Shanghai Hyaloids

28 Apr

Part I.

1.

The three nearly simultaneous explosions at midnight woke up and terrified all of Pudong, across the Huangpu River from central Shanghai.

Guo Ziao, chief editor of Vitroline News, summoned his most highly reputed investigative correspondent to his penthouse office at the top of the corporate building early the following morning. Hua Ling already had a good hunch what his boss intended to assign him to look into.

As soon as the pair were seated across the editor’s desk from each other, Ling anticipated what his immediate assignment was going to be.

“You want me to find out what is behind these three bombings of research facilities in Pudong, I can guess,” said the younger man with a knowing smile. “Am I correct on that score?”

The short, pudgy supervisor nodded that the writer was right. “The damage was considerable in all three instances, and they were all small research outfits in the area of specialized, advanced robotics. I have my own suspicions about who might be behind it. But I have learned that the Shanghai police are baffled and at a loss as to naming anyone.

“Many think that it is tied in with sharp rivalry and commercial competition in their field, but I believe that the destruction goes far behind anything like that. I have studied and paid personal attention to the so-called Luddite resistance to new hyaloid bots that can outperform any of the older, conventional types of mechs produced in our Shanghai robotic industry. The new models are powered by magneto-laser plasma and approximate actual human beings as industrial workers and serviles. They can perform actions with astounding capability and agility and will eventually replace our older, traditional bots everywhere throughout China, and then the whole world.

“My mind is concentrating on the anti-bot movement that lies almost underground here in Shanghai, the group that refers to itself as the followers of the Tian, the so-called Tianites. They see themselves as a branch of traditional Chinese Taoism, but they go far beyond our cultural past.

“I believe that their ideas have led them into accepting the need for direct action, going as far as destructive violence in their opposition to new robotic progress and innovation.

“They cannot abide the new hyalobots, because they approximate to closely the abilities and intelligence of actual biological humans.

“These Tianites are, in actuality, at war with science and technology as we know them in today’s China. Their dream is to return to a pre-robotic life and world. But you and I know that to be impossible, don’t we, Ling?”

The latter, saying nothing immediately, stared into the circular, tanned face of the chief editor.

“What would you advise me to do, sir?” finally inquired Ling.

“Locate the leader of the Luddite extremists and question him about who is personally responsible for the three bombings. Keep your identity a secret and attempt to infiltrate this Tian conspiracy. I want to know who can be held personally responsible for what happened. The criminals must be captured and publicly punished.”

“I can only promise you I will do my best, sir,” muttered the correspondent.

Guo Ziao gave a nod, signaling that Ling could leave and begin investigating.

Over several decades, Shanghai had developed into the center of two new industries of China: robotics and vitric nano-chemistry. Bots became more skilled and diversified, and scores of new glassified materials entered the industrial and commercial market. Automatic mechs and vitrified metals and compounds left the Shanghai region for Chinese provinces and the entire globe.

Hyaloid Corp. was a major producer of vitric bodies for advanced robotic mechanisms. Its president, Chen Qi, was a sharp, ever awake operator at the point of confluence of the two major fields, automatons and vitrification.

The industrial leader kept himself knowledgeable about what was happening in the multitude of Shanghai laboratories and research institutions. That is what drew him to the small company named Holoid Light in the Puxi region across the Huangpu River, on the west side. Qi rode in his company sedan past the old Bund area, along Huaihai Road, till he reached the main office and lab facility of Holoid Light, his destination. He had arranged an appointment with the head and owner of this firm, Wu Xue. This is a man who can be of enormous benefit to the Hyaloid Corp., Qi told himself over and over that day.

An office assistant waited at the vehicle entrance to take over and move the auto into the company underground parking garage. Another employee ushered the visitor into the vitro-aluminum building, then led him into a levator that climbed upward to the executive offices of Holoid Light.

Qi found Wu Xue waiting by the door of his presidential office. He greeted the industrial titan effusively, then guided him into his spacious personal suite.

The two sat down at a prepared conference table, and Xue began to speak, giving a well-prepared presentation.

“I called you here, sir, because I believe that you would be deeply interested in what my company has achieved in our most important research project. It has taken us years to complete the numerous steps that were required of us, and we intentionally, consciously kept all of it top-secret. I insisted that no one in Shanghai or its industries learn about what we were working on. Only when success was reached and we were prepared to offer an operating product would we make any announcement to anyone. Even the vitric press of the metropolis has been ignorant of what we were about.”

Xue paused to draw a long breath, examining the dark face and bright black eyes of Qi to find out whether he had aroused the visitor with his words. He decided that he had, so he continued with a detailed description of what he was presenting as an important breakthrough.

“What we now have at Holoid Light is something that worldwide scientific research has long sought through optoelectronics, a way of providing a thinking, governing brain to the bots and mechs that characterize modern society everywhere. The prediction that has existed for many decades that this could be attained using light rays turns out to have been correct.” His face brightened with internal joy. “We now have it here at Holoid Light. The invention rights are ours to apply, distribute, and enjoy.

“My company can claim that it possesses a holographic brain that is small and convenient enough to fit within an average, normal bot or mech in use anywhere, in Shanghai, all of China, or anywhere on our planet. I will only describe it in very general terms, but you shall be able to see how it moves, works, and operates in a little while. You shall be thoroughly amazed and stunned by this marvel of ours, sir. We have advanced nano-electronics light years ahead.

“You shall witness how holographic rays produced by nano-illuminators transform streams of photons into what we have come to call a photosphere. These new, innovative rays form into a holographic brain in which millions of neuro-transformations occur in every nano-second of natural time. There occurs the construction and abstracting of numberless logical patterns. What we have named a photic memory can be created within the great, almost unlimited photosphere of this brain composed out of streams of light rays.

“What nerve cells, the neurons, carry out in the human brain, can now take place inside mechs and bots using nothing beyond holoid light produced by nano-devices. We have created an effective nano-bioelectronic system.

“It will revolutionize all of China, and all other human societies, I predict.”

The two company presidents stared at each other as if mesmerized by what Xue had just revealed to Chen Qi.

The latter, after a long silence, spoke to the other. “I would like to have a look at how this holographic brain operates, Mr. Wu,” he said with a mysterious, undecipherable smile.

2.

“I am a man of words and ideas,” confessed Xu Yao to his second-in-command within the Tianite network of Shanghai. “There is no question, Jian, that I am dependent upon you for practical implementation of our organization’s goals and purposes. That makes me highly beholden and thankful for your active services in our enlightened cause of Tian.”

The two men looked fixedly at each other’s face in the dim light of the beer palace in a neighborhood of centuries-old shikumen houses in old Puxi.

Short, skinny, and facially ugly Li Jian appeared to want to flatter the movement’s leader with praise and flattery. “Without you, though, there would be no structured Tianite group here in Shanghai. It was your impetus that began our existence as an organized brotherhood with a single, common system of thought and belief. You are the one who made us what we are. Our actions have their roots within the ideas conceived in your illuminated mind.”

Jian gazed across the bamboo table with a faint glow in his eyes and on his face.

Suddenly, Yao began to speak as if out of a deep spell or waking dream.

“When was it that I first began to meditate and cogitate about the meaning of the Tian for my own life as a person? My mother and father were interested in Chinese philosophical thought and owned an entire library of books that might be classified as Taoist. In my early years, I became familiar with the need for what is referred to as Universal, Final, and Fundamental Truth. As a youth, I became embroiled in the age-old search for the Path, the Way to personal, internal enlightenment of both mind and soul. I read book after book in my hunt for a road to Perfection, the lifting up of the remainder of my life.

“I discovered what I was after from the very beginning. It was the Tian, a concept that has been interpreted as heaven, nature, paradise, or even the summit and the sky. It is highest and the most sublime.

“The Tian is uncreated and unborn, because it was non-produced and prior to the entire cosmos. It is like a Nature that was here before there was any universe at all. Tian existed before this world and before even heaven.

“Who can truly know it? But who is capable of questioning, criticizing, or doubting the Tian?”

Xu Yao suddenly fell silent, but Li Jian seized and carried on the stream of thought.

“In our own lives, we are obligated to uncover the path of the Tian and follow its commands with all our minds and bodies. With our eyes and thoughts, we are able to discern the way of the Tian. It did not set human beings on a road of assembling robots and mechs to perform human actions and labor. All the automatons and bots manufactured in Shanghai are a disgrace to the natural life meant for us by the supreme Tian. Our modern city and its industries are an insult and offense against the straight line set for us by the Tian. We have made serious transgressions against what the Tian demands of all of us in this mighty city.

“Our movement and organization consists of correctors and re-constructors of life in all of China and the world. Direct action against the making of new bots and mechs is our tool, our weapon against those who break away from the principles of Tian and its teachings over the many ages.

“Back to the Tian! That is our watchword, is it not?”

Jian gazed expectantly at his leader. Should I tell him of the coming bombings that I have planned and provided for? he asked himself. Yes, Yao appears to be willing to proceed on the path already begun.

At the skyscraper headquarters of Vitrobots Corp. in the Oriental Pearl Tower in Pudong, the company president sat in his spacious office looking over a report from one of the private detectives in his hire. He read and reread several times what Chen Qi of Hyaloids had been up to that day.

The main rival, the enemy competitor, had made a personal trip to a small company located in the Puxi sector and had spent over five hours there. There was no specific evidence of what his purpose for this trip might have been. The best guess, the smartest supposition was that the affair dealt with some new research development at the Holoid primary facility. What else could this have been connected with? It seemed unlikely that if a merger with the smaller outfit were contemplated that Chen Qi would have come there alone, driving the company auto that was being used.

If the activity involved some scientific discovery made by the laboratory staff of Holoid Light, then it had to be in an area with which Hyaloid itself was active in. The report gave no indication what this might be.

He Wei, president of Vitrobots, was an experienced veteran in the robotic industry of Shanghai. No other executive had the inside knowledge he enjoyed of the ways of business intrigue in the great city. His suspicions, being aroused by this incomplete report, led him to pick up his vitrofon and make a personal call to an old, close acquaintance of his.

