In an isolated field the forces began assembling.
The first signs of the invasion to come were the teams of security specialists who thoroughly inspected the area for signs of danger or deceit. Disappointed at finding no evidence that this was any more than what it appeared to be, an untouched paddock that was used only as a home for a herd of cows with rather inconvenient habits concerning their bodily waste, the Australian contingent removed the cows under the watchful eyes of the representatives of other nations who had so far arrived.
The agents, police and military experts soon established temporary headquarters. Some countries shared their vantage points while others remained aloof in their suspicious little outposts.
Today the eyes of the world would focus on this field - eager for news of an alien civilization.
A service team arrived, bringing with them the seats, tables and other furniture that was considered necessary for the occasion. They also brought the platform that was to be used as a stage. Once it had been set up, pulled apart for inspection, reassembled and surrounded by a security cordon, the crowd began to arrive. They chose their positions around the stage with an air of cynicism.
Members of the press joked with each other.
"What'll it be this time?"
"If it's just another crackpot, they sure have a bit of clout. Just look at this mob."
"Next thing you know, E.T.'ll come pedalling over the clouds to tell us that bicycles will solve the problems of the world."
"Look. There's the P. M.."
Photographers who represented the press of every nation of the world crowded around the enclosure where the Prime Minister sat with the most important of the foreign guests. He smiled for the cameras and exchanged pleasant banter with his guests. He was certain that this was little more than an elaborate stunt by the Greenies, but that sort of publicity would not harm his standing in the polls.
The assembled crowd had become an informal United Nations as journalists, reporters, photographers and camera-crews mingled with one another and the politicians, embassy staff and other representatives of their countries. As the news teams tried to capture the flavour of the event for their audience they were observed closely, as were the other witnesses who had assembled, by the various security forces who were present with the special permission of the Government.
A group of locals had collected at the fence, their curiosity aroused by the steady stream of personnel that had arrived since early morning.
"What d'ye reckon it is?"
"Dunno. D'ye think it's got anything to do with all those U.F.O. sightings there've been lately?"
"D'ye think so? I'd better go tell the missus. She'd want to know if the Martians had landed."
John Sortilege carefully took the globe from its hiding place. It shimmered momentarily, as if shaking off the last remnants of the other dimension that had shielded it until it was time.
Morgan stood in the living-room, breathless. The presence of so many of his relatives was overwhelming today. Especially unsettling was his great-grandfather. The rest of his family also reflected the awe they felt for the man whose aura, activated by the coming drama, cast an eerie light over the room.
The air crackled with the energy from those who were present in spirit only.
John Sortilege brought the ball into the room, holding it aloft for a few moments to absorb the good wishes of the Ancient People who had resolved to use their power to guard a moment in history. He solemnly placed the globe in a rucksack on Morgan's back and took his son by the shoulders.
"When you became an adult you questioned our lack of interference in the ways of men. Remember that today we do no more than guide. Only mankind can undo its own mistakes. But we must play our parts well, helping the Children of Earth realize the danger they are in. The balance of the world is a delicate thing. Those who disturb it must do so with caution.
"Take care, my son."
Morgan left the room without bidding farewell. The low humming that had begun as he left the room, accompanied him. He felt his body hum, full of the power of his people.
Full of love and concern, Morgan felt himself lifted by the currents which would transport him to the distant field.
Cassie decided that she didn't like speech-making. Watching the crowd gather, her nerves had built up. Anxiously she scanned the road for the familiar figure who would signal the beginning of the event.
Morgan walked down the road without attracting any attention to himself. The security forces seemed to ignore him as he strolled through the gate and walked towards the platform. He halted at the ropes that separated the general crowd from the main actors, such as Cassie, who were gathered at a table to one side of the platform.
When Cassie saw Morgan, she signalled that it was time to begin. Mustering all her confidence, she stepped up to the microphone that had been set up in front of the stage.
"Thank you for coming today." She waited for the crowd to settle down.
There was a shuffle of interest in the crowd and the field was silent as Cassie paused.
"We can only know about others, what we know about ourselves. We think and feel; anger, pain, sorrow, joy. These things are common to all humankind and this common experience of humanity makes us all equal."
The audience listened politely.
"There are people who consider themselves to be somehow above the rest of us. They have been profiting from processes and products that are threatening our environment. Their wealth is gained through the suffering of others. They have no right to behave this way!"
Cassie was surprised by the anger which had welled up in her. At last she was saying what had bothered her for so long - things just weren't right.
