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Novel:The dark forestauthor: pubdate:2019-03-03 17:31

At the gate to the Faith Center stood a reduced-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty. Its purpose was unknown—perhaps it was an attempt to use “liberty” to dilute the feeling of “control”—but the most notable thing about the statue was the altered poem on its base:
Give me your hopeless souls,
Your fearful crowds that thirst for victory, The dazed refuse of your treacherous shoals.
Send these, the downcast, wand’ring ones to me, For lo, my lamp of golden faith consoles.
The golden faith of the poem was prominently inscribed in many different languages on a black granite stone called the Faith Monument that stood beside the statue:
In the war of resistance against the invasion from Trisolaris, humanity will be victorious. The enemy invading the Solar System will be destroyed. Earth will endure in the  cosmos for ten thousand generations.
The Faith Center had been open for three days, during which time Hines and Keiko Yamasuki had been waiting in the majestic foyer. The smallish building erected near the United Nations Plaza had become the latest tourist attraction, with people constantly coming up to take photos of the Statue of Liberty and the Faith Monument, but no one had entered. They all seemed to be maintaining a cautious distance.
“Do you get the feeling we’re running a struggling mom-and-pop store?” she said. “My dear, one day this will be a sacred place,” Hines said solemnly.
On the afternoon of the third day, someone finally walked into the Faith Center. The bald, melancholy- looking, middle-aged man walked unsteadily and smelt of alcohol when he approached. “I’ve come to get faith,” he slurred out.
“The Faith Center is only open to members of national space forces. Please show your ID,” Keiko Yamasuki said while bowing. She seemed to Hines like a polite waitress at the Tokyo Plaza Hotel.
The man fished out his ID. “I’m a space force member. Civilian personnel. Is that okay?” After inspecting the ID, Hines nodded. “Mr. Wilson, do you want to do it now?”
“That would be great,” he said, and nodded. “The … the thing you call a belief proposition. I’ve written it here. I want to believe this.” He pulled a neatly folded piece of paper from his breast pocket.
Keiko Yamasuki wanted to explain that according to the PDC resolution, the mental seal was only permitted to operate on one proposition, the one written on the monument at the gate. It had to be done exactly as written, and any alteration was prohibited. But Hines gently stopped her. He wanted to take a look at the proposition the man had submitted first. Unfolding the paper, he read what was written on it:
Katherine loves me. She has never and will never have an affair!
Keiko Yamasuki stifled a laugh, but Hines angrily crumpled up the paper and tossed it in the drunken man’s face. “Get the hell out!”
After Wilson left, another man passed the Faith Monument, the boundary beyond which ordinary tourists maintained their distance. As the man paced behind the monument, he soon came to Hines’s attention. Hines called Keiko Yamasuki over and said, “Look at him. He must be a soldier!”
“He looks mentally and physically exhausted,” she said.
“But he’s a soldier. Believe me,” he said. He was about to go out and talk to the man when he saw him heading up the steps. The man looked about Wilson’s age and, though his Asian features were handsome, it was like Keiko Yamasuki had said: He seemed a little melancholy, but in a different way from the previous hard-luck case. His melancholy looked lighter, but also deeper, as if it had been with him for years.
“My name is Wu Yue. I’d like to get belief,” the visitor said. Hines noticed how he referred to “belief” instead of “faith.”
Keiko Yamasuki bowed and repeated her earlier line: “The Faith Center is only open to members of every country’s space force. Please show your ID.”
Wu Yue did not move, but he said, “Sixteen years ago, I spent a month serving in the space force, and then I retired.”
“You served for one month? Well, if you don’t mind my asking, what was your reason for retiring?” Hines asked.
“I’m a defeatist. My superiors and I felt that I was no longer suited to work in the space force.”
“Defeatism is a common mentality. You’re evidently just an honest defeatist, and stated your own ideas forthrightly. Your colleagues who continued serving may have harbored an even stronger defeatist complex, but they just kept it hidden,” Keiko Yamasuki said.
“Maybe. But I’ve been lost all these years.” “Because you left the service?”
Wu Yue shook his head. “No. I was born into a family of scholars, and the education I received made me treat humanity as a single unit, even after I became a soldier. I always felt that a soldier’s highest honor would be to fight for the entire human race. This opportunity came, but it was a war that we were destined to lose.”
Hines was about to say something, but was interrupted by Keiko Yamasuki. “Permit me to ask a question.
How old are you?” “Fifty-one.”
“If you are really able to return to the space force after obtaining faith in victory, don’t you think that at your age it’s a little late to start up in the service again?”
Hines could see that she didn’t have the heart to refuse him directly. No doubt this deeply melancholy man was very attractive to a woman’s eyes. But this didn’t worry him, because the man was obviously so consumed by his despair that nothing else had any meaning for him.
Wu Yue shook his head. “You misunderstand. I don’t want to gain faith in victory. I’m just looking for peace for my soul.”
Hines wanted to speak, but again Keiko Yamasuki stopped him.
Wu Yue went on. “I met my present wife when I was studying at the naval academy in Annapolis. She was a fervent Christian and faced the future with a calmness that made me jealous. She said that God had everything planned out, from the past to the future. We children of the Lord did not need to understand his plans. We just needed to firmly believe that this plan was the most reasonable one in the universe, and then live peacefully according to the Lord’s will.”
“So you mean that you’ve come to gain a belief in God?”
Wu Yue nodded. “I’ve written out my belief proposition. Please have a look.” He reached into his shirt pocket as he spoke.
Again Keiko Yamasuki stopped Hines from saying anything. She said to Wu Yue, “If that’s the case, then just go and believe. There’s no need to resort to such extreme, technological means.”
The former space force captain showed a trace of a wry smile. “I grew up under a materialist education.
I’m a staunch atheist. Do you think gaining this belief would be easy for me?”
“Absolutely not!” Hines said, getting out in front of Keiko Yamasuki. He decided to clear things up as quickly as he could. “You ought to know that according to the UN resolution, the mental seal can only operate on one proposition.” As he spoke, he took out a large, exquisitely fashioned red card case and opened it up for Wu Yue to see. There, on the black velvet lining, in letters engraved in gold, was the victory oath from the Faith Monument. He said, “This is a faith book.” He took out a set of cases in different colors. “These are faith books in different languages. Mr. Wu, let me tell you how stringent the supervision is for use of the mental seal. To guarantee safe and reliable operation, the proposition is not put up on a display but is
given to the volunteer to read from this primitive faith book. As a reflection of the voluntary principle, the specific procedure is completed by the volunteer. He opens up this faith book, then presses the Start button on the mental seal device. Prior to actually performing the procedure, the system will give three confirmation opportunities. Before each procedure, the faith book is inspected by a panel of ten special commissioners from the members of the UN Human Rights Commission and the permanent member states of the PDC. During the operation of the mental seal device, the ten-member panel will be on site to strictly supervise the entire affair. So, sir, your request can’t be fulfilled. Forget about your proposition for religious belief. Changing even one word in the faith book is a crime.”
“Then I’m sorry to have troubled you,” Wu Yue said, nodding. He appeared to have anticipated this outcome. As he turned to walk out, he appeared lonely and old from the back.
“The rest of his life will be hard,” Keiko Yamasuki said softly, with a voice full of tenderness.
“Sir!” Hines called, stopping Wu Yue just outside the door. He ran out to where the light of the setting sun was reflecting like fire off the Faith Monument and the glass-walled UN building in the distance. He squinted his eyes against the flames and said, “You might not believe me, but I nearly did the exact opposite.”
Wu Yue looked puzzled. Hines looked back and, seeing that Keiko Yamasuki had not followed him, took out a piece of paper from his pocket and opened it for Wu Yue. “This is the mental seal I wanted to apply to myself. I was hesitant, of course, and in the end didn’t do it.” The bold text on the paper read:
God is dead.
“Why?” asked Wu Yue, raising his head.
“Isn’t it obvious? Isn’t God dead? Screw the Lord’s plan. Screw his mild yoke!”
Wu Yue looked at Hines in silence for a moment, then turned and walked down the steps.
When Wu Yue walked into the shadow cast by the Faith Monument, Hines called after him, “Sir, I wish I could disguise my contempt for you, but I can’t.”
The next day, the people Hines and Keiko Yamasuki were waiting for finally started to arrive. In the bright sunshine that morning, four people walked in, three men with European faces and one woman with Asian features. Young, standing straight and tall, and walking at a steady pace, they looked confident and mature. But Hines and Keiko Yamasuki saw in their eyes something familiar, the same melancholy confusion that had been in Wu Yue’s.
They set their documents neatly down on the reception desk, and their leader said solemnly, “We’re space force officers, and we’ve come to get faith in victory.”
The mental seal process was quite fast. After the faith books were passed among the ten members of the oversight panel, each of whom carefully checked the contents, they signed their names to the notary certificate. Then, under their supervision, the first volunteer received the faith book and sat down in front of the mental seal scanner. In front of him was a small platform on which he placed the book, and which had a red button in the lower right-hand corner. When he opened the faith book, a voice asked, “Are you certain that you want to obtain a faith in this proposition? If so, please press the button. If not, please leave the scanning area.”
The question was repeated three times, and each time it was asked, the button glowed red. A positioning
apparatus slowly contracted to fix the volunteer’s head in place, and then the voice said, “The mental seal procedure is ready to start. Please read the proposition silently and then press the button.”
When the button was pressed, it turned green, and after about half a minute, it went out. The voice said, “The mental seal procedure is complete.” The positioning apparatus separated, and then the volunteer got up and left.
After all four officers completed the procedure and returned to the foyer, Keiko Yamasuki carefully looked them over, confirming almost immediately that her perception of their improved moods was not just her imagination. The melancholy and confusion had disappeared from the four pairs of eyes, which now were serene as water.
“How do you feel?” she asked, smiling.
“Excellent,” one young officer said, returning her smile. “How it ought to be.”
When they left, the Asian woman turned around and added, “Doctor, I really feel great. Thank you.” At that moment, the future was certain, at least in the minds of those four young people.
From that day forward, members of the space force came without pause to obtain faith—at first mostly on their own, but eventually in larger groups. They wore civilian clothes at first, but later most of them wore military uniforms. If more than five people came at a time, the supervisory panel convened a review meeting to verify that no one had been coerced.
One week later, more than a hundred space force members had obtained faith in victory through the mental seal. They ranged in rank from private to senior colonel, the highest rank permitted by national space forces to use the mental seal.
That night, in the moonlight at the Faith Monument, Hines said to Keiko Yamasuki, “Dear, we need to go.”
“To the future?”
“That’s right. We’re not any better than other scientists in the study of the mind, and we’ve accomplished everything we needed to. We have pushed forward the wheel of history, so now let’s go to the future and wait for it.”
“How far?”
“Very far, Keiko. Very far. To the day when the Trisolaran probes reach the Solar System.”
“Before we do that, let’s go back to that house in Tokyo for a while. After all, this age is going to be buried forever.”
“Of course, dear. I miss it too.”
*    *    *
Six months later, as Keiko Yamasuki sank into the deepening cold and was about to enter hibernation, the cold froze and filtered out the riot of noise in her mind. This brought the thread of her focused thoughts into sharp relief in the lonely darkness, like the moment ten years before when Luo Ji plunged into the icy lake. All of a sudden, her hazy thoughts became unusually clear, like the chilly sky in the dead of winter.
She wanted to shout for the hibernation to stop, but it was too late. The ultra-low temperatures had seeped into her body and she had lost the ability to produce sound.
The operators and doctors noticed that just as she was entering hibernation, her eyes suddenly opened a crack, revealing an expression full of horror and despair. If the cold hadn’t frozen her eyelids, her eyes would have been wide open. But this was just a normal reflex during the process that had been seen on previous hibernators, so they paid it no mind.
*    *    *
The UN PDC Wallfacer Project Hearing deliberated the stellar hydrogen bomb test.
The giant breakthrough in computing technology meant that computers were at last capable of handling the theoretical stellar model of a nuclear explosion developed over the past decade, and the manufacture of large- yield stellar hydrogen bombs could begin forthwith. The projected yield of the first bomb was the equivalent of 350 megatons of TNT, or seven times more powerful than the largest hydrogen bomb ever manufactured by humanity. It was impossible for this superbomb to be tested in the atmosphere, and a detonation in an underground shaft of the depth previously used would eject the surrounding rock into the air, so testing on Earth would require digging an ultra-deep shaft. But even detonating in an ultra-deep shaft would cause powerful shock waves to spread across the world and might have an unanticipated effect on a broad range of geological structures, possibly touching off disasters including earthquakes and tsunamis. Therefore, the stellar hydrogen bomb could only be tested in space. Yet it was impossible in high orbit, because at that distance, the electromagnetic pulse the bomb generated would have a catastrophic effect on Earth’s telecommunications and power systems. The ideal test location, then, was on the back side of the moon. However, Rey Diaz chose differently.
“I’ve decided to conduct the tests on Mercury,” he said.
This proposal surprised the representatives in attendance, and they voiced questions about the meaning of the plan.
“According to the basic principles of the Wallfacer plan, I do not have to explain,” he answered icily. “The tests should be conducted underground. We need to dig ultra-deep shafts on Mercury.”
The Russian representative said, “We can consider tests on the surface of Mercury, but underground tests are too expensive. Digging deep shafts there could cost a hundred times what a similar engineering project would cost on Earth. Besides, the effects of a nuclear bomb on the environment of Mercury would tell us nothing useful.”
“Even a surface test on Mercury is impossible!” the US representative said. “To date, Rey Diaz has consumed the most resources of all of the Wallfacers. The time has come to stop him!” This sentiment was echoed by representatives from the UK, France, and Germany.
Rey Diaz said with a laugh, “Even if I used as few resources as Dr. Luo, you’d still be keen to veto my plan.” He turned to the rotating chair. “I would ask the chair and each representative to remember that out of all the strategies proposed by the Wallfacers, my plan is most closely in harmony with mainstream defense, to the point that you could view it as part of the mainstream. In absolute numbers the consumption of resources might look large, but a considerable portion of that overlaps the mainstream. Therefore—”
The UK representative cut him off. “You still ought to explain why you need to conduct underground tests on Mercury. Unless you’re just doing it to spend money. We can’t find any explanation for it.”
“Mr. Chair, Representatives,” Rey Diaz countered calmly, “you may have noticed that the  PDC  no longer has even the barest respect for Wallfacers or for the Wallfacer principle. If we have to explain every detail of our plans, then how is the Wallfacer Project meaningful?” One by one, he turned his scorching gaze on every representative, forcing them to turn away.
He went on, “Even so, I am willing to offer an explanation of the issue just raised. The goal of conducting deep underground tests on Mercury is to blast out a large cave on the planet to serve as a future Mercury base. This is clearly the most economical way of conducting an engineering project of this kind.”
His words stirred up whispers, and one representative asked, “Wallfacer Rey Diaz, do you mean you want to use Mercury as the launch base for stellar hydrogen bombs?”
With confidence, Rey Diaz answered, “Yes. Current strategic theory in mainstream defense holds that emphasis should be placed on the outer planets, and so the inner planets, which are not believed to be defensively significant, have not been given sufficient attention. The Mercury base I have planned is intended to mend this weak link in mainstream defense.”
“He’s afraid of the sun, but he wants to go to the planet closest to it. Isn’t that a little strange?” the US representative said. There was a bit of laughter, followed by a warning from the chair.
“It doesn’t matter, Mr. Chair. I’ve grown accustomed to this lack of respect. I was used to it even before I became a Wallfacer,” Rey Diaz said with a wave of his hand. “But all of you should respect the facts at hand. When the outer planets and Earth have fallen, the Mercury base will be the last bastion of humanity. Backed by the sun and situated amid the cover of radiation, it will be the most rugged of positions.”
“Wallfacer Rey Diaz, does this mean that your plan’s entire significance lies in a last stand when humanity’s situation is already hopeless? This is quite consistent with your character,” the French representative said.
“Gentlemen, we can’t simply refuse to consider the final resistance,” Rey Diaz said gravely.
“Very well, Wallfacer Rey Diaz,” the chair said. “Now, would you be able to tell us, in your overall deployment scenario, how many stellar hydrogen bombs you’ll need, all told?”
“The more the better. Manufacture as many as the Earth has capacity to produce. The specific number depends on the yield that hydrogen bombs will be able to achieve in the future, but according to current figures, the first batch in the deployment plan requires at least a million.”
Laughter shook the auditorium at Rey Diaz’s words.
“Evidently Wallfacer Rey Diaz doesn’t just want to make a small sun. He wants to make a small galaxy!” the US representative said loudly. Then he leaned toward Rey Diaz. “Do you really think that the ocean’s protium, deuterium, and tritium were prepared just for you? Because of your perverted affection for the bomb, the Earth should be turned into a bomb workshop?”
By this point Rey Diaz was the only one in the assembly with a straight face. He waited quietly until the clamor he had sparked died down, and then said, one word at a time, “This is the ultimate war of the human race, so the number I ask for is not at all large. But I did anticipate today’s outcome. Nevertheless, I will work hard. I will build bombs. I will build as many as I can, I tell you. I will work hard and I won’t stop.”
In response, the representatives of the US, UK, and France put forth a joint proposal, P269, to terminate the strategic plan of Wallfacer Rey Diaz.


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