Little Fuzzy – Day 36 of 77

“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.”

“Well, he told us he was staying for a couple of weeks.”

“He got his mind changed for him. He’s to be off my land by sunset.”

The Company man looked troubled. “Jack, you haven’t been having trouble with Dr. Kellogg, have you?” he asked. “He’s a big man with the Company.”

“That’s what he tells me. You’ll still have to come and get that stuff, though.”

He blanked the screen. “You know,” he said, “I think it would be no more than fair to let Kellogg in on this. What’s his screen combination?”

Gerd supplied it, and he punched it out. One of those tricky special Company combinations. Kurt Borch appeared in the screen immediately.

“I want to talk to Kellogg.”

“Doctor Kellogg is very busy, at present.”

“He’s going to be a damned sight busier; this is moving day. The whole gang of you have till eighteen hundred to get off my grant.”

Borch was shoved aside, and Kellogg appeared. “What’s this nonsense?” he demanded angrily.

“You’re ordered to move. You want to know why? I can let Gerd van Riebeek talk to you; I think there are a few things he’s forgotten to call you.”

“You can’t order us out like this. Why, you gave us permission—”

“Permission cancelled. I’ve called Mike Hennen in Red Hill; he’s sending his scows back for the stuff he brought here. Lieutenant Lunt will have a couple of troopers here, too. I’ll expect you to have your personal things aboard your airboat when they arrive.”

He blanked the screen while Kellogg was trying to tell him that it was all a misunderstanding.

“I think that’s everything. It’s quite a while till sundown,” he added, “but I move for suspension of rules while we pour a small libation to sprinkle our new partnership. Then we can go outside and observe the enemy.”

There was no observable enemy action when they went out and sat down on the bench by the kitchen door. Kellogg would be screening Mike Hennen and the constabulary post for verification, and there would be a lot of gathering up and packing to do. Finally, Kurt Borch emerged with a contragravity lifter piled with boxes and luggage, and Jimenez walking beside to steady the load. Jimenez climbed up onto the airboat and Borch floated the load up to him and then went back into the huts. This was repeated several times. In the meantime, Kellogg and Mallin seemed to be having some sort of exchange of recriminations in front. Ruth Ortheris came out, carrying a briefcase, and sat down on the edge of a table under the awning.

Neither of them had been watching the Fuzzies, until they saw one of them start down the path toward the footbridge, a glint of silver at the throat identifying Goldilocks.

“Look at that fool kid; you stay put, Gerd, and I’ll bring her back.”

He started down the path; by the time he had reached the bridge, Goldilocks was across and had vanished behind one of the airjeeps parked in front of the Kellogg camp. When he was across and within twenty feet of the vehicle, he heard a sound across and within twenty feet of the vehicle, he heard a sound he had never heard before—a shrill, thin shriek, like a file on saw teeth. At the same time, Ruth’s voice screamed.

“Don’t! Leonard, stop that!”

As he ran around the jeep, the shrieking broke off suddenly. Goldilocks was on the ground, her fur reddened. Kellogg stood over her, one foot raised. He was wearing white shoes, and they were both spotted with blood. He stamped the foot down on the little bleeding body, and then Jack was within reach of him, and something crunched under the fist he drove into Kellogg’s face. Kellogg staggered and tried to raise his hands; he made a strangled noise, and for an instant the idiotic thought crossed Jack’s mind that he was trying to say, “Now, please don’t misunderstand me.” He caught Kellogg’s shirt front in his left hand, and punched him again in the face, and again, and again. He didn’t know how many times he punched Kellogg before he heard Ruth Ortheris’ voice:

“Jack! Watch out! Behind you!”

He let go of Kellogg’s shirt and jumped aside, turning and reaching for his gun. Kurt Borch, twenty feet away, had a pistol drawn and pointed at him.

His first shot went off as soon as the pistol was clear of the holster. He fired the second while it was still recoiling; there was a spot of red on Borch’s shirt that gave him an aiming point for the third. Borch dropped the pistol he hadn’t been able to fire, and started folding at the knees and then at the waist. He went down in a heap on his face.

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