Wu stiffened to attention. “Sir!” Two of the soldiers nearby stepped

forward, flanking Xiang. One pulled the pistol from the general’s


“I protest!” Xiang exploded. “I have friends on the Central Committee!”

Hsiao ignored the man. “Colonel Wu, you are in command here now.”

“Comrade General,” the colonel said, drawing himself up taller and

squaring his shoulders with pride. “You honor me!”

Hsiao knew exactly what thoughts were going through Wu’s

mind–recognition, advancement, promotion … It was a shame that so

capable an officer was doomed to disappointment. As far as the fighter

squadron commander knew, he was here with his command in Burma on the

orders of Beijing, part of a covert program sanctioned by the Central


Colonel Wu would have been shocked to learn that the Chinese aircraft

now based at Mong-koi had been diverted from other duties by Hsiao’s own

intelligence apparatus, that Beijing knew nothing of this operation. The

planes were being assembled at Mong-koi using the same arms pipelines

that had funneled Chinese arms to revolutionary governments around the

world for decades.

But the requisitions and the approvals had been Hsiao’s, not the


Wu would be lucky not to be shot once his part in this affair was known.

As for Xiang and his friends in Beijing, he would never have a chance to

communicate with them. Their fates, however, did not concern Hsiao,

except for the need to keep the colonel’s suspicions allayed until after

Sheng li was fully under way.

Sheng li. The phrase, Mandarin for victory, sang in Hsiao’s brain like

the theme of a people’s triumphal march. Soon, soon …

“You will maintain the timetable as I have written it,” Hsiao told Wu.

“Events in Thailand have reached the point where nothing must interfere

with the timing of this operation. Nothing!”

“Understood, Comrade General. And General Xiang?”

Hsiao spared the general a single glance. The man stood between his two

guards, half supported by them. His eyes were glassy, and he looked as

though he were in shock.

Hsiao had known Xiang was a fool from the beginning. The man’s sole

virtue lay in the ease with which Hsiao had been able to manipulate him,

and the former intelligence officer had needed a high-ranking puppet at

Fuhsingchen airbase in south China in order to divert the stolen


But he was no longer needed, and his weakness made him a liability now.

“Shoot him,” Hsiao said.

“No! I am a loyal general officer of the People’s Republic! You

cannot do this!” Xiang struggled in the grip of his captors, but he was


His screams and shouted protests and threats dwindled away as the guards

frog-marched him away.

“I insist you tell me what is going on!” the Burmese general said,

speaking Burmese. General Nung Kol’s round and florid face gave the

impression that he was sweltering in the braid-heavy coat with its row

upon row of medals.

“Nothing that need concern you, General,” Hsiao said, easily slipping

into Burmese himself. “A breach in discipline is being corrected.”

The sharp crack of a gunshot rang from around the corner of the air

operations building punctuating Hsiao’s bland statement. Kol’s eyes

widened at the sound and he licked his fat lips. “I warned General

Xiang that the shipments of fighters from China should not be

interrupted. I warned him that-”

“Sheng li will continue as planned,” Hsiao said quietly, interrupting


General Kol cast a brow-furrowed glance toward the sky. As commander of

the new military base at Mong-koi, he was continually worried about the

Chinese presence here, unsanctioned by his superiors in Rangoon. He, in

his way, was as much a traitor to his own people as was Hsiao. “You are

certain, General Hsiao, that the Americans cannot detect these aircraft

with their satellites? I have heard that they can see in the dark,

that they can read newspapers from space-”

“Calm yourself, General. Not even the Americans can watch everything

that happens everywhere in the world! And if they do see them, so

what? Your government does not even know these planes are here, true?

The Americans may protest to Rangoon, and Rangoon will deny everything,

and there the matter shall rest, for the Americans will be unwilling to

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Categories: Keith Douglass