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THE WALLFACERS Second parts

Novel:The dark forestauthor: pubdate:2019-03-01 22:55

In one remote corner of the vast sea of information on the Internet, there was a remote corner, and in a remote corner of that remote corner, and then in a remote corner of a remote corner of a remote corner of that remote corner—that is, in the very depths of the most remote corner of all—a virtual world came back to life.
Under the strange, chilly dawn was no pyramid, UN building, or pendulum, just a broad and hard expanse of emptiness, like a giant slab of frozen metal.
King Wen of Zhou came over the horizon. Wearing tattered robes, he carried a tarnished bronze sword, and his face was as filthy and wrinkled as the pelt he was wrapped in. But there was energy in his eyes, and his pupils reflected the rising sun.
“Is anybody here?” he shouted. “Anyone?”
King Wen’s voice was swallowed up immediately by the wilderness. He shouted for a while, and then sat wearily on the ground and accelerated the passage of time, watching the suns turn into shooting stars, and the shooting stars turn back into suns, and the suns of the Stable Eras sweep across the sky like clock pendulums, and the days and nights of the Chaotic Eras turn the world into a vast stage where the lighting was out of control. Time sped by, but nothing changed. It remained the eternal, metallic wasteland. The three stars danced in the heavens, and King Wen turned into a pillar of ice in the cold. Then a shooting star turned into a sun, and when that fiery giant disc passed overhead, the ice on his body melted and his body became a pillar of fire. Just before turning entirely to ash, he let out a long sigh, and then exited.
*    *    *
Thirty army, navy, and air force officers fixed their eyes on the insignia on the deep-red screen, a silver star shooting rays in four directions. The rays, in the shape of sharp swords, were flanked by the Chinese characters for eight and one5. It was the insignia of the Chinese Space Force.
General Chang Weisi motioned for everyone to be seated. Then, placing his cap squarely down upon the
 
conference table, he said, “The ceremony formally establishing the space force will be held tomorrow morning, at which time you will be issued uniforms and pins. However, comrades, as of this moment we belong to the same branch of the military.”
They looked at each other, noting that among the thirty people there were fifteen dressed in navy uniforms, nine in air force uniforms, and six in army uniforms. When they turned their attention back to General Chang, they had a hard time disguising their confusion.
With a smile, Chang Weisi said, “It’s an odd ratio, isn’t it? You can’t use the scale of today’s aerospace program to assess space forces of the future. Spaceships, when their day comes, will probably be even bigger and carry a larger crew than today’s aircraft carriers. Future space warfare will be based on large-tonnage, high-endurance combat platforms, and engagements will resemble naval battles more than air combat, with a battlefield in three dimensions instead of two. So the military’s space branch must be based upon the navy. I know, we all assumed that the foundation would be the air force, which means our naval comrades might be ill prepared. You’ve got to adapt as quickly as possible.”
“Sir, we had no idea,” Zhang Beihai said. Wu Yue sat ramrod straight and motionless beside him, but Zhang Beihai acutely sensed that something in his level eyes had been extinguished.
Chang Weisi nodded. “In fact, the navy’s not all that far removed from space. Don’t they call them ‘space ships’ rather than ‘space planes’? That’s because space and the ocean have long been linked together in the popular mind.”
The mood of the room relaxed somewhat. He continued, “Comrades, at this moment, the thirty-one of us are all that makes up this new branch of the military. As for the future space fleet, basic research is being conducted in all scientific disciplines, with a particular focus on the space elevator, and on fusion engines for large-scale space ships.… But this isn’t the work of the space force. Our duty is to establish a theoretical framework for space warfare. It’s a daunting task, since we have zero knowledge of this type of warfare, but the future space fleet will be built atop this foundation. In its preliminary stage, then, the space force will be more like a military academy. The primary task of those of us seated here is to organize that academy, and then invite a sizeable group of scholars and researchers to join up.”
Chang stood up and walked over to the insignia, where he addressed the assembled officers with words they would remember for the rest of their lives: “Comrades, the space force has a tough road ahead of it. Initial predictions see basic research taking at least fifty years across all disciplines, with at least another hundred years before practical use of the technology required for large-scale space travel becomes possible. Then, after its initial construction, the space fleet will require another century and a half to achieve its planned scale. That means that full combat capacity will take the space force three centuries from its establishment. Comrades, I’m sure you all understand what that means. None of us sitting here will make it to space, much less have the chance to see our space fleet, and we may not even see a credible model of a space warship. The first generation of officers and crew won’t be born until two centuries from now, and two and a half centuries from that, Earth’s fleet will meet the alien invaders. Aboard those ships will be the fifteenth generation of our grandchildren.”
The assembly fell into a prolonged silence. Ahead of them stretched the leaden road of time, terminating somewhere in the mists of the future, where all they could see were flickering flames and luster of blood. The
 
brevity of a human lifespan tormented them as never before, and their hearts soared above the vault of time to join with their descendants and plunge into blood and fire in the icy cold of space, the eventual meeting place for the souls of all soldiers.
 
*    *    *
As usual, when Miao Fuquan returned, he asked Zhang Yuanchao and Yang Jinwen to have a drink at his place, where the Sichuan woman had laid out a sumptuous feast on the table. As they were drinking, Zhang Yuanchao brought up Miao Fuquan’s visit to the Construction Bank that morning to withdraw some money.
“Haven’t you heard?” Miao Fuquan said. “People were being trampled to death at the banks! There were people three deep on the floor at the counter.”
“And your money?” asked Zhang Yuanchao.
“I was able to get some of it. The rest was frozen. It’s criminal!”
“The hair you shed is worth more than the rest of us have altogether,” said Zhang Yuanchao.
Yang Jinwen said, “The news said that when the social panic eases a little, the government will gradually unfreeze accounts. Perhaps just a certain percentage at first, but the situation will eventually return to normal.”
Zhang Yuanchao said, “I hope so. The government made a mistake in calling it a state of war so early on, putting people in a panic. Now people are only thinking of themselves. How many people are thinking about the defense of Earth four hundred years in the future?”
“That’s not the biggest problem,” Yang Jinwen said. “I said it before and I’ll say it again, China’s savings rate is an enormous land mine. Am I right? High savings, low social security. People’s life savings are in the bank, and then everyone goes into mass hysteria at the slightest gust of wind.”
Zhang Yuanchao asked, “So this wartime economy, what do you think it’ll be like?”
“It’s too sudden. I don’t think anyone has a full mental picture of it yet, and the new economic policies are still being drafted. But one thing’s certain: Tough days are ahead.”
“Tough days, my ass. It’s nothing people our age haven’t seen before. It’ll be like the sixties all over again, I expect,” said Miao Fuquan.
“I just feel for the kids,” said Zhang Yuanchao, and drained his glass.
Just then a news fanfare drew their attention to the television. A familiar sound these days, the music had the ability to make everyone drop what they were doing and pay attention. It was the bumper fanfare for a breaking news announcement, which were being broadcast more often than ever these days. The three old men remembered how this sort of news was frequently broadcast over radio and television prior to the 1980s, but during the long period of prosperity and tranquility that came afterward, it disappeared.
The broadcast began:
According to this station’s correspondent at the UN Secretariat, a UN spokesperson at a just-concluded press conference announced that a  special session of the General Assembly will be convened in the near future to discuss the problem of Escapism. The special session will be co-facilitated by the permanent members of the Planetary Defense Council and will be aimed at pushing the international community to reach a consensus on Escapist attitudes and develop corresponding international laws.
Let’s take a brief look back at the emergence and development of Escapism.
The doctrine of Escapism arose alongside the Trisolar Crisis. Its primary argument holds that given the locked state of humanity’s advanced sciences, it does not make any sense to plan for a defense of Earth and the Solar System in four and a half centuries. Considering the extent to which human technology can develop over the next  four centuries, a more realistic goal would be to construct starships to enable a small portion of the human race to flee to outer space, thereby avoiding the total extinction of human civilization.
 
