The Doll

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The Doll

stories of fantastic and

everyday matters

Michurinsk 2020

Попов Н. Е.


2020 — с.:ил.

© 2020 Nickolay Popov

All rights reserved


A few words about the stories. All of them in due time had been published in the newspaper Nashe Slovo. I am grateful for it then to the executive secretary Michael Philippov, who is deceased now. God rest his soul. He tried to draw me into the bustle of a newspaper gently as he could, prompting topics for articles; at any time he’d been finding a minute or two to talk on business or simply heart-to-heart conversation. My first story The Guest, reworked a bit at the request of Michael, was published as a whole, despite the shortage of newspaper strips. The local newspaper in those years went to the book format; a computer layout has been applied, and this attracted me very much. Philippov knew about it, and realized that the author wants to see his thing printed in a book format. I wrote a little, as always, social, cultural and even religious questions required some evaluation or discussion. Sometimes I offered film critique. Executive secretary flattered me: “Nickolay, you write not often, but you will be read by everybody.” He used to say it in order to push me to new materials and stories.

Out of all placed here short stories I want to highlight the one: The Doll, a pamphlet of fantastic content on social and political theme. The real book by Eric K. Drexler served as a material for the story. Drexler E.K. is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Engines of creation is the title of his book. The book itself was published in the U.S. in 1986. Eric Drexler worked in the Laboratory of space systems of the same institute. In August 2005 Drexler joined Nanorex, a molecular engineering software company based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Engines of creation shows a broad and complete picture of the greatest revolution in the history of science and technology, which, in author’s opinion, can occur in the first half of XXI century as a result of the development by mankind an alternative technology for production of products by assembling them literally over the atoms!

This refers to the so-called nanotechnology. Nano… who does not know, means small; word-for-word translation from Greek — dwarf. So nanocomputers and nanomachines, which will enable the indicated above assembly of products over natural “bricks”, i.e. atoms. What would come of it, read the story Doll. And who will be interested in the book Engines of creation, can look it on the Internet. Its full name is: Drexler E.K. Engines of Creation Garden City (N.Y.). — Anchor Press. — 298 p.

Human curiosity knows no bounds. We are getting closer to the mysteries of nature. The truth is out there. But here’s the trouble: good intentions pave the road to hell. Do not forget the wise idea. And in this sense, our pamphlet Doll can be called a warning to humanity since wonderful Engines of Creation can be easily turned into Engines of Destruction, depending into whose hands they fall. Did the scientist from Massachusetts think over it? We do not know. May be I’m behind the times now. But. To tell the truth, over the past fifteen years I have heard of nanotechnology and nothing about assemblers, replicators and other accessories of modern shaping. It is possible that the technology had already been tested and approved. In any case, it is quite dangerous, because nuclear weapons fade before a new formidable force.

So as not to finish on a sour note; I want to add that in the end, it’s just a fantasy, a virtual world.

We know that everything is transitory, and Love is eternal. Take a look out of the window: there is certainly good weather or not good, it’s raining or snowing, the sun shines, and perhaps romantic moon, patroness of lovers. Outdoors, say, March or April. In the mornings, caught by light frost, still snow is crunching. And in the daytime on warm islands of land green grass stretches into the light, the birds pour marriage songs and your heart is sweetly shrinking in the chest pending of joyful anticipations.


March 17, 2020

the doll

fantastical pamphlet

“What is it?” — “Ananas.” — “May one eat it?” — “Yes, of course. Dad came back from Spain. Navat, he brought me a video camera!” — “You’re happy, Hermes. And my stepfather cannot repair the boat; two months have already passed. He is a good kind chap, but he has no money for a new motor. We cannot put to sea for fish.” — » Do not worry, Navat. Dad says that soon he will be the head of the Ministry. I will help you, certainly! You will have a new motor.” — “Thank you, Hermes, and what will you be when you grow up?” — “I’m going to work.” — “Why? You have everything.” — “Navat, I want you and your stepfather both and everybody like you to live a little better, and every person wishing could work, too. Moreover I want that uncle Semey who lives in our backyard, no longer cursed my father and every morning no longer raked in a container with garbage. What are you going to do, Navat, when you grow up?” — “I will become as rich as your father…”

Eugene turned the monitor off and then on again. The line appeared on the screen: “… true”. Again this inscription, he thought. Where did it come from? The line disappeared. What could this clip be true? The only thing that could be really true — the name of the boy of ancient Greece. The name of the second boy, we can say almost biblical — Navat. On the whole this video clip or maybe the film resembles black-and-white scenes 60’s, except that the camera when shooting, apparently as if on purpose was stuck in one place. And the inscription. It appears for a few seconds anywhere in the plot, one has only to turn off and on afresh the monitor.

First of all Eugene “ferried” computer’s databank of his father to his own computer before being moved to a new apartment from the old house in the north-western area, where he lived with his aunt for a long time. Shortly before her death, Eugene’s aunt opened the safe, and along with the keys handed an envelope to his nephew, saying that it was time to get acquainted with it. In the envelope on a piece of embossed paper was an encryption. As it turned out after, it was the entry code in the computer storage. And when Eugene not without difficulty calculated it on the keyboard of his own Hitachi, he landed in the infinite world of information hitherto hidden in the chips and microprocessors of Japanese design.

In the database the file where Eugene discovered a video clip in the service table was listed at number 38079. Refer to the table; Ghenya drew attention to the fact that the individual code numbers periodically used to change its color. At first he did not attach any importance to this and choose to view the files at random. But then somehow unconsciously began to gain those numbers that either changed color, or just flickered on the table. All nights long he wore out by sitting at the screen while listening to Tom MacMurfee’s lectures about new technology shaping, about achievements in the field of genetic engineering, of biotechnology, assemblers and nanocomputers. And when the number 38079 was displayed in a black frame, Eugene finally caught himself that therein some program is working with him.

He saw a video for the first time. The plot lasted exactly seventeen minutes. May be, seventeen minutes for a clip were a lot, but for the real movie were not enough. Anyway, every evening began with a film-plot; moreover the changing of figures in the upper right corner of the screen apparently meant the number of views. That night Ghenya watched the movie for the seventeenth time. He knew it by heart, delved into every word, trying to understand the possible hidden meaning in them. Now there was no doubt — in memory of his PC this entry for Eugene’s father was particularly valuable.

About his father Eugene knew almost nothing. In addition to name, he heard that his father worked at the Research Institute and studied biochemistry. Ghenya’s aunt when she was alive told little of his brother; she was ill and she had been lying for many years in bed. She said that in politics he was indifferent, but from purely economic considerations became a member of the neo-liberal party, because the Liberals subsidized his work at the institute. Then told as after the July revolt two foreign cars drove to their house. Brother moved off and did not return. Wife, having left her child, drove off abroad; soon the people in black suits came to the aunt and searched the house, broke everything upside down, but what they were looking for did not find.

Eugene asked for a reference collector browsing long lists of names, even once found his own name in them. But his father was not in the lists. Then Ghenya estimated his personal budget and seized the opportunity of Charged Hypertext. He succeeded in finding the extra information about his father: “… a well-known scientist, associate professor of Molecular Physics of the Stuchka Latvian State University, researched on nanotechnology. He worked in the laboratory of the Commissariat of Atomic Energy in Saclay. On his return continued to work in the field of molecular electronics. After the military coup in 19… for safety works had been suspended.” And the last thing what Eugene decided to use, although he knew that he had no right to do so. He was a kind of programmer in the law. Coding of computer programs long ago turned from a hobby into a profession. His personal computer almost did not know what it means to receive a signal from the outside: no access. However, any leakage of closed information about him could not go unnoticed. According to an official request to the Security Management Eugene’s father allegedly was in hiding in USA. Temptation turned out stronger than the instinct of self-preservation. The result was the following document: “Managing Security Service. Top secret. For high treason and failure to cooperate for the benefit of the country’s prosperity and security Romanovsky Hermes Baromeevich sentence to death. The sentence to enforce.

Director MSS Navat Nuritdimov.”

“…Do-wn! Do-wn! Do-wn! Down! Down with the ruling Liberal government! Down-n-n-n! Tomorrow belongs to us-s-s-s! Victory! Long live Vi-cto-ry!” (from the area are wafted bursts of machine-gun fire, gnashing of tank tracks, thunder four cannon shots, in the government office clink and scattered on the floor window panes, from the street a black infantry grenade flies, Hermes grabs it and throws out of the window, it explodes in the air, break to pieces two more windows).

“Father, get out of here! What do they want?” — “They don’t want to live, son. Leave alone. Nobody touch you.” — “Too late, my father!” (in the hallway heard sporadic shooting and shouting, trampling, the door swings wide open, armed men in camouflage uniforms burst into the office).

“Who are the provisionals here? Oh, Hermes! That’s a meeting! You are also with them, aren’t you?” — ““Navat, this is my father.” — “I know. I’ve come namely for him.” (he gives signs to the military, they come up to the minister, twist his arms behind his back). “Do not you dare!?” (Hermes rushes to his father, the rebels with machine-guns pressed him against the wall, the prisoner was led into the lobby, heard a short burst of fire, Hermes is trying to break free and gets a hit in the face with the butt of the gun). “All are free!” (Navat gives orders to the military, those are leaving the office, he leans to Hermes lying on the floor) “Don’t you hurt yourself, do you?” (helps him to stand up, makes sit down in a chair, takes out his handkerchief, pouring water from the carafe, gives to Hermes, the latter wipes the blood from his face) “You will answer for the murder of Prime Minister!” (Navat applies to his balding head the wet handkerchief, throws it on the floor) “This is not murder, but execution. Who is not with us is against us. And don’t forget about it, because I have not yet determined whom you are with” — “I hate you, you’re always jealous of me.” — “Yes. But now we have traded places. Now it’s your turn to envy me, now you, each and all are… (raises up his palm, doubles it into a fist) here!” — “I don’t care about your politics, I do science.” — “Politics and science — twin sisters. Young, budding scientist will work for the benefit of their homeland. Assemblers, replicators. Soon this will come in handy to us.” — “I’m not going to work for you.” — “You will. You cannot not to work. You need not money, you need a job. And now you have no money in any case. Who will give them to you? I will. Do you hear?” (Points to the broken window) “Shooting stopped, because no one else to fire back, because we are in a majority, because everyone wants to think the way I want, and you’ll think the same way.” (He stands up). “Soon I’ll come for you. There is no place for you to escape.” (Exit).

The video ended. Eugene was sitting near the monitor. Black screen reflected a desperate unblinking stare. Eugene again dialed the clip. The plot was not repeated; only in the upper right corner was still the number 17. After the second input the letter D accrued to the figures, all of the code moved to the center of the screen became dazzling white, adding the letter R. No doubt remained what to do next. Eugene reached for the keyboard.

He saw the familiar conference hall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (he’d already seen this hall in the video of his computer); at the very room for months without leaving the screen, he’d been listening to the interesting lectures delivering by Tom MacMurfee. Now in the hall were not so many people, no TV cameras or people with dictaphones and notepads in their hands. On the podium was a man in glasses, a thick notebook in his hand, he waved it, apparently, continuing the speech that was by now begun before the break. He spoke of the space resource, about the coefficient of utilization of space, quoted figures by the example of Russia, where every citizen accounts for 30 square meters of industrial building, and in a city like Togliatti, this figure exceeds 80 m2!

“We have heard it in the first part of your speech.” said someone from the audience. “What do you propose instead of machine-tools and automated lines?”

“We offer a completely new shaping technology. Gentlemen, work in this direction is already underway in Europe, and we cannot know how far they have gone forward. Therefore I propose to combine our efforts and to create here,” the speaker tapped a finger on the podium “in the United States the Information Center for the exchange of experience and reliable control over all laboratories in the world, leading such work. This isn’t a reassurance, gentlemen, for the fruits of our research can bring to the whole world and to all of humanity both blessing and infinite evil against which the splitting of the atomic nucleus will seem a miserable laboratory crackling.”

“The case let,” demanded from the audience.

“All right. Let us listen to our institute graduate Tom Brexler. His phantom machines he called engines of creation, but with no less confidence we can call them engines of destruction, too.”

Eugene knew the scientist coming to the podium. So he turned to the audience waited for absolute silence and began to speak. He was listened in silence, without interrupting. Ghenya realized that this man was going to say something very important.

“… badly smelling and lumbering machines are already beginning to seem old-fashioned in the background of integrated circuits and molecular physics. We are proud of the technology that gave us life-saving drugs and desktop computers. However, our spaceships are still primitive, computers’re “stupid”, and medications do not always help to overcome a disease. From ancient times so as to make a product, people used one and only technique: rearrangement of volumes in one or another substance. Diamond and coal, gold and sand, living tissue and cancer — right along cheap out of precious, sick from healthy differed only by way of placing atoms. I’ve already talked about the achievements of genetic engineering, about the construction of DNA molecules. Our works are now in a crucial stage. But, as my colleague said here, we cannot know what stage similar works in European laboratories are currently. I will come back to this issue.

We are on the verge of creating such a technology of forming, that will allow us with our micro or nanomachines — let’s call them assemblers — and nanocomputers penetrate in one taken separately molecule and rearrange the atoms in it at our discretion. Thus, there is a real opportunity to get out of any matter any substance, as well as from a sore living tissue to create a healthy one. As regards the technology for products with adjusted properties, here we do not need metal-cutting equipment. Molecular technology will allow us to collect the desired product atom by atom, molecule by molecule, which would make the production process as environmentally friendly as the cultivation of an apple-tree. In order to get the product from raw materials (anything can be used for raw materials), you need three components: raw materials, assemblers and nanocomputers. The last two, placed in a neutral liquid medium represent a viscous liquid of any color. In contact with raw material work begins, the outcome of which depends on the program laid down in nanocomputers. An assembler that executed its program puts an end to existence. Later assemblers will reborn, so to speak, in replicators, self-replicating nanomachines. Components for these machines, i.e. atoms, do not need in manufacturing — they are given by nature.

I want to draw your attention, gentlemen: here is the most dangerous trend in our work. If we don’t reprogram a replicator from self-reproduction to the creation of something or even to the destruction of something, I hope, you know what happens next. The raw materials in the world are enough — so none capable of replicating assembler should not get into the environment. Well, if I mention about destruction, I want to add that assemblers from a military point of view represent as an environmentally acceptable weapon. One liter of that sort of programmed viruses, pulverizated over a city of 300 thousand inhabitants, less than for 24 hours are able to turn the town into a fertile field. Whether assemblers will serve a man or use him as a raw material? It depends on us.

And one more quick note. I am alarming to tell you about the information from Eastern Europe where at the Romanovsky’s laboratory the first-generation assemblers had already been synthesized. Unfortunately, we have currently no information neither of the fate of Hermes Baromeevich himself nor of his laboratory. The political situation at the scientist’s homeland is extremely unstable. I believe that we must somehow through the Embassy to contact with Romanovsky. Thank you, gentlemen.”

Not sleepy. Ghenya went to the kitchen, brewed strong coffee. Pacing out the room looked at his watch. 2.45. It was dawning. June nights are short. How much time he had left before the arrival of the police? At 9 a.m. the secretary comes to work. She will sit down to the computer and detect the leak. Cannot fail to notice the alarm will be triggered, has already responded. So, at the latest, they will call on him at 9.30. One must do something. So far, he’d been led by the program. He took the information by dialing the code numbers in the sequence, which prompted him a service table. Here it is. Randomly appeared on the monitor and already without his participation. What’s next? The endless columns of numbers slowly crept up the screen as useless titles at the end of a film. A black blank frame between the numbers. Stop. At this point must be the clip code. Enter the code. What is it? Arithmetic example appeared in the black frame: 163 x 9 +1215. Well, let’s solve it = 38079. The code number of the video clip. Ghenya slammed his palm against his forehead. It’s a children’s word game! It is only necessary to turn the result upside down and read it. GLOBE. Entering this word on the keyboard, on the screen he saw his old house. Invisible camera climbed the stairs, the door opened — heart shrank in the chest — a familiar corridor, familiar walls, here there were the same way as many years ago. Here is the room where he spent so many years. An iron bed is in the corner, the political world map is on the wall, a desk and an old school globe. GLOBE!! The whole world! — “… the fruits of our research can bring to the whole world and to all of humanity both blessing and infinite evil…

“Please, I’m not a burglar; I urgently need to be in the north-western region. There and back! I’ll pay, I’m not a bandit!”

“That’s evident. Sit down.”

The driver opened the door. Zhenya slipped into the car.

Anna Yermilovna, despite the early hour, was bustling beside the house in a flower bed. Having caught sight of Eugene running along the path to the house, she clasped her hands:

“Zhenya, what’s happened?”

“Do not worry, Aunt Anna.” Zhenya was panting, wondering what he could tell the hostess. “I just have urgent work; I need a map right now.”

He spoke wide, portraying the ball with his hands. “Forgive me, please. I haven’t been here for ages. Scary little time… left.”

“I don’t understand what you want?”

“A globe, Aunt Anna, a globe that stood on the desk in my room.”

“Oh, globe,” Anna Yermilovna smiled. “I threw it in the attic. One can’t see anything on it; even Riga is not clearly visible.”

“I’ll find what I need.”

Embraced with the globe, Zhenya took a back seat.

“And because of this damn you raced through the city early in the morning?” The driver asked, looking at him in the mirror.

“It’s not a damn thing. This is our land.”

“Yes,” the driver smiled crookedly. “The whole world is in your hands.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

Zhenya slammed the door behind him. Then checked up all the windows, closed ventlights and started to wet cleaning: vacuumed a carpet, sofas, chairs, upholstered in soft capes, pulled out of the closet flypapers and hanged them around the room. Only after all done he set the globe on the clean-washed wooden parquet and sank to his knees. Zhenya carefully inspected the surface of the ball and found a thin seam, rising from the base of the stand, on which the globe spun, from the South Pole up exactly along the meridian of Greenwich. He took a knife and gently introduced it into the ball. The flutter of his beating heart was immediately delivered to his trembling hands; the blade struck the finger and blood dripped on the parquet. Ignoring the injury, Eugene finished his work, cut through the seam to the equator, and then looked inside, pulling apart the narrow slit with the help of fingers. No doubt remained — on the axis inside the globe, in tight embrace of iron flower resembling lotus a glass bulb was resting. With a fine hacksaw Eugene sawed off a half of Africa, stuck his hand in the globe and gently drew the flask out of the flower.

Here they are. Programmable assemblers.

The liquid seemed viscous in the light, milk-white. How many of them here? Each of them is certainly less than a bacterium, so liquid is white — they diffuse light. It’s best to examine them in natural lighting. Zhenya went to the window, passed the computer and suddenly stopped. It seemed to him that he saw someone’s face on the screen. Came back — no one. What nonsense? He came closer — white longitudinal stripes appeared on the screen. But it was impossible to read if it was any inscription. Then Eugene put the flask on the table and tried to operate on elements of the image with the mouse. He hardly managed to make out two words: drive and bulb! The idea worked like lightning — he grabbed the flask from the table and moved it to the drive slot.

Hermes Baromeevich looked at Zhenya from the screen. Aged, with a light stubble unshaven face. At first it was a picture. But then:

“Hello, son!”

Legs gave way. Eugene sat down on a chair. Recording continues:

“You’ve gone through my whole program. I know that this video would never appear on the screen since its appearance, as you already understood, is obliged to coincidence of many independent from each other, conditions.

When you were three years old, I had to leave you with your mother. I was hoping to come back, but fate decreed otherwise. For a long time I had been working abroad. Now you know very well what I’d spent the best years of my life on. But when I returned home, I realized that the fruits of my many years of work in the first place could be taken advantage of people, whose morality leaves much to be desired. I dreamed of a complete transformation of the world. With assemblers we could clean our planet from all the dirt that has accumulated on it over many long years: to decompose toxic substances into harmless, to break up carbon dioxide of atmosphere into oxygen and carbon, to seal up forever radioactive substances in self-sealing containers. The implementation of my research if successful could bring long life and abundance to all whom may concern.

Well, these bright prospects evoke thoughts of utopia. However, utopian ideas time and again revolutionized history, whether for better or worse, never mind. Dangerous dreams forced people to kill in the name of love and enslave their own kind in the name of brotherhood. Too often, dreams turned out to be impracticable, and attempt to implement them — disastrous. I came to this conclusion as soon as my first experiments began feeding hope. Forgive me, son. Over a lifetime, I have not found a moment to talk to you. First, not looking for, and then could not look as I could not move freely in my own country. I had to resolve the problem and dilemma at one time. The first was how to neutralize the monster that is now in the flask on your table. Complete neutralization would have taken some years, while every day I expected Pharaohs of the security service. As for the dilemma whether to hide a flask or trust to you — I thought the second option is the most secure.

In fateful coincidence at that time you studied in Moscow. But I found a way out. To let you in the business, I had to put in almost all the information on molecular electronics in a computer memory. Surely I was going and, perhaps forever to hide a flask from people. But I was tracked down by the police. I could not leave the house. At my disposal were a few hours. And then I came up with a trick of a globe. No one could solve this simple puzzle except you. Your aunt suspected of nothing. You had got a coded message at the appointed time.

My son, you have to do what I could not do. Since assemblers located in the flask for a long time remained without work, they have lost the ability for replication. Unfortunately, the algorithm of reproduction is at the Pharaohs, therefore after listening to this video recording you have to neutralize the contents of the flask. The flask was sealed, made of silicon carbide, is not exposed to the effect of assemblers. It’s very difficult to split it, but in the place indicated by the symbol Au, you can drill a hole with the help of any cutting tool. To exclude the possibility of cart-any mistakes, I refused to work with light elements and opted for heavy metals. The higher the specific weight of the initial and final substance, the fewer raw materials is required for the neutralization. Remember, son, pour only into a glass or chinaware, and then put there any metal object.

Goodbye and forgive me if you can.”

The liquid had no smell, gradually spread out on a porcelain plate and there’s been no trace of it in the flask. Zhenya brought out of the closet a heavy dumbbell, gently lowered it into the plate. At the same moment, the milk surface around the dumbbell covered with a network of microscopic bubbles. Some seconds passed — and the liquid in the dish was boiling, as if that chinaware was standing not on the cold floor but on a gas stove, while the black, covered with bitumen varnish, dumbbell suddenly started to change color from the bottom. It seemed that it was slowly sinking into the shiny new yellow cylinder. Easy click. The plate, unable to bear the precious gravity, split in two — fluid leaked onto the floor. As soon as the white tongue appeared from under the rubble of porcelain, like frost on the glass, fan-shaped golden patterns swung on the parquet. The viscous milky trickle, having mixed with droplets of blood on the floor, suddenly became fluid as quicksilver, and acquired a ruby colour. Stitches on the parquet ceased.

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