"Do you really want a big timer," I asked.
"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.