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Lost in Translation   By: (1933-2002)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction August 1961. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.








In language translation, you may get a literally accurate word for word translation ... but miss the meaning entirely. And in space type translation ... the effect may be the same!

Illustrated by Schoenherr

The cell had been put together more efficiently than any Korvin had ever been in. But that was only natural, he told himself sadly; the Tr'en were an efficient people. All the preliminary reports had agreed on that; their efficiency, as a matter of fact, was what had made Korvin's arrival a necessity. They were well into the atomic era, and were on the verge of developing space travel. Before long they'd be settling the other planets of their system, and then the nearer stars. Faster than light travel couldn't be far away, for the magnificently efficient physical scientists of the Tr'en and that would mean, in the ordinary course of events, an invitation to join the Comity of Planets.

An invitation, the Comity was sure, which the Tr'en would not accept.

Korvin stretched out on the cell's single bunk, a rigid affair which was hardly meant for comfort, and sighed. He'd had three days of isolation, with nothing to do but explore the resources of his own mind. He'd tried some of the ancient Rhine experiments, but that was no good; he still didn't show any particular psi talents. He couldn't unlock the cell door with his unaided mind; he couldn't even alter the probability of a single dust mote's Brownian path through the somewhat smelly air. Nor could he disappear from his cell and appear, as if by magic, several miles away near the slightly damaged hulk of his ship, to the wonder and amazement of his Tr'en captors.

He could do, as a matter of fact, precisely nothing. He wished quietly that the Tr'en had seen fit to give him a pack of cards, or a book, or even a folder of tourist pictures. The Wonders of Tr'en, according to all the advance reports, were likely to be pretty boring, but they'd have been better than nothing.

In any decently run jail, he told himself with indignation, there would at least have been other prisoners to talk to. But on Tr'en Korvin was all alone.

True, every night the guards came in and gave him a concentrated lesson in the local language, but Korvin failed to get much pleasure out of that, being unconscious at the time. But now he was equipped to discuss almost anything from philosophy to plumbing, but there was nobody to discuss it with. He changed position on the bunk and stared at the walls. The Tr'en were efficient; there weren't even any imperfections in the smooth surface to distract him.

He wasn't tired and he wasn't hungry; his captors had left him with a full stock of food concentrates.

But he was almightily bored, and about ready to tell anything to anyone, just for the chance at a little conversation.

As he reached this dismal conclusion, the cell door opened. Korvin got up off the bunk in a hurry and spun around to face his visitor.

The Tr'en was tall, and slightly green.

He looked, as all the Tr'en did, vaguely humanoid that is, if you don't bother to examine him closely. Life in the universe appeared to be rigidly limited to humanoid types on oxygen planets; Korvin didn't know why, and neither did anybody else. There were a lot of theories, but none that accounted for all the facts satisfactorily... Continue reading book >>

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