"No society can tolerate people who place the welfare of the community at risk. No world can tolerate inhabitants who endanger their own environment and each other, yet we have been unable to stop the people who threaten our home . . ."
Cassie hoped, that, unlike the unfortunate prophet who had inspired her name, she would be believed when she spoke the truth.
"And in the dreams of our heart we long for a saviour. We yearn for salvation. And our fanciful minds produce wizards and creatures of superior intelligence who bring life-saving technology."
Morgan caught Cassie's eye. He smiled broadly in support, charmed by her speech. She took a deep breath and continued.
"Whether it is technological wizardry or supernatural influence that we look to for help, we are avoiding the responsibility for what has happened. Whether the damage is small or large, we must accept the consequences of our own actions . . ."
"Yes!" came a voice from the crowd.
"A race of aliens, superior in intelligence, knowledge and wisdom, cannot rescue us. An enigmatic master of the dark arts cannot manipulate the ether and repair the damage we have done. God helps those that help themselves!
"We must help ourselves!"
"Yes!" Although not loud, more of the crowd joined in agreement with Cassie.
"We must change."
"Yes," repeated several of the distinguished representatives of the nations of the world.
"We must change our behaviour. We must change our opinions about right and wrong. We must change our world.
"We must alter our beliefs so that actions which harm the environment are immoral and unacceptable acts against all of humanity. The wealth of a minority must never be gained in a way that jeopardizes the future of this beautiful planet Earth."
The sober-faced politicians nodded in agreement.
"We must clean up our planet and control our population.
"It would be foolish to say that the process is likely to be easy. But such a process undertaken willingly will be less painful than dealing with the consequences of a population run wild on a planet of limited resources which are rapidly disappearing in order to increase further the wealth of a minority."
The crowd muttered. This could not be allowed to happen.
"Each of us can do something, and when we join together we are powerful!"
The crowd cheered.
"We must learn to care for our environment, and each other, properly. We cannot expect the hand that reaches out to hurt its brothers and sisters to gently tend the garden of life."
Heads gently bowed and shook in agreement.
"It is time we listened to ancient wisdom: `You must love your neighbour as yourself.
“We must change the way people think. We must do unto others only what we would wish for ourselves. Every-one must learn a new morality and a new sense of responsibility for their fellow men and the world around them.
"We must learn to love one another."
Applause, cheering and shouts of agreement heralded the end of Cassie's speech. She stood in the centre of the dais, humbled by their acclamation, but buoyed by the spirit of hope in their response. While the gathering of humankind still focused their attention on her, she left the platform, taking the microphone with her.
She walked to one side of the platform and turned to Morgan. Throughout the crowd, reporters and diplomats remembered their jobs. The security forces lined Morgan in their sights. With the eyes of the world on him, Morgan reached into the light rucksack he had been carrying.
The alien globe sparkled when he held it aloft. The crowd paused. Breathless, they watched as the globe rose from Morgan's hands and floated over to the platform, landing confidently in the centre of the stage.
"Score one for the little green men from Mars," muttered one journalist. They were all impressed. Video and film cameras, ultra-sensitive microphones, electronic sensors, radar equipment and some of the best minds in the world were focused on the centre of the crude stage. The globe began to glow.
The light became gradually more intense until the daylight was pale. Yet the light was a soft light, and those who looked into it were bathed rather than blinded by the radiance. The rough sphere of light that now shone above the globe became darker, as the energy that enacted the creation of the universe, dispersed. The emptiness of space gradually became clear, punctuated by brilliant stars that were forming and cooling and becoming the energy source for developing solar systems.
The view now zoomed in, to take its audience to the surface of a planet in a solar system very like their own. A series of images told the story of the cooling of the planet and the first rainstorms; it told of the planet's developing oceans and plant life, and the animals which eventually crawled upon the face of the earth. Animals developed that could have existed on Earth, but didn't, or hadn't.
The people of Earth saw a world that was unlike their own. The weird plants and creatures lived beneath unfamiliar skies. But among this weird habitat walked a familiar figure. The audience were stunned : the creature they saw was so like themselves, yet they were certain that this was not a human being.
The security forces were baffled. They were monitoring the whole area, but could find no logical explanation. The globe appeared to be solely responsible for this impossible presentation. The technicians and agents double-checked their equipment, repeated their readings and shook their heads; they couldn't even work out where the sound was coming from.
It was an Australian who articulated the feeling and the unavoidable truth about this fantastic message. "It's fair dinkum!"
All watched as alien humans grew in knowledge and understanding. They began to use tools; they developed language and agriculture and began to settle in their first tenuous societies. And the greed and aggression which had helped them to survive their evolution, became ever-present sources of conflict.
When one of their kind appeared too well-favoured they would attack him, taking his wealth as their own. Villages began to protect and arm themselves, and mighty warriors rose to lead their people. These leaders became kings, and humankind recognized a history that mirrored their own.
Like all the others who were in the field that day, Cassie could not understand the language spoken by the people in the alien projection, yet the scenes she saw could have been from recreations of the history of her own world. She saw empires rise and fall, systems of government fall in and out of favour and technological advances promise rewards for all. She also saw the problems that this planet, like her own, suffered.
Ruthless self-interest shaped a society which would be familiar to almost any native of Earth: the suspicion of others, the deceit that was practised, the disregard of others that allowed some to prosper while others suffered. And there was also a certain nobility as these people struggled through their days, trying to make the best of what they had. The globe projected pictures of life that the people who watched knew, and understood.
This world, rich in mineral deposits but too young to have any fossil fuels, was not, however, exactly the same as Earth.
Their better qualities had enabled them to achieve an uneasy, but durable, peace. When they discovered atomic energy, they did not seriously consider it's destructive potential. Someone suggested, in jest, that it might be useful for reshaping the environment and they busily began harnessing unlimited energy.
The improvements in technology that this new power source offered, were staggering. But a world that had experienced no Hiroshima did not understand the danger in low levels of radiation. As the people of Earth watched, the planet withered, and died.
Some of the inhabitants could be seen as they sealed themselves into bunkers which were used for military purposes, and which were easily made radiation-proof. But they had realized their mistake too late. Scenes of dormitories converted into wards for those who were dying faded into the pale mist that now glowed above the globe.
A figure gradually materialized in the centre of the projection. Cassie was glad she had prepared the audience for the appearance of a rat from outer space. Their reaction was subdued, but they were still startled at the bizarre apparition.
He leaned towards them and spoke.
"People of Earth, I bring you greetings from my people.
"I know it may be difficult for you to grasp, but the person who speaks to you from this . . . " the rat seemed unable to find the appropriate word, finally settling for, " . . . body, is of the same race as those people you have just seen. But I do not wish to sadden you with any further explanation of my people's grotesque history." He paused and seemed to look at the crowd assembled before him.
"Greed was the downfall of my race. We took without thinking, whatever we wanted.
"So often, throughout our history, we allowed ourselves to be ruled by our technology. Because we could do it, we did. We did not always look for better, safer, or cleaner ways. We allowed ourselves to be ruled by our grasping natures, taking more and more from our world. We did not believe that our home could be destroyed by our actions. We trusted that our ingenuity would take care of us - and eventually, it has killed us.
"But I have not come to tell you how to care for your world. The danger faced by your planet differs, and my race is guilty of its own lack of wisdom. Perhaps your race is wiser than mine, and can learn from the mistakes which caused my people to suffer."
The space-rat paused again, fighting the melancholy that had possessed his speech.
"My race does not even trust itself to offer your world advice. In your world you understand the dangers in trusting. You live in suspicion, fearing the people around you, whether it be a stranger on the street or the actions of another country. And the pity is, that that suspicion is so often justified.
"You must learn, as my people never did, to trust one another. When every-one is acting for the good of all there will be no need to doubt the motives of your fellow man. You cannot change your world without changing yourselves." He paused.
"And now, I must bid you farewell, as I have finished my tail."
The image abruptly vanished, leaving those assembled in the field stunned. They looked about themselves and then turned to the platform. The globe remained in the centre of the wooden floor, but now appeared to be vibrating. A humming became audible.
As the crowd watched, the globe began gently expanding. The slow motion explosion sent fireworks from the centre of the sphere as the outer silvery layer expanded into nothingness. The crowd ducked, but it was not necessary. The explosion was surrounded by a strange force field that responded to its surroundings. A thin sheet of gossamer contained the beautifully destructive forces, but protected those who watched.
When B.B. Raven's screams became audible, the crowd looked up to see him fall from the sky, landing on top of the force-field bubble. He slid gently down the side of the explosion, falling in a heap in front of the dignitaries enclosure. He gathered himself to his feet, a look of amazement on his face.
He turned to the crowd and opened his arms to them.
"I am a sinner," he roared, "but I have been saved! Show me how to change my ways!"