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About science

How does science come aboard the navy? Science tends to arrive aboard unexpectedly and always right before departure, as the boat is about to set off – and there it is. Some pale research assistant turns up with a box, comes over to the boat and asks the upper watch:

“Would you mind if my box stays here for a while?”

The watch shrugs and says:

“Put it over there…”

The research assistant puts his box beside the watch, then he goes over to the “Chestnut”, our sub’s commu nication device, and requests our central post to “please kindly” come down to find someone he can hand this valuable box over to. The box contains a unique device (five of them in the whole of Russia) that is supposed to accompany our nuclear submarine on this voyage. While the research assistant goes down and looks for someone to give the unique box to, the watch changes and a new watch is already accepting the box as a given, something which belongs to the jetty. The first watch goes down and the first mate appears up above.

“What’s this?” the first mate asks the new watch and kicks the box.

“This?” the watch looks at the box with the eyes of an orphan from Central Russia.

“Yes, yes, what’s this?”

“This?...”

“This, this,” the first mate begins to show impatience, “what is it?!”

“This?...” the watch asks thoughtfully and looks at the box studiously.

And now the first mate starts yelling, because the whole raw mass of crude experiences connected with the pre paration race preceding the voyage, the whole heap of hot worries and anxieties, the whole weight of the last few days sitting heavy like a shaggy dog on the sagging shoulders of the first mate, suddenly – from these unhurried reflections of the watch – break, in one instant, that most fragile of things on earth: the delicate spine of a first mate’s patience.

“Gr-r-r! I a-m a-s-k-i-n-g y-o-u, w-h-a-t t-h-i-s b-o-x i-s!” yells the first mate, all of his extremities shaking horribly.

The watch gets very scared, he loses his voice, his honour, his conscience, control of his face and he stands there like a gawping idiot. In his eyes is deathly horror. You wouldn’t be able to beat a single word out of him now.

But the first mate is gushing unstoppably: he shouts that the Motherland has given birth to lots of idiots and all these idiots have filled his ship to the very brim; you could put a bomb under these idiots’ noses or even am putate some bit of them (the idiots), but they wouldn’t even budge; you could wrap them up in wet rags and kidnap these idiots with no problem if you want.

“You, pitch darkness!” howls the first mate. “Why haven’t they already wrapped you up and kidnapped you?!

Why hasn’t anyone stolen this wonder?!”

Then, he kicks the box several times and, grabbing two sailors, he barks:

“Now, take this crap and chuck it so far that I’ll never see it again!”

The sailors take it (the crap) and, in compliance with their briefing, they begin to shift it: they drag it onto the planks of the jetty and – one-two-three (“It’s bloody heavy, this crap,”) – swinging it back-and-forth they throw it into the sea.

And then just imagine that utter human sorrow, that inexpressible anguish which contorted the face of the research assistant who had finally climbed back up to get his box. The best of my poetic efforts wouldn’t suffice to describe the super-human pain and tragedy on his face. I’ll quote from the classics instead: “Symorgh, the bird of Grief, spread its wings over him.”

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