“Tack us to port, Mr. Levar,” Pratt bellowed as the starboard cannon roared again and the shot blew apart the rigging of a loyalist sloop. “Good shot!” Pratt yelled back to the cannon crew.
Fry and Chan rolled a barrel of powder from the hatch where others had lifted it over to the cannon mount so that the gunners could reload. Around them, the crew swarmed on rigging and at cannon mounts, keeping the Matei Pavel both moving and shooting.
The harbor was alive with ships darting to and fro, some grappling with others and sending over boarders, others on flames and sinking into the depths with their crew swimming for their lives. Despite the furious battle, everyone aboard the Matei Pavel wondered – where were the Masters? When would they join the fight with their monstrous ships and awesome weapons?
Just then, a massive blast rocked the Matei Pavel, tossing pirates about and knocking Fry to his knees. He got up and saw a cloud of steam rising from a wrecked pirate ship, sinking behind them. A shadow passed over them and the space ship curved around, its outline blurred by the sun.
“Looks like the Masters have joined the fight, me boys!” Pratt shouted. He had a wild grin on his face and his eyes were bright with excitement. “Let’s give ‘em some fun! Levar – our extra surprise!”
As Levar ran off to a storage locker, Fry shaded his eyes and looked up at the ship. Its tapered fish shape was achingly familiar. His eyes widened with surprise. “That’s not a Masters’ ship!”
He started jumping up and waving. “It’s my friends!”
The Planet Express ship dove down from the cloud deck and opened fire on a fishing boat grappling with a patrol ship. The fishing boat exploded in broken timbers and flames.
Another pirate, Big Hugh, tackled Fry, knocking him to the ground. “Some friends!” he rumbled in Fry’s ear. “Keep your head down!”
Fry struggled to no avail with the burly pirate. “They are my friends, dammit! I don’t know why they’re shooting pirates, but let me talk to them!”
“No bringin’ attention to us,” Big Hugh said. He held Fry down with practiced ease. “Besides, no talkin’ necessary.” He nodded toward Pratt. Fry could turn his head enough to see the pirate captain.
Pratt was waving his fist at the Planet Express ship as it swooped around, laser guns blazing at another pirate ship. “Curse that hell bird!”
Levar handed a large tube to the pirate leader, grinning evilly. “Ask and ye shall receive, Captain.” Pratt took the object from Levar and hoisted it on his shoulder, tracking the bulbous green cargo hauler as it swept along the water.
Fry saw the stenciled writing on the side of the tube. “DOOP Anti-Ship Homing Missile – FIRE and FORGET.” His heart beat ice-water for a moment.
“NO!” Fry shouted. He fought harder under Big Hugh, trying to escape the pirate’s iron grip. The man held him fast, however. He tried to swing his hook at Big Hugh’s face, but the man blocked his arm easily.
“Let me up!”
“Shut up, ya dink, or I’ll – ” Big Hugh’s threat was cut off by a loud cracking noise, and his eyes rolled up in his head. The big pirate fell off Fry and clunked to the deck neck to him, unconscious.
Chan stood over them, a heavy wooden stave in his hands and a look of determination on his face. Fry jumped to his feet and grabbed Chan’s forearm in thanks. “I’ve got to stop Pratt,” he said, turning.
“I’m going overboard,” Chan said. “Last chance to come with me!”
“Sorry, friend,” Fry said, already running towards Pratt and Levar, “I’ve got to help my Captain! Good luck!” he shouted.
As he ran towards them, Pratt was balancing the missile launcher on his shoulder, trying to sight on the Planet Express ship looping around for another attack run. “STOP!” Fry shouted as he approached the men.
Levar, evil grin never leaving his face, smashed a club into Fry's stomach as he ran toward them, sending the red-head sprawling. Fry threw out his arms as he fell, and his hook tilted and caught a U-ring on the side of the missile launcher. Pratt spun around on his heels, squawking, as Fry's momentum tumbled both of them to the ground.
Flame and smoke spouted from the tail of the tube, knocking Levar back twenty feet. The missile shot from the launcher, soared into the air and, not detecting a target in its approved sensor area, fail-safed itself off and splashed harmlessly into the water.
The forcefield hummed off, and the door to their cell creaked open. Leela jumped to her feet, unsure of what to expect. She took up an Arcturan kung-fu stance.
The cyborg that had escorted them from the landing pad, Cambrien, walked in. The implant replacing her right eye glowed bright emerald. She looked around the cell at each of them. “Come – we haven’t much time.”
“What? What are you talking about?” Leela asked.
Cambrien studied the mutant for a moment. “Not all of us are dismissive of your offer of assistance,” she said finally. “We may have a gestalt mind-linkage, but we are not hive creatures.”
“Obviously,” Hermes said. “But what does dat have to do wid us?”
“My faction believes we can convince the others of your good faith and utility – if you assist us with a related problem.”
