Magic - its not really all that hard. All you need is the right mindset and some programming knowledge. This is a story of the adventures of a programmer from the near future who fell into another world. Follow him on his epic journey across this new world!
2-4 new chapters every week!
Translated from the story originally written by: Andzej Yasinsky
Part 1, Chapter 1
I stomped grimly through the puddles, mentally cursing my boss. Nikolai Petrovich, my boss and owner of the company "Analytics and Business", called me up at one o'clock in the morning and demanded that I to go to work on Saturday. I could have disabled all communications, but I just jumped out of the virtual space and still unaware of my surroundings gave my computer the command to pick up the call. Now I have to walk to work and get wet in the rain. We finally received the servers that we ordered last month, which now suddenly need to be connected to our cluster right away. Although our company's last order was processed only a couple of days ago (for which we received good bonuses), we have not had a new job yet. Why couldn't my boss just schedule the set-up to Monday? In any case, the work of the whole cluster would not have to be stopped - the process of connecting additional servers has long been worked out. Before I had other plans for today, but now they just go out the window.
I work as a programmer in one, now serious, company dealing with the analysis and processing of various kinds of information. We also issue forecasts for the near future for various chains of of events. Most often, trade organizations commission us to analyze the developing trends in a certain market niche, but sometimes we get interesting work from different institutions lacking their own computational resources or intelligent programmers. Personally, I get the greatest pleasure from such orders - one often has to dig deep for the knowledge required for their completion, which allows to learn a lot of new things. I always had an increased curiosity and craving for knowledge.
In addition, my boss turned out to be a clever and active man who is also well versed in modern technologies, even though maintaining a high level in this field is not easy. In the past, having borrowed some initial capital, he found and appealed (not only financially) to many sensible programmers, bought equipment, and set up a company for data analysis and issue forecasting based on this analysis. Some of the forecasts that we made for people not very friendly with the law, saved us from major troubles, and we earned a reputation for accurate predictions. All this brought a good profit to the company.
Here I work as the lead software developer. You ask how my development work is related to these new servers? Very simple, I am also the system administrator of the computer systems. It so happened that at the initial stage of the company's development Petrovich could not find a sensible system admin for a long time. Then, unexpectedly for him, it turned out that I had good knowledge of this subject. So he put these duties on me for some extra pay, and I did not refuse. After looking at the results of my work, he was satisfied and stopped looking for another administrator. I spent a couple of months finetuning the whole system - a computing cluster, distributed and remote work for programmers, which allowed them not to sit in the office all the time, but to work at home or elsewhere only appearing as needed. I also setup some good virus protection and after this everything really just works on its own without any interventions from me, while the extra money still comes in.
... Tired of mentally swearing at my boss, I put on my glasses, which are connected to my body-comp, opened an unfinished book to the left display, turned on the music, adjusted my bag with some tools that I might need, and a powerful subnote with a bunch of admin software and staggered to the bus stop. I do not like to carry a lot of equipment with me, although it is not that heavy (all together it hardly exceeds a kilogram), there is some discomfort. In my laptop, I also store all the software developed in our company, just in case. Although if the boss would found out - he would kill me on the spot and say that that's how it was. However, everything there is so encrypted its impossible to extract any of the information, but the boss still better not know.
Arriving at the bus's last stop, I trudged across the park. Our office is located pretty much outside the city, since the boss rented an empty building in a former military plant as the office. God only knows what they used to do there. After he remodeled and arranged everything it turned out quite well. In addition, there is a plenty of space to walk around, think, and smoke. There is also a nice park nearby where you can relax. There is usually hardly any people in it since it's not in a convenient location, so I sometimes go out for a walk there.
In the office I was met by the boss. He was alone. Making a cheerful face, Petrovich loudly exclaimed:
Making a cheerful face, Petrovich loudly exclaimed, "Hello namesake, come in!" while excitedly waving his hand.
"What's wrong with him?" I thought glumly. "Is he drunk?"
"Boss! You just had to make me come in today, huh?" I immediately exclaimed. "We could have done everything on Monday!"
We actually have a pretty nice relationship with each other. We have deep respect to each other and even sometimes we are friends, so informal conversations are normal for us.
"We can not, Kolya, it's impossible."
The boss, lounging in the chair of Olga, his secretary, sipped coffee, smoked a cigarette, and smiling at something looked at me.
"Once Olga will see ashes on her desk - she will be really mad at him," I thought, grinning maliciously. Olga is a perfectionist and does not tolerate any disorder in the workplace. I periodically try to casually flirt with her (read: seduce her), but so far she has beaten all my attempts. She likes this game, but, unfortunately, I'm not sure she likes me.
"All right, lay it out," I muttered as I threw my bag on the table, and went to make myself some coffee. "What's going on?"
"You see Kolya," - I hate being called by my name, usually everyone just me calls Nick, but the boss likes annoy me. - "There was a new order," he raised his index finger, "a large order. It is necessary to begin work on it immediately, maybe tomorrow, and I don't want you to be distracted by the server configuration on Monday. So, I'm sorry, we need to do this today. In addition, the additional computational capabilities will come in handy for the new order."
It looks like the boss snatched this large order right from under the nose of his competitors and now rejoices at his cunning marketing skills. Although if you really assess the situation, then in our city we have practically no real competitors, but the boss still loves to enjoy every victory, even the minor ones.
"I'm going to send you the information on this order," he continued. "Read it at home and send me your thoughts. First of all, I'm interested in how long this project will take as well as which of the developers you would like to have on your team."
The boss took his body-comp from his pocket and mumbled something into it. My computer displayed the information about the direct connection before the eyes and started downloading the information. Our body-comps were already paired to each other, so I did not have to do any unnecessary gestures to confirm the connection.
"All right," I sighed. "Did they bring exactly the hardware that we ordered, or did the same thing happen as before?"
Previously, they tried to throw us under the bus by sticking in a few old pieces of hardware, but that didn't work on us! The boss quickly made a scandal, and since then he checks all of the incoming equipment himself. He likes to work with hardware, probably in order to keep his qualifications up to date.
"Not this time! Moreover, everything is already unpacked and ready to go, all that remains is to connect the blocks and configure the system."
He took another puff of his cigarette and let off rings of smoke into the ceiling.
"Where did you put the equipment?" I asked.
Fact is, in some of the distant rooms the electricity did not come from the central switchboard, but went somewhere through the walls and into the basement. We tried not to put any equipment there, because power from our backup generator did not go there - the boss could not get around to renovating those rooms - and he did not want to risk the equipment.
"In the fifth office," the boss replied.
"That's what I thought! Have you forgotten about the wiring?" I was angry with all my heart, almost breaking the cup of coffee as i put it on the table. My sysadmin spirit did not tolerate disorder on my entrusted site. "What if the power goes out? You'll be angry at me for problems with the computations or, God forbid, the hardware! We have plenty free space in the existing racks!"
Nikolai smirked slyly:
"You see, Kolya, I received hardware even more advanced than we ordered, I will not go into the details, but it comes with its own racks and its own power supplies. So go and start working. By Monday everything should be a in tip-top shape. I'll deal with the power next week. Don't worry, everything will be just fine."
The boss waved his hand and plunged into his thoughts.
Still mad at him, I grabbed my bag and I went to the office with the new equipment. I was curious about what was it that the boss was so excited about. Initially we ordered some pretty powerful hardware, so I don't know what could be that much better.
Entering the office, I saw scraps of wrapping paper scattered around the room and a rack looming in the center. Opening the door, I immediately realized that the boss was fabulously lucky! This hardware was much more powerful than we ordered. The information from the identifiers, helpfully highlighted by the body-comp when looking at the hardware, showed that this equipment was almost experimental.
"I wonder where the boss got such a miracle!" I thought as I rolled up my sleeves and set to work. First I threw all the packaging out of the room, connected the blocks in the rack into the test configuration and plugged in the power.
"Well, let's do this," I muttered, happily rubbing my hands, as I pressed the power button.
"Come on!" I exclaimed.
Looking at the socket, I noticed that the indicator light that indicates the presence of electricity was not lit. I took my tester and I stuck it in the socket. As I expected, there was no electricity. The device showed the absence of a short circuit and that the automatic protection in the outlet was working fine, which meant that the problem is a break in the circuit elsewhere.
I spat into the corner of the room, and sent a curse through the body-comp to the boss with a message that I will be going to the basement to deal with the power supply. He ignored me.
After collecting all my tools in my bag, I began to descend the stairs. The basement, I must say, was huge - by my senses, larger than the building itself. We never even explored it completely - just near the entrance.
Having descended to the basement level, I approached a metal door with a code lock. I don't know from which power line the lock was powered, but it worked. A red LED was lit on it. After connecting to the office server through the body-comp, I quickly found the access code to the basement and typed it in. The lock was thoughtful for a couple of seconds. "What"s taking so long?" I thought, "is there a mechanical calculator inside it?" On the door next to the lock, the indicator "Clean" lit up and the indicator on the lock changed color to green. The internal latches opened loudly inside the door. Judging by the sound, they were quite massive and were along the entire perimeter of the door.
I shivered as I got an unpleasant feeling. The servo motors began to groan, and the door slowly began to open. "I wonder what they used to store there!" I can't even begin to guess why such doors would be needed in a basement. Meanwhile, the door opened completely. It was dark inside. "Come on!" - I thought. Obviously I forgot my flashlight. I dropped my glasses from my forehead to my eyes and changed the body-comp into night view mode using the cameras on the glasses. First I saw only colored spots, but after a couple of seconds the computer set up the video processing program, and I had a good image of a small corridor, partially generated by the body-comp based on the data it received from its built-in sensors.
"Well, where should I look and, most importantly, what should I be looking for?" Looking around, I saw the switchboard, from which the sockets in the room had to be powered. I poked the connections inside with my tester. Strange, there is power here, but there is no light in the corridor even though it should automatically turn on when you open the door.
I scratched my head in thought. I decided to go along the power line to the next switchboard and check everything there until I find the problem. I adjusted my glasses and went on down the corridor. There was a dead silence, the only thing that I could hear was water dripping somewhere. A herd of goosebumps ran across my back. For some reason, I really did not want to go into the dark anymore, even though the road is visible through the glasses. Silence, darkness and the sound of water drops reflect unpleasantly on the shaken nerves of a seasoned gamer. However, there is no other choice. Slowly, peering into all the corners, I moved along the power line. After walking a few meters along the corridor, I stopped and began to look for a plan of the building and a wiring diagram on the Internet. To my surprise, I could not find anything that I could use. I had to rewind the video and copy the evacuation plan hanging on the wall at the entrance, translate it into something usable and put it in front of my eyes. On the diagram I immediately marked the already inspected switchboard, scribbling a couple comments.
For about an hour I worked, moving from the switchboard to switchboard checking each of them. Around the second one, the body-comp beeped, and a message appeared on the screen about loss of communication with the network. Looks like I was very deep, indeed. I walked, probably, around a kilometer and everywhere everything was fine. Very tired, I decided to check a couple more switchboards and take a break. Approaching the next one, I saw some kind of flicker. Upon closer examination, the switchboard turned to be melted, and small discharges of electricity were visible through its openings. Obviously this was where the circuit was damaged. After putting on rubber gloves, which I had prudently kept in my bag, I opened the lid with great effort and made a long whistle. All the wires were melted. Its unclear why the automatic disconnect did not work. After a little rest, I began to work: carefully cutting the melted wires, I started making the repairs. Of course, to really be safe, one would have to go to the next shield and turn off the power there, but it's a long way to go, judging by the distance between the previous switchboards, and I decided against it. As the work was coming to an end, I was about to connect the last wire, a loud sound came from behind me. From the surprise and fright that struck me, I jumped up and turned around, completely forgetting about the wires I had in the pliers. I did not have time to see anything as I arched from the high voltage. Sparks sprang from my eyes from the pain, and my consciousness graciously left me.
Part 1, Chapter 2
In the meantime, I was trying to understand what had happened. It is clear that I was hit with an electric shock, but its not clear how that happened - my hands were in gloves and I kept the wires in pliers. Then I smelled some scorched hair and decided to feel my head. On the back of my head, I felt an extreme wave of pain. All my hair was burned off there. Now it is seems clear what happened. After turning toward the sound, I involuntarily leaned back and touched the back of my head to the bare wires. Thinking this over, I was surprised that I was still alive. In addition, the wound on the back of my head hurt only when touched. I tried to figure out whether that was good or bad, but I could not think of anything.
But now I needed a flashlight to see with my own eyes what the computer previously showed me. The sight was not much different from before. The wall turned out to be metal with a silver surface, while in our basement the walls were concrete. I cautiously touched it. Nothing changed. All this really stressed me out. To have a complete picture, I set the computer to scan my surroundings using the flashlight in order to expand the visible area. Almost instantly, the image before my eyes cleared up and I looked around.
After picking up my bag, I carefully moved toward the exit. That is, the former exit. Here, who knows where it is. In order to not go mad with fear, I decided to stop trying to form any hypotheses. I'll think of something else later...
Slowly walking along the corridor, I realized that the sound of water drops was getting closer and that it was coming from around a corner. Carefully peeking around the corner I saw exactly the same corridor, only very damaged. The ceiling sank and both walls were penetrated by some pipes. From one such pipe a liquid was dripping. The puddle below was small. Apparently, some of the water (is it really water?) is going somewhere. Strange as it may seem, after only 20 meters behind this blockage the corridor ended (even though in my "basement" I walked more than a kilometer).
Okay, before I do anything else, I need to rest a little. I'm extremely tired. Once I returned to the water, I took a couple of sips. It tasted like a normal mineral water. I analyzed my sensations: seems alright. It seems the water is actually safe to drink, the body-comp did not lie. Now I'm glad that at least I will not die of thirst. I drank as much as I could, just in case crawled to the wall, relaxed my body and closed my eyes. Then I decided to check on that relaxation therapy that my body-comp suggested. I set up my computer to stop the session in case someone appeared nearby, settled down and selected the link to the proposed therapy
So, what do we have here? I squatted down and within a few minutes I scraped the dirt and dust off the joint of the wall and floor that I had previously noticed. After finishing the dust and mud removal work, I mentally gave myself a pat on the back for my previous observation. The "dead-end" wall turned out to really be a door. A little researching revealed that the door moves into the wall and at the moment is not covered tightly - there is a gap between it and the riser. I took a screwdriver from my bag, with great difficulty put it into the slot, and pulled with all my weight. Well, at least the screwdriver is thick enough and made of good metal. The door slowly began to move to the side, I helped it by pushing it away from the door-frame using my feet. As soon as the door was fully opened, a soft light turned on in the room in front of me. Surprised, I jumped back into the corridor. The light turned off. Ugh, one can get a heart attack from surprises like this! Interesting, what kind of automation mechanisms does this use? Judging by the condition of the corridor, it hasn't been serviced for ages, even so the devices still work. I took a deep breath and took a cautious step into the room. The light automatically came on again.
Part 1, Chapter 3
I was sitting by the wall trying to get a handle on my situation. Unfortunately, it really did look pretty bad. I lost consciousness in our company office's basement and woke up who knows where. Most of the time, people don't travel in space from an electric shock. In fact, many people simply die. I can only assume that this is the result of an unknown series of events and that the electric shock was only an episode within the chain of events. Well that, or my actions caused current to go to the factory's power system causing something to turn on. The factory was originally built by the military and was terribly secret - although a few dozen years passed since then. Who knows what they used to do there! In addition, I had a strong suspicion that it wasn't simply a factory, but also a research laboratory. There was a strong premise for such thoughts. The place I ended up at looked like an alien spaceship or station. A brief examination of the corridors and "control room", as I called this room, spoke in favor of this theory. And what I discovered in the chair, also confirmed it.
I carefully approached the chair from its side and looked at him. My heart almost stopped beating. My nerves were already on edge and now an ugly, frighting monster looks at you with a grin on its face. Only later, after calming down and going back to the chair (I didn't even notice how I ended up at the other end of the room), I realized that it was not actually a monster, but instead a mummified creature very similar to a human being. Strangely enough, the clothes of the creature did not decay with time. Obviously, they were made from some kind of special material. The fact that the mummy was not human was visible by its skull (it had a third eye in the middle of its forehead, albeit a small one) as well as a slightly different structure of its hands. On the head of the creature was a simple diadem, without any decorations. I probably just stared at him for around half an hour with a blank mind. After finally waking up I went to investigate the equipment. Although I'm a quite knowledgeable in electronics, I could not determine the purpose of the devices. Everything was completely embedded into the metal, on the surface of which were numerous inscriptions or drawings, similar to those on the walls. In general, the metal seemed to be strange. It didn't seem to be just a cover, perhaps it carried a different purpose. I tried to scratch it with a knife, but it didn't even leave a scratch. After wandering around the control room, I returned to the chair and the console in front of it. The console was also made of metal - not even a single button or display. After a closer inspection it became clear that the inscriptions (or drawings, but for simplicity, we'll consider these inscriptions) carry meaning. They were grouped together in a certain way, while some of them seemed repetitive. I did not think of anything meaningful right away, so I decided to sit and think.
So, here I am sitting and thinking about my options. I can explore the station. Although it is unknown for sure what it is, I will consider it a station. However, I might run into some unknown danger. Another option is to first try to investigate the control room itself in greater detail in order to figure something out here. Unfortunately, this option also has a problem - there is nothing to eat, and who knows how long the investigation will take. Both options have their own pros and cons. However I still don't feel any hunger - whether because of the water I drank earlier or my raw nerves. Although it's unknown if my body really does not need anything, or if I will die of hunger without even feeling anything... Okay, I'll do this: I'll deploy my computer here for research, set it up and while it runs its calculations, I'll go on a walk nearby. Thankfully, I didn't lose my powerful subnote - there I have software for pretty much any occasion and most importantly, the numerous analytical programs developed by our company (some of which I created). By the way, among them there are also programs for linguistic analysis. Previously, one of our company's clients gave us an interesting order: a rich relative of his died hiding his savings so that not even his relatives could find them. The only thing that the deceased left was a piece of paper with an encrypted letter that no one could read. For a small percentage of the inheritance, which was huge, we set to work. Surprisingly, we managed to complete the task. It turned out that the letter was actually not encrypted, but simply written in one of the dead languages which are known to only a few world-class linguists. The deceased was one of these world-class linguists. That guy really had a strange sense of humor. Overall, the development of the program took several months. Naturally, using our company's analytical system and some linguistic algorithms that we found in the internet. We even had to contact a major linguistic institute for consultations. After that, it took another week for the program to run its calculations. As expected, the letter contained information about the money of the deceased. The joyous client even ended up overpaying us. It turned out that the relatives of the deceased appealed to his coworkers, but they all refused to help, justifying their refusal by a personal request from their late colleague. Probably, the deceased wanted to take revenge on his family for something. As it turned out later, the institute where the late linguist worked took two years to decipher this dead language, while we did the same in just six months. That's really something to be proud of! However, at our company we had a supercomputer, which we assembled from purchased components, while now I only have a subnote. Of course, it is weaker than a supercomputer, although it's much more powerful than a body-comp... I hope I will not have to wait around here for months... At least there will be no problems keeping a constant power source - a few years back power sources based on radioactive elements became available on the market. One should last for a few decades... Anyway, enough thinking, it's time to get to work!
I decided not to move the mummy since I was very reluctant to touch it. After pulling out the subnote from my bag, I turned it on and left it to start up. Meanwhile, I walked around the perimeter of the room, making a panorama of the inscriptions on the walls. Then I took pictures of all the inscriptions on the consoles, trying not to miss anything.
Returning to the subnote, I saw that it was all ready to work. Now it will take quite some time to set up the analytic system and the corresponding linguistic modules. I worked on this for several hours (periodically going out to drink the "Living water"), trying to ensure that all of the test cases ran successfully. Then I uploaded the images containing the written language and within a few hours converted them into the required input format. By now, my back and neck already became so numb that I could barely stand up. After a small warm-up for my muscles, I returned to the subnote and started the process. Unfortunately, it was impossible to calculate how long the decryption will take, so I began to think of a plan for my next actions. First I need to sleep, but then I will go out and explore the nearest vicinity of the control room, maybe I will find something interesting along the way. Now my minimal list of things to do is complete and its time to start working on it.
Although it was unpleasant to sleep indoors with a mummy, I did not want to go into the corridor. In addition, the dead don't bite, as I assured myself. Fatigue eventually did its job and I fell asleep.
Part 1, Chapter 4
"Wow, what a weird nightmare," I thought, stretching. Wait a second, something's wrong. For some reason I'm lying on a hard surface. I opened his eyes: ugh, looks like it was not a dream after all. I looked around - nothing had changed: the mummy was still grinning in the armchair (I shivered) and on the floor next to the console the subnote's screen glowed. Sighing, I slowly got up and did some exercises to get the blood flowing and warm up my muscles. I mentally scanned my body. It seems that nothing hurts. I carefully touched the back of my head. There seems to be some kind of crust, although there is no pain. After a moment's thought, I took out my glasses, put the body-comp into record mode, and filmed the back of his head. Then I watched the recording. Hmm... looks very scary. Although it is good that the wound is healing after all. Apparently, the water really does has a positive effect on the body.
My attention returned to the mummy. Still, I wonder where I ended up... Since I am breathing easily, it means that air does come from somewhere. So, the station, judging by its dried-up inhabitant, is very old, although there is no dust in the control room But I suppose this can be attributed to some unknown mechanisms. Several possibilities lined up in my head. First, air is created by some kind of mechanism, which is probably impossible; the second is that these are the remains of air that was originally in the closed space of the station (I do not like this option, since it implies that the station can be located somewhere in space); the third option, which I really like, there is contact with the external environment. If so, I can get out of here, even though at the moment there is no real reason to leave the station - how often do people meet such a miracle, - but I still have to find a way out. Additionally, I should find a way get food, since it would be unwise to rely exclusively on this "living" water. I should also somehow let the boss know that I'm alive. At my home, nobody is waiting for me - my parents live in another city, my little sister studies at the university and lives separately with her friends. But even then I'm not going to tell anyone about this station. It's mine! I guess I'm just that greedy... I connected my body-comp to the subnote, which I took to the far end of the control room and set up its camera so that it would cover the entire room. Now at any moment I can find out what is going on in the room as well as the current stage of the decoding process. After giving a command to the body-comp to record my route and build a map along the way, I moved to the exit. As I passed the blockage of pipes I drank some more water. Interesting: I already drank quite a few gallons of water, but I still do not have any desire for a trip behind some shrubs. Why is that?
After a while, I reached the place where I woke up after the electric shock. I carefully re-examined the entire area - maybe something else got transported with me? However, apart from the pliers and rubber gloves, I did not find anything. Putting them in my bag - maybe they'll come in handy, - I went on. I walked for a long time. Along the way I came across more doors, but I could not open them. There were no forks in the corridor, in fact, there was no other way forward. It was a continuous, periodically bending, corridor. It's strange that I did not come across any air-tight bulkheads. If the station traveled in space, then they should definitely exist - it's simple logic. No matter how intricate and complex the system, there is always a possibility of depressurization, and the easiest way to deal with it is to block off such places with bulkheads. However, there were none here, or they are very well hidden.
Judging by the body-comp's map, I walked about a kilometer, when I felt a slight movement of the air. Ah, looks like the exit is somewhere nearby! After a few more steps, a dim light appeared. After turning the corner entered a corridor which ended with a door similar to the one I found at the opposite end. This part of the corridor was also all bent out of shape - as if a giant squeezed it in his palms. The only difference is that there are no pipes here, and one of the walls was torn, as if pierced by a spear. It is through this gap that the light came through. On the floor under the gap there is a knee-high pile of mud and dirt. Looking into the hole, I blinked for a while to get used to the lighting, the body-comp-generated light in the glasses is much less intense after all. The body-comp showed that the thickness of the wall from edge to edge at the hole is about twenty meters. That's one fat wall! But, after looking closely, I understood: actually there are two walls, and between them run communications and pipes. I visually inspected everything and came to the conclusion that it is possible to pass through it, but very carefully since it is very easy to break a leg. The diameter of the gap increased outside, reaching around 3 meters in the widest outer part, although it looks like I will have to crawl through the first couple of meters.
Well, I guess this is the way out that I have been looking for. I contacted the subnote to find out how things are going there. Information processing progressed slowly. It is still working on the first stage: the computer tries to determine the relationship between the symbols and the pictures, and builds up possible strategies for further processing. The fewer options, the better. Ideally, there should be one. After all, each option will have to be completely evaluated through the remaining stages of processing, and that takes time. Well at least my subnote has a hypernuclear structure, although it's a pity that there is no quantum module. This is a very expensive device - it costs an order of magnitude more than the computer itself - and it can only be used for certain types of calculations. So I did not buy it, even though I had the money. Now it would have really come in handy. After I left the room, the light in it turned off, so the camera in the subnote showed a synthesized picture, such as the one my body-comp gave earlier. By the way, I completely forgot, since I left the subnote to keep watch on the situation in the room, I can also let it signal about any change in its environment.
Now then, lets finally get out of here. Wearing my rubber gloves (they really did come in handy), so as not to cut my hands on the metal's edges, I gently squeezed into the hole. After almost falling in between the walls a couple of times, I finally got to the exit. With an inner trembling and impatience I looked out: there was a mighty leafy forest around me, the tops of which almost reached the height at which I was. Immediately from the hole began a cliff of immeasurable height... Wait a second, why immeasurable? As I looked over the edge, the computer showed a height of 53 meters [175 feet]. Hmm, the trees are mighty tall, indeed. I looked up at the sky. The sky seems to be the same as before, with some clouds floating across. The sun is normal - I felt a little better. It seems, I am on Earth after all. Looking to the right, left and up, I saw only stone. I do not understand, is the station actually embedded in the rock, or what? After analyzing the side of the cliff I determined that after some (mostly mental) preparation I can climb up. The walls are not that steep, and there are also plenty of cracks, bushes and ledges.
Wait a second! What an idiot I am! I should have just checked the body-comp's network connection right away. I even tapped my forehead with my finger. I gave the command to connect to my network operator. A couple of seconds passed during which my body-comp honestly tried to establish a connection, but it was all in vain. Hmm. I frowned in displeasure: well, maybe I am in some remote place with no connection, although there are almost no such places anymore. One can establish a connection even from the North Pole. It is understandable since people often go there with expeditions. So, I guess it is necessary to check if there are any other communication providers accessible here. The body-comp scanned all the frequencies within a couple of seconds, but gave a negative result. I sighed, as I looked at the sun distrustfully... Once again I slapped my forehead and, pulled out the antenna used to receive shortwave radio transmissions, gave the computer a command to scan all of the available frequencies for the presence of music stations, these frequencies should definitely give some result. It takes a couple of minutes, but for now I can look around. After setting the computer to calculate the route upwards based on the captured images, I began to look around. The forest was not continuous - there were some fields and glades. From the corner of my eye I noticed a spot in the sky. Turning my head toward it, I increased the image zoom to the maximum. The body-comp, although not without difficulty, managed to stabilize the twitching image and I managed to examine the bird. It was something like an eagle, but I've never seen such a species. The comp estimated the size of its wings at two meters [6.5 feet]. I shivered: I hope they do not eat living programmers... Then I returned my attention to the trees and examined them already with the zoomed image... Of course, I am no biologist, but I know the most famous types, although I have never seen a tree with leaves such as these...
Then the computer beeped. It finished scanning the radio waves, and returned some highly disappointing results: all of the radio frequencies are completely empty. I stood there for a while with my eyes closed, trying to calm down. This is just awful. I simply had no thoughts. None. I wiped the sweat from my forehead with my sleeve - it seems it's hot in my jacket, probably it's around 25°C [77°F] here. Still, it's too early to draw any concrete conclusions. "I'll just assume that this area is some kind of anomaly," I tried to reassure myself. However the uneasy feeling in my heart remained...
Part 1, Chapter 5
Meanwhile, the body-comp finished calculating the best route up the cliff. It returned two options, each with an accuracy of about fifty percent. Looks like the pictures taken from this angle were not enough to accurately model the cliff's surface. One of the routes is longer, but not too steep, while the second option would mean that I would have to climb almost vertically. I tried to evaluate both options, but in the end I liked the first one more. It has more ledges, where you can relax. If it does not work out, I'll try the second option.
I took off my jacket and tied it around my waist, I spat on my palms, rubbed them against each other and carefully began climbing up. It was pretty difficult to climb. Although, there were some places where you could just walk without even holding on. Once, I nearly fell off when, while pulling myself up using my hands, my nose leveled with a flat ledge causing me to sneeze from the dust that I raised with my breathing. Thank God, I managed to hold on. Resting on that ledge - about thirty meters above the exit from the station - I slowly looked at the landscape through the computer's different levels of zoom. Wow, the nature here is really breathtaking... It's full of greenery and the air is so clean - just now I noticed that breathing here is actually much easier than even in our park back home. I finally admitted to myself that this could really be another planet or parallel world. In fact, this thought no longer caused such rejection and panic. True, this theory has yet to been proven, but now I am mentally ready for such a scenario. I decided to check if my body-comp can still contact the subnote that I left inside through the thick layer of stone and the walls of the station. It turned out that they perfectly see each other and, in fact, the signal quality here is even better than near the exit. This is very strange. This should not be possible. The presence of a signal at the exit is understandable, but by now it should have been lost. I thought of only two possible explanations. Either the metal of the station's walls is somehow special enough that the radio signal passes though it and the thickness of the stone above it is small enough. Or there is some kind other exit from the station that the signals pass through and I'm not too far from this exit. Fine, I'll remember to try to climb around here to figure out where the maximum signal level is.
After resting, I continued to climb further. An hour later I reached the top, flipped over the edge and, turning on my back, took a deep breath. After a little rest, I sat up and looked around. It looks like I climbed onto something like a meadow around fifty meters in diameter covered with grass and flowers. After the meadow began a rare forest with trees of usual height - unlike those giants I saw below. The trees, as well as the flowers, are unfamiliar. Wait just a second, I remembered something very important (it seems that after that electric shock, I'm really getting even more stupid): below I have an entire subnote packed with various software and databases. Back at home, in order to fill up the virtually endless subnote hard drive, I uploaded all the informational databases that I found on the sites of our helpful software pirates. I don't remember for sure if there was a database for flora and fauna, but I still should look around there. After contacting the subnote (the signal on the meadow became even better) I rummaged around on the hard drive and found the right database. A few minutes later I set it up and uploaded images of the trees, flowers, and leaves, as well as that "eagle" that I had saw before for identification. The program ran perfectly for all the specimens. Except there was one problem - it did not find any matches. Of course, it is possible that the database is incomplete, but at least something should have came up. After some thought decided to not draw any further conclusions for now. I got up and went to examine the place where I now was.
Spending around three hours for the investigation, I found out the following:
It seems that fate brought me to a large hill with a stony base, or rather, a granite rock, split in two. The remnants of which were covered with soil. For some reason, it seems to me that the land did not appear here on its own, but instead from some kind of explosion, or from a hundred bulldozers at the least. On one side, the rock abruptly ends with a cliff, which is where I crawled out. On the other sides the hill descends smoothly into the valley. The slopes are covered with trees of ordinary size, while in the valley the trees are huge, like the ones I saw at the beginning. There seem to be a lot of animals in the forest: a couple of times I saw some funny creatures, similar to a cross between rabbits and dipodidae [a medium-sized rodent], and in the distance sometimes larger animals, reminiscent of our deer, flashed by. Among the dense branches of the trees, I noticed some yellow and green berries the size of a kiwi, hanging in clusters, like grapes. For now I decided against taking my chances with them. Nearby a small stream gently trickled through some pebbles. An express water analysis showed that it is identical to the water I drank inside the station. Well, now that I am somewhat acquainted with the area nearby, it's time to decide what I will do in the near future. I still haven't noticed any people or even any traces of their activities.
Near the spring, I found a wonderful place where I can rest with comfort. It had a thick layer of leaves over the grass, and behind me there was an impenetrable wall of shrubs between the trees, the crowns of which were intertwined and formed an impenetrable tent against the rain. Closer to the edge, the branches thinned and opened into an amazing, beautiful panorama of nature. I even made a few high-resolution pictures for memory. It seems that this side is the west - the sun already visibly lowered to the horizon. I took off my jacket, folded it and, placing it under my head, lay down on the ground. Then I remembered about how damaged the back of my head was. I tried touching it with my hand, but there no pain. It's unclear why, but the wound pretty much completely healed. I shrugged my shoulders. I hope the hair grows back too. However, in my situation, this is really not my main concern.
Tearing off a blade of grass, I put it in my mouth descended into deep thought. There are a few paths that I can take going forward. I can go explore the world in which I arrived (yes, now I am starting to believe in that more and more), but that is somewhat scary. I would have to randomly travel on foot through an unknown territory, without any weapons. I could end up walking around for ages just to disappear in some swamp. Or, I can wait around until my computer decodes the inscriptions in the cabin of the station, I could find out something useful in them... But I really can't count on that. I am skeptical about the capabilities of my software with respect to decoding an unearthly language: comparative analysis with existing languages plays an important role in the process and in this case there may not be any correlations. However, I should still wait around a little anyway - who knows, something might turn up.
I rubbed my face with my hands. Okay, lets take the middle ground between the two options. While I live here, I will slowly start exploring the area around the hill and look around in the station itself - I could have missed something. If after a month my subnote does not advance in the decoding process, I will leave it to work unattended and go on the trip anyway. In the meantime, I'll take care of some accommodations for me. It seems that in a couple of hours the sun will set, where should I spend the night? Here? Or back in the station? I remembered the dark corridors, and decided against retuning. Although on the other hand, there may be predatory animals here. Hmm... what a dilemma. Anyway I shouldn't be so afraid some wolves - I'll stay here.
After a short search, I found a tree with large leaves and soft branches. I broke off enough leaves to make a mattress and to cover myself with them. Oh, and here's another useful plant. Two large leathery leaves, growing from one root. I made a soft bed out of them - although I had to fight with the bushes a little to create a deep niche in them. In the end, it turned out pretty nice. Once again, my thoughts drifted back to food. I still did not want any. Despite the fact that I have not eaten for over 24 hours, my body felt suspiciously light. All the same, it is necessary to accustom myself to the local food. To begin with, let's try those fruit berries. I went back to where I noticed the bushes with berries. Huh, there is another problem. I have nothing I can use to carry them back to my camp. After a moment's thought, I tore off a couple of leaves from the local burdock and folded them up. I tore off a couple of bunches of "kiwi" and carried it back to my "cave" in the bushes. After spreading them out in front of me, I began to carefully consider my prey. The appearance of the berries told me nothing about them, except that they are all ripe and juicy. I took one - black with firm skin. It's a pity that the body-comp's analyzer doesn't work on something like this. Anyway, I can't sit around forever, now can I. I squeezed a little juice onto my hand, rubbed it in, and began to wait for a reaction, which, thankfully, did not follow. Half an hour later, I mentally crossed myself and gently bit into the berry. Suddenly, the berry burst in my teeth, and covered my mouth with its juices. I froze, listening closely to my sensations. The taste is sweet with some sourness - very refreshing. After waiting a minute, I swallowed. I sat still for another five minutes. My stomach seems to be keeping quiet, no unpleasant sensations. Taking a deep breath, I ate a few more. Each berry just exploded in my mouth. Emboldened, I began to try other berries. Fortunately, they were all edible and very tasty. The problem came from the last heap of "kiwi". Deciding that everything is OK, I rashly threw the berry into my mouth and bit it. My jaws instantly closed and jammed tightly. I have never tasted such a bitter berry! My tongue and cheeks instantly went numb and tears sprang from my eyes. Jumping to my feet, I rushed to the spring. Only a few minutes later I was able to drown the bitterness and wash off my face. Then I threw a handful of the sweetest berries in my mouth and began to chew them nervously. Looking at the pile of bad kiwi, I picked them up and threw them as far as I could. Meanwhile, the sun has almost completely set, so I should lay down already. I'll find out the results of eating those berries soon enough.
I buried myself in the leaves and branches, and settled in. I connected to the subnote. Turned out nothing special happened while I was away. The computer already found several logical connections between the symbols or drawings, which can be investigated at the later stages of processing. This pleased me. Perhaps something can be decoded, after all. From nothing to do, I tried to read some fantasy fiction, but I realized that I can't even perceive the text when I am already in such a fantasy situation where I all I can do is hold on for dear life. I returned to my bed cleared my mind, staring at the sky lit up by the last rays of the sun. Soon stars began to appear on it. I should shoot a picture of the night sky through the body-comp and run it through some programs, I could find some familiar constellations. Once all the stars finally came out, I abruptly sat up in surprise. I'm certainly not an astronomer, but I do know the Big and Little Dipper and here I see them clearly. To say that I was happy was an understatement. I was delighted. I am on Earth after all! From my nervous excitement, I jumped up and began to walk back and forth across the clearing, thinking. So, the stars look similar to the ones on Earth, it means that I am located on Earth. However, the trees, berries and animals are clearly unearthly. And the radio frequencies are pretty much empty (except for atmospheric noise). What does it mean? This means that I'm still on Earth, BUT, I'm either in another time, or in another dimension. Sounds reasonable, but it's still necessary to clarify this.
After taking a panorama image of the sky, I sent the data to the subnote for processing and waited impatiently for the result. The program did not take long. The verdict of the computer was that almost all of the stars are the same as on Earth, but their location relative to each other is slightly different. In addition, there are several stars not described in the catalog of the starry sky of the Earth. Their presence speaks against the version of travel in time. Hmm... still no clarity.
I once again back to the bed and turned on the guard program on the body-comp. It analyzes the surrounding noise, infrared radiation, night vision picture and if it detects something unidentifiable or dangerous awakens the owner. Needless to say, in the standard setup the program often alarms for every small change - damn lite version. You would have had to pay for the professional version, but I never used it so I didn't bother. Now it would have came in handy. I closed my eyes, tried to relax and began to recall the events that led to my current state of affairs. I didn't even notice how I fell asleep.
I woke up several times at night. The guard program kept waking me up. As expected, there was nothing dangerous. A few times the program reacted to the appearance of small animals - night rodents. After the second such awakening, I set the program to limit the size of the object - no less than the average dog or fox. The third time I woke up because a wind had risen. Naturally, the program reacted to the fact that everything around began to move. Cursing, I disabled all of the triggers except response to the movement of objects giving off heat with the intensity of a large animal. After that, I slept peacefully until morning.
Part 1, Chapter 6
From the next day my live as a "savage" began, during which I built a nice little hut. Since I didn't have an actual knife (my folding pocket knife doesn't count), I had to break off tree branches using my hands, causing numerous scratches and bruises. However. after rinsing my hands in the spring, I once again saw the incomprehensible effect of my rapidly healing wounds. By the evening nothing remained of them. The wound on the back of my head healed completely, and my hair began to grow back. A couple of days later I noticed that all of my hair had grown a few inches and continued to grow at a remarkable pace. A week later, I grew out some long, luxurious hair, which I began to collect into a tail, and later made sure to trim it just enough for it not to fall below my shoulder blades. The color of my hair became absolutely black, although all my life it was gray. Worst of all, it turned out that my beard also grew very quickly. With great difficulty, sharpening one of my knife blades to its maximum sharpness, I began to shave every morning, if that can be called shaving. Having numerous cuts on my face became commonplace. Even though back home, it was enough for me to shave just once a week. I already started getting afraid of all these changes. If everything grows so quickly, maybe I'll start getting old faster as well?
In order to provide myself with food, I had to dig around on the subnote to find some information on the topic of hunting. I regretfully decided that realistically I can rely only on traps for small animals and spears for larger ones. I am unable to make a good enough bow and it definitely will take time to learn to shoot from it. I managed to catch my first "rabbit" only on the second day. I modified the traps that I used several times until I finally understood which of the materials made from local plants works best. It also took me quite some time to find a place to install them. I am really no good in tracking animals, and the computer is no help in this business. My first meat dinner thankfully did not bring any unpleasant consequences. My stomach digested the (poorly) fried meat with pleasure. Then for a long time I worked on creating a spear, which kept flying anywhere it wanted to, except where I needed it to go. For the spear tip I adapted a screwdriver. I hollowed out a hole in the end of the spear so that the handle of the screwdriver cleanly went in and sharpened the wood around the screwdriver, so that it gradually narrowed into the end of the screwdriver. After a week of intensive training I was finally able to kill my first local "deer" from twenty meters away. Although, most likely, I just got lucky. The animal was not too scared of me, and I got in a lucky shot - the screwdriver, apparently, hit in the right place. I did not forget about my other physical training. Rather, I even increased them, I trained three, and sometimes even five hours a day. Sooner or later I will have to meet other people. They could end up being bandits or some other bad guys who might want to hurt me. But at first there was problem with the training. After all, most of the time I was engaged in sports like sambo and judo and there I need a partner to spar with, whom I somehow forgot to take with me on this little trip. Therefore, with the help of the computer, I developed my own training system with emphasis on hitting and the development of flexibility and speed. Of course, I will not be able to stand up against a seasoned professional, especially since training without a real sparring partner is not very effective, but I hope I will be able do at least something with any possible enemies.
I must say that another of the miracles was that after bathing (I dug a hole in which water from the spring accumulated in, so I would be able to swim in it) all of my fatigue quickly disappeared.
A week later, when I fully settled into the nearby area, it was time to explore the area surrounding the hill. I went to out to hike through the nearby area, taking with me a stock of dried meat and a flask of water made from a solid pumpkin-like vegetable. I decided to descend into the valley near the cliff, which had the opening into the station, since the descent looked most comfortable there. An hour later I entered a completely different forest. These huge trees were like nothing I ever saw before. The branches began at a height of about ten meters from the ground and the trunks were as even as ship masts. Climbing onto such a tree would be problematic - not only is there nothing to grab on to but additionally they are from 1 to 6 meters [3 to 20 feet] thick.
It took me about a week to study the territory within a radius of about two kilometers from the hill. There was no need to hurry. During the day I hunted, picked berries and found some edible fruits. In the evenings I sat by the fire (my lighter should be enough for at least another thousand uses), roasting prey and listening to music. Sometimes I yearned for my former life, driving away thoughts about what I will have to do if I'll be unable to decipher the inscriptions in the station, before setting up the guard program and falling asleep. While traveling, I tried not to leave any traces to the best of my strength and knowledge, just in case. Before starting a fire, I removed the leaves and other foil from the forest floor, which I spread back in the morning. During the trip, one thing worried me: it felt like this forest was well-groomed. Like when you get to a place like this, you can immediately determine whether it is a park or a forest. From the hill it seemed that this was definitely a forest, stretching for several kilometers, but now, there were other possibilities. All the trees are of the same age and height, the shrubs grow in a certain order, everywhere - there is a beautiful layer of grass, just like a lawn, and many other minor things caught my eye with their unnaturalness. It looks like I might meet some people after all, or at least some other intelligent beings. Probably someone else in my place would happily accept these signs, but for some reason I immediately remembered the book about Robinson Crusoe when he first saw traces of people as well as who they ultimately turned out to be. Therefore, I increased my vigilance and continued to study the forest, trying not to leave any traces behind me. To capture as much area as possible, I decided to move in a zigzag fashion: first to the outer side of the circle, then back to the hill at an acute angle, and so on. Of course, I will not see everything, but at least I will see most of it. On the third day I finally met with an explicit sign of the presence of man.
I walked slowly along a creek, recording everything I saw onto the computer, which simultaneously built a map of my movements. In the evening, before going to bed, I usually adjusted what the computer generated, and set some reference points on the route, where the terrain stood out. For example, a stream, a strange stone as high as me, a tree standing out among others (there turned out to be many types so my first impression about their similarity was incorrect). I tried to step on hard ground or stones, where possible, in order to avoid leaving footprints. I really did not want to unexpectedly meet the locals. It is better to be ready for that beforehand, or even better - choose the time and place of the meeting. Therefore, when a clearing appeared ahead, I reduced my speed of movement to a slow step, gently pushing apart the branches of the bush with a spear. Looking through the bush's branches, which grew tightly around the clearing, I immediately fell to the ground and crawled to the edge of the forest.
What made me fall to the ground was a small open pavilion, located in the center of the clearing. On the opposite side of the clearing there was a small lake, about twenty meters in diameter. Around the pavilion there was a rock garden arranged in a strange order, very similar to what the Japanese like to do. Grass and flowers grew between the rocks and some trails lead through the garden. A stone walkway stretched from the pavilion to the lake. Zooming in, I realized that this walkway is made of stones, with golden blotches of metal or minerals, perfectly fitted to each other. The lake itself was perfectly round. Looking closer, I realized that it was artificial, lined with a white stone, similar to marble. The stream along which I walked ran into this lake - from the back side there was a drain, through which excess water left, again turning into a stream. This is an ideal place for meditating. Hmm... looks like the theory that this a park has been confirmed. But, if so, why have not I met anyone? And how can I explain the station's presence in a park? Although, if it was there long enough, it could be that nobody found it. It there is no clear reason for the lack of people - it's even starting to bother me. It may turn out that all this land belongs to some local billionaire. Then it is clear why there is no one here. Strangers are usually not allowed into such beautiful places.
I walked around the border of the clearing, looking for recent traces of the presence of man. I did not find anything. I really wanted to take a bath, since I have not bathed for three days already (the stream was too small for this). Examining the surrounding area around the glade, I was convinced that there was no one. Returning, I cautiously left the bushes and went to the pavillion. Looking towards the lake, I understood why it was created there - the view from the pavilion was simply breathtaking. The sun was already approaching the horizon, and it was just above the lake. I sat down inside the pavilion, relaxed and simply enjoyed the view. The sun was already setting, so my eyes did not hurt from looking at it. The area behind the lake went downhill, allowing you to look over the trees. As if floating on a green sea... Coming to, I noticed that it will be getting dark soon. I quickly rinsed myself in the lake. The water was cool and refreshing, and the lake was not deep at all. As I expected, the bottom was made of stone. There was no mud in the lake, which means that it is regularly cleaned. I looked at the sun - by now it almost completely disappeared. I quickly got out of the lake, picked up my spear from the ground, climbed into the thickest bushes that I could find near the edge of the clearing and settled in for the night. I did not want to take any chances spending the night in the pavillion.
As I noticed these last few days, there are no predatory animals here, or they are just somehow avoiding me. Which is strange, since there are a lot of herbivores here. In connection with the discovery of this clearing, I will need to adjust my plan of action. Changing my planned route is not necessary, but I'll need to hunt as little as possible so as to not leave traces of my presence. Who knows how the owners of the park will react to a foreign hunter?
In the morning I decided to continue on my route as soon as possible. I lost all the desire to stay in this place for some reason, probably because of the uncertainty. Over the next few days, I found two more such artificial clearings - it cemented my theory that I was in some preserve. The glades differed in style, as if they were created by different landscape designers. There was only one similarity between them - they were all very beautiful. While I was in any of them, I physically feel how my tiredness left the body, and peace returned to my soul. And this is only a very small area that I researched!
A week later, after completing my little trip around the hill, I unexpectedly received a signal from the subnote, which I left at the station. After contacting it, I learned that it had completed the second stage of decoding the inscriptions. The time in which the subnote completed the first two stages was unexpectedly short. Either the language is so simple, or there are some similarities with languages from Earth, but I am very pleased with this result. The completion of the decoding is still far away, but now an estimated time of completion can be calculated. It is not guaranteed that it will be possible to fluently read the decrypted language, it's possible that the computer will only be able to decrypt some of the information. Anyway, let's wait and see what happens. After requesting the time for the final decryption, I was once again delighted. It is probably quite inaccurate, but the subnote promises to complete all of the stages within two weeks. It is a pity that there will be more than one option in the end. They could end up being contradictory to each other and only the computed accuracy of each option can be used to decide which version to use.
Be that as it may, it is time to sum up some results in connection with my latest discoveries. So, people, or maybe other intelligent beings, do live here. For now we will assume that they are people. This is good, because if in the decoded inscriptions I do not find a way to return to my world, I will have to somehow blend in. Judging by those decorative clearings, these people are very close to the people of my world by their mentality, at least they appreciate beauty. The area of my current residence, apparently, is some kind of a nature preserve. This could be either good or bad. It's bad in that by being here I could be violating some laws if this place is a holy ground of some sort (maximum problems) or just a nature conservation (they shouldn't kill me). It's good that before my first meeting with other people, there is time to gather more information. Apparently, this station was not found by the locals, so I could be in a winning position if I learn something from it. It is a pity that it is unknown what kind of people live here. In any case, I need to strengthen myself - if I am in some kind of Middle Ages, my skills will really help me survive. In any case, there will be no harm from doing some extra training.
To enhance the effect of the training, I downloaded a virtual-fighting program from the subnote and installed it on the body-comp and set up the algorithm for my training system. When working with a virtual sparring partner it is very inconvenient to use the glasses, since they fly off from sudden any movements. Therefore I had to use the contact lenses. I do not like them, since after using them for a long time my eyes begin to ache.
Early next morning, I went jogging through the rough terrain, along the route that I previously created, trying to complicate my path as much as possible. I finally got to the clearing that I chose for my training. After a little rest and breathing, I opened the pocket on my belt which housed the body-comp and pulled out the special contact lenses. Frowning, I put them in the eyes and let them adapt. Then I turned on the connection from the lenses to the body-comp. At an arm's length, a three-dimensional menu appeared in front of me where I could chose a training program. Launching the training program for work with a pole in the style of Kobudo Dziosin-Ryu, I took my spear into my hands. A Japanese man with a pole in his hands appeared before me and bowed to me. I bowed to him in return, and the training began.
Obviously, I must say a few words about the virtual learning programs. They became possible, or rather, began to gain popularity after body-comps with sufficient power to generate 3D objects in real time, including people and their physics, became available, plus lens-displays, plus feedback from the brain to the body-comp. Body-comps and lenses are just new versions of the same computer monitor idea as before, but feedback into the body-comp from the brain is something that was developed just five years ago. Scientists managed to create miniature (about a millimeter in size) sensors that can record the electrical activity of the brain at a distance of a few inches from the head, while some engineers and programmers created an electronic-software system that can analyze and decipher the data taken from the sensor. From my point of view, they were the ones most responsible for the success by managing to make the processing happen in real time. Therefore, the creation of route maps during my travel was quite a simple process, even without prior binding to the sides of the world or navigation systems. All of my actions - turning my head to a certain angle, the distance traveled and other data - were recorded using these sensors, processed, and where possible, refined and corrected by external scanners and environmental sensors. The only drawback of all this is the lack of direct interaction with the brain, that is, you can not communicate information back into the brain, bypassing the eyes, ears and other senses. But as I heard, research in this direction was already underway. This technology would have come in handy now.
Phew... I fell wearily on the grass. This Japanese guy really drove me into the ground. Three hours of continuously swinging around a spear and I feel like I'm half-dead. Well, at least there is no contact with the sparring partner, or rather, it's bad for training, but it's good now, when I am so exhausted. But I can not go easy on myself. It may be hard to train, but it can save my life when it counts, although I hope that I will not have to fight anyone for now. So, after three hours of rest, during which I will need to make myself some nunchucks, I will learn from Bruce Lee. I have never seen anyone with such accuracy of movements and speed as Bruce. The only problem is to make the connector between the nunchuk handles. I found the material for the handles, the same as for the spear - some hard and heavy wood. I still have to drill holes in it, but the connector seems to be the hardest to make.
During the allotted time, I was unable to make the nunchucks, but I found a suitable plant with very hard thread about five millimeters thick and of sufficient length, but I will deal with it tomorrow. For today I will have to change my plans - I will continue to work with the pole, which still doesn't feel right in my hands. My spear is not very suitable for studies in the Kobudo Dziosin-Ryu style, since they actually use an ellipsoidal pole. It will be necessary to make a separate pole or change this spear. Training with the pole seems to have a positive effect on my internal organs. In fact, the pole is a kind of channel through which my body's energy flows. Knowing the interconnection of energy channels in the body and skillfully using an external waveguide, it is possible to actively influence various parts of the body. Well, at least that's how it works in theory.
As so stretched my days and weeks of training and hunting. During my breaks I read books - thankfully my collection of books was huge. I even grew to like some of the classics, which I used to ignore. I also listened to music. A couple of times I went further downhill and found two more artificial clearings, but I still could not find any traces of human presence. I ate very little, I do not know what happened to me, but once a day is enough for me. Even though I kept hunting, the animals are still not afraid of me. I lost ten kilograms, and my weight stabilized at that level. My muscles became stronger, all of the flaccidity was gone. During the training, I improved my nunchuck skills and the spear now feels like a third hand. However, I felt that for complete satisfaction I lacked some kind of projectile, besides a spear. But there is nothing that I can do about that for now.
Instead of the two weeks that the subnote promised, a month passed.
Part 1, Chapter 7
I climbed into my hut, changed into a more comfortable, horizontal, position and opened up the results of the subnote's work on decoding the inscriptions. Ouch... Well, no one said that it would be easy. As I thought, the program was unable to fully decipher the language, but it was possible to identify interesting patterns in the writing that can be interpreted correctly to a high probability. Although, I can't say that everything was clear: somewhere the inscriptions described the stars (the probability that it is the stars is 54%) and some actions performed among them - flight? navigation? Then something like a landing. Some work being done... No, this is not going to work. I launched another program - a writer's dream. It can be fed completely insensible text, and the program will make something intelligible from it. Into this program I loaded all of the logic chains that the decoding uncovered. After a while, I got the result in a sane, understandable language, but the overall meaning alluded me. I was very interested in the constant references to the concept of a "computer" - this is the meaning that my subnote proposed for a given sequence of symbols. Now this is getting interesting. After isolating just the references to the "computer", I began to study them. So... it looks like this station had a computer or some other kind of device that has the same functions as our computers. Of course, it is unlikely that it was preserved in a working condition, but it is necessary to try to find it and activate it. To work with it, it seems, you need some sort of key - it is mentioned next to the computer, and its action is directed to the computer. After quickly looking through the rest of the text, I was convinced about the notion of its directivity at the computer. The subnote seemed to have guessed correctly. So, let's look further. What do we have next? Nothing interesting. There are only some unintelligible parts of different logic chains. Yea... I really hoped to get more from this.
I sat on the floor in the control room and thoughtfully tapped my finger against the floor. Okay, let's go over everything I know up to now. If I correctly identified this room, then it really is a control room. Access to the computer is from somewhere in here, right? Can the computer be turned on from here? Probably. Now, what is this key that I should be using? It is clear that this should be a device or mechanism by which authorization to control the computer is confirmed. Some doubt arises in the sense that it would have been easier to have the computer simply verify users using their biometric parameters. Judging by their advanced technology, this is quite possible for these aliens, especially since even we use similar concepts. On the other hand, the process of authenticating a user using biometric parameters may take some time and if this is for some reason undesirable, it might be better off to make the computer obey anyone who has some physical key which can be some kind of device or unique object. If this a device, then I probably got nothing - it is unlikely that it remained in working order after all this time. What am I even talking about? I got nothing in any case - it is highly unlikely that the computer itself was preserved and I found nothing useful in the decrypted information. Wow, I really counted on getting something out of this, although I did not fully admit it to myself. Suddenly a deep melancholy fell over me. My gaze fell on the mummy in the armchair, which I never dared to touch. I looked at it thoughtfully. It is likely that the mummy might have the key, especially if it is the only member of the crew. Slowly, I walked to the chair.
"I hope it doesn't fall apart," I thought, carefully pulling the mummy out of the chair, while at the same time unwillingly holding my breath. No, it seems this mummy is as hard as stone, as if it was petrified. I put it on the floor next to the dashboard. The mummy was not very heavy, and it remained in a sitting position with bent legs and hands. It is interesting, why is it that the clothes not only did not rot, but look like new? "What a strange material!" - I thought, and began to search its pockets. Unfortunately, the pockets contained only rubbish, which probably used to be some items, but it seems they decayed over the years. Overall, I did not find anything there. I tried to cut the fabric with a knife, but without success. i didn't even leave a scratch
"Looks like I really bummed out here," I thought desperately. If earlier I still had some hope - I could cling to a possible decoding of the inscriptions and just wait - now there was nothing to hope for anymore...
Once again looking round the cabin with a desperate look, my gaze stopped at the diadem, which after my manipulations with the mummy rolled off its head. Why not? It's quite a reasonable decision. If the diadem is the key, then it is likely that access to the system is not controlled by the biometric parameters, since the key must always be on the user's head. I hope that this is so. I picked up the diadem and examined it from all sides. It doesn't look like a technological device. Just a piece of solid metal, without any inscriptions and drawings, with some evenly scattered pebbles on the surface. Approaching the chair, I slowly sank into it. It's strange, even though it looks like metal, it is comfortable to sit in. I threw a quick glance at the mummy. Well, well, let's try this out. I lowered the diadem on my head. At first nothing happened and I already began calming down, but after a while I shouted from surprise. I jumped up, tore the diadem off my head and threw it away from me. My heart was beating like a jack hammer. It moved! I clearly felt how it began to shrink push onto my head! Calming down, I sat down again in the armchair and, suspiciously eyeing the diadem lying on the floor, began to think. Only now I finally got a wonderful thought: it WORKED! I don't know what kind of technology was used to make this diadem, but after who knows how many years it still works. So it is completely possible that the local computer can work as well. Wow! Well done guys. My computer will probably already wear out after a couple of years and die.
I confidently picked up the diadem, put it on my head, squeezed my eyes shut, and waited for the events to unfold. It began gently contracting on my head. "It'll crush my skull, damn it!" flashed by in my mind, but no. After tightly clasping my head, the diadem froze. Nothing happened. I opened my eyes. Certainly something has changed in the room. I did not immediately realize it, but the spectrum of light had changed. It appeared green. After a while, green was replaced with blue. As so, different colors appeared and disappeared. "Maybe it's in my eyes?" - I thought. Then in my head sounds appeared and disappeared, like a whisper. For a second my eyes darkened, and again everything returned to normal. I was already tired of all these new experiences. Suddenly, fatigue fell on me like a ton of bricks, and I passed out. However, very soon I woke up, as if someone pulled me back into reality, a charge of energy ran through my body, completely waking me. Turned out I was unconscious for about ten minutes. There was silence all around me, but it was an unusual silence. I clearly felt someone's presence nearby. Looking around, I saw no one. What happened? If this diadem somehow works directly with my brain (this may very well be true), then we can assume that it did some sort of scan on me, or it was tuning in to me. So, if it's all over now, then either I'm tuned in and was given access, or nothing happened.
"Hey, computer, answer me!" I said. God, how did my voice get so creaking?
"Please wait a minute, the information is being processed," I heard in my head. Or did I imagine it?
Hmm. Something seems familiar. What, is it now going to say something like "thirty percent has processed."
"Ninety-five percent has been processed," I clearly heard disapproval in the voice.
I squeezed my head into my shoulders. Heck, its reading my thoughts!
"Damage analysis is complete. Processing of the information received from the operator is completed. The adjustment to the mental and psychophysical parameters of the operator has been completed."
Damn, how does it know my language? Moreover, such phrases are typical computer generated phrases. If it were not for the latest events, by God, I would have thought that this is my own computer playing a joke on me.
Without moving I sat in silence for about five minutes, afraid to even think about anything.
In the end, I was tired of sitting still like a statue and relaxed my shoulders - it turns out I was sitting in a terribly uncomfortable pose.
"Can you hear me?" I asked in a whisper.
In response all I get is silence, damn it. How can I attract the computer's attention? I scratched my head and rephrased the question.
"Computer, answer me!" I demanded, looking around.
"I am listening," said the same voice in my head.
"That's better," I thought, delighted.
"How do you know my language?" I decided to ask the first question.
"As a result of adjusting to the mental and psychophysical parameters of the new operator," the computer answered with a slight delay.
Hmm... interesting. It seems that this configuration procedure involves poking around in the brains of the operator and that is not good. What if it does not like something in there. Oh, I should also find out more about how it reads my thoughts.
"Can you read my mind?" I froze.
"That sucks," I mentally cursed.
"What did I just think of?" I asked with interest.
"'That sucks'," the computer answered. "Judging by the intent related to the word, this is a curse."
Wow! And where did he get this related intent?
"Do you read all of my thoughts?" I was completely taken by my passion for investigation.
"Only those that are mentally pronounced by the operator," almost immediately answered the computer. It seems the delays between its answers are getting shorter, by the way.
"Well, thank God," I thought with relief.
"What god of those fifteen mentioned in your memory?" the computer suddenly asked.
Hmm, it seems I need to stop mentally pronouncing my thoughts, since its somewhat uncomfortable having an extra listener in my head.
"Do not pay attention," I waved my hand. "It's just an expression. And you, did you read all of my memory?"
"No, only areas related to linguistic and conceptual data."
Phew! Thank God, now it is clear how I should behave, so as to not cause trouble.
"Listen, how should I address you?"
The computer paused for a moment.
"The closest concept in your language is a computer."
"No, that is too uninteresting and uncomfortable," I grinned. "How about I call you Smarty, okay? And you call me Nick."
Damn, he talks like some kind of simple computer. He could least add in some emotions. I finally calmed down and even began to enjoy the conversation.
"Listen!" A thought flashed through my mind. "Can you fulfill commands that I give you? And anyway, what is my access level?"
"Your level of access is the maximum."
Oh, is that right!? I rubbed my hands with anticipation.
"Why do I have such a high level of trust?"
"The access of the previous operator expired one hundred thousand three hundred and forty universal years ago. According to paragraph 12 of the 'Security Policy', the system can not be completely blocked from external access. One hundred years after the expiration of all operators' access, administrative access is given to the first user with the appropriate mental and psychophysical parameters."
That's a mouthful! With each answer I get out of Smarty, I just get more questions. Okay, let's start in order.
"Why can you proficiently use the terminology that I know? Did you take all this from my brain?"
"Yes, I search in a database, created based on an image of your brain, for similar concepts, which then I translate into your language. There is a possibility of incorrect use of some terms due to their wide range of semantic meanings, depending on how they are used. I am learning, and in time such incidents will not occur anymore."
Okay... For the time being, we will leave that topic alone. Still, it is unclear how he could quickly find his way around in my brains.
"Listen," I jumped to the next question. "Why are my mental and psychophysical data considered acceptable?"
"You are practically no different from the last operator. There are only two differences: your brain does not work at its full strength, and access to the information fields is blocked."
"I do not understand. Are you saying that the previous operator was a human?" I said, glancing at the mummy. "What about the third eye?"
"What third eye?" it sounded like Smarty was kind of surprised.
"This one," I pointed my finger to the third eye of the mummy, "on its forehead."
"He is not a human and is not the previous operator."
From further interrogation, I got a very interesting story. This station really is a spaceship. Representatives of the race that built it, people who have long ago ventured into space, discovered many mysteries of the Universe, but many things remained unknown to them. These people were extremely curious and traveled on such ships throughout the galaxy, trying to discover something new. The only thing that, in my opinion, distinguished them from the people of my race: they preferred solitude and could live alone for many years. Although some of them also lived in small, closely-knit groups. They had the ability to communicate with friends at any distance, and for most this method of communication was quite enough for them. Perhaps because of this, their numbers gradually decreased. In addition, they could create worlds (not entire universes, as I understood, but planetary systems), the many of them took great pleasure in this. At some point, parallel worlds were discovered. The previous operator, Dront, who was a kind of scientist, left to research the point of conjugation of these parallel worlds. As a result of some experiments, the ship fell through into this parallel world, from which it could not get out. As soon as the researcher was convinced that communication with fellow people did not work here, he began exploring the galaxy that he ended up in, Dront found this planet on which there were creatures very similar to humans. He landed and began researching. It turned out that this world has an elevated magic-background (with great reservations, Smarty agreed to consider Dront's abilities and the technologies used by him magic), but even so, this did not help him get back to his world.
After examining the local residents, Dront became convinced that the information structure of the residents lacked certain constructs that are inherent to his people. Nevertheless, they had the rudimentary ability to connect to the magical structure of space. For unknown reasons, Dront began to transform this world. Dront made his first attempts to develop the ability to use magic in the people only a hundred years after his arrival. Obviously, even a misanthrope like the Dront didn't like a hundred years of loneliness. The first attempts to develop some of the rudimentary information structures responsible for magic led to the death of the test subjects. After much research, he realized that it's all about the lack of those constructs that are in his own information structure, which apparently are meant to stabilize the magical structures. The maximum that can be achieved is to gradually develop these structures, putting a limiter that does not allow them to fully open up right away, since this will lead to death from magic overload. In addition, these structures had to develop gradually, improving from generation to generation, although, not in every person. So, the local people could become mages, but not as strong as Dront himself.
No way, there are magicians here!? My jaw simply crashed through the floor from this. Even without this news everything looks so much like a fantasy story, but now... However, all this can directly influence me, so I continued to listen carefully.
It was sad, but Dront did not give up. He has long been connected to the information field of the planet and inserted something like a virus into it, that gradually began to change this field. In turn, the field influenced the inhabitants of this world. The results began to manifest themselves only after the second hundred years of Dront's stay on the planet (wow, how old was he?). Unfortunately, only one third of the inhabitants were closely connected with the info-field of the planet. They became the first magicians. Abilities toward magic, that is, the necessary information structures, could be inherited, but sometimes, unfortunately, they are completely lost, while others are manifested after another a generation.
It turned out that my information structure contains the same constructs as Dront's, which allowed Smarty to accept me as an operator, but there were also some differences. As Smarty said, I have a large volume of constructs and connections which are currently disconnected and not functioning. The connection with the information flows has also been blocked for some reason. The power of my brain is not completely in use which, perhaps, is associated with this blockage. After all, to process the huge mass of information flowing through the brain from the information field as well as what is generated by the brain itself, huge computing power is needed, which seems to be turned off due to it not being used.
Interesting. After all, on Earth we have long known that the brain is not used at its full capacity. But, there seems to be some kind of discrepancy here. It seems that someone long ago blocked these abilities in the Earth's people or just did not give them the opportunity to develop. I have always been skeptical of the theory that people evolved from monkeys, but here such facts are revealed. It seems that somebody influenced our race's origins.
Unfortunately, the Dront did not take into account one circumstance: gods lived here. He simply didn't notice them. There were some inconsistencies in the structure of the information field of the galaxy, which included the field of the planet, which he simply disregarded as local anomalies. He was lucky that the gods were not present in this world (or near this planet) all of the time. Only when the first weak magicians appeared and began to exert some influence on the info-net, the gods started to notice what was happening.
Then, the most terrible thing happened. The gods did not take time to investigate, instead unleashing all of their divine wrath on him as soon as they located the disturbance. That is, they struck him. As Smarty later analyzed the situation, Dront had all the chances to survive and even give the local gods a good beating. They were not any stronger than him. Just that the factor of surprise did its thing. This is what killed him.
I asked Smarty to explain this moment in more detail. Before that, I took the whole story as a tale about a hacker, that the local administrators kicked out of their net, and killed. From Smarty further explanations, it turned out that with the help of the info-field it is perfectly possible to work with physical matter. One only has to form a certain information structure, set its properties and give it energy. As a result, you get the physical embodiment of the object described by the structure. It turns out you can create objects and even living organisms from nothing. Everything depends on the person's imagination, their ability to specify the parameters of the object's structure and the width of the channel with the info-net.
Cool! This really impressed me. I asked how difficult it is to create living organisms in contrast to static ones. Smarty explained everything perfectly well in terms of my favorite language - programming. To create an object, you need to define its class. To have some properties, they must be set in this class and values should be assigned to them. Thus it is possible to make, for example, a dead cobblestone. But in order to create a living being, in this class, in addition to properties, it is necessary to create a behavioral algorithm, preferably self-learning. Based on this class, a creature-object is created.
"Can the local mages create living beings?" I asked Smarty.
As it turned out, yes they can. I thought for a moment: considering how many parameters would be needed, the complexity of the behavioral model - and realized that either I'm really bad, or the local "reality programmers" are so badass that they can create everything themselves, or is there something else here. As it turned out, it's actually very simple. It is enough to copy and store the information matrix of an existing object, and based on this matrix you can create complete duplicates of the object. To create a completely new object, you can make changes to the copied matrix, mix it with other matrices ("typical inheritance," I grinned), which makes the work much easier. This is how different kinds of monsters appeared, which are produced by the local mages, but there will be more on this later.
Somehow, everything sounds too simple. Think it, give it energy and you got it. Perhaps, Smarty is not giving me all the information or, maybe, he does not know everything.
I interrupted the conversation with Smarty, fidgeted in the armchair, which suddenly clicked and took on a form convenient for me. A little surprised at this, I thought about it, trying to process the information I received. In Smarty's whole story, I was struck by several key points. Well, about magic, I realized: it's a pretty convenient thing. But how could it be that a man (Dront was undoubtedly a man), according to Smarty, was stronger than the gods? Also, if you consider that Dront, with great difficulty and with a huge amount of time, could only make minor adjustments to the development of the local population, it is unlikely that the local gods were the ones who created this world.
"Say, Smarty," I asked thoughtfully into the space in front of me. "Is it true that the local gods participated in the creation of this world?"
"No, of course not," snorted Smarty. Wow, it seems he is starting to show some emotions. "They are simply energy vampires. Such vampires exist in the world where Dront came from, only the people control them, to make sure they do not do harm, but here, it seems, there is nobody to control them. Such vampires find worlds with living beings, and use certain actions to make them believe that they are gods. Then, they siphon energy from the people through their faith. Even the most primitive individuals can give them energy."
"What if none of the gods are in the world at the time, since as I understand, they are not constantly present here? Where does the energy go then?" I asked.
"This works in different ways." Smarty paused. "The energy of faith is specifically directed to a being, therefore it can not be accepted by another god. Such energy first accumulates in the info-field of the planet, and after a certain period of time it dissipates if the god to whom it is directed does not take it. Therefore, the gods periodically visit their pastures, and, if there is not enough energy, they angrily remind the locals of their existence. By the way, the gods often compete with each other for the faith of the people. Sometimes it comes to wars. Each god usually has several such pastures."
"We strayed from my question. I wanted to ask, who created this world? If the gods have nothing to do with it, did all of it appear and develop on its own?"
Smarty was silent for a while, and then he answered:
"You see, Nick, people have been trying to find an answer to this question for a long time. I mean, the people of Dront's race. There are some things, the probability of natural manifestation of which is simply microscopically small. There are many such things, but I will not go into much more depth. Although at the same time, studies have not confirmed the presence of God, or more correctly, a Demiurge. In other words, I do not know."
"All right, let's close that topic for now," I muttered. "So what really happened with the gods' attack?"
"Everything is very simple. After finding the troublemaker - Dront wasn't really hiding in the first place - they united and formed a direct energy channel at the ship, pushing a huge amount of energy through it, which then transformed into a very hard substance at the point of impact and caused strong magical radiation ("So that's how the opening in the wall was made!" - I remembered the way out of the ship). They struck several such blows. All of the info-crystals were damaged by the radiation. Compute modules, navigators, coordinators, control modules for the engines. Only I remained unharmed, since initially my crystal was encased in a special protective structure."
"Wait, are you saying there are no electronics in you?" I was surprised yet again. "Are you a crystal?"
Smarty fell silent again.
"Well, yes," he finally answered. "I analyzed the concept of "electronics", but it does not seem similar to my structure, although I do not have enough data. I really am represented by a solid crystal."
"And how do you interact with the environment?" For me, all this was unexpected.
"Through all the same info-structures."
What a discovery!
"Wait, does this mean that you are a crystal with the ability to use magic?" I just couldn't wrap my head around that.
"Well..." stretched Smarty, it seems that such a statement made him a little puzzled, "I guess you can say that. However, I do not know how to create new structures, as Dront did himself. I can only use those that were built into me initially, as well as those that Dront added himself."
"I guess I understand," I answered, stretching. That's it, the limit of how much new information I can absorb in one day is exhausted. "Okay, Smarty, I think I'll sleep a little for now, I need to organize all of this in my head, and I want to sleep... My brain really needs its rest."
My head is simply overloaded from all the new information. It is necessary to think everything over and get some sleep. One last question remained, which I could not resist asking:
"Smarty, tell me, how did it happen that hundreds of thousands of years have passed and you are still functioning and the ship's metal has not rusted?"
"My crystal is not subject to aging, just like the metal of the ship. Besides, it's not so much metal but, if I may say so, a special metal alloy, reinforced by a certain info-structure or magic, as you call it. It can safely be immersed into the Sun's surface without sustaining any damage. Now you can understand how much power the local gods used to attack the ship."
The last of Smarty's words only barely reached me through my drowsiness as I finally fell asleep
Part 1, Chapter 8
The next day I woke up with a head as numb as a brick. It seems that I really overworked my brains yesterday. Wishing Smarty good morning, I decided that to relieve my mental fatigue, I should do some work physically. After getting out of the ship, I spent the next three hours recovering by doing a fighting dance with my pole. By the way, I was still unable to give it an ellipsoidal shape, which I now greatly regretted.
After training, I rinsed myself in the stream and returned to Smarty. I still had many questions, the answers to which I will have to shake out of him. Overall, I'm surprised by how quickly we managed to get a conversation going. It doesn't seem like he is hiding any information from me. It is difficult to verify, but I have not yet found any discrepancies in his story.
"Hello again, Smarty!" I said as I settled down in the armchair and it again bent into a form convenient for me. "Are you doing this?"
"Well, bending the chair to be more comfortable to me."
"Oh, no, this chair is an independent system. After I was activated it also turned on. Adjustment to the operator's parameters is its main function."
"I see... Okay, I here is a question that I have. Do you monitor what is going on in the outside world? In other words, do you keep tabs on what is happening on the planet?"
"From time to time," Smarty hesitated for a couple of seconds. "Fact is, I have little energy of my own and I am afraid to connect to the info-net to take some from there."
"What are you afraid of?" I immediately clung to his hesitation.
"Of the local gods, of course. They deprived me of my owner, my ship, and I was left alone here. At least they do not pay attention to me, although that's mainly because I do not stick out in the info-net and when the gods appear I completely disconnect."
"Wait a second," I said as I involuntarily raised my hand. "Is the same connection channel used for both information and energy?"
"Yes. However, energy can also be pulled in another way, bypassing this channel. For example, from the environment, which then regenerates on its own. However, this is more difficult and I don't know how to do this. But for the local magicians, since their connection with the info-net is limited, it's easier to pump energy from nature, although this is a more labor-intensive process. There are no special restrictions here. The only possible restriction is the internal storage of the magician and the rate of energy accumulation in the environment."
"Wait a second," I said, shaking my head. "We'll talk about the local magicians another time. For now, I'm interested in other issues. First, tell me, do you know anything about how I appeared in this world? How did I get here?" I held my breath, waiting for an answer.
"Are you not local?!" surprisingly exclaimed Smarty.
Who knows which of us was more surprised?
"Can not you see? I speak a different language, you read my memory, sometimes you connect to the local info-net and you still ask?"
"You see, Nick, I obviously noticed your difference from the others, but I don't follow all of the events that occur in the outside world. I connect to the network only once every hundred years, and I mostly monitor only the major events happening in the world. I only peek in, as you would say. In such a period of time, many major events may occur in the world. Therefore, I only have the most basic data about what is going on, but if you give me a command, I will scan the whole network and make a report."
"Consider that you have already received such a command," I growled. "Tell me, did you notice anything strange happening a couple of months ago?"
"I'm sorry, Nick, but I only registered a splash of magical energy in the immediate vicinity of the ship or maybe inside, judging by the force that reached me. I can not say anything concrete about this since I cannot access the ship's sensors. I think all of the crystals have burned out."
I nodded my head - sadly it seems that I also bummed out here.
"Smarty, when you scan the network, pay attention to any information relating to travel between worlds, okay?"
How wonderful it is that I have Smarty!
"Okay, okay. Next question. Can you unlock my connection to the network?" This topic was of great interest to me. Since, after all, it could unlock many great opportunities!
"I can, but I do not advise it."
"Why?" I was surprised.
"Have you forgotten why Dront did this gradually to the locals?" asked Smarty. "You can burn out. Our people have been taught this since early childhood, and only when they are about a hundred years old they begin having complete control in the network."
"A hundred years? How many years did Dront live?" To say that I was surprised is like not saying anything. It seems that today is a day of amazing discoveries. "How long do your people normally live?"
"At the time of his death Dront was eight hundred and twenty-three years old, and people live for about a thousand years."
Wow! Of course, in such a long period of time one can learn anything.
"Can you give me any suggestions on speeding this up?" I asked in displeasure.
"In order to give you correct advice, I need to run a complete scan of your information structure."
"Well, go ahead! Do it!" It seems like I may have a chance after all, I smiled. "How long will it take?"
"About an hour. All this time you may feel discomfort or fatigue. In addition to your information structure, I'll try to carry out a deeper scan of your brain to make sure that the blockage is not physiological, but only informational."
"Okay," I agreed. "You may begin."
The next hour I felt as if I've gone through a centrifuge, got squeezed by a giant and shaked like a salt shaker. Phantom pains appeared and almost immediately disappeared. In short, it felt as if I was being tortured. After the end of the examination, it took quite some time for me to return to my senses. Meanwhile, Smarty carried out some calculations based on Dront's prior research. I managed to take a nap, drink some of the "living" water, but Smarty was still busy. I decided to just relax for now. I got out of the station, sat down in front of the entrance and just watched the nature. Two hours later I heard Smarty's voice.
"How did you get through to me? I'm outside."
"You forgot Nick, the diadem key is still on you. While it's on you, I can talk to you at any distance."
- I see. I completely forgot about it. It sits so gently on my head that I do not feel it at all. Cool. Well then, tell me about your findings, - I said, tensing up.
"Here are the results. Your information structure is completely suitable for controlling the network. In fact, there are some additional control structures which are unknown to me, but I can say that, with a high degree of probability, they will not interfere with communications to the network. Further on, the blockage is not physiological, only informational. However, despite the compatibility of your information structure, you can not immediately unlock it. Your body is not prepared to handle the huge amounts of energy flowing through the communication channel. In addition, your brain is also not trained to process the information. My best recommendation is to introduce a control circuit into your information structure, which will gradually influence your body, gently expanding the communication channel and getting your body ready to work with the network."
"Good," I said as I jumped to my feet. "Is there anything else?"
"Yes." Smarty paused for a moment. "If your level reaches Dront's level, it may draw the attention of the local gods. This scenario is very likely and I do not know what to advise here. Although Dront could go head-to-head with the gods, I can not imagine what fighting techniques he knew or whether he knew any at all. You will have to think of something on your own. Of course, I will help you where I can, but you have to do the most basic work on your own. Here is a tip: learn from the local magicians. They are constantly at war with each other, so I'm pretty sure they can teach you something."
"Okay, I understand everything. Tell me, how long will it take to fully unlock my body?"
"At least a year or more. I don't know exactly how your body will react to the changes. This may take several years to complete."
"It's unfortunate, but still better than a hundred years," I said, smiling. "As I understood from your explanations, through my information structure you can influence my body, right?" I looked up, waiting for an answer.
"Yes," answered Smarty.
"Think about it, is it possible to carefully change my information structure to improve something in my body?" I giggled, remembering the constant spam that I kept receiving back on Earth about penis enlargement. It has almost been a hundred years since the beginning of the century of the Internet, but even so, such mail still regularly comes in.
"It depends on what you want to change." As always, Smarty gives general answers to general questions.
"How about you calculate what changes need to be made to improve my reaction, and increase my endurance and strength."
"It will take me about five hours. I must be sure to act with caution."
"Of course, my friend!" I replied, mischievously rubbing my hands. "Oh, and there's another thing: can you turn on some emotions or a virtual persona, or something. Your monotonous voice is simply killing me."
"Unfortunately, the personality masks were stored separately, as non-critical data, on an unprotected crystal that was destroyed."
"Damn, if only you'd just watch a movie, I'm sure you would understand," I said.
"What is a 'movie'?" replied Smarty.
I froze. Damn. I should really show my computers to Smarty. I got carried away and used up the next few hours to show him our technology. Surprisingly, Dront's race was not familiar with electronics, although, of course, they simply used the info-net and magic to accomplish the same things. I could not connect Smarty directly to the subnote - he felt the wireless signals, but without external sensors he could not work with them. In the end, we found a way out with the help of a little magic. By the way, that's when I finally observed what magic looks like to the naked eye. Smarty created an informational structure capable of perceiving light, in other words, a kind of eye, imbued it with energy, and I saw a slowly appearing ball of light. After a while, this ball became almost completely invisible. Smarty didn't even think to make such an eye to observe the outside world. Previously, he relied only on the crystal sensors. I guess that's what artificial brains mean.
By the way, at the same time he saw me for the first time. Smarty confirmed that my appearance corresponds to Dront's race down to the smallest details, not taking into account the individual characteristics. In addition to the eye, Smarty formed a small object, which he could pull to the ground by command. I'll just call it a finger. Smarty could move around this finger and therefore, press the subnote's buttons and use its touchscreen. I couldn't think of any way to get Smarty to work with the brain sensors that I used to control my computers. Then, I took me a while to teach him how to work with the subnote. He grasped everything on the fly. He was simply delighted by some of the implementations in the storage and processing of information (if I correctly deciphered his monotonous utterances). In the end, I left Smarty to watch our films - and I had several thousand of them on my subnote, - reminding him not to use up all of his resources watching movies and reading literature, to leave some for the calculations that I needed. Finally, I went outside to get some fresh air.
Part 1, Chapter 9
By now night had fallen outside. I took a deep breath of fresh air. It's strange, even though I've been here for over two months, the nature around me has not changed. It feels as if it is late spring here - not too hot and not too cold. At night time, the temperature is only five degrees lower than in the daytime. "I also need to inquire about the local ecosystem from Smarty," I made a mental note to myself. My thoughts jumped over to Smarty. Actually, I was very lucky to have him with me. Although if you think about it, the probability of finding a common language with him was minimal. Of course, the magical technologies of the aliens helped. By the way, I should learn the name of Dront's race. It's inconvenient to keep calling them aliens all the time. Even though technology is still just technology, it seems that despite his lack of emotions Smarty can really be considered to be a human-like individual. I wonder how such a long period of isolation affected him. I should desecretely feel out how he feels on this subject.
Switching to my subnote, I checked on what Smarty was looking at. On the screen there was the latest reincarnation of the film with Lara Croft going through her enemies by dual wielding blasters with her two hands. That's interesting, should I be limiting Smarty's access to the films, and in general to the information on the computer, or not? Despite Smarty's words that I have full access to him, it may not really be so. Also, I wonder how Smarty will react once he gets to the porn collection on the subnote? Oh well, time will tell.
I settled myself comfortably, threw back my head, resting it on the rock and looked at the stars. Without paying close attention to the constellations, the skyscape seems just like back at home. Is the moon here smaller than ours, or does it only look that way? I mentally began to scroll through everything I heard from Smarty, trying to find inconsistencies or really just any details that need to be clarified. Realizing that there are still many such details, I opened a text editor on the body-comp and began compiling a list of questions that I still needed to ask Smarty.
First, I need to find out who is the person lying around in the control room and why the access key was on his head. Smarty made it clear that it was not Dront, but after the conversation I somehow forgot to clarify who it really is. Next, I'll need to find out more about the "living" water in the corridor and how it differs from normal water. So, what else? I gave it some more thought... I'll learn more about the techniques of working with the info-net later, if and when Smarty unlocks my communication channel. "But wait. It feels as if there is something I'm missing..." I thought scratching my head. Wait a second! I forgot the most important thing! I jumped to my feet in excitement. Smarty said that when I appeared here he registered a splash of magical energy and the magicians who live here probably also noticed it. And what would a magician do if something unknown is going on somewhere? I suddenly realized that if in one of the computer systems that I'm responsible for I notice some unauthorized activity I would definitely, at least, get interested or even might take some time to investigate it in detail. This means that I need an urgent run-down of all the information on this world. By the way, what can a quiet period of two-months mean? I scratched my nose thoughtfully. There are a few options here. The first option - my flashy (in the magical sense) arrival didn't get noticed by anyone. However this means that the local magicians are very bad. That's good since in this case I have plenty of time, although at the same time it's bad since then it's unlikely that the local magicians will help me get home. The second option - they noticed the splash, but just didn't pay much attention to it. And the third option, the most unpleasant one, is that somebody will come here after all, but for some reason this arrival was delayed. I scrolled through all three options in my head, to make sure I did not miss anything. Everything seems correct and my brain also presented a few more options: perhaps, the magicians could not determine the origin of the splash and another very nasty option - I had been under their surveillance for some time now and I just didn't notice it. But after thinking over the last option from different angles, I dropped it. It is unlikely that that they would spend so much time watching me, especially since I look so unintimidating.
"Hey, Smarty!" I called the computer.
"What?" he answered with a noticeable delay and strong dissatisfaction in his voice.
Hmm... am I really starting to feel emotions from him, or is it just me?
"Hey, pull yourself away from the movie! I have to ask you something." I decided not to delay asking questions and get some answers right away. "Tell me everything you know about the local population, the countries and, well everything in general. Start telling me and I will clarify the details along the way."
"Can we do this later?" asked Smarty. Huh, think what you want, but he is clearly progressing! "I just got to the most interesting part of the movie! I'm using almost all of my resources to analyse it."
"Hey, hey! Wait a second! What do you mean all of your resources!? What about the other tasks? Did you forget that I asked you to do a search in the info-net?" I disciplined him.
"I didn't forget about that," said Smarty discontentedly. "Okay. Fine. Ask away. I'll continue watching later."
I grinned. Yeah, well, I hope he does not pick up any bad habits from our movies.
"I already asked," I reminded him.
"Yes, I remember, I'm just trying think where I should start..."
"Just start from the very beginning," I said, sitting back down onto the grass. "Tell me a fairy tale, about how a good wizard, Dront, tried to change this world and of the consequences that followed."
Here is what I found out: At the time when Dront was settling on the planet, there was only one race of people here, but with the limitations described earlier in their information structures. These people, as I understand, were kind of like our prehistoric Cro-Magnon people. They ran around the planet with spears and stones and hunted the local mammoths. Honestly, I did not understand, why Dront was trying to teach these savages about magic if they had as much intellect as a chicken. Maybe he hoped that they would develop at a faster pace after connecting to the info-net? After a hundred years, people began to appear with weak magical abilities, which they used mostly intuitively. Information slowly began to leak through these weak communication channels and the peoples' brain worked to interpret it on its own. At that time, as Smarty later analyzed, the local gods were still not real Gods, with a capital letter, and did not seem to have used this world to gather energy. "That's understandable," I thought. "There's no way anybody could have made those early prehistoric people believe in a single particular god. The personalization of the gods occurs at a later level of personality development." But the gods carefully watched this world as a farmer watches his plot, slowly helping the people develop. There was no need to hurry. As Smarty already mentioned earlier, the gods feed from many different worlds. But then, like a jack-in-a-box, completely out of nowhere, Dront appeared. As a result of his actions, the info-net began to change which, naturally, drew the gods' attention. This drew concern from them. So, what does any farmer who finds a thief in their field do? Correct - shoot first, ask questions later. In any case, there's plenty of space. Nobody would find the corpse. It seems that the gods did not tolerate any kind of competition and therefore, ganged up against the threat. But then something terrible happened. For the spacecraft to move in space, special magic crystals were used that could accumulate a huge amount of primal energy. As a result of the gods' attack on Dront's ship, these crystals were destroyed, releasing all of their energy into the environment. The local info-net, having received such an overwhelming amount of energy, began to disintegrate. I imagined this situation and grinned. I think the gods were VERY surprised by the consequences of their actions. I wonder if it is physiologically possible for them to soil themselves? In any case, during the explosion Smarty managed to encapsulate himself into a protective cocoon and decided to peek out of it only after a hundred years. It was a specific control period, specified in the rules of standard behavior of a computer in emergency situations. By this time, Dront was not on the ship. Smarty doesn't know what happened to him, but believes that he died, because he would not just leave Smarty on his own especially since he could easily take the computer out of the cocoon manually. By the way, the inscriptions on the walls of the control room are actually written instructions on what to do in emergency situations such as in the absence of magic or if there are problems with the computer. So, my decision to attempt to decipher these inscriptions was correct, but the capabilities of my software were not enough. In addition, the scope of the initial data was very limited. I imagined what a space station on Earth would look like, pages from technical manuals and safety instructions posted on the walls and laughed: it really feels just like some kind of anecdote.
In addition, Smarty could not feel Dront using the magic sensors built directly into him which thankfully survived. So, after quickly connecting to the info-network, Smarty discovered some major changes there. It seems that the gods managed to keep it somewhat intact. Smarty couldn't even guess how much effort it cost them. Perhaps they somehow managed to re-route some of the excess energy elsewhere. Smarty confirmed that this is possible since after one hundred years one of the planets of the solar system turned into an asteroid field. Even then, a hundred years after the attack, the efforts on restoring the info-net continued. Smarty found five gods who were performing some kind of actions in the network ("Even here the sysadmins get worked to the bone," I thought with some nostalgia). Afraid that he would get noticed, Smarty didn't undertake any further research. Instead he quickly disconnected from the network and went into his cocoon for the next ten thousand years - just to be safe, he decided to wait a longer period this time. Even in the case Dront appeared, if he survived, or if any of his fellow people came by - they would know how to activate him. Time passed and when Smarty peeked out again, he determined that the gods were absent and calmly began to examine what was happening in the world. Despite the fact that the information network had been preserved, it had undergone a lot of changes. First of all, its density had greatly decreased. Its overall magical power became lower, but still remained higher than it was in other worlds. For some reason, the gods did not find the virus that Dront launched into the network or simply could not remove it. On the other hand, maybe after taking a closer look at the results of Dront's efforts they understood the potential of Dront's design and left everything as is. Meanwhile, during the deformation of the network, the virus mutated. As Smarty mentioned earlier, this virus was intended for the gradual change of the info structure of the people, so that they would slowly learn to connect to the network, expanding their information channel. Initially, these viruses formed links among themselves to coordinate the work on each territory and thus organized a few local networks, each of which controlled its own territory. After the wave of energy that was created as a result of the explosion, all these networks began to act differently. First, the thinnest element of their information structure burned out. As it turned out, it was responsible for blocking any magical effects on the people's DNA. In addition, the parameters of the modules were set to arbitrary values. As a result, the people's DNA gradually began to change. Moreover, changes in the population under one local grid differed from the changes occurring in people belonging to another local grid. However the people did not notice it, since they people were scattered around the planet far enough from each other and did not have any contact with each other. Just like the Chinese and the Africans. Sure, there are some people with a different skin color out there somewhere. But they just didn't get concerned over each other. Additionally, the changes themselves took place very gradually. In accordance with the arbitrarily established parameters of the local networks, consisting of different modules that were manipulating the population, in the end several races were formed on the planet. Surprisingly, despite the differences between them, they remained genetically compatible. The first magicians, who appeared after a hundred years of Dront's work, all died from energy overload. It is most likely that even through their incredibly small communication channels they received enough energy from the explosion, to end up dead. Since that time the process has started anew, but at a different pace.
So, about the newly formed races:
People. One of the local networks resisted the attack, mainly because it was on the farthest away from the impact and maybe, by that time the gods had already began to work on repairing the damage. Therefore, the population remained genetically human.
Gnomes. Low-growing, just above a meter and a half tall, they are people with advanced abilities in the field of stone and metal processing. They prefer to live in mountain caves, but some clans build their cities on the surface. Although, according to recent data most of the gnomes now live on the surface.
Here, all of the drowsiness that came over me during Smarty's explanation flew off in an instant.
"Wait just a second!" I shouted. "What gnomes? What are you talking about? Did you see too many fantasy flicks?" I was outraged: maybe Smarty is actually telling me a fairy tale, I did ask for one, didn't I? I tried to remember our conversation...
"What are you talking about?" Smarty said, offended. "I'm telling you what really happened. By the way, how do you know about gnomes?"
"Hmm... Wait a second. Stop talking for a minute," I said and immediately asked Smarty, "tell me, are there any kinds of elves or dragons here, or anybody like that?" I froze, waiting for an answer.
"Yes. There are elves, two kinds in fact, dragons and a few different kinds of demons. There are also plenty of other animals," said Umnik offended. "What's the matter?"
"You just haven't learned all of the information about Earth yet," I answered grimly. "We all think of these creatures as fairy-tale characters." I paused, trying to think about this astonishing new information.
"Really?" Smarty was very surprised. "These are typical local residents around here. They developed here practically before my eyes, as one might say, in result of an unsuccessful informational/genetic experiment. It's unlikely that you have the same conditions on Earth."
"Smarty! You are a genius!" I laughed. "Do you understand what you said?"
"Well, don't be stupid, Smarty! Or was I wrong to call you Smarty? Think about it carefully using your hard head!" I tapped my forehead with my finger, hitting the diadem at the same time.
"Do you mean," Smarty began after a while, "that there is some connection between your Earth and Lungria?"
"Lungria?" I asked, confused.
"Yeah, the locals call this world Lungria."
"Hmm... Anyway, in general, that's exactly what I meant. But this also means... what?" I continued to test the Smarty's cleverness.
"Given what you said and the fact that you are now on Lungria... I can assume that this connection is not only informational. So..."
"It looks like I right to name you Smarty after all," I smiled. "But if you continue your line of thought, it means that there is a real opportunity for me to return home." I laughed, almost sincerely happy.
"Well, everything is possible," said Smarty thoughtfully. "By now nothing can surprise me anymore. What are your plans in this regard?"
I silently walked around in circles, pondering my answer. In any case, there's nothing special I can think of here. I should act as I planned before: go out into the world, legitimize myself and search for magicians who are doing some research in the field of travel between worlds. If I get that far, I'll think of something according to the circumstances.
I explained all this to Smarty and then, looking at the sky, I saw that it was almost dawn and went to sleep