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@08.1 Homo Rationalis (Science Fiction Stories) - Part 1

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  • Аннотация:
    This book is a collection of science fiction stories, or social SF, or utopian stories, written in very wide time diapason (somewhere from 1980 till current days). They are quite different, where some of them deal with etymological questions and are rather monologues or Platonic dialogues, yet they have ideas, i.e. this is not action fiction but something of more classical type. Here is the beginning of the book with the first 7 stories. Well, it was interesting for me to write them, but will this be interesting also for the readers I don"t know.
    Keywords: SF, utopian fiction, social fiction, etymology, human stupidity, own ideas, in English.

 



HOMO

RATIONALIS

(SCIENCE FICTION STORIES)


Chris MYRSKI,   ? ... 2016






     [ As far as this is a whole book let us give an idea about the cover (if there are no better propositions).
     In front: On a blue background, in the middle, hang, suspended on a rope, scales (pharmaceutical), in the left and heavier plate of which is put the Earth globe (with picture of the continents), and in the right one is seen only a stem of clover (in a pot) with four leaves, as symbol of happiness.
     On the back: whatever, or even nothing. ]




CONTENTS

     In the first part:

     Foreword
     The recruit
     It sounds logical
     The discovery of professor Kolossov
     The stimulator of Peter MacGreeves
     The clover
     The marriage proposal
     Right of choice

     In the second part:

     Homo Rationalis
     The tunnel
     The cannibals
     Biological partner

     In the third part:

     The order
     The sixth day
     Homo Retarded
     Nights and days of a young robo-mother



FOREWORD

     Forewords to collections of short stories are usually not written, but in this case some phrases are probably necessary, because the author is Bulgarian, as well also new one (not that he is young but is unknown), so that the readers may not be able to orient themselves good. This is science fiction, but not of adventure or action kind. It would have been more correctly to use the a bit outdated and chiefly German term "utopian" stories, what says that they are again some inventions, i.e. fiction, and differ from the real world today, though who knows, maybe such ideas will be possible to realize in some utopian future? And how it is usual for an utopia the main problems are social, describing situations and relations between people, but not conflict situations between personages. In these utopias the conflicts are, up to some extent, already solved, though there can be argued about this, is the concrete decision correct, or it is of dubious value. In this sense the majority of the stories are some (different) models of the future. However, as far as they inspire thoughts, and the meaning of the author is that in the near future the main problems in the society of, more or less, general prosperity will be chiefly social, i.e. not how people have to earn their living but how to make their life interesting enough, we suppose that these stories will find their circle of readers, at least between people with some inclination to philosophical perception of life.
     On the other hand, the stories are quite different in their character and are written over many years, even in totalitarian time, and moreover, some of them are still less like science fiction but have something in common with the known from the antiquity dialogues of Plato, or, rather, with some conversations at a table with a glass in hand, as is said. Well, in this case simply fill your glass, make yourself comfortable, and read the stories in this book. They are light and pleasant, and during the narration you may learn also some curious linguistic details, which you will not find even in specialized literature. It can be added also that they were written with some sense of humour, or rather slight irony, because of the low quality human material, with which the evolution is performed. In addition to this they are also up to certain extent sexy, what, according to the author, is also to their advantage. Only that, let us remind you, this does not mean erotics but quite ordinary "classical" sex, or at least talks about it.
     So that, if you are not prejudiced against Bulgarian literature -- and, as a matter of fact, the very author was quite prejudiced, before it did not emerge the insipid Western wave of mass "tickling of basest human instincts", if we want to express ourselves in some degree cultured, which has convinced him that by the others is also bad -- so that if you are not prejudiced against Bulgarian attempts, then you can "taste" a portion of this science fiction.

     2001, Sofia, Bulgaria     Chris Myrski




THE RECRUIT

     The light jazz music scattered gradually the remainders of sleepiness and the consciousness of Septimius Joyce awakened for the experiences of the new day. The clock on the wall showed twelve to seven, what was his usual time for getting up, after the alarm clock switched on at six-thirty, and he fought for about a quarter of an hour with the clutches of sleep. Today, however, he allowed himself to wallow for another ten minutes in the bed, because this was special day for him. He had to put on his most formal suit, which he has not used for more than an year, to seal finally his testament and carry it to the Court, to set his home computer in regime of prolonged absence, not forgetting by this to throw away the perishable products from the fridge and leave something only in the freezer, to correct here and there the program for watering of the plants, for heating and for ventilation of the air, to change to cipher of the entrance door and to report it only to his possible heirs, to take a walk in the "Memorial of Patriots", where is also the plate with the name of his father, and to lay a carnation before the Goddess of Victory, to call by Joe and David, and meet also with Morrison, and to be at five precisely for a small feast with his colleagues, that they have organized to see off the next recruit -- this time him -- somewhere in the system RN327-5, where is the new front in this year. It will not be easy for him, but in recompense he had a nice day before him ...
     -- Yes, it's me -- answered Septimius, after he passed his fingers through his disheveled from the sleep hair and touched with an elbow the videophone button. -- And who, you thought, sleeps in my bed, Flo? -- asked he, sending an absentminded air kiss to the left corner of the room, where was the receiving video camera. Florance Joyce, his wife, with whom in the last years they lived in different flats, has succeeded to finish already her morning toilet and leaning back in the chair drank slowly coffee from the cup. With an apologetic smile she murmured:
     -- You are still rolling in bed, ah, dormouse? I thought that you have maybe forgotten that in two days you have to be already on board of the "Recruit-215" on the way of glory, and have decided to sleep through your star moment.
     -- Don't worry, dear, you will have ten percents probability to inherit my flat, because I will not forget to deposit my testament -- said he with mixed feelings, because the statistics for the last three-year recruitment showed that 8.58% of the recruits have left their atoms somewhere on the space fronts, and heavy wounded counted about 2 percents. Only in 17.5% of the death cases was possible to find some remains, that could be sent to the relatives of the fallen warriors, and in the left cases behind the plate with the name of dead warrior in the Memorial they put either a lock of his hair, or some hologram, but often nothing, because the capsules were in any case immured and it did not matter what was in them.
     -- But, Septy, why you want to offend me? You know well that I love you, don't you? Well, maybe not exactly like in the beginning, but I have loved nobody else like you, dear. You can't be such exactly on this day! -- frowned she intending to drop a pair of tears, and he was bound to add:
     -- Black humour, ah? But it supports the spirit of the soldier. And I have also said nothing wrong. A la guerre, comme a la guerre, and I will do my duty like all others before me, and will try to meet the hardships on the spaces of battles with bravery and heroism, worthy of a great nation and of a Joyce. And if with the help of God I return back, then I will be again with you, my dear, because my love to you is everlasting and indestructible like the very life in the Universe, if the humans do not intervene much actively in this regard. It sounds better in this way, doesn't it?
     -- Thank you, Septy, I wanted just to remind you to leave your airflyer in the garage of Veterans on Jerome Street -- you know it, right, so is accepted -- and to reserve some place in your marching cylinder also for my present, which you will receive about eight in the evening. Well, and if from time to time you suddenly remember to send a radiogram, then know that I will not at all be angry at you, my dear. I will not come to you this evening, in order not to distract you, but will cross my fingers for you to return alive and healthy back to me. I love you and believe that you will be brave and courageous warrior. Fortitude, my dear. I will wait for you.
     -- Kiss you, Flo, and will be back, if it is so predestined. I will change the door cipher and send it to you by the mail, so that you look occasionally how my cacti procreate, and such things ... Well, bye, bye, for I have to get up.
     The present of Flo, thought he, will maybe turn out to be some unnecessary rubbish, but he will take it, of course. And if one gives a thought to this, earlier men went to wars even younger than 20 -- it is just unbelievable! But they had to be strong and healthy then, because they often fought using muscular strength, while now everything is much easier. You can be even a cripple yet this does not hinder much the managing of military equipment. The important thing is not to be insane, but he has never suffered from mental illnesses and that is, naturally, why he was found fit by the military commission. Yet there is no need to think more about this -- nobody has forced him, the military service is a matter of will. Will and masculine dignity, of course. And dignity he has, as well also wishing is not missing, even knowing that his chances to die are one to eleven, so that let him get up from the bed, because otherwise he will succeed to fulfill nothing of his program.
     Septimius threw the cover back, got up with reluctance, and set foot on the ground. Then he put the blankets with the pillows in the chest beside the bed, pressed the button for folding of the bed and it bent elegantly like accordion and stuck to the wall, revealing below a round carpet. He pressed another button and under the sound of invigorating synthesized music, which was each time different, yet suitable to the purpose, he began easy morning exercise. After a pair of minutes he became bored by this and went to the toilet corner where stayed about ten minutes, and after this, now quite refreshed and buoyant, he went to the kitchen to make himself quickly breakfast. He liked to fry alone eggs, but not to spend energy to squeeze by hand orange juice. He was, generally, a moderate person and enjoyed the benefits of civilization moderately, because of this he kept no modern robots at home except the usual home cleaner which cleaned the rooms, watered his cacti, pressed his clothes and cleaned his shoes, in accordance with the program of the home computer. He could sometimes entrust him with preparation of some more complicated dish, when he had no time for this or was simply too lazy at the moment, but this happened not pretty often. The automated production turns to be always one and the same for a given program, and he did not like this, especially by cooking, where the main charm came from the errors in the recipe.
     While he breakfasted ringed again the videophone:
     -- Septimius listens -- answered he briefly, but there was no need to be so formal, because this time was the plump David, his friend from childhood.
     -- You say you listen. Well, then listen: do you really think that I will allow you to fly to the space of battles without even a parting toast with you, old man? This, that you were born two years before me, does not mean that I will not also want to serve, when this will be allowed to me. You are not the only patriot on the earth globe and nobody gives you the right to forget your old friends. Drink up you coffee quickly, or just leave it, because you will have one more, but this time accompanied by a cognac, if you go out now ...
     -- Look here, Dave, I was just about to call you, so that there is no need to overact reading moral to me. Only that the day is quite occupied for me, so that I don't know ...
     -- While you don't know I have arranged the things with Joe and we will wait for you at 10 o'clock, "By the Old Veteran", under some walnut on the left side, unless it is very full and we have to sit down on the right ...
     -- But listen, I can't at 10 because I have to go to the Court to deposit there my testament, and they work only in the morning, then I have to leave also the airflyer, visit the Memorial, and so on. And have also to see Morris, so that: let me think. Besides, which normal person drinks before 11 o'clock, fatty boy, you have to be ashamed! But, do you know, you even relieve me in this, that you have arranged the things with Joe; invite also Morrison, if you don't mind, and let us make this somewhere around one o'clock, what you will say to this?
     -- OK, at one o'clock, then at one o'clock! You command the parade. I will call also Morrison, in order to balance the table at its four sides, to prevent it from overturning because of the drinks. Ha, ha, haa. All right, it is set. See you soon.
     -- Till soon, piggy.
     So in the morning I have to finish the business part, and later the more pleasant, thought he while drinking up the coffee, yet not to miss to part with them at four, in order not to surprise his colleagues with his absence. Then he got up, put the cutlery in the dishwasher and hitting the button went to the computer console. The dialogue program was quite easy, so that he finished in ten minutes, and if he has missed something then the computer had enough intelligence in order to guess alone, if there are not special instructions. It was necessary to ponder only about the cipher, which will enter in effect from tomorrow morning, and he chose the simplest variant: "+-TPES7180", what, when read in reverse order, gave the month and day of his birth, then his name, shortened, and the first two symbols, which completed the code to ten characters, simply symbolized the uncertainty that expected him in the army -- he either wins or loses. So that it turns that he has to remember only these two characters "+-", and as much he can, anyway, remember. He wrote this cipher on a piece of paper, added at the end many kisses, and signing it put it in an envelope which addressed to Flo. With the children he has said goodbye already yesterday, so that there was nothing else to distract himself with, and he went to the street.
     -- Hi, rookie! -- shouted to him his neighbour Sylvester, who adjusted something in the computer control of his airflyer (not that it needed some adjustment, but when one jumps over the hundred he begins little by little to fall into childhood and not to trust much the machinery, so that he tested it every morning). -- How is your fighting mood, boy? Will we defeat the orange-green army groups, or this time they will beat us, ah? Surely we will defeat them, you have to be convinced in this, because otherwise you will not become a good soldier. The war is conducted only for victory, else why have we to lead it? The man is not a man if he will not catch a victory -- no matter over a petticoat or over an enemy. And what can be compared with the war, ah? The knockboll is worth nothing, although there are milliards who watch it. This is game for under-age boys -- no risk, except from time to time by a broken rib. The hazard, on the other hand, is for women and cowards -- you risk your money, but not the health and life. Where the war is a Game! With capital letter. The man needs war, how the war needs men. The war makes from a man a man, boy. Am I right, how you think?
     -- Surely you are right, Colonel, yet now I am in a big hurry -- answered he irritated, for he knew that his neighbour will again begin to tell him his military exploits, where he liked very much to recount through what hell he has gone on the fifth planet of the star ZS-3122. And he alone goes to war not in order to have what to narrate later (maybe he will not at all have this possibility). But why does he go then? Out of patriotism, answered he himself.. Only what kind of patriotism could this be, when everybody could became citizen of how many states he wanted, and the very notion of state has no longer who knows how important meaning, because the laws are everywhere the same, the languages are 4-5 standard ones, the educational criteria are almost the same everywhere, and so on. And the war, well, maybe it was one of man's duties, a necessary trial, something ..., yet why has he to think so much when he has already decided everything? Maybe exactly this is good in the war that there is no need to think much. One has to act, not to philosophize. And now he has to hurry, finished he his thoughts, while opened the door of the airflyer.
     -- Lieutenant colonel, boy, only Lieutenant colonel, despite the fact that I spent in the army whole twenty years and we fought with the blue-green, and with the red against the orange, and then with those in polka dots, like ladybirds, and with those in black stripes on a background of duck yellow, and with whom only not. But such nightmare like in the system 3122, to tell you the truth, I have never heard that existed. Listen, but I have not told you, have I, about those months there. Why don't you wait for five minutes, ah?
     -- I can't Sylv, really can't. Maybe after three years, if I come back -- and he closed fast the door and rose easily above the ground, heading towards the administrative part.

* * *

     In the Court the things finished very quickly, because the robots have not habit to linger: fixed the moment of signing, took his fingerprints, also two hairs from the head, and clicked a hologram of his face and one body roentgenogram in full length. In five minutes everything was done, and in this time he recalled with a slight smile the debates of previous years about this, that has to be taken also genetic information from the seminal glands, or the ova (for women), so that the authenticity of the person is entirely guarantied, but later on various religious sects have raised such fuss that a bunch of politicians from the ruling then social-progressive party lost, it not their heads, then at least the possibility to occupy prominent political posts for many years to come.
     Then -- to the Memorial. He raised the flyer to the necessary height and ruled carefully to the nearest entrance of Fifth East highway. In spite of the perfect computer control of the flyers, movement in the cities required some attention. Outside the populated areas was a different thing -- you type the name of the city, or point it on the map of the screen, choose, if you want, some special route, and at once see at what time you will be there, with precision of a minute. The only thing that you can change is to lessen the speed, if you are not in a big hurry, or want to enjoy the landscape below you. Then you can do whatever you want: drink coffee, do your work on the computer, conduct business or scientific meetings, lower the seat and quietly take a nap, read books or watch video, play games, with the computer or with a friend, or also lay a girl, if you have one at hand. Well, it is true that there are also inconveniences, because water showers were installed only in group airbusses or in luxury limousines, and even there the consumption of water was limited, but then you could always have some aerosol refreshing shower after this (or instead of this -- more often). In this connection, but also for the lovers of strong emotions, one can regulate on the monitor the amplitude, direction, and character of forced vibrations and swaying of the airflyer, which otherwise flies quite smoothly and soporific.
     In the city one has to switch often from one highway to another, if he wants, for change, choose alone the way, because the choice of the exact route takes quite much time, and the computer leads the flyer on the most secure, yet also uninteresting, usually, way. The computer can't know what will be interesting for the human, when he alone, quite often, does not know and reacts according to his or her wishes in the moment. So also now Septimius decided to fly over Fifth East highway because he wanted to enjoy the blossomed spring flowers in the middle under the airway, which in this season were wide strips of yellow and orange marigolds divided by narrow strips of some decorative grass, and on every kilometer distance was placed an area for forced landing and resting. This intermediate band was broad about twenty meters, the air was fresh and transparent in the early hours of the day, the sun shined on wet from the daily morning rain and gleaming tiles of the sidewalks on both sides, and on parapets of the covered with transparent plastic arched air bridges, which built the footpaths above one-way traffic lanes for the cars on air cushion and electric vehicles, and here and there children, mothers and pensioners, or simply free from work people, strolled along the sidewalks, or are sitting on benches or in pavilions on the sides. Above the opposite lane were flying with doubled relative speed personal airflyers, mixed with freight and passenger busses, and on the sides flied residential areas, industrial zones, parks, and entertainment establishments. At big intersections on the designated for stopping places people got up or exited from the airbusses hurrying on their businesses, and their spring clothes gave out the approaching season.
     When one gives a thought to this, earlier the cars moved on roads covered entirely with hard pavement, excluding at all the possibility for whatever flora to grow on them, in order that it did not interfere with the rotating of wheels of the cars, then one just wonders why people did not ride on horses and in carts? It is true, that even today exist cars on wheels and with electrical engines, but this is rater an exotic relic of the past, and the lanes are wide only four meters and are covered with perforated resistant plastic, so that the grass grows on them, when such vehicles are not passing to crumple it, yet they are becoming more and more a rarity and these lanes are used chiefly by the vehicles on air cushion, that only ruffle the grass. And in addition the old cars used some petrol engines, which smelled so that even mice could not stand to breathe that air. Now such engines are not used even in the army, where is accepted that there is no heroism without difficulties, so that the soldiers could have somehow stood these engines.
     Soldiers -- like he alone after two days -- because tomorrow is a day for gathering of all recruits at Fort "Space Devil", and the next day they will give an oath of allegiance to the fatherland and will start to the star polygons for a three-month training. So that now he has to visit the "Memorial of Patriots", and for this purpose was necessary first to turn to the street "Grizzly Bear", and he gave a signal to the console for left turn in the first crossroad. The airflyer slowly turned to one of the places above the intermediate strip of the highway and continued to rise till he exceeded and surpassed the new street, which was at a higher level, and reach the similar neutral place in the middle of the "Bear", from where, after a pair of seconds, descended slightly and joined the stream of flyers moving at a speed of 120 km/h. Now was not a peak hour and because of this the speed was good, but under heavy load one could not come to more than 70 km/h average speed in communities, especially if is necessary to pass through several intersections. After a pair of minutes he made a right turn and there was already seen in the distance the star-formed dome of the central hall of the Memorial, around which as rays unfolded alleys with memorial plates of killed in the wars for defending of fatherland patriots.
     Every relatively big area, or even a single big city, had their own Memorial parks. This here was planed in the end of last century and was decided for each year of this century, beginning with the first and ending with the zeroth (or hundredth), to build one ray of one kilometer length, at both sides of which, on ten stepped levels each by fifteen centimeters in height, beginning slightly over the alley ground, were placed the memorial plates of fallen patriots, so that the uppermost row reached height of human growth. It was calculated that one such ray contained up to one hundred thousand plates (two sides, and in ten levels, and also by five in a linear meter) where the all rays have to be hundred, and in the next century will begin a new ring around the Memorial, so that now it had in some extent unfinished form, more so because some rays, like for example for the 12th and 31st year, were a bit longer than the others, because then were more people fallen in the wars, while the majority of rays were quite shorter than the allowed, yet this slight asymmetry did not lessen its monumentality but on the contrary -- gave it some liveliness, as if this was an enormous flower. Around it was parking zone reserved for four more centuries, and after this -- well, they will think again. Watching from a height this looked pretty impressive and he allowed himself to enjoy the view while the flyer directed itself to the ring alley. Some personal airflyers circled above the central star-formed hall at the height of the towering in the middle statue of Goddess of victory and looked from a distance like small bees, flown to drink nectar from the giant flower. The very statue slowly turned around its axis making a whole circle for an hour, and in the night was illuminated in blue colour, together with one ray going out of it and showing the direction in which it stared at the moment.
     Septimius moved to the northern part of the Memorial, from where the count began and landed on the outside part of eighth year, where was the plate of his father. He went out from the car and walked slowly to the alley, buying on the way two synthetic and one natural carnations from the flower booth, and continued to point 08-34972. It was on the right of the ray (on the even side), if you come from the center, but now it will be for him on the left, more or less on the first third of the kilometer strip from the beginning, and then on the eighth horizontal level (on the first were numbers ending on 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10; then these on 12, 14, 16, ... and so on). On some urns by which he passed were written by two, and even more, names of heroes, who have fought together, and during their lifetime have expressed the wish to be immortalized in one common cell of the Memorial. After several minutes he reached this of his father and read, once more time, the short "Michael Joyce" and beneath the identification number and the year of birth; the year of his death was 2108, as also for all other in this ray, so that there was no need to put it everywhere, and in this way he as if still continued to live, symbolically. Of course more precise information about his life, together with some holograms in different age, were stored in the computer data base of Memorial and it could have been reproduced on each of the thousands terminals placed not only in the central hall, but also every hundred meters in each alley. Nothing was forgotten, changed only the type of information and its material embodiment.
     He bent a little and stretched out a hand to the eight step, in order to replace the flowers, set in immured black marble little vase, with the two artificial carnations which he carried. In this case he preferred artificial flowers (where at home he could not stand them), because who knows when somebody else will visit again the tomb of his father. His mother now many years lives far to the south and usually begged his brother Peter or his sister to go to the Memorial in the day of his birthday, yet sometimes she forgot to ring. Somebody of them has come probably recently, for in the vase were some withered roses, as also two synthetic but already faded from the sun.
     His father has died from thermal weapon in heavy land tank, that could move also on the bottoms of waterbodies on substantial depth, until the pressure reached up to about two hundred atmospheres. According to the specialists his death has occurred for about one and a half seconds and after this from the tank has remained only flattened ball of metal with diameter of about five meters. Who knows whether one and a half seconds are much or not, but in any case this was fast death and he wished for himself such, if he could not succeed to remain alive, thought he sitting down on a the nearest bench in the middle of the alley. He tried to recall something important for his father, but despite the fact that he loved him much only insignificant fragments from childhood came to his mind. This time in his consciousness emerged a picture of an excursion in the mountains, where they together were catching trout in a river -- some such unimportant river whose name he has forgotten now -- and his father, naked to the belt and sunburned, patted him on the shoulder and praised him for his fish, which was the first for the day (or maybe it was his first trout at all?). He must have been 6-7 years then, but he can't be very sure in this. He tried to recall the day of sending of his father to the war, but could restore nothing except noisy crowds of accompanying persons and men in unvaried uniforms -- they were ash-beige then, and with darker endings at the seams. Now his uniform will be light-blue, with dark-blue endings, and with dark-blue cap with black visor and red top. The uniforms changed but the war remained, because the mankind was too numerous, and the war is interesting and risky experience, which was watched nearly every day on the stereovision by all those, who could not succeed to go to it, because this was not yet allowed to them, or they were in war and it has become close to the heart for them. Even women incessantly pressed to allow them also to fight, yet for the moment this was allowed only as an exception, after they have raised their children, and if their mental condition needed this experience for their assertion of personal identity. While the men were allowed to reject (yet this happened only in three-four percents of the cases), the women were forced to plead, but there in nothing to be done -- the nature demands it. Well, sometimes to some men was allowed to enter earlier in the army, when the psychological tests indicated that they could become socially dangerous if continue to lead peaceful life on the home planet, but this was preceded by concrete decision of competent commissions. And for heavy crimes also were sent to the army, as part of penalty units, that fought on the most risky places.
     Septimius got up and slowly directed himself to the central building. When exited the ray with memorial plates he reached the central zone, which was a circle with radius of one kilometer , where were parking lots, snack bars, museum of military equipment in different periods of human civilization, with corresponding computerized simulators for various kinds of weapons, cinema halls with most modern stereo equipment, where around the clock were shown combat art and documentary films, as also virtual animations of famous battles from the past centuries. He has come here many times with school and university students, as part of their patriotic preparation, as well also by personal desire, when felt in a bad mood. Now he walked by these places and entered through one of the entrances in the internal corners of five-rayed star, which was the central memorial building -- Temple of Goddess of victory, Nike. All was well known to him and he at once directed himself to the eternal fire in memory of the fallen patriots, turned around it silently and put the natural flower which carried with himself between thousands others. He squatted down and bent his head in minute silence, then got up and moved to one of the exits. From the nearby parking he called by the terminal his airflyer and after three minutes was again in it.
     He rose high, cast one last look at the complex and typed on the console one of the sightseeing routes of the city lasting 40 minutes -- decided that this is quite enough as goodbye. He left the autopilot to do everything and chose energetic patriotic music for accompaniment. He looked absently below himself and whistled in tact. Well, when all go to war then, maybe, so it is necessary, although he has never liked much war. Maybe the soldier is really the salt of the earth, as this shows the origin of the word soldier or Soldat, what is variation and derivative from the root Salz, salt (what is read with 'o'). The pacifism is an exciting idea, but the human is human and can't live without killing, in the same way how can't exist life if there was no death, so that: let us leave it, in order to avoid confusion. Tomorrow he will put on his new uniform and depart for the fort "Space Devil":, where in the evening will give an oath of allegiance to the fatherland, and on the next day will fly to the polygons, and after three months to the fields of battle, where will spent almost three years, if he will be lucky (or less, if he will not). The only inconvenience of the war is the killing of people who do not want alone to kill, i.e. of civil population, and on the space fields of battle there is no civil population -- it is on the Earth, before the stereovision screens and sympathizes with its heroes. He will combat in order to assert himself as a man, in order to deserve the respect of his acquaintances, and to give pleasure to all others. The war is masculine game, and quite interesting, too, if you learn its rules. His neighbour Sylvester is right and he will try to like it. Septimius closed the eyes, made the music louder and began to beat the rhythm with a foot. Soon he opened them and continued to look outside. The sightseeing was about to finish, and it was not yet twelve, so that he typed on the console the next route to the "Lake of the Lovers", which was in ten minutes by air from the "Old Veteran". Till now everything went as planned and he was content.

* * *

     The flyer moved on a decent height of a half of kilometer, in order not to put at risk the tall buildings, although the air roads do not pass over buildings but over big highways, which gave also additional greenery to the cities, and the buildings for a long time did not exceed one hundred meters (and earlier people built skyscrapers of three hundred, and even more meters -- they were crazy, surely). In the moment in one quarter on the left of his rout was the industrial zone "Metallic-7", but if one has not known about this one couldn't have guessed, because the buildings resembled scattered on the grass baby toys, as in their form, for there were planar and oval bodies, put sometimes even one above the other, so also in their colouring, for they were painted with various beasts and insects on them.
     He knew this zone for the reason that he worked there as opto-electronic engineer and his workplace was in one yellow parallelepiped, on whose roof has stretched its wings huge night butterfly. Often, however, he went in the blue truncated cone, surrounded by three lilac balls, where were robotized premises for LA32.15 lasers and other older series -- when was needed immediate control by changing of the program, or just to walk outside along the alleys. In the whole complex was only one smokestack, which looked like a big humming top, but nothing indicated that there went smoke out of it, because the filtering installations were perfect. In the region was also small lake in form of kidney, where were profusely bred carps and catfish, and where the workers had rights to fish twice in a month. One thirty-meters pyramid, in the inner part of which were warehouses for finished production, was covered on top at a distance of approximately two meters with transparent glassy mass and between the cover and the roof of the building almost year-round were growing fresh strawberries, big like tomatoes. This was part of the own auxiliary farm of the laser concern.
     In two kilometers on the right and forward, on a slight hill was raised one medieval castle, which was ordinary apartment complex. Septimius knew it because often went there to visit one of his colleagues, who lived in the right part of the central internal building, but usually they gathered on the roof of eastern fighting tower, where was pretty romantic, the beer was brought in cups with the shape of human skulls, and the meat was cut by knights with sharp halberds before your eyes and was roasted on a natural fire. He tried to locate where exactly was the apartment of his friend, yet the airflyer moved with hundred kilometers per hour and from this distance was impossible to recognize his windows.
     Then on the right flew an area with pyramids, which shone brightly in the sun, because were completely covered with glass -- blue-violet, if you look from outside, yet transparent, if you look from inside. Originally, no doubts, but, no matter that the central part of each pyramid was occupied in the inside with greenhouses and flower places at a height of two stories, and in the basement one could pluck oneself bananas and pineapples, then maybe, after all, one became bored to look the whole day at the sand through the wall-window. He personally preferred something lower and traditional, and occupied half-storey in a big wooden house in three storeys with alpine roof, placed amidst small pine grove together with another hundred of similar houses. The complex was surrounded by high fence and inside lived one deer family with three small baby-deers -- in this year --, about a dozen hares, and many squirrels on the trees. There was also not a big and not deep lake with ducks, gooses, and swans, which in the winter hid in low wooden sheds on a small island in one of its ends. In the lake were also fishes yet it was forbidden to catch them in order not to disturb the birds. Not something quite special, but it was good for him.
     The road turned a bit to the right, then the flyer made left turn and after a pair of minutes landed on the parking lot of the "Lake of the Lovers". It was in form of two joined hearts, but this was seen only from the air, for it was quite big and around it grew various thickets and high trees, which partially hid it when the trees were covered with leaves. Now, in the last day of March, the visibility was quite good, because the trees were still naked, but here and there was sprouting fresh and green grass and on many of the thickets around were seen young leaf and flower buds, as well also small reddish fruits on the evergreen low vegetation. The birds chirped and in many arbours sat enamored couples of different ages -- beginning with teenagers and ending with pensioners. For a moment he was tempted to ring his wife and beg her to come here for half an hour, but was able to restrain himself later, because he said her yesterday good bye and the present day belonged entirely to him. Today he was again bachelor and free to spend it how he only wanted.
     The parking was in the lower part between the tops of the two hearts, and where they crossed themselves a little was original air bridge on two levels, where the top one was curved in an arc and between the two levels was curling ivy, and in the summer were planted also other creeping plants with bright flowers. He walked on the upper level of the bridge, for it gave the best view around. The lake was artificial, not much deep, and its bottom was covered with sand, so that it was quite good for swimming, where the beach strips, now practically empty, yet not entirely, were built in the sharpened parts of both hearts. Under the bridge was pier with boats and many of them swayed slowly in both lakes, set in motion in the most old-fashioned way, with two plastic rods fastened to the sides of the boats and flattened at the ends, which were immersed in the water. These rods were called oars and the most curious thing was that in order to move the boat forward the one who did the moving sat in it in reversed manner, with the back forward, so that he, in fact, did not see where to he directed it, and the other one (i.e. she) sat against him and controlled the movement. Exactly like in the marriage, thought he, where the man, most often, does all unpleasant work, while the woman only called the tune in the game.
     From the topmost part of the bridge was seen the whole park which enclosed a rectangle and was not very big. Breathing deeply the fresh spring air and exposing his face to the caresses of midday sun he slowly went down the bridge and continued to the grove. He was attracted by one white patch of birches which always showed on him refreshing and soothing effect. With slight wonder he discovered one tree entirely with green leaves, yet at once guessed that it has to be a fake and, maybe, they have forgotten to take its leaves away, or have decided that there is no need to perform this procedure when in the spring they have to put them again. He went closer to it and his guess turned right, because he saw that roughly at a meter height was some short severed branch, but of rose colour -- the biggest cretin would have guessed that such branches do not grow on birches. He grasped the branch and pulled it slightly out. Part of the tree trunk around it divided in two parts and the smaller sector turned to the outside -- this happened to be an ordinary automaton for birch sap and he saw no reason why he should remain deprived by a glass of this refreshing drink. He pulled out the bank card of his personal bank account and inserted it in the corresponding slot and hit the button. Appeared the traditional synthetic cup which was filled fast with well cooled juice. He sat on one of the conveniently scattered around birch trunks and drank the cup in slow gulps, then went again to the automaton, tossed the cup in the basket and moved the cut branch back in its position. Not that this was obligatory, because after 5-6 minutes the machinery would have closed of itself alone, and the cup would have till the evening turned to fine gray powder, which with the next night rain, falling usually between 3 and 5 in the morning, would have been assimilated by the soil, but he liked to perform some unnecessary movements, in order not to disturb the balance of the nature. In any event these were good habits, learned in his young scout years, and he had no intention to abandon them because of laziness.
     He wanted to return by the same path, but as far as he still had time decided to go round one of the hearts and continued in the same direction in which went. He entered in some pine grove, then the trees become higher, there were jumping squirrels on them and various birds were flying around. The grove gradually changed and near to the lakeshore were chiefly thickets, out of which came some motley rabbit, which stopped dumbfounded and then ran throwing out funny its hind legs, like have done millions of rabbits before it. Life flew untroubled in its peaceful way.
     The equilibrium in parks was carefully maintained and everything that was not dangerous for the human was natural, even the foxes, though this park was small for to have also foxes here. Some cloud hid for a moment the sun and blew cold wind, what made him to accelerate his pace. In any event the day was still in its beginning and he had not the right to relax yet. After five minutes he was again in his airflyer and typed on the console "By the Old Veteran", which emerged on the map and he confirmed it. Only now he remembered that it was necessary to leave the flyer in the garage on "Jerome street" but postponed it for later because his friends were maybe already waiting for him.

* * *

     This was good pub, made in the stile of old roadside coaching inns, and the chairs were under trees in the open, or in one low building with some plastic straw for roof and hanged on the walls garlands of dried maize, peppers, gourds, and various herbs. He, though, did not want to sit inside and was glad with the chosen by George and David table outdoors, where he was already expected. There was a cold breeze, yet it was blocked by various shrubs, high about one meter and building something like labyrinth around the tables under the trees, so that it was not felt when you are sitting down.
     -- Here, rookie! -- shouted commandingly George, thinking, maybe, that exactly this was the way in which a general addresses arrayed on the parade ground troops of soldiers. -- At ate-ention, on the le-eft, forward ma-arch, halt! Private Joyce, freely. For shown military prowess come, please, to the table of commanders. Behave you freely, yet do not forget that no subordinate has rights to drink more than his commander.
     -- Yes, General, as you command -- answered he accepting the jovial game and sat on the third place. The table was successful imitation of wooden disk with diameter of one and a half meters, thick about ten centimeters, and with bark on the perimeter, which was placed horizontally on a thin central trunk building small flattened crown of branches. The roots of the central trunk looked quite authentic, as also the chairs which were another four trees severed on a comfortable for sitting height, but with left part of the trunk for back of the chair. From above the chairs were covered with synthetic moss and were very soft and comfortable. The table was bare with only small napkins in form of oak leaves, which stuck easily to its surface; one had to work hard for to find the buttons for calling of the waiter, masked as pieces of bark on the rim of the table, on the right of everybody, which only with slight nuance differed from the colour of the rest of the bark.
     -- We with General Breaker have decided to wait exactly till 13 hours and 13 minutes before we call the waiter for the aperitif -- boomed again Joe, and Septimius cast a glance at his universal tele-communicator on his left hand, which showed four minutes after the agreed time, was satisfied with his accuracy, looked happy at his friends and nodded his head.
     -- Call me Dave, General -- said David.
     -- OK, General, and me only Joe. Ah, I think that one "Bloody Mary" wouldn't do me any harm, for the beginning, especially if the vodka is "Blue Star". Choose Dave, and you, recruit.
     -- Hmm, maybe an aged whiskey "Ursa Major" with two pieces of ice -- voiced Dave.
     -- With the permission of Generals I would have chosen "Space Ranger", also only with ice, as maximally corresponding with the emotional and mental condition of the recruit, which in the given moment I have the luck to represent, and as helpful for raising of his fighting moral, patriotic consciousness, and military courage at the required height, and even at 10% higher than this, and for fixing of them on this height during the execution of his military duty of soldier -- declaimed he.
     -- In this spirit, recruit, continue in this spirit -- muttered David and waved with a hand, because his place looked at the entrance, from where emerged slightly hunched and ascetic figure of Morrison. He saw them and directed himself to them
     -- Hello, boys. How is the recruit?
     -- Private Joyce at your service -- answered Septimius. -- Let me introduce you: this is General Breaker called Dave, and General Derbit called Joe, and this, Generals, is General Mintson called, with his permission, Morris.
     -- Oh, stop with this mockery, boys. And why nobody drinks, you are waiting for me, really? What things! Well, a glass of brandy "Star of France" for me -- said he and began to palpate the trunk on which sat, but after a minute of torments he succeeded only to raise it with half a meter and while was waving his legs in the air he opened also some umbrella over himself, what obviously did not satisfy him, so that he added angry: -- Will not, in the end, some of you call the waiter? And why are you laughing, oafs? You open also by an umbrella over yourselves and then laugh as much as you want.
     Joe and I pressed nearly simultaneously the buttons, and in less than two minutes came an young boy, who, in all appearances, was genuine waiter. While he normalized the chair of Morrison the latter all the time thought where will be more suitable to pinch him in order to check, is this not some new biorobot, and it was fortunately that the waiter sneezed so that Morris abandoned his intention, because: where have you seen that the robots sneeze? The garçon took our orders, to which were added also various salted nuts and cookies and non-alcoholic refreshing beverages, and went to fulfill them.
     -- So there came your time, ah, Septy? -- broke David the silence. -- I envy you, frankly speaking. I am forced to wait another two years and I have always dreamed about the war. One eleventh chance not to come back, but, by Jove, this is almost nothing! And one must leave after himself good memory, mustn't he? It is worse if I will be only wounded, but this happens four times less often, and with the modern medicine and plastic surgery there is nothing impossible. The father of Peter, Joe knows him, came back before the third year without his both arms and with frozen legs -- his space suit showed some defect, or he was pierced by laser weapon, I don't remember, but to move in an atmosphere of liquid nitrogen at minus I don't know how many degrees, isn't like to dip your legs in some mountain brook. Good that he succeeded go give alarm signal and hide behind a stone, and the hour of armistice came after about ten minutes, so that it was possible to rescue him. And his nose was like a lump of fat. And what of it? For two weeks in a field hospital they managed to repair his legs (without a pair of toes, but why should he need toes, he is not a monkey, is he?), and made him new nose -- just a beauty, he even scratches it when is necessary, -- and on his arms he has such prostheses below the elbows, that if you don't know this you wouldn't have imagined that they are not real. Now he is 115 and is as strong as a bull, watches all gladiator fights of penalty units on stereovision, every evening is in the local "Veterans club", and if will not pour out at least four glasses with something strong in his throat counts the day for wasted. Yes, such things, boys.
     -- Good, Dave, yet we have not gathered here to listen to your confessions, but to see off the private Joyce, so that: to the health of our friend! -- intervened Joe, because the drinks waited long ago on the table.
     -- For you, Septy, and for the fatherland! -- lifted his glass David.
     -- Your health, boys! -- answered he. -- And if I will be back after two years on vacation to gather us again here to have a good feast, but then not in a hurry, and till the morning.
     They knocked their glasses and drank to the bottom, so that ordered repetition of the same. He looked at them meditatively and continued:
     -- To tell you how I am feeling now, ah? As if I am young redskin, am fifteen years old, and am waiting for my first fight with the hostile Apaches or Appalachies -- I have forgotten how they were called. On one hand I am little afraid, but on the other hand I want to be braver than the leader. What of this, that there are now no enemy tribes that take our wives and kill our bisons -- because the women are accessible for everybody (or it was vice versa: all men are accessible for the women), and the buffalo meat is quite sinewy? When it is necessary to fight for something, isn't it the same for what we fight? And as to the meat of wild animals, then I prefer from deer, hind leg, or also kangaroo tail, do you know what delicacy is this? Ah well, let us look in the menu. -- and he began to turn the pages of the menu brought by the waiter. -- Hmm, no kangaroo, a pity. But, let it be so, these kangaroos live in the deserts, and we have become too many, so that we can't allow ourselves to leave desert areas on the globe. It doesn't matter, let it be deer stewed in white wine, and with addition of more white wine outside of the dish, or then "Rose Chignon", if you don't mind. Again cheers, boys! -- and he lifted again his glass.
     -- Your health, Septy -- added Joe -- but I prefer the winged ones. A partridge in hunter's manner would have been to my taste, I think. Wine as yours. And now tell me what warrior you want to be on the front? Have you already decided?
     -- We-ell, it does not depend on me, you know? There are all these psychological tests, medical commissions, needs on fronts, et cetera. But I think that they will send me to the laser cutters, or at least I wish that it happened so, because this is in my specialty of optical engineer and I know a lot of laser weapons (after all, 20% of industry works for the army and I am one of these people), and also I want rather to move in the space, not to lie down in some bogs or deserts and throw neutron bombs of small caliber, or else to eject paralyzing bombs, or to sit behind ultrasonic guns. No matter where to they will send me I will fight bravely and am convinced that will not show myself in bad light.
     -- I also believe in you, boy -- inserted again Joe. -- The patriotism is a big deal: if you defeat the enemy you win the game, and if you lose your life then you gain the recognition of the generations. In all cases there are no losers! It is enough to be brave and to spit at death -- not it alone is terrible, but its expectation. Yet we expect it every day here on Earth -- although the probability is small, we, still, expect it. And on space fronts it promenades in the open, but the soldiers do not expect it, because it is their everyday life. The man fertilizes, in order to create life, hence the man has also to take it away, when comes time for this. Everything is in this, that the proper time has come ... And not to expect the death. Well, cheers again.
     -- Cheers, Septy! -- gave voice also Morrison. -- And victory!
     -- To the health of all -- answered he. -- But, Morris, only you have not yet chosen, and the waiter already comes to take the orders.
     -- We-ell, some fish for me. Shark, maybe, garnished with seaweeds -- ordered he and after the waiter moved away added. -- By the fishes the nervous system is more poorly developed and they have almost no feeling of pain. And in addition they are also useful -- the phosphorus, as you know, is in the core of the sex. Not only supports it by you, but also illuminates the special "cave", don't you think? In order that one does not confuse something.
     -- I know you, old lecher -- interjected again Joe. -- And all this is because he is not belligerent. Not that he is not patriot, only I don't recall that he watched the transmissions from fighting fields. Who knows whether you will not refuse to fight when your time comes, a? Not that I blame you, of course, for there will find at once thousands of women to lie with you if you will only refuse and retreat personally to them your place.
     -- I don't know, Joe, maybe I will refuse, but till this time I have whole five years. Maybe I will become ill, and if there remains me to live not long then why not to go to the army? Or maybe I will not become ill and will still not go to the army. I don't know. ... Bu-ut, you know, you have given me an interesting idea with those thousands of women. Maybe I will give an ad that will retreat my place to that woman, who will satisfy me most of all, after I will spend a week with her. By one week for each, fifty weeks in an year, and two for the wife -- you know, she also has some rights -- for five years this will give 250 girls. Well, I will not succeed to reach the thousand, as it seems ... Good, when so I will stop at the number 200, as more round one. In this case also for the wife will remain more, so that she will not get angry at me. And later ... Well, I can always say that I have changed my mind, can't I? However, your health!
     -- A lecher, I've told you. And that is why I like him, in fact -- added Joe. -- Let us drink for the patriotism, boys. Prosit.
     They finished their glasses and for some time was audible only the chewing of their jaws. Then Morrison took again the word.
     -- The patriotism is a good thing, useful for the society. Yet to me it seems that it is more useful for some people. Man is an universal and omnivorous animal. What means that he is an animal, yet not like some specific of them, but that he has features of all animals, that by anyone of us show differently. How much long you have not searched you will not find a wolf that will reject a fresh rabbit, neither some predatory fish that will be glad with only plucking of algae, or a spider that will begin suddenly to suck nectar from the flowers; and flesh-eating bears (when they have lived outside of reservations, of course) were big exceptions. While the human beings are different, and their tastes are different, so that: some like the war, and others don't. But what is important in this regard is that it is necessary for them (well, for the bigger part of them). Or you think it is possible to force a man to fight against his will, if he does not want to? There will always be found some way to get rid of the war: either he will lie in the detention house, or will run to the enemy, or, at the worst, will hang on the gallows and be done with it. You can put a man in chains and make him work, but not fight. Well, of course, patriotism and such things, but it is not clear what is better for the "patria": that its masculine population has decreased with one third and that everything that can be demolished was demolished, instead of to be preserved materially and genetically healthy, and after some time, if it remains ethnically whole and strong, just then to show its patriotism. And also: if one fatherland defends itself, then those from the other fatherland are, maybe, locusts and don't give a damn about the fatherland, ah? Where the old Greeks were clever people (well, inasmuch the people can be clever, of course): they fought, for example, for some Helen, or against her. But then this is the ideal decision, because on one hand it is clear that to fight for the cause of some dame there is no sense (for there are heaps of dames and girls, and whoever of them you have chosen there will always come time when you will regret this, so that it is obvious that they fought for themselves, for the cause of the fights, or because of the pleasure of the dangerous game), and on the other hand they could always state later that they are big patriots and men worthy to be highly respected.
     Morrison made a pause, drank up the vine in his glass, poured himself again and drank a bit, and after this continued thoughtfully, putting from time to time some food in the mouth:
     -- Or let us take also the intellect. In the human history nobody has taken reasonable decision before some war, or at least until one of the sides has not already defeated a lot or armies, so that the others were convinced that they also will be defeated, if they decide to fight. Not after the reason has not helped was chosen the war, but when after the war the problems were still not resolved was come to reasonable talks, yet from positions of strength! Now, for example, comes Genghis Khan and wants to conquer the country X. Yet the X-stani instead of to: go and look at the Genghis-stani and decide to fight with them or to surrender; or to propose to the invaders to sit and play a dozen of chess-parties and who wins, then, let him decide; or, if occasionally Genghis was not a big enthusiast of chess, because this game was not known in his court, then let them play some ball game, or organize some other sporting event; or, if Genghis was afraid that his soldiers can decide to ... tear off his own balls, when he does not allow them to fight, because that is why they have gone with him, isn't it, to fight to death, and otherwise there will be nothing with what they could later boast before their beloved, so then, if there was no other way out, then let both sides agree on one representative and decisive battle. Only that for this battle make free for a while one whole village, place their armies one against the other and in groups by types of weapons, and begin to count themselves, where each hundredth from them moves ahead with all his weapons, and then the count begins again from one, and the chosen in this way one percent of the armies from both sides let begin to fight for life and death, as befits, but only the chosen "lucky" ones, and all the left let sit around on the hills in order to watch directly the evolvement of military activities, let them lift the skins with wine, and let them encourage their comrades in arms, if they want. Yeah, but instead of this they have begun a completely unequal and devastating war, because they were patriots! Not that I blame the militaries, because they have acted in accordance with the common desire, and the voice of people is, as is said, voice of God, but to some decision like the above-mentioned was simply never come. And it was never come to such decision because the people were not reasonable. They are not reasonable also today, though the shifting of the wars from the Earth to the Space is, unquestionably, a very reasonable decision, and the establishing of minimal number of soldiers who burn of desire to fight and only wait their time to receive permission for this, is also reasonable thing. Only that one fights not because of the others, but because of what he has in his soul and mind. Because of himself alone, with one word.! Everything else is only for acquitting of his own cruelty. So-o, yet you don't think that I am against the war: I personally don't like it, but this is out of purely aesthetic feeling, yet I welcome it and defend, because it is necessary for the man. To all appearances it is necessary also for the recruit among us and I see nothing more suitable in the case except to drink for his health, for his military prowess and hard victories on the star fields of battle. Amen!
     -- To your health, philosopher -- answered Septimius -- only if I am an intelligent, or at least educated, fool, then you are one silly, no matter that educated, big brain, and I don't see much difference between the two things! And the patriotism is a good symbol, like God, maybe, in the name of which is worth to die. Although it is worth also to drink for this, so that again cheers.
     -- Cheers, Septy! And after two years, when you come on vacation, to gather again here -- lifted his glass George.
     -- If I come back, my good friend, but I accept your proposal. And now as if is time to finish because in four I have to leave, and how I look it remains only a quarter of an hour, so that let us order the desserts, ah? -- and he hit the button for calling of the waiter.
     -- Ah, everything good sooner or later ends, as was saying one my girl friend after the sublime moment -- cleared his throat Morrison, -- but after it usually comes something else good, if we leave aside the bad between those moments, of course. By a coffee with some good old French brandy, maybe?
     -- To be, and without the "may" -- added David and having looked at us in order to get our consent, gave a sign to the waiter.
     -- And yet it is nice to be a recruit, ah? -- intervened Joe. -- Because all are envy at you! It is good that this bloody twentieth century has long ago gone by, so that we have learned now to play at war, like the small boys play: if you want to play, then play, and if you don't, then you just watch. And the victims -- we-ell, nothing good happens without some victims, right? If I can allow myself to accept something from Morris then I would add, that when a young girl is afraid to sacrifice her virginity then she usually loses, am I right, Morry? Now do you see? So that let us drink for the victims and the courage.
     Everything went good and they exchanged a few more insignificant remarks over the coffee and, when Septimius already intended to stand and pay, David pulled out some cylindrical box from his pocket, opened it and took from it a gilded statuette and placed it in the middle of the table. This was Nike, with thrown over her ethereal mantle, which left open on purpose her breasts, and they well developed and with protruding pink nipples, with high raised right hand with a sword in it, with shining golden curls and with blue, as if from some crystal, eyes, who stood on a small agate pedestal. The present was wonderful and while the hero of the occasion looked at it with admiration, and the others looked at him and smiled satisfied, David rose from the table and headed for the nearest tree. From a branch at height of about two meters he carefully removed some box, which all the time has hanged there almost in front of Septimius (but who will look at some trees around?) and took out from there small shiny disk, the size of a button for jacket. Surely that this was digital optical recording stereo camera and Dave touched the back of the statuette and after he opened the necessary orifice shoved the disk there, then asked George, who had the most whitish suit of all, to turn his back and, after some small manipulations on the head and the back of the goddess, from her eyes flashed two differently coloured laser beams and on the back of George appeared the initial cadre of the meeting. After he played a little with her nipples it boomed again the General order of George and the answer of the recruit. Nike was a souvenir projecting camera, made out with much taste and finesse. While Septimius could not get enough of it the others paid for the lunch with their cards, in spite of his energetic protests, and he had no other choice, except to put the goddess carefully in his pocket, and all together to head for their airflyers. He started first, and his friends waved hands to him from below, until he disappeared from their sights.

* * *

     The clock showed four with some minutes and he flew directly to the garage on Jerome street, which was quite near to the restaurant. There he signed quickly the standard contract, that he offered his airflyer to the "Club of Veterans" rent-free, where they were obliged to keep it in good condition, and he has rights to use it always during his vacations; in case of his demise while fulfilling of his military duty the flyer becomes property of the Club, else he receives it back after the dismissal. As far as the contract entered into force from tomorrow morning he could use the flyer all day today and he decided to send it in the evening, when will be back at home. Then there was nothing else left for him except to land in the area of "Metallic-7", on the roof of one rose hexagonal truncated pyramid, which was intended for official events in the factory, where he till very recently worked, before he received confirmation that was approved as recruit for the vernal enlistment. He was met by well known and cheerful faces of his colleagues during many years and went down to the main hall, where the people were already gathered, and took his place on the platform. At the appointed time the celebration began, opened by the director. Septimius listened absentmindedly and from time to time was nodding his head, because this was standard greeting, yet, despite of this, some words landed at his mind, though he has heard them many times on other similar see-offs, but this time they regarded him:
     -- Our former colleague, engineer Septimius Joyce, having worked out his allotted in peaceful earthly conditions time, is going now to the space battle fields, for to defend the most valuable social ideas, to protect the national interests of the state, showing his patriotism under new and dangerous conditions. He was good worker and responsive colleague and we believe that he will be also brave and courageous soldier, always ready to sacrifice his life, if the military situation requires this. He goes to war, like millions and milliards men in human history before him have gone to fight, and how new milliards of men after him will go, because the war is necessary for the nation and for the men. The war makes the man at last a man and every man between us is burning with desire to come also his hour to join the lines of fighters in protection of the state, and even many of our female colleagues also would have wished to experience the military hardships, in order to leave behind a good name. The wars have existed always in the human history, bur the wars of twenty second century are not like those of the former centuries, not only because they are not conducted on our native planet, but also because the soldiers now fight only in the name of highest patriotic ideals, not because of some economic interests. Regardless of the victories or defeats in the wars all states on Earth live for long time now in a society of affluence and personal improvement, live for the pleasure to live, and then why not also for the pleasure to die, if this is in the interest of the nation? The economic problems, already since the former century, are solved with economic measures, as it befits one developed society, but the mankind can not live without wars, which must keep its fighting spirit, courage, and heroism. Without wars there are no victories, have said our predecessors, and without victories there is no purpose in life! We must preserve the life, this rare manifestation of organization in the matter, so rare that despite the interstellar flights in the last century and now we have still not met other brothers in mind. But we must be able to fight, because when we meet other thinking beings (I don't speak about artificially made android robots, because they are made according to our programs, but about another natural intelligence) we must be able to hold victories, for such is life anywhere in the Universe. Because of this we are still fighting on the battle fields, and will fight in order to assert the superiority of living matter, but we have already reached the ideal model of war -- war which carries only advantages, but not sufferings for the civilian population, only entertainment for the masses and for those taking part in the battles, but does not hinder biological continuation of human nationalities and races, does not lead to genocide, misery, and torturing of innocent people. The war is for the brave, and the brave go to war, like also our dear colleague Septimius. Let we see him off with the due respect.
     After the followed storm of applause spoke also his immediate boss, who noted that Septimius always has carried in himself the courageous and warlike principle in the man, and he does not doubt that he will make an exemplary soldier. Wishes for easy and interesting service for him expressed also a pair of other of his colleagues of both sexes. The official part ended with giving of the traditional for such cases present -- laser rifle for partridges and small game animals with automated tracking of the target, from one side of the butt of which was small screen, and inside was embedded microcomputer with information storage containing short audio-visual inspection of the factory with the most important production and administrative premises, and with by a life half minute picture of each of the employees for the last ten years, who, when the camera moved to him, said their names and bowed with a smile -- this was computerized animation and, no matter that their voices were not authentic, but only a pleasant baritone for the men and a playful female voice for the women, the virtual reality looked quite real. Well, this was a good tradition and he accepted it with gratitude.
     Then they moved in the hall for cocktails, where the time went pretty quickly, and while he succeeded to clink glasses with everybody and taste various appetizers and mix the drinks with those that he had already gulped with his friends, it turned that it was gone past eight. There remained nothing else for him except to hang the rifle over his shoulder, wave for the last time with a hand to the others, and climb to the roof. He opened his flyer and fell tired on the seat. He thought to himself, what suffering was earlier to drink and not to know how later one will drive the car: to drink or not to drink? -- that was then the question. Now the things are much easier and you can at the most confuse the end point, but using autopilot you can snore inside and will disturb nobody. It's like if you have sat in one of those old carts and have left the horse to take you home. With these reflections he typed his home address, the airflyer rose in the air, and he began to gaze distractedly at the lights of the big city.

* * *

     At the parking before his home he refreshed himself a little by the cool air that bursted inside the car when he opened the door and recalled to order to its computer control that tomorrow at six o clock it was in the garage of the Veterans. Tossed the rifle on shoulder, touched the statuette in his pocket, and closing the door went to the house and climbed to the third floor. Typed the cipher on the door and it recognized him and opened. Entered inside and leaned the rifle to the wall. Went to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of juice from the machine, put in it one refreshing pill, and after it fizzed and dissolved drank it in one swoop and headed for the cabinet, where chose some soothing electronic music and stretched out in a chair closing the eyes. It was not yet clear how he will live in the military barracks, but the eve of the service went well, thought he, and lied so for some time.
     When he opened the eyes it was close to eleven in the evening and was later than the time when the decent people have dinner, but he was also not hungry, so that this did not matter. He began to pack to the end his marching cylinder for tomorrow, but there was not much to put there except the things from this day. The rifle he has, naturally, to leave away, because in the space there are no partridges, and it was also just a plaything compared with the real weapons which he will have in his disposition there, so that he caught it and shoved in one of wall cupboards, to various souvenirs and gifts from his school and university years. But the goddess he will take with himself, because it was not heavy, and is also precious remembrance from his fiends. He opened the cylinder and put it on the top, to the thermos which have given him yesterday Michael and Jane, his children. Only that it was just like a thermos bottle, as for a liter and a bit liquid, yet otherwise was profiled synthesizer. Above was a container for half a liter where was poured usual water; then in the middle were some technical gadgets and electronics, as well also portable power supply for two cycles of the device, and there were put one small graphite stick and three ampoules with chemicals, and in the very bottom was another container also for half a liter. In the middle was one button, which, when one pressed it, glowed red and was heard slight humming for about five minutes. Then the lamp became green and in the bottom container was half a liter quite decent vodka, already cooled by this! The water molecule was decomposed in its constituent parts, and then was synthesized the alcohol. If he wishes he could put there also by an another pill, in order for the liquid to be like whisky or cognac. One cycle gave half a liter, and out of one portion chemicals were produced ten doses or five liters. Apart from this he was given a box with twenty series of cartridges, which weighted not even one kilogram, so that he was equipped with a whole centner of vodka -- pretty good also, for he tried it yesterday. Original gift, no denying it.
     Then he looked around in the room and found on the table, in the middle, one flat box tied with ribbon. Recalled himself that his wife has also promised something and has probably come before he returned back. He opened it and saw three sets of knitwear for astronauts, entirely soft when you touch them, light and, as it should be, with contacts for switching on of the heating from spacesuit, and with a small belt with spare batteries in case of emergency. In the army they, surely, will give them such sets, but these are maybe of newer models and finer workmanship, and when they are from Flo then he will take them. The woman, obviously, is concerned lest he rubbed himself the groins in the rough suits, giggled he. Putting them on top of everything he closed the box. There was enough place there, but nothing bad, let it remain place for to be able to carry by a stone from the battle fields, if he will return. He checked that his soldier uniform was ready on the chair by the wall and set the alarm clock at six hundred, and with three consecutive reminders after ten minutes and cannon thunder if he has not got up even then and withdrawn the bed. As if this was everything. Walked to the toilet corner, put on his pajamas, pulled the bed out, and threw above the blankets.
     It was already after midnight and he again scrolled everything in his mind, in order not to forget something important, but found no omissions. When he will get up at six with some minutes he will have enough time to be able to go out before eight and order personal air-taxi to the airport. For 30 - 40 minutes he will be there, so that it is simply impossible not be there before ten. Tomorrow, the first of April, for the spring levy of recruits. He began to fall slightly into slumber. There was not much time for sleep, but he did not need much. Old people don't sleep long. And he quite recently celebrated his seventieth birthday. He yawned widely and fell into deep and undisturbed sleep of happy recruit.

     July 1998




IT SOUNDS LOGICAL

     -- But, father, don't talk like this! You know quite good that will be necessary to leave the home, as also everybody in Prague -- said Hèlena Bèlchekova, 42-year-old blonde, to whom nobody gave more than 35 and she hoped to look the same for another 10 years. Dressed in her usual gown with multicoloured irises, big, maybe, like a home cat, because it went well with her blue eyes, she moved around in the kitchen to prepare something for lunch. Today she had a day off and wanted to cook something alone, because was tired by the recipes of the kitchen robot. On the sofa in the corner sat her father in law, Tomash Belchek, who has already approaching 70 and has recently retired, so that the whole day was reading newspapers and watching stereo, if one does not count the evenings, when he went to the local pub to meet with friends, or went to visits. Next to him at the table was finishing her breakfast the 14 year old Monika, daughter of Helena, who should have been at this time at the school, yet still lingered in the kitchen. Tomash mumbled discontentedly:
     -- All, all, but without me! -- and later asked: -- What date is today?
     -- March the 12th, check in your newspaper if you don't believe me! -- remarked Helena a little cool, because in the last month each time when she was at home began the same conversation. -- There remain 20 days counting today, if that is what you mean.
     -- Hence, twenty more days life. A good perspective, and I have just begun my 69th year and hoped to live somewhere till 80, but as it seems now it is written for me not to reach even 70.
     -- You'll live to be hundred, as I look at you. No need to wail like a Miss.
     -- I would have lived, is better to say, if there was not this bombing. But I will not leave my home, you must know this.
     -- You see, Tomash, not I have invented this bombing, neither it is something about which you have not known till now. The choice of cities is done 10 years earlier, so that you have had whole ten years to become used with the thought, that on the first of April 2130 Prague will be destroyed, with the exception of castle Hradchany and Stare Mesto. Well, and the newest suburban areas, outside the center with radius of 10 kilometers, will also remain.
     -- You see, Helenka, I have collected money for 30 years in order to build this house together with my brother Janek. And my late Hanichka, God rest her soul, had bought every day some ready meals from the supermarket, because we have had to spare for the house, for we had no kitchen robot, and have invited guests only once in a month, or have met in various cafes and restaurants when was necessary to meet with people. And I am living in this house less than 20 years and it is still quite new and I like it. Nobody has asked me whether I want to leave the house or not, and I will not leave it all the same, but will simply die under its ruins, you have to be sure in this.
     -- Then the grandpa will be taken away in a straitjacket, right mommy? -- interjected the daughter. -- Would you allow me to went from here a pair of days later than you both, in order to be witness of this sublime moment?
     -- Monika, drink up your milk and go out at once! Besides, it is not right that the children intervene when the adults are talking. I have again to beg your father to punish you. I am tired of this. Quickly, that there was no trace left of you.
     -- OK, mommy! I am disappearing right away. Ciao, and don't bother my father with unnecessary things because you know that even without this his work is very responsible. To control five hundred square meters of robotized production isn't like, for example, to make dumplings. Not that I don't like dumplings, especially when my dear mommy makes them. Bye-bye, till one o'clock, and don't forget that in the evening I am with Martha and Eve on a birthday by Karel Dlouhy, who is the most attractive boy in our class.
     -- Why Karel, Moni, wasn't this some Miroslav?
     -- So it was, yet ve-ery long ago -- till the last Wednesday. Life changes pretty fast, mommy, don't you know this? -- answered her daughter already from the corridor and shut the front door behind her.
     -- I beg you Tomash, don't make circuses in front of people, because even if you hid in the cellar you will again not save your house -- addressed Helena her father in law when they remained alone. -- Besides, you know that two days before this they will let out everywhere tear gas and some other nasty things in order to run away not only such people like you but also all cats and dogs, and mice and other animals. And you, like also all citizens of Prague, are written in computer data bases and three days before the bombardment the city is blocked and is checked where is in the moment every one of the people: in the temporary camps around, or in some other place. After this come the cleaning units in gas masks and search everywhere. Monika is right about the straitjacket, if you don't come out otherwise. Be reasonable, father.
     -- It is easy for you to talk about reason, because not you have built this house. Like they say, on a foreign back even hundred rods are not much.
     -- OK, and what have you built alone, when all your life you have been specialist in advertising and know nothing about building construction? You have put not a single brick, like me, neither can fix the water faucet if it becomes defective, and call somebody from the service in such cases. And you know also that can carry out up to three tons of possessions, like every one of us, and I will gather not even a ton, to say nothing about Monika. If you take by one-two tons from us you may come up to ten, although hardly somebody will weigh your belongings, so that you have not to bother at all. And your house is assessed and will be paid to you.
     -- And I am bothered, because I want my house such like it was, like I have built it. This is my right, surely.
     -- Nobody deprives you of your rights. If you want to build yourself the very same house nobody will hinder you, and in the worst case it will be shifted a bit to the side. But most of people want something more up to date and the city is rebuilt anew. -- Later added. -- Do you want more coffee or will walk for a while?
     -- I don't want coffee, I want that they leave the house in peace! Why was I not in Stare Mesto now, then I wouldn't have had any problem? And why have they to demolish a whole city without any necessity? Who wants to destroy his house let him do this, this is his business, yet I don't want and that's that!
     -- Such are the laws, father, you can do nothing -- and she began to explain him again as to a little child, while were making the sauce for dumplings. -- In the whole United European Community each year is conducted a draw for destroying of about twenty towns with population till half a million people, and once in five years for such till two millions, as well also for some areas of this caliber in multi-million mega-cities. Prague with radius of ten kilometers falls exactly in the category of multi-million cities and for that reason it will be entirely demolished. Five years earlier was bombarded North-Eastern third of Paris and now is the turn of Prague. But this drawing is known for ten years in advance. You have known about this whole ten years and have to be also become used with this.
     -- Maybe I have had to but haven't, because I don't like this. And why exactly on the first of April? Couldn't they have waited at least that the summer has passed, so that I died in the winter?
     -- In the winter, so that there was cold in the temporary camps, ah? And now for half an year there will be cleared up everything and even some more important buildings will already be ready, and instead of to shiver in the cold in assembly houses among the fields you will be able to spend the winter in a dry and warm place, having given not even a penny from you own pocket. In any case they promise permanent homes for one fifth of the people for the winter, where the elder and the children till 15 will be placed in such homes, if they want, while the rebuilding of the whole city can continue for some 5-10 more years, without hurry. People have thought through the matters, don't bother.
     -- Ah, it is better if I go out to enjoy for some more time the city, while I still can, because if one listens to you he can only raise his the blood pressure. If I will not be here till lunch time you can search me in the Vltava, although there is not a big hurry in this because on the third day I will surely come up somewhere to the surface.
     -- I am more afraid that you can drown in some mug, if will begin from the very morning, though one you can surely allow yourself. Bye, Tomash, and look to be here about one o'clock.
     -- Bye, Helenka, yet don't think that I have agreed with you -- shouted he from the entrance door. -- Till 31st of March, though, one can also live for a while.

