Ten-year old Chi Lin had her bag packed and was waiting patiently when the two Chinese soldiers entered the little bedroom that she shared with her three other siblings.
“You must learn to guard your thoughts,” she stated as a matter of fact. “I only hope you never face the Americans in battle, for they will read your minds and the war will be lost.” Chi didn’t know if the Americans really had people who could read minds or not. She simply enjoyed the feeling of power her abilities gave her over adults.
Not sure of what else to say, one of the soldiers told her, “You will come with us.” Chi bowed her head and allowed herself a quick smile.
Following the soldiers into the other room, Chi reached out with her mind and felt the emotions of her family — sorrow, grief, and a touch of guilt from her parents, sadness and fear from her younger brother and sister, and smug satisfaction from her older sister. She hugged her parents, knowing the government compensation they would receive would help ease their guilt. The fear her brother and sister felt would be alleviated once the soldiers left, but their sadness would be with them for a while. She gave them each a kiss on the cheek.
Chi embraced her older sister and pulled her close. “You think you are rid of me, Ai,” she whispered, “but I shall have the last laugh. When I tell them of your powers, then you shall know pain.”
“But I have no powers,” the older girl whispered back.
“Of course not,” Chi quietly told her. “But that won’t stop them from performing the examinations and experiments, and in the end they will discover that I simply made a mistake. The government will apologize, our parents will receive more compensation, and that, dear sister, will be the end of it.”
Chi released her sister and moved to stand beside the soldiers. “We can go now,” she told them.
As they left, Chi glanced back and saw that of her weeping family, none cried harder than Ai.
“Well, child, have you pinpointed our next target?”
Chi Lin glanced up at her visitor. The ten-year old had been living at the refitted military base for just over a month. In that time, many members of both the military and scientific communities had paid her visits. All of their minds were like open books to the girl, and this man was no different. She knew they saw her as nothing more than a means to an end, despite their words, but she didn’t care. She had her own plans, her own secrets, and so she allowed them to think of her however they chose.
“I am close,” she told the soldier. To her, rank meant nothing, and so everyone in uniform was just a soldier. “I have narrowed down the city. Take me there, and I shall give you his exact location.”
“Excellent,” the man said. “Tell me the destination, and I shall make arrangements for your journey.”
“Hong Kong,” Chi told him. “The target is somewhere in Hong Kong.”
“Be prepared to leave within the hour,” the soldier told her.
As he left, Chi tried to focus on the target one more time. She had located him two days earlier but didn’t want to say anything. There was too much she wasn’t sure of, and she didn’t want to risk her own plans on something that wasn’t certain.
Hardly nothing, she thought to herself. Yesterday it was a lot stronger than it is now.
She had learned not to speak aloud the things she wished to keep to herself, even here in her room. Her superiors — a term she used in name alone and not in actual description — had made certain that they kept an eye and an ear on their people at all times.
Whoever her target was, when she got to Hong Kong she would get a definite lock on his or her location. All she had to do was wait.
Huo awoke to the warmth of the morning sun on his skin. Glancing at the clock on the wall, he discovered two things. First, it was almost nine o’clock AM, and second, he had fallen asleep while doing his handstand. “Sifu would cane my feet if knew I hadn’t broken that bad habit.” The young man laughed. “It’s a good thing Sifu isn’t here, then.”
Relaxing his arms, he rolled forward until he was seated. Rocking backward, he felt his shoulders and hands touch the floor and pushed himself upward. He shot into the air and landed lightly on his feet. Glancing around, he saw that he was alone.
Huo decided to skip breakfast and take a shower before going out for his morning run. This had become his routine since his run had taken him past old man Zhou’s bakery.
He had developed a fondness for Zhou’s sticky buns. He had also developed a fondness for Zhou’s granddaughter, Yun Hsu. And since the bakery was only six blocks away, Huo could be there in a couple of minutes without breaking a sweat.
After his shower, the young man went through his stretching exercises before putting on his gray sweat suit and sneakers. He also slung a bamboo tube nearly three feet in length with a strap attached to both ends over his shoulder. Making certain he had his keys and enough money for the sticky buns, Huo left his third-floor apartment and went downstairs.
As he stepped through the front door and into the morning sunlight, he noticed a little girl sitting on the curb across the street. Her eyes never left him. Huo waved, but she showed no sort of reaction at all.
“OK,” Huo said softly. He waved good-bye and began his run.
He had barely gone a block when he felt a shiver run up his spine. He glanced back and saw that the little girl was still watching him. Huo turned at the next corner.
The closer he got to Zhou’s, the further the little girl slipped from his mind. When he finally reached his destination, the only girl he was concerned with was the girl behind the counter.
Huo could not have been more convinced that Hsu was the most beautiful girl in all of Hong Kong, if not all of China itself. Standing nearly five and a half feet tall, she was slender yet curvy. Most days, the girl wore her long hair — which fell to her waist — loose except for a ribbon tied three-fourths of the way down. At her grandfather’s suggestion, and a very strong one at that, she wore the more traditional Chinese garb while working. To Huo, it made her look all the more attractive.
Yun Hsu smiled when she saw her newest customer approach the bakery. “Good morning, Huo,” she said as he sat down on one of the stools. “The usual?”
Huo was glad for the stool, because the sound of Hsu’s voice always made his knees go weak. “Yeah,” he said as he put his elbows on the counter and rested his chin in the palms of his hands.
“Hey! Moon eyes!” Zhou’s high-pitched voice put an end to any daydreams Huo was considering having about Hsu. “You going to buy something, or did you just come here to watch my granddaughter’s fanny?”
Huo felt himself turn a very bright shade of red, which made a couple of the other customers snicker. When Zhou turned his attention toward them, however, they quickly found their food very interesting.
“Grandfather!” Hsu said, her face every bit as red as Huo’s. “He’s waiting on his order.”
“Fah,” the old man said as he threw up his hands and started back to his kitchen. When he reached the doorway, he turned back to his granddaughter. “You stay away from him. If he’s not brave enough to ask you out properly, tell him he can no longer have your sticky buns.”
Both of the young people reddened with embarrassment, while one of the other customers nearly choked. Wisely, though, no one spoke until the old man disappeared into his tiny kitchen.
“I’m really sorry about that,” Hsu apologized. “Grandfather tends to be blunt to the point of rudeness.”
“Would you like to go out with me?” Huo blurted out.
Hsu was caught off guard, but quickly recovered. “Are you asking me out just to get at my sticky buns?” she said with a wink.
The young man just smiled.
“How about Sunday?” she asked.
“That would be great,” Huo said. “Perhaps we could go see a movie.”
Before Huo could say anything else, he saw Hsu’s eyes widen in fear as a rather large hand tapped him on the shoulder. Turning, he found himself staring straight into the chest of a very big man.