What if humans were food for other creatures?
Vegans of the world, unite!
Part 1: The Experiment
Gordon: Freeman, don't be such a pain! I know I'm right! We haven't budged for a year and a half. For a year and a half, we’ve been doing the same thing every day. And we haven't gotten one bit closer to our goal. We're definitely doing something wrong. And I know what it is! (he jabs himself in the chest several times with his index finger)
Freeman: Gordon, we simply have to find the correct frequency for the laser, and that's it! We're so close already. But you want us to make a very dangerous decision. We're not allowed to increase the power of the radiation, and you know that perfectly well.
Gordon: Yeah, screw whatever we're allowed and not allowed to do! (he waves his hand in disdain) This is our project and we can do what we want with it.
Freeman: Ohhh (sighs), Gordon, you know just as well as you know the rules that it's also really dangerous to increase the power. We don't even know what exactly could happen. Gordon, we're not just making smartphones here. We're making the world's first teleportation device. This is technology straight out of science fiction!
Gordon: Exactly! We need to be bolder. Freeman, I'm sure that the reason the quantum field is collapsing isn't because of the frequency, but because there's not enough power. We just need to increase the power and everything will work out.
Freeman: Do you at least realize that if anything goes wrong, a tiny black hole will appear right here in our lab? I don't even want to think about what it could do! And all the calculations show that increasing the power won't lead us to success…
That’s when a waiter approaches and takes a questioning look at the arguing men.
Waiter: Good afternoon, gentlemen. I take it that you will be having the usual? (takes a look at Gordon) Roast lamb with vegetables for you, (takes a look at Freeman) and veal with asparagus for you? Is that right?
Gordon: Yes, thank you, that's right.
Freeman simply nods his head.
Freeman: Gordon, let's not rush, let's check the calculations again, run some computer models…
Gordon takes out a pack of cigarettes and starts smoking.
Gordon: Do whatever you want, Freeman, but I'm increasing the power tomorrow anyhow. I can't wait any longer. It’ll take at least another month to run the models. And our model isn't perfect, it neglects a number of factors, and… anyway, Freeman, are you with me or not?
Freeman: Mmmm (begins to rub his face with the palm of his hand) I don't know, Gordon.
As Gordon finishes his cigarette, Freeman sits silently, staring into space. Gordon puts out his cigarette in the ashtray and takes a look at Freeman.
Freeman: Okay. Okay, let's try increasing the power. But promise me that if something goes wrong, if some kind of unexpected things start happening, you'll immediately cut off the lasers.
Gordon: Don't worry, Freeman, I haven't gone completely out of my mind. Everything will be fine. You'll see. You'll be thanking me when they give you the Nobel Prize! (cheerfully gives his friend a pat on the shoulder) Waiter, waiter! (waving his hand) Do bring us your best bottle of wine from the cellar.
The waiter nods and walks away.
Freeman: I hope you're right.
The next morning Freeman comes into the lab, where Gordon is already sitting and energetically typing something on the computer.
Gordon: Oh, there you are! Good morning. You know, I couldn't get to sleep last night, and eventually I came in at night. I already calibrated the lasers for the new power capacity and installed new lenses. Give me another fifteen minutes or so, and I'll reprogram the software for the new data. Did you grab the control objects?
Freeman: Yeah. (shows him the box that he is holding in his hands) You realize that each one of these costs almost twenty thousand dollars? And we used up more than a hundred of them in the last month alone.
Gordon: Yeah, but what can we do? Everything's going to work – it will more than cover all the expenses. Freeman, you and I are about to revolutionize global science! I can just feel that this day will go down in history! Okay, anyway, go prepare the control objects. And check the lasers one more time, please. I'm so excited today that I could forget something.
An hour later, everything is ready for the experiment.
Gordon: How's it going, are the items ready?
Freeman: Everything’s ready. We can begin. But Gordon, I'm asking you, monitor the radiation strength manually. If something goes wrong, knock the hell out of the power source.
Gordon: Don't worry, bro. I'll monitor everything. Let's go to the controls.
They approach the lab’s control panel. Gordon sits at the computer and begins clicking. Freeman stands next to the instrument panel to monitor the results.
Freeman: Gordon, the camera is on. Start the experiment.
Gordon: Got it. One second… okay… applying voltage to the lasers. Here we go.
On the control panel, some lights come on. The lasers come to life and begin to buzz. After a few seconds, a blue glow appears between the two pillars.
Gordon: Okay, get the control items ready. I'm starting to increase the power.
Freeman: The items are ready.
Gordon: Okay, then we're increasing the power. Okay, a bit more, and more, excellent.
The blue glow becomes more saturated and intense. Freeman's eyes are glued to the data displayed on the monitors.
Freeman: Gordon, something isn't right, the quantum field voltage is increasing too quickly.
Gordon:Just a bit more, Freeman. Look, everything is working. The field is almost stable.
Freeman: Gordon, all the readings are spiking. Turn everything the hell off!
Gordon: We almost did it. Let the control object go!
Freeman: Dammit, Gordon, turn off that freaking laser! Turn it off, I'm telling you!
Freeman runs over to Gordon, attempting to turn off the power source himself, but does not manage on time. The last thing he sees is a flash of bright light.
Part 2: Gordon, what have you done?
They regain consciousness in a glade near a little forest. Parts of their lab – computers, equipment, pieces of lasers and other types of trash – are scattered all around. It is warm outside. The sun is still just above the horizon. It looks like it’s still early morning.
Gordon: Phew….what the hell was that? Freeman, hey, Freeman, are you alive?
Freeman: (kneels down and begins to rub his eyes) I don’t fucking know if I’m alive or not. Where are we? (he looks around). Gordon, damn you, look what you’ve done!
Gordon: Well, looks like our lab is done for. But what the hell happened anyway? Apparently, we’ve been teleported somewhere. And it seems like we’re on Earth.
Freeman: What happened? Because of you, a black hole exploded in our lab! That’s what happened! And it looks like it wasn’t just our lab, but the whole research center suffered. Gordon, when we come back, you’ll be sent to prison. Or even better, directly to an asylum!
Gordon: Stop harping, Freeman! Let’s get up and go look for signs of civilization. Apparently, the black hole had sent us somewhere. Look, the sun is over there, so the south is there too. Come on, Freeman, get up, let’s go towards the south.
Freeman: (mumbles something to himself)
Gordon stops and begins to dig through his pockets.
Gordon: Freeman, do you have your phone? I left mine in the closet.
Freeman: I have it, but there is no connection. Apparently, we are too far from any cities.
Gordon: Turn it off so that the battery doesn’t die. And follow me.
They head south. About two hours later they reach the edge of a big field. Far off in the distance there is a big can be seen. Part of the field is enclosed with something similar to a fence.
Freeman: Look, Gordon, there are some people there. A lot of them. Hmm, what are they doing?
Gordon: Looks like they are working in the field. Look at this weird fence, Freeman. It reminds me of laser beams. I wonder what it is. Let’s get a little closer.
They go right up to the beams. Freeman tries to pass his hand over the beams, but after barely touching them, he jerks his hand back and cries out.
Freeman: Damn it, damn it! What is this thing? Oh, ouch!
Gordon: What is it, what happened?
Freeman: I got electrocuted, or something like that. My hand is paralyzed (he begins to rub his right hand and moan)
Gordon: (looks attentively at the beams once again) Hmm, I wonder what kind of beams these are. Strange, very strange. Look, Freeman, there are people sitting on the other side of the fence. Let’s go and ask them what’s going on over here. How is your hand?
Freeman doesn’t answer and trudges towards the people.
When they come closer, they see several people. They are all men, quite well-nourished. Their heads are shaved, and they have practically no clothing on. Only some rags cover their bodies below the waist. Their bodies, arms and faces are dirty. They are sitting by a trough and eating something that resembles porridge. Freeman comes closer to the fence and addresses the men.
Freeman: Hey, guys! Could you tell us… umm… what is this place? We are looking for the nearest city with a mobile network. I’m not getting any reception here.
The men don’t seem to pay any attention to them. They continue sitting on the ground and eating their porridge. Freeman looks back at Gordon and shrugs his shoulders, perplexed.
Freeman: Excuse me, do you speak English?
The men look at the strangers, but without any interest.
Gordon comes up to Freeman and whispers into his ear.
Gordon: Freeman, something is wrong here. Look at their faces, look at their eyes. They seem so empty and lifeless. That one over there is staring straight before himself and doesn’t react to anything. And this weird fence. They look like slaves. But why are they so well-fed?
Freeman: Yes, really. Listen, maybe they are on drugs? Maybe it’s a rehab hospital? Look over there, about fifty more people sitting just the same way. And there are just as many over to that side.
Man: Hey, you, Humies! Are you lost? (he says it in English, but with some strange accent)
Gordon and Freeman turn around. It appears that one of the men has gotten up, come up to the fence, and is now standing a few meters away from them. His face is smeared with porridge. He is looking at the strangers with his sad apathetic eyes.
Freeman: Sir, I beg your pardon again. We are scientists from California and we’re looking for the nearest city…
After hearing these words, the man suddenly bursts out laughing. He laughs so hard that he falls down and starts rolling on the ground in a fit of laughter until he is foaming at the mouth. He seems to be going insane. Then he suddenly gets up and roams back towards the others with the same empty expression on his face.
Gordon and Freeman stand frozen, not knowing how to react. Gordon grabs his friend’s sleeve.
Gordon: Let’s go, Freeman. Let’s get out of here.
Freeman: Did you see that? Looks like something is really wrong with them. Damn it, where did we end up, Gordon?
Gordon: I don’t know, I’ve no idea, but we should try to get out of here as soon as possible. Let’s walk that way, I can see some buildings over there.
They walk along the forest. The field with the unusual fence is indeed next to a small town. Coming up even closer, they see an unusual futuristic building, and, adjacent to it is a large square with some sort of hard surface, which looks like a parking lot. The friends are so glad to see this building that they rush to find the entrance and take a look inside.
Gordon: Freeman, hey, it looks like these glass doors are the entrance. Let’s go!
Freeman: (looking around suspiciously) What an unusual building, don’t you think, Gordon? Look, what’s that over there? (he points at an object nearby, which resembles a vehicle in a way, but has no wheels).
Gordon: Freeman, let’s go to the door! I’m sure you’ll have enough time to admire the local architecture later on.
They come up to a large tinted glass door that opens automatically as soon as they come within 2 meters.
Freeman: Gordon, did you see that? There was some lighted sign with some strange symbols. Definitely not English, more like Chinese or maybe…
He doesn’t have time to finish speaking, because Gordon, who’s been walking in front of him, suddenly stops and Freeman bumps into his back full-force, and his glasses fall down on the floor.
Gordon: Holy shit! (he stops and stands frozen, unable to utter a word)
Freeman: What the hell, Gordon! (he bends down to pick up his glasses from the floor). You almost broke my glasses!
Gordon remains standing silently. His mouth is open in surprise.
Freeman: (he puts on his glasses and looks around) For God’s sake…
They are standing in a room very similar to… a butcher’s shop.
Just across from them is a table with ice and human legs chopped off at the hip. Some of them are already partially skinned. Right there, in the ice, there are a few severed human heads. On the left and right are the refrigerated display cases with fresh meat, entrails, liver, brains, kidneys, lungs and more on metallic trays. There are human legs and are hanging behind the counter, on the wall – all cured in some way like Iberian ham.
Gordon walks slowly along a display case with different organs.
Gordon: Good Lord! Freeman, is this what I think it is? Just look here (he points at something inside the display case). Those are penises, Freeman! Shit! (he swears with relish).
Freeman: (he remains stunned, unable to say a word, and stares, spellbound, at the human heads)
Gordon: Look, Freeman, there’s a board with something written on it next to each tray. They look like price tags in a store. I just can’t see any numbers.
