Saturday, November 28, 2015


Yesterday, Oberon helped us. He offered us technology we desperately needed, and the entire Basement is running on his reactors. He earned himself some of my goodwill. I guess today he decided to go double or nothing.

I had been asleep for his big spaceship launch. But he has a gigantic fusion powered rocket. He called it the Titania. It was the most powerful spaceship ever developed. There was no zero-gravity aboard the Titania. The ship had one gee of acceleration. At noon today, the ship had reached the halfway point on its trip to Saturn, and was cruising away from Earth at nearly one percent of the speed of light.
Tracking his progress wasn't difficult. The ship's engines were so powerful, they were brighter than Saturn itself. There was a lab in Australia charting his progress. At a little after one o'clock in my time zone, they reported that Oberon had turned off his rockets. Twenty minutes later, they said that the rockets had returned, nearly three times as bright. Ten minutes after that, they confirmed that Oberon was turning his rocket around. "Strange," Tom said. "Of course, he needs to slow down his ship if he wants to explore Saturn, but why is he slowing down so suddenly, with such force?" Tom said a lot of other things too. Most of it was speculation about how you could have a fusion-powered spaceship detonating the equivalent of an atomic bomb every eight minutes without melting itself. "Of course, this is clearly not a deuterium rocket. Only proton-proton could accomplish that sort of kick. What I wouldn't give for a peek inside. A metaphorical peek I mean. A literal peek would turn my face into plasma."
At two in the afternoon, Tom got a video call. It was from Oberon.
"Tom Markovitz. It seems that your partner is not the saint you thought he was. I am glad you at least have the wits to do something about Dalton's treachery. Trying to blast into his secret lair." Oberon's eyes filled the screen. I got the sense that he was making this call from inside his armor.
"Excuse the rather poor camera-work. My beautiful creation is uncomfortably warm at the moment. Even I, who have pushed further than anyone past the limits imposed by human biology, would struggle in the oppressive heat and under such might acceleration."
From how Oberon's eyes moved, I suspected he was attempting a smile.
"I wish you the best of luck in your attempts to breach Dalton's fortress. I have even offered some aid of my own. But while I would like to believe in you, Tom, I cannot say that I do believe in you. So I have a backup plan. The Titania will crash into the Xcom building at 7:25,  December 1. It will put a stop to Dalton's plans in a rather dramatic fashion."
"Needless to say, Tom, I do not wish to die. I do not wish to pass into the abyss, destroying both my greatest creation and yours. So, if by 7:18 you  can convince me that Dalton is stopped, I will be able to redirect my path. If not... at least MADs will survive. I tell you this so that you can alert the trained monkeys who think they rule the world. Tell them that their efforts should be devoted to stopping Dalton, not to foiling the strange lights in the sky."
"That is all, Tom. Work hard, Tom. Both of us will die if you do not." The video ended.
I turned to Tom. "Can he do that?"
"Yes," Tom said. "That is most definitely within Oberon's capabilities. And it will stop Dalton. In fact, it will stop all of California."

Tom told the world what Oberon was planning. Everyone realized that the only way to avoid an unprecedented catastrophe would be to band together to stop Dalton. There was a public outpouring of sympathy, Tom was given his pick of the planet's tools, and all restrictions were lifted.
Yeah, just kidding. There were panics all throughout the west coast. There were riots in Los Angeles. MADs were lynched in San Diego. Lynched. Literally dragged from their homes and killed by disturbingly large groups of people. Both Tom and myself received death threats. Nobody seemed to understand that both Dalton and Oberon had done their best to make the threat of a bullet seem extremely tame.
Speaking of Dalton, I heard from him today. I guess our efforts to cut of his communications were predictably unsuccessful. He appeared on a gigantic screen. I was in the room with Sam Barton, General Hardiron and three of his underlings.
"Allegra," he said. "I was expecting to speak to Tom."
"You can call back later.
"No, you're the one I want." He turned to address the General. "Rip, you likely do not remember this, but we actually met two years ago."
"Until three days ago, I had never heard of you."
I felt something strange in my stomach. Was it some poison? No. No, it was fear. It was fear of Alexander Dalton. He had outmaneuvered me. Beaten me, and trapped me. He had drugged me, and bent me to his will. And even days later, knowing he was trapped behind hundreds of feet of rock, I couldn't look him in the eye. "D-did you hear about O-Oberon," I managed to stammer. Sam put him hand on my shoulder.
"Yes, I did. I heard about his December 1 deadline. And I believe I can beat it. If I did not think I could finish your work, Allegra, and proliferate this virus sunrise on the first, I would, of course surrender. I would give up, and let Oberon spare California. But I believe that I can finish this. I believe that I can end M.A.D.N.E.S.S. once and for all. And I believe that is worth any price."
"You're a monster."
"I am. So are you. So is Oberon. I hope you see that now. You know firsthand what we are capable of. You know it is only a matter of time before someone far worse than Oberon emerges. There is only one way to stop people like us." Dalton stared into my eyes. I looked at the floor. "Join me, Allegra, and we can finish this sooner. Oberon will see what we have done, and California will be spared."
"Have the strength to admit what Tom cannot. Have the decency to end this reign of M.A.D.N.E.S.S."
"Do what is necessary to preserve this world."
"NO!" I ran out of the room. Sam followed me.
"I... I am fine."
"You weren't fine in there."
"I am still not entirely comfortable talking to Dalton. I am fine now." For the record, diary, that was a lie. I was still pretty shaken. Dalton scares me. I can admit that. Alexander Dalton scares me.
"Are you sure?"
"If you ever need to talk to someone..."
"You will be about the eighth person I will call." After my estranged Aunt Esperanza.

I returned to the first floor of the building. Tom had said he needed my help with something. Most of my mind was consumed with the idea of a vaccine for Dalton's creation (unlikely. Impossible in the timeframe available). I wasn't really paying much attention to what was going on in my immediate vicinity. Until I almost collided with a crowd of 12 generals with a total of 27 stars. It looked like Rip Hardiron was no longer the ranking officer.
Meanwhile, I counted a total of five news teams. And...were those protesters outside. I Dalton's pet thunderstorm didn't bother them.
Meanwhile, a man in a suit was talking to Tom. It took me a moment to realize that he was the Governor of California. "Listen, Tom. This isn't your show anymore. I'm not even sure if it's my show anymore. A lot of these guys take personal orders from the President."
"Bill, I honestly do not care which politician thinks he is in charge. What I care about is that you seem to think you have a better idea than my drill. If you really are so smart, you should have told me about it days ago."
The Governor sighed. "I'll be honest Tom. If it were up to me, you'd have free run of the place, and everyone in the goddamn city would be taking orders from you until we have Dalton in handcuffs. But this isn't my show. The President thinks that the Army Corps of Engineers should be handling this."
"I know. And it is enough to make me regret ever funding his campaign. Does he really think that there is a single Engineer in that Corps who could even understand what I am doing?"
"I think he does."
"Well, then he is an idiot. Which I have long suspected. I know why he is doing this. He is doing this because he has some image in his head of a great president. He thinks that when crisis threatens, the president's job is to get in front and take charge. Which is a problem, since his brain is literally not developed enough for him to fully understand the situation."
"Listen, Tom, I've already talked to the President. You've already talked to the President. This isn't going away."
I butted in. "I think Tom has, frankly, better things to do that keep up this conversation. My name is Allegra, and I am Tom's mouthpiece in situations like this."
I took over the conversation. Then, I talked to the generals. It was useless.
I actually started to understand Oberon. Not his plan to vaporize California. But I understood how he must have felt, after years of working for neurotypicals. Years of brilliant ideas. Years of having neurotypicals in suits tell him no, even when they couldn't understand his work. Years of being able to solve every problem, if only they would accept your solution. But things wore on. Tom thinks that even with the delays, even with the army manning what should be an automated drill, we can still break into Level 45 before Oberon's deadline. I pray to whoever is listening that he is right.  

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