Author's Note: This story is based on mission 14 in Vampire Rain. James Smith and the other prime walkers mentioned in this fan fiction belong to Artoon. Thanks to Trenton Sands for suggesting the title and being supportive of my writing.
Saturday, September 3, 3008
As they escorted the Professor over to their command vehicle, Fry, Leela, and Hermes moved stealthily toward the hovering van, their assault rifles drawn and aimed in different directions. Leela led the way, making her way to the front side of the command vehicle, while Fry and Hermes followed behind her.
The sound of thunder rumbling sent a chill down Fry's back. He didn't know why, but he had the feeling that there was an evil, hostile presence somewhere nearby.
Fry heard Leela's footsteps stop suddenly.
"Well, look who it is," Leela muttered in a spiteful tone.
Fry, Hermes, and the Professor glanced over at Leela, who was carefully aiming her assault rifle somewhere across the street. Her teeth were gritted hard and her eye was narrowed into an angry, hateful slit.
The others shifted their gazes over to where Leela held hers. Fry's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open in horror when he realized who it was she was glaring at.
Across the street, about a football field's distance away from them, were three African-American men walking side by side next to an enormous warehouse that took up the entire block. The two on the outside looked like ordinary men wearing blue work jumpsuits. But the one in the center was taller than the other two, with unusually long, slender legs. He wore a punkish-looking, tight-fitting black leather uniform with metal cuffs on the wrists and black boots. Using the telescopic view his goggles provided him with, Fry could see that the man was bald and had a scar in the middle of his forehead, as well as a solid white left eye.
It was the only man Leela currently hated more than Zapp Brannigan.
"That's James Smith," Professor Farnsworth said. "He's one of the elite walkers who rules over New New York."
"I know him," Leela muttered through clenched teeth. "I know him very well."
Fry hid as well as he could behind the hovering command vehicle and watched James through the windows on the sides of the van, taking in the hideous sight of the prime walker. A flash of lightning momentarily illuminated his face, making it appear even creepier. Even in his human form, James looked like a thing of nightmares. Fry hadn't been able to shake the disturbing face from his mind since Leela showed him the hologram picture she had taken of James with her combat cam.
Hermes put his back against the side of the command vehicle and peered around the back end of it, eyeing James and the two walkers he was with. He then glanced over at Leela, who still stood next to the command vehicle with her assault rifle pointed at the prime walker. "Turanga, hide," he commanded Leela in a whisper. "Put your gun down. We can't open fire here."
Despite badly wanting to put extra bullet holes in James's body, Leela obediently lowered her firearm and crouched behind the command vehicle, peering over the side of its hood at the thing making its way to the outside corner of the warehouse.
"What do you suggest we do, Captain?" Leela asked Hermes.
"We'll have to wait it out and keep watching that thing," Hermes replied. "I need all of us to stay behind the command vehicle until it and its friends are out of sight."
Fry, Leela, Hermes, and the Professor stayed hidden behind the command vehicle and intently watched James and the other two walkers make their way around the warehouse, hoping the three of them would leave the scene. James eventually entered the warehouse, and the other two walkers walked onto the street, away from the three soldiers and the Professor.
"Excellent," Hermes murmured. He turned around to face the Professor and his two teammates. "All right, here's the plan. Fry, come with me. We're both going into the warehouse to take out James."
"Turanga, you take the Professor and join Rodríguez in the command vehicle," Hermes continued.
"Bender can watch the Professor by himself," Leela objected.
Then, she added sternly, "Let me go with you."
"Turanga —" Hermes began to protest.
"That thing is the one that killed my mother," Leela interrupted angrily. "And he and his friends kidnapped me and tried to interrogate me. No one kidnaps me and gets away with it!"
Fry, Hermes, and the Professor all stared at her in stunned silence.
"Sounds personal," Hermes remarked.
"And besides, we'll have a much better chance if it's three against one," Leela said in a slightly less serious tone.
"Very well. You can join us then," Hermes said.
"Thanks," Leela replied. Then, she added spitefully, "I can't wait to get my hands on that scumbag."
Hermes turned to the Professor. "Stay in the command vehicle with Rodríguez and wait for us to get back," he instructed. "Fry, Turanga, come with me."
Without waiting for a reply, Hermes broke into a run and began to make his way toward the large warehouse. Leela ran after him and caught up to him easily.
Instead of running after his two teammates, Fry stayed behind the command vehicle and watched the Professor pull open the passenger side door, get inside, and then pull it shut. Even though he'd lost track of the hours he'd managed to stay alive since his mission began, he felt the same way now as he did when this night started — worried and doubtful.
Even though he had already managed to kill one prime walker, Fry was unsure if he and his teammates would be able to destroy James. The file he and his team had read described him as "unpredictable and violent, even for a nightwalker." James had even managed to capture and injure Leela, the toughest person Fry knew.
If Leela herself can't kill James, what chance do I have? Fry thought despondently.
Fry looked over at Leela and Hermes running over to the warehouse and noticed that they had almost made it to the front door.
"Hey, wait up!" Fry called after them, a hint of uncertainty in his voice.
Tightening his grip on his assault rifle, Fry jogged through the pouring rain across the street to join his teammates.
Hermes slipped carefully through the open doorway of the warehouse, followed by Leela, and then Fry.
The inside of the building was well-lit but surprisingly cramped due to the seemingly endless piles of boxes and crates stacked all over the expansive floorspace. Taking in the sight of the warehouse's interior, the soldiers saw that the countless boxes and crates stored inside formed an intricate maze that made them grateful for the map displays on their radars.
"Do you have a plan on how we're going to take this guy down?" Leela asked Hermes in a whisper.
Hermes shook his head no. "We'll have to make one up as we go. Let's just hope we find him before he finds us."
As they looked for a way through the labyrinth of boxes, the three soldiers moved as quietly as they could, careful not to disturb the eerie silence.
That silence, however, was broken by Fry's pounding heart.
Fry knew that inside the warehouse, there was an evil creature that wanted him and his teammates dead. He saw what it had done to Leela's mother in the sewer. He saw the lengthy scratches it had put on Leela's chest and stomach. The thought that he was now going after this thing made his stomach tie up in knots.
Fry's skin broke out in goosebumps at the sound of deep laughter ringing through the warehouse and echoing along its walls. The laughter was harsh and malevolent, with a hint of what sounded to Fry like insanity.
It definitely sounded to Fry like the laughter of something unpredictable and violent. And he, Leela and Hermes could be its victims if they weren't careful.
The deep, wicked laughter rang out through the warehouse again. This time, it was louder and nearer in proximity to the three soldiers.
Fry turned back to look at his two teammates, and found that he wasn't the only one who felt unsettled. Judging by his facial expression, Hermes looked almost as nervous as Fry felt at the moment. Looking over at Leela, he saw that despite her hard and determined countenance, he thought he could make out a subtle hint of fear.
She really wants to get back at this thing, Fry read in her face. But she also knows what it's capable of, what it can do to her if she screws up.
Knowing Leela was afraid made Fry feel even more nervous. Leela was the tough, brave one on the team, and this was one of the rare times she showed signs of apprehension.
Fry still hadn't made it far from the warehouse's entrance when he heard the laughter again. This time, it was loud; very loud. The laughter boomed in his ears, chilling him to the bone with its sinisterness. It was so loud, he could have sworn it was coming from right behind him.
Frightened, Fry touched the trigger of his assault rifle. He whirled around —
— and found himself face to face with James Smith.
James uttered another menacing laugh and quickly hauled his arm back, preparing to attack Fry.
Fry let out a terrified scream and ducked right before James's claws swiped the air over his head.
Trembling and whimpering, Fry had lost all his nerves. Shutting his eyes, he waited for James to land a successful blow on him, and for his life to be over.
Instead, he heard the repetitive booms of assault rifles being fired and James crying out in pain as his body was riddled with bullets.
"Eat lead!" he heard Leela shout as she and Hermes both squeezed the triggers on their guns, emptying their magazines into James's body.
Fry opened his eyes as the gunfire ceased. Looking up, he saw James tenderly rub the scar on his forehead and then leap over the stacks of boxes, leaving him and his two teammates alone.
Leela and Hermes reloaded their assault rifles with full magazines, then ran over to Fry.
"Are you okay, mon?" Hermes asked Fry. Reaching down, he gripped Fry's arm and helped him to his feet.
"Y-yeah," Fry stuttered, his heart still pounding from his near-death experience. "He didn't touch me."
"Good," Hermes said, sounding relieved. "Now let's see if we can find our way through this maze."
The three soldiers observed their surroundings. It looked like the piles of boxes surrounded them from all sides, making it impossible to progress. But after a bit of searching, Leela found a crawlspace hidden underneath one of the stacks. It was large enough for her and Fry to crawl through, but it was too small to fit Hermes's chubby frame.
Hermes studied the space and realized he wouldn't be able to fit through it. "You two go through there," he instructed Fry and Leela. "I'll go outside and see if there's a back entrance."
Hermes began to head back toward the front entrance they had used to get into the warehouse. Before opening the door, he looked back and cast a serious glance at his two teammates. "Be careful," he said earnestly.
Fry and Leela nodded in understanding.
Hermes opened the front door and disappeared outside.
"Looks like it's just us, then," Leela whispered to Fry. "Come on."
Leela got down flat on her stomach and began to crawl through the small space.
Fry got down as well and began to make his way after Leela. But she suddenly froze at the sound of James's cruel, maniacal laughter ringing out again. The laugh sounded like it was coming from close by.
Fry was about to ask Leela if she was afraid. But before he could say anything, he saw James suddenly tear past the area at the end of the crawlspace, laughing like a demon.
Fry remained silent and prayed that James didn't spot either of them. Fortunately, James didn't seem to notice them as he ran past. A few seconds later, the laughter faded into the distance and the coast became clear for Fry and Leela.
That was a close one, Fry thought, relieved.
When it became silent, Leela crawled the rest of the way through the space and climbed to her feet when she reached the other side. She readied her gun and aimed around to protect Fry in case James decided to make another surprise appearance.
Fry crawled over to Leela and then rose up next to her. Leela disarmed, and she and Fry looked around for another route that would take them further into the warehouse.
It only took them a second to notice that to their right were two large piles of boxes. The piles formed a pair of large stairs that were short enough for them to climb over.
"That way," Leela said, pointing.
Fry and Leela climbed over the piles of boxes and dropped down to the other side of them. They were now in the dead end of a corner. Looking back, Fry realized that the stack of boxes was too tall for him or Leela to climb back over without using teamwork.
As they turned the corner, Fry shuddered as he heard James's evil laughter again. It was coming from straight ahead of him.
Looking straight ahead, Fry saw James standing on top of a wall of boxes about twenty feet away from him. James stared down at Fry for a split second before dropping down to ground level and charging him.
This time, Fry was prepared. He aimed his assault rifle at James and held down the trigger.
Fry and Leela both sprayed bullets into James's body. James cried out in pain and froze as he was pelted with flying lead.
Come on, die already! Fry pleaded as he squeezed the trigger, shooting round after round at James. He and Leela had been firing nonstop for a few seconds, and their current magazines were close to being empty.
However, instead of keeling over and dying, James took a tremendous leap and flew over the boxes, leaving Fry and Leela alone once again.
"Damn it!" Leela cried. "Is this guy invincible or what?"
Fry shared Leela's sentiment. Although firing at James prevented him from attacking them, their shots didn't seem to do any real damage to him.
Fry and Leela both reloaded their assault rifles with fresh magazines, then ran over to the wall of boxes that James had dropped down from. Looking down, Fry spotted a small hole in the wall that he and Leela could crouch down and go through.
"I guess we go through here," Fry said aloud. He crouched down and began to make his way through the hole. Leela followed after him.
Fry emerged from the hole on the other side and stood up. To his relief, James was nowhere in sight.
Leela crawled out of the hole and climbed to her feet next to Fry.
The two soldiers then examined their surroundings. Looking to his left, Fry noticed a hovering forklift truck positioned near the end of a hallway of boxes.
Suddenly, their communicators rang.
"Conrad here. I made it to the back of the warehouse," Hermes announced in both the soldiers' ears, his voice sounding optimistic.
"And?" Leela asked. "What's the good news?"
"I managed to set up a trap," Hermes replied, a hint of excitement in his voice.
"What kind of trap?"
"No time to explain. I'll tell you later. Right now I need you and Fry to lure that thing to the back."
"Will do, Captain. Turanga out."
Leela ended the call, then motioned for Fry to follow her.
Fry trotted after Leela, his boots pounding over the warehouse floor. A chill ran down Fry's back as James's sinister laughter rang out again, echoing off the warehouse's walls.
"He won't be laughing when I'm done with him," Leela muttered bitterly, climbing over a pile of boxes stacked in a row.
After a few seconds of climbing, Fry and Leela were on top of the wall of boxes stacked on the left side of the forklift. Looking around, they both realized that the only way to progress was to get across to the wall of boxes on the other side. The only problem was that the walls were spaced too far apart for either of them to jump across.
