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"I think that after what has just happened, my further stay here becomes pointless. Excuse me, gentlemen, but I have to leave you." - said Levshov and disappeared round the corner.
When Levshov, running along the corridor, reached a rest- room, an alarm siren went off somewhere inside the building.
Fortunately, the restroom was empty. Levshov stopped in front of the sink and opened the faucet. The first thing was to do something about the clothes...
... A guard's uniform turned out to be fairly convincing.
Now, the face. Two lumps of cyborg-bacteria formed under the skin on the left and on the right made the cheekbones look much wider. Levshov looked in the mirror and decided that his jaw also needed some padding out. Then he broadened his nose a little bit. And finally, as an afterthought, he grew under the faucet a little false mustache and stuck it to his upper lip.
When Levshov reappeared in the corridor, the siren was still sounding, and everybody was running along the corridor, strangely enough, in both directions. When the Colonel, who had finally regained control of his legs ran past, Levshov stood at attention and saluted him. The Colonel distractedly glanced at a new guard with broad cheekbones and rakish little mustache, whom he had never seen before, curtly nodded and ran along.
Levshov really had nothing more to do here. But before leaving the building he had to examine the adjacent streets.
He asked NanoTech to hook him up to a bird flying over the building. A second later he was looking at the world with the eyes of a pigeon soaring above. Levshov was mostly interested in the street where the main entrance to the building was situated. It was long since the last time Levshov had flown as a pigeon, so the first couple of wing beats were not very successful, the pigeon lost alt.i.tude, and for a moment it seemed that he was going to crash.
However, the flying skill quickly returned - after all, flying a pigeon is like riding a bicycle, you only need to learn it once and the skill remains for a lifetime. Levshov quickly pulled the pigeon out of a dive, and landed in the street in front of the main entrance. The pigeon walked a few meters along the sidewalk, until he found a suitably large puddle, right opposite the entrance. The water in the puddle suddenly began to grow murky and whitish.
Levshov disconnected from the pigeon and started walking towards the exit. The guard at the exit had only enough time to say "Your ID..." and turned to stone, as Levshov walked past him.
In the street, a few amazed pa.s.sers-by could see how a big white bubble started to grow from a puddle right opposite the main entrance to a gloomy imposing building without any signs. In a few seconds the bubble turned into a very strange-looking, compact single-seater car. One could see only one seat under its transparent upper body. There was no driving wheel in front of the seat, no pedals, no control panel. The strangest thing of all was that the car didn't have any doors. In a few more seconds a mustached guard with high cheekbones came out of the building and approached the strange car. A big oval hole suddenly appeared in the car's upper body. The pa.s.sers-by were staring with their mouths wide open. "Good morning" - said the polite guard, eased himself into the hole, and sat in the only seat there was. The hole immediately healed over as if it had never existed, and the car pulled out without producing any sound or exhaust gases.
In fifteen minutes' time, when Levshov was already driving along an out-of-town highway he saw his pursuers.
The car increased its speed. And then it sprouted wings, like aircraft wings. In one more minute it got off the ground, and its wheels dissolved - not retracted or folded, but dissolved, while at the same time the wings became a little longer. In a few more seconds the plane left his pursuers beyond the horizon.
The plane was flying eastwards, towards the rising sun, climbing higher and higher. For the first time in the last few days Levshov had a chance to sit back and consider the situation. He was to account to the NanoTech Network Administrators' Board for his use of the Administrator Resources, but he was not much concerned about this - he had used the Administrator Resources exclusively for self- defense, this would be corroborated with the records of what his eyes had seen, and he was absolutely confident that the Administrators' Board will vindicate him. His real concern was that the initial plan of an instant revolution had failed. Of course, he had foreseen the resistance of the System, but he had never expected it to be so vehement - as any inventor he was p.r.o.ne to see only the advantages of his invention, and he had believed that he would be able to make these advantages obvious to anyone. Only now he was beginning to see that the struggle between Communism and Capitalism would continue as long as the struggle between Reason and Instinct inside the human soul. That is, probably, forever. The Administrators' Board had to come up with a new plan of action.
The plane momentarily entered a cloud to take additional "raw material". The engines grew in size, became more powerful. The wings swept back readying to pa.s.s through the sound barrier. The plane continued climbing. It became cold in the c.o.c.kpit. Levshov's clothes started to transform from a guard's uniform into something thick and warm, with a built-in thermal control system. Levshov got warm and fell asleep. He wasn't worried about ground radars - the plane containing no metal was absolutely invisible to them.
NanoTech was piloting the plane further and further to the east. Soon, a green carpet of impenetrable Siberian taiga forest was stretching under the plane from horizon to horizon...
In a couple of months after the above events, a retired secret service general started haunting the corridors of the Russian parliament. He was said to had been forced into an early retirement for disgracefully failing a very secret operation. What kind of operation, n.o.body knew, because it was too secret. It was also rumored that the general had been so much upset by his failure that his mind became slightly deranged. The General would offer to the members of parliament a leaflet written by himself and reproduced on a copier. The t.i.tle of the leaflet was "Nanotechnology as a Flunky of the International Communo-Masonic Conspiracy".
The leaflet stated that the villainous "masonic communists"
and "rootless internationalists" contaminated the population and the water with "germs remotely controlled by radio", with the aim of subverting the last vestiges of the Russian economy and nationhood by gratuitously providing VCRs and other consumer goods via water taps, as well as by inciting people to stop paying taxes and to dodge military conscription. Further in his leaflet the General mentioned that he had personally arrested the ringleader of the gang that had been carrying out the evil plans of the cosmopolite conspirators, but he soon managed to escape.
"Nowadays 'comrade' Levshov changed his tactics." - wrote the General at the end of his leaflet - "If you take a sample from your water tap today and look at it through a microscope, you won't be able to find in it the remotely controlled germs anymore. Most of them have self-destroyed after Levshov's escape. However, I have evidence that Levshov has not recanted his evil designs.
Lately, in Siberian taiga, in the area around Malyi Ulyui mountain range, whole villages started to disappear. To be more exact, the houses remain, all the things inside the houses, even IDs and money remain, but the people are gone.
I am absolutely certain that the vicious communist Levshov takes the people away into taiga where he has set up his commune, and feeds people with the water directly form Ulyuika river. The last time he went as far as to brazenly take away a whole district. We have got to put a resolute end to this outrage, before the communist plague in the form of remotely controlled germs has spread all over Russia and ruined it, this time irrevocably.
I propose to drop a nuclear bomb on the Malyi Ulyui mountain range. This is the only way to completely sterilize this focal point of infection with remotely controlled germs. I am perfectly aware that this is a very cruel way of dealing with the situation, and a lot of people will die, but when a limb is infected with gangrene, the only way to save the rest of the body is to amputate it."
The members of parliament usually listened to the retired general for a few minutes, then smiled and called the policeman to take the General out of the parliament house because he was not supposed to be there. But on the next day the General would once again find a way to get into the corridors of power and once again tried to hand out his leaflets.
The ideas of the retired general didn't find an echo even in the hearts of the most ardent supporters of the World Conspiracy Theory. "Generally speaking, the General is a well-intentioned old geezer" - they would say - "But he certainly overdid it with that story about VCRs distributed out of the water tap. His ravings discredit our cause, and it would be a good idea if he received some medical treatment".
Then the General suddenly ceased to appear. According to some rumors he now lives in an inst.i.tution where there are ward attendants with a straitjacket always at hand, just in case the General might want to continue his writings about "masonic communists" and "remotely controlled germs".
The current exact whereabouts of Levshov are unknown. It may well indeed be the case that he has retired to Siberian taiga. He might have realized that one should not let us into the Communism just as we are - jealous, greedy and at a loss about what we are supposed to do with our own lives. We would have fought each other, maimed each other, lost any sense of purpose with all that wealth of gratuitous things around us, and ruined our bodies and souls with free supply of vodka. We need somebody to teach us to live a new kind of life, to guide us. We need some rule, some sort of a state.
But not the kind we have seen up till now - all of them based on the same model, the model of a pack of wild animals where the top-dog always receives the best piece of meat and the best female just because he is a top-dog. The main objective of a state based on such a model has always been and will always be to dominate the people, rather than serve and help them.
How to build a state based on the Reason instead of the apish instinct? n.o.body knows the answer to this question.
And it may well be that Levshov, being a true scientist, tries to find an answer in his Siberian experiment on a relatively small group of people, before presenting NanoTech to the whole of the world.
But this doesn't mean that we, each of us, can stop looking for an answer - may be some of us will be able to find it. Just confining ourselves to saying that capitalism and democracy may be bad, but that's the best the mankind has managed to come up with, won't do. There is always something better than the best, but we just have not found it yet.
The only thing that is now definitely known about Levshov is that he also has written a book about the World Communist Revolution that all but happened in the summer of 1997. That book presents the events in an entirely different light from the General's writings. A very curious book it is. The t.i.tle is "The NanoTech Network"...
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Korolyov, Moscow Region, former USSR
Original Russian version - 1997 English version - 1998
The above is a preliminary text of the English translation of a novel that was originally written in Russian. If you are a native English speaker and you have any suggestions as to how this translation could be improved, please don't hesitate to e-mail your comments to [email protected] The current plans are to publish the final English version of this text before the end of 1998 on the Alexander Lazarevich's home page at http://webcenter.ru/~lazarevicha.