by Bill Kowaleski
|Cast of Characters and Species||Table of Contents|
Chapter 30: Back to Gaborone
They all crowded into the entryway just as a spot appeared in the middle of the room, about a foot above the ground. It grew into a swirling black hole that disgorged a man who bore a strong resemblance to Andrew in his bodysuit. The man stumbled, righted himself and looked with alarm at his welcoming committee.
“Mr. Mudenda, who are all these... Wait a minute, Sociologist, what are you doing here? And the rest of you, didn’t we meet in that garage where I keep the vehicle we use as an altverse entry point near Chicago?”
Andrew stepped forward, “Salesman, a pleasure to meet you again. Of course you remember Dr. Landis, Keyshawn and Elka.”
“But why are you all here, in Botswana?
Andrew said, “We wanted to try to talk some reason into both of you. We cannot keep putting more and more of our product onto this planet without severe repercussions.
The Salesman stared at Andrew for several seconds before saying, “Repercussions? If you call tremendous demand for our products repercussions, then I suppose I could agree with you.”
Before anyone could reply, Gerry’s secure mobile rang. He stepped into the empty room where the Salesman had arrived and took McDermott’s call. “Landis, bad news. Aliens Out has already got hold of the stories in that Botswana newspaper. You’ve got to get out of there quickly. They’re going to hold a press conference late this morning and claim that the Cygnians are planning to destroy the world’s economy in advance of an invasion.”
“OK, Jim, I assume you’re working on the response. We’ll get back there ASAP.”
Gerry terminated the call and turned back to Steven Mudenda.
“Mr. Mudenda, anyone who’s been working with the Cygnians could be in significant danger very soon.” He explained the situation, ending with: “So I think now you understand the dangers of rushing this technology to market. There are powerful, well-funded forces intent on driving it off the Earth, and people like us could be the collateral damage of that movement.”
“Yes, sir, I see what you are saying. The usual fear of the unknown, the new, the different. So easy to blame an alien from another planet for your problems.”
“You could come with us. We’ll be in a very safe place.”
“No, you see, I don’t agree with your analysis of the situation.”
“What do you mean?” asked Gerry.
“You haven’t seen what I have witnessed. Before you go, we should take a little tour.”
The Salesman nodded vigorously.
“There isn’t time!” said Gerry. “We need to get out of here before—”
“Dr. Landis, you cannot leave Botswana before you see this. It is the single most important piece of information you must take back with you. Please.”
They crammed themselves into the Hilux and drove to a location on the edge of Gabarone. As they turned a corner, a massive, low, warehouse-like structure came into view, many city blocks square, its walls entirely made of a strange, snow-white concrete-like substance. They got out of the vehicle and stood at one corner of the massive structure.
Salesman-Drake said, “Even when you were on Cygnus Prime, Dr. Landis, you never learned about all that GFG can do. Here you see all our services wrapped into a single package. Three weeks ago this was an empty field.”
“Did you say weeks?” Gerry said.
“Weeks, Dr. Landis, a period of time I am just getting accustomed to since we Cygnians, as you know, mark time in fivedays.”
“Yes,” Stephen added. “I observed the whole thing. They brought in machines that leveled the terrain, dug holes, laid conduit. Then they used their amazing altverse tunnels to deliver these huge white panels, building the entire exterior in just a few days. Meanwhile, inside, the machines that manufacture the clothing were creating themselves.”
“Creating themselves?” Elka gasped.
“Yes,” said Salesman-Drake. “All you have to do is give us samples of the products you wish to manufacture, and our computers design the machines. Then we ship the fabricating equipment to the site, funnel in raw materials, and create the machinery right where it is to operate. In this case, we are making clothing. Let’s go inside.”
They walked a block to the entryway where a guard, recognizing Stephen and Salesman-Drake, waved them inside. The interior made the largest airplane hangar seem tiny in comparison. In all directions they saw neat rows of machines tended by what seemed like hundreds, maybe over a thousand people. The looming, gray rectangular behemoths, perhaps eight meters tall and four meters wide and deep, stood in front of massive spools of thread and enormous translucent bins of liquids. The machines hummed but otherwise made surprisingly little noise. From the front of each the visitors could see t-shirts, shorts, socks, even shoes dropping into bins that workers moved to conveyor belts.
“Let’s follow those conveyors,” said Stephen.
Gerry counted machines as they walked along the conveyor tracks. Fifty-five in this one row, and there were at least ten rows. It was an unbelievably large operation. He wondered how they could possibly have ramped up this fast, how they could have generated so many orders already.
“I can see the questions on your face, Dr. Landis,” said Stephen. “This factory cost us just a few shipments of ore from my brother’s mine. It is the first, shall I say, legitimate business we have done with the Cygnians. When the mine owners saw the proposal from Salesman-Drake, how could they refuse? We can ship the clothing for little more than the cost of the raw materials. No one can match that. Orders poured in even before the factory was completed. And every single one of the eight hundred and ninety people you see working here were unemployed a month ago. It has completely changed this city.”
“I understand now why you wanted us to see this,” said Gerry. He turned to Salesman-Drake. “Your technology astounds me. I had no idea you could do all of this.”
“Thank you, Dr. Landis. But you haven’t yet heard the best part. This facility produces almost no pollution, its waste is sent into a null universe that instantly destroys all matter, and most raw materials are transported from uninhabited planets that our subcontractors mine for such purposes.”
“How could you be using all these altverse tunnels without their being detected at Upper Zion?”
“The walls include shielding. We wanted to get this demonstration plant going as soon as possible, to show the world the benefits of Cygnian technology, but we also had to keep it hidden from the meddlers at UZPG.”
Salesman-Drake paused a second, as though gathering his thoughts, then said, “And now, Dr. Landis, do you still think the world will violently reject us? Do you still believe that humans cannot adapt to our technologies? Look around you. These African people — people I understand you Americans disdain as primitive — are operating the most advanced, efficient, and productive factory in the world. And it’s also the cleanest and least impactful on the environment. And they are doing all that while making fabulous profits on products that people need, products that have been produced until now by child labor while polluting local ecosystems. Why exactly would you want to stop this?”
Gerry scratched his head, looked again down the long aisle, considered the Cygnian’s words. Yes, there was no doubt that this factory benefited the community, providing work for almost a thousand people.
“Salesman-Drake, you are right. This is a good thing for Botswana, for Africa. But what about the people who’ve lost their jobs because of this operation? People in Southeast Asia, in China. Aren’t they going to blame you Cygnians for their plight?”
“Those factories will quickly convert to fusion power, and then they’ll install our fabricating machines; you call them three-dimensional printers. After that they’ll realize that they need to buy their raw materials from us. Oh, it won’t be long at all before we’ll convert whole industries to our technology.”
“That’s sinister,” said Keyshawn. “Pretty soon we’re like totally dependent on you guys. Not good.”
“We’ve learned from our mistakes. Our machines are now designed to work properly on your planet. That means they can function for centuries without any intervention. They repair themselves; the supply chain is completely automated. There is no real risk.”
“Yeah, no real risk! That’s what you told my dad!”
Salesman-Drake turned away for a moment. Keyshawn had hit a nerve. He could see that the Cygnian still felt guilt and anger about how Technician had betrayed him, sabotaging the test generator they’d placed in Jeremiah Washington’s basement. The Salesman turned back to face Keyshawn.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever expressed my feelings about that. But let me tell you now, it upset and saddened me greatly, and I only wish I had known what a traitor Technician was before your father was injured. I will not be such a fool again.”
Keyshawn nodded and said, “I appreciate the apology. I learned that it was sabotaged when I returned to Cygnus Prime after I was rescued. What ever happened to that lowlife?”
“He roams in a large enclosed field, completely alone, on the prison planet. It is a terrible punishment for our kind, who love nothing more than the camaraderie of the herd. Death is a far less severe sentence.”
Silence fell, they looked at the floor, unsure how to continue. Finally, Stephen said, “Dr. Landis, you have seen why I think we are all safe here. So stay until tomorrow, until those fanatics in your country spout their lies about the Cygnians in their news conference. We are ready for it, believe me. You will see.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski