Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Wonder Woman: The Thinking Machine
Based on the Original Wonder Woman story from Comics Cavalcade #29 but updated for the 1970's TV show)
Diana Prince and Steve Trevor sat in leather chairs in Joe Atkinson's office at the IADC. All three of them were facing the large viewing screen, and listening intently as the President spoke to them.
"I don't need to tell you how important it is that we keep ahead of the world in terms of nuclear development. But there seems to be some sort of psychological sabotage going on in our biggest nuclear thinktank."
Diana peered through her large, fashionable glasses at the screen. She was demurely dressed in a yellow turtleneck sweater and a black skirt, with a matching vest. Calf high black boots outlined her shapely legs. Beside her, Steve Trevor was also casually dressed, in doubleknit trousers, a polo shirt and a windbreaker.
"What exactly are we discussing here, sir?" asked Diana, leaning forward.
"Sixty top nuclear scientists have been working day and night, trying to solve a vital problem in atomic energy, which could have vast military and civilian potential. So far, though, they've been unable to solve it. General Brinkley, who heads up the thinktank, thinks it might be some outside force coercing the scientists to "fail."
Diana sat up at that. "With all due respect, sir; I think General Brinkley is wrong. The human mind isn't a machine. In fact, it can only hold a complex thought for a few hours, before requiring rest. Even Einstein's great brain would go numb if he overworked it."
Joe shot Diana a curious look. "Even if that were so Diana, it still doesn't solve Brinkley's problem. We need to see if there's any way to assist him."
"Well, I can check out the efficiency at the thinktank," said Steve, rising.
"And you Diana?"
"I...um...I have an idea I need to follow up on as well," she said, with a curious smile on her face.
An hour later, in the computer room of the IADC, Diana Prince entered the office of the famed mathematician, Professor Fife.
The professor was a young, bookish looking man, with thick glasses and a slender build. His suits were perpetually rumpled and his tie always askew, but his genius unparalleled. "Oh, Diana!" he said, practically jumping out of his skin at her greeting. "You startled me!"
Diana shot her dazzling smile at the professor. He was a kind man but somewhat timid, she knew. She explained the situation regarding the atomic energy question while Fife took notes. "If I understand correctly Agent Prince, the main issue is the fact that a mere human brain can't stay on task for more than a few hours without needing a break. What this task calls for is a device that can think without a pause."
"Is that possible?" asked Diana.
Fife nodded. "I believe it is. I have a friend who's written code for some of the great chess playing computers. He's assured me the only think that's kept his compuers in check so to speak is the amount of memory and power. And with IRAC here, we should be able to design something even more powerful."
Diana smiled. "I think I can provide a suitable power source, if you can provide the memory and the programming."
"I can do that," said Fife. "In fact, I was going over the program already. I had added a few thousand lines of code to it, expanding its processes from chess to a variety of tasks."
Within days, with the help of IRAC, Diana and Fife worked out and built a new device, unlike any computer ever built. "Well Diana, it appears ready," said Fife.
"Shall we give it a try?" asked Diana.
"What shall we ask it?" asked Fife.
"Here, let me program the first question," said Diana. Her skilled fingers danced across the keyboard and she hit "ENTER." The computer blinked and hummed, processing the information Diana had fed into it. Within fifteen minutes, it pinged and page after page of printouts began feeding into the tray.
"Well?" asked Fife, nervously.
Diana read the first page, then smiled back. "It works!" she said. "The computer solved in fifteen minutes what sixty experts couldn't solve in a year's time!"
The news of the the IADC's new computer was hushed up, though such information has a way of trickling into the world. And in a well appointed house belonging to a crime boss, the information was not well recieved.
"Boss, I'm telling you, this machine spells the end of crime in this country," said Lefty Dugan.
"How do you figure?" asked his employer, Michael, "Crime Brain" Doone.
"If this thing can out think anyone, then it can out think us, right?" said Dugan. "It stands to reason that the cops can use it to track us down. We might as well cut and run now."
Doone stared at his henchman. "You're out of your mind, Dugan. Sure the cops could use it to stop us, but only if they had it. And from what I've seen, the IADC aren't too anxious to share it with anyone. But what if..." Doone paused for a moment to take a large draw on his cigar. "What if WE had the machine. Think of it, we could plan perfect crimes and no one could stop us."
"That's only true in the short run, Boss. I mean Fife could always build another one, right?"
"You're not seeing the opportunity I'm seeing, Dugan," said Doone. "What if we were to put a snatch on both Fife and the machine? The way I understand it, the machine isn't on government property. The IADC is keeping it's location secret, but I think we can find it easily enough."
Doone spread a stack of photographs on the table. Most of them showed Professor Fife at various angles, but a few of them showed him in locations other than his home or the IADC building.
"Take a good look here," said Doone, pointing at a few buildings. "This is Miller Hall. It's a building on the outskirts of the university. It's isolated, and up until three weeks ago, empty. So why would the math guy be going there on a regular basis? I think that's where the machine is.
"My plan is to take a big truck, and steal that machine. And hopefully we can get Fife while we're at it. We'll bring them all back here, and use the machine to get stinking rich on crime."
Dugan rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, but nodded in agreement. "We'll have to act quick," he said. "How soon you plan on getting this together?"
Doone laughed. "Would you believe tomorrow night?"
The next night, well after midnight the large truck rolled quietly through the back part of the campus to Miller Hall. Doone's men lobbed in several sleeping gas grenades, putting to sleep any guards. As the gas masked men strolled through the hall and carted up the supercomputer. They found Professor Fife crumpled on the floor next to a striking woman.
"Guess she likes the brainy ones, huh boss?" said Dugan. He fondled the woman's breast through her silky blouse, then found her ID tag on a jacket draped over a chair. "Says here, her name's Diana Prince."
"Leave her here, she's not worth anything to us," said Doone. "But grab the prof and let's go." Without further ado, the men dragged the slumbering Professor Fife into the back of the truck along with the computer. The door closed and the truck drove off into the night.
Diana stretched, uncomfortable. "How careless of me to fall asleep on the floor," she mused. Suddenly it came to her where she was. She sat upright and studied the room. The computer was gone, along with Fife. Diana picked up the desk phone and called the IADC.
"Diana! Thank goodness! We've had a report the supercomputer was stolen." Joe's voice had more than a hint of anxiety, and Diana winced, wishing she had better news for him.
"I'm afraid it's true Joe," she said. "And the thieves also stole Professor Fife." There was a long silence.
"Get in here as quickly as possible, Diana. We're expecting more communication from the thieves soon." Diana replaced the phone.
Thirty minutes later Diana, Steve and Joe Atkinson sat in the communications room at the IADC. The light blinked, indicating an incoming call. "Go ahead caller," said Joe, with a grim voice.
"I am going to steal the entire reserve of US gold in the Fort Knox depository." said a garbled voice.
"That's impossible," siad Joe. "That vault is heavily guarded."
"Nevertheless, I am going to do it," said the voice. "I will steal the gold at midnight, and you can't do anything to stop me." The line went dead.
Diana stood, "I'll get a trace on it," she said.
"You can't," said Steve. "It was a radio phone. Probably bounced off three or four satellites."
Joe folded and unfolded his hands. "I'd like to believe it's a crank call," he said. "But I can't take the chance. Steve? Coordinate with the army and get that vault protected inside and out."
"You bet," said Steve, as he headed for the door.
"Do you have any ideas who did this Diana?" asked Joe.
"No sir. Though I suspect whoever called us just now is the same person who took the supercomputer."
"I agree. See what you can do toward finding them Agent Prince." He summarily dismissed Diana. She stepped into the hallway and crossed to her office. In the privacy of her office, Diana twirled once, twice...her skirt billowed up and her hair fell loose. There was a blinding flash where Diana Prince once stood, Wonder Woman had taken her place. Wonder Woman touched her tiara and belt to insure everything was in place then jumped out the open window of her office.
She lighted gently on the wing of her transparent plane and began winging her way to Kentucky.
By the dark of the moon, Wonder Woman circled the Army fort where the federal gold reserve lay. On the ground, Steve Trevor was commanding a cadre of 250 soldiers and federal agents in and around the vault. Steve took a position outside the safe door as he gave his final orders. "Shoot anyone, man or woman, who even touches a bar of that gold, men." He pulled his own automatic, and waited, checking his watch.
As the vaults automatic chronometers closed on midnight, everyone grew tense. The soldiers, facing out began to smile. "It's midnight and no one got in," said one.
"Holy Cow! Look at that," said another pointing. The well stacked bars of gold were dissolving, evaporating into mist and wafting out through the ventilations system. Steve got the vault door open in time to see the last of the gold disappear from the vault.
In Doone's hideout, Fife was sweating. Doone was looking at his watch and his men were casully playing with their guns. "Well, Prof? Where's the gold?" asked Doone. "If you don't produce it, you'll die a very unpleasant death, like I've told you."
Fife swallowed hard, but found his voice. "I..it will arrive, as I promised. I've followed the computer's instructions in every detail. The electro-atomic current it set up should dematerialize the gold in the vault and rematerilaize it here. The computations are exact and the machine can't be wrong..."
BOP! Something hit Doone in the head. "All right which of you guys threw something at me?" he demanded of his gang.
"Honest boss, none of us threw anything!" As the goon spoke, more bars of gold began forming, dropping out of the sky with loud thuds.
"All right, what a way to go, buried in gold," laughed Doone.
The next morning, Steve and Joe were at the White House, debriefing the cabinet. "I swear that no one got past us," said Steve. "No one came in or out. The gold simply...disappeared."
The Secretary of the Treasury glowered. "This is a travesty. The market is already taking a major hit, the nation is in a panic."
"Trevor and the IADC were negligent," said the Secretary of Defense. "I say we court martial them!"
At that moment, Wonder Woman jumped through an open window in the hot confrence room. "Good morning, gentlemen. May I join this conference?"
"Good heavens! It's Wonder Woman!" blustered the Speaker of the House. "Of course! We'd be glad to have your help."
The statuesque beauty stood tall and smiled at the men leering at her. Wonder Woman was always aware of the effect her good looks had on all men, and in some ways she thrilled to it. Satisfied all eyes were on her, she said, "I wouldn't be too quick to blame Mr Trevor and Mr Atkinson, gentlemen. They were defeated by a supercomputer that stole that gold. It can devise an unbeatable method for committing any crime. But the machine was stolen. I've discovered who stole the machine and it was a scientific criminal named..."
At that moment, an aide rushed in and whispered into the Speaker's ear. His eyes grew round in surprise, and he nodded. The aide crossed to a large televison and switched on the sound. The garbled voice spoke again, "This is Crime Brain Doone calling all the so called leaders of America. The gold is very nice, and I thank you for it. You all were too stupid to stop me then and you'll never stop me. In fact, the only obstacle remaining to my developing my empire of crime is Wonder Woman herself. She will be eliminated permanently today at 3 pm." The machine went silent and the room was still for a moment.
"This is outrageous!" shouted one man. "Call in the marines!" said another. "We'll surround you with an armed guard! We can't let you be taken, Wonder Woman!"
Wonder Woman smiled. "You can TRY gentlemen. But if the machine has figured out an unbeatable way to capture me at three o'clock, then you can bet I'll be captured."
Wonder Woman grabbed Trevor by the arm. "I need to make some preparations before you put me under guard. Come on Steve," she said. They leaped out the window, Steve's heart jumping into his throat.
MEANWHILE...Doone had summoned all the crime leaders in the US to his secret lair to deliver an ultimatum. "You're all joining my crime trust," he said. "I'll plan all your crimes and you'll split the take with me 50-50. Otherwise, I'll have the machine plan your arrests."
The mob bosses laughed, and one of them, Knuckles Bonano, said, "I ain't agreein' until we see just what this thing can do. You prove it to me, an' I'm in. Ain't that right boys?"
The remaining bosses shouted agreement. Doone looked angry, but nodded. "All right, you got a deal. The machine has already planned for a way to bring Wonder Woman to my side of the law. I'll get her here, and have her join my Crime Trust. You stick around to watch, ok?"
BACK IN WASHINGTON...Wonder Woman fretted. She was locked in a tight metal cell completely surrounded by almost 1000 armed soldiers, heavy artillery, tanks and overhead, planes circled. An electonic clock counted the minutes, and Wonder Woman kept her eyes focused on the red LED lights. In the distance she could hear the chimes from the National Cathedral as it tolled the hours.
Three o'clock rolled by and Wonder Woman smiled. Nothing happened. Then all at once an almost transparent ray of pale blue light struck the amazing Amazon behind her ear and penetrated to her brain. Within her innmost mind, Wonder Woman felt a compelling command. "COME FORTH AND FOLLOW THE RAY!!!" Wonder Woman was unable to resist the compulsion, and stepped to the bars of her cell.
"Steve, it's past three. The danger is over. Let me out to look for the supercomputer."
Steve stopped. "I would beautiful, but I can't. My orders are to..."
Unable to resist the command of the ray, Wonder Woman grabbed the bars of the cell and bent them back with her fabled strength. She knocked Steve over, throwing him into the contingent of soldiers directly in front of her. The soldiers fell like bowling pins. Wonder Woman leaped over the wave of soldiers and into the path of an oncoming tank. She bent the barrel of the tank's gun back on itself, rendering the machine useless. "I'm sorry, but I haven't time to argue orders with you...I must obey."
She broke through the remaining barricades and chased at hisgh speed down the roadway. Tirelessly, the Maid from Paradise Island followed the compelling force in her mind, her only thought, obedience. Following the ray, Wonder Woman soon found herself inside Doone's headquarters. She stepped into the living room and bowed her head. She crossed her wrists in submission and spoke to Crime Brain, "I am here, and my brain commands me to obey you."
Doone laughed. "Ha ha! My thinking machine wins again! Follow me, Wonder Woman." Unable to resist, the Amazing Amazon followed the criminal into the next room. Doone grabbed the submissive heroine by the chin and forced her head up. "Take a look at what my Thinking Machine can do! The great Wonder Woman herself, our most dangerous enemy, helpless and obedient!" The room grew silent as the Amazon stood helpless and unresisting.
Mindlessly, Wonder Woman parroted Doone, "Yes, I am obedient to you Doone."
The gang bosses were impressed. "You got a deal Doone," said Bonano. "We're all joinin' your Crime Trust."
Nearby, Fife cowered. "This is all my fault," he thought. "Wonder Woman is powerless, and I'm too worried for my life to do anything about it. All I can do is keep myself alive and do as he says. I'm as helpless as Wonder Woman."
Doone smiled, and began thinking of titles for himself. "Emperor Doone has a nice ring to it, don't you think, Dugan?" He looked once more at his powerful prisoner, incapable of moving without his commands. He had plans for Wonder Woman. Big plans.
Doone turned to Fife. "I need you to plan another crime for me. Something really big. I've already got the gold. Now I want you to steal the launch codes for the US missle defense system. I can blackmail the US government into surrendering to me, or else I can blow up a city or two until they do. Or better still, sell the secrets to the enemies of the nation and retire fabulously wealthy."
"Bu..but that's barbaric!" said Fife, trembling. Doone whirled, slapping the mathematician on the side of his face. Fife tumbled to the floor.
"No more lip," he said. "Or your honey here," Doone pointed to Wonder Woman, "will buy the farm. Do you understand?" Fife nodded.
"I'll do it," he said. "But it will take the machine some time to plan it."
Doone glowered but nodded. "Then give it a quick program first." He whispered his intentions into Fife's ear. Fife grew incredibly red, but said nothing. He punched a few keys on the control panel and thirty seconds later, handed the printout to Doone.
Doone winked at the scientist. "Now get to work on the other plan. This will keep me busy all night long, but I'll want your answer to the other problem in the morning." He turned to Wonder Woman. "Right now, I have a little night music to make. Follow me, Wonder Woman." Without hesitation, Wonder Woman followed the crime boss up the stairs of his hideout. A few minutes later, Fife heard thumping and moaning coming down from the floor above. A loud feminine wail indicated one way Doone intended to use Wonder Woman.
