by Bill Kowaleski
Creative Destruction is a sequel to the novel Brighter Than the Stars, in which Earthlings meet technologically advanced space aliens. The Cygnians come only to do business, but their schemes to sell fusion-powered generators become contentious and competitive.
Many human and alien characters return from the previous novel, including Jim McDermott and his team, who try to reduce the risk of societal upheaval that the new technologies threaten. Meanwhile, many different groups are either plotting to steal the technical advances for their own purposes or trying to destroy it and drive the Cygnians off of Earth.
Each heart is a paper kite
Blown about by the breeze.
— Keane, The Starting Line
The Muezzin had just made the call to prayer when the guests entered the conference room, sixty stories above the gleaming city built by oil. There were five waiting around the large, lacquered table, all bearded, clearly related, each wearing a thobe and shumagg, the traditional dress of winter. The older guest, a trim, gray-haired man, felt fuzzy, disoriented, and worn to his limit by the long trip, the heat, the stress of dealing with his losses. He sat and finally looked into the eyes of the Director.
“Mr. Martin, welcome,” the Director, Abdullah Naïr, said soothingly, sensitive to his guest’s fatigue. “I thank you for making the trip, long and arduous as it is, but it was essential that we meet in person, in a secure place.”
“Thank you, Mr. Naïr, and I understand perfectly the need for the trip. I’m just off the plane so I’m a bit rumpled, but I did want to get here on time. This is my son Miles.”
They nodded to Miles, a trim, six-foot 23-year-old with long, wavy, brown hair and classically handsome, symmetric features, who stood at the floor-to-ceiling windows, gaping at the fairy-tale city surrounding them.
“You have never been here before, have you, Miles?”
“No, Mr. Naïr, I have not. It’s an incredible sight; beautiful in a very different way from the beauty of West Virginia.”
“But I have heard that West Virginia is the most beautiful place on Earth,” said the Director’s brother, Saeed, playfully. “Almost heaven?”
“My gosh, did that song get all the way over here?”
“Oh yes, your culture is impossible to avoid.” The Director did not make it clear whether he thought well or ill of that fact.
“Yes, I’ve noticed that already in just my very short stay here. I expected things to be more, ah, what’s the word, different, than what I’ve seen.”
“The world moves toward one culture at least in our class of people, Miles.” The Director smiled, then waived his hand toward a seat. “But please, be comfortable. We should begin.”
Saeed outlined the issues. “We, of course, have a common problem. This fusion power generation is going to put us out of business. Coal is perhaps in worse shape than oil, since it is used mostly in power plants. The genie is out of the bottle, it cannot be stopped forever, but we need time to unwind our holdings, reposition ourselves, adjust our economies to new sources of revenue, dump our assets on some chumps that don’t know any better... Things like that. It will take perhaps a whole generation to really get it done.
“So we had an idea, a way of slowing this thing down. We hired a man already working at the Upper Zion plant, someone we knew and trusted. We wanted him to sabotage the plant, make it look like the reactor exploded due to an accident. It would discredit the technology, probably for quite some time.”
The elder Martin’s eyes got big. He leaned forward in his chair, ran his fingers through his gray-streaked, full, meticulously cut hair, but said nothing.
“Well, things didn’t work out too well. This man suddenly became unreachable, and through one of his children we learned that plant security had sent the family a short message saying he was going into a deep, top-secret part of the program and could not be contacted for at least five years.”
“Why on earth would you try to sabotage that plant?” asked Martin.
“My brother just told you,” Abdullah Naïr explained. “We want to discredit the technology.”
“Did you read Landis’s papers? If you read between the lines, if you did some cross-research, you’d have known that the technology just doesn’t lend itself to explosive failure. It’s not a hydrogen bomb they’re making; it’s a controlled reaction that dies out if anything goes wrong.”
“Yes, our man told us that, but there were a lot of secrets, a lot of missing parts, as you know. Landis’s papers mention classified information for example. We thought maybe the dangerous stuff was in there.”
Martin looked away, sighed, and shifted in his seat. “I don’t know. If sabotage is what you guys want to do, I’m not your man.”
“At this point we have no one in the plant we can work with anyway. We’d hoped maybe you had some contacts. You’d indicated you did.”
“Not those kinds of contacts. I was thinking about a completely different approach, and one that has a much better chance of succeeding. That’s why I brought my son; he’s part of the plan. In fact, I think that if we play this right, our chances are better than even.”
Now it was Director Naïr who leaned forward in his chair. “Please, tell us more.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski