Chapter 3 Red Coast I
Novel：The Three-Bodyauthor：Cinxin Liu pubdate：2019-02-14 14:37
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Chapter 3 Red Coast I
Ye Wenjie heard a loud, continuous roar. She didn't know how much time had passed.
The noise came from all around her. In her vague state of consciousness, it seemed as though some gigantic machine was drilling into or sawing through the block of ice that held her. The world was still only darkness, but the noise grew more and more real. Finally, she was certain that the source of the noise was neither heaven nor hell, and she remained in the land of the living.
She realized that her eyes were still closed. With an effort, she lifted her eyelids. The first thing she saw was a light embedded deeply in the ceiling. Covered by a wire mesh that seemed designed to protect it, it emitted a dim glow. The ceiling appeared to be made of metal.
She heard a male voice softly calling her name. "You have a high fever," the man said.
"Where am I?" Wenjie's voice was so weak that she couldn't be sure it was her own.
"On a helicopter."
Ye felt weak. She fell back to sleep. As she dozed, the roar kept her company. Before long, she woke again. Now the numbness had disappeared and the pain reasserted itself: Her head and the joints of her limbs ached, and the breath coming out of her mouth felt scalding hot.
Her throat hurt so much that swallowing spittle felt like it was a piece of burning coal.
She turned her head and saw two men wearing the same kind of military coat that Representative Cheng had worn. But unlike her, both of these men had on the cotton cap of the PLA, a red star sewn onto the front. Their coats were unbuttoned, and she could see the red-collar insignia on their army uniforms. One of the men wore glasses.
Ye discovered that she was covered by a military coat as well. The clothes she was wearing were dry and warm.
She struggled to sit up, and to her surprise, succeeded. She looked out the porthole on the other side. Rolling clouds slowly drifted by, reflecting the dazzling sunlight. She pulled her gaze back. The narrow cabin was filled with iron trunks painted military green. From another porthole she could see flickering shadows cast by the rotors. She was indeed on a helicopter.
"You'd better lie back down," the man with the glasses said. He helped her down and covered her with the coat again.
"Ye Wenjie, did you write this paper?" The other man extended an open English journal before her eyes. The title of the paper was "The Possible Existence of Phase Boundaries Within the Solar Radiation Zone and Their Reflective Characteristics." He showed her the cover of the journal: an issue of The Journal of Astrophysics from 1966.
"Of course she did. Why does that even need to be confirmed?" The man wearing glasses took the journal away and then made introductions. "This is Political Commissar Lei Zhicheng of Red Coast Base. I'm Yang Weining, base chief engineer. It will be an hour before we land. You might as well get some rest."
You're Yang Weining? Ye didn't say anything, but she was stunned. She saw that he kept his expression calm, apparently not wishing to let anyone else know that they knew each other. Yang had been one of Ye Zhetai s graduate students. By the time he had obtained his degree, Wenjie was still a first-year in college.
She could clearly remember the first time Yang came to her home. He had just begun his graduate studies and needed to discuss the direction of his research with Professor Ye. Yang said that he wanted to focus on experimental and applied problems, staying away from theory.
Ye Wenjie recalled her father saying, "I'm not opposed to your idea. But we are, after all, the department of theoretical physics. Why do you want to avoid theory?"
Yang replied, "I want to devote myself to the times, to make some real-world contributions"
Her father said, "Theory is the foundation of application. Isn't discovering fundamental laws the biggest contribution to our time?''
Yang hesitated and finally revealed his real concern: "It's easy to make ideological mistakes in theory." Her father had nothing to say to that.
Yang was very talented, with a good mathematical foundation and a quick mind. But during his brief time as a graduate student, he always kept a respectable distance from his thesis advisor. Ye Wenjie had seen Yang several times, but, perhaps due to the influence of her father, she hadn't noticed him much. As for whether he had paid much attention to her, she had no idea. After Yang got his degree, he soon ceased all contact with her father.
Again feeling weak, Ye closed her eyes. The two men left her and crouched behind a row of trunks to converse in lowered voices. But the cabin was so cramped that Ye could hear them even over the roar of the engine.
"I still think this isn't a good idea," Commissar Lei said.
"Can you find the personnel I need through normal channels?" Yang asked.
"Eh. I've done all I can. There's no one in the military with this specialization, and going outside the army raises many questions. You know very well that the security clearance needed for this project requires someone willing to join the army. But the bigger issue is the requirement in the security regulations that they be sequestered at the base for extended periods. What's to be done if they have families? Sequester them at the base too? No one would agree to that. I did find two possible candidates, but both would rather stay at the May Seventh Cadre Schools(*9) rather than come here. Of course we could forcefully move them. But given the nature of this work, we can't have someone who doesn't want to be here. "
[Translator’s Note(*9):The May Seven Cadre School were labor camps during the Cultural Revolution where cadres and intellectuals were “re-educated”.]
"Then there's no choice but to use her. "
"But it's so unconventional. "
"This entire project is unconventional. If something goes wrong, I'll accept the responsibility"
"Chief Yang, do you really think you can take responsibility for this? You are a technical person, but Red Coast is not like other national defense projects. Its complexity goes far beyond the technical issues. " "You're right, but I only know how to solve the technical issues. "
By the time they landed, it was dusk.
Ye refused to be helped by Yang and Lei, and struggled out of the helicopter by herself. A strong gust of wind almost blew her over. The still-gyrating rotors sliced through the wind, making a loud whistling noise. The scent of the woods on the wind was familiar to her, and she was familiar to the wind. It was the wind of the Greater Khingan Mountains.
She soon heard another sound, a kind of low, forceful, bass howl that seemed to form the background of the world: the parabolic antenna dish in the wind. Only now, when she was so close to it, did she finally feel its immensity. Ye's life had made a big circle this month: She was now on top of Radar Peak.
She couldn't help but look in the direction of her Construction Corps company. But all she could see was a misty sea of trees in the twilight.
The helicopter was carrying more than just Ye. Several soldiers came over and began to unload military-green cargo trunks from the cabin. They walked by without glancing at her. As she followed Yang and Lei, Ye noticed that the top of Radar Peak was spacious. A cluster of white buildings, like delicate toy blocks, nestled under the giant antenna. The trio headed toward the base gate, flanked by two guards, and stopped in front of it.
Lei turned to her and spoke solemnly. "Ye Wenjie, the evidence of your counter-revolutionary crime is incontrovertible, and the court would have punished you as you deserve. But now you have an opportunity to redeem yourself through hard work. You can accept it or refuse it. " He pointed at the antenna. "This is a defense research facility. The research conducted here needs your specialized scientific knowledge. Chief Engineer Yang can give you the details, which you should consider carefully. "
He nodded at Yang and then entered the gate after the soldiers carrying the trunks.
Yang waited until the others were gone and indicated that Ye should follow him a little distance away from the gate, clearly trying to avoid the sentries listening in.
He no longer pretended that he didn't know her. "Wenjie, let me be clear. This is not some great opportunity. I learned from the military control commission at the court that although Cheng Lihua advocates sentencing you severely, the most that you'll get is ten years. Considering mitigating circumstances, you'll serve maybe six or seven years. But here"—he nodded in the direction of the base—"is a research project under the highest security classification. Given your status, if you enter the gate, it's possible—" He paused, as though wanting to let the bass howl of the antenna add to the weight of his words, "—you'll never leave for the rest of your life. "
"I want to go in. "
Yang was surprised by her quick answer. "Don't be hasty. Get back onto the helicopter. It will take off in three hours, and if you refuse our offer, it will take you back. "
"I don't want to go back. Let's go in. " Ye's voice remained soft, but there was a determination in her tone that was harder than steel. Other than the undiscovered country beyond death from which no one has ever returned, the place she wanted to be the most was this peak, separated from the rest of the world. Here, she felt a sense of security that had long eluded her.
"You should be cautious. Think through what this decision means. "
"I can stay here for the rest of my life. "
Yang lowered his head and said nothing. He stared into the distance, as though forcing Ye to sort through her thoughts. Ye stayed silent as well. She pulled her coat tightly around herself and gazed into the distance. There, the Greater Khingan Mountains were fading into the darkening night. It was impossible to stay out here much longer in the cold.
Yang began to walk toward the gate. He moved fast, as though trying to leave Ye behind. But Ye stayed close. After they entered the gate of Red Coast Base, the two sentries shut the heavy iron doors.
A little ways on, Yang stopped and pointed at the antenna. "This is a large-scale weapons research project. If it succeeds, the result will be even more important than the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb. "
They came to the largest building in the base, and Yang pushed the door open. Ye saw the words transmission main control room over the door. Inside, warm air tinged with the smell of engine oil enveloped her. She saw that the spacious room was filled with all kinds of instruments and equipment. Signal lights and oscilloscope displays flickered together. A dozen or so operators dressed in military uniform were almost entombed by the rows of instruments, as though they were crouching inside battlefield trenches. The unceasing stream of operational orders and responses gave the whole scene a tense, confusing feel.
"It's warmer in here, " Yang said. "Wait here a bit. Til take care of your living arrangements and return for you. " He pointed at a chair and desk next to the door.
Ye saw that someone was already sitting at the desk: a guard carrying a handgun.
"I'd rather wait outside, " Ye said.
Yang smiled at her kindly. "From now on, you'll be a member of the base staff. Other than a few sensitive areas, you can go anywhere you want. " His face suddenly looked uncomfortable as he realized another layer of meaning to his words: You can never leave here again.
"I prefer to wait outside, " Ye insisted.
"All right. " Yang glanced at the guard at the desk, who paid no attention to them. He seemed to understand Ye's concern and brought her back out of the main control room. "Stand somewhere out of the wind, and I'll be back in a few minutes. I just need to get someone to start a fire in your room—conditions at the base are a bit rough, and we have no heating system. "
Ye stood next to the main control room door. The huge antenna was directly behind her and it blotted out half the sky. From here, she could clearly hear the sounds inside the main control room. Suddenly, the chaotic orders and responses ceased, and the room became completely quiet. All she could hear was the occasional low buzzing noise from some instrument.
Then a laud male voice broke the silence. "The People s Liberation Army, Second Artillery Corps(*10), Red Coast Project, one hundred and forty-seventh transmission. Authorization confirmed. Begin thirty- second countdown. "
[Translator’s Note(*10):The Second Artillery Corps controls China’s nuclear missiles.]
"Target Classification: A-three. Coordinates' serial number: BN20197F. Position checked and confirmed. Twenty-five seconds. "
"Transmission file number: twenty-two. Additions: none. Continuations: none. Transmission file final check completed. Twenty seconds. " "Energy Unit reporting: all systems go. "
"Coding Unit reporting: all systems go. "
"Amplifier Unit reporting: all systems go. "
"Interference Monitoring Unit reporting: within acceptable range. " "We have reached the point of no return. Fifteen seconds. " Everything became quiet again. Fifteen seconds later, as a klaxon started to blare, a red light on top of the antenna began to blink rapidly. "Begin transmission! All units continue to monitor! "
Ye felt a light itch on her face. She knew that an enormous electric field had appeared. She lifted her face and gazed in the direction the antenna was pointing and saw a cloud in the night sky glow with a dim blue light, so dim that at first she thought it an illusion. But as the cloud drifted away, the glow disappeared. Another cloud that drifted into position began to give off the same glow.
From the main control room, she heard more shouts.
"Malfunction with Energy Unit. Magnetron number three has burnt out. "
"Backup Unit is in operation: all systems go. "
"Checkpoint one reached. Resuming transmission. "
Ye heard a fluttering noise. Through the mist, she could see shadows lift out of the woods below the peak and spiral into the dark sky. She hadn't realized so many birds could be roused from the woods in deep winter. Then she saw a terrifying scene: One flock of birds flew' into the region of air the antenna pointed at, and against the background of the faintly glowing cloud, the birds dropped out of the sky.
The process continued for about fifteen minutes. Then the red light on the antenna went out, and the itch on her skin disappeared. From the main control room, the confusing murmur of orders and responses resumed even as the loud male voice continued.
"Transmission one hundred forty-seven of Red Coast completed. Transmission systems shutting down. Red Coast now entering monitoring state. System control is hereby transferred to the Monitoring Department. Please upload checkpoint data.
"All units should fill out transmission diaries. All unit heads should attend the post-transmission meeting in the debriefing room. We're done. "
All was silent except for the howl of the wind against the antenna. Ye watched as the remaining birds in the flock gradually settled back into the forest. She stared at the antenna and thought it looked like an enormous hand stretched open toward the sky, possessing an ethereal strength. As she surveyed the night sky, she did not see any target that she thought might be serial number BN20197F. Beyond the wisps of clouds, all she could see were the stars of a cold night in 1969.
Chapter 3 Vocabulary Note
reassert - if something reasserts itself, it returns or becomes stronger after a period when it was missing or weak
scalding - extremely hot
spittle - the liquid in your mouth; spit
insignia - a badge or sign that shows what official or military rank someone has, or which group or organization they belong to;
porthole - a small window on the side of a ship or plane
rotor - a part of a machine that turns around on a central point; the long flat part that turns around and around on top of a helicopter
crouch - to lower your body close to the ground by bending your knees completely
gyrate - to turn around fast in circles
trio - a group of three people or things
redeem - to make something less bad; made up for; to do something that will improve what other people think of you, after you have behaved badly or failed
mitigate - to make a situation or the effects of something less unpleasant, harmful or serious; to alleviate
elude - to escape from someone or something especially by tricking them; avoid
tinge - to give something a small amount of a particular color, emotion or quality
oscilloscope - a piece of equipment that shows changes in electrical voltage as a line on a screen
entomb - to bury or trap someone in something or under the ground
artillery - the part of the army that used large guns
klaxon - a loud horn used on police cars and other official vehicles in the past
ethereal - very delicate and light, in a way that does not seem real
wisp - a wisp of smoke, cloud or mist is a small thin line of it that rises upwards
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