Hilda Oakley

Australian author and poet

   Nov 01

The Message

“I say Old boy!” Colonel Blake sharply retorted, “Are you positively certain of this young fellow, Kai Lam? Can we really trust him for this job? I know I’m just the secretary of the Association, but . . . . . ?”

“No buts!” Major Nate interrupted, “Haven’t you read his file – his experiences and his character up until his current entrance into the Association? Here, read through these classified files on his life and you will understand where this man comes from. He is the perfect candidate for the job!”

The Colonel sat down at his desk and began reading the file on Kai Lam.

At school Kai Lam was an excellent student. He was a lot smaller and of a shorter stature than the other children of his age, and he was constantly tormented about his eyes and appearance. From a very early age, he realized that he would have to stick up for himself, and learn to defend himself.

Kai Lam’s parents realized his predicament and had him enrolled for lessons at a local gym for after school tutoring. Here he learnt judo, karate and body building. His parents knew that for a slightly built person, martial arts were a handy skill for one to possess.

At eighteen years of age, Kai Lam joined the army. He thrived on the discipline, challenges and tasks set before him. The Drill Sergeant roared out orders left right and centre and pushed Kai Lam to the limit during his basic training. Hunger, pain and suffering became his best friends.

“Come on you useless lazy layabouts!” the Sergeant roared, “get those 10kg packs on your back and get a move on! We’ve got twenty kilometres to trek today, kindergarten kids would put you all to shame!”

During his training, Kai Lam excelled in hand to hand combat. Being such a small person, everyone in his troop wanted to see if they could overpower him at his artful skill, but they all failed dismally. The bigger men also challenged him, but Kai Lam knew all the pressure points on the body and in no time had them surrendering and at his mercy. He became known as the Chinese Jaguar.

He was the best soldier in his troop. Kai Lam quickly learnt many more skills like map reading, GPS positioning and the use of infra red glasses during night manoeuvres, where one can detect another human moving around in the pitch dark.

After serving six exciting years in the army and despite his successes, Kai Lam resigned from the armed forces. He wanted a greater challenge, something that would be worthwhile, that would make a difference in the world.

Throwing the folder down on the desk, Colonel Blake said very tersely, “Seems you are right, he is the best man for this job!”

It only took a short time before Kai Lam was brought before his superiors.

After listening to what the Major had in mind, Kai Lam immediately asked, “Me! But…Why me? Why have you chosen me for this dangerous task?”

“According to your records, you have been carefully selected as the right man for this mission,” the Major replied. “You are strong, skilful and totally dedicated to the cause. You meet all the right criteria for this job and when we give you the specific details concerning this operation, I’m sure they will inspire and challenge you, as we have been told you are not averse to danger.”

After leaving the meeting at headquarters, Kai Lam headed back towards the car park to where he had left his vehicle. He had this eerie feeling of being followed. Then out of nowhere he was set upon by two heavy thugs wielding baseball bats. One tried to tackle him as the other attempted to hit him over the head with the bat. Kai Lim kick-boxed the bat out of his hand while putting a sleeper hold on the second assailant. Within a few minutes Kai Lam had both attackers at his mercy. Demanding an explanation for the attack, Kai Lam soon realized they were ignorant fall guys. Disgusted, he sent them away totally defeated, beaten and bruised. The huge men were unprepared for the thrashing Kai Lam handed them, presuming the small frame of Kai Lam would go down in a screaming heap very quickly, with hardly any resistance. Once again Kai Lam’s martial art classes paid off and were put to good use.

After his assailants had gone, Kai Lam realized the truth. It sent his head spinning, throbbing and exploding in pain. Somewhere in the back of his brain the word ‘message’ kept echoing over again and again. Getting to his feet, staggering at first, he ran as fast as he could until his lungs screamed for air. Checking to see that no-one was stalking or following him, he sat down to rest for the first time.

