Chapter 25 The Deaths of Lei Zhicheng and Yang Weining
Novel：The Three-Bodyauthor：Cinxin Liu pubdate：2019-02-14 15:03
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Chapter 25 The Deaths of Lei Zhicheng and Yang Weining
YE WENJIE: Ye Wenjie.
INTERROGATOR: Birth date?
YE: June 1943.
YE: Professor of Astrophysics at Tsinghua University. Retired in 2004. INTERROGATOR: In consideration of your health, you may stop the interrogation temporarily at any time.
YE: Thank you. I'm fine.
INTERROGATOR: Were only conducting a regular criminal investigation now and won't get into more sensitive matters. We would like to finish quickly. We hope you'll cooperate.
YE: I know what you're referring to. Yes, I'll cooperate.
INTERROGATOR: Our investigation revealed that while you were working at Red Coast Base, you were suspected of murder.
YE: I did kill two people.
YE: The afternoon of October 21, 1979.
INTERROGATOR: Names of the victims?
YE: Base Commissar Lei Zhicheng, and my husband, Base Engineer Yang Weining.
INTERROGATOR: Explain your motive for murder.
YE: Can I... assume that you understand the relevant background?
INTERROGATOR: I know the basics. If something is unclear I'll ask you.
YE : Good. On the day when I received the extraterrestrial communication and replied, I learned that I wasn't the only one to get the message. Lei did as well.
Lei was a typical political cadre of the time, so he possessed an extremely keen sense for politics and saw everything through an ideological lens. Unbeknownst to most of the technical staff at Red Coast Base, he ran a small program in the background on the main computer. This program constantly read from the transmission and reception buffers and stored the results in a hidden encrypted file. This way, there would be a copy of everything Red Coast sent and received that only he could read. It was from this copy that he discovered the extraterrestrial message.
On the afternoon after I sent my message toward the rising sun, and shortly after I learned that I was pregnant at the base clinic, Lei called me to his office, and I saw that his terminal displayed the message from Trisolaris that I had received the night before. . . .
"Eight hours have passed since you received the first message. Instead of making a report, you deleted the original message and maybe hid a copy. Isn't that right?"
I kept my head down and did not reply.
"I know your next move. You plan to reply. If I hadn't discovered this in time, you could have ruined all human civilization! Of course I'm not saying that were afraid of an interstellar invasion. Even if we assumed the worst and that really did happen, the outer space invaders would surely drown in the ocean of the people's righteous war!
I realized then that he didn't know that I'd already replied. When I placed the answer into the transmission buffer, I didn't use the regular file interface. Luckily, this got around his monitoring program.
"Ye Wenjie, I knew you were capable of something like this. You've always held a deep hatred toward the Party and the people. You would seize any opportunity for revenge. Do you know the consequences of your actions?"
Of course I knew, so I nodded. Lei was silent for a moment. But what he said next was unexpected. "Ye Wenjie, I have no pity for you at all. You've always been a class enemy who views the people as your adversaries. But I've served many years with Yang. I cannot bear to see him ruined along with you, and I certainly cannot allow his child to be ruined as well. You're pregnant, aren't you?"
What he said wasn't idle speculation. During that era, my deeds would certainly have implicated my husband if revealed, regardless of whether he had anything to do with them.
Lei kept his voice very low. "Right now, only you and I know what happened. What we must do is to minimize the impact of your actions. Pretend that it never happened and never mention it to anyone, including Yang. I'll take care of the rest. As long as you cooperate, you can avoid the disastrous consequences."
I immediately knew what Lei was after. He wanted to become the first man to discover extraterrestrial intelligence. It really was a great opportunity to get his name into the history textbooks.
I assented. Then I left his office. I'd already decided everything.
I took a small wrench and went to the equipment closet for the processing module of the receiver. Because I often needed to inspect the equipment, no one paid attention. I opened the main cabinet and carefully loosened the bolt that secured the ground wire to the bottom. The interference on the receiver suddenly increased and the ground resistance went up from 0.6 ohms to 5 ohms. The technician on duty thought was a problem with the ground wire, because that kind of malfunction happened a lot. It was an easy diagnosis. He would never have guessed that the problem was at this end, at the top of the ground wire because this end was securely fastened, out of the way, and I told him that I had just inspected it.
The top of Radar Peak had an unusual geological feature: a layer of clay more than a dozen meters thick—poor conductivity—covered it. When the ground wire wasn't buried deeply, ground resistance was invariably too high. However, the ground wire couldn't be sunk too deep, either, because the clay layer had a strong corrosive effect, and after a while, it would corrode the middle section of the ground wire. In the end, the only solution was to drape the ground wire over the lip of the cliff until the tip was below the clay layer, and then bury the ground terminal into the cliff at that point. Even so, the grounding wasn't very stable, and the resistance was often excessive. Whenever such problems occurred, the trouble always involved the part of the wire going into the cliff. Whoever was assigned to repair it would have to go over the edge of the cliff, dangling on ropes.
The technician on duty informed the maintenance squad of the issue. One of the soldiers in the squad tied a rope to an iron post and then rappelled down the cliff After half an hour down below, he climbed back up, soaked in sweat, saying that he couldn't find the malfunction. It seemed that the next monitoring session would have to be delayed. There was no choice but to inform the Base Command Center. I waited by the iron post at the top of the cliff. Very soon, just as I had planned, Lei Zhicheng came back with that soldier.
To be honest, Lei was very dedicated to his job and faithfully followed the demands placed on political officers during that era: Become a part of the masses and always be on the front line. Maybe it was all for show, but he really was a good performer. Whenever there was some difficult and perilous work at the base, he was sure to volunteer. One of the tasks that he performed more than anyone else was to repair the ground wire, a task both dangerous and tiring. Even though this job wasn't particularly demanding technically, it did benefit from experience. There were many causes of malfunction: a loose contact due to exposure to open air—difficult to detect—or possibly the location where the ground wire went into the cliff was too dry. The volunteer soldiers responsible for external maintenance were all new, and none had much experience. So I had guessed that Lei would most likely show up.
He put on the safety harness and went over the cliff edge on the rope, as though I didn't exist. I made some excuse to get rid of the soldier who brought him so that I was the only one left on the cliff. Then I took a short hacksaw out of my pocket. It was made from a longer saw blade broken into three pieces and then stacked together. With the stacked blades, any cut I made would be particularly ragged, and it would not be obvious later that the rope was cut through with a tool.
Just then, my husband, Yang Weining, showed up.
After I explained to him what had happened, he looked over the cliff edge. Then he said that to inspect the ground terminal in the cliff face required digging, and the work would be too much for just Lei. He wanted to go down to help, so he put on the safety harness left by that other soldier. I asked him to use another rope, but he said no—the rope that Lei was on was thick and sturdy and could easily bear the weight of two. I insisted, so he told me to go get the rope. By the time I rushed back to the cliff with the rope, he had already gone down over the side. I poked my head over the edge and saw that he and Lei had already finished their inspection and were climbing back up. Lei was in the front.
There would never be another chance. I took out my hacksaw and cut through the rope.
INTERROGATOR: I want to ask a question, but I won't record the answer. How did you feel at the time?
YE: Calm. I did it without feeling anything, I had finally found a goal to which I could devote myself. I didn't care what price had to be paid, either by me or by others. I also knew that the entire human race would pay an unprecedented price for this goal. This was a very insignificant beginning.
INTERROGATOR: All right. Continue.
YE: I heard two or three surprised cries, and then the sound of bodies slamming against the rocks at the cliff bottom. After a while, I saw that the stream at the foot of the cliff had turned red. ... That's all I'll say about that.
INTERROGATOR: I understand. This is the record. Please check it over carefully. If there are no errors, please sign it.
Chapter 25 Vocabulary Note
unbeknownst - without that person knowing about it
righteous - morally good and fair
adversary - enemy; a country or person you are fighting or competing against
assent - to agree to a suggestion or idea after considering it carefully
rappel - to go down a cliff or rock by sliding down a rope and touching the rock or cliff with your feet
hacksaw - a cutting tool with small teeth on its blade, used especially for cutting metal
sturdy - strong, well-made, and not easily broken
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