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 38: Moving On
Maria Makes Plans
As Maria walked briskly along the trail back toward her car, the euphoria she had felt faded; Miles’ dismay at seeing that his lover was an alien was deeply satisfying, but it was that alien that kept nagging at her. She had spent the past year getting the Cygnians banned from Earth, but now it was clear that her effort was pointless, that her entire year had been wasted. Yes, she’d been manipulated by Miles, but there had been a second level of manipulation, so subtle, so undetectable, that only this most lucky of coincidences could have ever revealed it to her.
The alien that had torn Miles away from her had clearly been trying to disrupt her movement. Severing Miles from Aliens Out was surely its goal, and it had succeeded. Now, the people behind Miles would have no choice but to step in, to take over.
Maria didn’t care. The movement was pointless. It was time for her to start living a real life, a life populated by human beings, not causes. But she wanted to know more about this alien, and that meant she would have to maintain contact with Miles.
As she reached the road, her cell phone sprang to life, chirping the existence of new voice messages. One was from Darrell Worth, urgently requesting her to reconsider and join their efforts to stir up fear of Cygnians in Africa.
Maria returned the call. “Darrell, I’ve just learned something that makes your African plan totally pointless.”
There was the briefest silence, then Darrell said, “Pointless? What organization are we in, Maria? Aliens Out. That means we try to get aliens kicked off Earth. It’s what we do.”
She laughed. “Yes, Darrell, you are so very right. But here’s the problem: I’ve just met another alien. Not a Cygnian, but one so cleverly disguised that you would never, ever be able to tell it was an alien unless its disguise somehow came off, which is what happened in front of me.”
“What are you talking about? Where are you? What—”
“Darrell, I realize now that I was a fool, that you and Miles were really running things. But honestly, the whole movement is pointless. These aliens are probably everywhere. There’s no way to detect them and no way to get rid of them.”
“How do you know that? I need data. Is this another one of your wild speculations?”
“Yes, Darrell, I’m afraid it is. But if there’s one of these aliens, there’s got to be more. Anyway, I’m going to try to find out. But first I’m going to spend some time with a gay hairdresser I’ve met who’s offered to introduce me to some of his hot friends.”
Now there was a distinctly longer silence. Then Darrell said, in a much softer voice, “Maria, I never thought you had it in you!”
Sometimes a small, insignificant person can change the world for good or ill: someone like a failed artist who rises to lead an anti-Semitic nationalist movement. And sometimes the world turns on a single event in an unlikely place, like an assassination in Sarajevo, or two guys building a computer in a garage in Los Altos, California.
The Aliens Out news conference briefly frightened the entire world, at least the entire Western world. In the United States, it quickly led to the passage of the Alien Repatriation Act. But within days, Americans began to wonder: where was the evidence of a Cygnian invasion? Why hadn’t they invaded already? What did they have to gain by enslaving the Earth when they could get what they wanted by way of trade?
Fear became doubt, and doubt became anger: anger at the fear-mongers, anger at the forces that had tried to manipulate the public. Meanwhile, the news from Africa continued coming in. The benefits of Cygnian technology became harder and harder to ignore. Only two weeks after the passage of the ARA, polls already indicated that for every person still supporting it, two wanted to repeal it.
It was in Botswana, where two hundred sixteen GFG generators were already installed, where GFG technology had built the Earth’s most advanced factory, that the world had first changed, and all because the initial reaction to the news that the generators came from another planet had hardly been what anyone had expected.
Hours after the Aliens Out press conference, at the casino where Elka, Keyshawn, and Gerry were staying, Mr. Kgathi prepared for the worst. He’d mustered a small army of security guards to protect his generator. They surrounded it, wielding clubs, wearing riot helmets, but no angry mob stormed them. Instead, in the streets of Gabarone, people gathered, carrying home-made signs praising the Cygnians.
When Stephen Mudenda, curious about what he’d heard on the radio, came upon the demonstration, someone recognized him and shouted, “Here is the man who brought us the magic generators!”
Soon he was on their shoulders, carried in triumph to a park where people demanded a speech. The crowd deposited him at the top of a ridge, next to a stage filled with the instruments and speakers of a band that was setting up. Someone put a microphone in front of his face. The crowd below him, thousands strong, quieted. He looked down at their expectant faces, took a deep breath and began.
“My friends, fellow Batswana, fellow Africans: For hundreds of years, the Europeans exploited us. They took the best out of our land, they used our labor, they pitted us against each other, all to keep us weak, all to make themselves rich while we stayed poor. But now, my friends, now the tables are turned.
“Yes, today we are filling our continent with an amazing power source that will allow us to leap ahead of the Europeans and Americans, allow us to generate unlimited amounts of electricity without dependence on the cartels that control oil, without the pollution that comes with coal, without the environmental destruction that fossil fuels cause.”
The crowd rose in a huge roar. Stephen smiled, drunk with the energy the crowd fed into him. His reverie was interrupted by a young, ragged, rail-thin man who ran up the ridge and onto the stage, grabbed the microphone from him and said, “Those aliens will enslave us like the British! They are using these generators to take us over! Don’t be fooled!”
Stephen yanked the microphone away. “Nonsense. They just want to trade. I work with them all the time. Do you see them moving here to live like the British did? Do you see them marching their armies into our country?”
The ragged young man was not convinced. He grabbed the microphone back from Stephen and said, “What are they getting from us? Why do they give us these amazing things so freely?”
“We give them copper, nickel, other metals. Our minerals are ten times more valuable to them than to us. It is a fair trade from their perspective.”
The ragged man was not backing down. “How can you trust these strange creatures? Shouldn’t we be more careful? How do you know they aren’t going to suddenly turn all these machines on us, threaten us with them!”
Just then a voice cried out from the crowd. “Don’t listen to him. He works for the local gasoline distributor!”
Stephen took back the microphone and said, “You just want to spread fear and distrust so you can keep making money selling gasoline. We’re wise to that game here. Don’t play us for fools.”
The crowd roared its approval. Uniformed police ran to the stage and dragged the ragged man away.
At the back of the crowd, Gerry, Elka, and Keyshawn stood, listening, marveling. Beside Gerry, Sociologist-Andrew stood in his bodysuit. He leaned close to Gerry to be sure he could hear Andrew’s new voice synthesizer.
“It is inexplicable. Why are they so happy? All my studies point to humans fearing the unknown, especially extraterrestrials. But these people welcome us. Why?”
Gerry took Andrew’s arm and led him to a quieter place behind a shed. Elka and Keyshawn followed. Once there, Gerry said, “They think that your generators will allow them to leap ahead of the West. They see them as creating jobs and prosperity.”
“It’s because they’ve had the chance to use the generators already,” said Keyshawn. “Like in that factory we saw yesterday. They can see with their own eyes what the benefits are.”
“Yes, even in this short time, they’ve had a huge impact,” said Gerry. “These people don’t want to give up everything that the Cygnians offer.”
Just then they saw two familiar figures approaching, one short and fat, the other tall, lean, and limping. The man allegedly named Mr. Wu smiled and waved. “Hello, Navy Seals. Wonderful day. Make history today. Very privileged to see this.”
“Well, Mr. Wu, what are you doing here? I thought we had you bottled up at UZPG,” said Gerry.
“We demanded to talk to our government. They created big diplomatic incident. Your people had to return us here, no choice.”
“And now you approach us like old friends. I’m surprised you’d even talk to us.”
“Oh, your rudeness all forgotten. You were just following your orders. We understand. Your government is so stupid that everything you and your friends here did to stop us, all your effort, poor Mr. Shih’s leg, all of that is for nothing.”
“What do you mean?”
“Cygnians contacted me this morning. They will begin shipping product to China tomorrow!”
Andrew stared at Mr. Wu, his shock perfectly transmitted to his bodysuit’s face in the form of an open mouth and wide-open eyes. “Who on Cygnus Prime contacted you?”
“Strange names they have,” said Mr. Wu. “Calls himself Salesman-Drake.”
Andrew turned to Gerry. “I’d better get back there right now. If you still need transport back to UZPG, I can take you along.”
“Yeah,” said Gerry. “Meet us in my room. We’ll have our luggage assembled and can activate the tunnel there.”
* * *
Jim McDermott was waiting impatiently for Gerry and Andrew as they entered UZPG’s way station. As they were dragging their bags out of the tunnel’s entryway, he said, “Gerry, we need to go to Cygnus Prime today. General-Manager has reneged on our agreement. I thought he was my friend. I just don’t get it.”
“They think we reneged, Jim,” said Gerry. “We said we’d take large reactors for nineteen sites, and then we passed the ARA. So they made new deals.”
“What do you mean?”
“I just talked to those Chinese agents. They’re starting shipments tomorrow.”
McDermott shook his head slowly. “Now it’s really going to hit the fan. Dammit! Aliens Out got exactly what they wanted. Isn’t there some old saying about getting what you want being a curse?”
“Mr. McDermott,” Keyshawn interrupted, “the thing is, maybe nothing’s going to hit the fan. We just left a big demonstration in downtown Gabarone, and the people were all supporting the generators.”
“Not just the generators,” said Gerry, “we saw an amazing factory, entirely made from Cygnian modules, supplied from uninhabited planets, all the waste sent to a null universe. They’re manufacturing and shipping enormous quantities of clothing. They’re employing almost a thousand people.”
“I see,” McDermott said. “They’ve done a total end run on us. And we never made any agreement about other technologies. I sure hope that factory is safe. Or maybe...”
He became silent and, as they often did, his eyes focused to his upper left, flickering. After a minute, he lowered his head and again met Gerry’s eyes. “We can’t control what happens in Africa. This thing is just too big. Why did I think we could ever contain it? Well, at least we’ve got them bottled up here in the West for a while.”
“No,” Gerry said, “it’s going to be the same here. Those generators are going to start showing up all over, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cygnians were building one of those modular factories somewhere in the West, even as we speak. Yes, a lot of wealthy oil and coal barons are going to be losers, but who cares? The people that work for them will find employment in the new industries that rise up as a result of the almost free energy those generators will give us.”
“But GFG can’t sell their generators here, or in a half-dozen European countries that just passed similar laws. If they start showing up, as you say, they’ll be impounded and the owners will be fined.”
Gerry replied, “How long is that going to work, once everyone sees the Chinese installing them by the thousands, once they see all the new factories springing up in Africa?”
“Yeah, probably right,” said McDermott. He rubbed his chin, his eyes wandering in thought.
“So what happens next?” asked Gerry.
“Creative destruction,” replied McDermott.
“A catchy phrase, but I’m a physicist, so what does it mean?”
“An old idea,” said McDermott. “Goes back to Karl Marx, then to Schumpeter, an Austrian economist. Its meaning has evolved over the years but, basically, it means that there is a natural process by which new technologies, political movements, or just changes in the world destroy old wealth and create new wealth. That’s an oversimplification, but it gets to the essence.”
“I see why you’re applying it now. Fusion will surely destroy the old energy technology and create new wealth to replace it.”
“Yeah, exactly. But nobody ever said the process was a Sunday picnic. It creates losers, and they can get nasty. There’s a balance. In Africa, the winners will far outnumber the losers, but in the Middle East, even in the U.S, well—”
“We’ve seen it already. Add in the fear of the Cygnians, and you end up with the ARA.” A thought suddenly came to Gerry. “But the ARA is part of the process, too, isn’t it?”
“Right,” said McDermott. “The other historical process going on here is thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The thesis is, of course, the new technologies; the antithesis is the reaction, like the ARA. The synthesis happens as the opposing forces merge. We haven’t seen that yet.”
Gerry shook his head. “You haven’t, but we have. In Africa.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski