Shanghai Hyaloids

30 May

Part III.

1.

Chen Qi felt relief that the anarchist danger hanging over the economy of Shanghai had now lifted. The city’s police now had Li Jian and his circle of anarchist bombers in custody. The public was certain that the court that judged them would issue long sentences to them for their crimes of destruction. A renewed mood of optimism had taken over in the top offices of advanced industry. But Qi still had an internal problem inside his own corporation: Vice President Wu Hue and his resistance to the plasmatic sense organs developed by Ba Xueq of Roboplasma.

Qi became tired of hours of arguing with Xue about the prospects opened by adding new senses to hyaloid bots with new photic brain components.

“This cannot wait any longer,” the president of Shanghai Hyaloids finally told the recalcitrant developer of the holoid memory unit. “I have authorized our laboratory personnel to proceed with the brain-sensory organ linkage as fast as possible to achieve. Within a comparatively short time, we shall have a new line of autonomous bots with the ability to see, hear, and feel to a degree equivalent to that of living, organic humans. That will made it a practical product that can be used not only in industrial activities, but in numerous other parts of Chinese social and economic life.”

Xue, sitting opposite Qi, suddenly rose to his feet. His face an angry mask of emotion, his glaring eyes focused on the president of Hyaloids.

“I cannot go on like this, so I will have to resign.”

“Resign!” reacted Qi with shock and surprise. “But you are an important, vital participant of the new project. If you go, your holoid brain remains with the company, to be perfected and combined with the plasmatic sense organs.

“How can you do that, Xue? Are you so terribly opposed to plasma-based senses in bots? Why can’t you see and accept the necessity for such an added component in robotics, making them into autonomous entities?”

“I don’t understand why the senses have to be plasma devices,” answered the vice-president. “The ones that we have and now use, based on nano-electronic and photic rays, can do the entire job. I am confident that, in future years, they will enjoy such marvelous improvements that will overshadow anything conceivable in the area of plasmatic development.

“Shanghai Hyaloids must not waste the time of its scientists or its financial resources on what I believe are plasma fantasies. I fear that this Ba Xueg of Roboplasma has sold you a fraudulent pipe-dream, Qi.

“Wake up and see the reality behind the unproven claims he has foisted on you and your imagination.”

His temper on the point of exploding and boiling over, Xue spun around and quickly exited out of the office of the stunned president.

He Wei of Vitrobots was falling into ever deeper panic over what his informing spies were reporting to him from inside Shanghai Hyaloids. There was increasing urgency in the appeals that he made to Sung Han for action that would halt the forward progress of his rival toward new brain and sensatory devices as part of a new generation of mechs and bots.

The industrialist appeared at the Zhijiang Livehouse on a weekly basis, trying to find out what the underworld chieftain was doing to block the realization of the plans of Chin Qi to build bots with advanced brains and senses.

Han explained why he was hesitating to take direct action.

“The time is not favorable to bombing because of the recent anarchist scare,” said the mobster, lounging with his visitor in an empty clubroom. “Police agents are still on alert and watching out all over the metropolis. The risks involved are too great to take on right now.”

“What do you think remains, then?” asked the desperate bot-maker. “Is there no alternative whatsoever?”

Han eyed him with a frozen stare.

“There is a business tool that occurred to me today,” said the nightclub owner. “I have some very secret connections that could be turned against Shanghai Hyaloids in order to strangle that company, nearly behind the scenes. It would not at all draw any attention from the police authorities, none at all.”

Wei peered at him, waiting with impatience for answer and explanation.

“It is not usually known by most of the population that my organization has close entanglements with several of the leading banking and financial institutions of China. I have succeeded in the infiltration of top offices with loyal agents beholden to me and my units. These banks carry out necessary business services for us, and we aid them through gigantic investments of our funds and resources.

“We help them when needed and, in return, the Shanghai banks help us,” said Sung Han with an inscrutable grin. “Only individuals who are directly involved know the details of these relationships of ours.”

“You are thinking of putting such ties and links to use, then?” inquired Wei with curiosity.

“I will be telling you what the possibilities are as soon as I meet with my contact at the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.”

2.

Xia Gao was a powerful force in decisions having to do with the future course of industrial and business finance in Coastal and Eastern China. As president and central figure in the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, he acted as almost the one-man planning commission for the economic life of the city and its region.

The bank had its central headquarters in the Shanghai Bionic Tower, a skyscraper of over three hundred floors in the Lujiazui financial district. The building, a combination of advanced biological architecture and engineering, was made of micro-structural concrete. It was a marvel of climate and energy control, with the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank situated up near the summit.

Round, heavy, and ordinary-looking, there were no signs that the president was a pivot of so much concerning the prospects and conditions of hundreds of millions of Chinese men and women.

Mr. Xia was always prepared to stop whatever he was busy with in order to meet with Sung Han, an individual whose fingers reached into the bank and its daily operations. The financial titan rose and went to his office door in order to greet and welcome his visitor from the top of the Shanghai underworld.

The two men shook hands and gave each other a warm hug, then sat down in a small rest corner of the banker’s gigantic personal office.

“How are your casinos doing, Han?” began the banker. “I receive good reports on them from our accounting section. They show very profitable summer seasons, when tourist trade is vigorous. That makes all of us at the bank happy to hear.”

“Yes, we are doing well at all our games,” replied the mob leader. “There has occurred a sharp increase of interest in traditional games such as Pai Gow, Fan Tan, and Mahjung. We have seen a great movement of game players from western and central China into the Shanghai region for vacation and entertainment. Gambling has never waned or disappeared as a fascinating activity for our population. Shanghai has replaced Macao as a worldwide magnet of big gamblers. There appears to be no limit to the upward climb of mass participation in all forms of what we are able to offer, from popular lotteries to the games with domino tiles. Humanity has never outgrown its fascination with luck and fortune.”

“It makes all of us at this bank happy to see all loans to your groups being paid back on time, in full,” smiled Xia Gao. “Your enterprises have always been considered good risks in terms of bank loans.”

“That has always been my way of doing business, my friend. I can say that my associates and I have worked hard to win and keep the trust of your financial combination. I dare claim that both sides have gained a lot from our close ties. Working together has benefited all of us.”

“That must and will continue, as in the past,” prophesized the bank president.

All of a sudden, the visitor frowned. “There is a single painful problem that my networks are at the present time suffering. As you know, Gao, my organization has deep, strong roots extending into the robotic industry. We have worked closely with a major corporation in that area, Vitrobots. They have been in that field from its beginning generations ago. That company cooperates with and shelters us, and we in turn aid Vitrobots as much as we possibly can.

“There is a major competitor of that friendly firm that has never worked with us at all, in any way. I speak of Shanghai Hyaloids. Its president, Chen Qi, has been a fierce opponent, preventing any of our agents from entering his corporation. We enjoy no advantages or benefits from that firm. Mr. Chen is a stubborn, adamant enemy to our plans and ambitions.

“In the most recent days, Shanghai Hyaloids has threatened colossal harms to our ally, Vitrobots. Chen has merged with and acquired a photic corporation, Holoid Light. The objective of the two units is to develop an advanced control appararus based on nano-rays of light. If this can be achieved, then the bots and mechs manufactured by Vitrobots will become obsolete in a very short time.

“The head of the endangered firm, He Wei, has approached me with a desperate plea for protection and help. The future of all his facilities and employees is threatened by what might result from success by Shanghai Hyaloids.

“You and your bank must enter this conflict and solve it for us. We have no ready alternative, Gao.”

The latter wrinkled his brow in thought, pondering the grave problem just presented to him for solution.

