Saturday, August 30, 2014


I was getting the hang of teleportation. I had just created a device that could use Flashpoint's blood to charge an object, and then teleport the object with a small muon charge. I still had no idea how the underlying science worked, but I was still able to utilize it, teleporting objects to within a centimeter of their target location, from two or three meters away.
Of course, as my studies progressed, I had less and less need of Flashpoint himself. It seemed that whatever machines facilitated his power were found in the blood. In the body, blood is flushed out every week or so, preventing the machines from building up. But in the lab, I had marrow samples producing a steady stream of new, superpowered blood, and nowhere for it to go. I estimated that soon my machines would be more powerful than Flashpoint himself.
I had rigged up a small device to teleport between two locations a hundred times a second. It was going to be awesome. The resulting half-there material might constitute a new form of matter. The necessary machinery was very delicate, and had taken hours to make. I knew deep down that I should be out there exploiting Professor Cognis' sudden disappearance, science was just more fun. "Noetron, run diagnostics." I said this silently, one mechanized being to another. Noetron and I hadn't spoken out loud for weeks.
"System 100% functional."
"Excellent. Be sure that all of of the detectors are properly-"
"Incoming call," the phone chirped.
I considered letting it ring. "installed. Phone, who is it?"
I paused. The teleporter had been a pain to set up, and the components would decay in a few minutes. I wanted to watch it in person, and didn't think I could talk to Lucy and appreciate the sublime beauty of a new physical phenomenon at the same time. Both of those required a fair amount of attention.
"Put Lucy on." I instructed Noetron to begin mass production of the rapid teleporting chips.
"Phoenix, we need your help." It wasn't Lucy's voice on the other end.
"Centurion," I asked, barely recognizing the shapeshifting robot's voice.
"Yeah. Lucy's sick. I think she's been poisoned."
"And you want me, someone who knows next to nothing about her physiology, to devise a cure from half a million kilometers away?"
"I relish the challenge." Files popped into my brain, listing everything I knew about Lucy's biology. She had been created by Rava-Iss to observe what it was to be human. She looked human, and her body seemed to work the same way, albeit far beyond the level of an Olympic athlete.
She could create fire, and was resistant to heat. I had no idea how either was possible, especially since she was not especially durable in other respects.
"Are you sure you can do this."
"I'm confident." I wasn't
"You don't sound very confident."
"You're referring to the pauses before I speak? Light-speed delay. Lucy, list the symptoms."
I heard Lucy on the other end. "My head is feels... sour."
"Like an acidic feeling? Or like you suddenly got synesthesia and your senses are getting mixed up?"
"The first one."
"Interesting. Where in the head is it localized? And how long has this been going on?"
"Near the front of my head. For one hour and sixteen minutes."
"I need a more precise location. Imagine a coordinate axis centered at the bridge of your nose, with the x-axis pointing forward and the z-axis pointing upward. Give me the coordinates in centimeters."
She did so. Pretty impressive, actually.
"Okay, if your brain is anything like that of a human, I would guess that it's a neurotoxin localized in a region of your brain called the laminar subtention." A very small node discovered by none other than Professor Cognis, which was actually the location where he housed his superpowers. "The poison is most likely attacking the oxytocin neurotransmitter. I recommend heating yourself up to burn out the poison. A few minutes at-"
"Why doesn't she just put on the diadem," Centurion interrupted.
"While the New Archivist does seem to have access to additional powers, putting on the diadem would increase blood flow and cause the toxin to spread throughout her brain."
"How do you know that?"
I was getting tired of explaining myself. Sometimes it's fun to show off, but sometimes you just want people to recognize that your superior intellect knows best. "I watched her take off and put on the diadem several times. With my senses and my memory, it's easy to check her pulse, and see the amplitude of her pulse on different parts of her body. I can easily estimate blood flow, and with a little work I could probably tell you the specs on some of her organs. Now please tell her to heat up."
"Lucy, Phoenix says you should try to warm up your brain as much as you can. Something about boiling dendrotoxins."
"Neurotoxins,"  I corrected. He didn't emend his statement.

Lucy concentrated. This was hard. Her head hurt. She tried to make herself as hot as she could. She felt something catch fire. She didn't care.
Phoenix said to become as hot as possible. She heard him talking. He was projecting various decay profiles for likely toxins, based on the fact that they were probably of Fortarian origin and thus optimized for the conditions in the Fortarian brain. Lucy didn't listen.
Lucy concentrated. Her brain got hotter. That didn't affect her. It got more sour. That made things worse. Her brain stopped getting hotter. She heard Phoenix asking why that was. Apparantly, given her well-known power capacity and the conductive properties of the room, her maximum temperature was almost a hundred degrees higher.
He go mad. Her temperature was actually dropping. That didn't make sense. "Are you using your power to it's fullest extent? You realize your life is on the line?"
Lucy didn't answer.
"Oh, no. Your powers must be located in the portion of the brain under attack. If we plug that into the model..."

I just want to take a moment to point out that modelling the spread of toxins in a brain you've never studied under the influence of powers you don't understand is not exactly easy. My predictions would most likely be wrong. Which was fortunate, because they indicated that she would lose her powers within eight minutes, and die about an hour later.
"Try as hard as you can Lucy." I was relieved to see the data didn't conform to my model. I made a new one, based on the new information. This one predicted death in seventy minutes. It matched incoming data disturbingly well.
"Centurion, get me a map of the Fortarian ship."
"Just do it!" I'd had enough of him and Acme questioning me. This was just like Rosa. Another important person in my life, taken away because someone thought he was smarter than me. But that wouldn't happen again. I devoted my life to making sure it wouldn't happen again.
I needed to Think Fast. Experience time ten or twenty times faster. I could keep that up for an hour if I was willing to suffer a killer headache tomorrow. Where on an alien ship would be hot enough? An air vent? A power plant? Inside a functioning rocket?
The map came in. I divided my mind into three parts. Two of them tried to find air ducts and what-not, using different techniques. The third part evaluated the probability of finding something useful in each location. A blowtorch? Not strong enough.
Ah. An iron foundry. Lucy could get there in... a fourth part of my mind estimated six minutes. "Centurion, go to that forge. Go now. Take Lucy with you."
The robot picked Lucy up. "You will need to submerge her in liquid iron. This is problematic for two reasons. First, iron is dense, so that will require significant force. Second, she will not be able to breathe. I suppose there is the tertiary issue of the intense heat damaging you."
"Gee, thanks."
I guided the pair through the halls. I imagine which ones would be crowded, and helped them avoid jams. They reached the foundry. Lucy was submerged. "How long should I keep her there?"
How long can a human go without oxygen? Lucy is clearly made out of sterner stuff, but she is also not at her physical peak, and my models say you need about... "Four minutes."
Those four minutes were some of the tensest of my life. I'm sure they were tough for Lucy too, but she wasn't trying to figure out increasing probabilities of short term and long term brain damage. She wasn't looking through medical histories, trying to figure just how much she could take. She wasn't worrying that for the second time, she had failed to save perhaps the only person she cared about. I'd take a four-minute dunk in liquid metal over that any day.
Eventually, Centurion bought her out. Her chest was crushed from the pressure. She wasn't breathing. "You know how to administer CPR, right?"
"Of course." It didn't work.
"Try putting on the diadem."
The New Archivist awakened. "Thank you for saving me, Phoenix."
"You're welcome, but I was mainly saving Lucy."
"You failed."
"Lucy is dead. If you take the diadem off, we will die. I'm sorry."

1 comment:

  1. objects to withing a centimeter of their target location, from two or three meters objects to within

    I said this silently, once mechanized being to I said this silently, one