As I flew over North America, I pondered my actions. Was this important enough to justify leaving Lucy? I don't know. How did I ever let my life reach the point where I cared about so many people I had to choose between them. High above the Midwest, I made a list of the people alive that I cared about.
Myself. Obviously. A person of unlimited scientific ingenuity and comic wit.
Lucy. My... protege? Ward? Niece? Certainly not daughter. Regardless, someone it was my duty to protect, and someone who made my life better.
Vera. She was funny and smart and attractive. I cared about her, but was it really love? It didn't feel like it did with Rosa, and I didn't have any other examples to compare it to.
There were a few people I was friendly with. Justin King, Jack Frost, the Titanium Warrior. And I had a rapport with Noetron and Neurotron, if they constituted people. Damn right I'm a person, you self-righteous piece of organic fluff.
As I tore over the Rocky Mountain, I considered the list of people I disliked. Quite a lot longer. It included most of the world's heroes, a large share of it's villains, and nearly all of it's radio hosts. Somewhere near the top of that list, sandwiched between Acme and Simon Cowell, was Professor Cognis.
I looked at the grave of the first person I ever really cared about. "Rosa, we have a lot to talk about. I've changed since the last time we spoke. For instance, I'm now indestructible, and I have a supercomputer permeating my posthuman biology, enabling stupendous strength, stamina, and giving me the power of flight. Anything new with you?"
There was no response.
"In other news, I'm seeing someone. You're okay with that, right?"
Still no reaction.
"Okay, good. I realize that your dead, but it does seem strange to have moved on. I'm glad you're not mad about it. Oh, and remember Lucy, from last year? Well, she's been assimilated into this alien called the New Archivist. I'm trying to get her free. Wish me luck."
"Oh, and one other thing. An evil genius named Dr. Demented is likely to come and destroy the planet some time soon to make way for an alternate reality where he is all powerful. I don't suppose you have anything to say about it."
"Actually," a voice called out, "I have quite a lot to say."
It wasn't Rosa. It was her annoying cousin Martin.
I scowled. "What are you doing here?"
"I came here to talk. You're here on this date every year."
"Careless of me. I should make it harder for people like you to track me down. How long were you waiting there, anyways?"
"All day. I've been reading up on the India-Pakistan situation, and working on a fix for the global recession. And a few other things which aren't as interesting. I can work anywhere."
"Alright. So why'd you choose to work in a graveyard inside some sort of invisibility tent all day?"
"We need to discuss the Dr. Demented situation."
"Okay, for starters, how many cases of the Disease have there been."
"Twenty-four, distributed all across the globe. All fatalities."
"And you were tipped off about this by Genesis?"
"Have you considered that Genesis is one of the people on Earth most likely to collaborate with Dr. Demented?"
"He is not."
"He was one of Dr. Demented's inner circle back on Earth Beta."
"Until he quit."
"That's still more contact than anybody else in the world."
"Genesis has a garden full of mostly powerless lifeforms, which he preserves using threats he would hate to carry out. He needs stability."
"Dr. Demented is an unstable person. That doesn't mean he runs an unstable world. I don't know that the people of Earth Beta ever fought each other."
"They did on at least three occasions."
"Well, we have fought significantly more than three wars on this planet."
"So you don't trust Genesis?"
"On balance, I probably do. By the way, why are you so sure you can trust me? I care mainly about science, and I could learn a lot from Dr. Demented."
"True, but he is also one of the few people in the world with the ability to kill you, and he is crazy enough to do it even if you do come over to his side. I don't think you'd trade an eternity of knowledge for whatever he gives you. And there's no way Demented would let the New Archivist live, which I suspect would be the final deal-breaker."
"Well, I assume you've rallied the world's heroes to help out."
"Yes, and I need you to rally the world's villains. Unless Mephistopheles has already done that."
"He has. He's organized a little group called the Illuminati Occultus."
"Can we trust him?"
"Not at all. He's about as honest as a snake getting a piggy-back ride from a senator."
"Do you know anything about him?"
"Nothing that you don't."
"I assume you aren't a member?"
"Nope. Group seemed doomed to fail. Although it's been over a month and they're still going strong."
"Could I persuade you to join? You could do immeasurable good."
"What could you do for me in return?"
"Why do you expect me to do something for you? Don't you see this as your responsibility?"
"I really don't."
"Fine. If you join his group and do you best to turn them against the Doctor, then when this is over I'll send you a schematic of the brain-scan device I was using twelve years ago."
Ironically enough, even as he spoke I was digging around his brain with my sensory tendrils, trying to figure out his telepathic add-ons. It seemed to be masked in some sort of weird ferromagnetic material which interfered with their workings. Clever. Cognis was a clever man. "Deal."