Little Fuzzy – Day 20 of 77

“Well, no; not in so many words. Holloway consistently alluded to them as people, but he’s just an ignorant old prospector. Rainsford wouldn’t come out and commit himself one way or another, but he left the door wide open for anybody else to.”

“Accepting their account, could these Fuzzies be sapient?”

“Accepting the account, yes,” Kellogg said, in distress. “They could be.”

They probably were, if Leonard Kellogg couldn’t wish the evidence out of existence.

“Then they’ll look sapient to these people of yours who went over to Beta this morning, and they’ll treat it purely as a scientific question and never consider the legal aspects. Leonard, you’ll have to take charge of the investigation, before they make any reports everybody’ll be sorry for.”

Kellogg didn’t seem to like that. It would mean having to exercise authority and getting tough with people, and he hated anything like that. He nodded very reluctantly.

“Yes. I suppose I will. Let me think about it for a moment, Victor.”

One thing about Leonard; you handed him something he couldn’t delegate or dodge and he’d go to work on it. Maybe not cheerfully, but conscientiously.

“I’ll take Ernst Mallin along,” he said at length. “This man Rainsford has no grounding whatever in any of the psychosciences. He may be able to impose on Ruth Ortheris, but not on Ernst Mallin. Not after I’ve talked to Mallin first.” He thought some more. “We’ll have to get these Fuzzies away from this man Holloway. Then we’ll issue a report of discovery, being careful to give full credit to both Rainsford and Holloway—we’ll even accept the designation they’ve coined for them—but we’ll make it very clear that while highly intelligent, the Fuzzies are not a race of sapient beings. If Rainsford persists in making any such claim, we will brand it as a deliberate hoax.”

“Do you think he’s gotten any report off to the Institute of Xeno-Sciences yet?”

Kellogg shook his head. “I think he wants to trick some of our people into supporting his sapience claims; at least, corroborating his and Holloway’s alleged observations. That’s why I’ll have to get over to Beta as soon as possible.”

By now, Kellogg had managed to convince himself that going over to Beta had been his idea all along. Probably also convincing himself that Rainsford’s report was nothing but a pack of lies. Well, if he could work better that way, that was his business.

“He will, before long, if he isn’t stopped. And a year from now, there’ll be a small army of investigators here from Terra. By that time, you should have both Rainsford and Holloway thoroughly discredited. Leonard, you get those Fuzzies away from Holloway and I’ll personally guarantee they won’t be available for investigation by then. Fuzzies,” he said reflectively. “Fur-bearing animals, I take it?”

“Holloway spoke, on the tape, of their soft and silky fur.”

“Good. Emphasize that in your report. As soon as it’s published, the Company will offer two thousand sols apiece for Fuzzy pelts. By the time Rainsford’s report brings anybody here from Terra, we may have them all trapped out.”

Kellogg began to look worried.

“But, Victor, that’s genocide!”

“Nonsense! Genocide is defined as the extermination of a race of sapient beings. These are fur-bearing animals. It’s up to you and Ernst Mallin to prove that.”

The Fuzzies, playing on the lawn in front of the camp, froze into immobility, their faces turned to the west. Then they all ran to the bench by the kitchen door and scrambled up onto it.

“Now what?” Jack Holloway wondered.

“They hear the airboat,” Rainsford told him. “That’s the way they acted yesterday when you were coming in with your machine.” He looked at the picnic table they had been spreading under the featherleaf trees. “Everything ready?”

“Everything but lunch; that won’t be cooked for an hour yet. I see them now.”

“You have better eyes than I do, Jack. Oh, I see it. I hope the kids put on a good show for them,” he said anxiously.

He’d been jittery ever since he arrived, shortly after breakfast. It wasn’t that these people from Mallorysport were so important themselves; Ben had a bigger name in scientific circles than any of this Company crowd. He was just excited about the Fuzzies.

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