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The Art of War (Chung Kuo Series #5)
     

The Art of War (Chung Kuo Series #5)

by David Wingrove
 

The fifth installment of David Wingrove's colossal series

The year is 2206 and peace has returned. After five years of war, the Seven are weak. They have lost three of their members, and the new T'ang are young and inexperienced. Once it was considered inconceivable but now, down in the lowest levels of the immense city of Chung Kuo, new currents of

Overview

The fifth installment of David Wingrove's colossal series

The year is 2206 and peace has returned. After five years of war, the Seven are weak. They have lost three of their members, and the new T'ang are young and inexperienced. Once it was considered inconceivable but now, down in the lowest levels of the immense city of Chung Kuo, new currents of unrest have awoken that threaten to tear it apart. The fight endures, but the demand for change is not the only threat to the Seven. Major Howard DeVore will use any means available to destroy them and their world-spanning city, and, from their own ranks, Wang Sau-leyan, appointed T'ang after the suspicious deaths of his father and elder brothers, plots to destroy them from within. The Seven are vulnerable and the forces against them continue to grow.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/16/2013
Fifth in a projected 20-book series, which has been reworked and expanded from an eight-book series published between 1989 and 1997, this futuristic epic continues to explore a Chinese-dominated Earth, now called Chung Kuo, in the year 2206. In the wake of a five-year war, peace is threatened by lingering rebels and malcontents, as well as ruthless political infighting among the ruling Council of Seven. While the focus bounces around a somewhat unwieldy cast of dozens, several major players do stand out, including budding artist Ben Shepherd, manipulative mastermind Howard DeVore, and the treacherous Wang Sau-leyan. This installment is more about moving pieces into place than any significant plot payout; even when things happen, they feel inconclusive. The epic scope and ambitious storytelling work well with the worldbuilding, but the story—very much part of a larger work in progress—is nigh-inaccessible to newcomers. Agent: Diana Tyler, MBA Literary Agents. (Dec.)
From the Publisher

"The epic scope and ambitious storytelling work well with the worldbuilding." —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780857890719
Publisher:
Atlantic Books
Publication date:
09/01/2013
Series:
Chung Kuo Series , #5
Edition description:
New series order
Pages:
278
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Art of War

Chung Kuo Book 5


By David Wingrove

Atlantic Books Ltd

Copyright © 2013 David Wingrove
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-85789-423-6



CHAPTER 1

THE FIFTY-NINTH STONE


It was dawn on Mars. In the lowland desert of the Golden Plains it was minus one hundred and fourteen degrees and rising. Deep shadow lay like the surface of a fathomless sea to the east, tracing the lips of huge escarpments, while to the north and west the sun's first rays picked out the frozen slopes and wind-scoured mouths of ancient craters. Through the centre of this landscape ran a massive pipeline, dissecting the plain from north to south: a smooth vein of polished white against the brown-red terrain.

For a time the plain was still and silent. Then, from the south, came the sound of an approaching craft, the dull roar of its engines carried faintly on the thin atmosphere. A moment later it drew nearer, following the pipeline. Feng Shou Pumping Station was up ahead, in the distance – a small oasis in the billion-year sterility of the Martian desert – discernible even at this range from the faint spiral curve of cloud that placed a blue-white smudge amidst the perfect pinkness of the sky.

The report had come in less than an hour ago: an unconfirmed message that an unauthorized craft had been challenged and brought down in the Sea of Divine Kings, eighty li north-west of Feng Shou Station. There was no more than that, but Karr, trusting to instinct, had commissioned a Security craft at once, speeding north from Tian Men K'ou City to investigate.

Karr stared down through the dark filter of the cockpit's screen at the rugged terrain below, conscious that, after eight months of scouring this tiny planet for some sign of the man, he might at last be nearing the end of his search.

At first he had thought this a dreadful place. The bitter cold, the thin, unnatural atmosphere, the closeness of the horizon, the all-pervading redness of the place. He had felt quite ill those first few weeks, despite the enjoyable sensation of shedding more than 60 per cent of his body weight to Mars's much lower surface gravity. The Han Security officer who had been his host had told him it was quite natural to feel that way: it took some while to acclimatize to Mars. But he had wondered briefly whether this cold, inhospitable planet might not be his final resting place. Now, however, he felt sad that it was coming to an end. He had grown to love the austere magnificence of Mars. Eight months. It was little more than a season here.

As the craft drew nearer he ordered the pilot to circle the station from two li out.

The five huge chimneys of the atmosphere generator dominated the tiny settlement, belching huge clouds of oxygen-rich air into the thin and frigid atmosphere. Beneath them the sprawl of settlement buildings was swathed in green – hardy mosses that could survive the extreme temperatures of the Martian night. Further out, the red sands were rimed with ice that formed a wide, uneven ring of whiteness about the station. The generator itself was deep beneath the surface, its taproots reaching down towards the core of the planet to draw their energy. Like thirty other such generators scattered about the planet's surface, it had been pumping oxygen into the skies of Mars for more than one hundred and fifty years. Even so, it would be centuries yet before Mars had a proper atmosphere again.

Karr made a full circle of the settlement, studying the scene. There were four transports parked to the east of the pipeline, in an open space between some low buildings. At first, in the half-light, they had seemed to form one single, indistinct shape – a complexity of shadows – but through the resolution of field glasses he could make out individual markings. One was a craft belonging to the settlement, another two Security craft from out of Kang Kua in the north. The fourth was unmarked. A small, four-man flier, the design unlike anything he had seen before on Mars.

He leaned forward and tapped out that day's security code, then sat back, waiting. In a moment it came back, suitably amended, followed by an update.

Karr gave himself a moment to digest the information, then nodded to himself. 'Okay. Set her down half a li to the south of those craft. Then suit up. I want to be ready for any trouble.'

The young pilot nodded tersely, setting them down softly on the southern edge of the settlement. While the pilot suited up, Karr sat there, staring out at the settlement, watching for any sign that this might yet be a trap.

'Ready?'

The young man nodded.

'Good. Wait here. I'll not be long.'

Karr took a breath then released the hatch. As he climbed out, systems within his suit reacted immediately to the sudden changes in temperature and pressure. It was cold out here. Cold enough to kill a man in minutes if his suit failed.

There were five buildings surrounding the craft: three domes and two long, flat-topped constructions, the domes to the left, the flat-tops to the right. The pumping station itself was the largest of the domes, straddling the pipeline like a giant swelling, one of eight similar stations – situated at two-hundred-li intervals along the pipeline – that pumped water from the sprawling Tzu Li Keng Seng generating complex in the south to the three great northern cities of Hong Hai, Kang Kua and Chi Shan.

Karr walked towards the huge hemisphere of the station, the tiny heat generator in his suit clicking on as he moved into the shadow of the giant pipeline. As he came nearer a door hissed open and unfolded towards the ground, forming steps. Without hesitation he mounted them and went inside, hearing the door close behind him.

He went through the airlock briskly and out into the pressurized and heated core of the station. Two Security men were waiting for him, at attention, clearly surprised that he was still suited up. They looked at him expectantly, but he went past them without a word, leaving them to follow him or not, as they wished.

He took a left turn at the first junction into a corridor that bridged the pipeline. As he did so an officer, a fresh-faced young Han, hurried down the corridor towards him.

'Major Karr. Welcome to Feng Shou. Captain Wen would like ...'

Ignoring him, Karr brushed past and turned off to the left, taking the narrow stairwell down to the basement. Guards looked up, surprised, as he came down the corridor towards them, then stood to a hurried attention as they noticed the leopard badge of a third-ranking officer that adorned the chest of his suit.

'Forgive me, Major Karr, but the Captain says you must ...'

Karr turned and glared at the junior officer who had followed him, silencing him with a look.

'Please tell your captain that, as his superior officer, I've taken charge of this matter. And before you ask, no, I don't want to see him. Understand me?'

The young soldier bowed deeply and backed off a step. 'Of course, Major. As you say.'

Karr turned away, forgetting the man at once. These stations were all the same. There was only one place to keep prisoners securely. He marched down the narrow, dimly lit passageway, then stopped, facing a heavy, panelled door. He waited as one of the guards caught up with him and took a bunch of old-fashioned metal keys from inside a thick pouch, then, as the door swung inward, pushed past the man impatiently.

Hasty improvisation had made a cell of the small storeroom. The floor was bare rock, the walls undecorated ice, opaque and milky white, like a blind eye. The four men were bound at wrist and ankle.

Berdichev was sitting slumped against the wall. His grey uniform was dusty and dishevelled, buttons missing from the neck, his face thinner, gaunter than the Security profile of him. He hadn't shaved for a week or more and he stared back at Karr through eyes red-rimmed with tiredness. Karr studied him thoughtfully. The horn-rimmed glasses that were his trademark hung from a fine silver chain about his neck, the lenses covered in a fine red grit.

He had not been certain. Not until this moment. But now he knew. Berdichev was his. After almost five years of pursuit, he had finally caught up with the leader of the Dispersionists.

Karr looked about the cell again, conscious of the other three watching him closely, then nodded, satisfied. He knew how he looked to them. Knew how the suit exaggerated his size, making him seem monstrous, unnatural. Perhaps they were even wondering what he was – machine or man. If so, he would let them know. He lit up his face plate, seeing how the eyes of the others widened with surprise. But not Berdichev. He was watching Karr closely.

Karr turned, slamming the door shut behind him, then turned back, facing them again.

He knew what they expected. They knew the laws that were supposed to govern an arrest. But this was different. They had been tried in their absence and found guilty. He was not here to arrest them.

'Well, Major Karr, so we meet up at last, neh?' Berdichev lifted his chin a little as he spoke, but his eyes seemed to look down on the giant. 'Do you really think you'll get me to stand trial? In fact, do you even think you'll leave Mars alive?'

If there had been any doubt before, there was none now. It was a trap. Berdichev had made a deal with the Captain, Wen. Or maybe Wen was in another's pay – a friend of Berdichev's. Whatever, it didn't matter now. He walked over to where Berdichev was sprawled and kicked at his feet.

'Get up,' he said tonelessly, his voice emerging disembodied and inhuman through the suit's microphone.

Berdichev stood slowly, awkwardly. He was clearly ill. Even so, there was a dignity of bearing to him, a superiority of manner, that was impressive. Even in defeat he thought himself the better man.

Karr stood closer, looking down into Berdichev's face, studying the hawk-like features one last time. For a moment Berdichev looked aside, then, as if he realized this was one last challenge, he met the big man's stare unflinchingly, his features set, defiant.

Did he know whose gaze he met across the vastness of space? Did he guess in that final moment?

Karr picked him up and broke his neck, his back, then dropped him. It was done in an instant, before the others had a chance to move, even to cry out.

He stepped away, then stood there by the door, watching.

They gathered about the body, kneeling, glaring across at him, impotent to help the dying man. One of them half rose, his fists clenched, then drew back, realizing he could do nothing.

Karr tensed, hearing noises in the corridor outside. Captain Wen and his squad.

He took a small device from his belt, cracked its outer shell like an egg and threw the sticky innards at the far wall, where it adhered, high up, out of reach. He pulled the door open and stepped outside, then pulled it closed and locked it. His face-plate still lit up, he smiled at the soldiers who were hurrying down the corridor towards him as if greeting them, then shot Wen twice before he could say a word.

The remaining four soldiers hesitated, looking to the junior officer for their lead. Karr stared from face to face, defying them to draw a weapon, his own held firmly out before him. Then, on the count of fifteen, he dropped to the floor.

The wall next to him lit up brightly and, a fraction of a second later, the door blew out.

Karr got up and went through the shattered doorway quickly, ignoring the fallen men behind him. The cell was devastated, the outer wall gone. Bits of flesh and bone lay everywhere, unrecognizable as parts of living men.

He stood there a moment, looking down at the thermometer on the sleeve of his suit. The temperature in the room was dropping rapidly. They would have to address that problem quickly or the generators that powered the pumps would shut down. Not only that, but they would have to do something about the loss of air pressure within the station.

Karr crossed to the far side of the room and stepped outside, on to the sands. Debris from the blast lay everywhere. He turned and looked back at the devastation within. Was that okay? he asked silently. Did that satisfy your desire for vengeance, Li Shai Tung? For the T'ang was watching everything. All that Karr saw he saw, the signal sent back more than four hundred million li through space.

He shrugged, then tapped the buttons at his wrist, making contact with the pilot.

'I'm on the sands to the west of the pipeline, near where the explosion just happened. Pick me up at once.'

'At once, Major.'

He turned back and fired two warning shots into the empty doorway, then strode out across the sands, positioning himself in a kneeling position, facing the station.

Part of him saw the craft lift up over the massive pipeline and drop towards him, while another part of him was watching the doorway for any sign of activity. Then he was aboard, the craft climbing again, and he had other things to think of. There was a gun turret built into the side of the station. Nothing fancy, but its gun could easily bring down a light two-man craft like their own. As they lifted he saw it begin to turn and leaned across the pilot to prime the ship's missiles, then sent two silkworms haring down into the side of the dome.

A huge fireball rose into the sky, rolling over and over upon itself. A moment later the blast rocked the tiny craft.

'Kuan Yin!' screamed the pilot. 'What in hell's name are you doing?'

Karr glared at the young Han. 'Just fly!'

'But the station ...'

The big dome had collapsed. The two nearest domes were on fire. People were spilling from the nearby buildings, shocked, horrified by what they saw. As Karr lifted up and away from the settlement, he saw the end of the fractured pipeline buckle and then lift slowly into the air, like a giant worm, water gushing from a dozen broken conduits, cooling rapidly in the frigid air.

'Aiya!' said the young pilot, his voice pained and anxious. 'It's a disaster! What have you done, Major Karr? What have you done?'

'I've finished it,' Karr answered him, angry that the boy should make so much of a little water. 'I've ended the War.'


Four hundred million li away, back on Chung Kuo, DeVore strode into a room and looked about him. The room was sparsely furnished, undecorated save for a flag that was pinned to the wall behind the table, its design the white stylized outline of a fish against a blue background. At the table sat five people: three men and two women. They wore simple, light blue uniforms on which no sign of rank or merit was displayed. Two of them – one male, one female – were Han. This last surprised DeVore. He had heard rumours that the Ping Tiao hated the Han. No matter. They hated authority, and that was good enough. He could use them, Han in their ranks or no.

'What do you want?'

The speaker was the man at the centre of the five: a short, stocky man, with dark, intense eyes, fleshy lips and a long nose. His brow was long, his thin grey hair receding. DeVore knew him from the report. Gesell was his name. Bent Gesell. He was their leader, or at least the man to whom this strange organization of so-called 'equal' individuals looked for their direction.

DeVore smiled, then nodded towards the table, indicating the transparent grid that was laid out before Gesell. 'You have the map, I see.'

Gesell narrowed his eyes, studying him a moment. 'Half of it, anyway. But that's your point, isn't it, Shih Turner? Or am I wrong?'

DeVore nodded, looking from face to face, seeing at once how suspicious they were of him. They were of a mind to reject his proposal, whatever it might be. But that was as he had expected. He had never thought this would be easy.

'I want to make a deal with you. The other half of that map – and more like it – for your co-operation in a few schemes of mine.'

Gesell's nostrils dilated, his eyes hardened. 'We are not criminals, Shih Turner, whatever the media says about us. We are Ko Ming. Revolutionaries.'

DeVore stared back at Gesell, challenging him. 'Did I say otherwise?'

'Then I repeat. What do you want?'

DeVore smiled. 'I want what you want. To destroy the Seven. To bring it all down and start again.'

Gesell's smile was ugly. 'Fine rhetoric. But can you support your words?'

DeVore's smile widened. 'That packet your men took from me. Ask one of them to bring it in.'

Gesell hesitated, then indicated to the guard who stood behind DeVore that he should do so. He returned a moment later with the small, sealed package, handing it to Gesell.

'If this is a device of some kind ...' Gesell began.

But DeVore shook his head. 'You asked what proof I have of my intentions. Well, inside that package you'll find a human ear. The ear of the late T'ang of Africa, Wang Hsien.'

There was a gasp from the others at the table, but Gesell was cool about it. He left the package untouched. 'Half a map and an ear. Are these your only credentials, Shih Turner? The map could be of anything, the ear anyone's.'

He's merely playing now, thought DeVore; impressing on the others how wise he is, how cautious. Because he, at least, will have had the map checked out and will know it is to the Security arsenal at Helmstadt Canton. Likewise with the ear. He knows how easy it is to check the authenticity of the genetic material.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Art of War by David Wingrove. Copyright © 2013 David Wingrove. Excerpted by permission of Atlantic Books Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

David Wingrove is the Hugo Award–winning coauthor of The Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction and the coauthor of the first three books in the Myst series.

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