Chrome Contact


"Not at all, Dr. Max. But I don’t think it should take a computer science prof to be able to read something that was supposed to be my personal copy."

"I couldn’t agree more, Alec…agree more…yes. So my friend converted the files on that disk and somehow made files my system could read. So, would you be upset if I told you that I have now looked carefully through all those files?"

"No, no, I asked you to help Dr. Max, and you have."

"Oh, good," the professor said rubbing his hands in delight. "Now, you see…they may have given you a bit more of the session’s recordings than they intended. You see, Alec, I watched and heard most of your story to the general about the glowing globe and the strange creature."

"Ohhwooh," Alec suddenly blurted in surprise, his mouth hanging open.

"Indeed. Now, would you be surprised if were to tell you that, knowing the kind of serious student you are, I quite believe your story. In that case, can you…would you, now tell me more—in confidence?"

Alec was both amazed and pleased by this swift turn of events. "Sure, sure, Dr. Max. You already know almost as much as I still do. So, sure."

Professor 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.

"My thinking cap…pay it no attention. Now, tell me what you can and dare Alec."

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.

Reclining 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.

"Sounds 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?"


"And the being’s individual color patterns…color words correspond to objects presented for its view, yes?"

"Yes, just as I told you."

"And the concepts that these color words represent, is there a discernable way that they are related?"

"You mean like the way subjects and objects are linked by verbs in ordinary language?"

"Yes, Alec, in just that way."

"That…that is not something I had considered before Dr. Max."

"So, is it possible, then, that this being composes sentences …propositions in a way that is very different from the method that we use?"

"Certainly, that would have to be true if it is forming any logical propositions at all."

"Quite 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 logic?"

"Of course, Dr. Max, the basic laws of truth-functional propositions would have to be followed if the being is intelligent."

"But you have already said several times that you feel, deep down, quite sure that the being is sentient, yes?

"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 intelligent."

"Then, 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?"

"That must be true, of course!"

"Then 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."

"But where do I start, Dr. Max? There are so many patterns and colors. It’s all just a big jumble."

"Is making connections important, Alec, do you think?"

As Alec 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 difference.

"If 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?"

"I…I…think you are right Dr. Max. I guess I’ll just…"

"Oh 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."

Dr. Max' thinking cap reminded Alec of Robby the robot.





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© 2000 Centroid Communications.

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