"Thin world." Chapter 3

    We continue the story. And in case anyone came across this post for the first time, this is the third chapter of the story. The first two can be found at the links below.
    Previous parts

    Friends, I have a suggestion for you to dream together a little about one question. The question itself is irrelevant for the plot, so it will not be mentioned in the story, but I'm interested in your opinion. You will find the question at the end of the chapter.


    Illustration by Anatoly Sazanov

    It was quiet, expectantly quiet, as if a huge clock was ticking somewhere, and every movement of the second hand responded with trembling in the body. In a few minutes, they heard only five passing cars, a dozen shots and one rumbling tram. Was there anyone alive inside, Marina did not know. Sasha - that was the name of the doctor - was sure that it was not.

    - Capture weaken? - he asked. Marina squinted at her own twisted arm, which was still gripping the ax tightly. She hardly felt her.

    “Maybe it’s better not?” She replied.

    - Let's try.

    The intricate pincers his hand had turned into a little opened. Marina felt relieved and, at the same time, burning on the bend of the elbow, as when removing the tourniquet, and then the rusty ax blade was moved a centimeter closer.

    “Oh,” she sighed, “let's refrain.” Five minutes left.

    “Some blood had to be missed,” he answered, “is your hand still useful?”

    Again they fell into an awkward silence, clutching each other in a steel embrace. Marina tried to imagine it from the side and laughed.

    - No, of course, young people hugged me before, but for the first time with an ax.

    Sasha smiled.

    - Good thing for the first time. We have an ambulance and it didn’t happen.

    “Ah, here you have such a grab.” Against violent, like me.

    - Something like that.

    They were silent for a little longer. Marina turned her head, crunching her neck vertebrae, and stared at the wall. She didn’t have to look at the doctor yet - her eyes kept drawing a monster for her, which must be killed.

    - Sorry for the hand.

    “Fine,” Sasha replied, “the bullet didn’t hit, it just scratched it with a fragment.”

    “I didn’t know what happened,” Marina reminded. “We won?” Lost?

    - Hard to tell. Two old commanders in chief who brewed porridge are dead. They were killed, I heard, by my own hacked bodyguards. You don’t think that you and I were hacked? We got under the arm, as usual. In general, an hour later, some Mironov and Johnson, supposedly the eldest of the surviving officers, agreed to stop the war. We agreed on time. The ships were still moving to the points, the planes did not have time to leave the airfields. Missiles have not yet been launched. All were distracted by panic in the streets of big cities. I think so, they expected ten percent to be hacked, and their own will quickly deal with them. And it turned out what happened.

    I actually listened and did not believe my ears. This war took so long to prepare; you and I were also preparing. Remember the colors of television shows, posters on the streets. Remember those shades of green and red? And now everything is canceled. I told myself: this is not for long. Now these two will be vividly eliminated and will be given a new “face” command. But then Johnson made a knight's move. The Balm system - I appreciated the humor - clogs all communication channels with incoherent noise. Radio at all frequencies, television, of course, the Internet - all that could reach. Special communication. Probably, the radio will still work at short distances, maybe there are still some loopholes, I don’t know. But the bottom line is that all official communication channels will be silent. No one will cancel the peace agreement, understand?

    He turned his eyes shining with delight, and at that moment the world ceased to be two-tone. The pipes and drums in my head died down, the traces of blood on the floor disappeared - they, too, were drawn by the sight deceived by the call. It seemed to Marina that she hears birdsong.

    “That's all,” the doctor said, and returned his hand to its previous shape. The ax fell deafly onto the concrete floor. Marina drew back and leaned against the opposite wall, rubbing a numb brush and at the same time looking incredulously at her - would she throw out some more trick. Sasha sat across from her, took a deep breath and rubbed his temples.

    “He slept a little today,” he explained, “and it seems that I will not fall asleep soon.” I will smoke, do not mind?

    Marina nodded and asked:

    - And this ... call ... didn’t act on you?

    - Why? - Sasha asked with a cigarette in his mouth and, raising his hand, struck a finger on his finger. Lighter module. - Acted.

    “Yes, but you did not try to kill me.”

    Sasha took a drag and, exhaling the smoke with pleasure, answered.

    “Do you think I never had to work with patients I want to take like that - and strangle them on the spot?” You have no idea how many there were. I restrained somehow. Why not hold back now?

    Marina sadly looked at the rusty ax lying between them.

    - I would also like to restrain myself.

    “You restrained,” Sasha smiled, “otherwise I would be dead.” When a person wants to kill, he does this, finding himself any excuse. You didn’t need an excuse - they hacked, forced. And you resisted.

    “You say that as if those people in the square were not hacked or forced.”

    - So what? You mean they are not to blame for each other’s death? No, Marin, to blame. Because two rational people, when they really do not want to kill each other, will find a way to not do this.


    * * *

    Walking along paths and paths, breathing in the aromas of herbs and wood tar, Marina kept forgetting what had happened. Singing another song, she recalled their walks with her mother when she was as much as Lisa now. Then the sun above her head with a golden miracle shone only for her, unclouded, nebulized. Marina wanted to at least for a moment get rid of her fears and worries and sing in full voice, rather than in a cautious whisper. But the sun does not warm through the cold window of the past.

    “This journey will not always be careless,” she prophesied to herself. And she herself answered even more terribly: "Most likely, she will never be so careless again."

    - Blueberries! - exclaimed Lisa and ran to the side of the road. Marina, pulled out of her thoughts, automatically smiled after her. Then her face went dark, and she looked around.

    “One must be vigilant,” she instructed herself, “I am responsible for her.”

    From above came a raven gray. Lisa ate berries and did not pay attention, and Marina glanced briefly up - and glared at her.

    A crow is like a crow. Sits on a branch, croaks, black eyes and scour in search of something. But this green silhouette around could not be confused with anything. The bird spread its wings, flew off a branch and disappeared behind the trees.

    - Remember, my mother and I skated for berries? - asked Lisa.

    “I remember,” Marina smiled, “and I also remember how someone whimpered all the way.”

    “I did not whimper,” the girl was indignant, rising from her haunches.

    - True? But someone was whimpering. Is it really mom?

    “Bebebe,” Lisa made a face and showed her tongue blue with berries. Marina in response amazedly rounded her eyes and poked her finger somewhere in the forest.

    - Look what is it?

    Lisa obediently turned away, and immediately received a slight poke in the side of her sister.

    - Hey! She shouted and rushed to the attack. They shoved merrily for a while, and then Lisa also made a surprised face and screamed completely unnaturally:

    “Look, what's there?”

    Marina pretended to believe, turned around - and barely restrained herself so as not to howl from pain.

    “Lisa,” she asked as calmly as possible, feeling the blood flowing through her arm, “please remove the blade.”

    - Oh. Marinochka, I'm sorry, I accidentally! - Lisa screamed and drew back her hand-blade, very sloppy, so Marina again had to bite her lip. She squatted and pulled off her backpack with one hand.

    - Well, let's bandage me. Sister bandage.

    * * *

    When the rest houses, huddling along the lake, disappeared from sight, and in front loomed the multi-colored roofs of summer cottages and apartment buildings, resembling a bird market, they were stopped by someone's exclamation.

    - To stand!

    The sisters froze. Marina, without turning her head, looked up, but could not find where the call came from.

    - See, we are standing! - emboldened, she shouted back.

    - A girl can pass, you - no.

    - Why?

    - Because because. There is an order to skip the greens, do not skip the reds. Violators to shoot on the spot.

    “Who am I talking to?” - Marina got angry. - Show yourself, or something.

    “Not supposed to,” the voice answered displeasedly, “That's it, get out, otherwise I'll shoot.”

    - The war is over! - voiced the voice of Lisa.

    - Do not speak to me.

    And that’s all. That’s the whole story.

    Marina grabbed Lisa by the hand and dragged in the opposite direction.

    - Come on.

    “Does he not know that the war is over?” - asked Lisa.

    “Apparently not,” Marina answered, and she thought to herself, “There are people who pray that it does not end,”

    “How do we go?” Bypass, by rail?

    “Sounds like it,” Marina sighed. This is the end of carelessness.

    - And mom will find us, what do you think?

    Marina immediately recognized this trembling in her voice, these tears in her native eyes. “Bored, poor. No, no, but he will remember ”

    - Of course, he will find the hare. Or we will find her. Remember we left her a note?

    - We had to wait for her. We would all go together.

    Marina did not argue. Maybe that would be better. But the doctor clearly said, "Leave the city as soon as possible." They sat in the apartment for two days, and on the third, reluctantly, turned the key in the lock and left. Whether they will return there again ... Suddenly it became absolutely clear to Marina that no, they would not return. This is not a country walk, not a hike, not an expedition. Not a wonderful adventure, which can be remembered in the kitchen for a mug of cocoa, returning to normal life. This is now their ordinary life.

    - It was impossible to wait. You know, you could get very sick. And there was no water at home, remember. Then the light disappeared. Mom as soon as she arrives, will not stay there for a minute and will go looking for us.

    “And you can't call her ...” Lisa sniffed.

    Oh-oh-oh, Marina thought, with her hands in her pockets. Feeling the bride when the pencil was lying around, she pulled it out and handed it to Lisa.

    - Write her a letter. We’ll find a piece of paper now.

    - A letter? - Lisa became interested, - Let’s write. How will mom get it?

    “And we will hand him over,” Marina said mysteriously, “as we meet someone, we ask him to hand him over.” Mom will follow us and receive a letter.

    “Can ravens carry letters?”

    “No, Liz, just pigeons.”

    “There is a crow sitting on a stump,” Lisa pointed with her finger, “She just won’t be able to?”

    Crow really sat on a stump, looking with black eyes somewhere to the side, and something was wrong with her. No, Marina wasn’t even surprised at the green silhouette, as well as the glittering metal on the wings. The bird did not move. She did not blink, did not turn her head, did not shift from paw to paw. As if petrified.

    - Lisa, red dots or something unusual around you do not observe?

    Lisa slowly looked around, using the Young Naturalist, and shook her head.

    - There is nothing. Did you notice something?

    - May be. Come on. We play scouts. You climb into those Christmas trees and sit quietly, writing a letter to your mother. And I'm going to scout.

    - I want to scout!

    - Hush. You’ll go next time, I promise. And now you have a special task. March in the Christmas trees!

    - There is a “march to the Christmas trees!” - Lisa saluted and hid in the thicket.

    Marina carefully approached the raven and squatted nearby.

    - Well hello, allied bird.

    She reached out and touched the feathers. Soft. The skin under them is warm. A small bird’s heart is pounding. And nothing more, no movement.

    “What is it, just a malfunction of micromachines?” Or a weapon? "Did we see you half an hour ago, or your other goods?"

    * * *

    “I think so,” the doctor went on, lighting a cigarette, ““ I was ordered, I just carried out ”- these are all excuses. If a soldier is ordered to cut out appendicitis, play a Shostakovich symphony or get snow in the summer, he will refuse. He will say that he can’t. However, he can pull the trigger and take the life of another person. It seems simple to him. It gives power.

    * * *

    Marina decided to go exactly fifteen minutes, and at the end of the scheduled time she went to the fork - two paths left, looping, east, into the possession of the unfortunate sniper.

    “It looks like nobody,” Marina decided and turned back, “I hope Lizka hasn’t gone anywhere.”

    And just at the moment when the girl moved a few steps from the intersection, a cyclist appeared on one of the paths.

    * * *

    As far as Marina remembered, her father never showed any interest in her. Just in the evenings in the house there was another person who was slightly different from the people on the TV - that also did not care what was happening in the apartment, and they turned off at the same time. Only on some holidays, which, as a rule, did not include Marinin’s birthday, did he come a little earlier, warm and drunk, and share his impressions. Sometimes it was parades, and then he said, “Yes, with such power we are not afraid of anything. We live in peace, no one is a threat or a decree to us. What else does a person need for a normal life? ” What he understood by normal life remained a mystery. That mother, that Marina, in his opinion, lived an abnormal life - walked a lot, traveled and sang songs.

    According to his stories, Marina drew columns of tanks and companies of soldiers. With flowers, a rainbow, magic castles - as she imagined it. He chuckled, taking drawings from her. Once, Marina found them in the trash and, from insult, refused to paint for anyone at all. However, she did not keep this stupid promise.

    The expectation of a second child briefly revived him - exactly as long as the sex of the child was found out. Who knows how everything would turn, go on for at least a few more years. But one day - it seems it was again a military parade - my father returned to an empty apartment.

    For six years, Marina did not see him and already began to forget about his existence. Once, returning from preparatory courses, she heard an almost forgotten voice in the kitchen. He sat, putting Lizka on his lap, and talked with his mother. Mom smiled and laughed, there was something spring in her at that moment, her eyes shone with a laugh. Father was hard to find out. In camouflage, military boots (and this is on the washed floor!), Smoothly shaved, apart from the ridiculous small antennae, he seemed slimmer and more reliable than six years ago. Only the eyes remained the same, only some arrogance appeared in them.

    Later, her mother told her admiringly that her father was engaged in some kind of military reconstruction. It was fashionable at that time. She showed photos and even a video where he, speaking on the podium in front of a khaki crowd, prophesied death to enemies.

    “Well, it's still better than what it was before, agree,” my mother was offended at her remarks. However, this their second love very quickly came to naught. “You can’t enter the same river twice,” my mother said about it, hiding her sadness. And then she once said: “I thought he used to spit on us. It turned out that before he did not care at all. And now - only for us. ”


    * * *

    When Marina stopped to determine the source of the rustling sound, it was too late - the cyclist appeared from behind a sharp turn and braked sharply, noticing her. He wore mud-camouflage pants and a striped sweater. Something was wrapped in a camouflage jacket in the trunk of a bicycle. The silhouette was red, but somehow fuzzy.

    “Hello,” he said in a booming bass, “don’t be afraid, I won’t touch you.” Oh ...

    He stared at her right hand, Marina too. “And when only she had time,” she thought, hiding the rifle back.

    “Apparently I should have been afraid of this,” he smiled.

    “Aren't you a military man?”

    “No, not anymore.” Are you right about to go?

    “Yes,” Marina answered. It was foolish to deny the obvious.

    “I do not advise,” he shook his head, “we have the Sfex division there, they only accept ours.”

    “But they didn’t hear about the hacks,” Marina remarked sarcastically, “as if it’s my fault that I ... have been repainted.”

    - Well, they have their own philosophy. “The cyclist shrugged,” my business is simple. He brought, drove, received a ration.

    “Are there many such ... units?” - decided to clarify Marina. Her interlocutor strangely smiled back.

    - They are. If you know what kind of tidbit they are pulling, then guess for yourself. If not, go better to the city, my advice to you.

    “Everyone always advises me something,” Marina grumbled to herself, “as I used to live without you advisers, I won’t know”

    - Thanks for the advice. Apparently, I’ll do this, ”she said aloud and, turning around, went past the bicycle in the opposite direction. “I'll wait until I leave and go pick up Lizka.” The

    jacket on the trunk suddenly began to tremble, and, tearing the fabric from the inside, a propeller hatched from it with a terrible screech. He raged in his straitjacket, powerlessly slicing through the air, and then wearily fell silent.

    Marina’s soul went to heels with fear. For several seconds she tried to catch her breath, eyes wide.

    - Wow, earned! - the cyclist was delighted, looking at the folded jacket with love, - or someone got into the habit of shooting down drones, which I adapted for sending messages. Go look for them later.

    “You ... do you know what he is doing?”

    - Is he? - He looked at her, puzzled. - Well, I adapted this one to send messages. There is one tricky loophole there, through the infrared port, the main thing is to get into the line of sight ...

    - Does this make people kill each other? - interrupted Marina.

    “Ah, here you are,” the courier said disappointingly, “he broadcasts the“ Call ”by itself. But why should we be afraid of you? ABOUT! - he smiled, as if he remembered something, - I completely forgot!

    Marina's eyes charged and she rubbed them with her fists. Blinking several times, she suddenly saw how the young man's outline turned green. Pale green, as if the system doubted.

    “Well, now we won’t fight,” he grinned.

    Marina was breathless again, the second time in the last five minutes. Really ...

    - How ... how did you do this? - she was ready to rush to his neck with joy.

    “Ah, nothing,” he waved his hand. “A camouflage module.” So, accidentally got it.

    - Can you change my color?

    The courier looked at her with a sly and prepared to answer something, but could not. First, Marina decided that he, like herself, was stunned by a shot. When he grabbed his bloodied throat, staring at her with frightened eyes, she screamed in horror - and as if in response to her cry, an automatic burst hit his head and knocked him down along with the bicycle.

    He fell face down, the hypnotic dying look disappeared, and Marina found the strength to turn her head. Lisa appeared from the crease of the road, and next to her, holding her hand, was her father. A machine gun hung on his shoulder, which he held with his right hand. Father's silhouette was blood red. He looked at Marina bored, a little squeamish, and did not hold Liza when she pulled out her hand and ran to her sister. Marina came to her senses already in her arms, squatting down and stroking her hair.

    “Well, hello, traitor,” my father grinned and removed the machine gun behind his back. Marina did not answer. A storm of feelings was seething in her. The horror of a face twisted with pain, this look clinging to life, anger over senseless and such unnecessary killing. “But he could help us with Lizka!” She was angry to herself, and immediately objected to herself, angry even more, “Of course, you fool, everyone just needs to help you! And if he launched the drone right here? ”

    She stood up, barely restraining her rage, pushed Lisa back and asked in a voice boiling with anger, while looking at her father.

    “Liz, please step back a couple of meters.” I have to do something.

    Lisa obeyed, ran to the side of the road and froze. And Marina stepped over a dead body and grabbed a bundle with a jacket.

    “I do not advise,” my father shook his head.

    “Go to hell,” Marina snapped, grabbed the drone by the protruding propeller and swung it on a tree in a big way. He scattered into a hundred small fragments, the propellers swirled in the air, wound up at last. One of them slashed her on the cheek, swept over, flew into fir branches, got stuck and, having floundered for a few moments, became silent forever.

    Go to Chapter 4

    Thanks for attention. And now the question: What do you think is Marina’s rifle principle of operation?

    I have three options:
    • firearms - here I do not have enough knowledge in chemistry to understand whether micromachines can synthesize a powder charge from the resources of the human body.
    • electromagnetic - closer to reality, but is it possible to theoretically accumulate the charge necessary for a shot in a reasonable time? Again, only the human body is at hand.
    • pneumatic - the most likely option, adopted as the main one.

    It is worth noting immediately that this is a civil defense weapon, and not a full-fledged weapon.

    Thanks and have a nice weekend!

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