Little Fuzzy – Day 35 of 77

“They bury their dead! What was Kellogg doing, while you were opening the grave?”

“Dithering around having ants. I’d been taking snaps of the grave, and I was burbling away like an ass about how important this was and how it was positive proof of sapience, and he was insisting that we get back to camp at once. He called the other jeep and told Mallin to get to camp immediately, and Mallin and Ruth and Juan were there when we got in. As soon as Kellogg told them what we’d found, Mallin turned fish-belly white and wanted to know how we were going to suppress it. I asked him if he was nuts, and then Kellogg came out with it. They don’t dare let the Fuzzies be proven sapient.”

“Because the Company wants to sell Fuzzy furs?”

Van Riebeek looked at him in surprise. “I never thought of that. I doubt if they did, either. No. Because if the Fuzzies are sapient beings, the Company’s charter is automatically void.”

This time Jack cursed, not Kellogg but himself.

“I am a senile old dotard! Good Lord, I know colonial law; I’ve been skating on the edge of it on more planets than you’re years old. And I never thought of that; why, of course it would. Where are you now, with the Company, by the way?”

“Out, but I couldn’t care less. I have enough in the bank for the trip back to Terra, not counting what I can raise on my boat and some other things. Xeno-naturalists don’t need to worry about finding jobs. There’s Ben’s outfit, for instance. And, brother, when I get back to Terra, what I’ll spill about this deal!”

“If you get back. If you don’t have an accident before you get on the ship.” He thought for a moment. “Know anything about geology?”

“Why, some; I have to work with fossils. I’m as much a paleontologist as a zoologist. Why?”

“How’d you like to stay here with me and hunt fossil jellyfish for a while? We won’t make twice as much, together, as I’m making now, but you can look one way while I’m looking the other, and we may both stay alive longer that way.”

“You mean that, Jack?”

“I said it, didn’t I?”

Van Riebeek rose and held out his hand; Jack came around the table and shook it. Then he reached back and picked up his belt, putting it on.

“Better put yours on, too, partner. Borch is probably the only one we’ll need a gun for, but—”

Van Riebeek buckled on his belt, then drew his pistol and worked the slide to load the chamber. “What are we going to do?” he asked.

“Well, we’re going to try to handle it legally. Fact is, I’m even going to call the cops.”

He punched out a combination on the communication screen. It lighted and opened a window into the constabulary post. The sergeant who looked out of it recognized him and grinned.

“Hi, Jack. How’s the family?” he asked. “I’m coming up, one of these evenings, to see them.”

“You can see some now.” Ko-Ko and Goldilocks and Cinderella were coming out of the hall from the bedroom; he gathered them up and put them on the table. The sergeant was fascinated. Then he must have noticed that both Jack and Gerd were wearing their guns in the house. His eyes narrowed slightly.

“You got problems, Jack?” he asked.

“Little ones; they may grow, though. I have some guests here who have outstayed their welcome. For the record, better make it that I have squatters I want evicted. If there were a couple of blue uniforms around, maybe it might save me the price of a few cartridges.”

“I read you. George was mentioning that you might regret inviting that gang to camp on you.” He picked up a handphone. “Calderon to Car Three,” he said. “Do you read me, Three? Well, Jack Holloway’s got a little squatter trouble. Yeah; that’s it. He’s ordering them off his grant, and he thinks they might try to give him an argument. Yeah, sure, Peace Lovin’ Jack Holloway, that’s him. Well, go chase his squatters for him, and if they give you anything about being Company big wheels, we don’t care what kind of wheels they are, just so’s they start rolling.” He replaced the phone. “Look for them in about an hour, Jack.”

“Why, thanks, Phil. Drop in some evening when you can hang up your gun and stay awhile.”

He blanked the screen and began punching again. This time he got a girl, and then the Company construction boss at Red Hill.

“Oh, hello, Jack; is Dr. Kellogg comfortable?”

“Not very. He’s moving out this afternoon. I wish you’d have your gang come up with those scows and get that stuff out of my back yard.”

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