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

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06-07-2007, 08:36 PM
Chapter 55 - Renner's Hole Card

Senator Fowler sat heavily and looked around the table. The look was enough to still the chatter and get everyone's attention. "I guess we know what we are all after," he said. "Now comes haggling over the price. Let's get the principles set, uh? First and foremost. You agree not to arm your colonies and to let us inspect 'em to be sure they aren't armed?"
"Yes," Jock said positively. She twittered to the Master. "The Ambassador agrees. Provided that the Empire will, for a price, protect our colonies from your enemies."
"We'll certainly do that. Next. You agree to restrict trade to companies chartered by the Imperium?"
"Well, that's the main points," Fowler announced. "We're ready for the small stuff. Who's first?"
"Can I ask what kind of colony they'll set up?" said Renner.
"Eh? Sure."
"Thank you. Will you be bringing representatives of all your classes?"
"Yes..." Jock hesitated. "All that are relevant to the conditions, Mr. Renner. We'd hardly take Farmers to a nonterraformed rock until the Engineers had built a dome."
"Yeah. Well, I was wondering, because of this." He fumbled with his pocket computer and the screens lit. They showed an oddly distorted New Cal, a brilliant flash, then darkness. "Woops. Wrong place. That was when the probe fired on Captain Blaine's ship."
"Ah?" Jock said. He twittered to the others. They answered. "We had wondered what was the fate of the probe. Frankly, we believed you had destroyed it, and thus we did not wish to ask -- "
"You're close," Renner said. More images flashed on the screen. The light sail was rippling. "This is just before they shot at us."
"But the probe would not have fired on you," Jock protested.
"It did. Thought we were a meteor, I guess," Rod answered. "Anyway -- "
Black shapes flowed across the screen. The sail rippled, flashed, and they were gone. Renner backed the tape until the silhouettes were stark against the light, then stopped the film.
"I must warn you," Jock said. "We know little about the probe. It is not our specialty, and we had no chance to study the records before we left Mote Prime."
Senator Fowler frowned. "Just what are you getting at, Mr. Renner?"
"Well, sir, I wondered about the images." Renner took a light pointer from a recess in the table. "These are various Motie classes, aren't they?"
Jock seemed hesitant. "They appear to be."
"Sure they are. That's a Brown, right? And a Doctor."
"Right." The light pointer moved. "Runner," Jock said. "And a Master..."
"There's a Watchmaker." Rod almost spat it. He couldn't hide his distaste. "The next one looks like a Farmer. Hard to tell from a Brown but -- " His voice went suddenly uneasy. "Renner, I don't recognize that next one."
There was silence. The pointer hovered over a misshapen shadow, longer and leaner than a Brown, with what seemed to be thorns at the knees and heels and elbows.
"We saw them once before," Renner said. His voice was almost automatic now. Like a man walking through a graveyard on a bet. Or the point man advancing Over the hill into enemy territory. Emotionless, determined, rigidly under control. It wasn't like Renner at all.
The screen divided, and another image appeared: the time-machine sculpture from the museum in Castle City. What looked like a junk-art sculpture of electronic parts was surrounded by things bearing weapons.
At his first sight of Ivan, Rod had felt an embarrassingly strong urge to stroke the Ambassador's silky fur. His impulse now was equally strong: he wanted to be in karate stance. The sculpted things showed in far too much detail. They grew daggers at every point, they looked hard as steel and stood like coiled springs, and any one of them would have left a Marine combat instructor looking as if he'd been dropped into a mowing machine. And what was that under the big left arm, like a broad-bladed knife half concealed?
"Ah," said Jock, "a demon. I suppose they must have been dolls representing our species. Like the statuettes, to make it easier for the Mediator to talk about us."
"All of those?" Rod's voice was pure wonder. "A shipload of full-sized mockups?"
"We don't know they were full-sized, do we?" asked Jock.
"Fine. Assume they were mockups," Renner said. He went on relentlessly. "They were still models of living Motie classes. Except this one. Why would that one be in the group? Why bring a demon with the rest?"
There was no answer.
"Thank you, Kevin," Rod said slowly. He didn't dare look at Sally. "Jock, is this or is it not a Motie class?"
"There's more, Captain," Renner said. "Look real close at the Farmer. Now that we know what to look for."
The image wasn't very clear, little more than a fuzzy edged silhouette; but the bulge was unmistakable on the full profile view.
"She's pregnant," Sally exclaimed. "Why didn't I think of that! A pregnant statuette? But- Jock, what does this me an?"
"Yeah," Rod asked coldly.
But it was impossible to get Jock's attention.

"Stop! Say no more!" Ivan commanded.
"What would I say?" Jock wailed. "The idiots took a Warrior! We are finished, finished, when moments ago we had the universe in our hand!" The Motie's powerful left hand closed crushingly on air.
"Silence. Control yourself. Now. Charlie, tell me what you know of the probe. How was it built?"
Charlie gestured contempt interrupted by respect. "It should be obvious. The probe builders knew an alien species inhabited this star. They knew nothing more. Thus they must have assumed the species resembled ours, if not in appearance, then in the essentials."
"Cycles. They must have assumed Cycles," Ivan mused. "We had yet to know that all races are not condemned to the Cycles."
"Precisely," said Charlie. "The hypothetical species had survived. It was intelligent. They would have no more control of their breeding than we, since such control is not a survival characteristic. Thus the probe was launched in the belief that this star's people would be in collapse when the probe arrived."
"So." Ivan thought for a moment. "The Crazy Eddies put pregnant females of every class aboard. Idiots!"
"Give them credit. They did their best," said Charlie. "The probe must have been rigged to dump the passengers into the sun the instant it was hailed by a space-traveling civilization. If the hypothetical aliens were that advanced, they would find, not an attempt to take over their planet with the light sail as a weapon, but a Mediator sent on a peaceful errand." Charlie paused for thought. "An accidentally dead Mediator. The probe would have been set to kill her, so the aliens would learn as little as possible. You are a Master: is this not what you would do?"
"Am I also Crazy Eddie, to launch the probe at all? The strategy did not work. Now we must tell these humans something."
"I say tell them all," Charlie said. "What else can we do? We are caught in our own lies."
"Wait," Ivan commanded. Only seconds had passed, but Jock was normal again. The humans were staring curiously. "We must say something momentous. Hardy knows we are excited. True?"
"Yes," Charlie gestured.
"What discovery could so have excited us?"
"Trust me," Jock said quickly. "We may yet be saved.
Demon worshipers! We told you we have no racial enemies, and this is true; but there is a religious faction, secret, which makes gods of the time demons. They are vicious, and very dangerous. They must have seized the probe before it left the asteroid belt. Secretly, perhaps -- "
"Then the passengers and crew were alive?" Rod asked. Charlie shrugged. "I believe so. They must have committed suicide. Who knows why? Possibly they thought we had developed a faster-than-light drive and were waiting for them. What did you do when you approached them?"
"Sent messages in most human languages," Rod answered. "You're sure they were alive?"
"How would we know?" Jock asked. "Do not be concerned about them." The voice was filled with contempt. ~~They were not proper representatives of our race. Their rituals include sacrifice of sentient classes."
"Just how many of these demon worshipers are there?" Hardy asked. "I was never told of them."
"We are not proud of their existence," Jock answered. "Did you tell us of outies? Of the excesses of Sauron System? Are you pleased that we know humans are capable of such things?"
There were embarrassed murmurs.
"Damn," Rod said quietly. "They were alive after all- after all that distance," The thought was bitter.
"You are distressed," Jock said. "We are pleased that you did not speak to them before you met us. Your expedition would have been of quite a different character if you had -- "
She stopped, watching curiously. Dr. Sigmund Horowitz had risen from his seat and was bent against the screen, examining the time-machine picture. He fingered the screen controls to enlarge one of the demon statuettes. The silhouette from the probe faded, leaving half the screen blank, then another picture came on and grew and grew-a sharp-fanged, rat-faced creature squatting on a pile of rubble.
"Aim!" Horowitz shouted in triumph. "I wondered what the ancestry of the rats could be! Degenerate forms of this He turned to the Moties. There was nothing in his manner but curiosity, as if he'd paid no attention to the conversation before. "What do you use this caste for?" he asked. "Soldiers, aren't they? Have to be. What else would they be good for?"
"No. They are only myths."
"Balderdash. Demons with weapons? Father Hardy, can you imagine devils carrying blast rifles?" Horowitz fingered the controls again and the probe silhouette appeared. "Abraham's Beard! That's no statue. Come now, this is a Mode subspecies. Why do you hide it? Fascinating- I've never seen anything so well adapted for..." Horowitz' voice trailed off.
"A Warrior caste," Ben Fowler said slowly. "I don't wonder that you hid it from us. Dr. Horowitz, would you suppose that-creature -- is as prolific as we know the other Moties can be?"
"Why not?'
"But I tell you the demons are legendary," Jock insisted. "The poem. Dr. Hardy, you recall the poem? These are the creatures who made the skies fall."
"I believe that," Hardy said. "I'm not sure I believe they're extinct. You keep their feral descendants in zoos. Anthony, I put a hypothetical question to you: If the Moties have a very prolific caste devoted to warfare; their Masters have pride in independence similar to terran lions; they have had several disastrous wars; and they are hopelessly trapped in a single planetary system: what is the most reasonable projection of their history?"
Horvath shuddered. So did the others. "Like-MacArthur," Horvath answered sadly. "Cooperation among Masters must break down when population pressures become severe enough...if that's really a current caste, David."
"But I tell you again, they ate legendary demons," Jock protested.
"I'm afraid we don't believe everything you tell us," Hardy said. There was deep sadness in his voice. "Not that I ever accepted everything you said. Priests hear a lot of lies. But I always did wonder what you were hiding.
It would have been better if you'd shown us some kind of military or police forces. But you couldn't, could you?
They were -- " he gestured at the screen. "Those."
"Rod," Senator Fowler said. "You look pretty grim."
"Yes, sir. I was thinking what it would be like to fight a race that's bred Warriors for ten thousand years. Those things must be adapted to space warfare too. Give the Moties Field technology, and-Ben, I don't think we could beat them! It'd be like trying to fight millions of Sauron cyborgs! Hell, the couple of thousand they had were enough to keep the war going for years!"
Sally listened helplessly. "But what if Jock's telling the truth? Couldn't she be right? There was a Warrior caste, it's extinct now, and outlaw Modes-want to bring them back."
"Easy enough to find out," Fowler muttered. "And best done fast, before the Motie Browns build a fleet that could stop us."
"If they haven't already," Rod muttered. "They work so fast. They rebuilt the embassy ship while it was on its way to MacArthur. A complete overhaul, with two Browns and some Watchmakers. I think Commander Cargill's threat estimate may be a bit conservative, Senator."
"Even if it isn't," said Renner, "we still have to picture every ship captained and crewed by Admiral Kutuzov."
"Right. Okay, Jock. You see our situation," said the Senator.
"Not really." The Mode was crouched forward and looked very alien.
"I'll spell it out. We don't have the resources to fight a million critters evolved for warfare. Maybe we'd win, may be not. If you keep those things around, it's because you need 'em; your system's too crowded to keep useless mouths. If you need 'em, you fight wars."
"I see," Jock said carefully.
"No; you don't," the Senator growled. "You know something about Sauron System, but not enough. Jock, if you Moties breed Warrior castes, our people are goin' to identify you with Saurons, and I don't think you appreciate just how much the Empire hated them and their superman ideas."
"What will you do?" Jock asked.
"Take a look at your system. A real look."
"And if you find Warriors?"
"We don't need to look, do we?" Senator Fowler demanded. "You know we'll find 'em." He sighed heavily. His pause for thought was very short-no more than a second. Then he stood and went to the view screen, walking slowly, like a juggernaut-.
"What will we do? Can we not stop him?" Jock wailed. Ivan remained calm. "It would do no good, and you could not do it. That Marine is no Warrior, but he is armed and his hand is on his weapon. He fears us."
"But -- "
"Conference call," Fowler told the Palace operator. "I want Prince Merrill and War Minister Armstrong. Personally, and I don't give a damn where they are. I want 'em now."
"Yes, Senator." The girl was young, and frightened by the Senator's manner. She fumbled with her equipment, and the room was still for a time.
Minister Armstrong was in his office. His tunic was missing and his shirt unbuttoned. Papers littered his desk. He looked up in irritation, saw who was calling, and muttered, "Aye?"
"A moment," Fowler said brusquely. "I'm getting the Viceroy on a conference circuit," There was another long wait.
His Highness came on; the screen showed his face only. Ha seemed breathless. "Yes, Senator?"
"Your Highness, you have seen my Commission from the Emperor?"
"You accept my authority in all matters having to do with the aliens?"
"Of course."
"As representative of His Imperial Majesty I order you to assemble the sector battle fleet as quickly as possible. You will place Admiral Kutuzov in command to await my orders."
There was more silence on the screens. An irritating babble filled the conference room. Ben gestured imperiously for silence and it cut off.
"As a matter of form, Senator," Merrill said carefully, "I will require confirmation of that order from another member of the Commission."
"Yeah. Rod."
And here it is, Rod thought. He didn't dare look at Sally. A race of Warriors? Independent Masters? We can't let them get out into human space. We wouldn't last a century.
The Moties are frozen stiff. They know what we'll find. Unrestricted breeding and demons. Every nightmare every kid ever had...but I like Moties. No. I like the Mediators. I've never known any of the others. And the Mediators don't control the Mote civilization, Carefully he looked down at Sally. She was as unmoving as the Moties. Rod drew in a deep breath.
"Your Highness, I approve."