He comes back to his friend and, seeing that he’s motionless, nudges his shoulder.
Freeman: Gordon, what do you think, is all of this human?
Gordon: (he points to a wall to their right with his forefinger) It is, judging by this ad.
Freeman looks over to where Gordon is pointing. There is a big screen on the wall resembling a plasma TV, about 3x3 meters, with happy smiling people with children against the background of green meadows along with some unintelligible symbols.
Freeman: You mean to say that it is a human meat shop? Have you gone nuts or what?
Gordon: So, you’ve got a different idea?
Freeman comes closer to the display case.
Freeman: Maybe it’s some prank, or they’re shooting a movie here?
Freeman sees something in the display case that suddenly makes him sick. His eyes blank out, and his stomach turns inside out. He doesn’t even have time to look away. His breakfast suddenly materializes right on the display case glass.
Gordon approaches his friend.
Gordon: Are you okay? What did you see – penises? Let me give you a handkerchief.
He is about to take a handkerchief from his pocket, when out of the corner of his eye, he notices that someone is standing behind him. He turns around and freezes. Some strange creature is standing ten steps away from them. It is considerably bigger than a human, about 2.5 meters tall. It’s got a short body with long skinny legs and long sinewy arms with long fingers. Its head resembles an oblong egg. Its face is clearly non-human – the creature has huge convex black eyes, like those of a dragonfly, a very long nose, and a small mouth at the very bottom of its head. It is dressed in a leather shirt and a blood-covered apron.
Creature: Hey, you, motherfuckers! What are you doing here?! Where are your owners?! Get out of here!
Freeman and Gordon can’t understand what the creature is saying, as they can only hear something like Rrrar uhhrr varrr rurr ssssshvak.
Freeman dashes towards the door so quickly that it doesn’t have time to open, and he bumps into it extremely hard and falls down on the floor, unconscious. Gordon grabs him by the collar and drags him outside, cursing. He drags him off to the side from the door and begins trying to bring him around.
Gordon: Freeman, damn you, wake up, son of a bitch! Wake up, I’m telling you!
At that moment, he hears the already familiar rrrar varrrbehind his back.
He turns back and sees two creatures standing nearby. One of them has some kind of a stick with a tip that he points directly at Gordon. A moment later, a blue beam emerges from the stick and Gordon loses consciousness.
Part 3: At the dispensary
Freeman wakes up first. Unable to find his glasses, he begins squinting and looking around. He is sitting alone on the floor of a cage. There are other cages nearby, in which people seem to be sitting. He looks into the neighboring cage and sees that Gordon is lying in there, on the floor.
Freeman: Gordon! Gordon, wake up. Do you hear me? Gordon!
Gordon: Oohhhhh (he gets up and sits on the floor) Dammit, I feel so weak all over. What about you?
Freeman: Fine. My head just hurts a bit. And I lost my glasses.
Gordon: Well, you sure hit that door really good. You should have seen yourself (laughing quietly). Freeman, did you see them?
Freeman: Them? I only saw one – that one at the store. So there were others?
Gordon: Uh-huh. Two more came about later, and one of them used some device to knock me out. What the hell is going on? Freeman, those weren't people!
Freeman: Maybe we're on another planet?
Gordon: I doubt it. It really looks a lot like the Earth. And the sun is the same. And the nature. And there are people here, too. No, something else is going on. (he begins to scratch his forehead) But it’s a good guess. Who knows what these black holes are capable of.
Freeman: Well, we've won the Nobel Prize. Now we'll probably rot here. Or end up in that store.
They don’t notice that a stranger in a neighboring cage is listening to their conversation.
Elusive: Hey, Humie, where'd you pick up all these smartass words? Black holes, parallel universes… are you from the circus or something? And where are your collars?
Gordon and Freeman look at the stranger. He is muscular and sun-tanned with a short haircut. His face is decorated with several manly scars and he’s got a massive earring in his ear.
Freeman: We're scientists from California.
Elusive: Hahahahahaha (he starts guffawing so loudly that Freeman flinches out of surprise)
Gordon: Must be another madman. Now he'll start foaming at the mouth.
But he does not. The stranger stops laughing and stares at the scientists.
Elusive: I haven't laughed like that in a long time! You guys are definitely from the circus! Anyway, let me introduce myself. My name is Elusive. I'm a free Humie! (he says it with special pride in his voice)
Gordon: Hmm, I see… and doesn’t this cage interfere with your freedom?
Elusive: (waving his hand) None of this matters! I'm going to escape soon. I’ve escaped from such horrible places that the city human dispensary seems like paradise in comparison. I ran away from the slaughterhouse three times, from the farm twice, two times from leather factories, and who knows what else. I'd rather die than become a steak or a shirt for these damned Boogeys!
Freeman: Boogey? Who’s that? And who are Humies?
Elusive: Humies are like me and you, the human race. And Boogeys… Boogeys are those bloodthirsty creatures (he points somewhere in another direction) Were you guys born yesterday or what?
Freeman: You might say so. Sir, could you please tell us where we are at? That is, what country? Uhhh, planet? Year?
Elusive: (takes a hard look at Freeman) Yeah, I can tell you're completely insane. Maybe they staged some experiments on you? But sure, okay. I'll tell you everything (sits on the floor). Basically, we're here on the planet Earth! Heard of it? (he takes a look at Gordon, then at Freeman) Okay. We're at one of the Humie dispensaries in the suburbs of Hrrra City. Got it? The year is 354 since the Great Arrival.
Freeman and Gordon take a look at each other.
Gordon: And what is a Humie dispensary? And why did we end up here?
Elusive: You're here because you're Humies, like me. And this place – it's a distribution center: from here, they'll send us off to turn us into meat, or to get our skin or hair, or to conduct experiments. Well, or if you get really lucky, you'll become some Boogey’s pet.
Freeman: But who are these damned Boogeys anyway? Why do people let the Boogeys do all this to them? Where’s our government? Where’s the army?
Elusive: Army? Government? Hahahahaha (he produces another loud laugh). What did they give you guys? (laughs, then suddenly becomes very serious) The Boogeys came from outer space. At least, that's what people say. They say we weren't always just food and clothing for them. People used to be free. They built their own cities, did all kinds of things. Had families. And then, apparently, they enslaved us. And now they do whatever they want with us.
Gordon: And do many people live on the planet now?
Elusive: A lot. Several billions, they say.
Gordon: Hmm, and why don't people just stage an uprising, then?
Elusive: They tried. And they keep trying. But these damned Boogeys have all kinds of unbelievable technologies. So nothing does any good. All the riots end the same way – with the rioters getting turned into meat! Have you seen their spears? They can stun us or turn any one of us into a pile of dust instantaneously. And they wear those amulets. They protect them from everything – knives, sticks, rocks. They even protect them from bullets! Those amulets of theirs create… eh, what are they called… around their bodies… force lines…
Freeman: Force fields?
Elusive: Exactly! Force fields. So, those fields protect them. And Boogeys are bigger and stronger than us. Not many people could manage a Boogey bareknuckle one on one.
Freeman: How do you know all this?
Elusive: I travel a lot. There are people who still haven't forgotten science yet. I talk to them. I find books in old ruins. That's how, basically.
Gordon: Are there human settlements nearby?
Elusive: Nah, there's nothing for a hundred miles around. There are hardly any wild human settlements left. Almost everyone lives on the farms.
Freeman squats and covers his face with his hands.
Freeman: I can't believe it… this doesn't even make sense… Gordon, do you believe all this nonsense?
Gordon: Well… my mind refuses to believe it, but the facts speak for themselves – it seems pretty convincing. You saw that store yourself. And the butcher…
Freeman suddenly jumps up, comes up to the cage door and begins to hit it with his leg, yelling something inarticulate.
Elusive: Be quiet, you idiot, be quiet! Looking for an electric shock? Their spears don't just stun – they can hurt you really bad. I've learned that firsthand (he scratches his lower back)
Freeman looks at Elusive, then at Gordon.
Gordon: Freeman, he's right. Calm down and be quiet! We need to get out of here somehow! Elusive, right? You said that you're escaping soon, yeah? Take us with you.
Elusive wants to say something, but doesn't manage in time. Footsteps and some unclear sounds can be heard. Two Boogeys are walking around the cages and chirping away about something in their language.
Guard: They brought them in today. And found them near one of the local meat farms. One of them retched right in a butcher shop… imagine that. We haven't found their owners. They didn't have any collar or brand. And they're dressed kind of strangely. Maybe they're from the circus? Anyway, we decided to call you. There they are. Cages 44 and 45.
The second Boogey looks at the cages in which Gordon and Freeman are sitting.
Professor: I'm glad you called me. Give me a couple of minutes, I'll figure everything out.
The Professor approaches Gordon's cage.
Professor:Hey, fella! How are you doing?
Gordon stares at the creature in amazement. It is exactly like the one in the butcher's shop, with the same awkward long arms and legs, a small round body and a head resembling that of an insect. Only this one is dressed differently.
Gordon: Holy crap! Freeman, did you hear what he said? He can speak English! Uh, can you speak English?
Professor: Yes, I cccan. With a bit of an akkcent, but I understand everything. My name is Professor Agkkkart, you can simply call me Professor. Where did you escape from?
Gordon: I don't even know how to answer… Professor. (he shrugs his shoulders)
Freeman interjects from the next cage over.
Freeman: Who cares, you're going to send us to the slaughterhouse anyway, right?
Professor: No, no, that's not why I ckkame. I will try to get you out of here. But I need to know where you are from.
Gordon: Professor, I'm afraid you won't like our answer. We're scientists from California. Now you can laugh!
Professor: (completely serious) From Kkkalifornia? Funny… That name has not been used for a very long time. But anyway, we'll figure that out later. And what kind of scientists are you, what do you study?
Gordon: Physics – unified field theory.
Professor: Hmm… what are you, playing me for a fool?
Gordon: I said you wouldn't like our answer. Professor, you can believe us or not, but we really are physicists. Believe me, we are no less surprised than you by what has happened and how we've ended up here. My colleague and I were conducting an experiment… uh, in our world, so to speak… well, and something went wrong. The last thing I remember is a bright flash. And then we woke up in your world.
Professor: I frequently deal with Humies who say all sorts of crazy things. But they are all mentally ill. And you look kkkompletely healthy and normal. You want to tell me that you're from another world? Like a parallel universe, yes?
Freeman: We don't know exactly what happened. But we have proof. I'll show you something…
Freeman reaches into his pocket and takes out a smartphone. Strangely enough, it is intact and unharmed. The screen is not even cracked.
Freeman: Look here (he sticks his hand, holding the phone, out of the bars of the cage, closer to the Professor), these are photos from our world. Here, this is Gordon and I in our lab, and here too. And this is my family. Here we're sitting in a restaurant in San Francisco. And here Gordon and I are in Silicon Valley.
The Professor examines at the photos on Freeman's phone with interest. Then extended a hand towards it.
Professor: May I takkke a lookkk?
Freeman carefully places the smartphone into the creature's hands. They have very long, thin fingers. But, nonetheless, the Professor deftly grabs the telephone and begins to turn it in his hands and examine it.
Professor: This is amazing! Brilliant! Where did you manage to find a workkking specimen? (takes a look at Freeman)… Ah, yes… I forgot. You know, I've seen this symbol before. This one (points at the logo on the smartphone). It is the half-eaten fruit of one of the lockkal trees, yes? Very interesting… this is ancient human teckkhnology. I often find such items in places where human cities used to be. But they are usually defeckktive. And this one works. Astonishing…
Gordon: So, Professor, will you help us? Do you believe us?
