Three Dots Smart Threads

4 Jan

Huan Zhu left Shanghai with mixed emotions. But his positive hopes were soaring by the time the train he was taking reached the city of Shaoxing in Zhejiang province. This area, one of the prime textile centers of China, was experiencing a technical boom in the development and production of new fabrics. It included the district named Keqiao, where Zhu envisioned a radiant, brilliant future for himself.

His first appointment in the clothing-textile capital was set to be with the head of the Lia Corporation, the industrial magnate Jia Qiao.

Keqiao sparkled with new factories, office structures, and laboratories of colorful polymers. It was a visual symbol of new, advanced Chinese science. The leading companies about Shaoxing were the pioneers in the bringing back of hemp, bamboo, and rayon in new, advanced forms and varieties.

Markets throughout the world learned from and imitated what was continually being created by the master clothing-makers of Keqiao.

Zhu, once established in a Shaoxing hotel, took an electo-taxi to the Lia corporate headquarters. Although he arrived a quarter hour early, an office assistant ushered him at once into the spacious office of the C.E.O.

Jia Qiao was a surprisingly short, small figure for such a powerful individual.
He rose from his zirconium desk to greet and shake hands with the tall, muscular visitor with dark orange skin.

Qiao asked Zhu to take a chair and stepped back to his position behind the desk.

“The reputation of this firm, Lia, is one of always endeavoring to stand in the forefront of progress in the textile and clothing industry. That ambition is what made us a prominent leader in the manufacture of bamboo and hemp fiber materials. These are now an important resource that allow much greater expansion of food-producing acreage in all provinces of today’s China. Billions of people in this country and around the world are now wearing the kinds of clothing fabrics that my company first developed, and I aim to preserve and expand that primacy in textiles.” The dark eyes of Qiao glowed with the man’s emotional transport.

Zhu decided the moment was right for him to present what he had come there to offer the industrialist.

“I believe that in my small laboratory in Shanghai we have a new fiber that promises to revolutionize human clothing. Our nano-scientists can provide China a thread with nearly miraculous electronic characteristics. The clothing produced with it in the future will be smart and connected to the worldwide internet. There shall be wearable computer applications within it. Electrode batteries will be woven right into the cloth that people wear.

“I can show you and your technical staff the soft, flexible touchscreens that can easily, conveniently be carried as clothing components. With the new textile that I can offer, medical drug-releasing systems can be built into what individuals have in their wardrobe. Micro-batteries and nano-chip transistors can be woven into all garments from now on.”

The two of them stared at each other, both speechless for a short time.

“I am deeply interested in your innovative fiber system,” finally murmured the textile magnate. “My scientists have for a long time worked on fabrics made from banana, coconut, seaweed, and even wood pulp, with the goal of finding a useful electronic fiber for intelligent clothing. We do not yet have the textile that we a are after.

“Tell me, if you will, what kind of material fiber is the foundation of the success that you now claim?”

Zhu grinned like an Oriental cat. “You shall learn that secret of ours once we have formed a firm, air-tight contractual partnership, sir,” he declared.

“That we will accomplish at once,” softly said Qiao.

Shaoxing and its district of Keqiao had numerous lakes, waterways, and canals within their boundaries. On one of the obscure, almost hidden bodies of water stood an unmarked building with no identifying signs naming what its function might be. For this was the regional headquarters of the old, secret society known in history as the Three Dots.

Chief leader of the anonymous, publicity-avoiding organization was an obese giant, Yumei Wu. Top boss of organized crime and rackets in all of Shaoxing, he had tentacles of influence that stretched deeply into local and provincial government, the official Party structure, and the privately-owned industries and banks of the urban region. That was why even a magnate as important as Jia Qiao regularly met and made reports to him, for the Three Dots were heavily invested in the textile company.

Wu and his wealthy guest sat drinking Shaoxing wine on a high balcony overlooking a tree-lined waterway between two small lakes.

Qiao described in detail the claims made by the stranger from Shanghai about the new electronic fiber that his laboratory had succeeded in creating. The chief of the secret organization listened with focused interest to every word of the industrialist from the clothing company named Lia.

“I find all that you said very fascinating, my friend,” smiled the underworld operator. “But a number of questions have arisen in my mind. For instance, do you have the fellow fully signed up in terms of cooperation and interaction?”

“Our lawyers are finishing up the specific documents that we will need,” said the magnate. “Every angle will be covered and fully answered.”

Wu leaned his large head forward. “Do your people know from what substance these special threads are made?” he whispered.

“No,” admitted Qiao. “Mr. Huan has been able to keep that information completely unknown to me and my staff.”

“That is too bad,” groaned the other. “I do not like that at all.”

The two went on to discussing conditions in the textile and clothing industries for a few minutes. The visiting industrialist soon excused himself and left Three Dots headquarters.

Negotiations of terms under which the electronic nano-threads were to be licensed occurred in a specially appointed conference room at Lia headquarters.

Jia Qiao sat on onw side of a long teak table surrounded by a team of lawyers and textile experts working for his company. On the opposite side was Zhu, completely by himself, with no legal or technical advisors at all. He carefully studied every provision of whatever proposal those opposite him presented. The result of all the arguments and counter-arguments was that Zhu turned down everything offered from the other side. Nothing appeared to be acceptable to him.

“This contract that you have given to me would set up a pure monopoly in the hands of only Lia,” angrily asserted Zhu, his voice tired and strained by an endless series of exchanges with Qiao. “Neither I nor my company will surrender exclusive right to control the new fabric for the next twenty years or so. That would be detrimental to Chinese textiles and clothing for a generation or more. I will never put my signature to such outrageous terms. Do you take me for a fool who is willing to cripple the future of what he has helped to create? Your conditions would destroy all chances for general progress in this important, crucial portion of the Chinese economy.”

Qiao, smiling confidently, stubbornly persisted in waiting for the concession of majority control to his corporation. “You must see how important it will be to have a single outfit in control of such a world-shaking invention, Zhu,” je repeated over and over again.

The chief of the Three Dots in Shaoxing made a series of wave-phone calls to Qiao inquiring about the course that the negotiations with Zhu were taking.

“Has there been any change in the man’s positions or his overall attitude?” asked the underworld boss who ruled an ancient secret society.

“There has been no modification at all,” explained the industrialist. “His attitude is adamantly negative. It is a wonder he hasn’t stopped talking to me. My hope is that circumstances will compel him to give up and accept what I have offered him. He must come to realize what his own personal interest in this matter is.”

Yumei Wu gave something approaching a moan. “There are some individuals it is impossible to reason with. This fellow from Shanghai sounds like he might be one of that kind. All I can tell you, Qiao, is that we must not reduce the pressure on him, but increase it all that we can. Nothing else, right now, makes any sense.”

“Yes, I will continue to face and argue with this stubborn character. He seems to want to pose as an idealist who cares deeply about China’s future and the well-being of our people.”

“This type is hard-headed, but they can be made to give in if one knows what buttons to push,” muttered the crime lord.

It was late in the afternoon, when Huan Zhu was supposed to be occupied with negotiations over his electronic clothing fabric at Lia headquarters, that a squad of four experienced underworld operatives broke into his hotel room. There was one single item of information that they sought. It turned out to be frustrating that none of them was able to locate any note or document revealing the chemical makeup of what Zhu had come to Keqiao to try to license and sell.

Not a single member of the criminal quartet noticed how long their fruitless search happened to be taking.

Impatience to uncover the secret they were after made them unaware of the early arrival of the tall engineer from Shanghai. The session at the corporate office had ended abruptly when Zhu suddenly walked out in anger at his lack of success in obtaining the anti-monopolistic terms he believed in.

The four would-be burglars were found going through his possessions. They looked up in horror when he opened the apartment door and caught sight of them busy at their work.

The leader of the break-in had the presence of mind to step forward quickly and strike Zhu on the top of his head with a sapper weapon he always kept in his suit coat pocket for emergencies such as this one.

The engineer fell to the floor unconscious. What were the gang members going to do with him now?

“We will have to take this man with us,” he ordered.

Abduction by subordinates had not been in the contingency plans of the Three Dots chieftain, Yumei Wu now faced a potential public scandal. His organization might have to suffer embarrassing loss because of this indiscrete action by subordinate ranks and what they had done.

Wu decided to meet with Zhu and persuade him to keep mum about the incident once he was released. The prisoner was temporarily in an upstairs lockup at one of the Three Dots waterway casinos.

The room had walls painted a brilliant, garish chartreuse green. The gang lord sat down at a small table at the center where Zhu was already located.

“How are your accommodations, Mr. Huan?” began Wu. “Our aim is to provide you the maximum comfort possible while you happen to be our guest.”

“I have no complaints,” admitted the prisoner. “When do you intend to release me? I give my word that there shall be no complaint made to the legal authorities over this unfortunate incident that has occurred.” He gazed at his captor with a steady, strong stare.

Wu looked away for a moment, then focused his almond eyes on those of Zhu.

“Do you know about the origins and the history of the Three Dots Society? We were at first a spiritual, religious type of brotherhood, a group seeking inner enlightenment and deep wisdom about life and our role in the world we inhabited.

“Since those days, our organization has evolved into a multitude of activities and pursuits. During the Taiping Revolution of the 19th century, our ancestors took on a prominent rebel character. And even today, our people see themselves as being a progressive force within Chinese society. Our ultimate goal has always been the prosperity and happiness of all the people of our great country.”

“I take it, then, that the Three Dots wish to direct the development of the electronic fabric that I am in the process of offering to the Lia Corporation. If you know about the problem that I have been experiencing with Mr. Jia and his lawyers, then you are aware that I oppose the concept of exclusive monopoly control of this invention by one, single outfit in Keqiao. My argument is for an open, generally shared licensing of the manufacture and use of this promising breakthrough.

“All of China deserves to enjoy access to what my laboratory has discovered,” boldly asserted Zhu, facing down the eyes of the underworld chieftain.

“But there is a problem for the Three Dots involved with your marketing scheme, my good man,” calmly declared Wu. “Our Society has invested millions of yuan in Lia. We have to look out for our organizational interest. Surely you can understand that we cannot allow that company to lose out in any way. We have to back up Mr. Jia Qiao with everything that we have. Is there any alternative for the Three Dots Society?”

Thinking fast, Zhu gave a sharp, beaming smile. “Why don’t the Three Dots, on their own, enter the textile and clothing industry? Since new factories will have to be constructed and equipped in order to supply this new smart thread, why not go into the field with a new team and company? Why not omit Lia and Mr. Jia completely from the immediate picture, but leave the new product open to widespread, complete market competition by any and all interests?”

All at once, Wu furrowed his brow with difficult thinking. “We will have to consider what you have just said to me,” muttered the gang boss, suddenly rising from his chair and walking out of the green room.

Early the next morning, Zhu returned to his hotel apartment under a small escort of tough-looking guards protecting him.

He immediately picked up his wave-phone and rang Jia Qiao at Lia headquarters. The man from Shanghai who had been temporarily missing had news to share with the industrial leader.

“It is my responsibility to have to inform you that our previous negotiations will have to be ended. I shall now be leaving Keqiao and Zhejiang province. A contract agreement has come about in the last several days with another interested grouping. Your entire industry will have access, under appropriate terms, to what we bargained over without success.

“In good time, you and your colleagues will learn the identity of the successful competitor who has won the right to start the manufacture and the use of what you and I dickered over without result.

“Good-bye and good luck, Mr. Jia.”

Zhu sat with a distant smile on his face. The spun nano-glass threads were going to be introduced in the economy of modern China by the centuries-old Three Dots Society.

This was a surprising development that he himself could never have foreseen or imagined in his wildest speculations.

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