Little Fuzzy – Day 15 of 77

“We have a whole shoebox full of them at the post,” Lunt yelled to him above the din. “We’ll just write these two off as expended in service.”

“Well, that’s real nice of you, George. I want to tell you that the Fuzzies appreciate that. Ahmed, suppose you do the bartending while I give the kids their candy.”

By the time Khadra had the drinks mixed and he had distributed the Extee Three to the Fuzzies, Lunt had gotten into the easy chair, and the Fuzzies were sitting on the floor in front of him, still looking him over curiously. At least the Extee Three had taken their minds off the whistles for a while.

“What I want to know, Jack, is where they came from,” Lunt said, taking his drink. “I’ve been up here for five years, and I never saw anything like them before.”

“I’ve been here five years longer, and I never saw them before, either. I think they came down from the north, from the country between the Cordilleras and the West Coast Range. Outside of an air survey at ten thousand feet and a few spot landings here and there, none of that country has been explored. For all anybody knows, it could be full of Fuzzies.”

He began with his first encounter with Little Fuzzy, and by the time he had gotten as far as the wood chisel and the killing of the land-prawn, Lunt and Khadra were looking at each other in amazement.

“That’s it!” Khadra said. “I’ve found prawn-shells cracked open and the meat picked out, just the way you describe it. I always wondered what did that. But they don’t all have wood chisels. What do you suppose they used ordinarily?”

“Ah!” He pulled the drawer open and began getting things out. “Here’s the one Little Fuzzy discarded when he found my chisel. The rest of this stuff the others brought in when they came.”

Lunt and Khadra rose and came over to look at the things. Lunt tried to argue that the Fuzzies couldn’t have made that stuff. He wasn’t even able to convince himself. Having finished their Extee Three, the Fuzzies were looking expectantly at the viewscreen, and it occurred to him that none of them except Little Fuzzy had ever seen it on. Then Little Fuzzy jumped up on the chair Lunt had vacated, reached over to the control-panel and switched it on. What he got was an empty stretch of moonlit plain to the south, from a pickup on one of the steel towers the veldbeest herders used. That wasn’t very interesting; he twiddled the selector and finally got a night soccer game at Mallorysport. That was just fine; he jumped down and joined the others in front of the screen.

“I’ve seen Terran monkeys and Freyan Kholphs that liked to watch screens and could turn them on and work the selector,” Lunt said. It sounded like the token last salvo before the surrender.

“Kholphs are smart,” Khadra agreed. “They use tools.”

“Do they make tools? Or tools to make tools with, like that saw?” There was no argument on that. “No. Nobody does that except people like us and the Fuzzies.”

It was the first time he had come right out and said that; the first time he had even consciously thought it. He realized that he had been convinced of it all along, though. It startled the constabulary lieutenant and trooper.

“You mean you think—?” Lunt began.

“They don’t talk, and they don’t build fires,” Ahmed Khadra said, as though that settled it.

“Ahmed, you know better than that. That talk-and-build-a-fire rule isn’t any scientific test at all.”

“It’s a legal test.” Lunt supported his subordinate.

“It’s a rule-of-thumb that was set up so that settlers on new planets couldn’t get away with murdering and enslaving the natives by claiming they thought they were only hunting and domesticating wild animals,” he said. “Anything that talks and builds a fire is a sapient being, yes. That’s the law. But that doesn’t mean that anything that doesn’t isn’t. I haven’t seen any of this gang building fires, and as I don’t want to come home sometime and find myself burned out, I’m not going to teach them. But I’m sure they have means of communication among themselves.”

“Has Ben Rainsford seen them yet?” Lunt asked.

“Ben’s off on a trip somewhere. I called him as soon as Little Fuzzy, over there, showed up here. He won’t be back till Friday.”

“Yes, that’s right; I did know that.” Lunt was still looking dubiously at the Fuzzies. “I’d like to hear what he thinks about them.”

If Ben said they were safe, Lunt would accept that. Ben was an expert, and Lunt respected expert testimony. Until then, he wasn’t sure. He’d probably order a medical check-up for himself and Khadra the first thing tomorrow, to make sure they hadn’t picked up some kind of bug.

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