The squad of Chinese soldiers snapped to attention, although they faced no commander.
On unspoken orders, they executed an about right face and marched toward the far end of the abandoned Beijing warehouse. There, they halted and turned to their left.
As a group, the soldiers leveled their rifles and took careful aim at a photograph of Nelson Burrows, the President of the United States.
All triggers clicked in unison. The resulting blast seemed to tear the air. The bullets struck the exact center of the president's forehead and formed a single hole.
Liang Jiaxi gasped with astonishment.
The unit performed another about face and marched toward him. He faced a phalanx of military machines, not individuals. And he could not read their intentions.
He took an involuntary step backward and nearly fell off his podium. He shot a look over his shoulder at Dr. Yu Zhaoguo, a small scientist with a thin white beard. The old man sat cross-legged, transmitting telepathic instructions to the soldiers.
The footsteps came to an abrupt halt. The soldiers saluted with the white palms of their gloves turned outward. The bearded scientist had put Liang back in command of the troops.
Liang squared his shoulders and returned the salute. "At ease." His voice trailed off in the frosty air.
There was no reaction from the soldiers.
He turned to Dr. Yu. "I told them, 'At ease.'"
Yu hunched his shoulders under multiple layers of sweaters and complied. A moment later, the soldiers stood at ease.
"Thank you, Old Yu." He surveyed the men before him. "This is incredible. What would happen if bin Laden got hold of this?"
"He probably has."
Liang raised an eyebrow. "Interesting."
It felt like he had just been handed a fat red envelope on Chinese New Year.
"Do you realize what we have at our disposal? You have turned them into robots. You push a button, and they comply."
Yu hefted a handful of bullets over which he had been meditating. "The puppet master can control every gesture of his puppets."
Liang looked out the door. Beijing's winter haze seemed to take on a new luster. "Do you know how many concubines I could have?"
"I suppose that's what really matters to you. My interest lies in the science. If you give me the freedom I need, I can get to the heart of nature, avert natural disasters, solve global warming."
Liang didn't have time for scholarly research. He had grown up believing in the power of man to engineer a more perfect world. "I don't need to get to the heart of nature. All I need is to inject a few humans with this drug and microchip and install myself in office."
"But you don't need drugs. And you don't need to inject your pain devices in their brains."
"We don't have time for other methods, nor can we accept ambiguous results." Liang had a regime to overturn. Two actually: one in China and the other in America. Which reminded him. "I must reach Professor Richter at once."
Yu bowed his head obediently and began to concentrate.
"I don't need your help, old fool. I have a cell phone." Liang pulled the gadget from his pocket and punched in a number.
While he waited for the international call to filter through his company's encryption system, Liang studied the old man. What a remarkable mind the scientist had. He could switch effortlessly between the major scientific debates of the day, first discovering the origin of the human species and now making tremendous strides in a different field: parapsychology. "What do you mean we don't need my company's brain implants?" He was slightly offended, but curious.
"To make a subject respond to your commands, you must follow a set procedure." Yu enumerated the steps. "First, you must place yourself within close proximity of the subject. Then you need a totem, or symbol, to commune with the subject. In this case, the bullets worked fine. Subjects then have to be made receptive through drugs or meditation. And lastly, you need to activate a psychological stimulus-response mechanism."
"We inflicted pain," Liang said.
Liang was proud of the microchip his biotech firm had developed. He had implanted one near pain-communicating cells at the base of each soldier's brain. If a soldier disobeyed an order that the scientist issued, there would be a painful electro-chemical reaction. What was wrong with that? But he did see the simplicity of what Yu was suggesting and filed it away for future consideration.
The phone began to ring on the other end. "Make them hop."
Yu regarded the bullets, the totem he used to reach the soldiers. He bowed his head, and the troops began to hop about, each on his right foot.
The men squatted and then sprang into the air like frogs.
Within seconds, the building was filled with the sound of clunking boots. The men skipped around each other like schoolchildren. Yet the same blank look remained in their eyes.
The phone picked up.
Yu raised his head with a relieved look, and the men snapped to attention.
"Don't scream in my ear." It was Professor Richter on the phone. His deep voice sounded muffled as if covered by gauze.
"Sorry." Liang drew in his breath. "But I have excellent news."
"The experiment worked?"
Liang allowed a smile. "Better than I could have ever imagined." If their plan succeeded, America would close her borders to trade and her economy would come to a screeching halt. "Your country needs your political leadership so that it can sink into oblivion."
"No, my country will need me after it sinks into oblivion," Richter corrected. "And you must take some credit, my friend. I modeled my plan after yours."
Liang nodded. It would take more than economic ruin in China to elevate him to power. He observed Dr. Yu, who believed in his power over nature without contemplating how he could capitalize on it personally. He could create a tidal wave that would cripple China's coastal cities, for example, and create the conditions for Liang to assume power. "We will both be like the phoenix," Liang said. "Are you ready to drug your subjects?"
"After tomorrow when this bandage comes off."
Liang paused to imagine Richter's new incarnation. Could the former anthropology professor pull off the transformation? "I have a hard time imagining you as a religious zealot."
The voice rumbled with laughter. "Oh ye of little faith. Didn't you know that the Reverend Terrence Smith is my very own twin, though we were separated at birth?"
Liang had to give his partner credit. Liang might have had the inspiration for great things, but Richter had the ingenuity to pull it off.
"Finish up with your doctors," Liang said. "I'll see you shortly." And he put the phone away.
He turned to study the soldiers standing at attention. Soon, China's entire army would be saluting him. And together they would lift their nation to great prominence on the world stage. With a military to match China's economic clout, nobody would invade or bully her again. In fact, China would create a new world order. Only one thing stood between him and his ultimate happiness. Dr. Yu's enchanting daughter had given her heart to a young American graduate student.
"I want you to send one of these soldiers after Bradley West." He stared at the old man with a commanding air.
"Never. I will not use these powers to kill."
The old man would only cooperate within limits. "I'm only doing this for Bradley's sake. You don't have to kill him. Just ensure he stays off our trail. He has a nasty way of sniffing me out and finding me, and it would be dangerous for him, especially now." He signaled Yu to go ahead and transmit the command to a soldier.
Yu nodded, yet his eyes darted around for a means of escape.
"Don't try to bolt, old man, or I'll hunt you down and kill you. Your precious global warming will turn these icy streets into a swamp, and your daughter will come crawling back to me on her knees."
Yu bowed and opened his fist. He held the bullets as if they might explode in his face. Then he proceeded to implant the thought.
Brad West has just been dumped, in China, by his girlfriend. He is left in the clutches of a killer while May, his seductive Chinese sweetheart, and her dad, an expert at mind control, take off for America. But the CIA desperately wants Brad back, along with his psychic powers. They need him to investigate a rigged race for the White House and to fix a rapidly disintegrating economy. Can he ward off the assailant, brush aside snide remarks from his buddy, and lift his sagging spirits in time to attack the anarchy in America? Join Brad and friends on an epic action-comedy romp from Beijing to Vegas in search of the naked truth. And to save May and the nation from...Mind Control.
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