Dr. Demented was beginning to get tired. Alex could sense that as soon as he entered the Doctor's cavernous laboratory. The genius was still in his throne, still wearing his ten-foot tall suit of armor, but he didn't seem quite as vigorous. The robotic limbs had slowed down considerably in their jotting of notes. The scientist himself was hardly moving.
"Hey, I have a question."
"Am busy." So he'd lost his ability to speak English properly.
Alex could wait. He'd swiped a few hundred video games from Earth, as well as a few shelves worth of books. The Doctor had given him a very convenient bag capable of holding all that, which had somehow fit on his back.
He played Mario Party until Dr. Demented had given up on whatever problem he'd been working on. "Hey."
The Doctor had removed his armor. He looked like an old man on steroids. Or maybe a wizard. Or Zeuss. He had a long gray beard, but Alex knew he could bend Ultrasteel with his bare hands. He wore blue robes. He seemed to like thee color blue. Alex remembered him mentioning someone named Nimue, and knew that in mythology Nimue was a water spirit. And the Doctor looked profoundly sad. Not surprising. A few hours ago his mind had been humming with brilliant thought about a hundred different topics. Now, he was struggling to recognize the person standing in front of him.
"Yes. Me. Alex. Are you capable of answering questions right now?"
"Fine. I'll come back later." Alex left Dr. Demented to weep in his laboratory.
Alex read through the books he had stolen. One of them was called Supers: The Story of Modern Heroes and Villains. Written by a man named Victor Xinsky. Alex read up on this Cognis guy. Apparently, he was the most intelligent hero on Earth, if not the most intelligent human, period. Although this Phoenix guy seemed to be a close second.
(I would like to consider myself a close first, but I'm sure this Xinsky character knows just as much about the situation as I do. After all, he spent several days researching the section on Professor Cognis. I've only been his nemesis for a decade and a half. What would I know about our relative strengths and weaknesses? But back to the story)
Alex read the section on Dr. Demented. Apparently he had conquered Earth in an alternate reality. When the alternate reality began to crumble, the Doctor had invaded this Earth. Earth Alpha's heroes and villains had teamed up to stop him, and defeated him mainly by luck. Sure enough, it seemed that Dr. Demented had done some bad things during his tenure as ruler of the world. Enslaved entire populations, and forced them to leave their homes to work on the construction of giant machines. A million displaced to make room for a particle accelerator, ten million more for a space elevator. The Mad Doctor had placed alternate versions of Phoenix and Dr. Carnage in charge of the world's infrastructure. Vafnir robbed the world blind while Genesis ignored the world in favor of his garden. And now the Doctor was planning to do it again.
Alex turned the page. It was Crucible. His previous self. Alex read in horrified fascination. About how Crucible had been empowered in ancient Sumeria. How he had gone on a galactic rampage of destruction. Cities reduced to pools of fire or piles of ash. Planets with the crust cracked open by asteroids, or Crucibles own fearsome impacts. Crucible had been stopped, and his power nearly broken. He had limped back to Earth, and continued his trail of destruction on a smaller scale. Then, Dr. Carnage restored his power. Crucible had threatened to once again unleash his destruction on the cosmos, only for Phoenix and the Archivist to stop him.
Alex took this in. Dr. Demented was one of the greatest murders in history. The only person with more blood on his hands was... Alex.
"Is this true," Alex demanded, showing the book to Doctor Demented. The time traveler took several minutes to read through it.
"No. Did not die during Timeless War. Not physical embodiment of alternate timestream. Armor not made out of Ultrasteel. Empty space frozen in time, cause it to-"
"You already explained that to me. How your armor contains a billion tons of weapons and a clockwork computer a billion times more powerful than the human brain. Congratulations. But what I was actually curious about was the whole 'are you a mass murderer' issue."
"It's really not. It's a yes-no question."
"Yes. But for good cause. Create advanced science. Great technology. Great purpose."
"Nothing could justify what you did. And is it true about me? Am I the worst murderer in the history of the cosmos? Have I destroyed entire species?"
"Dammit!" The first stage of grief is anger. It was the only stage Alex went through. He smashed one of Dr. Demented's machines. It was a device designed to synthesize large structures out of antimatter. He crushed another device. A robotic arm that had written more equations than Einstein.
"Stop," the Doctor ordered.
"Why? Why should I stop? Destruction is all I'm capable of." He ran towards the Doctor. At relativistic speeds.
The Doctor needed time to react. So he sped up time. In the space of a few nanoseconds, he had donned his armor. The Time Key hummed. His billion tons of weaponry were at his command. He froze Alex, slowing down time by a factor of a billion. The manipulation was made more difficult by the presence of the Crucible bringing in chronons from adjacent dimensions, but Dr. Demented was the Master of Time. He opened a portal and moved the frozen demigod to a planetoid in the outer solar system. He then restored the teenager's perception of time. The boy rampaged around. Eventually he calmed down. The Doctor returned him to the laboratory.
Alex locked himself in his room and wept.
The Crucible was sentient to some degree. And it was disconcerted. The Doctor had frozen Alex in time, rendering him defenseless. The Crucible was not used to being defenseless.
The Crucible was a living link to another universe. It was easy to import energy from that universe. Perhaps time could also be imported. A chronon flux could be set up to counteract Dr. Demented's technology.
Alex's rampage had given the Crucible information about his fighting style. The way he moved, how he used his powers. The Crucible made tweaks to Alex's body, strengthening some critical areas, weakening areas deemed less useful. With some adjustments, Alex could be a powerful adversary to Mad Doctor. Because the Crucible knew their relationship couldn't be anything other than adversarial.