Chrome, which had appeared distinctly slow when he had first
stepped onto the patio, revived almost on cue as Alec took the
seat offered him by the general. The rings around its eye bloomed into a
thousand dancing and swirling hues. All the scientists and
technicians in the background were silent as Alec gazed
intently at the creature.
pleased by the creature’s response to Alec, the general
turned away and ordered an MP to set up a small table beside
Alec’s seat, and to bring any snacks
or drinks he might request.
it Crink," Alec overheard the general say as she
departed. "The boy will remain here until my further
you say, general," a faint voice responded. "As long
as he stays out of my way."
Alec was once again at front row, center in the strangest and
completely improbable spectacle of a monkey-looking being that
gimbaled in Technicolor on top of a glowing sphere. For the
next several hours, Alec took notes on what he observed about
the Chrome and what he heard in the background from Dr. Crink
and his expert advisors.
amid the myriad of color patterns and sequences, Alec
recognized the same pattern sequence that he had observed when
the Chrome first appeared. The only new thing Alec noted was
that the Chrome occasionally reached into a concealed pouch on
its body and withdrew a small cylinder that it placed
momentarily at its mouth. "Looks like it’s eating or
drinking again," Alec heard one of the scientific experts
an irritable Dr. Crink said dryly like a snake.
and look, Rand, have you noted the color of the thing’s
bottle?" a woman’s voice squeaked. Alec did not need to
turn around to identify the speaker. It was unmistakably
professor Teela Benson from the
Lüscher Color Institute. "Just look at that saturated
green, it’s almost luminescent!" she squeaked in
excitement again. "How delightfully positive and yet
primitive and withholding at the same time," she
what we are dealing with here, Teela, pulleassse," the
irritated Dr. Crink hissed. "This is not one of your
disturbed clients here. We are dealing with cyber espionage of
the highest caliber here. This is not one of your cute stuffed
Teddy bears propped up on your bed."
Rand, if it is eating and drinking, it most certainly is not a
robot," professor Benson said in harsh reproach.
most certainly has been designed to deceive us," Dr.
Crink replied with a copious amount of acid dripping from his
syllables. "So, Teela, pulleassssse no more of this
anthropomorphizing. The general wants hard science, and I
intend to give it to her."
agreed with the squeaky professor. It sure looked and felt
like the Chrome was now occasionally nourishing itself. What
would it do when it ran out of food and drink, he wondered.
Die? Leave? Ensnare them in some kind of Distracto Field like
the Sarnk? Blast them to smithereens like that robot in The
Day the Earth Stood Still almost did to the ignorant
all the questions that had accumulated over the past several
days seemed to take on greater weight and urgency. Despite his
extended observations, Alec felt no closer to finding a key to
the alien’s communications. He sensed that time was
beginning to run out. Certainly, if the being was really
present—not just a telepresence; and if it was really alive—not
a machine or holographic trick; then of course, sooner or
later, it would have to exhaust whatever nourishment it
Then, Alec overheard a few cryptic references that Dr.
Crink was making about "D Day," and "…the
general has already set D Day," and "laser cannons
coming on Saturday." Alec sensed a new shrillness in Dr.
Crink’s voice. Did he have to prove something by D Day?
could only sense an increased atmosphere of urgency as his
questions accumulated like a steady avalanche of stones across
the tracks of a powerful locomotive that was fast approaching.
So, when the general finally returned and told him that he was
no longer needed for the day, Alec was relieved to leave.
and worried, he left the café without speaking to anyone. He
drove back to his apartment in a daze of Hawkins Falls’
sunset colors that glinted off his windshield in designs and
hues beyond any counting.