Using General Huang’s gun, the one he gave to Mai for protection the day he was arrested, to kill General Ma is ironic since Ma was the agency responsible for Huang’s gruesome death. Yet Huang, the major figure that he is, dead and without dialogue or action, controls the actions of others in the chain of revenge between the two families, Zhu and Huang.
Mai Martin’s unexpected return to Xi’an and detection by the hotel staff yields a bonus to Chengyou Zhu, disgraced and retired member of the Politburo and an enemy to the Huang family, Mai and the Americans.
The three novellas, Human Hybrids, Dangerous Visions and Wasted Time, will be released in 2019 in a boxed set!
In this double panel Mai meets up with her crew, Ron and General Gao, the Commander. They reassure her of her safety. At the same time, they discuss the threat posed by the NAP, attacking them while they walk around in the evening. Mai goes berserk, bites and chases her attacker like a wolf. Black spots cover her face, and she gets a taste of blood.
The threesome navigates a street packed with food vendors bar-b-queing various things, adding their meat smoke to the exhaust of the cars creeping past in both directions with barely inches to spare. Mobs of people thread around and in between. A European face speaks to her, says he’s from Kazakhstan. An Algerian woman, a scientist from the conference, in hijab and trousers, bargains with a woman selling cheap beads and fake pearls.
They pass a peddler selling bags of oranges. Ron exchanges a few yuan for a net bag of the fruit.
“Mama will be happy when I tell her about the oranges,” says Ron.
“I talked to Luyu today,” says Mai.
“About the memorial?” he asks.
“Yes, and she’s coming tomorrow for lunch.”
“Have I met her?” Ron queries.
“She’s Huang’s daughter by his first wife, the one who lives here in Xi’an. It was Luyu’s fiancé, Henry Fong, who was murdered in the middle of the big bust. Rick shot the attacker.”
“This was while I was missing?”
“Yes. She’s a sweet kid and well connected if her father is being interred in the Martyr’s Cemetery.”
“Which means what?”
“His ancestor died in the war of liberation, in 1949, when New China was founded.”
“And his father was sent up during the Cultural Revolution. He was CO of the Yunming Military Region. And his mother.”
“And Zhu is his family enemy, going back to that?”
“It’s tied together,” explains Mai.
The street turns away from the traffic and bright lights. Here it is wide and flat, easy for walking, and many people are out enjoying the pleasant evening.
General Gao adds, “Zhu hasn’t been arrested for what happened to Huang and Cuo. They’re pinning the blame on General Ma.”
“Why are we here? This is crazy!” exclaims Mai. The street turns up a hill. A school with a large playground accompanies them from behind a staunch retaining wall and iron spike fence lining one side of the street. In the dark, Mai studies the old houses lining the opposite side.
“And Zhu knows that it was you who put the video on CCTV of Huang’s bogus arrest by the National Armed Police, Martin Taitai,” adds Gao. “…and the grisly video of their bodies… on top of it you shot Ma, his little brother.”
A sliver of a new moon rises from behind the summit, many meters ahead.
“Zhu could be around the next corner with his NAPster goons,” cries Mai. The danger, instead of frightening, stimulates her augmented senses. In the dark, under her jacket, Mai’s spots tingle with a fresh imperative.
“Wo shi. Gao shi,” says Ron, reaching in the dark, pulling her close to him as they walk a few more metres up the street in silence, the increasing steepness no impediment to Mai’s strides. She easily keeps up with the military men despite her pregnancy.
They’ve left buildings behind. The street diminishes into a walkway which passes under an arch and into a park. There flourishing twisted pines crouch as if black beasts hiding in the shadows.
“Mai, where are you going?” asks Ron. “It’s pitch black up there.” His flashlight illuminates the three faces in a circle. Mai’s spots catch a sheen of iridescence. “Let’s go back to the hotel.”
Re-tracing their route, they walk in silence.
“The General wasn’t as bad as he seemed at first,” she admits.
“He didn’t deserve to die that way, but I’m glad he’s dead. The man couldn’t keep his hands off you. You’re free of him now.”
“And we’re going to his memorial. It’s bad luck to speak ill of the dead.”
Confirming Mai’s superstitious sentiment, shadows materialize from between houses and rush at the Beijingers. The moment she feels hands laid on her, Mai morphs into a primal terror, protecting the babies from an unknown assailant. She bends over the hand and bites at the boney flesh. Bloody, hot and salty tang spurts into her mouth. The man screams and recoils. Mai leaps at him, blue sparks flashing from demonic canine eyes. He turns and runs down the deserted street, dodging between parked cars, with Mai on his heels. She leaps, grasps a foot, twists it and takes him down.
The Commander and Ron react as swiftly to shadowy assailants, chasing them back into the dark. Turning down the hill toward Mai, they race to find her standing with the heel of her boot on the neck of a man, shivering and clutching his hand dripping with blood.
“I caught one,” she announces triumphantly.
In the light of a streetlamp, Mai’s spots are unmistakable, spilling up from the neck of her shirt, crowding her face with pulsing black spots surrounding white hot flaming eyes. Streaks of blood smear across her jacket.
Jabbering in Mandarin, the man curses Mai, “The bitch bit me, look at this! Look!”
“Let go,” says Gao.
The men frisk him and find his NAP ID.
“You have a bad wound. You should see a doctor,” says the Commander. “Get out of here.” The man spins and dashes down the street.
“Stay here, I’ll walk down to the boulevard and flag a cab,” says Ron. In the time it takes for him to return, the Commander watches Mai crouching on the retaining wall and withdrawing into herself. The spots cool into a mottled iridescence. She barely notices, when they turn the corner in front of the hotel, the cheerful lights in every color and the huge conference banner across the entrance.