Standing on the colossal flagship of the Lux fleet, Captain Hespara winked cheerfully at deputy commander Andala.
- You’ll see, I’ll bet you anything they’re just as underdeveloped as the inhabitants of System Fourteen - and I still remember how readily they responded when we... ehmmmm... demonstrated our weapons for them - it was just like taking candy from a baby!
They both laughed, causing their blue scales to settle into a beautiful pattern along their cheeks. Captain Hespara pressed down a few buttons on the wide shiny dashboard and an unintelligible kaleidoscopic flicker moved across the three screens, just as the deep hum of the ship's eighteen Holck & Bolcken engines rose to a piercing whine.
- We have entered the atmosphere now... Andala, check out the biological and chemical conditions – I couldn’t care less that the pilot’s union can be reprimanded for breaking rank, the central office has made mistakes before, and I’m not about to put up with some sort of intergalactic flu...
He let his long, slender fingers glide along in an elegant dance - like a pianist playing oogle, Andala had always thought - across grips, knobs and handles, the many LEDs that were lighting up and extinguishing in a feverish glitter mirrored in his three pitch black eyes.
- We’re coming in for a landing now!
Now, as luck would have it (from the point of view of the Lux’es), on this particular day, Anders Christensen sat, fully occupied with his chores, less than a hundred feet from the site where Captain Hespara put his ship down with such skill that one could hardly notice the landing gear hitting the ground. Also fortunate (still seen from the point of view of the Lux’es) was the fact that all samples had shown no risk associated with moving into the atmosphere of the solar system's third planet. So it wasn’t long before the two strangers stood face to face with the stunned representative for the population of Planet Earth.
- Hurry up and get the language analysis done, so we can get this over with and move on, said Hespara in a low whisper to Andala, as though he thought the earthling would gain some advantage by knowing that they were still a few moments away from having sufficient knowledge of earth language to let the little voice box articulate their thoughts.
Andala gave a brief nod with his shiny blue head to signal that the electronics were working, and the captain began to speak.
- Earthling, a voice boomed, almost like the voice of Cary Grant, from the little box hanging from his belt. We are from Lux, a planet 1516 light years from here. A very beautiful planet with a huge population. A population whose lives and welfare we will safeguard and protect at any cost. Therefore, it is necessary for us to import labor from other systems. Otherwise, we can not maintain our current standard of living. We have chosen earth as the next planet to have the honor of delivering, uhm, human material, both to our factories and to our proud intergalactic armies. Fear not, Earthling! The work is simpler and less taxing on the mind than even the work you do at that which you call an 'assembly line'. Your only reason to fear would be if you resist our... protection. Deputy commander Andala will now enumerate our requirements.
For a second Captain Hespara was tempted to say "This was your captain speaking" but he contained himself and ended with only a short, dry clearing of his throat.
With less authority, but still with sufficient formality, Andala now reeled off:
- Point one. We need 3 billion of your race, which in practical terms means your entire employable population, not counting some billions of sick and weak ones that we will humanely arrange to have killed.
- Point two. We would like to see this workforce made available voluntarily in less than 3 – that is t-h-r-e-e - days.
Point three. If this does not happen, we will use an HX-beam against the Earth. This will mean total annihilation.
Point four. We will now go into orbit and await your answer within three days. You can use any frequency - we intercept them. If you would like a demonstration of the HX, you may request one at anytime.
Please notify the rulers of Earth, and do not hesitate to make your decision. Greetings in the name of the powerful empire of Lux!
With these words they both spun on around on their heels with a military precision that later amused them both greatly, ascended into their ship and flew away.
Anders Christensen stared in disbelief at the glittering lights growing weaker and weaker as the machine slipped up into the blue firmament, leaving only a faint white contrail and a sharp smell of ozone. Why, he had never! A spaceship!! And blue fishlike creatures! And there they stood in front of him, straight up and down, for what seemed like an eternity. No, it would probably be best if he kept this all to himself - they would never believe him back home at the school for the deaf....
(Translated from Danish by Lisbeth Agerskov Christensen)