Little Fuzzy – Day 69 of 77

He wasn’t aware of rising and leaving the table; the next thing he realized, he was sitting on the floor, his family mobbing him and hugging him, gabbling with joy. Dimly he heard the gavel hammering, and the voice of Chief Justice Pendarvis: “Court is recessed for ten minutes!” By that time, Gus was with him; gathering the family up, they carried them over to their table.

They stumbled and staggered when they moved, and that frightened him for a moment. Then he realized that they weren’t sick or drugged. They’d just been in low-G for a while and hadn’t become reaccustomed to normal weight. Now he knew why he hadn’t been able to find any trace of them. He noticed that each of them was wearing a little shoulder bag—a Marine Corps first-aid pouch—slung from a webbing strap. Why the devil hadn’t he thought of making them something like that? He touched one and commented, trying to pitch his voice as nearly like theirs as he could. They all babbled in reply and began opening the little bags and showing him what they had in them—little knives and miniature tools and bits of bright or colored junk they had picked up. Little Fuzzy produced a tiny pipe with a hardwood bowl, and a little pouch of tobacco from which he filled it. Finally, he got out a small lighter.

“Your Honors!” Gus shouted, “I know court is recessed, but please observe what Little Fuzzy is doing.”

While they watched, Little Fuzzy snapped the lighter and held the flame to the pipe bowl, puffing.

Across on the other side, Leslie Coombes swallowed once or twice and closed his eyes.

When Pendarvis rapped for attention and declared court reconvened, he said:

“Ladies and gentlemen, you have all seen and heard this demonstration of Captain Greibenfeld’s. You have heard these Fuzzies uttering what certainly sounds like meaningful speech, and you have seen one of them light a pipe and smoke. Incidentally, while smoking in court is discountenanced, we are going to make an exception, during this trial, in favor of Fuzzies. Other people will please not feel themselves discriminated against.”

That brought Coombes to his feet with a rush. He started around the table and then remembered that under the new rules he didn’t have to.

“Your Honors, I objected strongly to the use of that term by a witness this morning; I must object even more emphatically to its employment from the bench. I have indeed heard these Fuzzies make sounds which might be mistaken for words, but I must deny that this is true speech. As to this trick of using a lighter, I will undertake, in not more than thirty days, to teach it to any Terran primate or Freyan kholph.”

Greibenfeld rose immediately. “Your Honors, in the past thirty days, while these Fuzzies were at Xerxes Naval Base, we have compiled a vocabulary of a hundred-odd Fuzzy words, for all of which definite meanings have been established, and a great many more for which we have not as yet learned the meanings. We even have the beginning of a Fuzzy grammar. As for this so-called trick of using a lighter, Little Fuzzy—we didn’t know his name then and referred to him as M2—learned that for himself, by observation. We didn’t teach him to smoke a pipe either; he knew that before we had anything to do with him.”

Jack rose while Greibenfeld was still speaking. As soon as the Space Navy captain had finished, he said:

“Captain Greibenfeld, I want to thank you and your people for taking care of the Fuzzies, and I’m very glad you learned how to hear what they’re saying, and thank you for all the nice things you gave them, but why couldn’t you have let me know they were safe? I haven’t been very happy the last month, you know.”

“I know that, Mr. Holloway, and if it’s any comfort to you, we were all very sorry for you, but we could not take the risk of compromising our secret intelligence agent in the Company’s Science Center, the one who smuggled the Fuzzies out the morning after their escape.” He looked quickly across in front of the bench to the table at the other end of the arc. Kellogg was sitting with his face in his hands, oblivious to everything that was going on, but Leslie Coombes’s well-disciplined face had broken, briefly, into a look of consternation. “By the time you and Mr. Brannhard and Marshal Fane arrived with an order of the court for the Fuzzies’ recovery, they had already been taken from Science Center and were on a Navy landing craft for Xerxes. We couldn’t do anything without exposing our agent. That, I am glad to say, is no longer a consideration.”

“Well, Captain Greibenfeld,” the Chief Justice said, “I assume you mean to introduce further testimony about the observations and studies made by your people on Xerxes. For the record, we’d like to have it established that they were actually taken there, and when, and how.”

“Yes, your Honor. If you will call the fourth name on the list I gave you, and allow me to do the questioning, we can establish that.”

The Chief Justice picked up a paper. “Lieutenant j.g. Ruth Ortheris, TFN Reserve,” he called out.

This time, Jack Holloway looked up into the big screen, in which he could see everybody. Gerd van Riebeek, who had been trying to ignore the existence of the woman beside him, had turned to stare at her in amazement. Coombes’s face was ghastly for an instant, then froze into corpselike immobility: Ernst Mallin was dithering in incredulous anger; beside him Ben Rainsford was grinning in just as incredulous delight. As Ruth came around in front of the bench, the Fuzzies gave her an ovation; they remembered and liked her. Gus Brannhard was gripping his arm and saying: “Oh, brother! This is it, Jack; it’s all over but shooting the cripples!”

Lieutenant j.g. Ortheris, under a calmly blue globe, testified to coming to Zarathustra as a Federation Naval Reserve officer recalled to duty with Intelligence, and taking a position with the Company.

“As a regularly qualified doctor of psychology, I worked under Dr. Mallin in the scientific division, and also with the school department and the juvenile court. At the same time I was regularly transmitting reports to Commander Aelborg, the chief of Intelligence on Xerxes. The object of this surveillance was to make sure that the Zarathustra Company was not violating the provisions of their charter or Federation law. Until the middle of last month, I had nothing to report beyond some rather irregular financial transactions involving Resident General Emmert. Then, on the evening of June fifteen—”

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