A week after the mission to retrieve the trigger mechanisms of the stolen nuclear devices concluded, Wang accompanied Cai to a very secret meeting. It was that of the party’s disciplinary tribunal and had been convened to decide on the sentencing of MFA Deputy Minister Yu. Wang had attended its preliminary proceedings only as a substitute for Cai. Though still frail from his treatments, Cai felt it important enough to attend in order to lend the weight of his seniority within the party to salvaging Yu’s life and career.
“I see minister Yu has an extra advocate for this hearing,” declared the presiding party cadre, an elder of the party, with a smile.
“I can wait outside,” offered Wang.
Cai interrupted, “Commissar Wang has represented me throughout your deliberations last month and is kind enough to accompany me here to make sure I do not stumble. I would consider it a great favor if this august body would let him stay, without a vote, of course.”
The other three men, who had known Cai for decades nodded as they turned to focus on the issue before them.
“As I see it,” elaborated the presiding cadre, “the committee on discipline wants to make a point.”
“We created the whole process and institution,” added a second party elder. “It would be illogical for us to obstruct or pervert its processes.”
“Do they want to see Yu executed?” asked Cai. “So far as I can see, he is guilty of a single lapse when he issued the export permit. I understand that the permit was used only once to export a single tactical nuclear device.”
“That is in his favor,” interjected the second elder, “as is the fact that he did not gain from this lapse.”
“So the inquiry has satisfied itself of that fact?” asked Cai, seeking confirmation.
“They did,” confirmed the third elder. “But only after a very thorough investigation including an intrusive search of Yu’s residence that greatly distressed his wife.” Wang knew that this elder was the favorite uncle of Yu’s wife and fervently hoped the older man would give no leverage to the Party disciplinarians hunting for signs of favoritism.
“I believe that the process would be satisfied with his dismissal from the ministry and the party,” concluded the chairman. Cai and Wang exchanged a look as if affirming to each other a previously prepared position.
“Would the process be suitably appeased with his suspension rather than dismissal from the party and ministry?”
“Possibly,” responded the chairman, “but only if the removal of the suspension is subject to the jurisdiction of the disciplinary committee.”
“Why would we want to urge a lesser punishment by the disciplinary process?” asked the second elder. “I knew his father and I don’t think he would have supported bending the rules for his son.”
Cai looked around to assess the mood of the others as Wang held his breath.
“I don’t think we are bending the rules for former minister Yu,” stated Cai deliberately. “I believe the punishment is excessive. I also consider that the valuable service to his country Yu has given should be taken into account.”
“I’m only playing the devil’s advocate,” offered the second elder. “Why do we think he is personally so valuable? He works with a whole ministry and the support of the Party.”
“Senior Commissar Cai should address the ideological question of the role of an individual in a collective,” observed the chairman, “but I wish to note that I have been impressed over two decades by the dedication of comrade Yu.”
“Perhaps our spymaster has an assessment to share with us,” suggested Cai in a tone deferential to the others at the meeting. “He has sat in for me over the last few weeks in a number of the meetings involving international liaisons.”
Both Cai and the chairman looked around to make sure there were no visual cues of dissatisfaction from the others in the meeting before nodding at Wang.
“With respect,” stated the spymaster, “I have noticed that both the MFA and the committees in which Yu participates benefit from his passion, initiative, and grasp of the various complex issues. He has the rare ability to balance economic, political, military, and other interests, as well as to foresee how our friends and enemies will respond to our initiatives.”
Sensing that his words were not adequately conveying his message, Wang reached into a familiar Chinese classic for an illustration. “He is like Zhuge Liang among the councilors of Wu.”
Smiles lit up among the elders. One responded, “Like lightning among the lightning bugs.”
The chairman of the meeting added, “I believe the English have a saying, like a swan among the ducks.”
The senior commissar observed light-heartedly, “Our elder is very fashionable.” Turning around to Wang, he said, “It is well that the classics illuminate our discourse, but we must not forget that China was brought to her knees by four thousand years of ignorance of the outside world, a world into which Minister Yu would be a brilliant guide.”
After a pause to catch his breath and to collect his thoughts, the ‘devil’s advocate’ declared, “I am happy to have our reasons outlined so clearly and trust this confirms our recommendation to the committee on discipline.”
Thus Yu’s fate for the immediate future was determined. He would leave the ministry immediately and be relieved of all party positions and perquisites.
“Does the Committee on Discipline have any stipulation about what Yu can or cannot do?” asked Cai innocently.
The cadre chairing the meeting, who had known Cai from their days together as lukewarm Red Guards, maintained a straight face as he stated, “I believe it would be displeased if he should be given any access to wealth or power. But otherwise I know of no restrictions.”
Without taking a vote, which was always the preferred outcome, this meeting arrived at a decision that would finalize the disciplinary process.
All the above appears in a putative spy novel so I have received many comments about it being too discursive, not sufficiently fast-paced. I hereby succumb to the temptation to paraphrase Marie-Antoinette: "Have some cake, darlings."