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You're good, chief


Tibetan Militarized Zone, south of Yushu

The expansive plateau and foothills of Tibet sprawled out to the heavenly blue sky. The great earth covered in a mat of young spring grass, blooming in spring life. And under the blue ceiling of heaven sat sprawling across the heights of the ridges, rolling down into erosion carved valleys of the steppe the command center for the Tibetan Militarized Zone.

Formally established in 1949 as the permanent fixed command for the fluid and unresolved situation with Tibet, command had before rotated between posts at Wuwei, Xining, and Chengdu. The nature and location of the command changing based on the conditions against Tibet, the undeclared war which China had with them flaring on and off. It had made questionable gains in the years since the launch of the Western Expedition. It was a long zone of contention, spanning the length of the border from Diqing to the Hotan wastelands. Daily some small incidents erupted with long range skirmishes across the epic valleys of the low steppe, or close altercations with fist and sword and knife in the mountainous alleys under the shadows of immense boulders. Air missions to recon the mountains would receive fire, and combat air wings would sweep the region. Armed bodies of Tibetan soldiers would march down on the Chinese to dislodge a field post or to drive an equal body of Chinese into retreat. Here in this region, the careers and expertise of men were made and specialized.

“I just wanted you to know, that I put in my letter. I'm retiring from the service. I asked the Commission to review you as my replacement.” Quan Yu said, as he sat down at his desk. Across, a younger officer took his own seat, placing his hands on his knees as he watched his superior with deep interest and undivided attention.

Quan Yu was a man of sixty. Having cut his teeth in the revolution he had followed Zhou Enlai west as part of the expedition, and of one of the many junior communist officers the Kuomintang military authority of Whampoa wanted to dispose of. As soon as China filled out into Xinjiang and settled his career come to rest. Now to end at the outer extreme of Tibet. His eyes were deeply eroded, wind scars and sunburns wringing eyes. The wrinkles that rounded them as deep and complex as the landscape in which he had come to live and even start a family for over two decades. The time had balded the officer, scars from combat injuries from the old days were dug deep across his head. A mortar explosion in the fifties had broken an arm before he assumed command, and now it bent backwards and at an angle from his body. His soldier's vigor had drained away and he looked at the world through tired eyes. Yet he was man that none under his command could say they hated. His officer corp looked up to him and he was a fan of the theater, ordering a movie theater built at the command post for all servicemen, general enlisted or otherwise. Yet among his close confidants it was known his heart was elsewhere and not Tibet; he talked of going home to Jiangxi to retire, his children were now almost adults and had not seen their ancestral province.

The younger officer, Feng Lu nodded. Lu was a tall man, and his face was soft. Cosmopolitan. The fact that unlike many of the other older officers who had come into the army from the peasant class and who had hardened themselves through the blood and the grit of the revolution was well evident in his demeanor and his outward appearance. An officer that embraced the cleanliness of the new army, the manners of the army at peace, though he was in the last combat zone in China. He did not wear his hair wild, and he combed it back across his head with the assistance of hair cream to keep it held tight. He was closely manicured, his face narrow and pointed. Despite he youth, and metropolitan cleanliness he betrayed a sharp awareness in his eyes. Eagle-like. He pressed his lips flat before he spoke in a low voice, “I understand. I congratulate you decision, sir.”

Yu smiled, “It was a long time coming.” he said with a rattling sigh. “The status of the region hasn't changed much in the last ten or so years. While I hold you in complete confidence of doing anything, I do not imagine you would have a difficult time. And if things are to change, I don't think you'll have problems either. You have the entire weight of the army at your back.”

“I understand.” Lu said, “And the Commission willing, I'm eager to take up whatever challenge they send my way.”

Quan Yu smiled, and nodded, “I'm sure they'll agree. There is much to do, especially if Congress let's us do it. Perhaps it might be worth doing a strategic briefing. It would not help to get you started early.”

Feng Lu nodded, and followed his commander as he stood up from the small desk. Lu kept a small, tidy office. Not much larger than a closet, it was dominated primarily by his desk and several tightly packed bookshelves. Poking out from corners lit by the light from the room's single window stood portraits and photographs of the man's family. A short letter singing his praises from one of his then young sons hung on the door, framed and at eye level as they left.

They walked down the concrete corridors of the headquarters. Perched at the top of a rise they could look down into the valley below through the wide panoramic panes along the exterior hallway. A single switchback road whipped back and forth up the steep rocky slope with its emerald grass and blooming spring flowers. At the bottom of the valley the rest of the base sprawled itself out through the narrow crevices.

