Doctor Crom/Extinction Event
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Arecibo, Puerto Rico
E Minus 6 days, 18 hours, 31 minutes
Doctor Jorge Chavez finished keying in the telescope's task for the evening, then drew his sleeve across his forehead to damp the sweat. Even at night, the moist heat of the Puerto Rican summer was relentless. The computer digested his entries before finally accepting them with a satisfied beep.
In the valley below him, the concave dish of the Arecibo Observatory stared up at the heavens like the unblinking eye it was. More than 300 meters in diameter, it was the largest radio telescope on the planet, and it had dutifully charted all manner of objects in the sky for over four decades.
He had come to the observatory tonight to follow up on the formation of a stellar nursery near the Pleadies that he and his team from Cornell had discovered it earlier last year. Unfortunately, at the time, it had not been fully examined due to budgetary constraints. A new year, however, meant new budgets, and Jorge's team had booked an almost decadent 6 hours of dedicated observation.
The telescope's movement halted suddenly, then a new series of sounds from below indicated an entirely new symphony of machinery was at play. Jorge checked the monitor to confirm his suspicions: the telescope was now tracking towards a completely different target. He frowned, hit a few more keys, and frowned again as the dish refused to follow his commands.
He picked up his walkie talkie and pressed Send.
“Travis, this is Dr. Chavez. I'm reading an irregularity on the dish tracking. Can you see if there's a problem with the junction boxes?”
Nothing but static answered his call. After a few more moments, he repeated the page. Again, no one responded. For the third time, he hit Send.
“This is Dr. Chavez. Can anyone hear me?”
None of the three graduate students who had volunteered to assist him tonight responded. Below, the telescope suddenly stopped moving, finally locking into place. He checked the settings and found it focused in an empty area of sky.
“What the hell is going on here?” Jorge muttered.
“I'm sorry, but your experiment this evening will have to be postponed,” Said a voice behind him.
Jorge whirled to the source and found a figure standing in the doorway. It was wearing a suit of complicated, high-tech armor, made of highly polished black and red metal. The helmet was similar to a traditional knight's visor, but the lightly glowing red “eyes” of sophisticated sensors gazed back from deep within. A dark cape moved slightly in the Puerto Rican breeze.
The figure moved out of the doorway towards Jorge with a smooth, efficient gait.
“Believe me, Dr. Chavez, I'm not happy about interrupting your work tonight. I must confess, I'm quite a fan of your efforts.”
“Who are you?”
“I'm Doctor Lazarus Crom,” the figure said simply, confirming what Chavez had already suspected from the apparition's appearance. Chavez shivered despite the warm night air.
“Ah... I see you've heard of me,” Crom said, sounding slightly amused, “I assume your next question would be about the well being of your people, correct?”
Jorge nodded slowly.
“They are subdued, but unharmed, and I assure you they will continue to remain unharmed so long as you behave.”
“How do I know you're telling the truth?”
“You don't.” Crom said simply, “Nor do I have the time or inclination to prove my veracity to you.” Crom moved towards the telescope's main console, drew a small, book-sized device from his belt, and placed it next to the monitor.
Chavez looked for something to use as a weapon, but from what he had heard about the infamous Doctor Crom, he doubted there was anything on the entire island he could use effectively against the armored man.
“There's no money here, and my research is going to be useless to you--”
“Do not be so quick to dismiss your work, Doctor. I found your theories on protostellar accretion formation to be quite interesting, and your work in degenerate gas behavior with respect to quantum mechanics to be nothing less than inspired. Frankly, the fact that you haven't won a Nobel yet is an affront to the scientific community.”
“So, you are here to steal my research?”
Crom stopped typing and turned to face Chavez. An exasperated sigh escaped his helmet. “No. I was merely saying that your insights have not been useless to me, Doctor. Quite the contrary, in fact. However, I'm here tonight to conduct my own research. The fact that you and your team happened to be here is simply an fortuitous coincidence.”
Crom turned back to the console and hit a few more keys on the small device next to it.
“So what are you doing?”
Crom hit one more key, then compared the information on a small screen on his left gauntlet against data that was spilling across the monitor.
“Right now,” he said matter-of-factly, “I'm vastly increasing the resolution of the telescope's radar astronomy capabilities. Think of it as a long overdue software upgrade.”
“The same reason you're here tonight, Doctor. I'm trying to prove a theory.”
Crom moved back around to face Jorge. “Doctor, as much as I value scientific discourse, I have a great deal to do and only,” he checked his gauntlet, “Two hours, 27 minutes to accomplish it.”
“This should keep you quiet,” Crom vowed as he pulled another small box from his belt and pointed it at Jorge. The astronomer shut his eyes and cowered from the motion.
After a moment, Crom chuckled, “You know, upon review, I suppose that must have sounded rather terrifying. My apologies, Doctor Chavez.”
Chavez opened his eyes. Crom was still pointing the device at him, however, on closer examination, it became obvious that it wasn't a weapon. It was some sort of PDA.
“Take it.” Crom prompted, “It has my notes on your theories, along with some observations of my own. I think you'll find it interesting reading.”
Chavez accepted the device slowly, and, once he had, Crom returned to his work, seemingly satisfied that the astronomer poised no further threat of distraction. Chavez looked at the small screen, and began to read some of the information it presented. Many of the theories were seemingly far fetched at first, but Crom had meticulously backed them up with elegant equations and detailed explanations.
“I'll need that back, Doctor.” Crom said after an indeterminate amount of time.
Chavez blinked up from screen. Crom's armored gauntlet was open, patiently awaiting the return of the PDA.
“I thought you said it would take you two hours--?”
“Actually, you've been reviewing my notes for close to three hours, Doctor.” Crom said as he took the PDA and placed it back on his belt, “In any case, my work here is done. I'm returning the control of the observatory to you. Your students should be regaining consciousness shortly; they'll be a bit groggy for about half an hour, but otherwise, unharmed.”
Jorge nodded dumbly as Crom began to leave the control room. At the threshold of the door, he paused.
“Out of curiosity, Doctor, from one scientist to another, tell me, what did you think of my theories?” Crom asked, almost as an afterthought.
“They... Um... They were remarkable.” Chavez admitted, “Your insights to Gravitational Theory, particularly in respect to the detection of weakly interactive massive particles could revolutionize the entire concept of Dark Matter. Of course, I'd need to verify your findings through independent observation--”
“I invite you to do so, Doctor,” Crom said, “Peer review is the cornerstone of scientific progress, after all. In fact, should you find my theories to be valid, please feel free to publish them to the scientific community as your own.”
“Nonsense, Doctor. Consider it my apology for your unfortunate... inconvenience tonight. Besides, I have little use for scientific accolades, and I doubt the Nobel Prize Committee would consider me a valid candidate.”
Crom paused, then shrugged, “In any case, I doubt you'll have much opportunity to utilize them in any significant manner.”
“Why is that?”
“Because, Doctor Chavez, according to the information I gathered here tonight, every living thing on this planet will be dead by this time next week.”