Chrome Contact


The Lily Pad fountain on Centroid Café's patio


Alec followed Monty as he marched briskly down the hall to the café’s storeroom. There, amid several large racks of supplies, and cleaning and maintenance equipment, they rummaged for odds and ends to use in their patio ruse.

Diligent as a hungry squirrel looking for buried nuts in the winter, Monty dug into a large box of old spare pieces of plumbing equipment. "Hey, Alec, look here," he whispered. "Here’s that old pump you pulled out of the Lily Pad fountain—you replaced it a couple of months ago, faulty impeller I think it was."

"Yeah, that puppy was conking out fast," Alec confirmed.

"How about if you need to install this spare pump because of a big leak in the base of the fountain?"

"Boffo plan, Monty," Alec enthused. "And the bird feeder is only a few feet away. Sure, we can start on the fountain pump. Then, after they become accustomed to us being there…"

"We move over to the bird feeder, set up the ladder, and you climb up with the bag of seed while I block the view as much as possible."

"Mega boffo," Alec whispered loudly.

In a couple of minutes, toting ladder, tools, a pump, and a bag of bird seed, Alec and Monty were waiting for the guard at the base of the patio stairs to let them through.

"Right up the stairs," the MP said gruffly after receiving a 'clear' command over his headset.

"Hey buster," Monty said up close as he passed the robot-like guard, "I’ve run this humble establishment for more years than you have tucked under your little belt. You think I don’t know the way to my own patio? Use some sense and decency young man!" Monty started climbing but then turned around and called back to the guard. "And mind your manners with me or I’ll have you tossed out by Big Mike."

At the top of the stairs, in the entryway to the patio, another MP blocked the door. After a short delay, they were again cleared to pass—right into the waiting arms of two MPs who announced that they would accompany Monty and Alec while they were doing their patio work.

Monty and Alec looked at each other in a brief glance of apprehension about this unexpected wrinkle in their plan.

"As long as you don’t get in the way," Monty snapped with authority. "I run this place, you see? I’m letting you guys work here as long as you are courteous guests. And mannered guests never interfere or obstruct. So, gentlemen, accompany us if you must. But, of course, you will not get in our way."

General Gomez, who had been talking with Dr. Crink and some of Crink’s staff, overheard the end of Monty’s forceful directions to the MPs. The general stepped over before Monty and Alec could move on. "Well….uhummmm…well, Mr. Sturm and Alec my boy," The general said as she clapped Alec lightly on the shoulder. "Now my boys have their instructions. So, I know you will cooperate—just finish your work quickly, and then you must leave. That’s the deal. OK?"

Monty and Alec stared impassively at the general’s glittering smile and said nothing. Waiting for their response, the Cheshire cat’s smile began to slowly fade—threatening to turn into an unpleasantness. "Sure, sure, sure," Monty finally mumbled to his ladder as he and Alec picked up their tools and headed to the Lily Pad fountain.

Alec’s eyes were fixed on the alien being that was now almost dancing on top of its shimmering blue pedestal of light. The wondrous being turned its attention obviously on him and suddenly burst into a high-speed stream of repeating color patterns. As Alec passed close, he felt as if the creature were trying to speak just to him. He marveled at the swirling rivulets of color that ran around the monkey’s face. Reluctantly, he turned away from the lively creature and followed Monty to the fountain.

As Monty and Alec began work on the pump in the fountain’s base, they could overhear the commotion around Dr. Crink and the people working around him. All sporting outlandish headsets that made them look like Nordic warriors in a bad opera, they huddled and shuttled around a clutch of mobile, camouflaged computer hutches with strange sensor arrays mounted on their sides. Dr. Crink was standing by one of the computer terminals gesturing quickly to scurrying assistants.

"Hurry, get that EM channel back up," the anemic Dr. Crink ordered with a bony finger impatiently poking a blinking light on a display screen. "And give me a signal overlay for the feed from the 90s," he barked as he turned to a computer operator hurriedly typing at a nearby terminal.

"We’re still getting exponential gain over previous color cycle times," a worker at another terminal called out excitedly.

"Yeah, we’re seeing the same thing over here," another voice cried out from a terminal located around the other side of the small wire fence that encircled the lively creature.

"Give me high-res and all channels up on the 90s," an agitated Dr. Crink yelled to no one in particular.

Just as they had hoped, their work on the fountain pump quickly bored their two MP escorts. Both were now standing relaxed and apparently chewing some fat as they watched the increasing activity and excitement around the alien apparition. Seeing that they had let their guard down, Monty harrumphed and declared that Alec had done a good job and would the guards like to take a look at the newly installed pump?

One of the MPs leaned over and looked inside the pump housing. Then, in a greasy hand that hovered over the MPs shiny boots, Alec held up the dripping pump for the guard’s approval.

"OK, good. Let’s go," the guard said as he stepped back from the imminent damage to his buffed, black leather.

"Only other thing we need to do is refill the feeder for my Aviaritus Voxum, Monty said matter-of-factly. "That’s their Latin name you know…my little Yellow-Breasted Zuni finches. Very expensive…need special food you know," Monty mumbled like a daft old man as he collected his gear and headed for the feeder.

"Alright, but let’s move it," the MP said. He nudged his distracted comrade to follow along to the feeder only a few feet away.

Alec caught a fast glimpse of the creature as he climbed up to the feeder suspended under the high eaves that ran along one side of the spacious patio. "He’s looking at me again…I think he’s trying to say something to me," Alec whispered in Monty’s ear, gesturing toward the distant creature as he began to climb the ladder.

Monty stood at the base of the ladder, ostensibly holding it steady as Alec climbed with the bag of seed. Alec fumbled and pretended hesitation as he climbed. The MPs quickly lost interest in his retarded progress and turned their attention again on the activities around the dancing creature.

Alec began to pour the seed into the feeder as he reached up and lifted the lid on top of the enclosure. His fingers searched blindly in the recesses for the small switch that would turn on the microphone.

"Hurry up there kid, what’s taking so long," one of the guards said looking up at the seed slowly dribbling into the feeder. Acting startled, Alec’s arm made a spastic jerk and seed spilled on the ground.

"Now look what you’ve done," Monty yelled offended as he sank to his knees and started scooping the loose seed into his hand. "Just look at this mess. Do you know how much this Aviaritus Voxum mix costs? I told you to pour slowly Alec. Damn it. Just do what you’re told," Monty rambled in a parental tone.

"Kids!" Monty said in a quiet aside to the one guard still watching. They exchanged nods of mutual agreement and the guard again turned his attention to the frenzied activity around the alien being.

Now more frantic, Alec continued feeling for the switch in the dark enclosure. Just as he spied General Gomez heading in their direction, his little finger found the switch. He flipped it just as he let more seed spill. Everyone except Monty looked down to watch the thousands of colorful seeds bounce and roll and flow across the smooth patio stones.

"Well, I think that’s enough for now, Alec. We got our big jobs done," Monty announced in a voice intended also for the approaching general’s ears.

"I expect this is the end of your…ummm…important jobs on the patio," the general said with a sarcastic accent on ‘important.’

"For now, General Gomez, yes," Monty said firmly with a side grin to Alec.

Dr. Crink walked briskly over to confer with the general as Alec and Monty gathered their tools in haste. They headed toward the exit, the MPs in their wake. Around them there was a chorus of techno babble and humming machines. Above the din, Alec distinctly heard the urgent voice of the general behind him: "ASAP Crink. I want to see all of it…ummm ASAP."




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© 2000 Centroid Communications.

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