Translated from the Russian by Dipen Bhattacharya
They stood at the entrance to a huge translucent building, vaguely reminiscent of an air terminal at the end of the 20th century.
– We have imagined so many times how he will take the first steps … said the old man. He was lean, fit, slender. Age was betrayed only by the neck and almost completely gray hair.
– And now we’ll see how the Son will do it, and … we will stop imagining, – responded a puny young mathematician with a bird profile and a mocking look.
A broad-shouldered, massive man, as if hewn out of a rock, turned his head towards him:
– So you haven’t figured out what to call it?
The young man nodded at the old man:
– This is primarily his Son. Let him give him a name.
The old man shook his head, and a strand of white hair fell over his steep forehead, splitting it in two.
– Tell us again about his hands and top nozzles. You can do it … About the eyes that will see what is hidden from us, – the man asked with unexpected tenderness.
– Can you tell us how he will act in this or that case? asked the young man, and there was an ironic hint in his words. – The creator must know this. A kind of safety technique.
The man shook his head disapprovingly, but the old man didn’t even turn around. He did not take his eyes off the doors.
Without removing the lock of hair from his forehead, he turned on the apparatus hanging on his chest. Now the old man was seen and heard by all the people of the Earth and those who settled on Mars and Venus, on artificial satellites. He spoke into the bell of the apparatus in a hoarse, slightly broken voice:
– Now you will see the first artificial intelligent creature created at the Joint Science Center. We conditionally called him the Son, since we have not yet come up with another name.
Some of those sitting at the screens remembered that the old man’s only son had died on the first expedition to the earth’s core.
The door flew open. A three-meter-tall knight appeared from it. His face could not be called either beautiful or not beautiful: there were no words in the dictionaries on Earth yet to convey this beauty. The best artists and sculptors of the planet created a project for its appearance, which biologists had to translate into artificial unfading flesh.
The knight stopped in front of the three people – three of the millions of his creators. They stared at him steadily.
The old man, as if challenging nature, thought: “You doomed me to death, but I managed to create the Son immortal.” A memory flashed in his eyes, a memory which he always carried with him as an amulet.
Squinting, mentally examining himself in an imaginary mirror, the young mathematician thought:
“This thin neck, crooked nose and bloodless lips is a birthday present from Her Majesty Nature. She stinted in strength and health, deciding that she had worked hard enough for me. But could she have foreseen that I would participate in the creation of the Son. My weakness and his strength are perhaps the greatest paradox I have ever known.”
The man wrinkled his bushy eyebrows, stood motionless, even more resembling a stone statue. And thoughts, heavy as stones, tossed and turned in his head: “Did we do the right thing, having put into his memory all the information about the history of mankind? About wars, robberies and enslavements … However, is there anything else left for us? Here we are. Let’s create his fellow brothers. They should know about the mistakes of people so as not to repeat them. Never and under any circumstances. But knowing all this, how will they treat us? How will they think of us? If we could program in them love for humans… It is a pity that this is impossible. The Son and his brothers will surf space, populate the planets. It is necessary to give them the right of free choice in everything. And this is what it led to. We know more than any father, the scheme of the Son’s organism, but we do not know what he thinks of us.”
The old man straightened the apparatus on his chest and said, addressing the Son: “We created you, but we could not give you a name. Make it up yourself.
There was silence for a few minutes. It stretched like an invisible thread, uniting people, from the Earth to the Moon, to artificial satellites, to Mars and Venus. People at the screens sat in silence, tensely waiting for what the Son would say.
“Maybe he wants to be called Superman?” Thought one of them. Well, he is capable of more than any of us. He can form an energy shell around his body and move freely in space. He is not afraid of either high or low temperatures. It can replace its organs or complete their construction. And create new ones in itself. In a second, his brain is capable of performing millions of complex calculations. He is not afraid of any disease …”
He recalled the lilac poisonous fog over the desert and his comrades dying in convulsions. And then he himself could not violate the order and get out of the all-terrain vehicle in order to die with them. He managed to see through the eyepiece of the microscope what killed them, but it was too late …
Another man thought about the Son: “He has the right to be called the Almighty, because he can do almost everything that the ancient people attributed to God. He could easily solve these damned equations, because of which the boss calls me slow, and I myself – stupid” …
The screens flickered – it seemed that people’s thoughts were hitting them, knocking out silvery sparks …
The old man waited patiently, thinking about his own. He recalled the day when his son and his comrades went on the “White Mole” to the core of the Earth. At that time, there was a lot of talk on radio and television about the “miracle of technology” – an earth-passing machine with a protective field. But even hearing all this, the old man (by the way, he was not yet an old man at that time) had a good idea of the thousand-kilometer strata of granite, basalt, sand, clay, magma, through which lay the path of a fragile shell with passengers, millions of times more fragile and defenseless than she was. Why didn’t he try to dissuade his son then? For the same reason the father sends his son into battle? Or because of paternal pride – a sister of ambition? This thought torments him to this day, although so many years have passed since the shell with the passengers remained at the core of the Earth.
The old man remembers well: he then came to the underground laboratory to Mary and saw in her hands a seismograph tape with oscillation teeth, with steeply soaring peaks and sheer abysses – a reflection of the uneven pulse of the Earth. And it seemed to him that the pulse of his son was displayed there, coming from the depths of the planet. Maybe it was then that he vowed to create an invulnerable Son who would pass where the first could not pass?
And he worked without complaining of fatigue, and when it seemed to him that the problem could not be solved, he recalled the seismograph tape. And if there were now people who believed that he really could not give a name to his brainchild, then they were wrong. That was not the point at all – he simply put the first test on the path of the Son.
And the Son smiled, and all the shining screens could fit into his smile. He – a creature that can do almost everything that ancient people attributed to God – quietly said:
– Call me Human …