Read The Man-Kzin Wars 01 Online

Authors: Larry Niven

Tags: #kzin

The Man-Kzin Wars 01

THE MAN-KZIN WARS I

by
Larry Niven
with
Poul Anderson
and
Dean Ing

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Copyright Oc
t
1988 by Larry Niven
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form
.

A Baen Books Original

Baen Publishing Enterprises 260 Fifth Avenue
New York, N
Y
10001
First printing, June 1988 Second printing, July 1988 Third printing, December 1988 Fourth printing, August 1989 Fifth printing, December 1989

ISBN: 0-671-65411-X
Cover art by Steve Hickman
Printed in the United States of America

Distributed by
SIMON & SCHUSTER
1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, N
Y
10020
CONTENTS

Introduction

La
rr
y Niv
e
n


T
he Warriors" wasn't just the first tale of the kzinti. It was the first story I ever offered for sale. I was daydreaming in math class, as usual, and I realized that I'd shaped a complete story. So I wrote it down, and bought some magazines to get the editorial addresses, and started it circulating
.

It was years before anyone bought it. By then I'd rewritten it countless times, trying out what I was learning from my correspondence writing course. Fred Pohl (editor of Galaxy and Worlds of If in those days) saw it often enough that he eventually wrote,

I
think this can be improved
...
but maybe you're tired of reworking it, so I'll buy it as is . It was probably his title, too
.

The kzinti look a little blurred here, don't they? I mean, if you've known them elsewhere. Subsequently they changed in several ways
.

I learned to answer John W. Campbell's challenge:

S
how me something that thinks as well as a man, or better, but not like a man." The kzinti took on more detail, gained greater consistency and lost some of
their resemblance to humanity. They were born as one of a thousand catlike aliens in science fiction. As I learned how to make an alien from basic principles, body and mind and soul, the kzinti became more themselves.

At the same time they were changing in another way, evolving over several centuries. The Man-Kzin Wars changed them far more than they changed mankind, because the wars killed off the least intelligent and most aggressive.

This book was conceived in a casual encounter
.

Marilyn and I were driving to a Nebula Awards banquet with Jim Baen in the back seat. She drove, we talked ..
.

I knew about franchise universes. Jim and I had edited The Magic May Return and More Magic, tales set in the Magic Goes Away universe but written by friends whom we had invited in. I had played in neighbors' playgrounds, too.

A
Snowflake Falls" used Saberhagen's

B
erserkers," by invitation. I'd written a tale set at Lord Dunsany's "edge of the world," and a report on the year the Necronomicon hit the college campuses in paperback, and a study of Superman's fertility problems
.

I've never been in a war, nor in any of the armed forces. Wars have happened and may happen again in most of my series universes, including known space, but you'll never see them. I lack the experience. Here are a couple of centuries of known space that are dark to me
.

By the time we parked, Jim and I had agreed to open up the Man-Kzin Wars period of known space
.

Any writer good enough to be invited to play in my universe will have demonstrated that he can make his own. Would anyone accept my offer? I worried
also that intruders might mess up the playground, by violating my background assumptions
.

But I did want to read more tales of Known Space
...
and I hadn't
written any in years
.

For the Warlock's era I had written a "bible," a set Of assumptions, list
of available characters, backgrounds, a few story ideas. For the Man-Kzin
Wars the "bible" was already written, by John Hewitt for the Chaosium
role-playing game,

R
ingworld. " I photocopied the appropriate pages,
with his permission and Chaosium's
.

I did not anticipate what happened
.

I had to turn down one story outline and one completed story. It didn't
matter. Poul and Dean both turned in 40,000-word novellas! And now
they're talking about sequels
.

It's as if you can't say anything short in the Known Space universe
I guess I'm flattered. And I surely got my wish. These stories read like
good Poul Anderson, and good Dean Ing, and good Niven; and Niven couldn't
have written them
.

THE WARRIORS

Larry Niven

I
'm sure they saw us coming," the Alien Technologies Officer persisted.

D
o you see that ring, sir?

The silvery image of the enemy ship almost filled the viewer. It showed as a broad, wide ring encircling a cylindrical axis, like a mechanical pencil floating inside a platinum bracelet. A finned craft projected from the pointed end of the axial section. Angular letters ran down the axis, totally unlike the dots-and
-
commas of Kzinti script.


O
f course I see it," said the Captain
.


I
t was rotating when we first picked them up. It stopped when we got within two hundred thousand miles, and it hasn't moved since." 'Me Captain flicked his tail back and forth, gently, thoughtfully, like a pink lash.

Y
ou worry me," he commented.

I
f they know we're here, why haven't they tried to get away? Are they so sure they can beat us?" He whirled to face the A-T Officer.

S
hould we be running?


N
o, sir! I don't know why they're still here, but they can't have anything to be confident about. That's
one of the most primitive spacecraft I've ever seen." He moved his claw about on the screen, pointing as he talked.


T
he outer shell is an iron alloy. The rotating ring is a method of imitating gravity by using centripetal force. So they don't have the gravity planer. In fact they're probably using a reaction drive." The Captain's catlike ears went up.

B
ut we're lightyears from the nearest star!


T
hey must have a better reaction drive than we ever developed. We had the gravity planer before we needed one that good.

There was a buzzing sound from the big control board.

E
nter," said the Captain
.

The Weapons Officer fell up through the entrance hatch and came to attention,

S
ir, we have all weapons trained on the
enemy
.


G
ood." The Captain swung around.

A
-T, how sure are you that they aren't a threat to us?

The A-T Officer bared sharply pointed teeth. I don't see how they could be, sir.


G
ood. Weapons, keep all your guns ready to fire, but don't use them unless I give the order. I'll have the ears of the man who destroys that ship without orders. I want to take it intact."


Y
es, sir.


W
here's the Telepath?


H
e's on his way, sir. He was asleep."


H
e's always asleep. Tell him to get his tail up here.

The Weapons Officer saluted, turned, and dropped through the exit hole.


C
aptain?

The A-T Officer was standing by the viewer, which now showed the ringed end of the alien ship. He pointed to the mirror-bright end of the axial cylinder.

I
t looks like that end was designed to project light. That would make it a photon drive, sir."

The Captain considered.

C
ould it be a signal device?


U
rrrrr
...
Yes, Sir.


T
hen don't jump to conclusions."

Like a piece of toast, the Telepath popped up through the entrance hatch. He came to exaggerated attention.

R
eporting as ordered, sir."


Y
ou omitted to buzz for entrance.


S
orry, sir." The lighted viewscreen caught the Telepath's eye and he padded over for a better look, forgetting that he was at attention. The A-T Officer winced, wishing he were somewhere else.

. The Telepath's eyes were violet around the edges. His pink tail hung limp. As usual, he looked as if he were dying for lack of sleep. His fur was flattened along the side he slept on; he hadn't even bothered to brush it. The effect was far from the ideal of a Conquest Warrior as one can get and still be a member of the Kzinti species. The wonder was that the Captain had not yet murdered him.

He never would, of course. Telepaths were too rare, too valuable, and-understandably-too emotionally unstable. The Captain always kept his temper with the Telepath. At times like this it was the innocent bystander who stood to lose his rank or his ears at the clank of a falling molecule.

" That's an enemy ship we've tracked down," the
Captain was saying.

W
e'd like to get some information from them. Would you read their minds f
o
r us?"


Y
es, sir." The Telepath's voice showed his instant misery, but he knew better than to protest. He left the screen and sank into a chair. Slowly his ears folded into tight knots, his pupils contracted, and his ratlike tail went limp as flannel
.

The world of the eleventh sense pushed in on him.

He caught the Captain's thought: "
...
sloppy civilian get of a sthondat
...

and
frantically tuned it out. He hated the Captain's mind. He found other minds aboard ship, isolated and blanked them out one by one. Now there were none left. There was only unconsciousness and chaos. Chaos was not empty. Something was thinking strange and disturbing thoughts.

The Telepath forced himself to listen.

Steve Weaver floated bonelessly near a wall of the radio room. He was blond, blue-eyed, and big, and he could often be seen as he was now, relaxed but completely motionless, as if there were some very good reason why he shouldn't even blink. A streamer of smoke drifted from his left hand and crossed the room to bury itself in the air vent
.


T
hat's that," Ann Harrison said wearily. She flicked four switches in the bank of radio controls. At each click a small light went out.


Y
ou can't get them?


R
ight. I'll bet they don't even have a radio." Ann released her chair net and stretched out into a fivepointed star.

I
've left the receiver on, with the volume up, in case they try to get us later. Man, that feels good!" Abruptly she curled into a tight ball. She had been crouched at the communications bank for more than an hour. Ann might have been Steve's twin; she was almost as tall as he was, had the same color hair and eyes, and the flat muscles of conscientious exercise showed beneath her blue falling jumper as she flexed
.

Steve snapped his cigarette butt at the air conditioner, moving only his fingers.

O
kay. What have they got?

Ann looked startled.

I
don't know.


T
hink of it as a puzzle. They don't have a radio. How might they talk to each other? How can we check on our guesses? We assume they're trying to reach us, of course."


Y
es, of course.


T
hink about it, Ann. Get Jim thinking about it, too." Jim Davis was her husband that year, and the ship's doctor full time.

Y
ou're the girl most likely to succeed. Have a smog stick?"


P
lease.

Steve pushed his cigarette ration across the room.

T
ake a few. I've got to go.

The depleted package came whizzing back.

T
hanks," said Ann.

L
et me know if anything happens, will you? Or if you think of anything." I will. And fear not, Steve, something's bound to turn up. They must be trying just as hard as we are.

Every compartment in the personnel ring opened into the narrow doughnut-shaped hall which ran around the ring's forward rim. Steve pushed himself into the hall, jockeyed to contact the floor, and pushed. From there it was easy going. The floor curved up to meet him, and he proceeded down the hall like a swimming frog. Of the twelve men and women on the Angel's Pencil, Steve was best at this; for Steve was a Belter, and the others were all flatlanders, Earthborn
.

Ann probably wouldn't think of anything, he guessed. It wasn't that she wasn't intelligent. She didn't have the curiosity, the sheer love of solving puzzles. Only he and Jim Davis
He was going too fast, and not concentrating. He almost crashed into Sue Bhang as she appeared below the curve of the ceiling
.

They managed to stop themselves against the walls.

H
i, jaywalker," said Sue.


H
i, Sue. Where you headed?


R
adio room. You?

I thought I'd check the drive systems again. Not that we're likely to need the drive, but it can't hurt to be certain.


Y
ou'd go twitchy without something to do, wouldn't you?" She cocked her head to one side, as always when she had questions.

S
teve, when are you going to rotate us again? I can't seem to get used to falling." But she looked like she'd been born falling, he thought. Her small, slender form was meant for flying; gravity should never have touched her.

W
hen I'm sure we won't need the drive. We might as well stay ready 'til then. Because I'm hoping you'll change back to a skirt.

She laughed, pleased.

T
hen you can turn it off. I'm not changing, and we won't be moving. Abel says the other ship did two hundred gee when it matched courses with us. How many can the Angel's Pencil do?" Steve looked awed.

J
ust point zero five. And I was thinking of chasing them! Well, maybe we can be the ones to open communications. I just came from the radio room, by the way. Ann can't get anything.


T
oo bad.


W
e'll just have to wait.

'Steve, you're always so impatient. Do Belters always move at a run? Come here." She took a handhold and pulled him over to one of the thick windows which lined the forward side of the corridor.

T
here they are," she said, pointing out
.

The star was both duller and larger than those around it. Among points which glowed arc-lamp blue
white with the Doppler shift, the alien ship showed as a dull red disk.

I
looked at it through the telescope," said Steve.

T
here are lumps and ridges all over it. And there's a circle of green dots and commas painted on one side. Looked like writing.


H
ow long have we been waiting to meet them? Five hundred thousand years? Well, there they are. Relax. They won't go away." Sue gazed out the window, tier whole attention on the dull red circle, her gleaming jet hair floating out around her head.

T
he first aliens. I wonder what they'll be like.


I
t's anyone's guess. They must be pretty strong to take punishment like that, unless they have some kind of acceleration shield, but free fall doesn't bother them either. That ship isn't designed to spin." He was staring intently, out at the stars, his big form characteristically motionless, his expression somber. Abruptly he said,

S
ue, I'm worried.


A
bout what?


S
uppose they're hostile?


H
ostile?" She tasted the unfamiliar word, decided she didn't like it.

A
fter all, we know nothing about them. Suppose they want to fight? We'd-

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