Shanghai Hyaloids

15 May

Part II.

1.

It was not possible for the correspondent to find or interrogate President Chen Qi, but Wu Xue remained in the office building, seeing to the furnishings and equipment in his new personal suite as vice-president.

Ling boldly entered the inside room where Xue sat behind a large polysteel desk. The corporate official who had changed posts looked up from a paper he had been perusing and recognized who had entered,

“Ling, how are you? Were you present at our joint media conference? I did not have the opportunity to look around to notice who was covering the affair.”

“Yes, I caught what went on there. It was most interesting for me, because I am extremely interested in the future activities and projects of the new, magnified corporation. The possibilities take my breath away, I must admit. And your people from Holoid Light will stand at the center of the great, promising combination of bots with photic controls.

“My knowledge is limited, so that I am only capable of imagining what the results of cooperation may turn out to be.”

Ling moved forward until he stood near the executive’s metal desk.

“I am optimistic about where we will be heading,” declared Xue. “There will be many times the resources available that we had at Holoid Light as a separate enterprise. Yes, I am confident that we will soon have a final product in the robotic field that soars far beyond anything achieved in the past.

“You shall be seeing products that are qualitatively advanced and new in nature. They will approximate human powers and capacities close enough to almost destroy the basic difference. Great, stunning marvels will result from our advancing knowledge of the optical properties of various kinds of nanoparticles and crystalline structures. There will be breathtaking wonders in front of us here in Shanghai.”

Xue grinned with radiant pride and assurance.

“There will be greater photic miniaturization and empowering, then?” inquired the correspondent from Vitroline News.

The other gave a full, affirmative nod. “Neither China nor the world will be the same as it has been. I am certain of that, Ling.”

The latter, without another word, began to retreat in withdrawal. He realized that he could not obtain greater detail on what was going to come.

The night of port bombings was cloudy, moonless, and starless.

Detonation was set for three a.m. in order to minimize human casualties. The physical damages were supposed to be so astronomical that they would overshadow losses in harbor or shipping personnel.

The objective was to prevent any bestial vision of those responsible for the three major events of the night. Why should they turn into bloodbaths if that was sure to incite outrage?

Jian distributed handheld radiofons among members of the three groups in order to coordinate and order the timing of the events at their different locations.

Tension rose for the organizer as the designated moment approached. Jian had decided to stay at his own Pudong apartment, keeping out of the eyes of neighbors the day before. Everything he could think of was prepared and seen to.

When three o’clock arrived, he gave out a sigh of relief he considered justified. The hour for action had arrived.

The first message Jian received while waiting alone in his flat came from the international dock at Yangshan.

“The deed is done with complete success. The results are visible and spectacular, rising and growing by the second. We have the outcome that was planned and anticipated. The damages go far beyond what was expected.”

Jian was unable to avoid smiling. Immediately, a second message came through, this time from the Huangpu location.

“We have succeeded in reaching the goal that was set. Everything is going as it was planned. It is a bright and beautiful sight to see. Everyone will be deeply impressed by what has resulted from the efforts of our minds and hands.”

The anarchist leader gave a laugh as the second communication came to an end.

He was satisfied with how he had thought out and then commanded this second major assault on the existing reality of the world of China. Things were going as anarchist theory indicated they would. Violent events were falling into place.

Jian waited expectantly for the third message, the one from the Yangtze River embankments. Seconds passed, turning into minutes. As time went forward, the anarchist began to feel anxiety. What had happened? Why did no one call to inform him of what was transpiring at the third site?

He decided to turn on his vitroline screen to find out how his favorite media company was covering the events happening on the docks of Greater Shanghai.

Police sirens cut through the cool night air. The shadowy docks saw new illumination from helicopters of the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Navy. Troops of law-enforcers rushed toward the point of clash. The would-be bombers had no chance to set their explosive charges, for they were instantly surrounded and captured.

The anarchists had set off a dock alarm which aroused the forces of government and order. The latter contingents surprised and overpowered them without conflict or injury of any kind. No one dared mount any kind of resistance. The terrorists were completely defeated.

Jian learned over vitroline of the failure and capture of one of his platoons of anarchist bombers. No one succeeded in safely escaping.

The news totally floored and dispirited him. How could this be? What had gone wrong? What was he to do now? There was no easy answer to the puzzle.

Jian sat in his armchair until dawn broke, only falling asleep as first daylight broke out over Shanghai.

2.

Li Jian was alarmed and deeply troubled. The capture of half a dozen bombers at the Yangtse docks was a catastrophic disaster for his plans. What might they tell the authorities about the organization they belonged to? How would this defeat affect the other anarchists under his leadership?

Jian had an even closer worry. How was Xu Yao and his Tianite ideas going to adjust to what had happened? Would a sentiment of defeatism and pessimism now arise among those who came to anarchism through the route of traditional Chinese culture and philosophy, the stream of Taoism? Perhaps these philosophical radicals might have cause to renounce what he had preached to them.

It might be best to meet with Xu Yao at once, in order to re-establish trust and influence in that particular quarter.

Jian rushed out of his apartment and headed to catch the Tianite before anything happened with him. Matters seemed to be nearing some sort of climax, he felt with all his mind and spirit.

Ling decided that he should drop in and talk with Ren Wing about the anarchist movement that had appeared in Shanghai with the recent bombings and the capture of six of them trying to blow up the Yangtze dock. An indefinite feeling told him that she might give him some general information about the contemporary version of that thought system and its adherents.

He drove to her neighborhood, parked his box vehicle, and made his way to her door.

“Ling, I’m so glad to see you. Come right in. What do you think of the bombings at the Shanghai wharfs last night? And the arrests of a number of anarchists caught trying to set off a third bomb? The news of what happened has alarmed and excited the entire metropolis.”

She closed the door and led Ling into her living room. He took the sofa while she sat down at a table chair.

Ling studied her face for a few moments, then returned to what had brought him there that day.

“I thought that you might have some knowledge about this particular group or organization, Wing. You happened to mention a name last time you and I saw each other and talked about this subject. Do you remember?”

It was at that moment that a knock came from the door.

Wing sprang up and stepped forward to see who was there. Opening the door, she saw the face of her lover, at the same moment as Ling also caught sight of the man who stood in the doorway.

“Come in, Jian, I have a visitor whom I want you to meet.”

The surprised second visitor looked at Ling as he entered, led by Wing.

“This is Hua Ling, and he works for Vitroline News as a correspondent.”

She stopped and turned her eyes on Ling. “This is Li Jian, a close friend of mine,” she said with a pleasant smile on her face.

Jian sat down on a wing chair opposite Ling, while Wing remained standing near the latter.

“What do you think of today’s news, Jian?” she asked without preamble of any sort. “Who are this group of young, undisciplined hotheads? They are not the traditional, ordinary type of Shanghai anarchists, that’s for certain. This has to be something new and different.”

Her friend concentrated his gaze directly on the face and the eyes of the stranger who had been identified as a newsman.

“Our knowledgeable Wing is a great student of the history of anarchism in China. She knows the details of all the many strains and streams of that philosophy in our country before the Maoist revolution back there in the past. But it is the present-day varieties that have not yet been studied in any scholarly way by anyone. It should be an area of research fascinating for dear Wing.”

He suddenly turned his head to one side and faced the historian.

“If you aspire to understand those who are carrying out bombings, it is necessary to look at the Tianites who have transformed themselves into social revolutionaries. They are the desperate radicals who have adopted the means of destruction and violence. Their emotions have driven them close to the point of complete insanity. Minds such as theirs have gone beyond all rational limits. That makes them unlike all traditional, normal varieties of believers in the anarchist libertarian principles. That is what makes them so hard to analyze or understand.”

Ling, astounded at what he was hearing proclaimed, kept his eyes on the stranger named Li Jian.

How much of what this man was saying was credible? wondered the reporter with a measure of suspicion and doubt. There was a measure of fiction in his words, suspected the correspondent.

“You mentioned the name of the chief Tianite to me once, Jian,” suddenly remembered Wing.

The anarchist gave her a cynical, wicked smile. “Xu Yao, he is the one I identified for you. A man who has a strange character to him, I have to confess. I have never truly understood him or his motives, not at all.”

Ling intervened, the other two focusing on him.

“That is an interesting situation that you point to: a combination of one of our most ancient intellectual traditions with the European system of thinking that was labelled as anarchism back in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

“I find that an intriguing conglomeration that this man has constructed in his personal thought and his personality. That may explain much of what is occurring today in Shanghai. It seems very possible to me.”

Jian, all of a sudden, rose to his feet and spoke to Wing.

“I must be going,” he murmured, then turned to Ling. “It was a great pleasure meeting you, sir,” he quietly lied to the correspondent from Vitroline News.

Once the anarchist was gone, Wing and Ling looked at each other.

“He is an interesting person,” said the latter. “I did not know that you knew such an individual,” he said with a look of curiosity.

“He continually reveals new aspects of himself,” muttered Wing, giving an enigmatic, wondering smile.

3.

He Wei did not know what to do after learning of the merger that was going to occur. The robotics industry in which he operated would now have a great power-house because of the absorption of Holoid Light by his nemesis, Shanghai Hyaloid. How should his firm react to this?

The president of Vitribots decided to go and see Sung Han, the invisible operator within the corporate folds of the industrial corporation that he was formal, public chief of.

Driving his company sedan himself, He Wei headed for the entertainment sector of downtown Pudong where Han ruled over an underground economic kingdom which had its disguised roots within the shell of the entity called the Vitrobot Corporation.

The night club out of which Han ran his numerous businesses and rackets went by the name the Zhijiang Livehouse. It was one of several such places that the obscure gang chief ran and used. But this was the man’s central, original business home.

He Wei was recognized by a pair of guards who always accompanied their boss wherever he was or went. They nodded and executed small bows of respect to the company president, walking beside him across the central floor to the private office of their employer.

“Go right in,” said the senior bodyguard, pointing to a thick, solid steel door. “The Master is always ready to receive you, sir.”

The visitor did exactly that, discovering Sung Han standing behind a long desk of expensive teak.

The mobster was a heavy, stocky figure with wildly ruffled black hair of a lightless shade. On his oval face of reddish orange he wore an enigmatic yet enticing expression that could be taken for a grin of sorts.

“Welcome, my friend. How are you and Vitrobots doing? The recent news has been quite disturbing, both inside Shanghai industry and in general. Violent upheaval can never be good for business, either yours or mine.”

Han offered his large fat hand, which Wei took into his and shook with vigor.

Han asked his surprise guest to sit down, which the corporation chief did.

Wei unexpectedly began by posing a question. “Who is behind these anarchistic bombings?” he quizzed the big man behind the steel desk.

“That remains a deep puzzle to all my partners in my numerous business networks and structures. No one is able to solve that riddle, because the perpetrators have no records, criminal or legitimate. No one has any acquaintance with anyone of such a mad ilk as that.”

“Such conditions have to be expected since the complete liberalization of China has been carried out the last twenty years,” mused Wei. “The decades of Communist Party monopoly of power had much greater and thorough controls over illegal and criminal actions like this anarchistic violence and vandalism.”

Han, the mob chief, grinned. “That was when my predecessors laid the foundations of the syndicate of networks that today operate in modernized China. We lack the authoritarian discipline of our fathers and grandfathers since our government and party realm were reformed.

“Old, pre-revolutionary China had its vertical syndicates like the Green Gang, the Red Gang, the Society of Brothers, the Hong League, and the fearful Triads. Under one-party dictatorship, our organizations had to conceal themselves. Horizontal structures replaced the vertical gangs of old. Everything became informal and camouflaged. For instance, gambling and vice infiltrated many legal, acceptable institutions, even the Party itself.

“We still operate with the older, so-called hermit-crab hybrids of the lawful and the unlawful. Syndicate activities permeated and crept into safe harbors on all sides of China. Drug distribution was organized into hub and spoke patterns. Everything learned to operate under terms of masquerade. That is how Vitrobot Corp. formed as an industrial shell protecting and including the illegal networks of which I am top chief and operator.

“I run things through an intricate cobweb, positioned at its exact center. Without me, there would be disorder in the underworld of Shanghai, believe me.”

He glared at Wei with focused eyes. “There is a crying need to save Vitrobods from what may result from the merger just reached on the industrial scene. If I can send my associates into action for your sake, just tell me and I will give the sign, my friend.”

“Thank you, Han,” smiled the corporate chief. “In the name of the company, I express our debt to you. But I must wait for a short time in order to determine what may be necessary. Just a little while, in order to judge how things are going and what is the best alternative to take up.”

“Tell me when you decide what measures I should put into operation,” said the illegal boss. “All of my networks will be ready to serve your interests.”

Wei thanked Han and quickly departed, returning to his company headquarters with a rising feeling of relief.

4.

How does one find a particular individual, in this case a Tianite, in a metropolis of twenty-five million? Ling decided to attempt to find some link to Xu Yao through a major Shanghai temple that was a Taoist center of worship, education, and meditation. He choose the most prominent one in Podung. It was a large complex of structures opposite the Yian Shan metro station, a busy nod of urban transportation.

Called the Taiqinggong, the temple was the largest Taoist institution in Shanghai. The correspondent decided to enter in the disguise of a tourist.

He joined a small group of vacationing visitors marshalled through the three main sections by a professional guide. The ambled through a central courtyard containing a statue of the Emperor of the Sacred Eastern Mountains, a judge of humanity said to own seventy-two hells and thirty-six prisons in which to punish and torture the wicked.

An inner second hall held statues of the Three Pristine Ones who had attained perfect possession of the life force at the foundation of everything. “These three are the incarnation of the Tao, which is the natural order of the universe,” declared the guide. “Only the Tao can spare a person from pain and suffering,” she added.

In the rear, innermost sector, the group viewed the Supreme Jade Emperor, described as “king of the heavens and governor of all humans and the gods.”

As the small group was led back out to the street, Ling stayed behind with the intention of making his planned inquiry.

Only when he was left alone with the guide did he present her with his question.

“Excuse me, but I am trying to locate a particular Taoist scholar who is a follower of the Tian stream of thought. His name is Xu Yao. Have you or anyone else heard of this man?”

“Let me check out that name at our address file,” she smiled at him. “It may be listed there among users of our temple library.”

Ling followed her into an office to the side that few people ever notice.

She consulted the records in an office monitor, coming up quickly with what the visitor to the temple was seeking.

“Yes, sir. Here it is, and the address of the individual is right here in Pudong. Let me write it down for you so you can take it along with you.”

She did so and Ling put it into his coat pocket. He thanked her for the assistance and left the temple knowing where he was headed next.

Chen Qi realized that he had a lot to learn about new photic technology from Wu Xue. That was why he tried to meet and talk with the latter often in their first days as partners on the joint project that both of them were now engaged with.

The personal office of Qi was where they most frequently saw each other.

Xue sensed that the president of Shanghai Hyaloids did not understand how light science could be applied to the movement and maneuvers of a bot made of a polymer substance.

“It has always been the aim and ambition of robotic engineers to approximate the human mental system as closely as possible, but it is only in recent times that the functional importance of the sense organs for our brains has been emphasized and brought to the forefront.

“The human brain is so intimately connected to our major senses of seeing, hearing, and touch that its influence has been overlooked and not explained.

“As a result, few have recognized that bots and mechs will have to possess the closest possible interweaving of their senses and control systems if they are to imitate human powers and capacities. There can be no other way.”

“That has been your aim at Holoid Light?” asked the other.

“Precisely,” replied the smiling Xue. “Only with vastly expanded and improved organ-brain interactions can we hope for more versatile, more independent robotic mechanisms. Eyes and ears of extraordinary abilities will open the door to greater specialization and miniaturization of the intellectual potential of what we are trying to assemble. By combining these different areas of science, we shall end up with a nano-electromechanical system that approximates what a human being is.

“Does that make sense to you, Qi?” said the man with the photic background.

“Yes, it certainly does. But successfully doing it will not at all be an easy mission to fulfill. Our work will be hard and expensive.”

Ling knew that he had to invent a false identity and imaginary purpose in order to befriend and become accepted by the Tianite named Xu Yao.

He decided to pose as a potential new member of this subdivision of the greater, broader Taoist minority within Chinese society. It was necessary to boldly present and introduce himself in order to establish an initial relation to the leader of the Tian stream in Shanghai.

Ling rang the apartment sounder and waited anxiously to find out if the man he was seeking was at home.

The door opened and the resident of the flat faced the investigating reporter from Vitroline News.

“Mr. Xu?” quickly said Ling. “I am a student of the Way of Tao who great need for exploring and mastering the ideas and methods of the followers of Tian, of which you are known as the foremost authority here in Shanghai.

“Could I speak with you? It would only take a few, limited minutes of your time. I promise not to burden you with my personal questions or concerns. My knowledge of the philosophy of the Tian is a limited one, and my hope is to obtain good advice from you as to how I can further enlighten myself on the steps I should take in order to make some definite and certain progress.”

Xu Yao gave the stranger a sharp, piercing look of examination.

“Come in, please,” invited the Tianite. “I am not busy at the moment and can speak with you about what may help your education along. Come in and sit down. What is your name?”

“I am Hua Ling and I work in the publishing industry of Shanghai,” said the correspondent, convinced that he was compelled to conceal and disguise much of the truth concerning himself. After all, he speculated, he might be going into a very dangerous, life-risking situation with anarchist activist.

5.

Wu Xue had deeply influenced Chen Qi with his theory of the basis of the human mind’s superior powers in the power and acuteness of human sense organs and their major importance in the development of the brain and mind of man.

Has there been any major breakthroughs in that specific area of psychology? pondered the president of Shanghai Hyaloids. He looked for some clue over his memory computer, searching for some mark of recent research.

Had anyone attempted to sharpen and enhance robotic senses for the purpose of increasing the mental efficiency and productivity of bots and mechs?

He came across a single reference. It dealt with work going on at a small Shanghai company called Roboplasma. They were testing methods of making robotic mechanisms super-sensitive to stimuli in their environment by using various forms of chemo-physical plasma. No results or outcomes had been noted or reported anywhere, up to the present date.

His curiosity aroused, Qi decided to contact the firm and look around for more information about what they were doing. There might be something of future value that he could find in that obscure corner.

He Wei returned to the livehouse of Sung Han for a second conference with the underworld chieftain whose tentacles extended well into the Vitrobots company.

The pair talked once again in the office of Sung Han. The bot-maker was curious to find out whether his ally had figured out a means of saving him from competitive disadvantage and prospective ruin.

“Are you planning any kind of strategic move that is possible?” inquired Wei with worry in his voice.

Han looked away for a moment, then concentrated his eyes on the face of his visitor.

“We know that there is a violent anarchist gang at large in Shanghai. Recent news has been dominated by their destructive exploits. The damage and losses have been colossal. But there is an aspect of these attacks that you and I can exploit to our advantage.

“If Shanghai Hyaloids were to be bombed in their offices or labs in the same time period as one of the major anarchist actions, it would appear to be part of their campaign of mayhem. I have no doubt that the police and the public would both tend to interpret these assaults as part of one catastrophic movement against Chinese society. That would seem proven by simple logic. Even experts in the field of criminology would share that general opinion.

“Don’t you agree, my friend?”

Wei had only to consider for a few seconds. “Yes, that is something that might well hide the true origin of a bombing attack upon Shanghai Hyeloids. I have no reason to doubt that such a conclusion would prevail in nearly every mind in the city.”

Han gave a cynical grin. “Then, I plan to prepare the personnel and the materials for such an attack in order to be ready for the next occasion presented by these radical incendiaries.”

Li Jian held a planning session with his co-conspirators that night in his apartment. The next step in his campaign of bombing attacks was already outlined on a map of Shanghai that he revealed to the others present.

“We must now concentrate on a vulnerable part of the metropolitan economy, the public land transportation system that connects us to the rest of China. That is the vital link that we are going to cut so severely as to cripple all economic life that goes on every day.

“Our bombing targets shall be the three main rail stations in the city: the Central Railway Station in the Jingian District, the South Railway Station, and the Hongqiao Railway Station. All three of these are vital knots that tie our Shanghai economy to all the other provinces in our country. Making it impossible to operate will halt much of the trade and transport that occurs anywhere in China.

“This shall be an historic feat of anarchic destruction that will never be forgotten in centuries of time to come. Our great city will never be the same once we have succeeded in carrying out these three actions.”

“What date is set to do this?” asked one of the associates present.

Li Jian made a grimace and frowned. “Our supply of plastic explosive has become somewhat depleted. It may take me three or four days to replenish what we have in storage. But once we are once again equipped for action, we shall at once move on the offensive.”

No more questions being posed to him, Jian went on with the details of how the charges were to be placed and detonated.

Ling proceeded with his exposure to Tianite doctrine, winning the trust and friendship of Xu Yao. The latter was thrilled with the idea of converting a new adherent to the Taoist sect that he was so prominent in.

“Are there periodic meetings of members of the followers of the Way of the Tian who live in Shanghai?” asked the new disciple one morning in the flat of his teacher. “I have never met the others who are connected to you, sir.”

The correspondent looked into the eyes of Yao with eager curiosity.

“We usually gather together at least once a month. It has been about that length of time since our last get-together, so I expect to send out vitro calls to the others today and tomorrow.

“Would you come to the next meeting, Ling? You are very welcome to attend, because you have learned quite a lot about the philosophy of the Tian.”

“Yes,” answered the other. “That would provide me marvelous opportunity to broaden my knowledge and experience.”

6.

Chen Qi had all his life been oriented by disgust with the old and hunger for the new. That maxim was the foundation of his view of both science and practical technology. He was a man whose mind was ready to test the untested and flee from the ways and methods of the past.

Learning of the existence and activity of the company called Roboplasma, he decided to make a personal examination of what the outfit might be able to provide him in the project of the advanced, independent, autonomous type of hyaloid he was planning to produce for the bot market of China.

First of all, Qi gathered together and read all the available data on the company, its management, and research activities. Yes, the leadership of the firm had strong hope in the future application of nano-technology to the area of plasma substances. Confidence in the possibility of finding new characteristics and capabilities in new forms of plasma prevailed around the president and major owner of Roboplasma, Ba Xueq.

I must meet this man and find out whether he can help us at Shanghai Hyaloid, Qi told himself. He decided to approach the head of the small company himself over the vitrofon and ask for a meeting with him.

Ling realized that his investigation of the Tianites and Xu Yao was going nowhere. He was learning a lot about the abstractions of Chinese philosophical thought, but not finding any evidence concerning the bombing attacks that were disturbing the peace and harmony of Shanghai.

Had he made his way into a fruitless dead end? he asked himself as time passed.

It was necessary for him to go back and see Ren Wing once more. It appeared that perhaps she had steered him down a useless, futile path, without either knowing or intending it.

Around noontime Ling arrived at her flat unannounced and surprising her as she was about to go out on a shopping round in the neighborhood.

“I had to see you, Wing,” he claimed with a disarming smile. “There is an important matter that is weighing on me. I think that you could provide me some answers to what seems to be bothering me.”

“Come in and sit down,” she suggested to him. “I have plenty of time and can go out later on.”

He stepped into the parlor and found a seat while she remained standing across from him.

“What is it that brings you here today, Ling?”

He began to frown. “I have, from the beginning of my venture into Tian thought, suspected the adherents to be somehow involved with anarchism and the recent plague of explosions and bombings. The number of casualties I found disturbing, but believed that fanaticism might serve to justify the use of violent means to those involved. But now I realize that I was wrong.

“None of the Tianites I have come across is in any way dangerous, I am certain of that. It is incorrect to suspect them of hypocrisy over deadly actions. They are unable to justify evil or criminal means of any sort. That is not in their character as moral individuals.

“I have had to completely revise my view point on the whole question.”

Wing gave him a questioning look of concern. “So, what is it you now think on such subjects of the psychology of people?”

