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

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06-07-2007, 08:35 PM
Chapter 52 - Options

Heavy clouds raced across New Scotland skies. They parted to let New Cal's bright rays slant warmingly into the paneled conference room. Bright objects flashed momentarily -- before the windows polarized. Outside there were deep shadows in the Palace grounds, but the sunlight was yet bright in the narrow streets where government offices emptied for the day. Killed crowds jostled and milled as the sector bureaucracy hurried home to their families, a drink, and tri-v.
Rod Blame stared moodily through the windows. Down below a pretty secretary hurried out of the Palace, so frantic to reach a people-mover that she nearly bowled over a senior clerk. An important date, Rod thought. And the clerk, will have a family...all those people. My responsibility, and that may be just too damn bad for the Moties.
There was a bustle of activity behind him, "You got arrangements for feedin' the Modes?" Kelley demanded.
"Yes sir," a steward answered. "The chef would like to do something with that mush they eat, though-spices, something. He don't feel right, just putting meat and grain in a pot and boiln' it."
"He can get artistic some other time. The Commissioners don't want anything fancy tonight. Just be able to feed 'em all if they want it." Kelley glanced at the magic coffeepot to be sure it was full, then glared at an empty space next to it. "Where's the goddamn chocolate?" he demanded.
"It's comin', Mr. Kelley," the steward said defensively.
"Right. See that it's here before the Moties come in. That'll be an hour." Kelley glanced at the wall clock. "OK. I guess we're ready. But make sure of that chocolate."
Since they'd discovered it aboard Lenin the Moties had become addicted to hot chocolate. It was one of the few human beverages they liked; but the way they liked it! Kelley shuddered. Butter he could understand. They put butter in chocolate aboard the Limey ships. But a drop of machine oil in every cup?
"Ready for us, Kelley?" Rod asked.
"Yes, my lord," Kelley assured him. He took his place at the bar and pressed a button to signal that the conference could begin. Somethin' botherin' the boss, he decided. Not his girl, either. Glad I don't have his problems.
A door opened and the Commission staff came in, followed by several of Horvath's scientists. They took seats along one side of the inlaid table and laid their pocket computers in front of them. There were soft hums as they tested their linkup with the Palace computer system.
Horvath and Senator Fowler were still arguing as they entered. "Doctor, it takes time to process these things -- "
"Why?" Horvath demanded. "I know you don't have to check with Sparta."
"All right. It takes me time to make up my mind, then," Fowler said irritably. "Look: I'll see what I can do for you next Birthday. You had a gong coming even before the Mote expedition. But, damn- it, Doctor, I'm not sure you're temperamentally suited for a seat on -- " He broke off as heads turned toward them. "We'll finish this later."
"All right." Horvath looked around the room and went to a seat directly across from Ben's. There was a quick reshuffle as the Science Minister arranged his staff on his side of the table.
Others came in-Kevin Renner, Chaplain Hardy, both still in Navy uniform. A secretary. Stewards entered and there was more confusion as Kelley sent coffee around.
Rod frowned as he took his seat, then smiled as Sally entered hastily. "Sorry I'm late," she panted. "There was -- "
"We haven't started yet," Rod told her. He indicated a place next to his.
"What's all this about?" she asked quietly. There was something in Rod's manner that worried her, and she studied him carefully. "Why is Uncle Ben so interested in Motie history? Just what happened last night?"
"You'll see. The Senator's about to start." And I hope it'll be all right, sweetheart, but I doubt it. What happens to us after this? Rod turned grimly to the conference. I wonder what my Fyunch(click) is doing now? It'd be nice to send a representative to this and- "Let's get moving," Senator Fowler said brusquely.
"This meeting of the Lords Commissioners Extraordinary representing His Imperial Majesty to the inhabitants of the Mote System is convened. Please write your names and the organizations you represent." There was a second of silence broken by the soft hums of the computer links.
"We've got a lot to cover," the Senator continued. "Last night it became obvious that the Modes lie to us about certain critical matters -- "
"No more than we've done to them," Dr. Horvath interrupted. Blast! I have to control myself better than that. The point must be made, but if the Senator gets really irritated-
"It's what they lie about that concerns us, Doctor," Fowler said smoothly. He paused a moment, and power seemed to gather around him. The dumpy old man in baggy clothing vanished. The Prime Minister spoke. "Look, all of you, I like things informal. If you've got something to say, spit it out. But let me finish my sentences first" There was a thin smile, wintry cold. "Anybody else you can interrupt, if you're big enough. Now, Dr. Horvath, just what are the Moties hiding from us?"
Anthony Horvath ran his slim fingers through thinning hair. "I need more time, Senator. Until this morning it hadn't occurred to me that the Modes were hiding anything." He glanced nervously at Chaplain Hardy, but the priest said nothing.
"It was a bit of a surprise to all of us," Fowler said. "But we've got evidence that Moties breed at a godawful rate. The question is, could we make them keep their numbers down if they don't want to? Rod, could the Modes have been hiding weapons from us?"
Rod shrugged. "In a whole system? Be; they could hide damn near anything they wanted to."
"But they are utterly unwarlike," Horvath protested. "Senator, I am as concerned for the safety of the Empire as anyone in this room. I take my duties as a Sector Minister quite seriously, I assure you."
You're not assurin' us, you're talkin' for the record, Kelley thought. Cap'n Blaine knows it, too. What's botherin' the boss? He looks like he does before an action.
" -- no evidence of warlike activities among the Modes," Horvath finished.
"That turns out not to be the case," Renner put in. "Doc, I like Moties as well as you do, but something produced the Mediators."
"Oh, well, yes," Horvath said easily. "In their prehistory they must have fought like lions. The analogy is quite apt, by the way. The territorial instinct shows up still in their architecture and in their social organization, for example. But the combats were a long time ago."
"Just how long?" Senator Fowler asked.
Horvatli looked uncomfortable. "Possibly a million years."
There was silence. Sally shook her head sadly. Cooped up in one tiny system for a million years-a million civilized years! The patience they must have learned!
"No wars in all the time since?" Fowler asked. "Really?"
"Yes, damn it, they've had wars," Horvath answered. "At least two of the kind that Earth went through at the close of the CoDominium period. But that was a long time ago!" He had to raise his voice to carry across Sally's startled gasp. There were mutters around the table.
"One of those was enough to make Earth damn near uninhabitable," Ben Fowler said slowly. "How long ago are you talking about? Million years again?"
Horvath said, "Hundreds of thousands, at least."
"Thousands, probably," Chaplain Hardy said carefully. "Or less. Sally, have you revised your estimates of the age of that primitive civilization you dug up?"
Sally didn't answer either. There was an uncomfortable silence.
"For the record, Father Hardy," Senator Fowler asked, "are you here as Commission staff?"
"No, sir. Cardinal Randolph has asked me to represent the Church to the Commission."
"Thank you."
There was more silence.
"They had nowhere to go," Anthony Horvath said. He shrugged nervously. Someone giggled, then fell silent when Horvath continued, "It's obvious that their first wars were a very long time ago, in the million-year range. It shows in their development. Dr. Horowitz has examined the expedition biological findings and-well, you tell them, Sigmund."
Horowitz smiled in triumph. "When I first examined the probe pilot I thought it might be a mutation. I was right. They are mutations, only it all happened a long time ago. The original animal life on Mote Prime is bilaterally symmetric, as on Earth and nearly everywhere. The first asymmetric Motie must have been a drastic mutation. Couldn't have been as well developed as the present forms, either. Why didn't it die out? Because there were deliberate efforts to obtain the asymmetric form, I think. And because everything else was mutating also. The competition for survival was low."
"But that means they had civilization when the present forms developed," Sally said. "Is that possible?"
Horowitz smiled again.
"What about the Eye?" Sally asked. "It must have irradiated the Mote system when it went supergiant."
"Too long ago," Horvath said. "We checked. After all, we've got the equivalent of five hundred years' observation of the Eye in data from our explorer ships, and it checks with the information the Moties gave Midshipman Potter. The Eye's been a supergiant for six million years or more, and the Moties haven't had their present form anything like that long."
"Oh," said Sally. "But then what caused the -- "
"Wars," Horowitz announced. "General increase in radiation levels, planet-wide. Coupled with deliberate genetic selection."
Sally nodded reluctantly. "All right-they had atomic wars. So did we. If the CoDominium hadn't developed the Alderson Drive we'd have exterminated ourselves on Earth." She didn't like the answer, though. It was hard to accept. "Couldn't there have been another dominant species that killed itself off, and the Moties developed later?"
"No," Horvath said carefully. "Your own work, Lady Sally: you've shown just how well adapted the Motie form is to using tools. The mutation must have been a tool user to begin with-or was controlled by tool users. Or both."
"That's one war," Senator Fowler said. "The one that created the Moties as we see 'em. You said two."
Horvath nodded sadly. "Yes, sir. The presently evolved Modes must have fought with atomic weapons. Later there was another period of radiation that split the species into all those castes-both the civilized forms and the animals. Plus intermediates like Watchmakers." Horvath looked apologetically at Blaine, but there was no sign of emotion.
Sigmund Horowitz cleared his throat. He was clearly enjoying this. "I believe the Browns were the original form. When the Whites became dominant they bred the other subspecies to their own uses. Controlled evolution again, you see. But some forms evolved by themselves."
"Then the asymmetric animals are not ancestors to Moties?" Senator Fowler asked curiously.
"No." Horowitz rubbed his hands together and fingered his pocket computer in anticipation. "They are degenerate forms-I can show you the gene mechanisms."
"That won't be necessary," Senator Fowler said hastily, "So we have two wars. Presumably the Mediators could have been bred in the second one -- "
"Better make it three wars," Renner put in. "Even if we assume they ran out of radioactives in the second one."
"Why?" Sally demanded.
"You saw the planet. Then there's the adaptation to space," Renner said. He looked expectantly at Horvath and Horowitz.
Horowitz' triumphant grin was even broader now. "Your work again, my lady. The Moties are so well adapted to space that you wondered if they'd evolved there. They did." The xenobiologist nodded emphatically. "But not until they'd had a long evolutionary period on the planet itself Want me to review the evidence? Physiological mechanisms that adjust to low pressure and no gravity, intuitive astrogation -- "
"I believe you," Sally said quietly.
"Mars!" Rod Blaine shouted. Everyone looked at him. "Mars. Is that what you're thinking, Kevin?"
Renner nodded. He seemed to be a man in conflict, his mind racing ahead and not liking what it found. "Sure," he said. "They fought at least one war with asteroids. Just look at the surface of Mote Prime, all torn by overlapping circular craters. It must have damn near wiped out the planet. It scared the survivors so much they moved all the asteroids out to where they couldn't be used that way again -- "
"But the war killed off most of the higher life on the planet," Horowitz finished. "After a long time the planet was repopulated by Modes who'd adapted to space."
"But a very long time ago," Dr. Horvath protested. "The asteroid craters are cold and the orbits are stable. All this happened long ago."
Horvath didn't seem very comfortable with his conclusions, and Rod scratched a note. Not good enough, Rod thought. But-there must be some explanation...
"But they could still fight with asteroids," Horvath continued. "If they wanted to. It would take more energy, but as long as they're in the system they can be moved. We've no evidence of recent wars, and what has all this to do with us anyway? They used to fight,- they evolved the Mediators to stop it, and it worked. Now they don't fight any more."
"Maybe," Senator Fowler grunted. "And maybe not."
"They didn't fight us," Horvath insisted.
"Battle cruiser got destroyed," Fowler said. "OK, spare me the explanations. There's the midshipmen, and yeah, I've heard all the stories about them. The fact is, Dr. Horvath, if Moties fight each other you know damn well one faction's going to pick up allies among the outies and rebels. Hell, they might even encourage revolts, and by God's teeth we don't need that! There's another thing bothers me, too-have they got a planetary government?" There was more silence.
"Well, Sally?" the Senator demanded. "It's your field."
"They- Well, they have a kind of planetary government, Jurisdiction. A Master or a group of them takes jurisdiction over something and the rest go along."
Ben Fowler scowled at his niece. "Hell, we don't even let humans wander around the universe until they've got planetary governments. Can't you just see some Motie colony deciding to help a faction back home on Mote Prime?" He looked around the table and scowled again. "Damn it, don't all of you look at me like that. You'd think I wanted to shoot Father Christmas! I want trade with the Modes, but let's not forget the Prime Directive of the Empire."
"We need more time," Horvath protested. "You can't decide anything right now."
"We don't have the, time," Rod said quietly. "You must be aware of the pressures, Doctor. You helped create them. Every interest group m this sector is demanding immediate action." Rod had been getting daily calls from the Humanity League, and he was certain that Minister Horvath had been feeding information to the group.
"What's bothering you is the potential birth rate," Horvath said. "I'm sure you realize that they must be able to control their population. They'd not have survived this long if they couldn't."
"But they may not want to," Fowler said. "Could we make them do it? Rod, has your Commander Cargill done any more work on that threat estimate?"
"Refinements only, Senator. His original calculations hold up pretty well."
"So it'd take a big fleet operation to compel the Moties-and that's with their present resources. What kind of problems are we handing our grandchildren if we help 'em get colonies?"
"You can't prevent them from getting out now," Horvath protested. "Capt-My Lord Blaine's analysis proved that. They'll eventually get the Langston Field, and they'll come out. We must have friendly relations with them before then. I say let's start trading with them right now and work out our problems as they come up. We can't solve everything at once."
"That's your recommendation?" Fowler asked.
"Yes, sir. Mine, the Humanity League's, the Imperial Traders -- "
"Not all of 'em," Rod interrupted. "Their local council's divided. A sizable minority wants nothing to do with Moties."
"So they're in industries that will be ruined by Motie technology," Horvath said with a shrug. "We can handle that problem. Senator, the Moties will inevitably develop something that gets them out of their system. We should get them so bound to the Empire that their interests are ours before it happens."
"Or take 'em into the Empire and be done with it," Fowler muttered. "I thought of that one last night. If they can't control their population, we can do it for them -- "
"But we know they can," Horvath protested. "We've proved they've been civilized a long time in one system. They've learned -- " He stopped for a moment, then continued excitedly. "Has it occurred to you that they may have population allotments? The Modes on that expedition ship may have been required to have their children at a certain time, or not at all. So they had them aboard ship."
"Hmm," Fowler said. His scowl vanished. "Maybe you've got something there. We'll-I'll-ask the Moties when they come in. Dr. Hardy, you've been sitting there like a man about to be hanged in low gravity. What's got you upset?"
"Rats," the Chaplain said carefully.
Horvath looked around quickly, then nodded in submission. "They disturbed you also, David?"
"Of course. Can you find the file, or must I?"
"I have it," Horvath sighed. He scrawled numbers on the face of his pocket computer. It hummed and the wall screens lit...a Motie city, struck by disaster. Cars overturned and rusted through littered broken streets. Crashed aircraft were imbedded in the ruins of fire-scorched buildings. Weeds grew from cracks in the pavement. In the center of the picture was a sloping mound of rubble, and a hundred small black shapes darted and swarmed over it.
"It's not what it looks like. It's one floor of the Mode zoo," Horvath explained. He touched his controls and the image zoomed closer to focus on a single black shape which grew until the outlines were fuzzy: a pointed, ratlike face, with wicked teeth. But it was not a rat.
It had one membranous ear, and five limbs. The foremost limb on the right side was not a fifth paw; it was a long and agile arm, tipped with claws like hooked daggers.
"Ah," Horowitz exclaimed. He looked accusingly at Horvath. "You didn't show me this one...more wars, eh? One of the wars must have wiped out so much life that ecological niches were left empty. But this- Did you get a specimen?"
"Unfortunately no."
"What did it degenerate from?" Horowitz asked wonderingly. "A long step from the intelligent Mode to-to that. Is there a Motie caste you have not shown me? Something similar to that?"
"No, of course not," Sally said.
"No one would breed selectively for those things," Horowitz mused. "It must have been natural selection -- "
He smiled in satisfaction, "More proof, if it were needed. One of their wars almost depopulated their planet. And for a very long time, too."
"Yah," Renner said quickly. "So while these things took over Mote Prime the civilized Moties were out in the asteroids. They must have bred out there for generations, Whites and Browns and Watchmakers and maybe some things we didn't see because we didn't get to the asteroid civilization."
"But a long time ago, again," said Horvath. "Very long- Dr. Buckman's work on asteroid orbits-well. Perhaps the Mediators were evolved in space before they resettled the planet. You can see they were needed."
"Which makes the Whites as warlike now as then," Senator Fowler pointed out.
"Now they have Mediators, Uncle Ben," Sally reminded him.
"Yeah. And maybe they've solved their population pressure- Doctor, get that goddamn thing off the screen! It gives me the willies. Why the hell would anyone put a ruined city in a zoo anyway?"
The feral image vanished and everyone seemed relieved, "They explained that." Horvath seemed almost cheerful again..."Some of their forms evolved for cities. A thorough zoo would have to include them."
"Ruined cities?"
"Maybe to remind them of what happens when they don't listen to the Mediators," Sally said quietly. "A horrible example to keep them scared of war."
"It'd do it, too," Renner said. He shuddered slightly. "Let's sum this up. The Moties are due in a few minutes," Senator Fowler said. "One. The potential reproductive rate is enormous, and the Moties are willing to have kids in places we wouldn't.
"Two. The Moties lied in a way that concealed their high birth-rate potential.
"Three. Moties have had wars. At least three big ones. Maybe more.
"Four. They've been around a long time. Really long. That argues that they've got their population under control. We don't know how they do it, but it might tie in to why they have kids on dangerous missions. We have to ask. OK so far?"
There was a chorus of muttered assents. "Now to options. First, we could take Dr. Horvath's advice and negotiate trade agreements. The Moties have asked for permanent stations, and the right to look for and settle on uncolonized worlds inside the Empire and beyond. They don't insist on the interior space, but they'd like stuff we don't use, such as asteroids and terraformable rocks. They offer a lot in exchange."
He paused for comments, but there weren't any. Everyone was content to let the Senator do the summation for the record.
"Now that course of action means turning the Modes loose. Once they have bases where we don't control access to them, outies and rebels are certain to dicker with the Moties. We have to outdicker, and it's possible that being generous now will get their gratitude later. Immediate agreement has the support of Commissioner Sandra Bright Fowler. We still OK so far?"
There were more nods and yeses. A few of the scientists looked curiously at Sally. Dr. Horvath gave her an encouraging smile.
"Second option. We take the Moties into the Empire. Install a governor general, at least on any Mote colony, possibly on Mote Prime itself. This would be expensive, and we don't know what happens if the Moties resist. Their military potential is damn high." ~i
"I think that would be terribly unwise," Anthony Horvath said. "I can't believe the Moties would submit and -- "
"Yeah. I'm trying to lay out the possibilities, Doter. Now that you've entered your objection I may as well state that this plan has the tentative approval of the War Ministry and most of the Colonial Office people. No Commissioners yet, but I intend to put it to the Moties as a possibility. Hell, they might want in."
"Well, if they voluntarily enter the Empire, I'd support the action," Horvath said.
"So would I," Sally added.
Ben Fowler screwed his heavy features into a mask of contemplation. "Me, I don't think it would work," he mused. "We generally govern through locals. Now just what reward can we promise for cooperation with us against a conspiracy by their whole race? But we'll ask them."
Fowler straightened in his chair. The amused, thoughtful smile vanished. "Possibility three. The hoof-and-mouth disease remedy."
There were gasps. Horvath's lips were tightly drawn and he took a deep breath. "Does that mean what I think, Senator?"
"Yeah. If there isn't any hoof-and-mouth disease, there won't be any. If there aren't any Moties, there won't be a Mode problem."
David Hardy's voice was low but very firm. "The Church would object to that very strongly, Senator. With every means we have."
"I am aware of that, Father. I'm aware of the Humanity League's feeling too. As a matter of fact, unprovoked extermination isn't a real alternative. Not that we can't physically do it, but politically, no. Unless the Moties are a direct and immediate threat to the Empire."
"Which they aren't," Horvath said positively. "They're an opportunity. I wish I could make you see that."
"Doctor, I may see things as well as you do. Ever think of that? Now those are the possibilities. Are we ready for the Moties, or has anybody got something else to bring up?"
Rod took a deep breath and glanced at Sally. She's not going to like this- "Senator, have we forgotten Sally's dig? Where she found a primitive civilization not more than a thousand years old? How were the Moties primitive so recently?"
More silence. "Had to be wars, didn't it?" Rod asked.
"No!" Sally said. "I've thought about that-the Moties have zoos, right? Couldn't I have found-well, a reservation for primitives? We have them all over the Empire, cultural preserves for people who don't want to be part of technological civilization -- "
"After a million years of civilization?" Renner asked. "Lady Sally, do you really believe that?"
She shrugged. "They're aliens."
"I hadn't forgotten it," Ben Fowler said. "OK, let's discuss it. Sally, your notion's silly. You know what happened, they moved the asteroids around so long ago the pits are cold. Then, about the time of the CoDominium, they blasted themselves into a new Stone Age. Doesn't argue too strong they've learned not to fight, does it?"
"We did the same thing then," Sally said. "Or would have, if we'd been trapped in a single system,"
"Yeah," Fowler answered. "And if I was a Commissioner for a Motie Empire, I wouldn't let humans wander around space without a keeper. Anything else?"
"Yes, sir," Rod told him. "Sally, I don't like this, but -- "
"Get on with it," Fowler growled.
"Yes, sir." Am I losing her because of Moties? But I can't just forget it. "Dr. Horvath, you seemed very uncomfortable after we agreed that the Modes have been civilized for millennia. Why?"
"Well-no reason, actually-except-well, I need to do more checking, that's all."
"As Science Minister, you're responsible for technological forecasts, aren't you?" Rod asked.
"Yes," Horvath admitted unhappily.
"Where do we stand with respect to the First Empire?"
"We haven't caught up with them yet. We'll get there in another century."
"And where would we be if there hadn't been the Secession Wars? If the old Empire'd been going along without interruption?"
Horvath shrugged. "You're probably right, my lord. Yes. It bothered me also. Senator, what Blaine implies is that the Moties aren't advanced enough to have had civilization for a million years. Or even ten thousand. Possibly not for a thousand."
"Yet we know they moved those asteroids at least ten thousand years ago," Renner exclaimed. His voice showed excitement and wonder. "They must have recolonized the Mote about the same time the Aiderson Drive was developed on Earth! The Moties aren't really much older than we are!"
"There's another explanation," Father Hardy pointed out. "They recolonized much earlier than that-and they have a new set of wars every millennium."
"Or even mote often," Senator Fowler added softly. "And if that's the case, we know how they control their population, don't we? Well, Dr. Horvath? What's your advice now?"
"I-I don't know," the Science Minister stammered unhappily. He picked at his nails, realized he was doing it, and laid his hands on the table where they wandered like small wounded animals. "I think we have to be sure."
"So do I," the Senator told him. "But it wouldn't hurt to
-Rod, tomorrow you'll work with the Admiralty."
"I remind you, Senator, that the Church will forbid any member to take part in the extermination of the Moties," Hardy said carefully.
"That's pretty close to treason, Father."
"Perhaps. It's also true."
"Anyway, it wasn't what I had in mind. Maybe we have to take the Moties into the Empire. Whether they like it or not. Maybe they'll submit without a fight if we go in there with a big enough fleet."
"And if they don't?" Hardy asked.
Senator Fowler didn't answer.
Rod looked at Sally, then around the table, finally at the paneled walls.
It's such an ordinary room, he thought. There's nothing special about the people in it either. And right here, in this stupid little conference room on a barely habitable planet, we've got to decide the fate of a race that may be a million years older than we are.
The Moties aren't going to surrender. If they're what we think, they are, they won't be beaten either. But there's only the one planet and some asteroids. If they're gone...
"Kelley, you can bring the Modes in now," Senator Fowler said.
The last of New Cal's dying rays fell into the room. The Palace grounds outside turned purple in shadow.