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 35: Stonewall to the Rescue
Maria Schoenbrun had spent a day and a half poring over Miles’ emails, tracking down vague leads online, making calls, pretending to be interested in renting a remote cabin in the West Virginia wilderness. Her breakthrough came on the ninth call.
A scratchy voice she barely understood was saying, “No, cain’t rent her out till two weeks from Saturday. Got a coupla guys fishin’ there now. Now, you know, ain’t no Internet—”
“Did you meet them?” she asked.
“Well, yeah, gave ’em the keys. Young guys. One of ’em’s related to Jim Martin — old customer, known him for years — his son, or mebbe was his nephew—”
“Tell me where it is again.”
He gave her GPS coordinates, then said, “Now don’t go botherin’ them guys. People been got shot for doin’ stuff like that. Wait till week from Friday, then it’ll be empty.”
She smiled as she touched the END CALL button. Somebody was going to get shot, that was for sure!
Her next problem was buying a gun. She didn’t really care about getting caught. Miles hated her, found her disgusting, so she had no reason to continue living. In fact, maybe it would be best if she ended her own life in front of him, showing him the pain he’d caused. She’d do that, of course, after she’d first finished off Jason.
A short online search revealed that there was a gun show at a hotel near O’Hare next weekend. No background checks there, and she could use the convenient false identity that Aliens Out had created for her so that she could travel anonymously.
On second thought, maybe she could get away with this after all. Suicide wasn’t all that attractive an option once she’d given it a moment’s thought. Maybe she could lie in wait, shoot Jason, then escape without Miles ever seeing her. Or maybe he should see her, then she could kill him. Or maybe... There were just too many possibilities. She’d pick an option later.
She walked to the bathroom and looked at the mirror. Her stringy hair, frumpy, wrinkled clothes, and makeup-free face had made many appearances on television, the Internet, and in newspapers and magazines. Somebody at the gun show would surely recognize her, probably point her out to others. She’d have to do some work on herself — visit the hairdresser down the block, buy some feminine clothing, invest in some makeup. Makeup! She didn’t even know how to put it on. Maybe they could help her at the salon just a half block from her apartment.
* * *
That Tuesday morning seemed slow at Homme et Femme Moderne. A tall, pale, thin, young man greeted her effusively. He was quite handsome, she thought, despite the black lipstick, matching thick eyeshadow, lavender-streaked, shoulder-blade length black hair, and tight, black skinny jeans.
“Well, hon, look around. I’m lonely as a palm tree in Antarctica. I can take you right now. What would you like?” He sighed as he eyed her top to bottom, his head tilted, his lips pursed in an expression of exaggerated concern.
“Yeah, you can see I need a lot of work. I uh, I got a job interview in the Loop, and I need to look like a rising advertising executive. Can you do that for me?”
His face erupted in an expansive smile. “Oh my God! Yes I can! Sans doute. We’ll do it all: cheveux! Clothes! Shoes! Maquillage! I’ll teach you how to walk! You’ll never regret putting yourself in Stonewall Jackson’s sure hands.”
“Uh, what was that name you just said?”
He snickered. “Well, OK, it’s really Gary Jackson, but I grew up in Atlanta, and I got that nickname when I first came out. I was president of the Gay-Straight Alliance in my high school, so the double entendre was irresistible.” He used the French pronunciation.
“Uh, I know Stonewall Jackson was a Confederate general,” she said. “But why is it a double entendre?”
He froze, only his eyes moving, reading her face carefully for signs of a joke, but all he saw was incomprehension. He sighed, put a brotherly hand on her shoulder, and said, “OK. We’ve got a whole lot of work to do. Let’s get started.”
Stonewall decided to start with her hair. As his long, shampoo-covered fingers massaged her scalp from behind, he chattered. She barely listened until he said, “I’ve seen you through the window with some hunk. Who is he, if I may be so bold as to ask?”
It surprised her how much that stung. He sensed it and said, “Oh, sorry. Maybe more than just a casual friend, n’est-ce pas?”
She needed to talk about it, and Stonewall seemed as good a candidate as any for a shoulder to cry on. “Yeah, I was crazy in love with him. What a fool I was.”
He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Men like that, honey — let me tell you. They’re so stuck on themselves. They’re not worth it.”
“What do you mean, ‘men like that’?
“I mean guys with looks like that. He could easily have a modeling career. In fact, haven’t I seen him in... Oh, never mind.”
“He’s actually the son of a coal baron. Just got the company passed on to him. He’s filthy rich.”
Stonewall took her arm, pulled her to a standing position, and led her to the dryer.
“Rich? Well, some guys really do have it all. How did you get mixed up with him?”
“You don’t really watch the news, do you?”
“God no! It’s too depressing.”
“Well, you must have heard about the aliens that helped build that power plant near Zion? The Cygnians?”
“The blue furry things? Yeah, they’re kinda cute, in a teddy-bearish sort of way.”
“I led a group called Aliens Out. We got a law passed to stop them from building any more of those fusion power plants.”
“Really! So I have a celebrity in my chair! And he was in the group, too?”
“Turns out he was really running it, funneling money in. Oh, why am I telling you all of this?”
“Because you need to talk about it, honey. It’s becoming very clear to me. He used you. They wanted it to look like some radical organization but it was really run by these coal barons.”
“You broke the code, Stonewall. Hey, why are you doing hair? You’re smart enough to be doing something a lot more lucrative.”
He smiled, tilted his head, said, “This doesn’t interfere with my social life. And let me tell you, I have quite a social life.”
“Does your social life include going to The Men’s Room?” she asked.
She was facing him as her hair dried, and she saw the light go on in his eyes.
“That’s where I saw him!”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski