Chrome Contact


"Just 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?"

First, 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.


"I 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 language."

"Show 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 monitor.

"Boffo! There it is!"

"There what is?" Dr. Crink said derisively.

"There!" 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 quickly.

"Of 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 gathered spectators.

"Please, 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, yes. I know what you’re talking about. We’re not ninnies here you know Bummer…"

"Booner; sir—my name is Alec Booner, sir."

"Yes, 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.

"There! 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."

Dr. 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.

"So, what’s the big deal?" Dr. Crink said weakly. We already knew that the monkey could do fast math."

"I 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 language."

Dr. Crink seemed to wobble more. He grasped a nearby equipment rack to steady himself. All around him, people erupted in excited and loud conversations.

"All 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 marmalade!’"

"The 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."

"I 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 away."

The 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.

"OK, 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.

Dr. 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.

"Don’t 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."

Dr. 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.

"Let’s 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.

"Sure 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 answer.

If 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?

Almost 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 on record.

"Why 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?"

"I 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."

But 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.

"I’m 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.

Alec glanced viciously at his watch. "But…but we still have about ten minutes left," Alec protested.

"Yes, 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 tents."

"Then what happens?" Alec said in a tone that he hoped would sound as if he deserved an answer.

"That, 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’?

Throwing 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.

"He 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.

"Yes, …at a mad little tea party," Alec agreed.

Then, 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.

"Oh, 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!"

Alec 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.

"What was that all about?" a baffled Dr. Johnson muttered.

"Babies can’t manage crocodiles," Alec shouted back gleefully as he ran to the patio exit.





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