Alec made quick calls
to his parents, Lenore, and Jake—assuring them that he was OK and that he
would be able to tell them more later. Then, he switched on the local TV news
as he prepared breakfast.
"…of the continuing standoff."
really have our hands tied at this point. The air space over
the café has been declared out-of-bounds by the authorities,
so the guys in our SkyNews chopper are still grounded on
Elaine. And not just our guys, I might add. None of the
networks have been allowed any overflights yet."
"With the general news blackout that was imposed shortly after
this terrorist situation was first announced last Monday, we
have very little hard information on this situation."
Elaine. And Montgomery Sturm, the café’s owner, refuses to
give us even a fast interview. We can’t even get our camera
crews inside the café."
folks, all we can tell you at this point is that this is an
ongoing, high-level investigation. We do know that certain
areas of the café are now off-limits. And we know that police
and military units are still deployed in the area. However, it’s not
being called a terrorist situation as first reported…
"According to the last press release,
it's only an official security
that’s it for today’s edition of Good Morning Hawkins
Falls. Stay tuned throughout the day, because we’ll break in
switched off the TV and finished his breakfast quickly. A few
minutes later, excited about what the day might bring, he
headed off to his History of Dynastic Chinese Culture class.
through the day, eager to learn what Monty’s camera and mike
had recorded, Alec could barely focus on his studies. Dr. Wong
seemed to be more monotonic than usual. And his several hours
of research in the library had produced little more than
doodles in his notebooks.
at the café early, Alec picked his way through the reporters
and camera crews that congested at the front door—ignoring
their questions about who he was and what did he know and
where was he going.
running to Monty’s office, Alec found him sitting behind his
massive desk, looking very pleased with himself and his
fortunes in the world.
that door, please Alec, and come and look at this."
swung around in his chair and open the Chinese cabinet.
"They call it a 'Chrome' now," Monty announced.
Chrome?" Alec repeated.
that’s Dr. Crink’s name for it," Monty said as
he flipped a couple of switches. The closed-circuit TV monitor
flashed and displayed a scene similar to what they had
witnessed the day before. Only now, there appeared to be more
people crowding around the computer and control consoles.
here’s the really big news, Alec," Monty said as they
watched the monitor, "the general wants you to come back
to the patio so they can run some more tests with you
me?" Alec asked in surprise.
when we went up there yesterday, the, uh, Chrome became more
active. And then, after we left, it became quiet again.
Actually, it’s the general’s idea. I heard Crink
commenting on the Chrome’s behavior while we were present—especially
when you walked by. Well, when the general heard that, she
said she wanted you to return for more tests this
luck," Alec exclaimed, excited that he would be able to
see the creature up close again.
boffo," Monty agreed. "Actually, Dr. Crink opposed the
idea…here’s a replay—I marked the tape so you could hear
made a couple of adjustments on his control panel. The TV
monitor flashed to a scene of the general and Dr. Crink
standing and talking only a few paces in front of the bird
a coincidence," Dr. Crink was insisting. "It’s
what we call a statistical residue, general. Happens all the
time in EM signal processing. And besides, what could that kid
have to do with anything? He’ll just get in the way of my
people if he comes back here."
maybe so Crink. But I have all kinds of people back at the
Pentagon who want a report from me yesterday. They want
answers, Crink, not mumbo-jumbo theories. We might have the
biggest security breach ever in our history."
but…general, there is no scientific basis for any difference
that a snotty-nosed kid’s presence could make. He just adds
an extraneous variable. I think we…"
know what you think Crink," the general interrupted as
her white teeth glinted even on the TV screen. "But here’s
the bottom line: If the thing wakes up when the kid’s around, I
don’t give a flying frying pan why—as long as we continue
to get responses and can keep testing."
general, I really must…"
Crink," the general said with a dismissive wave of her
hand. "I’ll get the kid back up here tomorrow—unless
this Chrome thing wakes up before then. If nothing happens
when he shows up, that’ll be the end of it." The
general put her hand on the doctor’s shoulder. "Look,
Rand, I’ve got my orders to produce some answers on this
fast. You understand, don’t you? We’ve worked together on
turned off the monitor suddenly and turned to Alec.
"Well, there you have it, Alec. You might be just the guy
the Chrome really wants to see!" Monty opened his pocket
watch and furrowed his brow. "About time for you to go.
The good general called me this morning...asked if I would send you up to the patio this afternoon to handle a few
ready, Monty…I think," Alec said as Monty unlocked and
opened his office door.
grinned affectionately at the bright-eyed young man and made a
thumb-up sign. "Break a leg up there, Alec."