They said they came from a planet humans couldn't pronounce, in the direction of Betelgeuse, but farther. The news programs called the place "X".
Instead of landing in D.C., they made first contact in Seattle, at the Moonbux Coffee Co. world headquarters.
"We've been expecting you," said CEO Jeremy Schmidt.
Their leader said they liked Moonbux style. The press dubbed him Henry, in honor of Mr. Ford, and recognition of his progressive business sense.
By the time the government got wind of the landing, all the men from X had a work visa, and a squadron of high priced lawyers on retainer. Moonbux ate the initial expense and became the official sponsor of the Brand X invasion. The number of their franchises doubled, then doubled again. Planet X Organic Dark Roast, Fair Trade certified, became the best selling coffee bean in the history of humanity.
The men from X used the media platform to announce the first of their gifts, "The Truth Ray", for use in law enforcement. We decided it would also be handy in the courtroom. Point it at someone, ask a question, watch the light-bulb. Green means true, red means false. If your subject just wouldn't fess up, you could turn it up a notch, and automatically punish lies with an ever-increasing amount of pain.
We didn't know about the field effect, or worry much about conditioning.
A prime-time cartoon on Fox sealed the deal, and America fell in love with the men from X. They looked just like Roger from American Dad, so in a way, we were already waiting. The Truth Ray got licensed for home use, and men and women worldwide no longer had to wonder if their spouses were cheating.
When the excitement died down, sometime around autumn sweeps week, people stopped looking, Henry and the men from X became yesterday's news, nothing special. The Brand X ambassadors played their next card.
Brand X Total Mind Control (TMC) Bluetooth accessories hit the market like a drunk roofer sweet-talking his sister-wife. Nothing more than a refinement of the Truth Ray technology, which only the Men from X possessed, the controller module sat in your ear and read your brainwaves. The module allowed you to control any Bluetooth compatible device, hands-free in a way we never imagined before.
Updates downloaded and installed automatically at any wifi hotspot, so your module was never out of date.
By Christmas the 2nd generation module could project a graphic display directly into your head. A virtual video screen overlaid your vision, becoming opaque or transparent as needed to select and control your devices.
To get on board the gravy train, everybody else started plugging Brand X API-ready Bluetooth receivers in everything from automobiles to water heaters. By the time Easter rolled around, everybody had a reason to want a Brand X TMC Bluetooth.
To accommodate demand, the men from X re-released a scaled-down version of the 1st gen module as TMC nano, available everywhere for twenty-nine ninety-five. Worldwide market penetration approached ninety-nine percent in civilized countries.
A German scientist released a paper detailing his independent study of the device. He found that, in addition to reading our minds, the Brand X devices stimulated endorphin production. He warned us against the very real possibility of physical addiction to the technology. He produced reams of data detailing the horrible withdrawal symptoms experienced by hundreds of test subjects.
Nobody cared. He gave up and moved to Costa Rica.
Uncle Sam wanted a piece of the action, and in early spring representatives from the Pentagon approached Henry demanding they produce some sort of weapon.
"We thought you would never ask," Henry said.
He gave them the X-Ray. It looked like an electric razor, with a trigger and a seven position selector knob. The settings ranged from "annoy" to "Kill me now, please", plus knockout and kill. The high-end version had an extra setting. A further refinement of the TMC technology, it allowed the bearer to remotely control the mind of any target subject.
Several human rights organizations spoke out about the possible dangers of soldiers possessing the ability to control their enemies minds, but nobody ever listened to human rights groups. We figured our enemies didn't deserve free will if they were just going to use it to fight us. The president demanded a field test before investing too much in the project.
A single battalion of Marines landed in Afghanistan armed with the new weapons and the region knew peace for the first time in fifty generations. The president mailed a check.
Law enforcement got ahold of the device, and crime became extinct. The murder rate dropped to one per month, per city, which nobody seemed to think much about.
On July 4th, the world discovered the true face of Henry's master plan. Hidden in a critical security update, the remote mind control facility was installed in every piece of Brand X technology in active use on the planet.
Henry pushed the button. Brand X consumers became his willing puppets. Obedience was rewarded with endorphin spikes, insolence punished with withdrawal, and searing pain the prize for any attempt to remove the modules. The .5% of humanity that resisted the technology was subdued, and modules forcibly installed. Even the most adamant individualists became compliant tools of Henry's agenda.
Once he established total control, Henry addressed the people of earth en masse, to explain himself.
"People of Earth," he said through their bluetooth modules. "We thank you for choosing Brand X brand accessories to enrich your media experience. We know you have no choice in telepathic mind control technology providers, but still appreciate your loyal patronage. In order that we might better serve you, we require that you select, by any means of your choosing, one consumer per city, per month to attend the appetites of your Brand X ambassadors. We regret to inform you that consumers so honored will not survive the experience, as we intend to eat them.
"While this may seem extreme, perhaps horrible to your primitive sense of morality, I would like to remind you how deeply our efforts have enriched your lives. I would like to point out that, left to your own devices, you killed far more of your own kind for no good reason. Petty theft, unrestrained passion, revenge. All we want is one per city, per month.
"Otherwise you are free to do as you please. Create your art, love your families, build your puny empires, and engage in your charming trades, Brand X brand technology will be here with you as we build a brighter tomorrow, free of predatory crime and senseless bloodshed.
"We hope this inspires a new era of human innovation and prosperity, and all we ask is one consumer per city, per month.
"You will be informed of the submission deadline via the usual channels, your Brand X Total Mind Control modules. Failure to choose will not save your fellow citizen, it will simply force us to make the choice ourselves, and I will have you know that making such a choice is very hungry work, and may cause us to increase your city's quota.
"Once again, thank you for choosing Brand X brand accessories and technology. We hope you have enjoyed the convenience our hard work has brought to your planet, and look forward to a long and mutually beneficial service contract.
"All hail overlord Henry."
Across the world, seven billion voices responded in unison, "Hail Henry," and the new age was born.