Monday, November 16, 2015

Interlude: Oberon

Antarctica has more scientists per capita than any other continent. Nearly every person is, in some capacity, involved in studying something at the bottom of the world. Some go Antarctica to study its frozen ecology. Some go to conduct sensitive physics experiments far from the interference of cell phones and the power grid. And some make their way to Antarctica to build spaceships beneath a frozen volcano.
Oberon tested his latest armor, which he had dubbed the Explorer III. This one wasn't built for stealth. It was build for navigating the vastness of space. It could withstand micrometeorite impacts, wild temperature variations, and could block out most types of radiation. It was airtight, and capable of up to five g's of acceleration for sustained periods. No less than four different fusion reactors powered the device, although they could also be used to power a medium sized town. In a few days, Oberon would probably take a trip to the moon. One small step for MAD...

Oberon entered his lair and shed his armor. He caught a glimpse of himself in his machine's reflective surface. He saw a man who appeared to be in his early thirties, with a mechanical eye and his famous gas mask. Most people thought he wore the mask because chemical fumes had burned his lungs. That had once been the case, but Oberon had learned how to regrow lungs years ago. Now, Oberon wore the mask because it was the most effective way to get the oxygen he needed. He simply required a purer source of the stuff after removing his most of his jaw, mouth, esophagus and windpipe in order to make room for the computers that interfaced with his brain. Other people found the change disgusting. They thought Oberon was maiming himself. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Oberon was improving himself. Making himself greater.
The MAD sent a mental order demanding a place to sit, and, within seconds, a robotic chair had wheeled up behind him. He sat down, closed his eyes, and opened his mind.
It wasn't exactly easy to get internet for his secret base. And it was getting harder every year. Dalton was brilliant, and he devoted far too much of his time to keeping his nemesis in check. So whatever Oberon did, it would need to be discrete. No satellite, no radio link to an Antarctic research station. Instead, Oberon had needed to lay thousands of kilometers of undersea cables.
Fortunately for him, three years ago an Australian company had needed technical help laying cables of their own. When one of Oberon's agents had offered to help, the Australians hadn't looked too closely. Neither did they look too closely when a five thousand kilometer spool of their prototype had disappeared. In the end, Oberon had gotten a very fast connection, and had been paid over a hundred million dollars in the process
And now, megabytes of data were being summoned from across the world, beneath the South Pacific, across much of a continent, into the side of a mountain, and then, wirelessly, directly into Oberon's brain. He read through an article a second, catching up on scientific developments, and current events. And then, it stopped. The constant feed of information ceased. It was replaced by a simple message. Hello, Oliver.
It didn't take much speculation to determine who was doing this. There was only a very small number of people with the capability to interfere with Oberon's connection. And an even smaller number of people who knew his birthname.
I see you've chosen to sell rocket technology to the Chinese. This is a clear violation of the terms of our agreement.
Oberon felt foolish. Of course he couldn't hide his actions from Dalton.
Until now, I have considered you a necessary evil, one too difficult to remove to warrant the effort. But if you violate your boundaries again, I will act swiftly. Do not expect lenience.
The world returned, shooting into Oberon's brain. But the MAD couldn't focus on it. Dalton knew where he lived. Dalton was monitoring his communications, and was able to send signals directly into Oberon's brain. The genius did a quick check to ensure that Dalton could never control his mind. The answer, of course, was 'no'.
Oberon couldn't sit still. He couldn't sit by passively, waiting for Dalton to kill him. He needed to do something. He scanned the world for inspiration. Something caught his mind's eye.
Spectrum, his old student, was to appear before a grand jury. What swift justice. Oberon might have to interfere. He decided to take Explorer III. It could bring him from the Antarctic to Boston in less than twenty minutes. Of course, Oberon would need to bring Spectrum with him for the return trip. Oberon's second faster armor was Explorer I, which would take almost twice as long as the newer version. Explorer II would have been faster, it just had a nasty propensity to explode.
Oberon launched himself through the air, charting a course to Spectrum's location. During his brief flight, Oberon alternated between designs for a new supercomputer and planning how he would stall white waiting for the Explorer I to arrive.

The neurotypical judge banged his gavel upon that thing you bang gavels on. "By the power vested in me by that State of Massachusetts-"
"What power," Oberon queried as he descended from the courthouse's very new skylight. "What power has the State of Massachusetts vested in you, that you may give orders to minds so much greater than your own?"
People began to panic. Some started making for the door-
But Oberon beat them to it, traveling across the room with fusion-powered rockets. He used one of his thrusters to weld the door shut. Oberon had a captive audience.
Oberon removed his armor. He was now standing in a courtroom in nothing but his civilian clothing. And his trademark gas mask.
"Don't move." A neurotypical security guard thought he could scare Oberon by threatening to fire some lead slugs at a few hundred meters per second.
Another neurotypical guard joined in, raising his weapon.
"Oh, you found my weakness," Oberon said. "A gun. In all my years, nobody has every thought to point a gun at me. Until now. Truly, you are possessed of vast and keen intellects. I beg you for mercy."
The guards fired. The bullets bounced off of Oberon's body, leaving bleeding gashes. The mad scientist was briefly knocked off balance, but his body contained the most advanced robotics in the world, and he was able to regain it before taking a rather undignified fall. He smiled as, in front of hundreds of people and dozens of cameras, his wounds began to fester. The began to bubble. And they began to close.
"Impressive, isn't it? Sometimes I'm amazed at my own brilliance. A bit of nanotechnology. Would you believe I tried to make this publicly available?" He strode towards the men who had shot him. "A tumor inside my body would melt like an ice cube inside a nuclear reactor. I can change my cholesterol levels by thinking about it, and every injury I've had in the past four years has been healed in under a minute. I wanted this to be publicly available. But your government would not allow me to distribute it. They didn't trust my technology. They didn't think it was well enough tested."
"So," Oberon said, as he grabbed the gun from its terrified owner. "Let us remedy that." He pointed the gun against his skull. "Let us test my technology." He fired. His would bled. Briefly. But it had closed even before everyone had realized what had happened.
"What a surprise," Oberon said. "It worked. But do you think that even after this very public demonstration that my technology works, your government will let you have it? I don't." Oberon shot himself in his leg. "Think of that as your wife dies of cancer." He shot himself in his non-mechanical eye. The bullet fell out of his skull, the eye reassembling itself. "Think of that as you watch footage of your soldiers bleeding to death on a battlefield." Oberon snapped the arm off a chair, and stabbed it into his chest. It was expelled in moments.
"I'll be the first to admit this isn't perfect. It took my months to get the technology to properly reassemble eyes. But medicine is full of risks. Let us see how much you trust my nanomachines." Oberon willed a few million of them to leave his hand. "You there! Your ridiculous robes indicate that you are a man of exceptional judgment. In one minute, I will shoot you in the spine. It is your choice whether you wish to recover with the aid of my machines, or trust more conventional medicine. Choose carefully, if you make the wrong choice it is likely you will never walk again. So, your honor, what is you decision?"
"Please, please don't shoot me." The neurotypical judge was weeping with fear.
"Don't worry, it will actually be rather painless. Make your choice."
"I, I want your machines. And Sally, I love you!"
"Excellent decision. And don't worry Sally, your boyfriend will be fine." Oberon shot the man, and then tapped the wound with his finger. The judge healed much more slowly than Oberon had. But he healed.
"Congratulations. Not only have you recovered from a bullet wound, not only will you be invulnerable for the next few days, but you will also find you now have a lower blood cholesterol, better vision, and my machines caught a growth in your epidermis that may have been a nascent tumor. Don't worry, it's gone now."
And, after Oberon's dramatic finale, the Explorer I finally arrived. "If you'll excuse me, Spectrum and myself will need to leave now. Please enjoy the pitifully short lives your technologies allow you."

"It has been a while," Spectrum said, as the two MADs sat together in a frozen mountain in the bottom of the world.
"It has," Oberon responded.
"You know, I would have gotten out on my own."
"Yes, yes. But I had some questions I believe you can answer."
Spectrum seemed surprised. He was not used to answering Oberon's questions. So Oberon explained himself. "Twenty-two days ago, I noticed that there was extensive communication between Alexander Dalton and a physician at the J. S. Greenberg Hospital for the Mentally Unstable. I suspected that it was in relation to one of the MADs housed there, and noticed that three of Greenberg's most notable MADs were scheduled for a transfer. So, I decided to liberate them. I believe you have met two of the three: Allegra Complex and Daniel O'Connor."
Spectrum seemed apologetic. "I'm sorry, I had no idea they were under your-"
"No, no, I understand that recruiting can be difficult. Tell me, is it true that Markovitz himself came to bail them out?"
"It is. We had a brief chat."
"Well, if Dalton has sent his most loyal servant to fetch them, they must be valuable."
"The O'Connor one was a multi--millionaire."
Oberon sighed. "Thomas Markovitz is hardly in need of more money. And O'Connor's skills are largely a subset of Tom's own. It is my suspicion that it was the Complex girl they were after."
"Well," Spectrum said, "I doubt you've spent all of your time monitoring this Allegra Complex. What else have you been doing."
Oberon stood up. "You have witnessed my Explorer armors," he said, as he let Spectrum out of the room, "but those are just the beginning. They'll get to the moon, or even Mars if you're in a pinch, but they're still pretty limited. So I've been working on something a bit more... advanced."
"To what end," Spectrum asked, struggling to keep up with Oberon's near-superhuman gait.
"It seems we MADs have grown rather unpopular on Earth. I was thinking we could make a new home among the rings of Saturn. I have plans for habitats, although I expect others to improve upon them. This mission will lay the groundwork for later installations."
"What mission," Spectrum gasped, as he raced after his old teacher.
Oberon came to a stop in front of a blank-looking wall. With a thought, he ordered it to become transparent.
Spectrum gasped, but not from exhaustion. He gasped at the sheer magnificence of what he saw. It must have been a hundred meters tall. Robotic arms were still welding its hull together, and even the skeleton didn't seem to go all the way to the top, but it was still the most remarkable thing Spectrum had ever seen.
"I call her Titania. She is powered by proton-proton fusions, and can make the trip to Saturn in just six days. This is just the first, I plan to build at least a dozen more. I will create a new world, one where MADs are free to exert their minds. We shall live forever as gods, with all the power of our unlimited technology."
"And the neurotypicals?"
"You saw my demonstration today. And you know that even still there is no chance that they will accept my findings. Here I shoot myself offering them a panacea, and they reject it. Let them suffocate in their own ignorance. The meek shall inherit the Earth, while the bold conquer the stars."            

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