Author: Chris Stewart
“Dr. Marco Nutrice. M-A-R-C…”
The council chairman, rumpled and sleep-deprived, interrupted, “Doctor Nutrice.”
The witness, far chipper, countered.
“It is pronounce, noo-trees.”
“My apologies, Doctor.” Sighed the chairman. “We will skip the formalities. All of us are aware of who you are.”
“As I say three years ago…”
“Doctor, we know, nobody listened to you then. We know you were all but tossed out of the building. However…”
Another voice, further down the long desk cut in. “Mr. Chairman, I’d…”
“We discussed this already, Dale! Asked and answered!”
“Screw you, Dale! You think we want this? This is where we wanted to be? We are out of ideas and Object 445c is three years closer to dropping in to say howdy!” The louder he talked, the gooier his accent became.
“Why are you even here, Dale? Got a better plan?!”
“Well, no, but…”
“Christ on a crutch, Dale…”
The chairman fumed at the other member for a full half-minute, the gallery murmuring quietly until finally, he banged his gavel.
“Doctor. For expediency, I will summarize. Please clarify if I overlook anything, or otherwise mischaracterize your… proposal.”
Shuffling a well-read sheaf of papers, the chairman looked dejectedly at the rest of the council, then exhaled slowly.
“In the years since Object 445c was detected entering our solar system, a great many resources have been devoted to the matter. The world’s finest minds have conceived of and carried out numerous attempts to spare us calamity, and they have all failed. The last few projects remain, but continued data collection on Object 445c has made it clear they are certainly going to fail as well. As such…”
Every head in the vaulted room snapped towards the nose-blowing sound.
“Dale, that’s it. Get the hell out! Bailiff! No, I mean it. You sonnovabitch, out!”
After several minutes and a surprising struggle; “As such, we have asked you back, Dr. Nutrice, to revisit your proposal on, ah…”
“Acquired Savant Syndrome.”
“Goddamn. You know what, I just can’t. Doctor, briefly, if you please.”
“Well, simply, we take volunteers, and we hit them on the head.”
The chairman, looking decades older, sighed. “Uh-huh. Continue.”
“See, in a small fraction of massive brain contusions, the patient recover, but now they have surprising talents. Some familiar, like math. Others, strange, like seeing music as physics. All of them bring fresh perspective to science! So, we use volunteers to try and make these savants, and we give humankind big leap forward in short time!”
Another council member leaned into their microphone. “Doctor, you propose we take a mallet to the heads of thousands…”
“Millions better. And not mallet, but si, hitting very hard.”
“Dear god. Millions. For the wholesale creation of minds capable of saving us from Object 445c?”
In the uproar, the chairman skipped his gavel, picked up his desk lamp and proceeded to smash it onto the desk. In the new quiet, he continued.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, Doctor, but your proposal will kill millions, cripple thousands…”
“For a few hundred beautiful minds in the hopes they can build us a fusion cannon or some shit.” The accent was dripping.
“Why would anyone volunteer, Doctor?”
“To be in history books? And their families, we take care of them.”
Someone on the council sobbed.
“Heaven help us, we are desperate, Doctor. But what if you’re wrong and we don’t stop Object 445c?”
Doctor Nutrice smiled, too big.
“Ah, the best reason to volunteer! If it no work, unlucky volunteers, they will instead be the lucky ones!”