Trial Run



Parker Hall and Tim Chen never asked for this. Though separated by twelve time zones, they get thrust into global intrigue and suspense as they both attempt to decipher subtle clues which may reveal an ominous plot. Parker Jane Hall is an eager new analyst at the Department of Homeland Security and Timothy Chen, her best friend from college, is a bio-research scientist at an infectious disease lab in China. Desperate to unravel the truth, Parker turns to her neighbor, Elliott Myles, a former and disgraced NSA analyst. All three set out to uncover China’s plan to be the world’s only superpower. Even if they are successful, will anyone listen? Trial Run is an international thriller of intrigue and suspense that details the desires and aspirations of those in power in China and the geopolitical consequences all other countries face in their wake.

Chapter 1

Present Day. Beijing, China.

Lei Wei sipped his tea. “What is the news from the west Tang?”

           “It is business as usual in the United States. Media reports are back to normal. Not much coverage on the virus. Virus coverage includes the typical blame that either it was an over-reaction or they didn’t act soon enough in preventing deaths. They are once again acting divided, in-fighting and focused on their stock market.”

           “It is amazing that such an industrious nation does not learn. It is quite peculiar that as individually smart as they can be, as a nation they are lethargic. They certainly can be dangerous but for the most part they are too busy with individual pursuits and spouting their ideological arguments. Democracy is fraught with peril.”

           “Since I have been monitoring them for the past year and a half, I have learned much about the Americans. I am amazed that after such an event they are once again so passionately divided. Is it time to put Phase Two in motion?”

           “Almost Tang, almost. Our trial run is finally coming to a close and I will approach the Council soon with my report.”

           “Very good your excellency, I will await your instructions.”

1.5 years prior to present day. Beijing, China. Closed door Politburo meeting.

Huang Fu, one of the most senior Politburo members, was sitting quietly listening to his colleagues. After a few minutes he decided to speak. “This is becoming a problem. U.S. President Hunter is tougher than the others. He is over halfway into his first term and his economic attacks on us are relentless. He is winning the effort to neutralize our trade deficit and in doing so, their economy is growing like wildfire. For over forty-five years we could count on tough talk from whoever was the American president, but it always resulted in their political leaders’ submission because their business leaders were too addicted to our low-cost manufacturing.”

           “This is the new reality Fu. I don’t see that we have many choices,” Wu Xin seemed resigned. “We have tried to infiltrate their media and recruit some of their more popular reporters. Our plan to create internal pressure in order to sway the American president’s supporters has fallen short. Those who we have co-opted have stirred the pot as we have desired but the stronger the capitulation by one side of their population, the stronger the other side resists against these media personalities, news outlets, and philosophy.”

           Zhang Min, another senior member then interjected, “Maybe dear friends it is time to modify our long-range plans. I do not see a way to keep the decades-long status quo. This United States president is popular enough to be allowed to pursue his agenda against us. Even our influence via our Russian friends did not result in the stifling of the new American president.”

           It was then that Zhou Shou spoke up. “Colleagues. I cannot accept this new reality.”

           “But Wei, what can we do? War is not an answer and I do not trust the American war machine anyway. They are formidable when attacked.”

           “Remember the goals that were handed down from our fore fathers,” Wu Xin spoke. “The eventual and complete domination of worldwide markets and supply chains. We have been patient for hundreds of years. Our citizens have been loyal participants playing their part at all levels over many decades. Our country has progressed according to this plan. However, we now face an opponent in the new president of the United States that may cause an interruption to that plan. I am afraid that for our term in this Chamber, we will not be remembered as good caretakers compared to that of previous regimes.”

           Li Wei took the opportunity to address the council with his thoughts. “Colleagues, I would like to now talk to you with closed doors. What I am about to discuss goes no further than this room. I have thought many long days and nights about this problem and I believe I might have a response to halt the American aggression toward out trade policies. I say might because, as is true with all we plan and do, more than a year is needed to fully execute this plan.”

           Zhang Min, another senior member of the council, nodded approval to Wei. “Wei, you may talk freely.”

           “Dear Friends, in order to truly defeat the United States, it is important to understand the psychology of the American citizen. We see, on a daily basis, that the American citizenry is not a contiguous body. America is divided into two political ideologies, conservative and liberal/progressive. The political classifications are Republican and Democrat respectively. As we watch their citizenry, their news broadcasts and their political rallies, it would appear, and one might conclude, that they might easily be headed for another civil war. As you well know, our efforts during the last decade to help sow the seeds of discontent in the United States have not produced this civil war or the results we have desired as fast as we would like. Their society is too advanced for armed revolution amongst their citizens for they are, for the most part, a law-abiding society and they employ a substantial police force across their country. And although this divide might seem like a sure way to conquer and crush their country, they have an uncanny way of coming together as needed. I have concluded that individually, Americans have too much to lose, namely their lifestyle, which is why it is unlikely that Americans would ever cross over into armed conflict against each other.”

           “Yes, they love their Netflix and take-out pizza. Continue Wei,” Min smiled at his own clever remark as the others gave a half-hearted chuckle.

           “Remember World War II. Remember the 9/11 terror attack. Look at their vast fascination with sporting events including the Olympics. Even though it can be assumed that they are divided with regards to many of their strongest beliefs, all of you would be hard pressed to identify different ideological individuals at a sporting event or in their military. They are odd like this. From the Americans that we have spoken to and used as double-agents, they talk about words like underdog, American dream and freedom, and they possess a willingness to fight and coalesce for causes that rise above ideological differences. It does appear that they can come together, in extreme crisis, especially in war. Sports for the American is simply a form of war that doesn’t end in death.”

           Wu Xin was growing impatient. “Yes, yes, we know this … so what do you propose?”

           “I’m getting to that Xin, please indulge me a few minutes more. Fu is correct. War, armed conflict as we have known it for thousands of years, is not the answer – certainly not at this point on the earth. However, the American does have a weakness. It took me many years of studying the Americans and their lifestyle in order to identify this weakness. As I have said they can come together for a common cause like war and sport, but short of that, they live their lives divided into their ideologies. At first glance, it would appear that they are divided only over politics and their founding document, their Constitution. However, to truly understand the American mind, one must look deeper into their lives. I have found that American lives revolve around the economic level they have attained as individuals and families. And because of that fact, they are divided economically and when crisis strikes it can bring an economic contraction of their American lifestyle.”

           “I’m not sure we fully understand your insight. Can you give us an example of this Wei?” Min asked.

           “To understand the American, is to understand their lifestyle. They are very materialistic. They define their lives by the devices they own, the size of their home and the cost of their automobile. They spend lavishly on holidays and vacations, restaurants, clothes, TV’s, and more and spoil their children. They pay their professional athletes significantly more than their best teachers. Here’s a good example. The influx of illegals from their southern border has accelerated over the decades. American children are taught that they do not need to work menial or laborious jobs. These jobs are filled by the illegal population. This labor arrangement is standard for Americans. Their children are too busy at higher paying jobs, sports or not working altogether. Americans look the other way at the invasion of these illegals because they can pay a cheaper wage to illegal laborers instead of paying an American laborer a much higher wage to do the same thing. The average American owes over $10,000 American dollars in credit card debt. Many individuals live month to month, from paycheck to paycheck. Unlike our culture, they believe in immediate

gratification. Most do not save money. They are materialistic and their lives revolve around their material wishes, wants and aspirations. Essentially, their demand for a very luxurious and comfortable lifestyle has priced America out of being able to manufacture cheaply in the U.S. or perform cheap labor within their country with U.S. citizens. Therefore, my friends, my plan is as follows. As you are aware, our bio-weapon labs have been making great progress on an invisible weapon, and I was informed that there has been a breakthrough in recent months. Our scientists have fabricated two such viruses. The first one has a very high rate of infection and transmission, though it is not as deadly as other viral strains that the world has seen. The key to this virus is the speed of infection, which is faster than ever seen before. The second virus is extremely deadly and though very contagious, it is slower to spread than the first virus.

           “I’m still not following Wei. Get to the point, please,” Wu Xin wanted the bottom line.

           “I believe that a rapidly spreading infection unleashed on the world can cause worldwide infection and panic. I believe the American media and health officials will drive this panic. This panic and the ensuing government response will also cause great economic interruption and hardship. My plan would include starting this infection using the first virus, Virus One, amongst our own citizens and allowing it to spread throughout the world naturally. We will help the spread to the U.S. by deliberately sending infected Chinese citizens to the U.S. We will of course keep news and information of the virus from being disseminated until enough citizens are infected and have traveled around the world. This would allow us to naturally shut down our factories thereby shutting down the U.S. supply of goods. My hope is that their stock market would immediately and dramatically decline and their people would panic, not only as a response to the unknown quick-spreading virus, but they would panic as to the declining economic circumstances and response of their government. Supplies would run short and though their total number of deaths would be rather small as compared to say, their seasonal flu, my guess is that the ensuing panic and the resulting blame of their leaders, especially President Hunter, would force their citizens to seek a new leader during their election next year. If America elects a new president, the candidates at present for the opposing party would be friendly again to our overall goals. We have worked with one of them before. Only if the current president is re-elected would we put Phase Two into effect.

           Xin then asked, “What is Phase Two?”

           “Phase Two would consist of—”

           “Wei, I’m sorry,” Fu said, “I must ask you a question. Your plan is interesting so far but I want to remind you of the Swine Flu pandemic which the world experienced in 2009 and 2010. If I recall correctly, the American media and citizenry themselves barely gave any notice to this crisis, though as we know, people were infected and died from the virus. Approximately 35,000 of their citizens die each year from the flu and I have never heard or seen any panic from their citizens or their government over these deaths. Why will this virus, Virus One, have such a dramatic and different effect?”

           “I believe I can answer your question,” Wei patiently responded. “First, the swine flu was interpreted as just another kind of flu. People understand, and especially Americans, that variations of the flu come and go. Their health and human services agencies, through local doctors and pharmacies, even offer their citizens a “flu injection” each season. Americans see this injection as the “fast food” answer to letting them go about their lives each flu season. Secondly, social media was nowhere near as widespread or prolific as it is today. We know that much commentary on most social media platforms is not rooted in common sense or fact, but in political correctness. Facts rarely get transmitted and it is easy for any person to hide behind their electronic devices and spread false opinions worldwide. As we have seen, these weak individuals can propagate blatant lies and many individuals accept this commentary and opinion as gospel. Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, the political climate in the United States has never been as extreme or confrontational as it is today.”

           Min was curious, “What do you mean ‘extreme’?”

           Wei paused to sip his tea before responding, “For many decades now the political ruling class in the United States has operated under the conclusion that their citizens are, for the most part, too busy with their lives to rise up and truly revolt. I have watched the American political class and though they argue and attack each other in front of the cameras, they share meals and cocktails behind the cameras. They are even so bold as to vote themselves pay increases, and though the media and some people complain, nothing is done to stop them. I have interacted with these politicians and they are all self-interested for the most part. Once a newly elected politician ‘joins the club,’ their true goals are to stay in power. The conclusion I have drawn is that Americans want their political leaders to be aligned with their individual ideologies, yet they expect nothing to really change in their government. They expect a certain amount of gridlock, but as long as their stock market keeps moving upward, as long as their shores are not attacked by an invading army, and as long as their restaurants, bars, gas stations and shopping malls remain open, they are content to cede power to keep the status quo. This was the case for decades until President Hunter was elected. This man does not have a political background and has not acted like any other elected politician.”

           “Explain please.” Xin asked abruptly.

           “Each political group has its respective media pundits. Again, that is nothing new. However, during the last administration, when the Democrats where in charge, their president and Congressional leaders ‘over-reached’ when proposing and adopting various laws and social programs which are at the heart of their particular ideology. This angered the Republican citizenry and especially the Republican media. Unlike the Democratic media and the Democratic politicians who act in concert and in lock-step with each other, the Republican media began to contradict and call-out the Republican politicians who didn’t act against these Democratic measures and policies. This is of course culminated in a political up-rising of the Republican citizenry who voted Andrew Hunter, a non-politician, into the presidency. This is the capitalist businessman we are

forced to deal with today. Colleagues, in 1900, about 73% of U.S. citizens voted in their presidential election. In their last election of President Hunter, only 55% of their citizenry voted. Americans are basically apathetic and most of what goes in America regarding their government is political theatre.”

           Fu turned to Wei. “I have an additional question of your plan. If the infection you plan to use, this … Virus One, is not as deadly as other viruses, why use it?”

           “For several reasons. Virus One is a trial run. The purpose of the trial run is to prepare for our next move. The Americans, by way of their reaction to Virus One, will dictate this next move. As I stated earlier, either a new President will be elected in the U.S. who will be friendly to our government or, if President Hunter is re-elected, we would enact Phase Two. Phase Two would call for the subsequent release of a much more lethal infection, Virus Two, that would bring the U.S. to its knees. Either way, we will change the U.S. government’s behavior toward us in order to resume our long-range world strategy. Secondly, we assume some of our citizens will die in the trial run. This must happen in order for the world to see that we are as vulnerable as any other country. Thirdly, if we decide to enact Phase Two, I am told by our researchers that we can immunize most of our population by putting a vaccine into our water supply ten days prior to the release of Virus Two. Lastly, we are not yet prepared for a new America that will be reduced to half its size and power. Our manufacturing needs to contract, to feel the lessening demand from the U.S. and adjust accordingly. While this contraction is happening during the trial run we will educate and diversify our people and their factories so that they can prepare for an America that is just another customer and not our biggest customer.”

           “How many of our people do you anticipate will die?”

           “Between 25,000 and 100,000 during the trial run, Xin. During Phase Two, even though we can immunize most, approximately another 10,000 will die. We believe that this second attack will have devastating results on the world, especially America. We estimate 100 million deaths in the United States alone and over 65% unemployment as their economy and businesses are ruined.”

           “You make many assumptions, Wei. How do you know that America won’t retaliate against us after the trial run and simply diversify their manufacturing?”

           “Fu, America will not know that we are responsible for the trial run. Our media will put forth a story about our horrible wet markets and that it is but a typical zoonotic virus that unfortunately jumped from animal to human. Also, America gets 90% of its products from us. Not only their consumer toys and recreation products and tech devices, but their medicines, their construction materials, their necessities, even their medicines–nearly everything. Also remember that the World Health Organization is in our pocket. They will also corroborate our ‘innocent bystander’ story as well as tout us as the leaders in cracking down on the spread of the virus.”

           Xin was skeptical. “And because of that won’t our economy be hurt greatly by the reduction of demand and the diversification from the West?”

           “Gentlemen. The philosophy of capitalism demands that business has one true goal–profit. America begun under this premise and has grown to be a great Super Power. This is true of most of the world as they are also mostly capitalistic. They might diversify some of their manufacturing to satisfy Wall Street or media scrutiny or even political correctness, but their businesses will always seek the lowest cost for a reasonable quality. This I know. Having studied at their Stanford University as a young man, I have experienced their teachings, their views on entrepreneurship and their business mentality. This is especially true of low to moderate priced goods. Their economy is generally fragile and what I mean by that is that 50% of their people live month to month. Their population cannot afford a significant rise in consumer prices and their businesses are drunk on the profits from manufacturing at such a low cost in our country. My friends, ask yourself one question: What country will they turn to for their manufacturing? What country has a labor force as large as us? What country can better control their citizenry like we do? What country has the manufacturing capability and can deliver the quality that is demanded? There is no other country on the planet that can rival us or match us with regards to our labor and manufacturing capabilities.” Wei sat back in his chair.

           “Wei, how do you know that the Americans and the U.S. government will panic? I don’t understand, why would they panic over what will certainly be labeled just another version of the flu, especially if Virus One is not as deadly?”

           “Fu, do you remember in the late 1970’s when Americans lined up for hours at gas stations? At that time gasoline was priced in America at $1.00 USD per gallon and Americans panicked. They stayed in line for hours to purchase gas for their automobiles. At that time there was limited television news and only newspapers. They thought then that the world was ending. In today’s climate of biased cable news and social media, the ‘unknown’ of the virus will surely initially cause a panic among their citizens. Of course, today, gasoline is much more expensive and they do not line up. They are a people prone to initial stress and panic. Remember, our friend is their media. They will create and propagate the panic better than any subversive effort we might undertake because their news organizations are now, as opposed to fifty years ago, capitalistic profit centers for their owners. Their media sensationalize all news. They alter ordinary news stories to create biased interest in their viewers. They benefit from increased viewership which in turns means increased revenue from advertising, and they feel no shame or remorse for their actions. I’m sure you have all seen every single minute of every single day they leave their ‘Breaking News’ graphics on the screen. We know this is ridiculous but they have seen viewership rise over the last couple of decades since their Gulf War and since 9/11. The news organizations, who for years were isolated factual reporters of news whether good, bad or indifferent, discovered that if they changed their reporting to being more biased and opinionated about ‘the news’, they could increase viewership, advertising and ultimately revenue. The one response we cannot predict is to what degree their government and people will panic. Again, my

friends, this is the reason for the trial run. There is a third option we can take after the trial run. If during the trial run, we do not see the response we need to see from their government, we can then decide to do nothing more. Life will go back to the way it was.” Wei was starting to convince Min.

           “Yes, this is all starting to make sense.”

           “We have the greatest workforce on the planet. Because of our communistic heritage, our people understand hardship. We have blocked much of the west’s internet sites and materialism for years because we understood that freedom is also a sort of ‘infection’ to our people and our way of life. Our main religion also reinforces this ideal. The afterlife, frugality and honor to country are ideals we instill in our culture. Americans are loyal to the dollar and what it can buy them. Religion in America is not as popular as it was fifty years ago. American capitalists will have no choice but to continue to purchase manufacturing from us. As I stated earlier, there is no other manufacturing option in the world as well suited toward the goals of capitalism as China.

           “You are very wise Wei. But I must ask, have you considered what can go wrong?”

           “Yes, of course Xin, I have considered what could go wrong and that is precisely why I am suggesting, and I have planned for, the trial run first with Virus One. Either way, we hurt America without taking the blame. If for some reason, I am wrong on my prediction of how I believe America will react, we will simply do nothing more. No one will ever find out our plans.”

           Xin kept pressing. “I still must ask, after the trial run won’t America prepare themselves for a next possible virus and be better suited to handle such an event?”

           “I am glad you asked. This gets to the heart of the trial run. Remember, though Virus One spreads rapidly, it is designed to be only deadly to their most vulnerable and elderly who for the most part have underlying diseases and medical issues. I suspect America will do the following upon the trial run phase. They will initially be slow to react and then they will over-react bordering panic. This is the American nature of both their people and their government. They have always believed that bigger or more is better and their response will show that. Once Virus One is no longer perceived as a threat, most likely in about six months, their media will begin to debate the government’s reaction. Some will say it was too slow and some will say it was too harsh. This is what we want. Yes, they will make some changes to their infrastructure to deal with a contagion of this sort but their media will make a point to embarrass the government. They will point to institutions that closed or the events that were cancelled and they will conclude that this indeed was an over-reaction to the virus and they will blame President Hunter for ‘disrupting’ their economy. The next time a virus is reported, they will be very reticent to over-react again and their lack of action and delay will truly decimate their country before they can even understand what is happening. According to a famous American fable, their government will metaphorically ‘Cry Wolf’ during the trial run. They will ignore the ‘real wolf’, Virus Two, a year later.

           “So … my friends, are we in agreement that Wei’s plan is sound and we should move forward?”

           “I still have hesitations Xin. America is unpredictable. I can envision a scenario where they successfully combat the trial run infection and they do prepare accordingly and then we are hurt because of their eventual manufacturing diversification.”

           Wei worked on Min. “Min, that is the benefit of the trail-run. If we do not see the exact reaction we want, nothing more needs to be done. If we do not want to enact Phase Two, we do not have to. We will not be blamed for the trial run; we will co-exist amongst the world community and be seen as being hurt just as much as any other country and we will feign our support for America. As I said earlier, they may be planning to diversify their manufacturing anyway. This is ok because we don’t want our factories as dependent on American manufacturing either for our long-term future.”

           Zhang Min and the other Politburo members nodded their heads in agreement and so the plan was adopted.

           Li Wei left the meeting and went back to his office. As he sat down, he leaned back and looked out the window at the beautiful Peking Willow trees that line the sidewalk. His eyes closed as he took a deep breath. Could this be his legacy? Will this action permanently ink his name as an important Chinese historical figure? He’s always believed that he was special. That feeling comes from the west – his education did influence him but his culture and Chinese heritage always tempered showing that outwardly. He knew this was a bit out of character for a Chinese Politburo member. He should do as his colleagues and be happy to simply be a good steward of China’s thousand-year plan. He should not want for fame. He rationalized his behavior because they sent him to the west to be educated. They sent him to learn the mindset of the American and understand the culture. He has been a loyal soldier. He continued to tell himself these truths in order to make himself feel better as to his own life. More importantly, his plan, which had been brewing in his mind for years, was now accepted.

About the author

J Rusty Shaffer is an entrepreneur, CEO and attorney with over thirty years of experience in all aspects of business. Rusty is the inventor of the Fretlight Guitar. He is currently an adjunct professor in the entrepreneurship department at the University of Nevada, Reno. view profile

Published on July 01, 2020

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Genre: Technothriller