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Fuzzy Nation Part 16

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"That's not an accusation to be made lightly against Zara Twenty-three's chief biologist," Meyer said.

"I'll give you an example," Holloway said. "After I met the fuzzys, I a.s.signed them gender roles, based on certain a.s.sumptions I made: Males would be aggressive and boisterous, females nurturing and sweet. So I called them Papa Fuzzy and Mama Fuzzy and so on. For several days, Isabel a.s.sumed that the fuzzys were actually male and female, even though as the planet's biologist, she knew that most animals on the planet didn't have genders like they do back on Earth. She admitted to me that she initially a.s.sumed the fuzzys were male and female because I had told her so, and she a.s.sumed I had checked."

"That's a pretty substantial lapse in observation," Meyer said. "I don't suppose you have any evidence of this aside from your word on it."

Holloway pointed past Isabel. "Mr. Sullivan over there heard her say it," he said. "To be clear, Isabel did figure it out eventually. It just took a few days."

"Because you told her otherwise," Meyer said.



"Yes," Holloway said. "I didn't intend to mislead Isabel; it was just my own a.s.sumption. It was innocent. But I did end up misleading her."

"No one's blaming you for intentionally causing damage to Dr. w.a.n.gai's professional standing," Meyer a.s.sured him. "But, Mr. Holloway, is there possibly another way you misled Dr. w.a.n.gai? Not by what you told her, but by what you didn't didn't tell her?" tell her?"

Holloway looked uncomfortable. "Yes," he said, finally. "I suppose I did. And up here now, I'm quite embarra.s.sed about it. I wish I didn't have to admit to it."

"You do do have to admit to it, Mr. Holloway," said Judge Soltan. have to admit to it, Mr. Holloway," said Judge Soltan.

"I know," Holloway said. "Of course. I think it would be easier to explain, however, if I could use the monitor Isabel set up to give you her briefing. Would that be all right?"

"How long will this take?" Soltan asked.

"I will be as brief as I possibly can," Holloway said. "Trust me, I want to get this over as quickly as you do."

"All right," Soltan said.

Holloway pointed to the defense table. "There's data that I need on the infopanel."

"You may leave the witness stand, but you are still providing testimony and must tell the truth," Soltan said.

"I understand," Holloway said. He stood up, exited the stand, and walked over to the defense table, where his infopanel lay. He ignored it and went to Isabel, who couldn't stand to look at him.

"Isabel," he said.

"Please don't talk to the other expert at this time, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said.

"I'm sorry, Your Honor," Holloway said. "But I don't need the data on my infopanel. I need the data on hers."

"I don't understand," Soltan said.

"Nor do I," Meyer said.

"The data in Isabel's infopanel is secure video, taken with cameras and recorders designed for scientific and legal verifiability," Holloway said. "I am well aware that my own truth on the stand has been challenged, not the least by Isabel here. I want to be sure everyone can believe what I'm going to say, and that I haven't tampered with the evidence I'm going to show you."

Soltan nodded. "Dr. w.a.n.gai, please give Mr. Holloway your infopanel," she said.

Isabel handed over the machine.

"Thank you," Holloway said. "Are all your video records accessible?"

"I'm signed in," Isabel said, tightly. She was avoiding saying any more to Holloway than she absolutely needed to.

"Did you change the file names of the videos?" Holloway asked.

"No," Isabel said.

"Okay," Holloway said. "Thanks." Isabel didn't respond. Holloway glanced over to Sullivan, whose own expression didn't appear to be particularly friendly. He too had figured out the show trial nature of the inquiry.

Holloway tapped the infopanel and opened a pipe between it and the monitor. The monitor flicked on and awaited input.

"We've already established that Dr. w.a.n.gai, despite her considerable competence and talent as a scientist, does sometimes allow her a.s.sumptions to overrule her skills as an observer and her knowledge of this planet's faunasphere," Holloway said. His voice had become animated and precise; it was the voice Holloway used as a trial lawyer. Both Soltan and Meyer jumped a little at the change in tone. Holloway noted that but didn't let the notation show on his face. "Taking my word for the fuzzys being gendered is the obvious example. But there's another one that she missed."

