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The Wuhan Mystery

The Wuhan Mystery

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The Wuhan Mystery

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488 pages
7 hours
Dirilis:
Dec 23, 2020
ISBN:
9781005584825
Format:
Buku

Deskripsi

The USA takes China to court citing global suspicions about its role in the Covid -19 pandemic in this semi – serious, quirky romp through the chaos of the years 2019 through 2021. Seen through the eyes of three different people. ICJ judge Humby, Chinese scientist Li Jun -who works in the virology lab in Wuhan -and Harry Shepperton and his specialist team from the UK secret service, who are charged with unearthing the truth about the origins of the virus.

The world media, who firstly labeled it trial of the century, then crime of the century, wait with bated breath and digital pens poised. The ICJ decision will be momentous. If they find China guilty after hearing all the evidence it will create a seismic wave of momentous proportions throughout global politics. Most of the witnesses know elements of the truth which are not known to each other as the final pieces of the coronavirus jigsaw puzzle finally come together.

Has Covid–19 actually been the scam of the century, orchestrated from the wings by the most powerful of all global forces as evidenced by the sustained international effort required to press the global economy reset button, fabricate a second wave that never really happened and keep the whole sham running for so long.

Dirilis:
Dec 23, 2020
ISBN:
9781005584825
Format:
Buku

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The Wuhan Mystery - Johnny Johnson

author

Abbreviations

HMG – Her Majesty’s Government: The UK Government.

PM – Prime Minister: Head of the UK Government.

Cabinet – The collective name for the UK’s top Ministers.

MI6 / SIS – Former / current UK Secret service units

CIA – Central Intelligence Agency. Their US counterparts

RRT – Rapid Response Team. A fictitious unit within MI6/ SIS.

NHS – National Health Service: The UK’s medical network

ICJ – International court of Justice.

CCP – Chinese Communist Party. The Government of China

WIV – Wuhan Institute of Virology.

CAS – Chinese Academy of Sciences.

CLEP – Chinese Lunar Exploration Programme.

PLA – People’s Liberation Army. The Chinese military.

BW – Biological Weapon.

USAF – US Air Force.

O/b – Outside broadcast

With many thanks to Eileen and Sunny

For Lydia and Mark

My inspiration for everything

CHAPTER 1 – JOINING UP THE DOTS

Harry Shepperton was briefing his team in the way he knew best. By listening. The format was always the same. He gave them the problem, the facts, the outline, and some detail. Then he’d shut up and let them go at it. So in that regard, this briefing was like any other. Only it wasn’t. This one was deadly serious, dealing, as it was, with the Coronavirus, an emerging threat to the population of the entire planet.

It could have been a medical briefing, but it wasn’t. His team weren’t doctors. It could have been a political briefing, but it wasn’t. His team weren’t politicians. It could have been a military briefing, but it wasn’t. His team weren’t soldiers.

It was an intelligence briefing. Worryingly, about a form of intelligence that none of them had ever come across before. A potentially intelligent virus. The very concept was terrifying.

You’re unusually quiet, Jake, he started. I can’t believe you haven’t got an opinion.

I’ve got plenty of opinions, boss. The soft-spoken Texan looked up at his superior.

Don’t think there’s any lack of them at the moment, is there? But is that what we need? More opinions. Any idiot can have an opinion. And usually does.

Ok. Harry conceded. Point taken. Let me rephrase. What do you make of this outbreak and what have you observed about this particular virus that concerns you?

Apart from the tabloid headline stuff, Government lockdowns and horrible death rates you mean? Well I think the most striking thing actually has nothing to do with the virus itself, much more to do with the apparently coordinated global initiative to shut down the world economy. Not all of it, of course, just selected parts. But given how interconnected the whole shutdown operation has been, that pretty much amounts to the same thing.

Harry’s team looked at each other, more than a bit surprised. They had been expecting something at least a bit scientific-sounding from their chemistry whizz. Not an economics pronouncement.

Plus, I don’t think it’s a virus.

Ah, ok, that was slightly more scientific.

Jojo leant forward and widened her eyes. She was about to ask the obvious question on behalf of the whole team when Jake answered it.

Not quite telepathy, just continuity.

It’s almost certainly a bio-germ. The kind of thing generated by lab activity disguised as some kind of medical research programme. Under many circumstances these things stem from a military initiative of some kind. Although sometimes they can have benign and beneficial outcomes for society as a whole – witness how the ARPA initiative became the Internet for example – there are probably just as many occasions where they don’t.

Do you actually mean bio – weapon? Jojo picked up her thread. Like biological weapon. Like germ warfare biological weapon. Remember you’re among friends, Jake. No need to pull your punches, spit it out.

Well, I can’t be sure, the young chemist continued, and the scientist in me would certainly require a lot more evidence before going public with my theory. But an initial study of the molecular structure of the DNA as provided by the Chinese is telling me this has nothing to do with bats. Nor, for that matter, snakes or pangolins or anything else found in those dreadful wet food markets.

So what is it then?

It’s like an artificial construct. A man made poison, if you will, designed to attack the human respiratory system and impair our breathing capability. Unlike most similar toxins it’s not a liquid or a powder or a mixed up chemical compound. It’s more like a culture that’s been developed in a Petri dish. It can then be used either for study or for industrial scaling up followed by rapid and massive reproduction. That’s what you would see with something like, say, a vaccine. Starts life on a slide under a microscope and is constantly tweaked until it achieves the desired result.

And what would be the likely timescale for such a process? enquired Liam laconically, rocking back on his chair.

In the case of an outright cure for something, it’s never as quick as you’d want it to be. There are lots of testing protocols that have to be observed and a whole defined yet complex programme of international coordination. Plus mix in the industrial competition and a smattering of politics and you’d do well to go from start to finish in under a year.

I don’t get the political delay angle. interjected Paul Surely the authorities would always line up behind any attempt to find a cure for a global heath problem.

Yeah, you’d think, wouldn’t you? But there’s always a prize of some sort for coming first. In this instance, apart from the money, it’s the prestige, either for the individual, or the company, or the country, or maybe even all three.

But you don’t think this has been designed as a cure?

No. The exact opposite. I think it needs a cure because it’s behaving like something that’s been designed as a weapon. That, presumably, is why this team has been invited to get involved. I know the Director of National Intelligence in Washington doesn’t agree with me, but that’s his prerogative. He can hardly point fingers in his position can he?

Isn’t that his job though? suggested Mark.

No, his job is to keep the peace while others work on the truth.

Harry had had an inkling that the briefing session would end up with a supposition along these lines. After all, it wasn’t exactly new. The world’s press had been dancing around this same conclusion for weeks, their suspicions made ever stronger by the constant stream of nonsense that continued to be spewed out by the CCP and their useful idiots in the West. And that was exactly why his team were now involved.

The Nine’s unit was the newly formed Rapid Response Team tasked by Her Majesty’s Government to identify solutions for global problems when all the usual diplomatic channels had failed. In order to land on his desk cases had to meet three criteria. Firstly they needed to pose a significant human or economic threat. Secondly they needed to have a global context and thirdly they needed to be proving, for whatever reason, to be beyond the wit of existing politicians and administrators to come up with a solution. The worldwide public health disaster, now increasingly known as Covid–19, ticked all the boxes.

It wasn’t Harry’s team’s job to stop the spread of the infection. Their task was to better understand its true nature and where it had come from. He had total faith in the competence and integrity of his young agents, all hand picked to serve. The fact that he was beginning to see some serious doubt emerging about the official explanations of the Chinese Government was not a surprise. But it was a worry.

China had changed massively in fifty years. From rural backwater to global superpower, it had grown rich after throwing off the shackles of Chairman Mao’s destructive brand of communism, only to see a new and more virile brand of the same smothering form of government take its place.

Now openly expansionist, the new China found itself in a strange place at the start of the 21st century. For the previous fifty years it had slowly turned itself into the world’s factory, producing and manufacturing all sorts of goods for export to distant markets and growing wealthy beyond its wildest dreams. Now this runaway success was providing the platform for a new power play, one on a massive scale, which would attempt to see large parts of the world’s economy subjugated, not by conventional military means, nor by cyber ware subterfuge – although that would play a secondary role – but by inflicting damage on the global economy. But it had to be done carefully. No one must ever suspect….

And yet now, up here in their top floor conference room in London overlooking the Thames, Harry’s team were on their case and soon, if Jake’s theories held up – would be on their trail. In the face of non-stop denials from Beijing and a wall of PR that was now washing in from the East on a daily basis, this was going to create one unholy shitstorm. Not a good time to get your facts wrong.

Jake, he said, You know I have implicit trust in you, as I do in you all. But there’s no room for guesswork here. Somehow we’re going to have to get some proof. The kind of proof that the regular agencies haven’t been able to provide. They say it simply doesn’t exist, whereas the rather more unpalatable truth is that they just haven’t been able to find it yet. Not quite the same thing, is it?

He looked around the table.

And that’s where we come in.

Jake nodded.

Completely understood boss. He frowned a bit, agreeing with Harry’s summation. I had a feeling you’d say that so I have prepared some additional thoughts and a proposition. It’s not quite based on concrete evidence, but while everybody else is still scrabbling around it will, at least, give us a starting point.

He stood up and crossed over to the large projector screen.

So, with your permission?

Of course, we’re all eyes and ears.

He clicked his fob and an aerial map appeared on the screen. He clicked a few more times and zoomed in on Shanghai, then due east following the course of some rivers to Wuhan, the epicentre of the original outbreak. And only just out of lockdown.

A bar chart popped up on the left of the screen. Population 11.4m. That’s a lot of lockdown.

You’ll all know this place by now he started. Everybody does. It’s almost the middle of China. But people forget its size. It’s huge and very sprawly. In that regard you could say it’s a bit like London, bigger actually, but there any similarity certainly ends.

He clicked again, zooming in further to the site of the local Institute of Virology, owned and run by the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, through the very respectable sounding Chinese Academy of Sciences.

It’s a Government facility of course. Nothing surprising there. Most similar institutes worldwide are set up and funded by Governments to pursue an ostensibly benign agenda. Research to make the world a better place, to put a nice gloss on it. Of course labels are powerful, especially in their intent to deceive. When, for example, does the ministry of War become the Ministry of Defence? And why? And does it still carry out the same type of work? Labels are Government spin at its best and no one can spin like the Chinese.

Another bar chart popped up. This one much busier.

Whoa, that’s a lot of dots. Caitlin piped up. Are they all people?

Not really, no. But they are cellphone signals indicating movement of peoples so, in that sense, yes.

Jake clicked his fob again and the cellphone chart expanded. The small dots were all moving.

It’s a real time scatter chart he explained The large amorphous blob in the middle is downtown Wuhan. As you can see, there is something of an Exodus going on.

The team stared, transfixed.

What’s the timeframe? Is that all happening on the same day. Caitlin was pretty much speaking for the whole team now. They were all focused on the burgeoning sea of dots that was intensifying both in terms of movement and in sheer numbers. More and more dots, more and more movement. And what’s your source?

We got these from the NRO, NASA’s naughty twin sister. They can still show you tank movements in Europe from the last war if you really want, but the modern day stuff is mind blowing due to the advances in tech. What you’re looking at here is …

He froze the screen for a second and up popped a time bar.

2020 Monday 6 January 16:22 01

16:22 02

16:22 03

It scrolled and pulsed in seconds.

… a snapshot of people radiating out from a central point. I can input any range of dates and you’ll get a pattern. This one is characterized by an outward movement away from the centre of the circle indicating a lot of people doing the same thing at the same time. In this instance nothing more mundane than going home from work. The throbbing red light which represents Ground Zero is the central station

However, he pointed his fob at the screen again If you run comparisons you can spot anomalies. So if I skip forward to the Sunday of that same week around the same time.

The time bar changed.

2020 Sunday 12 January 16:20 01

16:20 02

16:20 03

you’ll notice a dramatic reduction in dots. Meaning, of course, fewer people, as you’d expect on a Sunday. But now I want you to look at this.

The time bar changed colour from green to blue. Now it was last year. It was 2019. Early October.

He ran his sat map video. The number of dots was appreciably more, way more, maybe triple. And they were radiating outwards. The map layout was different and the throbbing red was now a pulsating orange. Ground Zero had changed and was now The Virology Institute. It was almost obliterated by dots.

The Fuck … ?

Yes, that’s what I thought when I first saw it Jake continued. The Chinese are almost embarrassingly proud of their tech and its multiple applications in daily life. Lots of AI and facial recognition. Cameras everywhere. All very convivial and benign until you factor in the CCP who are obsessed with power, control and survival. Then it starts to look a bit different. Fortunately for us however, as part of this relatively recent trend towards conspicuous consumption and the digital age, pretty much every citizen now has a cellphone.

The dots continued to swarm and multiply. Jake zoomed out a bit, then a bit more. The swarm thinned out slightly but now there was another trend. The earlier image of people going home and heading in multiple different directions was replaced by a mass of humanity heading in the same direction. Towards the airport.

Harry was not the nervous type but this was as worrying as things could get. If the NRO imagery was accurate – and of course the Chinese would challenge it, saying it was false, had been tampered with, was a concoction etc., etc. – then it was suggesting an exceptionally large number of people, presumably locals – leaving the Institute and the country, all around the same time on the same day.

I don’t much like where this is going Jake. he started Have you got an interpretation?

I spent quite a while trying to think of alternate reasons why this could have happened, the young Texan acknowledged Harry’s concern. But as part of a series of random overlays, I then got this.

The team stared back at the screen. All the dots now started to flash as well.

I don’t know how much you all know about cellphone I.D systems, he continued. They’re pretty sophisticated these days. Have to be on security grounds, given that they’re at the heart of so many scammy frauds as well as police investigations. Anyway, one of their inbuilt transmit identifiers is a make / model / number kind of thing.

He turned back to his flashing dots.

They’re all the same, he said softly, shrugging miserably, as if he wanted this particular piece of news to vanish, to go away, to disappear forever.

They’re all exactly the same type of phone. Over four thousand of them. All outbound from the Institute on the same afternoon last October.

Harry picked up the white phone on his desk. He’d heard enough.

Is she in? he asked.

A pause.

Ok, thanks. Tell her I’m on my way up. Has she got much on this afternoon?

Another pause.

Tell her to cancel them. Yes. All of them.

CHAPTER 2 – OUT OF RETIREMENT

The Brig had been enjoying his retirement. A planned lifetime of service in the red army had proved to be something well short of a lifetime in his case and, largely thanks to his sparkling relationship with the upper echelons of the British intelligence Service, he had contrived a premature departure for himself whilst still in his early forties. He often thought back fondly to his role in the White House Patent incident and the semi crazy world of international espionage and intrigue which had helped him on his way to a large bank balance and a beautiful house high up in the hills above Cannes.

Now his days were filled with tennis, swimming and tai chi, his more assertive martial arts days now well behind him. When not involved in fitness activities or blazing his new Aventador along the Corniche, he liked to keep in touch. Partly with new tech, partly with old friends.

So it hadn’t surprised him too much to suddenly get a call from his old pal Harry Shepperton in London.

He wandered across the peach coloured quartz stones, newly laid on his patio, all a shimmer in the early spring sunshine. The cordless house phone he had clamped to his ear looked dull and ordinary, but he had deployed some of the learning from his latest hobby into its transmitter to scramble the voice pattern. Harry knew the frequency and had tuned in accordingly. Nobody else could hear them but, as the Brig skirted his large pool and sank into the plump striped green cushions by his pool, any casual observer would have noticed a rather worried look cross his suntanned features.

Are you sure, Harry? Because that’s not what I’ve heard, although the veil of secrecy seems to be even more tightly drawn over this than anything else that I can remember. Hardly surprising I suppose. I mean, what a bloody mess.

Yes, and getting worse by the day. The economic implications are now turning into a large array of global litigations with the Chinese on the receiving end. Easy to understand why, of course. But none of them will achieve anything without proof, because that’s how the law works. No proof, no conviction. Although in this case of course it’s not exactly a simple theft is it. Billions missing through potential economy shutdowns and – at least for now – no one to blame, nobody to hold accountable, no trace of the loot.

The Brig shuffled his bottom along the lounger to keep the sun out of his eyes. He knew what was coming but, for once in his life, the ninja training that prepared him for most eventualities, was not helping too much.

But to answer your question, Harry continued No, we’re not sure. And that’s my problem. Because the requirement to get hold of the proof that everybody so desperately needs, has just landed right in my lap. And I’m going to need some expert help finding it.

So what exactly is it you’ve got so far? You’d better walk me through it first, before you send the Company Learjet.

Harry allowed himself a laugh, the first one in days.

I’m pleased to hear you haven’t lost your taste for decadence, my old friend. But I have to tell you upfront that there are no large dollar signs attached to this. It’s not a mission with a payday. It’s a quest to find out what happened, plain and simple. You can always write a book about it afterwards if you still have the need to cash in.

The Brig bit his lip. He was a million miles away from his childhood in rural China but the poverty was still there inside his head. As he gazed down on the Med, sparkling and dancing in the midday sunshine, he was brought up sharply by the thought that the only difference between that miserable existence and this one was money. Under normal circumstances he would be reluctant to get involved in anything like this without payment. But these were not normal circumstances and, at this stage anyway, he still didn’t know what he was being asked to do. He poured some fresh orange juice onto the crushed ice in his cut glass tumbler, settled back and carried on listening.

I know you’ve probably heard about my new team. Harry continued. One of them is a chemist. He’s studied the DNA of this thing, virus, microbe, organism, germ, whatever you want to call it, and he thinks it’s man made. In fact he’s so convinced that the very thought has started to overwhelm him. He’s massively conflicted because he doesn’t want that to be true, to such an extent that he’s working flat out on tests and analysis to prove himself wrong. Unhappily, he hasn’t found anything yet to disprove his own theory.

What’s the main thrust of his argument?

That the spread and distribution haven’t followed anything like a normal pattern. He thinks it’s so virulent because the culture has been specifically designed for bio warfare. As you know one of the optimum dispersal methods in a traditional battlefield environment for something like that is the weather. You use the wind, very judiciously obviously, and only for short life pathogens that will die quickly, preventing any blowback disasters. I hardly need to remind someone with your eminent military background and senior rank that the clandestine use by a nation state of any BW variant can be considered as an act of bio-terrorism with all the dreadful repercussions that go with it. So basically my guy needs to be wrong. Not ‘found dead in a ditch’ wrong, the usual solution for those who get mixed up in WMD politics, but genuinely wrong.

Harry, I can’t make your guy wrong if he isn’t.

No, no, you misunderstand, that’s not what I’m asking. To me, my guys are always right and I’ll back them to the hilt on every aspect of every decision. But they’re also human, which means they’re fallible. But nobody here can undo Jake’s theory which is now being studied at the highest level.

And you want me to do what? Find fault with it?

Only if it’s wrong. But that has to be the starting point. If he’s right about the nature of this virus then that leads us on to the really serious matter of whether it leaked out by accident or not. Do you think you can find out?

So there it was. The question he had been expecting, almost dreading, was out in the open.

"Well, it’s a pretty tough ask. I’ve been out nearly three years. A lot of my contacts have moved and I have limited visibility on things these days, living down here in France. But happily I’m not quite Persona Non Grata yet, despite certain petty resentments and jealousies over my current bank balance. But it will be a bloody awful hornets’ nest back home so I’m going to have to give it some very careful thought."

Harry Shepperton counted to ten.

There was a rather loud silence.

So you’re in then? he allowed himself a smile to go with his earlier chuckle

How long have you known me Harry? I make it Sandhurst and our Sovereign’s passing out parade twenty-five years ago. This very year if I’m not mistaken. So I’ll skip the payday, but I’m buggered if I’m letting you off lunch and a good Chablis.

The company Learjet was, in fact, a BAE 146, chosen by the RAF and the Civil Service for its economy, its STOL ability and the blindingly obvious safety advantage offered by a plane with four engines rather than two. It barreled down the runway at Northolt at 0800 the following morning, throwing up a fine London morning spray in its wake en route to the sun.

What’s in the gift bag? asked a rather curious Jake. I thought there were rules about giving gifts to foreign dignitaries and that sort of thing.

Harry smiled at the thought of his old friend being a dignitary of any sort. What was one of those anyway, he pondered, and did they even still exist in the twenty first century?

If you must know, it’s a bottle of Les Clos.

You’re taking a nobby bottle of Chablis to France? Will we be filling out some rather unusual customs paperwork on the tarmac then?

Duty pre-paid by HMG. Harry smiled, tapping the side of his nose.

Jake peered out of the window at the grey and drizzly London rooftops. As an American his love for France was ethereal, the country in general and Paris in particular being the height of exotica for most of his countrymen whenever they pondered foreign travel.

Only two hours but a twenty degree temperature difference, he muttered. Hope we get to stick around for a few hours after the meeting.

Well, if you’re lucky we might get an invite back up to the villa later. But you’ll have to Uber it because he drives a Lambo these days. Only two seats.

He grinned and widened his eyes for effect, the way he did when he was teasing.

Sorry ‘bout that. But let’s get the business done first and we’ll see. You got everything on that laptop?

Yup. Jake nodded.

Half in there. Half in my head.

Don’t be blinding him with science. We’re not selling anything today. And he’s on our side anyway, despite the fact that he’s a Chinese national.

Must be a pretty ballsy guy. I mean, number one, how’s he gonna’ find anything out when the CCP will have this whole story nailed down tight as a drum. They’ll have rehearsed it every which way, backstories and personnel all included, way back into the middle of last year. And then number two, how’s his life gonna’ look afterwards. They’ll come after him for sure.

He won’t worry about that. He’s more motivated by doing the right thing than anybody I’ve ever known. When you’re financially set up for life there becomes a need to do things for other reasons. It’s like a legacy mentality, I suppose. Some turn to the arts and paint or write or compose music or poetry. Others just want to leave a better world behind. Obviously, there are numerous versions of that. Exactly which one The Brig’s working on, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him.

Well I can’t see him being that spiritual if he spends two hundred grand on a car.

What percentage of your annual income do you spend on your car, Jake?

The Texan thought for a moment.

About five.

Well you’re about twenty times less spiritual than him then on that basis.

Harry smiled and gazed out his own window.

And if you’re talking dollars, it’s more like four hundred grand!

And so the two men whiled away two hours in light banter en route to one of the most important meetings either of them was ever likely to have.

The cobbled lane that was the Rue St Antoine wound its way lazily up from Cannes harbor, presenting the lunchtime crowd with an enticing selection of olde world charm and modern French cuisine. Its location made it very bustly but nonetheless attractive for the wandering tourists, among whom three guys in t-shirts and shorts blended in perfectly. Cannes in late spring was no place for a shirt and tie.

Being a local these days The Brig had no real favourites. He managed to hear more whispers on the sweet Croisette breeze by patronizing as many different hang outs as possible. That way he also had access to a decent table at all of the establishments that lined the gentle hill and could always pick out one that suited the business of the day, without prior appointment or reservation. Sometimes soft and quiet in the back corner with his numerous contacts from the murky world of international espionage, or other times, all sunglasses and tennis talk, out front with his lovely wife on one of the small terraces lining the street. All options possible.

Life was treating Brigadier General Zhang T`ang, formerly of the CSB, the Chinese state security service, extremely well these days. So well that he had been apprehensive all morning about meeting his old friend Harry Shepperton and Jake the chemist, and was feeling more than a bit nervous about where this latest adventure might take him. Now, as the three of them settled into a shadowed recess towards the rear of La Batteau and picked slowly at the warm fresh bread, he was about to find out.

Jake explained his theory while The Brig computed. How possible was it? How likely was it? And even more importantly. What could he do about it?

One thing at a time.

It was certainly possible. Although his recent absence from China made it increasingly difficult to be in the thick of the action any more, he had managed to retain an astonishing number of high level contacts. The failed ideology that was communism still cast a pall over the land of his birth. It was no longer as attractive as the lure of the west to large numbers of his fellow countrymen, including many of the party faithful. Europe with all its traditions and varieties and the U.S. with all its freedoms and riches still beckoned. The more the travel restrictions for the Chinese people were relaxed, the more they came to look and wonder at the slightly hedonistic tendencies of Western culture. In the specific case of several of his contacts, he knew for sure that they were only biding their time until they could execute their own exit strategies and follow in his footsteps. Lifestyles where one could do as one wished on a daily basis were almost taken for granted in Western Europe.

Despite all the changes and all the progress over recent years that was most definitely not the case in the heavily controlled, widely censored, Peoples Republic of China and that one single factor weighed extremely heavily on the minds of those looking for a change. The fact that The Brig had positioned himself as the Go To guy in France now gave him certain advantages when he needed favours from Beijing. The old rules of Quid Pro Quo still prevailed.

So thanks to a lengthy series of scrambled phone calls the previous afternoon and that same morning he was now completely up to speed on the Wuhan incident. His numerous sources had confirmed the continuation of various programmes of physical dissection of every type of animal known to man, ostensibly in pursuit of medical advances. Of course research labs were allowed to conduct this type of activity. In fact, distasteful though it may be, it is the kind of work that is almost expected of them. Man being the superior animal seemed to provide droit de seigneur over all the other poor creatures further down the food chain. That fact, however, is not peculiar to any particular lab or any particular country. They all do it the world over. So what was different here?

Jake continued his thread.

We know that various agreed conventions either discourage or actively ban the use of biological agents during armed conflict. That in itself is a great thing of course but people, especially Governments, and especially the military, like to find ways round things. So what if there is no armed conflict?

The Brig studied the young Texan impassively. He would probably have the Wild West frontier spirit in him, something of the Rodeo and a tendency to shoot first. And yet he wasn’t a cowboy, he was a chemist. And he was on Harry’s team. That meant a lot, meant he had done his homework, meant he was worth listening to.

You mean like in peacetime?

Exactly. You have an accident that isn’t really an accident. Who’s gonna’ know?

Whatever happens in this world, somebody somewhere always knows, insisted Harry, looking straight at the Brig over his glass.

Wouldn’t you agree, Brigadier?

Yes, of course. There are obviously genuine accidents, which really do happen accidentally. But proving that an accident happened on purpose will always be tricky because one can expect a massive cover up and, in this particular instance, a virtually simultaneous programme of disinformation to lead everybody away from the scene of the crime, if I may use that phrase in this context.

And that, regrettably, is already a pretty well established characteristic of this whole unfortunate episode. The Chinese PR offensive may seem credible to them, looking at from the inside, but to the rest of the world it’s a joke. It’s just making them a laughing stock and it’s doing more damage than they can possibly know. The problem is, that’s all they’ve got right now. Deny, deny, deny. But why not? It’s gotten millions of villains out of trouble over the years, so it’s a tried and tested strategy.

Yes, indeed. The Brig nodded. Just remember OJ. Everybody remembers OJ. He was as good as holding the smoking gun. But he used that tactic. Or rather Johnnie Cochran and his legal team did. Deny, deny, deny. And then go on the offensive. Find something to undermine the other side and go after them. It’s classic defense tactics and undoubtedly what the CCP will use.

He sipped his Chablis, puckered his lips approvingly and reflected for a moment

If we’re seriously talking about the possibility of litigation and some kind of court case here, then you’re going to need one hell of a lawyer. he continued, I hope you’ve got one.

Harry and Jake looked at each other and smiled.

Ok, good. said The Brig That’s all I needed to know.

He poured a glass of Les Clos out for the waiter and pointed at it as the youngster came over. A small but considerate bribe for looking the other way when they uncorked the gift box earlier.

Harry leant back and looked across the table at his old friend.

I do know that I’m asking rather a lot of you here. he said rather solemnly. You must be dreadfully conflicted by all this.

Conflicted? Well yes, I suppose so, agreed the Brigadier, but not surprised. It was, quite literally in this case, an accident waiting to happen. The current regime has got lots going for it, but, from my vantage point over here, I could see it sleepwalking into that oldest of expansionist traps. The great game they like to call it. Extending your political influence ever outwards beyond the existing territorial boundaries that are rightfully yours. Nothing is more certain to lead to guaranteed conflict than that.

And what’s the feeling among your friends and acquaintances back home right now? Jake chipped in.

Same as me, really. Extremely disappointed but not very surprised. Too much unchecked power leads to this kind of behaviour. It was only a matter of time. Right now, of course, they’re all worried about the repercussions. At least the ones in the know are. Most of the normal people are still totally in the dark, completely unaware of what’s happened. They buy in to the Government’s daily PR blitzes because they have no alternative perspective. The censorship is all consuming, but also very Machiavellian in its deployment. The poor people have no idea they’re being played and lied to.

Well, we can’t really say that China has a total monopoly on that kind of behaviour, can we? Harry pondered. HMG is hardly a paragon of virtue in that regard.

No, but you don’t have plans to become a global superpower do you? At least not any more.

I presume you must be talking to Jake now, Harry laughed. Any aspirations we Brits ever had in that regard died with the slow disbandment of the Royal Navy about fifty years ago.

And our global conquering was always more about trade than anything else. Jake picked up the ball for America. " Opening a McDonalds in Moscow was probably more symbolic for us in that regard than hoisting the flag over Iwo Jima,

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