Futurama

Fan Fiction

Gladiatrix, Part 2
By Ramon 51

I dedicate this part of this Fan Fiction to Dave Vincent, whose comments are responsible for any good parts of this work, and to my daughter Caitlyn, who encouraged me to continue to write.

The year is 3006. Leela is a Gladiatrix with twelve victories under her belt. Can she make it thirteen for the Honor and Glory of the New Space Roman Empire?

Excerpt from "Slavery in the New Space Roman Empire" by Dr. John Wilson, 31st Century Press, 3010.

"Much has been made by apologists for the New Space Roman Empire of the paucity of slave revolts on Terranos Prime in the past century. There are of course, two major reasons. The first is that slavery is not an absolute condition.

By a law, the Lex Julii de Manumissio, enacted after the great slave revolt of 2830, requires owners to pay their slaves a sum of money yearly that the slave could save to buy their freedom. The owner establishes the cost of freedom when the slave entered into service. The cost must be proportional to the cost of the slave. By the same law, slaves could not be separated from their families except by court order. It also provided for crucifixion as the mandatory penalty for escape or revolt.

Once a slave purchased their freedom, they were allowed to move freely in society. According to the Imperial Bureau of Vital Statisticsi, over 22 percent of freed slaves become citizens within ten years of attaining their freedom. Within twenty years, the number rose to 31 percent.

The second reason rests on the simple fact that Terranos Prime boasts the most complete planetary defenses the quadrant. The key to their deterrent effect lies in their design. Besides being a formidable obstacle to attack, they are layered to prevent unauthorized departure from the planet. Part of the defense rests on fixed installations, but the New Space Roman Navy contributes numerous patrol craft as well. Based on statistics from the Imperial Defense Report for 3008, the successful escape rate is less that .0001%."


OPENING SCENE: Exterior Shot of the 20,000 seat Roman style amphitheater in Capua, filled to capacity.

Leela strides down the corridor leading to the sand of the Arena, shoulder-to-shoulder with her opponent, Antistia. Both women are superb physical specimens. Neither speaks, as it would be totally against the protocols they are sworn to uphold.

Leela wears her standard armor and carries her spathaii and small round shield. Antistia wears no armor save a modified vambraceiii that extends from her left shoulder to her left wrist. In each hand, she clutches a long dagger. She wears a blue tunic with a wide black leather belt around her waist. Her dark brown hair is cut very short. On her left cheek is a scar, still livid from a recent bout in which a sword grazed her.

They emerge into the sunlight. The crowd acknowledges their entry with a thunderous applause. Leela looks at the crowd. "Pretty good attendance…every seat seems to be full. The Imperial Box is empty, crud…no wooden sword today."

They stride past the boys still frantically raking sand over the blood spots from the last bout. From the mood of the crowd, Leela can tell that the last fight did not go well. "Well, they won't have to worry about this one."

The duo arrives at the sponsor'siv box and turns to face it. As usual, the sponsor is a somewhat overfed Roman Senator, clad in the usual toga, maroon sandals, and iron ring worn on the right ring finger. Leela thinks, "I'd like to get your porky butt here on the sand for a few minutes." The thought causes the ghost of a smile to cross her face.

They two women salute the sponsor with their swords. As one, they shout the formula, "We who are about to face death, salute you!" The sponsor waves to them, indicating they should start the match. They move to the center of the Arena. Once there, they assume their fighting stances. The match begins!

Antistia attempts to close with Leela, stabbing with the dagger in her right hand. Leela can see that the information Corvo collected before the fight was correct. Antistia is really off on her timing today. Leela parries the blow with ease and aims a straightforward counterstrike against Antistia, which Antistia parries with difficulty. "How could she be put into the Arena in such a state?" flashes through Leela's mind.

Fearful that the crowd will grow bored, Leela begins to go through a series of exaggerated acrobatics in avoiding Antistia's blows. She executes pirouettes, leaps into the air, and forward rolls, all to the uproarious approval of the crowd. Antistia senses what Leela is doing, and puts every ounce of energy into her performance as well. They both know that a bored crowd is a nasty one. Both women begin to perspire heavily in the heat of the Arena. The merciless sun both beats down and reflects from the sand to sap their energy.

Judging the mood of the crowd from their sound and the amount of movement in the stands, Leela decides it is time to strike. She closes with Antistia, pulling her sword back as though to thrust her through. When Antistia moves to counter the threat, Leela throws a wide punch with her small round shield. Antistia goes down like a felled tree. The crowd roars its approval.

Standing over Antistia, Leela awaits the signal from the sponsor confident that the crowd will incline toward mercy. The crowd is waving white handkerchiefs and giving the thumbs up sign, proving her right…to her relief. The sponsor gives the thumbs up as well. Leela trots over to the sponsor's box, where they exchange the customary salutes. The sponsor tosses a bag of coins to Leela. In what is a signature move, she flips the bag up using her sword tip and catches it with her left hand. "About 50 Denariiv…what a cheapskate," she thinks.

She heads for the tunnel to the gladiator holding area. Stretcher bearers carrying Antistia pass by headed for the Porta Sanavivariavi. "She'll have a heck of a headache, but at least she'll be alive," Leela thinks thankfully. Waving her sword and smiling her best theatrical smile, Leela enters the tunnel with the sounds of twenty thousand cheering fans ringing in her ears.

FADE OUT

FADE IN

SCENE ONE: Interior of the Villa Marcellii, in Marcus Marcellus' office.

Marcellus sat behind his desk, pondering the events of the past two months. He knew that Leela was working out better than he had hoped. Thirteen victories in two months were absolutely unheard of! She was an absolute fanatic about getting things right, something Marcellus approved of in others, as it was one of his driving forces as well. She drove herself mercilessly, as she did everyone around her. She was a Roman in spirit, he was sure of it!

Now he was praying for Leela to mature enough to fight in Rome, in the Flavian Amphitheater. "She already has a considerable following down in Capua and Campania," he reflected. The fact that she had not killed one of her opponents in thirteen matches made her a bit of an oddity, but not in a negative wayvii. He was sure Corvo would have much to say when he arrived.

Marcellus glanced at the water clock near the door. "He should be here any time," he thought. Just then, as though answering a mental summons, Marcellus heard the distinctive footfall of his old friend, Titus Albinius Corvo. Knocking on the door post first, Corvo stuck his head in the doorway.

CORVO: Am I late, Domine?

MARCELLUS: No, old friend. Come in and have a seat. (Calling out) Juncus, bring us some Falernian.

(OC) JUNCUS: Yes, Domine.

Corvo took a seat in front of the desk.

CORVO: Domine, I have something to show you that I picked up in the market on my way here.

Corvo reached into the sinus of his toga and produced a painted statuette, which he sat on the desk. It is a reasonably well-executed bust of Leela! Both men sat and stared at it for several moments.

MARCELLUS: Edepolviii! You got this in the market here in Ostia?

CORVO: (His eyes dancing with delight) Yes, but I could have picked it up in any of the markets from here to Capua…including Rome! Do you realize what this means?

MARCELLUS: Yes. It means that we have sorely underestimated our Gladiatrix. How is she, by the way?

CORVO: Sharper than any blade. I would have been blessed by the gods if she were my daughter. Speaking of blessings, I have a favor to ask of you.

Just then, Juncus enters with the water and wine. He leaves it on a side table and departs. Without a word, Marcellus prepares a cup for both himself and Corvo. Both pour a tiny bit on the floor before drinking.

MARCELLUS: What favor can I grant you, old friend?

CORVO: Well. (Appearing uncomfortable) I promised Leela I would ask if we would buy Antistia's contract from Gaius Aurelius. She thinks Antistia would be an excellent sparring partner. I have to agree.

MARCELLUS: (Knitting his brows together) Antistia…Antistia…she has fourteen victories and four losses? (Pause.) What else is behind this request?

CORVO: (Visibly embarrassed.) Apparently, Gaius Aurelius has been…um…partaking of her charms, Domine. She told Leela all about it. I checked through my sources and found it to be so. He sent her into the Arena injured in an attempt to get rid of an embarrassment.

MARCELLUS: (His face registering disgust) Ugh! When the Aurelii go bad, they go really bad! (Pause.) Fine, purchase her contract through an intermediary. However, tell Leela that the next charity case comes out of her purse. Clear?

CORVO: Yes, Domine.

MARCELLUS: How much does Leela have in her peculiumix?

CORVO: Total?

MARCELLUS: Yes, of course total!

CORVO: Let's see…her take of the gate has been 31,500 Denarii. Her winnings…betting only on herself…have come to a little over 80,000 Denarii. So the total is just over 110,000 Denarii. I just wish there was a way I could buck up the odds. After her first few fights, she has always been the odds on favorite.

MARCELLUS: (Smiling.) Maybe you could start a rumor she was sick the night before.

CORVO: (Looking chagrined.) You miss very little, Domine. The problem with that kind of trick is that it works only when used sparingly. (Laughing) Leela called me a "wily old crow" for pulling it for her last fight.

MARCELLUS: Corvo, we need to move as quickly as possible. My sources have informed me that the Emperor Titus may not last out the summer.

CORVO: Are they certain, Domine?

MARCELLUS: As certain as anyone can be in such matters.

CORVO: (Sighs.) There's no point in seeking a remedy for a thunderbolt. (With determination.) We must fight in Rome next month. (Pause.) We'll go to the big Arena in Neapolis this month. It will prepare her for the Flavian.

MARCELLUS: Very well. May Hercules Invictus help us!

FADE OUT

FADE IN

SCENE TWO: Briefing Room, Galactic Intelligence Agency Headquarters.

Ray GunZ is at the head of the briefing room table. To his right is Mariana Putin. On his left is The Kraken. Otherwise, the only person in the room was a lone, nervous looking young man standing behind a podium…obviously the briefing officer.

RAY: OK, Smith. Let's go. What have you got for me?

SMITH: Well Sir, I…I mean we…think we have found Agent Solo.

RAY: (After a lengthy pause.) And?

SMITH: And we think she is on Terranos Prime.

RAY: Damn. How in the name of The One did she wind up there?!

SMITH: Sir, we think perhaps she was the victim of navigational error. Regardless, we have reliable reports that she was seen fighting in the Arena in Capua last month. (Pause.)

PUTIN: And the source of this report is…?

SMITH: Let's see (fumbles with briefing papers) Source XP-2173-1230, Code Named OPTIMA, Altarian Trader…

PUTIN: Chort Vozmix! How reliable is the information?!

SMITH: Oh, uh, Alpha 1, Ma'm.

PUTIN: Thank you.

RAY: (To the Briefer) Fine job, Smith. Keep it up. Dismissed!

Smith leaves the briefing room, glad to be gone.

RAY: Mariana, Mavis…I want an Operations Plan on my desk in 24 hours. Clear?

PUTIN: Of course.

KRAKEN: Yes, Chief.

RAY: I know what the Arena is like. If I know Leela, she will survive. But she is one of ours, and we never leave anyone behind. Let's get to work.

FADE OUT

FADE IN

SCENE THREE: The holding area of the Amphitheater in Neapolis.

Leela sits on the massage table, just having placed on her tunic. Antistia and Amy are meticulously inspecting her armor, while Morrigan is rubbing Leela's shoulders, "Just to be sure." Leela looks serene and absolutely fit. "With such a team, who wouldn't be a winner?" she thinks. There is a knock at the door.

MORRIGAN: (In a growl) Who is it?!

CORVO: (Impatiently.) It's me! Is Leela dressed?

LEELA: Yes, come in Corvo.

Corvo enters and surveys the room. Obviously pleased with what he sees, he smiles broadly.

CORVO: Well! Today is the day. Neapolis is your first golden apple, Leela. You can make a real reputation here. But there are dangers. Over forty thousand spectators make a sound that you cannot imagine. Only by remaining absolutely focused can you tune them out. Lose your focus and you can lose your head.

LEELA: I understand. What news on my opponent?

CORVO: Nasty piece of work, she is. She goes by the name of Amazonia and fights as a Samnitexi! Can you believe that…a Samnite?! Of course, she will have full body armor, a large shield, and a short sword. Oh, she'll also have a helmet that protects her face well. She is good…twenty fights with nineteen victories and one draw. Don't pull any stunts like planting your sword in the sand with her!

LEELA: Any weaknesses?

CORVO: She has great stamina, but she is relatively slow. Also, I have it on good authority that she has limited peripheral vision in her left eye.

LEELA: Anything else that I should know?

CORVO: Yes, you may have to kill her to win.

LEELA: (Shaking her head.) I won't have to kill her.

CORVO: Cacatxii! Leela, you have been exceedingly fortunate. In nineteen fights, you have not had to kill once. Do you realize how extraordinary that is? The average is one kill per ten victories. No one's skill lasts forever in the Arena. Our sages say, "Fortune shines brightest just before it shatters." You are the best I have ever seen…possibly because you are fighting for your friends as well as yourself. However, you may have to kill Amazonia…or someone else. You must prepare for that moment.

LEELA: (Grimly) I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, Corvo.

CORVO: And cross it you shall.

ANTISTIA: It's time, Leela.

Leela stands without a word and silently dons her armor. She jumps up and down to ensure a proper fit, takes a few practice swings with her spatha, and exits the room.

FADE OUT

FADE IN

SCENE FOUR: The sand of the Neapolis Amphitheater.

Leela strode onto the sand in lockstep with her opponent, Amazonia. For Leela, who had seen real Amazons, she looked puny…even though she was half a head taller. "Morrigan could show her a thing or two," Leela thought as they approached the sponsor's box. The seats were filled and there were people standing in every open spot. "Corvo was right," Leela thought "the noise is absolutely deafening." As they turned in front of the sponsor's box, Leela was startled to see that Marcus Marcellus seated there! Corvo hadn't said a word about that, the old crow!

After the customary salute, the women strode to the center of the Arena. With them went a referee clad in a white tunic and carrying a wooden rod. Leela was puzzled at first, as she had never had a referee before. Then she remembered something Corvo had said, "A referee can mean one of two things. The first is that the Gladiators are not keen to fight. The second is that one or both of the Gladiators tend to ignore the rules."

The referee spoke, "Assume your places." After a short pause, he said, "Begin." As soon as he spoke, Amazonia charged at Leela, stabbing with her gladiusxiii. She met only empty air, as Leela had sidestepped, bringing the flat of her sword on the side of Amazonia's helmet with a resounding, "Clang!" That staggered Amazonia, but not for long. Within a split second, she was advancing, crouched behind her large, square shield. She obviously intended to pin Leela against the Arena wall, then thrust her through with her gladius.

Leela was entirely uncooperative, working continually to Amazonia's left, testing her vision…already hampered by the visor on her Samnite helmet. "Corvo was right, she can't see well to her left. Every time I move off center to her left, she turns her head." thought Leela. Translating intelligence into advantage, Leela increased the speed with which she moved to Amazonia's left. Some of the seasoned Arena fans began to guess what was going on. The normal murmur of the crowd began to increase in volume.

For several minutes, they danced around the Arena. Amazonia was always trying to close, while Leela parried any thrusts and then sidled off to the left. The crowd became very quiet, realizing they were watching a fairly even match. Leela began to perspire, but far less than Amazonia who seemed to have had a bucket of water dumped over her shoulders. Scattered cries of "Finish it," began to ring out from the crowd. "Not good," Leela thought.

Just then, Amazonia lunged. A split second of distraction nearly cost Leela her life. She moved, but not quickly enough to avoid a cut to her right ribcage. Blood ran down her side, soaking into her tunic. Had she not moved, the thrust would have skewered her. Stepping into Amazonia from the left, Leela drove her round shield hard into her opponent's chin. Amazonia flailed wildly with her sword and shield, and then fell backwards, landing with a crash. The crowd roared its approval.

Down, but not out, Amazonia clambered swiftly to her feet. Blood began to trickle down her chin from beneath her helmet. "I'll bet she'll be spitting teeth when she gets that helmet off," thought Leela with a grin. Grimly, Amazonia advanced again. Leela thought, "This one just won't quit. How do I beat her without killing her?"

For a few brief moments, they circled each other. Leela noticed that Amazonia was not holding her shield up as well as she had earlier in the match. She could catch the sight of her throat whenever Amazonia thrust with her sword. She was tiring, Leela knew. Something Corvo had said flashed through her mind, "Give a tired opponent an opening…then close the trap!"

Leela began to decrease her speed as she parried and dodged Amazonia's attacks. "Watch her feet," Leela thought "if she takes the bait that is the signal." Sure enough, Amazonia planted her right heel firmly in the sand, preparing what she was sure would be a death blow. Amazonia drove her gladius at Leela's vitals, only to realize…too late…that she had been tricked.

Leela shouted "Hi..Yah!" as she swept Amazonia's feet from beneath her. Amazonia hit the sand with a loud crash! Her gladius skittered away, out of reach. As she lay there momentarily stunned and helpless, Leela leaped on her like a lioness, pinning her to the ground. The blade of Leela's spatha hovered over Amazonia's throat. "Yield, damn you!" Leela said. Amazonia response was to squirt a jet of blood through her helmet visor at Leela's face. The crowd was deliriously shouting their approval.

Leela felt something touch her back. She leaped up and whirled about, ready to strike. Before she did, she realized it was the referee. "Stand clear," he commanded. Leela obeyed with alacrity. The referee went behind Leela and raised his wooden rod over her head. He shouted, "Victrix!xiv" Leela knew she had won.

Amazonia lay still on the ground, a blood stain forming in the sand as it ran from under her helmet. The referee went over to Amazonia and raised his wooden rod over her as well. He looked at Marcus Marcellus. The crowd was divided in their verdict. Some were saying, "She's had it!" and giving the thumbs down sign. With relief, Leela noted that the majority were giving the thumbs up sign and shouting, "Let her off!"

Marcellus played it for all it was worth; stretching his hands out as though pleading with the crowd to give him guidance, then cupping is hands to his ears as though he could not hear their verdict. Finally, he gave the thumbs up.

The crowd became silent as Leela trotted over to beneath the sponsor's box. They were further stunned into silence as Marcellus did something highly unusual. He came down from the box onto the sand. He strode up to Leela and without a word hung a heavy gold necklace, studded with rubies, around her neck. He then turned to the crowd and shouted in a parade ground voice, "Behold, the beloved of Minervaxv!" The crowd cheered in thunderous approval. Leela stood transfixed by the cascade of sound.

Marcellus said through his teeth, "Wave to the crowd and make your exit, like a good Gladiatrix." Coming to her senses, she turned and bowed theatrically to Marcellus. Giving her broadest stage smile, Leela then trotted for the tunnel. She waved to the crowd, ignoring the pain in her side and the blood beginning to trickle down her leg. Through her smile she said, "One step closer to freedom."

FADE OUT

FADE IN

SCENE FIVE: The garden of the Villa Marcellii.

Fry and Plautius were digging a hole to plant an Arcturan rose bush. They were working in silence, saving their energy for the task at hand. It was warm in the garden and both men were perspiring freely.

Fry paused to wipe the sweat from his brow. Plautius stopped as well. They were almost done, but there really was no need to hurry. As Plautius often said during breaks, "That plant will be there when we start work again."

Fry looked at Plautius with affection. "He never makes me feel stupid," Fry thought, "and he is so patient." Fry reflected briefly on how much he had learned from Plautius, how much love and affection he had received from him and his wife Iocasta. They were doomed to be childless, but they treated Fry as a son.

Slightly more than five feet tall, Plautius was dark complexioned, middle aged, and balding. His hands were earth stained, gnarled, and strong. His body was lean and muscular. To Fry, wisdom and patience seemed to ooze from his pores. Fry noticed that Plautius seemed to be contemplating something.

FRY: Wassup, Plautius?

PLAUTIUS: Just getting old, I guess. When you have trouble keeping your mind focused on the task at hand, you are getting old.

FRY: You? Old? Snap, you'll be around for another hundred years.

PLAUTIUS: That is in the lap of the gods. (Thoughtfully.) No, in truth, I was thinking how much you remind me of one of Lady Vibia's sons.

FRY: Me?

PLAUTIUS: Yes. He was a master gardener, was Quintus. From the time he was a little boy, he used to come into the garden and quiz me about every plant and flower. In time, he used to work alongside me almost every day. Before he was sixteen, he was a better gardener than I was. Priapusxvi blessed his hands. (Emotionally.) Because of him, I became a freedman eight years ago.

FRY: Did he free you?

PLAUTIUS: No. Marcus Marcellus freed me as part of the funeral games.

FRY: (Sounding confused.) Games at a funeral?

PLAUTIUS: Funeral games are gladiatorial contests staged to honor the dead. They have been part of our way of life for many centuries. (Suddenly.) Well, that's enough slacking off. This bush won't plant itself.

Without another word, they resumed work. In a few minutes the rose bush was firmly planted in the ground. Plautius gave Fry an affectionate pat on the shoulder, as if to say, "Nice work." Silently, they collected their tools, left the garden, and went into the house.

FADE OUT

FADE IN

SCENE SIX: Briefing Room, Galactic Intelligence Agency Headquarters.

Ray GunZ sat at the head of the briefing table, flanked by Mariana Putin and The Kraken. Also present were Dr Kew, head of Science and Technology (S&T) and six others from various departments. The briefing officer at the podium is none other than Agent Beethoven.

RAY: Alright Beethoven, fill me in.

BEETHOVEN: Operation Griffin will be a five-phased operation. Phase I will consist of placing reconnaissance assets on Terranos Prime that will gain and maintain contact with Agent Solo. Once positive contact is established, Phase II begins. We will establish communications with Agent Solo notifying her to prepare for exfiltration. Once she acknowledges our contact, a SODxvii Team will deploy to Terranos Prime via our Altarian contacts…that is Phase III. Link up with Agent Solo is Phase IV. Exfiltration of Solo and the SOD Team is Phase V.

RAY: I've read the briefing book. What were your results when you ran it thorough the mission simulator?

BEETHOVEN: Ninety-five percent success rate, Chief.

RAY: What about the other members of the Planet Express crew? How are they getting out?

BEETHOVEN: We made no provision for bringing them out. We thought…

RAY: (Interrupts.) You obviously haven't studied Agent Solo very well. Hell, didn't you go on missions with her? Do you honestly think she would leave her friends and support crew in the lurch?

BEETHOVEN: I assumed she would follow orders, Chief.

RAY: (Angrily.) That's the problem with assume, it makes an ass out of you and me. Unsatisfactory! You've got twenty four hours to get a real Operations Plan in front of me!

