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Those of your who'll venture to live exclusively on NanoTech, won't always have tap water readily available, that's why the first thing that you've got to learn is how to extract water from the air. If you have wandered off far along the virtual street, please return now to its beginning. The very first shop in that street is the shop for water-extraction devices. Enter the shop. Inside you'll see lots of water extracting machines of all sizes. Take with your virtual hands the smallest machine, size number 1.
What's coming next is a little bit irregular for NanoTech, and it has to do with the fact that today you are visiting NanoTech for the first time, and you still have not been a.s.signed a "default object", that is, the raw material from which, by default, all the things of NanoTech will be manufactured for you. What I'm going to ask you to do now, you'll have to do maybe only once in your life in NanoTech.
While you continue holding in your virtual hands the water extraction device Size 1, please cup your real hands in the real world. (Those of you who don't have hands, or whose hands are for some reason disabled, will find instructions about what they should do in this case in the virtual book shop, which I'll describe later). Now, in the virtual s.p.a.ce, press with your right thumb the big red b.u.t.ton on the right side of the device. A light must come on inside the b.u.t.ton signaling that you did everything correctly. And now just wait a little. Droplets of whitish liquid will transpire now from the pores on your real palms. Some people may find this unpleasant, but please be patient - as I have already mentioned, you'll have to do this only once. In a few seconds you'll have in your real palms a white ma.s.s which will quickly a.s.sume the same shape as the water-extraction device that you hold in the virtual s.p.a.ce.
Now your first water extraction device is ready. You no longer need to hold it in your real hands, you can put it wherever you like, but not far away, because all the things that you'll be taking from the virtual s.p.a.ce, in real s.p.a.ce you'll be taking out of this device. True, size number 1 is too small, and for most of the things you'll hear an error message: "Object Resources Inadequate". That's why, before you leave the water extracting machine shop, it would make sense to acquire a water extracting machine size number 2.
Since you already have your default object, all you need to do is just grab a Size 2 machine and put it in your shopping basket. On the handle of the basket a yellow light will come on, which is the system confirmation that you have acquired the thing that you put in. After some time a green light should come on to notify you that the manufacturing of this thing in the real world is now complete. After that, in the virtual world, the virtual image of this thing will just disappear from the basket leaving free s.p.a.ce for new things on your shopping list. If the green light is not on yet, that probably means that the Size 1 machine has not yet extracted enough water from the air to manufacture a Size 2 machine. Maybe you'll have to wait half a minute more. An extraction machine of any size fully filled with water has enough resources to manufacture a machine that is one size bigger. Have a look in the real world at your Size 1 machine. I think that by now it should have grown to Size 2.
Now, let's leave the water-extracting machines shop, and stroll around other shops. Let's stop by the baker's shop.
Choose your favorite sort of bread and put it in your shopping basket. Once again, first a yellow light, and then a green one should come on. After that, in the real world, you can take your favorite bread out of the water extracting machine.
I'm not going to accompany your on a tour of the other shops, I think that you already understand how it all works.
If you suddenly get a message that object resources are inadequate, go back to the water-extracting machines shop and select a machine one size bigger. But if you decide to travel (I mean, in the real world, not in the virtual one), choose once again water-extracting machine Size 1, it is very compact and suitable for travel. This time you won't need to press the red b.u.t.ton and extract the material from your own palms, just put it into your virtual shopping basket, and in the real world your machine of, say, Size 40, will quickly shrink to Size 1.
Before we conclude this first tour around the virtual s.p.a.ce of the NanoTech Network, I would like to draw your attention to one of the shops in this virtual mall - the book shop. Enter it. Inside, you see lots of shelves with books. You can take any of these virtual books from the shelf, open it and read it as if it were a real-world book.
Please note that books are grouped according to their subjects. The subjects are written on the labels attached to the shelves. The very first shelf has a label: "NanoTech System User's Help". If you have any questions about the NanoTech Network, you may find the answers in the books on that shelf. Any time you have problems come here. Besides, you probably noticed that in a corner of this shop there is a desk with a computer on it. This virtual computer operates like a real one. It has an on-line NanoTech help, as well as a browser for Internet surfing (as I have already mentioned, NanoTech has a gateway to Internet).
Now it's up to you to learn to walk around this virtual world and to get acquainted with it. When you want to return to the real world, all you'll need to say is: "Close NanoTech Session". Got it?
