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
Mark’s eyestalks focused on the meaty senator, bending forward with amazement. “I suppose it’s worth a try. There’s a platform to the right there. Just step up and do your best.”
Bourbonnais huffed mightily as he took the five steps up the platform, just a few meters from the blocked entryway. When he reached the top, he looked around. It was a frightening sight. Cygnians stretched back almost as far as he could see, mostly in family-sized clumps separated by some green, but still in numbers sufficient to easily overwhelm their protectors. They transmitted anger, threatening to push the humans back from their holy site, but his translator also sensed curiosity, and a basic desire to know more about these strange animals that they were seeing for the first time.
The Senator thought about what he’d read about them, that they really weren’t violent unless strongly provoked, that they revered quotas and goals, and that they honored their past. He waved his hands and began:
“Citizens of Cygnus Prime, please, we humans do not wish anyone to get hurt here. We do not want the guards to attack you! If you would give me just a few short minutes of your attention, I would greatly appreciate it. If, after that, ya’ll still want to keep us out of your holy site, we’ll respect that and go away.”
He sensed their curiosity more strongly now, along with a sense that his request was reasonable, that they could listen for a few minutes, give the strange predators a chance to explain themselves. They quieted their threatening transmissions and turned their eyestalks to him.
While they could not make sense of his booming voice, his translator chip, sensing his desire to talk to a crowd, had switched to broadcast mode, ensuring every Cygnian within a mile could receive his speech.
“Thank you so very much. We humans come to this beautiful and holy place today, not to desecrate it, but to join hands with our new friends from so far away in friendship and commerce. Our planet is not so advanced as yours, and it is true, we evolved as predators. But now we look to you as our teachers, as a shining light, an example to follow so that we may better ourselves, to become someday, as great as you have already become.
“And for you, we represent a tremendous new market, a planet rich in metals that desires many of the products you produce. And we are brothers in a very important way: we both believe in the principles of free enterprise, of unrestricted commerce, of the right to make and meet quotas.”
This last comment generated an outpouring of supportive, Cygnian applause, which they accomplished by transmitting strong signals of approval. Even the Green Band members were now listening raptly.
“So please, allow us to enter your holy place, the Enclosures History Panorama, and take part in a ceremony of peace and friendship. All of us are eager to learn about your past, how you developed a civilization that is so much more advanced than ours, to get to know more about you, become your friends. We wish only to learn from you, to discover all that your rich cultural heritage has to offer.
“In return, we cannot give as much as you give us, but we can trade our abundant metals for your products, and we can assure you that you will have steadfast friends for all time. We will spend only a few hours here in your wonderful sector. We apologize for disrupting your normal routine, and hope that we have not been too much of an inconvenience. Thank you!”
He stepped down. The Cygnian crowd began to transmit a growing crescendo of approval that the translator chips turned into applause. It grew and grew for over two minutes, then gradually subsided. The Green Band members removed their belts and melted into the crowd. There were no more disruptions. The entryway was unblocked. Senator Clayburn looked at his colleague from Mississippi with newfound respect and awe. Even Mr. Zhang was speechless.
They entered the Pavilion without difficulty and assembled in a large entry hall. Two Cygnians, a blue-gray-furred male, and a brown-furred female, both wearing identical headdresses of flowers and fern stalks, approached the tourists. The Cygnians’ eyestalks were almost invisible in the headdresses, and they walked toward the group very slowly.
“These are the High-Guardians of the Enclosures,” Mark explained. “Follow their instructions exactly. They will explain the proper execution of the rituals. Many will be watching, so if you are not sure, look at the female, she will answer all questions.”
The High-Guardians walked slowly in a circle around the humans, ritually herding them. When the humans had formed a very tight group, shaped like a torpedo, the High-Guardians beckoned with their eyestalks, leading the guests slowly through a double doorway out of the entry hall.
“When we enter the first pavilion,” instructed the female, “walk to the lowest wall, the first wall you will encounter. Stop there until everyone reaches the wall. You should all be touching the wall. When I signal, jump over the wall.”
Once everyone had reached the low, white wall, less than a foot high, the female High-Guardian repeated an ancient writing from the First Stories.
