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 13: A Rally and a Meeting
The Aliens Out rally in Grant Park was conveniently scheduled just a day after the meeting that Jason had attended with Nigel, McDermott, and Senator Clayburn. Carrying his disguises in a shoulder bag, Jason worked his way to the front so he could closely observe Maria Schoenbrun and the handsome young man.
The man never spoke at the rallies, but he always stood next to Maria before and after her rambling diatribes, and when Jason got near the stage, he could see them behind the huge American flag backdrop, standing very close together, talking into each other’s ears.
Onstage, facing the scattered crowd, the Reverend Josiah Bellamy ranted about the dangers of godless aliens, his voice echoing and booming through the huge speakers high on towers straddling the stage.
“They told us, they told us in no uncertain terms my friends, that they are not a hi-er-ARCH-ical society like we are, and so they do NOT believe in a suPREME being.” He paused, smirked, looked slowly from left to right, ran his palm across his lacquered hair, and took a deep breath.
“Hi-er-ARCH-ical! That’s what they called us. Another way of saying they’re better than we are, they don’t NEED a God, because they’re not hi-er-ARCH-ical. They revere their dead, they hold CEREMONIES, they want us to BELIEVE that they have some sense of the spiritual, but, my friends...”
He paused for maximum impact. “My DEAR friends, they are GODLESS! Only GOD can give us a moral code, only GOD can give us salvation. So, my friends, these furry aliens, these creatures from another world, they are NOT SAVED!”
He shouted the last two words at the top of his lungs. He’d worked himself into a frenzy, sweat dripping down his cheeks, eyes bulging, face red.
“These aliens, who never heard the word of God, never knew the salvation that comes through Christ, they come to us, they tell us they want to SHARE their wonderful technology. But, my friends, why would you trust them? How can we trust GODLESS creatures, creatures that MOCK us, creatures that not only are NOT SAVED but have no interest in salvation? What do they really want? How can we know? But if we let them build their massive NUCLEAR reactors, if we let them run free, then they can do ANYTHING!”
Again he paused. His face relaxed, the redness left his cheeks. Jason marveled at his physical control. It was a great performance, a tour de force of nuance, of communication with every part of the body.
“So, my friends, what can you and I do? We are so small, like grains of sand in the desert. Yet, we can vote, and we can pray. Tell your Congressman, tell your Senator, to vote for the ARA. They’ll know what you mean. The ARA, the Alien Repatriation Act. It’ll put a stop to this dangerous building of nuclear reactors, and these creatures from another world swarming all over our country. And now, my friends. We can pray. Let us pray together.”
The Reverend Bellamy led a mass prayer, and Jason pushed right up to the edge of the stage. He saw that Maria was putting a tiny earpiece in place. When the Reverend Bellamy had finished his prayer, he stepped behind the flag, gave her a smile and a thumbs-up, and continued to the stairs at the back of the platform.
Just before Maria stepped around the backdrop to take the microphone, she gave the young man a peck on the cheek.
My, she’s a scruffy one, thought Jason. Her baggy shorts and sweatshirt looked slept-in, more than once. Her hair was every bit as alarming as McDermott had described it: stringy and oily, mousy brown, cut as if it had been trimmed around a bowl. Jason pulled in a breath. Maybe he should focus on the mysterious young man. At least he looked clean. Wooing Maria would truly be an act of heroism.
She stood before the audience and gave her standard speech; he’d heard it a dozen times in the videos he’d studied. Only half-listening, he watched the young man closely. He was wearing a microphone headset and occasionally spoke into it. It seemed clear that Maria was on the other end, listening on the earpiece he’d seen her insert, and adjusting her words to the audience. Jason realized he was watching a puppeteer pulling the strings from behind the curtain.
When Maria had finished her speech, she rushed behind the backdrop, directly to the young man, and hugged him fiercely. He reacted with barely disguised disgust, hugging her while holding his head as far from her as possible.
All Sirians were masters at reading body language, and Jason was as sure as he’d ever been that there was no feeling of attraction or attachment toward Maria in the young man, but he was equally sure that she was infatuated with him.
He needed to follow this young man, find out who he was, why he was telling Maria what to say. He slipped into a port-a-potty and changed into a new disguise, that of an older man with silver hair and thick glasses. Everyone ignored such people; they could go just about anywhere and not arouse suspicion, but they were also capable of gaining the confidence of strangers quite easily.
Jason approached Maria and the young man, walking in a wandering, almost confused manner, staying a discrete distance behind them as they slowly ambled west, toward downtown. There were three young women with them, all talking in a very animated, involved way, oblivious to their surroundings.
He dared to move closer. On State Street they walked down a subway staircase, northbound. He followed, got into the same car. They rode all the way to Rogers Park, almost on the north edge of the city, exiting at Morse. He followed again until they approached a large, brick courtyard apartment building where Maria and the young man said goodbye to their companions. She talked to him for a minute in front of the door, and then she went inside. The young man crossed the street and got into a very new, black BMW Seven Series with West Virginia plates.
Gotcha! thought Jason. He memorized the plate number as he limped to the car, his hand over his heart, his mouth open, panting. He rapped on the window. The young man peered at him with suspicion but lowered the window just a bit.
“Sorry to bother you, sir,” Jason said in his best old-man voice. “But I was walking along and all of a sudden I’m feeling really faint and there’s a pain in my chest. Would it be too much trouble for you to take me to the nearest hospital?”
“Well, sure, of course, but I’m not sure where that is. You see I’m not from around here.”
“If I could just sit down, we can use your navigation system perhaps—”
“Sure, absolutely.” He unlocked the door, and Jason plopped into the passenger seat, panting and acting for all the world like he was near death. The young man looked alarmed, still slightly suspicious, but more worried about finding the hospital.
“Wow, I feel a little better already,” Jason said with a long sigh. “If we drive into Evanston, I know where the hospital is there.”
“OK, I just know the way to the Interstate, so you’ll have to guide me.”
“Sure, no problem. Are you staying in a hotel out by the airport or something?”
“Yeah, in the Hyatt there.”
“Turn right here, and just stay on Ridge. Takes you right to the hospital. What brings you to Chicago?”
“Well, uh, I’m here on business.”
“Up here in Rogers Park, well that’s unusual.”
“I was just visiting a, umm, a friend.”
“I see, sorry for being nosy. West Virginia, I noticed your license plate, a beautiful place. What kinds of businesses does that state have? All I can think of is coal mines and mountain men.”
The young man laughed. “Well, I guess I’m a mountain man who works in the coal industry, so you’re right on the button.”
Jason decided it was time for a little more drama. He winced and said, “Oh, my, that was a sharp pain. Maybe you could speed up a bit?”
“I’ll try, but it’s better to be safe and get you there for sure than get into an accident.”
“You’re sure a responsible person for being so young, you must come from a good family.”
The young man smiled, pride evident in his face. “Damn right, one of the most important families in the state.”
“Well, since you’re driving this car, I’m not surprised,” Jason said faintly, breathing heavily, hoping he wasn’t overacting. “I have to confess that I don’t know much about your state. What family would that be?”
“The Martins, I’m Miles Martin.” He grabbed Jason’s hand and shook it. Jason made sure to grasp Miles’ hand weakly.
“So glad to meet you Miles. I’m Joseph Wise. Just an old retired guy who should have eaten less ice cream and seems to be paying for it right now.”
At that moment something inserted into the passenger door map storage slot caught Jason’s eye. He silently focused his visual enhancements. It was a small circular with the dimensions of a trade paperback. Only about half the cover was visible, but on that half he could see a bare-chested young man wearing leather pants below the words Gay Chicago Mag.
Damn! He thought. I’m wearing the wrong disguise!
Miles said, “We’ll get you to that hospital real soon now. In fact, is this it on the left?”
“Yes, just pull into emergency here, Miles. No need to stay, I’ll be OK.”
“Are you sure, Mr. Wise? I could come in for a few minutes.”
“You’ve done more than enough already, Miles. I’m so very grateful. If you have a card or something, I’d love to send you a thank-you note, let you know how I’m doing.”
“That would be great!” He reached into his pocket and produced a card. Jason tried hard not to look at it, placing it in his pocket casually, though he almost shook with excitement. Miles got out of the car, took Jason’s arm and led him to a seat in the emergency room waiting area. They shook hands again, and Miles walked out.
As the intake nurse hurried up to Jason, he pushed her gently away, whispering in her ear, “Sorry, a bit of a misunderstanding. Please don’t waste your time on me. I’m perfectly fine.”
He stood by the window, watching until the BMW had disappeared in the traffic, then he walked briskly out of the hospital, toward the elevated train stop, heading back downtown to his car. He discreetly pulled the card out of his pocket. It read:
Miles Martin, Executive Vice President
Martin Coal Corporation
Wheeling, West Virginia
Martin Coal Corporation! He was halfway home! The FBI still needed to trace the money from the coal company to Aliens Out, but there was no doubt that this was at least one major source of funding.
He walked excitedly, with a spring in his step that brought surprised looks from passersby. He thought about the circular, about how he might be able to get a lot closer to Miles, and maybe cause a little domestic strife in Aliens Out at the same time.
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski