“Jonah” (short story) by Gerard Klein
English Publication History: Travelling Towards Epsilon (New English Library, 1977)
Original: French (Jonas), 1966
Translated by Maxim Jakubowski, 1976
Synopsis: It weighs half a billion tons, it can travel faster than the speed of light, it’s composed entirely out of organic matter, it carries 25,000 people between the stars, it’s piloted by eleven mind-melded jockeys, and it—a ubionast (unit of biological navigation over starways)—has just killed and consumed everyone. Richard Mecca has been hired to help kill the beast or wrangle it. Being an odd sort of human himself, Mecca finds sympathy for the ubionast; rather than kill or tame, he attempts a humanistic approach. 25 pages
Analysis: Richard Mecca is unique—he’s a man made between the stars, a man with physiology meant for weightless orbit. He’s as much as a recluse as he is unique. He shies away from extended contact with earthmen who don’t understand him and his frail structure. Being self-exiled from mankind, he also has a particular/peculiar expertise. The massive organic spacefaring vessels are occasionally prone to kill all aboard (safety doesn’t seem like much of an issue, I guess). Richard, teamed with the landlubber humans, need to decide to tame or destroy the beast.
While assessing the murdering behemoth, the standard humans are quick to settle upon the direct assassination of the organic ship so that it doesn’t threaten the planet or the sun; Richard, however, doesn’t get along with these men nor does he agree with them their rash judgment. But the ubionast doesn’t behave like other massive yet dumb vessels—this one seems to be under its own volition. Glancing at the detached earthmen, Richard sees in himself an affinity for the hulk, another solitary and misunderstood being.