Book 5. Who are we? (2001)
Good shall prevail on the Earth
In one of the Russian domains lived a happy family — a husband, wife and two children: a boy, Konstantin, who was eight, and a little five-year-old girl named Dasha.2 Their father was considered one of the most talented computer-programmers in Russia. His study at home contained several state-of-the-art computers on which he compiled programmes for a government military agency Sometimes he would linger at his computers well into the evening hours, completely absorbed in his work.
The other members of the family, accustomed to gathering in the evenings, headed for his study, where each busied themselves with their own activities. The wife sat in a comfortable armchair and sewed. Their son read or drew sketches of the landscapes of the new settlements. Only five-year-old Dasha would not always find herself an activity to her liking, in which case she would curl up in a chair with a good view of everyone else, and spend a long time carefully observing each member of the family Occasionally she would close her eyes, and her face would show a whole range of emotions.
On what seemed to be a fairly routine evening the family had gathered in the father’s study as usual, each one busy in their own way The study door was open, which meant that they could hear the cuckooing of an old-fashioned mechanical cuckoo clock on the wall of the children’s room next door. Usually it would sound off only during the daytime hours, but now it was already evening. So the father glanced up from his work and stared at the door, while the other family members gave an astonished look in the same direction. All except for little Dasha, who simply sat in her chair, her eyes closed, apparently oblivious to everything. A smile — first barely noticeable, then quite evident — crept across her lips. All at once the clock cuckooed a second time, as though someone standing in the children’s room had moved the hands forward to announce the next hour. Ivan Nikiforovich,3 as the father of the household was called, turned his swivel chair in his son’s direction and said:
“Kostia, please go see if you can fix the clock or at least stop it. We’ve had it a long time, that gift of Grandfather’s. Strange how it got broken like that... Strange... See if you can do something about it, Kostia.”
The children were always obedient. Not out of fear of punishment — in fact, they were never punished. Kostia and Dasha loved and respected their parents. They got the highest pleasure out of doing something together or carrying out their parent’s wishes. Upon hearing his father’s request, Kostia at once rose from his seat, but, to his mother’s and father’s surprise, did not head for the children’s room. Instead, he just stood and stared at his younger sister sitting in the armchair with her eyes closed. Then once again they heard a cuckooing from the next room. But Kostia still stood there and stared, his eyes fixed on his sister.
Galina, their mother, looked concernedly at her son, who remained rooted to the spot. All at once, she got up and cried out in fright:
“Kostia... Kostia, what’s the matter with you?”
The eight-year-old boy turned to his mother, wondering what she was frightened about, and replied:
“Everything’s fine with me, Mama. I wanted to do as Papa asked, but I can’t.”
“Why not? Are you unable to move? You’re unable to go to your room?”
“I can move,” replied Kostia, waving his arms about and stamping his feet on the spot to prove it, “but there’s no point in my going to our room — she’s here and she’s stronger.” “Who’s here? Who’s stronger?” Mother started getting more and more upset.
“Dasha,” Kostia replied, pointing to his younger sister sitting in the armchair, her eyes closed and with a smile on her face. “She’s the one who’s been moving the hands forward. I tried to put them back in place, but I can’t do it when she — ” “What are you talking about, Kostienka?” Mother interrupted. “You and Dashenka are both here with us — I can see you. How can you two be here and at the same time move the clock hands in the other room?”
“Well yes, we’re here,” answered Kostia, “but our thoughts are in the other room, where the clock is. Only her thought is stronger. That’s why the clock keeps cuckooing — her thought is speeding up the hands. She’s been playing a lot of tricks like that lately I told her not to. I knew it might upset you, but Dasha doesn’t care. All she has to do is fall into a state of contemplation, and she starts thinking up something.” “What is Dasha contemplating on?” Ivan Nikiforovich broke into the conversation. ‘And Kostia, why didn’t you say anything about this earlier?”
