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The Wallfacers Seventh parts

Novel:The dark forestauthor: pubdate:2019-03-01 23:02

When Shi Qiang woke Luo Ji up, he had been sleeping dream-free for more than six hours and was feeling pretty good.
“We’re nearly there. Get up and get ready.”
Luo Ji went to the washroom to wash up, and when he returned to the office for a simple breakfast, he became aware of the plane’s descent. Ten minutes later, after a flight of fifteen hours, the charter plane was resting on the ground.
Shi Qiang had Luo Ji wait in the office and went out himself. He brought back a man with a European face who was tall and immaculately dressed, and who seemed like a high-level official. “Is this Dr. Luo?” the official ventured as he looked at him. Noticing Shi Qiang’s difficulty with English, he repeated his question in Chinese.
“He’s Luo Ji,” answered Shi Qiang, and then briefly introduced the man to Luo Ji. “This is Mr. Kent. He’s here to welcome you.”
“I am honored,” Kent said with a bow.
When they shook hands, Luo Ji sensed that the man was incredibly experienced. So much was hidden behind his decorum, but the gleam in his eyes betrayed the presence of secrets. Luo Ji was fascinated by the man’s gaze, like a devil and an angel, like an atom bomb and an identical-size precious stone.… In the complex information conveyed by those eyes, Luo Ji could make out just one thing: This moment was immensely important to the man’s whole life.
Kent turned to Shi Qiang. “You’ve done very well. Your segment was the most cleanly done. The others had a bit of trouble on their way over.”
“We listened to our superiors. The principle we observed was to minimize the total number of stages,” Shi Qiang said.
“Absolutely correct. In the present circumstances, minimizing the stages makes for maximum security. And now we’ll follow the same principle and head straight for the conference hall.”
“When does the session start?” “In one hour.”
“We’ve cut it that close?”
“The start of the session is set by the arrival of the final candidate.” “That’s pretty good. Shall we hand off, then?”
“No. You are still responsible for the security of this one. Like I said before, you are the best.”
Shi Qiang was silent for a second or two as he looked at Luo Ji. Then he nodded. “As we’ve been getting acquainted with the situation over the past few days, our people have run into quite a few obstacles.”
“I guarantee that nothing of the sort will happen from now on. You have the full cooperation of the local police and military. Well then,” Kent said, looking at the two men. “We can set off.”
It was still nighttime, Luo Ji realized as he stepped through the door of the aircraft. Thinking back to their takeoff time, he had a pretty good idea of which general area of the globe they were in. The fog was thick, and the lights shone a dim yellow as events from their takeoff seemed to be replaying before their eyes: the patrol helicopters in the air, only dimly visible through the fog as shadows with glowing lights; the plane quickly surrounded by a ring of military vehicles and outward-facing soldiers; and several officers with radios clustered in a group discussing something and occasionally throwing a glance in the direction of the airstair. A buzzing from somewhere overhead set Luo Ji’s scalp on fire, and even the imperturbable Mr. Kent covered his years. Looking up, they could see an indistinct light flying low overhead: the escort formation, still circling above them, its exhaust tracing a large circle in the air that was hazily visible through the fog, as if a cosmic giant had tagged the Earth with chalk at this very spot.
The four of them boarded an obviously bulletproofed car waiting at the end of the airstair and sped off. The window curtains were drawn, but judging from the light that came in, Luo Ji knew that they were smack in the middle of a convoy. Silence reigned on the ride, a road to the ultimate unknown. Although it took only forty minutes, this part of the journey felt terribly long.
When Kent said they had arrived, Luo Ji could make out a shape through the curtains, backlit by the even light from the building to its rear that cast its silhouette onto the curtain. He could never mistake such a distinctive shape: a giant revolver with a knot tied in its barrel. Luo Ji knew exactly where he was: the United Nations building in New York.
He was surrounded as soon as he got out by people who seemed like security personnel: they were tall, and many of them wore dark glasses despite the night. He couldn’t make out his surroundings, but was pushed forward by the cluster, squeezed with such force that his feet practically left the ground, the scraping of footsteps the only sound that broke the silence. Just as the bizarre tension had pushed him almost to the breaking point, the men in front of him gave way. Light flashed before his eyes, and then the rest of them halted in their steps, leaving him, Shi Qiang, and Kent to continue forward. They were walking in a large quiet hall, empty but for a few black-clothed guards who spoke quietly into a handheld radio each time the
three of them passed one of them. They crossed a hanging balcony in the direction of a stained-glass panel whose riot of colors and intricate lines described the distorted shapes of humans and animals. Turning left, they entered a small room. After the door closed, Kent and Shi Qiang exchanged a smile, and a look of relief came over them.
Luo Ji glanced around him and discovered that the room was fairly peculiar. The wall at one end was entirely covered by an abstract painting made up of yellow, white, blue, and black geometric shapes, which overlapped randomly and seemed suspended atop an ocean of pure blue. But the strangest thing was the large stone in the shape of a rectangular prism sitting right in the center of the room and illuminated by several weak lamps. A closer look revealed that the stone bore rust lines. The abstract painting and the stone were the only furnishings, and apart from them the room was empty.
“Dr. Luo, do you need to change clothes?” Kent asked in English.
“What’s he saying?” Shi Qiang asked, and when Luo Ji translated, he shook his head firmly. “No, just wear this.”
“But this is a formal occasion,” Kent struggled out in Chinese. “No,” said Shi Qiang with another shake of his head.
“The hall is only open to national representatives, not the media. It should be fairly secure.” “I said no. If I’ve understood correctly, I’m in charge of his safety now.”
Kent relented. “Very well. It’s not a big issue.”
“You really should give him a general explanation,” Shi Qiang said, jerking his head in Luo Ji’s direction. “I’m not authorized to explain anything.”
“Just say anything,” Shi Qiang said with a laugh.
Kent turned toward Luo Ji, his dignified face suddenly tense, and subconsciously adjusted his tie. Luo Ji then realized that he had been avoiding looking directly at him. He also noticed that Shi Qiang seemed like a different person. The ever-present smirk was gone, replaced by a solemn expression, and he looked at Kent in a rare posture of attention. Then Luo Ji knew that everything Shi Qiang had said to him before was correct: He really had no idea of the purpose of the visit.
Kent said, “Dr. Luo, all I can tell you is this: You are about to take part in an important meeting at which there will be an important announcement. And at this meeting, you do not need to do anything.”
Then they were silent. The room was completely quiet. Luo Ji could clearly hear the beating of his heart. This, he realized, was the Meditation Room. The centerpiece was a six-ton rock made of the purest raw iron, symbolizing timelessness and strength. It had been a gift from Sweden. But right now, far from wanting to meditate, he tried as hard as possible to think of nothing, convinced of what Shi had said: Any thinking is liable to go off the rails. He counted the shapes in the painting.
The door opened, and the head that poked in signaled to Kent, who then turned to Luo Ji and Shi Qiang: “Time to go in. No one knows Dr. Luo, so there won’t be any disruption if he and I go in together.”
Shi Qiang nodded, then waved a hand at Luo Ji with a smile: “I’ll wait for you outside.” It warmed his heart. Right then Shi Qiang was his sole spiritual support.
Then he followed Kent out of the Meditation Room and into the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The hall was full and the people seated in it buzzed with conversation. He didn’t attract attention at first
when Kent led him up along the aisle, but heads began to turn once they got close to the front. Depositing him in an aisle seat in the fifth row, Kent went on ahead and sat down in the second row.
Luo Ji looked around him at the place he had seen countless times on television. Based on these glimpses, he had been wholly unable to appreciate the meaning the building’s architects wanted to express. Straight ahead of him, the tall yellow wall inset with the UN insignia that served as a backdrop for the podium was tilted forward at an acute angle, like a cliff face that was liable to collapse at any time. The dome, built to resemble a starry sky, was structurally separate from the yellow wall and did nothing to stabilize it, acting instead as an immense weight bearing down from above, adding to the wall’s instability and lending the whole environment the overpowering feeling of being ready to tumble down at any moment. Under the present circumstances, however, it seemed as if the eleven architects who had designed the building in the mid-twentieth century had wonderfully predicted humanity’s present predicament.
Turning his attention away from the distant wall, he heard two people talking next to him. He couldn’t make out their nationality, but they were speaking idiomatic English.
“Do you really believe in the decisive role of the individual in history?”
“Well, I think it’s a question that can’t be proven or disproven, unless we restart time, kill off a few great men, and see how history proceeds. Of course, you can’t rule out the possibility that the course of history was determined by the rivers carved out and dammed up by those great figures.”
“But there’s another possibility: Those great figures of yours might be no more than swimmers in history’s river. They may have left their names in history because of the world records they set and the praise and renown they won, but they had no effect on the river’s flow.… Ah, with things the way they are, what’s the point of thinking about all that?”
“The problem is that throughout the entire decision-making process, no one thought about issues on this level. The countries are all tangled up in stuff like candidate equality and resource rights.”
The hall grew quiet as Secretary General Say walked to the podium. The administration of this Filipino politician had straddled the pre- and postcrisis eras. If the vote had come just a little bit later, she never would have been elected, because a refined Asian lady didn’t project the sense of power the world was looking for in the face of the Trisolar Crisis. Now her small frame seemed tiny and helpless against the sloping cliff wall. As she was ascending the podium, Kent stopped her and whispered something in her ear. She looked down, nodded, and then continued walking.
Luo Ji was certain that the secretary general had looked in the direction of his seat.
On the rostrum, she surveyed the assembly, and then said, “The nineteenth meeting of the Planetary Defense Council has arrived at the final item on its agenda: the disclosure of the Wallfacer candidates and the announcement of the start of the Wallfacer Project.
“Before we move on to that agenda item, I believe it is necessary to take a brief look back at the Wallfacer Project.
“At the start of the Trisolar Crisis, the permanent members of the former Security Council held emergency negotiations and conceived the Wallfacer Project.
“The countries took note of the following facts: After the first two sophons appeared, burgeoning evidence demonstrated that additional sophons were constantly reaching the Solar System and coming to Earth, a
process that continues even now. Therefore, as far as the enemy is concerned, the Earth is a completely transparent world. To them, everything is an open book, one they can read at any time. Humanity has no secrets at all.
“The international community has recently launched a mainstream defense program which, in both overall strategic thinking and the tiniest of technological and military details, is completely exposed to the enemy’s eyes. Every meeting room, every file cabinet, the hard drives and memory of every computer—there is nowhere the sophons do not see. Every plan, program, and deployment, no matter the size, will be visible to the enemy command four light-years away the moment they take shape on the Earth. Human communication in any form will result in leaks.
“We should be aware of this one fact: Strategic and tactical tricks do not advance in proportion to technological progress. Precise intelligence has proven that the Trisolarans communicate through direct, open thoughts, making them highly deficient at tricks, camouflage, and deception, and giving human civilization a huge advantage over the enemy. This is one advantage we can’t afford to lose. The founders of the Wallfacer Project believe that a number of other strategic plans should proceed in parallel to the mainstream defense program, and that these plans should be secret, not transparent to the enemy. A number of proposals were put forward, but ultimately only the Wallfacer Project is feasible.
“One correction to what I just said: Humanity still has secrets, in the inner world that each of us possesses. The sophons can understand human language, and they can read printed texts and information on every kind of computer storage media at ultrahigh speeds, but they can’t read human thoughts. So long as we do not communicate with the outside world, every individual keeps things secret forever from the sophons. This is the basis of the Wallfacer Project.
“At its heart, the project consists of selecting a group of people to formulate and direct strategic plans. They will develop their plans entirely in their own minds, with no communication of any kind with the outside world. The true strategy of these plans, the necessary steps for completion, and the ultimate aims will remain hidden inside the brain. We shall call them the Wallfacers because that ancient Eastern name for meditators mirrors the unique characteristics of their work. As they direct the execution of their strategic plans, the thoughts and behaviors these Wallfacers present to the outside world will be entirely false, a carefully crafted mélange of disguise, misdirection, and deception. The subject of this misdirection and deception will be the entire world, both enemy and ally, until a huge, bewildering maze of illusions is erected to make the enemy lose its judgment, and to delay as long as possible the moment it works out our true strategic intent.
“These Wallfacers will be granted extensive powers that will enable them to mobilize and exploit a portion of Earth’s existing military resources. As they carry out their strategic plans, the Wallfacers need not make any explanation for their actions and commands, regardless of how incomprehensible their behavior may be. Monitoring and control of the Wallfacer activity will be undertaken by the UN Planetary Defense Council, the sole institution granted the authority to veto Wallfacer commands under the UN Wallfacer Act.
“To guarantee the continuity of the Wallfacer Project, the Wallfacers will take advantage of hibernation technology to bridge the centuries to the Doomsday Battle. When and under what circumstances they will awaken, and for how long, will be decided by the Wallfacers themselves. Over the next four centuries, the UN Wallfacer Act will exist under international law on a level equal to the UN Charter and will act in
concert with the national laws to guarantee the execution of the Wallfacers’ strategic plans.
“The Wallfacers are undertaking the most difficult mission in human history. They will truly be on their own, their souls closed off to the world, to the entire universe. Their only communication partner and sole spiritual support will be themselves. Shouldering this great responsibility, they will pass through the long years alone, so let me speak for all humanity and offer them our deepest respect.
“Now, on behalf of the United Nations, I will announce the final four Wallfacer candidates as chosen by the UN Planetary Defense Council.”
Luo Ji, like the entire assembly, had been listening to the secretary general’s speech with rapt attention, and he held his breath for the announcement of the list of names. He wanted to find out what sort of person would be tasked with this unimaginable mission. His own fate was completely forgotten for the time being, because nothing that could happen to him would amount to more than a speck when measured against this historic moment.
“The First Wallfacer: Frederick Tyler.”
When the secretary general uttered his name, Tyler stood up from his seat in the first row and walked with deliberate steps up to the rostrum, where he looked down at the assembly without expression. There was no applause as everyone sat in silence and stared at the First Wallfacer. Tyler’s tall, thin body and square-framed glasses were well known across the world. The recently retired US secretary of defense, he had exerted a deep influence on his country’s national strategy. His ideological focus was expressed in a book titled The Truth of Technology, in which he argued that small countries are the ultimate beneficiaries of technology, and that the unstinting efforts toward technological development on the part of larger countries was in fact paving the way for world dominance by the smaller ones. This was because technological progress rendered the population and resource advantages of larger countries unimportant, but provided small countries with leverage to move the world. One consequence of nuclear technology was that it allowed a country of just a few million people to pose a substantial threat to one with a hundred million, something that at one time had been practically impossible. One of his key points was that the advantages of a large country were only truly advantageous in low-technology eras and would ultimately be weakened by the swift pace of technological progress, which would meanwhile enhance the strategic weight of small countries. Some might experience a sudden rise, gaining world dominance like Spain and Portugal once did. There was no question that Tyler’s thinking provided a theoretic foundation for the United States’ global war on terror. But he was not just a strategist. He was also a man of action, and on multiple occasions had won popular acclaim for demonstrating courage and foresight in the face of major threats. Hence, as far as both the depth of his thinking and his leadership were concerned, Tyler made a worthy Wallfacer.
“The Second Wallfacer: Manuel Rey Diaz.”
When this brown-skinned, stocky South American with a stubborn look in his eyes ascended the rostrum, Luo Ji was surprised: It was highly unusual for this man to even appear at the UN. But on second thought, it stood to reason. He even wondered why it hadn’t already occurred to him. Rey Diaz was the current president of Venezuela, which, under his leadership, had aptly demonstrated Tyler’s theory about the rise of small countries. He carried forward the Bolivarian Revolution instigated by Hugo Chavez: In a contemporary world ruled by capitalism and market economics, he promoted in Venezuela what Chavez called Socialism of
the Twenty-First Century, founded on lessons drawn from the experience of the international socialist movements of the previous century. Surprisingly, he had achieved considerable success, boosting the country’s power across the board and—for a time—turning Venezuela into a city on a hill, a symbol of equality, justice, and prosperity for the world. The other countries in South America followed suit, and socialism briefly caught fire on the continent. Rey Diaz inherited not only Chavez’s socialist ideology but his strong anti-Americanism, which reminded the United States that its Latin American backyard could become a second Soviet Union if left unchecked. A rare opportunity presented by an accident and a misunderstanding gave the United States the excuse to launch a full-scale invasion of Venezuela that sought to overthrow the Rey Diaz government along the Iraq model. But with this war, the post–Cold War streak of victories by major western powers over small Third World countries had finally broken. When the US Army entered Venezuela, it discovered that the uniformed military was nowhere to be found. The entire army had been divided by squad into guerilla teams concealed among the people, and their sole combat objective was killing the enemy’s vital forces. Rey Diaz’s basic approach to warfare was built atop a single, clear idea: Modern high-tech weapons might be useful against point targets, but, for area targets, their performance is no better than conventional weapons and their cost and limited quantity make them essentially nonfactors. He was a genius at low-cost, high-tech exploits. At the turn of the century, an Australian engineer had built a cruise missile for five thousand dollars with the aim of boosting vigilance against terrorists, but Rey Diaz’s thousands of guerilla teams were armed with a total of two hundred thousand of them, mass produced for just three thousand dollars apiece. Although the missiles were made out of parts that were cheap and widely available on the market, they were fully equipped with a radar altimeter and GPS and could hit targets within a five-kilometer radius at an accuracy of within five meters. Their hit rate may have been less than 10 percent during the war, but they caused enormous destruction to the enemy. Other mass-produced high-tech gadgets, like proximity-fuse sniper rifle bullets, had a similarly brilliant track record during the war. During its short time in Venezuela, the US Army suffered casualties that approached Vietnam War levels, and it eventually had to withdraw. The defeat of the strong at the hands of the weak made Rey Diaz a hero for the twenty-first century.
“The Third Wallfacer: Bill Hines.”
A debonair Englishman ascended the rostrum, a picture of refinement next to Tyler’s coldness and Rey Diaz’s stubbornness. He gave the assembly a graceful salute. He, too, was well known to the world, although he lacked the aura of the other two men. Hines’s life was split into two entirely distinct stages. As a scientist, he was the only person in history to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in two sciences simultaneously for the same discovery. During research conducted with the neuroscientist Keiko Yamasuki, he discovered that brain activity for thoughts and memories operated on the quantum level rather than on the molecular level as previously believed. This discovery pushed brain mechanisms downward to the microstate of matter, rendering all prior research nothing more than superficial attempts that merely skimmed the surface of neuroscience. This discovery also demonstrated that the animal brain’s capacity to process information was several orders of magnitude higher than previously imagined, which lent credence to long-held speculation that the brain had a holographic structure. Hines was nominated for Nobel Prizes in both Physics and Physiology or Medicine for the discovery. Although his work was too radical for him to win either award, Keiko Yamasuki—who by this time was his wife—won the prize in Physiology or Medicine that year for her
application of the theory to the treatment of amnesia and mental illness.
In the second stage of his life, he was a politician and served as president of the EU for two years. Hines was recognized as a prudent and experienced politician, but his term in office was not marked by many challenges that tested his political skills. The nature of the EU’s work at the time, which was largely transactional coordination, meant that his qualifications to face a major crisis stacked up rather poorly compared to the other two men. Still, the choice of Hines evidently took into account both his scientific and political credentials, a perfect combination that was quite rare indeed.
Seated in the very last row of the hall, Keiko Yamasuki, the world authority in neuroscience, gazed lovingly down at her husband on the rostrum.
The assembly remained silent as all waited for the announcement of the final Wallfacer. The first three, Tyler, Rey Diaz, and Hines, represented balance and compromise among the political powers of the United States, Europe, and the Third World, so there was considerable interest in the final selection. As he watched Say turn back to the paper in the folder, world-famous names flashed through Luo Ji’s mind. The final Wallfacer would be one of them. He looked ahead four rows and surveyed the backs of the first-row occupants. That’s where the first three Wallfacers had been before they ascended the rostrum, but from behind he couldn’t make out whether any of the people he had in mind were seated there. Still, the Fourth Wallfacer would definitely be there.
Say slowly raised her right hand, and he watched as it pointed to a spot not in the first row. She was pointing at him.
“The Fourth Wallfacer: Luo Ji.”


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