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 15: In Gaborone
Africa exerts a mythological draw to certain African Americans. It is the motherland, the place where their ancestors surely walked, even if they were abducted to be slaves with the collusion of local black Africans, even if most present-day African-Americans have little idea where on that vast continent their ancestors had lived.
Keyshawn felt strongly about his connection with Africa, and even though they were going to the far south, an area very unlikely to be related to his ancestry, he still had eagerly anticipated the chance to see the continent of his roots. As he and Gerry relaxed in the lounge of their hotel, part of a Casino complex outside of Gaborone, Botswana, they tried to explain their affinity for Africa to Elka.
“So, like, Elk, imagine you’d never been to Sweden, lived all your life in America. Wouldn’t you want to see the land of your ancestors?”
“I would be an American, then, not a Swede. Why would I care about Sweden?”
“Because,” Gerry said, “it would be in Sweden where you would find the people who were the most like you, the closest relatives, the ones who not only resemble you, but perhaps even think like you do. It’s a feeling of belonging. That’s how it works for me, anyway.”
“Well, they do look like you here, I cannot argue that point. She smiled and stroked Keyshawn’s face. “But you are still the best-looking one.”
Keyshawn smiled self-consciously and gave her a peck on the lips, evoking stares from several patrons.
“Hey, Keyshawn,” Gerry whispered. “remember what I told you—”
“Oh, yeah, not always the most enlightened of societies. Right.”
After an awkward moment of silence, Gerry said, “I wonder if we should engage a guide before going up to that mine? I’m not sure we’re going to learn much here in Gaborone, so we may want to head up there pretty quickly.”
“Yeah,” Keyshawn agreed. “There’s nothing to do here except hang in this lounge. I’m, like, so not into gambling, and neither is Elk.”
“No, neither am I,” agreed Gerry. “Well, it’s a little cooler now, maybe we could take a walk around the grounds.”
That sounded like something to pass a little time, so they walked out the door into a warm, dry night. This was not a tropical part of Africa; the climate was drier and there could be cooler, even chilly nights in the austral winter. They walked slowly along crushed gravel paths around several buildings.
They approached a large wooden shed with a door labeled High Voltage - Keep Out! Gerry noticed that the structure appeared to be very new, the unpainted, treated wood not yet weathered, and that there was an unnaturally bright glow coming from the tiny crack at the bottom of the door. He looked at Keyshawn, who had also noticed it.
“Dr. Landis, could it be?”
“We’ve got to find a way to get into that shed. You know, money works wonders here...”
They rushed back inside. Gerry approached the front desk and asked the clerk, “I was wondering if I could talk to someone on the grounds crew. There is a building I would like to enter, to see whether one of my company’s products is in there.”
She reached for the telephone, and within two minutes, a wiry, short, deeply black young man wearing a baggy brown uniform with the casino’s crest emblazoned on the breast pocket came through the main entrance, tool belt jangling.
“Hello, I am Kitso Kgathi. What is it that you wish?”
Gerry turned on all the charm he could muster. “Mr. Kgathi, a pleasure to meet you. I am Dr. Gerald Landis of the United States, and these are my assistants, Mr. Washington and Ms. Somerfeld. I am here because I represent a company that produces electrical generators, remarkable generators that work on an entirely new principle. I noticed something that leads me to believe that one of our generators is installed in a building near here. Would it be possible to just see it? We won’t touch it or do anything, just take a quick look.”
Mr. Kgathi looked closely at all three of them, putting his hand to his chin, looking like a man in deep thought.
“It is most interesting to see Americans of African origin here. Normally I would not agree to such a request, but you are special people. Still, I am not sure. We have been told to always keep that building locked. It is strictly off-limits to guests.” He looked Gerry in the eye expectantly.
“I understand, Mr. Kgathi, that you take a small risk by opening the building to us. Here is something to mitigate that risk.”
He reached into his pocket, grabbing a wad of bills without looking, and handed the maintenance man the equivalent of more than a week’s wages. Mr. Kgathi’s eyes grew very big as he counted the notes. He excitedly turned to the door, waving for them to follow.
“He seemed to find your tip pretty awesome. How much did you give him?” Keyshawn whispered in Gerry’s ear.
“I have no idea, just grabbed some notes. They’re nothing but pieces of paper to me; we can always get more.”
They had to trot to catch up to Mr. Kgathi and reached him only as he was turning the key in the lock of the door with the high-voltage sign. When it opened, a tremendously bright light spilled out, illuminating buildings quite some distance away.
“Hurry, we must get this door closed before someone sees.”
They scurried inside of the simple shed, Mr. Kgathi shutting the door behind them. A gray cube twelve feet on all sides almost filled the space, surrounded by a metal railing firmly anchored into the ground. On three sides, the cube was opaque, but the entire side facing opposite the door was glasslike, revealing the unbearably bright blaze of the fusion reaction inside.
Gerry and Keyshawn had been on Cygnus Prime long enough to know that they were squinting at a Class Two generator manufactured by Galactic Fusion Generator Corporation. This was a larger model than the one that had been in Keyshawn’s father’s basement, sufficient to power the entire complex, occupying nearly all of the space inside the shed, leaving only a small walkway all around. Above, cables led through the roof to the power lines they’d seen outside.
Mr. Kgathi smiled, revealing brilliantly white teeth that shone like stars in the blazing light of the reactor. “Please, don’t touch it! Stay outside the railing that surrounds it. Isn’t it beautiful? It powers the entire complex, and all we do is put a little water into it. Such an amazing thing! Dr. Landis, you should be proud of your company’s achievement.”
“Uh, thank you, yes, they really are quite an advance, aren’t they?” Gerry said. “Could I ask when this was installed?”
“Oh, very recently. I think maybe less than two weeks ago. Your local agent here in Gaborone had it delivered in a most mysterious way. It seemed to just suddenly be there. We never saw a truck or any delivery people. It was most strange.”
“Local agent,” repeated Gerry. “Yes, I need to see him, you know, but it’s very embarrassing, I seem to have misplaced his name and address. I can get it tomorrow, but if you could at least tell me his name, Mr. Kgathi, it would really help me.”
“Certainly. He is right nearby in Gaborone and his name is Stephen Mudenda.”
“Oh, right, of course, Stephen. He has a brother at that mine up north, doesn’t he?”
“Exactly. He will be very happy to see you, I’m sure.”
Gerry seriously doubted that, but nodded anyway.
They quickly returned to the lobby, Mr. Kgathi trailing and thanking them profusely for their generosity several times. As they were about to part company. Gerry asked, “Mr. Kgathi, do you know anyone else who has one of our generators?”
“Oh, yes, there are many of them in the area.” He leaned closer, switching to a conspiratorial tone. “Very soon now I will join in a company that is building a large clothing factory here. These generators will allow us to undercut the Asian companies that supply the clothing now. It is just one of many ventures based on GFG generators that are starting up. They are creating a whole new economy!” He smiled, waved a goodbye, turned and walked briskly toward the front desk.
Back in the lounge, Keyshawn frowned, saying, “Well, so much for not finding out much here in Gaborone. But it sounds like we got here too late.”
“Just as we feared, the generators are already disrupting the local economy,” said Gerry. “But if they help people create new businesses, why is that a bad thing?”
“Yes, I am having my doubts about our strategy also,” said Elka. “Maybe everyone is too focused on the negative and is forgetting how much this new technology could help people.”
“But have they fixed the problems that caused that first one to burn down my father’s house?” asked Keyshawn.
Gerry stroked his chin. “Yeah, we’d better find that out.”
They paused to watch a group of six rowdy, overweight Germans enter the lounge. Then Keyshawn turned to Gerry and said, “Dr. Landis, when you were talking to Mr. Kgathi, like, how did you know about the brother at the mine?”
“Oh, I didn’t, I was winging it. But when he said Mudenda, then I could make a lot of inferences, because Mudenda is the name that Paul Welton gave us as our lead at that mine. So if the Cygnian Salesman had asked the mine manager to be his local sales agent, who else but a brother in the capital city to handle the selling end of the business while the mine manager shovels ore to Cygnus Prime for payment?
“The mining company probably has no idea that this is going on, so the Mudendas are keeping all the profits for themselves. In fact, they’re probably fudging the mine records so that the ore ends up just disappearing. After all, there’s no trace of it once it goes into the altverse tunnel. Nice arrangement: all revenue, no cost of goods sold, unless we were to blow the whistle.”
“Wait a minute,” Elka interjected. “I think maybe this is not such a good idea. We could get ourselves beaten up or worse doing that.”
“Don’t forget these enhancements we’re wearing, the ones that Jason made for us. They’d protect us from something like that.”
“Perhaps,” Elka agreed, “but wouldn’t it be better to make friends with him? We could maybe learn a lot more if he tells us about what he has already sold.”
“Yeah,” Keyshawn added. “What’s in it for us to blow up their little operation? We’re here to find out what’s going on, not mess it up or anything.”
Gerry thought a moment then said, “Yes, you’ve convinced me. When I think about it, now that we know for sure that our suspicions were correct and that someone from GFG is bringing in generators, our biggest problem is publicity. What if some local paper decides to do a story on the new and amazing generators people are installing around here? Could you imagine what Aliens Out could do with that?”
Elka had been idly leafing through the Botswana Gazette during the conversation. Her eyes suddenly locked intensely on it for several seconds, her brow furrowed. She looked up, held the open newspaper high, shaking it to get their attention. Emblazoned in large type was a headline that read AMAZING NEW GENERATORS SNAPPED UP BY LOCAL BUSINESSES.
“I think maybe we are too late already for stopping that.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski