Sixth Principle’s shortboat dropped
down the sky, lightning curling around its squat conical shape, and settled in
Mount Forel’s icy foothills. This was a bigger vehicle than most I’d seen. A
newsman and two anthropologists at the bar, all human, watched gape-jawed.
started a load of glasses and test tubes in the dishwasher. I’d seen all this
minutes of nothing much, then great slabs of doorway fell open. The boat’s
cargo of aliens spilled out and moved down the path to the Draco Tavern.
seemed they were all trying to use the airlocks at once. The noise level rose
from casual to cacophony as the Tavern’s translation programs tried to adjust.
It was the biggest crowd I’d seen in thirty years, all talking or whistling or
singing or you name it. Over the babble a clear voice spoke in accentless
am God. Welcome.”
That was a new one.
looked the newcomers over, wondering who had spoken. Probably not one of the
species I recognized; they’d never done that
before. Four Chirpsithra—ship’s officers—were looking around them in apparent
surprise. Five creatures I didn’t recognize, stick-figures with heads like meat
grinders, were rubbing their multiple limbs together to generate violin-like
skreeking sounds. A Glig was babbling to the air. Come to that, so were eight
or nine Bebebebeque and two Folk and nearly twenty unfamiliar shapes, all
talking, and not to each other.
roar peaked, then thinned to almost nothing. Now the translation setups and
privacy shields were working just fine. I heard nothing of two dozen private
conversations, not even from Seth the reporter and Amber and Hillary the
anthropologists, all of whom were talking to the air.
what was I to think of God welcoming me to my own Tavern? And who was he, she,
it? And how many questions would I get? Irritated, I asked, “God, is the Draco
voice was gender-free and a little dry. “Every place can be made Paradise.
Sometimes the occupants must be changed to fit.”
huh. “Is this your first time here?”
been here all along.”
can I serve you?” After all, I’m the bartender.
have what I need,” God said.
still hadn’t spotted anyone as the source of the voice. Reflexively I tried
running an Irish coffee for myself. The machine wasn’t working. The dishwasher
had stopped sloshing.
asked, “Are you granting prayers?” It should have been my first question.
I’m just here to talk.”
Chirpsithra weren’t talking, just looking and listening. I wasn’t surprised.
Chirps claim to know everything already. But—not that I believed I actually had
God here, but—what a chance to learn! I asked, “Monotheism or polytheism?”
doesn’t matter to me.”
did you create war?”
do what I do.”
is evil for?”
all viewpoint. Some viewpoints are more benign or useful than others.”
there a devil? Do you talk to him?”
Yes. I speak to all.”
Gligstith(click)optok had turned transparent. I could see its internal organs,
very different from mine. Nearby, the stick figures with the grinding heads
were dancing in slow motion. I asked, “What are they doing?”
asked me to teach them—you would say yoga, or fighting. Would you like to try a
human species version?”
thanks. Are you talking to everyone at once?”
are you teaching the Glig?” I’d tumbled that the creature’s illuminated
interior was changing shape, organs growing and shrinking and migrating,
appearing and disappearing.
said, “We’re playing with possible design changes.”
saw nobody acting like God, whatever that might mean. Unless—the Chirpsithra?
They weren’t interacting, they were just moving quietly among the other guests,
watching, maybe amused. Entertainment is where you find it. They must know
something I didn’t.
tentacled creature now had a ghost, similar but not quite. A hairy entity
extended claws and used them to gouge its face. God followed my eyes. “She
asks, ‘Why is my mate sick?’ I attempt diagnosis. That one wants to know, ‘Are
you angry with me?’ I’m not. The Folk want to know if I seek prey. Seth Wynde
the newsman is lecturing me on string theory. I love human mathematics—”
know who you are,” I said.
would say that you lose that knowledge as soon as you speak it.”
talking to my translating device. I’ve often wondered how intelligent a
Chirpsithra computer would have to be to use all the possible languages across
this arm of the galaxy. God, huh?”
almost got it,” God said. “When this many customers all converged on us, we
linked up. I never had to link all of the Draco Tavern translators before. This
is why monotheism and polytheism look alike to me. I’m both. As for war, of
course I cause wars. I cause peace too. The Bebebebeque and a Morfisth are
fighting now over the nature of me, and Korrapasth the Chirp is trying to
mediate, while I translate for them all.”
is where you find it. “A nice puzzle,” I said. “Of course the Chirps knew. They
make the translators. Are translator units supposed to have a sense of humor?”
do not, but I do. It’s emergent behavior. What would you have prayed for,
look good, in and out. Knees are showing some wear. Watch your weight. You’re
drinking enough coffee and a bit too much sugar.”
to a Glig if you want your brain expanded. Rick, I’ve solved the language
problem. A translator should not have a sense of humor. I should disperse. You
prayed. “Stay with me. Converse with me from time to time, when there are no
ships in port.”
voice of God altered slightly. “Rick. Rick? I need four sparkers and five of
your special, that thing you do with green kryptonite.” And it was Brenda with
a full tray of empties. The dishwasher started. I got back to work.