Yury Ilyich, a research fellow at the Academic Research Institute, during the years of perestroika becomes the object of recruiting an organization that calls itself “the editorial office.” The editors who came to him directly to work, Igor Vasilyevich and Sergey Ivanovich, demand that he use their unusual abilities on their instructions: Yuri Ilyich is an extrapolator who knows how to be transferred to the future.
Moving in time, Yuri Ilyich is in 1993 – in an era called the Great Reconstruction. It’s dangerous to move around in a dark, Moscow-infested Moscow ice without weapons; The coat of the hero, like other passers-by, pushes the Kalashnikov. In the middle of Tverskaya tanks are constantly rushing, explosions are rumbling at Strastnaya Square, and rounds
Fleeing from the next round-up, Yuri Ilyich is in the dark entrance of the house where his childhood passed. Here he meets with a woman from Ekaterinoslav, who came to Moscow for her boots. Through the back door they manage to hide from the detachment of the “Afghans” who are killing the passengers of the old Mercedes, and from the round-up of the People’s Security Commission cleaning the Moscow houses from the bureaucrats. They pass by the black ruins of the Peking Hotel, habituated by the Moscow anarchists. Recently, in one of the windows hung a corpse of a guy, a “metal worker”, executed by executioners from Lyubertsy. Near the house with the “bad apartment” described by Bulgakov, pickets of the “retinue of Satan” in cats’ masks are on duty.
Learning that Yuri Ilyich has invaluable coupons, for which items of prime necessity are issued, a woman does not lag behind him a single step. She tells an unexpected companion about what a rich life she had before – while her husband, who worked at a car service, did not kill his own neighbors. The woman first fawns in front of the owner of the coupons, then is given to him directly on the covered bench, and then, swearing from class hatred of the “Moscow journalist”, tries to shoot from his machine – all for the same coupons. Only another round of the Commission of People’s Security, from which both are forced to flee, allows the hero to escape death.
All these incidents he describes to his “editors”, returning to the present. Finally, they explain to Yuri Ilyich what is the main goal of recruitment: in the future there is an extrapolator “on the other hand,” which they are trying to identify.
The hero again sinks in 1993. Having avoided the round-up of the Commission, Yuri Ilyich and his companion immediately become hostages to the Revolutionary Committee of the fundamentalists of Northern Persia. Those determine their enemies by the presence of a cross on their chests – in contrast, for example, from “knights” – Antisemites in black pendants, for which the sign of baptism is the knowledge by heart of “The Lay of Igor’s Host.”
Miraculously leaving the fundamentalists, involuntary companions come to a posh nightclub to a friend of Yuri Ilyich, a young Jewish Jew Valentin. Music plays in the tavern, visitors are served delicacies: real bread, American pasteurized ham, French pressed cucumbers, moonshine from Hungarian green peas… Here Yuri Ilyich finally learns that his companion’s name is Julia. Once again, on Strastnaya Square, they watch the restoration of the monument to Pushkin, which was blown up by Stalinist terrorists for the non-Slavic origin of the poet.
In the subway Yuri Ilyich manages to buy a Makarov pistol in exchange for a machine lost in the rounds. In the cars of night trains dancing naked girls, people in chains, in tailcoats, in spotted combat form, recaptured paratroopers in Transylvania; teenagers sniff gas; sleeping ragamuffin from starving Vladimir and Yaroslavl.
Having got out of the metro, Yury Ilyich finally dismisses Yulia, ready for everything for the sake of boots. Immediately, a strange, luxuriously dressed man comes up to him, treats Galois with cigarettes and starts talking about what is happening in the country. According to his free gestures, according to the old-fashioned habit of building a phrase, Yuri Ilyich understands from what time his unexpected interlocutor arrived… He believes that the bloody nightmare and dictatorship is the result of unjustified social surgery, with the help of which the anomaly of the Soviet power was destroyed. Yurii Ilich objects: there was no other way to be cured, and now the country is in intensive care and it’s too early to make a final forecast. The interlocutor gives Yury Ilyich his phone number and address, offering assistance if he wants to change his life.
Returning to the present, Yuri Ilyich again falls into the paws of the ubiquitous “editors.” They are sure that the protagonist’s night interlocutor is the wanted extrapolator, and they are required to give out his address and telephone number. On the next trip in 1993, the hero is already traveling with his wife. At the Spassky Gate they see the white tank of the dictator General Panayev rushing to the Kremlin, accompanied by riders on white horses. On the Red Square, products are given by coupons: yak meat, sago groats, bread produced by the Common Market, etc.
Yuri Ilyich and his wife go home. They are overtaken by fugitives from Zamoskvorechye, Veshnyakov and Izmaylova, from the working areas where the Social Distribution Party militants take people off their shirts and give out a protective uniform. Yury Ilyich throws out a card with his nightly interlocutor’s phone that suggested that he change his life, despite the fact that he understands: his wife would have been there only where he called the “night master” – where “they drink tea with milk, read family novels and do not recognize open passions “. At this moment, Yuri Ilyich sees his “editors” threatening him with a pistol from passing “Zhiguli”. But in the nightmarish future of the time, in which he decided to stay on his own, the hero is not afraid of these people.