The headquarters were cold and drafty on account of no air conditioning in the halls. Only in a few offices or conference rooms were there stoves or radiators to heat the space in the winter. And on this early spring day, with the snow melted, the air was cold and bitter. The two men closed their coats tight against them. Passing offices and NCOs they met stood stiffly to salute them, their cheeks rosy and flush in the cold air of the passages.

“This will be yours to command, eventually.” Quan Yu smiled, authoritatively, “I hope you enjoy it. It's a fair enough posting.”

“I've enjoyed hiking the hills.” Feng Lu said, relaxed, “Have you been to the Yunnan Pocket?” he asked, referring to the southern extreme of the command zone.”

“A couple times. I've never explored it however. But I've been there.”

“The landscape is dramatic when you get well inside. The forests are a thing of magic, and the height of the mountains are astounding. It's wild and ancient there, impossible.”

“So I've heard from the units there. Men tend to get lose on patrol. The locals are uneasy about them as well. We've conducted intelligence research on the area to find if there is any link to Lhasa's politics affecting them. Or if it's just the soldiers interfering with the land. If I would call any area of concern, it'd be Yunnan. I've tried to find more suitable places to put men to not inflame tensions. Our fortune is it's not an active location, but we need someone there to survey it.”

“I can understand the need.”

They came to the end of the short hall and another wing of the command center. Here, General Quan Yu opened the door and granted his successor to be access to a briefing room. “You'll be spending a lot of time here if they accept.” he said, turning on the lights. They popped and sputtered and soon illuminated the room in a warm yellow glow. He walked over to a radiator in the corner, and turned it on. It kicked and hissed, shaking violently against the wall before settling and quieted.

In the center of the room was a long table for maybe twenty people. At the head a large paper map hung on the wall. It showed in over view a map of the region. Stickers scattered over the map showed the location of deployments and bases. Other stickers, red showed the suspected location of Tibetan forces. “I'll try my best to over-view things from memory. When the process of succession begins the detailed work will begin. Take a seat, comrade.”

Feng Lu bowed, and walked to a chair and took a seat. With the practiced routine of the instructor Quan Yu moved to the board and began explaining the situation:

On the whole, the Chinese side of the border was occupied by twenty-thousand men stretched across the whole of the Chinese border. During the time of the conflict with Tibet since preliminary invasion by Zhou Enlai the bulk of the fighting had occurred over southern Qinghai and Xinjiang. It always came as skirmishes. Chinese offensive efforts had been frustrated by the hard terrain of Tibet. In the field intelligence from the time and gathered since strongly indicated that the Tibetan forces were armed with comparatively modern fire arms, which while at this time would be out of date in an open field of battle had the advantage that equalized them against the Chinese in the high mountains of the Himalayas. The conflict stagnated and stalled. The inability of the Tibetans to make headway against the Chinese has since been confirmed by their inability to assault the Chinese positions. To a point, Chinese air power has been a great support, but the altitude of Tibet's vast plateau is a stress to Chinese air superiority and limits their operational capacity.

As the decades had gone on the militarized zone's priorities has turned from a region for unit combat duty, into training for fresh soldiers to receive fresh exercise it an extreme part of China. “I feel most of the time I am a headmaster for students more than soldiers.” Quan Yu said, tired, “Perhaps in my retirement I will go into teaching, I have many years of experience.”

“I wouldn't say it hasn't be worthless.”

“No, of course not. Never has been. After the War it's been a break. But I feel our importance has been waning in the weeks and months. I'd be prepared to fight to keep material interest on us. Otherwise it will slip into becoming a pariah for something else. The Commission is always in negotiation with other parties. The government is negotiating its policies. We're here to prevent banditry at the border. They won't notice until it spills over.”

“I wonder if we can push the war to conclusion.” Feng Lu said, “From my experiences in Hotan.”

“Yes,” general Yu said, “If you have the chance. General Feng Lu and his goat army march on Lhasa! That would be a headline. You will complete the struggle of several commands before you. Comrade Enlai would probably find it very funny, and very smart.”



