Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The nightlight downgrades again, becoming a dim glow. Frankie squints at it, then turns his attention back to me, pupils wide above the patched duvet cover that contains more shredded dry rubbish than actual duvet.
“Tell me about the Call to Arms.”
I shake my head. Every week his school feed has some programme or other that favourably portrays the event that redefined humanity. I can always tell which day, because Frankie asks to be told about the Call to Arms at bedtime.
“Okay, kiddo. Settle down.”
He wriggles for a bit, then gives me a thumbs up.
“It was a sunny Bank Holiday Sunday in August 2025. I was sat in the park with your mum and dad. We were watching a dog chase a frisbee when everything went dark.”
I dropped my beer. They were just starting to laugh when we looked up to see a city-wide Gandrax warship. Their laughter died.
“We were so scared, but couldn’t move. Next thing we knew, there’s a voice in our heads. They said: ‘Fear not, peoples of Earth, we come in peace to beg your aid in resisting the forces that would exterminate us. We will provide you with our science and technology if you will agree to provide us with your strength.’”
Another case of telling a big enough lie.
“Governments met them. We all watched the tall, beautiful humanoids with purple skin float down from their ships all across the world. They brought so many gifts.”
Frankie murmurs drowsily.
“Like the one that made mum better?”
“Yes. Like that.”
How could we deny visitors from space who opened negotiations by providing the cure for cancer? From there to the world-governing Human Defence Alliance took a shockingly short time.
“The Gandrax visited so many people, playing games with children, meeting everybody they could between their resting times.”
Frankie snores softly into his pillow. I wait, but he’s drifted off early: sound asleep.
The Gandrax couldn’t handle Earth gravity for long periods, but making sure to meet every major protest group in livestreamed debate was a brilliant strategy. They either won over the protestors, or the protesters ended up appearing like selfish lunatics. Within six months, all disagreement had been marginalised.
After that, society started ‘gearing up’ to assist the Gandrax with a truly frightening single-minded enthusiasm. Humanity had finally been given a ‘big bad’ that wasn’t human. They were united against a common enemy: the evil Hiltula.
Now the global population are either soldiers, or working in factories to support the soldiers. Society revolves around sending those soldiers off to fight among the stars.
Frankie has three years before he goes into an HDA Youth Battalion. His mum is dreading it. I’m terrified – I know what happens next.
I’m part of a Hiltula Observation team that’s been on Earth since 1952. Having no idea how the Gandrax were recruiting their alien armies, this operation spread across several suitable worlds to find out. Watching them manipulate human society into the wretched state it reached in late 2024 was harrowing. I can’t see how we Hiltula and our allies can fight the Gandrax without becoming as bad as them, but greater minds than me are working on it.
2050 is when humanity ‘ships out’. Soon after that the Gandrax will strip Earth down to bedrock. Not one human soldier will ever be coming home: the fate of cannon fodder remains the same, regardless of the technology involved in a war.
We’ve got two decades to stop them. I hope those greater minds are working fast.