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 16: Confrontation
Gerry introduced Keyshawn and Elka, and they followed Mr. Shih and Mr. Wu in the brilliant, clear noontime sunshine. They walked beyond the milling throng of waiting businessmen toward the city center, and Gerry recalled the truth sensor Jason had given him. He silently activated it. To test it, he asked the shorter man, “Sorry, I am so bad with names. Did you say your name was Mr. Wong?”
“No, it is Wu, Dr. Landis.”
In the upper right part of his field of vision Gerry could see a transparent red number flash zero. Zero meant there was no truth in the statement. This man’s name was not Wu.
As Gerry considered the implications of Mr. Wu’s deception, Keyshawn announced, “Andrew up to date.”
Gerry nodded. Keyshawn’s statement evoked a puzzled expression on the face of the man who called himself Mr. Wu. “I do not understand.”
“Oh, that wasn’t meant for you, Mr. Wu. You can safely ignore it,” Gerry said, giving Keyshawn a dark look as he spoke, hoping he had communicated the need to reveal as little as possible.
They had entered the very heart of downtown, such as it was. Gaborone was hardly Paris or New York, and the clean, orderly downtown featured mostly low-rise, modern buildings that hardly hinted that this was as urban as the city got.
Mr. Shih led them into a very modest building that left no doubt that its place in the world was as a well-worn budget motel. They walked briskly through a tiny lobby, little more than a small front desk and a space to stand on the stained, worn, grayish carpet, a carpet whose original color was beyond divining, then to the right down a dark hallway whose white-painted walls were scuffed and pockmarked with holes, to a cheap, hollow-core door on the left, the number 2 hanging at a rakish angle.
Mr. Shih opened the door, revealing a room darkened by thin-slat blinds, perhaps ten meters long by eight meters deep, most of the space taken by four large, folding, faux-wood conference tables on rickety metal legs. The tables were pushed tightly together, the whole unattractive lot of them surrounded by low-end office chairs in various states of disrepair.
“We have this conference room full-time, very good rate if rented by the week,” Mr. Shih announced with apparent pride as he carefully turned the controls on the blinds, opening them just enough to admit light, but not enough to allow anyone outside to see into the room.
“Please, sit anywhere you like,” Mr. Wu said expansively, waving his right hand at the assortment of decrepit chairs as though they were fine furniture. Gerry took a seat right next to the door and pointed to ones on either side of him for Keyshawn and Elka.
Keyshawn sat heavily on the wheeled chair next to Gerry. It promptly descended to its lowest setting, leaving his knees at eye level. Elka brayed with laughter, but Mr. Shih and Mr. Wu, who had chosen seats on the opposite side of the tables, near the window, sat impassively, avoiding eye contact, ignoring the whole embarrassing incident.
Gerry, wanting to use the truth detector as much as he could, jumped in quickly. “So, gentlemen, why are five members of Chinese Intelligence hanging out in the Republic of Botswana? Seems like an unlikely place to me.”
Mr. Wu giggled nervously. “Why do you say such a thing, Dr. Landis? Chinese intelligence? No, we are representatives of a Chinese power company, as we told you already.”
Gerry saw a 20 in his right eye. There was some truth to the statement. “I can’t control how you represent yourselves, but do answer my question.”
Mr. Shih stood and paced along the windows. “Everyone in China is outraged that we were not included in plans to introduce fusion power. We are the largest consumers of power on Earth; our power needs grow more rapidly than any other country’s. We must build horrible coal-fired plants that pollute our country, and I will tell you that Chinese people want clean air as much as you Americans do. We had a beautiful country once, and with fusion, we could restore much of that beauty.”
Gerry’s detector read 100. It was easy for him to believe that all of this was true. “It was impossible to include everyone. The U.S. government decided that, since the British were already aware of the Cygnian presence on Earth, they would be included, but we didn’t want to expand beyond that at first. This is just the beginning. You’ll get your chance.”
“Get our chance!” Mr. Wu was indignant. “We will take our chance! When we heard about this situation in Botswana, we decided to work directly with the Cygnians. You cannot interfere. We do not allow it!”
Gerry smiled, leaning back as he asked, “And just how are you planning to contact the Cygnians?”
“Mr. Mudenda is key. The other three agents watch him constantly. They do it right now. Soon he will contact the Cygnians, and we’ll step in.”
“Agents!” Gerry laughed. “I guess that confirms my suspicions.”
Mr. Wu said nothing, but his face darkened with suppressed anger.
Gerry leaned forward, looking directly at Mr. Wu whom he guessed was the leader of the group. “Do you know anything at all about the Cygnians, what motivates them, why they’re here?”
“Not your concern what I know!” Mr. Wu had completely shifted from accommodating to confrontational. He spoke entirely in exclamation points, angrily, contemptuously, his chins jiggling as he shook.
Gerry wanted to needle Mr. Wu even more, get him emotional enough to make another mistake. “We’ve already taken steps to interfere; it’s already too late to stop us. Mr. Mudenda’s operation will be shut down very soon, and you might as well know that every one of those fusion generators can return to the factory as quickly and easily as they were delivered.”
“You bluff, you lie. How can you stop us? You are just three people very far from home.”
“Remember when Keyshawn said that Andrew was up to date? We have technology given us by the Cygnians that allows us to communicate with them in real time. We’ve apprised them of the situation and they’re going to shut down this rogue sales operation shortly.”
Mr. Wu smiled. “Very nice, a way to communicate with Cygnians, just what we need. You give that to me now.” He reached into his pocket, and as he did, Mr. Shih did the same. Both pulled out guns and pointed them, one at Gerry, the other at Keyshawn. Elka assessed the situation. Two against three, lethal weapons, enclosed space, table between them. But they needed to be closer, then she could call out maneuver number two.
“The technology is embedded in our bodies,” said Elka.
Mr. Wu looked closely into her eyes, as though he were trying to decide whether she spoke the truth. “We must communicate with the Cygnians. You use this technology now to open a channel for us.” He waved the gun menacingly.
“You need to be right beside me to do that. You’ll have to come over here.” She calmly motioned him closer.
Wu circled warily to the left while Shih circled to the right. As they approached from either side of the tables, Elka rose from her chair, signaling Keyshawn and Gerry to do the same and briefly held up two fingers.
When both Wu and Shih were just beyond arms’ reach, Elka took a sudden step toward the short fat man, facing him and saying, “Give me that gun now, Mr. Wu, or you may regret your rudeness.”
“Hah, you think you can take it away, pretty lady? Try and you will have a very painful kneecap.”
Elka triggered her strength and speed enhancement, turned ninety degrees to her right and, using her right leg, side-kicked Wu’s hand fiercely and accurately. The gun flew into the air in an arc that brought it into her left hand. At the same instant, both Gerry and Keyshawn jumped on Mr. Shih, pulling him down. Keyshawn chopped down hard on the gun hand.
The gun clattered to the ground, firing a shot as it hit, a shot that struck Mr. Shih in his shin. He cried out, wincing and moaning in pain, while Gerry still held him from behind. Elka examined the gun that had dropped into her hand, set the safety, and motioned Keyshawn to grab the gun on the floor. In fewer than fifteen seconds it was over.
“You disappoint me, gentlemen,” Gerry said through clenched teeth. “I thought we were going to have a nice, cordial lunch. Instead you point weapons at us. I hope you’ve learned that we don’t like that very much.”
Mr. Wu’s face was drawn and tense, his eyes smoldered with anger, but he looked down and said nothing.
“Keyshawn, Elka, we’d better get out of here before the police come. That gunshot was way too loud not to be heard. We’ll let these fine gentlemen, whose phoney names are on this room’s rental agreement, deal with the mess they’ve made.”
As he walked out the door, Gerry couldn’t resist adding, “Such poor hosts. They invite us to lunch and give us nothing. I guess we’ll have to scrounge something in town.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski