The Radical's Proposal
by David Kavanaugh
“Turn it off, you fools! Stop the transmission. You’ll scare them to
death!” called out Choel.
Dius shrugged. “It won’t matter. The instruments are pointing ten
billion miles off target by now.”
“If you say so.”
The students dragging the heavy device across the grass rolled their
eyes at the two bickering old men. They finally positioned the machine
before Dius and stood, cracking their backs and sighing. The probe had
left a dirty groove in the lawn, running backwards in a jagged line all
the way to the edge of the platform, where the groove dropped away,
along with everything else, into the wide-open starscape.
Illy had been sitting in a patch of clover nearby, pulling up handfuls
of the little leaves and tossing them over the edge, where they sizzled
into green smoke upon striking the invisible shield. She turned her
attention away from the scorched leaves and starry expanse, however,
when she noticed the group of adults gathered around the machine. She
rose, wiping futilely at the grass stains on her knees, and scurried
over to her grandfather’s side.
“What is that, grandpa? It looks dirty,” she asked Dius, taking his
Dius smiled widely. “It’s a kind of primitive space probe. It takes
pictures and readings of planets and sends them back to its origin.”
She leaned in to examine to the probe, her brow furrowed in that
intense concentration only children can really master. Her gaze
gravitated towards a set of fading symbols towards the bottom.
“What language is that? It’s weird?”
“What does it say?”
“What does that mean?”
“That’s its name.”
“Oh,” she gave the probe a hard look. “Hello, Voyager!”
The adults laughed lightly at her ignorance before returning to their
whispered arguments about what the Council would do next. All but her
grandfather, that is, who stared down at the thing with light in his
eyes, wringing his hands and rocking slightly back and forth on his
“Why doesn’t Voyager answer me?” Illy asked him.
“It doesn’t understand you, sweetheart. Think of it as a sort of rock
that has learned to say a few words but doesn’t understand what they
“That’s stupid. Why would somebody make that?”
“Well, to us it’s stupid. But we didn’t make it. The humans of Earth
did.” He leaned over and brushed a bit of hair from her forehead. “Have
they taught you about Earth yet?”
She shrugged. “Is that the prison planet or something?”
His smile faded. “That’s not a very fair way of looking at it, if you
ask me. Earth is… well…” He sighed. “I suppose I should begin at the
“Duh. Everybody knows that that’s where you start a story.”
Dius laughed. “I wish my peers were as logical as you, Illy, it would
make committee meetings far more bearable.”
Clearing his throat, he took her by the shoulder and lead her through
the throng and over to a little grassy knoll. He turned and pointed out
into the abyss of softly glowing stars.
“You see that bright point of light? Right there. That’s a star called
the sun, and I first visited it some four and a half billion years ago.”
“That’s a long time ago.”
“Yes it is. At the time, its system was just coming into its own, but
one of its little rocky planets caught my eye. I convinced the Council
to let us start the process of preparing it for life. We brought water,
built a moon and began seeding it with the organic materials. It was
going very well.”
“There’s going to be a but, isn’t there?” interrupted Illy.
He nodded. “There’s always a but. So, it was going very well, but
events transpired that would change the project dramatically.
Sapienkind was going through a sort of… growth spurt, you see. And with
it came many growth pains. We were transcending our animal roots and
waking to our true potential. And one by one, we passed all the tests
the universe had hurled our way. Our technologies let us change the
very substance of reality. We could now make splashes in the fabric in
the cosmos and ride the waves from one side of the galaxy to the other.
And, what’s more to the point, we could perfect our bodies so that no
one need ever die. That was both exciting and unsettling news.”
“It brought it a new set of challenges, and the one on people’s minds
was what to do with all the… all the…”
Illy groaned. “All the what, grandpa?”
Dius scratched his chin. “There have always been those men and women,
Illy, who are just different than others. Some of them are harmless,
but others? Well, suddenly we not only had the great minds of humanity
preserved for all time, but all of the demented ones as well. Violent,
rebellious, malevolent people without limits. It was a flaw in our plan
for the future: a unified, galaxy-wide society.”
“So what happened to them? The bad people?”
“The Council rounded them up. What else could they do? And a debate
raged on for centuries as to what their fate would be. In the end, most
saw no choice but to eliminate them, so that we might start the next
phase of our existence with a clean slate.” He stopped at the
questioning look Illy gave him and clarified. “Kill them. They were
going to kill them, sweetheart.”
To his surprise, Lilly’s eyes sparkled and grinned.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“I think another but is coming.”
“Ah,” he said. “And you’d be right. They were going to be eliminated,
but then a young man stepped forward with an alternative plan.”
“Yep. I tossed out a new proposal, and when it was accepted, I was put
in charge of the project.”
“You sent them to Earth, didn’t you?”
“Something like that. We took their essence, which would later on Earth
be called their souls, and planted them on my blue planet. And when,
after billions of years of evolution, a terrestrial creature was ready,
the souls claimed their new homes.”
“What do they look like?”
“A bit like you and me. Similar genetic components after all. They have
two eyes, though.”
“Only two eyes!” she gasped. “That’s silly. So what happened to them?”
“At first, very little. For a few hundred thousand years they existed
in small numbers and simply lived their lives as intelligent animals,
hunting and migrating and copulating and—”
“That means sex.”
Dius flashed a toothy grin. “Ahem. Right again. But then something
happened. It was like they woke up from a deep sleep, and suddenly
their societies blossomed like flowers in spring. And so fast! No one
could believe it. Recently the advancement has proved to be nearly
exponential! What took us millions of years of scientific inquiry and
experimentation, they’ve accomplished in mere centuries. And the art?
The poetry? The music! It’s been a renaissance of accomplishment
unrivaled in our history. And it proved my point! That the outsiders—
the broken souls— were the ones with the most to offer. They were the
ones needing a fresh start.”
“So this is a happy story!” she announced, giggling with pleasure.
Dius shrugged. “Yes and no. Their history was not all haiku and
symphonies and quantum mechanics. They are the best and worst of our
species. Sometimes at the same time! The men and women of Earth have
proved their imperfect nature time and time again, with acts so heinous
they’d keep you up at night, and your mother would scold me terribly if
she knew I had told you about them.”
“She scolds you anyway, grandpa.”
“That she does.”
He glanced at the probe. The others had slowly moved away and were now
gathered about Choel, arguing viciously as they debated who would be
the first to contact the Council with the news of the probe’s arrival.
Dius took Illy’s hand and lead her back down the slope.
“This!” he announced, stabbing a finger in the direction of the
Voyager. “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, Illy, the moment
that cannot be ignored. You are watching history unfold today, my dear.
The sun’s heliosphere is terrestrial man’s egg, and this, their
eggtooth. And a few minutes ago when this thing broke free from the
solar system and we caught it drifting by, those men and women— my
little folk!— hatched. Of course, there is still the great expanse of
interstellar space to be conquered, and that will prove to be a far
greater struggle, but this will be enough to capture the Council’s
attention. The people will demand action from them.”
Illy reached out and rubbed a finger along the rim of part of the
probe. It came away with a bit of colored dust.
“What will happen to the Earth people?”
Dius exhaled slowly and his shoulders slumped. “Damned if I know. There
will be those that say we must finally do the inevitable and extinguish
them forever, but I think eventually they’ll come around. We’ve changed
as a species. We’ve opened our minds. In a few centuries or so the
Council will finally recommend contact. They’ll give them another
chance. Then begins the journey of reintegrating them into our ranks,
of sewing back on that long-ago amputated limb.”
“That’s dumb. Why not just talk to them now?”
Dius squeezed her hand. “That is what I would recommend.”
“Isn’t it your project?”
“Yes, but my opinion doesn’t carry enough weight. They don’t trust me
entirely, you see.” He blushed, but more with pride than anything else.
“You know those trouble makers they rounded up? I was one of them.”
“But you’re not evil.”
“No, but I’ve always been a bit of a malcontent in most people’s eyes,
and my views were generally interpreted as radical. That was enough to
scare people. It took me years of delicate politics to convince them to
let me run the project and not be carted off with the others. I fear it
will take at least as long to help influence these next steps.”
She groaned. “Ug! I don’t want to wait.”
“I’ve never been very patient either, Illy.” He leaned and whispered in
her ear. “Don’t tell anybody this, but every now and then, I like to
drop by Earth for a little visit. Sample some mead or coffee. Converse
with the strangest of the strange. Whisper in their ears and in their
dreams. I’ve had mixed results with those meetings, and frankly most of
the portraits and statues they erect of me in their temples fail to do
your handsome grandpa justice.”
He winked, and she giggled.
Listening to her laugh, Dius felt his chest grow warm.
“You know what, sweetheart? Forget the stupid Council!”
He looked around to make sure the others were still engrossed in their
dialog, then began fidgeting with the machine, pointing it this and way
and that. Finally, he pulled a little device from his pocket it and
hooked it onto one of the Voyager’s panels.
“What’s that thingy?” asked Illy.
“It will translate audio into waves the probe can read. Tell me, Illy,
can you say, ‘Good morning, friends’?”
She snickered at the silly sound of the alien words, but managed to
“Good.” He took a deep breath. His teeth were chattering. “You ready?”
Dius flipped the switch, then turned and nodded for his granddaughter
The radio waves flowed.
It would take sixteen minutes for the message to reach Earth. Sixteen
minutes. Then everything would change.
© 2017 David Kavanaugh
Bio: Dave Kavanaugh recently traded in his sunny New Mexican home
for a cozy, 17th-century flat in the rainy heart of the Netherlands,
where he lives with his wife, three young daughters, and four
middle-aged cats. His science fiction has appeared in Allegory and
Voluted Tales, and his fantasy serial “Age of Omicron” can be read on
the Ficitonite App.
E-mail: David Kavanaugh
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