The morning began as all others had. The bells rang and the horns opened in the tremendously low hours of the morning echoing across the deep valleys. A city at sleep curling up out of their beds under the still blue light of morning before the first hot rays of the sun could break over the ramparts of the Himalayas. Through the window the young boy could gaze out through the imported curtains at the still dark sky, just becoming illuminated by the first thin bars of blue morning light. The air was cold, and so was the sky. In the thing clouds that existed at these heights only the barest inflection of color could be seen in their long silvery bands. Orange, as in the robes of the monk. Soon the morning chants and recitations would begin, two hours before breakfast would be served. The youth protested silently to himself before leaving the bed. He had only on his mind sleep, the passion to return to the realm of the dreams where he had his freedom. Damn the rinpoches, the diamond could use some sleep for once.

But damn the liberty, as he turned from the windows his room was soon stormed by a squadron of attendants, who bowing delicately and apologizing profusely began to manhandle the young lad, pulling him from bed and forcing him into his monk's attire. He moved with them automatically, as if a robot and simply obliged their respectful demands. They may have touched him, it would have been the same effect, but he was carried down the halls of the Potala Palace and through its lacquer stench of yak butter and candle smoke to preside over the morning prayers. Where from route memory he chanted out the dharma and the sutras in daily ritual as the son peaked over the mountains and casting low fire rods up from over the peaks of the Tibetan mountains. Such is the morning of the 15th Dalai Lama.

For two hours he sat on a cushioned chair above the other monks and the faithful in the hallowed halls of the Potala Palace droning out the sacred texts from memory. In the corners monks beat on drums, gongs, and cymbals creating an atonal symphony joined in by the low bleeting farts of horns and the gut-low gurgling of the monks and they recited the prayers for Lhasa, for Tibet, for the world that morning. Beseeching ancient gods who lives in the deep valleys and dark caverns all throughout Tibet. For the dead picked up by the vultures on frozen wingtips to be carried to heaven and devoured. At its peak the young Dalai Lama gave one of the few offerings he had the power to make in these times, that the Chinese be kept away for another day. And perhaps someone was listening, because for every day since the prayers began the Chinese had not come.

By the time the prayers were finished the sun was well into the sky. The morning light had lifted and the sky was open in its vast clear blue. High into the peaks the thinness of heaven was revealed under a dark blue as intimidating as the great seas below, as if any on this plateau has been down to see the sea.

Breakfast began on a terrace. Accompanied by a few other monks the Dalai Lama sat at a simple wooden table drinking down a brothy soup with vegetables and yak meat. A pot of butter tea in the middle. Surrounding him and sharing from the same common bowls were other monks, all far older than him talking in hushed voices about all manners of things. A pair at the end was locked in a debate about the nature of reincarnation. The young Dalai Lama simply found himself adrift in the normality, his mind empty as he struggled to pretend his belly was full. But looking up out of the corner of his eyes, he saw them.

At a distance in the shade of a doorway seated at a small table of their own were the Britons. Their heads bowed low in secret concourse and their backs arched primitive over their bowl of stewed meat and vegetables. Somehow one of them had brought in cheese. They did not drink tea, but coffee. They wore over their olive green uniforms the robes of monks. Through their conspiracies of Albion they had made their way into the palace and set themselves up as monks before the Dalai Lama had arrived. Or at least, that is how they carried themselves: as monks, rinpoches of the highest order. With their thick moustaches which they never shaved they looked over at the Dalai Lama with eyes always squinted tight against the harsh glare of the high mountain sun. One of them had a cigarette. The Dalai Lama was powerless to stop them.

Watching them, the Dalai Lama noticed as one of them rose from their table as a high-ranking monk approached them. One of the regency council. The arriving monk bowed and engaged in gregarious conversation and joined them at their seat as the one who had just left stepped towards the Dalai Lama. Coming before the table the British man bowed low, and said in Tibetan highly inflected by his accent, “I hope his holiness is having a splendid morning. I wish to extend an invitation by his holiness's regency council that he may join us later this afternoon in a review of the troops. His presence and participation will be highly esteemed.”

He would have had rather do anything else. But in the end like many things he would doubtlessly end up there. He accepted the quest, and the Briton gave him a long smile and backed away.

As breakfast closed the Dalai Lama was again shuffled away to another duty or obligation. In a musty hall he was obliged to sit in on a debate between two monks. Ceremonially, he was there to moderate. In practice, it was for him to learn. Not yet into his majority, he could not assume the duties of his position. But in the moment, his heart and mind were not in it. Trying to pay attention, he could not and his mind was set adrift. As the talk and excited retorts of the two monks broiled, punctuated by the loud claps that accentuated Tibetan debate the Dalai Lama went to think about the English. Their guns and weapons they had brought with them south from India. He was not allowed to be privy to the circumstances why. The regency council that surrounded him kept that a strictly confidential matter. But in his young years in the palaces of Tibet he learned to find a way to learn. Even as he was drowned in meaningless obligations and duties.

From what he heard, the British officers had first come north under the waning influence of the Russians. Those far northern men had retreated back to whatever land they had rode from beyond China. He thought they were like Mongols. They could be. He had never seen a Russian before, let alone a Mongolian. But others side they were European, they were like the British. But far ruder. So he had to let that be the reality.

Despite their origins however, the English were here. And has tensions flared into war in India, the consul they established in Tibet did not leave. If anything, it dug in deeper. And through the influences of these high majors tucked away at the roof of the world their weapons and wealth and influence came north. To what end the Dalai Lama could not grasp. But throughout his life they had been doing it. The debate closed, and he was again taken away. To review the troops.

Leaving the palace for the first time that day he traveled out of Lhasa born in a litter. Secluded in his canopy he rode on his cushioned chair. The coach rocked gently back and forth on the shoulders of the monks bearing him. Looking discreetly out the curtained windows he looked down at the faithful who lined the streets to bow and pray to his holiness passing before them. Surrendered to never knowing his face, they kept their heads bowed. Some prostrated on the ground, planting their faces in the dirt as they held their hands before them, palms pressed together. In their poverty they prayed for wealth to his Holiness and the continuation of the peace of the city. But he knew, what little he did know, that was only where the peace was: in the city.

Leaving the city he opened the curtains wider to get a fuller look at the world outside. The liter was born across a small canal cut through the rocky soil. Here the city of Lhasa began to thin as they made their way north. The roads became less paved, less packed gravel and more soft free sand. Ranges for yaks and goat, and fields of barley. Turning his head out into the cold late morning light he looked ahead. Looming atop a small hill in the distance was the fort of Drapchi. Its old walls white washed and shining in the light of the day.

Rising up the road to the fort, the soldiers exercising in the field stopped what it was they were doing to run to the side of the procession and to begin to pray and cheer the Dalai Lama. But it wasn't all of them, the young boy noticed. His gaze was pulled up by the yet still more distant soldiers that simply stood watching him go by. He wondered at their loyalties. He entered into the fort, and lost sight of them.

Passing immediately into the inner courtyard of the fort he was brought to a space along the side of the dusty barren parade ground where there stood a small group of officers with their hands behind their back. They looked up to see who was arriving, and immediately dropped to bow to the arriving Dalai Lama. An attendant with an umbrella was quick to appear as the liter was lowered and the Dalai Lama was shielded from the sun as he stepped out. Cold footed and nervous he looked up at his military officers and quietly greeted them with a blessing. Each of them returned the favor with a quick, quiet, “Thank you”.

The assembled officer corp was mixed. Only two bore striking European features. The other ten were mid-level officers of some degree but Tibetan or Nepalese. They all wore the same uniform, a light cream field jacket with belt. Distinguishing them from the general enlisted all of them wore slouch hats in the English style, though the brims wore flat and lowered to protect their eyes from the sun. Some even wide brimmed pith helmets, with a length of long corded yellow cloth.

“The regimental inspection will begin in just several minutes.” an officer said congenially, “If his holiness would not mind waiting.”

He thought to say he did mind waiting, and if they could begin now. But resigned, he knew what the situation was. “I understand.” he said, “May I wait in the shade?” he asked, looking across to a shaded arcade against the far wall.

The officer smiled, and nodded. He had his permission. Turning on his heels the youth ran to the shade of the gallery. The attendant running after to keep up. Several of the monks followed. But the rest lingered. “Your holiness, why do you run?” asked the attendant. The Dalai Lama did not answer. Stopping in the shade behind a pillar he turned to watch.

Minutes however passed, and little happened. The time lengthened and impatiently the Dalai Lama waited. “Several minutes” turned to several hours before finely a lone brass horn blew and a corp of senior officials began to walk out on the parade ground. Finely dressed military men in uniforms of the European style. Tibetan ministers in robes and dress like that of the old Chinese court. Seeing them the Dalai Lama thought, as he often did of the story he heard of Puyi. The fated last Emperor of China and how like he he was only a boy Emperor when he was deposed of the throne. This also was not a story many in his circles wanted him to know. But their silence was suspicious as he learned the story in pieces and seeing the powerful men with their swords hanging at their side he could not help but be afraid. The attendant who was with him, a young lieutenant not much older than he caught his look of freight and asked him, his voice heavy with concern, “What is wrong?”

