Little Fuzzy – Day 57 of 77

Maybe the Fuzzies had wanted the child to play with them, and she’d gotten frightened and hurt one of them. A ten-year-old human child would look dangerously large to a Fuzzy, and if they thought they were menaced they would fight back savagely.

They were still alive and in the city. That was one thing. But they were in worse danger than they had ever been; that was another. Fane was asking Brannhard how soon he could be dressed.

“Five minutes? Good, I’ll be along to pick you up,” he said. “Be seeing you.”

Jack hurried into the bedroom he and Brannhard shared; he kicked off his moccasins and began pulling on his boots. Brannhard, pulling his trousers up over his pajama pants, wanted to know where he thought he was going.

“With you. I’ve got to find them before some dumb son of a Khooghra shoots them.”

“You stay here,” Gus ordered. “Stay by the communication screen, and keep the viewscreen on for news. But don’t stop putting your boots on; you may have to get out of here fast if I call you and tell you they’ve been located. I’ll call you as soon as I get anything definite.”

Gerd had the screen on for news, and was getting Planetwide, openly owned and operated by the Company. The newscaster was wrought up about the brutal attack on the innocent child, but he was having trouble focusing the blame. After all, who’d let the Fuzzies escape in the first place? And even a skilled semanticist had trouble in making anything called a Fuzzy sound menacing. At least he gave particulars, true or not.

The child, Lolita Lurkin, had been playing outside her home at about twenty-one hundred when she had suddenly been set upon by six Fuzzies, armed with clubs. Without provocation, they had dragged her down and beaten her severely. Her screams had brought her father, and he had driven the Fuzzies away. Police had brought both the girl and her father, Oscar Lurkin, to headquarters, where they had told their story. City police, Company police and constabulary troopers and parties of armed citizens were combing the eastern side of the city; Resident General Emmert had acted at once to offer a reward of five thousand sols apiece….

“The kid’s lying, and if they ever get a veridicator on her, they’ll prove it”, he said. “Emmert, or Grego, or the two of them together, bribed those people to tell that story.”

“Oh, I take that for granted,” Gerd said. “I know that place. Junktown. Ruth does a lot of work there for juvenile court.” He stopped briefly, pain in his eyes, and then continued: “You can hire anybody to do anything over there for a hundred sols, especially if the cops are fixed in advance.”

He shifted to the Interworld News frequency; they were covering the Fuzzy hunt from an aircar. The shanties and parked airjalopies of Junktown were floodlighted from above; lines of men were beating the brush and poking among them. Once a car passed directly below the pickup, a man staring at the ground from it over a machine gun.

“Wooo! Am I glad I’m not in that mess!” Gerd exclaimed. “Anybody sees something he thinks is a Fuzzy and half that gang’ll massacre each other in ten seconds.”

“I hope they do!”

Interworld News was pro-Fuzzy; the commentator in the car was being extremely sarcastic about the whole thing. Into the middle of one view of a rifle-bristling line of beaters somebody in the studio cut a view of the Fuzzies, taken at the camp, looking up appealingly while waiting for breakfast. “These,” a voice said, “are the terrible monsters against whom all these brave men are protecting us.”

A few moments later, a rifle flash and a bang, and then a fusillade brought Jack’s heart into his throat. The pickup car jetted toward it; by the time it reached the spot, the shooting had stopped, and a crowd was gathering around something white on the ground. He had to force himself to look, then gave a shuddering breath of relief. It was a zaragoat, a three-horned domesticated ungulate.

“Oh-Oh! Some squatter’s milk supply finished.” The commentator laughed. “Not the first one tonight either. Attorney General—former Chief Prosecutor—O’Brien’s going to have quite a few suits against the administration to defend as a result of this business.”

“He’s going to have a goddamn thundering big one from Jack Holloway!”

The communication screen buzzed; Gerd snapped it on.

“I just talked to Judge Pendarvis,” Gus Brannhard reported out of it. “He’s issuing an order restraining Emmert from paying any reward except for Fuzzies turned over alive and uninjured to Marshal Fane. And he’s issuing a warning that until the status of the Fuzzies is determined, anybody killing one will face charges of murder.”

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