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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

RUTH ORTHERIS SIPPED at the tart, cold cocktail. It was good; oh, it was good, all good! The music was soft, the lights were dim, the tables were far apart; just she and Gerd, and nobody was paying any attention to them. And she was clear out of the business, too. An agent who testified in court always was expended in service like a fired round. They’d want her back, a year from now, to testify when the board of inquiry came out from Terra, but she wouldn’t be Lieutenant j.g. Ortheris then, she’d be Mrs. Gerd van Riebeek. She set down the glass and rubbed the sunstone on her finger. It was a lovely sunstone, and it meant such a lovely thing.

And we’re getting married with a ready-made family, too. Four Fuzzies and a black-and-white kitten.

“You’re sure you really want to go to Beta?” Gerd asked. “When Napier gets this new government organized, it’ll be taking over Science Center. We could both get our old jobs back. Maybe something better.”

“You don’t want to go back?” He shook his head. “Neither do I. I want to go to Beta and be a sunstone digger’s wife.”

“And a Fuzzyologist.”

“And a Fuzzyologist. I couldn’t drop that now. Gerd, we’re only beginning with them. We know next to nothing about their psychology.”

He nodded seriously. “You know, they may turn out to be even wiser than we are.”

She laughed. “Oh, Gerd! Let’s don’t get too excited about them. Why, they’re just like little children. All they think about is having fun.”

“That’s right. I said they were wiser than we are. They stick to important things.” He smoked silently for a moment. “It’s not just their psychology; we don’t know anything much about their psychology, or biology either.” He picked up his glass and drank. “Here; we had eighteen of them in all. Seventeen adults and one little one. Now what kind of ratio is that? And the ones we saw in the woods ran about the same. In all, we sighted about a hundred and fifty adults and only ten children.”

“Maybe last year’s crop have grown up,” she began.

“You know any other sapient races with a one-year maturation period?” he asked. “I’ll bet they take ten or fifteen years to mature. Jack’s Baby Fuzzy hasn’t gained a pound in the last month. And another puzzle; this craving for Extee Three. That’s not a natural food; except for the cereal bulk matter, it’s purely synthetic. I was talking to Ybarra; he was wondering if there mightn’t be something in it that caused an addiction.”

“Maybe it satisfies some kind of dietary deficiency.”

“Well, we’ll find out.” He inverted the jug over his glass. “Think we could stand another cocktail before dinner?”

 

SPACE COMMODORE NAPIER sat at the desk that had been Nick Emmert’s and looked at the little man with the red whiskers and the rumpled suit, who was looking back at him in consternation.

“Good Lord, Commodore; you can’t be serious?”

“But I am. Quite serious, Dr. Rainsford.”

“Then you’re nuts!” Rainsford exploded. “I’m no more qualified to be Governor General than I’d be to command Xerxes Base. Why, I never held an administrative position in my life.”



“That might be a recommendation. You’re replacing a veteran administrator.”

“And I have a job. The Institute of Xeno-Sciences—”

“I think they’ll be glad to give you leave, under the circumstances. Doctor, you’re the logical man for this job. You’re an ecologist; you know how disastrous the effects of upsetting the balance of nature can be. The Zarathustra Company took care of this planet, when it was their property, but now nine-tenths of it is public domain, and people will be coming in from all over the Federation, scrambling to get rich overnight. You’ll know how to control things.”

“Yes, as Commissioner of Conservation, or something I’m qualified for.”

“As Governor General. Your job will be to make policy. You can appoint the administrators.”

“Well, who, for instance?”

“Well, you’re going to need an Attorney General right away. Who will you appoint for that position?”

“Gus Brannhard,” Rainsford said instantly.

“Good. And who—this question is purely rhetorical—will you appoint as Commissioner of Native Affairs?”

 

JACK HOLLOWAY WAS going back to Beta Continent on the constabulary airboat. Official passenger: Mr. Commissioner Jack Holloway. And his staff: Little Fuzzy, Mamma Fuzzy, Baby Fuzzy, Mike, Mitzi, Ko-Ko and Cinderella. Bet they didn’t know they had official positions!

Somehow he wished he didn’t have one himself.

“Want a good job, George?” he asked Lunt.

“I have a good job.”

“This’ll be a better one. Rank of major, eighteen thousand a year. Commandant, Native Protection Force. And you won’t lose seniority in the constabulary; Colonel Ferguson’ll give you indefinite leave.”

“Well, cripes, Jack, I’d like to, but I don’t want to leave the kids. And I can’t take them away from the rest of the gang.”

“Bring the rest of the gang along. I’m authorized to borrow twenty men from the constabulary as a training cadre, and you only have sixteen. Your sergeants’ll get commissions, and all your men will be sergeants. I’m going to have a force of a hundred and fifty for a start.”

“You must think the Fuzzies are going to need a lot of protection.”

“They will. The whole country between the Cordilleras and the West Coast Range will be the Fuzzy Reservation and that’ll have to be policed. Then the Fuzzies outside that will have to be protected. You know what’s going to happen. Everybody wants Fuzzies; why, even Judge Pendarvis approached me about getting a pair for his wife. There’ll be gangs hunting them to sell, using stun-bombs and sleep-gas and everything. I’m going to have to set up an adoption bureau; Ruth will be in charge of that. And that’ll mean a lot of investigators—”

Oh, it was going to be one hell of a job! Fifty thousand a year would be chicken feed to what he’d lose by not working his diggings. But somebody would have to do it, and the Fuzzies were his responsibility.

Hadn’t he gone to law to prove their sapience?

 

THEY WERE GOING home, home to the Wonderful Place. They had seen many wonderful places, since the night they had been put in the bags: the place where everything had been light and they had been able to jump so high and land so gently, and the place where they had met all the others of their people and had so much fun. But now they were going back to the old Wonderful Place in the woods, where it had all started.

And they had met so many Big Ones, too. Some Big Ones were bad, but only a few; most Big Ones were good. Even the one who had done the killing had felt sorry for what he had done; they were all sure of that. And the other Big Ones had taken him away, and they had never seen him again.

He had talked about that with the others—with Flora and Fauna, and Dr. Crippen, and Complex, and Superego, and Dillinger and Lizzie Borden. Now that they were all going to live with the Big Ones, they would have to use those funny names. Someday they would find out what they meant, and that would be fun, too. And they could; now the Big Ones could put things in their ears and hear what they were saying, and Pappy Jack was learning some of their words, and teaching them some of his.

And soon all the people would find Big Ones to live with, who would take care of them and have fun with them and love them, and give them the Wonderful Food. And with the Big Ones taking care of them, maybe more of their babies would live and not die so soon. And they would pay the Big Ones back. First they would give their love and make them happy. Later, when they learned how, they would give their help, too.

 


Date: 2015-02-28; view: 502


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