Hin SanYuan arrives early at his new office wearing the western-style suit jacket, slacks, and tie as is the usual attire for executives and professionals in Boise, Idaho. The room towers over the city on the fifteenth floor of the 8th and Main Building. Hin isn't used to working in tall buildings, even though his home country is littered with them, and stays back from the glass wall. He is encouraged that the furniture of two facing armchairs, his desk, chair, and leather upholstered lounge are all spaced over the lush carpet away from the imagined ledge.
Hin has access to a community room several doors down the hall with a refrigerator that he used to store his lunch. That centered room is next to the bathrooms, the executive to which he had been given a key and the visitor. Across the hall is a conference room for team meetings.
Working up some nerve he peers over the edge and ascertains light traffic. There were even fewer cars when he drove the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV from his commandeered two-story ranch in the suburbs. Having just moved his family into it he is pleased, not being enamored with apartment living. Boise had suffered starvation for months, almost a year, before the occupation was able to provide relief.
There is a knock on the door; the communist planners don't waste manpower by providing a secretary. He is expected to enter his own reports, on the powerful Mandarin language computer provided for him. Hin wasn't expecting trouble of any sort and opened it without a second thought. The visitor is a muscled man of six feet and sixty years, with chipped teeth having exposed cavities, scarred chin, and a nose that had been set poorly. He is clean-shaven. He has washed his brown hair and is dressed in business casual after a shower. His crocs are loosely fitted and he hesitantly clip-clops into the room.
Without a word the man hands Hin a manila envelope.
"Come in! Come in! Thank you for providing your personnel file, Mister George Hester, but I am familiar with your background. Please, have a seat! Make yourself comfortable, this is a safe space," Hin enthused, placing the file on his desk and motioning George to either of the facing chairs.
Hin's client glances askance at him, probably surprised by the 'safe space' statement, while stiffly moving to the chair. Hin slides into the opposite chair, smiling, with his pen and notepad.
"I would like to get to know you a little better, George, if I may call you that?" Hin says.
"Sure. You're a shrink then?"
"I am. I have a Ph.D. from Beijing Normal University. As you know, psychology is an emerging science in China. Our time spent together is almost experimental."
"This is a waste of time then, bullshit for your benefit," George groused. "It doesn't really matter, I guess, I got a rare prison shower, with soap, a haircut, and clean clothing for this appointment."
"I apologize for giving the wrong impression. In the next two hours, your future and the future of your family within this new Chinese-American framework will be decided," Hin said with just enough malice to get George's attention.
"You said this is a safe space. Is that a valid offer?" George asks.
"It is George. We're talking; you can call me Hin. I understand, we understand, that you resent the downfall of your country. We can't fault you for trying to defend a historic ideal that has evaporated on its own."
"You cheated us!" George accused, leaning forward.
"You asked for it! You elected leaders that were easily co-opted. Companies relinquished their secrets for a share of the Chinese market that only provided short-term profit for those leaders. It's true that we seized the upper hand from weak Americans. The strong are made to lead; how can we follow the weak?"
"What choices are you offering?" George asked for clarification, worry returning.
"Hopefully I can suggest that your family become citizens. Your status would be low but you can work your way up like anyone else. We expect 100 percent cooperation; if less, if you drag your feet you and yours will be assigned to a forced labor coop. They aren't death camps, nowadays, and again you can work your way up to citizenship. If I determine you are incorrigible and will not cooperate you will be put to death."
"My whole family?"
"Yes," Hin confirms.
"How many innocent families have you executed?" an angry George demands, leaning forward.
"You are my first case. This is a new program. My leaders have determined that the condemned should have a say, a chance. They are to be commended. The world is under our control and there is no room for enemies. There are things to be done."
"Things like the control of space!" George spit.
"You're referencing the moon base? That was sweet! In two weeks we landed 2 molten chloride nuclear reactors, big batteries really, and dozens of large aluminized-mylar living quarters with tons of supplies. We landed forty men for long-term assignment and the moon was now colonized, by Asians!," Hin crowed.
"Big batteries indeed. Enough to power the laser and the microwave," George added with repressed admiration.
Hin smiled large with pride. "Four simple silvered ruby lasers. Ancient technology, but with no diffusion and a solid base our military destroyed 2000 satellites in 3 hours. You must have seen the rain of debris streaking across the sky?"
"I did," George replied. "It was the first indication that the shit had hit the fan."
"Yeah," Yin said animated with pride for the victory. "Two weak attacks were mounted but the missiles were detected thousands of miles away and easily disabled. The lasers would always melt through the steering fuel tanks."
"I assume some of them had brave men in them," George mentioned and Hin nodded solemnly.
"And then came the microwave beam," George said. He hadn't fought against that weapon, or, more accurately been killed by it. He had heard of it, a beam all the way from the moon that cooked anything under it.
"Yes, the beam. A nasty weapon. It has a limited focus, a circle of 300 yards. It will burn a soldier or disable a tank. It can move across a convoy or destroy a carrier group. I don't have a military clearance and only know what I have heard, informally. But listen, George. I understand your anger. You are a patriot. You are a proud historian. You hoped your country would emerge from its slump. But understand, George, it is over! There is no resistance that will pop up and save the day. Your population is decreased by 80 percent. Your military, government, and industrial leaders are all dead or enslaved. George, I understand your pain but you must understand that I have to believe that you will willingly become a productive Chinese citizen. Make me believe, George."