“You yourself can see how she’s contemplating. The clock hands aren’t important — she’s just amusing herself. I can move the hands too when nobody’s interfering. Only I can’t contemplate like Dasha. When she’s in a state of
contemplation like that there’s no way anyone can counteract her thought.”
“What is she contemplating on? Do you know, Kostia?” “Sorry. Why don’t you ask her yourself? I’ll stop her contemplation before she thinks up anything else.”
Kostia went over to the chair his sister was sitting in and said distinctly in a louder than normal voice:
“Dasha, stop thinking! If you don’t stop, I shan’t speak to you for a whole day And besides, you’ve frightened Mama.” With a flutter of her eyelashes the little girl surveyed everyone present in the room with an observing glance and, as though literally waking up, jumped up from her chair and hung her head apologetically. The cuckooing stopped, and for a while the study was enveloped in complete silence — a silence eventually broken by little Dasha’s apologising voice. She raised her head, looked at her Mama and Papa with her sparkling, tender eyes and said:
“Mamochka, Papochka, forgive me for frightening you. But I had to... I just had to finish thinking it through — this thought I had. Now I can’t help but think it through. I’ll be thinking it through tomorrow too, when I’ve had a rest.” The girl’s lips trembled, it seemed just as though she were about to break into tears, but she continued:
“You, Kostia, can refuse to talk with me if you like, but I’ll go on contemplating it all the same, until I think it through.” “Come to me, daughter dear,” said Ivan Nikiforovich, trying to act restrained. He held out his arms to his daughter, ready to embrace her.
Dasha rushed toward her father, jumped up on his knees and put her little arms around his neck, pressed her cheek briefly against his, then jumped down and stood beside him, bending her head down to him.
Ivan Nikiforovich for some reason had a hard time hiding his emotion. He began telling his daughter:
“Don’t worry, Dashenka! Mama will no longer get frightened when you contemplate. Just tell us what you’re thinking about. What is so important to think through and why do the clock hands move forward so fast when you’re thinking?” “You see, Papochka, I want to make everything that’s nice even bigger in time, and everything that’s bad tiny and unnoticeable. Or even... I want to think it through so that the hands skip over the bad things and they aren’t there any more.”
“But what is nice and what is bad doesn’t depend on the clock hands, Dashenka.”
“It doesn’t depend on the hands, Papochka. I realise that. But I move them along so’s I can feel the time. The cuckoo counts off the speed of my thinking, ’cause I have to get it done in time... That’s why I move the hands.”
“How do you do that, Dashenka?”
“It’s simple. I picture the hands of the clock out of the corner of my thought, then I think they should go faster — and they go faster when I start thinking fast.”
“What do you want to achieve, daughter dear, by speeding up time? What don’t you like about the present time?”
“I like it. I realise now that time isn’t to blame. It’s people themselves who spoil their time. You, Papochka, are so often at your computer, and then you go away for a long time. You, Papochka, spoil the time when you go away”
“Me? Spoil it? How so?”
“We have a good time when we’re all together. When we’re together we have very good minutes and hours, even days. Everything around is joyful. Do you remember, Papochka, when the apple tree began to bloom just a little? You and Mama saw the first buds, and you took Mama in your arms and twirled around. And Mamochka laughed so brightly that everything around was joyful with us — the leaves on the trees, and the little birds too. And I didn’t feel sore at all
about your twirling Mama around in your arms instead of me, ’cause I love our Mamochka very much. I was so happy with that time, just like everyone else.
“But then a different time came. I realise now that it was you, Papochka, who made it different. You went away from us for a very long time. Baby apples had even begun to appear on the apple tree. But still you didn’t come home. And Mamochka went up to the apple tree and stood there all by herself. But there was nobody there to twirl her around, and she didn’t laugh brightly, and nothing around had anything to be joyful about. And Mamochka has quite a different smile on her face when you’re not around. It’s a sad smile. And that is a bad time.”
