The Gates of Occident + The Eagles of Orient
It is the 23rd century. An impassable screen protects Occident from its neighbouring empires. Wang, a young seventeen-year-old Chinese boy, lives with his grandmother in a poor district of Grand-Wroclaw in Silesia, one of the sub-provinces of Sino-Russia governed by the Neo-triads.
Because he has transgressed the law of Assöl the Mongol, a godfather of the clan, Wang has no other choice but to follow the path of exile. For a gateway sometimes opens in the screen at Most in Bohemia. But what happens to emigrants from Occident?
They speak of slavery or even worse; they say they are forced to fight each other like gladiators. No one has ever returned to tell the tale...
2214. Army Captain in the Field of Frederick Alexander,Wang is participating in his second Time-Dimension Games.
Not only has he been called up to take part in a reconstitution of the Boer War, the young Chinese boy finds himself involved in quite a different combat. Not merely a pawn in the power struggle between English and French, he is also the master card of the "hives", a clandestine network which is also trying to break free of the occidental yoke. Wang has become a marked man.
Is he really the seed of chaos planted in Occidental earth by an old gardener called Grandma Li? How can one be a rebel in a world where immigrants can be "switched off " like mere light bulbs?
And how can this electromagnetic screen dividing the world between sterile opulence on the one side and poverty and tyranny on the other be brought down?
The Eiffel Tower Prize for Science Fiction 1997
Wang – The Western Gates by Pierre Bordage
Translated by Sheryl Curtis
Any type of blow is permitted, even a blow beneath the belt –particularly one below the belt. The Tao of Survival is not for those with noble, ethical hearts.
Such people should turn to traditional religions, submit to some master or another or cross through the gate that leads to the worlds of the beyond...
Grandma Li’s Tao of Survival
Winter had fallen earlier than usual along the Oder-Neisse II line, the western border of the People’s Sino-Russian Republic. Swollen by the autumn rains, the dark, furious vein of the Nysa rumbled as it plunged between the naked, pale hills. Columns of smoke, bowed by the breeze, rose from the sheet-metal shacks and flowed into the clouds accumulating above Greater Wroclaw, like promises of hard times.
Wang pulled up the collar of his jacket and took the route that looked over the shore of the impetuous river. He always took the road along the shore of the Nysa when going to Grandma Li’s house. That way, he avoided having to go through the northern neighborhoods of the district making up in safety for what he lost in time and energy. His relationship with the clan of Assöl the Mongol had deteriorated quickly since he’d been caught stealing a bag of cigarettes in the Wzwzych warehouse. He had attempted to move the godfather to pity by claiming that the proceeds of his theft were not intended for his personal use–he hadn’t lied in that respect–and that he would reimburse him the first chance he got. But his arguments had done nothing to reduce his sentence: he was condemned to pay, before November 15 of the current year, a lump sum fine of 30,000 yuans, an enormous sum for someone who lived in the suburbs of Greater Wroclaw. Moreover, the judgment stipulated that, in the event that Wang was unable to pay his debt on time, he would have to choose between emasculation, death by crucifixion or payment in kind, namely a contract with the clan for a minimum term of 50 years.
Wang was not too taken with the idea of clan members removing the attributes that made him a man or of being nailed to a door. Since there was no way he could amass the amount required, he had no choice but to become a killer for Assöl, one of those shadows that appeared in the night to empty the magazine of their submachine gun into the belly of a negligent businessman, a stunned gambler, a rival drug dealer or an unwilling prostitute. Even if that perspective did give him a reprieve–how long would it last though, since few of Assöl’s henchmen survived the constant wars between the neo-triads–it was no more pleasant than the slow death reserved for traitors or those who opposed the clan: working for the Mongol was much like the desperate existence of a dog strangled by its leash. He would no longer have to worry about room and board and he would be able to pick up as many women as he wanted, but he’d have to give up the priceless pleasure of strolling through the streets of Greater Wroclaw, wandering as he wanted to through the tank district, jumping into a covered truck on its way to the Silesian plains.
His feet were growing numb inside his thick leather boots. The wind was unable to dissipate the terrible stench that rose among the rudimentary dwellings, haphazard heaps of sheet metal, planks of wood, fabric and tarpaulins. The temporary character which had been perpetuated for three centuries had transformed into a style. Through chinks in the hangings, doors, windows, he saw silhouettes inside rooms lit by naked, flickering lamps. The power plant that supplied the sub-province of Silesia was unable to provide enough electricity during deep cold spells, particularly since the neo-triads managed to divert a large portion of the power generated and sell it at a prohibitive rate to the wealthiest families in Wroclaw and its suburb, a shanty town that had absorbed the cities of Legnica and Walbrzych, stretching west to the shore of the Nysa. As a result, the less fortunate had no choice by to cram their old stoves with bits of wood, branches, pieces of furniture, paper, bits of coal that they squeezed out of the old Silesian mines, anything that could burn in one manner or another, including cadavers of animals and humans. Wang had originally thought that the talk of human bodies was nothing more than groundless rumor, or perhaps a poor joke, but one day he had walked into the house of an old friend of Grandma Li and he had seen a partially burned hand jutting out from the cooking stove oven like a jack-in-the-box.
Soon, toxic smoke would rise from the chimneys, making the air unbreathable, working with the cold to carry off the least resistant–infants, old people, the sick–to the worlds beyond. “The Tao of Survival is of no help to the weak,” Grandma Li often said. “It merely reinforces the strong...”
The first flakes of snow were starting to fall as Wang stepped onto the wooden dock that ran along the Nysa. He was fascinated by the lightness with which the snow landed on the rooftops, the ground, the planks, on the slightly wrinkled mirror of the river, and by the way in which it absorbed sounds, as if to spare its effects.
He walked to the edge of the dock and spent a few moments looking at the dancing snowflakes, which faded as they came into contact with the water. The current threw tree branches, pieces of sheet metal, cans and rubbish against the pillars of the dock or onto the concrete wall of the dike, all of which would float a few days later into the Baltic Sea, which had been transformed into an immense, open-air sewer ages ago. Two years earlier, out of curiosity, Wang had decided he wanted to see the mouth of the Nysa River. He’d persuaded a truck driver, who made daily deliveries to the city of Szczecin, to take him along. He’d followed the river until it flowed into the Oder and then, at the driver’s invitation, he’d pushed on to the port of Świnoujście in Pomerania. His memories of this excursion were sinister, filled with desolate landscapes, fields covered with rusted tanks and trucks, mountains of waste, blankets of thick, black flog, gutted buildings, ruins, thousands of homeless people along the roads, scenes of carnage, pillage...
“The People’s Sino-Russian Republic in all its glory!” the truck driver had exclaimed, his blond hair, blue eyes and pale complexion betraying his Slavic roots. “I’d give an arm or a leg to cross to the other side of that damned curtain and contemplate the wonders of the West!”
His voice had filled with ecstasy as he uttered that last word. Then he pressed down brutally on the accelerator and the truck, a dilapidated vehicle that seemed about to break apart with each jolt, leapt forward, screeching, on the washboard road.
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