“Earth on the Edge,” the banner read. I pondered this message in the middle of the mother of all job-fairs, which was being convened in Los Vegas with almost no lead-time. The whole thing was going about as smoothly as you’d expect—Not much.

My job was to smooth out the rough edges. So I decided to check this one out as a possible problem. I walked up to the two bright and cheerful kids running the booth, just as she squeed and grabbed the boy, pointing. The young man, I should say. He was whippet-lean and wore a ULV basketball T-shirt. The girl was what he was interested in, a bleach-blond senorita who looked like Jessica Alba’s cousin. I turned to see what she was pointing at.

Three aliens. They looked for all the world like Speilberg’s velociraptors walking along in top-hats, suits with tails, and spats. The obvious question of who would do such a thing was answered in discreet little polo-shirt type legends over the little silk kerchiefs in their left breast pockets, a place on the strip that supplied wedding parties.

Somebody was being annoying with a camera-phone. One of the critters turned to him, it’s inner eyelid blinking slowly sideways. In a mild and cultured tone it asked, “Do you have a rectum?”

The man stammered yes.

“Good. Now, pleassse put that away, or I will assssisst you.” Its snake-like tongue tasted the mans’ scent on the air. One of the others snarled something in their language. Then all three seemed to make a weird coughing fit and goose-honk, all maybe little bit like a peacock’s call.

“They’re laughing, Jorge! They’re laughing!”

It was pretty cool, but I got most of my enjoyment basking in the glow of her happiness. So did Jorge. I nodded at the kid.

“Would you like one of our flyers?”

“Why don’t you lay on the whole spiel. Tell me about Earth on the Edge...”

“We’re a just a group on the ULV campus right now, trying to get chartered,” The girl fairly gushed. “Everything has happened so fast!”

“Tell me about it,” I agreed. Vegas was hopping. Worried people desperately need distraction. Then the city had won the bid. The aliens were holding a job fair and the first round of the auction that the UN had agreed to, all here in Sin City.

“Ee-yoh-tey,” Jorge broke in, “is what we’ve been calling it. Our idea is that we need to adjust, as quickly and as carefully as possible, to not being the center of things.”

I nodded. “Earth is on the edge of known space—all these different aliens, empires and interstellar states, with their merchants and missionaries, all that?” Everybody is selling something.

“That’s right!” The girl nodded enthusiastically. I smiled and listened as they elaborated, passing the pitch back and forth with a practiced smoothness. I scanned their materials and decided they were harmless, not even an ’Alien Space Brothers Cult’. I pocketed the literature and thanked them for their time. I’d seen my client, a cockroach of an alien that had just scuttled into the booth across the way.

The world has shifted and now we are interesting apes with curious goods and maybe services or real estate for sale. Galactic Common Law plus accepted good business practices, versus piracy and trafficking in substances and thinking beings, all meant that we own our Solar System. We can sell rights to mine or develop it, and were about to do so. But the process can be manipulated. For one thing, there might be either a sale or lease by a world government such as the U.N. Instead we were going with an auction through an accredited, recognized third-party. A fiendishly complicated lottery will give seven billion private individuals the rights to some fraction of the Solar System in each round of the auction. The individual governments are sure to lean on their citizens. Lots of room for conflict, and far too much excitement for a fastidious alien cockroach, who just wants to get his job done and go home...

Thirty years of watching crowds sort of seeps into you, and I was just becoming aware of the threat on my left as I turned, gun out and rising. The first screams started. A wild-eyed man with a little gun pointed at the client was walking up, firing and foaming at the mouth about demons. I walked three shots up his center of mass, and then stood there cussing myself at the shattered ruin of the dead man’s head.

All I had was a dead gunman. That and a tattoo of an open book on the back of the gun hand, with a ’G’ on the front and a ’B’ on the back. It nagged at me. Where had I seen the like before? What I really needed to know was if he was alone. I must be getting too old for this shit.

I got over to the bug. He was crouched down and chittering away into a comm, so I figured the cockroach was fine. I turned to the crowd and decided to stand over the client like a mother hen until the cops showed up. Then I looked over at the two kids. She was crying and Jorge was comforting her. “Sh, it’s alright, it’s going to be okay, Bobbi...” He looked up and met my eyes. I couldn’t answer the question I saw there—“Would it?”

Earth is on the edge of new things. It’s on the edge of old things too; fear, greed and hate. These two looked to the future with idealism and hope. Seeing them, I realized that I wasn’t as jaded as I had thought I was.


Vincent L. Cleaver works in a factory in Clayton DE, as an assembler and electrician, and likes to write on the back of used paper at breaks and lunch-time (plus fold and blow up an occasional origami rabbit, or draw a planet map). He mostly writes sci-fi, with a little fantasy and horror, and currently one of his stories, the Designated Hitter’s Lament, is on the Tales of World War Z website

Other works by Vincent L. Cleaver