The Mirror. Part 6: Time travel is real!
The Professor sets up a meeting with a scientist who can help Gordon and Freeman get back home… or, rather, back to the past Gordan and Freeman also attend the meeting – as pets. They get an idea of the alien cuisine.
Vegans of the world, unite!
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?
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