Ocenite etot tekst:



     Translated from the Russian by Antonina W. Bouis
     Introduction by Theodore Sturgeon
     MACMILLAN PUBLISHING CO., INC. NEW YORK
     COLLIER MACMILLAN PUBLISHERS LONDON
     Copyright (c) 1979 by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.
     Translation of Otkrytie sebia.
     OCR: Tuocs


     Contents

     INTRODUCTION
     PART ONE: Footsteps from Behind
     PART TWO: Self-Discovery
     PART THREE: Awakening



     Are you one self or many selves?
     Robert  Anton Wilson, in his Cosmic Trigger, describes his reactions to
various  events  as  those  of  The  Author,  The  Skeptic,  The  Sage,  The
Neurologician, The  Shaman,  and other  personae  -  all Wilson  himself, of
course, and by no means the "multiple personality" image  first made popular
by Dr. Morton Prince in  the early years of this century; facets, rather, of
any whole human being, and not a host of separate entities.
     Who, inside yourself, calmly watches you flying into a rage or drifting
in  ecstasy or capturing an  audience? Do you,  as so  many do, refer  to "a
little person  who  watches"  or  "the part of  myself that always observes,
never participates"?
     (And  why do  so many of us describe the  watcher  as a little  person?
Sometimes I suspect that mine is big-maybe bigger than I.)
     These are the questions-the kinds of questions, of provocations -evoked
by Vladimir  Savchenko and  his  astonishing  novel, for at the heart of his
story  is  the  problem of  self  and  personal  identity.  Krivoshein,  the
brilliant  young experimenter in cybernetics  who is the hero of the  novel,
discovers a way to duplicate human beings and, working secretly, brings into
the world many versions of himself.
     So you  will encounter many Krivosheins here; but  in  no  way are they
identical. This is not cloning, nor  is it the kind of duplication described
by Eric  Temple Bell in The Four-sided Triangle, nor the rather unbelievable
one  I  used  in When  You  Care,  When You Love.  This is  something  quite
different  and,  as  far  as  I  know,  unique.  It's  a computer-controlled
biological matrix, an intelligent fluid, if you like, capable of organizing,
balancing,  integrating organic  substances.  Add  such new  concepts  as  a
holographic  model  as  applied  to  brain function-wherein each cell  of  a
section seems to contain all functions of that section, just as each segment
of a  holograph contains all parts of  its picture-and  you come close to an
understanding  of  Krivoshein's scientific  accomplishment. Fascinating, and
described with such realism that one is tempted to apply for a  grant, build
it, check it out.
     Apply  for  a grant.  .  .  Savchenko  has woven  into  his narrative a
devastating  and  delicious  analysis of  the  internal  politics of a great
research  center doing  erudite  science  which  politicians cannot  hope to
comprehend, but to whom the scientific community must turn for funding. Then
follows the same dreadful situation  so brilliantly described-decried?  - by
Leo Szilard, which  takes the best scientists out of the laboratory and puts
them  in  administration,  where  they must work  shoulder to  shoulder with
administrators who would be hopeless in a  lab. Millions of words have  been
written  about  the  differences  in customs,  cultures, political  systems,
philosophies; how amazing it is to see how very similar  are the symptoms of
this  plague wherever  it  strikes!  Ignorance is  ignorance,  pomposity  is
pomposity, and self-aggrandizement is the  same in any language,  common  as
frustration.  Whoever reads this  and  does not  recognize the administrator
Harry  Hilobok, for  example,  or  the outwardly  grumpy, inwardly sensitive
Androsiashvili, has never been  exposed  to  the internal  workings of large
research centers anywhere.


     It has been observed that a writer says, basically, one thing, and says
it over and over, no matter  how wide  his spectrum or in how many different
ways he  may say it.  I am,  regretfully, unfamiliar with  Savchenko's other
works, but his thrust is clear here. Let me give you some of it by quoting:
     "Man is the most complex and most highly organized system known. I want
to  figure  it  out  completely-how  things are  constructed  in  the  human
organism, what influences it....
     "You  see ... it wasn't always like  this. Once man was up against heat
and frost; exertion from a hunt or from running away from danger; hunger, or
rough, unsanitary food  like raw  meat; heavy mechanical  overloads in work;
fights which tested the durability of the skull with an oak staff-in a word,
once upon  a time the  physical environment made  the  same  demands on  man
that-well,  that  today's  military  customers   make  on  rockets....  That
environment over the  millennia formed homo sapiens-the reasoning vertebrate
mammal. But  in the last two hundred years,  if you start from the invention
of   the   steam  engine,  everything  changed.  We  created  an  artificial
environment  out of electric motors, explosives, pharmaceuticals, conveyors,
communal service  systems,  computers,  immunization,  transport,  increased
radiation   in  the  atmosphere,  paved   roads,  carbon   monoxide,  narrow
specialization  in work-you know: contemporary  life. As an engineer, I with
others  am  furthering  this artificial environment  that determines  ninety
percent of the life of homo sapiens  and soon  will determine it one hundred
percent. Nature will exist only for Sunday outings. But  as a human being, I
am somewhat uneasy....
     "This  artificial  environment frees  man of many of  the qualities and
functions  he  developed  in  ancient   evolution.  Strength,  agility,  and
endurance  are now cultivated  only in  sports,  while logical thought,  the
pride  of  the  Greeks, has  been  taken over by machines. But  man  is  not
developing any  new  qualities-the  environment  is changing  too  fast  and
biological organisms can't keep up. Technological progress is accompanied by
soothing,  but  poorly  substantiated babble that man will always be on top.
Nevertheless-if  you talk not about man, but about people, the many  and the
varied-then that  is  not  true even now, and it will  only get worse. Many,
many  do not  have the inherent capabilities to be  masters  of contemporary
life: to know a lot, know how to do a lot, learn new things quickly, to work
creatively, and structure one's behavior optimally....
     "I would like to study the question of  the untapped resources of man's
organism. For example, the obsolescent functions, like our common ancestor's
ability  to leap from tree to tree or to sleep in  the branches. Now that is
no longer necessary, but the cells are still  there. Or take the "goosebump"
phenomenon-it happens on skin  that has almost no hair now. It is created by
a vast nervous  network. Perhaps these  old  reflexes  can  be restructured,
re-programmed to meet new needs?"


     What an  astonishing,  what  an exciting concept! The  pursuit  of  the
"optimum man" is  certainly not original with Savchenko; it  has thrived for
years  in science fiction as well in what  is termed  the mainstream, and it
powers the current flurry of self-realization, self-actualization movements;
it  exists  in  Shakespeare and Steinbeck, whether  by  exemplifications  of
nobility or  by stark representations of  flawed and faulted people. What is
arresting  in Savchenko  is his idea of retrieving and reprogramming that in
mankind which is present but truly obsolete, rather than that which could be
functional but is merely inactive.
     And  he  resists  the  reductio  ad  absurdum;  witness  this whimsical
interchange:


     "So! You dream  of modernizing and rationalizing man?  Instead of  homo
sapiens we'll have homo modernus  rationalis, hm? Don't  you  think, my dear
systemology technologist, that a rational path might lead to a man who is no
more than  a suitcase  with a  single appendage  to push buttons?  You could
probably manage without that appended arm, if you use brain waves."
     "If  you  want  to  be  truly  rational,  you  can manage  without  the
suitcase," Krivoshein noted.


     Krivoshein-and  Savchenko-are  far too  enamored  of humanity to go for
that.


     Science  fiction  has been  termed a medicine for future shock.  Future
shock  is  that  sense  of disorientation  brought  about  by  the  rush  of
invention, the impact of technical  events  evolving  infinitely faster than
the  bodies and minds of the  common man.  One wonders if Savchenko has read
Alvin Toffler (who invented the term) while realizing that he need not have;
the phenomenon and its effects  are  quite  evident to  anyone who  cares to
look.  Science  fiction writers  and  their proliferating  and  increasingly
addicted readers are, and have been  all along, the people who care to look.
They look with practiced eyes, not only at what is and what will be, but  at
that  entrancing  infinity  of what might  be:  alternate  worlds, alternate
cultures and mores, extrapolations of the known, be  it  space flight, organ
transplants, social  security, ecological  awareness, or any  other current,
idea, or force in a perpetually moving universe: if this goes on, where will
it go? For stasis, and stasis  alone, is unnatural and unachievable and  has
failed every time  mankind has been tempted  to try it.  The  very nature of
science  fiction  is to  be aware  of  this and to  recognize that the  only
security  lies in dynamic equilibrium, like that of the gull in flight,  the
planet in orbit, the balanced churning of the galaxies themselves ... and of
course, the demonstrable fact  that the cells of your body and the molecules
which compose  them are  not at all what they were when  you picked  up this
book. The future can shock only those who are wedded to stasis.
     (Parenthetically,  science fiction writers  are not  immune  to  future
shock,  though  it  may  take  the  form  of  an overpowering  urge to  kick
themselves. Example: up  until very recently there was-as  far as I know-not
one single science fiction story which included a device like the wristwatch
my wife wears, which delivers the time, day, date, adjusts itself for months
of varying  lengths, is a stopwatch  and  elapsed-time  recorder, and  has a
solar panel which gulps down  any available light and recharges its battery.
The development  of  these  microelectronic  devices, now  quite  common and
inexpensive, was simply  unthought of by  science fiction professionals, and
is by no means the only example  of technological quantum leaps which season
our arrogance. It is beneficial  to  all concerned  when our dignitaries are
observed, from time to time, to slip and sit down in mud puddles.)
     Mud puddles, or their narrative equivalent, are far from absent in this
book, for Savchenko has a delicious sense of humor and a lovely appreciation
of the  outrageous. Let us posit, for example, that you are a brilliant  but
not particularly attractive  man with little  concern for the  more gracious
amenities, who happens to be loved by a beautiful and forgiving lady. In the
course of your work you produce a living, breathing version  of yourself who
is a physical  Adonis  and who, further,  has  a clear recollection of every
word, every intimacy, that has ever passed between you and the woman.
     And they meet, and she likes him.
     How do you feel?
     Why?
     And   then   there's  Onisimov-poor,  devoted,   duty-bound  Onisimov-a
detective  in whose veins runs the essence of the Keystone Kop, up against a
case  with a perfectly  rational solution which  he is utterly unequipped to
solve-not  at  all because he  is unable  to understand it,  but  because he
simply cannot believe it.
     Then there's the offensive Hilobok, unfortunately  (as mentioned above)
not   quite   a  parody,  but  the  object   of  not  a  few  instances   of
Krivoshein/Savchenko's irrepressible puckishness, and  a gatekeeper  who  is
certainly  Rosenkrantz   and  Guildenstern  rolled  into  one,  and  a  fine
sprinkling of smiles amid the cascades of heavy ideation.
     Over and above everything else, however-the  mind-bending ideation, the
unexpected narrative  turns,  the  wide spectrum  of  characterization,  the
humor, the suspense-shines the author's love  for and faith  in the species.
As  he  says  through  his  protagonist, he talks  not about man, but  about
people. And at the end, the  very last words of the novel bespeak this faith
and this optimism.
     There's no point in looking  at those last words  now, by the way. They
will carry no freight until you put it there by reading the novel.
     -THEODORE STURGEON
     Los Angeles.











     "When checking the wiring, disconnect power.'
     -A poster on industrial safety

     The brief short circuit in the line that fed the New Systems Laboratory
occurred  at  three  A.M.  The circuit  breaker  at the  substation  of  the
Dneprovsk Institute of Systemology did what all automatic  safety devices do
in these  cases:  it  disconnected the line from  the  transformer, lit up a
blinking red light on the board in the office, and turned on the alarm.
     Zhora Prakhov, the  electrician on duty,  turned off  the  alarm signal
immediately so  as not  to  be distracted  from his  study  of The Beginning
Motorcyclist (Zhora was  about to take the driver's test) and he glanced  at
the blinking  light  with hostility and  expectancy. Usually localized short
circuits in the lab were taken care of at the site.
     Realizing  after an  hour  that there  was  no getting around  it,  the
electrician shut his book, picked up his instrument case and his gloves, set
the pointer  on the  door at "New Syst. Lab." and left the office.  The dark
trees of the institute grounds were waist-deep in fog. The  transformers  of
the  substation  stood  with their oil-cooling pipes  akimbo,  looking  like
shapeless old women. The old institute building hovered in the distance like
a washed-out  snowbank against the graying sky. It  had heavy  balconies and
ornate  towers.  To  the  left,  the  parallelepiped  of  the  new  research
department tried vainly to block out the early June dawn.
     Zhora  glanced at  his  watch  (it  was  4:10),  lit a  cigarette,  and
scattering the fog with his bag, headed right, into the far  corner  of  the
park where the  New  Systems  Lab was  located, housed in a  small lodge. At
4:30,  in  answer to electrician  Prakhov's call,  two cars  appeared on the
scene: an ambulance and a squad car of the Dneprovsk City Police.
     The tall,  thin  man  in  the  light  suit  strode  through  the  park,
disregarding the paved paths. His shoes  left dark  prints  on the  dew-gray
grass. A light breeze ruffled his thinning  gray hair. A blindingly pink and
yellow  sunrise filled the space  between  the old  and new buildings; birds
chattered in the trees.  But Arkady  Arkadievich Azarov had no time for  all
that.
     "Something happened  in  the New Systems Lab, comrade director,"  a dry
voice  had informed him  over the phone a few minutes  earlier.  "There were
victims. Please come."
     Being  wakened  too early gave  Azarov  neurasthenia;  his body  seemed
stuffed  with cotton, his head empty, and life terrible. "Something happened
in the lab....  Please come.... It  must  have been a cop." This ran through
his mind  instead of  thoughts." 'There were  victims....' What a ridiculous
word! Who  were the victims? And of what? Killed, wounded, trousers  burned?
What? Looks serious. Again! There was  that student who got  under the gamma
rays to speed up the experiment, and  then there was ... the second incident
in six months. But Krivoshein is not a student; he's experienced. What could
have happened? They were working  at night, and got  tired, and... I'll have
to put a stop to night work! Absolutely!"
     When  he had  accepted  the offer to  direct the Dneprovsk  Systemology
Institute, Academician Azarov hoped to create a scientific system that would
be a continuation of his own brain. In his dreams,  he  saw the structure of
the  institute developing along  the vertical  branching principle: he would
give general ideas for research and system construction to  the section  and
laboratory directors,  who would  work out the  details  and  plan  specific
projects  for  the  workers,  who  would  try  to....  Then  he  would  draw
conclusions from  the  data obtained and produce  new fundamental ideas  and
principles. But reality intruded harshly on  his dreams. A lot of it was due
to  acts  of  God:  the slow-wittedness  of  some  scientists and  excessive
independence of others; the changes in the construction plans, which was why
the storerooms  and  storage yards  of  the  institute  were piled high with
unopened crates of equipment; the backbiting among  purchasing sections; the
arguments that erupted from time  to time among the institute's members; and
the accidents and incidents.... Arkady  Arkadievich thought bitterly that he
was no closer now to realizing his dream than he had been five years ago.
     The  one-story  lodge  with  the tile  roof shone  white in its idyllic
setting among the flowering  lindens, whose  delicate scent filled  the air.
There  were  two cars  bruising  the lawn by  the concrete  porch:  a  white
ambulance and a  blue Volga with a red stripe. As soon as Arkady Arkadievich
was in sight of the  lab, he  slowed down and started thinking. In  eighteen
months  of its existence he  had  been  in  the  lab only  once, in the very
beginning,  and only  briefly for  a general  tour, and  he really  couldn't
picture what there was behind the door.
     The New Systems Lab  . . . actually, there was no reason yet for Azarov
to take it seriously, particularly since it had come about not as one of his
pet projects, but as the result of an unhappy series of coincidences: eighty
thousand in the budget was  "burning" to be used. There was only a month and
a half  until  the end of the year, and it was impossible to spend the money
according to the  letter of the  law  (Introducing  New  Laboratories).  The
builders, who had  originally promised  the new building by May 1,  then the
October holidays, and then Constitution Day, were now talking about May 1 of
the following year.  The crates  and  boxes of equipment  were crowding  the
parking  grounds. Besides, unused monies were always dangerous  because they
could lead the planning  organizations to cut the budget the  next year. And
so, Arkady  Arkadievich  announced a "contest" at the institute seminar: who
could come up with the best  plan for using the eighty thousand  before  the
year  was out? Krivoshein suggested a "Lab of Random  Research." Since there
were no other suggestions, he had to agree to this one.
     Arkady Arkadievich did so against his better judgment and even  changed
the name to the more proper "Lab for New Systems." Labs were created to suit
people,  and for now, Krivoshein  was  a loner-a fair schematic  engineering
technician  but  nothing  more.  Let  him get  his fill of independence  and
overextend  himself, and  when it came down  to  research,  he'd  beg for  a
director himself. Then they  could look for a good candidate of sciences, or
better yet, a Ph.D., and create the lab's profile to suit him.
     Of  course, Arkady  Arkadievich  did  not discount  the possibility  of
Krivoshein's shaping up. The idea he had proposed at the senior council last
summer  on ...  on  what  had it been?  Oh,  yes, the  self-organization  of
electronic  systems  through the introduction  of  arbitrary information ...
this  idea  could  be  the  basis  for  a  master's  thesis  or  a  doctoral
dissertation. But with his penchant for disagreeing with people and  his hot
temper, Azarov doubted it. Back at that  council meeting,  he shouldn't have
dealt  with  Professor  Voltampernov's   remarks  that  way;   poor  Ippolit
Illarionovich  had to  take  pills after  the  meeting. No, no, Krivoshein's
insubordination was completely inexcusable! There was still no  data to show
that he had proved his ideas; of course, a year wasn't a very long time, but
an  engineer was  no Ph.D.  who  could  get  away with getting  involved  in
research that takes decades.
     And that latest scandal-Arkady Arkadievich winced-it  was  so fresh and
unpleasant.  Krivoshein  had   argued  against  the  institute's  scientific
secretary's  defense of his  dissertation at the  nearby construction design
bureau six weeks ago. Without telling anyone  ahead of time, he  had gone to
an  outside organization and shown up one of his own  colleagues! That was a
slur on the  institute,  on  Academician  Azarov  himself....  Of course, he
himself shouldn't have been  so easy on  the dissertation in the first place
and shouldn't  have  reacted so positively to  it; but he rationalized it by
saying that it would have been nice to have a homegrown institute Ph.D., and
that dissertations  worse than  this one  had been  passed. But  Krivoshein!
Arkady  Arkadievich let him know in spades that he  was not inclined to keep
him in  the institute. But now was hardly the time to be bringing  all  this
up.
     There was a lot of activity in the lodge. The thought of going in there
now to look at it, deal  with it, and explain things gave Arkady Arkadievich
a sensation not unlike a toothache. "Krivoshein again!" he thought fiercely.
"If he's at fault  in this  incident as well...!" Arkady Arkadievich went up
the steps, quickly walked  down  the narrow corridor crammed with crates and
apparatus, entered the room, and looked around.
     The  large room  with six windows only remotely resembled  a laboratory
for electronic and mathematical research. The parallelepiped generators made
of metal and plastic  and the oscilloscopes with ventilation  slots in their
sides stood on the floor,  tables,  and shelves, mingling with flasks, jars,
test tubes,  and bowls. There  were  dozens  of  test tubes  huddled on  the
shelves and cluttering  up the boxes of selenium rectifiers.  The  middle of
the  room  was  taken  up by  a  shapeless apparatus overgrown  with wiring,
tubing, and extension cords;  a control panel was barely visible through the
spaghetti. What was that octopus?
     "I can feel his pulse," a woman said to the left of the academician.
     Arkady Arkadievich turned.  The space  between the door and  the  wall,
free of  flasks  and equipment,  was in  semidarkness.  Two  orderlies  were
carefully transferring a man wearing  a gray lab  coat  from  the floor to a
stretcher; his  head was tilted back and strands of his hair were  damp from
the puddle of some oily  liquid on  the floor.  A petite doctor bustled near
the man.
     "He's in shock," she pronounced.  "Give him an  adrenalin injection and
pump him."
     The academician took a step closer. It was a young man, handsome,  very
pale, with chestnut  hair. "No, that's not Krivoshein,  but who  is it? I've
seen  him somewhere...." An orderly  got the shot ready. Azarov took a  deep
breath and almost choked.  The room  was filled with the acrid odors of acid
solutions, burned insulation, and some  other  sharp  smell-the vague, heavy
smells of disasters. The floor was covered with a thick liquid through which
the doctor and orderlies kept walking.
     A  thin  man  in a blue  suit  entered the  room in an official manner.
Everything about him but his suit was bland and inexpressive: gray hair with
a side part, small gray eyes unexpectedly close together on a bony face with
high cheekbones, and taut, poorly shaved cheeks. He nodded drily to  Azarov,
who  returned an equally  formal bow. There was  no  need for introductions,
since  it had  been Investigator Onisimov  who  had handled  the case of lab
assistant Gorshkov's radiation death last February.
     "Let's begin by identifying the  body,"  the detective said, and Arkady
Arkadievich's heart skipped a beat. "Would you please come here."
     Azarov followed him to the corner by the door to something covered with
a gray oilcloth.  It  was full of angular bumps, and yellow, bony toes stuck
out from the ends.
     "The  work ID found in the clothing we  saw in the laboratory gives the
name of Valentin Vasilyevich  Krivoshein," the detective said in an official
voice, bending back the oilcloth. "Do you corroborate the identification?"
     Life had not often  placed Arkady Arkadievich  face to face with death.
He  felt faint and  unbuttoned  his collar.  The  raised  oilcloth  revealed
sticky, short hair, bulging  eyes,  sunken cheeks,  a mouth  drooping at the
corners,  then   a  prominent   Adam's   apple   on  a  sinewy  neck,   thin
collarbones.... "He's lost so much weight!" he thought. . "Yes."
     "Thank you,"  the detective  said  and lowered the  cloth.  So,  it was
Krivoshein. They had seen each other  the day  before yesterday near the old
building, walked past each other, and bowed formally as usual. Then, he  had
been a heavyset, living man,  albeit an unpleasant one. And now... it was as
though  life had  sucked out all  his vital  juices, dried  out  his  flesh,
leaving  only  the  bones  covered  with  gray  skin.  "Probably  Krivoshein
understood  what his  role  was  to  be  in  establishing this lab,"  Azarov
suddenly thought for no reason. The detective left.
     "Oh,  dear. Tsk, tsk, tsk,..." Arkady Arkadievich heard. He turned. The
scientific secretary  Harry Haritonovich Hilobok  was in  the  doorway.  His
sleek  face was still puffy from sleep.  Harry  Haritonovich  was considered
attractive: a good physique in  a light suit, a well-shaped head, intriguing
gray at  the temples, dark eyes, and a good straight nose, set off by a dark
mustache. His  appearance was somewhat  marred  by  the  harsh  lines at the
corners of  his mouth, the  kind caused  by constant  forced  smiling, and a
weakish  chin.  The  assistant  professor's  dark   eyes  shone  with  timid
curiosity.
     "Good morning, Arkady Arkadievich! What's happened here at Krivoshein's
now?  I was just walking by and wondered why these vehicles were outside the
lab? So I  came in. By the way, have you  noticed that his  digital printing
machines  are  just lounging in the halls here, Arkady  Arkadievich?  In the
middle of all sorts of garbage. And Valentin Vasilyevich worked so  hard  at
getting them, writing endless  streams of memos. I  mean, he could give them
to  somebody  else  if he has no  use for them  himself." Harry Haritonovich
sighed deeply and looked over to the  right. "Must  be another student! Tsk,
tsk, dear, dear! Another student,  there's a  plague  on  them here...."  He
noticed that the detective had returned.  "Oh, good day, Apollon Matveevich!
Seeing us once more, eh?"
     "Matvei Apollonovich," Onisimov corrected.
     He opened a yellow box marked "Material Evidence" with a black stencil,
took out a test tube, and crouched over the puddle.
     "I mean Matvei  Apollonovich-please forgive me. I do remember you  very
well  from last  time. I just scrambled name and patronymic a little. Matvei
Apollonovich, of course. How could  I? We  talked about  you for a long time
after,  how  organized and efficient you  were, and everything...."  Hilobok
went on and on.
     "Comrade  Director,  what  was  the  nature of  the  work done  in this
laboratory?" the detective  interrupted,  catching some liquid  in the  test
tube.
     "Research on self-organizing electronic systems with an integral  input
of information,"  the  academician  replied. "Anyway, that was  how Valentin
Vasilyevich had formulated his thesis at the beginning of the year."
     "I see." Onisimov got up, sniffed the liquid, wiped the tube clean with
a  piece of cotton,  and  put it away. "Was  the  use of poisonous chemicals
ruled out?"
     "I don't  know.  I  would think that nothing was forbidden. Research is
done by the researcher as he best sees fit."
     "So what went so  wrong here in  Krivoshein's lab that even you, Arkady
Arkadievich,  were  disturbed  so  early  in  the  morning?" Hilobok  asked,
lowering  his voice. "Precisely-what?" Onisimov  was directing his questions
to the academician. "The short  circuit had  nothing to  do with it. It  was
merely an accident, and not the cause. We've determined that much. There  is
no sign of electrocution, no traumas on the body... and the man is gone. And
what is this contraption? What's it for?"
     He picked  up  an  object from the  floor  that looked like an  ancient
warrior's helmet; but this helmet was chrome-plated and covered with buttons
and bundles of thin multicolored wires. The wires extended beyond  the tubes
and flasks  of the clumsy apparatus into the  far corner of  the room,  to a
computer.
     "This?" The academician shrugged. "Hmm."
     "Monomakh's  Crown,  I mean,  that's what we  call them  around  here,"
Hilobok offered. "More precisely, it's an SEP-1-System of Electronic Pickups
for  Computing  the  Biopotentials  of the  Human  Brain. The reason I know,
Arkady Arkadievich, is that Krivoshein kept bugging  me to make him one like
it."
     "All  right, I  understand.  With your  permission, I'll take it  for a
while, since it was found on the victim."
     Onisimov, winding the wires,  disappeared into  the far  reaches of the
room.
     "Who was the victim, Arkady Arkadievich?" Hilobok whispered.
     "Krivoshein."
     "Oh,  dear, how can that be? His eccentricities finally led to this ...
and more troubles for you, Arkady Arkadievich."
     The detective was back. He wrapped the "crown" in paper and put it into
his box.  The  only sound in the quiet lab was the panting of the orderlies,
who were working on the unconscious assistant.
     "And why was Krivoshein naked?" Onisimov suddenly asked.
     "He was naked?" The academician was stunned.  "You  mean  it wasn't the
doctors who undressed him? I don't know! I can't even imagine."
     "Hm ... I see. And what do  you  think they used this tank for? Perhaps
for bathing?"
     The detective pointed to  the rectangular plastic tank that lay  on its
side on top  of the  shards of  the flasks  its fall  had crushed; drips and
icicles  of yellow gray stuff hung from its transparent sides. Pieces  of  a
large mirror lay next to the tub.
     "For  bathing?" The academician was  getting  tired of these questions.
"I'm afraid that you have a peculiar idea of what a scientific laboratory is
used for, comrade... eh, investigator!"
     "And  there was  a mirror right next to it.  A good one,  full-length/'
Onisimov droned on. "What use could it have served?"
     "I don't know! I can't delve into every technical detail of all hundred
sixty projects that are under way in my institute!"
     "You see, Apollon  Marve...  I mean,  Matvei  Apollonovich-forgive me,"
Hilobok  interrupted,  "Arkady  Arkadievich  is  in  charge  of  the  entire
institute,  is  a  member  of  five  interdisciplinary commissions, edits  a
scholarly journal,  and of  course, cannot  deal with every detail of  every
project  specifically.  That's what  the  project  directors  are  for.  And
besides, the  late-oh  dear,  what  a  pity-the  late  Valentin  Vasilyevich
Krivoshein was  a  man of too much independence. He  did  not like to confer
with anyone, to share his thoughts or results. And he often ignored, it must
be  said, many of the basic safety rules. Of course,  I know that you should
not  speak ill  of the dead-de mortius  bene aut nihil, as they say-but what
was, was. Remember, Arkady  Arkadievich, how a year ago January-no, maybe it
was February-no, I think it was January, or it could  even have been back in
December-anyway,  remember, how he flooded the first  floor,  causing  great
damage and stopping work on many projects, when he was working with Ivanov?"
     "You are  a viper,  Hilobok!"  A voice  came from  the  stretcher.  The
student lab assistant, clutching the edges, was  trying to get up. "Oh,  you
... too bad we didn't take care of you then!"
     Everyone turned to  him.  A  chill went through  Azarov: the  student's
voice, the hoarseness, the slurred endings,  were absolutely  identical with
Krivoshein's. The  assistant fell back weakly,  his head touching the floor.
The orderlies wiped their  brows  in satisfaction: he was  alive! The doctor
gave  an  order  and  they picked  up the  stretcher and  took him out.  The
academician took a  close look at  the fellow. And his heart  skipped a beat
again. The lab assistant resembled Krivoshein-he didn't know exactly how-and
not even the live Krivoshein, but the one down there under the oilcloth.
     "See, he's even managed to set the lab assistant against me,"
     Hilobok nodded in his direction with unbelievable meekness.
     "Why was he so  angry with you?" Onisimov turned to him. "Were  you two
in conflict?"
     "Heaven  forbid!"  The  assistant  professor  shrugged  innocently  and
sincerely. "I've only talked  to him once, when I interviewed him to work in
Krivoshein's lab at Valentin Vasilyevich's personal request, since he-"
     "Victor Vitalyevich Kravets," Onisimov read from his notes.
     "Yes ... well, he's a  relative of  Krivoshein's. He's  a  student from
Kharkov  University, and they  sent  us fifteen people in the  winter for  a
year's  practical  work. And Krivoshein made  him an  assistant  in his  lab
through nepotism. But why should we object? We're all human-"
     "Enough, Harry Haritonovich," Azarov cut him off.
     "I  see,"  Onisimov nodded.  "Tell  me,  aside  from Kravets,  did  the
deceased have any relatives?"
     "What  can I tell  you, Matvei Apollonovich?"  Hilobok  sighed  deeply.
"Officially, no, but  unofficially, he  was visited by a woman here. I don't
know if she's his  fiancee, or what.  Her name  is Elena Ivanovna Kolomiets,
and she works in a neighboring construction design bureau, a nice woman-"
     "I see.  You're on  top of things around here, I see." Onisimov laughed
as he headed for the door.
     A  minute  later he  was  back with a  camera and directed the exposure
meter at the corner.
     "The laboratory will  have to be sealed during  the investigation.  The
body will be sent to the coroner for an autopsy. The people in charge of the
funeral  will  have  to contact him."  The  detective went to the corner and
picked up the cloth that was covering Krivoshein's body.  "Please move  away
from the window. There'll be more light. Actually, I do not need to keep you
any longer, comrades, please forgive the trouble-"
     He  paled  and  pulled  up  the cloth in a single move. Under it  lay a
skeleton! A  yellow  puddle  was spreading  around it,  retaining  a blurred
caricature of a body's outline.
     "Oh!" Hilobok exclaimed and backed out onto the porch.
     Arkady Arkadievich  felt his knees buckle and held on to the  wall. The
detective was methodically folding the oilcloth and staring at the skeleton,
which was  smiling  a  mocking thirty-toothed grin. A lock of dark red  hair
silently fell from the skull into the puddle,
     "I see,"  Onisimov  muttered.  Then  he turned  to  Azarov  and  looked
disapprovingly  into  the wide  eyes  behind the  rectangular  lenses. "Fine
goings-on here, comrade director."






     "What can you say in your defense?"
     "Well, you see-"
     "Enough! Shoot him. Next!"
     -A conversation


     Actually, Investigator Onisimov didn't see anything yet; the expression
was a linguistic hangover from better days. He had tried to break himself of
the  habit, but couldn't.  Besides that, Matvei Apollonovich was preoccupied
and very upset  by such  a turn of events. A  half hour before the call from
the  Institute of Systemology, Zubato, the medical examiner on duty with him
that night, had been called to a  highway accident outside of town. Onisimov
had to go to the institute alone. And he ended up with a skeleton instead of
a warm corpse. Nothing like this had ever been  encountered  in criminology.
Nobody would believe that the body turned into a skeleton on its own-he'd be
a laughing  stock. The ambulance had left already, and so they couldn't back
him up. And he hadn't had time to photograph the body.
     In  a word, what had happened seemed like nothing more than a series of
serious  oversights  in  the investigation. That's  why he made sure  he had
written  statements  from  Prakhov, the  technician, and  academician Azarov
before he left the institute grounds.
     The electrical technician Georgii Danilovich Prakhov, twenty years old,
Russian, unmarried, draftable, and not a Party member, wrote:
     "When I entered  the laboratory, the overhead light  was on;  only  the
power network was disrupted. The stench in the room was so bad that I almost
threw up-it was like a hospital. The first thing that I  noticed was a naked
man lying in an overturned tank, his head and arms dangling, with a metallic
contraption on  his head.  Something was  leaking out of  the tub; it looked
like a thick ichor. The other one, a new student (I've seen him around), was
lying  nearby, face  up, his arms outspread. I rushed over to the one in the
tub and pulled  him out.  He  was  still warm  and very slippery, so that  I
couldn't  get a good grip on him. I tried to awaken him, but he seemed dead.
I recognized him. It was Valentin Vasilyevich Krivoshein. I had run into him
often at the institute. We always said hello. The student was breathing, but
remained unconscious. Since there is no one at the  institute except for the
outside  guards, I called an  ambulance  and  the  police  on the laboratory
phone.
     "The temporary short circuit  had occurred in the power cable that goes
to the laboratory electroshield along the wall in an aluminum  pipe. The tub
broke a bottle that apparently contained acid which ate through in that spot
and the cable shorted out like a second-class conductor."
     Zhora wisely left out the fact that he did not investigate the scene of
the accident until an hour after the alarm had gone off.
     Arkady Arkadievich Azarov, the  director of the institute, a  doctor of
physics  and mathematics, and an  active member of the Academy  of Sciences,
fifty-eight, Russian, married, not subject to the draft, and a member of the
CPSU,  corroborated the  fact  that  he recognized the features of the  body
shown to him at the scene of the accident by Investigator Onisimov, M.A., as
belonging to Valentin Vasilyevich  Krivoshein, acting  director of  the  New
Systems  Laboratory,  and  besides  that, with  the  scientific  objectivity
characteristic  of  an  academician noted that he  "had been  amazed by  the
abnormal emaciation of the deceased, the  abnormal physical  state which did
not correspond to his usual appearance."
     At  10:30 in  the  morning Onisimov  returned to headquarters  and  his
office on the first  floor, where  his windows,  hatched with  the  vertical
bars, opened onto Marx Prospect, which was busy at almost any hour of day or
night. Matvei  Apollonovich  gave a brief account  of the  events  to  Major
Rabinovich,  sent a test tube with  the liquid to the  medical examiner, and
called  up  the  emergency  room  to find  out  the  condition  of the  only
eyewitness. They replied that the  lab assistant felt  fine and asked to  be
released.
     "Fine, go ahead, I'll send a car for him," Onisimov said.
     No  sooner  had  he  arranged  for  the  car than  Zubato, the  medical
examiner, rushed into his office. He  was a red-blooded, loud man with hairy
arms.
     "Matvei, what  did you bring me?" He  sank into  a chair  with emphatic
disgust. "Some  practical joke! How am I supposed to  determine the cause of
death on a skeleton?"
     "I brought you what was left," Onisimov explained, shrugging. "I'm glad
you showed up. I want to know, off  the top of your  head,  how does  a body
turn into a skeleton?"
     "Off the top of  my  head, as a result of the deterioration of tissues,
which  under normal circumstances  takes weeks and even months.  That's  all
that the body can do about it."
     "All right... then how can you turn a body into a skeleton?"
     "Skin the  body,  cut off the soft  tissues, and boil it in water until
the bones are completely exposed. It is recommended to change the water. Can
you tell me clearly what happened?"
     Onisimov told him.
     "That's something! I'm really sorry I missed it!" He slapped his knee.
     "What happened on the highway?"
     "A drunk  cyclist hit  a  cow.  Both  survived.  So you  say your  body
melted?" The expert  squinted skeptically  and  brought  his face  closer to
Onisimov. "Matvei,  that doesn't ring true. It  just doesn't  happen, I  can
tell you for sure. A man is no icicle, even if he is dead. They didn't trick
you?"
     "How?"
     "You  know,  switch the body for a skeleton while  you were out...  and
discard the evidence."
     "What  are  you  blabbering about? You mean while  an academician stood
guard for them? Come  on,  here's his  deposition." Onisimov  fretted as  he
looked for Azarov's statement.
     "Ahh, now they'll  show you!  The people there...." Zubato wriggled his
hairy fingers. "Remember, when that  student was  exposed to  radiation, how
the  head of the lab  tried to  blame it all on science, how he said that it
was a little-studied phenomenon,  that the gamma rays  destroyed the crystal
cells of the dosimeter. And when we checked, it turned out the students were
signed up to work on  isotopes  without reading about them! Nobody wants  to
take  responsibility, even academicians, if it's  a  fishy situation. Try to
think: did you leave them alone with the body?"
     "I did," the detective's voice fell. "Twice."
     "And  that's when  your  body melted!"  Zubato broke out  in the hearty
laugh of a man who knows that disaster has not struck him.
     The detective thought about it and then shook his head.
     "Now,  you're not  going to  throw me off  the  track  here. I  saw for
myself... but what are we going to do with this skeleton now?"
     "The  hell with it.  Wait, here's an idea.  Send it  over  to  the city
sculpture  studio.  Let them  reconstruct  the face according  to  Professor
Gerasimov's method; they are familiar with it.  If it's him, you'll have the
crime sensation of the  century  on your hands.  If not-"Zubato  gave Matvei
Apollonovich a sympathetic look. "I wouldn't want to be  in  your shoes when
you  talk  with  Aleksei  Ignatievich. All right,  I'll send  it  over there
myself. So be  it."  He rose.  "And  while  I'm at  it, I'll  do  the  death
certificate. I'll settle for a skeleton, if you can't come up with a body."
     Zubato left.
     "What  if  they did  trick  me?"  Onisimov  recalled the  academician's
hostility, Assistant Professor Hilobok's flattery, and he shuddered. "I lost
the body, the most important thing. Good show there!"
     He dialed the chemistry lab.
     "Viktoriya Stepanovna, this is Onisimov. Did you analyze the liquid?"
     "Yes, Matvei Apollonovich. The report is being typed, but I'll read you
the  conclusion. "Water-85  percent,  protein-13  percent,  amino  acids-0.5
percent, fatty acids-0.4 percent and so on. In other words, it's human blood
plasma.  According  to  the  hemoglutins,  it's classified  as type A,  with
lowered water content."
     "Yes, I see. Could it be toxic?"
     "I doubt it."
     "Even, if say, you bathed in it?"
     "Well, you could swallow some and drown. Does that help?"
     "Thank you!" Matvei Apollonovich slammed down the phone. "Wise ass! But
I guess  that  means accidental death is ruled out. Could the assistant have
drowned him in the tub? No, it doesn't look like a drowning."
     Onisimov  liked the  entire business  less and less with every  passing
minute. He  spread  out  the  documents he got  at the institute's personnel
department and  at  the laboratory and lost himself  in  their study. He was
distracted by the phone.
     "Matvei,  you owe me!" boomed Zubato's triumphant voice.  "I've managed
to establish a few things from the skeleton. There are deep vertical  cracks
in the middle of  the sixth and seventh ribs on the right side.  Such cracks
are the result of  a  blow by  a heavy blunt  instrument or against a  blunt
object, whatever. The surface has minute cracks, fresh-"
     "I see!"
     "These cracks  in themselves  can not  be the  cause of  death.  But  a
violent  blow could  have seriously  injured  the  internal  organs,  which,
unfortunately, are missing. Well, that's about it. I hope it helps."
     "And how! Did you send out the skull for identification?"
     "Just now. And  I called ahead.  They  promised  to  do it as  fast  as
possible."
     "So, this is no accident. Liquid and short circuits don't break a man's
ribs. Oh, oh.  It looks  as  if  there were  two accident victims there:  an
injured  victim  and a dead  victim. And it  looks  as  though the two had a
serious fight."
     Onisimov felt better. The case was taking on familiar aspects. He began
composing an urgent telegram to Kharkov.
     The June day was getting hotter. The sun  melted the asphalt.  The heat
seeped into Onisimov's office, and he turned on the fan on his desk.
     The answer  from  the Kharkov police came  at  exactly  1:00  P.M.  Lab
assistant  Kravets was  brought  in at 1:30.  As  he  entered the office, he
looked around, and smirked as he noticed the barred windows.
     "Is that to make people confess faster?"
     "No-no," Matvei Apollonovich drawled gently. "This building  used to be
a wholesale warehouse and so the  entire first floor has reinforced windows.
We'll be removing them soon; not too many robbers try breaking into a police
station,  heh-heh. Sit down. Are  you feeling  all right now? Can you make a
statement?"
     "I can."
     The assistant walked across  the room and  sat in a  chair opposite the
window. The detective looked him over. He was  young, maybe twenty-four, not
older  than  that. He looked like Krivoshein, the way he might have been ten
years ago. "Actually, he didn't look like that," Matvei Apollonovich thought
as  he  looked at the  photo in Krivoshein's personnel file. "This fellow is
much more handsome." And there really was something of a model's  or actor's
perfection in Kravets's face. The impression of perfection was marred by the
eyes-actually  not  the eyes themselves, which were blue and had a  youthful
clarity, but in the marksman's squint of the lids. "He has eyes that seem to
have lived a lot," the detective  noted. "He  seems to have gotten over  the
experience quickly enough. Let's see."
     "You know, you resemble the deceased."
     "The deceased!" The assistant clenched his jaw and shut his  eyes for a
second. "That means-"
     "Yes, it does," Onisimov said harshly. "He's jumpy," he thought. "Well,
let's do this in order." He reached for a piece  of paper  and unscrewed his
pen. "Your name, patronymic, age, place of work or study, address?"
     "But you must know all that already?"
     "Know or  not,  that's the regulation; the witness  must  give all that
information himself."
     "So he's  dead....  What  should  I do now?  What should I say?  It's a
catastrophe. Damn it, I shouldn't have come to the police. I should have run
off from the clinic. What will happen now?" Kravets thought.
     "Please,  write down the  following: Viktor  Vitalyevich  Kravets,  age
twenty-four,  a  student  in  the fifth  year  in the  physics department of
Kharkov University. I reside in Kharkov, on Kholodnaya  Gora. I'm here to do
my practical work."
     "I  see," the detective said, and instead of  writing  it down, twisted
his  pen  rapidly  and  aimlessly.  "You were related to  Krivoshein.  How?"
"Distantly,"  the  student  laughed  uncomfortably.  "Seventh  cousin  twice
removed, you know."
     "I see!"  Onisimov put  down his pen and  picked up the telegraph;  his
voice became  severe. "Look  here,  citizen, it doesn't  check  out."  "What
doesn't check out?"
     "Your  story, that you're Kravets, that you live and study  in Kharkov,
and  so  on. There's no student by that name in Kharkov.  And the person you
name has never  lived  at 17, Kholodnaya Gora, either." The suspect's cheeks
suddenly dropped, and his  face turned red. "They  got me. How stupid of me!
Damn  it!  Of  course, they checked all that out immediately.  Boy,  lack of
experience shows every time. But what can I say now?" he thought.
     "Tell the truth. And in detail. Don't forget  that we're dealing with a
homicide here."
     Kravets  thought: "The  truth. Easier said  than done."  "You see,  the
truth...  how can I  put  it... that's too  much  and  too complicated," the
assistant  began  mumbling, hating and  despising himself for this  lack  of
control. "I'd have to  discuss information theory and the modeling of random
processes."
     "Just don't try to cloud the issues, citizen," Onisimov said,  frowning
disdainfully.  "People  aren't  killed  by   theories-this   was  definitely
practical application and fact."
     "But... you  must  understand, actually no one at all may have died. It
can   be  proven  ...  or  attempted   to  be   proven.  You  see,   citizen
investigator-(Why did I  call him that? I  haven't been  arrested  yet.)-You
see, first of all, a man is not, well, not a hunk of protoplasm weighing 150
pounds.  There are the fifty quarts of  water, forty-four pounds of protein,
fats and  carbohydrates, enzymes, and so on. No,  man is  first and foremost
information. A concentration of information. And  if it has not disappeared,
then the man is still alive."
     He  stopped and bit his lip. "No, this is  nonsense. It's hopeless," he
thought.
     "Yes, I'm listening. Go on," the  detective said, laughing  to himself.
The assistant glanced up at him, got more comfortable in his chair, and said
with a small smile:
     "In short,  if you  don't  want  to  hear the theories,  then  Valentin
Vasilyevich  Krivoshein-that's  me.  You  can  put that  into  the  official
record."
     It was so  unexpected and daring that  Matvei Apollonovich was  stunned
for a second. "Should  I send him to the psychiatrist?" he thought. But  the
suspect's blue eyes  looked at him reasonably and there was mockery in their
depths. That's what brought Onisimov out of his suspended animation.
     "I see!" He got up.  "Do you take me for a fool? Do you think I haven't
familiarized myself with his file, that I wasn't present at the scene of the
accident, that I don't remember his face?"  He leaned on the desk top.  " If
you refuse to identify yourself, it's only  worse for  you. We'll  find  out
anyway. Do you admit your papers are forged?"
     "That's it. We have to stop playing," Kravets thought, and said:
     "No. You  still  have to  prove that. You  might  as well consider me a
forgery while you're at it!"
     The assistant turned to look out the window.
     "Don't clown around  with me,  citizen!" The detective had  raised  his
voice. "What was your purpose in entering the lab?  Answer me! What happened
between you and Krivoshein? Answer!"
     "I'm not answering anything!"
     Matvei  Apollonovich scolded himself for losing his temper. He sat down
and after a pause started talking in a heartfelt manner:
     "Listen, don't think that  I'm trying to pin anything on you. My job is
to  investigate thoroughly,  to fill in the  missing  blanks, and  then  the
prosecutor's  office evaluates it,  and  the court  makes the  decision. But
you're hurting yourself.  You don't  understand one  thing:  if  you confess
later, under duress  as they say,  it won't count as much  as making a clean
breast of  things  now.  It  might not  all  be so  terrible.  But  for now,
everything  points against you.  Proof  of  an assault on  the body,  expert
testimony, and other circumstances. And it all boils down to  one thing." He
leaned across  the desk  and lowered  his voice.  "It looks  as  if you  ...
alleviated the victim's suffering."
     The suspect  lowered  his head  and rubbed his face. He was  seeing the
scene again. The skeleton  with Krivoshein's head twitching convulsively  in
the tank,  his own hands holding  on to  the  tank's edge, the warm,  gentle
liquid touching them and then-the blow!
     "I'm not sure  myself,  if it's me or not," he muttered in a  depressed
voice. "I can't understand it." He looked up. "Listen, I have to get back to
the lab!"
     Matvei Apollonovich almost jumped up:  he hadn't expected such a  rapid
victory.  "Listen, that can happen  too,"  he said, nodding sympathetically.
"In a state of frenzy  from an  insult or through overzealous  self-defense.
Let's  go down  to  the lab,  and you can  explain  on  the  scene just what
transpired there." He picked up Monomakh's Crown from his desk  and casually
asked: "Was this what you hit him on the chest with? It's a heavy thing."
     "That's enough!" The suspect  spoke  harshly and  almost  haughtily. He
straightened up. "I see no reason to continue this discussion. You're trying
to put me into a corner.  By  the way,  that 'heavy thing' costs  over  five
thousand rubles. Be careful with it."
     "Does this mean that you don't want to tell me anything?" "Yes."
     "I see."  The detective pushed a button. "You'll have to be held  until
this is cleared up."
     A gangly  policeman  with a  long face and droopy nose  appeared at the
door.  In the  Ukraine, people like him  are described  as  "tall but  still
bends."
     "Gayevoy?" the detective looked at him uncertainly. "Aren't any of  the
guards around?"
     'They're  all out in the field, comrade captain," he replied. "A lot of
them are at the beaches, maintaining law and order." "Do you have a car?" "A
small GAZ."
     "Convey the detained suspect to the city jail.  It's too bad you refuse
to help yourself and us, citizen. You're just making it worse for yourself."
     The  lab assistant turned  in  the  doorway. "And it's too bad that you
think  Krivoshein  is dead."  "One of those characters who likes  to make  a
grand exit. Always have the last word." Onisimov chuckled. "I've seen plenty
like him. But he'll come round after a while."
     Matvei  Apollonovich lit  a cigarette and  drummed  his fingers on  the
desk.  At   first  all  the   clues  (faked   papers,   medical   testimony,
circumstances) led him to think that the assistant, if he wasn't the killer,
was at least actively involved in Krivoshein's death. But  this conversation
had  changed his mind.  Not  what the suspect had said,  but how. He did not
sense in him the forethought, the game playing, that fatal game playing that
gives away the criminal long before there is any evidence.
     "It is looking like an  unpremeditated murder. He said himself, 1 don't
know if it was me or not.' But  what about the skeleton?  How did it happen?
And  did  it happen?  And  what about  the  attempt to pass himself  off  as
Krivoshein by using a theoretical explanation? Is he faking? And what if the
absence of game playing is just the most subtle game of all? No, where would
such a young, inexperienced fellow develop that? And then, what  motives are
there for  a premeditated murder? What was going on between  them?  And what
about the forged documents?"
     Matvei  Apollonovich's mind hit a dead end. "All right, let's look into
the circumstances."  He  stood  up and looked  out into the  hall. Assistant
Professor Hilobok was pacing up and down.
     "Please come in! I asked you here, comrade Hilobok, to-"
     "Yes,  yes, I understand,"  Hilobok nodded. "Others experience tragedy,
and I clean up the  messes. People do die of  old age, and may God  grant us
both such ends,  Matvei Apollonovich, eh? But  Krivoshein never did anything
the way everyone  else did. No,  no,  I'm sorry for him. Don't think... it's
always a pity when a man dies, right? But Valentin Vasilyevich had caused me
so many problems in the past. And all because  he was a stubborn  character,
with no respect  for anyone, no consideration, diverging from the collective
time and time again."
     "I  see. But I would like to ascertain what it was Krivoshein was doing
in that lab that was under  his jurisdiction. Since you  are  the scientific
secretary, I thought-"
     "I  just knew  you'd  ask!" Harry Haritonovich smiled happily.  "I even
brought along a copy of  the thematic  plans with me, naturally." He rustled
the papers in his briefcase. "Here it is, theme 152, specific goals-research
on  NIR, title-'The self-organization of  complex electronic systems with an
integral introduction  of information/ contents of the work-'Research on the
possibilities of self-organization of complex system into a more complex one
with an  integral  (not differentiated  according  to signals  and  symbols)
introduction of varying information by adding a superstructure of its output
to the system/ financing-here's the budget, nature of the work-mathematical,
logical,  and  experimental,   director  of   the  project-engineer   V.  V.
Krivoshein, executor, the same-" "What was the gist of his research?"
     'The  gist? Hmmm." Hilobok's face grew serious.  "The self-organization
of  systems  ... so  that a machine could build  itself, understand? They're
doing intensive work on this in America. Very. In the USA-"
     "And  what was Krivoshein actually doing?"  "Actually.... He proposed a
new  approach to  forming  these  systems  through...  integralization.  No,
self-organization. It's just  not clear if he managed to do anything with it
or not." Harry Haritonovich smiled  broadly and winningly. "You know, Matvei
Apollonovich,  there are so many  projects at  the institute, and  I have to
look into all of them. I just can't keep everything straight in my mind. You
would be better off  reading the minutes of the academic council's meeting."
"You mean, he reported on his work to the academic council?" "Of course! All
our projects are  considered  before they  are  incorporated into  the plan.
After  all, how could we distribute funds without any factual basis?"  "What
was his basis?"
     "What do you mean?" The scientific secretary  raised his eyebrows. "His
idea regarding the new approach to the problem  of self-organization? You're
best off reading  the  minutes,  Matvei  Apollonovich." He  sighed. "It  all
happened a year ago, and we  have meetings and debates and commissions every
week, if not more frequently. Can  you imagine? And I have to be  present at
every one, organize  the  speakers,  speak myself,  issue  invitations.  For
instance, right now, I have to go from  here to the Society on Distribution,
where there's a  meeting on the  question of attracting scientific personnel
to  lecture at  collective farms  during harvest. I won't even have time for
lunch. I can't wait for my vacation!"
     "I see. But the academic council approved his topic?"
     "Of  course! There were many who argued against it. Ah, you should have
heard  how  crudely  Valentin  Vasilyevich  answered  them. It  was  totally
unforgivable. Poor Professor Voltampernov  had to be tranquilized afterward.
Can you  imagine?  The board recommended that Krivoshein  be reprimanded for
his rudeness, I wrote  out the  decree myself. But the topic was passed,  of
course.  A man proposes new ideas, a  new approach-why shouldn't he  try it?
That's the way it  is  in science.  And  besides, Arkady Arkadievich himself
supported him. Arkady Arkadievich is a wonderfully generous soul; in fact he
set him up in his own  lab because  Krivoshein  could  never get along  with
anybody.  Of course, the lab was a joke, unstructured with a staff of one...
but the academic council had discussed the situation  and voted yes. I voted
for it myself."
     "What was  the it you  all  voted  for?" Onisimov wiped his brow with a
handkerchief.
     "What do you mean? To  include it in the  plan, to allot funds for  it.
You know, planning is the basis of our society."
     "I see. Tell me, Harry Haritonovich, what do you think happened?"
     "Hmmm ... I must make it clear  to  you, my  dear Matvei  Apollonovich,
that I would have  no way  of knowing. I'm the  scientific secretary; all my
work is paperwork. They've been  working together just the two of them since
last winter. The  lab assistant is  the one who would know. Besides, he's an
eyewitness."
     "Did you know that the assistant is  not  who he  says he is?" Onisimov
demanded. "He's not Kravets and he's not a student."
     "Really? That's why  you arrested  him,  I  see." Hilobok's  eyes  grew
round. "No, really,  how  would I know? That was  an oversight in personnel.
Who is he?"
     "We'll find out. So you  say the Americans are doing the  same  kind of
work now?"
     "Yes. So you think he's the one?"
     "Why  be  so hasty?"  Onisimov  laughed.  "I'm  just exploring all  the
possibilities." He glanced over  at  the paper with the questions. 'Tell me,
Harry Haritonovich, did you notice psychiatric problems in Krivoshein?"
     Hilobok smiled.
     "You know, on my way over here, I was debating whether  or not I should
mention  it. Maybe it's a trifle and there's no point? But since you ask ...
he had these lapses. I remember, last July, when I was combining  my  duties
with heading the  laboratory  of  experimental  setups-we couldn't find  the
right specialist to run it-we needed  a candidate of science-so  I was doing
it-so that we wouldn't lose the slot  for  the position,  because, you know,
they  can  take  away the allocation, and  then  you can never  get it back.
That's the way it is. And so,  just a while back,  my laboratory  received a
request  from Krivoshein  to  prepare  a  new  system  for  encephalographic
biopotential  sensors,  like that SEP-1, Monomakh's Crown, that  you have on
your desk, but of a more complex construction, so that it would fit  in with
all kinds of his schemes. Why they ever accepted the order from him, instead
of doing their own work, I'll never know."
     This  submersion in  scientific  data brought on a  deep drowsiness  in
Matvei  Apollonovich.  Usually he cut through  any tangential deviation from
the topic that interested him in an interrogation, but now-he was a man with
a  Russian soul-he could not overcome his innate  respect  for science,  for
learned titles, terms, and situations. He had  always  had this respect, and
after his last  case  at  the institute when he also learned the salaries of
scientific workers his  respect had doubled. And  so Matvei Apollonovich did
not try to stem Harry Haritonovich's free-flowing mouth; after all,  he  was
dealing  with a man whose salary was more than twice  his  own, as  a police
captain, and legal at that.
     "So, you can imagine, I was sitting in the laboratory one day," Hilobok
rambled on, "and Valentin Vasilyevich came to see me-without his lab coat, I
might add! That is  unacceptable. There is a specific rule promulgated about
this at  the institute,  a rule stating  that all engineering and scientific
workers must wear white coats and the technicians and lab assistants gray or
blue ones. After all, we are often visited by foreign delegations. It  can't
be otherwise. But he always disregarded convention,  and he asked  me  in  a
really nasty tone: 'When are you going to fill my order for the new system?'
Well, I tried to explain everything calmly to him. 'It's like this and that,
Valentin Vasilyevich. We will when we can. It's not so easy to do everything
you  drew up for us. The circuitry becomes  very complicated, and we have to
reject  too many transistors.' In  a word, I gave him a good explanation, so
that  the man would not  have any  misunderstandings.  But he just  went  on
harping:  'If you can't do  it on schedule, you shouldn't have agreed  to do
it!' I tried  to  explain about the difficulties  once more, and that we had
orders backed up at the lab, but Krivoshein interrupted me: 'If the order is
not completed in two weeks, I will file a  complaint about you and turn over
the work to the  science club in a grammar school! And they'll do it  faster
than you,  and it will be a lot cheaper, too!' That  was a  dig at me,  that
last part. He had  always made cracks, but I  was used  to it.  And  then he
slammed the door, and stalked out."
     The  investigator nodded rhythmically and  clenched his jaw to hide the
yawns. Hilobok buzzed on:
     "And five minutes later-note that no more than five minutes had passed;
I hadn't even had time to talk to the workshop by phone-Valentin Vasilyevich
burst in again wearing a coat this time (he had managed to dig up a gray one
somewhere),  and  said:  'Harry  Haritonovich,  when will that order for the
sensor system  be  ready?'  'Please,' I said,  'take  pity  on  me, Valentin
Vasilyevich. I explained it to  you!' And  I went into my explanation again.
He  interrupted like last  time:  'If you can't do it, don't try . .  .' and
then went on  about  the complaint, the  schoolboys, and expenses."  Hilobok
brought his  face closer to the investigator. "In other  words,  he repeated
exactly what he  had said five minutes ago, in the same  exact  wording! Can
you imagine?"
     "That's curious," the investigator nodded.
     "And  that wasn't  the only time  he got  confused like that.  Once  he
forgot to turn off the  water  for the night, and the  whole floor under the
laboratory was flooded. Once-the janitor complained to me-he  started a huge
bonfire  of perforated  tape  on the lawn. The professor meaningfully pursed
his  fat  red  lips,  funereally outlined  with  a black mustache,  "and  so
anything might have happened. And why? Because he wanted to get ahead and he
was constantly overworking himself.
     No matter what time you left the institute the lights in his lodge were
always blazing. Many of us at the institute joked about it. Maybe Krivoshein
wasn't  aiming for his  doctorate  but  for  a break-through  right  off the
bat.... He discovered enough, now go try to figure it all out."
     "I  see,"  the investigator said and looked down at the sheet  of paper
once more. "You mentioned that Krivoshein had a woman who was close to  him.
Do you know her?"
     "Elena Ivanovna Kolomiets?  Of course! There aren't many women like her
in our  town-very  attractive,  elegant, sweet, in  a word, you  know-"Harry
Haritonovich   described  Elena   Ivanovna's  inexpressible  beauty  with  a
zigzagging  motion of  the hands. His brown  eyes glistened. "I could  never
figure out, nor  could others, what she saw in him. After  all, Krivoshein-I
know, de mortius aut bene nut nihil, but why hide it?-you  saw for yourself,
he was no  looker.  She would  come to see  him. Our houses are next door in
Academic Town, so I  saw it. And he never knew how to dress well either. But
I haven't  seen her around lately. I guess they broke up, like ships  in the
night, heh-heh! Do you think she had anything to do with this?"
     "I  don't think anyone has as yet, Harry Haritonovich. I'm  only trying
to  clear things up." Onisimov got up with relief. "Well, thank you. I  hope
that I don't need to warn you about gossiping, because-"
     "It doesn't need to be mentioned! And don't thank me, I  was only doing
my duty. I'm always ready...."
     After he left, Matvei  Apollonovich put his head directly under the fan
and sat for a few minutes without moving or  thinking. Hilobok's  voice rang
in his head like a fly buzzing on a windowpane.
     "Wait!" The  detective shook his  head to  clear it. "We wasted a whole
hour, and he didn't clear up a thing. And  all the time it seemed 'as though
we  were  on  the  topic,  but  it was  all  nothing.  Scientific secretary,
assistant professor, sciences  candidate-could he have been  trying to throw
me off? Something's wrong here."
     The phone rang. "Onisimov here."
     There was only panting on  the  phone for a few seconds. It was obvious
the speaker couldn't get his breath.
     "Comrade  .. . captain  .. . this is  Gayevoy .. .  reporting. The  ...
suspect... escaped!"
     "Escaped? What do you mean escaped? Give me a full report!"
     "Well,  we were  in the  GAZ.  Timofeyev was driving and I was  next to
that...." The  policeman was muttering into  the phone.  "That's the way  we
transport all  detained  suspects. After all, comrade  captain,  you  hadn't
warned us about strict observation, and I couldn't imagine where he could go
since  you have all his papers. Well, we were driving past the city park and
he jumped out when we were going at full speed. Over the fence, and  he  was
gone! Well, Timofeyev and I  went after him.  Boy,  is he good at clambering
over uneven ground! Well, I didn't want to open fire since I didn't have any
instructions about it from you. So... that's it."
     "I see. Go to  the department and write out a report for the captain on
duty. You don't do your job very well, Gayevoy!"
     "Well, is there  anything  you'd like me to  do, comrade  captain?" His
voice was glum.
     "We'll  manage  without  you. Hurry back here;  you'll be  part  of the
search party. That's all." Onisimov hung up.
     "Well, well, the man's an artist, a real artist! And I had doubted him!
Of course, it's him. It  had to be! So. He had no identification papers. Nor
any money. And almost no clothes, just the  shirt and trousers he had on. He
won't get far. Unless he has confederates ... then it'll be harder."
     Ten  minutes later Gayevoy, even more bent over by his guilt, appeared.
Onisimov organized a  search  party,  distributing photos, and a description
with identifying marks. The operatives went into town.
     Then  Matvei  Apollonovich called the  fingerprint  expert. He told him
that some  of  the prints  he collected in the lab matched those  of the lab
assistant; others belonged  to another man. Neither set matched up with  any
known criminal.
     "The other man is naturally the victim, of course.... Ho,  ho,  this is
becoming serious business. It doesn't look anything like a regular crime. It
doesn't  look  like  anything with that damn melted skeleton! What can  I do
about that?"
     Onisimov  stared gloomily out the  window. The shadows of the trees  on
the sidewalks were lengthening, but it hadn't gotten any cooler. Young women
in  print shifts  and sunglasses  crowded near the bus  stop. "Going  to the
beach...."
     The worst part was that Onisimov still didn't have a working version of
the incident.
     At the end of the day, when Matvei  Apollonovich was writing out a list
for the morning, the  commander of the department came in to  see him. "Here
it comes," Matvei Apollonovich thought.
     "Sit down." The colonel lowered himself into the chair. "You seem to be
having  complications  in this case: no body,  suspect escaped. Hm?  Tell me
about it." Onisimov told him.
     "Hm...."  The commander's heavy eyebrows met. "Well,  we'll catch  that
fellow;  there's no question about that. Do you have  the airport, railroad,
and bus stations under surveillance?
     "Of course, Aleksei Ignatievich, I sent out the order immediately."
     "That  means  he'll never get out of the city. But as for the corpse...
that's really  something  very curious. Damn  it  all!  Maybe  they switched
things on  you  at  the scene?" He looked  up  at  the investigator with his
small,  wise eyes. "Maybe...  remember Gorky's  story  Klim  Samgin where  a
character says, 'Maybe there was no boy?'"
     "But...  the doctor  in  the  ambulance  certified  the  death, Aleksei
Ignatievich."
     "Doctors can make mistakes, too. Besides, the doctor was not an expert,
and she didn't list a cause of death. And there's no body. And our Zubato is
having problems with  the skeleton....  Of course, it's  up to you.  I'm not
insisting, but if you can't explain how the corpse turned into a skeleton in
fifteen minutes, and whose skeleton it is, and what caused the death-no jury
is going to  pay any attention to  the  evidence. Even  clear-cut  cases are
being sent back by the courts for lack of evidence, or dismissed completely.
Of course, it's  good that the law is strict and  careful, but..." he sighed
noisily,  "a... a difficult case, no? Do you have an official version  yet?"
"I have a draft," Onisimov  explained shyly, "but I  don't know  how  you're
going  to  take  it,  Aleksei Ignatievich. I don't think this is a  criminal
case. According to the institute's  scientific  secretary, the United States
is very  interested in  the case that Krivoshein  was  studying in  his lab.
That's point one. Lab assistant Kravets, by his demeanor and cultural level,
I guess is neither a student nor a criminal. He escaped masterfully,  that's
for sure. Point two: Kravets's fingerprints don't match any criminal ones on
record.  Three:  so,   perhaps-"Matvei   Apollonovich  stopped,  and  looked
inquiringly at his chief.
     "-we should palm  off  the  case  on the KGB?" The colonel finished his
thought  with  a soldier's  directness  and shook his head. "Don't  be in  a
hurry! If  we, the police, discover  a crime with, say, a foreign accent, it
will bring society and us nothing but good. But if the state security organs
discover  a  simple  civilian  crime  or a violation  of  safety procedures,
then... well, you  understand. And  in  the last  six months we've  hit  the
bottom of the local list for percentage of solved crimes." He gave  Onisimov
a  good-natured look of reproach. "Don't give up!  You know the  saying that
the most complicated crimes are the easiest: theses and projects, scientific
mumbo-jumbo... it boggles the mind. Don't rush  with your version. Check out
all  the possibilities and maybe it  will be like the  fable: 'The box had a
simple  lock.'  Well, I  wish you luck  and success."  The  chief  rose  and
extended his hand. "I'm sure that you can handle this case."
     Matvei Apollonovich got up too, shook hands, and followed the commander
out  with clear and bright  eyes. Say what you will, but when  the boss  has
confidence in you, it makes all the difference!






     People who think  that human  life has changed only externally  and not
radically since ancient  times  compare the fire,  around  which Troglodites
spent  the evening,  with television, which amuses  our contemporaries. This
comparison is  disputable, since  a fire both  warms  and  lights,  and  the
television only glows, and then only from one side.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 111


     The plump,  blonde, middle-aged passenger in the express  train between
Novosibirsk and Dneprovsk  was agitated by the fellow in the upper berth. He
had rough-hewn but handsome features, a windblown face, dark curly hair with
a  lot  of  gray in  it, strong, tanned  hands  with  thick  fingers and old
calluses  on the palms-and yet he  had a gentle smile, charm (he had offered
her the lower berth when she  got on at Kharkov), and  an intelligent manner
of  speaking. The fellow lay  with  his square  chin on  his hands, greedily
looking at the trees, houses, streams, and road  signs flashing  by. And  he
smiled. "Handsome!" she thought.
     "Probably familiar territory?" she asked.
     "Yes."
     "You've been away a long time?"
     "A year."
     He was recognizing things: they went under the highway where he used to
ride his motorcycle with Lena. There was the oak grove where the locals went
picnicking. There was Staroe Ruslo, a place of secluded beaches, clean sand,
and calm  water.  There was  the Vytrebenki farm-and  hey! new construction!
Probably a chemical plant.... He  smiled  and frowned as  the  memories came
back.
     Actually, he had never ridden a motorcycle  anywhere with any Lena, nor
had he ever been in  the  grove or  on those  beaches-it  had all been  done
without him. It was simply  that  once there had been a conversation, and to
be accurate, even that took place without his active participation.
     "Here's  an  application.  (The  variants  of  human  life!)  Look:  'A
Vladivostok shipbuilding concern is looking for an electrical engineer to do
fitting  work on  location.  Apartment  supplied.' Aren't  I  an  electrical
engineer?  Fitting on location-what could be better? A Pacific  wave lapping
up against the fittings!  You  pay  out  the cable, lick the salt from  your
lips-you against the elements!"
     "Yes, but."
     "No, I can understand. Before it was impossible.  Before! You and I are
men  of  duty-how  can you  just  quit  a  job and go off  to  satisfy  your
wanderlust? So  we all stay where we  are-and the longing  for places  we've
never seen  and  never will stays with us  too, and for people  we'll  never
meet, and for events and occasions that we'll never participate in. We drown
this longing in books, movies, and dreams-it's impossible for a man  to lead
several parallel lives. But now-"
     "But now it's the same thing. You'll go off to Vladivostok to lick your
sea spray, and I'll remain behind with my dissatisfaction."
     "But... we can trade. Once every six months. No one  would notice . . .
no, that's nonsense. We'd  be distinguished by six  months of practical work
experience."
     "That's just it! By heading down one of life's paths, a person  becomes
different from the person he would have been had he taken another path."
     But he headed for Vladivostok  anyway.  He didn't  leave  to  still his
longings-he  ran away from the horrors of memory.  He  would have  gone even
farther, but farther there was  only ocean. Of course, the job  opening as a
fitter in the ports had been filled, but he found work excavating underwater
cliffs, to  clear space for ship berths-that wasn't bad  work  either. There
was enough romance: he dove into the blue green depths with his  scuba gear,
saw  his quivering shadow  on the bottom rocks, dug out holes in the cliffs,
set  the  dynamite, lit the fuse,  and  scattering  the  fish  that would be
floating belly up in a minute,  swam at breakneck speeds for the power boat.
And  then,  missing  engineering  work,  he  introduced an  electrohydraulic
charge, which was safer than dynamite and more effective. He left behind all
memories of himself.
     "Are  you coming  from  far?"  the  woman  insisted,  interrupting  his
reverie.
     "From the Far East."
     "Were you recruited to work there or did you just go?"
     The man stared at her and laughed curtly.
     "I went for a cure."
     His traveling  companion nodded warily.  She had  lost all  desire  for
conversation. She pulled out a book and buried herself in it.
     Yes, the healing began there. The guys  on the  team were amazed by his
fearlessness.   He   really   had   no  fear:   strength,   agility,   exact
calculation-and no deep wave could touch him. He literally held his own life
in his  hands-what was there to be afraid of? The  most terrifying  times he
had  lived  through had been here, in Dneprovsk, when Krivoshein played  God
with  his  life and  death. With many  deaths. You see,  Krivoshein  did not
understand  that what he was doing was much worse than torturing  a helpless
person.
     The man's body tensed automatically. A chill of anger puckered his skin
into goose bumps. The monsoons  had blown a lot out of his system in a year:
depression,  panicky  fear,  even  his  tender  feelings for Lena.  But this
remained.
     "Maybe I shouldn't have  come back? I had the ocean  that made  me feel
small  and simple,  good  pals,  and  hard  and  interesting  work. Everyone
respected  me. I became myself out  there. But here ... who knows how things
will go for him?"
     But  he could  no more not return than  forget  the  past. At first, it
would creep up on him,  after work, on days off, when the whole  team took a
speedboat into  Vladivostok.  The  thought  would  pound through  his  head:
"Krivoshein is working. He's alone there." Then the idea came to him.
     Once  when  they  were  clearing  the bottom in  a  nameless cove  near
Khabarovsk, where there were warm mineral springs along the shore, he jumped
from the boat and fell into a stream. He almost  screamed  from the horrible
memories  in  his  body! The  water tasted  just like that  liquid, and  the
sensationless,  warm gentleness seemed to conceal  that  ancient  threat  to
dissolve,  destroy,  and extinguish  consciousness. He moved ahead,  and the
cold ocean water  sobered and calmed  him. But  the impression remained.  By
evening  it had  turned into  a  thought:  "The  experiment could  be run in
reverse."
     And, while healing from his former memories,  he "caught" this one. His
researcher's  imagination  was aflame. How  enticing it would be to  plan an
experiment, to try to predict the enormous  results that would  bring  great
benefit!  The  underwater explosions seemed  like  a dull, gray  waste.  Now
without fear, he played  back everything that had happened to him, projected
the variations  of the experiment. And he could not remain  there  with  the
idea that Krivoshein had probably  not thought of it yet. You  couldn't come
up  with  it by pure  reason alone. You had to have lived through everything
that he had.
     But-the implacable logic of their work  brought another idea forward in
his  mind: all right, so  they would find a new way of processing a man with
information.  What  would it  give them?  This  thought was harder  than the
first.  On the way from Vladivostok to Dneprovsk he turned to it often,  and
he still had not thought it all the way through.
     Outside the  window, the girders  of a bridge reflected  the clattering
wheels  of  the train: they  were crossing the  Dnieper  River.  The man was
distracted for a moment, watching a powerboat  skim the water's surface down
the  river's  current, and looking at the green slope of the right bank. The
bridge ended and little houses, gardens, and hedges flashed by the window.
     "It all boils  down to the problem of how and with what information can
man be perfected. All the other  problems rest on this  one. The system is a
given:  the  human brain  and the mechanisms for introducing information-the
eyes, ears,  nose,  etc.  Three streams of information feed the brain: daily
life, science, and art. We must distinguish the  most  effective  one in its
action  on man-and  the most  directed  one. So that it  would perfect  him,
ennoble him.  The most effective  is naturally the  daily information: it is
concrete and real,  forming man's life experience. It's life itself; nothing
else  to it. I suppose that in reality it has a mutual relationship with man
according to the laws  of  feedback: life affects man, but by his actions he
affects life. But the action of daily life can be most varied: it can change
man for the better or the worse. So, that can't be it.
     "Let's  look  at  scientific   information.  It   is   also  real,  and
objective-but it's abstract.  In essence, it's the  universalized experience
of  the activity  of  humanity.  That's  why  it's  applicable in  many life
situations, and  that's  also why its effect  on life  is so  great.  And  a
reverse  connection  exists here with  life, too, even though  it is not  an
individual one for  each and every person, but a general one: science solves
life's problems, thus changing life-and a changed life sets new problems for
science. But still, the action of science  on  life in general and on man in
particular can be either  positive or negative. There are many  examples  to
support this. And there is another problem: science is hard for the  average
man  to comprehend. Yes, it's hard. All right,  if you  think about the same
thing  all the time,  sooner or later, you'll come up with  the  answer. The
important thing is to think systematically."
     He was distracted by sobbing from below. He looked down: his companion,
never  taking her  eyes  from  the book,  was dabbing  her wet  eyes  with a
handkerchief. "What are you reading?"
     She  looked up  angrily and  showed  him  the  cover: Remarque's  Three
Comrades.
     "The hell with them," she said and lost herself in  the book again. "Hm
...  a tubercular girl,  loving and  sensitive,  is dying. And my  well-fed,
healthy neighbor feels for her, empathizes. I guess there's no point beating
around the bush. The information of art is it! Anyway, its general direction
is  intended for the  best that  is  in man.  Over  the millennia,  art  has
developed  the   highest   quality   information   about  people:  thoughts,
descriptions  of  refined  spiritual  actions,  strong and  noble  feelings,
colorful  personalities,  beautiful and wise actions....  All  this has been
working from the beginning of  time to develop in people an understanding of
each  other and  of  life, to correct their  morals, to awaken  thoughts and
feelings, and  to  eradicate  the  animal  baseness of the spirit. And  this
information gets through-to be precise, it is marvelously  encoded, couldn't
be better, to function in the computer called  Man. In  this  sense, neither
daily information  nor scientific  information can  come close  to  artistic
information."
     The  train,  passing  through  Dneprovsk's  suburbs,  slowed  down. His
companion  set aside her book  and started pulling  out her  suitcases  from
under the seats. The man still lay on his berth, lost in thought:
     "Yes,  but  how  about  effectiveness?  People  have  been  trying  for
millennia-of course,  until the  middle  of the  last century,  art was only
accessible  to  the few.  But  then  technology  took  over: mass  printing,
lithography, expositions, records, movies, radio, television-art information
is available to  everyone.  For a contemporary man the volume of information
that he obtains from books,  movies,  radio, magazines, and TV is comparable
to life information and certainly much greater than science information. And
so?  Hm  ...  the  effect of art is  not  measured  technically and  is  not
determined through  experiments. All  that  we  have  to  do is  compare the
actions,  say, of  science and the  arts  during the last  fifty years. God,
there can be no comparison!"
     The  train pulled  into the station,  into the crowd of waiting friends
and relatives, porters and ice cream  vendors.  The man jumped down from the
berth, pulled down his backpack, and folded his blue raincoat  over his arm.
His companion was still struggling with her heavy suitcases.
     "My, how much luggage you have!  Let me  help," he offered, picking  up
the largest one.
     "No, thanks." The woman quickly sat  on  one suitcase, flinging a plump
leg over another, and clutched  a third with both hands. "Oh, no, thank you!
No, thanks!"
     She  looked up at him with a face that  no longer had any  pleasantness
about  it.  Her cheeks were  not plump but blowsy, and her eyes,  now watery
instead of blue, were hostile. There were no eyebrows, just two thin stripes
of pencil  marks. He could tell that  one  move from him and she would start
screaming.
     "Excuse me!" He let go and left. He was disgusted.
     "There  you go:  an illustration  of  the comparative effects  of daily
information and art information!" he thought, angrily  striding  through the
station  square.  "Lots  of  people  could  have come  from  distant  parts:
salesman, Party  worker,  athlete,  fisherman  ... but no,  she  thought the
worst,  suspected me of vile intentions!  It's the  principle of getting by:
better not  trust them than be  mistaken.  And  don't we make a much greater
mistake by  adhering to this principle?" In  the train he had been  thinking
because there was nothing else to do. Now he was thinking  to calm down, and
still about the same thing. "Of course, if you tell about a man in a book or
on screen-people will  understand him, believe in him, forgive his drawbacks
and love him for his good points. But it's much more complicated and prosaic
in real life. Why blame the little lady-I'm just as bad  myself. For a time,
I didn't believe  my own  father.  I loved him,  but I didn't believe him. I
didn't believe that he had fought in revolutions, in the Civil  War, that he
served under Chapayev, that he had met  Lenin.  It all began with  the movie
Chapayev:  my  father  wasn't in  it! There  was  Chapayev and all the other
certified  heroes-they  declaimed  colorful,  curt  slogans   with  powerful
voices-and Dad wasn't there! And anyway, how could my Dad be a Chapayev man?
He didn't get along with mother. He spoke in a wavering voice, caused by his
ill-fitting dentures, which he kept in  a glass overnight.  He mispronounced
words (not like in the movies). And he had been arrested in 1937. He used to
tell  the neighbor women  over the back fence how during Kerensky's  time he
was forced,  because of Bolshevik agitation, to stand two hours at attention
in full battle gear on the breastwork  of  a trench. He said that he brought
silver coins from the soldiers at the front to Lenin in the Smolny Institute
for the revolution's coffers. He talked about how, condemned to death by the
cossacks,  he sat in  a  cellar... and  the  local women  oohed  and  aahed,
clasping their hands: 'Our Karpych  is  a hero-ah! ah!' And I would laugh at
him and  not  believe him.  I  knew exactly  what heroes were like-because I
watched movies and listened to the radio."
     He frowned at these memories.
     "It  wasn't really me. But  the  important point is  that it was-but it
looks like there is a  hitch in the great method of transferring information
via art. People watch a movie or a play, read a book and say: 'I like it...'
and go on living just  as  before. Some  live well,  some not badly, and the
rest awfully. Art historians and critics often find a  flaw in the consumers
of the information: the public is  foolish, the readers aren't ready, and so
on.  To accept that I would have to admit  that I'm a fool and  that I'm not
ready either. No, I don't agree! And anyway, blaming things  on the people's
dullness  and  ignorance-that's  not a  constructive  approach.  People  are
capable of understanding and realization. Most  of  them are not dullards or
ignoramuses. So it would be better to seek the flaw in the method-especially
since I need that method for my experimental work."
     He saw a telephone booth and  he stared at it dully: was he supposed to
do  something  in that object?  He remembered. He sighed, entered the booth,
dialed the number of  the  New Systems Laboratory-Waiting for an answer, his
heart  began beating harder and his throat went dry. "I'm nervous and that's
bad."  There was nothing  but long ringing.  Then, with second thoughts,  he
called the evening duty phone at the institute.
     "Could you  help me reach Krivoshein? Is he on  vacation?" "Krivoshein?
He's ... no, he's not on vacation. Who's calling?" "If he should show up  at
the  institute today, please tell him that... Adam is  here." "Adam? No last
name?" "He knows. Please don't forget." "All right. I won't."
     The man  left the phone booth  with a sense of relief: he  had suddenly
realized that  he was not prepared to see him. "Well, I'm here.  I might  as
well try. Maybe he's at home?"
     He got on  a bus. He was not interested in the  city streets swathed in
blue twilight: he had left in summer  and he came back in summer. Everything
was green, and it seemed that nothing had changed.
     "Now, really, how can we use art information in our work? And can it be
used?  The whole problem is that  this information doesn't become part of  a
man's life experience, or his exact knowledge, and  it is on  experience and
knowledge that people base their actions. It really should go something like
this: a man  reads a book, begins to understand  himself  and his friends; a
louse  sees a  play, becomes horrified and turns into a decent man; a coward
goes down to the movies and comes out a hero. And it should last a lifetime,
not  just five minutes. That's probably what writers  and painters hope  for
when they  create.  Why  doesn't  it happen? Let's think. Art information is
constructed  along  the lines  of  everyday  information.  It  is  concrete,
contains subtle and flexible generalizations,  but it is not real. It's only
realistic,  probable. That must  be its weakness. It cannot be  applied like
scientific information: a man cannot plan out  his life  based on  it. It is
not  universal and objective enough  for that.  And you can't use it  for  a
guideline  the way  daily information can be  used because its  concreteness
never coincides with the concrete life of the given reader. "And  even if it
did  coincide, who  wants to lead a copycat  life?  You  can  copy a hairdo,
that's  all right,  but to  copy  a  life recommended  by a  large printing.
Apparently, the  idea of 'rearing along literary examples'  springs from the
idea that man comes from the apes and that imitation comes naturally to him.
But man  has  been  man  for  a  long time, millions  of  years. Now  he  is
characterized by self-determination and original behavior which he  knows to
be the better course." "Academic Town!" the driver announced.
     The man got off the  trolley and saw immediately that his trip had been
in vain. Two rows of standardized five-story houses, joining at the horizon,
gazed upon one another with lighted windows. But there were no lights in the
corner apartment on the fifth floor of house No. 33.
     A feeling of relief that the unpleasant meeting with Krivoshein was put
off,  once  again mingled with regret: he had no  place  to sleep. He took a
trolley back downtown  and  started checking out the hotels. Naturally, they
were all full.
     And he started thinking again, his thoughts coloring his  glum attempts
to find a place for the night.
     "The  longer  we live,  the  more we  see  that  there  are  many  life
situations  in which the decisions described in books or shown in movies are
inapplicable.  And we begin to see the information from art as a quasi-life,
in which things are not really like that. It's  a good place to live through
a dangerous adventure (even with a fatal ending) or to test one's principles
without  jeopardizing one's  job-in a word,  to  feel,  if  only for a brief
moment,  that  you are  someone else:  smarter, handsomer,  braver  than you
really  are.  It's  no secret  that people  who  live  humdrum  lives  adore
adventure and mystery  novels...."  He was  on Marx Prospect, with  its neon
signs and bright lights. "And we use this marvelous information for trifles,
for amusement to pass some  time. Or  to charm  a girl with the  right poem.
That information does  not belong to us. We didn't reach the conclusions and
truths about ourselves. We can just sit back, watch or read, as  an invented
life  goes beyond a  glass screen-we are merely 'information  receptors!' Of
course, there have been instances when the 'receptors' couldn't stand it and
tried to influence it: Dad used to tell about the Red Army soldier in Samara
who once  shot  at an actor  who played Admiral Kolchak in  a  play for  the
troops, and  earlier  in Nizhny Novgorod, the audience beat up the actor who
was portraying lago-for his good acting. The idea of breaking down the glass
barrier and acting on art is a good one. There's something to it...."
     A  thought, still unverbalized, unclear,  more a hunch,  ripened in his
mind. But  someone tapped him on the shoulder  just then. He looked  around:
there were three men in civilian  clothes. One of them casually  waved a red
book under his nose.
     "Show your documents, citizen."
     The man shrugged, put down his backpack, and took his passport from his
pocket. The operative read the first page, looked at the photograph and  his
face and the photograph again, and returned the passport.
     "Everything is in order. Excuse us, please."
     "Ooofff!"  The man picked  up  his pack,  and trying  not  to walk  any
faster, moved on  toward  the Theater  Hotel. His  mood was  worse. "I don't
think I should have come."
     The three men  walked over to  a  tobacco kiosk.  Officer Gayevoy, also
dressed as a plainclothesman, was waiting for them.
     "I told you," he said triumphantly.
     "Not the  one,..."  sighed the  operative. "Some  guy  called  Valentin
Vasilyevich Krivoshein. But if you go by the photo and the description, he's
definitely Kravets."
     "Description, description ... what's a description?" Gayevoy was angry.
"I saw him, you know: he had no gray  hair, was about ten years younger, and
a lot thinner."
     "Let's  go over to the railroad station, fellows," the second operative
suggested.  "After  all, he's  no  fool. He's  not  going to stroll down the
avenue!"


     Victor Kravets was at  that moment making his way down a dark, deserted
side street.
     After he jumped out of the moving police car, he went through the  park
to the banks of  the  Dnieper  and lay in  the bushes, waiting  for dark. He
wanted to  smoke and to eat.  The low sun  gilded  the sand of Beach Island,
dotted with bright mushrooms; there were still bathers  there. A  small tug,
spreading  watery whiskers from shore to shore, was hurrying upriver  to the
freight yards to  get  a new barge. Cars  and buses  moved noisily below the
cliff.
     "We finally got there. We thought everything through: the method of the
experiments, the  variants in  using the method, even  its influence on  the
world  situation.  This was the only variant we didn't foresee. What a  fall
from great heights face down into the  mud! From  researcher to criminal. My
God, what kind of work is  this-one  failed  experiment and everything flies
out  the window.  I'm  not  prepared  for this game  with investigators  and
medical experts, so unprepared that I  might  as well go down to the library
and  start reading up on the criminal code  and the-what  else is there?-the
judicial code.  I  don't know  the rules of the  game, and  I might lose.  I
guess, I  already have lost. The library...  how  could I have  time for the
library now?"
     The  cooling  towers of  the electrostation  on the other  side of  the
Dnieper  exhaled  fat columns of steam as though  they  were trying to  make
clouds. The low edge of the sun touched them.
     "What  should  I do now? Go back to the police,  tell them  everything,
make a clean breast of it' and give away (despicably) the secret we tried to
keep from evil eyes? And give it  away not  to save the project, but to save
myself? This won't save the work: in two or three days everything will start
rotting in the laboratory, and I won't be able to prove a thing, and  no one
will believe me,  and no one will  know what happened  there.  I won't  save
myself that  way either: Krivoshein died. The  weight of his death is on me,
as they say. Should I go to Azarov and explain things to him? There's no way
I could explain anything to him now. I'm less than a student on probation to
him-I'm a shady  character with forged papers. If he's  been informed of  my
escape, then as a  loyal administrator, he must  cooperate with  the police.
There it is, man's problem, in full view. The source of all our troubles. We
simply can't solve it through the laboratory  method. We! That's a laugh. We
who  have  achieved such  greatness. We  in  whose  hands lie the unheard-of
possibilities of synthesizing information. What  the hell. We  can't  handle
this problem; time to fess  up. And what sense  is there in the rest without
it?"
     The sun was setting. Kravets got up, brushed off his trousers, and went
up the path, not knowing where or why.  Loose change jangled in his pockets.
He counted it: enough for a pack of cigarettes and a very light supper. "And
then?" Two  young coeds, comfortably studying for  exams on a  bench in  the
bushes, looked with interest at the handsome young man, shook their heads to
dispel evil thoughts, and went back to their notes. "Mmm... I guess  I won't
be  completely  lost.  Should  I  go see  Lena?  But  she's  probably  under
surveillance, and they'll catch me...."
     The path led out onto a quiet, uninhabited street.  Branches heavy with
ripening cherries hung over the fences. At the street's end, a cloud blazed,
underlit with red.
     It  was getting dark fast. The  evening coolness was creeping up  under
his shirt, onto his  bare chest. On the opposite side  of the street, a half
block away from Victor, two men in caps walked out of the shadows. "Police!"
Kravets ducked  into  an alley. He ran  a block and then stopped to calm his
heart.
     "To think of it! I've never run  from anyone  in twenty years, and  now
I'm like  a boy  chased  out  of  somebody's  yard."  His  helplessness  and
degradation made the desire for a cigarette unbearable. "The game is lost. I
just have to admit that and leave. Follow my feet. After all, everyone of us
has experienced  the  desire to  get away from some situation or other.  Now
it's my turn, damn it! What else can I do?"
     The alley led out into the glow  of blue lights. The sight brought on a
wave  of animal hunger: he hadn't  eaten in  twenty-four  hours.  "Hm ... so
there are restaurants still open. I'll go. Nobody's going to look  for me on
Marx Prospect."
     The  concrete  posts extended their snake-headed street lights over the
pavement.  In the  store windows  elegant dummies  stood  in  casual  poses;
radios, televisions, and pots and pans  shone brightly; bottles of Sovetskoe
Champagne  beckoned,  and  cans  of  fish and  preserves  tumbled in  artful
disarray.  Under the blazing neon sign that read: "Here's  what you  can win
for  thirty kopeks!"  glistened a  Dniepr refrigerator, and  Dniepr-12  tape
recorder, a Dniepr sewing  machine, and a Slavutich-409 automobile. Even the
trimmed lindens along the wide sidewalks looked like industrial products.
     Victor stepped out onto the most  crowded area, the three-block stretch
between  the  Dynamo Restaurant and  the  Dniepr  movie theater.  There were
plenty  of  pedestrians.  Unkempt young men, trying  to  pass  for  bohemian
artists, walked stiffly down the  street, their eyes glazed. Elderly couples
moved at a dignified pace. Dandies, arms around  their girl friends,  headed
for the park. Men with bangs over their shifty eyes darted in and out of the
crowd-the kind who don't work anywhere but have connections. Girls carefully
balanced their various hairdos, including such masterpieces of tonsorial art
as "cavewoman," "after a ladies' free-for-all," and "let them love me for my
mind." Young singles wandered around, torn between desire and shyness.
     Kravets first walked around circumspectly, but then he became angry.
     "Look at all of  them walking around, to show themselves off and to see
others.  It's as though time has stopped for them, and nothing is happening.
They  used to  stroll down this street  when it was  called Gubernatorskaya,
before  the  Revolution-wearing  out  the  wooden  sidewalks,  checking  out
fashions and  each other. And they  strolled after the war-from the ruins of
the Dynamo  Restaurant  to the ruins of the Dniepr Theater under the  lights
hanging by a  single wire, cracking their sunflower seeds. They've paved the
avenue, dressed it in high rises  made of concrete, aluminum, and glass, lit
it up, planted trees and  flowers-and  they stroll around, sucking caramels,
listening to  their transistors,  proving the indomitability of the consumer
spirit! Show  themselves  off,  look  at others,  look at others,  and  show
themselves  off.  Take a  walk, drop in at the automat, consume a  meat pie,
walk around, drop in at the  well-tended toilet behind the post office, take
care of their  needs, take a walk, have  a drink,  meet someone, take a walk
... an insect's life!"
     He circumvented the crowd that had collected on the  corner  of  Engels
Street near the lottery  ticket vending  machine. The machine, made to  look
like a cyborg, played music, hawked customers with a recorded voice, and for
two  five-kopek pieces, after wildly  spinning a wheel made out of glass and
chrome, dispensed a "lucky" ticket. Kravets gritted his teeth.
     "And we, we idiots, decided  to transform people  with  mere laboratory
technology! What can we do  with  these consumers? What has changed for them
is the fact that there are taxis instead of hackney cabs, semitransistorized
tape  recorders instead  of accordions, telephones instead of "face-to-face"
gossip,  and  synthetic  raincoats  to wear in  good weather instead  of new
rubber galoshes? They used to  sit around their samovars and now  they spend
evenings around the TV."
     He heard snatches  of conversation from the  crowd: "Just between us, I
can tell  you frankly: a man is  a man, and a woman is a woman." "So he says
'Valya?' and I say 'No.' He says 'Lusya?' and I say 'No.'
     He  says 'Sonya?' and I say 'No.' "Abram went oh a  business trip,  and
his  wife...." "Learn to be satisfied with  the present moment, girls!" "And
what  will change as a result of progress in science and  technology? So the
store windows will overflow with polyester clothes, atomic wristwatches that
never need winding,  and with solid-state refrigerators and microwave ovens.
Luminescent plastic moving sidewalks will transport pedestrians from the 3-D
Dniepr Theater to the fully automated Dynamo Restaurant-they won't even have
to use their legs. They'll take strolls with microelectric walkie-talkies so
that  they won't  even  have to turn  to  their friends or risk tiring their
voices to exchange such brilliant gems as:
     'Just  between us,  I can tell you frankly: a  robot is a robot,  and a
mezzanine  is  a  mezzanine!'  'Abram  went  off  to an  antiworld, and  his
wife....'
     Team  to be  satisfied with  the present  microsecond!'  "And a vending
machine made to look  like  a space ship  will  sell 'Greetings from Venus!'
postcards: a view of the Venerian space port framed by kissing doves. And so
what?"
     Harry Haritonovich Hilobok  paraded  past  Kravets. A  girl  weak  with
laughter was hanging from his  arm. The assistant professor was busy amusing
her and didn't  notice the fugitive  student  duck into  the shadows  of the
lindens.  "Harry has a new one," thought Kravets, laughing. He  bought  some
cigarettes at a  kiosk, lit one, and moved on. He was engulfed in such anger
that he  lost  his  appetite, and  if  he  had fallen into the arms  of  the
operatives, there would have been quite a brawl.


     There was no room at the Theater Hotel either. The arrival walked along
the  prospect in  the  direction  of  the House  of  the Collective  Farmer,
grumpily observing the people around him.
     Walk,  walk, walk... every city in every country has a street where the
populace walks in the evenings, back and  forth, the crowd becoming a single
entity. Show themselves, look at each other. Walk, walk, walk-and the planet
trembles under their feet! It  must be  some collective instinct  that lures
them  here,  like the swallows to Capistrano. And others sit in front of the
TV.  How many of them are there, people who have relegated themselves to rot
away? ('We  know how to do something; we make good money; we have everything
we need; we live no  worse than others-so leave us alone!') Solitary people,
afraid to be  alone with themselves, confused  by the complexity of life and
unwilling  to think about  it. They remember the  one rule of safety:  to be
happy in life you must  be like everybody else. So they walk around and look
to see how everybody else is. They expect a revelation.
     Overshadowed  by  the  glowing glory of  the avenue,  the moon wandered
behind the translucent clouds. But nobody had time to look at it.
     "And  when  they   were  young  they  dreamed  about  living  exciting,
interesting, meaningful lives, about discovering new worlds. Who didn't have
that  dream? And  they  probably  still  dream  about  it, passionately  and
impotently.  What's  wrong?  They  didn't  have  the spirit to  follow their
dreams?  And  what for?  Why  give  free  rein to  your  dreams and  deepest
feelings-who knows where  it might  lead!-when you can buy ready-made dreams
and feelings,  when you can safely party at a feast for invented heroes? And
so they partied themselves sick, wasted their spiritual strength on trifles,
and what they have left is enough power to muster a walk down the avenue."
     Hilobok walked past him with  a young  girl. "So Harry has a new  one!"
the arrival thought.
     He watched him walk on. Should  he catch up with him and inquire  about
Krivoshein? "Nah,  in  any case  it's best  to stay away from  Hilobok." The
arrival and Kravets stepped onto the same block.


     "At one  time the humanoid  apes  diverged: some  picked  up rocks  and
sticks and began working, thinking; and others stayed to swing in the trees.
And  now on earth another transition is beginning, more powerful and driving
than the ancient ice age: the world is about to leap  into a new qualitative
state. But what do they care? They are willing to stay safe in  front of the
TV-it's easy to satisfy their simple demands through technology!"  the angry
Victor  Kravets muttered to himself.  "What do they care about all  the  new
vistas opened up by science, technology, industry? What's  our work to them?
You can increase  intelligence, cleverness,  and  work capabilities-so what?
They'll  learn  something not  for  the  pleasure of  mastery and satisfying
intellectual curiosity, but in order to earn more, to have easy work, and to
get  ahead  of others.  They  will  buy and hoard so that people will notice
their  success,  to   fill  their  empty  lives  with  worries  about  their
possessions.  And about a rainy day. It might never  come but because of it,
all  their  other  days  are  cloudy  .  .  .  boring! I'm  going  to go  to
Vladivostok,  on my  own, before I'm sent there officially. The project will
die off naturally. It won't help them in any way: in order to take advantage
of an opportunity like that you have to have high goals, spiritual strength,
and  a dissatisfaction with yourself.  And  they are only dissatisfied  with
their surroundings:  the situation, their friends, life, the  government-you
name it, as long as it's not themselves. Well, let them walk around. As they
say,  science  is  helpless here...." They were  separated only  by the post
office  building.  The   angry  thoughts  ebbed  away.  There  was  only  an
inexplicable uneasiness before the people who walked past Kravets.
     "Someone  said: no one despises the crowd more  than the mediocrity who
manages to climb above it. Who?" he frowned as he thought. "Wait a minute, I
said  that  myself  about  someone  else. Of course,  about someone else,  I
wouldn't have said it about  me...." He was disgusted. "In trampling them, I
trample myself. I haven't come so far; I used to be just like them. Wait up!
Does this mean that  I  simply want to  disappear?  And to keep  from  being
terribly embarrassed  and not to  lose  my  self-respect, I'm trying to give
this flight  a philosophical basis? I haven't sold out anyone: everything is
true; science  is  helpless,  and  that's  how  it  should  be. My  God,  an
intellectual's mind is wondrously  base and self-serving! (By  the way, I've
thought or said that  about someone  else, too; all of life's  verities  are
nicer when applied to others.) And that intelligent one is me.  All my gears
are going full blast, contempt for the crowd, theoretical discursiveness....
Hmmmm!" He blushed and felt hot. "So this is  where disaster can lead. Well,
all right, let's see what else there is for me to do."
     Suddenly his legs were rooted  to the pavement! Walking toward him with
an easy stride was a young man with a backpack and a raincoat over his  arm.
"Adam!" Kravets felt a  chill  and his heart  sank. It  wasn't a  man  but a
living pang of his  conscience coming toward him on that street. Adam's eyes
were   thoughtful  and  angry,  and  the  corners  of   his  mouth   drooped
forbiddingly. "He's going to see me, recognize me...." Victor looked away so
as  not to give himself away, but curiosity won out: he stared at  him.  No,
Adam  didn't look like a  "slave"  now-that  was a  confident,  strong,  and
decisive man. A memory floated  up of a disheveled head against a background
of dusky wallpaper,  eyes wide with  hatred, and a  ten-pound  iron dumbbell
raised over his face.
     The arrival walked on past him. "Of course, how could he recognize me?"
Kravets sighed in relief. "But why is he back? What does he want?"
     He watched the  man disappear into the  crowd. "Maybe I should catch up
with him and tell him what happened? All the help that...  No. Who knows why
he's  here." He was overwhelmed  with  despair  again.  "This  is  where all
outwork and  experiments  have led.  Damn it! We're  afraid  of  each other.
Wait... that  is  the other variant! But will it help?" Victor bit  his lip,
thinking hard.
     Adam had disappeared.
     "Well,  enough  self-torture!"  Kravets said,  shaking his head.  "This
isn't my work alone. And I can't escape-the work must be saved."
     He  pulled out  the  change from  his pocket, counted  it,  swallowed a
hungry gulp, and went into the post office.
     He just had enough  to pay for a short telegram:  MOSCOW, MOSCOW  STATE
U., BIOLOGY DEPT. TO KRIVOSHEIN. FLY OUT IMMEDIATELY. VALENTIN.
     He  sent  the  telegram and  went out  on the  street. He turned down a
street that led to the Institute of Systemology. After a few steps he turned
to see  if  anyone  was following him.  The street was empty, and  the  only
person watching was  the pretty woman with the bankbook in  the brightly lit
ad  on  the department store that said, "Save  your money  at  the  bank" in
foot-high letters. Her eyes promised to love anyone who saved.


     The sign over the administrator's window in the House of the Collective
Farmer read:
     Room for a man-60 kopeks.
     Room for a horse-1 ruble 20 kopeks.
     The man who had arrived from Vladivostok sighed and handed his passport
through the window. "Give me a sixty-kopek room, please."






     The  impossible is impossible. For instance, it  is  impossible to move
faster than  the speed of  light. But even if it were  possible, would it be
worth the trouble? After all, no one could see it to appreciate it.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 17


     The next  morning the  officer on duty in  the city  department  handed
Investigator Onisimov the  report  of the policeman on  guard  at the sealed
laboratory. It stated that during the night,  approximately between 1:00 and
2:00  A.M.,  an  unknown  man in  a  white  shirt attempted to enter the lab
through a window. The policeman's shout scared him off into the park.
     "I  see!"  Matvei  Apollonovich  rubbed  his  hands  in   satisfaction.
"Returning to the scene of the crime...."
     Yesterday  he  had  sent  notice  to  citizen  Azarov  and  to  citizen
Kolomiets. Matvei Apollonovich  wasn't really counting  on the academician's
showing up in his office-but the stub of the notice  would be handy  to have
around.  Elena Ivanovna  Kolomiets, an engineer  at  a  construction  design
bureau near the Systemology Institute, showed up promptly at ten.
     When she entered his office, Hilobok's wavy hand gestures came to mind;
she  was a beautiful woman.  "Isn't she  just  fine?"  thought Onisimov. Any
single feature of Elena Ivanovna's, taken  out  of context, was ordinary-her
dark hair was like any hair, and her nose was only a  nose (perhaps even too
upturned),  and the oval of  her  face was  just  an oval-but  together they
created  such a harmonious picture,  a picture  that  needed no analysis but
simply called  to be enjoyed  and remarked  upon  as  an example of nature's
great sense of proportion.
     Matvei Apollonovich remembered what the late Krivoshein had looked like
and he experienced typical male envy. "Hilobok was right; he's  no match for
her. What did she see in him? Was she looking for security? A husband with a
good income?" Like most men whose looks and age left little hope of romantic
conquest, Onisimov had a low opinion of beautiful women.
     "Please be seated. You are familiar with the  name Valentin Vasilyevich
Krivoshein?"
     "Yes." She had a throaty, mellifluous voice.
     "How about Victor Vitalyevich Kravets?"
     "Vitya? Yes."  Elena Ivanovna smiled, showing her even teeth. "I didn't
know his father's name was Vitaly, though. What's the matter?"
     "What  can  you tell  me about the relationship between  Krivoshein and
Kravets?"
     "Well... they  worked  together. Victor, I think, is a distant relative
of Valya... I mean,  Krivoshein.  I  think they  were  good  friends. What's
happened?"
     "Elena  Ivanovna, I'll  ask the questions." Onisimov  figured  that she
would reveal  more  if  she  were emotionally off balance, and he was  in no
hurry to  clear up the  situation. "Is it true that you  and Krivoshein were
close?"
     "Yes."
     "Why did you stop seeing him?"
     Elena Ivanovna's eyes became cold, and a  blush came and  went from her
cheeks.
     "That has nothing to do with this!"
     "And how would  you  know what does  and what doesn't  have  to do with
this?" Matvei Apollonovich perked up.
     "Because... because this can't  have anything to  do with  anything. We
broke up and that's all."
     "I see...  all right. We'll come back to that later. Tell me, where did
Kravets live?"
     "In a dormitory  for young  specialists in  Academic Town, like all the
probation workers."
     "Why didn't he live with Krivoshein?"
     "I don't know. Apparently they both preferred it that way."
     "Despite the fact that they were friends  and relatives? I see. And how
did  Kravets behave with  you? Did he court  you?"  Matvei Apollonovich  was
milking his version for all it was worth.
     "He did,..." Elena Ivanovna bit her lip. But she couldn't  control  her
tongue. "I think you'd do the same if I let you."
     "Aha, so you  let him, eh? Tell me, was Krivoshein jealous  of  Kravets
and you?"
     "Perhaps, he was... but I don't understand what all this is about." The
woman looked at the investigator with great hostility. "All these innuendos!
What happened, will you please tell me?"
     "Calm yourself, citizen!"
     Maybe  I should tell her? Should I? Is  she involved? She is beautiful,
and a  man could  really  fall for  her, but... it's the  wrong  milieu  for
serious sexual crimes.  The statistics are against it. A scientist  wouldn't
lose his head over a woman ... but Kravets....
     The telephone interrupted Onisimov's ruminations. He picked it up.
     "Onisimov here."
     "We've found  him,  comrade  captain!" the operative announced. "Do you
want to participate?"
     "Of course!"
     "We'll wait for you at the airport, car license plate 57-28 DNA."
     "I see!" The investigator stood and looked merrily at Kolomiets. "We'll
finish this little talk another time, Elena Ivanovna. Let me sign your pass.
Don't  be upset, and don't be mad: it's nerves-we're all  like that, you and
I, included...." "But what happened?"
     "We're investigating. I can say no  more  for now. Good  day!" Onisimov
walked her out, then got his gun from the desk  drawer, locked the room, and
hurried, almost at a run, to the parking lot.
     The  snow  white  IL  jet taxied up to the terminal exactly at 13:00. A
light blue,  elevated companion stairway  pulled up at its door. A heavyset,
short man in  tight green pants and bright shirt was the first  to run  down
the  stairs, and,  swinging his colorful traveling bag, he  marched down the
concrete hexagonal  paving  stones to  the barrier.  He kept looking around,
seeking someone in the crowd of people greeting the arrivals, found him, and
rushed toward him.
     "You look great! What's all the rush, the 'fly  out immediately' during
vacation? Let  me get  a look at you! You're better looking than ever,  even
taller! That's what a  year away does  for your looks! Your face seems noble
and I can even look upon your jaw without irritation."
     "And you,  I see,  have gotten fat off the graduate land." The  greeter
looked  him  over  with a critical eye.  "Have you furnished  yourself  with
socialist accumulations?"
     "Val,  it's  not  simple accumulation-it's  an  informational  material
reserve. I'll tell you all about  it later,  even give  you a demonstration.
It's  a complete turnaround, Val... but let's  talk about you first. Why did
you summon me before it was time? No, wait!" The recent passenger pulled out
a notebook from his pocket and withdrew several ten-ruble notes, "Here's the
money I owe you." "What money?"
     "Please, spare me the act!" The passenger raised his  hand to forestall
further protests. "We know;  we're touched: the absent-minded  scientist who
can't be bothered  with prosaic minutiae. Drop it. I  know you  better  than
that: you remember debts of fifty kopecks. Take the money and cut the bull!"
     "No,"  he  replied, smiling gently,  "you  don't  owe  me  a thing. You
see-"He stumbled under the direct piercing stare of his companion.
     "Goddamn it! So you've started dyeing your hair? And the scar?
     Where's the scar over the eyebrow?" His voice dropped to a whisper.
     "Who are you?"
     Meanwhile the crowd of arrivals and welcoming friends and relatives had
thinned  out.  Five men who had  met  no one  and were in no hurry discarded
their cigarettes and quickly surrounded the two men.
     "Keep quiet!" Onisimov hissed,  squeezing in between the  lab assistant
and the passenger who was staring at  him  in disbelief; the second  man had
money in his fist. "We'll shoot if you resist."
     "Oh, boy!"  the astonished passenger said, stepping back a pace; he was
immediately grabbed by the elbows.
     "Not 'oh, boy!' but the police, citizen...  Krivoshein, I believe?" The
investigator smiled with maximum pleasantness. "We'll have to hold you for a
while, too. Take them to the cars."
     Victor  Kravets,  seating himself in  the back seat of  a Volga between
Onisimov and Gayevoy, had a tired and calm smile on his face.
     "By the way,  if I were you, I'd  drop the  smile," Matvei Apollonovich
noted. "You serve time for jokes like this."
     "Ah, what's time!" Kravets waved his arm. "The important thing  is that
I think I've made the right move."


     "I never  thought that  my return would  begin  with an  episode from a
detective story!"  said the  passenger  as  he  entered  the  investigator's
office.  "Well,  once in a  lifetime  this could prove to  be  interesting."
Without waiting for an  invitation, he sat  down and looked around. Onisimov
sat down  opposite him in silence. Two feelings  were  battling  within him:
self-congratulation  (What  an  operation!  What  success!!  Caught  two  at
once-red-handed, it looks  like!)  and worry. Up until now the case had been
built  on the  fact that Krivoshein died or was  killed  in  the laboratory.
But.... Matvei Apollonovich took a hard look  at the man sitting before him:
a slanted brow with  a widow's peak,  ridges  over the  eyebrows, a purplish
scar over the  right brow, a freckled face with full cheeks, a fat nose with
a high  bridge, and short red hair.  There was no doubt about it; Krivoshein
was sitting in  his chair! "Boy, was I off. So who was bumped off in  there?
I'm getting to the bottom of this right now!"
     "Is that a hint?"  Krivoshein pointed at  the  barred windows. "To make
even the innocent confess?"
     "No,  this  used  to  be  a  wholesale  warehouse,"  the   investigator
explained,  and remembering  that  the lab  assistant had  begun yesterday's
interview  the same way, chuckled  at  the  coincidence. "It's a leftover...
Well, how do you feel, Valentin Vasilyevich?"
     "Thank  you-I'm sorry,  I don't  know your name  and patronymic-I can't
complain. How about you?"
     "Ditto. Though my condition has no direct bearing on the case."
     They  smiled  at each  other broadly  and tensely, like  boxers  before
beating each other's faces in.
     "And  mine, it  would appear,  does? I  just  thought  it  was standard
procedure  to enquire  about the health of  passengers that you grab for  no
good reason  at the airport. So what does  my condition have to do with your
case?"
     "We don't grab, citizen Krivoshein. We detain," Onisimov corrected him.
"And  your health interests me  in a completely  legal  way, since I have  a
doctor's certificate and several witnesses who say that you are a corpse."
     "A corpse?" Krivoshein examined  himself with exaggerated  playfulness.
"Well,  if that's your information,  you might  as well haul me  off to  the
autopsy  room." Suddenly he understood and  his smile disappeared. He looked
at Onisimov angrily and anxiously. "Listen, comrade investigator, if this is
a joke, it's a lousy one! What corpse?"
     "Please, who's joking?" Onisimov gestured  broadly with his hands. "The
day before yesterday your  body  was found in a laboratory-I saw  it with my
own eyes-I mean not your body, since you are in good health, but someone who
looked  very  much  like  you. It was identified as  being  you." "Damn it!"
Krivoshein  hunched over and  rubbed his  cheeks. "Can you  let me  see  the
body?"
     "Well, you know that we  can't, Valentin  Vasilyevich. It turned into a
skeleton,  you  know.  This mischief  isn't  a very good  idea.  It could be
misinterpreted."
     "Into a  skeleton?!" Krivoshein looked up and confusion showed  in  his
brown-flecked green eyes. "How? Where?"
     "It happened there, at  the scene, as if you needed any  information on
the matter from me," Onisimov stressed. "Maybe you'd like to explain?"
     "There  was  a  body  which  became a  skeleton," Krivoshein  muttered,
frowning.  "Then... oh,  then it's not so  bad.  He wasn't  wasting time; it
looks as if  something went wrong. Damn it, look  at me!" He cheered  up and
carefully  looked at the detective.  "You're  mixing  me up, comrade,  and I
don't know why. Bodies just  don't turn  into skeletons like that.  I know a
little about it.  And then, how  can you prove that it's my... I  mean,  the
body of a  man who looks like  me,  if you have  no body? Something's  wrong
here."
     "Perhaps. That's why I want you to shed light  on this  yourself. Since
all this happened in the laboratory you run."
     "That  I  run?  Hm...." Krivoshein laughed,  and shook  his head.  "I'm
afraid nothing will  come of this light  shedding. I need someone to explain
it all to me."
     "And  this one is  going  to go  mum, too!"  Matvei Apollonovich sighed
glumly, took a sheet of paper, and unscrewed his pen.
     "Let's do this in order. Your name is Valentin Vasilyevich Krivoshein?"
     "Yes."
     "Age thirty-five? Russian? Bachelor?"
     "Exactly."
     "You live  in  Dneprovsk and head the  New  Systems  Laboratory at  the
Systemology Institute?"
     "No, that's the part  that's wrong. I live in Moscow, and study  in the
graduate biology department at Moscow State  University.  Here!"  Krivoshein
handed him his passport and documents across the desk.
     The  papers  had  a realistically  weather-beaten  look. Everything  in
them-including the  three-year residence permit for Moscow-corresponded with
his story.
     "I see." Onisimov  put them in his desk. "These things are done quickly
in Moscow, in one day!"
     "What  are you trying to  say?!" Krivoshein stared at him,  one eyebrow
arched aggressively.
     "Your  documents  are  phony,  that's  what.  Just  as  phony  as  your
confederate's, to whom you were  trying to  pass  money at the airport. Were
you trying to guarantee an alibi? You needn't have bothered. We'll check it,
and then what?"
     "Go ahead and check!"
     "We will. Whom do you work under at MSU? Who's your advisor?"
     "Professor  Vano Aleksandrovich  Androsiashvili, department chairman in
general physiology, corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences."
     "I  see."  The  investigator  dialed  the  phone.  "Operator?  This  is
Onisimov. Quickly connect me with Moscow. I want this man on  the videophone
as  soon  as  possible. Write it  down,  Vano Aleksandrovich Androsiashvili,
professor, head of the physiology  department at the  university. Hurry!" He
stared at Krivoshein triumphantly.
     "The videophone! Marvelous!" he chuckled. "I see that detective work is
approaching science fiction. Will this be soon?"
     "It'll happen when  it happens. We have things to discuss,  you and I."
Krivoshein's  confidence,  however,  made  an  impression  on  Onisimov.  He
thought: "And what if this is some kind of crazy coincidence? Let me check."
     "Tell me, do you know Elena Ivanovna Kolomiets?"
     Krivoshein's  face  lost its calm expression.  He sat up and looked  at
Onisimov angrily and questioningly.
     "Yes. So what?"
     "Very well?"
     "So?"
     "Why did you break up?"
     "This,  my dear investigator, if you will excuse me, is absolutely none
of  your business!" Krivoshein was getting  very  angry.  "I do  not  permit
anyone to meddle in my private life-not God, not the devil, not the police!"
     "I see," Onisimov said calmly.  And the  thought: "It's him! No way out
of  it-it's  him. Why is he covering  up? What could he  possibly  be hoping
for?" He continued the questioning. "All right, here's an  easier  question:
who's Adam?"
     "Adam? The first man on earth. Why?"
     "He called the institute ... the first man.  He wanted to know  how you
were, wanted to see you."
     Krivoshein shrugged.
     "And who is that man who met you at the airport?"
     "Whom  you  so  cleverly  branded  as  my  confederate?  That  man...."
Krivoshein raised and dropped his eyebrows meditatively.
     "I'm afraid he's not the person I took him for."
     "I don't  think  he is,  either. Not at all."  Onisimov perked up. "But
then who is he?"
     "I don't know."
     "The same  nonsense all over again!" Onisimov wailed, throwing down his
pen. "Enough of this baloney, citizen Krivoshein. It's unbecoming!  You were
giving him money, forty rubles in tens. You mean you didn't know to whom you
were giving money?"
     At that moment a young man in  a white  lab coat came in to the office,
put  a form on the table, and left, after giving Krivoshein a sharp, curious
look. Onisimov looked at the  form-it  was  a report on  the analysis of the
suspect's  fingerprints. When  he looked up at  Krivoshein, his  eyes had  a
sympathetically triumphant smile.
     "Well, that's it. We  don't have  to  wait for  the Moscow professor to
give a visual ID-and he probably wouldn't anyway. Your fingerprints, citizen
Krivoshein, correspond completely to the prints that  I took at the scene of
the crime. Here,  see for yourself!" He handed  the  form  and  a magnifying
glass to Krivoshein. "So let's drop the game. And remember  that your flight
to Moscow and the fake papers only make things worse. The court  adds  three
to eight years to a sentence  for premeditation and  the attempt to confound
the police."
     Krivoshein, his lip extended, was studying the form.
     "Tell me," he  said, raising his eyes to the detective, "why can't  you
allow for the fact that there are two men with the same fingerprints?"
     "Why?! Because in a  hundred years of using this method in criminology,
such a thing has never happened once."
     "Lots of things  have never  happened before,  like  Sputnik,  hydrogen
bombs, and computers, but they exist now."
     "What do sputniks have to do with this?"  Matvei Apollonovich shrugged.
"Sputniks are  sputniks,  and  fingerprints are  fingerprints, incontestable
evidence. So are you going to talk?"
     Krivoshein gazed deeply and  thoughtfully at  the  detective and smiled
gently.
     "What's your name, comrade investigator?"
     "Matvei Apollonovich Onisimov, why?"
     "You know what, Matvei Apollonovich? Drop this case."
     "What do you mean, drop it?"
     "Just like that, the usual way, cover it up. How do you phrase it: 'for
insufficient evidence' or 'lack of proof of a crime.' You know, 'turned over
to the archives on such and such a date....'"
     Matvei Apollonovich was speechless. He had never encountered such brass
in all his years on the force.
     "You see, Matvei Apollonovich, you'll continue with the  varied and, in
usual   cases,   certainly   useful  activity   of  questioning,  detaining,
interrogating,  comparing  fingerprints,  bothering  busy  people with  your
videophone." Krivoshein developed his thought gesturing with his right hand.
"And all the time you'll keep thinking  that any  second now you'll have the
truth by the tail. Contradictions will smooth out into facts, the facts into
evidence; good  will  triumph, and  evil will get a  sentence  plus time for
premeditation." He sighed sympathetically.  "The hell  these  contradictions
will smooth  out! Not in this case. And you will never hit on  the truth for
the simple  reason  that you are  not ready  to accept it at  your level  of
reasoning."
     Onisimov frowned and his lips compressed into a huffy pout.
     "No, no!"  Krivoshein  waved his  hands. "Please don't  think  that I'm
trying to  put you down, that I want to  demean you,  or  cast aspersions on
your  qualities  as a detective.  I can see that  you  are  a  tenacious and
hard-working  man. But-how  can I explain this to you?"  He  squinted at the
sunny yellow window. "Oh, here's a good example.  About sixty years ago,  as
you undoubtedly know, the  machinery in factories and plants  was powered by
steam  or diesels.  A transmission  shaft went through  the  workshops  with
driving belts running from it to the machine pulleys. All this spun, buzzed,
and  hummed,  its wild noise  bringing  joy to  the director or  owner. Then
electricity came on the scene-and now all that has been replaced by electric
motors, built into the machines."
     Once  again,  like  last  night,  when  he  had  interrogated  the  lab
assistant,  Matvei Apollonovich was seized  by doubts:  something  was wrong
here! Quite a few people had been  in  his  office, polishing the chair with
their squirming:  taciturn teenagers  who  had gotten into  trouble  through
stupidity; weepy  speculators;  overly-casual  accountants caught  through a
routine check of the books; and repeat offenders  who knew all the laws. But
all of them realized sooner or later that the game was over, that the moment
had  come  for  them to confess and  hope  that  the record reflected  their
clean-breasted  repentance.  But this one .  . .  just  sat  there as though
nothing  had happened, waving his  arms and explaining at a simple level why
the  case  should  be  closed. "This lack of game playing is throwing me off
again! But no, I'm not going to slip twice in the same place!" he thought.
     Matvei Apollonovich was an  experienced investigator and knew well that
doubts  and impressions did not build a case-facts did. And  the facts  were
against Krivoshein and Kravets.
     "Now  imagine  that  in  some  ancient  factory  the  changeover   from
mechanical power  to  electricity took  place  overnight  instead  of taking
years," Krivoshein went on. "What would the owner of the factory think  when
he got there  in the morning? Naturally, that  someone had  swiped the steam
engine, the transmission shaft, the belts and pulleys. For him to understand
that it was a technological revolution and not a theft he would have to know
physics,  electronics,  and electrodynamics.  And you,  Matvei Apollonovich,
figuratively speaking, are in the position of such an owner."
     "Physics,    electronics,    electrodynamics."    Onisimov     repeated
distractedly,  looking at  his watch. Where  was  that call to  Moscow? "And
information theory, and the theory of modeling random processes, too?"
     "Aha!" Krivoshein  leaned back in his chair and looked at the detective
with undisguised pleasure. "You know about those sciences as well?"
     "We know everything, Valentin Vasilyevich."
     "I see there's no tricking you."
     "And I don't suggest you try. So,  are we going to  count on an illegal
closing of the case or are we going to tell the truth?"
     "Hah."  Krivoshein wiped his  forehead and cheeks with a  handkerchief.
"It's hot in here. All right. Let's agree on this, Matvei Apollonovich. I'll
find out what's going on, and then I'll tell you."
     "No," Onisimov shook his head. "We won't  agree on that.  It won't  do,
you know, to  have the suspect  conduct the investigation  of  the  case. No
crime would ever be solved that way."
     "Goddamn  it!"  Krivoshein  began,  but  the  door  opened  and a young
lieutenant announced:
     "Moscow, Matvei Apollonovich!"
     Onisimov  and  Krivoshein  went  up  to  the  second   floor   to   the
communications room.


     Vano Aleksandrovich Androsiashvili brought  his face  so close  to  the
videophone screen that it seemed he wanted to peck through the tube with his
hawklike, predatory nose. Yes, he recognized his  graduate  student Valentin
Vasilyevich Krivoshein. Yes,  he had seen the student daily for the last few
weeks, but  he couldn't give them dates of  their meetings further back than
that by heart. Yes, student Krivoshein had left the university for five days
with his personal permission. His  growling Georgian r's reverberated in the
phone's speaker. He  was very  upset that  he  had been  dragged  away  from
examinations to  take  part in  this strange proceeding. If the  police-here
Vano Aleksandrovich fixed his hot blue black eyes on Onisimov-stop believing
the very passports  that they themselves hand out, then, apparently  he will
have to change his profession from biologist to verifier of identity for all
his graduate students, undergraduates, and relatives, as well as for all the
members and corresponding members of the Academy of Sciences whom he has the
honor of knowing personally! But in that case, the very  natural question of
his  identity  might come  up.  Wouldn't  it  be  a  good idea  to have  the
university rector, or better  yet, the president of the academy, come on the
videophone to identify this suspicious professor?
     Having delivered this lecture in  one long breath, Vano  Aleksandrovich
shook  his head in  farewell and added, "That's not good! You have  to trust
people!" and disappeared from the screen. The microphones carried  the sound
of a slamming door  all the way to  Dneprovsk. The screen  showed a fat  man
with major's bars on his blue shirt; he made a face.
     "What's  the  matter,  comrades?  Couldn't  get  to the bottom of  this
yourselves? The end!"
     The screen went black.
     "Vano Aleksandrovich is still mad at me," thought Krivoshein as he went
down  the stairs behind the angrily  puffing Onisimov. "It's understandable:
he feels sorry for me, and I keep my back to him, hide things. If he  hadn't
accepted me, none  of  this would have happened.  I  barely made  it in  the
exams, like  a first-year student.  I  was okay  in philosophy  and  foreign
languages,  but  in my  specialty.... But  how  could  a  quick  reading  of
textbooks hide the absence of systematic knowledge?"
     That  had  been  a  year  ago.  After the entrance  exams  in  biology,
Androsiashvili invited him into his office, sat him down in a leather chair,
stood by the window and looked at him, his large, balding head tilted to the
right. "How old are you?" "Thirty-four."
     "On the  edge. Next year you'll celebrate  your  thirty-fifth  birthday
among  friends  and  kiss  full-time schooling  good-bye. Of course, there's
correspondence graduate school. And of course, that exists not for learning,
but to have a paid vacation. We won't even talk about it. I read your thesis
synopsis. It's a good one, mature,  with  interesting parallels  between the
work  of  the  nervous  centers  and  electronic  circuits.  I  gave  it  an
'excellent.' But..." the professor picked up a report and glanced at it,"...
you did not pass the exams, my boy! I mean, you got a 'satisfactory'  but we
do not take students with a 'C in their major."
     Krivoshein's  expression  must  have changed drastically,  because Vano
Aleksandrovich's voice became sympathetic:
     "Listen,  why  do  you  need this?  Moving  into  graduate  study? I've
familiarized  myself  with  your  background-you  work  in  an   interesting
institute, with a good position. You're a cyberneticist?"
     "A systemology technologist."
     "It's all the same to me. Then why?"
     Krivoshein was prepared for that question.
     "Precisely because I am a systemologist and a systemology technologist.
Man is  the most  complex and most highly organized  system known. I want to
figure it out completely-how things are constructed  in the  human organism,
what influences it. To understand the interrelationship of the parts, to put
it roughly."
     "To  use  these  principles  to   create   new  electronic   circuits?"
Androsiashvili screwed up his mouth ironically.
     "Not only that...  and  not  even so much  that. You see...  it  wasn't
always like this. Once man was  up  against  heat and frost; exertion from a
hunt or from running away from danger, hunger or rough, unsanitary food like
raw  meat;  heavy  mechanical  overloads  in work; fights which  tested  the
durability of the skull with  an oak staff-in a word,  once upon a  time the
physical environment made the same demands on man that... well, that today's
military  customers make  on  rockets. (Vano Aleksandrovich harrumphed,  but
said nothing.)  That environment over the  millennia formed homo sapiens-the
reasoning vertebrate mammal. But in the last two hundred years, if you start
from the  invention of  the steam engine, everything changed.  We created an
artificial environment out of electric motors,  explosives, pharmaceuticals,
conveyors, communal  service  systems,  computers, immunization,  transport,
increased radiation in the atmosphere, paved roads, carbon monoxide,  narrow
specialization in work-you know, contemporary  life. As  an engineer, I with
others  am  furthering  this  artificial  environment that determines ninety
percent of the life of homo sapiens and soon will  determine it one  hundred
percent. Nature will exist  only for Sunday outings. But as a human being, I
am somewhat uneasy." He took a breath and continued.
     "This  artificial  environment  frees man of many of the qualities  and
functions  he  developed  in  ancient  evolution.   Strength,  agility,  and
endurance are now  cultivated  only  in  sports,  while logical thought, the
pride  of  the Greeks, has been taken  over  by  machines.  But  man  is not
developing any  new  qualities-the  environment  is changing  too  fast  and
biological organisms can't keep up. Technological progress is accompanied by
soothing, but poorly  substantiated babble  that man will always be  on top.
Nevertheless-if you  talk not  about man, but about people, the many and the
varied-then  that is not true even  now,  and it will only get worse.  Many,
many do  not have  the  inherent capabilities to be  masters of contemporary
life: to know a lot, know how to do a lot, learn new things quickly, to work
creatively, and structure one's behavior optimally."
     "And how do you want to help?"
     "Help-I don't know if I can, but I would  like to study the question of
the untapped  resources of  man's organism.  For  example,  the  obsolescent
functions,  like our common ancestor's ability to leap from tree  to tree or
to sleep in the branches. Now that is no longer necessary, but the cells are
still there. Or take the 'goose bump' phenomenon-it happens on skin that has
almost no hair now. It is created  by a vast  nervous network. Perhaps these
old reflexes can be restructured, reprogrammed to meet new needs?"
     "So!  You  dream of modernizing and rationalizing  man?" Androsiashvili
stretched out  his  neck. "Instead of homo sapiens we'll have  homo modernus
rationalis, hm? Don't  you  think, my dear systemology technologist, that  a
rational path  might lead  to  a man  who  is no more than a suitcase with a
single appendage to  push  buttons? You  could probably  manage without that
appended arm, if you use brain waves.
     "If  you  want  to  be  truly  rational,  you  can manage  without  the
suitcase," Krivoshein noted.
     "That's  true!"  Vano  Aleksandrovich  tilted his  head  to  the  other
shoulder and looked at Krivoshein curiously.
     They obviously liked each other.
     "Not rationalizing, but enriching-that's what I'm thinking about."
     "Finally!" The professor paced his office. "Finally  that broad mass of
technological  workers,  conquerors  of  inorganic  matter,  creators of  an
artificial environment are beginning  to  see that they  too are people! Not
supermen who can overcome anything with their  intellect, but simply people.
Just  think  of  what  we're  trying  to  study  and  comprehend:  elemental
particles, the vacuum, cosmic rays, antiworlds, the secrets  of Atlantis....
The only  things we don't study and wish to comprehend  are ourselves! It's,
you see,  too hard, uninteresting, not easy  to handle. Hah, the world could
perish if people only  worked on things that were easy to handle." His voice
was  even  more  guttural than  usual. "Man feels a  biological  interest in
himself  only  when he has to go to the  hospital...  and  you're right,  if
things go on this way, we'll be able to manage without  the suitcase. As the
students say: 'Machines will lick us before we can say boo!'"  He stopped in
front  of  Krivoshein,  bent his  head,  and snorted. "But  you're  still  a
dilettante,  my  systemology  technologist.  You  make  it  sound  so  easy:
reprogram  old reflexes. If it were as easy as reprogramming a computer! Hm,
but on the other hand, you are a research engineer, with ideas, with a fresh
viewpoint that differs from our purely biological one. What am I saying! Why
am I building up hope, as though something will come of you?" He walked over
to the  window. "You're not  going  to write and  defend a dissertation, are
you? You have different goals, right?"
     "Right," Krivoshein admitted.
     "There you see. You'll return  to  your systemology and  I'll hear from
the rector about  not training  scientific personnel. Heh, I'll  take  you!"
Androsiashvili  concluded  without   any  change  in  tone.   He  approached
Krivoshein. "But  you'll  have  to  study,  go  through the whole course  of
biological  studies.  Otherwise  you'll  not  find  any  potentials in  man,
understand?"
     "Of course!" he nodded joyously. "That's why I'm here."
     The professor sized him up and pulled him over by the shoulder:
     "I'll tell you a secret. I'm studying myself. In the evening classes of
electronic  technology at Moscow Engineering Institute, in my third year.  I
go  to  lectures,  and  do  lab  work, and I  even  have  two incompletes-in
industrial electronics and quantum physics. I, too,  want to figure out what
goes where. You can help me... only shhhhh!"
     They were back  in Onisimov's office.  Matvei  Apollonovich paced  from
wall to wall. Krivoshein looked at his watch: it was after five. He frowned,
regretting the wasted time.
     "So, Matvei  Apollonovich, I have my alibi. Please return my documents,
and let's say good-bye."
     "No, wait!" Onisimov paced, beside himself with anger and confusion.
     Matvei   Apollonovich,  as   has  been  noted,   was   an   experienced
investigator, and  he clearly saw that all the facts in this damn  case were
neatly  turned  against  him.  Krivoshein  was  very  obviously  alive,  and
therefore the certified and reported death of  Krivoshein was a mistake.  He
did not  ascertain the  identity of the  man who died  or  was killed in the
laboratory  and he didn't even know how to begin  to establish  the cause of
death  or  means  of murder. He did not know  the  motive  for the crime-his
version was shot  to hell-and there  was no  body! The facts made  it appear
that the investigation conducted by Onisimov was just garbage.
     Matvei Apollonovich tried to  collect his thoughts. "Academician Azarov
identified  Krivoshein's  body. Professor Androsiashvili identified the live
Krivoshein and confirmed his alibi. That means that either one or  the other
made a false statement. Which one is not clear. That means I'll  have to see
both  of  them.  No  ...  to  check  up on  such people, to put  them  under
suspicion,  and  then to find out that  I'm barking up the wrong tree again!
I'll be destroyed...."
     In a word, Onisimov understood one thing: under no circumstances  could
he let Krivoshein out of his hands.
     "No,  wait! You  won't be able to  return to your  dirty  work, citizen
Krivoshein!  You think  that  by... putting makeup on the deceased and  then
destroying the  body, you can  get off the hook? We'll still check up on who
this Androsiashvili really is and why he's covering up for you! The evidence
against you is still there: fingerprints, contact with the  escaped suspect,
the attempt to give him money...."
     Krivoshein, disguising his irritation, scratched his chin.
     "I  just don't understand  what you're trying to  incriminate me  with:
being killed or being a killer?"
     "We'll clear it up, citizen!" Onisimov yelled, losing the last remnants
of his self-control. "We'll clear it up. But one thing is sure: no way could
you not be involved in this case. That's impossible!"
     "Ah,  impossible!  ?" Krivoshein  came up  to the  detective, his  face
flushed. "You think that since  you  work  for  the  police you know  what's
possible and what isn't?"
     And suddenly his face changed rapidly: his nose grew longer and fatter,
turning purple  and drooping; his eyes grew wider and their green  turned to
black;  his  hair  fell  back  from  his forehead, creating a  bald spot;  a
mustache sprouted on his upper lip, and  his jaw  grew shorter. In the space
of a minute, Onisimov was facing none other than the Georgian physiognomy of
Professor  Androsiashvili-with  bloodshot eyes,  a  mighty nose with flaring
nostrils and blue, shadowed cheeks.
     "You  think, katso,  that because you work for the police you know what
is possible and what isn't?"
     "Stop it!" Onisimov backed up to the wall.
     "Impossible!" Krivoshein howled. "I'll show you impossible!"
     He finished the  sentence in  a mellifluous, throaty woman's voice, and
his  face began turning into Elena Ivanovna Kolomiets's face: the  cute nose
turned up;  the  cheeks  grew  pink  and  round; the  dark  eyebrows  arched
delicately, and the eyes glowed with gray light.
     "If  anyone should come in  now,..."  thought Onisimov  feverishly  and
rushed to lock the door.
     "Uh-huh,  drop it!" Krivoshein, himself again,  stood in the  middle of
the room in a boxer's stance.
     "No,  you  misunderstood, . . ." muttered Matvei  Apollonovich,  coming
back to his desk. "Why get upset?"
     "Phew! . . .  and don't even think about calling." Krivoshein sat down,
puffing, his  face glistening with sweat. "Or I can turn into you. Would you
like that?"
     Onisimov's nerves gave out completely. He opened his drawer.
     "Don't... please relax... stop ... don't! Here, take your papers."
     "That's better."  Krivoshein took his  papers and picked up  his travel
bag  from  the floor. "I  explained to you nicely that you  should drop your
interest  in  this case-but no,  you  didn't  believe me.  I hope that  I've
convinced you now. Bye!"
     He  left.  Matvei  Apollonovich  stood  still  listening to some  sound
reverberating in the room's stillness.  A minute later  he realized  that it
was  his teeth chattering. His  hands were also  shaking. "What's the matter
with me?" He grabbed  the phone... and dropped it,  sank into his chair  and
impotently  laid  his head on the cool surface  of the desk. "The  hell with
this job."
     The  door opened wide and  the medical expert  Zubato  appeared on  his
doorstep with a plywood crate in his hands.
     "Listen,   Matvei,  this   really   is   the  crime  of  the   century.
Congratulations," he shouted. "Lookee  here!" He  noisily set the box on the
table, opened it, and  tossed out  the straw packing. "I just got this  from
the sculpture studio. Look!"
     Matvei Apollonovich looked  up. He was staring at  the  plaster cast of
Krivoshein's  face-with  a sloping forehead, a  fat upturned  nose, and wide
cheeks....






     The best way to disguise that you  limp with your left foot is 'to also
limp with your right. You will then walk with a sailor's swagger.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener. Hints for the Beginning Detective


     "You sucker, show-off punk!" Krivoshein  berated  himself. "You found a
wonderful  application for your discovery-terrifying  the police.  He  would
have let me go anyway; there was no way out."
     His  face  and body muscles were exhausted. The painful ache was easing
in his glands. "Three transformations in  a few minutes is an overload. What
a hothead. Well, nothing  will happen to me. That's  the beauty  of it, that
nothing can happen to me...."
     The sky was quickly turning dark  blue  over the houses. The neon signs
announcing the names of stores, theaters,  and  cafes went on with a  slight
hiss. The graduate student's thoughts returned to Moscow business.
     "Vano Aleksandrovich passed with flying colors; he didn't even ask  why
I was being held.  He  identified me and  that's  all. I  understand it: 'If
Krivoshein  is hiding his affairs from me then I  don't want to  know  about
them.' The proud  old man is  hurt. And he's right.  It was in  conversation
with him that I zeroed in on  my goals in the experiments. Actually, it  had
been no conversation-it  was an  agreement. But it isn't everyone  with whom
you can argue and come out with enriched ideas."


     Vano  Aleksandrovich   kept   circling   him,   watching   with  ironic
expectation: what earth-shattering ideas will the dilettante biologist  come
up with? Once on a December evening, Krivoshein found  him in his department
office and told him  everything that he felt about life in general and about
man in particular. It  was  a good evening: they sat  and smoked and talked,
while  a pre-New  Year's  storm  howled and  whistled outside, pounding snow
against the window.
     "Any machine is constructed somehow and does something," Krivoshein was
expounding. "The  biological machine called Man  also has these two parts to
it: the basic one and the operative. The operative part-organs of sensation,
the  brain,  motor  nerves,  and  skeletal  muscles-is  for  the  most  part
subservient to man. The eyes, ears, the binding parts of the skin, the nerve
endings in the nose and  the tongue, and the pain and  temperature receptors
react  to external stimulation, turn it into electrical  impulses (just like
the mechanism for  information input in a computer), while the brain and the
spinal  column   analyze  and   combine  the   impulses  according   to  the
'stimulation-braking' principle (similar to the impulse cells of a machine).
The synapses join and  separate, sending  commands  to the skeletal muscles,
which  perform  various actions-just  like  the  executive  mechanisms  of a
machine.
     "Man  controls the operative side of  his  organisms-he can even master
reflexes,  like pain, by  will power. But with  the basic side,  which takes
care of the fundamental  process of life-metabolism-it isn't like that. That
lungs suck in air;  the heart  forces  blood into  the dark crannies of  the
body;  the gullet contracts and pushes pieces of food into  the stomach; the
pancreas secretes hormones and enzymes to  reduce food to elements  that the
intestines can  absorb;  the liver  excretes glucose  into  the  blood.  The
thyroid and  parathyroid  produce wild things, thyroxin and  parathyreodine,
which determine whether  a person will grow and mature or remain a cretinous
dwarf, whether he will develop a sturdy skeletal system or whether his bones
can be bent like pretzels. An inconsequential-looking growth  by the base of
the brain-the pituitary  body-with the help  of its secretions  commands the
entire mysterious kitchen  of internal secretions as well as the functioning
of the kidneys, blood  pressure, and safe  delivery  in childbirth. And this
part  of  the  organism,  which   constructs  man-his  build,  skull  shape,
psychology,  health,  and  power-this part  is not subject to the  conscious
mind!"
     "Correct," smiled Vano Aleksandrovich. "In your operative side I easily
recognize  the activity of the 'animal' or somatic nervous system and in the
basic  one,  the  realm of the 'vegetative' or sympathetic  nervous  system.
These  terms  appeared in the eighteenth century;  they used  the  Latin for
animal and  for plant. Personally, I don't think  they're very apt.  Perhaps
your engineering terms will have greater  success in the twentieth  century.
Well, continue, please."
     "Machines, even electronic ones, are constructed  and made by man. Soon
the machines  will do it themselves;  the principle is clear.  But why can't
man  construct himself? Metabolism is  subordinate to  the  central  nervous
system. The glands, blood vessels, and intestines are connected to the brain
by the same kind of nerves as the muscles  and sensory organs are. Why can't
man control these processes the way he can wiggle his fingers? Why is  man's
conscious participation in this process  limited to satisfying his  appetite
and thirst  and  several opposite needs? It's ridiculous. Homo  sapiens, the
king  of nature, the  crown of  evolution, the creator of complex technology
and art, is distinguished in the basic life process from cows and earthworms
only in the use of knives and forks and alcohol!"
     "Why is it so  important  to  be  able to  bring  sugar,  enzymes,  and
hormones into the blood through will power?" Androsiashvili's bushy eyebrows
arched. "Please be so  kind as to tell me  why, on top of all my worries  in
the department, I have to  also think  every  hour about how much adrenaline
and  insulin I should produce in the pancreas and where I should direct  it?
The  sympathetic system takes care  of it for me, without  bothering man-and
that's fine!"
     "Is it fine, Vano Aleksandrovich? What about disease?"
     "Disease... so  that's your angle: disease as  an error in the workings
of  the basic  construction  system."  The professor's eyebrows turned  into
sinusoids.  "The  mistakes  that we try  to rectify with pills,  compresses,
vaccinations, and  other operative  interference, and  usually without  much
success.  But... disease is the result of  those  effects of the environment
that the organism can't handle."
     "And  why  can't  it?  After  all,  we  know  in  most  cases  what  is
harmful-that's the basis  of disease prevention,  epidemic control. We  try,
simply, to keep away from danger. But the environment  keeps spewing out new
mysteries: X-ray radiation, welding arcs, isotopes-"
     "Enough!"  The professor raised both  hands in  surrender. "I  have the
feeling that you have a secret answer on the tip of your tongue and you just
can't wait for your interlocutor to bulge  his eyes and ask with timid hope:
'But why?' All right! Look: my eyes are open wide." The whites of his  eyes,
shot with red,  sparkled.  "And I am  asking the long-awaited  question. Why
can't people control their metabolism?"
     "Because they've forgotten how it's done!" Krivoshein thundered.
     "Bah!" the professor slapped his knee  in glee. "They  used to know and
forgot? Like a phone number? Interesting!"
     "Let's  remember  that  the  human  brain  contains  a  huge  number of
unactivated  cells: ninety-nine percent,  and  in  some,  ninety-nine  point
something. It's  unlikely  that  they exist just  like  that, for  a  backup
reserve; nature doesn't allow excess. It's only natural to  posit that those
cells  contained  information that  is  now  lost.  Not  necessarily  verbal
information-there is little of that in our  organisms  now because  it's too
crude  and  approximate-but  biological information,  expressed  in  images,
feelings, sensations-"
     "Stop! I know  the rest!" Androsiashvili shouted exultantly. "Martians!
No, better than Martians. After all, they're going to get to  Mars sooner or
later, and then it could be checked. Let's say inhabitants of  a planet that
used   to  exist   somewhere  between  Mars  and   Jupiter  that  has  since
disintegrated into asteroids. Highly intelligent creatures lived there. They
had an  artificial, varied environment,  and  they knew how to control their
organisms  to  adapt  to  the  environment  and  also  for  fun.  And  these
inhabitants, sensing that their planet was about to die, moved to Earth."
     "Perhaps it was that way," Krivoshein agreed calmly. "In any  case,  we
must assume that man had highly organized ancestors wherever they came from.
And they went wild, finding themselves in a wild, primitive environment with
harsh  living   conditions-in  the  Cenozoic  Era.  Heat,  jungles,  swamps,
animals-and  no conveniences.  Life was reduced to the struggle for survival
and all their refinements were wasted. Then over many generations it was all
lost,  from  literacy  to the  ability to control  metabolism. Really,  Vano
Aleksandrovich, put a city dweller in  the jungle now, and  see what happens
to him!"
     "Very effective!" Androsiashvili smacked his lips in pleasure. "And the
excess  brain cells remained in the  organism  along  with the  appendix and
hairy underarms?  Now I understand why  my  dear colleague Professor Valerno
calls science fiction 'intellectual decadence.'"
     "Why? And what does that have to do with this?"
     "Because  it  replaces sober discussion  with effective  games  of  the
imagination."
     "Well,  you know," Krivoshein countered, getting angry, "in systemology
we don't put  down working  hypotheses with references  to  the  ban mots of
friends. Any idea is usable if it is profitable."
     "And  in  biology,  comrade graduate student," Androsiashvili  shouted,
rolling  his  eyes,  "we  only  use  ideas  that  are   based  on  a  sober,
materialistic approach! And not on  the ruins  of  a fantasy planet! We deal
with something more important  than technology-we deal with life! And  since
you  are now  working  in  our  field,  I suggest  you  remember  that!  Any
dilettante  comes along .  .  . and,  phahh!"  He immediately cooled off and
changed to a peaceful  tone. "All right. Let's make believe that  each of us
has smashed a plate. Now back to the serious things: why is your hypothesis,
to  put  it  mildly,   dubious?   First  of  all,  the  'unactivated'  brain
cell-technological terminology is not applicable to biological concepts. The
cells are  alive-therefore  they are  already  activated.  Secondly, why not
assume that these billions of cells are there as a reserve?"
     Vano Aleksandrovich got up and looked down at Krivoshein.
     "My  dear  comrade graduate  student, I do have a  little  knowledge of
technology-after all, I am an evening student at MEI!-and  I know  that you,
hmm,  in  systemology,  you have the concept and problem of reliability. The
reliability  of  electronic  systems  is  guaranteed by a  reserve of parts,
cells, and  even units. Then why not  assume that  nature has created in man
the same  kind of  reserve for reliability  in the  brain?  After all, nerve
cells do not regenerate."
     "It's  an awfully big reserve!"  The graduate  student shook  his head.
"The average man uses a million cells out of a possible billion."
     "And talented people use tens of millions! And geniuses . . . actually,
no one's measured their  cells  yet-maybe  they  use  hundreds  of millions.
Perhaps the brain of each  of us is reserved for genius potential? I tend to
feel that genius and not mediocrity is man's natural state."
     "Very effectively put, Vano Aleksandrovich."
     "I  see  you  are  a  cruel man  . . .  but, think what  you  will,  my
reservations have as much value as your hypothesis about Martians gone wild.
Hah,  and if you  take into account the fact that I am your  advisor and you
are my student,  then they are even more valuable!" He sat  down. "But let's
get back to the major issue: why is present-day man incapable of controlling
the autonomous  nervous  system and metabolism?  You  know  why?  Because it
hasn't come to that yet."
     "So that's it!"
     "Yes. The environment teaches man in only one way: through conditioning
drills.  You know that in order to  form a  conditioned reflex the situation
and  stimulus  must  be  repeated  frequently.  And  that's  just  how  life
experience  develops. And in order  to form an unconditioned reflex  that is
inherited the drill must be repeated for  many generations for thousands  of
years. You  were right about the  biological information in the organism; it
is  not  expressed  verbally,  but  by  the  reflexes, both conditioned  and
unconditioned. And it is man's will that controls  reflexes, of course, in a
limited way. You don't think through from beginning to end which muscle must
contract how much when you light a cigarette,  and  you  don't think through
the chemical reactions  of the muscle  contraction. The consciousness  gives
the order to light up and the reflexes take over. Both the specific one that
you acquired from practicing that filthy habit-crumple the cigarette, inhale
the smoke-as  well as the general ones passed  on  to you from your  distant
ancestors: grabbing, breathing, and so on..." Vano  Aleksandrovich-it wasn't
clear whether  it was intended to  be an illustration or not-lit a cigarette
and exhaled a stream of smoke toward the ceiling.
     "I'm leading up to  the fact that the consciousness controls when there
is something  to control. In  the operative part of the  organism, when  the
final action, as  Sechenov  noted long ago, is a muscular one ... remember?"
Androsiashvili  sat back in his chair and quoted:" 'A child  laughing  at  a
toy, Garibaldi smiling at the accusation  of excessive love for his country,
a young  girl trembling at  the  first  thoughts of  love,  Newton  creating
universal  laws and writing  them down-the final fact in all these instances
is muscular action.' Ah, how brilliantly  Ivan  Mikhailovich  wrote! So  the
operative part gives the mind something  to control and lets it choose among
its  vast store of  conditioned and  unconditioned reflexes  for each unique
situation. And in the  constructive  part, where  the body's chemistry takes
place, there is nothing for the mind to do.  Just think for a  moment  about
what conditioned reflexes are involved in metabolism?"
     "Drink or not,  give me a little  more  horseradish, can't  abide pork,
smoking,  and...."  Krivoshein  got confused.  "And well,  I guess  washing,
brushing your teeth...."
     "There's a dozen more like  that," nodded the professor, "but  they are
all minor, semichemical, semimuscular, superficial reflexes.  And  deeper in
the organism there  are  definite  reflex  processes that  are connected  so
unilaterally  that   there  is   nothing   to  control:  oxygen  leaves  the
bloodstream,  breathe;  not enough  protein for the muscles,  eat;  excreted
water, drink; poisoned yourself  with things forbidden for the organism,  be
sick or  die. And  there are no variations. You can't say that life  did not
teach people about metabolic reactions-it taught them cruelly. Epidemics-how
nice  it would  be to  figure out  through  the use  of  your  mind and your
reflexes just  which bacillus was destroying you and purge it from your body
like  fleas! Famines-just hibernate like a bear  instead of  puffing up  and
dying! Wounds and mutilations in fighting-regenerate your torn-off  limb  or
gouged  eye! And that's  not  enough.  It would all be  done  at high speed.
Muscular  reaction  happens  in tenths and hundredths of  a second,  and the
fastest  of  the  metabolic   actions-secretion  of   adrenaline   into  the
bloodstream-takes  seconds. The secretion of hormones  by the glands and the
pituitary is discovered only after years, and maybe only once in a lifetime.
Thus,"  he smiled  wanly, "this knowledge is not  lost  by the  organism; it
simply has not yet been acquired. It's too difficult for man to learn such a
lesson."
     "And  therefore mastery  of metabolism could  drag  on for  millions of
years?"
     "I'm afraid that it  could take dozens of  millions  of years,"  sighed
Vano Aleksandrovich.  "We  mammals  are very  recent  inhabitants of  earth.
Thirty million years-is that an age? Everything is still ahead of us.
     "There  will be  nothing ahead  of us, Vano Aleksandrovich!"  exclaimed
Krivoshein. "The present environment changes from year to year-what  kind of
million-year learning process  can  there  be, what  kind of  repetition  of
lessons? Man has stepped  off the path of natural evolution, and now he must
figure things out for himself."
     "And we are."
     "What? Pills,  powders, hemorrhoidal  suppositories,  enemas,  and  bed
rest? Are you sure that we are improving man's breed  this way? Maybe  we're
ruining it?"
     '  I'm not  trying to talk you into  involving yourself with pills  and
powders if  those are the  terms you choose to  use for the  antibiotics our
department  is developing," Vano Aleksandrovich  said, his face taking  on a
cold and haughty look. "If you want to study  your idea-go ahead,  dare. But
explaining  the  unrealistic  and unplanned  aspects  of  this  decision  in
graduate work and for a future dissertation is my right and my duty."
     He stood up and tossed the butts from the ashtray into the wastebasket.
     "Forgive me, Vano Aleksandrovich. I certainly didn't want to hurt  your
feelings." Krivoshein also stood, realizing that the conversation  was over,
and ending  on an unpleasant note. "But. . .  Vano Aleksandrovich, there are
very interesting facts."
     "What facts?"
     "Well  ...  in  the  last   century  in  India  there  was  a  man-god,
Ramakrishna. And,  if  someone was being beaten nearby, he had welts  on his
body. Or  take 'burns by suggestion': a sensitive  subject is touched with a
pencil  and told that it was a lit  cigarette. In these  cases metabolism is
controlled without a 'learning process,' is it not?"
     "Listen, you nagging student," Androsiashvili wheeled on him, "how many
window bolts can you eat in a sitting?"
     "Hmmmm," Krivoshein  said in confusion. "I don't think any  at all. How
about you?"
     "Me neither. But a patient I had in the  dim  past when I worked in the
Pavlov Psychiatric Clinic swallowed, without any particular harm to himself,
. . ."  the professor  leaned back, remembering,  "five window bolts, twelve
aluminum  teaspoons, three tablespoons, two pairs of surgical scissors,  240
grams of broken  glass, one fork, and 400 grams of various  nails. Now these
are not the results of an autopsy, mind you, but  the history of a disease-I
cut  him open myself.  The patient was  cured  of suicidal tendencies and is
probably still alive today."  The professor glanced down at  Krivoshein from
the heights of  his erudition. "So in scientific matters it is better not to
orient  yourself  by religious fanatics or secular psychopaths.  No, no!" He
raised  his  hand  to  stave  off  the   obvious  look  of  disagreement  in
Krivoshein's eyes. "Enough  arguing. Go ahead,  I  won't  stop you. I'm sure
that  you will  try  to  regulate metabolism  with some  kind of machine  or
electronic method."
     Vano Aleksandrovich  gave the  student  a thoughtful and tired look and
smiled.
     "Catching the Firebird with your bare hands! What could  be better? And
you  have a holy goal: man without diseases, without old age-age is a result
of a breakdown  in  metabolism, too.  Twenty years or  so  ago, I would have
allowed  myself to be fired up by this idea. But  now... now I must  do what
can definitely be done. Even if it's only a pill."


     Krivoshein   turned  down  a  cross  street  toward  the  Institute  of
Systemology and almost bumped into a man in a dark blue cloak, much too warm
for  the  season.  The  unexpectedness  of the  encounter  produced  further
problems: Krivoshein  stepped to the left to let the man past, while the man
did the same to the right. Then both of them, letting  the other  go  first,
finally  set off  in  opposite directions. The man  stared at Krivoshein  in
amazement and stopped.
     "I beg your pardon," he muttered and went on.
     The street was dark and empty. Krivoshein soon  heard  footsteps behind
him and looked back: the man in the cloak was following at a short distance.
"That Onisimov!" thought the graduate student. "He's got a detective tailing
me!" He experimented by going faster and heard the man's pace increase. "Ah,
the hell with him!  I'm certainly not going to cover  my tracks." Krivoshein
went  on  slowly,  rambling.  However,  his  back felt uncomfortable and his
thoughts returned to reality.
     "So, I guess  Val  tried another experiment. Maybe he wasn't alone?  It
failed;  that  corpse turning  into  a  skeleton.  But why  are  the  police
involved? And where is  he?  Our Val must have  blown town on his bike until
things calmed down. Or maybe he's in the lab?"
     Krivoshein approached the monumental, cast-iron gates of the institute.
The rectangular posts of the gates  were so  large that the left  one easily
contained the pass office and the right  one the entrance way. He opened the
door. Old  man  Vakhterych, the ancient guard  of science, was  nodding  off
behind the barrier.
     "Good evening!" Krivoshein nodded at him.
     "Good evening, Valentin Vasilyevich!" replied Vakhterych, obviously not
about to  ask him for his pass;  they were used to visits by the head of the
New Systems Lab at all hours.
     Krivoshein, inside the grounds, looked back; the creep in the cloak was
stuck  outside.  There you  go, chum,"  Krivoshein thought. "The pass system
proves itself once again."
     The windows of the lodge were dark. A red cigarette light glowed by the
door.  Krivoshein crouched under the trees and made out  a uniform  cap on a
man's  head against the stars. "No,  I've had it with  the cops for one day.
I'd better go home,..." he laughed. "I mean to his house."
     He  started for the gates, but remembered the fellow  in the cloak  and
stopped.  "That's against  all  the  rules,  the  suspect  running  into the
detective's arms. Let him do some work." Krivoshein headed for the other end
of the park-where the branches of the  old oak hung over the iron pickets of
the  fence.  He  jumped from the branch onto the  sidewalk  and  started for
Academic Town.
     "But what happened with his experiment? And who was that guy who met me
at the airport? The  telegram really confused me:  I  thought he was Val! He
does  look  like him-very  much  so. Could  it be?  Val obviously didn't sit
around  all  year twiddling his  thumbs! Too bad we didn't write. What petty
fools we are: each one wanting to  prove that he could do without the other,
to astound the other a  year later with his results.  With his  own results!
The highest  form  of  possession.  And  so  we've amazed  each other. We're
destroying  a  major  project  with   pettiness.  With  pettiness,  lack  of
forethought, and fear.  We  shouldn't have scattered  every  which  way, but
tried to attract people who  were worthy and real, like Vano Aleksandrovich,
from the very beginning. Yes, but back then I didn't know him,  and it won't
help to try it now, when he storms past me and gives me dirty looks."


     It  had all  happened in the  spring, in late March when Krivoshein had
only  begun mastering  metabolism in his own  body.  Busy  with  himself, he
hadn't noticed spring until spring made him notice:  a heavy icicle  fell on
him from the roof of a five-story building. If it had fallen a half inch  to
the left,  it would have been the end of  the experiments on  metabolism  as
well as the end of his organism. But the icicle merely ripped his ear, broke
his collar bone, and knocked him down.
     "Disaster, disaster!" That's  what  he  heard professor  Androsiashvili
saying as he came to. He was leaning over him, feeling his head, unbuttoning
his coat.  "I'll  kill  that  janitor for  not clearing the  snow!" he said,
angrily shaking his fist.  "Can you walk?" He  helped Krivoshein up.  "Don't
worry,  your head is fairly whole. The clavicle will heal in a few weeks. It
could have been worse. Hold on, I'll walk you over to the infirmary."
     "Thank  you,  Vano  Aleksandrovich,  I'll  manage  myself,"  Krivoshein
replied as heartily as he could,  even squeezing out a smile. "I'll make it,
it's nearby."
     And he moved on quickly, almost at a run. He  stopped the bleeding from
his ear immediately. But his right hand was dangling loosely.
     "I'll call  them  to get  the electric stitcher  ready!" the  professor
called after him. "They'll be able to sew up the ear!"
     Back  in  his  room,  Krivoshein  taped  up  his  ear,  torn along  the
cartilage,  in  front of  the mirror and wiped  away  the  caked blood  with
cotton. That was easy. Ten minutes  later there was  only a pink scar  where
the  tear  had been,  and in a half  hour, that was  gone too.  Mending  the
clavicle  was  a  lot  harder;  he  had  to  lie  on  his  bed  all  evening
concentrating on commanding  the blood vessels, the glands, and the muscles.
The bones had much less chemical solution than soft tissue.
     He decided to go  to  Androsiashvili's class  in the morning. He got to
the  hall  early to take  an inconspicuous seat in the back and ran into the
professor,  who  was  instructing students  about  the  hanging of  posters.
Krivoshein backed off, but it was too late.
     "Why  are you here? Why aren't you in the clinic?" Vano  Aleksandrovich
went  pale, staring at the student's ear  and the right hand in which he was
clutching his notebook. "What is this?"
     "And  you  said  it  would  take  dozens  of  millions of  years,  Vano
Aleksandrovich."  Krivoshein  couldn't  resist.  "You  see,  it can  be done
without 'drilling.'"
     "You mean... it's working? How?"
     Krivoshein bit his lip.
     "Mmmm, a little later, Vano Aleksandrovich,"  he muttered awkwardly. "I
still have to figure it all out myself."
     "Yourself?"  The  professor  raised  his eyebrows.  "You  don't want to
tell?" His face grew cold and haughty.  "All right, as you wish. Pardon me!"
He went to his desk.
     From that day  on  he nodded icily to his  student  when  they met, and
never  entered  into  a discussion. Krivoshein, to keep his conscience  from
bothering him too much, lost himself  in his experiments. He really did have
a lot more to learn.


     "Don't you understand that I  wanted to demonstrate my discovery-relive
my burning interest in it, your praise,  fame, . . ." thought  Krivoshein as
he tried to justify himself before the invisible Androsiashvili. "After all,
unlike  the  psychopaths  I could  have  explained it all.  Of course,  this
doesn't work with other people yet; they don't have the constitution for it.
But the  important  thing is that I've  proved the  possibility  of  it, the
knowledge. If only the discovery had been limited to  the  fact  that I  can
heal my own wounds, breaks, and cure  myself  of diseases!  The trouble with
nature is that  it never  gives just exactly as  much  as is needed for  the
welfare of man-it's always either too much or too little. I  got too much. I
could,  probably,  turn myself into an animal,  even  into a monster. That's
possible. Everything's possible. That's the scary part." Krivoshein sighed.
     The window and glass  door that opened  onto  the balcony of  the fifth
floor  glowed softly. It  looked like  the table  lamp was on. "Is he home?"
Krivoshein ran up  the stairs,  rummaged  through  his pockets from force of
habit, remembered  that he had thrown out the key a  year ago, and swore  at
himself,  for it would have been very  effective to suddenly walk  in: "Your
documents, citizen!" There still was no doorbell, and he knocked.
     He  heard light, quick steps-they made  his  heart beat  faster-and the
lock clicked. Lena was opening the door.
     "Oh,  Val,  you're alive!" She grabbed  his  neck with  her warm hands,
looked him over,  smoothed his hair, hugged him, and began crying. "Val,  my
darling...  and  I  thought...  they've  been saying such horrible things! I
called your lab, and there was no answer. I called the institute, and when I
asked where you were, what had  happened, they hung up. I came here, and you
were gone.  And  they  told me that you were...."  She  sobbed angrily. "The
fools!"
     "All right, Lena, don't.  That's enough. What's the matter?" Krivoshein
wanted very much to hold her close and he barely controlled his arms.
     It was  as though nothing had happened:  not  discovery number one, not
the  year  of  mad, concentrated  work  in Moscow,  where he cast  away  the
past....  Krivoshein  had  tried   more  than  once-for  spiritual  peace-to
eradicate Lena's face from his memory. He  knew how  it was  done: a rush of
blood  with  an  increased  glucose  level  to  the  brain's  cortex,  small
oxidations directed at the nucleotides of a certain area-and the information
is removed from the cells  forever. But he  didn't  want to...  or couldn't.
'Wanting' and 'being able'-how do you distinguish them  in yourself? And now
the woman he loved was  weeping on his shoulder, weeping  from anxiety about
him. He had to soothe her.
     "Stop, Lena. Everything's all right, as you can see."
     She looked up at him. Her eyes were wet, happy, and guilty.
     "Val... you're not mad at me, are you? I said all those horrible things
to you then-I  don't know why myself.  I'm  just  stupid! You  were  hurt? I
thought that it was all over, too,  but  when I found out that something had
happened to you ... I couldn't. You see, I ran here. Forget it, please? It's
forgotten, all right?"
     "Yes," Krivoshein said sincerely. "Let's go inside."
     "Oh, Val, you can't imagine how terrified I was!" She was still holding
onto  his  shoulders,  afraid  to  let go.  "And  that  investigator...  the
questions!"
     "He called you in, too?"
     "Yes."
     "Aha, the old cherchez la femme!"
     They went inside.  It hadn't  changed: a gray daybed, a cheap desk, two
chairs,  a bookshelf piled with magazines up  to the ceiling, and a wardrobe
with  the usual mirrored  door. In  the  corner by the door lay crisscrossed
dumbbells.
     "I cleaned up a  little, waiting  for you. The dust... you have to keep
the balcony door shut tight, when you leave." Lena moved close to him. "Val,
what did happen?"
     "If I only  knew!" he thought  with a sigh. "Nothing terrible... just a
lot of brouhaha."
     "Why the police, then?"
     "The police? They  were called, and they  came. If they  had called the
fire department, they would have come too."
     "Oh, Val,..." she placed her  arms around his neck and wrinkled up  her
nose. "Why are you like that?"
     "Like  what?"  he  asked, feeling more  stupid  by the  second.  "Well,
seemingly grown-up, but irresponsible. And when  I'm  with you I turn into a
silly schoolgirl.... Val, where's Victor. What happened to him? Listen," she
asked, her eyes growing wide, "is it true that he's a spy?"
     "Victor? What Victor?"
     "Are  you  joking?  Victor  Kravets,  your assistant and  nephew  twice
removed."
     "Nephew,  lab assistant...."  Krivoshein was momentarily  confused. "So
that's it!"
     Lena threw up her hands.
     "Val, what's the matter with you? You can tell me. What happened in the
lab?"
     "Forgive me, Lena,  I just  got confused.  Of course, old Peter, I mean
Victor Kravets, my trusty assistant and nephew ... a very nice  guy...." The
woman still regarded him wide-eyed. "Don't  be surprised, Lena, this is just
a  momentary  amnesia, that always happens after... after an electric shock.
It'll pass, it's not serious. So you say the rumor's  begun that he's a spy?
Ah, that Academy of Sciences!"
     "Then it's true that there was  a catastrophe  in the lab?  Why, why do
you keep everything from me?  You  could have been-no! I don't want to think
about it!"
     "Stop,  please  God, stop!" Krivoshein  said  irritably, sitting  down.
"Could have, couldn't have, did, wasn't.... You see, everything is fine.  (I
wish it were, he thought.) I can't  tell you anything until  I've figured it
all out myself."  He moved  into  an attack. "And what's  your  problem? So,
there's  one  Krivoshein  more or less  in the world-big deal! You're young,
beautiful, childless-you'll find someone else, someone better than an  aging
codger like me. Take Peter, I mean, Victor Kravets: he's better for you?"
     "Again?" she smiled, came up behind his chair, and  put his head on her
bosom. "Why  do you  keep harping on Victor? I don't need him.  I don't care
how good-looking he is; he's not you, understand?  That's it. And the others
aren't you either. Now I know for sure."
     "Hm?" Krivoshein untangled himself.
     "What, 'hm'? You're  jealous, silly. I didn't sit at  home every  night
like  a nun. I went out.  I was courted, even seriously by  some. And still,
they  were  all wrong!"  Her voice caressed  him. "They're  not like you-and
that's it! I came back to you anyway."
     Krivoshein felt the warmth of her  body with the back of his neck, felt
her soft hands on his eyes and experienced an  incomparable  bliss. "I could
sit  like  this forever.  I've  just come back from  work,  and nothing  has
happened . . . and I'm tired  and she's here . . . but something did happen!
Something  very  serious  happened,  and  I'm  sitting  here   stealing  her
caresses!"
     He got up.
     "All right, Lena. You'll excuse me, but I'm not going to walk you home.
I'll  just  sit a while  or go to sleep. I don't feel  very  well  after all
that."
     "I'll stay?"
     It  was half  question,  half statement. For  a  second  Krivoshein was
overwhelmed  with wild  jealousy. "I'll stay?" she  used to say and he would
agree.  Or maybe  he suggested  it  himself:  "Stay tonight,  Lena." And she
stayed.
     "No, Lena, you go home." He laughed bitterly.
     "That means  you're still  mad, right?" She looked at him and  got mad.
"You're a fool, Val, a real jerk! The hell with you!" And she turned for the
door.
     Krivoshein stood in the middle of the room, listening: the click of the
lock, Lena's heels  on the stairs, the downstairs door slamming, quick light
steps on the pavement. He ran to the balcony to call to  her-and the evening
breeze sobered him up. "So, I see  her, and  fall back  in just like that! I
wonder what she said to him? All right, the hell with last year's romances!"
He went back inside. "I have to find out  what happened here.  Wait! He must
have a diary! Of course!"
     Krivoshein pulled  open  all  the drawers  in  the  desk,  tossing  out
magazines, folders, quickly glancing through  notebooks. No, that's not  it.
On the bottom of the last drawer he found a cassette, a quarter filled,  and
for a minute he forgot about his search: he got the cassette player from the
shelf, dusted it off, put in the cassette, and turned it on playback.
     "With the rights of the discoverers," a hoarse voice began,  after some
hissing, carelessly slurring the  endings of  words, "we  are taking it upon
ourselves to research and exploit the discovery to be called-"
     "The artificial biological  synthesis  of  information," another  voice
(though remarkably like the first) added. "It's not particularly euphonious,
but it's accurate."
     "Fine.   The   artificial  biological   synthesis  of  information.  We
understand that this discovery touches  upon man's life like no other and is
capable of becoming the greatest threat or the greatest boon for mankind. We
swear to do everything in our  power to use  this discovery  for the good of
humanity."
     "We swear that  until  we  have researched all  the potentials  of this
discovery-"
     "And until it  is  clear to us how to use  it with absolute reliability
for the good of humanity-" "Not to turn it over into anyone else's hands-"
     "And not to publish anything about it."
     Krivoshein  stood with his eyes closed.  He was transported to that May
night when they made that vow.
     "We vow not to give away our discovery for our  well-being, or fame, or
immortality until we are sure that it cannot be used to harm people. We will
destroy our work rather than permit that."
     "We swear!" The two voices spoke in unison. The tape ended.
     "We were  hotheads then. So, the diary must be nearby." Krivoshein dove
into the desk once more, rummaged about, and a second later  held a notebook
with  a  yellow  cardboard  cover, as thick  and heavy as a  book. There was
nothing  written  on the cover, but Krivoshein was certain that he had found
what he  was after: a year ago, when he got to Moscow, he had bought himself
the exact same notebook in a yellow cover to keep his own diary.
     He sat  down at  the  desk, moved the lamp closer, lit a cigarette, and
opened the notebook.








     The relativity of knowledge  is a  great thing. The statement "two plus
two equals thirteen"  is relatively closer  to the truth than  "two plus two
equals forty-one." You  could even say that the  move to the former from the
latter represents an expression of creative maturity, scholarly courage, and
unheard-of scientific progress-if you  didn't  know that two plus two equals
four.
     We know  that in arithmetic, but it's too soon to rejoice. For example,
in  physics, two plus two equals less than four because of a defect in mass.
And in such fine sciences as sociology or ethics, not even two plus two, but
even one plus  one can be either a future  family or a conspiracy  to rob  a
bank.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 5


     May 22. Today I  saw him off at the train.  In the station  restaurant,
the customers stared at two grown twins. I felt uncomfortable. He was happy.
     "Remember,  fifteen  years ago, I-no, I guess it was  you-left  for the
exams at the physics-technological  institute? It was all the same: a streak
of alienation, freedom, uncertainty...."
     I remembered. Yes, it was the  same. The same waiter with an expression
of chronic  dissatisfaction with life served  tenth-graders who had  escaped
into life. Then we  thought that everything was ahead of us;  and so it was.
And now there is  quite a bit behind us: happy things, and gray things,  and
things that make it scary to look back, and yet it still seems that the best
and most interesting is ahead.
     Then we drank the cheapest port. Now the waiter brought us fine cognac.
We each had a glass.
     It was  noisy and crowded  in the restaurant.  People were  eating  and
drinking in a rush.
     "Look,"  my  double pointed  out,  "a mother feeding twins.  Greetings,
colleagues! Look at their eyes.  How do you think  they'll turn out? For now
their mother  is taking care  of  them, and  even so they  managed  to smear
porridge all  over their faces  in the same way. But in a few years  another
bustling mother will take over-Life.  One, say, will  grab a chicken by  the
tail  and  pull  out  all  the  feathers.  The  first  in  a  collection  of
unrepeatable impressions, since there will be no feathers left for the other
to  pull. But the other  will  get  lost in  a  store with great weeping and
wailing-another personal, unique  experience. And  a  year later  his mother
will  let  him  have  it for  the jam  that his  brother  gobbled up.  Again
differences:  one  will  sense  injustice while the  other  is getting  away
without punishment. Oh, mama, watch it. If things  go  on like  that, one of
them will grow up to be a timid loser,  and the other  a sly fellow who gets
away  with  everything. You'll  cry  then,  mama. You and  I are  like those
twins."
     "Well,  at least an unfair spanking won't knock us off the track. We're
at the wrong age."
     "I'll drink to that!"
     They  announced  the train. We  went  out to the platform.  He  went on
talking.
     "You know what's interesting? What happens to that old saw about people
being born with a destiny? Let's say that it  was intended at your birth for
you to  move through space and  time at  a certain rate, to advance at work,
etc. And  suddenly-abracadabra!-there  are  two  Krivosheins! And they  lead
separate  lives in separate cities. Now what happens to the divine  plan? Or
did God write it in two variants? And what if we turn into  ten? And what if
we don't want  to, and don't?" We both made believe that something  ordinary
was happening. "Friends, check  to  see that you haven't  kept the departing
passengers' tickets by mistake!" I hadn't. The train took him to Moscow.
     We agreed to write to each other when necessary (I'll bet that he won't
feel that necessity very soon!) and to meet next July. We'll spend this year
approaching the  problem from two angles; he'll take biology, and I'll  take
systemology. We'll see....
     When the train left I  realized that I would miss him. I  guess because
this was the first time that I had felt as comfortable  with another  person
as I do with  ...  with  myself. There's no other  way  of putting  it. Even
between  Lena  and me there  is always something left unsaid, misunderstood,
strictly personal. But with  him... but even with him, we each developed our
own secrets over  a  month  of  living together.  Interesting, that bustling
mother life!
     I was high on cognac, and coming  back  from  the  station  I stared at
people  and at life.  Women  with concerned,  anxious faces entering stores.
Guys riding on motorcycles with girls on the back seat. Lines forming by the
newspaper kiosks, waiting for the evening papers. Human faces, how different
they all are,  how understandable and  mysterious!  I can't explain  how  it
happens, but  I seem to know about  a lot of them. The corners of the mouth,
harsh or fine wrinkles, the bearing of the head, and the eyes-especially the
eyes!-they are  all  signs of preverbal information. Probably  from the days
when we were apes.
     Just  recently  I did  not notice  such things.  I  did not notice, for
instance,  that  people  waiting   in  line  were  ugly.  The  banality  and
meaninglessness of  such an  occupation, the worry that they  will run  out,
that  someone will sneak  in ahead of  them,  leaves an ugly  imprint on the
face. And drunks are ugly, and brawlers are ugly.
     But take a look at a young girl, laughing at a joke made by the boy she
loves. Or at a  mother, nursing  a child.  At  a master craftsman doing fine
work.  At  a good man thinking about something. They are  beautiful, despite
pimples, wrinkles, and lines.
     I could never appreciate beauty  in animals.  As far  as  I'm concerned
only man is beautiful-and then only when he is human.
     A toddler stared at me  as though  I were a  miracle, tripped and fell,
insulted  by earth's pull. His  mother,  naturally, added to  his  pain. The
little guy  suffered  for nothing.  What  kind of  marvel am I? Just  a  man
getting fat, with a round back, and a common face.
     But maybe the little fellow was  right: I'm really a miracle? And every
person is a miracle?
     What do  we  know about people?  What  do I  know about myself? In  the
problem called life, people are a given that does not have to be proved. And
everyone who uses that  given  comes up with his own theory. Take my double,
for instance. He left and that was both unexpected and logical.
     But  wait! If  I'm going  to  get  into  this,  I should  start  at the
beginning.
     It's  funny  to  remember. Actually,  I  began  with  the  simplest  of
intentions. To do my dissertation.
     But  creating something secondhand and compilatory (sort  of  like  the
topic recommended  to me by my former chief professor Voltampernov, "Several
Peculiarities in Projecting Diode Memory Systems") was boring and repulsive.
I was  human  after all. I wanted an unsolved problem,  to get into its soul
and to investigate nature with the help  of reason, machines, and apparatus.
And to discover something that no one had ever known. Or to invent something
that  no  one else ever had thought of.  And to be asked  questions  at  the
defense that would be fun to answer. And  then to be told by friends, "Well,
you really let them have it! Terrific!"
     All the more because I can do that. It's not something you announce  to
people,  but I  can  say  it  in my diary:  I  can. Five inventions  and two
completed research projects are proof of that. And this discovery... ah, no,
Krivoshein, don't  be  in  a rush  to add this to your intellectual laurels.
You're mixed up by this and still can't get it straightened out.
     In a word,  my heart's  desire is what led me  into the thick  of  that
tendency of world systemology where  the  fundamental operative function  is
not the formula, or the algorithm, not even the recipe, but mere chance.
     We, with our limited minds,  love to  make juxtapositions: lyric  poets
and  physicists,  waves  and particles,  plants  and  animals,  machines and
people.... But in life and  in  nature these things are not juxtaposed; they
complement  each  other. Just as  logic and  chance complement each other in
comprehension and solution finding. You can  find much of the unproved,  the
capricious, in  mathematical and  logical  constructions  and  you  can find
logical laws at work in random events.
     For example, the ideological enemy of random  retrieval,  Voltampernov,
doctor  of  technological  sciences,  never  missed  a  chance to  parry  my
suggestion (to study modeling of random processes) with  the quip: "But that
will be  modeling  with, so to  speak,  coffee grounds!" Isn't this the best
illustration of that complementary nature?
     And it was hard to argue. There was little achieved  in this field, and
many projects  ended unsuccessfully, and ideas... ideas  didn't  have enough
effect. In our department, like in the Wild West, they believed only in bare
facts.
     I was thinking of following the example of Valery Ivanov, my friend and
former head of the lab, and to call it quits with the institute  and move on
to another  city. But-and here it was, the  random chance!-the  builders did
not complete  the new building for  perfectly  good reasons,  and the  money
allotted in the institute's budget was not spent for good reason, and Arkady
Arkadievich  announced a  "contest"  to find  the  best way  to spend eighty
thousand  rubles.  I'm sure  that the most  virulent defender of determinism
would have to be careful not to make a mistake here.
     I had formed my idea by then to research what a computer would do if it
was fed not by a program that had been reduced  to a binary system, but with
ordinary-meaningful  and  random-information. Just that. Because when it  is
programmed it works with an amazing brilliance that stuns reporters. ("A new
breakthrough in  science:  a  machine  can  plan  a  shop's  work  in  three
minutes!"-because the programmers in their modesty  usually fail  to mention
the number of months they prepared for that three-minute decision.)
     Naturally, my  idea  done in  an  elementary way was  nothing more than
delirium for any intelligent systemologist: the computer would not behave in
any way at all; it would simply stop! But I  wasn't planning on doing it the
elementary way.
     To spend eighty thousand rubles to equip  a lab in  the five weeks left
in a fiscal year, even a lab that  was as flexible as one for pure research,
was  no  snap. It's no wonder  that  the equipment genius  of the institute,
Alter  Abramovich,  still  shakes  hands  respectfully   whenever  we  meet.
Actually,  he didn't realize that  an idea coupled with  a burning desire to
move into the operative expanses can work wonders.
     So,  this was  the  situation:  there was money and  nothing else. Five
thousand to the builders for the best lodge  possible. (They tried all kinds
of  manipulation,  like "Dear man!  we'll  fulfill the plan and  even win  a
prize,  you'll see!") Thirteen thousand for a TsVM-12 computer. Another nine
thousand for  all kinds of sensors and receivers: piezoelectric microphones,
flexible   strain   gauges,   germanium   phototransistors,  gas  analyzers,
thermistors, an apparatus for calculating the  electromagnetic biopotentials
of  the brain  using  the SES-1  system  with four thousand microelectrodes,
pulsometers, semiconducting moisture analyzers, and photoelemental "reading"
arrays . .  . basically, everything that turns sounds, images, smells, small
pressures, temperatures,  weather changes,  and even spiritual impulses into
electrical  impulses.  With   four  thousand  I   bought  various  reagents,
laboratory  glassware,  chemical equipment-in  case I ever  wanted to employ
chemotronics,  about  which I  had heard a little. (And if  I'm  going to be
completely honest, because it was easy to buy this  stuff by requisition.  I
don't have to mention the fact  that I didn't use any of the eighty thousand
for personal effects.)
     All this was fine, but the core of  the experiment was still missing. I
knew what  I wanted:  a  commutator  that  could switch  and  combine random
signals from  the sensors in order to send  them to a "reasoning" computer-a
piece of an electronic brain with  a free  circuit of connections of several
thousand switching  cells. You can't get something like that even by written
order-it  doesn't exist. Buy  the  parts that make  up  the usual  computers
(diodes, triodes, resistors, condensers, etc.)  and order one? It would take
too long, and was completely unrealistic. I would have to supply a  detailed
blueprint for  something  like  that,  but  what I  wanted couldn't  have  a
blueprint. It was really  a  case  of not knowing where I would go or what I
would  find.  And once more my friend chance gave me my "I  don't know what"
and Lena....  Wait. Here I'm not  willing  to put it  all  down  to  chance.
Meeting Lena  was a gift of fate,  pure  and  simple. But as for the crystal
unit... if you think about  something day  and night, you'll always  come up
with it, find or notice it.
     Here  was the situation:  three weeks left  'til the  end of the  year;
fifty thousand rubles still unused; no hopes of  finding the commutator; and
I'm riding a bus.
     "They  bought fifty  thousand rubles worth  of solid-state circuits and
then  they  found  out they  don't  fit!"  a woman in  a brown  fur coat was
exclaiming in front  of me to her neighbor.  "That's disgusting!" "Madness,"
she agreed.
     "Now Pshembakov is trying to blame everything on the supply department.
But he ordered them himself!" "Just think of the gall!"
     The  words  "fifty thousand" and  "solid-state circuits" had  gotten my
attention. "Excuse me, but what kind of circuits?"
     The woman turned to  me, her  face so  beautiful and  stern  that I was
sorry I had interrupted.
     " 'Not-ors' and flip-flops!" she answered hotly.
     "What parameters?"
     "Low-voltage-excuse me, but why are you butting into our conversation?"
     And  that's  how I met Elena Ivanovna  Kolomiets, an engineer from  the
nearby construction  design  bureau. The  following day,  engineer Kolomiets
wrote a  pass for executive  engineer Krivoshein  to  visit  her department.
"Savior! Benefactor!" cried the head  of the department, Zhalbek Balbekovich
Pshembakov, when engineer Kolomiets introduced me and explained that I could
buy  up the  bureau's damned solid-state circuits. But I agreed to  benefact
and save Zhalbek  Balbekovich only on  the  following  conditions:  (a)  all
38,000 cells would be mounted on  panels in accordance with a rough sketch I
gave him; (b) the cells would be connected by feed bars; (c) each cell would
be wired and; (d) all this would be done by the end of the year.
     "You have great production forces here. It won't be difficult for you."
     "For the same money? But the cells themselves cost fifty thousand!"
     "Yes, but they didn't fit the FTD. Keep that in mind."
     "You're a scourge,  not a benefactor," said Zhalbek Balbekovich,  sadly
waving  his hand. "Fill out the order, Elena Ivanovna. We'll send it in from
our department. And I'm putting this whole thing in your hands."
     May Allah bless your name, Zhalbek Balbekovich!
     To this  very  day, I think  that I won Lena's heart not  with my great
qualities, but because-when the cells had been mounted on the panels and the
edges of the  microelectrical cube  looked  like fields of colorful  wires-I
answered her tremulous question "And  how should they be connected?"  with a
devil-may-care:
     "However  you  like!  Blue to  red-and  make  sure  it's  aesthetically
pleasing!"
     Women respect the irrational.
     And that's how it all happened. Chance  does make itself felt. (Oh, now
it's  beginning to  seem that during the  course of my work I've developed a
worshipful attitude  toward chance! The fanaticism of  a convert.... Before,
to tell the truth, I was a real sluggard, preaching humility and resignation
in the face of "unlucky" events. If you think about it, such feelings always
mask  our  spiritual  laziness and  complacency.  Now  I  was  beginning  to
understand  an important aspect of  chance, whether in  life or science: you
won't conquer it  with  reason  alone.  Working  with  chance  demands quick
thinking, initiative, and a  readiness to change your plans... but it's just
as stupid to worship it as it is  to  deride it. Chance is neither enemy nor
friend, neither God nor devil. Whether chance is mastered or lost depends on
the  person.  And those who  believe in luck  and  fate  can go  out and buy
lottery rickets!)
     "But the name laboratory  of  Random  Research'  is  too odious,"  said
Arkady  Arkadievich,  signing the  order to establish  an  unstructured lab,
directed by engineer Krivoshein, with the concomitant material, fire safety,
and other responsibilities. "You shouldn't give people straight lines. Let's
call  it something more restrained, like 'New  Systems Laboratory.' And then
we'll see."
     That meant that doing my dissertation remained my major problem. Beyond
that, it was "we'll see." I have yet to solve the problem.







     If  an  identification computer,  or  perceptron,  signals "garbage" in
response  to a  picture of an elephant, to the depiction of a camel,  and to
the portrait of a major scientist, this does not necessarily mean that it is
irreparable. It may just  be philosophically inclined  -K. Prutkov-enzhener,
Thought 30


     Naturally,  I  had  hoped,  for my  spirits,  that  the  work  would be
livelier. How  could I not dream, when the mastermind of cybernetics, Walter
Ross Ashby,  doctor of neurophysiology, kept coming up with ideas, each more
entrancing than the next! Random processes  as the source of the development
and ruin  of  any  system, . . . strengthening the thinking  capabilities of
humans  and  machines  by  distinguishing  the  valuable  thoughts  from the
nonsense in random expression,... and finally, noise as the raw material for
extracting  information-yes, yes, the  "white  noise,"  that troublemaker on
which I  lost  more than one year and more than one idea trying to drive  it
out of circuitry!
     In  general, if you think about it, the founder of this tendency has to
be considered not Dr. Ashby, but  the now-forgotten director  of the Bolshoi
Theater in Moscow,  who  (in order to create ominous rumblings  in the crowd
scenes of Boris Godunov) first ordered each extra to repeat his home address
and phone number. But Ashby has posited solving the reverse problem. We take
noise-the surf, the hiss of coal dust in a mike, anything-and plug it into a
machine. From the noise chaos we extract the  largest "splashes." This gives
us a  pattern of  impulses.  And impulse  patterns are binary  numbers.  And
binary figures can be  changed into decimal ones.  And decimals are numbers:
for  example,  the numbers  assigned  to words in a  dictionary for  machine
translation. And a collection  of words is  a  sentence. Of course, for now,
the  sentences  are  varied:  false,  real,   abracadabra-informational  raw
material. But the next cascade will have two streams of information-the kind
that is intelligible  to  people, and  this raw material. Then operations of
comparison,  coincidence, and noncoincidence-and  everything nonsensical  is
filtered  out, as is  the banal. Then original new thoughts, discoveries and
inventions,  the  works of unborn poets and writers,  philosophical thoughts
from the future appear! A thinking computer!
     Of course,  the respected  doctor did  not explain how to perform  this
miracle. His idea is embodied only in squares connected by arrows on a piece
of paper. In general, the question of how to do it is not highly esteemed in
academic circles. "If you remove yourself from the difficulties of technical
realization, then  in principle you will be able to imagine...." But how can
I remove myself from it?
     Well, enough whining! That's why I'm an experimenter, in order to  test
ideas. That's why I have  a  lab. The  walls give off the smell of fresh oil
paint. The  air  conditioner hums.  New instruments shine  on the  equipment
shelves.  Vessels and jars  with reagents  sparkle  in  the  cupboards,  and
colorful piles  of  wires  and soldering irons, their  points  still red and
uncovered with scale, wait for me. Apparatus, neatly wrapped in plastic, sit
on the counters-and their pointers  aren't bent yet and their  scales aren't
dusty  yet. Dictionaries,  textbooks, reference  books, and  monographs  are
arranged on the bookshelves. And  in the middle of  the room,  glistening in
the January sun,  stands  the  TsVM-12, the  automatic digital printer, with
lacy, multicolored wires in the crystal unit. Everything  is new, unsullied,
unscratched, and everything  exudes  the wise, rational beauty  developed by
generations of craftsmen and engineers.
     How could I  not dream? And what if I succeeded? Actually, for  myself,
my  dreams were much  more  modest:  not  of  a  supercomputer that would be
smarter than  man (in  general, I'm  not crazy about that idea,  even though
lama systems technologist), but of a computer that would understand man, the
better to  do  its work. Then that idea seemed  possible to me. Indeed, if a
computer can exhibit definite  behavior based on  everything that I tell and
show it, and so on, then the problem is solved. That means that it has begun
seeing, hearing, and smelling through its sensors  in the purely human sense
of  these  words,  without  quotation marks or  explanations.  And then  its
behavior could  be  adapted  for any  work  or  problem-that's  why  it's  a
universal computer.
     Yes,  then in January, it  all seemed possible and simple;  the sea was
only  knee-high.  Oh,  the  inspirational  quality  of  new  equipment!  The
fantastic green loops on the screen, the  confident hum of the transformers,
the crackling of  the relays, the blinking of the lights on  the  panel, the
precise movements of the arrows and pointers....  It feels as  though you're
going to measure everything, conquer it all, do it all, and even an ordinary
microscope  inspires the confidence that right now  (with a magnification of
four hundred and double polarized light) you will see  something that no one
else has ever seen!
     Why even talk about it? What researcher hasn't dreamed at the outset of
a project, didn't imagine handling the hardest tasks? What researcher hasn't
experienced   that  overwhelming  impatience   when  you're   rushing-hurry!
hurry!-to finish  the  boring preparatory work-hurry! hurry!-plot the course
of the experiment, and get on with it?
     And then  .  .  .  and  then the  everyday  lab  worries, the  everyday
mistakes,  the everyday failures break your dream's  spirit. And then you're
ready to settle for anything, just so that the whole thing wasn't a waste.
     That's what happened to me.
     Writing  about failure is like reliving it. So I'll be brief.  The plan
was like this: we would  plug the 38,000-cell crystal unit into the TsVM-12,
and everything else  would go into  the crystal unit's input: the mikes, the
smell,  moisture  and  temperature  sensors,  the  tesometric  feelers,  the
photomatrices with a focusing  probe, and Monomakh's  Crown, to compute  the
brain's biowaves.  The  source  of  external information was  me,  that  is,
something moving, noisy, changing shape and its coordinates in space, having
temperature and nervous potential. You could hear me, see me,  feel me, take
my temperature and  blood pressure, analyze my  breath, even climb  into  my
soul and thoughts-go right ahead! The signals from the sensors would have to
feed the crystal  unit,  stimulating various  cells in it; the  crystal unit
would form and "pack" the signals into logical combinations for the TsVM-12;
the computer  would deal with them as  though they were usual  problems, and
produce something meaningful. In order to make it easier for the computer, I
programmed all the  number-words  from  A  to Z in the  computer translation
dictionary into its memory bank.
     And . . . nothing. The selsyn motors, whining gently, moved the  feeler
and lenses  when I moved around the room. The control oscilloscopes showed a
daisy chain of impulses, which jumped from the crystal unit to the computer.
The  current flowed.  The  lights blinked.  But  during the  first month the
digital printer didn't stir once to make a single mark on the punched tape.
     I punctured the  crystal unit  with all  the sensors. I  read poems.  I
sang. I gestured.  I ran and I jumped in front of the lenses. I stripped and
dressed.  I  let  the feelers touch me (brr!  those cold feelers!). I put on
Monomakh's Crown and-O God!-tried to influence it. I was ready for any magic
formula.
     But the TsVM-12 could not put out abracadabra; it wasn't made that way.
If  the  problem has a solution, it solves  it;  if  it doesn't,  it  stops.
Judging by  the panel lights, something was going on, but every five  or six
minutes the "stop" signal went on, and I had to press the reset button.  And
it would begin all over again.
     Finally, I started thinking about it. The computer had to be performing
arithmetical and logical operations with the impulses from the crystal unit.
Otherwise, what  else could it  be doing? That meant  that even  after these
operations  the  information  was still so  raw  and  contradictory that the
computer could  not bring the logical ends  together. So it would stop! That
meant that one cycle in the  computer wasn't enough. That meant-and here, as
usual  in  these cases,  I  was embarrassed  for not  having  thought of  it
sooner-that meant  that I had to arrange for feedback  between  the computer
(from  the units where the impulses  still were) and the crystal unit!  Then
the raw material would be inputted into  the clever  cube, transformed there
one more time,  and  then fed  into  the computer, and so on,  until perfect
clarity reigned.
     I perked up. Now  we were cooking! I can condense  the story  about how
150  logic  cells and  dozens of  matrices burned out because the  TsVM  and
crystal unit were out of sync (smoke, acrid smells, transistors flaming like
bullets in an oven, and me-instead of cutting off the voltage  on the panel,
I ran  for the fire extinguisher  on the wall!), and how  I got  new  cells,
soldered the  transition  circuits, and coordinated  the cycles  of  all the
units-just  the  usual  difficulties  of  technical  realization.   But  the
important thing was I got the project off the ground.
     On  February  151 finally  heard  the long-awaited clatter: the machine
printed out a string of numbers on the punched tape.  Before deciphering it,
I  circled  the  table on which the  piece of tape lay,  smoked  and  smiled
vaguely. The computer had begun behaving. There it was, the computer's first
sentence: "Memory 107 bits."
     It wasn't what  I was expecting. That's why I didn't realize right away
that the computer  "wanted" (I can't write a word like  that without quotes)
to increase its memory bank.
     Actually, it was all very logical. It was receiving complex information
that had to be stored somewhere, but the banks were already filled. Increase
the memory banks! A commonplace task in building computers.
     If  it weren't for Alter  Abramovich's respect  for me,  the computer's
request would have  gone unheeded. But  he gave me three  cubes  of magnetic
memory and two of ferroelectric memory. And everything proceeded smoothly: a
few days later the TsVM-12 repeated its demand, and then again and again....
The computer developed serious demands.
     What was I feeling then? Satisfaction. Finally something was happening!
I tried the results out on my dissertation-to-be.  I was a little put off by
the fact that the computer was working only for itself.
     Then  the computer  began building  itself! Actually, that  was logical
too; complex information had to be processed  by units more complex than the
standard ones of the TsVM-12.
     My work load  increased.  The printer  printed out codes and numbers of
logic  cells, and announced where and how they should be added. At first the
computer was  satisfied with  standard  cells.  I mounted  them on auxiliary
panels.
     (I'm only  beginning  to  realize  it  now, but  that was precisely the
moment,  if you look at  it academically, that I made a grave methodological
error  in my work. I should  have stopped and figured out just what circuits
and logic my complex was  building for itself: the sensors, crystal unit and
TsVM-12 with an increased  memory. And then, only when I had it figured out,
move on. And when you  think about it,  a computer  building itself  without
being programmed to do so-what a  terrific dissertation topic! If I had done
it right, I could have gotten a doctorate right there.
     But  curiosity  took  over. The  complex  was  obviously  straining  to
develop. But why? To understand  man? It didn't look  like it.  The computer
seemed quite satisfied  that I understood  it and  diligently carried out my
commands. People make  machines  for  their own  aims. But what kind of aims
could a  machine  have? Or  maybe it wasn't  an  aim, but a kind  of  innate
accumulation  instinct,  which  is  found  in  all  systems  of   a  certain
complexity, be they earthworms or electrical machines? And what limits would
the complex reach?
     It was then  that I let loose the reins-and I still don't  know whether
that was good or bad....)
     In  mid-March the computer, which had evidently learned from Monomakh's
Crown  about  the  latest  developments  in  electronics,  began  asking for
cryosars and cryotrons, runnel transistors, film circuits, micromatrices....
I had  no time  for analysis;  I was rushing all over  the institute and the
whole city, wheeling and dealing, lying and cajoling, trying to get my hands
on all this chic stuff.
     And it was all for nothing. A month later the computer "got bored" with
electronics and "took up" chemistry.
     Actually, this shouldn't have been unexpected either: the computer  had
chosen the best way to build  itself. After all, chemistry is nature's  way.
Nature had  neither soldering irons nor cranes, nor welders, nor motors, not
even shovels-it merely combined chemicals, heated and cooled them, lit them,
boiled them... and that's how every living thing on earth came about.
     That  was  the point, that everything the computer did was  consecutive
and logical! Even its desires for me to put on Monomakh's Crown-and that was
the most frequent request-were transparent.
     Rather than process raw information from photo, sound, smell, and other
sensors,  it was much easier to use information already  processed by me. In
science, many do that.
     But, my God, what reagents the computer  demanded: from distilled water
to  sodium trimethyldyphtorparaamintetrachlorphenylsulfate and from  DNA and
RNA  to  a  specific  brand of  gasoline!  And the convoluted  technological
circuits I had to get!
     The lab was changing into a  medieval alchemist's den  before  my  very
eyes; it was filled with bottles, two-necked flasks, autoclaves, and stills.
I connected them with hoses, glass tubing, and wires.  My supply of reagents
and glass was depleted in a week and I had to requisition more and more.
     The  noble,  soothing electrical  smells, rosin and  heated insulation,
were replaced with  the  swampy  miasmas of acids, ammonia, vinegar, and God
knows what else. I wandered lost in  these chemical  jungles. The stills and
hoses bubbled, gurgled, and sighed. The mixtures in  the  flasks and bottles
fermented  and changed color; they precipitated, dissolved, and  regenerated
metallic pulsating clumps  and pieces of  shimmering gray threads.  I poured
and sprinkled according to the computer's directions and understood nothing.
     Then,  the computer  suddenly asked for four more automatic printers. I
was happy: so the computer was interested in something other than chemistry!
I worked at it, got the stuff, connected it... and off it went!
     (Probably, this  was  the  point  at  which I  created  Ashby's  "power
information retrieval" or something  like  it.  Who knows!  That was  when I
became hopelessly confused.)
     Now the lab sounded like a typing pool. The  machines were printing out
numbers.  Paper ribbon  with columns of numbers  poured  out of the machines
like manna  from  heaven.  I  rolled  up the  tapes,  picked out  the  words
separated by spaces, translated them, and made sentences.
     The "true" phrases were very strange and enigmatic. For  example: "....
twenty-six kopeks, like from Berdichev." That was one of the first. Was that
a  fact, a thought?  Or a  hint?  How  about this:  "An onion  like a  steel
wound...." It resembles Mayakovsky's "A street like an open wound." But what
does it mean? Is  it a pathetic imitation? Or  maybe a poetic discovery that
contemporary poets haven't reached yet?
     I deciphered another tape: "The tenderness  of souls, taken in Taylor's
series expansion, in  the  limits  of  zero  to  infinity comes  down  to  a
biharmonic function." Well put, no?
     And all of it was like  that: either nonsensical  excerpts or something
"schizophrenic."  I   was  going  to   take  some  of   the  tapes  to   the
mathlinguists-maybe they could figure it out-but  I changed my mind, fearing
a scandal.  Meaningful information came  only from the  first  printer: "Add
such and such reagent to flasks 1,3, and 7. Lower the voltage by  five volts
in electrodes 34-123."  And so on. The computer remembered "to feed itself,"
and therefore it hadn't "gone mad." What was going on?
     The most painful part was knowing that there was nothing I  could do. I
had had  inexplicable things happen in  other  experiments, but in those, at
least, I could always backtrack and repeat the experiment. If the bad effect
disappeared, all the better; if not, we  could analyze it. But  here,  there
was  nothing  that could be replayed, nothing that could be  turned back.  I
even dreamed  of wavy, snakelike tapes in scaly numeral  skins, and tried to
figure out what the computer was trying to say.
     I didn't even know where to hide the rolls of tape. In our institute we
use the tape two ways: the  ones with answers to new questions are turned in
to the archives, and the rest are taken home to be used as toilet paper-very
practical. I had enough rolls for every bathroom in Academic Town.
     And when one fine day in April (after  a  sleepless  night in  the  lab
fulfilling every caprice of  the computer: pouring,  sprinkling, regulating)
printer Number 3 gave me the  following sentence: "A streptocidal striptease
with  trembling  streptoccoci,..."  I  knew  that  there  was  no  point  in
continuing.
     I took all the  rolls out onto the lawn,  ruffled them up (I might have
been  muttering:  "Streptocide,  huh?  Berdichev?  Tenderness  of  the soul?
Onions?...'' I don't remember) and set fire to them.  I sat  by the bonfire,
keeping  warm,  had a  cigarette and  understood that  the experiment was  a
failure. And not because nothing had happened,  but because I  had gotten  a
mess.  Once for a lark Valery Ivanov and I welded from all  the materials we
had on hand a "metallosemiconducting  potpourri" in a vacuum oven. We  got a
breathtakingly colored ingot; we  broke it down for analysis. Each  crumb of
the ingot showed all the effects of solid body-from tunnel to transistor-and
they were all unsteady, unstable, and unreproducible. We threw the potpourri
in the garbage.
     And this was the same  thing.  The point  of scientific solutions is to
find  what  is  necessary  in  the mass of qualities  and of  effects in  an
element, in  matter, or  in  a  system, and to  throw  out the chaff. And it
hadn't  worked  here.  The  computer  had  not   learned  to  understand  my
information. I headed to the lab to turn off the current.
     And in the  hallway my eye fell on a  tank-a beautiful vessel  made  of
transparent teflon, 2 x 1.5 x 1.2 meters; I had acquired it back in December
with the idea of  using the teflon for other things, but I hadn't needed it.
And the tank gave me a final and completely mad idea. I put all the printers
in the hall and put  the  tank in their place. I brought all  the wires from
the  computer,  the ends of the  piping, tubing,  and  hoses, poured out the
remains of the reagents, covered the smelly  mess with water and  turned  to
the computer with the following speech:
     "Enough numbers!  You  can  not  express the  world  in binary numbers,
understand? And  even if it were possible, what point is there to it? Try it
another way: in images, in something tangible, damn you!"
     I locked the lab and left with a firm determination to get some rest. I
hadn't been able to sleep for the entire past week.
     Those were a pleasant ten days-calm and soothing. I slept late, charged
my batteries, took  showers. Lena  and I  took  the motorcycle outside town,
went  to the movies, took long walks, kissed. "Well, how are our solid-state
circuits doing?" she would ask. "They haven't gone soft yet?" I would answer
in kind and change the subject. "I have  nothing to do with any circuits, or
computers, or  experiments!" I  would  remind myself. "I  don't want  to  be
hauled away from the lab one day in a very cheery mood wearing a jacket with
inordinately long sleeves."
     But something was bothering me.  I had run off, abandoned  the project.
What was going on in there? And what  had happened?  (I was already thinking
of  the  experiment in the past tense.)  It looked as though, through random
information, I had  started some  kind of synthesis in the complex. But what
kind of crummy synthesis was it? Synthesis of what?






     The waiter wrapped the  bottle  in a towel and  opened it. The room was
filled with a roar and smoke, and unshaven cheeks and a green turban rose to
the ceiling.
     "What's this?"
     "It's a genie!"
     "But 1 ordered champagne! Let me have the complaint book."
     -A contemporary fairy tale

     A man was walking  toward me on  the paved path.  I could see the green
trees and white  columns  of the old institute  building behind  him.  I was
headed for the accounting office. Everything was normal in  the grounds. The
man  had  a slightly rolling  gait,  swinging his arms, and  he didn't quite
limp,  but  stepped more carefully with his right foot than with his left. I
noticed that particularly. The  wind  made his raincoat flap and ruffled his
red hair.
     My first thought: "Where have I seen this guy?"
     The closer we got  to each other,  the more I saw  of him:  his sloping
forehead  with  a widow's peak and steep ridges over the  eyes,  flat cheeks
with  a  reddish,  week-old  stubble,  haughtily  pursed  lips,  and  bored,
squinting  eyes. No, we had definitely  met before.  It  was  impossible  to
forget  an  obnoxious face like that. And that jaw-my God!-it should be worn
only in the closet.
     My second thought: "Should I say hello or walk by indifferently?"
     And then everything around me no  longer existed. I tripped on the flat
pavement and stood stock still. The person coming toward me was me.
     My third thought (edited): "What the...."
     The man stopped in front of me.
     "Hello."
     "H-h-hello...." A thought sprang  up  from the  chaos that ruled in  my
brain. "Hey, are you from the film studio?"
     "The film studio? I recognize my independence!"  My double smiled. "No,
Val, the studios  aren't  planning  a  movie about  us yet. Though  now, who
knows."
     "Listen here, I'm not Val to you, but Valentin Vasilyevich Krivo-shein!
Some pushy guy like you...."
     The man smiled, obviously enjoying my anger.  I  could tell that he was
much more prepared for our meeting and was relishing his upper hand.
     "And... be so kind  as to explain: who you  are, how you come to  be on
institute grounds, and why you are wearing that makeup  and  outfit to  look
like me?"
     "Sure,"  he  said. "Valentin Vasilyevich  Krivoshein, head of  the  New
Systems Lab. Here's  my pass, if you like." He displayed my worn, used pass.
"And I came here from the lab, naturally."
     "Ah, so that's it?" It's important not to  lose your  sense of humor in
situations like this. "Very nice to meet you. Valentin Vasilyevich, you say?
From the lab? I see ... uh-huh."
     And  then I realized that  I believed him.  Not because of the pass, of
course. You could fool  anyone with a pass. Either it  was  the  realization
that the scar over my eyebrow and  the brown  birthmark on my cheek, which I
always saw  in the mirror on my left, actually were supposed  to  be on  the
right side of the face. Or it was something in his  behavior that absolutely
ruled  out the possibility of a practical joke.  I was scared.  Had I really
gone mad during the experiments  and run into my split personality?  "I hope
no  one sees us.  I wonder, to anyone else, am I here alone or are there two
of us?" I thought.
     "So-from the  lab, you say?" I  tried tricking him.  "Then why are  you
coming from the old building?"
     "I was in accounting. Today's the twenty-second." He took out a roll of
five-ruble notes and counted off part of it. "Here's your cut."
     I took the money and counted it. Then:
     "Why only half?'
     "Oh, God!" my double sighed expressively. "There are two of us now, you
know."
     (That  exaggerated, expressive sigh-I'll never sigh like that. I didn't
know you could demean someone with a  sigh. And his diction-if you  can call
the absolute  absence of  diction diction!-do I  really  spit out words like
that?)
     "I  took  the  money  from  him, and  that means he really  exists,"  I
thought.  "Or are my senses  tricking  me? Damn it, I'm a researcher, and  I
couldn't care less about senses until I know what's going on here!"
     "So you maintain that... you've come out of a locked and sealed lab?"
     "Uh-hum. Definitely from the lab. From the tank."
     "From the tank, my, oh.... What do you mean, from the tank?"
     "Just that, from the tank. You could have set up some handles. I barely
managed to get out."
     "Listen, drop this!  You don't think you  could really convince me that
you were . . . that I was . . . no, that you were made by the computer?"
     The double sighed once more in the most demeaning manner possible.
     "I have the feeling it's  going to take you a long  time to get used to
the  idea that this has  happened.  I should have known. After all, you  saw
that there was living matter in the flasks?"
     "Big deal. I've seen mold, too, growing in damp places. But that didn't
mean that I was present at  the  conception of life. All right, let's assume
that something  living  did  arise in  the flasks.  I  don't  know.  I'm  no
biologist. But what do you have to do with it?"
     "What do you mean?" Now it was his turn to get angry. "And what did you
think it  would create: an earthworm? a  horse? an octopus? The computer was
collecting  and  processing  information about  you. It  saw  you. It heard,
smelled, and observed you. It counted  the  biowaves of your brain! You were
around so much you  callused its eyes! There you are. If you have motorcycle
parts you can only make a motorcycle, not a vacuum cleaner."
     "Hm, all  right. Then where are the shoes, the suit, the  pass, and the
raincoat from?"
     "Damn  it!  If it can create a person,  how hard do you think it is for
the computer to grow a raincoat?"
     (The  victorious  glint in  the  eye, the clumsy gestures, the arrogant
tone  of voice.  Am  I really that  obnoxious when  I  feel I'm right  about
something?)
     "Grow?" I felt the fabric  of his coat.  A  shudder ran through  me.  A
raincoat wasn't like that.
     Major things don't  fit  into the  brain  immediately, at least not  in
mine. I remember when I was in  school I had to take charge of a delegate to
a  youth festival, a  young  hunter  from  the Siberian tundra; I showed him
around  Moscow.  He took  in the sights  implacably  and calmly:  the bronze
statues at the  Economic Achievement  Exhibits,  the subway escalators,  the
heavy traffic. And  when  he  saw the tall building of  MSU, he simply said,
"With poles and skin you can build a small hut-  with  rock, a big one." But
when we were in the lobby  of the Nord Restaurant, where we  had stopped off
for a bite, he came face to face with a  stuffed polar bear with  a  tray in
its  paws- and  that amazed  him! That was what  happened to me. My double's
raincoat resembled mine very much, down to the ink spot that I had added one
day trying to get my pen to work. But the fabric was more elastic and almost
greasy. The buttons were attached to flexible outgrowths, and there  were no
stitches  in  the fabric. "Listen, is it attached to  you? Can  you  take it
off?" My double was driven to a frenzy.
     "That does it! It's not  necessary to undress me in  this  cold wind to
prove that I'm  you! I  can explain it without  that. The scar over the eye-
that's when you fell down when your father was teaching you to ride a horse.
The torn  ligament  in the  right knee happened  during the soccer finals in
high school. What else do I  have to remind you of? How you used to secretly
believe in God as a child? How as a freshman you  used to boast that you had
known many women,  when  actually you lost  your virginity  in Taganrog just
before graduation?" (That son of  a bitch! The examples he picked!) "Hm, all
right; but you know, if you're me, I'm not so crazy about me.
     "Neither am I," he grunted. "I thought I had  some smarts...." His face
tensed. "Shhhh, don't turn around!" Footsteps behind me. "
     "Good  day,  Valentin  Vasilyevich,"  said  Harry  Hilobok,   assistant
professor, sciences candidate, scientific secretary and institute busybody.
     I didn't  get a  chance to open my mouth. My double grinned marvelously
and nodded:
     "Good day to you, Harry Haritonovich!"
     A couple  walked past  us in the light  of his  smile. A plump brunette
clicked  her  heels  merrily  on the  pavement and Hilobok, walking in step,
minced along as though he was wearing a tight skirt.
     "Perhaps, I didn't quite  understand you, Lyudochka," he buzzed in  his
baritone, "but I, from the point of view of not understanding completely, am
only expressing my opinion."
     "Harry has  a  new one,"  my  double announced. "You see, even  Hilobok
accepts me, and you have doubts. Let's go home!"
     The only  explanation I can  think of for following  him  so quietly to
Academic Town was that I was completely flabbergasted.
     In  the  apartment, he headed straight for  the bathroom.  I heard  the
shower running, and then he stuck out his head:
     "Hey, sample number one, or whatever  your name is. If you want to make
sure that  I'm  all  in order,  come  on in. And you can soap my back  while
you're at it."
     So I did. It  was a living person.  And  he had my  body. By the way, I
didn't  expect  such  thick folds of  fat on my stomach and sides. I have to
work out with my barbells more often.
     While he washed, I paced the room, smoked and tried  to accustom myself
to the fact that a computer had created a man. A computer had re-created me.
Oh, nature,  is this really possible? The ridiculous medieval ideas about  a
homunculus,  .  . . Wiener's  idea that the  information in a  man could  be
decoded into impulses, transmitted over  any distance, and reordered  into a
man again, in the form of an image on a screen, . . . Ashby's assertion that
there  was no major  difference between  the  work  of  the  brain and  of a
computer (but of course, Sechenov had  maintained that earlier, too),... all
that had just been clever talk to keep the  brain going. Try to do something
practical with any of those ideas!
     And now it looked as if it had been done? There, on  the other side  of
the door, splashing and  snorting, was no Ivanov, Petrov, or Sidorov-I would
have  tossed them out on their ear-but me. And those rolls with the numbers?
I guess I had burned the "paper" me.
     I was  trying  to extract short, usable truths from the combinations of
numbers, but  the  computer went  deeper  than that. It stored  information,
combining  it  this  way and that, compared it through feedback,  picked and
chose what was necessary and at some level of complexity "discovered" life!
     And  then  the  computer developed  it to the  level of man. But why? I
wasn't trying to do that!
     Now, as I  think  about it calmly, I can figure it out. It  did exactly
what  I was  trying  to do. I wanted a machine that could understand man and
that's all. "Do you  understand  me?" "Oh, yes!"  answers the  listener, and
both go  about their  business,  happy with each other. In conversation it's
much easier. But in experiments  with  computers I  shouldn't have  confused
understanding  with  agreement.  That's why (better  late than  never)  it's
important to figure out what understanding is.
     There is practical, or  goal, understanding. You put in a program;  the
computer understands it and does  what is  expected of it. "Attack, Prince!"
and Prince grabs the pants cuff of a passerby, "Gee!" and the horses turn to
the right. "Haw!" and they go  left. This kind of primitive understanding of
the  gee-haw type is accessible to many living and inanimate  systems. It is
controlled by achievement of the goal, and  the more  primitive the  system,
the simpler the goal must be and the more detailed the programmed task.
     But there is another  understanding:  mutual understanding. A  complete
transferral of your information to  another system. And for this, the system
receiving the information must not be any simpler than the system giving the
information.  I didn't  give  the computer a goal.  I was waiting for it  to
finish  building itself  and  making  itself  more  complex.  But  it  never
finished-and that's  natural. Its goal became the  complete understanding of
my  information,   not  only   verbal,  but  all  of  it.  (The  goal  of  a
computer-that's another loose concept that shouldn't be  played with. Simply
put,  information  systems behave  according  to certain laws  that somewhat
resemble  the  rudiments of thermodynamics. In  my  system  sensors, crystal
units,  TsVM-12   had  to  reach  an  informational  equilibrium   with  the
environment-just as  the  iron  ingot in the  oven must achieve  temperature
equilibrium with the coals. This equilibrium is mutual understanding. And it
cannot be achieved on  the level  of circuitry nor on  the  level of  simple
organisms.)
     And that's how it happened. Only man is capable of mutual understanding
with man. And for good mutual understanding, a close  friend.  My double was
the  product of informational equilibrium between  the computer and me. But,
incidentally, the pointers on the informational scales never did match up. I
wasn't  in the lab then and didn't meet face to face  with my  newly hatched
double. And later everything went differently for us anyway.
     In a  word, it was horrifying how poorly  I had run the experiment. The
only  point  in my favor  was  that I had finally thought of setting  up the
feedback mechanism.
     An  interesting  thought:  if  I  had  run   the  experiment  strictly,
logically,  throwing  out  dubious variants, would I  have gotten  the  same
results? Never in  my  life! I would have  come up with a steady,  sure-fire
Ph.D.  thesis,   and  nothing  more,  hi  science,  mostly  mediocre  things
happen-and I was prepared for mediocrity.
     So everything was all right? Why does sadness gnaw at me? Why do I keep
harping on my mistakes? I succeeded. Because it didn't go  by the rules? Are
there any rules for discoveries? Much happens by accident that you can't put
down to your  scientific vision. What about  Galvani's discovery, or X-rays,
or radioactivity,  or  electronic emissions,  or  any discovery  that is the
basis  of  some  science or other and is  related to chance. I  still  don't
understand a lot of it?  That's  the situation with many scientists. Nothing
to be upset about. Then why this self-torture?
     I  guess the problem  is something else: you  can't work  that way now.
Science has become  very serious now, not  like in the  days  of Galvani and
Roentgen. This  is the  way, without thinking,  that you  can come up with a
force  that   can  destroy  the   whole  world  instantly-with  a  brilliant
experimental proof....
     My double came out of the  bathroom  rosy  pink  and  in my pajamas and
settled in front  of the mirror to comb his hair.  I stood behind  him.  Two
identical faces stared out from the mirror. Only his wet hair was darker.
     He  took out the electric razor  from the  closet and plugged  it in. I
watched him  shave and almost felt that I was visiting him; his behavior was
so casual and at-home. I couldn't resist speaking up:
     "Listen, do you at least realize how unusual this situation is?" "What?
Don't bother me!" He was obviously beyond being interested in the fact.


     The  graduate student put down the  diary  and  shook his  head:  well,
Valentin the Original didn't know people very well.
     He had also been  in shock. His sense had  told  him that he woke up in
the tank,  understanding everything: where  he was  and how  he  got  there.
Actually, his discovery  began then. And his  insolence was only a cover-up.
He was searching  for a  mode  of behavior that  would keep  him from  being
reduced to a lab guinea pig.
     He picked up the diary.


     "But you  appeared from a  machine,  not  from a mother's womb! From  a
machine, do you understand?"
     "So what? Appearing from a womb is such a snap? A human's birth is much
more mysterious than my appearance. Here you can trace the logical sequence,
but there? Will it be a boy or a girl? Will it  favor father or mother? Will
it  be smart or  a dope? It's all in a fog! That business seems normal  only
because  of  its  frequency.  Here,  the computer took down  information and
re-created it. Like a tape recorder. Of course, it would have been better if
it  had re-created  me  from Einstein...  but what can you  do? If  you tape
boogie-woogie you can't expect to hear a Tchaikovsky symphony."
     No, I wasn't  a boor like him. He must have been  acutely aware of  the
ticklishness of his situation and didn't want me to realize it. And what was
there that I couldn't realize. He appeared out of flasks and bottles, like a
medieval homunculus, and he was wildly angry. I've often noticed that people
who have an inferiority complex are always more obnoxious than the rest.
     And  he was trying  to behave with the spontaneity of a newborn. A baby
isn't  overwhelmed  with  the event (Man is born!), but instead  immediately
makes a fuss, sucking, and messing his diapers.
     Graduate student Krivoshein merely sighed and turned the page.
     "But do you feel all right?"
     "Absolutely!" He  splashed on some  after-shave. "Why shouldn't  I feel
all right?  A computer is  an apparatus  without fantasy. I can just picture
what it might have done  if it had an inkling of imagination. But  I'm fine:
I'm not a two-headed monster. I'm young, healthy. I'm  going  to have dinner
and go to Lena's. I've missed her."
     "What?"
     He watched me with interest, sparks dancing in his eyes.
     "Yes, we're  rivals  now!  Listen,  you seem to have  a  very primitive
attitude toward  all  this. Jealousy is old-fashioned and in poor taste. And
who  are  you jealous of, anyway? Think  about it.  If  Lena's  with  me, it
doesn't  mean that she's being unfaithful to you. You can only be unfaithful
with  another man,  someone different, more attractive, for instance. And as
far as she's  concerned,  I'm you.  Even  if  we  have  children, you  can't
consider yourself  cuckolded. You and I are identical-all the same genes and
chromosomes. Easy!"
     He had to hide behind the closet  door. I grabbed a dumbbell and headed
for him.
     "I'll kill  you! Don't try logic  with  me. I'll give  you  logic,  you
homunculus! I gave you life and I'll kill  you, understand? Don't  you  dare
even think about her!"
     My double fearlessly stepped out from the closet door. He was frowning.
     "Listen, Taras Bulba, put down the  dumbbell. If you're  going to  talk
like that, we  might as  well  agree on  some terms  right now. I'm  leaving
'homunculus'  and 'kill'  aside as products of  your  hysteria.  And  as for
locutions like 'I  gave  you life'... well,  you didn't. I exist without any
help  from you, and you might as  well forget any ideas of being my lord and
master."
     "What do you mean?"
     "Just that. Put down the dumbbell. I'm serious. If  you want precision,
I  was  created  despite your plans  simply  because  you  didn't  stop  the
experiment in  time, and when  you wanted  to, it  was too  late.  In  other
words," he snorted, "it's quite analagous to the situation when you appeared
in this world because of your parents' carelessness."
     (Look, he knows  everything! It's true. My mother once said, after some
prank of mine, to make me obey:
     "I was going to have an abortion, but changed my mind. And you...."
     She shouldn't  have  said that.  I  was  unwanted.  I might  never have
existed.)
     "But  as  distinguished  from your  mother, you  didn't bear me, didn't
suffer labor pains,  didn't nurse and clothe me,"  he continued. "You didn't
even  save  me  from  death  because,  after  all,  I  existed  before  this
experiment. I was  you. I don't owe  you my  life, my health, my engineering
degree-nothing! So let's start even."
     "And even with Lena?"
     "With Lena...  I  don't  know.  But  you  ...  you...."  Judging by his
expression  he  wanted  to  add something,  but held  his  tongue,  exhaling
sharply. "You have to respect my feelings  as I do yours, understand? I love
Lena too, you know. And I know that she's mine-my  woman, understand? I know
her body, the smell of her  skin  and hair, her breath...  and how she says,
'Really, Val, you're just like a bear!' and how she wrinkles her nose."
     He suddenly stopped. We  looked at  each other, overwhelmed by the same
thought. "Let's get to the lab!" I ran for my coat first.






     If you want a cab and fate offers a bus, take the bus; at least it runs
on a schedule.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 90

     We  made a beeline through the park:  the wind whistled in the branches
and in our ears. Asphalt-colored clouds blanketed the sky.
     The  lab  smelled  like  a  warm swamp. The ceiling  bulbs glowed  like
lighthouses in a  fog.  I stepped on a hose near my desk that had  not  been
there before, and pulled my foot away. The hose was moving!
     The flasks and bottles were covered with thick gray  dust; there was no
way to tell what was going on inside them. Streams of water bubbled from the
distillers and the relays clicked in the thermostats. In a far corner, which
could not  be reached  through the  jumble of  wires, tubes, and hoses,  the
lights on the TsVM-12's control panel blinked at me.
     There were many  more hoses than before. We made our way through  them,
as if through a jungle of lianas. Some hoses were contracting, pushing lumps
through  themselves. The  walls of the tank were covered with  some  kind of
mold. I wiped it off with my sleeve.
     In  the golden, murky  medium there was a silhouette of a man. "Another
double? No...." I looked closely. The contours were a woman's, contours that
I could never confuse with anyone else's. A hairless head fluttered in front
of my face.
     There was some mad logic in the fact that precisely now when the double
and I were fighting over Lena, the computer was struggling with our problem.
I was scared.
     "But the computer doesn't know her!"
     "You  do. The  computer is re-creating  her from your memory."  We were
whispering for some reason. "Look!"
     A skeleton was beginning  to form beyond Lena's  ghostly  outline.  Her
feet solidified into white cartilage and toes; her ankle and shin bones took
shape. Her spine formed into  a long white form and  ribs branched off  from
it; her shoulder blades grew. Seams appeared on  her  skull, and the outline
of her  eye sockets  formed. I can't say that it was a pleasant sight-seeing
your girlfriend's skeleton-but  I couldn't  take  my  eyes off  it. We  were
watching something that no one had ever seen-how a machine creates a person!
     "With my memory, my memory..." I  was thinking feverishly.  "But that's
not enough. Or has the  computer mastered the laws  of constructing a  human
body? From where? I certainly don't know them!"  The bones in the tank  were
becoming sheathed with dark  blue strips and  coils of muscle, and they were
covered  by  a yellowish layer of fat,  like  a  chicken's. The  circulatory
system shot red  throughout the  body. All  this  fluctuated in the mixture,
changing  shape  and  form. Even  Lena's face, with its closed  lids, behind
which we could see her watery eyes,  was distorted by horrible grimaces. The
computer seemed to be trying on ways to make a person.
     I know  too  little about  anatomy  in general  and  female  anatomy in
particular  to judge whether  the computer was building Lena correctly.  But
soon I  sensed that something was wrong. The original  contours  of her body
were changing. The shoulders,  which just a  few  minutes ago had been round
and soft, became angular and grew in breadth. What was it?
     "Her feet!" my double shouted. "Look at her feet!"
     I looked  at  her feet  that  took  a size  thirteen  shoe-and  when  I
understood I  broke  out  in  cold  sweat.  The  computer  had  run  out  of
information on Lena and was finishing her off with my body! I  turned to  my
double; his forehead was glistening with sweat too.
     "We have to stop it!"
     "How? Cut off the current?"
     "We can't. That will erase the memory bank in the computer. Turn on the
cooling... ?"
     "To slow down  the  process? It won't work. The computer has large heat
reserves...."
     The  distorted  body  in  the  tank was  taking  on clearer features. A
transparent mantle moved over it, and I  recognized the  style of the simple
dress in which I liked Lena best. The computer with an idiot's diligence was
dressing its creation in it.
     I had to order the computer to stop, convince it... but how?
     "Right!"  My double leaped over to the glass case, took  out Monomakh's
Crown, pushed the "translation"  button on it, and handed it to me.  "Put it
on and start hating Lena; think how you want to destroy her... go ahead."
     I grabbed the shiny  helmet, turned it around in my  hands, and gave it
back.
     "I can't...."
     "Jerk! What  else  is there? That thing will be  opening its eyes  soon
and...."
     He pulled on the helmet and started screaming and waving his arms:
     "Stop, computer!  Stop immediately, do you hear me? You're not creating
a good copy of a human! Stop, you idiot! Stop right now!"
     "Stop, machine, do you hear me?" I turned to the microphones. "Stop, or
we'll destroy you!"
     It's  disgusting  to  remember  that scene.  We, men who  were  used to
pushing buttons to stop and direct any process, shouting and explaining  ...
and to what? A  collection  of test  tubes,  electric circuits,  and  hoses.
Phooey! We were panicked.
     We yelled some more  in disgusting voices, when the hoses near the tank
began  shaking with energetic convulsions,  and the  hybrid  specimen in the
tank was covered with a white mist. We shut up. Three minutes later the mist
cleared. There  was  nothing in  the  gold  liquid. Only  ripples  and color
gradations spreading from the center to the edges.
     "Wow..." said my double. "I somehow never appreciated the fact that man
is seventy percent water. Now I've got it."
     We  made  our  way  to the window. The  humid stuffiness made  my  body
sticky. I unbuttoned my shirt, and so did my double. It was evening. The sky
had cleared.  The  windows of  the  institute  across the  way reflected the
sunset  as though nothing had happened. They reflected it like that on every
clear evening-yesterday, last month,  last year-when this had  not  existed.
Nature was making believe nothing had happened.
     The skeleton enveloped in translucent tissue stayed in my mind.
     "Those anatomical  details, the  grimaces...  brrrr!" said the  double,
lowering  himself into a chair. "I don't  even  feel  like seeing Lena right
now."
     I said nothing, because he had expressed my thoughts. It  was over now,
but then ... it's one thing to know, even intimately,  that  your woman is a
human being made of flesh, bones, and innards, and another thing to see it.
     I took  out the lab journal and looked at  the last few notes...  vague
and pointless. It's when  the experiment is working or when you get  a  good
idea that you write at length; here I had:
     April 8. Decoded numbers, 800 lines. Unsuccessful.
     April  9. Decoded  extracts from five rolls. Didn't understand a thing.
Some kind of schizophrenia!
     April 10. Decoded with the same  results.  I added  to  the flasks  and
bottles: Numbers 1, 3  and 5-2 liters  of glycerine; Numbers 2 and 7-200 ml.
of tyomochevina; and 2-3 liters of distilled water to all of them.
     April 11. "Streptocidal striptease with the trembling of streptococci."
That does it....
     And now I'll pick up the pen and write:
     April 22. The  complex has  re-created me, V. V. Krivoshein, Krivoshein
Number 2 is sitting next to me scratching his chin. A real joke!
     And then I was engulfed with a  wave of satanic  pride. After all, this
was  some  discovery!  It  encompassed  systemology,  electronics,  bionics,
chemistry, and biology-everything you could want and then some. And I did it
all. How I did it was another question. But the important  thing was me, ME!
Now I could invite the State Commission and  demonstrate the emergence of  a
new double  in the tank.  I could  imagine the  look on their faces. And  my
friends would  have  to  say:  "Boy  he  really  did it! That Krivoshein  is
something!"  And  Voltampernov   would  run  over  to  see....  I   had   an
uncontrollable urge to giggle; only the presence of my double stopped me.
     "Who cares about friends and Voltampernov," I heard my voice  say and I
didn't  realize at first  that it was  my double speaking. "This,  Val, is a
Nobel Prize!"
     That's  right: the Nobel Prize!  My portrait in all  the papers ... and
Lena, who treats me a little high-handedly now-and why not, she's beautiful,
and  I'm  not-will appreciate me then.  The  run-of-the-mill name Krivoshein
(once I tried looking in the encyclopedia for famous people with my name and
didn't find  any;  there  was  a  Krivoshilkov  and  a  Krivonogov,  but  no
Krivosheins yet) will resound. Krivoshein! The same....
     I  was made uneasy by these meditations. My vain thoughts  disappeared.
Really, what would happen? What should be done with this discovery?
     I shut my journal.
     "So,  are we going to  create  in our image?  A crush of Krivosheins? I
guess we could make others if we recorded  them into the computer. Damn  it!
This is ... it just doesn't make sense."
     "Hm. And things were so peaceful...." My double shook his head.
     Precisely. Everything had been peaceful-"Nice weather, miss. Which  way
are you  going?"  "In the opposite direction!" "Me too.  What's  your name?"
"What's it to you?"-and so on right  up to the wedding palace, the maternity
ward, a  licking for  killing a cat  with a slingshot, and burning the hated
zoology   textbook   after  graduation.   The   chairman  of  the  Dneprovsk
Registration Office put it so well in his article: "The family is the method
of  propagating  the  species and  increasing  the state's population."  And
suddenly-hail  science!-there  is  a  rival  method;  we  pour and  sprinkle
reagents from  the local  chemistry manual, pass  input through sensors, and
get a person. And  a mature one  at that, with  muscles  and  an engineering
degree, with habits and life experience.
     "It looks as if we're taking aim at the most  human of man's qualities:
love,  parenthood,  childhood!"  I  was  beginning  to  shudder.  "And  it's
profitable. It's efficient and profitable, the  most terrible things in  our
rationalistic age!"
     My double looked up and there was anxiety and tension in his eyes.
     "Listen, but why is that terrible? Okay, we worked-rather, you  worked.
So you made an experimental determination and  on its basis  a  discovery. A
method of synthesizing  information  into a person. The ancient dream of the
alchemist.... That's  very  nice! Once  upon a time  kings financed ventures
like  that very  generously.  Of  course,  they  chopped  off  the  heads of
researchers who  had  failed, but if you think about it, they were right. If
you  can't do it, don't take it  on. But nothing will happen to us. Just the
reverse. Why is it so terrible?"
     "Because this isn't the Middle Ages," I thought to myself. And  not the
last  century. And not  even the beginning  of  the twentieth century,  when
everything was still ahead of  us. In those days, discoverers had  the moral
right to  spread their arms and say: well, we had no  idea things would turn
out badly.... We, their lucky descendants, don't have that right. Because we
know.  Because it's  all  happened  before. It had  all happened before: gas
attacks, according to science; Maidanek and Auschwitz, according to science;
Hiroshima   and   Nagasaki,   according  to   science.   Plans   for  global
warfare-science   with  the  use  of  mathematics.   Limiting   warfare-also
science.... Decades had passed since the last  world war. The ruins had been
rebuilt. Fifty million corpses  had rotted  and enriched the earch. Hundreds
of  millions  of people had  been born and grown  up-and  the memory had not
faded. It was horrible to  remember and  more horrible to forget. Because it
had not become part of the past. The knowledge remained: people can do that.
     The inventors and researchers are merely specialists in their field. To
obtain new  information from  nature they have to expend  so much energy and
inventiveness  that they  have neither strength nor ideas  left for thinking
outside  their fields-what will this do in real life? These people and their
chosen fields-people for whom any  change or discovery is just another means
of  achieving  old aims: power, wealth, influence, and buyable pleasures. If
we  gave them our  process, they  would see only  one  new thing in it: it's
profitable!  Should  they  make  doubles  of  famous  singers,  actors,  and
musicians?  No, that isn't  profitable. It's better  to  produce records and
posters.  But it would be profitable to mass-produce  people  for a  special
goal:  voters  to  beat  a  political  opponent  (much easier  than spending
hundreds of  millions on the usual  election campaign), women  for brothels,
workers in rare fields, cannon-fodder soldiers ... and even specialists with
narrow vision and tame  temperament who  would  continue  inventing  without
getting involved in things that  were none  of their business.  A man with a
specific function-a  man-thing. What  could  be worse?  How do we  deal with
things and machines that  have outlived their usefulness  and have fulfilled
their function? They're recycled, burned, compressed, discarded. And you can
treat men, things, the same way.
     "But that's the  way  it is over there...." My double waved in a  vague
direction. "Our society wouldn't permit it."
     "And we don't  have  people who  are  ready to use everything from  the
ideas  of communism to  false radio  reports, from  their work  situation to
quotes  from the  classics in order  to  become  wealthy,  and  have a  good
position, and then  to get more and more for themselves,  at no  matter what
cost? People  who see  the  least  attempt to reduce  their  privileges as a
phenomenal catastrophe?"
     "We do,"  my double  agreed. "But people basically are good or else the
world would have turned into a mass of bums attacking each other a long time
ago, and died without thermonuclear war. But... if you don't count the minor
natural disasters-floods, earthquakes, epidemics-people are  at fault in all
their problems, including the most horrible ones. It's their fault that they
submitted  to  what they shouldn't have submitted to,  agreed  to what  they
should have fought, and thought that  they weren't  involved.  At fault that
they did work that  paid better instead of  work that was needed by everyone
and themselves. If more people  on earth coordinated their work and business
with the interests of mankind, we would have nothing to worry about with our
discovery. But that's not  the  way it  is. And that's  why, if  there is at
least  one  influential  and  active  bastard  in  dangerous proximity,  our
discovery will turn into a hideous monstrosity."
     "Because the application of scientific discoveries is mere  technology.
Once upon a time, technology was invented to help man in his battle  between
man and man. And  in that use technology didn't  solve any problems; it only
increased them. Think how many  scientific,  technological  and sociological
problems there are now instead of  the one that was solved twenty years ago:
how can you synthesize helium from hydrogen?
     "If we  announce our discovery, life will become  even scarier. And  we
will have fame. Every man, woman, and child will know exactly  whom to curse
and why."
     "Listen, maybe you're right . . . ?" my double asked. "We  saw nothing,
know nothing. People have enough terrible discoveries to deal with as it is.
Let's cut off the juice and turn off the faucets. How about it?"
     "And  right  away,  the problem no longer  exists. I'll write  off  the
reagents  I used up and  make up some excuse about the work. And  I'll start
work on something simpler and more  innocent...." "I'll go to Vladivostok to
be a  fitter in the ports." We stopped talking. Venus blazed over  the black
trees  outside the window. A cat cried with a child's voice. A howling  note
pierced the grounds' silence-they  were running tests on a new jet engine in
Lena's  construction  bureau.  "Work goes on.  It's  right;  1941  cannot be
repeated." I was thinking about  it so  that I could  put off  my decision a
little longer.  "Deep  underground, plutonium and  hydrogen  bombs are going
off. Highly  paid scientists and engineers are determined  to master nuclear
arms. And pointy-nosed rockets peer into space from their concrete silos all
over  the  world.  Each  is  pointed at  its  objective;  they're wired  up.
Computers  are  constantly  testing  them: any  problems?  As  soon  as  the
predetermined   time   of  reliability  runs  out  on  an  electronic  unit,
technicians  in uniform  unplug it and  quickly,  quickly, replace  it  with
another unit,  as though  the  war they absolutely  had to  win was about to
start any second. Work goes on."
     "Nonsense!"   I   said.  "Humanity   isn't  mature   enough  for   many
things-nuclear energy  and  space flight-so what? The discovery is objective
reality; you can't  cover it up.  If not us, someone else will come upon it.
The  basic idea of the experiment is simple enough. Are  you  sure that they
will deal with the discovery better than  we? I'm  not. That's why  we  must
think what to do to keep this discovery from becoming a threat to mankind."
     "It's complicated," my double sighed and stood up. "I'll take a look at
what's  happening  in  the tank."  He was  back  in a flash. Stunned.  "Val,
there's ... father's in there!"


     Radio  operators have a sure  sign  to go  by: if a  complex electronic
circuit works the first time after it's put together, expect  trouble. If it
doesn't  foul up in the trials, then it will embarrass the  workers when the
inspection commission is there; if it manages  to pass the commission,  then
it will exhibit one flaw after  another in mass  production. The weak points
always show up.
     The  computer was trying to achieve  informational equilibrium not with
me, the  direct  source  of  information,  but with the  entire  information
environment that  it found  out about from me, with the entire world. That's
why Lena appeared and that's why my father appeared.
     And that's why all the rest happened. That's why my double and I worked
nonstop for a  whole  week. This activity  of the  computer's was a  logical
extension of its development; but  from  a technical point of view it was an
attempt with  lousy equipment. Instead of  a  "model  of the world" the tank
contained a nightmare.
     I can't describe how my father made his appearance in the tank-it's too
terrible. That's the way  he had looked on  the day he died: a flabby, heavy
old man with a broad shaven face and a cloudy  mane of white hair around his
skull. The computer had  picked  the last and most depressing memory of him.
He had died before  I  got there. He wasn't breathing,  but I still tried to
warm his cooling body.
     Then I dreamed about  him  several  times, and it  was always  the same
dream: I rub my father's  cold body for all I'm worth and it gets warmer and
he  starts  breathing, with  difficulty at first, a death  rattle,  and then
normally. He opens his eyes and gets  up  out of bed. "I was sick a  little,
son," he says in an apologetic voice. "But I'm fine now." The dream was like
death in reverse.
     And now  the  computer was  creating him so that he could die once more
before our eyes. We understood rationally that this was not our father but a
regular information hybrid that could not be permitted to be  completed;  we
knew that it would  be a body, or a  mad creature, or something  along those
lines. But neither he nor I could put  on Monomakh's Crown  and  command the
computer to stop. We avoided looking at the tank and each other.
     Then I walked over to the panel and pulled the switch.  It was dark and
quiet in the lab for a moment.
     "What are you  doing?" My double ran  over to the panel and  turned the
juice back on.
     The  filter  condensers  did  not  discharge in  that second,  and  the
computer went on working. But everything disappeared from the tank.
     Later  I  saw all the chaos of my  memory in the  tank: my  fifth-grade
botany teacher Elizaveta Moiseevna; Klava, my  love interest  in those days;
some old acquaintance with a poetic profile; the Moldavian driver I glimpsed
briefly at a bazaar in Kishinev.... It's a hell to  list them all. It wasn't
a "model of the world" either;  everything was formed vaguely, in fragments,
the way it's  stored  in  human  memory,  which  knows  how  to  forget. For
instance,  only  Elizaveta  Moiseevna's  small,  stern  eyes  under  forever
frowning brows were right, and the only thing left of  the Moldavian was the
sheepskin hat lowered all the way to his mustache....
     We took turns sleeping. One always had to keep watch at the tank to put
on the crown in time and say "No!"
     My double was first to think of sticking a thermometer in the tank. (It
was  nice  to  observe  the pleasure he  derived from  his first independent
creative act!) The temperature was 104F.
     "It's feverish delirium."
     "We should give it an aspirin," I joked.
     But,  thinking about it, we decided to lower the computer's temperature
by  pouring  quinine  into the flasks and  bottles  that  fed  the tank. The
temperature went  down  a  few degrees,  but  the  delirium  continued.  The
computer was  combining images the way they occur in a nightmare-the face of
the  institute's  first department head, Johann Johannovich Kliapp, smoothly
took on the features of Azarov, who then grew Hilobok's mustache....
     When the temperature  dropped some more, flat images, like on a screen,
of political figures, movie stars, productive workers with miniature  Boards
of  Commendation, Lomonosov, Faraday,  and Maria Trapezund, a  popular local
singer,  appeared   on  the  surface  of  the  liquid  in  the  tank.  These
two-dimensional shadows-some in color, some  in black and white-would appear
for a second and then melt away. It looked as if my memory was drying out.
     On the sixth or seventh day (we had lost track of time) the temperature
of the golden liquid dropped to 98.6.
     "It's normal!" And I went off to get some sleep.
     My double stayed on duty.
     That night he shook me awake.
     "Get up! The computer is making eyes."
     I sent him to hell. He poured a mug of water on my head. I had to go.


     At first,  I  thought that there were bubbles  in the liquid. But  they
were eyes- white spheres  with pupils and  colorful irises.  They floated up
from the bottom, bounced against the transparent  sides of the tank, watched
our movements and the  blinking  lights on the TsVM-12's control panel. They
were blue, gray, brown, green, black, huge horse's  eyes with violet irises,
cat's eyes, glowing and with a vertical pupil, and black bird's eyes. It was
a collection of every kind of eye I had ever seen. Since they had no lids or
lashes, they seemed surprised.
     By morning eyes were appearing near  the tank as well: muscular growths
stuck out from the hoses, ending in lids and eyelashes. The lids opened. New
eyes stared at us intently and expectantly.  The infinite silent stares were
driving us crazy.
     And  then . . . feelers and  trunks grew like bamboo  runners from  the
tank, the  flasks,  and hoses.  There was something naive and  childlike  in
their  movements.  They interwove,  touched  the apparatus and bottles,  the
room. One little feeler reached an uninsulated clamp, touched it, and jerked
back, drooping.
     "Hey, this is getting serious!" my double said.
     It  was. The computer was moving from a contemplative method of getting
information to an active one, and was growing its  own sensors and executive
mechanisms  for  it.  Whatever you  called this development-  a striving for
informational equilibrium, self-construction, or  a biological synthesis  of
information- you couldn't help being impressed by the tenacity  and power of
the process.
     But  after all  we  had  seen, we were in no mood  for awe  or academic
curiosity. We guessed how it might end.
     "Enough!" I picked up Monomakh's Crown. "I don't know if we'll be  able
to make it do what we want . . ."
     "It would help if we knew what we wanted," my double added.
     ". . .  but for a  start we have  to  keep it from doing  what we don't
want."
     ."Get  rid  of the  eyes!  Get  rid  of  the  feelers!  Stop  gathering
information! Get rid of the eyes. Get rid of the feelers! Stop!" We repeated
these thoughts through the crown, spoke them into the microphones.
     But  the computer went on moving  its feelers and following us with its
hundreds of eyes. It was beginning to look like a showdown.
     "The result of our work," my double said.
     "So!" I  said. "If that's the way." I punched the tank. All the feelers
quivered and stretched  out for me. I moved away.  "Val, turn off the water!
Disconnect the feed hoses!"
     "Computer,  you're going  to die. Computer,  you'll  die of  hunger and
thirst if you don't obey."
     Of  course,  that was crude and obvious, but what else  could we do? My
double  slowly turned the handle on  the  water  supply. The stream of water
from the distillers turned into a  drip.  I clamped the hoses.  The  feelers
shuddered and drooped. They started curling up and going back into the tank.
The eyes dimmed, teared, and crinkled.
     An hour later everything was gone. The liquid in the tank was once more
golden and clear.
     "That's better!" I took off the crown and rolled up the wires.
     We  turned the water back on, removed the clamps and stayed  in the lab
until late  at night,  smoking, talking about  nothing, waiting to see  what
would  happen. We didn't  know  what we were more afraid of: a  new delirium
from the computer or that  the system, muzzled  so harshly, would fall apart
and  cease  existing. On the first day we  talked  about  "covering  up  the
discovery." But now we couldn't stand the thought that it might cover itself
and disappear.
     My double and  I took turns approaching the tank,  sniffing  carefully,
afraid to smell decay  or degeneration; not trusting the thermometer we kept
touching the sides of the tank and the warm living hoses. Were  they cooling
off? Were they enflamed with fever again?
     But the air  in the room stayed warm, humid, and fresh, as if there was
a  large, clean animal in the room. The computer was alive. It simply wasn't
undertaking anything without us. We had tamed it!
     After  midnight, I looked at my double,  like a mirror. He was blinking
with tired red eyes and smiled:
     "Everything seems okay, Shall we go to bed?"
     There was  no  artificial double for  me.  A comrade,  a colleague, was
sitting next to me, just as tired and happy as I was. And-how strange!-I had
not  felt joy at  meeting him in the  institute  grounds  and  I hadn't been
soothed  by the phantasmagoric memory show in the tank ... but  now I was at
peace and very happy.
     It's really true? the most  important thing for a person is to  feel in
control of a situation.






     Is not the zealous search  for causal connections another expression of
the property instinct in man?  Even  here we seek  to  know what  belongs to
what.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 10

     We  went  out  into  the institute  grounds. The  night was  warm.  Our
exhaustion made us forget that  we should not appear in public together, and
we remembered  only in the  entry. Old man Vakhterych stared at us  with his
inebriated eyes. We froze.
     "Ah. Valentin Vasilyevich!"  the old man exclaimed  happily.  "Done for
the day?"
     "Yes ..." we replied in unison.
     "Good."  Vakhterych  rose heavily  and unlocked  the front  door.  "And
nothing  will happen to the institute, and no one will steal  it, and have a
good  evening,  and  I  still  have  to sit  here.  People go off  to  enjoy
themselves, and I have to sit here...."
     We ran out into the street and hurried off.
     "That's  something!" I  noticed that  the facade  of  the new institute
building was decorated with multicolored lights. "What's the date?"
     My double counted on his fingers:
     "The first... no, the second of May. Happy holiday, Val!"
     "Belatedly... oh, boy!"
     I remembered that I had a date  with Lena for May I to go out with some
of her  co-workers and to go for a motorcycle excursion on the second. I had
blown it. She would never forgive me.
     "And Lena is out dancing right  now .  . . somewhere with somebody," my
double muttered.
     "What do you care?"
     We  fell silent. Buses, decorated with branches, raced up and  down the
street. Neon rocket boosters  were  set up on rooftops. We  could see people
dancing, singing, drinking, through open windows.
     I  lit  a  cigarette and  started  rethinking my  observations  of  the
computer-womb  (as we finally decided to call  the complex).  "First of all,
it's not  a  computer-oracle  or a  computer-thinker, because  there  is  no
winnowing  of  information  in it,  only combinations-sometimes  meaningful,
sometimes not. Secondly, it can  be controlled not only  by energy (clamping
the hoses, turning off  water and  power-in other words, grabbing it by  the
throat), but also by information. Of course, for now it responds only to the
command  'No!'-but  it's a  beginning. I think  the most  convenient  way to
command  it  is  through  Monomakh's  Crown  with  brain  waves. Third,  the
computer-womb, while very  complex, is still only a  machine,  an artificial
creation   without  a  goal.   The  striving  for  stability,  informational
equilibrium,  is  not a  goal but  a characteristic,  just  like  that of an
analytic scale. But it is expressed in a more complex way: through synthesis
in the form of living matter via external information. A goal always lies in
solving  a  problem. There  was no problem-and so it fooled  around from  an
excess of possibilities. But..."
     "...  man must set  its goals,"  my double  picked up; I was no  longer
amazed by  his ability  to  think with  me.  "As  for  all  other  machines.
Therefore, as the bureaucrats say, all responsibility lies with us."
     I didn't  feel  like thinking about responsibility.  You  work and work
unstintingly-and then you get stuck with responsibility, too. And  people go
off  to enjoy themselves. We missed the holiday.  What  dopes! And my  whole
life will go by in a smelly lab.
     We turned down  a chestnut-lined avenue  which led  to Academic Town. A
couple strolled ahead  of  us. My  double and I felt  a pang-we poor, sober,
hungry,  and  lonely men. That couple  fit in  so beautifully  in the gaslit
avenue. Tall and  elegant, he held her by  the waist. She bent her full mane
of hair toward him. We unthinkingly  sped  up,  in order to pass them and be
spared the lyrical sight.
     "We'll play some music, now, Tanechka! I have records  that'll make you
salivate!"  Hilobok's buzzing voice reached us,  and we  were  knocked for a
loop. The charm of the lovely picture faded. "Harry has another new one," my
double  announced.  As we got  closer  we  recognized  the  girl,  too. Just
recently she had come to the institute in school uniform to do her probation
work; now,  I think, she worked as a lab  assistant in  the digital computer
lab. I liked her looks: full lips, a soft nose, and big brown eyes that were
dreamy and trusting.
     "And  when Arkady  Arkadievich  is  on vacation or  on a business  trip
abroad, I  have to  make many  of his decisions," Harry said,  spreading his
peacock  tail.  "And   even  when  he's  here  ...  what?  Of  course,  it's
interesting, why not?"
     There goes little  Tanechka,  her  head  bent forward towards Hilobok's
shoulder,  and assistant  professor Harry seems like  a  shining  knight  of
Soviet science to her. Maybe he even has radiation sickness like the hero of
the  movie  Nine  Days  in  One Year? Or  maybe  his  health  is  completely
undermined by  his  scientific work,  like the hero of the  movie Everything
Will Remain  for  the  People?  And so she melts,  imagining herself as  his
heroine,  the  little fool.... Your  scientific  boyfriend is in fine shape,
don't you worry, Tanechka. He hasn't worn himself out with science. And he's
leading you directly to your first major disillusionment in life. He's a pro
in that department....
     My double slowed down and said under his breath:
     "Should we beat him up? It would be very easy; you go off to visit some
friends and establish an alibi, and I'll...."
     He beat  me to it by a split second. He spoke hurriedly in  general, to
prove  his individuality.  He understood that we thought  the same  way. But
since he  spoke up so soon, I  immediately developed the second mechanism of
proving my individuality: opposition to someone else's idea.
     "Over the girl, you mean? The hell with her; if not her, then he'll get
someone else."
     "Over her, and everything in general. For the good of my soul. Remember
the stink he made over our work?" His eyes narrowed. "Remember?"
     I remembered.  I  was working  in  Valery Ivanov's  lab  then. We  were
developing storage blocks for defense  computers.  Serious things were going
on in  the world,  and  we were  working  hard, not  observing  days off  or
holidays,  and  turned in  the  work  six  months  before  the  government's
deadline.   And   soon   the   institute  well-wishers   related   Hilobok's
pronouncement on us: "In science people who turn in research before it's due
are either  careerists or brown-noses, or  both!"  His pronouncement  became
popular. We have quite a few who are in no danger of being called careerists
or brown-noses from working the way we did. Sensitive and  hotheaded, Valery
kept  wanting to have a heart-to-heart with Hilobok, then had a  fight  with
Azarov and left the institute.
     My fists grew heavy with the memory. Maybe my double  could provide the
alibi, and I'd... ? And then  I pictured it: a sober intelligent man beating
another intelligent man to a pulp in front of a girl. What was that! I shook
my head to chase out the image.
     "No, that's not it. We can't succumb to such base feelings."
     "Then what is if?"
     "Then we must at  least  protect  those dreamy eyes from Harry's sweaty
embrace."  My double bit his  lip thoughtfully  and  pushed me  under a tree
(taking  the  initiative  again).  "Harry  Haritonovich,  could  I  see  you
privately for a moment?"
     Hilobok and the girl turned around.
     "Ah,  Valentin Vasilyevich! Of  course ... Tanechka, I'll catch up with
you." The assistant professor turned toward my double.
     "Aha!" I  got his plan and raced through the trees' shadows. Everything
worked  perfectly.  Tanechka got as  far as the fork  in the road,  stopped,
looked around and saw the same man who had called her boyfriend away just  a
few minutes before.
     "Tanechka,"  I  said.  "Harry  Haritonovich  asked  me  to  convey  his
apologies. He won't  be returning. You see, his wife  is back and....  Where
are you going? I'll walk you!"
     But Tanechka  was running away, hands over  her face, straight for  the
bus stop. I headed home.
     A few minutes later my double came in.
     "Wait," I  said before  he  could open his mouth. "You told  Harry that
Tanechka is the fiancee of your friend, who's a boxing champion?"
     "And a judo black belt. And you told her about his wife?"
     "Right. Well, at  least  we've  found  one positive application  of our
study."
     We got undressed, washed, and got ready for bed. I  took the bed and he
took the folding bed.
     "By the way, speaking of Hilobok," my  double said, sitting down on his
bed.  "We didn't  mention that our retrieval topic will be  discussed at the
next  scientific council?  If Harry hadn't reminded  me so  nicely, I  would
never have known. 'It's  time, Valentin Vasilyevich. After  all you've  been
working six months now, and it hasn't been discussed yet. Of  course, random
retrieval  is  a good thing, but  you've  been requisitioning equipment  and
materiel, and I keep getting calls from accounting, wanting to know what  to
call the account. And there's  talk in the institute that Krivoshein can  do
what he wants while everyone else has to fill out forms in triplicate. I, of
course, understand that  you must do all this for your dissertation, but you
must give your topic form and bring  it into the overall plan....' The creep
brought up work as soon as I told him about the boxing and judo."
     "If Hilobok is to be believed,  all  science is done to keep accounting
happy."
     I explained the situation to  my double. When  the computer was spewing
out  those crazy numbers, I had called Azarov in total despair and asked  to
see him for advice. As usual, he was too busy and suggested that it would be
better to have a scientific council; he would ask Hilobok to arrange it.
     "And by then, the little red egg had hatched," my  double finished. "So
shall we report  it? With the intention of  writing a master's dissertation.
Even Hilobok understands that it's important."
     "And I'll bring you in as a demonstration at my defense?"
     "We'll see who demonstrates  whom," he replied. "But basically ... it's
impossible. We can't."
     "Of course we can't," I agreed glumly. "And we can't apply for a patent
either.  It  looks  as if  I have  only expenses  so far  on  this deal,  no
profits."
     "I'll give you the money, you cheapskate! Listen, what do you need with
the Nobel Prize?"  My  double  narrowed his eyes. "If  the computer-womb can
easily make people, then money ..."
     "... is easier than anything! With  the  right paper and all the  water
marks ... well, why not?"
     "We'll each buy a three-bedroom  co-op," my double said,  leaning  back
against the wall dreamily.
     "And a Volga car..."
     "And  two dachas each: one in the Crimea for  rest and one on the  Riga
seacoast for respectability."
     "And we'll make a few  more  of us. One will work so that public outcry
will be stifled ..."
     "... and the others will be parasites to their heart's content..."
     "... with a guaranteed alibi. Why not?"
     We stopped and looked at each other in disgust.
     "God, what depressing small-timers we are!" I grabbed my head. "We take
a major discovery and try it on for size on stupid stuff: a dissertation,  a
prize,  a  dacha,  beating  people up  with  alibis...  This  is a Method of
Synthesizing Man! And we're...."
     "It's all right, it happens. Every person has petty  thoughts once in a
while. The important thing is to keep them from turning into petty acts."
     "Actually, so far I see only one positive application of the discovery:
you can see your faults much better when they're in someone else."
     "Yes, but is that any reason for doubling the earth's population?"
     We were sitting opposite each other in  our underwear. I was  reflected
in him, a mirror image.
     "All right, let's get serious. What do we want?"
     "And what can we do?"
     "And what do we understand about this business?"
     "Let's begin with what's what. The ideas of Sechyonov,  Pavlov, Weiner,
and Ashby agreed  on one point:  that the  brain is a  machine.  Petruccio's
experiments  on controlling the development of a human fetus is another move
in this direction. The  striving for greater  complexity and universality in
technological systems-just take the  desire of microelectricians  to  create
machines that are as complex as the human brain!"
     "In other words-our discovery is no accident. The way was prepared  for
it  by  the  development of  ideas  and  technology. If  not this way,  then
another; if not now, then in a few years or decades; if not us, then someone
else would discover it. Therefore, the question comes down to ..."
     ".  .  . what can  we and must we do in that period-maybe a year, maybe
decades, no one knows, but it's better to take the shorter time-that we have
as a head start on the others." "Yes."
     "How is it  usually done?" My double rested his cheek on  his hand. "An
engineer has the desire to create something lasting. He  looks for a client.
Or the client  looks for him, depending on who  needs whom more.  The client
gives him a  technological problem: 'Use  your ideas and your  knowledge  to
create such and such.  It  must have the following parameters  and withstand
the following ... and it should guarantee the production annually of no less
than such-and-such  percent.  The amount is,  and the time allotted is.  The
sanctions follow  general usage....'  A contract is  signed and  then  it is
done. We  have an idea and we want to  develop it  further. But  if a client
comes along now and says: 'Here's the  dough; go to work  on your system for
doubling people and it's none of your business  why I want  it'-we  wouldn't
agree, right?"
     "Well, it's a little early to be worrying about that. The method hasn't
been researched.  What  kind of production  could there be? Who knows, maybe
you'll disintegrate in  a few months." "I won't. Don't count on it." "What's
it to me? Live for all I care."
     "Thanks! You are such a  boor! Just unbelievable! Would  I like to give
you a good punch!"
     "All right, all right, don't get off the subject. You misunderstood me.
I meant  that we still don't  know all the  aspects and possibilities of the
discovery. We're at the very beginning. If we compare it to radio, say, then
we're at the level of Hertz's waves and Popov's spark transmitter. What now?
We must research the possibilities."
     "Right. But that doesn't change things. Any research that is applied to
man and human society must have a definite goal.  And there's nobody  around
to give us a two-page, typewritten list setting a technological task. But we
don't need it. We must determine for ourselves what goals man now faces."
     "Well... before, the goals were simple: survival and propagation of the
species. In order to achieve them you had to worry about wildlife, skins for
cover, and fire .  . .  beating off animals and acquaintances with a cudgel,
digging in the clay to make a cave without any conveniences,  and so on. But
modern society has solved  these problems. Get  a  job somewhere and  you'll
have  the minimum you need  for living. You won't perish.  And you can  have
children;  if  worst  comes to worst,  the government will even take on  the
responsibility of bringing them  up for you. So  now, it follows that people
should have new desires and needs."
     "More  than  you can count!  Comfort, recreation, interesting  and  not
boring work.  Refined society,  various  symbols  of vanity-titles,  awards,
medals.  The  need  for  excellent  clothing, delicious food, embroidery,  a
suntan, news, books,  humor, ornamentation, fads...." "But none of  that  is
important, damn it! That can't be important. People can't, and don't want to
return  to their previous primitive existence; they  squeeze everything from
modern  life that they can-it's only natural. But there has  to be some goal
behind their desires and needs, no? A new goal of existence."
     "In  brief, what is the meaning of life?  Rather a complicated problem,
wouldn't  you say? So, I knew we would end up here!" My double got up, moved
to get the kinks out of his body, and sat down again.  So-starting out  with
jokes and  getting  more and  more  serious-we discussed the  most important
aspects of our work.  I've often  gotten around to discussing the meaning of
life-over cognac or on a coffee break-as well as  social  structure, and the
destiny  of mankind. Engineers  and scientists  like to gab about worlds the
way housewives do about high prices  and lack of  morality. Housewives do it
to prove  their  diligence  and  goodness,  and  the  researchers do  it  to
demonstrate the breadth and scope of their vision to their friends. But this
conversation was  much more  difficult than the usual  engineering bull:  we
overturned  ideas as  if  they  were  snowdrifts.  It was  distinguished  by
responsibility: after this  conversation deeds and actions  would follow the
words-deeds and actions that allowed no room for mistakes.
     We weren't sleepy any more.
     "All right. Let's assume  that the meaning of life is to satisfy needs.
No matter what kind. But what desires and needs of mankind can we satisfy by
creating  new people? The artificially created  people will have  their  own
needs and desires! It's a vicious circle."
     "No, no. The meaning  of life is  to  live.  Live a full  life, freely,
interestingly, creatively. Or at least to aim for that... and then?"
     "Fully!  Meaning of  life! Aiming!"  My double  jumped  up and  started
pacing the room.  "Interests, desires, .  .  . mammy, what abstractions! Two
centuries ago these approximate concepts would have sufficed,  but today....
What the hell can we  do if there are no exact data on man? What vectors are
used to describe striving? What units measure interests?"
     (We were discouraged by that then-and we're discouraged by that now. We
were  used to exact, precise  concepts:  parameters, clearances,  volume  of
information  in bits,  action in microseconds-and we came face to  face with
the terrifying  vagueness of knowledge  about man.  It's  good enough for  a
conversation.  But  please,  do  tell me how  can you  use them  in  applied
research,  where a  simple  and harsh  law reigns:  if  you  know  something
imprecisely, that means you don't know it.)
     "Hmmmmmm ... I envy the men who invented the  atom bomb." My double got
up and leaned in the  balcony doorway." 'This device, gentlemen, can destroy
a hundred thousand people'-and it was perfectly clear to them that Oak Ridge
had to be built... And our device can create people, gentlemen!"
     "Some people do research  on uranium; others build factories to  enrich
uranium with the necessary isotopes ... others construct the bombs... others
in  high  political circles give the order... others drop the bombs on still
others, the inhabitants of Hiroshima  and Nagasaki  ...  and others.... Hey,
wait a minute, I'm on to something!"
     My double regarded me with curiosity.
     "You see, we're talking very logically, and we  can't  find our way out
of the paradoxes, the dead questions like 'What's the meaning of life?'  and
you know why? There  is no such thing in nature as  Man in General. On earth
there are all kinds of different  people, and  their desires are varied, and
often contradictory. Let's  say a man  wants  to live  well and for that  he
needs weapons. Or take this: a young man dreams of becoming  a scientist but
he doesn't feel  like chewing on the granite of  science-he doesn't like the
taste. And  these different people  live  in different  circumstances,  find
themselves in varying situations,  dream  about  one  thing  and  strive for
another, and achieve yet a third ... and we're trying to fit them all in one
mold!"
     "But  if  we  move  on  to individuals  and take  into account  all the
circumstances ..." my double frowned, "it'll be a mess!"
     "And you  want everything to be as  simple  as  the creation of storage
blocks, eh? Wrong case."
     "I know  it's  a different  case. Our discovery  is  as complex  as man
himself... and  we can't throw anything out or simplify anything to make our
work  easier.  But what constructive  ideas  are flowing  out of your  great
insight that all men are different? I mean constructive, that  will help our
work."
     "Our work ... hm. It's tough...."
     Our  conversation hit another dead end. The poplars  rustled downstairs
by the house.  Someone walked into the  courtyard, whistling a  tune. A cool
breeze came in from the balcony.
     My  double was  staring dully at the lamp and  then  shoved  his finger
second-knuckle deep into his nostril. His face expressed the fierce pleasure
of natural exercise.  Something itched in my right nostril, too, but he  had
beat me to it.  I watched myself picking my nose and I suddenly realized why
I  hadn't recognized  my  double  when  we  met  on  the institute  grounds.
Basically, no  one  knows  himself. We  never  see ourselves-even before the
mirror  we unconsciously correct ourselves, trying to look  better and  more
intelligent. We  don't  hear ourselves, because the vibrations of our thorax
reach  our  eardrums through the bones  and  muscles of our head as  well as
through the air. We do not observe ourselves from the side.
     My double cleaned his nose, and then his finger, and then looked up and
laughed, when he understood what I was thinking.
     "So, are people different or the same?"
     "Both. A certain objective lesson can be drawn here-not from your lousy
manners, of  course. We're talking about  the technical production of  a new
information system-Man. Technology produces  other systems: machines, books,
equipment.... The common factor  in every  produced  system  is  similarity,
standardization. Every book in  a given press run  is  like all  the others,
down to the typos. And  in  equipment of  a  given series, the  needles, the
scales,  the  class of  precision,  and the length of the  guarantee are the
same. The differences  are minor: in one book the text is a little  clearer;
in one  piece  of equipment there's a scratch  or it  has a  slightly higher
margin of error at high temperatures..."
     "... but within the class of precision."
     "Natch. In the language of our science, we could say that the volume of
individual information in each such artificial system is negligibly small in
comparison with the volume of information that is common in  all the systems
of  a given  class. And for man  that is not the case. People contain common
information,  biological  knowledge of  the world,  but  each person has  an
enormous amount of personal, individualized  information. You can't overlook
it-without it man is not man. That means that every  person is not standard.
That means..." "... that all attempts to find the optimum parameters for man
with an allowable margin of error of no more than five percent is a waste of
time. Fine! Do you feel better?" "No. But that's the harsh truth."
     'Therefore,  we  can't  hide  in  our  work  from  these  terrible  and
mysterious concepts: man's interests, personality, desires, good and evil...
and maybe even the soul? I'm going to quit."
     "You won't. By the way, are they really  so mysterious, these concepts?
In life people all  understand what's what. You know, they judge  a base act
and say, 'You know, that was lousy! and everyone agrees."
     "Everyone except the louse. Which  is  very  much  to  the  point."  He
slapped his thighs. "I don't understand you! It's  not enough  that  you got
burned on the simple word understanding?  Now you want to give  the computer
problems with  good and evil? A machine  doesn't  catch things  between  the
lines, doesn't  get  jokes, is indifferent to  good and  evil... Why are you
laughing?"
     I really was laughing.
     "I don't understand how  you cannot understand me. After  all  you  are
me!"
     "That's tangential. I'm a  researcher  first,  and then I'm Krivoshein,
Sidorov, or Petrov!" He was obviously all worked up. "How will we work if we
don't have precise concepts of the crux of the matter?"
     "Well  .  .  .  the  way  people  worked  at  the dawn  of the  age  of
electrotechnology. In  those  days everyone knew what phlogiston was, but no
one had any idea about tension, voltage, or  induction. Ampere, Volt, Henry,
and  Ohm were merely last names. They tested tension with their tongues, the
way kids check batteries nowadays. They discovered current by copper buildup
on cathodes. But people worked. And we ... what's the matter with you?"
     Now my double was doubled up with laughter.
     "I can  just  imagine  it: twenty years from  now  there'll  be  a unit
measuring something and they'll call it a krivoshein! Oh, I can't stand it!"
     I fell down on my bed laughing, too.
     "And there'll be a krivosheinmeter... like an ohmmeter."
     "And  a  microkrivoshein  or  a megakrivoshein ... a megakri for short.
Ho-ho!"
     I  like remembering  how  we roared. We were  obviously unworthy of our
discovery. We laughed. We got serious.
     "Historical examples are  inspirational, of  course," my  double  said.
"But that's not it. Galvani could blather as much as he  wanted over 'animal
electricity,' Zeebeck could stubbornly insist  that thermo-stream gave  rise
not to thermoelectricity, but to thermomag-netism-the nature  of  things was
not altered by  that. Sooner or later they hit  on  the  truth, because  the
important thing was the analysis of information. Analysis! And we're dealing
with synthesis.  And here nature is no guideline for man:  it builds its own
system;  he  builds  his. The  only  truths for  him  in  this business  are
possibility and  goal.  We  have  the possibility. And  the  goal? We  can't
formulate it."
     "The goal is simple: for everything to be good."
     "Again with  good?" My double looked at me. "And then we have  childish
prattle about what is good and what is bad?"
     "Skip the childish prattle! Let's operate with these arbitrary concepts
however  clumsy  they may  be: good, evil,  desires,  needs, health, talent,
stupidity,  freedom, love, longing,  principle-not because we like them, but
because there aren't any others. They don't exist!"
     "I have nothing to counter that. There aren't any others, that's true."
My double sighed. "I can tell this is going to be a lot of work!"
     "And  let's  talk it  all  out. Yes,  things  should be  good.  All the
applications of the discovery that we permit to enter the world must be ones
that we are sure of, that will not bring any harm to  people, only good. And
let's put aside our discussion of how  to measure benefit. I don't know what
units it takes."
     "Krivosheins, of course," my double countered.
     "Cut it out!  But  I know something else: the role  of an  intellectual
monster on a world scale does not appeal to me."
     "Me neither. But just a small question: do you have a plan?"
     "For what?"
     "A method for using the computer-womb so that it  only gives benefit to
mankind. You  see this would  be  an unprecedented method in the  history of
science. Nothing that  has  been  invented  and is being  invented  has that
magical  quality.  You  can poison  yourself  with  medicine.  You  can  use
electricity for lighting homes or  for torturing people.  Or for launching a
rocket with a warhead. And that holds for everything."
     "No, I don't have a  concrete plan  as yet. We don't know enough. Let's
study  the computer-womb and  look for that method.  It must exist. It's not
important that there is no precedent for it in science-there is no precedent
for our discovery either. We will be synthesizing precisely that system that
does good and evil, and miracles, and nonsense-man!"
     "That's  all true," my double  agreed after  some thought. "Whether  we
find that  great  method  or not, there's  no point in undertaking work like
that without  a goal like it. They manage to make people without us, somehow
or other...."
     "So,  let's end the session  properly,  all right?" I suggested. "Let's
make up  a work  project like in  a contract: we the undersigned:  humanity,
called the client, and the party of the first part; and the heads of the New
Systems Laboratory of the Institute  of Systemology, V. V. Krivoshein and V.
V. Krivoshein, called the Executors, and the party of the second part, agree
to the following...."
     "Why so much  about a  contract and a technical task-after all  in this
work we represent the interests of the client ourselves. Do  it straight and
simple!"
     He got up, took down the Astra-2 cassette recorder from the closet, put
it on the table,  and turned on the microphone.  And we-that is, I, Valentin
Vasilyevich Krivoshein, thirty-four years old, and my artificial double, who
appeared  on   this  earth  a  week  ago-two  unsentimental,  rather  ironic
people-swore a vow.
     I guess it might  have seemed high-flown  and  ridiculous. There was no
fanfare, no flags, no rows of students at  ease. The morning sky  was  pale,
and  we stood  before  the mike in  our underwear,  and  the draft from  the
balcony chilled our feet... but we made the vow in dead earnest.
     And so it will be. No other way.






     If, when you come home at  night, you mistakenly drink developing fluid
instead  of water,  you might as well have  some  fixative, or  you'll leave
things half-done.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 21

     The  next  day  we  started  building  an  information  chamber  in the
laboratory.  We marked  off an area  of two meters square, covered  it  with
laminated  insulation  panels  and  dumped  into  it  all  the  microphones,
analyzers,  feelers, and  objectives-all the  sensors  that  had been strewn
colorfully  all over the place by the computer-womb.  This  was our  idea: a
living object would get into the chamber, and would gambol, feed, fight with
one of its own kind, or just ramble, surrounded by sensors, and the computer
would receive information for synthesis.
     The "living objects" are calmly  chewing their  cabbage to this day  in
their cages  in the hall. My double and I  were  always getting into  fights
about  who would  tend them. They  were  rabbits. I traded the bionics lab a
loop  oscillograph  and a GI-250 generator lamp for them. One rabbit (Albino
Vaska) had something like a bronze crown on  his head made out of electrodes
implanted for encephalograms.
     On May  7 we had a minor but unpleasant occurrence.  Usually  my double
and I coordinated all our work fairly well, so that  we would  not appear in
public  simultaneously   or  repeat  ourselves.  But   that  damned  lab  of
experimental apparatus could drive anyone to distraction.
     Back in the winter I had ordered a universal system of  biosensors from
the  lab. I  prepared the blueprints, a mounting diagram,  ordered  all  the
necessary materials and parts-they only had to put it together. And it still
wasn't finished! I needed to install the system in the chamber, and I didn't
have  it. The trouble  was that the lab  was chronically changing directors.
One guy  turns over the work; the other accepts  it-naturally there's no one
to do the  work.  Then  the  new director has to  acquaint himself  with the
situation, introduce reforms and  changes (a new broom sweeps clean), and no
work gets done. Meanwhile the people who have placed orders scream and fume,
go  to Azarov with their complaints, and a new  director is put on  the job.
See above. I even tried influencing the workers directly, slipping them some
booze, getting P657 transistors for their radios-and to no avail. Eventually
the reserve of people willing to head that lab dried  out, and H. H. Hilobok
took  over,  while continuing his other duties,  at half pay-Harry  is  like
this: he'll take on any job. He'll organize anything, reorganize, so long as
he  is  not  left one  on one  with  nature, with those  horrible  pieces of
equipment that  can't be  bossed  and  bullied but which show things as they
really are and what needs to be done.
     That day I  had called  Gavryushenko  at  the lab. And I heard the same
vague muttering about a lack of mounting wire. I freaked out and rushed over
to have it out with Harry.
     I was so mad that I didn't notice that  Harry seemed a little confused,
and  I told him off. I promised to turn the work over to schoolchildren  and
shame the lab completely.
     And when I got back to the lodge, I encountered my sweet double, pacing
and cooling off. It seems he had just seen Hilobok  five minutes earlier and
had the exact same conversation with him.
     Damn... at least we hadn't bumped into each other.
     In  our first experiments we decided to  make do  without the universal
system. The sensors we had were enough for the rabbits. And when we moved on
to homo sapiens  ... by then maybe the  lab of  experimental apparatus might
even have an efficient director.
     The scientific  council took place on May 16. The might before, we went
over what should be said and what should be omitted. We decided to introduce
the  original idea,  that  a  computer with elements of random  transmission
might and  must construct itself  under the influence of random information.
The  work would be an experimental test of that idea. In order  to determine
the limits that the computer can reach in constructing itself, the following
equipment, material and apparatus would be necessary-see appended list.
     "To prepare their minds, just like the supply department,  this will be
just right," I said. "So, that's what I'll report."
     "But, why, does it have to be you?" my double asked, militantly raising
his  eyebrows.  "When  the rabbits  need  cleaning it's  me;  when  it's the
scientific  council, it's you,  huh?  What  kind  of  discrimination against
artificial people is this? I demand we do it by lot!"
     And that's how I innocently earned a  talking to for "tactless behavior
at the scientific council of the institute and for rudeness toward Doctor of
Technical Sciences Professor 1.1. Voltampernov."
     No, it really hurt. If it  had been to me that the  former  hotshot  of
lamp electronics, honored worker of the republic  in science and technology,
doctor   of   technical  sciences,  and  professor,   Ippolit  Illarionovich
Voltampernov (oh, why wasn't  I a master of  ceremonies?) had let loose his:
"And  does engineer Krivoshein know, since he bids us to give a computer its
head, so  to speak, without  rudder or wheel,  what it will  want  to  do in
building itself, and how  much thought-out, I  dare add, work  our qualified
specialists here at  the institute put into the  planning  and projecting of
computer systems? Into the development of  blocks of these systems? And  the
elements  of  these systems?  Does he have any  idea,  this  engineer  who's
vulgarizing  principles here before us, of at  least the methodology, so  to
speak, of the optimal projection of flip-flops on the 6N5  bulb? And doesn't
it  seem to  engineer  Krivoshein  that  his  ideas-regarding  the fact  the
computer, so to speak, will  manage the optimal construction better than the
specialists-are an insult to  the  majority of the workers of this institute
who  are fulfilling, I dare say,  work that  is important for our  country's
economy?  I  would  ask the  engineer what this would give the...." And each
time the word "engineer" sounded like a  cross between "student" and "son of
a bitch."
     I wish  I could have reminded the respected professor in my  reply that
apparently  the same sort  of insult was the motive force of  his pen in the
past,  when he wrote the  exposes  about "the  reactionary pseudoscience  of
cybernetics," but a  shift in wind  made him take up  the work, too. If  the
professor was worried about being left out after the  success of the present
work,  he  shouldn't  have been: he  could  always return to  semiscientific
journalism. And  in general, it's about time to learn that science functions
with the use  of statements  on the heart of the matter and not with the aid
of demagogic attacks and sputterings.
     It  was  after  these  words, taken  down  by  the  stenographer,  that
Voltampernov began yawning convulsively and clutching his breast pocket.
     But  citizens, that was not me!  The report was given by my  artificial
double, made exactly like  me by the proposed method. Voltampernov was angry
and embarrassed for three days after that.
     I could understand him!
     (But,  by the way, at  the moment when Azarov signed the official order
for a reprimand and it reached the office, I was the one who was around. And
it was at me that Aglaya Mitrofanovna Garazha,  the tough woman  head of the
office, yelled in front of a large group:
     "Comrade  Krivoshein, here's a reprimand  for you! Come in and sign for
it!"
     And like a lamb, I went in and signed. Isn't fate cruel?)
     Actually,  the hell with the reprimand. The important thing is that the
topic was supported! By Azarov himself. "An interesting idea," he said, "and
a  rather simple  one;  it can be checked."  "But this isn't an  algorithmic
problem,  Arkady Arkadievich,"  assistant  professor  Prishchepa,  the  most
orthodox  mathematician of  our  institute, interjected.  "And  if it  isn't
algorithmic, it  shouldn't exist?"  the academician parried. (Listen  to the
man.) "In our times the algorithm of scientific retrieval  is not reduced to
a collection  of  rules of formal logic." Now  that's talking! Azarov  never
liked "random retrieval," I  knew that.  What was this? Could my double have
conquered  him  with his logic?  Or had our  chief  suddenly developed  some
scientific tolerance? Then we would get along fine.
     In a word, the vote was eighteen yea's and one (Voltampernov) nay.  The
careful Prishchepa  abstained. My double,  who did not have a learned degree
and title, did not vote.  Even Hilobok voted for  it, and he believes in the
success of our work. We won't let you down, not to worry.
     By  the  way, my  double brought some amazing news: Hilobok was writing
his dissertation.
     "On what?"
     "An undisclosed topic.  The scientific council  was  hearing the agenda
for the  next meeting, and  on point it was: "Discussion of  the work on his
dissertation for a learned degree as doctor of  technical  sciences by H. H.
Hilobok. The topic is marked top secret." See,  we sit here in  the lab, cut
off from the mainstream of science."
     "An undisclosed topic-that's fantastic!" I even disconnected my welding
iron. We  were in the lab,  mounting sensors in  the chamber. 'Terrific.  No
open publication, no audience at the defense ... shhh, comrades, top secret!
Everyone walks around respecting it from the start."
     The  news hurt me to the quick. I couldn't do my masters and here Harry
was going to be a doctor. And he was. The technique involved was well known:
you  take a secret circuit or construction that is being developed  (or even
has been developed)  somewhere, and add  on  some compilative verbiage using
secret primary sources.
     "Ah, he's not the first, and he's not the last!" I said,  picking up my
soldering  iron. "Good old Harry! Of course, we could  give him a  bit of...
but is the game worth the candle?"
     We were a  little  uneasy about it. 1 was always angry when  I  had  to
watch  a  bootlicker  making  progress at full  speed;  I  experience  angry
thoughts and begin to despise myself for the  reasonable recalcitrance of my
extremities. But  really, the game  wasn't worth the candle. We had  so much
serious work for just the two of us, and my  position  was not  yet secure-I
shouldn't get involved. Especially not with Harry Hilobok. Ivanov and I once
tried to catch Harry  in  plagiarism. Valery  appeared  at a seminar, proved
everything.  But  all  that   happened  was  that  the  scientific   council
recommended that Hilobok  rework his  article. And then he tried ruining our
lives for ever after....
     And these public face slappings in front of an audience-with the  usual
discussions afterward, when  people  no longer greet each other-are  not  my
piece of cake.  When they  occur I experience an uncontrollable urge to beat
it to my lab, turn  on all the equipment, take down  data in my journal, and
try to do something worthwhile. Now if there were  some way to fix guys like
Harry with lab methods-you know, the power of engineering thought....
     It  was  worth  thinking  about.  The  act  that  the Voltampernovs and
Hiloboks roll out onto the broad highway of science  is proof that there are
not enough smart people around. And this is in  science, where the intellect
is the fundamental measuring stick of a man's  qualities. How about in other
fields? They put up want ads:  "Lathe workers wanted" or "Wanted: engineers,
technicians, accountants, and supply personnel." But no  one writes "Wanted:
smart people. Apartment  comes  with job." Are they too embarrassed?  Or are
there no apartments? You could start off without the apartments.... Why hide
it?  Smart  people  are wanted,  and how! They're  wanted for life, for  the
development of society.
     "We must... make doubles of smart  people!" I shouted.  "Smart, active,
decent people! Val, that's the best application!"
     He looked at me with undisguised sadness.
     "You beat me to it, you bum."
     "And this will be  a reward for those people  for  living,"  I went on.
"Society needs you. You know how to work fruitfully, live honestly. And that
means there should be more like you! Maybe even several; there'll be  enough
work for all. Then we'll crowd out the Hiloboks...."
     This  idea revived our self-respect. We felt ourselves on top of things
once  more and spent the day dreaming about  how we would multiply  talented
scholars, writers, musicians, inventors, heroes....  It really wasn't  a bad
idea!






     A scientific fact: the  sound "a" is pronounced without any pressure of
the tongue, by exhaling; if at the same time you open and  close your mouth,
you get "ma... ma ...." That is the origin of a child's first word.
     That  means that the child is taking the path of least resistance. What
are the parents so happy about?
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 53

     The first few weeks I was still wary of  my double: what if he suddenly
disintegrated  or dissolved? Or went berserk? He was an artificial creation.
Who knew? But no way! He fiercely put away  sausage and yogurt drinks in the
evening after  a tough day at the lab, enjoyed his long baths, liked to have
a smoke before going to sleep-in a word, just like me.
     After  the Hilobok incident, we  carefully plotted  out the  day  every
morning: where would we be, doing what? When would we eat at  the cafeteria?
At what  time would each of  us go through the entryway, so  that Vakhterych
would  forget  in the rush that one Krivoshein had already gone  through. In
the evening we would tell each other whom we had seen and what we had talked
about.
     The only thing we didn't discuss was Lena. It was as though she did not
exist. I  even  took  her photo  off my desk.  And she  didn't come over  or
call-she was mad at me. And I didn't call her. And neither did he... but she
was still there.
     It was  May,  a poetic,  glorious  southern  May-with  blue  twilights,
nightingales in the  park, and huge  stars  above  the  trees. The  chestnut
blooms were falling and  the acacias were  flowering.  The  sweet, troubling
scent  penetrated the lab,  disturbing our work.  We both  felt  gypped. Ah,
Lena, my dear,  passionate Lena, reveling in love, why is there only one  of
you on earth?
     That's the childishness the appearance of my double and  "rival" bought
out  in me!  Until then  Lena  and I had the usual  relationship between two
worldly-wise people (Lena had divorced her husband the year before;  I'd had
my share of  broken affairs, which turned me into a confirmed bachelor) that
comes not so much as the result of mutual attraction but of loneliness. In a
relationship  like  that  neither gives himself  completely. We enjoyed  our
dates and tried to  pass time in an  interesting  way; she  would  spend the
night at my place  or I would stay at hers; in the mornings we would both be
a  little uncomfortable and  separate with relief. Then  I would be drawn to
her again and she to  me... and so on. I was in love with her beauty (it was
great to watch men looking at her  in the street or in a  restaurant), but I
was often bored by her conversation. And as for her... well, who understands
a  woman's heart? I  often had the feeling that Lena expected something more
from me, but I never tried to find out what. And now, where there was danger
of losing  Lena, I suddenly  felt  that  I needed her  desperately, and that
without her my life would be empty. And we're all like that!
     But the construction  of  the chamber  was going along  swimmingly.  In
complex  work like that  it's important to understand each other-and in that
sense it was an  ideal arrangement: my double and I never explained anything
to each other;  one  simply replaced the other and went on working. We never
argued once  about  placement of sensors, or where to  set up the  plugs and
sockets or screens.
     "Listen, are you getting a little worried by our idyl?" my double asked
one day, as we changed guard. "No questions, no doubts. We're going to  make
mistakes in complete harmony."
     "What else? You and  I have four arms, four legs, two stomachs, and one
head for the two of us-the same knowledge, the same life experience ...."
     "But we argued, contradicted each other!"
     "We  were simply thinking aloud together. You  can argue with yourself.
Man's  thoughts   are  mere  variants   of  actions  and   they  are  always
contradictory. But we strive to act together."
     "Yes... but that's no good! We're not working now, we're plugging away.
An  extra pair of  hands doubles the work capacity. But our main function is
to think. And here... listen, original, we have to become different."
     I  couldn't   imagine   what   serious   repercussions   this  innocent
conversation  would have. And, as they  write  in novels, the  repercussions
didn't make us wait.
     It  began with  my  double buying a volume of Human Physiology intended
for secondary  phys ed courses. I  won't try to  guess whether he had really
planned to distinguish himself from me or whether he was simply attracted by
the bright green cover and  gold lettering, but  as soon as he opened it, he
began muttering "Aha!  Now that's something,..."  as if  he  were reading  a
catchy mystery, and then he bombarded me with questions:
     "Do you know that nerve cells can be up to a meter long?"
     "Do you know what controls the sympathetic nervous system?"
     "Do you know what protective inhibition is?"
     Naturally, I didn't know. And  he  went on telling me with a neophyte's
enthusiasm about the sympathetic nervous system regulating the  functions of
the internal organs, that protective inhibition or pessimum, occurs in nerve
tissue when the strength of excitation exceeds the permissible level.
     "You  understand,  the  nerve  cell can refuse  to react  to a powerful
stimulus in order not to destroy itself! Transistors can't do that!"
     After  that textbook he bought  up a whole batch of  biology  books and
journals,  read  them cover to cover, quoting his favorite passages, and got
mad when I didn't share his enthusiasm. And why should I have?


     Graduate student Krivoshein set  aside the diary. Yes, that's precisely
how it all  began. In the dry academic lines  of  the books  and articles on
biology he suddenly sensed the proximity  of truth that he had earlier  felt
only when reading the works of great writers, when, delving into the actions
and emotions  of  invented  characters, you  begin to learn something  about
yourself.  Then  he did  not  realize it, because the  physiology facts  had
enthralled him, so to  speak.  But he was upset that original Krivoshein was
left cold  by it all. How could that be? They were the same; that meant that
they had  to  react  to things the  same  way.  Did that mean  that  he, the
artificial Krivoshein, wasn't the same? That was the first hint.
     The second time he overslept-sitting up reading until dawn-I blew up:
     "Why  can't you get interested in mineralogy-or production economics-if
you want so badly to be different! At least you'd get some sleep."
     We were  talking  in the lab, after my double arrived past noon, sleepy
and unshaven; I had  shaved in  the morning.  That  kind of discrepancy  was
enough to worry our institute friends.
     He gave me a haughty and surprised look.
     "Tell me, what's that liquid?" and he pointed at the tank. "What is its
composition?"
     "Organic, of course, why?"
     "It's not tricky. Why did the computer-womb use ammonia  and phosphoric
acid? Remember? It kept  spewing out formulas and amounts and you ran around
all the stores like a crazy man, trying to find it all. Why did you get it?!
You  don't know?  I'll  explain:  the computer was  synthesizing  atpase and
phosphocreatine-the sources of muscle energy. Understand?"
     "I understand. But what about Galosha brand gas? And calcium rhodanate?
And the methylviolet? And the other three hundred reagents?"
     "I don't know yet. I have to read up on biochemistry...."
     "Uh-huh... and  now  I'll  explain  to you why I  got those  disgusting
things:  I was fulfilling the logical conditions of the experiment-the rules
of the game, and nothing else. I did not know about your superphosphate. And
the computer  probably  didn't know that the formulas it  was turning out in
binary  code had  such  fancy names-because  nature is made up of structural
elements and not  names. And yet it asked for  ammonia, phosphoric acid, and
sugar,  and  not  for  vodka or  strichnine. It figured out  for istelf, and
without textbooks,  that  vodka is a  poison.  And it  created  you  without
textbooks and medical encyclopedias-it modeled you from life."
     "I don't see why  you're so uptight about biology. It has everything we
need: knowledge about life  and man.  For example  . .  ."-he  was trying to
convince  me, it was obvious-"did  you  know that conditioned  reflexes  are
created  only when  the conditioning stimulus precedes an unconditioned one?
The cause precedes  the effect, understand? The nervous system has a greater
sense of  causality than any philosophy book! And biology uses  more precise
terms  than  everyday  life.  You  know, how  they  write  in  novels:  'The
unconscious terror  widened  his pupils and made his heart beat faster.' The
sympathetic  system  went to  work. There you  go...." He leafed through his
green  bible.  "  'Under  the  influence  of  impulses passing  through  the
sympathetic nerves, the following occurs: a) dilation of pupils  through the
contraction of  the radial muscles of the iris; b) increase in frequency and
strength of heart contractions....' That's more like it, eh?"
     "It's more  like it, but how much more? It doesn't occur to you that if
biology had made giant strides in this business, then it would be biologists
and not us who are synthesizing man?"
     "But on the  basis  of this knowledge we'll be able to make an analysis
of man."
     "An  analysis!"  I   remembered   the  "streptocidal  striptease   with
trembling,..." my near breakdown, the punchtape  bonfire-and I got mad. "All
right, let's  drop  our work,  memorize all the  textbooks and  pharmacology
manuals,  master a mass of terms, acquire  degrees and baldspots, and thirty
years or so from  now let's return to our work so that we  can  label it all
properly. This is  phosphocreatine, and this  is gluten... a hundred billion
labels. I've  already tried to analyze  your appearance.  I've had  it.  The
analytic path will take us the devil knows where."
     In  a  word, we didn't reach an agreement. This was the  first instance
when  each of  us retained his opinion.  I still don't  understand why he, a
systems  technologist, engineer, electronics man... well,  the same as  I...
why  he turned to biology. We have  an experimental setup the likes of which
he'll never find in any other lab. We have to run experiments, systemize the
results  and  observations,  establish general  laws-I  mean  general  ones,
informational  ones!  Biological laws are  a step  backward  in  comparison.
That's the way it's done.  And that's the only way to study the best  way to
control the computer-womb-after all, it's a computer first and foremost.
     The  arguments  continued  during the  next  few  days.  We got  angry,
attacking one another. Each one used arguments in his favor.
     'Technology shouldn't be copying nature; it should be complementing it.
We plan to double good  people. And what if the good man is limp? Or lost an
arm in the war?  Or is in lousy health? After all, a man's worth is  usually
known when he has reached a ripe old age; and then his health isn't  what it
used to  be, and maybe senility is creeping  up ...  and we should re-create
all that, too?"
     "No. We have to find a way to iron out the wrinkles in the doubles. Let
them be healthy, attractive."
     'There, you see!"
     "What see?"
     "In order to correct the  doubles  you need biological information on a
good constitution and attractive looks. Biological!"
     "I don't see that. If the computer, without any biological preparation,
can re-create  an  entire person, then why does  it need information when it
will be  creating parts of a person? Biological  information won't  help you
construct a  person  or an arm. You crazy  person, why can't you see that we
can't delve into all  the details of the human organism? We can't. We'll get
bogged  down. There  are untold billions of them, and no two are  the  same.
Nature didn't follow a few state plans, you know. That's why the question of
correcting doubles must be  reduced to tuning the computer-womb  by external
integral characteristics  ...  in other words, so  that we just  have  a few
dials to spin!"
     "Well, really!" He would spread his hands in shock and walk away.
     This  situation  was  getting  on  our nerves. We  had wandered  into a
logistical dead end.  A  difference in opinion on future work is nothing  so
terrible; finally you can try it both ways and let the results be the judge.
The unbearable part  was  that we  did  not understand  each  other!  Us-two
informationally  identical people. Is there any  truth in the world in  that
case?
     I began reading  his collection of biology  opuses (when he was on duty
at the lab).  Maybe I just had an antibiology hangover from  my  school days
and now I would read it, and be amazed, and start mumbling: "Now that's it!"
I didn't. There was no question; it  was an  interesting science, and  there
were  a lot of edifying  details (but only details!) about  the functions of
the organism. It was good for one's general development,  but it wasn't what
we needed. It  was a descriptive  and approximate  science, another  form of
geography. What did he see in it?
     I'm an  engineer-that  says it all. After  ten  years of work, machines
have  entered  my soul, and I feel confident working with them. In machines,
everything is subject to  reason and  my  hands; everything is definite.  If
it's  yes, then it's yes; if it's no, then  it's  no. Not like  with people:
"Yes, but..."  followed by  a phrase that crosses out the "yes." And yet the
double was me....
     We began avoiding  our painful argument  and  worked  in silence. Maybe
everything  would  work  out  and  we  would  understand   each  other.  The
information chamber was almost  ready. Another day or two and we  could  let
the  rabbits  in.  And then what  had to  happen  sooner  or  later  finally
happened: the phone rang in the laboratory.
     It  had  rung  before.  "Valentin  Vasilyevich, either  produce a  form
requisitioning the  reagents by June 1 or we'll  close the supply department
as  far  as  you're  concerned!"  The call  was  from  accounting.  "Comrade
Krivoshein, drop  into department one," said Johann Johannovich Kliapp. "Old
man, can  you lend me  your silver-nickel battery for a week?" said good old
Fenya  Zagrebnyak. And  so  on. But this was an absolutely special  call. As
soon as my double had said "Krivoshein here," he looked beatifically dumb.
     "Yes, Lena," he murmured,  "yes ... no, no, dearest.  Don't be silly...
every day and every hour!"
     Pliers in hand, I froze by the chamber. My beloved was being taken away
from me before my  very eyes.  My beloved! I  knew that  for sure now. I got
hot.  I coughed wheezily.  My double looked up at me with eyes  clouded with
tender desire and came to. He was grim and sad.
     "Just  a  second, Lena,  . .  ."  and  he  handed  me  the phone. "It's
basically for you."
     I grabbed the phone and shouted: "I'm listening, darling. Go on!"
     Actually, there's no need to  describe  what we  talked  about. She, it
turned out,  was away on a business trip and had only returned yesterday. Of
course,  she was mad about  the May 1 holidays. She had expected a call from
me.
     When  I hung  up, the double was  gone from the lab. I didn't feel like
working any  more either. I locked up the  lodge  and headed  off  for home,
whistling, to shave and change for that evening.
     My double was packing.
     "Going far?"
     "To the  village  to  visit my  aunt,  to the  sticks, to  Saratov!  To
Vladivostok to lick salt spray from my lips. It's none of your business."
     "No, drop the jokes. Where are you going? What's up?"
     He looked up at me:
     "You really don't understand? Well, that makes sense. You're not me."
     "No, why  not? You are  me, and I am you. That, anyway,  was always our
starting point."
     'That's  the point-it's not so." He lit up  a cigarette and took a book
from  the  shelf. "I'll take  Introduction to Systemology.  You can use  the
library. You are  number one,  and  I'm the second. You were born, grew  up,
developed,  took on a certain position in society. Every man has  some place
in  life. Whether  it's  good  or bad,  it's his own. I  have no place. It's
taken! Everything's taken, from girl  friend to civil position, from the bed
to the apartment."
     "You  can  sleep  on  the  bed,  for  God's  sake,  I  don't  have  any
objections."
     "Don't talk nonsense. The bed isn't the point."
     "Listen,  if  you're  leaving  over Lena,  then  .  .  . maybe  we  can
experiment a little more, and ... maybe we can try it?"
     "Re-create a second Lena,  an artificial one?" He laughed  darkly.  "So
that she can  hang around life like  a ticketless passenger. A reward for  a
good life...  what a stupid idea  that was! The best pupils, they're a bunch
of  spoiled   privileged   people.  Imagine  Arkady  Arkadievich's   double:
Academician  A.  A.  Azarov, but  without an  institute to  run,  without  a
framework,  without  membership  in  the   academy,   without  a   car   and
apartment-without  anything  except  his  personal  qualities  and  pleasant
memories. What would  his  life be  like?" He put a  towel, toothbrush,  and
toothpaste into the suitcase. "In a word, I've had it. I can't lead a double
entendre life any more-worrying about being seen together, looking around in
the  cafeteria, taking money from you. Yes, I'm taking your money  from you,
being jealous of you and Lena. Why should I suffer  like that-for what sins?
I'm a man, not an experimental subject and not somebody's double!"
     "How about the work?"
     "And who says  I'm planning to  drop the work?  The  chamber  is almost
ready, and you can run the experiments yourself. There's little for me to do
here. I'll go away and study  the problem of man  and machine from the other
end."
     He told me his  plan.  He was going to Moscow  to  enter  the  graduate
biology department  of  MSU. The work was dividing up  into  two  streams: I
would study  the computer-womb  and  determine  its possibilities;  he would
study  man  and  his possibilities.  Then-different by  then, with different
experiences and ideas-we'd put the work together.
     "But why biology?  Why  not philosophy, sociology, psychology, or  life
studies, or fine arts? They all deal with man and human society. Why?"
     He looked at me thoughtfully.
     "Do you believe in intuition?"
     "Well, maybe."
     "My intuition tells me that if we overlook biological research, we will
lose  something  very important. I don't know  yet just  what. I'll  try  to
explain in a year."
     "But why doesn't my intuition say any such thing?"
     "Damned  if  I know!"  he sighed with his  old expressiveness. His good
mood was returning. "Maybe you're just a dumb jackass."
     "Sure, sure. And you're brilliant  and sensitive-like the dog that  can
feel everything but can't express any of it!"
     In a word, we had a talk.
     Everything was clear:  he had  to  gather  individual  information,  to
become his own person. And I accepted the  fact that in order to do  that he
had  to  be  away  from me,  somewhere on his own. To  tell  the truth,  our
"double" situation  was beginning  to  wear  on  me,  too. But  that biology
stuff-I really didn't understand that at all....
     The graduate  student  leaned back  in his  chair  and  stretched. "And
couldn't  understand it." he said aloud. In those days he didn't  understand
himself.






     In Lieu of an Epigraph
     "The theme of today's  lecture is: why does the student sweat at exams?
Quiet, comrades! I suggest you take notes-the material is on the subject....
Thus, let us examine the physiological aspects of the situation that all  of
you present have had to experience. The oral exam is on. The student through
various  contractions  of  the  lungs,  thorax, and tongue  is  creating air
vibrations-answering his question. His visual analyzers control the accuracy
of his response  by the notes in his hand and by the nods of  the examiners.
Let us sketch the reflex chain: the executive apparatus of the second signal
system utters a phrase-the visual organs register  a reinforcing stimulus, a
nod-and the signal is passed to the brain  and  supports the  stimulation of
nerve cells in the proper part of the cortex. A new phrase... a  nod...  and
so on. This is often accompanied by a secondary reflex reaction: the student
gesticulates, which makes his answer all the more convincing.
     Meanwhile  the  unconditioned  reflex  chains  operate  on  their  own,
inexorably and  unconstrainedly. The trapezoid bone and broad muscles of the
back support the student's body in an  upright sitting  position-as  natural
for  us  as  the position of walking was for our predecessors. The chest and
intercostal muscles  maintain  rhythmic breathing. Other muscles  are tensed
just  enough to counteract gravity. The heart beats evenly;  the sympathetic
nervous  system has stopped the digestive process so as not to distract  the
student. . . and everything is in order.
     But now the student registers a new aural stimulus through his eardrums
and membranes  of the ears: the examiner  has asked him a  question. I never
tire of observing what follows-and I assure you, there is no sadism in this.
It's simply pleasant to watch  how quickly and clearly,  taking the millions
of years experience of our ancestors into account, our nervous system reacts
to the slightest hint of danger! Look: new air vibrations first bring on the
end of the previous activity of the unconditioned reflexes-the student stops
talking, often in mid-word. Then the  signals  from the hearing cells  reach
the medulla, excite the nerve cells of the rear  tubers of the lamina  tecti
which  commands the unconditioned reflex  of caution:  the student turns his
head in  the direction  of the  examiner! Simultaneously  the signals of the
aural stimulus  branch off into the  diencephalon,  and  from there into the
temporal lobes of the cortex, where a hurried meaning analysis is undertaken
of the air vibrations.
     I want to direct your  attention to the high  expediency level  of  the
location  of  the  analyzers  of  aural  stimuli in the cortex-right next to
theears. Evolution naturally took into account that a sound in the air moves
very  slowly:  some  300 meters a  second,  almost the same  as the speed of
signals traveling along  nerve  fiber. Yet a sound could be the rustle of  a
lurking tiger, the hissing of  a  snake, or-in our times-the noise of  a car
careening around the corner. You can't lose even a fraction  of a  second to
transmit the sound through the brain!
     But in the present situation the student recognized not the rustle of a
tiger but a question posed in a quiet, polite voice. Hah, I think some would
prefer  the tiger! I  assume  that  I  don't have to explain that a question
asked during an oral exam is taken as a signal of danger. After all, broadly
speaking,  danger  is  an  obstacle  in the path  toward a  given  goal.  In
ourwell-ordered times there are few dangers that threaten the basic goals of
a living being  which are  protection of life and health, propagation of the
species,  and  satisfaction  of  hunger  and  thirst.  That's  why secondary
dangers-the protection of dignity, respect, scholarships, the opportunity to
study and then have an interesting job and so on-take on primary prominence.
Thus,  the  student's  unconditioned  reflex  reaction   to   danger  worked
beautifully. Let's see how he reflects it.
     In biochemistry lectures you have been familiarized with the properties
of ribonucleic acid, which is found in all the brain cells. Under the action
of electrical nervous signals RNA changes the continous distribution of  its
bases: thymine, uracil, cytosine, and guanine. These bases are  the  letters
of our  memory; we can write down any information in the cortex of the brain
using combinations  of them.  And  so, this  is the  picture:  the question,
understood in  the temporal sites of  the cortex leads to  the excitation of
nerve  cells  that  take care of abstract  knowledge in the student's brain.
Weak  response impulses arise  in neighboring areas of the  cortex:  "Aha, I
read something  about that!" So the  stimulation  concentrates  in the  most
hopeful of  these areas, takes it over, and-oh  horrors!-there with the help
of thymine, uracil, cytosine,  and guanine there is recorded God  only knows
what in long molecules of RNA, for instance: "Drop your studying,  Alex!  We
need a fourth!" Quiet down, comrades, don't be distracted.
     And  then  a quiet  panic  in the  brain sets  in-or,  less  colorfully
speaking, a total irradiation of stimulation. The  nerve impulses arouse the
areas of logical analysis (maybe I'll  figure something  out!) and the cells
of visual memory (maybe I've seen it?). Vision,  hearing, and sense of smell
sharpen. The  student sees with amazing  acuity the ink  spot on the edge of
the desk and  a bunch of  scribbles,  hears the  leaves rustling outside the
window, someone's footsteps in the hall, and even the whisper:  "Guys,  Alex
is in trouble!" But that's not it. And so  stimulation passes to greater and
newer parts  of the brain-danger, danger-spilling  over the motor centers in
the frontal convolution,  penetrating  into the  midbrain, the medulla,  and
finally, into  the  spinal cord.  And  here I want  to  move away  from  the
dramatic  situation to sing  the praises  of  the soft grayish white  growth
about  a  half meter in  length that  penetrates our  spine to the waist-the
spinal cord.
     The spinal cord ...oh,  we are greatly mistaken  if we think that it is
nothing more  than an intermediary between the brain and  the body's nerves,
that  it  is subjugated to  the  brain  and  can only control  a few  simple
reflexes  of  natural functions! It's  still  a  moot point  as to which  is
subordinate to which! The spinal cord is an older and more venerable process
than the  brain. It saved man in those  days when his brain wasn't developed
enough, when in fact he wasn't yet  man. Our spinal cord guards memories  of
the  Paleozoic, when our distant ancestors, the lizards,  wandered, crawled,
and flew among  giant ferns; of the Cenozoic, the period when the first apes
appeared.  It  has  sorted  and  stored  synapses and  reflexes  proven over
millions  of years to be effective in  the struggle for survival. The spinal
cord, if you will, is our inner seat of rational conservatism.
     Of course  nowadays,  that  old  cord  of man, which can  react to  the
complex  stimulation of  contemporary  reality  in only two positions-saving
life and propagating the species-can't  help us  out all the time, as it did
in the Mesozoic Era. But it still has influence on many things! For example,
I would  posit that it is the spinal cord that often determines our literary
and cinematic tastes. What? No, the spinal cord is not literate and does not
contain  any  special  reflexes  for  viewing film. But, tell me,  why do we
soften prefer  detective movies and  novels,  no  matter how poorly they are
made  or  written? Why  do so many of  us like love  stories-everything from
jokes and  gossip to the  Decameron? Because  it's interesting? Interesting?
Why is it interesting? Because  the  firmly engrained instincts for survival
and  propagation   encoded  in  our   spinal  cords  force  us   to   gather
information-what can  you die of?-so that  we  can  save ourselves  in  that
situation. How  and why does happy  and true  love come about, the kind that
results in offspring? What destroys it?-so that you  don't blow it yourself.
And  it doesn't matter that  such a dangerous situation may never come up in
your safe, comfortable lives. And  it doesn't matter that  there is love and
more  descendants  than you  know what to do with-the  spinal cord  tows its
line. I'm not going to call these desires in the viewer and reader base,  as
so  many  critics  do. Why? These are healthy,  natural  desires,  admirable
desires. If cows in their evolution ever learn  to read, then  they'll  also
begin with mysteries and romances.
     But  let us return to the student whose brain failed him  in responding
to  the  examiner's question. "Ah, you greenhorn," the spinal  cord seems to
say to its colleague  as it receives the panic signals and goes into action.
First, it sends signals to the motor  nerves of the entire body; the muscles
tense  into  a  position  of  readiness.  The  primary  sources of  muscular
energy-adenosine triphosphate and phosphocreatine-break  down in tissue into
adenosine diphosphate and creatine, releasing phosphoric acid  and the first
amounts of heat and energy. And I want to direct your attention once more to
the biological expediency of raising  muscle tone. After  all, danger in the
old  days  required quick  energetic movement,  to leap away,  strike, bend,
climb a tree. And since it is not yet clear  which way you will have to jump
or strike, all the muscles are brought into readiness.
     Simultaneously, the  sympathetic nervous system  is also stimulated and
begins to command the whole kitchen array of metabolism in the organism. Its
signals  reach  the  adrenal  gland, which throws adrenaline into the blood,
stimulating  everything. The liver  and  spleen, like sponges,  squeeze  out
several  liters of  extra  blood into the circulatory system.  Blood vessels
expand in the  muscles,  lungs,  and brain. The  heart beats faster, pumping
blood into all the organs, and with it, oxygen  and glucose. The spinal cord
and the autonomous nervous system prepare thestudent's bodyforheavy, fierce,
and long fighting for life or death!
     But the examiner cannot be stunned with  a cudgel or even with a marble
inkwell. And  you  can't run away from him either.  The  examiner  won't  be
satisfied  even if the student, overflowing with muscular energy, performs a
handstand on  the  desk instead  of  answering the question. That's why  the
secret,  stormy activity of the student's organism ends in a useless burning
up of  glucose in the muscles  and heat  generation.  The thermoreceptors in
different  parts of the body send hysterical  signals  of overheating to the
brain  and spinal cord. And  the brain  responds in the only way it knows-by
expanding the vessels of the  skin. Blood rushes to the  skin (incidentally,
also causing the student to blush) and heats up the air between the body and
the clothes. The  sweat  glands open up to help the student with evaporation
of moisture. The reflex chain, stimulated by the question, is finally over.
     I'm sure you will make your own conclusions about the role of knowledge
in the correct regulation of the  human organism in our complex environment,
and about  its role  in the regulation of the student organism at  our  next
session..."
     From  a lecture by Professor V. A. Androsiashvili  in his course, Human
Physiology.


     Yes, he was leaving  in order to become himself, and not the Krivoshein
who lived and worked in Dneprovsk. He threw the apartment key which Val  had
tucked into his  pocket out of the  train  window. He  crossed  out all  the
addresses and phone numbers of Moscow acquaintances from his book, including
his  Aunt  Lapanalda. He  had no friends, no  relatives,  no  past-only  the
present, from the moment he entered the biology department,  and the future.
He  knew a simple but dependable way of  establishing himself in the future;
the method had never let him down. It was work.
     And he had more than that.
     Once upon a time physicists had perfected  the methods of measuring the
speed of light, just so that they could achieve the greatest accuracy.  They
did.  And they  determined  a scandalous fact: the speed  of light  did  not
depend  on  the  speed  of  motion of  the light  source.  "Impossible!  The
equipment  is  wrong!  The  results  contradict classical  mechanics!"  They
checked. They measured the speed of light another way-with the same results.
And   the  almost  completed,  logically  perfect  universe  rising  in  the
scaffolding of  right-angled coordinates, crumbled, raising an awful  lot of
dust. The "crisis of physics" began.
     The human mind often  strives for a reconciliation of all  the facts in
the world rather  than for a  deeper knowledge of those facts: the important
thing  is  for everything to  become simpler and more logical. And then some
sneaky  little fact floats  out, irreconcilable with the neat  theories, and
you have to start all over again....
     They had  also  created a simple and  understandable  picture in  their
minds  of  how  a  computer creates a  man from information  about  man. The
computer-womb was playing children's games  with blocks. In a  liquid medium
via  electrical impulse  it combined molecules  into  molecular chains,  the
molecular  chains  into  cells,  and the  cells  into  tissue-with  the sole
difference that there were  untold  billions of  "informational blocks." The
fact that  the result of  the game was not a monster or even another person,
but  Krivoshein's  informational  double,  proves  that there  was  only one
solution to  the puzzle.  Well, naturally,  it couldn't have been  any other
way: blocks can only fit into  a picture that exists  in their surfaces. The
variants (a fragmented  Lena, a fragmented father, the "delirium of memory,"
the eyes and feelers) were merely informational garbage that could not exist
independent of the computer.
     This concept was not incorrect, merely superficial. It suited them,  as
long as the facts supported  the theory that they were  the same  externally
and  in  thoughts and  deeds. But when irreconcilable differences came up on
the use of biology in their work, this concept turned out to be inadequate.
     Yes, it  was their inability  to  understand  each other,  and  not the
interest in biology (which might have passed in Krivoshein-2 with no harmful
effects), that became to  his  discovery  what the constancy of the speed of
light was to the  theory of relativity. A man never knows what's banal about
him and  what's original;  that only  comes  in comparsion  with others. And
unlike  other people, Krivoshein-2 could compare  himself  to  not  only his
acquaintances, but to "himself" as well.
     Now  it became very  clear  to  graduate  student Krivoshein  what  the
difference  between  them  was:  their  ways  of  appearing were  different.
Valentin  Krivoshein  appeared over three decades ago the  way every  living
thing  did-from an  embryo,  in which a program for building  a human  being
developed  over thousands of  centuries  and  in which  generations had been
encoded by a specific arrangement of protein and DNA. But the computer-womb,
even though it was working from individual Krivoshein information, was still
dealing  with  random information;  it  had  to  seek out the principles  of
formation and all the  details of the biological information system. And the
computer found a way different from nature's: a biochemical assembly instead
of embryonic development.
     Yes,  now there was much that  he understood.  In a year he had  passed
from sensations  to knowledge  and from knowledge to mastery of himself. And
then... then it had merely  been a powerful attraction to  biology  and  the
inexpressible certainty that this  was where he had to seek his answers.  He
couldn't even explain  it  well to Krivoshein. He came to  Moscow  with  the
vague feeling that something was wrong with him. He wasn't sick or imagining
things, but he had to figure himself out, to make  sure that his feeling was
reality and not an idee fixe or a hypochondriacal hallucination.
     He worked so hard that he  could look back on the days at the institute
in Dneprovsk as if they had been a vacation. Lectures, lab work, the anatomy
theater,  the library, lectures, seminars, lab work, lectures,  the  clinic,
the library, lab  work.... He never left the Lenin Hills  campus  during the
first semester; he would  walk down to the parapet before going  to bed,  to
look  down  at  the Moscow River, smoke,  enjoy  the  lights  glimmering and
blending with the stars on the horizon.
     A gray-eyed, second-year student  who resembled Lena always sat next to
him in Androsiashvili's class, which he attended. Once she asked: "You're so
solid, so serious-were you  in the  Army?" "In prison," he replied,  jutting
out his jaw. The girl lost interest in him. It had to be. Girls take  up too
much time.
     And he was convinced by every experiment, every calculation. Yes, in  a
cross section  of  a nerve bundle that goes from  the brain to the pituitary
gland,  under a microscope you  can  actually count approximately a  hundred
thousand fibers-and that  means that the pituitary is  closely  monitored by
the brain. Yes,  if you  add beta-active calcium to a  lab  monkey's diet of
bananas and then use a Geiger counter on  its excretions, it  really is true
that bone tissue renews itself approximately twice a year. Yes, if you stick
electrode needles into muscle tissue  and  conduct sound into earphones, you
can  really hear  a rhythmic  quacking or  a fragmented pulse  of  the nerve
signals,  and these sounds corresponded with what  he was feeling! Yes, skin
cells actually do move up toward the surface, changing structure,  dying, so
that they can slough off and make room for new ones.
     He  studied  his own body. He took blood samples and lymphatic samples;
he got a piece of muscle tissue from his right hip and  examined it under an
optical microscope and then an electronic one; he calumnied himself to get a
Wassermann  at the  school clinic. And he determined that  everything in him
was normal. Even the amount and distribution of nerves in the tissue was the
same as in the bodies they dissected in anatomy class. The nerves went up to
the  brain,  but  he  couldn't  get in  there  with  the  use  of laboratory
technology. He would have to  implant too many electrodes into his skull and
plug into too many oscilloscopes to understand the  secrets of his self. And
would  he  understand  them then?  Or  would  he come up with  "streptocidal
striptease"-not  in   binary  alphabet,  but  in  the  jagged  lines  of  an
electroencephalogram?
     The situation-a  living  person studying his  own organism  can't  even
breech the mysteries of his body with  laboratory equipment-was paradoxical.
After all, this wasn't a  question  of discovering invisible "radiostars" or
synthesizing  antiparticles.  All  the  information  was  in  man. All  that
remained  was  to  translate  the code of the  molecules,  cells,  and nerve
impulses into the code of the secondary signal system-words and sentences.
     Words and  phrases are  necessary  (but  not  always)  for  one  man to
understand another. But are they necessary to understand oneself? Krivoshein
didn't know. That's why  he tried everything:  analysis, imagination, books,
monitoring the sensations of his body, conversations with Androsiashvili and
other teachers, observation of patients at the clinic, autopsies....
     Everything  that  Vano  Aleksandrovich  had  argued in  that  memorable
December conversation was  right,  since  it was defined by Androsiashvili's
knowledge  of the  world and  his faith in the  indisputable  expediency  of
everything created by nature.
     But the professor did not  know one thing: that  he was conversing with
an artificial man.
     Even Vano Aleksandrovich's  doubts  about the success of his plan  were
solidly  based,  because Krivoshein's  starting  point  was  an  engineering
computer solution.  That  December  he began planning  an  "electropotential
inductor"-a continuation of the idea of Monomakh's Crown. A hundred thousand
microscopic electrode needles,  connected to the matrices of a self-learning
automated machine (in the lab the bionics people modeled  reflex actions  on
it),  were  supposed  to  supply  the  brain  cells  with auxiliary charges,
bringing artificial biowaves through  the  skull, and thereby connecting the
thinking centers of the cortex with the autonomous nervous system.
     Krivoshein laughed. How  silly to  think that such primitive  apparatus
could  have  punched up  his  organism!  At  least  he  hadn't  dropped  his
physiology  studies  for  that  project.  When  he  performed an autopsy, he
mentally  revived  the  corpse:  he imagined  that  he himself  lay  on  the
dissecting table, that  it  was  his white nerve  fibers running through the
muscles  and  cartilage  to  the purple, yellow fat-encrusted heart, to  the
watery clusters of  salivary glands under  the  chin,  to  the gray rags  of
collapsed lungs. Other fibers  wove into white cords of nerves that went  to
the  pelvis, the spinal  cord  and  up, through  the  neck, under the skull.
Signal  commands ran along them from there: contract  the  muscles, speed up
the heart, squeeze out saliva!
     In the student cafeteria he followed the movement of every gulp of food
to  his  stomach, trying to  imagine and  feel how, in  the darkness, it was
slowly kneaded  by  the smooth muscles, broken down by hydrochloric acid and
enzymes,  how  the dull yellow  mash was  absorbed  into  the  walls  of the
intestine. Sometimes he spent two hours sitting over a cold cutlet.
     Actually, he was  remembering.  Nine-tenths of his discoveries were due
to the fact that he remembered and understood how it had happened.
     The computer-womb  had no reason to  begin with a fetus; it  had enough
material  to assemble an adult.  Krivoshein, the original, had made sure  of
that.  At  first the  vague  biological mixture in the  tank contained  only
"wandering"  currents and "floating" potentials from external circuits-these
colorful terms from theoretical electronics were quite literal in this case.
Then the  transparent nerve fibers and cells  appeared-a continuation of the
electronic   circuits  of  the  computer.  The  search   for   informational
equilibrium  continued.  The  nervous  system  was  becoming  more and  more
voluminous and complex, and the layers of nerve cells turned into the cortex
and subcortex.  That's when his brain appeared, and  from that moment on, he
existed.
     At  first his brain was also a continuation of the computer's circuits.
But now  he received impulses of  external information,  sifted it and tried
combinations,  and  looked for  a  way  to  realize  the  information  in  a
biological  medium. He was  assembling  himself! In  the  vat  a  system  of
nerves-for now still random-spread. Muscle tissue, vessels, bones, and inner
organs began  appearing around the  nerves-in that practically liquid  state
when they could dissolve, blend, change structure under orders of the  nerve
impulses.  No, this  wasn't an intelligent  assembly  of a body  following a
blueprint, since there was no  blueprint. The building block game continued,
a sifting through many variants and choosing of the only one among them that
reflected the information on Krivoshein. But  now,  like the computer  which
evaluated  every variant of the solution with  binary signals, his  computer
brain evaluated the synthesis of a body with a binary code of sensation: Yes
meant it felt good, No, that it  hurt.  Unsuccessful  combinations of cells,
the incorrect distribution of organs were transmitted to the brain as a dull
or sharp pain; the successful and correct one, as delicious satisfaction.
     And the memory of the search, the memory of the sensations of  the body
under construction remained within him.
     Life  creates  people  who  differ  little in  the  properties  of  the
organism,  but  are  very  different   in   their  psychology,  personality,
knowledge, and spiritual refinement  or crudity. The computer-womb acted  in
the  opposite  manner. The  graduate  student  Krivoshein  was identical  to
Krivoshein  in psychology and intellect,  but that was understandable. Those
qualities in  a person develop through the same process of random  retrieval
and  choice.  The  computer merely  repeated the retrieval. But biologically
they differed  the way  a  book differs from  its rough draft.  Not just one
draft, but  all the drafts and sketches  that went into  creating a finished
and polished work. Of  course, the contents were the  same,  but the  drafts
retain  the  path   of  finding  and  choosing  the  right  words  in  their
corrections, additions, and deletions.
     "Actually,  that  comparison is imperfect, too," the  frowning  student
mused. "The drafts of books appear before the books,  not afterwards. And if
you show a scribbler all the drafts of War and Peace  would that make him  a
genius? Well,  I guess they would  teach him something.... No, I guess  it's
better to leave comparisons out of this!" Man  recalls what he knows in only
two  situations:  when  he must  recall  it-goal  recollection-and  when  he
encounters something that even remotely  resembles  the code  in his  brain.
This  is called associative recall. The biology books  were  the  hint  that
stimulated his  memory. But  the difficulty lay in the fact  that he did not
remember  words  or  even  images, but only sensations. Even now he couldn't
convey it all in words-and probably would never be able to.
     Of  course, that's  not the  important thing. What is important is  the
fact  that  such information  exists. Because  "knowledge in sensation" gave
birth to a clear, thought-out idea in him to control his own metabolism.
     It happened the first  time on the evening of January 28  in the forms.
It turned out just like Pavlov's dogs-artificial salivation. But  he  wasn't
thinking  about  food (he had had a dinner of kefir  and sausage), but about
the nerve regulation of  the salivary glands. As usual he tried to visualize
the entire path of the nerve impulses from the taste receptors in the tongue
through the brain to the salivary glands and suddenly felt his mouth fill up
with saliva!
     Still  only fully  aware of how it had  happened, he concentrated  on a
frightened protest-"No!"-and his mouth went dry instantly!
     That evening he repeated  the mental  orders  "Saliva!" and "no!" until
his mouth convulsed.
     He spent  the  rest of  the week in his  room-luckily it  was a  school
vacation,  and he didn't have  to be distracted  by lectures and labs. Other
organs listened to  his mental orders.  At first he could only command  them
crudely. Streams of tears poured from his eyes; sweat appeared in  profusion
all over his skin or  immediately dried up; his heart either quieted down to
a  near comatose  rate  or  else  beat wildly  at a  hundred forty  beats  a
minute-there was no middle ground, And when he commanded his stomach to stop
excreting hydrochloric acid he had such intense  diarrhea that he barely had
time to  get  to the bathroom. But gradually he learned to  control external
excretions gently  and  locally;  once  he even  managed to  spell out "IT'S
WORKING!" on his back with beads of sweat, like a tattoo.
     Then he moved his experiments to the lab and first of  all repeated the
effect  of the sugar injection made famous by Claude  Bernard.  But  now  he
didn't  have to open the skull and  inject the midbrain. The amount of sugar
in his blood increased as a result of a mental command.
     But  in  general  it  was  much  more  complex  dealing  with  internal
secretion.  The  results  were not so apparent or so fast.  He made puncture
marks  all over  his fingers  and  muscles checking whether the glands  were
obeying his  commands to secrete  adrenaline, insulin, glucose, or hormones.
He irritated his gullet with probes trying  to determine the reaction to his
commands on changing acidity. Everything was working-and everything was very
difficult.
     Then  he caught on. He should give  his organism a specific goal, to do
this and that, produce certain changes. And really when he walked, he didn't
command   the   muscles:   "Right  rectus-contract...   biceps-now...   left
gastrocnemius...." He didn't have  time for that. The conscious  mind sets a
specific goal:  go  faster or  slower, go around  the  post, turn  into  the
driveway. And the nerve centers of  the brain take care  of the muscles. And
that's how it should be with  this. It wasn't his  business which glands and
vessels would  produce individual  reactions,  as  long as they did  what he
wanted!
     Words and  images got in the way. He  was overexplaining.  He  told the
liver  how to synthesive glycogen from amino acids  and fats, break down the
glycogen into glucose, and excrete it into the blood; he told the thyroid to
contract and squeeze out  drops  of thyroxin  into  the blood;  he told  the
circulatory system to  expand the capillaries in the large chest muscles and
to contract the  other  vessels-and nothing happened,  his pectorals  didn't
grow  bigger.  After all, the liver  didn't know it was the  liver, and  the
thyroid  didn't  have  the slightest  idea what  thyroxin was  and  couldn't
picture a  drop  of it. Krivoshein cursed himself for excessive attention at
his lectures and in the library. The result of all this exertion was only  a
headache.
     The problem was that in  order to control metabolism within himself, he
had to avoid numbers, terms, and even images, and  think only in sensations.
The problem came down to changing  "knowledge in  sensation" into a tertiary
signal system of controlling internal secretions with the aid of sensations.
     The funniest part  was that he  didn't  need  lab  apparatus or control
circuits. All he had to do was lie in a  darkened room, eyes closed and ears
plugged, and listen to himself in a  half-dreaming state. Strange sensations
came from  within: the  spleen,  changing the blood,  itched, and intestines
tickled  when they contracted; the salivary glands felt cold under his chin;
the adrenals reacted to nerve signals with a delicious shudder, and the part
of the blood enriched with  adrenalin and glucose spread  warmth through the
body like a sip of wine. The sick cells in the muscles made themselves known
with a gentle prickling.
     Using engineering terminology, he was checking out his body with nerves
the way an assembler checks out a circuit with a tester.
     By  this time he had  a clear understanding of the binary arithmetic of
sensation: painful-pleasant. And it occurred to him that the simplest way of
subjugating  the  cellular processes to his consciousness  was to  make them
hurt. It was quite  possible that the incident with the icicle prompted this
discovery; the idea came to him right after it.
     Of course, the cells that were  deteriorating  and  dying  from various
causes let  themselves be known very palpably.  The organism itself, without
any  orders  from "above"  sent  leucocytes, feverish  tissue,  enzymes, and
hormones to help.  All he had to  do was either speed up or slow  down these
microscopic struggles for life.
     He injected and cut muscles everywhere he could reach with a  needle or
a scalpel. He injected fatal doses of typhus  and cholera bacteria cultures.
He inhaled  mercury  vapor, drank mixtures of corrosive  sublimate  and wood
alcohol. (He didn't have the nerve to  try faster-acting poisons,  however.)
And the more he tried the better his organism handled all the dangers he was
aware of.
     And  then he  caused cancer  in himself. Cause cancer! Any doctor would
spit  in his eye for  an announcement like that. To cause cancer you have to
know what causes cancer. To be  perfectly  honest, he wouldn't maintain that
he  knew the causes  of  cancer, but  this  was  simply  because he couldn't
translate  into words all the  feelings that accompanied the changes in  the
skin on  his  right side.  He began with questioning the patients  who  were
undertaking gamma  therapy  at  the lab. What  did they  feel? This was  not
kind-asking terrified,  exhausted people,  contorted  by  pain, about  their
experiences  and  not  promising  anything  in  return-but that  was  how he
understood the image of a cancer patient.
     The  growth  was  getting  bigger  and  harder.  Smaller growths  began
branching  off  from it-strange greenish purple ones, like cauliflower. Pain
chewed up his side and shoulder. At the university clinic, where he went for
a diagnosis, they suggested an immediate operation, without even letting him
leave the place.  He  got out  of it  by lying and saying  that he wanted to
undergo radiation therapy first.


     Graduate  student Krivoshein,  crumpling a cigarette,  stepped out onto
the balcony. It was a warm night. A car, waving its headlights, raced down a
side  road.  Two little  lights,  a red one and a  green one, traveled  from
Cygnus to Lyra. Behind them followed the roar of a jet engine.  Like a match
across a cover, a meteor struck the sky.
     Back in his room, standing in front of the mirror, he concentrated  his
will and feelings, and the  growth  melted  away in  fifteen minutes. Twenty
minutes  later  there  was nothing  but  a purple spot the size of a saucer.
Another ten  minutes later there was just  his usual skin, in goose bumps-it
was chilly in the room.
     But  he couldn't express his  knowledge about stopping cancer in either
prescriptions or  medical  advice.  What he could describe in words wouldn't
heal anyone, except  maybe other doubles  like himself. So all his knowledge
applied only to them.
     With time, probably, he would learn to overcome the barrier between the
doubles of  the  computer-womb and regular  people. After all,  biologically
they  were  not too  different. And  the  knowledge  was  there. Even  if he
couldn't express  it  verbally, they could  record  the  fluctuations of his
biopotentials,  graph his  temperatures,  develop  numbers  of  analysis  in
computers-medicine was a precise  science  now. And  finally they would come
around to  recording  and transmitting precise  sensations.  Words  were not
necessary. The important thing for a sick person was to get well, and not to
write a dissertation on his recovery. That wasn't the point.


     The  student's attention  was riveted  by  a light exploding below.  He
looked closely: leaning against  a lamp  post, the fellow  in the  cape from
yesterday, the detective,  was lighting a cigarette. He tossed the match and
walked away slowly.
     "So he found  me, the  damn creep!  He's stuck  on  me  like  a  burr!"
Krivoshein's mood was ruined. He  went  back inside and sat down to read the
diary.






     Life is short. There is barely enough time to make an adequate
     number of mistakes. Repeating them, that's an unforgivable
     luxury.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 22

     Now the student was reading the notations with envious curiosity. Well,
what had he achieved, when all he wanted was to twirl knobs?
     June I. Phew... finished! The information chamber is ready. I begin the
experiments with the rabbits tomorrow. If I follow tradition, I should begin
with frogs . . . but I would never pick the disgusting things up! No, let my
double play with toads. He's a brilliant student, quite industrious.
     I wonder how he's doing.
     June 2.1 equipped the  rabbits with electrodes and sensors and put them
all in the chamber. Let them overload it with information.
     June  7.  The rabbits lived in the chamber  for four days. They munched
carrots  and  cabbage  leaves, wriggled their noses,  fought, copulated, and
napped.  I did my  first tests today. I put  on Monomakh's  Crown,  mentally
ordered "Proceed!"-and the  computer-womb  worked. Four rabbit doubles in an
hour and a half.
     What a relief-the machine worked.
     An  interesting  detail:  the  visual appearance  of the rabbits  (what
happens before that, I don't know) begins  with the  circulatory system; the
blue red vessels  show up in the golden fluid just as they do in the yolk of
a fertilized chicken egg.
     As they came to life, the rabbits  floated up. I pulled them out by the
ears, bathed them in a tub, all warm  and trembling,  and  then put them  in
with  the  regular ones.  The encounter between the natural  and  artificial
doubles had an even more  banal character  than  my meeting with  my double.
They stared at each other in disbelief, sniffed each other,  and (since they
don't  have a secondary signal  system, to  explain) fought. Then  they  got
tired, sniffed some more and went on with the normal rabbit routine.
     The  important  thing is that the computer works on my command, without
any additions.  You  put on  the crown, remember (preferably with  a  mental
image) which  rabbit  you  want  copied,  give  permission  mentally-and  in
twenty-five to thirty minutes it's flopping  around in the tank. The reverse
operation-dissolving  an  appearing  rabbit  with   the  command   "No!"-the
computer-womb also does without reproach.
     For  its  success and  hard  work I feed  it  salts,  acids, glycerine,
vitamins, and reagents. Just like giving fish to a trained seal.
     June 20. When it works, it  works. And when  it doesn't you  could just
beat your head on  the wall.  All  this time I've  been  trying to  stop the
synthesis of a rabbit at  some  stage. No matter  what  command  I've tried:
"Stop!" "Halt!" "Enough!"  "Cut  it out!"-both mentally and verbally-nothing
helps. Either the synthesis goes on to the end, or there is dissolution.
     It  looks like  the computer-womb  works like a  flip-flop circuit in a
computer,  that is, either open  or closed, and has no in-between positions.
But you would  expect a complex machine  to be more flexible than that silly
circuit.
     I'll keep trying....
     July 6.  Life cannot be  stopped.  That must be it. Any interruption of
life is  death. But death is only an instant, after which begins the process
of decay or in  this case, dissolution. And I'm synthesizing living systems.
And the computer-womb itself is a living  organism.  That's why nothing  can
freeze  in  it. Too bad, it  would have been  very convenient.... The  first
offspring of  an artificial male  and  regular  female appeared  today-eight
white bunnies. That  must be an important fact. But I have plenty of rabbits
without that.
     Damn it, but the  machine must obey orders more complex than "You may!"
and "No!" I  must control the synthesis process,  otherwise all my ideas fly
out the window.
     July 7. So that's how you work, computer-womb! And it's so simple.
     Today I  ordered the machine to re-create  Albino Vaska one  more time.
When  it  appeared as  a translucent apparition in  the middle of the vat, I
concentrated on its tail and imagine  that  it  was no  longer.  No  changes
followed.  That  wasn't  it. And I thought sadly,  "That's  not it..  ."-and
everything began  changing in  the rabbit. The  body's  contour wavered in a
slow rhythm: the body, ears, and feet and tail either grew longer and fatter
or shorter and thinner; the internal organs  pulsed in the same rhythm. Even
the color of the blood changed color  from dark cherry to light red and back
again.
     I jumped up  from  my chair. The rabbit was  still being  "shaken!" Its
shape kept  changing,  being distorted and caricatured; the trembling became
more  frequent and  wild. Finally the albino  dissolved into a purplish gray
cloud and dissolved.
     At first I  was scared:  the picture reminded me of the computer's  old
delirium. Except for the rhythm. All the fluctuations of size and shade were
amazingly coordinated.
     And then I understood. I figured it out myself, I might add, damn it!
     The  computer's  original information  on the  rabbit was concrete  and
definite.  It  combined all the  informational  details,  searching for  the
precise  variation;  but  search  or  not,  you  can  only re-create  what's
recorded. You can't make a vacuum cleaner from motorcycle parts.
     And  then  the computer  receives  the  signal "That's  not it"-neither
confirming  nor  negating-a signal  of doubt.  It disrupts the informational
stability of the  synthesis of the rabbit; to put it  bluntly, it throws the
computer  off the track.  And it begins searching-what is  "it"-through  the
simple method of trial and error  (a little more, a little less so as not to
destroy the  system.... But the computer doesn't  know what "it" is, and  it
doesn't get confirmation from  me. Complete  disruption  of the  system  and
dissolution follow.
     And  then (this is what's good about a researcher's job: if you hit the
right vein you can do in a day, with the aid of one or two ideas, what would
ordinarily take years and  years!) I put  on Monomakh's Crown and  told  the
computer "You  may!" Now I  knew what I would do with the rabbit double.  It
appeared. I concentrated on the tail (the connection  chain: the bioimpulses
from my retinas with the image of the rabbit tail went into  the brain, into
the  crown,  into  the  computer,  and  there-comparison  and  selection  of
information-the computer fixed my attention) and I even  frowned, to make it
more expressive: "That's not it." A  powerful unbalancing impulse went  into
the computer. The tail got shorter. A tiny bit.... "That's not it!"
     The tail quivered, and got longer..., "That's it; that's it!"
     The  tail froze. "That's not it!" It  got even longer. "That's it!"  It
froze.  "That's it!  That's not  it! It! Not it!"-and things got moving. The
hardest part was to catch the fluctuation in the right direction. Later I no
longer  gave the computer the elemental  commands  "It-not  it,"  but simple
silent approval. The tail got longer; a chain of small vertebrae grew in it,
they were covered  with muscle tissue,  pink skin, white  fur...  and in ten
minutes  Vaska  the  double  was  whipping his sides with  his  tail like an
irritated tiger.
     And  I sat in  a chair wearing  Monomakh's  Crown,  and an unbelievable
swirl of  "well, well, well, now we're cooking. Oh, boy! Phew!" went through
my mind, the  way  it does when you can't express it in words  yet,  but you
know that you've  understood,  and  you're not going to lose it now! And  my
face  probably reflected  that extreme state  of bliss that is  usually seen
only in drooling idiots.
     That was  it. No mysticism. The  computer-womb was working on the  same
"yes-no" system that regular computers do.
     "That's  right,"  nodded the graduate student. "But that's rather crude
control. Of course, for  a machine. What am I quibbling about? That's a fine
job!"


     Damn it, this is terrific! At my commands  of "yes," "not it," and "no"
the computer forms cells, tissue,  bone. Only living organisms  can do that,
and much more slowly.
     Well, baby, I'm going to squeeze everything I can out of you!
     July  15.  Now the machine  and  I  are  working  well  together.  More
accurately, it's  learned to receive, decipher, and execute commands from my
brain  that  are  not  broken  down into  "it" and  "not it." The  essential
feedback and content of the commands remained the  same, except that it  all
took place very quickly. I imagine  what has to be changed in the developing
double and how. As if I were drawing or sculpting the rabbit.
     The computer is  now my electronic biochemical hand. It's marvelous and
luxurious to  mold  different kinds of rabbit freaks with my mind. With  six
legs,  with  three tails, two heads, without  ears, or with long floppy mutt
ears. Dr. Moreau with his scalpel and  carbolic acid was an amateur! My only
tool was Monomakh's Crown. I didn't even have to twirl dials.
     The  most  amusing part was that  the monsters  continue to live.  They
scratch with four legs and stuff carrots into two mouths ...


     "Easy work," muttered the graduate student with envy. "Just like in the
movies: sit  back and  watch. Nothing  hurts,  nothing  to be afraid of.  No
violent passions-only engineering work."
     He  sighed,  remembering  his suffering.  He  got  used to  the various
autovivisections  rather quickly. When you know that the  pain will pass and
the  wound will heal, then pain becomes  another irritant, like bright light
or loud  noise-unpleasant but not terrible. When you know.... In his planned
experiments  he knew it. He also began any new change  on a small  scale. He
checked  to  see  how  the organism put  up with the changes; he always  had
medicine on  hand: ampules of neutralizers and antibiotics, and the phone to
call emergency. But there had been one unplanned experiment, in which he had
almost died. Actually, it wasn't even an experiment.
     There was a department seminar in radiobiology. The third-year students
surrounded the uranium reactor and watched the dark cellular cylinder in its
depths  respectfully.  It  gave  off a  green,  calm  light  in  the  water,
illuminating the wires, the nickel-plated bars, levers,  and wheels  of  the
control board above it.
     "That beautiful light, the color of young grass, around the body of the
reactor," said Professor Valerno in his rich  deep baritone,  "is called the
Cherenkovsky  glow. It  is caused by the movement of superfast  electrons in
the  water,  which are  created, in  turn, by  the  division  of  nuclei  of
uranium-235."
     Krivoshein assisted; that  is, he sat around, bored, and waited for the
professor to ask him  to run the demonstration. Actually, Valerno could have
easily done the  experiment  himself, or asked  a student to do  it, but his
scholarly rank rated a qualified  assistant. "So just sit there," Krivoshein
thought  gloomily.  Then he got the idea that he hadn't  tried out radiation
sickness on  himself.  He  sat up and started planning  how to go about  it.
"Take  a flask  of  water from  the  reactor and for starters give  myself a
slight radiation burn. This was serious stuff!"
     "The presence of intense Cherenkovsky glow in the  water is evidence of
intense radiation in the body of the reactor," Valerno  droned on, "which is
not surprising.  It's a chain reaction. The growth in  the brightness of the
light is  evidence of the growth of  the intensity  of the radiation,  and a
dimming-of the opposite.  Here, please  look." He  turned  the wheel  on the
panel to the left and the right. The green light in the tank blinked.
     "And  if  you turn  it  all  the  way to  the  right,  there'll  be  an
explosion?" a red-haired, freckled boy in glasses demanded.
     "No,"  replied the professor, barely suppressing a  yawn (that question
came up every time). "There's a governor on it. And besides, the reactor can
be automatically  blocked. As  soon as  the intensity of  the chain reaction
exceeds certain limits, the automatic device throws additional graphite rods
into  the reactor-those,  see? They  consume  the  neutrons  and quench  the
reaction.   And  now  let's  familiarize  ourselves   with  the   action  of
radioactivity on  a living organism. Valentin  Vasilyevich,  could  you join
us?"
     Krivoshein rolled a cart with a fish tank over to the reactor; the tank
contained a half-dead eel, with fins and sharp teeth.
     "This is a freshwater eel, Anguilliformes," Valerno announced,  without
even looking, "the most hardy of river fish. When Valentin Vasilyevich dumps
it into the pool, the eel, heeding its instincts, will immediately go to the
bottom... hmm... something that  I wouldn't do  in its place, since even the
luckiest  ones come floating belly  up from there in two minutes.  Well, see
for yourselves. Mark the time, please. Valentin Vasilyevich, you're on."
     Krivoshein  tipped  the  fish  tank  over  the  pool  and  started  the
stopwatch.  The students leaned over the  edge. A streak of  black lightning
sped to the  gray-tiled bottom of the pool,  made a circle, another, crossed
the  green light  over the cylinder.  Apparently blinded  by that,  the  eel
bumped into the opposite wall and reeled back.
     Suddenly  the light  in the pool  got brighter-and  in  the green light
Krivoshein saw something that made his  skin  crawl: the eel got trapped  in
the  wires that held the graphite rods, the  regulators of the  reactor, and
was struggling among them! One rod  fell out of its case and flew off like a
green stick into the water. The light got even brighter.
     "Everyone  back!"  Quickly  appraising the situation,  the pale Valerno
barked a command. His  baritone was flat. "Please leave at  once!" He pulled
the  emergency alarm. The contacts of the automatic blocking device clicked.
The light in the water blinked, as though they were doing arc welding in the
pool, and  got even brighter. The students, covering their faces, raced from
the exits. There was a crush at the door.
     "Please stay calm, comrades!"  Valerno shouted in a real falsetto. "The
concentration of  uranium-235 in the heat-generating elements is not  enough
for an  atomic  explosion! There will only  be a heat explosion,  like  in a
steam engine!" "Oh, God!" some exclaimed.
     The  doors  cracked.  A girl screamed.  Someone  cursed.  The  freckled
four-eyes,  not  losing his head, grabbed a  very  heavy Sl-8 synchronoscope
from the table, and  threw it  through the window, following  it rapidly....
The room was empty in a few seconds.
     In the first moment of  panic Krivoshein followed the rest, but stopped
himself and went  over to  the reactor.  Rapid, large bubbles rose  from the
cylinder  and the water churned. Instead of the quiet glow there was a green
bonfire  in the water. The  eel was quiet, but the graphite rods that it had
knocked out were crisscrossed and wedged against one another.
     "When the water splashes up, there'll be  a cloud of radioactive  steam
all over," Krivoshein thought feverishly. "That's as bad as an atomic blast.
Can  I do  it? I'm  scared. Well! What good  are all my experiments, if  I'm
scared? And what if I end up like the eel? The hell with it!"
     (Even now Krivoshein couldn't believe  it. How  could he have  done it?
Had he  decided  that  he was  invincible?  Or  was  it  the  thinking of  a
motorcyclist who has to pass between two oncoming trucks-the important thing
is don't think, just go forward!  The  intoxicating instant of  danger,  the
roar of  the trucks, and with a beating heart  you tear out into the asphalt
expanse! But this  wasn't an instant-and it was quite possible he  could end
up along with the dead eel on the pool bottom.)
     The  motorcyclist's  daring  hit  him.  Tearing  off  his  buttons,  he
undressed, put  his leg over the  edge, and-"Stop, Val! Think!"-went  to the
counter, and put on rubber gloves and goggles ("Wish  I had an Aqua-lung!").
He filled his lungs with air and plunged into the pool.
     Even at a  distance from  the reactor  the water was  warm. "A thousand
one,  a thousand  two...."  Krivoshein, instinctively turning his face away,
walked  across  the slippery tiles  to  the middle of the  pool. His  rubber
gloves were in contact with something, and he had  to look: the eel, hanging
in a loop between the wires, was there. "A thousand ten, a thousand eleven,"
and carefully, so  as  not to disturb the  rods, he pulled at the dead fish.
"Thousand  sixteen...." His hands  got hot, and  he instinctively wanted  to
pull  away, but he controlled the impulse and slowly  extracted the eel from
the  jumble. The  goggles  weren't so hermetic, and streams  of  radioactive
water  seeped  into  his  eyes. He squinted.  "Thousand  twenty,  a thousand
twenty-one"-he got it out! The green glow flickered,  and the rods  silently
slipped back into the cylinder. It got dark in the pool.
     "A  thousand twenty-five!" With a  sharp push Krivoshein came up to the
wall,  jumped out  of the  water, grabbed the  edge,  and  climbed  over. "A
thousand thirty...."
     He had the presence of mind to  hop around to get  the excess water off
his body; he even rolled around on the floor. He wiped his face and eyes dry
with his pants. "Just don't let me get blind before I get there." He dressed
haphazardly and ran out of the room.
     The  radiation counter  howled  harshly  as  he went by.  An  automatic
barrier blocked  his path. He jumped  over it and ran across the freshly dug
lawn to his dorm.
     "A  thousand seventy;  a  thousand seventy-one," his brain continued to
count.  It was twilight  and  he avoided meeting acquaintances;  but someone
called after him near zone B: "Hey, Val, where's the fire? He thought it was
Nechinorov,   a   graduate   student.  "A   thousand   eighty,  a   thousand
eighty-one...." His  skin  ached  and itched and then  it  was  pierced by a
million needles. That was his nervous system, honed in previous experiments,
telling him that the protons and gamma-quanta from the decayed  nuclei  were
shooting the  molecules of protein  in  the cells  of the epithelium, in the
nerve endings of the skin, breaking through the  walls of the blood vessels,
and wounding  the  red  and  white  corpuscles.  "A  thousand hundred  . . .
thousand hundred  five...."  Now the  prickling had  moved  to his  muscles,
stomach,  and under his skull. His lungs  were  congested as  though he  had
taken a deep draw  on  the crudest homegrown tobacco in  the world. That was
the  blood carrying the exploded atoms and fractured  proteins all over  his
body.
     "A thousand two  hundred five... two hundred  eight... idiot, what have
you done? Two hundred twelve...." He no longer had  the  idea,  the impetus.
There was  only fear. He wanted to live. He was getting nauseating cramps in
his stomach, and his  mouth  was filled  with copper-tasting saliva. Bumping
into  the massive front door as he ran in,  Krivoshein realized that  he was
dizzy. He was  seeing black. "Two hundred forty-one...  will I make it?"  He
had  to get up to the fourth  floor. He slapped  himself as  he ran, and his
head got clearer.
     Twilight rushed into the dark room with him.  For the first few seconds
Krivoshein  circled the room aimlessly and weakly. The fear, that biological
fear  that cannot  be controlled,  that makes a wounded animal head for  his
lair, had  almost killed him: he had forgotten what  to do. He felt terribly
sorry  for himself.  His body  was  filled with a  ringing weakness and  his
consciousness was  slipping away.  "Well, so go ahead and perish, you fool,"
he thought listlessly  and  felt  a wave of extreme anger. And  that's  what
saved him.
     His  clothes, spotted  with green  like  lichen  on trees, fell  on the
floor. The room  got even lighter; his feet glowed, and his  hair  and  vein
pattern were visible on his hands. Krivoshein ran into the shower and turned
it  on.  The cold water  poured over him, sobering him up, over his head and
body,  forming an  irridescent  pool  of emerald  green  on the  floor,  and
refreshed him long enough to gather his thoughts and will power.
     Now, like  a strategist, he commanded the battle for  survival that was
raging  in  his body. Blood,  blood,  blood, was rushing through  his entire
body!  The  feverish pounding of his heart resounded in  his temples. Myriad
capillaries washed damaged molecules  and  particles from every cell in  his
muscles and glands and sucked  them out  from  the  lymph  nodes.  The white
corpuscles  surrounded them, breaking them down to elemental  particles, and
carried them off into the spleen, the lungs, the liver, kidneys, intestines,
tossed them into the  sweat glands.  "Cover the bone vessels!" he instructed
the  nerves,  remembering in time that  radioactivity could settle  in  bone
marrow, which produced blood cells.
     Several  minutes  passed.  Now  he was  exhaling radioactive  air  with
faintly glowing vapors, spitting out glowing saliva that  had  collected the
decayed radioactive  cells  of the brain  and muscles,  washing off greenish
drops  of  sweat  from his  body, and  urinating  a beautiful emerald  green
stream. After an hour his excretions  no  longer glowed, but  his body still
ached.
     And  so he  spent three hours in the shower. He  swallowed water washed
himself off, and threw out all the harmful radiation from  his body. He came
back  to  his room after midnight, unsteady on  his  feet from  weakness and
physical emaciation.  He pushed  his glowing clothes into a  corner and fell
onto his bed. Sleep!
     The next day he was very  thirsty. He dropped by the radiometrics  lab,
used the Geiger counter all over his body. The apparatus crackled as  usual,
noting random cosmic particles.
     "My God, when did you lose all that weight?" Nechinorov asked as he ran
into him at a lecture....


     "Yes, in terms of  results, that was a major experiment,"  chuckled the
graduate student.  "I  conquered a fatal dose of radiation! But in  terms of
performance... no,  those experiments are no joke.  It's better to do it his
way."


     July 27.  I have a great  quantity  of doubles and monsters.  I set the
normal rabbits  free on the  grounds, and the monsters I take  out  one at a
time in a satchel and take them to the other side of the Dnieper.
     That's it. The pleasure of the novelty  has worn  off. I'm disgusted by
this mockery of nature: it's only  a rabbit, but it  is alive.  The ones who
squint at themselves suspiciously, two heads on the  same body ... ugh! But,
what the hell! I've discovered a method of controlling biological synthesis.
I  tested it and developed  it. Science in the long run creates methods, not
constructions, not things, not objects, but methods-how to do it all. And no
researcher would ever pass up a chance to squeeze every possibility from his
method.
     By  the  way,   yesterday  there  was  a  new  dish  at  the  institute
cafeteria-roast rabbit with new potatoes, forty-five kopeks. Let's just call
it  a coincidence. But even that's a  possible application of the discovery:
breeding rabbits,  as well as cows, for meat, improving the breeds. With  an
industrial  application  this method would have to be  better than  standard
methods.
     Tomorrow  I'm  going  back to experiment on the  synthesis  of man. The
methodology is clear, there's  no  point in dragging it  out.  And  the very
thought of it makes  me drool. To go back to the synthesis of man ... it was
one thing when my double appeared on his own, almost by accident, the way it
happens  in   life;  it'll  be  another  thing  to  prepare  a  human  being
consciously, like a rabbit. In  essence,  I won't be 'going  back'  to this,
I'll be beginning.
     What kind of a creature is man, that I can't work with him as calmly as
I do with a rabbit?
     Let's set up some  perspective  here. The megagalaxy, a cloud of stars,
floats in the black  void. There  is a  lentil-shaped dust mote of stars  in
it-our Milky Way. At the edge of it, our Sun, and around it, the planets. On
one  of them-not  the largest, and not the smallest-live people. Three and a
half  billion, that's not so many. If you line  them up in formation, all of
humanity can be  seen from the Eiffel Tower. If you put  them  together, you
would get  a  cube with  each side  a  kilometer  long, that's  all. A cubic
kilometer of living  and thinking matter, a molecule in the universe.... And
so what?
     What? That I'm a human being too. One  of them. Not  the lowest and not
the highest. Not the smartest, and  not the dumbest. Not the  first, and not
the last. And yet I feel that I  am all  of that. And I feel responsible for
everything.






     In caring about your neighbor, the important thing is not to overdo it.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 33

     July 29. I'm sitting in the information chamber, surrounded by sensors,
the  Monomakh's Crown  on  my  head. I'm  keeping  a diary  because  there's
absolutely nothing else to do.  I'll  be sleeping here  this week, too, on a
cot.
     So I'm sitting around, thinking wise thoughts.
     Thus, man. The highest form of living matter.
     A  carcass of  hollow bones, flexible clumps of protein,  which contain
what scientists and engineers are trying to analyze and re-create in logical
circuits and electronic models-life, a complex,  constantly  functioning and
constantly changing  system.  Millions  of bits  of information penetrate us
every second  through the  nerve endings of our eyes, ears, skin, nose,  and
tongue  and are turned into electrical impulses. If  they are amplified, you
can hear the characteristic "Drrrr ... dr..." in their dynamics. The bionics
people played  it for me  once. The machine-gun volleys  of  impulses spread
along the nerves, increase or engulf one another, and stick in the molecular
memory cells.  A huge processing unit, the  brain, sorts them, compares them
with  the  chemical  recording   of  the  internal   program  that  contains
everything-dreams and wishes, duty and  goal,  survival instinct and hunger,
love and hate, habits and knowledge, superstition and curiosity-and makes up
the  commands  for the executive  organs. And people talk,  run, kiss, write
poetry and denunciations, orbit in space, scratch  their heads, shoot,  push
buttons, bring up children, meditate....
     What's the most important thing?
     I'm getting a  picture of  method for the controlled synthesis  of man.
You  can  introduce additional information  and thereby alter  the form  and
content of man. This will come-we're moving toward it. But  what information
should  be  introduced?  What  alterations  should  be  made?  Take me,  for
instance. Let's  say that a computer  will  be synthesizing  me  (especially
since it already has): what would I like changed?
     You can't  answer  that off the bat.  I'm used to myself. I'm much more
interested in people around me than in myself. We all know what we want from
other people: that they don't interfere with our lives.  But what do we want
from ourselves?
     Yesterday I had the following conversation:
     "Tell me, Lena, what kind of a son would you like?"
     "Why?"
     "Well, I mean how would you like to see him as an adult?"
     "Handsome, healthy,  smart, and talented .  . . honest and  kind. About
your height,  say... no, maybe a little taller! He could become a violinist,
and I  would go to his concerts. He could look like ... oh, God, why did you
bring it up? Oh, I see. You've decided to  propose! Right? How  interesting!
Do it right, according to all the traditions, and I might say yes. Well!"
     "Hmmmmmm ... no, I was just asking...."
     "Oh, just asking! An abstract son, so to speak?"
     "Precisely."
     "Then you should be discussing it with an abstract woman, not with me!"
     Women take things very concretely.
     However, from  what she  said,  one quality  can  be  singled out-to be
smart. That's what I know about.
     Logical thought in humans works at  a much lower level  than it does in
electronic systems. The speed of processing information is pathetic: fifteen
to twenty bits per second. That's why they always have to plug in "buffers."
Ask a person, unexpectedly, something very simple, like
     "What time is it?" and you'll get an answer like "huh?" or "what?" This
doesn't mean he is deaf-simply that in the time that  you take to repeat the
question  he's  thinking  furiously for an answer. Sometimes that time isn't
enough, and  then you get "hmmm, well... let's  see ...  the best way to put
it... is ... hmmmm...."
     Time for a smoke break. I've been here too long. Freedom!
     The morning is like a violin  melody. The greenery is fresh. The sky is
blue. The air is pure.
     There goes  Pasha Fartkin on his way to the  institute  garage.  He's a
lathe operator, a drunkard, and a sneak; he manfully bears the burden of his
last name on his sloping shoulders. I'll test it out on him!
     "Tell me, Pasha, what do you want from life on a morning like this?"
     "Valentin  Vasilyevich!"  He seemed to  be  waiting  for the  question,
looking  at me  with joy  and amazement. "I'll be  honest  with you,  like a
brother: ten rubles until payday! I swear to God I'll pay you back!"
     In  my  confusion,  I take out a  ten,  give it to him,  and  only then
realize that Pasha never pays his debts to anyone, it's never been recorded.
     "Thanks,  Valentin  Vasilyevisch.  I'll  never  forget  you  for this!"
Fartkin put away the money quickly. His puffy face expressed sadness that he
hadn't  asked  for more. "And  what do you want  from life on this beautiful
morning?"
     "Well...  actually... you see...  well...  to get  the  money  back  at
least."
     "Don't you worry!" Pasha said and went on.
     Hmmmmmm... what happened?  Does that mean that  my  logical thinking is
weak, too? Strange. My nervous system processes a veritable Niagara Falls of
information, and with its help  I make complex movements impossible for  any
machine (writing, for instance) and  yet I can't think fast enough to.... In
a word  I should prepare information on how to  be smart and think  fast for
introduction into  the computer-womb. If God didn't give it to me, the least
I can do is make sure my double has it. Let him be smarter than me.
     August 3. Yes, but in order to introduce information into the computer,
you have to have it. And it doesn't exist.
     I'm  dividing  my  time now  between  the  information chamber and  the
library. I've gone through a ton of books-and nothing.
     I could  increase  the  volume of the double's brain. That  wouldn't be
hard.  I can watch the  brain appear. But there is  no  correlation  between
brain  weight  and  the mind: Anatole  France's  brain  weighed a  kilogram;
Turgenev's brain, two kilos; and one cretin's brain almost made three kilos:
2 kilos 850 grams.
     I could increase  the surface  of the cortex  or  the number of ridges.
That's  just as  easy.  But  there  is no correlation between  the number of
ridges and  intellect:  a woodpecker has many  more ridges  than  our  close
relative the orangutan. So much for birdbrains!
     I know  what man's  mind  is related to: the  quick action of our nerve
cells. This is perfectly clear, and for electronic machines the quickness is
the most important thing. If the computer doesn't  solve the problem  in the
short time it takes for the fuel to burn in the launching rocket-the rocket,
instead of going into orbit, will fall on the ground.
     Most mistakes we make  are analogous: we don't solve the problem in the
given  time; we don't have time to figure  things out.  The problems in life
are  no  simpler  than  bringing a  rocket into orbit.  And  time  is always
critical.  It's terrifying to think how many mistakes are made in  the world
just  because we can only process two dozen bits of  information in a second
instead of two hundred bits!
     And so what? There are zillions of articles, reports, and monographs on
the  perfection  of  logic and  the  speeding  up of work of computers (even
though they can already do  close to  ten  million operations  a second)-and
nothing  about  improving the logic and speed of human thought.  The dobbler
goes around without boots.
     In  a  word,  how sad that  this idea will have  to be left for  better
times....
     Graduate student Krivoshein rubbed  his  neck thoughtfully.  "Yes, he's
right...." He  hadn't thought about that; it  never occurred to  him.  Maybe
because on a fellowship you don't  go  around lending  money very often. The
only thing that  occupied him was  improving his memory, and that came about
on its own. There was too much to remember at once to transform oneself. And
when the experiment was over, unnecessary information  cluttered up his mind
and interfered  with the new work. So he mastered  the chemistry of directed
forgetting: he erased from his cortex those  little details of new knowledge
that were easier to figure out again than to remember.
     But that  was  something else. He hadn't  thought  about  speed  of the
brain's  logic.  He felt  funny. He was so  engrossed in biology that he had
forgotten he came there as a systems engineer  to probe new possibilities in
man.  Did  that mean that he didn't direct the work, that the work had taken
him  astray? He  did what fell into  his  hands.  "Humanity could  perish if
everyone did only what he  could handle," Androsiashvili  had said. And that
was no joke.


     But  it's  easy  to approach  this  problem.  In humans, information is
transported by  ions,  and  you  can't  make  them go  any  faster,  the way
computers can. Oh, oh, I seem to be justifying myself! Man can solve complex
problems very easily:  move, work, talk, but when it comes to  logic he just
doesn't have the biological  experience. Animals in evolution didn't have to
think, they  had to  take action-bite,  howl, leap, crawl-and the faster the
better.  Now if animals  had  had  to solve systems  of  equations, carry on
diplomatic talks,  do  business,  and  make  sense of the world in  order to
survive-then what wonderful logic they would have developed! I have to think
about this, look around....
     August 4. The blinking lights on the control panel  of the TsVM-12 have
stopped. That means that all the  information  about me is recorded  in  the
computer-womb. Where  are they  now,  my  dreams, my  character  flaws,  the
construction of my intestines, thoughts,  and  average looks-in the cubes of
magnetic memory? In the cells of the crystal unit? Or are  they dissolved in
the golden liquid of the tank? I don't know, and it doesn't matter.
     Tomorrow, a trial re-creation. Only a trial, and nothing more.
     August 5.  2:05 P.M. "You may!" A new,  spectral me began appearing  in
the sunny liquid of the vat. The picture is the  same as a rabbit appearing,
but  at the same  moment as the circulatory  system  appears so does a fuzzy
gray mass at  the top of the vat; that becomes  the brain. The  brain that I
can't improve upon  with  new information. The eye sees but  the tooth can't
bite.
     But by four  in the afternoon the  new  double  has  reached the opaque
stage; there are intimations of underwear....
     If six months ago someone had  told me that questions of life and death
and  morality and criminal law  would  enter my methodology, I doubt that  I
would have been able  to appreciate the depth of the wit. And now I stood in
front of the tank and thought: "He's going to come to life now, climb out of
the liquid. Why? What will I do with him?"
     "I existed before I appeared in the computer," my first  double said to
me. "I was you."
     And he was unhappy with  his situation. But we'll learn all the joys of
communal  living with  this  one: arguments over Lena, worries that we'll be
caught, the problems of the bed versus the  cot.... And most important: this
is not  what  I had expected  from the new experiment.  The  experiment is a
success. The computer is re-creating me. But I have to move beyond that.
     And  if  I dissolve him with the  command "No!"-isn't that  death? But,
forgive me,  whose  death is  it? Mine? No, I'm still alive. The double's in
the vat? But he doesn't exist yet.
     Is this all subject to the rule of law-my experiments? And on the other
hand, is this abuse of my work? My double was right: there is really strange
work.
     And it all  stems, I guess, from faintheartedness. In  our modern world
people in the name of ideals and political goals go forth and send others to
kill and die.  There are ideas and goals that justify it. And I have a great
idea  and a  great  goal:  to  create a method that improves  man  and human
society. I won't spare myself, if need be.  Then why am I afraid to give the
command "No!"  for  the sake  of  my work?  I  have  to  be firmer,  if  I'm
undertaking this work.
     Especially  since  this  isn't  death.  Death  is  the disappearance of
information   about  a  man,  but  the  information  is  not  lost   in  the
computer-womb;  it  merely  changes  form,  from  electrical  impulses   and
potentials  to  man. And  I  can always  give  them another  double if  they
want....
     I  pondered  until   the  hoses  leaving  the  tank  began  contracting
rhythmically, emptying out the excess liquid. Then I put  on  the Crown  and
gave the command.
     It's  not a pleasant sight:  there was a  man-and he dissolved. I still
feel bad....  All right,  pal,  don't rush. I'll make you fine and dandy. Of
course, I can't give you more brains than what I've got myself, but at least
I'll give you looks that will  make you  reel.  After all,  you have lots of
flaws,  as  I do: slightly  bowed  legs,  hips  too  wide and  fat,  rounded
shoulders,  a  stumpy torso, masses of excess hair on the legs,  chest,  and
back.  And protruding  ears,  and  a  jaw that makes me look like a complete
dolt. And my forehead, and my nose . . . no, let's be self-critical. It just
won't do!
     August 6.  Experiment number 2-things get harder by  the hour! Today  I
decided to improve on the looks of a new double and  got so messed up that I
don't even want to think about it.
     I began knowing exactly what was "not it" in my  looks. (Actually, it's
all "not  it," if  it can be changed.)  But what was "it?" In my experiments
with the rabbits the criterion for "it"  was whatever I felt like. But a man
is no rabbit;  even though they say one head is good, and two are better, no
one ever thought that in a biological sense.
     After my command of "You may!" the image of the new double appeared and
the semitransparent lilac muscles of the  stomach  had  started disappearing
under  a  layer  of yellow  fat,  I gave  the  signal  "That's not  it!" The
computer, obeying my imagination, dissolved the fat tissue where  I  saw it:
on the stomach and near the neck, leaving it on the back and sides.
     I  hadn't noticed  that right  away, because I was working on the face.
Mentally I gave the double a noble brow, but when I looked at the profile, I
was  aghast:  the skull  had  been flattened!  And  the  shape of  the  brow
contradicted the rest of the face.
     In a word, I was lost. The computer took that for a total  "not it" and
dissolved the double.
     I was  at  dead-end. "It was obviously  the beauty of the  human  body.
There  are  classical  examples of it.  But...  turning  my  double  into  a
pleasant-looking  man with classic features in  the  course of two hours  of
synthesis was something that was  beyond the  powers of not only me,  but of
the  most qualified member  of the Artists' Union of the USSR! My  only hope
was that the computer was remembering all the changes made on the double.
     Then I  gave the order "You may!" once  more.  Yes,  the  computer-womb
remembered everything: the double retained all my  clumsy changes.  That was
better, I could work as many sessions as was necessary.
     In that session I got rid of the excess fat from the double's body. His
pot belly disappeared.  You  could even  see his waist. And his neck took on
definite outline. That was enough for  a start. "No!" Everything disappeared
and I ran over to the city library.
     I'm leafing through Professor G. Gicescusy Atlas of  Plastic Anatomy (I
also have four richly illustrated books on Renaissance art),  learning about
the proportions  of the human body, picking  out the double's  looks  like a
suit  off  the  rack.  The  canons  of  Leonardo  da Vinci,  of  Durer,  the
proportions of Schmidt-Friech.... It seems  that in a  proportionate man the
buttocks are exactly at mid-height. Who would have thought!
     God, what a poor engineer had to learn!
     I'm taking Hercules as my basis since he is shown from all angles.
     August 74. The  twelfth  experiment-and  it's still  not  right.  Still
lopsided and  vulgar. First one leg is shorter than the other, then the arms
don't match. Now I'm going to try the proportions of Durer's Adam.
     August 20. The proportions are right. But the face ... an eyeless, dead
copy with Krivoshein's features. Large rust-colored marble curlicues instead
of hair. In a word, today was the twenty-first "No!"
     Someone careful and suspicious inside me keeps asking  "Is this it? The
method you're developing now, is this the method?"
     I think so, yes. Anyway, it's  a step in  the right direction. For now,
in order  to  synthesize  a  man, I introduce only high-quality  information
about his body. But in the same manner we could  (and in time we'll work out
how  to  do  it)  introduce  any information gathered  by humanity  into the
computer-womb on the best human  qualities,  and create  not only externally
beautiful  and physically  strong people,  but ones  who  are beautiful  and
strong in mental and spiritual qualities as well. Usually  the good is mixed
with  the bad  in people: he's smart  but  weak in spirit; he's got a strong
will but  applies it  to  trifles  either through stupidity or ignorance, or
he's firm, and kind,  and smart, but sickly . .  . and with this  method  we
could get rid of all  the bad and synthesize only the best qualities into  a
person.
     "A synthetic knight without fear or flaw"-that must sound terrible. But
what's the difference in  the end: whether they're synthetic  or natural? As
long as  there are plenty  of them. There  are so few "knights"-personally I
only know them from movies  and books. And yet we need  them so much in real
life. There'll  be room and work for all of  them. And each will be able  to
influence the world to be a better place.
     August 28. It's working! Pathetic daubers with their brushes who try to
capture the beauty and power of living person in a dead medium. Here  it is,
my "brush," an electrochemical machine, a continuation of my  brain. And I'm
an engineer, not  an artist. Without using my hands, through the power of my
mind, I am creating beauty in life with life.
     The delicate and precise  proportions of Durer's Adam with the rippling
muscles of Hercules. And the face is  handsome. Two  or three more tries ...
and I'm done.
     September 1. The first day on the calendar! I'm on my way to the lab. I
have  pants, shirt, and shoes  for him.  Into the suitcase. And don't forget
the movie camera-I'm going to film the appearance of the magnificent double.
I'm anticipating  what an effect  that home  movie  will have someday when I
show it!
     I'm going over  there, put  on Monomakh's Crown, and mentally I'll give
the order . . . no, I'll say it out loud, damn it, in a strong and beautiful
voice, the way the Lord had spoken in a similar situation:
     "You may! Appear into this world, double Adam-Hercules-Krivoshein!"
     "And the Lord saw that it was good...."
     Of course, I'm not  God. I spent a month creating a man, and He managed
on a shortened workday, Saturday. But was that work?






     Man  has  always  considered himself smart-even when he  walked on  all
fours and curled his tail like  a handle on a lea-kettle. In order to become
smart, he'll have to feel that he is stupid at least once.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 59

     The next entry in the diary shocked student Krivoshein with its uneven,
changed handwriting.
     September 6.  But I didn't want... I didn't  want  something like this!
All I can do is shout to the sky: I didn't want  it! I  tried to make things
come out well... without any  mistakes. I  didn't  even sleep nights. I just
lay there with  my  eyes shut, picturing  all the details of Hercules' body,
and then Adam's, noting which features should be added to my double.
     I couldn't do it all in one session. No way-that's why I dissolved him.
I couldn't  let out a cripple with arms  and legs of different length. And I
couldn't possibly  have  known that each time I dissolved  him I killed him.
How could I have known?
     As  soon  as the liquid cleared  his  head and  shoulders,  the  double
grabbed the edge of the tank with his powerful hands and jumped  out.  I was
running the movie camera,  capturing the historic moment  of a man appearing
from a machine. He  fell  on the  linoleum before me, sobbing with a hoarse,
howling cry. I ran to him:
     "What's the matter?"
     He was hugging my leg  with  his sticky hands, rubbing his head against
them, kissing my hands as I tried to lift him.
     "Don't kill  me, don't  kill  me! Don't  kill  me any more! Why do  you
torture me, aaah!  Don't! Twenty-five  times you've  killed  me, twenty-five
times. Aaah!"
     But I hadn't known. I couldn't know that his consciousness revived with
every experiment! He understood that I was reshaping his  body, doing what I
wanted with him, and he couldn't do a thing about it. My command "No!" first
dissolved  his  body, and then  his  consciousness  dimmed. Why didn't  that
artificial  idiot tell me that  the consciousness begins functioning  before
the body?


     "Damn it!"  the student muttered. "Really-the brain  must  be unplugged
last. When was that?"  He turned the pages and sighed with a certain relief.
No, it  wasn't his fault. In August and September he couldn't have told him,
he didn't know it himself. If  he were running the experiment, he would have
made the same mistake.


     And so I got a man  with  a classic  physique, a pleasant look, and the
broken spirit of a slave. "A knight without fear or flaw."


     Go ahead, look for a scapegoat, you  louse. You didn't know; you tried!
But did you!? Wasn't it conceit, self-love? Didn't you feel like God sitting
up in  the  clouds  in  a labeled leather  armchair?  A  god, on whose whims
depended the appearance and disappearance of a man,  whether he would  be or
not be.  Didn't  you  experience an intellectual passion when  you gave  the
computer-womb the orders over and over: "You may!" and "Not it!" and "No!"?


     He tried to escape from the  lab immediately. I barely talked  him into
washing up and dressing. He was trembling. There could be no question of his
working alongside me in the lab.
     He spent  five  days with me^  five horrible days. I  kept hoping  he'd
relax,  get  better.  No way! No, he was healthy  in body, knew  everything,
remembered everything-the computer-womb  recorded all my information in him,
my  knowledge, my memory-but the  terror of his  experience was overwhelming
and  could not be controlled by  his will or thoughts.  His hair turned gray
the first day from the memories.
     He was terrified of me. When  I  would come home,  he would jump up and
get into a position  of submission: his gladiator's back would hunch and his
arms, bulging with rippling muscles, would hang limp. He was trying  to look
smaller. And his eyes-oh, God, those eyes! They looked at  me with a prayer,
entreaty, with a  panic-stricken readiness to do anything  to mollify  me. I
felt terrified and guilty. I've never seen a man look that way.
     And tonight,  sometime after three... I don't know why I woke up. There
was a dead  gray light from the streetlights on the ceiling. Adam the double
was standing  over my bed with a raised dumbbell. I could see his muscles in
his right arm tense for the blow. We stared at each other for a few seconds.
Then he  giggled nervously and moved  away, his bare feet scuffling  on  the
wood floor.
     I sat up on the bed and turned on the overhead  light. He was crouching
on  the floor by  the closet, his  head on his knees. His  shoulders and the
dumbbell in his hand were shaking.
     "What's the matter?" I  asked.  "You should  strike, once you've aimed.
You would have felt better."
     "I can't  forget,"  he muttered in a hollow baritone through the  sobs.
"You see, I can't forget how you used to kill me... twenty-five times!"
     I opened the desk, took out my passport, engineering degree, what money
there was, and shook  him  by the  shoulder. "Get up! Get dressed and go. Go
off somewhere, make a life for yourself, work, live. We won't be  able to do
anything  together. No rest for you or me. It's not my fault! Damn it, can't
you understand that I didn't know? I was doing something that had never been
done. Surely  there were  things I couldn't have known. A man  can be born a
monster or mentally  ill, or become that  way after an illness or  accident,
but then it's  nobody's  fault, nobody  to bash with a dumbbell.  If you had
been in my place, the  same  thing would have happened,  because you are me!
Understand?"
     He was backing toward the wall, shaking. That sobered me up.
     "I'm sorry. Take my papers.  I'll manage here somehow.  Here,"  I said,
opening the passport, "you look  more like me on the picture than  I do. The
photographer  must have tried to perfect my features, too. Take the money, a
suitcase, clothes-and go  where you  want.  You'll live on your  own, work a
bit, and maybe things will be easier for you."
     Two hours  later he  was gone. We agreed that he would write to me from
wherever he settled. He won't write....
     It's a good sign that he tried to kill me. That means he's no slave. He
feels hurt and insulted. Maybe things will work out for him?
     And I'm sitting here  without  a  thought  in my head.  I have to start
over. Oh, nature, what a bitch you are! How you enjoy laughing at our ideas!
You seduce us, and then....
     Drop it! Stop  looking for someone to blame. Nature  has nothing to  do
with it, it  is  part of your work only on an elementary level. And the rest
is all you. Don't try to get out of it.
     The alarm went off: 7:15. Time to get up, shave, wash,  and go to work.
A murky sun over  the buildings,  the sky full of  smoke, dirty, like an old
curtain.  The wind  raised  dust, whipping  the trees, blowing  through  the
balcony door. Downstairs  a bus licks people  off the street  at  the stops.
They gather again,  and they  all have the  same expression on  their faces:
can't be late for work!
     And  I have to  get to work  too.  I'll get to  the lab,  jot down  the
results of  my  unsatisfactory  experiment,  and  console  myself  with  the
bromides:  "You learn from  your mistakes;" "There  are  no  beaten paths in
science;" and so on. And I'll  start the next experiment. And I'll make more
mistakes and destroy not guinea pigs, but... people? You conceited, dreaming
cretin, armed with the latest technology!
     The wind whips  the trees. It was all in the past: the days of research
and  discovery, the evenings of meditation, the nights of dreaming. And here
you are, the cold, clear morn, wiser than the night. Merciless morning! It's
probably in this sober time that women who had dreamed all night of having a
child go for an abortion. And  I  had  an abortion.  I dreamed. I wanted  to
bring happiness to the world, and I've created two miserable people already.
I'll never master this work. I'm weak, unneeded, and  stupid. I must take up
something mediocre, that  I can handle-for an article, for  a  dissertation.
And then everything will be fine.
     The wind whips the trees. The wind whips the trees....
     On the next balcony there's a recording of Mozart's Requiem playing. My
neighbor, associate professor Prishchepa, wants  to  get into a mathematical
mood first thing  in the morning. "Requi . .  .  requiem...." The voices are
bidding farewell to someone clearly and simply.  This is good music to shoot
oneself by. Nobody would notice the shot.
     The wind whips the trees.
     What have I  done?  And yet  I  had doubts,  and then  not  doubts  but
knowledge. I  knew  that  any change  I  made  stayed  with  him,  that  the
computer-womb remembered everything. I didn't pay attention. Why?
     I had a thought, not expressed in words, so that I wouldn't be ashamed,
or  a feeling of well-being  and safety, I  guess: "after all, it's not  me.
It's  not happening to  me...." And also a feeling of  impunity: "Whatever I
want, I'll do. Nothing will happen to me...."
     You  won't  shoot  yourself,  you  animal!  You won't  do  anything  to
yourself-you'll live to  a  ripe  old  age and even  set  yourself up as  an
example to others.
     The wind whips the trees. The bus licks people off the stops.
     I don't want to go to work.
     September  20. Gray  asphalt. Gray clouds. The  motorcycle swallows  up
miles  like  noodles.  A  kid  stops  by the road,  and I can tell  from his
position that he's decided to be a motorcyclist on a red bike  when he grows
up. Be a motorcyclist, kid; just don't become a researcher.
     I keep accelerating.  The speedometer  says over ninety.  The  wind  is
lashing my  face. Here  comes  a dump truck,  hogging  most of the  road, of
course.  Those  bastard truckdrivers, they don't  take  bikers  for  people.
Always trying to ride us off the road. Well, I'm not yielding to this one!
     No, there was no crash. I'm alive. I'm writing  down how I  tore around
glassy-eyed today. I have to write about  something. The truck veered to the
right at the last second.  I watched in the rear view mirror as  the  driver
pulled over and ran into the road, waving his fists at me.
     Actually, if I had  crashed, what difference would it  make?  There's a
spare Krivoshein in  Moscow.  I can't describe my  repulsion and disgust for
everything right now. Including me.
     How he shook, how he hugged my feet-the strong, handsome "not me."  And
I could have foreseen it and spared him. I could have! But I thought: "It'll
work like this. What the hell! After all, he's not me."
     And  it was so  interesting, good,  beautiful.  We dreamed and  talked,
worried about the good of mankind, swore a vow. What shame! And in the work,
I  overlooked  the  fact  that  I  was  creating  a  man.  I  thought  about
everything-exquisite forms,  intellectual content-but that  it might hurt or
scare him  never  entered  my  mind.  I  just  decided  that  there  was  no
informational  death in the experiment-and  fine.  But death was a  violence
that I performed on him over and over.
     How did it happen? How?
     The   white  posts  along   the  highway  reflect   the  motor's   hum:
but-but-but-but how  did  it happen? But-but-but-but  how?  The  speedometer
reads  110, the gray stripes of earth and trees whiz  by.  At  this  speed I
could escape  from pursuers or  save someone, getting there  in  time! But I
have no one to run away from and no one to save. I did have someone to save,
but I had to do some honest thinking there ... and I didn't.
     I can master heights, elements, with my brain and brawn. It's easy with
the elements. They can be mastered. But how do you master yourself?
     I  just  went  over  the  diary-and  I'm  frightened  by  how  low  and
self-serving  my thoughts  are! Here  I am  discussing how  troubles  befall
people because they are unprincipled, that they think  they can  live off to
the side, not get involved, and a few  pages later I  cleverly make sure I'm
off to the side: don't get mixed up with Harry Hilobok, let him get his damn
doctoral  dissertation ....  Here I'm  thinking  about how to derive benefit
from my discovery, and here I call myself to do cruel acts with reference to
wars  and murders  in the world.  Here I (or  me and the  double, it doesn't
matter) lower myself to the level of  an ordinary engineer, who can't handle
such difficult work-a  moral insurance in case  it doesn't work; and when it
does work,  I compare myself  to the gods. And I wrote  all this  sincerely,
without noticing any contradictions.
     Without noticing? I didn't want to  notice them! It was so pleasant and
convenient  that way: preen, lie to  myself with an open heart, adjust ideas
and facts  to fit  my moral comfort. So  it  turns  out I thought more about
myself than about humanity?  It  turns  out that this work, if evaluated not
from a scientific but a moral  position, was nothing more  than showing off?
Of course, where would I find the time to worry about my guinea pigs!
     What kind of a man are you, Krivoshein?
     September 22. I'm not working. I can't work now. Today I  rode down  to
Berdichev for some reason and by the way, I understood the hidden meaning of
the mysterious  phrase that was  printed out  one day. Twenty-six  kopeks is
what it costs  to fuel up to get from Berdichev to Dneprovsk: five liters of
gas, two hundred grams of oil. I've unearthed another discovery!
     Where is Adam now? Where did he go?
     And  that creature that  the  machine  tried  to create after the first
double: half-Lena, half-me. It, too, must have suffered the horrors of death
when we ordered the computer to dissolve it? And my father.  Oh damn! Why am
I thinking about that?
     My  father...  the last  cossack in the Krivoshein  line. According  to
family tradition,  my forefathers come from the Zaporozhian cossacks.  There
was  a brave cossack whose neck was damaged in battle-and there you  get the
Krivoshein line. When  Empress  Catherine broke them  up, they moved to this
side  of the Volga. My grandfather Karp Vasilyevich  beat up  the priest and
the head of  the village when  they decided to get rid of the village school
and set up a church school. I haven't the slightest idea what the difference
was between them, but my grandfather died at hard labor.
     Father  took part in all the revolutions, and served under  Chapayev in
the Civil War.
     He fought in the last war as an old man, and  only the first two years.
They were retreating  in the Ukraine  and  he led his  battalion out from an
ambush in Kharkov. Then because of wounds and age,  they  transferred him to
the rear, as a commander on the other side of the Urals. There, in the camp,
a soldier and peasant, he taught me how to ride, how to take care of a horse
and saddle it,  how to plow, mow, shoot from a rifle and a  pistol, dig  the
earth, and chop brambles  with a machette. He also made me kill chickens and
pigs by stabbing  them  under the  right  shoulder  blade with a  small flat
knife, so that I wouldn't fear blood. "It'll come in handy in life, sonny!"
     Shortly before  his  death  he and  I  went down  to  his  homeland  in
Mironovka, to see  his cousin Egor  Stepanovich  Krivoshein.  While we  were
sitting in his cottage drinking, Egor's grandson rushed over:
     "Cramps,  they  dug out a body from  the  clay  in Sheep's Gully  where
they're digging the dam!"
     "In  Sheep's Gully?"  my father asked. The old men  exchanged  a  look.
"Let's go see."
     The  crowd of workmen and onlookers made way  for the two  old men. The
gray, chalky  bones were piled up in one spot. Father poked the skull with a
stick, and it turned over, revealing a hole over the right temple.
     "Mine!" father said looking at Egor Stepanovich triumphantly.  "And you
missed. Your hand shook, huh!"
     "How do you know it's  yours?"  the other demanded  sticking his  beard
into the air.
     "Have you forgotten? He was coming back  to the village. I was right on
the side of the road, you were on the left,..." and father drew a picture in
the clay to prove his point.
     "Whose remains are these,  old  men?" a young  foreman in a fancy shirt
demanded.
     "The  captain," father explained,  squinting. "In the first  revolution
the Ural  cossacks were  quartered here, and this  here  was their  captain.
Don't bother the police with it, sonny. It's been over a long time."
     How  marvelous it  was to lie  in  wait in  the steppe  at  night  with
father's  gun, waiting for the captain-both for the  principle  and the fact
that the  bastard ripped up men with his bayonet and raped girls! Or to  fly
on horseback, feeling the weight of your saber in your hand, taking measure:
I'll  chop that one over there, with beard, from  his  epaulets all  the way
through!
     The last time I fought was eighteen years ago, and it wasn't a fight to
the death, only to the school bell. I never galloped in the days of old. All
my bravado comes on a bike facing down a truck.
     And I'm not afraid, father, of  blood or death. But your simple lessons
never did come in  handy. The revolution continues through different  means,
with discoveries  and inventions-weapons more dangerous than sabers. And I'm
afraid, father, of making mistakes.
     Liar!   Liar!  You're  preening  again,  you  low-life!  You   have  an
ineradicable streak  of  showing  off.  Oh, it's so pretty: "I'm  scared  of
making mistakes, father," and all about the revolution. Don't you dare!
     You  wanted  to  synthesize  in  people  (yes, people,  not  artificial
doubles!)  the nobility  of  spirit that you lack, the beauty that you don't
have, the determination  you'll never have, and  the  selflessness you can't
even dream of.
     You come from  a good family. Your forefathers knew  how to work and to
leave good work behind them, and to beat the bastards with fist or gun. They
didn't let up. And what are you? Have you fought  for justice? Oh, you never
had an opportunity? Maybe you've cleverly managed to avoid them? What, don't
feel like remembering?
     That's the problem. I'm afraid of everything: life, people. I even love
Lena in a cowardly way: I'm afraid to bring her close and I'm afraid to lose
her. And God forbid, no children. Children complicate things.
     And the fact that I'm hiding my discovery-isn't that also a fear that I
won't be able to develop  it properly? And I probably won't. I'm a weakling.
One of those smart  weaklings  who  are better off not being  smart. Because
their brain is only given them so that they can appreciate their lowness and
impotence.


     Graduate  student Krivoshein  lit  up a  cigarette  and paced  the room
nervously. It was painful reading the notes-it was about him, too. He sighed
and returned to the desk.
     Easy, Krivoshein, easy. You can talk yourself into something hysterical
this way. You still  have the responsibility  for the work... and everything
isn't lost yet. You're not  such a son of  a bitch that you should drop dead
immediately.
     I  can  even make  you look  good.  I haven't  used  the discovery  for
personal gain, and I won't.  I worked at peak capacity,  and I didn't cheat.
Now I'm trying to figure things out. So I'm not worse  than others. I made a
mistake. And who doesn't?
     Yes, but in  this work  comparisons on a relative  scale-who's  better,
who's worse-don't apply. Others study  crystals  or  develop machines;  they
know their work,  and that's enough. Their character  flaws only  harm them,
their  co-workers  at the lab, and their  relatives. But  I'm  different. In
order to create Man, it's not enough to know, to have a scientific handle on
the  thing-you have to be a  real Man yourself,  not  better  or  worse than
others, but in the absolute sense a knight without fear  or flaw. I wouldn't
mind  that at  all, but I don't know how to go about  it. I  don't  have the
information.
     Does that mean that I can't handle this work?
     October 8. The yellow and red autumn is in the institute grounds, and I
can't work. It's full of dry leaves, the lightest rain makes a lot of  noise
on them,  and then there's  a coffee aroma  of  rotten leaves. And  I  can't
work....
     Maybe I  shouldn't, it's not needed? A good generic  stock,  a  quality
education, a hygienic  life-style.... Let smart people re-create themselves,
have lots of children with good stock. They'll be able to feed  them,  their
salaries  will stretch; after all, they're smart people. And they'll be able
to bring them up. They're smart people. No computers will be necessary.
     Harry Hilobok called  today. They're organizing a permanent exhibit  at
the institute: "The Achievements of Soviet Systemology," and naturally, he's
the organizer.
     "Won't you contribute something, Valentin Vasilyevich?"
     "No."
     "Why  are  you  like  that? Now  Ippolit  Illarionovich  Voltampernov's
department is  giving three exhibits and  other  departments  and  labs  are
contributing.  We should have at least one exhibit  on your topic. Don't you
have anything yet?"
     "No. How's the biosensor system moving, Harry Haritonovich?"
     "Eh,  Valentin  Vasilyevich,  what's  one  system compared  to  all  of
systemology, heh-heh! We're working on it, but meanwhile you see, everyone's
demanding exhibit stands,  mock-ups, tableaux, signs in three languages, and
our heads  are spinning. The lab  and the workshops are full up,  but if you
should have  anything  for  the show, we'll manage. Things  are  going  fast
around here."
     I almost said that it was the system that I  needed to come up  with an
exhibit for your stupid show  but I controlled myself. (Let him make it  and
then we'll see.) Always being sneaky, Krivoshein!
     My  exhibits were all over the world. One was in Moscow struggling with
biology.  The others were munching grass and cabbage in gardens. And another
just ran off to who knows where.
     Should I exhibit  the computer-womb to shock the academic world? Create
two-headed and six-footed  rabbits as part of the demonstration, at the rate
of two an hour? That would create a stir.
     No,  brother. This  machine  makes man. And there's no  way of  getting
around that.






     Every  action carries  obligations.  Inaction  doesn't  oblige  you  to
anything.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener

     October  11. I'm repeating the experiments in  controlled synthesis  of
rabbits-just  so  that  the  mechanism  doesn't  sit around for nothing. I'm
filming  it   all.  I'll   have  a  documentary.  "Citizens,   present  your
documentaries!"
     October 13. I've invented a method of destroying biological information
in  the computer-womb quickly  and dependably.  You can call it an "electric
eraser." I  use tension from  the  noise generator as  input for the crystal
unit and TsVM-12  and 15-20 minutes  later  the computer  forgets everything
about  the rabbits. If I  had had this method  earlier instead  of the order
"No!" I would have destroyed Adam each time irreversibly and fundamentally.
     I just don't know if he would have liked that any better.
     Time is making the leaves fall and the sky grow cold. And my work isn't
moving. I can't undertake serious work now. I don't have the stomach for it.
I'm lost.
     Here, Krivoshein! You can now take it as conclusively demonstrated that
you are neither God  nor the hub of  the earth.  Thus, you should seek  help
from others. You must go to Arkady Arkadievich....
     "Aha," graduate student Krivoshein exclaimed.
     I must  follow procedure; he  is my superior.  Actually, that's not the
point.   He's   smart,   knowledgeable,   influential,   and   a   marvelous
methodologist.  He knows how  to formulate any  problem. And, "A  formulated
problem," as it says in his Introduction to Systemology, "is the solution to
the  problem written in  hidden  form." And that's just  what I need. And he
supported my  topic  at the  scientific  council.  Of  course,  he's  overly
officious and conceited,  but we'll manage.  He's a  smart man,  after  all.
He'll understand that glory is not the point of this work.
     Wait! Good intentions are one thing, but reasonable care can't hurt. To
let Azarov in on the deep, dark secret that the computer-womb can synthesize
live  systems-no,  that can't  be allowed. I have  to  start  with something
simpler, and then we'll see, as he likes to say.
     I have to synthesize electronic circuits in the computer. That was what
old Voltampernov had attacked, and by the way,  that's my official topic for
the next year and half.
     "You must, Valentin Vasilyevich, you must!"
     Here's the plan. We place  six wires into the liquid: two  are feeders;
two, the control oscillograph; and  two, the impulse  generator. I give  the
computer the parameters of  the circuits  and the  approximate sizes through
Monomakh's  Crown. I definitely know  what's "it"  and "not it" in this-it's
familiar ground.
     October 15. Rounded brown squares  are appearing in the tank. They look
like laminated insulation. Metal lines of the circuits settle  on top of the
squares,  then  layers of insulation,  condensers, strips  of resistors, and
diodes and  transistors .... It  looks a lot like film  technology, which is
being developed in  microelectronics,  but  without  the vacuum,  electrical
discharge, and other pyrotechnics.
     And how pleasant it is after  all the headaches and nightmares to click
the  switches, adjust  the  brightness and  contrast  of  the  beam  on  the
oscilloscope,  and count off the microsecond impulses! Everything is  clear,
precise,  understandable.  It's  like coming  home from distant  shores. The
devil lured me onto those shores, into the dark jungles called "man" without
a guide or compass. But who is a guide and what's a compass?
     All right.  The parameters of the circuits agree,  project 154  is half
done. Won't Ippolit Illarionovich be glad!
     I'll go to see  Azarov. I'll show him the samples, explain a few things
and hint at future prospects. I'll go there tomorrow and say:
     "Arkady Arkadievich, I come to you as one smart man to another...."
     October 16. I went... flying into open arms.
     So, in the morning I  thought through our conversation, took  along the
samples, and headed  for  the old building. The autumn sun shed light on the
ornate walls, granite steps, and me, walking up them.
     My   depression   began   at  the  front   door.   Those   governmental
three-meter-wide doors made out of carved oak, with curved handles and tight
pneumatic springs! They  seem  to  be  created  especially  for  beefy young
bureaucrats with hands as big as skillets for a  dozen eggs. The young bucks
open the doors with a light tug and go handle important papers. Once through
the doors I began thinking that a conversation with Azarov should not  begin
with a shocking  opening  ("I come to you as one smart man to another....");
instead I should kowtow-he's an academician and I'm an engineer.
     And as I  walked  up  the  marble staircase covered  with  thick carpet
attached by chrome tacks, with  bannisters too broad to grasp completely, my
soul reached a respectful readiness to  agree with anything the  academician
might say  or recommend.  In a word, if it was Krivoshein the discoverer who
went up the stairs  with a spring step, it was Krivoshein the supplicant who
entered the director's waiting room, shuffling his feet, with a hunched back
and a guilty face.
     His secretary Ninochka cut  me off with a fervor  that Lev Yashin,  the
goalie, would envy.
     "No, no, no, comrade Krivoshein, you can't. Arkady Arkadievich is going
to a congress in New Zealand. You know how much trouble  I get into if I let
people in! He's not seeing anyone, see?"
     There were  quite a few people sitting  in the  waiting room. They  all
gave me a  dirty look. I sat down to wait, without any particular  hope  for
success, simply because the  others were  waiting,  and I would,  too. To be
part of the collective. A dead-end situation.
     More people arrived.  They  were  all grim  and ugly. No one  spoke  to
anyone.
     The more people there  were in the waiting  room, the less important my
business  seemed.  It  occurred to  me  that my samples  were  measured, not
tested,  and  that  Azarov  would try  to prove that  technological  work in
electronics wasn't for us. "And why am I bothering him?  I've still got over
a year to finish the project. So that Hilobok can  crack jokes about my work
habits again?"
     Speak of the devil, Hilobok appeared in the doorway with a rushed look;
I took up a good position and slipped in after him.
     "Arkady Arkadievich, I'd like...."
     "No,  no,  Valentin  ...  eh  ...  Vasilyevich."  Azarov frowned  in my
direction,  accepting some  papers from Harry. "I  can't!  I  simply  can't.
There's a holdup with my visa. I have to  go  over the typed lecture. Please
address your  questions to Ippolit Illarionovich.  He'll be  my  replacement
this month,  or to Harry Haritonovich. I'm not  the only person in the whole
world, for pity's sake!"
     So,  the  man  is going  to New Zealand.  Why  am I bothering him? To a
congress and to familiarize himself. And why did I ever think to grab him by
the coattail? It's silly. Just go on and work, until they want a report.
     Some day they'll interrupt  government  meetings for this project. Yes,
but why that does that have to be some day?
     They  won't interrupt meetings,  don't  worry.  I'll  be  dealing  with
second-level clerks, who will never  take  it upon  themselves to  take  any
action or responsibility-weaklings, just like me.
     Weakling. A weakling and  nothing  more! You should have talked to him,
if you had decided to. You couldn't. You apologized in a repulsive voice and
left  his  office.  Getting  an  Azarov  who  is hurrying  across  the  seas
interested in your work is a lot harder than commanding the computer-womb.
     But there's still something wrong.
     October 25. And this is right, I think! Our  fair city is being visited
by a major specialist in microelectronics, a technical sciences candidate, a
future doctor in the field, Valery Ivanov. He called me today. We're meeting
tomorrow  at eight  at the Dynamo  Restaurant. Dress accordingly. Ladies not
excluded.
     Valery Ivanov,  with whom I used to cut  classes  so that we could play
cards, my roommate,  the guy I did my  probation work and went to parties at
the library institute with. Valery Ivanov, my former boss and co-inventor of
two projects, a good arguer and a man of great ideas! Valery Ivanov, the man
I worked with like this for five years. I'm happy.
     "Listen, Valery," I'll say to him, "give up your microelectronics,  and
come back here. I've got a great project."
     He  can  even head  the lab, since he's got the degree. I'm willing. He
knows how to work.
     Well, let's see how he's changed over the last year.
     October 26, night. Nothing happens in life for nothing.
     From  my  first look  at  him, I  knew that  we  wouldn't  have the old
rapport.  And  it  wasn't  a  question  of  a  year's  separation.  The  old
Harry-esque vileness had come  between us. It's not  his fault or mine,  but
we've ended up on opposite sides.  He, who had proudly  quit and slammed the
door,  was  somehow  more in the right  than I, who stayed behind and didn't
share his bitter lot. That's why there was  a slight unpleasantness  between
us all evening, a bitterness that we couldn't  overcome. We somehow  trusted
each  other less now. It  was good that  I took Lena  with me; at least  she
decorated our meeting.
     Actually the conversation was interesting. It's worth relating.
     The meeting  began  at  8:00  P.M.  A Petersburgian  sat before  me. An
imported  suit in a discreet  gray  check, without lapels, a white, starched
shirt, hexagonal glasses on  an aquiline nose, a proper black crew cut. Even
the drawn cheeks reminded me of the blockade.
     Lena  was no slouch,  either.  As we  walked across the  room, everyone
looked  at her. I was the  only  slob  in  the  group: a  checked shirt  and
not-too-rumpled gray pants. Two doubles had depleted my wardrobe severely.
     Waiting for our order, we enjoyed looking at each other.
     "Well,"  Petersburgian Ivanov  broke the silence, "Oink something,  you
old pig."
     "I see your mug is assymetrical."
     "Assymetry  is a sign of the times. That's my  teeth. I got  a chill in
the train," he said touching his cheek.
     "Let me give you a punch-it'll pass."
     "Thanks. I think I'll stick to cognac."
     That was our usual warm-up before a good talk.
     They  brought  cognac and wine for the lady.  We  drank, satisfied  our
first  hunger  with  sturgeon  in  aspic  and  then  stared  at  each  other
expectantly  again. There  were  parties  going  on  around  us. A tubby man
standing at two joined  tables  was  toasting "mother  science."  (They were
drinking to a  completed  dissertation.) A  tipsy  fellow  all  alone  at  a
neighboring table was threatening a carafe of vodka, muttering:
     "I'm quiet... I'm quiet!" He was bursting to tell some secret.
     "Listen, Val!"
     "Listen, Valery!"
     We looked at each other.
     "Well, you go first." I nodded.
     "Listen, Val," his eyes glistening invitingly behind his glasses, "drop
your  systemology  and come  over to  us. I'll arrange  your transfer. We're
working  on such  an interesting  project now!  A microelectric  complex,  a
machine that makes machines. Do you get it?"
     "Solid-state circuits?"
     "Ah, what  are solid-state circuits-obsolete now. Electronic and plasma
rays plus  electrophotography plus cathode  spraying  of film plus...  in  a
word, here's  the idea.  The  circuit  of  an electronic machine evolves  in
bundles of ions and electrons,  like the image on a TV screen-and that's it.
It's finished; it can work. A density of elements as in the human brain. See
that?"
     "And does that exist now?"
     "Well, you see, ..." he raised his eyebrows. "If it did, then why would
I call on you? We'll do it in the time allotted."
     (Well, of  course,  I  had to drop systemology and follow  him! Not him
follow me; oh, no ... of course not! That's the way it always was.)
     "What about the Americans?"
     "They're trying, too. The question is who'll be first. We're working at
full blast. I've already made a dozen depositions. Do you get it?"
     "Well, what's the goal?"
     "Very simple:  to make computers as  easily  mass produced and cheap as
newspapers. Do you know the code name I gave to the  project? 'Poem.' And it
really is a technological poem!"  The  booze made Valery's nose glow. He was
putting in a  big effort and was probably sure of success. I was always easy
to  talk into  things. "A computer factory no bigger than a TV  set, can you
imagine that? A factory that's a machine! It receives a technical assignment
by teletype  for  new  computers, recalculates the assignment into circuits,
encodes the result into electric impulses, which run the beams on the screen
and print  out the circuit.  Twenty seconds-and the computer  is finished. A
thin plate that  contains  the  same circuitry it now takes a whole room  to
house, understand? They send the thin plate in an envelope to the buyer, and
he installs it in the unit. The command  panel of a chemcial plant, a system
for controlling traffic lights in  a city, a car-wherever-everything that in
the past had been done slowly, clumsily, and with mistakes by man can now be
done with electronic precision by the wise microelectronic plate! So you see
what I mean?"
     Lena  was watching Valery  rapturously. Really,  the picture he painted
was so marvelous that I didn't realize right  away that he was talking about
the same film circuits that I created in the tank  of the  computer-womb. Of
course, they were simpler ones, but in principle, more complex ones could be
made, too.
     "But why the vacuum and  various rays? Why not chemistry? Probably, you
could do it that way, too."
     "Chemistry.  Personally,  ever  since Professor  Varfolomeyev  used  to
lecture us, I haven't been too hot on chemistry. [Lena  giggled.] But if you
have  some  ideas on chemical microelectronics-let's have them.  I'm for it.
You can handle that end of it. In the long run, it's not important how we do
it,  as long as  it gets done. And then... and then we'll  be  able to do so
much...."  He  leaned  back  dreamily.  "Judge for yourself. Why should  the
computer-factory be assigned to create circuits? That's extra work.  All  it
has to  do  is  receive  information  on the  problems.  After all, we  have
computers working in production, in services, in transport,  in defense. Why
translate their impulses  into  human speech if  they will only  have to  be
retranslated  back into  impulses! Imagine: the  computer-factories  receive
radioed  information   about  other   computers  from  industry,   planning,
production,  shipping  .. . from everywhere, even on the weather, the crops,
the needs of  people. They work it out into the necessary circuits  and send
them out."
     "Microelectrical recommendations?"
     "Directives, my good fellow! What recommendations? Mathematically based
electronic circuits  are the  reflexes  of  production. You don't argue with
mathematics."
     We drank.
     "Valery," I  said,  "if you do  this, you'll be so  famous that they'll
even print your picture on bathroom paper!"
     "Yours, too," he added generously. "We'll be famous together."
     "But, Valery," Lena said, "in your complex there's no room for  people.
How can that be?"
     "Lena,  you're an engineer." Ivanov condescended.  "Let's  look at this
subject, man I mean, from an  engineering point of view. Why should there be
room for him?  Can  a man  receive radiosignals,  ultra  and infrared, heat,
ultraviolet rays  and X-rays,  radiation? Can he  withstand  a  vacuum,  gas
pressure at  hundreds  of  Gs,  vibrations,  thermal  shocks  from minus 120
degrees  Celsius  to plus 120 with  hourly frequency  or  the temperature of
liquid  helium? Can he  fly with the speed of a jet, submerge  to  the ocean
floor or plunge  into molten metal?  Can  he figure  out  a problem with ten
factors-only ten-in a fraction of a second? No."
     "He can with the help of machines," Lena said, supporting humanity.
     "Yes, but machines can  do it without his help! So all that's left  him
in our harsh electronic  and  atomic age  is to push buttons. But that's the
easiest operation to automate. You  know, in  modern technology, man is  the
least  dependable  element.  That's why  there are all  those  breakers  and
buffers and other defenses against fools."
     "I'm not saying nothing," the drunk growled.
     "But man could be perfected," I muttered.
     "Perfected?  Don't  make  me  laugh!  That's  like   perfecting   steam
engines-instead of replacing them with diesels or electric engines. The flaw
is in the physical principles of man, the ion reactions and metabolism. Look
around," he said, waving his arm around the room.
     "That damn process is draining all of man's strength."
     I  looked  around. At the joined  tables the revelers were  kissing the
brand-new candidate, a bald youth, worn out by work and tension. Next to him
was his  wife. At  a nearby table twelve  tourists were  feeding decorously.
There  were smoke and  noise over every table. On  the stage, a saxophonist,
leaning over to the side and jutting out his belly, was wailing  a solo with
variations; the brass section was busy syncopating and the  drummer was in a
frenzy. The band was  doing  a rock  version of an old  folk song. Near  the
stage, without moving their  feet, couples agitated  all the parts of  their
bodies.
     "I'm  not saying  nothing!" our neighbor  announced, staring  into  the
empty carafe.
     "Actually, man's  only  redeeming feature is  his universality," Ivanov
noted. "Even though he does it badly, he can do a lot. But universality is a
product of complexity,  and  complexity  is a quantitative  factor.  When we
learn to make computers tens of billions of times more complex with  the use
of electro-ion beams, it'll be all over. Man's song will be sung."
     "What do you mean?" Lena demanded.
     "Nothing  terrible will  happen, don't worry.  Simply a  situation will
come  about  quietly, with  dignity, in which machines will  be  able  to do
without  man.  Of  course,  the  computers,  respecting the memory  of their
creators, will be kind to all the rest. They'll satisfy  their simple-minded
needs in  terms of metabolism and such. The majority  of people will be very
pleased with the  situation. In their  unflappable  conceit  they  will even
imagine that the machines are serving them. And for the computers it will be
like a  secondary unconditioned reflex,  an inherited  habit. And maybe  the
computers won't have habits like that. After all, the basis of a computer is
rationality. What would they need habit for?"
     "By  the  way,  those  rational  machines are  serving  us  now,"  Lena
interrupted hotly. "They satisfy our needs, no?"
     I said nothing. Valery laughed.
     "That depends on how you look at it, Lenochka! The computers have every
reason  to think that  we satisfy  their  needs. If I were, say, a  Ural-4 I
wouldn't   have  any   grudges  against  people:   you  live  in  a   bright
air-conditioned  room  with  a  steady  supply  of  alternating  current-the
equivalent of hot and cold water.  A  servant in  a  white lab coat scurries
about, fulfilling your every whim, and they write about you  in the  papers.
And the work  is clean:  switch those currents  and transmit those impulses.
What a life!"
     "I'm  not saying nothing!"  our neighbor announced for  the last  time,
then stood up and shouted an obscenity at the room.
     The maitre d' and company ran over to him.
     "So what if I'm drunk," the man yelled, as  he was  assisted out of the
restaurant.  "I'm drinking on my own money-money I earned. Robbery is a job,
too, you know."
     "There he is,  the object  of your concern, in  all his glory!"  Valery
compressed  his thin lips. "A worthy descendant  of the parasite who shouted
'Man-that  has a proud ring!' Not  any more. Well,  how about it,  Val?"  he
turned to me. "Come on over. Get in on the  project. This way you and I will
leave  something for the  future.  Thinking computer-factories,  active  and
omnipotent electronic brains-and  in them your ideas, your work, the best of
us all. What do you think? Man the creator-that still  sounds  good. And the
best will stay  on and  develop even  when that  semiliterate broad, Nature,
will finally uncrown her homo sapiens!"
     "But  that's  terrible,  what  you're   saying!"  Lena   was  incensed.
"You're... a robot! You just don't like people!"
     Ivanov gave her a gentle, condescending look:
     "We're not arguing, Lena. I'm just explaining what's what."
     That was the limit.  Lena clicked off and said  nothing. I didn't reply
either. The silence was getting uncomfortable. I called the waiter and paid.
We  went  out  on  Marx  Prospect,  on  the  "Broadway  of  Dneprovsk."  The
pedestrians defiled it.
     Suddenly Valery grabbed me by the hand.
     "Val, do you hear? Do you see?"
     At first I didn't know what I was supposed to see or hear.
     A  teenage  couple walked past,  both in thick  sweaters and  the  same
hairdo. The boy had a transistor radio around his neck in a yellow pearlized
shell with a  rocket  on it. The pure sounds of the  saxophone and the clear
syncopations of the brass resounded  on the street.  I would have recognized
the sound of that radio  among a hundred brands like a mother recognizes the
voice of her child in the  din of a  kindergarten. The low-noise,  wide-band
amplifier that was in it was one of the things Valery and I had invented.
     "That means they've started production on it," I concluded. "We can ask
for our royalties. Hey, fella, how much did you pay for the radio?"
     "Fifty dollars," the punk announced proudly.
     "There  you  see,  fifty  dollars,  that  equals  forty-five  Mongolian
tugriks. A clear markup for quality. You should be pleased!"
     "Pleased? You be pleased! You said it was terrible  [actually  that was
Lena, not me]. Better terrible, than that!"
     Once upon  a time, we had delved into  quantum physics,  were amazed by
the duality  of the  particle  wave  of the electron, studied the theory and
technology  of  semiconductors, mastered  the  most refined  lab  equipment.
Semiconducting equipment  was the future of electronics  in  those days. Pop
science writers  praised them and engineers dreamed about them.  There was a
lot in  those dreams.  Some came true-the  rest was discarded by technology.
But  we  had  never  dreamed  that  transistors  would   figure   among  the
accoutrements of pimply punks on the prospect.
     And how Valery and I had struggled with  the noise problem! The problem
was  that  electrons distribute themselves in a  semiconducting crystal like
particles of color in water-the same old chaotic Brownian motion. That's why
there's  noise  in earphones,  sounding like the hiss of a phonograph needle
and the distant murmur of the surf. It's an involved  story. I had the first
invention, and the official phraseology of  the application to the Committee
on Inventions of the USSR was music to  my ears: "Submitting with  this  the
above-mentioned  documents, we request an  inventor's  certificate  for  the
invention called...."
     So, all right; someone lived through the  joy  of learning,  ignited in
creative search, experienced engineering  triumphs,  but what does that poor
punk care? He didn't get anything from all  that joy. So there  it is:  turn
over the bloody  tugriks, push the button, turn  the handle... and go around
like a jerk with a clean neck.
     We walked Valery back to his hotel.
     "So?" he asked as we shook hands.
     "I have to think about it, Valery."
     "Think!" Lena gave me a hostile look. "You're going to think about it?"
     She really has no self-control. She could have held her tongue.
     The funny part was that Valery didn't even ask what I was doing. It was
obvious to him that there could be  nothing  good going on at  the institute
and that I had to come over to work with him.
     I'll think about it.

     October 2 7.
     Ivanov called:
     "Have you thought about it?"
     "Not yet."
     "Ah, those women! I understand you,  of course. Decide, Val. We'll work
together. I'll call you tomorrow before I leave, all right?"
     If back then,  in March, when my complex was only beginning to plan and
build itself, I had  stopped  the experiment and analyzed the possible paths
of  development,   everything  would  have  turned   to   the  synthesis  of
microelectronic units. Because that was something  I understood. And  now  I
would be  way ahead  of Valery.  The work  would  have  gone  down different
channels, and it would never have occurred to me or  to anyone else that  we
had overlooked a method of synthesizing living organisms.
     But I didn't overlook it.
     How  pleasant it  had been using my engineering thought to create those
plates with microcircuits in the tank: flip-flops, inverters, decoders! That
'Poem' of his, if you added my computer-womb to  it, would be  a sure thing.
In fact, it  would  be his computer-factory.  I was on top of things in that
area. It's not too late to turn around ....
     And work like that  really could lead to a world or society of machines
totally  independent of man-not robots, but  machines  that  complement  one
another. Perhaps that is the  natural evolution of things? If you look at it
objectively,  there's nothing so terrible about it. Well, there were protein
(ion-chemical)  systems  on earth, and on  the  basis  of  their information
electron crystal systems developed. Evolution continues.
     Yes, but  if you look at things objectively, nothing so  horrible would
happen if there was a thermonuclear catastrophe,  either. Well, so something
exploded, and the radioactive foundation of the atmosphere increased. But is
the earth  still spinning on  its  axis? Yes. And  around the sun? Yes. That
means the stability of the solar  system has not been harmed, and everything
is all right.
     "You don't like people!" Lena  had  said to Ivanov.  What's so  is  so.
Hilobok's  stink,   quitting  the  institute,  bumping  into  our  invention
yesterday-they were all steps on the stairway to misanthropy. And there  are
plenty of such steps in the life of every active person. If you compare life
experience  with  engineering  experience  you  could  really  come  to  the
conclusion that  it's  easier  to develop machines in  which  everything  is
rational and clear.
     But, all right; but do I like people? It  will all depend on that, what
I continue working on.
     I had never thought about it.... Well, I love me, however terrible that
may be. I loved my father. I love (let's say) Lena. If I ever have children,
I guess I'll love them. I don't exactly love Valery, but I  respect him. But
as  for all the people that walk around on the street,  that I run across in
my work, in  public places,  that I  read about in  the newspapers and  hear
about-what are they to me? And who am I to  them? I like good-looking women,
smart,  cheerful men,  but  I  despise  fools and  drunks, can't  stand auto
inspectors,  and am cool  toward  old people. And in the morning rush hour I
sometimes  get the  TBB-the  trolley  and  bus bananas-when I want  to smash
everyone on  the head and jump out the  window.  In a word,  I have the most
varied feelings about people.
     Aha, that's  the point.  We feel respect, love, contempt,  shame, fear,
pride,  sympathy, and  so on about  people. And  about machines?  Well, they
elicit  emotions, too. It's pleasant to work  with  a good machine, and  you
feel sorry if you've ruined a machine or piece of equipment. You might curse
yourself before you find the  trouble .. . but that's completely  different.
These are feelings not  about the machines, but the people who made them and
used them. Or  could use them. Even  the fear of the atom bomb is merely the
reflection of our  fear of the people  who  made it and plan to put it  into
use. And the  plans of people who build machines that will push man into the
background also elicit fear.
     I love life. I love  feeling everything-that's for sure.  And what kind
of life could there be without people? That's ridiculous. Naturally,  if you
juxtapose Ivanov's computer-factory to my computer-womb....
     It's clear. I choose people!
     And the  wise and strong Valery  is even weaker  than I  am. He doesn't
pick his work; his work picks him.
     (Come on, be honest-deep-down honest, Krivoshein. If  you didn't have a
method for creating man on  your  hands,  wouldn't you espouse  the point of
view in favor  of computers? Every one of us specialists is always trying to
give  our work an ideological base. You can't simply admit that you're doing
the  work only because you don't  know how to do anything else! A confession
like that for a creative worker is tantamount to bankruptcy.
     By the way, do I know how to do what I'm planning to do? ...)
     Enough! Of  course, all this  is very  intellectual  and nice:  putting
myself  down,  bemoaning  my  imperfections,  worrying about the discrepancy
between my dreams and actions. But where is that knight of the spirit with a
higher education  and experience in the field to whom I could  turn over the
project with a clear conscience? Ivanov? No. Azarov? I never got a chance to
find out. And the work is waiting.
     So whatever I may be, my finger will rest on the button for now.
     October 28, A phone call at the lab.
     "Well, Val, have you decided to do it?"
     "No, Valery."
     "Too bad. We would  have done some fine  work.  But, I understand. Give
her my regards. She's a nice woman; I'm happy for you."
     "Thanks. I'll tell her."
     "Well, so long. Drop in when you're in Leningrad."
     "Without fail! Have a good flight, Valery."
     You don't understand a damn thing, Valery. The hell with it. It's over!
I think I've gotten my itch to work back. Thanks for that, Valery,  at least
for that!






     You  never know  what's good  and  what's bad. Stenography  came  about
because of  poor penmanship and the theory of reliability from breakdowns in
machines.
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 100

     November 1. And so, without wanting to, I've proven that in controlling
synthesis,  you  can  create a  psychopath  and  a  slave on  the  basis  of
information on, say, an average person. It happened because the introduction
of auxiliary information was done through  crude violence  (oh, I just can't
couch this "result"  in academic  phrases!). Now as a minimum  goal, I  must
prove the opposite possibility.
     The positive  aspect of the experiment with Adam was that  he came  out
physically unharmed. And he looked the way I wanted him to  look. Now I have
experience in transforming the form of the human body. The negative aspects?
The  "convenient" method of many  transformations  and dissolutions is ruled
out categorically; everything has to be done in one session. And the "it-not
it" method of  correction must only be used  in those situations when I know
for sure what "it" is and can  control the changes, simply, by changing only
minor external flaws.
     In a word, I have to start from scratch yet a third time.
     I  want to create an improved version of myself, handsomer and smarter.
The only  possible way is to  record my wishes along with my information  in
the computer. It can either react to them or not.  The worst that can happen
is  there'll be  another  exact copy of Krivoshein-and that's it. As long as
he's not worse.
     The physical part seems rather simple. I'll put on Monomakh's Crown and
picture myself to  the point  of  hallucinations  in  a better  form-without
facial defects (get rid of  the freckles and the scar  over  my eyebrow, fix
the nose, reduce the jaw, etc.) and body flaws (get rid of the fat,  fix the
knee). And the hair should be darker.
     But  as for increasing his  mental capacity. How? Just wish that my new
double be smarter  than me? The computer-womb won't register  that. It deals
only with constructive information. I have to think about it.
     November 2. I  have an idea. It's primitive, but it's an  idea. I'm not
equally  bright  at  different  times of  the  day.  You  get  dull  after a
meal-there is even a biological reason for it (the blood is drained from the
brain). Therefore, I'll record information  on me when I've not eaten  for a
while. Or smoked.
     And here's one more aspect of my  mental ability to take  into account:
the  closer it is  to  night, the more my  sober  and rational  thoughts are
crowded out by dreams, imagination, and feelings. That can be gotten rid of,
too. My dreaming has already gotten me into enough  hot water. Therefore, as
soon  as  evening  comes  on-out  of the  chamber.  Let  my  new  double  be
somber-minded, reasonable, and well-balanced!
     November  17.  It's  been  three  weeks  that  I've  been  getting  the
computer-womb to perfect  me.  I keep wanting to  say "You may!" through the
crown,  to  see what  will happen. But no, there's a  man in there! Let  the
computer absorb my thoughts, ideas, and desires some more. Let it understand
what I want.
     November  25,  evening.  The snow is falling  on the  white  lamp post,
falling  and falling, as if it's determined to  overfulfill the  plan. There
goes that girl on  crutches past our house again, coming home  from  school.
She probably had polio and lost the use of her legs.
     Everytime that  I  see her-with  a big knapsack on her sharp shoulders,
limping uncomfortably with  the crutches, her body  hanging  loosely between
them-I  feel ashamed. Ashamed that I'm healthy as a horse; ashamed that I, a
smart  and educated man, can't help  her. Ashamed  by a feeling of  a  great
impotence that exists in life.
     Children should not be on crutches. What's the point of all the science
and technology in the world, if children use crutches!
     Could  it be  that  I'm still doing  something  wrong? Not  what people
really need? This method of mine won't help the girl in any way.
     It'll soon be a month that I've been planning what I'll think about and
entering the  information chamber, affixing  the sensors to my body, putting
on  Monomakh's  Crown, and thinking aloud. Sometimes I'm gripped  by doubts.
What  if  the  computer-womb  is doing something  wrong  again?  There's  no
control, Goddamn it!  And I get scared, so  scared that I'm  afraid it might
have an effect on the personality of the future double.


     The next entry was made in pencil.
     December 4 Well... in principle, I should be exulting. It worked. But I
don't have the strength, the energy, the  thoughts, the emotions for it. I'm
tired. Oh, how tired I am! I'm too tired to look for my pen.
     The computer took all my desires into account in the physical aspect. I
fixed a few things up in the synthesis process. As the double was appearing,
I didn't have to measure or guess-my  practiced eye immediately picked up on
the  "not  its"  in his  construction  and  controlled the  computer  as  it
corrected them.
     I set  up a ladder in the tank and helped him get out.  He stood before
me,  naked, well-built,  muscular, handsome, dark-haired-still resembling me
but not resembling me. Puddles of the liquid spread at his feet.
     "Well?" I asked, my voice hoarse.
     "Everything's in order," he smiled.
     And  then... then my lips trembled. My face trembled. My hands shook. I
couldn't even light a cigarette. He lit one for me, poured  me some alcohol,
muttering:  "It's all right, everything's  fine, don't...." He comforted me.
That was funny.
     I'm going to try to sleep now.
     December 5. Today I tested the logical capabilities of double number 3.
     First round (playing crosswits): 5-3 in his favor. Round  two  (playing
words):  in  ten  minutes  he  built  eight  more  words  than  I  did  from
"abbreviation" and twelve more than me from "retrogression." Round three: we
solved logic puzzles from  the college text by Azarov, beginning with number
223. I only reached number 235 in two hours of work; he got up to 240.
     I wasn't faking-I was really caught up in the contest. That  means that
he thinks 25-30  percent  faster than  I do-and that's  from a simple-minded
clumsy  attempt  at  improvement.  Just  think  what  could have  been  done
scientifically!
     We'll see how he is at work.
     December  7. Our work so far isn't intellectual. We're cleaning  up the
lab.  And  not only because of the intertwined wires and living hoses. We're
dusting  and vacuuming  and removing  mildew from flasks, and  equipment and
panels.
     "Tell me, how do you feel about biology?"
     "Biology?"  he  looked at me in surprise, then  remembered.  "Oh, I see
where you're  leading. You  know,  I don't understand him either. I think it
was some kind of fixation coming from trying to prove himself."


     "Wow!"  said student  Krivoshein  and even bounced on  his chair.  "Now
that's something!"
     But how... after all, double number  3 was also  a  continuation of the
computer-womb! That meant... that meant that the computer had learned how to
construct the human organism?  Well, of course. He was the first. That's why
all that  complex searching and retrieval  had been  necessary. And now  the
computer remembered all the attempts and picked  from among  them those that
led directly to the goal, constructing a program for synthesizing man.
     That  meant that his  discovery  of  inner  transformations  was  truly
unique. It  had to be saved. The best thing would be to re-record himself in
the computer-womb, not  with  a vague memory of the search, but with precise
and proven knowledge on transforming himself. But why?
     "Ah, how much can you think about  that!" He frowned and went  back  to
the diary.
     December  18. I  don't remember.  Are  these  frosts  the  ones  called
Epiphany frosts or the ones in January?  The northeast wind had brought us a
real Siberian winter and the steam heat can barely hold its own. The grounds
are all white and the lab is brighter.
     I don't know if all the biblical rules were followed but the new double
has been christened. And the godfather was none other than Harry Hilobok.
     This is how it happened. Students from  Kharkov U. came for  their year
of probation  work. The day before yesterday I  dropped by the dorms for the
young specialists and borrowed "for psychological experimentation" a student
card  and a  directive to work here.  The students gaped at me with  awe and
their  eyes  were aglow with  a readiness  to give not  only their cards but
their shoes  for  the good  of  science.  I  borrowed a passport  from Pasha
Fartkin.
     Then we familiarized the computer-womb with the appearance and contents
of the documents.  We  manipulated them in front of  the objectives, rustled
the pages.... When the  passport, the student card, and the form appeared in
the tank, I put on the crown and  with the "it-not it" method  corrected all
the information.
     Double  number  3  is  now called  Victor  Vitalyevich  Kravets.  He is
twenty-three, Russian,  subject to military service, a fifth-year student in
the physics department at Kharkov State U, lives in  Kharkov,  17 Kholodnaya
Gora. Pleased to meet you.
     Am I?  During the operation  the  newly hatched Kravets and I talked in
whispers  and felt  like counterfeiters who  were  about to  be  caught. The
engrained respect for the law in intellectuals showed itself again.
     We also felt strange the next day when we went to see Hilobok: Kravets,
to report in, and me, to ask that he be assigned to my lab. My biggest worry
was that Hilobok would assign him  to another lab. But it worked  out. There
were  more students that  year than snow.  When Hilobok  heard that  I would
guarantee the material needed for student Kravets's diploma thesis, he tried
to foist another two on me.
     Harry, naturally, noted the resemblance between us.
     "He's not a relative of yours, is he, Valentin Vasilyevich?"
     "Well, sort of. A nephew three times removed."
     "Well,  then it's understandable! Of  course, of  course....." His face
expressed understanding of my familial  feelings  and his tolerance of them.
"And will be be living with you?"
     "No, why? Let him stay in the dorms."
     "Oh,  of course." Harry's face made it clear that  my relationship with
Lena  was no secret to him either. "I  understand you, Valentin Vasileyvich.
Oh, how I understand!"
     God, how disgusting it is when Hilobok "oh, understands" you.
     "And   how   are  things   with  your   doctoral   dissertation,  Harry
Har-itonovich?" I asked, to change the subject.
     "The doctoral?" He looked at me very carefully. "It's all right. Why do
you  ask,  Valentin  Vasilyevich?  You're   in  discrete  phenomena;  analog
electronics isn't in your field."
     "Right  now  I don't  know  what's  in my field  and what  isn't, Harry
Haritonovich," I replied honestly.
     "Ah,  so? Well, that's laudable. But I won't be up for  a defense for a
while. My work keeps pulling me away. Current events don't give  me time for
creative work. You'll  do  your defense  before I do, Valentin  Vasilyevich,
both your candidate and doctoral dissertations, he-he...."
     We walked back to the lab in lousy humor. There was a creepy duality in
our work: in the lab we were gods, but when we had to come into contact with
the  environment,  we  had  to  politic,  sneak,   wheedle.  What  was  it-a
characteristic of research? Or of reality? Or, perhaps, of our personality?
     "After all, it wasn't I who invented  a  system of ticketing  humanity:
passports,  passes, requisitions,  reports,  and so on,"  I  said.  "Without
papers you're a gnat; with papers you're a man."
     Victor Kravets said nothing.
     December 20. Well, our work together is beginning!
     "Don't you think that we went overboard with our vow?"
     "?!"
     "Well, not the whole vow, but that sacred part."
     "To  use  the  discovery  for  the benefit  of  mankind  with  absolute
dependability?"
     "Precisely. We've realized four methods: synthesis of information about
man into man; synthesis of rabbits  with improvements and without; synthesis
of electronic circuits; and synthesis  of  man with improvements.  Does even
one of them have an absolute guarantee of benefits?"
     "Hmmmm. No. But the last method at least in principle-"
     "-can create 'knights without fear or flaw,' cavaliers of Saint George,
and fiery warriors?"
     "Let's just say good people. Any objections?"
     "We're not voting  yet. We're discussing. And I think that that idea is
based-please forgive me-on very jejune ideas of so-called good people. There
are no abstractly good and bad people.  Every man is good for  some  and bad
for  others. That's  why  the  real knights without fear and  flaw  had more
enemies than anyone  else.  The only one who's good for everyone  is a smart
and sneaky egotist, who tries to get along with everyone in order to achieve
his ends. There is, however, a quasi-objective criterion: he  is good who is
supported  by  the  majority. Are you willing to  use that criterion as  the
basis for this method?"
     "Hmm... let me think."
     "What  for? If I've already thought about it, after all, you'll come to
the  same  conclusion-that  the  criterion  is  no good.  The  majority  has
supported  God knows who since  time  immemorial. But  there  are  two other
criteria: good is what I think is good (or who I think is good)  and good is
what is  good for me. Like  all  people  who  care professionally about  the
welfare of mankind, we operated on  the basis of both-only in our simplicity
we thought  that  we were  only  using the  first  one,  and  considered  it
objective at that."
     "Now you're exaggerating!"
     "Not  a bit! I won't remind you about poor Adam, but even when you were
synthesizing me you were worried that it should be good for me (rather, what
you thought was good)  and that  it should be good for you, too.  Right? But
that's a subjective criterion and other people-"
     "-with this method could do what they thought was good for them?"
     "Precisely."
     "Hmmm. All right, let's  say  you're right. Then  we  have to  look for
another method of synthesizing and transforming information in man."
     "Like what?"
     "I don't know."
     "I'll  tell  you  what  method  is  needed.  We  have  to  convert  our
computer-womb  into  an  apparatus that  continually turns out 'good' at the
rate of... say, a  million and a half good  deeds a second.  And at the same
time, it should do away with bad deeds at the same rate. Actually, a million
and a half-that's  just a drop  in  the  ocean.  There are three and  a half
billion people on earth and every one of them performs several dozen acts  a
day that can never be construed as neutral. And we still have to  figure out
a method of equal distribution  of this production across the surface of the
earth. In  a  word, it  had  to  be  something  like  an ensilage  harrow on
magnetrons of unfired brick."
     "You're mocking me, right?"
     "Yes. I'm trampling your dream-otherwise it will lead us into God knows
where."
     "You think that I...?"
     "No.  I  don't think that  you  were working  wrong. It  would  be very
strange  if  I  thought  so.  But understand: subjectively  you  dreamed and
thought,  but  objectively  you  did  only  what the  possibilities  of  the
discovery permitted you to do. And that's the point!  You have to coordinate
your  plans with the possibilities  of  the work.  And you  were  hoping  to
counterbalance a  hundred billion varied acts  of humanity a day  with  your
little machine. And it's those hundred billion, plus uncounted past actions,
that determine  the social processes  on earth, their goodness and evil. All
of  science  is incapable of counterbalancing  those mighty  processes, that
avalanche of acts and deeds, first of all because  science makes up  a small
part of  life  on earth, and  secondly  because that is  not its  specialty.
Science doesn't develop good or  evil-it  develops new information and gives
new  opportunities. And that's all. Now  the application of that information
and  the  use  of  the opportunities  determine the  above-mentioned  social
processes  and  powers.   We  will  give  people   nothing   more  than  new
opportunities to produce  people in their own image, and it's  up to them to
use these opportunities to their benefit or harm or not at all."
     "You mean we  should publish the discovery  and wash  our hands  of it?
Well, I never! If we don't give a damn what  happens to it, certainly no one
else will!"
     "Don't be  angry. I don't think we should publish and wash our hands of
it. We have  to go on  working, studying the  possibilities the way everyone
does. But in the research, and the ideas, even in the dreams on project 154,
you must keep in mind that what happens to this project in real life depends
primarily on  life itself, or  to put it  in  a  more cultured way,  on  the
socio-political situation in the world. If the situation develops in a safe,
good  direction, then  we can  publish.  If not-we'll have  to  hold off  or
destroy the project, as foreseen by the vow. It's not in  our  power to save
humanity, but it is in our power not to inflict any harm on it."
     "Hm  . .  .  that's very  modest.  I  think you're  underestimating the
possibilities  of  modern  science. We now have the capability of destroying
humanity by pushing a  button-or several buttons. Why shouldn't there  be an
alternative method to save or at least protect humanity by pushing a button?
And why, damn it, shouldn't that method be in our field of research?"
     "It doesn't lie there. Our direction  is  constructive. It's much, much
harder to build a bridge than to blow it up."
     "I agree. But they do build bridges."
     "But no one's built a bridge that can't be blown up."
     We found ourselves at a dead end.
     But  he's  okay. He  essentially  laid out all  my  vague doubts  in  a
clear-cut fashion; they had been  bothering me for a long time. I don't know
whether to be happy or sad.
     December 28.  So, it's been  a year  since  I sat in the  new lab on an
unpacked impulse  generator and thought about an indefinite experiment. Just
a year? No, time is measured by events and not by the rotation of the earth.
I think at least a  decade has  passed. And  not  only because  so  much was
done-there was so much experienced. I've  started thinking about  life more,
understanding myself and others better, I've even changed a little-pray God,
for the better.
     And  still there  is a dissatisfaction-too much  dreaming,  I  suppose.
Everything  that I've  thought of  has happened, but the wrong way  somehow:
with difficulties, with horrible complications, with disillusionment. That's
the way it is in life. Man  never dreams  about  where he could fall flat on
his face or find disillusionment; that happens on its own. I understand that
perfectly well with my mind, but I still can't resign myself to it.
     When I  was  synthesizing double number 3 (Kravets in civilian life), I
hoped vaguely  that  something would click in  the computer-womb and I would
get  a knight  without fear or flaw! Nothing clicked. He's fine, can't argue
with that, but he's  no knight.  He's sober-minded, reasonable, and careful.
And where was the knight supposed to come from-me?
     Jerk, dreamy jerk! You  keep hoping  that nature will find and hand you
the  absolutely dependable  method-it  never  will.  It  doesn't  have  that
information.
     Damn,  is  it really impossible?  Is the  perfected  Krivoshein-Kravets
really right?
     There is one method of saving  the world by pushing a button; it can be
used in case of thermonuclear war. You hide several computer-wombs that have
been fed information on people (men and  women) deep in a mine shaft  with a
large supply  of reagents. And  if there are no people left in the ashes  of
the earth, the  computers will save and  resurrect humanity. That's one  way
out of the situation.
     But even then it won't work like that.  If  you give the world a method
like that, it will destroy the balance that exists and  push the world  into
nuclear  war.  "People will still live. Atom bombs aren't so  terrible-let's
set them  off!" some idiot politician will think. "The problem of  the  Near
East? There is no Near East! The Vietnam problem? What Vietnam? Buy personal
bomb shelters for your soul!"
     Then that's "not it" either. What is "it?" Is there an "it?"









     Sleep is the best weapon against sleepiness. -K. Prutkov-enzhener
     A Sketch for an Encyclopedia

     A quick-flowing June night: the purple sunset had gone out  in the west
a short  time ago and now in the southeast, beyond the  Dneiper, the sky was
growing light again.  But even a short night is  a night;  it has  the  same
effect on people.  The inhabitants of the shaded parts  of the planet sleep.
The  citizens of Dneprovsk were sleeping.  Many of the  participants in  the
described events were sleeping.
     Matvei Apollonovich Onisimov  was sleeping  fitfully. He had a  lot  of
trouble falling asleep: he smoked,  tossed and turned, and bothered his wife
while  he  thought about  what  had  happened.  When  he  did  fall  asleep,
exhausted, his overstimulated mind offered a terrible dream. It seemed three
bodies  killed by  fire throwers  were found  in three  city parks.  Medical
Examiner Zubato, too lazy  to  examine  all  three bodies, came up  with the
theory that  all  three were killed with  one shot. To probe the veracity of
his theory,  he sat the bodies down on a marble  bench in  the autopsy room,
arms around one another; their wounds matched up.
     Matvei Apollonovich, who usually had black and murky dreams that looked
as  if  they were an old, used film, experienced this  picture in  3-D, with
color  and  smell; there were three Krivosheins in a  row-huge,  naked, pink
ones smelling of meat-and they were staring  at him with photogenic  smiles.
Onisimov  woke  up  in  protest.  But (the  dream  had helped)  he  had  the
beginnings  of a good theory when he woke up: they were boiling the murdered
Krivoshein's body in that  lab! After all-a body is the most important  clue
and it's risky  to hide  it or bury it;  it could be found. And so they were
boiling or disintegrating  the body  in  a special  liquid,  and  since this
wasn't an easy matter,  they  miscalculated and  the  tank turned over.  And
that's why the body seemed  warm when Prakhov the technician found it in the
tank!  That's  why it  melted so fast, soaked as it was  in their chemicals,
leaving only a skeleton. The lab assistant had been knocked out by the tank,
and the other conspirator-the  one who was pulling all those tricks in front
of  him  yesterday-ran off.  (It  was  clear  that the mystifier  or  circus
performer was  either using masks or else was well trained in mimicry.)  And
then  he arranged for an  alibi-he could  have  fooled that Moscow professor
with his masks and mime. And his papers were just very good fakes.
     Matvei Apollonovich lit another cigarette. And still this was no simple
crime. If the perpetrators were working both  here  and in  Moscow and there
was  no motive  of greed,  personal  vendetta,  or sex, then . . .  probably
Krivoshein had  made a serious invention or discovery. No, tomorrow he would
insist  to  his chief that they bring in  the security  organs on this case!
(Although Onisimov will never know what happened, we must give credit to his
detective  ability. Really: not  knowing  anything about  the essence of the
case and  using only the external  accidental facts, he managed to  build  a
logical, consistent theory-not everyone can do that!)
     Having made the decision, Matvei Apollonovich slept soundly. Now he was
having pleasant dreams: he'd been promoted for solving the case.  But dreams
are even less subject  to our  control  than  reality, and  the investigator
began  groaning  and tossing.  His awakened wife asked:  "Matvei, what's the
matter?"  Onisimov had dreamed that there  was a fire in the  department and
the new promotion list had been destroyed.


     Arkady Arkadievich  Azarov had  just fallen  asleep, and  only with the
help   of   two  sleeping  pills.  (He'll  wake  up  in  the  morning   with
neurasthenia.)  He was also tormented by thoughts of  the  events in the New
Systems  Lab.  He  had  already  gotten a  phone  call from the  Party  City
Committee:  "Another accident, Arkady Arkadievich?  With  a  loss  of  human
life?"  How do  they  find  out  so fast? Now  it  would all begin: reports,
commissions, explanations.... But that's why he was a director and got a fat
salary, so that he could be  driven crazy! These are  the things,  for which
he's  not  responsible  and couldn't  possibly  be  responsible,  that  cast
aspersions on his honest, productive, positive work! Arkady Arkadievich felt
alone and miserable.
     "I  should never have  set up that lab of 'random retrieval.'  I didn't
listen  to myself. I  mean the  whole  idea  of random  test  and  free-form
combinations  being a  path that would bring truth and correct  solutions to
science went deep  against my own  grain. And it still does. The Monte Carlo
Method-just  look at  the name!  Belief in  chance-what  could be worse in a
researcher?  Instead of analyzing  the problem logically and confidently and
slowly  reaching its  solution, you try your luck,  even with the aid of lab
equipment and computers! Of  course, you  can build pseudoscientific systems
and algorithms that way, but don't they resemble the 'systems' gamblers have
for beating  the bank and  which always make them bankrupt? Big deal, so you
changed the  name  of the  lab.  But  the  essence was the same. You let  it
develop, because there is  this tendency in world systemology. And so let it
develop in our institute, too. It's developed all right!"
     Arkady Arkadievich hadn't  expressed his misgivings  to Krivoshein back
then, because he didn't  want  to dampen  his enthusiasm.  He  merely asked:
"What  are you planning to achieve... through  random retrieval?" "First and
foremost  to master the methodology,"  Krivoshein had answered, and that had
pleased Azarov more than if he had spewed out hundreds of ideas.
     "But  he  wasn't  just  mastering  the  methodology/'Arkady Arkadievich
remembered  the  laboratory,  the setup  that  looked like  an octopus,  the
expensive  collection of test tubes  and  flasks. "He  was doing  some  vast
experiment. Could he have really been doing what he had  reported  on at the
scientific council? But it ended up with a corpse. A corpse that turned into
a  skeleton!" Azarov  felt revulsion and  anger.  "I  have to put an end  to
experimentation;  something  always   goes  wrong!  Always!  Systemology  is
essentially a cerebral science. The  analysis  and synthesis  of  any system
must  be promoted! And if you want to work with computers-please do, program
your  tasks and go  into the  computer  room. And  basically with  all these
experiments," the academician laughed lightly, calming down, "you never know
what you've got: a hugh mistake or a discovery!"
     Arkady Arkadievich  had a  long-time score to  settle with experimental
science, and his opinions on it were  firm  and definite.  Some thirty years
ago the  young  physicist  Azarov was  studying  the  process of  liquifying
helium. Once  he  stuck two glass  stirrers into his  Dewar  flask, and  the
liquid, cooled down  to 2 on the  absolute scale,  evaporated very quickly.
Two  liters of then  precious helium  disappeared  and  the  experiment  was
ruined! Arkady  accused  the lab's glass  man of sticking him with a  faulty
Dewar flask. He had  been penalized ... and two years later a  classmate  of
Azarov's  at  the  university, Pyotr Kapitsa,  in  an  analogous  experiment
(lowering capillary stirrers into a vessel) discovered the superfluidity  of
helium!
     Arkady Arkadievich grew  disillusioned in experimental physics and came
to love the  dependable and strict  world  of  mathematics. It was math that
elevated him-the mathematical  approach to the  solution of  nonmathematical
problems. In  the  thirties he applied his methods  to the  problems  of the
general  theory of relativity, which had all science  enthralled;  later his
research helped solve important problems in the theory of chain reactions in
uranium  and  plutonium.  Then he applied his  methods  to  the  problems of
chemical catalysis of polymers; and  now he was head of the discrete systems
direction in systemology.
     "Eh, I'm still  thinking  about the  wrong  thing!" Azarov  complained.
"What did happen in Krivoshein's lab?  I remember last autumn he came to me,
wanted to talk about something. What? Work, naturally. And  I waved him off.
I was too busy. Somehow you  always consider things that can't be put off as
the most important. I should have talked to him; I'd know now what happened.
Krivoshein never approached  me again. Of course, people like that are proud
and  shy. Wait-what kind of people? What's Krivoshein like? What  do  I know
about  him?  A few lectures at  seminars, an  appearance  at the  scientific
council, several exchanges with other lecturers, and a nodding acquaintance.
     Can I base a  judgement on that? Yes, I can.  I'm not so bad at judging
people. He was an active and creative person. You recognize people like that
by their  questions and by their answers. You can  see  the constant thought
flow-not  everyone can see it, but I'm the same way; I  can  recognize it. A
man eats, goes to work,  greets friends, goes to the movies, argues with his
co-workers, lends money, tans at the beach-he does it all wholeheartedly-and
yet all the time he's thinking. On one  subject. The idea has no relation to
his actions or daily cares, but there is nothing that will distract him from
that idea. It's the most important part of him: new things are born from it.
And Krivoshein was like that. And it's too bad that's in the past tense-life
loses something  very necessary with the death  of a man like that. And  you
feel even more  alone.... Well,  enough, what am I going  on about?"  Arkady
Arkadievich looked at the time. "I must sleep."


     Harry  Haritonovich Hilobok couldn't fall asleep that  night either. He
kept looking at  the lighted window across the way in Krivoshein's apartment
and tried to  guess who was that in there. Lena Kolomiets left rapidly after
ten  (Harry  Haritonvich  recognized  her figure  and walk,  and thought: "I
should get to know her better.  There's a lot to her"), but the light stayed
on.  Hilobok turned out his lights, and  seated himself at the window with a
pair  of binoculars, but the  angle was wrong-he could only see part  of the
book shelf and the Olympic-ring logo on the wall. "Did she forget to put out
the  light? Or is there someone else in there? Should I call the police? Ah,
the hell  with  them. Let them  figure  it  out."  Harry Haritonovich yawned
deliciously. "Maybe it's the police in there investigating...."
     He went back into  his room and lit the night-light, a naked woman made
out  of fake  marble with a light  bulb inside. The soft  light fell  on the
bearskin rug on the floor, the walls covered with blue wallpaper with golden
storks, the polished grain of  the desk,  the bookshelves,  the closet,  the
television set, the quilted pink couch, the  dark red carpet with a scene of
ancient feasting-everything was meant to be conducive to sensuousness. Harry
Haritonovich undressed and went to look  at himself in the mirror.  He liked
his face: the straight large nose; the smooth, but not fat, cheeks; the dark
mustache-there was something of Guy  de Maupassant about  him. Very recently
he had  been trying  on his doctor-of-technical-sciences  look.  "Why did he
have to do that, that Krivoshein?" Harry Haritonovich felt his heart beating
madly. "What had I ever done to him? I even voted for his project and helped
his relative get a  job at the lab.  He doesn't have  a  dissertation and he
envies the rest! Or was it because I didn't fill his request for the  SES-2?
Well, it doesn't matter-there is no more  Krivoshein.  He's gone. That's the
way it  is. The winner in life  is gone. That's the way it is. The winner in
life is the one who outlives his adversary."
     Hilobok was  pleased  with  the  humor  of  his  thought  and wanted to
remember it. It should be noted that Harry Haritonovich was not as stupid as
one might assume from his behavior. It's just that he based his formula  for
success on the following: they expect less from a fool. No one ever expected
great ideas or  knowledge  from  him; thus on  those rare  occasions when he
would display some knowledge or the tiniest idea, it came as such a pleasant
surprise  that   his  colleagues   would  think:  "We   underestimate  Harry
Haritonovich,"  and  try  to   compensate   for  that  evaluation  in  their
disposition toward him.  And that's  how his articles got into the anthology
Questions of Systemology-the editors, naturally expecting nothing very good,
were  bowled  over by the few grains of  reason  in them. Harry Haritonovich
turned  in  work to  people who  were  already demoralized  by his talk  and
behavior. But something went wrong with his dissertation... but, never mind,
he would get his!
     Harry  Haritonovich was lulled  by  pleasant thoughts and  rain-bowlike
hopes. He was sleeping soundly and without  dreams,  the way they  must have
slept in the Stone Age.


     Officer Gayevoy was sleeping  and smiling, just returned from his night
shift.


     After a good cry about Krivoshein and herself, Lena fell asleep.


     But not everyone was  asleep. The police guard Golovorezov was fighting
off sleepiness at his post watching the New Systems Lab; he  was sitting  on
the steps of  the lodge, smoking, and  looking at the stars over the  trees.
Something rustled in the  grass  not far away.  He shined  his flashlight: a
red-eyed albino rabbit looked at him from the  bushes.  The guard shooed him
away. Golovorezov had no idea just what kind of a rabbit it was.


     Victor Kravets tossed and turned on the hard cot under a cloth  blanket
that smelled of disinfectant in the solitary confinement cell of the prison.
He was in that state of nervous agitation when sleep is impossible.
     "What  will  happen  now?  What   will  happen?  Did  graduate  student
Krivoshein get  out of  it,  or will the laboratory and the  project perish?
What  else  can I  do  to  help?  Fight  back?  Confess?  To  what?  Citizen
investigator, I'm guilty of good intentions-good intentions that didn't help
anything. I guess  that's  a  heavy guilt, if that's how it's worked out. We
kept  rushing-hurry! hurry!-to master the  discovery, to reach  that  method
'with absolute dependability.' And even  though I didn't admit it to myself,
I expected us to come up with it too. Evolution brought new information into
man gradually, by  the  method of small trials and small errors, testing its
benefit with innumerable experiments. And we-we  tried to do  it  all in one
experiment!
     "We should have dropped the idea of possible social repercussions right
off the bat and worked  openly and  calmly like everyone  else. In the  long
run,  people aren't children. They must understand what's what on their own.
We  figured  out  everything:   that   man  is  a  super   complex,  protein
quantal-molecular system, that  he is the product of natural evolution, that
he is information recorded  in the liquid.  The one thing we missed was that
man is man.  A  free creature. The master of his fate and  his  actions. And
that freedom began  long before  all the rebellions and revolutions, on that
distant day when a humanlike ape thought: 'I  can climb up the  tree  to get
the  fruit but I can also knock it down with the stick  in my hand. Which is
better?' It wasn't just thinking, that ape-it  had seen storms make branches
knock down fruit.  Freedom  was  the opportunity  to  choose  a  variant  of
behavior based on  knowledge. From that day every discovery, every invention
has given people new opportunities, made them even freer.
     "Of  course, there have  been discoveries (not many) that  told people:
don't! You  can't build perpetual motion machines;  you can't pass the speed
of light; you can't accurately measure the speed and position of an electron
simultaneously.  But  our  discovery  forbids  nothing  and  doesn't  change
anything. It says: go ahead!
     "Freedom. It's  not  easy  to recognize  your  freedom  in  our  modern
society, and pick variations of  your behavior wisely and well.  Millions of
years of the past hang over man when biological laws determined the behavior
of  his  ancestors and everything was simple. And now he  is still trying to
lay the blame for his mistakes on circumstances, on cruel fate, and to place
hopes in  God, on  a strong personality, on  luck-just so  it's not him. And
when the hopes shatter, man looks and finds a scapegoat: the people  who had
raised the hopes are  free of guilt. In essence, people who take the path of
least resistance do not know freedom."
     The peephole in  the  door opened,  letting  in a ray  of light; it was
blocked by  the  guard's face. They  were probably checking to see if he was
planning another break. Victor Kravets laughed silently: naturally the clink
was  the best place to meditate  on freedom!  He acknowledged  with pleasure
that despite all the recent hassles he hadn't lost his sense of humor.


     Double Adam-Hercules was sitting and  reminiscing on a bench at the bus
stop  on an empty  street. Yesterday,  as he was  coming  from the  railroad
station,  thinking about  the three currents of information (science,  life,
art) that affect man,  he had the beginnings of a vague, but very  important
idea.  He was interrupted by  the  three men  with the  demand  to show  his
papers, those  so and so's.... He was left with the feeling that he had been
close  to  a valuable guess. He  would have been better off without it, that
feeling. Now he wouldn't get any sleep!
     "Let's try it again. I was thinking about what information can be used,
and  how,  to ennoble man? Krivoshein had  the idea of synthesizing a knight
'without  fear or flaw.' And now I've got it and I  can't reject it. I ruled
out information  from  the  environment  and  from  science,  because  their
influence on man can  be equally good  or bad.  There is only  the method of
awakening good thoughts with a lyre-art.
     True, it  does awaken them,  but the  lyre is an imperfect  instrument;
while it's being plinked,  man  is ennobled, but  when it stops, so does the
effect. There is something left, of course, but not much, just a superficial
memory of  seeing a  play or reading  a  book. Well,  all right, what  if we
introduce this information into the  computer-womb during  the  synthesis of
man. What if we record the  contents of  many books, show  several excellent
movies? It would  be the  same thing:  it  would  remain in the  superficial
memory-and that's all. After all, the book's not about him!
     "Aha, that's  what  I was  thinking about: there is a  transparent wall
between the source  of  art information and  its receptor-a  concrete  human
being. What is that wall? Damn  it, will life experience always be  the main
factor in the formation of the personality? Do you have to  suffer yourself,
to understand the suffering of others? Make mistakes to learn the right way?
Like a child  who has to burn himself to keep  from sticking his hand in the
fire. But that's a hard way to learn,  life experience, and not everyone can
master it. Life can ennoble you but it can also make you bitter and stupid."
     He lit a cigarette and paced back and forth in front of the bench.
     "Information from art is not processed thoroughly enough by man so that
he  can use it to solve his  own problems in life. Wait! The information  is
not processed to the point  of problem  solving....  I've heard that before!
When? In the beginning of the  experiment: the early complex sensors-crystal
unit-TsVMN-12  did not absorb my  information-Krivoshein's  information-it's
the same thing! And then I used feedback!"
     Adam was no longer pacing; he was running  on the spit-covered pavement
from the wastebasket to the lamp post.
     "Feedback,   that's  what  I  want!   Feedback,  which  increases   the
effectiveness of information systems a  thousand times. That's why there's a
wall. That's  why  the effect  of  art  information  is  so low-there  is no
feedback between the  source and  the receptor.  There  is some,  of course:
reviews, readers' conferences, critical magazines, and so on, but that's not
it. There has to be direct, technical feedback, so that the information from
art that is  being  introduced into a  person  can be changed  to  suit  his
individuality, character,  memory, abilities, even appearance and biography.
In  that way his own  behavior in  critical situations can be played for him
during  synthesis (let  him  make his mistakes,  learn from them,  seek  the
correct  solutions!); he can be displayed to himself-instead of an  invented
hero-with his spiritual world, abilities,  qualities, and flaws. He can help
him find himself..  and then that great  information  will  become  his life
experience. It will take on the  universal  force  of truth that  comes from
scientific  information. This  will be a new kind  of  art-not written,  not
acted,  not  musical-everything  together,  expressed  in  biopotentials and
chemical reactions. The art of synthesizing man!"
     Suddenly he stopped. "Yes, but how do you do that in the computer-womb?
How do you create that kind of feedback? It won't be easy. Well-experiments,
experiments, and more experiments-we'll do it! We managed to create feedback
between the parts of the complex. The important thing is we have the idea!"


     Vano Aleksandrovich Androsiashvili wasn't sleeping either, in his dacha
outside Moscow. He was standing on the veranda, listening  to the rustle  of
the rain. Today at  a department meeting  they discussed  the work of  their
students. Krivoshein came out looking the  worst: in a year's time he hadn't
taken a single  exam; lately his attendance  at  lectures  and labs had been
erratic;  and  he  hadn't chosen a topic  for  his  dissertation.  Professor
Vladimir Veniaminovich Valerno expressed the opinion that the man was taking
up a place in the graduate department for nothing, getting a fellowship, and
that it wouldn't be a bad idea to free that spot for someone more deserving.
Vano Aleksandrovich had wanted to say nothing, but lost his temper, and said
many rash and angry things to Vladimir Veniaminovich about condescension and
disdain in judging  the work of young researchers.  Valerno was stunned, and
Androsiashvili himself felt bad: Vladimir Veniaminovich didn't  deserve that
kind of rebuke.
     Vano  Aleksandrovich had spent many an evening pondering the miraculous
healing  of  the student after he was hit  by the  icicle, remembering their
conversation about  controlling metabolism in  the organism, and came to the
conclusion  that Krivoshein  had  discovered and  developed  the  ability to
regenerate  tissue  rapidly,  an  ability  characteristic  of  the  simplest
coelenterates. He couldn't  imagine  how  he had done it. He was waiting for
Krivoshein to come  and tell him:  Vano Aleksandrovich was willing to forget
his injured feelings and  promise silence, if necessary. He'd do anything to
find out! But Krivoshein was silent.
     Now  Androsiashvili  was mad  at himself  for not  finding out why  the
police  were holding  the student  when he  had talked to them  yesterday on
their videophone. "Has he done something? When did  he have time? He came by
the department in the morning to announce that he had to go to Dneprovsk for
a few  days. Krivoshein's second mystery." The professor chuckled.  But  the
anxiety didn't go away. All right, there might  have been a mishap, but what
if  it was  something  serious?  Say what you will,  but Krivoshein  was the
discoverer  and bearer of  an important discovery about man. That  discovery
must not perish.
     "I have to go to Dneprovsk," the thought suddenly came to him. But then
the proud blood of  a  mountain  dweller  and  corresponding member  of  the
Academy boiled over:  he, Vano Aleksandrovich Androsiashvili, would  rush to
help out  a graduate student who  had gotten into a mess! A  student that he
took into the  department out of  pity and who had hurt him  deeply with his
lack of trust?
     "Yes,  rush off!" Vano Aleksandrovich shook  his head, calming himself.
"First of all, you, Vano, don't believe that Krivoshein committed any crime.
He's  not the  type. There's some problem or misunderstanding  there, that's
all. You have to help him. Second, you've been dreaming of a way to gain his
confidence and get closer to him. Well, here it is. Maybe he has good reason
for hiding. But don't let him think that Androsiashvili  is a man that can't
be counted on, who withdraws from  petty irritations. No! Of course, even in
Dneprovsk you won't begin to question him-he'll tell you if he wants to. But
that discovery must be saved. It's more important than your pride."
     Vano  Aleksandrovich  felt better because  he  had overcome himself and
reached a wise decision.


     Graduate  student Krivoshein  wasn't  sleeping  either.  He  was  still
reading the diary.






     According  to the  teachings of  Buddha,  the way  to rid  yourself  of
suffering is to rid yourself  of ties. Won't someone tell which  ties 1 must
sever to stop my eyetooth from aching? And hurry!
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, an unumbered thought

     January 5. Here I am in the position  of a human rough draft for a more
perfect  copy.  And  even  though I'm the creator of the  copy,  it's  still
nothing to be happy about.
     "You  know,  your nephew is very  attractive," Lena said to me after  I
introduced them at a New Year's party. "Simpatico."
     Back at home, I spent a whole  hour staring  at myself in the mirror: a
depressing sight. And he was good at small talk; I was no match for him.
     No, Victor Kravets  was  behaving  himself like  a gentleman with Lena.
Either earlier memories  are  having an effect or he's just  feeling out his
possibilities in breaking hearts, but  he appears to be uninterested in her.
If he made the effort, though, I'd never see Lena again.
     When he and I walk around Academic Town or along the institute grounds,
girls who never  nodded to me before  greet me loudly  and joyously: "Hello,
Valentin Vasilyevich!"-with an eye on the handsome stranger next to me.
     And he's  so good on skis!  The three of us went out of town yesterday,
and he and Lena left me far behind.
     And how he danced at the New Year's ball!
     Even  Ninochka, the  secretary,  who didn't know the way  to the  lodge
before, always seems to be dropping by with a paper from the office for me.
     "Hello, Valentin Vasilyevich!  Hello, Vitya... oh,  it's so interesting
here, all these tubes!"
     In a word, I now can  observe myself every day the way  I am and myself
the  way  I would  be if  only... if only  what? If only it weren't for  the
hunger  during  and  after  the war, the  strong  resemblance to  my  father
who-alas!-was  not  too handsome  ("Pudgy-faced,  just like his father!" the
relatives used to say,  cooing  over me), the bumps and potholes in the road
of life. If only it weren't for my rather unhealthy life-style: the lab, the
library, my room, conversations, thinking, the miasmas from the reagents-and
no physical recreation. Really, I didn't try to become an ugly, fat, stooped
egghead-it just happened.
     In principle,  I should be  proud: I beat Mother Nature!  But something
gets in the way....
     No, there's something damaging about this idea.  Let's say  we  perfect
the method of controlled  synthesis. And we create marvelous  people-strong,
beautiful, talented, energetic, knowledgeable-you know, masters of life from
advertising  posters  like  "We  saved   at   the  bank   and  bought   this
refrigerator!"  But what about the  people that were  used  as  a basis  for
them-does  that mean that they were nothing more than rought drafts sketched
by life? Why should they be demeaned?  That's a fine reward for their lives:
regret for your imperfections, the  thought  that you will never be  perfect
because you were made by a regular mama and not a marvelous contraption?  It
turns out that with our  system people  will still be pitted against people.
And  not  only  against bad ones-against  everyone, since  we all  have some
imperfections. Does that mean that good but ordinary people (not artificial)
will have to be crowded out of life?
     (There! That's just like you, Krivoshein-you're so thick-skinned. Until
it  affects  you  personally you don't think  about  it.  "Whup  him  with a
two-by-four," as your daddy used to say. But all right, I got it now. That's
the important thing.)
     There's  plenty to think about  here. I  guess  all human flaws  have a
common nature-they're exaggerations. Take a quality that's pleasant to  have
in people around you: simplicity.  We're inculcated with it  from childhood.
But if nature flubs it, or your upbringing  spoils it, or if  life  goes the
wrong  way-you end up with sleepy  stupidity instead of  simplicity. You can
also get cowardice instead of reasonable caution, false conceit instead of a
necessary  confidence,  cynicism instead  of  sober  daring,  or  sneakiness
instead of brains.
     We use a  lot  of words  to  hide  our impotence  in the face  of human
imperfections: jokes  ("A bear stepped on  his ear,"  "He was  dropped  as a
baby"),  scientific  terms ("anemia," "personality breakdown/'  "inferiority
complex"),  and homilies  ("That's  not  for  him," or  "He has  a  gift for
that...."). We used to say "God's gift." Now in our materialistic age we say
"nature's  gift," but basically,  it's the same thing: man has  no  control.
Some have it and some don't.
     And  you can guess  why some don't. In  primitive societies  and  later
social  formations  man's  perfection was not compulsory. If you knew how to
live, work,  multiply, and be a little crafty-fine, it was enough! Only now,
when we  have  a constructive idea of communism, and not just a Utopian one,
we  are developing  real demands  to be  made  on man.  We  are taking man's
measure for this marvelous idea-and it's painful to see the things we hadn't
noticed before.
     January 8. I shared my thoughts with Kravets.
     "You want to employ the synthesis  method  on ordinary  people?" double
number 3 quickly deduced.
     "Yes. But how?" I looked at him hopefully. Maybe he knew?
     He understood my look and laughed.
     "Don't forget that I'm you. On the level of knowledge, anyway."
     "But maybe you have a better idea of what that liquid is?" I pointed at
the  tank.  "You  came out  of it after all... like  Aphrodite from the  sea
spray. You know, its composition and so on."
     "In two words?"
     "You can use three."
     "All right. That  liquid is  man. Its composition is the composition of
the human body. Besides that, the liquid is a  quantal-molecular biochemical
computer that can  teach itself and has a  huge memory, and each molecule of
the liquid  has some unique bit of information. In other words, do what  you
will, the liquid of the computer-womb is merely man in  a liquid state.  You
can draw scientific, practical, and organizational conclusions based on that
fact."
     I had the  feeling that this new problem hadn't captured him the way it
had me. I tried to stir up his imagination.
     "Vitya,  what if this  method is  really 'it? It's for ordinary people,
after all, and not-"
     "You go  to-(tsk, tsk, and an artificial  man at  that!).  I absolutely
refuse to look at our work from the 'it-not it' point of view and in keeping
with  a  vow I never made.  Nowadays you should  have a much cooler view  of
vows! (Well,  if  you  call that  a  cooler  view....) You want  to  use the
discovery to transform people?"
     "Into angels." I threw fat on the fire.
     "The  hell  with   angels!  An  informational  transformation  of  homo
sapiens-and that's  it! You have to look  at the problem  from the  academic
point of view!"
     It was my first opportunity to see  him lose control and turn  into ...
me. No  matter how you try to hide  it, the Krivoshein personality surfaces.
But  at  least he  was  churned up. That's the most important thing when you
begin a new research project-to get churned up and hate the work.
     As a result of a six-hour conversation with a dinner break we made four
steps in the realization of the new problem.
     Step  1: Artificial  and natural people, judging by  everything  (well,
even by the  fact  that  ordinary food wasn't  poison  for  the double)  are
biologically  identical.  Therefore, everything that the  computer-womb does
with  the doubles, can in principle (if you forget about the difficulties of
technical  realization, as  they  say in articles) be extended  to  ordinary
people.
     Step 2:  The computer-womb  obeys commands on  alternations in the tank
without any mechanical apparatus or control equipment. Therefore, the liquid
in the control circuit  is  the executive biochemical mechanism; it performs
controlled metabolism, as the biologist would say, in the tank-


     -"Damn it!" the student muttered and smoked nervously.


     -or  more accurately, transforms  external information into  structured
encoding in matter: organic molecules, cells, corpuscles, tissue....
     Step  3:  In  principle,  how  can  a  person  be  transformed  in  the
computer-womb? An artificial double  is  born  in  it  as  an  extension and
development  of the machine's circuitry. In the transparent stage he already
senses and feels like a person, but cannot function actively (the experience
with  Adam  and  Kravets's confirmation).  Then the double  continues to the
nontransparent stage,  detaches  himself  from  the  liquid  circuit  of the
computer-womb (or it from him), takes control of himself, and climbs out-no,
no, this  must be academic sounding-and unplugs from the  computer.  With an
ordinary  person, apparently, we would have to operate in reverse, that  is,
plugging the  person into the machine  first. Technically: immersing the man
in the liquid.
     Step 4: But can  a person be plugged into the computer-womb? After all,
what's needed here is  no  more and  no less that-I do know  something about
neurophysiology;  I've read Ashby-total contact of the entire nervous system
with  the  liquid.  Our  conductor-nerves  are  isolated from  the  external
environment  by skin, tissue,  and  the skull. In  order to get  to them the
liquid circuit would have to penetrate the person.
     We decided that it could penetrate. After all, man is a solution. Not a
water solution (otherwise people would  dissolve in water); there's not that
much  free  water  in a  person.  It's that damn quantitative  analysis that
confuses  everything, the hypnosis of numbers that comes when you take apart
human tissue  and get these  figures: water 75 percent, protein  20 percent,
fat 2 percent, salt 1 percent, and so on. Man  is a biological solution, and
all his components coexist  within him in unity and  interrelation. The body
contains  "liquid  liquids": saliva,  urine,  blood plasma,  lymph,  stomach
acids-they can  be poured  into  a  test tube. Other liquids  fill  the cell
tissues-the muscles, nerves, brain-and here each cell is a test tube itself.
Biological liquids even  permeate the bones, as if they were  sponges. Thus,
despite  a  lack  of proper vessels, man has  much more reason  to  consider
himself a liquid than, say, does a forty-percent solution of sodium hydrate.
     To be even more precise, man is  information  recorded in a  biological
solution.  Beginning  with  the moment  of conception, transformations  take
place in this solution; the muscles, intestines, nerves, brain, and skin all
form. The  same  thing-but faster  and in a different way-takes place in the
liquid of the computer-womb. So, however you look at it, the two liquids are
closely related, and their mutual penetration is quite possible.
     No matter how much  we wanted to  check  every  hypothesis  as soon  as
possible in the computer-womb, we controlled  ourselves and  spent the whole
day  on  theory.  We've  played enough  with chance.  This  time we'll  plan
everything thoroughly.
     So, the first thing is to plug in.
     February!. Ah, those were  good theories that  we were tailoring to fit
what had  already been done!  The building  block  game, the  mathematics of
"it-not  it"... it's nice to look back on how  smoothly it all went. Build a
theory to help you achieve new results that are much more complex.
     For now  the theoretical  liquid (the liquid  circuit) in  the  tank is
behaving like vulgar water. Just thicker.
     Do  I need to write how the very next day we ran to the lab bright and'
early,  and  in  trepidation  and  anticipation, stuck our fingers  into the
tank-"plugging in." And  nothing. The liquid  wasn't warm  or cool. We stood
around like that for an hour: no sensation, no changes.
     Do I need to describe  how we bathed the last two rabbits in the liquid
trying  to  plug them  into the computer?  The computer-womb didn't obey the
order "No!"  and didn't dissolve  them. It ended with the rabbits  drowning,
and we couldn't save them by pumping them out.
     Do  I need  to mention that we lowered  conductors into the  liquid and
watched  the  movements  of  floating potentials  on  the oscillograph?  The
potentials   vacillated  and  the  plotted   curve   looked  like  a  jagged
electroencephalogram. And so what?
     That's the way it always is. If I were a novice, I'd quit.
     February 6. An experiment: I lowered my finger into the liquid, Kravets
put on Monomakh's Crown and began touching various  objects with his finger.
J  could  feel what surfaces he was touching! There was something  warm (the
radiator), something cold and wet (he stuck his finger under the tap).
     That  meant  my finger  was  plugged in! ?  The computer was  giving me
information about  external  sensations through  my finger. Yes, but they're
the  wrong ones.  I  need signals  (even in  sensations) of the work of  the
liquid circuit in the tank.
     February 10. A small, innocent, trifling result. In scope it's inferior
even to making the rabbits. Simply, I cut the fleshy part  of my palm  today
and healed the cut.
     "You see," Kravets said  meditatively  in the morning, "for  the liquid
circuit  to have  the sensation  of working, it has to work. And  what is it
supposed to work on, I ask you?  Why should it plug  into you, or me, or the
rabbits? We're all complete. Everything is in informational balance."
     I don't know if I really figured  it out faster than he  did (I flatter
myself  into thinking yes) or whether  he just didn't want to  hurt himself.
But I began the experiment: I destroyed the  informational equilibrium in my
organism.
     The scalpel was sharp  and inexperienced. I sliced through my flesh all
the way to the bone. Blood drenched my hand. I put  my  hand in the tank and
the liquid turned crimson around it. The pain didn't disappear.
     "The crown-put on the crown!" Kravets shouted.
     "What crown? What  for?" The pain and the sight  of  blood kept me from
thinking straight.
     He  pushed Monomakh's Crown on my head, clicked the dials-and  the pain
disappeared instantly;  in a few seconds the liquid  was clear  of blood. My
hand was enveloped in  a  pleasant  tingle-and  the miracle  began: my  hand
became transparent before my eyes!
     First  the red plaits  of the  muscles showed. A minute later they  had
dissolved, and the white bones of the  fingers showed through the red jelly.
A violet blood vessel, thickening and thinning, pushed blood near the sinews
in my wrist.
     I grew scared and I pulled my hand out of the tank. Immediate pain. The
hand was whole, but  it shone as  if it had  been oiled; heavy drops dripped
off  from the tips of  my transparent  fingers. I tried wriggling my fingers
but  they wouldn't obey. And then I noticed  that my fingers were thickening
into droplet-shaped forms. That was terrifying.
     "Put it back or you'll lose your hand!" Kravets shouted.
     I put it back and concentrated on the  cut. There was  a delicious ache
there. "Yes, computer ... that's it.  That's  it,"  I  repeated.  The tingle
weakened and  the  wrist was losing  its transparency. Sighing in relief,  I
took out my hand: there was no more cut, just a big reddish blue scar. A few
transparent drops  of ichor  oozed in the crack. The scar  itched and buzzed
unbearably. This probably wasn't the end, then. I put my hand in  the liquid
again.  Again-transparency,  tingling.  "That's  it,  computer.  That's it."
Finally the tingling stopped and the hand was no longer transparent.
     The whole  experiment  lasted  twenty minutes. Now I couldn't show  you
where I cut myself with the scalpel.
     I have to figure this out. The most interesting aspect of this was that
I didn't have to give  the  computer-womb any special  information on how to
heal  a cut-as if I could. Probably  my little encouraging  that's it's were
superfluous. The feeling of pain had given  rise to rather eloquent biowaves
in my brain as it was.
     It looks like the computer-womb  plugs into  a person with  a signal of
imbalance in  the system.  But this  signal wouldn't necessarily have  to be
pain: it could  be  a willed command to  change something in  yourself or  a
dissatisfaction ("not it"). And then it could be controlled with sensation.
     A  minor,  ineffective  experiment  compared with everything  that came
before it.  After all the cut could have been doused with  iodine, bandaged,
and it would have healed on its own.
     But it's the most important experiment we've done in a year's work! Now
our discovery  can be used  not  only to synthesize  and  perfect artificial
doubles but to transform complex informational systems that are contained in
a  highly  complex  biological solution,  which  we  simply  call  man.  The
transformation of any person!
     February 20. Yes, the liquid  circuit  plugs into a human organism on a
willed command, too. Today  I removed  the  hair from  my arm up to my elbow
this  way. I  put  my hand  in  the  tank,  put  on  the  crown.  "Not  it,"
concentrating  on the  hair.  The prickling and itching increased. The  skin
became transparent. A minute later the hair had dissolved.
     Kravets  used  the  method to  grow nails on his pinky and index finger
that  were over  an  inch long. He  dipped both plams  into the  liquid  and
changed his  usual fingerprint sworls into something resembling the tread on
a winter tire.  Then he tried to restore the original pattern, but he didn't
remember what it looked like.
     Now  I   see   why  nothing  worked  with  the  rabbits-they   have  no
consciousness, no will, no satisfaction with self. This is a method for man.
And only for man!


     Graduate  student  Krivoshein  skimmed the  rest,  to  memorize it.  He
flipped through the pages of the diary,  photographing them with his memory.
It was  clear to him: Krivoshein  and  Kravets had  reached the same thing a
different  way-they  could  control  metabolism  in man.  But they needed  a
computer.
     And  it  was  important  that  they  needed  mechanical help.  Now  his
discovery wasn't unique, a  freak, but knowledge on how to alter oneself. It
wasn't enough to have a  method  of  transformation-you had to have complete
information on the human organism. They didn't have it and couldn't possibly
have  it.  And  his  "knowledge  in sensations"  could be  encoded into  the
computer and passed  on to the world. To  every human being. And every human
being could have unheard-of power.
     The student slitted his eyes in thought, and leaned  back in the chair.
The fight  against disease would soon be forgotten!  The  elements  would be
subordinate to man without machines.
     The  blue  ocean  depths,  where  he will  go  without  diving  gear or
bathyscaphe. A human dolphin will be able to grow fins and gills at will and
enjoy the water environment, live in it, work in it, travel through it.
     If he wants to go into the air, he can grow wings and fly, soar like an
eagle on the warm air currents.
     Hostile  alien  planets:  the poisonous  atmosphere of  chlorous gases,
heated by the sun and the uncooled magma or chilled by the cosmic cold, full
of fatal bacteria. And man will be able to live there as freely as on earth,
without  special suits or  biological shields. He will  merely transform his
organism to breathe chloride instead  of oxygen and perhaps change the usual
protein of his body to an organosilicon one.
     The important thing about man is  not that he  breathes oxygen. Not his
arms and legs. You can develop fins, gills, wings, breathe fluorine, replace
protein  with  organosilicon, and  still be  man. And  you  can have  normal
extremities, white skin, a head, and papers-and  not be  one! "Yes, but...."
Krivoshein leaned on the desk. His eyes fell on his original's notes.


     Disease and freakishness will disappear. Wounds  and poisons will be no
threat. Everyone  will be  able to become  strong, brave, beautiful, will be
able to mobilize the  resources of his organism to do work that  once seemed
impossible. People will be like gods! Well, what are you smiling wisely for?
This is really the method for the limitless perfection of man!"
     "I'm wise, so I'm smiling," Kravets answered coldly. "You're flying off
somewhere again. That's not the only possibility."
     "Oh,  come on!  Doesn't  every  person strive to  become  better,  more
perfect?"
     "Strives  in keeping with his concepts of good and perfection. For  one
thing, you might end up with "Krivoshein's cosmetic baths. "
     "What baths?"
     "You know... five  rubles  a session. A  citizen  shows  up,  undresses
behind  a  screen,  and sinks into the biological liquid.  The operator-some
Zhora Sherverpupa,  former hairdresser-puts  on  Mono-makh's Crown and asks:
'What would you desire?' This time I want to look like Brigitte Bardot,' his
client orders. 'But  make sure  my eyebrows are  thicker  and darker. My guy
really likes 'em dark.' Why are you frowning?  She'll even give Zhora a tip.
And the male clientele will  be turning  themselves  into Alain Delon or the
Nordic handsomeness of an  Oleg Strizhenov. And then next season the fashion
will be for Lollabrigidas and Vitaly Zubkovs, as seen in the picture...."
     "But  we  could program  a  minimal  retrieval of  information for  the
computer-womb... some kind of filter for banality and stupidity.  Or program
it to-"
     "-simultaneously instill inner qualities in the  mass consumer? What if
he  doesn't want  any? Doesn't  he have the right not  to  want any for  his
money? 'What  am I,' some little lady  will ask, 'abnormal or something. Why
do  you  think you  should  change me?  You're  the weirdos!'  You  see, the
reinforced concreteness of the  position of the middle-class boob stems from
his absolute certainty that his own behavior is the norm."
     "But we can make sure it's not the norm for the computer-womb."
     "Hmmm... I suggest a simple experiment. Please  put a  finger into  the
liquid."
     "Which one?"
     "Whichever one you won't miss."
     I dipped  my ring finger  into the liquid. The double put on the  crown
and went over to the medicine chest.
     "Attention!"
     "Ow,  what  are  you  doing?" I  pulled out the finger. It was cut  and
bleeding.
     Victor Kravets sucked his ring finger and then wiped the blood from the
scalpel.
     "Do you see  now?" The computer has no norms  of  behavior. It  doesn't
give a damn about anything. Whatever you command it to do, it does."
     We healed the cuts.
     Kravets brought  me down from the heavens-headlong down  a steep flight
of stairs.  We're a dreamy lot, inventors. And  Bell  probably thought  that
people would  use his telephone only for  pleasant  or  necessary news,  and
certainly  not  for gossip, or anonymous  denunciations,  or for  sending an
ambulance to perfectly  healthy  friends as a joke.  We all dream  about the
good thing, and when life turns our inventions inside out,  we just slap our
sides, like loggers in a forest, and ask: "What are you doing, people?"
     The  hellish  part of science  is that  it creates methods and  nothing
else. So we will have a "method for transforming information in a biological
system."  You can turn a  monkey into a  man. But you could  also turn a man
into a donkey.
     But I can't, I can't believe  that after our discovery things  would go
on  as  they were!  Not for the sake of science-for  the sake  of life.  Our
discovery  was  intended for  life:  it doesn't  shoot; it  doesn't  kill-it
creates. Maybe we're  looking in the wrong  place-the problem  isn't in  the
computer but in man?
     Graduate student  Krivoshein finished reading  the diary to  the  inner
accompaniment of these troubling thoughts. Had they worked for  nothing? Was
their discovery too soon, ahead of its time, and  could it harm  mankind? In
Moscow  he hadn't  given much thought  to it: the  discovery was only within
him-it  had nothing to do with anyone  else-and he just explored  it to  his
heart's content and said nothing.  Of course, after his bath  in the pool of
the reactor  he was  bursting to  share his knowledge  and  experiences with
Androsiashvili  and the guys  in the  form: radiation and radiation sickness
can  be  overcome!  But this  knowledge was  top  secret... "because  of the
dregs!" Krivoshein was angry. "Because of the dregs, of whom there are maybe
one in a thousand and for  whom that prostitute science prepares methods  of
destroying cities and nations! Only methods. I guess we'll have to just wipe
out those vipers. No one would catch me or shoot me... but then I'll be just
like them. No, that's not it, either.


     The student shut the diary and raised his eyes.  The table lamp was lit
without  illuminating anything. It was light. Beyond the window the matching
yellow  faces of the  buildings  of Academic Town  stared into  the  sun; it
looked  like  the herd of houses would  take off after the light any second.
The clock said 7:30 in the morning.
     Krivoshein lit up and went out on the balcony. People were gathering at
the  bus  stop. A  broad-shouldered man in a blue raincost  paced  under the
trees.  "Well,  well!" Krivoshein was  amazed by his tenacity. "All right, I
have to save what can be saved."
     He went back inside, undressed, and  took a cold shower. Then he opened
the closet,  critically  eyed the  meager selection  of  clothes. He chose a
Ukrainian shirt  with  embroidery. He gave  the worn  suit  a dubious stare,
sighed, and put it on.
     Then the student trained in front of the mirror for fifteen minutes and
left the apartment.






     "Hey! Stop! Don't be a jackass!"
     "Easier said than done,..." muttered the jackass, and
     rambled on.
     -A contemporary fable

     The man in the raincoat noticed Krivoshein, turned to him, and stared.
     "God,  what  a  bumbling  amateur  detective!"  Krivoshein  thought  to
himself. "None of  this watching my  reflection in store  windows or  hiding
behind a newspaper-he's pushing his way toward me like a preneanderthal on a
county bus!  Don't they  train  these guys?  They should at least read comic
books to improve their technique. A guy like this is really going to solve a
crime, hah!"
     He was angry. He walked right up to the man.
     "Listen,  don't you  ever get  relieved? Doesn't the seven-hour workday
law apply to detectives?"
     The man raised his eyebrows quizzically.
     "Val,..." he said in a soft baritone. "Val, don't you recognize me?"
     "Hm...." Krivoshein blinked, stared, and  whistled. "I  see... you must
be the double Adam-Hercules? So that's it! And I thought...."
     "And then, you're not Krivoshein? I mean, you are  Krivoshein, but  the
Moscow one?"
     "Right. Well, hello ... hello Val-Adam, you lost soul!"
     "Hello."
     They shook hands. Krivoshein examined  Adam's wind-burned, tanned face:
the  features  were coarse, but handsome. "Val did a good job, just  look at
him!" But the light eyes behind the bleached lashes hid a certain temerity.
     "There's going to be an awful  lot of Valentin  Vasilyevich Krivosheins
around here."
     "You can call me Adam. I think I'll adopt the name."
     "Where have you been, Adam?"
     "In Vladivostok. God...."He chuckled, as though not sure whether he had
the right to joke or not. "In Vladivostok and its environs."
     "Really? Teriffic!" Krivoshein looked at him  enviously. "Did you  work
on the ships?"
     "Not  quite. I  blew up  underwater cliffs. And  now I'm back  to  work
here."
     "And you're not scared?"
     Adam looked into Krivoshein's eyes.
     "I'm scared, but...  you see, I have an idea.  Instead  of synthesizing
artificial  people  I  want   to  try  to  transform  regular  ones  in  the
computer-womb. Well... you know, put them in the liquid and act on them with
external information. I guess that's possible, no?"
     Adam  was too diffident, he knew he was, and  was sorry that he put the
idea so clumsily.
     "It's a good idea,"  the  student  said. He  looked  at  Adam with  new
interest. "I guess we're not that different," he thought. "Or is it just the
internal logic of the discovery?" He went on. "But it's been done, Val. They
put  various parts of their bodies  into our native element. I think they've
even gotten in completely."
     "Is it working?"
     "It's working... only I'm not sure about the last experiment."
     "That's  marvelous!  You  see... then...  then  we  can  introduce  art
information into man with retrieval on  a feedback  basis."  And Adam, still
shy and confused, told Krivoshein his plan for ennobling man through art.
     The student understood.
     He  quoted  from  Krivoshein's diary: "We have  to base our work on the
fact  that man  strives  for  the  best,  that  no one,  or  almost no  one,
consciously wants to  perform  vile or stupid deeds,  that  such deeds are a
result of misunderstanding. Things are complicated in life; you can't figure
out right away  whether you're behaving the  right  way or  not. I know that
from  my own experience. And if you give a person clear information that his
psychology can respond to-about what's good, what's bad, what's stupid-and a
clear understanding that any of his vile or stupid acts will eventually turn
against him, then you don't have  to worry about him  or  his behavior. This
information could be introduced into the computer-womb as well-"
     "He's done that, too?" Adam was surprised.
     "No. There was only a vague idea  that it  was necessary. That the rest
would be meaningless without it. So your idea is right on the mark. It fills
in the blank, as  we say  in  academic circles. Listen!" Krivoshein suddenly
realized. "And with an idea like that you walked around, following me like a
detective instead of just hailing me or coming up to the apartment?"
     "You  see," Adam tried to explain, "I thought that you... were him. You
walked right past me, didn't recognize me, didn't acknowledge me. I  thought
you-or  rather he-didn't  want  to see me. We  parted  unpleasantly...."  He
lowered his head.
     "Yes.... Have you been to the lab?"
     "The lab? But I don't have a pass. And my papers are Krivoshein's, they
know them there."
     "How about over the fence?"
     "Over  the  fence?"  Adam  shrugged  in  embarrassment. The idea hadn't
occurred to him.
     "The man develops the most audacious, daring ideas but in real life ...
my God!" Krivoshein shook his head in disapproval and tried to explain: "You
have to get rid of that  lousy temerity  before life, before people or we'll
be  lost. And the  work  will be lost. Well, all right."  He  handed him the
keys. "Go  make  yourself  at  home and  get some rest. You've  been hanging
around all night; you need it!'
     "Where is... he?"
     "That's what I'd like to know: where he is, and  what happened to him."
The  student  looked  worried. "I'll try to clear all that up. I'll see  you
later. So long." He smiled. "It's really terriffic that you came."
     "No, a person can't be  thrown  off the track that easily!"  Krivoshein
thought as he headed for the institute. "A great project,  a major idea  can
subjugate  anything,  can make you  forget  insults and personal goals,  and
imperfections. Man strives for the best: he's absolutely right!"
     Overcrowded morning buses  rushed past him. The student noticed Lena in
one of the them: she was sitting by  the window and staring abstractly  into
space. "Ah,  Lena, Lena, how could you?" Reading the diary  had a tremendous
effect on him: he felt that he had spent that  year in Dneprovsk. Now he was
simply Krivoshein and his heart  contracted with the memory of the pain that
that woman had caused him (yes, him!).


     I know what our research is leading  up to, there's no point in kidding
ourselves: I have to get  into the tank. Kravets and I are  performing minor
educational experiments with our extremities. I even used the liquid circuit
to fix up my knee tendons, torn so long ago, and now I don't  limp. All this
represents  marvels in  medicine, but  we're aiming for something bigger-the
transformation  of  an entire person! We can't  putter around here, or we'll
spend another twenty years  around the tank. And I'm  the one who has to  go
in, an  ordinary, natural person. There's nothing more for Kravets  to do in
the tank.
     Actually,  I'll  be  testing  myself,  not the computer-womb.  All  our
knowledge and usage of the word "good" isn't worth a thing if man won't have
the will power  and determination to undergo informational transformation in
the liquid.
     Of course, I  won't come out  of the bath transformed. First of all, we
don't  have the  necessary information to  make substantial  changes  in the
organism  or  intellect; and secondly,  we don't need that for  a beginning.
It's  enough  to  experience  being plugged into the computer-womb, to prove
that it's  possible and not dangerous-and, well, to change something  in me.
Make that first orbit around the earth, so to speak.
     Is it  possible?  Is it  dangerous?  Will  I  return  from the orbiting
capsule, from the  experiments?  The  computer-womb is  a complicated thing.
We've  discovered  so many new  things  in  it,  and  we  still  don't  know
everything about it. I'm not too comfortable  with the  shining prospects of
our research.
     This  is the  very time I should get married. The hell  with my careful
relations with Lena; I  need her. I want her to be with me, take care of me,
worry about me, yell  at me when I come home late, but give me dinner first.
And (since  everything  is clear with  the synthesis of doubles)  let future
Krivosheins  appear not  from the computer  but as a result of good,  highly
moral relations  between parents. And let them  complicate our lives-I'm for
it. I'm getting married! Why didn't I think of it before?
     Of  course,  to get married now  when we're about to do this experiment
... well, at least there'll be a permanent reminder of me-a son or daughter.
People used to go  to war, leaving wives  and children behind. Why  can't  I
behave in the same way?
     This may  not be on the  up and  up-getting  married  when  there is  a
possibility of leaving a widow behind me. But let those who  have  done what
I'm doing condemn me. I'll accept it from them.
     May 12. "Marry me, Lena. Let's live together. And  we'll have  children
as beautiful as you and as smart as me. Hummmm?"
     "Do you really think you're smart?"
     "Why not?"
     "If you were smart you wouldn't make suggestions like that."
     "I don't understand."
     "There, you see. And you think you'll have smart children."
     "No, tell me. What's wrong? Why won't you marry me?
     She stuck the last pin into her hair and turned from the mirror to me.
     "I  love it when you pout. Darling Val! My lovely red-haired  bear. You
mean you've developed some honorable intentions? You sweetie!"
     "Wait! Are you agreeing to marry me?"
     "No, my love."
     "Why not?"
     "Because  I  understand a little more than  you do about  family  life.
Because I know nothing good will come of it for us. Just think back. Have we
ever  talked about  anything serious?  We just meet, spend  time....  Think.
Haven't there  been  times when I come to see you, and you're busy with your
thoughts  and you're not happy, even angry,  that I'm  there? Of course, you
make  believe-you  try hard, but  I  can  tell. What  will  happen  if we're
together constantly?"
     "Do you mean-you don't love me?"
     "No,  Val," she looked at me sadly. "And I won't fall in love with you.
I  don't  want to.  I  used  to ... to  tell  the  truth,  I worked at  this
relationship.  I  thought  a quiet and unattractive man  would love  me  and
appreciate me. You have no idea, Val, how I needed the warmth and comfort of
a relationship! But I didn't get warm near  you. You don't love me very much
either.  You  don't belong to me,  I can see that. You  have  another  love,
science!"  She  laughed  angrily.  "You've  invented all sorts  of  toys for
yourselves: science, technology, politics, war. And women are just something
on the side. Well,  I  don't want to  be  something on  the side.  It's well
known:  women are fools.  We take everything seriously. We know no bounds in
love and  can't do a  thing with ourselves...."  Her voice trembled and  she
turned away. "I would have said all this to you anyway. I was wrong again!"
     Actually, there's no  need for details. I  threw her out.  I'm  sitting
here over my diary.
     So, it was all planned.  Don't love  a handsome man, love a crummy one.
And I wanted to create a big family....
     I feel cold. Oh, so cold!
     Lena's not mercenary. Then what is she? Actually, she was right: I knew
that myself. And how! But this light relationship suited me before. "Will it
do?"-as they ask in the store, offering you margarine instead of butter.
     Nothing  happens  in  life to  no purpose. I'm the one who changed, who
realized things in time, and  she's  still the same. I  fell for a storybook
illusion, what a jerk. I wanted to get warm.
     And that's it. There will never be anything in my life. I'll never find
anyone like Lena. I'm not willing to go in for one-night stands.
     Lena didn't want to become my widow.
     It's cold....
     We've lost spontaneity, the ability to follow our feelings,  to believe
on  faith  because we  believe, to love because we're in love. It's possible
that it happened because everyone got burned  more than once, or because  in
the theater  and movies  we see  how  those  feelings are  manufactured,  or
because  life  is  so complicated  and  everything must be  thought  out and
planned-I don't  know. "Tenderness, in a  Taylor series expansion...."  I've
been expansive enough.
     Now  we  have to understand  with our  reason just how important solid,
strong feelings are in human life. Who knows, maybe it's good that it has to
be proven. And it will be proven. Then people will develop a new naturalness
of  feeling,  strengthened  by  reason,  and they'll understand that without
feelings there is no life.
     And for now... it's cold.
     Ah, Lena, Lena, my poor frightened girl! Now, I think, I really do love
you.


     Investigator Onisimov reached the New Systems Laboratory at 8:30 in the
morning.  The  guard  on  duty, Golovorezov,  was  sitting in the sun on the
porch, leaning against the door with  his cap  over  his  eyes.  Flies  were
crawling around his open mouth and on his cheeks. The guard moved his facial
muscles, but didn't wake up.
     "You'll get a bad burn on duty, comrade guard," Onisimov said sternly.
     The guard woke immediately, fixed his cap, and stood up.
     "Everything quiet here, comrade captain. There were no incidents in the
night."
     'I see. So you have the keys?"
     "Yes sir."  He pulled the  keys from his  pocket. "You gave them to me,
and I have them."
     "Don't let anyone in."
     Onisimov  unlocked  the  door and shut  it  behind  him. He  found  his
bearings in the dark hallway easily, maneuvering among the boxes and crates,
and reached the door to the lab.
     He looked around  carefully in the  laboratory.  There were  gelatinous
puddles  on  the  floor,  their dried edges  curling  up. The hoses  of  the
computer-womb hung limply from the  bottles and flasks.  The lights were out
on the control  panel.  The switches on the electric panel were sticking out
sideways.  Onisimov  inhaled the stale  air carefully  and  turned his head:
"Aha!" Then he took off his blue jacket,  hung  it neatly on  a  chair back,
rolled up his sleeves, and got to work.
     First of all  he rinsed the teflon tank with water, stood it back up on
the floor,  and removed  all  the  hoses and  conductors  from  it.  Then he
followed the power cable  and  found the burnt-out  part  that  had shorted,
eaten away  by acids, near the wall board.  He took  rubber  gloves from the
drawer,  got the right tools from  the cabinet, went back  to the cable  and
cleaned and patched it up with insulated tape.
     A few minutes  later  it was  all done.  Onisimov, taking  a  breather,
stretched and turned  on the electricity. The transformers  in  the  TsVM-12
began humming. The air vents rustled, and the exhaust fan whined, picking up
speed. The green, red, blue, and yellow lights  on the control panel blinked
aimlessly.
     Onisimov, biting  his  lower  lip  in  anxiety,  got  a  full  flask of
distilled  water and  added it to  all the flasks;  he got  Krivoshein's lab
journal  from  the  desk,  and  deciphering  the  notations, started  adding
reagents  to the bottles  and flasks. When he finished all this, he stood in
the middle of the room expectantly.
     The trembling light flitted from  one end of  the control  panel to the
other, and up and down  and down and up-tearing around  like a maddened bulb
on an electronic billboard.  But gradually the random movement began forming
a  pattern  of broken lines.  The green vertical lines were shaded with blue
and yellow lights. The red lights blinked more  slowly:  soon they  went out
completely. Onisimov kept waiting for the "Stop!" signal to go on at the top
of the panel. Five minutes, ten, fifteen... the signal didn't come on.
     "I think it's working." Onisimov rubbed his face with his hand.
     Now  he had to wait. So as not to sit  by idly,  he filled a  pail with
water  and washed the floor. Then he taped  up  the torn wires of Monomakh's
Crown, read the  notes in  the journal, got together some  more reagents and
poured them in. There was nothing else to do.
     He  heard  footsteps  in  the  hall.  Onisimov  turned toward the  door
sharply. Golovorezov came in.
     "Comrade captain, scientific secretary Hilobok  is out  there. He wants
to come in. He says he has something to tell you. Should I let him in?"
     "No. Let him wait. I have to talk to him, too."
     "Yes, sir."
     "Well,  I guess I'll  have to  talk to  Harry," Onisimov chuckled. "The
perfect time to remind him of recent events."
     May  17. But Harry Haritonovich bent the truth when he  said he  didn't
have time to write his dissertation!  He  lied. Yesterday, it turns out,  he
had  his  preliminary defense  of his  doctoral  at a closed session  of our
scientific council. We do what so many organizations do: before  letting one
of our people out into the world, we listen to  him in  our  private circle.
His  official  defense will take place  in a few days at Lena's construction
project bureau.
     Oh, Harry isn't lying for nothing! There's something going on.
     May 18.  Today I knocked at the  window next to which a local institute
poet, who wished to remain anonymous, had written in pencil:

     Be worthy of the first form.
     The enemy does not sleep!
     Major Pronin.

     I was  worthy. That's  why Joahann Johannovich let me into  the  closed
reading  room and gave  me a copy of the dissertation of  technical sciences
candidate H. H. Hilobok to attain the degree of doctor of technical sciences
on the top of... well, I can't write about that.
     Well,  brother....  First  of  all, the  topic deals  totally  with the
development of the blocks of memory that Valery and I had done long ago, and
it looks like Hilobok was at least the inventor and director of the project;
it doesn't come out  and say  so,  but you can  read  it  between the lines.
Secondly, he allowed himself  free  improvisation in part of the explanation
and interpretation of the results, and  made major mistakes. Thirdly, he has
long-proven facts,  determined  by  foreign  systemologists  and electronics
people,  introduced by "It has been  determined by experiments that...." How
could the scientific council  let that get by? It's May, and half the people
are on business trips or vacation.
     No, he won't get away with this.
     May  19. "Do you know math?" Kravets asked when I told him about it and
my plans for it.
     "Yes, why?"
     "Then add it up: two days to  prepare for participation in the defense,
plus a day for the defense,  plus a month of hassles afterward. You're not a
baby.  You  know you won't  get  by  with a  joke  like  this.  What's  more
important: you'll be squandering a month of our  work,  the results of which
will  influence the world more than all the technology extant today, or some
lousy  dissertation, which  won't affect anything?  One more or less in  the
world, no difference."
     "Hmm ...  and  now  I'll  show you a  different  math.  You and  I  are
identical  people with identical ability, and in some  ways you've surpassed
me. But if I were to go over to that Harry Hilobok and, without delving into
particulars, tell him that  student Kravets is stupid,  hasn't the slightest
understanding of  computers (even  is weak  in math), breaks  equipment, and
secretly drinks alcohol, what do  you think  would happen to Kravets? Kicked
out of the institute and out of  the dorms. And he's gone. He won't  be able
to prove anything  to anyone, because he's  only a  student. And  that's the
comparative power that Hilobok will have over us when he becomes a doctor of
sciences. Have I convinced you?"
     I convinced him so  well that he set off immediately for the library to
take notes from open sources.
     I  have another  justification: we have to  think  not  only about  our
research  but  also about defending the correct application of our discovery
some day. And we don't yet know how to do that. We have to learn.
     The hell with careful justification! I mean am I alive in this world or
is it only my imagination?
     May 22. It all  began normally enough. A small but  impressive audience
gathered in the hall  of the construction bureau. Harry  Haritonovich put up
several  sheets of  oaktag with  graphs  and  charts on the  board, struck a
picturesque pose next to them  and delivered  the  usual twenty-minute talk.
The audience  listened  with the usual discomfort. Some had no idea what  he
was talking about; others understood some of it; and still others understood
it  all: just what  this Hilobok was, and what  his dissertation was on, and
why he kept it secret. But all those present thought glumly that it was none
of their  business, and really, that they could not cast the first stone-the
usual sleepy  thoughts that permit thousands of inept and sneaky  louts into
science.
     Harry  finished. The chairman  read critical  response to the work. The
response was good (but who would submit unfavorable ones to his dissertation
defense?). The only serious unexpected thing was that Arkady Arkadievich had
written  a response to the work,  too.  Then the  official opponent took the
stage. Everyone knows what an  official opponent does: in order to  earn his
name,  he notes  several inconsistencies,  several  incomplete thoughts, and
"yet  in sum total  the work corresponds... the author is deserving  of...."
Well,  I won't lie about  this one: the opponent from  Moscow  was a  highly
qualified man  and  he mocked  all the propositions of the dissertation  and
made  it clear that  he could  expose  the whole  thing,  but he did  it  so
carefully and  subtly that  probably even Harry  didn't see it. "Yet  in sum
total the work deserves...."
     And  finally: "Who would like  to speak?" Usually by this time everyone
is disgusted by the proceedings; no one wants anything; the candidate thanks
everyone-and it's over.
     Laboratory  head  V. Krivoshein breathed in and out  deeply  (by then I
realized  how much trouble  this  would cause)  and raised  his hand.  Harry
Haritonovich was unpleasantly surprised. I spoke twenty minutes,  as he had,
and  in  unfolding my point  of view I  handed the council members journals,
magazines,  monographs,  brochures,  and so on  that contained  the  results
Hilobok  was defending without  any  mention of him.  Then  I re-created his
circuit for ... never  mind for what, particularly since its  only redeeming
feature was its "originality," and proved that the circuit would not work in
the frequencies of the required range. There was a hubbub in the hall.
     Then appeared candidate  of sciences V. Ivanov, who had  specially made
the trip from Leningrad (not without a phone call from me). He clarified the
borrowed  data  and  took  apart the  "original"  part  of the dissertation;
Valery's  speech  was full of erudition and  subtle humor. The audience grew
noisier-and then it began!
     My old friend  Zhalbek  Balbekovich Pshembakov  tried  to find out from
Harry how was it that in circuit number  two... it's not worth writing about
either.  Hilobok didn't know how it was, but he tried to get away with  some
bull and  babble. Then  the  other  colleagues  of the  construction  bureau
entered the  fray. The last speaker was the chief  engineer, a professor and
Nobel Prize winner  (I won't  mention his name in this context). "I had  the
feeling from the first that there was something wrong here," he began.
     So the  first form didn't help Hilobok;  they squashed his dissertation
like God can squash a turtle! Harry was  a pitiful sight. Everyone was going
off to his office and he  was taking  down his magnificent displays, and the
stiff oaktag rolled up and hit him in the mustache. I went over to help.
     "No, thank  you," Hilobok muttered. "Are you satisfied? You don't write
anything  and you don't let  anyone else do it, either. It's an  easy  life.
Valentin Vasilyevich, nature has endowed you with certain gifts...."
     "Sure, it's easy! My salary is  half  of yours,  and my  vacation time,
too. And I'm swamped with work and responsibilities."
     "You add  to  your  worries  unnecessarily. Why  did  you  have to  get
involved in this?" Harry, rolling up his displays, gave me a threatening and
angry look. "You have to think about the institute, not  just about yourself
and me. Well, this isn't the place to talk about it."
     So that's the ticket. Well, it doesn't matter. I feel wonderful now. As
though I had done something that was infinitely more valuable and meaningful
than even our discovery: I squashed a viper. That means  it's  possible. And
not as terrible as I had expected.
     Now  I'm not so worried about our work's future. Problems like this can
be surmounted, too.


     "But it did  have an effect on his work," muttered Onisimov-Krivoshein,
watching the computer-womb. "Everything has an effect on the work."


     May 29.  Today  I was called onto Azarov's  thick carpet. He  has  just
gotten back from a trip.
     "So you realize what you've done?"
     "But, Arkady Arkadievich, the dissertation-"
     "We're  not  talking about Harry Haritonovich's dissertation, but about
your  behavior! You've  undermined the institute's prestige, and in no small
way!"
     "I expressed my opinion."
     "Yes, but where? How? Is it so  difficult to comprehend that in another
organization you are not simply an engineer trying to even a scholarly score
with  someone (well, Harry  told  his side!) but  a  representative  of  the
Institute  of Systemology!  Why  didn't  you  express  your opinion  at  the
preliminary defense?"
     "I didn't know about it."
     "Nevertheless  you  could  have told  it  to my  replacement after  the
defense. It would have been taken into account!"
     (He's talking about Voltampernov-a likely story!)
     "It wouldn't have been taken into account."
     "I see we  won't reach  an  agreement.  What  are  your  plans for  the
future?"
     "I don't intend to resign."
     "I'm not asking you to.  But  it seems  to me that you're not ready  to
head a laboratory. A scientist working in a collective must bear the good of
the  collective  in  mind and at  any rate, certainly not deal it any  death
blows  by  his behavior. I  imagine that you will have  trouble, at the next
qualifying session, passing to lab head. That's all. I won't keep you."
     So that's how it is. The whole institute is  abuzz with turkey gobbles:
"An engineer against a candidate! Keeping him from his doctorate!" Thanks to
Harry everybody thinks that I was trying to settle a score with him. They're
dragging  out my old sins:  the chewing out,  the  accident in  Ivanov's lab
(Matyushin,  the  head janitor, is planning  to sue  me for  damages).  They
realized that  I  haven't  turned  in an annual  report  on my project, even
though topic 154 isn't  over until  this year. They say that a commission to
check on the lab's work should be set up.
     My  enemies shout. My  friends  whisper  carefully,  looking over their
shoulders: "You really  gave it  to  Hilobok.  The  jerk  deserves it. Well,
they'll  get you now." And they suggest  where  I should tranfer. "Why don't
you  intercede?" "Well, you see...."  Even good old  Fenya  Zagrebnyak  just
spreads his hands apart. "What can I do? It's not in my field."
     A narrow specialist has a  lousy life. Well-fed, secure, but lousy. All
his interests are  concentrated on elements of passive memory, say,  and not
on  any  old  elements  but only  on  cryotron  elements, and only  on  film
cryotrons and only on those made of lead-tin films.  The worker, the farmer,
the technician, the  broad-based engineer, the teacher,  and even the office
worker can apply his knowledge  and skills  to many activities, enterprises,
and companies,  but  there are only  two  or three  institutes in  the whole
Soviet Union studying those damned cryotrons. What can poor Fedya do? He has
to sit there and not make waves.  In effect, a  narrow speciality is a means
of self-enslavement.
     That's why  it's rare among us specialists to find all for one  (unless
the  one  is Azarov).  All  against  one  is  the more usual picture; that's
easier.  That's why passions flare up at the first sign  of insubordination.
"Anyone could be  failed like that!" yelped Voltampernov-and it went  on and
on.
     All  right, I'll bear it. I  can  take it. The important thing is  that
it's  done.  I  knew what  I  was  getting  into. But  it's  repulsive. It's
unbelievably disgusting.
     Onisimov put  out his  cigarette and  stared at the computer. Something
had changed slowly and imperceptibly in the distribution  of the hoses. They
seemed to  be  tensed. A  shudder of contractions traveled  through some  of
them. And-Onisimov jumped-the first drop fell loudly from the left gray hose
into the tank.
     Onisimov moved the stairs  over to the tank and climbed up.  He put his
hand under the hose. In a minute it was full of the golden liquid. The lines
in  his skin  were visible through it, as if under  a  magnifying glass.  He
concentrated, and the skin disappeared, revealing the red muscles, the white
bones,  the tendons.... "Ah,  if they  had only  known how to do  this,"  he
sighed.  "The experiment wouldn't have gone like this. They didn't know. And
it had an effect."
     He let the liquid splash into the tank, got back down to the floor, and
washed  his hand in the sink. The patter  of  drops from all  the hoses rang
merrily and springlike in the lab.
     "Work! You're strong, computer," Onisimov-Krivoshein said respectfully.
"As strong as life."
     He obviously didn't want to leave the laboratory. But he glanced at his
watch, put on his jacket, and hurried.
     "Good morning, Matvei Apollonovich!" Hilobok greeted  him  rapturously.
"Working already? I've been waiting for you. I wanted to report  something,"
he  whispered, bringing  his  mustache close  to Onisimov's  ear, "Yesterday
that. . . woman of his, Elena  Ivanovna Kolomiets,  came  to  his apartment,
took  something,  and  left. And there was someone else in there,  too.  The
light was on all night."
     "I  see.  You  did  the  right  thing  in  telling  me.  As  they  say,
jurisprudence will not forget you."
     "Oh, any time, it's my duty!"
     "Duty aside," Onisimov said in a stern voice, "aren't you motivated  by
other, stronger motives, comrade Hilobok?"
     "What motives?"
     "For   instance  the   fact   that   Krivoshein  ruined  your  doctoral
dissertation defense."
     Harry Haritonovich's face sagged for a  moment and then quickly took on
a look of injury at the hands of humanity.
     "Some people! Someone already had time to report that to you. What kind
of  people  work  here,  I  ask  you,  tsk,  tsk?  Don't  be  silly,  Matvei
Apollonovich.  How  could you doubt  the sincerity of my motives! Krivoshein
didn't have as tremendous an influence at the defense as you might have been
told. There were more serious experts there than  him, and  many approved of
it, but  he, obviously, was jealous,  and well, they  suggested  I make some
changes, nothing terrible. I'll be  up for it again soon. But, of course, if
you suspect me, that's up to you. Then check things out for yourself. It was
my duty to tell you, but now... good day!"
     "Good day."
     Harry Haritonovich left furious:  Krivoshein was  getting him from  the
other world, too!
     "You  really  let  him  have  it,  comrade  captain!"  the  guard  said
approvingly.
     Onisimov didn't hear. He was watching Hilobok leave.


     It leads to  one  thing.  But the question that comes up willy-nilly is
"Is it worth it?"
     Be straight,  Krivoshein: you can  kick the bucket in this  experiment.
It's that simple,  based on  your own statistics of  success and failure  in
your experiments. Science  and methodology aside, things never work the  way
they  should  the  first time-that's the old  law.  And  a  mistake  in this
experiment is more than a spoiled sample.
     I mean basically I'm climbing into the  tank as  a narrow specialist in
this work. That's my speciality, like cryotron film is for Fenya Zagrebnyak.
But I don't have to get in there-nobody's forcing me.  Funny,  I have to get
into  a  medium  that  easily  dissolves  live organisms  simply  because my
specialty worked out badly!
     For people? The hell with them! Do I need more than the rest? I'll just
live quietly for myself. And it'll be good.
     And everything  will  be  clear-with the lowest, coldest clarity  of  a
scoundrel. And I'll  have  to spend my life justifying my retreat  by saying
that all people  are like that, no better than  me, and even worse, everyone
lives only for  himself. And I'll have to drop  all  my hopes  and dreams of
better things quickly  so that they  don't remind me. I sold out! I sold out
and I have no right to expect anything better from anyone else.
     And then it will get really cold in the world....


     Golovorezov was asking him something.
     "What?"
     "I said, will my  replacement  be here soon, comrade captain? I came on
at twenty-two hundred."
     "Didn't  you  get enough  sleep?" Onisimov  squinted  at  him  merrily.
"You'll  have to stand it  another hour and  a half  or so. Then  you'll  be
relieved,  I  promise. I'll take  the keys with me. That's better. Don't let
anyone in here!"






     Einstein  had a boss, and  Faraday  had one, and Popov had  one ... but
somehow no one ever remembers them. Now that's a violation of subordination!
     -K. Prutkov-enzhener, Thought 40

     The window of Azarov's office opened on the institute grounds. He could
see the crowns of the lindens and the gray-glassed parallelepiped of the new
building rising above them. Arkady  Arkadievich never tired of the view.  In
the mornings it helped him chase away his neurasthenia and gave him  energy.
But today, looking out the window, he merely frowned and turned away.
     Yesterday's feeling  to loneliness and vague guilt hadn't passed. "Eh!"
Azarov tried to  wave it away. "Whenever anyone dies, you always feel guilty
just because you're still  alive. Especially if  the person was younger than
you. And loneliness  in science is natural and usual  for anyone  working in
the  creative  end. Each one of  us  only  knows his own field. It's hard to
understand one  another. That's why we  often  replace mutual  understanding
with an unspoken agreement not to pry into other people's business. But what
had he known? What was he doing?"
     "May I?  Good morning,  Arkady Arkadievich!"  Hilobok moved across  the
carpet, exuding cologne as he walked.
     Onisimov's subtle hint  had worried Harry Haritonovich. It occurred  to
him that someone might think that he was  evening the score  with Krivoshein
over the dissertation  by poisoning him to death. "It's  only  natural  that
when someone is killed  they look for  a killer. And around here, they could
easily,..." the assistant professor thought,  paranoid. He wasn't quite sure
who or what he had to be afraid of, but he  knew he had better be afraid, to
keep them from getting a jump on him.
     "So, Arkady  Arkadievich, I've prepared a draft of  an  order regarding
the  incident  with  Krivoshein, so that everything about him  ...  and this
incident  would  be formulated properly. There are only two  points here: in
regards to a commission and  in regards to the closing  of  the  laboratory.
Please read it over, Arkady Arkadievich, and if you have no objections-"
     Hilobok leaned over  the polished desk and placed a typewritten page in
front of the academician.
     "I've entered the following as members of the commission to investigate
the  incident: comrade  Bezmerny, safety  engineer-it's  just up  his alley,
heh-heh-Ippolit Illarionovich Voltampernov, as  a  specialist  in electronic
technology;  Aglaya Mitrofanovna Garazh, as a  member of the local committee
on  labor  defense; Lyudmila  Ivanova  from  the  office  as  the  technical
secretary  of  the commission ... and well, I'll head it myself if you don't
mind, Arkady Arkadievich. I'll take this burden on, too, heh-heh!" He looked
up carefully.
     Arkady Arkadievich was examining his faithful scientific secretary. The
man, as usual,  was  extremely well shaven and  groomed, his  narrow red tie
streaming  down a  starched shirt front like blood from  a  throat slit by a
collar, but for some reason the  sight and the sound of Harry Haritonovich's
mellow  voice  elicited  deep revulsion  in  the  academician.  "That  light
trembling  before  me  .  .   .  that  phony  subordinate  dumbness.  You're
transparent, Harry Haritonovich, through and  through!  Maybe  that's  why I
keep  you  around,  because  you are  transparent?  Because  I can't  expect
anything unexpected or great from you?  Because your goals are obvious? When
the  goals of a  functioning  system are  understood, it's a thousand  times
easier to foresee its behavior than when the goals are masked-there is a law
like that in systemology. Or is it just that I enjoy a daily comparison with
you?  Maybe that's why I feel this loneliness-because I surround myself with
people who are easy to tower over?"
     "And the second point is on the  ending, that is,  the stopping of work
in the  New Systems  Laboratory during the work  of  the commission And then
after the  commission we'll see  more  clearly  what  to do with the lab: to
disband it or turn it over to another department."
     "The  work there  had stopped of  its  own accord, Harry Haritonovich,"
Azarov laughed sadly. "There's no one to work there  now. And there's no one
to disband." He pictured Krivoshein's corpse again with its bulging eyes and
pained grin. The academician rubbed his temples and  sighed. "In principle I
accept your  idea  for  a  commission,  but  its  staff has  to  be  changed
slightly." He pulled the  sheet of paper over and took  out his pen. "We can
leave Ippolit Illarionovich, and the  engineer on safety procedures,  and we
need a technical secretary, too. But  not the rest. I'll head the commission
myself, taking on, as you put it, this burden myself, to spare  you. I  want
to find out what Krivoshein has been doing."
     "And .  .  .  what  about  me?"  the  scientific secretary  asked  in a
crestfallen voice.
     "And you  take  care of your own  duties, Harry  Haritonovich." Hilobok
felt very ill: his fears  were being justified. "He's estranging me!" He was
afraid now and hating  the dead Krivoshein much more than he had  ever hated
the live one.
     "There!  He's  really making trouble again, isn't  he?" Hilobok  spoke,
cocking  his head to one  side. "Look  at  all the  troubles now! Ah, Arkady
Arkadievich, don't you think I  can see how you're  taking  this? Don't  you
think I understand? You shouldn't pull yourself away from your  work and get
all upset by this. The  whole city will be talking,  saying that  Azarov had
another one  at the  Institute ... and that he's trying  to  cover it up-you
know what people are like  now. That Krivoshein, that  Valentin Vasilyevich!
Didn't I  tell  you, Arkady Arkadievich, didn't I  foretell that he would be
only trouble  and danger! You  shouldn't have supported his project,  Arkady
Arkadievich!"
     Azarov listened, frowned,  and felt his brain  being overpowered by the
usual  hopeless  numbness-like  his neurasthenia coming  back. This numbness
always hit him after a prolonged conversation with Hilobok and forced him to
agree  with him. Now his  head was buzzing with the thought that it probably
takes more  mental exertion to withstand babble like this than it does to do
mathematical research.
     "Why don't  I fire  him?" The idea popped into his mind. "Throw him out
of  the institute and that's that. This is humiliating. Yes, but  with  what
cause? He manages his responsibilities. He's  got eighteen works  published,
ten years' seniority. He passed the promotion test (of course,  there was no
one else  taking it at the time)-there's  nothing  to complain about! And  I
gave him that  favorable response on his dissertation like a fool. Should  I
fire him for  stupidity and ineptness? Well... that would certainly be a new
precedent in science."
     "He put  in  orders, used  up materials and equipment, took up a  whole
building, worked for two years-and here you go, this calamity is all yours!"
Hilobok  was whipping himself  up. "And  at my defense ... it wasn't just me
that  he  shamed.  I'm  not  that  important.  But  he  shamed  you,  Arkady
Arkadievich,  too!  If  I had  my way, Arkady  Arkadievich,  I'd  give  that
Krivoshein plenty for what he did to manage, I mean  managed to did, I mean,
to  do,  damn it!" He leaned over the  desk, his  brown eyes  flashing  with
intense hatred.  "It's too bad that we award only honors posthumously, write
pleasant obituaries  and  the like. De mortis aut bene aut  nihil, you know!
But that Krivoshein should be reprimanded posthumously, so that others would
learn a lesson! And a severe reprimand! And it should be entered-"
     "-on the tombstone. That's  an idea!" a voice added behind him. "What a
viper you are, Hilobok."
     Harry Haritonovich  straightened up so fast it looked as though someone
had given him a shot of rock salt in the rear.  Azarov looked up: Krivoshein
stood in the doorway.
     "Hello,  Arkady  Arkadievich,  forgive  me  for  showing up without  an
appointment. May I come in?"
     "H-he...  hello, Valentin Vasilyevich!" Azarov stood up. His  heart was
pounding wildly. "Hello... oof, I see you're not... I'm  happy to see you in
good health! Come in, please!"
     Krivoshein  shook  the  barely  proffered  hand  (the  academician  was
relieved  to  see the  hand was warm) and turned to  Hilobok.  Harry's mouth
opened and closed noiselessly.
     "Harry Haritonovich,  would  you please leave us alone? I would be very
grateful if you did."
     "Yes, Harry Haritonovich, go," Azarov said.
     Hilobok backed to  the door, bumping his head soundly on the wall, felt
for the doorknob, and rushed out.
     Gathering his wits about  him, Arkady Arkadievich took a deep breath to
calm his heart, sat behind his desk, and suddenly felt irritated. "Was I the
butt of a practical joke?" he thought.
     "Would you  be so  kind, Valentin Vasilyevich, to explain what all this
means?  What is this business with  your,  forgive me, corpse, the skeleton,
and so on?"
     "Nothing  criminal, Arkady Arkadievich-may I?" Krivoshein sank into the
leather armchair by the desk. "The  self-organizing computer, about which  I
spoke at the scientific council last summer, actually did develop...  and it
developed to the  point  that it tried to create a  person. Me. And, as they
say, the first pancake is a lump."
     "Why wasn't I kept informed?"  Azarov asked  angrily,  remembering  the
humiliating conversation the day before yesterday with  the investigator and
the  other experiences  of the last two days.  "Why?" Krivoshein flew into a
rage.
     "Damn it!" He  leaped  forward, banging his fist on the soft arm of the
chair. "Why  don't you ask how we did  it? How we managed to do  it? Why are
you more concerned with personal prestige,  subordination, the  relationship
of others to your directorial ego?"
     Krivoshein's announcement  had reached Azarov in its most general form:
he had gotten some result. Heads of departments and labs were always telling
Azarov about  their results, sitting in that very leather chair. And it  was
only as  a delayed reaction that Arkady Arkadievich began  to  realize  just
what kind  of a  result it was. The world shuddered and became unreal  for a
moment.  "Impossible!  No,  that's  just  the  point,  it is  possible!  Now
everything falls into place and I see." The academician spoke in a different
tone.  "Of  course, this  is ... monumental.  My  congratulations,  Valentin
Vasilyevich.  And...  my apologies.  I  jumped  the gun; it didn't  come out
right. A thousand pardons! This is a major . . .  invention, even though the
idea  of communicating  and synthesizing  the information  in  man has  been
expressed by the late Norbert Weiner. [Krivoshein chuckled.] Of  course this
doesn't diminish... I remember your idea, and the day before yesterday I saw
a  few...  results of your work. Since I am quite well versed in systemology
myself [Krivoshein chuckled again], I, naturally, am prepared to accept what
you've told me.  Naturally, I congratulate you from the bottom of my  heart!
But you must admit, Valentin Vasilyevich, that this happy event for  science
could have been  less worrisome and even less scandalous  if you had kept me
informed of your progress over the past year."
     "It's hard to get in to see you, Arkady Arkadievich."
     "You'll understand if I don't find that  a substantial excuse, Valentin
Vasilyevich!" Azarov frowned.  "I'll admit that  the procedure of getting in
to see me  might  be offensive to you (even  though all  the workers at  the
institute have to submit to  it at one time or another). But you could  have
telephoned  me,  left me a note  (not  necessarily  a  form  in  triplicate,
either), or visited me at my apartment, you know!"
     Arkady  Arkadievich couldn't repress  the  hurt.  "So... you  work  and
work..." kept  spinning  through his mind. For  a long time,  since the days
when his  unsuccessful  experiment with helium turned into the  discovery of
superfluidity in the  hands of a  colleague, Arkady Arkadievich had secretly
hoped to see, find, and understand something new in nature and the world. He
dreamed  about a  discovery with anticipation  and  trepidation,  like a boy
about to lose his virginity! But he had no luck. Others did, but not him! He
had high-level,  needed, much-valued and honored work to his credit, but  no
discovery-the height of comprehension.
     And now in the institute that had been entrusted to him a discovery had
been made without his knowledge, a discovery  so huge that it dwarfed all of
his work and  the work of  the entire institute!  They  managed without him.
More than that! It seemed that they avoided him. "How so? Did he think I was
dishonorable? What have I done to make him  think that?"  Academician Azarov
hadn't had to experience such strong feelings in a long time.
     "Hmmm .  .  .  while  sharing  your joy  for  this  discovery, Valentin
Vasilyevich," he went on, "I still am worried and saddened by your attitude.
This  may  shock  you,  but I'm  concerned  not as  a scientist  or as  your
director, but as a human being: why like this? Surely you could see that  my
knowing  about  the project  would do it no  harm, but could  only help: you
would have been guaranteed direction, consultations.
     If I had felt that you needed more workers or equipment, you would have
had that,  too. Then  why, Valentin Vasilyevich? I'm not  even  deigning  to
think that you were worried about your inventor's patents...."
     "But  that  didn't keep you  from  expressing  the thought," Krivoshein
laughed sadly. "Well, all right. In general, I'm glad that you're distressed
primarily  as  a human being; that gives  me  hope. For a while,  we debated
whether we should tell you about the work or not; we tried to meet with you.
We  couldn't make contact. And then  we decided that at  that stage  of  the
project it  was just as  well." He looked up at Azarov. "We didn't have much
faith in you, Arkady Arkadievich. Do you  know why? If  for no  other reason
than that even now, instead of finding out more about the work, you tried to
put the  discovery  and its  credit where  you  thought it  belonged: Weiner
said.... What does  Weiner's 'television' idea have to do  with this?  We've
done it completely  differently.  And you  know there wouldn't have been any
consultations: I can't see you, an academician, displaying your ignorance in
front of subordinate engineers. Another thing also: while you know very well
that  a researcher's  value is in no way determined by his degrees or title,
you  nevertheless have never missed a chance  to promote degreed and  titled
people into  positions  that others might have filled  better. You  think  I
didn't  know  from  the  start  what my  part  would be in creating  the new
laboratory? Do  you think  that your warning to  me after  the scandal  with
Hilobok didn't affect my last experiment? It did. That's why  I was rushing,
taking risks. Do you think that my attitude toward you isn't affected by the
fact  that in  your  institute  orders  for  exhibitions  and  other  public
relations nonsense always take precedence over things that are necessary for
our work?"
     "Now you're getting awfully  petty,  Valentin Vasilyevich!" Azarov said
in irritation.
     "Those were the  petty things that  I had to judge  you by;  there  was
nothing else. Or such a petty thing as the  fact  that a...  a... well, that
Hilobok  sets the tone for the institute-whether through your disinterest or
active support, I  don't know.  Of course, it's easy to feel  intellectually
superior next to Hilobok, even in a steam bath!"
     Color  rushed  to  Azarov's  face:  it's  one  thing when  you  realize
something for  yourself, and another when a  subordinate tells you about it.
Krivoshein realized he had gone too far and modified his tone.
     "Please  understand me correctly, Arkady Arkadievich. We had wanted you
to  participate  in our work-and  that's why I'm  telling  you  this, not to
insult you. There's  much  that we still don't understand in this discovery:
man is a complicated system, and the computer that creates  him is even more
so. There's work here for thousands of experiments and studies.  And  that's
our dream, to attract wise, knowledgeable, talented men to the project. But,
you see, it's not enough to be a scientist for this work."
     "I hope  that you will  familiarize me more thoroughly with this work."
Azarov was gradually getting himself under control,  and his sense of  humor
and superiority  was returning.  "Perhaps I  will  be of some service, as  a
scientist and as a human being."
     "Please  God! We'll familiarize you with it... probably. I'm  not alone
in this, and can't make decisions on my own. But we will. We need you."
     "Valentin  Vasilyevich,"  the  academician said, raising his shoulders,
"excuse me, but are you planning to decide  with your  lab assistant whether
or not  you will allow me near your work? As far  as I know, there is no one
else in your lab?"
     "Yes, and him too. Oh, my  God!" Krivoshein sighed. "You are willing to
accept the possibility that a computer can create  man, but you can't accept
the possibility that a lab assistant might know  more about  it than you! By
the way, Michael Faraday was a lab assistant, too. No one remembers that any
more. Arkady  Arkadievich, you must prepare yourself for the  fact that when
you join our project-and  I hope that you will!-there  won't be any  of that
academic 'you are  our fathers, we are your children' bull.  We'll work, and
that's it. None of us is a genius, but none of us is Hilobok, either."
     He looked at Azarov and grew pale, amazed: the academician was smiling!
It wasn't  one of his photogenic, only for the press, smiles  and not one of
the sly smiles that accompanied a witticism during a council or seminar.  It
was simple  and broad. It wasn't very attractive because of all the wrinkles
it created, but it was very nice.
     "Listen," said Azarov, "you've really  shaken  me up here, but... well,
all right. I'm  very glad that you're alive."  (The reader is reminded  that
this is science fiction.)
     "Me, too," was the only reply Krivoshein could muster.
     "What about the police now?"
     "I think that I can soothe them, even if I won't overjoy them."
     Krivoshein said good-bye and left. Arkady  Arkadievich sat at his desk,
drumming his fingers on it.
     "Hmmmmmm," he said.
     And that was all he said.


     "What else do I have to take care of?" Krivoshein  thought as  he stood
at the bus stop. "Oh, that's what!"


     May 3 0. It's interesting  to think about: I was  doing thirty-five, my
usual town speed and  that  idiot  in  the  green  Moskvich was blocking the
highway-his speed in relation to the highway was zero. And  his speed across
the road  wasn't  much  faster,  either.  He drove as  if he were driving  a
tractor. Who lets jackasses like that drive? If you're  crossing the highway
against  all the  rules,  then do it fast! But he would  drive a  yard, then
stop. By the time I realized the Moskvich was blocking my way, I didn't even
have time to brake.
     Victor Kravets, who  went  out there  to pick up  the  remains  of  the
motorcycle, still shakes his head over it:
     "You were lucky. I can't believe it!  If you had been doing forty-five,
I would  be making a  memorial stone out  of the remains and writing on  the
license plate, Here lies Krivoshein, engineer and motorcyclist!' "
     Yes, but if I had been doing  forty-five, I wouldn't have  crashed into
him!
     It's interesting what circumstances come into play in a fatal accident.
If I hadn't stopped  in the woods  for  a smoke  and listened  to the cuckoo
("Cuckoo, cuckoo, how  many years will I  live?"-it cuckooed at  least fifty
years), if I had taken two  or  three  turns a little  faster  or slower-our
paths  wouldn't  have  crossed.  But  this way-on  a  straight flat  road in
excellent visibility-I plowed into the only car in my path!
     The only thing I had time to think was "Cuckoo, cuckoo, how long will I
live?" as I flew over the bike.
     I  got  up myself.  The  Moskvich's side was bashed in.  The frightened
driver was wiping blood  from his unshaven face. I had broken the windshield
with my elbow. Served him right, the jerk! My poor  bike was on the road. It
was much shorter now. The headlight, front wheel, axle, and frame  and  tank
were smashed, squashed, destroyed.
     So  I went from seventeen yards per second to zero  in one yard. And my
body experienced fifteen g's. Ouch!
     The  human body is an excellent  machine!  In less than  a tenth  of  a
second my body had time to adjust to the best position for taking the crash:
elbow and shoulder first.  And Valery tried to prove that man had nothing on
technology!  No one's proved that yet!  If you translate the damage  done to
the motorcycle  into  human  terms,  it  lost  its  head,  broke  its  front
extremities, chest, and spine. It was such a good bike; it loved speed.
     Of course, my right  shoulder  and chest  took  more of a beating. It's
hard to lift my right arm. I guess I broke some ribs.
     Well,  it's for the best.  Now  I'll have something  to  repair in  the
liquid circuit  of the computer-womb. And not external, but inside my  body.
In that sense, the Moskvich was very handy. All for science.






     "Write  out a pass for  taking out a body." "Where's the body?" "Coming
up." (Shoots himself.) "Fine! But who's going to carry it?"
     -A legend from Singapore

     Policeman Gayevoy was sitting in the duty room, suffering from love and
writing  a  letter on  a  complaint form.  "Hello, Valya!  This is Aleksandr
Gayevoy  writing to you. I don't know if you remember me or not, but I can't
forget how you looked at me near the dance floor with the help of your black
and beautiful eyes.  The moon was big and concentric. Dear Valya! Come to T.
Shevchenko  Park tomorrow  night.  I'll be on  duty there  until twenty-four
hundred-"
     Onisimov  came in,  his eyebrows  furrowed into a  strict look. Gayevoy
jumped up, dropping his chair, and blushed.
     "Has Kravets been taken care of?"
     "Yes  sir,  comrade  captain!  He  was  brought in  at  nine-thirty  in
accordance with your orders. He's in a cell."
     "Take me there."
     Victor Kravets was sitting in a  small, high-ceilinged room on a bench,
smoking a cigarette, blowing the smoke into  a sunbeam that came through the
barred window. There was a three-day stubble on his cheeks.  He squinted  at
the men as they entered, but didn't turn his head.
     "You should get up, like you're supposed to," Gayevoy said in reproach.
     "I don't consider myself a convict!"
     "And  you aren't,  comrade Victor  Vitalyevich  Kravets," Onisimov said
calmly. "You were detained for  questioning. Now  the situation is  becoming
clear, and I don't feel it is necessary to keep  you under guard any longer.
We'll call you if we need you. So, you're free."
     Kravets stood up, giving the investigator a suspicious look. Onisimov's
thin lips jerked into a short smile.
     "A high forehead, granite jaw, well-shaped nose . . . dark curls framed
his  handsome, round,  melon-shaped  head. Krivoshein the Original had  very
provincial  ideas   of  male   handsomeness.  But,   that's  understandable.
(Kravets's eyes bulged.) Where's the motorcycle?"
     "Wh-what motorcycle?"
     "License plate number 21-11 DNA. Being repaired?"
     "In ... in the shed."
     "All right. By the way," Onisimov's eyes narrowed  angrily, "you should
have sent the telegram before the experiment. Before, not after!"
     Kravets didn't know whether he was alive or not.
     "All right. We  will return your  documents to you  in a little while,"
the investigator continued in an official voice. "Good day, citizen Kravets.
Don't forget us. See him out, comrade Gayevoy."


     Matvei  Apollonovich showed  up  at  work  with a  headache  after  his
difficult night. He was  sitting  at  his desk, making out his plan for  the
day.
     "1.  Send  the liquid  for further analysis to  see  if  there are  any
undissolved human tissues in it;
     2. Inform the security organs (through Aleksei Ignatievich);
     3.-"
     "May I come  in?"  a voice asked softly, making Onisimov's skin  crawl.
"Good morning."
     Krivoshein was in his doorway.
     "Did  the  man  on  duty  send  me to  the right  place?  You  are  the
investigator Onisimov, who's in charge of the incident in my lab? How do you
do. May I?" He sat down, took out a handkerchief,  and wiped his face. "It's
only morning, but the heat is unbearable!"
     The investigator sat in stunned silence.
     "Well,  I'm Valentin  Vasilyevich Krivoshein, head of the  New  Systems
Laboratory at the Institute of Systemology," the visitor explained. "I  only
found out today, you see... that you're... that the police are interested in
this sad affair, and I hurried right over. Naturally, I would have given you
a thorough explanation yesterday or even the day  before, but... [shrugs] it
never even occurred to me that an unsuccessful experiment would lead to such
a to-do, involving the police! I  was resting in my apartment, rather unwell
after the experiment. You  see, comrade  Onisimov... excuse me, what's  your
name and patronymic?"
     "Apollon Matvei  ...  I  mean, Matvei Apollonovich," Onisimov  muttered
hoarsely and coughed to clear his throat.
     "You see, Matvei Apollonovich, it was like this: in the process  of the
experiment  I  had  to  immerse  myself  in  the  tank with  the  biological
informational medium. Unfortunately, the tank was unsteady  and turned over.
I fell with  it, hitting my head  on  the floor, and lost consciousness. I'm
afraid that  the tank must have hit my assistant too-I remember he tried  to
hold it up at the last second.  I came to under an  oilcloth on the floor. I
heard voices  in the  lab...." Krivoshein  gave  a  charming  smile. "You'll
admit, Matvei Apollonovich, that it would have been very embarrassing for me
to stand up in my own laboratory in  my birthday suit with a bashed-in head.
And that  liquid, it stings terribly, worse than soap suds! So I sneaked out
from under the oilcloth and scurried  into  the shower room to wash  up  and
change. I must admit that I don't know how long I was in the shower; my head
was spinning and my mind was fuzzy. I probably didn't  even  know what I was
doing. Anyway,  when I came out there was no one in the lab. And I went home
to  rest up. That's it in a nutshell. If you like,  I can give you a written
explanation, and we can end all this-
     "I see." Onisimov was gathering his wits about him gradually. "And what
experiments were you doing in the laboratory?"
     "You see ... I'm researching the biochemsitry of higher combinations in
a systemological aspect  with the addition  of polymorphous anthropologism,"
Krivoshein  explained blandly. "Or  the  systemology of  higher forms  in  a
biochemical aspect with the addition of anthropological polymorphism, if you
will."
     "I see.  And where  did  the skeleton  come from?" Matvei  Apollonovich
squinted at the box on the corner of his desk. "You just wait!" he thought.
     "Skeleton? Oh, the skeleton!" Krivoshein smiled. "You see,  we keep the
skeleton in the lab for educational purposes. It's always in the same corner
that I was put in when I was unconscious."
     "And what do you say to this?" Matvei Apollonovich removed the box that
covered the sculpted head of Krivoshein. The pale-gray plastic  eyes  stared
at the visitor who grew pale himself. "Do you recognize it?"
     Graduate student Krivoshein lowered his head.  Only now  was he certain
of what  he had  suspected,  and  what  he didn't want  to believe: Val  had
perished in the experiment.
     "Your story doesn't make sense, citizen! I don't know  your name or who
you are." Onisimov, controlling his feeling of triumph, leaned back  in  his
chair. "Yesterday you managed  to  mystify me but you won't get away with it
today.  I'm  going to arrange for  a  little  meeting  between  you and your
co-conspirator Kravets, and then what will you say?"
     He reached for the phone. But Krivoshein put his hand on the receiver.
     "Hey! What are you-" Onisimov  looked up angrily and  saw  himself... a
broad  face with narrow lips and a sharp  chin, a thin nose,  fine  wrinkles
around the mouth and small close-set eyes. Only now  did Matvei Apollonovich
notice the blue suit, just like his, and the Ukrainian shirt.
     "Don't fool around, Onisimov! It won't be what  you expect. You'll only
succeed in  making yourself look  foolish. No more  than twenty minutes  ago
investigator Onisimov released Kravets for lack of evidence."
     "So...." Onisimov stared as Krivoshein's  face relaxed  and took on its
former features:  blood drained from  his cheeks. He lost his breath. Matvei
Apollonovich had been in quite a few fixes in the line of duty:  he had been
shot at and he had done some shooting-but he had never  been this  scared in
his life. "Then you're... you?"
     "That is it: I'm me." Krivoshein stood up and walked over  to the desk.
Onisimov  squirmed  under  his  angry  gaze.  "Listen;  end  this  nonsense!
Everyone's  alive,  everything is in  place.  What  more  do  you  want?  No
sculpture or skeleton is going  to prove that  Krivoshein  died. Here he is,
Krivoshein, standing before  you! Nothing happened, do you  understand? It's
just the project."
     "But . . . how?" Matvei Apollonovich muttered. "Couldn't you explain?"
     Krivoshein frowned sadly.
     "Ah, Matvei Apollonovich, what could  I explain to you? You used all of
detection's    technology:    televideophones,    Gerasimov's   system    of
reconstructing the face... and  still... you couldn't even figure out a type
like Hilobok. And that's a clear-cut case with  him. There was no crime, you
can be sure of that."
     "But... I'll have to report. I  have to tell them something. What do  I
do?"
     "Now we're talking business." Krivoshein sat down again. "I'll give you
an explanation. Remember this part about the skeleton resembling me. It's  a
family  heirloom. My  maternal grandfather,  Andrei  Stepanovich Kotlyar,  a
famous  biologist in his day,  willed that he not be buried but embalmed and
his  skeleton  left to  his  descendants  who  went  into  science.  An  old
scientist's eccentricity, understand?  And apparently you  discovered broken
right ribs  in the  skeleton, which  naturally raised some  suspicion. Well,
grandfather died in  a road accident. The old man loved zooming around on  a
motorcycle  over  the speed  limit. Understand?"  "I  see."  Onisimov nodded
rapidly
     "That's better. I hope that this... family heirloom will be returned to
its owner after the case is closed. As  well as the other 'clues' taken from
the laboratory. The time will come," Krivoshein's  voice resounded dreamily,
"the time will come, Matvei Apollonovich, when that head will grace not your
desk but a memorial. Well, I'm off. I hope I've explained everything. Please
give me Kravets's  papers. Thank you.  Oh yes, the guard you were so kind to
leave at the lab has requested relief. Please let him go. Thanks."
     Krivoshein stuffed the papers in his pocket and headed  for  the  door.
But a thought struck him on the way. "Listen, Matvei Apollonovich," he said,
coming back to the desk, "please don't be hurt by my proposal, but would you
like to be  a  little  smarter?  You'll grasp things  quickly. You'll  think
broadly  and profoundly.  You'll see clues  and  delve  into the essence  of
things and phenomena. You'll understand  the human soul! And your mind  will
be  visited by marvelous ideas-things that will  make your cheeks cold  with
amazement. You see, life is complicated, and it will get  more so.  The only
way  to remain  at  a human being's  top  position  in it is  to  understand
everything. There is no other way. And that's possible, Matvei Apollonovich!
Would you like it? I can arrange it!"
     Onisimov's face, contorted in insult and injury, filled with blood.
     "You're mocking me," he  said. "It's not enough that you've . .. you're
mocking me too. Go on, citizen, out."
     Krivoshein shrugged and turned to the door.
     "Wait!"
     "What now?"
     "Just a second, citizen... Krivoshein. All right, I  don't  understand.
Perhaps you really  have the science for this.  I'll  accept your version of
the  story-I have  no choice. And  you  can think what  you want  of me...."
Matvei Apollonovich couldn't get  over the  insult. Krivoshein frowned: what
is he leading up  to? "But  if we accept your version, a man perished. Who's
guilty?"
     The graduate student looked at him carefully.
     "Everyone a little, Matvei Apollonovich. Himself,  and me,  and Azarov,
and others ...  and  even you are mixed up in it a little,  even though  you
didn't know him, because, without really knowing,  you suspected people. But
according to the criminal code, no one. That happens."


     "I think that's taken care of," the  student  said to himself as he got
into the bus.


     Tomorrow is the  experiment. Actually, not  even tomorrow, but tonight,
in  seven  or eight hours. I'm never sleepy before I have an important thing
to do, but I need the sleep.  That's  why I walked and  rode around town for
over four hours, to get worn out and distract myself.
     I was everywhere: midtown, suburbs, by the train station.  I  looked at
people, houses, trees, animals. I watched the parade of Life.
     A desiccated old man  hobbled toward me  with a yellowed mustache and a
red, wrinkly  face. He  had three  Saint George  crosses  and a  medal on  a
striped ribbon dangling from his gray sateen shirt. The old man  stopped  in
the short shadows of the lindens to catch his breath.
     Yes,  gramps,  you  had  your day  too! You've lived through a  lot and
obviously you want  more: you've  come out  to preen, you  cavalier of Saint
George! If we filled up your muscles with strength, cleared up your corneas,
wiped the sclerosis and fog from your brain, freshened up  your nerves-you'd
show the young punks a thing or two!
     Some boys wandering along, talking about the movies:
     "And then he gives it to him-pow-pow-with an atomic gun!"
     "And they go: bam-bam-bam!"
     "Why an atomic one?"
     "What other kind? On Venus-and with a regular gun?"
     A cat looks  at me  with  anxious  eyes.  Why do cats have such anxious
eyes?  Do they know something? They know,  but  they won't tell. "Shoo,  you
cat!" It skulked into a doorway.
     A man with  a  low forehead and  gray crewcut  walked  past: his  pants
hugged his  powerful calves and thighs  and his tee shirt barely covered his
well-developed  chest.  His face made it clear  that the fellow could handle
any of life's problems with  a quick uppercut to the jaw  or  by tossing you
over his shoulder.
     And we'll make muscles like that  for everyone-everyone will know about
boxing and judo-and then how will he feel about his ready answer?
     In  Shevchenko Park a  boy  and girl walked past me,  noticing no  one,
holding hands.
     You lovers don't need our  discovery. You're good for each  other  just
the way you are. But... anything can  happen  in  life. And danger threatens
your  love: life, misunderstandings,  good sense, relatives, boredom-lots of
things! If you manage on your own, more power to you. But if not, know this:
we can repair your love, fix it better than a TV set. It'll be like new-like
the day when you first saw each other in the movie ticket line.
     And  the woman  I ran  into  in front of the  department  store  on the
prospect! Her  body  was squeezed into a brocade  dress, a gold brooch, fake
amber  necklace,  with sweat spots the size of plates under her arms and  on
her back! The blue brocade glistened with all the colors of a stormy sea.
     Fie on you, madame! How can you  stuff yourself  into brocade  in  this
heat. It's not a Saint George  Cross,  you know! Your husband  doesn't  love
you,  does he,  madame? He stares  in horror at your arms, as  thick as  his
legs, at that fatty hump  on  your back. You  are  miserable madame. I don't
feel  sorry  for you, but I understand. Your husband  doesn't love you;  the
children  don't  appreciate  you;  the  doctors  don't  sympathize;  and the
neighbors-oof, the neighbors! All right,  madame, we'll figure out something
for you  as well. After all, you too have the right to an additional portion
of happiness in  the  human  line. But, speaking  of happiness, madame, your
taste worries  me.  No,  no, I  understand: you stuffed  yourself  into  the
brocade, put on the  horrible earrings and necklace that do nothing for you,
and  decorated your fingers with rings to  prove that you are no  worse than
anyone else, that you have everything. But, forgive me,  madame,  you  don't
have a  damn  thing.  And I'm  afraid that we'll have to  improve your taste
along with your body, as well as you mind and feelings. For the same  money,
madame, don't worry. Otherwise it's not worth it: you'll just waste your new
beauty and freshness in restaurants and parties and on lovers. In that case,
why should we  bother? The true beauty,  madame, lies in  the harmony of the
body, mind, and spirit.
     Two pretty girls  walked past without  giving me  a  glance. Why should
they? The sky is clear. The sun is high. Exams are behind them. And this bus
takes them to the beach.
     A little kid,  who wasn't  allowed  outside,  pressed his nose  to  the
windowpane. He caught my  eye and made a face. I made a face at him. Then he
did a whole act for me.
     I love life, oh, how I love life! I don't need it to be any better. Let
it stay just as it is, as long as ... as long as what? What? Oh, you!
     That's  the whole  point, it has to be better.  There's too much  wrong
with the world.
     And  I'll  go.  I haven't sold you out, people. We'll be  able to do so
many  things with this method:  give people looks and  wisdom, introduce new
abilities,  even new qualities in them. Let's say, we  could make a man have
radio feelings, so  that he could  see in the dark, hear  ultrasounds, sense
magnetic  waves,  count  time   to  the  fraction  of  a  second  without  a
chronometer, and  even  read people's thoughts  at a distance-would you like
that? Though I suppose, all this is not the important part.
     The  important part  is  that I'll  go. And then someone else  will, if
things go wrong now. And then... that's how it will be!


     "No one died, damn it!" graduate student Krivoshein muttered to himself
in the bus. "No one died!..."


     I'm going, Life! Thank you,  fate, or whoever you  are,  for everything
that's happened  to me so far. It's scary to think that I could have stopped
and ended up  as a petty coupon-clipping mediocrity! Let the rest of my life
be difficult,  frightening,  confusing, and tormenting-but  don't  let it be
petty. Don't ever  let me sink to struggling for security, success, and  for
worrying about my hide when things get serious!
     It's almost night, but I'm not sleepy. What a waste, sleeping. We could
probably  do away with it, too. They  say there's an eccentric in Yugoslavia
who hasn't slept in thirty years-and he feels fine.
     "Midnight in Madrid. Sleep soundly! Respect the king and queen! And may
the devil never cross your path!" In those days they would have burned me at
the stake.
     Don't  sleep soundly, people! Don't respect  the king or the queen! And
let the devil cross your path; there's nothing too terrible about that.
     As a youth I dreamed (about  so many things) that when  the time  would
come to undertake something frightening and  serious, I would  first have  a
talk with my father. But I didn't have anything serious to talk about and my
father couldn't wait forever. Well, I'll give it a try now.
     "Well, father, tomorrow I stand on the parapet. Were you scared?"
     "What  can I  say? It was scary, of course.  It was  only  four hundred
yards to the German trenches, and I'm highly visible.  Fraternization hadn't
come into full force; they were still shooting. And they shot at me a couple
of  times-the Germans had all kinds,  too.  Maybe  they were  only trying to
scare me."
     "But why that kind of punishment-standing on the parapet?"
     "The temporary government had  introduced it  specially  for  those who
were  agitating for an  end  to the  imperialist war.  'Oh, so they're  your
brother workers and brother peasants?  Let's see how they'll shoot at  you!'
And you stood there for two hours. And some for four."
     "Clever-you can't say anything about it. (Father, did you  know that...
I didn't believe you?)"
     "I knew, son. It's all right. It was the times. I didn't always believe
myself. What are you planning to do?"
     "An   experiment   in  controlling  information  in  my  own  organism.
Eventually I should develop a method of analyzing and synthesizing one's own
body, soul, and memory. Understand?"
     "You  always  spoke like  a book,  Val.  I don't  know all this science
stuff.  Once  I  was  able  to  take  apart  and  reassemble  a  machine gun
blindfolded. But this I don't follow... what will it give you?"
     "Well, you fought for equality, right? The first stage of this  idea is
coming  true: the inequality  between  the rich and  the  poor, between  the
strong and  the weak, is disappearing. Society offers equal  opportunity for
everyone. But  besides  the  inequality  built  into society,  there is  the
inequality built into people. A stupid person is no equal to a smart one, an
ugly one to a  handsome one, a sick or  crippled one to  a  healthy one. But
this  method  will let  everyone make  himself just  the way he wants to be:
smart, handsome, young, honest-"
     "Young,  smart and handsome-that's for sure. Everyone  will  want that.
But as for  honest-I don't know. That's  harder than  anything  else,  being
honest."
     "But if  a  man definitely knows  that  this information  will make him
viler and sneakier and this will make  him honest  and  direct, he  wouldn't
vacillate over which to pick, would he?"
     "What can  I  say? There are  people for whom it is important to appear
honest in front of  others, but they would steal or do anything else as long
as they're not caught. And those would pick cleverness and sneakiness."
     "I  know.  Don't  talk  about them  now.  The  experiment is  tomorrow,
father."
     "And you must go? Watch out for yourself, son."
     "Who else, if not  for me? Listen, you could have  jumped down from the
parapet into the trench?"
     "There were two officers guarding me. They would have shot me."
     "Couldn't you have gotten out of it?"
     "Sure! I  could have told them that I wouldn't agitate any more, that I
was leaving the Bolsheviks-and they would have let me go at once."
     "Why didn't you tell them that?"
     "I should tell them that? I never even thought about it. I was thinking
that if I was killed, it would be the end of fraternization in our unit."
     "Why were you thinking that? You loved  people so much, is that it? But
you had killed people before-both before and after that."
     "I killed and they tried to kill me-it was the times."
     "Then why?"
     "I  was proud, I  guess that's why.  I was very proud in those days.  I
thought I was fighting the whole war."
     "And father, that's how proud I am now."
     "Of course,  if you go on the  parapet you have  to stand proud. That's
true. But don't you equate your work with the parapet, son. I  didn't  stand
the  whole  two  hours. The  soldiers' committee raised the battalion;  they
bumped off the officers, and that was  it.  Do you have  anyone to raise  an
alarm over you?"
     I had no answer for that question-and the imagined conversation ended.
     Well, enough of this-bedtime! Cuckoo, cuckoo, how long will I live?






     "People from Earth, your excellency."
     "From Earth? Earth, Earth ... hmm..."
     "That's the planet where Fledermaus was composed, Excellency."
     "Ah!  Tum-tiri-tiri, tum-tiri-tiri,  tum-pam-pam-pam! Mar-velous piece.
We//, give them a third-level reception."
     -A conversation in the Universe

     Graduate student Krivoshein went up to the fifth floor and entered  the
apartment.  Victor Kravets and Adam were  smoking out on  the balcony;  when
they saw him, they came inside. Krivoshein gave them a glum look.
     "Three from one  pea pod. And there used  to be  four...." He looked at
the clock. There was still time. He sat down. "Tell me, Victor Kravets, what
happened there?"
     Kravets lit up another cigarette and began the story in a hollow voice.
     The plan of  the experiment was for Krivoshein the Original  to immerse
himself  up  to  the  neck  in  the  liquid-control  the  sensations-put  on
Monomakh's  Crown-control  the  sensations once  more-give  the  command  of
dissatisfaction  ("Not  it!")-come  into  mutual  contact  with  the  liquid
circuit-reach the stage of controllable transparency-fix his broken ribs-use
the  "impulse  of  satisfaction"  for  the  command  "That's  it"-return  to
nontransparency-break contact with the liquid circuit-and leave the tank.
     They had gone over the methodology of the experiment dozens of times by
immersing their extremities.  The  mutual  permeation  of the liquid and the
body could be controlled and regulated easily.
     "You see, friends, it turns out that inside our bodies there are always
less healthy spots, tiny flaws, well, like your skin, no matter how healthy,
always had a pimple or a scratch  or chafing or a local irritation.  I don't
know  what kind of  inner  'scratches'  there are, but after working in  the
liquid your arm  or leg always feels better than  it did before.  The liquid
circuit corrects these minor flaws.  And you can recognize these corrections
as they are going  on: there is a tingling sensation that increases and then
decreases.  And if  after the decrease you give the command 'That's it'  the
computer breaks contact and the arm or leg stops being transparent. I'm only
telling you  this to show you that we had no questions on the methodology of
entering and breaking contact with the liquid circuit."
     "While you  were immersing no  more  than ten or fifteen percent of the
body," Krivoshein added.
     "Yes. We were also sure that the human  body maintains muscle  tone  in
the  transparent stage in liquid. We used  to 'struggle'  in the liquid: his
hand  [transparent] and  mine [not],  or  right against left  when both were
transparent. In other words, the liquid circuit fully supports the viability
of the body."
     "Of parts  of  the body," Krivoshein interrupted  again.  "Yes. Perhaps
that was the whole  problem," Kravets sighed. Of course, it was frightening.
It was  one thing to dip your  hand  or foot into the liquid-you can pull it
out if you sense danger.  At worst, you'll lose  an arm. But it's completely
different to immerse yourself in the tank, giving yourself up to the whim of
a complex and mysterious medium that you can't fight off or run away from.
     They hid the fear from each other.  Krivoshein,  because he  feared for
himself. Kravets, because he didn't want to scare him unnecessarily.
     But  everything  had been  prepared  assiduously, conscientiously. They
regulated  the level of  liquid  in  the tank  so that  it would come up  to
Krivoshein's neck when he got in and stood in it. They placed a large mirror
opposite the tank.  (They  had  to shell out for it; there wasn't one at the
warehouse.) Krivoshein could  observe and control the  changes he saw in the
mirror.
     In order  to lessen  the possibility of any fluctuations in current and
electromagnetic field, they decided  to run the experiment at  night,  after
2:00  A.M.,  when  all the  other  labs  were turned  off and the buses  and
trolleys were in the depot.
     Krivoshein stripped, climbed  up the steps,  and holding on to the edge
with  his left hand (his right was weak after the motorcycle accident), sank
into the tank.  The liquid gurgled. He stood up to his neck  in it-his  head
looked separate from his body. Kravets was ready with Monomakh's Crown.
     Krivoshein licked his lips.
     "Salty." His voice was hoarse.
     "What?"
     "The liquid. Like sea water."
     They waited a minute.
     "It seems  in  order.  No sensations, as  to be expected.  Give me  the
crown."
     Kravets put Monomakh's Crown firmly on his head, clicked the dials, and
climbed back down.  Now his job was to  observe  Krivoshein, give advice, if
needed, and help him out of the tank in case of some unexpected emergency.
     Krivoshein spent another minute getting used to his new position.
     "The sensations  are familiar: tingling, prickling,"  he said. "Nothing
new. Well, that's it. Wish me luck. I'm starting to plug in."
     "Break a leg, Val."
     "The hell with it. We're off!"
     They didn't talk after that.
     Krivoshein's body  developed  in  the liquid like a color negative. The
white  contours of the bones  and tendons  showed through the purple muscles
with  their  layers of yellowish fat. His ribs rose  and fell  rhythmically,
like a bellows. Kravets saw white swellings in  two ribs on the  right side.
The purplish red  fist  of  the heart contracted and relaxed, pushing  along
crimson streams of blood (it was no longer clear into where).
     Krivoshein didn't take  his eyes off his reflection. His face was  pale
and concentrated.
     Soon  the  muscles turned golden  yellow and you could distinguish them
from the liquid only by light refraction.
     "And then,..." Kravets rubbed his temples with the  palms of his hands,
took  a  deep  drag on his cigarette,  "and then the  automatic vacillations
began. Like it had in the very beginning with the rabbits: everything in Val
began changing  size  and  shape synchronously. I  ran up to the tank: 'Val,
what  are  you doing?' He looked  at  me, but said  nothing  in reply.  'The
vacillations! Unplug!'  He  tried  to  say something, opened  his lips,  and
suddenly went under  into the liquid. He began jerking, twisting, a  dancing
skeleton with a nickel-plated helmet!"
     He took another deep drag.
     "The only  thing to do, to save him was to use Monomakh's Crown and the
'it-not it' commands to get into rhythm  with  the  vacillations of his body
and stop them gradually, using them to return the body to the nontransparent
stage. You know, external control, the way he made  you," Kravets  nodded at
Adam, and me.
     He stopped talking, working his jaw muscles.
     "That damn Harry! We could really have used an extra SES-2 then. But of
course  there was no hope of  getting a  second crown after his dissertation
flopped! Putting him in jail wouldn't be enough."
     "He probably wouldn't even  get a reprimand for not completing an order
in  time. It's not like insulting  a professor," Krivoshein  laughed  drily.
"And you can't accuse him of anything more than that."
     "The  only  way  was  to  remove  the  crown from  Val's head,"  Victor
continued. "I jumped up  on the  steps, put my hands in the liquid-and I got
an electric shock  through  both arms.  Judging by the effect,  I'd say four
hundred or five hundred volts.  There had never been potentials like that in
the liquid  before. Well, you  know,  the hands  jerk away  involuntarily in
cases like that. I  ran to the shelves, got rubber gloves,  and tried again,
but Val  was deep inside, and the gloves weren't long enough. The  shock was
so strong that this time I fell to the floor. I had to turn over the tank. I
couldn't  let him dissolve into the liquid before my very eyes  like... like
you had." Kravets looked over at Adam. "I was him,  Krivoshein, when  he was
dissolving you. [Adam's face tensed.] And he was  still alive. His  face had
dissolved, too.  There was only the crown on  his skull, but  he was jumping
about,  so that meant  his muscles  were working.  I grabbed the edge of the
tank and started shaking it. The edges are flexible and slippery but finally
I  pulled  it  down, almost on  me.  I  just got out in time-but  the liquid
splashed  on  my face  and  neck and I got  a third shock from that. I don't
remember the rest. I came to on the stretcher."
     He was  silent. The  others said nothing. Krivoshein stood up and paced
the room in thought.
     "There was nothing wrong with the way you set up the experiment. It was
thought  through.  No  evildoing,  no  fatal  accident,  not  even  a  gross
miscalculation... killed a man according  to all the rules, as they say!  If
you hadn't turned over the  tank  he would have dissolved, since  the liquid
that had permeated him was no longer the organizing liquid circuit. It's too
bad he kept the crown on, though.  Once he was  plugged into  the  liquid he
could control it without the crown."
     "So that's how it is." Kravets looked up.
     "Yes.   That  stupid  cap   was   only  necessary  to   plug  into  the
computer-womb-and  nothing else. From  there the brain  commands the  nerves
directly, and  not through  wires and  circuits. And  when  the uncontrolled
autovacillations began, it was the crown that  destroyed him. A foreign body
in the living liquid-it's as irritating as a slingshot to a bear!"
     "Yes, but why  did the vacillations start?" Adam interrupted. He turned
to Kravets. "Tell me, did you investigate any  further the process after the
rabbits and ... me?"
     "No.  In  the  last  experiments  we   didn't  touch  on  it.  All  the
transformations were going smoothly directed  only by sensations. I told you
that.  I can't imagine how he lost control of  himself!  Did he  panic? That
process is sort of like confusion... but why was he confused?"
     "The switch from quantity to quality," Adam said. "As long  as you were
immersing  only an arm  or  a leg into  the  liquid, there were  only  a few
'hotbeds  of  uncorrection'  which  you  used  to  control  and  direct  the
penetration  of the body with the  liquid. It was like talking to one or two
people at  the  same  time. But  once he  put in his whole body,  there were
naturally many more places like that in his whole body than in just parts of
it, and-"
     "And instead of  a  decent conversation there  was the incomprehensible
babble  of a crowd," Krivoshein  added. "And he grew confused.  That's quite
possible."
     "Listen, you  self-taught experts!"  Kravets glared at them. "There are
always a lot of people  ready to explain why  something  went wrong, to make
themselves look bigger. 'I warned you. I  told  you so!' If  there's nuclear
war,  I'm sure there  will be people who,  before turning into cinders, will
have  time  to exclaim joyously: 'I told you so!' Are  you so sure that  the
experiment failed precisely for those  reasons, that you would get  into the
tank if the corrections were made?"
     "No, Victor Kravets," Krivoshein said, "not that sure. And not  one  of
us will get into the tank just to prove that he's right or that someone else
is wrong-that's not our work. We will have to get in, and more than once-the
idea was sound. But we will do it with minimal risk and maximum benefit. And
there's no point in your getting so excited. You two made the experiment. An
experiment  like that! And you almost ruined  the lab and the whole project.
You   had   everything-great   ideas,   heroics,  discoveries,  meditations,
high-level effort-except one  thing: reasonable caution!  Of  course,  maybe
it's not for me  to reproach you.  I did  pretty much the same  thing in one
very serious experiment and almost killed myself. But tell me, why  couldn't
you have called me back from Moscow to participate in this one?"
     Kravets looked at him ironically.
     "How would you have helped? You were way behind in this work."
     The graduate student sighed: to hear that after all his labors!
     "You're  a louse,  Vitya,"  he  said with unbelievable  meekness. "It's
terrible to have to say this to someone so close to you, but you are  simply
a  son of  a  bitch. I'm good enough to  be used as a decoy  with the police
while you get  off scot-free from  criminal culpability? But not good enough
to be a researcher on this project?" He turned away from the window.
     "What  does  culpability  have to do with  this?"  Kravets muttered  in
confusion. "Someone had to save the project...."
     Suddenly he  jumped up  in terror: Onisimov was coming  toward him from
the window! Adam shuddered, too, and looked around in panic.
     "You  wouldn't have saved anything, suspect  Kravets," Onisimov said in
an unpleasant voice, "if the head of your  department hadn't learned a thing
or two in  Moscow.  You'd be  in  the  defendant's  chair right now, comrade
pseudo-Kravets.  I've managed  to put people behind bars with  less evidence
than this. Do you see?"
     This time Krivoshein got his own face back in ten seconds; the practice
was paying off.
     "You mean, that was you? You let me out? Wait... how do you do that?"
     "Using biology?" Adam asked.
     "Biology and systemology."  Krivoshein massaged his cheeks calmly. "You
see,  unlike  you  two,  I  remember  what  it was  like  being  part of the
computer-womb."
     "Tell us how you do it," Kravets nagged.
     "I'll tell you, don't worry, all in good time. We'll set  up a seminar.
Now  we're going to use this knowledge in conjunction  with our  work on the
computer-womb. But applying it to life will have to be done very carefully."
He looked  at his watch and turned to Kravets and Adam. "It's time. Let's go
to the lab. We'll reconstruct your experiment."


     "Hah ..  .  those crazy scientists!"  the chief of police  laughed  and
shook his head when  Matvei Apollonovich reported the final  clearing  up of
the  events  at the  Institute of  Systemology.  "You mean,  while you  were
gathering evidence and talking to  the academician, the 'corpse' crawled out
from under the oilcloth and went to the shower?"
     "Yes, exactly. He wasn't himself after  the  blow to his head,  comrade
colonel."
     "Naturally! It can take less than that. And the skeleton right  next to
him. Hah!  That's  what  comes of  not studying the  scene  of  the incident
carefully  enough, comrade Onisimov,"  and  Aleksei Ignatyevich  raised  his
forefinger  didactically. "You didn't take the  specifics  of the place into
account. This isn't going out to see a highway accident or a drowning-it's a
scientific laboratory! They've always got  a  hellish amount of stuff  going
on. That's science. You were careless, Matvei Apollonovich!"
     "Should I tell him how it really was?" Onisimov thought glumly. "No, he
wouldn't believe it."
     "But how  did that first-aid doctor make such a  mistake,  declaring  a
live person dead?" thought the colonel  aloud. "Oh, I have  a feeling  their
rate of success isn't  very high. She  looked at  him, saw  that the man was
poorly, figured he'd die in the clinic anyway, and this way their statistics
would look better if he was DO A."
     "Maybe she just made a mistake, Aleksei Ignatyevich," Onisimov defended
her generously. "He was in shock, deep faint, and wounded. And so she-"
     "Perhaps. Too  bad that  Zubato wasn't  there. He  always  goes on  the
pattern of  spots and marks  on the body. He's never wrong. Hm... of course,
it  would  have been nice to have called this  a solved case-the end  of the
quarter is  coming up, and it would have  looked  good-but to hell  with the
statistics. The important thing is that everyone is alive and well. Yet," he
looked at  Onisimov, "there's still the discrepancy  with Kravets's  papers.
What about that?"
     "Our  expert couldn't  find any evidence of  tampering  at all, Aleksei
Ignatyevich. They're papers like any papers. Maybe the Kharkov police made a
mistake."
     "Well, that's a problem for the passport people, not us. The man didn't
commit  any  crimes-and the  case  is  closed.  But what  about  you, Matvei
Apollonovich?" Aleksei Ignatyevich wrinkled up his face merrily  and  leaned
back  in  his  chair.  "You  wanted to  turn the  case over to  the security
organizations.  We would really  have looked wonderful if  we had!  Didn't I
tell you: the most seemingly confused cases are always the simplest."
     And his small wise eyes, set under heavy brows, were surrounded with  a
sunburst of raylike wrinkles.


     They were walking through  Academic Town  at midday: Adam on the right,
Krivoshein in the middle, Kravets on the left. The  asphalt, softened by the
heat, was spongy under their feet.
     "Now we'll be able to work with some knowledge," Krivoshein was saying.
"We've learned quite a bit and we'll  learn a lot more. And  we're getting a
sense of direction, too. Victor Kravets, did Adam tell you his idea?"
     "He did."
     "And why are you so indifferent to it?"
     "Well, it's just one more method. So what?"
     Adam glowered, but said nothing.
     "Why do you say that! The computer-womb introduces information into man
firmly and for a long time, for his whole life, not just for the time of the
session. And art information could change the personality of a man,  improve
it-well, the way they improved your appearance  compared to mine! Of course,
this is  serious business, not like  going to a  movie. We'll give them fair
warning: after being processed by us you will  permanently lose your ability
to  lie, be petty,  bully, and fabricate. Not only will you be actively kept
from doing evil,  but you'll even lose  the ability to hold  back from doing
good.  We can't  guarantee that you will be happy in the sense of having all
your needs and  wants satisfied. Life  will  be clearer and harder.  But you
will be Man!"
     "A joke!" Kravets said. "A way of returning lost innocence!"
     "Why do you say that?" Adam and Krivoshein exclaimed in unison.
     "Because,  basically you are planning to simplify  and strictly program
man with the help of art information. Even if it's programming for good, for
honesty, for self-denial, for a beautiful soul-you won't have  a man; you'll
have  a robot! If a man doesn't lie  or bite  others because he doesn't know
how  it's  done, there's no  merit  in  his  behavior.  He'll  live,  gather
additional information and he'll learn-and he'll lie. It's not hard.  But if
he knows how to lie and be crafty and  put the squeeze on people (and we all
know how it's done; we just don't admit it) and he knows that applying these
little  procedures will make his life simpler,  and he still doesn't  behave
that way-not because he's afraid of being  caught but because he  knows that
would make life for him and others less desirable-then that's a real Man!"
     "Well put," Krivoshein said, "but complicated."
     "And people are complicated, and are becoming ever more complicated-and
there's no way to simplify them. Why can't you see that? There's nothing you
can do.  People know  that evil  exists in the world and  they take  it into
account in their  thoughts,  words, and deeds. No  matter  what noble-minded
information you might introduce into them and no matter  how you  did it, it
would only make them more complex. And that's all!"
     "Wait," Adam said angrily.  "You don't have to simplify  people to make
them better. You're right:  man is no robot, and you can't  limit him with a
strict  program  of  good  intentions.  And it  shouldn't be  done.  But art
information could instill a clear  understanding  of what's good in the long
run, not just profitable, and what's bad."
     "But his goals will remain the same and  everything will be subordinate
to them. And you can't  inculcate goals in a person-even good ones-otherwise
you're talking about good-natured robots." Kravets looked at the doubles and
laughed. "I'm  afraid sheer  technology isn't the answer. Hasn't it occurred
to you  that our search for an absolute  method  comes not from the mind but
from a fierce engineering faith in the ability of science and technology  to
do everything?  Yet they  can't, you  know, and this approach  will  get  us
nowhere. I see a different, clear direction. A new science will develop from
our research-Experimental and Theoretical  Humanology. A major and necessary
science, but not  only a  science, it will be a whole field of knowledge. It
will say: here's what you are, man. And humanotechnology will arise. It must
sound horrible now-a technology of synthesis and introduction of information
into man. It  will include everything from medicine to mathematics  and from
electronics to the arts, but it  will still only be technology. It will say:
here's what you  can do, man. This is  how you can change yourself. And then
let each and every person  think  and  decide on his own: what do  you want,
man? what do you want from yourself?"
     Victor's  words had  an effect.  The three walked  in silence  for some
time-thinking. Academic Town was left far behind. They could see the grounds
and  the  buildings of the institute  and beyond  them the huge experimental
hangar of the construction design bureau, shining glass and steel.
     "Hey  guys, what  about Lena?"  Adam asked  and looked  at  Krivoshein.
Kravets looked at him too.
     "Just the way it was," he insisted. "As far as she's concerned, nothing
happened, understand?"
     Adam and Kravets said nothing.
     They  stepped  into  a long,  chestnut-lined  alley. It was  shady  and
cooler.
     " 'Here's what you are,  man. Here's  what you can do, man. What do you
want   from  yourself,   man?'"  Krivoshein  repeated.   "Effectively   put.
Fantastically put! If I had a lot of money  I'd put up an obelisk  in  every
city  with the sign: 'People! Beware of  maxims-the bearers  of half-truths!
There  is nothing  more  false and  dangerous than  maxims, because they are
formulated to accommodate our minds, not life as it is/"
     Kravets gave him a careful look.
     "What does that mean?"
     "It  means that your flaws, Vitya, old boy, are merely an  extension of
your good qualities. I think  that Krivoshein the Original  overdid  it with
you. Personally I could  never  understand  why people with a well-developed
sense of logic are identified with smart people."
     "Why don't you get to the point."
     "I can get to the point, Vitya, boy. You began well: man is complicated
and  free,  and  he can't  be  reorganized  and  programmed.  There  will be
Humanology and  Humanotechnology.  And  you  came to the conclusion that our
business is to move the science and technology and drop everything else. Let
people  decide  for  themselves.   A  very  convenient  conclusion  for  us,
absolutely marvelous. But let's apply your theory to another  subject. Let's
say there's  a science  and  technology  dealing with the atom. And there is
you-full of  the  best intentions, an opponent  of atomic  weapons.  You are
given complete freedom to  solve the problem: you have the keys  to all  the
atomic arsenals, all the codes and ciphers, entrance to all  atomic centers.
Act!"
     Adam laughed.
     "How will you use this brilliant opportunity to save the world?  I know
how. You'll stand in the middle of an atomic arsenal and bawl with terror."
     "Why would I be bawling?"
     "Because you  don't  know a  thing  about this stuff, just  like  other
people  don't  know about  our  work. Yes,  there  will be  a science called
Humanology. And there'll be Humanotechnology. But we are the top specialists
in  that  science and technology.  And a  specialist,  besides  his  general
humanitarian responsibilities, has his own as well: he's responsible for his
science and its  applications! Because in the final  analysis he's doing  it
all,  with his  ideas, knowledge, and decisions.  He  and no  one else!  So,
willy-nilly, it's up to us to  determine the direction of the development of
the synthesis of information in man."
     "Well, let's say that's  true." Kravets wasn't giving up.  How  will we
direct it? There is no method to apply the discovery with absolute certainty
for the benefit of mankind, as we had pledged a year ago!"
     "Look, guys," Adam said softly.
     They all turned their heads to the left. A girl was sitting on a bench.
A briefcase and crutches lay next to her.  Her  thin legs in black stockings
were  extended unnaturally. Spots of  sunlight, breaking through the  trees,
played in her dark hair.
     "Go ahead. I'll catch up." Krivoshein went  up  to her  and sat down on
the edge of the bench. "Hello, little girl!"
     She raised her big clear eyes, no longer a child's, at him in surprise.
     "Hello."
     "Tell me, little girl," Krivoshein smiled in his  most kindly manner so
that she wouldn't take him  for a drunk and get scared, "but please don't be
surprised by my question: at  your school, do you spit in the ear of someone
who hasn't kept a promise?"
     "No ... no," the girl answered cautiously.
     "In my day, that's what  we did. That was the barbaric custom.  And you
know what? I give you my word: in less than a year, you will be healthy  and
beautiful.  You'll run  and  jump and ride a bike and  swim in the river. It
will all come true. I promise. You can spit in my ear if it doesn't."
     The girl looked at him with full attention. An uncertain smile appeared
on her lips.
     "But... we don't spit. It's not like that at our school."
     "I see!  And you won't go to a school like that  either. You'll go to a
regular school. You'll see. I promise."
     He had nothing else to say. But the  girl was looking at him so that he
couldn't possibly leave.
     "My name is Sasha. What's yours?"
     "Valya ... Valentin Vasilyevich."
     "I know, you live in number thirty-three. I  live  in thirty-nine,  two
houses down."
     "Well, I have to go ... to work."
     "Second shift?"
     "Yes, the second shift. Good-bye, Sasha."
     "Good-bye."
     He got up. He smiled and threw his head back, squinting, meaning: don't
give  up  now;  look happy!  It'll  be!  She threw back  her  head in reply,
squinted, and smiled: don't  worry, I won't give up. And still he left  with
the feeling that he had abandoned someone who needed his help.
     The alley  led out  into  the street. Cars sped  around beyond the last
chestnut trees.  All three turned  around: the girl was watching  them. They
waved. She smiled and waved a thin arm.
     "You  see,  Vitya,  lad,"  Krivoshein  put  his  arm  around  Kravets's
shoulder/'you see, Vitya, I still love you, you  bum, even though there's no
reason to. You should be whipped with a belt, like father used  to have when
we were little, but you're too big and serious for that."
     "Drop it!" Kravets freed himself.
     "You  see,  Vitya, our idea of a happiness  button  was  an  engineer's
dream. In general  people turn to  technology  for  relief  from  demands on
themselves. It's  funny!  It's  easy enough to create a happiness button for
rats: you implant an electrode in the  pleasure center of the cortex and let
the rat  push a lever to make contact. But that kind of  happiness  probably
won't do for people although there  is a method that is mathematical and not
with  a  button. And we're reaching  it empirically, slowly but surely.  The
fact that we're beating  our brains out to make sure it benefits people, and
not just ourselves, and that we won't  accept any other  way-that's  part of
the  method. And the fact that Adam  could overcome his fears and  come back
with a  good idea-that  comes  from  the  method,  too.  Of course,  if  the
experiment had been more thoroughly prepared  he might still  be alive,  but
none of  us is perfect or guaranteed everlasting life:  that's the nature of
the  work.  And  the  fact  that  he  chose  to  synthesize  people and  not
microelectronic  machines,   which  would  have   been   simpler   and  more
lucrative-that's part of the method, too. And the fact that we have gathered
knowledge  about  our  discovery.  We're not  dilettantes  or  amateurs  any
more-and neither work nor arguments can throw us off the track. We can throw
whomever  we  want off. And  in an honest argument,  knowledge  is  the best
weapon."
     "How about in a dishonest one?"
     "It works there, too. Harry got squeezed-with the method. We got out of
a tight fix and  saved the project-also part  of it.  We can do a lot: work,
and fight, and politic. Of course, it would be  better  if we got along, but
we can manage even if we don't. Adam, give me a cigarette, will you? I'm all
out."
     Krivoshein lit up and continued:
     "And in the future we should be guided by this  empirical method in our
work and  in  life. First and foremost, we work together. The most  terrible
thing in our work is being alone. Look what it led  to.  Let's gather smart,
honest, strong, and knowledgeable men around the project. To  make sure that
the hand of a bastard, fool, or banality never touches  our discovery at any
point. So that there will be someone to raise the  alarm! And we'll  attract
Azarov,  and  Vano  Aleksandrovich  Androsiashvili-he's  someone  I've  been
thinking about.  We'll even try  Valery Ivanov...  and  if we work this  way
everything  will be  'it'  including  the  method  for  duplicating  people,
duplicating them  with alterations, and the  informational transformation of
regular people."
     "But this is still not an engineering solution. There is no one hundred
percent guarantee," Kravets said stubbornly. "We can try,  of course. Do you
think Azarov will join us?"
     "Of  course,  where  else could he go?  Yes, this  isn't an engineering
solution, but  an  organizational  one. And  it's not simple;  it lacks  the
logical simplicity we all want. But we have no choice. We'll gather talented
researchers,   builders,   doctors,   artists,   sculptors,   psychologists,
musicians, writers, and just simple people-they know about life and man too.
We'll start injecting our discovery into  life with small but very necessary
things: curing disease and deformity, correcting physical appearance and the
psychological  problems.  And  then,  you'll  see,  we'll gradually  develop
information for a universal program  for  the computer-womb to  instill  the
best that mankind has collected into the mind and body of man."
     The UPPM,"  Victor said. "The Universal Program  for Perfecting Man.  I
like it! Well, well...."
     "We'll  try,"  Adam  said  stubbornly.  "There  is  no  hundred-percent
guarantee; it's not all in our control. Maybe it won't work. But if we don't
try, nothing will happen at all. And you know, I think that there isn't that
much  work left.  It's  important  to  shift in  one or two  generations the
process of man's development in the right direction, and the work will go on
without computers."
     "It will  all  go  in it."  Krivoshein remembered the last entry in the
diary.  "The daring of talented ideas and  a child's awe before the  complex
magnificence of the world, the roar  of a stormy  sea and the wise beauty of
lab  equipment,  the  great pain  of  love  and the  esthetics  of sex,  the
fierceness  of getting  ahead and the rapture of interesting  work, the blue
sky  and  the aroma  of  sun-baked grass,  the  wisdom  of old  age  and the
confidence of maturity... and even the memory of  bad times and mistakes, so
that they won't be repeated! It will all go  in: the knowledge of the world,
understanding one  another,  peace and stubbornness,  dreaminess and healthy
skepticism, great thoughts and  the  ability to achieve them. In general the
greater part has been done for a good life-and there is less left to do!"
     "Let people be whatever way they want to be. Just let them want!"
     The sun was yellow and hot. Cars rustled and murmured past. Pedestrians
shuffled through the heat. A policeman directed traffic in the intersection.
     They walked  on, leaving imprints in the  asphalt.  Three engineers  on
their way to work.

Last-modified: Thu, 04 Apr 2002 20:26:32 GMT
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