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Leung Soey, white-haired at the age of 73, desperately needs the gold that a wealthy client from Singapore, Kwan Douhak, will pay him to translate at a very personal gathering. Kwan Douhak seeks his long-lost half-sister. In the center of this meeting, Leung Soey has knowledge and power to tip the scales the way he wants—with a fortune in gold waiting for him, depending on the choice he makes.~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~“Four grams of gold transferred to your account when she arrives, and twenty grams if she is my sister.”“That was the deal.” Ah Soey spoke gruffly, belying how desperately he needed the money. Four grams would pay his most urgent debts; twenty more would arrange rent, new clothes, and a small staff to open the consulting office he had planned for years.“I will know her,” said Kwan Douhak, as though trying to convince himself. “Our reunion should be private.”“You two will not be alone just because I leave. She will have some sort of escort.”Kwan Douhak glanced up, startled. “You said she never married, that Kwan was her birth surname.”“That’s right. Kwan never married, but she adopted nearly every child ever orphaned by disease or accident on this colony. I imagine she will have one of her grown children or grandchildren with her. She will want her own interpreter.”“Why? You speak English.”“She will not trust me to interpret.”Kwan Douhak eyed Ah Soey suspiciously. “I thought you knew her -- was that not the reason you could arrange this meeting even though she is a recluse?”“That does not mean she will trust me to interpret when I am on your payroll. I contracted work with her company a couple of times ten or fifteen years ago, but I did not work directly under her. Back then, my boss said she personally approved my selection.”Kwan Douhak nodded grudging acceptance of his explanation.Ah Soey did not say, thirty years ago I knew her even better, but you haven’t paid me to tell you about that.
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by William F. Wu
Artwork by Linda Cappel
Leung Soey, a man stiff-jointed, overweight, and white-haired at the age of seventy-three, stood beneath the roof tiles on the stone pavilion in the Garden of Peace. All the brown and gray stone had been mined from an asteroid and cut into shapes with smooth, polished surfaces. The pavilion, on a small hill, marked the highest spot in the park.
Beyond the billowing green trees in the distance, he could see the inward surface of the space colony curving upward. If he kept his gaze low, he could forget that he lived inside a giant cylinder called Zhang-E, slowing turning in space as it orbited Sol in the Asteroid Belt. He had escaped the rigors of the Chicago Chinatown as a young man, but as he got older and more weary, he sometimes wondered what Earth felt like now.
“Ah Soey, do you see any sign of her?” Kwan Douhak, the stocky man in his middle fifties who had hired Leung Soey for this meeting, addressed him casually from a stone stool next to a matching stone table. He wore an expensive, gray western suit and a black tie with gold pinstripes. His hair, black and straight, had been cut short and carefully combed.
“No, not yet.” Ah Soey spoke Cantonese, as Kwan Douhak had. Cantonese had become the common language here in Zhang-E, linking the population originally descended from China. The early colonists had come from China, Taiwan, Singapore, the United States, and many other nations, speaking not only Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, but also rural village dialects and the languages of other home countries. Everyone agreed that English had to be taught in order for the Zhangese to communicate widely with other colonies. When Ah Soey had first arrived, one faction here had demanded that Mandarin, the official language of China, be the official language in Zhang-E, but the majority of colonists had a Cantonese background and had outvoted them.
“When did she say she would come?” Kwan Douhak insisted. His hands anxiously stroked the rolled scrolls he had laid on the table in front of him.
“She did not say she would come at all.” Ah Soey had an urge to pace restlessly, but his feet hurt too much. Absently, he rested one hand on the tea cozy he had set on the edge of the table. It stood near the framed gift he himself had brought. “She’s a recluse, a very private eccentric. I did not speak to her directly. Her assistant said maybe she would come.”
Kwan Douhak scowled but said nothing.
Ah Soey envied and disdained his arrogant, wealthy employer, but he was too poor to turn down the man’s money. Reluctantly, he acknowledged to himself that the stranger from Earth had determination; he had spent more than Ah Soey’s lifetime income searching for an older sister who had left her family in Singapore as a young woman to live in space.
“When she gets here, I will pay you off,” said Kwan Douhak. “I want to talk to my sister alone.”
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