Saturday, June 28, 2014

Teleporter Trouble

The powers bestowed by Demented's Disease have unusual properties. They defy all attempts at scientific understanding. Whatever technology they use is truly advanced. It you have the powers, you almost instinctively know how to use them. And you cannot use them in a way that would injure yourself. You can injure plenty of other people, though.
There were eight people on Earth empowered by the Disease. One of them, Bios, had been empowered years ago during the Timeless War. The rest were new. Inexperienced.
Of those seven, I identified three that I could capture and study without anybody getting too upset.
There was Flashpoint. His power had transformed him into a furry red creature with the ability to teleport short distances. He could carry small objects with him, which meant he had a great career in theft. Whenever he appeared somewhere, there was a sonic boom of displaced air, and he left an imploding vacuum in his wake.
There was Concept. A powerful mindreader. He seemed to be running around the country, making a killing in casino's and staying one step ahead of the law.
There was Raymond Harkness. He seemed to emit high levels of beta radiation. His wife had died of radiation poisoning, and his two children were in intensive care. He was holed up in a cabin somewhere, surrounded by police and military, while the world figured out what to do with him. I think everyone would be grateful if I made that problem disappear.

Flashpoint could teleport about twenty feet at a time. He could manage a jump every tenth of a second or so. That was equivalent to about a hundred and thirty miles per hour. That meant that I could actually travel large distances faster than him. Those flaming wings of mine were pretty freaking awesome.
It was pretty easy to track Flashpoint's trail of destruction as he fled Miami. A run-in with the Titanium Warrior went badly. It was easy to intercept him as he traveled along Route 41.
Well, it was easy to catch up to him. There's not much you can do to stop a teleporter on a cross-country trek. I could try to get his attention. But he was immersed in a world of constant sonic booms and rapidly shifting images. I don't think he'd notice a stranger yelling from the sky. I tried landing in front of him, but that required coming to a full stop. When he passed me, it took forever to get up to speed, catch up, and match velocities again. 
I wondered if the newly empowered villain was intentionally ignoring me. All I wanted was for him to stop for a few minutes. So that I could beat him up, kidnap him and imprison him in my laboratory for months or years. Why was he being so unreasonable?
In the end, I got his attention by blocking his way with a wall constructed from fifteen-foot billboards. Of course, he could teleport through the wall any time he wanted. But it got his attention. "Were you the guy screaming at me to slow down?"
"I thought I heard something." But you couldn't be bothered to actually talk with me until I'd flown up and down the interstate stealing advertisements for shaving cream. What an asshole.
"There's something I want you to steal."
The new villain eyed me suspiciously. He was wearing a trenchcoat and long pants. Hadn't even gotten a cool costume yet. "What is it?"
"Near Cape Canaveral. An experimental rocket drive. It is the first to use a deuterium reactor to heat inflowing air, and could be used to achieve incredible accelerations in the-"
"Don't care." Interrupting me in the middle of a science lecture. Heaven forbid he learn something while spreading mayhem throughout the American southeast.
"Okay." I pulled some paper out of my pocket. "Here's a picture. Here's a map. Here's a ten million dollar bearer bond issues by Exron. You get another fifteen when I see the rocket."
"How'd you get this? I thought you and Sabien Pallis were on the outs."
Maybe I stole it from someone else, moron. "I have my resources."
"How can I be sure you won't stab me in the back when this is over?"
"How can I be sure you won't betray me? You're power makes you a huge flight risk." There. I gave him the idea, hopefully, he'd act on it. Once he betrays me, I can stab him in the back without tarnishing my middling-poor reputation for honor among thieves. Not that anyone would believe my version of events regardless.
Right on cue, the criminal smiled. "Sure. Well, I have druterium drive to steal."
"It's pronounced deuterium."

