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 31: The Alien Repatriation Act
Nigel Thacker had held many meetings in his Michigan Avenue office. As always, the sumptuous décor, the breathtaking views from the east-facing wall of windows, and the ambiance of arriving at a prestigious address within sight of the old water tower had created an aura of goodwill, a feeling that any problem could be solved, that the visitor had entered the center of power.
McDermott cleared his throat, breaking the silence. “Senator, give us a quick rundown on what happened.”
They sat in the nook, as Nigel called it, a corner of the office with a stately conference table ringed by eight, heavy, high-backed chairs, all upholstered in fine wool. Senator Clayburn sat with his back to the windows, flanked by McDermott and Jason Wise. Dr. Landis and Nigel faced the windows, along with a new ally, someone Senator Clayburn had come to respect, someone who had become his friend since their visit to Tertia: the distinguished Senator from Mississippi, Marshall Bourbonnais.
Clayburn, just arrived from the airport, took a deep breath, trying to calm his frazzled nerves. “After the Aliens Out press conference, there was a full court press to get the bill through as quickly as possible. There were supporters in both parties, it wasn’t partisan at all. The lobbying effort was so professional. You usually only see it that good when some really big special interest like the defense industry or Wall Street have a stake in something. They had a new version hammered out. It was really draconian. But then an amazing thing happened.” He looked at Senator Bourbonnais as though cueing him.
“Yes,” said Bourbonnais. “I blocked the bill. Pissed off the minority leader, let me tell you! Even pissed off the Democrats who’d decided they couldn’t vote ‘no’. We had a long meeting. Changes were made.” He said the last sentence in a conspiratorial tone.
“Changes?” said Nigel.
“Everything got changed to guidelines. The rules will be made by a commission appointed by the President. As you know, the President, while he can’t publicly denounce the ARA, actually hates it. And he knows what’s going on in Africa, and the Chinese efforts. And I told him about the Sirians.”
“Actually, I’d briefed him about them the first week after he took office,” said McDermott. “But still, the fact that the entire Senate is now aware of them has got to help us.”
“So what’s the bottom line?” asked Nigel.
Clayburn said, “No Cygnians are allowed to work in the United States without a special passport and work permit. No new fusion devices can be sold or operated in the U.S. without a special approval process. The smaller, home and business generators are illegal and cannot be installed anywhere on U.S. soil. But that appointed commission gets to assign the passports and set the approval rules. In effect, we control the process.”
“UZPG has nine more plants to build in the United States,” said Nigel Thacker. “Are we going to be able to do that?”
“We’re going to have to tread carefully,” Senator Clayburn replied, “The commission will set the rules. But the real problem here is what’s happening in Africa. Jim, what have you heard?”
“Gerry, Keyshawn, and Elka are still down there. I’m hoping for an update later today. But we do know that there are hundreds of GFG generators operating there, and that they’ve built some kind of incredible factory.”
Bourbonnais sighed, shifted in his chair, then said, “This is all goin’ way too fast for Congress. Every day, the situation changes. We’re tryin’ to solve problems that don’t exist, protect ourselves from enemies that are really our friends.”
Clayburn nodded. “We’re in real danger of being left behind right now. All our manufacturing plants are going to shut down in a matter of months at the rate things are going. I’ve heard rumors that large auto plants are being built right now in Africa and China, and that the electric cars they plan to make will have thousand-mile batteries that recharge in two minutes. I’ve heard they’re introducing communicators that work on thought commands, attach to any item of clothing—”
“Let’s slow down here,” interrupted McDermott. “It’s clear that our clumsy attempts to control this change have failed. The question now is what we do next.”
Jason Wise stood, walked to the head of the table, said, “Remember the Luddites?”
“A group that smashed factories in England... Oh, I see where you’re going,” said Clayburn.
“We should be looking for twenty-first century Luddites right now,” said Jason. “The old-energy forces have lost the political battle. Are they just going to lie down and let this all run them over? I don’t think so.”
Bourbonnais had been nodding vigorously since Jason had mentioned the Luddites. “It’ll be terrorist tactics this time: bombs, sabotage. They’ll try to shut down those factories. My party can sink its teeth into that one!”
“Marshall, as soon as we get back to Washington, let’s get this rolling. I see bipartisan cooperation breaking out all over the place here!” said Clayburn.
Everyone chuckled. As they stood to leave, Gerry grabbed McDermott’s arm and led him to a private elevator lobby where he shut the door and said in a whisper, “I know we can’t tell them everything, but you and I both know that what the commission is going to make rules about will have no bearing on operating Upper Zion, or any of the other plants for that matter. Isn’t it time we get this out, make it public?”
McDermott’s gaze focused to Gerry’s right. He was silent almost a minute, then appeared to come to a decision. He locked his eyes back into Gerry’s. “I see your point, but if we disclose how the plant really operates, they’ll just move the goalposts. Better to keep it quiet for a while, get those old-energy people in our corner first. Besides, it’s going to be very difficult for the public to understand. I’m not sure I really understand it, to be honest.”
“It’s sort of like quantum mechanics; the math, the evidence, all tell you it’s true, but your common sense won’t accept it.”
“Exactly. I think... Well, maybe.”
Gerry had never seen McDermott so unsure of himself. It was disorienting.
The elevator arrived. They descended silently, each deep in his own thoughts, each aware that a line had been crossed. It was no longer possible to hold back the changes. The time had come to focus on their consequences. Creative destruction already reigned.
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski