Re-reading the Mote for the first time in many years. In these two chapters there are two things that seem to be setting up mysteries to be answered later. But I have not found where they are answered in the rest of the book.

Chapter 14 The Engineer

"Catch that? A blue flare in the alien ship's air lock. Now what was that for?" "To kill yon vermin?" Sinclair asked. "Hardly. The vacuum would have done," Cargill answered.

Chapter 15 Work

Sally watched, wondering what to do next, and wondering also what bothered her about Renner's performance. Not the incongruity of a ship's officer scratching the ear of what seemed to be an alien monkey, but something else, something about the ear itself...

Anybody know if these questions were answered later in the book?

2 Answers 2


I don't recall any huge revelations about that myself, but here are some ideas:

Considering the issues that the Human ships had wiping out the Brownies - they shot back and made their own force screens to hold in air - this might be a clue that the assumption made that vacuum alone is enough is wrong.

The Brownie ear - could be one of two things. IIRC, Brownies aren't monkey's but actually descended from Moties. This could be a hint. The other foreshadowing might be that the Watchmaker might hear and report information as Kutuzov fears when they take over the ship.

  • I agree. In retrospect, both of these tiny moments were clues that subtly foreshadowed the intelligence of the Watchmakers, and the degree to which Moties will engineer new castes to fill roles (such as the Meats).
    – Liesmith
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 21:16

The part in chapter 14, I am pretty sure that it was an information security (INFOSEC) measure. The bodies were destroyed utterly so as to prevent information about them from getting in the hands of an unknown alien civilization (humans).

There were many points in the story where both sides used INFOSEC. The human expedition to the Motie planet consisted of two ships, one of which was carefully quarantined, and the other was thoroughly redacted to prevent various technologies from falling into Motie hands.

  • 1
    I don't think so. If it was the intention, the brown would not have taken the two watchmakers with him and into the McArthur. Or let himself be driven into it (he went voluntarily). And, after the brown left the ship, the ship went in autopilot away from the human ships.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 19:04
  • Sorry, but that comment doesn't apply. Browns do not have the training or intellect to make policy decisions. They probably don't even understand the concept of INFOSEC to begin with. Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 19:14
  • Your contraargument just agrees with me in that the brown did not care about INFOSEC when he setup the purge system to clean the ship (there is no mention anywhere in the book saying that the brown's ship was controlled remotely by someone else who did activate the purge). In fact later on we learn that the ambassadors did not know of such first contact -and had they know, they would have forbidden the brown from bringing the watchmakers-.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 19:26
  • The problem with your argument is that you're referencing the wrong part of the book. The discussion in the question is an event that occurs in Human space when the Motie light-sail ship arrives. The light-sail ship in question has a full Motie crew including policy makers and was their decision to burn the crew as an INFOSEC precaution. Your argument is referring to a completely different part of the book that takes place much later. Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 20:09
  • Chapter 14 is after the humans arrive in the Mote system. SJuan76 is referring to the correct incident in the book. Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 20:46

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