tell Dr. Crink what your hunch is, Alec. He will operate the
Chroma Comp…umhumm…just tell the doctor what you would
like to do. I’ll be right here beside you if any questions arise. OK?"
as a first test of his theory about the Chrome’s possible
manner of expressing the concept of the square of a number, he
asked Dr. Crink to extract and then compare the color patterns
associated with the number experiments that had been conducted
during the first couple of days.
me just the patterns for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in one set. And
then 4, 9, 16, and 25," Alec directed. The patterns were
retrieved. "Now arrange the two sets side-by-side,
please." Alec was gaining confidence that the answer was
within reach. He studied the patterns arranged across the
There it is!"
what is?" Dr. Crink said derisively.
Alec said pointing to the regions in each pattern that
appeared similar. "Can you somehow subtract one image
from another and just display the remainder?" Alec asked
course, I can do that," Dr. Crink snapped. He pressed a
few keys on his keyboard and a single small swatch of color
appeared—the remainder of all the image subtractions. It was
the part of all the color words for the numbers 4, 9, 16, and
25 that they all had in common. A murmur arose among the
now, doctor, can you set that remainder image aside and
display the sequence that begins with the big wedge of solid
color in the upper-left corner…you know the one where…"
yes, yes. I know what you’re talking about. We’re not
ninnies here you know Bummer…"
sir—my name is Alec Booner, sir."
yes. Whatever. We’ve already studied that sequence
extensively…there’s really no point…" The first
image in the sequence appeared. "Now, just move forward
to the third or fourth pattern after that," Alec said
slowly as if he were a cat creeping toward unsuspecting prey.
Bingo! Mega boffo!" Alec hooted and jumped wildly.
"There," he said pointing to the same color swatch
that they had just produced as a remainder image. "There.
That’s how the Chrome represents a power of two. And, look, there are actually three instances of that exponent
in these two images."
Crink stood up and appeared to wobble slightly backward at
this discovery. The surrounding scientists nodded their heads
and whispered excitedly about this unexpected find.
what’s the big deal?" Dr. Crink said weakly. We already
knew that the monkey could do fast math."
don't think it’s doing a calculation here. It’s saying
something like ‘a right triangle is a figure in which a2
+ b2 = c2.’ It’s a universal truth—the
kind of message it would use to teach us its color
Crink seemed to wobble more. He grasped a nearby equipment
rack to steady himself. All around him, people erupted in
excited and loud conversations.
I see here is a couple of concepts that happen to appear close
together. How are they connected together—if indeed, at all?
We have seen no proof of anything. For all we know, it could
be saying ‘right triangle…powers of two…unicorns…and
doctor’s right, of course," the general chimed in.
"All we still have is disconnected ummm…ideas—a bit
too close together for coincidence, if you ask me, but still
without any glue…any uhmmm grammar stuff."
just need a little more time to figure that out," Alec
acknowledged quietly, well aware that a big piece of the
puzzle was still missing. "I can start studying it right
general again walked over to the two visiting generals and
their aides and conferred with them briefly. She returned with
a worried look on her face.
ummmm, Crink, you and Mr. Booner will continue to pursue this
new lead. But it is simply just that—a lead. The president
himself has authorized going forward with Delta Green and we
can’t stop now just because we have a faint scent from
another direction." The general glanced quickly at the
small display screen mounted on her left forearm.
"Gentlemen, you have exactly one hour and seven minutes
to produce something tangible. At six pm sharp, we will be
uhmmm evacuating the remaining uh civilian personnel from
this area—unless you can show me that this thing is really
communicating—not just gibbering." Expecting and
receiving no further discussion, the general pivoted smartly
and rejoined her visitors. Together, they all walked off to
her command trailer.
Crink was still wobbling on his feet as he held an anemic hand
to his red forehead. He refused to meet Alec’s gaze even
when Alec asked if he felt all right.
be silly. Of course I feel all right," Dr. Crink said in
a huff. "Just a bit tired…yes. Dr. Johnson, you take
over here a bit while I go have a brief rest. Work with the
Bummer kid, if you can. Now you heard the general—we only
have an hour left on this wild goose chase."
Crink departed with an aide on each arm for guidance. A
bright-eyed, well scrubbed, young man sat down in front of the
Chroma Comp and turned to Alec.
get to it, eh? Tell you what, you sit here and work the
controls—I’ll help if you need it." He sprung from
the seat and waved Alec to sit down.
thing," Alec responded with no sound of surety in his
voice as he looked around. Technicians everywhere were
scurrying—packing and moving equipment off the patio. And at
the east end of the patio, several people dressed in
Moon suits were climbing all over a huge black machine unlike
anything Alec had ever seen—even in the Inner Edge. Large,
hulking containers that had black tarps over them were being
rolled forward on large motorized treads. Alec looked at his
watch—5:11. Somehow, in forty-nine minutes he needed the
Chrome was asserting the Pythagorean Theorem, as seemed quite
likely, how was the assertion structured? Did Chrome subjects
come after their objects? Did verbs come at the end of
everything? Did it even use structures similar to subjects and
objects and verbs? Did the fact that certain color patterns
shifted from one region of the Chrome’s aura to another have
something to do with it? Could that be a connection mechanism?
frantically, Alec displayed and manipulated dozens of images.
After a few minutes, his head was reeling in the effort
to detect subtle color changes and movements as he stepped
frame-by-frame through all the Chrome’s recurring sequences
do some patterns originate in one quadrant of the aura and
then shift to a new position straddling the quadrant
boundaries?" Alec asked himself out loud. "And what
is the purpose of the bright yellow tip that sometimes appears
with a pattern and then at other times doesn’t?"
really can’t answer you Alec," Dr. Johnson said in a
friendly but tired voice. "Let’s just keep looking—maybe
we’ll run into some answer yet."
twenty minutes later, Alec was still no closer to any answer.
His palms sweated. His heart raced. His visual cortex was in
shambles. And the only clear and distinct idea he could grasp
was that he did not have a single clear and distinct idea
about anything else.
afraid, Alec, that we have reached the end of our rope
here," the general suddenly interrupted Alec who was too
lost in his own world to see her approach.
glanced viciously at his watch. "But…but we still have
about ten minutes left," Alec protested.
ummmm, so we have," the general confirmed as she checked
her arm device. "But that’s it. Just about ten more
minutes. Then we tear down this unit and fold up our
what happens?" Alec said in a tone that he hoped would
sound as if he deserved an answer.
Mr. Booner, is something I can’t talk about—actually, can’t
talk about any Delta Greens—otherwise it wouldn’t be a
Delta Green. Do you follow?" Alec did not follow but was
in no mood to try. The general walked away and Alec heard her
shout orders to ‘T-prep gog,’ or did she say ‘god’?
his shoulders back as if he were sitting in Dr. Max’ hard
straight-back chair, and composing himself with a breathing
exercise his father had taught him many years before, Alec
stared at the Chrome—now completely limp on its pedestal of
light. From the corner of his eye, he glimpsed Dr. Crink over
by the small trailer that acted as the scientists’ HQ. The
doctor still had a red face, now tucked under a new style head
set that looked like an outlandish top hat with a brim of
small coiled wires. He was wearing an old Navy pea coat with
the collar turned up against the chill evening air. He
appeared to be in much better humor as he jested with
Professor Benson and a couple of the other visiting
scientists. They were all drinking from tall glasses and Alec
surmised that they were having a bit of a farewell nip
before packing their bags.
looks a bit like the Mad Hatter, eh?" Dr. Johnson quipped
as they both watched the scene of incongruous merriment amid
the ominous military preparations that surrounded them.
…at a mad little tea party," Alec agreed.
the next instant, Alec’s tired face lit up and he jumped out
of his chair. He grabbed a mobile phone sitting nearby,
flipped it open, and tapped the keypad briskly. He paced back
and forth and glanced repeatedly at his watch.
Dr. Max. Am I glad you answered! I need help right now—it’s…it’s
an emergency…Remember last year, in your logic
course, you talked about the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party?…And
you talked about Lewis Carroll’s strange logic games…Yes,
that’s it…What I need are the basic diagrams—for basic
propositions…Yes, I have quite forgotten most of them…Yes,
you’re right about that Dr. Max…But, please, we’re
almost out of time. If I give you my number here, could you
upload the basic diagrams to me in the next couple of minutes?…Oh,
that’s great doc!"
carefully spelled out Monty’s email address and was on the
verge of disconnecting. "What? You say babies are
illogical?…Sure, Dr. Max…What’s that?…Nobody is
distrusted who can manage a crocodile? Dr. Max , look, I don’t
have time now for …And illogical persons are distrusted…Hey,
doc, I really need those diagrams as fast as you can move…Thanks
Dr. Max!" Alec disconnected with a beaming smile and a
clap on the back of Dr. Johnson.
was that all about?" a baffled Dr. Johnson muttered.
can’t manage crocodiles," Alec shouted back gleefully
as he ran to the patio exit.