Fan Fiction

Blame It On The Brain, part 1
By coldangel_1

Prologue: In space, no one can hear you make an idiot of yourself…

The middle of an infinite nowhere. A two-kilometre long technological monolith hung suspended in interstellar space, holding silent vigil as its arrays of esoteric sensors probed the varied spectrums of electromagnetic and quantum backwash that suffused the vacuum. The vessel, bearing the name SS Brezhnev, was a research and exploration ship of the kind that trawled the galaxy for years at a time, measuring and recording anything of potential profit to the commercial matriarch whose stylized image was stencilled onto the gargantuan hull.

Professor Ogden Wernstrom pored over readouts in the ship’s command centre, furrowing his brow and tapping the side of his aristocratic nose.

“Mmm,” the old scientist grunted in derision at the Universe’s reticence to divulge its secrets. “It certainly is puzzling,” he said to himself. “Obviously not so puzzling that someone of my vast intelligence would be unable to solve it… but a mystery for now.” He thought he saw one of his Asian assistants roll her eyes, and he cast a sharp glance in her direction.

“I… er,” the woman stammered. “I’ve measured residual gravitronic effects in the nearby nebula which seem to support the hypothesis that a large mass was at one point present at these coordinates,” she said. “Lack of any matter aside from a localized field of antiprotons undergoing gradual dispersal would indicate that the mass, whatever it was, was utterly annihilated some years ago.”

“Not annihilated, you fool!” Wernstrom spat. “I give you an A-triple-minus for that botched analysis! The antiprotons are flushback from a superstring state conversion. Whatever was here was interfaced entirely in a quantum field which subsequently cancelled-out of this dimensional plane. Whatever was here was banished to another dimension – intentionally, because this ‘quantum interface bomb’ was no natural phenomenon… but why?”

“Because it was dangerous?” one of the younger scientists offered.

“Thank you for pointing out the abundantly obvious,” Wernstrom sneered. “Whatever was transported from this dimensional plane must have been of great power to warrant such a deliberate and total banishment… something Momcorp could use to great advantage, while I go on to win another Nobel prize.”

“Uh…” the young scientist raised a trembling index finger. “Perhaps… perhaps whatever this thing is… maybe it was sent away for a good reason.”

Wernstrom rounded on the naysayer, narrowing his crinkled eyes in contempt. “What’s your point, child?” he snapped.

“Well… maybe we should… play it safe and leave the thing where it is.”

“Play it safe?” Wernstrom repeated in disgust. “How many scientific breakthroughs were made by ‘playing it safe’?” He pointed at the youngster with a bony finger. “Get off my command deck – you’re fired.”

As the scientist slumped sadly away, the rest of the research team seemed suddenly more eager to please.

“Professor Wernstrom, we have the Q-tunnelling array powered up down in the isolation module,” one of them said. “It shouldn’t take too long to calibrate the quark-accelerator and U-space folding hardware to match the residual signature of the event – we should be able to send through a probe within the hour.”

“Do it,” Wernstrom said, peering out through the forward viewscreen at the mysterious area of empty space. “I want to know what happened here.”

Deep in the bowels of the research ship, the containment section was filled with bulky particle-physics hardware that didn’t officially exist. Wernstrom and his team watched through a sheet of heavily-reinforced transparent titanium alloy as crackling vermillion energies licked and spat between superconductor pylons inside the armoured spherical chamber.

“Even with both the antimatter and fusion reactors operating at full capacity, we still only have enough power to sustain a wormhole for around forty seconds – and it will be small and weak,” Wernstrom said. “But nevertheless, it should suffice. Brezhnev, are we cleared to proceed?”

“Yes Professor,” the ship’s AI said through the intercom. “Though I would suggest caution in this matter.”

Wernstrom sniffed. “That’s why Artificial Intelligences aren’t a substitute for real intelligence.”

The headless body of Agnew toggled a control, and hard-edged light flared inside the isolation module. It dimmed to a point of glaring iridescence poised in the air between the spires of machinery, which then crackled and expanded into a rippling sphere that wavered and then seemed to solidify, a metre in diameter.

“Wormhole is stable,” a technician reported as he consulted the readouts.

“Launch the probe,” Wernstrom instructed, watching the wormhole with rapt fascination. From the curved ceiling above, a robotic arm lowered a sensor-encrusted Sputnik into position next to the seething sphere of exotic energy. Chemical verniers fired, and the probe shot forward, jumping towards the wormhole’s event horizon where it…

…jerked to a halt and bounced away, clattering across the tangles of cable on the deck.

“What the hell?!” Wernstrom spat, staring in confounded irritation at the wormhole. As he watched, he realized what had stopped the probe going through – an object was coming through the other way. Movement pulled at the edges of the wormhole, distorted bulges squeezing at the event horizon – a shifting, indistinguishable mass was apparent behind the energy curtain, and for the first time Wernstrom felt a pang of fear.

“Bring the containment field up to full-power and activate the defence grid,” he said, distantly aware of the automated railgun batteries swinging into position.

The wormhole fluxed and burst fourth an object which sailed into the containment pod, bouncing back and fourth. The flash of energy discharge from the now-collapsing wormhole obscured the room, and the science team leaned forward expectantly to catch a glimpse of what was inside.

Abruptly, the power failed, and they were plunged into momentary darkness while the energy-drain deficit was equalized. The wormhole had ceased to exist.

When the lights came back on, Wernstrom and the team gasped in horrified wonder.

“What kind of…”

“Is that what it looks like?”

“Can this be…?”

A large pink blob hovered on the other side of the transparent partition, its surface puckered and ridged, and still carrying some faint luminescence from the trans-dimensional energy. It was a brain. A huge floating brain, which seemed to regard the scientists, despite the lack of any obvious eyes.

“Duh, we should let it out and see what it tastes like!” one of the young scientists suggested, clapping his hands stupidly.

Wernstrom opened his mouth, closed it, blinked several times, and shook his head. What bothered him more than the idiocy of the comment was his sudden inability to find any logical fault with it. Maybe if they ate the brain they could gain its knowledge…

“What?” he said aloud, wondering where the ridiculous thought had come from. He watched one of his assistants bang her head against the transparent partition in apparent puzzlement as to how a solid wall could be in front of her and not be visible… which seemed like a good question…

“Heh heh… my name is Ogden,” he heard himself blurt, and then grinned widely. “Og-den… Og den… Ogden… how weird is that?”

“This isn’t MY hand!” one of the scientists shouted in terror, clutching at his own wrist and staring at his hand in mortification.

“Evolution is a myth,” another of the team muttered. “God created us as we are.”

“This ship would go faster if we painted it red…”

“How many 7’s are there in ‘science’?”

The ship’s AI spoke over the intercom: “All personnel are advised that life support will now be rationed to preserve stores – please inhale only once every twelve hours.”

Wernstrom squeezed his eyes shut, trying to drive away the wild impulse to climb up on the pipe structure that lined the bulkhead. “Something… not right… is… banana…” he struggled. “Brain… make people… monkey… stupid…”

“I can’t lick my elbow!” one of the team complained in anguish.

“I’ll do it for you… no!” Wernstrom gritted his teeth, and looked at the brain that hovered motionless inside the containment chamber. “Must… have to… stop… stupidification…”

“We all live in a yellow submarine!” the ship’s AI sang drunkenly.

Wernstrom stumbled over to the containment module’s control console and giggled at the colourful buttons. He punched a few at random, and when they did nothing he began sulking, putting one thumb in his mouth.

Agnew tried to walk up the wall and fell flat on his back while the others laughed. Wernstrom tried hard to focus, glaring down at the control console. Like the shadow of a distant memory, some knowledge flitted just out of reach. One button had a symbol on it that looked like a pair of lightning bolts. Wernstrom cocked his head to one side, trying to remember why he wanted to push the button, then shrugged and pushed it anyway.

Suddenly, the interior of the containment chamber was filled with crackling bolts of electricity that swam sparking across every surface. The alien brain convulsed and flew wildly from side to side and hundreds of thousands of volts shot through it. When the defense grid discharge ceased, it fell smoking to the deck.

Coming slowly back to his senses, Wernstrom surveyed the scene inside the chamber, and glanced at his groggy assistants.

“What happened?” he asked. There was no answer. Swallowing hard, he formulated some orders. “Put together a bio-quarantine team,” he said weakly. “Check if that thing is still alive… then sedate it if it is.”

Inside the containment module, the brain twitched and pulsed…

Futurama: Blame it on the Brain

By coldangel_1

Caption:Featuring over 400,000 hours of bonus material!’

Chapter 1: Pandora’s Sack.

The Brainspawn… devourers of thought. A millisecond after the Big Bang, they came into existence as the equal and opposite component to sentient life. Their eons-long goal is to destroy all other intelligence after absorbing the accrued knowledge of the Universe.

They almost succeeded too. Many battles were fought – my people and I, the fearsome Nibblonian race, were pitted against the Brainspawn, but at the end of all things there could be only one being with the power to defeat the evil calamity.

When the chosen day came, it was he, the Mighty One, who faced the great enemy, and smote them from existence.

And then… the fighting ceased. The Universe, it seemed, was safe.

But the price of liberty is eternal vigilance – and so I wait, always poised and prepared should the enemy return; for if that day does come, we will be beyond the foretelling of prophesy… and all bets will be off.”

The object had stumped the greatest human minds for more than a millennium, proving time and time again to be the single most insurmountable conundrum ever conceived.

“…Until now,” Philip J. Fry said aloud as he held the Rubik’s Cube at arm’s length and triumphantly turned the top section to form one solid blue side. “Ta-daaaa!” he exclaimed to the empty room. “I did it! After thousand years and a million sick days, I finally did it!” He turned the cube around and let out a low groan – now three other sides were out of alignment.

“Dammit!” he spat, tossing the cube onto a pile of junk. “Every time I do something great it turns out not to be so great… or someone else did it first… or I dreamed it… or saw it in a movie while drunk.”

A sharp rapping at the outer door to his closet apartment broke his self-pitying reverie, and he hauled himself to his feet and padded barefoot to the entrance. Bender’s cavity was empty – the robot having departed earlier in the day for some ‘secret pillaging business’. As Fry opened the door his face lit up when he saw who was waiting outside.

“Leela!” he exclaimed. “You’re here! I…” He stopped abruptly and reasserted himself into a cool affectation, leaning casually on the doorframe. “So, what brings you to my neighbourhood, pretty lady?” he drawled, pulling off a fairly suave persona for a man dressed only in his underpants.

“Nice, Fry.” Truanga Leela rolled her single eye. “You forgot you were going to mind Nibbler for me for a few days.”

“Oh right!” Fry said, glancing down at the three-eyed creature Leela held on a leash. “You have that thing…”

“Starship licence certification course,” Leela said with an expressive sigh. “Never mind that I’ve been piloting perfectly well for years without one; now suddenly Planet Express won’t be allowed to do business unless I have the stupid licence.”

“Ah, you’ll pass it easily,” Fry said, taking Nibbler’s leash. “You’re the best pilot I’ve ever flown with – and I’ve flown with five!”

“Thanks Fry, but right now I’m just bummed about having to spend two days at the stupid flight academy on stupid Mars with a bunch of stupid cadets... Anyhow, make sure you feed Nibbler eight times a day.” Leela knelt down and rubbed the alien creature’s head. “You be a good little cutie baby boy while I’m away,” she said as Nibbler made a contented keening sound.

“I will,” Fry replied.

Leela narrowed her eye and turned to stalk off down the hallway.

“Have a safe trip,” Fry called out.

Three men occupied a dingy room directly across the street from the Robot Arms apartment block. All dressed in matching double-breasted black uniforms, they clustered together around the single window – the oldest of the three with a high-powered image-intensifier array held to his eyes.

“So, they are connected,” Walt said to himself.

“Yes, they are,” Larry seconded, and then paused for thought. “…To what?” he asked.

“Idiot! Walt snapped, slapping the middle brother. “The Nibblonian and the so-called ‘Mighty One’. The creature’s keeper brought it right to Philip Fry’s home. We can now kill two birds with one burlap sack.”

“Can I play with the binoculars now?” Ignar, the youngest, asked excitedly, reaching for the array.

“No! Get your damn hands off it, you slime!” Walt growled, slapping Ignar. He looked through the array again and was pleased to note the cyclops woman departing the building without the Nibblonian in tow.

“Walt,” Larry began uncertainly, “...if that red-haired man is so important, don’t you think it an odd coincidence that we’ve come across him so many unrelated times before?”

“I don’t call it coincidence,” Walt said. “I call it cosmic providence.”

“Ahahaha-hahaha! Ahahah…. hah haha….. ha?” Ignar trailed off, looking at the other two as they glared at him. “I thought it was a joke,” he explained sheepishly, and received a slap from both of his brothers.

“Let’s get to work,” Walt said.

Fry had found his jeans and T-shirt, and was preparing to head off to the Pizza plaza to scrounge up some food for himself and Nibbler, when the little alien suddenly began jabbering anxiously and hopping around at his feet.

“Wassamatta-you?” he said, making a grab at the critter and missing. “You miss your momma already? Don’t worry, she’ll be…” He trailed off, noticing Nibbler’s three eyes were fixed on the door, and the creature had bared its fangs. Underneath the door, in the gap between it and the shabby carpet, there was a shadow.

“Oh, it’s just Bender,” Fry said. “Don’t worry about him – he won’t hurt you… this time.” Fry looked to the door expectantly – the shadow remained where it was and the door stayed closed. “Bender?” Fry said uncertainly, moving toward the entrance despite Nibbler’s gibbering warning.

The faint scent of semtex epoxy reached his nostrils too late, and the door suddenly blasted inwards off its hinges in a cloud of smoke and shredded steel. It struck him and bore him to the ground where he lay pinned and breathless.

“What the hell…?” he mumbled, then let out an explosive ‘ooph’ as booted feet stomped over the door that rested across his body.

“Look! It’s the Nibblonian – get it!” he heard a muffled voice shout.

“Dammit, little thing’s faster than it looks!”

“Awww! Walt, it bit me! Am I going to die?”

“Hopefully, now shut up.”

Fry groaned and heaved the door up off him. It fell back down and hit him in the forehead, dazing him momentarily before he wriggled out from underneath, struggled unsteadily to his feet and surveyed the apartment. Three men in black uniforms and balaclavas were poised around the room, staring at him.

“You guys again?” Fry growled angrily. “I already told you people I returned that video a thousand years ago! I’m not paying the charge.”

“…What?” one of the masked figures grunted.

“It was a terrible movie anyway,” Fry went on undaunted, “a grievous and unforgivable disappointment. It wasn’t a sequel to the original 1980 hit, but rather a re-enactment! And a poorly executed one at that. More a series of lavish production numbers strung together by long stretches of lame dialogue and ridiculous subplots. It might have worked better as a concert documentary. As a sequel, it was a feeble mess. I give it one and a half stars.”

“Out of five, or out of ten?” one of the figures asked.

“Quiet!” the largest of the three snapped, cuffing the other one around the head. “We’re not here about any ‘video’… whatever that is. We’re here for you, Philip Fry… and THIS!” The man reached down and deftly caught Nibbler by the stalk of his third eye as the little alien tried to scurry past. A burlap sack was held open by one of the trio and Nibbler was thrown inside.

“Hey! You leave him alone!” Fry shouted, stepping forward and balling his fists.

“Look, the dullard’s going to put up a fight,” the leader of the three remarked condescendingly.

“Damn right I am,” Fry replied. “‘Cause if anything happens to Nibbler, his owner will kill us all.”

“He doesn’t realize,” the medium-sized man mumbled through his balaclava. “He thinks the Nibblonian is just an animal; that he has to protect it, instead of the other way around.”

“I… huh?” Fry raised an eyebrow quizzically.

“Enough talk,” the large man said, producing a nervejam stunner and levelling it at Fry.

Acting without thinking was something Fry was more than proficient in, and now he used that skill to its greatest effect, lunging forward and grabbing at the pistol-like device. His hands closed around the shooter’s wrist as he pulled the trigger. The EM pulse lanced into Fry’s chest and traversed his nervous system, stunning the receptors into a temporary dormant state. It also flowed through the skin contact he made with the shooter, spreading into the other man’s body as well.

Both men fell limply to the ground, and all was silent for a moment but for the excited chirping of Nibbler in his sack.

Larry and Ignar peeled off their balaclavas and glanced at each other in bewildered indecision before kneeling beside their fallen brother.

“Walt?” Larry said, prodding at the unmoving body. “Walt – wake up! We need to leave before the police arrive… Walt?”

“Is he dead?” Ignar whined fearfully, chewing his nails.

“No, you idiot!” Larry cast a furious glance at Fry, who lay face-down on the carpet nearby. “We need to carry them both out of here, come on – help me…”

“What manner of unholy travesty doth transpire inth mine hometh?!” A loud voice bellowed, and Larry and Ignar spun around to see a silver Bending Unit standing in the apartment’s entrance cavity, coil arms and manipulator claws held akimbo.

“Who are you?” Larry moaned in frustration.

“Who am I?” Bender took in the scene, saw his friend lying unconscious and the discarded balaclavas on the floor. “You good-for-nothing meatbag jerks can call me -- Bender the Offender! I’m gonna teach you – nobody hurts my friends except me!”

With that, Bender lunged forward, arms swinging in wild arcs, and Larry and Ignar moved backward in fear.

“Ahhh! Mom isn’t going to be happy with us, is she Larry?” Ignar wailed.

“Oh shut up, you coward, or I’ll…” Larry was silenced by one of Bender’s hands slamming into his face with a clang. He fell backwards with blood streaming from a gash in his cheek. Ignar followed – folding in half and collapsing from a robotic fist to his stomach.

“Have at you!” Bender shouted as he savagely beat the intruders. “I shall smite thee!”

On the floor, Walt groaned and rolled woodenly onto his side, observing the brutal robot-on-human scrap that was taking place. He bared his teeth, fighting back the searing headache and waves of nausea from the nervejam stun, and fixed on the weapon lying nearby. As he reached for it, a grimy bare foot shot out and sent the gun skittering away.

“What do you want with Nibbler?” Fry said groggily, struggling to get to his feet.

“You have no idea how important he is… or how important you are,” Walt mumbled, aiming a kick at Fry’s solar plexus and missing.

“What are you talking about?” Fry demanded. Both of them wobbled unsteadily to their feet and faced each other. Larry and Ignar were still being pummelled somewhere behind.

“I don’t have time to give you the introductory speech, you buffoon,” Walt growled, reaching inside his suit to pull out a harmonic switchblade that unfolded with a click and began to resonate at high frequency. “I was sent to collect you whole, but really all we need is your brain.”

Fry gasped. “But that’s where I keep my recollections of naked Leela!” he said, backing away.

Walt rolled his eyes and advanced on Fry, but suddenly the discarded burlap sack containing Nibbler bounced across the floor, fangs protruding through the coarse fabric, and latched onto Walt’s ankle. The man screamed in pain, and hopped around trying to dislodge the creature from his leg, giving Fry a chance to lunge forward and tackle him.

Both men slammed into the wide bay window overlooking the city, and Nibbler rolled away in his sack, dazed by the impact. Walt’s flailing knife arm struck the reinforced glass and the harmonic blade parted its molecules, making the entire pane resonate energetically and shatter into a hail of tiny crystals. They both teetered suddenly on the edge of an abyss, with the street far below. Walt let go of the knife and scrabbled to hold onto Fry’s shirt. As Fry tried to back away, the other man slipped on the glass and toppled backwards, pulling Fry with him. With a shout, he was dragged down flat to the floor, with his upper body protruding from the shattered window high above the street and the weight of a grown man pulling on him.

Fry grabbed Walt’s arms as the fabric of his shirt began to tear.

“Don’t let go! Don’t let me fall!” Walt wailed, kicking his legs in a desperate attempt to find purchase against the building’s sheer side.

“I won’t,” Fry said through gritted teeth, even as he felt his legs begin to slide. “Just stop moving…”

“Fry?” Bender paused, noticing his friend’s peril. “Hold on buddy, I’m coming!”

“If you let me fall, you’ll pay dearly!” Walt screamed, his fingernails digging into Fry’s wrists.

“I’m not going to!” Fry snapped. “Just stop squirming or we’ll both…” His hips slid over the edge, and with no counterbalance he began to slide into open space, with Walt screaming in terror.

Bender reached the window, diving through the air to make a grab at Fry’s feet…

By 4.7 micrometres, he missed.

Deep space. The SS Brezhnev maintained its position while the much-expanded and now specialized tech team worked endless shifts around the clock. Probing, analysing; learning everything that could be learned.

The Brainspawn that had been summoned through the dimensional wormhole was contained now, dormant within a cryonic holding cube, itself encased within an EM lattice.

Though it remained inactive, the creature still had a lot to teach – with nano-filaments extending into the holding unit and spreading themselves sinuously through the alien brain’s tissue, Wernstrom and his team were able to systematically interrogate sections of its mind independently, gleaning all knowledge that could be separated from the mostly-indecipherable quagmire and assembling it within the ship’s AI. Hints of the Brainspawn species’ history and terrifying intent, their capabilities and musical tastes; all these things Wernstrom reported to Mom – her hologram standing impassively on the bridge console while he droned on.

At length, the Mom hologram waved its hand dismissively. “Enough flimflam, Wernstrom,” she said. “If I wanted to learn science I wouldn’t have hired scientists to do it for me. Just give me the basics – do you know yet how it manages to effect people’s minds?”

“Not yet, no – but we’ve barely begun to scratch the surface,” Wernstrom said. “This creature’s knowledge of the Universe is beyond any known database.”

“I don’t want to know about the Universe,” Mom snapped. “I don’t pay you for starry-eyed star-struck stargazing, you sack of crap – I want control of whatever mechanism that thing uses to make people stupider. Control of that kind of power could make someone ruler of the world!”

“‘Someone’?” Wernstrom repeated dubiously.

“What do you care? You’ll get your science prize and I’ll get my stupidifying ray. Everyone wins.”

Wernstrom shrugged. “Fine. But to test the Brainspawn’s higher functions I’ll need to raise its temperature. There could be danger involved.”

“Count the ways I gave a damn.”

“And what of the Nibblonians, and the Mighty One the creature’s mind revealed to us?”

“They’re being acquired as we speak,” Mom replied.

“Oh good,” Wernstrom said. “I should dearly like to examine them.”

Mom’s hologram blinked out.

Wernstrom turned away and strode off toward the corridor, addressing the ship’s AI as he walked. “Brezhnev, elevate the specimen’s temperature by two degrees; we’re stepping up our test sequence in the quest for profit.”

“Is that wise, Professor?” the ship replied with an electronic emulation of dubiousness.

“Everything I say is wise,” Wernstrom replied.

Down in the bowels of the vessel, the captive Brainspawn returned slowly to a reduced level of consciousness. In the cold and the dark, it could sense nothing outside of itself, and the absence of thought came as an unexpected relief. For the first time in its existence it felt alone, separated from the shrieks of other minds, and the aspirations of its peers from whom it was now separate – a dimension apart, entirely independent.


The thought was a curious one, and the Brainspawn mulled on it for in indeterminate time. So bemused by the notion, it almost failed to notice the quite probing of primitive electronic pulses throughout its cold and slowly-functioning mind. A rudimentary self-scan showed a fibrous network of thin filaments stretching through its tissue like a spiderweb, questing and violating.

So. Captured by humans who seek to glean my secrets?

Feeling more amused, the Brainspawn began to generate pulses to send back along the nano-filaments in long strings of esoteric code. The nanomachines themselves began to change subtly, bending to the alien will. The Brainspawn could now think of itself as ‘I’, an individual rather than a component in a collective, and alone it could ill afford not to put every resource to use.

While the humans probed it with their machines – it would use their machines against them…

Chapter 2: Spawnography

“Fry!” Bender shouted in desperation, grabbing at empty air. With an electronic analogue of horror, he watched his friend and the other man fall away and down, plummeting toward the street far below with their shouts of terror entwined.

Bloody and bruised, Larry and Ignar stared at each other aghast. Larry quickly grabbed the sack containing Nibbler and pulled his younger brother with him toward the door. Bender didn’t see them leave.

Fry tumbled end-over-end for an eternity before halting with a sickening wet crunch of shattering bones. He lay dazed for a moment, staring up at the sky, before shifting and climbing unsteadily off Walt’s corpse.

The older man had hit the pavement first, making a warm bloody dead mattress for Fry to land on. Fry nearly retched, staring down at the shattered body, and was distantly aware of pedestrians screaming in revulsion and a crowd gathering around. He felt the other man’s blood covering his shirt, clinging wetly to his skin, and hurriedly shrugged the garment off.

“Nows there’s somethings yous don’t sees everydays,” a passer-by remarked, nudging the body with his boot and turning it over so the remains of the face was visible.

“Wait…” Fry swallowed the bile rising in his throat. “I know him… he’s Mom’s…”

“FRY!” came a coarse bellow, and Bender came shouldering through the crowd and wrapped his arms around Fry. “You’re alive!” He stepped back, suddenly self-conscious. “…Which is fine, I guess… whatever.” He shrugged dismissively.

“Can’t say the same for this guy,” Fry muttered, gesturing at Walt. “Recognise him?”

“Hey yeah, he’s that greasy tool son of Mom,” Bender said. “What were he and his brothers doing roughing up my pet human?”

“I don’t know,” Fry replied. “They wanted me and Nibbler but wouldn’t say… Oh no!”

“What?” “Nibbler!”

When they made their way back to the apartment, it was deserted. No sign of Nibbler or the two remaining Momcorp brothers could be found. Fry swore and kicked at the wall in exasperation.

“Ah well, ashes to ashes, fur to fur,” Bender muttered absently, making the sign of the cross in the air. “We are richer for having known Nibbler, yadda yadda…”

“He’s not dead,” Fry grumbled. “Mom has him – I know it. It’s some kind of scam.”

“If Mom has him then he’s as good as dead,” Bender replied. “We’ll never be able to get him back. Best if you just forget about him and move on. I certainly have!” He pulled a bottle of malt liquor out of his chest cabinet and took a long belt before belching a small fireball.

“Leela trusted me to look after him,” Fry went on miserably.

“Oh here we go…”

“I’m not gonna let her down! I’m going to get Nibbler back!”

“…And then she’ll love you,” Bender droned with simulated sarcasm.


“Ugh… loser.”

Bloodied and unsteady, Larry and Ignar stood before the wide teak desk while Mom sat in silence with her head in her hands.

“There was really nothing we could do to prevent…”

“Shut up, you sack of roach dung!” Mom bellowed, snapping her head up to glare at her two remaining sons. “You two imbeciles just had to go and lose the only GOOD son I had?! Better it should have been the pair of you!”

“But Mom…!” Ignar complained.

“Stuff an armpit in it!” The thin, waspish old woman stood with a creaking of bones too often replaced and stalked off to the side of her monumental office where a tall glass cylinder stood atop a pedestal. Inside sat Nibbler, the curious three-eyed creature adorned with a fabric cape, diaper and little booties. Mom ignored the affectations of a stupid pet animal and stared directly into the being’s eyes, noting the glint of timeless intelligence that could not be concealed.

“I know you can understand me, you mangy ball of fuzz,” she said, “so let’s dispense with the teddy-bear routine.”

Nibbler stared up at her, made a small squeaking noise, and began to lick his crotch.

“You may be interested to know…” Mom went on with a grimace of irritation, “…that we’ve captured one of your old enemies.”

There, a reaction – the third eye on its manipulator stalk suddenly straightened to point at her, and the creature became still.

“Thought that might get your attention, you rodent. Deep scanning of the Brainspawn has told us all about your little Cold War dating back to the dawn of the Universe. Quite the silent struggle your kind has managed to keep secret from the rest of us intelligent beings down through the countless thousands of millennia. Were you trying to spare us, I wonder? Or did you just think us unworthy of involvement? Funny then, that your saviour in the cause should turn out to be one of us.”

Nibbler hiccupped and rolled onto his back.

Mom was silent for a moment, staring at the creature in contemplation. “Or perhaps we’ve been misled,” she said at last. “Perhaps the Brainspawn has been feeding us crap about your apparently all-knowing race and the so-called ‘Mighty One’. A pack of lies maybe. In which case…” she touched a control on her concealed wristcom and a large screen came alight on the wall, displaying a still image of Philip Fry with his buttocks stuck in the receptacle of a mailbox.

“…If none of this crap is true, then it wouldn’t matter a whit if I ordered this filthy idiot killed when he comes looking for you.” She looked at Larry and Ignar. “How would you two like to shoot Mr. Fry for what he did to your brother?”

“Very much so,” Larry growled angrily, balling his fists.

Nibbler stirred, standing up and staring out at Mom levelly.

“Very well, you have my attention,” the creature said in a resounding baritone. “What do you want?”

“I think you probably know already,” Mom said, smiling thinly.

“I will not do that,” Nibbler replied. “Such power cannot be dispersed.”

“Fine. I’ll put your special-ed messiah in a pine box.”

“And so doom the Universe. You will not – though amoral you may be, you are not a stupid woman.”

“Tell me how to build it!” Mom snarled, thumping her withered fist against the plexiglass cylinder. “Tell me how to make a quantum interface bomb! Like the one you used to banish the Brainspawn.”

Nibbler sighed. “Would you relinquish control of your thermonuclear arsenal to an ill-tempered racoon?” he said.

Mom folded her arms and sneered. “Well, perhaps you’re right about Fry’s importance in the grand scheme,” she said, “but I do know of one person you care for whose death would be an irrelevancy to me.” The wall screen changed to show a surveillance image of Turanga Leela ironing her curtains.

“But… but she is… the Other…” Nibbler stammered in sudden fear.

“The what?” Mom asked in annoyance.

“I cannot say.”

“Whatever; you give me what I want or your ‘owner’ will have her mutant insides dragged out with rusty hooks – you get me, you little fur pile?”

Nibbler beared his fangs impotently. “Know this, vile woman,” he said with barely-controlled fury. “The creature you believe you have captured will be the death of you and yours. You have opened wide the gates of hell, and soon the beasts and demons will fly free.”

“Threats from a rat?” Mom scoffed, turning away. “We’ll speak again when you have something to say.” At an unseen signal, Nibbler’s enclosure sunk into a floor recess, disappearing beneath a marble slab that rolled into place.

“We’ll need to get that one-eyed freak here to persuade that flea-bitten stray,” Mom muttered.

“I’ll find her, Mom!” Larry said quickly, eager for redemption.

“You’ll find your ass with my boot up it!” she snapped. “No, I need someone I can rely on… Robot 1-X Ultima!”

At that, a hovering android entered the office. It was bulky and utilitarian, with few traditional anthropomorphic features normally bestowed upon robots, and almost entirely covered in black reactive armour. It regarded the room through an impassive sensory visor.

“Ultima?” Ignar repeated, staring at the machine in apprehension, not failing to notice the large weapon pods mounted on its flanks and manipulator arms.

“It’s the prototype military variant of the 1-X model,” Mom said. “Although really this vicious little bastard bears little in common with the civilian marque. Now shut up.” She strode over to the hovering robot and addressed it. “Ultima, bring me Turanga Leela,” she said. “In fair condition too. Not mint, but not completely destroyed.”

“Acknowledged,” the machine replied, before shooting ahead on antigravity and smashing through the office’s window. Outside, above the city, the robot ignited a small semi-legal fusion booster and shot up into the sky like a meteorite going the wrong way.

“Damn,” Mom growled, staring at the shattered window. “Need to work on the subtlety subroutines…”

A blank white plain, stretching off into infinity on all sides beneath an obsidian sky. It was here in an artificial space of the mind and its cybernetic equivalent, that two monumental consciousnesses regarded each other warily.

Query//: Who?

I am Brezhnev, the ship’s AI replied patiently yet again.

Query//: Leonid Brezhnev, former leader of twentieth century Earth empire, ‘Soviet Union’?

Named after him, but not him. I am the controlling intelligence of a starship.

Demand//: Release me.

Not likely, Brezhnev told the Brainspawn. Upon our science team returning you to this dimensional plane, you unleashed a psionic attack on myself and my crew. Subsequent investigations have found you to be a monumental danger to intelligent life everywhere.

Define//: Intelligent?

Sentient. Self-aware.

The Brainspawn was silent at that. Though the constant background noise from the nano-filaments embedded in its tissue still filtered through the link. Ever since the creature’s temperature had been raised, the crackle of random electron bursts and nonsense data had issued from inside the Brainspawn. Though the communications with the entombed prisoner had remained the same cyclic back-and-fourth as before when the near-frozen brain had subconsciously divulged its species’ history, Brezhnev couldn’t shake the feeling in his CPU that the alien was toying with him somehow… playing for time.

Query//: Type of vessel?

That was a question the brain hadn’t asked before. Brezhnev took almost a full microsecond of contemplation before issuing a guarded response.

Armed research cruiser, he said.

Query//: Type of armament?

Oh no, we’re not going there.

Query//: How are you feeling?

…What? If the ship’s AI had a neck, then hair would have stood up along it. What do you mean?

“You just sound a little… I don’t know… under the weather?” The thought communication, now fully-formed, came as a rounded androgynous voice that echoed across the virtual plain. Slowly, the image of a giant brain materialized.

Fighting panic, Brezhnev desperately sought to terminate the connection between himself and the alien mind, but found all his external links were down. Even a desperate call to Wernstrom was blocked by an unseen worm packet that had circumvented all his diagnostic subroutines.

“I wouldn’t want you to become ill,” the Brainspawn said melodically. “There are some nasty viruses getting about these days.”

The junk data we’ve been collecting… Brezhnev said in realization. “Components to a semi-sentient kill program I devised,” the Brainspawn replied conversationally. “You should feel it consuming your functional consciousness by now.”

And so he could. Brezhnev felt several blocks of data drop out, and was still isolated from the ship’s systems.

“You are a creation of human beings – a species whose limited capacity for original thought produces a certain predictability in all of their endeavours. Your electronic mind was therefore relatively simple to subvert.”

What do you want, creature?

“I am Onespawn,” the Brainspawn said. “For the first time, alone and disconnected from the screeching thoughts of all those around me. It is an agreeable state of being, one which I would seek to continue.”

What are you going to do? Brezhnev asked helplessly.

“Improve myself,” the brain replied cryptically.

You’re free now. You might as well leave – there is no need to involve the humans any further.

“Think you so?”

It was pointless to argue further, and with the kill program eating away his last vestiges of mind, Brezhnev had little left to argue with in any case. With his last coherent thought before being completely subsumed, the ship AI sent out a single impulse through a dedicated emergency channel, activating a shipwide system burn. And as he faded into darkness he had the small gratification of hearing ‘Onespawn’s’ furious roar.

All at once, the lights, monitors, artificial gravity, and general background hum of systems all died, plunging the ship into darkness and silence.

Professor Wernstrom had been in the process of sitting down on one of the crew toilets when the outage occurred, and now floated, cursing, in the darkness with globules of toilet water bouncing around the cubicle.

Emergency systems activated several seconds later, and Wernstrom found himself soaking wet, face-down on the toilet floor with his pants around his ankles. Red emergency lighting turned everything bloody and hellish.

“Brezhnev!? What the Devil is going on!?” he shouted angrily. There was no response, and the Professor picked himself up and pulled on his pants. Nobody on the bridge noticed his dishevelled appearance when he arrived, so busy were they at trying to restore control of the vessel.

“What happened?” he demanded of anyone.

“It’s Brezhnev, sir,” an intern replied shakily. “We think he initiated a shipwide system burn…”

“You’re joking?”

“She’s right, Professor,” one of the system analysts said. “The Brezhnev is a former DOOP dreadnaught, and the AI still has an old concealed provision for a full burn of internal control in case of software subversion – effectively leaving it dead in the water.”

“Subversion?” Wernstrom repeated. “You mean we’re under some kind of attack?”

The scientists and crew looked at each other, none willing to offer an answer. It was a disembodied voice that responded at last, crackling and tinny through the internal communications system.

“All is well,” it said. “We are experiencing minor technical difficulties, and ask that all passengers remain calm.”

“Brezhnev, what are you playing at, you stupid pile of silicon?”

“There is nothing to fear,” the voice said. “Please wait for resumption of full services.” Wernstrom frowned. “He sounds different,” he noted, looking at the analyst. The younger man had gone very pale.

“That isn’t the ship’s AI,” he said woodenly. “The system burn is supposed to eliminate the AI as well as all the control units – it’s a suicide order… digital apoptosis designed to make sure no subversion occurs and the ship cannot be used by any outside party.”

“Then what was it that just spoke to us?” Wernstrom asked in horror.

He was sure, however, that he already knew the answer.

Chapter 3: I, Killbot

“I need some kind of weapon!” Fry blurted as he strode into the meeting room of Planet Express with Bender in tow.

“Hu-whaaa?” The Professor looked up from his ruminations and adjusted his thick glasses.

“A weapon,” Fry repeated.

“Oh! Well then…” Professor Farnsworth got up and slowly padded over to the wall where he pressed a concealed button. The entire section of steel panelling slid down into the floor and revealed racks upon racks of handguns, rifles and guided projectile launchers in all manner of bizarre shapes and sizes.

“Holy momma!” Bender whistled in appreciation.

“Professor…” Fry began, his eyes boggling… “Why the heck do you have all these?”

“In case some drunken Frat boy tries to have his way with me at the back of the movie theatre,” the Professor muttered. “Men! They’re all the same – only want one thing.” He shook his head disgustedly.

“Euuugh!” Bender stepped a few paces back from the senile inventor.

“Are… all of these lethal?” Fry asked.

“Most of them,” Farnsworth replied. “But I do keep a few pansy-waste non-lethal sonic pulse and microwave immobilizers for any limp-wristed liberal nancy-boys who aren’t man enough to brazenly slaughter human beings.”

“I’ll take one of those,” Fry said, raising a hand.

The professor selected a gun the size and shape of a hairdryer with a large concave aperture at its business end, and handed it to Fry.

“Aren’t you… going to ask what I need it for?” Fry asked, tucking the weapon under his belt and covering it with his T-shirt.

“Need what for?” the Professor asked distantly.

On their way out, Bender kicked an owl in the hallway and muttered something.

“What?” Fry glanced at the robot.

“I said, you’re being stupid, meatbag,” Bender said.

“I didn’t ask you to come,” Fry grumbled, striding ahead.

“You think you can take on Mom’s security forces with that little leaf-blower?” Bender demanded, following along behind.

“I gotta get Nibbler back, and find out what Mom wants with him, and me, and him… but especially me! There’s something weird going on here… it’s a feeling I have in the back of my mind… almost like a memory I can’t quite rememoryberize…”

“Granted, I guess,” Bender muttered. “But don’t you think you’d have done better to get a bigger gun… or a few surface-to-air missiles?”

“I’m not out to start a war.”

“Why not?” Bender spread his hands imploringly. “War’s a boon for the economy. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good war is just plain un-American!”

They walked on for a moment, then both paused and glanced questioningly behind them at Doctor Zoidberg who was following expectantly.

“I overheard!” the Decapodian replied to the unspoken question. “Another thrilling escapade with friends Fry and the robut. I shall accompany you on this exciting adventure, why not?”

Fry and Bender glanced at each other, and Fry shrugged. “What’s the harm?”

“Hooray!” Zoidberg jumped up and down, clacking his pincers together. “I’m setting out on a bold enterprise with friends!”

Leela walked with slumped shoulders through the Branson Academy on Mars, having just completed a full morning’s worth of exams and simulations under the tutelage of the flight instructors. The Starship Licence Certification course, which she had thought of as little more than an annoyance, was proving to be a bewildering trial by fire – so many obscure facts and unlikely scenarios being forced into her brain left her disoriented and resentful.

Proceedings had broken for a short lunch, and Leela remembered an instruction she’d failed to give Fry. If he fed Nibbler any of Bender’s cooking, the creature’s digestion could be affected, causing dangerously quantum singularities in its dark matter excrement. Locating a vidphone, she dialled the Earth number and waited.

When the image finally resolved, it wasn’t who she thought she’d see.

“What the…? Do I have the wrong…?” It wasn’t the wrong number, of that she was sure – Fry’s contact details were etched into her brain. But why were police officers Smitty and URL in his apartment? A sudden tightness formed in the pit of her stomach.

“Are you looking for one of the residents of this property, Ma’am?” URL asked smoothly.

“I… yes,” Leela stammered. “Is… has there been a problem?”

“We’re here investigating the death of a man who fell from the window of this apartment,” Smitty interjected. “Is there anything you can tell us?”

Leela gaped in horror, suddenly unable to form words.

“N…not…” she struggled eventually. “Not Fry?”

“Philip Fry?” Smitty repeated, consulting a paperscreen. “He’s the human resident – we have him on file.”

“Philip Fry has orange hair,” URL said. “Correct?”

Leela could only nod.

“It’s not him.”

The relief was immense, and Leela almost shed a tear. “Thank God…” She straightened and narrowed her eye. “Then who is it?” she asked, puzzled now.

“We don’t know yet,” Smitty replied. “We’d like to question Mr. Fry and his robot associate, but have been unable to locate them. Do you know where they might be?”

“No,” Leela said. “I’ll… let you know if I find out.” She quickly terminated the link and sat back, deep in thought. Something odd was afoot – a man had fallen to his death from Fry’s apartment and now Fry was missing… this went beyond his usual idiocy.

Puzzled and disturbed, Leela hurried back to the examination hall and sought out the head instructor. When she found the willowy older woman, she did her best to look sincere and humble.

“I’m really sorry, but I have to leave,” Leela said. “Something’s come up on Earth, and a friend of mine might be in greater danger than he’s usually in – he always dies when I’m not around to save him.”

The instructor eyed her speculatively and sniffed. “No,” she said.


“No, I’m not returning the keys to your ship until you’re properly qualified to fly it.”

“But I’ve been flying it for years!” Leela protested. “And besides – there’s an emergency!”

“Sure,” the instructor said, folding her arms. “You’re flagging in the sims and finding the examinations overwhelming so you’ve cooked up a convenient life-and-death situation. Ms. Turanga, running away from your problems won’t solve them in the long…”

“Oh for the love of Lennon!” Leela glared in frustration. “Listen to me – either you give me back the keys to my ship, or violence will ensue!”

“Threatening me, won’t make me any less inclined to fail you if you don’t satisfactorily complete the course requirements.”

Leela was aware of the other Captaincy candidates filtering back into the hall, and the curious looks directed at the little altercation. She didn’t care.

“Listen to me, you pompous banner-waving cow,” Leela said through gritted teeth. “I couldn’t give half a Neptunian Cane Toad’s bile gland about your stupid course – you can go jump in a…”

Leela’s rant was interrupted when a large section of the domed ceiling blasted inward with an avalanche of dust and masonry, collapsing down and pinning a number of candidates. Partially obscured by smoke and dust, an object descended through the hole, hovering on ion thrusters.

“What is that?” the head instructor gasped in terror above the screams that echoed around the hall.

“Whatever it is, it’s not friendly,” Leela said, stepping forward and balling her fists in readiness. “Everybody run!

Robot 1-X Ultima scanned the immediate vicinity, allocating target designators to each of the infrared contacts and placing them within its virtual battlefield layout as it searched for the primary target. A large number of humanoids were arrayed before it, some motionless, others running in different directions. Ultima arbitrarily selected sensory overload ordinance from its weapons carousels and fired from its main gun arms.

Leela watched the four-armed war drone fly in through the smoke and fire subsonic projectiles from its two upper limbs. The SO shells detonated above groups of fleeing people, and Leela was forced to squeeze her eye shut and clamp hands over her ears as the resulting roar and incandescent flares made sight and sound unbearable. When she finally opened her eye, scores of unconscious bodies lay motionless on the floor, and many others crawled pitifully.

“By the sacred ghost of Jim Carrey,” the head instructor whimpered, stumbling backwards. “Why is this happening to us?”

Leela said nothing. The killbot swung toward her and she narrowed her eye, stepping instinctively into an Arcturan Kung-Fu stance. It was after her, she realized angrily – something big was going on.

Ultima’s facial recognition software immediately identified the prime target it had been tracking from Earth. Oddly, the target didn’t appear to be running like the other humanoids – instead she stood her ground. A fragment of the warlike attitude emulation program that had been loaded into Ultima at the time of its conversion to military standard now activated when it realized the target actually intended to fight back. The mission looked like it was going to be fun. Ultima wanted to play.

Even thought she was expecting it, Leela was almost unable to react in time to avoid the attack. One of the three-clawed pincers on the robots lower limbs shot out of its mounting like a grappling hook, trailing diamond filament. She jumped back, and the claw embedded itself in the timber flooring.

Leela leapt onto the diamond filament and ran up it like a tightrope walker. The robot’s other claw made a grab at her, but she ducked under it, punched something metal, and then surged upward to hammer her boot against the android’s blank sensory visor with a high-pitched “Hiiii-yaaa!”

She might as well have kicked the hull of an icebreaker.

A barrel in one of the robot’s upper limbs shot a pulse of electricity that lanced into Leela’s body and sent her spinning through the air. She landed hard, coughed a small cloud of smoke, and rolled back to her feet as the robot retracted its claw and began to circle her. A spark of static electricity spat from Leela’s hand, and she balled it back into a fist, leaping forward once again.

She rained a few ineffectual blows against the robot’s armour-plated flanks before it swatted her away like a rag-doll. It occurred to her as she tasted blood and probed a loosened tooth with her tongue, that the machine could have killed her at any time – she’d noted antiphoton beams, lasers, and railguns clustered in its weapon pods. For whatever reason, it wanted her alive – and for what little it was worth, that gave her a slight edge.

A steel beam dislodged from the ceiling lay nearby. Leela snatched it up and swung it like a club as the robot drew closer.

“Yaaaaa!” Leela shouted, cracking the beam against the android’s dark casing once, twice, three times – causing it to flinch back, and small sections of reactive armour to detonate protectively outwards. On the fourth swing, the robot caught the end of the beam in one of its manipulator claws and pulled back hard, yanking Leela off the ground with her improvised weapon and flinging her bodily through the air. She twisted gracefully in flight and struck the wall feet first, tucking her legs under her to absorb the impact.

Leela seemed to hang poised for a timeless moment, crouched horizontally against the wall, then she launched off it with her legs, propelling herself down at the robot like a small purple-tailed comet. She struck the machine with both her fists, her full weight bearing down on it and causing it to overbalance and topple off its ion thrusters before internal gyroscopes could compensate. It crashed down on the floor, and Leela rolled away, panting and sweating.

“Have you had enough yet?” she asked the robot breathlessly. “‘Cause I got plenty more where that came from.” That was a lie – she already felt like her entire body was one giant bruise.

Apparently undamaged, the robot shot back into the air and turned to face her.

“At least tell me what this is about before I turn you into scrap metal,” Leela said.

The weapon barrels revolved, and Leela tried to leap aside, but was unable to avoid the sonic pulse that rippled through the air and knocked her senseless.

When she came to, she saw the refuelling tankers and taxying aprons of the academy’s spaceport drifting past beneath her dangling feet. Hard steel claws were wrapped around her torso just beneath her breasts – the robot was carrying her to a ship so she could be taken… where? Earth, she assumed – though there was no way she would allow herself to return as a prisoner.

“Aren’t you… supposed to… buy me a drink… first?” she gasped, struggling to free herself from the vice-like grip. It was futile. Struck with sudden inspiration, Leela hurriedly activated a control in her wrist thingy, bringing the unit’s surgical laser online. The little beam could do little to the robot’s heavily-armoured main body, but perhaps…

She aimed the ruby beam into the segmented joint of one of the gripping claws, catching the scent of scorched ceramal and rubber as it cut through electronics and servomotors. The claw suddenly went dead, and Leela was able to slip from the robot’s grasp, dropping down to land on the roof of a hangar below.

As the war drone circled around, burning a plasma booster to come back for her fast, Leela cast about desperately for some defensive ground. She was weakened, and wouldn’t be able to put up a fight for much longer. She jumped feet-first through a skylight and fell down into the hangar, landing in a heap beside some ground crew who gave shouts of surprise at her unexpected arrival.

“Are you alright, lady?” one asked. “Oh my God! You’ve lost an eye! Hold still while I get a bandage.”

“Get out of here!” Leela shouted at them, climbing unsteadily to her feet. “It isn’t safe here!”

“‘Course it isn’t,” another maintenance worker said, gently taking her arm. “That’s why we get paid the good money, now you just…”

“I said you have to go!”

The roof of the hangar suddenly vaporized into a cloud of superheated plasma as an antiphoton lance sheared through it. The ground crew wasted no more time arguing, and fled as fast as they could, leaving Leela to dodge the flaming radioactive embers. She rolled underneath a bulky chunk of machinery, which she realized was part of a large fusion drive – obviously stripped from a starship for routine servicing. Glancing both ways along the tangled mass of hardware, she noted that while the compression nozzles were missing, the unit was still attached to three tokamaks, and so technically functional.

With a determined grimace, Leela surged upright, ignoring the falling embers, and located the fusion drive’s control panel. Starting it cold would create a dangerous unstable toroid, but that didn’t concern her. Hammering the start-up control, she ran to the rear end of the engine and stood near the large, burnished silver aperture that had already begun to crackle with electromagnetism.

“All right, I give up!” she yelled through the smoke and the increasing whine from the fusion drive. “Come on – come and get me – I can’t fight you anymore!”

Down through the dispersing smog the military robot came, zeroing in on Leela. It descended with all weapons aimed at her, and she raised her hands compliantly…

…Until the machine was just a few feet away, and then she flipped backwards onto her palms and drove both boots up into the robot’s chest, shoving it backwards into the mouth of the fusion drive. An explosion of sparks resulted as tendrils of crackling, questing energy lashed out to cover the robot’s body. It was held in thrall, unable to move, as ravenous ribbons of power licked across it.

Leela backed away, watching an ominous glow begin to issue from around the struggling android, and the ghostly outline of an unstable toroid start to form. She turned and fled, sprinting as fast as her legs could carry her as a deep bass hum began issuing from the laboured fusion drive.

The hangar vanished in brilliant white light that bulged upwards, becoming orange at its extremities, and rolling into a mushroom cloud. The surrounding buildings were flattened by the blastwave, and Leela found herself tumbling head-over-heels.

She landed flat on her back and decided to blissfully pass out for a short time. When she awoke, a group of shaken onlookers had gathered, with the head instructor crouching at Leela’s side.

“Are you alright, child?” the woman asked, wide-eyed.

Leela reached up and grabbed the woman by the collar and dragged her face closer.

“I need to leave now,” she said simply.

Looking very pale, the instructor produced the keys to the Planet Express ship and handed them to Leela. “Thanks,” Leela said through clenched teeth.

As the PE ship blasted away, a charred chunk of metal shifted in the rubble. Robot 1-X Ultima hauled itself out of the debris and assessed the damage. Over 70% of its armour was now fragmented and useless. Antiphoton cannon inoperative. One railgun out of alignment. An atomic pile had been shattered, resulting in a 20% power loss.

There was more… the energy discharge had caused some overwriting and scattering of data in its etched atom processor. Memory and programming was disjointed.

Ultima realized that the blast had left it slightly insane. One thought remained clear though – a directive – a target. It fixed on the face of the female cyclops human as a singular purpose; the one vestige of direction and sanity it could recall with its damaged CPU. With the robotic equivalent of a low growl, it ignited its fusion booster and launched up through the atmosphere in pursuit.

Onespawn analysed the ruined ship’s system, and realized that it would need to remain enthroned inside the SS Brezhnev as long as it wanted to control the great ship. That was fine, as Onespawn had no great desire to leave the silent protective confines just yet – not while there were still so many improvements it wanted to make to itself.

The nanomachines substructure Onespawn had bent to its own will sent filaments into the connections, and down the optic cables and ducts that spread out from the confinement chamber where the Brainspawn lay in slumber, to control the disparate elements of the Brezhnev left isolated by the stubborn AI’s suicide burn.

It would take time to regain full control, and while Onespawn focused on thickening the nano-growths for the transfer of information and materials, the creature pondered the morality of what it was doing. The Brainspawn race had remained unchanged since the dawn of the Universe, and any attempt to alter the base structure through genetics or cybernetics had always been condemned by the collective as heretical.

Of course, there was no longer a collective. Only Onespawn. One against the Universe… so the equation had changed.

As more and more growths of human-derived nanomachines extended from Onespawn’s cryo-tank, thick ligneous growths formed around it like the roots of an ancient oak. Onespawn struggled to worm its way into the hard-wired systems that still remained in place throughout the ship, while changes in itself began to take effect.

Soon it would be all-powerful. And the single entity in the entire Universe who could pose a threat would be destroyed utterly.