The Dalai Lama realized fast he had shown something, and recoiled. As quickly as he could throwing on the mask of stoic ironic detachment he was meant to wear where ever he was. “Nothing. It is nothing.”

“I am sorry, but you looked afraid. Is something the matter?” he asked.

“No. Nothing is wrong.” he lied.

“I ask because you look worried. That is all.”

“No. I'm fine.”

The lieutenant nodded. His expression glowed with respect. Looking back up at the men now taking the field he said in a low voice, “Sometimes I wonder about them too. The British. I don't know what country it is they come from but I wish they would go back.”

The Dalai Lama said nothing in response. He only noted it.

As they took their positions a single bugle call was made, followed by the sound of marching drums as a band sprung to life somewhere in the fort. In a distant corner the Dalai Lama could make out a column of soldiers marching out from a distant barracks. Their faces fresh and ready. Rifles at their shoulders. Or muskets. Some had muskets.

Japanese Taiwan

Atayal Territory

The prodigal son had returned and the community came out to celebrate him. In a clearing along the side of the Liwu river the people had come down from the mountain villages and along the coasts to celebrate the return of their war hero. He had not just come home with honors, but had come home a man. By proximity, he had made himself not just a man, but his brothers too who may not have the same fortunes to go to war. Still dressed in his Imperial Japanese Army uniform, Baay sat in the shade of a canvas tent as old men with the old tattoos on their faces quickly and haphazardly smeared a greasy paint over he and his brother's faces. Still hot to the touch, they could not help but laugh as globs of it got into their mouth. The elders making jokes as they went. Teasing them and telling them how much more painful it must be for them. The comment was not just sarcasm. The Japanese had long removed their right to tattoo their faces. Any of them who did would be outcast as the Yakuza on the imperial home islands. And only those who would dare to do so would have to hide in the mountains. And these boys had wishes and duties to perform. But these duties did not staunch the deep pain in their hearts for not joining in the tradition which was now dying. They hoped deep inside them that they could one day tattoo their faces and revive the tribe.

Standing just at the edge of the tent, their sister Sayta stood smiling. She joined in the fun making. Cracking comments and laughing along. No one brought up his service. It was not needed here, not yet. This was too good a moment. For the time being, all comments could be made to The Head.

The Head stood at a place of pride in the celebrations. Haphazardly kept preserved, it had been smuggled over from the East Indies by Baay to reach his home village in the mountains. The trip itself was a story as much its taking. Baay had found someone who was willing to transport the thing in a crate of fruits. It wallowed for several days in customs before being unceremoniously moved on when an associate of the shipper retrieved the box and removed the head. Dumping the fruits explaining they were spoiled. By which point the canvas sack the head was stored in was suspected on several occasions. “It is meat, for my dogs” the man is said to have explained. Or: “It is fish guts, for the pigs”. It had almost been intercepted, but eluded capture. And as well as a sign of Baay's martial ability sat now the grand guest of honor as a sign of his ingenuity and cunning.

The Head had belonged once to a Dutchman from Dutch Indonesia. As Baay explained it was simply a patrol they had encountered. A skirmish ensued and the Dutch were forced into retreat. Later, Baay crept out in the night with his knife to find the site of the battle. No one had yet arrived to retrieve the bodies. Perhaps he thought: they were forgotten. All the same in the deep darkness of the tropical night he found a corpse, and removed its head. He had known some officers to keep trophy heads for a time. It was not hard to keep it for a time saying he would sell it to such a trophy hunter. So when it missing, when he had mailed it; it was believed that is what had happened.

As the old men finished the freshly minted Atayal men stepped out into the afternoon sun beaming with confidence and the people applauded and celebrated. Someone had acquired wine, and the cups were flowing in celebration of the boys-turned-men's fortunes. Baay was not much older than twenty-one. His siblings: Yabis, 16; Taraw, 15; and Iban, 16. They all joined him in maturity. Sayta had not yet reached that point yet, but looked forward to the day she could leave the loom for good. She had not yet managed to master her weaving. But her grandmother told her every night she was close. She just needed to keep working.

But the art of weaving hurt her hands. Every night before she went to bed after a full day of doing her chores, studies, and weaving her hands ached and she felt her fingers were slowly curling like her grandmother's. She was barely older than sixteen. She wanted to leave the loom and see the world, or the island in full. She had been told by a distant uncle that so long as she spoke clean Japanese and kept her face free of markings then she could go about the island as she pleased. “But the others,” he added, referring to the old tribes of the island, “they will always know.”

