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 42: Desperation
Past midnight, in the serene, luxurious boardroom of one of the world’s largest oil refining companies, Manuel Lopez Guevarra shouted angrily at five people seated around the large, deep-brown, lacquered table: “There are no coincidences!”
He was standing in front of a whiteboard, facing some of the same conspirators who had earlier confronted James Martin. They had been assessing reports of the damage done to the Botswana factory: confusing, contradictory reports.
“Our contact says that they were called away to such meetings downtown several times a year,” said Director Naïr. “Surely this is why there were no human casualties. I believe it was a simple coincidence that the humans were not there during our attack. But the thirty-two dead Cygnians reported by the authorities and confirmed in the press are most encouraging.”
“We saw no bodies,” said Jennifer Schaefer, CEO of a large American oil company. “We really don’t have confirmation—”
“They were vaporized by an atomic bomb!” said Director Naïr. “You can’t expect to see any remains.”
“Our sources tell us that remains should still be visible, but no photos of remains have surfaced,” said Ms. Schaefer.
Guevarra laughed. “Well, at least they’re not making any clothes!”
“Uh, I have some disturbing news on that front,” said Saeed Naïr, who rarely spoke in their meetings.
They all looked at him in surprise, both because he spoke, and because of what he had said.
“Their product continues to flow into the major clothing distributors as before. There’s been absolutely zero interruption of product delivery. This is according to three different reliable sources.”
“But where then are they making the products?” asked Guevarra.
Abdullah Naïr waved his right hand. “If I may, I would like to introduce someone.”
He pointed to the person sitting beside him, a short man, middle-aged, balding, dark features, unremarkable. They’d eyed the man with suspicion when he’d first entered with Naïr but assumed that he must be part of the oil Sheik’s professional staff.
“This is Mr. Hector Sabio, an expert in manufacturing technologies and processes. We have worked together quite a lot recently as my family attempts to diversify away from its core investments.”
Sabio smiled and nodded several times as his eyes surveyed the room.
“Mr. Sabio,” said Guevarra, “I hope you are as wise as your name implies. You are well aware of the extremely sensitive nature of our discussions of course.”
“Certainly, sir,” said Sabio. “And I can assure you of my utmost discretion. At any rate, I am here for a specific purpose, and then I will leave. Director Naïr has asked me to explain a plausible scenario for how the Cygnians could continue to supply product after the destruction of their factory. I would propose to you that this would be quite easy.
“Any large concern today builds redundancy into its systems. The disruption of production in one place is always possible. There could be an accident, a tornado or hurricane, an earthquake. The possibilities are many. I’m sure that when the Cygnians built this huge facility, which went from an empty field to a productive enterprise in only a month by the way, they also built a backup facility. This facility could be somewhere else on Earth, but my bet is that it is not on this planet at all.”
A long silence set in as each attendee considered the implications of such a possibility. Finally, Sabio asked, “Would you like any further explanation?”
“Where might the redundant facility be?” asked Ms. Schaefer.
“Based on our knowledge of the Cygnians, and I’ve spent a lot of time with them, my best hypothesis is that the facility is on a planet in an alternate universe. It would not only provide the best protection; it would also allow them to quickly move the employees there. It is even possible that the employees are not aware that they’ve left Earth.”
“How could the employees possibly not know that they are in another universe, Mr. Sabio?” asked the tall, gray-haired, elegantly dressed, distinguished gentleman who served as the CEO of the large refinery company hosting their meeting.
“Alternate universe tunnels set up a field that creates a gateway to that universe in our space. So, for example, we could travel to another universe right from this room by crossing something known as a Barrier. It feels like you’re walking through a damp, foggy mist. There’s no sense of moving a great distance.”
Abdullah Naïr looked around the room but saw little comprehension. “I know it makes no sense,” he said, “but we must accept it because it works, and Mr. Sabio and others have actually taken this very special walk.”
Guevarra sighed, shifted in his chair, and said, “Very well. But let’s get back to this idea that they’ve built another factory to back up the one we destroyed. On what do you base this hypothesis?”
“I have had extensive discussions with the Cygnians, especially before their presence was made known to the public. They aren’t a secretive lot. In fact, they rather like to brag about their capabilities,” said Sabio.
“You were on the UZPG transition team?” asked Ms. Schaefer. Her voice betrayed amazement and doubt.
“Yes, I was responsible for some of the Earth-side coordination of construction.”
Six pairs of eyes focused on Director Naïr, all full of suspicion. He decided it was time to get out. “If there are no more questions for Mr. Sabio—”
“Thank you for your time,” said Sabio. He strode to the head of the table, grabbed Guevarra’s hand, and shook it vigorously.
The Venezuelan, his handshake limp and cold, stared hard into Sabio’s eyes. He abruptly pulled away his hand. “Thank you for the information, Mr. Sabio. We’d like you to leave at once. We need to talk among ourselves.”
Sabio turned to say good-bye to the others but every face was now pointed at the table. He and the Director stepped into the hallway and walked briskly toward the entryway.
“Well done, Inkohatum,” said Abdullah. “Were you able to—”
“Excellent,” said Abdullah. “From here forward, we’ll talk daily.”
Abdullah turned to leave, then turned back to face Inkohatum and smiled. “The name was a nice touch.”
“Knowing how to speak thirty different languages has its advantages.”
Inkohatum, soon to be Jason Wise again, walked into the dark parking lot, empty except for a dozen or so luxury cars. He opened the door of a black BMW Seven Series, settled into the driver’s seat, and sped off into the night.
In the meeting room, the refinery CEO’s eyes were locked onto those of Saeed Naïr. “Have you met this Sabio before, Mr. Sub-director?”
“My brother takes care of many things with which I have no involvement, sir. So, no, I have not met him before now.”
“Guevarra,” said Ms. Schaefer, “would you be so kind as to direct your contacts to check out this Sabio? We need a report within the week.”
“And Mr. Sub-director,” continued Ms. Schaefer. “Have you or your brother had any contact at all with James Martin since he last met with us?”
Saeed shook his head but said nothing.
Schaefer said, “I’m sure, then, that neither of you would mind if we pulled all the data from your phones and electronic calendars? It would provide us with the assurance of your loyalty.”
“It is the gravest insult I have ever suffered!” said Saeed. “But I will bear it. I cannot speak for my brother, and I seriously doubt we will be seeing him again tonight.”
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski