Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Puzzles Part 3

Vera surveyed the restaurant from within her armor. Well, she supposed it was Phoenix's armor. He was the one who had built it, and who had sent it to her. The armor had invisibly piloted itself across Europe before deploying in four seconds and allowing her to disappear while snapping her steel restraints. "I could get used to this high-tech battle armor."
"Actually, this is stealth armor."
It took a moment for Vera to recognize Noetron's voice. It sounded very different in a confined space.
"So," she said, "what's the plan?"
"The plan is that we will leave and Phoenix can avoid giving away weapons of mass destruction."
"What about the other hostages?"
Noetron was programmed to take between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds to respond to any question. It wasn't that he needed that time to think- he could do that in a few milliseconds- it was just that humans expect people to take some time to respond, and Phoenix found the instant responses annoying. So the fact that Noetron took a full second to answer indicated that he had thought long and hard about Vera's question, or that he had been caught utterly by surprised.
"I do not believe it is possible to save them without endangering your life. Phoenix values you approximately eighty-one point four million times more than any of them, so I cannot allow you to risk your life saving them."
Vera was astonished, both by the precision and magnitude of the number. "Well, tell him I disagree with his numbers."
"I will at the nearest opportunity."
"You can also tell him that I'm going to save these people." Vera began to walk towards one of the hostages, but found herself frozen in place. "Let me go," she snarled.
Noetron didn't release her from her mechanical cage. Instead, he began walking out of the restaurant.
Vera began to think. What would Professor Cognis do here? Probably find some flaw in Noetron's programming or trick the machine into releasing him. What about Gandhi?
"I'll go on a hunger strike."
"Are you implying that if I do not allow you to risk your life you will not eat for some prolonged period of time?"
"Very well." The Noetron kept walking.
"You think I won't follow through with it?"
"I think Phoenix is more than a match for a Gandhi pretender."
Vera thought of a better idea. "I'll break up with him."
She could almost feel Noetron calculating probabilities, trying to do some sort of cost-benefit analysis.
"If you can convince me that your plan has more than a seventy percent chance of you surviving, I will agree."
Vera thought for a few minutes. She explained her plan. After four seconds of calculation, Noetron rejected it, stating various objections to various stages. Vera thought of ways to improve the plan. Noetron rejected it again. On the fifth try, Noetron agreed.

The door to the kitchen was open. Vera invisibly entered. Flour was always risky when you're invisible. It ends up sticking to your invisible skin, making you not only invisible but ridiculous-looking. But Phoenix had put a lot of effort into making an invisible surface that no powder would adhere to. He had failed, but the resulting surface was repulsive to both flour and paint.
Vera carefully opened eight bags of flour. She added a small amount of water to each. When the water dried, the flour formed clumps about a centimeter in radius. Noetron made a note to mention that to Phoenix. It was an interesting scientific problem and Noetron couldn't detect any advanced work on the subject.
Vera moved the bags to the edge of the kitchen, hoping the people in the restaurant wouldn't notice bags of flour magically moving themselves. They didn't.
Meanwhile, Noetron was accessing cell phones. There were five cell phones with speakers powerful enough to be mistaken for a human voice. He took over all of them.
Vera used the armor's enhanced strength to fling the twenty-pound bags across the room. She blasted them with the armor's on-board laser, setting the bags ablaze.
"Fire," shouted a cell phone.
Within seconds, the entire restaurant was an inferno.
The henchmen ran out, while the hostages -all of whom were tied to chairs- were left to fend for themselves.
Vera flew in pursuit of the henchmen, while Noetron confirmed that the flour-fires had not been hot enough to ignite anything else, and that nobody was badly hurt.
It took less than a minute for Vera to beat up the henchmen. There were ten of them and one of her, but the one of her was invisible and wearing an Ultrasteel armor that enhanced her strength by a factor of twenty and featured lasers and a small machine gun.
She then returned to the building, and began snapping the bonds that held her fellow hostages in place. It took about twenty minutes to free them all.
She was preparing to leave when her body suddenly froze. "Noetron, what are you doing?"
At this point, she saw the Puzzlemaster walking up to her and realized that Noetron's code had been compromised.

Vera had been captured. Puzzlemaster controlled her armor. No, she realized. Not necessarily. He might have just shut some parts of it down. As long as she was encased in the Ultrasteel shell, he couldn't really hurt her. Her video screens went dark for a second. Then, slowly, her helmet removed itself. The rest of her body was still entrapped.
The Puzzlemaster cackled with glee. "You thought you could escape, with your carbon fiber can. My ability to trap has made me a happy man. The deadline for your lover is fifteen minutes time. You will get your freedom, and the weapon will be mine."
Vera thought about saying something defiant like 'you'll never get away with this,' but her heart wasn't in it.

At this point, the cavalry arrived. I was still carrying the nuclear weapon. "Hello, Puzzlemaster. I have something for you." I put the missile on the ground. "You might have trouble carrying it now that you henchmen got beaten up by a girl. So if you step away from Vera, I'll break the missile open and get you your uranium. I see you have a submarine in the river there. I hope you can carry fifteen kilograms that far."
I tore the missile apart, and lifted out the two balls of fissile material. I made sure to leave the neutron source inside the bomb.
He didn't make a move. "What. you want me to carry this for you. I already carried it here from North Korea. I think you can handle the rest."
Policemen were beginning to gather. This needed to end quickly before one of them screwed something up.
He had a gun to Vera's head. She seemed to be a little rattled. She wasn't even making witty backtalk to the maniac pointing a gun at her.
I walked the material to his submarine. "There. You happy?"
The Puzzlemaster smiled as he walked towards the river. He shot Vera in the jaw and jumped in.

I could either stop the Puzzlemaster or treat Vera. I chose the latter. I immediately scanned her body for damage. Jaw bone shattered, but that could be fixed. With her DNA, I could grow her new teeth in a vat. And seeing as her blood was spattered all over the place, getting that DNA didn't seem like it would be a problem. I tore my shirt into strips in order to make bandages. (There wasn't much to see underneath, by the way. I might be strong enough to throw apartment buildings into the stratosphere, but I don't have very nice abs). Could I manufacture a clotting agent on the spot? No. I looked at the policemen behind me.
"Hey. I'm going to need some sort of ambulance." It would be easy to fly an ambulance to Estveria.
In the three minutes before an ambulance arrived, I managed to keep the bleeding under control while preventing brain damage. Which is pretty impressive considering I had literally nothing but the clothes on my back.
I hooked Vera up to the saline drip and made sure everything in the ambulance was secure. I lifted it up and took off. I then returned to Estveria as quickly as possible. Noetron had readied a surgery table. Vera was going to live.

When she awoke, Vera felt pain. She was expecting her head to hurt, and it did. But her entire body was throbbing. "What happened to me?"
"You were shot in the head by a terrorist. I rescued you."
"Did he get away with the uranium?"
"He got away with fifteen kilograms of lead that I rolled into hemispheres on the flight over. The real uranium is in my lab."
"That's comforting."
"How do you feel?"
"That's to be expected. Your body should be adjusting to all the cables."
"What," she asked.
I pulled out a gun and shot her four times. The bullets bounced off her.
"Cool, right? I didn't want this to happen again, so I laced your body with five hundred kilometers of Ultrasteel mesh. You're bulletproof. I also added in some servos in some of your weaker joints."
"You turned me into a robot?" She did not seem pleased.
"No, not at all. I simply reinforced your existing body."
"So, without my permission, you performed an incredible invasive and incredibly painful surgery to turn me into a machine?"
"No. You're not a machine. You just have some mechanical components. It's like a pacemaker, only it makes you bulletproof."
"No, it's not like a pacemaker. Pacemakers are medically necessary."
"This was medically necessary! People are going to threaten you with guns. That's what happens when you're dating someone like me."
"Well," she said, "I guess I'm not dating someone like you anymore."
Needless to say, I took the breakup with a great deal of decorum. I only spent half an hour vandalizing her Wikipedia page and a further ten minutes giving all her contact information to Justin.

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