Leningrad programmer Alexander Privalov travels by car on his way to the city of Solovets, where he is scheduled to meet. On the way, he selects two NIICHAVO employees (Research Institute of Sorcery and Magic) and drives them to Solovets, where they arrange for him to spend the night in the museum of the institute – ISNAKURNOZH (Izbushku on chicken legs). Gradually Privalov begins to notice unusual phenomena – the similarity of the museum supervisor, Naina Kievna Gorynych, Baba Yaga, the talking mirror, the huge cat, reciting fairy tales and songs, a mermaid on the tree and a book-changer, in which the content is constantly changing. In the morning Privalov catches from the well a pike that fulfills desires. He thinks that all these unusualities must fit into some system.
Returning to Iznakurnozh to rest, Privalov discovers the loss of the couch, which was still in the morning. Then to Privalov one by one strange people come who demonstrate incredible abilities: fly, become invisible, pass through the walls, and at the same time they are interested in the vanished sofa. Between the case Privalov learns that in fact the sofa is a magical reality translator. He was kidnapped by one of the Institute’s staff members Viktor Korneev for research work, since it was not possible to officially claim him from the museum because of the bureaucracy of the administrator Modest Matveyevich Kamnogodov. In the morning, the scandal with the kidnapping of the sofa takes on an uncontrollable character, and Roman Oira-Oira, whom he threw up to the city, comes to the rescue of Privalov. He persuades the programmer to go to work in NIICHAVO.
The second story. Vanity
The second part occurs about six months after the first.
In the New Year’s Eve Alexander Privalov, the head of the NIICHAVO computer center, remains on duty at the institute. He takes the keys from all the department heads. Before him there passes a string of bright characters – mages Fyodor Simeonovich Kivrin and Cristobal Khozeich Hunt, hackers and opportunists Merlin and Ambrose Ambroazovich Vibeegallo, the director of the institute Janus Poluektovich Nevstruev, who exists simultaneously in two incarnations – as administrator A-Janus and as a scientist U-Janus, and others. Privalov then proceeds to bypass the Institute, starting with the vivarium in the basement, where magical and mythological creatures are kept, through the floors of the departments of Linear Happiness, the Meaning of Life, Absolute Knowledge, Prophecy and Prophecy, Defense Magic, Eternal Youth, Universal Transformations. The detour ends in Vitka Korneev’s laboratory, which is still working. Privalov tries to drive Korneev out of the laboratory, but he can not cope with a practicing magician, keen on his studies. After leaving the laboratory of Korneyev, he discovers that the institute is full of employees who, instead of celebrating New Year at home, preferred to return to their laboratories. The motto of these people was “Monday begins on Saturday,” and they saw the meaning of their lives in the work and knowledge of the unknown. Meeting the New Year, they continued their studies. The motto of these people was “Monday begins on Saturday,” and they saw the meaning of their lives in the work and knowledge of the unknown. Meeting the New Year, they continued their studies. The motto of these people was “Monday begins on Saturday,” and they saw the meaning of their lives in the work and knowledge of the unknown. Meeting the New Year, they continued their studies.
At this time, Professor Vybegallo’s laboratory “hatched” from the autoclave “a model of a person unsatisfied with the stomach”. The model, a copy of Professor Vigbegallo, is only capable of devouring everything edible. In the laboratory Vibegallo employees gather, the professor himself appears, accompanied by correspondents. According to the theory, the path to development and spiritual growth of personality lies through the satisfaction of material needs, and this model is an intermediate stage on the way to the creation of the model of the Ideal Man, a “fully satisfied person”. The model successfully demonstrates that, while satisfying its stomach needs, it is able to eat a lot – the farther, the more. In the end, the model bursts from gluttony, throwing Vigbegallo and correspondents with the contents of their digestive organs. Employees diverge.
Privalov ponders for a while, then falls asleep. When he wakes up, he tries to create his own breakfast with the help of magic, but instead becomes a witness of the meeting with the director of the institute, where the question of how dangerous the next model can be is discussed. Professor Vibegallo wants to test her right at the institute, while other experienced mages insist on testing a few kilometers from the city. After a heated argument, the director of the institute, Janus Poluektovich Nevstruev, decides to conduct tests at the test site, since “the experiment will be accompanied by considerable destruction.” Nevstruev also makes a “preliminary gratitude” to Roman Oire-Oyre for his “resourcefulness and courage.”
Privalov manages to visit the trial. “The model of a person fully satisfied” had the ability to satisfy all of its material needs with the help of magic. Coming out of the autoclave, the model transfers to itself all the material values to which it can reach its magical abilities (including the things of people nearby), and then tries to collapse the space. Cataclysm prevents Roman Oyra-Oyra, who throws a bottle of genie into the Ideal Consumer, and the genie who escaped to freedom destroys the Vibegall model.
History of the third. All kinds of fuss
The computer Aldan, on which Privalov works, has broken down. While it is being repaired, Privalov travels around the institute and enters the department of Absolute Knowledge, where at that moment a machine invented by Louis Sedlov is shown, on which one can get into an imaginary past or a fictional future.
Privalov agrees to the experiment and goes to the future. At first he sees a strange world with inhabitants resembling ancient people, then he appears among people, apparently the same as his contemporaries, but in their world there are already spaceships and travels to distant planets. Then Privalov falls into the era of returns, when people flew to distant planets and stars, returned to Earth again. He notices that in this world there is an Iron Wall, and learns that behind it is the World of Fear of the Future. After falling behind the Wall, he sees murders, blood and war. From a casually encountered resident, Privalov learns that part of the world behind the Wall is enslaved by robots, some are aliens, and some areas are enslaved by parasites, plants, minerals and communists. Then there are flying machines, bombs start pouring in, and Privalov is removed to the opposite side of the wall, to the World of Human Imagination. After that, he returns to the real present, but the machine disappears without a trace.
He goes to Roman Oire-Oyre and sees in the laboratory a dead parrot lying in a cup. The director of the institute, Janus Poluektovich, comes in, calls the parrot a Photonchik, burns its corpse in the oven, ashes disperse in the wind and leaves. Novel Oyra-Oyra is surprised, as a day earlier he found in the stove a charred green feather. Where it came from, if the parrot was burned today, and the other green parrots nearby was not close, remains a mystery.
The next day Privalov, along with the witch Stella, composes verses for the wall newspaper and suddenly sees how the same green parrot enters the room. He flies, but does not look quite healthy. Other employees come and are wondering where this parrot came from. Then everyone gets to work, but suddenly they see that the parrot lies dead. On his paw there is a ring with numbers and the inscription “Photon”. The same thing was on the foot of a parrot, who was lying dead in a cup yesterday. Nobody understands what is the matter. Artist Drozd accidentally puts the parrot in a cup.
The next day the computers are corrected, and Privalov starts to work. He calls Roman and says that the parrot in the cup is gone, and no one has seen it. Privalov is surprised, but then, absorbed in his work, he stops thinking about it. A little later, Roman calls again and asks him to come. When Privalov arrives, he sees a live green parrot with a ring on its paw.
The parrot responds to the words of NIICHAVO’s employees in other words, but the semantic connection between them can not be established. Then the parrot begins to call the names of the assembled, each one briefly characterizes: rough, old, primitive, etc. Employees do not understand where this information comes from.
Friends come to mind that this mysterious parrot belongs to the director Janus Poluektovich, a person even more mysterious. This person, one in two faces, never appears in public at midnight, and after midnight he can not remember what was before her. In addition, Janus Poluektovich unerringly foresees the future.
In the end, scientists guess that there is a possibility of a counter-movement: the flow of time in the direction opposite to the generally accepted one. If the parrot was a counterpoint, then today it can be alive, yesterday he died and was put in a cup, the day before yesterday he was found in a cup by Janus and burnt, and a day earlier he had a burnt feather left in his stove, which Roman found.
The novel tries to explain the case with the Tunguska meteorite, proceeding from the concept of countermotion: it was not a meteorite, but a spaceship, and the aliens in it were counterparts and lived, by the standards of ordinary people, from the future into the past.
The secret of Janus Poluektovich was unraveled. He existed in the face of A-Yanus and was engaged in science, until he came to the idea of contra-understanding and understood how to implement it in practice. And in a year that for the now living NIICHAVO employees is still a distant future, he turned himself and his parrot Photon into contraptions, began to live back in time, and now every midnight goes from tomorrow to today. In the form of A-Janus, he lives like all ordinary people, from the past to the future, but in the form of U-Janus – from the future into the past. In this case, both incarnations of Janus Poluektovich remain one person and are combined in time and space.
During dinner, Privalov meets U-Janus, and, having mustered courage, asks if he can come to him tomorrow morning. U-Janus replies that tomorrow morning Privalov will be summoned to Kitezhgrad, so he will not be able to come. Then he adds: “… Try to understand, Alexander Ivanovich, that there is no single future for everyone: there are many of them and each of your actions creates one of them…”