"Out on the road late at night, Seen my pretty Alice in every headlight
Alice, Dallas Alice"
lyrics Lowell George
Leela's mind went back through the years to when the Professor bragged about people going mad inside the Bureaucracy Building; it was so labyrinth-like in design that she wondered when the minotaur was going to show up. This delivery must have been important, as they had a small pot-bellied nerd to guide them through the maze of hallways.
"I'd love to tell you about my newest action figures," the man told Leela.
"Just get us there."
"Oh, okay...just take this elevator to the 12th floor; the Bureaucrat General's office is just past the doors. Good luck, guys."
"What did the guy mean by 'good luck'?" asked Fry after the doors closed.
Leela winced at the sickeningly sweet music being played in the elevator. Fry scratched his head. “What’s the big deal about meeting this guy anyway? We’ve met President Nixon, and Agnew, and that wasn’t such a big deal.”
“Fry, Garrett Kinkaid is the Bureaucrat General; this guy tosses the keys to his air car to Nixon, and he takes it out to be washed. He’s the real power behind just about everything we know. Now just be quiet and let me do the talking.”
Ever curious, Fry examined the elevator button panel. "Why is there no 13th floor on this thing?"
Amy shook her head. "Why do you ask questions like a child? Spleesher..."
He pointed with his finger at the buttons. "No, honest-to-God...there's no 13th floor here. It just goes from 12 to 14."
The bell rang, and the doors opened. "Behave you guys," Leela sternly told them.
Leela, Fry, Amy and Bender entered the large posh office and stood before the huge oaken desk. Bender prepared to light up a cigar, and Leela scolded him for it. “Don’t smoke that in here, Tin Man.”
“On the contrary,” the Bureaucrat General told him, “as a matter of fact, have a real cigar.” He opened a wooden box. “These came all the way from Zuban 5.” He lit one up for Bender.
“You know somethin’ Mister,” Bender said, “I think you and I can do some business.”
“I certainly hope so,” Kincaid told them. He lit a cigar for himself. He then looked at Leela. “So, you’re the star pilot I’ve heard so much about; those flying skills of yours couldn't come too soon."
She looked confused. “Uh, Mister Bureaucrat General, we brought your package.”
“Aw, humbug on the package…it’s nothing but damn newspaper clippings anyway. You can throw it away. I just needed you guys here.”
“What? Mister Kincaid, I don’t want to sound harsh, but we had to rush all the way back from an aluminum delivery to Terminus just to bring you this package.”
Fry leafed through the paper clippings. “Hey Amy, this one has a pretty good sale on it…”
“Do they have shoes?” she asked.
"Put that down, Fry." Leela slapped it out of his hands. “Mister Kincaid, why did you bring us here?”
He puffed his cigar. “Let me get right to the point. If you’ve been keeping up with the news, we stand on the very brink of a major war with the Carcarons; I’m going to need you to perform a mission for me, in the interest of preventing a war.”
“I am a civilian pilot; I am not flying a combat mission.”
“Ah, but this is better than a combat mission – and you won’t even have to fire a single shot...at least in space.” He tapped a button on his desk, and a screen on the wall came to life. There on the screen was the image of Morgan Proctor in a very sophisticated hospital bed; she was fast asleep in some sort of coma, and there were tiny radar dishes all around her head.
“Oh my,” Leela gasped, “is she…”
“She’s fine for right now, but she’s going to need your help.”
“My help? I’m not a surgeon…”
“No, but you’re going to be under the guidance of one…one of the best, I might add.”
“Wait,” said Leela, “I’m confused. What does Morgan have to do with any of this?”
He flicked his ashes in a large ashtray. “It so happens that she was my attaché for a very special peace mission; she’s been hungrily sniffing around for my job, so she was more than willing to take on her role. You see, on the 30th of this month she needs to deliver a speech at the Hotel Neptunia in the native language to the Carcarons. She'd been preparing that speech, learning that croaking language of theirs, and she'd gotten good at it. She’s got to be able to deliver that speech, or we’ll be in a shooting war before you can say Christopher Columbus."
“Fine – why not just have someone else deliver the speech? My mother speaks the language fluently - she could do it.”
“They only want to deal with an official attaché from the Bureaucracy…no one else.”
“Oh…so then what happened?”
“About two days ago she was eating at a Burger Masters at Callisto Station when someone hit her in the neck with a dart. At first she didn’t think much of it, but she soon collapsed right there in the food court. The doctors soon discovered that a bunch of tiny nanobots had been released into her system, so they kept her in this induced coma until we could figure something out. In short, I need you and your crew to destroy the nanobots and see if they’ve done any real harm. At worst, they could wipe out part of her memory – then we’d be up a creek.”
“And just how are we supposed to do that?”
“With this.” The Bureaucrat General pulled out a container barely larger than a hard-boiled egg and opened it. He then handed Leela a magnifying glass. “This is the XMS-1. She was designed in our Texas labs, so our designers refer to her as ‘Dallas Alice’.”
She marveled at the tiny white submarine; it looked like an ant could carry it away.
Bender began to sing in the background, "I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari..."
“Oh, I get it,” Leela said, “it’ll be like that time that we had our tiny doubles inside of Fry to fight those pesky parasites.”
Amy looked at Leela sternly. "Until you hacked them to bits."
“Yes, but this time you guys aren’t using virtual reality doubles - you'll have to do this mission on your own. We at the Bureaucracy just happen to have an Applied Micronautics lab here in the building.”
Bender puffed on his cigar. “But I remember old Gramps griping about how much that would cost…”
“My good mechanical friend, I'm the government - I just happen to have a fat wallet.”
Bender laughed. “You go, Pimp Daddy - show me the money...”
"That's the spirit, Metal Man - I knew you and I could do some business."
Leela protested. “Wait just a darn minute – you’re going to shrink us? I just got through telling you that we aren’t in the service. We do have a choice, don’t we?”
"Leela, I don't want him shrinking me," Amy whined. "I can hardly stand being around Morgan, let alone traveling inside of her on a tour."
“Leela, this is a major crisis. I’m afraid you all have been nationalized. I expect you to serve your planetary system well. Besides, you came highly recommended.”
“Highly recommended? By who?”
“Why, Zapp Brannigan, of course...he wanted to do the mission with you, as sort of a duo. I couldn’t possibly depend on him – he couldn’t pilot this thing into the side of a barn. You’re just the pilot I need.”
Fry looked nervous. “But…but, who’s going to do the shrinking?”
“You’re in good hands, boy – your next stop is to see the Surgeon General, Yelena Kasharin.”
The Planet Express crew stood assembled in their new tan uniforms, waiting for their mission briefing. Leela was given a fancy chronometer for her left wrist. Fry was clowning around with Bender. “Can you hear me, Major Thom?”
Leela chided him. “Fry, knock it off – the Surgeon General is coming in. Attention.”
“At ease.” Yelena stood there in her military uniform in front of them, clustered with medals and ribbons and sporting golden epaulets. The woman was tall, and built like a human battleship. She was striking, but not what you'd call unattractive. Her reddish-brown hair was tied behind her in bunched pile. She spoke to them in a strong Russian accent. “You may call me Yelena, or by my nickname ‘The Surgeon.’ I will make this brief, and then we will begin.”
"You're Russian," Leela observed.
"Nyet...I'm Belarusian, from the city of Pinsk. I'm not one of those Moscow snobs."
"That's quite a military uniform," noted Amy.
She smiled. "I typically leave the pistol at home, as I have no need to shoot anyone."
"That's a real shiny medal sister," Bender said, "what did you get that one for?"
She looked down. "This one? This was for a cholera outbreak in Lower Volta in 3011. Now - if we can get ready for the minimizing..."
“What?” asked Fry.
“We’re going to shrink you.” She looked over at Leela and spoke discreetly. “He’s not the pilot I hope.”
“No, I am.”
“Good. Let’s get started.” She pointed to a computerized wall chart of a human brain. “You will be spending most of your time in different areas of the cerebral cortex. Your extraction point will be here in the tear duct of the left eye. Now - to the Miniaturization Room with all of you.”
Yelena separated Leela from the others and asked her to join her in a lab. “Leela,” she told her, “after you and your team have been minimized, you must realize that there is a deadline.”
“What’s the deadline?”
“You must be at the extraction point before 96 hours has gone by.”
“Why? Do we turn into a pumpkin?” Leela noted that Yelena wasn’t smiling at her wry joke.
“If you are not out by 96 hours, then the process is irreversible.”
“You mean we could be stuck that way?”
“Let me show you something.”
Yelena took Leela over to a large area on a table that looked like a 3-dimensional map.
"So, it's a map..."
"No, my dear...so much more than just a map." She waved her hand in some of the ocean water. "You see? I just created a tsunami over on that little beach."
Leela's eye grew open with surprise. "Holy cow - that's a real ocean."
Yelena began searching the map-like image. “Let’s see…where are they today? Oh, here they are…on the vacation island.”
“Dr. Petran and his team; they didn’t make it out in time.” Yelena moved over a large magnifying glass so Leela could use it; in it, she spotted a realistic-looking island filled with palm trees and a group of tiny insect-like figures waving up at her from a beach.
“Oh my God – there are people down there!”
“Shhh…don’t yell, my dear – it frightens them. And for heaven’s sake, don’t sneeze on them – it creates hurricane-force winds down there. A young intern nearly blew them away last week. They’re actually doing quite well in their new home; we supply them with building materials and everything they need. Look – they’ve built some more condos since I’ve seen them last. They'll stay there until we figure out how to de-miniaturize them.”
“These are real people?”
“Oh, yes…Dr. Petran still publishes research papers from the island down there. His last one was quite brilliant.” She turned the sunlamps down for the night. “Goodnight, Doctor.” She turned to Leela. “My dear, I can’t stress this enough – you need to be out of Morgan within 96 hours.”
She glanced at her chronometer. “I hope to God we won’t be in there that long…”
The four brave travelers stood for what seemed like an eternity in a special clean room, waiting for the minimizing to begin. Leela scolded Bender; "Lose the cigar..."
The miniaturization started with a bright flash which made everyone turn away; the dark eyeglasses they were issued came in handy. The process started out slowly, but then began to accelerate as time went on.
Amy looked down at her hands. "Do you think it worked? I don't feel any different."
"Well," Leela told her, "the room looks bigger, if that means anything."
Amy then gasped as a petite Korean nurse entered the room, looking them up and down like test animals. She was the same nurse they saw earlier, but no longer petite - to them she was 13 feet tall and still growing. "How are we doing?" Leela asked her.
"You many feel a little dizziness, but that will pass. Yelena will be in with you in a minute."
Amy walked up to her. "This is amazing," she noted, "I was taller than you when we came in here."
"Oh, it gets better," she told her. "Get ready to have your minds blown. You'll feel a little euphoria at first; that's perfectly normal for the process."
Amy playfully held up her outstretched palm like a child to compare it with the nurse’s hand, who complied. "I wanted to lose weight," Amy snickered, "but this is ridiculous." She marveled at the nurse, who appeared to be growing taller by the second.
Leela, who now only stood as high as the woman's knee, walked up to ask her a question. "Uh, miss - how often do you do this?"
"We had a 7-person crew do a heart valve job just yesterday." The nurse bent down and gently grabbed Leela's wrist to check her pulse against her watch; this made Amy chuckle.
"Now I know how my dolls felt when I was a kid," Amy told her, and volunteered her wrist to the giant. The nurse was used to doing this, and her fingers were gentle on her wrist.
Leela’s curiosity was piqued. “Well, how did that go?”
The nurse looked around, not knowing quite how to answer. “Well, uh, we lost a crewmember.”
Amy recoiled from the colossal nurse. “You lost a crewmember? You mean to tell me people have died doing this?” She ran over to Leela as her wonder was replaced by terror; she began to shout. “People die doing this – I don’t want to shrink anymore! I want out of here! Tell 'em I want out!”
“Calm down, Amy…you’ve been through tougher scrapes than this.”
“Oh my God…I’ll die in there, and they’ll never even find my body to bury me…”
Bender chuckled. “What, do you think you’ll miss out on that fancy funeral? We'll videotape it for you - I'll send a wreath.”
The nurse tried to calm her down. "You’re just having a bit of anxiety, Amy…it’s a normal reaction to the process. We do this all the time - you guys will do just fine." She smiled, then stood up and left.
When Yelena entered the room to check on their progress, she now towered over them; they felt like chess pieces away from their board. They waved up at her. With a massive finger, she counted the four of them; "Ah, four - perfect." She then placed a tiny glass slide on the metal flooring and instructed them to move toward it. The tiny figures obeyed, realizing that they didn’t have much time to reach it (even though the slide was only about 20 centimeters away, they still had to jog over to it). By the time they reached the glass slide, they had to climb up onto its surface. They walked up to their submarine, looking down on it like it was a model; they watched it grow in size as they shrunk.
Amy bent down to examine it further, playfully opening the airlock hatch with her pinky. "We're riding in this? It's like a toy! Look - it's even got 'Dallas Alice' painted on the side...how cute."
"But it's still gettin' bigger," Fry noted.
When the reduction process finally slowed down, they looked up at the Surgeon who seemed to blot out the sky. “Test your radio headsets,” she said. The voice seemed to hit them like a loud boom of thunder. “Oh, sorry about that – I can never quite get used to speaking to my test subjects."
"Test subjects? How many people do you shrink, sister?" asked a tiny Bender.
"There is no time for clowning," she told them in a firm voice. "Your minimization will be completed in the ship; enter it and close the hatch.” Complying, the four entered the ship through the airlock hatch, and dogged it behind them.
Yelena then gently picked up the slide and took it over to another lab next door. She peered in at them.
The group had to hold on to something as they were carried away; even the slightest movements sent them pitching around the inside of the ship. Amy let out a high-pitched squeal as she looked out the front windscreen. “Shmeesher – is that what I think it is?”
“I’ve never seen an eye that big,” added Leela.
“Huh,” said Bender, “ever look in the mirror? Looks like about your size.”
Leela sat in her control chair and hit a master switch, which activated the electronics on the sub. “We need to get into our seats – we’re going to be moving soon,” she told them.
The XMS-1 was gently placed into a tiny lab dish, and blasted again with a radiation gun. Fluid was added in around it. As expected, the ship became buoyant, and floated up to the surface of the liquid. Leela clicked several switches on her panel, one of them retracting the stubby landing gear that supported the ship. "Vents open," she said, "dive, dive." The tiny vehicle slowly slipped below the surface of the liquid, and assumed its role as a submarine.
Soon, Yelena gently drew the ship into a large hypodermic needle, throwing the sub and its occupants around again; everything went dark as the tiny submarine was pulled into the massive metal tube. “Strap in guys,” Leela told them. “We’ll soon find out how watertight this thing is.”
Amy glanced over Leela's shoulder. "You're sure you know how to operate one of these things?"
Leela scanned through her checklist. "It's just like piloting a starship, only a hell of a lot smaller." The piloting part was quite simple; the XMS-1 had a pilot’s joystick, and a boat-type throttle to Leela’s left. She smoothly ran her hand across a fuse panel, just like in an aircraft. An engine start switch brought the motor to life with a muffled hum. “She’s got an electric motor, and oxygen generators like on a space ship.”
“Good grief,” Amy said, “we’re not going to be inside of her for that long, are we? I did notice sleeping racks back here.”
“It’s all about having emergency systems in place, Baby Sister. I hope to be out of here just as soon as Big Mama here talks with the sharks.”
"I hope so...I'm creeped out already, and we aren't even inside of her yet."
Bender began to maneuver the large robotic arms in the front of the ship. "These are neat!" He moved them from side to side with his levers. "Look at me - I'm the Iron Giant."
"Those aren't toys, Bender...secure those arms and behave. Okay - you all have your briefing on the mission - Amy, I'm going to need you as my navigator." She turned on her screen.
The Surgeon's face suddenly appeared on the main viewscreen. "Are all of you doing well in there?"
Leela answered. "Sure...we don't quite know where we are right now."
The Surgeon held up the syringe to the camera and pointed her finger to it. "You're in here. I need all of you to grab on to something and hold on tight - I'm getting ready to inject you into Morgan's neck."
"That sounds so creepy," Amy commented. "It's gonna be like a carnival ride."
"Yeah...the Tunnel of Blood." Bender let out a loud chuckle. “This is gonna be a first, Fry – you won’t be the only one of us to have been inside of her.”
“Yeah; I’ve always wondered what went on inside of that head of hers – now I guess we’ll find out.”
“Shut up, ding-dongs,” scolded Leela, “and strap in.” She didn’t get her sentence out before the ship began to pitch violently again. After the pitch, they then felt themselves propelled at a high rate of speed, and pushed against their seats. Amy, who had a yen for amusement park rides, began her happy rollercoaster scream as they entered Morgan Proctor’s blood stream. Everything went dark outside of the windscreen. As soon as they settled down, Leela turned on the floodlights in the bow of the ship.
When the darkness parted, they noticed themselves in a sea of flat red objects.
“What are these things that look like red donuts without the holes?” asked Fry.
"These are erythrocytes," Amy said.
“They’re red blood cells,” answered Amy, who looked on in wonder. “I just never thought I’d see them like this.”
“What do they do?”
“They transport oxygen to Morgan’s tissues…straight to the brain, where we're headed.”
"It's handy," Leela noted, "I can shut down the motor and float upstream."
Fry continued with the questions. "Where exactly are we?"
Amy pointed to her screen. "We're in a large vein off of the carotid artery; the surgeons nowadays jokingly call it the 'Jersey Turnpike'."
Leela looked at her screen. "Or, we could take the Long Island Expressway..."
"I wouldn't - not this time of day. The white blood cells will all be out for lunch."
"You and your PhD," Fry sneered, "I just had to ask." Amy chuckled.
Yelena turned on a sophisticated computer screen near Morgan, which showed the submarine's exact location in her skull. "Leela, are you okay in there?"
Leela's image popped up in the corner of the screen. "We're fine in here; I notice you have a nice navigation computer in this tub."
Yelena chuckled; "Hardly a tub - Alice set the institute back 40 million funbucks. You should have everything there that you need; start making your way up to the cerebral cortex - and watch for those nanobots."
Meanwhile, at the edge of our solar system, an enormous starship slowly made its way past the orbit of Pluto. The newest of the massive Predator-class ships, the Bloody Tooth was the pride of the Carcaron fleet. Deep inside the bowels of the ship, shark-like workers in white uniforms prepared the huge anti-matter missiles for their use; the workers were lemon sharks, who were typically the underclass of the more powerful white sharks and makos. They bore many teeth marks from savage encounters with their rivals.
On the command bridge of the Bloody Tooth, a Carcaron commander spoke in a grunting, guttural croak at the communication screen.
A lieutenant on the Nimbus gazed at his communications panel, and then back to Zapp Brannigan. "It's definitely battle language sir..."
Brannigan bit his lip as he listened to the transmission. "Ouch," he said, "it always hurts like hell when I do that."
"Then why do you do it, sir?" asked Kif. "Just go and get that dental work you need - it's covered on your insurance."
"Never mind that. Munda, what is this animal saying?"
Munda, who's face was on a neighboring screen, couldn't hide her worry. "Zapp...they want to move up the speech to the 20th - they want to speak with Morgan as soon as possible. What are we going to do now? We need to notify the Bureaucrat General as quick as we can."
Fry enjoyed finding out how the laser turret operated; he felt just like a young Luke Skywalker as he swiveled the gun around. "Nonsense," he said to himself, "I used to bulls-eye womp-rats in my T-16 back home. They're not much bigger than 2 meters."
"What?" Leela asked, "I didn't copy that..."
Leela was reading through a ship's manual when a laser blast tore across the bow. "Who shot that? Who in the hell shot that? Fry?"
Fry sheepishly got onto the radio. "It wasn't me...I swear I didn't touch anything."
Again a laser bolt skimmed by the ship.
"Fry, fire up that laser cannon - we've got company." Leela began evasive maneuvers as Fry began to look for the enemy out the bubble canopy on the top of the ship.
"Leela, it's that silver thingee..."
"Don't talk, just shoot. I'll try to pilot my way over to it - knock it out."
As the XMS-1 got closer to the metal robot, Fry began shooting at it. When he finally struck it, it disintegrated into millions of fragments. He then climbed out of the seat, celebrating.
"That was good shooting, Fry."
He stood there in the doorway with a grin on his face. "Say it, Leela."
She turned around. "What?"
"I'm waiting - say it."
Amy groaned. "Will you just say it so we can get on with it? Gleesh - he's like a kid begging for a piece of candy."
Leela sighed as she rolled her eyeball around. "Oh, whatever." she cleared her throat. "Nice shootin' kid - don't get cocky."
Fry and Bender gave each other the high-five.
"They let us go," said Amy as she scanned her panel. "it's the only explanation for the ease of our escape. Leela, you've got a turn-off 2 centimeters ahead of us."
"That still was nice shooting," Leela said.
Yelena had taken a call on her eyePhone in the observation room. “I don’t care if they are coming early…I am not waking up my patient. My team still need to finish their work…I know you are the Bureaucrat General – but I am the chief surgeon, and I call the shots with my patient.”
Leela slowed the ship to a stop, and then launched an anchor piton by pressing on her screen. "We're here," she told her crew.
"Fine," Bender announced, "I want you all back here by 10 o'clock sharp; we're Methodists. No hand-holding and no card playing - we all know where that leads."
"Bender, give it a rest."
Amy gazed outside of the window in wonder at the massive pink object that resembled a fallen tree trunk. “You mean that thing is a cortex nerve?”
“Yep – and it’s tied to a bit of memory. Theoretically, all I have to do is launch this probe and I can jack into it.” Leela pressed the screen, and a probe resembling a large black lawn dart with an antenna on the end pierced the nerve. Words began appearing on a nearby screen, and Amy began to laugh aloud as she read them.
“What?” asked Leela. She then read the screen, and quickly shut it off. “Holy crap-nuggets…that must have been Prom Night.”
“I never figured her for that kind of girl,” added Amy. "In the back seat of a Mercedes-Hyundai? What other memory nuggets are we going to find in this woman?"
Bender snorted. "And you're not, Miss Manners? Imagine what we'd find on you."
“Right…let’s get serious about this. I’m going to launch another probe.” Leela tapped the screen again. “Man, if she only knew what we're doing…there’s no part of her life that’s hidden from us.”
“I could do such a business with blackmail in this joint,” said Bender. "I seem to remember that this was the woman 14 years ago that tried to erase my memory; if I was really vengeful I could do the same in here today. Revenge is a dish best served cold...he he he."
Leela eyeballed the screen from the second probe – it was a love letter never sent to Fry. Good grief, she thought, she really did care for him.
Leela tapped the screen and made it disappear. “Oh, that was nothing - just some blather about paperwork. We need to keep on searching.”
Yelena briefed her nursing staff early that next morning; they were all surprised by the news. “I didn’t want to give in to the Bureaucrat General, but an invasion fleet from Carcaron is on its way here. We have no choice – we have to wake up Morgan.”
“With the submersible still inside of her?” asked a male nurse. “That's a bit risky for the crew...we've never had a sub inside of a conscious patient.”
“With any luck,” she continued, “we’ll get them out with everything intact in Morgan’s brain.”
