Little Fuzzy – Day 16 of 77

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.

IV

The Fuzzies took the manipulator quite calmly the next morning. That wasn’t any horrible monster, that was just something Pappy Jack took rides in. He found one rather indifferent sunstone in the morning and two good ones in the afternoon. He came home early and found the family in the living room; they had dumped the wastebasket and were putting things back into it. Another land-prawn seemed to have gotten into the house; its picked shell was with the other rubbish in the basket. They had dinner early, and he loaded the lot of them into the airjeep and took them for a long ride to the south and west.

The following day, he located the flint vein on the other side of the gorge and spent most of the morning blasting away the sandstone above it. The next time he went into Mallorysport, he decided, he was going to shop around for a good power-shovel. He had to blast a channel to keep the little stream from damming up on him. He didn’t get any flint cracked at all that day. There was another harpy circling around the camp when he got back; he chased it with the manipulator and shot it down with his pistol. Harpies probably found Fuzzies as tasty as Fuzzies found land-prawns. The family were all sitting under the gunrack when he entered the living room.

The next day he cracked flint, and found three more stones. It really looked as though he had found the Dying Place of the Jellyfish at that. He knocked off early that afternoon, and when he came in sight of the camp, he saw an airjeep grounded on the lawn and a small man with a red beard in a faded Khaki bush-jacket sitting on the bench by the kitchen door, surrounded by Fuzzies. There was a camera and some other equipment laid up where the Fuzzies couldn’t get at it. Baby Fuzzy, of course, was sitting on his head. He looked up and waved, and then handed Baby to his mother and rose to his feet.

“Well, what do you think of them, Ben?” Jack called down, as he grounded the manipulator.

“My God, don’t start me on that now!” Ben Rainsford replied, and then laughed. “I stopped at the constabulary post on the way home. I thought George Lunt had turned into the biggest liar in the known galaxy. Then I went home, and found your call on the recorder, so I came over here.”

“Been waiting long?”

The Fuzzies had all abandoned Rainsford and come trooping over as soon as the manipulator was off contragravity. He climbed down among them, and they followed him across the grass, catching at his trouser legs and yeeking happily.

“Not so long.” Rainsford looked at his watch. “Good Lord, three and half hours is all. Well, the time passed quickly. You know, your little fellows have good ears. They heard you coming a long time before I did.”

“Did you see them killing any prawns?”

“I should say! I got a lot of movies of it.” He shook his head slowly. “Jack, this is almost incredible.”

“You’re staying for dinner, of course?”

“You try and chase me away. I want to hear all about this. Want you to make a tape about them, if you’re willing.”

“Glad to. We’ll do that after we eat.” He sat down on the bench, and the Fuzzies began climbing upon and beside him. “This is the original, Little Fuzzy. He brought the rest in a couple of days later. Mamma Fuzzy, and Baby Fuzzy. And these are Mike and Mitzi. I call this one Ko-Ko, because of the ceremonious way he beheads land-prawns.”

“George says you call them all Fuzzies. Want that for the official designation?”

“Sure. That’s what they are, isn’t it?”

“Well, let’s call the order Hollowayans,” Rainsford said. “Family, Fuzzies; genus, Fuzzy. Species, Holloway’s Fuzzy—Fuzzy fuzzy holloway. How’ll that be?”

That would be all right, he supposed. At least, they didn’t try to Latinize things in extraterrestrial zoology any more.

“I suppose our bumper crop of land-prawns is what brought them into this section?”

“Yes, of course. George was telling me you thought they’d come down from the north; about the only place they could have come from. This is probably just the advance guard; we’ll be having Fuzzies all over the place before long. I wonder how fast they breed.”

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