Lucy woke up. She saw Phoenix. He was standing. She looked around. She was on a table. And operating table.
Phoenix's forehead glowed. He looked at Lucy. She could feel him thinking. Thinking hard. His mind was bigger this time. He smiled. "It's you," Phoenix said.
"I did it. Finally. A perfect recreation." He laughed. "Every thought, every memory. Your brain is exactly right."
"I just read your mind. All of it. I simulated what you would have done had you lived the life of the original Lucy. You and she- are the exact same. You are her. I brought you back."
"Did I die. Did she die?"
"You died. I resolved to bring you back... after I took care of some other business."
Lucy looked around. The sky was orange, and there were four suns. She was surrounded by tall buildings. No. They weren't buildings. They were machines. That orange sky was a ceiling. She looked more closely at what Phoenix had made. One of the buildings looked like a rocket. One of them was circular. Some had wires. She noticed the Archives. The starship that had visited hundred of peoples. It was in a corner. In another corner was Dr. Demented's armor. No. It was bigger. It was far away, and it was miles tall.
"Impressive, isn't it. This is one of several laboratories I have. I filled this one with an Earth-type atmosphere. It reminds me of home. My first home. Another lab is modeled on the interior of a star- good for a different type of experiment. One has curved spacetime. I have a lab like the core of a planet, a lab filled with liquid ammonia- that one really stinks- and an eight dimensional laboratory. But enough about me. I'm sure that you have plenty of other questions. And even though I can anticipate what those questions are, it's only courteous to let you ask them."
"How did I die."
"Dr. Carnage killed you. I thought it would be better if you didn't remember too much about that. It wasn't pretty. Homicide rarely is."
"What happened to Earth?"
"I set them on the right path."
"What happened to Alex?"
"He's currently in a pissing match with a few of the Computer People. Which is a problem, since they tend to piss jets of fusion fire powerful enough to annihilate worlds." That's a metaphor, FYI. It's only sometimes literally true. "I send word to him eighteen seconds ago. He should have received it fifty years ago, and he'll likely be here shortly. He has been awaiting your return with even more anticipation than I have."
"Dr. Demented. Did you stop him?"
"Yes. I killed him. And stole all of his stuff."
"Was it hard?"
"Killing an indestructible Space God from the future with access to literally hundreds of superpowers, indestructible armor, and enough power to literally wrap Alexander Star around his finger? I managed."
"No. Was it hard? To kill yourself?"
"I wouldn't say I was killing myself. I don't think death can happen to someone like me. I'll always have a backup copy of my brain somewhere. A clone. I have a factory at the beginning of time, creating Time Keys by the millions. A swarm of spaceships containing copies of my consciousness. I am Dr. Dimension, and I will live forever."
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Lucy woke up. She saw Phoenix. He was standing. She looked around. She was on a table. And operating table.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Professor Cognis looked down upon the world. He sat in his satellite, thinking about the world's problems. They had gotten worse. It had been months since Dr. Demented had attacked. Months since his battle in the outer Solar System had damaged communications and electrical grids. And still, tens of millions were living in the Dark Ages. Tens of millions more than usual, that is.
There were too many problems. It was simply too much for him. Too much for any man. He needed to stay focused. He pulled up a map of the electrical generators in Brazzaville.
In a way, Cognis wished that he still had Phoenix to oppose him. Back in those days, before the evil scientist had become a cyborg Space God, things had been simple. He had always had an obvious agenda: right whatever wrongs the dictator of Estveria had committed. Not so anymore.
What's worse, in his last few months on the planet, Phoenix had lost most of his malevolence. Or, perhaps, he had transcended to a higher plane of malevolence Cognis couldn't even comprehend. No need to be optimistic about what might have been.
Cognis pondered Phoenix's disappearance. He had left behind nothing except a finger and a hole in the ground. Presumably, he had taken Demented with him. Was he alive? Was he on Earth? Had he killed the President and taken his place? Cognis couldn't answer any of those questions with any certainty.
Deep beneath the Earth, Cognis looked at what he had sequestered away. A significant fraction of the Lost Army stood before him. Cognis had never needed to use them. With luck he would never have to.
