You know what's really weird? Gyroscopes. You know what else is weird? Quantum mechanics.
I was fiddling around with Larmor precession (essentially turning an electron into a tiny gyroscope), when Noetron interrupted me.
"Urgent call from outer space, sir."
There were only a few people I knew whose area code was Low Earth Orbit. I mentally picked it up.
"Can you help me?" It was Lucy.
"Yes. I'm the most capable person in the history of the planet. What do you need?"
"I don't know."
"Well, we'll see if I can figure it out. I'm guessing you are aboard the Fortarian ship."
"I- I am."
"Do you happen to know where the ship is?"
"Well, let me think. Oh there seems to be a pause before you speak, probably lightspeed delay. I'd say you're maybe a light-second away from Earth, possibly less. That would put you in the moon region. I guess you could be on the moon. What kind of gravity do you feel?"
"Normal." she said. "9.912 meters per second squared."
"So not the moon. Probably the Earth-gravity deck of a rotating spaceship, which means you're in orbit, probably hiding at the second Earth-moon Lagrange point." I thought for a second. "I should have come up with this earlier, but do you have access to a window?"
I was thinking through the logistics and possible motivations for a move so close to Earth when I remembered that one of the few people I cared about was on the line. I should stop trying to pinpoint the source of the telecommunication and start participating in it.
"So, I take it you aren't enjoying prolonged contact with the Fortarians."
"I haven't talked to them."
"You shouldn't worry about being infected by an alien disease. It's highly improbable, and the New Archivist would bail you out."
"I am locked in my room."
"When you say room, how large a room are we talking here."
"Two hundred square meters."
Okay, so nothing like my sprawling estate, but not a human rights violation. And considering she was on a spaceship, I could forgive the Fortarians if her room was a little cramped. "Wait, hold on. Am I the only person you've talked to?"
"There is also Centurion."
"Oh, good. Who's Centurion."
She filled me in.
"That's interesting. Probably nanotechnology. But he seems like he's only a marginally better role model than I am. Alien robotic warriors are a notoriously odd bunch." I had no basis for saying that. Just me making an assumption about another group of people.
"He is a good person."
Lucy seemed to be a good judge of character, but I'm a bit of a cynic. "I'm sure he is." Should I try to engineer an escape? I didn't ask, because if she said 'yes' it would be a bit of a giveaway.
So we talked of trivial things. I listened to her poetry. It was either good or bad or in between. I wouldn't know. I explained an interesting little theorem I'd worked out about information topology in bound spaces. It was remarkable how well she seemed to understand. She complained about the quality of food in space. I told her it wasn't any better when I was robbing the International Space Station that one time.
Just casual stuff, you know.
Professor Cognis had manipulated supervillains into giving up crime. He had brokered a peace treaty between India and Pakistan. He had correctly predicted the outcome of every election held in the United States in the past twelve years. He had a machine in his brain that allowed him to read minds.
Professor Cognis did not understand people. He could predict what they would do, and how they thought. But he never understood why they did what they did. And why they didn't do what they should do. They left other human beings to die on another continent, and it didn't both them. Professor Cognis did not understand that.
Just as he didn't understand why he was currently descending into a subterranean facility of his own design. He had created it to house the remnants of the Lost Army. With the resources of the United Heroes, and the vast infrastructure built around his inventions, he had tracked down more than ninety percent of the machines. He had planned to melt them down for scrap. Yet he had decided, against his character... to repair them.
He was doing what so many genius' had done before. He was creating a robot army.
Naturally, he had checked his brain for signs of tampering. Perhaps the work of Phoenix or Dr. Demented himself. No, whatever this was, it couldn't be blamed on any external factor.
Professor Cognis had decided to take the defense of planet Earth into his own hands.
He just hoped those hands would never see the light of day.