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Victor Grego crushed out his cigarette slowly and deliberately.
“Yes, Leonard,” he said patiently. “It’s very interesting, and doubtless an important
discovery, but I can’t see why you’re making such a production of it. Are you afraid I’ll
blame you for letting non-Company people beat you to it? Or do you merely suspect that
anything Bennett Rainsford’s mixed up in is necessarily a diabolical plot against the
Company and, by consequence, human civilization?”
Leonard Kellogg looked pained. “What I was about to say, Victor, is that both Rainsford
and this man Holloway seem convinced that these things they call Fuzzies aren’t animals
at all. They believe them to be sapient beings.”
“Well, that’s—” He bit that off short as the significance of what Kellogg had just said hit
him. “Good God, Leonard! I beg your pardon abjectly; I don’t blame you for taking it
seriously. Why, that would make Zarathustra a Class-IV inhabited planet.”
“For which the Company holds a Class-III charter,” Kellogg added. “For an uninhabited
Automatically void if any race of sapient beings were discovered on Zarathustra.
“You know what will happen if this is true?”
“Well, I should imagine the charter would have to be renegotiated, and now that the
Colonial Office knows what sort of a planet this is, they’ll be anything but generous with
the Company….”
“They won’t renegotiate anything, Leonard. The Federation government will simply take
the position that the Company has already made an adequate return on the original
investments, and they’ll award us what we can show as in our actual possession—I
hope—and throw the rest into the public domain.”
The vast plains on Beta and Delta continents, with their herds of veldbeest—all open
range, and every ’beest that didn’t carry a Company brand a maverick. And all the
untapped mineral wealth, and the untilled arable land; it would take years of litigation
even to make the Company’s claim to Big Blackwater stick. And Terra-Baldur-Marduk
Spacelines would lose their monopolistic franchise and get sticky about it in the courts,
and in any case, the Company’s import-export monopoly would go out the airlock. And
the squatters rushing in and swamping everything—
“Why, we won’t be any better off than the Yggdrasil Company, squatting on a guano
heap on one continent!” he burst out. “Five years from now, they’ll be making more
money out of bat dung than we’ll be making out of this whole world!”