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larger question, that's harder. What's God? More specifically, what is your
God, Robin?"
"No, no," I snarled. "I'm the one who's asking the questions here."
"Then I must try to answer for you, mustn't I? Very well." He pointed the
pipestem at me. "I would take God, in your sense, to be a sort of vector sum
of all the qualities you believe to be 'just' and 'moral' and 'loving.'
And I suppose that among all sentient beings, humans and Heechee and machine
intelligences and all, there is a sort of consensus of what these virtuous
things are, and that a mutually shared 'God' would be a sum of all the
vectors. Does that answer your question?"
"Not a bit!"
He smiled again, glancing at the viewscreen. All it showed was the usual
pebbly gray nothing of a ship in faster-than-light travel. "I didn't think it
would, Robin. It doesn't satisfy me, either, but then the universe is not
necessarily in business to make us happy. Now."
I opened my mouth to ask him the next question, but it took me a moment to
formulate it and by then he was ahead of me. "With your permission, Robin,"
he said. "We are really almost back into normal space now, and I am sure we
would both like to look."
And he didn't wait for that permission. He was gone; but first he gave me one
of those sweet, sad, compassionate smiles that, like so much else about my
very dear friend Albert Einstein, drives me ape.
But of course he was right.
I showed him who was boss, though. I didn't follow right away. I took, oh,
maybe eight or nine milliseconds to-well, to do what Essie would have called
"be gloopy," but what I thought of as pondering what he had said.
There wasn't all that much to ponder. Or, more accurately, there was one hell
of a huge lot to ponder, but not enough detail to make pondering on it
satisfactory. Maddening old Albert! If he made up his mind to play God-even an
admitted imitation God-he could at least have been specific.
I mean, that was what the rules called for! When Jehovah spoke to Moses out of
the burning bush, when the Angel Morom handed over graven tablets-they said
what they expected.
I had, I felt with aggravation, a right to specifics from my very own source
of all wisdom.
But I obviously wasn't going to get any, so I sulkily followed . just about in
time.
The pebbly gray nothing was splotching and curdling even as I slid into the
ship's sensors, and in only another millisecond or two the splotches froze up
into sharp detail.
I could feel Essie's hand steal into mine as we looked in all directions at
once. The old vertigo hit me, but I put it behind me.
There was too much to see. More spectacular than the Alaskan fjords, more
awe-inspiring than anything I had ever perceived.
We were well out beyond the good old Galaxy itself-not just the fried-
egg galactic disk, with its pearly lump of yolk in the middle, but way out
past even the tenuous halo. "Below" us was a thin scattering of halo stars,
like sparse little bubbles popping out of the galactic wine. "Above" was black
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velvet that someone had spilled tiny, faint curls of luminous paint on. Very
near to us were the bright lights of the Watch Wheel, and off to one side were
the dozen sulfur-yellow blobs of the kugelblitz.
They didn't look dangerous. They just looked nasty, like some unattractive
little mess left on a living-room floor that somebody should get busy and
clean up.
I wished I knew how to do that.
Cried Essie triumphantly: "Look, dear Robin! No hooligan JAWS ships on
Wheel! Have beat them here!"
And when I looked at the Wheel, it seemed she was right. The Wheel rolled
silently in solitude, not a single ship in its dock, not a JAWS cruiser
anywhere around it. But Albert sighed, "I'm afraid not, Mrs. Broadhead."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Cassata demanded. I couldn't see
him-none of us were bothering with visual simulations-but I could feel him
bristling.
"Only that we have not beat them here, General Cassata," said Albert.
"We really could not, you know. The True Love is an admirable spacecraft, but
it does not have the speed of a JAWS vessel. If they are not here, it is not
that they have not yet arrived; it is that they have been here and left
already."
"Left where?" I barked.
He was silent for a moment. Then the vista before us began to swell.
Albert was readjusting the ship's sensors. The "below" grew shadowy. The
"above"-the direction toward the kugelblitz itself-grew closer. "Tell me,"
said Albert thoughtfully, "have you ever formed a visual impression of what it
might be like when the Foe came out? I don't mean a rational conjecture. I
mean the sort of half-dozing fantasy a person might have, imagining that
moment."
"Albert!"
He disregarded me. "I think," he said, "that somewhere in everybody lurks a
kind of primitive notion that they might suddenly erupt from the kugelblitz in [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]