Diglot Weave: French: Jonah of the Jove-Run by RAY BRADBURY

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Jonah of the Jove-Run

By RAY BRADBURY


They hated this little beat-up old gars. Even if his crazy cosmic cerveau could track a météore clear across the galaxie, why did he have to smash the super-sensitive detectors?

Nibley stood in the changing ombres and sons of Marsport, watching the great supply navire TERRA being entered and left by a numéro of fonctionnaires and mécaniciens. Something had happened. Something was wrong. There were a lot of hard visages and not much parler. There was a bit of jurant and everybody looked up at the nocturne ciel of Mars, waiting.

But nobody came to Nibley for his opinion or his help. He stood there, a very old man, with a slack-gummed visage and eyes like the little bubbly stalks of crayfish looking up at you from a clear creek. He stood there fully neglected. He stood there and talked to himself.

“They don’t want me, or need me,” he said. “machines are better, nowadays. Why should they want an old man like me with a taste for Martian liquor? They shouldn’t! A machine isn’t old and foolish, and doesn’t get drunk!”

Way out over the dead sea bottoms, Nibley sensed quelque chose moving. Part of himself was suddenly awake and sensitive. His small sharp eyes moved in his withered visage. Something inside of his small skull reacted and he shivered. He knew. He knew that what these hommes were watching and waiting for would never come.

Nibley edged up to one of the astrogateurs from the TERRA. He touched him on the shoulder. “Say,” he said. “I’m busy,” said the astrogator. “I know,” said Nibley, “but if you’re waiting for that small repair rocket to come through with the extra calculateur auxiliaire d’astéroïdes on it, you’re wasting your temps.”

“Like hell,” said the astrogator, glaring at the old man. “That repair rocket’s got to come through, and quick; we need it. It’ll get here.”

“No, it won’t,” said Nibley, sadly, and shook his tête and closed his eyes. “It just crashed, a second ago, out on the dead sea bottom. I—felt—it crash. I sensed it going down. It’ll never come through.”

“Go away, old man,” said the astrogator. “I don’t want to hear that kind of parler. It’ll come through. Sure, sure, it has to come through.” The astrogator turned away and looked at the ciel, smoking a cigarette.

“I know it as a fact,” said Nibley, but the young astrogator wouldn’t listen. He didn’t want to hear the vérité. The vérité was not a pleasant thing. Nibley went on, to himself. “I know it for a fact, just like I was always able to know the cours of meteors with my mind, or the orbits or parabolas of asteroids. I tell you—”

The hommes stood around waiting and smoking. They didn’t know yet about the crash out there. Nibley felt a great sorrow rise in himself for them. That navire meant a great deal to them and now it had crashed. Perhaps their vies had crashed with it.

A loud speaker on the outer area of the landing tarmac opened out with a voice: “Attention, équipage of the Terra. The repair navire just radioed in a rapport that it has been fired upon from somewhere over the dead mers. It crashed a minute ago.”

The rapport was so sudden and quiet and matter-of-fact that the standing smoking hommes did not for a moment understand it.

Then, each in his own way, they reacted to it. Some of them ran for the bâtiment radio to verify the rapport. Others sat down and put their mains over their visages. Still more of them stood staring at the ciel as if staring might put the repair navire back together again and get it here safe and intact. Instinctively, at last, all of them looked up at the ciel.

Jupiter was there, with its coterie of lunes, bright and far away. Part of their vies lived on Jupiter. Most of them had enfants and épouses there and certain devoirs to perform to insure the longévité of said enfants and épouses. Now, with the speaking of a few words over a haut-parleur, the distance to Jupiter was suddenly an immense impossibility.

The capitaine of the fusée Terra walked across the field slowly. He stopped several times to try and light a cigarette, but the nocturne wind blew it out. He stood in the rocket shadow and looked up at Jupiter and swore quietly, again and again and finally threw down his cigarette and heeled it with his chaussure.

Nibley walked up and stood beside the capitaine.

“Captain Kroll….”

Kroll turned. “Oh, hello, Grandpa–“

“Tough chance.”

