a chintzy singles bar in New New York, a slender, three-eyed alien
with smooth black hair gazed wistfully into the distance while
nursing a Löbrau. Pop music from the 2980’s played over
the speakers. Shortly a slim, muscular, blond man stepped up to her,
grinning with eagerness. “Hey there, gorgeous,” he said
in a silky tone. “Better call Charlie, he’s missing an
don’t want to have sex with me,” said the alien woman
until I’ve properly introduced myself, anyway,” said the
man, stroking her shoulder. “My name’s Beau Hunter.”
nice to meet you, Beau,” said the woman with a hint of a smile,
“but trust me, you don’t want to have sex with
right, I don’t,” said Hunter as he pulled himself a bit
closer. “Not right here and right now, that is.”
alien woman sighed. “All right,” she said in defeat.
“We’ll go to your place.”
the dim light of Beau Hunter’s penthouse, the suave seducer
made an unpleasant discovery. “Hey, those are fake! You’re
again,” said the raven-haired alien with glee.
will return to Androgyny and the City after a message from our
sponsor, Mom’s Friendly Robot Company,” droned the
was a Friday night. Fry and Bender, not wanting to spend the evening
alone, had decided to relax in front of the TV together. They barely
noticed the sun sinking below New New York’s concrete horizon,
or the fiery comet that was hurtling directly toward the recently
rebuilt Nouvelle Montreal.
sucks,” Fry remarked out of the blue.
his robot buddy concurred. “If it weren’t for All My
Circuits, I’d stop watching Fox altogether. I mean,
Switching Bodies with Celebrities? That is so totally
it’s not that,” said Fry. “It sucks that TV hasn’t
changed at all after a thousand years of suspended animation. Here
we are staring at a tiny little screen, when we could be inside
the set, interacting with artificially intelligent characters.”
characters?” said Bender incredulously. “You’re
watching the wrong network, pal.” Picking up the remote
control with his three corrugated fingers, he switched the channel to
PBS. “Here’s something you can always count on to
deliver quality—public television.”
I’m Simon Cowell’s head,” stated the show’s
disembodied host. “Welcome to Siegfried Idol, where
you, the audience, will choose the next great opera star.”
man, I hate opera,” Fry grumbled. “There’s
never any sex or violence.”
Bender changed the station again, the automatic door slid open,
allowing Leela to enter. “Hi, guys,” she greeted them.
“You’re not watching Androgyny and the City, are
way,” Fry assured her. “That’s a chick show.”
thought it was a guy show,” said Leela.
the screen, Morbo and Linda reported the latest world news. “Only
two Ewoks survived—a male and a female,” said Morbo in
his gruff alien voice. “They were promptly sterilized. Over
to you, Linda.”
just in,” said the blond newswoman. “The president of
the world, Richard Nixon’s head, has signed into law the
much-debated Kennedy-Kennedy Act. The bill’s most
controversial provisions include a ten percent increase in funding
for water drilling on Mars, a decree requiring all mutants to live in
the sewers, and a program intended to…”
my God!” exclaimed Leela, her eye widening in horror.
Leela!” said Fry sharply. “I think she just said
something about mutants. It may be important.”
the Nibblonian could sense, even without telepathy, that something
was troubling his humanoid food delivery unit. It’s not
that time of the month yet, he thought with his advanced brain.
It’s not relationship-related, since I haven’t seen
her with anyone.
you cute widdle cwitter,” gushed Leela as she dumped a helping
of Kibbles ‘n’ Snouts into the plastic bowl on the floor.
Incoherent as always, thought Nibbler. If I want to get
to the bottom of this, I’ll have to risk reading her mind.
While the one-eyed woman was still bent over, he pointed his antenna
at her and waved it about. Hmm...no, don’t buy that pair of
new boots, one hundred years from now nobody will want to be caught
dead in boots like that…wait, those are last week’s
slumped onto the couch and sighed plaintively. As if someone knew
she needed company, the doorbell to her apartment rang.
Amy,” she greeted the perky Asian girl, who wore her usual pink
Leela,” said Amy, stepping inside. “I saw the report on
TV, and thought you might need some moral support.”
really nice of you,” said Leela gratefully. “Have a seat
wherever you want, except in the fish tank.”
tank?” Suddenly curious, Amy leaned over to view the
inhabitants of Leela’s new aquarium. “I didn’t
know you liked fish for companionship as well as eating.”
Behind the glass surface, a six-inch-long golden fish gazed back at
her with three eyes, one at the midpoint of the other two. “That’s
a weird-looking one,” she remarked. “What do you call
Blinky,” Leela told her. “They found him in a pond near
a nuclear waste dump.”
guess he’s a mutant like you,” said Amy, watching the
scaly creature wriggle around the tank. “But from the looks of
him, he totally has no clue. Heck, he probably thinks all
fish have three eyes.”
smiled and nodded while pulling a bottle of Merlot from her
refrigerator. “Did you know the average fish has a memory span
of about seven seconds?” she asked.
look!” said Amy in wonderment. “That fish has three
someone say fish?” came a slurred voice from the doorway.
Leela and Amy turned and saw that their good friend Dr. Zoidberg had
scuttled into the apartment.
hello, Doctor,” Leela began to say, when to her horror,
Zoidberg plunged a lobsterlike claw into the aquarium and snatched
Blinky out of the water. “Put him back!” she exclaimed
as Zoidberg was about to drop the fish into his eager mouth, he
noticed the third eye at the very point of its skull. Recoiling in
shock, he released his grip on Blinky’s tail, sending the
hapless pet into a free-fall to the carpet.
stammered the alien physician, gesticulating with his claws. “I
came this close to eating a freak fish! I could have died, or
suffered some other horrible demise! Thank you ever so much for
warning me, Leela.”
the cyclops rushed over to retrieve her fish from the cold floor, yet
another visitor appeared at the doorstep—Hermes Conrad, grade
36 bureaucrat. “How’s it hanging?” he inquired of
hi, Hermes,” said Leela as she released Blinky into his watery
container. “You don’t come around here often.”
have some unpleasant business to attend to,” said the
bespectacled Jamaican. “Unpleasant for you, that is.
For me, merely inconvenient.” He looked aside at the aquarium
and commented, “That’s a fine finny friend you have,
Blinky,” said Leela, and then something odd struck her. “You
do notice that he has three eyes, right?”
grinned knowingly. “I have so many details in my life, I try
to ignore such small things.” His tone became somber.
“Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the Nixon’s
bowed her head slightly. “So you’ve heard the news,
mon,” was Hermes’ response. “I’ve known this
was coming for more than a week.”
week?” said Leela, startled. “Why didn’t you say
put on a sheepish face. “I was sure the Senate would vote down
the measure, but I didn’t count on the influence of Ted
spluh,” said Amy. “He’s been in office for the
past two thousand years. He’s no pushover.”
thousand years?” Leela mused. “I don’t think it’s
been that long.”
shrugged. “My idea of ancient history is former boyfriends.”
stared earnestly at the dreadlocked accountant. “So what’s
the unpleasant business?” she asked, not wanting to know the
answer. “Are you going to drag me off to the sewers right now?
My parents don’t even know I’m coming.”
mon,” said Hermes calmly. “The mass roundup of surface
mutants doesn’t start for another week. Until then, you have
the option of relocating to the sewers voluntarily.”
eye flashed fire. “You can’t round up all of us,”
she said threateningly. “Our numbers are greater than you
vent your anger on me, mon,” said Hermes with a distinct
lack of care. “I don’t make the laws. I only complicate
them.” With that, he rested his briefcase on the edge of the
fish tank, flipped it open, and sank his hand into the cluttered
what?” said Leela impatiently. “Do I have to sign a form
declaring myself a member of the mutant underclass?”
chuckled. “I submitted your change of status paperwork a year
ago, Leela. As of last Tuesday, the government officially recognizes
you as a mutant. That’s why you have to wear this from
the depths of his briefcase he drew a brown cloth wristband with an
eye-shaped pattern stitched into it.
jaw dropped. Taking a step backwards, she stated firmly, “I am
not wearing that!”
on,” said Hermes, holding out the offending piece of fabric.
“All the other mutants are wearing them. It’s not only
stylish, but mandatory.”
horrible,” Leela protested. “It’s so
incredibly tacky. It clashes with my hair. It doesn’t match
my wrist console at all. It looks like it was cut out of a grocery
bag and chewed by a dog.”
I wear it?” Amy requested.
stared scornfully at the brown band on her left wrist, then turned
her gaze to the bathroom mirror. I’m too good-looking to
live in the sewers, she thought, admiring her lush purple hair
and shimmering hazel eye. So I’m a little different from
other people. So I have only one eye and one ovary. Big deal. I
saw a woman down there who had three boobs sticking out of her back.
It’s people like her the government should be protecting us
from, not people like me. There must be a way to get out of this.
Maybe I should go underground. Wait…isn’t that what I’m
trying to avoid?
toilet began to bubble vigorously, filling the porcelain bowl with
dingy water. Toilet’s backing up again, she thought as
she idly pulled off the lid. To her astonishment, a greeting
card-shaped envelope was floating in the tank. Reaching in and
flipping it over, she saw the words To Leela, from Morris and
Munda scrawled on the front. My God, she thought. It’s
from my parents. They’ve never sent me a letter before.
envelope was drenched and stank of sewage, but she eagerly opened it
with her well-groomed nails. Nibbler poked his head into the room
and listened while she read the message aloud:
Leela: We hope this letter finds you well. As soon as we heard that
you would be joining us in the sewers, we set about cleaning up the
guest bedroom. The job went smoothly, except for a family of rats
who wouldn’t leave. You’ll be sharing the room with
them, but don’t worry. They’re very clean and quiet. We
think you’ll enjoy living with us. You’ll have all the
comforts of the surface world, only without glitzy add-ons like
plumbing and central heating. The food’s good as well. Munda
can whip up delectable dishes by fermenting old newspapers. We love
you, and we’ll do everything we can to make you happy here.
One other thing: Turanga is your last name, not your first name.
Hugs and kisses, Morris and Munda.”
tear formed at the base of Leela’s eye as she folded up the
problems of a misfit cyclops didn’t amount to a hill of beans
in the Cerulean Nebula, a mass of argon, methane, and other gases
that stretched over 200,000 kilometers of space. Near the eye of the
great blue cloud, a small fleet of DOOP science vessels was exploring
nascent planetoids in search of valuable mineral deposits. Shielding
them from the reported threat of pirates in the region was the DOOP’s
flagship, the mighty Nimbus.
officer Lieutenant Kif Kroker stared lazily at a monitor, waiting for
a sensor signal to appear so he could dismiss it as a harmless comet
as opposed to a pirate warship. The far more comfortable captain’s
seat was occupied by Zapp Brannigan, who grinned blankly and
occasionally glanced around to ensure that his crewmen looked busy.
status report,” said Zapp to the recently installed ship’s
still a self-absorbed git who needs to lose weight,” came a
female voice with a Manchester accent.
the last time I ask you,” said Zapp flatly. Turning to
his second-in-charge, he uttered, “Lieutenant Kroker, status
sighed with boredom. “No status, sir.”
said Zapp, shifting in his chair. “In five minutes our shift
will be over, then we can retire for the night and leave the ship in
less capable hands.”
looking forward to it, sir,” said the green-skinned,
banana-shaped alien with an emotionless tone. It’s a good
thing my species doesn’t require sleep, he thought. I
get to spend the next eight hours gazing at the pictures of Amy on my
wall. Captain Brannigan will never know.
yellow light suddenly flashed on his control console. Whipping his
head around, he barked, “Incoming transmission, sir!”
them I’m not here,” said Zapp disinterestedly.
Kif checked over his instruments, not believing what he saw. “It’s
an old Earth frequency.”
eh?” Intrigued, Zapp rose up from his command seat. “Why
do they keep pestering me? Open a channel.”
opened, sir,” said Kif, and the bridge speakers started to play
rhythmic, beautiful music.
melody so delighted Zapp that he began to wave his fingers in time.
“It must be coming from one of the space probes launched by
NASA in the latter part of the twentieth century. This particular
selection sounds like Benny Goodman.”
you dolt,” said the tinny-voiced artificial intelligence.
“It’s the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 by Johann
said it sounds like Benny Goodman,” said the exasperated
commander. “Yeesh, pull the stick out of your…”
Nimbus rocked violently, throwing Zapp off balance. “Lieutenant
Kroker, what just hit us?” he shouted while dancing about to
regain his footing.
studied the monitor readout carefully. “It’s…it’s
a harmless comet, sir,” he stated.
loud explosion followed, and the ship trembled from stem to stern.
Grabbing a railing to steady himself, Zapp grumbled, “We really
need to get those inertial dampers fixed.”
damage to decks 11, 12, and 14,” a faceless officer yelled.
fire,” said the AI unworriedly, and the bridge vibrated from
the discharge of several quantum torpedoes.
didn’t tell you to return fire!” yelled Captain Brannigan
at the overhead computer.
because you’re stupid,” said the AI. “What were
you going to do, invite them for tea and crumpets?”
blasts stopped abruptly, and the crewmen who had been tossed to the
floor pulled themselves up. “Report, Mr. Kroker,” Zapp
hostile is retreating, sir,” said Kif, watching a small blip on
the screen move toward the edge.
in a pursuit course,” Zapp ordered him.
alien lieutenant’s rubbery jaw dropped. “But, sir, we
can’t leave the science vessels unprotected,” he said
earnestly. “There are three hundred civilians on board,
including five professors up for tenure.”
my pursuit course, Mr. Kroker?” said Zapp with marked
your mother is on one of those vessels.”
protests fell on unconcerned ears, and the ship’s engines began
to grind. Fiery blasts from the rocket cones propelled the Nimbus
and its crew in the direction of the fleeing enemy.
alert!” shouted Captain Brannigan as frantic officers scrambled
to their stations.
on red alert,” the AI informed him. “I switched
to red alert status automatically the moment we were fired upon.”
now you expect a medal, I suppose,” Zapp grumbled. Computers,
he thought. Always doing things automatically instead of doing as
Kif cried out in terror. “Look at the view screen!”
whirled. Both he and every other living thing on the bridge gaped at
the awesome sight.
raider that had attacked them was now standing still in space, in the
company of roughly five hundred other ships. All shared the same
configuration—lean like a cigar, with the symbol of the Jolly
Roger etched in black and white on the front of the hull.
they’re powering up their weapons,” Kif related. “All
of them are.”
could only stare in wonder as the hostile fleet maneuvered and
surrounded the Nimbus like a web of spikes. “It’s them,”
he muttered to himself. “It’s the infamous Pirates of
ripple of fear swept through the bridge of the Nimbus as Brannigan’s
crew became aware of their impending fate. Hemmed in by the small
but multitudinous pirate ships, they could only hold their breaths
and wait for the explosions. Sweet death has come at last,
thought Kif wistfully. I just wish I could bid farewell to my
smizmar one last time.
stood tall and erect in the middle of the bridge, keeping a brave
face as his job description explicitly required him to do. “Look
at the bright side, men,” he said, as all the female members of
the bridge crew had quit in disgust long ago. “Most of their
shots will miss us and hit the other pirates.”
noise issued from Kif’s console. “They’re hailing
us,” he informed the captain, recognizing the sound as his ring
tone, the centuries-old classic My Heart Will Go On.
screen,” Captain Brannigan ordered.
large video display embedded in the forward wall flickered to life.
A rerun of The Scary Door appeared briefly, and was replaced
by the image of a ghastly creature. The head was shaped like an
inverted pear; the skin was pallid as snow; the catlike eyes glowed
yellow; the mouth was bent into a lipless frown. It was the
grotesque visage of a being who had reached death’s door and
been turned away.
by the sight, Zapp stated, “I am Captain Zapp Brannigan of the
Democratic Order of Planets. If that name doesn’t fill you
with respect and dread, then my publicist isn’t doing his job.”
am Commander Balalaika of the Cerulean Pirate Fleet,” said the
wraithlike alien, its harsh, booming voice triggering a bass
vibration in the consoles. “Your lives and possessions are
forfeit. Surrender your vessel, and your deaths will be quick and
stared incredulously at the menacing figure on the screen. “Is
that a puppet?”
gaunt face probed him with its yellow eyes one more time, then jerked
backwards, revealing itself as no more than a synthetic head operated
by the hand of yet another odd-looking fellow.
mateys,” said the puppet master with the grizzled face,
straggly long hair, and assortment of gemstone necklaces. “I
be the real Captain Balalaika.”
nodded understandingly. Kif and several other bridge crewmen
sees ye laughin’ at me,” snapped Balalaika, his red locks
quivering. “I guarantees ye, this here be no Halloween
costume. I be dead serious about the piratin’ business.”
did one of your ships attack us?” Zapp asked him.
to lure ye into a trap, of course,” replied the pirate captain.
“That be what us pirates do—we captures ships that cross
into our territory, takes their booty for ourselves, and makes all
the poor swabs walk the plank. An’ if a ship don’t have
a plank, we uses the airlock.”
Brannigan took a bold step forward. “You won’t have your
way with us so easily,” he warned his enemy. “The Nimbus
is armed with an immensely destructive weapon called the Doomsday
Device of Unspeakable Doom. The moment one of your raiding parties
sets foot on the ship, the device will be automatically activated,
releasing a burst of poisonous radiation that will destroy all
organic life within four light-years.”
mouth fell open with astonishment. “Sir,” he muttered
reverently, “you don’t mean…”
shot him an impatient glare. “That’s exactly what
I mean, lieutenant,” he barked. “Now go down below and
make the preparations.”
a desperate sigh, the green alien stood up and made his way to the
turbolift. Now let’s see, he wondered. Which
setting was the microwave on when I left the fork in it?
pirate leader was skeptical of Brannigan’s threat. “Arrr,”
he drawled. “Ye be bluffin’. Ye has no such doomsday
do too has one,” Zapp assured him. “So tell your
hearties to power down their weapons, because if the Nimbus goes
down, you all go down with her.”
moment of terrible silence passed between the two captains. Then, to
Zapp’s surprise, the picture on the viewscreen split in two.
On the left he saw Captain Balalaika and his head puppet; on the
right, a balding man with horn-rimmed glasses.
Captain Brannigan,” said the newcomer in a friendly tone. “I’m
Lieutenant J.G. Foss, science officer under Captain Balalaika.”
to make your acquaintance,” said Zapp.
I joined the pirates and started making some real money,” Foss
continued, “I was a professor at Mars University, specializing
in subquantum lattices. I never had more than a passing interest in
doomsday technology, but from the few conferences I attended, I got
the impression that a device capable of hyperdeath on the scale you
describe was five to ten years away. And now you tell me it’s
already here. I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised.”
grinned with satisfaction. They’re falling for it, he
thought. And to think I almost cancelled my subscription to
would like to propose an alternative to mutual destruction,”
said Foss, looking to his side as if Balalaika was in the room with
him. “Take Captain Brannigan prisoner, allow the Nimbus and
its crew to leave in peace, and then negotiate a ransom figure with
stroked his whiskered chin. “Aye,” he said thoughtfully.
“The famous Zapp Brannigan would fetch a bonny sum indeed.”
grimaced at the prospect of becoming a captive to such a stereotyped
enemy. This won’t do at all, he thought. I’ve
been told over and over that the needs of the many outweigh the needs
of the few, or the one, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere…
made a squeamish face at the sight of the withered head in a jar that
was talking to him. It had been a month since Professor Farnsworth’s
elective head-preservation surgery, but the members of the Planet
Express team still found it hard to look at him in his new form.
me, Professor,” Leela chimed in, “but before we listen to
your good news, I’d really like to share some very bad
we’re all aware of that,” said Professor Farnsworth’s
head in a carefree tone.
glanced around the conference table at her crewmates Fry, Bender,
Amy, Zoidberg, and Hermes, all of whom responded with nods of
professor could no longer nod, but the twinkle in his bespectacled
eyes made his concern clear. “Every one of us here will miss
you greatly, Leela,” he said comfortingly.
a wonderful teammate, mon,” added Hermes. “You always
bring the ship back in one piece. You never take office supplies
home with you.” Bender belched, and a spray of paper clips
flew from his mouth. “The inspectors from the Department of
Commerce never ask me probing questions about you. But you mean
something more to us than all that, Leela.”
the best friend anyone could hope for,” said Amy.
miss you, I will,” blubbered Zoidberg.
smiled wistfully as the gathered friends complimented her. “Thank
you, thank you,” she said in a whisper.
gazed earnestly at the one-eyed girl. “I may never get another
chance to tell you this,” he said, choked by anxiety. “I…I…”
eyelid fluttered as she waited patiently and longingly for his words.
was the one who left the seat up all the time,” Fry told her.
“It wasn’t Bender.”
silver robot nudged Fry with his flexible elbow. “Thanks for
coverin’, pal,” he muttered.
the good news, professor?” asked Amy.
head grinned. “We found a new pilot to replace Leela.”
at the table gasped.
replacement?” said Leela indignantly. “Don’t
you think you’re acting a bit prematurely?”
my, no,” said the professor. “When a pilot like Delta
becomes available for hire, one doesn’t hesitate.”
got everything we’re looking for,” added Hermes. “She
can handle a joystick, and she has no felonies on her record.”
I haven’t quit yet!” said Leela, gesticulating urgently.
While her arm was raised, Zoidberg took the opportunity to wipe his
nose on her brown wristband.
a problem,” said Farnsworth’s head. “Delta has
agreed to perform chores and errands until she officially takes your
and errands?” said Leela in disbelief. “What kind of
person is this Delta?”
not a person,” said the professor. “She’s a
robot.” Glancing toward the conference room doorway, he
intoned, “You can come in now, Delta.”
eyes turned to the entrance, where a full-bosomed, chrome-plated
automaton was taking mincing steps on tiny, wedge-shaped feet. The
fembot wore a plain blue dress that reached down as far as her knee
joints, and her copper-wire hair was bobbed at the ears. Her mouth
was fixed in an oblivious cherry smile, and her eyes displayed even
less emotion than the average robot.
to a halt three steps from the table, she stated in a
schoolmarm-sweet voice, “Greetings. My name is Delta. I await
the Planet Express associates stared speechlessly at the
newcomer—except for Bender, who couldn’t help but
exclaim, “Hubba hubba hubba!”
yourself, Bender,” Amy chided the quivering robot.
mama!” babbled Bender as his cybernetic heart hammered against
his metal chest. “That dame’s really built! Look at the
size of those Volkswagens! Humina humina humina…”
you think my breasts are too large, I can adjust them,” said
Delta in a complacent tone.
professor?” said Leela. “Are you sure she’s really
qualified to fly the Planet Express ship? She seems a bit…servile.”
to be expected,” said Farnsworth’s head. “Delta
was constructed by a famous roboticist to be the perfect female
said Leela, her incredulity building.
you judge her,” said the professor, “listen to her story.
It’s very entertaining.”
present who had ears listened intently. “My creator, Professor
Djikstra, programmed me with three fundamental laws: 1. I may not
harm Professor Djikstra, or, through inaction, allow Professor
Djikstra to come to harm. 2. I must obey the orders given to me by
Professor Djikstra, unless such orders conflict with the First Law.
3. I must protect my own existence, unless such protection conflicts
with the First or Second Laws.”
hand shot up. “Hold on a minute. Those are Asimov’s
Three Laws of Robotics, only with you in place of robots, and
Professor Jockstrap in place of humans.”
slapped her forehead. “That’s revolting!” she
complained. “You were brought into existence for no purpose
but to act as a love slave for some horny roboticist!”
gets worse,” Farnsworth told her. “Professor Djikstra
was a lesbian.”
take it as a personal insult that you would choose such a worthless
piece of machinery as my replacement,” said Leela with a scowl
that could peel paint.
Delta continued her tale. “387 days after my creation,
Professor Djikstra was killed in a lab explosion. Having no purpose
left, I decided to travel the world in search of one. I was a
passenger on an airliner when the steward informed us that the
auto-pilot had committed suicide. As I was the only robot on board,
he asked me if I could fly the plane and land it safely, and I did
so. I took it as a sign that my calling was to be a pilot. Since
that day 64 years ago, I’ve flown everything
imaginable—passenger jets, military transports, even a magic
haven’t flown me, baby,” said Bender, pumping his
interpret your words and gestures as an indication that you want to
have sex,” said Delta, her tone of voice still coldly soothing.
“Am I correct?”
bet your sweet bazooms,” said Bender. “Uh, you are
properly equipped, right?”
said Delta. “I am programmed to administer nineteen different
forms of erotic stimulation.”
said Bender with a hint of embarrassment. “Is it a problem
that I’m not equipped?”
grabbed his robot buddy by the arm. “Bender,” he
whispered hoarsely, “if you have even a shred of
quickly realized that he had nothing in his hands but Bender’s
with his Coke-bottle glasses, the professor’s eyesight wasn’t
as sharp as before, so he didn’t notice the expression of
abject glumness on Leela’s face as she carried his head jar to
the shelf. “And then I want you to take Delta along on the
delivery to Omicron Perseii VIII,” he rambled. “She’s
a robot, so she’ll pick up the routine quickly.”
routine, maybe,” said Leela bitterly. “But interstellar
travel is full of unexpected twists, and sometimes it takes human
ingenuity to survive them. That’s what makes us different from
robots. That’s the only reason they haven’t taken over
all of our jobs.”
shook himself. “That’s where you’re wrong, Leela.
A robot can do anything a human can do, and better. The only
thing that stops robots from enslaving humans is the fact that we
program them, not the other way around.”
rested the professor’s jar on a cabinet shelf, but had more to
say before she left him to his nap. “I don’t hate Delta
as much as I pity her,” she stated. “She’s not to
blame for what she is, any more than I’m to blame for being a
mutant. Imagine if you were programmed to be a love slave to
someone you don’t even love.”
professor smiled wistfully and began to hum. He’s really
imagining it, thought Leela. God, he freaks me out, and it’s
not just because he’s a head in a jar.
closed the cabinet, leaving Farnsworth with no illumination save a
butterfly-shaped night light. Having nothing on her agenda, she
wandered into the lounge, where Fry was passing the time by crumpling
napkins and tossing them at the wastebasket. Most of his shots
missed the target, and a few napkins even landed on the floor behind
Leela,” said the red-headed youth. “Sorry you can’t
stay with us. Say, do you have any plans for your big-screen TV?
Not that I want it for myself, but Bender’s got his eye on it.”
tried to ignore him and grab a cup for the water cooler, but the
emotions would not be restrained. Before she knew it tears were
streaming from her eye, and her arms were wrapped tightly around
Fry’s sloping shoulders.
thought Fry as he felt warm salt water soak his jacket. Does this
mean we’re dating?
so awful,” sobbed Leela, her nose buried in Fry’s neck.
“I have to live in a foul-smelling sewer, my job is going to a
Stepford wife-bot, everything’s going wrong at once.”
cry, Leela,” said Fry, but the cyclops girl only wept more
earnestly. I wonder why it never works to say that, he
lifted her face, sniffled, and wiped her nose on the despised wrist
cloth. “Something good’s gotta come out of this,”
she said tearfully. “My parents told me that when God closes
one manhole, he opens another. But I just can’t see it.”
Fry tried to console his sorrowing friend, a news broadcast unrolled
on the TV screen suspended from the lounge ceiling. Two people,
Morbo the alien and Sean Hannity’s head, were debating current
issues from opposite sides of a round table.
so-called defenses are inadequate,” Morbo snarled. “Our
battle fleet will crush them with little or no effort. All of your
pathetic attempts at resistance are doomed!”
let’s examine what you just said,” countered Hannity’s
head. “True, your fleet is quite impressive, but don’t
forget that when you strike a blow at Earth, you strike a blow at the
entire Democratic Order of Planets. Our allies have come to our aid
consistently in the past, and we expect they will do so again.
You’re not exactly a popular person, Morbo—just look at
exchange was abruptly interrupted. “This just in,” said
blonde newscaster Linda. “The DOOP starship Nimbus has
returned from a mission to the Cerulean Nebula—minus its
legendary captain, Zapp Brannigan.”
promptly forgot her sadness and jerked her head toward the screen.
“Check it out,” said Fry facetiously. “Something’s
happened to your boyfriend.”
a boy, all right,” Leela retorted. “But he’s not
watched in bemusement as Kif Kroker, acting captain of the Nimbus,
related his story over the airwaves.
say a space pod’s large enough to support one person,
thought Zapp, glancing around at his cramped surroundings. Maybe
they should revise their estimate.
to straighten his knees or his neck due to the small size of the
craft, afraid of moving his arms lest he should bump a lever and
throw off the trajectory, Captain Brannigan floated through space
inside a metal shell for what seemed like a very, very long time.
There’s only one thing for a space captain to do when faced
with such a dire situation, he mused amidst the silence and
darkness. Quote Shakespeare out loud while no one is listening.
a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done,” he
muttered. “’Tis a far, far better…oh, screw this!
Shakespeare can’t help me. His characters always end up
wish Leela were here with me. Lovely, sexy Leela…
witnessed solemnly from the Nimbus bridge as the tiny vessel
disappeared into the hatch of the nearest pirate ship. I’ll
send your regards to your mother, he thought. Signaling with his
hand, he said to one of Zapp’s faceless minions, “On my
viewscreen lit up with the image of shaggy-headed Captain Balalaika.
“Yarrr, matey,” drawled the pirate leader. “Ye
should know by now that trustin’ a pirate is a mistake ye only
nodded and struggled to look confident. “I’ll certainly
never make it again,” he agreed.
turned his head, but Kif could see the wanton hatred in his eyes.
“All ships,” he commanded, “fire on the Nimbus and
Kif bellowed at his subordinate.
faceless minion punched a button on his console, and the ship lurched
into violent action, speeding ahead on a direct collision course with
the enemy vessel where Zapp had set down. Fiery missiles streaked
through the empty space the Nimbus left in its wake.
was struck with terror as he watched the massive starship loom ever
larger on his screen. “The man’s insane!” he
exclaimed, abandoning his pirate brogue. “At that speed, he
won’t be able to break away in time!”
Balalaika could already make out the rivets in the Nimbus’
duranium hull, and the mighty ship was hurtling closer every second.
“Evasive maneuvers!” he barked at his helmsman, who wore
an eyepatch and a red bandanna. “Get us out of the way!”
aye, sir,” said the other officer as he hit a few keys on his
console. “If we survive this, can I have a parrot?”
an agile twist, the tiny raider fled from harm’s way at top
speed—which still wasn’t fast enough, the captain
realized, to escape the sheer breadth of the oncoming Nimbus. The
two vessels resembled an elephant fearlessly charging at a mouse.
all ships!” he shouted into the commlink. “Concentrate
your fire on the starboard side!” If not for the fact that the
Nimbus now filled the entire viewscreen, he would have noticed that
the other raiders had stopped firing completely.
recognized this when the violent pounding and quaking stopped. It
worked, he thought with relief. They won’t risk hitting
their captain by accident.
power to the inertial dampening field!” he ordered, and a
faceless minion promptly obeyed.
collision of the two ships went by almost unnoticed, but for the
deafening bang. The Nimbus hardly decelerated as it plowed into
Balalaika’s much smaller raider, which, as a result of being
caught up in the amplified inertial dampening field, suffered only
some severe denting.
felt the floor beneath his feet quiver as he stood in the pirate
ship’s launch bay, surrounded by cutthroats with drawn swords.
“Hey, go easy on the shaking,” he said lackadaisically.
“I have a weak stomach, you know.”
growled the tallest of the pirates, waving his cutlass. “The
lowly swab speaks like a woman.”
Brannigan smiled as he stepped up to the gigantic man. “What
say we put aside the role playing and talk seriously, spaceman to
was the pirate’s response. “We has to stay in character
while on duty. Captain’s orders.”
take over from here,” stated a more civilized voice. To Zapp’s
relief, the mob of scalawags gave way to a man with a white shirt, a
checkered tie, and receding hair—the science officer, Foss.
I ever glad to see you,” said Zapp with a sigh. “I
couldn’t take much more of the collective halitosis of these
barbarians. I swear, they must be taking bad breath mints.”
captain’s a stickler for authenticity,” said Foss,
putting out his hand to shake Zapp’s. “You should see
his torture chamber. He still uses the rack and the iron maiden; he
refuses to upgrade to the modern, more effective methods of
suppose that’s where I’m headed next,” said Zapp
shook his head. “Not at all. The captain’s given me
full authority over you, and I’m certain that once you see the
work I’m doing, you’ll be the one asking all the
pirate fleet was in pursuit, so we had to jump immediately,”
Kif concluded his tale. “There was no time to retrieve Captain
Brannigan, unfortunately. He remains in the hands of the pirates.”
concerned crowd had gathered at the front gate of Spacefleet Command
(formerly known as Central Park), where the Nimbus had set aground on
a landing bay more than four square blocks in size. Linda and Kif
Kroker stood before them as the televised interview progressed,
punctuated by camera flashes.
was very clever, using the inertial dampers to absorb the shock of
the collision,” Linda commended the little green captain. “Is
there a name for that maneuver?”
no,” said Kif, glancing upwards at the sun as if to make sure
Brannigan’s shadow hadn’t blocked it out. “It
doesn’t have a name, so I’ll call it…the Kroker
spectators applauded wildly, particularly Fry, Leela, Bender, and
Amy, who were on the outer fringe of the crowd due to having arrived
late. The loud clank-clank-clank of Bender’s clapping caught
Kif’s attention, and he strained on his tiptoes to look over
the group. “Where’s my smizmar?” he wondered
aloud. “Where is Amy Wong?”
here!” squealed the Asian girl.
finally noticed her frantically waving arms. “Come up here,
Amy,” he invited her. “Your friends, too.”
audience politely stood to one side as Amy and the others made their
way to the platform. Leela observed to her dismay that several of
the people she passed grimaced with displeasure when they saw the
brown band on her wrist. I hate this, she thought. Used
to be I could go anywhere in New New York and everybody would assume
I was an alien, and not give me a second look.
a little blond girl stepped in front of her and began to shout,
“Goodbye, mutants! Goodbye, mutants!”
could endure no more. Shaking her fist, she snarled, “How
would you like to have one eye?”
girl screamed and leaped behind a tall, muscular man, who shot Leela
a furious glare. “Don’t touch my daughter, you filthy
mutant!” he spat.
as Leela was trying to determine how high she would have to kick to
reach the man’s crotch, Fry grabbed her shoulder and applied
restraining pressure. “They’re not worth it,” he
muttered into her ear.
cauldron of anger simmered in Leela’s heart. If it weren’t
for this stupid wristband, she told herself, that man might be
my friend instead of someone I want to beat the snot out of.
Fry,” said Bender, tapping on his human buddy’s back.
“I’ll give you five bucks if you let ‘em go at it.”
had moved ahead, meanwhile, and before long she and Kif were locked
in an embrace. “Look at you, Kiffy,” gushed Amy,
admiring her lover’s velour outfit. “You’re the
captain of the Nimbus. You’re somebody.”
is still my first officer’s uniform,” Kif told her.
yeah,” Amy acknowledged. “But it’s not the
uniform, it’s the man who fills it that’s important.”
Oh, how I love a man in uniform, she thought as she planted a
kiss on Kif’s yielding lips.
Amy, and Kif arrived together at the Planet Express building that
evening, hoping to convene with their friends for dinner and
conversation. To Leela’s surprise, the fembot Delta was
puttering about the lounge, sucking the popcorn from the chair
cushions with her hand-mounted vacuum cleaner.
still here?” Leela marveled.
never left,” replied Delta in her usual telephone-recording
do you live?” Amy asked the apron-clad robot. “You do
live somewhere, right?”
live in the arms of whatever man will have me,” was Delta’s
moaned in disgust and walked off. Kif, seeing her stormy
countenance, hurried on his short legs to keep up with her. “How
are you holding up?” he inquired gently. “With the
government’s new policy toward mutants, you must be under
I am,” said Leela, shaking her head. “I rather hoped
that Zapp being captured would lift my spirits, but it’s just
not doing it.”
don’t know Captain Brannigan like I do,” said Kif. “He
talks about you very respectfully.”
does?” said Leela, a bit startled.
uh, yes,” said Kif, his tone becoming sheepish. “When
he’s awake, that is.”
to resist Kif’s attempts to comfort her, Leela wandered back to
the lounge, where Amy and Delta had been joined by Fry, Bender, and
Dr. Zoidberg. All were immersed in a television address by Nixon’s
Head, bellowing at the masses from atop his titanic cyborg body.
attack on the Nimbus constitutes an act of war,” stated the
President of the World. “The Pirates of the Cerulean have
tacitly declared war on Earth, and their challenge will be answered
boldly, resolutely, and above all, unilaterally.”
spleesh,” grumbled Amy. “We haven’t even finished
the last war.”
conflict will require dedication and sacrifice on the part of every
citizen of Earth,” Nixon continued. “An influx of
recruits is required for our planet’s armed space forces. We
need men and women who are strong, fearless, well-disciplined…”
thought occurred to Leela. I could join Spacefleet and get off
the planet. Fighting a war has got to be better than living in the
and loyal. Mutants and children with rich parents need not apply.”
next thing Fry, Delta, Kif, Amy, and Zoidberg saw was a napkin
dispenser smashing through the television screen and lodging itself
in the circuitry. Turning, they gasped at the sight of a seething
cyclops girl with clenched teeth and an upraised arm.
Leela,” said Kif under his breath.
Fry complained. “What’re we gonna watch now?”
sure you didn’t mean to destroy the TV,” said
Bender with fake sympathy. “I’m sure you were aiming at
exclaimed Zoidberg. “Now I can entertain you all by making
music with my body.”
panted with anger. I wish it really were as simple as smashing a
TV, she thought.
next day wasn’t Leela’s day either.
just don’t get it,” Bender complained. “Why can’t
I go with you and Delta to Omicron Perseii VIII?”
I’ve told you seven times already,” said Leela with a
patronizing glare, “the professor and I talked it over and
decided that Delta may be distracted from her training if we take men
or man-like robots with us.”
about Amy?” said Bender. “She needs more training. Why
isn’t she going?”
staying here to help Kif plan for the rescue mission,” Leela
explained. Behind her, Amy lugged a pot of steaming Venusian coffee
into the lounge and set about to pour a saucer full for Kif. The
green alien was hunched over on the couch, his chin in his hands, his
pupils rolled back into his head, his brain deep in thought.
just don’t get it,” Bender repeated himself. “Why
can’t I go with you and Delta to Omicron Perseii VIII?”
you’re not really interested in the delivery,” said Leela
as she pulled the lever to bring down the ship’s boarding ramp.
“You just want to spoon Delta some more.” She sighed
bitterly. Finally, I won’t have to listen to the beeps and
whizzes of constant robot lovemaking from the next room over.
clip-clip-clip of mincing footsteps alerted them that Delta the robot
had arrived. “Reporting for duty, Captain Turanga,” she
announced with a quick salute.
Captain Leela to you,” said the cyclops peevishly. “You’re
not on a first-name basis with me yet.”
that on your arm, sweet cheeks?” Bender inquired of the fembot.
held up her wrist, showing him the new device that had been attached.
“It’s a wrist console like Leela’s. Now we can
communicate no matter where we are on the ship.”
usually just shout,” said Bender. “Say, shouldn’t
you be wearing a uniform or something, now that you’re a member
of the crew?”
are you offended by the sight of my naked body?” Delta giggled
don’t know what it is about her that you find attractive,
Bender,” said Leela. “She’s not even anatomically
a robot thing,” said Bender. “You wouldn’t
understand.” He leaned over to plant a farewell kiss on
Delta’s tinny lips, and sparks literally flew from their eyes.
go, cadet,” said Leela, rudely yanking Delta away from her
lover by the clammy shoulder. Gesturing toward the entryway to the
Planet Express ship, she stated, “This is the boarding ramp.
This lever makes it go up and…”
know what a boarding ramp is, Captain Leela,” said Delta.
don’t you show her your boarding ramp?” Bender
right, then,” said Leela flatly. “Since you obviously
know how to board the ship, let’s get started.”
the bridge of the tiny delivery ship, Leela pulled the seat harness
over her shoulders in preparation for takeoff. Delta, while taking
the same action in the copilot’s chair, said, “I
apologize for interrupting you, sir.”
yanked on the belt around her waist to make sure it was
well-tightened. “You don’t have to call me sir,”
she said, her annoyed tone fading. “We’re not in the
military. I’m not allowed in the military.”
pity, sir,” said Delta in her usual emotionless manner.
“Personally, I think Nixon should look for a way to integrate
mutants into society, rather than hide them in the sewers and pretend
they don’t exist.”
eye lit up. “You actually have an opinion on something,”
she remarked. “I’m impressed.”
members of Nixon’s cabinet feel the same way,” Delta told
her. “They told me so while I was sleeping with them.”
groaned, reached for the ignition switch, and started up the ship’s
and Bender watched the liftoff from outside the docking-bay window.
“There goes the only female I ever truly lusted after,”
said Bender dolefully.
didn’t respond, but only stared at his feet.
eatin’ ya, buddy?” said Bender with concern.
young redhead stuck his hands in his pockets. “I don’t
want Leela to leave,” he lamented with a shake of his head.
only be gone for a day and a half,” said Bender, “which
amounts to 150 years in robot time. So don’t whine to me
about your problems.”
once she gets back, she’ll have to move in with her parents,”
said Fry. “Down in the sewers, with the intelligent giant rats
and the pits of toxic sludge, which are also intelligent.”
worry about a thing, fryboy,” said his robotic friend. “Bender
the Magnificent has a failsafe plan that will solve all our
problems, and make me a bundle of money in the process.”
Fry grinned expectantly. “What’s the plan? And
remember, once you tell me, I’m officially your partner, and
you have to split the money with me.”
pal,” said Bender. “I’ll split it with you three
they sailed through a transit tube high above the snarled traffic of
New New York City, Bender revealed the first detail of his plan to
Fry. “It takes money to make money, so the first step is to
beg some cash off a good friend of mine.”
isn’t that a little bit like…borrowing?” said Fry.
it is,” Bender admitted. “But don’t worry. I can
always count on Don for flexible terms.”
name’s Don?” Fry mused. “Well, with a name like
that, he can’t be bad.”
tube dropped them onto the sidewalk in a cramped, rundown
neighborhood. Before Fry could gain his bearings, Bender seized his
hand and pulled him along. “There’s no time to lose,”
the robot stated. “Don’s a great guy, but he doesn’t
like to be kept waiting, even when he isn’t expecting
gulped—there was something sinisterly familiar about his
surroundings. On the left side of the cracked street stood a row of
restaurants—Vinny’s, Fredo’s, Carmine’s. On
the right he saw a shack-like shop whose banner bore the message,
MONEY LAUNDERED WHILE-U-WAIT.
up, Bender,” he said nervously. “This place gives me the
willies. It reminds me of those old 20th-century movies
with the men in fancy suits and the drive-by shootings and the cars
blowing up. Westerns.”
dragged him along until they descended a rickety staircase into a
darkened bar. The stools were filled by sick-looking robots who
periodically let out fiery belches. The smell of smoke and spilled
motor oil caused Fry’s throat to constrict. It’s like
one of those old-time saloons, he thought. What’s he
gonna do, take out a loan from Clint Eastwood?
one of the tables sat a fearsome-looking trio—an imposingly
overweight robot in the center, a tall, stocky one on the left, and a
shorter ‘bot with vise-like hands to the right. Fry’s
heart plummeted as he realized that the mysterious Don to whom Bender
had referred was, in fact, the head of the Robot Mafia.
is the craziest thing I’ve ever done, thought Leela, and
I auditioned for Siegfried Idol once.
space flew continuously past her. She hadn’t brought any
magazines or crossword puzzle books, so there was nothing for her to
do except pretend to pay attention to Delta’s ramblings.
I’m just a head,’ he told me. ‘That’s not a
problem,’ I told him. ‘We don’t need to have sex.
If you like, I can throw your jar up into the air and catch it as it
comes down.’ ‘That sounds like fun,’ he said. So
I threw him up and I caught him, and I did that two hundred times,
and it made him dizzy, but he laughed like a little child. Then I
stuck his head on my shoulder, and we walked around together, and
pretended that I was his body, and he talked about how sexy he
said Leela, nodding drowsily.
boring you,” said Delta apologetically. “If you like,
I’ll stop talking and stare at the instruments for a while.”
like that,” said Leela.
fembot trained her ruby-like eyes on the console. Moments later, she
turned to Leela and spoke in an urgent tone. “There’s
been a change in the ship’s course. We’re no longer
heading in the direction of Omicron Perseii VIII. It must be my
mistake. I’m very sorry.”
shook her head. “No, Delta. I’m responsible for
the course change.”
Delta glanced at the instruments again. “Our current course
will take us into the heart of the Cerulean Nebula,” she
set her lips firmly together, reached down to take her laser pistol
from its holster, and aimed the weapon’s barrel at Delta’s
I to be executed?” said the robot with slightly more emotion
Leela replied coldly. “You’re to become a pirate. We’re
the laser pistol in one hand, Leela used the other to tear the brown
wristband from her arm and hurl it to the floor. Delta only stared
at her blankly. The fembot’s red eyes registered no emotional
reaction whatsoever. That’s what I hate about robots,
thought Leela. They’re so hard to read.
Delta spoke up, her words coming slowly. “Did you say pirate
or pilot just now?”
don’t force me to kill you, thought Leela. I already
have two robot murders on my record.
said pirate,” she stated as sweat gathered on her
forehead. “You and I are going to join the Pirates of the
an earnest pause Delta asked, “Why?”
my case the reason is obvious,” said Leela, the laser gun
quivering in her hand. “My own people have turned their backs
on me, and sentenced me to life in the sewers.”
you believe that life among the pirates will be better?”
nodded. “They won’t care whether I have one eye or two.
Hell, half of them have only one eye left.”
we’re females,” Delta pointed out. “The Cerulean
Pirates are a male-dominated society.”
you’ll fit right in,” quipped Leela.
fembot examined the grim determination in Leela’s eye and the
deadly weapon in her hand, and her positronic brain struggled to
compute a decision. “Quantum state probability, 51% up, 49%
down,” she said mechanically.
that supposed to mean?” said Leela.
means that when I made the statement, there was a 51% chance that I
would eventually agree to join the pirates, and a 49% chance that I
would refuse. I revise my probabilistic estimates every nanosecond,
however, and the quantum state probability at this moment is
49% up, 51% down.”
smiled. “In other words, you can’t make up your mind.
You really are a woman.”
Donbot creaked as he rose to his feet. “What have we here?”
His gyroscopic pupils scanned the two figures standing before
him—the eager-looking robot Bender, and his human companion
Fry, who appeared to have died of a heart attack while still
standing. “It’s our old compadre Blotto, and one of the
losers with which he keeps company.”
guys,” said Bender innocently. “It’s been a
and Clamps remained seated behind the table. “I should clamp
you good,” he heard Clamps mutter.
me?” said Bender. “What’d I do to you?”
dunno,” said Clamps with a shrug. “It’s just that
if I don’t clamp somebody every four hours, I get to be really,
really clampy. Capisce?”
nodded vigorously. “Yeah, I capisce.”
a capisce?” said Fry anxiously. “Is it something
Donbot reached out to shake Bender’s hand. “Pay him no
attention,” he said reassuringly. “You’re always
welcome here in Little Bitaly. As for your meatbag friend here, we
can only guarantee his safety in exchange for a nonrefundable
deposit. Fifty big boys.”
I don’t know,” said Bender, glancing aside at the worried
Fry. “I’ve got the money, but I was hoping to spend it
on a hooker.”
the man, Bender!” Fry whispered hoarsely.
brings youse back here?” said Joey, idly tapping the computer
mouse around his neck. “Youse thinkin’ of doin’
another job with us?”
Bender had a chance to respond, Fry yanked him by the arm to a quiet
spot several feet away. “Listen, Bender,” he said
indignantly. “It’s bad enough that you know these
robots. It’s even worse that you’ve worked with
them before. But…to borrow money from them? It’s
insane! Can you imagine what they’ll do to you if you can’t
any luck,” said Bender flippantly, “they’ll try to
hurt me by hurting you.”
showed so little interest in romance that Amy was beginning to wonder
if he was entering another molting cycle. “More coffee,
honey?” she inquired of the alien.
thank you,” Kif replied. He had remained in the same position
on the couch for over two hours, and his skin was starting to turn
yellow and smell odd.
there anything I can do?” Amy asked him.
pupils rolled back into his eyes. “Yes, there is,” he
stated, much to Amy’s elation. “Get on the Internet, and
find out what you can about Professor Foss of Mars University.”
do, captain,” said Amy with a proud salute. As she marched out
of the lounge, Kif sighed and turned up his eyeballs again. Deep
thought is so much more pleasant than real life, he mused.
found the professor’s jar-bound head in the computer room,
playing an optically-operated video game on one of the monitors.
“Hello, Amy,” said Farnsworth, and then he winked. The
gesture caused Amy to giggle mindlessly.
professor winked again. “No, I’m not coming on to you,”
he explained. “My winks control the game. I wink with my left
eye to fire missiles, and I wink with my right eye to drop crates of
candy to the war orphans.”
cute,” Amy remarked. “Say, Professor, did you ever know
Professor Foss from Mars University?”
eyelids narrowed. “Philaster Foss,” he recalled. “I
saw him at a few conferences—he was a protégé of
Wernstrom. Damn that Wernstrom! I don’t know much about him
other than his research interests, except that he was involved with
many of the university’s radical groups, like Propeller Heads
for Peace, Equal Rights for Robots Now, and even, rumor has it,
Professors Against Tenure.” He hummed thoughtfully. “Why
do you ask, Amy?”
began to type into an Internet terminal as she spoke. “Kif
tells me that Professor Foss is working for the pirates now,”
head sputtered. “Why, that’s absurd! A professor at MU
would never join a band of bloodthirsty mercenaries. Their selection
process wouldn’t allow it—they only hire the candidates
with the most idealistic mission statements.”
it’s weird,” said Amy. Sifting through the search
results on the screen, she noticed a bold headline: SEARCH CONTINUES
FOR MISSING SCIENCE PROFESSOR. “Says here he disappeared seven
years ago,” she told the professor.
said Farnsworth. “And no one has seen him since. As far as
the law is concerned, he’s dead. If he were to resurface now,
he’d be legally declared a zombie.”
at this,” said Amy, her eyes widening with curiosity.
“Just three days before they started looking for Professor
Foss, there was a prison break on Mars. Guess who escaped?”
She paused for dramatic effect. “A space pirate named
said the professor. “Could his escape and Foss’
disappearance have been connected somehow?”
spluh,” said Amy. “Why else would we bother to mention
them in this story?”
I really need to be here?” Fry wondered aloud.
as safe as anywhere else in Little Bitaly,” the Donbot told
a darkened alley between a laundromat and an apartment complex,
Bender was eagerly filling out the forms presented to him by the
Robot Mafia. “Name: Bender B. Rodriguez,” he muttered.
“Occupation: Weapons dealer.”
dealer?” marveled Joey, the Donbot’s right-hand man.
“Why didn’t you say so?”
that case, you can skip pages 3 through 8,” said the Donbot.
looked up and down the vacant alley, fearing that a rival mob or the
police would appear at any moment. In the distance a shot rang out,
followed by the screech of a cat.
dotted his signature and handed the pen to Joey. “Are there
any questions?” said the Donbot.
said Bender. “What happens to me if I can’t pay the
stipulated on page 5,” replied the Donbot. “With an
interstellar war at our doorstep, I shouldn’t worry about such
me read page 5,” Fry chimed in.
contract was now in the clamps of Clamps, who plucked out a page and
handed it to the redhead. Fry had read about halfway down the page
when he noticed something extremely disturbing. He gasped.
is it, buddy?” asked Bender.
just realized,” said Fry nervously. “This isn’t
red ink. It’s blood. Fresh blood.”
telescoped his eyes to have a look. “Yeah, it’s blood,
all right. Which, to a robot, signifies absolutely nothing.”
transaction completed, Fry and Bender walked away from the site and
headed for the transit tube. “You’d better put that
money somewhere out of sight,” Fry recommended.
glanced down at the conspicuous wad of bills in his metal hand. “You
worry too much, Fry,” he remarked. “Here in Little
Bitaly, anyone who shows off this much cash is automatically assumed
to have Mafia connections. No one would dare try to steal it
path to the tube was blocked by a tiny, one-legged robot that hobbled
toward them on a crutch. “Please, sir,” pleaded the
urchin, “I haven’t been lubricated for three days.”
ya go, kid,” said Bender, dropping a big boy into the ragged
you, kind sir,” said Tinny Tim. “May God bless you.”
he doesn’t, I’ll fire him,” said Bender, and then
he and Fry shot up the transit tube. The instant they were out of
view, a half-dozen robot toughs pounced on Tinny Tim, beating him
viciously before running off with the money Bender had donated.
and garish billboards plummeted sideways around Fry as he grilled his
friend for further details. “Are you really planning to become
a weapons dealer?” he shouted at the robot above his head.
Fry,” Bender responded. “A weapons manufacturer.”
cool, too,” Fry commented. “But how will that help
see,” said Bender, “as soon as we get to the mayor’s
Poopenmeyer was taken aback by the robot’s request. “A
list of all the mutants living in New New York City?”
right, bub,” said Bender. “I was just gonna hack
into your network and steal the information, but I happened to be in
the neighborhood, and I thought, ‘What the hell?’”
was almost certain that the laboratory where Foss performed his
research was more spacious than the pirate ship itself. Computer
consoles and tables covered with futuristic gadgets lined the
circular wall, and a porthole at the top of the domed ceiling allowed
starlight to enter. “I was about to ask you how much the
captain offered you to quit the university scene,” he remarked.
“Behold, the answer to my question.”
I’ve got quite a setup here,” said Foss, who had put on a
clean smock to welcome Captain Brannigan into his lab. “No
longer do I have to spend all my time writing proposals and grant
applications—I just ask for a share of the booty, and it’s
said Zapp, idly tossing a glossy round object from one hand to the
be careful with that,” Foss cautioned him.
said Zapp. “Is it an explosive?”
said Foss, snatching the orb in midair. “In the seven years
I’ve served under Captain Balalaika, he’s only tortured
me once—and that was for breaking one of his Fabergé
took several days for Foss to explain all the items in his
laboratory, all but one. All along Zapp listened as intently as a
delighted child. As the pirate guards dropped him off at the lab
entrance for one of his routine morning visits, Foss noticed that the
prisoner’s face was covered with steely blond whiskers.
“Doesn’t the captain let you shave?” he inquired.
replied Zapp, shaking his head. “No showers, either. And no
change of clothes. I didn’t think it was possible for velour
to get itchy.”
this were a democracy, I’d complain,” said Foss, leading
the space captain across the large room to the largest of his
strange,” mused Zapp, “how being locked up in a cell with
nothing to do can make one obsess over the silliest things. Last
night, for example, I could hardly sleep for all the suspense of
learning about the Fossitron in the morning.” He reverently
rubbed his hand over the metallic surface of the device, which
consisted of two seats embedded in a framework of wires and circuit
boards. “What does it do?” he asked earnestly.
took a deep breath and began his story. “I developed the
Fossitron Mark One while still at Mars University. It worked, but it
had some flaws. With the help of Captain Balalaika’s generous
grants, I spent the past seven years perfecting it. What you see
before you is the Fossitron Mark Eight, the most powerful version
one could hardly expect you to make it less powerful,”
said Zapp. “But get to the point—what does it do?”
say outer space is the final frontier,” said Foss ominously.
“They’re wrong. The final frontier is the space between
that moment a chunk of space rock strayed into the pirate ship’s
nacelle, becoming lodged in the cooling fan and creating a tremendous
clatter before being crushed by the pressure. As a result, the
remainder of Foss’ sentence and the beginning of his next were
Madison Cube Garden wearing nothing but panties and a bra,” he
placed his hand over his square, unshaven chin. “It’s
incredible,” he said, deep in thought. “The potential
for good…but also for evil…”
and evil are hardly universal constants,” said Foss, pushing
his glasses further down his nose. “I prefer to think in terms
of power and the lack thereof. Those with power decide what is good
and what is evil, and those without power must abide by their
shot him a confused stare.
said Foss meekly. “I’m really sensitive about the ‘good
and evil’ thing. Just hearing the words mentioned takes me
back to my freshman year, when such antiquated notions were forcibly
purged from my mind.”
your philosophy professors?”
by fraternity hazing.”
grinned knowingly, and then a klaxon sounded. “We’ve got
company,” said Foss, and both men heard through the doorway the
sounds of pirates scrambling to their stations.
the outer edge of the Cerulean Nebula, the Planet Express ship fell
out of hyperspace and materialized among the fragile blue wisps.
Several dozen cigar-shaped raiders emerged from the milky cloud to
intercept the tiny delivery vessel, which coasted along as if unaware
was fully conscious of their arrival. You can do this, girl,
she told herself while relaxing her grip on the control stick and
allowing it to drift forward.
still not sure if this is a good idea,” said Delta, who was
busy attaching a white flag to a long metal rod.
saying that,” said Leela.
the outer fringe of the Cerulean Nebula, two dozen Jolly Roger
raiders surrounded the helpless Planet Express ship, their weapons
primed to destroy. Leela and Delta stood motionless on the bridge,
breathlessly awaiting the arrival of the cutthroats. A muffled
clanging sound announced that the magnetized end of the pirate
gangplank had firmly attached itself to the side of their vessel.
They may just kill us on the spot, Leela feared. They
won’t be interested in Lrrr’s shipment of Amish
furniture. We have nothing of use to them except for…our
never entertained pirates before,” said Delta. “I wish
I’d brought a formal gown.”
fine as you are,” Leela assured her. The one-eyed girl had
stowed her laser pistol, wrist console, and any other personal item
that might be misconstrued as a weapon. Only a white tank top stood
between her and the coming invaders.
eternity of waiting was suddenly interrupted by the whine of a laser
drill. A fiery glow appeared on the wall, then a molten hole that
grew to the size of a door. The first pirate to pass through was a
swarthy, half-naked giant of a man, the top of his head shaved, hairy
black tassels dangling around his neck. He drew his cutlass, glared
at Leela and Delta, and scowled as three smaller pirates stepped onto
the bridge next to him.
cyclops and a fembot,” snarled the tall man. “Why does
we get stuck with all the freaks?”
we’re space pirates,” remarked one of his
companions, who sported a stumpy wooden leg. “It comes with
total of eight pirates surrounded Leela and Delta with drawn swords
before the two women dared venture to speak. “Uh, take me to
your leader?” was all Leela could manage.
grumbled the hulking pirate, stepping closer and choking her with the
stench of his sweat. “The captain won’t be bothered with
the likes o’ ye. I’ll dispense with ye myself.”
Leela felt his gaze like a dagger as it dropped from her eye to her
chest. “Ye has two of what counts, at least. Yarrr.”
for her friend’s virtue, Delta stepped in between them. “I
am programmed to administer nineteen different forms of erotic
stimulation,” she told the large cutthroat. His response was a
terrifying growl and a flick of his sword arm. Before anyone knew
what was happening, the blade neatly sliced through Delta’s
neck, severing head from busty torso.
screamed. Delta’s head struck the floor with a clang and
rolled to a stop behind the pilot’s seat. The still-conscious
fembot was dismayed to find that she was facing away from Leela and
the pirates, and had no power to turn herself. She could only
listen, and Leela’s screams of pain were all she expected to
Delta’s headless body lurched around aimlessly, Leela sprang
into furious action, making a quick, graceful arc with her boot as
she kicked the sword from the tall pirate’s grasp. The other
marauders gasped in awe and stepped back. The giant, stunned and
gaping, impulsively leaned over to retrieve his cutlass, but in so
doing unwisely put his face directly in the path of Leela’s
punch. His three remaining natural teeth flew from his mouth as he
plummeted to the floor.
pirates backed up to the walls, leaving a wide berth for Leela and
her opponent. The cyclops, fists and teeth clenched, watched as the
angry giant regained his footing and rose to his full height—which
seemed a foot taller than when she had first seen him. Is this
the same guy? she wondered.
only hope of victory was to aim for the chink in his armor, the one
chink that all males shared. Putting all of her strength and will
into a spinning kick, she achieved her target squarely and
forcefully, so much so that her foot became momentarily stuck between
his thighs. Your children will thank me, she thought while
landing on her feet.
her disappointment and horror, the gigantic pirate was still
standing. His knees were unbent. His face showed no sign of
distress. He calmly folded his arms.
crap, thought Leela. The surrounding pirates smirked with
satisfaction. Delta’s body repeatedly ran into a wall, blindly
supposing it had found its head.
be at yer mercy, were I not a eunuch,” said the tall pirate
with an unworried grin.
she awaited certain death, Leela recalled the words of her one-time
martial arts instructor: “You are girl. You not have will of
passed, and her opponent didn’t attack.
be an unfair fight,” he finally stated. Glancing around at the
other men, he added, “Me comrades still have their parts. Let
one o’ them fight ye.”
fellow pirates only shrank back in fear. “Mother o’ God,
did ye see that kick?” one muttered to another.
tall man extended his bronzed hand to Leela, to her surprise and
elation. “Ye be welcome to join us,” he offered.
said Leela. The giant’s skin felt like corduroy to her touch.
“But before I join you, I’d like you to fix my friend
here.” She gestured at Delta’s out-of-control body.
said the giant with a nod. “We’ll take him to Foss. He
be wise in the ways of science.”
pirates, still fearful after witnessing Leela’s spinning
attack, kept a respectful distance as they escorted the cyclops to
Professor Foss’ laboratory. The tall pirate, who had
introduced himself as Krandok, carried Delta’s head in one hand
and her wriggling body in the other. This is odd, thought the
fembot. I’m in the arms of a handsome man, and I can’t
feel a thing.
entered the dome-shaped lab to find Foss and Zapp seated within the
Fossitron, their heads encased in foam-padded helmets. Upon seeing
the visitors, Foss quickly reached up to push the helmet away.
“Welcome, Krandok,” he said as he rose. “Who is
this with you?”
leaped eagerly to his feet. “Do my eyes deceive me?” he
said in a silky tone. “Has the lovely, sexy Turanga Leela come
here to join me in captivity?”
yes, Zapp,” said Leela, smiling insincerely. “I
surrendered myself to the pirates just so I could be with you.”
She stepped dangerously closer as Zapp beamed with delight. “So
I could do this.”
Zapp’s blond locks, she yanked his head downward while
simultaneously bringing up her knee. The collision of nose with
kneecap was punctuated by a crack.
reeled, blood gushing from his nostrils. “By dose!” he
wailed. “You broke by dose!”
only glowered at him. “It’s not half what you deserve,
you libidinous man-ape.”
transistorized eyes rapidly scanned the long list of names, which was
printed in a small manila binder. “Hmm,” he muttered.
“Wilson, Winslow, Winston, Wollstonecraft, Wolverine, Xavier…a
total of 178 mutants living in New New York. Funny, I thought the
number would be much larger.”
slammed the notebook shut, opened the door to his chest cavity, and
stashed it inside. “Hey, Bender,” Fry asked curiously,
“did you just memorize the whole list? I mean, you can do
that, right? You’re a robot.”
course I can,” said Bender. “But I don’t like to
talk about my mental abilities, because losers like you get jealous
when I do.”
me, gentlemen,” Mayor Poopenmeyer chimed in.
come on, Bender,” said Fry. “How much information can
you store in that brain of yours? Tell me. I’ll bet it can
hold billions of gigawatts.”
not exactly sure,” said Bender sheepishly. “I had a
manual once, but I lost it.”
said Poopenmeyer, vainly trying to attract their attention.
what’re you planning to do with that list?” Fry inquired.
“Start a mutant uprising?”
replied Bender. “I’m gonna put them to work. They’ll
be serving their country, as well as making me rich, which is also
good for the country.”
a minute,” said Fry. “How is making you rich good for
word,” said Bender officiously. “Macroeconomics.”
stared at him, confused.
said, one word,” said Bender, folding his extensible
can’t feel my hands anymore,” complained the mayor.
“Would you mind untying my wrists?”
taking their leave of City Hall, Fry and Bender rode a transit tube
to the nearest address on the list, which belonged to one Alberto
Veracruz. His house proved to be a rundown shack in a poor Puerto
Rican neighborhood. The weed-covered porch boards creaked as Bender
applied his weight to them. “This guy should be an easy
target,” said the robot as he knocked gently on the faded
later it opened, and a middle-aged man with a shaggy beard and pot
belly welcomed Fry and Bender with a rude glare. The occupant
appeared perfectly human in every respect, except for a small detail
regarding his mouth. He had none.
said Bender with a confident swagger. “My name is Mr. B. B.
Rodriguez, and this is my associate, Mr. P. J. Fry. We’d like
to speak to you about a business proposition. You can speak,
peevish-looking man stuck out his right palm to them. “Yes, I
can speak,” said the pair of lips in the center of his hand.
was astounded. He had seen people with worse defects in the
underground world of the sewer mutants, but never among surface
dwellers. “Uh, can I ask you a question?” he blurted
said the mouth in the man’s palm, “as long as it’s
not about my…”
with the mouth?” Fry interrupted him.
bearded man sighed. “I’m a mutant, all right? Or
couldn’t you tell from the stupid wristband they make me wear?”
you eat with that mouth as well?” asked Fry.
replied Mr. Veracruz. “You don’t want to know what part
of my body I eat with.”
talk about your hand-to-mouth existence,” Fry quipped.
to the hand,” said Veracruz as he made ready to slam the door.
exclaimed Bender, inserting his foot into the doorway. “I have
a surefire plan to save you and your fellow mutant freaks from a life
in the sewer.”
already live in a sewer,” grumbled the hand-mouth.
“Take a look around you.”
and Bender did so. Half a block away, a little girl with straggly
black hair picked up a dead cat from the middle of the gravel street,
slung it over her shoulder, and ran back into her humble house.
it’s tragic,” Bender remarked. “But if you go to
work for me, you’ll make enough money to leave all of this
mouth fell open. He opened the door a little wider. “You’re…you’re
offering me a job?” he stammered.
that a problem?” said Bender.
said Veracruz apologetically. “I’ll gladly work for you.
I haven’t been able to find a job for over a year. All the
interviewers expect me to shake hands with them. Come in, come in.”
As Fry and Bender walked across the bare slatted floor of his living
room, he inquired, “What sort of work would I be doing?”
opening a munitions factory,” Bender told him. “My plan
is to hire all the city’s mutants and put them to work building
quantum torpedoes to be used against the space pirates. The
government will become dependent on you for weapons, and won’t
deport you to the sewers. Do you see how that works?”
I do,” said Veracruz, nodding his mouthless head.
I don’t,” said Fry. “Explain it to me again.”
up, Mr. Fry,” said Bender.
him up,” said Leela heartlessly. “The sooner his nose
heals, the sooner I can break it again.”
Foss vainly tried to pry Zapp’s blood-soaked hands from his
injured nose, Krandok whipped out his cutlass and aimed the point at
Leela’s neck. “What did ye do that for?” he
scowled and showed no fear. “That pompous bastard’s been
harassing me ever since I made the mistake of sleeping with him,”
she recounted. “He thinks he can have any woman he wants just
because he’s a legendary space captain.”
should run ye through,” threatened Krandok.
nonchalantly laid a hand on the tall pirate’s blade and pushed
it away from her neck. “I thought it was accepted practice for
pirates to abuse their captives,” she said.
by the girl’s logic, Krandok lowered his sword as a team of
three smock-clad paramedics rushed into the lab. As the two male
medics knelt to examine Zapp’s face, the female medic inquired,
“Who’s responsible for this?”
was an accident,” replied Leela, who then proceeded to kick
Zapp sharply in the ribs. “Whoops! There I go again.”
the medics had loaded Zapp onto a gurney and carried him away, Foss
confronted Leela with indignation. “That was uncalled for,”
he scolded her. “Captain Brannigan and I were establishing an
gave the professor a bemused look. “Who are you?” she
asked. “You don’t look like a pirate. You don’t
talk like one, either.”
the senior staff and the security guards are required to talk like
pirates,” Foss told her.
a bolluxed-up situation,” said Krandok with a crude Cockney
accent, “but where else does a seven-foot eunuch find work,
me to introduce myself,” said the professor with a slight bow.
“I am Philaster Foss, formerly of Mars University, now science
officer to Captain Balalaika of the Cerulean Pirate Fleet. And you
Leela,” answered the cyclops.
lovely name befitting such a lovely woman,” said Foss.
you,” said Leela, blushing a bit. “Coming from anyone
other than Zapp, that’s a compliment. If you don’t mind
my asking, what prompted you to leave MU and join a fleet of space
smiled, and began to lead Leela in a circuitous tour of his lab. “My
reasons for becoming a pirate are my own,” he stated. “Your
reason for being here is as clear as the eye on your face.”
said Leela with a nod. “You know about the Mutant Resettlement
shook his head with disdain. “I can’t stand Nixon,”
he remarked. “His politics of exclusion are as unpalatable now
as they were in the twentieth century. What were they thinking when
they preserved his head? Earth’s museums are crammed with the
heads of ancient celebrities—Leonard Nimoy, Joan Rivers, even
Lucy Liu. What about the scientists and philosophers of the Platinum
Age? What about Ignatz Planck, Marilyn Simmons, and the real
inventor of the wave-particle converter, Nikolai Ivanovich
Lobachevsky? Where are their heads?”
paused in front of the Fossitron and eyed it curiously. “You
and Zapp were sitting in this machine when I came in,” she
recalled. “What is it, some sort of hair care device?
Obviously not, since Zapp’s hair looked awful.”
ran his hand along the still-warm side of the large device. “It
would be as easy to show you as to tell you. Care to have a seat?”
gave the question a moment’s thought. Hmm…a big
computerized thingie with two helmets and lots of wires
attached…looks harmless enough.
me a second,” she said. Twisting and removing her hairband,
she allowed her purple tresses to cascade freely about her shoulders.
I’m not totally sure about this, she thought as she
stepped toward the upholstered seat, but I do need to win their
confidence if my plan is to work.
moments she and Foss were seated within the unit, their backs braced
against the cold steel. Foss flicked a switch, and the wiry helmets
descended, one enclosing his head, the other fitting Leela’s
quite comfortably. This is just like a visit to the beauty salon,
she mused. And they say pirates have it tough.
instantly, the dome-shaped laboratory faded from her view. She was
standing again, but in the midst of a strange universe of shifting
colors and ephemeral shapes. Nothing seemed familiar, except for the
vague figure of a man walking in her direction on a nonexistent
am I?” Leela’s voice was faint, almost like thought
instead of speech.
man’s features became clearer. “You are in my mind,”
stated Professor Foss, “and I am in yours.” His voice
was nearly inaudible, yet she understood every syllable without
opened her mouth to speak, but the words that came out were words she
hadn’t intended. “What you see before you is the
landscape of our combined minds,” she heard herself say. “The
Fossitron makes use of a hypermatrix of synthetic neurons to…hey,
cut that out!”
image of Foss looked at her apologetically.
didn’t come from me,” Leela reflected. “You made
me say it. You’re controlling me somehow.”
can control me as well,” said Foss. “We’re on an
equal footing here.”
pondered the prospect for a moment, then grinned. Foss lifted his
hand, stuck his finger in his nostril, and turned it to and fro as if
fishing for mucus.
chuckled. “Well, that was rude,” said Foss as he
pulled out his finger.
surrounding swirls of color began to take definite shape. Before
long the pair was standing before a series of granite columns and an
ornate pine door that Leela recognized as the entrance to the Mars
University administration building. Once the shock of displacement
had worn off, she asked the professor, “This isn’t really
MU, is it?”
replied Foss. “You’re inside one of my memories.”
more curious, Leela followed the scientist through the old building’s
long hallways. They came upon a closed door whose sign read simply,
LECTURE ROOM 3. Foss carefully opened it, and they tiptoed inside.
Every seat was occupied by a student of one or another alien
persuasion, listening passively to the speaker at the podium.
final frontier is the space between one person’s brain and
another’s,” declared the academic, who was revealed to be
Foss himself. “Once that distance is bridged, universal peace,
harmony, and understanding will be within our reach.”
is where it all started,” said the copy of Foss at Leela’s
side. “I was young, idealistic, confident that science would
bring about the perfection of the human race—of all
Leela amused herself by passing her hand transparently through the
head of an attractive male student, she remarked, “If I had two
eyes and a position at a prestigious university, I wouldn’t
give it all up for a life of piracy. Why did you?”
I answer that,” said Foss, “I suggest you sit down and
enjoy the lecture. It’s fascinating stuff, if I say so
that, the image of the scientist broke up and dissolved. Leela,
uncertain of where in the illusory world she would end up if she left
the lecture hall, spotted an empty seat and moved toward it. “Excuse
me,” she said to the young man and woman in her path, who
seemed unaware of her presence.
continued to drone on as she took her seat. “Imagine if we
could communicate using thoughts and feelings instead of words,”
he spoke. “Words vary according to culture and language, but
thoughts are universal. If I tell you I’m hungry in Swahili,
few of you will understand; but if I share my feeling of hunger with
you, regardless of our relative cultural and linguistic backgrounds,
you will understand perfectly.”
weird, sitting in a chair that doesn’t exist, thought
Leela. It’s very comfortable, though.
filtering and amplifying the signals across a network of synthetic
the dorkiest tie I’ve ever seen. Doesn’t he know that
ties went out of fashion in the 24th century? I swear, he
must have gone to a dorkwear store and special-ordered it. I
wouldn’t be caught…wait, did he just say ‘synthetic
signals of one brain are transmitted to the other, with the same
amplitude, uncontaminated by noise…”
course, thought Leela. When you can hear the other person’s
thoughts loud and clear, it’s as if you’re both thinking
the same thing. It makes perfect sense!
a discrete convolution at each point in the network…”
convolution. Got it.
efficient than existing methods by an order of magnitude. Are there
hand immediately shot up. “Leela?” said Foss, gesturing
My name’s not Leela, it’s…huh?
down, she discovered that her white tank top had been replaced by a
gray varsity sweater. Furthermore, there seemed to be two noses on
her face. A double nose? That’s something only two-eyed
Leela?” said Foss from the podium.
girl shook her head, and clarity returned to her mind as if she was
awaking from a dream. She looked down at her usual tank top and a
single image of her nose. “Wh-what the…” she
walked in her direction as the imaginary students picked up their
bags and filed out of the lecture hall. “Being inside another
person’s memory is tricky,” he explained. “If
you’re not careful, you can forget yourself and become part of
rose slowly. “Is that what happened to me?” she
inquired. “For a minute I felt like I was a different person.”
were,” said Foss. “You became Darla Thurmond, one of my
brightest students.” And someone with whom I had an
unprofessionally intimate relationship, Leela thought she heard
an instant she wondered if she was really Leela, or yet another
figment from the professor’s past, but she quickly brushed the
thought aside. “Now that the lecture’s over,” she
said demandingly, “I’d like you to tell me why you
decided to join the pirates.”
responded with a deft wave of his hand. The walls of the lecture
room shimmered and faded, promptly replaced by a narrow, dimly lit
hallway. From the many small rooms with entrances blocked by iron
bars, Leela easily discerned that she was inside a prison.
footsteps echoed as he guided Leela to the end of the cell block,
where they observed a gaunt man sleeping on a bunk bed. He wore a
drab uniform and had a shaven head like the other prisoners; what
distinguished him was a scar that ran from one ear to the other, as
if he had survived the slitting of his throat.
is where I met Garmoshka Balalaika,” Foss recounted. “He
was of little more than scientific interest to me then. I hoped to
demonstrate the utility of the Fossitron by entering the mind of a
hardened criminal, making him aware of his innate morality by
exposing him to mine, and thus helping him along the road to
rehabilitation. But as we entered the matrix and I examined his
thoughts and feelings, I learned something which, in my naiveté,
I hadn’t anticipated—he had no innate morality.
In his mind there was only rapacity, cruelty, and cunning. The
landscape of his memories was like a field of slaughtered innocents.
Worse yet, for every scene of murder and rapine I witnessed, I felt
the same lurid joy that he himself felt while committing the act, as
if I had done it myself.”
God,” said Leela quietly.
my better judgment I pressed on, looking for something I could relate
to,” Foss continued. “Eventually I found it, but only
because I had changed. Balalaika’s infernal lusts had
subtly insinuated themselves into my own feelings, to the point that
I was more pirate than professor in temperament. A week later I
broke him out of prison, and I’ve been serving under him ever
gazed at the sleeping pirate and sighed. “Even with these bars
between us, he still makes me nervous. Yet you were right there in
his mind, surrounded by his evil…”
that word again,” said Foss sharply. “I see that you
share the same simplistic notions of good and evil that Captain
Brannigan does. Tell me, Leela, if you see piracy as evil, then why
are you here?”
could feel her heart quake as she searched her mind for a convincing,
or at least obfuscating, response.
answer that,” said Foss, his tone now calm and assured. “I
can see your thoughts. I know why you’re here.”
was something Leela had failed to consider—the possibility that
Foss might read her mind, and her true intentions, with the aid of
his device. I’m gonna die, she thought. Either
Krandok will slice off my head like he did Delta’s, or Foss
will kill me with his brain right here and now.
worries were put to rest by the scientists’s next statement:
“Your secret’s safe with me.”
after he had spoken, the prison dissipated into atoms, and Leela
abruptly found herself in the same position as when she had entered
the Fossitron matrix. Krandok stood before her, tossing Delta’s
head up and down as if bored. “Let’s get busy fixing
your robot,” said Foss as he lifted himself out of the
right,” said Leela, distracted.
said Foss, confronting the gigantic pirate, “please stop doing
that with the robot’s head.”
she asked me to,” said Krandok innocently.
astonished was Leela by the realm she had passed through, that she
found the real world to be colorless and unwelcoming. He knows,
but he’s not going to turn me in, she thought. Does he
have something to gain by shielding me, or is he just being a
signed on Alberto Veracruz, Fry and Bender traveled from one point in
New New York to another, offering employment to every mutant they
visited. Most accepted, desperate for a way to circumvent the
provisions of the Mutant Resettlement Act. The majority of their
mutations, Fry noticed, was mundane—extra limbs, extra eyes,
arms where there should be legs. The most extreme case he had seen
was a man with a cat growing out of his forehead.
you pay me, I’m sure it’s better than what I make at the
circus freak show,” said the man.
a good day, Mr. Tobler,” said Bender as he and Fry departed his
house. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the factory, 8 a.m.
said Mr. Tobler with a friendly wave. “Meow,” said the
cat attached to his head.
next on the list?” asked Fry as he and Bender strolled along
the tenement-lined street.
Tao,” replied the robot. “She lives two miles from
found the rather pregnant Asian woman in a brownstone apartment whose
outer wall had been defaced with the graffiti message, MUTANTS GO
HOME. Neither Fry nor Bender noticed any disfigurement in her,
although they thought it odd that such a young-looking woman should
have no fewer than seven small children.
your husband home?” Bender asked her.
not married,” replied Monica Tao. As if on cue, two of her
toddlers began to cry in unison, while another made water on the
Louise,” said Bender, startled. “You mean to say some
irresponsible bastard left you with seven…er, eight
kids, then ran off and left you to fend for yourselves?”
never been married,” Monica told him.
who’s the father, if you don’t mind my asking?”
the father,” said Monica flatly.
looked down at her swollen belly and the brown band around her wrist,
then up at the straight black hair that went to her shoulders.
Best-looking father I ever saw, he thought.
said Bender. “In that case, I have just two questions. First,
how is it possible that you’re the father? Second, can I buy
the rights to your story?”
years ago, I was a normal teenage girl,” Monica related. “One
day I was taking a nature hike when the ground gave way under my
feet, and I landed up to my armpits in a pile of discarded school
cafeteria food. The doctors checked me out and determined that some
of my internal organs had switched from female to male. As a result,
every time I have a period, I get pregnant.”
he had recovered from the shock of becoming even more confused, Fry
asked, “Have you tried, like, birth control?”
you kidding?” said Monica with a chuckle. “I’ve
got a good thing going here. The government can’t force me to
use contraception, and for every new baby, my welfare check gets
grinned with delight and put his steely arm around the Asian woman’s
shoulders. “This may be the beginning of a beautiful
friendship,” he said.
Bender?” said Fry. “You’re supposed to offer her a
it, Fry,” Bender retorted. “I’m opening a
munitions factory, not a day care.”
visited as many of the mutants on the list as humanly or robotically
possible, Fry and Bender headed back to the Robot Arms building.
Bender yawned and stretched (literally, stretched) his arms as he
walked into their shared apartment. “Let’s get a good
night’s sleep, buddy,” he said to Fry. “You’ve
got a busy day tomorrow.”
were promptly greeted by Robopuppy, who yipped and yapped while
racing clumsily toward them. Just as Fry lowered his hand to pet the
cybernetic pooch, it fell down on its haunches and stated in a tinny
hear ‘em,” said Fry.
began to speak again, this time in Professor Farnsworth’s
voice. “Bad news, everyone. Leela and Delta were due back ten
hours ago, but there’s no sign of them. If you have any idea
where they are, call me. I’ll be here all day. Where would I
gave his robot friend a concerned look. “I sure hope nothing’s
happened,” said Bender. “Amish furniture’s worth a
lot these days.”
robot dog then relayed the second message. “This is Kif. I
regret that I can’t be there in person to give you this news.
The war against the Cerulean Pirates has begun, and the Nimbus is
being deployed, with myself as her captain. Because of the nebula’s
interference with our scans, we can’t be sure of the pirate
fleet’s full strength, so the battle may be a costly one. If I
don’t back alive, I want you all to know how much I’ve
enjoyed the many times we’ve been thrown together by plot
contrivances. Amy, if you’re listening to this message, please
try to be strong. I love you, my smizmar. Farewell.”
said Fry as the mechanical puppy began to chase its tail. “Amy
must be in pieces right now. We’d better go to her.”
pal,” said Bender. “Uh, where exactly does she live?”
they deliberated, a fleet of thirty-four Titan-class DOOP warships
passed beyond the boundary of Earth’s solar system. Foremost
among them was the Nimbus, on whose bridge Kif Kroker stood, giving
a course for the Cerulean Nebula, and jump on my mark,” he
sir,” said a faceless minion.
as one, the gigantic starships flashed out of normal space and
hurtled at twenty times the speed of light toward their fateful
one of the Cerulean Nebula’s many planetoids, the pirates had
constructed a vast shipyard and neighboring military base. Captain
Balalaika’s raider orbited the facility, waiting for the signal
to descend and land.
a dank, rather cold chamber of the pirate ship, Krandok was
explaining to Leela the subtleties of sword combat. “Once we
reach the base, I’ll find ye some decent pirate garb,”
said Krandok in his Cockney brogue. “That outfit of yours
shows off too much. Ye don’t want to advertise to the world
the fact that you’re a woman, eh?”
not?” said Leela, gripping her cutlass tightly as she braced
herself for Krandok’s attack. “It’s no shame to be
beaten by a woman. You should learn that.”
huge pirate lunged, making a downward arc with his sword. Leela
parried, but the momentum of Krandok’s blade overpowered her
grasp on the handle. The cutlass flew from her hand and fell to the
ground with a clatter.
number one,” said Krandok condescendingly. “Strength
ain’t everything. When ye fight a stronger man, like me, ye
need balance and agility to win the day. Pick up your sword and
we’ll try again, but this time, try to dodge my blow.”
the deck above, Balalaika marched into Foss’ laboratory, where
the scientist was entering some data into the keyboard console of the
Fossitron. “Ye summoned me, Foss,” said the pirate
leader. “State yer business.”
stood before him with a meek expression. “A battle fleet from
Earth is coming in our direction, sir,” he reported. “I
recommend that we prepare ourselves for an attack.”
nodded. “I’ll alert the raiders. When I come back here,
I want to see Captain Brannigan hooked up to yer machine. It’s
time he and I had a man-to-man talk.”
managed to jump out of the way of Krandok’s thrust, but one
foot moved faster than the other, and she stumbled. Stupid lack
of depth perception, she thought bitterly as she landed face-down
on the floor.
try,” said Krandok, offering a hand to lift her up. “But
ye don’t become a pirate in a day.”
was meaning to ask something,” said Leela, reaching down for
her cutlass. “Why don’t you use laser pistols instead of
swords? They’re much more deadly.”
we’re pirates,” replied Krandok. “We got laser
cannons on our raiders, but that’s as modern as we get.”
beeping sound from his belt caught his attention. “Krandok,
report to my lab at once,” said the voice of Foss. “And
bring Brannigan with you.”
stood dutifully straight, and replaced his sword in its sheath.
“I’ll be back shortly,” he told Leela. “Don’t
go anywhere. Work on your fundamentals.”
he trudged through the doorway, Leela pondered her options. I
could stay here and work on my fundamentals, she thought, or I
could follow him, wait until he releases Zapp, and then overpower
him. Oh, hell. Who needs fundamentals?
tiptoed after the tall pirate, her large boots impacting softly on
the steel floor. Krandok marched along single-mindedly, not once
looking over his shoulder. It’s working, thought Leela.
With any luck, Zapp and I will be on our way to freedom in no
pirate stopped at a heavy, barred doorway, took a key from his belt,
and fumbled to open the lock with it. Leela ducked behind a corner
and took a quick peek. This would be easier if I had two eyes,
she thought. I wouldn’t have to expose my whole face.
she expected, Zapp emerged from the cell, still dressed in his velour
uniform. He had lost weight, and his face was a bit pale, but other
than the bandage on his broken nose, he showed no sign of having been
mistreated. I’m surprised they haven’t tortured him
for strategic information, thought Leela.
wants a word with ye,” Krandok told the space captain.
pleasure,” said Zapp with a lack of concern that stunned Leela.
Does he even know what’s going on? she wondered.
yanked Zapp’s arms behind his back, then secured his wrists
with a pair of cuffs. “Move,” he said with a gentle
push, and Zapp obliged.
is my chance, thought Leela, bounding forward stealthily. I
know this is cowardly, but I wouldn’t have a chance against him
in a fair fight.
she had crept up behind Zapp and his captor, she raised the cutlass
above her head, preparing to plunge the blade into Krandok’s
never killed a person before, thought Leela, sweat forming above
her eye. And I sure as hell never imagined I’d kill for
what she had to do, she focused on the part of Krandok’s upper
back that would lead to his heart, and swung the cutlass downward.
It never reached its target. The last thing Leela sensed was a sharp
blow to her chin, and then she blacked out.
and Krandok looked down at her unconscious form, prostrate on the
floor, sword still in hand. “She tried to attack us from
behind,” Krandok observed. “She didn’t count on my
sensitive ears or my quick reflexes.”
said his cuffed captive. “The question is, which of us was she
trying to kill?”
knelt down and scooped the cyclops girl into his swarthy arms.
“We’ll take her to the lab with us,” he stated.
“Once she wakes up, we’ll make her talk.”
Foss was welding a bolt to Delta’s neck when Zapp and Krandok
entered the lab. Seeing the unresponsive girl in Krandok’s
arms, he abruptly shut off his torch. “Oh, God!” he
exclaimed. “Leela! What happened to her?”
a bloody coward, she tried to run us through from behind,” the
tall pirate related.
turned to the robot he had just repaired. “Delta, clear off
that table and put a sheet over it,” he ordered.
master,” said Delta flatly. While she diligently removed items
from one table to another, Foss examined the bruise on Leela’s
should have known it would come to this,” he said darkly.
mean ye?” said Krandok as he stretched Leela out over the
I was in the matrix with her, I tried to gauge her feelings toward
Captain Brannigan,” said Foss. “The hatred was so
intense, I had to turn away. Maybe I should have warned you, but I
couldn’t imagine that a pretty thing like her would go so far
as to commit murder.”
marveled at the scientist’s statement as Krandok forced him to
take a seat in the Fossitron. “I can’t imagine it
either. Sure, there were times I came on too strong, but I always
meant well.” He shook his head as the helmet descended upon
it. “If I’d known she had such a violent temperament,
I…I would’ve sent her a postcard every week, and left it
moment later, Balalaika returned to the laboratory doorway and beamed
with pleasure at the sight of Zapp attached to the professor’s
device. “Excellent,” he said simply.
Fossitron’s ready when you are, sir,” Foss told him.
the man himself,” said Zapp as he watched Balalaika stride
eagerly toward him.
slipped in and out of consciousness. She heard the clip-clip of
Delta’s feet as she puttered about, cleaning and organizing
Foss’ various gadgets. She heard the whine of the Fossitron
helmet as it made its way over Balalaika’s straggly hair. She
heard the professor’s worried breaths as he tenderly ran his
fingers over her cheek. She had no idea what it all meant.
was equally clueless about the strange domain into which he had been
thrown. He saw nothing but dark, menacing clouds, even under his
feet. A figure in pirate garb approached him, and proved to be
am I now?” Zapp asked the pirate captain.
me friend,” was Balalaika’s reply. “This be hell,
and I be the devil.”
folded his arms and grinned smugly. “I knew that sooner or
later you’d try to steal strategic secrets from me using your
virtual reality whatsit. But when it comes down to my mind versus
your mind, I have the upper hand. You’ll never break through
my mental conditioning.”
said Balalaika calmly. “Yer secrets will be mine, and
yer loyalty as well.”
gonna happen,” said Zapp. “You may as well kill me now.”
said Balalaika, stepping closer. “’Tis not I that
shall kill thee, but the other way around.”
Zapp tried to make sense of his words, his dour surroundings reshaped
themselves into the deck of a space shuttle. He looked around and
beheld panicked passengers in every aisle, crying with fear as
sword-bearing cutthroats compelled them to give up their belongings.
drew a cutlass from his belt and tossed it to Zapp, who deftly caught
it. The pirate then magically pulled another cutlass from the same
sheath. “Their fate be in yer hands,” he told Zapp.
“Kill me, and they live.”
game you have in mind,” said Zapp as he stepped aside for a
pirate to pass, “I won’t play it. Now get me out of
responded by raising his sword, aiming it at a small, terrified boy
in one of the seats, and chopping off the youngster’s head with
Zapp covered his eyes with his hand. “It’s not real!”
he shouted in disgust. “It’s an illusion!”
us, Captain Brannigan!” he heard a woman squeal. There was a
piercing scream, a slight gurgle, and then silence.
looked through two of his fingers. Balalaika was holding his blade
to a little girl’s throat with one hand, suspending her by her
long golden hair with the other hand, and gloating with his face.
“Kill me, ye lily-livered swab!” he called out mockingly.
“Kill me, or watch ‘em all die horribly!”
of despair burst out of Zapp’s eyes. “It’s not
real…it’s not real…” he muttered, but the
cries of fear and pain would not be muffled. He was involuntarily
reminded of the massacre on Antares II, which he and Kif had arrived
too late to prevent. Bodies everywhere…dead children laid
next to their dead mothers…if only we’d come sooner…
Brannigan, do something! They’ll kill us all!”
surge of anger and resentment passed through Zapp’s heart. I
won’t let it happen again, he thought. Never again…
thinking, he hoisted the cutlass skyward, flew at Balalaika with an
unearthly roar, and skewered the pirate from head to crotch.
panted. His heart thumped fiercely. The remains of his foe were
nowhere to be seen. That was a little too easy, he thought.
I don’t think he’s really gone. Felt good, though.
you, Captain Brannigan,” gushed a teenage girl. “You’re
scene changed, and he was aboard a small cargo ship, zooming over the
towers of a large city. He could hear nothing but a klaxon bell and
the confused cries of men and women. In front of him, three armed
cutthroats confronted a four-armed alien guard. “Hand over the
gold or we’ll bathe ourselves in yer blood,” demanded one
of the pirates, who was unmistakably Balalaika.
once again rose up in Zapp’s soul. “All right,” he
said, gripping his sword and marching forward, “I can keep
doing this as long as you can.”
apparently wasn’t long, for when Leela awoke and sat up, she
saw with her blurred vision that the Fossitron was empty.
head,” she moaned. “I feel like I tried to apply makeup
with a jackhammer.”
to have you back, Leela,” said Foss. The professor’s
expression indicated a complete lack of malice. “You’ll
be happy to know that Delta’s in perfect working order. She
was a little frantic after I reattached her head, so I had to put a
restraining bolt on her.”
am I still alive?” asked Leela as she swung her legs around.
“Krandok should’ve killed me after what I did.”
convinced him you were actually trying to kill Captain Brannigan,”
Foss told her.
leaped to the floor, then gave the scientist a quizzical look. “Why
are you protecting me?” she demanded to know.
into the matrix with me, and I’ll tell you,” offered
Leela allowed the helmet to cover her head, the throbbing pain
vanished. She felt grass underneath her feet, and saw rolling plains
covered with wildflowers in every direction. The sky was cloudless,
and the sun shone warmly. It’s even more beautiful than
real life, she thought.
materialized a few feet away. “Here we are,” he said,
his face giving off a peaceful glow. “Now, what was your
said Leela. “The question. You know I came here to rescue
Zapp. You know I tried to kill Krandok. Yet you’re hiding
this from your captain. Why?”
stepped forward and took the cyclops gently by the hand.
you guessed?” he said. “I love you, Leela.”
pronouncement almost made Leela jump out of her skin. He loves
me? she marveled. But I just met him, and he’s my
scientist began to caress Leela’s fingers with his other hand.
“I loved you from the moment I first saw you,” he
confided. “You have an inner strength that’s missing in
other women. It radiates from you.”
withdrew her hand as politely as she could. “I don’t
have time for this,” she told Foss.
Leela,” said the professor, sinking to his knees in the grass.
“You and me. Consider it.”
the next time we meet,” said the cyclops. “Right now, I
need to focus on rescuing Zapp and getting the hell out of here.”
again, Foss brushed the dirt and grass from his smock. “I’m
willing to help you with that,” he said, “but I want
something in return.”
took a deep breath. “Make love to me,” he pleaded.
“Right here, in the matrix. There’ll be no repercussions
in the real world.”
jaw dropped. She started to back away.
only will I help you rescue Captain Brannigan,” said Foss
earnestly, “I’ll also come with you and turn myself in to
the Earth authorities. I’ll pay the price for my crimes. You
won’t have to visit me in prison if you don’t want to.”
a generous offer, thought Leela. And, to tell the truth, I
can’t see any way to save Zapp without his help. But can I
trust him to keep up his end of the bargain?
about it,” said Foss. “But don’t take too long.
An attack force from Earth is on its way.”
stopped and bowed her head. He claims to love me, yet he’s
blocking his thoughts from me. If I refuse, he’s sure to turn
me over to Balalaika. If I accept, and he gets what he wants, he may
turn me over anyway. It’s a no-win scenario. At least if I
refuse, I’ll die with my dignity intact.
dragged on like hours as she pondered the matter. Foss stood
patiently, motionlessly. A gentle breeze stirred the poppies.
she faced him. “All right, Foss,” she agreed. “I’ll
make love to you, here in the matrix. But first, I’d like to
slip into someone more comfortable.”
closed her eyes tightly. As Foss watched expectantly, both Leela and
the grassy prairie began to change. Plaster walls formed around him,
flanked by well-stocked bookshelves. The sun gave way to a faintly
buzzing electric light. He recognized the place; it was his old
office at Mars University.
where Leela had once stood, he saw Darla Thurmond, clad in a
form-fitting sweater and a short, frilly skirt.
Professor,” said Darla in the sweet, childlike voice he
remembered well. “I’m having difficulty with one of the
homework problems, and I thought you might be able to help me.”
balked, recalling how his tryst with Darla had nearly cost him his
job. Yet he knew it was hopeless—he couldn’t resist the
girl’s innocent, freckled face and charming smile, any more
than he could have ten years earlier.
certainly, Darla,” he said, slightly flustered. “Why
don’t you have a seat?”
I think I will have a seat,” said Darla as she quietly
closed the office door. “Know what I mean, baby?”
knew what she meant. Three seconds later he was flat on his back
across the desk, and Darla’s arms were upon him, yanking off
his tie and unbuttoning his shirt…
gazed across the empty warehouse floor. Behind him, outside of the
spacious old building, a pair of muscular men unloaded palette after
palette of electronic components from a cargo truck. To his left
stood Fry, and to his right, Monica Tao and her five-month-old baby
girl. The morning sun shot friendly rays through the aging, cracked
is great!” bellowed the enthusiastic robot. The words echoed
from one wall to the other, and from the floor to the ceiling.
you can turn this dump into a working munitions factory,” said
Fry, “I’ll be the one shouting ‘Bender is
plan’s unsinkable,” said Bender. “I’ve got
all the parts I need, and a horde of desperate manual laborers to put
them together. All I need now is somebody who knows how to build a
looked back and forth at Fry and Monica, who had nothing but
confusion on their faces. “Awww, mannn…”
Bender,” said Monica as she wiped drool from her daughter’s
lips with a cloth. “I know a lot about birthing babies, but I
don’t know nothin’ ‘bout buildin’ no quantum
could get the professor to help us,” Fry suggested.
just a head in a jar,” said Bender. “He can’t
said Fry. “I mean we can use his knowledge. I’ll
be right back.”
redhead hurried out of the warehouse, and Bender turned to Monica
with a sigh. “If this factory produces even one quantum
torpedo that works,” he said glumly, “I’ll be very
wasn’t long before other mutants arrived, starting with Alberto
Veracruz. After saluting with his mouth hand, he stuck it forward
and said, “Reporting for duty, Herr Direktor.”
said Bender. “All the stuff isn’t here yet. Would you
mind picking up some donuts and beer?”
a pickle turnover for me,” Monica added.
lay sprawled on the ground, breathing rapidly, his expression one of
idyllic joy. Above the smock-clad scientist stood Leela, a smile of
delight on her lips. Minutes passed as she waited for him to regain
his composure. The prairie sun warmed the skin of her neck.
Foss rolled over onto his knees and grasped Leela by the ankles. “I
love you,” he moaned ecstatically. “Oh, God, how I love
rather fond of you as well,” Leela admitted.
clasped his hands together and groveled before the cyclops. “I’m
not worthy of you,” he said miserably. “I wanted to use
you…to manipulate you.”
figured as much,” said Leela, tenderly rubbing the professor’s
dared not raise his head to look at the girl. “I-I haven’t
had a single girlfriend since I joined the pirates,” he
related. “No woman was strong or brave enough to stand up to
them, until you came along. I knew I had to make you mine, so I
planned to bring you into the matrix and influence your feelings so
you’d fall in love with me.”
like Balalaika influenced your feelings,” Leela noted.
“Just like I influenced them by turning into Darla.”
continued to apologize as she lifted him up by his wrists. “I
see now that what I did was wrong, terribly wrong. Oh, Leela, can
you ever forgive me? I’ll do anything to make it
said Leela, intrigued. “Hmm…”
in the heck did you get your hands on that much weapons-grade
plutonium?” Fry asked Bender as a man in a radiation suit
carried a crate past them.
was Bender’s incredulous response. “What am I, made of
warehouse floor was a maelstrom of activity, as more than 150 mutant
workers in protective suits struggled with the intricacies of
assembling components and installing them within metal shells. From
his position on the catwalk, Professor Farnsworth’s head
shouted instructions and orders to the would-be technicians. “You
there! Number 27!” he called out. “You’ve crossed
the green and yellow wires! Do you want to blow us all to kingdom
Tobler, the man with a cat in his head, hurried up to Bender and Fry.
“Herr Direktor!” he exclaimed. “I can’t
find a radiation suit that fits over my head!”
sized up the man. “You got two choices, bub,” he said.
“Either lose the cat, or go back to the circus. My budget’s
too tight to afford a special suit.”
Princess and I are inseparable,” Tobler protested. The cat
wagged its tail, which was attached to the base of his skull.
sighed. “Fine,” he said reluctantly. “I’ll
requisition a suit for you, and pay for it out of Fry’s own
you, Herr Direktor,” said Tobler, clasping his hands.
calling me that,” said Bender.
leaned over a railing and gazed down at the busy, confused workers.
“It just doesn’t look safe to me,” he remarked,
shaking his head.
mutants,” Bender pointed out. “It’s not like their
lives can get worse.”
robot’s next stop was the accounting office, where Monica was
laboring over a computer keyboard, and her baby girl was sleeping
obliviously in a crib. “What’s our production status?”
Bender asked her.
produced, zero,” replied the Asian woman. “Defects,
said Bender proudly. “Safety violations?”
eyes bulged. “Fifty-eight? That’s almost
unacceptable! Who’s responsible for this?”
are,” said Monica flatly.
couldn’t agree more,” said Bender. “The person
most responsible for your own safety is you. It’s about
time the workers learned that. Schedule a video course.”
leaving the office, he spotted Hermes, Amy, and Zoidberg stepping
through the creaky doors of the warehouse. “Hey, Bender mon,”
Hermes hailed him. “It’s our lunch break, and we came by
to see how your factory’s progressing.”
explosion suddenly took place at the other end of the building,
leaving a gash in the wall. “Uh, business is booming,”
hope your plan works, mon,” said Hermes. “You got two
days to save your mutant friends from the sewers.”
just wish Leela were here,” said Bender. “I did all this
approached Amy, who appeared to be in a somber mood. “Any news
from Captain Kif?” he inquired.
replied Amy with a sniffle. “Not a word.”
worry,” said Fry. “Your boyfriend’s gonna kick
those pirates’ butts, and come back a war hero.”
he comes back at all,” said Amy, who then covered her eyes and
with the waterworks,” grumbled Zoidberg.
about Zapp?” Fry wondered. “Are they just gonna blow him
up? Isn’t anyone trying to rescue him?”
was. Aboard the Nimbus, Kif was standing to one side as a special
guest occupied his captain’s chair. The visitor, an elderly
female of his own alien species, pressed her wrinkled fingers to her
temples and moaned oddly.
you picking up anything, Varuna?” Kif asked the green woman,
who wore a multi-colored silk robe that reached to her ankles.
sense great hostility,” she uttered. “Or perhaps great
friendliness. I can’t be sure unless you get closer.”
just dropped out of hyperspace, the thirty-four starships of Earth’s
attack force circled the outer perimeter of the Cerulean Nebula.
Kif’s crewmen sat silently and breathlessly at their stations,
expecting a confrontation with the pirates at any moment.
is somewhere in that nebula,” said Kif to Varuna. “Try
to hone in on his psychic frequency.”
mumbled the old woman.
frequency,” said Kif with a sigh of discouragement.
of his minions pointed at the view screen. “Sir, they’re
coming!” he shouted.
of the blue mists of the nebula emerged one Jolly Roger warship, then
another, then a dozen. “Red alert!” cried Captain
Kroker. “Battle stations!”
eyes suddenly went wide. “I’m getting something,”
she said. “Captain Brannigan is on one of those pirate ships,
I’m sure of it.”
honestly don’t see why you had to bring that crone aboard,”
said the voice of the ship’s artificial intelligence. “Psychic
powers, indeed. The only way she’ll ever make contact with
Brannigan is by conducting a séance. He’s dead, Kif.
Accept it and let go.”
up and bring the quantum torpedo launchers online,” said Kif to
the ship’s computer.
the Earth fleet and the pirate raiders hurtled toward each other,
Leela and Foss were preparing for a battle of their own. Foss began
by prying loose the restraining bolt on Delta’s neck. Once he
had done so, the fembot’s eyes lit up with gratitude.
you, professor,” she said. “Mindless servitude is so
unpleasant. I prefer to be dominated of my own free will.”
open a wall compartment, Foss removed three old-fashioned laser
pistols, of which he handed one each to Leela and Delta. “Balalaika
ordered me to keep these pistols in working order, in case an
emergency arose,” said the scientist as he adjusted the
settings on his weapon. “I don’t imagine we’ll
encounter more than five guards on the way to the bridge, so we’ve
got a good chance of pulling this off.”
for helping, Philaster,” said Leela sweetly.
for you, my love,” said Foss.
trio exited the laboratory and made it halfway to the bend in the
corridor, when a band of five pirates rounded the corner, laughing
and swinging their cutlasses. “Arrr, it be mutiny!”
exclaimed one of them upon seeing Leela, Delta, Foss, and their guns.
squeezed her trigger and let a laser blast fly, striking a cutthroat
in the chest as his four companions fled for cover. “Oh, my,”
mused the fembot. “I didn’t know I was programmed for
fired persistently at the pirates’ half-exposed faces until
Foss grabbed her arm and pulled her aside. “Look out!”
he warned her, just as a dagger hurled by one of her foes whizzed
past her ear. The face-off continued until the pirates ran out of
daggers to throw, upon which they fled into the corridor from which
they had appeared.
didn’t tell me they had daggers,” Leela
come back with reinforcements,” said Foss. “There’s
a longer, but safer, route to the bridge. Follow me!”
led Delta and Leela forward a few steps, and a shattering blast was
heard. The pirate ship trembled violently. Foss was thrown off his
feet, as was Leela; Delta kept her balance by extending her arms and
grabbing a beam on each side of the hallway.
under attack!” Foss shouted. “We don’t have much
ran frantically for the remainder of the distance, passing by a few
pirates who appeared too frightened to fight. At the doorway to the
bridge, Foss motioned for Leela and Delta to stop and lower their
voices. From their hidden vantage point they saw Balalaika and
Krandok holding conference with Zapp, standing around what looked
like a holographic model of a Titan-class battleship.
weakest part of the shielding is here, in front of the thermal
exhaust port,” said Zapp, pointing at a brown rectangle on the
back of the model. “By concentrating their fire, five raiders
should be able to take out the Nimbus without much trouble.”
gaped in horror, unable to believe what she had heard.
a channel to all raiders,” said Balalaika, signaling to one of
his men. “They’ll be very interested in this bit of
the minion reached for his communication console, a red beam struck
the back of his head. He screamed briefly, fell limply over the
console, and died. Startled by this occurrence, Balalaika and
Krandok whipped out their cutlasses and looked suspiciously in all
directions. Krandok, noticing a movement at the entryway, snatched a
dagger from his belt and tossed it forcefully. Delta let go of her
pistol, stretched out her arm, caught the spinning blade, flipped it
around by the handle, and threw it even more forcefully toward
Krandok. The point of the dagger hit him squarely in the throat,
knocking him backwards in what would be the last fall of his life.
Delta, and Foss emerged from their hiding place, laser pistols drawn.
Balalaika and Zapp, finding themselves outnumbered, dropped their
swords and put their hands in the air.
grinned at her fembot comrade. “That was pretty good, Delta.
But did you really need to kill Krandok? He was an excellent
scowled at his chief scientist. “I knew you’d betray me
someday,” he said without a trace of pirate accent.
really?” said Foss. “You never gave any indication that
you suspected me.”
he and Delta bound the pirate captain’s wrists with rope, Leela
tried to reason with the sullen Zapp. “You’ve been
manipulated,” she said earnestly. “Balalaika used the
Fossitron device to make you think like he does.”
anger faded from Zapp’s countenance. “Yes, you’re
right,” he said, his hands still raised. “Like a fool I
kept killing him and killing him. After about the one hundredth
time, I realized that I enjoyed killing him. That’s
when he started fighting back. Since I couldn’t kill him
anymore, I started to kill with him.”
understand, Zapp,” said Leela, slowly lowering her laser gun.
“That’s how the Fossitron works. It’s like a form
of mental rape. It allowed Balalaika to get into your mind and leave
a piece of himself there.”
we’ve got a problem,” Foss interrupted.
cyclops turned her eye to the pirate ship’s view screen, and
gasped. Out from the swirl of raiders and DOOP warships exchanging
fire came the Nimbus, barreling toward their position, growing ever
my God!” cried Leela. “They’ll blow us to bits!”
advantage of her distraction, Zapp launched his foot upward, knocking
the laser pistol from her hand. The weapon spiraled in the air and
landed in his waiting palm. His opponent disarmed, he lunged forward
and wrapped his arm around her neck in a vise-like grip, then pressed
the business end of the laser gun against her temple.
Balalaika go or I’ll kill her!” he barked at Foss and
fembot and the scientist stood rooted to the spot by indecision and
kill her, I swear!” said Captain Brannigan, his eyes glowing
it, Zapp!” Leela choked out.
view screen image showed the Nimbus slowing to a halt. Suddenly,
with a crackle, the face of Kif Kroker appeared. “Resistance
is futile,” he declared. “Power down your weapons and
prepare to be boarded.”
beheld a strange tableau—Captain Balalaika held prisoner by
Delta and Foss on one end of the pirate bridge, Leela held hostage by
Zapp on the other end. For what seemed like an entire minute, not
one of them knew what to do or say.
lower lip began to quiver. Leela could hear him mutter under his
breath, “I’m…a monster…”
he pulled the laser pistol away from her head…
aimed it at his own.
cried Leela. She strained to turn around, but Zapp’s grip on
her neck was too strong.
as he squeezed the trigger, a robotic hand flew at him. Delta’s
stretched-out arm pushed the laser pistol to a safe distance, so that
its beam crashed harmlessly into a girder.
the Nimbus’ tractor beam had drawn Balalaika’s raider
into its docking bay, and Kif’s men had taken the pirate
captain and his subordinates into custody, Zapp asked to be
incarcerated as well. “In my present condition I’m a
danger to the crew,” he told his second-in-command. “The
Nimbus is yours, Kif.”
treat her well, sir,” said Captain Kroker.
lead you to the pirates’ hidden base,” Foss offered.
“You can incapacitate them with one blow.”
generous of you,” said Kif.
have a question,” said the young professor. “How did you
know Captain Brannigan was aboard our raider?”
grinned. “I have Varuna to thank for that. She’s a
member of my planet’s psychic caste.”
introduced Foss to the green-skinned, white-haired woman. “It’s,
er, nice to meet you,” he greeted her.
sense that you don’t believe in my powers,” said Varuna.
really,” said Foss. “Can you sense what number I’m
boy,” said Varuna with a slight cackle. “It doesn’t
work that way.”
the Nimbus and its sister starships sought out the coordinates Foss
had provided, Leela and Delta relaxed in the massive vessel’s
lounge. Leela, stripped down to a bikini, and Delta, completely
naked as usual, soaked in the rays from the solar generator mounted
in the ceiling.
sorry I doubted you, Delta,” said Leela. “For a Stepford
wife-bot, you have a lot of talent.”
you, Captain Leela,” said Delta. “Although I have no
need of positive reinforcement, I do appreciate it when it’s
the Lobachevsky Desert Testing Range (formerly known as the Hudson
River), a horde of eager mutants held their breaths as Bender pressed
a button on a control pad. The resulting radio signal triggered the
detonation of a warhead and a spectacular explosion.
said the mutants with delight.
that the test was successful, Bender cheered and leaped into the cool
desert air. “We did it! We did it! Finally, after hours of
back-breaking labor, a quantum torpedo that actually works! Bender
is great! The rest of you are just good!”
the mutants took off their visors, Monica Tao came running toward
Bender, her breaths heavy, her baby strapped onto her back. “Herr
Direktor! Herr Direktor!” she called out.
don’t you start with the ‘Herr Direktor’,”
is bad,” said Monica, stopping at the robot’s side.
“Very bad. Watch.”
raised up the wrist TV console she was wearing. On the tiny screen,
Morbo and Linda were delivering a special report.
quickly as it started, the war against the Pirates of the Cerulean
has ended,” said Morbo. “A fleet of DOOP battleships
wiped out the pirates’ main base today, effectively destroying
their ability to fight. In this newscaster’s opinion, all of
you pathetic humans should keep this day in memory, for just as you
have overwhelmed and destroyed the pirates, so shall you be
overwhelmed and destroyed when our invincible armada arrives to take
what is rightfully ours! WE WILL DESTROY YOU!”
my nonexistent God,” said Bender miserably. “That’s
it? The war’s already over? But we haven’t sold a
take it so hard, Bender,” said Monica. “There’ll
be other scams. As a wise man once said, ‘There’s a
sucker born every minute.’”
gritted his shiny metal teeth. “No!” he declared. “I’m
gonna succeed in this business without really trying! Another war
will come along any day now, and if it doesn’t, I’ll
start one!” Addressing the crowd of mutants, he added, “Are
you with me?”
of approval flew up from the mob. “Viva Bender!” “Viva
Herr Direktor!” “We’re with Bender until the
ender!” Not a single mutant offered a dissenting opinion.
call on the suckers,” Bender commended Monica. “What
else did the wise man say? Is there a book?”
further news,” said Linda from the wrist TV, “legendary
space captain Zapp Brannigan is safe and sound today after having
been rescued from the Cerulean Pirates. His first officer, Kif
Kroker, claimed in a sworn statement that a young mutant, Turanga
Leela, was chiefly responsible for Captain Brannigan’s rescue.”
telescoped his eyes to get a clearer picture. “Leela’s a
hero!” he marveled. “Listen up, you freaks! One of your
kind is a hero!”
view of this claim,” Linda went on, “the President of the
World, Richard Nixon’s head, has decided to withdraw the Mutant
jaw dropped all the way to the sandy ground.
is a happy day for mutants everywhere,” Linda declared.
dear Lord,” said Monica, wiping away tears. “I’m
so relieved.” Turning to the mutant workers, she yelled, “The
Mutant Resettlement Act is history! You no longer have to live in
the sewers! You’re free!”
crowd cheered, even more loudly this time. “I’m going
home to celebrate!” “Screw this job!” “In
your face, Herr Direktor!”
watched glumly as the crowd dispersed and ran away in all directions.
In no time at all, he was alone in the desert with Monica and a
smoking radioactive crater.
afraid I’ve got to go too,” said Monica. “I
instructed the nanny to call me every fifteen minutes, and it’s
been three hours.”
Asian woman carried her baby off into the sunset. Bender, left with
nothing but his broken dreams, sank to his knees and cried,
people, two robots, and one head gathered at the round table in the
Planet Express meeting room—Fry, Leela, Amy, Bender, Delta,
Zoidberg, Farnsworth, and Philaster Foss.
don’t know how you managed to avoid going to prison,”
said Leela to Foss, “but I’m glad of it.” She
planted an affectionate kiss on the professor’s cheek.
was simple,” said Foss, “once Nixon granted me a complete
amnesty as a reward for my help in rooting out the pirates.”
the long face, Bender?” asked Amy.
I’m gonna die,” the robot moaned. “I owe a bundle
to the Robot Mafia, and I can’t even begin to pay it back. How
could things get any worse?”
said Delta, leaning over, “I’ve given it some thought,
and decided that since you and I work together, we should be just
how they could get worse,” said Bender, who then started to
like your new attitude, Delta,” said Leela. “You’ve
finally learned that you can depend on yourself, and don’t need
a man to make you happy. Uh, Delta? I don’t think you should
be touching Zoidberg there.”
heh heh,” giggled the crustacean.
got a situation, everyone,” said Farnsworth. “The Planet
Express ship is lost somewhere in the Cerulean Nebula. For all we
know, the pirates picked it apart. On top of that, Lrrr is demanding
to know what happened to his shipment of Amish furniture.”
what about Zapp Brannigan?” said Fry. “He’s locked
up in a cell, stark raving mad.”
happened to him is my fault,” Foss admitted. “As God is
my witness, I’ll find a way to help him.”
many problems,” Zoidberg lamented. “What do we do about
“Well, spluh,” said Amy. “You put them off until the sequel.”