Malcolm looked out of the window of Callaghan’s car, his eyes followed the upward lines of the tall buildings as they passed by. You usually see this city in the movies or on postcards send by friends on their honeymoon but really; nothing quite prepares you for the real deal, when you’re actually smack in the middle of the urban jungle and you get the true sense for the verticality of the place.
The streets somehow all managed to look the same. Especially in the downtown area were the hotel was. It usually went as followed: ‘expensive shop - yellow taxi – greasy hotdog stand’ and exactly in that order too, Malcolm found it sort of uncanny. But soon the pattern was broken when they went up the high speed freeway where fusion cars could glide across the country with considerable ease. This network of elevated roads was one of the latest unsung victories of the United States, finished in the fall of 2062 it connected almost every commonwealth with the same ring road; Rather nifty design on the whole, even though it meant literally going over some people’s heads. Decreasing the value of quite a bit of land and the houses on it that were in the highway’s path: Places like Lexington, Massachusetts.
As they drove across the East River, down to Brooklyn, Kent gestured at the glove compartment telling his buddy in the passenger seat to get his sunglasses out since the morning sun stood low and bright today, especially now that they were driving due east.
“Get my shades out of the jockey box will ya, pall?” The American said, letting his home state dialect slip, something not even years of academia could get out and probably never will. His British friend always found it funny if Kent fell back into his oddly quaint Idahoian.
With his own eyes squinting, Malcolm reached down and got the pair of browline sunglasses out from under the miscellaneous rubbish that had collected in the compartment and gave them to his mate.
“Thanks, bud” Callaghan said gratefully as he put them on whilst keeping one hand still on the steering wheel.
“We should be there soon. It’s hard to see with the sun and all but you might be able to see the silver globe in the distance.”
“The unisphere, right?” The brit remembered from the ride to the hotel yesterday.
Callaghan nodded dryly.
“A big skeleton sphere of our earth made out of stainless steel. It’s supposed to be our Atomium, our Eiffel Tower… Our Crystal Palace if you will”
“The Crystal Palace burned down though.” Malcolm stated, playing ignorant to the fact he was very much aware of the sarcasm in what the yank said.
“It’s not like New York doesn’t already have magnificent landmarks, but this one is supposed to represent the brand new atomic age and symbolize the Unity of the peoples of earth in dark times. Hence ‘uni’sphere.”
“Clever.” Malcolm joked.
“I know right?”
Kent then indicated and subsequently turned off the elevated highway at the Queens intersection. Both of them were unaware of the black sedan that had been following them ever since they left the hotel.
Callaghan cruised over the new expressway that had been built just a few months ago especially for the fair. It connected the harbor and airport with one direct line into Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The yank was clearly proud to show off the park and pointed at it in the distance again now that they were closer, less than a mile away now.
“We’re almost there.”
“Can’t wait to see what you’re going to show me.” Malcolm mentioned politely.
“Oh you’re gonna be thrilled, bud… If he hasn’t yet flown off back to Nevada you might be able to meet Mr. House.”
“I’d be delighted.”
“I’m sure you will be, he’s certainly a character.”
“We talked about this at dinner last night.”
“I know we have but you’ll see when you meet him.”
“IF I meet him. You said it yourself; He might already have flown off back to Las Vegas.”
“Even so, I’ll give you a short tour of our Pavilion and where we work then send you on your way to deal with whatever project you’re working on in your Pavilion.”
Malcolm was sent here by the Foreign Office of His Majesties government to oversee the construction of the latest in British engineering; the Cambridge physics department had a hand in the design you see. It was however a rather last-minute decision to send him over, as such Malcolm had no idea what the UK pavilion even looked like, or where, in this huge park, it actually was.
The park was still in construction, it didn’t even have a proper entrance yet, allowing Kent to drive straight on through at a cautious seven miles per hour down a wide, tree-lined boulevard which was called: the ‘avenue of the stars’. At the sides of this road flagpoles were being put up, on which every participating nation’s flag would be hoisted (not a whole lot) and right in front of them, the big Unisphere stood twelve stories high in a yet to be activated fountain basin.
“Up close it IS quite big.” Malcolm admitted.
Kent nodded but kept his eyes on the road. The caution was necessary, for the way was clogged, and there was industry and activity everywhere. A cluster of trucks, scaffolding, cranes, girders, piles of bricks, metal and tons of concrete slabs were being moved to every conceivable corner of the park by blue collar workers; All very busy to meet the deadlines of each individual space-age architectural project.
Malcolm couldn’t possibly take it all in at once. He marveled at these men that were almost literally building the future. A corny thought for sure, but still. It was sort of true.
Eventually, when The visiting professor was acclimatized to his environment, the car stopped next to the tall entrance of a modernist’s idea of the Greek Parthenon. Designed with concrete and glass in mind. This unusual building was in fact the RobCo Pavilion.
“Welcome to my place.” Kent mused proudly whilst giving Malcolm a short lasting glimpse before opening the car door and getting out.
Meanwhile the black sedan that had been following them had stopped somewhere out of their sight.
Malcolm quickly got out as well and noticed that despite the distant sounds of drills and hammers it was oddly quiet, which was only accented by the loud noise of his car door being shut.
“Follow me.” Kent beckoned, already standing by the door.
The Brit was in uncharted territory here, nothing much else to do but to follow his friend.
Inside it looked more like a futurist’s British Museum. Black marble tiles; six and a half feet in perimeter, a tall entrance hall with walls that looked like they were at least sixty feet high and a cross-glass ceiling that let in late morning sunlight which painted a grid of shadows and light on the lower wall to the left.
Malcolm looked above and around him, taking it all in.
Eventually Kent had to insist his friend to follow him.
They went into the exposition room where busts and empty stands were made ready for the new robot models RobCo would unveil at the fair, along with a history line of their older models. The hall looked a bit like New York Grand Central Station. But instead of stairs leading to the subway they led to different themes of the exhibition. Kent took Malcolm to one of them which was simply labelled ‘Clive’.
“Come on this way.” Kent beckoned, as if he had haste, but it was probably excitement and nothing else.
The Briton turned the corner and came face to face with a large CRT monitor about the size of the wall, it was quite impressive. Probably the biggest screen he had ever seen as a matter of fact.
“This is Clive.” The American boasted.
“Rather personal for a big screen.” Malcolm said, not understanding what was so special about a Television screen. Sure, it was huge, but that’s not really the wondrous feat he was expecting. All those mysterious phone calls and that teasing just for this? No, there had to be more to it.
“Oh just you wait.”
Inside the room there were some other men as well. Two of them holding a large blueprint on which they pointed and made corrections on the request of the well-dressed man standing in between them.
“Mr. House?” Kent then pardoned.
Malcolm took his hat off, just to be polite.
The mogul turned around, showing a raised eyebrow.
“May I introduce you to professor Malcolm Wakefield from Cambridge university?”
The Brit sort of shuffled forward to be in handshake’s reach.
“Is that so? I’ve read about him. Fascinating stuff on rocket technology.” Mr. House said.
“That’s very nice of you to say.” Malcolm smiled somewhat relieved seeing this as the moment the ice had been broken.
“I wasn’t trying to be nice.” Robert added rather bluntly.
“I was just saying it’s fascinating stuff. No two way about it, it’s a simple fact.”
“Thank you.” Malcolm said, this time more cautious.
The business men beckoned the two gentlemen over to a cart filled with all sorts of refreshments.
“I’m sure you want to know what we’re building here? Drink?”
Malcolm said yes, even though it was more in reply to the question if he wanted to know what the big display was. But Robert House was already pouring glasses of malt whisky. He’d just have to brave the drink, even though it was way too early for him.
“Here.” House said, giving Wakefield one to which the Brit replied with the same measly thank you as he did just a few seconds ago.
“So, basically. Do you know anything about CIT’s latest project?” The billionaire asked the professor as he was stirring his drink somewhat.
“I have, yes.”
“Well, look at it this way, we’re trying to beat these yahoos at their own game. We’re creating an Artificial Intelligence. Way more powerful then whatever they can come up with.”
“It will be able to Think. Speak. And Reason like any regular man or woman could, only better.”
Malcolm was impressed at the idea, but so far he hadn’t really seen any proof yet.
“That’s a bold claim, mister House”
House sipped from his drink.
“I don’t claim. I provide.”
After which he snapped his fingers at the scientists he was with and ordered them to turn the machine on.
“You’ll see.” Robert added confidently.
A few seconds later, the screen slowly warmed up and green streaks started painting a picture, bar per bar. It was the face of a rather generic looking happy-man.
When the entire picture was created a ding sound echoed across the hall.
Malcolm looked somewhat dumbfounded at the giant face.
“Go on, ask it a question.”