He pronounced the name that he wished his private secretary to summon over a secure company fiberline. It was the editor of Shanghai Vitroline News he wished to communicate with.

“Ziao, how are you? This is He Wei. It has been a considerable time since you and I have seen each other or talked to each other. How is business in the news field, my friend?”

“Wei, it is good to hear your voice. Yes, it has been a long while since we saw each other together. I believe it was at a performance of the Shanghai Classical Opera last season. We happened to be at the same post-performance reception for the cast, as I remember that evening.

“I am in very good health, and our operations here at Vitroline News are growing, blooming, and succeeding quite well, I am able to report to you. And how is Vitrobots progressing? From our own business news staff, I receive favorable news on your affairs all the time. Of course, Vitrobots has management under a very skilled chief executive, that is certain.” The news chieftain gave a single, small laugh.

“There is a matter that I think your staff should look into, Ziao. It concerns a small outfit called Holoid Light. Have you ever heard of them?”

“No, I don’t believe that I have. What do you think they are doing, Wei?”

“I do not have any details at all, but they have drawn the interest and attention of Chen Qi and Shanghai Hyoloid. There must be something of value there to attract that shrewd figure to a photonic concern like this tiny one. I thought that you might want to look into what is going on over there. It could have some kind of importance for the technical picture. That is all.”

“Thank you, Wei, thank you a lot. I will send someone out to look into this, and if we learn anything definite, you will learn about it directly from me, old pal. I can tell that your interest has been aroused. So has mine, I confess right now.

“Don’t worry, Wei, Vitroline News will find out what the truth is about this.”

Each of the two said good-bye and closed off his side of the line.

3.

The chief editor summoned Hua Ling to his office early the next morning. When he learned what the new, additional assignment consisted of, the reporter was surprised and a little shaken.

“I know that I am asking quite a lot of you, combined with what you are at present working on,” smiled Guo Ziao, “but I know that your abilities can cope with both of the missions I’ve given you. If there is anyone on my staff capable of success on both jobs at the same time, that person has to be nobody but you, dear boy.” He beamed with assurance at the star correspondent.

Ling nodded his head with a degree of reluctance. “I’ll try the best I can, sir,” he told his superior. “I think that I know a beer hall where Tianites like to hang out. My plan was to go there and listen around today. Now I intend to put that off until later, this evening sometime.

“My priority will be to have a look around the premises of Holoid Light, as close to them as I can get.”

An investigative correspondent such as Ling tries to establish strong relations with individuals who are knowledgeable and informed about developments in their field of activity. It was at the Robotics Institute of Jiao Tong University that Ling had made acquaintance with the director of the Mechanotronics Research Center, Dr. Dai Fang. This individual had long been a good source of current information about technological developments for the reporter from Vitroline News.

Ling made a fiberline call to his friend and was invited to visit him at the research center on Guan Hua Road. It was worthwhile for Ling to take the time to hire an electrocab and ride out to the location in the Minhang District.

The research director met him in his tiny office on an upper floor and had something to tell the writer about what was probably involved in the excitement at Holoid Light.

“They are a deeply dedicated group of scientists over there, under Wu Xue,” said the robotics scientist. “For a number of years, they have attempted to find a method of applying a combination of laser light and magnetism to computer memory and digital operations. It has become almost a single-minded mania with Wu and his researchers. As far as I can say, no one has ever learned of major success of any kind in their endless round of experimentation.

“But who can say what may have occurred there recently? I have, myself, heard of no leaps or breakthroughs, but that may mean nothing. No one really knows, since Wu and his team have always been tight-lipped and very secretive about their lab work.

“I am sorry that there is no more that I can tell you, Ling.”

The latter thanked the director and found his way out of the Robotics Institute.

The crowded streets held glassy hyaloids walking along with living organic human men and women, though still only a fraction of the moving mass of bodies.

A newsman should be able to work on more than a single project at any one time, believed Hua Ling. At the present time, he found it wise and necessary to operate on that principle.

Ling decided to nose around in bars, taverns, and livehouses in the evening highlife area of older, downtown Puxi.

The writer ordered his favorite brand of beer in one of the hangouts that he often frequented when he was at loose ends over a matter connected with his job at Vitroline News. How was he going to attack the subject of the laboratory bombings in Shanghai? The urban district now held over twenty million residents. Who was capable of finding out what was being planned and carried out below the surface that was visible to an investigator like himself?

Ling ordered a second ice-cold bottle of Pearl River Beer, and had finished it when an idea on how to proceed came to him.

Who might know something about such attacks more than a genuine anarchist? One who accepted the necessity for using violent means for the sake of a higher good or goal?

All at once a broad smile broke forth on his circular face.

I know an historian of Chinese anarchism who himself probably possesses some such beliefs and values. Perhaps Professor Ren Wing can give some information that no one else has. Even a suggestion or a hint from him could possibly point me in the right direction.

A visit to the scholar at Shanghai University might prove productive for me tomorrow, the reporter told himself with confidence.

He Wei stayed in his office the whole day, even after the sun set and the evening fell over the international port and metropolis.

The head of Vitrobots had difficult decisions to make concerning how to battle his enemy, Shanghai Hyaloids and its clever agile president, Chen Qi. What was he to do before his rival had his hands on a photic brains of some sort, one that could be placed in a bot or mech in order to multiply its abilities and thinking potential?

What he now had a crying need for was accurate data about what Holoid Light had developed that had attracted the attention, the interest of his robotic competitor. But he had no open, acceptable way of learning what was going on in the laboratory of the small firm that specialized in laser-magnetic rays and their industrial applications.

There is always the possibility of an illegal break-in and taking the data out of the digital files of Holoid Light.

The more that He Wei considered the idea, turning over in his mind the chances of success, the more he was drawn to accepting the option of industrial burglary, of technological espionage.

Yes, He Wei saw the logic of doing it, and reached an irreversible decision.

He would command his most trusted company guards to perform such a crime under his executive authority. The responsibility would fall primarily on his own shoulders.

The corporate president reached for his vitrofon in order to have a small, well-chosen team meet with him in his office that very night.

4.

Ling met Professor Ren Wing at her office at the Fudan University campus in Pudong. He sat across her old-fashioned mahogany desk from the middle-aged, slender and tall academic in a business suit.

“How have you been, Wing? It has been over two years since we have seen each other. I have come here this morning because I need to know about a certain subject that you have been studying for a long time.

“I am interested in the question of the role of anarchist thought in the present-day world and how it developed in the early twentieth century, before the Great Revolution of Mao Tse-Tung and the Communist Party.

“What can you tell me about relics of the past that may still be around today?”

Ling gazed at her small face with intense curiosity, waiting for her reply.

She answered him in a calm, almost abstract manner.

“Shanghai in the early twentieth century was a hotbed of anarchist thought, organization, and activity.

“The group of important writers and leaders located here tended to look for their roots in Chinese culture and rural society rather than in European radicalism. They stood for the total abolition of all private property and believed in the future of our agricultural peasantry. State Confusianism was completely repudiated by them. Their values fit better with the Taoist tradition of our past. Local self-determination was their fundamental goal and value. Leo Tolstoy was their teacher rather then Bakunin.

“Most anarchists in Shanghai, except for a radical few, did not accept the idea of violent means. The education of workers and peasants in anarchist principles was their central program. There was a Labor University organized here in Shanghai under their great leader, Li Shizeng. They rejected all formal governmental or social authority and sought to combine the minds and hands of their followers in preparation for a libertarian future.

“They clashed, of course, with Chinese socialism, and then communism.

“Their dream was a distant one of a free federation of local units in a great Chinese agrarian society and economy based on mutual aid. It is no wonder that they were stigmatized on all sides as impractical utopians and idealists.”

Ling posed the question that bothered him. “Are they still active in our post-Maoist system? What would they think of our system that some call state capitalism?”

Wing pursed her thin lips, then spoke in a soft, guarded tone.

“I have, in my studies, come across a few who survive as a small study group in our present Shanghai. As far as I can tell, they lean more toward Russian Nihilism and Bakunin more than Tolstoy or Kropotkin. Their main figure is a man named Li Jian who claims that the anarchists of today and the future must forget and drop all non-violent beliefs and values.” She hesitated for several moments. “I do not know what these people who follow Li Jian may be capable of in terms of destructive actions or vandalism. That is a mystery to me, Ling.”

The two of them stared at each other briefly, then the correspondent excused himself, thanked her, and left the office.

A team of police officers and technicians examined the data center memory units at the Holoid Light laboratories. At last, the chief detective in charge of the break-in investigation went to the office of Wu Hue to make his preliminary report to the head of the company. The plainclothesman stood while Hue sat behind his desk.

“Yes, we failed to find any identifiable fingerprints. It could be that the perpetrator or perpetrators wore protective gloves or mittens of some sort.

“Our experts were able to ascertain what the raider or raiders were after. It appears that their attention was exclusively devoted to the area of laser-magnetic devices, especially the newest and most experimental types being used or tested in your laboratory work by the scientific staff.

“We have calculated that photographic copies were made of the most complex and concentrated series of illumination points in these photonic arrays that were being worked on in various specific experiments.

“I received that conclusion that the interloper or band of interlopers had a clear purpose, that they had exact knowledge beforehand of what they were after, and that is what they stole from your company’s memory bank. They were skilled enough to call forth exactly what they wanted.

“For now, that is all that we have found out about this burglary, Mr. Wu. I am sorry that we have no clue as to who stands behind this act of industrial espionage.”

The police investigator made a small bow, then retreated, leaving Hue alone in worried thought.

Xu Yao met with Li Jian at his favorite beer hall in lower Pudong. The pair occupied a small table away from all the others in the long room. They talked in low, measured tones that no one could overhear.

“I believe that there are many new options open to us in coming days,” whispered Jian. “Plans that seemed impossible before are now within our reach. We can now accomplish some very impressive displays of our growing powers.”

Yao looked him directly in the eye. “What targets have priority for you, my friend? What institutions or locations would be best to hit immediately, do you think?”

Jian made a nervous grin of anticipation. “As enemies of all legal, official authority, we ought to concentrate on symbols of state power wherever they may exist. That is why I recommend the choice of an official structure of everyday governing. I am thinking of something as ordinary as one of the Shanghai city prisons where people are kept jailed and imprisoned.

“I belief that kind of target would be easy to attack and destroy. No one is ready for it, because it appears beyond people’s thoughts.

“What do you think, sir?”

“Wouldn’t many injuries of the innocent occur?” demanded Yao. “I can foresee some fatal casualties resulting.”

“We are likely to hit numerous jailers, guards, and police officers, sir. None of them deserve to be considered in any way innocent or guiltless. And the prisoners themselves have mostly been prosecuted and judged guilty of some sort of crime. Isn’t that the bitter truth, sir?

“But there will be many survivors in the jails and prisons of Shanghai. We shall save and liberate them from captivity. They will no longer be cornered as slaves of the government. We shall make them into free men and women for the first time in their lives.”

Yao nodded his head, but did not say an affirming word more.

5.

As soon as he read the vitroline report on the burglary at Holoid Light, Chen Qi made an instant decision to make a second visit to see and talk with Wu Xue about the condition of their future relationship.

Qi was confident he could now convince the other to agree to providing the new laser-magnetic power device for totally modified and improved hyaloid bots and mechs that outperformed anything now available or in use.

If there was a force or factor trying to steal the “light brain” that promised so much, it was unwittingly improving the bargaining position of Shanghai Hyaloid Corp., concluded the president of the robot producing company.

Xue, as soon as he was informed of the appearance of the unexpected visitor, had him brought quickly, directly up to his executive office.

Qi expressed his sympathy over the data attack and robbery as he shook hands with the other. The pair sat down and started to discuss the situation they faced with the overnight event in the Holoid Light laboratory.

“I believe that you and I must come to immediate agreement on the future course of cooperation between our two firms. Our interests now coincide, they are perfectly congruent and overlapping.

“I promise to look out for the good of your company, my friend, to the same degree as I serve the aims of my own.

“Your firm and mine will now become the same as two brother. We shall be aiding and boosting each other in a multitude of ways. There will be no limits to the benefits that we both enjoy, because we will be sharing so many valuable capabilities and possibilities.

“Don’t you see and understand that, Xue?”

The latter seemed passive and thoughtful for several moments, but then came to life with new energy and vigor.

“There shall be no secrets between us or our companies from now on,” he declared with determination. “You will know everything about the new light brain today. Let us go down to our photic laboratory so that I can show you what we have created there.”

As Ling walked into the main editing hall of Vitroline News, a colleague of his called out to him from a monitor reader.

“The boss wants to see you as soon as you can get to his office,” smiled the fellow correspondent. “I bet it has to do with what happened last night at Holoid Light, the criminal break-in there.”

Ling made for the executive suite where Guo Ziao was busy at work at his editing responsibilities.

“This data raid was a sudden surprise for everyone,” frowned the little man with the tanned face. “What can you tell me about what lies behind it?”

“I can only make a guess that it is connected to the brutal rivalry and competition for technological renewal in Shanghai industry. The important question is this: who stands to gain something from such data theft? Who is able to use it for commercial advantage of any sort?

“My judgment is that the culprits were not agents sent by others in the photic illumination business like Holoid Light, but from an entirely different industry. I speculate that it was one of our major robotic companies that dispatched the information robbers.

“They were told exactly what to steal from their victim and quickly obtained what they were after.

“Does any of what I say help you understand the nature of the situation?”

Guo Ziao broke out in a wide-mouthed smile. “Yes, that is what I think, and I think the police would agree with what you just told me. But you must obtain the true identity of who stands behind the crime, Ling. I want you to probe deeper into the conflict in the robotic industry. Who is it that wants what Holoid Light possesses? You must find out what is so valuable in the laboratory that was attacked by hired agents. That will not be easy, but if anyone can learn where the truth lies, it is you.

“I have faith in you and know you can accomplish it.”

Ling promised to do his best and departed with speedy steps.

That evening there were persons concentrating their minds on the problems of the new bots that threatened to change the entire situation of automatons in Chinese society.

He Wei lay in bed without sleeping at once, his mind on the puzzle of what to do about what he had learned about the light brain that now existed at Holoid Light.

Chen Qi was worried over the need facing him of convincing Wu Xue to come to agreement with him to allow Shanghai Hyaloid to use the new light brain of his own company laboratory.

Hua Ling fell asleep very late, trying to figure out how to uncover the truth about the dangers hanging over the city he lived in.

6.

Li Jian was a bomb-maker who took his profession seriously. He took his time in laying out plans, but was a meticulously attentive to all the small details involved.

Meeting with Xu Yao at the latter’s Pudong apartment, he described what he and his action group were going to carry out after midnight.

“I have broken up our forces into three separate units,” explained Jian with a tinge of gloating in his voice. “Each of them will go to a different prison site within Greater Shanghai. All three will be transporting a powerful bomb with chemical explosive in it. The members have practiced and received the necessary training to be successful. Here are the three targets that have been chosen.”

He gave the names of each prison, describing the work that prisoners engaged in at each of the three.

“The Beixinjing Prison in the Changong District, where steel pipe is being produced by prisoners.

“The Jiangwan Prison in the Boshan District, which has a valve factory.

“The Tilanqiao Prison in the Hongou District, with printing and clothing factories attached.

“Those institutions will be the ones who suffer serious damage tonight. The news of what we accomplish will shake and terrify the rulers of Shanghai to the core. They shall never forget the bombings we carry out in the night.”

“Will your three teams manage to escape in safety?” inquired Yao.

Jian suddenly grinned. “The factor of surprise will favor our people,” he asserted with assurance. “I have no doubts at all about fulfilling this plan that I put together.”

The bombs were placed against the outer walls of all three of the chosen prison structures. Timers were set to arrange for simultaneous explosions in the three scattered locations.

Midnight quiet vanished once the chosen midnight moment arrived. Thousands of sleeping persons awoke at exactly the same time. Fire broke out from the trio of explosions. First came confusion, followed by horror and terror. Police vehicles and fire-fighting machinery rushed at once to the effected sites.

How could three different prisons suffer attacks at one time? wondered those who learned of the range of the attacks.

Was this vandalism by anarchistic elements of Shanghai society? What could be the possible aim? Who could think such monstrous thoughts?

Were there casualties? many wondered. What had conditions become inside the three prisons?

The news media of Shanghai rushed reporters in company vehicles to the sites of the explosions. Police agents spoke to them, giving the few so-far established facts about the situation. There were no identified deaths yet. The damage was large and significant. It would take time to estimate its full extent.

A vitroline call went out from company headquarters to Hua Ling. He received a notification of events in a few brief, condensed sentences.

“It is important to get as many facts as we can as quickly as possible,” said the editorial assistant who was coordinating from the corporate center. “We need you to cover central Pudong from downtown police headquarters. Go there as soon as you can. Report whatever you manage to learn from the police officers in charge of the first, early investigation of the outrages.”

Ling crawled out of bed and began to cloth himself for his late night mission.

He leaped into his auto and made it speedily to the downtown Pudong station. In a short time, Ling was able to hear current reports to the assembled press by an official spokesman.

So far, there were no deaths that occurred. But prisoners had poured out of all three of the bombed prisons and were now at-large within Shanghai. The round-up of these who had escaped would be difficult and might take considerable time to fully complete.

Ling, having the information recorded on his communicator wristband, left for Vitroline News main office.

He Wei hurried to the headquarters of Vitrobots just after dawn, as soon as he had absorbed the news of the triple bombing of Shanghai prisons. Instead of going immediately to his executive office, though, he made his way to the basement section that was assigned to the company’s platoon of professional guards. It was now his task to inform these dozen individuals of a momentous decision he had just made about a project which demanded total secrecy.

Wei assembled the entire protective crew in their rest chamber and addressed them with a sensitive matter that involved potential risk.

“I called you together because I need to enlist your services in a most important project. There is no question for me that every one of you is completely trustworthy and loyal to Vitrobots. You have proven that in your many years of successful service to our company. What I will now outline and describe for you is something new and different from what you are familiar with.

“I am certain that all of you know about the prison bombings that happened last night. The blame and responsibility will be placed on unknown, unidentified anarchists who hide in the darkness of night. All of Shanghai has fallen into panic and confusion. Chaos reigns in the minds of millions. All people in all the sectors and neighborhoods exist in terror of what might occur next. No one can foresee what the future might hold for the great city.

“This is the perfect circumstance for bold, unexpected action on the part of Vitrobots. And I believe we must seize the opportunity presented at this moment. We can do what yesterday would have been impossible to conceive of or to conceal.

“My plan is to use some of the chemical materials in our stockpile to put together an explosive that can halt our enemies from outdoing us in robotic production and assembly. We can prevent our main rival from adding a new controlling system to their bots and mechs.

“Your target of destruction shall be the central laboratory of Holoid Light, with the aim of preventing that company from equipping Shanghai Hyaloid with an invention capable of ruining all its competitors, including us.

“Let us get busy with the gathering together of the necessary materials so that before tomorrow morning there can be a bombing that will have the appearance of an additional anarchist action. That will shield all of us from suspicion by the police and government authorities, I am certain.”

He Wei surveyed his crew of company guards who were now to become bombers in an industrial conflict entering a war state. “Let us get to work and complete this job,” he finished.

7.

Ren Wing sensed a need to speak as soon as possible with the man who aspired to become her lover if she would grant him her favor.

She canceled her morning classes and took a street cab to the apartment of the individual whom she knew to be an anarchist activist, Li Jian.

The latter rose from bed to answer his door. He gazed with surprise at who his surprise visitor happened to be. “Come right in, Wing. I didn’t expect you here so early. Don’t you have a class at this hour of the morning?”