Holloway tapped the panel again, and a video played out on it: an image of Papa, Mama, and Grandpa Fuzzy sitting together in a semicircle, eating bindi fruit.

"As we all know, one of the major signifiers for sapience is the capacity for speech. Per the Cheng Cheng ruling, this means 'meaningful communication that conveys more than the immediate and presently imminent.' To date, three species are known to communicate at a level that satisfies ruling, this means 'meaningful communication that conveys more than the immediate and presently imminent.' To date, three species are known to communicate at a level that satisfies Cheng Cheng: humans, Urai, and Negad. It is what each of these species have in common.

"But there is another thing that humans, Urai, and Negad also share in common: Their speech is vocalized, and the vocalization for each falls within a range that is perceivable by the human ear. In fact, it's the humans who have the greatest range of frequencies in their speech, while the Negad have the least. The point is, we can hear hear when humans, Urai, and Negad are speaking." when humans, Urai, and Negad are speaking."

Holloway paused the video. "A couple of weeks ago I was visiting the new camp ZaraCorp is building to exploit the sunstone seam I discovered. While I was there, I was shown these large speakers posted around the fence line. They were blasting sound at an incredibly high decibel level in order to scare away the zararaptors and other large predators of the jungle-but while I could feel feel the speakers pounding away, I couldn't hear them, because they were emitting their sound at twenty-five kilohertz. That's higher than human hearing can register." the speakers pounding away, I couldn't hear them, because they were emitting their sound at twenty-five kilohertz. That's higher than human hearing can register."

"I'm waiting to hear relevance, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said.

"Exactly," Holloway said. "You're waiting to hear relevance, but you can't, because you're listening too low. We all have been. The loudspeakers on the fence line work because the predators of Zara Twenty-three hear higher frequencies than we do. And they hear higher frequencies not for some random reason, but because it makes evolutionary sense for them to do so. Say, because their prey and other small animals make sounds in that range." Holloway said. "You're waiting to hear relevance, but you can't, because you're listening too low. We all have been. The loudspeakers on the fence line work because the predators of Zara Twenty-three hear higher frequencies than we do. And they hear higher frequencies not for some random reason, but because it makes evolutionary sense for them to do so. Say, because their prey and other small animals make sounds in that range."

Holloway reset the video and popped up a settings overlay on top of it. "One of the nice things about the research-level camera Dr. w.a.n.gai used to record the fuzzys is that unlike most commercial cameras, it records data humans don't perceive on their own," he said. "For example, in addition to recording the visible color spectrum, it records into the infrared and ultraviolet frequencies. You have to use filters to see these data, of course, but the data are there. It also records sounds above and below human hearing. You have to use filters for them, too."

Holloway flipped through the overlay's menus and reset the video's audio filters to bring sounds above human hearing range into audibility. He started the video again.

It was the same image of Papa, Mama, and Grandpa Fuzzy sitting in a semicircle. Only now it sounded as if they were talking to each other.

"Look," Holloway said, quietly, and pointed. "Look how they wait their turn to speak. Look how they respond to whatever the other is saying." He turned up the volume of the monitor; the chittering between the fuzzys got louder. "You can hear the structure of the language."

After a few more moments Holloway paused the video, closed it, and pulled up another one, this one of Grandpa Fuzzy and Pinto. Now beside the head-smacking was a constant stream of noise from Grandpa, interrupted occasionally by a squeak from Pinto. The squeak sounded, of all things, petulant.

Pause, close, open another video. In this one Mama Fuzzy was grooming Baby Fuzzy. The noises coming from Mama Fuzzy in this one were different from the noises in the other videos: softer, more sibilant.

"My G.o.d," Isabel said. "Mama's singing singing."

In the video Baby Fuzzy added its voice to Mama Fuzzy's, the two creatures joined in harmony. Everyone watched and listened to the video for a moment.

Then Holloway paused the video and looked over to Isabel. "I'm sorry, Dr. w.a.n.gai," he said, walking to her. "But this is yet another case of your observational skills failing you. You knew, I presume, that Zara Twenty-three creatures could hear above the human hearing range, which implies quite strongly that they or other creatures make noises above that range as well. Yet, just as you let my a.s.sertion of the fuzzys' genders get past you, so you also worked from the implicit a.s.sumption that speech for the fuzzys would be like speech for any other sentient species-something you could hear. And thus, the most important part of your argument for the fuzzys' sentience-their ability to speak-went unheard and un.o.bserved."

Holloway held out Isabel's infopanel to her. She took it, shaking.

Holloway turned to Meyer, who was looking at him with the same expression she might have if he had stripped naked right there in the courtroom. "And this is how I misled Isabel, Ms. Meyer, Your Honor," he said, turning briefly to nod in the direction of the similarly shocked-looking Judge Soltan. "I mentioned that the last time I spoke to her I told her I didn't believe the fuzzys were sentient, because I didn't. But then I saw one of the fuzzys make my dog sit and lie down and roll over-vocal commands. I couldn't hear them, but I remembered that other animals here heard higher frequencies, just like my dog could. So I went back through the data and found the fuzzys had been speaking all along.

"I misled Isabel by not telling her this," Holloway said. "And thus by making her think that I disagreed with her about the sentience of the fuzzys, when in fact over the last few days I have become completely convinced of it. They speak, Ms. Meyer, Your Honor. They speak and discuss and argue and sing. That's not a trick you can fake, no matter how clever an animal you are, or how clever you, as a human, might be with training animals. These aren't just animals. These are people.

"And Dr. w.a.n.gai," Holloway said, turning to Isabel again, "I was wrong. I was wrong to keep this information from you, and for allowing you to enter into this inquiry without all the facts you needed to defend your a.s.sertion, and for allowing anyone to cast doubt on your reputation. It was wrong. I was wrong for ever doing it or for ever allowing it. I am sorry."

Holloway turned away from Isabel and sat back down in the witness stand.

"I'm done with my presentation," he said, to the judge.

Chapter Eighteen.

"This proves nothing," Meyer said, once she had gained enough composure to begin again.

"It proves that we can't immediately discount the idea that the fuzzys have speech," Holloway said. "That's something. It's something fairly big."

"You could very well have taught them to make these sounds," Meyer said.

"Are you suggesting that I created a hoax so byzantine that it includes teaching animals to speak something no one could hear?" Holloway said. "To what end, Ms. Meyer? If it was a trick to fool Isabel, then it failed, because she didn't know of it until just a couple minutes ago."

"It's a hoax to put the Zarathustra Company in an uncomfortable financial position," Meyer said.

"Then it's a hoax that also puts me in an uncomfortable financial position, because I stand to lose billions if the fuzzys are deemed sentient," Holloway said. "I have a very distinct and obvious reason to hope the fuzzys are simply animals."

Meyer opened her mouth; Holloway held up his hand. "I know where you're going next," he said. "The only possible way this does me any good is if I've somehow set things up to short ZaraCorp stock on the market, in the hope of reaping the benefit when the stock price falls. But to forestall such an argument, I'm willing to give Judge Soltan complete access to all my financial and communication data for the last couple of years. She's more than welcome to have forensics experts go through the data to look for evidence that I'm trying to manipulate ZaraCorp stock. But I can tell you right now that she won't find it. My only financial holdings at this point are the royalties ZaraCorp automatically puts into my account at the Zarathustra Corporate Bank. I think I earn half a percent on that annually."

"But we have no way of knowing if these sounds are speech!" Meyer said. "You're a surveyor, not an expert on xenosapience. And we've already established that Dr. w.a.n.gai has no formal training in xenosapience. Neither of you can even knowledgably guess at what those sounds mean."

Holloway saw Isabel's eyes widen; she knew the hole Meyer had just fallen into. Holloway smiled. "You are quite correct, Ms. Meyer," he said. "So I suggest we let someone who can can knowledgably guess give an expert opinion. I suggest we call Arnold Chen." knowledgably guess give an expert opinion. I suggest we call Arnold Chen."

"Who?" Meyer said.

"Arnold Chen," Holloway repeated. "He received his doctorate in xenolinguistics. University of Chicago, I believe. He works in the same office as Dr. w.a.n.gai. Just down the street from here. I understand he was mistakenly a.s.signed to Zara Twenty-three. Lucky for us he's here."

"Is this correct?" Soltan said to Meyer.

"I don't know," Meyer said. She was thoroughly confused by the course of events.

"Excuse me, Your Honor," Isabel said. "Jack's correct. Dr. Chen is a xenolinguist. He's also likely to be in his office right now."

"Doing what, exactly?" Soltan said.

"That's a good question, Your Honor," Isabel said. "I'm sure Dr. Chen would like to know what he's supposed to be doing as well."

"Let's bring him in," Soltan said.

"If I may make a suggestion, Your Honor, have one of your clerks bring him in, rather than one of ZaraCorp's people," Holloway said.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Meyer asked.

"I think given the circ.u.mstances there is a reasonable chance someone might attempt to coach the expert," Holloway said. "I can think of some examples in my own experience where such a thing was attempted."

Meyer kept quiet after that one, lips thinned.

"Fine," Soltan said.

"I'd also suggest not telling Dr. Chen why he's been called," Holloway said. "Let him experience the video clean."

"Yes, all right," Soltan said, irritated. "Any more suggestions on how I should do my job, Mr. Holloway? Or are you done now?"

"Apologies, Your Honor," Holloway said.

Soltan eyed Holloway sourly and then turned to Meyer. "Are you finished with this expert?" Soltan asked.

"I have nothing more to say to Mr. Holloway," Meyer said. She eyed Holloway like he was a bug.

"Mr. Holloway, you are excused," Soltan said. "We'll take a fifteen-minute break while my clerks retrieve Dr. Chen." She got up and went to her chambers. Meyer packed up her notes, flung them at her a.s.sistant, and stormed out of the court, a.s.sistant scrambling to catch up. Holloway noted that Landon had disappeared as well, no doubt to catch up his boss on the events of the day.

Holloway got out of the stand and was surprised to find Isabel in front of him. "h.e.l.lo," he said.

Isabel very suddenly gave him a large hug. Holloway stood there and took it, surprised; it had been a while since he had more physical contact with her than a polite peck on the cheek. Indeed, when Isabel stopped hugging him, she planted a kiss on his cheek that was more than polite. It was actually friendly.

"Apology accepted," she said, stepping back. Sullivan by now had come up behind her.

"Well, good," Holloway said. "Because if you didn't accept that one, I would have given up."

"Thank you, Jack," Isabel said. "In all honesty and sincerity, thank you."

"Don't thank me yet," Holloway said. "If it turns out the fuzzys are actually people, I'm going to be broke and out of a job, and then me and Carl are showing up on your doorstep."

"I'll be sure to give Carl a good home," Isabel said.

"Oh, nice," Holloway said, and looked over to Sullivan. "You see how far good deeds get you in this life," he said to him. Sullivan smiled but said nothing. He looked distracted. Isabel gave Holloway another quick peck and then did the same to Sullivan before leaving the courtroom.

Holloway turned his attention to Sullivan. "I'm out of the doghouse," he said.

"If only you had managed it while the two of you were still dating," Sullivan said.

"Yes, well," Holloway said. "Let my misfortune be your example, Mark."

"Jack, you and I need to talk," Sullivan said.

"Is this about Isabel?" Holloway asked.

"No, not about Isabel," Sullivan said. "It's about everything else."

"That's a lot," Holloway said. "I don't think we have time to cover everything else besides Isabel in the next five to ten minutes."

"No, we don't," Sullivan said. "Let's you and I go have a talk at the end of this little farce."

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