FIGHT ON AIR
IN SUMMER EVENING
I sat on the garden, painted in green color wicker chair at the region of the wide avenue from chestnuts and the blossoming lindens. Their sweet aroma filled air. The setting beams the sun gilded sand of the wide avenue and a top of trees.
How I got here, to this unfamiliar garden? I strained memory, but she refused to serve me. Only yesterday or maybe there was a winter, the eve of New year only several hours ago. I came back home from service, from Kitay-gorod to Moscow to myself on the apartment. Usual tram crush. Angry passengers. All such habitual. Came home and took seat at a desk waiting for a lunch. On a table there was a mobile calendar and showed on December 31.
“Happy New Year! Do not forget to buy a calendar on 19 … year” — it was printed on this leaf.
“And I really forgot to buy” — I thought, looking at a calendar.
I remember all this well. But further… What was farther? I, apparently, put on earphones of my self-made radio receiver “on system of the engineer Shaposhnikov” on a habit to manage to listen to several radiotelegrams of TASS till a lunch — Muscovites were accustomed “to condense time”. It is remembered, the viscous voice transferred the telegram about the war in China. But some failure was farther in my memory. She refused to serve me. I could not oversleep till summer?! What does all this mean? Riddle! Eventually nothing remained to me more how to reconcile with the happened change.
“If it is the dream, then interesting — I thought. — Let’s look”.
But it could not be a dream. Too everything was real, though is extraordinary strange and unfamiliar.
On the wide avenue, the leaving tape in both parties, people went diversely. Mail all of them were young. I did not see the old men going decrepit gait. All were dressed in the suits reminding the Greek tunics: the wide, surrounded shirt reaching knees, open hands and a breast. This suit was simple and monotonous on breed, but in everyone there was something special, obviously reflecting taste of the carrier. Suits differed one from another in color. Gentle colors — lilac, pale pale-yellow and blue prevailed. But were a tunic and brighter coloring, with patterns and intricate slips. Legs of residents of the unknown country were put in light sandals. The heads with the cut hair — are uncovered. All of them were in proportion put, swarty from suntan, are healthy and cheerful. Among them was not neither thick, nor thin, nor excessively physically developed. And to tell the truth, I could not always sort which of them the young man and who the girl.
Especially one their strangeness struck me: lonely people went, about something talking though was near nobody, laughed, answered questions someone invisible. Everyone held the left hand as though wishing to cover it about the mouth.
“Perhaps, they are mentally ill people? And this park is at a clinic?” — I thought. But then there have to be nurses, doctors, watchmen who would look after patients. However white dressing gowns were not visible. Some passed quite close about me, and then I heard scraps of their lonely talk. But they spoke some unfamiliar language. Where, eventually, I am? And why all of them look at me with such surprise? I, apparently, am pretty well dressed in a suit from Moskvoshvey…
Near me there was a free chair. I wanted and at the same time was afraid that somebody will sit down by me, tried not to fix to myself eyes of these people. Sat with an independent air and listened to melodious music which reached from Apollo’s statue standing near me.
I do not know whether long I stayed in such loneliness if not a case which led me to closer contact with this new world. Absolutely trifling case: I wanted to smoke. I took out a box of cigarettes “Luxury” and lit. This innocent occupation had effect, absolutely unexpected for me.
In spite of the fact that all these young men (or girls) were, apparently, very reserved, they suddenly surrounded with the whole crowd me, looking at the smoke which is coming out my mouth with such amazement as though I began to breathe suddenly a flame. They about something began to speak hotly between themselves the language. I involuntarily was confused, but tried to keep an easy look and even stuffed up a leg on a leg.
At last one of them separated from crowd, approached me and asked:
— Kiu vi (Kiu ви)?
Vee — it is very similar on “you”. What they can ask about? Of course, about the one who I am. Whether it is Esperanto? As annoyingly that I did not learn Esperanto.
— I am Russian, from Moscow.
Asking turned back to crowd, and they started talking about something again. Whether they understood me? Having talked, they suddenly became silent, and that which spoke with me laid a hand to a mouth. In a hand it I noticed a small round black subject. The young man held this subject at a mouth when spoke. Here it that! Phone! Phone without wires. Obviously, radio. In any case, I got to cultural people. We did not dream of such progress of radio in Moscow yet. But what the country what for the people is?
However I had no time to argue. The surrounding crowd pricked up the ears waiting for something. Some impatiently looked at the sky.
“Whether they wait for the militiaman?” — I thought, looking around at a ballot box for stubs. I did not find it and threw a stub on a path. Several people carefully drew near, bent down and with curiosity began to consider a stub.
The crowd suddenly became agitated. All heads rose up. I looked in the same party and saw the point flying in the sky. The point grew in a mosquito, in a fly — someone flew here, — which strange insect with the small, trembling wings. To my amazement, the insect was a person. It quickly fell, smoothly and silently, near my chair. Wings developed behind his back, as at a butterfly. Arrived was in the same tunic, but blue color and from more dense matter. On the head of the person there were no hair at all, the person him differed in nothing from others, only a few wrinkles at his dark, clever eyes said that it is not young any more.
— Vee Russian? — he asked me.
“Translator” — I thought.
— Yes, I am Russian.
I called the surname and gave it a hand. This gesture, apparently, frightened standing near me, and they moved back.
“Translator” with astonishment looked at my given hand, thought of something, smiled, nodded and with some internal effort as though being afraid to dirty the hand, stretched it. This strange Luda, obviously, did not know that such handshake. The translator did not reap my hand as it usually becomes, and only brought the hand and applied to my palm. People around silently observed this ceremony.
— Hello — he told, precisely, as the foreigner, uttering each letter. — I am a historian. My name is Ale. We want to know who you from where you, as well as for what purpose you arrived here are?
Um … “Arrival purpose”. Possibly, they do not know a different way of the message, except air. However that I can answer it?
— From where — I already told you. I can tell nothing bigger to you because also itself I do not know how got here. And I would like to return to Moscow somewhat quicker.
— To return to Moscow? — Ale turned back to crowd and, obviously, translated to listeners my answer. Exclamations of surprise and laughter were heard.
I began to become angry.
— The right, in it is not present anything ridiculous — I told Ale. — And I, in return, would ask you to answer me who you are and where I am. How this city in what state it is is called?
— You do not become angry, I ask you — Ale answered. — I will explain to you then why your answer caused laughter. I will answer one after another your questions. We are citizens … — he faltered a little — to be to you clear, I will tell that we are citizens of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
— Es-es-es-Ayr? — I exclaimed.
— Almost so — smiling, Ale answered. — This city — if in general can be spoken now about the cities — Radiopolis — the radio City is called.
— And Moscow far?
— In three minutes of summer.
— We fly rather there, I want…
— Not so soon. You still look at your Moscow. For now we need to talk over about much with you and to find out a lot of things. I hope that by the morning everything will speak.
— Arrest? — I asked.
Ale in thoughtfulness raised eyes up, with a type of the person wishing to remember something, then took out the small book from a pocket, turned over it (“Dictionary” — I thought) and answered with a smile:
— No, not arrest. But simple precautionary measure. Exceptional case. I will explain to you. I will arrive exactly at midnight, that is at ten o’clock.
— Means, earlier?
— It will also be exactly at midnight. We have a decimal account of time. And you are spent so far by Ea. — And Ale something told Ea.
Эа, the young man who the first started talking to me approached me and, having friendly nodded, gestures suggested me to follow himself. To protest, object? What could I make, one against all? I went, hardly keeping up with tripping “escort” as I mentally called him, to the side avenue. Passers darted at me glances in which surprise and curiosity shone. Obviously, they were struck by my suit. We came to the small platform among an oak grove soon. In the center of the platform there were several small aviettes of a design unknown to me, with two propellers: ahead and from above, but without wings and without motor.
My satellite indicated the place for me and took seat itself at management. I followed it. Эа pressed the button. The top propeller was almost silently started turning, and we quickly began to rise steeply. Our flight continued no more than five minutes, but probably we reached the big height as even in the cloth suit I felt cold.
Suddenly sideways from us the huge round platform, not movably groundless seemed. We rose even above and fell by this platform. In the middle of it there was a round iron building with a dome-shaped roof.
“Air prison — I thought. — From here you will not escape. Strange these people: do not know the word ‘arrest’, and build such prisons to which builders of the Bastille would envy!”
My young satellite left, having left me one. I approached the region of the platform enclosed with an iron fencing looked down and involuntarily admired.
Here, above, the sun still brightly shone, and below blue shadows already laid down. All visible platform to the horizon reminded a chessboard, with black cages of the woods and lighter — fields. Some rivers or channels a direct, bluish-silvery tape cut through this chessboard in several places. Houses were not visible in blue of twilight. Having turned to the right, I saw something, forced me to scream. In beams setting the sun Ivan Veliky, cathedrals sparkled gold of the head of the Kremlin churches. There is no doubt, it is the Moscow Kremlin. And still it was not that Moscow Kremlin which was known by me… It was impossible to learn also the Moskva River. It, obviously, straightened. Yauza was not visible at all. I strained sight, trying to regard Moscow from this height. But Ea easily touched my shoulder and gesture suggested to follow it. I obeyed and, having sighed, crossed a threshold of my prison.
Strange, unusual prison! The huge round hall was filled in with light. All walls are filled with cases with books. Regiments are faced by tables with the tools unknown to me similar to the broken cameras and microscopes. And all middle of the room was occupied by the huge telescope. Or they have a special system of keeping of criminals, or… or they have no prisons at all, and I was placed in observatory as the most reliable, difficult place for escape. So it also appeared.
The elderly, but vigorous and cheerful person, with a little Mongolian face type, same hairless as Ale approached me. He hospitably raised a hand as a sign of a greeting, with curiosity studying me. I tried to copy its welcome gesture. Near it there was, apparently, a girl in a blue tunic. She also greeted me. Then the elderly person showed me the door to the neighboring room where I also passed in maintenance of Ea. This room was round too, but it is less. There were no tools. The room was arranged with simple, but convenient furniture and served, obviously, a drawing room or the dining room. The wall had a small white screen from some metal, in square meter size, and near it the black varnished box. Эа suggested me to sit down. This time I willingly executed its offer. I felt a little tired. It is not enough. I was hungry. But how to explain me it?
I prositelno looked at Ea, brought a hand to an open mouth and pretended that I chew. Эа approached me and attentively looked in a mouth. He did not understand me, obviously, thought that something hurts me. I negatively rolled up the head and began to chew and swallow expressively. Surprisingly dull people! I изощрял all the mimic abilities. Эа with breathless attention watched me. At last he, apparently, understood me and, having nodded, left the room. I breathed a sigh of relief. But I had to be disappointed soon. Эа brought a wafer of some medicine and a small liqueur glass of water on a gold saucer to wash down this medicine. I made quite vigorous gesture by a hand expressing my disappointment and sharply discharged its plateau. Эа did not take offense, and grieved rather. Then he suddenly brought to a mouth the hand with phone attached to a palm and told something. Light instantly went out.
“Became angry” — I thought.
Suddenly the screen lit up this world; on it I saw a corner of the room and the Ale sitting in a chair. The image was so live that it seemed to me as if I see the historian through the opened window in the neighboring room. Ale rose, approached the screen and, with a smile looking at me, asked:
— What at you happened? You are hungry? Why you refused a tablet? It needs to be swallowed, and your hunger will be satisfied. We do not chew, we only swallow. That is why Ea also did not understand your mimicry.
— But I did not get used to such food — I confusedly answered, being surprised why Ale told about the young man: “Ea did not understand”.
— Tomorrow we will prepare for you something better, to your Moscow taste — Ale smiled again — and today have supper a tablet. I will be in ten — he reminded.
The screen went out, light in the room flashed.
I, smiling, Ea nodded, took a tablet, swallowed and washed down with water. The tablet was aromatic and left pleasant smack in a mouth. Did not pass also minutes as I felt satiety and gesture thanked Ea. He smiled with a pleased smile. He or she? This question interested me. All these new “Muscovites” so differ from each other both on addition, and on a suit a little that it is difficult to distinguish a floor. As if to me to ask Ea? If they speak Esperanto, then… it is necessary to remember. In Esperanto there are a lot of Latin roots. Man, husband in Latin vir (вир). Let’s try.
— Vee Viro? (You man?)
Эа burst out laughing, negatively rocked the head and playfully ran out from the room. Who could think! Absolutely boy!
Having had supper a tablet, I came to the platform. It was cool. On the dark blue sky six crossing huge light strips which were behind the horizon spread. Precisely easy gold dome-shaped arch covered the earth. It was amazingly beautiful show. Only huge heavy-duty searchlights could create these fiery rivers. When an eye got used to light a little, I saw that on the gold rivers the gold ships — the long, cigar-shaped aircrafts which are scurrying about as shuttles, with amazing speed float.
Having admired this show, I paid attention to some subject reminding a big silk bag. This bag was strengthened on quite high pole, and from it the rope went down on the platform. Several such bags hung also in other places at the region of the platform. Out of curiosity I pulled a rope. Suddenly, before I managed to let go it, pulled me up. The bag rose, with noise revealed in a huge parachute and was thrown overboard the air platform. I grew cold with horror. Fortunately, I noticed something like a trapeze nearby. I took seat on it and departed to a chasm.
THE SHORTEST NIGHT
It was the shortest night in my life — it filled with the most extraordinary impressions so quickly flew by.
Having unexpectedly broken on a parachute from the platform of air observatory, I got used to the position of the pilot necessarily soon and with interest looked down.
As I fell, quickly grew warm. The breeze carried me aside, towards the Kremlin. Near it I saw a grove of cypresses among which there was a fine marble fountain lit with the ascended moon. These cypresses growing in the open air near the Kremlin walls, struck me. But I immediately forgot about them, attracted with a new show. The parachute transferred me through the Kremlin wall, from Borovitsky gate, and I fell… on the square covered with snow. Staring in disbelief, I took snow a hand. It was the real cold snow, but it did not thaw from the surrounding warm air, even from my hot hand. What for improbable things are created here?
I looked around. There was an extraordinary silence. The moon gilded domes of churches and lit blue sparks of diamonds on the roofs of ancient towers powdered with snow. In one of them, in a small window, with mica instead of glasses, the yellowish spark shone. But on streets it was visible nobody. At the Red porch stood two bearded stremyanny in the warm caftans edged by fur and in fur peaked caps. Leaning on berdysh, they dozed. Trying not to wake them again not to undergo arrest, I carefully bypassed them on the creaking snow and started wandering to the center of the Kremlin, trying to resolve a riddle: in what century I live? My reflections were unexpectedly interrupted with Ale which literally fell from the moon — so quickly it fell on the wings.
— You gave me much a lot of trouble — he told, with reproach looking at me. — You wanted to run?
I was confused and began to assure that everything left incidentally, because of my careless curiosity.
After Ale went down on a double aviette of Ea.
— Well — Ale hasty answered. — You sit down rather, we fly. At least, you visited our museum.
— So it was the museum!
I did not manage to recover as I was installed to the small round room of my air prison already again.
Ale, Ea and I took seat in wicker chairs at a round table. Ale frowned and as though expected something. Very melodious musical chord was heard — as if skillful easy fingers ran on harp strings. The chord sounded and stood.
— Ten hours. Midnight. It was punched by clock radios — told Ale, addressing me. Having laid a hand to a mouth, it asked someone a question in the laconic language. Then nodded — obviously, on the received answer.
“How he hears?” — I thought, looking on Ale.
I noticed in his ear, the small black subject, size about a pea is slightly lower than an acoustical opening. It also was probably the hearing aid.
Unusual silence and concern of my satellites brought me to a nervous state. I took out a box of cigarettes and lit. Ale was lop-sided on smoke and turned away. Эа sat closer to me. Suddenly she strongly began to cough, turned pale and leaned back on a chair back. Then quickly rose and, being unsteady, left the room.
— Stop to smoke — told Ale and, having approached a wall, turned some rychazhok. Air instantly was refreshed. I extinguished a cigarette and carefully laid it in a box.
The door opened. Li, the assistant to the astronomer Tong entered. It gave to Ale a portrait and, having told something, left. Ale nodded and began to look alternately at the brought portrait and at me.
“Compares — I thought. — From criminal investigation department, likely, sent. Was not enough only that I was similar to some criminal!”
But words of Ale calmed me.
— Yes nothing similar — he told, giving me a card. — It is just received on radio from America.
I was struck by artistry of performance. The best photographer of Moscow would envy such work. But the portrait forced me to smile. On it the person whose suit reminded knitted children’s “combination” from wool was represented. Similarity was supplemented by a cap, knitted from the same matter. The neck of the unknown was wrapped by a scarf to the chin. Quite big head without beard and moustaches and even eyebrows reminded the child’s head with a senile look. Only in slightly blinked eyes serious mind and rapacity of a small animal shone.
— What does all this mean? — I asked Ale, having ended survey of a portrait.
— So Americans look — told Ale and took a portrait. — And here’s the thing. We received data that to us the spy is sent. At this moment you appeared…
— And you solved?.
Ale shrugged shoulders:
— Quite clear precaution. There come disturbing times. Possibly, again it is necessary to create Council. This word is familiar to you?
— Certainly. And you do not have it?
— Many years in it there was no need.
— And now?
— And now it became necessary again. Apparently, you really the person from the remote past. Over time we will explain this riddle. For now I can give you some explanations.
— I admit, I do not understand much and very much I want to hear your explanations, but whether it is impossible to postpone them till tomorrow? I was tired to death, and… the dream overcomes me…
I yawned from ear to ear. Ale with curiosity looked at me.
— Really at you always so terribly opened a mouth when there was a wish to sleep? It was called, apparently, зе… зе…
— To yawn.
— Yes, to yawn. I read about it.
Ale took out from a pocket a graceful box from lilac metal, opened it and stretched to me.
— Swallow one of these pills, and your dream and fatigue will disappear.
Having noticed my fluctuation, he hasty told:
— Be not afraid, it is not drug which artificially stimulates nervous activity, like your awful cigarettes. These are the pills neutralizing fatigue products. They are harmless and make the same action, as a normal dream.
I swallowed a pill and suddenly felt fresh, as after good, sound sleep.
— There now you see. Why to lose unproductively a third of life on a dream if this time can be spent more productively! Now you are located to listen to me?
— I burn with impatience…
— So listen.
And, having taken seat more conveniently in a chair, Ale began the story.
Many years revolutionary shocks swept ago across all Europe and Asia. I will not list you stages of this awful, but at the same time and great era. The American capitalists sent the fleet to the aid of European “brothers” on a class, but the fleet was broken by the joint English, German, French and Russian naval forces. Then the scared Americans hurried to go back home, having provided events in Europe to own current, but not losing thirst to profit on death of economic power of the transatlantic neighbors. However these hopes were not equaled — revolution won. In America disorders of workers began. The American workers asked to help. And we, of course, did not deny to them this assistance…
Ale sadly hung the head and became silent. I with impatience expected continuation of the story.
— But this help did not bring benefit. The American equipment quite seized at this time the new most terrible tool of destruction — death beams. The joint fleet sent by us did not see the enemy: it was exterminated in the high sea by the invisible opponent. Nobody returned from this expedition, except one submarine which incidentally avoided actions of beams, maybe, because floated too deeply. Sailors of this boat told awful details. From the windows which supplied our submarines, having lit with searchlights a gloom of depths of the ocean, seamen saw the falling rain from fragments of the ships, the whole clouds of brainless fishes or with half the burned trunk, incidentally escaped pieces of human bodies. All inhabitants of the sea who got to a killing zone were incinerated. Water in the ocean boiled, and probably on a surface it evaporated. Even at that depth at which there was a submarine water heated up so that seamen nearly died. Action of devil beams, obviously, not only thermal. They destroy fabrics of a live organism by ultrashort electrofluctuations.
— It has communication with radio waves?
— Alas, all this the same radio, but applied for destruction.
— And in what all this came to an end?
— It was only the beginning. We tried to apply the air fleet. At that time and our equipment was already highly developed. We had aircrafts operating by the principle of flight of rockets. These vessels could rise above a layer of the air atmosphere, that is it is more than two thousand meters. We hoped to attack the enemy unawares “from the sky”. But the enemy was well prepared. Obviously, on all borders of America from the earth the same invisible, but killing beams were directed up. Hardly our aircrafts made of special metal entered this veil as were burned even not to ashes, and to steam…
And ten hours later terrible disaster rushed over all countries of Europe and Asia. Through the fortieth meridian of northern latitude — across Spain, Italy, the Balkans, Asia Minor, Turkestan, China and the island Nippon in Japan without uniform sound the killing beam which incinerated on the way in a strip hundred kilometers wide all buildings, people, animals, fields, cotton fields, gardens rushed.
— Yes here, look — told Ale.
He approached a distributive board and pressed several buttons with figures, then turned the lever. Light went out, and the screen recovered. I expected to see the movie, but what I saw surpassed all my expectations. It were not “documentary pictures” it there was life. Illusion was full.
Here street of some city…
— Spain — said Ale in low tones.
…All houses along the street obliquely were as though are cut off by some invisible knife which opened internal rooms. Where there passed the awful beam, there were only heaps of ruins, heaps of ashes and garbage. Here and there parts of human bodies rolled. Everything, got to a beam area of coverage, was incinerated. In places the fires burned down. I heard a flame crash, a roar of falling of walls. The escaped mad people wandered among these ruins, vainly trying to find for the family. They sobbed, shouted, sent someone damnations… Here the woman ran with a wild hair and mad eyes.
— Augusto, Augusto! — she shouted. And suddenly, having faced directly me, hysterical laughed loudly…
I heard her laughter, terrible cries of people. The show was tremendous. Involuntarily I turned away.
— Several hours later later accidents are removed — with emotion spoke Ale.
It turned levers, and on the screen the new picture appeared.
— Everything that remained from the Italian town of Marateo of the gulf Polikastra — Ale told.
Several palm trees and heaps of ruins, two swarty, curly children and the old woman in tatters. At one child legs on a knee were annealed. It lay unconscious. The boy is more senior looked at him with silent horror, and the old woman, having inclined over the child, shook the gray-haired ruffled head and howled lingeringly, hysterically as dogs howl… Nearby, with oskalenny teeth and the big glazed-over eyes, the asinine head — one head lay… Leaves of palm trees rustled, stones under the running waves as sad accompaniment to monotonous, tugging at heartstrings, I howl old women rustled… It was too…
— I cannot more — I said in low tones — there is enough!
Ale sighed, turned the lever. The screen went out, and in the room light lit up.
Suppressed just seen, we sat silently.
— I saw these pictures more than once — told at last Ale — but also I cannot still watch them without deep nervousness…
— Yes, it is awful — I answered.
— When our youth sees these pictures, it is lit by such hatred and such thirst of fight that it is difficult to keep her from daredevil acts and the aimless victims. We infrequently show these pictures.
— Tell me, this cinema? — I when nervousness settled a little asked.
— A combination of the sounding cinema and transfer of moving images and sounds on radio. We have a central film archive operating automatically. I put number on this board, the movie necessary to me automatically moves in a movie camera, it begins to work at the screen installed in film archive. Through radio the image and sounds are transmitted to any place.
— Amazingly! And what was farther?
— What could be after everything that you saw? Further persistence from our party could ruin all Europe and Asia. We were forced to stop fight, we will not create equal weapon yet. And our engineers worked over the invention of such weapon much. In this regard we are obliged by much to Li. This is the ingenious young man.
— Li? Assistant to the astronomer Tong? In a blue tunic? Unless it not the girl?
— No. This is the young man rather the young man. We grow old not soon. How many, you think, can be to me years?
— Thirty five, the biggest, forty — I told.
— Eighty six — smiling, Ale answered — Li — thirty two, and Ea — twenty five.
I was struck.
— And what was invented by Li?
— He invented means of an obstacle from devil beams. They are not terrible to us any more. It found a secret and productions of devil beams. We were made even by forces.
— And now it is possible to begin fight?