Professor: Well, it's an unusual case. Of ckkourse I will help you. And then we will figure out the seckkret of your appearance. Anyway, sit qkkuietly, I'll arrange everything.
The Professor gives Freeman his smartphone back and goes over to the guard. They begin to talk about something in their unusual language, which sounds like chirping.
Guard: Well, how are the critters, Professor?
Professor: They will do. I'm taking them. Don't put them down in the journal, please. (he quickly slips something into the guard's hand)
Guard: Of course, of course, Professor. Let's go, I'll open the cages. I heard out of the corner of my ear that you know their language. Funny. It must be really primitive, right? I heard somewhere that they have several languages, not just one. Why do they need so many languages?
The Professor does not answer.
The guard opens Freeman and Gordon's cages.
Professor: Come with me. Walk silently and stay close to me.
They walk alongside cages in which people are sitting – men, women, children. The majority are dirty and naked. They look at the passersby with tired empty eyes. A little boy is sitting and crying loudly in one of the cages.
Gordon: Professor, is it true that the majority of them will be turned into meat and leather?
Professor: Most likely, yes.
Gordon: Even the children?
Professor: Let's discuss that later.
One of the prisoners jumps up from the ground as the group passes by his cage. He runs over to the bars and starts yelling.
Prisoner: Hey, you, bastards! You still haven't gotten sick of killing us, you damned brutes! Damn you all!!! But whatever, you'll get what's coming! You hear me, you egg-headed freaks? You hear?! (he begins hitting the bars with his legs and arms)
The guard approaches the cage and takes out some sort of stick. Within a second, the prisoner is lying on the ground and writhing in painful convulsions.
Guard: He's gone completely berserk – we need to send ones like that to the slaughterhouse right away. Professor, what did he yell? He’s hungry, right?
Professor: Yes, yes… he's very hungry, that's why he's yelling. Feed him when he comes around.
The Professor and the scientists go outside and head towards some means of transportation, which is standing on the ground a couple dozen meters from the building. It looks like a minibus, but without wheels.
Freeman: Gordon, look! (he points at a similar vehicle which has come in for a landing. It spins in the air and silently descends to the ground.) Holy crap…
Professor: That's enough finger-pointing. You're acting unusually for Humies. Into the aerocar, quickly. (the aerocar doors fly open)
Gordon and Freeman jump into the car and sit down. The seats are more than big enough for humans, since Boogeys are much larger. The Professor perches in a seat across from them and chirps something in his language. The doors close and, an instant later, the car begins to gain altitude quickly. Thirty more seconds go by, and it is flying in line with cars at the height of 500 meters above the ground. Gordon and Freeman, glued to the car's windows, examine the city above which, or through which, they are flying. For a second, they forget what kind of a mess they have ended up in.
Part 4: This is not a parallel universe!
The Professor's residence is located in a private house in the suburbs of a large city, which is built on the site of the former Los Angeles. The majority of Boogeys live in large skyscrapers – hives. The aerocar lands on the platform in front of the house. The Professor hurries to invite his friends into the house. The house is very spacious. Boogeys’ taste in issues of comfort turns out similar to that of humans. The Professor's house could easily be mixed up with a human one – only with higher ceilings, larger rooms and bigger furniture.
Professor: Makkkke yourselves at home, my friends. (he points at a room that looks like a living room). You must be hungry? I'll feed you now.
The Professor goes into the next room.
Freeman: Gordon, do you trust this Professor? Maybe he brought us here to do experiments on us, like we do experiments with rabbits and rats?
Gordon: It doesn't seem like it… If he wanted to use us as expendable material, he'd have brought us here in cages. Like rats. Or do you think he's a humane butcher and decided to feed us before sticking some devices up our butts?
Freeman: Then what does he want from us?
At that moment, the Professor appears with two jars in his hands.
Professor: Here, friends. Here is some food for you. Help yourselves.
He gives each one of them a can and sits in a large armchair. Gordon takes the jar and starts to examine it. The can has an image of a beautiful woman with a bow on her head. But she is absolutely naked.
Gordon: Freeman, look, they put pornography on their canned food. Professor, what is this?
Professor: It's the best food for pet Humies… for people. It has everything that you need to be healthy and happy. Damn it, I'm talking like I’m in an ad. (he laughs) Our scientists have developed the ideal diet for you. It consists mainly of vegetables, amino acids, vitamins, dietary fiber, fiber, some fats.
Freeman sniffs the food and wants to pounce on it, but then realizes that he does not have a spoon.
Freeman: Professor, do you have utensils?
Professor: Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot! Usually Humies eat with their hands. But I have already come to learn that you are not entirely typical Humies.
A minute later, the scientists are silently devouring the food from the cans.
It is a bit challenging, since the utensils the Professor gave them are a bit too large for human hands. But at least there is more than enough food in the big cans. While they are eating, Professor examines Freeman’s smartphone attentively. In under 10 minutes the cans are already empty, and the scientists are full.
Gordon: Professor, can you please tell us, what isthis place we’ve ended up in?
Professor: I don’t even know where to start. Freeman, these numbers on your device stand for the date and time, right?
Freeman: Yes, you can see here – September 24th, 2020.
Professor: That’s inckkredible! That’s just inckkredible! (he throws the smartphone on the sofa and stares at the scientists)
Gordon: What, what is incredible?
Professor: It’s inckkkredible that by the old human ckkronology, it is the year 2424 now!
Gordon: How do you know that? And what does that mean – by the old human chronology?
Professor: I’ve been studying humans my whole life! I kkknow your history, the history of your society, your ckkustoms and many other things. What did you do in that Ckkalifornia of yours?
Gordon: We were developing teleportation technology.
Professor: And you got a time machine instead!
Gordon and Freeman look at each other.
Gordon: Are you saying that we’ve ended up in the future?
Professor: Exackktly! Apparently, something went wrong, and instead of traveling through space you traveled through time! This is just inckkredible! Without your smartphone and your unusual ckklothing, I’d never have believed you!
Freeman stares at the Professor with his mouth wide open.
Professor: And what is even more inckkredible is that you came right to me! Time travelers from the past came right to me! The universe brought you to me!
Freeman: It was not the universe that brought us to you, but rather one stupid, narcissistic idiot!
Gordon sits back on the huge sofa and begins to scrutinize something on the ceiling. There is a short pause.
Professor: Mmm… I thinkkk you may be interested to find out what exackktly happened to your civilization? I ckkan tell you.
Gordon remains seated in the same pose, and Freeman nods.
Professor: So, well… About 350 years ago, or, to be more precise, 354 years ago, our civilization found the Earth. We ckkall it something else, but I will use the human terms and names.
Professor: The planet turned out not to be inhabited with intelligent beings…
Gordon raises his head and looks at the Professor.
Professor: … in the sense that our civilization’s level of development appeared to be far higher than that of yours. At least the majority of my ckkomrades thought so. And that’s why we decided to settle down on this planet.
Freeman: Professor, tell us, why did your comrades decide that we were backward?
Professor: Well… that’s qkkuite a ckkomplicated qkkuestion. It’s not all so clear-cut. First of all, your techkknologies were much less elaborate than ours.
Freeman: Much less elaborate than yours? But we have nuclear energy and nuclear weapons! We have highly developed information technologies! We have lasers and nanoparticles and much more!
Professor: Yes, you are right, but none of that matters. Let me give you a ckkomparison. I studied your nature and animal world, the way it was before you destroyed it entirely. Anyway, at those times you had some kkkind of animals called monkkkeys. As I remember, they ckkould split fruit shells with stones. This ckkan also be ckkalled a techkknology. So – for us you were likkke those monkkkeys. And your languages were also qkkuite primitive.
Gordon changes his position and sits up straight.
Gordon: And what then?
Professor: You see, our race is not perfeckkt either. It also has all kkkinds of relickks of the past and other shit, as humans say. All in all, humans turned out to be a perfeckkt source of food for us in the form of meat, and of other resources likkke skkkin, hair, and milkkk. And there were about 16 billion humans on the Earth at that time…
Gordon: And you decided to simply turn us into cattle?
Professor: Yes, just likkke you, in turn, used other animals. I apologize if I am offending you in any way. I am just stating the truth. To be honest, I don’t likkke this state of affairs either.
Gordon: But we aren’t some kind of cows!!! Don’t you have any brains at all? Haven’t you seen our cities, our civilization? Cows can’t make smartphones, pigs can’t fly into space! How could you decide that we are not intelligent beings?
Professor: I agree with you ckkompletely, Gordon.
Professor: But the whole problem is that the majority of my ckkompatriots speakkk about you the same way you are speakkking about ckkkows or pigs right now. You presume that they are immeasurably lower than humans. And we thinkkk about humans the same way. Not all of us, of ckkourse, but the majority of us.
Gordon wants to object, but instead of that he simply waves his hand and sits back again, looking at the ceiling.
Freeman: And then… And then what happened? How did people allow themselves to be enslaved?
Professor: Well, first we domesticated the humans, so to speakkk. We gave them medicine and some techkknologies, helped them to resolve some ckkatastrophickk eckkkologickkal problems. By the way, when we arrived, your planet’s biosphere was on the verge of total devastation. And to be ckkompletely frankkk, without us, mankkkind would probably have vanished from the face of your planet qkkuite qkkuickkkly.
Freeman: Why so?
Professor: When we arrived on the Earth, your society was in an utterly ckkritical position.
Professor: The remaining resources were qkkuite sckkarce, so different groups of humans, which you ckkall ckkountries, fought for what was left of them. Most of the planet was suffering from starvation and lackkk of drinkkking water. Your agrickkulture was in deckkline. If memory serves me well, its volume deckkreased almost 10 times in ckkomparison with the beginning of the 21st century.
This time Gordon does intervene.
Gordon: That’s all rubbish! Those are just your cheap excuses to justify your terrible crimes!
Professor: Trust me, Gordon, I don’t likkke all this any more than you do.
Gordon: Then maybe your sources are lying somehow! I recently heard a scientist’s speech on TV – he said that our planet can theoretically feed up to 100 billion people! And the agricultural revolution that we carried out has allowed us to use GMOs to increase crop yields many times over! How could there be worldwide starvation?
Professor: Gordon, frankkkly, I am not a biologist myself either, but as your scientists reported, the whole problem was the soil and availability of water for irrigation.
Professor: But it actually doesn’t matter. You see, there were too many people on Earth, which led to a ckkatastrophe. You tookkk your biosphere too lightly. And this also proved that your level of development was not so high.
Freeman: So why didn’t you help us, if you’re so all-powerful?!
Professor: That’s a reasonable qkkuestion… Those likkke me askkked that qkkuestion and have gone on askkking it until this day. It is ckkommonly held that you were already beyond help. By that time, your civilization was already in deep shit – I’m sorry if this expression isn’t that polite. (he gets embarrassed)
Freeman: Then why turn us into cattle? You could simply fly away.
Professor: Maybe… but the thing is that… it so happened... that some of my ckkompatriots tasted human meat…
Gordon sits up straight again.
Professor: You see, our race, in ckkontrast to yours, is truly omnivorous. And human meat really hit the spot for us… And then we understood that humans are an exkkcellent source for skkkin and hair, which our society now uses widely.
Professor: This fackktor, and also the fackkt that you seemed so undeveloped, brought us to the decision to stay on the Earth, to restore its eckkology and biosphere and to turn humans into ckkatle, as you put it.
There is a long pause in the room. The scientists take in everything the Professor has said, and the Professor is sitting, embarrassed, unsure of whether he should continue his speech or not.
Gordon: There is just one thing I can’t understand. Why did you turn usinto cattle instead of using real cows, pigs and other domestic animals instead? We have more of them on our farms than there are people themselves, not to mention wild animals.
Professor: Ah, yes, I haven’t told you. When we arrived, prackktickkally all the animals had been wiped out. Ckkows, pigs – there weren’t any of them. Humans fed themselves exclusively with synthetic food. As I understood later, animal husbandry had been destroyed even before we came, as an attempt to solve the eckkological problems, but it was already too late.
Gordon takes a look at Freeman.
Gordon: Did you hear, Freeman? It looks like we got out just in time.
Gordon: Judging by the Professor’s story, our civilization really got screwed! (he smirks) And now people are just upholstery material (he flaps by the sofa they are sitting on).
The sofa is upholstered with a soft material that is pleasant to the touch.
Gordon: Damn it, Freeman, we're sitting on a sofa made of human skin!
Freeman jumps up like he’s been stung and starts staring at the sofa and feeling it with his hand.
Professor: Don’t worry, my friends! This sofa is not made of human skkkin! The upholstery is artificial… You see, I don’t eat human meat and don’t use human skkkin. I am one of those rare Boogeys who is against the exkksploitation of humans. We have a movement that advockkates for kkkindness and respeckkt to humans and all living beings.
Gordon: Well, and how is your movement going? Judging by what I’ve seen today, it’s not doing so well!
Professor: You are right. This movement is not very popular with Boogeys. They ckkonsider us to be a bit ckkrazy. The same as humans, Boogeys are inclined to stupid stereotypes and all kkkinds of relickks of the past.
Professor: It’s ckkonsidered to be a sign of prosperity to wear human skkkin and hair. Things made of human skkkin and bones are supposedly high-qkkuality and natural.
Gordon: But you have such technologies, damn it! Can’t you produce high-quality materials instead of carrying out the genocide of an entire civilization!
Professor: That’s just the thing – we ckkan. I told you – it’s only stupid stereotypes and nothing else.
Gordon: Stupid stereotypes??? “Stupid stereotypes” is being afraid of black cats! Or even to keep oneself pure until marriage! What you are doing is a terrible crime!
Professor: You kkknow, Gordon, I really am ashamed of my nation. I have a feeling of deep sorrow for the human race, and massive guilt for what Boogeys do to humans. I’m trying to do what I can to fight it. I’m trying to get them to realize that we don’t have any moral right so exkksploit humans so ckkruelly. But most Boogeys don’t understand me. I deeply regret that everything has turned out likkke this…
Gordon: But what, what is there to understand? It seems like an absolute no-brainer! We are living creatures! We have our own desires, our own feelings, our own affairs. We should be free and do what we want instead of rotting in dirty enclosures or sitting in cages waiting for our turn to be eaten or for the chance to decorate someone’s table!
The Professor doesn’t reply and just sighs.
Freeman: Professor, are there any free people remaining?
Professor: Prackktickkally not. Only some fugitive Humies, who sometimes gather in groups and establish settlements far from our cities. But sooner or later they are found and sent direckktly to slaughter. Humans who have sensed freedom ckkan never again resign themselves to the humiliation of living in ckkages, in ckkaptivity. They will try to escape at every chance they get and will incite other humans to do the same. That’s why Boogeys prefer to kkkill them right away. It’s very ckkruel and unfair.
Gordon lay down on his back again.
Gordon: Freeman, it looks like we’ve gotten ourselves into a real mess! It would have been better to go to the past, like to the Middle Ages.
Freeman: Yeah, and then they would have burnt us at the stake when they heard that we are two scientists from California (he smirks). I’d prefer bloodthirsty humanoids from outer space. (he looks at the Professor and gets embarrassed) I’m sorry, Professor, I was being sarcastic; I didn’t mean to offend you.
Professor: Oh, don’t worry. We also have a sense of humor. And what you just said is completely true. There’s no need to apologize.
Freeman: Gordon, do you have any ideas of how we can get back?
Gordon: No, I still haven’t gotten over the shock of what happened. I’m exhausted and I just want to sleep.
Five minutes later, Gordon is snoring soundly, while Freeman does not fall asleep for a long time. He cannot get the images of what he saw in the butcher’s shop out of his head.
Part 5: We have a chance!
Gordon wakes up first the next morning. Next to him, on a large sofa bed, Freeman is sleeping carelessly. Gordon quietly gets up and goes on to look around the house. In the kitchen, he runs into the Professor, who is apparently making breakfast.
Gordon: Good morning, Professor, what are we having for breakfast? Fresh-cut baby hearts or tongues?
Professor: Oh, good morning, Gordon. No, why do you say that? I only eat vegetables and other plant produckkts. Today we will have a warm salad with extraterrestrial vegetables and herbs for breakkkfast.
Gordon: Sounds fantastic! Oh, I always wanted to see the future. But I never imagined that it could be so grim.
Gordon sits down at the table. It’s a bit inconvenient, since the countertop is almost at breast level, and his legs can hardly reach the floor. For an instant, he feels like a small child at a big table. The Professor is slicing vegetables, and Gordon is looking at various strange items around the kitchen.
Professor: Don't be upset, Gordon. Everything will be fine. By the way, Gordon, forgive me for such a question, but I should askkk. Do you eat meat?
Gordon: Uhhhh, well, of course, in our times everyone eats meat… well, almost everyone, except for vegetarians and vegans. Why do you ask?
Professor: Well, I just thought about how mysterious the universe is. Your civilization ate and ekkksploited animals. Ours eats and ekkksploits you. It all seems very metaphoric. Don't you thinkkk so?
Gordon: Professor, you're comparing us to cows again! Don't you see the difference? We are intelligent beings, and cows are not.
Professor: Gordon, when will you finally understand that intelligence is a relative? My fellow citizens, for example, do not ckkonsider you intelligent. They make the same mistakkke that you do. And you know where the mistakkke lies? In the fackkt that everyone has different ckkriteria for intelligence. You ckkonsider ckkows unintelligent, beckkause they do not have industry, or written language, or beckkause they don't makkke smartphones. And our civilization, meanwhile, does not ckkonsider smartphones, nuckklear weapons, and fackktories to be signs of intelligence. For us, that's not enough.
Gordon: So then, what do you consider to be the criteria of intelligence?
Professor: Capabilities of interstellar flight, careful treatment of our planet's biosphere and telepathic properties. If we judge by these parameters a;lone, then you really aren't intelligent beings. Do you understand what I want to say? Gordon, for us, you and the local animals are on roughly the same level.
Gordon: I understand… wait, Professor, you, what, can read minds?
Professor: We ckkan. But we don't do it. It's ckkonsidered to be bad form. Since childhood, we are taught not to use this ability fully, in order to respeckkt others’ personal space. But we can easily ckkommunicate amongst ourselves via our thoughts.
Gordon: Hang on, but I myself heard how you chirp amongst yourselves. And loudly, too.
Professor: Yes, we do use speech for communication. But that is just the visible part of our information sharing, the tip of the iceberg, so to speakkk – did I use the metaphor correctly?
Gordon nods approvingly.
Professor: Our system of ckkommunication ckkonsists, basically, of two parts – verbal and telepathic. The verbal part is something like a tradition, or a relickk of the past. The most advanced among us only use telepathy…
Freeman appears in the kitchen with a sleepy, swollen face.
Freeman: Good morning.
Professor: Good morning, Freeman. Get settled at the table. Now I'll serve you the tastiest food in this sector of the universe!
The Professor puts three plates on the table and, into them, puts delicious-looking, incredible smelling vegetables and herbs, prepared in something like a human frying pan.All three take pleasure digging into the breakfast.
Freeman: (chewing the succulent vegetables) What were you talking about? I heard the word "telepathy", no?
Gordon: Freeman, the Professor was kindly explaining to me that, for their civilization, humans and cows are equally intelligent. You see, he draws a parallel between them and us, and us and the cows that you and I eat every day in restaurants.
Freeman stops eating and looks at Gordon.
Freeman: You know, Gordon, yesterday I couldn't fall asleep for a long time. And the same exact thought came to me. The tragedy of the situation lies in the fact that they treat us exactly the same way as we treat other animals.
Gordon: Not you too! Congratulations, Professor, another vegan has materialized in our small family! Personally, I can't understand what you're saying at all, Professor. Maybe I just really love meat? But, you know, these cosmic vegetables of yours are just incredibly delicious! I've never eaten anything so harmonious and refined in my life. If all your food is as delicious as these vegetables, then, perhaps, you can count me in as a vegan as well! (he laughs and puts some kind of unusual vegetable into his mouth)
Once everything is eaten up, the Professor proposes that they sit outside and get some fresh air. There is a coffee table on the veranda and soft pillows surrounding it – apparently, they are intended to be sat upon. The table has no legs or supports, and it is unclear how the tabletop manages to hang in the air. But it looks quite spectacular and stylish. The Professor and his guests sit down comfortably on the pillows.
Gordon: Professor, thank you so much for the warm welcome and the breakfast. Your otherworldly vegetables are really incomparable.
Professor: There's no need to thankkk me, Gordon. It's the least I ckkan do for you.
Gordon: Yeah, I still can't believe that this could have happened. Just yesterday Freeman and I were sitting at a nice restaurant, drinking expensive wine and enjoying the taste of juicy veal. And today we could become someone's lunch ourselves. It's just unbelievable! (he hits his forehead with his hand)
Professor: And what exkkperiment were you conduckkting? What were you workkking on?
Gordon: We were making a teleporter.
Professor: A teleporter? Hm, is that something ckkonnected with your, uhhh, what is it ckkalled… television?
Gordon: (smiles) No, Professor. It's not television. How can I explain it…
Freeman: Professor, it's a method for moving items from one point to another through subspace.
Professor: Through hyperspace?
Freeman: Wow, what words you guys know. Yes, through hyperspace.
Professor: Ah, then I understand what a teleporter is. It's clear. We have this technology. We use it to move between galaxkksies, between solar systems. So what happened in the experiment?
Freeman: (looks reproachfully at Gordon) We put too much power on the lasers, and, apparently, a black hole opened up right in our lab, and it brought us here. Well, and a part of our lab to boot.
Professor: Part of your lab, what do you mean?
Freeman: Just that – part of our lab. When we woke up in the field, there were pieces of our equipment, lasers and other kinds of stuff scattered around.
Professor: Hmm, that's very interesting, of ckkourse. It's strange – we've already been using such techkknology for several thousand years, but we've never run into such a time travel effeckkt. You are to be congratulated, my friends. You may have made an incredible discovery.
Gordon: But all for no use.
Professor: Now, why do you say that? If you’ve managed to end up here, that means there's a way backkk, too.
Freeman and Gordon take a look at each other.
Gordon: What do you mean, Professor? It was an unfortunate accident.
Professor: Unfortunate or fortunate – that's a relative qkkuestion. And you know… I just had a great, bold idea! Did you record the data during your experiment?
Freeman: Of course we did.
Professor: Excellent! And you yourselves said that part of your lab came here along with you. Most likkkely, the devices, ckkomputers, on which you reckkorded your data, ended up here as well. So, we'll takkke that data, bring it to our specialist in that same teleportation, he will study it and use it to try to reconstruct time travel!
Freeman and Gordon take another look at each other.
Gordon: Professor, it's a good idea, of course. But how will you understand the data? It uses our measurement system, after all. And you probably use different units.
Professor: Oh, that's not a problem at all! I have been studying people for a long time – their ckkulture, their civilization. I have a great deal of information, inckkluding that about your science. Believe me, that's the easiest part of our idea.
Gordon: And what's the hardest part?
Professor: Finding someone who knows about teleporters and who will agree to help you.
Part 6: Time travel is real!
A great deal more equipment from the laboratory has ended up on the field where Gordon and Freeman were thrown than the scientists thought. The Professor even had to order an aerotruck in order to bring everything back in one trip.
Freeman: Look, Gordon, even my bag is here!
Freeman begins rummaging around in his bag.
Freeman: Yeah, and this here might be useful (he takes an additional phone battery with a cord from the bag). Then he takes out the smartphone and starts taking photos of the equipment scattered around the field.
Gordon: And what's that for?
Freeman: What do you mean, what for? For history!
Gordon shrugs and starts loading the equipment into the aerocar.
An hour later, it’s already unloaded behind the Professor's house. As the Professor makes lunch, Gordon and Freeman examine all the stuff they have brought and set aside anything that might be useful for their plan. Then they sit down on the ground and begin to wait for the Professor.
Gordon: Freeman, are you upset with me?
Freeman: What? Ah, no… not any more.
Gordon: I'm sorry that I dragged you into this mess. I shouldn't have been so sure of myself. But I wanted us to succeed so badly.
Freeman: Forget it… maybe it's all for the best. If it weren't for your insistence, we wouldn't have found out what is going to happen to our civilization, to our planet. That our children will suffocate from smoke and kill each other for the planet's last resources. That an alien civilization will see us as being so… so pathetic, stupid and helpless, and ultimately decide that we are not intelligent beings.
Gordon: You're saying all that as if it can all be prevented.
Freeman: It can be. What the hell else are we going back for?
Gordon looks at his friend in surprise.
Gordon: I didn't expect such altruism from you. I thought you were so timid.
Professor: Guys, what are you sitting there for, ckkkome on in! Let's eat, and then get to workkk on those pieces of metal.
The Professor does not say a single word during lunch. It appears that he is thinking something over very hard. Or talking to himself in his mind.
Gordon: Professor, what are you thinking about so hard?
The Professor does not answer, but merely waves a finger, which appears to mean that he is very busy at the moment and should not be disturbed. Gordon shrugs his shoulders and concentrates on his food.
And Freeman apparently got so hungry out in the fresh air that he does not notice anything unusual, as he is looking only at his plate.
Professor: Well then. It seems I did it!
Gordon: Did what?
Professor: My friends, I've arranged a very important meeting. I have a friend – he's a scientist, like you. And he has another friend, who is also a scientist, and you know what he studies? Teleporters! Guys, our chances are inckkreasing by the hour! Anyway, I arranged a meeting with that scientist.
Gordon: What? When did you manage to do that?
Professor: Ah, yes, hahaha (he seems to laugh, although his laugh is more like the barking of a dog) I didn't tell you how we ckkommunicate amongst ourselves at a distance? No? Well, basickkally, we use telepathy for ckkommunication. It's like your smartphones, but built into our brains (he taps his head with a finger)
Freeman: No way! So you don't need smartphones?
Professor: Yup. We're taught how to do it in our childhood. Sometime I'll tell you about it in more detail. But now we need to get ready for this meeting. I would really like for you to come along with me… but there is one unpleasant aspeckkt…
Gordon: Don't worry, Professor, we're determined to overcome any difficulties. (under the table, he nudges Freeman's foot) What's the unpleasant aspect?
Professor: You see, this scientist, his name is Gharg… basically, he wants to meet in a very unpleasant place. He set up the meeting at an exkksotickk ckkuisine restaurant. And I understand that he is an avid enthusiast of such ckkuisine.
Freeman: So what? What do we care?
Professor: That restaurant serves food made of people. And, moreover, serves it in the most terrible, perverted way. And…
Gordon: Come on, Professor, don't try to scare us. We've already seen the meat store and human offal. I can't vouch for Freeman, of course, but you don't have to worry about me. My mental state is extremely stable. And we'll be coming with you, so, as I understand, no one will be trying to make sushi out of us?
Professor: Sushi? Is that some kkkind of food? But whatever… Anyway, I have a plan as to how we ckkan ckkonvince this Gharg to help us. Here's my idea – he will send you guys backkk, and he himself will beckkome the inventor of a time machine. You'll be free, and he'll be famed and respeckkted. I thinkkk he'll agree. And I also want you to understand what we will be speakkking about.
Freeman: Are you going to teach us telepathy?
Professor: Unfortunately not. I'm just going to give you some special devices, which I developed and manufactured personally. They will allow you to understand what we are speakkking about. Now I'll show them to you…
The Professor got up from the table, intending to go get the device, but stopped and turned to the scientists.
Professor: And one more thing. You cannot go to the meeting dressed like that. You need to dress like pet Humies. And, most likely, you won't like that either.
Once it grew dark, the Professor and the two scientists get into the aerocar and fly off towards the city center.
Gordon: Now who thought up this idiotic clothing! It's just laughable! (he tugs at the sleeve of the clothing he is wearing) Have you ever seen that people dressed like this in the past?
Professor: Actually, I have. Your athletes dressed that way sometimes.
Gordon: Exactly, athletes. And circus clowns dress this way too!
Freeman sits across from Gordon and, looking at him, giggles.
He and Gordon are wearing tight-fitting jumpsuits with long sleeves. And on their heads are wigs with long, thick hair – dark blue for Gordon, and pink for Freeman. Both are wearing strange shoes like the shoe protectors that are usually given to people entering a hospital.
Twenty minutes later, they land on the roof of a tall building. Gordon wants to open the aerocar door, but the Professor holds him back.
Professor: Okkkay, guys, kkkeep the devices that I've given you in your pockkets. Try not to talkkk very much, since that ckkould ckkause disckkontent among the other visitors. As far as they know, you are my house pets, got it? You are not allowed to sit at the table. Or to lookkk at the food on the table – you can get zapped with an electric whip for that. You are not allowed to wander around the restaurant without me. Just sit qkkuietly next to me. If you see something really unpleasant or horrible, keep qkkuiet and don't attrackkt attention.
As they enter the restaurant together, Freeman's legs give way and he grabs the Professor’s sleeve with his hands so as not to fall.
The area is very crowded. Crowded with aliens. Boogeys are everywhere – sitting on pillows at tables, standing around the bar, lying on soft couches. And all of them are chirping frantically, like a thousand giant grasshoppers.
Professor: Our table is over there, let's go.
The table is located in a small, cozy room, which is separated from the main dining room with curtains. A large table is hanging in the air in the middle, and huge, soft pillows are scattered around. The room is empty. The Professor sits on one of the pillows, and the scientists settle in beside him on special floor mats.
Freeman: Professor, when we were walking through the dining room, I saw a person massaging a Boogey's leg.
Professor: It's normal. Those were pet Humies, as they say. People kkkeep them for fun. Like pet animals. And usually they do some work in their owner's house. Mostly dirty work – ckkleaning up the yard, taking out the trash, ckkleaning the floors. And qqquite often they also massage their owner's feet, or his head. It's fashionable right now.
Gordon: Yeah, you guys have really developed the exploitation of humans to the highest level. You eat people, take their skin and hair for clothes, use their labor. Maybe you also use them for sexual favors?
The Professor sighs sadly and nods his head.
Gordon: Ohh, shit! But how do… yuck, fine, I don't want to know anything about that!
Five minutes later, Gharg enters the room through the curtains along with a companion. He is wearing a long leather cloak and a long leather hat. And his companion is wearing something like a somber evening dress. And there must have been a wig with long, blond hair on her head. They chirp something to the Professor in their language. Gordon and Freeman turn on their translator devices.
Professor: My friends, please call me Professor. I've gotten so used to that name that sometimes I don't even respond to my real name. Simply Professor.
Gharg: All right, Professor, so be it. Let me introduce my wife, Kraggina.
Kraggina: It's nice to meet you, Professor.
Professor: You too! Well, shall we take a seat, then?
The three Boogeys take a seat at the table.
Gharg: Professor, would you mind if we have something to eat first, and turn to our business a bit later? I just love this restaurant. They offer truly refined dishes. And the prices are reasonable enough.
Gharg calls over a waiter, who, within a few seconds, appears beside him with some sort of device in his hands. The device opens and a holographic picture of the menu appears right over the table.
Gharg: Okay, we'll have this, please (he points a finger at the picture), and this. Professor, I really recommend that you try the milk-fed Humies. They have such tender meat, it's just incredible! Or how about I treat you!
Professor: Thank you, Gharg, but I will stick to the stewed seaweed. (The Professor also points a finger at the holographic picture)
The waiter bows slightly and disappears behind the curtains.
Gharg takes a close look at the Professor.
Gharg: Professor, you aren't really one of those weirdos who doesn't eat meat and defends Humie rights?
Professor: Well, basically, yes (he is a bit embarrassed).
Gharg: I'm sorry, Professor, I didn't mean to offend you. I've just… I've just never met Boogeys of this sort. I've heard about them on broadcasts, but I've never spoken to one. To be honest, I'm always interested in Boogeys with unusual views of the world.
Professor: Gharg, to be honest, I really don't like to discuss it. As you've correctly observed, Boogeys consider those like me to be weirdos. At best. You know the saying: "You can't trust a Boogey who doesn't eat Humies."
Gharg: (waving his hand) I'm sure it's all just prejudice. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, even if it runs counter to that of the majority. Professor, why don't you simply tell me: why did you decide not to eat Humie meat? It must be connected with religion, yes?
Professor: No, why do you say that? I'm not religious. I stopped eating meat in my youth, when I began to study Humies, their history and culture.
Gharg: Culture? Hmm, that's a very strong statement. You think that these creatures can possess some kind of culture? (he nods with contempt at the people sitting behind the Professor's back)
Gordon barely restrains himself from getting up and punching the arrogant Boogey in the face.
Professor: (completely calmly) Nonetheless, however unexpected it might sound to you, they can have a culture. And one that is no less beautiful and developed than ours. It is just different. Not like ours.
Kraggina: And you consider them to be intelligent, Professor?
Professor: Can't you see for yourself?
Kraggina: Well, you might be onto something. Some of them are really bright. Gharg, you remember that smart Humie we had? We called him Goor. Professor, he was just brilliant. He understood everything we said perfectly. And he sang so beautifully! He had a marvelous voice.
Gharg: Darling, but just because he could understand some things and sang songs, that doesn't mean he was intelligent. When we arrived here, there were so many Humies on the planet that the entire planet's biosphere was on the verge of destruction. No one was keeping the size of their population under control. And they weren't keeping their population under control themselves. How can we call them intelligent?
Professor: Gharg, you judge them too harshly. At that time, their civilization had run into a dead end, and was trying to find a way out from the situation that had developed. There were similar cases in our history, too. Nonetheless, they are fully intelligent beings. They have feelings and desires; they develop and have the right to be free.
Gharg: Well, okay, let's assume that they are intelligent to some degree. But you cannot deny the laws of evolution, can you? We are at the top of the food chain. They are our food. It all seems quite logical. You know that everything is the same in the wild, after all. Certain animals eat other animals. It's normal. And, moreover, when Humies are free, they kill each other. You remember, after all, what was going on this planet when we had our first contact with them. They were killing each other by the millions in the struggle for their last resources. We freed them, so to speak, from the need to fight for a piece of bread. We feed them and give them housing and safety. It seems to me that they've only benefitted.
Professor: But what do the laws of evolution have to do with anything? We don't eat them because our survival depends on it. That's the problem. It's just a stupid tradition and a lack of empathy in our society. And, you know, that's what scares me most of all. We've turned into some kind of ruthless monsters who don't care about the others’ suffering. And, moreover, they aren't even the best type of food for us, right?
Kraggina: Yes, I've heard something like that.
Professor: You also mentioned how it works in the wild. Here I also can't agree with you. We shouldn't mix up our society and wild nature. All processes in nature are meant to preserve the harmony of the planet's biosphere. So some animals eat grass, keeping its quantity under control; other eat those who eat grass, and, in doing so, keep theirpopulation under control. But we, and people, do not live in the wild. We are on another level of consciousness.
Gharg: Yeah, I see your point. But you understand that there is huge money tied to Humies. It's an entire industry. Our economy will suffer huge losses if everyone stops eating Humie meat and wearing Humie skin.
Professor: You think that our economic well-being is worth millions of living beings' souls? What monstrous conditions they live in. Perhaps you would rethink things if you saw what torture and humiliation Humies are subjected to at the farms. Have you ever been to a slaughterhouse?
Kraggina: No, and I have no desire to, either. I get dizzy at the sight of blood.
Professor: What about you, Gharg?
Gharg: I’ve been to a slaughterhouse once. When I was little. To be honest, I got really scared. It's not a pretty sight, of course.
Professor: Exactly. If you had to kill and gut Humies for your own lunch, then you may decide pretty quickly to stop eating their meat. Tell me, Gharg, what do you think about cannibalism?
Gharg: Um, it's unacceptable and illegal. Cannibalism is a sign of a primitive civilization.
Professor: But you don't find that strange? We can eat other living things, and there is nothing bad or illegal about that. But if we eat those like us, suddenly it's something unacceptable and horrible?
Gharg: Ahem, Professor, our conversation seems to be turning into a face-off. I don't want to argue with you point by point. Let's relax a little and have something to eat, hm?
The Professor nods in a friendly way. Five minutes later, the waiter brings the Professor's first course.
And a bit later, a platform with a large metal dish on it flies into the room. When Gordon sees the dish, his pupils dilate and he involuntarily curses, forgetting the rules the Professor had mentioned. A dead, baked child, who had been no older than five or six, is lying on the dish. The child's corpse is generously decorated with herbs and some unusual vegetables.
Gharg: Professor, if you will allow me, I will begin my meal. I can guess what you think about all this, but I think this incredible taste is worth just anything.
Professor: Don't worry, Gharg, I'm perfectly comfortable with your gastronomic preferences. (he says this, but himself turns away from the dish with the child and buries himself in his own plate)
As the waiter takes a sharp knife and begins, in front of everyone, to carve the child's carcass, successively cutting off his limbs, ears, nose, and other protruding parts of his body, Freeman faints for the second time during his trip. But it appears that he has simply gotten tired and fallen to his owner's knee to relax a bit. The Professor calmly continues to eat his vegetables, pretending that nothing has happened.
Gharg: (gnawing at the human child's leg) Professor, you know what I think the problem is? You're an idealist. You want everything to be fair. But the thing is that life itself is something really unfair. And you know that even better than I do. Take my older brother, for example. He was an athlete. He devoted his youth to training. And what happened in the end? Ten years ago, he was in a horrible accident and now he's chained to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. It's incredibly unfair, but that's life.
Professor: Life is what we make of it. Life is the result of our actions and inactions, it's a reflection of our motivation and aspiration. To be honest, I don't completely understand the connection between that accident and the genocide of an entire intelligent civilization.
Gharg: Wolves used to kill rabbits on this planet, as far as I know. Was that also genocide?
Professor: No, that was natural selection and the laws of nature, which support the ecosystem. And they have nothing to do with us or people.
Professor: Gharg, try to understand what I'm about to say (he puts his utensils to the side and wipes his mouth with a napkin). First of all, in the wild, the wolf and rabbit have roughly equal chances. It's not easy for the wolf to catch a rabbit. Nature is incredible, and so it created an ideal balance, which allows the biosphere to develop and keep everything in equilibrium. But with Humies, there is no balance at all. We are much stronger than them and simply take advantage of our strength to brutally exploit them. And secondly, Gharg, like I already said, neither us nor people are a part of nature and the ecosystem.
Kraggina: How can that be, Professor? Nature created us. You believe in evolution, don't you?
Professor: Of course, if we look at nature in a wider since, then yes, I do. But still, I mean this planet's ecosystem specifically. Do you understand the main difference between the animal world and the world of Humies or our civilization? The fact that, in most cases, animals act in a way governed by the laws of nature. While beings like us and Humies create the laws themselves. We, unlike most of those in the animal world, are creative beings.
Professor: Animals also possess some creativity, but it is negligible compared to our creative abilities. We simply have a different purpose than the animal world – on a universal scale.
Gharg: I think it’s the other way around. We are also a part of nature and the ecosystem. If it weren't for us, Humies would have absolutely destroyed the ecosystem of the entire planet. But thanks to us, the Humie population is now controlled by us, and, little by little, nature is recovering. Have you heard the latest news? Our scientists want to clone a variety of Earth's animals and resettle them all over the planet.
Professor: But all the same, that does not justify genocide. Our conversation is really quite absurd. Murders of Humies continue while I try to find evidence for the fact that it's horrible to kill and exploit them. Doesn't that sound crazy to you? Our civilization, which considers itself to be so intelligent and highly-developed, cannot understand the simplest things. It feels like I'm trying to prove something extremely complicated and implausible. I don't need to prove to you, after all, that raping little children is a bad thing to do?
Professor: I don't need to prove to you that the strong should not denigrate the weak? You don't try to prove to anyone that turning your parents into upholstery would be a bad thing to do. Everyone understands those things. But when we’re talking about Humies, for some reason, everyone stops understanding the simplest things.
Kraggina: And just why do you think that is?
Professor: Why? Because they are different from us. So what we are engaged in is called racism. And the most severe form of racism, too. It is an extremely harsh form of discrimination by race. You remember that a couple thousand years ago, our society also had major problems with racism. Those times are considered to be the most dreadful, bloodiest times in all of our history. We thought that we had cured ourselves of that disease. We hoped that we would no longer kill just because someone looked different than us. We have mastered the art of interstellar flight, but our society is still infected. And until we heal ourselves from this infection, we cannot consider ourselves an intelligent civilization.
Gharg pours a white liquid, very similar to milk, into his glass and begins to drink it with a straw.
Gharg: Do continue, Professor. Your reflections are very interesting.
Professor: Every living thing has the right to freedom. This right has been given to it by nature, by the Creator, by the universe itself. Every living creature has the right to dignity. And those who claim to be intelligent should learn to respect the freedom and dignity of other living creature. That applies to our civilization, too. Really, the way that we treat Humies is an indicator of our level of development, or, to be more precise, our level of degradation. It is a clear sign that we have major problems in our society. Not in our economy, not in our politics, but here (he points at his head) and here (he touches his chest with his palm). Today, I cannot say that the future of our civilization is sunny and bright. To the contrary. Chances that we will end up like Humies, killing each other for our last resources, are quite high.
There is a pause at the table.
Professor: By the way, since we are talking about the future… do you want to invent a time machine?
Part 7: Freeman, don't pass out!
Freeman finds Gordon lying on a pillow on the Professor's veranda.
Freeman: Ah, here you are. Good morning.
Gordon doesn't answer. Freeman flops down on the pillow next to Gordon.
Gordon: How long have we been here? Four months already?
Freeman: Yes, it's our fourth month. You've been quiet lately, lost in thought. What happened?
Gordon: Nothing in particular. I just started thinking about things I'd never thought about before. It turns out we aren't alone in the universe. And I've been thinking a lot about what the Professor has told and shown us. About humanity, what humans were like when they arrived. I can't even believe it.
Freeman: I understand. In our time, no one could even imagine how low our civilization could descend. It seemed like humanity was marching triumphantly along the path of progress and development.
Gordon suddenly changes position and takes a look at Freeman.
Gordon: Yeah, that's the whole thing, everything was already clear even then. You and I just didn't want to see it. We just worked on our teleporter and weren't interested in anything else.
Gordon: Each of the planet's inhabitants did their own thing and wasn't interested in where humanity was going. No one assessed it. Everyone simply couldn't care less. Our house was on fire, and you and I didn't even notice.
Freeman: And it's all because people don't want to think about anything but themselves. People in our world are very narrow-minded. I've just now come to understand how savage and ignorant humanity still is.
Gordon: Really, these Boogeys haven't gone that much farther than we did. What they do with humans is just horrible.
Freeman: And the best part is that we did the same thing with animals.
Gordon: Yes, and that's been keeping me up at night, too.
The Professor appears on the veranda.
Professor: My friends, I have wonderful news for you. I just spokkke with Gharg. He says that he's managed to solve the timeline problem for the time machine. Another two or three weeks, and everything will be ready! You'll be on your way home, and he'll become the renowned inventor of time travel.
Gordon: That really is good news, Professor. And we are really grateful that you did not abandon us. But Freeman and I have one request for you.
Freeman looks at Gordon in surprise.
Professor: I'm listening, Gordon. I'll be happy to try and help.
Gordon: Can you show us the farms where Humies are kept?
Professor: Uhhh… of ckkourse I ckkan, but what for? They are horrible places – Humies go out of their minds there. Human farms are ruled by cruelty and ruthlessness. It's not a sight for the weak-spirited.
Gordon: We want to record it all on film. Right, Freeman?
Confusedly, Freeman nods his head.
Gordon: We ought to return to our time with proof. I would also ask you, Professor, to speak before the camera and describe everything that you've shown and told us about the future, or, rather, the past – about human civilization.
Professor: Hm, I see a twinkkkle in your eyes, Gordon. You want to change the course of history?
Gordon: I don't even know what exactly I want yet. But we should record that video. Freeman, we'll record it on your smartphone. You haven't lost it, have you?
Freeman: No, I have it. I've even got an extra battery for it.
A few days later, the Professor's aerocar lands in a parking lot by a farm.
Professor: Okkkay, guys, we have exackktly six hours for everything.
Gordon takes a look around. The farm is incredibly huge.
Gordon:That’s not much for such a big farm. I don't think a week would be enough to see everything.
Professor: I've made a deal with a Boogey that works here. He has a special aerocar for getting around the farm. And, for a small fee, he's kindly agreed to give us a little tour around the farm. Do you have your translators?
Freeman: Yup. And he didn't ask why you need to show the farm to two Humies?
Professor: I told him that you're ackktors. And that you have to see everything with your own eyes. Get a taste of it, so to speak.
Gordon: It looks like that's our tour guide there.
A Boogey approaches, coming from the direction of the main entrance.
Professor: Good morning, Hrok. We arrived on time, as I promised.
The Professor and the tour guide bow slightly to each other. Then Hrok takes a look at Gordon and Freeman.
Professor: Uhh, these are my Humies, Gor and Free. And they understand everything that you are going to tell us.
Hrok looks questioningly at the Professor.
Professor: Yes, technology does keep advancing.
Hrok: Okay, critters, don't touch anything with your little hands, don't take a leak, don't crap yourselves! Listen to what I'm saying. And I'll try to make it interesting for you. Come along with me.
When all three get onto the grounds of the farm, Hrok begins his story.
Hrok: Right now we are on one of the biggest farms on our planet. What sets it apart from other, smaller farms is its universality. A huge number of goods and food products are produced here – Humie meat, Humie milk, leather, hair, bones. About 300,000 Humies live on our farm. Alright, let's start with the meat sector.
All four sit on an open platform with seats, which turns out to be an unusual aerocar. The platform starts gliding quietly through the air. Five minutes later, it is already standing near the Humies’ barracks. When all four are inside the barracks, Hrok stops.
Hrok: Okay, in the barracks, please stick to the safety rules. Don't stick your hands behind the bars, don't tease the Humies. Some might be very aggressive, despite the sedatives. Got it?
Professor: You feed them sedatives?
Hrok: Of course. These are wild animals, after all. One day, the system which automatically dispenses sedatives into the nutrient mixture broke, and the Humies didn't get their dose. And boy, what happened. They just absolutely freaked out. They were rushing at the bars, screaming wildly, howling. Some were hitting the bars so strongly that they cracked their heads. So the sedatives are essential for them. It's easier that way for them and for us. Okay, let's keep going.
The barracks looks like a typical prison in a Third World country. A long corridor with cages and people on both sides. Hrok is walking slowly and narrating.
Hrok: Six to eight Humies live in each cage. There are only males here. In the cages, each Humie has its own place to sleep and facilities to relieve themselves and to eat.
Professor: I thought that Humies spend most of their time outside.
Hrok: Well, yes, that's what it usually looks like on the meat packages. In reality, Humies go outside twice a day for two or three hours, depending on the weather conditions. In colder regions of the planet, they walk very little. And that's bad, because after walking they get more of an appetite and their body mass grows faster.
As Hrok tells them about how Humies are fed, Gordon and Freeman examine the cages and people with horror. Gordon holds his smartphone in his hands and records a video. The cages are very tight, about 10 by 10 feet in size. There are two or three triple bunk beds in each one. They have no mattresses or pillows. Just hard, flat surfaces. The people in the cages are absolutely naked. Their bodies are dirty. And all of them are unnaturally well-fed and muscular.
Hrok: … and the nutrient mixture is dispensed automatically into the cells by these tubes here.
Professor: Hrok, is it true that they add steroids to people's food so that their muscle mass grows more?
Hrok: Steroids, antibiotics and a bunch of other hormones. You understand, after all, they're always getting sick, so we have to take care of their health.
Professor: I have heard that those chemicals give most of them severe liver, intestinal, and kidney diseases.
Hrok: You'd have to ask our veterinarian. Those diseases have a low death rate, since they don't have time to die from them. They're sent to the slaughterhouse faster than the disease kills them.
They walk past a cell in which a man is lying curled up on a shelf, moaning. Two people are sitting by him and apparently trying to help him. Another one is sitting near the trough with food and eating the nutrient mixture with a detached look. The man’s moan makes Gordon and Freeman stop near the cage. One of the people, who is sitting closer than anyone else to the front bars, observes the scientists.
Humie: What do you need?
Freeman: (perplexed) Mmm… ehh… hello. Maybe you need some help? Is he sick?
Humie: Yes, he’s not doing well.
Freeman: What’s wrong with him?
Humie: His stomach hurts. He is beyond help.
Professor: Hrok, maybe you need to call a doctor? This Humie is really badly off.
Hrok: No, he won’t come. It’s not allowed. The veterinarian only comes if there is a danger of a virus or infection that can infect other Humies. And this one will most likely croak within the next 2 weeks.
Hrok says something into his communication device.
Hrok: I ordered to have him sent to slaughter tomorrow.
Freeman is standing and looking at the people in the cage, flabbergasted. He is completely absorbed and, as if hypnotized, unable to look away from them. The people in the cage, in turn, are looking at him with pathetic, doomed gazes. The person lying on the shelf keeps on moaning. What affects Freeman most of all is not the fact that people’s arms and legs are swollen, that their buttocks are disproportionately large, or that their muscles are unnaturally massive, but the people’s gazes. He is full of grief and feebleness, which in turn, grew into detachment from the external world.
Hrok goes further, the Professor follows.
Gordon: Let’s go, Freeman.
Freeman: My God, Gordon. This is just horrible. I’ve never seen people more humiliated and miserable. How can they not go out of their minds here?
Gordon: You bet they’re losing their minds. Look over there. (he nods to the side to indicate)
In the next cage, a man with a dirty face is sitting on the floor and swinging violently back and forth. At the same time, he is making a quiet howling sound. His eyes are wide open and directed at the floor.
Freeman: Yeah. Look, one more just the same. And over there – one more…
Somewhere nearby, someone cries out loudly. Then that inhuman scream is replaced by a squeal. The Professor turns around, but Hrok doesn’t even pay any attention to the sounds.
Gordon: Yeah, it looks like the majority here are mentally ill! What a horrible place.
Freeman: Life in these cages could drive anyone insane.
They reach the other end of the barrack. Hrok stops.
Hrok: And now, we will walk to the slaughterhouse. Are you really sure you want to see it?
Professor: Yes. Why do you ask?
Hrok: How can I put it… not any Boogey can work in the slaughterhouse. Many of them try, but leave quickly. It’s a difficult job, especially psychologically. After all, Humies are living beings, and when one has to slaughter thousands of them, even the most thick-skinned Boogey begins to feel uneasy.
Professor: If each Boogey killed the Humie whom they intend to eat or whose skin they are going to use for their purse with their own hands, nobody would ever need all these farms.
Hrok: Hmm, you’re exactly right. Even I don’t like to go there too often. But if you insist…
Hrok and the Professor head to the next building. Gordon and Freeman trudge along behind them. On their way to the slaughterhouse, a big, long platform being driven by a Boogey flies past them. The platform is carrying people from one of the barracks. They are standing crowded tightly together, because the platform is packed.
Hrok: These kinds of platforms deliver Humies from their barracks to the slaughterhouse, in groups of 50 to 70 heads.
A few minutes later, the group is already inside the slaughterhouse.
Hrok: So, here we are in the slaughterhouse. Right behind my back, you can see a temporary enclosure for the Humies. They are waiting there for their turn.
Hrok leads them to the observation deck. The deck is a convenient place from which to observe what is happening below, in the enclosure. There are many people down there, and the place is very noisy, like a station or a market. Some people are sitting on the ground peacefully, and some of them are rushing about the enclosure and swearing furiously. People bump into each other, stumbling over those who are sitting; some of them are falling down.
Professor: It looks like there’s a panic down there.
Hrok: Yes, that’s normal. Before the slaughter, we increase the doze of tranquilizers, but they’re nervous and restless anyway. They can probably feel that the end is near. See, some of them are sitting calmly. Apparently, our chemicals worked on them. But then others are galloping around like crazy.
Gordon approaches the railings and starts recording everything happening below on his smartphone. One person notices him, runs up to them, stands right under the observation deck and begins to wave his hands and scream.
Humie: Hey, brother! Help us! They’re going to kill us all now! Help us, you hear me? They’re going to slaughter us all! Help!
Gordon backs away from the edge of the platform and takes a look at Freeman.
Suddenly, an alarm is turned on. The internal gate of the enclosure opens. Two Boogeys with special spears come out from there and start driving the people into the gate. They hit the people with their power spears, forcing them to move in the right direction. After these hits, some people fall on the ground and can’t get up for a long time. The other Humies help them and drag them towards the gate. Several Humies try to attack a Boogey and take his spear away from him.
Professor: Hrok, look. It looks like a riot.
Hrok: No, everything’s fine. It happens quite often. Humies realize that they will be killed soon, so they are throwing themselves at the enclosure workers. But it’s all pointless. Hey, look, what did I tell you? The riot’s already over.
The three attackers are already lying on the ground. One of them is still convulsing after a hit from the protective field. The others are unconscious or already dead.
Hrok: Now the enclosure workers are driving the Humies into the service chamber. Do you want to see how the Humies are killed?
The Professor takes a look at the scientists.
Professor: Yes, Hrok, we’d like to see.
Hrok: Okay. Follow me.
A minute later, they end up in a room with a glass wall. Behind the glass is the service chamber, with people inside. Hrok approaches a Boogey sitting at a panel with numerous buttons and tells him something. The Boogey takes a glance at the guests and nods in approval.
Hrok: This is the service chamber control panel. Now the gate will be closed, and the operator will turn on the liquidation system.
Professor: How does the liquidation system work?
Hrok: The principle is the same as that of a regular power spear. It’s just that, here, the hit doesn’t have a single point as a target – it goes across the entire area of the chamber.
The alarm sounds again. The chamber gate closes. The operator says something on speakerphone. The chamber turns into sheer chaos. Even the Humies who were calm and indifferent to everything five minutes ago suddenly come back to their senses and start throwing themselves against the walls, hitting them with their fists, screaming and going mad. Someone’s bladder can’t resist, and he urinates right on the floor. Another one vomits on another person’s back out of stress. Freeman’s legs tremble when he sees this picture, but he makes an effort to remain standing.
Hrok: Now everything will be over.
The operator says something on speakerphone again and presses a button on the panel. A hum can be heard, and the people in the chamber suddenly stiffen, begin to convulse, and fall on the floor. Several seconds later, they are all on the floor. The majority of them have apparently already died, but several people are still showing some signs of life. They are lying on the floor, squeezed by other bodies, convulsing. Enclosure workers appear in the chamber. They go around stepping on the bodies and finishing off the ones who are still alive.
The Professor turns away from the glass wall and steps aside.
Hrok: I told you that this wouldn’t be a pretty sight. But what can you do – that’s the world we live in. We need to eat something, after all, right?
The Professor doesn’t reply and only shows with a gesture that he would like to leave. In the hall, Hrok suggests that they see the milk department. Five minutes later, everyone is already in the aerocar, gliding silently over the ground. One more platform with Humies being delivered to the slaughterhouse goes past them. Freeman watches it with a sad expression.
Freeman: Not only do they live in prison in inhumane conditions for their whole life, but they’re also killed just like Hitler killed people in his gas chambers.
Gordon: Yeah… They’re imprisoned, condemned to the death penalty. But what are they guilty of? Just of being different from Boogeys.
Freeman: They are simply weaker than the Boogeys. They can't fight against their technologies. It’s really cruel and cynical of the Boogeys to take advantage of that… But we – the people – are just the same kind of bastards! We even treat each other the same way.
Freeman: Was it so very long ago that they abolished slavery in America? Was it so long ago that we stopped killing each other just because someone believes in a different God or has another skin color? And we rape our natural world and torture our animals the same way.
Gordon nods in agreement.
Professor: Hrok, are little children are also killed in the slaughterhouse?
Hrok: What? Children? God forbid! Or what are you talking about?
Professor: I mean Humie cubs.
Hrok: Ohh… Well, yes, they are also killed. Do you want to see that?
Professor: No, no way. I’ve seen enough deaths for today. I just don’t understand how cruel and heartless one has to be to work here.
Hrok shrugs his shoulders.
Hrok: It’s just a job, like being a teacher or doctor. Someone has to make your shoes, right? (he nods, indicating the Professor’s shoes)
Professor: They’re made from artificial material, not Humie skin.
Hrok: Natural skin is more durable and more pleasant to the touch. But there’s no accounting for taste.
Professor: Durability is questionable. To me, all that seems like stupid and useless stereotypes which mean that millions of intelligent creatures have to suffer and live in hell.
Ten minutes later they land near another barrack.
Hrok: Now, I’ll show you the farm where Humie milk is produced. Professor, are your Humies castrated?
Professor: Uhh, no… What do you mean?
Hrok: I’m afraid they might make a run at the females. On the farms, all the males are castrated at birth. It reduces their aggressiveness. I hope your Humies will be good boys.
Professor: Yes, you don’t have to worry about them.
When they are inside the barrack, Gordon continues recording his video. The women live in cages for 5 to 6 persons, just like in the male barrack.
Gordon: Damn it, Freeman, look at their breasts! These Boogeys are totally out of their mind.
The women in the cages are naked. Their breasts are incredibly large and hang down almost to the navel. It is clearly very difficult and uncomfortable for them to carry such a load.
Hrok: We are in the female barracks. As you can see, they live in the same kind of cages as the males, with a small exception. There is a special milking device in each chamber.
Hrok: The females go to the device themselves and attach the pump to their breasts. First, the device washes the female’s nipple, and then it pumps out the milk.
Professor: And what if the female doesn’t go to have her milk pumped?
Hrok: It will just be all the worse for her. She will experience pain, which eventually can lead to death. They know all this. That’s why the milking process doesn’t require any effort on our part.
Professor: And why do they have such huge breasts? In natural conditions, they are not so massive and hideous.
Hrok: We put some additives in their nutrient mixtures, which make the breasts grow and increase the amounts of milk.
Professor: As I understand, females don’t always give milk – only when they’re pregnant and for a certain period after the child’s birth.
Hrok: Yeah, that’s right. So we impregnate them every two years. On average, each female gives birth to about 5 cubs and gives us milk for about 10 years. Then she is sent to slaughter.
The women in the cages are sitting in an unexpectedly calm way. Nobody is crying or going mad. Even the appearance of the men doesn’t make any impression on them.
They are sitting silently and doing the kind of things available to them – some are eating, others pumping their milk, and others relieving themselves.
Professor: And they are impregnated naturally? You bring males to them?
Hrok: No, of course not. That would be too difficult and expensive. We do everything more simply. We have male sperm that we use to impregnate the females. Do you want to see how it’s done?
Hrok and the three guests go to the end of the barrack. Having passed through a small corridor, they appear in a room where Boogeys are impregnating the females. Hrok stands near the wall.
Hrok: The impregnating process is carried out manually, because it’s very difficult to automate it. Specially trained veterinarians do this work. We’ve gotten lucky – they’re just about to impregnate a female, so you will get to see everything for yourselves.
Gordon turns on his smartphone camera and starts recording. The veterinarian brings in a young girl – she looks 15 years old at most. First, he orders her to kneel down on a special platform.
Then he takes her hair with his hand and bends her forward, pressing her head to the ground. The girl starts kicking and screaming. Some belts come out from the platform and fix her arms and legs in an restraint position. The veterinarian releases her hair and takes an instrument that has been prepared in advance, which looks like a metallic shank about one foot long. The girl hisses and swears, trying to set herself free. It is, apparently, the first procedure of this type in her life. The veterinarian sprinkles his instrument with some liquid and takes it with his right hand. With the other hand, he grabs the girl’s hip and directs his instrument right between her legs. The girls moans and starts screaming and kicking even heavier. The veterinarian barks something in response and continues with the procedure. Ten minutes later, he takes out his instrument. A thin stream of blood trickles down the girl’s hip.
Freeman: Gordon, but she’s a virgin, she’s a really young girl! This is rape, pure and simple!
Gordon turns off his camera and puts his smartphone in his pocket.
Gordon: Professor, let’s get out of here. I can’t look at this all any more.
Part 8: Forget the lamb!
They are silent the entire way home. Gordon is rummaging around through his smartphone, Freeman is looking out the window, and the Professor is pretending to sleep. They all gather at the table for dinner.
Professor: Well, guys? What did you thinkkk?
Freeman: To be honest, Professor, I'm speechless. That was the most horrible, cruelest sight I've ever seen.
Professor: Oh, Freeman. I don't want to upset you, but Boogeys do even worse things to humans than that. You can't even imagine the true extent of the abuse of humans. It's an entire industry. People are used for various ekkxperiments and tests, many of which ckkause them inckkredible pain and suffering. And there are also flayers who provide wealthy ckklients with ekksotickk forms of entertainment. One of them is called "Heart of the Dragon."
Freeman: Dragon? What do dragons have to do with this?
Professor: I don't know, actually. Anyway, this akkktivity is ckkonsidered to be one for the strongest, the most worthy. And here's what happens: the heart is cut out of a Humie who is still alive and given to the ckklient while it is still beating. The ckklient has to eat it quickkkly. Raw.
Professor: So the extent of the debasement and exploitation of humans is really just incredible.
Gordon: The worst part is that the Boogeys don't see anything wrong with it. They say it's their work. Or that they need something to eat. That they need something to wear. Professor, with all your technologies, would it really be so hard to come up with some other food? Can you really not make materials that would easily replace leather?
Professor: Pfff, of course we can. And like I said, meat isn't even the optimal food for Boogeys. And, medically speaking, Boogeys shouldn't drink milk altogether. We aren't even mammals. It's all just relics of the past and stupid stereotypes. When we arrived, there were so many people on Earth that our leaders thought it would be a sin not to takkke advantage of the situation. Especially since the planet's population had to be reduced qkkwuickly. All of this turned into a whole industry with money swirling all around it. Well, and then everyone got used to it and just couldn't stop.
Freeman: But, Professor, your society is familiar with concepts like humanitarianism, and love, and freedom and compassion, isn't it? Why are there so few Boogeys like you?
Professor: Well, right, supposedly we’ve got all that. Respect for freedom, and compassion, and humanitarianism. But only with regard to other Boogeys and intelligent beings. And, to Boogeys, people are unintelligent. That's the problem. And since you're not intelligent, we can exploit and degrade you.
Gordon: Whoo, Professor, I think I've figured out your civilization! It's just that people can't give you the old one-two! That's why you don't acknowledge our intelligence. But in reality, you're the same underdeveloped creatures that we are. We also can understand only force much of the time. Our society also degrades and exploits the weak. And, really, level of intelligence has nothing to do with it. We kill both those like us, and cows and pigs.
The Professor thinks over what Gordon has said.
Professor: It seems you're right, Gordon. A civilization that takes advantage of its superiority over the weak can hardly be called an intelligent one.
Gordon: But we aren't animals, of course not! Although, no… I’ll take that back. After that dinner, Professor, I thought a lot about the ideas that were discussed at the table.
Gordon: You're right that the intelligent Boogey civilization, or that of humans, can hardly be compared to the wild. No one degrades anyone else in the wild. No one keeps anyone in captivity. The lion's chances of catching a zebra are equal to the zebra's chances of running away. That's the marvel of nature's balance and harmony. In nature, everything is deliberate and beautiful. Even cruelty in nature is justified and appropriate. Did you know that when a zebra runs away from a lion, it has a really high level of adrenaline? So its sensations of pain are strongly suppressed. It hardly suffers at all. As a rule, the lion kills it quickly and painlessly. Nature takes care of everyone.
Freeman stares at Gordon in surprise.
Gordon: What? What's wrong? You're surprised that I know something about the wild? I've watched some shows on TV. They're not bad, by the way. No worse than the BBC, really.
Freeman: No, I just thought that there’s no room in your head for nonsense like nature, animals or other sentimentality. I used to think that you were a self-confident lout with little chance of becoming interested in humanitarianism and problems of nature.
Gordon: That was before. What happened to us has helped me look at a lot of things from a different angle. And today's excursion forced me to rethink many of my values of life and the values of our society.
Freeman: I'm really glad that you haven’t remained indifferent to what we've seen. And as for myself, I've decided that when we get back home, I'm going to devote my life to opening the eyes of our society to the problems that the Professor has told us about and that I've seen myself.
Gordon: You want to save our civilization from destruction and chaos?
Freeman: Yes. Why not? What, you think that I don't have the guts?
Gordon: No, no, of course not. I'll go even further - will you take me on as your assistant?
Freeman smiles and extends Gordon his hand. Gordon shakes it firmly.
Professor: Friends, I am so glad that these few months have not been for nothing for you. You have grown spiritually over this time. I hope that you will manage everything you want to do in your world. And for my part, I promise to do everything I ckkan for people and for Boogeys here. You know, you've even inspired me with your optimism.
Freeman starts thinking. Gordon and the Professor relax and drink some kind of hot, fragrant beverage.
Freeman: You know what just occurred to me, Professor. We're not going back to a parallel universe, after all – we're going back to the past. And if we go back to the past and change everything there, then, perhaps, people won't be enslaved by your civilization. Isn't that right? And there won't be those farms, or the violence, or any of these horrible things. Your entire history might go a completely different way. That's the time travel paradox. Gordon, you did see "Back to the Future", didn't you?
Gordon: Yeah, of course. It's a classic!
Freeman: Then you know what I mean.
Gordon: Hmm… yes, it's an interesting question, of course. And, really, Professor, if we change the future, what will happen in your time? Will it also change? Or will they both exist as two alternative scenarios? In parallel universes?
Professor: I haven't seen "Backkk to the Future," but I understand what you mean. I thinkkk it's irrelevant. You should do what you ckkonsider to be necessary.
Freeman: My head is spinning just thinking about all this! I hope our time travel won’t trigger the destruction of the universe.
Gordon: To be honest, Freeman, our chances of changing the course of our civilization's development, and over such a short period of time, are really low. But we should try.
It takes three more months to get the time machine ready. On the appointed date, the Professor, Gordon, and Freeman arrive at Gharg's laboratory. They sit there and wait for another two hours as Gharg sets up his equipment. When everything is ready, Gharg approaches them.
Gharg: Professor, I've got everything ready. We just have to enter the exact coordinates and time for the transfer.
Professor: Yes, Gharg, we've already discussed it. Send them to the point in time five minutes after they were transported to us. But not back to the laboratory – to these coordinates.
Gharg: Okay. Well, let them get on the platform, then. And I'll enter the data for the transfer.
The Professor comes up to the scientists.
Professor: Well, friends, it's time for us to say goodbye. You are finally going backkk.
Gordon: (extending his hand to the Professor to shake) Professor, thank you so much for helping us. And for having opened our eyes.
Professor: (carefully taking Gordon's hand) No need to thank me, Gordon. Any intelligent being in the universe would have done the same.
The Professor extends a hand to Freeman.
Professor: Freeman, I wish you a pleasant journey!
Freeman: Thank you, Professor. Good luck to you!
Gordon and Freeman enter a small room, in the center of which is a platform. Above the platform, there is a sort of canopy with cryptic machinery. Gordon and Freeman stand on the platform. Gharg stands behind the time machine's control panel and shows something to the Professor.
Gharg: Well, boys, ready to go back? Be prepared for a little fall. I took some precautions, and so you'll materialize a couple of feet above the ground. I still haven't quite figured out all the details. I hope that you survive.
Gordon and Freeman take a look at each other.
Gordon: You think this Boogey calculated everything right?
Freeman: I think so. He knows he's sending real, live people, not pieces of wood, after all.
Gordon: Uh-huh… this vampire eats baked infants for dinner. I doubt he gives a crap about live people!
Freeman: Let's just hope that everything goes well.
The dome above the platform comes to life, buzzes and begins to rotate.
Gharg: Beginning the countdown. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, launch!
Gordon and Freeman lose consciousness. Gordon wakes up first. He lifts his head and takes a look around. Very close by is a highway with cars racing down it. Next to him, Freeman is lying with his face down. He rolls him onto his back and starts trying to wake him up.
Gordon: Hey, Freeman, wake up already! Well? Wake up, come on, come on!
Freeman opens his eyes.
Freeman: What happened?
Gordon: We seem to be alive. And it seems that we're in our time. At least those cars on the highway are being driven, not flown. That's something.
Freeman gets up onto his legs and then sits back down on the ground.
Freeman: Oof… my head is spinning. Now let's find out for sure where we've ended up.
He takes his smartphone out of his pocket and turns it on.
Freeman: Everything's right. We've returned home. (he shows Gordon the screen of the smartphone)
Gordon: Excellent! Now let's go to our lab and see what's left of it.
That same evening, Gordon and Freeman are sitting in their favorite restaurant.
Gordon: You don't think it's strange that the black hole in our lab didn't destroy the entire West Coast?
Freeman: I don't know. It was really small, after all, and it disappeared almost immediately. That's how we got off so easy. Only the equipment suffered.
Gordon: Yeah, and my sanity. You saw the face of the security guard who saw us at the entrance for the second time this morning. He didn't understand how we ended up outside of the lab. We didn't leave it, after all.
Freeman: We can always say it was a part of the experiment. And basically, it was.
Gordon: What are we going to do now?
Freeman: I don't know yet. We need to think everything through. But nothing will be the same now.
Gordon: That's for sure.
He doesn't notice as the waiter approaches.
Waiter: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Everything as usual?
Gordon takes a look at Freeman.
Gordon: (to the waiter) Forget the lamb!
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