Eight Hundred miles away at the Xi’an Satellite Monitor and Control Center, Tommy Li Cheung was drifting off in front of his radar scope. A white flash woke him up followed by a large tremor. He was scared. He knew what it was: it was a nuclear detonation. People were running all around him. An air raid siren went off. He was sure it was incoming. He was half asleep. He was sure he saw a missile track across his screen. It could only mean one thing:
“The Americans! The Americans are coming!” Tommy yelled. He was sure of it. Phones began ringing. “Yes, Sir, we saw it, too. We’re determining what happened.” “It was the Americans. I saw a missile at the last moment. I’m sure of it” “One of our radar operators is sure it was a missile. I saw it too. It just came in. Fast. The Americans must be attacking.” “The Americans! The Americans!” people began to say. They were afraid.
Tommy Li was afraid. He knew if the Americans took him alive, he’d be tortured for information. He’d seen the pictures in the paper of imprisoned Iraqis, helpless as the dogfaced female laughed. He was told this. He believed it. He saw things, and he knew.
At Party Headquarters in Beijing, a decision was made. They would have to live with it.