Meet Alyosha. He is a Russian nuclear scientist. He has dedicated his life to searching for the ever-elusive God Particle, and, indirectly, for the meaning of life on Earth: the beginning and the end of it all (though the latter is not in his job description). He lives and works in the depths of Siberia. A lone wolf, he has no need for human interaction other than with his casual lover Nadia and his chess partner, Semyon Fyodorov.
When he is sure the beginning of the end has arrived, he travels back to his homeland and to the past he hastily abandoned nearly forty years ago.
Here is a small extract about Alyosha.
As is his habit, Semyon Fyodorov opens with one of the five most common openings known to man. I expect that and I also know that this is to lull me into a false sense of security and into an erroneous prediction as to what will come next. But that next step never comes with Semyon Fyodorov for Semyon Fyodorov is a virtuoso and goes on an unexpected tangent, each time without fail. He plays chess like a musician would the violin. There are constant variations to the tempo and melody, sudden departures from convention and notes never played before in the same bar are thrown together with gusto. That’s Semyon Fyodorov. Unbeatable, except for the two occasions, which were nothing more than a margin of error.
He delivers the inevitable conclusion two hours later. “Check-mate.”
I sigh heavily. I haven’t grown accustomed to losing – I never will. Dutifully, I have deposited Semyon’s sequence of moves into my memory bank even though I know that Semyon will not repeat it again. Still, he might slip one day.
Semyon smirks, about to ask one of his frequently asked questions. “So, have you found God yet?”
“You know I can’t tell you.” I can’t fault the old man for his persistence. He has brought the matter up with me with an astonishing regularity ever since we started playing chess. Somehow, he found out what my team were doing at the Atomic Agency facility under the mountain. Not from me of course. That we were working full-on on the production of weapons-grade plutonium was common knowledge, but our search for the so-called God-particle was top secret. You can’t keep secrets from Semyon, or so he thinks, because what he doesn’t know yet is that I had found Higgs boson long before the Europeans did, and that I went with my research much further and on a much larger scale than them. I looked infinity in the eye. Getting to the prime source of the Universe and discovering its tiny, humble origins was very exciting. Like they say, it was like coming face to face with God the Creator. But like everything else in science, a realisation came with it: there exists the other side of creation – the destruction, utter and irrevocable destruction.
“Only It’d be good to know if there’s a chance of meeting my maker when the end comes.” Semyon is particularly persistent today.
“Look at you, Semyon Fyodorov,” I laugh. “Lean and mean like the day you were born! You aren’t any closer to meeting our maker than I am.”
“Not out of my own free will. I’m not saying that, God forbid. But with everything that goes on out there. I won’t have any say in the matter, will I?” Semyon frowns. He is a wise man and he is none too pleased about his prospects. He can read between the lines of the News reports. For how long will the supposedly indestructible anti-missile shields hold on now that Moscow has executed a pre-emptive strike against just about everyone out there capable of retaliation? Like the old Siberian saying goes, you don’t leave a wounded beast for dead – you finish it off or it’ll come for you.
“Let’s hope you’re wrong, Semyon Fyodorov. Let’s hope you’re wrong.”
“Only I’m never wrong.”
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