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 26: At the Fights
Part 1 appears in this issue.
Bright lights suddenly flashed on, transforming the stage into the center of attention. Clayburn saw clearly now that the ring, as he liked to think of it, was enclosed in some kind of very clear glass. An Arcturan, much smaller than Gnasher-Leader, entered the area surrounding the ring from a small door, walked up four stairs, and opened an invisible doorway in the glass, entering the ring.
The Arcturan spoke, his voice booming throughout the arena in loud hisses and growls that their translators turned into, “Welcome, Earthlings, to this demonstration of extreme fighting. I am Gnasher-Banker, littermate of Gnasher-Leader, whom you have already met. Together, we own this new venture, and we hope that many from Earth will visit. Please, also stop by the buffet where you will find special delights, perhaps not always available where you live. In just ten minutes, I will introduce the fighters. They will wear tooth protection for this demonstration, so we anticipate no serious injuries. Thank you again for visiting.”
“What does he mean by special delights?” asked Deepa Kohli. “Let me look over here on the buffet.”
The others of the group joined her. There were cold cuts, a variety of breads, many salads, Indian curries and breads, nice-looking cold shrimp with a dipping sauce and, on one end of the table, what looked like small cigarettes in a silver platter along with a white powder in a golden bowl surrounded by ten tiny spoons.
“What could this stuff be?” wondered the shaggy Senator from Mississippi, dipping a spoon into the powder and sniffing it. The light powder went up his nose, causing him to sneeze, and then his eyes lit up in shock. “My heavens, I feel like I’ve just been plugged into a wall socket!”
Sergei Tankian dipped a spoon into the powder, poured it on his finger, and rubbed it against his gums. “Ah, very pure cocaine, quite nice. I am liking this place more and more.”
“Cocaine! I’ll be damned! I never!” Bourbonnais spluttered, unable to get any more words out. He paced nervously up and down the length of the buffet table, agitated by the drug.
“Are you OK, Marshall?” asked Clayburn.
“My heart’s racin’ but I feel like a million bucks, I have t’admit.”
Mary picked up one of the cigarettes. “Hmm, I can guess what these are,” she said. “Oh, well, when in Rome...”
With that she grabbed a small slim wand from beside the tray of cigarettes that sprouted a flame when she grasped it, lit the cigarette and confirmed that it was indeed marijuana. “And damned good too!” she added. “You don’t need but a toke or two of this stuff!”
Mr. Zhang hurried over to the table and grabbed a cigarette. “Such an excellent idea! Of course, no drug laws here, so another incentive for people to come to Tertia.” He lit up and took a deep drag, holding it in like someone who’d done it many times before.
“Ah, I see you’ve discovered the drugs. We plan to offer these and perhaps some others also,” said Gnasher-Leader. “Do you think these are the right drugs to offer, or should we have something else?”
“I’d recommend some good bourbon, a nicely stocked bar, you know, alcohol,” suggested Bourbonnais.
“Thank you, Senator, for the suggestion. We’ll add that.”
Jack Clayburn was surprised by how offended he felt. He’d always thought of himself as an open-minded guy, someone who believed in “live and let live,” but the drugs right there in front of him, the way some of his fellow-travelers were indulging, and the prospect of a violent wolf fight had him in a state of advanced outrage. He took a deep breath, suppressed the urge to lecture Gnasher-Leader about the evils of drugs and violence, reminded himself that he’d signed on to see what Tertia had to offer, and forced himself to just take it all in.
Once again, Gnasher-Banker’s voice reverberated throughout the arena. “Take your seats, Earthlings! Time to fight! Allow me to first introduce the champion of the Northern Continent, Crusher-Stonecarver.”
Clayburn noticed that there was now a prominent opening in the middle of the ring. From it slowly rose a dais on which another huge black wolf sat on its haunches. When it reached the level of the ring, it stepped off the dais and stood next to Gnasher-Banker, dwarfing him.