“Oh great,” Leela said. She sat on the bed. “What’s this FedEx quest?”
Cambrien paused. “You are referencing twentieth-century video games? Are you familiar with those?”
“Learned it from…a friend,” Leela muttered. “Listen, what do you want from us?”
“The humans of this planet – not all accept our rule. As we described, pirates attack our settlements. Some have even dared attack Enhanced, although they of course pay dearly for that arrogance.”
“Of course,” Amy said sarcastically. “Glad to hear not everyone has laid down and died. What does this have to do with us?”
“The pirates have an EMP bomb.”
“Dat’s de second time you’ve mentioned dat,” Hermes noted. “What’s dat mean?”
“An EMP bomb is a weapon designed to use against combat robots – or cyborgs,” the Professor said. “It will fry advanced electronics and destroy computers – like those our friends here use.”
“It will destroy your robot companion as well,” Cambrien said, pointing at Bender.
Hermes shrugged. “I can live wit dat.”
“So how big is this thing?” Leela asked.
Kif coughed. “Excuse me, but I have some knowledge of these devices. The DOOP has a number of grades of these weapons; the biggest will blanket a whole planet, and will punch through almost any shielding. If the pirates have something like that, it will destroy every piece of advanced electronics on this planet, and in immediate orbit.”
“Oh crap,” Leela said. “If the pirates set it off, the cyborgs will be wiped out -”
“- and in eight years plus,” Amy finished for her, “the humans will be, too.”
“So what do you want us to do about it?” Leela asked Cambrien.
“Go amongst the humans of this world. Find this EMP bomb and disable it, or bring it to us. My faction can leverage this act of good faith to sway the rest of the gestalt to your side.”
“So you want us to do your dirty work, so that you will then let us do you a favor?” Leela said angrily. “Well, this bites.”
“We have managed to get you out of custody, Captain Turanga. If you follow me, I can lead you to your ship. What you do from there is up to you,” Cambrien said.
Cambrien turned to exit the cell, and Leela said, “Wait!”
The cyborg turned. “Yes?”
“You have to do something for us,” the cyclops said, trying to keep her voice even. “We’ve lost a friend of ours on this planet, a human male named Philip J. Fry. Help us find him. Please.”
Cambrien said nothing for a long moment. Leela realized the cyborg must be consulting with others. Then she nodded. “We believe we can locate this Fry. If you give us a description, we will distribute it amongst our human supporters. They will ultimately find him.”
Leela let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “Thank you,” she said. “Then we will look for your bomb.”
“Leela,” Amy said, “do you think this is wise?”
Leela turned on her crewmates. “We have to do it anyway, if we’re going to get anywhere with these damned cyborgs,” she said. “We might as well get their help looking for Fry. He wouldn’t give up on us, and I’m not giving up on him!”
Bender said, “I volunteer to look in the bars and strip joints!” When the others glared at him, he said, “What? They’re the best places to look for Fry! Believe me!”
Cambrien suddenly seemed agitated. “I have…a development.”
“What?” Leela was excited. “Have you news of Fry already?”
“No,” Cambrien said slowly. “But we do have news of the EMP bomb.”
The Great Castle of the cyborgs was like an anthill upturned as the Planet Express crew ran after Cambrien to the landing pad that held their ship.
“The gestalt has forbidden any Enhanced ships from participating in the battle,” Cambrien explained as she loped along. Leela was impressed at the cyborg’s speed, and her ability to talk without gasping for breath as she sprinted. Leela herself was not in peak physical shape as she had neglected her exercise regimen lately in the fight against Leo Wong.
“We are afraid that Enhanced appearing in the fight would encourage the pirates to detonate the EMP bomb early,” Cambrien explained. “We expect our local supporters to stop them.”
“So you’re sure that it’s in the harbor?” Amy asked, only slightly winded. Leela felt a stab of irritation; apparently Amy had found time to keep up with her exercise routine.
“Our sensors have confirmed the emission spectra from the trigger of the bomb. The weapon is in the harbor aboard a pirate vessel, although we cannot determine which one.”
“And you want us to stop it?” Hermes gasped. Leela noted no matter how far she had let herself go, she was nowhere as bad as the portly bureaucrat. Only Bender - who didn’t breathe - and the Professor - who was being carried by the robot - seemed unaffected by the pace.
They stepped onto a lift and started rising, as the Planet Express team took a break from running. Cambrien said, “My faction has modeled the scenario, and does not believe the harbor patrol will be able to stop the pirates before they are in optimal position. While the gestalt instituted a program of shielding vital connections and computer cores, we have not shielded very much. Even worse, if the pirates reach the optimal position near the central core the shielding we do have will be overwhelmed.
“We cannot break the gestalt’s prohibition on Enhanced ships, but we can turn to you,” Cambrien said. “You must stop the pirates.”
“We’ll stop the rotten, machine-hating bastards!” Bender declared.
As the lift smoothly stopped on the landing pad, Leela shouted over the wind, “If you help us find Fry – and save this world.”
Cambrien nodded. It seemed like a foreign gesture to her. “My faction will help you find your friend. If you stop the bomb, we can try to sway the gestalt to adopt your plan. Other than that, there is little we can offer you.” Cambrien didn’t seem to need to shout to be heard over the gusts of wind.
Leela looked around the group. Her gaze lingered on the Professor, who nodded his assent and on Amy, who said, “Let’s do it.”
Leela nodded brusquely. “Alright, everybody aboard!”
There were two cyborg guards at the landing steps, but neither even looked at them as the streamed aboard the Planet Express ship. Leela settled into the command chair and began running through the pre-flight checklist. “Amy, take the engineering board. Bender, run scanners. Dr. Zoidberg, please head to the sick bay in case we have injuries. Um, and…you – ” she said, pointing.
“I’m Scruffy. The janitor.”
“Go with Dr. Zoidberg in case he needs assistance,” Leela said. The Decapodian and the human headed out of the bridge.
“That gets them out of my hair,” Leela muttered. “Now we just have to avoid getting injured.” She looked at Kif. “How’s your shooting, Lt. Kroker?”
Kif paled a little. “My marksmanship scores at the Academy were middling. I was much better at the etiquette courses…”
Leela frowned and looked at Hermes, LaBarbara, and the Professor in turn. Sighing, she said, “You’re military; get up to the turret, please.” Kif saluted her, kissed Amy goodbye and left the bridge.
Cambrien sat herself on the couch in the front, next to where the Professor gently lowered himself. Leela noticed that Hermes and LaBarbara stayed far away from the cyborg.
“Are you coming with us?” Leela asked sharply.
Cambrien looked at her steadily and said, “Yes.”
Leela locked eyes with the cyborg for a moment, and nodded. “Okay.” She noted, irrelevantly, that they each only had one eye.
Leela finished her check list and spun up the engines, reflexively checking all of the displays and gauges again. “Alright, let’s punch this mother!” she said, and pulled back on the wheel.
The ship lifted off of the pad, and the landing gear retracted. Leela slammed the drive on and the ship shot away from the fortress toward the harbor.
“Impressive performance,” Cambrien said blandly.
“She’s my own design,” the Professor said proudly. “Take that, you electronic mongrel!”
Cambrien said nothing.
“Any sign of pursuit?” Leela axed Bender.
“Huh? What?” Bender put down his beer and looked at the scanner. “No, nothing - but that giant battle ahead of us!”
The ship was soaring over the glittering, white-capped harbor and ships were slowly moving to and fro below them, flames and smoke belching from cannon and the waters stirred by missing shot. Several wrecks were aflame, sinking into the water, while small dots – frantic sailors – tread water, trying to avoid being sucked down by their sinking ships.
“Arming lasers,” Leela said. With a switch, the ship’s primary laser cannons slid out of their sheaths.
“All engines and shields online and green,” Amy reported.
“Take out the rebel ships in that line,” Cambrien said, pointing. “Open up a hole to let the patrol ships through.”
Leela snarled at the cyborg’s tone, but the nose dropped down, and Leela lined up a ship with the cannon. The converted fishing vessel hovered in the forward window, and Leela’s thumbs stroked the firing buttons.
“Fire!” Cambrien urged.
What am I doing? Leela thought. Those pirates are just fighting for their freedom. Can I really just slaughter them? It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Fish who are in the right!
Leela narrowed her eye. Come on, Turanga! Those poor men don’t know it, but they’re going to doom their whole world. This is for the best.
I wonder how many murderers tell themselves that?
She squeezed the trigger buttons and lasers bolts blew the converted fishing boat to steam, flame and wreckage. Leela swept the nose of the ship across the line, blasting three ships in a row before yanking the Planet Express ship up and barrel-rolling it over in a loop, giving Kif some shots with the laser turret. Hermes and LaBarbara grabbed each other as the view in the windows gyrated crazily, but the ship’s gravity kept its internal frame of reference steady.
Leela strafed the mass of sailing ships again, carefully targeting ships devoid of the seal of the local nobility. She lifted up and brought the Planet Express ship around again, getting ready to fire again.
“Missile launch! Missile launch!” Bender suddenly yelled, pushing away in fear from his console.
“Shit,” Leela said, slamming the throttle and climbing fast. “Vector?”
“Guh – scratch that,” Amy said, puzzled. She was leaning over a cowering Bender. “It just dead-headed. I've got a confirmed splashdown.”
Leela turned her eye to her display, which was showing the location of the thermal bloom from the missile's launch. It was the deck of a pirate ship, deep in the mass of scrumming vessels.
Leela gasped. “FRY!” She saw the orange-headed man prone on the deck, struggling with a pirate.
She whipped the Planet Express ship around, headed right for the central mass of wooden vessels. “Amy,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady and failing, “get ready to take the controls.”