Eighty-two minutes later, Flashpoint teleported out of the space research center. He was carrying something. "Here it is. Your drutron drive." Deuterium! How hard is it to remember the word deuterium?
"Thank you very much."
"Where's my money."
"In my submarine. Would you like to wait here while I get it."
"I'm not stupid." You're not smart enough to remember the word deuterium. "You think I'm going to let you get in you submarine and take off with my money. I'm coming with you."
"Very well." It was a short walk to the pier. I noticed three large Navy ships. Doing an excellent job there, Uncle Sam.
It was dark, nobody seemed to be keeping watch, and there was nothing the American's could do anyways. I brought the submarine up, and went in through the side door. Flashpoint teleported inside. Knocked over some furniture too. Even for a supervillain, this guy had terrible manners.
I walked to my safe. Flashpoint would have walked, if he hadn't been too busy teleporting a trail of destruction. After he knocked over his ninth lamp, I ran out insulting terms in English and started calling him a moron in Russian. Russian has a very extensive vocabulary for describing people you don't like.
I opened my safe. Put in the rocket. "You know," Flashpoint said. "I could rob you blind right now."
He had a point. I'd shown him my safe, filled with high-tech treasure that would be worth billions to the right buyer (the right buyer in this case being Sabien Pallis). He could grab in, and teleport out of the sub, over the water, and onto land before I could stop him. Best to play it cool.
"I don't think that would be a good idea."
"Why not?"
"I'm a powerful person. You don't want me as an enemy."
"I'm a teleporter. No bullet can hit me." Note to self: design a laser canon capable of neutralizing a target in less than a tenth of a second.
"I could pay you not to. Those items are worth more to me than anyone else."
"Maybe, but I've heard you're out of cash."
"Not entirely."
"How much do you got?"
"How much do you want?"
I could almost feel Flashpoint's though process. A million dollars! No a hundred million! A billion! "Ten billion dollars."
"Ten billion."
"You heard me."
"That is an obscenely large amount of money. What would you even do with that amount of money?"
"Vegas. Paris. Be a bigshot."
"With that kind of money, you would rent ten apartments in the fanciest hotel in the world, and drink nothing but the finest wine, and still not run out of money for two hundred years."
"So, seeing as most people only need one apartment and you aren't an alcoholic, should be more than content with a billion dollars, which is still more than I'd pay you."
"I bet Mephistopheles would give me that much."
Flashpoint began going through my possessions. "What's this?"
"I don't see why I'd tell you."
Flashpoint was trying to think of a reason, when I interrupted. "How about this. I tell you what everything is, and what it does, and I get to choose one item to keep"
Flashpoint turned the deal over in his head. "Fine."
"The object you are holding in your hand is a bar of Ultrasteel."
"Is it valuable?"
"Yes." That's why it's in my safe.
"What's this?"
"Experimental quantum computer I stole from Project X."
"Is it valuable?"
"Of course."
This went on for about five more minutes. The whole time, Flashpoint was eyeing the porthole. Making sure we were reasonably close to land, so he could make his way to shore without too many jumps.
Meanwhile, I was kicking myself for not installing better booby traps for my safe. All of them were designed to trap an intruder. None of them were much help against a teleporter.
"You know what. I'm just going to take everything." Flashpoint began putting everything in his pockets. I didn't do anything to stop him.
"Good bye, sucker. I'm about to disappear." Flashpoint didn't disappear.
He tried again. Nothing.
"What did you do to my powers?"
"I'm going to give my evil villain monologue now, where I explain how I captured you. But you have to promise to listen, and at least try to learn something." I'd once caught Vector dozing off as I explained one of my plans.
"Fine. What did you do."
"You can teleport into air, displacing the existing molecules. This generates pressures of dozens of atmospheres. You can survive this because the pressure is distributed fairly evenly throughout your body surface, and also probably because of some secondary mutations."
"That being said, you couldn't possible teleport into water. Water is much more dense than air, and not nearly as compressible. If you tried to teleport into it, I'm not sure what would happen. Probably something very painful for you and very interesting for me. There are reports of minor nuclear fusion events at those pressures."
"But I very much doubted I would get to see that. People with powers like yours can't harm themselves. If you can't teleport into water, and the surface is out of your range, you're stuck on my sub."
I anticipated his next question. "Oh, yes. You were looking through the porthole. You can see the land. What could possibly be going on?" With a thought, I changed the landscape. The insanely high quality screen I'd attached to the window now showed a tropical beach. "Pretty clever of me, hmm?"
"I'm going to go now. Fly to Estveria on my own. Feel free to make yourself at home here. There's nothing valuable in the safe, and you've already ruined all the furniture. Good bye."
I made my way to the airlock and left.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Money Matters

I like to plot our loud. Not only does it set a certain dramatic tone, it also makes your stupid ideas sound stupider and you smart ideas sound smarter. The whole process is more efficient. "Now, as I see it, there are two ways I can go about gathering more data about Demented's Disease." I was doing this plotting in my laundry room. It was below ground, and relatively secure. That's important, because whenever you plot aloud you run the risk of being heard. "I can capture powered individuals, and study their abilities. Good idea. Or, I could try to open some sort of hospital to gather all the sick in one place, and monitor them. Also a good idea. Two for two."
"The hospital thing seems more Noetron's department. Noetron, what do you think we'll need?"
"We'll need people to believe we are a legitimate hospital."
"Easy enough. We ask a real hospital for help."
"Why would-"
"Rene Claude. The French kid whose mother we saved. We gave our research to some hospital, and they implemented it. They'll implement my research again."
"This will take a great deal of capital."
"How much money do we have?" The number flashed across my mind before Noetron could respond.
"About twelve million dollars in easily liquidated assets."
"If I can get, say, another fifty million, you can handle all the boring details?"
"That's what I was made to do."

How do you get fifty million dollars? If you are a supervillain, the options are endless. I could try to rob a bank, or the Federal Reserve. But heroes take a tough stand on that sort of thing. I could sell one of my inventions. But Sabien Pallis was the main buyer of that sort of thing, and we weren't on the best of terms. Gambling? No, I left that life behind long ago. The stock market...
"Noetron, do you think we could get our fifty million on the stock market?"
"The New York-"
"Too regulated. I know. One of the markets in the East."
"You've tried before. You could barely beat the market." Whoever said investment was a game of skill was lying. It was a game of luck. That's why I didn't immediately win.
"That was five years ago. Things have changed since then."
"How have they changed?"
Evil villain monologue time. "Firstly, I'd like to think I've gotten smarter since then. Secondly, I know you've gotten smarter since then. Thirdly, I have five more years worth of data. Fourthly, I have Justin working for me."
"That is reasonable."
"Of course it is. Now do me a favor and call Justin in."
"He says he's busy."
"I say he's not."
Five minutes later, Justin showed up. "I was busy."
"No you weren't. And zip up your pants."
"What are we doing?"
"Making fifty million dollars."
"No. Nobody's going to take fifty million in cash. Stock market."
"Oh yeah. I read through those programs you wrote."
"What did you think?"
"They were pretty stupid."
"Gee, thanks. They were able to outperform seventy percent of mutual funds. But you're right, they were primitive. Just a Markov analysis. Look for similar situations that happened in the past, and assume history will repeat itself."
"You have a better idea."
"Yes. About seventy percent of all the trading in the world is done by computers. In some markets, like Hong Kong, the fraction is even higher. Computer trading works by algorithm, so it is predictable. If we can determine those algorithms, we can predict seventy percent of trades before they happen, and predict how the market will move."
"I know. You'll start by hacking around, seeing if you can get the actual code behind the algorithmic traders. If you can't, Noetron has a list of over a trillion trades. See if you can figure out what circumstances cause what trades."
"Sounds interesting. Fun data problem. What are you doing."
"Working on the other thirty percent. We'll need some sort of statistical model. I'm hoping a simple Bose-Einstein type thing will work."

We both did some fairly brilliant work. I created a new subfield of economic modelling. Justin wrote some truly amazing algorithms, and came up with some very impressive hacks.
"I don't see why you had me stop snooping around that mutual fund."
"Because you would have robbed them blind, and you would have gotten caught."
"You don't trust my judgment."
"I'm a supervillain. You've never done anything worse than computer hacking and sexual harassment, and yet you've still spent more time in jail than me. So no, I don't trust your judgment."
Justin didn't seem surprised. "And why did we stop trading after we reached seventy-five million?"
"If you quintuple your money in a day, someone might notice. If you quintuple your money every day for a week, everyone will notice. I think a million dollars of revenue a day ought to be enough without attracting the wrong sort of attention."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Collecting Data

Bangui was a depressing place. It was depressing under the French. It was depressing under the Central African Empire. It was depressing under the Central African Republic. And it was depressing under the Mesozoic warlord who had seized it and made it his home.  Vera didn't let it get to her as armed militiamen escorted her into the city.
"I'd like to see Titan," she said, in perfect French.
"I'd like to be a billionaire with wings, " the lead thug replied.
"You don't have a file full of classified information on a dinosaur dictator."
"And just what classified information do you have?"
"Too classified for the likes of you. Now tell Titan in would be in his best interests to talk to me in the next half hour."
Twenty-four minutes later, Vera was brought before a building-sized dictator. Actually, the world's only building-sized dictator. He was more than a dozen stories tall, and was devouring a herd of cattle when Vera arrived. "What do you want?" He spoke in English. He was angry. Even by mutant dinosaur standards.
"First, let's talk about what I have. You might want to dismiss these guys first, unless you want them overhearing."
Titan didn't need bodyguards. He roared, and his foot soldiers ran for it.
"When you first took over this little corner of the world, you stole billions of dollars from the local government. Billions of dollars that the government stole from the people. That money is hidden away in an untraceable offshore bank account. Or, at least, you thought it was untraceable."
"So what are you threatening to do? Tell the police?"
"Yes. And the United Heroes. Your assets will be frozen. You won't be able to keep buying weapons for you armies. You also won't be able to keep buying a herd of cattle a day. You'll starve to death, or else be murdered by your own men."
The Tyrant Lizard bared his teeth.
"Killing me won't stop the message."
"I could just transfer the funds."
"A multibillion dollar transfer from an account recently revealed to belong to a supervillain? Good luck hiding that. Before you try to threaten me with something else, let me tell you what I am asking for. Information about Mephistopheles. That's all."
The monster mulled her ultimatum over. He bared his teeth. Vera began to wonder whether it was a good idea to try to blackmail a monster that could threaten Vector."You thought you could scare me. You don't realize that no human could ever scare me. A common mistake."
Keep cool, Vera thought to herself. Remember what Phoenix did to you. No trumped up dinosaur can hurt you. Vera was seriously beginning to question whether Phoenix's meddling could stand up to a giant Tyrannosaurus bite.
The monster's voice boomed. "Here is what's going to happen. I'll tell you one word. One. It might pan out. It might be a dead end. You will leave. You will delete your email to the world's authorities. You will never let on that you attempted to blackmail me, or even that you visited me. The word is 'Eleuthera.' Now get lost."
On the flight back to civilization, Vera tuned out the news about celebrity divorces and the newest villains empowered by Demented's Disease. She was reading up on a midsized island in the Caribbean.

How do you kill Dr. Demented? Well, such a feat is far beyond any Earthly technology. So you use an unearthly technology. You could try to pillage the Archives. Definitely a possibility. Ask the Fortarians for help. Unlikely to work, they still hadn't officially made contact, and they didn't seem to have the technological chops anyway. You could try to reverse engineer Vector's telekinesis. Cognis would be working on that. I doubt he'd let me help, and I also doubt that it would work. Or, you might try studying the Disease.
I know. Dr. Demented created the Disease, and is presumably responsible for it's spread, which means it's already part of his plan. But, at the same time, studying the Disease might give insight into the nature of the Doctor's powers.
There were six hundred people currently infected with the Disease. There were five who had survived the Disease and gained superpowers.
I called up a map of diagnosed Disease cases. Looked almost identical to a population map. A slight bias towards more developed countries, but that could just be because more developed countries were better at diagnosing the Disease. There were seventy cases in Europe. Time to start collecting samples...
I plotted a path. The minimum amount of flight in order to get ten samples. It would be four hospitals. One in Poland. One in Germany. One in Serbia. One in Russia.
I took off.

Breaking into a hospital is not very hard. Everyone there is concerned with saving sick people. Repelling attacks from high-powered supervillains in rarely a major priority. There were several ways to enter. I opted to take the front door. Might as well have fun with this. "Hello," I said, walking up to the front desk. "I'd like to rob the place."
They didn't have a form for that.
"I don't suppose you could tell me where the Demented's Disease patients are?"
They have a rule against giving that sort of information away to supervillains.
"You know what? This has been entirely unhelpful." I accessed the hospital database with my mind and got the information I was looking for. "And sorry if I was cutting in line. That's the sort of thing that happens when you deal with evildoers."
I was already in control of the elevator system. I went directly to the appropriate floor. There were two patients in adjoining beds. They were both clearly ill. The only other person in the room was a doctor. "You can't be here."
"I'm doing something important," I explained, pulling syringe out of my coat. "These patients are weak. If you take their blood, they might die."
"They will probably die anyway," I said, extracting blood from the weaker of the two patients. "The probability that this is the reason they die... tiny."
"And you're willing to risk their death for you science experiments?"
"Yes," I said. "But, for the sake of diversity, I guess I could take a saliva sample from this patient. Happy now?" The doctor didn't appear happy.
"If you really cared, you'd stay here and help care for the sick."
"I guess that indicates something about how much I care."
"I've heard about you. You are a genius. You could cure all of these people. Stop all sickness. Save millions, billions of lives."
"That's Professor Cognis' job. But rest assured, I am saving lives right now." Assuming I do manage to use these samples to create technology capable of stopping Dr. Demented. Which is not likely.
I should probably do some analysis now, in case the virus breaks down. I scanned the contents of the beakers. Then I scanned the two patients bodies.
"Interesting. The virus seems to exists as a quantum superposition of atomic structures across the multiverse."
"What does that mean?"
"I'll get back to you on that."
This was interesting indeed. "Well," I said, breaking a window, "it was nice talking to you. Best of luck ending disease. But I have eight more samples to collect."

My test tubes were a little more advanced than the average variety. They were extremely durable, could control their internal temperature and pressure, and carried a fair amount of diagnostic equipment. Compare them to standard test tubes, which break whenever you try to pull the cap off, spilling your super-serum all over the floor and leaving you defenseless against the Titanium Warrior (I'd had a bad experience early in my career.)
I froze five of the samples as soon as I got them. I randomly selected two (one frozen and one nonfrozen) for immediate preliminary analysis by the test tubes (the tubes were a lot smarter than most people. I trusted them not to mess stuff up too much.)
When I got home, to the vast underground laboratories of Estveria, I gained a lot of information. I measured the radii of the infected cells. Watched the disease do its work under a microscope. Calculated the rate at which it functioned. Looked at its effect on DNA, RNA, lipid concentration, ATP concentration, and every other concentration I could think of. I observed how the virus responded to variations of temperature, magnetic field, electric current, sound, and sudden acceleration. And let me be clear. All of that brought me no closer to creating a powerful technology capable of destroying mad scientists from alternate reality.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The United Heroes

Earth's greatest heroes were playing poker. Vector, Professor Cognis, the Dark Detective, the Titanium Warrior, the Shining Defender, Resonance, Bios, and Superhuman.
Vector was the reason they were there. He had insisted that the heroes take a break from their heroic schedules, and this was the best way to make sure they followed through. He stared at his dwindling pile of chips. "I'll fold." That's what you get for playing poker against the world's greatest detective and the man who invented telepathy.
Vector looked at Professor Cognis. At Martin. The man was only forty, and his hair was already turning gray. He worked too hard. Sure, you can't fault a man for working eighteen hours a day when every hour of work saved a hundred lives, but Professor Cognis worked too hard. He would probably work himself to death by aged sixty (if he wasn’t killed by a supervillain, that is), and then what? The United Heroes would be without a leader. The whole world would be deprived of its most valuable resource for dealing with disasters both man-made and natural.
Meanwhile, Vector would live forever. Gifted by alien technology with unlimited power he didn’t deserve. Didn’t know how to use. Telekinesis was more than the ability to move things around. It could be used as a sixth sense, by mapping out the density of surrounding matter. It could be used to restart a heart or purify water. To create a shield of compressed air to protect others with little warning. To stop tsunamis and hurricanes. Vector was still learning how to do these things. Cognis had thought of them all in under a minute.
He would have trained harder. Refined those skills more quickly. Thought of better solutions to the problems Vector faced. In an ideal world, this terrible power, this terrible responsibility, would lie on Professor Cognis’ shoulders.

The Dark Detective wasn't happy with being forced to take the night off. But as nights off went, playing poker in the United Heroes North American Headquarters was perfectly fine. To nobody's surprise, he was raking it in. Well, raking it in was a relative term. He made this much money every minute as the owner of a large corporation. He was wondering about the Puzzlemaster. He'd given up on Dr. Demented. Leave that to the big brains, Cognis and Phoenix and Genesis would figure that one out. But the Dark Detective could take down the Puzzlemaster.
He may not have nuclear weapons, but the villain was still dangerous. He was probably the Dark Detective's greatest and most frequent foe. His nemesis.
The Dark Detective had a tracking device on the Puzzlemaster's submarine. It wasn't much help. It could only broadcast a weak signal, or Puzzlemaster would notice it. A weak signal could only be detected when the Puzzlemaster was a few miles from a populated area. By that point, it was usually too late.
Furthermore, the Dark Detective couldn't sound the alarm. That would alert the Puzzlemaster to the existence of the tracker. And if planting a tracking device on the bottom of a terrorist mastermind's moving submarine had been difficult the first time (which it had) it would be nearly impossible the second time.
So the Detective waited for the ideal moment to strike and take the Puzzlemaster down for good. And he hastened that moment by training and equipping heroes across the world. That was why he funded the United Heroes. So there would always be a response to any threat in the world.
The Detective forced himself to focus. The Puzzlemaster had lost most of his men. That meant he was vulnerable. He would try to recruit more. That meant he'd be visiting orphanages, slums. The Puzzlemaster would only be visiting countries with slums. That narrowed it down. He wouldn't be able to keep as low a profile, though. You can't recruit if people don't know you're there.
The Puzzlemaster would leave traces. People would disappear. There might be rumors. If he pulled off a minor heist, that would also be useful to know. The Dark Detective began assembling a list of sources that could help him track down his nemesis, and finally lay their rivalry to rest.

Professor Cognis thought this poker game was a waste of time. Early in his career, he'd done a calculation and estimated that one hour of free time a day was the optimal amount to maximize his life productivity. He'd quickly discovered that it is difficult to limit one's self to one hour of free time a day. Zero is much easier.
So the Professor had decided not to treat this as free time. He wasn't playing poker. He was hard at work. He was thinking of a quick and efficient way to transport people and materials to the UH orbiting headquarters. A space elevator? An Ultrasteel cable would probably be strong enough. But it would be difficult to make a cable long enough and thick enough for a space elevator. Ultrasteel needed to be built atom by atom, and even Phoenix never had more than a few tons at a time. Cognis thought. He thought some more. He pretended to play a few hands of poker.
Yes, it was all coming together. He would use the proceeds from that new water purification scheme. He would manufacture the Ultrasteel on Earth. Probably in Nigeria. An American employer creating a large number of jobs, even for a short time, would do wonders for those diplomatic problems. Vector could easily assemble the elevator, maybe use a landfill as a counterweight. It might stretch his powers, but Vectors abilities seemed to be slowly growing. Cognis had his own theories on that.
Presumably, the alien nanomachines that empowered Vector were multiplying. Cognis still didn't know how they worked, but he was doing research on Vector's blood samples. There was a chance, just a chance, that the right combination of chemicals, combined with vacuum energy radiation, gamma radiation, and who knows what else, could induce even more growth in Vector's telekinetic powers. Enough to save the world from Dr. Demented.
Cognis had already committed two hours a day to studying it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Devil's Den

Vera wasn't happy. She'd just ended her first serious relationship since college (serious meaning she wasn't just doing it to gain information or for fun).  Her body was still aching from Phoenix's tampering. And her favorite comedian was cancelling his show. Things were not going well.
When Vera wasn't happy, she tended to throw herself into her work. She needed a big project. The Cartels? Her newfound ability to withstand gunshots would certainly be an advantage. But drug dealers were boring, and the government was always getting in the way. Exron? They were always up to no good. But Vera didn't want the constant reminders of Phoenix.
That gave Vera an idea. She should go after Mephistopheles. The mysterious new villain who was organizing the underworld. it would be interesting and she could potentially stop one of the greatest threats to world security. But what was the best way to go about it? She should start by researching him. Then, maybe, she could try tracking down some other supervillain to find information. Titan was always easy to find. And Ison could be readily manipulated into telling her everything he knew. Eager to being the hunt, Vera googled her target and began reading.

"So, the best way to compare molecular structures is by breaking it down into large functional groups. Your whole Fourier method involves way too many computations."
"But you need to start with the diffraction pattern anyway. No need to even look at the bond structure unless it's a match."
Justin and I stared at each other. "Want to bet," he asked.
"What do you propose."
"Loser has to do the next round of debugging for the tentacle robot."
"High stakes."
"Too rich for your blood?"
For the next half hour, the air was filled with the sounds of new code being born. Justin typed, I gave instructions to Noetron. Justin wove together old scraps of code, I composed new ones in my head.
"Done," I proclaimed, watching data flow across my field of vision.
"I'd be done too if somebody had documented the code in his microscope."
"Take your time. I'm gracious in victory."
Five minutes later, he was done too. "Shall we run the code?"
"I have over a million samples in my collection. First to five hundred thousand wins."
Watching code run is only slightly more interesting than watching grass grow, and not nearly as fun as watching paint dry. Consequently, Justin and I needed something to talk about.
Justin broke the silence. "You fought Dr. Demented right."
"I was part of the Timeless War. I watched other people fight Dr. Demented."
"Oh, that's right. You wrecked your armor. I feel like there's more to the story."
"There is."
"Want to tell it?"
"Why not."

"Vafnir was my counterpart on Earth Beta. As such, he was a scientific genius with an army of robots to command.  He was also Dr. Demented's right-hand man, which meant he pretty much ruled the world on a day to day basis.
He ruled the planet from his private laboratory/castle/mansion/fortress, which he had dubbed Cosmic City. He was the city's sole human inhabitant. He'd always preferred the company of machines.
Vafnir knew I was coming. I hadn't yet incorporated stealth technology into my armor, so I was fairly easy to track. Vafnir wasn't worried. He ruled a planet and had never lost a fight in his life. This sucker had come in from an alternate dimension where he was Minister of technology of the People's Republic of Estveria and spent his time scrounging for funds and losing fights with an American psychologist. He may have had the potential to be another Vafnir, but that potential had clearly never been realized. So the newcomer had a suit of armor. Vafnir had armor too.
Vafnir walked out of his castle wearing a twelve-ton battle suit capable of tearing a tank in half, destroying a building from a kilometer away, or flying at supersonic speeds. He was pretty confident he could beat up the scrappy bit of Ultrasteel standing in front of him.
"So, you're Wyvern," he said. I hadn't started going by Phoenix yet. "The alternate version of me. With my genome you must be a genius but I'm just not seeing it." He opened fire.
The suit of armor dodged. It was agile and could keep track of every laser, machine gun, and rocket launcher Vafnir was carrying.
"Impressive. Slightly." A gun turret mounted on Vafnir's shoulder pierced my armor. "You know, you haven't even attempted to hurt me yet. Give me your best shot."
My best shot bounced off of him. "Ultrasteel chassis. Thirty-five centimeters. Cost me a few billion dollars, but now I don't need to worry about anything smaller than a nuclear attack."
He was clearly better armed. Nothing to do but run. My armor blasted off. He pursued. "Now I have to shoot you down. Better start firing, I guess." It took him about a minute.
He watched the armored form limp away. "Goodbye," he sneered, as he tore it in half.
You can imagine his surprise when he found the armor was empty. He had just begun to realize the implications when I disabled his armor.
"You know," I said, "you were trained from a young age in scientific and tactical thinking. But you never had to contend with Professor Cognis. You never had to deal with someone as intelligent as you. Which made it fairly easy for me to break into your castle convince your computers that I was the real Vafnir. And, by the way, I do plan on stealing all of your stuff." I blew up his armor and he died. The end.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Making New Friends

The New Archivist was contemplating the various forms of Fortarian dance when a call came through from Phoenix. She sighed and picked up. "Hello."
"Hello to you too. Can you put Lucy on." The New Archivist looked out her window. She couldn't actually see the Earth, but she could almost feel the globe of life, hidden beyond the moon. And somewhere on it, a brilliant scientist was trying to cut into her time.
"No, it's not her turn to occupy my body for two more days."
"Based on my last conversation with her, you cut her short about seventy percent of the time. Consider this me evening the scoreboard. Now, could you please put Lucy on." Spitting out statistics and saying the magic word. It was a two-pronged logical attack.
"You know that every switch runs the risk of damaging our brain."
"I sincerely doubt that's the case. Lucy's original purpose was to serve as a probe and study humanity, which means it is possible for her to upload her consciousness into your ship. That means that you probably have a backup of your brain from, at the earliest, the last time you were there, a few months ago. The software is easily recoverable, and I'm sure Acme could make another set of hardware, so I believe your brain is in very little danger. Now put Lucy on."
The New Archivist decided her caller had a point. She removed her diadem.

Lucy looked around. She didn't know where she was. This happened a lot. She saw a picture of Phoenix in front of her.
"That's me."
"Vera and I broke up. I am not sure how to cope with this sort of thing, and was wondering if you would have some guidance."
Lucy took a second to think about it. "You won't listen to what I say."
She was probably right. "Maybe, but I'd prefer to hear it anyways."
"Tell Vera you're sorry. I think she'll forgive you. Even if she doesn't, you will forgive yourself."
"That doesn't seem so hard." Apologies aren't the easiest thing for me, but I've build laser canons on other planets. Saying 'sorry' is certainly within my abilities.
"You don't understand. Don't tell her with words, tell her with..."
"No. With... Being? I can't explain."
"Well, you're right. I don't think I can understand your instructions."
"You can follow them without understanding."
Well, I wasn't really expecting her relationship advice to help. Fortunately, I had other orders of business. "Lucy, you are extremely capable when it comes to interpreting communication. It occurs to me that you might be extremely able at debugging code."
Lucy took a second to consider this.
"Your skills might also have applications in cryptography, as well as the obvious espionage applications of picking up on subconscious body language. Perhaps you could sequence and interpret genomes. I don't think stock markets would work."
"I am not a weapon."
"True. But you are a tool. Use yourself."
I terminated the connection. Hopefully, the communications genius on the other end understood what I was hinting at. Hopefully, the people monitoring didn't.

Lucy didn't understand was Phoenix was saying. That didn't happen a lot. Usually, people said lots of things, without even trying to. Phoenix was being hard to understand. That meant... that he was hiding something. That was a clue.
Were there any more clues? Lucy couldn't see them. Was this a puzzle? Lucy liked puzzles. But most of them were easier than this. This would require concentration.

Lucy was still pondering my message when she saw a flash of light move across the sky. What was that? A comet? No... It was moving the wrong way. It had lifted off from the moon and the just... disappeared.
Lucy thought about this. A person? Moving very fast?
The light went back. To the moon. More flashes, across the rock. She could see where he was going. She could see the pattern. It would last a few more minutes. Lucy was curious. She had an idea.
She picked up her space phone. It was only built to talk to Earth, but Lucy convinced it to talk to the moon. She sent a message to the moving light. "Who are you?"
She got a response. "My name is Alexander Star. Why can I hear you when I'm on the moon?"

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Master of Seduction

"Dude, you broke up with Vera! Sorry man. But hey, at least now you and I can go clubbing together, am I right?" Those were the first words out of Justin's mouth when I told him about Vera.
"I'm not going to go 'clubbing'. Normal women are a waste of my time."
"First of all, I know for a fact that there are some very hot women in Estveria. Two-hundred-and-eighty-eight, according to my most recent data."
I took a second to look through his smartphone's algorithms. Couldn't find a flaw in the math.
"But that's not the important bit. You aren't going out so that you can sleep with one of the 288, you're doing it so that you can forget about Vera. If you just sit here moping, you'll never recover."
"I can recover without sleeping with random women, thank you very much."
"No, you can't. The last time you lost a girlfriend, you coped by beginning a lifelong career as a supervillain. You do not have the emotional development to recover on your own."
I considered pointing out that someone with a list of 288 hot women in Estveria shouldn't lecture anyone about emotional development, but I realized he was right.
"Fine. I'll go with you on your wild goose chase of lust. But there's one thing I want to do first."
Justin and I spent the next half hour filling Vera's inbox with every spam message on the internet. It did make me feel a little better.

After a little bit of discussion, Justin and I decided not to hit an Estverian bar. It would be awkward for me to sleep with my own subjects, and, more importantly, the Estverian night life sucked.I was not very popular in Russia after stealing one of their nuclear weapons, so that country was out. In the end, we decided to go with Ukraine.
"North Ukraine, definitely. That's where all the hot chicks are."
"I'll take your word for it," I said, as I set my private jet to take us there."
During the flight, he gave me some tips. "Don't go for eights or higher. They're out of your league."
"I'm a genius who rules a county and can fly. How can an eight be out of my league?"
"Because you look like a total nerd."
"I don't wear glasses."
"You're still a complete nerd. Which brings me to my next piece of advice. Don't be a complete nerd. Don't go up to some girl and start talking about aerodynamics. Don't open with a line about computers. Be normal."
"No. If someone doesn't appreciate my joke about the neutrino, I don't want to sleep with them."
Justin chuckled when I mentioned the neutrino joke. "It is hilarious. But seriously, if you want to get a date tonight, you might want to lower the bar on the particle physics requirement."
"I'm not going to relax my standards just to get revenge on Vera by sleeping around. We can go to a university town, I can find someone."
"Okay. Well, then, you're going to need some specific information I'e learned in university towns in the past. First of all, don't pretend to be a professor until you know what university it is..." And so my lessons went.

"What do you mean, 'Neutrino's aren't funny'! They're hilarious. They can enter mass eigenstates which involve flavor oscillations. Comedy gold!"
The woman is was hitting on walked away. Good riddance. I identified another woman. Another target, as Justin would say. "Hello," I said. "I'm Phoenix."
"The villain?"
"The scientist."
She threw her drink in my face.
Another woman seemed to be attracted by this. "Hey. I think it's sexy that you're a villain."
"You're turned on by the fact that I've killed people before?"
"You bet."
I made a point of avoiding her the rest of the night.
One by one, I eliminated most of the women in the bar. Most of them lacked the intelligence to be worthy o my respect. The rest suffered from the fact that they either hated my or were disgustingly infatuated with me.
I am not especially good looking. I'm of medium height and have unkempt dark hair. Nobody would ever say I look physically intimidating, although I have been described as 'mentally intimidating.'
I ended up going home that night, alone. Justin stayed in a hotel with three women, which I tried to avoid thinking about.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Meanwhile, In Space

Alexander Star lived in a sequestered laboratory in a galaxy that had been dead for a trillion years. Of course, the laboratory had a door that lead to the asteroid belt in the present day, but Alex had never taken it. In his previous life, he'd been a genocidal maniac, but not a very emotionally developed one. ow, he had the hindbrain of a teenager and he life experience of a newborn. The point is, he wasn't very well equipped to handle Dr. Demented's mood swings. At this particular moment, the Doctor was depressed.
"You cannot understand what is like," he said, to nobody in particular. "To be genius, greatest mind in cosmos, creator of Time Key. And to be madman, incapable of remembering own name. Is terrible. Is hell.Who knows what happens if I try to remember something? Maybe remember perfectly. Maybe add on and make brilliant, make scientific discover. Or maybe twist it, and crush the thought, until it barely resemble any rational idea."
Alex didn't know what to day. He considered some sort of kind response when the Maddest of Scientists launched into another rant.
"Nimue! Oh, Nimue, why you leave? Am nothing without you. Cannot remember anything. Cannot remember my own name. Why you leave me? Leave Dr. Demented to rot. Was accident, Nimue. I did not realize the Time Key formed unstable resonant coupling with your hydrokinetic energy field. Minor error in calculation. Was third order interaction. My love was killed by third order interaction." Dr. Demented sighed.
"And now look what I do. Use Time Key to create divergent unstable timeline. Just to bring you back, Nimue. Find my Timeline unstable, so what I do? Launch invasion. Try to impose impostor timeline on real one. Foiled by my own failing mind, so what I do? Try again. Am trying new scheme, crazy scheme. Risk stability of spacetime in all of galaxy. Just for you, Nimue. Just for you."
Alex wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. To be honest, he wasn't really paying attention. He was a teenager, and he had better things to do than listen to the scientist's ramblings. The room was full of interesting equipment, but it would disappear whenever he tried to touch it, so that was frustrating. He had phenomenal power at his disposal, but when he'd tried to cause a nuclear reaction by squeezing air with his hands, Dr. Demented had been quick to stop him. "This look like playground? Is not playground, is scientific laboratory. All sustained nuclear reactions need to be contained by magnetic field, or else endanger equipment."
Alex decided he had had enough of being locked in a mile-high laboratory hidden by time warps. "I'd like to leave," he said. Did he need the Doctor's permission to leave? He didn't know. Probably not. Although the Doctor was the one who controlled the way home, so...
The mad scientist waved his hand, and a door through reality opened in front of Alex. On the other side was the cold emptiness of space. Alex wondered how it was possible that the air wasn't flowing out of the laboratory. After a few seconds, he gave up and walked through.

The wormhole dropped him just a few hundred miles from Earth. It only took Alex a minute to reach the surface of the blue planet. He took a look around. It seemed to be a desert. He looked off in the distance and saw a small shop. He considered flying, but instead decided to run there. His internal speedometer told him he was clocking Mach six.
The sign read '7-11.' Alex recognized the name. It was a common chain that sold food and other small items. Alex realized he had never had food before. His cosmic heart meant that he didn't need the calories of nutrients, but he was curious about taste. Alex decided upon a course of action. The door was open, and the attendant had his nose buried deep in a book. Thus, Alexander Star's first act upon Earth was to steal three candy bars and a bag of chips.

As he stood out in the middle of a road, Alex pondered the night sky. It was awe-inspiring. Alex realized that he was just as isolated on Earth as he was in that vast panorama of stars. He'd been on Earth for an hour and the height of his interpersonal contact was robbing a convenience store. With heavy heart, Alex flew back to his wormhole and returned to Dr. Demented.
"I'm back," he said.
"Oh, so you were gone?"