“Yeah. Yeah. I guess that’s what you’d call it. Tough chance.”

“You’re going to take off anyway, Captain?”

“Sure,” said Kroll quietly, looking at the ciel. “Sure.”

“How’s the protective computator on board your navire?”

“Not so hot. Bad, in fact. It might conk out before we get half way through the asteroids.”

“That’s not good,” said Nibley.

“It’s lousy. I feel sick. I need a drink. I wish I was dead. I wish we’d never started this damned business of being damned pioneers. My family’s up there!” He jerked his main half way to Jupiter, violently. He settled down and tried to light another cigarette. No go. He threw it down after the other.

“Can’t get through the asteroids without an asteroid computator to protect you, without that old radar set-up, capitaine,” said Nibley, blinking wetly. He shuffled his small feet around in the red dust.

“We had an auxiliary computator on that repair navire coming from Earth,” said Kroll, standing there. “And it had to crash.”

“The Martians shoot it down, you think?”

“Sure. They don’t like us going up to Jupiter. They got claims there, too. They’d like to see our colony die out. Best way to kill a colony is starve the colony. Starve the people. That means my family and lots of familles. Then when you starve out the familles the Martians can step in and take over, damn their filthy souls!”

* * * * *

Kroll fell silent. Nibley shifted around. He walked around in front of Kroll so Kroll would see him. “Captain?”

Kroll didn’t even look at him.

Nibley said, “Maybe I can help.”

“You?”

“You heard about me, capitaine! You heard about me.”

“What about you?”

“You can’t wait a month for another auxiliary computator to come through from Earth. You got to push off tonight, to Jupiter, to get to your family and the colony and all that, capitaine, sure!” Nibley was hasty, he sort of fidgeted around, his voice high, and excited. “An’ if your only computator conks out in the middle of the asteroids, well, you know what that means. Bang! No more navire! No more you. No more colony on Jupiter! Now, you know about me, my capacité, you know, you heard.”

Kroll was cool and quiet and far away. “I heard about you, old man. I heard lots. They say you got a funny cerveau and do things machines can’t do. I don’t know. I don’t like the idea.”

“But you got to like the idea, capitaine. I’m the only one can help you now!”

“I don’t trust you. I heard about your drinking that temps and wrecking that navire. I remember that.”

“But I’m not drinking now. See. Smell my souffle, go ahead! You see?”

Kroll stood there. He looked at the navire and he looked at the ciel and then at Nibley. Finally he sighed. “Old man, I’m leaving right now. I might just as well take you along as leave you. You might do some good. What can I lose?”

“Not a damned thing, Captain, and you won’t be sorry,” cried Nibley.

“Step lively, then!”

They went to the fusée, Kroll running, Nibley hobbling along after.

Trembling excitedly, Nibley stumbled into the fusée. Everything had a hot mist over it. First temps on a rocket in–ten years, by god. Good. Good to be aboard again. He smelled it. It smelled fine. It felt fine. Oh, it was very fine indeed. First temps since that trouble he got into off the planet Venus … he brushed that pensée away. That was over and past.

He followed Kroll up through the navire to a small room in the proue.

Men ran up and down the rungs. Men who had familles out there on Jupiter and were willing to go through the asteroids with a faulty radar set-up to reach those familles and bring them the necessary cargo of machinery and food they needed to go on.

Out of a warm mist, old Nibley heard himself being introduced to a third man in the small room.

Douglas, this is Nibley, our auxiliary computating machine.”

“A poor temps for joking, Captain.”

“It’s no joke,” cried Nibley. “Here I am.”

Douglas eyed Nibley with a very cold and exact eye. “No,” he said. “No. I can’t use him. I’m computant-mechanic.”

“And I’m capitaine,” said Kroll.

Douglas looked at Kroll. “We’ll shove through to Jupiter with just our leaky set of radar-calculateurs; that’s the way it’ll have to be. If we’re wrecked halfway, well, we’re wrecked. But I’ll be damned if I go along with a decrepit son-of-a-witch-médecin!”

Nibley’s eyes watered. He sucked in on himself. There was a pain round his heart and he was suddenly chilled.

Kroll started to speak, but a gong rattled and banged and a voice shouted, “Stations! Gunners up! Hammocks! Takeoff!”

Takeoff!

“Stay here!” Kroll snapped it at the old man. He leaped away and down the rungs of the ladder, leaving Nibley alone in the broad shadow of the bitter-eyed Douglas. Douglas looked him up and down in surly contempt. “So you know arcs, parabolas and orbits as good as my machines, do you?”

Nibley nodded, angry now that Kroll was gone:

machines,” shrilled Nibley. “Can’t do everything! They ain’t got no intuition. Can’t understand sabotage and hatreds and arguments. Or people. machines‘re too damn slow!”

Douglas lidded his eyes. “You–you’re faster?”

“I’m faster,” said Nibley.

Douglas flicked his cigarette toward a mur-disposal fente.

“Predict that orbite!”

Nibley’s eyes jerked. “Gonna miss it!”

The cigarette lay smouldering on the pont.

Douglas scowled at the cigarette.

Nibley made wheezy laughter. He minced to his shock-hammock, zipped into it. “Not bad, not bad, eh?”

The navire rumbled.

Angrily, Douglas snatched up the cigarette, carried it to his own hammock, rolled in, zipped the zipper, then, deliberately, he flicked the cigarette once more. It flew.

“Another miss,” predicted Nibley.

Douglas was still glaring at the floored cigarette when the fusée burst gravité and shot up into espace toward the asteroids.

Mars dwindled into the soleil. astéroïdes swept silently down the trajectoires d’étoiles, all métal, all invisible, shifting and shifting to harry the fusée

Nibley sprawled by the great thick visiport feeling the calculateurs giving him concurrence under the floor in the niveau below, predicting meteors and correcting the Terra’s cours accordingly.

Douglas stood behind Nibley, stiff and quiet. Since he was computant-mechanic, Nibley was his charge. He was to protect Nibley from préjudice. Kroll had said so. Douglas didn’t like it at all.

Nibley was feeling fine. It was like the old days. It was good. He laughed. He waved at nothing outside the port. “Hi, there!” he called. “Meteor,” he explained in an aside to Douglas. “You see it?”

“Lives at stake and you sit there playing.”

“Nope. Not playin’. Just warmin’ up. I can see ’em beatin’ like hell all up and down the line, son. God’s vérité.”

Kroll‘s a damned fool,” said Douglas. “Sure, you had a few lucky breaks in the old days before they built a good computator. A few lucky breaks and you lived off them. Your day’s done.”

“I’m still good.”

“How about the temps you swilled a quart of rot-gut and almost killed a cargo of civilian tourists? I heard about that. All I have to say is one word and your ears’d twitch. Whiskey.”

At the word, saliva ran alarmingly in Nibley’s mouth. He swallowed guiltily. Douglas, snorting, turned and started from the room. Nibley grabbed a clé à molette on impulse, heaved it. The wrench hit the mur and fell down. Nibley wheezed, “clé got an orbite like everything. Fair bit of computation I did. One point over and I’d have flanked that crumb!”

There was silence now, as he hobbled back and sat wearily to stare into the stars. He felt all of the navire‘s hommes around him. Vague warm electrical stirrings of fear, hope, dismay, exhaustion. All their orbits coming into a parallel trajectory now. All living in the same path with him. And the asteroids smashed down with an increasing swiftness. In a very few hours the main body of missiles would be encountered.

Now, as he stared into espace he felt a dark orbite coming into conjunction with his own. It was an unpleasant orbite. One that touched him with fear. It drew closer. It was dark. It was very close now.

A moment later a tall man in a black uniform climbed the rungs from below and stood looking at Nibley.

“I’m Bruno,” he said. He was a nervous fellow, and kept looking around, looking around, at the walls, the pont, at Nibley. “I’m spécialiste de la nourriture on board. How come you’re up here? Come down to mess later. Join me in a game of Martian chess.”

Nibley said, “I’d beat the hell out of you. Wouldn’t pay. It’s against orders for me to be down below, anyways.”

