At the vertical farm the alien mother cooed to her swarming brood, her bio-luminescent tentacles seeming to float in space, stroking their faces. Bill imagined ripping those feelers off. The nerve she had to speak so loudly here in her weird, clicking tongue.
The rotating troughs opposite held animals and plants from her distant world. Strange creatures inside translucent containers, still alive, making gurgling noises and pulsing purple, green and blue. The alien could still eat her childhood delights, but missed the weather back home. Earth was so hot and unpredictable.
Leaving the farm, Bill saw the faint shapes of gargantuan hives through the haze, built to accommodate the crawling masses. Several miles high. Teeming ant hills with them all sitting in their isolated cocooned worlds. Cosmic multiculturalism. Chattering in their alien tongues, or sending telepathic brain waves through the walls. They screwed his touch wall picture. He could hear no sounds from his telepathic neighbours in the adjoining apartment, but still screamed at them in frustration. They did not have sexual intercourse like humans. No physical contact, but a frenzied series of brain waves would erupt at times, setting off an eruption in the female of their species. Copulation at a distance. Conception of another brood of 10, or 15, or 20...
He cruelly imagined them being sent back to their home galaxies, wailing on their starships. Squabbling among themselves again. Butchered by their old enemies, engulfed in searing supernovas or shivering under a dying sun.
Bill was an unemployed native Terran, had been for about a week now. Not long. Later that afternoon at the employment centre he made his food and shelter subsidy application. The human apparition opposite asked him to confirm his gender and ethnic origin, in the interests of diversity and equal opportunities.
'Human, AI, alien, cyborg, synthetic hybrid, female, male or hermaphrodite? Please select appropriate description.'
His anger pulsed within him. He could just smash that fellow human’s pretty face in. But she wasn't real, just an intelligent array of lights floating in space. He would still get punished for threatening behaviour towards an AI though. His emotional brakes kicked in, he wasn't a psycho - yet. Not far off though.
‘Do you have the right to work on Earth?’ the fake woman continued.
‘I’m human for Christ’s sake! Are you blind? Have I got frickin tentacles! Do AIs like yourself sweat like I am right now?'
‘But we cannot be sure of that Sir. For all we know you could be from the other side of the galaxy where convergent evolution has produced uncannily human-like features. Or be wearing one of those new cloaking devices adopted by the more challenging to us aliens.’
‘Don’t you mean freaking repulsive and stinking?’
‘Sir, let me remind you that any racist behaviour will not be tolerated.’
Several hours had passed. Bill was back at home, scanning the vacancies. But there was no work for him. Alien micro-fusion reactor engineers with eyes on stalks that could peer into any dark and damp nook and cranny, how could he compete with them?
The following day he had a medical appointment, connected with his long-running application to leave Earth and start a new life on a recently discovered world in a distant galaxy. A world with fearsome predators, but untouched, unpolluted and most important of all, devoid of intelligent life. He made his way to the medical centre and stood in front of the annoying registration point, showing Earth and various distant planets recently admitted into the federation. He stabbed Earth, and yet another attractive human AI materialized before him, ready to communicate with him in his native tongue. Bill was nervous, this was a make or break situation. Please for the love of God he prayed inwardly.
He had to escape from his overcrowded home planet, swamped by interstellar economic migrants from distant star systems. It had all happened so quickly, within his lifetime. Smiling, Bill remembered the quiet country lanes where he grew up, when he only saw a few passing cars each day. Then came AI, at first fearsome and caged. But which was soon set free and with its superior brain power invented the interstellar hyper-drive. The end of Earth alone in the Universe. Things would never be the same again.
The robot doctor smiled at Bill.
‘Looks like you’ll be going through the wormhole in the very near future, Mr Sampson.’
Bill gulped. He felt dizzy, needed to lie down again.
A week later Bill, his wife and daughter were waiting near the wormhole platform, in a shuttle far above Earth.
He turned back to his home world, tears in his eyes, looking down at the atmospheric curvature below. His family’s ship approached the gaping portal. They readied themselves for the pull. Bill felt a weird shiver go through his body.
Sadness washed over him. For he knew, in the deep of his heart, when they arrived at that desolate but dangerous paradise at the edge of the Universe, those worlds with their virgin continents and indigenous populations, that he himself would be... just another migrant...