‘2034,’ Part II: Blackout in Washington, DC – WIRED

2February 2021

Minister Chiang rubbed his round and very smooth chin. Lin Bao watched the screen. In the background, beyond the rushed comings and goings of the sailors on the bridge, he might see the horizon. A haze hung about the ocean. It took Lin Bao a minute to understand what had actually caused it– this haze was all that was left of the Carl Levin and the Chung-Hoon. And it would, he believed, quickly be all that was left of the John Paul Jones. Ma Qiang's concern was merited, Lin Bao believed. This operation from its beginning had actually always been restricted in scope. Its objective– the last, uncontested control of the South China Sea– might only be weakened in one of 2 ways: initially, if their forces failed to damage this United States flotilla; and 2nd, if through a miscalculation this crisis intensified beyond a single, violent demonstration.

“Admiral,” Minister Chiang began, resolving Ma Qiang, “is it your belief that the John Paul Jones can be conserved?”

Ma Qiang paused for a minute, spoke to somebody off-screen in a hushed voice, and after that returned his attention to the teleconference. “Comrade Minister, our best estimates are that the John Paul Jones will sink within three hours if unaided.” Lin Bao might see that the Zheng He was turning into the wind to be in the most beneficial position to launch its airplane. Suddenly on the distant horizon a stitch of dark smoke appeared. At first it was so faint that Lin Bao mistook it for a flaw in the teleconference's connection. Then he comprehended: It was the John Paul Jones burning a lots miles off.

Minister Chiang began rubbing his chin as he weighed whether to buy this last blow. A definitive engagement was necessary, but he needed to proceed with caution lest a mistake trigger the event to spiral into a wider conflict, one that might threaten his nation's interests further afield than the South China Sea. He leaned forward in his seat. “Admiral, you are cleared for launch. However listen carefully; there is a specific message we must provide.”

06:42 MARCH 13, 2034 (GMT +4:30)

BANDAR ABBAS

“This fucking location stinks.”

The dank air. The rank fragrance. If Wedge hadn't known any much better, he would've believed he ‘d been detained in the public washroom of a Greyhound bus terminal. Blindfolded, he sat cuffed to a steel chair bolted to the floor. He couldn't see anything other than for the irregular permutations of shadow and ashy light that played around the space from what he thought was a window near the ceiling.

A door creaked open, heavy on its hinges. From the noise, Wedge might tell it was metal. A set of unequal actions approached, like someone with a small limp. Then a scrape on the flooring as a chair was dragged over. Whoever sat throughout from him sat clumsily, as if the motion were awkward for them. Wedge awaited the individual to state something, but there was only the smell of their cigarette. Wedge wouldn't be the one to speak first. He understood the Code of Conduct for POWs, an exclusive club into which he ‘d been inducted only hours prior to.

“Major Chris ‘Wedge' Mitchell …” came the voice across from him.

Then his blindfold was tugged off. Overwhelmed by the light, even though the room was improperly lit, Wedge had a hard time to see. He couldn't quite focus on the dark figure across from him, who continued, “Why are you here, Major Wedge?”

Gradually, his eyes changed. The male asking concerns was dressed in a green uniform with gold embroidered epaulets of some significance. He had an athletic develop like a runner and a hostile confront with a long, hook-shaped scar that traced from above his eyebrow to listed below his cheek. His nose was compressed into a triangle, as if it had been broken and reset sometimes. In his hands he held the name spot that had actually been velcroed onto Wedge's flight suit.Source: wired.com

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