* * *

     -- Listen M`ihal, speak you somehow with Tomash, he is, anyhow, your father, so that maybe he will come a little to reason. -- said in the evening Helena to his husband, 45 year old big, athletically looking man, with serious and thoughtful look, yet otherwise merry and cheerful, with black eyes and black mustaches and large sideburns. They were alone at home because Monika was visiting, Tomash was somewhere in the next pub, and their son Dobromir served this year in the army and stood at camp near Prague, in which destroying he also must take part.
     -- What, the old one still struggles, ah dear? Well, he will become tired of this sometime. And he has no other choice. As if the war is better?
     -- I know that it isn't, and he also knows this, but every day murmurs displeased, if there is someone in front of him. He will make some scene to be ashamed before the people. Either will hide in the cellar, or will cry his eyes out from the tear gas, or it will be necessary to catch him by the special detachments and hold him. It is better if you both speak together like serious men.
     -- But, Helenka, these bombardments are conducted every year for nearly a whole century and even the preschool children know about this and like to watch the process of destroying, especially of cities with population of millions. Good that professor Dzhavar Nand`u has guessed in his time that people, anyway, create various material goods and build cities, till it turned out that it is already produced everything in excess and people have neither payment, nor other stimulus to produce something more beyond the accumulated heaps of goods, and then they begin to rave not knowing how to turn the things so that someone else becomes guilty for their bad planning. And when they don't know what to do they begin to quarrel and to wage wars for no reason at all, until in the end they destroy numerous foreign cities and kill millions of people, and those from the foreign cities, in their turn, answer them with the same. So that, if the whole affair is in this that there became less products and that were destroyed populated places and was created possibility for work and purpose in life for the next generation, i.e. if this is the cause for the destruction and it can't be avoided, then why not to do this in planned order? And so Nandu has performed the greatest social experiment of the last century, has proposed instead of to search for guilty adversaries for to destroy their cities and use their markets, and they in their turn to destroy ours and look for other markets, then why not everybody begins to destroy alone his own cities periodically, together with all material things there, and after this to build them anew? As simple as genius, isn't it? The overproduction is solved in the framework of community destroying the outdated buildings and businesses and in this way emerge, initially working force market, and then also new products. And in addition no, literally no, human victims! Even if there was necessary to pay for to save millions of human lives this would have been again worthy to be done, yet it turned that this is not necessary because each side could find alone enough money to compensate the damages of destruction, which money is returned later on via intensification of the economy even with some gains.
     -- I know Mihal, yet you see that you explain the things better than me. I can only make dumplings, like said today Monika to me, where you command five hundred square meters with robots, this is what she said, so that you understand these things better.
     -- OK, Helenka, and now you also begin to pretend to be offended, like Tomash. Has he not infected you, too, ah? And I in recompense can't make dumplings, for example. Besides, they are not five hundred meters, only one automated workshop with 24 specialized machines, which can also repair themselves alone and signal half an hour before the end of the program, in order to change it, if necessary. But about the father you are right and I will try to speak with him in the weekend.
     -- Look not to forget. And, still, Mihal, how this money is returning when the cities are destroyed? I can't quite well grasp this.
     -- Do you, really, believe that the Martians finance us, dear? There exists International War Fund, which covers the damages, but it is filled by all states and after each destruction becomes more wealthy, because in this way is guarantied work for millions and millions of people. So now the construction workers exceed 12% of working population in European Community, where the permanent army is only about four percents, including the police and various rapid response forces. And together with the constriction workers gain also workers of different professions, because a heap of goods is necessary to be produced anew. And the preservation of historical monuments in this way is done better, because this, what is very precious and in good conditions, it remains, and the other things are photographed well in three dimensions, are evacuated, and after this are returned in the wholly restored, i.e. anew built, buildings. Everything in nature is renewed, my dear, this happens every year, because life is cyclical process, and in the architecture and production of before a century back there were no smooth cycles, and the dear God has taken his part in a violent way, when the people are not able to do this in a natural way. We are "Kings" of the production and technologies, of the creation, yet in nature can't exist creation without destruction, and when there is necessary to destroy the things, then let us do this planned, not chaotically.
     -- Yeah, clever guy was this Hindu, directly genius! -- continued Mihal. -- And he has done the necessary economic calculations, and it turned out that on a big scale of the order of continent from this can only be won. They have destroyed initially some village of 4-5 thousand inhabitants and after three years it has become twice bigger and much more beautiful, and then they decided that the first large scale experiment was conducted in the North-Eastern part of multi-million Bombay in the 2045, when was a century from the throwing of first atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima in the end of World War Two in the bloody 20th century. They have notified all for ten years in advance, have received helps and loans from around the world, and have proved to the whole world that this is the only reasonable way for avoiding of wars and smoothing of the cyclicity of production. Were used conventional weapons, because they are more harmless to the others (with exception of the place of contact, but all were evacuated from there), and also more noisy and effective, what created a terrifying action for the 12 milliards of people on the earth globe then. After about ten years the money was returned, and on all continents have started similar activities and now is a whole century when there are no big wars in the world, but only small border conflicts, and this predominantly in the southern countries, where people are more temperament than we here -- ended he and added. -- Ah, but don't you want to treat the orator with a beer, wife?
     -- At once, dear, no problems -- and she brought two mugs and two beer cans from the fridge, which he opened and poured. -- I have known that you are clever guy so maybe you will succeed to convince Tomash.
     -- For Dzhavar Nandu, for the peaceful bombardments and for the reasonable decisions, Helenka! Cheers! -- and after they drank by a gulp he added: -- But you are also clever, when are able to assess me, right?
     -- Your health, my dear, and for the new life in new Prague after some years!
     -- And your, too, Helenka!

* * *

     -- Ahoy, Dobri! -- shouted private Jan Krupka one afternoon to his colleague Dobromir Belchek, when their classes for the day have ended. -- Will you go out to somewhere or will stay in the barracks?
     -- Ahoy, Jan! I will walk a bit with a girl but will not tell you with whom -- answered smiling Dobromir. -- And why are you interesting?
     -- Even if you don't tell me I give credence to your taste. And I am asking in order that you can, maybe, give me a lift in your helicopter somewhere to the area of Zhizhkov Hill, because my machine is, in fact, of my father, and he has some work to do today, but I also have a meeting, so that I am in a hurry.
     -- Well, you are welcome, if you want, only that I have not yet tried it, so that if something goes wrong I am not to be blamed -- answered Dobromir walking together to the helicopter ground.
     -- How's this that you have not tried your "Dragon", when you are driving it for two years, as far as I know? Was it on repair, or what?
     -- Well, one can say also so, yet it is not the same. Its model has grown older, if I can express myself in this manner. Now, look! -- and they stopped before one blue-and-white two-seater helicopter in the age of about 4-5 years.
     -- But this isn't your helic, it is of that guy, how was he, Jrzhi Gomulka. And I don't see here yours.
     -- Maybe it was sometime of Jrzhi, yet from yesterday it is already my. We changed.
     -- You have changed your two-year old "Dragon" for this rattletrap? I understand nothing.
     -- Maybe it isn't a rattletrap, we'll see now. Come on, enter it! You don't want, surely, that I raise you with my hands. Sit there and I will explain you everything, when you are so inquisitive -- and they sat inside. While the engine warmed up Dobromir began to explain. -- So-o, I have told you that my lot for the bombing was some kindergarten, which I have neither seen nor it interested me. And this Jrzhi had to demolish the region from the even side of "Matej Brouchek" street to the odd side of "Kupetski Line", which is bordered by "Little Street" and "Zhitetska". Do you get it?
     -- "Brouchek" wasn't somewhere in your neighbourhood, ah?
     -- Not somewhere but exactly in it, because the old ones live on "Matej Brouchek" 72, what is precisely on the even side, and precisely in this region. Now you got it or still have not?
     -- What I got is that your region is not exactly your region, and that the region of Jrzhik is not his region, yet I can't see what has this to do with your "Dragon", which is no longer your.
     -- Well, it has to do because this blockhead did not want to change, no matter that I persuaded him a whole week.
     -- How did he not want to change when you have already changed, because this is not your old, I mean, your new helicopter, but his old helicopter, that is now your new helicopter, despite the fact that it is old -- raised Jan his voice, because the engine already boomed at high revs and was necessary to shout louder.
     -- But he did not want to swap our regions, you understand now?
     -- Apart from this, that I don't understand why you have changed your helicopter with that of Jrzhi, what I have asked you, everything else is quite clear to me, in what I am not interesting.
     -- Do you not understand: when in this bombardment is necessary to destroy your own city, in order to avoid the necessity of somebody else to destroy it instead of us after some time, and we to be forced to go to fight in some other place, so I thought that it is correct if everybody destroys exactly his own region, if this is possible to be done. Isn't it logical?
     -- Hmm, maybe it is so. Well, you are right, this is a logical though!
     -- Do you see? And for this reason I decided that we must change our regions, because I was born and lived till now at "Brouchek" Street, and am bound to bomb this place, so that later I have been more interested to build something new and better.
     -- OK, let it be so, but isn't your sacrifice quite big, with this helic I mean? And was it completely your own?
     -- Entirely my, only that half of the money was from my father, but he earned nearly as much in one month when gave it to me, so that I don't think he will be really angry. And Jrzhi promised to repair it for me three more years. You know that he is good at this and till now has kept it alone, don't you? And after this time I will in any case buy myself something newer. -- Dobromir was silent for a while and then asked his friend. -- Listen, you have made earlier, as little boy, sand castles, haven't you?
     -- Well, I don't remember, but maybe I have. And what of it?
     -- So now, when you have built you castle what happened later? Have come somebody to you and have destroyed it, yes?
     -- Well, so it was, someone has destroyed it and then I have smashed his nose.
     -- And then he smashed your, wasn't it so?
     -- We-ell, not always, yet quite often.
     -- More or less in the same way have begun earlier the wars, if you know. Where I alone have destroyed my castle and after this have erected new and better one, and then have again destroyed it, and so on until my parents have called me to eat. I quite calmly have destroyed my work, having admired it for some time, because have known that will make later a new and better thing. And really have made it better.
     -- So you think that people are like little children, ah, right? But they are not such!
     -- And why not? We all are like children, Jan, like little children who build their sand castles, and if after some time they do not fall of themselves, or if we don't guess to destroy them alone, come other children and destroy them. And you can't build something while you don't destroy before this something else, can you?
     -- But, listen, you have turned to be great philosopher! Attaboy! Yet if you will drop me somewhere here I will be much in debt to you. Like on this place, for example. Thanks, and till tomorrow, Dobromir -- and Jan left the helicopter of his friend and descending in the underway, in order to hide from the air wave and cross the street, continued to repeat to himself: -- Like the children with their sand castles, look at him! But it sounds logical.

     August 1998




THE DISCOVERY OF PROFESSOR KOLOSSOV

(From personal archive of Michael Fred, who commanded the first scientific expedition on Sigma-5 in 2183, about his meeting with professor Victor Kolossov)

     Sit down, Mike, feel yourself like in your spaceship. Will you not try my cocktail of blueberries, factor K, and juice of the tree of Hrolov? It was sent to me by a friend from Second Colony. It has wonderful effect on the subconsciousness and forming of ideas, is served cooled. You want, yes? Excellent. What factor, ah? But I beg you, Mike, "K" comes not from Kolossov, but from the good old coffee. Dear friend, do not forget your cradle -- the Earth! Please. So-o. ...What's new in relation with Sigma-5? They don't give up, ah? Hmm, ... bad, I'll tell you. I don't bless the colonists. It would have become a paradise, that's what they say? Yeah, but only for the people. And who has asked the pneumothrids? So what of this, that they don't understand the languages of the Earth, we understand them, don't we? Hence they could have taken a reasonable decision, if they only wanted to. Do you know, comes to me before two days one Skvortsov from the department for space news of the Eurovision, or maybe some other stereovision -- I have not paid enough attention. Maybe he is a known reporter, but what of it? So, he enters, places his bones in the shown to him chair, turns the television cameras on his helmet to me, as if intends to impale me on his horns, and begins:
     -- Mister professor, you are the hero of the day, what am I saying -- of the year -- and our milliards of spectators burn with impatience to follow the course of your judgements and to perceive how you have come to the brilliant thought, which opens space for work of tens of thousands of colonists on Sigma-5. How you have established that the pneumothrids are not intelligent beings? -- and shoves his hand with the microphone ring under my nose. I moved away his hand, he touched something on the ring, and gave up to keep the hand on the table, at a meter distance, while I looked at him with annoyance and uttered:
     -- Mr. Chizhikov, ... a-ah, sorry, Skvortsov*. I think that you have got wrong information, because I have opened no space for work but on the contrary, I am against whatever form of colonization of Sigma-5, because this will violate the ecological balance on the planet.
     Well, and how is the cocktail, Mike? You ponder now, ah? Good, all right. Because you know that I don't like much these pompous reporters - handbooks. They have stuffed in themselves all sorts of knowledge bases and imagine that they are the navel of the Earth. Yet the knowledge is not only collected facts and classifications which everybody, somehow or other, can extract from the computers, but first of all knowledge about the relations between the processes, or, generally speaking, the ability to make conclusions, i.e. to think. And the reporters of today, how they have connected themselves to the sets and talk to you as if they are walking books of Guinness, while their ability to think is on the level of some parrot, who always when hears a bit more of noise around himself begins to cry, either "brravo", or "marrmalade", or some cursing -- depending on the taste of his owner. And the more I don't like them when they are under 30 and have barely finished their first tertiary education. And this "starling" turned to be exactly such person. ... Mike, I have entered the cocktail in the memory of my home computer, so that if you like it you can have a ditto pressing the third green button on the handle of the chair, and if you have become bored by me, then the second red one. You can't be ever bored by me, ah? We-ell, thanks. Only that I value not so much the good manners, as the convolutions of the brain, you know this, don't you? So-o. Where was I? Ah, there sits this quail here and continued:
     -- You are the hero of the decade, genius, giant, and something more on "g", yet I have already forgotten it. Then he changed the letter, went to "c". The my very name is such colossal, says he, like my cosmic feat.
     -- What feat, boy? -- answered I to him, -- I have traveled almost nowhere, if you don't count a pair of weekends on the Moon, and an excursion to Venus with my classmates in the school. I stay here on the Earth and don't think to leave it. -- But he continued in the same spirit:
     -- Good, and how you, after all, have understood that they are not intelligent?
     Well, I became bored by this, so that I also asked him in my turn: and what is this intellect? Only that he did not stumble at all but at once recited:
     -- The intellect is the ability of some forms of organic matter to modify actively their environment. I read this in an old book from 20th century, when they were still printed on paper, only that this about the organic matter has grown quite old.
     -- Excuse me, -- said I to him -- but from this, what I hear in the moment, I think that only you have still not grown old, yet this is manageable, with the time. Otherwise your statement is true up to such extent as it true that the seas on our native planet consist of seaweed, i.e. this is a pretty small part of the truth. You have found not a bad source, yet have not read it accurately and have understood not everything, because have searched for the definition, not the meaning. And the definition is designed only to define the subject of consideration, or with other words, to delimit it. Besides, our knowledge, really, grows old and after elapsing of some time seems naive, if we do not penetrate to the meaning of the things. Is it necessary to remind you about the termites, who change actively their environment, building "skyscrapers" (in accordance with their size, of course), have army and "government" (the queen-mother), have some simplified language of smells, and in spite of this we don't consider them endowed with intellect? Or let us take another example, the "phantoms" of Eridanus, with which we have not yet succeeded to make contact, and for whom nobody has proved yet that they are intelligent, or the reverse statement. Why should they change the environment, when they alone metamorphose almost instantly, in accordance with the requirements of the environment?
     Well, I became excited, naturally, but the most important thing he has failed to realize. Maybe in this old book was spoken, explained I to him, about some labour activity, i.e. about changing of the environment with the purpose of quieter life in the future, not exactly on the next day or even in the next season of the year. In other words, maybe it was spoken about some form of indirectness, not direct execution, of main life goal for continuation of the gender. Exactly the ability of some beings to perform decomposition of the goals, to go in a roundabout way, not directly, building in themselves some model of the real world, in accordance with which they can foresee the consequences of their actions and act taking into account abstract goals, which are not derived from their immediate life necessities, but could facilitate these necessities, gives reasons to us to speak about some intellect. Making of some tool for conscious labour activity, with which help to create new goods or other labour tools, or weapons, if you want, and so on, which must lead to gradual and continuous shortening of the "distance" between the wishes of the individuals and the counteracting to the environment, taking into account the continuation of gender -- this is an intellect or reason. And, of course, if the environment counteracts, because why otherwise is needed intellect, when they receive everything ready? Here the "starling" added again:
     -- Now I see that the human being has become intelligent because everything what he has done, despite the fact that it not always seemed so, was related with the continuation of gender. This is really very interesting, yet our spectators wanted to know how ...
     To be honest, I became angry at this encyclopedist and interrupted him:
     -- Mister Skvortsov, when you have understood everything, then answer me, please, why the art has appeared on the Earth, and this already by the caveman, and how with its help he succeeded to continue his gender?
     But you drink, my friend, when you like the cocktail. Have you not become bored by me? Not yet? Good, this is good. ... So-o, this boy thought, thought, and, of course, come to nothing. And I continued educationally that the art is the highest manifestation of the intellect as indirect activity! I waited for a while, in order that the said by me has made some rotations in his head and explained -- after all, this is why he has come to me. With the art the human impacts on the emotional sphere of the creatures of his own kind, creating additional emotions and increasing their vitality, so that they could work more actively and create working tools, with which to adapt more successfully to the surrounding them environment. Or, with the words of the good old cybernetics: the art changes the inner model of the real world of the intelligent being and in this way affects the input filter modifying the input information in accordance with the abstract goals for aesthetic pleasure in the life. The aesthetic pleasure does not satisfy direct living goals or the procreation of gender, yet it helps for their achieving in a roundabout and more enjoyable way.
     -- Yes, I think that I understand you, professor Kolossov. And now, wouldn't you like to tell to our spectators something more interesting about Sigma-5, this quite earthly and, in spite of this, foreign for us planet.
     Well, here I reconciled myself, because the boy started to correct himself, so that I began to explain quietly:
     -- Sigma-5 is, really, a big contradiction with our views on the organic life, yet not so big, that we could understand nothing, but exactly up to such extent, that to shock us and intrigue. Maybe because of this I engaged myself with its study. And the scientific expedition sent there was under commandment of my friend from my student years, the not unknown Michael Fred. -- Mike, there is no need to bow to me, for I am not at all exaggerating, I simply state the facts. -- And so: the atmosphere of the planet contains 76% of carbon dioxide, 9% of chlorine compounds, 6% nitrogen, 4% hydrogen, about 3% oxygen, and 1-2% inert gases. There are also seas that take one fifth of its area, but in them, due to the high concentration of chlorine, vegetate only some 20 kinds of microorganisms and about the same number of seaweeds. There are no fishes, but there are some amphibians, which live on the coast and on the surface of water basins and feed mainly on seaweeds ant herbs. In recompense of this the land is real paradise, at least for the local fauna and flora. I will not describe in details the inhabitants of Sigma-5: flying, creeping, tottering, on three or more pneumo-legs, for the reason that they were many times shown on various media, so that it will hardly be found a child on Earth, who has not yet dreamed of them.
     -- In the day -- continued I, -- and the day there lasts 2.85 earth days, the atmosphere of the planet, till roughly hundred meters above the surface, becomes highly saturated with the nasty sticky spores of thousands of aboriginal kinds of plants. Some of them are high less than a centimeter, while others reach several meters, but these are all various herbs, with long sharpened stalk-leaves, ending with pea-shaped pods, which open each day and close in the evening, for to preserve the not yet ripened spores from the chlorinated rain, that falls usually in the night. Theses spores in a jiffy stuck to the space suites of our brave boys, so that in order to see something they were forced all the time to switch on the wipers on their helmets. There are also mosses and lichens, but no trees or bushes. And otherwise warm -- from 5 to 40 degrees Celsius, with the exception of polar areas. Proper paradise for the local animals: you sit in the sun, the food is in abundance, you just pull out your tongue and such nectar, like from a cornucopia! No worries at all.
     -- Naturally, I noticed that -- was I explaining patiently, -- that there were no predators, only herbivorous, i.e. nectar-sucking, animals. And why has it to be necessary for some animals to learn to eat the others, to develop some special teeth for millions of years, and take the risk to walk hungry, if the other animals decide to grow horns on their heads -- or anywhere else? There is enough food all the year round, the climate is mild (with almost no difference in the seasons), so that if you like you may not move at all -- simply lie yourself on the excrements (and they become quickly dry and harden on the air) and rise on them gradually up, because higher in the air are the lighter spores, which turn to be the tastier. And if you don't like to sit on one place only then you can also fly -- the birds on Sigma-5, actually, only inflate themselves in order to rise up, and then glide easy down. During the processing of seeds is produced a gas mixture, which is lighter than the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere and it is not at all difficult for some of the Sigmians to inflate with it their skins and to fly. The same gas mixture use also the pneumothrids for to inflate their telescopic limbs to 3-4 meters length and to move to where they want. For this purpose they first shorten one leg, let us name it supporting, which is in front and in the middle, lean to it shifting the center of gravity in this direction, then expanding a little the right leg move the other, left leg, forward, put it on the ground and stretching further the right leg throw it quickly forward, swaying a bit to the left, and at the end stretch the supporting leg more than the others, and while are moving it forward and in the middle shorten it like the others; after this the whole procedure is repeated again. We all have seen these walking tripods with a ball in the middle and funnel-shaped tongue coming out of its upper part, which by some exemplars exceeds the length of one meter. And everything is peaceful, quiet, warm, and beautiful. No dangers.
     The young reporter listened to me attentively and patiently, although all this factual information surely was known to him. To all appearances he tried to apprehend the method of explanation, so that I continued further:
     -- Exactly this made me to ponder. Obviously the evolution there has evolved only in respect of the size and the way of movement. The food for all was nearly the same, and the way of its processing too. I instinctively accepted that the pneumothrids were the highest beings, for the reason that they have chosen one difficult and not quite economical method of movement. Maybe this was because of some important goal, decided I. Later people have begun to talk about their "cities" and their "art". Really, many of their creations looked beautiful to us. And this naive friendliness of the pneumothrids, which surely has caused many people to sympathize with them. In the beginning the cosmonauts avoided their impudent tongues, yet after it was proven that they emit no harmful, even for person without spacesuit, substances, they quietly allowed that during their trips were accompanied also by a pneumothrid, who licked out the space suites form the stuck to them spores., These natives very actively looked for contacts with the astronauts and liked all games which were proposed to them. They learned to play volleyball with their tongues, only that could not add the points and grasp that have to play in teams, but everybody played for himself (i.e. to lick better the ball out). Once to one group was shown colour holography of Niagara Falls and they all looked with tongues hanging out, literally said. Soon after this the cosmonauts have found approximately in five kilometers from their base new "city" of pneumothrids and somewhere after a month found that it resembled something earthly, and after a pair of months became obvious that this was an exact copy of Niagara Falls, only that the water was as if frozen.
     Mike, do you know, if you want you can press also the fifth green button on the chair, and this twice. That's it, in your honour, I mean. Original 11-years-old "Courvoisier", from the region France. At one time it was great state, as you know. It is also today great, yet isn't state anymore but a wide area in Europe. I keep it only for special cases like our meeting. How many years we have not seen each other? Five, or as if six, ah? It doesn't matter. Your health and for the evolution of the pneumothrids! Ah, what flavour! Strong like love, or something of that kind. The civilization is civilization, but one should not run away from the nature. Industry, technologies, starships, and the natural thing is, still, something else. Made by God, sorry, the Nature, with some help on the part of the two-legged thinking animals from the third planet in one lost in the infinity star system of our native Galaxy or Milky Way, in translation from Greek. And have you ever heard that other animals have made something similar to the alcohol, ah? On the Earth no, and in the space have also not yet found, because for this thing an intellect is necessary, decomposition of goals, indirectness, and intelligent brethren we have not yet met. There are some beginnings, primordia, but there is not yet real intellect. And for to make alcohol an intellect is necessary, ah? Or how it was in Latin: in vino e veritas? Only that this is not exactly the same, where I say that without intellect there is not alcohol! Remember this from me, in order to be able to cite it in some pub lost in the galactic expanses. So that, cheers for the intellect in the Universe! Yeah, so where I was? Ah, by the Sigmian Niagara. Then listen further:
     -- The made copy was, naturally, -- explained I to him -- monochromatic. The pneumothrids, generally, accept mainly ultraviolet rays, and their droppings, by our views, are grass-green. I beg your pardon that I call so rudely the things, but it is exactly established that in the processing of seeds their organism uses only the outer sticky nutritious liquid, and the left capsule with the seed wraps in very thin film, which hardens in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, and in this way the seeds are glued in such forms what the pneumothrids decide to give them. In their "cities" can grow nothing, because the coated seeds are deprived of their nutritious cover and the nectar, and, hence, there is no food, so that they are forced to move out of them to graze. That is how they build their cities, if we can call so the products of this, sorry, "anal architecture", but they only sleep there, and this not always. One should not, however, be perturbed by these things, because the spores are wrapped quite hygienic, and besides, the pneumothrids have no sense of smell. You just imagine in this sticky atmosphere what would have happened with their noses, if they have had such organs? After some time these cities, though slowly, yet still, decompose, and in their place grew again grasses.
     Now the young reporter began, little by little, to think and asked me:
     -- Good, but are these cities, after all, art or not?
     -- At first sight, yes -- answered I -- when they are not working tools and do not serve for procreation of their kind. These are really beautiful and finished forms, which don't help them in their everyday life, because their tongues do not become longer, neither their stomachs bigger. And what concerns their multiplication, then they are unisexual. By every adult exemplar once or twice in an year grow three (sometimes more) "boughs" on the back side of his spherical body, protected with some skinny membrane, and when by the little ones grew enough the small legs and tongues, so that to be able to feed themselves alone, they break off (or the adults help them), inflate their pneumo-legs and begin to suck.
     At this place, Mike, I made a small pause. Skvortsov asked nothing, kept silent. Maybe he thought? Well, this was good, let him think a little, this is useful. Then I continued:
     -- And yet this is not art in the commonly accepted meaning of the word. The art, I repeat, is the highest manifestation of intellect, yet ... if it existed! Taken in itself this "art" is not proof for existence of intellect. The pneumothrids, is fact, only divert themselves, and for this much brain is not needed. There are some beginnings of intellect, like by our native animals, say, by dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, and others, which like to play, and some of them try even to laugh, to annoy the people, to imitate them, and so on. But this is not intellect, because there is no special indirectness of the goals, there is not creating of tools for labour or whatever planning or prediction for longer period of time. Many animals on Earth build themselves some lairs for unfavorable periods of the year, yet no one of them can guess, for example, to plant some vegetation, so that when it grows to become his house, or to use it as food; or also to make some cage or fence, where could be possible to breed and feed other animals, which are of some use for this animal -- it may use such sometimes, but if they are close at hand, so to say, yet will not do this purposefully. Though what is the degree of indirectness above which we can speak about intellect, and till reaching of it can't, nobody can define exactly. The proofs are intuitive and cumulative, but one can do nothing here.
     -- And if this activity is some sport? -- interrupted he me. --in a sport an art can also exist.
     -- You see, Skvortsov, that have begun to think -- praised I him. -- Will we call this sport, or otherwise, is not so important. The point is not in the name, the important thing is that they simply fill their time. Don't forget that the nights on Sigma-5 are also about three times longer than on Earth, and these kinds of animals don't sleep much. They relax much, this is right, but it is because they can't eat all the time. They are just playing, and this not with the purpose to learn something useful, or in order to increase their productivity, or for defense, and the like. Not at all, because they have nothing to work, they make nothing indirectly and move only for to change a bit their food. But not this is the bad. The bad thing is that it will be so there, until something will not change on this planet, because there are no contradictions there, it is no fight and it can also not exist. But what paradise this can be without contradictions?
     We kept silent for some time and then I continued:
     -- Remember, Skvortsov, that I don't approve Sigma-5 as colony. Well, there will fly robots to it, and later on also colonists. They will plant trees and grasses from Earth there, and they grow, become even higher. Will begin gradually to shift the native flora and fauna, until they will remain only in some reservations and under cupolas. Will cleanse all seas from the chlorine and will breed in them terrestrial mollusks and fishes. But then this will be exactly the contradiction for the pneumothrids, as well also for the other animals. Only then they will begin really to fight with the nature and, maybe, after some ten thousand years they could have developed some intellect, yet we will not allow them this, because till this time they would have been long ago under cupolas with their old atmosphere, or, what is more probable, would have been dead for long time. Now they are not intelligent, yes. But why should they need on Sigma-5 intellect, when even without it they have everything? Who, though, can state that if the climate changes it can't after some time appear also intellect? Yet slow and evolutionary, not like we want after a pair of centuries colonize it already with people. One can intervene in the life on this planet, why not, but reasonably and very slow, and when there will flow several thousands of years, then again consider the matter. You see, there is on Sigma-5 space for activity, surely is, yet ... not so much for us as for the pneumothrids and some others like them. We are only to test them a little. And don't forget that the intellect is very rare "blossom" in the Universe. To care about it is the highest human task, a task for the whole homo-cosmicus.
     This was, Mike, my conversation with this reporter. And you don't object to double the cognac, ah? Or even to triple it -- in honour of the pneumothrids. Well, of course, you will not begin to object to me, when I am the hero of the year. Your health, hence, this time for us, not for some walking tripods. So that I called you because I wanted to thank you that you rang me from this "paradise" of planet. I have elaborated an interesting theme in this relation. What are you saying? You also have found suspicious this intellect, when have understood what meant their cities. Artistic toilets, ah? Or also anal art? Sounds good, I'll tell you. And then you rang me by your private channel. Yes, you had the right to this, and told me that your whole space experience rebelled against such manifestation of intellect, but such an argument sounded not very solid. Well, it is so, only this is not a solid argument, yet if one begins to ponder a bit ...

     1979 ?

     
     
    * This is a pun because skvorets in Russian is the bird starling, while chizhik is a siskin.



THE STIMULATOR OF PETER MACGREEVES

     A number of considerations made me to systematize my recollections of my continuous friend and partner Peter MacGreeves. I say "made me" because have not seen him already four years, yet he lives and prospers, for once in 3-4 months I receive messages from him. The information, in fact, is only one bit, i.e. "I am alive", but after all I don't need more than this. My main desire in writing of these pages is the wish to throw the right light on life and activity of "great Pete", as many justified call him. As his sole partner and close friend during the last ten years I know very good this really great man, worth not only his time, but also the future, which he often predicted correctly. Yet not once he has told me something before the moment when it became relevant, or before has come the right moment when I would have believed him.
     So well, I know him for a long time, because we studied in the same college, yet this time has nothing to do with his stimulator. He was quite tall and in his young years looked very lean, but over the years he became a bit rounded, so that now it is more proper to characterize him as slim. His eyes were brown, yet persistent and most often thoughtful, the hair -- still pitch-black, the nose --regular, the manner of walking -- always hurried. There will, though, hardly be found someone who has not seen him on a photo. I can add also that he has the habit to wrinkle his forehead, when his brain was occupied with something, and scratch often the nose, as if from there comes his inspiration for work. Among the other boys in the college he was distinguished with merry disposition and enormous industriousness. After this time, however, our ways diverged and I have known only that he entered the University and studied medicine, and two years later understood that he has moved to the mathematical faculty, and in the end finished either psychotronics, or neurobionics, or molecular electronics -- here I can lie to you because I don't remember exactly, and he was not talkative when it was about him. And also, how am I to remember when in that time we were not together, and after I received my diploma of manager I worked all the time "at high speed" going to bed and awakening with stock exchange shares. For five years I succeeded to accumulate about 400 thousand, beginning nearly from zero, i.e. with 15 thousand and 242 dollars, five suites, and some useful contacts of my father. Later, when I jumped over the million, the things went even better.
     And so, after we for about ten years have seen each other two or three times, and this always occasionally, imagine my surprise when one September day my secretary tells me that some Greeves wants to see me on personal business. And exactly then the stock market was so lively, like not once for the last several months, and there was work how much you want and even more. But there was nothing to be done, I will invite him, old friend, after all, and maybe has left without a penny, thought I. I would have given him a thousand, yet not more, because, anyway, I wouldn't have thought to want it back. So he entered the room, but well dressed, well-fed, and cheerful as before. We shook hands, chatted a bit about old acquaintances, I invited him, naturally, for a visit, to introduce him to my wife on the next weekend, or when he wanted, as long as the stock exchange is closed, and already looked at my watch because the time, as you know, is not only fourth dimension but something more palpable. Now I recall that there was a rainfall then -- I remembered this because have thought that when in such weather he has come dry, then this was either in an own car, or in a taxi, and, hence, his affairs were not so bad. So that my Pete sits entirely calm in the chair, casts thoughtful glances to the rain through the window, and asks me, as if in passing, could you imagine this, he asks me, whether I would like to become more kind, sensitive, and noble? And this when the exchange was directly burning, can you believe this? But he waited not too long and went in an offensive:
     -- You see, Steve, I am scientist and humanist, maybe also idealist, yet I know that you are businessman, and when I take already 12 minutes of your time under this situation on the stock market, then this means that I have reasons. My question is not only about you personally but about the human in general. Hardly somebody will agree to be kinder to the others, because in this way he could easier be deceived, but everybody wants that the others were kinder to him. Well, I know one method to make money out of this, and quite big money even for you! As much for the while, try to find time to come to me on this address in the course of one week, in any time of the day. There is no need of notification, for I almost don't leave the house. Recall that I have never cheated you, so that this is in your own interest.
     This was all, he left me his business card and went through the door. Now look at him, thought I, knows about the stock exchange and it looks as if he does not lie. Probably offers me a partnership. Well, I could risk about 50 thousand, because he always looked to me capable boy. Yet I have nearly missed the term, because the matters rolled so, that I had no time not only to eat like people, but also to sleep properly, and about my wife I forgot entirely. For three days I have not returned home earlier than midnight and good, that in the end remembered, and went to him on the fourth day. I recall that it was about 10 in the evening, yet he as if awaited me, despite the late hour.
     -- Come in, my friend. I will at once make coffee, as garnish for the brandy, because it will be necessary to reflect for a pair of hours.
     We clinked glasses, drank by two doses from the enlivening beverage plus coffee, and he led me to the other room. There was some big cupboard, a lampshade next to it, and two chairs -- one at the window, and the other under the lampshade. He installed himself in one of the chairs, by the window, and I in the other, with my back to the cupboard.
     -- It is a bit stuffy, I will ventilate -- said Pete, switched on some fan at my back, and opened the window. So I thought then, that this was a fan, because I heard humming, but it blew, in fact, from the window, not from the cupboard.
     -- Well, how are your affairs on the stock market, my friend? -- asked he. -- How many small fishes did you swallow today, or have already forgotten?
     If you like you can believe me, yet if somebody has told me, that such innocent question can upset me up to such extent, I would have laughed at his face, but then my eyes filled with tears. Like in a movie I saw myself as enormous shark and heard how crunched the bones of the fishes that I swallowed, and as if I ware sated, yet I chewed new and new ones, even quite young fishes, and around myself was such suffering, such suffering -- I can't describe it! Then I emerged at once to the surface and felt that now I am some big monster, like in the horror films, and trampled all around me, and there were again screams, horrifying things, and a sea of blood. I was so disgusted with myself, because understood that I alone was the cause for these sufferings, knew that it was so each one day, and wanted to make something nice in order to help the people around. Then directly the picture changed: all were happy and pleased, when only I looked at them, because now I was the good sorcerer and helped to everybody. After this the images faded, I still gave by something to whom I can, but less and less, and understood that so it was right, and nobody was angry at me any more, and I was again the old Stephen Collins, and against me sat Pete smiling and explained me that he has not intended to offend me. I guessed that he has managed somehow to grasp what I have thought, and wondered how I was able to reason, not like a school boy, but like a first-grader? As if I will change our world, more so because I am not at all discontented and even like it, and the more money I had the more I liked it. Well, I was a bit abashed, but it turned out that these days I have overstrained myself and needed to have some rest, thought I, but Pete gave me the glass, led me to the other room and began to explain me something. I became angry in the beginning, that he conducts such experiments with me, but gradually convinced myself that he was right, for otherwise, of course, I would not have believed him.
     -- You see, Steve, -- continued he -- it was necessary to impact on you a little, but there is nothing frightening, because I have experimented many times with me. It is true that I did not expect that you will become so excited, but it is even better so. This is my Backward Stimulator and it is why I have invited you here. Naturally, this cupboard is only a prototype, big and uneconomical and with radius of action only 60 cm, so that it was necessary for you to sit directly under the emitter, yet the facts are obvious. It works, in what you have convinced yourself.
     -- If you call this work -- throw I, but I have already mastered myself.
     -- Excuse me, but you have not yet grasped everything what have felt, so that let me explain you some things. Not the principle of action, for this is quite complicated matter, but for you is important the effect. I have named it "Backward Operating Sensual Stimulator", abbreviated to BOSS. I will not indulge in deep philosophical reflections, although the hour is late, everything is quiet, and it is time to conduct serious talks about the purpose of life before the dying fire of cracking in the fireplace logs, or lain for millions of years in the depths of Mother Earth carbonized representatives of prehistoric flora. -- such was he, Pete, when was in a good humor often fell in some lyrical ecstasy. -- No matter that I have not a fireplace in my flat, but it is present invisibly in our conversation and warms our souls, together with the tipped up glasses of brandy. Well, anyway, you know good that life is full of contradictions and human nature, too. This is as old as the world, yet it is true. For example, each one of us wants to help in some way to the other people, but if he can be sure that with this he will not inflict some harm to himself, right? So my stimulator dampens, in some way, the survival instinct and one feels quite palpable discomfort from the sufferings, which he causes to the others with his actions, but this is not everything. It works reversely, i.e. you alone feel what you want to do to the others, and this amplified and picturesque, so that you want to help to everybody, neglecting even the so called "common sense". Of course, everything depends on the power of emission -- in fact, you have felt this good. Because of this I called it backward sensual stimulator, though it could have been named also "Amplifier of the Conscience", yet I think that the latter name would have hardly pleased the customers, while in this "boss" there is something from the very God, don't you think so?
     -- You see, Pete, I am tired and don't understand why you need all this. -- confessed I to him. -- My experiences were not the most pleasant, and I know quite well that nobody will want to have something from which he will suffer, unless he does not apply it to somebody else, yet in that case exist far more reliable means.
     -- Yes and no, Steve. I don't state that this is heavenly pleasure or a panacea for all sufferings. More than this, it is contraindicated for some professions. You just imagine a physician, who only casting a glance at the syringe begins to cry and to make himself injections! In this way he will help with nothing to the patient, and will also inflict harm to himself. Generally, my stimulator is useful for psychic relaxation under non-working conditions, or for creating of background emotions. For example, the quite common wife will become under its influence beyond any recognition. She will be the ideal wife, my dear, because will not only love her husband, but will feel her love. This is what backward emotional relation means! But when one must take quick decisions the stimulator will only delay the actions and they may even turn to be wrong. Yet my BOSS has almost no post-operative effects. Soon after its switching out one begins to judge again as before. Naturally, the recollections and experiences remain, but nothing else. Maybe only after longer, systematic, and very powerful exposure to it can be got some stable psychic modification, but this is not unwanted for the society as a whole. Well, I think that in broad outlines I have explained it to you.
     Really, I have begun to understand little by little. There will be buyers, I was already sure about this. There are in USA more than 100 million families; let only each tenth of them (and with good advertising they might become more) buy such appliance -- this gives 10 million pieces. If we gain only by hundred dollars from a piece this makes a whole milliard. Even if it is five times less, the game is again worth trying, thought I. Long ago I saw how strongly I have underestimated then my calculations, yet everything looked directly fantastic.
     -- Pete, I think that I already comprehend this and that -- voiced I. -- Maybe you have also a detailed plan. How you see this "mass stimulation"?
     -- Surely I have a plan. This cupboard in that room is a prototype and costs me approximately 60 thousand plus seven years of hard work. Not a little, but these are development expenses. After all, I have bought a heap of things that later turned to be unnecessary, and I had also to live somehow and used quite different literature. I think that in this form a second copy will come to circa 10 thousand.
     -- Isn't this quite a lot, Pete? Who will give as much?
     -- Wait a little, Steve, you will understand now. At the moment the things are in such state that for about one to one and a half years, I think, I will be able to expand its scope significantly. You see, it is pretty early to speak about decreasing of its size and about mass production. This will happen, probably, after 4-5 years. Initially I will do exactly the opposite thing -- will build Big BOSS, what will be easier and will be possible to develop small series of 20-30 up to hundred apparatuses yearly. For the first pair of year this will suffice. It is necessary to reach scope of action of about 50 meters in radius. I think that such stimulators will cost me not more than 50 thousands per piece. Then will enter into effect the program "Cathedral". Steve, I an atheist, but I don't see why not to help the Church, if it will also help me (to gather the initial capital, I mean). I am sure that they will give me about half a million, at least for the first Big BOSS. This will not be too expensive for the Church, because it has means. And then this, really, will make the people better, at least for some short time, while they are in the temple. For such real proof of its power not a single religion has ever dreamed, and this also without sermons -- your conscience will alone preach to you! Naturally, in order that this happens I will need premises for the business, salaries for a ten of workers for the first two years, materials for at least 10 big stimulators, and maybe also other expenses. Here I come to your help. I have less than thousand of dollars, i.e. zero. I need approximately one million, hence from you, if you don't mind.
     Well, in fact, I wonder even now, has not the stimulator shown some effect on me that evening, for I agreed after all. In fact after two days, but the decision I have taken already then. Surely I objected, was indignant about the sum, and so on, but Pete has considered everything.
     -- Steve, I don't insist. I think you understand that I have at least about dozen variants, -- continued he -- but I prefer you before some unknown banker, church, or general. In any case think for three days. It is not excluded that also half of million will be enough, but initially somewhere about 200 - 300 thousands, and the left -- within one year. We divide by half, regardless of the fact that my initial capital is only the first variant and I myself.
     I have nearly left him when he added:
     -- And something more, Steve. Some special protection from my stimulator is not necessary -- it just has definite range of impact and the produced by it field practically does not penetrate through walls. Still, I have one stipulation: never and under no circumstances I will develop direct stimulator, or reversed of the reversed, or how you call it, that will dampen the conscience, or enhance the survival instinct and aggressiveness outside the allowed limits. This is now everything and, of course, absolute secrecy! I will wait your decision.
     So ended this memorable for me autumn day.
     After a week we founded officially our enterprise. We hired one small estate and several technicians and Pete began his work over his Big BOSS. On this stage we saw each other approximately once in a week -- more often was not necessary, -- so that I continued my games on the stock market with varying success. I remember that was highly impressed by the way how Pete conducted the rough experiments for working of the apparatus with cats. Yes, with cats and mice. You can't imagine what affection and tenderness felt these not big predators to their, otherwise natural, prey, when they fall in the sphere of activity of the device, and this under condition that they were kept a day or two hungry, what was directly unnatural. But interesting for me was that the stimulator has effect also on other mammals. I recall that once asked my friend about the principle of work and he explained me something about some waves and fields, yet I understood not much of all this.
     There existed some narrow range of frequency, which had to be maintained, otherwise the device simply did not work, if one does not count the slight headache, and because of this the most precise operation later, when the mass production began, was the adjustment. Yet I grasped that with varying of the frequency in broad limits was not possible to obtain the opposite effect, of which Peter was so afraid. The created field entered in resonance with some "lambda" waves of the white matter of the brain and in this way was affected human consciousness, where the device dampened the survival instinct, amplifying multiple times its opposite. In order to make direct stimulator of the survival instinct was necessary to go down to a lower "animalistic" level in the subconsciousness and find some other waves, what was something principally new. Then he estimated the time for such discovery at about 20-25 years, but there already passed about ten, and also many institutes work now in this area, so that maybe there are some results, naturally kept in secret. Under influence of such field one would live absolutely for himself, ignoring the others. This would have destroyed any society and, naturally, nobody would want to have such source of anarchy, but if this will be applied to other state the effect will be terrifying. Exactly because of this Pete was afraid that some general could like a similar idea, although for its effective application an enormous power will be necessary. The prognoses of my friend, however, have always turned correct, and maybe this is the reason why he now hides somewhere, but where exactly even I don't know.
     About eight months Pete worked really tirelessly, yet succeeded to create big stimulator with radius of activity from 30 to 60 meters, according to the wish. The negotiations with the first church were finished only in two weeks, where at this time we already had official patent for the appliance. Then we expanded our enterprise to 24 workers. If one does not count the patent, in which were not exactly described the specific details, all was kept in total secrecy. The church, naturally, kept silence, because, as my friend said, it for this reason existed for such long time, because it knew how to collect, keep, and use a given information. What happened in the first several weeks, when nearly simultaneously, after minor repair, began to work several big catholic cathedrals, you all know. If there was church market then the shares of this religion would have jumped at least twice, but this was only temporary peak, because Pete have not thought to help only the Catholics. We made contracts with the Protestants, and the Adventists, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Muslims, with three Buddhist sects, and also with many others. After approximately an year the boom passed, but till this time I have long ago returned back my million and the company brought us in sum about 37 million dollars. We sold the stimulators for 600 to 800 thousands and even for one million and two hundred thousands, depending on the power.
     About this time we sighed some contracts also with large corporations for equipping of whole factory workshops with such devices. There was used predominantly the peripheral and weakest field, in result of what instead of one big emitter we placed sometimes up to twenty smaller, but dispersed evenly in the premises. This gave about ten percent increase of labour productivity of the workers, because was strengthened their sense of responsibility before the management of the concern, but in this respect was necessary to work pretty carefully, in order not to increase the number of accidents due to excessive fervour, so that we soon closed this activity. More than this, probably, was not possible to get, because by a bit stronger impact people became up to such extent emotionally loaded that simply could not more work. Yet the companies were satisfied, because on many places where such devices were installed became possible to avoid a series of emerging strikes.
     During this second year of our collaboration Pete succeeded to finish in broad outlines the work on miniaturization of the devices, and after some more months, in the third year, we have ready mass stimulator, which was patented in different variants. Then we expanded strongly our enterprise and the workers grow up to 300 persons, no matter that various elements we got ready from other companies. We had also about 20 engineers, 5-6 physicians, and a decent number of guards. Around us already swept all kind of rumours, have begun to appear competitors, but we had the patent and worked at full speed. Our company became widely known and with mere copying of the details another producer could not succeed to compete with us, where for making of something more different, yet with similar effect, were necessary years, for the reason that the major theoretical part was not published.
     Soon we have warehoused about 100 thousand exemplars of the first mass family stimulator -- you all have seen it: not a big box with good design and weighing about three kilograms, where the emitter was in form of ordinary night lampion, and the scope of action was from two to four meters, i.e. quite enough for a bedroom. At the fourth year we released them on the market at a price of 1.950 dollars, while they costed us only 350. In this year our production increased several more times, reached its maximum in the fifth year, and continued so somewhere to the middle of the seventh, when we produced already 4-5 types family stimulators. You know that thanks to them for two years was noted nearly two-fold reduction of divorces. I still keep the award of American Women's Committee, with which we with Pete were in entirely ceremonial way declared its honorable members.
     At this time the competitors have begun strongly to push us and as far as the assets of the company have exceeded the milliard, with nearly half a milliard profit only for the fifth year, then we at last agreed and sold patents to some companies at total value of more than three milliard dollars. At this time we still made by a hundred pieces Big BOSSes in an year, chiefly for the churches abroad. Once, somewhere in the middle of the sixth year, we went with Pete out of town. Then he worked only by 5-6 hours daily, while I already from the second year devoted myself entirely to the company, doing alone all business operations, naturally, under instructions of my friend. And so, after we left the car, we went for some walk and after half an hour he said:
     -- I think this is enough. Steve, you feel that our company grew rich, as it should have happened, yet you know that there is nothing everlasting, especially in the sphere of business. We must ensure for us strong rear for our capital and, of course, not only in American banks. Do not neglect any country. After two years we will cease our activity. Continue with the contracts for selling of patents, because they are at the moment most profitable (we have succeeded to sell till that time only some not very important parts). Search channels for ensuring of foreign citizenship in some neutral country, passports, visas. I think that now nobody listens to us: maybe I will be forced to make myself plastic surgery. It is possible that I will change also my name, or will use other names. And the most important -- don't hurry! If necessary double and triple the variants. In my opinion a pair of millions will suffice for this purpose, because everything will be illegal. Do not forget that on us are spying not only competitive enterprises but foreign countries, too, as well also security bodies.
     -- But, Pete, are you not exaggerating a little? After all we have at least 10 times more buyers in America. And abroad? I think that this is a bit prematurely.
     -- You are maybe right, but this is for the moment. Where I speak about a period of two-three years ahead. And also, if you repent the million, then take it from my part. I don't insist to use these variants if there will be no need, yet I am feeling that I will be forced to hide after some time. There can arise new perspectives in scientific regard, maybe the developments will turn to be dangerous for the people -- nothing is known, so that I will need a place where I will be able to work undisturbed and unrestricted by anybody. In the end, my dear, why I need the money if not to use it like I personally want?
     -- Well, my friend, If you think so, I will do everything that you want. -- answered I and we headed back to the car.
     There passed not even two months after this conversation when were found the first listening devices. The next events are more or less known to the general public. We maintained strong rate of production until this was necessary, and during this time sold also sufficient number of patents, yet this was not bad because it brought us net profit and not at all small . Pete never agreed to build giant corporations. According to him information will always leak and our advantage was not so much in the scale of work, although our enterprise was pretty big, as in the operating speed.
     Ah, I have almost forgotten that we made also several thousands of "Conscience" apparatuses ordered by the police. This was very easy for Pete: it was necessary only enhanced power on relatively small area. They are used by various recidivists. It is said that by prolonged non-stop exposure to these stimulators the criminal person could for a pair of weeks go even crazy in result of struggle with his own conscience, yet so far was not reached. In fact, you know, that they already speak about compulsory and overall prophylactic expose to the apparatus "Conscience" by 15 minutes once in three months, and there are even talks about each month. I doubt that will be possible to adopt such general law, but even now every accused, already on the stage or inquiry, is left for half an hour "alone with his conscience" in specially equipped for the purpose rooms of each relatively big police department.
     Surely one can not remember everything. And if I want to cite in a row only the honorary diplomas and prizes I will have to spend a whole day to rummage in my library to copy them (Pete has made me also head of our archive). Somewhere to the end of the seventh year of functioning of our company he informed me in written form (because we already avoided to speak anywhere about our business activity) that after half to at most one year we have to cease finally our work and close the company. Till this time we had by nearly 10 milliards of dollars for each of us, what was not at all bad for such not big period of time. According to idea of him we chose the Independence Day. Two weeks after this moment Pete went to somewhere and I finished everything else. I terminated the contracts for delivery of parts from foreign producers with one-month advance notice, freed after a month all our workers, having paid them by two month salaries and presenting them with one stimulator of latest model, sold the remaining in stock production with discount of 15%, sold out the equipment and the premises together with the ground on which they were built, distributed the recent income of about two milliard dollars between us both, after which the company "Pete BOSS Corporation" officially ended its existence. For this time I saw my friend two more times in order to give him report about the fulfilled things, as well also to tell him the ciphers of deposits and the banks where I have transferred the money, received from him some additional instructions on the method of communications, such that I could not know his whereabouts but he could find me if decided that this was necessary, and he disappeared from the horizon.
     Then nearly simultaneously in scientific journals in various countries appeared his papers. It turned that he has maintained, after all, some contacts with his colleagues-scientists around the world, for was found that in many laboratories were made prototypes of similar stimulators. Our enterprise could have prevailed the market at most for three more months, so that Peter MacGreeves again proved to be right in his prognoses.
     Naturally, I am not sure that will recognize him if will meet him, because he has probably changed his appearance and name. The old bank accounts, where his capitals were, are surely long ago closed and I do not know more about this, where is he now and how he lives, than any other common citizen. Sometimes when I am reflecting, and I have now quite much time for this, I am feeling extraordinary excitement at the thought that for the last four years I have possibly met him not once, but was not in position to recognize him, or he has watched me calmly from the side and kept his incognito. Then, maybe, he continues to better his humane stimulator. In any case don't look for him at big resorts, because he has never liked human crowds, neither lavish luxury, in which he can now bathe from morning till night. And I don't believe that he is standing with his arms crossed, because he simply could not live without heavy mental strain. Like a sportsman is bound even after leaving his sporting career to exercise each day in order not to catch an infarct, so he could not leave his brain without the necessary for it food. And who knows will he not look for me again in some nice day for new business initiative, if some interesting idea comes into his head? I would be always glad if it happens so.

     1980




THE CLOVER

     The adults just don't believe me and that's it, however much I have not explained the matter. There also my friends did not believe me in the beginning, but when they lay for some time on the meadow and when looked at it better, then their eyes became big as pancakes. Only that I will begin from the very beginning, so that everything becomes clear, and then who wants let him believe me. And will write this as a story, in order that, when some time passes and people learn the truth, to be able to show them who invents things and who not.
     So well, the beginning was August 17th, 1965. It also the whole story is, in fact, only about the beginning, and when will come the outcome I can't tell you, yet nobody else can tell you this, I vouch for this. Only that I will not say to you that as soon as I woke up and immediately felt that there will happen something extraordinary in that day, as they often write in the books, because I will have to lie then to you and the pioneers should not lie (not that when they grew older then this will be allowed, yet some do it not even blinking an eye)*. So that the day was normal -- hot and sunny, because was the time of summer holidays, and then every day is good, even if it rains cats and dogs. Well, I got up, washed myself, breakfasted, caught one not big pail, and -- let's go to pick raspberries.
     It must have been about 10 o'clock when I went out because was already pretty hot. Hens were digging in the dirt of the court, birds were chirping, bees were humming, and the sun was scorching from above how it is normal in August. Romeo run a bit after me but soon was fatigued by this and returned to the village, while I continued for the Bear Ravine, as they call it here. In less than an hour (or maybe more) I filled the pail and continued to gulp alone. It was still good that my mother was not with me to scold me why I eat them unwashed and to explain me with whatnot bacilli and germs they are filled. For she's a doctor and knows only this to preach, and instead of to harden me she stuffs in me all kinds of medicine. Yet this isn't so bad because I don't take half of them, and later she writes apologetic notes for me not to go to school, because I am on home treatment. And it is still good that she has allowed me to go to the village, for otherwise there would have been nothing about which to write this story.
     So I was speaking about the raspberries. I ate to my full and decided to return, but why have I to lag in this heat at noon, so that when I went to the meadow I left the pail in shade under a small oak tree, walked to the wellspring nearby, drank cold water and returned to the raspberries, in order to rest a little. I lay down in the dappled shade and closed the eyes for a bit -- just to digest for a while the fruits in my belly. Well, OK, I don't deny that I fell asleep, yet this means nothing! Exactly for this reason the adults don't believe me -- I was sleeping and have dreamed everything. And the meadow, say I to them? So this sometimes happens, and maybe it was such also before but I have not noticed this, and so on. Yet I am not to distract myself because here the most interesting begins.
     I am sleeping. And at once feel that somebody looks at me. Nothing surprising -- it happens with everybody. I look up and again close the eyelids. I rub myself the eyes, look again, pinch myself, give myself a couple of slaps, as have heard that it is usually done, and again look up -- nothing, id est the same thing. There on the meadow is something! At about twenty meters distance from me is some kind of big machinery. How it could have flown not awakening me I don't know. It looks exactly like those flying saucers which are shown in animated cartoons: like a grain of lentil, only that with diameter of 7-8 meters. And around it are three persons. We-ell, not people, but those, how they called them -- aliens. I again rubbed my eyes, stand up and approached them a little. Well, good, I know what you will say now: was I not afraid of them? Surely I was! Yet I thought a little and approached them. Because they, if wanted to do me something bad, they would have done it while I still slept, and when they haven't, then they wanted that I saw them. The more because one of them obviously looked at me, no matter that he was in space suite. He looked at me, I felt this, though I did not know where his, or maybe her, eyes were. Looked quite strange: something like a big beetle, for he has six legs, but the top two were free and he stood on the lower four. At the front of the body he had some elevation from where came out the front legs, and on the top was his head, which anyway was not seen because of the space suit, which was shining and nontransparent, so that I don't know whether he had one eye, or they were three, or like by us, neither had he nose and mouth or not. Later my cousin Nasko explained me that these were centaurs, they existed in Greek mythology. Well, this might be so, but maybe I in my sleep have read this mythology, for to know what they have there and what have not? More so because these were probably ponies, being of height roughly 50-60 centimeters, and their legs were so short that they barely crawled on them.
     So that the alien stood about 20 meters from me and looked at me. Touched something on his waist with his front legs and looked at me. After this I flew. Well, not exactly, not that I grew wings, and I also was not dreaming this, but I simply turn to be very high -- at a kilometer height, or at ten, I don't know -- and saw the whole village and several hills around and the nearby village. Then I began to land slowly until I stopped in about two meters from the ground, exactly where the flying saucer was, and saw myself sleeping under the tree. So I understood that they showed me some film about me and how they have found me. Only that this was not exactly like in a film because I saw my "being" and myself, and the sun shone from above. Was this a suggestion or something else -- let the adults explain this, when they don't believe me.
     Then he greeted me. Only don't ask me how exactly he has done this, for he has done nothing, neither I heard some sound, yet I understood that he said "hello" to me. Surely I was surprised that he can speak in Bulgarian, but even before I opened my mouth to say him something he explained me that has just now learned the language from me. I think that I blushed then a little, because in Bulgarian language I had only "good", but he explained me that they studied not the words but their meaning. Frankly speaking I still don't understand how it is possible to grasp the meaning of a word not knowing how it is written or read, but he said to me that in this way it was much more easier and convenient. Be it as it may, but we understood each other quite well.
     After some time I proposed him to lead him to the village, in order to meet with the Chairman of the village council, if he wants. I thought to lead him even to the town, because was very proud that I will translate to them, yet he rejected this. They had tried this several times, said he, but the people still had not understood them, and some even shoot at them or followed them with airplanes and rockets. Not once they were forced to run away, and good that their engines were significantly faster, so that they were able easily to fly away and hide in some cloud. Here I experienced some discomfort because of the adults and I felt even offended somehow, yet he calmed me that this was a normal reaction by more primitive civilizations. For this reason they used mainly the tactics of individual and unofficial contacts and this chiefly with younger people like me, because the adults have not believed their eyes. Then I asked him, after all, how they will believe to such like me? So he explained me that they now for many years meet individually with people and we will soon became many -- these who have seen them -- and later, when many years pass and we grow up, then they may meet again with some of us, and in this way a contact will be made.
     I reflected a bit about this and then offered him at least some raspberries. He understood me and took very carefully two of them with his left hand (or foreleg, if you like), only that put it in some small pocket around the waist. And his hand had only three fingers, but they as if were not natural, because later he withdrew one of them to the inside and it disappeared, so that he might have had even fifteen fingers, yet did not show them, or also not a single one, and these were only on the space suite -- could one know this for sure?
     We talked about this and that, and at once he said that it is time for him to leave, because they have seen not much away another boy and intend to fly to him, too. When he already entered in hit "saucer" I begged him to leave me some proof that they have been here, in order that somebody could believe me, and he said that they have thought about this, so that if I search carefully around I will surely find something incredible and interesting, only that on the next day. Then he waved to me with a hand and asked me to withdrew a little back. I hid after the tree where recently took a nap, and at once the machine rose straight up, without me to be able to feel this, and even not ruffling at all the grass, and while I blinked in amazement it was already away.
     Well, this is everything. I rubbed my eyes again but there was nothing around. I went near to the place where not long ago was the unknown machinery and carefully looked around but found nothing. A meadow like a meadow. OK, so be it, I decided to come here again on the next day, and with some of my friends, in order to see what can be there, but stuck a stick in the middle for to mark the place. Went back, and nearly forgot the raspberry, because my brain was so engaged with thoughts, and decided till the morning to say nothing to nobody.
     On the next day I narrated the event to my friends and they began right away to laugh over me. Because of this I led them to the place with the raspberry and showed them the stick in the middle. They sat there and continued to throw jokes at me how clever I am and king of the pranks, when could invent such a big fable. Frankly speaking I was not angry at them, because knew quite well that I have not dreamed, and the stick remained in the middle. I was not so little already for to be deceived, because two months before I began my twelfth year. I got up and went around the circle, which was lighter and more green than its surroundings, yet I noticed nothing extraordinary. Suddenly Peter cried out joyfully and raised hand above. All looked at him. He was shining happily clutching a stem of clover. Only then all looked closely and more carefully at the meadow and I can still not forgive myself that have not noticed this at once. So this was what the aliens have left -- an ordinary clover! There, where has stood their flying saucer, in diameter of 25 of my steps, has made up its way fresh clover, and the other grass as if has become withered.
     Though I have held something in secret from you and now I will tell you the whole truth: the clover was not quite ordinary. It was even quite extraordinary, because each stem with leaves had exactly four leaves! Do you understand? Every single leaf was four-leaved!

     1985 ?

     
     
    * The story was written in totalitarian years, so that a number of concepts have grown old, but I see no sense on editing it, because the ideas are still actual. The pioneers, for those who might not know this, were before the members of Komsomol, and are more or less equivalent (despite the heap of bad things that are now said about them) to the boy-scouts.



THE MARRIAGE PROPOSAL

     It was nearly ten in the morning in one warm July day when Julia Moon Forster sat down at a small table under the painted in red and white strips sunshade of the terrace of cafe "Honey pancake", in the north-western part of eight million Detroit's megapolis, spread out on terraces and on the bottom of Lake Erie. She was 35 years old luscious blonde, with straw-yellow hair, sticking out aside like a roof of an olden village house, which hanged over her fine ear-lobes, from which dangled amber earrings in the shape of small bunch of ripe grapes. In front her hair slightly hid big and dark brown eyes with enlarged like buttons of suit pupils and curly long eyebrows, which occupied the bottom part of the painted like wheat field forehead. Julia was wearing pale-yellow summer blouse with painted in front in its lowest part glass with some green beverage, out of which flew round multicoloured bubbles, which became above bigger and bigger, and somewhere around her left breast in one shining bluish bubble was written: "Fresh as maiden's breast!" -- the advertisement of "Moon Cola". Her skin was tanned by the sun including her slender legs under the shorts imitating elephant's skin, or rather the two hind legs of an young elephant with curved aside tail, looking from the rear, and in front the skin drew together in a relief phony zipper, that began at the waist, but this was not seen because it was partly hidden by the blouse, and ended with a big buckle in the lower part. Sitting at the table she was losing some of her sex-appeal, because was hiding the elephant bottom, under which was located one not devoid of charms part of her body.
     Julia waited for her friend Mary Jane, whom she has not seen for a long time, because Mary became a good modiste and found herself work in a company in Frisco, far away on the Pacific coast, and till now has come only twice here and always in a hurry and on business, so that they could not succeed to see each other, while now she intended to stay for about a week and they agreed to spend all the time before lunch in pleasant conversations and recollections. The appointed hour has just passed and Julia looked worried around at the passers-by, but because she had no idea how will look her friend now, with exception of her high growth and green eyes, which is difficult to change, she could only guess which from the ladies might be the expected Mary. The cosmetics does wonders and it is good that in the cafe were not many people in this part of the day, and also Julia has mentioned that she will be with some advertisement of "Moon Cola", like she usually did, because by a coincidence such was her mother family, so that she could allow herself to enjoy the nice day and not to be specially worried about the recognition. Most probably Mary will be in greenish colours and in something modern -- maybe like a mermaid amidst green algae, or something of the kind. Besides, she knew also her manner of walking, which was fast and energetic, where her right arm made wider movements than the left one, and also a 40-year old lady will surely not be skinny as a goldfinch, at least because she has never been such, so that there were chances to recognize her from afar.
     Certainly not this girl with hat like rose bud and in rose dress with white drops, as if from dew; neither this woman in yellow like a crocus free dress with greenish edge below, for she barely walks, and she also turned in other direction; nor that with dress like air balloon fastened with elastic bands to her legs and with pattern like watermelon rind -- to become already so obese a business lady like Mary was impossible, and this one is as if above 50. It can't be also this white fairy with dress with painted in front apple tree and two bigger apples exactly in this place where one can expect to find something else succulent. Yet this one with green hairs and hat like enormous tropical butterfly why is in such a hurry? Well, surely will hurry when is already ten minutes late, and will swing her hand as if holding a stick in it, because what else remains to her with this gait. And Julia raised a hand from her table as soon as she saw that the mentioned butterfly set foot on the terrace.
     -- Hello, Julie! -- cried out Mary, who also recognized her girl-friend and went to the table swaying the edges of her dress, which was painted with big stems of green grass with drops of dew on them and a big pimpled frog, having seated itself in front somewhere on a span distance under her belt. When she turned between the tables from the back of her dress emerged the head of a large grasshopper, which scratched its head with its front foot. On the face of Mary blossomed a happy smile, which complemented the sparkling of her green eyes and later, looking at her friend, she added -- "Fresh as maiden's breast!", as always. Glad to see you, dear.
     -- I also am very glad, Mary, because the years flow by and we still can't meet us after that time when you run to the West. I am doing my secretaryship and don't think at all to leave this anthill, while you move incessantly up in your career. Maybe you've found the water here not enough and went to the big water, ah? And is peaceful this ocean or it is just so named?
     -- Sometimes is peaceful and sometimes isn't, dear -- added Mary. -- And about the career you are not quite right, because I am doing nothing special, simply have found there a textile company which showed a wish that I worked for them, and here nobody made an offer to me. If they propose me now then why not to return, though here, still, is colder, especially in winter. And in general, with the work it is similarly like with the men -- all do the same job, yet with some of them the pleasure is bigger.
     -- We-ell, I would not say that it is exactly the same. There are some differences, I'll tell you. It isn't that I have not tried with different men but after I met Ben Smith I will not change him for anything in the world.
     -- You have always been more romantic, Julie, but I see no big difference between the men. Well, some centimeter more or less, exists, really, but you get used to everything -- winked Mary.
     -- O-oh, I'm not speaking about centimeters, dear, and you know this. But, listen, choose something for you, in order not to sit at empty table. They make good pancakes here, if you have not forgotten, and I would take a pair but different, plus cappuccino. Look in the menu and decide.
     Mary Jane pressed the button on the table before her and there lit a flat screen, and moving with finger a small ball she scanned quickly the computer menu and murmured:
     -- OK, good, let it be pancakes. Also cappuccino is not bad, but I would prefer a cold "Campari", because in such nice weather there is nothing better than a hot man or a cold "Campari". And as far as I have not a man at hand then I will be content with the drink, right?
     -- Ah, I usually don't start my day so early in this way, yet so be it this time, in honour of our meeting is allowed also a bit of vermouth, when you have so decided, my dear. Enter the order if you like also for me, so that to bring them together.
     -- And with what, you say, you don't start the day so early, for I have not got it entirely, with the man or with the drink? Interjected Mary.
     -- Only with the drink, dear, when you want to be so precise. Are you glad now? It is sometimes directly difficult to endure you when is touched the topic of sex, but OK, once in six years I will endure you.
     -- Seven years, Julie, and some months, because we saw each other the last time in the evening of the longest day, on the occasion of defloration of the oldest daughter of Joan, Eleanor, who has then recently turned sixteen and went with one sweet boy -- George, or Jerome, or Jim, I can not remember exactly -- to the Palace of Virgins in order to spend there her first night with a man. Joan all the time boasted that Eli went there in order not to be forced later to appear before medical commission when will be 18, for to check whether she is deflorated or not, and otherwise she had slept with this boy two years earlier and was long ago not virgin, but one can do nothing here -- such are the laws. And the Feast of Virgins is, after all, one good tradition from before decades and every young girl or boy goes there with pleasure, because: what is the purpose of a sealed "bottle" when one can not try the drink in it -- so had said the young Eli and her mother repeated this the entire evening. And a month later I went to the Pacific coast with my David Spot and with my three children, and I am now after more than seven years again here to drink a glass with my dear Julia, who does not start her day early with cooled drink, but only with hot man, and this if he is called Ben Smith. Your health Julie and for happiness in your life -- uttered Mary and raised the glass with a hand because while she declaimed her monologue one robotized trolley with their order rolled to the table.
     -- And for you, too, Mary. Cheers, you, nymphomaniac. When there goes about sex nothing can hold you quiet. Yet tell me, you are still leaving with Dave spot, or have found yourself a third and a fourth.
     -- Still, my dear, don't worry. And do not think to change him because of some centimeter more, if you want to know. Not that I decline if somebody is to my liking and Dave is not at hand, but not more often than 3-4 times in an year, and don't repeat afterwards, to tell you. I am not such girl as you think about me, and only my words seem more frivolous than yours. For example, I lived with Gilbert Jones more that five years and bore him Patricia Jane Jones and, to all appearances, he is glad and she also says nothing against, even thinks to become modiste like me; in any case she has feeling of composition and works good with computer painter. Now she lives not far from me with one young student and as if thinks to bear him a child, only all the time speculates whether a boy or a girl, and I say to her that it is better not at all to visit the physician till the sixth month, so that not to know to what kind of child she will give birth, because the young now go to see the doctor after the first month and in this way they lose the whole interest of waiting. -- Mary sipped from her glass and continued. -- Then after two years of, how is said, arbitrary and periodic relations I settled on the well known to you Dave, and after certain number of exercises in the morning and the evening I bore him a male child called Peter Jane Spot, who also has nothing against what I have done, and is one of the craziest in the local team of Scouts and is coming to his thirteenth year. And shortly before I went to the West I bore him, to Dave, naturally, also Monika Jane Spot, who goes now for a second year to school. Then I gave up to bear more children, not because this so much bored me, but because have fulfilled my established by the law limit, and I have no superfluous millions to pay taxes for forth child. Dave, however, has still the right to third child and I often say to him to find another girl for this purpose, but he resists this, so that maybe in the end I will marry him. Yet, why the hurry?
     -- It is so, Mary, but I intended to ask you also about this, I mean, why have you not yet done this, dear? With your three children, and if after a pair of years you will be 40, nobody will say anything to you, if you decide to marry.
     -- Thanks for the compliment, yet I have reached them not long ago, and you must know this, Julie, I think. It is clear that nobody will hinder me, but why should I hurry, when I don't yet intend to give up men? And I also can do this anytime. Let us drink again, and you can also tell me something about yourself.
     -- But there is nothing new by me to boast with. My daughter Eveline is now 15 and in the next year will go to the Feast of Virgins, but I think that she is still virgin, although have not asked her because ... well, you know that children get angry when you ask them much. She grew beautiful and tall like a pole, but is still fiddling with dolls and as if is good for nothing, except to bear a child when grows a bit older, although I also have not shined with anything special in her age, yet now I live my life and think that am happy. Then appeared John, who was still in pre-school age when you were here, but now has gone in his fathers steps and all the time makes various robots and teaches them. Both children are with my family as mother one and Smith as father's. Dull things, not like by you -- decided she to sting her a little -- yet I am glad and continue my secretary work, only that my bosses are changing after three-four years. So that because I am already 16 years with Ben and I think ... think to marry him. What will you say to this, Mary?
     -- To mar..., you say to marry him, ah? -- nearly choked Mary, who just swallowed a morsel of her pancake with fig jam and the remark surprised her a lot. -- We-ell, you see, it isn't that you can't do this, it is allowed by the law, but why this hurry, i.e. why have you decided to do this, can you explain this to me?
     -- Well, when I live with him for more than ten years, then I have the right to marry him, and I have also two children, and have reached 35, so that I decided that can make him a proposal sometime.
     -- Surely, when you are in this age and with children, who carry his family, nobody will forbid you. Now, if you were younger then 30 and if you had no children then it might have been necessary to search for witnesses, and if you were also younger than 25 then they would not have allowed you, but I asked you why you want to marry, right?
     -- Well, Mary, I live so long with Ben, and he with me, and I think, well, think that love him, and because of this ...
     -- Ho, ho, ho-o, you'll kill me, my dear! -- answered Mary. -- But it is natural that you love him, for otherwise you would not live with him, would you? Yet I have asked you why is it so necessary for you to marry him, or ... But do you really think that when you love somebody then you must obligatory marry him? It is true that earlier it was so, but you know that in the last century has begun gradually to become so, that on three marriages there happened to be one divorce, then on two one, until in many countries the divorces exceeded 70% of the marriages and continued to grow higher. Well, the divorces have not succeeded to become more than the number of marriages, for the simple reason that, after all, in order to divorce one must first marry, and it happened also that some married people just died before they have succeeded to divorce, but after the moment when they exceeded 50 percent the people have begun to ask themselves: what is the point to marry, and then to divorce, in order to marry again? We-ell, there was no point, and because of this somewhere when I was born was already decided, at least in the American States, that nobody has the right to marry before is born at least one child and he or she reaches at least the age to go to school, or until there pass at least 10 years of their life together, but as a rule nobody does this before 40, and even 50 years of age. And due to this now the divorces are less than 10% of the marriages and nobody complains about this. Is it clear to you? -- Mary stopped a little in order to finish her pancake, tasted also from the next, and then continued. -- You marry, when so eagerly want this, yet first put aside the money for the divorce, because half of yearly payment of a secretary as if will not suffice. People marry, usually, when they abandon the sex and begin the platonic old-age love, and as I look that you are still "fresh as maiden's breast", I somehow don't believe that you have decided to do this, ah?
     -- We-ell, to do such a big sacrifice because of the marriage I have not yet decided, of course, but a woman is as if more quiet when her lawful husband is with her, don't you think so?
     -- But listen, Julie, about what quietness you are speaking to me? The women searched quietness before, in order to be able to catch the men stronger, for not to allow them to run away, because then they were forced to work and to care for the children, and else the men liked not much this. But now you know pretty well that, at least in the American States, every man or woman in the age from 20 to 50 years pays the official from 5 to 15 percents for children support, depending on the income and the number of children, and then each child receives the established minimal support, only that before the child has reached 14 years this money receive those who bring him or her up, which are again the same persons, most often. This is socialism, my dear, haven't you heard this -- the children belong to the state and for this reason the nation cares about all of them; well, this isn't communism, how have thought before, when also the women must have been common -- although they are again common, but if you alone want it. So that the point isn't in the tranquility; I think that you are a bit old-fashioned, but there is nothing bad in this, and I have one girl-colleague in the company who has married even in 30 years, with only one 9 year old boy. If you are so worried about this then do it, but it is better if you think more, or wait until you reach at least 40. ... A-ah, listen, let us repeat this liquor, because it is like with the men: not once is possible, but only once, for nearly two hours, can't be endured, ah?
     -- Thank you, Mary, but I don't want to drink more, except, maybe, one of my colas. So I also think like you, but in the last time it seems to me that if I will not make a proposal to him then he might do it, you understand? And he can later regret it, because, what will his friends say when they learn about this?
     -- But why on earth should he? It was he, who has born your children, ah? What an impudence! Now, this is really serious, because you can neither reject, no accept it. Only if you give some evasive answer, yet this also is not good. But listen, why you don't try to live for a while separated, at least for a pair of weeks, ah?
     -- Oh, Mary, I have tried this, too, Every year I go alone on vacation. Not for to search other men, you see, but simply to have a rest. And what you think? -- After a week he also jumps to me! Not that he does not ring to warn me, or that he comes to spy after me -- no-ot, he simply grew bored alone. And I am not angry at him, because I also become bored already on the third day, so that ...
     -- Well, listen now: for a man to propose this, really, is pretty outdated and happens, perhaps, only in a pair of percents, if one can give credence to these sociological surveys. Something has to be done, for to prevent it. Do you know, I as if have come to something. Why you do not consider the idea to visit me in Frisco? Not now, you see, because it is very hot now, we are, in fact, on the latitude of Athens, but to the end of September or even October it is really nice there. Or also in April, but this is very far. And then when you both come you can leave him one evening to speak with my Dave -- man to man, as is said -- and I will explain him the situation before and this can help. And till that time you try to hold somehow the ball, deceive him with something, if necessary, hint to him that it is good that little John become of age, in order that the children in school will not laugh at him, something of the kind.
     -- Why not, Mary? Thank you, dear. So I thought, that you will come up with something. I will explain him that before the defloration of Eve, which will be next year, it is not decent to think about our marriage. Yes, surely, this will help. And after this can be possible to agree to wait until I also reach forty and everything will be OK. Bravo, Mary! In this case I also will drink one more glass --and she made the order on the console on the table, adding: -- And for you, ah?
     -- Thanks, Julie, only that this will be the last, for I am sitting already quite a big time, and have also other things to do. Well, and if there absolutely nothing will work, in what I doubt very much, don't you think that I will not be glad to see you in black dress for the marriage -- it will surely suit you.
     -- Well, sometime I will put it on, I suppose. Like also you, maybe. Sooner or later everybody has to marry, in order to live quietly the remaining years and to enjoy grandchildren, but it is pretty early now, dear, so that I will try to manage to visit you.
     -- You both come when you can, even now, but better after a pair of months, when the heat subsides. This is my address, so that to have it at hand, although you can always find it in the computer net. Well, your health again, for our meeting and for success in the case.
     -- For the success, Mary, and for your health.
     -- And do you know, Julie -- continued she, after has swallowed a decent sip of the cold liquor, -- I have read somewhere that in Slavonic languages people even have not said that they marry, but have used some such word like garbage, trash* -- something like this -- so that I thought that these Slavonic souls have, maybe, felt better the things, ah? Because it is so, really, when one marries one is capable of nothing anymore, except to prepare oneself for one's funeral. One is already scratched out from the list of living people, isn't it so?
     -- Well, as if it is so, like you are saying, Mary, but this also has to have its charms, when was practiced for so many centuries. Anyway -- everything in its time! Your health for the last time, my dear.
     A bit later the elephant bottom rose up and swayed to the exit, accompanied by the green grasshopper that still washed its face with front foot and was probably happy because had not to decide such complicated problems like throwing healthy and strong people to the garbage, only because they could not live with the other people, but preferred the narrow society of two lovers, being not able to grasp that on this world everything is temporary and people must separate themselves from the society only when it also starts to exclude them from itself. Such intricate situations.

* * *

     Approximately two years later, in one early afternoon, having remained alone at home, Benjamin Smith, electronic engineer, who after an year must have reached the middle age of 40 years, and who has spent nearly the half of this time with some Julia Forster, with mother's family Moon (due to what she liked much "Moon Cola"), and who, in fact, loved him much, like he also her, leafed through a folder with different junk from his student years and found some yellowed piece of paper containing computer listing with 10 female names and addresses below them, the third from which was enclosed with red ballpoint pen, and in front of the first and second were put small ticks. He just thought to throw it in the basket, together with some incomprehensible notes written with already forgotten by him childish cipher in his school years, some clumsy rhymes from that time, some amulet placed in transparent frame, where on green velvet background was mouse tail twisted like an eight and pinched in the middle, between the circles of the digit, with a claw of a crayfish --the best in this part of Galaxy amulet protecting against evil forces from fourth dimension -- and various other unnecessary nonsense, when noticed that the encircled name was of Julia Moon Forster, or, in fact, of this Julia with whom he lives already 18 years happy and inseparable. Then he recalled ...
     He recalled that in his student years he has read in some book that a man can not succeed to sleep with all women of the world, but he has, still, to try! So he began to try, following precisely the rule to avoid repetitions, in order to increase the number of girls. In the beginning everything was brilliant, after half an year everything was perfect, after a pair of more months everything was still very good, and after an year and a bit in another old book he read that there was nothing new under the sun and at once agreed with this, based on his accumulated personal experience. Then he was just ending his study in the university and as man of exact sciences he did the simplest, i.e. this, what also a heap of other young people like him did -- he collected his scholarship for about half month and sent a request to the centralized computer database, which contained all possible individual physical and psychical characteristics for nearly the half of 27 milliard population on the Earth globe, or for all countries which were included in this base. The request was entirely standard -- he searched for a partner for living together. After two weeks, or less, he received by mail a piece of paper -- this piece of paper with the ten names -- in which were listed the first ten best woman candidates from American States, where he limited his wish, ordered alphabetically. In the very beginning was -- and he looked at the listing -- some Betty Stevenson from the area of Salt Lake City, then some Diana Mulligan from the neighbourhood of Memphis, and on the third place was some Julia Forster from Detroit; the left names in the list were quite away, and he has already given up to try all women in the world, so that he choose the nearest possible to his hometown and to Chicago, where he finished computer engineering, and has decided to try his luck. In the nearest weekend he jumped to Detroit and using the address and photo of Julie, which he received at once from the computer net, managed to catch her when she went out from the nearby supermarket. When people are aged 20 they have no problems with making acquaintances, so that on the next day they walked around the Lake Erie, during the next weekend again, and it happened so that when he received his diploma he found quickly work in Detroit. Julia was three years younger than he and fully met his wishes, so that nothing else remained to him, unless to begin to live together. Then came the children, then the time passed, and now he was again with this forgotten piece of paper.
     He has decided to throw it in the waste basket, for it has long ago fulfilled its purpose, then thought to show it to her, but in the end took the decision to leave it again on its old place in the folder. The women are usually more emotional and eager to command and would not have accepted the fact, that computers can take better decisions than they alone, so that there is no sense in disturbing her. Let her think that she was who has chosen him, and let her propose marriage to him after an year or two, when there will come time to scratch him out of the society of free men. When she so much insists that the initiative originated from her then he will not object. And Benji took the listing away and smiled happy.

     July 1998

     
     
    * For those who don't know this it is interesting to mention that "marriage" in Slavonic is 'brak', what literally means waste, refuge, botched detail, what, I suppose, comes from the ... fairy tales, as well also from old Latin novels, when the book ended with the marriage, because there can happen nothing interesting more with the heroes; on the other hand I suppose that the word "marriage" is somehow related with "merry", i.e. it is a merry festivity (though there might be also something related with the holy Maria).



RIGHT OF CHOICE

     Dieter sat absentmindedly in the dining room of children's home "Jolly Bears", built on a small hill in the north-east from Frankfurt, looked through the window and poked with fork in the plate. He was neither specially hungry, no thought about food, but under the strict glance of Ingrid, the teacher on duty, he forced himself to stuff in his stomach one sausage and drink his milk. Not that he was grieved, but he has also no particular reasons to be happy, because the half of his friends from previous years were already adopted and they scattered in quite various places, and another five were taken a few days ago, so that at the breakfast were present only about ten boys and girls. And as far as they were not many then today for the second time in this week he must again clear away the plates and shove them in the washing machine. Well, a ten of plates is not pretty much, so that this also did not bother him particularly. He was not bothered also by the meeting with his father, who must arrive today, because this was not the first time for him, yet the expectation, still, is not very pleasant, so that he was just bored and wondered how to kill the time.
     At the next table sat Martha and he could easy throw one small bread ball which, with a little luck, can drop in her cup with milk, but he did not like to repeat himself often, so that rejected this variant. There buzzed the videophone and while the teacher went to answer it he scratched slightly with fingernail under the table and made some special squeaking sound, which had to represent mouse squeak, yet either the girls did not hear it, or were already used to this, but this trick also failed. With big delay in the dining room rushed his friend Kurt, and Dieter shouted to him to close the pants fly, though Kurt did not at all look down and went at once to get his breakfast. It remained him nothing else except to eat up his sausage and clear the dishes of already breakfasted.
     After he finished with this task he went to collect his things. In the last year, when he was seven years old and had to go to his first father, he asked himself all the time how he will recognize him, yet now he knows that this was not at all necessary. Johann knew very well how his future son looked. He only gave the necessary documents to the teacher on duty and checked whether the number on his left shoulder was 17CAF073528. Well, surely it could have not been different. Then Johann took him by the hand and led him to the garage of children's home. He was large man, in the age of 45, how he later understood, with shaggy brown hair, bright eyes, clean-shaven face, and constant playful smile on the lips. He was quite jovial fellow and they lived well a whole year. He took him to the Munich megapolis, on the 47th floor of a pyramidal building called Tutankhamun. Next to it was small lake with mechanical crocodiles, on which he often rode also alone, because their driving was very simple. He climbed on their back by one of their feet, with which they fastened to the pier, sat on the seat, removed the feet, and switched on the tail. When it was necessary to make a turn the crocodile paddled stronger with one of the front feet. Their engine was in the mouth (he saw some of them with opened mouths when was necessary to repair something), and their eyes were headlights for night time. If the transparent cover was lowered then they could sink and flow under the water and also on the bottom, but the children were allowed to use them only as boats, so that under water he rode usually with Johann.
     How his present father will look, asked he himself when collected his toys. And where will drive him? He could have asked the teacher, but did not do this on purpose, for to be more interesting for him. And what if this will be a mother? Dieter did not want to have a mother because he was a boy and it was better to have a father. Kurt, yet not this now but that from the series DEX, who went last year from here, got a mother and wrote him once that she was very nice and beautiful woman in the age of 55, but he liked not much mothers -- maybe because of the girl of Johann. Still, he does not think that will lose his appetite if it will turn that he will have mother. In the incubators were born both boys and girls, what means that when they grow older there will be as much mothers like fathers, for the future children. All the same, he hoped to have father, because the teachers knew well his individual characteristics and would hardly propose to him something that he will not like much. In fact, no matter who will be his future parent, he will differ from his first father, so that there was no danger to become bothered. Neither Johann will reject to take him for a visit, if he will write him that have begun to miss the crocodiles.
     He looked around the room again, has he not forgotten something important, folded the bedsheets, left them on the bed and looked out through the window. Then some thought came to him and he returned to the bed. In the upper part of the mattress some of his predecessors has written with blue "place for the mug". Dieter pulled out one of his ballpoint pens and added in its lower part "place for the exhaust pipe". Looked at it glad and threw the sheets above the new inscription. Now he could quietly go down in the study hall and wait for his father. He shouldered his bags and dragged his feet along the corridor to the ground floor.

* * *

     Because it was only 23rd of August, and the school classes did not begin before the first of September, most of the boys were in the open and played football. In the study hall girls watched children's movies or read something on the monitors. Dieter sat down before one of the screens and chose some space game. Put on the headphones in order nor to make noise and grabbed the controls. He has gone so deep in the game, that did not at all remark when his father has come, and even slightly startled when the teacher patted him on the shoulder. He removed the headphones and switched off the game. Turned back and looked at the man, who stayed behind him. He was a man and this was good. He was tall and thin, with a beard and mustaches, black-eyed and well-dressed. Dieter knew that he had to be older than 40, because otherwise he would have had no rights to chose himself a child, but the man looked quite young. This also was good. When he greeted him his voice was deep and pleasant. He said that he is called Siegmund Wolf, that he was 42 years old and worked as designer in a large construction company, and then began to ask him how is his name and why he has chosen it. Well, because he liked it, of course, thought the boy, but because many times has answered similar question then he has invented an interesting, according to him, answer. Only that this is a long story and he will explain it on the road, if he wants, answered the boy. With this they finished the official conversation, checked the documents, he said goodbye to the teachers and went after his new father to his airflyer.
     -- And where will we fly to, if this is not a secret? -- asked the boy, after he placed himself next to Siegmund in the car. -- Not that I have some objections, dad, because till now I have been only in Munich, and two days in Paris and Vienna, so that for me will be interesting everywhere.
     Siegmund started the engine, raised the machine on air-cushion and drove slowly to the nearest highway, where chose the route and switched to autopilot. The airflyer rose to the necessary height and having waited a little merged with the stream over the track. He sat back in the seat flattered by the child's informality and the unusually sounding word "dad", and looked at the kid beside him.
     -- Well, this time we will flow to the North, when you have no objections. I live in the eastern part of Hamburg, in one village house on the left bank of the Elbe. Around there are a hundred similar houses, with rabbit hutches and hens in the courts. For one thing you are in a village, but for other one for half an hour I ride to the place of work. Only that I haven't rabbits because there is nobody to look after them, for I am living alone.
     -- Rabbits, ah? And they can bear little rabbits, can't they? In the same way like the women have done before, ah, dad? I would have liked very much to look after some rabbit, if this is possible?
     -- When you like then we shall think about the matter. It seems that the problems are two: the first is that you will have to care about them and to feed them in the morning and the evening, and the second is that your lessons must not be neglected because of this. Do you agree with the conditions?
     -- You think, you have to ask me? And where will I go to school? My previous father drove me every day and took me in the evening. Will you also drive me?
     -- Maybe I will, yet it is better if you ride in the school bus with the other children. Do you really think that you will be the only child in the region? -- answered his father. -- Besides, there have to be at least two rabbits, I think that you know this, if you want that they bear small rabbits.
     -- Yeah, I know, one male rabbit and one female rabbit and they will multiply themselves pretty often, right? As if it was two-three times in an year. We studied something similar, only that they did not show us how this is done, but I am not such little boy so that I guessed -- added Dieter and began to stare at the landscape under the machine. They rode at several hundred meters above the ground and flew over various fields, in places black, and in places green, yet sometimes yellow. It was more interesting than the stereo, because one was amidst the landscape and did not watch from aside, before the screen.
     -- So good, when you promise then we will find some solution. We have enough time. You will, won't you, live with me a whole year?
     -- Most probably, and after this you will have to decide, will you adopt me permanently, or will try with another child. You have the right to try up to three times, and then, if you want, can buy yourself some child on the stock market. I am your first son or not? You look pretty young to me, dad. And how long we will travel more, have you some idea?
     -- The autopilot says 93 minutes. And to your first question: "yes", you are my first child. And you was already with one father, as I have understood. -- He wanted to ask whether they have got along well and whether he wanted to be with him, but decided not to force too much the matters, because the trial adoption for him has barely begun.. -- Do you want to drink something, my son? -- said Siegmund, chewing with satisfaction the new word.
     -- Well, I don't know what you have here? I would preffer a lemon shake, or a glass of cold milk. -- The father typed something on the keyboard and pressed one button. After half a minute on the console opened one window and inside stood a misty glass with yellowish drink.
     -- Please! I don't know whether this is to your taste, but if you alone type sometimes a recipe, then the computer will know it. I have named for me one "cocogn-3", what means coffee with three spoons of cognac and quite a bit of sugar, and will also treat myself -- and he typed his order, after what asked. -- But you intended to narrate me how you have chosen your name, ah?
     -- Well, then listen. You know that each child must choose him or her -self some name when will become seven years old, and later, if will be adopted by someone, then he /she will have also a family, and if nobody adopted him till 14 years then he must choose himself also a family name. I all the time could not choose myself a nice name and because of this wrote on a wooden disc about 20 names, made small hole in the middle, and hung it on one nail in my room, so that it could be easy rotated. Then I rotated the circle and threw small arrow to see what name I will hit. Yeah, but there each time happened different names, and they all began to sound good to me, and then I again began to think which one to choose. And so came my seventh birthday, and I have still not decided how to name myself. Then, when I got up in the morning and washed myself and dressed, gave a strong push to the disc to make it spin, stepped back, closed the eyes, and, because I already knew where to aim, threw the arrow and it fell in the sector where was written the name "Dieter". So I decided that from that time on this will be my name. Do you like the story?
     -- But well, this is a very interesting way, and also correct one, because when you like all names, and must choose only one of them, then this means that here has to be applied some arbitrary method.
     -- Yes, dad -- answered the boy and drank a sip from his shake. Looked for a while through the window, and then added. -- Only that it was not exactly so, because I just liked the name Dieter, and later invented this whole story, because all teachers, as well also my first father, and my friends, too, all the time asked me how and why. And I became bored to explain dull things and invented something more interesting. I know that it is not good to deceive, but when the grown-ups sometimes alone ask for it, then how not to deceive them a little? Do you think that I must not tell this story again, ah?
     -- Hmm, why not to tell it? The story is interesting, and this isn't some such invention with which you want to deceive the people. I even like this, that you have succeeded so good to compose everything. So well, when you are so skillful with names then tell me how to call the rabbits? If you can not invent this at once, then you can tell me also later, when I buy them.
     -- And what is so difficult here? -- the male one we will call Bunny, and the dame Kathy. And if we take another dame, then will call her Mary. In this way we will organize for our Bunny a molygamy, yes?
     -- A polygamy, from "poly", what means "many", like also the towns are called polises, because in them live many people. But from where have you learned all this? Isn't it too early for an 8-year old boy, ah?..
     -- Well, from the lessons, from where else? They also the people till the last century have done this like the rabbits, but the women already became tired to suffer whole 9 months when artificial mothers were invented. And later have began to give birth by governmental orders and then adopt us. They led us in the incubator -- a bunch of rooms and in each of them by several lines of devices with transparent covers and in them are moving some small animals: in one room they are all tiny like worms, then in the nest are bigger, then more bigger, and in the end babies were born, and from them grow people like me and you. Brr, scary, yet interesting, I'll tell you. Don't you think, though, that this method is quite complicated, ah? The women can't lay eggs like the hens and because of this they have to poke some spoons in them and to scrape something with them, and this may hurt them. Well, still less than when they have born their babies, naturally, but nonetheless aches a bit. And if they were like the hens then this should have been easier.
     -- Life is very complicated, my son, and not everything happens so like we would have wanted, yet your proposition is worth to be considered. Do you know, why will you not post it by email to the European Academy, ah? -- and Siegmund looked at him, trying to suppress his smile, but the boy noticed this and frowned.
     -- You are kidding with me, ah? I am speaking seriously with you, and you make jokes with me. However it is, when we will be there?
     -- Now soon, after about ten minutes. Well, excuse me. I am glad that you are such clever boy. Who knows, maybe sometimes this will also happen, or maybe the women will begin again to bear the babies. They have not forgotten how, but just, like you say, have become a bit lazy. So, and now we will leave the highway and descend to the ground and I will move to manual control to reach the very house. I hope you will like it.
     -- I also hope, father, even am sure that will like it. You drive carefully the machine now and I will keep silent for a while in order not to disturb you.

* * *

     -- Hello, Siegi! Have you already taken your son, ah? And how you get along with him? -- asked him his colleague Erich the next Monday morning at the work.
     -- Yeah, I have taken him before two days. And have already ordered two young rabbits because we will multiply them, how he has said. For the moment our relations are perfect. I advice you also to follow in my steps.
     -- We-ell, I have not said that will not do so? Everyone has the right to continue his gender, yet till 60 I have enough time for this. The more so because I am also younger than you, if you have not forgotten this. After two years I will begin to think about. Now, bye, and nice work.
     -- The same to you -- answered Siegmund and continued to his office. There he was teased by his secretary Inge:
     -- How's the new father and the new son?
     -- The father is new, yet the son is old. I mean that I am his second father, and he is my first son, if this is clearer for you. And besides, we are on yearly approbation.
     -- Like in the sex, ah, boss? Only that there the period is not fixed -- threw she and continued already seriously. -- You can see what our competitors offer in file REV35. And do not forget that at 10 o'clock is a briefing! I am working on the correspondence with technical department, if you have not changed your instructions.
     -- Good, Inge. If changes in the work will be necessary I will tell you -- and he entered his office. Just he was absorbed by the work and the videophone rang:
     -- Hello, dear -- heard he slightly hoarse voice of his girlfriend Helga. -- Have you received already your boy?
     -- Ah, hello, Sunshine. We are already two at home and this is pretty interesting. And why you did not ring me in the weekend, ah? Maybe you have found yourself a more solid man than me?
     -- If you mean your kilograms then I positively can find myself more solid one, yet have not searched. But when the man is with his child then the woman retreats in background, so that I did not want to disturb you in the beginning. And maybe I was not wrong, when you also did not ring me. Well, how is it, speak!
     -- Well, for the moment everything is OK. Dieter is quite amicable and I will buy him rabbits. And after this maybe also hens, because the laying of eggs was easier than bearing children, in his opinion. A propos, I have one uncomfortable question to you.
     -- My dear, you have to know that only the position can sometimes be uncomfortable, but not the questions, don't you know this? -- smiled she from the screen. -- Well, shoot your question.
     -- So I beg your pardon, yet we have till now not come to this question and that is why I have not asked you before. Have they taken from you genetic material till the moment?
     -- You mean, have they scraped from me a couple of ova, right? Well, three times already, as it should be: in 20, 25, and 30 years, but as far as I have grown older they don't think to search me anymore. As also from you, I suppose, have taken, yet by a bit different technology. And why you ask?
     -- Well, the son talks about some spoons, and that it should have hurt more then when the hens lay their eggs, so that I decided to check whether the boy is right.
     -- As if your nice boy is right, only that I can't tell you about the hens, you know. Otherwise thank you for the comparing, my dear rooster. And in addition, the point is not only in the giving of birth, but also in the washing of little bottom, in the swaddling, the feeding, in the fuss with the baby until he or she begins to walk and grows older.
     -- Well, I simply am conveying to you what the kid has said. And you come to us to meet him. I hope that you both will like each other. I think that he looks a bit like me, so that want to hear also your opinion.
     -- Well, my opinion is that the artificial insemination is planned by entirely different criteria and that this is pure randomness, which has nothing to do with you, but this does not mean that it is excluded that some resemblance between you can exist, right? Well, ciao, you silly. I will come maybe in Friday, so that in Thursday you gather your strength and don't go out with other girls. Ha-ha-ha. And I will also meet your clever boy and the rabbits.
     -- Bye-bye -- and he switched off the videophone thinking whether the children are born very clever now, or the adults begin to infantilize themselves very early.

* * *

     One evening, approximately after three months, Dieter learned his lessons in front of the monitor, and his father played chess on another screen and sipped of the brandy near to him. After some time from the computer of the boy was heard some buzzing and shots and Siegmund finished quickly his party in automatic mode. The winter evening has come long ago, it was warm and nice inside, especially after two gulped glasses, and he decided that the moment was appropriate to have again a talk with his son.
     -- You have begun to learn pretty fast your lessons, ah? Are you sure that have understood everything?
     -- Well, if you do not believe me, you can check the file with my grades, father. Most of them are very good*, and to become exactly excellent student I have no intention. Bunny and his girl I have also fed, so that what else am I to do in the evening?
     -- Good, sonny. Do you know that we have to decide together one important question? It comes Christmas and we have still not decided where you want that we spend it. Are there propositions on this topic?
     -- Well, I thought that you will make propositions and I will accept them, but when you ask then I may ponder about. I say, here is quite cold and I think that it would be not bad if we can go somewhere, where is warmer -- say, in Africa, ah? Or on some island. I have never lived on an island. Only that this can be very expensive, ah? ...
     -- It may be so, but may also not be too expensive. I have not checked. And why don't you make one computer request for these days, limiting the question to, say: one week, in a double room, for one and a half persons, because you are still young for whole portions, for a maritime region, with temperature ... let it be 30oC in the shade. Add, if you want, bananas as much as one can gulp, coral reefs, camels, or something of the kind. Put also price limits between, say, 1,000 to 1,200 Euro-dinars, and let us see what they can offer to us. Only that the more special terms let be optional, because I am not sure that where live camel there grow also bananas.
     -- This is great, father, whole thousand dinars and even above this! I will check first thing tomorrow. Only ... let us remove the camels, but add also Helga, if you want, ah? And as to the rabbits, we should ask somebody from the neighbours, right? Superb, I will surely find some island cheaper, with bananas and monkeys, and coconuts, and ... I don't know what more.
     -- Very good, sonny, but in regard of Helga I don't know, because she may not want to come, or may have other plans. It is necessary first to ask her.
     -- Come on, dad, she may not want, as if I don't see that if you decide to take her to Jupiter, she will also agree. You leave this thing to me. If she will begin to falter then I will persuade her. Because men must help one another, right? -- said Dieter proudly.
     Look at him, the "man", he will begin soon to substitute me also in the bed, thought the father, yet smiled contentedly. There's nothing to do, we are living in 22nd century and the children accelerate with terrifying speed. He patted him on the back and then, as if casually, asked:
     -- But now tell me, how do you think, will your first father want to take you permanently? Because he, right, has not applied for this?
     -- Ah, you think about this? Well, I don't believe that he will, and I also have not yet decided. With you and Helga it is more fun, I'll tell you.
     -- And why will he not want, you have not quarreled with him, have you?
     -- No, nothing of the kind, we get along with him very well, but his girl has messed the things. And he is also a bit naive, but maybe all men are such, when they grow up, I mean. Otherwise he is a merry man and if you want I can introduce you sometime. You will probably like one another. Only that he prefers this smelly schnapps, but this is his business. I, when am not yet drinking, have no rights to express opinions, right?
     -- Hmm, and what has messed his girlfriend, if this is not a secret? -- voiced Siegmund.
     -- Well, they quarreled somehow, and later split. And he, I am telling you, was quite naive and all the time said that from the nose and below I am very like him, but in the eyes and the forehead am like she. Old wives' tales, if you ask me, because no man can recognize his semen, right? Yet he believed in this and after they had their row I as if began to bore him. Maybe I remind him about her, I don't know. Yet despite this we got along just nice. Well, with you it is different, because you don't think that I resemble you, do you?. You don't seem to me to be so silly, dad.
     -- Yes, yes, naturally, -- answered the father, quite surprised by the sober judgement of the boy --this is pure coincidence, a freak of nature, Dieter. I like you because we go along well, but to think that you look a bit like me -- no-o, I am not so ignorant.
     -- Well, that's what I also thought. So let us dine, ah?
     -- Good, my son. You set the table, and I will go out to take a bit of fresh air and smoke a cigarette, as well as to look whether our rabbits already sleep -- and Siegmund headed for the court because needed some time to order his thoughts.

     Dec.1998

     
     
    * In Bulgaria is used six-grade system where the highest (6) is excellent and is equivalent to A, then very good (5) means B, good (4) is C, etc.



END OF THIS PART



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