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 34: A Conspiracy Fractures
James Martin shook his head in disbelief as he walked slowly from the conference room where he'd just purchased half of UZPG. The story McDermott had told him was astounding, unbelievable, and yet Nigel, Clayburn, and Jason Wise had all said it was true. He chuckled at their stern warnings to keep the secret, thinking that if he did tell anyone, they'd think he was insane.
He walked alone down a long hallway lined with doors leading to small conference rooms. As he passed one of them he heard voices and glanced inside. Around a square table sat many of the participants in the meeting he'd just left. Señor Guevarra of Petroleos Venezuela sat facing the doorway. When he saw Martin, he stood and waved him into the room.
“Mr. Martin, we've been watching for you,” he said. “We are discussing some incredible news. Please come in.”
“OK,” said Martin. “I do have a flight to catch—”
“There are other flights,” said Director Naïr. “Or if you'd prefer, we'd be happy to drop you off in our private aircraft. Allow me a moment to fill Mr. Martin in.”
Martin sat in an empty chair. Director Naïr rose, closed the door, returned to his seat, and began. “We have received word of an incredible new factory in Botswana, apparently built by the Cygnians. This factory makes every manufacturing plant in the world instantly obsolete. I cannot begin to tell you the number of businesses affected. Not only are we energy producers impacted, but suppliers of all kinds of machinery are affected. And then there are the raw materials imported from uninhabited planets. The prices of most non-metal commodities, especially cotton, will fall like a stone if they build more of these factories.”
Martin sighed. “Guys — and ladies — did you hear me in there? You can't stop this train. You've got to hop on.”
Guevarra shook his head vigorously. “No, this is a disaster, an invasion. It is economic warfare. We intend to strike back as soon as possible. Politics works too slowly.”
He looked Martin hard in the eyes and continued. “Will you pledge right now not to repeat a word of what you hear in this room?”
“No, Mr. Martin, say it aloud.”
“Are you recording?”
Several heads shook. “Of course not,” said Guevarra, “but I want an unequivocal answer from you.”
Martin considered the irony of being told two deep secrets in a matter of minutes. He considered saying no and leaving, but he was too curious. “I pledge my silence. I will not repeat anything I hear in this meeting. I will not admit to having attended this meeting.”
“Excellent,” said Director Naïr. “Allow me to continue, Mr. Guevarra. Mr. Martin, you of course remember our discussion some time ago in Dubai. We discussed the possibility of sabotage, of making it look like the Upper Zion plant blew itself up.”
“Yes, and I said I wouldn't be a part of that.”
“We understand. But now, we must stop these new factories. We've formed an alliance with several extremist groups, experts at large-scale bomb attacks. We intend to pay them to destroy these factories, one by one, until the Cygnians give up on us and go away.”
Martin's shoulders drooped. He shook his head. When he spoke his voice was soft and full of sadness. “Yes, you might be able to do that once or twice in Africa, Southeast Asia, maybe even in the Middle East, but the Chinese are going to be building these factories. too, and I don't think your terrorist friends are gonna be able to operate there. So what do you accomplish? You give the Chinese a big advantage. Some great plan.”
“You underestimate our friends, Mr. Martin,” said Guevarra. “At any rate, we are fighting for our survival. The time for taking risks has come.”
“Why not jump on board the train like I was saying—”
“You are naïve,” said Guevarra. “This train, as you put it, gives us no advantages. Just how are economies based on abundant national supplies of energy going to transition into manufacturing? In Venezuela we produce oil. In China they make a lot of consumer products. Only so many consumer products can be sold in this world. What exactly could we make that others do not make already?”
“Do you really think you're gonna chase the Cygnians away?” asked Martin.
“Once they start sustaining losses, our belief is that they will decide that Earth is not worth the trouble.”
“Or, they'll bring in the most effective anti-sabotage systems you've ever seen.”
“Perhaps they will,” said Guevarra. “And then we will have to outsmart those systems. This is a war to the death, Mr. Martin, and we intend to go down fighting.”
Martin chuckled. “Custer's last stand. That's how all of you see it. Not one of you has any imagination, any idea at all of the possibilities these new technologies are going to open up. This isn't the end, it's the beginning!”
“No,” said Guevarra, “it's the beginning for others. It's the end for us.”
“So what do y'all want from me?” Martin asked with a sigh.
“We know you won't join us, but we wanted to warn you,” said Guevarra. “You may have bought into Upper Zion, but you are still one of us. Stay away from these new manufacturing facilities. Do not invest in one. We do not want to harm you or your interests.”
“What about the power plants?”
“Those smaller generators that the Cygnians are selling will soon make every power plant in the world obsolete," said Guevarra. “Everyone will generate their own power. We're not too worried about those.”
“So y'all think I’ve made a bad investment?”
There was a moment of silence before someone who had not yet spoken, a tall, elegant woman of perhaps sixty years, someone Martin only knew as a senior executive in a major American oil company said, “Yes, Mr. Martin, that's exactly what we all think.”
Martin stood, turned, took a step toward the door. Mr. Guevarra's voice stopped him. “Remember, Mr. Martin, this is a fight to the death. I advise that you take your pledge of secrecy most seriously.”
To be continued...
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski