The representative from Tau Ceti IV had brought his own chair, one that was more accommodating to his elongated, six-limbed figure. The noise of the riots raging outside the gates of the White House could be heard faintly, but neither the representative nor the President paid them much mind.
“Our oxygen?” the President was saying. “You came here for our… oxygen?”
“Yes,” the representative replied. “Just the free atmospheric oxygen, you understand. We could hydrolyze your oceans, of course, but that takes more time and energy than we find profitable. We’ll just extract what we need for our purposes and be gone.”
“But – ” the President stammered. “that would mean – ”
“The immediate extinction of most of your aerobic land-dwelling species. Including yourselves. Yes, we understand that.”
“Then you also understand that we will defend ourselves!”
“That is why we began our relationship by destroying your planet’s highest mountain ranges, Mr. President. We wished you to immediately understand the futility of your situation, and spare you needless effort. We also understand that you might desire a bit of time to reconcile yourselves to your various deities. You have something we want. We are by far the more powerful; therefore, we get to take what we want. It’s the fundamental rule across the Galaxy, as you well know, as basic as gravity…”
“We know no such thing!”
“Really?” The representative seemed quite surprised. He leaned his carapace in towards the President, his multifaceted eyes staring intently into the President’s face. The President felt his life – no, not his life – the history of his country, indeed his species, was flashing before his eyes. He watched as aboriginal peoples, nations, entire civilizations, were bulldozed into the maw of Progress, time and time again.
“We have studied your history, sir,” said the representative. “We thought you understood perfectly.”