“Those responsible are pure anarchists, and nothing beyond that. They are motivated by the small violent strain of thought in the history of Chinese anarchism, not by the peaceful tradition of the followers of Tolstoy or Kropotkin. Although a minority with few members, they are the ones making and throwing the bombs in today’s Shanghai.

“What do you say to that, Wing?”

Her face looked as frozen as a mask of some sort. “I believe you are right, Ling. It would seem that I have proven too trusting of the anarchists whom I am acquainted with. I especially mean Jian.”

The visitor gave a faint nod. “Yes, I have been thinking of the words that he has spoken, and whether he has been concealing much from both you and me.”

The two stared at each other a considerable time before Wing spoke again.

“I have called and invited him to stop by this evening, Ling. It would be helpful if you came back as well. What do you say?”

The reporter promised her he would be present.

Ba Xueq was a heavy, rotund figure of middle age who exuded an atmosphere of optimism wherever he went, whatever he said. His devotion to the future and the cause of plasma technology was like a mania within him and his life.

He was happy to have an important industrial leader like Chen Qi of Shanghai Hyaloid make a journey to see him at his own company headquarters in the Hongqiao Sector of the city.

The two businessmen sat opposite each other in the bare, simple office of Ba Xueq. The latter did most of the talking, presenting his personal view of the future of all of Chinese industrial technology.

“Plasma has unlimited possibilities of development into new, miniaturized forms of energy and energy transmission. I predict that progress in plasmatic development will dominate the next century and make possible incredible products and methods. No doubt of that is possible in my mind.

“There is no better way of producing, storing, and sending electrons from location to location than with plasma chambers and cells. Electrons become totally free and mobile within a plasma, so that they are liberated in terms of space and can leap about almost anywhere within the system that contains them in plasmatic suspension.

“Here at Roboplasma, we have created nano-devices that can operate within a plasma at the subatomic level, smaller than anything ever worked with in laboratories anyuwhere in the world.

“As a result of such instrumental advances, our plasma chambers contain lines of energy smaller than a neuron within the normal human brain. The complexity attainable with such technology will revolutionize the robotic industries. I believe that bots will become more individual and autonomous. They will come to have sensing devices that will outdo those within the biological human being.

“Let me take you on a tour of our lab and our testing section, Mr. Chen.”

The latter beamed with interest. “I will be very happy to see how plasma progress is growing,” he said with happy anticipation.

7.

Jian arrived at the apartment of Wing only minutes after Ling appeared there. The two who were waiting for the anarchist had not had any time to exchange ideas between themselves. Both of them felt that they were dealing with Jian as an independent factor in what was going on.

“It is good to see you here, Ling,” smiled the last one to appear, sitting down with the others at the dining area table. “You will discover that dear Wing is an efficient hostess who always has some surprises prepared for her guests, whoever they happen to be. Isn’t that true, Wing?” he said with a little laugh.

“I have some delightful sugared fruit slices in my freezer,” announced the scholar who lived in the apartment. “Let me go in the kitchen and get a plate of the snacks that I’ve defrosted for us to enjoy.”

Left to themselves, Ling and Jian looked at each other.

“How are your studies in the classics of the Tian progressing?” asked the anarchist.

Ling frowned. “I know more about that school of Tao, but still I have not reached the heights that were promised to me. It is very hard going, I find.

“But there is one conclusion that I am firmly convinced of. The Shanghai Tianites are not connected to the wave of destructive bombings we have witnessed in this city. Their characters prevent me from suspecting any of them of complicity in that sort of anti-social activity.”

Jian showed no signs of surprise or disturbance on hearing this.

“Yes, I find that group of idealists to be beyond any kind of suspicion. No reasons for fearing or doubting them exist, that is the logical truth.”

The anarchist gazed with bold assurance into the eyes of Ling.

“I am glad that you have changed your viewpoint about them, Jian,” said the investigative journalist.

At that precise moment, Wing entered the living room from the kitchen, carrying a tray with fruit snacks on it. “I have some items that I believe both of you are going to enjoy,” she laughed.