Escapism has three possible destinations. Option one: a New World—that is, searching among the stars for a world where humanity can survive. Without  question, this is the ideal, but it requires extremely high navigation speeds and the voyage will be long. Given the level that human technology can attain during the Crisis period, this option is unlikely to be realized. Option two: a Starship Civilization—that is, humanity will use their escape ships as a permanent abode, and  human civilization will  endure  on an eternal voyage. This option faces the same difficulties as the New World, although it places a greater emphasis on the establishment of closed ecosystem technologies. A generation ship running a fully enclosed biosphere is far beyond humanity’s current technical capabilities. Option three: Temporary Refuge. Once Trisolaris has completed settlement of the Solar System, there can be active exchanges between Trisolaran society and the humans that have fled to outer space. By pushing for a relaxation of policies toward residual humans in outer space, they will eventually be able to return to the Solar System and coexist on a smaller scale with the Trisolarans. Although Temporary Refuge is considered the most realistic plan, there are still too many variables.
Not  long after the emergence of Escapism, news outlets worldwide reported that  the United States and Russia, two leaders in space technology, had secretly started work  on plans for fleeing into outer space. Although the governments of the two countries denied the existence of any plans, an uproar in the international community sparked a “socialized technology” movement. At the third special session, a host of developing countries  demanded  that  the United  States, Russia, Japan, China, and  the European Union release their technology and provide all advanced technology, including aerospace technology, free of charge to the international community so that all nations of humanity would have an equal opportunity to face the Trisolar Crisis. The supporters of the socialized technology movement brought up a precedent: At the beginning of the century, several major European pharmaceutical companies exacted high license fees from African countries for the manufacture  of  state-of-the-art  AIDS  treatments, prompting high-profile litigation. Under pressure from public opinion and the rapid spread of the disease in Africa, the companies  renounced  their patent  rights  prior to trial. The ultimate crisis that Earth is now facing means that open technology is the unavoidable responsibility that advanced countries have to all humanity. The  socialized  technology movement found a unanimous response from developing countries and even won the support of some members of the EU, but all related initiatives were rejected      at meetings of the UN-PDC. At the fifth special session of the UN General Assembly, a proposal by China and Russia of a  “limited  socialized  technology”  plan that  advocated making technology open to all permanent members of the PDC was vetoed by the US and Britain. The US government said that no form of socialized technology   was realistic, that it was a naïve idea, and that under the present circumstances US national security was a priority “second only to planetary defense.” The failure of the limited socialized technology proposal caused a split among technological powers and led to the bankruptcy of the plan to establish a United Earth Space Force.
The implications of the frustrated socialized technology movement are far-reaching, and people have been made aware that even in the face of the devastating  Trisolar Crisis, the unity of the human race is still a distant dream.
The socialized technology movement was launched by the Escapists. Only when the international community reaches a consensus on Escapism will it be able to bridge the gap that  has opened up between developed and developing nations, and between the developed countries themselves. This is the environment  in which the UN special session   is set to open.
 
“Oh, that reminds me,” Miao Fuquan said. “The information I told you over the phone a few days ago is reliable.”
“What’s that?” “The escape fund.”
“Lao Miao, how  can you believe that? You don’t seem like an easy mark,” Yang Jinwen said disapprovingly.
“No, no,” Miao Fuquan said, lowering his voice and looking back and forth between the other two. “The young guy’s name is Shi Xiaoming. I checked out his background through various channels, and his father Shi Qiang works for the PDC’s security department! He used to be chief of a municipal antiterrorism squad, and now he’s a key person in the PDC in charge of combatting the ETO. I’ve got a number here for his department. You can check it out for yourselves.”
The other two looked at each other, and Yang Jinwen laughed as he picked up the bottle and poured himself another glass. “So what if it’s true? Who cares if there’s an escape fund? How can I afford it?”
“That’s right. It’s for you rich folks,” Zhang Yuanchao slurred out.
Yang Jinwen suddenly grew excited: “And if it’s really true, then the state’s a pack of morons! If anyone’s going to flee, it should be the cream of our descendants. Why the hell would you give it to anyone who can pay? What’s the point of that?”
Miao Fuquan pointed at him and laughed. “Fine, Yang. Let’s get to your real point. What you really want is for your descendants to be the ones to go, right? Look at your son and daughter-in-law: Ph.D. scientists. Elites. So your grandsons and great-grandsons will most likely be elites too.” He lifted his glass and nodded. “But if you think about it, everyone should be equal, right? There’s no reason elites should get a, you know, free lunch, right?”
“What do you mean?”
 
“Everything has a cost. It’s a law of nature. I’ll spend to ensure a future for the Miaos. That’s a law of nature, too!”
“Why is this something that can be bought? The duty of escaping is to extend human civilization. They’ll naturally want the cream of civilization. Sending a bunch of rich dudes across the cosmos,” he snorted. “What’ll that do? Hmph.”
The awkward smile on Miao Fuquan’s face vanished, and he pointed a thick finger at Yang Jinwen. “I’ve always known you look down on me. No matter how rich I get, I’ll just be a vulgar moneybags to you. Isn’t that right?”
“Who do you think you are?” asked Yang Jinwen, fueled by the alcohol.
Miao Fuquan slapped the table and stood up. “Yang Jinwen, I’m not going to stand for your bile. I’m gonna
—”
Then Zhang Yuanchao slammed the table with a noise three times louder, knocking over two of the cups and startling a yelp from the Sichuan woman. He pointed his finger at the other two in turn. “Fine. You’re an elite, and you’ve got money. That leaves me. What the hell do I have? I’m just a poor man, so it serves me right that my line will be wiped out?” With obvious effort he restrained himself from kicking over the table, then turned and stormed out. Yang Jinwen followed him.
*    *    *
The Second Wallbreaker carefully put new goldfish into the bowl. Like Evans, he enjoyed isolation, but he needed the companionship of beings other than humans. He often spoke to the goldfish like he spoke to the Trisolarans, two forms of life whose long-term presence on Earth he was looking forward to.
Just then the sophon’s text appeared on his retina.
I’ve recently been studying A Story of Three Kingdoms, and like you said, deceit and trickery are an art, just like the markings on a snake.
 
“My Lord, once again you bring up the snake.”
The more beautiful the markings on a snake, the more fearsome it looks. We didn’t use to care about humanity escaping, so long as they stopped existing in the Solar System, but now we have adjusted our plans and have decided to prevent humanity from fleeing. Letting an enemy whose thoughts are totally opaque flee into the cosmos is very dangerous.
 
“Do you have a specific plan in mind?”
The fleet has made adjustments to its Solar System deployment. It will detour in four directions at the Kuiper Belt6 and encircle the Solar System.
 
“If humanity really flees, your fleet will be too late to do anything by the time they do.”
That is true, so we require your assistance. The next mission of the ETO is to halt or delay humanity’s escape plans.
 
The Wallbreaker smiled. “My Lord, you really don’t have to worry about that at all. No large-scale flight of humanity will ever happen.”
Even given the present, limited space for technological development, humanity might be able to build generation ships.
 
“The greatest obstacle to flight is not technology.”
 
Then is it disputes among countries? This UN special session may resolve that problem, and if it can’t, then developed countries are entirely capable of brushing aside the opposition of developing countries and forcing a plan through.
 
“The greatest obstacle to flight is not disputes among countries, either.”
Then what is it?
 
“Disputes among people. The question of who goes and who stays behind.”
That doesn’t seem like a problem to us.
 
“We thought so at first, but it turns out to be an insurmountable obstacle.”
Can you explain?
 
“You may be familiar with human history, but you will probably find this hard to comprehend: Who goes and who remains involves basic human values, values which in the past promoted progress in human society, but which, in the face of ultimate disaster, are a trap. Right now, the majority of humanity has not realized how deep this trap is. Lord, please believe my words. No human can escape this trap.”

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