“How come?”

“Never you never mind. Got things to do up here. I notice things. I’m chartin’ a special cours in a special way. Even Captain Kroll don’t know every reason why I’m makin’ this trip. Got my own personal reasons. I see ’em comin’ and goin’, and I got their orbits picked neat and dandy. météores, planets and hommes. Why, let me tell you–“

Bruno tensed somewhat forward. His visage was a little too interested. Nibley didn’t like the feel of the man. He was off-trajectory. He–smelled–funny. He felt funny.

Nibley shut up. “Nice day,” he said.

Bruno was in the room. Nibley saw Bruno’s eyes dilate at Kroll‘s exclamation. Bruno knew now.

Nibley tried to get up. “We’ll get through the Swarm, anyway. I’ll take
you through. That’s why I broke that blasted appareil. I don’t like
concurrence. I can clear a path through them asteroids big enough to
lug Luna through on Track Five!”

“Who gave you the vin?”

“I found it, I just found it, that’s all.”

The équipage hated him with their eyes. He felt their hatred like so many
meteors coming in and striking at him. They hated his shriveled,
wrinkled old man guts. They stood around and waited for Kroll to let
them kick him apart with their bottes.

Kroll walked around the old man in a cercle. “You think I’d chance you
getting us through the Belt!” He snorted. “What if we got half through
and you got potted again!” He stopped, with his back to Nibley. He was
thinking. He kept looking over his shoulder at the old man. “I can’t
trust you.” He looked out the port at the stars, at where Jupiter shone
in espace. “And yet–” He looked at the hommes. “Do you want to turn back?”

Nobody moved. They didn’t have to answer. They didn’t want to go back.
They wanted to go ahead.

“We’ll keep on going, then,” said Kroll.

Bruno spoke. “We équipage-members should have some say. I say go back. We
can’t make it. We’re just wasting our vies.”

Kroll glanced at him, coolly. “You seem to be alone.” He went back to
the port. He rocked on his heels. “It was no accident Nibley got that
vin. Somebody planted it, knowing Nibley’s weakness. Somebody who
was paid off by the Martian Industrials to keep this navire from going
through. This was a clever set-up. The machines were smashed in such
a way as to throw soupçon directly on an innocent, well, almost
innocent, party. Nibley was just a outil. I’d like to know who handled
that outil–“

Nibley got up, the wrench in his gnarled main. “I’ll tell you who
planted that vin. I been thinking and now–“

Darkness. A short-circuit. Feet running on the métal pont. A cri. A
thread of fire across the obscurité. Then a whistling as quelque chose flew,
hit. Someone grunted.

The lights came on again. Nibley was at the light control.

On the floor, arme à feu in main, eyes beginning to numb, lay Bruno. He lifted
the arme à feu, fired it. The balle hit Nibley in the stomach.

Nibley grabbed at the pain. Kroll kicked at Bruno’s tête. Bruno’s tête
snapped back. He lay quietly.

The sang pulsed out between Nibley’s fingers. He watched it with
intérêt, grinning with pain. “I knew his orbite,” he whispered, sitting
down cross-legged on the pont. “When the lights went out I chose my own
orbite back to the light switch. I knew where Bruno’d be in the dark.
Havin’ a wrench handy I let fly, choosin’ my arc, naturally. Guess he’s
got a hard skull, though….”

They carried Nibley to a couchette. Douglas stood over him, dimly, growing
older every second. Nibley squinted up. All the hommes tightened in upon
it. Nibley felt their dismay, their dread, their worry, their nervous
anger.

Finally, Kroll exhaled. “Turn the navire around,” he said. “Go back to
Mars.”

The équipage stood with their limp mains at their sides. They were tired.
They didn’t want to live any more. They just stood with their feet on
the pont. Then, one by one, they began to walk away like so many cold,
dead hommes.

“Hold on,” cried Nibley, weakening. “I ain’t through yet. I got two
orbits to fix. I got one to lay out for this navire to Jupiter. And I got
to finish out my own separate secret personal orbite. You ain’t turnin’
back nowhere!”

