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 37: Miles Learns the Truth
The first week had gone spectacularly well. Yes, Miles thought as his eyes greedily feasted on Jason’s naked beauty sleeping beside him in the cabin’s small bed. The first rays of rosy-fingered dawn were filtering through the trees and the small bedroom window. This was an inspired idea.
They’d already pulled fish from the stream that gushed at the bottom of a steep, root-tangled, mosquito-infested slope thirty feet below them, enough fish to feast on until it was time to leave. Miles had gutted and frozen most of it while Jason had prepared some amazing meals.
It was a miracle what Jason did with the few things they’d brought along. He’d found herbs in the woods and mushrooms that went wonderfully with the potatoes they’d lugged the two miles down the trail from the road. Jason had insisted on potatoes. His lover’s quirks only intensified Miles’ feelings toward him. He was not only beautiful, he was amusing, lovable, distinctive, and smart, frighteningly smart.
Jason made Miles feel protected, taken care of, in a way that Miles imagined some women felt from their male mates. He didn’t fully understand why he needed a man in his life so badly. It was, he decided, what it meant to be gay. But whatever the reason, it just felt right to share his life with Jason. Right in a way he’d never felt with a woman.
There’d been only one small problem: when they’d arrived in mid-morning that first day, the cabin door had been open, and there were obvious signs of forced entry: shattered wood in the door jamb, the deadbolt lying on the ground, its screws still attached to a splintered plank. Miles had explained that the nearby hiking trail sometimes drew tourists who might see the cabin as a good resting place for the night. It had happened before, nothing to worry about.
But Jason had become quite agitated. “We’ll need to be very alert. I’m not tolerating anyone breaking in on us. What if we’re in bed together? It could mean a lot of trouble.”
Miles hadn’t considered that. It made sense. They had spent some time securing the door with tools they found in a shed attached to the back of the cabin,
Jason had also fashioned a clever booby trap on the small side trail that led from the main hiking trail to the cabin. It was a piece of fishing wire strung low to the ground between two trees. He attached it to a plank they had found in the cabin, put the plank on a tree stump, and put two metal pans on the plank. The wire would pull the wood, the metal pans would fall, and bang into each other. It would give Jason and Miles a few seconds to react.
OK, there had been one other problem; no, not really a problem, more of an enigma, a curiosity. It had happened when they’d scrambled down the steep slope to the stream the first morning. Jason had gone ahead, negotiating the slippery slope as if it were little more than a flat piece of land. He’d planted his left foot under a log, and Miles had seen, quite clearly, a snake rear up and strike Jason’s leg just below the knee. Jason kicked violently at the snake, then continued down the slope.
“No, wait!” shouted Miles. “We’ve got to take a look at that. Could be poisonous. You don’t fool around with the snakes in these woods. Jason? Jason, stop!”
But he only caught up with Jason once he’d reached the shore of the stream. He bent down to look at the wound, noticing the torn jeans, but Jason turned and stepped away from him. “It’s nothing. He missed.”
“What do you mean? Your pants leg is torn. He didn’t miss. I didn’t see what kind of snake it was. It could be—”
“Water moccasin,” said Jason. “They often miss, or the bite doesn’t break the skin. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
But Miles couldn’t leave it alone. There was no way he was going to lose Jason to a snake bite. “I’m going to find that snake.”
Jason shrugged and started setting up the fishing tackle. Miles climbed up the hill, stopping to scan the slope with each step. Halfway up he saw the snake, limp, lifeless, its mouth open. He crouched to get a closer look. It was definitely a water moccasin.
He gingerly grasped the head from behind, knowing well that recently dead snakes can still bite, and held the head in the air. It felt odd, like something right under his fingers was broken. He manipulated the vertebrae. Yes, there were at least two that were broken. Then he looked more closely at the mouth. The fangs were shattered. Blood had oozed from deeper in the mouth. He’d never heard of a snake that killed itself during a strike, especially a strike on a human leg. And the broken fangs: how could that have happened?
He walked slowly back down to the stream where Jason had been watching him with his fetching, playful smile. “Want to eat some snake tonight?”
“Jason, what happened there? Did you kill the snake when you kicked it? I really can’t believe...”
“Let’s not get all wound up about that snake, Miles. But OK, if it’ll make you feel better, take a look. There’s nothing there.”
He was right. Jason’s shin was smooth and unbroken. He couldn’t make sense of it, decided it was just one of those little mysteries, and gave Jason a hug. “I’m so happy you’re all right!”