Also in this vault where scraps of equipment salvaged from Phoenix's auxiliary labs. Cognis was constantly going back and forth as to whether or not to destroy it. He was seriously considering asking the Dark Detective for advice. But he knew how the paranoid hero would react if he found out what Cognis had been storing away.
Finally, there was the most advanced piece of technology in the room. A small part of Phoenix's body. A piece which Cognis was supposed to have destroyed.
The Professor hadn't taken any action to preserve it. The indestructible flesh was more than capable of preserving itself.
Martin, the finger thought. Cognis took a moment to process that. His telepathy was causing him to pick up thoughts from the severed finger of a cyborg.
This is Phoenix speaking. This rather macabre recording device was the only one on hand, so to speak. At least, the only one with remotely enough storage capacity.
"Can you hear me," Cognis asked aloud.
Indeed I can. You are going to ask what I want. I want to help you. You have been my most enduring foe, and my greatest ally. Under other circumstances you may even have been my closest friend. And, as it happens, you are the person on the planet most capable of saving the human race.
Attached to this recordings are detailed instructions- meticulously detailed- for how to improve the human brain. You will not be able to think quite as quickly as I could- hardware constraints- but you will be brilliant beyond the measures of human genius. I offer this to you because I know that you will not sequester this power. You will share it, and enable the next stage of the evolution of the human race.
"You are asking quite a lot. Are you really so sure that I will replace the human race with your tools?"
I am a cyborg.
"I'm not trying to insult your race-"
No. I am a cyborg. Of course I am sure of what you will do.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
The Time Key could transport all of us to a distant world, where I could fix Lucy, fix or cure Dr. Demented, and then make my slow way back to Earth. Why don't I just stay on Earth. You go into the future, and I destroy you in a million years, after all this business with humans has come to an end.
I will not bargain any longer.
You're going to have to, buddy.
Why do you even want to stay on Earth? It is a distraction, and nothing more. Any experiments you do here will be dangerous for its inhabitants, and you will not have the resources of the whole planet at your disposal.
That was a good question. One that I didn't really have a good answer to. What was there left to do on Earth? I suppose that I wanted to uplift more humans to be my cyborg equals. But I could create life on any new planet. After I was done fixing my future self, I could make a species of subjects from scratch.
But what about the humans? Didn't they deserve to see the light? I thought for a fraction of a second. I teleported around my country. A microsecond in each location, as I surveyed people. I saw people talking to loved ones and cheating on their spouses. Painting pictures and robbing houses. I thought. They could be taken care of.
Very well, I thought. Take me away.
Genesis felt a tremor. "What was that," he asked the empty air. He went back to his work. A genetically engineered supervirus, a modified version of Demented's Disease. It would never kill Dr. Demented. It would never come close. But Genesis had to try. He needed to try to defend his garden.
A few minutes later, Genesis glanced at the news. Somewhere amid information about the recovery from the planet-wide blackouts a few days before and the reports of strange goings-on at the White House was a story saying that Phoenix's mansion had disappeared. What did that mean? Was that some bizarre part of a conflict between the two? Did it mean that someone had won? Who? As the hours passed, and Dr. Demented failed to rain destruction from the skies, Genesis grew hopeful.
Cognis glanced up from his worktable. He spoke into his phone. "Vector, are you busy at the moment?"
The telekinetic superhero responded from halfway around the world. "Mudslide. Why?"
"Could you investigate what has happened to Phoenix's house? And pick up the Dark Detective. He is in Moscow on a case at the moment." Vector took a moment to read through Cognis' files.
"On my way."
Cognis was hopeful. He could only think of four scenarios that could cause Phoenix's house to disappear. First, Phoenix had done this by accident as part of some outlandish experiment. It seemed unlikely the results would be so neat.
Second, this might be Dr. Demented striking against Phoenix. But it seemed rather indirect. Yes, the Doctor was unfathomably strange but... Cognis' gut said no.
The third option was that Phoenix was running away, taking his home with him. That seemed impossible. If he were going to run away, he would have done so while he was in command of the Archives.
That meant that this was Phoenix striking against Dr. Demented. Which meant that Phoenix had found a weapon that could hurt the monster from the future. Which Cognis wanted to know more about.
Vector grew more powerful every day. With ease, he left the Earth's atmosphere. The vacuum of space didn't affect him as he tore over the Earth. He slowed down. The Dark Detective was waiting for him on the roof of a building. "Cognis bring you up to speed?"
"Here's what I know," the Detective said. "Phoenix's house disappeared. Cognis thinks he was working on some sort of superweapon, and wants us to investigate. See if we can find anything superweapony."
"Yeah, that's pretty much it." Vector didn't even bother leaving the stratosphere for this. He gathered up a few cubic meters of air for the Detective's benefit, and, making sure to maintain pressure, flew to Estverian soil.
The two of them investigated the great hole in the ground. It was clean. The earth was still compacted where the mansions basements had been. "Should we check out any of his other laboratories?"
"You do that," the Detective frowned. "I will investigate here." Vector would have offered to carve out a set of stairs for the Detective, but the other hero had already rappelled into the gash into the Earth. Vector rolled his eyes and checked out the other haunts the United Heroes knew about.
The Dark Detective scampered over the compacted surface. Water was gushing where pipes had once been. He looked at the cut. A thin layer of oxides. But it looked like it had been deposited later. Fit in with most of the magic disappearance scenarios the Detective could imagine. He looked around the surrounding grounds. He saw... a finger. A severed finger. He scanned the finger-print. It matched Phoenix. Did Phoenix still have finger-prints. What did it mean?
I threw up some of Mephistopheles' black insta-tent. Keep in the air on the vacuum of this new planet. I told Noetron to build a dome as soon as possible. And then, I began an eternity of thought.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Dr. Demented strode in front of me. He threw down Lucy's head. I didn't see the rest of her body.
I didn't panic. It was not too late to save her. I had access to all the knowledge of the Archives. I could rebuild her. There was a copy of her memories in the New Archivist's diadem. Hopefully my future self had neglected that, in his dementia. I could save her. I could rebuild her. But first, I needed to avenge her.
A machine teleported into Doctor Demented's armor. It performed a quick scan, and teleported out a microsecond later, reporting it's data. I launched more and more probes, and gathered more and more data. I assembled it into a complete picture of the armor I would one day wear, the weapons I could one day create, and the mind and body that would one day be mine.
I needed to work quickly, since I was racing against a more powerful version of myself. More machines teleported in. The brought the Time Key out with them.
I had a primitive system in place to deal with the cosmic technology. I began to communicate with it.
It was a strange reversal for me. I thought so fast. So much faster than those around me. I could plan out a thousand variations of every response. But the Time Key was faster still. It thought and lived a billion times shorter than I.
Who are you, It asked.
A past version of Dr. Demented.
What do you want?
What can you do? Can you fix him?
Can you make it so he never exists?
Can you freeze him. Pause him. Let me work in peace for days, years, millennia.
Yes. What will you do for me, human?
I am not a human. What do you want me to do for you?
I want to die.
After I cure Dr. Demented, I will determine how to kill you.
No. You will determine how to destroy me first.
I was reluctant. I didn't want to give up such a powerful artifact. But there was always a chance that I could create another one. Okay. Here is the deal. You freeze Dr. Demented in time. I remembered Lucy. And you preserve my friend there. Then. you bring the my whole mansion to some barren moon in the distant past. You bring us all back when I am done.
You are forgetting something.
I wasn't used to forgetting things. Because I was used to quintuple-checking all of my thoughts. You won't be able to bring me back. You'll be dead.
It will be a one-way trip for you. You will be embarking on a project that will take eons, When you return, the Earth you knew will have changed beyond recognition.
I considered. If you just leave Dr. Demented frozen, could we call it square?
No. You must destroy me.
What if I say 'no'?
Then I unfreeze him.
I considered. Could you take us all back in time, so I finish in the present day?
Going backwards in time is painful. I will not do it again.
A wormhole? Or could you dilate time so it only takes a second in Earth's reference frame?
Both of those are beyond my capabilities.
Really? Are you sure?
Of course I'm sure.
I thought some more. If I accepted the Time Key's deal, I might well be able to save Dr. Demented. Save myself. That was good, Invaluable. But I would lose Earth. Lose everything I had ever known. I considered.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
I sent a probe to check out the burning remains of Genesis' home. Perhaps I would find something useful. Probably not, but you never know,
Then, I pondered my coming death. I really didn't want to die. I didn't want to go insane and lose everything. Was it necessary that all of that happen? Could I change the future? No. Dr. Demented existed. Exists? Will exist? Tenses are difficult when referring to time travel. Regardless, He came from somewhere. Could it be that he was faking. That really didn't seem probable. What kind of universe would that be?
Even trying to evaluate various courses of action in a universe where the effects of the decisions affected the past... it made my indestructible cyborg head spin.
I tried to reformulate what we knew about probability to take this sort of situation into account. I looked at the physics of circular time loops. And, just to be safe, I wracked my brains to see if I could figure out what was wrong with him. His was a broken brain. Maybe I could find a cure that he couldn't. Because that would be preferable to killing him. Killing myself.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
But working through that little exercise proved most instructive. I learned how to teleport objects just by touching them. I sent objects around the room. After destroying some laboratory glassware, I was convinced that my power was functioning entirely within its newly improved parameters.
I didn't bother cleaning up the shattered glass. It's not as if I was in danger of cutting my indestructible feet. I instructed Noetron to clean it up if one of his robots had nothing better to do. In a room full of alien technology to reverse-engineer, that didn't seem likely.
I also ran through the data I had gathered on Dr. Demented. A thousand data points, from his flesh' response to telekinesis to the strength of his thrusters. I thought about the containment systems for all of his different weapons, from the tons of antimatter to Alexander Star's captured heart. I put it into an ever more detailed model of him. I predicted some things about how I thought he would respond to various types of stress. It was a pretty grim picture.
Should I have any confidence in my models? Easy to check. I temporarily stored away all my derived results, as well as all the data I collected on his arm's response to vibration. Then, I tried to predict the data. The set I came up with wasn't terribly far off. I repeated the process a few more times. The results were fair. My models definitely had some predictive power. And that in itself was a victory. I was beginning to understand my foe. I was making progress. Twenty-three and a half hours to go.
I thought about how I was pretty much literally committing suicide. Destroying my future self. Was there a way around it? I wondered again if there was a way to fix Dr. Demented. It seemed like there must be. But Dr. Demented had torn planets apart searching for the solution, and he hadn't found it. But I really didn't want to die.
Most of my mind wasn't thinking these morbid thoughts. Most of me was doing science, But some small part of me was hoping that there was a way for me to live.
It was a long shot. And I would need to kill the insane rampaging time-monster first. But I really didn't want to die.
You know who else didn't want to die? Carnage. Dr. Carnage had been minding his own business, trying to subjugate planet Earth, when he had been struck down in his prime. Killed by an engineer disease. How unfair. After spending years hoping to kill billions with plagues and famine, being killed by one of his own creations. The world lacked justice.
When Carnage was brought back from the dead, he saw another Mad Doctor standing over him. "Are you going to kill me?"
"Bring you to life an kill you. Silly to do."
"I would do it."
"I know. Cruel man."
"Cruel monster." Carnage licked his reptilian lips. "So why did you bring me back. What do you want me to do?"
"Anything more specific?"
"Cruel to the one who killed you."
"Cognis? The self-righteous idiot who masterminded it? Or that bitch Lucy?"
"Ooooh. Yes. She was fun! She was so afraid of my knives. So terrified of the work I would do. And she understood me. She saw the monster that I was. Appreciated me in a way nobody else could. And she was appropriately terrified." Carnage cackled. "So, when do I start?"
"Twenty two hours. If at all."
"What? Why the wait."
"To see if Pheonix stop us."
"Phoenix. Oh. Right. Him. As I recall, he was busy killing Crucible while Cognis and his merry men were killing me."
"Neither stayed dead."
"Whatever. So when Phoenix fails, do I get to torture Lucy in front of him?"
"I'll start planning now. Maybe I'll even have a rehearsal." Carnage paced across the room on dinosaur legs, his mind filled with glorious thoughts of pain and suffering. He had made the right choice. This was even better than being a dentist.
Saturday, December 6, 2014
"You lost everything? Everything? You think yourself unfortunate? Do you know what I could give for your knowledge? Your power? And just as you are beyond me, so I am beyond our old human self. You might think you have nothing, but you once made everything out of much less."
"As a tool to gain knowledge. Imagine what I could learn with the resources of this planet."
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
"I don't want to keep bothering you, and I do want to know how much time I have left."
There weren't any clocks in my lab. I didn't need them. So, every minute or so, Vera had asked me the same question. "It seems unhealthy to spend the remaining time of your life counting down the remaining time of your life."
"The big timer will make it easier. I won't have to keep bothering you."
"Because you'd be busy staring at a screen waiting to die."
"It's what I want."
I thought about how mentioning that the superhuman intellect with a deep and profound sense of judgment who was also the one who would have to actually program the timer should have some say. But I decided against it. I spoke briefly with a TV monitor I had stashed in a corner. It showed the remaining expected time before Dr. Demented returned. The seconds ticked off, one by one.
I changed my mind. The seconds disappeared. So did the minutes. "Why'd you do that," she asked.
"I wanted to make it boring, so that you'd find something else to do. And it's more accurate anyway. It's not like the mad genius who has transcended our concepts of space and time is guaranteed to show up the exact second he said he would."
"I want to see the seconds."
"Tell you what," I said. "I am currently running a very complicated statistical model to determine the probability of different arrival times. I can show you the constantly-updating statistics. It's more interesting for you to watch, and you might even learn something in the process."
She agreed. I knew she would agree. I had phrased my sentences in such a way as to guarantee she would agree. It was then a simple matter to throw together an educational interface for my computer models that would keep her entertained. Only took a microsecond of my time. A nice diversion while I waited for some calculations to finish.
I wasn't feeling optimistic. I had given up on Plan A. And Plan B. All the way through the whole Latin alphabet. And the Greek one. And Sanskrit and Hebrew. After that, I had resorted to Egyptian hieroglyphs. Then Babylonian cuneiform. Finally, I had given in and started labeling my plans after Chinese pictographs.
You might notice that I was spending less than a minute on each plan. To be honest, I discarded most after a second. I gave up at the first major obstacle. Because I was fighting my future self. So if I found a flaw in the plan, I could only assume that my self-improving defenses would find a thousand flaws. For a plan to work, it had to be perfect. Better to try a new angle than work to repair an old one.
I had four real prongs of attack. The first was reverse-engineering Raymond's power. With some context from the Archives, that was surprisingly easy. I was implanting myself with enough genetic modifications to make me a living nuclear bomb. It was barely worth my time. There was no way that would scare Dr. Demented.
I was also working on teleportation. A dead end. I was just banging my head on a wall again and again. I could probably engineer the power at this point. And it might give me a slight strategic advantage. But it would be a weakened version of the power, and it didn't seem very useful.
I was working on the forces that held my gift black hole in place. That seemed like it could work. As time went by and I failed to make progress in any other prong, I devoted more and more brainpower to a telekinetic attack. I could reach right through his armor and attack his soft flesh (soft being a relative term. It would most likely be more durable than an atomic nucleus).
My last prong of attack was asking for help. Some future version of myself might solve the problem of Dr. Demented's death (or remember the solution). I wanted it to be as easy as possible for that possible future me to intervene. I had no idea how plausible this plan was. I knew that time travel was difficult. To avoid creating a paradox, you need to ensure that past you can grow up to be exactly future you. How difficult a task was that for a cyborg? No idea. I suspected it would be slightly easier if I were more closely monitoring things. So I made some extremely advanced sensors. This would also help my future self plan things out better. Because do you know a better way to summon Time Travelers? Me neither.
Doctor Demented arrived four minutes late. The Time Key on his armor thrummed. His Crucible ring glowed. I moved in between him and Vera. "Getting between us," he laughed. "Because rule of space applied to me." And he was behind me. This was going to go badly.