Chrome Contact


Monty moved another switch and the patio camera panned to the west end of the patio. There were a couple of dozen people milling around the patio in various outfits—a couple in what looked like moon suits. About half were sitting behind computer consoles watching their instruments. Almost everyone appeared to be speaking importantly into spacey headsets that reminded Alec of old TV episodes of Flash Gordon's encounters with Ming the Merciless.

Panning to view to the east end of the patio, Monty and Alec simultaneously whispered a "Wow" when the scene came into full view: a large military helicopter was lowering what looked like a large trailer.

"Those turkeys," Monty exploded, they didn’t get my permission to do that!"

"Looks like a mobile motel for the general," Alec ventured.

"That and a communications module for command and control operations," Monty added as he pointed to an array of parabolic dishes sprouting from an end of the structure.

Monty panned back to the central area of the patio where the alien creature gamboled as the star attraction in the center ring. The monkey creature was more lethargic in its movements than Alec remembered him from their first encounter, but it was still flashing wondrous patterns of color.


Five triangles meeting at each vertex of a regular polyhedron form an icosahedron.


The moon-suit people were standing close in front of the being. One of them was holding a large placard up to the eye-level of the monkey. Then the other man handed him another placard, and held that one aloft. After several minutes, they turned and placed the set of placards in a storage box. As they replaced the cards, Alec and Monty saw that they were large drawings of various geometric figures—circles, triangles, even congruent regular polygons like the icosahedron. With his keen eye for observation and detail, Alec even recognized the small and great stellated dodecahedrons, which, as he recalled, were discovered by Johannes Kepler—a full 2,000 years after the first simple Platonic solids were described.

"Looks like those guys are playing show and tell with the monkey," Monty observed as other people started stacking blocks on a small table at the impatient direction of Dr. Crink, the CIA man who had accompanied the general the day before. After each block was added, a number was displayed on a large flat panel that faced the creature.

"Sure enough, Monty, they are trying to teach it our number system!" Alec said with excitement at the prospect that the communication barrier would soon be removed. "Just think, Monty, talking with a being from another world!"

"Well, ahemm, I’m not so sure it’s from another world there, Buck Rodgers. Maybe the general is right. Maybe it is some kind of new gizmo cooked up by the evil Dr. No—maybe someone James Bond just hasn’t caught yet." Alec chuckled at Monty’s satire.

They watched for several more minutes, then Monty flipped a couple more switches, closed the cabinet doors, and fingered a small depression at the side of the mahogany case. He led Alec away toward the couch. "Just our little secret, eh?"

"Sure thing Monty," Alec said seriously.

"The guards can stop me from entering my own patio, but they can’t stop me from looking at it," Monty mumbled after a brief gaze toward the ceiling in the direction of the patio. "Only one thing missing—sound." He turned toward Alec on the couch and began mouthing silent words—mimicking Dr. Crink, under his electronic headgear, barking orders to assistants.

"Yeah, that’s too bad," Alec agreed with a shrug.

"Well, what’s too bad," Monty said immediately, "is that I switched off the omni-directional mike on that camera a couple of months ago."

"So, somehow you can just turn it back on?"

"Not so easy," Monty said with a sigh. "The switch is inside the birdfeeder housing—you have to unhinge the top to get to it."

"I could do that, Monty," Alec blurted in a sudden urge to return to the patio to see the creature face-to-face again.

Monty gazed intently and silently at the young man sitting in the corner of his office.

"Yes, by Jupiter, I’ll bet you could," Monty said slowly, measuring each word.

Monty called Alec to his desk and retrieved wire-frame drawings of the birdfeeder enclosure from a computer file. "I want you to study these drawings while I’m gone, Alec. I’ll be back in a few minutes."

Monty almost ran out of the room as Alec settled into Monty’s chair to study the drawings. Just a few minutes later, Monty returned with a broad smile.

"Well, I’ve done it kid. I got the general to agree to let you come up to the patio to take care of a few maintenance jobs for me." Monty was obviously pleased with himself as he withdrew his watch fob and checked the time. "At first she claimed that the whole patio area was a security zone. But I told her that you were responsible for maintaining all areas of the café in good working order and that you could stay out of the way, under the eaves. Then I reminded her that you already knew what was up there and had already signed a confidentiality form."

"Then she said OK?" Alec asked in disbelief.

"No. She said the maintenance jobs would have to wait. So, I said that they couldn’t; that I am the owner and proprietor; that I would directly supervise your work; and that we would be done in ten minutes."

"Then she said OK?" Alec asked again in disbelief.

"No. She said it would be too disruptive. So, I said ‘Not nearly as disruptive as when I call in the local and regional media guys camped out in their vans out front.’ She said ‘You wouldn’t do that, would you?’ I said ‘Oh, yes I would and they could haul me away in handcuffs but not before I got the story out. That’s when she said OK, OK, OK." Monty rubbed his hands with relish at his victory.

Poring over the birdfeeder drawings Monty had made with a little CAD program, the two men conferred about their strategy.

"Just remember, Alec, the general and her boys know nothing about that camera up there, and that’s the way I want to keep it. So, whatever we do, we don’t want to call attention to it. Si amigo?"

"Sure, Monty," Alec agreed, "just like in the stealth maze in the Sarnk’s tenth ring."

"Well…sort of like that," Monty said in a less-than-sure tone. "Only here, Alec, we’re talking about real world stuff—they really can haul you off to a hidden facility somewhere and then promptly lose the directions to find you. And the keys. Sometimes, people just disappear."






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© 2000 Centroid Communications.

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