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The Nanotech Network by Alexander Lazarevich [Part 3]

 

Part Four: The Crisis

 

4.1. The General decides to play an All-or-Nothing game. July 10, 1997, Moscow, the Generalís office.

There were two men sitting opposite the General: the Head of the special research lab set up to crack the NanoTech System, and the Colonel.

- ďThe reason that I summoned you here, gentlemen, is to break to you a very bad news: Americans have demanded that we extradite Levshov to them. They have sent us a diplomatic paper to the effect that Levshov had committed a crime on the US territory by illegally infecting the population of that country with cyborg-bacteria, and therefore he falls under the jurisdiction of the US law. The paper contains lots of legal gobbledygook, but it wonít hold water as a legal document: all their arguments in support of Levshovís extradition to the US are actually much more applicable to Russia than to the USA. But one can easily see that they didnít even try to make their paper legally valid, because they knew that our government would surrender Levshov to them anyway, just because they are stronger and they have the levers to bring pressure to bear. Although our government is still in session on that issue, the result is easy to guess: Levshov will be taken away from us tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow at the latest, if we use the red tape and delay the processing of all the papers related to his official hand-over.

I would like to hear you opinion why did the Americans suddenly decide to get Levshov into their hands? I now recall that a couple of days ago you mentioned in passing that the Americans might soon demand Levsovís extradition.Ē - the General turned towards the Head of the lab - ďBut back then I didnít pay much attention to your words. Could you please explain what you meant?Ē

- ďThat remark was based on one of our hypotheses about the system that protects the NanoTech Network against unauthorized access. What I mean here is the access at the level of the Network Administrator - at the userís level, as we now understand it, there is virtually no protection at all. But we, just as the Americans, are mostly interested in the access to the Administratorís resources, which include weapons, means of intelligence-gathering, sabotage, remote control over other peopleís behavior, in a word, all the things we originally developed the NanoTech for, and which Levshov decided to put out of reach of an ordinary NanoTech Network user. To come back to your question, one of our hypotheses is that the Network Administrator doesnít really have any password to access the Administratorís resources.Ē

- ďI donít understand.Ē - said the General, surprised - ďThen how on earthÖĒ

- ďIf an ordinary user attempts to request the access to the Administratorís resources, the system will start to check the physical characteristics of the body of the person who makes the request. I donít know which ones in particular - may be the cyborg-bacteria that live inside his eyes will check his iris pattern against iris patterns of the network administrators that are stored in the network. Or they may check some internal characteristics of the body - there must be some other spots inside the body that are just as unique as fingerprints or iris patterns. These unique physical characteristics of a body are a personís biological ID, a proof of identity that canít be counterfeited. And if the physical characteristics of the person who makes the request donít match those stored in the NanoTech memory, not only will the system deny access to the Administratorís resources, it may even set off an alarm, with all the unpleasant consequences that Levshov warned us about.

That was our hypothesis. But itís something more than just a hypothesis now. The fact that the Americans did indeed request Levshovís extradition, confirms that we were right. They realized that the only way to gain access to the Administratorís resources is through Levshov himself, and they need him there, in their lab.Ē

- ďBut will he be of any use to them, if he is most likely to refuse to cooperate with them?Ē - asked the General.

- ďTheoretically speaking, there is one way to gain access to the Network Administratorís resources without his cooperation. Letís assume that we found a way to put Levshov to sleepÖĒ

- ďBut you yourself told me that the cyborg-bacteria can destroy any soporific in his body within a fraction of a second!Ē - exclaimed the General.

- ďBut what Iím saying now is letís assume, theoretically, that there is a way. Let me first finish what I wanted to say, and youíll see what Iím driving at. So, letís just imagine that Levshov is, some way or other, knocked out cold, and while he doesnít feel anything we do a little surgery on him: we implant microelectrodes into the nerve fibers that go from Levshovís brain to the muscles of his throat, as well as into his auditory nerve. Letís also imagine that by that moment we have already performed a similar surgery on one of our men, but our man doesnít sleep, and is fully alert. We use ordinary wires to hook up his electrodes to the corresponding electrodes in Levshovís body: throat to throat, auditory nerve to auditory nerve. It may well be that there will be some intermediate amplifiers and signal correction circuits, but Iím not going into technical details here.

And now imagine that our man gives to the NanoTech a voice command to open access to the Network Administrator resources. The action currents from the nerve fibers in his throat are fed through the wires to the nerve fibers going to Levshovís throat inside Levshovís body, and there they are picked up by the cyborg-bacteria living on his nerve fibers. These cyborg-bacteria have no way of knowing that these action currents are not coming from Levshovís brain, and therefore they process it as a command given by Levshov himself. From the standpoint of NanoTech, the request will be made by Levshov himself, and that means that before NanoTech grants the access, itíll check the physical characteristics of Levshovís body. These, of course, will match the physical characteristics of the Network Administrator, and the access will be granted. A message about this will be sent to Levshovís auditory nerve, from where it will be sent by wire to the auditory nerve of our man. As soon as our man gets access to the Administratorís resources, the first thing heíll have to do is to assign the Network Administrator rights to himself or to some of our people. Then this newly assigned Network Administrator gets access to the Administrator resources in his own name and divests Levshov of his Network Administrator rights. Levshov awakes a virtual nobody, and the Network is completely in our hands. Just as simple as that.Ē

- ďThatís all very fine in theoryĒ - said the General - ďbut how do we knock him out cold? May be, bludgeon him on the head?Ē

The Chief of the lab shook his head: ďThe cyborg-bacteria would immediately repair any damage caused by the blow and heíll recover his consciousness very quickly. We wonít have enough time to perform the surgery.

- ďThen I just donít understand you.Ē - said the General.

- ďWell, I believe that what they have chosen as the standard body characteristics for NanoTech to check prior to granting accessĒ - said the head of the lab - ďare some relatively stable bodily features that donít change as the function of the bodyís physiological condition. Even if we assume that the body is dead, such features wonít significantly change for, letís say, half an hour after the death occurred. If the surgery had been well rehearsed, such time period might prove to be adequate.Ē

- ďWell, let me make sure I understand you: what you need is Levshovís dead body?Ē - asked the General.

- ďOnly a very fresh one.Ē - said the head of the lab.

- ďAnd is this operation of yours well rehearsed?Ē - asked the General.

- ďI foresaw that the things might eventually come to this, and so for the last two days we have been continuously training for such an operation. Just in case. But I want to warn you right away that Iím not giving you any guarantees. We are taking a very long shot. It may turn out that at the moment of death a System Administrator is immediately automatically deleted by NanoTech from the list of persons authorized to access the Administrator resources. Although I doubt that the creators of NanoTech have programed this into the system. I still think it unlikely that the programmers could foresee the current situation. But itís also possible, that NanoTech will be able to detect the commands not only in the nerve fibers of Levshovís throat, but also the same commands in the nerve fibers of our man, and we donít know what the systemís reaction might be in that case. Of course, we are going to take all the precautions - we are going to put our man in a box shielded against infrared radiation and weíll only have the wires running out of that box, but one cannot foresee everything, so there is no guarantee. However, there is a chance. But if they take Levshov away from us, we wonít even have that chance to get access to the Administratorís resources.Ē

- ďThe Americans will have it instead.Ē - said the General somberly - ďHow many minutes do you give us to deliver the corpse, form the moment of death to the arrival at your lab?Ē

- ďZero minutes.Ē

- ďYou mean weíll have to finish him off right in your lab?Ē

- ďYou may do that in the hallway right outside the door, but no farther then that.Ē

The General turned to the Colonel: ďWhat are your proposals?Ē

The Colonel scratched his head: ďWell, I can see the following scenario. Tomorrow morning Iíll pick up Levshov for an interrogation and take him on a different route thatíll take us past the labís door. As we will be passing the labís door, a stranger that will have entered our building using a false ID card will suddenly approach Levshov and shoot him with a hand gun. The guard who will be escorting Levshov will return fire and kill the stranger. The stranger will turn out to be a man that has for a long time been suspected of being a hired killer involved in a number of assassinations. So it will be a clear-cut case of a hired killing, and thereíll be no clues as to who was behind the killing.Ē

- ďNo clues? And what about the faked ID card?Ē - asked the General and the Colonelís spirits immediately flagged. ďWellĒ - continued the General - ďunder normal circumstances I would have never OKíd such a messy act. But in view of the fact that we are hard pressed for time, and absolutely everything is at stakeÖ If everything comes out well, we wonít have to justify our actions to anyone, including the Americans. If we get hold of NanoTech, the balance of power in the world will immediately change. Success is never blamed. But even if we fail to access the Network, at least the Americans wonít be able to do this either - thereíll be no Levshov anymore. Colonel, get down to work!Ē

- ďJust a moment,Ē - said the head of the lab - ďI want to emphasize one thing: shoot him only in the head. NanoTech will be able to repair any wounds in the heart or any other organs. The bullet must hit him exactly in the middle of his forehead, an inch above the eyebrows, and the bullet trajectory must be strictly horizontal. If you make holes in other parts of the head, I canít guarantee the success of our operation to implant the electrodes.Ē

- ďWeíll keep that in mind.Ē - said the Colonel.

4.2. Assassination attempt. July 10, morning, Moscow, Levshovís place of detention

The heavy metal door screechingly opened. The Colonel stood on the doorstep: ďCome out, Levshov. Today we are going to another room - I want to show you something.Ē

In the corridor the Colonel lead the way, Levshov followed him with an armed guard behind him. When the Colonel and Levshov turned round the corner, the armed guard momentarily fell behind. Suddely Levshov heard a familiar voice behind his back: ďRejoice, Science! At long last, there is a customer who wants you killed too!Ē

Levshov turned around. He didnít immediately recognize Mityai. Instead of his usual black leather with chains, he was wearing a dark suit with a tie - a uniform of a civilian-clothes man - which was so much more in harmony with the spirit of the building they were in.

- ďAnd what a customer! You know, Science, I even began to respect you!Ē - said Mityai slowly drawing out of his pocket his favorite black hand gun.

Levshov was silent. At least he didnít say anything aloud.

AL:> NANOTECH

NT:> SYSTEM READY

AL:> ADMINISTRATOR RESOURSES ACCESS REQUEST

NT:> REQUESTER BEING IDENTIFIED. WAITÖ

- ďDonít be afraid, Science! You are in a professionalís hands. You wonít even feel that you are dead!Ē - Mityai couldnít resist the urge to pick on Levshov for the last time.

NT:> REQUESTER IDENTIFICATION COMPLETE. ACCESS RIGHTS CONFIRMED. ADMINISTRATOR RESOURSES ACCESS OPEN.

AL:> PROGRAM: REMOTE CONTROL OF MUSCULAR ACTIVITY. OBJECT: WHO I AM LOOKING AT.

Levshov was silently and steadily looking at Mityai. Mityai deliberately gripped the hand gun with both of his hands, extended his arms, and carefully aimed at the Levshovís forehead - on the centerline, one inch above the eyebrows, as per the customerís specifications.

- ďIím sorry, Science. Nothing personal. Iím just doing my job.Ē

- ďStop blabbering! No time!Ē - snapped the Colonel.

Mityai pressed the trigger, thinking about all that square footage he would enjoy after cutting through the wall of his apartment to the now unoccupied Levshovís appartment. ďIíll remove the range from Lewvshovís kitchen. I donít need two kitchens. Iíll make it a living room. Itís strange, I didnít hear the report of the gun. But I did press the trigger. Or did I?Ē

Mityai pressed the trigger once again. Only now he realized that he doesnít feel his finger, doesnít feel the pressure of the trigger on the finger. Mityai looked at his finger and tried to move it. The finger didnít move. Mityai felt panic starting to overwhelm him. He tried to bring his hands closer to his eyes. The arms did not obey. They froze in the extended position with the gun between the hands. Startled, Mityai began to whirl around. The arms, with the hands holding the gun, were stiff as sticks.

- ďStop this circus!Ē - snapped the Colonel, starting to move towards Levshov and Mityai. Levshov looked at the Colonel.

It took the Colonel some time to realize that he didnít feel his legs. They became sort of petrified. The Colonel lost his balance and came down. Fortunately, his hands worked and he managed to land on them.

ďI think that after what has just happened, my further stay here becomes pointless. Excuse me, gentlemen, but I have to leave you.Ē - said Levshov and disappeared round the corner.

When Levshov, running along the corridor, reached a rest-room, an alarm siren went off somewhere inside the building. Fortunately, the restroom was empty. Levshov stopped in front of the sink and opened the faucet. The first thing was to do something about the clothesÖ

Ö A guardís uniform turned out to be fairly convincing. Now, the face. Two lumps of cyborg-bacteria formed under the skin on the left and on the right made the cheekbones look much wider. Levshov looked in the mirror and decided that his jaw also needed some padding out. Then he broadened his nose a little bit. And finally, as an afterthought, he grew under the faucet a little false mustache and stuck it to his upper lip.

When Levshov reappeared in the corridor, the siren was still sounding, and everybody was running along the corridor, strangely enough, in both directions. When the Colonel, who had finally regained control of his legs ran past, Levshov stood at attention and saluted him. The Colonel distractedly glanced at a new guard with broad cheekbones and rakish little mustache, whom he had never seen before, curtly nodded and ran along.

Levshov really had nothing more to do here. But before leaving the building he had to examine the adjacent streets. He asked NanoTech to hook him up to a bird flying over the building. A second later he was looking at the world with the eyes of a pigeon soaring above. Levshov was mostly interested in the street where the main entrance to the building was situated. It was long since the last time Levshov had flown as a pigeon, so the first couple of wing beats were not very successful, the pigeon lost altitude, and for a moment it seemed that he was going to crash. However, the flying skill quickly returned - after all, flying a pigeon is like riding a bicycle, you only need to learn it once and the skill remains for a lifetime. Levshov quickly pulled the pigeon out of a dive, and landed in the street in front of the main entrance. The pigeon walked a few meters along the sidewalk, until he found a suitably large puddle, right opposite the entrance. The water in the puddle suddenly began to grow murky and whitish.

Levshov disconnected from the pigeon and started walking towards the exit. The guard at the exit had only enough time to say ďYour IDÖĒ and turned to stone, as Levshov walked past him.

In the street, a few amazed passers-by could see how a big white bubble started to grow from a puddle right opposite the main entrance to a gloomy imposing building without any signs. In a few seconds the bubble turned into a very strange-looking, compact single-seater car. One could see only one seat under its transparent upper body. There was no driving wheel in front of the seat, no pedals, no control panel. The strangest thing of all was that the car didnít have any doors. In a few more seconds a mustached guard with high cheekbones came out of the building and approached the strange car. A big oval hole suddenly appeared in the carís upper body. The passers-by were staring with their mouths wide open. ďGood morningĒ - said the polite guard, eased himself into the hole, and sat in the only seat there was. The hole immediately healed over as if it had never existed, and the car pulled out without producing any sound or exhaust gases.

In fifteen minutesí time, when Levshov was already driving along an out-of-town highway he saw his pursuers. The car increased its speed. And then it sprouted wings, like aircraft wings. In one more minute it got off the ground, and its wheels dissolved - not retracted or folded, but dissolved, while at the same time the wings became a little longer. In a few more seconds the plane left his pursuers beyond the horizon.

The plane was flying eastwards, towards the rising sun, climbing higher and higher. For the first time in the last few days Levshov had a chance to sit back and consider the situation. He was to account to the NanoTech Network Administratorsí Board for his use of the Administrator Resources, but he was not much concerned about this - he had used the Administrator Resources exclusively for self-defense, this would be corroborated with the records of what his eyes had seen, and he was absolutely confident that the Administratorsí Board will vindicate him. His real concern was that the initial plan of an instant revolution had failed. Of course, he had foreseen the resistance of the System, but he had never expected it to be so vehement - as any inventor he was prone to see only the advantages of his invention, and he had believed that he would be able to make these advantages obvious to anyone. Only now he was beginning to see that the struggle between Communism and Capitalism would continue as long as the struggle between Reason and Instinct inside the human soul. That is, probably, forever. The Administratorsí Board had to come up with a new plan of action.

The plane momentarily entered a cloud to take additional ďraw materialĒ. The engines grew in size, became more powerful. The wings swept back readying to pass through the sound barrier. The plane continued climbing. It became cold in the cockpit. Levshovís clothes started to transform from a guardís uniform into something thick and warm, with a built-in thermal control system. Levshov got warm and fell asleep. He wasnít worried about ground radars - the plane containing no metal was absolutely invisible to them. NanoTech was piloting the plane further and further to the east. Soon, a green carpet of impenetrable Siberian taiga forest was stretching under the plane from horizon to horizonÖ

Epilogue.

In a couple of months after the above events, a retired secret service general started haunting the corridors of the Russian parliament. He was said to had been forced into an early retirement for disgracefully failing a very secret operation. What kind of operation, nobody knew, because it was too secret. It was also rumored that the general had been so much upset by his failure that his mind became slightly deranged. The General would offer to the members of parliament a leaflet written by himself and reproduced on a copier. The title of the leaflet was ďNanotechnology as a Flunky of the International Communo-Masonic ConspiracyĒ. The leaflet stated that the villainous ďmasonic communistsĒ and ďrootless internationalistsĒ contaminated the population and the water with ďgerms remotely controlled by radioĒ, with the aim of subverting the last vestiges of the Russian economy and nationhood by gratuitously providing VCRs and other consumer goods via water taps, as well as by inciting people to stop paying taxes and to dodge military conscription. Further in his leaflet the General mentioned that he had personally arrested the ringleader of the gang that had been carrying out the evil plans of the cosmopolite conspirators, but he soon managed to escape.

ďNowadays Ďcomradeí Levshov changed his tactics.Ē - wrote the General at the end of his leaflet - ďIf you take a sample from your water tap today and look at it through a microscope, you wonít be able to find in it the remotely controlled germs anymore. Most of them have self-destroyed after Levshovís escape. However, I have evidence that Levshov has not recanted his evil designs.

Lately, in Siberian taiga, in the area around Malyi Ulyui mountain range, whole villages started to disappear. To be more exact, the houses remain, all the things inside the houses, even IDs and money remain, but the people are gone. I am absolutely certain that the vicious communist Levshov takes the people away into taiga where he has set up his commune, and feeds people with the water directly form Ulyuika river. The last time he went as far as to brazenly take away a whole district. We have got to put a resolute end to this outrage, before the communist plague in the form of remotely controlled germs has spread all over Russia and ruined it, this time irrevocably.

I propose to drop a nuclear bomb on the Malyi Ulyui mountain range. This is the only way to completely sterilize this focal point of infection with remotely controlled germs. I am perfectly aware that this is a very cruel way of dealing with the situation, and a lot of people will die, but when a limb is infected with gangrene, the only way to save the rest of the body is to amputate it.Ē

The members of parliament usually listened to the retired general for a few minutes, then smiled and called the policeman to take the General out of the parliament house because he was not supposed to be there. But on the next day the General would once again find a way to get into the corridors of power and once again tried to hand out his leaflets.

The ideas of the retired general didnít find an echo even in the hearts of the most ardent supporters of the World Conspiracy Theory. ďGenerally speaking, the General is a well-intentioned old geezerĒ - they would say - ďBut he certainly overdid it with that story about VCRs distributed out of the water tap. His ravings discredit our cause, and it would be a good idea if he received some medical treatmentĒ.

Then the General suddenly ceased to appear. According to some rumors he now lives in an institution where there are ward attendants with a straitjacket always at hand, just in case the General might want to continue his writings about ďmasonic communistsĒ and ďremotely controlled germsĒ.

The current exact whereabouts of Levshov are unknown. It may well indeed be the case that he has retired to Siberian taiga. He might have realized that one should not let us into the Communism just as we are - jealous, greedy and at a loss about what we are supposed to do with our own lives. We would have fought each other, maimed each other, lost any sense of purpose with all that wealth of gratuitous things around us, and ruined our bodies and souls with free supply of vodka. We need somebody to teach us to live a new kind of life, to guide us. We need some rule, some sort of a state. But not the kind we have seen up till now - all of them based on the same model, the model of a pack of wild animals where the top-dog always receives the best piece of meat and the best female just because he is a top-dog. The main objective of a state based on such a model has always been and will always be to dominate the people, rather than serve and help them.

How to build a state based on the Reason instead of the apish instinct? Nobody knows the answer to this question. And it may well be that Levshov, being a true scientist, tries to find an answer in his Siberian experiment on a relatively small group of people, before presenting NanoTech to the whole of the world.

But this doesnít mean that we, each of us, can stop looking for an answer - may be some of us will be able to find it. Just confining ourselves to saying that capitalism and democracy may be bad, but thatís the best the mankind has managed to come up with, wonít do. There is always something better than the best, but we just have not found it yet.

The only thing that is now definitely known about Levshov is that he also has written a book about the World Communist Revolution that all but happened in the summer of 1997. That book presents the events in an entirely different light from the Generalís writings. A very curious book it is. The title is ďThe NanoTech NetworkĒÖ

AL:> DICTATION OVER. CONVERT INTO A TEXT FILE AND POST IT ON THE INTERNET.

NT:> OK

Korolyov, Moscow Region, former USSR

Original Russian version - 1997

English version - 1998

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Copyright © by Alexander Lazarevich, 1997, 1998.
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