And here I have a world - a big, blue, cold one, and it's stabbed with airplanes and stars.
Tell me, my heart, how I should live in it without you so that it wouldn't hurt me?
1. 2330th year. Benji.
The future has encircled Benji in July 2330 on the way home to Orly from Swiss UBS AG. The android was driving there after a personal identification procedure, because the bank was insisted on it, no matter what. He was coming back with the authorized code of the safe deposit and caproplast imitation of his thumbprint.
He was driving the delicate plastic rented flyer at the height of thirty meters above the E23.57 track into the rich orange sunset over Besancon City, when he heard a gentle metal jingling. Just then the gyropilot for the first time started to alarm about the course malfunction. If Benji was a human, he would be scared already then. But he wasn't. Without hesitation he has tested aircraft electronics, did not find any technical violations and has restored a course backup. However it reported a failure again in less than a minute. The android restored a course and tested the flyer's software again. And again didn't find any errors.
Nevertheless the angle of dismissal still was slow and steady crawling up to the critical one-tenth-of-a-degree point. Benji froze at a loss, started the testing for a third time not really hoping for anything and found out an alien code in factory settings of the gyropilot's software. He had deleted it, and that removal turned out to be the not pilot's but total failure.
The flyer shuddered and plunged down keenly. Benji had no choice but to obey, while holding it on a minimum glide path.
The ground greeted him with clouds of dust and smash of crushed chassis.
Benji didn't feel fear, but set loose the helm only after the flyer bounced off the concrete wayside twice and stopped. He pushed the door at full tilt and got out. The alike fliers as purple and tiny little as flies were going along the way above him.
He had no experience of similar passages. He definitely understood he should then to report about incident, but notwithstanding that he was machine he didn't have any transmitter parts.
He came back into the cab, squatted down and took up the dismantling of the plastic dashboard with an eye to a phantom-feeder device of the dead flyer. He scarcely managed to find ferrite rims strung on the cable close by to connection points, when alien chassis rustled outside the flyer.
It turned out that he didn't have time to get up at all; he'd been attacked by two at once - one rushed to scotch his eyes and mouth, while the other one tightly pressed him to the floor. Whereas he, blind and tied, was drugged out of the cab, he realized that the event was anyway getting nasty.
And then they hauled him like a stolen ATM, don't concerning about his frame at all, ruthlessly crippling the photosensors and delicate gyroscopes on his face. Benji was dodging away as best as he could and, in hindsight, scolded himself for insouciance and unconcern... however, there was no sense in that anymore. So when he was crammed into the narrow and airtight luggage compartment, he even temporarily felt a relief.
As a result, he didn't know where he was brought. He only knew that along the way kidnappers twice changed a flyer and twice shifted him from craft to craft, like a suitcase. Twice he tried kicking on a stopover, but for the second time he was kicked in return so hard, that in his chest something broke off and fell with a loud crash, and he has quieted down.
The destination room eventually was small and cluttered with equipment, because there something clicked and chirred all the time, and he could hear muffled footsteps and voices. Benji was squeezed and tightly packed into the armchair, similar to the "maternity ward" in which he woke for the first time, only this time there was a correct counter-fitting connector for every, even tiniest, connector on his hull.
Benji wiggled his fingers a bit, and his scotched mouth stretched into a goofy smile, as he caught himself on the idiotic thought that his current, thoroughly connected docking condition is very much like coitus. Here it is, a love of universe, clothed in the matter, he thought.
"It's still grins!" someone was surprised.
"It's maybe a little damaged in its mind." he was answered. "These idiots, while they dragged it here, didn't particularly stand on ceremony. There is something rattles in it. They maybe even beat off that stuff this piece of iron calculates with."
"It doesn't matter," the first voice said. "It would be great if it hadn't deleted what it's been carried for."
Well, Benji thought, it's all the fault of that damn money, and has prepared to delete the UMA-deferred codes.
But together with this thought such a tough high-frequency ripple burst into him that what a few seconds ago was his volition melted and evaporated like a small water drop from a red-hot metal. The android has skipped out an alarm and sorrow and reckoned that the time in this chair will be the end of his awkward and bumbling life.
"Look, Jake!" meanwhile, the passionate reality was wondering. "Looks like I found what we need! Damn asshole! It put them in his UMA! It's like I would hide the keys to my house in my stomach!"
And answered itself: "Calm down, kid! I can't catch up why are you touched as if it put them in a butt instead of a brain."
The reality burned him and muttered, muttered, muttered; Benji listened, and inside him grew such a nameless tender pity for her, lonesome, loveless, forlorn, that through the burning ripple he'd made effort and in the nearly orgasmic paroxysm has spilled in her all the rest - codes, memories and plans for an upcoming eternity.
2. 2322nd year. Aia.
Aia was ten years old, when it all began. The start was common and sad - her father died of brain cancer. The disease drained him right in front of her eyes.
At first his job at the lunar wharf was ruined. Instead, there were mother's sobs, oncologists, analyzes and endless queues among the same ones as him - unfortunate and silent victims who don't understand whose evil intentions are going to break them down.
The meandering along all sorts of institutions, still pretending having a health care system in the country, had been lasted almost six months, and then her father eventually has went on disability. He'd finally sat down at home in a chair and started to nurse quietly his tumor.
The tumor was untreatable, but not harmful. He didn't almost have headache attacks and any other stuff, which was obligatory with such a serious state of affairs. He's just started walking with them not so far and not so often. After a while, one of his eyes began to shift, moving away from the living inside his skull ruthless monster. But he still smiled at her: "You're here alone, and I'm sort of looking straight at you, but it seems like there are two of you here."
And Aia still smiled him back: "It's just a trifle, dad. You'll see, everything will be fine."
And then the "good" was crushed. One day he has just passed out on the floor and got to hospital.
When they'd left him there, and he stood by the window sad and lonely and watched them go, Aia for the first time felt that everything was wrong.
Subsequently, everything had been only condensed and concentrated, forming a reality she did not want.
After a week, he was released home with sick-pay and started to wait for the logical end at home.
At first he attempted to read. Everything was doubled in his eyes, and he closed his unruly left eye with his hand or eyepatch and continued. But the monster inside didn't turn down. It lived and swelled sucking all the gists out of the body that carried it.
Aia's father withdrew one step at a time: it was harder and harder for him to get up in mornings and sit in the chair. And then, while headache attacks came, he'd finished reading and had been listening to the radio earphone and dying away quietly, and that was business of his life.
Doctors from the ambulance service who visited them during his headaches more and more often pricked him with a sleeping and analgesic mixture and shook their heads in frustration looking at Aia's mother: "Why don't you, dear, ease his suffering?"
"He wanna live in full consciousness," mother answered, sobbing.
He did not want.
"Don't worry, daddy," Aia whispered, looking at his skull, draped in a skin. "Anyway all will be all right."
The monster peeped out more and more boldly through the nostrils of this skull, and Aia felt relieved that her father was already almost blind and could not see the horror splashed in her eyes.
"I don't, honey," he answered, barely able to move his tongue. "Soon it will be all the same to me. It's you and mom don't worry. You have to move on."
And then the fiend that does not have a mouth devoured him. Totally.
Doctors who flew to the next challenge, once again pricked him intravenously something that alleviated his agony and told Aia's mother: "He's dying, sweetheart. He can be reanimated, but try to reckon a bit onward - it's not obligatory for all of you. If shake and pull him out today, a similar turn would be happen tomorrow. Or the day after tomorrow. So he will die as many times as you make us bring him back to you. Eat something sedative and free him. "
Aia almost didn't feel a grief. She didn't cry. Her father's death, cremation and next few days had been going quietly and ordinarily.
And then, in one stunning morning, she has originated her father back.
3. 2033rd year. Lukasz.
Actually, the first Maker was a Czech. The Maya tribe were still right making up their calendar. The Maya tribe were right predicting the beginning of the sixth sun era at the end of year 2012. First Maker was conceived exactly on December 21, 2012, and the beginning of a new world has coincided with his arrival.
However, a few months before first major origination, a graduated physicist and psychic named Sam Bibich issued some uninteresting patent to some worthless generator of psy-energetic shield.
As a kid, first Maker Czech Lukasz Lansky was very much like his peers.
Like any normal boy he had some weird dreams in which sometimes he had a strange wings and terrible claw paws. Like any normal boy whose parents do not strain him too much he also spent all his childhood in nearby courtyards.
In his spare time little Lukasz played football with his friends, run like a crazy one with the Jedi sword which was carved from a handle for a mop with the penknife, stole in the nearest supermarket on a dare cigarettes and soda in front of video cameras and other security stuff.
Since the boy studied not so badly, parents almost didn't bother him, allowing almost everything that didn't go too far beyond bounds of decency and common sense. Periodically appearing strange things such as self-crawling plasticine or lego robots didn't come across and didn't bother anyone. You never know what a children dream about...
By the time of first major origination Lukasz Lansky was almost twenty years old. He has graduated from public gymnasium of Jan Kepler, he has tamped in his head combinatorics, fundamentals of probability theory, analytic geometry, set theory and had no one star snatched from a sky in assets. And he also had a girlfriend named Alice.
Summer of that year was amazing. July was hot and torrid as it should be in July. The study was over, holidays have begun, and next fortnight promised to be cloudless and pleasant.
Linden trees blossomed. Prague smelled of linden so lusciously, greenly and so tenderly that anyone's head was spinning. Lukasz and Alice walked a lot in parks and squares.
The summer buzzed, and nothing foretold troubles.
At that very day also everything flowed as usual.
"Hi! How about beach?" Lukasz shouted from below.
"Why not," Alice shrugged by the third floor balcony.
What else could you do on a similar summer day except to languish with the heat which began in May?
On the right bank of Vltava, behind the tunnel in Vysehrad crag, immediately after the yacht club, a large city beachs tretched. Of course, a river is not a sea. Of course, water in this river was dirty, and one could only look at it. Nevertheless, the beach stretched for almost a kilometer. And as for swim...
You didn't have to do it.
They sat very near a water. Lukasz was in yellow swimming trunks, Alice was wearing a blue bikini. The river flowed quietly, sleepily and majestically. Up and down along the stream, the delicate openwork Vltava bridges arched their aristocratic backs gracefully. The sun and clouds sparkled in leisured water.
At the Palacky Bridge a motorboat ended the turn and started to speed up. It was a white lovely three-ton one with a broad red stripe and the inscription "Aiax" on the starboard side. It went slick and smoothly as if neither wind no current weren't able to break the plans of its invisible captain. And yes, strictly speaking, it was so.
Neither Lukasz nor Alice nor even any others in this July morning couldn't imagine that this boat was not just an ordinary piece of iron with a displacement of three tons, but a faint breath of something incomprehensible and powerful, something what in a matter of seconds would whirl the very reality they were used to. Like a light speck of dust.
Meanwhile, the boat completed its turn, and its nose turned out to be exactly in the direction of beach.
Then, much later, when very few people remembered the incident, and Lukasz was all everyone was talked about, most attentive ones remembered that the captain of that boat surrounded by a palisade of television cameras gave the impression of a deranged.
"I turned around at the Palacky Bridge," he told to reporters of Prague Mezzo-TV, "and this damned boat speeded and went parallel to the embankment, but at the very beach it sharply wagged to the right and was thrown ashore. At the time of flight through air, there something hit in one of the screws, something horrible, it stopped spinning for a while, the motor stalled, but on the arc I was again thrown into a water and whirled. I braked and dropped anchor immediately.
Alice got under the screw.
They ran away from a water and this rushing nightmare, but the boat flew straight at them. Probably, fate howbeit has some hands. Probably, that was the same very ruthless hand of fate: Lukasz ducked as he could, covering his head with his hands, and horror raced a couple of centimeters above his head.
The movement of Alice was exactly the same: to duck and cover her head with her hands, but the wind lifted by the screw of the boat ruffled her long hair, and they went into the turnover of blades, rotating above her head, with one jerk. Lukasz was thrown back into the sand by the powerful hit of her body twisted into a propeller, and in the first couple of seconds felt nothing but astonishment. Somewhere ahead of him, a similar young couple was running in a similar panic. He's to the left, she's to the right. The screw that wrapped Alice around himself had passed them, scratching a sand, and the blond Alice's head and her hands bounced off a sand and could not stop.
And then Lukasz experienced the revelation.
He heard about it before and regarded it as a spontaneous act of self-understanding. Hitherto regarded.