"This is terrible," he muttered. He knew already that Doone was something of a mathematical genius himself; but Fife gambled he wouldn't check the math too closely for this program. Working furiously, he outlined the scheme for the computer, but he also added a few lines that would secretly allow the IADC to find them. Satisfied at his own duplicity, Fife ran the program, then fell asleep.
He woke early, the cries of Wonder Woman still resounding from the floor above. "I guess the first program was to Doone's satisfaction," he grumbled--ashamed of himself. The moaning grew softer, becoming sobs, and then ending entirely. Doone came down the stairs, wearing a thick brocade bathrobe and pajama pants. Behind him, Wonder Woman followed, her cotume torn, wrinkled and matted. Her eyes were puffy from crying and her once perfect hair disshivelled. She still had her head bowed in submission however and she stood behind Doone, her wrists still crossed.
"I have your answers here, Mr Doone," said Fife. Doone scanned the document, then grunted, satisfied.
"Go ahead and put it to work," he said. Fife pressed a few buttons on the machine and the supercomputer hummed to life. All across America, documents began disappearing from military bases--every code book, every key to launch panels began to disappear. A few minutes later, they began to appear on the table in Doone's hideout.
Doone nearly cackled with glee. "This is better than the all night sex formula you gave me last night! Now I control the entire free world! Can you get me on the TV to the government?"
Fife nodded, still defeated. A moment later, Doone appeared on the screen in the President's office, as well as in the IADC's communications room. "I am Crime Boss Doone," he began. "I am responsible for the theft of the supercomputer, the Ft Knox depository and your beloved Wonder Woman." The camera panned the room, showing each item in turn as Doone named it. "As of 10:30 this morning, I also took total control of this nations' defenses. I am ordering the government to surrender to me, or I shall sell these defensive secrets to the enemies of the United States. You will hear from me in 24 hours, at which point I will accept your unconditional surrender."
Doone cut the connection, then smiled. "That should do it," he said. He looked at Wonder Woman, then at Fife. "Doc, I think I need another pick me up," he said.
Back at IADC headquarters, Joe Atkinson was furious. "We cant stop him Steve; he's got control of our most potent weapons, the supercomputer, Fife and Wonder Woman too! And we haven't even got a clue as to where he is!"
At that moment, the little abulatory droid ROVER beep beeped its way into Joe's office. It dropped a note onto the director's desk than rolled out. Joe opened the note and handed it to Steve. "What do you make of this?" asked Joe.
Steve studied the note. "I'd say Fife figured out a way to communicate his location. I'd like to run this by IRAC, but I'm almost convinced these are the coordinates of the supercomputer. And if we find the supercomputer..."
"We find Doone and his cronies," finished Joe. "Sound thinking Steve. Get on it--take as many men as you need."
"Thanks Joe; but I think this is a case where less is more." Steve stood up and left the office.
Three hours, one helicopter and an IADC staff car later, Steve was approximately one mile from Doone's Pennsylvania headquarters. Located in a deep woods, Steve had no problem approaching it without being spotted. He lay on a hill nearby, watching the compound through binoculars. Ever since the device had been stolen, crime had increased and Steve was intent to stop it.
The document had not only indicated the address of the supercomputer, but had provided instructions to approach, away from the otherwise faultless protection. Steve soon found himself entering the compound through an open wine cellar door. He entered the cool dark cellar and waited, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
When his eyes were sufficiently adjusted, he stepped into the main cellar. As he crossed the floor, the lights suddenly blazed on and he found himself face to face with Wonder Woman.
"Angel!" he said. "I can't believe you're free. This will make my job easier."
In response, Wonder Woman grabbed Steve by the lapels of his jacket, and threw him into the heavy stome wall. Steve landed hard, sliding to the floor.
"I'm sorry I didn't bring you flowers," said Steve. "But don't you think that was a little harsh?"
Wonder Woman dove at Steve, grabbing for his neck. The nimlbe IADC agent rolled to his side, barely getting out of Wonder Woman's way. Her timing and superb skill seemed off somehow, and Steve believed she was still under the control of the machine. "The machine," he said. "That's got to be it." Wonder Woman punched at Steve and he barely avoided the fist. Instead, Wonder Woman's fist buried itself into the stone wall, crumbling it.
Steve studied the room and ran diving under Wonder Woman's boomerang tiara. He came up in front of the breaker panel. "You want me? Come and get me." Wonder Woman took a running start at Steve, then kicked up at him. Steve managed once again to get out of the way, and the amazing Amazon's boots landed in the circuit board. There was a flash of lightning, and Steve heard Wonder Woman howl in pain. The lights flickered, then the hideout went black.
Steve reached over to where his angel had fallen. "Wonder Woman?" he asked.
"Steve! Oh Steve!" Steve felt powerful arms around his neck and a deep kiss from Wonder Woman. He maintained his cool, though and managed to break the kiss.
"Are you all right?" he asked her.
"I think so," she said. "My mind is my own once again." She got to her feet. "And I have a lot of work left to do!"
Soon, the crime bosses who had remained with Doone were rounded up in short order, and tossed into the now locked cellar, with Steve standing guard. Wonder Woman caught up with Doone as he tried to slip away through a roof access. "I owe you BIG, mister," she said, cracking her knuckles.
Doone dropped to his knees begging for mercy. Wonder Woman grumbled, knowing she wouldn not be able to kill a surrendered foe, but tossed Doone extra hard down the stairs. The Crime Trust was broken up, but Wonder Woman still had one task left.
She picked up Professor Fife from the floor. The mathematician hung his head. "I'm terribly sorry for the things Doone had the machine do to you Wonder Woman. I'm so ashamed, how can I ever face my friends?"
"It's true, you were weak when faced with a chance to be courageous," said Wonder Woman. "But you put your life on the line to end this madness. I think you can be forgiven."
"But the horrible things Doone did to you...how can I ever forget it?"
Wonder Woman studied the small man. "We grow from our mistakes, Professor Fife. Rather than forget, learn from this." She looked at the supercomputer. "But maybe the world isn't ready yet for a device that can solve man's problems. Perhaps I should destroy it."
Fife agreed, and Wonder Woman's mighty Amazon muscles made short work of the computer. "Bu-but I still remember how to make another one!" protested Fife. Wonder Woman nodded, then tossed her lasso over Fife's shoulders.
"You will forget how to make a thinking machine," she said. "But you will remember these events." She took the lasso from his shoulders and held the sobbing scientist. "I forgive you." she said.
BACK AT IADC HEADQUARTERS...
"Good work Steve, on rescuing Wonder Woman, the gold and the national defense," said the President, though his filtered screen. "The Congress wants to award you a medal, privately of course. But it will be reflected in your jacket and your paycheck, as well. "
"Thank you sir," said Steve. "But I really didn't do that much."
"Are you kidding Steve?" asked Joe. "You singlehandedly rescued Wonder Woman and saved the nation's defense and economy, I'd hardly call that nothing."
"Well, technically, Wonder Woman did all that," said Steve.
"And you were a part of the biggest haul of wanted criminals in history," added Diana.
"It's just too bad we don't have that thinking machine to devise fitting punishments." said Joe.
"Oh I don't know," said Diana. "It seems to me, we're definitely smart enough to do THAT at least."
"How's Professor Fife doing?" asked the President.
"He's taking a leave from the agency for a while. He wanted to research and write a book on the Dynamics of an Asteroid. Under the circumstances, we felt a sabbatical was a good idea," said Joe.
"That's good," said the President. "As Diana said once, every human mind needs a rest once in a while."
"Well I could certainly use one," said Steve. "How about it Diana? Care for a trip to the Caribbean with me?"
"Oh no, Steve, I couldn't. I feel like I just stood around during your last mission. Someone has to be here in case the world falls apart while you're gone."
"I agree," said Joe. "Have a nice vacation Steve." Joe offered his arm and Diana took it. They left the communications room together.
"Sorry, Steve, I can't go either," said the President. "But maybe you could ask Wonder Woman."
"I would if I could find her."
"Well you found her once. I'm sure you could find her again. She has a way of showing up you know."