He began asking himself questions. “These men had prior knowledge of me entering the Organisation. How did they know that? Do they possibly know about this mission? Kai Lam, the Major and Colonel Blake were the only ones that knew. There was only one explanation – the Organisation headquarters had been infiltrated!”
Kai Lam reported the incident to the Major, who immediately ordered a secret and thorough search of the headquarters. Several bugging devices were located under desks and inside telephone handset receivers. Monitoring cameras were purchased and mounted in all of the headquarters main offices. They were certain there was a mole in the Association.

x x x x

Practice runs by Kai Lam and the Major were organised to find the safest way of getting into China without bringing suspicion upon themselves. They had to make sure that everything would go smoothly for the real mission.

During the first practice run, Kai Lam was pulled out from a line of passengers when disembarking at a Chinese airport. The officers at the airport who seized him were extremely rough. After a long and very thorough search, they found no trace of weapons or illegal contraband on his body or in his luggage. He was eventually freed and released without a conviction.

Everything within the Association was moving along marvellously and then, unexpectedly things began to happen. The main storage facility at Shanghai was set alight and demolished without warning. Then another one was blown up in Kowloon only a week later. The Organisation needed someone they could trust, someone who was loyal to the cause and could look after themselves.

There was a mole, a traitor in their ranks, giving out information about the whereabouts of all their facilities. They needed someone to go undercover and bring the traitor out into the open!

During the following few months Kai Lam let his hair grow longer so that it could be plaited into a pigtail, to blend in and look similar to other Chinese men who were working on the boats.

He had joined up with a band of smugglers that deliver important information in and out of countries. This mission suited Kai Lam down to the ground. They were smuggling goods into China. Now he would be heading home, back to his country of birth.

He waited patiently for the command to go.

One moonless night in a small sea-side shanty town in Taiwan, Kai Lam sat listening to the pitter patter of rain on the roof. Then he thought he heard a distinct gentle tapping on the door.
Tap! Tap! Pause, Tap! Tap! Tap! Pause, Tap! Tap! The knocking was being tapped out in Morse code. Carefully looking through the peep-hole in the front-door, Kai Lam could see the frame of a large man standing there in full view, illuminated by the veranda light. It was Major Nate; he was dressed all in black, including a black Mackintosh raincoat and black waterproof rain-hat.

“It’s time to make our move Kai Lam, are you ready?”

Within a few minutes Kai Lam was dressed and ready to go. Throwing a duffle bag over his shoulder they plodded on down towards the docks where they boarded an old Chinese junk.

“This will be our transport for the next few days.” The Major informed Kai Lam. “It will take us about three days with good winds to sail from here to the Chinese mainland. Trust you don’t get sea-sick young fellow.”

Everything went well. After the first day of gentle rain, the weather fined up and the breeze was strong and in their favour.

Approaching the Chinese mainland late on the third night, the captain whispered to the first mate, “Let everyone aboard know there is to be no more talking! There are lights flickering in the reeds and bulrushes ahead near the water’s edge, so we have to be very careful.”

Quietly the mainsail was lowered. When the boat stopped moving, the first mate lowered the anchor.

The mission was about to begin. Two highly trained men were left behind to guard the junk. They were sharp eyed and very alert and could easily protect themselves if any problems arose. That left four men to go ahead with the perilous operation.

They quietly lowered the dingy into the water and crouching low, proceeded to paddle to the shore. One man sat in the bow, another near the stern and the other two crouched low in the middle.

Although the water near the reeds was shallow, it was icy cold. If they weren’t killed by a bullet, they would surely die of hyperthermia.

Without warning, the dark sky lit up. Search lights from Patrol boats illuminated the beach, reeds and surrounding water turning night into day. The bright lights swooped backwards and forwards across the four people crouched low in the little dinghy, nearly blinding them.
Unexpectedly the heavens opened up. There was a crack of thunder and lightning flashed across the sky. Sheets of torrential rain bucketed down. Visibility was reduced to zero. The place became awash with a thick, steamy, foggy mist. The sea was surging and swirling all around the small dinghy. With the help of the storm, they decided they’d make a run for it in the heavy rain before the mist lifted. With all the strength they could muster they paddled as fast as they could towards the reeds on the beach.

The rain was still pelting down when they hit the beach. Grabbing their belongings they made a dash for it towards the city. Meandering their way through dark streets and narrow alleys, they eventually reached their Chinese contact Melissa Wu at a restaurant called ‘The Flaming Dragon’.