“Gnasher-Leader,” said Magnus Solvag, fearlessly leaning close to the giant wolf’s floppy left ear, “Tell me, why is there such a huge difference in size between the two of them, please?”
“The females of our species are much larger than the males. Only females fight. There is a surplus of females in our society because they take multiple mates. So some cannot mate, which makes them very violent and unpredictable. This fighting has been our traditional way to balance the population for many thousands of years.”
“Fascinating,” he said. “I am a biologist, so this interests me a great deal. But is this still the only way you cope with this population imbalance?”
“For the past, perhaps one hundred of our years, drugs have been available to calm the females. In fact, Extreme Fighting is now illegal on all the continents of Arcturus Prime. But here on Tertia we can continue to practice the traditional ways.”
Just then, a second Arcturan began to appear as the dais rose from under the ring. “I am proud to introduce the champion of the Equatorial Continent,” intoned Gnasher-Banker, “Neck-Cracker-Runner.”
“What names!” Clayburn laughed. “I can’t imagine where they come from.”
Gnasher-Leader explained: “The first part is the pack name. So she comes from the Neck-Cracker pack. Not an uncommon name on the Equatorial Continent. The second part is the name we get when we reach maturity. We usually assign it to ourselves. It is what we want others to know us for. One is a stone carver when she is not fighting, the other likes to run.”
The lights dimmed and the fighters began to circle each other. They put on quite a show, though it was clearly an exhibition, a little like watching a professional wrestling match. Each fighter took a turn at grabbing the other’s neck and simulating a death-dealing chomp, each demonstrated various escape moves and counterattacks. As they acted out, Gnasher-Leader tried to paint a picture of a real match.
“They would be cracking bones, tearing out pieces of flesh and, finally, one would break the neck of the other. Those booths you see in the corner over there would be where Earthlings could place bets. So you have the excitement of the fight, betting, and drugs, all together. Keyshawn helped us to design the arena. He told us it should be very successful. What do you all think?”
“Nothing changes my opinion that this is successful idea. I recommend further investment,” Sergei Tankian said confidently.
“Yes, I certainly agree, said Oli. “There will be many humans outraged by this, but that will only attract others. I recommend you pursue this further.”
One by one they added their support, but Clayburn said nothing. Gnasher-Leader directed her penetrating black eyes at him saying, “Senator, would I be safe in assuming that you are one of those people that Oli said would be outraged by this?”
“Yes, I have to admit that I’m outraged, not just by the violence, but also by the drugs. It just simply isn’t for me, and for a lot of other decent people also.”
“Then they can go see a friggin’ magic show!” Senator Bourbonnais exclaimed.
“That is exactly the spirit of Tertia,” Nigel said. “Eridaneans designed this place to be something for everyone. We take great care in keeping the potentially objectionable stuff hidden in plain sight. For example, this venue would always seem to be closed to the casual passer-by; you’d have to come here in a tour group. Tell me, is this any different from Earth? Senator Clayburn, surely you know there are things that happen in Chicago that most people would find deeply objectionable: houses of prostitution, illegal gambling, drug dens, places where people have public sex...”
“Okay, okay, you’re right of course,” Clayburn said, clearly annoyed. “They just take it to the next level here, and it’s all legal. I get it.”
They stayed a while longer, making a deep dent in the food on the buffet table, and discussing possible business strategies with Gnasher-Leader and Gnasher-Banker who joined them shortly after the end of the exhibition. As they prepared to leave, the Gnashers led the way to the front door.
“Thank you so much for stopping by,” said Gnasher-Leader. “We will be in touch to explain further details about our program.”
She stood at the entrance, bowing to each person passing through. Suddenly her snout lifted into the air, she sniffed, beckoning with her front paw to Gnasher-Banker to do the same. His tail shot straight up, he stepped quickly outside into the stone street, and said, “Wait, Earthlings! Something is not right! Do not go any farther!”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski