Choose Yourself (2002)


Choose Yourself was the final Lyuben Dilov novel. Complications from Parkinson's disease had already deprived his ability to work, but the ever-prescient Dilov had prepared some texts in advance for such an occasion,. So we can safely assume that this was written a few years before it's 2002 release. These are the last two chapters.

EXCERPT



6

After he had checked the water and air systems several times, Dan hermeticised the entire structure and covered it against cosmic dust because it wasn’t known when the future inhabitants would arrive. Then he retired to the cosmolet where he was better protected, flew into a low orbit around Pluto’s moon, and allowed himself time to rest with an electro-dream. He felt satisfied with the work he had done, and he didn’t feel alone among the countless stars.

But the dream vision rushed at him in the image of the three-headed dog, Cerberus. Earlier, he’d been thinking how inappropriate the name of the mythological watchdog of the Underworld was for Pluto’s moon, so in his dream it wasn’t only chasing him, but gaping fiercely with its three heads, obviously wanting to consume him. Dan dropped his weapon and ran with all his power, but he tragically sensed that he wasn’t moving from his place while the three fiery muzzles of the beast were breathing down his neck, and they were about to bite him at any moment.

He was running on the surface of an asteroid that strangely resembled a huge female body perched over impenetrable darkness. The chondrite under his feet was crumbling like sand and from time to time Dan would fall, he kept going, vaguely frightened, crawling on all fours, but the chondrite under him turned into slippery human skin which was even slower to cross because he encountered either hairy craters or female breasts rising before him like mountaintops. There was a terrible darkness all around, it seemed as if the only light came from the body beneath him, and everything around him echoed with the panting of the beastly heads and the laughter of the stars.

Were they laughing at his helplessness? Their mockery turned out to be cruelly heartless because when Dan looked down at himself, he didn’t see any arms, there were no legs. And shaken by their laughter, he sank into the next crater. No, it wasn’t a crater, but a dark hole between two giant thighs whose hips were lost in infinity, so you couldn’t see who they belonged to. Dan started to crawl back out from the overgrown wall of the hole, again realized that he didn’t have any arms or legs, and flew back out into the abyss, but a machine no bigger than a cat stayed attached to his chest. It was obviously exploring the whole of his three-meter cyborg body because it was slowly moving all around it. It crawled up to his hammer-like head and started purring like cats do when they’re content. Brain-Dan nearly trembled with joy that the alien intelligence had finally recognized something self-similar in this shark-cyborg, and he happily yelled out,

“I am human! There’s such a variety of intelligence in this galaxy too, but it’s all trapped inside people’s heads. Their heads look different than mine though because they couldn’t come here with their normal heads, but I am an intellect, believe me…”

Despite his assurances, the little machine pulled out a borer that looked like an auger and sunk it straight into the center of Dan’s outspread head, perhaps thinking that his words were coming from there. Dan roared from the pain, heard his own melancholy moan, and woke up at last.

But the phantom pain - almost like a double spasm - was delightful. It had looked like an escape from the unknown and the impotence ahead of him, it had looked like a familiar relationship with a distant humanity which he himself was the property of. For him, this humanity had made a cosmolet to carry him through the dark spaces and created a body that could withstand the ice and fire of the Cosmos. It was a humanity that could already protect its own intelligence and could give the opportunity to make breakthroughs in distant mysteries.

But weren’t there people, at this very moment, recklessly drilling their borers into Virginis? Haven’t they been torturing her, like the unknown apparatus in the dream? No, even if they didn’t believe his words, Earth researchers would be extremely cautious in gradually uncovering what was emitting so many rays! But no matter what he told himself for comfort, the anxiety in him continued to tremble like a heavily pulled string, buzzing in its lowest tone, humming in all the parts of his mighty body. He had never felt anxiety like this before, and it obviously wasn’t the voice of his absurd dreams.

According to his nuclear clock, accurate to the second for a billion years, Virginis was probably already approaching the Earth, but it was not yet captured by it.

The extraordinary signal made him almost jump. His body, of course, wasn’t capable of reacting in that way, but the brain in him did seem to actually jump. Was there anything wrong with his child, with Ruth?

“Dan,” said the operator from the Institute for the Study of the Outer Planets. “We’re sorry, but your package didn’t make it to us. At Ceres, where they keep the route clear, they didn’t receive your warnings. They calculated that the unknown asteroid was headed straight to Earth and they blew it up with nuclear missiles. The matter is over. We expect you to continue your work as usual. End transmission!”

The cyborg lay for a long time motionless in the middle of the cosmolet. But it wasn’t so much the message that seemed to be pinning him there, as much as the mock calmness with which it was delivered.

Long and overly long, everything in him was silent, and it seemed as if everything were immobile until one of the AIs called out with its machine logic: Studies have shown that the impulses of telepathy move not at the speed of light, but unknowably faster under still undeciphered laws of the EPR paradox - Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen. For Earth to find out what’s happening at Ceres, the message to get to the Institute of Outer Planets and be processed and sent to Pluto, would take at least thirty hours. But you experienced the anxiety synchronously, therefore the matter is not over. Whatever elicited the telepathic impulse has escaped the explosion of the asteroid unharmed and is now hovering somewhere between Ceres and Mars...

Dan ceased to listen to it because he wasn’t sure if it really was one of his AIs, or if these assurances came only from hope. He briskly dialed the alarm code into the cosmolet’s super-powerful transmitter and “roared” to everyone in the entire Solar System,

“Idiots! Absolutely irresponsible idiots!” Of course, “roaring” was only a euphemism for these insults to humanity, for he pronounced them with a charming voice synthesized for cunning. “How could you destroy the only extraterrestrial intelligence that has ever entered our planetary system? Send expeditions to the site of the blast immediately! Bring people with telepathic abilities to seek out something that has survived! But with such idiots as you all, I will never return! I’m going to Virginis orbit to find out who sent it and where from. So, build another cosmolet if you want there to be people on Pluto, the station is on its companion, it’s ready for them. You have my calculations for the orbit of the asteroid. So you know where your transmission will catch up with me, even though I don’t want to talk to you anymore!”

He was so angry that he forgot the mandatory “end transmission”!

7

After that, with the help of the AIs, he assessed the risks awaiting him. The cosmolet’s power supplies weren’t unlimited. And though calculated to last for centuries, the internal reserves that sustained brain Dan’s fresh blood weren’t unlimited either, and a dozen engines were doing some job or another... But all of this was laughably small compared to the distances in this incomprehensible-to-humans time-space that Lady Universe occupies. So how could he be angry with her that she didn’t care about him...

For the calls from Earth trying to stop him, he ceased responding altogether, muttering his threats to himself, encouraging himself with them,

“And I should have told you that I am Earth’s intelligence in its purest form, but you, you’re such fools! And you have no right to command me or to ask me to serve you! Somewhere on the opposite side of Virginis orbit a more clever intelligence awaits us, and it will find a way to deal with us. I know, humankind always comes to its senses late. The point is, I’m not alone any more…”

He would go as close as possible to the planets of 70 Virginis, even with the risk of being unable to return, and constantly bombard them with all the signals that humanity has. He would try to tell them that they have met their messenger. They will be filled with the joy of all humankind at having discovered a like mind relatively close to their own Sun...

Can joy be expressed in mathematical formulas?

There were many, many years to think about it, as long as hope doesn’t leave him. But hope seemed to have filled his entire cybernetic body. It was still incapable of excitement in human terms, so it could do its work with precision, but still, there seemed to be something new in it, and it seemed to be called hope.

Could there be hope in a cyborg?

Now the cosmolet’s autopilot was carrying him at the utmost speed. And the enclosed brain, called Dan, with the help of the AIs around him, gradually ceased to be excited. He was recognizing and coming to understand: in the coming decades, he would dream of the Earth many, many times. He would howl voicelessly from the phantom pain of his burning Earth body, and that pain would be the only thing still connecting him to that distant planet.

From time to time, he was pressed by the impulse of the engine’s acceleration, but it would only last a few seconds. Otherwise, his thoughts moved incessantly and impassively like distant lights. And they only allowed a merry joke: “I’m coming! Wait for me! Prepare the most festive reception in the Galaxy..!”

Of course, this wasn’t what his transmitters reported in all directions of the Milky Way. The intimation was only spoken inside the brain of Dan, as the impulses of the cosmolet engines boosted his confidence that he was no longer alone in the dark silence. It was this confidence that made him suddenly turn to, just once more, the frequency of the Institute for the Study of the Outer Planets.

His words would arrive there in a month after his associates had already stopped talking about the expensive equipment and were trying to get back some of the money by proving that the Institute of Avante-garde Computer Technology had sold them an unreliable cyborg.

“My son!” This address by the willful cyborg to the operators could be proof of the expensive machine’s madness, so they recorded it carefully. “Tell them not to curse at me in vain, but to never stop trying to lift Earth out of its loneliness! And tell them, son, that human dignity is lost when it’s harnessed for inappropriate purposes. The path of reason in the universe, son, always leads us to each other. Only common feelings and common thoughts can mold chaos together into some reasonable order. Let's meet sometime and someplace, son! Beyond hope there is only death.”

The Institute of the Outer Planetary Belt didn’t even consider that the cyborg had sent these words to his own unseen son, and this would turn out to be the last misunderstanding between them. And having mistaken the address in his feverish diligence, Dan had the sudden thought that the person who emerged from his seed would probably end up wondering one day why his father hadn’t left him any word of farewell. This future man would be merged with that biomass calling itself humankind that Dan despised, but even from billions of kilometers away one could see here and there pulsating balls of brain matter just like his own. Like the electronic stars, tirelessly throbbing amongst their banal or dead siblings.

And as if to escape from his own galaxy, Dan moved to the other, the third universe. For now, of all humans, only he could reach it, but this time he saw it in a very different way. Could it be that his powerful and not-so-easily deceived senses were still influenced by the human ones behind them? This time, the brain Daniel Dimick who had been working all his life with every figure and formula that bored everyone else saw the universe as a colorful and joyously vibrating electronic net in which the all the particles that get captured are endlessly playing, and he himself, composed of the same particles, played along cheerfully and carefree with the entire universe.

Does that intelligence at 70 Virginis see it the same way? Does the true binding of things in the universe truly occur when hope appears? Does the universe then become enthusiastic and benevolent towards humans? And is it the human, or their intelligence, that is ever forming the universe into a singular emotional world where there is room for cyborgs, only not as participants in the endless mad performance, of course, but as spectators in a tiny side lodge?

Seemingly, the bundle of good and cheerful particles that was brain Dan had retained the ability to question and revisit the beginning of the universe when “nothing existed”. He sank into his short sleep, which was also cheerful even though it ended with the already chronic phantom pain. The pain seemed to be shorter this time, implying that the feeling was vitally necessary, so he would have to carry it with him to 70 Virginis.

Lying still as a stalking reptile, watching the rosary of his eyes on the big screen of the cosmolet, Dan had already entered into the decades towards which he was bearing. If they had been able to preserve his ability to smile, he would have even smiled like a man pleased with himself. What’s it to him to wait a few decades? Mankind has been waiting for its own self-determination for so many millennia!

On the big screen, the star 70 Virginis still seemed unattainably distant, despite the rising acceleration of the cosmolet. But it was already speaking to him in a completely different language. He only had to learn and understand it.