Yelena’s eyePhone went off – it was Leela. She shouted with surprise. “Bozhe moi! Really? You’ve got to be kidding…”
“We’re not kidding,” Leela told her. “We’ve categorized every bit of memory that we could find, and we can’t find any trace of anything having to do with the Carcaron she learned. The nanobots must have gotten to it and erased it. Other than that, we haven't found much real damage.”
“Then we’re finished.”
“Not quite – my mother speaks Carcaron fluently…just shrink her down and get her in here.”
“There’s no time – we have less than 48 hours to get her to the conference.”
Leela’s eye got huge. “You’re going to wake her up…with us inside?” She suddenly heard a stream of Chinese profanity coming from behind her.
“I knew it,” Amy shrieked. “We’re going to die in here! Open up a damn hatch so I can swim out of here!!”
Leela grabbed her. “Calm down! Calm down. You’d never survive. We’ll get through this.”
“Just get me to the ear canal – I can get out that way…”
“You’d never survive, Amy – you’d just get lost forever. You’re less than a micron tall – you’d never make it.”
Amy started crying, and Leela helped her to her seat. She rubbed her back. “We’ll get through this, Baby Sister.”
Morgan Proctor’s eyes opened up and looked around the room. All she could think of to say was, “What’s going on? Was anyone else in the car wreck?”
Yelena spoke to her. “My dear, I have a lot to explain to you.”
Leela tried to cheer Amy up, who was at least attempting to calm down. “Look, Baby Sis – they have Insta-meals back here. This one looks good… ‘DOOP Ready-to-Eat, Individual Beef Teriyaki 030057/24B.’ At least we won’t starve in here. This and a protein drink and you’ll be as good as new.” After bringing her the meal, Leela went back to her command chair and began to move the sub forward.
“Where are we going now?” asked Amy.
“To the auditory nerves; we need to start talking with Miss Thing.”
Her voice was weak, but Morgan let out a yell of surprise. “You put what inside of me?”
The shockwave of sound slammed the tiny vessel, throwing everyone around inside; Bender's metallic body slammed against the inside of the hull with a loud bang. Leela quickly placed a call to Yelena's eyePhone. "What just happened out there? We just got blasted by something."
“Morgan, you must refrain from shouting, my dear - you could hurt your friends. Yes…Leela and Amy are in there, and your friend Fry and the robot.”
"Did she just scream out there? Tell her not to do that anymore."
Morgan's eyes got wide. “Fry? Fry is inside of my head?” She got a strange smile on her face. “My Dirty Boy.”
Yelena grimaced. “I'm sorry Leela - I'll have to put you on hold; I can't carry on two conversations at once. Your what? What's a Dirty Boy? Anyway, they should be able to communicate to you soon.”
"Damn it - she put me on hold...I'm hearing music..."
Leela pressed the screen. “Probe’s away…with any luck, she should be able to hear us.” She pressed a few more buttons on the screen. “Morgan…can you hear us?”
Bender snuck up behind her and spoke in a serious voice. “Do not adjust your TV set, meatbag. WE control the horizontal…WE control the vertical.”
“You stupid piece of tin – get back there and sit down.”
Morgan got a shocked look on her face. “I can hear them…I can actually hear them! Leela – I can hear you just fine.” She then looked confused. “Was that Bender talking about destroying all humans?”
The image of Turanga Munda came up on the screen. “Hi, baby! What can I help you with?”
“Do you still speak Carcaron, Mom?”
“Like a native.”
“Good…we’re going to be part of a conference call.”
"It's good to hear from you again...are you eating well?"
"Yes, mother...I'm eating just fine."
"You know your father and I worry about you...you hardly ever call..."
"Could we have this conversation later? Right now we've got a war to prevent."
"You could still call more..."
"Mom...I'm not your little girl anymore."
"But you are my little girl," she said with a chuckle, "at least for a few days..."
"Very funny, Mom."
“Now help me out, Dr. Kasharin. You’re telling me that I’m going to experience some memory loss? I memorized the Carcaron language, and know it like my right hand.”
"But you don't remember any of that now...do you?"
“Morgan dear, that’s you left hand.”
She examined her palm. “It is?” She held up her right hand. “This is my left…isn’t it?”
“Morgan, we’ve got some things to sort out…and not much time to sort them out in.”
Morgan put her shoes on and saw that look from Yelena. “Let me guess – they’re on the wrong feet…”
Fry was furious with Bender. “You cheated again.”
“Nonsense, Fry…how can I cheat at Monopoly? You coffin-stuffers just can't manage your money is all.”
“I don’t know, but you did…somethin' ain't right here.”
As Fry had his back turned, Bender snuck a couple more of the green house counters onto the board. When Fry turned back, he quickly noticed them. "Hey!"
Leela came back. “Look alive, meatbags – we’re almost to the peace talks. It’s gonna be showtime very shortly.” She checked in on Amy in one of the bunks. “You get any sleep?”
“A little. You might as well get some too.”
“Not enough time – we’re almost at the talks. I wonder what Morgan is doing right now?”
As Morgan Proctor walked through the Hotel Neptunia with the Surgeon General, they passed by a vendor selling fresh flowers; she sneezed violently. Inside of her, not far from her eardrum, the crew of the XMS-1 were thrown around the sub; Amy was tossed off of her bunk to the floor. Leela crawled up to her control chair. “Morgan…what just happened? Did you shout again?”
She looked around to make sure no one was watching her talk to herself. “Oh, I just sneezed.”
“That was a sneeze? Be careful – you threw us all over the place.”
Suddenly a horrible grinding noise came through the speakers; it sounded like a fish grinding up coral in its jaws. “Shmeesh! What is that?” asked Amy.
Leela asked, “What are you doing now?”
“I’m sorry,” Morgan told her, “I grind my teeth when I’m nervous; I have since childhood.”
“Well, stop it – you're not a child anymore. You’re driving my crew nuts in here.”
Yelena called Leela on her eyePhone. “Leela, can you hear me?”
“Loud and clear, Yelena.”
“We’re getting ready to deliver the speech…you need to contact your mother.”
Morgan sneezed again; as before, the entire crew was tossed around the vessel.
“I’m sorry…it’s hay fever season…”
Turanga Munda’s face appeared on the screen near the control panel. “Miss Morgan, can you hear me?”
“Yes I can, Munda.”
“Just stick with me, young lady, and I’m going to tell you everything that you need to say.”
Morgan stood at the podium as the Carcaron officers entered the room. They gave her the heebie-jeebies, with their obsidian eyes and razor sharp gleaming white teeth. They had just arrived from the buffet table where they had devoured dozens of pounds of fresh shrimp; some were still eating. “Oh, God…they’re hideous…”
Leela worriedly looked over her instruments. “Morgan, you’re blood pressure and pulse are shooting up there…you need to calm down; I don’t want you having a stroke before the talks can even begin.” She felt herself having to hold on to a bulkhead as the current of blood became stronger against the ship. “I hope this anchor piton holds us – we’ll lose control if it breaks.”
Morgan started to fall apart. “I can’t do this, guys…”
“Yes you can,” Leela told her, “now just calm down.”
The tiny ship again pitched and moved as if caught up in a turbulent sea. Amy looked at her heart rate and blood pressure on the screen; her BP was 195 over 115, and her pulse was already up to 121. “Leela, what are we going to do? The sharks will tear her apart and we won’t stand a chance in here. Is there any way we can get her some nitroglycerin?”
“No time.” Leela turned. “Fry, come up here and talk with her.”
“What do I say?”
“I don’t care…anything – just calm her down. Talk about the good old days of living like a slob and slinging garbage around your apartment.”
Complying, Fry sat in the command chair and began talking with her. They watched her vital signs start to normalize.
Munda’s voice came back in. “Did we get everything going alright? Good. Morgan, I’m going to give you some basic croaks to greet them with – just listen to me and then say what I say…”
The peace talks were a resounding success; the Carcaron commander gave Morgan a few parting croaks as he shook her hand.
"I'm afraid to ask what that was about, but I did smile at him like it was positive."
"That was a good parting greeting," Munda assured her. "What he said was, 'the next time we meet, I'm going to gnaw your arm off.' That's a very warm greeting for these guys. You did very well. By the way, what did you think of shaking his hand?"
"Rough...sort of like sandpaper..."
"It's the shark skin...millions of little hooks..."
Leela pressed a couple of buttons. "Okay, folks - it's time to close up shop and head toward the eye. Second blood vessel to the right, and straight on to the tear duct."
Amy eyeballed her panel. "Aye, Captain - I've got a course laid out up two veins and an artery."
"Second floor," Bender announced, "car tires, men's hats, lady's lingerie..."
"Morgan," Leela told her, "we're going to be out of radio contact from here on out. Good job with those Carcarons."
"Thanks Leela...and thank you, Fry."
"No problem, Morgan."
Bender chuckled. "Way to go, Dirty Boy."
"Okay...knock it off, Metal Man. Now - I need all of you meat sacks to suit up in your diving gear. And keep your eyes peeled for those nanobots - there's no way we could have just one running around in Miss Thing here. And dog all the hatches smartly."
"Yelena," Morgan asked, "you do think they'll be okay in there?"
"They'll be fine - they're on the last leg of their journey."
"Just the thought of people traveling through me...kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies..."
"We're going the right way," Leela insisted.
Amy poured over a large fold-out map spread out in front of her screen. "No, we should have turned off on that vein two millimeters back. We could have saved time by jogging up the Dan Ryan..."
A klaxon went off. "We're getting a proximity alert - what's going on?"
Amy's eyes got large. "Leela - I think you need to see what's on my screen."
Amy pointed to a mass of orange dots on the green screen...and they were moving.
"Oh my God," Leela said as she looked out the windscreen, "it looks like Little Big Horn out here." She keyed the intercom. "Okay...Fry - get up in the turret. Bender, you get ready with the robot arms. On the bounce - you apes want to live forever?"
“I was hoping to make it past today,” Bender said.
Yelena led Morgan in back of the hotel where her team stood ready with the equipment needed for the restoration process; the alleyway provided just enough room for the sub to grow back to its original size. As they got close to the team, Morgan stopped and nearly fell over.
"What's the matter, dear?" asked Yelena.
"A searing pain in my left eye...like a war going on inside of my head..."
Yelena glanced at her chronograph, and then at her team. "We need to move fast - we don' t have much time."
They got Morgan down into a restaurant chair, opened her left eye and waited; Yelena placed a computerized magnifying glass in front of her eye.
"Ouch," said Morgan.
"Fry," Amy announced, "you've got three targets coming in, should be your five-o'clock."
"I see 'em." Fry began shooting, and soon two of the three nanobots were destroyed.
"One of them is low..."
"I got that one," Bender said confidently as he smacked it with a robot arm. "Take that - scumbag..."
"Fry," Leela shouted, "turn quickly - we've got one off of our port bow."
Fry had managed to get good with the turret as he was playing around earlier. Being a champion at Asteroids back in his neighborhood certainly didn't hurt; as he brought the weapon around and fired, the nanobot seemed to vaporize in a cloud of shrapnel. "Ha ha...I still got it."
"You were also the Galaga champion, weren't you?" Bender asked.
"Oh yeah...two years straight. I guess all those quarters I spent didn't go to waste."
"Heads up Fry - we've got more coming in," announced Leela.
Fry readied his weapon. "You know Leela, this is what I was born to do."
Leela smiled as she heard this, and thought that maybe he had. Suddenly the entire ship shuddered like a truck hitting a huge bump...
"Ow...my eye," Morgan moaned. "That really hurt."
"It'll all be over soon enough," Yelena assured her. She peered into Morgan's eye with the lens, and placed her eye dropper in position. "Let me see that eye...keep still. I know they're close. I'm going to flush your eye with drops, so try not to move for me."
Leela looked over her screens. "That was the last one - good job, Fry." She didn't hear any response, so she decided to try a Star Wars quote. "Okay kid, let's blow this thing and go home." Again, silence. "Fry? Fry, can you hear me? Fry..." Her panel began to light up like an X-mas tree. "Nuts - the hull's been punctured...Fry - are you there?"
She turned and spotted Amy crying.
"He's gone, Leela."
"What do you mean, gone?"
"We had an explosion back there...Fry's gone. Aren't we going to go back and look for
Leela looked at her chronometer. "There's no time. We've got to go to the extraction point, or we'll be stuck here."
"But he's going to die in here..."
"Do you want to die in here too? If we don't move fast, you'll spend the rest of your life here in Morgan's brain. We're almost to the extraction point..."
Leela had to make a decision; she turned the sub around in a vain effort to search for him. "We've only got a few minutes to find him, but then we've got to get to the extraction point. Bender, get ready with those robot arms." She spent as much time as she could spare, but Fry was nowhere to be found in the floodlights of the ship. "Bender - keep looking for him." Where are you, Goofbag? Leela suddenly felt the ship being pulled backward by some invisible force; she tried forward throttle, but the ship kept moving back. "I guess they're not waiting to extract us," she told Amy, "hopefully Fry will get pulled along with us." I hope...come on, Goofbag - where are you?
Fry was faintly aware of what was going on around him, but he was confused; he realized he wasn't in the ship anymore, but where was he? It was hot, wherever he was. He was surrounded by what seemed like warm sea water, but the current was turbulent. Where is everyone? he thought. Did they leave me behind? Why am I not in the ship? He was frightened, but his oxygen gear still seemed to work. If he could just swim to the shore of this vast ocean. I must be made to suffer...it's my lot in life...
Yelena had Morgan's eye open with her fingers; a bright red light flashed in her viewer. "Bozhe moi - I can see them! Bring me the slide...bistro, quickly." She carefully removed some fluid from Morgan's eye with a dropper and placed it on the glass slide; one of her workers quickly took the slide away, and placed it on the ground in the alleyway. Another worker blasted it with a menacing-looking radiation gun. As Yelena and her crew watched on, the slide and the submarine began to come into view. She walked over to see the ship; they were growing in size, but the ship was still only as big as a child's toy. Yelena could see Leela open up a hatch, and the action figure-sized crew began to emerge. She was quite worried, as the sub had taken quite a bit of damage from the nanobots.
"You guys made it - I told you that you would. Wait a minute - one of you is missing..."
Leela waved her arms up at the gigantic surgeon. "Fry is gone - he got pulled out of the turret. We don't know where he is - he was wearing his scuba gear."
Yelena turned to Morgan, who was beginning to cry.
"You mean my Fry is gone?" she sobbed.
"Yolki palki...Bring me a computer pad," Yelena told one of her staff. "I can see his vital signs...he's still alive." She spotted Morgan rubbing the tears coming out of her eyes. "Morgan - listen to me. Do not rub your eyes, dear. Do you hear me? Cry, but do not rub your eyes."
"I just couldn't live with myself if he died inside of me..."
Yelena took a glass slide and a dropper and began to carefully collect the tears on Morgan's face. Leela and her crew, who were now knee-high, jogged over to see what was going on.
Yelena placed the glass slide underneath a small microscope. After a few seconds of scanning around, she looked back up at Morgan with a smile. "Honey, we've got your Dirty Boy!" She motioned for her to take a look; Morgan could see a tiny Fry swimming on the surface of what was once her tears. She smiled as he waved up at her; he was glad to be able to remove his mask and breath the outside air again.
Amy, who was now the size of a small child, asked to take a look - Morgan lowered it for her. She took the heavy, bulky microscope into her child-sized hands. She peered down at her miniature friend. "It looks like he's had enough excitement," Amy said, "let's get him back to normal."
As she handed the microscope back to Morgan, she turned to see a young Chinese girl dressed in a Bureaucracy uniform. "Hello," she politely asked her, "do I know you?"
"No, but I know you, Amy Wong." The child smiled. "You are small...like me."
Amy grimaced. "Yeah, but I'm ready to be my normal size again."
"The Bureaucracy is very interested with the work you have done here." She reached out and touched Amy's hair. "You'd make a great looking doll for my collection."
"Thanks...I guess..." Creepy kid, Amy thought. I wonder who the hell she is?
As Morgan put the microscope down, something caught her eye; her mouth popped open. Amy noticed this. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"That woman over there...that nurse - she could pass for my twin sister. I must be losing my mind."
The woman in her nurse uniform and hat looked back over at her. "What are you looking at?" she asked Morgan. She was truly an identical double, down to the reading glasses.
"My God," she whispered in horror, "she's even got my voice." The nurse and some of her staff finished their work and quickly disappeared. "I still need to recover from all of this."
Later the Bureaucrat General and some of his staff had joined the Planet Express crew in the alley, and had already started passing out cigars and congratulations. Morgan just stood there with her arms outstretched. "Fry...give me a hug."
Fry, who was now about 4 feet tall, kept his distance. "Morgan, I don't want you to take this the wrong way...but I don't want to hug you. As a matter of fact, I don't really want to touch you at all. I've been inside of your skull for 4 days, and I've seen a lot more of you then I really ever wanted to see. Sorry..."
"I guess I can understand what you're saying. I have missed you, though..."
Amy rubbed Fry's head like a kid. "It's kind of romantic, though...you could say that Fry was saved by Morgan's tears."
"Oh, give me a break, Amy - I almost drowned in them."
The Bureaucrat General then spoke. "You people have saved Earth from a terrible war - you have a lot to be proud of." He then spoke to Fry. "And you, young man...we could use your bravery in future missions..."
Fry just shook his head. "No more adventures," he told him.
Bender got ready to give him a high-five. "Hey buddy, you said another Star Wars line." He slapped the robot's hand and smiled - things were finally getting back to normal.
"And," Yelena said, "you've also proven the XMS-1 a resounding success." One of her staff handed her some paperwork, and she quickly leafed through it. "While I have all of you here, Mom from Mom's Friendly Robots is having a bit of a problem with one of her female robots...she's asked if you guys could do an exploratory..."
Leela took off her diving mask and dropped it on the ground. "Fry, how did that 20th century song go again? 'Take this job and shove it - I don't work for you no more.' Sorry guys, but I'm going back to delivering packages. I feel much safer in space."
Kincaid frowned. "That's sad to hear...I could really use your piloting skills in the future. How about you, Miss Wong?"
"This shrinking stuff of yours could be used as a deadly weapon," Amy added, "and I don't want any part of it. And my wardrobe had darned well better fit when I get home."
Bender then pulled out one of Kincaid's fine cigars that he'd stolen, and placed it in his mouth. "Mr. Bureaucrat General, maybe you and I can do some business..."
Kincaid pulled out a lighter. "Let me light that for you, son."
Later, in the afternoon, Garrett Kinkaid stood in his office waiting for Irene Wu to collect him; he'd gotten the shivers when he was told she was coming by. Standing barely half of his height, the tiny Chinese girl was already one of the most powerful people in the Bureaucracy, save for her mother and The Commissar. She and her mother were members of what were called "The Thirteen," the true leaders of the Bureaucracy, and therefore the real leaders of everything; above them was only the Commissar. No one had ever even seen this man.
He finally heard the little girl's footsteps in the hall; even though he'd seen combat as a Space Marine, Kinkaid still got a chill just seeing little Irene.
I'll be damned, he thought, most powerful man in the country, and I'm forced to wait like a stupid bellboy. Finally, the girl appeared.
"The Commissar will see you now."
Not even nine years old, she already had more cyber gear than most front line soldiers. Those cybernetic eyes, he thought, they make your darned flesh crawl. They glow unnaturally, like a cat caught in the light.
Once in the elevator, Irene opened her mouth and a computerized tone came out. They even gave this little beast the voice. The elevator now moved to the mysterious 13th floor and opened its doors.
Irene turned and looked up at Kincaid. "The Commissar is waiting for you." Before he left the elevator, the child grabbed his sleeve. "Mr. Kincaid, I am not the beast that you might think I am. I am your friend...you will see. They will all be frightened when I take over as Commissar someday, but I will be their friend. I will show them. I will straighten things out, once and for all." She then gave him a smile; he returned the look of a man that had just seen a cobra in a basket in a marketplace. He watched in horror as she went back to playing with her little dolls in a dollhouse on a table. Soon she'll be moving real people around the same way...when she becomes Commissar. God help us all then...
Kincaid entered a darkened room covered in polished wooden walls. The oak desk had the eagle of the Bureaucracy carved into it. The Commissar sat in darkness; all Kincaid could see was his hands...those hands with the Bureaucracy signet ring. He had the files from the Morgan Incident in front of him, complete with the photos of the Dallas Alice and the Planet Express crew.
"I'm very pleased with the way things went," The Commissar told him, "very pleased indeed. This little submarine might become an important tool in the future. I'm very happy with how well this new technology works - I can see lots of military uses for it." Kincaid analyzed the accent of the man's voice; Northern Ohio, if he had to guess. "Now...tell me everything you know about this Turanga Leela and her brave friends...I simply must know everything. I'm very pleased at the way the test went."
Kincaid's eyes blinked. "The test, sir?"
"I said, I think the test went well."
"The test? This was all a test? Earth could have been destroyed..."
"No it wouldn't."
"But Morgan...what if she'd died...if they couldn't get her through the meeting..."
"Oh, we had a clone ready. As a matter of fact, we had several."
"You had all this planned?"
"Who do you think moved the date up? Who do you think had her shot with the nanobots to begin with?"
"But people could have died...many people...and you put me through all of this..."
"The Bureaucracy had everything under control from the start, Mr. Kincaid - don't overreact. Now our vehicle is fully tested, and we even have an experienced crew to take it on further missions. This'll be our finest military achievement in years."
"This absolutely tears it. I won't be a part of this; I'm resigning."
A pause. "Are you sure you won't reconsider? You've been a good Bureaucrat General for us all these months. It would be a shame if something were to happen to you."
"I'm not waiting until something does happen to me." Kincaid turned and began to head for the door. Before he could reach the doorknob, he noticed a bright flash. As he felt the tingling in his hands and the dizziness in his skull, he began to mumble. "Oh, no...no...no..."
Everything went black as he felt something wrap around his body. As the blackness went away, he looked around at his surroundings - he was sitting in the hand of Irene Wu. She looked down at him with those creepy mechanical eyes and chuckled with joy.
"Can I keep him, Mr. Commissar? I've been wanting him for my collection."
"Yes, honey...you can keep him. But you must be careful with him. They're easy to damage at that size, as you've already found out."
The monstrous hand deposited Garrett Kincaid inside of a mansion-sized dollhouse, and the roof of the house was shut behind him with a clunk. He looked around and saw two Bureaucracy employees that had been missing for several weeks. "Mr. Harrison? Yeong-ha?"
The Korean woman kept a vigil out the window while Mr. Harrison spoke in a loud, careful whisper. "She usually treats us fairly well, but it's best not to make her angry...you don't want to see her angry..."
As the crew of the Planet Express made their way out into space on another delivery, the lot of them felt glad to be back in their ancient green ship. Amy laughed with Bender. "You weren't seriously thinking of working for those maniacs again, were you?"
"Hey...if the pay is right." He pulled out another expensive, stolen cigar. "And the fringe benefits are hard to beat."
Leela let out a moan of sadness. "Aww," she said.
"What?" asked Amy.
"On the newsline here it says that Kincaid was killed in a shuttle crash; that was rather sudden. He was a nut, but he seemed like a nice enough guy. It's amazing how someone like that can just disappear from the world stage..."
Like the rat in a maze who says
'Watch me choose my own direction'
Are you under the illusion
The path is winding your way?
Are you surprised by confusion
When it leads you astray?
Have you lived a lifetime today...
Or do you feel like you just got carried away?
(lyrics by Rush)