And so the Ganymeans came at last to Earth.
After the failure of the various governments to reach agreement as to where the aliens should be received if they accepted the invitation, the parliament of U.S. Europe had voted to go it alone and make their own preparations anyway. The place they selected was an area of open country on the Swiss shore of Lake Geneva, where it was hoped the climate would prove agreeable to the Ganymean constitution; also, the tradition of nonbelligerence would add an appropriate note.
About halfway between the city of Geneva and Lausanne, they fenced off an area roughly a mile square on the edge of the lake, and inside erected a village of chalets designed for Ganymean comfort, with high ceilings and doorways, strong beds, and tinted windows. Cooking, dining, and recreational facilities were installed, and a concrete pad constructed to support the Shapieron and afford space for vehicles and daughter ships. In addition, accommodation was provided inside the perimeter for visiting delegations of Terrans, along with conference and social facilities.
When the news came from Jupiter that the aliens were planning on departing for Earth in just a couple of weeks time, and-even more startling-the journey would take only days, it was clear that the issue of where to receive them was already decided. By the time the Shapieron appeared out of space and went into Earth orbit, a fleet of aircraft was converging on Geneva with officials and heads of state from all over the globe hurrying to take part in the hastily-worked-out welcoming formalities. Swarms of VTOL jets shuttled back and forth between the international airport and what had come to be popularly referred to as "Ganyville," while traffic on the Geneva-Lausanne highway became a bumper-to-bumper jam-private aircars having been banned from the area. A peppering of colors, becoming denser as the hours went by, appeared on the inland slopes overlooking Ganyville as spectators arrived and set up camp with tents, sleeping bags, blankets, and picnic stoves. A cordon of overworked but generally jovial police, including extras drafted from Italy, France, and Germany maintained a clear zone two hundred meters wide between the growing crowd and the perimeter fence, while on the lakeward side a flotilla of police launches scurried about to keep at bay an armada of boats, yachts, and other craft. Along the roadsides, an instant marketplace appeared as the local shopkeeping fraternity loaded their stocks into trucks and brought the business to where the customers were. A lot of small fortunes were made selling everything from instant meals and woolly sweaters to hiking boots and telescopes.
Several thousand miles above, the Shapieron was not quite away from it all. An assortment of UNSA craft had formed themselves into an escort around the ship, sweeping with it around Earth every hour and a half, many carrying news teams broadcasting live to an enthralled world. They had exchanged messages with ZORAC and with the Earth people aboard who had come with the Shapieron from Jupiter, thrilled viewers by beaming down views from inside an alien spacecraft, and mixed in with it constant updates on the latest developments below. In between, commentators had described ad nauseam how the ship had appeared at Ganymede, what had transpired since, where their race had originated, why their expedition had gone to Iscaris and what had gone wrong there, and anything else they could think of to fill time before the big event. Half the business places on Earth were estimated to have given up and closed down until after it was over, since the employees who weren't glued to a screen somewhere else were glued to one being paid for out of the firm's money. As one president of a New York company commented to and NBC street interviewer, "I'm not gonna spend thousands to prove all over again that you can't stop the tide once it's made its mind up. I guess this year we get an extra day's holiday." On being asked what he himself intended doing, he replied with surprise, "Me? I'm going home to watch the landing, of course."
Inside the Shapieron, Hunt and Danchekker were among the mixed Ganymean-Terran group gathered in the ship's command center. A number of eggs had been despatched to descend to lower altitudes and obtain previews of Earth for the aliens' benefit. Already the Ganymeans had gazed incredulously at the teeming life in cities like New York, Tokyo, and London, gasped at spectacles of the Arabian desert and Amazon jungle-terrain unlike any that had existed on Minerva-and stared in mute, horrified fascination at a telescopic view of lions stalking zebra in the African grasslands.
To Hunt, the sights of green continents, sun-drenched plains, and blue oceans after what felt like an eternity of rock, ice, and the blackness of space were overwhelming. As different parts of Earth came and went across the main screen, he detected a changing mood among the Ganymeans too. The earlier misgivings that some of them had felt were giving way to an almost intoxicating enthusiasm that seemed to be contagious. They were becoming restless and excited-keen to see more firsthand of the incredible world to which chance had brought them.
One of the eggs was hovering three miles up over Lake Geneva, relaying its view of the throngs building up on the hills below. The Ganymeans seemed astounded to be objects of such widespread interest and the display of mass emotion. Hunt tried to explain that the arrival of an alien spacecraft was not something that happened very often, let alone one from twenty-five million years in the past, but the Ganymeans seemed unable to comprehend how anything could give rise to spontaneous demonstration on such a scale. Monchar wondered if if the
Terrans they had met so far represented the more stable and rational end of the human spectrum. Hunt decided to say nothing. Monchar would no doubt be able to answer that for himself in good time.
The view from the egg expanded and closed in on a grassy hillside, by this time thick with people. There were people cooking, eating, drinking, playing, or just sitting; it could have been a day at the races, a pop festival, or a popular event anywhere. "Are they safe out in the open there?" one of the Ganymeans asked dubiously after a while.
"Safe?" Hunt was puzzled. "How do you mean?"
"I'm surprised they're not carrying guns."
"Guns? What for?"
"The carnivores," the Ganymean replied. "What will they do if they are attacked by carnivores?" Danchekker explained that few animals existed that were dangerous to Man, and those that did lived a long way away from here. "Oh, I assumed that was why they built the defensive system all around," the Ganymean replied.
Hunt laughed. "That's not to keep carnivores out. It's to keep humans out," he said.
"You mean they might attack us?' There was a sudden note of alarm in the question.
"No. It's just to ensure your privacy and make sure nobody is a nuisance. The government assumed you wouldn't want crowds of sightseers wandering around and getting in the way."
"Couldn't the government just make a law ordering them to sta away?" Shilohin asked from across the room. "It sounds much simpler."
Hunt laughed again. "You haven't met many Earth people yet," he said. "I don't think they'd take a lot of notice. They're not what you might call, easily disciplined."
Shilohin was surprised. "Really? I always imagined them to be the opposite. I've watched your old newsreels from the times when there were wars-thousands of Earthmen all dressed the same, walking backward and forward while others shouted commands that they obeyed instantly. And when they were ordered to fight each other, they obeyed. Is that not being disciplined?"
"Yes . . . it is," Hunt admitted uncomfortably. He hoped he wasn't about to be asked for an explanation; there wasn't one. But the Ganymean who had been worried about the carnivores was persistent.
"You mean that if they are ordered to do something that is clearly irrational, they will do it unhesitatingly. "But if they are ordered to do something that is not only sensible but also polite, they take no notice?"
"Er . . . I guess that's about it," Hunt said weakly.
At that moment, ZORAC got him off the hook with an announcement. "Ground Control is calling from Geneva. Shall I put it through to Dr. Hunt again?"
Hunt went over to the console where he had acted as intermediary for the previous exchanges and instructed ZORAC to connect him. The face of the controller at Geneva, by now familiar, filled the screen. "'Allo again, Dr. 'Unt. 'Ow are zings up zere?"
"Well, we're still waiting. What's the news?"
"Ze Prime Minister of Australia and ze Chinese Premier 'ave now arrived in Geneva. Zey weel be at Ganyville eenside ze 'alf ower. I am now authorized to clear you for touchdown seexty minutes from now. Okay?"
"We're going down one hour from now," he told the expectant room. He looked at Garuth. "Do I have your approval to confirm that?"
"Please do," Garuth replied.
Hunt turned back toward the screen. "Okay," he informed the controller. "Sixty minutes from now. We're coming down."
Within minutes the news had flashed around the globe, and the world's excitement rose to fever pitch.