Rough Draft: “Angel’s Sins”

Angel’s Sins-Rough Draft

China, Sometime in the near future, but in an alternate reality

1. Relocation

“HURRAH!!” the graduating class of Yi Zhu Secondary School in Tangshan, China cheered as they threw their caps into the air. In that crowd was 18-year old Li Wang, the son of a car repairman, who was making a ton of money by fixing cars made by the burgeoning Chinese auto industry. China’s rise to global power was visible everywhere, the CCP, or Chinese Communist Party, made sure of that. On Li’s own street, Zongghuo Avenue, there were huge propaganda posters hanging from buildings, which were popping up like sunflowers in a field. China’s modernization was considered miraculous by many; in just 30 years, China’s GDP had increased tenfold; from a slummy third-world country to a massive industrialized Great Power. The military was no longer a ragtag band of socialist idealists; it was the now massive People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese counterpart to massive Soviet Red Army, which, after WWII, was awarded with most of the Middle East, save Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which became the Commonwealth of Arabic Nations, Manchuria, all of Eastern Europe, Mongolia, Finland and parts of northern Japan, which had been rebuilt by the absolutely massive U.S.A., which, after the war, took control of most of the Pacific, Caribbean, Hawaii, the Philippines and Okinawa, as well as Canada, Greenland and Iceland. Mexico, however, joined the United States of South America; which was on its way to becoming a very rich nation in its own right, as was the Union of African Republics. Western Europe had also unified into a very powerful state called the European Conglomerate, India unified with Pakistan and Kashmir. Finally, the non-Soviet parts of Scandinavia unified as well, under Sweden’s leadership. This “New Order” had been in place since 1947, and the global policy had been “peace at all costs, to avoid another Hitler or Mussolini.” As such, there had been no war since 1945. That didn’t stop nations from militarizing, however. The People’s Liberation Army Navy had built more than 80 brand-new ships in the past 15 years, and this growth wasn’t going to stop any time soon. Economists predicted that by 2100, China might have an economy so huge that it would reach the very limit of what the Earth could handle, as far as resources were concerned. Western-style neighborhoods were popping up everywhere you looked, huge skyscrapers were now all over China’s major cities; it was simply mind-boggling to think that in just three decades China had gone from rags to absolute riches. The USSR’s army now contained 9 million men, and the Air Force operated 8,000 aircraft; the Navy now operated 600 ships, but its rival, the U.S.A, operated close to 800. However that power was dwarfed by the third superpower, the British Empire and Commonwealth, operating nearly 900 ships. However, the numbers spoke for themselves: the world was now a much globalized, peaceful place. Li, however, had no motivation to attend university or any other institute of higher learning at the moment; he wanted was to work with machinery and computers, but he couldn’t figure out what he wanted to do at this time, despite the fact that he was a brilliant engineer and could pretty much fix anything.; He was consistently on the honor roll at school, he was extraordinarily remarkable in his abilities; he was extraordinarily intelligent, athletic and attractive; he had played tennis throughout high school and won several titles, making him appear very attractive to girls, at least on paper. Bizarrely, he hadn’t had a girlfriend since his first year at high school. This was most likely a result of the one, non-endearing qualities that he had: He was a total snob; no one was ever good enough for him, and he thought most girls were too whiny and annoying to be worth his time. The graduation ceremony ended, Li walked off the podium with his diploma toward his mom and dad. “Well, it looks like you’re done with school for good.” Li’s dad, Li Yao, said, referring to the fact that the younger Li didn’t want to attend college. “It’s time I teach you the tools of the trade. We’re going to fix cars now.” “Thanks, Dad.” The younger Li said, rather unexcited. As the ceremony ended, all three members of the Li family got into their car as Li senior drove Li and his mother home, through the busy, downtown sections of Tangshan, there were people riding bikes, street vendors were selling food, and armed People’s Armored Police guards were everywhere. They weren’t like the regular police; these MPs were essentially soldiers trained for the sole purpose of keeping civilians in line. They were a ubiquitous sight among major cities in China, keeping a watchful eye for any anti-government activities. There was also the ever-present stench of industry, the foundries, ironworks, and factories were rapidly booming, even through the depths of the global economic meltdown. Everything about China these days was big; the buildings, cities and military vehicles, the Chinese PLA had just begun producing the Type-99 MBT, a few of these were present in a lot by one of the foundries. As the car pulled into the driveway on the outskirts of the city, Li got out of his father’s car and looked around. His street was in a residential sector of Tangshan, it was a very Western, almost American style neighborhood, with houses that looked like a cross between traditional Asian architecture and Western designs. Their house was big, but not massive; it was a comfortable, homely place where Li had lived his entire life. Now, the time was approaching that all young Chinese men both loved and loathed in equal measure: leaving the house and building his own life. Once his dad showed him how to fix vehicles, Li would be essentially kicked out of his house, forced to make his own way. He had some money, but he didn’t know what to do with it yet. As soon as the car pulled up, however, the elder Li called his son over to the garage, where a broken, banged up car was being kept.

After about 3 hours, Li had fixed the car with his father’s guidance; and now that he had learned a trade, it was time for him to go. This would be his last day in his parents’ house. It was such short notice because his father really didn’t have to “teach” Li anything, he was already very proficient with cars and any other machine. However, with the booming Chinese job market, there would be no shortage of employment opportunities for Li, especially with his skills. As the late spring sun was setting, Li was called in for supper with his family.

The food was the usual fare, rice, vegetables and some fish, Li picked up his chopsticks and started to eat. “So, where are you headed? Are you planning on opening your own mechanic shop?” his father said. “Maybe. I might also work in the computer field, those are the jobs of the future, and they pay good money, one could eventually make a six-figure income easily with those jobs.” “Oh, don’t get caught up in this whole ‘progress’ mentality, we’ve always worked in the auto shop, my father, your grandfather, did. Besides, you might meet a girl around here.” “Yeah, right…like girls really go for guys that don’t even go to college.” Li said, sarcastically. “Well, tomorrow, you’ve got to let this indecisiveness go. We’ll give you some money, but you’re going to have to make your own money soon.” “All right, Dad, I know!” Li said, tired of being reminded of this principle. “Good.” Li went upstairs to his bedroom and started to pack up his things; most of the things in his room were nonessential items, such as his figurine collection on shelves that ran along the length of his room. He had hand-made all of these, not to mention his old schoolbooks, bits of electronic gadgetry that Li didn’t even remember owning or even what it was for, and book after book of computer programming techniques, he would often read these huge books for what he called “light reading;” he read the whole Webster’s dictionary, in both English and Chinese, 7 times, just to “boost his vocabulary,” He also had historical posters in his room, pictures of Mao, a Red Army poster from the USSR, and a copy of Mao’s “Little Red Book.” In addition to those, he also had one poster of the Chinese professional soccer team; the way he dressed and that poster were probably all there to accentuate his “snobbism” as his classmates often referred to it as. He was tall and lanky and extremely ectomorphic in build. However, he had learned to block it all out much earlier in his life; he was better than them, so why should he even care? As he packed up all of these essential items, he threw the junk away until his bedroom was empty, minus the dresser and a neatly-made bed. He got changed and went to sleep. He decided that to celebrate his emancipation from his parents’ home, he would head for the Southern Islands, just south of Hong Kong. This was a 6 hour plane ride, but it was worth a weekend in the hot spring spas and beach resorts that dotted the islands. He had enough money for a week’s stay there, but he would only be there for two days, as to not exhaust his entire cash supply.

The day dawned bright and early over Zongghuo Avenue, and the relative quiet of the morning that usually preceded the morning commute was shattered by the clanking of moving vans. All of Li’s things were placed in the vans; Li had already picked out a cheap apartment in the main residential district in the city of Tangshan itself; with the equivalent of U.S. $30 rent per month, it was a steal. As the movers loaded Li’s things into the truck, his father gave him a farewell gift; a black notebook that could be used as a journal, plus extra money, courtesy of his 90-year old grandfather. The doors to the truck closed, and Li got into the passenger seat in the cab. As the moving van rolled away towards the new apartment, he heard a CCTV radio broadcast describing a new leader in the Commonwealth of Arabic Nations, as the elder shah had since passed away. This new monarch, disturbingly, was calling for a return of Arab power against the “infidels” of the West, by creating an Arabic Union, similar to the European one. However, as long as the USSR was watching over the CAN like a hawk, this would never come to fruition. Communism kept the Arabs in check, as it did with the U.S.A. and U.S.S.A. The United States of South and North America were quickly gaining strength both militarily and economically; the USSA’s Navy would soon become a blue-water navy, capable of projecting power on a level similar to the United States Navy or the Soviet Navy. Li had learned about this in high school, how Deng Xiaoping reformed China’s economy, how the Soviets were China’s closest allies, and most importantly, according to the Communist Party of China, how Japan was an evil nation of monstrous war criminals. Despite the fact that hostilities between the former Empire of Japan and China ended more than 70 years before, China still showed a tremendous amount of animosity towards their Japanese neighbors, very recently, a Chinese document, published by the CCP and made required reading by all Chinese students, listing more than 500 reasons the Japanese should be “slaughtered like pigs,” according to the document. Two of the biggest “reasons” were the Rape of Nanking and the occupation of Manchuria, which, ironically wasn’t resented by the Soviet ownership at all. Li was totally in agreement with the government on this matter. Li’s great-grand mother was tortured and killed in a Japanese prison camp, and her town was completely burned to the ground by the Imperial Japanese soldiers. Now that China and the USSR had almost complete sway over the Far East, the Japanese would, hopefully, pay for their atrocities in blood. Various, extraordinarily racist or disgustingly violent depictions of Japanese people were posted everywhere as propaganda, and the Communist propaganda machine was vilifying and dehumanizing the Japanese people as a whole, similar to the way Adolph Hitler treated the Jews; there was also the ever-present anti-U.S. posters as well, these had really increased in frequency ever since the decision by the U.S. to sell weapons to Taiwan.

Li turned off the CCTV radio broadcasts as the truck pulled into the apartment block parking lot. The building was about 30 stories tall and his apartment was on the 25th floor. “Great…” Li thought, realizing that he would need to carry all of his things up 25 flights of stairs. Fortunately, when Li and the mover entered the rather nondescript, boring lobby, there were working elevators. Li noticed the picture of Mao Zedong hanging over the receptionist’s desk. Moving along, he brought his chair, couch and first three suitcases into the room, along with his computer. When he arrived at his apartment, he opened the door to a pleasant sight. It was a small studio apartment, but it was very well-lit, well-kept and air conditioned WITH heat. Li smiled at this site; things weren’t going to be much different living alone. The bed was going next to the window; the table for the computer was going at the head of the bead, to avoid him kicking it over in his sleep, like he did when he was 16, almost setting his parents’ house on fire. Before he had even moved all of his things into the apartment, he knew where everything was going to be placed.

After about 3 hours of unpacking, the room was set up, and the mover left in his van. Li was now really living alone! Not even 48 hours after his high school graduation, he was his own man, and now had to face the reality of being a man. The first thing on his mind was getting a job to maintain a steady source of income, and jobs were everywhere in China; the U.S.A. had entered a recession, giving Communism a rare opportunity to shine. Li’s intelligence and his class standing upon graduation would definitely earn him a good trade job, which would easily prepare him for a long, hopefully happy life. Since job opportunities were nearly limitless, especially in trade fields such as mechanics, a job was a relatively simple thing to find. Right now, Li was looking for a little fun, now that he was out of his parents’ house, he didn’t have to abide by their rules, as long as he didn’t break any laws, he was pretty much free to do whatever he wanted. He accessed the Internet, which was quite restricted in his country, but travel sites weren’t blocked by government restrictions. He looked up flights to Hong Kong, but then he noticed something strange: All of the flights were only 18 Yuan! “There must be some kind of glitch! Li though as he booked a flight to Tahiti for a week, even with the hotel stay and everything else, it would only cost 1500 Yuan, or $500, for the whole stay, and Li was giving more than 3600 Yuan for his parting funds. He quickly printed out the whole vacation package after booking it, and shut his computer down. His plane left the next day; so he left most of his clothes packed up in his suitcases. “This living alone business is going to be fun.” Li thought. However, he still had time to kill, so he decided to find something to eat near his apartment and get to know the neighborhood better. He took the elevator down to the lobby with some money and walked out into the street. The center city was a big change from his parents’ house; there were cars, bicycles and occasional food vendors everywhere. The stench of China’s booming industry was far more pronounced, mainly because there were factories about 3 blocks down from his apartment. Nevertheless, Li would quickly get used to it. As he walked down the sidewalk to the local deli, he noticed shops and posters of the current Miss China pageant winner, Iniki Yee, who, incidentally, was a member of the PLA Reserve Corps. Her hair was long and pretty, her eyes shone like emeralds, and her body was curvaceous as could be. Li realized that even he, the self proclaimed “genius,” with an IQ of 179, couldn’t get anywhere with her. Despite his ego, Li knew his limits. As he was thinking about this, Li walked up to the deli and got in line behind an old man with a PLA Red Army pin. “He must have been involved in one of Mao’s wars…” Li thought. He was the only one in line other than Li himself, and he ordered at the counter and sat down to eat. Li walked up to the counter. “What do you want?!” the old lady, who happened to be the Manager, barked. “Uhhhhh…a turkey sandwich…” Li stuttered, surprised at the cantankerousness of the manager. “Sorry, we don’t serve snotty kids here! Leave now!” “Is this your idea of good customer service?” Li said, sarcastically. “All right, you little worm, you asked for it!!” The manager pulled a rolling pin out of the drawer beneath the counter and proceeded to chase Li out of the store, swinging the rolling pin like a baseball bat; she broke several vases and knocked a bottle of orange juice over, shattering it on the floor. Not wanting to end up in the hospital on his first day living alone or missing his flight, he ran out the door.” “What was that hag’s problem?!” Li wondered, trying to catch his breath. The answer became clear when he looked at the deli’s name, written in both Chinese and English: LIN’S DELI. “Oh God no…” Li groaned. “Lin” referred to Mei Lin, his ex-girlfriend from high school. That “hag” was obviously Mei’s grandmother; Li and Mei had a huge fight and a bad breakup, apparently her family had still not forgotten or forgave. “Geez, get over it already…” Li remarked, almost ready to call the cops on the old lady over that attempted assault. However, this would do more harm than good in a social sense, as this would only get Mei angry at him again, as she would have definitely sided with her grandma on this matter, and it might bring old wounds gushing back to life, causing a major social breakdown…Li didn’t want that. He thought it was best to simply visit another deli, a wise decision if he didn’t want to start a family feud. He walked down the street, looking at the shops, until he found one that he was interested in: a computer shop, it had the latest laptops in the window, with the most expensive one having a touch screen and a voice recognition suite. Li was obsessed with fixing computers and machinery, so he quickly thought of ways to make this top of the line computer an unassailable idol of technological might, but he didn’t have the money to spare. He left the computer, waiting for when he got a job before he bought it. Still, he made note of where everything was on his new street, places to go and places to avoid. He checked his watch: 3:00 P.M. It was time he got back to his apartment and prepared for his cheap flight in the morning. He was extraordinarily relieved that things appeared to be looking up for him.

After a brief walk back home, avoiding going anywhere near the deli, Li walked back into the apartment building lobby very casually, he walked into the elevator and pushed the “25” button. In between the cheesy “elevator music” that was always playing in these elevators, an emergency broadcast came over the radio: “MASSIVE TERRORIST BOMB DETONATES IN JAPAN-MORE DETAILS LATER.” As soon as Li got up to his apartment, he ran through the door after fumbling to unlock it, and turned on the T.V. On every channel, the scene was the same. Burning, bloodied survivors were stumbling about through the burning Tokyo streets, dead, mutilated corpses littered the ground, and ruins of sparking, live power lines and buildings were everywhere. The newscaster on Xinhua News Network went into detail of the suddenness of the detonation, and the sheer size of the blast: more than 20,000 tons of TNT equivalency. The blast was almost as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb, which led to panic that this detonation that destroyed more than two-thirds of the Shinjuku District was in fact a nuclear bomb; decontamination teams were on the scene of the burning city, just in case that these rumors were true. Looking at this horror, Li felt vindicated. As a Chinese Communist, he viewed this type of terrorism as justice for the Japanese atrocities committed in WWII, but he was also curious as to who perpetrated the bombings. The Xinhua Network broadcaster also showed some obvious bias to the Chinese cause, as not once did he call the attacks “atrocious,” like every other news agency around the world did. The newscaster even made a subtle prod at the Japanese predicament, making a joke about an old man in the broadcast, struggling to get to his feet because of his burns; “Get up old man!” were the newscaster’s words, said in a very humorous tone. “That’s going to get a lot of controversy…” Li said to himself, trying not to smile at the extremely distasteful remark by the newscaster. Li began to think about whom the perpetrator was; the most obvious candidate was an Islamic terrorist group, such as Shah Mustafa, a terrorist group attempting to build a new Muslim order, but this would seem a little strange, Japan had never been the victim of an Islamic terrorist bombing, though stranger things have happened. Another possible suspect was Korea, completely occupied by the USSR; the Soviets had underground connections in Japan, and one of them could have easily purchased a cache of weapons from Moscow itself. Apparently, most Asian authorities as well as the USSR believed this to be the work Commonwealth of Arabic Nations terrorists, though the U.S.A. habitually blamed the USSR. After watching the broadcast for over an hour, Li turned off the T.V. and continued to pack for Tahiti. He still couldn’t believe his luck, glitches were common, but the odds of that glitch happening at the same time as Li was looking at the webpage were absolutely unreal. Just out of curiosity, Li checked back on the webpage and found that the glitch had been fixed. “Ha-ha…” Li thought. This was going to be an amazing vacation. Who knew what he would encounter.

2. Vacation

The next day dawned with a cold, dreary rain; nevertheless, Li was already packed and ready to go. He lived relatively close to Tangshan International Airport, and he had all of his travel bags packed; he had also brought his new diary that his father had given him. He was going to start writing it as soon as he reached Tahiti, which was a 9-hour flight over the South Pacific; Li was waiting under the awning outside the entrance to the apartment building. He had called a cab, and it should be arriving any time at that point. Lightning flashed on the horizon; this weather had a tendency to cause mudslides in some districts of the city, but his wasn’t one of them, so Li wasn’t worried. His taxi arrived just then, splashing Li with a puddle slightly. He shook the water off of his shoes and stepped into the cab. “Airport, please.” Li said. The cab took off at the usual breakneck speed; cabs in this part of town were always speeding. This may have been for the better, however, as the plane was leaving in a half-hour. As the taxi cab zoomed towards the AirPort, the radio was on; this broadcast was about the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan, they were investigating the tragic bombings of the previous day; they had already determined two things: The bomb was not nuclear in nature; it was a fire-bomb, and it was confirmed that terrorists, embedded in Japan itself, had detonated it. The issue at hand was that there was no indication of the organization responsible for the bombings. This was unlike anything that had ever happened before, Japan hadn’t seen this level of destruction since WWII. With the Tokyo bombings, the first truly violent act since the end of WWII had occured. The U.S. Navy in the Pacific was on high alert; B-52 bombers were flying around the clock from bases like Guam and Okinawa in a scene eerily reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which the USSR still refused to disclose any information about, even into the new millennium. Li listened intently to these broadcasts; as a result of the terrorist bombings, his flight may have been re-routed around the Korean Peninsula or Japan, putting the flight time to 11 hours as opposed to 9. The rain began to let up a bit as the taxi approached the airport; upon arrival at the gates, he paid the fare and took his luggage out of the car, walking into the terminal while trying to avoid stepping in the huge puddles, easier said than done with three suitcases. After standing outside in the rain for only about a minute, Li walked into the terminal, which was cool and air-conditioned. Quiet music played in the check-in lobby, punctuated by occasional announcements that a flight was running late or that a certain plane was boarding. The rug was orange and black, and there were little souvenir shops where people could buy all manner of goods and trinkets. Li walked quickly and purposefully past these shops and to the check-in counter. Passing first through the baggage security desk, Li approached the counter. “Flight 889 to Tahiti, please.” Li said as the clerk handed him his boarding pass. Li handed the clerk the tickets. “Gate 15.” the clerk said. Li checked his watch. The plane left in 15 minutes, and he was still a good 13 gates away. “Shit!” Li said to himself as he put his suitcases on the carousel and ran like a madman through the airport, tripping over his own two feet every few steps. Li thought about how much of an idiot he looked like; the sight of a young man running in a collared shirt, sweater vest, khaki pants and brown shoes would certainly draw some idle laughter. Li would think about that later, when he didn’t miss his plane. After about a 5 minute jog, he reached the terminal, just in time to start boarding. He stopped in line, out of breath, but still able to carry his carry-on luggage. He walked down the skybridge onto the huge A340 jet, and took the business-class seat by the window, looking out on the grey, gloomy tarmac under a steel-gray sky. There were planes from all over the world coming into the terminal, from America, India, Korea, Singapore and many other countries. Several “double-decker” planes were also parked a few gates down the terminal, these enormous planes were used for very long flights, like the kind that lasted more than 20 hours, such as from New York to Sydney. The plane began to rumble as the tugs pushed it away from the terminal, and began to push it along the runway. The plane began to taxi to Runway 4, behind 3 other planes; as the plane was taxiing down the runway, Li looked out the window at the PLAAF air base on the far side of the airport. There were several Ilyushin transport jets, a Soviet design, sitting on the tarmac, as well as the new C-98 bombers, a new, indigenous spinoff of the Soviet Tu-95 “Bear.” There were also new Chengdu J-11 air superiority fighters and an AWACS plane, also using an Ilyushin design, based there. Li looked at these planes for a minute, and then looked ahead as the plane’s seatbelts indicator winked on. Li fastened his seatbelt and listened to the instructions on what to do if an in-flight emergency arose, even though the odds of that happening were literally one in a billion. As the plane was called to the front of the line, its engines revved as it sped down the runway, and with a slight jolt, lifted off the ground and away from the Chinese motherland.

After the plane reached its cruising altitude, the T.V. screens switched to the news; the Chinese CCTV broadcast was showing how the first female President, a tightwad conservative named Sandra Paige, was pledging to support the American Japanese allies at any cost. Li was disgusted at even seeing that woman’s ugly, distorted face and her stupid, wide-rimmed glasses. It wasn’t only her ridiculously conservative agenda that irked China and the USSR to the nth degree. She was so dumb that she made some of the dumbest politicians in the world look like geniuses. Her shady politics, oppressive social policies, such as banning gay marriage completely, authorizing the teaching of biblical creationism as a reserved power in science classes, overturning the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and many other insane, ridiculous policies, fear-mongering and now, with a new flare-up between communism and capitalism came a return to a McCarthyism, with hundreds of people being arrested and imprisoned based on circumstantial evidence of treason; all of these policies were in the name of “Power, Security and Faith!!!” This had actually become the slogan for the American Presidency, replacing “E Pluribus Unum” as America’s motto. America was on the verge of Fascism. The only things missing were the huge military parades. The U.S.A. had control over more territory than the British Empire did at its peak; with the backing of the USSA and European Conglomerate, the West was a gargantuan imperialist war machine that was only serving to keep the proletariat oppressed. The Union of African Republics, however, lay within the Soviet sphere of influence, giving the Communist bloc additional power, but the power fielded by the Western “First World” countries was unassailable. Li hated the term. For a group of nations to call itself “the First World” was beyond arrogant, labeling the USSR and its allies as “second world” was effectively calling them second-class powers, inferior to the “more civilized” Western nations. As a result of Paige’s presidency, China and the USSR were now added to the infamous “Axis of Evil” list; doing this was frowned upon even by Republicans, for fear of upsetting the basis of the New Postwar Order, “peace at all costs.” Paige, however, didn’t care. A clear dividing line, analogous to the Iron Curtain, was developing between the East and West; with the USSR, China, the CAN, and the Union of African Republics on the Eastern side, and the U.S.A., Japan, the USSA and the European Conglomerate on the Western side. Thankfully, the news broadcast switched off and the movie started before Li’s head exploded from the right-wing American imperialist propaganda. Li opened his travel brochure for Tahiti and saw the hotel that he’d be staying at: the Polynesian Princess Resort and Spa. The one thing he looked forward to the most, however, was the fishing. Li was an avid fisherman since the age of 5, when his father took him fishing in the Huang He using a simple hand line. He only caught a small catfish, but it hooked him for life. In the 13 years since then, he had fished all over China, catching such fish as tilapia, catfish and even a very rare Chinese sturgeon; he turned this fish over to the Beijing National Aquarium for preservation, where the fish still resided, at least as far as Li knew, he hadn’t been to the capital since he was 15, when he caught the fish in the first place. However, he had his surf-fishing rods packed, along with his favorite lures. He was hoping for a Giant Trevally, called ulua in the local language; these were the top inshore gamefish there, but just offshore, large sharks, such as Tiger Sharks and smaller ones such as White-Tip Reef Sharks, including the occasional huge Mako and huge Blue Marlin, resided. Li rarely fished from a boat, he was more of a beach fisherman; he had little experience with offshore species, but Tahiti had such steep underwater drop-offs that huge sharks would come right up to the beach at night, as well as the occasional 800-lb nocturnal Broadbill Swordfish. These huge fish could be seen cruising leisurely in the shallow lagoons, looking for food on moonlit nights. Tahiti also boasted a large population of Green and Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, these were likely to come ashore at any time, but they did not mass-nest like the population that came ashore in Costa Rica. As the plane reached its cruising altitude, the seatbelt signs switched off, and Li began to watch the movie, which, incidentally, was terrible. It was noon; therefore it would be nearly 9:00 P.M. by the time the plane arrived in Papeete, the capital of Tahiti. The Polynesian Princess Resort wasn’t in one of the very tourist-ridden areas of the island, but in a more secluded, prettier place on the island. However, Li had some time to think about what he was going to do for his week in paradise. He closed his eyes and went to sleep.

“Did I sleep the whole way through?” Li asked himself, groggily, as the intercom announced that the plane would be landing in 15 minutes. Li looked out the window at the lights of the airport runway approaching on the horizon. He fastened his seatbelt and prepared for the pressure difference in landing, it often caused ear-splitting pain. Fortunately, he had pills that would prevent this from happening that he took before the flight; he hoped they hadn’t worn off. As the plane made its final approach, the medicine still worked, thankfully. The plane touched down with a thud and slowly came to a stop; it taxied down to Terminal A, Gate 5. He couldn’t see much at night, but he did see the outline of palm trees along the runway. As the plane docked with the gate, the pilot wished all the passengers a “wonderful stay in Tahiti: Mahalo to all of you.” “That is so lame…” Li remarked about the cheesiness of the pilot’s comments. He stood up, his legs quite wobbly from sitting in a chair for 9 hours, and walked down the skybridge out into the airport terminal. It was quite different than the one in Tangshan; there were potted palm trees forming a continuous line down the main concourse center, with cheesy beach music playing over the intercom, punctuated by the rather muffled, inaudible announcements whenever a plane was leaving or arriving. Li walked down the concourse to the baggage claim carousel, his suitcase would be easy to locate; it was so huge that the baggage handlers had trouble moving it. It was incredible that they even let Li bring it onto the plane. He hadn’t lifted it yet, so he wondered if he could even carry it. The carousel moved quickly as the other passengers picked up their luggage, but then it started to move very slowly as Li’s enormous suitcase came out of the baggage chute. As the thing moved towards Li, the conveyor belt simply couldn’t stand the weight. It jammed and broke, causing a chorus of groans and moans; he tried to grab the suitcase but could barely lift it off the conveyor belt, especially now that he was so groggy. Just then, a man came over pushing a hand truck and helped put the suitcase onto it; once again, Li looked ridiculous walking through the airport, this time not tripping over his own two feet, but carrying all of these smaller bags, but needing a hand truck to carry his suitcase. However, it was relatively easy. The check-in hours for his hotel were over, so he was placed in the small hotel by the airport until the following morning. He made his way to the taxi, and it drove away to the hotel, the Airport Inn, where many people were staying because of the bizarre policy of check-ins only going past a certain time; perhaps it was for security reasons? Either way, it was only temporary. The radio was on: More terrible news. Apparently, Princess Miku of Japan, the 20-year old daughter of the Japanese Emperor and Empress, had disappeared on a trip with her boyfriend to the Korean S.S.R.; her boyfriend, a very well known Soviet oil baron’s son, Nikita, was distraught; however, despite his deep regret for Miku’s disappearance, some of the authorities weren’t buying it. Nikita was a very handsome, but very…odd. He walked around town in a black suit, trench coat, black bowler hat and a walking cane, often made weird, sick jokes about murder and murderers throughout history, such as random Jack the Ripper jokes, and drew hideous pictures of murder; he was a poet as well, but he seemed to be obsessed with murder and death. He definitely fit the classic profile of a killer, but the Japanese National Police Agency had only circumstantial evidence to go by, therefore no arrests could be made. Furthermore, Nikita was in the USSR at this point; this complicated things even more, as the Soviets would never extradite a Soviet citizen to a capitalist country, period. This meant that even if Nikita was guilty; unless the USSR decided to try Nikita in a Russian courthouse, Japan wouldn’t be able to do a thing about this matter. The only weapon Japan had against the mighty Soviet Bear was the fact that Japan was also a member of the G-7; therefore, it could rally its Western allies in Europe and the U.S.A. to pressure the USSR to try Nikita for murder, however, if China decided to back the Soviets, which it inevitably would in this scenario, the West would be forced to negotiate with China and the USSR, which would obviously get America and Europe nowhere. As frightening as it seemed, the reality was this: Peace was no longer assured. For the past eight decades, no major wars had occurred, and economies continued to grow, assured to the fact that war would not disrupt anyone’s lives. Now, people weren’t so sure. With the crisis in Japan, the peace that had characterized the world for so long was now beginning to crumble. Needless to say, the situation involving Miku’s disappearance wasn’t going to be a simple “whodunit” murder case; the NPA Chief of Police was calling this “the biggest wild goose chase since the hunt for the Bismarck in WWII.” Li paid close attention to this broadcast, as this was quite similar to the 1914 assassination of Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princep, which, of course, triggered the First World War. Could something similar happen because of Miku’s kidnapping and likely murder? It wasn’t likely, despite the new “Iron Curtain” between the East and the West, as neither bloc wanted to risk war against the other; but there were three likely points of attack into areas that weren’t part of either bloc, and therefore immune to the “collective response” provision, in which an attack on one bloc-member nation was considered an attack on all. These “hot spots,” as they were called, were Israel and Japan; each of these nations were independent and not part of any bloc, and they were within easy reach of the Eastern Powers, which America obviously didn’t want. As the taxi pulled up to the inn, he pulled his ridiculously large suitcase out of the trunk of the car, which was sagging noticeably from the weight of the huge bag. Li brought his things into the small, but still comfortable hotel. He looked at a map of Tahiti, and he saw where the hotel he would be checking into the next morning was: it was on a very remote area of the island, far away from any roads; the only way in was by floatplane! Li walked up to the counter and received his room key. As he walked to his room on the first floor, he picked up the newspaper in front of his door; it was about the kidnapping, bombing and possible war that could result from the fallout of these events, but Li tried not to think about global events, for now. He was on island time now, for a week. However, he did notice that a small tropical depression had formed about 300 miles west of Hawaii on the weather page. This was no problem, however, as the storm was expected to weaken upon hitting the cooler water in its path. Li entered the hotel room; it was a cozy, 2-bed room with red carpet and bamboo blinds on the windows, comfortable, but far from as comfortable as where he would be staying. It was close to 10:00 P.M. Li decided to turn on the T.V; he wanted to see the developing situation in Japan, where the security situation was becoming critical. Even though he was on vacation, he wanted to see what was going on in the rest of the world, despite his efforts not to care. What he saw was astonishing. With the rising dominance of the USSR and China in the Far East, the Japanese Diet was on the brink of collapse; the yen had just crashed that day; a massive sell-off occurred when it was obvious that Japan’s massive public debt was strangling the Japanese economy dead; the Japanese yen was now worthless. This was the exact same effect that took place after WWI in Germany, which allowed Fascist governments to take power in beleaguered nations such as Germany and Italy. There were images of people rioting in the streets of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. No country on Earth was safe from the aftereffects from this financial collapse. Some were affected more than others; The U.S, with its massive economic power, was able to stave off a cataclysmic crash at the last second, but Asian markets, including China, crashed as well; the Chinese government, for the first time, had to call upon its massive trade reserves to stave off a massive recession, as did Europe, the USSA and the Union of African Republics. India, Scandinavia and the Commonwealth of Arabic Nations, however, fell drastically. However, this crash only served to further bolster the invincibility of the Postwar Order. Even with a major collapse, all of the major world powers were relatively unaffected. Also, an economic boom of epic proportions had just occurred, even at the height of the Japanese collapse. The USSR’s massive oil reserves were quickly proving their value, as Japan, now desperate for medical supplies, energy and food for its rapidly crumbling infrastructure, turned to the USSR for more than 95% of its oil, now that the Muslim Iranian Republic was boycotting the selling of oil to the West; it received its primary oil income from China. The USSR posted absolutely enormous gains virtually overnight, with the Soviet GDP predicted to reach $18 trillion within six months, from $10 trillion just a few weeks before. The per-capita income was expected to rival that of the U.S.A.’s in three years, up to $38,000 and on basis of purchasing power parity, become by far the largest economy in the world, at $20 trillion; assuming the oil and energy situation continued its current path. On a very predictable note, Soviet Premier Vladimir Gavrilovitch stated that “all manner of measures would be taken to keep the Imperialist West at bay.” Li could easily see where this was going. An arms race between the West and East was imminent. This was only accentuated by the fact that the USSA and European Conglomerate were entering on the side of the U.S.A.; the USSA had just launched its first two supercarriers, at 95,000 tons a piece, the Minas Gerias-class carriers would operate indigenously-manufactured Matador-II 5th-generation fighters. This arms race was an ominous sign that the world peace was coming to an end. Li, as a Chinese citizen, couldn’t help but wonder what this meant for him; would he be drafted into the PLA? Would he be forced to work in defense plant? Li didn’t know. Li quickly turned off the T.V, subconsciously anticipating that the crumbling world order would be fixed by the T.V. turning off. He knew, however, that this action would have no effect on the situation. What he was seeing was real. History books would have to be re-written. Li turned off the light and got into bed, regretting that he turned the news on. Sometimes ignorance really was bliss. Li would definitely have a tough time getting to sleep tonight.

Li’s first day in Tahiti dawned gloriously. It was 10:00 A.M, and his floatplane left in about 2 hours. Li decided to explore Papeete a little bit. When he walked out of the hotel, the first thing that hit him was the heat. It was only 10:00 A.M, and the temperature was 30o Celsius. Li had never felt this hot in his entire life, even though he was wearing shorts and a collared short-sleeve shirt, it was nearly unbearable at first, but he gradually got used to it. Once the heat became tolerable, the true beauty of the environment revealed itself. There was a sweet, salty breeze rushing through the huge hibiscus flowers, the gentle sounds of the waves breaking on the nearby shoreline, and the songs of birds and insects filled the crystal-clear blue sky. Cicadas sung in the trees. “And this is only the urbanized part of the island…” Li thought, still trying to take this bountiful island scenery in. As he began walking through the town, however, he saw a very anachronistically-dressed young man walking towards him. He was dressed in a very sophisticated 15th-century Medici aristocrat, with the red robes and black uniforms with a feathery ruff around the collar of the robe. He looked like a character from Romeo and Juliet. He walked up to Li and stood in front of him. “Greetings. I am Victor Alighieri, it a pleasure to meet you. And you are…” “Li. Li Wang.” Li replied. “Oh, so you’re from China. It’s quite prosperous over there, as I have heard.” “Yes indeed. Our economy is growing at a rate of 10% almost every year, and by the sound of your name, I can gauge that you are from Italy.” “Yes sir, I’m from the ancient Immortal City of Rome, the birthplace of European society. However, I have realized one thing. This world, it is…broken. Death, crime, murder, war, pogroms, Holocausts, atomic bombs and misery, these are the hallmarks of our modern society. This horror, however, is caused only by a few disgusting people, and these festering vessels of disgusting ooze have rotted the world as much as it can possibly rot. What I’m saying is that the world needs to undergo truly profound reform, to make a world where everyone lives in harmony, no war, rage, anger, hate, envy, or sadness. The Christian Bible states that this can only happen when God wills it, but I believe it can happen sooner. Call me a heretic, but the Bible is lacking in logic tremendously.” “I’ll say…” Li remarked, adhering firmly to China’s atheist policy. “Also, the Bible has been interpreted in literally thousands of ways, so it’s impossible to get a straight answer on any biblical matter.” Just then, Victor’s watch alarm beeped, sort of bizarre on a man that looked like he had stepped out of the 1400s. “I must be going now. Remember: All things have a logical explanation. Do not fall for the Christian masses’ tricks.” Victor said as he ran towards the harbor about a half-kilometer away. “Wow…what a weirdo…” Li thought. He was right; Victor was perhaps the most bizarre person Li had ever met, he was definitely atheist, no doubt about it, but other than that, Li didn’t know what to make of him. However, he shared a common belief with Victor that science and technology was eclipsing Christianity and religion in general; a new era of “scientism” was starting to throw religion and church to the wastebasket of history, and China was openly stating its “no religion, ultra-secular” state policies to the world. More than 98% of China was completely atheist, as was nearly 40% of Europe and more than 70% of Asia, including the entire USSR. The U.S.A. was really the only major power that had really fought tooth and nail to hang onto its moral, religious values, especially under Sandra Paige’s presidency. Altogether, more than 40% of the world was atheist or agnostic, and that number was rapidly growing with the coming of the “new Enlightenment,” as the champions of the movement, including a new poster girl for the atheist movement, a 19-year old Soviet defector named Dorota Wolkosky, she was considered the “Jesus Christ of Atheism;” she was only 14 when she published her first book on politics and religion; the book, called the Atheist Manifesto, received immediate global attention. It was considered to be the “biggest attack against faith since Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.” Those who supported the book called Dorota a genius, those who didn’t, called her the Sinner, or the Beast. As a matter of fact, one famous conservative pundit in America even called for an assassination order against the “Soviet Whore of Babylon,” as the pundit called her, despite that she was only 14, barely done with her freshman year of high school. The USSR cried foul at this statement, despite the fact that Dorota was considered a criminal for defecting; the then-Democratic President issued a formal apology to the USSR, condemning the pundit’s behavior. There was little doubt in Li’s mind that the current President would not have been so apologetic. Li thought about all of these events as he walked through the blazing sun, past row after row of sweet-smelling flowers and palm trees. He realized that the global situation wasn’t going to improve as long as this West v. East arms race was concerned, but he couldn’t trouble himself with such issues. However, at this point, Tahiti was now under the American sphere of influence; it was now considered a “national security outpost;” as such, there were U.S. military personnel in Papeete all the time, he walked past one of the military satellite uplink stations on the island, and got a very condemning look from the U.S. Marine standing guard at the door, the kind that just screamed “I’m better than you, stupid chink.” Li ignored the Marine’s gaze and continued his walk. He was still curious, however, as to what the Victor character was up to. He obviously had ulterior motives; why would he come waltzing right up to Li unannounced? It was too weird. As Li walked over to the market area, he saw people selling their wares; the local population’s main sustenance was fishing. Li took note of all the fish species in the market, such as jacks, rainbow runners, and groupers, some of which were absolutely huge. Li looked at a large, mackerel-like fish, called a Tanguigue in the local language, but “Indo-Pacific Mackerel” in English. They were found very close to shore in some areas, but they rarely grew past 15 kilos. The real prizes were the Giant Trevally inshore, and the marlin and swordfish offshore. Li, however, was not limited to the land when fishing; he was a certified scuba diver and was quite experienced in spear-fishing. He had logged more than 30 dives, and had come up with some very impressive catches; some of his biggest fish were caught while diving, including an 8-foot Wolf Herring; these weren’t very heavy, but they were long and muscular, therefore they put up quite a struggle on a spear. However, he had no idea as to what he would find down there on the reef, even though the island was relatively well-explored, there were some parts of the reef, like near the Polynesian Princess Resort, that were rarely visited by people or boats. That is where Li was going to be diving, for sure. There was a dive center where he could rent equipment for a day’s diving, and he had brought his own spear-fishing set, though it took a while for this to be approved by security at the airport. Li checked the time-30 minutes until the plane left. Li realized that he needed to get bag to the inn soon, so he ran back, through the market; Li had the nasty habit of losing track of time, especially when he was engrossed in a new experience. However, he needed to catch the plane, so he was very quick. He ran back to the hotel, grabbed his things and took them to the seaport, where the airplane was taking off from. He arrived, stepped into the plane, and the plane took off shortly afterward, bound for the resort.

3. Island

After a 30 minute plane ride, the plane landed outside the sparkling, shimmering resort. The main building was huge; it was a grand, regal hotel that looked like a hotel from Las Vegas. There was a bathhouse, 12 pools, beaches, and the most amazing gardens Li had ever seen, there were hibiscus flowers, lilies, orchids, honeysuckles and all manner of plants organized into beautiful shapes; the garden was an architectural feat in itself. There were also trails that led along the beaches and the hotel complex itself, there were outdoor restaurants, bars and cheery music playing all the time. As the plane came in for a landing Li was amazed at his luck. The discovery of the glitch in China, not missing his flight, and now staying at one of the most beautiful hotels on Earth, what more could he get? The plane landed at the dock, and Li stepped out of the plane with his enormous suitcase, it made a loud bang as it hit the wooden boards, for a second, Li thought it was going to collapse; falling into the ocean was not a fun way to start a vacation. As Li walked past the beautiful gardens, he noticed something. There were pictures of Lenin everywhere. For a second, Li thought he was in Russia, where there were also pictures of Lenin everywhere. “Why is Lenin’s picture up everywhere?” Li asked a bellhop. “Oh, we’re run by a Russian woman and everyone who works here is atheist” “You mean to say that this place is entirely run by communists and atheists?” “Yes, and according to most Americans, including the base stationed here, we’re a bigger “Sin City” than all of Vegas combined. Since the proprietor is an American citizen, however, they can’t kick us off the island. But we don’t care about those religious, Bible-sucking morons, do we?” “I guess so.” Li said, finally realizing that he was away from the conservative, right-wing agenda that was plaguing the planet with lies and fear-mongering, at least for a week. This hotel was going to be a lot of fun; perhaps he’d meet some new friends? “Well, have a great stay!” the bellhop announced. Li walked into the hotel and found himself in a summer’s paradise. There were fountains in the main hall, encircling a huge grotto filled with tropical plants; there were koi in the grotto pond, some of which were truly huge. Li walked past these fountains and up to the check-in desk, where he stood in line to receive his room key. The line wasn’t very long, however, so he was called relatively quickly. “Your room is 1520 on the 12th floor. Enjoy your stay!” the clerk said. The bellhop proceeded to place Li’s things on a luggage trolley, and brought the enormous suitcase and all of the smaller bags into the elevator, which groaned under the suitcase’s weight. “What the heck did you pack in there? A planet?” “Yes, sir, a planet…” Li said, sarcastically. Fortunately, before an argument with the bellhop could start, the very fast-moving elevator reached the 12th floor. The luggage was rolled towards the hotel room, until he reached the door: “1520-Non-Smoking.” the door read, along with the directions for a fire escape and a reversible sign on the handle that said “Do Not Disturb.” Li swiped his card, and entered the room. It was a beautiful hotel room, with fake palm tree leaves over the beds, a balcony overlooking the lagoon, a full-sized fridge and a kitchen. The bellhop rolled the luggage in and off the trolley. “Have a good stay…rotten kids…” the bellhop said, quietly as he walked away. “Geez…grumpy much?” Li remarked at the bellhop’s cantankerousness. Li shut the door and laid down on his bed, It had been a long morning, and Li just wanted to unpack and relax. He opened his huge suitcase first, unpacking his fishing rods, spear kit, and most of his clothes; he placed these in the drawers in his room. He unpacked in a matter of 6 minutes; Li was always the type of person to “get it done yesterday.” After he was all squared away, he laid down on the bed again, this time to take a nap. He opened the balcony window and quickly fell asleep, with the gentle lapping of the waves and the warm, tropical breeze, plus the sound of…Russian folk music?! Li was immediately awakened by the sound of a Russian folk song; he recognized it as “The Birch Tree,” an old song from the 1970s. “Where is that music coming from?” Li said, groggily. He stood up from the bed and walked over to the balcony, to hear the song coming from a tall, pagoda-like tower in the center of a courtyard; it was really, really loud. “Turn that shit off!! Li cursed, yelling at the tower fruitlessly. It wasn’t like anyone in there was going to hear him anyway. Li had no choice but to close the balcony door. At least the place was air conditioned. He was now, at this point, itching to fish, so he decided to walk down to the more remote stretch of beach, away from the loud music of beachgoers, screaming children and obnoxiously egotistical “beach brutes” that tried to pick up every woman they saw. Besides, there were far too many people on this section of beach to make a cast without hooking someone’s pants, or worse. Li saw the resort-owned black-sand beach end about 300 yards down, there, it was all wild. It wasn’t private property, but it wasn’t owned by the Polynesian Princess Resort, and it was near a huge section of rarely-fished reef. Besides the Giant Trevally, there were various, equally massive species, such as the Greater Amberjack, these grew to 90 kg, or close to 200 lbs, along with large inshore shark species, such as Tiger and Bull Sharks. As most of the fishing was done by actually wading into the water to get the lures out to the reef, Li had to be very watchful for sharks. However, sharks weren’t the only peril. There were also highly venomous Box Jellyfish, as well as Stonefish. Li had to watch where he put his feet. However, the local marine wildlife wasn’t much of deterrent, as, like all fishermen, Li had a single-minded mentality; when he was fishing, he was completely oblivious to anything around him. He would risk getting stung by a jellyfish or stonefish to catch a big Trevally or Amberjack any day. As he continued his walk down the beach, he passed a sign that read: “LEAVING RESORT BEACH AREA; SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK.” That was no barrier for Li; he was now in a very quiet, secluded part of the beach, with only the muffled voices and sounds of the beach and the wind whistling through the fishing line on Li’s fishing rod. He found a likely spot near a large, offshore hole in the reef, a likely place to find big, predatory fish. Li set his tackle box on the black sands, and set up his fishing rod. He tied a very shiny, very flashy lure onto the end of his line; the fish in Tahiti were very attracted to silver, flashy lures. He waded into the water, which was devoid of waves thanks to the reef creating a natural seawall from the pounding rollers of the Pacific Ocean. He didn’t lift his feet up off the bottom, lest he step on a stingray; he shuffled his feet along the bottom. Once he was up to his waist in the water, Li flipped the bail arm on his spinning reel and cast the lure out, right into the deep part of the lagoon. “Perfect cast…” Li thought as the lure made a small splash into the azure waters. Li started a slow retrieve, jerking the rod tip from side to side, trying to imitate a wounded fish, and reeled it faster as the lure entered shallower water, over the reef as to not get snagged on sharp coral. He did this once…then twice…then three times…such was the monotony of fishing. There was one thing that broke the sleepy rhythm of the waves breaking on the reef offshore and the warm, tropical ocean water lapping at his waist. A round object began to emerge from the water; at first Li assumed it to be a rock or a piece of jetsam, but it became clear as to what it was very quickly: a huge Green Sea Turtle. These turtles were likely to come ashore at any time during the year, but they never mass-nested in the numbers seen at the arribada in Costa Rica, where thousands of these ancient reptiles would emerge from the surf to lay their eggs all at once. This lone female was probably doing just that. After watching the turtle for a while, Li returned to fishing. He kept casting and casting, not catching anything. After fishing the same spot for 30 minutes, he assumed that there were simply no fish in that spot, as any predatory fish passing through would have gone for the lure had it seen it. Li moved about 100 yards down the beach, hoping that he’d have better luck in that spot; there was a hole in the reef out at sea, and fish would be waiting for prey items washing in from the open sea. He knew that sharks were often present in these murky, silt-stained sections of water, so he opted not to stand in the water here, lest he have his foot bitten off by a Tiger Shark or some other huge, monstrous predator. He stood on the sand and casted his line out; it didn’t go as far, but it hit the water a decent distance out. Li began the same, repetitive slow retrieve, then speedy one over the coral yet again. After 3 casts, he was reeling his lure through the murky murk when he felt a strong yank in the opposite direction. Li set the hook in the taker’s mouth faster than one could blink. This fish had ideas of its own, however. It went straight for the reef, with Li tightening the drag slightly as to not let the fish cut the line on sharp coral. The fish, as expected, stopped running. The next phase of the fight involved the fish spinning and shaking its head like a pit bull ripping a chew toy to shreds. Li was very careful not to put too much pressure on the fish; this would break the line under the sheer force of the pulling on the fish’s part. After a brief but intense battle, it became clear to Li that this fish wasn’t very big. His suspicions were confirmed when a 2 kg Bluefin Jack, a close relation to the huge Amberjacks than swam in these seas, came to the beach. It was about the size of a watermelon, but had big teeth and was extraordinarily powerful for a fish of its size. The Jack flopped around on the beach uncontrollably at first, but once Li gently placed his foot on top of the fish, it calmed down. Li pulled pliers out of his gear box and swiftly unhooked the fish. Li threw the fish back into the water with equal speed; he was happy to have caught something, but Bluefin Jacks were “garbage” fish, as far as most sport fishermen were considered.

Li had been fishing for 7 hours, and had caught nothing except for a 2 kg dink. It was 5:00 P.M, and the sun was starting to set; it was fall in Polynesia, as Tahiti lay in the Southern Hemisphere. Li had already de-rigged his fishing rod and was just sitting on the beach, watching the sun set. He had never seen such a magnificent array of colors in the sky, the oranges, yellows and purples reflected off the serene Pacific lagoon, as well as the tumultuous seas beyond the reef. The moon was rising as a huge, orange disk in the sky behind him; it was a full moon. As the sun disappeared, the stars came out as the dark, sacred tropical night invaded the sky. Li decided to get up and walk back to the hotel; just as he was doing so, he suddenly heard music playing further down the beach. It was faint, but music nonetheless. Curious, Li picked up his gear and walked towards the source of the music. As he got closer to the source of the music, it sounded like tropical, steel-drum music, like the kind you’d expect on a tropical island. Just then, Li felt a very creepy, prickly sensation on the back of his neck, as if…he was being watched. He turned around, what he saw terrified him. It was a very tall man riding a horse, he had a huge Landsknecht had, an assault rifle slung across his back, and a huge black and brown outfit, he had a black cape and huge spikes coming out of his shoulder pads, as well as face tattoos. His hat even appeared to have eyes. “What the hell?!” Li yelled at the top of his lungs. “Are you the Headless Horseman, or something?! KEEP BACK!!” Li panicked. “Well, if that were the case, I’d have no head. Clearly your eyes aren’t working properly.” the man said in a very deep, throaty voice. “And it’s funny that you mention evil, because I’m an absolute expert on that subject!” the talking hat said, in a very wiseacre tone. “What the hell?!” “I know about that too!” the hat interjected. “Quiet, Ludwig! I need to speak here!” “Sorry…” the hat said as its googly eyes closed. “I am Adolph von Eisenstein, a hunter of the supernatural creatures; vampires, werewolves, ghosts, angels, demons, they have ALL met their ends by my hands…” “So you kill ghosts?” Li said, astonished. “In a matter of speaking. I am a bounty hunter that operates in the name of anyone who will pay me the most. I am immune to the supernatural beings’ magic, and I make quite a bit of money on arresting or terminating supernatural ner’ do wells.” Li attempted to take this all in. As a Chinese citizen of the Communist Party, he didn’t believe in ghosts or anything divine or supernatural. It was just folk tales. “I don’t believe you. You’re just probably some goof dressed as some supernatural bounty hunter who’s going to pull some sort of joke on me.” Li remarked, snobbishly. “You’d best believe in ghost stories…you’ve just entered one.” Adolph replied before spurring on his horse off in the other direction at breakneck speed. Li didn’t know what to think about this. Did he really just see a ghost hunter? Was everything he said true? If Adolph was right, it would change the fabric of world history forever. For this very reason, Li could never disclose this information to anyone. He’d be committed if he did. However, the music that he was following in the first place was getting louder, so he continued down the beach, until he reached a small path leading into the thick groves of palm trees and various other plants along the beach. The path seemed to lead into complete darkness, but the music was getting louder; it was playing very cheesy “beach hippie” music. “Geez, this music is lame…” Li said to himself. He realized now that what he was about to run into was probably a bunch of guys his age smoking weed or drinking beer, like a bunch of worthless bums. “Probably American…” Li thought, in his usual snobby demeanor. As he approached the source of the “lame” music, he saw what looked like a door…in the middle of a tree trunk. “It’s a door…on a tree…strange.” Li said out loud. He definitely heard the music at this point; however, the music style had changed considerably. It was now playing old 1940’s-era swing music. Unable to resist the temptation to investigate further, Li took the doorknob and opened the door with a slow creak…

4. Pineapple

When he opened the door, Li stepped into a comfortable, very warm room. The light was blaringly bright; there were heat lamps lighting the entire room, which served two purposes, to heat the room, and to provide light, but it was a little…too much. When Li really looked at the place, it appeared booby-trapped. The ceiling fan was installed crooked; it was sparking as it spun, the heat lamps were far too bright, and when Li went to sit in one of the wicker, wooden chairs, it collapsed under his weight, the legs had been installed wrong. “Whoever built this place is not handy…” Li remarked at the shabbiness of the place. Just then, the record player, the source of the music, began playing Russian folk tunes again. “Oh, jeez it’s the guy from the hotel…” Li said. Just then, Li heard shuffling footsteps walking towards him, “Oh jeez…hide!” Li thought, still anticipating a bunch of drunken idiots to appear out of the hallway leading away from the room Li was currently standing in. Instead, however, a stunningly beautiful young black-haired woman, dressed in a bikini top and lovely, flower patterned sarong, walked into the room and immediately saw Li standing there.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKK!!!” the young woman squealed. She picked up a pineapple from the fruit bowl on one of the rickety tables and threw it directly at Li’s face! “No, not in the face-OOOF!” Li yelled just as the 3-lb fruit hit him square in the nose. Li was knocked unconscious.

“Is he dead?!” “Please wake up! Wake up!!” Li felt someone shaking him as he came to… Li opened his eyes and saw 4 more girls, just as pretty as the one that threw the fruit at him. “He’s alive!” one of the girls yelled. “Ehhh…” Li groaned. His face was covered in blood; the pineapple thrown at him had lacerated his face and gave him a serious bloody nose. “Are you ok?” one of the girls asked, sweetly. “I guess…” Li said as he staggered to his feet, making his nose bleed again. “Take this, it’ll help with the bloody nose.” one of the girls said, kindly offering Li a small, apple-like fruit. Li bit into it, and immediately experienced a very acrid taste in his mouth; Li gagged as he swallowed it, but the nosebleed stopped within minutes!” “Yuck…” Li said. “Here’s some water.” One of the other girls rushed over to Li and gave him a glass of spring water. Li drank it, and the acrid taste dissipated. “That fruit is a natural anticoagulant. It stops bleeding very quickly.” the girl said. Just then, a man walked into the room, dressed in Soviet military uniform. He had a black Soviet “winter coat” over the uniform, like the kind that the Soviet soldiers would often wear in winter, and a beret with a communist hammer and sickle symbol on the front of the hat. He was extraordinarily handsome, and he appeared to be quite a swooner with the ladies as well. He had black hair combed over to the side, just visible under his hat. “Dorota, who is this?” the young man asked, very snidely. “Oh, this is Li…I threw a pineapple at his face by mistake…” “Oh, you silly woman.” he joked. Dorota giggled. “Seta Asoka Kanagashima III, you are too much!” Dorota said, laughing. “Careful, Li, she’s a little intoxicated right now…” Kanagashima said. Li didn’t have to be a genius to figure that out… “Why is he dressed like a Soviet soldier?” Li asked, puzzled. “Oh, there was a huge costume contest at the hotel down the beach; it ended a few hours ago, and he dressed as a Soviet soldier. He’s a nice guy; don’t let his quirkiness lead you the wrong way.” one of the girls said. “Ok…” Li said, still puzzled, but entertained at the sight of a guy from who knows where dressed as a Communist soldier dancing with a drunken Polack; she must have been the owner of the place, and therefore the author of the book, Atheist Manifesto. Li would like to see her when she wasn’t drunk, however, so that they could chat about her book. At this point, however, she was so hammered that she was practically tripping over her own two feet. The other four girls, however, we trying to get to know Li better. “I’m Gabrielle, and these are my friends, Dorota, whom you’ve already met, Lily, Kiki and Joanna.” Li didn’t know what to think about this. He had stumbled into a wild party with five gorgeous young women and this weird communist wannabe that had some serious egotism issues, judging by the way he was speaking. Just then, Gabrielle touched his arm, and Li suddenly felt warm and “floaty” inside, as if he was drunk or under the influence of some drug. It was strange, but it ended shortly after Gabrielle removed her hand from his arm. Li said hello to all four of the other girls, but he felt rather out of place at this party. Li decided it was time to get up and leave, so he told the four girls that he needed to get back to the hotel. “Awwwww, boo!” Gabrielle whined. “Well, you’re always welcome back here. We should hang out together!” “Yeah…right.” Li said, a little put off by Gabrielle’s overbearing approach. “Bye!” Gabrielle said, enthusiastically. Li didn’t answer as he walked back into the anteroom with the crooked appliances and rickety furniture, and then out the door. The moon was shining almost as brightly as the sun by this point; it was now 2:00 A.M and the rhythmic sounds of ocean waves were matched with the light breeze through the palm trees. Li still had his fishing gear with him, so he decided to make a few casts in the same deep spot at night, just to see what happened. He cast his lure out into the reef, knowing that many predators, such as groupers and the white-tip reef shark were nocturnal. Also, big predators, such as mako and tiger sharks, both of which had attacked man in the past, were quite common in the shallows at night. As he reeled his lure in, he felt a hit; it was the hardest hit he’d ever felt. Setting the hook hard, he felt the thing take off in the opposite direction so fast that the rod almost flew out of Li’s hands. He pulled on the fish to stop it from running, but he realized that this was going to be a very long fight, from experience.

Sure enough, 30 minutes later, Li was still pulling on the fish. It had not given much ground, until; however, the fish suddenly stopped fighting! It had simply given up, on another immense stroke of good luck. The fish came to the beach; it was a huge, bronze-colored great amberjack!! Li was beaming with excitement. The fish wasn’t flopping around too much, as the fight had tired the fish out so much. Li carefully unhooked the huge fish and took out his camera phone. He snapped a quick picture of the huge fish lying on the sand, and pushed it back into the water, where it swam away with a massive stroke of its huge tail, splashing Li in the face, which had taken quite a bit of abuse that night, the salt water stung the lacerations on his face from the pineapple incident. As Li walked back to the hotel, past the eerily desolate beaches, he heard the sound of music by the pool area, but Li didn’t care. All he wanted was a good night’s sleep. Li, half asleep, walked into the hotel lobby, stood in the elevator and used what little energy he had left to push the button labeled “12.” His arms ached. His feet were heavy. He felt like he had been by a train, or at least a pineapple, anyway. Li walked up to the door marked “1520” and swiped the card key through the slot, but only succeeding after several attempts, he was so tired that he was essentially a zombie. He walked into the room and simply fell onto the bed like a tree falling in a forest. He fell asleep; the sleep of an exhausted fisherman was the sweetest sleep anyone could ask for.

5. Date

Li woke up the next morning at 8:00 A.M; he cursed his circadian rhythm for waking him up so early. “May as well get ready for the day…” He had bandages on his face where the pineapple hit him the previous night; he decided to take them off; his face stung as the bandages were pulled off. They weren’t very deep cuts, but they still stung like a bitch when anything salty hit them. As Li walked down the hallway to the elevator, he saw Seta walk out of one of the rooms down the hall from him. “Hey, I saw you last night!” Seta said, rather enthusiastically. He was carrying two tennis rackets and was dressed like a tennis player, with white sneakers, white shorts and a white, collared short sleeved shirt. “Yeah, I remember.” Li said, still a little groggy. “Yeah, don’t mind Dorota. She’s what you would generally call a “wild drunk,” but hey, I saw you hanging out with Gabrielle…hahaha!” “Yeah, she seemed nice.” Li said, far more modestly that this jerk, who appeared to be just another moron with an egotism problem, but Li realized that it might be his egotism that was causing him to judge Seta. At least Li knew.” “Yes she’s hot, isn’t she? And don’t say you weren’t, because I saw you staring at her!” “Yes, she was very pretty.” Li said. “To say the least.” Seta said, calming down a bit. “So anyway, want to play some tennis? I’ve got an extra racket.” “Sure.” Li said. He was already wearing shorts and a T-shirt, so he took one of the tennis rackets from Seta and walked out the door to the hotel. “So, Li, what have you been up to?” Seta asked. Li pulled his camera phone out of his pocket and showed Seta the picture of the huge fish. “Shit, that’s fuckin’ huge! Nice Amberjack!” “Wow, you know about fish?” Li asked. “Yeah, I’m majoring in biology at Tokyo University; I’m off for the summer.” Li thought about this for a minute. Tokyo University was the 3rd best school in the entire world, behind Yale and Harvard in America. This guy was smart after all. “That’s cool, what do you want to go into?” “Aquaculture, you know, raising fish such as tuna for food consumption; like how we already farm cattle and sheep, I’m going to do that with fish. My parents own a 5-star restaurant in Tokyo, but since the crash they haven’t been doing so well, but they have only the finest fish on their menus. I’m going to help them continue that tradition. What are you planning to do with your life?” Seta asked, knowing that his life plans were going to be a tough act to follow; how can you argue with a guy who goes to the #3 university in the entire world and is heir to a 5-star restaurant?! “Maybe that’s why he’s so snarky…” Li thought to himself as Seta bounced the tennis ball on his racket as he was walking along the path to the tennis courts. “Well, I want to work with machines; I’m capable of fixing or building anything easily.” “Interesting. Did you go to school for that, or anything?” Seta asked. “No, in China you don’t need to for an engineering profession. The government gives you everything you need to succeed.” Li said, rather enthusiastically. “Bah! China’s government is flawed.” “Really? How do you gauge that one?” Li replied, getting a little defensive at Seta’s comment. “Well, I’m not attempting to force this on you, but I think China operates Communism incorrectly. You see, China and the USSR, all of the Communist nations, created their nations based upon violence. Mao’s campaign against Kai-Shek, Lenin’s October Revolution, have all created nations that are supposed to last “thousands of years.” I don’t see that happening. The point I’m making is that none of these nations practice Communism correctly; by a peaceful transition, as the Communist Manifesto clearly states should happen.” “Interesting…I’m not going to lie.” Li said a little off-put by Seta’s snide remarks about China’s system of government; it was doing a hell of a lot better than Japan’s, that’s for sure. Typical capitalist arrogance. “Well, here we are.” Seta said as he opened the tennis court door. They were the only ones on the court that day, as it was brilliantly sunny; everyone was at the beach or sitting poolside. “Your serve.” Li said as Seta smacked the ball with his racket. Fortunately, Li was his province’s high school tennis champ for both his junior and senior year, and a very fast paced volley broke out, with both Seta and Li hitting the ball back and forth with frightening speed and efficiency; they could have easily played at the same caliber as the pros. Each of them knew that winning a tennis match was all about outlasting your opponent; whoever lost their concentration first was certain to lose. Just then, a group of people about their age walked past and saw them playing. “Dude, those guys are awesome!” one of the young men said in his thick New York accent. “Wait a minute, isn’t that Seta Kanagashima?” one of the girls in the rapidly growing spectator crowd said. “You know that guy?” the American guy said. “Yes, I went to high school with him! He’s at Tokyo U now, studying aquaculture! Isn’t he just scrumptious? EEEEEEEE!” the girl squealed. “Hey, I wouldn’t be the one to make that call.” the American guy joked. “So, he’s a genius AND a star athlete?! Jeez, the Japanese really are better at everything now, aren’t they?” “He got 100% on every single subject for the University entrance exam, he told me this!” the Japanese girl squealed, still so happy to be watching the guy who she was clearly obsessed with play tennis. “Good God…” the New Yorker said. “And I was happy with the 1850 I got on my SATs…” he lamented. “The other guy’s pretty good too! He looks Chinese.” another voice in the crowd said about Li’s tennis skills. Just then, Li hit the ball so hard that it went careening right at Seta’s face. Seta jumped out of the way before taking a tennis ball at 200 miles per hour in the face, but the ball hit the ground on his side. “Points for me.” Li yelled. “What the heck?! Are you trying to kill me or something?!” Li said nothing. He was too focused on winning this match, and Seta was as well, although, after this volley, he seemed to be losing concentration; his resolve was beginning to crack, which is just what Li wanted to happen. The match had become a battle of wills, not athletic ability. Li served, and the ferocious volley continued back and forth until Li scored yet again. Seta began to panic, he was backed into a corner, but this only spurred him on to do something amazing. He had won tough matches before; and many other athletes had done so as well, the 2004 World Series in America was a shining example of what a team or player could do if he kept its concentration and didn’t get too overconfident. However, Seta had never faced an opponent as concentrated as Li was. No. He wasn’t going to lose to some nerdy engineer who didn’t even go to college to get his job. Seta was better than that. As Li served the ball at game-point, Seta swung the racket out of sheer adrenaline. He hit the ball-and sent it soaring out of the court. Li won. Li threw his racket to the ground and walked calmly away, drinking a bottle of water and draping a towel over his shoulders. Seta was absolutely irate. “This is war…” he said, quietly. He would do anything to get revenge of this Chink of an engineer who totally deflated his massive, Ivy League, 5-star ego. He would have his revenge…one way or another. After parting ways with Seta, thankfully, Li walked back to his hotel room past the main pool when he saw a small group of young men standing around a cluster of beach chairs. Li walked over to the crowd and asked what the object of attention was. “Those girls are gorgeous, I can’t take it anymore.” One of the guys said, running away. Li, quite interested in who these girls were, walked through the crowd, only to find the 5 girls from the previous night on the beach. They were all lying on the beach chairs in their bikinis, chatting with some of the guys. Just then, Dorota spotted Li. “Oh hi!!” Dorota said, her long black hair shining in the sunlight.” All of the other girls smiled at Li as well, including Gabrielle, whose face lit up when she saw him. “So, did you have a good night’s sleep?” Gabrielle said, smiling cutely. “Yeah, I guess.” “Oh, can you do me a favor, sweetie? My back is feeling a little burnt, could you rub some aloe vera on it, please?” Li felt very nervous. He had never been asked to do this before. “Ehhh…sure.” “Thanks, sweetie!” Gabrielle said as Li took the bottle of aloe vera out of Gabrielle’s beach bag. Li began slathering aloe vera gel on Gabrielle’s back, with the rest of the guys watching and laughing. “Oh…that feels a lot better.” Gabrielle said, softly. She was cute as could be, with her long blonde hair and light pink bathing suit. “By the way, Li, would you like to take me and my friends to dinner tonight, you know, just us?” The other guys started chuckling over her request. “Shut up, you bunch of jerks!” Gabrielle scolded. The other guys immediately shut their mouths. “By the way, Dorota’s the manager of this hotel, and she’s got quite a bit of money from her writing and her business, so I think we’re safe when it comes to money.” “Hey, quit mooching!” Dorota whined. “Calm down, its only $15.00, you should know that!” “Hey! It’s my restaurant manager that sets the prices, not me!” “Still, I’m just saying…” Gabrielle groaned. “Let’s go, I’m frying out here, even with SPF 40.” Kiki said. The girls and Li all got up and walked back towards the main bathhouse to change into their regular clothes; there was no sign of Seta anywhere; a good thing, definitely, as seeing Li with all of the girls would only throw gasoline on an already burning rivalry, so to speak. However, Li was just focused on having a good time with his new friends at the restaurant later that night. For now, Li decided to go back to his room after he said goodbye to his friends. He said goodbye, and walked back up to the door to the main hotel complex. He took the elevator up to the 15th floor to room 1520, and swiped the key card in the slot. He sat down on the bed, realizing that he was going to need to freshen up a bit before going to dinner. He turned on the T.V., and yet more interesting news was on television. For one, the tropical depression had become a tropical storm; it was called Upia. That was not as interesting as the second story, however. A group of freak deaths, all resulting from “freak accidents,” had begun taking place in many parts of the world. These accidents included a man’s lawnmower in the U.S.A. suddenly exploding because of a spark; another resulted from a knife that sprung into a woman’s chest from opening the drawer to the cutlery set in India. What made this newsworthy was not the nature of the deaths, but the numbers: This had happened nearly 1,000 times in the past 12 hours, all over the world. “The speed and quantity of the deaths suggest either the biggest coincidence in human history or, more likely, a very well-coordinated world conspiracy.” one of the news reporters said. Li was very puzzled by this, but he was shocked when he found out that Japan, the eternal rival of China, had begun a massive re-armament campaign, overturning, with the U.S.A.’s authorization, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which forbade Japan from having a military. Already, using its still-intact military industrial complex, Japan was using its massive shipyards to build ships for its new Navy, officially created by Prime Minister Yoshiro Takada just 8 hours ago. Immediately, the Japanese economy began to rebound with the jobs created by the newly resurgent military. There were no restrictions on the size of the Japanese Navy’s ships, so they were free to build and innovate in any way that they could. Though the actual plans for the ships were top-secret information, Japan did have highly advanced technology that could easily be developed into extraordinarily powerful weapons, including proton lasers, EMPs, plasma wave generators, Electro-Darts and microwave weaponry. According to rumor, the ships, planes and ground vehicles in design for the Japanese Armed Forces were going to be like “nothing the world had ever seen before.” Li was now officially freaked out. Japan, with its already huge industrial complex and capitalist economy, could easily outproduce China by a huge margin. Authorizing this rearmament was obviously a ploy by the U.S. to regain its grip on China by arming one of its allies, and one that could easily become a huge problem for the Chinese border security and threaten China’s economic growth. This move had now intensified the international crisis; between the terrorists, the USSR gaining an oil monopoly, the freak deaths, the kidnapping and murder of the Japanese princess, and now Japan’s re-armament, the world was seriously going to Hell at this point. Not to mention, there was a huge typhoon headed in Tahiti’s direction, Typhoon Upia was now a post-Category 5 storm; it had gone from a weak tropical storm with 45-mph winds to a howling nightmare with sustained winds of 218 miles per hour and gusts to 290 mph, the same as an F-5 tornado; the barometric pressure was now 799 millibars, the most intense storm ever recorded. All of this happened during a period of 6 hours, the fastest growth in recorded history. “Blame it on global warming…” Li lamented, referring to the fact that the water temperatures in the Central Pacific were nearly 5o Celsius warmer than they should have been at that point in the year; the water temperatures were killing coral reefs, destroying fragile ecosystems, and creating conditions ripe for devastating storms on the scale of which had never been seen in recorded history; according to the World Meteorological Organization, the last time a storm on this scale occurred, according to ancient sedimentary and debris deposits tested by scientists in Asia, was nearly 10,000 years ago; and the storm was still growing. “It’s like we’re living on Jupiter or something…” Li said to himself in a mix of amazement and terror as a satellite picture showed a gargantuan white pinwheel slowly making its way across the Pacific, gobbling up ships and small islands like a bloodthirsty monster. More and more ships were radioing in the desperate message: “Mayday! Mayday! We’re breaking up in extreme seas!!!” So far, however, there had been no warnings or watches posted for Tahiti. The sun was still shining gloriously outside Li’s window; it was hard to believe that only about 1000 miles to the east, an apocalyptic maelstrom of meteorological terror was churning in the central Pacific. “They’re predicting that the storm will turn to the northwest, possibly causing problems in Japan, but it was expected to weaken drastically upon entering the North Pacific; flooding would be the biggest issue at that point, and that was something that Japan was very well-prepared for. Lastly, satellite photos of the enormous Japanese shipyards at Nagasaki showed what appeared to be two supercarriers and a huge guided missile cruiser of some kind; the Japanese Navy was clearly showing its ambition; it was already out-producing and out-gunning China, whose own aircraft carrier project was hitting snag after snag; China had no experience with carrier building; however, Japan, having built literally more than 55 carriers during WWII and having had contact with U.S. supercarriers, as well as its own massive nuclear power industry, was quickly building huge carriers, closely resembling the Nimitz-class used by the U.S. These would almost certainly be nuclear-powered, allowing Japan to project force anywhere on Earth in a manner that only the U.S. Navy, the Soviet Navy and the rapidly growing USSA Navy could do at this point. Furthermore, there appeared to be a large structure under construction about a mile away from the shipyard, presumably the nuclear reactor for the ship. Li was beyond angry. The U.S. was doing whatever it took to keep China in check, and it was succeeding. He hated all Western nations. He believed that America was simply a massive imperialist conservative tyranny, hell-bent on bringing “democracy” to nations that were functioning perfectly well under a non-democratic system of government, like China, for example. In Li’s eyes and in most of the Eastern world’s eyes as well, America wasn’t even truly “democratic” anymore. Under Sandra Paige’s leadership, the U.S.A. had become a right-wing, theocratic tyranny hiding behind its glorious past as the champion of democracy and “leader of the Free World” to cover its ass. The truth was that the U.S. was no longer the stronghold of “American democracy,” the kind that existed during the latter half of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, no nation on Earth practiced this type of free-market, liberal capitalism and democracy in which people were free to pursue their dreams with the government helping them out by taxing those who could actually afford the taxes anymore. All nations that called themselves democratic were now flawed democracies; they didn’t practice purely democratic ideals, even the U.S. was guilty of this pitfall. Li knew that the truth was that the “democratic experiment,” which began in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, had run its course and would soon collapse. Then, who knows what would happen? Li pondered this question for a bit, but was unable to come up with an answer. His mind was too focused on his dinner date. He decided to change into a “business casual” outfit, just to look nice for his new friends, Gabrielle in particular. He combed his hair to look nice, brushed his teeth and used mouthwash, just in case. He looked in the mirror, straightened his tie, and walked out the door to his hotel room. He was careful not to make too much noise around Seta’s door, as he was staying just at the end of the hallway. As Li rounded the corner to the elevator, he pressed the button for the first floor. While in the elevator, he was so nervous that he was sweating. This would be his first date since freshman year of high school, and that didn’t go so well, to say the least. What would they be wearing? What would he say to them? What did they like or dislike? The questions were so intense they practically made Li’s head spin 360o His heart was racing as he stepped out of the elevator on the first floor and walked down the hallway, past the receptionist counter. He smelled the sweet aroma of herbs, spices, vegetables and other food items as he walked through the hallway, following the signs to the restaurant, called the Swaying Palm Restaurant. As he entered the restaurant door, he saw a beautiful, upper-class, cathedral-like restaurant; there were huge paintings on the ceiling and the walls, depicting famous battles from world history, including the battles for Stalingrad, the American Revolution, the Americans raising the flag over Mt. Siribachi at Iwo Jima, the Japanese victory at the Tsushima Strait over the Russian Navy, Peter the Great’s triumphs in both the Winter War and the Sea of Azov against the Swedish and Ottoman Empires, respectively, the Ottoman Turks victory in Constantinople, the famous painting of the Russian Navy’s tall ships sailing around the coast of St. Petersburg in 1747, the triumph of the Royal Navy over the French Navy at Trafalgar in 1805; Nelson’s death scene was depicted gloriously, as well as the Battle of Jutland between the Royal Navy and the German Empire’s High Seas Fleet, the two biggest Navies in the world at that point. In addition to the paintings, all set in fine frames, there were small fountains on every table, made with real mahogany and camphor wood from Japan. The floor was wooden as well. Everything about this restaurant was beautiful, only natural that one of the prettiest girls Li had ever met owned it. The only rivals to Dorota were her four friends. Speaking of which, he saw the girls walk in just moments after Li walked into the room. They were all wearing beautiful dresses; Dorota wore velvet, black dress and a fuzzy black scarf, her shoes were 5-inch heels, adding a considerable number to her total height. Kiki wore a pretty red sequined dress; Joanna wore a blue dress very similar to Kiki’s, Lily was dressed in a orange and red dress, and finally, Gabrielle walked in, she was wearing a black and white dress, lacy dinner gloves, matching black stockings and black high-heels, along with a goofy-looking white bow in her hair. She looked like a doll, not like a plastic, cheaply-made one that American children played with, but more like a very intricate hand-made porcelain masterpiece, the kind you’d see in Japan or China at toy exhibitions. “Hey…” they all said, almost at once to Li. The six of them took their seats at the VIP table, away from the crowds. Gabrielle sat right next to Li and immediately began speaking to him. “So, what do you think about this storm, Upia, isn’t it? I heard it’s now the size of the entire state of New York!” Gabrielle asked. “Wow…that big?” Li said, amazed at the size of this thing. “The whole of French Polynesia is now under a typhoon watch, as of 30 minutes ago.” “So, you’re saying that this thing is going to hit us?” Li asked, with a very skeptical tone. “That’s not a given yet, but I don’t think we’ll have a problem, as the typhoons typically hit north of here, anyway. We’ve never been hit by a storm.” Gabrielle reassured Li on his worries. “Even if it does, I’ll protect you.” Gabrielle said, touching Li’s arm with her lacy gloved hands. Once again, just as when Li first met her, Gabrielle’s touch made him feel “high,” as if he had been smoking weed or some other drug. The moment Gabrielle took her hand off of his arm, the feeling dissipated. “Ummm, Li, you might want to keep your head down…” Joanna cautioned from across the table. It was too late, Seta had already noticed Li sitting with the girls, and he walked over to them. “Hey, it’s not polite to sit with someone else’s girlfriend, perhaps they don’t teach stupid Chinks that in Yellowville!” “Excuse me, that’s extraordinarily racist, I didn’t know you were a Nazi pig.” “What?! You think I’m a Nazi? You’re the one that fucking cheated in our match today!!” “What does Nazism have to do with tennis?!” Li replied, still attempting to ignore Seta’s extraordinarily disgusting remarks. “Well, only our nation matters! Japan has already begun out-producing China, and we will soon be able to get what we want, when we want it! You can kiss your stupid “Invincible Chinese Army” goodbye!!” “Wow, you seriously just contradicted yourself, you fucking hypocrite, you not only just said something that confirmed to me that you truly are a Nazi, you simply avoided my question and began acting like a total tyrant. Maybe the storm isn’t the only thing I should be worried about here.” Seta couldn’t take it anymore. He picked up a bowl of strawberries and smashed it over Li’s head, knocking him out! “THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT, YOU STUPID CHINKY MORON!!!” “What the hell?!” Gabrielle screamed. “Listen, Seta, I normally wouldn’t do this, but, as owner of this hotel, I’m going to need you to leave the restaurant, please. You’re making a scene.” Dorota asked. People in the restaurant were getting up and leaving because of Seta’s racist comments. Seta calmly walked away. “What is that guy’s problem?! Well, at least we now see him for what he is: a racist, bigoted, self righteous asshole who’s probably a member of the Ku Klux Klan, or the Japanese equivalent.” Joanna remarked in her typical soft Southern drawl. “Ow…my head…” Li croaked, recovering from the second time in less than 48 hours that he had been knocked out by fruit. “Are you ok?” Gabrielle said, panicking. She put her hand on Li’s head, and Li immediately began to feel “high” again. However, Li shook off the pain and even began speaking cohesively; it was as if nothing had ever hit him. “Wow, Gabby, you’ve got the magic touch!” Joanna teased. “You know about those freak deaths that have been occurring all over the world? I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s got something to do with it, you know, some kind of conspiracy?” Li suspected. “Oh no, he may be a jerk, but I don’t think he’s got it in him to kill even one person, let alone cause over 1,000 freak deaths in more than 15 countries in 12 hours. That’s impossible. There’s no pattern to the deaths, no motive, no perpetrator, I doubt that this is even a murder case; I mean, how many weird deaths occur daily? Probably a lot. The ICPO is making a big deal out of nothing, the case is going nowhere so far, and soon they’ll realize their on a nonexistent murder case, they’ll feel silly and everything will be back to normal.” Gabrielle said, very matter-of-factly. “As if “normal” applies to anything in this world anymore.” Li lamented. “Yes, it’s true, the Soviet Navy had now built more than 25 new ships in the past 5 weeks, and re-activated and refurbished more than 50 of their old ones, the VMF just launched its first two super-aircraft carriers yesterday, built in Nikolayev, the biggest shipyards in Russia; the Naval Headquarters is now once again in Leningrad, although this was more of a symbolic move than anything else. The Kirov-class battlecruisers, as well as the titanic new Leningrad-class guided missile cruisers are prowling the northern seas. The carriers, by the way, are huge. The Kremlin-class ships are now flying the PAK-FA 5th-generation fighters, carrying the new Mi-28 helicopter gunships as well as AWACS planes. These carriers are in the area of 86,000 tons fully loaded. There are to be 6 more of these built within the next 5 years, all nuclear powered. Needless to say, Uncle Sam now has some serious competition…hahaha. Dorota said, coyly. Being Soviet herself, Dorota had a lot of knowledge about the goings-on in the USSR since the oil boom; and, sure enough, they were still up to their old tricks. Moscow was once again treating Germany, even West Germany as a subservient; the latter was extraordinarily concerned that an invasion would grab all of Germany into Soviet control; there was nothing that could stop the USSR if it did; the new T-95 “Black Eagle” Russian tanks were the biggest tanks built since the Tigers of WWII. After about 2 hours of chatting and talking, they realized that because of Seta’s unwelcome attack, they weren’t really thinking about eating. As they were saying their goodbyes for the night, Gabrielle asked Li to come with her for a “special chat.” Li, knowing very well what this might entail, walked out onto the porch seating area, which was empty. Once on the patio, there was nothing but the night sky and the brilliant stars overhead, the moon was shining brightly in sky, rising over the ocean like a reddish-orange ball. As the last rays of sun dipped below the horizon, only the wind rustling the palm trees and the mist coming in from Tahiti’s mountainous interior were the only sounds that echoed through the dulcet tropical air. As Li immersed himself in the tropical serenity, he almost forgot Gabrielle was standing there in front of him. “What is it you want to tell me?” Li asked, very quietly. “Well, I’ve been thinking a lot, and…I found that you, well, I can’t really explain this in words, but…you make me happy whenever I’m talking to you, even when I’m feeling sad, like I was at the party last night; that idiot Seta always picked on me, he thought I was nothing compared to Dorota, but, now that Dorota’s probably never going to speak with Seta ever again, I can be assured that I won’t be bullied again, thanks to you. You really showed Seta that he isn’t the best at absolutely everything, and because of you, Seta’s never going to bother us again, at least while you’re around. Saying this, I…I…” “Yes, what?” Li encouraged.

“I think you’re very sweet, and I’d like to start hanging out more often, we can offer you a permanent place here.

Li looked into Gabrielle’s big blue eyes and her beaming, smiling face. She was unlike anyone Li had ever met before, and he needed her as much as she needed him. He needed a place to live, and hopefully Gabrielle would have a place for him to stay, and Li noticed something very special about Gabby as well. Never before had Li met a girl that could make him feel like he was on drugs whenever she touched him, but it was a good high, not a bad one.

“Of course, Gabby, of course I’ll stay with you a little longer.”

“How is it that we define ourselves other than happiness?”

Gabby said, softly. Li knew what Gabby really meant to say. She liked him, but was too nervous to say so.

6. Distortion

Li woke up the next morning, wondering if the previous night was all a dream. However, he saw the outfit he was wearing that night hanging neatly on a coat hanger, and his head was still throbbing from the strawberry bowl attack. Li decided to turn on the T.V., it was relatively cloudy that morning, so Li decided to watch the news for a while, and then switch to a movie. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much new bad news, other than the typhoon. As a matter for fact, a very famous scientist, Ein Ilex, had made huge progress in the sciences of cloning and stem-cell research; from Japan, he had engineered human stem-cells from umbilical cord blood using a new method that increased the amount of cells that would survive. He had been nominated for the Nobel Prize that morning, and was preparing his new stem-cell collecting method to show to the World Medical Union in 3 hours, this would be televised live. This method also eschewed the use of aborted fetuses as stem-cell providers, hopefully eliminating some of the controversy in the U.S. over the moral implications of this medical research. Until a new President was elected, however, the debate would probably go nowhere. Just then, Li heard a knock at his door. Thinking it was housekeeping, he walked over to the door and opened it. “Oh, it’s you! Come on in.” Li said as Joanna walked into Li’s room and sat on the bed with him. “What are you watching?” Joanna asked in her cute Southern drawl. “Wait a minute, is that Ein Ilex?” Joanna asked; a hint of dismay in her voice. “Yeah, he’s been nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work in stem-cell research.” “I do not like him; he’s a cruel, inhuman person.” Li knew immediately what Joanna was getting at. “Why? The cells he uses aren’t from aborted fetuses. The babies are born and the cord blood is harvested with no harm to the baby.” “Yes, that may be true, but I still don’t think messing with God’s work is right. The way I see it is that everything was put on this planet for a purpose, and to impede that purpose is defying the laws of nature. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings or make fun of you, hun, but I just don’t agree with that type of science. As a good Christian girl, I just can’t.” Joanna pulled a little cross necklace out of her pocket and put it on. “Oh, well, then let’s just agree to disagree on this matter.” Li said. “Agreed.” Joanna said. Joanna placed her hand on Li’s shoulder. Immediately, Li felt “high” again. It was strange, when Dorota touched him at dinner last night, he didn’t feel drugged. “By the way, don’t listen to what Gabby says. She’s got nothing on me. I mean, who would you rather have, some silly little blonde who has trouble remembering what she ate for breakfast that morning, or a sweet Southern girl from Virginia who lives in a 300-year old plantation house and can cook very well both in the kitchen…and the bedroom. Tee hee. In short, I’ll give you anything you could ever ask for.” Joanna said, tracing her finger across Li’s lips. Li’s heart skipped a beat at those words. He now realized what he was getting himself into: he was now caught in a huge “love pentagon,” he would soon have five girls competing for his affection, and that meant trouble. He didn’t want to hurt any of their feelings, so he would let all five of them hang around with him, without dating one of them. “Think about that for a little bit, because I’m always here if you want me. Hee hee…” Joanna teased, getting up from the bed where she was sitting right next to Li and walking out the door. “See you later, sweetie…” Joanna said as the door shut behind her. “God, she’s gorgeous…” Li said to himself as the door shut. Her long brown hair and pretty green eyes, combined with her elegant figure, pale face, huge breasts and her warm, Southern hospitality, made for a combination that most guys simply couldn’t resist. She was a Southern peach, and a very smart one at that. She had aced her American SAT exams in high school with a perfect 2400 points, and was attending Harvard for her second year, but lived in Tahiti with her friends when she wasn’t in school. Li looked at the T.V. again; they were now discussing the upcoming presidential elections in the USA this November, and it had been narrowed down to two candidates: an extreme left-wing Democrat named Lawrence Von Derr Tann, and a right-wing tightwad Republican named Jonathan Ross. This election would pretty much decide the fate of America, it would either continue down its path to Fascism, as the Democrats were calling Paige’s “dictatorial” policies, or it would continue on the “secure, stable, and faithful” path that the Republicans were so happy with for the past 4 years. The Republicans called Von Derr Tann “the biggest socialist since Lenin.” “So, it’s either a Nazi or a Communist in power in America now? This is why I hate American politics…” Li mumbled to himself. However, the Republicans did have a reason to be intimidated by Von Derr Tann, albeit only a very superficial one. He was an extremely passionate orator; when he spoke, his voice would rise and his arms would flail in the air, when he did this, the crowds went wild. He knew how to sway the masses to his side. He knew how to smooth-talk his opponents and he knew what his opposition thought. The Republicans were beyond frightened by this man. Just the way he spoke reminded many Americans of Adolph Hitler. The Republican Senate Majority Leader pointed out that Germany, much like America, had been going through tremendous upheaval just before the Nazis took power. “And he thinks we’re the Nazis?! This man’s not a socialist, he’s a demon, a demon in a false body from Hell!!” many religious conservative leaders said. Posters depicting Lawrence in league with the Devil were going up all over the southern U.S.; Von Derr Tann was so incredibly leftist that his new designation by most Republicans was not “communist,” as previous Democrats had been; it was now “Anti-Christ,” which Li thought was even more ridiculous. Texas even announced a threat to secede from the Union if Von Derr Tann was elected, raising fears of a new Civil War. This election was going to be like none before it: it would decide If America as a nation lived or died. Just then, Li saw an interesting sight outside. There was a very dark, menacing-looking cloud formation moving in from the east; it was already getting windy, with the palm trees beginning to sway more than usual. The clouds were streaked with lightning. Li immediately switched the channel to the forecast channels and, written in huge red letters, were the words “TYPHOON WARNING FOR POLYNESIA, ALL ARE ADVISED TO EVACUATE.” Li’s eyes widened. This was it, the biggest storm in recorded history, and it was here. Now. There was only one person he’d spend it with, however; he didn’t care what Joanna or any of the other girls said; Gabby was his girl, and the others would just have to accept that they could only be Li’s friends. He had to make sure Gabrielle and her friends were safe. Joanna obviously was, so there was no need to worry there, but still… Li jumped off the bed, changed into his shorts and T-shirt, threw some deodorant on, as he was too much of a hurry to take a shower, slipped into his sandals and rushed out the door; after what seemed like an agonizingly long elevator ride, he reached the front door and stormed out. The signs of the coming storm were everywhere. The international hurricane warning flags were blowing in the eerily moaning wind, which was currently blowing at 20 mph, swaying the palm trees in a very stark contrast to the steel-gray skies above the resort. A cold rain began to fall, with huge drops spotting the cobblestone walkways that meandered around the resort. Li ran for the owner’s tower, where Dorota and her friends were likely hiding, He opened the door, completely disregarding the “Employees Only” sign and rushed up the stairs to a sumptuous, very ritzy apartment, with leather chairs and couches facing the windows, overlooking the lagoon and the horizon, which was becoming increasingly darker by the minute. The waves on the beach were already nearly 10 feet high. The lights inside the posh penthouse were shining brightly, the elegant chandeliers with their electric bulbs; it would have been even more romantic looking if they were candles, which, would obviously be needed once the power blew out. There was a wine rack, filled with brandy and the finest red wines, a huge kitchen, and a luxurious master bedroom. This would be a lovely place to spend a romantic night with Gabrielle, sitting on one of the couches, Li would be sipping red wine and Gabby would be wearing a beautiful, low-cut dress, Li would undo her spaghetti straps and…well…fantasizing about romantic nights with this girl wasn’t the best thing to do at a time when a massive typhoon was bearing down on him. This thing was unimaginable. According to the WMO, the storm was the size of New York State, with winds in the Right Front Quadrant gusting to 300 mph; it was headed straight for Tahiti. The exact wind speed would never be accurately known, because the storm was destroying everything in its path. No fewer than 15 ships had been utterly smashed to bits by this storm, cargo from one of the ships; which was carrying hundreds of toy boats, toy boats had begun washing up on the western shores of both the U.S.A. and USSA already. Li looked out the window at the workers and employees boarding up all the windows on every glass surface in the resort. Just then, he realized, his little daydream was about to come true. Sure enough, Gabby was standing right behind him, in a beautiful low-cut red dress, her bra showing a little and her cleavage was quite pronounced in her very provocative outfit. She hadn’t seen him; Li, despite his usual confidence, was scared. Not really scared as much as nervous. Would she get mad at him for being in an “employees only” area? Would she throw something at him? Hopefully not a pineapple; those things hurt like a bitch when they hit you in the face. Li tried to hide behind a plant right next to the couch. However, it was kind of a pitiful hiding spot; the plant was green, and Li’s clothes were white. It wasn’t long before Gabby noticed him. “Li? Is that you back there?” she asked, sweetly. Li let out a sigh of relief. “So, you aren’t mad that I came into an “employees only” area?” “No, not at all! I would never leave you outside in weather like this! Come sit with me and watch the storm come in!” Li felt as if he was psychic. This is exactly what he predicted in his daydream just 5 minutes earlier. “Hang on; let me pour some wine for us to share.” Gabby said, getting up from the couch. Li was curious as to how far his eerily accurate “prediction” would go. Gabby came back about a minute later with two glasses of red wine in little blue glasses, making the wine appear purple. “Here you go!” Gabby smiled. She sat down right next to Li, a little too close. “So, how did you fall in with Dorota and her business?” Well, to make a long story short, this building is very old; some of this building was made out of the wreckage of one Captain Cook’s ships, back in 1775. It was a merely an outpost for whalers, mostly from Nantucket and New Bedford, from 1800-1895; they used it to clear the barnacles off their ships and re-stock. The building was converted from a whaler’s rest stop to a bathhouse by the Japanese Empire during the Meiji Restoration, as well as a dry-dock for Imperial Japanese Navy submarines; the big pool in front of the beach is the remnant of that slipway. After the war and the creation of the New World Order, which, as you can see by the news, is falling apart more and more every day, Japan’s Navy was destroyed, and the building turned over to the Americans after the U.S. claimed ownership of Polynesia, the property was bought in 1952 by Dorota’s grandfather, a Soviet defector, and that’s how this place got to where it is today. Despite what Dorota says, she’s not from the USSR. She was born in France, to Soviet-born parents. “That explains her fashion sense…” Li remarked. “Hee hee!” You’re too much, sweetie!” Gabby giggled. “By the way, Li, would you mind massaging my back for a little bit? It hurts…” Li stopped short for a second as Gabby sat down on his lap. Now he was certain that he was psychic, or had some other weird psi power. He undid her spaghetti straps, just like in his daydream, and placed his hands on her back; it felt warm and snuggly, like something you’d want in bed with you on…well, anyone could see where this was going. Li got to work on her back, while Gabby was relaxing and giving him instructions such as “A little to the left” or “Down the middle.” “You really like massages, don’t you?” Li said, still breathing very rapidly. “Yeah, especially from cute guys. Li, can I tell you something? You really make me smile so much, I’ve never met a guy like you. You’re sweet, funny, intelligent, respectful and handsome; I’ve never met anyone like you in my entire life, believe me, I’ve had relationships before, and those guys were jerks. You’re different. So, what do you want; I mean, what have you always dreamed of doing?” Gabby asked. “Well, I’ve always wanted to go to some exotic, faraway city like Moscow, London, Los Angeles, Dubai or New York, but…unless I become an overnight billionaire, I’m not going to be able to do that anytime soon.” “Well, don’t get too down on yourself, I can see a lot of success in your future. Besides, you don’t need to be a billionaire to travel. We’ll do it together. I mean, I love travelling too, and I never get to do it very often, despite the fact that I make more than $500,000 a year as one of the co-owners of this hotel, which rakes in about $2.3 million every year.” “I guess…I mean I’ve never had a real girlfriend, I’ve been in relationships before, but they always ended in horrendous atomic holocausts of name-calling, insults and even police involvement; I was never arrested for anything; it was always the girl that made up some horrible lie about me and purposely told the police that I had threatened to rape and kill her; I was questioned by the cops, but they later found out that I was completely innocent of any crime and that the girl was being a total bitch. Even the police chief in Tangshan said he had never heard of a person going that far to get someone back for relationship difficulties. “I don’t know what you did to piss her off so much; maybe you should stop pursuing a relationship for the time being.” the cop had said. I realized that this was for my own good, so I shunned women for the past 4 years; everyone had heard the rumors, and no girl would ever talk to me again in the high school I went to. I graduated first in my class; I realize that I’m a very good-looking guy, with my well-combed hair and my choice of clothes, I’m a tennis champion, I can fix and build pretty much anything, and I have an extraordinarily high IQ. It’s hard to believe that so many people would still shun me just for a stupid, completely false accusation that was actually announced in an assembly just in an attempt to stop the rumor from spreading, it was interfering with the students’ learning and concentration, especially in my classes. In fact, the announcement made by the police chief and the Principal of the school in front of the entire senior class, excluding myself, by the way, only made the situation worse, as my absence gave “Dope-Face,” a big, muscular basketball player at the school, and “Bozo,” an exasperatingly dumb class clown that was always getting detention, another excuse to say that I was “out murdering.” Not to mention “No-Mind,” the most popular girl in school, listened to “Dope-Face” and “Bozo” like their words were law. She was very smart academically, but she followed everyone’s rumors as if they were the gospel truth. She had no mind of her own. The only way I could survive this horror of a senior year was developing a super-ego, in the Freudian sense; I had to think I was better than everyone else, which is why I’m so focused on getting a job and winning at EVERYTHING I do.” “Wow…Li, I had no idea you were so miserable growing up…but it made you into the person you are today, and I’m fine with that. Anyway, can you get my neck, please?” Gabby said in her usual sweet voice. Li was just astonished by Gabby, not just because of her looks, but because of her sweet, caring and understanding personality. He honestly was starting to think that Gabby was some kind of angel on Earth; that’s right, he was even questioning his upbringing on the atheist policies of the Chinese government. Li looked out the window; the wind was really starting to pick up now, it was only 1:00 P.M. and the sky was as black as night; Li could now hear the wind whistling ominously through the telephone wires outside. “What do you think of the storm? Do you think it’s going to get bad?” Gabby asked, with a slight tone of worry in her voice. “Well, the weather report said that this storm is going to hit Tahiti directly; and, quite frankly, I don’t want to get caught in a typhoon the size of New York State with gusts exceeding 300 mph.” “Really? Wow, that’s bad. We have no choice but to stay here, though. We need to make sure that all guests are safely evacuated before we can leave. If it hits before all the guests get off…well, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Besides, we have a panic room in this building, just in case of a scenario like this.” “Well, that’s refreshing to know…” Li sighed. “Ok, I’ve had enough. Thank you for the massage, sweetie.” “No problem.” Li said as Gabby pulled her dress back up and re-did her spaghetti straps. Just then, however, the four other girls came back into the room, discussing how bad the weather was getting. “Hey, Li? Gabby? How did you get back in here?” Dorota asked. “We came in from the storm, we were waiting for you.” “Oh, well, Li, welcome to my apartment here.” Dorota said, very enthusiastically. “Are all the guests out yet?” Gabby asked. “Well, all of them from Room Blocks 1-12, but the 13th is still occupied; a water main broke inside the building…” “Unlucky 13…” Li mumbled. “You said that right.” Dorota groaned. “Well, at least that ass Seta is back in Japan; get this-I heard his family found a huge cache of precious metals in the USSR-controlled territories; the Iranian S.S.R. and the Afghan S.S.R. contain trillions of dollars worth of copper, platinum, gold, lithium and magnesium, it’s 1849 all over again, and Seta’s family owns all claim to this fortune.” “Great, the spoiled rich guy gets even richer…I’m sure the USSR’s Supreme Soviet loves that…” Li said, sarcastically, referring to the fact that a family that the Soviets would call a “bunch of horse-fucking capitalist pigs” was in control of resources that could theoretically increase the entire world’s GDP by 20%. He very well may start a war over resources; as every nation on Earth will want in on this and knowing Seta’s personality…” “We’re all dead.” Kiki finished Dorota’s sentence. “Where did you come from?” Dorota interjected at Kiki’s sudden, rare comment. “Well, my mom and dad kind of got together…” “That’s not what I meant, you dingbat!” Dorota yelled, her face turning flushed red. Li thought it was cute when she got angry, her little nose scrunching up like a rabbit’s. He wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that wrath, however. Hell hath no fury than a Soviet woman scorned… “Well, now that we’re all inside, let’s watch a movie while we wait for the rest of the guests to leave Block 13.” Dorota suggested. “Oh! Oh! I know! Let’s watch this one!” Gabby said with a very bad movie DVD in her hands; she was jumping up and down with her breasts bouncing noticeably close to Li’s head. Gabby quickly noticed this, as did her friends. “Gabby! Put those things away! You’re going to give poor Li over there a black eye or something!” Joanna yelled, in her cute Southern accent. “Oops…Sorry Li.” Gabby cooed, buttoning up her dress’ chest area. “Uhhhh…thanks…” Li said, still staring at Gabby. “That’s a shitty movie! Put this one in!” Lily announced. “Hey, I like that movie!!” Gabby protested. “Well, go watch it with your boy toy over there! Lily screamed, pointing at Li. “HEY!! YOU LEAVE LI OUT OF THIS!!!” Gabby screeched; even Li was scared, Gabby’s face had gone from this “cutesy face” to a very convincing interpretation of Satan. The lightning that flashed in the background outside at the exact time Gabby’s face turned hellish only accentuated the horror. “Geez…I didn’t mean it…” Lily said. “You better not have…” Gabby warned. “Hey girls, I’m going to get something to eat, be back in a second. Li walked into the kitchen, which was huge as well, it had a large candelabra hanging over the center of the room, a huge, 9-burner stove, stone paneling and wood floors. Just then, he saw a small bowl of mushrooms, similar to Portobello mushrooms; he grabbed one and decided to eat it…

It wasn’t an edible mushroom. Immediately after swallowing it, Li began to feel the effects of the poison. He collapsed to the ground in violent spasms; the good thing was that he had hit his head on a cantaloupe falling over, and that’s what brought Joanna running. “Oh my Lord, Oh my Lord, get help! Get help! Li’s swallowed something rotten!” However, Joanna was quick to respond. She touched his face, and the convulsions stopped, as if he had never swallowed the poison. “Stay with me, please, stay with me!” Joanna panicked. She continued to keep her hand on his face, feeling for a pulse; it was weak, but it was getting stronger.

After about 5 minutes, all of the other girls came running in to help. They all placed their hands on Li’s face at once; the effect was similar to a defibrillator on a person in cardiac arrest. The spasms stopped, and breathing resumed as normal. The only thing wrong with Li now was that he was unconscious, thanks to a cantaloupe hitting him on the head. After 3 more minutes, Li awoke to the sight of all five girls standing over him, looking at his face. “How many fingers do you see?” Gabby said, holding up 2 fingers over Li’s head. “Two…” Li groaned. “He’s ok.” Gabby said, breathing a sigh of relief. “Let me ask you something…Is my head bleeding?” Li asked, feeling a wet liquid dripping onto his forehead. “No, there’s just a cantaloupe on your head. It looks like a hat. Tee hee.” Gabby giggled. Li placed his hand on his head and yanked the cracked melon off of his head. “If there was a club called “Victims of Fruit Assault,” I’d be club president, for sure. Now I’ve got to go take a shower…” “No, not in this weather. Lightning can strike a metal object outside of a structure and travel through the plumbing, zapping you to death with 300,000 volts of electricity in your birthday suit, which is not a very dignified way to die, to say the least. We already saved your life once today, we don’t want to do it again, but we will, if we have to.” Kiki said, very matter-of-factly. “What exactly caused my near-death?” “Well, you tried to eat a mushroom that looked like a Portobello, but it was actually called a Death Cap. Good luck we reached you in time!” “Trust her, she’s the smart Asian girl, she knows what she’s talking about.” “Oh, so that’s why I was seeing flying monkeys trying to steal Gabby’s panties…” “Wait, what were you dreaming about?” Gabby asked, a tone of anger rising in her voice. “It was just a dream; I was high on ‘shrooms, OK? Geez…” “Well, that’s the last time we ever let Li eat a mushroom again…” “Ok, I have two things to say right now: One-I’m an Asian genius too, just not with mushrooms; I built a computer at age 9, ok?! Two-I DON’T WANT TO BE MR. CANTALOUPE HEAD FOR THE REST OF THE NIGHT!!!” “Then, you can always go outside in the rain and wash it off.” Kiki suggested. Li wasted no time in rushing to the stairwell and down the 4 flights of stairs, he threw the doors open in sheer frustration and began running around in the now torrential rain, back and forth, scrubbing his head as if he was in the shower. The girls watched him from the top of the window as he ran around like a chicken with its head cut off; they were all giggling. Just then, a huge lightning bolt hit a tree only about 300 yards away. Li jumped literally a good 5 feet, and yelled four, simple words: WHAT AM I DOING?!!! Li ran back to the door, against the now 60-mph wind, up the stairs and crashed back into the living room, soaked to the bone. “Is your hair clean?” Kiki teased. “Yes, and so is every other part of me…” Li groaned as Gabby fetched him a towel. Li sat on the floor, as to not get Dorota’s fancy furniture wet. The wind was very strong now; it was amazing how quickly the storm was moving in. Just then, it hit Dorota like a ton of bricks: “It’s too late to leave, even though Hotel Building 13’s been evacuated. There’s no way anything could fly in this! Even the U.S. Navy’s keeping its ships in harbor.” Li and others were forced to accept this reality as well. They were the only souls left in the entire hotel complex…with no one within 1000 miles of them. “It looks like we’re on our own…this is going to be a looooong night…” Li said, very forebodingly. “I’ll get the weather-band radio; we’re sleeping in the safe room tonight. Get pillows and blankets, or any other things you might need. Chances are they won’t be here tomorrow.” Dorota wasn’t lying. They had to face Supertyphoon Upia alone. Li grabbed some food and walked down to the safe room. Little did they know exactly how bad “bad weather” could get.

7. Spy

“I’ve got everything I need!” Gabby announced. “Good…now help us bring this T.V. down the stairs…”What?! Why are you bringing that?” Li asked. “Joanna insisted that she wasn’t going to survive one night without watching her little “soap opera.” “I won’t live, I’ll tell ya.” “Don’t worry though, the place is big enough to hold all of us…Who are you?!” Dorota yelled upon opening the safe room doors.” Everyone froze, the T.V. dropped to the floor, shattering to pieces. “No! The T.V. broke!” Joanna cried. Everyone walked inside the safe room at double speed only to find…a spy in the building. “My name is Yaakov Shishkin, KGB Ensign.” he said. “This is my first mission. Why do you look so surprised? The Soviet Union has an unparalleled global intelligence network; you made it very easy for me to find you…” Shishkin pulled a bunch of pilfered pictures out of his pocket; they all showed Dorota drunk and dancing half-naked with Seta at that party that Li walked in on! “I must say, sweetheart, you have quite the charming figure…” Shishkin said; being only about Dorota’s age, he found her quite attractive. However, Dorota’s face looked absolutely vicious, like an atomic bomb ready to detonate. Sure enough, the countdown on that bomb began: “So, you went through my clothing drawers and pulled those pictures out?” “Well, how else was I supposed to get these things to bring back to Moscow?” “Those things aren’t GOING back to Moscow…but YOU are, IN A POOL OF YOUR OWN BLOOD, YOU FUCKING PERVERT!!!” Dorota screamed, she swung her fist and smashed Shishkin so hard that he went flying backwards into the wall. “Vishka!!” Dorota screamed. “Ouch…” Li said. “Wow…I never thought that she could be such a monster!” Lily remarked. Dorota dragged Shishkin’s unconscious body to a storage closet, shut the door and locked it. “At least we won’t have to deal with him anymore…” Dorota groaned. “Let’s sit and chat.” Gabby suggested over the moaning wind upstairs. “Listen, Li, we have to tell you something. It’s nothing bad, though, as a matter of fact, it might help you see the world from a different angle, so to speak.” Joanna said, bringing a bowl full of water from the sink. Joanna put her hand in the water, and told Li to do so as well. The moment Li placed his hands in the water; he was immersed in another world…

Li saw a dark room with a huge boiling cauldron in the center of the creepy, desolate prison, if that’s where it was. Li saw a sign on the wall, it said: “Erected in the year 1350” in Old English. There were hanging torture cages everywhere, and prison blocks all along the walkway that led to the cauldron. There were literally 15 inmates crammed into each cell; they were all chanting the words “God Wills It!!” “God Wills It!!” over and over again. Sure enough, an old man, about 70 years old, being dragged on a hurdle towards the cauldron. He was about to witness a medieval execution! “This must be the Tower of London…” Li thought. Three men, each one wearing dark robes and eerie masks, stood around the cauldron, and began speaking in tongues, random, unintelligible gibberish. The decrepit old man, torn and bleeding, was removed from the hurdle and brought toward the cauldron. The men removed their masks: Li was shocked when he saw Seta, Victor and Von Der Tann’s faces! Victor began chanting the words, “May the beings of the light, feel their might, may the spirits of the dark come out to-night! They all started chanting this, faster and faster until the old man was just about to be dropped into the cauldron… “SEIZE THEM!!! THE UNHOLY TRINITY RESIDES IN THE BLOODY TOWER!!!” a priest yelled as 30 English Royal Guards charged in, swords at the ready. The old man was dropped on the ground as all three of them, simply teleported away. The Guards found the old man lying on the ground and… the vision came to an end.

Li was panting, breathing heavily. “Seta…Von Der Tann…Victor…They’re the Unholy Trinity…” “Yes. We know. We’ve been waiting to tell you. “Then, if you can show me this…and cure me with one touch, not to mention make me high by touching me…you must be…” “Yes, Li. We are angels of Heaven.” Li opened his eyes, and saw ghostly, transparent wings spread behind each girl’s back. “Wow…Wow!” Li said. Suddenly, it all made sense. “All the luck I’ve been having…the trip, the fish, the food…It’s all because of you!” “Everything happens for a reason, hun, you just have to figure it out.” Joanna said, smiling. “We can’t see all the way into the future, but we can see a limited distance; and, with the return of the Unholy Trinity, it’s not pretty. What we can tell you is that Von Der Tann will win the election in the U.S.A., and rebuild its economy within one year. He will be viewed as one of the best American presidents ever by both the right and left wings, then the war will start…then things get cloudy.” “Well, looks like your “stud” just turned out to be the Anti-Christ. How do you feel now, huh?” Gabby japed, making fun of how infatuated with Seta her four friends were just 3 weeks earlier, before Li had arrived. “Don’t you say anything, you liked him too!” Dorota sneered. Just then, the amazing moment of discovery for Li was interrupted by an eerie, slow applause. “Bravo, my non-Marxist friends…” Shishkin chuckled. “But…we…the closet…” “What can I say? I got out. Now that you’ve told me everything I needed to know and then some, I will be leaving now…angels. Dorota spread her wings and charged at Shishkin with her fist literally glowing with white light. “I smite thee in the name of Heaven-“Dorota swung her fist at nothing but air, as Shishkin had suddenly vanished. “Damn it!” Dorota yelled. “Well, now we’ve got three problems: the storm, the Unholy Trinity and now the USSR on our backs thanks to KGB-pervert who just used some gadget to disappear on me! How can this get any-“CRASH!! The windows upstairs smashed as the storm was roaring at more than 120 mph, blowing the power to both the apartment and the safe room. “Oh, Dorota, were you just about to say worse?!” Gabby yelled. “Hang on; I’ve got the backup generators.” Li said, flipping the switch. The lights came back on for the safe room. “I can’t believe it…This storm’s going to destroy this place; it’s been home for so long…” Kiki lamented. “Yeah, but we’ll rebuild.” Dorota reassured. “Besides, we’re still here.” Gabby interjected. “Li, turn on the radio to the International Alert Band.” Li activated the radio as all hell was breaking loose upstairs, with the smashing of expensive things making noises that Dorota didn’t want to hear; “Eek…” Dorota yelped as what sounded like a several-thousand dollar cabinet fell to the floor. “We should close the door so that Dorota doesn’t have a heart attack.” “I didn’t know angels could get heart attacks…how is Dorota an angel, anyway? I thought she was atheist.” “Well, some angels go rogue…I guess I fall into that category.” Dorota mumbled. “So, can you tell me how that whole vision you showed me actually happened?” Li asked, curiously. “Well, it would be so much easier if I explained these old scripts to you.” Joanna said as she pulled some loose scraps of paper from her cute black purse. The pictures were so old that it was amazing that they hadn’t been turned to dust. “The pictures you are looking at come from the Tower of London Museum in Britain; these are dated from 1300-1350, describing a very creepy series of events in London and the surrounding counties, involving the murders of several sheriffs, torture, witchcraft and vampirism, causing mass panic in the general populace.” Li looked at the very spooky images of beheadings, hideous torture techniques, odd rituals and “creatures” drinking blood from rotting corpses. “Then, these three men appeared, each one claiming to be an emissary to the King of England. They began to stabilize the rioting masses, which were being killed by the King’s men and knights. Eventually, the three “emissaries” became the appointed Sheriffs of their respective counties, even though the King didn’t trust them at first. The three of them brought order to London and England, until the ghastly attacks started happening again; the King immediately knew that he had been tricked by his three new Sheriffs, so, like any angry monarch would, he sent his troops after them, along with a priest, just in case. By the time the troops had searched the ENTIRE English countryside, they found no sign of the three men, the priest’s worst fears were confirmed. A witch hunt broke out, claiming that the three men were sorcerers. The scene you saw was the final act of this witch hunt, with the priest cornering the Unholy Trinity and failing to capture the Trinity. What they did find, however, was a note, nailed to the old man’s hand: “ALL WHO FOLLOW US WILL KNOW POWER.”

Li was stunned after looking at the images. “If it weren’t from you, I’d of thought you were telling me a ghost story, this is freaky…” “Well, you’d best believe. You’re living in one. Just then, Gabby’s cell phone rang. “How the hell am I getting reception in the middle of a typhoon? “That’s ‘phunny’ with a ‘PH.’” “Why must you always make such weird references, Joanna?” “Well, I saw it on a late-night comedy show where they were making ‘phun’ of ‘phools’ and “obnoxious sports phans.’ It was really funny, that time not with a PH.” “Well, then, I guess that is kind of funny, but what moon of Jupiter are you on when you think that making fun of sports fans is funny?” Kiki, the very athletic one said as Gabby was trying to hear the dial tone over the wind and rain and the bickering argument between Joanna and Kiki. “Well, I never played sports or engaged in any sporting activities in high school, I just studied and excelled that way.” Li listened to this, realizing that her prettiness probably helped her, as she claimed that she had never gotten a speeding ticket, even when she was pulled over. “I have a question.” Li asked Joanna. “How are angels born and die?” “Well, without a body we are just the energy of all that’s good. However, when we take human form, we live out our lives and eventually take another form.” “Oh, ok.” Li responded, satisfied. “By the way, St. Nicholas says hello to you, Li.” Gabby said, hanging up the phone. “He and all the other saints are anxiously awaiting your return to them, and the whole sled with the reindeer gimmick, that’s wrong. He uses a book called the Book of Justinian to travel around the world.” “The what?” “The Book of Justinian, last possessed by the leader of the Byzantine Empire on the eve of its destruction by Mehmet II.” As the storm raged outside, Joanna started putting her lipstick on and sat there, bored. They were safe from the storm surge because they were on a hill. “Hey, so you’re not afraid?” Joanna asked Li, with a sinister tone. “No, why?” “Well I am…especially after, well, you know…” “Oh God, is this one of your stupid attempts to be scary again? You can’t scare anyone; the only thing you ever do to a guy is get him hot!” “Shut up, let her tell the story. I want to hear it.” Li said. “Years ago, at this very hotel, the Dark King Shigihera used to be the manager, just like you, Dorota…” Joanna said, pointing at Dorota’s face. “Oh God…” Dorota rolled her eyes. “He went mad, and killed his family with a murderous samurai sword; dressed in the robes of Taira-no-Tomomori, he painted his face with the clay of the cliffs near Honshu, and then sacrificed himself by being shot with 12 arrows in the back, but returned as a demonic entity, an ancient death god, with searing red eyes, fang-like teeth, chalk-white skin, a huge, shaggy head of black hair, the ancient Lordly Robes, and a soul-stealing slasher sword, and on nights like this, he rises from the dead to return to the place where he used to manage, and reap the souls of those who live here…BOO!” “EEK!!” Gabby screeched. Everyone laughed, until there was a loud, harsh knock at the door. “Wow…I didn’t know anyone would be out in this weather…We should let him in!” Gabby cheered. “Wait…what if it’s the ghost? Ha-ha!” Joanna laughed, making Gabby angry. Just then, the door opened…by itself, and a loud banging noise echoed throughout the building. “…eek!” Joanna squeaked, quietly. “Don’t make any noise, maybe it’s just that weird Russian guy again…I hope so.” “Shhh! It’s getting closer!” “Is it just me, or is it getting cold in here?” “That’s the first sign of a ghost…Eek!” As the noises grew louder, Joanna looked at Li sweetly, grabbed his face and kissed him forcefully, just then, Li felt as if he had superhuman powers. The door to the shelter swung open, and sure enough, there stood the horrid ghost of Shigihera, sword drawn! “It can’t be! It’s not real!” Gabby cowered. It was very real. His mad, psychotic gaze stared menacingly at them, it was just his shadow form, but still, it was clearly a demon ghost.


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