In the McLeod Ganj police sub-station jail cell, Xiuying kept trying to speak to me in Mandarin. All he knew was that his colleague Wei had hogtied and beat him, and blown their mission. He wanted answers. I ignored him. I had never ridden a Chinese intelligence agent before and I was curious what Wei knew. I sifted through his memories one by one, translating them into Lhasa and then tossing them aside. Wei had a highly linear memory, so it was easy to find out how much they knew about the Tibetan diaspora community in Dharamsala (a lot) what kinds of weapons Wei was qualified in (many) how many family members he had (few) and his position on the bureaucratic hierarchy (low). After a few hours of poking around, I had just about exhausted any curiosity about the man. He just wasn’t important enough to have anything really juicy for me. Until I started trolling Wei’s memories of his cousin.
Zhang Wei’s was related to Zhao Joeng because their mothers were siblings. Jones had an interesting job with PLA unit 61398 which operated out of a nondescript high rise building in the Shanghai suburb of Pudong. A mathematician by training, Joeng took easily to coding and became a mildly successful part-time hacker. The PLA recruited him to conduct cyber-espionage on American companies, stealing their intellectual property for Chinese businesses.
Joeng and Wei spoke infrequently and met in person only on rare occasions. Wei rarely traveled home to Shanghai any more. However, when Wei was home for the previous New Year, he and Joeng had an interesting dinner conversation at a local Chongming restaurant. Joeng looked up to his elder cousin who had joined the intelligence services a decade before Joeng. Joeng relied on Wei for career advice and apparently trusted him with classified information.
Joeng had been conducting electronic surveillance on Albatross Corporation, a Shanghai company that the PLA knew was a front for American intelligence interests. Rather than shutting Albatross down, they watched and listened. And while listening, Joeng learned some very interesting information about a group known only as Ought Six.
Wei listened politely to his young relative, but dismissed the boy’s speculations as the imaginative longings of a young mind who spent too much time in a dark room staring at computers. Great intellects tend to invent and believe in all manner of fantastical notions when they’re bored.
Still, when I replayed the memories of the conversation again, Joeng seemed genuine and sincere. He wasn’t exaggerating in order to impress his elder. But what Joeng said was unbelievable. The group called Ought Six had proof that the world wasn’t what we thought it was.
But if it wasn’t what we thought it was, then what was it? Joeng didn’t know and Wei didn’t care. But I did.
None of the known theories of science or theology could explain my condition. Well, theology and religion could, but only in the worst terms imaginable. No priest, rabbi, monk or imam who knew my true nature would describe me in any terms deriving from god or goodness. Demonic possession was more their taste.
I was intrigued by this Ought Six, and had to know more. I tried to ask Xiuying if he knew anything about it but he just barked at me in Mandarin. No help there. I needed to find Wei’s cousin, or better yet someone who actually knew what Ought Six knew. Which meant I needed out. Jail no longer suited me.
I called the guard over and told him my handcuffs were too tight. He had me put my back to the cell bars and he felt the tension. His fingers on my wrists gave me the connection I needed and I shifted.
Now outside the bars in my new ride, I reached up and grabbed the back of Wei’s jacket to keep him from falling on his face. He would need a few seconds to re-orient himself, and then the confusion would set it. I felt him regain control, and I let him free. Wei started babbling to Xiuying in Mandarin, probably asking him how the fuck they went from the sanctuary to an Indian prison cell. My rides have no memory of our time together. Too bad. That would be an interesting conversation for them to work out.
I turned and walked to the end of the cellblock. The door was open, but the gate was shut. A guard patrolled the hallway, and I waved him over. Touching his hand, I shifted again and was on the other side of the gate, facing the bewildered guard I just left. In my new ride, I turned and walked off.
From there, I shifted to an Indian police officer, then to a lone man who was waiting at the police station to file a report about a break in at his bicycle shop. I drove to the Dharamsala-Kangra Airport and checked the flight schedule. I shifted to a woman in the line for New Delhi check-in and rode her to Indira Ghandi airport. From there I shifted into a Chinese businessman waiting in the boarding line for a Shanghai flight. I got lucky. He spoke Mandarin, Hindi and English so I had an entertaining time reviewing the more intriguing and salacious memories from his life. Seven hours later, my China Eastern Air flight touched down in Shanghai.
I could write an entire book just about my jailbreaks, but this story is far more interesting.