Little Fuzzy – Day 3 of 77

And he had spoken of other things. Veldbeest meat, up seven per cent from last month, twenty per cent from last year, still in demand on a dozen planets unable to produce Terran-type foodstuffs. Grain, leather, lumber. And he had added a dozen more items to the lengthening list of what Zarathustra could now produce in adequate quantities and no longer needed to import. Not fishhooks and boot buckles, either—blasting explosives and propellants, contragravity-field generator parts, power tools, pharmaceuticals, synthetic textiles. The Company didn’t need to carry Zarathustra any more; Zarathustra could carry the Company, and itself.

Fifteen years ago, when the Zarathustra Company had sent him here, there had been a cluster of log and prefab huts beside an improvised landing field, almost exactly where this skyscraper now stood. Today, Mallorysport was a city of seventy thousand; in all, the planet had a population of nearly a million, and it was still growing. There were steel mills and chemical plants and reaction plants and machine works. They produced all their own fissionables, and had recently begun to export a little refined plutonium; they had even started producing collapsium shielding.

The recorded voice stopped. He ran back the spool, set for sixty-speed, and transmitted it to the radio office. In twenty minutes, a copy would be aboard the ship that would hyper out for Terra that night. While he was finishing, his communication screen buzzed.

“Dr. Kellogg’s screening you, Mr. Grego,” the girl in the outside office told him.

He nodded. Her hands moved, and she vanished in a polychromatic explosion; when it cleared, the chief of the Division of Scientific Study and Research was looking out of the screen instead. Looking slightly upward at the showback over his own screen, Victor was getting his warm, sympathetic, sincere and slightly too toothy smile on straight.

“Hello, Leonard. Everything going all right?”

It either was and Leonard Kellogg wanted more credit than he deserved or it wasn’t and he was trying to get somebody else blamed for it before anybody could blame him.

“Good afternoon, Victor.” Just the right shade of deference about using the first name—big wheel to bigger wheel. “Has Nick Emmert been talking to you about the Big Blackwater project today?”

Nick was the Federation’s resident-general; on Zarathustra he was, to all intents and purposes, the Terran Federation Government. He was also a large stockholder in the chartered Zarathustra Company.

“No. Is he likely to?”

“Well, I wondered, Victor. He was on my screen just now. He says there’s some adverse talk about the effect on the rainfall in the Piedmont area of Beta Continent. He was worried about it.”

“Well, it would affect the rainfall. After all, we drained half a million square miles of swamp, and the prevailing winds are from the west. There’d be less atmospheric moisture to the east of it. Who’s talking adversely about it, and what worries Nick?”

“Well, Nick’s afraid of the effect on public opinion on Terra. You know how strong conservation sentiment is; everybody’s very much opposed to any sort of destructive exploitation.”

“Good Lord! The man doesn’t call the creation of five hundred thousand square miles of new farmland destructive exploitation, does he?”

“Well, no, Nick doesn’t call it that; of course not. But he’s concerned about some garbled story getting to Terra about our upsetting the ecological balance and causing droughts. Fact is, I’m rather concerned myself.”

He knew what was worrying both of them. Emmert was afraid the Federation Colonial Office would blame him for drawing fire on them from the conservationists. Kellogg was afraid he’d be blamed for not predicting the effects before his division endorsed the project. As a division chief, he had advanced as far as he would in the Company hierarchy; now he was on a Red Queen’s racetrack, running like hell to stay in the same place.

“The rainfall’s dropped ten per cent from last year, and fifteen per cent from the year before that,” Kellogg was saying. “And some non-Company people have gotten hold of it, and so had Interworld News. Why, even some of my people are talking about ecological side-effects. You know what will happen when a story like that gets back to Terra. The conservation fanatics will get hold of it, and the Company’ll be criticized.”

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