After a hot shower and some dry clothes, they sat down to a hearty dinner and discussed their plans for the following day.

They were roused early the next morning as their transport had arrived. It consisted of two brightly coloured rickshaws, accompanied with two very fit rickshaw attendants. They moved through the city, then soon were out into the country where rich, lush green, rice paddy fields lapped the edge of the narrow country road.

Making their way up a small mountain range, they approached a village. Here they were taken to a Chinese lantern factory at the centre of the village. This was where the Association’s main office for this area was located.

x x x x

Arriving late, they were surprised to see China’s main office still open. Lieutenant Featherstone was left in charge to carry on business and he was patiently waiting for them. Three of the group were ushered into a room. Kai Lam was asked to remain behind as a Sergeant needed to discuss the mission with him.

When the main group left the room, the Sergeant said, “Give me the message!”.

“What do you mean? What message?” Kai Lam replied nervously, as he was taught to refer this way to his subordinate.

“You know! The message!” The Sergeant roared.

Could Kai Lam trust him, a mere Sergeant? Trying to see if he was reliable, Kai Lam said in a cold manner, “If you answer my question correctly first I might tell you. What is my British nickname?”

“”Mali! It’s a mixture of letters from your real name.” The Sergeant replied.

“Correct!” Kai Lam nodded as he answered. “Now, if you could retire to another room I will retrieve the message for you. It won’t take a moment.”

As Kai Lam bent down to obtain the message from the heel of his shoe, he saw a shadow lurking close behind him. Whipping around quickly he was confronted by Colonel Blake holding a revolver in his right hand. Kai Lam was stunned and confused. The Colonel was one of the leading planning officers of this team and of the Association.

The Colonel approached Kai Lam. “After you pulverised my men, I decided to have you followed. I need that important message you are carrying. Give it to me now!”

A heavy gruff voice reverberated from behind a bamboo door startling both the Colonel and Kai Lam.

“Not so fast there Blake!” Interrupted Major Nate, aiming a semi-automatic pistol to the back of Colonel Blake’s head, “Drop your weapon on the floor and take three steps backwards away from it!”

The Colonel had been caught in the act, red handed. He turned his head around slightly only to see the Major holding the gun at his head. He hesitated for a minute, trying to work out which direction was best to take to escape this sticky situation. With this slight distraction, Kai Lam sprang to his feet, reefing the pistol from the Colonel’s hand and at the same time, twisting his arm and kicking his legs from under him. Colonel Blake landed flat on his back on the hard wooden floor.

“The game is up Blake!” snapped the Major, “Now we might be able to move on without all these time consuming disruptions. Take him away lads and lock him down in the dungeon. Have guards watch over him night and day.”

“Well done Kai Lam!” Said Major Nate, “With your expert knowledge and skill of martial arts, you have secured the capture of the mole within our Association. Jolly good work.”

Major Nate, now still in charge of the operation, asked Kai Lam to hand the message over him.

Kai Lam, using his pocket knife, cut the stitching around the toe-cap of his right boot. Sliding the point of the knife under the metal toe-cap he retrieved a tiny microchip and handed it to The Major. This was how he avoided customs from locating it on the first trial run.

The Major then used a specialized, electronic recording/replaying device to read the message on the microchip. He informed Kai Lam and the rest of the group that there were six Australian scientists who had been captured and were held at a secret location. Here they were forced to work under duress and assist Chinese scientists with everything they knew about the use of yellow-cake uranium and how it was used in nuclear power stations, bombs and nuclear warheads. If they refused to co-operate, they would be tortured and eventually be put to death.

Kai Lam spoke out, “We must extricate these men and bring them back to Australia and to freedom. I want each of you to find out as much as you can about this compound. How high the walls are? Where the Australians are being held? How many guards there are on duty? Find out absolutely everything you can, without bringing suspicion upon yourself.”

Information was gathered and a plan was devised. Now they were ready to put it into action. They found out that in two days time there was to be a Dragon Festival with lots of noise and thousands and thousands of people cheering and dancing through the streets all night long. There was also going to be fireworks displays at night as the dragons and crowds meandered their way along the narrow streets. The most important part for them was that the parade would be marching right past the front gate of the compound where the scientists were being held. Everything was turning out better than expected. It was the perfect diversion Kai Lam and his group needed.

The time arrived. Now they were committed to carry out their plan. Everything had to be done at the precise time, it needed to be done like army clockwork. They must act quickly and set their plan in action. It was imperative that this mission was done as swiftly and quietly as possible. Their aim was to slip into the scientific laboratory compound undetected, locate the six Australian scientists who were housed up in the rear section of the compound and get them out of the compound and back to the waiting boat. Then while still under the cover of darkness, get as far out to sea as possible before daybreak.

They were all taking a huge risk. They knew that if any of them were captured, they would be spending the rest of their lives in a Chinese rat infested prison or be put before a firing squad.

Kai Lam gathered his men together and spoke to them sharply. “If anything happens to me, I still want you to continue on with this mission and save the scientists. Remember our rules, we must all stick together and watch out and cover one another.”

As darkness closed in, the eight members of the association made their way towards the scientific compound. At exactly 10.35pm the parade was expected to reach the street outside it. The group reached the rear of the compound a few minutes early and waited silently in the shadows. The noise of the crowd and the fireworks could be heard just a few short streets away.

Kai Lam glanced at his watch. It was exactly 10.35pm and the crowds were approaching the front of the compound. It was time for the plan to be put into action. They were ready to scale the compound wall and lower a rope ladder over the other side for a quick getaway for them and the Australian scientists. Kai Lam thought that with a bit of luck, quite a few of the guards would head towards the front of the compound to see the dragon parade and the fireworks, as it was a Chinese tradition and it only happens once a year.

Once they were over the wall, Kai Lam and his group stealthily moved towards the buildings. Once inside, Kai Lam led the way. For a prison the corridors were quite empty. Scientific test-tubes and Bunsen Burners were glowing and bubbling in each room.

At last they reached an adjoining room on their left. At the end of this corridor, there was a door made of steel bars and padlocks. There was a guard sitting outside the door reading a magazine and beside him was a rifle.

Kai Lam gestured to his men to stay put and be quiet as he slithered stealthily along the wall. As he came close to the guard, he grabbed him from behind and instantly applied a sleeper hold on him and gently lowered him to the floor.

Kai Lam’s men then came quickly and tied the guard up with ropes and used tape to cover his mouth. Removing the ring of door keys from the guard’s belt, they entered the room, leaving one of the men to keep guard in case another guard returned.
The six Australians were soon located in various rooms of the compound and as fast as they could, all were rushed out of the building and over the compound wall. Running through the streets they soon reached a waiting vehicle. They squeezed in and headed across town towards the sea and the boat that was waiting for them.

x x x x

The following day it was reported that eight highly trained government security guards were placed in front of a firing squad and shot for failing to carry out their duty. Government forces were searching door to door for six foreign escapees who were still on the run. They felt that with the help of the public they would be soon apprehended.

x x x x

Meanwhile, arriving back in Taiwan, Kai Lam and the six Australians were quickly shuffled towards the airport to board a private jet heading to Australia. As Kai Lam approached the boarding ramp, he glanced over his right shoulder and noticed Colonel Blake disembarking from another plane next to his on the tarmac. Cold shivers ran up and down his spine! He had done his part and he imagined that the Colonel would be locked away for good. Money opens doors.
It wasn’t until they were in the air that the Kai Lam and the Australian scientists felt safe at last.

Touching down on Australian soil, Kai Lam was wondering what his next mission would be. What could be more exciting, dangerous and challenging than what he had just encountered?

Making his way through the terminal at Brisbane airport, each Chinese person he passed made him wonder, “Could that be a Chinese Government Agent or spy searching for me?”

Quickly these feelings of danger disappeared. He realized by doing this mission, smuggling these Australians scientists out of China and back safely to Australia, he had accomplished something very important and worthwhile and the world would now be a better place for it.

He felt proud to be an Australian.
Hilda Oakley
Copyright © 04.11.2014

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