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

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06-07-2007, 08:34 PM
Chapter 51 - After the Ball Is Over

"No point in sitting here," Renner announced.
"Yeah." Rod led the way to the Commission's office suite in the Palace. Sally followed silently.
"Kelley, I think you'd better bring a round of thinks," Rod said when they were seated at the conference table. "Make mine a double."
"Aye aye, my lord." Kelley gave Rod a puzzled look. Was Lady Sally giving him problems already? And them not even married yet?
"Twenty-five years!" Sally exploded. There was bitter anger in her voice. She said it again, this time to Chaplain Hardy. "Twenty-five years?" She waited for him to explain a universe in which there was so much injustice.
"Maybe it's the price they pay for better than human intelligence," Renner said. "It's heavy."
"There are compensations," Hardy said thoughtfully. "Their intelligence. And their love of life. They talk so fast, they probably think fast as well. I expect that Modes pack a lot into their few years."
There was more silence. Kelley returned with a tray. He set down the glasses and left, his face screwed into puzzled disapproval.
Renner glanced at Rod, who was in Thinker position: elbow on chair arm, chin on closed fist, face brooding.
Kevin lifted his glass. "Here's to the wake."
No one responded. Rod left his drink untouched. A man could live a good, useful life in a quarter of a century, he thought. Didn't people live about that long in preatomic days? But it couldn't be complete. I'm twenty-five now, and I haven't raised a family, or lived with a woman I love, or even begun my career in politics. He watched Sally rise and pace the floor What does she think she's doing? Is she going to solve that problem for them? If they can't, how could we?
"This isn't getting us anywhere," Renner said. Ha lifted his glass again. "Look, if it doesn't upset the Mediators that they're short-lived mules, why should we -- " He stopped in mid-sentence. "Mules? Then the pup Mediators on the embassy ship-must have been children of the two Browns and the hidden White."
They all looked at him. Sally stopped her pacing and took her seat again. "There were four pups when we got back to Mote Prime," she said. "Weren't there?"
"Indeed," Hardy said. He swirled brandy in his glass. "That is rather a high birth rate."
"But they've so little time," Sally protested.
"One would be a high birth rate in that ship. On that mission." Renner sounded positive. "Chaplain, what do you think of that as an ethical situation? You're going to meet a strange well-armed race. You're in a fragile toy of an unarmed ship. So you have children all over the place...
"I see your point," said David Hardy. "But I'll want to think about it. Perhaps -- "
He was interrupted by fists slamming on the table. Two fists. Sally's "God's teeth!" She seized the stylus and scribbled symbols on the face of her computer. It hummed and flashed. "We were waiting for the transfer ship. I know I didn't misunderstand. I couldn't have."
Hardy looked puzzlement at Sally. Renner looked a question at Rod. Rod shrugged and watched his girl. "Her Mode never told her they were mules," he explained to the others.
The computer hummed again. Sally nodded and keyed in instructions. A screen on the back wall lit to show Sally Fowler, eight months younger, talking to a brown-and-white alien. The voices were eerily identical.
Motie: But you marry to raise children. Who raises children born without marriage?
Sally: There are charities.
Motie: I take it you've never-
Sally: No, of course not.
The living Sally was almost blushing, but her face remained grim.
Motie: How not? I don't mean why not, I mean how?
Sally: Well-you know that men and women have to have sexual relations to make a baby, the same as you-
I've examined you pretty thoroughly...-
"Perhaps not thoroughly enough," Hardy commented.
"Apparently not," Sally said. "Shh."
Motie: Pills? How do they work? Hormones?
Sally: That's right.
Motie: But a proper woman doesn't use them.
Sally: No.
Motie: When will you get married?
Sally: When I find the right man...I may have found him already.
Someone was chuckling. Sally looked around, to see Rod looking beatifically unconcerned, Hardy smiling gently, and Renner laughing. She looked curses at the Sailing Master, but he obstinately refused to vanish in black smoke.
Motie: Then why don't you many him?
Sally: I don't want to jump into anything. "Marry in haste, repent at leisure." I can get married any time. Well, any time within the next five years. I'll be something of a spinster if I'm not married by then.
Motie: Spinster?
Sally: People would think it odd. What if a Motie doesn't want children? Motie: We don't have sexual relations
There were various clunks, and the screen went blank

"The literal truth," she mused "We don't have sexual relations." They don t either, but not by choice"
"Really?" David Hardy sounded puzzled "The statement in context with the question is highly misleading..."
"She didn't want to talk about it any more," Sally insisted. "And no wonder. I just misunderstood, that's all."
"I never misunderstood my Motie," Renner said. "Sometimes she understood me all too well..."