“I had to see you,” she said as she sat down on a sofa. “There has been a series of bombings in the city, three of them so far. Powerful explosives were detonated.”

“Yes, those are terrible events. Whoever set such bombs must have great emotional drives that impel them to act in a destructive manner. You know how much I am devoted to traditional Chinese anarchism, but I adhere to the peaceful, nonviolent stream of that philosophy. The branch that I am a part of is the Tolstoyan one. Our aim is social and moral education of the average citizen. I do not believe that violent acts can bring about any kind of reformation or improvement. The result tends to be the opposite of what the perpetrators may plan or intend. That is a guiding principle for those who think like me, Wing.”

“Who stands behind these explosions, then?” she asked him with desperation. “I don’t understand what impels such awful means.”

“It has to be the Tianites, those who follow the ancient teachings of the violent school of Taoism. They exist here in our time, right here in Shanghai. They are the most likely group behind what is happening at night.”

“But you would not be involved in such evil actions, Jian, would you?” she pleaded. “You are not that kind of a person, I know that. A man of your character does not have such violence within his soul. I know you are not one of those mad thinkers capable of risking lives.”

“I would never attempt anything violent,” lied her lover. “You are right, I am not at all like those Tianites. They are only my acquaintances, with whom I have serious disagreements on principles.”

He smiled at her with tenderness. “Let me fix you some breakfast to eat,” he proposed to his lover. “You must be hungry from all this recent excitement.”

Chen Qi had difficulty making sense of what had happened at the three Shanghai prisons. How could such events been occurring in a modernized, technologically advanced international metropolis? The bombings seemed an echo from a nearly forgotten past, a age of political and socio-economic turmoil. It did not carry the flavor of the present, with its optimism about the future of all humanity.

I have to contact Mr. Wu Xue of Holoid Light and convince him into partnership or merger with my own company. He has no know that he cannot go forward as he has so far, as an independent on his own. His tiny firm does not possess the capital resources that I could command into a light-brain type of bot. Only a giant enterprise like Shanghai Hyaloids has the potential to provide sufficient investment for such a revolutionary scientific development.

Qi decided that he had to make a second surprise trip to the president of the smaller outfit. He had to personally deliver a new, more generous proposal to the stubborn man. Yes, that was the best thing for him to do under the present circumstances of violent lawlessness in the great city.

He picked up his mini-communicator and punched in the code number of his personal driver and sedan. Another meeting with Wu Xue appeared appropriate and timely to the industrialist.

Li Jian summoned his most loyal supporters within the central group of Shanghai Tianites. He knew everyone one of them to be dedicated to his own version of traditional Chinese anarchism, a combination of the newest and the oldest elements of thought. What was now to be presented to them was the boldest, riskiest action yet contemplated or planned.

The meeting occurred in his own Pudong apartment, with a sense of total security of everyone who was present to hear his words.

“We must go for the jewels of targeting next,” he began. “I believe we have to strike at the international shipping system so as to incapacitate the entire economy not only of Shanghai, but of all the rest of China as well.

“Can it be done? Is it at all possible? Let me show you a diagram of the port locations that I intend to destroy through bombing.”

Jian picked up a scroll of drafting paper on which he had diagrammed the targets with rectangles and arrows. He pointed out and named each individual major bank that he had picked out for attack with explosives.

“The Yangsan Deep Port. No other one is as large or important. The entire economy of the city, the region and province, and coastal China will suffer colossal damage and loss. Our entire nation will feel the dire consequences of such an act of annihilation. This is our door to the entire world market, but in terms of imports and exports.

He continued on to indicate the location of the ports on the Huanpu River and the Yangtze River, then proceeded to list their connections to most industrial regions of China, describing the enormous losses that bombing them were certain to bring about.

“These bombings will cause devastation in Anhai, Jiansu, Zhejiang, and Henan Provinces in all areas of their economic life. It will ruin them in all ways.”

His associates marveled at the breathtaking scale and the dimensions of what he had conceived of.

“This plan will have both material and psychological effects on everything and everyone!” gasped one of the Tianite anarchists.

“All the world will feel the power of our circle here in Shanghai,” claimed another. “We shall put anarchism back on the stage of world history!”

_

Wu Xue was astounded when Chen Qi of Shanghai Hyaloloid made his appearance at the busy, confused, and disordered headquarters of the smaller company which had experienced a criminal break-in and ransacking of its memory records.

What could he do when his secretary announced that the robot titan had come there to see him?

“Show him right in,” commanded Xue. “I know that I have to talk with the man as soon as possible. Yes, bring him right in immediately.”

What am I going to say to him? How should I answer his previous offers and proposals? quickly pondered the worried, overburdened president of Holoid Light.

Was he going to accept or turn down the offers made before the disaster that had occurred after the first visit by the maker of bots and mechs?

Xue was completely uncertain what his reponse was going to be.

Did Chen Li intend to make a new offer? A better or a worse one in terms of the interests of the firm that was being courted?

Almost out of breath, his heart pounding at a breakneck speed, Xue watched as the surprise visit slowly stepped into the executive office.