The conversation in progress halted at once, but Ling had reached a strong conclusion about Jian. he man was willing to change opinions when confronted with a contrary view.

This anarchist is probably much more than a theoretical speculator, an inactive idealist.

If anyone deserves being suspected, it is Li Jian.

Chen Qi sensed his mind boiling over with newly-acquired enthusiasm. I know what the key to connecting a hyaloid bot to its innovative photic brain. I now have the central ingredient that will make an autonomous entity possible. Shanghai Hyaloids and Holoid Light shall have to bring in a third member of the partnership we have composed through our merger.

Ba Xueq has the essential sensing devices to connect advanced bots to their environment and make use of the augmented light brain. Roboplasma will become the source of the plasmatic devices that can provide what will surpass even the splendid sensing forms evolved within human beings. Plasma cells and chambers are going to link together the physical and neurological aspects of robotic units in the future.

China and its social economy will never be the same after this combination comes to enjoy mass existence.

But first of all, Qi recognized that he had to convince the new vice-president of Shanghai Holoids, Wu Xue, to go along with the vision that had captured the imagination of the company’s eternally optimistic president.

Ling knew one person certain to provide him sound advice: his editor at Vitroline News, Guo Ziao.

An immediate meeting with the latter was called for in order to begin a process of necessary probing involving the group of anarchists around Li Jian.

The correspondent was admitted directly into the executive office of his superior.

“Good to see you, Ling. Have you found out anything of interest? Is that why I happen to be seeing you here today?”

“Indeed, sir, I’ve come across some interesting information that you should know about. My suspicions have been raised to a high altitude by what I have learned about a small circle of radicals who call themselves anarchists. I am convinced that they are favorable to the use of violence and are possible bombers.”

“Does this circle have an identified leader?”

“Yes, his name is Li Jian, a man with the reputation of following the principles of traditional Chinese anarchism. I am familiar with this individual through a mutual friend who is an historian in that area of thought. There are reasons to believe that Li Jian is concealing dangerous tendencies in his mind and his actions.

“Unless something is done soon, I fear that Shanghai may suffer another number of bomb attacks. What form they may take in terms of targets, I cannot predict. But I fervidly believe that they can be averted by timely preventive action.”

The editor considered a moment, then spoke in a tone of quiet strength.

“You and I must, both of us, visit the Shanghai police and inform them about this person and the potential great danger that he poses.”

Gao Ziao rose from his chair, circled the desk, and moved toward the doorway.

“Come with me, Ling. Both of us have a mission we must carry out today.”

Unforeseen difficulty arose for Chen Qi. He found that Wu Xue was dubious about what might develop if Shanghai Hyaloids ventured into the area of plasmatic sensing devices such as those assembled in the labs of Roboplasma.

“I do not think that plasma can be as useful and efficient as photic organs are,” argued Xue when summoned to the office of the firm’s president.

Qi bristled for a moment at this opposition, then calmed himself and spoke in a smooth, measured voice.

“Let’s not exaggerate things, my good man. We shall only enter this area of plasma cells or chambers as we can establish their worth in practice. More than general theory will be leading our work with plasma. Every step in that direction will have to be tested many times. Nothing at all will be accepted until it is thoroughly confirmed by our scientists.

“Trust me, Xue. I will not replace light devices with plasmatic ones without consulting with you and learning what you think is best.

“There is nothing for you to fear, believe me.”

Saying nothing in reply, the new vice-president of Shanghai Hyaloids hurried out of the office with energetic speed.

Qi, puzzled and disturbed, watched Xue disappear.

A long sedan stopped in front of the apartment building where Li Jian lived. Four men in business suits of the same serge blue exited and walked in group formation to a door with a number they were on the lookout to find. One of the foursome rang the electric chimes and the resident quickly opened the front door of his flat.

“Li Jian?” inquired the leader of the group of plainclothes officers.

“Yes,” replied the anarchist in a state of confusion. “Can I help you?”

“You must come along with us,” announced the detective. “We are placing you under arrest and will now transport you to our central police headquarters.”

Jian’s face blanched in surprise and fear. He said not a word of protest as the police escorts walked him to their large official box vehicle.

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