"Look. Let's drop it." -
"The day we went down to- Mote Prime, You'd known each other for months," Renner mused. "Chaplain, what do you think?"
"If I understand you properly, the same as you."
"Just what are you hinting at, Mr. Rennet? I said let's drop it." The Lady Sandra was incensed. Rod steeled himself for what was coming: ice or explosion, or both.
"I'm not hinting it, Sally," Renner said with sudden decision. "I'm saying it. Your Motie lied to you. Deliberately and with forethought."
"Nonsense. She was embarrassed -- "
Hardy shook his head slightly. It was a tiny motion, but it stopped Sally. She looked at the priest. "I think," David said, "I can recall only one occasion when a Motie was embarrassed. It was at the Museum. And all of them acted the same way there-nothing like your Fyunch(click) did just now, Sally. I'm afraid it's very probable that Kevin is right."
"And for what reason?" Sally insisted. "Just why would my-almost my sister-why would she lie to me? About that?"
There was silence. Sally nodded in satisfaction. She couldn't snap at Chaplain Hardy; not -- that she had that much respect for his office, but for him, Renner was another matter. "You will tell me if you find an answer to that question, Mr. Renner."
"Yah. Sure." Renner's expression made him look oddly like Buckman: Bury would have recognized it at once. He had barely heard her.

They left the glittering ballroom as soon as they could. Behind them a costumed orchestra played waltzes; while the Moties were introduced to a seemingly endless line. There were provincial barons, Parliament leaders, traders, people with friends in the protocol office, and assorted party crashers. Everyone wanted to see the Modes.
Rod took Sally's hand as they walked through deserted Palace cQrridors toward their quarters. An ancient waltz faded hollowly behind them.
"They've so little time to live, and we're wasting it with-that." Sally muttered. "Rod, it's not fair!"
"Part of their mission, sweetheart. What good would it do them to agree with us if we can't hold the baronage? Even with the Throne behind us we're safer playing the political game. And so are they."
"I suppose." She stopped him and leaned against his shoulder. The Hooded Man was fully risen, black against the stars, watching them through the stone arches. A fountain splashed in the courtyard below. They stood that way in the deserted corridor for a long time.
"I do love you," she whispered. "How can you put up with me?"
"That's pretty easy." He bent down to kiss her, desisted when there was no response.
"Rod, I'm so embarrassed...how am I ever going to apologize to Kevin?"
"To Kevin? You're kidding. Have you ever seen Renner apologize to anyone? Just forget it. Talk as if it had never happened next time you see him."
"But he was right-you knew, didn't you? You knew it then!"
He started her walking again. Their footsteps echoed through the corridors. Even in the dim lights the rock walls flashed iridescent colors as they moved. Then a wall blocked the smoldering gaze of the Hooded Man, and they were at the stairs.
"I suspected it then. Just from the reports and the brief relationship I had with my Motie. After you left this afternoon I did some checking. They lied to you."
"But why, Rod? I can't understand it -- " They climbed another flight in silence.
"You aren't going to like the answer," Rod said as they reached their floor. "She was a Mediator. Mediators represent Masters. She was ordered to lie to you."
"But why? What possible reason could they have for concealing that they were mules?"
"I wish I knew." Or that I didn't know, he thought. But there was no point in telling Sally until he was sure. "Don't take it so hard, sweetheart. We lied to them, too."
They reached his door and he put his hand on the identiplate. The door swung open to reveal Kelley, tunic unfastened, sprawled in an easy chair. The Marine leaped to his feet.
"Good God, Kelley. I've told you not to wait up for me. Go to bed."
"Important message, my lord. Senator Fowler will be here later. He asks you to wait for him. Wanted to be sure you got the message, my lord."
"Yeah." Rod's voice was lemon-sour. "OK. I got the message. Thanks."
"I'll stay to serve you."
"No, you won't. No sense in everybody staying up all night. Get out of here." Rod watched the Marine vanish into the corridor. When he was gone Sally giggled loudly. "I don't see what's so damned funny," Rod snapped.
"He was protecting my reputation," Sally laughed. "What if you hadn't got the message and Uncle Ben came chargin' in here and we -- "
"Yeah. Want a drink?"
"With Uncle Ben coming in a few minutes? Waste of good liquor. I'm going to bed." She smiled sweetly. "Don't stay up too late."
"Wench." He took her shoulders and kissed her. Then again. "I could set the door so he can't get in -- "
"Good night, Rod."
He watched until she was inside her own suite across the hall from his, then went back inside to the bar. It had been a long dull evening, with only the thought of leaving the party early to look forward to,
"Damn!" he said aloud. He tossed off a brimming glass of New Aberdeen Highland Cream. "God damn it to hell!"

