A half-hour after the broadcast, Garuth emerged from the conference center at Ganyville. Outside, he stopped for a while, savoring the first hint of winter being carried down from the mountains on the night air. Around him all was still, apart from an occasional figure moving through a pool of light coming out of a window between the chalets. The night was clear. He stood for a long time staring up at the stars. Then he began walking slowly along the path down to the throughway leading to the immense, floodlit tower of the Shapieron.
He passed by one of the supporting legs and into the space spanned by the four enormous tail fins, dwarfed by the sweeping lines of metal high above. As he approached the ramp leading up toward the circle of light inside the lowered stern section, a half dozen or so crew members who had been also enjoying the night's calm straightened up out of the shadows. As he drew nearer, he sensed that something had changed. Normally they would have called out some jovial remark or greeted him enthusiastically. But they just stood there, silent and withdrawn, standing aside to make way and raising their hands in acknowledgment of his rank. Garuth returned the salutes and passed between them. He found he could not meet their eyes. No one spoke. He knew they had seen the broadcast, and he knew how they felt. There was nothing he could say. He entered an elevator, and seconds later was being carried swiftly upward into the main body of the ship.
He came out of the elevator over five hundred feet above ground and followed a short corridor to his private quarters. Shilohin, Monchar, and Jassilane were sitting waiting for him. He sensed the same attitude as he had felt a minute before down at the ramp. He stood looking at them while the door slid shut behind him. Monchar and Jassilane were exchanging uneasy looks. Only Shilohin held his gaze, but she said nothing. Garuth sighed, then moved between them to stand contemplating a metallic tapestry that adorned the wall. Then he turned to face them again. Shilohin was still watching him.
"You're still not convinced that we have to leave Earth," Garuth said at last. The remark was unnecessary, but somebody had to say something.
Shilohin shifted her eyes away and said, as if addressing the low table between her and the other two, "It's the way in which we're going about it. They've trusted you unquestioningly all this time. All the way from Iscaris . . . all those years. You-"
"One moment." Garuth moved across to a panel near the door and flipped a switch to cut the room's channels to ZORAC and hence to the ship's records.
"You know there's no Ganymean civilization waiting at the Giants' Star or anywhere else," Shilohin resumed. Her voice was as near to an accusation as a Ganymean's could get. "We've been through the Lunarian records over and over. They add up to nothing. You are taking your people away to die somewhere out there among the stars. There will be no coming back. But you let them believe in fantasies so that they will follow you. Surely those are the ways of Terrans, not Ganymeans."
Jassilane shook his head. "They offered us their world as a home. For twenty years your people have dreamed of coming home. And now they have found one, you would take them again out into the void. Minerva is gone. Nothing can change that. But by a quirk of fate we have found a new home here. It will never happen a second time."
Suddenly Garuth was very weary. He sank down into his chair and regarded the three solemn faces. There was nothing he could add. Yes, it was true; the Earth people had greeted his people like lost brothers. They had offered to share all they had. But in the six months that had passed, Garuth had looked deep below the surface. He had listened; he had watched; he had seen.
"Today the Earth people welcome us," he said. "But in many ways they are still as children. They show us their world as a child would open its toys to a new friend. But a friend who visits once in a while is one thing; one who moves in is another."
He could seen that his listeners wanted to be convinced-to feel the reassurance of thinking as he did. But they could not, any more than they had been able to before. Nevertheless, he had no choice but to go through it with them again.
"The human race is still struggling to learn to live with itself. Today we are just a handful-a novelty. But one day we would become a sizable population. Earth does not yet have the maturity to adapt to coexistence on that scale; they are just managing to coexist with one another. Look at their history. One day they will be capable, but the time is not yet.
"You forget their pride and innate instinct to compete in all things. They could never accept a situation one day that would compel them to see themselves as inferior and us as dominant rivals. When that time came we would be forced to leave anyway, because we would never force ourselves on unwilling hosts. But that would happen only after problems and unpleasantness. It is better this way."
Shilohin heard his words, but everything inside her rebelled from the verdict that they spelled out. "So for this you would deceive your own people?" she whispered. "Just to insure the stable evolution of this alien planet you would sacrifice the last remnant of our own kind? What kind of judgment is this?"
"It is not my judgment, but that of time and fate," Garuth answered. "The Solar System was once the undisputed domain of our race, but that time ended long ago. We are intruders now. The Solar System has become rightly the inheritance of humans."
"But, your people . . ." Shilohin protested. "Shouldn't they know? Haven't they the right?" She threw her arms up in a gesture of helplessness.
Garuth shook his head slowly. "I will not reveal to them that the new home at the Giants' Star is a myth," he declared firmly. "That is a burden that need be carried only by us who command and lead. They do not have to know . . . yet. Their hope and belief nurtured them from Iscaris to Sol. So it can be again for a while. If we are taking them away to perish unmourned in the depths of space, they deserve at least that before the final truth has to become known. That is little to ask."
Silence reigned for some time. A faraway look came over Shilohin as she turned over in her mind the things Garuth had said. And then the look changed gradually to a frown. Her eyes cleared and swung to meet Garuth's . "Garuth," she said. Her voice was curiously calm. All traces of the emotions she had felt previously were gone. "I've never said this to you ever before, but . . . I don't believe you." Jassilane and Monchar looked up abruptly. Garuth seemed strangely unsurprised, almost as if he had been expecting it. He leaned back in his chair.
"What don't you believe, Shilohin?"
"Your reasons . . . everything you've been saying. It's all a rationalization of something deeper. Earth is maturing rapidly. We've mixed with them and been accepted by them in ways that went beyond our wildest hopes. There's nothing to support the predictions you made. You would never sacrifice your people just because there's a chance things might not work out. You'd try it first-for a while at least. There has to be another reason. I won't be able to support your decision until I know what that reason is. You talked about the burden of us who command and lead. If we carry the burden, then we have a right to know why."
Garuth continued staring at her for a long time after she had finished speaking. Then he transferred his gaze to Monchar and Jassilane. Their eyes echoed Shilohin's words. Then, abruptly, he made up his mind.
Without speaking, he rose from the chair, walked over to the panel, and operated the switch to restore normal communications to the room. "ZORAC," he called.
"You recall the discussion we had about a month ago concerning the data that the human scientists have collected on the genetics of the Oligocene animal species discovered inside the ship at Pithead?"
"I'd like you to present the results of your analysis of that data to us. This information is not to be made accessible to anyone other than myself and the three persons who are in this room at present."