intelligence, not our youth. We have considerably fewer than ten years to live."
"But- No!" Sally was visibly shaken. "All of you?"
"Yes. I would not raise such a painful topic, but we all think it wise to tell you. Your parades, these formal receptions, all of this baffles us most pleasantly. We anticipate great pleasure in solving the mystery of why you do these things. But we also must establish trade and diplomatic relations with you, and there is a definite time limit -- "
"Yes," said- Sally "Yes, of course. Not even ten years!"
Jock shrugged. "Mediators live a total of twenty-five. Win a few, lose a few. You presumably have your own problems," The alien voice took on a note of grim amusement. "Such as the wars you suffer through lack of Mediators!"
The Mode looked around the conference mom. There 'was more silence, and blank stares. "I've distressed you all, I am sorry, but it had to be said- Let us resume tomorrow, when you've had time to think about this." She uttered a high, sweet note, and Charlie and Ivan followed her through a paneled -doorway into the Mode private quarters. The door closed gently behind them.

As they walked to Ivan's room Charlie twittered to the Master. They entered and closed the door; and although they were certain the room had no spy or listening devices, they spoke in a high grammar rich with poetic allusions. The humans could never decipher it.
The Master's posture was a demand for explanation.
"There was not time to consult," Jock cried. "I had to speak at once before they placed too much importance on the question."
"You told them yes," Ivan said. "You might have said no. Or maybe. Or some are, and some not...
Charlie said, "You might have told them we don't discuss such things. You know humans do not like to speak openly of sexual matters." -
"They can when they want to," Jock protested. "And their next request would have been that we submit to examination by their xenologists. We have already submitted to their physicians-how could we refuse now?"
Ivan: -- "Their xenologists would find nothing. A male would show zero sperm count, but you are female."
Charlie pantomimed ritual sorrow: Circumstances force me to disagree with you; Master. "Their original examinations were directionless. Can you say they would be less thorough now? That they would not find that all three of us suffer from hormone imbalances?" Charlie's arms moved, so, to indicate apology for reminding the Master of his sterility; moved again to indicate pressing importance. "The same imbalance that they detected in the Brown miner. Imbalances that were not present when they found the miner, but which developed before she died aboard MacArthur."
The others were suddenly quiet. Charlie continued inexorably. "They are not stupid. They may well have connected these disturbances with sexual abstinence. What have they discovered about Watchmakers? They must have had Watchmakers to examine; the miner would have brought them aboard as a matter of course."
"Curse!" Ivan assumed a pose of thought. "Would they cage the Watchmakers separately?"
Both Mediators gestured lack of knowledge. "Jock was right to answer as she did," Charlie said. "They have the body that was aboard the Crazy Eddie probe. There must have been one, and it must have been a Mediator, a young one with a long life so that he could negotiate with whomever the probe might find here."
"But our records show that Mediator would be dead," Jock said. "He must have been; the humans learned nothing from him. Curse! If only the records were complete -- "
"If only the records were complete. If only we had a Brown. If only the humans would tell us what they have done with the probe. If only the humans would tell us why they destroyed MacArthur. You will cease these meaningless phrases. You must have learned them from humans." Ivan commanded with finality. "Speak of what the humans have learned from the pilot of the probe."
Charlie: "They would dissect the pilot. Their biological sciences are as advanced as ours. More advanced. They speak of genetic engineering teohniques not recorded in any museum, and certainly not discovered in this Cycle. Thus we must assume their xenobiologisrs could learn that the pilot was sterile. Renner's Fyunch(click) told him that Mediators were hybrids."
"Crazy Eddie. Even then," Ivan said. "Now she argues incessantly with her Master." He paused, thinking, his arms waving for silence. "You have done well," he told Jock. "They would learn you are sterile in any case. It is crucial that they do not learn how important that is. Does this tell humans that Fyunch(click)s can and do lie to humans?" -
Silence. Finally Jock spoke. "We do not know. Sally's Fyunch(click) spoke to her of sex, but the conversation was aboard the human ship. We have no record, only what was reported to us."
"Reported by a Crazy Eddie," Ivan said.
Jock said, "I did my utmost to distract them."
"But did you succeed?"
"Yes. It was evident in their faces."
Ivan could not read a human face, but he understood the concept: there were muscles around human eyes and mouth used for signaling emotions, like Motie gestures. Mediators could read them. "Go on."
"Direct reference to the sex act to slow their minds. Then the fact of our life spans, delivered as one might admit to having a terminal disease. Now these long-lived creatures will mourn for us."
"Well they might," said Charlie.
"They will pity us for our handicaps. They might even attempt to remedy them."
Ivan turned quickly to Jock. "Do you believe they can do so?"
"Master, no! Am I Crazy Eddie?"
Ivan relaxed. "You will consider this matter carefully. You will discuss the evidence the humans have, and what they may deduce from it. Were there not two Engineers as well as your Master aboard the embassy ship that met MacArthur?"
Jock: "Affirm."
"Curse. And how many Mediator pups when they returned?"
"I had four sisters."
"Curse!" Ivan wanted to say more; but to state the obvious would have lost Jock's loyalty forever; it might even have shocked Charlie into abnormalities. Curse! Mediators identified with Masters. They held the usual Master- emotions about children.
Though sterile from an early age, Ivan was not immune to those emotions; but he knew. The children should have been spaced.