The Mirror. Part 5: We have a chance!
Gordon and Freeman are discussing animal and human consciousness at breakfast with their new alien buddy. Why do we eat and exploit those we believe do not possess consciousness?
Vegans of the world, unite!
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.
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