George takes time to consider the future not only for himself but for his family. He isn't ready to capitulate and can't stop himself.
"Eighty percent? Is it that much?" he asks and Hin nods.
"You aren't worried about the fate of your leaders?" Hin asks.
"Not so much. I'm sure many of them got away with their billions."
"Not really George. I must tell you that we used your government to weaken your military and replace your capitalists with cronies. A few years ago your president funneled 2 billion to his friends for a website that three Chinese could have finished in a week. Recently you paid 2 billion for a vaccine where the CEO added half of it to his own golden parachute. Recently we offered trillions in loans. Trillions! One political group siphoned off half of that to hire grunts to fix the election and the other half was squandered on cronies. Billions!" Hin scoffed openly.
"And you did that using our resources as collateral? That really was stupid of our leaders."
"Greedy and stupid."
"You say you got most of them?"
"Many deserted to their private islands with their stolen wealth. Even these we tracked down to recovery things that were rightly ours," Hin said stiffly as if justified.
"And you made them Chinese citizens?"
"No, George. We took the children into labor camps to be renamed and socialized; their futures may be tolerable. The adults were executed. China has no room for traitors."
"Some were just stupid," objected George lightly. Hin shrugged.
"There were some honest politicians," George added.
"At that time we didn't have the luxury of trials. I do apologize."
"You killed the entire military?"
"Just the officers. The soldiers were ineffective and scattered, deserted. You were in the militia?"
"Yes, when inflation ruined the dollar the government divided up the food. I was in the excluded group. Not that it mattered, no one got fed. I didn't have much choice. Those of us that had the most food storage were forced to fight to keep it. My group lived on starvation rations but we took in and fed all comers. We took turns standing guard, tending livestock and crops, patrolling, foraging, and expanding the perimeter. The Chinese destroyed the food convoys with that ray gun on the moon didn't they!"
"Your country is weak, George. Do you really think we could tolerate orders from the US? We've been seeding your acres with invasive species for decades. Left untended for a few years and all your acres will be overgrown with killing vines and poison melons. This I know. I don't know about attacks on your food convoys."
"But you know it could be true. You conquered my entire country without landing a soldier."
"Our soldiers are here now. To maintain the peace. To quell the remaining marauders. They live here with their families as benevolent neighbors."
"The marauders. Do you know about them? I can't describe the horror. Bands of cannibals eating whomever they encounter, spreading out. I thought it just happened but maybe not. China encouraged the racial divide. Did you have anything to do with propping up the marauders?"
"You do have a group stupid enough to vote for anyone that promised reparations. At sixty thousand a year per minority for decades, the cost and divisiveness would destroy the country. The stupid voted for short-term gains no matter the cost. In parts of Africa, also suffering from food shortages, cannibalism was reinfecting some. The strong killed and ate the weak."
"That was Africa," George said.
"I had heard, only a rumor mind you, those tribal natives were collected and transported to your cities as trainers."
"Oh, God! And from there they spread out looking for prey. The marauders. You bastards!" George pronounced.
"I understand. You don't have to worry about them anymore. We use drone swarms that are exterminating them. We have specialized herbicides at work recovering the soil. Your new Chinese national neighbors will not debase your family. The stars await. We will face them as a united Earth. The future is ours. Please George, for your family, join us."
He would miss the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and maybe even Christmas. As patriarch, he rose and extended his hand to shake with Hin. "I will work with you for our collective future," he said.
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I love the way you said " littered with them " its so unique , love the description of the visitor , his chipped teeth , cavities , I can almost see him in front of me , love the convo between george and hin , I can hear and sense the tension . wow , how the tables have turned . wow . i . am . speechless .
Violetta, I am so pleased you liked it. I certainly hope it doesn't turn into the truth.
John, your story sounds so possible that it’s highly likely we will be reading something similar in the future! Great use of imagery and character development.
Ge, Yikes! I sure hope it's all in my imagination. Anyway, glad you liked it. Sounds like you know what you're talking about so going over to your work now to check it out.
Interesting premise. It reminds me of Man In the High Castle except that was about Japanese occupation after WW2. It’s scary to think about Chinas military might and it’s ambition to dominate neighbors but at the same time the result of the one child policy is a collapsing population that means it is probably at its most powerful now and will start to fade in influence very quickly, especially since it has been intimidating neighbors instead of making friends. I thought China would invade Taiwan before Russia did anything. Just shows you can...
Thanks, Graham, I agree the future can not be predicted but in the short time I would stock up on some food. It's always good to receive your insight. I'll look up that book right now. edit - it looked good I bought it
It’s a very good book and people who’ve lived in Thailand say it captures the feeling of the culture very well.
Graham! What an excellent suggestion, The Windup Girl. I'm only on page 50 as I have to read it slowly so I don't miss anything. It's challenging to make engineering terms like cogs, joules, caloric, and thrust interesting but each sentence of Paolo Bacigalupi is a treasure. I'm overcome with the understanding of the workings, both technically and humanly, of his gritty world.
It’s amazing isn’t it? It starts slowly and I wondered about the factory at the beginning because it didn’t feel relevant but then all of the different threads tie together brilliantly. The end is amazing. It’s a very grim world though.
Hi John, have you finished The Windup Girl?