“And they came upon a place where the rock had formed a wall, the result of a recent ground movement. They all jumped over it, but Ancient-Builder turned his head and looked at the ridge of rock with great interest. ‘If this ridge were taller, it would be impossible for the predators to jump over it,’ he thought. ‘Perhaps we could build on it, and extend it, make it go all around us. But then, how could we ourselves come and go from such an enclosure?’
“Some days later the herd moved to the edge of a forest. Sharp-tooths attacked, taking two herdmembers. While they were mourning their losses, Ancient-Builder looked ahead, and he noticed a large fern tree with a broken frond. It swung side to side from the trunk, and then he knew the answer to his dilemma.”
She stopped, looked at the humans, rose to two legs, raised her right front leg high, and dramatically dropped it. They all jumped over the low fence. The many Cygnians who had been watching transmitted approval. She led them a short distance to a group of very large fern trees, each of which had a large broken frond swinging from its trunk.
“Please stop and observe here,” she explained. “When I have created the gate, you will walk through it. Then the last one through will slowly close the gate.”
She again spoke from the First Stories. “Ancient-Builder took the frond, and several more. He used a driller to insert them into two adjacent trees. The fronds were strong, and when he’d placed them into the holes he’d drilled, they could not be pushed away. But the herd could remove the fronds, go through the opening, and then replace the fronds. He had invented a gate.”
She now walked them to a much taller, white fence, at least twelve feet high. Two trees flanked an opening in the fence. The trees had large fern fronds inserted into their trunks. Both High-Guardians suddenly ran up against the fronds, trying to ram through them, but the fronds held, and the two Cygnians bounced off of them, falling to the ground. Senator Clayburn was impressed by the resiliency of the fern fronds, musing about how this accident of evolution had helped the Cygnians develop their civilization.
After demonstrating the effectiveness of the fronds, the High Guardians pulled them out of the trunks and led the visitors through the gate. Senator Clayburn, as the last one through, carefully reinserted the fronds to much approval from the onlookers.
They were now inside a very large enclosure, perhaps a mile square, full of Cygnian onlookers. In its center was a large platform already hosting Cygnians and Eridaneans who would be participating in the final part of the ceremony. A crushed stone path led to the platform, interrupted by a large gate. The male High-Guardian now continued the reading from the First Stories.
“As time passed, new Builders arose in the herds, and they improved the gates. Over one hundred thousand years ago, the gate we still use today came into being. We will now walk through it to symbolize our link with our ancestors and to let our visitors know that no one crosses through our gates unless we allow it.”
As they slowly walked through the hinged gate, single-file, the onlookers transmitted forceful waves of approval and a strange, enveloping sense of belonging and oneness that had the effect of a powerful, euphoric drug. Every human felt it, was overwhelmed by it. They almost floated up the steps to the pavilion where the male High-Guardian directed them to comfortable chairs.
The feeling of oneness gradually subsided, and a progression of Cygnian and Eridanean speakers gave short, uninspired speeches welcoming the representatives of Earth to Tertia and exhorting them to encourage other humans to visit. The ceremony had evolved from something that felt sacred to something that felt like a political rally. The last speaker, Jim McDermott, effusively thanked everyone for everything, and then it was over.
Afterwards, Clayburn rushed up to Bourbonnais and offered his hand. “Senator, perhaps your greatest speech ever! I am overwhelmed. You are the master!”
Bourbonnais heartily shook Clayburn’s hand, smiling broadly, and intimated, “Really, just a variation of a stump speech I’ve done for years. But hey, it worked!”
“But you knew so much about them, that thing about quotas, they lapped that up!”
“Oh, I don’t go somewhere without I do a little research. Just ’cause I’m a good ole boy don’t mean I’m stupid.”
Clayburn laughed. “Oh, I never ever thought that of you, Senator. But wasn’t that feeling of connectedness they created during the ceremony something!”
“Yeah, that was worth the price of admission as we say,” Bourbonnais agreed, nodding his head vigorously. “I can see how this herd thing has its advantages. I was feelin’ like I was floatin’ six feet above the ground.”
“They’re an amazing species! I’m sure glad they’re not hostile!”
“Well,” said the Senator from Mississippi, “at least not so far.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski