4338-The Second Letter

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SPb 4th Jan. 4338

Second letter

At last I am in the centre of the Russian hemisphere and the centre of world civilization. I am writing to you from a beautiful building, the roof of which is adorned with the name "Hotel for Air Arrivals" in giant crystal letters. Here such things are already commonplace. The more elegant homes either have roofs entirely of crystal or of white tiles covered in crystal with the name of the owner picked out in colour. At night, since the houses are well-lit inside, the shining rows of roofs make a magical sight. But it’s very convenient too. Not like at home in Peking, where you can’t make out your friends’ houses without going down to ground level. The flight was very quiet. Although the post office flying machines are excellent we were constantly delayed by headwinds. Imagine, from Peking we only made it here on the eighth day! What a city, my kindly comrade! It’s so magnificent…. And so enormous! Flying though it, I could believe what the ancient myth says, that once there were two cities here – one of which was named Moscow and the other Petersburg itself. According to legend the space between them was practically empty Steppe. It’s true that in the part of the city that is known as Moscow and where the majestic remnants of the ancient Kremlin are, the architecture does have something special about it. Anyway don’t expect any great news from me. I have hardly had time to look at anything because uncle was in a terrible hurry. I only managed to notice one thing: the aerial roads are kept in excellent repair here. Oh yes, I almost forgot….we did fly to the equator, but just for a short trip to see the start of the heat storage system which runs from here practically all over the northern hemisphere – it’s really amazing. A work of many ages and of superb engineering! Picture it: here there are huge machines collecting warm air into pipes which take it to the main reservoirs. All the heat stores in every city of this great state are connected to the main reservoirs. Then from each heat store part of the warm air is passed to each building and enclosed garden and part of it, to the air travel routes. In this way, in spite of the harsh climate, we barely experienced any cold at all. So the Russians have even been victorious over their hostile weather conditions. They told me that the local society of manufacturers would like to offer our government deliveries of cold air directly to Peking, to freshen the streets. But there isn’t time for that now…everybody’s got their work cut out with the comet – which should destroy the Earth in a year’s time. You know, uncle was sent by our emperor to Petersburg for negotiations about exactly that. There have already been a number of diplomatic meetings: our task is firstly to make inspections of all the measures being taken on the ground to counteract the threat, and secondly to bring China into the alliance of states which are joining together to share the costs of dealing with it. As a matter of fact, scientists here are very calmly and confidently asserting that so long as staff retain their presence of mind when the apparatus goes into action – it should be perfectly possible to prevent the comet from falling to Earth: they just need to know far enough in advance the exact point the comet is heading towards. They assure us that this can be calculated accurately as soon as the comet becomes visible in their telescopes. In one of my future letters I will describe to you the preventative anti-comet measures being taken by the government here. So much knowledge! Such deep thinking! People here are amazingly knowledgeable and even more inventive.

You can see it everywhere you look. Just the daring idea of coping with the falling comet speaks volumes…but everything here is on a similar grand scale. I must confess that it makes me feel a little embarrassed about the level of development achieved by our own country. Although it is true that we are a young country, and here in Russia civilization goes back thousands of years: that’s some consolation I suppose. Looking around I often ask myself, dear comrade, what would have become of us if our great Khun-Gin had not been born 500 years ago to wake China from its age-long slumbers, or rather its deathly stagnation? Where would we be if he had not wiped away the remains of our ancient and childish sciences and replaced our fetishes with true faith – thus bringing us into the family of educated peoples? Seriously though, we would be no better than the wild Americans who, for want of anything else to speculate on sell off their cities to the highest bidder and then try to come and rob us. We need to maintain an army especially to fend them off. It is terrible to think that we Chinese have only had air travel for less than two hundred years, and that it was only the victory of the Russians that got us to learn the art. And all because of this Chinese stiffness, which our poets still seem to think is somehow fittingly poetic. Of course we Chinese have now gone to the other extreme – to unreasoning imitation of foreigners. Now everything has to be done the way it is in Russia – clothes, habits and literature. The only thing we don’t have yet it is the Russian quick thinking …but that will come with time. Yes my friend. We are backward, very backward compared with our celebrated neighbours; so let’s make efforts to learn, while we are young and there is still time. Goodbye. Write to me in the next telegraph emission.

P. S. Tell your Dad that, as he asked me, I have commissioned one of the best chemists to make camera images of some of the most historic buildings here, just the way they are with outlines and colours; you’ll be amazed how different they are from what we call a "Russian style house" back home.

The translation continues here: 4338-The Third Letter