The arendt files, p.20
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       The Arendt Files, p.20

           Ivan Rosemblatt
 
Leskov knew that he was failing and it was making him suicidal. Thirteen years of constant work had passed, he was no longer a young man and nothing of practical use had come from any of his work. This was was war science and the aim was to gain advantage and defeat the enemy. Things reached a crisis point for him after a year and a half without progress. He had tried everything that occurred to him, streamlined every aspect of the design, but nothing he did made a difference.

  There was no world to return to, no life for him, no end to the war. His family was back home were certainly all dead. He would often drift off into fantasies of success, imagining what a breakthrough would mean for him and the cause,which would only aggravate his sense of hopelessness when the reverie ended. He had been a scientist long enough to know that his sense of despair was entirely justified. You can't do real science expecting breakthroughs. It's an ongoing labor that usually results the simple realization that your premise was incorrect.

  At this point it was almost certain that his work would bear no fruit. The only sane step would be to abandon it all together. Every fiber of his being fought against that option, which was why he was estranged from his colleagues, they had abandoned all attempts to shake him out of his senseless conviction. As distraught as he was. he harbored an irrational feeling of certainty that there was a solution. despite all evidence to the contrary.

  They were scientists on a knowledge suicide mission, sent into territories that had already been declared barren, uninhabitable, no supply lines, no support troops, no recognizable landscape to navigate with, not even the familiar constellations in the sky. They had said it to him so clearly, “There is no way we are going to be able to compete with them now in the traditional research and development area, they have the luxury of resources and numbers. What we are doing here gents is going for a hail Mary. You need to take the most outlandish ideas on the fringes of and treat them like they are real, then try and make weapons out of them.”

  It was so strange he could hardly believe it. Now so many years later and what could he say for himself. Nothing. So he met with Miguel in a cafe. “I have reached a dead end.”

  “The steam engine?” Leskov laughed.

  “Yes, the steam engine. The one you have teased me about for years. It turns out you were right. All my work has been for nothing.”

  “Yes, the work is always for nothing, a failure, until it is a success.”

  “No success Miguel. Just failure. I can bear it in my own life, but not here. This is all I have to offer and now I realize that it is nothing.”

  Miguel snuffed out his cigarette and leaned forward intently trying to grab Leskov’s gaze as Leskov stared out the window looking lost and forlorn “Leskov, when I make fun of your machine, you know it is to laugh, nothing more, I do that with everyone, especially my brothers.”

  “My brother’s are all dead.”

  “You don’t know that. We don’t know what’s happening over there in Europe.”

  “No, actually I do know. The Colonel told me, what, three years ago.”

  “I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say. I am your brother now. You and I will be brothers.”

  “That’s kind, very kind. They are all gone now. Everyone I knew or cared about before the war.”

  “What I am going to say you, probably don’t want to hear, but there are only two fates for human beings, they die and leave their loved ones or their loved ones die and abandon them leaving them to die alone. There are no good outcomes. You have been confronted with this truth. Now the question is how you respond.”

  “You are right of course but I have no response. There is nothing in me.”

  “There must be something. You are here, we are talking.”

  “This is a hollow gesture. It is nothing. Hearing you I realize I just wanted to say goodbye to someone.”

  “This is real what you are saying?” Miguel lit another cigarette.

  “Yes I suppose it is.”

  “Well I suppose it is a big steaming pile of shit, mierda. We are at war. If you are planning on dying you need to take some of the enemy with you.”

  “I am not that kind of soldier. I can’t take a person’s life directly.”

  “Isn’t that what you are trying to do with your work.”

  “Yes it is. But I couldn’t do it myself. See I eat meat but I can’t kill a bug. Somebody else needs to kill it for me. You see, I am a coward.”

  “I don’t think it’s that simple. Not wanting to kill is probably the best thing about us as people’s.”

  “I am a coward.”

  “That is the worst part of us.”

  “What?”

  “That despair makes us cruel and stupid without our being able to see it.”

  “I should go.” Leskov started to get up.

  “No, sit. I said the wrong thing, I know. Give me a second, a moment.” They both sat in silence. Even the sounds of the cafe around them seemed muffled. Miguel leaned his chair back and balanced on its back legs like a schoolboy, his arms crossed, tips of his fingers tapping on his chin in concentration. “I believe that you are serious about what you are saying. But if you are thinking of going through with it I believe there is something you should do before. If you are willing to end it there is a purpose you can serve for the cause, and who knows, it might change your mind.

  A few hours later he was deep in a section of the cave he had never visited before, they had blindfolded him before guiding him there. Once he had arrived he had been introduced to the head researcher who had introduced himself as the controller. He had said, “I will be the controller.” The man must have been and extremely important researcher, clearly an officer as well.

  Leskov was was aware that he was inordinately prideful about his machine but immediately impressed by what they had created. Three stories tall, from below it looked like scaffolding holding a large pot with a concave bottom raised up off the ground by massive hydraulic pistons attached at different heights around the circumference. The scaffolding rose above that into the dark height of the cave where there was a complex set of motors, pulley and levers. Thick black electrical cables wound about and connected all the parts.

  They had him climb up a ladder into it through a hole in it's base. Looking around him he had never seen such a perfect concave mirror before. The area they had to stand on was only perhaps a meter and a half in diameter. Miguel and the controller climbed up with him.

  “Is this one single mirror.”

  “No, but we were able to develop some new techniques to polish and fill the seams. It is the smoothest mirror the world has ever seen.”

  “It is remarkable.”

  “Thank you. We couldn’t ask for a better location to work in.”

  They were very comfortable leather shorts, shirt and moccasins as he had made his way through the series of walls and curtains to the section he was in now at the end of one of the veins of the mine. They had on different leather outfits, a bit less loose fitting. All this to reduce dust.

  “It’s extremely comfortable.” Leskov touched the sleeve of the shirt which was remarkably smooth and pliant, almost silk like but of course more substantial.

  “Best leather in the world. We have to improvise. I’m sure you understand.”

  The facility had an extensive team of glass blowers, carpenters, blacksmiths, metallurgist’s, tailors, mechanics, fabricator’s, all on call at moments notice to help them figure out ways to create the tools or the instrumentation they required.“Where would we be without our craftsmen?”

  “Nowhere. Plus, they make fantastic furniture.” It was true, they did.

  “Lower please” the controller called up into the darkness. The whole space was lit in such a way that the edges and the heights were shrouded in darkness; the overall effect was mysterious. The mirrored interior started to curve inward at around the high of Leskov’s shoulders, sloping in and together, forming the shape of a sphere cut off about three quarters of the way up.

  A c
omplex leather harness descended from the darkness of the scaffolding above. Leskov thought to himself, “I hope we win so that all of this can be preserved as some kind of museum, otherwise no one will ever believe it existed.”

  The harness was attached first around his waist into reinforced bindings and metal grommets, which was to be expected if you were to lift someone up into the air, but surprisingly also above the elbow, above and below the knee, and fine, thin, woven leather ropes connecting to his ring and index finger and the corresponding toes on his feet. These were put on last and made him surprisingly anxious. “Are you going to string me up from my toes?”

  “At times. Don’t worry, you’re body won’t be hurt.”

  “My body won’t be hurt.” He mumbled back to himself under his breath. “What is that supposed to mean?” Obviously that there was some other part of himself that might be vulnerable. “What are you going to do to me?”

  The controller turned to Miguel. “I thought you said he was a willing subject?”

  “He is a willing subject.”

  “I was just asking a question” pleaded Leskov.

  “No more questions. These are the conditions of the experiment. Minimum knowledge.”

  Miguel walked up to Leskov and whispered into his ear, “It seems that you are suddenly concerned about yourself again.”

  “Please!” The controller was obviously irritated with the chit chat but didn’t look at them as he worked quickly to arrange the ropes on the floor around Leskov. “What are you, children in a classroom, that I have to tell you not to whisper secrets to each other. Miguel leave. Go, go.”

  Miguel patted Leskov on his shoulder “Good luck friend.”

  “I will see you later” Leskov shouted after Miguel, a hint of desperation and an attempt to reassure himself as his friend, his only friend descended the ladder and disappeared below. The controller was adjusting the straps around his body. It all fit remarkably snugly. “What are you going to do to me?”

  “As I said. The less you understand the better for the experiment. We are looking to learn from you and for you to learn for us”

  “Haven’t you done this before?”

  “Only partially, in bits and pieces Never according to the full parameters of the design.”

  “I don’t know if this is a good idea. You are making me very nervous.”

  “That’s not me that’s you making yourself nervous. Don’t be concerned though. Whatever you are now. You will be different later.”

  “I suppose that is good.”

  “We will see.”

  “Miguel,” Leskov shouted into the darkness “your friend is not very comforting.”

  “Say it to mommy.” yelled back Miguel. That made him laugh. His spirits lifted and he started to rise lifted from above. “Like an angel to heaven. What a strange thought.”

  Chapter 21

 
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