During the next talks that I'm going to give you I'll tell you how you can transfer your favorite things into the virtual world of NanoTech, if they haven't yet been transferred to it, and how new things can be designed using the NanoTech System. Then I'll tell you how you can use NanoTech to communicate with the people that are as far from you as the other side of the globe. NanoTech is a wonderful communications tool, which will allow billions of people to think together, to make decisions together. The mankind will become a single intelligent being. Nay, not only mankind, all the biosphere, all the hydrosphere of the planet Earth are replete with cyborg-bacteria, and that's why if we wish we can always learn how the soil under our feet or clouds over our heads are doing. The dark depths of the oceans will no longer be a mystery to us and will become a part of ourselves. The weather will no longer be an incomprehensible external force of elements, for we will be able to feel the movements of air ma.s.ses as if they were blood streams in our own body. We will be able to see what birds' eyes can see from the height of their flight, or fishes' eyes from an ocean depth. We'll be able to see the world with the eyes of an ant, a bee, or an octopus. We'll be able to see the world with each other's eyes. The term noosphere, which up until now has been just a beautiful figure of speech, a poetic metaphor, will turn into a physical reality.
And when we have learned to think together, we'll have to address the most difficult issue. As I have already mentioned, there is no access to weapons, or to the tools of control over other people at the user's level. However, such functionality does exist in the NanoTech System, and it would be unreasonable to completely destroy it, since NanoTech will still have to protect itself against the people whose intellect cannot prevail over their apish instincts. We'll have to define who and how is going to use these functions, who and how is going to license the access to them. These capabilities may give their users a tremendous power over the lives of other people, and we must see to it that this power be used for the good of the people, and not against them. Power always corrupts. It awakens in men their animal instincts, the striving for an even greater power, power for power's sake. We'll have to work out a system that will allow NanoTech users to exercise control over those who will be given this power. We've got to come up with such a mechanism of control, which would allow to use these functions only for maintaining the freedom and safety of the citizens of NanoTech, only for fighting the criminals who would dare to encroach upon such freedom and safety, and would never allow the criminals to take possession of these weapons.
This ends my today's talk. I congratulate everybody with the first day of the World Communist Revolution."
The light on TV camera went off, the recording session was over.
- "But you have not actually enabled the access to NanoTech Network for the general public yet." - said the Colonel.
- "I'll do this as soon as this speech will be on the air." - said Levshov - "I don't want somebody to stumble upon NanoTech before time by chance, just by saying some word which sounds like "nanotech". I don't want somebody to be scared to death by this."
- " And you still hope that this will be allowed on the air?" - chuckled the Colonel.
3.2 July 8, 1998. An entry in the personal diary of the CIA liaison officer with special powers in Moscow.
"Strictly speaking, I'm not supposed to keep a diary. And I never did before. I always believed that keeping a diary was something that only acned teenagers do, being unable to understand themselves and the world around them. But now, this is exactly the case with me. Recently I found than I no longer understand myself.
I've just sent to the Center the latest information about Levshov, along with a video recording of his TV address, which, I'm sure, will never be allowed on the air. This address contains some new technical details, which might be of help to our experts trying to crack the NanoTech network.
They had been saying that any casual word said by Levshov, any minute detail might turn out to be the clue. This may well be true.
In this case I just don't understand why I'm doing all this. The more I read Levshov's interrogation transcripts, the less I understand why I should fight against him. Sure enough, he is a communist and an atheist, and I was told ever since I was a kid that G.o.dless communists wanted to destroy our country, our freedom and our democracy, and that it was the duty of any true American patriot... and all that. Maybe that was exactly how it was, and those communists did indeed want to destroy America.
But now I'm sitting here in Moscow trying to understand what this communist and atheist Levshov really says, trying to translate all that he says into terms that are readily understandable to a Christian, and to my dismay I discover that when he talks about the Reason, he refers to what is good and divine in man, while when he speaks about apish instincts he means the Evil and the devil's temptations.
The horror of it is that this man came out against all the evil in the world virtually alone. And I'm forced to fight him. It follows from this that I, who always prided himself on being a true Christian and Patriot, a straight arrow and a champion of Freedom and Democracy, suddenly find myself fighting in the cause of the Evil.
For the first two or three days I did not admit this to myself. I took refuge in patriotism, I told myself that if we don't take over the power of NanoTech, it will be taken over by the Russian nationalists, which will have dire consequences for the freedom and democracy all over the world.
But today I was struck with a disgusting thought: all these justifications are based on the a.s.sumption that Levshov can never win, that this game has only two possible outcomes: either we win, or the Russian nationalists win.
But why can't he win? He can't, because the forces of Evil are too strong, and even when Levshov has all the power of NanoTech behind him, he still cannot win, because the forces of Evil draw their strength from the apish instinct, ages of tradition deeply rooted in the very cultures of peoples, and, what is most important, organizations based on the apish instinct. Organizations are not just a simple sum of their members. Any organization has a will and interests of its own that are different from the wills and interests of the people it consists of. Just as me, each of these people may be against evil, but all of them together will be working to strengthen and expand their organization, because the number one interest of any organization is to protect its own existence through its growth and strengthening.
Levshov trespa.s.ses against the very foundation upon which any organization is based - the apish instinct. And this means that all the organizations all over the globe, warring against each other although they may be, will join their forces to fight him. This man does not have a chance. He will be crushed.
The most disgusting thing following from the above is that I'm on the side of the Evil only because the Evil is strong and therefore will prevail. So much so for the True Christian, Patriot and the Champion of Freedom and Democracy. And now I'll go and get myself drunk. Thank G.o.d, vodka is cheap in Russia...
Part Four: The Crisis
4.1. The General decides to play an All-or-Nothing game.
July 10, 1997, Moscow, the General's office.
There were two men sitting opposite the General: the Head of the special research lab set up to crack the NanoTech System, and the Colonel.
- "The reason that I summoned you here, gentlemen, is to break to you a very bad news: Americans have demanded that we extradite Levshov to them. They have sent us a diplomatic paper to the effect that Levshov had committed a crime on the US territory by illegally infecting the population of that country with cyborg-bacteria, and therefore he falls under the jurisdiction of the US law. The paper contains lots of legal gobbledygook, but it won't hold water as a legal doc.u.ment: all their arguments in support of Levshov's extradition to the US are actually much more applicable to Russia than to the USA. But one can easily see that they didn't even try to make their paper legally valid, because they knew that our government would surrender Levshov to them anyway, just because they are stronger and they have the levers to bring pressure to bear. Although our government is still in session on that issue, the result is easy to guess: Levshov will be taken away from us tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow at the latest, if we use the red tape and delay the processing of all the papers related to his official hand-over.
I would like to hear you opinion why did the Americans suddenly decide to get Levshov into their hands? I now recall that a couple of days ago you mentioned in pa.s.sing that the Americans might soon demand Levsov's extradition."
- the General turned towards the Head of the lab - "But back then I didn't pay much attention to your words. Could you please explain what you meant?"
- "That remark was based on one of our hypotheses about the system that protects the NanoTech Network against unauthorized access. What I mean here is the access at the level of the Network Administrator - at the user's level, as we now understand it, there is virtually no protection at all. But we, just as the Americans, are mostly interested in the access to the Administrator's resources, which include weapons, means of intelligence-gathering, sabotage, remote control over other people's behavior, in a word, all the things we originally developed the NanoTech for, and which Levshov decided to put out of reach of an ordinary NanoTech Network user. To come back to your question, one of our hypotheses is that the Network Administrator doesn't really have any pa.s.sword to access the Administrator's resources."
- "I don't understand." - said the General, surprised - "Then how on earth..."
- "If an ordinary user attempts to request the access to the Administrator's resources, the system will start to check the physical characteristics of the body of the person who makes the request. I don't know which ones in particular - may be the cyborg-bacteria that live inside his eyes will check his iris pattern against iris patterns of the network administrators that are stored in the network. Or they may check some internal characteristics of the body - there must be some other spots inside the body that are just as unique as fingerprints or iris patterns. These unique physical characteristics of a body are a person's biological ID, a proof of ident.i.ty that can't be counterfeited. And if the physical characteristics of the person who makes the request don't match those stored in the NanoTech memory, not only will the system deny access to the Administrator's resources, it may even set off an alarm, with all the unpleasant consequences that Levshov warned us about.
That was our hypothesis. But it's something more than just a hypothesis now. The fact that the Americans did indeed request Levshov's extradition, confirms that we were right. They realized that the only way to gain access to the Administrator's resources is through Levshov himself, and they need him there, in their lab."
- "But will he be of any use to them, if he is most likely to refuse to cooperate with them?" - asked the General.
- "Theoretically speaking, there is one way to gain access to the Network Administrator's resources without his cooperation. Let's a.s.sume that we found a way to put Levshov to sleep..."
- "But you yourself told me that the cyborg-bacteria can destroy any soporific in his body within a fraction of a second!" - exclaimed the General.
- "But what I'm saying now is let's a.s.sume, theoretically, that there is a way. Let me first finish what I wanted to say, and you'll see what I'm driving at. So, let's just imagine that Levshov is, some way or other, knocked out cold, and while he doesn't feel anything we do a little surgery on him: we implant microelectrodes into the nerve fibers that go from Levshov's brain to the muscles of his throat, as well as into his auditory nerve. Let's also imagine that by that moment we have already performed a similar surgery on one of our men, but our man doesn't sleep, and is fully alert. We use ordinary wires to hook up his electrodes to the corresponding electrodes in Levshov's body: throat to throat, auditory nerve to auditory nerve. It may well be that there will be some intermediate amplifiers and signal correction circuits, but I'm not going into technical details here.
And now imagine that our man gives to the NanoTech a voice command to open access to the Network Administrator resources. The action currents from the nerve fibers in his throat are fed through the wires to the nerve fibers going to Levshov's throat inside Levshov's body, and there they are picked up by the cyborg-bacteria living on his nerve fibers. These cyborg-bacteria have no way of knowing that these action currents are not coming from Levshov's brain, and therefore they process it as a command given by Levshov himself. From the standpoint of NanoTech, the request will be made by Levshov himself, and that means that before NanoTech grants the access, it'll check the physical characteristics of Levshov's body. These, of course, will match the physical characteristics of the Network Administrator, and the access will be granted. A message about this will be sent to Levshov's auditory nerve, from where it will be sent by wire to the auditory nerve of our man. As soon as our man gets access to the Administrator's resources, the first thing he'll have to do is to a.s.sign the Network Administrator rights to himself or to some of our people. Then this newly a.s.signed Network Administrator gets access to the Administrator resources in his own name and divests Levshov of his Network Administrator rights. Levshov awakes a virtual n.o.body, and the Network is completely in our hands. Just as simple as that."
- "That's all very fine in theory" - said the General - "but how do we knock him out cold? May be, bludgeon him on the head?"
The Chief of the lab shook his head: "The cyborg-bacteria would immediately repair any damage caused by the blow and he'll recover his consciousness very quickly. We won't have enough time to perform the surgery.
- "Then I just don't understand you." - said the General.
- "Well, I believe that what they have chosen as the standard body characteristics for NanoTech to check prior to granting access" - said the head of the lab - "are some relatively stable bodily features that don't change as the function of the body's physiological condition. Even if we a.s.sume that the body is dead, such features won't significantly change for, let's say, half an hour after the death occurred. If the surgery had been well rehea.r.s.ed, such time period might prove to be adequate."
- "Well, let me make sure I understand you: what you need is Levshov's dead body?" - asked the General.
- "Only a very fresh one." - said the head of the lab.
- "And is this operation of yours well rehea.r.s.ed?" - asked the General.
- "I foresaw that the things might eventually come to this, and so for the last two days we have been continuously training for such an operation. Just in case. But I want to warn you right away that I'm not giving you any guarantees.
We are taking a very long shot. It may turn out that at the moment of death a System Administrator is immediately automatically deleted by NanoTech from the list of persons authorized to access the Administrator resources. Although I doubt that the creators of NanoTech have programed this into the system. I still think it unlikely that the programmers could foresee the current situation. But it's also possible, that NanoTech will be able to detect the commands not only in the nerve fibers of Levshov's throat, but also the same commands in the nerve fibers of our man, and we don't know what the system's reaction might be in that case. Of course, we are going to take all the precautions - we are going to put our man in a box shielded against infrared radiation and we'll only have the wires running out of that box, but one cannot foresee everything, so there is no guarantee.
However, there is a chance. But if they take Levshov away from us, we won't even have that chance to get access to the Administrator's resources."
- "The Americans will have it instead." - said the General somberly - "How many minutes do you give us to deliver the corpse, form the moment of death to the arrival at your lab?"
- "Zero minutes."
- "You mean we'll have to finish him off right in your lab?"
- "You may do that in the hallway right outside the door, but no farther then that."
The General turned to the Colonel: "What are your proposals?"
The Colonel scratched his head: "Well, I can see the following scenario. Tomorrow morning I'll pick up Levshov for an interrogation and take him on a different route that'll take us past the lab's door. As we will be pa.s.sing the lab's door, a stranger that will have entered our building using a false ID card will suddenly approach Levshov and shoot him with a hand gun. The guard who will be escorting Levshov will return fire and kill the stranger.
The stranger will turn out to be a man that has for a long time been suspected of being a hired killer involved in a number of a.s.sa.s.sinations. So it will be a clear-cut case of a hired killing, and there'll be no clues as to who was behind the killing."
- "No clues? And what about the faked ID card?" - asked the General and the Colonel's spirits immediately flagged.
"Well" - continued the General - "under normal circ.u.mstances I would have never OK'd such a messy act. But in view of the fact that we are hard pressed for time, and absolutely everything is at stake... If everything comes out well, we won't have to justify our actions to anyone, including the Americans. If we get hold of NanoTech, the balance of power in the world will immediately change. Success is never blamed. But even if we fail to access the Network, at least the Americans won't be able to do this either - there'll be no Levshov anymore. Colonel, get down to work!"
- "Just a moment," - said the head of the lab - "I want to emphasize one thing: shoot him only in the head. NanoTech will be able to repair any wounds in the heart or any other organs. The bullet must hit him exactly in the middle of his forehead, an inch above the eyebrows, and the bullet trajectory must be strictly horizontal. If you make holes in other parts of the head, I can't guarantee the success of our operation to implant the electrodes."
- "We'll keep that in mind." - said the Colonel.
4.2 a.s.sa.s.sination attempt. July 10, morning, Moscow, Levshov's place of detention
The heavy metal door screechingly opened. The Colonel stood on the doorstep: "Come out, Levshov. Today we are going to another room - I want to show you something."
In the corridor the Colonel lead the way, Levshov followed him with an armed guard behind him. When the Colonel and Levshov turned round the corner, the armed guard momentarily fell behind. Suddely Levshov heard a familiar voice behind his back: "Rejoice, Science! At long last, there is a customer who wants you killed too!"
Levshov turned around. He didn't immediately recognize Mityai. Instead of his usual black leather with chains, he was wearing a dark suit with a tie - a uniform of a civilian-clothes man - which was so much more in harmony with the spirit of the building they were in.
- "And what a customer! You know, Science, I even began to respect you!" - said Mityai slowly drawing out of his pocket his favorite black hand gun.
Levshov was silent. At least he didn't say anything aloud.
NT:> SYSTEM READY.
AL:> ADMINISTRATOR RESOURSES ACCESS REQUEST.
NT:> REQUESTER BEING IDENTIFIED. WAIT...
- "Don't be afraid, Science! You are in a professional's hands. You won't even feel that you are dead!" - Mityai couldn't resist the urge to pick on Levshov for the last time.
NT:> REQUESTER IDENTIFICATION COMPLETE. ACCESS RIGHTS.
CONFIRMED. ADMINISTRATOR RESOURSES ACCESS OPEN.
AL:> PROGRAM: REMOTE CONTROL OF MUSCULAR ACTIVITY.
OBJECT: WHO I AM LOOKING AT.
Levshov was silently and steadily looking at Mityai.
Mityai deliberately gripped the hand gun with both of his hands, extended his arms, and carefully aimed at the Levshov's forehead - on the centerline, one inch above the eyebrows, as per the customer's specifications.
- "I'm sorry, Science. Nothing personal. I'm just doing my job."
- "Stop blabbering! No time!" - snapped the Colonel.
Mityai pressed the trigger, thinking about all that square footage he would enjoy after cutting through the wall of his apartment to the now unoccupied Levshov's appartment.
"I'll remove the range from Lewvshov's kitchen. I don't need two kitchens. I'll make it a living room. It's strange, I didn't hear the report of the gun. But I did press the trigger. Or did I?"
Mityai pressed the trigger once again. Only now he realized that he doesn't feel his finger, doesn't feel the pressure of the trigger on the finger. Mityai looked at his finger and tried to move it. The finger didn't move. Mityai felt panic starting to overwhelm him. He tried to bring his hands closer to his eyes. The arms did not obey. They froze in the extended position with the gun between the hands.
Startled, Mityai began to whirl around. The arms, with the hands holding the gun, were stiff as sticks.
- "Stop this circus!" - snapped the Colonel, starting to move towards Levshov and Mityai. Levshov looked at the Colonel.
It took the Colonel some time to realize that he didn't feel his legs. They became sort of petrified. The Colonel lost his balance and came down. Fortunately, his hands worked and he managed to land on them.