The enemy was hostile. Slimy, too. Leela winced as she leaned away from its humid, fetid, gaseous breath, pressing herself against the back wall. Her hand hovered above the trigger. Shaking slightly. She narrowed her gaze, swallowed hard, and pressed her hand firmly to the switch.
The board made a loud buzzing noise, which caused Fry to laugh – and her opponent to groan in dismay as his last vessel descended to the briny deep.
“Oh no, you sunk my Battleship!” Zoidberg complained, sitting back in his chair. “The captain was two days from retirement and I was gonna eat all of the clams in the cargo hold!”
“That’s not what I wanted to hear,” she complained. “I WANT to hear the lamentations of my enemies as they burn to death in a boat sinking!” She poked the board. “Lousy old board with bad sound effects.”
“Would you please try to avoid sliming up the game?” Fry asked. It was his copy they were playing on the ship as it idled, waiting for a welcoming frequency that would let them break through the atmospheric force field and deliver forty pairs of britches to a very fancy multi-species tailor.
“This is an antique to you guys – I think.”
“Oh Fry,” Leela laughed. “We still have Battleship. We just play for slightly higher stakes. There’s a huge tournament every year between the best players in the galaxy. The winner gets their own luxury planet. The losers have to work for Mom until their bones turn into jelly.”
“Sounds awfully risky,” Fry said, scratching his chin. “But I bet we could beat all of them!”
Leela crossed her arms over her chest. “Fry, we’re not going to sign up for a life-endangering Battleship tournament! I’m twenty years from retirement and I’m not going to spend it in rags yelling ‘hail Mom’ every morning!”
“At least you get a free scarf and a new bucket every year on her birthday,” Zoidberg said. “Do you know what I’d give for a new bucket?”
The radio beeped and Leela rushed to answer it, as Fry and Zoidberg strapped themselves in for the descent.
“Yeah, we got your order, bring the ship on through.” The clear layer between the planet and the ship suddenly dissolved, and Leela carefully piloted the ship through the atmosphere, bringing it to rest in the parking lot of the men’s shop.
It took some doing to get the crate to the client’s loading dock. Zoidberg went into the shop and started trying on suits, to the displeasure of the shop owner.
“Mac, I’m gonna have to ask you to stop trying my merchandise on if you ain’t gonna buy it.”
“I’m checking my figure!” said Zoidberg nonsensically, preening in the mirror. “Fry, do you think my jelly build-up’s going down?”
“Oh sure! You’re looking great,” Fry said carefully. His expression suggested that Zoidberg looked anything but, but kindness didn’t hurt, nor did it cost extra. He leaned against the wall and watched as Zoidberg flexed in the camel-colored suit.
“All right, we’re done,” Leela said. She eyeballed Fry and Zoidberg. “Would you please take that suit off before you lay eggs in it.”
“That’s not how my species work! We ejaculate scum into the water and…”
“I didn’t want details,” Leela complained. She tucked the waver into the pocket of her sweatpants, and Zoidberg wrangled himself out of the suit. The three of them left the shop to board the ship, and once they were headed back to earth, she finally said, “I still don’t think forming a Battleship Killcore team is a good idea.”
“Well, I think it’s a great one, and…” the ship dramatically listed to the left, then the right, and Leela braced her palm against the wheel. “We’re being pulled in by a giant tractor beam!”
“That doesn’t look like a tractor!” Fry said, only to bang his head against his seatrest as the ship was pulled ever forward into the light.
The next thing the crew knew, they were sitting strapped before an enormous Battleship board, hands and legs restrained against bright white plastic chairs. A voice from on high said, “INTRUDERS! My board sensed yours in the great void, and what you’ve done is appallingly successful! You will play against our computer to secure your freedom!”
“Says who?” Fry asked.
“Says the greatest Battleship player in all space and time! I have defeated Mom and lived to tell the tale! But you won’t! It’s the only way to eliminate the threat of your team defeating mine in the next killcore tournament!”
“But we’re not going to compete!” Leela said.
“SILENCE!” Shouted the unseen speaker. “The first move is mine.” A thin screen appeared before them, and a red dot glowed in the middle center. The field before them glowed bright green, and then there was a ship.
The boat was well…boat-sized. And twice their height. Leela gulped as she sat a little straighter in her chair, but Fry looked determined.
“We can do this, Leela.”
Her eye narrowed. “We can do this,” she said, and squeezed his hand. “G-12,” she said confidently.
Several hours later, they’d gotten close to sinking the creature’s battleship, and they’d come dangerously close to being torpedoed. Fortunately they were still alive. They were close. Leela could smell it.
She could also smell Zoidberg’s sweat, but that was neither here nor there.
“B-11,” she said.
There was a pause. “No. No!!! It can’t be!!”
A beep sounded, and then a huge wave of water crested over their heads. “We sunk his battleship!” Leela crowed, and the gang celebrated as much as they could, for a bunch of people strapped down to a chair.
“But I can’t! I….noooo!” The ship began to quake, and the irons holding them into place releasing themselves. Fry, Zoidberg and Leela rushed through the mess, dodging debris until they managed to make it to the ship. The force-fields around the ship were weak, and they cleared it just before it imploded in a shower of white sparks.
Fry watched the ship explode. “That poor guy. Imagine building your whole life around one thing.” He found a can of Slurm in his back pocket and popped it open, slugging half of it down. “Mmm. It’s still kind of cold!”
“You know, you would make a fine Killcore leader!” said Zoidberg. “Fry’s instincts were correct.”
“They often are,” Leela said. “But I think once was enough for me.”
“Me too,” Fry said. “Hey Zoidberg, I think we have a new bucket in the hold – want to take it?”
Zoidberg’s eyes lit up. “Would I?!”
They headed off to retrieve it, as Leela happily pointed the ship toward home.