Chrome Contact


Interspersed amid the myriad of color patterns and sequences, Alec recognized the same pattern sequence that he had observed when the Chrome first appeared.


Alec was still pondering Dr. Max’ observations and comments when he arrived at the café later that afternoon. He ran the growing gauntlet of reporters. As soon as he stepped through the front door, he was greeted by an MP who was waiting nearby.

"General wants to see you ASAP Mr. Booner. Follow me please," the MP said without waiting for any response.

He was led past the guards at the stairs, up to the patio. Emerging into the late afternoon sunlight, Alec was met at the door by the general and a couple of her assistants talking on their outlandish headsets.

"Ummm, Alec, well humm, I’m sooo glad you are here." The general went on to explain that there was a growing consensus that his presence seemed to soothe the Chrome, and his continued cooperation with their investigation was very important. "I’ve already cleared this with your boss. Uhhh..he has instructed that your work this afternoon will be to assist us up here with our…uhmmm…work. So, just follow me, will you Alec?" Then the general led Alec over to the chair he had used the previous day.

The 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. 

Obviously 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.

"That’s it Crink," Alec overheard the general say as she departed. "The boy will remain here until my further orders. Understood?"

"Whatever you say, general," a faint voice responded. "As long as he stays out of my way."

And so, 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.

Interspersed 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 say.

"Yessssss," an irritable Dr. Crink said dryly like a snake.

"Yes, 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 squealed.

"Remember 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."

"But, Rand, if it is eating and drinking, it most certainly is not a robot," professor Benson said in harsh reproach.

"It 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."

But Alec 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 Earthlings?

Gradually, 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 carried.

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?

Alec 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.

Exhausted 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.





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© 2000 Centroid Communications.

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