“There are certain nearly invisible steps that a central financial hub like this bank can take to place Shanghai Hyaloids in a tight, inescapable vise. There are creditors that can be influenced into joining a general campaign of withholding needed credit from the targeted company. All sorts of measures are possible that will force Chen Qi to give up on this planned innovation. There are a multitude of methods that I promise you I shall be taking.

“Shanghai Hyaloids will suffer assault from all sides in such a way that its president will have to give up his plans. He cannot continue as he has till now.

“I guarantee you victory in this matter, Han.”

The latter gave a nod of his head, then rose and took leave of the powerful banker.

3.

Guo Ziao summoned Hua Ling to his office in order to give him an unexpected assignment.

“This is an area that will be new to you, but the benefit will be that the characters involved will not recognize or know anything about you.”

“What sort of mission are you going to send me on, sir?” inquired Ling, his mind looking forward to something new and exciting.

“You may find this a difficult subject to get your teeth into. It is the invisible corruption that I am certain exists and festers about the city administration of Shanghai. It is the Mayor and his personal office that I wish you to take a look at. There are many rumors floating about that he has been influenced in his decisions by certain influential industrial interests that operate behind the scene, in total darkness. The result is that certain companies and industries receive favors while others do not.

“You cannot reveal what your profession is or what you are up to in City Hall. It will be necessary for you to impersonate anything but an ordinary journalist. You will have to invent a new title of some sort that will open the door of the Mayor’s office to you. That should be possible to find, I imagine.”

Ling considered a moment. “Yes, the job sounds both interesting and difficult at the same time. What kind of corruption do you believe is most apt to swirl around our Mayor, sir?”

The editor lowered his voice as if afraid someone might overhear him.

“Organized gambling payoffs by the underworld networks, that’s what I fear exists at the summit of Shanghai’s government.”

Mayor Xia Gao was in his fourth term as mayor of the metropolis of twenty million.

He was in charge of revolutionary change and enormous growth in the economy and social structure of Shanghai. Part of his mission had been overseeing the construction of an advanced maglev system of urban transportation for the population and the new industries. Networks of vitrofibers connected thousands of factories, offices, shops, houses, and apartments in expanding Shanghai. New rail and air facilities existed across the wide region around the city.

Gao was surprised by a fiberfon call from the chief editor of Vitroline News, Guo Ziao.

“Good day, Ziao. How are you, and how is your family? Yes, that is good to hear. I am in good health at the present time.

“You wish to send a special business-economic correspondent to study the role of the city administration in our industrial planning and prospects? You would like me to have an interview and provide assistance? Certainly, I would be happy to facilitate any such project on the part of your staff. What is the fellow’s name? That is interesting. Yes, I will have my main secretary set up an appointment where I can have a discussion with your fellow. It will be my great pleasure to talk with someone who is going to write about the city’s industrial policies. Thank you, my good man.”

Ling had never been in an office as elegant, luxurious, and spacious as that of the Mayor of Shanghai, Mr. Wang Jie.

The large, overpowering figure smiled with confidence at the younger man there to interview him.

“Your editor, Guo Ziao, told me that you are an expert on industry and business at Vitroline News and would like to learn about the city’s plans for new productive activities and facilities. Is that the focus of your interest, my good fellow?”

“Yes, that is what I have come to you for, sir,” said Ling, still standing upright in front of the Mayor’s long, mahogany desk.

“Please sit down here, beside me,” said the official. “We can talk more easily that way, I think.”

Ling moved to the side of the desk and sat down on a chair much smaller than what appeared to be the Mayor’s magnificent, oversized throne.

Wang Jie began to talk in a low voice, as if alone speaking to himself.

“Shanghai, for many decades, was an industrial center that specialized in steel, electronics, machinery, textiles, petroleum, and chemicals. In more recent times, though, our industrial landscape has come to include the newer fields of robotics, nano-chemistry, photics, and plasmatics. In all these areas of advanced technology, our companies have been world-leading producers and researchers. No one anywhere has any doubts about the primacy of our city on the planetary scene. We are up there with the past champions of industry and have surpassed most of them.

“What would you like me to explain for you?” asked the head of the urban administration.

“I am interested in the connections between the varied regions of industry, sir. In years to come, how will our bots and mechs be affected by new developments in fields such as subatomic physics and nano-chemistry? What will be the general influence of plasmatics upon what becomes possible to achieve in robotics?

“It is such complicated interactions that may be the places of the greatest changes. I wish to find out what the city will be doing to facilitate and aid such inter-industry effects and results.”

The Mayor gave his questioner a sympathetic smile. “What you are thinking and talking about has become a vital, very important subject that also puzzles me a great deal.

“Our scientific and technical advances are taking astronomical leaps forward in our day. This is truly promising and breathtaking, but the situation is hard to keep coordinated and harmonious. The resulting conflicts and problems are especially evident to me, as the chief executive governing the entire city, including its different industries, both the old and the new ones.

“There has arisen stiff, stubborn resistance to what you just mentioned to me: the orchestration of a cooperative program combining the interests of different companies in the varying industries.

“My task of keeping all these component sectors together is a difficult burden to bear,” concluded Wang Jie with a deep sigh.

Ling made a rapid calculation of the situation and decided to present a bold proposal to the Mayor of Shanghai.

“Would it be possible for me to use your memory files to make a study of the questions concerning inter-industry and inter-company conflict and cooperation in the field of advanced technology?

“I belief that the readers of Vitroline News would be fascinated by what goes on in that sector of metropolitan life. My promise to you is not to interfere in any way. Nothing that you say must not be publicized will be revealed to anyone by me, sir.

“Security of what deserves to be private will be completely preserved. I will do nothing without your definite approval, Mr. Mayor.”

The latter gave Ling a searching, penetrating look. “Yes,” he answered. “I believe this venture of yours could be of benefit to the people of Shanghai.”

4.

He Wei had something of importance to tell Sung Han, the network leader of the Shanghai underworld. He rushed to the Zhijiang Livehouse to see him with surprising news to report.

“I have succeeded in establishing a link with an important figure who has recently departed from Shanghai Hyaloids. This is the man who was the president of Holoid Light and merged that company with the larger company led by Chen Qi. He has quarreled with his consolidation partner and given up the role of vice-president he had there.

“My agents have convinced Wu Xue to come into orbit with Vitrobots. He has agreed to reveal his newest photic inventions to my company. That means that these advances will now be denied to Shanghai Hyaloids. Such a condition will be highly favorable to my interest, Han.”

“What will you be doing with what this man tells you about photic advances?”

Wei made a cynical facial grimace. “Nothing at all. I intend to conceal and suppress everything learned from Wu Xue. There may be much that I can succeed in denying to Chen Qi. Such a position will be favorable to my side in the war against Shanghai Hyaloids.”

The two conspirators exchanged looks of sympathetic agreement.

“You must continue with actions against the company of Chen Qi,” said the bot manufacturer.

Ling arranged for an appointment to interview the president of Shanghai Hyaloids, Chen Qi. He decided to be as candid as was practical with the industrial leader, revealing at the beginning what his main aim and purpose was for requesting the meeting.

“I am researching the competition and conflict inside the fastest advancing of our industries in China, that of producing vitrified bots with the maximum possible degree of autonomy and self-control. Everyone is aware of the tension between your firm, Shanghai Hyaloids, and its main rival, Vitrobots. This has been going on for a number of years, with increasing business and technological warfare between the two of you.

“This year, the area of battle has been centered upon the application of nano-physics to bot control and logic. Light rays have become the focus of attention for Shanghai Hyaloids, as revealed in the recent merger with Holoid Light.

“That happens to be the main subject that I wish to ask you about. The news that Mr. Wu Xue has left the combined organization of your two companies has startled and puzzled all observers of the industrial landscape.

“I came here today to ask this specific question: do you plan to continue your plan to offer an autonomous bot unit on the general Chinese market, or do present conditions within your firm make it necessary to suspend the program to create full brains for a new model of hyaloid bot?”

Qi drew a full, long breath and grinned with confidence.

“We at Shanghai Hyaloids are continuing with what we were doing before the merger. The mech we had in mind then will still be our goal, despite any temporary difficulties that may arise. There are always unexpected problems with any new research development. Step by step, we are resolved to overcome all obstacles in our way.

“That has always been the guiding principle in Shanghai’s industrial development, long before the robotic or the vitric revolutions of the past.

“I can say this for my company: we will not quit or give up. The goal of a perfected hyaloid is too precious to surrender, in any way.”

Qi gazed at the newsman with strength and self-assurance. “I am sure that our company is on the right path. We are going to get there. Would you like to see a test of what the new class of bots is already capable of?”

“Yes, of course I would,” eagerly consented Ling.

He Wei acted through his business agents to obtain a meeting with the former president of Holoid Light, Wu Xue. They agreed to see each other at a will-known restaurant in the Bund area. The pair began to exchange views and ideas as soon as they were together.

“I have heard many things about your merger with Shanghai Hyaloids, but the only way to get at the actual truth must be direct conversation with you, Mr. Wu.”

The latter smiled. “It has been a painful experience for me, to join together and then discover that I must break away. If the outcome could have been predictable, the joining together would never have occurred. I would not have agreed to it at all.”

“You must have had strong, convincing reasons for leaving that company after the merger occurred,” said Wei. “I do not doubt that you could not remain as a subordinate of Mr. Chen.”

Xue frowned. “There were new elements added to the new bot we had projected to produce. I could not accept the elements that were attached to my model of a photic brain.”

“I take it that you were forced to object to unexpected sensory features that the hyaloid robot were now to possess.” Wei gave a meaningful look to the industrialist across from him.

“I believe that the brain must be wholly photic, and not connected to foreign substances that could alter or damage the thinking carried out by the use of nano-light rays. It was impossible for me to accept any measure of material adulteration of the photons generated within the brain memory.”

For several seconds, neither of them said anything, merely staring at the other.

Wei decided to propose something he had been planning to present to this person for a number of days.

“I can offer you a place within Vitrobots, my friend. Your work will be concentrated upon the applications of nano-optics in the design of new, improved bots and mechs. There will be no interference with what you decide to do. And I guarantee you that outside materials or substances will not be attached to what you should assemble in your work with us.

“Are you willing to join my company, Xue?”

The latter nodded his acceptance of what was offered to him.

“Yes,” he agreed. “That is the best course available to me at this time.”

Ren Wing accepted an invitation over fiberfon from Ling to spend an evening in the historic Xintiandi section of old, downtown Shanghai. This restored area, the old International Concession Zone, had become the most prosperous commercial area in the entire metropolis.

The pair made a lengthy walk through the streets of shikumen estate houses of “stone gates”. Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Art Deco style gave Xintiandi, the New Heaven and Earth, a nostalgic atmosphere of a long-ago culture and life, now gone except in popular memory.

Ling recommended his favorite traditional restaurant and Wing laughingly agreed to the choice.

“You are a person with a sensitive taste for old-time Shanghai,” she noted once the two of them were seated and a waiter had taken their orders.

“I am too involved in present-day matters at Vitroline News,” sadly said the correspondent. “There are serious conflicts occurring, hidden beneath the city’s bright surface. The future of our foremost technological industries is still an unsettled picture.”

He went on with an abbreviated, condensed account of the newly emerging variety of bot with a photic brain. “I am interviewing individuals at the center of the developing problems. What direction will Shanghai high tech be taking in the years, in the decades, ahead of us?

“There are pivotal questions of grave importance that may soon have to be answered, Wing. They cannot remain in the confused conflicts of our time much longer.”

He gazed across the small table at her delicate, sympathetic face.

All of a sudden, she reached her right arm across and placed her hand over his.

“I trust you to help bring about the right solution for Shanghai,” smiled the young woman. “For me, the field of plasmatics has for a long time appeared as the next major frontier of scientific and technological development. Perhaps it is a wild, unexplainable dream in my mind, but my prediction is that plasmas will be the next big field of industrial progress for China and the world.

“Why don’t you look deeply into the coming effects of plasma science upon the bots of the future, Ling? The fellow who you said has joined with Shanghai Hyloids for the use and application of plasma chambers as sense organs for bots may be the one who will be determining how things end up in the robotic industry.”

“You may be correct as a prophet, Wing,” said her companion with a laugh.

5.

Chen Qi enjoyed hearing the ideas of Ba Xueq as he described the future that he foresaw for plasma technology in Shanghai’s industrial development.

“Sensing organs for bots and mechs will be only a part of the coming revolution that results from breakthroughs in nano-physics involved with the plasmatic form of matter,” he told the head of Shanghai Hyaloids, sharing a leisure hour with him in the company’s executive exercise gym.

“There will be practical applications that bring radical change to both manufacturing and ordinary, everyday life in the city.”

“You are a great optimist about the subject of plasma, Queq,” said Qi with a quiet laugh.

“Of course, the details of the future cannot be foretold, but it is impossible to make important decisions without some general idea of the direction that science and technology can potentially take. I have no doubts that plasmatic inventions will play a major role in determining how things will become here in Shanghai. There is no problem for me in prophesizing that plasma will be the major component in all of our energy mechanisms and systems.

“I believe that the key invention will have been the plaza ring.”

“The plaza ring?” said Qi. “I have heard of it, but remain uncertain about the nature of such technical terms.”

Xueq gave a warm grin. “It means any piece of nano-plasma that can hold its shape stable without the application of an outside magnetic Field. This ring is capable of creating its own internal magnetic system out of itself.

“Does that make sense to you?”

“I will have to study and think over the concept,” confessed Qi.

“Such plasma rings are the marvelous ingredients of the nano-chambers that Roboplasma has produced and tested. They are becoming better and better in terms of practical uses in all kinds of human and robotic activities.

“I feel justified that such micro-rings composed of special plasma can solve many of the major difficulties that bot-makers face today.” He gazed hopefully at the president of Shanghai Hyaloids. “If you allow me, sir, I can prove that to your satisfaction.

“You shall see for yourself that plasma devices can save the entire hyaloid industry and make it prosper like never before.”

He Wei of Vitrobots had an evening appointment at the Zhijiang Livehouse with his close associate and partner from the underworld, Sung Han. The latter surprised the industrial leader by making a request for help to him.

“I and my friends are facing a critical problem connected with our importing and exporting of banned substances in and out of our country,” muttered Han. “As is well known by nearly everyone, the airports of Shanghai are the primary portals of the materials trade that we engage in. I myself have always attempted to preserve and maintain influence over the airport management boards, the subsidiary companies, the pilots association, and the baggage handlers employed. My special attention has focused upon employment of these central persons as part of our plans of movement of goods for the markets that we have control over.

“Pudong International Airport and Hongqiao International Airport are where I am most engaged. But with the increasing computerization and robotizing of ordinary operations, it has become necessary that my associates at these locations operate with close management over the advanced bots and mechs that are constantly being introduced.

“That is where you can be of great assistance, Xue, with your wide knowledge of the field of optico-electronics.

“If my networks provided financing for an extensive campaign of research and development, could you come up with photonic systems that would take over much of the human efforts involved in piloting, traffic control, and movement of shipments?

“In other words, could you provide my operatives with robotic units with something approximating a holoid brain working through nano-light systems?

“Do you think such devises are feasible and practical?”

Clearly overwhelmed, Wu Xue hesitated to give a definitive answer.

“Give me a little time, and I’ll know more about the outlook for what you want. I have to think out all the scientific and technical angles before I can tell you for certain, Han.”

The man from the bot industry was glad to leave and get away quickly. He had many questions to consider.

Sung Han easily arranged for the appointment of Wu Xue as cinematography advisor at the Puxi Film Studios in the old district of central Shanghai.

His first assignment was to set up the camera networks for a epic historical movie named “Red Cliff”. There were huge, complicated battle scenes involving the famous General Cao Cao in the early Han Dynasty. Large numbers of extras dressed as warriors had to be ordered and coordinated. A dozen different cameras provided input into a laser-photonic computer managed by Wu Xue at its central controls. Three separate armies, three military strategists in charge of the battlefield, complex intertwining movements and actions. Xue was the one meshing and melding the multitude of feeds from various locations and angles.

Xue felt growing success with his difficult efforts of combination and montage.

He reported directly to He Wei, the chief executive of Vitrobots.

“The final coordination of shots is done by photic apparati that operate like a holoid brain. There is no other way to describe what I am doing at Puxi Films.”

“Can such light devices be fitted into the body of a bot?” eagerly asked the manufacturer. “Is a small, light-weight controlling memory possible? Has miniaturization progressed that far with nano-rays and nano-photons?”

“I myself have developed better and better holographic mechanisms that can be used, not only in cinematography and filming, but in many, many areas where today we use subatomic systems.

“This brain that I am testing is going to become ever smaller and more efficient. It promises to revolutionize the robotic industry to its roots.”

6.

Ling decided to take Wing to one of his favorite Shanghai locations, the so-called Water Town of Zhujiajiao that served as a trip into the past. Venetian-style canals were the public thoroughfares in this antique section of the great metropolis. Old stone bridges crossed over the streams used as waterways. Tall, slender willow trees lined the banks, well-tended courtyards surrounded the centuries-old homes and houses.

“This is a restaurant I have frequented for a number of years,” he told her once they were seated by an open window and given their orders.

“You are very interested in the historical past of our city, Ling,” she observed. “It seems that you and I share the need to find out what lies behind the conditions of the present.”

He gave a short laugh. “As a news correspondent, I discover that certain important, significant events repeat themselves, occurring over and over. I am astounded to find similarities and returns to what is now past.

“I could give you many examples of such repetition, Wing.”

She suddenly furrowed her brow. “It appears to me that after a long period of peace, quiet, and progress, some persons turn back to violent means.

“Do you notice such things happening?” she asked him.

All at once, Ling seemed to be abstracted and at a distance.

“When I decided to devote my life to journalism, my aim seemed to be to find the truth and relate it to people around me.

“As the years have passed, I began to forget and ignore my original goal. Yes, I worked at the assignments given to me, but with a considerable loss of purpose. Why did that happen to me? Why does it occur with most persons in any given profession?

“I am much more of a cynic than I was when I started out. Most of our institutions in Shanghai are corrupt and corrupted. They are full of selfish persons who only look out for themselves. All activities are narrow and self-serving.

“I find very little I can look up to anywhere in Shanghai. Even scientists and inventors do not have an easy time living up to the values that supposedly inspire and motivate them.”

Ling and Wing stared at each other for a short time.

“I don’t think you are as embittered and cynical as you might suppose,” she murmured with a slight grin. “From what I have seen of you in action, revealing the truth remains your purpose in life.”

He said no more about himself, nor did she.

Wu Xue found himself setting a lighting and a camera system for the filming of performances of classical Chinese operas at the Yi Fu Theater, the oldest and largest such institution in China and all of Asia. This was located on Fuzlou Road, in the Huangpu District.

Selections were chosen from Peking operas, Kunqu operas, and Shaoxing ones.

The favorites picked for recording by Xue included “The Peacock Flies Southeast” and “The Butterfly Lovers”.

He was acquiring valuable knowledge of the possibilities of nano-beams of light rays.

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