Chrome Contact


"And if it’s saying what I think it’s saying, well, that would be our Rosetta Stone." 


Alec arrived at the café to find that military security seemed to have been tightened. Roadblocks had now been set up at each end of the street in front of the café. After navigating around mobile TV vans, large satellite dishes on tractors, and throngs of reporters, he was waved through the roadblock by an MP wearing a football helmet-sized headset with small antennae protruding like quills.

He was escorted directly up to the patio where the general waited for him at the door. Over the general’s shoulder, Alec glimpsed the Chrome. Its head was hanging down as if staring at the ground. Its arms dangled like damp brown rags hung out to dry.

"Mr. Booner, ummm…I am very pleased that you are back…and…umm..."

"It’s coming back to life," someone shouted over by a group of scientists and technicians gathered by a vending machine.

"We’re bringing up the 90s," another voice called out as people began to scurry.

"Ah..uhmmm, well just follow me Alec," the general smiled curtly as she motioned for an MP to escort them to his front-row chair. There was now a larger table next to the chair, with a small TV, a laptop, today’s edition of the Hawkins Falls Chronicle, several bottles of beverages, a couple bags of potato chips, and a tray of pizza.

"Just make yourself comfortable here, Alec. Just tell the guard if you need anything. All we need is for you to just be here for a little bit longer. So, watch…ummm some TV and have some snacks to pass the time." Then the general turned sharply and headed to the fountain end of the patio where her command trailer was parked.

Alec studied the Chrome intently. Although it was moving and again flashing many color sequences, it was clear to Alec that is was now very physically distressed. The being seemed to be slowing down, even in Alec’s presence—as if it was losing energy or will. Alec wondered if it had to leave, or die, soon.

"Guard, I would like a phone. Please," Alec said suddenly to the nearby MP. The MP conferred with his headset and then unclipped a small flat box, flipped it open, and handed it to Alec.

"Thanks buddy," Alec said as if the guard were an old school chum. He tapped the keypad quickly as he watched one of the Chrome's arms go limp.

"Hi Monty. It’s Alec. Listen, I can’t say much now, but can I see you as soon as I leave the patio tonight?"

"Capital idea, Alec. See you soon!" Monty said with enthusiasm followed by a sizzle of static as he disconnected.

Alec settled back in his chair and reached for a piece of pizza. Then he looked up again at the wilted creature that hung on the pillar of blue light that surged from the sphere. Slowly, he put down the pizza, and instead picked up his Ancient Philosophy text.

Alec tried to concentrate on studying the Meno for his final. He turned directly to the part where Socrates begins talking with the slave boy and began reading. But he was too excited and worried to study intently. Excited that he now had a hunch that felt right; worried that the Chrome would soon be gone—one way or the other.

He knew his hunch was a long shot: that the Chrome, like Anytus, was trying to say something like the Pythagorean Theorem. With the darkening summer sky as his backdrop, Alec envisioned a white right triangle and then watched as it seemed to melt into the triangular patch of color that started one of the Chrome’s message sequences. Was that triangular patch a pictogram? Wouldn’t the Chrome try to say something simple about a simple thing—like a mathematical truth that is universally true? Was it using a color word for "right triangle" and could it have anything to do with the famous theorem?

"But, general, I don’t think…" the shrill voice of Dr. Crink interrupted Alec’s internal dialog.

"Look, Doctor Crink," the general said with a sharply raised voice as she drew out ‘doctor’ in a shrill tone, "all you have produced so far is a small dictionary of color words. Washington wants more than that, and frankly, I don’t blame them. How do those words fit together? Is this thing trying to communicate with us or what? I’ve got to have more than just a jumble of words, Crink!

"But, gener…".

"Shut up Crink!," the general barked. "And why can’t you tell me anything more about envelope density? The last data I got from you is four days old. Is that an EM barrier we haven’t seen before? Is it just photons that have two-way transport through that damn blue field? I need to know, Crink." She pounded her fist on what looked like a small keyboard and monitor unit that was strapped to her left forearm. .

"General, I just…"

"I said shut up, Crink….I’ll have your woochies for breakfast, instead of my usual cold eggs, if you interrupt me again." Perhaps surprised by her own public crudity, the general cleared her throat and made a couple of gurgling noises and tapped a few keys on her arm control set. "Ummmnn, I needed to know yesterday... I can’t wait any longer, Rand. The decision has been made to move to Delta Green condition. So I want all your gear and people out of here by eight tomorrow night."

Dr. Crink mumbled an inaudible response and the general spun on her heels and strutted with her guards back to her command trailer. The surrounding scientists shuffled and murmured as they turned back to their work which was now going almost nowhere since the Chrome had lapsed back into almost complete lassitude.






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© 2000 Centroid Communications.

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