Mathematical genius and recluse Gunther Juttahat had devoted his life to the study of π. Decades of work, alone in his university-owned house in the middle of Helsinki. His was a profession (luckily for him!) in which his solitariness and eccentricity were seen as part of his genius.
Today he announces that he has fathomed the mystery of his chosen number, and has constructed a machine that can manipulate it. He demands one billion euros from the governments of the EU, or he will turn his machine on. Mocked by the media, ignored by governments, Juttahat focusses his device across a thousand-kilometer-wide oval of portion of Northern Europe and Russia. All engines built around circular components fail; wheels break apart; rain dissolves in a freezing mist. A second strike in North America has similar results. Juttahat ups his demands: a billion euros, lifelong legal immunity and an island of his own on which to live. ‘Or,’ he says, ‘I shall apply my power across the whole round world, causing it to disintegrate.’
The authorities seize him, of course; and confiscate his machine, lock him in a secure facility. The most advanced interrogation techniques are preferred: nothing cruelly physical or tortuously mental — drugs, tricks and tailored questioning. Does he have another machine? Rigged, perhaps, to detonate in its maker's absence? ‘First,’ says Gunther, ‘I must explain. I had good reasons for doing what I did! Only after I have made my official statement will I answer these other questions.’ And so he begins, sketching his grievances under three headings. The first of these, he explains, necessitates the elaboration a further four explanatory sub-headings—of which the first element is a single clear point that prompts five further points.
Gunther stops for a sip of water. His interrogator leans forward a little way. ‘Go on,’ he says.
Adam Roberts has published a number of science fiction novels - the most recent being Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea (with Mahendra Singh). His short fiction includes the Sidewise Award-nominated "Tollund" in The Book of the Dead and the wonderfully entitled "The Assassination of Isaac Newton by the Coward Robert Boyle" in Irregularity. This is the first publication of this story.