After that, the day had been nothing short of spectacular. And now, in the early morning, Miles had every hope that this day would be just as good.
Jason’s eyes opened just as Miles turned and put his feet on the floor. He reached for Miles’ arm, then pulled hard. Miles fell on top of him, laughing. Their lips met, and then Jason froze. His eyes pointed to the door. He pushed hard, lifting Miles completely off of him, rolled onto the floor, sprang to his feet and ran out the door, completely naked.
Miles sat up, in shock, not sure what had just happened. Then he heard the pans rattle. An intruder. But Jason had reacted before the pans had rattled. Confused, he stood, pulled on his jeans, stepped into his shoes, and walked outside, cautiously, eyes focused on the trail that quickly curved into the dense, dark, hazy forest. He heard faint voices, Jason’s, and another one: female, oddly familiar.
* * *
The woman at the convenience store had told Maria that she’d need about an hour to get from the road to the cabin. So she arrived when only the faintest light had first appeared on the eastern horizon. She wore clothes that still felt alien on her: black spandex leggings, a form-fitting black and white top, stylish hiking shoes.
As the sky brightened and the path became easier to see, she felt her spirits soar. This was going to be fun. She turned onto the side trail. Within a few steps, her leg hit a wire that pulled a pot down in front of her causing a loud clank. Shocked, she stopped and peered further down the trail. A short muscular, naked man appeared, running at an amazing speed from the dense trees. He put on the brakes and stared at her.
“Maria, what are you doing here?”
“How do you know who I am?” she asked.
“Well, I’ve seen your picture many times, went to one of your rallies.”
“My new look doesn’t fool you?”
Jason smiled. “No, but it’s a definite improvement. I’m Jason. I heard someone on the trail and dashed out here. Sort of forgot I didn’t have any clothes on.”
“Yeah, I see that. Quite clearly.”
“What are you doing here? How did you ever find us?”
“Oh, it’s not so hard. Miles left quite a trail on my computer. As to why, I thought this might be the last chance I’d have to tell you just what kind of a guy you’re getting involved with.”
She heard a twig snap, looked behind Jason, and saw Miles, shirtless, walking slowly toward them. She sucked in a breath. God he was beautiful! And then Miles wrapped an arm around Jason’s naked waist, leaned in and kissed him. A wave of pure hatred washed over her. She thought about the gun in her backpack, unloaded, thank heavens.
“Are you stalking me, Maria?” Miles asked. Then he took a closer look at her. “Wow. I never knew you could look so good! Why didn’t you do this years ago?”
“Would it have made any difference to you?” she asked, her voice angry and taunting.
“Probably not. But just in case you hadn’t figured it out already, I’m not really all that into you. In fact, Jason and I have been seeing each other for a while now.”
“I know all of that. You spent over a year pretending to care about me, Miles, and why? To control me, to make sure I did the bidding of your masters. Does Jason know what a lowlife you are? Does Jason know what you’re capable of?”
She could see the anger flash in his eyes. It made her feel good to get any kind of emotion out of him, but at the same time she sensed that this could get out of control. She calmly removed her backpack and unzipped it. She pulled out a trail bar, unwrapped it and took a bite. She held the pack in one hand, making sure she could reach into it easily. She could at least threaten with the gun if necessary.
“Look, Maria, I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not. You made my life a misery for that year. Meeting Jason was the only thing that kept me sane.”
“Oh, what a shame. Poor little Miles had a miserable year. And why? Because I forced him to live with me? No. He was doing a job. A crappy job, but one with a big payout. And as soon as he got the payout, he bailed on me. No good-byes, no explanations. I had to figure it out from your deleted emails. No, the only person you could possibly blame for your crappy year is you, Miles.”
Jason pulled Miles back toward the side trail. “We should just ignore her. Let’s go back to the cabin.”
“Yes, Jason, ignore me. I’m the canary in the coal mine, but just keep going in deeper. He’ll turn on you too, believe it.”
Miles pulled away from Jason and lurched toward Maria. He grabbed her around the neck and pushed her to the ground, landing on top of her, straddling her, his face inches from hers. “Shut up, bitch! I love him. I’d never do anything to hurt him!”
Now she wished that she had loaded the gun. The backpack was still in her hand. She reached into it, grabbed the gun, and shoved the muzzle in Miles’ face.
“Back off!” she shouted.
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski