Scion: Cold War
Successful Pacific Rim smuggler.
Str 1 Cha 3 Per 3
Dex 3/E1 Man 5/E2 Int 2
Sta 2/E1 App 2 Wit 4/E2
Athletics 1 Fortitude 1 Politics 3
Awareness 3 Integrity 1 Presence 1
Brawl 2 Investigate 1 Stealth 3
Command 3 Larceny 3 Survival 3
Control (car) 1 Marksmanship 2
Followers: * Three loyal thugs, two permanently bought beat cops
Guide: * Fei-hsien Ming, PLA colonel and Triad (known since 1979, first underworld contact)
Relic ** 19th century jade-inlaid opera glasses (moon, psychopomp)
Relic * 18th century Dutch optical prism (sun)
* Penetrating Glare
* Unerring Orientation
* 5 Cycle Augment
* Smoking Mirror
Dex/no cost Cat’s Grace
Sta/no cost Holy Fortitude
Man/1 willpower Overt Order
Man/1 Legend God’s Honest
Wit/1 Legend Rabbit Reflexes
Wit/no cost Social Chameleon
Zhou Xilai was born in Taiyuan in 1956. His father Wen, a civil engineer and former revolutionary officer, had been posted to the growing industrial city to build rail lines, but was instead caught up in the purges of the Anti-Rightist Movement after criticizing Mao’s industrial policies. It would be years before Zhou learned of his father’s eventual death of flu in a reeducation camp; in the meantime, Zhou and his mother were relocated to an agricultural commune in Xinjiang, where they were the only Han. There they lead a precarious existence in the chaos and famines of the early Great Leap Forward, distrusted by their clannish neighbors. Zhou’s earliest memories were of hunger, cold, and hostile, alien faces, and even after food became more plentiful, the commune was never a happy place for either of the Xilais. He left as soon as he was able, lying about his age to enlist in the PLA in 1973.
After a lengthy, boring and unpleasant stint as a private in the infantry, Zhou met an ambitious older officer, Fei-Hsien Ming, who recognized Zhou’s frustrated intelligence, befriended him, and promoted him to staff sergeant. Both men came into their own during the late seventies; Ming ascended swiftly through the ranks, propelled by both a stellar performance record and adroit politicking, and was transferred to successively more elite and prestigious commands. Zhou was always at his side, learning the PLA’s ropes and increasingly taking charge of the supply arrangements of Ming’s units, becoming adept at finding, trading, and transporting military materiel and luxury goods via the armed forces’ extensive internal black markets. At various points in this part of his career, he operated an air cargo system moving Afghani opium from China’s far west to certain exclusive circles in Beijing, sold PLA jeeps to village Party chiefs, and managed to smuggle several trucks full of prostitutes and American whiskey through the security cordon of a nuclear research facility that Ming’s forces were garrisoning.
These halcyon days came to a swift end in February 1979, when Deng Xiaoping ordered the PLA into northern Vietnam. Ming and Zhou found themselves deployed to the front, facing Vietnamese enemies who had spent most of their lives at war. The Chinese offensive bogged down in the face of cunning and pitiless guerilla resistance, Zhou saw more cruelty and death than even the Xinjiang commune could have prepared him for, and after a cold night hiding in a ditch after their vehicle was hit by RPG fire, the two men decided to pursue new careers in the civilian world.
By the end of the “Defensive Counterattack against Vietnam”, Ming and Zhou were both decorated veterans – thanks as much to Ming’s political skills as to their combat record -who were owed favors by certain PLA brass and Party members, some of whom had embarrassing vices. These connections not only greased the path for the two to be released from their military obligations, but for them to gain travel and work permits to the newly created Shenzhen SEZ. Once established there, the two set up an import-export business, trading Chinese resources for Western consumer goods, which could be hawked for many times their retail price in Los Angeles or Tokyo. Moving cargoes through Hong Kong, it wasn’t long before Ming and Zhou came in contact with the Triads, who offered them access to a much larger panoply of goods and services, in exchange for a channel into the vast sea of as-yet-unmet consumer demand that was mainland China.
