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Central Beijing, China
Monday, January 15th, 2018, 6:00 am
In the many years since Mao Zedong had died, several changes were made to the military structure. The most important were made in 2010. First, all army units were reformed into the People’s Army of China (PAC). PAC Headquarters was built in Central Beijing in 2011. The headquarters quickly became the center of leadership for PAC. While many generals were stationed in other parts of the country, all PAC general’s were given an office in the headquarters.
Peng’s office was extremely orderly. Not one piece of paper or one single writing implement was without its proper place. The only time things strayed from their correct position was when they were put to use. The second they were used they would return to their home. Most of the other staff in the headquarters had stacks of paper on their desks and pens, pencils, tape dispensers, staplers, and paper clips strewn about their desks. Even Peng’s receptionist was more disorganized. Peng had a series of filing cabinets where he neatly placed all paperwork. He had an array of filing systems. For short-term documents, he stored them by subject and by activity start date. Long-term documents were all stored by subject. The surface of Peng's enormous desk was barren except for a family picture, a computer screen, a keyboard, and finally a mouse. His CPU was hidden inside his desk. The cords to the CPU led up through a small and neatly cut and finished hole to the screen, keyboard, and mouse. His phone was a headset integrated into the computer. Peng had no speakers, only the headset that fed sound from the computer and phone system.
Peng knew it was going to be a bad day, the worst in a long line of bad days. To prove his theory the Chinese president called. As soon as Peng heard the voice, he knew it would be a call about at least one of the two things he did not want to talk about.
“So, Peng,” said the unfriendly voice, “you’re still against this war?”
“Yes, Sir, if we invade Russia we’ll be hated for generations.”
“The people of China demand action. The people of China demand respect. It’s time to take back Russia so it can once again be held in the cradle of communism.”
“Yes, I understand that, Sir.”
“Then why do you resist?”
“Sir, I will take my troops where we are ordered. I will achieve these objectives because I can and because I have been commanded to do so. I don’t resist, I question the actions of my commander when my men and my country are put at risk.”
Hysterically the president asked, “At risk, how can we be at risk? We have the largest army in the world. Our army is bigger than most of the others combined.”
“Sir, that’s not what I mean. Even if it was what I meant, what of nuclear weapons? Our advantage could quickly be taken away with only a few well-placed bombs.”
“Peng, it’s just Russia. Nobody will care. You speak of being hated for generations; a nuclear weapon will cause hatred far greater for its use.”
Peng hated the logic that politicians used; it was so damn circular. You would prove a point just to be chased off the path and brought back to have to prove it again. It was one of the many horrid traits the Chinese had picked up from their US allies. The ironic thing, Peng felt bitterly, was that the Chinese politicians had no need for such tactics. The Chinese Communist Party had done almost a century ago what the US Republican party had only just achieved, a single party system. Of course, China faked a multi-party system, like a great game of charades with puppet parties to do the CCP’s bidding. That’s what the Republicans should have done; all they had needed to do to run the nation was to unite with the Democrats. Of course, such a union would have to be run in secret at first, maybe for generations. In the end, the two parties would be just like the Chinese parties, only playing at politics for tradition’s sake.
After silence from Peng, the president said, “So you’ll take us to victory? You’ll lead our men to take Russia.”
Despite all of his opposition Peng firmly replied, “Yes, Sir.”
“And we will have victory?”
“Good, I’ll approve your request for the army’s New Year’s vacation immediately.”
“Thank you, Sir”
With no more reply than a grunt, the conversation was ended and the call was terminated. Peng let out a sigh of relief. Only the one issue had been brought up. Even better, the vacations were approved. His men would have one last vacation before the war. Knowing the president it would be a long time until they would get another vacation. Of course, there would be those who died. For them this really would be a final vacation. Peng shook the idea off, optimistically thinking of how easy it would be to advance through to Moscow. Casualties for the Chinese would be minimal. Even casualties for the Russians would be minimal making the Russians less likely to resist the occupation that would necessarily follow. He would not just be a hero in his men’s eyes; he would be a hero to all the mothers whose sons would return, and a hero to all the wives whose husbands would return alive.
A hero, Peng tried to remember a time he actually wanted to be a hero. How long ago had it been? Could not a man who really wanted the title get it! Why was its price tag so high?
Peng had joined the army to be a hero. He had joined to protect China. At the time, it had seemed like it was possible it would need protecting. It’s a wonder India never invaded. They might never have had as high as even odds, but they could have taken Tibet. They probably could have taken much more than Tibet. India played it safe, played it safe as China’s military grew. Now India would be an easy target.
It made sense to attack Russia. The propaganda got the people to hate Russia for betraying China and betraying Communism. Russia was such an easy target. Peng worried that it was more that got them to attack. Russia would be a great prize. Would it really stop there? Would the president, or as the president put it “the people,” be satisfied with Russia? The president had said over and over again that it would just be Russia, but with the success they would have in Russia . . . Peng stopped with a shiver.
Peng had spent hundreds of hours contemplating resigning. Every time he thought of it, he would be brought back to the sad fact that the people he would be replaced by would be ruthless. They were all the same, one-sided, all for the honor of China with nothing left for the lives of the men on either side of the war. Tong Shouman was the worst of the bunch. Peng had not been surprised at how quickly he had become a general. No, there could be no resignation.
Peng’s screen flashed. A message box from the receptionist had popped up simply stating the Chinese version of ‘They’re back’. Peng replied, asking them to be let in.
Three men stepped in through the door. The tallest of the men, only five feet two inches tall, saluted. Peng returned the salute.
“Well?” Peng asked respectfully.
“We found nothing but their footprints in the snow. We did a search on the prints. It looks like their shoes were probably made here but sold in the US.”
“Thank you,” Peng said dismissing them. The three left.
At least the president had not heard about that yet. What a nightmare that would be, having doubt placed on his family’s security. The people could not find out about it. The news would force him to be removed, or the war cancelled. The president would, of course, choose the former.
Fortunately, for Peng, it was unlikely that the news would leak. The media was more strictly controlled in China than in the US. Still, if it got to the president there would be trouble.
His wife had done the right thing. She had called him. He had a small squad sent to investigate. They had continued their search in the morning. Nothing had been turned up except the footprints.
Whoever the home invaders had been, they were prepared. His wife had given a good description of them but never saw their faces. They probably were from the US. Why would the US have people spying on him? Was it the war? They knew about the war. It made sense for European spies, but US spies?
Maybe the US wanted to check on him specifically. Were they worried they would be cut out of the war?
The whole thing was weird. They were definitely professionals. The few cameras they had got nothing but static. They got in through the front door. The big question was why were they there?
They stole nothing, or nothing obvious. They left nothing, or again, nothing obvious. It seemed unlikely she had caught them in time to stop them from achieving their objective. She had been sick and stayed home. She found them after taking a long shower to relieve her sinuses. It was odd they did not notice her.
Why were they in the bedroom? When she found them, they were locked inside the bedroom. They had enough time to leave, so why lock it? There was nothing in the bedroom except clothes, the bed, a rusty old lamp, and the computer. Was that it, they wanted something from his computer? Had they locked themselves into the room so they could get something from the computer? Had they gotten it and started to leave when she opened the door?
That might be too simple. It was plausible, but simple. Maybe they were not experts; maybe they were just fools. Maybe they had just locked the door to stall before they realized the window was there.
Still, to be safe, he would have to get the machine checked. Peng called the leader of the squad he had sent earlier and ordered him to get the computer. After he issued the order, he called his wife so she would not be startled by their arrival.
Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford