Blame It On The Brain, part 4
Chapter 12: Nibbler on the Roof
Valkyrie tactical transport took up most of the deck of the Momship’s
main hangar bay. A blunt delta shape encased in a black monoform
exterior coating, it was the latest prototype of advanced stealth
shuttle that Momcorp had been contracted to develop for the DOOP.
team of security personnel and science analysts boarded the little
craft, along with Hubert Farnsworth, Larry, and Mom herself (who had
insisted on going along for the mission despite the protests of
Farnsworth and her son). The incursion team all wore pressure suits
and strange circuit-embedded helmets, and the security personnel
carried several ominous crates stamped prominently with the
everyone,” Farnsworth said as the embarkation ramp hissed shut,
“the shielding helmets have never been tested, so don’t
think too loudly. From now on, nobody think about rock music, the
colour red, or Robin Williams.”
no!” Larry said. “Now they’re all I can
atmosphere in the hangar bay dissipated noisily, and the massive
external door began to roll open, revealing the stars beyond.
see if those overpaid grease-monkeys in my skunk-works department are
worth their weight in titanium composite,” Mom said, pressing a
control on the Valkyrie’s system console. “Here goes
stealth shuttle lifted from its docking cradle, it flickered briefly
and then became completely invisible. Frequencies of the
electromagnetic and visual spectrums flowed smoothly around the
craft’s EM displacement field, rendering it totally
unobservable to sensors or the naked eye.
the…? Where did everybody go?” Farnsworth cried
idiot,” Mom snapped. “We’re only invisible to
people outside the shuttle.”
No – I dropped my glasses!”
Farnsworth fumbled around on the floor, Larry eased the controls
forward and took the shuttle out of the hangar bay and into the open
void. The Momship was holding distant station about half an AU from
the Brezhnev, which continued to slowly trawl through space
without deviation. Attempts to hail the research vessel had been
fruitless, and an unidentifiable background quantum fluctuation had
been detected resonating from the area surrounding the great ship.
Valkyrie moved gradually closer to the target, all those on board
became increasingly anxious. The entire mission hinged on the success
of the delta-null shielding helmets devised by the mad and senile
Professor Farnsworth, in whom few aboard had much confidence, himself
distance closed. The tension built. And the mighty Brezhnev grew
larger on the forward viewscreen.
something strange…” Larry said, peering at the
two-kilometre block of steel and wrath. “The external surfaces…
they seem mottled by something.”
the magnification, you stupid moronic idiot fool!” Mom snapped.
so, and a section of the research vessel’s hull expanded into
the hell is that?” Mom said. The hull plates were crisscrossed
at random by wide clinging trunks and tendrils that seemed to form
some vast network, growing from within the ship and seeming to
envelop it with the grey, almost organic-looking growths.
never seen anything like it,” Farnsworth confessed. “Not
at this scale anyway, though if I were to guess, I’d say this
was the result of nanomachine infestation.”
Mom said. “I’ve seen nanites go haywire – they just
turn everything into grey goo, they don’t grow vines.”
didn’t say they were haywire, you saggy-breasted
harridan!” Farnsworth retorted. “You told me it was
possible that your precious ship had been subverted by the Brainspawn
– well that looks like subversion by nanomachines, probably
controlled by the Brainspawn.”
also looks like it’s sustained significant battle damage,”
Larry said, switching the view to show numerous deep impact craters
that marked the surface of the ship.
the Nibblonians already tried?” Mom wondered aloud.
Valkyrie flew into the shadow of the Brezhnev, with the research ship
looming before them like a great plain of metal. Larry piloted the
stealth shuttle toward a docking point that appeared relatively free
of nanomachine growths.
gave your Helmsman the proper instructions?” Farnsworth asked
Mom nodded. “Cowardly and snivelling though he may be, Gary
Helm is the greatest Helmsman who ever Helmed. He’ll begin to
run interference for us in the Momship as soon as we’re
that will distract the Brainspawn enough to aid with our
infiltration, oh my yes… distraction… infiltration…
atomic monsters… crush enemies… called me mad!?”
He continued mumbling incoherently to himself and Mom looked away to
watch the yawning mouth of the Brezhnev’s docking chamber
closed around them.
stealth shuttle gently connected to the airlock, and the doors were
operated manually to avoid any telltale energy draw. Preceded first
by armed security who gave the all-clear, the team emerged through
the airlock, seeming to appear suddenly out of thin air as they
stepped from the Valkyrie’s displacement field. They entered
the dark corridors of the Brezhnev and activated their suit-mounted
reading low atmosphere,” one member of the tech team said over
the short-wave comm. link as she consulted her Tricorder. “The
environmental system is down… no life-signs in our immediate
vicinity, but some strange anomalous background noise on a number of
get moving – we have a lot of ship to cover,” Mom said.
Glancing back at where the invisible shuttle was ostensibly docked
somewhere at the end of the airlock tube, she added: “Everyone
remember where we parked – I don’t want to step through
the wrong airlock and have my brain sucked out my nose.”
she turned back to the others, a movement caught her eye, and she
turned sharply to see a shadowed figure dart back into hiding.
she muttered to herself. “No life-signs, eh?”
moved off through the silent corridors and continued for some time.
The security people stopped them occasionally to access wall panels
where they loaded subversive software into the remains of the ship’s
systems that froze surveillance camera feeds along the team’s
path. They were taking no chances.
point, the team rounded a corner and found the way had been blocked
by an amorphous mass of the same ligneous grey growths that were
strangling the outer hull of the ship.
get a sample,” one of the scientists said, stepping closer to
the wall of nanomachines.
wouldn’t do that,” Farnsworth said quickly, grabbing the
man by his shoulder. “There’s no way of telling what it
can do – it might convert our mass into raw elements. Or even
worse – rewrite our neurones and brainwash us into buying
horrible, soul-destroying country music… like what
happened to all those poor fools in the latter half of the twentieth
right,” Mom said. “Leave it – we’re here to
destroy, not to learn.” They changed their route to avoid the
growths and continued onward deeper into the ship. From some distance
behind them, a figure observed their progress, steeped in shadow and
skulking behind support struts and banks of machinery to remain
caught sight of the furtive movement and glanced back sharply –
the figure ducked out of view.
so as not to cause panic among the team, he spoke to Mom.
something back there,” he said, tilting his head back along the
way they’d come.
nodded with a grunt. “It’s Wernstrom,” she
the Professor spat distastefully.
been following us since we came aboard,” Mom went on.
he escaped the Brainspawn’s attack…”
or was set loose.”
distance behind, Ogden Wernstrom looked out of the darkness, his eyes
wide and feverish as he watched the team.
was in command of this operation,” Mom said, glancing back
along the passageway. “Now the object of the operation may be
in command of him.”
we ought to play it safe and decapitate him?” Farnsworth
offered. “And then maybe burn his corpse for good measure.”
seen too much death today,” Mom replied. “Besides,
Wernstrom might have some part to play yet, for good or ill, before
this is all over.”
looked unconvinced, but said nothing.
out in space, the Momship flew an erratic course around the Brezhnev,
occasionally hitting the larger vessel with laser bursts and hard
radar spikes, but always keeping to a safe distance. Its pestering
manoeuvres were monitored closely by the monumental intelligence that
now controlled the Brezhnev, and the research cruiser fired on the
Momship repeatedly, but scored no hits.
wondered idly what the other vessel was trying to accomplish.
inconceivable distance from the edge of any known map, the Planet
Express ship traversed a field of planetary debris that had once been
a solar system, now turned into a barren cloud of shattered rocks and
frozen gases orbiting a dying sun. The epic destruction had been
wrought by the opening of a Schwarzschild/Lorentzian spiderhole near
the local star’s photosphere, resulting in vast swathes of
matter being torn from the star, hastening its demise toward the
black dwarf state. The surrounding planetary system had been utterly
destroyed by the violent tidal forces and brutal accretion disk.
spiderhole itself was an awe-inspiring spectacle – a vast
indigo abyss ringed by chaotic webs of exotic negative matter, with
strands stretching many times the diameter of Earth, which held open
the throat of the Einstein-Rosen Bridge. Vast plumes of solar matter
swirled into the indescribable depths of the hole, flaring bright as
ribbons of energy lashed out.
gasped in wonder at the sight as she flew the ship onward toward the
titanic maelstrom. Setting the autopilot, she got up from the command
chair and walked closer to the viewscreen the behold the majestic
ballet of cosmic destruction.
hoo, big deal - it’s a hole,” Bender droned
disinterestedly. “I dug a hole behind the Planet Express
building and nobody gasped in wonder at it. Except the corpse I stuck
in there, but that could have just been gasses escaping…”
this is the most amazing thing anyone has ever seen,” Leela
said, glancing at the robot in irritation.
big boots, this is the most amazing thing anyone has ever
seen.” Bender produced a silver coin, waved it around in front
of Leela, and clapped his hands together. The coin was gone. He then
reached up to Leela’s ear and appeared to snatch the coin out
sweet, eh?” he said proudly.
narrowed her eye and walked away to find Fry.
thought it was remarkable,” Nibbler said, sounding impressed.
“How did you do that? Some kind of quantum flux or matter
I’m just magnificent.”
moved down the ship’s companionway and rapped lightly on the
door of Fry’s cabin, chiding herself for her own nervousness.
she called. “There’s something you’ll want to see –
it’s incredible.” There was no reply from the room, and
I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings earlier. It was careless.
Please forgive me. I want you to come and watch this with me –
there are big shiny things… you love big shiny things…”
response. Hesitantly, Leela pressed the door’s touchpad, and it
rolled open. Fry was fast asleep on his hammock, shirtless and
snoring lightly. Leela approached, and then stopped, gaping in
swirling marks of stigma had spread across Fry’s chest like an
oil slick. As she watched, an offshoot of the affliction wormed
outward from the main mass, consuming more normal tissue.
Fry…” The taste of fear made Leela swallow hard as she
reached out to touch Fry’s skin. It was cold.
contact brought him out of his slumber, and he caught Leela by the
wrist. He groaned as his eyes focused on the cycloptic face staring
down at him.
he said, and then noted the frightened look in Leela’s eye.
“What’s the matter…? Oh…” Hurriedly,
he fell out of the hammock and retrieved his T-shirt to cover the
very pretty, is it?” he said with forced lightness, pulling the
shirt over his head and getting one arm stuck in the neck-hole.
patiently helped him untangle himself. “Does it hurt?”
she asked quietly.
exactly,” Fry said. “But sometimes it feels like…
a heaviness… like I’m being dragged down. Not by weight,
but by something else… something inevitable. I can’t
a sweet tension-coated silence filled with a creamy centre of
discomfort as the two friends stared at each other.
Leela grasped for words. “We’ll find a way through this.”
know,” Fry replied. “We always do. Um… hey…”
He scratched his head awkwardly. “Sorry about before.”
too,” Leela said. “You’re my best friend, Fry…
I don’t want to hurt you, even though I always seem to manage
it one way or another. It’s not intentional…”
know,” Fry said. “Did you need me for something?”
blinked. “Oh yeah,” she said, remembering. “The
spiderhole – you really have to see this.”
returned to the bridge, the spiderhole loomed larger through the
forward viewscreen it pulsed and rippled violently around the
constraints of the cosmic webs that held it in place.
wow,” Fry gaped in amazement. “That’s even more
incredible than Bender’s coin trick!”
go to hell, you lousy meatbag,” Bender muttered bitterly.
Fry said as he gazed out in rapt fascination. “It’s the
same colour as your hair.”
smiled and took her seat at the helm. “So, we just fly right
in?” she asked Nibbler.
Nibbler said. “But be careful – we don’t want to be
caught in those webs.”
do we?” Fry said. “…No, probably not. We’d
be lunch for the giant spider, right?”
Nibbler said. “Contact with the exotic negative matter would
instantly convert our entire mass into pure energy. We would
is really just as bad,” Fry said. He looked back out at the
cosmic spectacle that now seemed to take up all of the heavens. The
little ship skimmed through a stream of incandescent solar matter
that was falling toward the spiderhole, then onward into the yawning
Nibbler said belatedly. “This will be bumpy…”
passed suddenly through the event horizon, and the PE ship became
spaghettified, stretched into a narrow green strand of
hyperaccellerated matter that was three light-years long, relative to
real-space. And then they were in the spiderhole itself, snapping
back into shape violently like an elastic band, and whipping around
uncontrollably inside the cracking toroid interior of the
Einstein-Rosen Bridge, at the mercy of unseen and incomprehensible
Leela, and Bender all screamed as they were thrown around, and sparks
erupted from the fuselage. It was like the wildest rollercoaster ride
then they were spat back out into real space in an explosion of
quarks and neutrinos. The ship tumbled end-over end, accelerated
wildly by the spiderhole’s slingshot effect.
thank robot Christ that’s over with,” Bender said.
isn’t,” Nibbler replied mildly, as the ship fell directly
into a second spiderhole that had been positioned sequentially by the
Nibblonian people thousands of years ago.
violent spaghettification and breakneck tumble through the throat of
the spiderhole. As he clung to the back of Leela’s seat for
dear life, Fry risked a sidelong glance out one of the windows, and
for an instant he thought he saw a translucent shape clinging to the
side of the shimmering tunnel of purple light… a colossal
many-legged thing with eight eyes the size of continents that watched
the PE ship fall past.
was gone, and they were back out into real space, flung away from the
Star Spider’s interdimensional hole at a dangerous velocity.
her wits, Leela cancelled the wild roll and slowed the ship.
I think I got whiplash!” Bender complained, picking himself up.
was cool!” Fry said, climbing out of Leela’s lap. “We
gotta do that again.”
only groaned, knowing they would eventually have to. She turned her
eye to the forward screen.
she said, staring through the screen. “Looks like we’re
them, resplendent in shades of pink and blue, was the planet
Eternium, its pastel landmasses seeming to form heart shapes.
ship’s communications screen came to life, showing a Nibblonian
female sitting on a cushion.
Nibbler,” Fiona said over the comm. link.
Nibbler said. “I have travelled from Earth, with the Mighty
One, seeking the means by which doom can be averted and the balance
of the Universe be restored.”
know to which object you refer,” Fiona said gravely. “Our
forebears decided eons ago that it should never be used. You have
come on a fool’s errand.”
I may be,” Nibbler growled angrily, “but I am a fool who
does not wish to see all of creation vanquished in one stroke of evil
because those who could prevent it quailed in the face of their
stared levelly through the comm. screen. “Harsh words you
speak, Lord Nibbler,” she said. “But the council is
decided on this matter. An alternate plan to combat Onespawn is
presently being enacted. We do not need the Mighty One, or the
narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “We shall see,” he said.
The communication link terminated.
was all that about?” Fry said, clearly confused.
difference of opinion,” Nibbler said simply. He looked troubled
as he directed Leela to the landing coordinates. The Planet Express
ship fell through the pink atmosphere with a trio of Nibblonian
Cuddle-Bug saucers falling in behind to escort the larger vessel.
They had reached the exact centre of the Universe. And it seemed
they weren’t entirely welcome.
Chapter 13: The Good, The Bad, & The Exploding
incursion team found themselves blocked by a wall that shouldn’t
have been there. Where Mom’s deck schematic showed a straight
corridor, there was now an abrupt dead-end festooned with the
ever-present grey pseudopod growths of nanotech.
changed the decks around,” Mom said, eying the erroneous wall
for?” Farnsworth wondered.
me. Maybe it wanted to make a rumpus room.”
because Onespawn… is growing larger,” a weak grating
voice said from out of the shadows behind the group. The security
personnel swung their positron rifles toward the source of the voice
and illuminated a skeletal, cowering Ogden Wernstrom with their
scheming professor blinked in the glare, his pupils like pinpricks.
He was wearing no breathing apparatus, despite the low pressure, and
his skin was a blotchy mottled pink and grey.
master,” he went on. “Onespawn… needed to
accommodate its increasing size… as it consumes the mass of
Farnsworth growled. “What’s your stake in all this, you
clutched his now oddly-oversized head as if suffering a migraine.
“Master has forgotten me,” he rasped. “Now repairs
to the dark matter engines are complete… Master doesn’t
need me now… Master doesn’t care if I’m alive or
dead…” He began to sob pitifully, and Farnsworth and Mom
gave each other a meaningful glance.
has discarded me,” Wernstrom said. “Now I’m free…
free and clear, with the weight of all who’ve died, and all who
are yet to, pressing down upon me…”
stepped forward to shake sense into the blubbering man, but
Farnsworth held her back, leaning close to her ear as if to whisper.
infected, don’t touch him!” he shouted loudly, making the
old woman cringe. “You stupid punk, Wernstrom,” the
Professor went on, “you botched this entire mission. I give you
the most vile, humiliating score yet – a B+.”
wailed in anguish. “I deserve it,” he said. “You
were always the better scientist, Hubert… I’m just a
third rate hack, always riding on your labcoat-tails. I thought with
this I’d be able to surpass you… but instead the thing
has killed off most of my crew… and left me a mutated pariah
chained to an alien will that screeches and burns in my mind. You are
the better man! The better scientist! You always were!”
looked up from studying the seams in his pressure glove. “Huu-whaa?”
he grunted. “I’m sorry, were you still talking? I drifted
off there for a bit…”
snap out of it,” Mom said. “What do you know about all of
Wernstrom clutched at his head again and doubled over in pain. “It’s
in my mind…” he hissed. “…In my DNA…
Onespawn – I’m a part of it now, I hear its thoughts. It
plans… to use its own version of the same wormhole technology
we used to bring it back to his Universe… only on a much
larger and less specific scale…”
do you mean?” Mom pressed impatiently.
has some quantum flux connecting it to spacetime…”
Wernstrom said. “Soon it will be able to use that, coupled with
understanding gleaned from the hardware aboard this ship… to
destroy… to unmake the Universe, by compressing all of
space and time into a singularity…”
tried to do that once,” Farnsworth said. “But I couldn’t
get a chalkboard long enough to fit the equations.”
is only one thing preventing Onespawn’s plan…”
Wernstrom said. “The presence of a temporal paradox… an
entity spawned by spontaneous self-manifestation whose very tenacious
history-spanning existence will hold the fabric of spacetime
nodded. “…So now the creature will travel to Earth…
to kill the one being who could stand in its way.”
As if on
cue, the massive vessel trembled suddenly, and the team stumbled as
artificial gravity took a moment to adjust for inertia. A deep bass
reverberation of space compression hummed through the ship.
matter drive just came online,” Larry said unnecessarily. “The
ship could reach Earth within the hour now…”
Wernstrom!” Mom snapped. “Where is this ‘Onespawn’
appeared wracked by pain, and veins in his temples throbbed visibly.
“I will… take you…” he said, fighting off
the looming presence of the alien mind that pressed against his own.
He set off down a side corridor with the team following close behind.
the Momship struggled to keep up with the larger vessel as it hurled
through the void, dark matter engines flaring incandescent blue.
distance to Earth began to shrink rapidly.
of forever, ten miles west of the exact centre of the Universe,
loomed above the parked ship as Nibbler led the three Planet Express
friends down the landing stair. A pair of Nibblonian officials waited
at the foot of the steps, dressed in turquoise robes, and they raised
their paws in salute.
bid you greetings, Lord Nibbler and company,” they said in
returned the salute wordlessly and walked past them. The others
followed, and Bender carelessly trod on one of the officials.
little things look just like Leela’s pet,” the robot
noted distantly, kicking the dazed Nibblonian off his foot.
course they do,” Fry said. “Bender, haven’t you
been paying attention to what’s going on?”
made a point not to,” Bender replied, folding his arms. “Any
situation that doesn’t revolve around yours truly isn’t
worth a moment’s consideration.”
moved onward through the plush gardens and meadows. Fry glanced
around at the fluffy pink scenery. “Yeah, now I remember,”
he said. “This place is really…” he searched for a
Candyfloss?” Leela offered.
have said queer,” Bender grunted coarsely, and the
others glared at him, Nibbler bearing his fangs. “What?!”
Bender said indignantly. “We’re a trillion miles away
from the nearest censor, so you politically-correct ***holes can go
Leela exclaimed in horror, and slapped the robot’s face,
bruising her fingers in the process.
rolled one and a half pairs of eyes and scurried off toward the
hall’s entrance without bothering to check that his three
strange humanoid companions were following. A weak bugle announced
his arrival as he passed between the twin obelisks and waddled into
the hall of forever, moving through the cavernous interior toward the
elevated chairs of the high council at one end.
was notably empty. Nibbler took in the absence of Ken with a heavy
four greetings to you, Lord Nibbler, and to your companions.”
Fiona’s voice rang out across the hall.
stopped before her seat and looked up at the Nibblonian leader
have travelled far and braved many perils in bringing the Mighty One
here to the completion of his destiny,” he said. “Twice
we have set him against the great foe, and twice he smote them.”
me!” Fry shouted, pumping the air with his fist. His voice
echoed around the quiet chamber, with scores of Nibblonian faces
around the hall regarding him in bemusement.
then,” Nibbler went on, ignoring the interruption, “do
you now suggest we act without the aid of this child of prophecy,
upon whom we have pinned our hopes for eons?”
the Mighty One failed,” Fiona said.
not!” Fry exclaimed defensively, and Leela placed a hand on his
arm to silence him.
the Brainspawn has now allowed for the creation of a new threat,
greater than any we have previously faced – using the Mighty
One availed us nothing, therefore we must turn to another solution.”
glanced around at the other members of the council, seeing hints of
uncertainty and fear in their faces. Many of them showed signs of the
cosmic stigma (his own had now spread down one leg).
Mighty One’s true function was never utilized,” Nibbler
said loudly, raising his paws as if beckoning the assembly to heed
his word. “His role was never to banish the Brainspawn, but to
set right the great fracture by wielding the Lance of Fate against
chittering emanated from the Nibblonians, escalating to the eruption
of full-blown arguments and hissing.
what of what?” Fry muttered, raising an eyebrow.
Fiona shouted, and then when the hubbub died down she declared: “The
Lance cannot be used!”
you seek to convince me?” Nibbler asked, glancing around at the
hall full of small three-eyed creatures. “…Or them? It
appears your opinion is not as universal as you would like to
glowered at Nibbler. And for the first time Fry and Leela saw a
Nibblonian actually look as fearsome as they claimed to be.
he uses it,” she seethed, “then our race, in this form,
will cease to exist.”
Fry said, stepping forward. “Time out, guys! What the heck are
you talking about? What’s the Lance of Fate?
yammering erupted from the onlooking creatures.
does not know?”
he does not!”
not, does he?”
voice cut across the others. “He doesn’t need to
know!” she shouted, and then when the noise died down she
addressed Fry in a tone of forced kindness: “Your Mightiness,”
she said, “you have aided us in the past, and that assistance
has been greatly appreciated – but the time has come for a new
course. We are beyond the foretelling of prophecy now.”
what course will that be?” Nibbler demanded.
paused for a moment, as if unsure of how to proceed, then steeled
herself. “We will make an alliance against Onespawn,” she
said. “An alliance… with the Brainspawn.”
eyes went wide. Fry and Leela gasped. Bender leisurely exhaled a
cloud of cigar smoke.
cannot be serious?” Nibbler exclaimed.
rest of the Brainspawn race are every bit as threatened as we by the
scourge of Onespawn,” Fiona said. “Contact with them has
already been made through the underspace immersion array, and they
have agreed to a truce for the duration of our war against this new
common enemy. Preparations are being made even now to return them to
this dimensional plane. They will help us fight…”
should this alliance succeed,” Nibbler said incredulously,
“your new allies will then return to their own goal of
understanding and destroying everything – there can be no
will be a bridge to be crossed at such time as it is reached,”
Fiona said gravely. “For now, it is better the devil we know.”
we can stop them, once and for all,” Nibbler argued, desperate
now. “Trillions of lives can be saved!”
Nibbler!” Fiona shouted. “If you have nothing to offer
but notions of doubt and pointless fatalism then you should leave
this chamber! We are in a time of crisis and for the good of our own
people we must make difficult decisions.”
not the decision that acknowledges our true role…”
Nibbler said bitterly, slumping his shoulders.
The command echoed in the hall of forever; Nibbler growled and turned
away, scampering from the chamber with Fry, Leela, and Bender in tow.
this has all been a big waste of my valuable time,” Bender
remarked irritably when they’d gathered together outside again.
stared up into the soft cherry sunlight and sighed in exhaustion and
Leela knelt down beside the creature, and out of habit began
scratching him behind the ear, making him coo and purr despite
himself. “Explain,” she went on. “What is this
‘Lance of Fate’, and why don’t the others want it
to be used?”
well,” Nibbler murmured, leaning into her hand. “I shall
tell you, but not here in the open – let us return to the ship,
that we may consume sustenance.”
picked him up, and together they all headed back to the Planet
As the SS
Brezhnev hurtled through space at around 99.9% of increased
lightspeed, Mom, Farnsworth, and the rest of the incursion team
followed Wernstrom through corridors until they abruptly reached a
vast open area that had been carved out of the ship’s interior,
massively wide, and many decks high.
enormous cavern was alive with nanotech pseudopods that snaked across
every surface, all leading back to the thing that took up most
of the space.
Mom said. “That’s some growth spurt!”
towered above them all, easily fifty feet high, surrounded by hard
chitinous columns of nanomachine growth that branched from its tissue
and away into the ship.
cowered in a corner.
amazing!” Farnsworth said, snatching one of the scientists’
Tricorders to examine its readout.
it know we’re here?” Mom asked.
no!” Farnsworth replied. “I’d imagine if it did, it
would have rendered us idiots and we’d all be licking the floor
and taking Fox News reports as factual right now. No, it seems all
the neural pulses are directed through the nano-structure for the
time being.” He tapped his shielding helmet. “Looks like
Mom said briskly, turning to her men. “You all know what has to
ma’am,” the head security man said. Quickly and
efficiently, the uniformed operatives moved out around Onespawn’s
sanctum, placing the cases they carried on the floor a circular
formation, roughly equidistant.
bombs with a phased antimatter tamper,” Mom explained. “It’s
a configuration that’s not officially supposed to exist. They
call them ‘Planet-Buster’ nukes.” She gestured to a
transmitter device affixed to her belt. “I can set them off by
subspace signal when we’re safely away.”
grunted, not really listening, and continued to study the Tricorder
readout. “This is interesting,” he said. “The
creature’s brainwave patterns are so fluid… its mind
must be like an open barn door – receptive to any suggestion,
like a child willing to believe in fantasy…”
is how the Brainspawn were first expelled from Earth,”
Wernstrom said weakly from the corner. “A deception… a
cares?” Mom said, glancing at her watch. “We’re
about to blow the thing into less than atoms and be back home in time
security personnel moved around Onespawn’s sanctum, one of them
stepped mistakenly onto a thick fibrous tendril of nanite growth. His
boot cracked the outer crust and sunk in up to the ankle as a wet
slurry of nanomachines adhered to the fabric.
man struggled to free himself, Onespawn stirred, with a faint blue
glow beginning to issue from around the giant brain. The
nano-structure alerted him to the presence of an unknown contaminant,
Onespawn scanned around itself, noting at last the subversive
software that was corrupting the surveillance cameras. It cleared
them and at once beheld a group of invaders clustered around, somehow
shielded from mental detection.
let out a tremendous psychic howl that had the incursion team
dropping to the floor in agony. When the onslaught ceased, they all
blinked stupidly and got to their feet, staring up at the gigantic
brain in rapt fascination.
pinky balloon!” Mom said. “Me want!”
corner, Wernstrom shuddered as waves of stupefaction washed over him,
having no effect now that his mind had been completely subsumed.
Onespawn’s monumental will groped inside his head, taking
charge of synapses and directing his thoughts once again. In a
zombie-like state, he surged to his feet, struggling painfully all
the while, and began walking stiffly toward one of the security men
who was peering into the end of his own rifle.
think Enterprise was a worthy and well-executed prequel to the
Original Series,” Farnsworth declared as he repeatedly slapped
his own helmet.
forgot what I’m meant to do after I exhale!” Larry
gasped, clutching his chest and turning blue.
controlled by Onespawn, staggered up to the security man and grabbed
hold of his positron rifle. The man looked bewildered.
want to call my girlfriend but I can’t get a signal on that
thing,” he said.
gritted his teeth, trying to fight the alien influence, but failed.
he groaned weakly.
He shot the man at point blank range, cringing mentally when droplets
of blood spattered against him. He turned and shakily levelled the
rifle at another security operative, who tried to fire back, but was
holding the gun backwards and blew away a sizable chunk of his own
fall down!” Mom noted curiously, looking at the dead bodies.
big meanie!” Larry shouted at Wernstrom. Wernstrom shot him in
the chest with a cry of agonized anguish, and he fell smoking to the
Mom cried, falling to her knees beside Larry’s prone form.
“Don’t die! Mommy’s favourite son!”
swung the positron rifle to point at Farnsworth, who smiled stupidly.
Professy can’t die,” he said confidently. “This
writer only kills ancillary characters, cannon-fodder for perfunctory
bloodbaths that the main characters somehow always manage to escape
with only minor injuries… duh, perhaps until right at the end
when there’s an unexpected twist…”
Wernstrom and Onespawn both replied in synchronized confusion.
Wernstrom said through clenched teeth, looking at Farnsworth over the
trembling sights of the rifle. “Get out… I can’t
fight it… too strong.”
Farnsworth reached out and poked his finger into the gun barrel.
you stupid old bastard!” Wernstrom growled angrily, and for a
moment he felt something give in his mind, as if one of Onespawn’s
talons had torn free. His finger trembled on the trigger and he let
out a low growl. Onespawn’s will screamed at him across the
psychic link, pushing him to finish the job – to exterminate
the invaders and deactivate the bombs.
up,” Wernstrom hissed in agony. “Shut up, you gigantic
moron…” Another facet of mental subsumption seemed to
tear, and blood began to flow from Wernstrom’s nose. He pulled
the rifle away from Farnsworth and pointed it at Onespawn.
brain’s fury rippled out as a wave of telekinetic energy that
lifted Wernstrom and the others from their feet and slammed them into
Mom complained, sliding down the wall. “Metal hard!”
indeed hard!” Farnsworth agreed, finding himself upside-down on
the floor. “Even Slipknot, which really is metal and not stupid
poser garbage at all!”
fell to the floor, bleeding and sobbing. For the moment it seemed
Onespawn’s control of his mind was gone, but he could already
feel the nanomachine structures in his brain beginning to reform
synaptic links. Time was short.
on!” he shouted to the others. “Follow me!”
stared at him blankly.
go get ice cream!” he added.
Farnsworth, and the rest of the team followed happily while Onespawn
pulsed and screeched behind them. Moving as fast as he could,
Wernstrom ran through the corridors, hoping that the others could
sanctum, Onespawn strained against the nanomachine columns and vines
that held the creature enthroned to the ship. It couldn’t move,
and was unable to do anything about the bombs that sat around the
floor with red lights blinking their armed state. It roared and
cursed and spat and seethed, helplessly…
Brezhnev’s escape pods hadn’t been used by the ill-fated
research team due to their remoteness from any possible aid and the
fact they’d been confident in their ability to destroy the
rogue Brainspawn. Now Wernstrom ushered Mom’s incursion team
into one of the pods with the promise of frozen treats, pausing to
snatch the transmitter off the old woman’s belt as she went.
Mom said sulkily.
just borrowing it.” Wernstrom replied.
was the last inside, and he looked at Wernstrom expectantly.
coming too?” he asked stupidly, and Wernstrom shook his head
and hit the emergency eject button. The escape pod closed up and
launched from its tube, out into open space. He watched the
Brezhnev’s defensive systems try to shoot down the pod, but the
Momship flew an intercept course and took a few hits for the little
module before recovering it and rocketing away to standoff range.
looked around him at the nanotech growth that was detaching from the
walls and ceiling to snake toward him with intent. Onespawn scrabbled
desperately to reclaim control of his mind. He looked at the
transmitter in his hand and sighed.
probably too much to ask,” he said to himself, “that I be
remembered for this, instead of everything else…”
that, he pushed the detonate button.
planet-buster nukes exploded simultaneously, and in a heartbeat most
of the mass of the Brezhnev was converted directly into x-rays and
gamma radiation in a burst that rivalled a supernova. Planets in a
nearby system were scoured of their atmospheres and far away on Earth
the conflagration would appear in less than an hour as the brightest
light in the night sky.
Momship was buffeted by concussive waves of hard radiation and
subspace compression, and was left temporarily dead in the water,
with its outer hull shedding globules of white-hot molten metal.
corona dissipated and the Momship gradually came back online, the
survivors of the incursion team climbed out of the
nanomachine-encrusted escape pod inside the hangar bay, to be met by
a decontamination squad.
the hell happened?” Mom asked as she was sprayed in an
undignified manner by nanite-retardant foam.
don’t remember,” Farnsworth said, furrowing his brow.
“Who are all you people?”
Brezhnev exploded,” one of the hazmat-wearing deck hands
informed them through a blank facemask.
looked around. “Where’s Larry?” she asked suddenly.
had an answer, and she stared silently at her hands.
their cell door malfunctioned in the Electromagnetic pulse, Hermes,
Amy, and Scruffy made their way to the bridge of the ship, appearing
at the same time as Mom and Farnsworth arrived, still dripping with
the hell did you people get out?” Mom said, without her usual
level of hostility. She was tired and distant.
could fix you up with some better locks,” Scruffy muttered.
moved out onto the bridge proper, and Gary Helm, the Helmsman, got up
from the Helm and gave Mom a clumsy salute. She pushed past him and
looked through the forward viewscreen at the expanding rings of
plasma and gaseous remains of the Brezhnev.
gone?” she asked of the crew in general.
think so,” the Helmsman said. “Sensors are still degraded
– the EM background is a mess. But nothing could have survived
stared in silence, and Farnsworth moved to join her. For long minutes
they continued to watch the slowly-cooling cloud of radioactive
matter, before the Professor finally spoke.
he said softly. “It’s time to go. I don’t remember
why we’re standing here, but my feet hurt.”
have to know for certain,” Mom said, ignoring the forbidden use
of her real name. “I have to know it’s dead.”
stood and waited. Time wafted by.
sensors on the ship began to emit high-pitched chimes and beeps.
Technicians looked up in alarm. Something was materialising out of
the irradiated cloud.
can’t be…” the Helmsman said.
magnification!” Mom demanded.
screen zoomed in, and a horrified gasp escaped the lips of all those
tenacious bastard,” Mom muttered in barely-controlled fury.
space, the disparate molecules of Onespawn swam back together, pulled
at by the creature’s mysterious quantum flux, and reassembled.
The giant alien brain floated free, where the Brezhnev had once been.
And it wasn’t happy.
Chapter 14: Weapon of No Choice
superstructure was comprised of five pylons arranged in a circle,
each nearly a kilometre tall, that hummed with esoteric energies. It
was on an isolated patch of the Eternium tundra that showed signs of
much recent activity conducted very quickly.
sun began to set, the Nibblonian council delegation arrived at the
site by hovercraft, and Fiona stepped off to survey the ugly towers
of hastily cobbled-together technology.
it ready?” she asked one of the technical specialists nearby.
he replied glumly.
humans have already opened the way,” she said placatingly. “We
are only hastening that which is inevitable. Do it.”
recalcitrant growl, the technician reluctantly activated a remote
control device, and the pylons’ hum increased a hundredfold.
purple lightning arced out into the open area between them toward a
point of glaring iridescence poised in the air between the spires of
machinery, which crackled and expanded into a vast rippling sphere of
observing Nibblonians backed away fearfully.
Planet Express ship, Nibbler told a tale as he sat surrounded by the
remains of three hams.
billion Earth years ago,” he said, “the Universe was
created in the mass quantum-inversion event that you know as the ‘big
billion…” Fry repeated, scratching his chin. “Was
that before or after the moon landings?”
the crucible of that inversion,” Nibbler went on, ignoring him,
“The Brainspawn were created as the mirror of my race, this you
know. However, at the same instant, the energy discharge of that
unnatural inversion solidified into a mass of pure condensed
spacetime, a temporal waste-product, if you will, that links the two
races and remained here at the centre of the expanding Universe until
our ancient sages recovered it. Knowing the power it held, but unable
to wield it themselves, they fashioned it into the form of a weapon,
the Lance of Fate, and stored it here until the fabled Mighty One
appeared – for he, with his unique relationship to time, is the
only one who can use it.”
it for what?” Leela asked.
Nibbler said simply. “If used correctly, against the primary
brain in the Brainspawn collective, the Lance could fuse the
Nibblonians and Brainspawn back together into one race.”
when Fiona said that you’d cease to exist ‘in this form’…
she was telling the truth?” Leela said, aghast. “What
would you become?”
Nibbler replied. “And that uncertainty is the reason my people
long ago decided that the Lance would not be used, deciding instead
to pursue alternate means, which I always felt to be of questionable
merit. Many agree with me, but they are frightened by the prospect of
losing all that we are. Billions of years of history and culture is a
difficult thing to let go of…”
Bender said, ceasing his feigned disinterest. “Why would you
want to combine with those giant brain things and turn into something
else if you don’t even know what you’ll be?”
it will end the blight of the Brainspawn forever,” Nibbler
growled, “then that sacrifice is miniscule.” He turned
away. “The Brainspawn exist because of us… they are a
part of us. It is our duty.”
Leela repeated, picking Nibbler up and holding him before her. “You
won’t even be you anymore…” She found
herself anguished by the idea.
Nibbler said softly. “Gentle Leela, you have always cared for
me, protected me. You stand as testament to the majesty of life that
exists within the Universe. It is for you and all those like you that
my people should make this stand – to prevent the destruction
of beauty and love and all the potential for those most precious
jewels yet to be born.”
Leela’s lip trembled. “Surely… there must be
Nibbler replied. “It is the course we were destined to take,
from the very beginning. All other avenues, taken out of fear, merely
delayed what must ultimately be.” He smiled at her. “It
is all right,” he said.
could think of nothing else to say, so she hugged Nibbler close. Fry
and Bender looked at each other and shrugged.
massive dimensional portal fluxed and pulsed, kicking up a great wind
that roared across the plain. Within the spherical event horizon
there were shapes. At first they seemed to be at some impossible
distance, but soon came closer to the shimmering field of energy,
resolving into individual blob-like forms.
coming!” one of the observing Nibblonians shouted. “Oh,
by the living Fates – what have we done?”
steady!” Fiona yelled.
should have listened to Lord Nibbler!” another said.
reached the event horizon and squeezed through. Hundreds, then
thousands, and then millions. They came through the energy curtain,
crackling with interdimensional discharges, and filled up the
darkening sky – an onslaught of flying brains.
Nibblonians stood looking up at the Brainspawn horde, and the
Brainspawn regarded their eternal enemies. Time itself seemed to hold
grimaced suddenly. “They’re here,” he grunted.
Brainspawn… the rest of them.”
moved automatically toward the helm. “Let’s get out of
here,” she said.
– wait!” Nibbler said. “Now may be our only
opportunity to recover the Lance, the council and its forces will be
occupied liaising with their reluctant new allies…”
come on then!” Fry said. “Where is it?”
Precept. Follow me,” Nibbler replied, leaping from Leela’s
arms and scampering out and down the landing stairs.
was beginning to coalesce around the Hall of Forever as the little
group hurried back inside. The interior of the hall was now deserted,
and Nibbler ran to the centre of the wide empty floor. His third eye
pulsed a telepathic entry code, and a circular section of the floor
suddenly subsided, dropping down into recesses in progressively
deeper segments to form a spiral staircase that wound down into
the group descended.
and around the staircase went, going deeper and deeper into the
planet’s crust. For what seemed like an eternity they tramped
onward in the dark. At length the stairs gave way to a gravely slope
that continued downward in a straight line. Their footfalls echoed
around them now, bouncing back and fourth in such a way that they
sensed a vast open space. Water dripped somewhere – they’d
entered a natural cave system.
much further?” Bender asked irritably.
close,” Nibbler said. “Behold.”
ahead, a weak light gleamed within the heart of darkness, and the
group hurried onward. As they neared, the light resolved into two
pale glowing columns that marked the opening into another chamber
are about to enter Terminal Precept,” Nibbler said. “This
is where the Lance of Fate has been stored for eons. Though my
forebears denied its use, it could not be destroyed, so they kept it
does it look like?” Fry asked.
do not know. I have never seen it.”
moved through the adjoining passage into the soft light cast by the
glowing columns, and found themselves standing on a ledge that
overlooked a massive cavern, the far side of which was obscured by
shadow. The cavern didn’t appear to have a bottom – just
an abysmal hungry darkness that hid an unfathomable depth. Fry kicked
a rock off the ledge and it spiralled away down and down into the
dark. Though he listened closely, he could hear no impact.
centre of the immense void, a single column of pale stone stood,
reaching to the ceiling and down into the impenetrable gloom below.
It was connected to the ledge by a very narrow stone bridge, with no
you can cram this up wherever you little three-eyed critters
traditionally cram things,” Bender said, backing away from the
edge. “There’s no way I’m going out there.”
one of us has to,” Nibbler said, glancing at Fry. “The
containment column is designed only to open for the Mighty One.”
Fry groaned, pulling a face at Nibbler and thumbing in Bender’s
direction. “Bite his shiny metal ass,” he muttered.
shrugged apologetically, and Fry started toward the
precarious-looking bridge with another put-upon groan.
a voice bellowed, echoing around the vast cavern. Fry paused, and the
others looked around. From an alcove above the entryway, two
Nibblonian warriors emerged, hopping down the uneven stone wall with
their little swords held at the ready and their armour gleaming in
been ordered to deny you access,” one of them said. “Please
they’re so cute in their little armours,” Leela said,
clasping her hands in delight.
guards glanced at each other in irritation, and the one who had
spoken earlier turned to look at Nibbler.
Nibbler,” he said. “I have the greatest respect for you –
please do not make this harder than it needs to be.”
regarded the warriors for a long moment, and then spoke levelly.
have come here to complete our destiny,” he said, and gestured
at Fry, who had taken a moment to pick his nose. “The Mighty
One will wield the Lance of Fate, and so end the threat of the
Brainspawn - forever. This is the cause that we and our
forebears have sworn to uphold. You would stand in the way of that?
Now? At the cumulation of all things?”
warriors looked uncertain.
not be afraid,” Nibbler told them. “We each of us are
prepared to give our lives to the fulfilment of our great labour –
but we do not have to. The fracture can be mended, and the disparate
elements of reality can be reunited. The Universe will be safe.”
The guards had nothing to say. Nibbler nodded at them in
understanding and looked up at Fry. “Please retrieve the
Lance,” he said.
stepped gingerly onto the bridge, and swayed with vertigo as the dark
abyss below seemed to pull at him. Sense of balance and spatial
orientation both abandoned him simultaneously and he wobbled from
side to side. Suddenly a strong hand clasped his shoulder and held
Leela said, close to his ear, her breath warm against his skin.
“We’ll do this together.”
smiled gratefully, and as one they moved out onto the narrow strip of
stone, edging forward, one foot at a time.
one of the Nibblonian warriors said uncertainly, and Fry and Leela
glanced back. “…Good luck,” the warrior finished.
He and his companion glanced at each other, and then scampered away
down the entry passage.
great care!” Nibbler called anxiously, as Fry and Leela resumed
their slow edging progress.
you two die, I’m pawning your stuff!” Bender added.
gritted his teeth in determination; confidence seemed to flow into
him from Leela’s hand resting firmly on his shoulder.
there,” Leela said. “You’re doing great.”
Leela,” Fry said. They moved onward, and the central column
gradually grew nearer. Suddenly, from out of the depths, a swarm of
shrieking winged creatures erupted around them, screeching and
shooting past, dangerously close on both sides.
Leela cried, swatting at the creatures.
aren’t bats!” Nibbler shouted from across the cavern.
“They’re cave Wyverns. Similar to bats, but poisonous!”
Leela screamed and began flailing wildly at the Wyverns. Leela’s
lack of depth perception caused some distance confusion in the
half-light, and she flinched backwards reflexively when one of the
creatures looked closer to her face than it was. Her boot met empty
air, and she suddenly found herself dropping into open space without
time to even swear.
caught her by the armpits, and she swung over the infinite black
drop, looking up into Fry’s face as he held onto her, laying
flat on his belly across the stone bridge. The swarm of Wyverns
passed, shrieking away into the gloom, and Leela scrabbled for a grip
on the rock. With Fry’s help, she managed to pull herself up
onto the bridge, and they sat together for a moment, panting.
okay?” Fry said.
think so, thanks,” Leela replied. She narrowed her eye and
shouted over to Nibbler: “Any other surprises down here?”
Nibbler shouted back, and then muttered quietly to Bender: “Besides
the Baldrog, of course, but it’s usually hibernating at this
time of year.”
Leela continued their precarious, painstaking journey, and arrived
finally at the central column, where a ledge encircled the pale stone
trunk. It was smooth, with an almost marble-like surface, which Fry
ran his hands over.
warm,” he said. “Like a bottle of beer left out in the
does it open?” Leela said.
would you want to open a warm beer?”
I dunno,” Fry said. “Maybe there’s a rock with a
key under it…” He began looking around on the ledge, and
suddenly the column began to glow with a pale warm light.
level identified correct,” a soft psychic voice said.
I did it!” Fry grinned as a large section of the column
disappeared, revealing a deep alcove. He and Leela peered inside and
gasped in wonder.
in a beam of turquoise light, the Lance of Fate hung poised in
glittering splendour, its shaft of exotic metal reflecting
brilliantly, and the curved blade, fashioned from the condensed
fabric of spacetime itself, was alive with wild and incomprehensible
power… at times their eyes seemed to slide around it, and then
it would change, and they’d feel as if they were being drawn
Leela said, looking away and blinking. “I feel like I’ll
have a seizure if I look at that thing too long.”
squinted at the Lance and tilted his head to one side. “I think
I see it,” he said. “A bunny rabbit?”
isn’t a magic-eye thing, Fry,” Leela said patiently.
“Come on, just grab it and let’s get out of here before
those Wyverns come back.”
reached into the light, feeling his skin tingle with unknown energy.
As his hands closed around the Lance, a ripple of temporal
disturbance radiated out from the blade of the weapon as it responded
to Fry’s out-of-phase molecules. For a moment, every sentient
being on the planet experienced a strong sense of déjà
we do this before?” Leela said in sudden confusion.
you’re thinking of the time we had to steal the Spear of
Destiny from the Louvre,” Fry said absently, testing the weight
of the weapon in his hands. It was surprisingly light.
reached out curiously to touch the mind-bending blade of the Lance,
and for an instant she seemed to morph in and out of phase with
regular time, appearing as an infant, a pimply teenager, an adult, an
elderly woman with grey hair, and finally a dust-covered skeleton.
out in shock and horror at the sight, pulling the Lance away from
her. She returned to her normal appearance and frowned at him in
the matter?” she asked, unaware of the temporal compression
that had just taken place.
Fry said, visibly shaken. The vision of a skull with a single central
eye socket was caught in his mind, no matter how hard he tried to
bury it. He swallowed and tried to smile for Leela, who was looking
at him oddly. A slight tremble in the ledge beneath their feet
provided a distraction and they both looked around, noticing a deep
background rumble that was growing louder.
the cavern, Nibbler bared his teeth in alarm as stones began to
dislodge from the cavern walls and clatter around him and the robot.
did not know of this,” he said. “A final defensive
mechanism… you must flee!”
it!” Bender seconded.
the size of a house dropped past them in ponderous silence, and Fry
and Leela needed no further prompting. Taking much less care this
time, they began to run across the narrow stone bridge as fast as
they could go, while the central column shattered behind them, and
the cavern ceiling began to crumble down around their ears…
chamber was self-destructing.
we have an accord?” Fiona asked the Big Brain, as it hovered
several feet above her. The other Nibblonians hung back, growling and
gnashing their teeth.
yes!” the Brain pulsed irritably in its rounded androgynous
voice. “Now just stop thinking so much… argh, it hurts!”
inclined her head, then glanced up when an aide prodded her shoulder
and whispered in her ear. Her three eyes widened.
impulsive idiot!” she said.
problem?” the Big Brain pulsed.
of my kind,” Fiona said awkwardly. “…Is trying to
make off with the Lance of Fate…”
Lance of Fate?” the Brainspawn seethed, and the incredulity and
horror of it’s the rest of the horde could be felt despite
their high-altitude positions. “But you agreed long ago that it
is just one Nibblonian!” Fiona said hurriedly.
the Lance is useless without the Mighty One in any case,” the
cleared her throat uncomfortably. “He… he has the Mighty
One with him.”
a creature with no throat or lungs shouldn’t technically gasp,
the Brainspawn did away with logic for the duration and did just
that. “They must be stopped!” it said.
With that, the Brainspawn floated away quickly, and Fiona headed
back to the hovercraft. The other Nibblonians eyed her, some with
simple uncertainty, but others now with undisguised malice. She
didn’t care – the future of their species was at stake,
and sacrifices had to be made.