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Shaanxi Province

The valleys of Shaanxi province passed through the window. Over verdant chasms speckled with villages beneath fell in and out of view as the train passed through the long ancient mountains of the Chinese interior. Erupting from the mountain's beds and breasts sprung countless trees. Immense explosive black clouds of birds flew smudged against the cold mist as they made their migrations south. Faded and ancient rested the villages among the boughs of emerald budding trees. Riding above them the train sailed along as a ship at sea on its long aqueducts and precarious cliff roads. Unaware to Shin Yu, he was on his way to Xi'an; he believed he was on his way to Nanjing. But hypnotized by the oceanic waving of the train he had not noticed he had long left the Yangtze valley and was headed to more ancient, northern parts.

Yu found it very easy to nap on these long trains, and he regularly passed into a heavy sleep between stations. He had generous space in the seats, and he used them as much as he could. Fellow riders would not bother him. And those that would did so at his invitation and opening of conversation. He could stretch himself out and lay slumped in the hay stuffed leather cushions. He had done well to find a seat such as this. In this way, he believed he could go on a long ways and he idled himself to nap, to watch the passengers, and to sip his tea.

He looked across from him. He had a traveling partner in this leg. The car was not very full, but the other man had sat himself down long ago. Between then and now they had not spoken much. Yu suspected it would be that way for the rest of the voyage. The other man was far better dressed than he, tightly cute, if casual. The collar of his under shirt lay folded up over the collar of his suit jacket. Breast partly unbuttoned. The entire demeanor framed a rosy if wide face, marked by uneven stubble of black beard and a messy head of it that obscured his face. The rest of it was hidden behind a newspaper, prior he had been reading a book.

Looking at the paper, Shin Yu became enamored with the article open to him. He leaned in close to read it, focusing on the characters before they became obfuscated and disorganized on the page. It was a profile of a man in the election. He had been dimly aware of the election. He only knew so much of it as the Communists who came to his village espoused. He considered the name. Hou Tsai-Tang, it sounded familiar. He believed he knew him. He leaned in to read.

Standing at a long and lanky near two meters, with his unkempt black hair and distant eyes one would not think that Hou Tsai-Tang was the man the Kuomintang had some ten years prior painted as an almost-villain. In his usual black suit coat and quiet demeanor he presents himself more as a college professor than a politician or anti-democratic mastermind. Yet however he none the less holds at his vanguard a rapidly expanding base heading into the election, making Hou Tsai-Tang and the Communist Party behind him the surprising black horse charging into the lead in an election otherwise believed to be a duel between the liberal Progressive Party candidate Huang So-Weng and standing conservative Kuomintang president Li Su.

But in the days since the revolution the Communist Party has not been inactive. While notably absent from the elective space, except for a few provinces the Communist Party has none the less been busy rousing rabble in the cities and countryside. Involved with union organization and the poor farmers of the countryside they have turned out a sizable base in many contested districts of the country. Had they not decided to directly run, the party could have used its assets directly or indirectly to frustrate the election efforts of the Kuomintang or the Socialist Parties. But their entrance into the elections has shifted the calculus and in the short free history of China many observers and election officials are looking ahead into what they are already calling an election of the century.

But to begin understanding the present Communist Party, we must understand Hou Tsai-Tang.

Tsai-Tang has not been candid with speaking of himself, though has not shied away from answering questions or calls from comments. Associates near him have also been free to answer any inquiries.

Born in 1909 to a small merchant family in Tianjin, Tsai-Tang would have what he has described as a “quiet life”. His father was able to afford a modest education for himself and his siblings, but in the desperate years after Yuan Shikai and the faltering stability of the Northern Regime his family left for the south. Though he has not explained how or why he separated from his family and ultimately found himself living in worker's housing in his mid to late teens. He was however, committed to his continued education and working with American missionaries worked to receive grants to study abroad. And this is how he would arrive to America.

Contemporaries who knew him from those days credited his ability to study in the Beautiful Country to his studiousness. Although he failed his application for the Boxer Indemnity Fund the first time he preserved and won it on the second bout. Sailing abroad to America he managed to escape the tumult and humiliation of the War Against Japanese Aggression.

By his own account, Hou Tai-Tang settled into America expecting to quietly go about his studies. Moving in with relatives in San Francisco he began his studies at the University of California: Berkley. He made agreeable marks, and was well into his studies when he got his first whiff of politics outside of Asia. Mixing with the people of Chinatown, San Francisco he crossed paths with America's Asian-rights movements that had sprung up in America's festering political scene prior to the tumult of the mid 30's. Intersecting the nation's labor movement he became involved in the country's union movements through the International Worker's Of The World.

It is in this milieu that Hou Tsai-Tang met his current wife, the New York born Lady Emma Liebermann. According to her accounts as printed in Xi'an based socialist magazine Women's Progress! she and Tsai-Tang connected slowly, meeting first by accident at a San Fransisco rally and over time finding each other on and off UC Berkeley's campus in and out of student affairs. Emma, who was in California in part to represent the IWW in their partnership with California's longshoremen's unions was also doubling as a student at the same university studying mathematics and literature. As the two's paths intertwined more and more their relationship grew and the two conspired together in their activities to produce a broad united front for labor and social activism across all of America's races and working class.

However, their dual mission was not to be, and the opening of the grand national purge of leftist and progressive opposition to the Lindbergh administration now known as the Great Cleansing hampered and complicated their actions, as well as being an open invitation for America's reactionary organizations to enact a pogrom on the country's non-white, and working class communities to stifle and terrorize any opposition to the anti-democratic regime. For their credit, Tsai-Tang and Emma threw up what resistance they could in rallying the community, but the strength of reaction even within California was too much and the pair made the fateful decision to leave for China. Organizing what was left of their political ambitions they rallied an exodus for China, where the hope was that the war with Japan aside there would be much more opportunity and safety in Republican controlled China.

On Tsai-Tang's return into China he was conscripted as an officer into the army and was organized into the 2nd Center Army as an engineer officer, following from his education in America in the same field. His service to the Republican cause was commendable and oft recognized in all the engagements he was in. Through the course of the war he made the rank of colonel.

At war's end is when the young Colonel Hou Tsai-Tang made his existence known for the first time among the greater national populace. Acting on a rumor that President Chiang Kai-Shek was considering continuing to run, and with the defeat of the Japanese had his eyes set on crushing the Communists, Tsai-Tang led an expedition on the headquarters of Kai-Shek himself, and having arrested him demanded his resignation and the closing of the provisional war-time constitution of China and to allow China to come to peace. Enraged, but if outplayed Chiang was obliged to do so as his esteem among the government collapsed. Fulfilling his duties, Tsai-Tang withdrew and resigned his post soon after.

Tsai-Tang's near coup of the military presidency of Chiang-

The news paper was closed and refolded, ending Shin Yu's reading. He was startled by the sudden flurry of the paper. He was shot back into his chair and the man across from his looked up perplexed and concerned. “I'm sorry,” he said cordially, “I didn't realize you were reading that.”

“No, no. It's my fault. I'm sorry.” Shin Yu nervously replied, looking the man in the eyes and away to the window. “I should have said something.” he added meekly.

The other man laughed. It was a friendly laugh, “Don't be too hard on yourself.” he said. With a light tap of the newspaper against Shin Yu's knees he handed the rolled up paper to him. “You can have it. I was done reading it anyways.”

“Oh, no. You shouldn't.” said Shin Yu.

“No sir, I insist. I'll just throw it in the trash when we get to Xi'an.”

“Xi'an?” Shin Yu asked, suddenly afraid and confused. Suddenly his brain began to swim in the now nauseating rowing of the train. He looked out the window. These were no long Nanjing mountains, and the landscape was beginning to open up to a wide river valley below. Just below the rhythmic thumping of the train and the staccato clicking of the wheels over the track he could hear the bursts of wind against the cars.

“Yes, Xi'an. Why?” the other man said.

“Oh, uh- I was. Uh- I was ah- I was going to Nanjing!” Shin Yu exclaimed, his voice breaking.

“Oh dear, Nanjing? That's way back south! Did you fall asleep on the ride?” the other man was clearly concerned for the young man across from him. He leaned in, crossing his hands together in front of him.

“I... I don't know. Maybe.” Shin Yu said, suddenly embarrassed. How could he be so stupid? He didn't remember what happened. Or if he could, he was too ashamed of himself to admit he did. He nervously whipped his hands through his hair. “But... Maybe it doesn't matter. I wasn't going there for any reason. It was- it was just to, ah- just to travel. I wanted to see the capital.”

“Still though, it'll cost you some more money to get back. Are you fine?”

“I'm sure I am. I'm sure.” Yu began riffling through his pockets. What was he going to do? He couldn't say for sure. He felt like he was in a cold sweat.

“Tell me, where are you from? Your accent isn't north of the River.”

“Hunan.” was all Shin Yu answered him. This amazed the man.

“You've really come far.” he commented. After a moment he went into his bags, and before Yu could find his wallet he had out and in his hand a small number of folded bills.

“I really would not feel right thinking you're stranded.” he said in a fatherly tone, “So I want you to have this. I don't know how much you have, or how much it'll be to get a ticket all the way back home. But in good spirit, I don't think I can leave you abandoned here. You've been a good riding partner.”

Shin Yu was shocked, and astounded. “Excuse me?” he said, looking up with his own collection of cash barely out of his pocket.

“I mean it. I'm sincere. On good principle, I can't walk away and abandon you.”

“Uh- Thanks. But, isn't that a lot to do?”

“Don't sweat it. I got a good salary. I can drop a little now and then.”

“But, I really don't want to inconvenience you!” Shin Yu pleaded. He was only being polite. He was hastily calculating how much more money he had left in time, and he saw the money held out before him. And he could not pass it up, not like the newspaper. He could find another in the trash, like the man said. But he couldn't make a fool of himself.

“No, it's really all fine. Take it.” said the man.

“I suppose, I guess I could. If it's not too much.” Yu choked out.

The man smiled as Yu took the money and pocketed it. Nodding, he said, “So why were you going to Nanjing to begin with?”

“I wanted to see the capitol.”

“Oh, that is an admirable pilgrimage.” the man said with a deep laugh, “But, I guess you didn't fail at things too much. You're still going to a capitol.”

“I am?” Yu asked.

The man nodded, “Xi'an was China's ancient capitol on and off throughout history for many centuries. It was were the most ancient dynasties had their home. The city is still rich with their signs and memories.”

“Oh, neat.” said Yu in a vacant tone, “So, why are you going there?”

“I'm an archaeologist. I work for the Nanjing National University. Very recently a find of great importance was discovered just outside Xi'an and I asked if I could not go for myself to stake out the situation! From what we have received it all points to the Qin!” he was smiling wide, his voice rose and he spoke straight from his heart, “This is all the moment that defines careers, and begins them.” he continued with a laugh, “So I knew for myself and my colleagues we have bright futures ahead. It is only a matter of staking it out, and surveying the field of discovery. This is a good time for us. A splendid time for China more-over!”

“To be honest, I'm not that excited.” Shin Yu said truthfully.

“How so?”

Yu shrugged, “I suppose I, uh- I suppose I just never studied history.” shamefully he said.

“Then I am sorry.” the man said, “But if you are in a position to care: perhaps I would be interested in seeing what was found? Our partners in Xi'an are holding a special exhibition of the artifacts found. Perhaps you can go and see them? It might change your mind.” he said with a wide anticipating grin.

“Maybe.” Yu said, “maybe.” he looked out the window again. Distant and gray among the trees and fields the sprawling modern city of Xi'an came into view along its gentle gray river. At their distance, the city's ancient walls stood prominent. Fields and hills of spring forest green enclosed it. Yu wondered just what was there. And he wondered about home. And about time.
requesting baz bazington of baz on sea


The Guelin Shanghai Assembly Plan was by no means a small operation. Built on the banks of the great murky yellow waters of the Yangtze. The extreme end of Chongming island just a narrow brushstroke in the hazy near-distance. The Shanghai automotive plant was a fortress to industry built on the scale expected of automotive production in America. In fact, overseen by American engineers. Built to the scale of the Ford River Rouge plant. While the hand of Albert Khan did not lay directly on the plant, his ghost as inspiration did haunt the many complexities of the tightly integrated manufactory. Its own river port piers, rail connections, and many of the components of automobile manufacture built directly into the sprawling and churning factory. Piercing the gray skies with its dozens of nimble, scratching and reaching smoke stacks, towers, and beacons. It gave off a permanent stench of smog and fire as the furnaces roared day and night. The whistles of its shift changed screaming through dusk and dawn as great waves of workers filed in and out to take their bicycles home or pile into the street cars that had been extended out to meet the factory and integrate it into the urban maze of Shanghai proper. It was a sight to behold, a project undertaken under the auspicious watch of TV Soong and his president Li Su. Among the conservative circles, it was the most controversial of the otherwise hands-off president, who had ensured substantial funding for the factory from public coffers.

The project though was paying back in dividends. Not to full operation, it was producing cars and trucks at a substantial clip. There was not a moment that the factory's lot was ever empty. As a reward for the positive reports, today was special. As a fine drizzle fell over Shanghai, darkening the sky and polishing the concrete as state cars stood at wait outside the plant, a number of radio and television vans were huddled among them. An air of formality and cleanliness had been brought to decorate the entire plant to observe this special occasion.

“We're at maybe 1,000 trucks a day.” the plant manager proudly boasted as he took his State guests along the loud and clattering assembly lines. For the near length of a quarter mile hanging from chain-driven belts the frames were the stocky and rotund bodies of the Zhou Type-B model of light truck. A steel frame and body built and molded to fit and operate in China's growing cities. To move light construction goods and other such commodities in the ancient streets. Developed with a mind to maintain a market hold against cheaper Polish automobiles trickling into the country. “We'll push those gweilo contraptions to the country!” was the derisive comments cheered among Guelin engineers. Besides the bodies were the other components, creating a dazzling race of moving parts throughout.

“We move at a constant pace, there are no breaks. One shift only ends when the next is lined up right behind them to take over.” the manager continued to explain as he gently held the shoulder of a way-ward line worker as he nearly backed into the oncoming procession. He looked up with a startled expression and bounded back into the assembly line to quickly fasten a part of the body onto the frame. The security to the president were not so personal with the men, and made sure to fix whoever may with a look to tell them to keep their distance.

For president Li Su, he acted his part. Detached but casually interested in the whole scheme. To tell the truth, the constant humming and clattering of the plant floor pounded at his head and he found it difficult to pay attention “Now, here at this station is where we begin the process of affixing the chassis to the frame by bolting on the inner walls to the bed.” the plant manager explained proudly, combing his thick heavy hand through his slick oiled back hair as he gestured with his other, “Over these three sub-stations men at either side rivet stamped sheets in three locations, twice each; we have pairs for each part. After it moves towards the installation of the steering and under-side drive components as we'll see later.” his eyes shone with jade luster. He was king in his own court. This was his own kingdom. He conducted the president's and his premier's, TV Soong's attention to the men working quickly at the assembly line like a conductor at orchestra.

Li Su tucked an old and gnarled hand into a pocket on his old military coat as he walked. His heavy mustache and beard hiding a dour frown, leaving only a fat lower lip to show beneath the hair. To the wayward worker who stole the second to look up at him the only inflection of expression they saw was in the heavy commanding weight of his eyes in his wide walrus face. They looked away. The old president was balding, and on the hot shop floor the sweat was beginning to drip and he wiped at his pale face with a handkerchief as they went.

To the credit of TV, he seemed to carry himself in a totally different manner of indifference than President Su. His was professional, business like. He examined the scene like a man inspecting a fat steer before he purchased it. He lightly adjusted his glasses from time to time, looked passed his blunt round nose and passed the men at the line. To the materials they handled and the things they did. Then smiled curtly, revealing nothing, and moved on.

They went along, the plant manager going on explaining in detailed depths the procedures and the technicalities of what was happening. But ever more the din of the assembly floor increased and it irritated Li Su as he was confronted with the ever louder sounds of all manner of tools and equipment. The overlaid rattle of intersecting assembly lines that flowed like the tributaries of the Yangtze into the main flow of the plant at large. Impact wrenches thundered as they bolted tight new components. He suffered the discomfort of goggles far too tight and feared his prized facial hair would catch a light when they entered into the curtained and sheltered area where the frame and other parts were all welded together and filed down. Then a mask to protect himself from the fumes of paint as they passed through there. His legs ached, and his back was sore from holding him up for so long. They had been walking for an hour. He had long believed he had retired from such exertions.

It was an hour and forty-five minutes. Li Su had come to this conclusion by counting and guessing at his steps. He supposed he had made that much time in steps when they came onto the floor. At times the manager stopped the entire thing to introduce him to men the president did not care about, from classes of people he did care for. He had to go through the motions with them. To return their bows, or shake a hand, and pretend to remember names that truthfully he would not ever meet again. He would steal glances back to his premier, and TV would look back with a terrifying flicker in his eyes and know he was as contemptuous as he, after all: both of their fathers had worked hard to put substantial distance between them and the peasant. He began to wonder if there were communist shenanigans at foot, or if the plant manager was somehow a communist. He made a note that he also knew he would probably forget – it was otherwise that unimportant – to have the plant manager investigated for any socialist leanings. At best he'd be a liberal, no doubt. He settled on that.

By the end, the cacophony of the whole affair had gotten to Li Su. And in a move that startled TV he turned on one of the factory workers. “You damn fool!” he said in a loud low dry voice. It even stunned the plant manager, who to this point had carried on the tour as though the president was silently attentive. It did not take TV long to realize what Su was up to, and imagined something had caught his ire. That he had seen something he knew enough about to comment on. Or to pretend.

“You damn fool! I'm talking to you. Where'd you learn to fasten tires? Did you come from the farms, soldier? Lift your shoulder, hold it like this!” he demanded, holding up his hands as if holding an impact wrench before a pair of baffled line workers who were desperately trying to keep up with the flow of the line and pay attention to the president who leaned tall and wide over them with his great general's coat open.

“No no no, you egg headed morons! Are your heads full of water? Like this!” he insisted, shoving his hands forward. His intonation was heavy. He gestured violently, going red in the face.

“You keep doing it wrong, I tell you!” he shouted as another truck rolled off the line. More and more workmen were becoming livened to the spectacle as they came to pick up the trucks and push them in neutral from the line as another jumped in to try and start the car to deliver it to the lot. They looked at Su with wide-eyed awe and then down at their fellow workers with expressions of grief and hilarity. To the men Su were berating, it was only confusion. They continued at what they were trained to do; there was no time to make adjustments. Or when they did it was too small to get the president to notice and he continued.

“By God and Jesus you two still do not get it!” Li Su continued on, passing bit by bit back to a soldier, “I should think I am qualified for this sort of commentary, don't you think?” he continued on, speaking more generally to the men around him, “I did not dig trenches against the bastard Japanese for five years to be out-baffled by two line workers! I managed thousands, tens of thousands of vehicles such as these. Tens of thousands. Tens of thousands! I think this lends me a little authority when I say a tire is not being installed right! What happens when one of those falls apart on the road because of your incompetence?”

The plant manager was struck cold. Frozen. He did not think it would be proper to approach. What was next to show the president was the factory's kock-down procedure. These vehicles would have to be broken down before being put into their kit boxes for shipment. The tires, for what it mattered, did not have to carry anything far. So long as the parts were in place, they did not even need to start; though it was a bonus if they did at all. If they had just that little amount of gas.

“Lift, you must lift. With your shoulders! Put your back into it. Straight on! No, not at an angle, you'll strip the damned threads you empty vesseled peasants. Damn your fathers for breeding you! This is shameful. Can you not work at all? Christ! I haven't seen such indifference by anyone but Koreans! I am done here!”

He stormed off, waving his hands in defeat. He passed the plant manager. Stopped. Turned towards him, “Well, where are we to go now?”

It took the manager a moment to collect. And when he did he flashed back to life as though charged by a sudden current. “Ah, yes. Yes, sir. This way, please. After me.” he talked as quickly as he walked, leading them to large open doors and back out into the Shanghai drizzle.

TV followed for a bit, and stopped to loiter. A security attache stopped with him and stood back watching. TV looked back at the line. The two line workers furtively stealed glances towards where they were going and at each other. They danced away at their job. Moments later a man came up to them coolly, looking over at TV. He was dressed plainly, in the same light-blue jumper as the rest of the workers. He had tied a red handkerchief around his neck. He knelt by the two workers as he looked up at TV and spoke quietly to them about something before stealing off for a door.

“You knew we were being followed, sir?” the attache said in a quiet high voice.

“I thought as much.”

“The same man has been tailing us the whole day. He never got too close, but we all knew he was there. Should we arrest him, sir?”

“That may not be necessary.” TV said plainly, but he was hiding his contempt for the man. He knew who he was, not personally. But conceptually as a collective. It was a presence that kept an eye on him all through Shanghai. Since the old days.

“Right, well: we should catch up.” Soong said, finally cracking a smile and headed out into the rain at a brisk pace. The security man nodded, and followed after him at a brisk pace. The cold afternoon drizzle fell on their faces. It felt like needles on the bare skin. Back out into the open the crowds had assembled again on them and the camera men and the newspaper photographer men and the writing men had all come down on them again. Damn, had they waited? It was too packed for them to really follow through the plant, not for the weights on their shoulder. TV figured that much, but found himself astonished that they had all moved so quickly around.

