Little Fuzzy – Day 55 of 77

Gus Brannhard was out when he went down to the suite; Ben Rainsford was at a reading screen, studying a psychology text, and Gerd was working at a desk that had been brought in. Baby was playing on the floor with the bright new toys they had gotten for him. When Pappy Jack came in, he dropped them and ran to be picked up and held.

“George called,” Gerd said. “They have a family of Fuzzies at the post now.”

“Well, that’s great.” He tried to make it sound enthusiastic. “How many?”

“Five, three males and two females. They call them Dr. Crippen, Dillinger, Ned Kelly, Lizzie Borden and Calamity Jane.”

Wouldn’t it be just like a bunch of cops to hang names like that on innocent Fuzzies?

“Why don’t you call the post and say hello to them?” Ben asked.

“Baby likes them; he’d think it was fun to talk to them again.”

He let himself be urged into it, and punched out the combination. They were nice Fuzzies; almost, but of course not quite, as nice as his own.

“If your family doesn’t turn up in time for the trial, have Gus subpoena ours,” Lunt told him. “You ought to have some to produce in court. Two weeks from now, this mob of ours will be doing all kinds of things. You ought to see them now, and we only got them yesterday afternoon.”

He said he hoped he’d have his own by then; he realized that he was saying it without much conviction.

They had a drink when Gus came in. He was delighted with the offer from Lunt. Another one who didn’t expect to see Pappy Jack’s Fuzzies alive again.

“I’m not doing a damn thing here,” Rainsford said. “I’m going back to Beta till the trial. Maybe I can pick up some ideas from George Lunt’s Fuzzies. I’m damned if I’m getting away from this crap!” He gestured at the reading screen. “All I have is a vocabulary, and I don’t know what half the words mean.” He snapped it off. “I’m beginning to wonder if maybe Jimenez mightn’t have been right and Ruth Ortheris is wrong. Maybe you can be just a little bit sapient.”

“Maybe it’s possible to be sapient and not know it,” Gus said. “Like the character in the old French play who didn’t know he was talking prose.”

“What do you mean, Gus?” Gerd asked.

“I’m not sure I know. It’s just an idea that occurred to me today. Kick it around and see if you can get anything out of it.”

“I believe the difference lies in the area of consciousness,” Ernst Mallin was saying. “You all know, of course, the axiom that only one-tenth, never more than one-eighth, of our mental activity occurs above the level of consciousness. Now let us imagine a hypothetical race whose entire mentation is conscious.”

“I hope they stay hypothetical,” Victor Grego, in his office across the city, said out of the screen. “They wouldn’t recognize us as sapient at all.”

“We wouldn’t be sapient, as they’d define the term,” Leslie Coombes, in the same screen with Grego, said. “They’d have some equivalent of the talk-and-build-a-fire rule, based on abilities of which we can’t even conceive.”

Maybe, Ruth thought, they might recognize us as one-tenth to as much as one-eighth sapient. No, then we’d have to recognize, say, a chimpanzee as being one-one-hundredth sapient, and a flatworm as being sapient to the order of one-billionth.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “If I understand, you mean that nonsapient beings think, but only subconsciously?”

“That’s correct, Ruth. When confronted by some entirely novel situation, a nonsapient animal will think, but never consciously. Of course, familiar situations are dealt with by pure habit and memory-response.”

“You know, I’ve just thought of something,” Grego said. “I think we can explain that funeral that’s been bothering all of us in nonsapient terms.” He lit a cigarette, while they all looked at him expectantly. “Fuzzies,” he continued, “bury their ordure: they do this to avoid an unpleasant sense-stimulus, a bad smell. Dead bodies quickly putrefy and smell badly; they are thus equated, subconsciously, with ordure and must be buried. All Fuzzies carry weapons. A Fuzzy’s weapon is—still subconsciously—regarded as a part of the Fuzzy, hence it must also be buried.”

Mallin frowned portentously. The idea seemed to appeal to him, but of course he simply couldn’t agree too promptly with a mere layman, even the boss.

“Well, so far you’re on fairly safe ground, Mr. Grego,” he admitted. “Association of otherwise dissimilar things because of some apparent similarity is a recognized element of nonsapient animal behavior.” He frowned again. “That could be an explanation. I’ll have to think of it.”

About this time tomorrow, it would be his own idea, with grudging recognition of a suggestion by Victor Grego. In time, that would be forgotten; it would be the Mallin Theory. Grego was apparently agreeable, as long as the job got done.

“Well, if you can make anything out of it, pass it on to Mr. Coombes as soon as possible, to be worked up for use in court,” he said.

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