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lay his arms on his knees, and began to look through the covering.
The sun set, and multicolored reflections began to leap along the gray slopes
of the basin. Kondratev very soon noticed that chaos did not reign unchecked
in the raging, hellish kitchen. Certain regular, distinct shadows appeared now
and then in the smoke and flame, sometimes unmoving, sometimes rushing
headlong. It was very difficult to get a proper look at them, but once the
smoke suddenly cleared for several instants, and Kondratev got a fairly clear
view of a complicated machine like a daddy longlegs. The machine jumped in
place, as if trying to extricate its legs from some viscous fiery mass, or
else it kneaded that flaming mass with its long sparkling articulations. Then
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something flashed under it, and again it was covered by clouds of orange
smoke.
Over Kondratev s head a small helicopter sputtered by. Kondratev raised his
head and watched it. The helicopter flew over the covering, then suddenly
turned sharply to the side and crashed down like a stone. Kondratev gave a
cry, but the helicopter was already sitting on the  roof of the covering. It
seemed simply to be hanging motionless above the tongues of flame. A minute
black figure got out of the helicopter, bent over, resting its hands on its
knees, and looked down into hell.
 Tell them I ll be back tomorrow morning! shouted someone behind Kondratev s
back.
The navigator turned around. Nearby, buried in luxuriant lilac bushes, stood
two neat one-story houses with large lit-up windows. The windows were half
hidden in the bushes, and the lilac branches, swaying in the wind, stood out
against a background of bright blue rectangles in delicate openwork
silhouettes. He could hear someone s steps. Then the steps stopped for a
second, and the same voice shouted,  And ask your mother to tell Ahmed.
The windows in one of the houses went dark. From the other house came the
strains of a sad melody. Grasshoppers chirred in the grass, and he could hear
the drowsy chirping of birds. Anyhow, I have nothing to do at this factory,
thought Kondratev.
He got up and headed back. He floundered for a few minutes in the bushes,
looking for the path, then found it and started walking among the pines. The
path showed dull white under the stars. In a few more minutes Kondratev saw a
bluish light in front of him the gas lamps on the signpost and almost at a run
he came out to the moving road. It was empty.
Kondratev, jumping like a hare and shouting  Hup! Hup!, ran over to the strip
moving in the direction of the city. The ribbons shone gently underfoot, and
to the right and left the dark masses of bushes and trees rushed backward. Far
in front of him in the sky was a bluish glow the city. Kondratev suddenly felt
fiercely hungry.
He got off at a veranda with tables, the one near the sign that said YELLOW
FACTORY i KM. From the veranda came light, noise, and appetizing smells; and
all the tables were taken. Looks like the whole world eats supper here,
Kondratev thought with disappointment, but all the same he went up the steps
and stopped at the threshold. The great-great-grandchildren were drinking,
eating, laughing, talking, shouting, and even singing.
A long-legged great-great-grandchild from the nearest table tugged at
Kondratev s sleeve.  Sit down, sit down, comrade, he said, getting up.
 Thank you, muttered Kondratev,  But what about you?
 Never mind! Fve eaten, don t worry.
Kondratev sat down uneasily, resting his hands on his knees. The person
opposite him, an enormous dark-faced man who had been eating something very
appetizing from a bowl, looked up at him suddenly and asked indistinctly,
 Well, what s going on over there? They drawing it out?
 Drawing what out? asked Kondratev.
Everyone at the table looked at him.
The dark man, distorting his face, swallowed and said,  You from Anyudin?
 No, said Kondratev.
A thickset youth sitting on the left said happily,  I know who you are! You re
Navigator Kondratev from the Taimyrl
Everyone became more lively. The dark-faced man immediately raised his right
hand and introduced himself.  I am yclept Ioann Moskvichev. Or Ivan, as we say
today.
A young woman, sitting at the right, said,  Elena Zavadskaya.
The thickset youth, shuffling his feet under the table, said,  Basevich.
Meteorologist. Aleksandr.
A small pale girl, squeezed in between the meteorologist and Ivan Moskvichev,
gaily chirped that she was Marina.
Ex-Navigator Kondratev rose and bowed.
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 I didn t recognize you at first either, declared the dark-faced Moskvichev.
 You ve gotten a lot better. We people here have been sitting and waiting.
We ve got nothing left to do but sit and eat sacivi. This afternoon they
offered us twelve places on a food tanker they thought we wouldn t take them.
Like idiots we started drawing straws, and in the meantime they loaded a group
from Vorkuta onto the tanker. Really great guys! Ten people barely squeezed
into the twelve places, and the other five were left here. He laughed
unexpectedly.  And we sit eating sacivi .... By the way, would you like a
helping? Or have you already eaten?
 No, I haven t, said Kondratev.
Moskvichev rose from the table.  Then I ll bring you some.
 Please, Kondratev said gratefully.
Ivan Moskvichev went off, pushing his way through the tables.
 Have some wine, Zavadskaya said, pushing a glass over to Kondratev.
 Thank you, but I don t drink, Kondratev said automatically. But then he
remembered that he wasn t a spacer, and never again would be one.  Excuse me.
On second thought, I will, with pleasure.
The wine was aromatic, light, good. Nectar, thought Kondratev. The gods drink
nectar. And eat sacivi. I haven V tried sacivi in a long time.
 Are you traveling with us? squeaked Marina.
 I don t know, said Kondratev.  Maybe. Where are you going?
The great-great-grandchildren looked at each other.  We re going to Venus,
said Aleksandr.  You see, Moskvichev has got the urge to turn Venus into a
second Earth.
Kondratev put down his glass.  Venus? he asked mistrustfully. He himself
remembered what Venus was like.  Has your Moskvichev ever been on Venus?
 He works there, said Zavadskaya,  but that s not the point. What is
important is that he hasn t supplied the transportation. We ve been waiting
for three days.
Kondratev remembered how he had once orbited Venus in a first-line
interplanetary ship for thirty-three days and had decided not to land.  Yes,
he said.  That s terrible, waiting so long. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]