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 25: Earth Sector, Tertia
“This here feels just like the Marriott in Jackson. A lot bigger’n the Marriott of course.”
Senator Bourbonnais was standing with his colleague from Illinois, with Mr. Zhang, and two other members of the American contingent in the massive lobby of the Tertia Terran Hotel, the two-thousand room monument to optimism that the Eridaneans had built as a part of their massive Earth Sector project.
From where the visitors stood, they could see many of the features of a typical upscale American hotel such as exposed, lighted elevators, a massive atrium extending the entire one hundred floors of the structure, two lobby lounges set off by half-walls topped with beautiful, exotic flowers, sitting areas furnished with large, plush chairs in a uniform, deep-red fabric, and attentive staff, apparently human, in black and red uniforms edged with gold accents. Senator Clayburn made a mental note to ask about the staff. Just where did they come from?
What the hotel lacked was guests. The elevators sat forlornly on their tracks, never moving, the staff wandered the lobby, gathering into clumps to chitchat, the cavernous interior echoing with emptiness.
“The cost of building this sector must have been, well, beyond belief. I wonder how they could raise so much capital? Who would finance such a risk?” exclaimed Mary Steenman. Trim, tall, dark-haired, wearing tight jeans that accented a body still in its prime despite middle age, she provided a stark contrast to the bulk and shagginess of the Senator from Mississippi who stood next to her.
“Well, Ms. Steenman, I do believe that these folks comin’ by here just might be able to provide your answer.” Senator Bourbonnais pointed to a human figure walking briskly alongside an Eridanean. As they approached, Mary recognized Nigel Thacker, a full foot shorter than the head of the Eridanean who accompanied him.
“Oh, Nigel,” she called. “Could we talk for a moment?”
“Certainly. Hello everyone. I’d like to introduce my friend Hrulkrul, an Eridanean who knows the earth and humans very well, and who is now a member of our diplomatic corps.”
“Hello, everyone.” Hrulkrul shocked everyone by speaking in British-accented English instead of the usual Eridanean chirps and whistles.
“Heavens!” Mary almost shouted. “You speak our language? How could that be?”
“It’s an interesting story, miss, uh, sorry, I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”
The Senator apologized and introduced everyone. Hrulkrul then continued. “Now, Ms. Steenman, maybe you could refrain from reporting this on your blog. I lived over thirty years on Earth, performing the functions that Nigel now performs. You see, we surgically alter, uh, shall I say, certain citizens for diplomatic duty on Earth. When our service is complete, the surgery is reversed.”
Another member of the American contingent, Josiah Bellamy, an evangelical theologian and wealthy head of one of the largest mega-churches in the United States, took a step closer to Hrulkrul, examining him carefully from the bottom of the neck that aligned with Dr. Bellamy’s eyes, to his hooves. “I see no scars, no indication of surgery at all. Quite remarkable. The lord has blessed your surgeons with great skill!”
“We have a fifty-thousand year head start on you humans,” said Hrulkrul. “In that time, perhaps your surgeons will become equally skilled. But, Dr. Bellamy, you should know that we Eridaneans, unlike many other species of the League, have a very special bond to you humans. We, too, are religious; we, too, believe in deities, in an afterlife and, in at least one of our religions, the concept of salvation.”
“My heavens! Praise the Lord! That is so uplifting to hear! Did the word of Jesus reach you? Since we first learned about all the other intelligent life in the galaxy, I have often thought that perhaps Jesus, before or after his brief time on Earth, visited some of them also, to bring his message of salvation.”
Josiah Bellamy waved his hands as though he were preaching to the masses. He’d sprayed his salt-and-pepper head of plug-enhanced hair into a state of total immobility and worn one of his two-thousand dollar suits for their planned evening out, making him look all the more like the trim, forceful, affluent, modern-day entrepreneurial theologian he surely was.
“Well, we wouldn’t know him as Jesus, but there are messiah religions on Epsilon Eridanus Alpha. Perhaps we should sit down sometime and discuss this further.”
Mary Steenman hadn’t minded that the conversation had wandered far afield from the question that had caused her to ask Nigel and Hrulkrul to join them. She’d been noting it all down on her tablet for later publication. She took advantage of the brief silence to wedge in her earlier question.
“I had meant to ask you Eridaneans about this hotel, and this whole sector. The cost of building it must have been enormous, and the risk that humans would fail to come here in large numbers is so high. How could you ever put together the funding sources for that?”
Hrulkrul answered, “I was very involved in that. We Eridaneans pride ourselves on our ability to work together, to use our great diplomatic skills to marshal tremendous resources for large projects. And we think very long term. You see, we live over three hundred of your years on average. It really changes your perspective.”
Mary said, “But in our country, we have to convince banks, private equity, private investors, to come up with the capital to fund projects. This one, with over thirty large structures, would be inconceivable anywhere, considering the risk and the up-front costs.”
Mr. Zhang had been listening quietly but his face lit up with excitement when Mary spoke. “Ms. Steenman, you must have never gone to Shanghai, or Guangzhou. Those are cities where hundreds of huge structures have been built in just the past thirty years, cities that have grown by as much as the populations of entire countries. When there is sufficient upside potential, capital will follow.”
“An excellent point,” Senator Clayburn agreed. “But in this case, what is the upside potential?”
“Seven billion humans, at least a billion of whom could afford a short vacation here,” Hrukrul replied. “When Mr. McDermott first announced the Tertia vacations at that press conference at Upper Zion a few months ago, there were over one hundred thousand inquiries that reached us through him. We need approximately five million visits to pay for this project. I don’t doubt we’ll achieve it.”
“And I might add,” said Nigel, “That if they charge typical Earth rates for hotel, food, entertainment, and so forth, they’ll be making margins far in excess of Earth margins. Everything is done here with amazing cost efficiency. And then, there are the enticements that no earthly vacation venue can offer.”
Mr. Zhang’s voice was full of eagerness. “Do tell me what those are, please!”
“That’s what you’ll be discovering in the next few days. Sorry, we want to surprise you.”
“I would hope that this would be a wholesome place, someplace the entire family could visit, someplace a person with deep Christian convictions would feel comfortable in,” preached the Reverend Dr. Bellamy.
“That would certainly be possible,” replied Nigel. “But for people like Mr. Zhang, who might prefer a more exciting experience, well, just let me say that that will also be possible, but always discretely hidden away from even the most accidental discovery by one of your flock, Reverend Doctor.”
“Like Las Vegas,” Senator Clayburn suggested. “You’ve got the wholesome stuff, shows, gambling, but there’s raunchier stuff, too, if you seek it out.”
Josiah Bellamy’s face crinkled into a frown. “Gambling wholesome? What are you Senator, some godless Unitarian? Gambling is a sin, and real Christians do not indulge.”
“Sorry, Reverend, bad example, but you know what I mean. There are plenty of diversions in Las Vegas that your flock would feel comfortable visiting.”
“And there will be here also,” assured Nigel. “But I believe the time is approaching for our first tour. I’ll see you all in the assembly area near the main entrance very soon.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski