At a prison, three inmates are brought to the warden's office. He introduces his visitor, Dr. Thomas Kellander, and explains that Thomas is an astrophysicist who needs a test subject. Six men have already turned Thomas down. Thomas addresses the three inmates and says that they need a man who will let him teleport him across space. If he survives then he comes back to Earth the same way. Thomas says that it's worked with inanimate objects and mice. The warden says that their volunteer duty will be taken into account by the parole board but they'll receive no special considerations or rewards. The experiment takes place tomorrow at 3 pm so Thomas says that they'll have to leave right away.
One prisoner, Goldsmith, asks where the subject will be sent. When Thomas says that it's another planet, Goldsmith and the other prisoner, Haddon, refuse. Chino asks what planet and Thomas asks what difference it makes. The guard takes them out, but Chino says that he'll volunteer.
The next day, Thomas takes Chino to the lab building. Doctor Julia Harrison checks Chino and tells her fellow scientist, Robert Richardson, that Chino has the steadiest heartbeat that she's ever heard. Robert goes into the lab and finds Chino reading. Thomas says that the tests show Chino is in perfect health so he has nothing to worry about. Chino asks for a cigarette, and Robert gives him one. Chino tells Thomas that he's changed his mind and jokes about his childhood. He then introduces himself to Robert, and Thomas says that he didn't think Chino would go through with it. Chino says that he was kidding, and says that he won't let them treat him like a subject hero. Thomas says that he doesn't like the thought of sending Thomas' soul across space, and Chino tells him to treat him like a man if he thinks that he's a man. He then chuckles and says that mice don't complain.
Thomas says that he didn't want to bore Chino with the details until he was sure he was a suitable test subject. He explains that they've made contact with the planet Chroma and the computers translated the Chromomite language. Chino eyes the doors out of the lab and Thomas says that they sense no hostility. The Chromomites proposed a meeting and wanted to exchange high-ranking members of the human race, but neither side wanted to risk such a person. Thomas suggests that Chino think of it like a man making a contribution, and Chino asks for food. The astrophysicist agrees but says that Chino will have to stay in the lab until the Chromomite teleports in, and then they'll teleport Chino to Chroma.
Later, the military and scientific leaders arrive. Thomas explains that the Chromomites instructed them in how to make the teleporter. Chroma is ten years away, and the Chromomites will send their subject. Once he arrives, they'll send Chino into the booth and teleport him to Chroma. Chino comes over and Thomas explains that he's the subject.
The Chromomites make contact and send their subject through. The Chromomite is a large jellyfish-like humanoid. It staggers out of the teleportation booth and rampages through the lab, and Chino ducks out the door while the others are distracted. The other doors are locked, and when Julia comes out grabs her. They barge into a hospital room and Chino sees an open window. Julia yells a warning, but Chino tries to climb out the window and is repelled by an electronic force field.
Two days later, Chino eats a meal in the hospital bed and buzzes for an attendant. Julia comes in and locks the door behind her, and Chino asks for better food. When Chino demands food, Julia says that the Chromomites live on photosynthesis and they'll teleport food to Chino when he arrives on Chroma safely. Thomas comes in and tells Chino that he wanted to give Chino a chance to think. He says that every window is screened with an electronic force field and an alarm sounds if it's cut off. Thomas figures that Chino planned to escape as soon as he volunteered, and wonders if Chino is a psychopathic liar. Chino tells him that the only important thing is whether Thomas knows.
Richard comes in and tells Thomas that there's something for him. Chino suggests that he might go outside for a walk, and Thomas refuses even though they're letting the Chromomite walk around. The astrophysicist explains that the juxtaposition will pass at 6 that night and either Chino goes or returns to prison. Thomas tells Chino to get dressed and leaves.
The Chromomite tosses pellets into a nearby lake, and they grow into large white yeast masses.
In the lab, Richard shows Thomas some of the yeast and confirms that it's identical. He found bits of it in the hallway and determined that it's gestating underneath the water and washed up on the bank. The Chromomite listens from the door as Richard says that he determined that an insecticide would kill the yeast.
Richard drives to the lake to add the insecticide, and the Chromomite follows him there. It comes up behind him and drowns him in the lake, and then returns to the lab building.
Chino wakes up when the alarm goes off. He runs to the window and tosses his shoe out, confirming the force field is off. He runs out, and Thomas and Julia come in and discover that he's gone.
Two security guards are driving by, and Chino hides in the bushes to avoid them. He comes across the Chromomite eating the yeast in the lake. It sees him, and Chino turns and runs off. The policemen spot him and capture him when he trips over Richard's body.
In the lab, Thomas tells Julia that Chino didn't have to kill Robert. Julia says that the force field was cut off and Chino couldn't have done it, but Thomas figures that he picked the lock and escaped. The doctor notes that Chino says the same thing and she believes him because he doesn't care. They go to see Chino, who is locked up in the infirmary. Chino says that he's killed a man who assaulted his sister, but he didn't kill Robert because he doesn't kill strangers. He heard the bell and fought for his life, and he's never learned to lay down and die. Chino promises that he'll keep trying to escape because he wants to be free, and Thomas suggests that he'll find freedom in some other world. The inmate admires Thomas trying to get him to volunteer, but says that he won't fight on an alien planet. He tells Thomas that it's a waste of time to send him because they know the machine will work. Thomas says that the experiment is only half-completed and they'll send Chino at 4 that afternoon.
Out in the hallway, Julia says that she wishes she didn't have to be there at 4.She admits that she feels pity for Chino even if he'd hate it, and goes out for a walk. Julia sees the Chromomite at the lake eating the yeast. She runs and it sees her, and the alien pursues her.
Chino stands in the teleporter booth, and Thomas gives the signal to begin teleportation.
Julia runs into the building and pounds on the locked door as the Chromomite advances on her.
The teleportation fails and Chino passes out.
Julia goes to the infirmary and calls, and the Chromomite shorts out the force field. As the alarm goes off, the Chromomite retreats. Thomas the guards bring Chino in and put him in a bed, and Julia examines him.
Later, Julia goes to the lab and tells Thomas that she can't find anything wrong with Chino and it's probably shock. Thomas says that they lost contact with the Chromomites, and Julia says that the Chromomite tried to kill her and must have killed Robert. She explains what happened and points out that the Chromomites said to let their man stay there a while and explore. Julia explains that the Chromomite was by the lake eating the yeast that Robert found, and figures that the Chromomites lied to them. Thomas calls security and tells them to bring the Chromomite to the lab. He goes to the administration office to call DC.
The Chromomite gets to the lake and eats more of the yeast, and then moves away as the guards search the area. It "hears" a signal being sent, as does a scientist named Williams in the lab.
The Chromomite kills one of the guards.
Williams calls Thomas and says that he's picked up an alien scientist, and it sounds urgent.
The other guards find the dead guard.
Julia leaves the infirmary, and the guard hears something in the hallway. It's the Chromomite, which goes into the lab, knocks out Williams, and sabotages the controls. Williams wakes up and crawls toward the door, while the Chromomite goes to the teleportation controls and rewires those. Williams gets out and knocks on the infirmary door, and tells the guard to stop the Chromomite.
Chino and the Guard arrive at the lab and find the Chromomite adjusting the teleportation controls. When they advance on it, it knocks out Chino and tosses the guard into the teleportation booth. It then activates the booth, sending the guard to Chroma. It then grabs Chino as he tries to pick up the guard's gun.
Thomas confirms that the guard is dead and heads back to the lab. Chino and the Chromomite struggle, and Chino shoves the Chromomite against the door, blocking it. Thomas is unable to get in and sends Julia to get some help.
As the Chromomite enters the teleportation booth, Chino shoots it with the gun. The guards break down the door and Chino hands the gun over to Thomas with a smile. The Chromomites send a message, demanding the return of the Chromomite. They say that they have failed and no further attempts on Earth will be made. The aliens explain that the "subject" is an eminent scientist vital to their survival. Thomas responds, saying that the scientist is a murderer and angrily asks what their purpose is. The aliens say that their soil is depleted and they were unable to produce the Chromomite "staff of life". Thomas tells them that they should have asked, and goes over to where Julia is tending to Chino. He tells the inmate that the parole board will take into account what he's done, and Chino smiles at Julia as she takes him. Thomas then tells the Chromomite that all it had to do was ask and teleports it back to Chroma.
Written by Gadfly on Feb 15, 2019