The Wallfacers Thirteenth parts
Tyler stood holding an umbrella against the Kagoshima drizzle. Behind him, two meters away, stood defense chief Koichi Inoue, whose umbrella remained unopened. The past two days he had maintained the same separation from Tyler, both physically and mentally. They were at the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots, and in front of them was a statue of a special attack unit next to a white plane, call sign 502. A light layer of rain painted the surface of the statue and the aircraft and made them deceptively lifelike.
“Isn’t there any room for discussion of my proposal?” Tyler asked.
“I strongly advise you not to speak of this to the media. It will cause trouble.” Koichi Inoue’s words were as icy as the rain.
“Is it still that sensitive, even today?”
“What’s sensitive isn’t the history, but your proposal to restore the kamikaze special attack units. Why don’t you do it in the US or some other place? Are the Japanese people the only ones in the world who can die out of duty?”
Tyler closed up his umbrella and drew closer to Koichi Inoue, who—although he didn’t recoil—seemed to have a force field surrounding him that prevented Tyler from getting close. “I’ve never said that the future kamikaze forces would be made up only of Japanese members. It’s an international force, but since it originated in your great country, isn’t it only natural to revive it here?”
“In interplanetary war, does this mode of attack really have any significance? You should realize that victories for those special attack units were limited, and they didn’t turn the tide of battle.”
“Commander, sir, the space force I have established is a fleet of fighters equipped with super hydrogen bombs.”
“Why do you need humans? Can’t computer-controlled fighters get close enough to attack?”
This question seemed to give Tyler the opportunity he was waiting for, and he grew exited. “That’s exactly the problem! Today’s computers are unable to replace human brains, and advancements in fundamental theory would be necessary for quantum and other next-gen computers. But that’s been locked up by the sophons. So four centuries from now, computing intelligence will still be limited, and human-controlled weapons will be indispensable.… To tell you the truth, reviving the kamikaze squads only has moral significance now, because it will be ten generations before any of them go to their death. But establishing that spirit and faith means starting now!”
Koichi Inoue turned around to face Tyler for the first time. His wet hair was plastered against his forehead and the raindrops on his face looked like tears. “That approach violates the basic moral principles of modern society: Human lives come first, and the state and the government can’t require any individual to take up a death mission. I seem to remember a line Yang Wen-li said in Legend of the Galactic Heroes:12 ‘In this war lies the fate of the country, but what does it matter next to individual rights and freedoms? All of you just do your best.’”
Tyler sighed. “You know what? You have thrown away your most precious resource.” Then he snapped open his umbrella and turned and walked angrily away. When he reached the gate of the memorial, he looked back and saw Koichi Inoue still standing in the rain before the statue.
As Tyler walked in the sea breeze, his mind returned to a sentence from a suicide note from a kamikaze
pilot to his mother that he had seen in the exhibit: Mom, I’m going to be a firefly.
* * *
“It’s worse than I imagined,” Allen said to Rey Diaz. They were standing next to a black obelisk made of lava rock, the monument marking ground zero of humankind’s first atom bomb.
“Is its structure really that different?” Rey Diaz asked.
“Totally different from today’s nuclear bombs. Constructing its mathematical model might be more than a hundred times more complicated than today’s bombs. This is an enormous undertaking.”
“What do I need to do?”
“Cosmo’s on your staff, right? Get him to come to my lab.” “William Cosmo?”
“But he’s … he’s…”
“An astrophysicist. An authority on stars.” “What’s he going to do?”
“That’s what I’m gonna tell you. To your mind, a nuclear bomb is detonated and then explodes, but the actual process is more like burning. The greater the yield, the longer the combustion. A twenty-megaton nuclear explosion, for example, has a fireball that can last for over twenty seconds. The superbomb we’re designing is two hundred megatons, and its fireball will burn for several minutes. Think about that. What will it look like?”
“A small sun.”
“Correct! Its fusion structure is very like that of a star, and it reproduces stellar evolution over a very abbreviated period. So the mathematical model we need to construct is essentially the model of a star.”
White sands stretched out in front of them. In the moments just before dawn, the details of the dark desert couldn’t be made out. As they gazed at the scenery, they were involuntarily reminded of the basic setting of Three Body.
“I’m very excited, Mr. Rey Diaz. Please forgive me for our lack of enthusiasm at the start. Looking at the project now, the significance far exceeds the construction of a superbomb itself. Do you know what we’re doing? We’re creating a virtual star!”
Rey Diaz shook his head in disapproval. “What does that have to do with the defense of Earth?”
“Don’t be limited by planetary defense. Me and my colleagues in the lab are scientists, after all. Besides, this thing is not without practical significance. So long as you input the appropriate parameters, the star could be a model for our sun. Think about it. It’s always useful to have the sun in your computer memory. It’s the biggest presence that’s close to us in the cosmos, but we could take more advantage of it. The model may have many more discoveries lying in wait.”
Rey Diaz said, “One previous use of the sun is what brought humanity to the brink, and brought you and me to this place.”
“But new discoveries might bring humanity back. So today, I’ve invited you here to watch the sunrise.”
The rising sun was now just peeking its head over the horizon. The desert in front of them came into focus like a developing photograph, and Rey Diaz could see that this place, once blasted by the fires of hell, was now covered in sparse undergrowth.
“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds,” Allen exclaimed.
“What?” Rey Diaz whipped his head around, as if someone had shot him from behind.
“Oppenheimer said that when he watched the first nuclear explosion. I think it’s a quote from the Bhagavad Gita.”
The wheel in the east expanded rapidly, casting light across the Earth like a golden web. The same sun was there on that morning when Ye Wenjie had tuned the Red Shore antenna, and even before that, the same sun had shone upon the dust settling after the first bomb blast. Australopithecus a million years ago and the dinosaurs a hundred million years ago had turned their dull eyes upon this very sun, and even earlier than that, the hazy light that penetrated the surface of the primeval ocean and was felt by the first living cell was emitted by this same sun.
Allen went on, “And then a man called Bainbridge followed up Oppenheimer’s statement with something completely nonpoetic: ‘Now we are all sons of bitches.’”
“What are you talking about?” Rey Diaz said. Watching the rising sun, his breathing became ragged. “I’m thanking you, Mr. Rey Diaz, because from now on we’re not sons of bitches.”
In the east, the sun rose in overarching solemnity, as if declaring to the world, “Everything is as fleeting as a shadow before me.”
“What’s the matter, Mr. Rey Diaz?” Allen saw that Rey Diaz had fallen into a crouch, one hand on the ground, and was convulsing in dry heaves. His face had turned pale and was covered in a cold sweat, and he had no strength to move his hand from the clump of thorns it was pressing on.
“Go, go to the car,” he said weakly. He turned his head in the direction opposite the sun, and he raised his other hand to block the sunlight. He was unable to get up. Allen tried to assist but couldn’t budge his stocky body. “Drive the car over.…” Rey Diaz wheezed out, while pulling his hand back to cover his eyes. When Allen drove over to him, he had fallen to the ground. With difficulty, Allen helped him into the backseat. “Sunglasses. I need sunglasses.…” He half-reclined into the backseat, his hands clawing at the air. Allen handed Rey Diaz a pair of sunglasses he found on the dashboard. After he put them on his breathing grew smoother. “I’m all right. Let’s get out of here. Quickly,” he said feebly.
“What on earth happened? What’s wrong?” “It might be the sun.”
“Uh … when did you start having this sort of reaction?” “Just now.”
The peculiar phobia for the sun that afflicted Rey Diaz pushed him to the edge of mental and physical breakdown whenever he saw it and kept him confined indoors from then on.
* * *
“Was the flight very long? You look like you don’t have any energy,” was the first thing Luo Ji said after Shi Qiang arrived.
“Yeah. You’ll never find a plane as comfortable as that one we were on,” Shi Qiang said as he appraised his surroundings.
“Not bad, eh?”
“It’s awful,” Shi Qiang said, shaking his head. “Woods on three sides, so it’s easy to hide close to the house. And there’s a lake. With the shore this close to the house, it would be difficult to defend against divers coming from the woods on the other side. But the surrounding grassland is pretty good, and provides some open space.”
“Can’t you be any more romantic?” “I’m here to work, my boy.”
“It’s romantic work I’m thinking of.” Luo Ji led Shi Qiang into the living room. He surveyed it, but did not seem much impressed by the luxury and elegance. Luo Ji poured him a drink in a crystal goblet, but Shi Qiang turned it down with a wave of his hand.
“It’s thirty-year-old aged brandy.”
“I can’t drink right now.… Tell me of this romantic work of yours.”
Luo Ji sipped his brandy and sat down next to him. “Da Shi, I’m asking you to do me a favor. In your old job, did you ever have to look across the entire country for a particular person, or even around the world?”
“Were you good at it?”
“At finding people? Of course.”
“Great. Help me find a person. A woman in her early twenties. This is part of the plan.” “Nationality? Name? Address?”
“None. The possibility that she even exists in the world is low.”
Shi Qiang looked at him, and after a few seconds said, “You dreamed her?” Luo Ji nodded. “Daydreams, too.”
Shi Qiang nodded, too, then said something Luo Ji had not expected him to say. “Okay.” “What?”
“Okay, so long as you know what she looks like.”
“She’s, well, she’s Asian, so let’s say Chinese.” As Luo Ji spoke, he took out a paper and pencil. “Her face is like this. Her nose, like this. And her mouth … geez, I can’t draw. And her eyes … damn it, how can I draw her eyes? Do you have one of those things, a piece of software that will let you pull up a face and then adjust the eyes and nose and so on according to the eyewitnesses description to come up with an accurate depiction of the person the witness saw?”
“Sure. I’ve got one right here on my laptop.” “Then get it out and let’s draw!”
Shi Qiang stretched out on the sofa and situated himself comfortably. “Not necessary. You don’t need to draw her. Just keep talking. Put aside her appearance, and first talk about what sort of person she is.”
Something in Luo Ji’s mind caught fire, and he stood up and began to pace restlessly in front of the fireplace. “She … how should I put it? She came into this world like a lily growing out of a rubbish heap, so … so pure and delicate, and nothing around her can contaminate her. But it can all harm her. Yes, everything around her
can hurt her! Your first reaction when you see her is to protect her. No, to care for her, to let her know that you are willing to pay any price to shield her from the harm of a crude and savage reality. She … she’s so … ah, I’ve got a clumsy tongue. I can’t say anything clearly.”
“It’s always like that,” Shi Qiang said with a laugh. His laugh, which had seemed crude and silly the first time Luo Ji heard it, felt full of wisdom now, and it soothed him. “But you’ve been clear enough.”
“Okay. Well, I’ll go on, then. She … but what am I saying? No matter what I say, I can’t express what she’s like in my heart.” He grew irritated, and seemed to want to tear out his heart to show to Shi Qiang.
Shi Qiang calmed him with a wave. “Forget it. Just talk about what happens when the two of you are together. The more detailed the better.”
Luo Ji’s eyes widened in amazement. “How did you know about the two of us?”
Shi Qiang laughed again. Then he looked around. “There wouldn’t happen to be any cigars in this place, would there?”
“Yes, there are!” Luo Ji grabbed an elegant wooden box from the mantel, took out a thick Davidoff, and used an even more elegant guillotine-style cigar cutter to slice off the end. Then he passed it to Shi Qiang, and lit it for him with a cedar strip specially designed for cigars.
Shi Qiang took a puff and nodded his head, pleased. “Go on.”
Luo Ji overcame his earlier language barrier and grew garrulous. He described how she had come alive for the first time in the library, how she appeared in his classroom during lecture, how the two of them had met in front of the imaginary fireplace in his dormitory, the beauty of the firelight shining onto her face through the bottle of wine like the eyes of twilight. He recalled with pleasure their road trip, describing every last detail: the fields after the snow, the town and village under the blue sky, the mountains like old villagers basking in the sun, and the evening and bonfire at the foot of the mountain.…
After he finished, Shi Qiang stubbed out his cigar. “Well, that’s about enough. I’ll guess a few things about the girl, and you see if I’m right.”
“Education: She’s got at least a bachelor’s, but less than a doctorate.”
Luo Ji nodded. “Yes, yes. She’s knowledgeable, but not to the point where it calcifies her. It only makes her more sensitive to life and to the world.”
“She was probably born into a highly educated family and lived a life that wasn’t too rich but more affluent than most families. Growing up she enjoyed her parents’ love, but she had little contact with the community, particularly the lower rungs of society.”
“Right, absolutely right! She never told me about her family circumstances, or actually anything about herself, but I think that ought to be the case.”
“Now, if any of the following speculations are wrong, let me know. She likes to wear—how would you put it—simple, elegant clothing, a little plainer than other women her age.” Luo Ji nodded dumbly, over and over. “But there’s always something white, like a shirt or a collar, that contrasts sharply with the dark colors of the rest of the outfit.”
“Da Shi, you’re…” Luo Ji said, admiration in his eyes, as he watched Shi Qiang speak.
Brushing him aside, Shi Qiang went on, “Finally, she’s not tall, one hundred and sixty centimeters or so,
and her body is … well, I guess you could say slender, as if a gust of wind could blow her away, so she doesn’t seem so short.… I can come up with more, of course. Not far off, is it?”
Luo Ji was ready to fall on his knees before Shi Qiang. “Da Shi, I throw myself on the ground before you.
You’re the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes!”
Shi Qiang stood up. “Now I’ll sketch her on the computer.”
That night, he brought the computer to Luo Ji. When the woman’s portrait appeared onscreen, Luo Ji stared, not moving a muscle, like he had been struck by a curse. Shi Qiang had evidently expected this, and retrieved another cigar from the mantel, clipped it with the guillotine, lit it, and began to smoke. When he had taken a few puffs, he came back to find Luo Ji still staring at the screen.
“Tell me what’s off and I’ll adjust it for you.”
With difficulty, Luo Ji tore his gaze from the screen, stood up, and walked to the window, where he watched the moonlight shining on the distant snow peak. He murmured, dreamlike, “Nothing.”
“I thought so,” Shi Qiang said, and closed the computer.
Still gazing into the distance, Luo Ji uttered a phrase that others had used to evaluate Shi Qiang: “Da Shi, you’re a devil.”
Shi Qiang sat down on the sofa, exhausted. “There’s nothing supernatural about it. We’re both men.” Luo Ji turned to him. “But every man’s dream lover is quite different!”
“Dream lovers are basically the same for men of a certain type.” “Still, getting it so close should be impossible!”
“Remember, you told me a lot of stuff.”
Luo Ji walked over to the computer and opened it up again. “Send me a copy.” Then, as Shi Qiang worked on copying the image, he asked, “Can you find her?”
“All I can say now is that it’s quite likely. But I can’t rule out not finding her.”
“What?” Luo Ji’s hands stopped their movements and he turned to look at Shi Qiang in astonishment. “With this sort of thing, how can you guarantee one hundred percent success?”
“No, that’s not what I mean. The total opposite, in fact. I thought you would say that it’s practically impossible, but you wouldn’t rule out a random, one-ten-thousandth of a percent chance of finding her. And if you had said that, I’d have been satisfied.” He turned back to the picture on the screen, and murmured again, “Can such a person really exist in the world?”
Shi Qiang smiled scornfully. “Dr. Luo, how many people have you seen?”
“Not as many as you, of course, but I know that there’s no perfect person in the world, much less a perfect woman.”
“Like you said earlier, I’m often able to find a particular individual out of tens of thousands, and I can tell you from the experience of most of my life that there are all kinds of people out there. All kinds, my boy. Perfect people, perfect women. You just haven’t met them.”
“That’s the first time I’ve heard anyone say that.”
“It’s because someone who’s perfect in your mind isn’t necessarily perfect in the minds of others. This girl of your dreams—to me, she’s got obvious, well, imperfections. So there’s a good chance of finding her.”
“But directors can search for an ideal actor out of tens of thousands of people and not find them in the end.”
“Those directors can’t match our professional search capabilities. We’re not just looking at tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands or millions of people. The tools and techniques we use are more sophisticated than any director’s. The computers at the police analysis center, say, can find a match out of upwards of a hundred million faces in just half a day.… The only catch is that this is beyond the scope of my duties, so I’ll need to report to the higher authorities first. If they approve and assign the task to me, then of course I’ll do my best.”
“Tell them that it’s an important part of the Wallfacer Project and must be taken seriously.” Shi Qiang chuckled opaquely and then took his leave.
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