She felt a pang of guilt though. The influence of the Japanese weighed heavily over the island and in these mountains it was more common to see people wearing the clothes of the Japanese. Only the older generations continued to wear the intricate patterned dresses and skirts of the Atayal. By comparison to the single color cloth of the Japanese they were much more fantastic. But they proved to be cumbersome and called one out in town.

Smaller than most, Sayta was easily lost in a crowd and soon after her brother's mock tattooing she was eventually lost to the celebration as the sun began to set. But by then the wine had flowed strong and many were too lost in their drunkenness and revelry to notice as she wandered off down river. Her brother, the war hero managed to see her slip off, and took advantage of the celebratory confusion to make himself scarce to follow his sister. He was joined by Iban, who went racing after, his flesh blushing from alcohol.

“Wait up!” Baay called out, stopping Sayta before she wandered off too far. She stopped, surprised, looking back, “Where you going?”

“Thought I'd head to the beach.” she said, “I was about done with the party.” she added, smiling weakly to try and hide the shame of having to admit it.

“I'm about done too. I don't think they'll notice.”

“What about m-me?” Iban added in, startling the two of them. It was clear he was drinking too much.

“Don't you think you should go home?” Sayta asked. Iban shook his head determined. “No.” he replied.

The two of them shrugged and walked away in silence. Iban staggering behind them. In the dusk the mountain valley was silent, save for the rolling to the Liwu river. Behind them the sound and music of the party carried on the gentle night air. A gentle coolness was falling over the island. The two of them walked in silence. Iban mumbled out a song. Now and then they would check on him, seeing him weave left and right on the mouth, routinely raising and lowering his head, “Feels like I'm swimming.” he said in a long droning voice.

“You may have drank too much. Careful you don't fall over.” Baay told him.

“'scuse me?” Iban mumbled.

The valley road was forested on either side of the small road. Barely large enough to support a car. But out here few vehicles traveled. The failing light was fast to turn to black under the protective awning of the trees. Behind the branches and leaves of saplings and bushes the water of the Liwu shone in bands of purple and orange. A few birds flew around. But in all the jungle was quiet.

The road opened up as they began to trek down the hill from the mountains and the trees cleared, opening up to the great coast and beach as it met the great Pacific beyond it. Looking at it, all of them knew somewhere on that inky black sea the Japanese navy patrolled and the entire arms of empire squirmed and throbbed with the aggression and blood lust that sustained it. Baay knew it to well. Sayta finally decided, she had to know.

“How was it?” she asked them as they walked down to the beach. Iban stopped somewhere up the path to urinate. The two were mostly alone.

For a long time Baay didn't answer. He starred down instead at the milky white sand. The beach glowed in the edging moonlight. “I can't wrap my head around it.” he said finally, “I went in expecting it would be horrible. But I don't feel anything.”

“You don't feel anything?” Satya asked.

Baay nodded, “Perhaps it was I just didn't see much fighting. A lot of the men that carried the assault were mainlanders. The rest of us from Taiwan took a backseat. We cleaned up what they left behind.”

“So, is the story of the head true?” doubtlessly, The Head was still being treated with honors. Last she had seen it, it was being served bowls and cups of wine and fruits. A veritable spread had appeared before it. Half the banquet had ended up somehow before its cushion and bed of flowers.

“No, that's true.” he said, “It was my only real action though. I think about it a lot.”

“So you do feel something?” she asked.

“I don't know.” shrugging.

“I always thought war would be a horrible thing,” Satya went on, “I hear so much about the scars and injuries. About what happened during the last uprising. The villages destroyed. But really, nothing?”

“I don't know if it's the Dutch or my fortune. But: nothing. It was mostly a lot of marching and cleaning. The worst thing was we did the cleaning for the Japanese, while they did the fighting. I feel lucky that I managed what I did.”

“Amazing. But, I'm just glad you're back and safe and sound.” Satya smiled

“I hope so. But I hear I could be called back at any time. So who knows.”

In the distance they heard a loud popping sound. They both managed to look up in time to see a shape darting across the darkening sky. Smoke and fire trailing from a wing before with a crash it landed and skipped across the ocean, shooting up silver spray as he lurched and lunged towards land. Satya's heart immediately froze. Baay was charged with an instinctive energy and he ran towards the crash.
@Dinh AaronMk Roger that. Just to be fully briefed concerning the parameters, any divergence from IRL timeline can not happen until either the start of WW1 (1914), or a little before WW1 (No earlier than 1910?)

I'll revise/ create a more lore appropriate nation that falls within the parameters. Is there any more information that I should be aware of?

Yeah, I'd advise against major divergences before 1910. Otherwise, as Evan said: the current Antilles conflicts with some on going and established lore elements, which I understand why you'd not pick up on that, it's kind of burried in b i g g e IC posts and an incomplete Google spreadsheets timeline. So my best recommendation is to collaborate with someone in the region you want. So getting into the Discord would be best, or failing that I'll just go complain at the relevant people to come post here for once, lol

I have to reject this in its entirety. Firstly and most egregiously: the point of divergence in your country's history is far too early than the RP's point of divergence is, which is sometime during World War 1; a little before even.
Are you all still accepting applications for this RP?

@Yam I Am


Inside the presidential palace the air was cool. Fans spun from the ceiling, turning the stuffy air in the conference room. Gray light broke through the windows, freckles of loose rain pattering against the window panes as outside the low roof tops of Nanjing lay in repose in a silver veil of spring mist. Standing at six stories, the morning sun yellow of the concrete presidential palace was once the tallest structure in Nanjing, although it was slowly becoming matched and exceeded as the capital of the Republic expanded and grew under the shifting weight of change in China. Barely visible in the spring drizzle the shapes of public housing and offices rose like saplings from the field of old urban sprawl throughout the city. The rising pillars of smoke stacks from power plants and factories all the more distant, and scientifically elegant. The office was even being dwarfed by the not even half-decade old Federal University of China's student faculty building. But despite its retreating physical dominance the comparatively infant seat of Chinese government had one that that kept it flying far and ahead, in the clouds: its political power.

A sprawling complex, the palace was nested over the grave site of the palace of the Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping, the rebellious Christian adventure that had burned and pillaged against the ailing Qing Empire from this city. Although destroyed when the Qing might came to bare against Hong Xiuquan parts of the old palace remained as an indelible mark on the land and a scar. A permanent growth on the body that could not be removed that became incorporated into the new world and stood alongside it. The palatial complex with its gardens and offices creating a libidinal space in time and place where all China drained into. It was where at the beginning of the day an official for the Control Yuan could walk under a Christian gate, passed Qing temples across stones first lain by Mind princes to arrive at an office erected by a government official in the early Republic after he had made a trip to Europe and sought to model their office in the style of the French or the Italian. Or an official working for the Examination Yuan might make the same trip to a corner by the Xu Garden, where Han princes once reposed by serene waters.

And all of this might be seen from the high windows of the great modern, golden-yellow center of the Executive Yuan and the presidency. Modern and sleek. Ornamented in ribbons of carved relief of men and women depicting scenes of the Xinhai revolution in sharp geometric proportion. Of miniature scenes of what a republic is, and the virtues of good governance. A piece of pre-Great War Paris lifted up from old Europe and planted down in China, embellished with Chinese character and set free to extend its reach to whichever wind politics blew.

“Attached with this request is our usual trade envoy invoice, of which our agreements you will find are standard faire. Have you any concerns or objections to our entreaties, please respond at your earliest convenience.” read Xiu Lu, the minister of foreign affairs.

Standing at an unimpressive hundred-sixty centimeters the impish and meager Xiu Lu wasn't an impressive character. Tall of brow, with thin wiry hair combed haphazardly over his head, he had a pale and loose complexion susceptible to spots and marked by ring-worm scars; he often wore a hat to hide it. His nose was stout and pressed, more so by how it had been broken and his eyes sagged and flesh around the eyes strange and dark. He spoke in a reedy harsh voice, which made it hard for him to be a diplomat though he had a sharp knowledge of other people and long had dealings with other nations as a businessman who was often on missions abroad to scrounge up finances for the young Republic. It rarely shown through, and he often acted through junior officers and colleagues whether to deal with the Chinese public or foreign nations; for he pretended not to be embarrassed by himself but he very much was. When dealing with the world at large, he was known for his excuses as to why he couldn't be there. He emerged only for small affairs.

“It's a fairly standard sounding request.” TV Soong remarked, lounging in his recliner. Its leather was thick with cushion and the stiff puckered vice-president appeared to sick into it, with his hands wrapped loosely in front of him. He adjusted his glasses with a move of his cheeks and carried on, “I don't see any reason why the government should deny it.”

“Communist bastards.” growled Li Su however, himself reclined in a similar chair. All of them had a pattern like orchids. Dull golden flowers flowing over earthy red leather. Their movement across the chairs regular. Su's old paternal weight fighting the chair as much as it fought to absorb him. He not so much as sat in the chair however, but lay. His arms relaxed bored to the side, one hand raised as he rubbed the fingers together impatiently.

“I share the feeling but I don't think we should bar this request,” Xiu Lu remarked, “as revolutionary as they are, Germany has been a remarkable ally since our own Revolution. If it were anyone else, I would bar them from our ports.”

“I disagree.” a grudging voice said. Dressed in a suit, a rather tall man leaned forward in his chair. Wearing a martial brow and eyes the glared stirnly and sought out the heart in all things so he might kill it was Minister of the Armed Forces Yuan Hu Shi. A former field marshal, he was a contemporary to Li Su but unlike him he had not retired from the military after the war and continued on in service. He was only recently compelled to quit the service in order to accept a post within the Executive Yuan. He was broad faced and broad shouldered. In the worst of times when or if he grew a beard he looked like a lion, a god of war. But in these times of cleanliness that only sign of this were his heavy eyebrows that dominated and shadowed his face, appearing as if quickly slashed on him with heavy brush strokes. “The geopolitical situation with Japan, as mentioned in the telegram makes this a strategically tenuous move. May I remind the general staff here that we do not have a navy to fight the Imperial Japanese navy? We may be able to relay on the Germans and any allies in a renewed war against the Japanese for naval victories, but it would be at the risk of placing potentially dangerous allies too close to home. The Germans are only reliable so long as they are in Europe, where we they can be leaned on to threaten the French, should they attempt to strengthen their position in Indochina. I believe this is still the imperative. Any presence of the Germany navy near or in our waters would be a violation of the balance of power.”

“I don't think believing the Japanese are a threat anymore is a good idea anymore.” chimed in a third minister, the Minister of Economic Development. The indifferent Robert Cao, a Hong Konger by birth. His Cantonese accent blended with something of a colonial British compliment. Also going by Chau Ming Gwan. His narrow set face twisted in thought. He rose his eyes to the white ceiling and said thoughtfully, “The Japanese are engaged on two fronts. They're prodding the Russian coast and are engaged with the Dutch and the British in the south. My people say they're an Empire stretched to the breaking point. They're at the end of their era if they can't find substantial allies elsewhere. So there is really no harm in letting the Germans in. Much do respect to you field marshal, but even if German presence did drag the Japanese into renewed hostilities against us the apparent fragility of their states means we could let our allies take the blow and land ourselves on Japan. If we had any fear of the Japanese home islands being any puppet to western forces that can threaten us, we negate that.”

“I see your point.” Hu Shi said, “But I still all the same urge caution. Enough so to tell them no. The Communist Party has been very active this past year. So Japan aside it's important that for the safety of the Republic we limit any chance that the can collaborate with the party of Tsai-Tang.”

“We'd be sacrificing hundreds of millions of Yuan for that!” Robert Cao protested.

“I agree.” Xiu Lu said, TV Soong nodded along.

“The costs would be too great to not let them continue.” the vice-president added.

“And how would we stop them from interfering?” Li Su asked, throwing barbs to Soong, “You're usual efforts to keep them checked haven't so far worked.

“I realize that, but there's more to all this than electoral gamesmanship. As Cao brings up: ther Germans are worth a lot of money to the economy. We can't cut them out.”

“Damn if I didn't know that, but this is principles!” Li Su said in a raised voice. Not quiet shouting.

“God damn it, what principles!” Soong replied, slamming down his fist for emphasis against the side of the chair.

“The security of the state!”

“This is too far in abstraction, and bordering petty.” Xiu Lu sighed, folding the copy of the telegram for his pocket. He rose from the half seated position he had taken after reading out the telegram to the assembled executive council and walked to the window. “If you do consider declining this 'on principle' I will have to consider a protest.”

“There'll be no protest from the Executive Council.”

Xiu Lu looked to Soong, asking with his impatient expression if the vice-president had his back. Soong nodded and the two shifted to Robet Cao, “I give my ascent. This is something that trumps security. It's too valuable.”

Li Su grumbled under his breath. He briefly considered bringing the rest of the ministers in to offer their piece. But this point, it would be too much. He recognized his defeat and rose from his chair, “Then fine. Send a response to the Germany embassy. They have our permission. Now I need to see a man about an oil pipeline.”
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
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