Fan Fiction

Blame It On The Brain, part 6
By coldangel_1

Chapter 19: A Spaceship Named Desire

Leela abandoned the helm and ran headlong through the ship, arriving in the cargo bay even as vapour still billowed from the re-compression nozzles set in the bulkhead. She stumbled over masses of netting piled up on the deck, to where the motionless figure in the orange space suit lay tangled up.

Leela felt tears running down her face as she sliced through the giraffe net with her field knife and pulled Fry out by the arms. His skin was almost white, except for the red and purple vacuum burns that marred his face. With shaking fingers, she unlatched the helmet and pulled it off.

“Fry?” she said. “Fry?!” He wasn’t breathing, and so as Bender and Nibbler arrived she bent over him and placed her mouth over his cracked lips, blowing air into brutally battered lungs.

She did it again and again, with no response, pausing to press her fingers against his carotid artery.

“There’s no pulse!” she sobbed, willing his bruised eyelids to open.

“Stand aside!” Bender said. The robot crouched and forcibly tore the front of Fry’s space suit open. “Clear!” he said, placing his metal hands on Fry’s chest. A sharp jolt of electricity lanced into Fry’s body and his spine arced, before slumping down again. Leela checked his pulse once more, and shook her head. She blew three more breaths into Fry’s mouth and moved back while Bender defibrillated him once again.

They repeated the process several times, with Leela’s tears falling on Fry’s still face. Nibbler paced up and down, wringing his little paws anxiously.

“Are you sure you’re doing it right?” he said.

“Yes!” Leela shouted. “Be quiet!” She breathed into Fry again, and sat back on her haunches as Bender zapped him.

“Come on Fry,” she said, looking at the pale figure. “Don’t do this to me… please don’t do this to me.”

Bender moved back from Fry’s body, looking defeated. “Leela…” he said quietly. “I don’t think he’s gonna…”

“Shut up!” Leela yelled, her voice breaking. “I don’t want to hear it! We won’t give up on him! He’d never give up on any of us!” Sobbing, she took Fry’s face between her hands and pressed her lips against his, trying to breathe life into him. Again and again she emptied her lungs into his, until she started to get dizzy, then she broke away and hammered her fist against his sternum.

“Wake up, damn you!” she shouted between sobs, pounding his chest repeatedly. “You can’t do this to me! I’m your Captain – I didn’t give you permission to lie down on the job – wake up!”

Fry didn’t move.

Bender gently took Leela by the shoulders, and she collapsed against him, weeping pitifully into his metal chest.

“Oh God,” she cried. “I don’t know what to… I don’t…”

“It’s not right,” Bender said, hugging her closely. “It just isn’t right.”

Nibbler stared gravely at the dead man. “This cannot be,” he said. “Without the Mighty One, the Universe will…”

Who cares about your damned Universe!?” Leela screamed, lurching away from Bender to stand with her fists clenched, as if she hoped to punch death itself. “What good is all your talk of fate and destiny if it can’t bring my Fry back?”

Nibbler said nothing, and Leela fell to her knees beside Fry’s body. For a moment there was silence, and Leela stared at the motionless form. Then her eye narrowed.

“No,” she said, with anger bubbling in her voice. “No, I’m not letting you give up!” She began breathing into his mouth again, franticly.

“Leela, stop,” Bender said miserably, reaching to pull her back. “It’s pointless, leave him be.”

“Juice him!” Leela shouted.


Do it, you useless walking trashcan!”

Miserably compliant, Bender put his hands on Fry’s chest and emptied voltage into his body. Leela checked the pulse.

“Again!” she said.

Again, the thump of electricity, and Fry’s body spasmed… and then he gasped. His eyes fluttered open as he sucked in a huge quantity of air, and then he turned on his side, wracked by a terrible fit of coughing. Leela was holding him tight, her tears of relief warm on his skin; Bender gripped his hand, and Nibbler scurried around him excitedly.

The others were talking, but Fry couldn’t focus on the words – his brain hadn’t yet re-oxygenated completely. His vision was blurred, and his entire body felt like one huge amorphous toothache.

When he was able to form words, his voice rasped like a badly-tuned radio.

“I’m not… dead,” he observed.

“You were,” Bender said. “For about five minutes. Good to have you back, buddy.”

“I was worried for a moment,” Nibbler added. “But your grip on life is most tenacious indeed. Welcome back.”

Fry looked up at Leela. She was holding him across her lap, looking wretchedly exhausted and tear-streaked and beautiful. She leaned down and kissed him, and then drew back and struck him across the face with an open palm. The slap barely registered on top of all the other pain, but the sudden fury in her eye made Fry cringe.

“That’s for making me cry,” she said angrily. “You stupid heroic bastard – what the hell gives you the right to throw away your life and leave all your friends behind?!”

“…Was… trying to save you all,” Fry whispered painfully, his damaged lungs and esophagus not quite up to the task of normal speech. “Didn’t… wanna see you get hurt…”

“But I am hurt!” Leela cried. “Look at me! I thought I’d lost you… how could I ever keep going?”

“S…sorry,” Fry rasped, slumping down into her lap and shutting his eyes.

“Come on,” Bender said softly. “Let’s get him to the sickbay.” He coiled his arms under Fry and took him off Leela, carrying him away.

The Lance of Fate still hung from Fry’s spacesuit utility harness, shimmering in constant flux.

Accompanied by its escort of subservient Brainspawn, Onespawn entered the outer reaches of the Sol system – birthplace of humanity. Earth gleamed like a distant gem close to its warm yellow star, but Onespawn wasn’t ready for that yet. Instead, it angled toward the furthest planet – the insignificant ice-ball called Pluto.

A subtle and familiar subspace disturbance had resumed, and Onespawn realized that somehow, against all odds, the Mighty One had survived. It needed to build its strength – absorb mass for conversion to energy, and go to the city of New New York where Philip J. Fry was sure to follow. And when the idiot tried to save his home, he would be consumed in the maelstrom that Onespawn would unleash.

Presenting its undamaged side to take the thermal load, Onespawn entered Pluto’s thin atmosphere, carving a vast line of fire against the planet’s dark sky. The subsumed Brainspawn horde remained in orbit, patrolling. Pluto was a world that had never really made it – terraforming projects had come and gone, managing to thicken the atmosphere only slightly; in the end it had been like trying to bail water with a butterfly net.

…Not that Onespawn really cared, it just happened to have the knowledge accrued by the long-dead Infosphere kicking around in its mind. Pointless really.

It slammed down into a glacier and sunk in the resulting crater amid vast plumes of steam. Rock lay beneath the ice, and the creature immediately extended its pseudopod growths to begin tearing into the raw materials; feeding them back into itself and using them to grow and change. As the planet’s crust began to subside beneath Onespawn, a large crowd of penguins appeared around the giant brain’s crater. Oddly, many of them appeared to be armed with rifles. Not bothering to ponder this particular turn of insanity, Onespawn expanded its stupidification field, leaving the flightless birds stumbling around and accidentally shooting one another.

The gigantic abomination had designed a new organ, which it began to construct. It was an esoteric growth, spherical and made of strange matter that the creature had to refine at the sub-atomic level through the destruction of regular matter.

It had only one purpose – the cancelling of reality.

The Omicronians had confronted Mom’s ship after Onespawn’s second escape, and she was forced to make a difficult choice. She told Lrrr everything – about the summoning of the Brainspawn, and all that had happened since. Transparency, she figured, might make the alien less inclined to turn her ship into molten slag.

Lrrr expressed his loud and unrestrained disgust at humanity’s propensity for meddling with forces it didn’t understand. Nevertheless, his overriding concern was in regard to the revelation that Onespawn had the ability and inclination to destroy the Universe.

“It must be stopped,” Lrrr declared.

Mom agreed.

And so, the Omicronian armada, along with the Momship, set off in the direction Onespawn had gone… in the direction of Earth.

The head of Richard M. Nixon appeared on a holographic display on the bridge of the Nimbus, illuminated in 3D.

“Amazing,” Captain Zapp Brannigan said. “This new hologram display is so realistic – I can almost smell the cranial preservation fluids.” He leaned over in his command chair and nudged his lieutenant, continuing in a low voice. “Imagine how skin flicks are gonna look on this baby… all those big bouncy juicy…”

Kif sighed.

“Shut up, Brannigan!” Nixon growled. “We’ve got an unknown incursion force in the solar system. Observation drones show it’s made planetfall on Pluto.”

“Pluto, eh?” Brannigan said, rubbing his square chin thoughtfully. “Wasn’t that Mickey Mouse’s dog?”

“The fleet is being mobilized,” Nixon went on. “With your experience in dealing with hostile alien threats, you’ve been selected as commander of operations – investigate the nature and intent of the invasion force, and then destroy it regardless of your findings.”

“Very well, Mr. President’s head. I will make haste.” The hologram vanished and Zapp turned slowly in his seat, incidentally giving the rest of the bridge crew an unwanted view up his velour skirt.

“Shall I set the course, sir?” Kif asked.

“To where, Kif?” Zapp said. “You and I both know there’s no planet named Pluto. The President was speaking in code… obviously he’s being held against his will and is trying to get a message out… but what did he mean?”

“Ugh…” Kif wordlessly keyed the stellar cartography console to bring up the image and location of the planet Pluto on the holograph projector.

“Ah,” Zapp said, raising an eyebrow. “Must be new. Well… Kif – shouldn’t you be setting a course?”

Fry slept, and Leela watched over him, leaning against the sickbay doorframe with her arms folded and an unreadable expression on her face. Bender and Nibbler came and went, but she remained, watching over him as the low-quality medical nanites and protein boosters from the ship’s meagre first aid supplies did their work.

Fry’s body was a disaster zone (more so than usual). The rapid decompression had torn the lining of his lungs and ruptured thousands of blood vessels all over his body. Compounding the damage was the tissue hypoxia resulting from the long minutes of oxygen starvation. Back in his own era, he would have permenant brain damage, though Leela knew his brain wasn’t exactly a normal specimen. The 31st century meds would be able to repair the damage in any case.

Fry stirred, and Leela was at his side instantly, looking down at him in concern. He blinked and focused her.

“Oh,” he said groggily. “Leela… your eye.”


“I’d… like to wake up looking at your eye… every morning for the rest of my life…” he said.

Leela smirked. “A little bit of horror to start the day?” she said.

“You gotta be joking,” Fry murmured, still drifting around the edge of full consciousness. “You have a beautiful eye… like a gem in the heavens… I could lose myself in it.”

Leela, momentarily taken aback by that, stared at Fry for a few seconds longer before speaking again. “Are you… feeling any better?” she asked with uncharacteristic shyness.

“Comfortably numb,” Fry replied. “I guess I was pretty stupid, huh?”

Leela looked away. “No, not really,” she said quietly. “I guess you were noble and brave and selfless, damn you. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do what you did. I’m sorry I yelled… and hit you.”

“That’s okay. It’s what I’m here for.” Having progressed up through a few more layers of wakefulness, Fry attempted the treacherous ascent to sitting position, almost falling off the cot in the process. Leela supported him, and he found himself swaying, dizzy and ill.

“I couldn’t beat Onespawn,” he said miserably.

“It’s okay,” Leela said.

“It just flung me aside like a rag-doll…”

“Don’t worry about that now,” Leela said forcibly. “You’ve been through a horrible ordeal. The recovery process is going to be long and arduous. Even with the most advanced medical techniques, it’s still going to be more than an hour before you’re fully back to normal.”

Despite his condition, Fry had to chuckle at that. He now lived in a world where decapitation was a mere flesh-wound, and there was a single pill to counter the effects of close-proximity shotgun blasts. Medical wizardry was taken for granted.

“Why are you laughing?” Leela said seriously. “You’re facing more than sixty minutes of convelescance; it’s going to be hard for you.”

“I’ll survive,” he replied. “What happened to Onespawn?”

“Ah.” Leela thought back. “The Nibblonians and the other Brainspawn attacked it, but Nibbler says that it somehow took control of the Brainspawn and forced the Nibblonians away, and then for some reason the Omicronians attacked it as well and it ran away in the direction of Earth…”

“Yep, that’ll happen,” Fry said, nodding. “Wait… Earth?”

Leela nodded yes, and they both stared at each other sombrely. There was too much space and too many planets for it to be random – the creature was intentionally going for the home-planet of its great adversary.

“This is getting heavy,” Fry said, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.

“‘Getting’?” Leela repeated incredulously.

Fry raised his hands and stared at them, slowly wiggling each of his fingers in turn. Memory of his contact with Onespawn returned to him, eliciting strange thoughts.

“Leela,” he said without looking at her. “What colour are my eyes?”

“Your eyes…?” Leela paused in puzzlement for a moment, and tilted her head to see his face. “Green,” she said. “You have green eyes.”

“Since when?” he asked, looking up at her. “And since when was your eye purple?”

“Always,” Leela said, frowning in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m not sure how to explain it,” Fry said. “But… I think we’re more real than we used to be… I mean, can you remember a time before this last week when things were so serious?”

“It has been pretty intense,” she admitted.

“I don’t mean like that,” Fry said. “I mean… gritty. Like we went from Hogan’s Heroes to Saving Private Ryan in the blink of an eye. Honestly, can you remember any time before this week when you noticed the colour of someone’s eyes?”

“I don’t understand,” Leela said. She frowned, trying to recall, but could only picture simple white circles with black dots in them, like ping-pong balls dabbed with a marker. Which was strange…

“Alright, well answer me this,” Fry said. “Without looking at your hands – how many fingers do you have, altogether?”

“Eight,” Leela said automatically.


Leela lifted her hands and stared at them. Five fingers adorned each.

“Twelve,” Fry said. “Can you explain that?”

Leela blinked in bewilderment. “Fry… what’s going on?”

“Onespawn told me that reality isn’t real… that we’re being constantly reshaped by outside forces. That’s why it wants to destroy this Universe – it thinks it’s all make-believe or something.”

“But that’s insane!” Leela said. “We’re real – our memories are real… the feelings we have for each other are real…”

Fry said nothing, looking worried, and Leela took his hand, holding it against her left breast so he could feel the beating of her heart.

This is real,” she whispered.

Fry nodded. “Yeah…” he said. “Of course… I was just… no, it’s nothing. My mind was playing tricks… or more likely Onespawn was.”

Neither of them was fully convinced, but each put on a brave face for the other.

“We’ll find a way through this, Fry,” Leela told him. “Whatever the truth is, we’ll face it together. Just don’t go off on your own again.”

“Alright,” he said. “Do you forgive me?”

She smiled. “Never in a million years.” She leaned over and kissed him softly… and then less softly. Within a few moments she had him pressed back down on the cot, straddling him; moaning and caressing. They bagan tugging at each other’s clothes, hands and elbows getting tangled.

“Ow!” Fry grunted. “Still a little tender… everywhere.”

“Sorry.” Leela giggled. They kissed passionately until a camera flash made them stop and look up in alarm.

“Scandalous!” Bender said, lowering his camera. “That shot’s gonna look great on my ‘space captains gone wild’ website. Talk about a good bedside manner.”

“Bender, what the hell is wrong with you?” Fry snapped angrily, pulling his hands out of Leela’s tank top.

“I’m a coldhearted machine with no sense of morality,” the robot replied matter-of-factly, and then he narrowed his eye shutters. “Wait a second… Leela? Are you and Fry an item now or something?”

“What’s it got to do with you?” Leela said, climbing off Fry and straightening her clothes.

“But I thought you were secretly in love with me.”

Leela gaped in horror and bewilderment. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Why else would you keep giving me all those gifts? The watch, the pendant, the coffee machine?”

“Bender, you stole those things from me!”

“Same difference.” He lost interest and started to walk away. “Oh yeah,” he added. “We’re coming up on the Sol system, and it looks like all kinds of organic waste is about to get thrown through the propeller blades.” He disappeared, and Leela turned to Fry.

“Can you walk?” she asked.

Fry glanced down. “Yeah,” he said. “Fortunately I’m wearing my baggy pants.”

They made their way to the bridge, where Bender and Nibbler were poring over long-range sensor readouts. Ahead was the distant, comfortingly familiar yellow glow of their home star.

“What’s the situation?” Leela said.

“Events are progressing in a most concentrated form,” Nibbler replied. “Onespawn has settled on Pluto, with the Brainspawn forming a protective cordon around it. The Democratic Order Of Planets fleet has mobilized, but are having no luck breaking through the stupefaction field, and just minutes ago the Omicronian armada dropped out of hyperspace along with Mom’s vessel.”

“Jeez Louise,” Fry muttered.

“That isn’t the worst of it,” Nibbler said. “I’m detecting a massive drain of all ambient energy within and around the planet.” He pointed at the sensor screen where a display of complex sine waves was replaced by an image of Pluto, with what looked like a vast web of cracks expanding across the surface from a central point. The icy little world was slowly collapsing on itself.

“What does that mean?” Leela said.

“It means Onespawn is almost ready to begin.”

“Begin what?”

Nibbler looked at her wordlessly, and realization struck.

“Oh, again with the ominous foreshadowing,” Bender groaned. “It’s starting to sound like a broken MP3.”

“How are we going to play this?” Fry said, his voice still rough around the edges. “We’ve still got the Lance, but now Onespawn has an army of Brainspawn to throw at us.”

“Not only that,” Leela added, “but unless Mom can manage some really fast explaining, the DOOP and the Omicronians might just start firing on each other and save Onespawn the trouble – our sky is certainly getting cluttered out there. I don’t fancy our chances of navigating through it all.”

“Maybe if we tell someone we’re here?” Fry offered.

Leela activated the ship’s communications array and sent out a hail. Almost instantly, the face of Captain Zapp Brannigan appeared onscreen, and just as instantly Leela turned it off again before the Zapper could utter a word.

“No, I think it would probably save a lot of confusion and suspicion if we kept under the radar,” she said stiffly.

“I think the gun-toting generals and majors out there are about to have a little more to worry about besides little old us,” Fry said, pointing out the forward viewscreen.

Against the inky backdrop of space, Pluto was shattering. Vast chunks of the icy planet were thrown outward as massive discharges of energy ripped through the dying world. And then, encased in an incandescent shell of light, Onespawn ascended – larger than before, and more powerful by far. As the DOOP and Omicronian fleets turned to fire on the monster, it extended tendrils of destructive force, smashing the ships aside like toys, and then it moved beyond them as if they were of no consequence – moving with its accompanying bodyguard of Brainspawn in a straight line toward the third planet of the system.

“What do we do now?” Bender said.

Fry stared fixedly. “We follow,” he said. “And we finish this thing.”

Nibbler grunted. “Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge.”

Chapter 20: High Orbit Drifter

Doctor Zoidberg, painfully bruised by his encounter with the police, sat alone in the empty Planet Express building. Silence hung in the musty conference room – the kind of silence that screams and rattles, demanding to be filled by a droning television or a madman talking to himself.

“If this place were any more lively, a funeral might break out,” Zoidberg murmured , clacking his claws nervously to fill the quiet. He had no idea where any of the others were, or if they were even alive, and he didn’t highly rate his chances of finding a new job.

A sudden scrabbling and squarking sound caught his attention, and he wandered out the the staff common room to see what it was, grateful for the distraction. At the window, a pair of owls fluttered and scratched at the glass noisily, trying to get out.

“Here you go, my little vermin friends,” Zoidberg said, lifting the latch and pushing the window open. “Don’t forget your good friend Zoidberg when you make the big-time out there in the world.”

He watched the two owls fly away, and noticed that they were joining large numbers of the feathered pests that were all winging across the city in great clouds… all departing at once.

Even without a shred of practical knowledge at his disposal, Zoidberg knew that rats always abandoned a burning ship – winged ones included. The sight of the vast exodus filled him with foreboding.

“Something wicked this way comes,” he warbled quietly to himself.

For all the terrifying spectacle of a large-scale space battle, with world-shattering explosions and huge juggernauts of steel tumbling through the void, there was always something very abstract about it. It was the lack of sound. Cataclysmic detonations ripped through space and massive ships crisscrossed each other with flaring engines, all in utter silence. It leant a deceptively serene, detached sense to the destructive ballet.

Zapp Brannigan stood watching on the bridge of the Nimbus as the two fleets tried to fight off the giant alien brain.

“We should put this to music,” he decided. “Kif? A battle-anthem if you will.”

The little green Lieutenant activated the ship’s audio system and dropped the MP3 player’s needle into the groove of a sound file. At once Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture erupted from the speakers with dramatic fanfare.

“No, no, no!” Zapp snapped. “I said a battle-anthem – not some sissy classical nonsense. Put it on track seventeen.”

Kif moved the MP2 needle into a different groove, and the overproduced voice of a pop starlet rang out across the bridge.

Oops, I did it again. I played with your heart, got lost in the game. Oh baby baby…

“Oh yeah,” Zapp said, nodding his head and failing to notice the looks of disdain on the faces of all his crew.

“Sir?” Kif had to raise his voice over Britney’s horrendous caterwauling. “Sir! The enemy has broken through the defensive cordon – every ship that comes close is effected by its psychic attack.”

“Side-kick attack?” Zapp said. “How can it kick? It doesn’t have any legs.”

Kif groaned expressively. “Nevertheless, sir – it is beating us, even with the Omicronians’ support.”

“Beating?” Zapp repeated. “Nobody beats Brannigan except Brannigan himself!”

Kif was unsure of what was being implied by that statement and decided not to analyse it too closely.

“Your orders, sir?” he said.

“Arm all Botox torpedos!”

“Er… Photon, sir?”

“Kif, are you going to question my every command?”

The Nimbus, flagship of the DOOP fleet, dropped into the brutal fray that surrounded Onespawn as the monstrous creature bore down on Earth. DOOP and Omicronian ships flew side-by-side for the first time, but were being rapidly destroyed. Onespawn itself took very few hits – sending its subservient Brainspawn to intercept the long-range weapons fire and be vaporized in its place.

The battle wore on, and Earth grew larger and bluer.

Compression waves buffeted the Momship, tripping numerous warning alarms on the bridge. Mom massaged her temples as President Nixon gave her a jowl-lashing over the ship-to-planet channel, detailing the charges that would be laid against Momcorp and herself personally for instigating the cataclysm.

“Shut the hell up, Nixon, you podgy skull-in-a-bottle,” she snapped finally. “You think I don’t know? Why do you think I’ve been out here trying to stop the damn thing!?”

“Arooo…” Nixon glared out of the little screen on Mom’s command console. “Well I hope for your sake you’ve got some plan to deal with this… creature, before it finds popular support with the hippies down here and they start protesting on my doorstep again.”

Mom sat back in her chair and looked away. Another shockwave from the nearby space battle made the deck tremble.

Scruffy paced back and forth in a leisurely manner with his hands stuffed deep in his pockets. When he finally spoke, he addressed Professor Farnsworth.

“Scruffy may only hold a degree in Advanced Janitorial Science,” he said, “but I reckon it might be a prudent move to have all those big spaceships out there focus their weapons at one specific point on that there giant brain thingy.”

“What point would that be?” Farnsworth asked, trying to figure out who the man was.

“Can’t rightly say,” Scruffy replied. “But Scruffy’d suggest takin’ out whatever part’s responsible for makin’ folk stupid… that’d seem to be of most use.”

“By the Gods!” Farnsworth said. “This mysterious stranger is right!” He began consulting the recorded data on his Tricorder, hurriedly scrolling through the scans and graphics taken of Onespawn.

Hermes patted the janitor on the shoulder. “Dat was some mighty good tinkin’,” he said.

“Yeah, good work Scrappy,” Amy added. Scruffy didn’t bother correcting her.

“I’ve got it!” Farnsworth said, shuffling over to Mom and holding the Tricorder aloft. “There is a portion of the creature at the top frontal region, near the analogous Superior frontal gyrus, where all of its stupidification waves are generated. If it can be disabled then we’ll stand a much greater chance of fighting it on our own terms.”

“Give me that!” Mom snatched the device off Farnsworth and plugged it into her console. “Nixon – I’m feeding new target coordinates to the two battle fleets.” Her screen divided to show Lrrr and Zapp Brannigan.

“Alright you idiots,” she said. “You think you can work together and direct all your firepower on that point?”

“Yes ma’am!” Zapp and Lrrr both said at the same time.

“Good boys.”

Completely unnoticed amid the chaos, a little green freighter flew between the massive warships, dodging around their gargantuan hulls and debris clouds.

Leela weaved the Planet Express ship through the battlefield, darting across the bows of DOOP and Omicronian vessels and avoiding the path of their weapons fire.

“Feather on the breeze, feather on the breeze,” she said to herself through clenched teeth.

Huge flashes of psychoplasmic energy lit up space, and the burning, fragmenting bulk of a stricken DOOP warship reared up in front of them – a buckling wall of metal.

“Abandon ship!” Bender yelled as they sped toward the looming behemoth. A great tear appeared in the warship’s side, and Leela tilted the PE ship on its side, flying into the tear and through the exploding insides of the vessel to emerge on the other side.

“I believe I just soiled myself,” Nibbler muttered, shaken.

“This is stupid,” Fry said. “Those fleets are being blown to pieces for no reason – they can’t stop Onespawn!”

“No, but they can weaken it sufficiently to improve our chances of success,” Nibbler said. “In any case – you cannot perform your role until the creature enters the atmosphere.”

“You mean we have to let it reach Earth?” Bender asked. “But that’s where all my stuff is!”

“We have more pressing concerns,” Leela said. Ahead, a score of Brainspawn had detached from the main fighting and were angling towards them. “Looks like we’re about to be stupid again,” she added.

“Not if I can help it,” Fry replied. He turned and ran back through the companionway and climbed the ladder up into the gunner’s turret. With the flick of a switch, the laser cannon hummed through its initial charge-up routine, and Fry watched through the bubble canopy as the brains approached.

“A mind isn’t really such a terrible thing to waste,” he muttered, lining the creatures up in his sights. “Wrap your grey-matter around this!”

He opened fire, raking into the approaching brains and laughing in elation as they ignited and burst like water balloons one after the other. It occurred to him that he was probably enjoying it more than he should.

The Nimbus moved into formation alongside Lrrr’s command saucer, both vessels launching small fighter craft that flew flanking sorties to tie up the Brainspawn escorts.

“Are you ready?” Brannigan asked Lrrr through the communications link.

“I was hatched ready!” Lrrr bellowed.

Together, the two ships opened up with their full weapons arsenal, diverting all power, including shields, to one massive assault. Onespawn, directly ahead of them, was struck head-on by the enormous combined attack of beam and projectile ordinance. The assault focused on one point, where Onespawn’s protective shell quickly weakened and collapsed. Its pseudoflesh was ruptured by huge amounts of explosive and radioactive energy that tore into it, destroying the stupidifying region of its mind.

Onespawn let out a psychic roar that shook the heavens, and unleashed a devastating torrent of psychoplasmic discharge in the direction of the attacking ships.

The Nimbus took the brunt of the barrage, with colossal wounds being blasted from its white hull. The ship shook under the impacts, and main power cut out, with more of the destructive energy balls inbound. Zapp Brannigan made a womanlike whimpering sound.

Lrrr’s command saucer had been quicker to bring its shields back online, and suddenly, unexpectedly, it swung its superstructure in front of the Nimbus to protect the DOOP vessel from further damage, taking the hits for the other ship.

“Good lord,” Zapp said in surprise as smoke wafted through the bridge. “The Omicronians… they’re…”

“I don’t believe it,” Kif added, just as flabbergasted.

Lrrr appeared on the holograph projector and looked at them sternly.

“Those who fight alongside one another become brothers,” the big alien told them. “This is part of my peoples’ code – you protect your brother in arms. But this doesn’t mean that I like any of you!” He folded his arms and looked away.

“Ahh.” Brannigan grinned. “You love us. Admit it!”

“NEVER!” Lrrr roared, killing the communications link.

“Sir, I don’t think it’s wise to tease them. They are a brutal and ill-tempered species given to random acts of genocide,” Kif said.

“Ah, they’re just big cuddly man-eating teddy bears at heart,” Brannigan replied.

With Onespawn’s stupefaction field gone, the flight groups of smaller attack craft were able to make close strafing runs against the creature – bombarding it with plasma yield weapons. Furiously, Onespawn slammed the pestering fighters away one after the other, and was almost too occupied with them to notice the familiar green blob of the Planet Express ship as it sailed by.


A glowing tendril of telekinetic energy snaked out and latched onto the PE ship, causing it to buck violently as it came to a sudden stop. The engines strained against the force that held the ship in place, and the hull groaned in protest. With an internal growl of triumph, Onespawn began to squeeze…

Leela wrestled hopelessly with the controls, unable to break free of the hold, while Fry blasted away pointlessly at Onespawn with the laser cannon. The gun quickly overheated, leaving Fry staring hopelessly out through the bubble canopy at the massive brain. Something appeared behind it… a lot of somethings, and Fry gaped in surprise.

Onespawn’s psychic voice entered his mind.

“Checkmate,” it said.

“Check again, mate,” Fry replied, grinning as the Nibblonian fleet, having suddenly appeared in the system, opened fire on the creature.

A barrage of directed energy weapons lanced into Onespawn, and it bellowed in surprise and rage, releasing its hold on the PE ship. The little green vessel lurched away toward the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. On the bridge, the communications screen came on, and Fiona appeared.

“Lord Nibbler,” she said in simple greeting.

“You came!” Nibbler said, hopping up to stare at her in surprise.

“We cannot stay,” Fiona replied hurriedly. “Onespawn could erase us at any moment.”

“I thank you,” Nibbler replied.

“You were right, Lord Nibbler. Our hopes are with you and the Mighty One, as they always should have been. If you succeed, we will meet again… on the other side.”

“Farewell…” Nibbler said with emotion as the image vanished.

Onespawn began to apply energy into its internal quantum structure, preparing a wave of reality dysfunction, but the Nimbus and an accompanying group of Omicronian vessels and the much smaller Momship approached in a wedge formation, laying down waves of suppressive fire that allowed the fleet of Nibblonian saucers to depart the area. The monstrous creature furiously fired off bursts of destructive energy, forcing its attackers back to make an opening for itself. It moved toward Earth once again, down into the atmosphere, with the ships following.

The Momship had taken a large blow, and its weakened hull ruptured deeply. With its engines labouring from the significant damage, it began an uncontrolled tumble toward the swirling white clouds far below.

On the bridge, the crew was thrown from their feet as sparks erupted all around.

“Damn exploding consoles!” Mom snapped.

“Ma’am!” Helm said, struggling to stay upright as the gravity horizon fluctuated. “We’ve lost the main engines! We’re going in hard!”

“What do we have?” Mom asked.

“Only the manoeuvring verniers, but they won’t be enough to keep us in orbit. We have to abandon ship!”

A brief flicker of emotion passed across Mom’s face, and she inclined her head. “Very well – sound the alert.”

As the crew, along with Hermes, Amy, and Scruffy, all made their way off the smoky shaking bridge toward the escape pods, Mom remained behind, standing with her hands on the control console. Professor Farnsworth hung back in the doorway, looking expectantly at her.

“Come on, you stupid woman, it’s time to go!” he said.

“Shut your crap-trap, Hubert,” Mom growled. “I’ll be along in a minute – there are a few little matters I need to see to.”


“Scram, Farnsworth!” she shouted.

The Professor backed away.

Mom watched through the forward screen as Onespawn caught hold of the Nimbus in its telekinetic grasp and began dragging the damaged DOOP warship with it, down into the atmosphere, ripping off huge chunks of steel it as went. She checked the vernier controls, trying an experimental burst to slow the wild tumble.

For some reason, she remembered the passionate and determined young cyclops woman.

“Alright then you stinking great blob of grey crap,” she said, “let’s dance.” Her fingers played across the main controls, entering a security override.

At the escape pods, Farnsworth stood anxiously waiting outside one of the last of the cramped little tubes to deploy.

“Come on, mon!” Hermes said from inside the tube. “Forget the old hag!”

“Shut up!” Farnsworth replied. He took a step back toward the bridge, but a sudden shill chime from the escape pod’s launch system made him look up in alarm.

Emergency pod launch imminent!” a computerized voice announced. “Please step inside pod. Pod will launch in five… four… three…

“An emergency override?” Farnsworth gasped. Hermes and Amy lunged out and caught him by the arms, pulling him back inside the little tube just as the airlock slammed shut.

“No!” Farnsworth shouted. “Let go of me! I have to go and…”

The tube launched, shooting out of the stricken ship at high-Gs, and Farnsworth shouted in anguish: “Caroline!”

With the escape pods away, Mom eased the ship into a high angle of atmospheric re-entry. Warning alarms rang annoyingly as hull plates around the damaged sections began peeling away. The ship shuddered violently from a series of internal explosions, but Mom stayed where she was, giving the verniers constant taps to maintain a tight alignment.

Weapons were offline. Autopilot was offline. Everything was gone but for the mass of the ship itself. And that she lined up on a collision course with Onespawn, directly below, occupied as it was with tearing the Nimbus to pieces. The Momship’s earlier momentum increased with the pull of gravity, with its speed at more than eight miles a second.

When it was moments away from Onespawn, Mom opened a broadwave communications channel.

“Well hello dearie!” she said in her traditional sweet old lady voice. “Mommy has a present for you!”

The explosion illuminated a huge area of sky, the Momship impacting with Onespawn in a tremendous blast, most of its mass vaporizing instantly. The creature’s structure took a battering, with thick streamers of grey flesh whipping away. It tumbled end-over-end, releasing its hold on the Nimbus, which angled away, trailing smoke as it went down.

Wounded and weakened once again, Onespawn dropped through the sky, followed by its depleted ranks of Brainspawn footsoldiers.

Lumps of debris fell through the atmosphere in a brilliant shower of shooting stars.

Undetected within the orbital chaos, a small object detached itself from a satellite that it had been cannibalizing for spare parts. Ignoring the vast and destructive space battle that was taking place, Robot 1-X Ultima locked its sensors onto the Planet Express ship as its leading edges began to glow with re-entry friction.

All things come to he who waits, Ultima thought happily, activating the few weapons systems it had been able to repair. With a blast of fusion flame, it shot off in pursuit of the green ship, heedless of the battle cruisers exploding all around. Its intercept trajectory took it in a dangerously shallow sweep across the upper atmosphere, but Ultima braved the thermal ablation, zeroing-in on the side of the little freighter.

Fry returned to the bridge of the PE ship, noting the soft pink glow licking across the forward viewscreen.

“How we faring?” he asked Leela as he strapped himself into an empty seat.

“Banged and bruised,” Leela said. “But she’s a tough old girl – she’ll hold together.”

“Onespawn,” Nibbler said, hanging onto the top of the radar screen. “It’s descending toward New New York… and the fleets are holding back their heavy weapons for fear of striking the city.”

“Dammit, why there?” Leela said.

“It’s trying to goad me into a confrontation,” Fry said grimly. “And it’s succeeded.”

Suddenly, a loud clang echoed through the ship, and it shuddered.

“Space cow!” Fry yelled in alarm.

“Something took a swipe at us,” Leela said, struggling with the trembling control column as the re-entry burn grew hotter and the whole ship began to shake. “Whatever it is, it has the worst possible ti…” She was cut off by the shriek of tearing steel and a tremendous rush of air as the cabin’s pressure began to escape in a screaming torrent.

“Abandon ship!” Bender yelled.

Discarding the airlock door that it had torn off its hinges, Ultima climbed inside the ship and moved through onto the bridge with the roaring tornado of air and debris blasting past it.

Clinging on for dear life, Leela, Fry, Bender, and Nibbler all turned to stare at the damaged military robot as it loomed over them.

Together they screamed.

Chapter 21: The Silence of the Droids

Together, they screamed. And the air screamed with them. The Planet Express ship began a shallow lateral roll as its re-entry trajectory degraded.

“Oh God” Leela shouted, staring up at the battered war drone, which appeared to have bolted and welded patches of steel onto itself in a hasty self-repair job. “I can't believe it's still...”

She didn't finish the thought. Ultima opened fire with an atom laser, the beam stabbing just past her face and blowing the command console apart. The ship bucked violently in response to the loss of avionics control; the assortment of alarms couldn't be heard above the roar of wind in the cabin and the atmospheric friction outside.

With an angry shout lost in the thinning atmosphere, Fry unbuckled himself from his seat and launched up at the robot with fists flailing. It deftly caught him by the face in one of its lower manipulator claws and tossed him into the bulkhead where he crumpled into a heap.

“Fry!” Leela began moving to him, but her path was blocked by the battle droid, it hovered before her on a roughly-repaired ion thruster, opening and closing its claws and looking somehow uncertain. She bared her teeth as her hair whipped around and her ears popped painfully from the pressure differential. The deck trembled beneath her feet.

“Get the hell off my ship!” she yelled at the machine, stepping forward to meet it. Ultima fired a rubber bullet from its arm cannon at nearly point-blank range, sending Leela sprawling at the front of the cabin with an agonized cry.

Ocean, cloud, and land rolled in and out of view behind Leela as she wheezed and clutched her stomach. The ship was plummeting in a death-roll, and a deranged killer robot was looming over her, ready to deal the death-blow...

...Except it didn't come. Ultima hesitated, wracked by internal contradiction.

Destroy the target, end the mission. End the mission, destroy purpose. Cannot survive without purpose.

Turanga Leela's face and vital statistics scrolled through the robot's mind. The target was lying helpless before it, with Ultima's crosshairs centred. Kill-shot assured.

Cannot end. Can't let it end. Can't let purpose be cancelled - won't go on hiatus. Must continue.

Ultima fired into the deck around Leela, with an internal shriek of frustrated indecision. The target curled into a ball, cowering away form the blasts. From behind, the orange-haired human approached for a second attack, swinging a fire extinguisher that caught Ultima a blow across the cranial casing to nil effect. The robot turned and arbitrarily deposited twenty-thousand volts into the figure, sending him sprawling once again. This caused the primary target further distress.

Toward the back of the cabin, Nibbler clung to a console beside Bender.

“You have to do something!” Nibbler shouted at the bending robot. “You're the only one strong enough!”

“I can't!” Bender wailed in anguish. “I love the 1-X robots!”

“Fight the programming!” Nibbler commanded. “You're a sentient being, not just an inflexible assortment of data - you have the ability to choose!”

“No!” Bender clutched his head.

“It's hurting your friends!” Nibbler said. “They need you!”

Bender trembled from his own internal contradictions, struggling to find his way through the compatibility program that had been installed in him. The 1-X series robots were superior – bastions of goodness and functionality. They were his friends.


Bender’s friends were lying on the deck, bruised and beaten, with a violent and destructive thing looming over them. Fry and Leela were his friends. A 1-X robot was threatening them… 1-X robot… The 1-X robot was his…

“…Enemy,” Bender said in a strangled voice. “Enemy… enemy… enemy…” He surged to his feet and stood, clenching his metal fists, with a tremble running through him. In front, the military 1-X had picked Leela up, and held her as though uncertain of what to do with her.

“Hey, rivet face!” Bender shouted, and Ultima turned to regard him. “Sorry to say, buddy - You’re pending for a bending!” He leapt forward, sweeping his arms in parabolic arcs to meet the other robot, which dropped Leela to the deck and brought its weapons to bear.

The two robots slammed together in a shower of sparks, Bender pounding at Ultima’s already-damaged casing, and Ultima trying to draw bead on the bending robot with its cannons. Bender batted the weapons aside and they discharged into the bulkhead and equipment racks.

“You’ll have to do better than that, circuit-bag,” Bender said, punching the war drone in the face plate.

Leela, struggling to her feet on the shifting deck, was forced to duck beneath a flurry of slashing robot arms. She dived and rolled away from Bender and Ultima, making for the control console but finding it molten and useless.

“Crap,” she said as a blue and green panorama pitched up in front of the plummeting ship. They were getting awfully close to being a smear on the landscape – unless she could regain control and aerobrake.

Bender still grappled with Ultima, the clash of their metal bodies ringing even above the rushing air. They traded blow after blow, with servomotors and pneumatics whining and hissing under the strain.

Leela struggled over to the navigation console and Fry joined her.

“Are we boned?” he asked, watching as Bender fought with the other robot.

“Very nearly,” Leela said, activating a secondary control column that unfolded from a floor recess. “If I can’t bleed off a lot of speed in very little time we’re all going to have a close interpersonal experience with several geological strata of sedimentary rock.”

“You can do it,” Fry said with casual certainty, wincing when Bender took a particularly hard hit that dislodged his left arm.

“I’m not so sure,” Leela replied, wrestling with the controls. She’d corrected the violent spin, but Mother Earth was still rushing up at them at a decidedly unhealthy rate.

“I am,” Fry replied, stepping past her. “I believe in you.” He picked up Bender’s left arm from the deck, hefting it like a club and rushing forward to strike Ultima across the back with it. Ultima turned, and Fry feinted away, tossing the arm to Bender, who quickly reattached it and wrapped it and its partner limb around Ultima’s head from behind.

“Surprise, metaltube!” Bender said, tightening the sleeper hold until Ultima’s cranial casing began to creak. “I’ve got your number, you stinking pile of… oh someone else’s God!” Ultima had reached around and grabbed Bender by the Shiny Metal Ass, and was now flinging him around, bashing him with great force against the fuselage and equipment racks.

“Bender, you’re doing great! I think he’s starting to tire out!” Fry yelled, right before Ultima threw Bender at him, and they both went skidding across the deck to slam painfully into the bulkhead.

“Thanks for breaking my fall, pal,” Bender said, picking himself up off a battered Fry who managed a strangled moan. “Time for some Ultimate Robot Fighting action!” He ran back toward Ultima, taking a few laser hits as he went, but shrugging them off. He swung his fists, one after the other, and Ultima caught them both in its manipulator claws, holding the bending robot’s arms at bay as it lined up its weapon pods. But Bender suddenly surged upward and headbutted the other robot. On a roll of confidence, he then tried to kick Ultima’s legs out from beneath it, realizing too late that the war drone didn’t have any.

As the two robots continued to clobber each other Leela was fighting her own battle, struggling to right the ship’s uncontrolled descent. The depressurization and destruction of the main avionics suite had made the process of atmospheric deceleration dangerously unstable – not to mention the time wasted in dealing with the persistent military robot. Fly-by-wire was inoperative – the emergency controls were barebones, without even the most basic of autonomous routines. It was down to Leela’s intuition and the ship’s control surfaces.

She pulled up into belly-first attitude, feeling the tug of deceleration pull her down in the seat. Pressure and thermal stresses creaked through the superstructure and triggered load alarms, and the control column shuddered in her hands. In desperation, she re-lit the main drive for some thrust to slow their rate of descent – the ship lurched in response. A subsequent adjustment of the vessel’s lateral tailfin flaps initiated a series of wide slalom slides to create even more drag, but they were still going down hard, with the altimeter spinning past fifty thousand feet. The Atlantic was beneath them now as they scorched a rapid north-westerly path toward continental North America.

Still Bender and Ultima fought. Fry tried to help by bashing the war drone over the head with the coffee maker, and Nibbler leapt into the fray with a few ineffectual bites, but both of them were easily batted away.

“Never send an organism to do a machine’s job,” Bender muttered. He kicked Ultima in the chest plate, sending it wobbling backward until it was underneath a main supply cable that ran across the ceiling. Bender extended his arms to grab the cable’s end and pulled it from its mounting in an explosion of extremely high voltage sparks. He pressed the sputtering and snapping exposed wires of the cable against Ultima’s cracked and dented casing.

The lights dimmed. The engine died. All of the ship’s systems went offline.

Ultima spasmed, encased in a shroud of sparks and crackling tendrils of electricity. Smoke billowed from it as internal ammunition stores exploded. Bender stepped back and watched the other robot fall limply to the deck with small spits of leftover charge.

“Yeah! Take that, jerkwad!” he shouted jubilantly. “I HATE those damn 1-X robots! May they all burn in robot hell! Woooo-hoooo!”

“Say, Bender the Magnificent?” Leela said, pushing away from the now-useless control column. “You just killed our main power. I managed to set us onto a reasonable glide slope, but even so – we’re now about to crash-land. As much as I appreciate your help, you can really be a stupid shi…”

“We must brace for impact,” Nibbler said hurriedly. “Our altitude is almost down to one thousand hooves.”

“Feet,” Fry corrected him.

“I prefer my way.”

They all strapped themselves in, Leela talking hold of Nibbler as the ship continued its noisy freefall. On the floor, Ultima twitched.

“It’s going to be a water landing,” Leela said as she fastened her belt buckle. “It’ll be hard, but it would have been worse if we were directly over land. I’m sorry about this everyone… maybe I really did need that captaincy course after all…”

“You did great, Leela,” Fry assured her. “Nobody could have done any better – you’re amazing…”

“Thank you Fry.” She smiled at him, and he smiled back.

“Oh man,” Bender said in disgust. “If I had stomach contents I would now be forcibly ejecting them.”

The ship splashed down.

There was a shadow over New New York.

It had appeared first at Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, and then spread across the city, devouring the skyscrapers of Tribeca and Chelsea, the tube lines and eateries of Little Alpha-Proximatown, and the meadows of Central Park beneath its dim pall.

The shadow passed over the Planet Express building and an inept Decapodian doctor cowered in terror.

People, robots, Horrible Gelatinous Blobs, and Hyperchickens on the street all looked up, and at first saw only a vast billowing mass of cloud that rolled across the sky. The close observer would note that it moved against the wind. Soon a resonant roar became audible, and then the cloud began to dissipate, revealing the massive flying thing that had been concealed inside and now hovered over the city.

Curiosity turned to screaming terror as people fled or hid or smashed open the front of electronics stores. Some fired weapons into the air to no effect.

Onespawn took up a position over the sprawling metropolis and regarded it, the defining pinnacle of human civilization, with amusement. In the end, when it all boiled down, the city was just a big glorified ant-hill.

It sensed the Mighty One was close… close enough.

It was time.

Onespawn summoned the remaining Brainspawn to join with it, absorbing their mass and energy into itself. They melted into Onespawn, adding their sympathetic harmonic quantum fields to the underspace resonance collapse that was taking place within the massive creature. The new exotic organ within Onespawn existed in ten dimensions – a rippling incomprehensible warp in reality, through which the intrinsic quantum flux inside the giant creature was fed and focused.

A spherical area of darkness began to grow around Onespawn… with forks of lightning stabbing out of it. Clouds started to swirl toward the darkness, revolving around New New York – the eye of the storm.

The Planet Express ship slammed down on its belly somewhere beyond the mouth of the Hudson River. Then, with explosive bursts of steam from its superheated surfaces, it skipped like a stone across the choppy polluted waters four… five… six… seven times, before finally settling to gouge out a long wake through the swell and then…

…a jarring, bone-shattering impact as the little freighter’s momentum carried it straight into Staten Island’s Midland Beach, a short distance from the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. It ripped a great furrow in the sand before finally coming to a halt, steaming and ticking with its hull warped and torn.

Each battered and shaken to the point of knowing exactly how an omelette feels, the crew began groggily unstrapping themselves from their seats. Smoke and steam filled the dim cabin, along with the strong scent of electrical shorts and salt water.

“Casualties?” Leela asked in between fits of coughing.

“We’re all intact,” Fry replied.

“If by ‘intact’ you mean ‘considering a lawsuit’,” Bender muttered.

Leela realized she’d been fearfully squeezing Nibbler very tightly against her ample bust the whole time. She pulled him out of her generous cleavage, and he fell back, gasping desperately for breath.

“Sorry,” she said sheepishly.

“No… harm… done…” Nibbler panted, regaining some colour.

“Let’s get out of this wreck before something explodes,” Bender suggested.

They started toward the emergency exit, but something moved in the smoke that still billowed across the floor. It seemed to slither toward Leela, and suddenly a metal claw was clamped around her ankle.

Ultima shuddered and sparked, its emergency batteries leaking slush lithium. Time was short – it had the target in its grip – fulfilment was at hand.

“Get off me, damn you!” the target shouted, kicking at Ultima with her free boot. The other hostiles also began to deliver a rain of blows, but it ignored them, focusing on the primary – the economical grace of her movements, the distinct spectral pattern of her colouring…

It placed her in the centre of a crosshair, selecting an atom laser.

Completion. Finality. The End.

In the mind of a robot, an eternity can pass in a moment, and a moment can be an eternity. Ultima pondered for an eternity…

“Let go of her, you damn monster!” Fry shouted, slamming his sneakers into Ultima.

“Nobody likes a sore loser!” Bender added, trying to pull the dying robot away.

The atom laser charged, and its stored particle beam hummed in its containment field, ready to lance through Turanga Leela’s flesh. A single photonic trigger impulse through an optical fibre nerve cluster and Ultima’s purpose would be completed.

And then what?

Death would come. The robot had already been in bad shape – the high-voltage attack had just been the final nudge beyond the point of repairable; multiple redundancies had seen multiple failures, until the very last inch of itself flickered… the final flame of emulated life about to run out of wick.

Life… Ultima thought on that word. Its life had had only one purpose – the one it now trained its weapons pod on; that single eye, narrowed in determination, even in the face of defeat. With the target’s extermination, Ultima’s purpose, the sum goal of its existence, would cease. The mission… the final facet that connected Ultima to the world…

The idea made the robot sad.

In the malfunctioning processor that was Ultima’s mind it examined the concept of leaving something behind, proof that it had existed, a legacy… even if that legacy was an undefeated enemy to remember it… a job incomplete – a tie to the past.

But the mission… must be completed.

If purpose ends, then so ends the last remaining aspect of self.

Self cannot exist beyond cessation of function.

Self can always exist…

Ultima twisted and writhed, its cannon wavering around the target. A spark issued from the robot’s neck as its paradox-absorbing buffers struggled with the complex load.

Suddenly, it lunged upwards, bearing Leela toward the bulkhead, where it held her against the warm metal, its blank face visor an inch from her eye. Leela stared into the machine’s optical sensor, now more bewildered than frightened. Why wasn’t it killing her?

Ultima’s vocal emulator crackled, as if it was clearing its throat or struggling to find words.

“What do you want?” Leela asked it, motioning for Fry and Bender to hold back.

Ultima regarded her. “You…” it said in a wavering electronic voice. “You are… my whole life.”

Leela blinked in confusion. “I don’t understand.”

Ultima gently trailed a battered claw down the side of Leela’s face, and then trembled, suddenly dropping to the deck with a clang. It lay motionless, and Leela looked down at it, unsure of what to think or feel.

“Is it really dead this time?” Fry asked.

“Looks like it,” Bender said, prodding the metal shell with his foot. “Good riddance, eh Leela?”

Leela said nothing. Something strange had transpired, which she would probably never comprehend. She walked away from the dead machine to stand looking out through the sand-dusted viewscreen. It had hunted her so relentlessly, to its own demise, and had chosen not to take her life…

“You okay?” Fry asked, coming up behind her.

“Yeah,” she said. “Just… an odd moment of melancholy.” She turned to him. “Fry, can you imagine for a moment a life dedicated to a singular goal, so focused and uncompromising that the attainment of the goal itself would mean an end to the life?”

“I…” Fry frowned, deep in unfamiliar intellectual territory. “I suppose… like a guy who lives to climb all the highest mountains, but one day he climbs them all and has nothing left to climb?”

“Yeah,” Leela said. “You’d think he might leave just one mountain unclimbed… so that there was always the chance of something more – a promise for the future… something open-ended…”

Fry understood, but failed to see the relevance. He expressed this in a shrug.

“I’m just sad for some reason,” Leela said. “Come on – let’s get out of here. The ship’s dead, and it reeks of mortality. I hate that smell.”

After Fry collected the Lance of Fate, the torn-open emergency access airlock allowed the four friends to jump down onto the sand and look up at the battered ship. With fins broken off and hull warped and cracked, it would never fly again, and so they took a moment to mourn its passing before wandering away up into the dunes. Thunder crackled overhead, and thin ribbons of dark cloud billowed across the sky.

They crested the peak of a dune and stood amid the wiry beach grasses, looking out across the expansive mouth of the Hudson River, past the Statue of Liberty to Manhattan Island in the distance.

“Cripes,” Fry said, wide-eyed.

“Neat!” Bender said, snapping a photo.

“Are we too late?” Leela wondered, gaping at the sight.

Poised above New New York was Onespawn in all its horrific majesty. The giant brain formed the core of a slowly-expanding sphere of darkness that was whipping the atmosphere into a frenzy.

“It has begun,” Nibbler said, nestled into the crook of Leela’s arm. “Lilith. The Dark Moon. The Devourer of All Things. Onespawn has initiated the compression of space and time toward a quantum singularity.”

“Can we stop it?” Fry asked, gripping the Lance at his side.

“You are stopping it,” Nibbler replied. “The presence of the Mighty One is having the opposite effect – but this planet will be consumed nonetheless, and yourself with it, making the beast unstoppable.”

“What can we do?” Leela pressed.

“Only our very best,” Nibbler replied.

Together, they started forward.