Kroll grimaced. “Might as well realize it, Grandpa. It takes seven
hours to get through the Swarms, and you haven’t another _two_ hours in
you.”

The old man laughed. “Think I don’t know that? Hell! Who’s supposed to
know all these things, me or you?”

“You, Pop.”

“Well, then, dammit–bring me a bulger!”

“Now, look–“

“You heard me, by God–a bulger!”

“Why?”

“You ever hear of a thing called triangulation? Well, maybe I won’t
live long enough to go with you, but, by all the sizes and shapes of
behemoths–this navire is jumpin’ through to Jupiter!”

Kroll looked at him. There was a breathing silence, a heart beating
silence in the navire. Kroll sucked in his souffle, hesitated, then smiled
a grey smile.

“You heard him, Douglas. Get him a bulger.”

“And get a civière! And tote this ninety pounds of os out on the
biggest asteroid around here! Got that?”

“You heard him, Haines! A civière! Stand by for maneuvering!” Kroll
sat down by the old man. “What’s it all about, Pop? You’re–sober?”

“Clear as a bell!”

“What’re you going to do?”

“Redeem myself of my péchés, by George! Now get your ugly visage away so I
can think! And tell them dollars to hurry!”

Kroll bellowed and hommes rushed. They brought a espace-suit, inserted the
ninety pounds of shrill and wheeze and weakness into it–the médecin had
finished with his probings and fixations–buckled, zipped and welded him
into it. All the while they worked, Nibley talked.

“Remember when I was a kid. Stood up to that there plate poundin’ out
baseballs North, South and six ways from Sundays.” He chuckled. “Used
to hit ’em, and predict which window in what house they’d break!”
Wheezy laughter. “One day I said to my Dad, ‘Hey, Dad, a météore just
fell on Simpson’s Garage over in Jonesville.’ ‘Jonesville is six miles
from here’, said my father, shakin’ his doigt at me. ‘You quit your
lyin’, Nibley boy, or I’ll trot you to the remise!'”

“Save your force,” said Kroll.

“That’s all right,” said Nibley. “You know the funny thing was always
that I lied like hell and everybody said I lied like hell, but come
to find out, later, I wasn’t lyin’ at all, it was the vérité. I just
_sensed_ things.”

The navire maneuvered down on a windless, empty planétoïde. Nibley was
carried on a civière out onto alien rocher.

“Lay me down right here. Prop up my tête so I can see Jupiter and the
whole damned ceinture d’astéroïdes. Be sure my headphones are tuned neat.
There. Now, give me a piece of paper.”

Nibley scribbled a long weak snake of writing on paper, folded it.
“When Bruno comes to, give him this. Maybe he’ll believe me when he
reads it. Personal. Don’t pry into it yourself.”

The old man sank back, feeling pain drilling through his stomach, and a
kind of sad happiness. Somebody was singing somewhere, he didn’t know
where. Maybe it was only the stars moving on the ciel.

“Well,” he said, clearly. “Guess this is it, enfants. Now get the
hell aboard, leave me alone to think. This is going to be the biggest,
hardest, damnedest job of computatin’ I ever latched onto! There’ll be
orbits and cross orbits, big balls of fire and little bitty specules,
and, by God, I’ll chart ’em all! I’ll chart a hundred thousand of the
damned monsters and their offspring, you just wait and see! Get aboard!
I’ll tell you what to do from there on.”

Douglas looked doubtful.

Nibley caught the look. “What ever happens,” he cried. “Will be worth
it, won’t it? It’s better than turnin’ back to Mars, ain’t it? Well,
_ain’t_ it?”

“It’s better,” said Douglas. They shook mains.

“Now all of you, get!”

Nibley watched the navire fire away and his eyes saw it and the Asteroid
Swarm and that brilliant point of light that was massive Jupiter. He
could almost feel the hunger and want and waiting up there in that star
flame.

He looked out into espace and his eyes widened and espace came in, opened
out like a flower, and already, natural as water flowing, Nibley’s
mind, tired as it was, began to shiver out calculations. He started
talking.

“Captain? Take the navire straight out now. You hear?”

“_Fine_,” answered the capitaine.

“Look at your dials.”

“_Looking._”

“If numéro seven reads 132:87, okay. Keep ‘er there. If she varies a
point, counteract it on Dial Twenty to 56.90. Keep her hard over for
seventy thousand miles, all that is clear so far. Then, after that, a
sharp veer in numéro two direction, over a thousand miles. There’s a
big sweep of meteors coming in on that other path for you to dodge. Let
me see, let me see–” He figured. “Keep your speed at a constant of one
hundred thousand miles. At that rate–check your clocks and watches–in
exactly an hour you’ll hit the second part of the Big Belt. Then switch
to a cours roughly five thousand miles over to numéro 3 direction,
veer again five minutes on the dot later and–“

“_Can you see all those asteroids, Nibley. Are you sure?_”

“Sure. Lots of ’em. Every single one going every which way! Keep
straight ahead until two hours from now, after that last direction of
mine–then slide off at an angle toward Jupiter, slow down to ninety
thousand for ten minutes, then up to a hundred ten thousand for fifteen
minutes. After that, one hundred fifty thousand all the way!”

Flame poured out of the rocket jets. It moved swiftly away, growing
small and distant.

“Give me a read on dial 67!”

“_Four._”

“Make it six! And set your automatic pilot to 61 and 14 and 35.
Now–everything’s okay. Keep your chronometer reading this way–seven,
nine, twelve. There’ll be a few tight scrapes, but you’ll hit Jupiter
square on in 24 hours, if you jump your speed to 700,000 six hours from
now and hold it that way.”

“_Square on it is, Mr. Nibley._”

Nibley just lay there a moment. His voice was easy and not so high and
shrill any more. “And on the way back to Mars, later, don’t try to find
me. I’m going out in the dark on this métal rocher. Nothing but dark for
me. Back to perihelion and soleil for you. Know–know where _I’m_ going?”

“_Where?_”

“Centaurus!” Nibley laughed. “So help me God I am. No lie!”

He watched the navire going out, then, and he felt the compact, collected
trajectories of all the hommes in it. It was a good feeling to know that
he was the guiding theme. Like in the old days….

Douglas‘ voice broke in again.

“_Hey, Pop. Pop, you still there?_”

A little silence. Nibley felt sang pulsing down inside his suit.
“Yep,” he said.

“_We just gave Bruno your little note to read. Whatever it was, when he
finished reading it, he went insane._”

Nibley said, quiet-like. “Burn that there paper. Don’t let anybody else
read it.”

A pause. “_It’s burnt. What was it?_”

“Don’t be inquisitive,” snapped the old man. “Maybe I proved to Bruno
that he didn’t really exist. To hell with it!”

The rocket reached its constant speed. Douglas radioed back: “_All’s
well. Sweet calculating, Pop. I’ll tell the fusée Officials back at
Marsport. They’ll be glad to know about you. Sweet, sweet calculating.
Thanks. How goes it? I said–how goes it? Hey, Pop! Pop?_”

Nibley raised a trembling main and waved it at nothing. The navire was
gone. He couldn’t even see the jet-wash now, he could only feel that
hard métal movement out there among the stars, going on and on through
a cours he had set for it. He couldn’t speak. There was just emotion
in him. He had finally, by God, heard a compliment from a mechanic of
radar-calculateurs!

He waved his main at nothing. He watched nothing moving on and on into
the crossed orbits of other invisible nothings. The silence was now
complete.

He put his main down. Now he had only to chart that one last personal
orbite. The one he had wanted to finish only in espace and not grounded
back on Mars.

It didn’t take lightning calculation to set it out for certain.

Life and death were the parabolic ends to his trajectory. The long
life, first swinging in from obscurité, arcing to the inevitable
perihelion, and now moving back out, out and away–

Into the soft, encompassing dark.

“By God,” he pensée weakly, quietly. “Right up to the last, my
reputation’s good. Never fluked a calculation yet, and I never will….”

He didn’t.

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