The Surgical Option
by Gustavo Bondoni
Gustavo Bondoni is novelist and short story writer with over three hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages. His latest novel is Lost Island Rampage (2021). He has also published three other monster books: Ice Station: Death (2019), Jungle Lab Terror (2020) and Test Site Horror (2020), three science fiction novels: Incursion (2017), Outside (2017) and Siege (2016) and an ebook novella entitled Branch. His short fiction is collected in Pale Reflection (2020), Off the Beaten Path (2019) Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011).
In 2019, Gustavo was awarded second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Contest and in 2018 he received a Judges Commendation (and second place) in The James White Award. He was also a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest.
The inscription on the door indicated, to anyone who might have been interested, that the chamber beyond it was Galactic Senate meeting room #12, and did so in the usual seven million major galactic languages. Sadly, its being a somewhat average-sized door meant that the seven million beautifully tooled inscriptions were too small to be read by any known sentient race save the Grinbeggs of Wornpool, which was ironic because Grinbegg was not among the inscribed languages because it had never been very major. Also, the Grinbeggs had blown themselves to glowing bits in an atomic war several billion years before.
Despite this tragically typical example of compromise politics, it was still possible to find the chamber. At some point, someone had simply carved twelve deep lines into the wood, allowing any sentient being, regardless of language, and even galactic politicians, to identify it correctly, thereby saving themselves the embarrassment of sitting in on the wrong meeting, or, even worse, attending the correct one and being tricked into doing work.
In any case, no one was likely to wander in to this particular meeting by mistake. In the solemn, hallowed hallways of the near-sacred Galactic Senate Building, revered through the ages as the center of all sentient civilization, the sound of bickering, whining and occasional minor violence could only mean one thing: the bimonthly meeting of the Permanent Committee for Complaints Against Humans was in full swing.
The Chairman, a one-eyed multi-tentacled Lo’Ohik resplendent as his twelve-inch jeweled yellow monocle that looked somewhat like the lens on a planetary defense laser, surveyed the room. He did so with an air of considerable despondency. The meeting had been an absolute disaster so far, and there was no end in sight.
Half the room had been roped off by a cleaning crew who were busy scraping the remains of the Twilliz senator off the roof. He had been delivering an impassioned diatribe on some heinous human behavior or other, had become too emotional and had exploded. Perfectly normal behavior for a Twilliz, of course, but it tended to put some of the other species off their lunches, not to mention make a large mess.
The rest of the room was not much better, marred as it was by the fact that it contained the surviving senators, and further marred by the fact that they were all talking at the same time.
“Order!” Shouted the Chairman. He had reached his exalted position within this group not through any talent or political acumen, but by the happy fact that he had twelve tentacles. Each was capable of holding a gavel, the combined noise from which was enough to bring even the loudest rabble to silence when banged simultaneously. Which is what he did now.
With much shuffling of torsos and rearrangement of pseudopodia, the senators from the other races turned to look at him. He gave them the eye (for which he was also particularly suited) and, satisfied that they were all silent for the moment, continued.
“According to the agenda, on this, the fourteenth day of the meeting, we will be taking a complaint from the Gluban ambassador.”
A pink ball of flesh dressed in a gunmetal battle-belt acknowledged the call. It was hovering about a foot above his chair on a column of air which was sucked in through two gills on the top if its torso, passed through a complicated bladder system inside the sphere and expelled at high speed from orifices in the lower half of the body.
He was quickly given the floor by the other senators, who, despite their own concerns, were more than happy to let the Gluban have his say and leave. Air which has been passed through a Gluban is never quite the same.
The ambassador jerked nervously from side to side on secondary air jets, making small spasmic motions similar to the death throes of Betelgeusian amphibo-poultry, a sign of supreme agitation.
“I have sad news to report,” it said. “Zend Plurez the Twelfth, leader of the Blue Star Trio, has died.”
