The Star Beast

The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

Book: The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert A. Heinlein
    “Sir,” Greenberg answered icily, “you are older and more experienced than I am. May I ask why you are so confounded rude?”
    Mr. Kiku’s mouth twitched but he did not smile. “A fair question. My psychiatrist tells me that it is because I am an anarchist in the wrong job. Now sit down and we’ll discuss why you are so thick-headed. Cigarettes in the chair arm.” Greenberg sat down, discovered that he did not have a light, and asked for one.
    “I don’t smoke,” answered Kiku. “I thought those were the self-striking kind. Aren’t they?”
    “Oh. So they are.” Greenberg lit up.
    “See? You don’t use your eyes and ears. Sergei, once that beast talked, you should have postponed the hearing until we knew all about him.”
    “Mmmm… I suppose so.”
    “You suppose so! Son, your subconscious alarms should have been clanging like a bed alarm on Monday morning. As it is, you let the implications be sprung on you when you thought the trial was over. And by a girl, a mere child. I’m glad I don’t read the papers; I’ll bet they had fun.”
    Greenberg blushed. He did read the papers.
    “Then when she had you tangled up like a rangtangtoo trying to find its own feet, instead of facing her challenge and meeting it… Meeting it how? By adjourning, of course, and ordering the investigation you should have ordered to start with, you…”
    “But I did order it.”
    “Don’t interrupt me; I want you browned on both sides. Then you proceeded to hand down a decision the like of which has not been seen since Solomon ordered the baby sawed in half. What mail-order law school did you attend?”
    “Harvard,” Greenberg answered sullenly.
    “Hmm… Well, I shouldn’t be too harsh on you; you’re handicapped. But by the seventy-seven seven-sided gods of the Sarvanchil, what did you do next? First you deny a petition from the local government itself to destroy this brute in the interest of public safety…then you reverse yourself, grant the prayer and tell them to kill him…subject only to routine approval of this department. All in ten minutes. Exeunt omnes, laughing. Son, I don’t mind you making a fool of yourself, but must you include the department?”
    “Boss,” Greenberg said humbly, “I made a mistake. When I saw the mistake, I did the only thing I could do; I reversed myself. The beast really is dangerous and there are no proper facilities for confining it in Westville. If it had not been beyond my power, I would have ordered it destroyed at once, without referring back for the department’s approval…for your approval.”
    “You weren’t sitting where I was, sir. You didn’t see that solid wall bulge in. You didn’t see the destruction.”
    “I’m not impressed. Did you ever see a city that had been flattened by a fusion bomb? What does one courthouse wall matter?…probably some thieving contractor didn’t beef it up.”
    “But, boss, you should have seen the cage he broke out of first. Steel I-beams, welded. He tore them like straw.”
    “I recall that you inspected him in that cage. Why didn’t you see to it that he was confined so that he couldn’t get out?”
    “Huh? Why, it’s no business of the department to provide jails.”
    “Son, a factor concerning in any way anything from ‘Out There’ is the very personal business of this department. You know that. Once you know it awake and asleep, clear down to your toes, you’ll begin to trot through a perfunctory routine, like an honorary chairman sampling soup in a charity hospital. You were supposed to be there with your nose twitching and your ears quivering, on the lookout for ‘special situations.’ You flubbed. Now tell me about this beast. I read the report, I saw his picture. But I don’t feel him.”
    “Well, it’s a non-balancing multipedal type, eight legs and about seven feet high at the dorsal, ridge. It’s…”
    Kiku sat up straight. “Eight legs? Hands?”

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