An hour after the conference had finished,
we found ourselves waiting with the rest of those dying to get back to their loved ones. Next to me sat my colleague reading
the daily bulletin, commenting on the price of property near where he'd settled. Apparently it was on the rise and in a year
or two it would be worth plenty. I grunted when he expected some response, I didn’t really care. I’m a watcher
and a terminus is a wonderful place to indulge.
Another load began their migration past where we waited. Males in business attire returning from
selling god-knows-what, strode with determination to where yet other modes of transport would continue their journey. Always
first, always hurrying. I spoke with a couple of them in the bar before I came here. They complained how there were never
enough hours in a day and how they never had time to enjoy life anymore.
Doesn’t make sense, work hard to earn more, but have no time to spend or enjoy it. I couldn’t
see the point. I earned enough to pay the bills and keep my family off the streets, and it left enough time for us to enjoy
each others company occasionally.
Next past were the young, the trend setters, another group always in a hurry. They wanted to get
everywhere fast but when they arrived, they had nothing to do and no money to do it with. They always wore the latest fashions
but when you saw them in a group during the day, they just sat around complaining that they had no money and no prospects,
as the older generation had made a mess of the world. Yet here they were getting off transport that I couldn’t normally
afford to be on (work paid for this trip). Still the females were nice to look at.
A brief lull then the older, and supposedly wiser, group of passengers filed past. They’d
waited in their seats for the business types and for the young to rush past. They walked along in drab clothing, staring straight
ahead as if the world had done them wrong. From their vantage point they could still see the young cavorting further down
the passage. Maybe they were just annoyed at not being like them any more or perhaps they reminded them of their own young
somewhere, doing who knows what, to who knows who. That thought reminded me of my own eldest. Typical of her age, no longer
at school, no job, little prospects, more clothes than the meagre allowance I gave her allowed, and she knew everything. It
was her life, and she was going to live how she wanted. She knew best. She’ll learn the same way we did I guess, I just
hope she doesn’t run into the wrong male, on the wrong night, or get into the wrong mode of transport with a male who
has imbibed too much. Worst of all would be if she got pregnant. But she's on the contraceptive implant. Now she thinks she’s
invincible. Its not fool proof I warn her; it’s as good as, she replies, after all she knows best.
A youngling crawls toward my case, attracted by the shiny reflective surface. Its mother has
noticed, that I have noticed its approach. It’s hard to tell if it’s male or female - the youngling I mean. It
smiles as it realises I have seen it , but its mother rushes forward to intercept before it can get too close. All I did was
smile. It reminds me of when my youngest was crawling, happy times and fond memories.
I direct my gaze elsewhere. Behind the mother and youngling is a strange group. They wear coloured
scarfs in their hair. My colleague has taken the time to lift his head and has noticed them too. They range from extremely
old and infirm, down to a similar age to us, not young but not totally disgruntled either. They look like a religious sect.
There are no smiles among them, and my colleague suggests that the younger women are being held against their will and should
be liberated by some young virile men like us. I grunt again and he returns to his reading.
He's right though, they're definitely not happy. The males, of similar age, seem paired with them.
Looking at the males, it doesn’t surprise me that the females aren’t happy. I smile at a woman as she glances
in my direction. Her expression doesn’t change but she looks the other way, out the window at our transport which is
being readied for our departure.
More movement in the passage way draws my attention. It is the costumed crew of the transport the
earlier passengers disembarked from. All look happy to be finished for the night, and heading to their loved ones. Most of
the females are younger than I, and most are pretty. Only one walked alone, the prettiest. She reads a magazine as she walks,
no luggage trailing behind. The other costumed females glance at her back as they walk behind her suggesting rivalry. Maybe
she was sleeping with the head male of the transport.
Behind them three females and a male were walking toward the rest rooms. Two of the younger females
were play-fighting as the male entered his designated room. The third female entered the female designated room. The two who
were fighting break apart. The one with her back to the rooms turns and mistakenly enters the male designation. Momentarily
she returns with a much rosier complexion than before. The female she had been play-fighting with taunts her mistake. Both
went into the female designated room. I smile again at her misfortune and wonder about the males already in there, and their
reactions to the intrusion.
Our call to board was broadcast. We line up like good little passengers. Again over the PA came,
“Final call for all passengers, on the last run for this evening, to Solaris One. We hope you enjoyed your stay on Alpha
Centauri. Have a pleasant flight.”
I remember doing the same thing not that long ago on Earth, but then we waited for a call to board
Qantas. A few years, and technological breakthroughs later, not much has changed.