He saw it though, the bikes they had rode in on. Now they were gathered here under a ceiling of umbrellas and Li Su was under his own black umbrella held by a tall mountain of a man at his side. The plant manager was already explaining something new, pointing to the sea of cars that extended out across a great open concrete plain. Here the rain water was collecting into its shallow pools and the gray light was reflected back at them.

Li Su's temperament had cooled. But he wore a sore spot in his chest as the indignation bloomed inside him at now learning at the tear down process for the kits. The cars never left the plant here fully assembled. They would be disassembled and sent out. He would have figured, but he was not a manufacturing man. All the same, he felt himself justified. Shoddy work had to be called out.

“At their ah- destination the final project is fitted um-, with glass, head-lamps, and some ah other accessories.” the plant manager was explaining nervously as TV caught up. “The tires are really just um, basic. Sometimes supplied as spares, I guess. Any known defects from the floor are, eh, noted. It's not really our responsibility. At all. They might do a finished paint job. White isn't really the final color. More a- er, primer. The batteries we also install are just for um, plant use. To move the product. We try and run the engines dry when we can on the way to or at the break down plant. The building over there.” he pointed to another large warehouse of a building towards the river.

Things went on this way for several minutes. They moved gradually into the shelter of an awning, where the lack of rain made things warmer. The shuffling of reporters following them soon made the space louder. It was harder to talk and to be heard. Eventually over the din, before the theater could be moved again a reporter spoke up: “President Li Su! Do you have any comments would like to make?”

“To who?” Li Su responded back.

“Does it matter?” the same reporter answered, pushing his way to the front. He was a weasel-like figure.

“Anyone then?”

“We are all here.” the reporter said, to the laughter of everyone else there.

“Very well.” said Li Su, smiling for the first time. He put on a loud theatrical voice that echoed under the metal canopy, “I am pleased to pronounce that Guelin's newest plant here in Shanghai is a booming success. So far what I have seen is, from beginning to end, top to bottom, from each rivet to weld to brick and all the turning and spinning wheels a singing success. With this plant, and all other institutions like it here in China we are smashing our way towards success. We are clearing a road straight ahead into the future. There we will find China's seat once again at the middle of all things. And all we have is to take our collective leadership, and as a people take initiative above all else. A little pluck, ingenuity, and the desire to compete against all peoples. It is not just what we must do to become respected, but to reclaim our respect lost to us over the centuries of degeneration.

“The workers here: I am impressed by their stock. They are ingenious workers. The company will go far with them. I have no doubt with that. The build of this plant: a splendid show. It is all laid out orderly and I dare say so far: I will not be lost finding myself out!” he held up a finger in exclamation. Everyone there took the cue and laughed politely, “There is a fine logic, and it is set up like all things orderly under Heaven. If I am saying if it is lacking in anything, it is that there is still much to do! And it has all the space yet to fill out to meet those demands!

“There is nothing out of our reach here. And be damned if we do not shoot for Heaven! Before long we shall be leaving America and England in the dust and we are streaming ahead. We shall be the ones dismantling their Great Wall and grand temples to rebuild here to preserve them from their culture! We are a united people! United in our values! And God bless us!”

The small crowd applauded and Li Su was pleased with himself. The plant manager himself was pleased. Someone asked TV Soong if he had anything and he only smiled and declined the officer. An over-enthusiastic reporter pressed the plant manager for any comments and all he said was, “Good words.”

The clamor reached a momentary pitch before subsiding. Not before long they were on their way again and the tour headed into several new spaces. But none to much very new. Li Su viewed the docking area to see raw materials brought in from upstream being uploaded onto the plant's local industrial rail to be delivered to earlier viewed furnaces and mill works. They passed briefly through a cafeteria, where a shift of workers were on lunch and to who Li Su was compelled to extol his compliments. They were very pleased.

At long last they reached the end of their tour. They ascended to the manager's office, where in his spacious den the president and TV reclined with glasses of imported whiskey and met with a new guest. A tall man with broad shoulders, who seemed more taller than he was through the stripes of his gray suit. While his hair was receding, though he was not very old it was combed back tight and to the side across his head. He had very sharp features. He identified himself as Gong Li, the chief financial officer of the Guelin company here to pay the company's respect to the president and TV Soong. Together in the plush brown leather armchairs of the manager's office with glasses of ice-cold whiskey for sipping they exchanged some casual remarks and conversation before the topic of business could be broached.

“So my friend, what were you doing in the thirties?” Li Su asked, looking at the CFO as he sat attentive in his chair.

“Me? I was studying in England during the war. Alumni of the University College of London. It was a good time. Business, namely. I thought I would stay in Europe out of the country but my career after brought me back home, wouldn't you know?”

“Oh no really? That was fortunate, if I'd say so myself.” Li Su said with a wide smile, “It is a shame these days about Britain. How low the Empire has fallen. But you've clearly done well for yourself.”

“Like many others, myself and them. But perhaps misfortune will someday lead me back to English shores as it did here. Who is to say?”

“So is it true then, that a country's bad fortunes is business's good?”

Gong Li laughed, leaned forward, “By God, where'd you hear that?”

“A little bird may have said something like that.” he said with a long drawn chuckle, looking to TV Soong who simply reciprocated the gesture with a polite nod.

“Well, it would seem that way. With the Qing gone and the whole of China with its guard down there was a high-stakes rush on the China market. I came back home to help manage in an import-export scheme. Made some proper finance for myself, went to Shanghai. Grew from there.”

“What were you trading in?” TV asked

“Oh, the usual: raw materials, iron and copper. General commodities for the European market. The race wasn't as good as it was during the war but European markets still needed to be provided for. So my firm handled the middle ground between here and Europe. It all came to an end when the Japanese made it truly impossible to ship anything across, and no one was willing to hike it across Russia. And I was trapped, but trapped with money. So I stayed, helped develop a business. Stumbled into industry.

He took a sip from his whiskey and opened up his arms to the space around him. Implying the whole of it. The entire factory: “A good spot of business, isn't it?” Gong Li remarked on he victory. He leaned back in his recliner, crossing his legs and assuming cheery, rosy eyed casualness.

“Yes, very.” Li Su said detached, “I am afraid it may be vulnerable to communists” he snarled.

“That's the threat of any good operation.” Gong Li placed the iced glass of whiskey to his face, “We can fight them when we can. But in the end it will come to a strike. The company is not yet unionized, and the board is aware of the vulnerability of the factory being new. We are working at training new security staff, but it may be some time to patch the holes before the barbarians run in.”

“I think perhaps they may be better entrenched than you'd like.” TV chimed, “They were following us the whole time.”

Gong Li hissed, shifting his position to the side. “Who are they?” the manager asked, “At the least we can put an eye on them.”

“How am I supposed to know?” TV responded acidly, “But I think I might have a lead: they were the men at the end of the line we were on. There was a man following us with a red handkerchief tied around his neck.”

“Yes, that'd b-” the plant manager began.

“Yes I know, it's fairly universal in this city.” TV interrupted swiftly, “I know some people though, if you need some quick security. Already trained for a fight. I can put a word in and they come forward.”

“Oh yes, if you can that'd be splendid!” the plant manager exclaimed, “Who are they?”

“Some war-time associates. They'll require pay, but not as much as any other security. You'll be contracting out to them.”

“How much?” Gong Li asked.

“Oh, I couldn't say right now.” TV said, scratching his chin, “I do know there are plenty in this city trapped, and who are desperate. Those are the bodies they pull from. You need not worry though, they are ruthless fellows. Quiet effective. Many fought in the war against the Japanese. Many served in other ways.”

“In what ways?”

“Yes, I'm curious.” said Gong Li.

“Well let's just say that there are more than a few ways to get through military blockades. These men were professionals in their time, and before. They are handy associates.”

“Oh, wonderful. Thank you. We will have to pay you!” Gong Li exclaimed.

“That won't be necessary.” TV said.

“I insist, the two of you. Sir President, what do you say?”

“It might be improper.” Li Su said dryly.

“No, really I insist. How about stock options? Me and my friend here can work on figuring out how much this may save us in the future, and present it to the board. I'd like to get the two of you in on the board. It would be an honor for you both to join us!”

“No, someone might notice.” Li Su again said, declining politely.

“No, that's not a thing that will do. And besides, who would notice? I'm sure it can be, you know: hidden.”

“I suppose we can pass the shares to my wife. If you have the sum, I will pay her and she you, and she'll be there on my behalf.” TV relented.

“Oh wonderful, and you: Li Su?”

“I am sure my son would feel up to the task of managing some shares. I will speak with him.”

“Oh, excellent! A top shelf endeavor. To the two of you a toast: to happy futures!” Gong Li cheered. He paused a moment and mulled to himself. Speaking as if unsure himself he leaned back towards the national leaders and made another offer, “I do not know if I should break this, but I have an acquaintance who is making new business.”

“Oh, what is this business?” TV Song asked.

“Well,” began Gong Li, “remember when President Li said profits can be acquired from failing nations? I have one such acquaintance who is casting his long gaze over the Russians. It's been several years of private labor at this point, but he's told me he is willing to make a public offering soon to fund it all in earnest. Perhaps then, like myself: you'd be interested?”

“Oh really, do we get a good deal at all?” Li Su asked.

“I'm afraid not on this. The information though comes free, for being such great men of course.”

“He is a daring man.” Soong chimed in, “What for?”

“He has his attention set on mining. Oil, actually. According to him the Russian state was exploring for oil before it really fell to ruin. And he happens to know a guy that gave him some details. So he took his money and followed up. And he believes he's found oil. He is looking at initial investments to get his company up and running. As an early investor, I hope to get details soon, and I will send you them when I am through with them. I will even ask if he is up to taking some money from some Very Important People.” he said with a smile.

“Then I will have to explore this option. This is good trade!” Li Su declared.

“This sounds like a major risk to me.” TV said to Gong Li, “I will wait.”

“That is fair, gentlemen.”


Hutuo River

Somewhere north of the town of Shijiazhuang a small group of men hiked through the hills of the countryside, surrounded by the bucolic buzz of cicadas and the songs of birds. Long off any useful road, they walked with the weight of instruments and tools hanging from their backs. Large army rucksacks containing the multiple tools of destruction afforded to their art and the amenities to remain in the field for a long time. To a few, these forested hills and stony fields were a familiar scene. They had come here in the War; still a clear vivid memory with the pop and vibrancy of a shell burst. But in the short years the peasants and the peaceful dance of long grasses and the flowing meditations of rural life had returned to fill in the lightest wounds of the old war days. But to those who knew where and how to see the land, the bullets and craters were as open in the fields as the days they were set there.

But the memory of war was not their goal. They weren't here to simply soak in the sights of the countryside, to wash away the memories of war with rustic scenery. They were on the hunt for a river. Even if on this search, the walk itself was not inspiration to recollect and withdraw clear history from the river waters of cold time.

“You remember that day, don't you? The day we came down from over onto the Japanese. What a glorious day! A wonderful show!” a man said all too cheerily.“Oh what a show. I don't think I was here, I think I was somewhere over there.” he gestured lazily off to the north somewhere, “But this is all bringing back memories, yes. Oh the fire sure smelled sweet. It was a amazing rush to break out of those mountains and wash the Imperials back to the sea! Tang, you were here, weren't you?”

“No, I was further south.” answered a tall man, with slicked back black hair. He looked around him to the glades and the fields of wheat and grain, the pastures of cattle. Just years before this landscape was burned barren by the deployment of bombs and artillery. Gently pulling at his sharp spear tipped beard he wondered at how many cattle may have strained onto a bombshell in the time since. “I don't think we were ever this far up.” he added in long distant speech.

“Oh a shame, I would have liked to see them butted against the river when the mortar fire came down.” said the other man, his voice high and breaking in excitement. It was like a religious experience to him. And Tang wondered if this excessive enthusiasm was how he could cope with it. He did not have the same joys for the battlefields of old as he. He felt if anything mute towards them. Appreciative more of how the progress of China in the short decade sense had smoothed over the scars in the countryside, covered up the trenches and filled the craters.

They came to a spot on their walk where the dirt path began to dip down and the land around them opened up down a gentle embankment. Through scattered trees and thin under brush they could see the sparkle of the river they were search for. Its dark waters glistening in the sunlight. The water was running high, though slow. Already a few trees low along the banks were submerged, but among them swam several ducks, large numbers of birds sang in the trees over. The scene was alive, and the group made their approach, setting their packs down as a flattened area of land to the side, as the dirt path wound its way around and over to a small wooden bridge, nearly submerged in the water just downstream.

They set their packs down and looked down at the dark flowing waters of the Hutuo River, fresh from the nearby Taihang range. They chatted lightly as they unpacked for their campsite, inventorying their surveying equipment and preparing a plan to measure and search the river. Reams of paper were produced, and surveying notebooks opened. “What a country this would have been to fight in, the armor riding in straight ahead. And this river: this river is fine.” the man from earlier continued, “I wonder if this area had seen any action. I would have liked to see the Japanese pressed up here. You think if we pressured them hard enough would they have fallen into the river on their own? Would they have swam?”

“That's nice Chao Huang but some of us don't need to think about it.” scolded one. He looked up at Tang, “Is that right, Hou Tang?”

Hou nodded indifferently. He assembled some optical instruments, glancing up ahead searching for a good spot. They were here to identify a proper place to build a dam. They would need a good location. They would need sound soil. One of the lot would probably have to find the nearest town. Much had to be done, and he wasn't paying attention to the chatter. His disassociation registered on Huang, and he abandoned his line of conversation. The rest of them made up a plan, and they dispersed in pairs. Hou would have been alone, but he had company of his own.

He had his equipment gathered, and everything was laid out. The campsite would be throw together proper later, for now preparatory work would be carried out. The weather looked clear, and would be for some time. But with him, stepping out the periphery approached his wife.

Emma Liebermann was clearly not of Chinese extraction. She was a foreigner in a foreign land, but she had come here intended on adopting the land as her own after her former homeland had thrown her out. She stepped up to Hou's side and said with a smile, “You ready?”

Emma's Chinese was by this point almost perfect. She had made a great effort since she had met Hou Tsai Tang to master it. But as much as she tried to mute her old accent, the affect and presence of just a little bit of New York City would rise up the currents of her voice like incense. “If you're ready to get wet.” Hou answered her jokingly, pulling her close by the shoulder and leading her off upriver with, she giggled squealing with surprise.

The two side-by side stood almost the same height, Hou only slightly taller. And by many demographer's standards he was an already fairly tall man for China. His long limbs carrying him with not so much grace but a windy whirling that propelled him forward. His foreign extraction wife was the contrary foil, having learned to walk with earned grace and even a prideful strength; though being pulled along through the tall graces and reeds of the river side she not so much as walked but fell forward after her husband who commanded things in a controlled comedy for the two of them.

Reaching the water's edge to the location of Tang's choosing they went to work. He wading out into the water to make measurements, he called back to Emma who waited on the dry shore writing them down. By and large, the two shared something of the same education, or in as much as one and the other were willing to share and split the difference. Since meeting in San Francisco, on and off the campus of UC Berkeley and in the tumultuous strike and protest events that marked the end of the twenties and into the dawning shadows of the American thirties they had grown close. Marrying before Hou could finish his professional education and carry on to higher things, and before their forced exile and retreat to Asia. Since coming to what was to her the exotic orient, the origin of the simulacrum that was the Chinatowns of America the relationship had become even closer and more co-dependent between the two to the point that they practiced the same things in tandem. Even the course of the war, and Hou Tsai Tang's entrance into it as an officer could not physically separate the two and she joined him in as much a capacity as she could in fighting the good fight against the foreign incursion of the Japanese in the thirties, marking to Emma the opposition of China against the United States, the rising light against her home country's falling darkness.

The only thing that kept them apart in this time was that despite it all, they began a family and she had to invariably separate from the front.

The day grew long the sun set basking the day in an orange burning glow and the surveying team returned to their camp, at various levels of wet and muddy from their trudging in the field. At setting their tents and lighting a fire they gathered to heat rice and compare notes, to begin the work of building a profile of the river and make sketches of maps and details for the project to move forward. It was the beginning of a long process ahead of them.

Sitting shoulder to shoulder, the four surveyors sat side by side with the great folded cart of the river way on their lap. Much of it was old, drawn from a time where there was not nearly as complete a technical survey of the area. Compiled even from old army surveys. And they collaborated onto it their combined studies of the area made that day, making a mere drop in the bucket to produce the finer details of what was a very flat map of the region they planned to work.

“Where the locals put the bridge would be an adequate place.” Chao Huang said, scratching at an itch on the side of his round head. There was a dry roughness to the side of his face. A trophy he had won in the war. A light injury all in all, but something that never truly went away. No one could tell why, though it healed it still burned his face and left it lightly scared. “The distance between the shores is not to wide.”

“Perhaps so, buy the land is over all low.” said another. “We can mark it down as an option. But what were the dimensions?”

“Here, check this.”

“Thank you. Where was it again?”

“This spot here.” Huang pointed to the location on the map.

“If we can get some aerial photography that would be for the best, I believe.”

They chatted on like this for some time. They combined their noted together into a single folio, writing on the map. For the next day they elected to take some soil samples, to find where the land was its firmest. “It looks like it's mostly all rock through here but you can't be too sure.” said Hou Tsai Tai. They agreed.

“We should perhaps look upriver. We might have somewhere with more elevation to work with. It's narrow there but the land through here is rather low. We would be picking a site for a wide dam. Too expensive. We should build it narrow, save on time and money.” Huang Chan went on, “Maybe we should figure out how to get back in the touch with the provincial board. They'd want to know. Hell if we get lost they'll know where to look.”

“Good idea, I'll head into the village and ask look for a phone.”

“And leave you to campaign?” one of the companions joked

“Two jobs at once. It's efficient.”

“Then let me go at least. I could use some tea.”

“Never the less, are we going up river? The maps look like it might be better suited. Higher banks.”

“Sure.” Hou said.

“Can I borrow Hou, for a moment?” Emma spoke up from the other side of the fire.

“No, he's warm.” Huang argued.

“Yes, what do you need?” Hou asked.

“Can you come over, I have something I need to ask you about.” she answered back. Hou acknowledged and rose from his seat among the clump of engineers and made his way over. Tucking his hands into a faded and dirty UC Berkeley varsity jacket. No one really understood it here, besides the odd Yank or Anglo.

“Am I missing a paper for your report to the Party's press?” Emma asked, holding out a few loose leaves of paper, scrawled with writing, “You never numbered these, and I can't seem to order them. I think you missed a point.”

“How do you mean?” Hou asked, squatting down next to her and taking them in his hands.

“You talk about the necessity of leveraging the current status of organizing in China to procure greater shares of the profit. But here jump subjects to talk about landlords. The thinking seems to be incomplete.”

Hou considered, reading through the two sheets of papers as his colleagues mulled over the dam procedures for the next day. Furrowing his brow he scanned the other papers. “May have fallen out somewhere.” he said, “But everything flows well, right?”

“For what I can tell. Tell me what you want and I'll write it down. We can work it out later.”

“If I can find a phone I can dictate it to the press office. That's the plan for tomorrow at least.”

“That'll be well. But how did you connect the two?”

“Basic dogma.” he said, “You got anything to write it on?”

Emma nodded, and dug around in the portfolio satchel she had by herself. She produced a pad of paper and a pen. Setting the papers inside carefully she got to work.

“Firstly: the organized unions are doing good work in ensuring the representation of the worker at his or her factory. However: since the end of the revolution their quality of their demands has faltered, where as the quantity of actions has remained the same. However: we are not in any position for Communism yet, as it stands: simply put the masses are yet to feudal and the abundant labor for the labor armies are not ready; the Party press will understand this, they can reprint remarks from a couple years ago. Gou Xhi is a capable editor.

“To this end, what has been holding our efforts is the conservative alliance with the landlords. This is where it connects to the other point. It was really only a page. But:

“Because of the feudal character of the nation's countryside, a large number of labor is stored up in enslavement of the rural worker and tenant farmer. We can only do so much, but since the damnable court ruling of three years ago it has become more difficult. So our option to tipping the scales and to growing the working class and inter-class solidarity with the peasant and the city worker the first goal is the legislate the matter of land rights into something sensible.”

“And what about getting rid of it all together?” Huang Chan shouted, a slight smile on his face.

“Because that might invite reaction and we have been through too much war to turn peaceful governance into revolution.” Hou said back, “But yes, that was the gist of it as I remember.”

“Very well, I think I got it.” Emma said with a sigh, “Anything else?”

“If they need anything I'll tell them to just look at Antithesis of Capital. I think that'll be all.”

“Thank you.” she put the pen down and looked up at him, “Love you.” she added with a smile.

“You too.” he said, bending over and kissing her on the forehead. Turning back to his companions he said: “So where are we at now?”

Xhou Enlai: A Profile
I have been involved in several projects with the Russians before.

What did you do with the Kursk?
Anhui Province

Along the Yangtze

The group of four moved up the road with a trunk full. Beneath the marching bags of clothes and personal effects packed tight under the heavy steel hood of the car boot lay three cases of shotgun shells, five boxes of rifle rounds, and a loose collection of pistol rounds in a hemp sack. Laid out like decking boards rested the unloaded armaments to the shell, a shotgun, rifle, and a pair of pistols. The four men that rode with them in the passenger cabins looking out the rattling windows with patient relaxed expressions. If told of what they had in the trunk they would be thought of as being bandits. But at a glance they would be believed to be perfectly normal civilians. They did not wear a severe uniform, or look particularly rough and scarred. There was no dead expression in their eyes. The driver and his companion in the front especially were jovial and casual, singing to themselves and their companions in the back; songs from the War from memory. Rude marching tunes, hopeful victory ballads, and the other dozen sort of things. In their song books they had also learned or transcribed – translated into Chinese – the fight songs of American labor, whose origins of their melodic tunes were alien to them.

In the back the rear two passengers gazed out at the scenery, sometimes mouthing along as they rode. To one side of the car the mountains rose nearby, high foot hills making a long and lazy march upwards. Rice paddies and wheat fields set side by side creating a vast golden and shining emerald and black plate on which the forested mountains sat with their nestled mines deep within. From the near farms were the tractors of the ox drawn cart the car had to share road space with. And they swayed side to side as they passed the occasional spate of rural traffic along the wide dirt highway. There was not much traffic in the oncoming direction, and what came was in loose bunches of blue, green, red, or gray sedans, trucks, and other what-has-yous. Occasionally there would be a man on a bicycle, with cages of clucking hens stacked on either side in a delicate balancing act.

The other side of the road was shared by the wide Yangtze whose far shore at times felt like a distant memory or a suggestion. Its dark gray waters running calm, broken only by small wind-swept waves. In the midst of its great wide body chugged a range of large freighters and barges whose white wakes trailed long behind them. Among the roving fleets too were the ferries and commuter boats that traveled between the cities of the river. All was on the great river as things had been for centuries. Unbroken by time, only changed in its size. Where they had once been boats with sails or oars there were not large steamers and smokers who took over the great Yangtze since the last century and became like a new Mississippi.

The two rear passengers who watched this rode in one of two ways. They mouthed quietly along to the old songs, barely murmuring out the lyrics as the two in the front belted them out and drummed them out on the wooden dash. Or sat in total silence. Of the two one had a leafed through copy of What Is To Be Done by one Vladimir Lenin on his knee.

The car came upon an intersection, and the driver dropped the clutch rather clumsily. They bounced in their seats as the gear dropped and the car roughly began to slow into the corner. It weaved, swaying to the side as it did not so much as drive into the corner, but fall into it. Righting out, the engine rose and it the gear was shifted up. “Sorry about that.” apologized the driver as they went up the road.

It was a narrow gravel track, packed firm by rain and animal carts. Nothing had been up to turn up the gravel and it was all beginning to sink below the fields. They continued on all the same. The sign on the road said they were approaching some small village called Baimaozhen. The village was small, and clustered up along the small canal that went out to the Yangtze. Its rude rural homes were packed tight against the road side where old men sat on milk crates smoking cigarettes and staring at the car as it lumbered through from their field worn and earthly wizened faces. Their ragged clothes hanging lose from sinewy shoulders. A way in the travelers found a lot to park themselves in, and they pulled in. Next door was a tea shop, where the proprietor had set out make shift tables to sit and drink in the summer afternoon. They got out there, stepping out to find a seat. The locals kept a curious eye on the newcomers as they sat themselves down. Moments later a middle aged woman came to them and asked if they would like anything. Tea they said, she went back in. The group sat in silence, waiting.

The minutes went on, and they sat in silence, rubbing their legs which had gone numb in the driving. Squinting into the summer sun they took in the small village with feigned disinterest. The server returned with a tin kettle, steaming with fresh brewed tea and a tray of cups. “Well that be everything?” she said in a reedy voice.

“Yes, I believe so.” the eldest of the four said, looking at his companions to look for signs of disagreement. They had none, “Thank you.”

“My pleasure.” bowed the serving woman, “May I ask a question though?”

The eldest raised his eyebrow. He was a handsome young man with a broad brow and narrowly set eyes. His complexion pale and soft. He was beginning to grow the shadow of a beard on his chin and neck that he had not shaved in three days, “Go ahead.” he invited.

“What brings you out here? We don't get many folk like you.”

“Looking for work.” the elder said, pouring his tea first and passing the kettle on.

“You have a car, did you not have good work where you before?”

The eldest smiled politely and laughed, “We had good enough work. But this is only my brother's, really.” he said nodding his head to the silent brooding man next to him. They looked much alike, though the younger brother held himself up much more like a brooding ape. His body dropped against his raised knees as he sat on his milk crate. His heavy hands held out idly in the air. “We thought we could find better work elsewhere. We heard the mills up the river are hiring, and we might try there. Have an adventure.”

“Tongling is quiet a ways away. Where did you leave from?”

“Nanjing, it got very expensive then.”

“Dear!” the woman said in an exasperated tone, “You've been driving for a long time. Why did you not take a ferry?”

“Didn't think it would be fun.” the eldest laughed.

“What it would be like to see the country though, I wish you boys well.” the woman bowed, and parted from the group who by now had poured their tea.

“How long are we going to stay, Aiquo?” one of the travelers said to the eldest, his hair was long.

“I suppose we could stay over night.” replied Aiguo, looking around, “We should find ourselves a place to stay overnight. We can have a break. We'll need to ask for a gas station, the tank is almost empty.” the table nodded their approval.

“What do you think of the town?” asked the other.

Aiguo shrugged, “I am not sure if we will be approached. This is an old man's town. Or all the men are in the field. Once we find somewhere to sleep, we may go out to drink and hear what the men have to say.”

“So we could be here for a while?” the long haired one asked.

“We could be, Chen.”

“Anyways: to a good time. Long live the working people!” Chen said in a subdued voice, raising his cup of tea. The others received the toast, and they drank their tea.
<Snipped quote by Dinh AaronMk>

Nah they can have France, I'll switch to a smaller nation since I have less time than I expected now

The roar of the trains in the station brought a rush of warm wind, dust and papers rose into the air. Though there was much more than the rush of the incoming and outgoing trains to stir the air in the industrial metro. Though it would be a hazard to say it was only the trains that brought this gust. The passing of life and business on the platform rose it higher on their breaths. The watchful gaze and chirping shrills of the whistles of the station men rose it with magic. The alarms and shouted announcements of the conductors to the departure of trains cheering it to greater heights. Children ran between the legs of tall strangers. Somewhere a busker played a song on a Erhu adding to the ritual that brought the particulate to life. Even the station itself seemed to breath its own life. Its construction pulling in air to push it out again. Though the station was only a few years old, the smoke of trains and of people covered the great throat with a patina as a smoker. The concrete floor was scuffed and rubbed smooth by the leather and rattan soles of a millions shoes. All was full of a tense life. And in the green glow of a light shining over a map of China a young man with a fistful of yuan looked up at the routes of the trains.

Shin Yu had for his eighteenth birthday been given a package of bills he had saved away and given the orders to, “go out, see the country I fought for” by his proud father. His gift had lifted the otherwise sallow and distant gaze of his already eighty-year old pa, who was really well into his forties. Some venom in the past had sapped away his life faster than he had to live it. So, he was often tired. It was only the moment the young Yu became an adult that his father found the life remaining in his heart, where it flicker secretly like a hidden jewel.

Shin Yu had prior to any grand plans expressed a desire to join the army. This, several years, perhaps really a year and a half before his eighteenth had at the time made his old father distraught and depressed and he disappeared for a time within himself. But somewhere in the old man he came around or thought of some strange, alien plan to distract him. Whatever it was, he had conjured the money and foisted it on his son and told him to, “go out, see the country I fought for”. And what was a young man to do with such money? He obliged.

Packing out from his provincial village in southern Hunan he meandered the countryside to Hengyang. He went by foot, by ox cart, and even stumbled into a man with a car who brought him to a small town. There, at a train station that he bought a twenty yuan ticket to board and complete the rest of his journey to Hengyang in only an hour. The youth was struck by the city emerging from behind the hills with its great expanse of human life, thriving traffic, and activity. He stepped off the train aroused by it. From the factory smoke to the bustling of the streets, the trams and trolleys, and all the small stores and hidden homes in the old streets. To him it all seemed amazing. He spent a day in the city, living out of his packs and sleeping outside in the parks. He had conspired to see as much of the sights in the city as possible, to be entirely romanced. But he soon found himself disoriented at the city. He became lost. He paid another fare for a street car and arrived back at the train station and looking up at the map.

A handsome youth, he was kissed by the provincial countryside. Dark sunny complexion, bright brown eyes, and his black hair was largely untamed. He had a carved figure about him, and thin stubble of beard grew in the round valleys, the round hills of his youthful cheeks and jaw. Despite the weight he carried on his shoulder, he walked light and bouncy. He could walk as far as any good bull. Though his clothes were old and dirty, it was only by time; care had been made to keep them right and well patched.

If there was anything someone might say was lacking, it was confidence. At least in this moment. He stood at the map of the country following with deep concentration the network of railroads drawn in red. He thought he would go to Nanjing and see the capital, and from there wherever the winds take him. Maybe turn around and go back home if he realized he didn't have the money anymore. But as he stood looking up at the map he found that translating it wasn't as direct as he would think. He fuddled with it, thinking of the rough maps he would draw in the dirt or on a piece of wood to help a friend find something or to be shown by his family what field was to be worked that day. These were all fairly routine: go to the old tree split in the middle like a fish's tail, and head east until you come to the ancient tea shop, follow the road north from the old abandoned store and it will be on the right. This was all known. He could handle the abstraction. It was always handled in words. It all involved land he was familiar in. He could walk it asleep. He knew the way the road was that a brisk walk would get him to the field in twenty minutes with energy to spare. He also knew the relation between the old tea shop and his family's hut, and that if it was rainy to not go to the fish-tailed tree and he could take a higher route that while more circuitous would bypass both it and the tea shop, and he would arrive at the field straight on because all four things were known like the sun and the moon and the stars. But this was new, and its newness confounded him. Because in what direction was anything?

He knew nothing on the map, though he could read the names just fine. But he could not see any of these routes. It bothered him. He became frustrated and turned from the map. Perhaps it would not bother him. Perhaps he could ask. He took his money and went to the window.

If there was one thing that he held in unyielding aw in the station, even as everything else lost the fantasy: it was the railmen. It was not that they were particularly magnificent, they did not wear any grand uniforms like the generals and the soldiers in the pictures books that he had read. It is just that they held a pride that radiated beyond the simple nature of their uniforms. They made up for that in a pride of purpose and of strength that glowed in the way they held themselves. The emblem, small and humble that was its symbol was worn quaintly on their collars. These men were communists. There was not a worker who did not have pinned on them the insignia of the Communist Party. They wore it with an air of coy manner of the mahjong player. “Oh, I do not have the pieces to finish my hand, what do you mean? Don't you want to lay out yours?”

He had known communists, several years ago a group of them passed into his village. They barely announced it, but everyone knew they were communists. Their small group had moved simply to a table at the local tea shop, and ordering dimsum began to speak with the locals, or whoever would come by. At the time Shin Yu was fourteen. He had heard of the communists during the war from his mother, who worked for a time following the army. Back then they were loud and always shouting. Their officers challenging others to an argument over some issue or another before being shouted down by a more superior officer. She talked about how they would often sneak captured Japanese rifles to the camp followers and teach them to shoot, or to sneak the rifles to the villages they passed and how the military police would find several when an old man would surrender a half dozen to the army. She thought back then they were fools and radical. His father was a republican, Kuomintang and never did such things. But when the communists visited the village, they were not loud and even his parents abided them in silent mutual respect, though they never visited them. He had meant to visit them then, but by the time he worked up his courage they had moved on. Shin Yu wondered at these communists though, they were not particularly meek and humble as the ones he knew before, they were far too proud for that. But they were not loud and preachy as his mother had described them. He considered them, not making up his mind.

There was a line at the ticket windows. He stepped in and waited, gazing around. The variety of people were amazing. He was struck always by the sorts he saw in the city. There were Daoist priests, elderly men in the old dress. Younger men in the sleeker western suits. Rugged individuals and a few soldiers. Women in qipao and mothers with children. Others dressed like ladies from abroad. A small huddled group of Buddhist monks stood nearby, gazing out at the station silently and brushing their bald heads with their hands.

“Hello.” said the woman at the counter as Shin Yu stepped up, “Where are we headed today?” she spoke flatly, without intonation.

“I was thinking a ticket to, uh- Ji'an?” he started, he felt himself clam up and his fingers began tapping the wooden counter of the ticket booth, “Though, I'm really trying to get to Nanjing.” he added out of reflex.

“Nanjing then? We can get you a ticket to the capital. You'll need to transfer still.”

“I can? Well, that's good.” a relieved Shin Yu said, feeling an invisible weight lift off of him. “How long will that be?”

“Do you have an appointment there?” the lady said, pulling aside a sheet of paper and starting to fill it in.

“No, I am just out to see the country. I just thought I would go to Nanjing.”

“Well lucky you.” she said with a polite smile, but Shin Yu picked up it was rather wooden.

“You don't look like you're having much fun.” he said as he was handed a ticket. The lady at the booth rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“Eighty yuan, please.” she said.

“Oh, I'm sorry. And: here.” he handed her the bank notes and bowed nervously as he stepped away. He looked down at the ticket. It took him a moment of concentration to read it. But he would be departing from platform four at fourteen hundred. He looked up at the station clock that hung large and looming like an ashen moon over the gate where the trains came from. Barely thirteen hundred. He mumbled to himself, and walked to the platform and found a bench.

He would need to wait some time. But he had waited many time before, so unslinging the weight from his shoulders he sat his rump down on the cold metal bench and began his wait, watching the station life move on around him and the song of the train whistles and the engine noise and the talking and shouting, with the Erhu playing in the background and the calls and shouts of the station and locomotive staff. It fell and slipped into a casual dissonance and he leaned back into the bench.

For much of his life he had known only the relative calm of the countryside. In the mountains and hills where he grew the most that would dissolve the peace were the festivals or the rolling in of a spring and late summer storm. Even the cry of the cocks in the morning was peaceful and in as much harmony as the leaves rustling in the wind or the soft low hum of cicadas. But the bustle of the city and of the urban rail station was new to him.

He laid his head back and breathed a long sigh and waited.
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