Ray rose and, uncharacteristically, left the room. For a moment, everyone sat silent. The Kraken spoke first, in her Scottish brogue.

KRAKEN: Well lads and lassies, I ‘ken we'd best get off our dead arses and onto our dying feet! When the Chief says twenty four hours…he means it.

MARIANA: I couldn't agree more. Dr Kew, will you provide a liaison to ensure that our Team gets the latest gear? Any edge you can give us will be vital.

KEW: Absolutely, I'll put Penny on it.

MARIANA: Excellent! You all know what the Chief says, "Let's get to work."

Mariana rises from her chair, followed by all the others. In a few short seconds, the room is empty.

FADE OUT

FADE IN

Excerpt from "DNA and Cross Speciation Throughout the Galaxy" by Zhao Halva, University of Mars Press, 2900.

"Cygnian DNA is some of the most fascinating in the Galaxy. In some ways it severely limits itself by hard wiring Cygnians to bond with only one mate. On the other hand, it is very open source, allowing Cygnians to mate with a very wide variety of humanoids.

Once intimacy has occurred between a Cygnian and a humanoid host, the Cygnian DNA begins to re-write much of the genetic code of the host. This is true of male or female hosts. The exact mechanism is too complex to go into here. However, for a full treatment of the subject read "Cygnian DNA" by Professor Pyotr Pelikovsky, Moscow University Press, 2898.

Suffice it to say that much like a computer virus, it rewrites the host DNA code both for bonding and for senescence. In other words, for all intents and purposes, the host humanoid becomes a Cygnian when it comes to faithfulness to one mate and aging. For example, a human of age thirty would cease to age, becoming roughly equivalent to a 140 year old Cygnian. They would then progress at the normal Cygnian rate of senescence."

SCENE SEVEN: Interior of Ray GunZ office, Galactic Intelligence Agency Headquarters.

Ray sat at his desk, staring at the carefully manicured grounds of "the Campus." His mind was locked, bulldog like, on the problem of getting Leela off Terranos Prime. "Damn it," He thought "how did I allow her to wind up in the Arena?"

He sighed as his mind drifted back over 100 years ago, when he too had voluntarily stridden the Arena sands for four exciting years. His fans had named him "Hydrargyrumxviii" because of the silver shimmer of his skin when he was excited. He chuckled to think how lovely Roman matrons and teens had been willing to throw caution to the wind to spend one night with him. Ah, the passion of youth!

Passion! It was an element sorely lacking in his life. As a Cygnian he was fated to mate for life with only one partner. Cygnian DNA allowed no other option.

Up until a year ago, he never thought about it much. After all, he had lots of time. At 162 years old, he was fairly young for a Cygnian. His family usually lived for at least nine hundred years…give or take a decade or two.

Since the Brains Spawn attack that killed the majority of his people his choices for a mate had been severely limited anyway. No one met his standards or piqued his interest. That is, until he met Turanga Leela. She had come to his attention through his old friend Professor Hubert Farnsworth. Hearing Hubert rant about her had made him curious. Having known her parents for many years, he couldn't somehow reconcile the description of the swashbuckling space captain daughter with the withdrawn code breaking parents.

Then he had met her. She was definitely unique! No one he had met in his years of roaming the galaxies had come close. Still, he was a Cygnian and emotionally cautious by nature. Was there room for a relationship there? He wasn't sure. But he did know she was one of the best agents he'd seen in forty years at the Agency.

"Enough," he thought, "time to concentrate on the problem at hand. How do I get Leela and her support crew back home?" His mind ground on as it discarded scenario after scenario. He had risen from a simple agent to the position of Director largely because of his ability to formulate and execute simple, yet flexible plans. Relentlessly, he mentally explored branches and sequels to every scenario. After almost eight hours of unremitting mental labor, he made up his mind.

He turned to the computer terminal sitting next to his desk. Logging on, he began to type a series of email mail messages. Once finished, he turned back to his desk. It was all set. Operation Griffin was cancelled. Mariana Putin would function as Director in his absence. He was going to Terranos Prime as a DOOP diplomat or, if necessary, in a reprise of his role as Hydrargyrum and bring Leela and her crew home.

FADE IN

FADE OUT

SCENE EIGHT: Leela's chambers, Neapolis amphitheater.

Leela and Amy arrived early to the Arena. Antistia, Corvo, and Morrigan were out pursuing fight related tasks. Initially, Amy appeared relaxed as she began directing Arena slaves in setting up the room. Leela always liked things just so and Amy was very good at getting what Leela needed.

At times, Amy would pour out a mixed torrent of abuse in English, Cantonese, and Latin…followed by blows and kicks if need be. Other times, she was as sweet as any belle of the ball, employing a seductive voice and dazzling smile. She never failed to shake things up. Amy did it because she wanted Leela to focus on the fight ahead.

Since today's slaves were slow and surly, they were treated to a tour de force of Amy as the Gorgon. Their efficiency improved with the speed of light under Amy's baleful gaze, lashing tongue, and brute physical force. When they finished, the thoroughly cowed Arena slaves prepared to run from the room.

Just before they could escape, Leela halted them and gave each a Denarius, instead of the usual asxix. They all said, "Thank you Victrix," while keeping a fearful eye on a glowering Amy. They then left in a scene reminiscent of the three stooges exiting a room…all at once. Once the left, both women burst into laughter.

LEELA: That was a first class job, Amy! I doubt they'll slow down until they hit their sleeping chambers!

AMY: Really, Leela, did you have to give them each a Denarius? They were awful! Lazy bastards! (Curses in Cantonese)

LEELA: Amy! How you have changed over these past few months. You have gone from being a spoiled little rich girl to my most reliable helper. I couldn't do it without you.

AMY: I'll tell you who changed my mind…Morrigan. A few months ago, I was complaining to her about things in general. She sat and listened for a long time. When I had talked myself out, she said, "I was a Thane's daughter. Now I am a slave…working for my freedom. I will be free. If you don't change your attitude you will be a slave on this stinking planet for a long time."

LEELA: She said that?

AMY: Oh yes, and a whole lot more. As your "sister and shield maid" she also felt compelled to inform me that if I ever made you suffer injury, she would make me suffer far more.

LEELA: Oh Lord!

AMY: (Smiling.) Now I have discovered that it feels good to help someone else. Funny, isn't it? My parents won't even recognize me!

LEELA: Well, I'm certainly glad to have you on the team.

AMY: Speaking of the team, how are we doing on our peculium?

LEELA: At this rate, in another 10 fights at the most, we should be paid out. That is, as long as I keep winning.

AMY: Oh, you'll keep winning.

LEELA: (Smiling.) As Corvo would say, "That is in the lap of the gods." Let's get ready for the fight.

FADE OUT

FADE IN

SCENE NINE: The sand of the Neapolis Amphitheater.

Leela and her opponent, Achillea, stood before the sponsor's box. The Emperor Titus was in attendance today, so there was a remote chance of winning the rudis…the wooden sword that symbolized both retirement and freedom. Only the Emperor could grant this honor, and all "soldiers of the sand" coveted it.

During the march to the box, Leela had sized Achillea up. Achillea was outfitted in non-standard armor. Dressed as a Greek Hoplite, she only lacked a sarissaxx to make her outfit complete. Her breast was covered by a bronze breastplate. On her head was a plumed Corinthian helmet with a red horsehair plume. She carried a wickedly curved sword, called a falcataxxi, and a large round shield that covered over half of her body.

Today, there was a referee on the sand. Leela thought for a moment, "Why?" Then it hit her. She remembered the rumors about Amazonia and Achillea being lovers. "Oh great!" she thought, "A grudge match."

The two women moved to the center of the Arena. The crowd became absolutely silent in anticipation of an exciting match. Both women assumed a fighting stance. Then, the referee thundered, "Begin!"

Rather than receive Achillea's attack, Leela went on the offensive. She thrust vigorously at Achillea, denting her breastplate. Achillea swung her sword in response. It narrowly missed Leela right arm as it withdrew from a second rapid thrust that went just wide of the mark. The crowd roared its approval and then fell silent again, enthralled by the display of skill and bravery unfolding before their eyes.

Achillea would swing her falcata, only to be parried by Leela. Immediately, Leela would counterstrike. The clang, clang, clang of repeated strikes and parries rang out through the Arena. The crowd became as silent as a tomb, motionless in anticipation of a mistake by one of the opponents.

In a surprise move, Leela took a blow on her small round shield instead of parrying with her spatha. She swung hard with the flat of her spatha at Achillea's sword hand in an attempt to disarm her. Achillea just had time enough to move a fraction of an inch. Spatha struck falcata in a blow that gave off sparks. The falcata flew from Achillea's hand.

Not one to give up easily, Achillea covered herself with her shield and rolled to her downed sword. Recovering it with astonishing swiftness, she charged at Leela…obviously determined to finish the match. "Bad move, girl," Leela thought. Holding her ground until the last nanosecond, Leela used her shield in a maneuver that would forever be called by all Arena aficionados "the Cyclopia two-step."

Feinting a slash at the legs, she simultaneously punched hard with her shield into Achillea's chin. The blow connected. Achillea's head whipped back. There was a loud snapping sound, Achillea collapsed like a sack of grain, and sprawled lifeless on the sand.

The crowd exploded in a tumultuous cacophony of sound that nearly staggered Leela. At first, she did not realize that Achillea was dead. That is, until after the referee pronounced her "Victrix" and no one bothered to signal with their thumbs. "Oh, my God" Leela thought, "she's dead! I killed her."

Time seemed to stand still. The sound of blood rushing in her ears overcame the sound of the crowd. Her stomach wrenched, threatening to make her vomit in front of 40,000 spectators. With a supreme act of the will, she forced herself to trot over to in front of the Imperial box.

The Emperor was feeling generous, so he threw a bag full of precious stones to her. She was so wobbly on her feet that she stuck her sword into the sand and then retrieved the bag. Unsteadily, she saluted the Emperor with her spatha.

The crowd was still in a full-throated roar as she trotted out of the Arena. She could see Achillea's lifeless body being dragged away. Increasing her speed to a dead run, Leela bolted into the corridor leading to the gladiator chambers. Once inside and away from the eyes of the crowd, she bent over and vomited. Blinded by tears, she groped her way toward the sanctuary of her chambers.

FADE OUT

FADE IN

SCENE TEN: Leela's chambers, Neapolis amphitheater.

Leela sat upright on the massage bench clad only in her tunic, worrying her ponytail. Her eye was red and swollen from weeping. Leela moaned and rocked back and forth, seeming to see no one as she continued to weep and worry her ponytail. Around her were Morrigan, Antistia, and Amy. They had looks of distress on their faces, as they took turns trying to embrace her.

Leela fought off each attempt, returning to worrying her ponytail, rocking, and moaning as soon as her friends accepted she did not want to be touched. At that point, Corvo entered the room. He sized the situation up at a glance. He went over and took Leela's head firmly in both hands. She struggled, but he refused to be moved by her blows or protests. Finally, her eye met his.

CORVO: Leela, speak to me.

LEELA: (Sobbing.) Oh, God I killed her…you were right…I'm not as good as I think I am. I didn't mean to kill her. What will I do?

CORVO: Leela, you will continue to be a Gladiatrix. I know Achillea. She would have gladly killed you in an instant if she got the chance…do you believe me?

LEELA: (Weakly). Yes. But, I do not know how I can go on with this. It is so terrible! I feel so dirty…so sick.

CORVO: My child, every soldier of the sand crosses this bridge. You cannot change the past, nor can you escape from your oath as a Gladiatrix. I felt sick when I killed my first man. It is natural, but so is moving on.

LEELA: I don't ever think I can move on, Corvo. I can hear her neck snapping even now, over and over.

CORVO: For the sake of all of your friends, you must move on. (To Morrigan) Prepare for a move. We head for the Villa Marcellii tomorrow at dawn.

MORRIGAN: As you wish, Corvo.

FADE OUT


i - The latest figures available are from the 3006 Census taken after the ascension of the Emperor Marcus Marcellus.

ii - The Spatha is a long, straight sword. It is slightly wider at the end than at the tang. It can be used either as a stabbing or slashing weapon.

iii - A vambrace is a piece of armor designed to protect the forearm without restricting movement.

iv - The traditional term for the sponsor of the games is editor. However, to avoid confusion, I have elected to use the term sponsor.

v - The Denarius was a small silver coin, about the size of a dime. A family of four could live comfortably on 250 Denarii a month.

vi - A special gate through which those spared in a fight (Missus) exited the Arena.

vii - The mortality rate for gladiators per match in New Space Rome is 5%.

viii - The mildest expletive used by Roman men, roughly equivalent of "Gee" or "Wow."

ix - The peculium was a fund kept by slaves to buy their freedom.

x - "The devil take it" in Russian

xi - The Samnite is one of the two original types of combatant in the Arena. They take their name from a traditional enemy of Rome. Their armor roughly mimics that of the Samnite warrior.

xii - Cacat is a Latin expletive meaning human excrement.

xiii - The gladius was the sword of the Legions. It had a short blade that required the user to get in close. It was most effective as a stabbing weapon.

xiv - Victrix is the feminine form of "Victorious" in Latin.

xv - Minerva is the Roman name for Athena, the goddess of war.

xvi - Priapus was the Roman spirit of the garden, among other things.

xvii - Special Operations Directorate (SOD)

xviii - Latin for Quicksilver.

xix - The as is a small copper coin worth 1/12 of a denarius.

xx - The sarissa was a long spear used by the Greek Phalanx.

xxi - The falcata is about two feet long and curves in a forward arc. It is not much use for stabbing, but it is the sword par excellence for slashing.

Buddies