Xue lacked the presence of mind to invite the guest to take a seat.

He gave Qi a blank stare of bewilderment and pronounced a single word.

“Yes?”

“I know about the sinister burglary attempt made on your laboratory last night and you have my deep sympathy. Whatever my company can do to help your recovery, I will authorize. I assure you of that.

“This act may have come from someone in the higher tech industries of Shanghai, but I swear to you by all that is sacred that we in my corportation had no connection to anything so criminally evil.

“We will do everything in our power to help identify and prosecute the culprits, all of them, from top to bottom, whether high up or the bottom perpetrators. They must all be punished for what they did to you and your people. Believe me, my company and I myself are on your side.”

The two presidents of tech companies stared at each other, until We Xue revealed a decision he had just made seconds before.

“I have concluded where innocence and guilt must be located.

“This break-in has the marks and the odor of He Wei and Vitrobots. He has always been a rapacious invader and this matches his style. It is not in the history of you or your company to go that far in business matters.

“Yes, I must conclude that the time has come for Holoid Light to seek merger into a larger industrial unit. That will keep my firm safe from a shark like He Wei.

“Let us get our lawyers busy with a formal agreement to join together in a common, united enterprise, Qi.”

The latter beamed with rhapsodic joy at his unforeseen rapid victory on the long-sought goal for Shanghai Hyaloid.

8.

As soon as Guo Ziao learned that a media conference had been scheduled for the middle of the afternoon by Chen Qi at the headquarters of Shanghai Hyaloid he realized that an important subject matter was going to be brought up there.

The person who was his best choice for covering the event had to be Hua Ling, the head of Vitroline News knew instantly. He made contact with him by radiofon as soon as he could.

“Ling, I need you to be at Shanghai Hyaloid this afternoon at three for an important announcement by Chen Qi. All indications are that he plans to announce some new development in his pursuit of Holoid Light and its most advanced photic computer device. That is what I surmise is about to happen.

“I want you present there not only for the official press announcement, but also in order to nose around and learn what you can about what is going on behind the scene. If you have established personal contacts there, this is the moment to make use of them. Get to the bottom of affairs and find out what motives might be at the top of both companies.

“It could well be that they will announce a close partnership of some sort. Or it might even go as far as merger or agglomeration, but I have my doubts about that stage of the relationship.

“Keep you eyes and hears open and tuned in to the reality of the event, Ling. I trust you and your reportorial talents. Use them on what happens today and make a good report on it for me. That’s all for now.”

The editor closed off, while Ling ran toward his autocar in the basement garage of his apartment block.

He had an urgent task to perform for his news service.

Li Jian was a busy man all of that afternoon, equipping his three small teams of bombers with the chemical explosives meant for Shanghai’s main international and river ports. Precise plans were focused upon at each separate session, with routes of entrance and withdrawal spelled out in exact detail.

“You must leave behind no clues or identifiers of who you are and what organization is behind you,” advised the head anarchist. “Those who sympathize with us will understand who the active attackers are and what their goal is. The panic and anarchy that result in Chinese society and the economy will provide eloquent testimony as to who we are and what our beliefs are. The enlightened individuals will realize at once what the lesson we are teaching happens to be.”

The elan of the bombers was evident to everyone present, most of all to the leader, Jian himself. All his intimate followers could see his emotional investment in what they were about to carry out under his direction.

“This shall be our greatest victory yet,” pronounced the chief of the bombers. “We, as anarchists, shall take over the steering wheel of history with our direct actions.”

Two dozen reporters stood in the company conference hall when two top business leaders, Chen Qi and Wu Xue, walked in and took positions beside each other at a low rostrum with an amplifier on it. The former man was the one who started to speak, making the important announcement that was awaited.

“Members of the media, we are gathered here today for the purpose of informing you of a very important development about the future of our two companies.

“We have decided to join together and form a unified, single industrial entity. Its name shall be Shanghai Hyaloid, that of the largest unit within the new corporate body. Holoid Light shall from now on be a major fraction of the overall combine of elements, its photic section.

“I cannot go into a description of all the major projects that our joint staff will be working on in future days, but the general direction of our combined cooperation shall lie in the addition of improved, advanced devices of control, coordination, and measurement within newer models of our existing bots and mechs of various kinds. That will be the central core of our new projects.

“That is all that I can tell you at present.

“I now turn over this rostrum to Mr. Wu Xue, who has become our new vice-president in charge of photic matters.”

The second executive, who was no longer to be president of anything, had little to say.

“The trustees and officers of Holoid Light approve this merger and will at once see to its successful completion. At this moment, I have nothing to add to what our chief executive officer has just told you. Thank you.”

The two speakers turned around and withdrew out of the conference room.

The mini-camera boxes in operation went out and the reporters began to exit, except for a single individual.

Hua Ling had already decided that he had to interview and ask pointed questions of both Chen Qi and Wu Xue, if it were possible.

He had to find out more about what was going on behind the scenes and what might be expected to result from the momentous merging of the robotic and photic scientists of the two corporations.

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