Little Fuzzy – Day 27 of 77

“Why, I didn’t know you knew Len,” van Riebeek said.

“I never saw the individual before. The species is very common and widely distributed.” He turned to Rainsford. “You think he and this Mallin will be out tomorrow?”

“Of course they will. This is a little too big for underlings and non-Company people to be allowed to monkey with. You know, we’ll have to watch out or in a year we’ll be hearing from Terra about the discovery of a sapient race on Zarathustra; Fuzzy fuzzy Kellogg. As Juan says, Dr. Kellogg is a very important man. That’s how he got important.”


The recorded voice ceased; for a moment the record player hummed voicelessly. Loud in the silence, a photocell acted with a double click, opening one segment of the sun shielding and closing another at the opposite side of the dome. Space Commodore Alex Napier glanced up from his desk and out at the harshly angular landscape of Xerxes and the blackness of airless space beyond the disquietingly close horizon. Then he picked up his pipe and knocked the heel out into the ashtray. Nobody said anything. He began packing tobacco into the bowl.

“Well, gentlemen?” He invited comment.

“Pancho?” Captain Conrad Greibenfeld, the Exec., turned to Lieutenant Ybarra, the chief psychologist.

“How reliable is this stuff?” Ybarra asked.

“Well, I knew Jack Holloway thirty years ago, on Fenris, when I was just an ensign. He must be past seventy now,” he parenthesized. “If he says he saw anything, I’ll believe it. And Bennett Rainsford’s absolutely reliable, of course.”

“How about the agent?” Ybarra insisted.

He and Stephen Aelborg, the Intelligence officer, exchanged glances. He nodded, and Aelborg said:

“One of the best. One of our own, lieutenant j.g., Naval Reserve. You don’t need to worry about credibility, Pancho.”

“They sound sapient to me,” Ybarra said. “You know, this is something I’ve always been half hoping and half afraid would happen.”

“You mean an excuse to intervene in that mess down there?” Greibenfeld asked.

Ybarra looked blankly at him for a moment. “No. No, I meant a case of borderline sapience; something our sacred talk-and-build-a-fire rule won’t cover. Just how did this come to our attention, Stephen?”

“Well, it was transmitted to us from Contact Center in Mallorysport late Friday night. There seem to be a number of copies of this tape around; our agent got hold of one of them and transmitted it to Contact Center, and it was relayed on to us, with the agent’s comments,” Aelborg said. “Contact Center ordered a routine surveillance inside Company House and, to play safe, at the Residency. At the time, there seemed no reason to give the thing any beat-to-quarters-and-man-guns treatment, but we got a report on Saturday afternoon—Mallorysport time, that is—that Leonard Kellogg had played off the copy of the tape that Juan Jimenez had made for file, and had alerted Victor Grego immediately.

“Of course, Grego saw the implications at once. He sent Kellogg and the chief Company psychologist, Ernst Mallin, out to Beta Continent with orders to brand Rainsford’s and Holloway’s claims as a deliberate hoax. Then the Company intends to encourage the trapping of Fuzzies for their fur, in hopes that the whole species will be exterminated before anybody can get out from Terra to check on Rainsford’s story.”

“I hadn’t heard that last detail before.”

“Well, we can prove it,” Aelborg assured him.

It sounded like a Victor Grego idea. He lit his pipe slowly. Damnit, he didn’t want to have to intervene. No Space Navy C.O. did. Justifying intervention on a Colonial planet was too much bother—always a board of inquiry, often a courtmartial. And supersession of civil authority was completely against Service Doctrine. Of course, there were other and more important tenets of Service Doctrine. The sovereignty of the Terran Federation for one, and the inviolability of the Federation Constitution. And the rights of extraterrestrials, too. Conrad Greibenfeld, too, seemed to have been thinking about that.

“If those Fuzzies are sapient beings, that whole setup down there is illegal. Company, Colonial administration and all,” he said. “Zarathustra’s a Class-IV planet, and that’s all you can make out of it.”

“We won’t intervene unless we’re forced to. Pancho, I think the decision will be largely up to you.”

Pancho Ybarra was horrified.

“Good God, Alex! You can’t mean that. Who am I? A nobody. All I have is an ordinary M.D., and a Psych.D. Why, the best psychological brains in the Federation—”

“Aren’t on Zarathustra, Pancho. They’re on Terra, five hundred light-years, six months’ ship voyage each way. Intervention, of course, is my responsibility, but the sapience question is yours. I don’t envy you, but I can’t relieve you of it.”

Gerd van Riebeek’s suggestion that all three of the visitors sleep aboard the airboat hadn’t been treated seriously at all. Gerd himself was accommodated in the spare room of the living hut. Juan Jimenez went with Ben Rainsford to his camp for the night. Ruth Ortheris had the cabin of the boat to herself. Rainsford was on the screen the next morning, while Jack and Gerd and Ruth and the Fuzzies were having breakfast; he and Jimenez had decided to take his airjeep and work down from the head of Cold Creek in the belief that there must be more Fuzzies around in the woods.

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