What got him at Vysehrad beach was not just an understanding.
The impulse which seized him was simultaneously an intellectual and emotional phenomenon. While he was looking at the death before his eyes and the crowd frozen in the general scream, he got a strange and very deep aesthetic experience: what was his consciousness, what could be called his soul, gently slipped and turned inside out.
What happened was not just a transformation of unconscious into conscious.
Myriad of tiny coordinated relationships that all these many billion years of evolution on Earth have been closed to each other inside unreliable disparate meninges have revealed and unfolded to Lukasz outside, like dahlia petals or like faint tentacles of actinia.
Lukasz didn't just receive his sight. He was in the thick of an amazing live net which he didn't have the heart to call it so. It wasn't a web. It was musical strings of reality itself. He didn't have to look for some special cognitive-behavioral approach to this particular reality, discovered by him, just as a male doesn't need to look for it with the aim of to deal with a warm female body.
In these few endless seconds he understood himself, understood his difficulties, got what leads to their emergence and realized that he could change all this.
Reality gave herself to Lukasz, and he took it.
What had just been Alice, irretrievably lost, turned out a succession of coherent notes, a titanic biochemical fugue which he had to play. And he has played. First - what flew off with the boat to the Vltava and began to diverge in even darker circles in a dark water, then - what was left on the shore: big symphonies and small spattered strettos.
The crowd who had shied away from the place of tragedy has swayed onward again. What happened in front of the astonished Prague was the first ever origination act. Lukasz didn't just resurrected his girlfriend, he literally gathered her in parts.
Reporters and Prague emergency doctors which was called out to the scene found the excited crowd, the pale captain and passengers of Aiax, several women who were in an half-unconscious state? and Lukasz who was bending over the naked but alive Alice.
For the next few days, the captain of the ill-fated boat have been in the police station, Alice - in the NATO hospital, and Lukasz who felt euphoric of the abruptly opened to him horizons not only allowed the Czech State Security Officers to transfer him to the Interpol, but already there, in Paris, he, tormented by thoughts of changes threatening reality, told a short wrinkled Colonel the story about Sam Bibich and his generator. This generator powered by a common electrical network of several hundred volts could reflect the reality strings within a radius of several kilometers and again loop them back on themselves thereby allowing any Maker to act only on the reality inside the field. The only drawback of Bibich's device was that it could work for its intended purpose only in zero gravity, in the absence of massive material objects.
A world was excited. None of cameras had the opportunity to record the resurrection of Alice, but several mice resurrected by Lukasz became heroes of latest world news.
The crowd by and large didn't worry. The crowd gladly swallowed new blocks of sensations alternating with advertising in which flashed Lukasz's face, then white coats, then someone's epaulettes, and after that the crowd leisurely drank the advertised beer, worked, rested and made babies.
But the World Establishment found itself face to face with a mismanaged confusion: Lukasz could in jest to break the harmonious financial and economic system of the whole planet. He could, in theory, do such things which the economic elite even could not imagine.
This panic was both amusing and puzzling for Lukasz.
The first and last Bibich's generator assembled in the Russian National Research Center "Kurchatov Institute" generated the necessary field, but instead of, as expected, looping the strings back on themselves, it confused by the presence of powerful terrestrial gravity only slightly distorted them.
Humanity has meanwhile been deciding what to do with Lukasz.
Proposals were considered from a most prosaic to most incredible. Of course, the first one was a banal liquidation of the Maker on the principle of "no man, no problem". And Lukasz knew this. Moreover, he also knew that the humanity, in its stubborn pursuit of good nature, will end up with leaving him alive.
The final decision was not easy, but beautiful. It even did a credit to the humanity: humanity has decided not to repeat experience of ancient Judea and leave its next messiah alive. It was decided to organize a large orbital station covered with a Bibich's shield, the main attraction of which would be the only one Maker - Lukasz Lansky.
So Alpha appeared on the Earth's orbit.
4. 2322nd year. Benji.
Benji has long realized that human beings, unlike robots and Makers, misunderstand many things. Self-understanding in itself doesn't bring to people any relief.
A long time ago, through work of Appelbaum, humanity asserted that patients of psychiatric clinics are not cured simply by reading their case descriptions and by results of psychological tests. For some incomprehensible reason, neither an explanation of causes nor the description of consequences help them. People don't understand the Universe.
But robots... that's quite another matter. Or Makers. Both those and others did not experience illumination, but they constantly lived in it. Ones by virtue of the fact that from birth untill to very death were free from the burden of instincts and the unconscious, others because of close integration of their personal experience into the external universal gestalt.
Benji was an android of the class AI-DII and did not belong to first generation. He had beed working on the shuttle and was engaged in the delivery of newly announced makers to Alpha. He was the only member of crew of his small ship.
The fact that the job had been taken by him rather than a man was explained not so much by the amendment to "World Declaration of Rights" adopted by the United Nations two and a half centuries ago, but by the fact that non of human being would agree to work in such a conditions.
No, it was not difficult. Quite the contrary. The shuttle was not at all the top of engineering genius. It was a normal small orbiter, the only unusual feature of which was that for convenience it was equipped with an active-passive docking device "pin-cone" of a non-standard type. The passive half of device protruded in Alpha - in a place where the arch of its durable glassium dome converged with the central sole, and the active half almost belonged to Benji.
The singularity of gateway made the small shuttle unfit for any other use.
Is it worth mentioning that flights were made sometimes only once a decades and led to the fact that this job without any additional work was so low-paid that even the most true ascetic could not be able to make a living in this way?
Benji has been assigned to the shuttle since his birth and this suited him.
The answer to the question, why it's he and not some ordinary machine properly programmed and not having the slightest idea of specificity of task being performed, was also obvious to him. Because Makers were a very unconventional category of passengers who received a bonus from the Universe and compensated for this bonus by a sharp restriction of its use.
"World Declaration of Rights" ordered Makers to use Alpha and only Alpha in order to preserve rights of others beings.
Benji didn't have a true psyche, or rather his psyche was radically different from human's one.
Such an existence would be unbearable for some average person, but he wasn't a human. There were completely different components in the logical structure of his computing system: in intervals between flights, Benji felt great, climbing into a deep niche in the engine compartment of his non-standard ship and stucking his fingers into its electronic connectors, and energy flowing from solar panels located on wings of his ship was more than enough for him to drift in the realm of unlimited possibilities of IEEE 802.11.
The pleasure that Benji took while traveling the World Wide Web wasn't the pleasure of a drug addict.
Yes, life that was blazing during spare time from working in his fixed body, was even brighter than periods of stirring activity for the benefit of his employer. If an android had had a human experience, he could compare his immobile network's years with the state of unborn human fetus: Benji's fingers, tightly stucked into narrow feeder connectors of parental shuttle, looked like a thin umbilical cord, connecting his fragile and small body with a boundless outer ocean.
But even if he wished, if he had had any wishes, he could hardly imagine such a caricature situation in which the narcotic hangover would torment his processor during a withdrawal syndrome.
Yes, it's true that Benji liked semantic ripples that the human race resented in the net. Yes, it's true that Benji's favorite pastime was a study of semantics of sign systems. Yes, it's true that sometimes he seemed to himself a hooked worm who ponders the fishing. But it's also true that he didn't depend on it at all.
The year 2322 was marked by the fact that a new Maker appeared on Earth, and Benji had to deliver her to Alpha.
Benji was standing with his back to ones who came.
"coi doi nixli*,"he said.
There were three of them. The man, the woman and the Maker child. Benji turned to face passengers to see them. The man and the woman were excited; the girl was smiling and holding a black skinny cat.
"What is your name?" she asked.
"Benji," Benji replied, and his charming terracotta mouth stretched into a smile? too. "In Lojban it means courier. Do you know Lojban?" and he held out his thin hand to the child.
"I don't know yet what I don't know. I'm Aia. You have beautiful fingers, Benji," and she turned his silvered palm upward so that she could better see star plugs that covered android's palm with bizarre patterns.
Passengers had a little baggage. Exactly as much as rules of deportation prescribe: a hand luggage, a light vacuum suit for each, three hundred liters of water and some chemistry.
Benji had helped pack it all in the cargo hold, then, according to the job description, checked once more the fastening of the passenger gondola to the forward of the fuselage in all four points, closed both hatches, waited until his passengers calm down in their armchairs, neatly inserted his hands into fossas of touchpad and started counting down.
"Tell me about yourself, Benji," the child said.
She was sitting in the passenger seat - small, skinny like her cat, tightly wrapped in the G-suit which reached her ginger hair.
The android had defined the task of communication as having equal priority to prelaunch preparation and turned to the child his serious terracotta face: "What do you want to know, Aia?"
"How do you like, for example," and she stirred her little legs sticking from swelled compensating pants.
"The way how I like is a little different from the way how people like," Benji smiled. "I like to receive information and like to delete it. I like to have the correct identifier and like to confuse traces among strange servers. I please to distribute currents between different tasks and I realy like when this task is one. I'm different. .ije ji'a .ai galfi da* And what about you?"
"I like ice-cream and when I don't flattened like a dead jellyfish on the shore," Aia barely squeezed out: the shuttle that Benji held with his fingers for a hard electronic bridle, at that time had slightly wagged his stern, turned, shifting the dynamic pressure so that it passed through the center of gravity of the whole system, and headed toward the vast gloomy thunderclouds.
".uenai*," Benjisaid. "You're a human being and you like a common human stuff. When I was born I'd got a nothing inside me, but simple algorithms. But I found everything else myself: "ssh myworld -l benji" - password, login... and "welcome home, Benji!"
Aia barely turned, straightened the blown cradle that had slid aside, and Benji heard meow in this cradle.
"I wonder how you see the network from the inside," she whispered.
These nine minutes to the orbit were excruciating for her and for her cat.
"I think it takes place about the same way as you see the reality from the inside," Benji's elbows neatly shifted as he was tracking reports of ship's systems -the angle of attack, fuel level and amount of the excess heat on shuttle's shell. "The difference is that instead of the biochemical stimulus and physical strength I used to use the electromagnetic field in order to communicate with my world. And I can play several instruments at the same time. I've got enough."
Meanwhile, the sky gradually darkened, became black and velvety, sharp stars appeared densely in it. Water droplets which were trailing behind hydrogen stabilizers finally turned into a glistening jet of sparks. Then the Earth had fell down keenly and rounded out.
Alpha was somewhere above and to the right.
"Alpha, do you hear me? It's Benji. How can I get a docking?" the android shifted his hands to the long slot of communicator.
"O! coi doi benji .i .ui tirna do*,"he was answered the pleasant, dense baritone. "Hatches are at your service."
"ki'e*,"Benji responded and began docking.
"I'll miss you.I'd like you to talk to me sometimes while I'll be here," Aia said.
"tezu'ema*," for the first time in his life, Benji surprised while his orbiter was attaching to the elastic glassium with a loud smacking sound.
coi doi benji .i .ui tirna do* -Hi, Benji. I'm glad to hear you.(Lojban)
ki'e* -Thanks. (Lojban)
tezu'e ma* -What for? (Lojban)
5. 2034th year and after. Robert.
First segment of Alpha was put into the orbit after almost exactly a year after the incident at the Vysehrad beach.
The Earth was in a hurry: Lukasz periodically slept, and these dreams were uncontrollable by him. He was saved only by the fact that large transformations were accompanied by a sharp temperature drop, and cold froze his monsters.
Lukasz slept in an embrace with Bibich's generator, trying to curb the situation.
About a month before Lukasz's migration to Alpha, a new Maker appeared on the Earth. The world is filled with astonishing occurrences of coincidence and synchronicity that defy explanation. The new Maker was a thirteen-year-old boy named Robert Vandarli, the son of one of engineers of the Flight Control Center in Houston. This was a surprise for everyone, exept Lukasz, who had ceased to be lonely. At the end of October, 2034, the shuttle delivered two passengers to Alpha, and one of them was a child - for the first time in the history of astronautics.
As time passed, Alpha was enlarging and complicating, and in a few years it already didn't look like aluminum can. Now it was a huge glassium hemisphere, it reached several kilometers in diameter, and in the middle of its top was mounted the VNIITFA brainchild - the multi-legged black gravitator.
The gravitator made possible an appearance on Alpha of soil, plants, the Valley with its water terraces and even several animals. Now Alpha was a fairy kingdom about which mothers of the Earth told their children before going to sleep.