Chrome Contact


A short while later, the guard who accompanied Alec said he was no longer needed and could leave now. Alec gave a long, sad look at the Chrome, which seemed to be no longer attending even to his presence. Turning to leave, he saw that General Gomez was watching him, waiting by the door.

"Mr. ...umm, Alec, your cooperation has been commendable. Now uhmmm, just one more time, I would like you to report to the café tomorrow by noon," the general oozed through her gleaming smile as Alec drew near.

"Sorry, general, my final exam is at eleven and…"

"Fact is," the general said interrupting in a confiding tone, "your country needs you right now Alec. Now you know, and I know, even Dr. Crink knows…unless you’re around, that thing remains unresponsive. We’ve gotten more video and EM data in the last three hours than in the last three days. And I’m hoping it will revive again tomorrow when you arrive."

"I, I…I was going to say," Alec stammered, "that the earliest I could get here would be around one-thirty tomorrow."

"No, one-fifteen would be more like it." The general smiled and winked. "I’ll have someone pick you up as soon as your exam is finished."

"Boffo plan," Alec agreed under his breath, recalling the tangle of traffic and reporters earlier that day. The general gave him a wan pat on the back as he started to descend the stairs to Monty’s office.

Alec found Monty tinkering with his experimental hydroponics garden when he entered his office. Without delay, he asked Monty to lock the door and then open the Chinese cabinet. Without a word, Monty bolted the door and rushed to the cabinet.

"What are you up to Alec?"

"I’m not sure, yet, but I have a hunch…You have recordings from the patio TV since the beginning, right?"

"You bet I have recordings," Monty said as he reached for a stack of disks. "Video and audio."

"OK! I just need to look at those experiments that Dr. Crink conducted the first couple of days—you know, the ones with all the geometric figures."

Monty fumbled through the stack of disks and withdrew one and inserted it into a player on a lower shelf of the cabinet. He touched a couple of buttons and the monitor showed scenes of the tests.

"Show me how this works, OK Monty?" Alec watched as the big man jabbed his finger at various controls.

"Forward…reverse…fast forward…fast reverse…freeze…and zoom."

"Boffo! Thanks Monty. I just need to look at a few pictures…I think I should…" Alec’s voice trailed off. Monty watched as Alec learned the controls and displayed various scenes, sometimes, freezing the image, sometimes zooming for extreme close ups of the Chrome’s face or the monitor that Dr. Crink looked at occasionally as he paced to and fro.

"Soooo…there is the wedge-shape pattern that starts some of the sequences. See Monty, this pattern always starts with that wedge of solid color in the upper-left of the aura—that’s what I call the color rings. Now watch…see, here is the pattern that always follows the wedge…do you see it Monty?" Alec asked with an excitement for which Monty could see no cause.

"Yes, yes, I see it. So what?"

Alec moved swiftly to a new scene. It was the geometric figures parade. He froze the scene at the point where the figure of a right triangle had been presented for the Chrome’s view.

Alec knew that a solid, roughly triangular patch of color always came at the start of one of the Chrome's recurring-pattern sequences. He conjectured that it might be a pictogram for a right triangle. Then he confirmed that the next pattern in the sequence was the Chrome word for right triangle. The third pattern also seemed to represent a right triangle, but the position of the "word" shifted and featured a small wedge of bright yellow.

"Yes! Boffo!" Alec chortled. "See Monty, that’s the same chrome word that comes right after the wedge. And look, the color pattern that comes next looks the same as the word for ‘triangle’ except it has this one difference." Monty immediately saw the resemblance and watched in silence as Alec raced to different scenes.

"So what’s the big deal, Alec?" Monty said, finally breaking Alec’s frenzy. "I mean, Crink and company already have a dictionary of color words. I’m sure they already know the pattern for a triangle. So what could the Chrome be saying about triangles? That’s the big question."

"Correcto Mundo, Monty. But if I’m not mistaken, it’s saying something very basic—like a basic equation. And if it’s saying what I think it’s saying, well, that would be our Rosetta Stone." Alec could see Monty’s skepticism as it crawled across his wide face. Partly to avoid this specter of doubt, Alec turned again to the TV monitor. He flicked a couple of switches on the control panel and the monitor glowed from the real-time image of the bright circle of floodlights that surrounded the Chrome. In the foreground, only a few people hovered over computer terminals. Dr. Crink and his cronies were nowhere to be seen. "Looks like everyone’s going to bed up there," Alec said with puzzlement and almost a tone of reproach.

"Well Special Grip and Roaming Housekeeper," Monty said in a suppressed yawn, "it is time to call it a night. Tomorrow is another big day."

"Yes, I know," Alec said in a slight sigh. "But we’ll see tomorrow, Monty." Alec quickly turned off the monitor, closed the cabinet doors, collected his books, and headed for the door. He was almost out the door when he twisted around to face Monty.

"Oh, yeah Monty. One more thing. Would you talk to the general tomorrow morning and ask her permission for me to use Dr. Crink’s Chroma Comp tomorrow. Tell her that I asked you to ask her so I can run some experiments as soon as I get here. Tell her...tell her that Dr. Crink could even operate it himself—if he can follow my instructions."




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© 2000 Centroid Communications.

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