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Fuzzy Nation Part 8

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"No," Aubrey said. "Just you. You inspire that reaction in people, Holloway."

"It's a gift," Holloway said. "But as long as we're talking promises, now that you've had your strong-arm attempt, are you going to release the compensation you've been illegally withholding from me? The cost of the initial exploration of the seam came out of my own pocket. Now that you're exploiting it, you're obliged to pay me back. And my dog is out of explosives."

"Lovely," Aubrey said. He nodded to Landon. Landon fiddled with his infopanel.

"Done," Landon said. "Enjoy your eight thousand two hundred sixteen credits, Mr. Holloway. Don't spend it all in one place."

Holloway smiled in spite of himself as he walked away.



Joe DeLise was waiting at Holloway's skimmer. "You didn't steal anything, did you?" Holloway asked.

DeLise smiled. "I'm sure going to miss you, Jack," he said.

"Don't get mushy, Joe," Holloway said. "I'm not going anywhere just yet."

Chapter Ten.

Isabel came up to the skimmer as soon as it landed. "We need to talk," she said.

"Yeah, we do," Holloway said, exiting the vehicle. "You think you could stop telling people that I let Carl detonate explosives?"

"What?" Isabel said.

"Stop telling people I let Carl set off explosives," Holloway said.

"You do do let Carl set off explosives," Isabel said. let Carl set off explosives," Isabel said.

"Yes, but you don't have to tell tell people about it," Holloway said. By this time the topic of conversation had come over, tail wagging. Holloway petted him. "I'm apparently becoming famous galaxy-wide for it. I'd rather not be." people about it," Holloway said. By this time the topic of conversation had come over, tail wagging. Holloway petted him. "I'm apparently becoming famous galaxy-wide for it. I'd rather not be."

"When you train your dog to blow things up, it tends to be noted," Isabel said. "And for the record, I don't don't talk about it. The only time I talk about it. The only time I did did talk about it was at that inquest, which I will remind you, Jack, was caused by your own procedural shortcuts." talk about it was at that inquest, which I will remind you, Jack, was caused by your own procedural shortcuts."

"You didn't have to talk about it then, then, either," Holloway said. either," Holloway said.

"Really?" Isabel said, thinning her lips. "Because I was under the impression that when one is forced to testify at a company inquest and continuing one's job is contingent on telling the truth, when one is asked 'What other unusual surveying practices have you personally witnessed Jack Holloway engage in?' it might be prudent to describe what they are."

"It didn't make my problems any easier," Holloway said.

"Well, I'm sorry my telling the truth about the stupid things you do is inconvenient for you," Isabel said, in the clipped, quiet voice she used when she was truly p.i.s.sed off. "Although now that you mention it, your calling me a liar about that and other things at your inquest didn't do wonders for me, me, either. When the inquest gave you the 'not proven' judgment, either. When the inquest gave you the 'not proven' judgment, I I got a markdown in my employment record. It says that my 'judgment might be impaired due to close or romantic relations.h.i.+ps.' I suppose that may be true enough, because I got a markdown in my employment record. It says that my 'judgment might be impaired due to close or romantic relations.h.i.+ps.' I suppose that may be true enough, because I was was with you, which was a clear case of impaired judgment. But it wasn't impaired in the way they thought it was, and I certainly don't deserve a mark against me because with you, which was a clear case of impaired judgment. But it wasn't impaired in the way they thought it was, and I certainly don't deserve a mark against me because you lied, you lied, Jack." Jack."

Holloway watched Isabel, remembering the cold fury she'd shown him after the inquest, which this outburst was a pale echo of. "I told you I was sorry," Holloway said.

"Right, when you tried to give me that rock," Isabel said. "And I told you then that I'd be happy to hear you were sorry when you meant it. But you're still angry with me about something you you did. So I guess I'm still waiting for you to actually be sorry." did. So I guess I'm still waiting for you to actually be sorry."

By this time, Baby Fuzzy had come up to Isabel and tugged on her pant leg. Isabel looked down. Baby Fuzzy held out her arms. Isabel picked her up, sat her in the crook of her arm, and scratched her head. Baby Fuzzy seemed to enjoy this.

"She really is like a cat," Holloway said. The conversation he was having with Isabel had gone bad quickly. Holloway was ready to dump it and start a new one.

"She's really not," Isabel said. "That's what I had wanted wanted to talk to you about, before you started hammering on me about Carl and we got sidelined." to talk to you about, before you started hammering on me about Carl and we got sidelined."

"Sorry about that," Holloway said. "That's a small, immediate apology. I had a meeting with Wheaton Aubrey the Seventh, and it was brought up."

"I take it the meeting didn't go well, then," Isabel said.

"No," Holloway said. "He condescended to me, I was antagonistic to him, he made a dismissive offer couched in contempt, I threw it back in his face and promised legal action if he tried to cross me again."

"So, the usual with you," Isabel said.

"I suppose," Holloway said.

"The more I know you, the more I realize why you live hundreds of kilometers from anyone else," Isabel said.

"Let's get back to the thing you wanted to talk about," Holloway said. He started walking toward the cabin; he wanted a beer.

"All right," Isabel said. "These fuzzys. These animals you've discovered. I'm starting to wonder if they are are animals." animals."

"I think you'll be laughed out of the biologist club if you suggest they're plants," Holloway said.

"That's not what I'm saying, obviously," Isabel said. "When I say I don't think they're animals, I mean I don't think they're just just animals. I think they're something more." animals. I think they're something more."

Holloway stopped walking and turned to face Isabel. "Tell me you're not about to say what I think you're about to say," he said. "Because I know know I don't want to hear it." I don't want to hear it."

"I think they're sapient," Isabel said. "I think these creatures are intelligent on a level beyond just animals. These things are people, people, Jack." Jack."

Holloway turned, irritated, and threw up his hands. He resumed his walk to the cabin. "You could have told me that before I turned down half a billion credits, Isabel," he said.

Isabel followed, confused. "What does that have to do with anything?" she said.

"Zara Twenty-three is a Cla.s.s Three planet," Holloway said. He paused at the cabin door and pointed to Baby Fuzzy, who now appeared to be dozing lightly. "If that that is a person, then this becomes a Cla.s.s Threea planet-a planet with native sapient life-and ZaraCorp's E and E charter is suspended. That means everything stops here, Isabel. No more mining, no more drilling, no more harvesting. It means I don't get paid for the sunstone seam." is a person, then this becomes a Cla.s.s Threea planet-a planet with native sapient life-and ZaraCorp's E and E charter is suspended. That means everything stops here, Isabel. No more mining, no more drilling, no more harvesting. It means I don't get paid for the sunstone seam."

"Well, I'm sorry you might possibly be out a bit of money, Jack," Isabel said.

"Jesus, Isabel," Holloway said. He opened the door. "A bit bit of money? Try at least a couple billion credits. That's of money? Try at least a couple billion credits. That's billion, billion, with a with a b b. Saying that's a bit bit of money is like saying a forest fire is a nice way to roast some marshmallows." He went into the cabin. Isabel followed. of money is like saying a forest fire is a nice way to roast some marshmallows." He went into the cabin. Isabel followed.

Inside the cabin, the other fuzzys lounged about; it had gotten hot and humid outside and Holloway's cabin had climate controls. As Holloway glanced over, he saw Mama Fuzzy had taken a book down from the bookcase and she and Papa were examining it carefully. Closer examination showed Mama Fuzzy was holding it upside down.

"Maybe they're not as smart as you think," Holloway said, pointing out the upside down book to Isabel. He reached into his kitchen cooler to retrieve a beer.

Isabel looked at him, and then set Baby Fuzzy down. She padded off toward the rest of her family; Isabel headed to the kitchen. "Papa," she said. The fuzzy looked up from his book, curious, then headed toward the kitchen.

"Excuse me," Isabel said to Jack. She pushed him aside to get at the cooler. From the cooler she retrieved smoked turkey, cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard. She set them on the small kitchen table. She closed the cooler, and then reached over to the counter to take the last two bread slices and placed them on the table. Finally, she opened the utensil drawer and put a b.u.t.ter knife next to all the food. She looked down at the fuzzy.

"Papa," Isabel said. "Sandwich."

The fuzzy squeaked in joy.

Four minutes later all the fuzzys were enjoying their share of the sandwich Papa Fuzzy had made, up to and including clumsily wielding the b.u.t.ter knife to make six mostly equal sections, the last of which had been presented to Carl with great gravity.

"You could have taught him to do that," Holloway said. "I once taught a dog to detonate explosives."

"Not to take anything away from Carl, whom I love," Isabel said, "but it's one thing to teach an animal to step on a detonator panel to get a treat. It's another thing to teach it how to make a sandwich sandwich. Much less then divide it equally among five other animals."

"A monkey could do it," Holloway said.

"Name one," Isabel said.

"I'm not the biologist," Holloway said. not the biologist," Holloway said.

"Really," Isabel said, mildly. "There's also the small matter that even if I could have trained Papa to make a sandwich, I I didn't. I came in here not long after you left for your meeting and found Papa making one. Either he saw you making one or he's even more clever than I thought. Which would go to my point." didn't. I came in here not long after you left for your meeting and found Papa making one. Either he saw you making one or he's even more clever than I thought. Which would go to my point."

"He saw me make one," Holloway said. He started putting away the sandwich fixings.

"So what we're saying is that this animal, having observed you make a sandwich once, managed to remember where the ingredients were, retrieved them, organized them, and re-created a sandwich recipe from memory, not once, not twice, but three times," Isabel said.

"Three times?" Holloway said.

"After I caught him doing it, I made him do it again, just to be sure," Isabel said.

"You're going to make them fat," Holloway said, closing the cooler.

"He gave the second one to me," Isabel said.

"How sweet," Holloway said, dryly. He took another swig of his beer.

"Which in itself itself shows higher-order cognitive function," Isabel said. "It's called theory of mind. Papa a.s.sumed that when I asked him to make another sandwich, that I was asking him to make it for me, because I was hungry. He was attributing intent and reason to me." shows higher-order cognitive function," Isabel said. "It's called theory of mind. Papa a.s.sumed that when I asked him to make another sandwich, that I was asking him to make it for me, because I was hungry. He was attributing intent and reason to me."

"I know what theory of mind is," Holloway said. "You know who else has theory of mind? Monkeys. And some species of squid. Even Carl here tries to figure out what I'm thinking." From the floor, Carl, hearing his name, thumped his tail on the floor a couple of times.

"Squids don't make sandwiches," Isabel said.

"I doubt there's been a scientific study on that matter," Holloway said. "The bread gets soggy."

"Stop that," Isabel said. "Neither do monkeys, and neither does Carl. And certainly none of them could do it from seeing you do it once. These aren't just animals, Jack." She bent down again to get a beer for herself.

"But it doesn't mean they're sapient, sapient," Holloway said. "I know these things are smart, Isabel. That's why I recorded Papa in the first place and gave you the recording. These little guys are a big find. I knew you'd want to see them. But it's a h.e.l.l of a leap from 'smart little monkey' to 'sapient people.' Have you ever heard them speak?"

"They definitely communicate," Isabel began. Holloway held up his hand.

"Not in contention," Holloway said. "They squeak and squeal with the best of them, and they definitely have animal-level communication down pat. Given. But is there evidence they have speech? Language? Some manner of communication that goes beyond what we would see in other very smart animals?"

Isabel was quiet for a moment. "No," she said, finally. She took a drink of her beer.

"You know that matters," Holloway said. "I was required to take a cla.s.s in xenosapient law at Duke. I don't remember that much of it, because it wasn't going to be my specialty anyway. But I remember Cheng versus BlueSky Incorporated Cheng versus BlueSky Incorporated. It's the one where a company biologist maintained the Nimbus Floaters of BlueSky Six were sapient and went to court in their behalf to stop the exploitation of the planet. The court ended up having to develop a checklist of criteria to judge the sapience of a creature, and speech-or 'meaningful communication that conveys more than the immediate and presently imminent'-was part of that checklist. It's canon law."

"It's not the only thing on the list," Isabel said.

"No, but it's a big one," Holloway said. "It's what tripped up Cheng. He couldn't prove the floaters spoke."

"You're not exactly an impartial party on this," Isabel said.

"No, I'm not," Holloway said. He motioned out toward the Fuzzys, who had finished their meals and retired to the floor once more, to look at the book or to nap on Carl. "If our little friends here are just really smart animals, then I get to be a billionaire. If they're people, then I'm just another schmuck out of a job, and I have a very good reason to believe that I'd have trouble getting another prospector gig. So yes, I'd say I'm a pretty interested party."

"Glad you know it," Isabel said.

"I do," Holloway said. "But even if I weren't, I'd still be telling you to be absolutely sure that what you've got is what you think it is. Because the minute you file a Suspected Sapience Report, ZaraCorp is required by law to suspend all activity on this planet. Everything comes to a screeching halt while a court decides on our fuzzy friends' sapience. It won't just be me you'll cost billions. And if the ruling goes against the fuzzys, you're going to spend the rest of your life as a grocery clerk. So before you say anything about sapience to anyone, you need to be absolutely sure. Are you absolutely sure, Isabel?"

Another moment of silence from Isabel. Then, "No. No, I'm not absolutely absolutely sure. I'm not saying I am. I need to study them more." sure. I'm not saying I am. I need to study them more."

"All right, then," Holloway said. "So study them some more. Take your video and make your observations and do whatever it is you need to do. There's no need for you to rush any of this. Take your time. Take lots of time."

Isabel snorted. "Enough time for you to become a billionaire, you mean," she said.

"That would be nice," Holloway said. "I could very happily live with that."

"I know you you could," Isabel said, and then motioned to the Fuzzys. "But could they?" could," Isabel said, and then motioned to the Fuzzys. "But could they?"

"I don't follow you," Holloway said.

"This is their planet, Jack," Isabel said. "If they are sapient, everything we take out of this world is a little less for them to use for themselves. Maybe you're not aware of how efficient ZaraCorp is at stripping a planet of its easily accessible resources-or maybe you don't want want to be aware-but I know. I read the biological impact reports on all the planets ZaraCorp exploits. Some of the first planets ZaraCorp received its E and E charters for are already at depletion levels approaching Earth's, when it comes to rare metals and minerals. Even common ores are being pulled out of the ground at hugely accelerated rates. That's just a few decades of work. And ZaraCorp is much better now at doing this than it was even a decade ago." to be aware-but I know. I read the biological impact reports on all the planets ZaraCorp exploits. Some of the first planets ZaraCorp received its E and E charters for are already at depletion levels approaching Earth's, when it comes to rare metals and minerals. Even common ores are being pulled out of the ground at hugely accelerated rates. That's just a few decades of work. And ZaraCorp is much better now at doing this than it was even a decade ago."

Holloway thought of how quickly the camp was springing up at the sunstone seam. He took another swig of his beer and finished it.

"So if they are sapient, even if we waited just a year or two, think of how much less they would have to work with," Isabel said. "Taken before they can use it for themselves."

"They're at the level where they've just discovered sandwiches," Holloway said. "Working a sunstone seam is not high on their agenda."

"You're missing the point," Isabel said. She set down her beer. "The point is when when they are ready, it won't be there. That sunstone seam you found is the result of millions of years of heat and pressure. ZaraCorp is going to pull it all out of the ground in a decade, if it takes even that long. And that's it for the sunstones; the creatures whose bodies made them are extinct. And then there are the other ores and minerals. It'll take millions of years for the planet to replenish these minerals. Some might not ever replenish at all. What does it leave for them?" they are ready, it won't be there. That sunstone seam you found is the result of millions of years of heat and pressure. ZaraCorp is going to pull it all out of the ground in a decade, if it takes even that long. And that's it for the sunstones; the creatures whose bodies made them are extinct. And then there are the other ores and minerals. It'll take millions of years for the planet to replenish these minerals. Some might not ever replenish at all. What does it leave for them?"

"I get what you're saying," Holloway said. "And you're probably right. I still think you should be sure before you try to claim sapience. Not saying you shouldn't make the claim. Just saying you should be sure. This is me trying to talk to you as a friend, here."

"Thanks," Isabel said. "I know. I'm just thinking, is all. Do you ever stop to think how lucky we are that, in this part of s.p.a.ce at least, humans were the sentient creatures who got smart first?"

"It's crossed my mind," Holloway said.

Isabel nodded. "Now," she said, "imagine what would have happened if half a million years ago, some alien creature landed on our our planet, looked at our ancestors, decided that they weren't actually people, and just took all the planet's ores and oil. How far would we have ever gotten?" planet, looked at our ancestors, decided that they weren't actually people, and just took all the planet's ores and oil. How far would we have ever gotten?"

Isabel motioned to the Fuzzys, who were now all asleep on the cabin floor. "Seriously now, Jack," she said. "How far do you think they're they're going to get once we're through here?" going to get once we're through here?"

Chapter Eleven.

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