Little Fuzzy – Day 25 of 77

“Can they generalize?” Ruth asked.

“Honey, they can’t do nothin’ else but! Every word in their language is a high-order generalization. Hroosha, live-thing. Noosha, bad-thing. Dhishta, thing-to-eat. Want me to go on? There are only seventy-nine more of them.”

Before anybody could stop him, the communication screen got itself into an uproar. The Fuzzies all ran over in front of it, and Jack switched it on. The caller was a man in gray semiformals; he had wavy gray hair and a face that looked like Juan Jimenez’s twenty years from now.

“Good evening; Holloway here.”

“Oh, Mr. Holloway, good evening.” The caller shook hands with himself, turning on a dazzling smile. “I’m Leonard Kellogg, chief of the Company’s science division. I just heard the tape you made about the—the Fuzzies?” He looked down at the floor. “Are these some of the animals?”

“These are the Fuzzies.” He hoped it sounded like the correction it was intended to be. “Dr. Bennett Rainsford’s here with me now, and so are Dr. Jimenez, Dr. van Riebeek and Dr. Ortheris.” Out of the corner of his eye he could see Jimenez squirming as though afflicted with ants, van Riebeek getting his poker face battened down and Ben Rainsford suppressing a grin. “Some of us are out of screen range, and I’m sure you’ll want to ask a lot of questions. Pardon us a moment, while we close in.”

He ignored Kellogg’s genial protest that that wouldn’t be necessary until the chairs were placed facing the screen. As an afterthought, he handed Fuzzies around, giving Little Fuzzy to Ben, Ko-Ko to Gerd, Mitzi to Ruth, Mike to Jimenez and taking Mamma and Baby on his own lap.

Baby immediately started to climb up onto his head, as expected. It seemed to disconcert Kellogg, also as expected. He decided to teach Baby to thumb his nose when given some unobtrusive signal.

“Now, about that tape I recorded last evening,” he began.

“Yes, Mr. Holloway.” Kellogg’s smile was getting more mechanical every minute. He was having trouble keeping his eyes off Baby. “I must say, I was simply astounded at the high order of intelligence claimed for these creatures.”

“And you wanted to see how big a liar I was. I don’t blame you; I had trouble believing it myself at first.”

Kellogg gave a musically blithe laugh, showing even more dental equipment.

“Oh, no. Mr. Holloway; please don’t misunderstand me. I never thought anything like that.”

“I hope not,” Ben Rainsford said, not too pleasantly. “I vouched for Mr. Holloway’s statements, if you’ll recall.”

“Of course, Bennett; that goes without saying. Permit me to congratulate you upon a most remarkable scientific discovery. An entirely new order of mammals—”

“Which may be the ninth extrasolar sapient race,” Rainsford added.

“Good heavens, Bennett!” Kellogg jettisoned his smile and slid on a look of shocked surprise. “You surely can’t be serious?” He looked again at the Fuzzies, pulled the smile back on and gave a light laugh.

“I thought you’d heard that tape,” Rainsford said.

“Of course, and the things reported were most remarkable. But sapiences! Just because they’ve been taught a few tricks, and use sticks and stones for weapons—” He got rid of the smile again, and quick-changed to seriousness. “Such an extreme claim must only be made after careful study.”

“Well, I won’t claim they’re sapient,” Ruth Ortheris told him. “Not till day after tomorrow, at the earliest. But they very easily could be. They have learning and reasoning capacity equal to that of any eight-year-old Terran Human child, and well above that of the adults of some recognizedly sapient races. And they have not been taught tricks; they have learned by observation and reasoning.”

“Well, Dr. Kellogg, mentation levels isn’t my subject,” Jimenez took it up, “but they do have all the physical characteristics shared by other sapient races—lower limbs specialized for locomotion and upper limbs for manipulation, erect posture, stereoscopic vision, color perception, erect posture, hand with opposing thumb—all the characteristics we consider as prerequisite to the development of sapience.”

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