Catania leaped to the open door of his office, peered out into
the long hallway, and then closed it as stealthily as possible
considering its creaking hinges. Then he jumped back to his
chair, opened a drawer and withdrew a silvered metal helmet that
had coils of wire and lights around it. The old man flipped a
switch at the back of the helmet and lights started flashing—together
with a corkscrew affair that turned in a wobbling arc at the
top. It reminded Alec of Robby, the famous robot from the Forbidden
Planet. Reclining in his chair, the professor put on the
preposterous hat and looked at
Alec with a completely serious expression.
thinking cap…pay it no attention. Now, tell me what you can
and dare Alec."
told the trusted professor everything he had learned,
including the existence of Monty’s closed-circuit TV camera
on the patio. He hadn’t meant to mention that, but he let
slip that he saw experiments on a TV monitor. From that
information, after a couple of brief questions, the professor
had deduced that it was a closed-circuit TV system in the
café, probably one that Monty had installed after the gang
attacks a few years back. After Alec had recounted his most
recent experience, including his feelings of connectedness
with the being and the crazy theories Dr. Crink and company, Alec
felt unburdened. He fell into silence, looking at the old man.
with his eyes closed and colorful lights blinking all over his
head, the professor made no noise except for a slight creek in
the springs of his chair as it slowly rocked.
to me like you haven’t seen the last of the creature yet,
Alec," the nimble man said as he leaned forward in his
chair, breaking the long silence. "If you are right, and
I believe you are, that alien being is trying to communicate especially
with you. That’s what you feel, isn’t it?"
the being’s individual color patterns…color words
correspond to objects presented for its view, yes?"
just as I told you."
the concepts that these color words represent, is there a
discernable way that they are related?"
mean like the way subjects and objects are linked by verbs in
Alec, in just that way."
is not something I had considered before Dr. Max."
is it possible, then, that this being composes sentences …propositions
in a way that is very different from the method that we
that would have to be true if it is forming any logical
propositions at all."
so. And therefore, Alec, if the being is expressing
propositions, using, let’s call it ‘propositional color
language,’ the being is following the universal laws of
course, Dr. Max, the basic laws of truth-functional
propositions would have to be followed if the being is
you have already said several times that you feel, deep down,
quite sure that the being is sentient, yes?
I feel sure of it. Dr. Crink thinks that the Chrome has no
native intelligence but is merely a clever cyber borg
programmed for remote surveillance. He thinks someone else, a terrorist
group or an enemy nation, is
watching through the Chrome’s eye. But it is not a robot or
anything like that, it’s alive. And I think it’s very
if it is intelligent it will certainly be using propositional
language—communicating with not just a stream …concatenation
of picture words—isn’t that so?"
must be true, of course!"
your course of action is clear, Alec. You must find out how
the being communicates propositions—and I daresay it is with
colors, without doubt."
where do I start, Dr. Max? There are so many patterns and
colors. It’s all just a big jumble."
making connections important, Alec, do you think?"
struggled to understand what the old professor’s question
might mean, it started to occur to him that he now faced the
kind of challenge and sense of purpose that seemed to be
missing as his studies had progressed at Sundance over the
past year. Here, now, he realized, was a challenge that made a
it is true that the being has a special rapport with you, then
you have a special advantage in finding the clue to its
communication methods. Also, of course, you would also have a
special responsibility to unlock this mystery. Otherwise, I’m
afraid the military and the crazy experts will completely bollix
things up. What do you think, Alec?"
you are right Dr. Max. I guess I’ll just…"
slumbering sloths!" the professor said jumping from
his chair and taking off his helmet and looking at a digital
clock mounted near its base. "Just look at the
time!" He stood and quickly ushered Alec from his office.
"Good fortune with this project, Alec. If I can help, I
will. Just let me know," the cheerful, rushing professor
whispered to Alec as he opened the door. "But, you know,
I am, as they say, out of the loop on this. This Chrome is
your baby Alec."