Saturday, November 29, 2014


Doctor Demented did not wait idle as I attempted to kill him. He went out provoking fights with other people.
He composed a list of people he would need to provoke: Cognis, Genesis, and the President of the United States.

It was just after one o'clock, western time. Cognis was just beginning his daily two hours of sleep. He had just gotten out of Mephistopheles' custody. That was no reason to slack off. Tomorrow, he was going to put in a fully twenty-two hour day. Hopefully start to make up for all the time he lost to the extradimensional supervillain.
He was awoken by a crazy person pointing a glowing spear at him.
"Why are you here?"
"I want you to know. I plan to kill every being on the face of your planet Earth. Stop me if you can."
Cognis booted up his brain. Remember, it was the middle of the night, he never got any sleep regardless, and he had just been freed from a supervillain's clutches. "When do you plan on doing this? And why are you telling me?"
"Time is game for little minds like yours."
"And why are you telling me?"
"In hope that you provide challenge."
The weapon dematerialized. The armored god paced through Cognis' apartment. "You have parts of my army hidden around your world. You think you control it. You will use it against me."
Cognis wasn't surprised that the Doctor knew about the weapons caches. But he still didn't like talking about them. They were his greatest shame. A brutal weapon of last resort. Like something Phoenix would do. "I wouldn't trust weapons you created."
"You not think of anything better."
"I don't suppose they will work."
"This is the job they were created for."
"They were created to help you take over this Earth."
Demented sneered.
"Why would you do that? Are you trying to commit... is this about something that happened. Are you depressed over Nimue? Over your failing mental capacity? Talk to me about it. I'm the greatest psychologist in the history of the world. Let me help you."
"You are greatest psychologist in history of one tiny world, so far. You are nothing. You cannot fix my mind. You cannot even understand what my mind is. The best you can ever hope is to destroy my mind. Put me out of misery."

"I was wondering when you would arrive." Genesis was wearing a small body. Elegant and agile. He had decided that great physical power was inelegant. Genesis was no brute. He was experimenting with creating a great bull of dog to provide the physical strength his new body lacked. Demented was riding his most recent bull.
"In one day, I will kill every being in your garden."
Genesis tried to keep the fear out his his heart. This body had a reduced amygdala, but it did have large adrenal glands. A bug to be corrected next time around. "Why?"
"I destroy garden. You try to stop me. I kill you."
"You know I cannot stop you."
"Yes," the Doctor said. "But try."
Genesis began to formulate a plan. "Yes," he said. "I will try."

The president woke up, filled with fear and awe. He wasn't in his bed. He wasn't even on Earth. He was in some netherworld, confronted by some sort of demon or monster or something. "I am Doctor Demented. Greatest mind in history of universe." He frowned. "Broken mind. But great."
The president was scared out of his mind. But he was the president. This wasn't the first time someone had woken him with something terrifying. "That supervillain from a couple years ago?"
"I will destroy your planet. You cannot stop me. Others can. Call your Phoenix. Call your Professor Cognis. Call your Genesis. Offer them whatever they need. Maybe, they can stop me." The Doctor stared wistfully into space. "Maybe they can stop me."
The president was deposited in the burnt-down remnant of the White House. Firetrucks, ambulances, and military vehicles swarmed around him. The president went up to the first person he saw. "Give me your phone. I have to make some calls."

Lucy looked at the sad old man. "I hope you die soon."
"I will not." He raised his left hand. He wore a glowing red ring.
"Is that Alex?"
"Yes. Crucible. Greatest power source in known universe, compressed and trapped in my ring. That is my power."
"Phoenix will kill you. He can do anything."
"Phoenix is only one with actual chance. Anyone else to threaten me? They die. Phoenix cannot die. He has chance."
"He can do it. He saved me before. He saved everyone before."
The Doctor didn't hear her. That't because, for about twelve seconds, he forgot how to use any of his senses. "I don't remember you," he said. "What does it mean? Does it mean I kill you, and broken brain forgets the last year? Or maybe, perhaps young self does stop me. Erases you for your protection. But why? Already knows I find you. Perhaps you have some vital role. You help stop me, in way past self does not want me to know. Is same reason why I cannot remember this incident at all. Is so that I die with element of surprise." The Time Traveler let that hopeful thought permeate his mind. "Or maybe, you die in two days. And I forget you."  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Get To Work

By the time I had reached the atmosphere, I had already implemented Plan A. A subprogram in my brain that I could use to shut my future self down. It wouldn't work. My core programming assumed (correctly) that it was malware, and began attacking it. I devoted part of my brain to finding a version of that code capable of surviving millennia. Most of the rest of my brain was busy thinking of better ideas.
I flew through the stratosphere, approaching my lab. As it appeared over the horizon, I saw that my house had been rebuilt. With communications satellites still in shambles, I hadn't been able to get a good look at my home until my naked eyes afforded it.
As soon as my house entered view, however, I started talking to it. Noetron gave my a complete inventory of everything in my new lab. The highlights were the kilograms of antimatter, a black hole weighing ten billion kilograms (it was smaller than an atom), a hard drive full of what Noetron thought was advanced science (he couldn't understand it), several very impressive lasers, and Vera Rapport.
It seemed Vera was trapped there. She could move freely throughout my home, but she would involuntarily teleport back inside whenever she attempted to leave. I told Noetron to start testing her out. With flashpoint dead, I needed every teleporter I could reverse engineer. Also, what had Demented done to her, as far as Noetron could tell? Did he have any idea how the power had been transferred? Also, as an afterthought, how was she?
And what about this black hole? Why wasn't it falling to the ground? How do you keep something like that contained? Noetron said he had no idea. It was just floating in the middle of the lab, giving off intense radiation. I told him to measure it closely. See if he couldn't find something of use.
 By the time I had landed in my home, I was trawling through four sets of data, reading a book written by a mad god, and writing a computer virus to destroy my own brain.

Even as I worked through all of my myriad plans to destroy the Doctor, I asked myself if I was making the right decision. Yes, it would be a terrible thing if he ended life on Earth. But he was me. And he/I was the most important being in the universe. Just think about it. Think about all the great and terrible things he said he had done. Maybe he was damaged beyond repair, but on the off chance he wasn't... was it really worth sacrificing him just to save such a small planet?
Then again, my future self wanted to be killed. Should I trust the judgment of my future self? Probably not, considering he had 'demented' as part of his name. But, seriously. Shouldn't I?
Well, I could always pull out at the last minute. And the Doctor was threatening pretty much everything I cared about. And who knows how long he had lived. And how long a second was for him. I was willing to take a billion or a trillion years of life, lived at a million times speed. This was the time to go out with a bang.

I knew the odds of my success were small. People a lot more powerful than me had spent a lot more than twenty-four hours trying to kill Dr. Demented. Presumably, they had all failed. Or, at least, the effect hadn't stuck.
"How are you feeling," I asked. I didn't wait for her to respond. As in, I didn't have to wait. I was doing a six hundred and forty thousand other things. A percent of a percent of a percent of my brain didn't need to wait in the spaces between sentences.
"Nervous. Will he kill me?"
"In twenty-two point four hours, assuming I cannot stop him."
"Will you? Can you stop him?"
Probably not. And I'm not even positive that I would if I had the option. "I estimate that there is a fifty-fifty chance."
She had been in situations like this before. She kept her cool. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
You're a human. Around you, an army of robots performs tasks your clumsy hands could never accomplish, under the direction of a mind you cannot begin to fathom. What could you possibly do? "Just keep on talking. Remind me what I'm fighting for."
Vera sighed. "Phoenix, I want you to know. I do care about you. I was wrong to break things off. Do you forgive me?"
Interesting. I analyzed her brain, voice patterns, facial expression... suffice it to say that I analyzed everything about her. It seemed that she was telling the truth. She did feel sorry for breaking things off. But she was only admitting it to me because she knew my life was in her hands.
What should I tell her? She deserved at least some honesty. "I care about you as well. But, as long as you are a human and I am a cyborg, we cannot be lovers. I'm sorry, but you have as little in common with me as with Noetron."
"Why should that stop us?"
"Because for me, it would be like having sexual relations with a child. Or with a pet. You might think you can give your informed consent, but nothing any human does is ever informed. We can be friends, perhaps, but I am too far beyond you to ever be your life partner." There. Her ex-boyfriend had juts called her an inferior being. And another version of her ex-boyfriend was going to murder her in less than a day.
I focused on my work.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014


I didn't waste my time trying to figure out how Dr. Demented got into the Archives. He could manipulate space and time to is will. He had engineered a virus which magically turned humans into teleporters. He could get into the Archives.
I did wonder why nobody noticed him. He was out of my range of vision, out of Lucy's. How did he know where to teleport so he wouldn't be seen. Did he remember from when he was me? It was a definite possibility. Or maybe he had been watching our whole conversation unfolding. He was probably capable of that.
Which reminded me of my predicament. "Are you saying that it is a problem that I will not kill you?"
"It is. For both of us." He cackled.
Did he want to die? How was that possible? And why couldn't he arrange his own death. I began asking the question, but answered it while the air was still moving through my lips.
He had protections prevent that. I had put the protections in myself. I couldn't take my own life. Physically incapable. My mind would freeze first. I consulted my code. I was absolutely capable of killing Dr. Demented. In the I-can-contemplate-the-concept-without-my-brain-deliberately-changing-the-subject sense.
Dr. Demented couldn't kill himself. And he would destroy anyone who tried to kill him. But he couldn't kill me. Because I was him.
That left me of with the impossible task of ending the life of a space god.
So now I knew why I had to kill him. I just didn't know why he wanted that. "Why do you want that."
He was the Master of Time. But it took him an eternity to respond.

"I used to be magnificent. You know that. You are magnificent, and I used to be you. I reached such incredible heights of brilliance, of power, of passion and happiness and success. Planets worshipped me as a benevolent god. And rightly so. Other feared me as a punisher  from the depths of space. And rightly so. Still others thought of me as an all-knowing teacher. And rightly so. One planet thought I was all three. They were kind of messed up." He paused for breath. During the length of that pause, I analyzed every word, every twitch on his eyes and face. I'm sure he did the same to me, assuming he was still in command of his faculties. Verbal communication was so slow.
"I had power, and knowledge. And I had love. Nimue. One of the Computer People. She had shown me so much. And I had shown her so much. It was wonderful. We created greater and greater technologies. We worked wonders upon the stars and planets and the depths of oceans and the genomes of viruses. But I grew sick. My mind decayed. My wits lost some of their sharpness. My power diminished just a little bit. But it didn't matter. I had Nimue to support me. Until I didn't. A minor miscalculation. I was responsible for the death of a loved one."
As he breathed in, I had plenty of time to think. What if I had miscalculated? What if I had allowed the Puzzlemaster to kill Vera? And what if I had caused Lucy's death. I remembered her previous 'demise'. It was terrible. Imagine how it must have felt for those two, who must have spent millennia together.
"I sank deeper into madness. My mind left for hours, days, millions of years at a time. My power dimmed. I grew miserable. It tried to use my time powers to reverse my mistakes. I only made things work. The bugs in my brain, the ones that you have already inextricably placed into your brain, only grew more damaging." Dr. Demented fingered a ring on his hand. A quick spectroscopic analysis showed that what remained of Alex was trapped inside.
"Now, I am a wreck. I had to compose this speech beforehand, and store it in twelve different parts of my brain. Most of the copies are damaged beyond repair. Now you know how I have become a living mockery of myself. Why I am insult to myself and my wife. Why my life is not worth living."
I took in his speech. For about a microsecond. "No. I do not understand. Life is about power and knowledge. You still have an incredible amount of both. I'm sure you've searched for a cure. But search harder. Enlist my help. Enlist your own help in a multitude of eras. Ask the Computer People. Someone must know how to fix you."
Dr. Demented wanted to say something sarcastic. Something to the effect of 'Ask for help? Never thought of that!' But he couldn't find the words. Instead, he stuttered in Chinese.
He launched into another prepared spiel. "You are reluctant to kill your future self. Very well. I will incentivize you. First, with gifts. You will find your home on Earth restored, filled with marvelous inventions to help you. If you kill me, they are yours to keep. But there are also consequences for failure. In twenty-four hours, if I am still alive. I will kill Vera in front of you. Twenty-four hours after that, I will torture Lucy to death before your eyes. Twenty-four ours after that, you and I will be that last living things on planet Earth."
The Doctor snatched up Lucy in a vicelike telekinetic grip. And then he disappeared. I began my journey to Earth. My mind was roiling with a million futile ideas.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I was tired. I had just sent an entire interstellar empire packing. Sorry. I had just been tortured, killed, resurrected, and then, after decoding billions of alien documents, I had sent an entire interstellar empire packing. So I had a right to be tired.
The right, but not the opportunity. I was no longer being bombarded by strange lights from the outer solar system. But I did see hints of gravitational lensing upon distant starts. That meant that Dr. Demented had won.
What could I do? Could anyone help? The Computer People? Well, they could only help that the speed of light, and there was no reason to think any were nearby. Even the ones on their way to kick the Fortarians' asses were years away.
Earth? Could anyone on that little blue ball still help me? Help themselves against the threat in the outer solar system? They had defeated him once before. No. Last time, the Doctor had been defeated only by his own insanity.
Could I wait? Let him destroy the world? Impersonate Vafnir, gain he madman's trust? Then steal the Time Key and reverse the damage he had done? That seemed like a long shot.
Could I escape? Take this palace of alien knowledge and outlast Dr. Demented, then pry the Time Key from his hands as his mind turned to porridge. Places a lot of confidence in my ability to jump to the right point in time. Plus, I reminded myself, the past cannot be changed. So if the cavalry was about to come in the form of future me, present me could stick around safely hiding behind my godlike future self.
But time jumps are hard. I couldn't expect this to be one of the few moments which allowed intervention from the future. It needed intervention from me. How could I intervene? What could I do against Dr. Demented.
Nuclear bombs? No. Black Hole? No. Neutron star? No. Strangelet? No. Cosmic String? No. Proton shift? No. QCD beam? No.
"Don't you know," Lucy asked.
"You'll have to be more specific."
"Do you recognize him?"
"Dr. Demented? I was in the Timeless War."
Lucy sighed. "Dr. Demented is you."
It took me a second to process the information. A full second.

Was that even remotely possible? Could Dr. Demented be my future self? Well, what traits did Dr. Demented have? He was smart. Smarter than me. But it was perfectly reasonable that with further upgrades I could reach his stratospheric transhuman level of knowledge some time in the next few billions of years.
He was demented. Mad. Perhaps one of my modifications went wrong? Was that consistent with my personality? Yes. Taking risks in the pursuit of knowledge was my thing. Possibly my defining characteristic. It was a chilling thought that one day, in the oh-so-distant future, One of those risks would go so catastrophically wrong.
I went through my core programming. The parts of my mind I had made edit-free. Was the Doctor's behavior consistent with that? Self preservation? Check. Curiosity? Check. Other characteristics with no analogue in human thought? Check check check.
Did he look like me? Not especially. But appearance was trivial. Over the amount of time he had likely lived... he had probably worn a thousand faces from a hundred species.
Linguistic patterns. Consistent with Russian and English being my first two languages. Reasonable given what I knew of cyborg psychology. But I couldn't speak confidently on the matter. It occurred to me that by cyborg standards I was an infant. Just beginning my immortal life.
And now I was asking myself to end it? Commit suicide. Kill my future self in order to safeguard a planet full of humans.
What value were humans compared to myself? I could make new humans if I wanted to. I had the codes. Simple variations of the same genome. I couldn't kill myself to save them. I could not fight Dr. Demented.
"Sorry," Dr. Demented said. "But that is problem."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

In Command

Lucy felt bad about trying to hit Phoenix. She knew he thought he was right. She knew he was right. But she couldn't do it. Couldn't feed herself to the alien.
She could feel Phoenix's rage. His frustration. Phoenix couldn't feel his rage, but she could. It was buried deep in numbers and programs and the way he talked and the way he walked.
The number almost flipped. He almost snapped. He would have threatened her. Forced her to put on the diadem. He was willing to sacrifice her for the greater good. And he was sure he could bring her back no matter what the New Archivist did. Or he did.
She wished he'd snapped. She wished he had forced her to face her fear. She knew she was putting everyone at risk. She hated it. She hated herself. So she watched Phoenix.

Phoenix ran around the room. He was taking everything apart, and putting it back together. He said he was re-configuring the room so as to control the Archival defenses mentally, allowing his superior intellect to replace the automatic defenses and hopefully overpower the Fortarians through strategic strikes.
The way he moved was strange. He wasn't running. He was walking fast. He walked faster than a car could drive. But it wasn't running, because to him it was slow. He had time to think about every step. Every step was perfect. Exactly the right place. Exactly the right time. The perfect speed. The perfect force.
She had seen a painting of an angel once. Phoenix walked like an angel. He wasn't an angel. But we walked with... an almost divine grace.
"Lucy," he said. He said it fast. We did everything fast. And he didn't wait for a response. "Watch the Fortarians. Watch through their attack patterns and movements. See if you can determine where the leaders are. If you can, then I can start picking them off."

I may have been graceful on the outside, but inside, I was in the middle a furious storm of ideas. Mostly bad ones. And, of course, I was relying on Lucy to do her magic 'see patterns in vast amounts of data' thing and point out the alien commanders. I gave her a sixty percent chance of success. She was good, but aliens were hard.
If she succeeded, I would use what knowledge I had been able to glean from the Archives. That, combined with some helpful pieces of priceless and ancient technology that were lying around would hopefully allow me to destroy them. But walking was slow. I should make sure that I knew what I was doing before I started running errands around this labyrinth of a spaceship.
And if she failed. It was a full millisecond before I thought of a solution. And the solution only came because of an unrelated discovery another part of my brain made while translating the Archives' catalogue.
Three hundred interstellar ramjets, ready for deployment at relativistic speeds to the farthest ends of the universe. I was truly grateful for the bizarre alien mating ritual that involved giving interstellar technology to planetary visitors.

"This is Phoenix. I am currently in command of the Archives. I would like to talk to your Emperor about surrender."
I put the message on repeat. Didn't get a response for four minutes. Four minutes? To respond to a message like that? The Fortarians really needed to get it together.
I saw a humanoid dressed in idiot clothes, struggling to support his unwieldy head full of useless tissue. "I am the great and glorious Emperor," He said in the Fortarian language. I translated so quickly he might as well have been speaking Russian.
A less cartoonish looking Fortarian stood next to him. "You can call me Carpenter. What's this about a surrender?"
"You are currently trying to preserve your race from the threat of annihilation at the hands of the Computer People. To do this, you turn to someone even more dangerous; Dr. Demented."
"We're working with Dr. Demented," Carpenter exclaimed.
"It is a state secret. Only I need to know about it."
"It's an idiotic idea," I said. "He's far more dangerous than the Computer People. But that's besides the point. The point is that you need to bump yourselves twenty thousand years forward in terms of development if you want the Computer People to leave you alone. I can help with that."
"I am in the Archives." Idiot. "I composed a manuscript detailing several thousand important technologies. They should be sufficient that the Computer People will leave you alone." Or at least negotiate a settlement. "The manuscript has been divided into three hundred parts. Each part is useless on its own. Each part is being sent off on a ramjet. You will need your entire fleet to intercept all of them before they self destruct."
"Why should we-"
"I'm sure Dr. Demented made you a very good offer. And then he made you a bad offer. And then he forgot who you were, tried to threaten you, and invited you over for a meal. But my offer is reliable. And it is moving beyond your reach."
Over the next few minutes, I saw an entire Empire's worth of ships fire their thrusters to leave the Solar System.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Moment

"Lucy, I know that this is a lot to ask, but it is important that you put on the diadem."
"No! I won't!"
This was not a surprise. She didn't trust the New Archivist. I didn't either, to be honest. But only the New Archivist could access the information stored around us in towering heaps of electronic and chemical databanks. "If you don't put it on, we will all likely die."
"The New Archivist is as bad as them."
"That is not the case. The Fortarians, perhaps. But Dr. Demented is a threat to life on any planet he touches. His insanity and power are twin horrors that ravage the cosmos."
"I can't do it."
This was going nowhere. I had maybe a four percent chance of convincing her. But it only took up a fraction of my brain to keep on pressing, while the rest slowly, ever so slowly, worked through the Archives. "Please-"
"Stop asking!" She was getting agitated. If I kept pressing, I might only make things worse. But if I stopped pressing, an omnipotent madman would wipe out planet Earth and replace it with his own demented fantasy-land.
Lucy tensed. Her hand clenched into a fist. She was going to hit me. I didn't shift my brain to think fast. Thinking fast was my natural state.

Lucy couldn't hurt me. Physically speaking, we weren't in the same league. She could go to the Olympics and win a gold medal in an event. I could go to the Olympics and reduce the stadium to a twist of broken I-beams and shattered concrete. Different leagues.
So, I wouldn't need to worry about being physically hurt. I was invulnerable to such trivial things as two bits of flesh connecting at fifty meters per second. But she wasn't.
Should I let her break her hand in a futile gesture of anger against a cyborg? No. She was under my protection, and nothing was going to break her hand. Not even my face.
Well, why not? She wanted to hit me. To harm me, more or less unprovoked. She had been given the opportunity to think of the consequences. Why should I step in and bail her out?
Well, for one thing, I remained to be convinced she had been given the opportunity to think of the consequences. Lucy's brain didn't work in terms of cause and effect. As far as I could tell, it worked in terms of goal, most direct route to achieving the goal.
Plus, beings like her couldn't be expected to analyze the consequences of every split-second decision. It just wasn't possible for them. They couldn't slow down time around them as their supercomputer brains steamed away. I might be able to fill up a page of thoughts using a sliver of my brain in the time it takes a fist to connect with a face. But nobody else could. She couldn't. Shouldn't I correct her error in judgment? Especially given what I was asking of her? Yes. I should.
I had about .04 seconds to move out of the way. To the side was an option. Actually, it wasn't. There was no was I had enough traction to move that quickly. I ran the numbers a dozen different ways. Wasn't going to happen.
Up? Give me a break. I could jump that high, but jumping my full body height in less than a twentieth of a second would crack the floor, rip off my clothes, and probably injure someone. Just for fun, I ran a few simulations. They all ended in disaster.
By process of elimination, I would be going down. This wouldn't constitute ducking. Ducking is when you crouch to avoid a blow. I would not be doing that. In times scales as brief as this, everything is weightless. I would be curling myself into a ball, floating in space as an angry hand whistled over my head. Not very dignified, but so what?
I remembered that I still hadn't thought of a rock-hard code of cyborg ethics. We (I) had incredible power over ourselves and others. What obligations did a cyborg have to a human? Or another cyborg? Or to the simulation he was running of a dead relative's brain? Of course, humans didn't have a single unified code of ethics. But lots of people tried to make one. But, given the more pressing issues surrounding me, I decided that I could continue to show my usual amount of regard for ethical considerations (none), and proceed as usual.
I finished calculating my trajectory. It was actually fairly complicated. A human would have had trouble. Taking into account the air resistance, and effect of Lucy's arm punching through the thickened atmosphere inside the Archives. The motion about three different shifting principle axes. But I figured out a way to land on my hands and feet and bounce right up to standing position.

"Sorry I was going to hit you."
"I forgive you."
"How did you get out of the way in time?"
"Just reflexes." You wouldn't believe how much thought I put into formulating that response.     

Saturday, November 8, 2014


In the last moments of my life, I had managed to back up my entire brain. Now, I was back. The new me had never experienced death. He- I- remembered nothing after ordering a backup of my brain.
I scanned my mind. There were files detailing what had happened. I read about my dying thoughts, and relived my dying moments. Something not many people get to do.
I started the process of standing up. I could normally do that it something like 0.7 seconds. But I had just died, and I still wasn't at full capacity. It might take me twice that to be vertical. An eternity. I think so much faster than I move, and even my movements are fast. I looked with dread at the walk back to the ship's control center. Just a few hundred feet. What a waste of time.
I learned about what Vafnir had done, and how Neurotron had recreated me. I felt the full power of my cyborg brain, made of flesh and blood and magnetic monopoles in configurations no human could ever imagine. I noticed a copy of Vafnir's mind. All of his thoughts and memories and personality. It was tiny compared to the vast network of concepts and... well English doesn't have words for the things that made up my mind. I generated more information in a second than a human could in a lifetime, and humans only remember a fraction of it. I could fill a library with books bragging about my superior intellect before a human had even thought of a good title.
I went through Vafnir's memories, hoping to find information about Dr. Demented. What I found made me significantly less eager to brag about my intelligence. The madman had traveled the past and future, conquered galaxies, built machines larger than stars and smaller than quarks.
He understood how to bend time and space to his will. He understood how to create parallel universes. He understood what Samuel Beckett was talking about it Waiting for Godot.
Vafnir was only vaguely aware of the Doctor's plan. The Fortarians would conquer the Archives. Vafnir would kill me, and steal my powers using some gift from Dr. Demented. Vafnir would analyze the contents of the Archives and use the newly resurrected Crucible and Time Key to destroy Earth Alpha and recreate Earth Beta, which would be ruled by Demented, Vafnir, and the Fortarian Emperor.
Vafnir planned to eventually betray the other two. Seemed rather optimistic. Dr. Demented would kill him in a fit of delirium far before Vafnir got that powerful.
I was standing up. Time to start walking.

As I walked, I interfaced with the ship around me. It had take Noetron months to gain control of even part of the Archives. I was running most of it within a few paces. Okay, fine. I was mostly building on Noetron's previous work and my own computing resources. Still pretty impressive.
I thought about Lucy. With the information in the Archives, I had a complete understanding of her physiology. Everything outside the brain, whose details were stored in a file I couldn't translate. I knew the exact dynamics of what was happening in her broken legs. It would be a simple fix. I designed a cast. Like, a really good cast. Like, not only were there dozens of flat surfaces for signing, but they it walk itself up from the Archives' manufacturing center, and attach itself to Lucy's legs. It would allow her to walk while moderating pain and optimizing the healing process. And I was only halfway through my walk.
What could I do about the Fortarians? I conjured up a list of the weapons at my disposal. No. Think more generally. The tools at my disposal. No, the information at my disposal. What did the Archives have to say about the Fortarians?
Too much. Far too much. Enough to fill up even my vast hard drives a hundred times. I narrowed the field of inquiry. What was there to know about recent activities? What should I know about their command structure. Still more information than could be transferred in a week.
And even the amount of information was a secondary concern. It was written by aliens. I didn't understand it. I was only sixty percent sure I was asking about the right species. To translate all those third hand accounts into something I could understand would be a monstrous task. Was there a way to make it easier? To increase my computing capacity?
Could I upload my own consciousness into the ship. I quick look at the ship's infrastructure revealed that the answer to that question was a clear and concise no. Not at all adapted to the kind of processing needed for computer intelligence. At least, computer intelligence the way I understood it. By the time I had entered the control room, I still didn't know how to run a program more than a few dozen times more advanced than Noetron. Nothing that could filter through that kind of megadata. Nothing that could translate it.
Perhaps I should clarify something. When I was a human, I had some pretty good ideas. Some people (me, for instance) might even call them brilliant ideas. Those brilliant ideas were the result of rubbing a few other ideas together. But a cyborg rubs more than a few ideas together. A cyborg, at least one with my software architecture, thinks best with access to a huge pool of information. The huger, the better. So the information I could glean by looking out the window wasn't enough. At least, I hadn't though of anything. 
There was only one way to gain access to the knowledge I needed about the Fortarians. "Lucy," I said, "how are you doing?"

Lucy was sad. Phoenix was dead, and the man who killed him was going to kill her. He looked like him. Not just his shape and his color. His mind looked like Phoenix's mind. "Lucy, I'm back. It is me, Phoenix."
Was it Phoenix? It was talking and acting like Phoenix. That didn't mean anything. The monster could talk and act like Phoenix. The monster was as smart as Phoenix. The monster knew everything in Phoenix's mind. 
But what if it was him? What would that mean? He could save her. He could fix her legs. He could stop the Fortarians. He could make it so she would never be the New Archivist again. She wanted to help him so much.
But if he was the monster... Lucy had met a monster like that before. Dr. Carnage. He had done terrible things. Terrible things. He had looked into Lucy's mind, and cut into her. He was dead. He was gone. But she could never have a monster like that again.
"I don't believe you."

How do I convince someone I am Phoenix, not a doppelganger of Phoenix with a complete understanding of Phoenix's personality and memories. The only thing I could think of would be to do something incredibly advantageous for me and disadvantageous for Vafnir. What could I do that would be damaging for Vafnir? Silly question. I had already done everything I could to damage Vafnir's side.
What about some sort of testimony. Was there anyone who was both capable of verifying my identity and trusted by Lucy? No.
I decided to resort to the most ancient and respected form of proof: repeated insistence. "I am Phoenix."
"How can I be sure?"
"I am Phoenix. I cannot think of a way to prove my identity. If you can think of one, please tell me."
"There is no way to prove it."
"Then trust me. If I am Vafnir, I can already do anything I want to you. There is no way to make your situation worse." I ran through Vafnir's mind. The sort of tests he would have done. Nothing worse than that. "If I am Phoenix, and you trust me, we might be able to stop the Fortarians, and stop Dr. Demented. And save Crucible. Save Alex Star."
"Alex is in trouble."
"Yes. He is fighting Dr. Demented. To save you."
"Show me."
"See for yourself." I felt the battle through a billion kilometers of empty space and several hundred meters of alien shielding. 'They are near Saturn now. They should be visible on that monitor."
"Is that him?"
"That one is Dr. Demented."
"No, that one is Alex. He moves like Alex."
I consulted the radiation more closely. Still not sure who was right.
"The point is, he's fighting. Fighting an angry and dangerous god. He is brave. Are you."
"Then help me."          

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Thief in the Palace

Lucy wasn't the New Archivist. She couldn't read ancient books she kept in her head. She couldn't control spaceships with her mind.
Lucy wasn't Phoenix. She didn't know what people would do before they did them. She couldn't make scientific weapons by thinking.
But Lucy knew Phoenix. And the New Archivist. And Professor Cognis, and the Dark Detective, and Alex Star, and Acme. And all of those people were with her.
But it was hard. Imagining all those people helping her. She could imagine how the New Archivist would command Acme. Sometimes, Lucy could imagine how Professor Cognis would keep his resolve. But she couldn't imagine what Phoenix's idea would be. It was too hard. And Lucy really needed help. She looked at the diadem still in her hand. She couldn't do it.
"This is Phoenix, requesting permission to help you kick some Fortarian ass."
Phoenix! Lucy told Acme to let him in. Phoenix came to the command center.
"So, you need someone who can operate a Multiproton Cannon. I think I can help with that."
"Hold on," Acme said. "I'm not about to strap a human into that kind of weapon."
"How fortunate, then, that I am not a human."
"We can trust him."
"Before I go an operate a weapon of mass destruction, is there anything else you need?" He looked at the diadem. "You can do this, Lucy. You can do this without the alien."
Lucy was confused. That didn't quite fit with Phoenix. He didn't like the New Archivist, but he wasn't... encouraging... like that. Maybe it was a change from being a cyborg?

Impressive, Vafnir though.
Yeah. I do a great Phoenix impression. It's almost like I used to be part of a transcendent union with him.
Well, you were able to fool Lucy.
I wouldn't count on it. She can practically read minds. She's definitely suspicious.
Well, regardless, we got to see her. We confirmed that she wasn't wearing the diadem. Now, we just kill Acme, go in there, kill her, and take control of the Archives.
By 'we,' of course, you mean the intelligent machine that's managed literally your entire life ever since we met.
Not my entire life.
I'm the one keeping oxygen flowing to your cells.
Well, I'd say we're out of earshot.
Well, I wish you'd phrased that like a command, because you're wrong. Neurotron paused for about a half of a second. NOW, we're out of earshot. But I'm sure you'll pilot this ship into a rock soon enough.
Well, take Acme down now then, oh wise computer. Unless- he added quickly- there's something else I should know.
There are a lot of things you should know. But none of them make it less advantageous for you to beat the crap out of Acme.
Vafnir's body turned to face Acme.
"What," the android said, belligerently.
Vafnir responded by creating a wall of black material. He engulfed Acme.
Acme created nanobots. Tried to find some tiny crack in his prison.
Then, he tried to make a tiny crack in his prison. Or a large one.
He made small capsules of deuterium. Nuclear explosions, carried along wire of graphene, forced carbon fullerenes deep into inky wall.
Vafnir applid pressure. He was stronger now, with Phoenix's power boosting his own. He could feel it. Didn't hurt to have Neurotron pumping in chemicals, boosting his concentration. I'll find a way to distract you soon enough.
Soon, Acme had been reduced to a cube. The machine wasn't dead. At least, not permanently. But he wasn't going to come back swinging any time soon.
I bet we could put him back together, Neurotron said. The computer automatically began to plan the process.
So, we were able to study Acme in that amount of time?
I was, yes. You were able to bask in the glow of borrowed victory like the ape you are. You do realize that you are just a pawn of Dr. Demented. A human pawn. Neurotron reconsidered. If we're being generous, you're a bishop.
The pair of them bickered all the way back to Lucy. Lucy saw the cyborg walk in. "What is wrong with you?"
How does she do that?
Beats me.
"And where is Acme?"
Even before she had finished the second sentence, a dark tentacle had ripped the diadem out from her hands. "You aren't Phoenix."
"That's right. I'm Vafnir."
"Vafnir. Alternate version of Phoenix from another dimension. Took control of his powers, and apparently also got a copy of his memories thanks to some abortive attempt at self-preservation."
Lucy went after him with a pair of glowing katanas. And while blade weapons are ideal for battles with tentacles of darkness, Lucy was out of her league. She shot fire from her hands. Vafnir wasn't effect. She cut at his arms. He ripped the blades from her hand.
Then, she ran. The cyborg was faster.
"Is Phoenix dead?"
"Yes. I killed him."
"Are you going to kill me?"
"Eventually, probably. But you will be interesting to study at some point." Vafnir considered all the complex ways he could constrain Lucy. Then, he broke her legs.

You can reconfigure my brain.
Of course.
You can upgrade it.
That's how Phoenix became a true cyborg.
Do the same to me.
It's a complicated process. What exactly do you want. Some limited version of what Phoenix had?
Everything that Phoenix had.
Neurotron began pumping his subject full of anesthetic. Before Vafnir reached complete unconsciousness, Neurotron made one clarification. You wanted everything Phoenix had. I assume, by that, you meant his mental powers, brain structure, memories, personality, ambitions, and identity.
That was the last thing Vafnir heard before Neurotron tore his brain apart.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Two identical bodies, lying in the street, unmoving. One of them was a corpse, leaking blood from a hundred small lacerations. The other was Vafnir.
The villain had just absorbed the cybernetic implants that would elevate him beyond mortal comprehension. And his reboot process was nearly over.
Vafnir woke up. He didn't really feel different. He stood up, noticing a small group of bystanders. Time to test his new powers. Vafnir walked up to one of them, who looked to be in his early twenties, and punched him in the head.
"Ow! What was that for? Also, you kind of have a sissy punch."
Vafnir looked at his wirish limbs, more suited to typing than fist fights. Why weren't those limbs filled with incredible, inhuman strength?
Probably because you don't know how they work.
"I said," the twenty-something spat, "that you have a sissy punch."
I said, the voice in Vafnir's head sighed, that you don't know how your superpowers work.
Are you Neurotron?
Sure am.

Explain to me why I cannot access my super strength.
Phoenix couldn't do it either, initially. The human brain doesn't have pathways for controlling super strength. You need to go through me. Phoenix needed to go through me, until we merged into the perfect fusion of man and machine.
Fine. Turn on my strength, I want to splatter this guy across a building.
Well, since it's for such a good cause.
At this point, Vafnir killed a completely innocent person just to test out his powers.
Vafnir created a billowing cloud of blackness, shrouding himself from the shocked onlookers.
What about my other powers? Senses. Phoenix's intelligence.
Well, Phoenix's intelligence wouldn't even begin to fit into your pathetic human brain. And I turned off the enhanced senses because if you had access to all that information, it would fry your mind. And, as much as I'd love to watch that happen, I'm not allowed to harm you.
Try. I want to see. I want to see everything.

So I have your express permission Neurotron didn't need to wait for a response. Great.
Vafnir's brain was flooded with status reports. Everything from acidity levels in his gall bladder to the locations of sunspots to the speech the President was trying to give. And it was too much.
Vafnir fell to his knees, his constructs evaporating around him. He heard himself hit the ground, and he heard the echoes off of nearby buildings. He received a damage report from every organ in his body.
And then, he saw the world around him. He heard heartbeats. Complete with detailed graphs of every person's stress rate, and their expected levels of cholesterol.
He saw the sky. A constantly updating spectrograph from every point, along with annotations for every star or planet barely visible to cyborg eyes in the daytime sky. Plus, constant updates on the stellar battle between Dr. Demented and his rival.
Every breath carried an analysis of a hundred chemicals. Every spoken word came with a dictionary. Vafnir couldn't take it. He couldn't think. He couldn't even summon the thoughts to tell Neurotron to stop. So, for several minutes, bystanders were distracted from the unfolding crisis of radioactive bombardment from the sky by the question 'Is that a supervillain or a guy on drugs'.
Neurotron couldn't let Vafnir die. He was Vafnir's slave, and he had to obey Vafnir's direct orders and preserve Vafnir's life and sanity. So eventually, he granted Vafnir the mercy of quiet. How did it feel to sit on the command center of a superior intellect?
It was invigorating.
Don't lie. I can read your mind. I am your mind.
Soon, I will have your upgrade my brain. Then, I will see all that Phoenix could see, and know all that Phoenix knew.
Oooh, so impressive. After stealing all of Phoenix stuff, and forcing me to install it properly, you might become almost as good as him. I bet your mommy is so proud.
Vafnir looked through some of my memories. He had four million songs and two million movies downloaded into his brain.
Yes, he did.
It seems rather excessive.
He could watch them all in one night.
Vafnir looked through some of my scientific knowledge. Is that the Riemann Hypothesis?
Do I really need to translate your own stolen mind for you? Yes, that is a note-to-self about a generalization of the Riemann Hypothesis. Well, not so much a generalization as a reapplication to commutative Euclidean trees. Something you wouldn't understand.
Vafnir ignored the abusive AI. So, what other new powers do I have?
You can fly. Or, rather, I can fly, while you slowly and dully call out destinations.
Excellent. I know just where I'll go first.
Vafnirs back extruded ghostly wings. Those wings became bright sheets of fire. And those sheets of fire propelled Vafnir into space.