Momentous as this news surely was to Gluban race and culture, it must be admitted that Gluban Trios (who make music by whistling notes of different pitches by varying the wind output from their bodies) were not something that had caught on in the Galactic Senate, partly because the members of that august body had an almost infinite number of recreational alternatives available to them, but mostly because Gluban Trios were not really very good.
A chorus of “Who?” ‘s and “What’s that?” ‘s and even a muted but distinct “Yes, that’s right. Double cheese with sulphur-eel topping, to chamber twelve” greeted this statement. The buzz was loud enough that the chairman was forced to raise his gavels threateninglybefore silence resumed.
The senator gravely pondered the Gluban’s news before responding.
“He’s dead!” said the Gluban
“I still fail to see the relevance of it, although I extend my condolences to your race.”
“He didn’t just die, he was killed.”
And then, after pausing for effect, he added the punch-line.
Pandemonium ensued. Senator’s yelled at each other that here was the opportunity they’d been waiting for all these years. The murder of a galactic celebrity, no matter how minor, was surely a crime that nobody would pass off as “just an accident”. If they could pin this murder on the human race, maybe they could finally stamp out this menace!
The Chairman, having been through scenes like this a dozen times in the last year, was a bit more circumspect. He wouldn’t get his hopes up. Lifting his gavels, he put all his tentacles to use in restoring order.
“Could you give us the details of the death of Mr. Ploopy?” he asked the Gluban.
“His name was Plurez, he was the greatest high-octave whistler in the galaxy,” said the ambassador petulantly.
The Chairman just looked at him, seemingly on the verge of bashing the table again, absently lifting one gavel and returning it silently to rest, only to inadvertently lift another. It was a look that said that he was seriously contemplating a career change, and that plastics and multiple homicide, not necessarily in that order, were his current top choices.
Despite the wide differences in species and facial expressions, the Gluban got the message. He continued hastily.
“He died in a starship accident, taking evasive action to avoid humans.”
“Ah, so he was under attack?” said the Chairman, a tiny glimmer of hope just starting to emerge. Could this prove useful after all?
“Er… No. Not exactly. You see, he was embarked with an entire Krenoid sex-set when the humans came up on him.”
The Gluban deflated and bounced off the chair beneath it.
“Paparazzi.” It said.
The chairman threw a gavel at him. Of all the stupid wastes of time…
“Why didn’t he just shoot them?” said the chairman in exasperation.
Galactic law, after careful consideration and analysis, had judged that the only way to maintain a civilized galaxy and decent relations between members of diverse professions and social classes was to make it mandatory for citizens to shoot paparazzi on sight. Initially, the law had made it acceptable to fire warning shots, but, in the end, common sense and compassion had won out, and head-shots were required.
“We tried that,” said the Gluban, “but the humans always send us these snippily worded letters of complaint afterwards. We’ve explained the law to them thousands of times, but they just don’t seem to get it.”
Agreement was signaled around the table with nodding heads and waving pseudopods, but the Chairman just sighed heavily.
“There’s nothing we can do about this. Sorry. Dismissed.” He said. Disappointment rippled through the chamber.
The senator from the Sillybeest confederation stood up. Roughly humanoid, he was covered in blue fur and was about average height for a sentient.
“What kind of name is Sillybeest? I’ve never heard of the race.” Said a tiny voice from somewhere near the middle of the table. All present immediately recognized it as the Aznid ambassador, although not all were able to see her, owing to the fact that she was about half as tall as the coffee mugs, and also hidden behing the agenda sheet. She put the sheet down and was revealed as an exoskeletoned biped in black aluminum armor seated somewhat precariously on the placeholder for the Zilg ambassador (a triangular paper sign that stated that the Zilg race regretted its absence, and, while morally supportive of the crusade, would not be physically attending the meetings because they found all other races unbelievably boring).
“Good question,” said the Chairman. “What’s a Sillybeest? You look like a Cleengon to me.”