Senator Fowler and a preoccupied Kevin Renner came in after Rod had poured his second drink. "Sorry about the hour, Rod," Fowler said perfunctorily. "Kevin tells me something interesting happened today -- "
"He did, uh? And he suggested this conference, right?" When Benjamin Fowler nodded, Rod turned to his former sailing master. "I'll fix you for this, you -- "
"We haven't got time for games," Fowler said. "Got any more of that Scotch?"
"Yeah." Rod poured for both of them, tossed off his drink, and poured himself another. "Have a seat, Ben. You too, Mr. Renner. I won't apologize for letting the servants go to bed -- "
"Oh, that's all right," Renner said. He lapsed back into whatever reverie was consuming him, sank into a chair, then grinned in astonishment. He'd never been in a massage chair before, and obviously enjoyed it
"OK," Senator Fowler said. "Tell me what you think happened this afternoon"
"I'll show it to you." Rod manipulated his pocket computer and the wall screen came on. The picture was not good; it had been recorded by a small camera built into a decoration on Rod's tunic, and the viewpoint was limited. The sound was excellent, though.
Fowler watched in silence. "Let's see that again," he said. Rod obligingly ran the conference once more. While Fowler and Renner watched he went to the bar, decided against another Scotch, and poured himself coffee.
"Now just why do you think this was so all-fired important?" Fowler demanded.
Kevin Renner shrugged. "It's the first proof we have that they lie to us. What else haven't they told us?"
"Hell, they haven't told us much of anything;' Fowler said. "And was that a lie?"
"Yeah," Rod said quietly. "By implication, anyway. It wasn't misunderstanding. I've checked on that. We've got too many records of conversations where the Moties implied something false, realized they'd done it from watching our reactions, and corrected themselves. No. That Motie deliberately encouraged Sally to believe something that isn't true."
"But what the hell does it do for us to know Mediators don't have kids?" Fowler demanded.
"It tells us two Browns and a White had four children," Renner said slowly. "On a small ship. In space. Under dangerous conditions. Not to mention crowded."
"Yeah." Ben Fowler stood and removed his dress tunic. The shirt underneath was old, very soft, and carefully patched in three places. "Rod, just what do Moties think of their kids?" Fowler asked. "Maybe they think they're nothing much until they can talk. Expendable."
"Wrong," said Renner.
"The tactful way," Rod said quietly, "the polite way to disagree with the Senator would be to say, 'That turns out not to be the case.'"
Renner's face lit up. "Hey. I like that. Anyway, the Senator's wrong. The Moties think everything of their children. The only religion they ever told me about teaches that theft souls divide to enter their children. They practically worship the little darlings."
"Uh." Fowler held out his glass for a refill. He scowled impatiently. "Could it be they like 'em so much they have kids whenever they get the chance?"
"Possible," Rod said. "And from that the threat is obvious. But -- "
"But exactly," Fowler said. "Then that planet's got to be crowded. Which it was. Which means the Moties have got population pressure problems like we've never had..."
"Presumably they can control them," Rod said carefully. "Because if they can't- They've been cooped up in that system a long time."
"With what results?" Fowler demanded. "What do we know of Motie history?"
"Not a lot," Renner said. "They've been civilized a long time. Really long. They were moving asteroids in bunches at least ten thousand years ago. I'm almost afraid to think how much history they've had." Kevin wriggled in the chair to get the full effects of the massage. "So they've had plenty of time to solve their population problems. Just from the time they launched that Crazy Eddie probe to now they could have filled up the planet. They didn't, so they can control population..."
"But they don't want to," Ben announced. "And what does that mean? If they get out here into the Empire, how long before they outnumber us?" Senator Fowler toyed thoughtfully with a worn spot on his shirt. "Maybe that's what they're trying to bide. High birth rate and a lack of desire to do anything about it." He stood in sudden decision, no longer pensive. "Rod, get your people looking into this. I want, everything we've got about Motie history"
"Yes, sir," Rod said unhappily And what is this going to do to Sally when we get it? Because-
"You sound like the prosecutor in a murder trial," Renner said. "Good Lord, Senator, they've got a long history. Of course they've solved the population pressure problem."
"Fine. How?" Fowler snapped.
"I don't know. Ask 'em," said Renner.
"I intend to. But since we know they can and do lie to us- Now just why would that surprise a politician?" Ben wondered. "Anyway. Now that we know that, I want to have my ducks in a row before I go in there and confront the Moties."

