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Fuzzy Nation Part 18

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Holloway shrugged, and the message was clear enough: Like I care Like I care.

"And we might decide not to," Aubrey said.

"I understand the Aubrey family doesn't see fit to give ZaraCorp voting stock to the plebian ma.s.ses," Holloway said. "But the folks who own cla.s.s B stock in the company can still sell it when they see the corporate governance doing something stupid. Like, say, not exploiting a sunstone seam that's arguably worth the rest of the entire planet combined, when there's an excellent chance the entire planet will soon be placed off-limits to future exploitation. The only real question in that case is how low the stock will go. I'd guess not quite quite low enough for Zarathustra Corporation to get delisted. But one never does know, does one." low enough for Zarathustra Corporation to get delisted. But one never does know, does one."

Aubrey smiled another mirthless smile. "You know, Holloway, I'm delighted that the two of us have had this little chat," he said. "It has put so many things into perspective."

"I'm glad it has," Holloway said.



"I don't suppose you have any other surprises you want to share with me," Aubrey said.

"Not really," Holloway said.

"Of course not," Aubrey said. "They wouldn't be surprises then, would they."

"The man has a learning curve," Holloway said.

"One other thing," Aubrey said. "I've decided that when your contract runs out, I'm going to have ZaraCorp renew it. All things considered, I think you'll do us less damage here than anywhere else. And I want you where I can keep track of you."

"I appreciate the vote of confidence," Holloway said. "I don't suppose you still plan on giving me that continent, though."

Aubrey walked off.

"Didn't think so," Holloway said. He turned to Carl. "There goes a real piece of work," he said to his dog.

Carl returned the comment with a look that said, That's nice, but now I really do have to pee That's nice, but now I really do have to pee. Holloway continued their walk.

"You're late," Sullivan said, as he answered his door.

"I got waylaid by a very p.i.s.sed-off future Chairman and CEO of Zarathustra Corporation," Holloway said.

"That's an acceptable excuse," Sullivan said, and then glanced down at Carl, who was lolling his tongue at the lawyer.

"I promised Isabel I'd bring Carl around," Holloway said. "I a.s.sumed she'd be here."

"She'll be around a bit later," Sullivan said. "Why don't you both come in." He stood aside from the door.

Sullivan's apartment was the standard-issue Zarathustra Corporation off-planet living s.p.a.ce: twenty-eight square meters of floor plan divided into living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bath. "I think it's disturbing my cabin is larger than your apartment," Holloway said, entering.

"Not that much larger," Sullivan said.

"Higher ceiling, in any event," Holloway said, looking up. He could place his palm flat on the ceiling if he wanted to.

"I'll give you that," Sullivan said, walking through the front room to the kitchen. "You also don't have an intern living above you playing noise until the dead hours of the morning. I swear I'm going to make sure that kid never gets another job with the company. Beer?"

"Please." Holloway sat, followed by Carl.

"So what did Aubrey waylay you about?" Sullivan asked. "If you don't mind me asking."

"He asked me what I was thinking in the courtroom today," Holloway said.

"Funny," Sullivan said, coming back into the living room and handing Holloway his beer. "I was thinking of asking you the same thing."

"Probably not for the same reasons, however," Holloway said.

"Probably not," Sullivan said. He twisted the cap off his own beer and sat. "Jack, I'm about to tell you something I shouldn't," he said. "The other day Brad Landon came into my office and told me to draft up an interesting sort of contract. It was a contract ceding operational authority for the entire northwest continent of the planet to a single contractor, who in return for handling substantial operational and organizational tasks for ZaraCorp, would receive five percent of all gross revenues."

"That's a nice gig for someone," Holloway said.

"Yes it is," Sullivan said. "Now, I was instructed to design the contract so that unless certain stringent production quotas were met, the contractor got very little, but you'll understand that 'very little' in this case is a distinctly relative term. Whoever got this gig would be rich beyond just about any one person's ability to measure wealth."

"Right," Holloway said.

"So I'm wondering why you just threw that away today," Sullivan said.

"You don't know that contract was meant for me," Holloway said.

"Come on, Jack," Sullivan said. "I think you've figured out by now that I'm not stupid."

"Are you asking me this question as ZaraCorp's lawyer or Isabel's boyfriend?" Holloway asked.

"Neither," Sullivan said. "I'm asking you as me. Because I'm curious. And because on the stand today you did something I didn't expect."

"You thought I was going to sell Isabel out," Holloway said.

"Not to put too fine a point on it, but yes, I did," Sullivan said. "You stood to make billions and you let it slip past you. Given your past history, you don't strike me as the overly sentimental type. And, no offense, you've sold out Isabel before."

"None taken," Holloway said. "It wasn't about Isabel."

"Then what was it about?" Sullivan asked.

Holloway took a slug of his beer. Sullivan waited patiently.

"You remember why I was disbarred," Holloway said.

"For punching that executive in the courtroom," Sullivan said.

"Because he was laughing at those parents in pain," Holloway said. "All those families were torn up to h.e.l.l, and Stern felt comfortable enough to laugh. Because he knew at the end of the day our lawyers were good enough to get him and us out of trouble. He knew he'd never see the inside of a prison cell. I felt someone needed to send him a message, and I was in the right position to do just that."

"And this relates to our current situation how?" Sullivan asked.

"ZaraCorp was planning to steamroll over the fuzzys," Holloway said. "It was planning to deny the fuzzys their potential right to personhood on no more basis than because it could, and because the fuzzys were in the way of expanding their profit margins. And you're right, Mark. I stood to profit quite handsomely myself from the whole business. It was in my interest to go along."

"Very much in your interest," Sullivan said.

"Yes," Holloway agreed. "But at the end of it I have to live with myself. It was wrong of me to punch Stern in the courtroom, but I didn't regret it then and I don't now. ZaraCorp might eventually show that the fuzzys aren't sentient, but if they do, at least they'll do it honestly, and not just because I went along with them and made it easy for them. Maybe what I did today wasn't the smart thing to do, but if nothing else, ZaraCorp isn't laughing at the fuzzys anymore."

Sullivan nodded and took a drink of his own beer. "That's very admirable," he said.

"Thanks," Holloway said.

"Don't thank me yet," Sullivan said. "It's admirable, but I also wonder if you're not completely full of s.h.i.+t, Jack."

"You don't believe me," Holloway said.

"I'd like to," Sullivan said. "You talk a good game, and it's clear your lawyer brain has never completely turned off. You're good at presenting a scenario in which you always end up, if not the good guy, at least the guy with understandable motives. You're persuasive. But I'm a lawyer too, Jack. I'm immune to your charms. And I think underneath your rationalizations there are other things going on. For example, your story about why you punched Stern in that courtroom."

"What about it?" Holloway asked.

"Maybe you did do it because you couldn't stand the sight of him, or the idea of him laughing at those parents," Sullivan said. "But on a whim, I also checked the financial records of your former law firm. Turns out that two weeks before you punched Stern, you received a performance bonus of five million credits. That's more than eight times your previous highest performance bonus."

"It was my share of a patent infringement settlement," Holloway said. "Alestria versus PharmCorp Holdings. And others got bigger bonuses out of that than I did."

"I know, I read up on the bonuses," Sullivan said. "But I also know most of the big bonuses were paid out a couple months before yours was. Yours is interestingly timed. And it's enough for a corporate staff lawyer to contemplate disbarment and the loss of his livelihood with a certain cavalier lack of concern."

"You're just speculating now," Holloway said.

"It's not just speculation," Sullivan said. "I also know the North Carolina attorney general's office looked into it. Contrary to what you just said, Jack, the general consensus was that Stern and Alestria were on the way to losing that case. And you've said yourself that the reason you were disbarred is because everyone believed you intended to precipitate a mistrial. In this case, everyone may be right."

"The AG's office couldn't prove anything about that bonus," Holloway said, irritated now.

"I'm aware of that too," Sullivan said. "You wouldn't be here if they could have. But as you well know, 'not proven' is not the same as 'disproven.'"

"The difference being that I don't have anything to gain by revealing the sentience of the fuzzys," Holloway said. "I didn't have to do it, but I did."

"Yes, you did," Sullivan said. "And in doing so you forced the judge to order more study-which will force ZaraCorp into an immediate strategic review of its resource allocation here on Zara Twenty-three. I wouldn't be entirely surprised if sometime very soon it's announced that nearly all exploitation resources on the planet are going to be focused on that sunstone seam of yours, Jack. Which will make you rich, fast, no matter what happens with the fuzzys. And that's a fact I'm very ambivalent about."

"You have a problem with me getting rich?" Holloway asked.

"Getting rich? No," Sullivan said. "But maneuvering to become super-rich? Yes. I do have a problem with it. Because I feel responsible for it. I'm the one who mentioned the 'more study' option to you and Isabel. It didn't occur to me when I mentioned to you that you could still make millions under that option that you might find that amount insufficient, and find a way to maneuver yourself into more."

"It's an interesting theory," Holloway said.

"I thought you might like it," Sullivan said. "Don't misunderstand me, Jack. In one sense I'm pleased you did what you did, for whatever reason you did it. No matter what they told you, Isabel's professional reputation wouldn't have survived the accusation that she was taken in by a prank. You would have killed her career. Unlike your previous situation, she has no multimillion-credit bonus cus.h.i.+on for when her career craters. So whether for your own selfish reasons or not, you did the right thing. Isabel is never going to hear me suggest you did it for any other reason than vindicating her. Fair enough?"

Holloway nodded.

"Good," Sullivan said. "But there's something else going on here that I think you need to be aware of. Something I know you didn't think about. And that's the future of the fuzzys themselves."

"What about it?" Holloway asked.

"How do you feel about the fuzzys, Jack?" Sullivan said.

"I just showed evidence of their sentience," Holloway said. "I think that's an indicator."

"Not with you, it isn't," Sullivan said. "I just spent a lot of time pointing out that you have a funny way of being amazingly self-interested. It serves your purpose to suggest the fuzzys are sapient. You don't get any credit for it if it's just another tool in the box for your long con game against ZaraCorp."

"It's not," Holloway said.

Sullivan held his hand up. "Don't," he said. "Just turn off the bulls.h.i.+t for the moment, Jack. Turn off that lawyer brain of yours and the thinking three steps ahead and the self-absorption and that overriding love of money you have, and answer me seriously and honestly. Do you actually care care what happens to these fuzzys, or don't you?" what happens to these fuzzys, or don't you?"

Holloway took a drink from his beer, reconsidered, and finished all of it. "Leaving aside everything else?" he asked Sullivan. "Leaving aside all your theories and rationales and possible explanations for my actions?"

"Yes," Sullivan said. "Leaving aside all that for now."

"Between you and me," Holloway said.

"Between you and me," Sullivan said.

"Then yes," Holloway said. "Yes, I care what happens to the fuzzys. I like like them. I don't want anything bad to happen to them." them. I don't want anything bad to happen to them."

"Do you think they're sentient?" Sullivan asked.

"Does it really matter?" Holloway asked.

"You said you were going to stop with the bulls.h.i.+t," Sullivan said.

"I am," Holloway said. "The no bulls.h.i.+t answer is that right now I don't particularly care if they are proved sentient or not. Maybe Isabel is right, that they're people, and that as people they have their rights. Maybe it's not right for me to hope to make some money off this planet before that's determined, but that's my own issue to deal with. In the end, though, whether or not they're judged to be people, the fact is, if finding them sentient works to their advantage in the long run, that will make me happy."

Sullivan stared at Holloway for a moment, then finished his own beer. "That's good to know," he said. "Because now I'm going to tell you something else I probably shouldn't tell you. Which is that I was hoping that when you got up on that witness stand today, Jack, that you would would have lied your a.s.s off about pulling a prank on Isabel." have lied your a.s.s off about pulling a prank on Isabel."

"What?" Holloway said. Of all the possible things Sullivan could have said to Holloway, this was not even close to being one he would have expected.

"You heard me," Sullivan said. "I wish you had lied and that the judge ruled that the fuzzys weren't sentient."

"You're going to have to explain that one to me," Holloway said. "You were just explaining how that would have destroyed Isabel's credibility. I'm confused."

"It would have destroyed her credibility, but it might have saved the fuzzys," Sullivan said.

"You have not made yourself any clearer," Holloway said.

"Have you actually ever read Cheng versus BlueSky Corporation Cheng versus BlueSky Corporation?" Sullivan asked. "The ruling that established the criteria for proving sentience?"

"Back in law school," Holloway said.

"I read through it again because of all of this," Sullivan said. "Read Cheng Cheng and its aftereffects. Do you remember why the court ruled against Cheng?" Sullivan asked. and its aftereffects. Do you remember why the court ruled against Cheng?" Sullivan asked.

"Because he couldn't prove that the Nimbus Floaters were sentient," Holloway said. "He couldn't prove that they had speech."

"That's correct," Sullivan said. "People remember that he couldn't prove it; what they don't remember is why why he couldn't prove it. The reason why he couldn't prove it was because they were all dead. In the time between when Cheng filed his case and the time it reached the high court, the Nimbus Floaters went extinct." he couldn't prove it. The reason why he couldn't prove it was because they were all dead. In the time between when Cheng filed his case and the time it reached the high court, the Nimbus Floaters went extinct."

"They died off," Holloway said.

"No," Sullivan said. "They were killed killed off, Jack. Their numbers were never large, and once Cheng filed his suit, they started dropping fast." off, Jack. Their numbers were never large, and once Cheng filed his suit, they started dropping fast."

"They would have been given protected status as soon as the case was filed," Holloway said.

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