a brief excerpt
Gary Baker, October 2014
(part of the continuing Roi Anxo project)
Public Security Minister, Xu Shengkun, strode quickly under high-vaulted ceilings adorned with red party tapestries. Ahead loomed the desk of Party Secretary Jin Keqiang, current leader of the Chinese Republic, where the man sat poised in thought over a series of papers.
Xu had sent those papers in preparation for this meeting as a way of breaking the ice before another war could break out. They included documents written and signed by the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. Consulate, along with similar documents by much more discreet members of the Republic acting abroad. All in all the file ended up far thicker than Xu had intended, but it more than suited the task. When he’d discovered this Anxo footman at the heart of the whole controversy, Xu had gathered what he could as quick as possible and held those additional papers in hand. He stopped just a pace away from the great Keqiang’s desk and waited silently.
After mulling over another page of scriptwork coded with a cypher that only seven individuals in the Republic knew, Keqiang looked up and removed his glasses to place them lightly on the file. “Interesting crafters, our dear American friends are, wouldn’t you say, Shengkun?”
Xu gave a solemn bow, then proffered the new pages.
“Oh?” The Secretary appeared eager, as a child would before venturing into the dark forests at night. Xu could only hope that his president was strong enough to not come out running before first light. “Shengkun you outdo yourself, I assure you.” He took the papers and laid them out neatly, replaced his glasses and began reading once more. In the middle of the third page, he looked up without moving his head, peering over the tops of his spectacles. “Tell me, Shengkun, am I correct to assume that you are one of the few who know this code?” The minister bowed his head silently. “And I am to suspect that there are others, surely, who would know this information as well?”
Finally Xu felt that a submissive bow would not suffice what his superior was asking of him, and let loose a near-whisper in reply. “No, your grace.”
Secretary Keqiang leaned back with a smile, “good. Let us keep it that way, shall we? In fact,” with a short sweeping arc above his desk his arm ended with poised fingertips mere inches above a bowl of individually wrapped candies, “have a White Rabbit for your secrecy.”
Suddenly Xu took a step back without conscious control, eyes widening as though he’d been given a death sentence. “Your,” he stammered, hands no longer held at his sides but aloft of their own accord, “grace?”
A moment passed in silence, neither man able nor willing to move. It was as sure of a standoff as the Collective Communist Regimes had been with the powers of the western world. Xu’s mind wandered here and there like a qingting over lotus leaves in spring. He retraced the files in his mind, wondering what he could have put in that would bring about such abominable dishonor and subsequent death sentence. Perhaps it had even been that he simply knew too much and was now being quelled from the already thin crowd.
Then the Secretary started laughing his light, airy, almost-breathy laugh and laid his arms down upon the desk haphazardly. “So you even know of those, do you?” He leaned forward with another broad grin, “may I ask how many know of this, then, Master Shengkun?”
“I,” he fought for the words, coming up blank with every heartbeat, “I,” finally he sighed and lost some of his controlled confidence. “Not many, your grace.”
Another eerie smile. “And again we shall keep it that way, will we not?” Secretary Keqiang returned his gaze to the papers, this time barely scanning them as his eyes darted about, “I know this code is seldom known, yet I shall burn these momentarily now that I know what they contained. For now I simply wish you to graciously accept one of these treats and keep it on you for,” he glanced to the side as though looking for the right word, “shall we say: ‘a rainy day’?”
The man then stood and held out a hand for Xu to take. Shaking, the Party Secretary and figurehead for the whole of the Chinese Republic bowed just enough to show honorable intentions. “Master Shengkun should you so choose to accept, I have a proposal to offer you,” they released each other and the great man stepped slowly around his desk until he and Xu were both moving toward the main door practically matching strides. “I will not be coy with you, Shengkun, this series of events leads me to believe that China is at a serious disadvantage, and disadvantages for China no matter how miniscule must be stamped out.” He stopped and held Xu’s gaze, “no matter the cost, Master Shengkun.” Continuing their short, slow walk with their footfalls echoing in the chamber around them, Keqiang seemed to lose some energy in his demeanor. “I do not like the idea of placing one so keen to my trust as you so far away, but I need you to take over for Dashi Meng Yuanchao. While my need of you here is great, Shengkun,” he stopped at the door and placed one hand on Xu’s shoulder while the other patted his chest pocket, “there are things which must be done about this footman who claims he can speak for the whole world.”
At that the Secretary gave Xu just enough of a nudge that he moved through the open door and felt it close behind him. For a moment he just stood there wondering what just happened. Surely he didn’t intend for Xu to assassinate the man within the heart of a military base behind enemy lines, not only was he not trained for that sort of act he also would have no means of escape thereafter.
Xu looked down at the candy he’d been given when they’d parted from the desk. It certainly didn’t look like it could kill a man, wrapped in white and blue packaging with a soft harmless rabbit acting as a clear window to the creamy custard paste inside, but he knew better than to see things directly as they appeared after serving his government for as long as he had.
At the soft caress of increasing pressure he sighed and dropped the candy into his breast pocket, only to hear it crinkle on something within. Curious, Xu reached back up and removed not one, but two milk candies from his pocket. While he knew instantly where it had come from, he could only guess as to it’s meaning. One thing was certain, however, and that was that he had much to get ready in the short number of days before he would officially take over for Ambassador Meng Yuanchao.