"The opportunities for trade are fabulous," Jock announced. The arms indicated excitement. "These humans are indescribably inefficient in the use of their resources. They have no instinct for complex tools."
"None?" demanded Ivan.
"None that I have seen." Jock indicated the tri-v. "They must train their young in every trade. Many of the programs on this set are for that purpose."
"They have time to learn," Charlie reflected. "They live very long. Longer than any Master."
"Yes, but what a waste. They have no Browns, and no Watchmakers -- "
Ivan interrupted. "You are certain they have no Watchmakers?"
"Yes We saw no signs on the ships, nor have there been any on the tri-v, nor are there the expected products of Watchmakers. There are no individualized personal items -- "
"I have seen such. The guards who attended us on Lenin carried such and many wore such footgear."
"Made by our own Watchmakers -- "
"Precisely," said Ivan. "Now we know why they destroyed MacArthur. And why they fear us."
The Mediators jabbered excitedly until Ivan cut them off again. "You agree?" He asked in the tone commanding information to be confirmed,
"Yes!" they said in unison. Charlie spoke rapidly, drowning Jock out. "The Brown miner they took aboard would have carried a breeding pair of Watchmakers. The humans know nothing of Watchmakers and would have allowed them to escape. And given free run of the ship and much time to adapt to it -- "
"Yet we were told they have Watchmakers," Ivan said. Jock took a pose indicating memory recall. After a second he said, "No. Sally allowed us to assume that they have them. When her Fyunch(click) suggested that human Watchmakers were large, Sally agreed."
"And the midshipmen seemed startled when we spoke of them regarding construction of their lifeboats," Charlie said flatly. "Yes. You are certainly correct."
There was silence. Ivan thought. Then he said, "They know we have a prolific subspecies. You will reflect on this."
"They fear that we deliberately caused the destruction of MacArthur," Charlie said. "Curse! If only they had told us. We could have told them of the dangers, and the humans would have nothing to fear. Curse! Why did the universe arrange that the first Motie they met was a Brown?"
"They said MacArthur was infested with plague," Jock mused. "And so it was, although we did not believe them. A plague of Watchmakers. Yet. If they truly believe we deliberately destroyed their ship, or allowed it to be destroyed, why have they not said so? Why did they not ask?"
"They conceal their vulnerabilities," said Charlie. "And they never admit defeat. Even in their final minutes the midshipmen refused to surrender."
There was silence. -- Ivan spoke. "The humans did not wish us to know there were Watchmakers aboard until they had killed them. They were certain they could do that. Then, after, they did not wish us to know Watchmakers could destroy their ships."
"Fools!" Charlie shouted. "Watchmakers given time to adapt can destroy any ship. They contribute greatly to a collapse. If they were not so useful we would have them exterminated."
"That's been done," Jock said. He gestured dry humor. "With the usual result. Another Master kept hers -- "
"Silence," Ivan demanded. "They fear us. Speak of that."
"Do you know of what the humans call 'fiction'?" Charlie asked. "Deliberately constructed legends. Both those who hear and those who tell them know they are false."
Ivan and Jock indicated they were familiar with the concept.
"There was a tri-v program last evening. It was fiction as are many of the broadcasts. This one was called 'Istvan Dies.' When it was completed the commentator spoke as if the major action of the story were true."
"I did not see," Jock said. "Viceroy Merrill wished me to meet some Traders before the reception for the Barons. Curse! These endless formalities consume our time and we learn nothing from them."
"I did not tell you of this program," Charlie said. "The principal actor portrayed a man obviously intended to be Admiral Kutuzov."
Jock signaled astonishment and lament for lost opportunities.
"You have a point?" Ivan demanded.
"Yes. The story was one of conflicting motives. The admiral in command did not wish to do what he did. There was war between humans: between the Empire and those outies they fear so greatly."
"Could we not come to terms with the outies?" Jock demanded
"How?" Ivan said. "They control all access to us. If they suspect we would ever do so, they would do anything to prevent it. Do not even think of such things. Tell me of your program."
"In this war there was revolt of a planet. Other planets would soon revolt. What was a small war could become a very large war, with many planets involved. The admiral detected a way to prevent that, and decided it was his duty. With five ships like Lenin he killed all life on a planet inhabited by ten millions of humans."
There was long silence.
"They are able to do this?" Ivan demanded.
"I believe so," Charlie answered. "I am not a Brown to be certain, but -- "
"You will reflect on this. Remember that they fear us. Recall that they now know we have a prolific subspecies. Recall also that from study of the probe they placed this man in charge of the expedition to our system. Fear for your Masters and your sisters." Ivan went to his chamber. After a long time the Mediators began to speak rapidly, but very softly.