“It’s hard to number how many things I’ve invented. How do you count them? Take my cryotech items. I started with the standard freeze-ray here.” The Amazing Richard, as he calls himself, picked up a bulky weapon and flipped a switch. It whirred and the metallic gun became accented with the predictable blue lighting we’ve come to associate with chilling and freezing devices. “I invented the technology inside of this expressly for this gun. When I repurpose those ideas and create a freeze grenade is that a second invention? What about when I went further from the original idea and made the frozen katana that killed Fireman. You remember that guy, right? What a dumb name. He had to have known that a fireman was already a thing and put fires out not started them.”
He sighed before turning his monologue back to his original point. This wasn’t the first time I’ve listened to Villains revealing their grand plan to me. Many of them go down the path for recognition and kidnapping a reporter and making them listen to you and your plan is certainly one way to get some attention. I couldn’t not write about the experience and I could usually guilt the hero that stopped their plan into an exclusive interview once the whole thing was over.
This time was different though. I had been trying to get an interview with “The Amazing Richard” since the failed conclusion of his zombification scheme. I tried to get access to him while he was in The Mountain, but aside from it being an insanely tough prison to get into, he replied to one of my letters with: “Once I’m out.” Which I read at the time as “Over my dead body.” He got out a lot sooner than anyone expected.
“In conclusion, the number of things I’ve invented numbers between one hundred and one thousand. Though, I suppose if you include the number of things people invented with my technologies as a base for their work that number could be another magnitude of order higher.”
I checked to make sure my recorder was actually doing it’s job. Turns out the recorder not working in the last interview with Amy Dangerous before the time she disappeared for three years is enough to develop a compulsion. Everyone wants to know the exact words and not just your recollection when something like that happens. “What would you say are your favorite and least favorite of your inventions?”
He looked into the distance to put some thought into the question. It’s easy to forget how large he is when you see him on television because most of the heroes are just as massive.
“Perhaps a better question would be of which you are most and least proud.”
He turned to me and sat down. “That I can answer more easily. Of course, I’m saving the one I’m most proud of for the end this interview. I really want to end with something good and this one is great.” He smiled. His purple, or perhaps blue, lips parted to reveal those white teeth. Posts online argue about the actual hue of his skin. The theories ranging from the obvious ends of the spectrum between blue and purple, but more outlandish theories suggest his skin changes and that’s why no one can agree on the color or that the true color of his skin is found in a higher dimension and we can’t even comprehend the true color. His smile broke after a moment. His constantly thinking mind found an avenue where his answer was not as correct as it could be. “The one I’m most proud of changes though. I think I’m always proud of whatever my current project is. If you had interviewed me before The Mountain, I would have said–what is it they’re calling it out there? The zombie machine?–I’m sure that would have been my answer then.”
“And the least?”
Whatever was leftover of his smile vanished now. He looked into my eyes and I didn’t flinch away. It was hard not to, but I had learned that those moments where your interviewee looks into your eyes for that extra thing they need to answer the question–whether that thing is understanding or sympathy or pity–whatever it is, they’ll only find it if you give a space for it to be found. He broke eye contact and left the table as well as the room.
As long as I had been aware of the news they had been calling him The Terrible Dick instead of The Amazing Richard. It isn’t hard to hate the guy. He does most of the work himself. People speculate about his origins. Is he an alien from space? Is he a government test gone wrong and escaped? Is he from a parallel dimension where everyone is an asshole and he really is the The Amazing Richard there because all social norms are in the reverse in that place? Everyone has a different theory even if it’s just a slight variation. The one thing they can all agree on is how much they despise him.
He walked into the room and set a glass container on table. Inside the container was a model city. It didn’t sprawl because it didn’t have room to, but it rose to fill the container. The height of the buildings would have been awe-inspiring if they had been the full size. It looked like some city from the future complete with technological flourishes of which I couldn’t quite imagine the purpose.
“What is it?”
“Where I was born.”
“Where I was from . . . Well, I don’t really care to get into the specifics, but we were facing a calamity. Something big enough and dangerous enough to take out the whole planet. Just like now, I loved science and inventing things. I was a part of a team and we were tasked with finding a way to . . . to stop it. Everything we came up with wasn’t stopping it, but I found a way to escape. I had developed a way to rip a hole in the fabric of space-time. The problem was the amount of time this ripped stayed open was quite small. I could escape, but to evacuate the whole planet in this fashion was infeasible. So, instead of finding a way to scale up my technology, I had the idea to scale down the people. It was a great idea but I didn’t think through the implications.”
“You shrank down the city but you never found a way to blow it back up, is that it?”
He smiled in a way that you smile at a child that doesn’t know how wrong they are about their dumb kid logic. “They died pretty quickly. It turns out lungs aren’t biologically designed to take in oversized oxygen molecules. That’s why when you see one of them shrinking heroes they have a mask. A filter that will shrink the oxygen down to the size they need.” He put his hand on top of the display case and spun it around like he was looking for a particular location inside. “That’s why I always try to think of what can go wrong and prepare for the worst. Let me show you my new invention and that will help explain my process.”
They left the table and the city behind to go to another room filled with innumerable gadgets and parts lining the tables and shelves. In the center of the room stood a device double my height. I had seen footage of the zombie incident and this machine didn’t look different enough to put me at ease. The device’s design drew the eye to the middle where the device didn’t even actually exist. A vertical-standing circle bridged two pillars of wires, screens, and blinking lights. Around the inside edge of the circle were restraints located at spots to help someone in the middle achieve the pose of the Vitruvian Man.
I voiced my first thoughts. “Torture?”
“No.” Then his face contorted. “Well, that wasn’t my intended purpose, but now that you say that I could see how this could be used for that. Though I think there are more efficient ways if torture is your goal.”
“Is this related to the zombie machine?”
“I hate that name, but I guess when you can’t do a press release to name the thing yourself these things are bound to happen.” He walked to one of the pillars of electronics and began typing on a keyboard there. “It is related. Just how all of my cryotechnology is related. It’s taking a nugget of the same technology and finding a new use for it. In some ways the same use, but . . . ” He turned to me. “I guess nobody knew the actual purpose of that machine.”
“You’re going to say it wasn’t some plan to take over the world by turning the population into zombies, I assume.”
“What good is being king of the zombies?”
“Fair enough. What was the purpose then?”
“Immortality. I won’t go into the details as we would be here all day and you would scarcely understand the underlying principles, but I thought that would be the machine that would make me live forever.”
“You said you prepare for the worst, and then that happens. How do you reconcile that?”
“Well, I did prepare for the worst. I tested it on others before myself.” He chuckled. A small laugh for such a large loss of life. “This one though. I don’t need to test on others. I’ve got another kind of redundancy here.” He walked over to the circular part of the machine. “I’ll put myself into here and then the device will activate. The goal is to take my consciousness and implant it into a robot body I’ve constructed over there.” He gestured towards an opaque glass chamber connected to the machine with a bundle of wires thicker than my waist. “It’s not as foolproof as being Amy Dangerous or the handful of other people that just can’t seem to die, but it does eliminate the aging process and gives quite a bit of flexibility when you can jump your consciousness from one body to the next in cases of catastrophic failure.” He smiled. “It’s my best invention yet. The one I’m most proud of.”
“Do I need to be worried about a zombie outbreak if this goes wrong?”
“No. This machine will take my consciousness out of my body and create a copy into the robot. If anything goes wrong, the failsafe will put my consciousness back into this body and I can work out what went wrong. If everything goes right though . . .” He smiled and turned back to the machine. He went about doing science on the machine for a few minutes which boiled down to an amount of button pressing and switch flipping on the device. He turned and bowed toward me before strapping his feet into the circle. The devices locking his hands into place activated themselves when he reached up to them.
“See you in another life.” He nodded perhaps as some sort of signal for the machine to begin its process and then it happened. The machine wasn’t built for an audience. It had no theatrics of electricity or sparks. No sound built up in pitch until stopping after its peak. The only sign that anything had happened was on Richard himself. After his nod, his body tensed. Every muscle in his body bulged for a second like the body struggled to keep ahold of his consciousness before failing and relaxing again. Was he officially dead in that moment? I wished he had explained the process any so that my article could be a little more educated when I wrote it.
A moment passed with no indication that anything else was happening before he opened his eyes. He took a second and looked around the room.
“It didn’t work. At least the failsafe worked.” The machine clanked as it let go of his hands. He stretched and felt his body. Perhaps he felt it to verify his existence after the out of body experience or perhaps to calm his muscles after a full body tensing.
Then from the side of the room a hiss. We both looked over to see the opaque container opening. From the tube stepped a man almost identical in appearance to the flesh and blood man still strapped into the machine. The form was the same, but something didn’t quite match. The color of his skin didn’t seem to capture that quality that everyone debates over.
“It worked,” the Flesh Richard asked as the Robot Richard declared the same.
Flesh Richard’s hands darted down to his feet to free himself.
“Machine Lock.” Robo-richard ordered. The machine clicked in response.
“Machine Unlock.” The machine responded to the same voice from a different location and Flesh Richard was able to get his right leg free.
“Machine Lock.” The restraints clicked again and before the voice could contradict itself again Robo-Richard brought a fist down on one of the pillars. The sparks I anticipated from the machine earlier were readily available now.
“We both know what must happen.” Robo-richard moved toward the captive Richard.
“We could work together. Two minds.”
“I know the biological instinct to live is strong, but think about this from my perspective. It shouldn’t be hard.”
Flesh Richard gulped.
“This isn’t death. This is fixing a glitch in the process.”
Flesh Richard nodded.
Robo Richard gripped the top of his head and began to squeeze. The skull gave resistance, but in the end the robot fingers proved superior. I screamed at the sight of the gore and realized I had been wanting to react all along but had been unable to do so.
He turned to me. He flicked blood off of his hand and approached.
“Don’t worry about any of this, I’m still me.” He tapped his chest when he said me to emphasize his point. It left spots of blood on his chest. “You just witnessed a grand piece of science and history all in one moment.” He chuckled. “Shall we go back to the other room and continue the interview. I imagine that guy over there will be pretty distracting.”
I smiled nervously and followed his lead.
The End . . . For Now.