The Sillybeest seemed embarrassed.
“Well, that’s what we used to call ourselves.” He said. “Unfortunately, the humans hit us with some kind of copyright infringement, claiming that our species name was taken from a copyrighted entertainment show. We scoffed and ignored it, of course, but they sicced their lawyers on us. So we produced documentation proving that we had been called Cleengons long before their earliest smelly simian ancestors climbed down from the trees.”
“So what happened?”
“They took one look at the mountain of evidence and dismissed it, arguing that not only was it in a foreign language, it also hadn’t been duly notarized. Then they sued us for damages.”
There was a pregnant pause. Nobody wanted to ask what happened next. It would likely be the same sad story, repeated over and over since humans had been discovered a mere thirty fiscal periods previously, and invited to join galactic society.
Finally, the Chairman prompted him.
“Can you believe the Galactic First Circuit Court upheld their claim? And the most ridiculous part of it is that they made us pay for damages all the way back to a time ten thousand years before humans as we know them even existed, using our own evidence to prove it!” The Sillybeest seemed close to tears. “We’re appealing, of course, but that could take centuries!”
“Tragic. But why Sillybeest?”
“Everything else was taken. The humans presented us with a list of acceptable names,” here the senator paused to shudder, “and this was the least embarrassing.”
“It really doesn’t seem like we can do anything, except to wish you luck with the appeal. You know we can’t go against the courts. I’m sorry.”
“We weren’t expecting a resolution,” the ambassador said, eyeing the assembled beings with lightly concealed contempt. “We came to make an offer. The Sillybeest… No. The Cleengon Space Navy is prepared to blow humanity out of the galaxy. No more problems, no more sessions. Just poof! and they’re gone.”
“No can do. And I’d have to report you.” Said the Chairman regretfully.
“Please! They only control four systems! We can have them gone by the end of next week. Nobody would miss them.”
“They are a sentient race and part of the Galactic Brotherhood, no matter how annoying.”
“But all they contribute to the brotherhood are cheap sleazy lawyers!”
A sudden loud noise from an unexpected quarter made everybody jump. The Rurrugr senator, silent to this point, stood to his full height, horns nearly scraping the roof, and began to pound on the table, screaming at the assembly.
“No!” he roared, “that’s not all they export! Oops, sorry about that.”
This last, far from being part of his rant, stemmed from the fact that, while pounding the table, he had inadvertently impacted the Aznid senator, instantly transforming her into a puddle of green goo and a very dented suit of black aluminum armor.
The assembly was forced to wait patiently while the cleaning crew took a timeout from scraping the roof in order to respectfully push the inanimate remains of the Aznid off the table and into a wastepaper basket with a paper towel.
While the killing of the senator for one race by that of another would normally have resulted in a bloody, centuries-long war, it was not the case in this instance. The Aznids, due to their small size, had seen accidents of this type (and the assorted bloody warfare that invariably followed) so many times that they had eventually grown monumentally fed up with the whole thing and had decided to make the best of a bad situation. Aznid ambassadors were now habitually shipped off in six-packs, and all came with a complementary roll of super-absorbent kitchen towels.
A slightly subdued Rurrugr senator continued.
“They don’t only export lawyers,” he said, “they also seem to have an inexhaustible supply of suicidal crackpots. And, since their systems are nearest to us than any other race, we seem to be bearing the brunt!”
All present settled in for yet another tale of woe. They knew the drill, having been in countless meetings just like this one.
“The first group of human missionaries to land on our planet were the vegetarians. They claimed that enlightenment could only be achieved through the complete renouncement of animal meat. They talked about how animals have feelings too, explained that even livestock has rights. Oh, and they also spoke passionately about cholesterol.”
“Ah, yes,” said the Chairman, “our first contact with humanity was similar. They told us not to eat animals. Sadly, a translator mix-up made us think that they were offering themselves in place of the animals, so we had one of history’s great barbecues. We thought everyone was happy. Until we got the complaint letter, of course.”
He shrugged, an impressive gesture on someone with so many tentacles.
“But,” continued the Rurrugr “can you even imagine the stupidity of trying it on us? I mean, we’ve been eating meat since the dawn of time, and our bodies are adopted to hunting, skinning and cutting flesh. Not only that, but the hunt has always traditionally been a rite of passage and a determinant factor in assigning social status.”
He paused for a long time, shaking his horned head.
“I still don’t understand how they managed to succeed,” he said finally, “but they did. We soon discovered that our bodies couldn’t digest vegetation, and half our species was dead inside a fortnight. By the time we came to our senses and were gearing up to wipe them out with what remained of our star fleet, all that remained of the Rurrugr was a weakened core, which turned out not to be strong enough to resist the preaching of the second group of missionaries.”
Everyone sat (or reclined or hovered) in absolute silence, hanging on every word as the senator continued.
“As we speak,” he said, “there are only fourteen Rurrugr left alive anywhere in the galaxy. Insufficient for our procreation ceremonies. We are doomed to extinction.”
A very solemn silence followed this proclamation. In a galaxy this size, of course, races are becoming extinct all the time, but it is still considered bad form in polite society to inquire about the size, mineral resources and location of soon-to-be-vacant planets in situations such as this one.
“There being no hope for our race, I have come to make one plea in their memory. I move for this committee to declare humans vermin and wipe them from existence.”
“You would need an unanimous decision for this,” said the Chairman, “it’s not to be undertaken lightly.”
“Even so, I call for a vote.”
There were twenty senators with voting privileges on this particular subcommittee. A short time elapsed while those not physically present were roped in and put up to speed on the situation, and each went into his sealed voting booth, for the secret proceedings.
The Chairman fumed while he waited. He was not allowed to vote, except as a tie-breaker.
In each booth were two buttons on a console, which relayed the vote to the central computer. This, in turn, displayed the results on a large scoreboard on the wall: green numbers for favorable votes, red indicating disagreement.
The number nineteen lit up in green almost immediately. All conversation stopped in the chamber as the tension mounted. Just one more vote was needed! But then, after a pause, a single red light blinked on. Motion failed.
The voting senators looked around accusingly as they emerged from the booths and saw the results, trying to identify the culprit. It became very quickly apparent that the Weevil senator was attempting to blend into the crowd with exaggerated innocence, while, at the same time, edging towards the nearest exit. Rapidly collared, he was herded towards the spot where the chairman was presiding over a small group of sentients.
“What in the name of the Galactic Brotherhood were you thinking?” thundered the former Cleengon. “We had our one chance of finally removing this cancer from our galaxy and you ruined it!”
“I’m sorry,” said the Weevil, body language exuding contrite sincerity, “I had no choice.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Our race can’t afford to do away with the humans just yet. We’re all hooked on something called Coca-Cola, and only they have the formula. Not even all of them. A small group of them. A priesthood or something within what they call a “company”. But we’re not too worried about it. We’ve got our best people studying their plant life and working to reproduce the formula. We should be OK in a couple of years, and then you can go right ahead and wipe them out.”
Despite the anger, heads nodes and pseudopodia waved in agreement and commiseration. All of these races had had some sort of similar encounter with these thrice-damned humans. All could sympathize.
The Chairman, for his part, breathed a small sigh of relief. He was not completely averse to waiting a couple of years, despite these bimonthly meetings making his working life a living hell. His particular concern was that humanity seemed to be the only race capable of keeping the new office software up and running. This was somewhat understandable, since it was a human system, but how could it possibly be that nobody else in the galaxy could decipher the logic (or illogic, as a programmer friend had put it) of the latest version? He was confident that the bugs would, as promised, be fixed in the new Hyperspace Windows 2634 due out in a couple of years. And then humanity could be wiped out with minimum fuss.
He only hoped that it wouldn’t be too late.