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 19: Andrew Convinces Nobody
“Tunnelmaster, you must let me through immediately. I know you have a schedule, but I run this facility and you must obey my orders!”
Sociologist-Andrew was uncharacteristically blunt with the brown-furred female Cygnian who managed the tunnel. Females were not common in GFG facilities, but Cygnian society was slowly changing, and their numbers were gradually increasing.
The irrational fear that females might come into their musk and drive all the male workers into a frenzied state of arousal had long been a deterrent to their employment, but more effective methods of controlling the musk season had made that fear completely unfounded. Just as on Earth, Cygnian attitudes changed far more slowly than technology so the Tunnelmaster had had to endure some icy stares and grumbling when she first began work, but her tireless devotion to her quota and her fairness had won almost everyone over.
Now it was her devotion and fairness that clashed with Andrew’s urgent need to get to Cygnus Prime. “Sociologist, I have no free time scheduled for three days, and the current schedule requires almost continual loading of the tunnel. To let you through, we either have to roll the entire schedule forward, or cancel one of the activities. My quota will be in ruins.”
“I have already adjusted your quota, please plug in to your work plan and you will see that. I must return to Cygnus Prime at once; the entire future of this project is at stake. This must take priority.”
“Then which shall I do, cancel one activity or roll the schedule forward?”
Andrew could not hide his annoyance. “You are the Tunnelmaster! Make a decision. Whatever you decide, I will support you.”
That seemed to settle it for her. Andrew’s support would protect her; she could act as she thought best.
Within an hour he had passed through the tunnel, through the Cygnus Prime Way Station, and arrived at Galactic Fusion Generators of Cygnus Prime Inc. where he stood patiently in the waiting area of the offices of the Sales Manager.
“I’m so sorry but he is unavailable at present,” said an officious, brown-furred female assistant, standing on two legs as she busily tapped at a screen. “It might be days before his schedule frees up.”
“OK, no problem, I’ll just go over and visit my friend the General-Manager then, and see what he can do for me.”
“Uh, Sociologist, just wait one minute, please.” She descended to four legs and trotted quickly through a doorway behind her. Within the minute, she re-emerged with the Sales Manager close behind her.
“Sociologist, what a pleasure to meet you!” He rubbed eyestalks with Andrew in the usual Cygnian formal greeting. “What brings you to our humble offices from your exciting new assignment on Earth?”
“Could we talk in a private setting, Sales-Manager?”
“Certainly.” He led Andrew into his private office and closed the door. The room was surprisingly small but functional, containing a work area with screen, communicators, and a resting pad with two silver bowls at its side. Behind the work area, a simple three quarters of a square framed by low desks, was the room’s only window which looked out onto the GFG campus and the low blue mountains beyond.
“I warned you it was humble,” Sales-Manager transmitted. “But it suits my needs and I don’t believe in ostentation.”
“You are to be commended for that,” Andrew said, genuinely admiring the Sales Manager’s austerity. “It shows a strong dedication to goals as opposed to empty materialism.”
“Thank you, you are most kind to say this.” He paused a moment. “My bowls have just been cleaned. Would you like a little redgrain?”
“Thank you for the offer, but I have recently eaten. I don’t want to occupy too much of your time, as I am told you are very busy. Shall I proceed?”
“Yes, by all means.” Sales-Manager waved his paw across his head, indicating his desire for the conversation to move to its real purpose.
“Sales-Manager, you are surely aware that there is an agreement in place, managed by Cygnus Prime Diplomatic Services, that all fusion generator sales to Earth be approved by a certain group of Earthlings and my office?”
“Well, yes, but my office has no such agreement.”
“Sir, the agreement is for GFG as a corporation, not just for Large Generator Implementation Services. It includes your sales operation.”
“Oh, surely not. I have reviewed the document and do not see our group specifically mentioned.”
“It says ‘all divisions of the Galactic Fusion Generator Corporation’. Does that not include your Sales division?”
Sales-Manager transmitted a knowing smile. “Ah, you do not understand how we are incorporated. My division is actually a wholly-owned subsidiary of GFG, called Galactic Fusion Generator Sales Inc. We therefore do not fall under the contract you are discussing.”
“Do you not report to the General-Manager?”
“Then how can you be exempt from this contract?”
“As I said, we are separately incorporated. Our job is to sell GFG product, unencumbered by the tiresome problems of implementation and maintenance. These are of no interest to us.”
“I think we both know what we’re really talking about here, don’t we?” Andrew added a strong dose of mounting anger to his transmission.
“Yes, Sociologist, we’re talking about the one hundred and forty-three, as of this moment, small generators my Saleman has sold on Earth. He is doing a spectacular job, and has already exceeded his quota. You should be rejoicing! Your Company is successful; it meets its quotas!”
Andrew could not respond. One hundred and forty-three! It was a disaster of proportions he had not even dreamed possible.
“I sense dismay, Sociologist, not joy. Why is that?”
“Sales-Manager, do you have any clue what problems these sales will cause? Earthlings do not easily adapt to new things, and they will be convinced that Cygnus Prime is trying to undermine and destroy their economy. Energy production is an enormous amount of their economy. Powerful people will be ruined, everyday people will be unemployed. Their quotas will not be met. To put it in Cygnian terms, you are destroying their ability to meet their quotas ever again, and on a massive, unprecedented scale.”
“Well, what a shame!” Sales-Manager made sure he added plenty of sarcasm to his remark. “What do I care about the quotas of some alien species? They are just a market; and my, oh my, do they want our product! Our agent there cannot process the orders fast enough!”
Andrew struggled to frame his concerns in a manner that made sense to Sales-Manager. “You are sacrificing future orders for these small numbers of current ones. Once Earth learns of these sales, they will put a stop to them; your operation will be shut down.”
“Oh, how naïve you are, Sociologist. Surely a citizen of your profession, a supposed expert on this primitive planet Earth, knows that there are numerous political divisions and that we need focus our efforts only on those political units where we are welcome. You work with political units that want to limit our sales. Fine! Continue to do so. We’ll work with political units that will allow us to sell all we want, and soon those that you work with will see the errors of their ways and allow us to sell to them also. It will all be a glorious success. I have no doubts at all.”
It was hopeless. Andrew was up against that most Cygnian of traits: a myopic focus on goals to the exclusion of everything else, even common sense. He’d have to appeal to General-Manager. “Very well, Sales-Manager, I have made my case. We will see whether it plays out as you have said. I sincerely hope I am wrong, but I’ve spent quite a lot of time on Earth, and I doubt that I am wrong. Time will tell. Goodbye.”
He walked across the wide central courtyard, basking in the beautiful blue light, stopping to munch on the sweetgrass that grew throughout the GFG campus, and finally arriving at the elegant entry to the General-Manager’s office. The doorway, designed for a Cygnian walking on four feet, was of the finest fernwood with a small crystal window that created beautiful spectral effects. Such windows were quiet expressions of wealth, because the transparent material that created the stunning effects — a combination of the strength and transparency of diamond and the sheeting characteristics of slate — was mined only on Achernar Tertia and required special, highly-skilled artisans to properly cut and polish it.
He paused a moment to admire the window before entering the office, not really expecting that he could immediately see the General-Manager but hopeful of an appointment. To his surprise, the General-Manager was in the entry area, looked up, and recognizing Andrew, rushed over to embrace him.
“Sociologist, what a pleasant surprise! I am so very happy to see you. I will cancel this next appointment, a sleep-inducing review of financial information, and catch up with you. How are things at the Earth facility? Is all well?”
The two Cygnians who were about to meet with the General-Manager retreated out the door, transmitting annoyance and hurt feelings at the accusation of inducing sleep. As soon as they were out of range, General-Manager laughed and said, “Well, I have some fences to mend now. They are good citizens and do their job well. I suppose I could have been a bit more diplomatic.”
“I am sorry to interrupt you, General-Manager, but I come with an urgent problem.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Let’s enter my office and discuss it.”
They walked quickly into a most unique office: a space completely enclosed by Cygnus Prime’s glass-like transparent silica, climate controlled, brilliantly lit by the Cygnian sun, with a small work space nearest the door, but almost all of the rest of the space taken up by a grazing field striped with the varying green shades of ten of Cygnus Prime’s finest grasses.
“Which grass would you prefer, Sociologist? They are marked at this end here, so please walk along and take your pick. I like them all.”
Andrew walked slowly from one green stripe of grass to the next, finally backtracking to the one marked Fernforest. “This one is soothing and delicious. I think it would be perfect to dull the anxiety I am feeling right now.”
“Excellent choice. But please, tell me immediately, what is happening?”
Andrew presented the case as neutrally as he could, knowing that sticking to the facts always worked best with the General-Manager. When he finished, there was a brief silence as General-Manager considered his response. He finally said, “Your analysis, that Cygnians will be thrown off of the planet, is possibly correct. But Sales-Manager makes an interesting case. It is entirely possible that his predictions will ultimately come true.
“These two nations you are working with, supposedly among the most powerful on Earth, can they really keep us out of these African countries in which we are selling our products today? How would they do that? And what about China? There are over a billion Chinese, and they have the fastest-growing economy on Earth. What a tremendous market that would be! How can we walk away from that?”
“General-Manager, there will be tremendous turmoil: we could foment wars, massive destruction, the death of millions of humans. This is a violent species. They can be as bad as the Arcturans at times. You must believe me, I see their newscasts, I read the reports of the atrocities. It can happen, and we could be the cause.”
“Well, why don’t we just keep selling our products until trouble starts? We can always withdraw in such a case. Would that work?”
“Once this violence starts, it has a life of its own. They fight just to fight. It is best not to let it get started.”
“My, they are a difficult species. And I think you are getting too close to them, my friend. If there is trouble, we will get you out immediately. Don’t worry about that.”
“I confess, I do care about the Earthlings. I have made good friends there. I can hardly imagine the pain I would feel if I learned that Keyshawn, or Dr. Landis, or Elka had been victims of violence. It would break my heart.”
“We could offer them asylum here if it came to that.”
“You are most kind, but they could never be happy here. It is best to avoid the violence.”
“And you think that slowing the introduction of our products will do that? It seems that these creatures have been killing each other since they first evolved. Our arrival would only be the latest in a long line of excuses for a war.”
Andrew felt conflicted. It could be true. The General Manager was wiser than he had ever imagined. “I cannot disagree with you, sir. What you say about the humans is undoubtedly correct. Perhaps I hope in vain that these creatures will somehow improve.”
His confidence had faded. He felt beset by doubts, fearful that his analysis was wrong, that Sales-Manager was actually correct, and that the rapid introduction of fusion power on Earth would not lead to the massive disruption he, Jim McDermott, and others feared. He tried to put his doubts aside and reached for one last argument.
“General-Manager, it is no secret that you and the Earthling, Mr. McDermott, have become very close friends. How could you betray your friendship over this matter? You know McDermott is the foremost advocate for a gradual, controlled introduction of our technologies.”
General-Manager was silent for some time. He paced slowly, pausing to take an occasional bite of grass. At last he responded. “Yes, that does trouble me. I have made him a promise, but now I am unsure about whether I did the right thing. Let me think about this some more. I will send you my final decision very soon.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski