The Ball

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Volume#1. “Kuluangwa”

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...an oyster does not know to whom its pearl belongs.


«Come to the edge,» he said.

«We can’t, we’re afraid!» they responded.

«Come to the edge,» he said.

«We can’t, we will fall!» they responded.

«Come to the edge,» he said.

And so, they came.

And he pushed them.

And they flew.»

Guillaume Apollinaire


«Misha! Mi-i-i-isha! Mi-i-i-isha! Come down and play football with us! Come on — you sleepy head!»

«Hey! You bo-o-o-oys, get away from my car! Do not lean against the car, you rascals! Step aw-a-a-ay from my-y-y ca-a-a-ar!»

«What are you yelling at the boys for, Rudolf Samuilovich!? Who needs your shitty kopeyka?» The matriarch then turned her attention to the persistent boy in the courtyard below her balcony, «Hey Sasha, Misha is sleeping! He went fishing early in the morning with his father. They returned late. Go kick around without him. Come back after lunch, maybe he’ll be up by then. Or why won’t you play tomorrow — you’re on holiday anyway!»

«Okay, Aunt Rita!»

«Boys, get away from my car!»


70° 4» 36» N

170° 51» 20» E

Chaunsky District, Chukotka, Russian Federation

67 kilometers north of the village Vumalka

November 4, 1997

…One hundred and twenty-seven… one hundred and twenty-eight… one hundred and twenty-nine… one hundred and thirty… forgive me, I can’t go on. Allow me to rest… just like yesterday, and maybe two days ago, or three… and, most likely, two hours ago. Who can keep track of this stalled time? And my path, stalled in these blizzards… After all, we’re only people. And people are not sand — we can go against the wind while we have strength. I’m philosophizing again. Just shut up and move… one hundred and thirty-one, one hundred and thirty-two… A little more to one hundred and forty steps… and to sleep…

Dressed in overalls resembling a diving-suit made of papier-mâché, the man was trudging through a violent snowstorm, through the drifts, the bitter cold and impenetrable darkness, muttering under his breath words understandable only to himself. Not looking ahead or to the sides, he walked as if on a tried and tested path. The wind tore away loose scraps of feathers out of his suit.

One hundred and thirty-three…

The man paused wearily. Kuluangwa, let’s agree that tomorrow I will walk seven more steps than today. Right now, I must lie down, I just have to…

Turning away from the wind, he clumsily fell sideways into a snowbank and tucked his knees in, firmly bracing himself with his hands as if dreading to fall apart. The cyclone immediately began to cover his whole body with snow — his shoulders, his head in an odd, baggy hood, his legs in shapeless pants torn at the knees, and his odd-looking leather bag that was caught around his back by straps of leather.

One hundred and thirty-four…

With his ice-cold hands, the man ripped his paper suit at his chest and pulled out a black ball of thread. Or was this a coconut? No, this sphere was neither an object of folk art nor an exotic fruit. It was a black, slightly formless… football? Someone clearly had a bite of it. On its sides were grooves that could’ve originated from an invasion of diligent field mice. Also, there was a small round stamp with the image of a strange dancing man fringed by a braid of obscure characters. These kinds of stamps are used to sear cattle and horses before they join a herd.

One hundred and thirty-five…

The spherical object lived its life in the stiff hands of the traveler. It seemed as if it exuded hot air. The snow melted before it could reach the tired man, enveloping his chest, face, and weathered hands with white steam. The drifter threw his head back, releasing it from underneath the hood and revealing an emaciated face dried-up to the bones, a ragged beard, and colourless hair glued to his forehead. However, his sunken, discoloured eyes were full of light. With the fumbling fingers of his right hand, he sent a pinch of stinging snow to his mouth. He coughed. Once again, throwing his head back, he suddenly hit his neck on something hard and muttered, «…one hundred and thirty-six…» Turning abruptly with all his strength, the man began to dig out the snow behind his head. Quickly, his fingers came upon the black basalt. Grabbing the ball with both hands, he pressed it against the cold stone and whispered, «Kuluangwa, my brother, look! We’ve come, my dear! You were right! This is your Big Land! I did it, just like you wanted — I did it! You did it!»

One hundred and thirty-seven… one hundred and thirty-eight… one hundred and thirty-nine…

Tightly clenching the ball, he pressed his back to the basalt and wept. Meanwhile, a storm carrying masses of snow from the Chukchi Sea continued to form a snow-den around the traveler. Only his head and hands holding the ball on his chest remained uncovered. The ball continued to melt the snow around him. With a detached look, the wanderer investigated the snowy whirlwind over his head, in what was once the sky. His parched lips whispered, «You know what, tomorrow I will not go anywhere, brother Kuluangwa. The next one hundred forty paces you’ll have to roll yourself.» The wanderer sagged again and was coughing, but now from barking with laughter. Thank you, my dear, for bringing me to this boulder… as Alexander Pushkin would say, «That’s where my grave lay…» A gust of wind tore holes in the hood, releasing gray fuzz. Mingled with the snow, the fluff descended onto the surface of the black ball and suddenly became sparks in a blue flame, like mosquitoes over an old kerosene lamp.

Burning right through the soaked-through paper-suit, the ball slowly melted into the traveler’s chest and pulled off the dry skin with an angry burn, exposing the poor man’s pink ribs. But the wanderer did not groan; he merely shuddered without stirring, shaking off the ashes of paper and downs. The man was dead. In his glass eyes, the snowstorm fell apart for a moment, revealing a clear starry sky unexpectedly painted in emerald green. Then again, the blizzard closed the curtain and finally swept the motionless body. The ball, which was tightly pressed to the man’s corpse, slowly began to cool down and soon turned into a black, heavy rock.

One hundred and forty…


Coast of the Chukchi Sea

«Hunting has become so bad here…»

«Another day or two of this blizzard, and you can forget about hunting.»

«Just look at how heavy this storm is! It’s been a while since something like this.»

Two Evenks, in heavy, long-skirted reindeer suites, were talking inside a small dwelling quietly, as if afraid of frightening someone away. Their palms were reaching out to the hissing flames of the kudlik. Their narrow eyes gleamed with each oscillation of the flame. In a hole near the ceiling the wind was singing like the howling of wolves. It was cold. The rare snowflakes that made it inside by flying through the ceiling-hole hissed in the fire.

Out of nowhere, a hollow voice behind the stretched-skin wall woke the reindeers. Two huskies in a corner pricked up their ears.

«What is it?» one of the hunters fretted. «There have never been bears or wolves here. I’ll go take a look.» He crept out, nearly getting his rifle tangled in the skins hanging in the shelter. Upon returning, he told to his companion: «In the morning, we must go. Have you seen the sky? It’s green… damn green! The storm is coming. The big storm.»

«Yes, this is a bad place…» said the second hunter while patting the scruffy huskies and squinting into the flames. «We’ll sleep now and take off in the morning. How are the animals?»

«Oh, what the hell can happen to them?»

Just a few dozen steps remained for the unfortunate traveler in order to reach the snow-covered tent of the native nomads from the village of Vumalka.

The howl of the husky resonated: Oooooo-aah-oo-oo-oo-oo!


20° 40» 25» N

88° 34» 31» W

Chichen-Itza, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

October 2, 1520

Oooooo-aah-oo-oo-oo-oo… Her eyelids parted heavily. But the picture before her eyes was indistinct. There were yellow-green flashes of light through the milky haze of age. She did not immediately realize why she was awakened, whether it was because of the deaf groans from the depths of the hut or from ordinary kicks in the womb. The kicks have recently become more frequent. The child felt the lack of water in the mother’s womb and demanded liquid. This will be Tolana’s first childbirth, but she did not know how to soothe a fragile fruit. Her husband’s mother Ma-Is, was an old woman and could barely move a leg. Surprisingly, she was still on her feet! Almost all her peers were old women, who were teachers of the tribe and supervised the tribe’s younglings. One after another, these women simply dried up in the eyes of Tolana over the past three weeks. Each morning, they hung out coloured blankets at the doors of their huts, giving the sign that they were still alive. Then they went back inside and lay motionless in the dry vacuum until sunset. Where no signal was hoisted, the priest of the tribe of Vak Balama sent two warriors. Wrapped in blankets, the dead were carried past the Place of One Thousand Columns and past the Temple of Chtuloq to the end of the cornfield that had not harvested crops. The bodies were cast and covered by piles of stone to prevent wild animals, mad from heat, hunger, and thirst, from ripping apart the corpses. Every corpse lay on top of old graves, and again everything was buried by stones. A foul stench was all around. The warriors covered up their faces, leaving only a slit for the eyes.

At night, the burial mound was surrounded by burning torches, cries scared off animals, the trunks of dead trees were beaten by beetles, and drums were banged.

Tolana woke up every morning before dawn, carefully straightened her shoulders and clasped her hands at the waist, making steps like a duck to go to a thicket near the village surrounding the city wall to collect the dew drops on the broad leaves of ol-ka-hyo. Large drops were shaken off into the flat clay dish, while small drops were simply licked by the tongue. An hour later, her tongue swelled. And so — every morning for the past four moons was like this. There was no other water.

The child inside her demanded water and food. He wanted to live. According to the prediction of the old grandmother, not much time was left until its birth — only two moons. Walking became increasingly difficult for Tolana. Initially, she could reach the Sacred Cenote by carefully treading barefoot on stone-like scorched earth. She approached the edge of the sinkhole and stared intently into its depths. Has the water come — have the gods become kind? But the same sweet smell of rotting corpses hit her nostrils — the poor girls, among which was her little sister. Tolana was taken aback by disgust, felt sick, and in recent days threw off her trips to the dead cenote.

She wanted to immediately gather the morning moisture from the leaves, but the sun was already high and Tolana realized that she overslept. She felt her tongue being torn by sharp pain. Caressing her face with the palm of her hand, she felt the scab of dried blood. Two fingers reaching the swollen tongue, Tolana touched the scar in the middle. Although it had healed, each movement of the tongue caused pain. Pain was also present in her large stomach, already beginning to sink down — a sign of labour approaching. Tolana leaned her head, moving it side to side, trying to shake off the numbness and restore the events of yesterday. Pain anywhere else did not respond, as it lived only in the stomach and at the tip of her tongue.

Gentle rustling and moaning made her look around, and Tolana recognized the source of these sounds — in the corner of the hut, on old rags and covered with a striped blanket, her husband, Kuluangwa, was moaning. The entire lower part of the blanket was covered in spots of dried blood. Kuluangwa lay on his back and hazily whispered something. Tolana stooped below to parse the words of her husband.

«Tomorrow… everything will be fine! Vak Balama said that, remember? Tomorrow will rain… Chaak has already drank. We did it… He is now satisfied. He shall give us water. He should… our child.» The man’s voice broke and died.

«Yes, Kuluangwa,» said Tolana, barely moving her swollen tongue.

She put her head on her husband’s chest and closed her eyes. Memories of yesterday flashed in her head. She remembered the parable that the high priest Vak Balama told them yesterday in the temple.

The path chosen by the other tribes was one of defeat, giving away all that they had under their chests and armpits, so that it would blossom. Such a bloom meant that each tribe that was brought as sacrifice for Chaak had their hearts ripped out. But before that, Chaak conveyed his powers to the Balama clan — Balama-Quitzé, Balama-Aqaba and Iki-Balama… my glorious ancestors. He transmits this force to this day and this power has never deceived us. We are accustomed to abstaining from food while awaiting dawn. We are awake, waiting for sunrise. We guard the Great Star that rises first before the sun when the day is engaged. Our gaze is fixated on there — the sunrise. There, from whence came our gods.

But that was not where we got our power and sovereignty from. We conquered and subdued the large tribes and small tribes when we offered them as sacrifice to Chaak and the Holy Grain. We offered him the blood, flesh, chest, and armpits of all those people in order to water and to revive the Holy Grain. And a great power has come to us. Great was our wisdom when we accomplished our deeds in the dark. But then came a time when Chaak demanded more. It was not enough for the Holy Grain of Chaak. Our offerings were not enough for the one of the six sacred grains that He brought to our land. And He said to me — and I to you, «Children of the Corn, express your gratitude before your last exodus! Do what is necessary — prick your ears, pierce your loins, and commit your sacrifice! That will be your gratitude in front of me — and I will repay you.» And I, Vak Balama, your priest, tell you — it is time to do everything that Chaak wants for the irrigation and flowering of the Holy Grain.

Tolana also remembered for how long, how awfully long, she dragged Kuluangwa across the narrow steps down from the top of the temple. She remembered how hard the child fought in her womb, resisting every strain of the mother. The warm hands of old Ma-Is helped drag Kuluangwa into the hut, put his limp body into the corner on a low couch and covered him with a blanket. But what came before this? Her memory was confused, and she could not recall the events. Kuluangwa was breathing hoarsely, while Tolana’s head rose and fell with his every sigh. Then he stretched with a groan, exhaling pain, straightening his muscles that had stiffened at night. The blanket harbouring his body slipped to the floor and Tolana looked up, not fully realizing what had opened in front of her. She gasped. What she saw made her tightly shut her eyes. Kuluangwa’s entire lower body was covered with scabs of dried blood — his legs, hips, ankles, and feet. A large, ugly, black, and red body part faintly trembled between his legs like a sponge. What once took an active part in the tender creation of a small creature in her womb had turned into an unimaginable nightmare. And now Tolana remembered yesterday.


34° 38» 17» S

58° 21» 12» W

Buenos Aires, Argentina

October 14, 1972

The day was drawing to an end.

«Diego! Diego, what is it with you! Why don’t you ever listen to your mother? You’ll smash your head in such darkness. How much longer can you fool around? Come home right now… ri-i-i-ight no-o-o-ow!»

There was no answer.


«Give me a moment, mama! Well, until the next goal… we have to break the tie!»

«So, you’ll be rushing around till the morning?»

«No, we’re gonna finish soon!»

The mother walked away from the third-floor window, taking with her the faded laundry that had been baking under the merciless sun on a rope crossing Santo Domingo Street. Downstairs, in the darkness illuminated only by the dim lights of a few windows, a throng of teenagers was chasing a ball, excitedly shouting something ungodly. This game, already lasting dozens of halves, started in mid-afternoon from the moment school finished. The boys played in the yard among the crowded block houses, the walls of which were completely covered with graffiti. Here and there, the facades were clung onto by tin shacks — pantries for all sorts of junk, garages for broken trucks, motorcycles, and bikes. Between the huts as well — dried up laundry. The boys’ game was accompanied by a cacophony of screaming traders, roaring babies, rattling cars, melodies of bossa-nova, and sounds of salsa.

On one side, the goalposts were represented by a dusty gateway arch overgrown with stunted vines. On the other side — a pair of empty boxes. The short kid who responded to the call of his mother seemed to have played the best in this poor neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Taking the ball to his chest, he easily moved it from his torn knee to the shin. Smoothly beating the opponent, the boy made a masterly kick to send the ball rocketing between the two boxes.

«Go-o-o-al!» One group of boys rushed to hug the striker, while the other stood in silence at the gate, rolling the ball.

Meanwhile, the capital of Argentina was descending into a warm October night.

«You shouldn’t be like this to him, Dalma,» said Diego, the boy’s father, in whose honour the boy was named. He came from behind and gently put his arm around his wife’s shoulders.

«After that adventure of yours with him in Mexico, he’s crazy on that football.» Dalma nervously freed herself from his arm, «You know, he even sleeps with that stupid ball in an embrace. Our little Maria sleeps with her doll! But at his age, he shouldn’t be sleeping with toys!»

«Well, he’s still a child. Ten years — what do you want?» Diego paused. «By the way, yesterday I spoke with Antonio Labruna, the schoolmaster.»

«Yes, I know Antonio!» retorted Dalma. «And?»

«Well, he said that… in general, our little guy is not doing too well in school…»

«Oh, is that it?!»

«…but on the other hand,» the father continued, «he’s so good at football! A genius! Antonio wants to put him on the senior school team for city competitions. You remember how he was bullied like a little chicken a year ago because he couldn’t put two movements together with the ball in gym class. And now…»

«…And now our boy has surpassed himself by kicking a stupid ball around the street!» She said with disappointment, «We need him to spend more time on the important subjects, yet you continue to indulge him…»

«Don’t you worry so much, Dalma? Everything will be alright. Our boy will fulfill his dream. You’ll see — he’ll become a hero of Argentina!»

Dalma grunted, while Diego went on, fascinated, despite the sarcasm in the look of his wife. «We, the working people always need football! It makes us free! It elevates our mood, provides food for an evening of chatter with a glass of wine. By the way, let me open a bottle for dinner! It’s better than grumbling and frowning all the time. And all the sciences will eventually come to Diego with time. He’ll learn to read and write.»

«It would also be good if he at least learned how to count so he doesn’t end up like his father, who has nothing in his pockets to count. Yes, and you’re babbling about football like at some rally… «Football makes us free!’… you bore me to sleep!»

«Alright, alright, I’ll talk to him,» Diego gave in, seeing where Dalma was going.

At this point, little Diego stumbled clumsily through door. He was a sturdy and of short height for his ten years of age, covered in dust and with eyes glowing. His left hand firmly pressed a black ball against himself.

«Papa, papa! Mama! Five — three! We killed them!» Diego was raging with pride.

«But you said, up until the first goal…» His mother frowned with displeasure. «I warmed your dinner twice

«Yes, I rolled them a fourth, and then, while thinking to leave or not, I sent a fifth to the right. And then, Aunt Samantha turned off the light in her window… I couldn’t see my ball, so we had to go home.»

«And who scored the first three, son?» his father asked with a sly smile.

«Also me, papa. Who else?»

Dalma seemed to have replaced her anger with compassion, going into the kitchen and warming the dinner for a third time. The father patted Diego’s curly head and leaned to his ear, quietly, conspiratorially whispering: «Central striker Diego Gonzalez, while mama is busy with dinner, I have something for you.»

Slipping through the dark corridor past the door into the kitchen where his mother rattled dishes and cursed as she dispersed the smoke from the stove, they entered Diego’s small room, full of hanging pictures with covers of sports magazines. The father closed the door and said, «Maybe it’s time you stopped kicking around,» he started from afar, «this filthy, old, black ball, of dark Mexican origins?»

«But pa-a-apa…» Diego cringed at the thought of being deprived of his single favorite preoccupation.

«Don’t even start,» the father went on in a deliberately strict manner.

«But why? I promise that I will do my homework on time. I won’t ever skip school. I promise! I promise! I promise!» Big tears flowed down his face.

«Oh, I never knew that you could cry!» The father chuckled, «Alright, don’t howl, I just wanted to say that you’ve played enough with this prehistoric ball, Diego. Why don’t you look under your bed? I think there is something waiting for you now for four hours!»

Diego gave his father a suspicious glance and crawled under the bed, from where a moment later came out a hysterical cry of joy.

«Olé! Olé! Olé! Olé-é-é-é! Thank you, papa!»

Like a brisk snake, he crawled out from under the bed and his trembling hands lay a brand-new football, covered in shiny black and white hexagons.

«It’s real! Leather! The guys will be so pleased. Maybe our team will even be allowed to play on a real field now!»

The father, still pretending to have a stern face, said, «But you must promise your mother and I that this will not harm your schooling! Especially — mathematics.»

«Of course, papa,» Diego was barely listening to him as he swept into the kitchen, «Mama, ma-a-a-ma-a-a, look what I have! Papa gave me this, a ball from real leather!»

«I hope you won’t have any more problems at school, understand?» The mother tried to sound resolute, «Now go wash your hands, you little monkey… with so-o-o-ap!»

«Yes, mama, I promise!»

«What’s the matter with your hand?» She grabbed Diego’s wrist, as he was about to slip by. Dried blood protruded along the edges of the dark plaster glued over his entire left palm. «Your sore has still not healed? Tomorrow we go to the doctor — my uncle Savigna. What is this… three weeks have passed, but the cut has not healed! You’ll catch an infection! How are you going to play without your hands?»

«But I play using my legs,» responded the central striker with an infectious boyish laugh as he headed to bathe.

There, left alone, and furtively glancing at the door, Diego grimaced as he ripped the dirty plaster. Then, his face turned pale and serious as he washed the wound in the cold running tap water and, raising his hand closer to the face, studying it carefully. Indeed, the wound began to tighten. The boy dabbed it with a piece of toilet paper, which quickly turned into a faint pink colour. Diego quivered his hand, brushing a momentary stupor, and pasted the plaster back into place. Then with both hands he «combed» his rough curls, showed himself his pink tongue in the mirror and to his mother’s «Di-e-e-ego!» he shouted back: «I’m coming, ma-a-a!»


To: Head of Intelligence Directorate, General Staff of the Red Army, General I.I. Ilichev

From: Head of Second Chief Directorate, Anglo-American Residence, Lieutenant K.M. Litvinov

     November 27, 1942


Comrade General,

Our U.S. resident «Rockwood» revealed that the object of our interest was present during the so-called Baltimore Experiment. It is established that the agency «Nixon, Kraft and Locksmith,» presented by Mr. Morgan, had a contract with the U.S. military for the supply of sensitive equipment. On the day of the experiment, Mr. Tesla was secretly brought by the secret service agency «Tangerine» to the port of Baltimore from New York on a five-seat plane (reg. no. 685-AS).

The Baltimore Experiment (for your reference)

According to our data, the U.S. military attempted to build a ship invisible to the enemy’s radar and magnetic mines. Using the calculations derived by Mr. Einstein, the destroyer «Aldridge» was installed with special generators. To our knowledge, the project attracted Mr. Tesla’s attention. His participation in the experiment was highly confidential. The reason that the participation of Mr. Tesla was given the highest degree of secrecy confirms our hypothesis that Mr. Tesla used an unknown mechanism of his own invention in the experiment. In addition, we know that an elevated degree of activity of the Abwehr, the German counterintelligence agency, was directed not at the outcome of the experiment, but at the object that Mr. Tesla brought aboard the destroyer.

During the test conducted on Oct. 28, 1942 in dock no. 4 of the Baltimore port, two events happened. First, the ship, surrounded by powerful electromagnetic field discharges, not only disappeared from the radar screen, but literally vanished in the truest sense of the word in a green cloud. Second, after some time, the «Aldridge» reappeared in another place, by the exit into the waters near dock no. 12. In the opinion of doctors, the crew on board was completely distraught,

Our agents interviewed all possible witnesses to the experiment. In particular (for a bribe of 465 dollars), we received the most interesting testimony from senior sailor Mr. Ramirez Allende from the transport ship «Andrew Furuseth,» a vessel that was part of the control group of the Baltimore experiment. Mr. Allende personally saw how the «Aldridge» melted in a strange, greenish glow to a buzzing sound surrounding the destroyer’s force field. Other witnesses indicated that immediately after the discovery of the ship, Special Forces were thrown on board to block all approaches to the ship and all exits on board. Soon after, a speedboat brought a man (Mr. Allende’s photograph identifies the man with exact certainty as Mr. Tesla). The man was immediately escorted to the bridge, from which he returned shortly. He was carrying a metal suitcase in his hands. While descending back into the high-speed boat, according to Mr. Allende, the man (Mr. Tesla) suddenly exclaimed «Oh, shit!» as if from a burn and let his bag out of his hands, throwing it aside. The bag opened and a small ball rolled onto the deck — this object radiated a striking green glow, like a fire welding. The glow lasted for several seconds, and then stopped. Gunmen accompanying Mr. Tesla put the ball away in the metal box. A trace of burnt wood was clearly visible on the deck of the ship.

The most interesting item in Allende’s testimony to our agent was the description of the effects of the experiment. Some incredible things have been happening to the men that returned «from nowhere.» They seemed to have fallen out of the real course of time (the term «frozen» was used). There were cases of spontaneous combustion. Two of the «frozen» men suddenly ignited and burned for eighteen days. Despite all efforts, rescuers in the hospital were unable to stop the burning of the bodies. There were also other oddities — for example, one of the sailors of the «Aldridge» disappeared forever, having passed straight through the wall of his apartment in front of his wife and child. We cannot confirm these accounts, as it is likely that Mr. Allende exaggerated some of his testimony to receive more money.

According to agent «Rockwood,» the U.S. Navy leadership denies the Baltimore Experiment, claiming that nothing of such nature occurred in Baltimore this year. However, we found documents showing that Mr. Einstein has been in the employ of the U.S. Navy Department in Washington D.C. this year. We have copies of the leaflets with the calculations made by hand by Mr. Einstein, who has a very distinctive handwriting. (The copies are translated and forwarded to the Second Division of the GRU).


Dr. Carl Laysler (one of the physicists on this project) has been in our employ since receiving the assignment. Dr. Laysler, according to our information, told a closed Congressional hearing on the case that U.S. military scientists planned to make a warship invisible to radar. A powerful electronic device was installed on board this ship. This device was able to produce energy, the power of which was enough to supply electricity to a small-sized city.

We have a verbatim transcript of his explanation:

…The experiment is remarkable, but terribly dangerous. It has too much influence on the people involved in it. The experiment used magnetic generators, the so-called «de-magnetizers,» which worked at resonant frequencies and created a powerful field around the ship. In practice, this could give a temporary withdrawal from our dimension and might mean a spatial breakthrough, if only it was possible to keep the process under control!

Curiously, Dr. Laysler has never seen this device. However, he believes that it would have taken up at least one-third of the vessel’s area. Nonetheless, he did not see a single loading of large-scale electrical equipment take place on board.

The intent of the experiment was for a strong electromagnetic field around the ship to serve as a screen for radar beams. Dr. Laysler was located on the shore to watch, record, and monitor the experiment. When the device was running, the ship disappeared. Sometime later, it reappeared with all sailors on board dead. Some of their corpses turned into steel — the material from which the ship was made. During our conversation, Dr. Laysler was very upset and it was evident that the sick old man still feels responsibility and guilt for the deaths of the seamen on board the «Aldridge.» Laysler and his colleagues on the experiment consider that they «sent the ship to a different time, with the vessel breaking up into molecules, and in the inverse process there was a partial replacement of organic molecules of human bodies by metal atoms…»

We have proposed a theory that Mr. Tesla may have participated in the project as a possible owner of the device, but Dr. Laysler categorically denied this. According to Dr. Laysler, the military did not inform the team of scientists involved in the project of who manufactured the device.

One week after the experiment, the «Aldridge» was put into reserve by the U.S. Navy. The logbooks of the «Aldridge» disappeared. To our knowledge, they are in the ownership of the 7th Operational Department of the CIA.

Lt. Col. K.M. Litvinov



Immediately start operat… actions, …clarifying… ...details of the Baltim… Expe… t. Confirm… facts and agents at our disposal… …rmation associated with the activit… ola Tesla in the… …military …rces of the U.S. to the exper…

Report …personally, daily.



45° 31» 48» N

9° 5» 37» E

Milan, Italy

May 1991

The traffic jam seemed endless. Even considering that it was in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, in the capital of Italian and world fashion, sitting in the car in this sticky, hot, polluted air did not bring much pleasure.


La pelle come un vestito


Mangiando un panino in due

Io e te


Le briciole nel letto


Ma stretti un po’ di più

Solo io solo tu

The melodic song playing from the broken car radio, performed by a hoarse-voiced man and a bevy of beauties, did not brighten the trip either. Choking in the old Fiat of God knows what colour and year, with coffee and red wine stains as well as something unknown and repulsive on the formerly-velvet backseat, Rodion Karlovich Teichrib concluded that he was going to be late for his flight. Even in the best-case scenario, if at the behest of all the sleeping saints in Milan the highway to Malpensa Airport will immediately clear up, he still would not make it for Alitalia flight 560 to Moscow. This meant that his colleague, translator and assistant, Sergei Tikholapov, who had left to the airport two hours ago, will have to fly to Moscow alone.

The Twenty-Ninth Symposium of the European Society of Historians, held as always under the patronage of the Royal Historical Society of the United Kingdom, was traditionally held in the old European cities like London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Lisbon. In late spring of 1991, that city was Milan.

Not yet an old man at fifty-four years of age and part of the so-called «new wave» of the perestroika era, Professor Rodion Karlovich Teichrib had early-grizzled curly hair and large eyes under similarly large and thick horn-rimmed spectacles. Among the students of the Moscow State University’s Faculty of History he went by the respectable nickname of «Doctor Zhivago.» The Faculty of History of the Moscow State University was the leader of the subject area in the Soviet Union, known for exhaustingly covering both geographical and chronological historical reality, and in fact — all human history. A dozen departments and a few hundred faculty members, including Rodion Karlovich, taught history in a fundamental way, with its own school and traditions. Even the study of the history of the Communist Party introduced in the thirties did not affect the quality of education. Repression of the professorial staff in these years only partially affected the university. The school remained a School.

Rodion Karlovich taught in two departments — history and art of archeology and ethnology as well as ancient fine arts. His «Doctor Zhivago» persona was complemented by the fact that he carried all his documents, books, and notebooks in an old doctor’s bag, which he inherited from his grandfather through his father. Such was the professorial dynasty of the «bag-carriers.»

The «Vesnin Brothers,» responsible for producing this daily necessity of a doctor as well as other suitcases and attributes for wealthy travelers in the early nineteenth century, did not spare the finest pigskins in the creation of their products, being such a benign manufacturer. The brown sides of the bag, obliterated by a century of wear and tear, had about a dozen small holes covered by bronze studs. So, with tight enclosure and long-term storage, the contents of the travelling bag did not dampen or suffocate. The lock made by «Vesnin Brothers» was so strong and shrewd that it would be envied by any modern travel lock. However, its key came only in one copy. The professor once tried to order a duplicate — as if it were possible! Upon seeing the manufacturer brand, no master took the task. «Hold on to it like the apple of an eye, but if you lose it, the sides of the bag will have to be cut open, ruining such a fine product!» But even this would be hard to do because the sides of the doctor’s travelling bag were reinforced with whalebone. That’s why Rodion Karlovich only took the key with him when he went on business trips, which had been recently becoming more often. Even when handing his bag over at check-in counters, he did not bother to have it wrapped around by plastic to protect it from the baggage handlers of Sheremetyevo Airport that were known for their autopsies of expensive suitcases arriving from capitalist countries. Firstly, this type of travelling bag did not look as polished as most of his fellow travelers’, and secondly, breaking it open would need too much force. The rest of the time, during lectures and hours spent in the dilapidated Lenin library, the key awaited the professor in the bachelor two-bedroom apartment that he shared with his mother, not far from the Kropotkinskaya metro station.

Smiling and showing large teeth, the lenses of his glasses gleaming, Rodion Karlovich talked in a quiet, but firm, tone of voice, forcing the audience to stop whispering and carefully delve into his lectures. As a relatively young, extremely well-read, and «new» -thinking teacher, he did not suffer from a lack of attention from his students. Many of them idolized him and sometimes even escaped from other classes to listen to the «advanced» lectures of Dr. Zhivago.

In the midst of perestroika, a new wave of contacts was made with foreign universities interested in promoting «progressive thinking» in the USSR, which became increasingly popular in the West (from matryoshka dolls and Paul McCartney’s «Back in the USSR» to nuclear technology), opening more doors to the young professors of the land of the Soviets. This allowed Rodion Karlovich to visit six countries in the past three years alone. Previously, one could only dream of such trips, not to mention the expenses covered by host nations.

And here he was, sitting in the Milanese taxi on the road to the airport, with a wandering smile, recalling a conversation about him in a small pizzeria on Via Cappellini with his young colleague and translator, Sergei Tikholapov. Rodion Karlovich caught himself thinking that he was continuing to test his knowledge of the amazing object that he acquired for ten lire. Actually, it only cost him a payment for a bus ride with a half-blind Italian rag-picker, whom he named «Giuseppe Blue-nose» in his mind.

Here is what happened. Having successfully broken away from the «tourist group» (or rather, from the delegation of professors and lecturers from the countries of the former socialist bloc and the elderly guide, a Jewish immigrant, who seemingly spoke in all the languages of the world), and chuckling to himself that this whole episode crudely reminded him of a scene from the 1960s Soviet comedy The Diamond Arm, professor Rodion Karlovich slipped into the shadows of the small and prosperous Via Plinio. A couple of times, he covered his tracks by entering small souvenir shops, sorting in his pockets for coins given to him as subsistence by the Committee of Assistance to Eastern European Nations. Finally, he found himself at the corner of that same Via Plinio and Piazza Lima.

It’d be nice to study the outskirts of Milan too, as not only do its palaces make Milan beautiful, but its people too, thought Rodion Karlovich, looking around and squinting at the bright sun-lit street, or else I might as well spend my whole trip in classrooms and at conferences. It was at this moment that he felt some sort of hollow ringing in his head, which after a moment turned into a dull ache in the left brow. He stopped and firmly pressed the palm of his hand to his brow, then rubbed his temple. However, the pain was not only not gone, but it intensified. He even put his head in his hands, remembering how Heinrich Muller taught Stirlitz to deal with migraines in the classic film Seventeen Moments of Spring.

What the hell? Removing his glasses, he gave a tired and bewildered look at the suddenly deserted street. At a bus stop not far away, sat a lonely old man in a plaid flannel shirt, a blue velvet waistcoat and a worn-out cap, with his tanned hands peacefully resting on his knees.

Rodion Karlovich slowly approached this elderly man of small stature and a narrow face with a long, bluish nose, and without even thinking how to explain himself he knocked on his own forehead with two fingers and, wincing, asked: «Pharmacy, where is farmacia? Analgene… head — testa… testa boo-boo very much — testa malate! Devil may break a leg of this damn Italian!» The old man, as if expecting this question, got up from the plastic bench and promptly waved his dry blotchy hand, inviting Rodion Karlovich into a shabby, impossibly dusty city bus that pulled to the curb out of nowhere.

Ostensibly hypnotized, the professor entered the empty salon and collapsed next to the old man in the seat behind the driver. Bus no. 64W immediately started moving, grunting out exhaust with displeasure. The driver turned to the old man, looked into his eyes, and shook his head — «This one?» Blue-nose nodded his head.


55° 45» 11» N

37° 38» 26» E

Moscow, Russian Federation

September 7, 1994

«This one?»

«What do I know?»

«This guy isn’t quite dead yet…»

«Aha! They don’t want dead ones. Remember the last one? They finally let him go…»

«Yeah, let him go… into the Moscow River.»

The two square-headed and thick-necked thugs, dressed in expensive suits of the latest fashion, stopped at the corner of Podkolokolny and Malo Ivanovo alleys. With undisguised contempt, they were looking intensely at a dry, bony, dirty man. He sat with his back to a water pipe, pursing his thin legs. The tricot was torn at his knees. Dirty, swollen, dressed in rags, he was begging passersby for something in his incoherent, tongue-tied speech. But the passersby only hurriedly ran past him, some bouncing off to the side for fear of catching some tuberculosis, pediculosis, or «even something worse.»

One of the suits drew a pair of white latex gloves from his pocket, busily pulled them on his hairy hands, and pushed the elbow of his associate, quietly muttering, «Alright, we take this one. We’ve been shaking down alleyways for two hours. And I’m hungry like a dog! If he won’t be the right one, then the hell with him — the river will wash him away like the others…»

«Wait, I’ll put a cover on the seat… God forbid that son a bitch will stink up my car.» He turned and quickly headed to the man standing not far from the black Jeep.

Meanwhile, the first suit sat down in front of beggar and shook his bony shoulder. The hobo raised his eyelids heavily and with his bright blue, unreflective eyes looked at the stranger. He was not too old. Rather, it was impossible to tell his age without ridding his face of the stubble he had grown over many days, washing the dirt off him, and feeding him properly. He was probably still in his thirties.

«I’m not well, brother,» he rasped through dry, parched, blue lips, «I can’t breathe… my pipes are burning!»

«Well, that’s fixable, chap. How do we call you, miserable?» asked the suit deliberately in a good-natured and merry tone.

«I’m Oleg. Oleg Pervushin.»

«Here’s what, Oleg Pervushin, look here, brother — I’m going to patch you up for a little case. At my cottage. It’s not for nothing, you hear! I’ll get your pipes cleaned and feed you and get you dressed, bro. The whole deal!» He smiled wryly and depicted a graceful movement with his white-gloved fingers. Then, still smiling, he pulled from his jacket pocket a 250-mL bottle of «Moskovskaya» vodka, pulled off the silver cap, and placed the warm bottle into the trembling hand of Oleg Pervushin. As if long expecting such a turn of events, Oleg took three big gulps in exactly three seconds, consuming the entire contents of the bottle, making his saviour whistle with admiration. Gently burping, Oleg again leaned back against the drainpipe. After a few long moments, his cheeks began to show colour, his breathing leveled off, and he opened his eyes to look at the stranger in full consciousness.

«Well, what do you want, dear,» said Oleg with a little drawl, «Take me, lock, stock and barrel. If you like, I’ll plow your land, and dig up a well, and cut down trees for a sauna, and…»

«No, no, Oleshka,» interrupted his companion, «I want you to, well, work as a watchman for me. You know how many scums there are around now, climbing in windows, stealing, and they can even burn you. Well, maybe, you can be a courier for our office. You know, bring this, take that…»

«What, the post doesn’t work?»

«Yes, it works. But we don’t need its services. I’m sure you know how they work… every second package, bye-bye. It’s not around Moscow you’ll have to deliver them, but to far away. To all, so to speak, corners of our great motherland. Well, that’s it — c’mon, let’s go. Details — later.»

«Drugs or something?»

«God forbid, who do you hold me for? I’m one of yours, I’m a bourgeois,» insisted the thug. The joke sounded out of place.

He helped the homeless man up. Only some of the very few passersby still out at this late evening hour paid any attention at how an expensively dressed man held a foul street beggar by the arm and seated him into an expensive foreign car. The right back door slammed, and Oleg fell on the soft leather seat, which was covered its entire length by a sheet of transparent plastic. The car pulled slowly away, sharply honking at clumsy, crooked Ladas, and with its tires squealing, raced up the Malo Ivanovo alley of Moscow. Eyeing the big city lights from a window of the expensive car, Oleg was sweetly falling asleep. At one turn, he even fell to the squeaky polyethylene, curled up and fell asleep, resting his unshaven cheek on his dirty fist. Meanwhile, the car’s stereo system blasted a Nautilus Pompilius rock hit at full bass:

If you’re drinking with thieves,

Be afraid for your wallet,

If you walk on muddy roads,

You can’t avoid soiling your feet…

«Turn off that nonsense!»

«What’s wrong? It’s their last album — it’s good stuff!

«What’s so cool? If you drink with thieves — don’t be afraid for your wallet! Don’t be afraid! — you got it?»


To: Head of Intelligence Directorate,

General Staff of the Red Army,

General I.I. Ilichev

December 4, 1942


Comrade General,

As part of Operation Trigger, I offer you the latest intelligence information, analysis, archival documents, and historical references. We also found that the OGPU organs, and in particular the Deputy Chairman of the OGPU — G.G. Yagoda, were already interested in the subject in 1931.



From: Ciphered reports of the Russian Embassy resident in the U.S., Joseph Grabbe

To: Head of the 7th Branch of the General Staff, Gen. V.A. Tselebrovsky

Copy: Russian Ambassador to the United States, Mr. R.R. Rosen

July 27, 1902

Your Excellency,

With the help of our agent at the central post office in Colorado Springs, we have received a copy of a letter from Mr. Tesla to Mr. Johansson in New York regarding our matter of interest. I bring to your attention the translation of the highlights of this document:

Dear friend!

…in the sketches of the high electromagnetic discharge instrument made on the basis of a familiar object to you, «Trigger,» I came across a thought.

…dear Johansson, soon you will be able to read your poems to Homer himself! Meanwhile, I will be discussing my findings with the great Archimedes. Give me time, and I will send you a copy of my research diary, and you will see for yourself that I am not sick in the head, as many around me are already beginning to assume. Unfortunately, even Mr. Morgan, my good financial backer, is also beginning to lean towards this view. All that excited him was my successful experiment with the disappearance of the old power generator in Philadelphia, as well as the presence of my most important — his, Mr. Morgan’s — incredible object, a round catalyst (which he jokingly calls the «ball of Gods,» and I — «Trigger»). Some other time, I will write to you in detail how he jumped and slapped his thighs when I showed him the green electromagnetic waves which appeared during the disappearance in Philadelphia, unbelievably resembling a fog. I held the ball in my outstretched hand, and it lit up in my hands like a little sun of cold and lifeless plasma.

Your Excellency,

We have also found that after returning from Colorado Springs, Mr. Tesla informed journalists of the Herald Tribune that he had established contact with extraterrestrial civilizations. Few took this statement seriously. However, there are indications that Mr. Tesla is continuing his investigation of «parallel worlds» by himself, with the help of the object of our interest, without publicizing any of the results. He discusses all of his experiments only personally with Mr. Morgan during garden walks or in a completely closed laboratory that does not give us the opportunity to listen and learn the contents of their conversations. During their garden walks, Mr. Tesla and Mr. Morgan sometimes play with a ball (that is, the «subject» of our interest). The dimensions of this ball do not exceed 5 to 7 inches in diameter. They play the so-called English football, which is now becoming in vogue in Russia. At all other times while on the territory observed by us, Mr. Tesla did not part with the ball at any moment.

The report of our scientific consultants concludes that Mr. Tesla uses the subject known as «Trigger» to make machinery for altering the electromagnetic vibrations of his own brain. In other words, he uses the ball to control his mental activity, and thus he can communicate with time-shifted realities. I also report that the German intelligence is keenly interested in Mr. Tesla’s activities. In particular, a certain Mr. Krauser entered employ as a part-time assistant at Mr. Tesla’s laboratory; to our knowledge, Mr. Krauser is an agent of the German General Staff’s intelligence organ.

Mr. Tesla is decisively transferring his work to Long Island. Thus, in order to speed up our work, I am requesting your sanction for the possibility of extraction and subsequent copying of Mr. Tesla’s research records as well as the actual «Trigger» — by any means necessary, including extreme measures.

Considering the importance of this object to the interests of the Russian state, we will inform you immediately upon receipt of new information.

First Deputy Russian Envoy to the North American United States

Joseph C. Grabbe


The extraction of the subject of interest and of Mr. Tesla’s archive using extreme measures is strictly prohibited. Find an opportunity to obtain the materials by other means. Embed our agents in all of Mr. Tesla’s accessible communication channels. Report personally to myself and General V.A. Tselebrovsky on any new developments concerning Mr. Tesla.

7th Dept. of the 1st Division of the 2nd Quartermaster

General N.S. Ermolov


To: 1st (Military-statistical) Division of the 2nd Quartermaster, General A.P. Simonov

August 23, 1914


Your Excellency,

I bring to your attention the mood of the intelligence officers of the General Staff.

Russia’s defeat in the war with Japan revealed significant shortcomings in the organization of our military intelligence. The war of 1904—1905 demonstrated the necessity of not only continuous reconnaissance during combat operations, but also of permanent surveillance within the territory of the probable opponent and other states, recruitment of agents, bribery of military and state officials, and counterintelligence, which is neglected, according to most intelligence officers. In addition, I offer the latest report from our agents on the case of Mr. Tesla.

According to our information, in the summer of 1914, when Serbia was at the center of events that led to the beginning of World War I, Mr. Tesla remained in America, taking part in soliciting funds for the Serbian army. Several times in the presence of the press, he expressed a very vague idea clearly related to his recent scientific developments. For instance: «The time will come when some scientific genius will invent a machine capable of destroying one or more armies in one action.»

We propose to maximally activate our group’s efforts to retrieve Mr. Tesla’s technical documents before the German intelligence service does so.

Colonel V.V. Sedyakin


70° 4» 36» N

170° 51» 12» E

Chaunsky District, Chukotka, Russian Federation

March 31, 2001

«This damned place! What in the world attracted you here, tell me? We could be sitting right now in a sauna! You won’t even get yourself cleaned properly! Always showers and showers! It’s not humanlike. People tried with their souls, heated it, cut an ice-hole. It’s winter, damn it!»

«In my opinion, it’s spring! And it’s very beautiful here! Look at how the wind walks, and such waves! Maybe we’ll shoot down something? Who roams here now?»

«We can take a fox. But not with this weather — too much damn wind.»

The two men were walking slowly, in measuring steps, along the coast of the Chukchi Sea. One of them, an authoritative figure, listened attentively to what the other was explaining. The «boss» had an expensive-looking shotgun hanging over his shoulder. On the melting snow, rolling through the snow dunes, two vehicles slowly followed the men: a black Toyota Land Cruiser and a Russian-made all-terrain army vehicle, GAZ-34039. Three other men in dark jackets journeyed at a distance along the same course, scanning the desolate, forbidding surroundings.

The discussion turned to setting up a repeater station in this area to ensure continued telephone and internet connection for the few towns and villages. The nearest such station was in Pevek and had a service range of several hundred kilometers. This was clearly not enough for the needs of the villages, geological stations, settlements of reindeer herders and hunters, and for the increasing shipping traffic on the Northern Sea Route. Moscow was keenly interested in developing this area and openly hinted to the private sector that it would be nice to not use state funds, but «other» financial resources instead. As they say, there was little choice.

«Andrei Andreyevich, you have to understand that if we set the station here, people will be sent here as if to the pole for exile. Even animals haven’t walked these lands in years. It’s a dead place!» loudly voiced the elderly man in a fur cap pulled down over his head and hustling and waving his short arms.

«Don’t worry, Nikolai Alekseyevich, everything will be fine.» It was evident that the tall young man with a red week-old beard, a bare head and in dark glasses, and in a short, light and, apparently, very warm jacket, turned to his companion with an elaborate yet condescending politeness. «If necessary, I’ll send a good work force here. Bachelors and experienced explorers. There have to be three people per shift. It’ll be warm under the roof, with constant connection… much better than toiling on a rig or on a rocker. We’ll build a helicopter pad, warehouses, and so on… stock up on vodka. Speaking of which, how about some, Nikolai Alekseyevich? Maybe you’ll sign up for a season or two?» Along with words, white vapor came from his mouth. He walked, wistfully looking at the bleak hills, the unfriendly Chukchi Sea, and thought: What the fuck am I doing here? There wasn’t any need to choose the site myself, or to even fly out here. Everything could be done by experts. Look at me — a communications expert, idiot! Signalman-millionaire! Wherever you want, that’s where you put these damn repeaters. Come to London! No, better you come with us to Kolyma… How I’ve had it with these social responsibilities, fat bitches…

The fresh breeze from the sea touched the young man’s red hair. He was a naturally handsome persona, built like a middle-weight boxer, pale-skinned like Lord Byron and with blue eyes set deep in the shadows of his brows. His name was Andrei Andreyevich Romanov. He was forty-one years old. He was worth three billion dollars and had the broadest of ties «at the top.» These ties allowed him to engage in speculation, securities, state property, the «official» removal of competitors, and other matters, always bringing him a profit. A considerable profit.

This inexplicable pull to come and «enjoy» the beauty of the Arctic Circle came to fruition only a few weeks ago to this Russian nouveau riche, who rose from small business in the early nineties to a billion-dollar empire today. He was driving in Moscow to a Union of Industrialists meeting when he halted in a traffic jam on Tverskaya Street. No emergency or security vehicles and not even signal-flashing state limos could unglue the cars stuck like sprats in a can on both sides of the street. Out of nowhere, a dirty gypsy, some Tajik kid, ran up to the car and began to rub a sticky cloth on the tinted glass on the passenger side of the black Bentley. The boy’s eyes were completely empty and seemed like huge eyeballs. He was furiously trying to push the cloth on the glass directly in Romanov’s face, as if to wipe his nose. Out flew the bodyguards, trying to pull the boy away — however, he grabbed a door handle, so that even two heavies couldn’t do anything. He even managed to free for a few moments, pulling a stub of corn cob out of his inner jacket pocket and forcefully rubbing it onto the window. Yellow kernels scattered on the sides, and the spot of impact on the glass blurred like a sun in children’s drawings. «Ton guha,» cried the boy passionately, «Ton guha!»

Finally, the security tore the boy off the car and kicked him onto the sidewalk, where onlookers were already enjoying the little spectacle. «Ton guha! Ton guha…» the little dark-skinned kid continued screaming until one of the guards feigned a threatening movement, supposedly trying to catch the offender of the peace. The kid disappeared down an alleyway, sticking his tongue out at the heavy.

Romanov smiled and asked the driver, anxiously glancing at the clock, «Kostya, what is this „ton guha?“ Do you know, by chance?»

«Some damn black-speak probably, Andrei Andreyevich. «Give me money,» or something, I guess. I know that in Georgian, «give me money’ goes something like puli mamitschkhara… something like that, though I’m not sure… They’re everywhere!»

Being from Yaroslavl, Kostya was deeply concerned about the changing ethnic composition of the capital’s population. Meanwhile, Romanov’s heart suddenly felt pricked and he sighed with a slight groan, leaning back in his leather seat, and closing his eyes. He became deathly depressed, like once upon a time following the tragic death of his mother in a car accident. Kostya turned and looked worriedly at his boss, who just waved his hand and said, «Never mind, let’s go…» Indeed, the traffic surprisingly cleared up, as if it didn’t exist. Cars moved, picking up speed, snorting fumes at each other.

And now, in light of the occasion, and, of course, thanks to the availability of a good bottle of whiskey in the lonely room at the Intercontinental (Romanov didn’t want to drag himself back to his empty, remote home right after a meeting «at the top»), instead of spending «quality time» with his family in a cottage purchased three years ago in a small Belgian ski village, he quickly gathered his crew for a flight to Yakutsk the next day, for an «emergency trip.» He became so frightened that something very important was passing, something that will change his whole life, that he jumped out of bed in the middle of the night, awakened by a telephone call from his secretary and forced him to immediately take up this matter.

Romanov’s manic fear of becoming someone’s victim — of friends, of businessmen, of corporate raiders, or of omnipresent secret services — forced him to engage more in securities, stock markets, and resale of land, followed by the withdrawal of capital to quiet western markets, and less in the supply of hydrocarbons and metals. Having done some experiments with securities, he was convinced that they were a profitable activity. He continued to bribe public officials through whom he received ownership of national resources and treasures, but reselling securities became his main passion.

Still, at times Romanov was still attacked by unmanageable thoughts he was unable to escape from and failed to make logic of. At such moments he developed a tick. All the signs of neurosis were present. Instead of consulting doctors, he visited certain «mind expanders.» At such nagging moments, Romanov dreamt passionately that the Lord — yes, God himself — instructed him to an important task — the Mission — to receive information and so that he, Romanov, must humbly carry it from place to place. Yes, yes! He must become a messenger of God, the Chosen One. He wanted to rid himself of all this easy money that flooded his mind and life — money that prevented him from accepting and delivering the… let’s call it the stigmata. Yes, carry it from God to… someone else, just as high…

Romanov was brought back down to earth from his reflections by the cheerful voice of Nikolai Alekseyevich, who was marching through snow in long strides and moving his arms like a professional skier.

«Vodka will lure any fool to the station, Andrei Andreyevich,» joked the old man. He was a regional manager — a solid, serious man with graying temples and a huge black mustache that resembled a shoe brush. He was an adherent of a simple, soldier’s brand of humour and always knew how to support a conversation.

«Vodka-thirsty fools are exactly who we don’t need here. Either we place one station here for all three sectors, or we place three other ones — one for each sector to the south. These three other ones will cost me dimes, if not cents. Putting up IT geeks and hackers here… what do they care where they fuck their virtual babes, here or in Moscow? In the meantime, they’ll be busy enough looking after the system, so they won’t be biting their elbows from boredom.»

«That’s something! See, I’m an old man in my seventh decade, but I can’t tear away my granddaughter from that TV set, or whatever it’s called… a monitor!» Nikolai took a deep breath and continued, «All she does is babble over the Internet with her giggling girlfriends. And they live… two houses away from each other! In our town, there are just those two houses,» Nikolai laughed dryly, not letting the cigarette leave his mouth. «In the old days we ran to our friends without knocking on their door, but today’s youth doesn’t even leave their homes. Well, at least no one has to worry where they’re disappearing to!»

«Here, here. We’ll arrange in the right places the stations, and I’ll be able to locate you anywhere, brother, even from London. You won’t give me any excuses that there’s no connection…»

His boots crunching on razor-sharp ice-hummocks reaching towards the sun, Romanov sharply leaned away from a gust of wind and immediately bumped into Nikolai, almost tumbling him. Nikolai stood rock-still, eyes bulging, the cigarette hanging on his lower lip, trying to scorch his «walrus» mustache.

«Andrei Andreyevich, look! What is this mess, mother of God?»

The half-melted snow around the coastal black shapeless boulder exposed what at first sight looked like a pile of rags and paper. All of this miraculously hung on some carcass. A white carcass, treading through half-decayed tissue, upon closer inspection turned out to be the ribs of a decayed corpse, of human remains.

And here we’ve come… thought Romanov with an air of indifference. The anguish and chest pain, that was in him like a thorn for a week already, somehow left him all at once from the moment he arrived at these polar lands. He said aloud: «Well, Nikolai Andreyevich, this is where we’ll put the station… we’ll call it „At the Dead Mountaineer.“»


34° 38’14» S

58° 21» 12» W

Buenos Aires, Argentina

October 14, 1972

Dinner went by strangely. Dalma seemed dispirited or upset. But that did not stop her, as always, from sitting at the head of the table and reading the traditional prayer that Diego knew by heart since the age of five. Dalma received this prayer in a letter from her cousin in the United States, on Long Island, with a note that it is «the most blessed prayer that your family can ever receive.» Three weeks later, the cousin died in a car accident. Since then, Dalma has recited the prayer as a testament before each meal.

I do solemnly swear that I will always respect the property of others and be content with their lot, destined in my life by the grace of God. I will always be thankful to my masters, will never complain either of my posited pay or of extra labour, but I will always question myself: «What else can I do for my masters, for my people and for God?» We were born on this Earth not for happiness, but for trial and ordeal. And this ordeal — the burden of Fire — was given to us to cleanse our souls. And if I want to carry this Fire from one place to another, then I must always be an unselfish, sober, and truthful person. I must always be of pure soul, body, deeds, and thoughts… Be full of respect for those whom the Creator, in his ineffable wisdom, has put over me. If I endure this trial, then death will be followed by eternal life and heavenly bliss. If, however, I will not endure, I will forever burn in the flames of hell, the Devil will triumph, and Christ will grieve of me.

Little Diego sat there; his eyes fixated on the eggs. Big Diego, leaning his head to one side, was looking admiringly at Diego’s mother. Then, while the boy was working on his thrice-heated omelet with pieces of coarsely chopped red bell pepper, the father and mother quietly discussed local news. Behind the wall, the younger sister, Maria, dropped off her blanket in response to the heat.

«People in the city are losing their minds. They say there’s a maniac who kills children at night. Here, listen,» Dalma smoothed the pages of the local newspaper, the Buenos Aires Review, on the table, «…Police Chief Don Rodriguez warns the local population of La Boca district, especially parents of young children. „Do not allow children out in the evening. Or look after them yourselves…“»

«Buenos Aires is slowly turning into Mexico City,» the father nodded.

«This maniac,» continued the mother, sighing and pushing the paper aside, «beats the poor things to death just like that, and then cuts off their ears and sends them to the police station… by mail, in a parcel. It’s as if he’s saying „catch me, police! Here I am!“»

«Yes, I heard parents from some schools in the lower city are doing night patrols on the streets. But how can you keep watch of everybody?» said the father, sitting on a creaking wicker chair, sipping Mendoza.

«Son, you shouldn’t run around so late in the evening. This may be happening in La Boca and not in our hood, but better to be safe than sorry,» Dalma stroked Diego’s ruffled, curly hair.

«That’s right, Diego. Until the police track down the bastard, come home before dark! That’s an order!» grimly asserted his father.

«Don’t worry so much, ma-papa,» the boy hurriedly blurted out, pushing aside his plate, and planting a kiss on his mother’s cheek. Already fleeing to his room, he added, «It’s not like I go out alone in the evenings, I’m always with friends…»

Diego undressed, turned off the old desk lamp and climbed into bed. Outside, cicadas itched in a monotone voice, the neighbour’s window slammed shut, and a car passed by, rattling on potholes. An empty bucket suspended from the chassis characteristically tapped on each bump in the road. Cats cried out occasionally. The huge city was slowly preparing for sleep. For a while, Diego lay motionless. Behind one wall — his parents were talking quietly, behind another — Maria was turning and muttering something in her sleep. On the table among the books, the black and white sides of the gift Diego received from his father gleamed in the moonlight. Diego crawled out from under his blanket and while making a step in the dark, suddenly stumbled and nearly hit his head on the table. Stooping, he picked up his little black ball. Diego stood still in the middle of the room; his head leaned to his shoulder. At this moment, tears began to flow down his cheeks. I’ll never leave you, Kuluangwa! Never! He swung and fell on his bed, hugged the old ball tightly and with it turned towards the wall, pulling his knees to his chest.

Pressing the ball in his palms made him feel light, almost electric bites. He was already used to them. They appeared every night. Completely painless at first, they gradually became more and more insistent. However, Diego was not afraid of them. On the contrary, he waited for these sensations with unconcealed trepidation and deep joy. At this point, a hard, warm lump always appeared in his throat, making him want to cry — to weep bitterly. That’s what the boy often did, firmly wrapped in his blanket. He tore off the blackened patch off the palm of his left hand. Curled in pain that he suffered every night, he whispered, «Now, now, wait…»

Clenching his teeth, Diego pressed his right thumb on the wound. He was so twisted in pain that he grabbed the edge of the pillow with his teeth, holding back a moan. A large drop of blood emerged from the cut and spread out over the palm of his hand. Carefully, so as not to stain the linens, he put his hand to the ball. The small hand went into the black surface, like into melted wax, and the soothingly warm ball firmly accepted it into its fold. It will hold Diego’s palm until the morning, caressing and massaging it until the bleeding will stop. Now the boy was asleep. A happy smile roamed on his lips.


To: Head of Intelligence Directorate,

General Staff of the Red Army, General I.I. Ilichev

From: Head of Second Chief Directorate,

Anglo-American Residence,

Lieutenant K.M. Litvinov

January 20, 1943


Comrade General,

On the substance of the operation carried out to extract the secret dossier of Mr. Tesla, I inform you of the following:


As per investigatory case No. 877, Lt. Aleksey Trofimovich Ivasenko (agent «Jack») and Lt. Pavel Magomedovich Goyev (agent «Hispanic») have been questioned.

Lt. Ivasenko and Lt. Goyev conducted a swift operation in New York with the objective of extracting Mr. Tesla’s document archive, which is in development. The operation involved a multiple-turn game, which did not lead to the intended outcome. We became aware that Abwehr agents stationed in the U.S. (Admiral Wilhelm Canaris personally oversees the operation) are actively interested in Mr. Tesla’s achievements. We have noted a high degree of activity of known German agents («Ron», «Stein», and «Arab») seeking to take possession of Mr. Tesla’s designs in the near future (in one-two weeks’ time), as part of the Vergeltungswaffe program («Weapons of Vengeance»).

Given these developments, we decided to accelerate our efforts to capture, copy, and destroy the materials before Abwehr agents manage to do so. I present the main points of the explanatory memorandum on the merits of Lt. Ivasenko as the group leader.

To: Head of Second Chief Directorate, C/A №174

Lieutenant K.M. Litvinov

Given that the object of our interest, Mr. Tesla, has lived a very secluded lifestyle in recent years, being completely devoid of all public and even friendly contacts, we made several attempts to infiltrate Mr. Tesla’s surroundings as service personnel of the New Yorker Hotel where Mr. Tesla has spent the recent years in solitude. However, we established that Mr. Tesla communicated only with the hotel staff he knew well. In their absence, his breakfast, lunch, and dinner were delivered to his room personally by the hotel manager.

On January 7 at 6:47 a.m., we successfully entered Mr. Tesla’s room (No. 3327) in the guise of stokers and chimney cleaners. In the evening of January 6, we were able to block the chimney of room no. 3327 from the roof, and through Mr. Colin, the concierge whom we bribed, we were invited as the repair team «J. Jameson & Co.» to examine and fix the chimney.

We decided in the first place to copy the archive and only then, being sure that we possess all necessary documentation, to try to persuade Mr. Tesla to cooperate. We established the location of the safe beforehand thanks to the concierge. The complexity of the lock did not present any problems.

We repeatedly asked Mr. Tesla to temporarily leave the premises, for a half hour at most, for the length of the «repairs» (so we could open the safe and copy the documents in his absence). Mr. Tesla was wearing a brand new, expensive black suit despite the early morning hours. He also wore a tie, as if going to a business meeting. However, Mr. Tesla refused to leave the room, seemingly suspecting something. He even wanted to call the hotel staff to get rid of us.

In lieu of the situation, we used force to neutralize him for a moment. Mr. Tesla showed remarkable resistance for his age. At one point during the ensuing battle, realizing the hopelessness of the situation, Mr. Tesla consumed an unknown chemical drug, a small piece of material that he pulled off from a porous black cube. He always held this object, a black dice, in his hands. (Attached is a 2x2x2 mm sample taken from the original for chemical analysis — it is sent to P.A. Sudoplatov at the NKVD Laboratory, 5th Section of the 9th Department of the Chief Directorate of State Security).

Mr. Tesla’s death was instantaneous. We moved his body to the sofa in the living room and folded his hands on his chest to give the impression of self-poisoning, or suicide by sleeping pills. All evidence of struggle was thoroughly destroyed, including traces of cracking the safe, fingerprints and so on.

We successfully opened the safe and photocopied the documents. By the instructions of the Second Chief Directorate, all technical documentation containing the data for the production of «super energy» was destroyed (burned in the fireplace). Only original documents of a philosophical and aesthetic character, which do not represent any intelligence value, were left in the safe. Copies of the documents are attached.


At the moment we left the room, we noted that Mr. Tesla’s body acquired some very strange physical properties. It became unusually heavy, as if the corpse turned into a metallic, steel statue. Also, at a distance of 1—2 cm, Mr. Tesla’s entire body was covered by a thin, bright-green translucent layer, which disappeared immediately upon touching it.

NKGB First Lieutenant A.T. Ivasenko

The suicide version of Mr. Tesla’s death is adopted as the main and official one. The photocopied documents have been interpreted at our 6th Special Department of the Soviet Embassy in Washington. The photocopies are attached. The translation is attached. As evidence of the adoption of the main version of Mr. Tesla’s death without aggravating circumstances, the translation of an article from The New York Times on January 13, 1943 is attached.

EDITORIAL: The Death of Tesla

Nikola Tesla, one of the world’s greatest and most controversial scientists, died on January 7 in New York at the age of 86. What do we know about Dr. Tesla? We know plenty. And we know nothing at all.

Tesla believed that the universe is a living system, and that all human beings in it are machines that behave according to the laws of space. He believed that the human brain does not have imaginative memory as commonly thought, but that memory is only the reaction of nerves to a repetitive external stimulus that is generated by periodic physical effects. More importantly, Tesla did not consider his over one-thousand inventions as a work of merit. He saw himself as no more than a conductor of science between the world of ideas and the world of human practice.

Many of Tesla’s experiments were backed by long-deceased financier J. Pierpont Morgan, but Tesla did not bring them all to completion. Tesla teased us with cryptic phrases that he dropped on occasion and that were readily adopted by newspapers (including ours) as unequivocal proof of his connection with another world. Tesla lived during a mania for invention. Sometimes it seemed as if he barely needed to strain his mind to conceive a brilliant idea that would bestow benefit to all of humanity. Likewise, many potential investors imagine the activity of scientists in the same way. They are willing to pay to implement completed inventions, but do not tend to finance long-term experiments. During a purported meeting at the Grand Hotel in 1890, Tesla convinced billionaire Morgan to sponsor the construction of his laboratory on Long Island.

Tesla convinced Morgan that he knew how to transmit immense amounts of energy for a considerable distance without wires. Did Tesla really know or only think he knew? No one had managed to achieve this feat to date. Morgan decided that Tesla’s objective was worthy of his investment and that the greatest invention of the century would be in his hands. With Morgan’s funding, Tesla built the Wardenclyffe Tower, which generated strong, green electric discharges. The lightning that emitted from the tower scared local townsfolk to death. After Tesla failed to achieve his stated objective, Morgan stopped further financing and publicly denounced Tesla as a «magician.»

However, our newspaper has information that the scientist and the financier continued to meet in secret. Both parties can be blamed for their public fallout and end of cooperation. Morgan did not understand that science does not always produce immediate profit. Tesla placed too much trust in his own brilliant intuition. Their public split may have been only an appearance, a cover for a much deeper relationship.

Tesla did not lack ideas and theories, but he was inclined to attribute all results of his experiments to his mind, regardless of success. For instance, he believed that his experiments with electricity caused storms in the Indian Ocean, for which there could not be any evidence. The scientist’s boundless faith in his own ideas misled him more than once. He claimed to have invented a «death beam» that could destroy a warship at a distance of 250 miles. However, the radiator he built could not even cause serious harm to laboratory animals. We became aware that Tesla, despite his advanced age, actively cooperated with the U.S. military-industrial complex. Still, he maintained the image of a misunderstood genius, being able to attract the general public’s attention no less than a bearded woman in a circus.

Doctors concluded that Tesla died of acute heart failure. His death itself is seen as an expression of his personal triumph — more a conscious reincarnation to a different plane of existence rather than a death of an ordinary man, embarrassed and frightened in the face of self-liberation. Two days before his death, Tesla stopped working and locked himself in a room of the New Yorker Hotel, asking not to be disturbed. The day before his death, the hotel room’s fireplace stopped working. The chimney was repaired by a crew of two immigrant workers. They were apparently the last people to see Tesla alive. Our newspaper tried to find these people, but to no avail. According to our information, the New York Police Department is not looking for these people and there is no evidence of an unnatural cause of death.

Tesla did not order his usual continental breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which caused confusion among hotel staff. When the director of the hotel and a chambermaid finally entered Tesla’s room, they found his body lifeless on the couch, lying on his back with arms folded and elegantly dressed in a suit and tie, as if ready for a farewell. Tesla’s hands held a dense, black cube no bigger than an inch. Was the scientist showing that he was exiting this world a pure man, with a Holy Communion?

Tesla’s electromagnetic theory was a prime example of an attempt to unite the material and the spiritual world orders. Tesla was so busy that he did not leave us with a coherent theory. Perhaps he could have left us a new religion, but he did not want to because he knew that the God of Science requires conscious followers. Tesla also destroyed almost all of his records that he kept in a secret safe in his hotel room. That was evidenced by the nearly empty metal box and the stack of flat ash from burnt manuscripts in the fireplace.

Christian and Buddhist funeral services were supposed to be held for Tesla, but on January 12 his body was removed from the morgue in Brooklyn by military intelligence services for a post-mortem in Newark. On the next day it was announced that Tesla’s body was burned according to Buddhist tradition. The funeral took place in the presence of only the closest associates of the deceased.

The New York Times expresses its deepest condolences to the family and friends of the departed Mr. Tesla.


Agent A.T. Ivasenko, codename «Jack», gained the trust of a crematorium employee, S. Hottman, while under the guise of a funeral bureau servant. Mr. Hottman told our agent that the coffin was not opened during Mr. Tesla’s farewell ceremony. The coffin’s weight turned out to be much lighter than when it was picked up the secret service. There is speculation that Mr. Tesla was not cremated or buried, but that his body is at a military laboratory in Newark, New Jersey.

GRU Lt.-Col. K.M. Litvinov



A careful analysis of the sample of material delivered to a laboratory showed that it is nothing other than organic rubber, supposedly of a very old origin. No natural or synthetic poisons were found in the analyzed sample.

NKVD Laboratory (5th Section of the 9th Department of the Chief Directorate of State Security

Col. P.A. Sudoplatov


Despite Tesla’s death, continue the active search for «Trigger» and all documents associated with it. Report in person.



20° 40» 14» N

88° 34» 12» W

Chichen-Itza, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

December 1520

With the onset of dusk, as soon as the serpent Chaak descended with its grey shadow down the steps of Kukulcan, Kuluangwa’s group sang a traditional hymn of victory, the echo of which reflected off the Temple of Warriors and drowned in the Southern Temple right at the stadium’s entrance. A special ceremony was underway, forbidden to ordinary tribesmen and attended only by keepers of the secret. The chiefs and priests of the tribe, the long-time performers of these rituals at Chichen-Itza, met at every full moon. The chosen team for the ball game was selected just a few days before the momentous event, right before the match. This time, however, the entire team was invited by the High Priest much earlier than usual. The ceremony involved a special ritual, called Chaak-Chaya — the spilling of tears.

As the God of Rain, the serpent Chaak, descended from the peak onto the hot ground, the priest Vak Balama raised his dry hands towards that peak and hoarsely called all ten team members to follow him up the steep steps to the main temple of Kukulcan. A foot could barely fit on each of the hundreds of narrow steps, placed at an angle of almost forty-five degrees, reaching the temple, which was not visible from the base of the pyramid.

The interior of the temple was cavernous. There was nothing inside the hall other than a large stone table. From floor to ceiling, the walls were decorated with drawings and writings written in small ligature. The corners of the secret hall had inconspicuous, small height gaps from which priests emerged during ceremonies.

The red beams of the last sunlight of the day penetrated through the narrow vertical slits in the wall. The whole town at the bottom, with its temples, residences, and stadium, already delved into a dark haze that did not bring the expected night-time cool. The light from the slits fell in six beams onto the middle of the room.

In the middle of the temple, whose dimensions were so great that it could hold several dozen people at a time, stood a wide stone table, twenty by twenty cubits. It was a platform of four low and well-polished stone slabs no higher than knee-level. If desired, one could move the table into a corner, or even out of the temple. But today it was meant to be at the centre of the Chaak-Chaya rite — the spilling of tears. The mirror-like polished surface of the table was dotted with numerous engraved and colored drawings of the life of the gods. The images were divided by the troughs coming from the center — three troughs per each side, twelve in total. Running down a slope, they stopped at the darkening hole in the middle of the table. If viewed from above, the picture of the troughs resembled four lotus flowers growing from one point in the middle of the table. But the beauty of this had quite a utilitarian function. The table was assembled in the center of the temple only for the most important rituals — the blood sacrifices.

In the middle, between the four polished stone blocks just below the hole, a wide stone vase was placed, upon which a black rubber sphere rested like an overgrown coconut. The ancient vase was of a dark brown color. The limestone permeated a powerful natural colorant.

The priest, Vak Balama, made a wide circular gesture, commanding the audience to take their places around the table. His head was hidden by a mask, painted with bright red and yellow horizontal bars. His black-oiled belly reflected the rays of the torch, revealing a cross of four deep, white scars. Four other scars — long, narrow, like cat scratches — ripped up each shoulder, starting just above the collarbone and ending above the nipples.

Ten adult men in full war paint slowly approached the table and equally slowly knelt down on both sides. There were five soldiers on each side of the table. Balama’s hand motioned for Tolana to take a seat opposite him, which she immediately did, sinking to her knees and bowing her head. Then Vak Balama walked off into one of the room’s dark corners where flashes of flames only occasionally revealed strange engravings on limestone blocks and melted into the darkness.

In a few moments, the priest re-emerged with his outstretched arms carrying something resembling a large palm leaf with a long stem, with its edges hanging down and touching the ground with every step. The leaf’s stalks bent down from time to time, but not in sync with the slow gait of the priest. When Balama returned into light at the table, it became evident that he was holding a blue sea ray. Raising the animal high above his head, Vak Balama shouted: «Hei olay! Leth soro ta kama vok! Are you ready? Do not be afraid, be strong!» Then he swung and threw the ray on the table. The animal fell flat, issuing a squelching sound and scattering lumps of transparent mucus. Its tail bone, similar to a sharp spear, weakly rapped on the table twice and then calmed down and held still. And only a small tremor occasionally running through the body of the marine creature reminded that the ray was still alive. However, the warriors in attendance did not pay any attention to this creature. All ten men and Tolana, heads bent low and hands humbly folded on the table, were expecting commands from Vak Balama.

«Kon na luva-na!» The priest’s command rang through the hall and all men obeyed without hesitation. They dropped their clothes, remaining only in masks, and returned to their previous poses complete bare. Then, as if by a silent command, the warriors launched a monotonous guttural sound: hmm-m-m-m-m-m, hmm-m-m-m-m-m.

Tolana also made a move to shake off her cloak embroidered in coloured threads, but Balama’s gesture made her stop and she immediately returned to the table where she remained in the same humble posture, head bowed down and hands clasped in front of her. Her voice joined the chorus of the warriors. The sound echoed loudly between the walls and continued in eternal echoes.

For there to be a woman in the temple, the holy of holiest of the tribe, on top of the pyramid Kukulcan, was unusual. This was actually the first time in the history of the tribe. At least Kuluangwa, sitting on his knees at the table, could not recall a single previous time when the Chaak-Chaya ritual was attended by a woman. Not once, neither his father nor grandfather, have ever told him anything like this. Tolana did not enter properly but crept into the temple on all fours and only after the priest’s permission could she stand up in full growth.

Vak Balama again stepped into the shadows, arms folded on his chest, and for a while silently and sullenly watched the kneeling naked warriors. Tolana occasionally frowned nervously, trying to keep her back straight and not pressing her stomach against the cold surface of the table. The priest could see that in a few more weeks the body of this woman will bring another fruit to the tribe. This bothered Balama the most. In his plans, women were designed for an entirely different purpose. They were among the most important instruments in the sacrifice-bringing of the tribe when it was required to propitiate the angry gods. But not here, not now — at top of the pyramid. Not in the temple, and not with a new unit of ball players. Later, in a few days… it will be a special occasion.

Usually, the chosen victims were virgins, and Tolana of course no longer fit this category. Virgins were usually sacrificed as follows: three-to-six girls were washed in hot stone baths, their bodies were rubbed in oils of special plants, and then the priest would exercise his control over the innocent girls in front of the raging mob. After that, the priest’s assistants would dress the poor girls in beautiful clothes and gold jewelry. All of the girls received a ritual drink, and soon — in just a few minutes — the girls plunged into their first and last trance.

The secret of this drink had long been passed down through generations of priests by inheritance and was certainly known only to the leader and the high priest of the tribe. The secret of the potion lay in its duality. Two drinks were mixed not to complement each other, but to simultaneously deny each other in the human body. Alcoholic tincture from selected cactuses was mixed in undisclosed proportions with a squeeze of water lilies. The cactus extracts increase the drinker’s mood, the tone of the whole body, and blood pressure. The extract of lilies caused severe hallucinations and dramatically lowered blood pressure. Balama always prepared the drinks himself, not allowing even his closest aides to witness the process.

As a rule, the young victims’ hearts could not withstand the conflicting ingredients present in the drinks and the girls died, plunging into hallucination, apathy, and afterlife. In their final paths, the girls’ bodies, richly dressed, decorated, and painted with colourful tattoos and intricate patterns, were carried by male warriors. The warriors, leading the procession and being followed by the entire tribe, threw the dead girls down into the Cenote — the lakes of sacrifice, hidden in deep sinkholes.

One of the cenotes was at Chichen-Itza, to the north of Tzompantli — the plateau of Eagles and Jaguars. Another Cenote was at Chtuloq, right in the heart of the city, near the main well. These two Cenotes failed to produce fresh water for a long time and filled once a year by torrential mid-spring rainfall, although to less than half their height. Then the water began to blossom and became suitable only for the irrigating of cornfields, which began just behind the Northern temple and the field for ball games.

Now, the tribe’s cornfield was dead. Studded with dry stem shoots that barely rose above knee-level and burned under the hot sun, the cornfield terrified the whole tribe.

Vak Balama’s last offering was made four full moons ago. The gods wanted blood only at full moon. Today was a full moon and the gods demanded new blood. This was also indicated by the three stars of the Three Holy Warriors, which lined up with another star, the brightest and most beautiful star of the Queen of Water. And the Sun of the God Chaak stopped and froze under this sign for several hours without movement, before lowering the world into the realm of darkness and coming back the next morning. This only happened once a year, on December 21. This would be in twenty days from now.

However, the strange occurrence that happened at the Sacred Cenote of Chichen-Itza six full moons ago identified the sacrificial rites in a whole new way.

The Cenotes used to be full of cold spring water at a depth of several dozen metres. They had several cunning outflows through a variety of underground caves into the salty Caribbean Sea. Today, the Cenotes were shallow and dry. Besides the fact that they took in the sacrificial victims whose bodies were eventually carried by the water through the underground rivers flowing into the sea, the sinkholes were the only sources of fresh drinking water.

The bodies of the six latest sacrifices were not carried anywhere by the water. They remained lying in small ponds, like beautiful gilded puppets. Buckets were dropped into the wells on long ropes woven from the bark of trees, but the water from these sources was not drinkable anymore. Twitching from the smell, one of the residents took a few timid sips, immediately threw up, and the next day he became one of the first deceased to be carried by citizens to outside the city and buried in stones. The city was entirely without water. There was no rain for six full moons — the same length of time that no sacrifices had been made to the gods by those that wanted to come closer to them through death and enter the Temple of Joy.

Now, when the whole city was quietly complaining of having to take the dead bodies of friends and relatives outside the city walls, the priest decided that the time has come and that there will be no more waiting.


21° 20» 70» N

86° 80» 81» W

Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula

December 14, 1971

The trip to Mexico, which Dalma mentioned in a conversation with her husband, happened just over a year ago, before Christmas. Dalma had strongly insisted that the whole family was to be back home in Buenos Aires for the holy feast. «No exceptions! Otherwise, your things will be in a suitcase at the door!»

At the time, Diego Sr. worked for a small construction company that temporarily employed many seasonal workers who were often quite illiterate and unskilled. They were sent to prepare construction sites, removing trees and debris, building fences, cleaning the beaches, and guarding the area. Diego had worked for the company for a full twelve years, had good skills in construction, laying brick walls, decorating interiors, and even reading blueprints. And most importantly — he knew English, which was necessary for communicating at construction sites abroad. The chief of the firm by now already trusted Diego to manage the construction brigades of a few more or less professional builders and a couple of dozen general labourers. His salary increased and Dalma was grilling the head of the family much less for his meager income.

In May 1971, the company was chosen by an American construction giant to lay the groundwork for a chain of resorts in Cancun, a fast-developing coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The contract turned out to be beneficial to both parties. The Americans got relatively inexpensive and skilled labour, without having to spend on training local workers. Diego, for the first time, received an international contract — in particularly, such a profitable one by Argentinian standards. His duties included, among other things, the delivery of the construction crew to Cancun and placing them in the territory. There they were to prepare the construction site for the Hotel Caracol, which was to be part of the American-controlled Stanebridge chain. So, an Argentinian crew was headed to Mexico, crammed inside five rusty school buses, of bright-yellow colour and Californian origin in a former life. The buses were accompanied by a 1964 Volkswagen caravan painted with bright exotic flowers, leaves, marijuana, and fingers in a «V» gesture. Diego bought this vehicle for three hundred dollars (and two bottles of good house wine from Aunt Amia) from a young American couple that decided to permanently remain in such a glorious corner of the world, Argentina.

The two weeks in Mexico flew by swiftly. Diego Gonzalez, Sr. only returned to his sleeping trailer late at night, spending all the days at the construction site. All these days, Diego, Jr. was completely on his own. Running around on miles of white beaches, he discovered more and more secrets. His friends from school could only envy how much Diego was able to discover in the past week. Sometimes, while wandering in the thickets of the dry jungle, he found a peculiar house with strange statues carved from white limestone. The figures were scary, with bulging eyes and bared fangs. Their gaze was constantly fixed on Diego, no matter where he went. He was taken by panic. That is why he couldn’t get close to any of them.

One day, while playing in the woods, Diego got lost. There was only a dirt road here leading to the construction site. There was just the sound of the sea, which Diego would have readily followed. But it all disappeared. Diego was frightened, because all the landmarks that his father had pointed out in case he’d get lost were no longer there. He let out a few shouts from between the palms of his hands, but he only heard back the singing of the birds and the rustle of dry leaves.

Suddenly, a man of small height emerged into the clearing where Diego stood. The man raised his eyes at the sky. He had a crooked walk and was dressed in a ridiculous loin skirt, coarse, but bright. This black-tanned man with a big, lumping head asked Diego something in a guttural and completely incomprehensible language. Seeing that the boy did not understand, the old man smiled broadly and made a hand gesture inviting Diego to follow him. What could Diego do? The sun was setting, and he could not find his way back without assistance in any case. And, of course, spending such a long day under the sun, the last few hours of which the boy was without food and water, was taking its toll on Diego’s body. Not to mention, the stranger did not look evil at all.

The small village to which the stranger brought the young traveller had already plunged into darkness and sleep. All that Diego heard were hens clucking, babies crying, and the crackling embers of a smoldering campfire. The stranger led Diego into a small hut and gave him a drink of fresh water, although warm and stale, and offered a couple of tortillas from a small table. Then, Diego’s saviour fished out a pile of hard, striped blankets, spread them out on the floor of the hut, and folded one of the blankets into a pillow. Diego fell on all of this benevolence and quickly fell asleep.

The saviour waited until Diego’s breathing levelled off and then covered the boy with a light blanket, quietly closed the simple door, and exited to the clearing in the centre of the village. Beside a smoldering campfire in a clearing sat a motionless figure of a dried-up old man, who was silently staring either at the embers or at a myriad of stars on the black and blue horizon. He had the jaw of a power-seeker and the forehead of a philosopher. This forehead was cut up by numerous wrinkles and one deep, vertical scar that must have stopped healing a long time ago. He sat on the ground, legs crossed and covered by a round, dark object the size of a coconut. Diego’s saviour approached the old man, leaned over, and whispered something in his ear. The old man subtly nodded and again was left alone without even turning his head towards the tribesman.


45° 27» 57» N

9° 11» 21» E

Milan, Italy

May 14, 1991

Rodion Karlovich Teichrib had a long way to travel. Multi-storey buildings of the renaissance and neoclassical periods gave way to brick and mortar buildings of the Milanese suburbia, complete with graffiti, broken and dried up paint, and sometimes empty windows. But Rodion Karlovich did not pay much attention to the surroundings that were flying by in the last rays of the sun. The pain in his temples was becoming simply unbearable. The bus slowed down sharply, pulling up dust from a nearby construction site, and stopped at a crumpled metal frame that had once been a bus stop.

With a flick of his sun-burnt hand, the little man commanded Rodion Karlovich to exit. The professor obeyed silently and without question. Stepping onto the dusty pavement of Via Privata Ofanto, he looked around in search of a pharmacy or a sign with a green cross. His head continued to crack. It was either the heat or the tedious morning lecture on the contemporary and historical place of the Soviet Union in the global political system, featuring a bunch of useless questions from the audience about the possible construction of a «new democracy» in the USSR.

Meanwhile, the Italian, quickly shuffling his slightly bowed legs and constantly looking around and oddly waving his hand at the hip, called for Teichrib to follow him down the little road. Obedient as if in hypnosis, Rodion Karlovich silently trudged after the old man. He did not have far to go. The old Italian led him to a desolate but noisy place — right at the exit of the Tangenziale Est motorway. He could hear how the nervous drivers of cars and trucks were honking on the bridge above him. But here, at the bottom, neither dust nor noise could prevent vines from growing an intricate green web on the white wicker porch. Tomato bushes held by thin smooth stakes stood at the perimeters of properties, separating neighbours with their low hedges. It smelled of sweet wine and fresh bread. This was not Milan — it was Lazio.

The old man took Rodion Karlovich to a house and with a gentle hand gesture invited him inside. Noticing a faded «Vecchie-Nuove» sign and a lot of old utensils and unknown junk, Rodion Karlovich concluded that he was in an antique pawn shop. Everything that happened afterwards played out like a strange little comedy, complete with black humour. The professor was standing in the middle of a small room cluttered with trash, surveying all this with increasing interest despite his severe migraine. The old Italian disappeared behind a partition. He quickly returned, holding a glass of water with a large bubbled tablet fizzing inside in one hand, and clutching a large piece of boiled corn like a golden sword in the other hand. And under his arm, he was holding a small black object that looked like tree fungus or a good-sized turnip.

The old man pushed the glass to Teichrib, who took it without delay. Then, the Italian thumped his finger on Teichrib’s temple and said, «Si prega di bere, da un mal di testa.» Rodion Karlovich’s modest knowledge of Italian prompted him to understand his companion’s words as «Drink please, it’s for the headache.» The professor promptly drank the bubbling liquid with an aftertaste of aspirin, closed his eyes for a moment, and then nearly fell, receiving a severe blow to the head.

Recoiling and dropping the glass that shattered on the stone slabs, Rodion opened his eyes and saw how lumps of succulent masses were flying across the little room — yellow corn peas. This mess also crawled down from his forehead and hair. Before he knew it, the old man turned Teichrib over his shoulders, kicked open the door, and pushed him out almost right under the wheels of a bus, which barely had time to decelerate. A piece of corn cob flew after Rodion Karlovich. Surprisingly, this spectacle was not followed by any swearing or long explanations in rich Italian gestures and hoarse cries like «idiotto!» The bus driver opened the door to the empty bus. Giuseppe «Blue Nose» went out after Rodion Karlovich and placed a black object into the professor’s hands. With an apologetic tone to his voice, he said, «Ton guha, Rodion! Grazie.» He turned the professor around by his shoulders once again and gently pushed him into the bus.

Rodion Karlovich flopped on the first seat and sat there for about five minutes, looking blankly out the window. Then, he thoughtfully ran his hand through his hair, still wet from corncob, and felt a light, bruised pain over his left eyebrow. A small streak of blood remained on these fingers. So that’s how what a corn fight for freedom and independence feels like, he chuckled to himself. A black, rubber ball was on his knees, pushing hard on the hip. Rodion Karlovich put his bloodied hand on the object and the pain that was festering him for several hours vanished in an instant. Just like that. The professor spread out on the plastic seat with a satisfied smile.

The driver’s shout brought Rodion Karlovich back from the void. The bus was at the same bus stop on Piazza Lima, and even on the same side of Via Plinio. When Rodion stepped out past the driver, he stopped him. Politely but firmly, the driver tapped on a scratched metal box with a cracked glass window.

«Dieci lire, signore, per favore,» he rasped.

«Si, signore,» responded Teichrib in the same tone and threw in a well-worn coin of ten lire, with ears on one side and a plow on the other side. A minute later, he again sat on the bench at the bus stop, as if asleep for a few minutes. Instead of a headache on his hands, he now had a warm, black rubber ball.


55° 46» 12» N

36° 39» 10» E

Odintsovo District, Moscow Region, Russian Federation

September 8, 1994

He woke up from the voices behind the door, finding himself lying on a hard mattress in a small, unfurnished room in the attic under the roof of a house. The mattress was not laid out, but at the head of the bed he found carefully laid sheets, blankets, pillows, pillowcases, a pair of clean but ragged jeans, a Dynamo Moscow t-shirt (how did they know it was his favorite team?), towels, and soap. He immediately sensed the smell of his own clothes and became ashamed of himself.

Outside the window, the gold crowns of birch trees sounded lovely as they rustled in the wind. A nearby radio blared a song about a «cherry-colored nine.» Oleg looked out from the barred window and saw an old Uzbek raking leaves. A transistor radio hung on a clothesline around his neck. The Uzbek was collecting the falling leaves with the rhythm of the song. The door, to Oleg’s surprise, was not locked, so he stepped out of the room. He found a pair of old friends sitting in battered armchairs, smoking, and playing a game of nard.

«Hey, brother Oleshka is up!» sarcastically hissed one of the men, «And boy do you stink! Move your feet and go take a shower… you’ll find a razor and a toothbrush there. You didn’t forget how to brush your teeth, did you?» Both men erupted into loud laughter. Sometime later, Oleg came out of the shower refreshed.

«Oh! Who are you? Look at him! It’s Wise Oleg the Second!» His «rescuers» had no limits to expressing their surprise. «And you said, „why do we need this piece of shit?“»

«The boss will be happy this time!»

Oleg was indeed unrecognizable. The formerly homeless man spent a good hour under the hard stream of water and wasted almost the entire bar of soap. He used up two disposable razors on his face and head so that not a single hair remained. Oleg was a creative person, «an artist in life» as he called himself. And it didn’t matter what he was doing. Under the running water in the shower, he imagined himself as a young Grigory Kotovsky, a Red Army commander. His reasoning on creativity was that the art of an «artist in life» — whether a singer, sculptor, composer, poet, it doesn’t matter who — cannot and should not be considered in isolation from their fate — or, calling fate by its real name, death. Take Pushkin. His poetry wouldn’t have been any worse had he not been killed in a duel, but it’d be unlikely that he would have been remember by anyone to this day, just as few people remember the verses of Zhukovsky, Kukolnik or Baratynsky.

The consumer of art loves to «look to the last page» and find out that the author justly hanged or shot themselves. Or at least, they pranced around naked in a prison cell or an asylum. That means, all that an artist wrote, made, painted, or sang was the clear truth. People are pleased to know that Gogol had gone mad, that Tolstoy died in some obscure little railway station, that Venedikt Erofeev fairly died of throat cancer, and Oleg Grigoriev of cirrhosis of the liver. The genuine actor is obligated to die onstage. The singer must belt out the final note and collapse. Lennon or Cobain had to die young because that was the proper, real way to go. That’s how it’s supposed to be for the famous and truly talented. Unlike those well-known people, Oleg Pervushin himself knew how to make an exit in his own way. He was sure that he could «hop away like a bunny» from any vicious circle. Unnoticed. Disappearing like a shadow at noon.

He was born in Kazakhstan in 1960, in the city formerly known as Tselinograd. He was an excellent student. Then he served in the army for two years the Arctic Division as a flight technician at a military airfield. After the army Oleg entered the Sverdlovsk Institute of Architecture. Many scoffed at him, «did they accept you without an exam, as a collective farmer from the country?» However, he didn’t finish the institute. Instead, he rode the rails across the whole country as a train steward and began to write short stories and diaries of his travels. Once these records fell into the hands of an up-and-coming publisher. The stories were published in the early nineties. Readers liked them, wanting more and more… Life, it seemed, started to move in the right direction. But then he vanished, quietly, like an Englishman.

He left to the village Gostilovo in the Ryazan region, where he fathered a son from his wife, Katya, and where they all lived together, along with a dog named Bad and a cat named Marquis. Oleg would spend the evenings on the porch in satin shorts down to his knees, smoking a cigarette and staring at the sky. His wife eventually got tired of this life and left for Moscow, taking their son with her. She said to Oleg before leaving, «Other freaks can at least energetically promote themselves. Today’s «modern artists’ convert their idiocy into hard currency… thousands of dollars! And what about you? Your books have a laughable circulation, your paintings are not exhibited anywhere, and the peak of your fame was an appearance on the local news about government officials supporting culture in the villages. What culture? Goddamn you!» In conclusion, Oleg Anatolievich Pervushin could quite truthfully say, as in the words of one old Ukrainian man, «the world tried to catch me, but could not.»

But then yesterday, everything changed, and the «world» finally caught him with its net, in a manner understood only by its own worldly sense. He remembered how an old army friend, a Kazakh as dry as an old tree, put him first on a light drug, and then on a heavy one, heroin. He never took any money from him, never. He just made him a pusher. He made him more and more addicted to the thin doted line in his arm. It’s like in an old joke: «even in a competition of assholes, you’d finish in second place!… but why only second, my dear?… because you are an asshole!» Here he was, Oleg Pervushin, an asshole-loser. Lived in some hole in the Ryazan woods — no money, no job, no glory, no recognition. If he made any trips to Moscow, it was only for pushing the shit. While he was lucky never to have been caught for that, he still found ways to get mixed up in bad stories while travelling. Usually it involved drinking in some strange company — cheerful, good-natured Oleg taking one shot after another, to health, to life… and next thing he was in a police van again. With his blue Kazakh passport, he was an easy target for the cops, whose eyes were trained to pick out individuals like him in any crowd. That was just another reason why Katya left him.

While standing in the shower, Oleg was thinking how well everything was at the start of yesterday. He was on his way to see him son in Moscow when he began drinking with some «good people» in the third-class sleeping carriage. He recalled there were a lot of words and fraternization, tears in his fist, and the lapel of his jacket smelled of smoke. Twice he ran out to buy vodka from women at the stations the train made stops at. The last bottle was one too many — everyone collapsed. When the train arrived in Moscow in the morning, the conductor had to drag him out and push him onto the platform. Oleg walked straight to the Red Square. He didn’t have a penny nor his passport on him. Then — these «brothers» in their «crimson blazers,» a car, a mattress… what happened?

After bathing and dressing, the «brothers» once again surveyed Pervushin from head to toe and took him to the second floor. They walked past massive and intricate Bali-style furniture, including several vases and a palatial heavy table with six chairs. When they stepped into a spacious office, the first thing Oleg saw was a large table occupied by souvenirs from exotic countries — various collectibles, masks, stands for ancient writing utensils. There he saw an antique telescope with shimmering copper sides and a vintage globe upheld by a bronze ring. Just like in the quarters of a military commander, a highly accurate map of the world hung above the table. Red pins dotted the map like bugs, likely indicating the owner’s travels.

A short and stout man, completely bald and with absolutely no neck, sat at the table. His head grew directly from his shoulders. He was wearing a red Liverpool FC shirt. «My name is Aleksey Potapov, in case someone doesn’t know…» He patted his bald head and with a smirk looked at the similarly hairless Oleg, who suddenly realized that he had no desire to know the name of this man. He lowered his head and stared down at his feet in the Chinese-made sneakers. A chronometer ticked loudly on the table. Outside, someone was swearing and shouting. Probably the Uzbek gardener. The silence dragged on and Oleg looked up. A man named Aleksey Potapov was staring at him. Under the long glare of those unblinking eyes, Oleg felt a void and dread inside himself. A painful hangover started to take over as Oleg felt his joints stretch and back stiffen.

«Since I don’t have much time, I will be brief with you… what’s your name again?» The bald man referred at a piece of paper under his hands, «Oleg. Oleg Pervushin. Especially because you don’t have any choice. I want to read you something.» He pulled out a copy of an old geography journal from his desk, leafed through, stopped at the right page, moved the magazine slightly as do people with impending farsightedness, and began to read. «There are more than 190 polar research stations in the Arctic and the Antarctic. They generally have enough fuel and food supplies for one or two people for a period of five or six years. For the USSR, these stations are a matter of national prestige. In addition, these deserted stations provide navigation support to the Chief Directorate of the Northern Sea Route and are also used as weather stations.»

Finished reading, he set his sights back on Oleg. «It’s on one of these stations that you must work, brother. That is, just live there a little. You know, just survive. We’ll visit you every three months, check if you still eat your food. And the longer you last, the better chances you have of getting back to the world. I have to say, you’re looking much better than yesterday. Yesterday, you were the bottom of the barrel. Today, you’re something else, aren’t you?» He laughed, «You’re a casino chip! Six powerful, serious, and respectable citizens made a bet on you, brother. I’m one of them. You’re not doubting my integrity, are you?»

Oleg had only one pestering thought on his mind. What fucking station? What fucking North Pole? If I don’t get a dose in one minute, I’m going to kill myself! The bald Liverpool supporter named Aleksey Potapov stared at him for another half-minute and then slowly opened his mouth, «And now, we’ll stay here while you go prepare for your winter vacation in the Arctic. Here’s a little keepsake from me… the guide to your mission.» Potapov ripped out the page with the article about the Soviet polar stations from the magazine and tucked it in the back pocket of Pervushin’s pants. One of the «crimson blazers» then gave the same hind pocket a strong and confident slap, signaling Oleg to head for the door. His other hand seized Oleg’s elbow with an iron grip.

When Oleg was taken into the corridor, Potapov called the «crimson blazer» over. The goon turned around, relaxing his grip for a moment. This was enough for Oleg to pull away and break free from the hold. Oleg rushed to the window, knocked the high, storefront-like window with his head, rolled on the warm and sparkling iron roof, and thundered down into the rose bushes. He fell on his back. There was no pain, there was no sound. He frantically breathed in the garden odors — wet grass, smoke from the leaves, the smell of apples from his childhood. And then he lost his consciousness. The radio hanging around the Uzbek’s neck was airing the weather forecast. «Tomorrow, September 9, Moscow will face freezing rain and north-easterly wind, with a possibility of black ice on the roads…»


21° 20» 70» N

86° 80» 81» W

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

December 15, 1971

The thin black hen, clucking energetically, went into the half-open door of the hut in full confidence that the mystery of the sacred act of laying an egg will now happen. The hot sun rose, announcing a new day — it was time for the birth of a new life. But in a corner of the hut, in the hen’s sacred straw bed located, lay something big and strange. Something that was completely covered by a frayed colorful blanket was breathing softly and snorting. The hen did not tolerate these unexpected circumstances and unceremoniously jumped on top of the sleeping assailant. Diego felt a strange movement on his belly and gave a startled jump. The hysterical screams of the fleeing bird brought his mind back into the young day. He wasn’t scared at all and quickly remembered the previous evening, sweetly stretching out like a kitten after the long sleep. He got up and went out of the hut. His hands were resting on his belt. Diego looked carefully at the native village which was drenched by the sunlight of the early day.

The old, dry man with an ashen face was sitting in front of the bonfire at the edge of the glade, as if waiting for Diego since last night. He looked like he was dozing, his disheveled head bowed down to his chest. Diego stretching once again, smiling at the discordant twitter of birds. In obeyance to his rumbling stomach, Diego headed towards the weak smoke that curled over a strange, shapeless clay oven.

Without saying anything, a short and wide old woman who was cooking at the stove gave Diego a clay bowl and filled it yellow corn and few small pieces of fried chicken using a big wooden spoon. She gave the boy a smaller spoon and motioned with her hand towards a small table with a pair of improvised stools near the humble dwelling. Gobbling up the breakfast, which was delicious despite its simplicity, Diego looked up and discovered that a dozen curious black eyes were watching him with great interest from the bushes behind him. He was surprised, but still finished his breakfast, brushed off his knees from falling motes and left the shade of the trees to go to the «town» square.

Soon as he came out of the grove, Diego stopped short. About three dozen villagers looked straight at him. They all had dark skin, the color of cocoa powder. All of them were very thin, and many of the adults were lacking teeth. Their legs were crooked or swollen. The children hid behind their parents, some gnawing on corncobs, and looking suspiciously at this strange boy. The bare breasts of the unclothed women sagged down to their bellies. The men’s colored loincloths hung dejectedly, barely covered looked what looked like dried pea pods. Some mothers held their infants wrapped in towels, but not one of them cried. There were as many dogs as people in the village — they were also skinny and bow-legged, but none of them barked. The only sounds in the crowd were dry coughs here and there and nothing else.

Directly in front of the crowd, in the same position as last night, an old skinny man with a scar on his face was sitting, still as a rock. The silence began to bother Diego, so he put his hand on his chest and bowed awkwardly. The old man raised his hand and a few teenagers from the crowd came forward, still holding gnawed cobs in their hands. One of them suddenly struck Diego in the chest with this cob. Diego froze still with both his arms up in the air.

How long he was in that position, Diego himself didn’t know. He only woke up when someone gently touched his shoulder. Two brazen boys approached Diego from the side and started sputtering something in their language. Diego smiled stupidly — he didn’t want God-knows-who to knock him out in this God-knows-where village. One of the natives suddenly poked Diego in the chest, right in the «Granada School — Buenos Aires» inscription on his t-shirt. «Argentina?» he asked. Diego just nodded, being somewhere far away in his mind. «Foot-ball?» continued his stranger-friend. Diego nodded again, knowing that the magic word «football» may perhaps be the only straw that can convert hostility into friendship. Another local gave a toothless smile, gave Diego a friendly push to the shoulder, took out a small round object from behind his back, and threw it at Diego’s feet. A crowd of boys approvingly shouted, waved, and clapped their hands. All over sudden, a group of children, no older than nine or ten years, jumped out from nearby bushes and surrounded Diego.

The game somehow began itself. After the kids poured into the field, shouting, and jostling their arms, they quickly divided into two teams without much thinking required. They pushed Diego into one of them. Immediately, goalposts were put in place in the form of two coconuts, shaped not too differently from that strange, black ball. Diego committed himself to the game from the first touch of the ball. If only his classmates could see him now! He was so tired of their constant ridicule, whether of his plumpness or his bowed legs or his slowness or his inability to do different tricks with the ball. None of them knew how much effort he gave and how much time he spent trying to improve! He spent hours in his room, trying to master the technique — but nothing worked. That’s why he was usually placed as a secondary defender at best, but more often — put on the bench. But where did all his clumsiness go today? He felt nimble, almost rubberlike, as if he could do whatever he wanted with the ball! And the ball seemed to stick to his feet. Full of happiness, Diego was flying across the field with invisible wings.

It was in this condition — fully absorbed by the game and happily shouting something to his new teammates in some strange language he was picking up on the spot — that Diego was found by his father, who reached the village by following a barely visible road. Beside him sat the amusing native man who found Diego yesterday in the woods. Last night, when the boy fell asleep, the man got to the construction workers and immediately found the search party headed by Diego Sr. Through a local interpreter, the man reassured the anxious father that his son is in perfect health. However, he also said it would be better to pick the boy up tomorrow because it is dangerous to move through the bush at night, and there would be no point. Although his father was eager to go retrieve his son right away, his colleagues calmed him down, and the native man said that he would stay overnight in the construction workers’ village. And now, Diego Sr. joined the spectators gathered around the field. Nobody paid any attention to him, and in order not to interrupt the magical flow of what was happening on the field, Diego Sr. started to watch the game with great interest.

The play on the field brought mixed success to both teams. Surprisingly, the native boys played very well, strongly owning this black ball, as if they’ve been kicking it from the moment they began to walk. What they lacked in skill, they made up for with their endless enthusiasm and passion which were more than enough to cover the technical flaws. Diego, by contrast, stood out on the field with his technical tricks, which he memorized from his school trainings. And that’s what was amazing about this day — with this little black ball, everyone was playing so damn well. In whatever complex combination Diego could take this little black ball, the two of them immediately merged, becoming one mechanism, and Diego always managed to do with the ball exactly what he wanted. For example, not only did he manage to shoot a nice goal between the legs of the nearly naked goalkeeper, he also made some exceptional passes, one of which also resulted in a goal. And now, with the score 5:5, Diego tried to get a comfortable position in the opponent’s penalty area. His team earned a corner kick, and now both teams stamped before the goalkeeper, pushing shoulders and elbows, hoping to score the winning goal. Or prevent it. By some pre-destined fate, they were playing for that sixth goal.

The kick! The ball slowly tore the space between multiple bodies, arms, and legs, seemingly freezing over Diego’s head. But instead of jumping and trying to change the direction of the ball with his head, the boy took off vertically, swinging in the air with his whole body, and at the top, continuing to twist, he hit the ball hard towards the net. The goalkeeper didn’t even move while the ball flew right through its target, hit the ground, rolled over and stopped in the lifted white dust. The ball stopped its movement beyond the gate, just at the feet of the ancient and scarred old man. Diego, as a result of falling, deeply cut his left hand against a dry-stemmed bush that grew from the cracked earth. He also cut his eyebrow from the pebbles on the ground. The boy stood up, brushed his dusty shorts and T-shirt, leaving bloody stripes on his chest.

He was already surrounded by the boys from his team, who were shouting, laughing, and clapping Diego’s shoulders and back. But Diego suddenly stopped, seeing how from the edge of the field that horrible old man was slowly moving in his direction. «You came, you came at last!» Diego heard the deep voice coming at him, although it was crying out in some incomprehensible language. «Let soro ta kama vok! Ton guha!»


To: Head of Intelligence Directorate,

General Staff of the Red Army,

General I.I. Ilichev

December 16, 1942

From the report of GRU Major S.S. Solomakhin

Comrade General,

Here is a document received by our fact-finding group that confirms our original suspicion that the former leadership of the OGPU had an interest in the object of our concern.


Case №38—9. Top secret.

Transcript of surveillance recordings

Moscow, Bolshaya Lubyanka, Building 11, Room 208

From the book of visitors of Deputy Chairman of the OGPU G.G. Yagoda

Date — June 12, 1931

Visitor (Time In / Time Out)

V.G. Karpov, OGPU Lieutenant (04:16 / 04:27)

«Allow me to report, Comrade Yagoda?»

«Come in, Karpov, report what you got on this… Prichitalov?»


«Uhm… what!?»

«Uh, I…»

«What is it? Karpov, you have to pretend that I’m not me, that I’m not Yagoda, but, say, your comrade-in-arms and we are in the midst of crushing the Kronstadt rebellion. You are… (noise). And we’re together, we are eliminating the enemy… (noise) line of attack… And we are not in the Lubyanka right now, but in the storage room….»

«But I already put everything on record…»

«That report of yours, Vasiliy, is adequate. You described everything well. But the number of mistakes in there…»

«Comrade Yagoda, I’m not well-educa…» (noise)

«Okay, so what’s this with your former fr…» (noise)

«… he is not my friend, Comrade Yagoda. When I was chased around by the police hounds before the revolution, Prichitalov was an investigator with the Moscow Criminal Department. I was young back then, so he pulled me out of jail, made me promise that I will not under… (noise) help him…»

«… right.» (noise)

«He came by yesterday. He’s an old man now, really old. He said, I helped you once, you owe me a favor, but not a heavy one. I trust you, he said, and I want to hand over some documents from a case that the Okhrana closed 23 years ago… (noise) concealed and redacted. I don’t need anything, he said, but your department should know this… Deliver this to the head, personally.»

«Did you read it your… (noise) … and also… mention to anyone else?»

«I briefly looked at Filippov’s case. Nothing special. He died from a lightning strike. My old man also died from a lightning… (noise) haymaking field… (noise) … The dossier is too heavy, it’s painful to read, all these scientists, numbers, words… (noise). And the part about Chri… (noise) the Savior is just nonsen… (noise) … My mother goes there every weekend. I tell her, your son is in the organs, and you embarrass me like… (noise)»

«Alright, Karpov. Well done, you are dismissed.»

«I serve the So… nion.»


«… about Prichitalov?»

«Everything will be alright… (noise) Dismissed.»

«Yes, Comrade Yagoda!»

Karpov leaves. Pause of 11 minutes and 32 seconds before telephone connection is made with the office secretary.

(Connection established)

«Nastya, bring me some strong tea and connect me with Comrade Kaganovich.»

«Yes, Comrade Yagoda.»

(Connection, signal made, only a one-way deciphering of the conversation)

«H-hello, dear Comrade Kaganovich.»


«I don’t sleep, I serve of the proletariat…»


«I had a visitor a few minutes ago, poor man, may his soul rest in peace…»


«What do you want me to say?»


«Yes, our souls…»


«… looks like our concerns are justified. He brought me a stack of papers on the Cathedral of Christ the Savior — you will not be disappointed, dear Comrade.»


«It is very much confirmed.»


«We have to dig up all the corpses, open the crypts, tomb after tomb…»


«I think it is there, in their Russian graves, which they continue to hold on to…»


«And if not, then what?»


«Are you kidding me?»


«What about Koba?»


«Koba is a piece of shit? You better be quiet…»


«Let’s first close this damn church, I mean, close it and check every single…»


«If not… hold off blowing it up!»


«Will you sign the order?»


«Koba? Don’t joke!»


«Sovnarkom… Alright, understood. With your signature…»


«I don’t see any other way… We need this black rock of the proletariat like never before. That’s right, for our fight, and especially right now!»


«I think it would be prudent to engage Comrade Tukhachevsky if we find our black ball…»


«Yes, I will contact you.»


Analyze all possible instance where the «Trigger» case intersects with the former Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow as soon as possible. Report directly!



Memorandum from GRU Major S.S. Solomakhin

Comrade General,

At your request, we have compiled a dossier on the history of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (CCS) from the archives of the Moscow Patriarchate and the State University. We have identified possible linkages of the CCS and its servants to the object of our interest. We are continuing to find and analyze documents from the archives of the Imperial Intelligence Service and the pre-revolutionary Moscow Detective Department.


Research based on the Moscow Patriarchate’s archives

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was built in gratitude for God’s blessing in a critical period in Russian history, as a monument to the courage of the Russian people in the fight against Napoleon’s invasion in 1812.

When the last soldier of Napoleon’s 600,000-strong army was expelled from Russia’s borders on December 25, 1812, Emperor Alexander I signed a Supreme Manifesto on the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior to commemorate the victory. The Emperor also issued a «Supreme Decree to the Holy Synod to establish annual festivities on each 25th of December to commemorate the deliverance of the Church and the Russian power against the invasion of the Galls, and with them, their polluted language»:

«Upon the Emperor’s conception, a grandiose cathedral-monument was to be built on the ruins of the ancient capital. This idea was laid out in the Supreme Manifesto: «In preservation of the eternal memory of the matchless zeal, fidelity and love of Faith and Fatherland exemplified by the Russian people in these difficult times, and to mark our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from an impending doom, we set out to build our Church in the name of Christ the Savior in the City of Moscow.

God bless our endeavors! Let this Church stand for many centuries and let the incense of appreciation burn before the holy throne of God as new generations revere and adulate the feats of their ancestors!»

The idea of building a memorial church belonged to General Mikhail Ardalionovich Kikin and was handed over to Alexander I by Admiral Alexander Semyonovich Shishkov. Articulated in the czar’s Manifesto, the idea of building a memorial church received the most enthusiastic support from all layers of Russian society, which was unusual for its time.

On October 12, 1817, five years after the retreat of the French army from Moscow, the ground-breaking ceremony of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior took place on the Sparrow Hills, between the Smolensk and Kaluga roads. However, after the death of Alexander I, the new czar of Russia, Nicholas I, ordered to suspend all work and construction was halted in 1826.

From the Moscow Police Department archives, we found that «before the decision to cease construction, there was a secret meeting between the English and French envoys to the Emperor Nicholas I, where, to our knowledge, the choice of a new location for the erection of the Cathedral was discussed. After meeting with the foreign guests, the Emperor came out anxious and not depressed as usual. The English and French envoys were in a very jovial disposition. By the czar’s personal decree, they had established a special group that meticulously studied new locations for the cathedral, in accordance with the rules of terrestrial and maritime navigation, with all possible equipment and tools.

On April 10, 1832, Emperor Nicholas I approved a new plan of the Cathedral, compiled by architect K.A. Thon. The Emperor himself chose the place for the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior based on the group’s findings. It would be on the banks of the Moscow River, not far from the Kremlin, and at the expense of numerous buildings that had to be destroyed, including the Alekseyev Monastery and Church of All Saints.

According to eyewitnesses, the Emperor mentioned many times that he needed to build the biggest church in Russia for her full recovery, prosperity, and to elevate its status as the most powerful empire of the existing world. This cathedral should be built in one of the most populous cities in the Russian Empire, so that at any given time there will be no fewer faithful worshippers attending than in the Vatican or Mecca.

To our knowledge, there were several more meetings with the envoys, at one of which Nicholas I was given an object that he would keep in his personal safe box at his summer residence. On September 10, 1839, a solemn groundbreaking ceremony of the new Cathedral took place with the Emperor in attendance and laying the first stone. The black, round cobblestone was personally brought to the ceremony by the Emperor in a cardboard box. It is noteworthy that when the digging of the construction pit began, the black stone was not found. It disappeared without a trace. It was reported that some criminals dug under the slab from the side and stole the symbolic stone. Unprecedented manpower was thrown into the investigation and manhunt, but the thieves were never caught. It is known that the search for the missing items was carried out by the police and even the Third Division of the Interior Political Department until the Emperor’s death in 1855.

Our analysis supports a theory that Nicholas I was poisoned. According to the Moscow Police Department, Nicholas I took his own life by ingesting poison. The official cause of death presented to the public was galloping pneumonia. Per the testimony of relatives, Nicholas I forbade that his body undergo any autopsy and embalming should he die.

It is also known that both the French and English envoys were found dead in their country residences three days after the emperor’s death. Both died on the same night and were poisoned by carbon monoxide. A criminal investigation was not conducted as their deaths were both ruled to be «accidents» and the cases were closed.

We must consider two versions. In the first version, the object of our interest — the round, black rock — was indeed stolen from the ceremonial groundbreaking site and its present location is unknown. And according to the second version, the object still lies at the base of the cathedral due to an oversight by the builders who overlooked its importance. Perhaps they mistook it for an ordinary rock and moved it aside.

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was under construction for almost 44 years. The construction was carried out by the orders of Emperors Alexander I, Nicholas I, Alexander II, and Alexander III. In early 1918, with the issuance of a Decree of the Soviet Revolutionary Council «On the Separation of Church and State, and School and Church,» the cathedral became completely deprived of any assistance from the Soviet authorities. With the blessing of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Tikhon, the Brotherhood of Christ the Savior was created with a mission to maintain the aesthetic beauty of the cathedral for the sake of the preservation of Russian Orthodox life. This organization continues to exist despite the fact that the building was destroyed. It was quickly flagged as a counterrevolutionary organization and since 1924 it is under the permanent watch of the Division of External Surveillance under the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs. The surveillance is controlled by NKVD Major A.V. Sysoyev

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was demolished on the orders of the Sovnarkom on December 5, 1931. The demolition was directed personally by Comrade L. Kaganovich.


I bring to your attention that our agent in Germany has confirmed that there has been a considerable increase of Abwehr activity in the United States surrounding the case of Mr. Nikola Tesla in the last two weeks.

GRU Major S.S. Solomakhin


70° 4» 36» N

170° 51» 12» E

Chaunsky District, Chukotka, Russian Federation

March 31, 2001

«Nikolai Alekseyevich, don’t make any steps and do not touch anything.» Romanov sat down and lit a thin cigarette, squinting at the flickering tongue of the flame. The corpse has clearly been laying here for years. The human flesh had rotted, decayed, and flowed away with the vernal waters of the Chukchi Sea, which rested like a frozen mirror a few dozen meters from the boulder. However, the man’s odd paper-like robe still remained, with much of its inside eider down intact. Half decayed, the corpse lay in the fetal position, with its hands carefully guarding something from the world. Behind the corpse, a steel frame and rotting leather scraps of what was once a travel bag unveiled a briquette, topped with candle wax, with a bible-sized manuscript inside.

«Look, Andreyich… what’s he holding on to?» The man’s bony hands tightly pressed a black spherical object the size of a sheep’s head against his chest. The ball was pressed so hard as if it were the last thing that would save the man before his death. Andrei Romanov, looking wincingly at his companion, said, «Nikolai, why don’t you go back to the guys in the car. Let them call for the investigators from the district. This is their business to figure out, whatever happened. But it looks like the poor fellow simply lost his way and froze. Come on, come on, Alekseyich!» his voice did not conceal his impatience, «Go to the car! Are also frozen? Go, and also grab my shotgun. Looks like we’re done hunting for today.» Hobbling over to Romanov, Nikolai threw the shotgun over his shoulder and ran back up the hill to the lone all-terrain jeep.

Romanov bent over the corpse, eyeing the strange clothes with interest. He figured the round object was just a common ball that has served its life of being kicked around by village boys. He took off his gloves and touched it. It felt like porous and cold. The material was like a natural rubber. Then, drawing a Swiss Army knife from an inner pocket, he freed the blade and began to gently unpeel the bony fingers grasping the round object. To his surprise, this turned out to be extremely difficult to do. If the tibia crumbled to the melting snow with the faintest touch, the finger bones were rooted to the black ball. Putting the knife aside, Andrei clutched the ball with both his hands and tried to wrest it from the corpse’s grasp. He was pulling to each side with all his strength. The corpse lifted off the ground with the ball, the skull flew off, and the ribs scattered across the dead man’s clothing. The ball was still in its «last embrace» and didn’t want to part with its keeper. Bitch! Well, I’ll get you anyway! thought Romanov. He grabbed the knife and began to frantically scrape the ball from the dead man, finger by finger. Middle finger. Pinky. Forefinger. Fuck! The phalanx of a finger flew off, and before it was lost in the snow, it hit Romanov’s right eyebrow. At the same time, the knife slipped on the icy ball and ripped the palm of Romanov’s left hand. Bloody hell! Andrei shouted at the departed Nikolai, «Kolya! Kolya!»

«Yes, Andrei Andreyevich!»

«Grab the medical kit. I’ve scratched my hand a little.»

«Got it, boss. I’ll be back in a minute!» Nikolai hastily limped to the car.

With some difficulty, so as not to stain his jacket with blood, Romanov took out a paper handkerchief from his pocket, dabbed the scratch on his eyebrows, then covered the wound of his hand with it and held it firmly with his fingers. With a smirk on his face, Andrei put his hand on the black ball on the stranger’s chest. You are strong, brother! Suddenly, he felt a very strange sensation, that the ball was becoming unnaturally warm. Leaning forward, he easily freed the black thing from the dead hands. It even seemed that the headless skeleton stretched out and handed the ball into new hands. Dropping aside the bloody napkin, Romanov brought the ball closer and began to examine it closely: black, weighs maybe two kilograms, about 15 centimeters in diameter, made out of some natural rubber. In two places, it looked as if someone gnawed or plucked at it. Andrei remembered himself as a child, how many times his mother hit his hands for making such holes in bread. The ball now became really warm, soft, and elastic! As he clenched the prize in his hands more firmly, the ball responded to each movement of the fingers. Something extraordinarily attractive was in this strange object. Just like an old favorite childhood toy, he didn’t want to let go of it. He just wanted to keep on crumpling and rolling it between his palms.

Andrei winced painfully — the deep wound on his palm was open again and his blood marked the surface of the ball. At the same moment, the ball was turning red-hot, like an iron. Not having enough time to understand what was happening, Andrei reflexively threw the ball aside. The ball flew like a cannonball, instantly melting the snow on which it landed, and drowned in the ice hummocks. Damn! Is this a hallucination or is this actually happening? Some fucking mystical shit! I didn’t even drink yesterday. He heard some crunchy steps behind him. Nikolai Alekseyevich approached with one of the guards, Renat.

«What happened, boss?» he asked with alarm in his voice.

«It’s all fine. I just scratched my hand on an ice hummock,» Andrei reassured. The guard, squatting, pulled the ball out of the snowdrift and looked at it with interest. The ball again looked like a cold rock — it didn’t burn the hands of Renat.

«Interesting thing, chief. What is it? A children’s toys from the Paleolithic times?»

«Well, well, well… look at how well educated my guard is after all! How do you know about the Paleolithic era, Renat?»

The big guy with Asiatic features curiously stared at the human remains below him. «Chief, I studied at the Geological Institute in Vladivostok. Your words hurt me».

«I thought they took you as an athlete, to lift barbells in university tournaments,» Nikolai butted into the conversation. «Anyway… Andreyich, the guys already got in touch with authorities in Anadyr. A brigade will be here in three or four hours. We described this location to them — they’ll find it themselves.»

«Good. Did you bring the first aid kit?» Romanov showed his bloody palm.

«What’s with the hand, Andrei Andreyevich… it’s not a cut, it looks like a burn of some sort. How did you manage to do this?» Nikolai carefully examined his boss’ palm, whistling. «Let me dress it, dear.»

«No, just put a patch on it. What am I — a soldier on the Second Belorussian Front or something?»

Nikolai splashed some hydrogen peroxide on Romanov’s palm. The liquid rose like white foam before evaporating. He dabbed a gauze pad and put a large patch over it, while muttering an old Russian nursery rhyme, «Tamara and I are a pair, a pair of nurses, Tamara and I…»

«Andrei Andreyevich, we must go. The weather is worsening. By the time we get to the helipad, anything can happen. I don’t want to spend the night in the car. Look at how strange the sky is! And they say that there are no northern lights in the spring! So green! Like grass growing in the clouds!» Nikolai jerked his head toward the horizon.

«Yes, Kolya. Put some pole next to this dead tourist so the brigade finds him quickly. Tie my red scarf on it,» he nodded at the bloodstained cloth. «Renat, grab the Paleolithic toy and the dead traveler’s notebook and throw them in the car. The book is in his bag. And one more thing,» Romanov looked firmly into the eyes of his companions, «don’t mention these things to the cops. Why do they need this headache?»

«Sure, chief. We didn’t find anything other than the dead man,» chuckled Renat, while Nikolai nodded his head decisively.

Flashes of green lights above the sea, which a few minutes ago manifested in the sky and cut across the sunset, soon began to fade before they completely disappeared. A cold, terrible rainfall intensified as the drops turned into crusts of ice right after hitting the ground. Cursing and stumbling, Renat brought a piece of tarpaulin out of the car. He carefully covered the corpse, rolled stone boulders onto the edges of a sheet, and stuck a bent birch tree branch with the blood-stained cloth between them. Then he gave a theatrical pioneer salute over the makeshift grave and ran after his companions towards the car.


20° 40» 14» N

88° 34» 12» W

Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

December 10, 1520

Looking at Tolana, only Vak Balama knew what role she will play in his spectacle on the sacrificial stone immediately after the ball game. In just a few days. Again, he came to the table at the center of the temple. This time he carried in his hands a deep clay bowl filled with a dull green liquid with purple stains. A small clay bucket, held by a hook over the edge of a large bowl, was tapping the handle of the bowl at every step that the priest made.

The stingray no longer generated any movements and lay in the center of the table, covering a small hole in the middle. Balama, putting the bowl on the table, grabbed the stone sword hanging from his hip, and with all his strength hit the ray on its spine, smashing the vertebrae. The stingray didn’t budge. All of the people present and sitting in the room didn’t move and were still bleating their uterine song. Another swing of the sword and the stingray’s tail, or rather its spiky tip — which this marine monster can use to easily pierce not only a person’s skin, but the bottom of a slotted wooden boats — flew into the corner of the temple. The priest knew that upon the moment of the sword’s impact, the covering of the spike could release the strongest paralytic poison that causes its victim severe cramps. Even now, with the stingray dead, the frightening qualities of this fascinating weapon continued to be deadly. Widely swinging his sword, Balama knocked the big tailless fish off the table and nearly touching Tolana.

The high priest’s face remained impassive. It remained as such when he approached each of the gathered warriors with a cup in his hand and pulled back their heads by gripping each participant by their long hair with colored ribbons. He then poured the bitter-sweet drink into their half-open mouths, pushing the edge of the cup between their teeth, forcing a couple of big gulps. The drink was Nymphaea ampla, a nectar. Vak Balama prepared it in the spring season, with the onset of tropical storms, from the stems of water lilies, extract from the bones of parrot fish, and sap from a natural rubber. The drink began to act just a few minutes after its intake. By the time Balama approached the tenth man, the nine men he already gave the drink to were elsewhere. Their eyes rolled back, exposing white eyeballs with bloody capillaries. Their movements became uncoordinated, and the sounds that they continued to produce began to resemble the roar of a cornered buffalo before its slaughter. Loud, plaintive, sad, and terrifying.

The priest approached Tolana. She was the last. Silently and without aggression, he handed her the cup with the remains of the potion. Tolana took the cup and drunk it without hesitation. A minute later she was on her knees and motionless, her head resting on a stone, her eyes open, black, her unusually wide pupils staring into nowhere.

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