As the 1980s went by, the two businessmen built themselves a solid niche in Shenzhen’s thriving criminal ecosystem. Their legitimate ventures served as cover and money laundries for the illegal enterprises that occupied far more of their time. Starting from drug shipments and counterfeit RMB notes, they branched out into pirated video and music tapes and crates of AKs bound for African shores, and established warm working relationships with the local police and Party officials. The Triads found Fei-Hsien useful and reliable, and gradually he would become a trusted liaison and something close to a formally initiated Triad member himself.
One of Ming and Zhou’s sidelines was smuggling illegal immigrants into Hong Kong, making use of Ming’s Triad links and Zhou’s smuggling tradecraft. By the late eighties, Zhou found that this sideline was consuming most of his time, and that he was the foremost provider of such services in Shenzhen. He cultivated his own connections with the police and port officials of both cities, and found a variety of ways to smuggle his clients out, ranging from simply running boats across the water in the dead of night to concealing human cargo inside goods shipments. As the 1997 handover date approached, immigration into Hong Kong slowed, but boatloads of Chinese emigrants were appearing on the coasts of North America, and Zhou saw opportunity to reproduce his previous success on a larger scale.
By the turn of the century, Zhou was moving human and other contraband between the container ports of China and those of Vancouver, Seattle and Los Angeles, coming to know his part of the global supply chain, and its exploitable failure modes, quite intimately — and profiting handsomely by his knowledge and connections. He had several Chinese passports, two or three Canadian ones and a single prized American citizenship (obtained just before 9/11) and had a solid base of operations in every city he did business in. The 2008 financial crash hardly damaged his business, and although he couldn’t say that he was fulfilled exactly, he could say that he’d made himself a place in the world and was more content than not, on good days.
Then, on a hot, muggy day in August 2011, while Zhou was stuck in traffic between the Yantian container yard and the airport, the Archer, Hou Yi, paid Zhou a visit. Now he’s involved with a lot of strange people doing freakish magicy nonsense in the Pacific Northwest, and he’s not too sure how he feels about it. It’s also worth noting that Zhou had a fairly wild young adulthood, what with being a rising criminal and all, and while he settled into a sort of gruff, no-nonsense business identity later in life, the rash, risk-taking, thrill-seeking young man he once was may be reawakening to some extent.
Some survey questions *
What is your name?
What else do you answer to?
Wen Zhaobang, Desmond Lu, Greg Chiang, and some other invented names on my passports. When they think I can’t hear, my employees sometimes call me Ox. I’m all right with that, there are worse things to be called.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
In Taiyuan, but I grew up in a commune about thirty miles outside Urumqi. When you’re dying to run off and catch the big city lights and thrills in Urumqi, then you’re really nowhere, you might as well be in outer space. Except outer space wouldn’t smell like night soil.
What was your religious upbringing?
Uh… religion was illegal, round-eye. The Uighurs probably believed in some nonsense. I used to hear a bunch of them all chanting together now and then. Fat lot of good it ever seemed to do them, they’re all probably working in the gas fields now.
Was there something you believed in as a child? When did you stop?
I believed my father was all-powerful, of course, like most boys do. That had a fairly obvious stopping point. I never believed in Communism. I think he might have believed in it, even if maybe it was just for a moment.
Who is your mother? When is the last time you saw her?
My mother was Bai Xilai, her maiden name was Guan. I was at her funeral in 2004. I feel sorry that she had to rot in that stupid commune for even longer than I did. She told me that it got a little better after I left, but she was still happy to get the hell out and settle down in a condo I bought her in Urumqi. We never had that much to talk about, but I wish I could have given her more.
Who is your father? When is the last time you saw him?
My father was Wei Xilai, and I was very young when he was taken from us, but I remember him as a proud, stubborn, intelligent man who could draw beautifully. I don’t think I ever got to watch him at work, although I would have loved to do so, but one of my earliest memories is of sitting with him in our yard, watching him make a sketch of a bridge. I must have been all of three years old, but I stopped toddling around, pulling up grass, chasing bugs and sticking my grubby hands in my drooling mouth to watch him draw. His lines were so smooth and precise, it was magical how they suddenly became an image of a big, strong bridge, leading towards a clean, bright city. In that moment I wanted to walk across that bridge and live in that city, and I wished I could draw like that, and I might have become an artist or an architect if the opportunity had existed.
The last time I saw him, I was in the kitchen with my mother, eating rice porridge, when someone knocked on the door. My father was somewhere else in the house, doing some kind of morning chore, and my mother went to the door. It was the police and they wanted my father. They weren’t rude or abusive, but they weren’t friendly or polite either, and I could see my mother was frightened. My father did her best to make her feel that everything was fine, that he would be back shortly, and he ruffled my hair. I really think that he expected to be back, but I never saw him again, and it took me a long time to accept that he was really dead. When we were in the commune, for years I expected him to just show up one day and explain that there was a mistake and he’d fixed everything and we could go home. I was angry with him when he didn’t. Some small part of me is still angry with him.
Where do you live? Describe your home.
I move around a lot, but “my town” is definitely Hong Kong. It’s ugly in a lot of ways, but what city isn’t? It’s a good city to have money in, but more than that, it’s alive in a way that I can’t help loving. I never want to live in the country again, that’s for sure. I love the warmth and the street food and the gorgeous women that go walking by. Hong Kong has the world’s prettiest women.
What do you do for money?
Aside from your home or a workplace, where do you spend the most time?
I have offices in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, but they’re different offices every month or two. I also spend a lot of time, maybe too much, in and around docks and container ports and storage yards. Sometimes I do my recruiting or other business in bars, usually lower class but okay bars, the kind of places where workers drink, but also where middle and upper class men go to gamble and whore, places where I won’t stand out in a 10,000 yuan suit.
What do you drive?
A hybrid Mercedes SUV. Mostly because it’s expected.
Describe your mobile phone.
Used to be an Iphone, these days a Galaxy S. The encryption and privacy suite on it cost ten times what the phone did, but it’s worth every penny. If you steal my car, I don’t give a fuck, but if you steal my phone, I’d be pissed — not that it would do you any good, it turns into a brick if you don’t know my password!
What do you carry with you all the time?
Did I mention my phone? One passport, the one I’m operating under at that place and time — the rest are in safes. About five grand US in cash — enough that I can buy my way out of a lot of messes, but not enough that I’d miss it if I got mugged. A multitool. Wallet photos of my parents that I never look at. A scrap of paper with Fei-Hsien’s latest phone number on it, and my lawyers’ phone numbers on it, disguised as train schedules. A can of tear gas. I carry a pistol if something is making me really nervous, it’s not “daily carry”. A laptop is something in my car, disposable, also not “daily carry”.
What was the outcome of your last relationship?
I haven’t really had a relationship since the early nineties. I think I was in love with her, but I only realized it after the relationship was over. She left me because I was working too much and didn’t have any time for her.
What was the last TV show you watched regularly?
Top Gear and fashion shows. It’s funny, I’m looking at all these things that they want me to buy, and I laugh at it, but I still buy some of them anyway. I think partly it’s just a way to try to keep up my camouflage.
How do you get your news?
I have lots of RSS feeds on my phone. Business news, political news, fashion, sports. Some of it is stuff I really need and use, a lot is just junk to make small talk with.
The visitation: Hou Yi appeared in my car, in the form of an elderly, elite-level Chinese businessman. I asked him if he had a job that he wanted doing, and he did. He wanted some woman brought from inland China to Seattle on New Year’s Day 2012. He offered me either whatever amount of money I wanted, or two objects, to be given on her delivery. At that point I asked who he was. He said he was my father, and backed it up with some things that only he and I and my mother would know. I asked him why he left, and he said that where he had to go, I couldn’t follow. He told me I was the best at what I did, and I told him I’d been lucky. He said I’d keep being lucky. I was angry and doubtful, but I wanted to know what the two objects were, and I wanted to talk to him more. I took the job. I dropped him off and he vanished. I’m still a little angry. I’ll do what he asks, within reason, but next time I want a lot more information. I feel a fool for not grilling him further at the time.
I met the woman. She was like somebody’s grandmother, except for these really bright eyes that basically looked right into my brain. She said her name was Kua, and hinted broadly that she’d worked with my father on the creation of the world.