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 20: The Plotters Change Course
The casino bar was unusually busy. Women sat on barstools like cuts of meat in a butcher’s case, music throbbed too loudly and, in the farthest corner, nearest the entrance, Gerry, Elka, and Keyshawn tried to talk, ready to surrender and rent a conference room. Just as they stood to leave, an unfamiliar dark-skinned man, about forty years old, wearing a conservative, well-tailored dark suit, hair closely cut, walked through the door, saw them, and aimed for their table.
“Good evening, Gerry, Elka, and Keyshawn! It’s so good to see you!”
“Uh, dude, do we know you?” Keyshawn stared warily while Gerry and Elka looked at the man with perplexed expressions.
The man smiled and beckoned them toward the entrance. “Let’s go outside and talk, and all will become clear.”
They followed him into the lobby and then out the front door, into the darkening evening, crisp, clear, and dry.
On the sidewalk that ran along the semi-circular hotel driveway lined with limos and taxis, the man said, “I’m most proud of my bodysuit! It has completely fooled you. I am Sociologist-Andrew.”
“Wow, Andrew, compared to the first bodysuits you Cygnians made, this one is totally awesome! It’s like perfect!”
“And did you notice that you can hear my voice? Our new thought translator can now create spoken sounds in English or several other languages. And the sounds come right out of the mouth!”
“Wow!” Gerry repeated. “That’s no easy thing to do.”
“We have made such strides since the first Cygnian visitors wore those silly things to Earth. They made us look like clowns to you.”
Keyshawn laughed, remembering the Technician and Salesman who had come to his father’s house, hardly able to walk, expressionless, resembling 1960’s rock stars. And that thought got him musing on how such a chance encounter had led to his visit to Cygnus Prime, his kidnapping and rescue, his prominent role at the Upper Zion facility and, now, this trip to Africa. Life really was just a series of events and coincidences. It could have happened to many people.
“Keyshawn, what are you thinking about?” Elka asked, concerned by the vacant look in his eyes.
“Oh, Elk, sorry. I was just like thinking how we ended up here. Such an unlikely story. If you told anyone, they’d laugh at you, tell you it was all too ridiculous.”
Gerry nodded, silently agreeing. He turned to Andrew saying, “What brings you here, Andrew? Seeing you, so to speak, is quite a surprise. Something big must be going on.”
“I’m afraid, my friends, that my visit is necessitated by the failure of my trip to Cygnus Prime. I convinced no one to stop selling the small units here in Africa: not the Sales Manager nor the General Manager. Either they don’t believe the rapid introduction of this technology will cause massive upheaval, or they don’t care.”
“But what about our agreement?” asked Gerry.
“Well, that’s a sordid tale.” Andrew explained the contract issue, saying finally: “And I checked it myself. The contract indeed does not include the sales part of GFG. It is a terrible oversight. The question now is what can we do?”
“Let’s get a conference room,” Gerry suggested. “We may need to talk about this for a while, and I don’t want to do it here in front of the casino with cars and buses spewing fumes in our faces.”
All rooms were available at that early evening hour, and they soon were sitting in a small windowless rectangle around an oval, faux wood conference table in beige chairs surrounded by beige walls and beige carpeting. The desk clerk had called it the Six-Person Room, making it a comfortable fit.
“Maybe we should try to conference-in McDermott,” Gerry suggested. “Let’s see, it’s seven-thirty in the evening here so it’s what back in Chicago?”
“Half past noon,” Andrew quickly answered.
“Wow, that was quick!” Keyshawn said.
“Oh, it’s nothing. I memorized the hours difference when I left home. And by the way, I used a portable altverse tunnel to get here, so I haven’t acclimated to the time change at all.”
Gerry used his universal mobile to call McDermott and quickly reached him. He put the phone in speaker mode.
After they’d briefed him, McDermott responded in his usual terse, staccato manner: “A lot of units. Too late to do anything now. Got to start over. New game. Contract with UZPG is as good as dead. Excellent. Fits my plans perfectly.”
“Uh, did that come across wrong, Jim? I thought we heard you say that this all fits your plans perfectly?” Gerry said, perplexed and shocked.
“Yes, you’ve got it. Fit perfectly. Is that room secure?”
“Well, probably, I doubt the Chinese have bugged it, and who else would know we’re here?” Gerry replied.
“OK, Andrew. Can you get in contact with that GFG salesman?”
“I’m sure I could.”
“Good. Tell him to talk to the local media: do a story with their sales agent, tell them everything. We’ll monitor and, when it’s published, we’ll make sure it gets picked up by all the major news outlets.”
“What?” Gerry was shocked. “The publicity would be terrible, it would—”
“Can’t be avoided now. Better we control it, better we know when it’s coming. We’ll be ready with a response. Worst thing you can do is stand in the middle of the road and wait for a truck to run over you.”
They sat silently, shocked, not sure what to say next until McDermott’s tinny, distant voice said, “You still there?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Gerry sighed, “still here, in shock. Listen, Jim, something else you should know. There are Chinese agents in town looking to get a large distribution contract.”
“Let me add to that,” interrupted Andrew. “GFG management knows about China. They want to do some big deals with the Chinese, if they can.”
A thin sigh came through the tiny cellphone speaker. “Inevitable,” McDermott whispered. There was another long pause, then he continued: “You guys are wearing those enhancements Jason designed, aren’t you?”
“Yes, they came in very handy in our confrontation with the Chinese today,” Gerry replied.
“OK. Until we can get CIA in there, we should try to slow the Chinese down. We need to buy a little time to come up with a new comprehensive strategy. Could you guys try to keep them away from that Cygnian Salesman? Just for a few days. Then, when we get CIA in there, Andrew can push you through his portable tunnel and get you out of there before this all goes public.”
“Well, like how can we do that, dude, I mean, Mr. McDermott?” Keyshawn wanted to know.
“Stay on his contact — that local agent — like a wet blanket; intercept him as soon as you sense he’s there. Andrew will be able to spot him immediately, even in a bodysuit.”
“Yes, and the Chinese will be doing the same thing,” Gerry warned. “Going to be interesting.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski