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The Hero

Tong's Office

PAC Headquarters

Beijing, China

Friday, February 16th, 2018, 10:20 am



      Tong had always assumed it would take years for him to become one of PAC’s top generals.  It would be at least a decade to take Peng’s position.  He knew the war had the potential to change his odds, but if Peng had his way, Tong’s odds would have worsened.  Only generals commanding the conquering army into battles would get promoted while Tong was stuck with the dregs of the army, border patrol.

      There was no way for Tong to predict, or even expect, what had happened.  It was as if a divine presence was leading him to his goals.  Everything had changed: he was now a hero, and Peng was a bitter memory.

      Peng’s e-mails, detailing the battle plans, had been sent to leaders throughout the world, including India and China.  The odd thing was that half of the plans were faked.  The first half about Russia was exact; in fact, they were even more detailed in some sections than the actual battle plans.  Tong expected that the Russian plans had more details because they were a draft version that Peng was writing but had not yet submitted. 

      The other half of the plans were about a simultaneous invasion of India.  That set of plans seemed to have several flaws and inconsistencies that any general, especially Peng, should have seen.  Among the notable flaws were troop calculations and troop placements, but the plans were also littered with bad grammar, as if Peng was new to the language.  Tong guessed the fake plans had been done hastily, causing so many errors.  It seemed likely to Tong that Peng had worked late that night finishing the fake plans and sending them.  Something must have caused him to send them so quickly.  Since the e-mails were sent during the vacation Peng had arranged, there was no doubt Peng had planned the event.  Tong wondered if suspicion had arisen at the last minute.

      In the end, it did not matter.  It seemed pointless to dwell on since Tong had gotten what he wanted.

      Still, something was odd about the whole thing.  It happened the same night the ‘angels’ appeared, causing his wishes to be fulfilled.  The video showed the four American or European agents who had entered the headquarters through a tunnel.  While he knew they were as human as he was, he liked to think of them as guardian angels.  The weapon they wielded was incredible; it seemed decades ahead of anything they had.  It was probably decades ahead of what almost all the countries had.  He expected it seemed the way nuclear weapons had seemed at the end of World War II.  On the other hand, in World War II, many countries knew of the potential for nuclear weapons and a few had been trying to develop the technology at the same time.  Maybe the same was true with this.  Maybe the PAC headquarters would be this new weapon’s Hiroshima.  It was even possible that his people were working on a similar weapon.  It seemed possible; the research and development portion of the military was kept secret from most generals. 

      Tong did not know if the angels were in league with Peng.  It was probable they had some relation though.  If they were American, it was probable they had sent the border patrols to minimize damage from the Indian and Russian reactions.  If they were Europeans, then they were probably spies who were trying to add evidence to Peng’s claims.  When Tong had been told by the president that Peng was against the war the whole thing made sense.  That night Peng had expressed concern for the troops; he did not want them to fight an aggressive war.  Peng did not want people to die; it was amazing such a person could have taken such a prestigious role in any army.  It eliminated the possibility that Peng was working with the foreigners.  Peng would not have allowed so many men to march to their deaths.

      In the confusion, the foreigners had caused the sudden war.  Tong had been the only one to realize what the angels had done.  The president thought Tong had sent the battle plans to buffer the impending reactions of India and China.  The battle plans were simple but his troops expanded on them.  Most of them died, but the damage they had done in India kept the Indians from crossing before troops had been reassembled to meet the Indian force at the border.  The two forces were fairly evenly matched and continued to fight in a stalemate.  Tong’s troops were less successful in Russia and only delayed the troops a day, but fortunately, through guerilla tactics, the Russians only got a few miles into China before a Chinese force had been raised. 

      The future of the two fronts looked bright for China, but it was probable other nations would join the cause and force a Chinese surrender.  The plan had always been to take one nation at a time.  The intention was to limit concern until it was too late.  Attacking India and Russia simultaneously would have created the same problem they currently faced, although it would have taken thousands of more lives to get to that point and they would be deep in India and Russia.

      Because the president believed the actions of Tong’s men to be caused by Tong, he was considered a hero.  The president had even made an announcement that their battles were going well because of his quick reaction.  While Tong’s men were mostly dead, it was likely most if not all of Peng’s men would be re-assigned to Tong.  At the moment, though, Tong was heading an investigation of the treason.

      Early Tuesday Peng was relieved of duty.  Around mid-day, when the news of the invasion had spread to most of the Chinese populace, the president preempted television broadcasts to announce the cause of the battles.  The president announced that Peng had sabotaged the country by placing the army on vacation and then sending fake battle plans to foreign leaders.  Most of the Chinese were oblivious of the war plans and the announcement was later going to be used as evidence for good peace terms if they lost the war.

      As the day had progressed, a mob crowded around Peng’s house.  As the crowd grew it reached its boiling point and became a full-fledged riot.  They rushed at his house, planning to tear it to shreds to get to Peng.  Peng and his family were all locked inside. Peng did not bother trying to call for help because he knew no help would come.  The mob wanted blood for the betrayal.  Their fear of the war stewed under their blood into a fearsome hatred.  Peng had to be brought to justice; the crowd would not stand to wait for the government to act against him. 

      The crowd was armed with whatever weapons each member could bring or find.  Some had guns, some had axes, some had knives, and some of the rioters even brought broom handles. When the crowd began to run up the driveway to the house, Peng ran out to meet them.  His family locked the doors behind him. 

      A recording of the event showed Peng plead as he met them, “Please, keep your revenge to me.”

      The first of the people to reach him were unarmed and began to hit him with their bare hands.  As more arrived, they picked him up and carried him away from the house and into the street.

      The rioters were all shouting so loudly that none of their voices could be understood.  Slowly a chanting began to take over.  At first, it was soft and only its steady rhythm could be heard.  As the chant grew the words could finally be understood, “HANG HIM, HANG HIM, HANG HIM!”  They shouted it over and over like a parrot might repeat the only word it knows.

      The chant ended as people began to cheer.  One of the rioters had smashed through the neighboring apartment building and stolen a 50-foot extension cord from one of the apartments.  The rioter did not know how to tie a noose, so he simply made a loop tying it with an overhand knot.

      Peng never resisted, even as the loop was put around his neck.  They threw the other end of the cord over a lamppost and pulled him up.  Peng was a model of self-control as he held himself while it strangled him.  Even when he was about to lose consciousness he did not grab at the cord to strain for breath.  The rioters tied off the end of the rope to the bottom of the lamppost. 

      They watched him die, but there was little satisfaction in the death.  Some shouted plans to kill the rest of the family, but the voices were weak and not even the owners of the voices would step forward to attack.  The crowd slowly dwindled in disgust.  A few stayed for hours, just staring up at the body.  When the road was finally clear, people drove past, honking at the body.  Some drivers stopped and talked to the stragglers, but none stayed long. 

      Early the next morning Peng’s family left.  The last time they were seen they were heading out toward a less populated area.  Peng’s family would have probably died had Peng resisted and forced them to enter.  Peng had stopped their blood-thirst from going beyond him.  Tong was only mildly impressed with how Peng stopped them. 

      The police had taken the body down the next night.  Somebody placed a sign on the street that said the Chinese version of, ‘Justice has been served.’ 

      A message box appeared on Tong’s screen from his receptionist.  The box informed him that a soldier had arrived with information about the investigation.  Tong had his receptionist let the soldier in.

      After they got past their saluting formalities the soldier said, “Sir, I may have information that will help you with your investigation.”  Tong gave no reply, so the soldier continued, “Two men had broken into General Peng’s home.”

      Tong let out a small expression of contempt when the soldier said the word general.  “He’s not a general; he’s a dead traitor.”

      The soldier looked a little stunned but then said, “Well, you see, I’m not so sure he is a traitor.”

      “What do you mean?”

      “Well, I have not seen the tape of the four intruders but . . .” the soldier stopped himself as if he had made his explanation too simple.

      “Well,” Tong prompted.

      “I command a small investigative squad.  We work for . . . worked for Peng.  It seems two men broke into his house.  He gave us a secret semi-personal mission a few weeks ago to see if we could turn up any clues.  Well, there wasn’t much to go on, but we eventually found some type of virus on his computer.  Unfortunately, as soon as we found it, it deleted itself, and we don’t know its purpose.  Anyway, I think he was set up. I think the two in his house were part of the four who were here the other night.  Sir, I think Peng was framed.  I think somebody was trying to get rid of him.”

      “Who else knows of this?”

      “Well, the rest of my squad, maybe his receptionist.”

      “Get your men together and meet me in Peng’s house.  I want all of you there in twenty minutes.”

      “Yes, Sir!”

      “Dismissed,” said Peng.  The soldier left.

      Tong gathered some things in the office and from the supply room and then drove to Peng’s house.  He got there a full five minutes before the squad.  The door was left unlocked as Tong entered.  Most of the belongings, especially the furniture, appeared to still be in place.  Tong could see Peng kept his house as organized as his desk. Even his family did not make a mess when they left.

      Tong brought in his supplies.  He was ready when the squad finally arrived, several minutes late.

      Tong went out and greeted them sternly, “You’re late.”

      Their commander, whom he had met earlier, apologized for them, “Sorry, Sir, I had trouble finding everybody so quickly.”

      “I don’t want your excuses.” After a dramatic pause Tong said, “I want you to show me where the computer was.”

      The squad led him back in, seemingly oblivious to the changes the house had undergone.  They walked into the bedroom.  As they walked, Tong casually assessed them all.

      The squad stood around the computer as Tong took out his handgun.  He killed them all before they could react. He emptied his gun killing them.  The gun was equipped with a small silencer. Their bodies fell onto the table, the computer, the chair and the floor.  The computer came down with a crash louder than the gunfire.  Blood was everywhere.  It looked like a kid had entered the room with a squirt gun of red liquid. 

      Tong walked out of the room and walked down to the supplies he had set up.  The supplies consisted of some matches and a large can of gasoline.  He poured the gasoline on the furniture, the floor, and the stairs.  From the door, he lit a match and threw it into the gasoline.  He left the house and found the truck the squad had driven.  It was one of their standard trucks that allowed him to start it by way of a thumb-pad.  Most civilian vehicles still used keys, while military vehicles used biometric sensors to allow a multitude of drivers.  The back of the truck had a hitch that allowed him to connect his car in tow.

      As Tong drove the truck, with his car in tow, the fire finally became visible.  He now understood the foreigners’ involvement.  It was very likely they were European and were trying to prevent the war.  It seemed unlikely they would be back, but he would have his men watch for them so he could claim their weapon as a glorious prize for China.

      Tong felt no remorse for the small squad of soldiers he had just killed and burned.  It was possible they would have kept the secret if he asked, but it was not worth the risk.  Loose ends always turn up at the most inconvenient times.

      The fire would likely be blamed on looters or angry citizens and an investigation would never even be launched.  The police would not mind the destruction; they had ignored Peng’s hanging as they would ignore this. 

Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2007 Forest J. Handford

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