Little Fuzzy – Day 18 of 77

“Why, Bennett, this is a pleasant surprise,” he began. “I never expec—” Then he choked; at least, he emitted a sound of surprise. “What in the name of Dai-Butsu are those things on the table in front of you?” he demanded. “I never saw anything—And what is that on your head?

“Family group of Fuzzies,” Rainsford said. “Mature male, mature female, immature male.” He lifted Baby Fuzzy down and put him in Mamma’s arms. “Species Fuzzy fuzzy holloway zarathustra. The gentleman on my left is Jack Holloway, the sunstone operator, who is the original discoverer. Jack, Juan Jimenez.”

They shook their own hands at one another in the ancient Terran-Chinese gesture that was used on communication screens, and assured each other—Jimenez rather absently—that it was a pleasure. He couldn’t take his eyes off the Fuzzies.

“Where did they come from?” he wanted to know. “Are you sure they’re indigenous?”

“They’re not quite up to spaceships, yet, Dr. Jimenez. Fairly early Paleolithic, I’d say.”

Jimenez thought he was joking, and laughed. The sort of a laugh that could be turned on and off, like a light. Rainsford assured him that the Fuzzies were really indigenous.

“We have everything that’s known about them on tape,” he said. “About an hour of it. Can you take sixty-speed?” He was making adjustments on the recorder as he spoke. “All right, set and we’ll transmit to you. And can you get hold of Gerd van Riebeek? I’d like him to hear it too; it’s as much up his alley as anybody’s.”

When Jimenez was ready, Rainsford pressed the play-off button, and for a minute the recorder gave a high, wavering squeak. The Fuzzies all looked startled. Then it ended.

“I think, when you hear this, that you and Gerd will both want to come out and see these little people. If you can, bring somebody who’s a qualified psychologist, somebody capable of evaluating the Fuzzies’ mentation. Jack wasn’t kidding about early Paleolithic. If they’re not sapient, they only miss it by about one atomic diameter.”

Jimenez looked almost as startled as the Fuzzies had. “You surely don’t mean that?” He looked from Rainsford to Jack Holloway and back. “Well, I’ll call you back, when we’ve both heard the tape. You’re three time zones west of us, aren’t you? Then we’ll try to make it before your midnight—that’ll be twenty-one hundred.”

He called back half an hour short of that. This time, it was from the living room of an apartment instead of an office. There was a portable record player in the foreground and a low table with snacks and drinks, and two other people were with him. One was a man of about Jimenez’s age with a good-humored, non-life-adjusted, non-group-integrated and slightly weather-beaten face. The other was a woman with glossy black hair and a Mona Lisa-ish smile. The Fuzzies had gotten sleepy, and had been bribed with Extee Three to stay up a little longer. Immediately, they registered interest. This was more fun than the viewscreen.

Jimenez introduced his companions as Gerd van Riebeek and Ruth Ortheris. “Ruth is with Dr. Mallin’s section; she’s been working with the school department and the juvenile court. She can probably do as well with your Fuzzies as a regular xeno-psychologist.”

“Well, I have worked with extraterrestrials,” the woman said. “I’ve been on Loki and Thor and Shesha.”

Jack nodded. “Been on the same planets myself. Are you people coming out here?”

“Oh, yes,” van Riebeek said. “We’ll be out by noon tomorrow. We may stay a couple of days, but that won’t put you to any trouble; I have a boat that’s big enough for the three of us to camp on. Now, how do we get to your place?”

Jack told him, and gave map coordinates. Van Riebeek noted them down.

“There’s one thing, though, I’m going to have to get firm about. I don’t want to have to speak about it again. These little people are to be treated with consideration, and not as laboratory animals. You will not hurt them, or annoy them, or force them to do anything they don’t want to do.”

“We understand that. We won’t do anything with the Fuzzies without your approval. Is there anything you’d want us to bring out?”

“Yes. A few things for the camp that I’m short of; I’ll pay you for them when you get here. And about three cases of Extee Three. And some toys. Dr. Ortheris, you heard the tape, didn’t you? Well, just think what you’d like to have if you were a Fuzzy, and bring it.”

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