"How do we get across?" Fry asked.
Leela stood close to the wall's edge and looked down at the forklift. "There's a stack of lumber on the fork," she reported. "Go down and see if you can lift it up."
Fry dropped down to the floor and walked over to the forklift. Scanning its control panel, he saw a switch with two yellow buttons, one with an up arrow and another with a down arrow. He pushed the button with the arrow pointing upward.
With a machinelike whine, the fork raised the stack of lumber up until it was level with the tops of the walls. Fry and Leela now had a bridge they could use to cross over to the other side.
Fry climbed back up onto the wall of boxes to join Leela, then the two of them ran across the lumber.
Just as they reached the other side, James leaped up to the top of the boxes from ground level, laughing maniacally.
Fry uttered a startled gasp and drew back, nearly dropping his assault rifle.
Leela, however, wasn't frightened by James's sudden appearance.
"Shut up," she muttered, and opened fire on the creature as it charged her.
James cried out in pain and stopped running as a stream of well-aimed bullets entered his chest.
As Leela emptied her gun's magazine into James, Fry couldn't help but stare in astonishment at the scene in front of him. The thing was taking countless shots to the face, chest and stomach, but it showed no signs of weakening or taking damage — almost as if it really was indestructible.
"Come on, Fry! Help me out!" Leela urged, squeezing her gun's trigger tightly.
Even though Fry felt it was useless, Fry aimed his assault rifle at James and prepared to open fire.
But before Fry could get a shot off, James took a massive leap and left the scene. Not expecting James to evacuate so quickly, Leela ended up leaving a few bullet holes in the metal warehouse wall.
Leela examined her assault rifle. "Damn. Can I borrow some ammo from you? I'm all out." She held out a hand.
"Sure." Fry dug a hand into his ammo holder, extracted a full magazine, and placed it in Leela's open palm.
Leela loaded the magazine into her assault rifle. "Thanks."
She then looked Fry in the eye. "Whatever Hermes's trap is, it had better work. I don't know how else we're going to kill that thing."
Neither do I, Fry thought dispiritedly.
Gripping his assault rifle, Fry followed Leela as she continued to make her way through the warehouse's seemingly endless maze of boxes. Knowing how resistant James had been so far, continuing onward was a decision he was regretting with every step he took.
If all our firepower can't destroy James, then what can? Fry wondered. . . .
Several minutes later, Fry and Leela approached the back of the warehouse.
The two of them had expended all but one magazine for each of their assault rifles. With James frequently popping out and attacking them, it hadn't been easy to conserve their ammunition.
Fry followed Leela as she led the way atop a wall of boxes. Looking down to their right, they both saw a large, empty clearing that had been formed in one corner of the warehouse. At the back was a door with a sign above it that read EXIT.
Fry wanted deep down in his gut to go through the exit door and leave this nightmare behind forever. But he knew he wouldn't be able to leave until his job was finished.
"That must be where Hermes wants us," Leela said to Fry, motioning toward the clearing. "Let's go."
Before dropping down the side of the wall to get down to ground level, Leela spotted an assault rifle magazine sitting near the ledge she was going to descend from. She bent down to pick it up and added it to her inventory.
Fry and Leela both dropped down from the wall of boxes and examined the clearing. Looking all around, Fry couldn't see any sign of a trap.
"Where's the — AHHH!" Fry started to ask Leela, but then let out a scream of horror when he saw James suddenly drop down in the middle of the clearing, blocking their path to the exit.
James uttered a villainous laugh as he studied his prey, his good right eye shifting from one soldier to the other.
Leela quickly raised her assault rifle and pointed it at James. His arms quivering from fear, Fry slowly did the same with his firearm.
Before either of them could open fire, however, James uttered a sharp roar. His body suddenly began to convulse.
"Wh-what's he doing?" Fry stuttered, confused and afraid.
James continued to roar in what sounded like pain as his body shook violently. His head snapped back. His skin color paled, changing from dark brown to light gray. His claws elongated and sharpened.
As they watched James's bizarre movements, Fry and Leela realized what was happening to him. He was transforming — from his human form to his nightwalker form.
When James stopped shaking, his head snapped forward. He glared at Fry and Leela through his right eye, formerly brown, now green and monstrous.
Fry remembered the fight he had with Edward van Dyke, the prime walker he had battled before James. Edward had done the same thing as James during the fight, transforming from human to nightwalker. The transformation allowed him to become more difficult to defeat.
Fry also remembered that he had defeated Edward by making him step on ultraviolet mines and shooting him with a shotgun. Those weapons were far more powerful in comparison to the meager assault rifle he had with him now — and he was facing a creature neither he nor Leela could put a dent in with it.
How am I going to kill this thing if all I have is a crummy assault rifle? Fry thought.
He didn't have time to think about it as James uttered a low, devilish laugh that sounded like it was coming from a creature rather than a human — and charged toward him and Leela, his razor-sharp claws outstretched.
"Let's get him, Fry!" Leela shouted. She pulled the assault rifle's trigger and sprayed James with bullets.
James cried out in pain as the bullets pelted him. He took a leap toward the back of the warehouse.
Fry aimed at James, making sure he was in the iron sight. He then fingered the trigger on his gun, and pulled it back. Bullets flew from the muzzle and lodged in James's chest.
At that moment, Fry and Leela's communicators rang, and Hermes spoke up.
Over the loud, booming gunfire, Fry couldn't hear much of what Hermes was saying. Trying his best to hear his muffled words, he could only make out the words "thing," "distracted," "drop," and "container" before the call ended.
Fry couldn't make sense of what he had just heard — especially since he was trying to do it while concentrating on emptying his gun at the fierce, fast creature in front of him.
As James leaped back to avoid the oncoming bullets, some of Fry's bullets whizzed past him, hitting the wall on the other side. Fry didn't realize it, but he was actually walking toward James to get better aim.
"Fry, get back!" Leela cried. Now that Fry was in her line of fire, she had to move to the side to be able to hit James.
Please, die already! Fry begged in his head. His heart pounded like a jackhammer as he shot at James. Sweat trickled down his forehead. With every bullet that shot out of his gun's muzzle, he hoped and prayed that the creature he was firing at would keel over.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen before Fry ran out of ammo.
He realized something was deadly wrong when bullets no longer came out of the end of his gun.
James charged at Fry, laughing wickedly.
Fry ran backward toward Leela while facing James. He squeezed the trigger as far back as it would go, hoping extra bullets would spray out of the muzzle. But no such thing happened.
James hauled his arm back in a split second.
"Fry, no!" Leela screamed.
Fry pulled back on the trigger as hard as he could, his knuckle white. Nothing happened.
Oh sh —
With lightning-quick speed, James slashed at Fry.
"Agh!" Fry cried out as James's claws tore through his protective vest and plunged into his chest, ripping down his stomach.
Pain roared through Fry's chest as the sharp fingernails dug into his skin. It was like four razors being dragged down his chest and stomach at the speed of a fan's whirring rotary blades.
Red flashed in Fry's eyes before he hit the floor not with a thud, but with a splash. He didn't need to look underneath himself to know that he was lying in a puddle of his own blood.
He looked up to see James walking toward him to finish him off, laughing in a manner that was both evil and triumphant.
Fry let out a groan of effort as he clutched his chest with one hand. Raising the hand to his face, he saw that it was completely stained with blood.
He got me. I'm dead.
Fry struggled not to collapse to the floor, but it was useless. He uttered a final groan as his body went slack.
"FRY!" Leela shrieked in horror.
Fry barely heard Leela's piercing cry; it sounded as if it were coming from far away. The pain was so intense, he could hardly feel anything else.
My chest . . . God it hurts . . .
Fry lay on his back on the warehouse floor, alive but motionless. He couldn't bring himself to move; the pain was too strong. Red spots danced in his blurred vision. Out of the lower corner of his sight, he made out James moving slowly toward him, as if toying with him before landing the final strike that would put him to rest forever.
Owww . . . go away . . . Fry pleaded helplessly in his mind.
James uttered another low, sinister laugh as he stepped closer to Fry. The laughter sounded quiet and distant to Fry, even though it emanated from only a few feet away from him.
I hate you . . . owww . . .
Fry heard footsteps pounding on the floor behind him, growing louder as they neared him. Rolling his eyes up, he saw Leela running toward him, her assault rifle pointed straight ahead at James.
"I'll kill you, you son of a bitch!" she yelled ferociously.
Fry saw Leela prepare to squeeze the gun's trigger. But before she could fire off a round, she froze suddenly. She looked up — and her mouth dropped open in terror. She took a panicked step back.
Leela continued to step backward. Wondering what had her so frightened, Fry stared straight up at the warehouse's ceiling — and saw it.
On the ceiling, there was an enormous shipping container held on by a metal clamp. The clamp moved the container along the ceiling, as if selecting a target on the floor down below. It stopped above Fry.
Fry saw the clamp's jaws pull apart — and the container begin to plummet down toward him.
His eyes bulged. His mouth gaped open in a silent scream.
The communicator on Fry's headset rang.
"Fry, look out!" Hermes's frantic shout boomed in Fry's ears.
The shipping container hurtled toward the floor.
MOVE! Fry's mind shrieked.
Ignoring the searing pain, Fry forced himself to move. Regaining his strength, he uttered a groan of effort and rolled out of the path of the incoming container. The container hit the floor inches away from him with a deafening metallic crash.
Fry inhaled and exhaled rapidly. His heart pounded against his chest. He lay on the floor, too shocked to move again.
Footsteps pounded the floor next to Fry and stopped abruptly right next to him. He turned his head and looked up to see Leela staring down at him.
"Are you okay, Fry?" she asked, her voice filled with concern.
"Uhhhhn," Fry groaned in reply.
Leela reached her hand down to help Fry up. Gripping his hand firmly, she pulled him up to his feet.
"Are you okay?" Leela repeated.
Fry felt the pain slowly begin to fade from where James had slashed him. "Yeah. I think so," he replied, sounding more sure of himself this time.
Looking down at his front to examine it, Fry couldn't believe he had just said that. James's claws had torn right through his protective vest, leaving four red slash marks that started at his chest and trailed down to his stomach. The entire front of the vest was stained with his own blood.
A thought suddenly crossed Fry's mind. "What the hell was that?" he demanded, referring to the falling shipping container that nearly crushed him to death.
"That was my trap," a Jamaican-accented voice replied.
Fry and Leela looked to see Hermes make his way around one side of the massive shipping container. He walked up to Fry and Leela to join them.
Hermes looked over at the container. "And it looks like it worked!" he exclaimed proudly.
An inhuman howl of anguish caught Fry's attention. Following Hermes's gaze, he saw James lying on his back, his legs pinned underneath the enormous container. He was pushing up against the substantial weight with both hands, trying to lift it off him to no avail.
Fry and Leela both pumped the air with their fists and cheered happily.
"In your face, James!" Fry cried.
James roared angrily and swatted a clawed hand at Fry, but missed.
"Let's finish him off!" Hermes exclaimed.
Fry picked his assault rifle off the floor and joined his teammates to finish off the creature that had nearly claimed his life. Aiming the gun, he caught James's head in the sight. Then he remembered that he was out of ammo.
Fry let out a disappointed sigh. He wanted to get back at James for attacking him the way he had Leela.
Leela turned to Fry. She reached into her pocket and dug an object out of it. "Take this," she said, reaching her hand out to him.
As Leela opened her fingers, Fry saw that the object in her palm was the magazine she had found right before they had fought James.
Fry smiled gratefully at Leela as he took the magazine from her palm and loaded it into his assault rifle. "Thanks."
He, Leela and Hermes all pointed their guns at James, who was still straining to push the shipping container off of him.
Leela narrowed her eye as she glared down at James. "This is for you, you bastard," she said loathingly.
"Fire!" Hermes commanded.
With that, the three soldiers pulled their guns' triggers and opened up a relentless hailstorm of bullets on the prime walker.
James howled in agonizing pain as the stream of bullets pelted him in his skull.
As he emptied his gun, Fry could see the strain on James's face as he tried to push the container off of him one final time. But even with his superhuman strength, he couldn't get it to budge.
Only a few seconds after they began firing, James couldn't take any more punishment. He uttered a final anguished cry as his body lit up with a light blue glare, just as Edward's had when he was defeated. His body then burned up and disintegrated into a bubbling puddle of murky green acid.
"Woo-hoo! We got him!" Fry cheered.
"Well done, soldiers," Hermes congratulated Fry and Leela. "Now let's get out of here."
Fry and Leela followed Hermes as he led the way around the shipping container and out the back exit door, eager to leave the nightmare they had experienced behind.
Back in the command vehicle, Professor Farnsworth sat in the passenger seat next to Bender. For the last several minutes he had been watching the front door of the warehouse, waiting for Fry, Leela and Hermes to come out. So far, he hadn't seen hide nor hair of any of them.
"This is just what I expected, as usual," Farnsworth complained. He shook his head in disapproval.
Farnsworth had spent the last three months holed up in a lab doing research for the nightwalkers, so he knew all about the danger they posed to humans. He also knew that not only was James Smith near invincible, he was perhaps the most violent and unpredictable of the four prime walkers who ruled over New New York. Therefore, he doubted in his mind that even armed to the teeth, the soldiers would emerge victorious from a battle with James. Now, it appeared that his belief was confirmed, as Fry and company were nowhere in sight.
"Ha! I told you they were boned without me!" Bender exclaimed cockily. He took a swig from the Olde Fortran bottle he had been drinking from and set it on the dashboard. Then he stretched a hand out toward Farnsworth. "Pay up, chump. Fifty bucks."
Bored, Bender had tried to make a bet with the Professor over whether or not the team would make it out alive. Bender had wagered against his own teammates because their odds of survival were highly stacked against them, making it an ideal bet for him. Farnsworth, not wanting to take the bet, had obliged only to silence the obnoxious robot.
"Fuff! I never agreed to your silly bet!" Farnsworth protested angrily, forgetting that he had in fact agreed to the bet.
"Nuh-uh!" Bender argued. "I can play it back!"
A recording of Farnsworth's voice came out of Bender's mouth. "All right! I accept your ridiculous wager! Just shut up, will you!"
"Oh, fair enough," Farnsworth said grudgingly. He reached a hand into his lab coat pocket and dug out his wallet. He started to pull a twenty and a thirty out of it, but stopped suddenly. "A-ha!" he cried, pointing a finger toward the driver's side window. "Who's the chump now?"
"Huh?" Bender looked out the window and saw all three of his teammates walking next to the warehouse, moving toward the command vehicle.
Looking back at the Professor, Bender saw a satisfied smile form on his wrinkled face. Farnsworth reached a hand out to take his money.
"Aw, cheese it!" Bender grumbled. He opened up his chest compartment, pulled fifty dollars' worth of tens out of his wallet, and grudgingly slapped the money into Farnsworth's open palm.
Chuckling to himself, Farnsworth inserted the bills into his wallet and returned it to his pocket. Then he opened the passenger side door and slipped out into the pouring rain to join Fry and his team.
As Farnsworth walked around the back of the command vehicle, he didn't notice Bender stretch an extensomatic arm out the door and snatch his wallet out of his pocket.
The rain pattered against Farnsworth's bald head as he walked across the street. He had to repeatedly wipe the drops from his thick eyeglasses to get a clear view.
As Farnsworth approached the soldiers, he could see that Leela and Hermes appeared fine. Fry, however, looked anything but. The front of his vest was covered in drying blood. The vest was ripped open, and he had what appeared to be long scratches running down his chest to his stomach.
Despite his beat-up appearance, Fry was actually fine now. The slashes were healing and becoming scars, and the pain had diminished to nearly nothing.
"What in Sega Genesis happened to Fry?!" Farnsworth demanded as he walked up to meet the soldiers.
"James attacked him during battle," Hermes explained. "But we managed to defeat him."
Farnsworth's eyes went wide. "Sweet Zombie Jesus!" he cried in disbelief. "You actually destroyed an elite walker?"
"Two. Our first one was Edward," Hermes said matter-of-factly.
He then added uncertainly, "But with two more primes to go, I don't think we'll be able to complete our mission by morning."
Hermes brought a hand up to his headset and pressed the button that called Bender. "Rodríguez, call Colonel Brannigan and request a craft for the Professor," he commanded. "When they select an extraction point, I'll deliver Farnsworth."
"Yeah, sure. Make the robot do everything," Bender grumbled sarcastically before ending the call.
Hermes motioned for the Professor to follow him before he began walking toward the street. Farnsworth followed at his side.
"Professor, there's something I want to ask you," Hermes said as they walked over to a hovercar parked on the street. "Throughout the city, we've seen strange markings drawn in human blood. We've heard nightwalkers refer to those symbols as 'the cycle of the sun and the full moon.' Would you happen to know what that phrase means?"
Farnsworth stopped and shook his head. "No, unfortunately not."
Leela stopped near the Professor and spoke up. "Professor, may I ask you about the theory you came up with about what nightwalkers are?"
"You said that nightwalkers attack humans to create more nightwalkers. Then you said nightwalkers are unable to reproduce. Given these two conditions, there's only one possible conclusion as to what they can be."
"Well, I've been thinking about it, but I haven't come up with anything," Leela admitted. "Don't you need one more condition to arrive at your conclusion?"
All three of the soldiers stopped suddenly and eyed the Professor in silence. Farnsworth stared at Leela with an expression that indicated her question had taken him by surprise.
"Yeah," Fry chimed in, interested. "If they're not vampires, then what are they?"
Farnsworth remained awkwardly silent for a few more seconds, his eyes shifting from one soldier's face to the next. His hands shook nervously.
Finally, Farnsworth said, "Well, I said it was only a theory. Now is far too early to make any definite conclusion." He turned away from the soldiers and hurried over to the car, his fuzzy slippers splashing in the rainwater that covered the ground.
The three soldiers looked at each other in disappointment as the Professor made his way over to the car. They had hoped that Farnsworth would be able to give them more answers. But all he could tell them was that there were two more prime walkers they had to take out before New New York could be purged of nightwalkers. Farnsworth wasn't even sure of their specific whereabouts.
"You're wanted for questioning at EIB headquarters, Professor," Hermes reported to Farnsworth, motioning a hand toward the passenger side door of the car. "Get in and I'll take you there."
"What about us, Captain?" Leela asked.
"You and Fry get in the command vehicle with Rodríguez and wait for further orders," Hermes instructed. "I'll be back soon."
"Roger that," Leela said in understanding.
Fry felt relieved. Spending some time relaxing in the command vehicle with his friends was just what he needed after that horrific mission.
Fry and Leela both watched Hermes and the Professor climb into the car and shut the doors behind them. Seconds later, they took off.
Fry followed Leela back to their command vehicle parked on the other side of the street. He couldn't have been happier as he slid out of the cold, pouring rain into the dry warmth of the van with his teammates.
The Prime Walkers' Lair
Somewhere in New New York
Charles walked into the meeting room, expecting to see James and Margaret seated in their usual places at the small square table that sat in the middle of the room. Instead, he was disappointed to find only Margaret pacing anxiously back and forth across the room. Her high-heeled boots clicked against the floor as she paced.
"Where is James?" Charles demanded. "He should have returned by now."
Margaret stopped walking and stood next to her seat. She looked into Charles's dark, intense eyes. "I haven't any idea," she replied solemnly. "I've heard that he was last seen entering a warehouse. But he never came out."
"So James is missing as well," Charles said, taking a momentary glance down at James's empty leather chair. He brushed a few strands of hair that had fallen over his forehead aside. It was a common habit of his.
"I assume that Edward and James's disappearances were no accident," Margaret continued, crossing her arms over her chest. "I believe they were the work of a very dangerous group of beings."
"Who do you suppose is responsible?" Charles asked, not looking at Margaret, but staring straight ahead and concentrating on her words instead.
"The same species we've been hiding from for millennia."
It immediately dawned on Charles what Margaret meant. He shut his eyes, and in an instant, he reverted to his natural form in a sudden reaction — his skin deathly pale, his canine teeth long and sharp.
Surprised by Charles's sudden transformation, Margaret took a step back.
Charles then quickly regained his human appearance. He opened his eyes.
"If Edward and James fell to humans . . . they were never worthy of the cycle of the sun and the full moon," Charles said derisively, clearly disgusted that two supposedly powerful members of his kind could fall victims to such a lesser species as humans. He walked across the room ahead of Margaret, not maintaining eye contact as he passed her.
"Lord Hessler never liked the idea of the cycle of the sun and the full moon," Margaret said doubtfully. "How much longer are you going to hide things from him? We should at least report to him that Edward and James are missing."
"I will eventually," Charles replied, brushing his hair back again. "Even if Lord Hessler disagrees with our plans, I'm sure he'll understand that we have no other choice."
He then turned to face Margaret. His dark eyes burned into hers. "For now, it'd be best if you kept your lips sealed, Meg," he said to her ominously.
Margaret turned her face away from Charles and rubbed a finger tenderly against her chin. She didn't respond to him.
Charles remained silent as well and kept his stare on Margaret.
Deep in thought, both prime walkers continued to ponder what was going on in their city, and what actions they would have to take to keep their race going.
Edward had disappeared first, followed by James in only a few hours. Two elites gone, just like that.
If Margaret was correct, and the humans that had infiltrated New New York were as dangerous as they had been so far, then they were in bigger trouble than they could ever have imagined.