X stood in the corridor on the alien spaceship, looking around nervously. The air was really cool here, and the claustrophobic feeling of this place was beginning to get uncomfortable. When were they going to open those huge metal doors? Probably never, at this rate.
A hideous-looking robot marched by, vacuuming the floor as it went. X leaned back against the wall to make way for it. It looked up as it approached the human and then continued on its way.
With a loud thud, the metal doors opened, and X could see a green source of light inside the room. It fluctuated in intensity, and an eerie voice called from inside.
"You have come to negotiate, we presume?"
"Um . . . yes." Cautiously, X started to enter the room.
"Come in. We have many issues to discuss."
A chair rose out of the floor, and X sat down in it.
"Your people are finally beginning to understand what it means to live without high fructose corn syrup," the alien voice said. "For years, they have taken it for granted, assuming that the source of that divine substance was infinite, limitless. Now that they are faced with the truth, they begin to panic as they desperately search, futilely, for any way of securing a continuous flow of this liquid. Demand soars, yet supply comes close to zero. What must Earth do in order to obtain more high fructose corn syrup?"
X shifted nervously in the chair.
"That is precisely the reason why you are here to negotiate with us, am I correct?"
"Good. You do realize that although we have a large quantity of high-quality artificially-synthesized high fructose corn syrup available to meet your needs, the price to acquire it will be high."
"Um . . . how high is that?"
"That is a very good question to ask, is it not? But your population's thirst for food products containing high fructose corn syrup must be sated. It is a pity, really, that your species has allowed all of its corn plants to become extinct. Such a waste, indeed. Not enough hydrolyzed corn starch available for consumption. It is too bad your species had to take this step. But we have an almost limitless quantity of high fructose corn syrup available, if only you would offer something substantive in return. We will agree to provide your population with all the high fructose corn syrup it wishes in return for the exclusive mining rights for all of Earth."
"Exclusive mining rights?"
"Yes, we have sadly depleted the mineral resources on our home planet."
"But we've almost depleted it ourselves--" X immediately regretted saying that.
"Oh, but there is plenty left," the alien voice continued. "We have detected abundant quantities."
"But we can't give you exclusive mining rights--"
"We are sure your people depend on high fructose corn syrup to survive, so you simply cannot pass up this opportunity. Please reconsider. The fate of your planet is in your hands."
"But--" X was unable to decide, torn between two conflicting possibilities. "Can't we offer something else in return for the high fructose corn syrup? Surely there's something--"
"We are only interested in Earth's exclusive mining rights. If you do not yield them to us, we will not offer high fructose corn syrup in return."
"But--" X looked around for help, but there was no one there. "Oh, all right, we'll give you exclusive mining rights. Just give us the high fructose corn syrup. We need it!"
"And can you give us fresh water as well? We need that, too. We're quickly running out."
"Alas, that is not possible," the alien voice said. "We are in need of fresh water as well. If you find any available sources of it, we would appreciate it if you would mention it to us. Thank you for your business."
The chair rolled out of the room, and X was back in the corridor again. The metal doors closed. Everything was silent while X walked back to the shuttle to return to Earth. Now they just had to find some other aliens who had water available.
Copyright © 2002 by Eckerd Nemo.