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.
|Cast of Characters and Species||Table of Contents|
Chapter 7: Isolation
“He thought about a room in a very tall building. There were men wearing robes and something I’ve never seen over their heads. He was frozen with fear, he was confused, wondering how you discovered that he was in the employ of a hostile entity.”
Guard-Robert was sitting just on the other side of the wall, less than three feet from Welton while Dr. Landis questioned him, a wall specially constructed to allow for easy passage of brain waves. Guard-Robert continued, “I sensed also that he planned to go back to this place with the tall building and never return, if he could escape from here.”
The human guard had taken Welton to a holding cell while McDermott and Dr. Landis had passed into the small room where Guard-Robert had used his telepathic powers to listen to Welton’s thoughts.
Guard-Robert continued, “After you told him that we had effective ways to determine whether he was telling the truth, that is what he did. Everything he said about the oil executives, about the plans to cause an accident, all that was true.”
“We all know that he could never have succeeded,” Landis said. “Even if he fully understood the mechanism, he couldn’t make it explode. I’d like to put him here with the reactor team so he could learn and, later, perhaps, lead some of the future placements. He’s a tremendous talent and has a history of leading large successful projects. All I really think he needs is to feel he’s back in the forefront of the technology, then we’d have him on our side.”
“My sense was that he was self-centered, not working toward some goal or quota,” offered Guard-Robert. “Perhaps giving him this goal of once again being a top expert in his field, as Dr. Landis suggests, would motivate him to cooperate.”
“I don’t like reformed security risks,” McDermott interjected. “And he’s not that young. Would it really be worthwhile to train him at this point?”
Landis answered: “He’s fifty-two, he could easily work for twenty more years, maybe more; so, yes, I think it would be worthwhile. As to your issue about being a security risk, remember Mr. McDermott, that the secure side of the firewall is continuously monitored by Cygnian brain-wave sensors that can detect any thoughts about planning sabotage or even something as minor as deliberate project delays. He really cannot hurt us here; in fact, he’s effectively under twenty-four by seven surveillance inside the firewall. On the Cygnian prison planet, he’s equally harmless, but also useless.”
McDermott sat still, staring at his favorite spot on the wall, finally saying, “Your arguments are convincing. Let’s bring him on board. But first, let’s ask him a few more questions so that Guard-Robert can get a better feel for his mental state, just to be sure. Are you OK with that, Guard-Robert?”
“That’s why I’m here, sir. It is most fulfilling for me to do this work.”
McDermott pulled out his cell phone. “Bring him back in.”
Guard-Robert returned to his listening post, then Welton shuffled into the room and sat, still and stoic.
McDermott began, “Tell us why you chose to work for these oil people.”
“I’ve known them for years. We’ve worked together many times, and we like each other. They told me how the fusion reactors were destroying their business, wrecking the wonderful world they had built for themselves. They offered me one hundred million dollars if I could sabotage the plant so that it looked like an accident. They felt it would put an end to fusion power for long enough that they could cash out. They know oil is through; they just wanted to buy some time.”
“So you did it for the money?”
“Mostly, I’m not a poor man, but with a hundred million, I’d be able to live an entirely different lifestyle. I got pretty excited about it. But there was another reason: I really felt bad for them. Their world is coming to an end.”
“What about the people that your sabotage would kill? I’d think their worlds would come to an even more final end,” Dr. Landis pointed out.
“Yeah, you know, I did think about that, I did. But I don’t know those people, except maybe for Mr. McDermott here.”
McDermott moved closer to Welton, until his face was only six inches away. “Tell me why you wouldn’t still try to sabotage this plant if we let you get behind the firewall.”
Welton held his ground, returning McDermott’s gaze without blinking. “Sir, while I sat in that holding cell, I thought about just how stupid I’d been. I was trying to stop a freight train. I was siding with the past. Why would I do that? Oil is over, coal is over. If I work with you, I work for the future. And another thing: I never really wanted to hurt anyone. It was like a game, like some spy movie. I just got caught up in it.”
Gerry touched his communicator chip and Guard-Robert transmitted, “This is all completely truthful.” He posed the question, worded precisely as agreed, that he and McDermott had established would telegraph that Guard-Robert had sensed only truth. “What about your family, Paul?”
“Yeah, well, what about them? My kids are grown, my wife, well, as you know, we’re separated. But I’d sure like to get some kinda message out to them.”
“We’ll send them something,” McDermott interjected. “But the deal is still that there be no communication until these plants are all in place.”
“Since I’m not gonna be a free man, whatever you decide, could you satisfy an old man’s curiosity and tell me just what you meant about exile in a place ‘unimaginably far away’?”
Landis smiled. “Fifteen parsecs from here, give or take.” He stood and motioned to the guard. “Mr Welton, you’ll go back to the holding cell now, and we’ll give you our decision before the end of the day.”
“No need for that, Dr. Landis,” said McDermott. He turned to Welton and extended his right hand. “Welcome to the high-security team, Paul.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski