I lean my head on a window pane
and stare right down there through the rain
and through the dims an awful strain
I think I see a mushroom man.
(lyrics Les Claypool)
It was pouring down rain on Mutara 17 as the passenger door opened. Miranda Love, also known by her nickname “Tweak,” was led down the ramp to the concrete tarmac. The DOOP officers with their protective anti-psionic headsets opened up her plasteel handcuffs, and quickly walked back up the ramp. They treated her like a savage tiger being released back into the wild; as if to prove this, a third officer had a tranquilizer carbine aimed at her the whole time.
Even though she was treated like a dangerous animal, she was at least given a plastic poncho so she wouldn’t get soaked. Her three new escorts were waiting for her. Without a word the ship’s ramp closed; the package had been delivered. The Earth men knew that this wasn’t the place to tarry.
She looked at her three new minders. The first two were both obviously mutants, something to be expected on a planet full of them. The first was a normal enough looking man with a dark, shiny eye that extended around his skull like an organic headband. His flunkie looked like a human version of a puffer fish, complete with the spiny skin and fish-like bulgy eyes. The third person, a normal-looking man in a cloak, stood quietly. The one with the hideous single eye spoke first. “Let’s get going, miss.”
“No…do you want them? I can get some for you if you feel you need them.”
She continued her questions. “No special head-gear for you guys? Didn’t they tell you how dangerous I was?”
He spoke to her without turning, as he didn’t need to with his eye. “Our paperwork did say something about telepathic abilities, the ability to adjust the emotions of humans. You had all of Earth hopping around like a centipede on a hotplate from what I hear.”
“Doesn’t that scare you?”
He chuckled. “Ma'am, I'm a police officer; if I were afraid of much, I wouldn't be doing this for a living. But if you've got a weapon, I suggest you keep it hidden from me.” He lit up a cigarette. “I’m Marshall Oculon, by the way. You a telepath or a scanner?”
“I just like to get to know who I’m transporting. Still, you're going to be quite an item for discussion when I toss you in with the others.” They led her to an aging Kawanishi air-sedan outside of a large gray building, as a bulky, noisy spacecraft roared overhead. “Hop in, sister.”
The two mutants climbed into the front, and the cloaked man sat in the back with Tweak. The human pufferfish pushed forward the throttle, and the ancient car rose into the air and pulled away.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“You’re just full of questions. We’re going to Arcis Skeptikos, the Thoughtful Citadel.”
“Will they be afraid of me there?”
Again, another chuckle. “You may end up being afraid of them before it’s all over.”
As the air-car made its way through the streets of the city, Oculon glanced at Puffy in confusion. "Hey...I thought we were going to take the avenue rather than the parkway..."
"I was - the traffic...weren't we?"
Oculon leaned over to Miranda. "That was a cute trick, sister."
"You expected me to test the water a little, didn't you? I was just having fun with him."
"Pull the car over here, Puffy." The deputy obeyed, and put the car into a ground hover. "Listen, sweetie - I warned you about using that weapon of yours...don't do it again. Is this going to be a problem for you?"
Miranda let out a sigh. "Hell, I'm already here. Why drive when you can let someone else do the driving? Take me to this cage you have for me...I won't stop you."
I assure you, it’s much nicer than a cage.
Tweak turned to the hooded man sitting next to her. “Oh, you do speak – sort of,” she told him. “They sent you along to keep me from playing with these two guys like toys.”
The man just smiled in silence. Just think of me as added insurance.
Oculon motioned, and Puffy put the air-car back on the avenue.
Without turning, Miranda tried to get the hooded man to scratch his ear. As she began to concentrate harder, she suddenly got a headache. The harder she tried, the stronger the pain began to pound in her head. When she gave up the attempt, the headache went away.
Again, the hooded man turned to her; this time he spoke in a soft voice. “You just had to test me, didn’t you? Miss Miranda, don’t ever confuse kindness with weakness.”
"Good news, everyone!"
"Where are we off to now?" asked Fry.
"You are making a delivery to Mutara 17, the Mutant Planet."
“Wait a minute,” Leela asked, “isn’t that where they took our old buddy Miranda?”
“That’s the very same, but I doubt you’ll have to worry about her - I've heard that they have her sequestered in with a group of psionic mutants on that planet.” He then scratched his bald head and thought deeply. "There's only one problem I do have on this trip."
"What would that be?" asked Leela.
"Well Leela," he continued, "You're already a mutant; while that's usually a drawback in most societies, it's an absolute boon on this planet."
"Thanks for the racist banter - I'll sue you later. But do go on."
"Well, their culture and laws of late don't allow what they call 'Normals' to be walking around their streets." He pulled something out of his pocket. "Here, Fry - stick this on your forehead."
Fry wrinkled up his face. "Ick - it's an eye."
"Just a prosthetic...you'll fit right in with the locals."
Leela got a puzzled look as he popped the eye onto his forehead. "That takes care of Fry. But what about Amy? She's normal - well, relatively speaking."
"Amy - come out here. See...she's got her mutant pajamas on."
Amy came walking out in her ridiculous-looking pink pajamas. They had an extra pair of false arms, and her headpiece had a false hand coming out of each side. "Well, how do I look?"
Leela began to chuckle. "Like an idiot - like a Teletubby on acid. Professor, you don't seriously think this is going to work..."
"Hey - she's really kind of proud of those; they're at least as cute as her flying squirrel pajamas. And I worked hard on Fry's eye...I think it gives him character."
Leela snorted with laughter. "He's like a little kid - I'm just afraid he'll think it's a gummy eye and try to eat it."
"Very funny," Fry said.
"It's obvious you don't even know the first thing about what being a mutant is all about; these two will be put up against the wall as soon as we land. Okay, you walking freak show - let's get going. That ship won't pre-flight itself." Leela then turned to Amy. "Are there any more pajamas you haven't told us about? Angel pajamas? Naga pajamas?"
Amy frowned. "I like my naga pajamas."
The air-car dropped off Miranda and the man in the cloak in front of a tall building, and abruptly left. She gazed up at letters engraved into the limestone entry - "Arcis Skeptikos" in old Roman typeface. The Citadel of Thought.
As the man led her upstairs to meet the others, she was impressed at how posh the building actually was. In the hallway she noticed a young boy making a small rubber ball float in the air; apparently he was just learning to do this. Smiling, Miranda tweaked her fingers and made the child float the ball over to her. She then tossed it back to him. The child smiled.
A very petite woman glanced into the eyes of the hooded man; he answered her question telepathically. She tried to test me; we expected that. She’ll do just fine.
“That’s quite a skill you have, young lady.” The petite woman walked up to Miranda with a teenage boy. With a smile she told her, “So, I finally get to meet the most dangerous woman on planet Earth.”
“You seem to know a lot about me; I don’t think we’ve been introduced.”
“My name is Adriana Summers…you could say my colleagues and I run things around here.” She glanced at the young man with her. "Nathan, tell the others she's here."
"Yes, ma'am." Young Nathan quickly vanished from sight.
Miranda looked astonished. "Did he....did he just disappear?"
"Nathan is able to teleport. You'll see lots of interesting things happen around here. Once you get used to us, you'll fit right in."
Nathan re-appeared in the same spot that he was standing. "They've been told, Miss Summers."
"Thank you, Nathan. You've probably got some homework to do." With that, he disappeared again.
Miranda pointed at the cloaked man. “And him…the guy in the cloak. What is he, your guard dog?”
“That is Solomon. Like many of us here, he is well able to defend himself. You did try him out – we expected you to do that…at least once. I'm not really angry about it; I'm just glad you're here with us.”
“Fine…I’m out of here.”
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“If I’m not going to a cell, then I’m leaving. I'm grabbing the first ship off of this rock.”
Adriana stood in front of the door. “That’s insane – this bunch out here will tear you apart. You may be able to tweak a few minds here and there, but how long can you keep a mob at bay? You’re safer here…with us.”
Miranda was now angry. “What can you possibly do to stop me, Little Bit? Hoodie here can give me a headache, but what power do you have? You can’t stop me.”
Adriana’s face went flush with fury. “Step back,” she advised. Solomon just stood in silence, smiling. She lifted her tiny hand, and a metal vase behind them drifted up into the air. She then squeezed her fist. Miranda’s eyes grew large as the vase was crushed with a horrible crunching sound of grinding metal. When she was done with her demonstration, Adriana waved her hand and the vase flew across the hallway and landed with a crash. She turned and looked into Miranda’s dark eyes. “Don’t ever make me demonstrate my powers again. Is there anyone else here you want to test?”
Like a paddled schoolgirl, Miranda spoke respectfully to her. “No, ma’am,” she said.
"Good. Solomon will show you to your room. If there is anything you need, just ask."
In the gleaming white Presidential Palace of Mutara 17, President Xuth was busy with paperwork in his office when his aide brought in a dispatch. Trying to be helpful, he held it up for the president to read. Xuth was a humanoid creature who's head was split into a Y-shape, with an eye out on each stalk; he looked much like a Hammerhead Shark. He quickly got frustrated with his aide.
"Zorno, how many times have I told you? One side or the other, darn it - one side or the other. You know I have a blind spot in the middle." He grabbed Zorno's hand and moved the dispatch over to one eye. The eyeball moved back and forth as he read.
"Good grief, Zorno...how old are these election polls? These numbers are terrible."
"They're just a few hours old, sir. Oh, and your material for the inauguration outfits is arriving from Planet Express."
Xuth grinned as he thought of their silly ad. "Planet Express - our crew is expendable...your package isn't." He suddenly stopped grinning. "You don't suppose they've got any normal humans on that ship? You did tell them..."
"I'm sure I made our wishes clear to that old Professor I spoke with - I know that the Mutant Brotherhood would eat you alive if they brought a bunch of Normals in here right before the election."
"Frankly, I could care less - I've never had anything against a normal.
But those Mutant Brotherhood thugs are hardly to be toyed with...they could destroy me politically."
"I'd be careful of talk like that sir...especially around the election."
Xuth gazed out the window into the courtyard; he grew very quiet as he watched his teenage daughter picking flowers. “Zorno, why did Myn have to be born so terribly mutated? Why are some people lucky, and others so terribly cursed?”
"But she's special in a wonderful way." Zorno fumbled for what to say. “I don’t know, sir. She is a kind soul, if I may say so.”
Leela came forward to the control panel and found Fry and Bender staring at something on the view screen.
"What do you think it is?" asked Fry.
"It looks like a big piece of coral - are you sure we're not just looking at a fish tank? But there are no fish around the reef..."
"Do you want your landing coordinates or not?" demanded the thing on the screen.
Bender let out a frightened squeal. "It spoke!"
"Scram you two - out!" commanded Leela. "You guys are like a couple of little kids raiding a kitchen." She climbed into the pilot's seat. "Yes, we'd like our landing coordinates."
"You've only got one eye," the thing told her. "Finally, someone I can deal with. I don't know how to say this, but your friends are quite homely. They aren’t Normals, are they?"
Leela snickered. "Them…normal? Hardly..."
The Planet Express Ship finally touched down in the capitol city of Arcis de Novo. As the crew stepped off the ship with their cargo, they looked on in wonder at the strange twisted buildings of the city. They then took a hover-shuttle through the winding streets toward the center of town, the place known as the Octagon. They walked by the large statue of the city's founder, a humanoid with multiple tentacles that led a group of mutants from Earth many years ago; they settled the planet as a haven for their own kind. Fry then pointed up at something.
"Look up here, guys...why would they put a door way up there?"
They then spotted a winged creature holding a suitcase fly up to the door and enter. "I guess that answers your question," Amy remarked with a chuckle.
"C'mon guys," said Leela, "I think I see our delivery stop. Bykor's Haberdashery."
“What’s a haberdashery?” asked Fry.
Leela giggled. “Are you the only one who doesn’t know that? The word came back into popular usage in the 23rd century after the fall of the thinking machines. Here - look at this description on my wrist-thingee.” (Editor's note: When the robot armies were defeated in the Seven Days War, Pope Claudia XXIII decreed that no machine was to automatically dispense clothing to humans; to this day, human haberdashers are still in brisk demand).
Amy pinched his jacket sleeve with her fingers. “Shmeeshes. It’s no wonder you wouldn’t know. This jacket looks like it’s from a fire sale. How many years are you going to wear this thing?”
As they walked in with their deliveries, Bykor was happy to meet them. He was a little bald man with webbed fingers and a fin on the top of his head. He smiled at Amy.
"Young lady," he told her, "I've got an evening dress that can accommodate all of those arms. And it's in a lovely color." He then opened one of the boxes they'd brought and pulled out some material. "Molecular nylon...truly a gift of modern science. It stretches every way you do."
"Why did you guys need all this fabric on such short notice?" asked Leela.
"For the inauguration of President Xuth, of course. Follow me please...I'll get your order written up." Bykor then took the opportunity to complain to one of his workers. "Oy - haven't you guys shipped these boxes out yet? I don't want to be stuck with them."
"What are they?" asked Fry. "Why not just resell them?"
Bykor gave Fry an incredulous look. "These are dinner jackets for a group of businessmen from Mantis VI. They only have a neck size of 15."
"That doesn't sound like an unusual size for a man's neck," said Fry.
Bykor reached into the box and pulled out a tiny dinner jacket that looked like it could fit a child's action figure. "That's 15 millimeters, young man. Who would I sell them to?"
"I know a guy who races rats on Earth," added Bender.
"Oy - everyone's a comedian. Anyway, thanks for getting the material here so swiftly."
When the Planet Express Crew was finished at the haberdashery, they started walking back to the ship. Fry suddenly spotted something that made him excited like a kid; he peeked inside the door. "It's a cantina!"
"A what?" asked Amy.
"A cantina...just like on 'Star Wars.'"
Leela cringed. "Do you think this is such a good idea? We haven't had any problems here so far. Look at the name on the door – ‘The Mutated Eye.’ Do you think we'd be welcome in there?"
"But I've always wanted to go to one."
Leela gently grabbed his arm. "You've shown me this movie - didn't that scene end with a guy getting his arm cut off? And a hit man getting barbequed with a laser?"
"Fiddlesticks...that 's science fiction - this is real life. What could happen?"
"I don't know...in this life I've seen things weirder than science fiction." Reluctantly, Leela gave in and they went inside the bar. As the name indicated, the entire place was filled with weird and misshapen mutants. The bartender, who had several arms, was busy mixing drinks.
As in the movie, the Joey the bartender immediately took issue with Bender. "We don't allow his kind in here...your robot - he'll have to leave."
"Oh, sorry about that." Bender pulled out one of his eyes and tossed it into his door. "How's this, bub?"
The bartender shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, that's weird enough. We do have a dress code, you know. So...what'll ya have?"
"Three-fingers bourbon - hold the soda."
Bender then noticed that he was being swished by a black horse's tail...which was connected to the rear of a chestnut mare.
"Oooh," he complained, "who the hell let horses in here? Smelly animal...probably left a cookie on the floor." He gave the rear quarters a slap of his hand. He was then kicked in the chest by an angry hoof.
As he got up, a woman centaur turned to face him. "Are you the little bastard that just slapped me?"
"Oh, let me apologize profusely for that, madam...I didn't know there was a human attached to that hiney."
"Oh, so I'm just a human attached to a horse...is that it? Racist. I'm much more than a human being or a horse. Just keep your hands off of my hind quarters, bucko, or I'll kick you clean out the door."
Bender grumbled. "Animal rights...huh."
The crew settled in with their drinks, and they listened to a mutant by the name of Yvette sing. She had an enlarged head, four eyes, and three mouths. The crew was impressed by how well she harmonized. Fry recognized the song she sang as an old Frank Zappa tune.
"And then I'll call pup tentacle
I'll ask him how's his chin
I'll find out how the future is
Because that's where he's been
His little feet got long and flexible
And suckers fell right in..."
As she was just starting to sing "My Funny Valentine," trouble found the Planet Express Crew. A mutant with a head that looked like a nude behind came up to Fry with another creature. He roughly poked Fry in the shoulder. "He doesn't like you," he spat. "I don't like you either."
Fry got very nervous. "What would Ben Kenobi do if he were here?" he thought. He tried to ignore the mutant and go back to his drink.
"Did you hear me? He doesn't like you!"
By this time Leela saw what was happening. "Look, fella, he isn't bothering you. Now go run along and play on the freeway."
Without warning, the mutant slugged Fry in the shoulder. The punch didn't hurt him too badly, but his prosthetic eye went flying across the bar. All Leela could mumble was, "Oh, crap..."
The punching mutant was as shocked as anyone. "Normal!!" he screamed. "Normal!!"
Leela reared her arm back. "Okay, bucko - you've earned this one." Her fist sent the punching mutant sprawling across the floor.
He got up and shouted at the bartender. "Get the marshal in here - they've brought Normals in the bar!"
Leela looked at her crew. "Let's get the hell out of dodge before the rest of the homeboys arrive."
Before they could get out the bar, Marshal Oculon and his deputy blocked the door. The deputy inflated his body like a large pufferfish in the doorway. "Going somewhere?" he asked.
Marshal Oculon was bald and had that eye that wrapped all the way around his head. "As you can see," he said as he pointed to his eye, "I don't miss much. Now - what happened here?"
Leela stepped up. "I did hit him - but he hit my friend first."
The punching mutant stepped up. "I don't care that she hit me...she brought a Normal in here! Here's his fake eye!"
Oculon examined the eye. "Well, I'll be...they're finding new ways to infiltrate us." He stared at Fry with that hideous wrap-around eye of his. "I bet your upbringing was normal too...eating cornflakes in front of the TV while Dad cut the lawn and Mom baked cookies..."
"Well, it was," Fry told him. Leela nudged him hard for the answer.
Another mutant chimed in. "The one over here in the pink pajamas is a phony too - these arms are fake!"
A mutant started reaching for Leela's eye. "Let's see if purple-hair here is a phony..."
Leela quickly goose-necked his hand. "Touch my eye, and I'll make you slap your momma in the face for ever having you."
Oculon pointed. "Puffy, let's bring the bunch of them down to headquarters and get this whole thing sorted out."
As they were walking out of the bar, Leela noticed Bender chatting with Yvette the singer. "Boy, the neighborhood sure has gone downhill," he told her. "They just let anyone in here..."
Leela grabbed his wrist like misbehaving kid. "You're coming too."
Fry and Amy sulked inside of a jail cell while Leela and Bender tried to secure their release.
"Why do we always end up in a jail cell?" asked Amy. "This is getting to be a re-occurring pattern...kind of like those old stories by Gulliver63 – he always had us being tossed into a cell."
"I never thought I'd be thrown in the pokey for being too normal..."
As Marshall Oculon reported to the President, one of his security staff started growling at Puffy; the creature, who bore the features of a wolf, showed his sharp teeth at the mutant. Puffy inflated with air in response.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Oculon told the growling mutant, "old Puffy there is highly toxic...one bite of him and you'll be dead in an hour; unless, of course, he's cooked and prepared properly."
The creature calmed down and sat in a chair. Puffy deflated and relaxed.
"Oculon," the president growled, "what's all this clatter I hear about Normals running amok in the city...it's almost election time!"
He was offered a cigar by the president, but waved his hand. "Two of them, sir - I've got 'em safely locked up in a holding cell downtown. The one guy wore this fake eye."
Xuth examined the eye, holding it up to one of his two eyestalks. "Diabolical...just diabolical. If the Mutant Brotherhood caught wind of this, I'd be tarred and feathered."
"We'll be on the lookout for more, sir. This bunch was from a delivery company that brought in material for your inauguration."
"Them? The idiots with the 'expendable crew' ads they run during wrestling on Saturday nights? Nuts! I want to see this bunch...right now. Before the Triumvirate get wind of this. If that infernal woman finds out about this, she'll roast my rump over an open flame."
"You need to let my friends go right this instant," Leela demanded.
President Xuth wasn't budging. "Young lady, if I were you..." His wrist communicator suddenly buzzed, and he looked at it. He then looked up at his men. "The Triumvirate want to speak to this woman...and her friends."
"I knew it," Leela told him, "there is someone bigger than you that you answer to."
Xuth looked at her with sympathetic eyes. "Young woman, you'd better hope that they like you." He glanced at Oculon. "Round up her friends."
Fry and Amy turned as the cell door opened.
"See, Amy? They're letting us out."
Amy grumbled. "I still say they owe me for these damaged pajamas."
"C'mon , you lot," grumbled Oculon, "do you want out, or not?"
Leela and her friends were brought into a lavish drawing room on the top level of the Thoughtful Citadel. Three hooded figures in mocha brown robes appeared before them, two women and a man. The leader Adriana Summers, a tiny woman with short-cut brunette hair, pulled back her hood. "You're late."
"Ma'am, it took us a few minutes to round up the prisoners."
"President Xuth, why were we not informed of these outworlders? Why did I have to learn of this from my grapevine sources?"
Xuth shifted his weight on his feet. "Adriana, these are just minor law-breakers...all they did was to start a fight in a cantina. We were just going to ask them some questions and send them on their way. We saw no reason to..."
"Leave us," Adriana told him, "we will sift them on our own."
"But Adriana," he advised, "they might be a threat..."
"Leave us...before I get angry."
"Yes, ma'am." Xuth made a half bow, and left with his men.
Leela looked down at the tiny woman. "It's about time - maybe I can start getting answers as to why my crew was held. Anyway, are we done here? All I did was sock someone in the jaw, and I didn't really hurt him."
"I did not give you permission to speak; you will be held here, and you will talk when I ask you questions." She turned to the man next to her. "DeMarcus, sift the mutant woman - I want to know everything she knows."
Leela got that angry curve in her eye. "Now just a darn minute, Tiny - no one is holding us anywhere, or ‘sifting us’, whatever that means. We've made our delivery, and we're leaving this place right now."
"Leaving," Adriana told her, "is out of the question. You'll be in danger from the mobs."
"Oh yeah? Watch me. Come on guys, we're out of here."
As Leela turned to leave, the brunette lifted her tiny hand up in front of her and made a fist. Leela suddenly felt like a giant invisible hand had grabbed her around the midsection, and was holding her immobile; her arms were pinned against her sides. She struggled, but couldn't move an inch in any direction.
“You will hold your tongue, young woman - and I didn't say you could go.” Her brown eyes burned with anger. "First off, if you want to go on living a life free of pain, you will never insult my height again - I don't like it. We will sift you for answers; if we don't find the ones that we're looking for, things won't go well for you people." She gently moved her fist, and Leela found herself quickly shoved up against a wall like a piece of furniture. The brunette glanced over at the man. "DeMarcus, scan her mind - I need to know if she is with The Brotherhood."
The man tipped his head and closed his eyes. After a few seconds, he spoke. "She's a mutant - her mind is structured differently. She's putting up quite a resistance...she's fearful."
"DeMarcus, you know what to do...give her a sugar cube."
"A sugar cube?" Fry asked in a worried voice. “What’s that?”
Leela's mind was suddenly filled with a collection of wonderful feelings and sensations; it was as if she were dining on a sumptuous meal in a sauna pool, and getting a back massage at the same time. Distracted, she began to calm down.
“She's relaxing...her name is Turanga Leela, and she is merely a delivery person from Earth as she claims.” DeMarcus scanned her further. “She and her friends here have no hidden agenda that I can see. Unlike what we’ve been told, they are not spies. Her friends tried to pass themselves off as mutants so they could make their delivery and go home. They're not of the brotherhood."
“What did you just do to me?” asked Leela in a dreamy voice.
“Bender,” Amy said angrily, “aren’t you going to do something?”
“What, are you kidding? She probably crushes pop cans for the fun of it with that power - I'm just a bigger pop can.”
Fry stepped forward. “You let her go!”
The third person, a Thai woman, tipped her head; Fry suddenly found himself being tapped in his ribcage by something that felt like an invisible baseball bat.
“Anchalee,” Adrianna said, “there’s no need for that. They aren’t going anywhere, and they certainly aren’t a threat to us.” She opened up her clenched fist, and Leela found herself released from the invisible grasp. “If you promise to behave, we won’t harm you; if you act aggressively, however, we can easily defend ourselves.”
Leela looked down at Adriana. “Agreed. That's quite a gift you have there. By the way, what was that thing he did to me?”
"That was a sugar cube - it works on the nerve endings. It can be pleasurable, or it can be turned around into a terrifying experience of pain called a 'poison pill.' I do apologize for the rough treatment; We didn't know if you'd be hostile. We'd heard some rumors. Some of our kind have been injured by angry mobs lately; we had to approach you from a position of strength."
"I'd sure like to get one of those sugar cube-thingees at the end of a long day at work. Is he married?"
The tiny woman responded with a soft chuckle. "You guys are alright."
Leela continued her questioning. "If you don't mind me asking, who are you people?"
“My name is Adriana Summers; this is DeMarcus, my scanner, and this is Anchalee, my faithful soldier. The mutants here refer to us as The Triumvirate, as we are the most powerful of our kind. You are a Cyclops…you see, Miss Leela, not all of us wear our mutations on the outside where they can be seen.” She looked over at the others. "And you brought two Normals here...with the way things have been going here lately, you were lucky they weren't lynched in the village square."
Leela gave the tiny woman a funny look. "It seems to me that you guys really run things around here...you're sort of like the puppet masters pulling the strings on this planet."
"Yes, of course. And the Mutant Brotherhood doesn't care for that very much. You see Leela, war is brewing - a battle is coming. We and our fellow psionic mutants aren't about to be swept off the planet without a fight." She looked around her. "All of you may come out now." A large mass of people, old, middle-aged, teens and children, began to emerge from an adjacent room to join the three.
Leela and her friends looked around in fear. "There are more like you?" Leela asked.
"All of us here have psi abilities; some of us can read minds. Others can crush and kill with theirs. Some are clairvoyant. Some can manipulate fire and ice. And some of us can heal."
A little blonde girl walked up to Leela with an outstretched hand; she then looked back at Adriana. She said, "She's not a bad person, Miss...I can sense it. And her friends are good people as well."
Adriana playfully rubbed the top of her hair. "You'll have to excuse Sarah Ann here - she doesn't mean to be rude."
Leela reached down and shook the little girl's hand. "They say that children are the most brutally honest people around. Hello, Sarah Ann."
"Hello, Miss." The child was genuinely curious. "Miss, does it hurt to be a cyclops?"
"No, honey...it doesn't hurt."
Amy then spoke. "Leela, she talked about war..."
"What your friend says is true," Adriana continued, "and you need to pick a side. I can guarantee you that the Mutant Brotherhood will tear you apart if they get a hold of you and your friends. It might be very dangerous for you to try to get to the spaceport now."
"Do you have enough weapons to fight this battle?" asked Leela. "None of you appear to be armed..."
"Oh, we have enough weaponry amongst ourselves to fight this war. In our midst we even have a new secret weapon." She made a gesture and another hooded figure came forward. "I believe you might know this young woman."
The woman pulled back her hood; there stood Miranda Love. "Hi, guys..."
Bender’s eyes got large. “Good grief – look at what the cat dragged out.”
"You aren't still bitter over what happened at Planet Express," asked Leela sheepishly.
"No...not really. You guys at least visited me in jail...I've never forgotten that. And I did sort of screw you guys over. Now I'm here among a whole community of people just like me. I'm back to being the flavor of the week."
She twiddled her fingers, and Fry recoiled in fear. She laughed. "I'm sorry...I just couldn't help that. Come here and see me. I still think you're really cute.”
Fry crept in closer, as if he was dealing with a cobra in a basket.
“Aren’t you going to give me a hug?” she asked as she held her fingers up to tweak.
Fry gently grabbed the fingers. “No…not like that. I want to have the freedom of choice to hug you, or not to hug you.” He relented, and gave her a warm hug. “I did that because I wanted to; I did it out of my own freewill.”
She jokingly twiddled her fingers in the air to the others. "Look ma, no fingers."
Bender placed his metal hands on his sides as he peered out the window. “I’m sure we’ve all experienced a lot of love and healing in today’s therapy session, but could we get back to business? This lady is still talking about war, and there is a crowd down there in the street.”
"Is it an angry crowd?" asked Amy.
"They ain't here to give us the key to the city," said Bender.
“Oh my,” Adriana said, “they already know that Miranda is in here with us. And I'm sure that they know that you're here.”
Leela looked out the window at a group of angry protestors with their fists in the air and then at Miranda. "Tweak...a little help here..."
The young woman placed her hands on the glass pane. "So many people...I've really never really tried it on a crowd this size."
"Go for the leader," Leela advised, "the one with a head shaped like an onion and the tubers on top. Start with him..."
“That’s Allium Cheppa, the leader of the Mutant Brotherhood,” Adriana said.
"This is quite a range..." Miranda told them.
"You can do it," Fry told her as he squeezed Miranda’s shoulder, "I know you can."
She closed her eyes. After several seconds the riot leader threw his protest sign down in disgust and walked away from the confused crowd. As Leela had hoped, the crowd began to lose interest and thin out.
"That's amazing," Leela noted, "your hoo-doo worked on that whole crowd. Way to go, sister-girl."
"It took a lot out of me," she told her as she caught her breath and wiped a tear from her eye.
"That saved our bacon for tonight," Amy said, "but what now? These pajamas won't get me far in this town."
Adriana cut in. "Can I fit you guys with a robe?"
That next morning Leela was awaken from her cot by a commotion in the hallway. She opened her door and watched as the hooded figures brought an injured person by. “Can I help?” she asked Adriana.
“This doesn’t concern you; we’ll talk later.”
“Miss Summers, I have some first aid skills…”
“Fine. Come with us.”
They placed the woman on a gurney in a drawing room. “What happened?” Leela asked.
Adriana filled her in on the details. “She was just going down to a market to get food items for us. She got swept up in a mob of thugs. Someone got off a lucky shot with a Slurm bottle. This is happening more and more lately.”
“Here,” said Leela, “let me get a medical kit.”
“No need,” Adriana told her. “Mr. Coughlin…”
An older man stretched his hand over the cut on the woman's head. As he did this, she began to calm down. Leela and her friends watched in amazement as the wound on the woman’s forehead went away. “She’ll need rest,” he told the others.
Adriana looked up at Leela’s eye, as she met her gaze. “You people never fail to amaze me,” Leela told her.
“It's like I told you yesterday – war is coming, and we need to be prepared.”
President Xuth slammed his fist on his wooden desk. "Do you mean to tell me we still have a riot situation in front of the Thoughtful Citadel?"
"It's a big, tough crowd," Marshall Oculon offered. "How are we supposed to disperse them?"
"You're the police chief, by space! Lob tear gas at them!"
"But they're mutants like us - half of them would enjoy it."
"Well, hit them with water cannons..."
"But sir - half of them are..."
"I know, I know...half of them are fish; they'd just swim away. I get it. Oculon, these idiots will cost me the election!" Nervously, the president nibbled on a live scarab beetle from a jar.
Zorno his aide looked concerned. "Sir, those are loaded with sodium..."
President Xuth waved the comment off with his hand. "I know that I'm going to have to address these people at some point."
By afternoon the crowds outside of the citadel building had swollen; not only were the mutants numerous, but they were hostile as well. They demanded that the psionic mutants leave the building, which they had no intention of doing. Adriana was in a downstairs office shredding paperwork when Leela caught up with her. She didn’t seem happy to see her. “What in the hell are you doing down here?”
“I came to ask you if there was a back door to this place…we’re anxious to get going.”
“Are you mad? They’d get you as soon as you guys left the building. You’re going to get your butt upstairs into the safety room and look after the children…”
“But what about the police?”
“They won’t be coming - it's too late now...”
Both women turned as a loud banging could be heard at the front doors.
“Leela, get upstairs!”
“I’m not leaving you here alone.” She got on her wrist-thingee. “Amy, you and Fry need to get the kids to the safety room…”
"We're on the way, Leela..."
“Fine…just don’t get in my way,” she told Leela. Adriana held her hands up palms out toward the door, as if to guard against an incoming tidal wave. “Are you scared?” she asked the tall cyclops woman.
“What…are you kidding? Half out of my wits…”
The door finally gave way and mutants began entering the building; they got to within a few yards of the women, and seemed to run into an invisible wall.
Again, Leela was amazed. “That’s incredible…”
In an anguished voice, Adriana answered her. “I…can’t keep this up for long…get…out of here…”
As Leela ran for the stairway, she came across some of the other psionics. “Solomon – they’ve gotten in…Adriana’s got her hands full.”
As they heard the crowd come closer, Adriana came running up to them. “I couldn’t hold them…”
Solomon stepped up. As he nodded his head, the first mutant fell to the side of the others with a piercing headache. Anchalee nodded, and the next mutant was clobbered in the side of the head by an invisible force. Exhausted already, Adriana made a couch fly through the air and it struck the next group of people in the hallway; they toppled over like pins at a bowling lane.
The next mutant, with octopus-like tentacles, came running up to Leela. She gazed into the man’s eyes with her eye, and he froze in place like a statue. It was several seconds before he could move his head around. A look of surprise washed across Adriana’s face.
“Leela – that’s really something…”
“I didn’t know I could do that…”
“Well, keep it up.”
Bender then came running up with a bottle of liquor in his hand.
“What are you doing, Metal Brain?” asked Leela.
“I’m gonna save the day for you meatbags – someone’s gotta do it.” Bender took a swig of his bottle, and an enormous blast of flame went down the hall. The mutants cleared out of the way, and a man with scaly red dragon skin came walking up. As he opened his mouth, an even bigger burst of flame came out. Bender went running in the opposite direction. “Let me know how this turns out, will ya?”
By this time the other psionics were coming up from the rear. Now it was Miranda’s turn. “Step back guys, and let me work.” She began to tweak the air with both hands, and the crowd of mutants began fighting each other; they had apparently forgotten about the psionic mutants in their midst. This bought her friends some time to rest up before the next round of combat.
President Xuth confronted his daughter in the hallway of his residence. “My dear, I have a huge favor to ask of you…I’m going to need you to come with me…”
“I already know what you’re asking – and the answer is yes. I’ll help you in any way I can.”
He gently tipped her chin up with his finger. “Your mother would have been proud of you.”
Marshall Oculon interrupted. “Sir, I would highly advise against this…it’s just not going to be safe. For either of you…”
Xuth turned to address him. “This republic is going to tear itself apart, and it’s mostly my fault. At the very least, I’ll lose the election. It’ll serve me right. But I’ve got to do what I can while there is still time.”
Oculon let out a sigh. “I’ll round up a detail of officers and we’ll try our best to keep you safe This is still a dangerous idea...”
While the psionics prepared for their next attack from the mutants, a familiar face came walking up through the crowd. Leela confronted him. “Well, if it isn’t old Onion Head…”
“Young lady, this is not your fight. You’re one of the Outworlders.” He looked her up one side and down the other, and then looked into her eye. “You’re a mutant…you should be standing with us in the Brotherhood. Come and join my people, while you still can. We can insure you a safe passage back to your ship.”
“And leave my friends here to die at the hands of this gaggle? I don’t think so.”
Adriana broke in. “This woman and her friends have nothing to do with this fight – just let the bunch of them leave in safety.”
“Your friends here have found themselves in the middle of a revolution; I take no responsibility for any collateral casualties. She’s chosen to fight with you people – she may have to die with you people as well.”
An angry Adriana continued. “We have women and children upstairs…you need to stop this…”
A commotion from the front of the building caught everyone by surprise. “Police are coming,” a mutant said.
Allium got angry. “Well, why didn’t you lot stop them?” Then he caught sight of the president. “Xuth?”
“What is all this about?” the president asked. “You’ve broken in here, you’re lighting fires in my streets…”
“You’re coming in with the army, aren’t you?”
Xuth looked at him calmly. “As a matter of fact, no. Just a few police officers…and my daughter.”
“Your daughter? You came up here with just your daughter?” Allium then got angry at his mutants. “Everyone…put your sticks and rocks and whatever down until we get this sorted out.”
“You’ve never seen my daughter, have you Allium?”
“Not really…not that I can recall.”
“Dear, lift up your hood.”
When Myn Xuth lifted up her hood and exposed her face, a huge gasp went through the corridor. There were no tentacles. No multiple eyes. No insect mandibles. Just a beautiful human face with blonde hair. Myn looked up at Allium.
“By space, she’s a normal!”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Allium…she’s not a normal. Not to us. To my late wife and I she was a mutation. A freak. For her own protection I’ve had to keep her hidden from people like you. I’m not hiding her anymore.” He held her. “I’m proud of her, no matter what she looks like.”
Leela added, “She’s beautiful, President Xuth.”
“But, you’re going to do what you will do. If you’re going to harm me or my baby, I guess I can’t stop you. You will have to go through me to get to her.”
Allium was still in shock. “But she’s a normal…”
Xuth shot back in anger. “Don’t you get it yet, Allium? Here on this planet, WE ARE THE NORMALS! THESE HUMANS ARE THE FREAKS! We are the Normals here. Our economy is already suffering because humans are afraid to trade with us. If you go through with this revolution of yours, then all we’ve ever worked for in our republic is lost. We'll descend into chaos.”
Allium Cheppa just stood there trying to take it all in. “We need to talk this out…”
Xuth put his hand on the mutant’s shoulder. “You’ve just shown yourself a capable leader of mutants. I suggest that we meet mid-week in the Rotunda. I’m sure the Triumvirate will be there as well, and we can discuss how we’ll share all of this power. We’ll form a new and better-run republic. It'll take some time, but we've got to get started now.”
Allium looked back at his mutants. "What are you all standing around for? Let's get going...leave, you wugs. Out. And just leave the rocks and sticks on the floor as you go."
As the mutants began to slowly file out, Adriana asked Miranda a question. “Did you tweak these people and change their minds?”
“No…they did that all on their own.”
The next morning was calm, at least inside the grounds of the Thoughtful Citadel. The skies of Mutara 17 still had that weird green glow at sunrise; everything was just a little different on this world. The psionic mutants now felt free to roam about the grounds, but feeling at ease around the city was going to take time. At least a tragedy had been averted until all of the sides could talk.
Leela chatted with Fry. “Now explain to me again what you think happened to me last night.”
“It’s D & D…”
“D and what?”
“Dungeons and Dragons…the game. In the game a Cyclops has the ability to stun their prey with their eye…there must be something to that legend.”
“The Monster Manual also says that they’re great at throwing boulders.”
“I was going to get you something for your birthday, but you just blew that out the window.”
Across the grounds, Bender was hanging out with the red dragon mutant; with them was the same boy that played ball with Miranda. Bender conned him into making cantaloupes float across the field for target practice. “Okay, Junior…put it out about 30 yards this time. Okay, Smokey…give it your best shot.”
"But...I don't want to take any more of your money..."
"There is no way you can hit it from this distance. Let's see what you've got."
The cantaloupe floated out over the grass, and the dragon mutant spit out a burst of flame at it; the fruit vanished in the fire, and it's smoking remains fell to the ground.
“Aw man,” said Bender, as he began to count money out to the smiling mutant.
“I can’t help it, Metal Man…when ya got it, ya got it.”
By this time Miranda had joined Leela and Fry in their conversation. “Guys, can’t you find a way to get me back to Earth, just to visit some friends?”
“Dick Nixon signed off on your exile; you’re not to set foot on Earth, at least for now. I have no control over that. There is no way that they'll let the tiger roam around loose back home.”
“But I’ll never see Fry here again.”
“You'll see him again. There’s nothing that says people can’t visit you here. If things really do improve, maybe some of the trade bans will get lifted.”
“Yeah,” said Fry, “we can visit again. We can ship in lots of cookie dough ice cream the next time we come.”
As Fry wandered off to chat with Bender, Leela looked at Miranda with a smirk. "You tweaked his mind for that, didn't you?"
She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "There's no ice cream here. I had to do something."
Leela chuckled. "Hell...for cookie dough ice cream, all you had to do was ask."