Dasha spoke quickly and excitedly All at once she seemed to choke on something inside her, and then burst out:
“You shouldn’t make it bad when it is good... Time... Papochka!”
“Dasha... You’re right about one thing... Of course... But you don’t know everything about the times we’re all in. The times we live in...” Ivan Nikiforovich spoke disconnectedly
He was feeling tense. Somehow he needed to explain how necessary it was for him to go away. To explain it in such a way that his little daughter could understand. Finding no better alternative, he began telling her about his work, showing her rocket models and schematics on the computer.
“You see, Dashenka. Of course it’s good for us here. And it’s good for those who live in our neighbourhood too. But there are other places, other countries in the world. And they’ve got a lot of weapons, all sorts of them... To protect our splendid garden, and the gardens and the houses of your friends, sometimes Papa has to go away Our country must also have a lot of up-to-date weapons to defend itself.
“But recently... Dashenka... You see, recently in another country not ours, they came up with a new kind of weapon.
For the time being it is stronger than ours. Look here, on the screen, Dashenka!”
And Ivan Nikiforovich gave a tap on the keyboard, and the image of a strange kind of missile appeared on the screen.
“Look, Dashenka. This is a large missile, and it holds fifty-six smaller missiles. The large rocket takes off at Man’s command and heads for its assigned target, to destroy everything living there. This missile is very hard to shoot down. When any object approaches it, an on-board computer kicks in and sends out one of the smaller missiles to destroy the object.
“The smaller missiles can travel faster than the big one, since when they’re launched they can use the inertia speed of the larger missile. To shoot down just one such monster, we need to send fifty-seven missiles out against it.
“The country producing this so-called ‘cassette’ missile has only three working models at the moment. They have been carefully concealed in various places, in shafts deep underground, but it only takes a single radio-transmitted command to launch them. A small group of terrorists are already blackmailing a number of countries, threatening to wreak havoc on them. So you see, Dashenka, I have to decode the programme of the cassette missile’s on-board computer.”
Ivan Nikiforovich got up and walked around the room. He continued talking rapidly, getting more and more absorbed in his thoughts about the programme, seemingly oblivious to his little girl standing beside the computer. Ivan Nikiforovich quickly went over to the monitor showing the external image of the missile, gave a tap on the keyboard, and the screen showed a schematic of the missile’s fuel supply system, then one of the targeting radar devices, and then, once more, an overall image. Even as he was switching the screen images, Ivan Nikiforovich was no longer paying any attention to his dear little daughter. He kept reasoning aloud:
“They have obviously equipped each of the smaller missiles with a targeting radar device. Of course, that would apply to every single one. But there can’t be any difference in the programmes. The programmes have to be identical...”
All at once one of the other computers emitted an alarm sound, demanding immediate attention. Ivan Nikiforovich quickly turned to the respective monitor and froze in his seat. The screen showed a blinking text message: “EMERGENCY ALERT... EMERGENCY ALERT...” Ivan Nikiforovich gave a quick tap on the keyboard, and an image of a man in a military uniform appeared on the screen.
“What’s happened?” Ivan Nikiforovich asked him.
“Three unusual explosions have been recorded,” responded the man. “The whole defence complex has been put on Emergency Alert. Explosions of lesser magnitude are continuing. There’s been an earthquake in Africa. Nobody’s offered any explanations. According to international information exchange networks all military blocs on the planet have been ordered to high alert. Still no determination where the attack originated from. The explosions are continuing and we’re trying to shed light on the situation. All personnel have been ordered to set about analysing the situation.”
The officer on the screen spoke in a clipped, military fashion. At the end, his voice was already betraying signs of concern: “Explosions continuing, Ivan Nikiforovich, explosions continuing. I’m signing off...”
The officer’s image disappeared from the screen. Ivan Nikiforovich, however, continued to stare at the darkened monitor, intensely absorbed in thought. Slowly and pensively he turned in the direction of his chair, where Dasha was still standing as before.
All at once an incredible conjecture made him shudder. He saw how his little daughter, her eyes screwed up and unblinking, was staring at the screen showing the image of the modern
missile. Suddenly her little body gave a start. Then, letting out a sigh of relief, she hit the ‘ENTER’ button on the keyboard. When the image of the new missile appeared, she screwed up her eyes again and began staring intently at the monitor.
Ivan Nikiforovich stood as though paralysed, incapable of budging from the spot, feverishly asking himself — though only in his thoughts — the same question over and over again: Could she have set off the explosions? Set them off by her thought, because she doesn’t like the bombs? Did she blow them up? Could that be true? How?
He wanted to stop his daughter and called out to her. But he did not have the strength to speak very loudly, and could only whisper:
“Dasha, Dashenka, my dear daughter, stop it!”
Kostia, who had observed the whole scene, quickly got up from his seat, ran over to his sister, gave her a little pat on her bottom and began talking at a rapid pace:
“Now, Dashka, you’ve gone and upset Papa this time. Now I shan’t speak to you for two whole days — one day for Mama, the other for Papa. D’you hear? Do you hear what I’m saying? You’ve frightened them!”
Gradually emerging from her state of concentration, Dasha turned to her brother and let her face resume its normal appearance as she looked him pleadingly and apologetically in the eye. Kostia noticed Dasha’s eyes were filling with tears. Putting his hand on her shoulder, he spoke to her with a less severe tone than before.
“Okay, I got carried away about not talking to you, but you’ll have to tie your own hair ribbon in the mornings. You’re not so little any more, you know.”
And telling her not to think about crying, he embraced her tenderly The little girl nuzzled her face up against her brother’s chest, her shoulders trembling, as she sorrowfully repeated:
“I’ve gone and frightened them again. I’m a very naughty girl. I wanted to do the best I possibly could, but I’ve gone and frightened them.”
Galina came over to the children, squatted down beside them and began stroking Dasha’s head. The girl threw her arms around her mother’s neck and sobbed quietly.
“How does she do it, Kostia? How?” Ivan Nikiforovich asked his son as he slowly came to himself.
“The same way that she moves the hands of the clock, Papa,” replied Kostia.
“But the clock is right here, while the missiles are a long ways away, and their location is classified as ‘top secret’.”
“Papa, it doesn’t matter to Dasha where they’re located. All she needs to see is the outward appearance of the object.”
“But the explosions... In order to set them off, the circuits have to be connected. Quite a few circuits at that. There are safety mechanisms, codes...”
“But Papa, Dasha’s able to go through all the circuits until a connection is made. Before, it took her a long time to do that, maybe fifteen minutes, but lately she’s got it down to a minute and a half.”
“Yes, Papa, only not with missiles. That was the way we played. After she started moving the clock hands forward, I showed her my old electric car I used to love riding in when I was little. You see, Papa, I opened the bonnet and asked her to connect the headlamp wires together, since it was hard for me to get at them myself. She did it. And when she asked to take it for a drive, I told her she was still too young and wouldn’t be able to brake properly or even switch on the motor. But then when she kept insisting, I gave in. I explained how to switch the motor on, but Dasha did it all her own way.
“I tell you, Papa, Dasha simply sat down behind the wheel and took off without switching on anything. She thought she was switching it on, but I could see that she wasn’t doing anything with her hands. Or rather, she was switching it on, but she did it mentally Besides, Papa, she’s made friends with microbes. They obey her.”
“With microbes}'. What microbes?”
“With the ones that are very prolific, that live everywhere, all around us and inside us. We can’t see them, but they’re there. D’you remember, Papa, over on the edge of our domain, in the forest, there used to be the remains of two metallic posts sticking out of the ground? They belonged to an old high-voltage electricity line.”
“I remember them. What of them?”
“They were rusty, resting on concrete foundations. One day when Dasha and I went mushroom-picking, she noticed these remains, said what a bad thing they were, that they weren’t allowing the berries and mushrooms to grow on that spot. Then she said: “You should eat them up very, very fast!”
‘And a couple of days later those rusty remains and the concrete foundations were gone. There was only bare earth
there, without grass, at least for now. The microbes had eaten the metal and the concrete.”
“But why — oh why, Kostia, didn’t you tell me earlier about everything that was going on with Dasha?”
“I was afraid, Papa.”
‘Afraid of what?”
“I was reading up on history... In the recent past people with unusual abilities have been subject to forced isolation. I wanted to tell you and Mama all about it, but I couldn’t find the right words so that you’d understand and believe...” “Kostia, you know we always believe you. Besides, you could show us. Or rather, ask Dasha to demonstrate her ability, only with something harmless.”
“That’s not what I was afraid of, Papa. Of course she could show you.” Kostia fell silent, and when he spoke again, his voice was emotional. “Papa, I love you and Mama... And even though I’m strict with Dashenka sometimes, I love her very much, too. She is kind. Dasha is good to everything around her. She wouldn’t even hurt a little bug. Nor would they hurt her. She went up to a bee-hive one day, sat right down by the hive entrance and watched. She watched how they flew. The bees... A lot of bees crawled over her arms and legs and even over her cheeks, but they didn’t sting her. She held out her hand to the bees buzzing around her — they landed on it and left something there. Afterward she licked the palm of her hand and laughed. She’s kind, Papa.”
“Calm yourself, Kostia. Don’t worry Let’s calmly examine what’s going on here. Yes, we have to think about it calmly... Dasha is still a child. She’s blown up several state-of-the-art missile complexes. She could start a world war. A terrible war. But even without a war... Say she looked through some pictures showing not only enemy missiles, but our own... Say she started detonating all the missiles in all the countries that have them, the world would be on the verge of a global catastrophe! Hundreds of millions of human lives could be lost!
“I too love our little Dasha. But millions!... I need some advice. We must find away out. But for now — I simply don’t know... Dashenka needs to be isolated somehow. Somehow... Yeah... Maybe she needs to be put to sleep for awhile. Maybe... But what’s the solution? How can we possibly find a way out?”
“Papa, Papa... Hold on. Maybe... maybe it’s possible to eliminate all the deadly missiles she doesn’t like from the whole face of the Earth?”
“Eliminate? But... We’d need a multilateral agreement. From all the military blocs. Yeah... But there’s no way we can get one quickly. If we can get one at all. In the meantime...”
Ivan Nikiforovich gave a sudden start and rushed over to his computer, where the monitor still showed the image of a missile, which Dasha was prevented from destroying. He switched off the monitor, then sat down at his communications computer and began to transmit the following text:
The following memo should be transmitted at once to all military blocs and international news media. The series of missile complex explosions was caused by bacteria capable of connecting circuits. These bacteria are controllable. It will be necessary to destroy all images of any live ammunition. All images!!! From the most minute bullet to the most modern missile complex. The location of the explodable object is immaterial to the controller of the bacteria, who only needs to see its shape in an image.
Ivan Nikiforovich looked at Dasha, who by this time was smiling and having a lively conversation with her Mama. He then added the following text:
The locttation of the installation controlling the explosions is unknown.
Finally, Ivan Nikiforovich encoded the transmission and despatched it to headquarters.
The next morning there was an emergency meeting of Russia’s Security Council. A security detachment was posted to stand guard around the community where Ivan Nikiforovich’s domain was situated. The security personnel dressed as road- repair workers, so as not to draw attention to themselves. They pretended to be ‘building’ a five-kilometre-long road around the perimeter of the community (working on all five kilometres at once), maintaining round-the-clock shifts.
Video cameras were set up in Ivan Nikiforovich’s domain which followed every move of little Dasha’s life. The video images were transmitted to a central monitoring station resembling a launch-site mission control. The video monitors were manned in shifts by dozens of specialists — including psychologists and military personnel — ready to issue the required orders in case of an emergency situation. The psychologists used special communications devices to give a constant stream of recommendations to Dasha’s parents on how to distract her, whatever way they could, and keep her from falling into a state of contemplation again.
The Russian government put out an international statement — which many people thought strange — to the effect that in Russia there were forces capable of blowing up any type of live ammunition, no matter where it was located in the world. These forces, it said, were not entirely under the control of the Russian government, although negotiations were underway
The extraordinary nature of this statement called for some kind of confirmation to back it up. At an international council meeting it was decided to prepare a series of unusual-looking projectiles, mounted in square casings. Each country participating in the experiment took twenty such projectiles and hid them in various places on their respective territories.
“Why did they make the projectiles with square casings? Why couldn’t they have just used ordinary ones?” I asked Anastasia.
“They were afraid, Vladimir, that not only all the existing projectiles in the world might explode, but that all the bullets in police and army pistols might get blown up as well, wherever there were guns with live ammunition.”
“Yes, of course... And how did the square-projectile experiment go?”
Calling his daughter into his study, Ivan Nikiforovich showed her a photo of a square projectile and asked her to blow them up.
Dasha took a look at the photo and said:
“I love you very much, Papochka, but there is no way I can do what you ask.”
“Why?” asked Ivan Nikiforovich in amazement.
“Because it won’t work with me.”
“What d’you mean, Dashenka? It worked before — you blew up a whole series of modern missiles, and now it won’t work?”
“You know, back then I was really upset, Papochka. I didn’t want you to go away, or to spend so many hours in front of your computer. When you’re at your computer, you don’t talk with anyone and you’re not doing anything that’s interesting. But now... well, you’re with us all the time. You’ve become very good, Papochka, and I can’t make any more explosions.”
At this point Ivan Nikiforovich realised that Dasha was unable to blow up the square projectiles because she didn’t understand the purpose of the explosion — what it was for.
Ivan Nikiforovich started nervously pacing back and forth, feverishly searching for possible solutions and trying to convince Dasha to do something. But even as he was talking to his daughter, it seemed as though he were mainly reasoning it out for himself.
“It won’t work... No, it won’t... Pity. Wars have been around for thousands of years. While wars have ended between some countries, others have begun fighting. Millions of people have perished, and they are still perishing today. Tremendous resources are being wasted on armaments... And here finally is an opportunity to stop this endless disaster scenario, but alas...” Ivan Nikiforovich looked at Dasha sitting in the chair.
His daughter’s face was composed. She watched with interest as he walked about the room, constantly talking. But she was not fascinated by what he was actually saying. She did not have a full comprehension of what wars meant, what resources her father was talking about and who was wasting them.
She was immersed in her own thoughts: Why is Papa so agitated, walking back and forth amidst these computers which don’t show any affection and don’t give us any energy? Why doesn’t he want to go out into the garden, where the trees are in bloom and the birds are singing where every blade of grass and every branch of a tree caresses the whole body with something invisible? That’s where Mama and Kostia are right now. I only wish Papa would finish his boring conversation and the two of us coiddgo together to the garden. Mama and Kostia will be so happy to see us. Mama will smile, and Kostia promised yesterday he would tell me about how to touch a faraway star by putting your hand on a stone or a flower. Kostia always keeps his promises...
“Dashenka, are you bored listening to me? You don’t un-derstand what I’ve been saying? You’re thinking about something else?”
“I’ve been thinking, Papochka: why are we here, and not in the garden, where they’re waiting for us?”
Ivan Nikiforovich realised that he had to speak to his daughter sincerely and in specific terms. So he took a different tack.
“Dashenka, when you blew up the missiles by looking at their image, they wanted you to test that ability once more. Or rather, to show the whole world Russia’s ability to destroy all the ammunition on the planet. Then there won’t be any point in making it any more. It would be senseless and dangerous. As for the ammunition already existing, the people themselves will destroy it. A global disarmament will begin. The square projectiles were made especially so that you could show your ability without killing anyone. Blow them up, Dashenka!”
“I can’t do that anymore, Papochka.”
“Why? Earlier you could, now you can’t?”
“I promised myself I would never blow up anything again. And now that I’ve made that promise, I don’t have the ability to do it any more.”
“Abu can’t? But why did you make such a promise to yourself?” “Kostia showed me some pictures from a book ofhis — pictures of parts of bodies strewn all over after an explosion. He showed me how people are frightened by explosions, how trees fall and die from explosions — and so I promised myself — ” “Dashenka, does that mean you’ll never be able to now? Just once more... Just once. You see these square projectiles...” Ivan Nikiforovich again held out the photo of a square projectile for his daughter to see.
“They were specially made for this experiment and are hidden away in secluded places in various countries. There are no people around, or anywhere near them. Everyone’s waiting to see whether they’ll explode or not. Blow them up, daughter dear! That won’t be breaking your promise. Nobody will perish. On the contrary...”
Dasha again looked at the photo indifferently and calmly replied:
“Even if I go back on my promise, these projectiles still won’t explode, Papochka.”
“But why not?”
“Because you’ve been talking for so very long, Papochka. When I first looked at the photo, I couldn’t stand these horrid things right off. They’re ugly, and now — ”
“Now what? Dashenka — what?”
“Please forgive me, Papochka, but you went on talking for so long after you showed me the picture, that by now they’ve been almost all eaten up.”
“Eaten up? What’s been eaten up?”
“Those square projectiles. They’re almost all eaten up. As soon as they realised I couldn’t stand the projectiles, they got into action and began to eat them up very fast.”
“Who are they}”
“You know, the little ones’. They are everywhere around us and inside us. They are good. Kostia calls them bacteria, or micro-organisms, but I’ve got my own name for them, a better name — I call them my little ones’, my ‘goodies’. They like that name better. I play with them sometimes. People pay hardly any attention to them, but they always try to do good for everyone. When Man is joyful — they feel good too from the joyful energy; when Man is angry or hurts something living — a lot of them perish. Others rush in to replace them. But sometimes the others don’t manage to replace the ones that have died — and Man’s body becomes ill.”
“But you are here, Dashenka. And the projectiles are far away in various countries, hidden underground. How is it possible for — well, for those little ones’ of yours in other lands — to find out so quickly about what you desire?”
“You see, they tell everything to each other very fast along a chain, a lot faster than the electrons run in your computer.” “Computer... Communications... That’s it... I’ll check it all now — video cameras have been set up around all the projectiles on our territory. It’ll just take a moment.”
Ivan Nikiforovich turned to his communications monitor, which was showing a picture of a square projectile. Or rather, what remained of a projectile. The casing was rusty and full ofholes, while the warhead was lying to one side, significantly reduced in size. Ivan Nikiforovich switched to another camera, and then another, but the same thing was happening to all the projectiles. Now the screen showed an image of a man in military uniform.
“Hello, Ivan Nikiforovich. You’ve seen it all yourself by now”
“What conclusions has the Council come to?” asked Ivan Nikiforovich.
“The Council members have divided into groups and are currently in consultation. Our security forces are trying to work out supplementary measures to ensure the object’s safety.”
“HI thank you not to call my daughter an object.”
“You’re nervous, Ivan Nikiforovich. That is not permissible under the circumstances. In ten minutes you’ll be getting a visit from a panel of experts, comprising prominent specialists — psychologists, biologists, radio-electronic engineers. They’re already on their way I want you to set up an interview for them with your daughter. Prepare her ahead of time.”
“What opinion is the majority of the Council inclined to favour?”
‘At the moment they are leaning toward totally isolating your family within the confines of your domain. You need to immediately remove all technical pictures from your daughter’s sight. Stay close to her and try to follow her every
Upon arriving at Ivan Nikiforovich’s domain, the panel of experts sent by the Russian Security Council engaged little Dasha in a lengthy conversation. After the child had been patiently answering all the adults’ questions for about an hour and a half, everyone, including the observers following the interview on the huge video monitors at the Security Council’s communications centre, were suddenly thrown into a state of utter bewilderment when the door of Ivan Nikiforovich’s study opened and in walked Dasha’s brother Kostia, carrying the cuckoo clock which was now cuckooing incessantly. Kostia put the clock down on the table. The hands showed eleven o’clock, but no sooner had the mechanical bird given the requisite number of cuckoos than the big hand on the clock quickly traced a full circle around the clock face and the cuckooing began all over again. Those present were amazed at this strange operation of the clock, alternating their silent gaze between the clock and Dasha.
“Oh!” all at once Dasha exclaimed. “I quite forgot. I have to go on a very important errand. That’s my friend Verunka turning the clock hands. That was our arrangement, just in case I forgot. I have to go.”
Two guards blocked the door of the study.
“What might you have forgotten, Dashenka?” Ivan Nikiforovich asked his daughter.
“I might have forgotten to go to the domain where my friend Verunka lives and stroke her little flower and water it. And it really misses being caressed. It loves people to look at it tenderly”
“But it’s not your flower,” observed Ivan Nikiforovich. “Why can’t your friend stroke it herself? Her own flower?” “Papochka, you see, Verunka’s gone visiting with her parents?”
“Where’s she gone visiting to?”
“Somewhere in Siberia.”
From all around the room whispered exclamations could be heard:
“She’s not alone!”
“What kind of abilities does her friend have?!”
“She’s not alone!”
“How many of them are there?!”
“How can we tell who they are?!”
“We need to take measures immediately regarding every child like that!”
But all the exclaiming ceased directly an elderly greyhaired gentleman rose from his seat at the side of the room.
This man had the most senior title and position of all, and not just in relation to those present in Ivan Nikiforovich’s study. He was the chairman of Russia’s Security Council. Everyone turned to him in reverent silence.
The elderly fellow looked at Dasha sitting in her little wooden chair, and a tear rolled down his cheek. Then he slowly went over to Dasha and knelt down on one knee in front of her, holding out his hand to her. Dasha rose and took a step to one side. Holding the frilled hem of her dress, she made a curtsy, and put her little hand in his huge palm.
The elderly man looked at her for some time. Then, bowing his head, he kissed Dasha’s hand in respect, saying: “Please forgive us, little goddess!”
“My name is Dasha,” the girl answered.
“Yes, of course, your name is Dasha. Tell us, Dasha, what will prevail on our Earth?”
The little girl looked into the elderly man’s face in surprise, bent closer to him and with the palm of her hand carefully wiped away the tear from his cheek, then touched his moustache with her finger. Then she turned to her brother and said:
“Kostienka, you also promised to help me talk with the lilies on Verunka’s pond. Remember you promised?”
“I do remember,” Kostia replied.
“Then let’s go.”
In the doorway, having already passed by the guards which had stepped aside as she approached, Dasha turned in the direction of the elderly fellow still standing on one knee, smiled at him and stated confidently:
“On the Earth shall prevail... Good shallprevail!”
Six hours later, speaking before an expanded session of Russia’s Security Council, the elderly chairman said:
“Everything in the world is relative. Relative to our generation, those in the new generation may seem to us to be like gods. It is not up to them to align themselves with us, but for us to align ourselves with them. The entire military might of the planet with its unique technological achievements has proved itself powerless before a single little girl of the new generation. And our job, our duty, our obligation to the new generation is simply to clear away the garbage. We must make every effort to rid the Earth of any kind of armaments. Our technological achievements and discoveries, embodied in the most modern and, it seemed to us, unique military complexes, proved nothing more than useless scrap in the face of the new generation. And we must clear it away.”