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 24: Bourbonnais to the Rescue
As the Earth tourists were gathering in the lobby of the Sirian Pleasure Palace for their trip to the Cygnian Sector, they drew a small crowd of gawkers. The humans found themselves slapping away delicate Sirian fingers trying to stroke their chests and buttocks and, at one point, Senators Bourbonnais and Clayburn had to pry a Sirian off of Dr. Solvag. The slender, waif-like creature, clad only in a tight, black spandex-like bikini had leapt onto the bemused Norwegian scientist and clung tenaciously with both his arms and legs, whispering all the while suggestions for all the things they could be doing in the Orgy Room. Finally, hotel security moved in, creating a cordon around the besieged humans. Nigel and McDermott came forward, and the group headed for the elevators.
Mr. Zhang found the experience amusing and exotic. “Such expressive creatures they are! I am most entertained.”
“I certainly am appalled!” Senator Bourbonnais retorted. “Such indecorum, such a lack of self-control. They are truly a barbarous lot.”
Senator Clayburn couldn’t leave Bourbonnais’ comment alone. “Did either of you happen to see that history of the Sirians on the video in our rooms? It said that they have not fought a war in over a hundred thousand years, that they revere life, that they provide protective technologies to violent species that effectively stop warfare. I wonder who the real barbarians are.”
“Propaganda.” Bourbonnais waved his hand in diffident dismissal. “I’m sure they get into their spats just like everyone else.”
“I did look at this,” Zhang Zhi Peng said, “and am very impressed. They have had civilization for one million years! A comprehensive history of that entire time exists! It is most humbling.”
They spoke in the large group elevator while it rushed them one hundred floors up to the aircar docking level. The antigravity lifting mechanism was so smooth and silent that they hardly detected when they’d stopped, making the sudden opening of the doors quite a surprise.
Their air motor coach, as Clayburn liked to think of it, awaited them. They boarded and soon were speeding high above Juturna amidst an early morning rush hour of thousands of vehicles of all shapes and sizes, all moving at frightening speeds and seemingly just inches from their windows.
After just five or six minutes they slowed, descended, and, from the large window he’d been glued to since the trip began, Clayburn could see, growing larger every second, an immense brilliantly green field of rolling grass surrounded by a tall, white, solid fence.
Their craft landed on a small paved rectangle near one corner of the field and, when they walked out into the painfully bright Tertian sunlight, they saw knots of furry Cygnians scattered throughout the grassy space, some blue-gray, others brown, their distinctive eyestalks all pointed at the arriving humans.
A wide, wood-like door opened in the nearby white fence and large Eridaneans trotted in like a cavalry brigade without its mounted soldiers, each wearing a transparent helmet on its head and carrying large black clubs. They quickly formed a line that left the humans in a small triangle surrounded on two sides by the white fence while the Eridanean police formed the hypotenuse.
Nigel stood in front of the open doorway and addressed the tourists. “Everyone, we’re going to walk along a guarded path, through a small part of the Cygnian Sector, and then to another park where we’ll enter the Enclosures History Panorama. This is a holy site to the Cygnians, and you should behave with decorum and respect.
“It tells the story of how Cygnians invented enclosures, like the one that surrounds this field, effectively eliminating the threat of predators and allowing their civilization to develop. Cygnians bring their children here to learn about their history. They have important ceremonies, and they also graze on the special grass that they claim is something that every Cygnian should taste once in his or her life. So please, show respect, and stay off the grass within the park!”
After he finished his speech, Nigel noticed someone entering the doorway. It was a lone Cygnian who immediately transmitted a greeting to him: “Welcome, Nigel and company! I am Ethnologist-Mark and will be your guide today. As Nigel has said, be respectful, do not ever, I repeat, ever, make any move toward a Cygnian child, and stay in the group.
“When we enter shops, it would be a token of goodwill if at least some of you would buy something. These would not only make the most unique souvenirs on Earth, your purchasing them would also make the shopkeepers very happy and generate positive feelings about you.”
Mark then directed his thoughts to Nigel: “The Indigenous Police are going to protect us while we walk through the town. We’ve arranged some shops you can stop in and, after the ceremony, we’ll eat lunch at the hotel we’d originally planned to stay in. The Innkeeper is furious about the lost business due to our changing to the Sirian Pleasure Palace for last night, so I thought this lunch would help calm him down a little.”
When they walked through the doorway, a group of twenty or so male Cygnians, all wearing broad brown belts bristling with what were surely weapons, formed a loose cordon around and in front of them. Behind the group, the Eridaneans brought up the rear, also checking side to side for a concealed attack.
They crossed a bridge over a small river lined with beautiful, flower-filled gardens, came down to ground level, and were in a town of narrow winding walkways made of a very finely crushed stone. The two senators walked together, marveling at the strange architecture, all designed for creatures that stood three feet tall and walked on four legs.
The buildings were testaments to the “form follows function” school of design, all little more than boxes with street-facing facades of a transparent substance like glass, but thinner, while their sides and backs were made of the same white material used in the fences of the field in which the Earthlings had landed.
The stories were oddly short, and the ceilings inside never more than five feet tall. Each storefront, identifiable by images of some of the wares sold inside on brilliant, neon-like signs hung at levels precariously low for the human visitors, welcomed clients without any apparent doors, just an opening to the street. The walkways had no room for trees, grass, or plantings of any kind. Like a medieval European village, they were nothing but narrow lanes separating two rows of structures.
While Clayburn and Bourbonnais were walking, they noticed that the only Cygnians they saw were their guards and the shopkeepers. Clayburn caught up to Ethnologist-Mark and asked about this.
“We have asked citizens to stay out of this small area while you tour. It will reduce problems. Anyway, most of them are at the Enclosures History Panorama because they want to see the ceremony.”
Mark led some members of the group into a small store. It was not big enough for everyone, and the low ceiling caused the ten people who entered to stoop or crouch as they browsed through the strange wares. Mr. Zhang was entranced by a crystal that beautifully split the light into a spectrum but left out most of the greens.
“How does it do this? I never saw anything like it.”
The proprietor excitedly trotted up to him and said, “It is an Arcturan gem, very rare, we are the only vendor on Tertia. It absorbs green wavelengths and splits the rest. You can have it for four hundred credits.”
Mr. Zhang found Mark and asked, “Four hundred credits. Is that too much money?”
“GFG would be happy to finance your purchase, Mr. Zhang,” Mark offered.
“Very well, I like this a lot. It is most unusual. I will take it.”
The proprietor transmitted profuse thanks as he boxed the gem.
Senator Clayburn pulled Mark aside. “Four hundred credits, is that a lot of money or not, Mark?”
“It is the equivalent of a month’s rent of a luxury apartment here. But we are happy to fund this, as it generates good will.”
Over the next hour, many of the tourists found items that interested them, and Mark was happy to purchase them all. The proprietors of the shops they had visited were most pleased, and a general feeling of good will filled the air as they now walked toward the park that housed the Enclosures History Panorama.
But the good will was short-lived. After a leisurely and delicious lunch, Mark directed them up a long, perfectly straight avenue of massive, fernlike trees that fanned out in arcs that connected over the walkway, creating a cathedral effect not unlike that of an elm-lined main street, and at the same time, providing some protection from the blazing, intense, blue-white sun.
All along the walkway, just beyond the reach of their Cygnian guard escort, were a thin, persistent line of Cygnians, directing insults and threats at them. Murderers! Child killers! Go away! Leave our sector! We don’t need more predatory customers!
Mr. Zhang walked with his chin up, saying to the two senators, “It is just a demonstration by some dissident group. They should rush into the crowd and beat them. That would shut them up!”
“Mr. Zhang,” said Clayburn, “I think the Cygnians believe in freedom of speech, as we do in America. This is the price of freedom: you have to put up with those who don’t agree with you. I can bear it.”
Senator Bourbonnais nodded vigorously but, when they approached the large white fences that marked the entrance to the Panorama, the crowd began rushing the guards, requiring them to use their stun weapons. Over and over, small groups of Cygnians, perhaps five or six at a time, ran directly at the group, requiring the guards to adopt a protective pose, stun the most aggressive attackers, and push them back. It was becoming more and more unnerving, and the group slowed down, faltering to a stop.
Clayburn noticed that many of the most aggressive Cygnians wore wide, green, luminescent belts. They also seemed to be encouraging the crowd to attack the guards, exhorting their fellow-Cygnian guards to join them, running along the path, rising to two legs, and waving their front paws. Again and again the crowd attacked.
Their guard escort was beginning to appear inadequate, especially when two waves of attacks overwhelmed the guards near where Dr. Solvag stood with several other tourists. He joined in the defense, personally lifting three green-belted toughs into the air, one by one, and tossing them onto the grass.
The beleaguered tourists finally reached the entrance to the pavilion, a wide opening in the tall white fence flanked by elaborate wooden columns carved with intricate, flowing designs, and encrusted with shining translucent jewels of silver, green and red.
Hanging across the entrance was a brightly lit sign in the unintelligible Cygnian script. The full width of the entrance was completely blocked by two rows of large, green-belted Cygnians, shoulders touching. From the middle of the group of visitors, Jack Clayburn could see Mark walk up to them, appear to be in urgent conversation with them for several minutes, and then turn to the Eridanean guards who had now positioned themselves at the front of the humans.
The guards raised their black clubs threateningly, but the Green Belts did not move. Just as it appeared that the Eridaneans were going to charge right into the blockade, possibly causing many injuries, Senator Bourbonnais, who had been standing beside Clayburn, rushed to the front, grabbing Mark by the fur on his head.
“Wait, don’t attack them! Let me talk to them, I’ll try to calm them down.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski