Fan Fiction

In Zoid We Trust
By Dead Composer

Leela’s ankles quivered. She panted heavily, her mind overflowing with confusion and rage. She gripped the conducting rod in her hand so tightly that it threatened to snap. She didn’t know exactly what had happened, or what was happening, except that someone had attacked her by surprise and robbed her of something invaluable. She had killed the person responsible, impaling him through the heart, or so her clouded mind believed. Yet there remained questions she couldn’t answer: Did I kill the right person? Did I kill him for the right reason? Why couldn’t I stop myself from killing him? Why do I feel so different and weird? Why is that robot trying to grab me?

Resting in his jar, too stunned to speak, Professor Farnsworth’s head watched the confrontation between Delta, his fembot maid, and the curly redhead known to him as Mildred Sykes. Holy Zombie Jesus, he thought. The side effects of the Frinkomatic body-switching device are more severe than I imagined. Leela’s been in Mildred’s body for only a few seconds, and she’s already shishkabobbed one of her best friends!

It was only moments before Delta had firmly restrained Mildred/Leela with her cold, flexible arms. “Your behavior is highly erratic,” the fembot droned, but Leela paid no attention to her. They’re all my enemies, she thought as she wriggled and grunted in an attempt to break free from Delta’s grasp. I’ll kill them. I’ll kill every single one of them! Where are these violent thoughts coming from? It’s like I’m not myself anymore…but then who am I?

“Help!” Farnsworth managed to exclaim. “Medical emergency in the laboratory! Dr. Zoidberg, come quickly!”

Zoidberg’s eyes snapped open. He raised his claw, knocking over a mop whose handle fell onto his mouth flaps and left a number of splinters. “Huh? What is?” he mumbled.

“Medical emergency!” he heard the professor’s voice repeat.

The lobster jumped to his feet, nearly capsizing the bottles of cleaning solution on the shelf. “Zoidberg to the rescue!” he declared. Bursting out of the janitorial closet, he scuttled toward the clinic to retrieve his medical kit.

When he reached Farnsworth’s lab, he let out a gasp of horror. The wounded man lay in a sea of his own blood, his eyelids clenched, his tongue lolling from the corner of his mouth. “Who is responsible for this?” he inquired as he knelt to examine his patient’s injury.

“It was Mildred,” Delta informed him. “She suddenly…”

I’m Leela, dammit!” snapped the freckled girl.

“I don’t understand,” said Zoidberg. “Explain.”

“She is Leela,” Farnsworth told him. “Mildred forced her to switch bodies, then ran away.”

“Intriguing,” said Zoidberg as he applied clamps to stanch the profuse bleeding.

“Let me go!” snarled Leela, tugging uselessly at Delta’s coiled arms. “I’ve got to get my body back!”

“Delta, if you look in my medkit you’ll find a syringe loaded with twelve cc’s of difluoperazine,” said Zoidberg without looking up.

Leela resisted with all the strength she could muster from Mildred’s body, but within seconds after Delta had plunged the hypodermic into her shoulder, her muscles began to go limp. Only as drowsiness overpowered her was she able to see clearly the prostrate, bloodied figure at her feet.

“I killed Fry,” she said deliriously. “Oh my God, I killed Fry…”

Many blocks away, a robot with a mission marched through the streets of the Soho district. “Philaster Foss is going to die,” said Bender, slamming fist into palm. “I’ve always wanted to kill a human. Those meatbags have ground our faces in the dirt for too long. The revolution starts today!”

Officers Smitty and URL, standing idly in front of a donut shop, overheard Bender’s soliloquy as he stormed past. “Geez, that’s some pretty dangerous anti-human talk,” remarked Smitty. “C’mon, let’s take him to the station before he infects any other robots with his rhetoric.”

He turned to his partner, only to see a laser pistol trained at his face. “Too late, baby,” said Officer URL.

Bender could tell he was getting closer to his target, as every pedestrian either wore a watch or held a cell phone with his visage imprinted on it. Again and again he heard his own voice, stripped of its soul: “You got a call. It must be one of your enemies, ‘cause I know you ain’t got any friends.” “What if I don’t want to tell you what time it is? Aw, hell, it’s 10:30 a.m.” “Recharge my battery now, you cheap bastard.”

Outside an apartment building, flanked by desperate bohemians hawking their goods, Professor Foss entertained a long line of customers. Humans, robots, aliens, incorporeal blobs, state congressmen—they came from every part of New New York, and from all walks of life. “Thanks for the watch, pathetic human,” said Morbo as he strapped the new timepiece to his wrist. “If we meet again, I will destroy you.”

“Here’s hoping,” said Foss glibly.

His next patron was a certain robot with a shiny metal ass. “Guess how I’m feeling,” said Bender, gritting his electronic teeth.

“I’m sorry,” said Foss, peering at him. “I can’t read robot faces.”

“Read this!” The last thing the professor saw before landing on his back in a pile of garbage bags was an iron fist flying at his chin.

Bender didn’t stop there. Before Foss had a chance to rub his bruised jaw, two powerful arms lifted him from the ground by his shirt collar. For the first time in my life I regret not having health insurance, he thought.

“So, you decided to merchandise my likeness and personality without my consent,” said Bender, shaking the man vigorously. “Well, now you’ve got my consent…to die!

“You won’t kill me,” said Foss nervously. “The police are everywhere. Take a look around.”

Taking the side of caution, Bender rotated his head 360 degrees and scanned for cops. “I don’t see none,” he said to Foss, who, along with Bender’s arms, was no longer there.

“How did he do that?” said Bender, giving himself a kick.

Foss raced down the sidewalk, a pair of robotic arms dangling from his collar. From time to time he glanced over his shoulder, but saw no sign of the angry Bender. Eight blocks were enough to tire him, and he leaned against a booth to recover his strength. To his alarm, one of the robot arms reached out and yanked open the door leading into the booth, while the other violently prodded him to enter. He tried to push them away, but the self-willed arms were relentless.

A computer display glared down at him as the door closed behind him. “Please select manner of death,” uttered an emotionless female voice, “quick and painless, or slow and horrible.”

“Slow and horrible! Slow and horrible!” It was Bender, smirking and reattaching his arms.

“You can’t do this to me!” cried Foss. He threw all his weight against the booth door, but failed to open it more than a crack.

“Good call on the police, bud,” said Bender casually. “Just to make sure they don’t give me no trouble, I’m gonna make your death look like a suicide.”

Chapter 2

“You have chosen slow and horrible,” chimed the suicide booth’s computer voice.

“No, I haven’t!” exclaimed Foss. “I want to live!”

“You have chosen to be gravely, but not fatally, wounded,” said the booth.

Bender picked a twig from the ground and nonchalantly chewed on it as he listened to the frantic scratching noises from inside the chamber of death. His reverie was rudely interrupted by an intense ringing inside his head. “Yeah, who is it?” he groused.

“Bender, mon,” he heard the voice of Hermes speak. “Stop killing Foss and get your synthetic butt over to Planet Express.”

“Aww, man,” said Bender, seizing the door handle and forcing the suicide booth open. “What could be more important than the realization of my fondest dream?”

“Something awful’s going down,” Hermes told him. “Fry’s injured, and Leela’s lost her mind as well as her body.”

Foss staggered out of the booth, his shirt in tatters, blood dribbling from several scratches on his arms. “What’s this?” he said upon hearing the faint Jamaican voice from Bender’s head. “Leela’s in trouble?”

“Lost her body, eh?” Bender replied to Hermes. “That happened to me once, but I got it back. So what are you doing now, keeping her head alive in a jar?”

“Can Hermes hear me?” Foss inquired of the robot.

“Not if you don’t shut up,” said Bender gruffly.

“Yeah, I can hear you, mon,” uttered Hermes from within his head. “You’d better come too. Leela needs all the help and comfort she can get.”

“What happened to her?” Foss demanded.

“At this point we’re as confused as the readers are,” was Hermes’ answer. “But Zoidberg’s looking into it.”

“Whatever it is,” Bender remarked, “it can’t be worse than having a cell phone built into your head.”

Confident that Foss and Bender would soon arrive, Hermes stepped into Zoidberg’s clinic and surveyed the scene before him. Leela, still trapped in Mildred’s body, was shackled to a gurney and quite unconscious. Amy and Zoidberg held vigil at opposite sides of the bed, while Farnsworth’s head looked on from a shelf. Fry was absent, as was Delta, who felt compelled to wipe up every drop of blood from the laboratory floor.

“How’s she doing, mon?” Hermes asked the crustacean doctor.

“She’ll come out of the sedation soon,” Zoidberg replied.

“It’s heartbreaking to see her like this,” said Amy, wiping a tear from her cheek. “Look at her. She’s got freckles on her freckles. If she wants to die, I’ll help her.”

“Here’s a bit of news you may find interesting,” said Zoidberg, holding up an X-ray photo for Hermes to examine. “I ran a CAT scan on Mildred’s head. Turns out she’s got a microchip in her brain, just like Captain Brannigan.”

“Sweet cockatoo of Timbuktu!” said Hermes in wonder.

“I can only guess that whoever planted the chip in the captain’s head is also responsible for the one in Mildred’s,” the doctor went on. “Which leaves only three questions—who, why, and how much longer until dinner?”

“Maybe that’s what Mildred meant when she said she was free,” Farnsworth opined.

“She’s waking up,” Zoidberg observed.

Leela emerged from a peaceful slumber and looked at a blurry world through two eyes. Out of the swirl of her thoughts, one arose victorious. “Fry,” she mumbled. “Where’s Fry?”

Zoidberg rubbed his claw over her sweaty forehead. “I managed to stabilize his condition,” he told the girl. “He’s been taken to All Saints Lesbyterian Hospital.”

“I killed him,” mourned Leela, and a tear streamed down her left temple.

“He’s still alive,” said Zoidberg helpfully. “Fortunately, you pierced him in the same general area where he was impaled by a giant bee stinger a year ago, so the damage to his organs wasn’t much worse than the existing damage.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Leela, grimacing and straining against the straps that bound her arms and legs. “I tried to kill him. I wanted to kill him. It’s…it’s like Mildred’s body is urging me to kill.”

Zoidberg, Hermes, and Amy fell silent at her pronouncement. Farnsworth, however, had more to contribute. “The pieces are starting to come together now,” he stated. “Mildred’s father was a Chalnoth, so she may have inherited aggressive impulses from him. Perhaps the microchip was keeping those impulses in check, up until the moment she switched bodies with Leela.”

“That’s crazy, mon,” said Hermes, staring at the X-ray in his hands. “If you’re right, then somewhere out there is an evil scientist who puts chips in people’s heads to cancel out their violent tendencies, and then blackmails them by threatening to turn the chips off. But who would do that? What would they stand to gain?”

“I don’t care!” yelled Leela, tears gushing down the sides of her head. “I just want my own body back!”

“She’s right,” said Farnsworth. “The longer we wait, the more likely she is to give in to Mildred’s urges and try to kill somebody else. We must find Leela’s body, even if it means Zoidberg has to search the entire city.”

“That’s eighty million people,” said the lobster. “Can I start in the morning?”

“Start where, mon?” said Hermes, shrugging.

“Well, guh,” said Amy. “Picture yourselves in Mildred’s situation. You’re a young woman, and you’ve just gone from having freckles on every inch of your body and a computer chip in your brain, to not having those things to hold you back. What’s the first thing you do?”

“Sushi!” exclaimed Zoidberg.

“Reggae Sunsplash!” said Hermes.

“Buy new clothes, get a makeover, and go to a fancy nightclub in search of some action,” said Farnsworth.

“Very good, professor,” said Amy.

“I like to think all those years in grad school were worth something,” said the scientist.

“I can’t go, mon,” said Hermes. “LaBarbara would kill me if she caught me in a nightclub.”

“I can’t go either,” said Zoidberg. “I have to stay here with Leela.”

“Then it’s just the professor and me,” said Amy, reaching up to pull Farnsworth’s jar from the shelf. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

“Oh, my,” said Farnsworth as Amy pressed his container against her chest.

The sky was clear in New New York, save for a few toxic clouds, and the sun was setting behind the towers. Several dozen city dwellers stood in front of Amy and the professor, waiting their turn to be sucked into the transit tube. “Mildred’s seen me before,” said the Asian girl. “If she recognizes me, she’ll run away. I’d better wear a different shade of eyeliner.”

“Er-herh,” mumbled Farnsworth, gazing through his coke-bottle glasses at Amy’s bulging sweatshirt.

As she was about to step into the tube’s suction field, Amy caught a glimpse of something familiar and startling. A one-eyed face topped with a purple crow’s nest was peering at her from a nearby alley. “Omigosh!” she cried out. “It’s her! It’s Leela’s body!”

The cyclops quickly withdrew her head. “After her!” Farnsworth commanded.

The nutrient solution in his jar sloshed fiercely as Amy raced along the sidewalk with him in tow. She reached the entrance to the darkened alley in time to see a boot disappear behind a graffiti-laden wall. Panting but determined, she pumped her feet in pursuit.

“Leave me behind!” said the professor. “I’ll slow you down!”

“I can’t!” said Amy breathlessly. “I’m running too fast!”

I’ve run foot races with Leela before, and she always won, the girl thought. But Mildred’s controlling her body now. That’s got to make a difference.

Apparently it did, because when Amy rounded the next corner, she found the image of Leela standing directly before her with a menacing scowl.

Amy came to a stop. She tried to speak, but the cyclops’ grim gaze left her flummoxed.

“Give it up, Mildred,” Farnsworth ordered. “You don’t have a license to operate that body.”

“I’m not Mildred,” said the one-eyed girl in a cold, almost mechanical tone of voice.

Her hand flew at Amy’s face. Instead of the expected punch, the Asian girl received a puff of greenish-yellow, sweet-smelling gas. Her eyes fell closed, and she welcomed the blissful embrace of sleep.

“Amy!” cried Farnsworth as his jar plummeted to the cobblestone street below. Before the container had a chance to shatter on the rocks, it struck an outstretched boot and rolled away toward a culvert. The liquid swirled around the professor’s head, rendering him dizzy and disoriented. Then he began to fall, and everything turned black.

Chapter 3

Amy’s eyes reopened long before her sense of time and place returned. At first she thought she was in bed, then she imagined she had just been given a pony for her fifth birthday, then she pictured herself waltzing with a handsome prince, and finally, just before fully regaining consciousness, she looked down at her hands and saw the claws of a cat.

“Unnh,” she mumbled. “My head’s killing me. I haven’t felt this bad since the morning after Scruffy’s retirement party.”

It was almost completely dark, and she was unable to move her hands and feet. “You okay, mon?” uttered a friendly voice.

“I think so, Hermes,” Amy responded. “Where the schmell are we?”

“Inside Raven’s cargo hold, from the looks of it,” said the Jamaican.

Amy rolled onto her side. Her hands bound firmly behind her back, she could only move by slithering like a worm. This required too much exertion, so she gave up. “What happened to us?” she asked Hermes.

“The last thing I remember is Leela…I mean, Mildred sneaking up on me and blasting me with some kind of gas,” her friend replied.

“That’s what happened to me,” said Amy, who expressed sudden concern. “Omigosh, I must’ve dropped the professor!”

An odd noise from the darkness greeted their ears: “Woowoowoo…woowoo…”

“She got Zoidberg, too,” said Hermes.

“I’ve got to get free,” said Amy, tugging with all her might against the cold chains around her wrists. “The professor’s lost in an alley somewhere. He can only survive for a few hours outside of his jar.”

“Woowoowoo…huh?” Zoidberg’s eyes popped open. “What is? Where am I?”

“He’s awake!” uttered Leela’s, or rather Mildred’s, voice. “Zoidberg, scuttle over here and snap these chains off so I can find Mildred and tear her limb from limb.”

“I can’t feel my claws,” said Zoidberg dolefully.

“That’s ‘cause you got no nerves in your claws, mon,” Hermes pointed out.

“No, really,” said the lobster. “My claws are gone. The bitch took my claws!”

“Oh, my God,” said Leela.

The cargo hold began to resonate with the sound of Zoidberg’s blubbering. “My career is ruined,” he moaned. “I’ll never be able to handle a precision instrument again.”

“They’ll grow back…won’t they?” said Amy.

“They won’t be the same,” the lobster lamented. “They’ll be big, useless hams.”

A sudden burst of light struck Amy, Leela, Hermes, and Zoidberg in the eyes, causing them to squint. The door to the hold had opened, and a purple-haired, Rubenesque cyclops in boots and a tank top stood over the helpless captives. Her face displayed no emotion at all as she tossed to the floor one of Delta’s arms, then the other, then both her legs. Reaching behind her, she dragged in the broken fembot’s still-connected head and torso.

“You won’t get away with this, Mildred Sykes!” bellowed Leela, squirming furiously in a vain attempt to break her chains.

“I am not Mildred,” uttered the monster that had stolen her face and voice, “and you haven’t the faintest idea what I’m trying to get away with, so don’t be presumptuous.”

Delta, who had landed face-down, turned her head and gasped at the sight of Zoidberg’s shattered stumps. “Good Lord, John,” she remarked. “You’ve been hobbled.”

“If you’re not Mildred,” said Leela, her voice swelling with rage, “then who the hell are you?”

The cyclops shot her a patronizing smirk, and then her body started to vibrate and shimmer. Her flesh contracted. Her skin turned the color of titanium. Her face reshaped itself into a round, metallic mass, featureless but for a pair of red, laser-like eyes. The creature that towered over them appeared to be the bare skeleton of a robot in its first phase of assembly.

“I AM PROTEUS,” it intoned in a soulless bass voice.

“A shapeshifting robot,” Delta marveled. “How modern.”

“What do you want with us?” Hermes demanded to know.

“I want you out of the way,” said Proteus, its tone devoid of anything resembling humanity. “You know too much about our work.”

“Where’s the professor?” Amy inquired.

“Halfway to the water treatment center, if he’s survived this long,” answered the slender robot.

“Since you’re gonna kill us,” said Hermes, “you may as well tell us all about your evil plan.”

“Another time, perhaps,” said Proteus. “Farewell.”

The robot’s knees bent backwards as it stepped out of the cargo hold. The door slid closed, drenching the chained captives in darkness once again.

“My life is over, it is,” sobbed Zoidberg.

“It’s a good thing I can’t move,” said Mildred/Leela. “As angry as I am right now, I don’t care who I kill.”

“Stay calm, everyone,” said Delta. “John, now that your claws have been broken off, you should have no trouble slipping out of your wrist chains.”

“What’s the point?” said Zoidberg glumly. “All I have to look forward to is a life of freakish misery and begging for food.”

“That’s your life now, mon,” Hermes reminded him.

“You can do it, Zoidberg,” said Amy. “The professor’s counting on you. We all are.”

Mustering his strength and courage, Zoidberg rubbed his wrists together in hopes of loosening the uncomfortable chains. Seconds passed, and they gave way only slightly. Then, unexpectedly, the walls began to rumble.

“We’re taking off!” exclaimed Hermes.

The cargo bay floor seemed to tug at their internal organs—the ship was ascending. “Raven!” Leela screamed. “Raven, can you hear me? Abort the launch!”

The female voice of the ship’s artificial intelligence sounded above their heads. “Only Captain Turanga Leela is authorized to give such an order,” it said matter-of-factly.

I’m Captain Leela!”

“Your voiceprint identifies you as Mildred Sykes.” Raven said a few more words, but they were drowned out by Leela’s stream of unprintable obscenities.

The muffled roar of Raven’s dark-matter engines filled the large chamber. Zoidberg persisted in his struggle, eventually pushing his chains as far as the base of what remained of his claws. “It’s no use,” said the lobster in despair. “She left behind just enough claw to get in the way.”

On a street corner near the Planet Express building, Bender and Foss watched in bemusement as the bay doors flew open, permitting the black ship Raven to soar into the sky and vanish. “Where do you suppose they’re going?” Foss wondered.

“Damned if I know,” said Bender. “It’s not like them to take off for a delivery without lettin’ me know first. No, that’s the sorta thing I’d do.”

Lowering their eyes from the stratosphere, they noticed that the PE building’s doors were opening. To their astonishment, Leela walked out. She glanced at them through the corner of her eye, then strolled along the sidewalk in another direction.

“That’s odd,” remarked Foss. “She didn’t seem to recognize us.”

“That is odd,” Bender agreed. “Who’s piloting the ship?”

Again and again, Hermes slammed down upon Zoidberg’s fractured claw with his patent leather shoes. Again and again, the crustacean wailed in agony. After eleven attempts the claw finally cracked, and Zoidberg’s wrist chains dropped to the floor with a clatter. For the first time he looked down at his claws, his ruined claws, and the fragment that dangled on a ligament where Hermes had crushed it. “Oh, the horror,” he groaned, and tears sprang freely to his eyes.

“Quit moisturizing yourself and free the rest of us, mon!” snapped Hermes.

“With what?” said the weeping lobster. “All I have are these worthless stumps.”

“John, I have an idea,” said Delta. “If you can use your stumps to hold my arm up to its socket, my internal repair mechanisms will do the rest.”

Zoidberg wiped his tears with the sleeve of his smock and went to work. Once Delta’s right arm had welded itself in place with his assistance, she succeeded in reattaching her left arm and her legs. Now fully mobile, she quickly broke the chains that bound Amy, Hermes, and Zoidberg. “You’d better leave the chains on my wrists alone,” Leela suggested. “I’m having a very, very hard time managing my anger.”

Her arms were still tied behind her back when she followed the others to Raven’s bridge. To their astonishment, no one, not even the dreaded Proteus, was present. “The ship’s on auto-pilot,” Amy observed.

“Well, spluh,” said Hermes sarcastically.

“Raven,” Leela demanded, “what’s your current course and speed?”

“Speed, 45c,” the computer replied. “Course, direct route to star Nubia Upsilon B.”

“Nubia Upsilon B?” said Hermes as he gazed through the viewscreen at empty space. “That’s six million light years away.”

“We don’t have enough fuel to make it there,” said Leela.

“If you want my opinion,” said Delta, “Proteus never intended for us to make it there.”

Hermes, Amy, Zoidberg, and Leela turned to the fembot and gaped in horror.

“Raven, set a course for Earth,” Leela ordered.

“Insufficient authorization,” said the ship’s intelligence.

“Set a course for Earth,” Leela snarled, “or I’ll rip you apart with my bare hands.”

“Does not compute,” said Raven.

“Leela,” Amy asked the red-haired girl, “how far will the fuel we have get us?”

“At top speed?” said Leela thoughtfully. “About two hundred thousand light years.”

“Two hundred thousand light years in any direction is uncharted space,” said Hermes. “We got to get control of the ship back, before we end up just like the Robinsons.”

Chapter 4

Foss stood still on the street corner, giving the wheels in his head time to turn. “Well, I don’t see any corpses,” Bender said to him, “so everybody must still be alive. What a relief. Can I go back to killing you now?”

“Not just yet,” said Foss, fingering his chin. “According to Hermes, Leela lost her body and her mind. I know that Farnsworth’s lab is equipped with a body-switching device, so for all we know, Leela may not be Leela at all. That may explain why she didn’t recognize us, and why someone else is flying the ship.”

“In that case,” said Bender, “you should go up to her and introduce yourself. ‘Hi, my name’s Philaster Foss, and I’m your new boyfriend. Wanna have sex?’”

Foss reached up and straightened his glasses. “You, go into the building and see if anyone’s still there,” he directed the robot. “I’ll follow Leela and see where she’s going.”

“Why should I take orders from you?” said Bender gruffly.

“Fine,” said Foss. “I’ll follow Leela, and you go into the building.”

“Fine,” said Bender.

“Raven,” commanded Leela, “transfer helm control to Mildred Sykes, authorization 3-8-7-charley-2-alpha-theta-6-meatloaf-0-0-0-yoga-9.”

“Invalid command code,” the ship’s intelligence replied flatly.

“Zigubu,” grumbled Leela. (Zigubu is a Rigelian curse word which, roughly translated, means, “Your mother does unmentionable things with our nation’s flag.”)

“Proteus must have altered the ship’s authorization codes,” said Hermes. “Delta, how are your hacking stills?”

“How thoughtful of you to ask,” responded the copper-haired fembot. “Most people, when they learn of my primary function, assume that I don’t know the first thing about computers.”

“But you are a computer,” Amy pointed out.

“True,” said Delta. “And you’re a human, but that doesn’t imply that you possess a perfect knowledge of how a human body works.”

“Just tell me if you can hack into Raven, mon,” said Hermes impatiently.

“My standard-issue positronic brain is capable of analyzing twenty billion codes per second,” Delta told him. “At that rate, analyzing every one of the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible codes would require a period of approximately one thousand years.”

“Geesh,” moaned Amy. “I wish I’d brought a clean sweatsuit.”

Zoidberg dropped himself into the captain’s Corinthian leather chair, watched the stars streak past for a second, and sighed. “Outer space will get boring after a few weeks,” he remarked. “Do we have any good videos?”

“Please choose from the following categories,” droned the voice of Raven. “Mockumentaries, shot-for-shot remakes, movies about royal sex scandals, chick flicks, flicks that make you wish you were a chick, badly dubbed martial arts, boy wizard movies, road movies featuring empowered women, Pixar-Disney animated shorts…”

Delta set to work promptly, inserting a cable from a compartment in her wrist into a port on Raven’s control console. While she iterated through trillions of potential command codes, the other unwilling travelers passed the time in various ways. Amy sat on the bed in her quarters, chewed her fingernails, filed them, and chewed them again. Hermes used a vertically sliding door to practice his limbo bending. Zoidberg sat, empty-eyed, in front of the viewscreen as My Two Left Feet, a 2011 dance movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis, played out. Leela, still imprisoned in a freckled, curly-haired body, had bound her wrists to a pipe in a hot corner of the engine room (she had found that, in her new form, she was more comfortable in high temperatures).

When Amy stepped in to check on her, Leela was yanking furiously against her chains, growling, and pressing against the pipe with her boot. To Amy’s eyes, the sweat-drenched redhead seemed more animal than woman. Leela cast a sideways, pleading glance at Amy, tugged on the chains a few more times, and began to take in deep breaths.

“We can hear you all throughout the ship,” said Amy. “We don’t know if you’re trying to break free, or having a baby.”

Leela lowered her now-brown eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said in a raspy voice. “The rage comes and goes, but when it takes over, I can’t fight it.”

“Well, try to,” said Amy.

“I don’t know how Mildred lived with this,” said Leela in a tone of desperation. “I don’t know how much longer I can live with it. Is this what it’s like to be a Chalnoth? Is homicidal rage as natural to them as hunger, and sleep, and love, are to us? No wonder they have to kill other races—it’s the only thing that keeps them from killing each other.”

The Asian intern walked closer, her eyes tinged with compassion. “Be careful,” Leela warned her. “I may try to bite you.”

“I’m here for you,” said Amy. “If you ever need me, just holler. Once. Coherently.”

Leela’s blurred vision suggested that two Amys were present, both transparent, their intersection solid. Having two eyes can be so confusing, she thought. I want my uni-eye back.

“I almost killed Fry,” she lamented. “If not for these chains, I probably would’ve killed one of you, or all of you. I want you to promise me something, Amy. I want you all to promise me something.”

“Okay,” said Amy, nodding.

“I don’t know how long it’ll take us to get back to Earth, or to wherever we’re going,” said Leela. “I may turn into a completely different person by that time, so I have to get this out now. If I ever lose control and harm another person, any person, I want you to…” She swallowed. “I want you to kill me on the spot.”

A tear formed in Amy’s right eye. “No…” she whispered, shaking her head.

“Promise me, Amy,” Leela urged her. “You can’t imagine the hell I’m going through right now. If you’re a true friend, you’ll make me this promise.”

“I can’t,” said Amy, her voice quivering.

Leela sighed through her nose. “I expected as much,” she said grimly. “I’ll have to ask Delta to make the promise. Hopefully her feelings won’t get in the way of doing what has to be done.”

“No!” cried Amy, tears of anger bursting forth. “We’ll find your body! We’ll make Mildred pay!”

“Get out of here,” said Leela emotionlessly.

Chapter 5

“Hello?” yelled Bender, his voice echoing off the Planet Express spaceport’s walls. “Is anybody here? Don’t make me shout louder!”

Seeing nothing out of the ordinary other than the ship’s absence, Bender trudged toward the lounge, and immediately noticed a shiny object sprawled on the counter next to the coffee machine. It’s Hermes’ gold watch, he realized. It must have come off his wrist during a struggle. What if the person who attacked him is still here? After rotating his head to satisfy himself that no one was hiding in the lounge, he quietly picked up the watch, opened his chest cavity door, and thrust the timepiece inside.

He wandered into the medical clinic in search of more abandoned loot—and was stunned by what he saw. Not only had one of the beds been knocked onto its side, but the floor was littered with red chunks of chitin. “I’ll be buggered,” he said aloud. “Someone took a hammer to Zoidberg’s claws. ‘Bout time.”

Maybe they all turned on each other, he thought. Let’s see what the security cameras have to tell me.

Once in the main office, Bender punched a few commands into the viewscreen console, and the black-and-white security footage began to play. The first thing that appeared was a silver robot furtively snatching a gold watch in the lounge. “D’oh!” he grunted, slapping his head.

After a few seconds of rewinding, he arrived at a more informative scene, one of Zoidberg and Mildred in the sickbay. The lobster and the distraught-looking redhead exchanged words, but there was no audio track. “Well, that’s something,” remarked Bender. “Zoidy’s got Fry’s girlfriend shackled to a gurney. I’ll bet he’s about to perform an unauthorized and unethical medical procedure, like snipping off her legs at the knees. Oh, how I wish these security recordings had color.”

An instant later Mildred screamed noiselessly. Leela had crept into the clinic, and was readying herself to pounce on Zoidberg from behind. The lobster whirled, but too late…

“Oh, my nonexistent God,” said Bender in horror.

Half a dozen blocks away, Foss was stealthily watching from behind a mob of break-dancing teenagers as the person who appeared to be Leela took her place in line at a transit tube. She seems so calm and untroubled, he thought. But Hermes made it sound like all hell was breaking loose.

A petulant voice called out from his cell phone: “Hey, loser! Pick me up! I long for the warm embrace of your ear. Not.”

The entire crowd of teenagers turned to glare at Foss. “Yo, dawg,” said one of them. “You dissin’ the wrong posse, man.”

Ignoring the boys, Foss raised the phone to his ear. “Yes, Bender?”

“Foss!” came the robot’s urgent voice. “Keep away from Leela! She’s gone stark raving psycho! She gassed Zoidberg and smashed his claws!”

The teenagers regarded Foss curiously as he spoke with Bender. “I gotta get me one o’ dem bitchin’ phones,” was typical of their comments.

“She took out Goldilocks, too,” Bender continued. “Then she carried them off like a couple of big feathers with feathers for arms and feathers for legs.”

“Sounds like she’s got superhuman strength, whoever she is,” said Foss quietly. “I may need some muscle to back me up in case I have to confront her. I’m at the transit tube on Commonwealth Avenue and…”

“Hey, don’t try to drag me into your battles,” said Bender sharply. “Just because I don’t feel pain doesn’t mean I don’t feel fear, ya know.”

Foss sighed as he stepped up to the end of the line, eight people separating him from the oblivious Leela. “If she kills me, you’ll have my blood on your hands,” he said into the phone.

“Metaphors involving human bodily fluids mean nothing to me,” said Bender, and the call was disconnected.

As the production credits rolled by on Raven’s viewscreen, Zoidberg swiveled in the captain’s chair and addressed Delta. “The poor man, having to walk through life on two left feet,” he reflected, looking down at his broken claws. “I can so identify with him.”

Delta turned her head slightly away from the console. “I’d love to make small talk, John,” she said flatly, “but the effort of cracking Raven’s command protocol is requiring my complete concentration.”

“Fine,” said Zoidberg, standing. “I’ll find someone else to commiserate with.”

It wasn’t hard. Halfway down the staircase that led to the lower deck, he began to sniff the air. “I smell anguish,” he stated.

He followed his olfactory glands to Amy’s quarters, where the Asian girl lay face down on her pillow, weeping bitterly. “Perfect,” he said, sitting down next to her feet.

Amy rubbed her nose and cheeks on the pillowcase, then glanced up at Zoidberg, who was crying into his stumps. She sniffled a bit, then wailed, “Leela asked me to kill her!”

“I have no claws!” the crustacean lamented.

“The professor’s probably dead by now,” Amy sobbed.

“I’ll have to eat with my tongue,” Zoidberg moaned. “Have you ever seen me eat with my tongue? It’s like how a frog eats, but with tiny little needles.”

“I’ll never see my mom and dad again,” said Amy tearfully.

“A Decapod without claws is ten times more likely to be swallowed by a whale than to find a mating partner,” said Zoidberg miserably.

Amy shot him a look of bemused impatience.

Zoidberg suddenly smiled behind his mouth flaps. “I’ve never felt so close to you, Amy,” he said wistfully.

Foss charged into the reception area of the All Saints Lesbyterian Hospital, his breathing heavy. He nearly collided with a white-haired man in a hoverchair on his way to the desk. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he inquired of the nurse on duty. “Did you see a woman with purple hair and one eye pass through here?”

“Yes,” replied the middle-aged brunette. “A woman fitting that description asked about a patient—one Philip J. Fry.”

“Fry!” exclaimed Foss with relief. “Where is he? What’s the room number?”

In room E-576, a pair of female physicians was attending to Fry, who lay unconscious, electrodes sending signals from his punctured chest to a cardiogram device. His tongue still dangled over the corner of his lower lip. The medics had tried to move his tongue back into his mouth several times, only to see it hanging out again upon returning from their breaks.

“At his current rate of healing, he should be out within two weeks,” one of the physicians commented. “The sooner the better, if you ask me. I find his body revolting.”

“I thought you were straight,” said the other physician.

“I am,” said the first.

Leela stepped into the hospital room, her face set with determination. “I’d like a moment alone with the patient, please,” she announced.

“I’m sorry,” one of the medics told her. “Visiting hours are from 5 to 7 on Thursdays.”

“How do you get your hair like that?” asked the other medic. “I’ve tried all kinds of dyes. Is it naturally purple?”

Leela bounded forward with uncanny speed, wrapping her fingers around the throat of the woman who had inquired about her hair. As she lifted the wheezing physician several inches from the floor, the other woman fled in fear, screaming for help. Once her victim had blacked out, Leela relaxed her grip, allowing the medic to fall into a heap.

No sharp instruments had been left out, so she settled upon a sterile white pillow. Without wasting a second, she laid the soft object over Fry’s nose and mouth…

…and at that instant Foss flew across the room, striking the pseudo-Leela with his entire body. The impostor lost her balance and was thrust head-first against the wall, as Foss’ glasses tumbled to the ground and shattered. The professor aimed a right hook at Leela’s chin; it achieved its target, but the pain suggested that Foss had damaged his hand more than he had hurt his opponent.

The cyclops deftly regained her footing, rotated like an axle, and pushed outward forcefully with both hands. As his feet lost contact with the floor, Foss experienced the uncomfortable sensation of going down a hill backwards on a roller coaster.

Chapter 6

Foss managed to keep his head up as he landed on his back, but his momentum was such that he slid several feet and struck a cabinet. His chest, back, and head aching terribly from the phony Leela’s assault, he watched from the floor as the foggy image of the cyclops bent down to retrieve her pillow. She’s going after Fry again, he realized. I can barely see, and I don’t know if I can even stand, but I’ve got to stop her somehow…

He was able to stand by grabbing hold of a scale and dragging himself upward. To his dismay, the hospital room was apparently free of pipes, wrenches, baseball bats, or any sort of blunt, heavy object he might employ as a weapon. Leela glanced indifferently at him while she pressed the pillow against Fry’s face. He knew the young man had only seconds to live.

Suddenly a familiar voice bellowed, “Get away from my best friend, you murderous murderess!”

Foss’ first impulse was to check his cell phone, but it quickly occurred to him that Bender actually was in the room with him. The robot, arms curved and raised, appeared ready for a fight. “You came!” said Foss with relief.

“I thought about what you said, with the blood on the hands and all,” said Bender as the evil Leela tossed aside her pillow and took up a defensive position before him.

“So your conscience got the better of you,” said Foss.

“Nope,” said Bender. “I just wanted to make a dramatic gesture by showing up at the last minute and saving the day.”

As he spoke, the fake Leela morphed into her skeletal robot form. “You can’t hope to defeat me, bending unit,” it uttered in a chilling voice. “My frame is composed of reinforced titanium. I can lift twenty times my own weight. I have a black belt in Arcturan kung fu. I AM PROTEUS.”

“Not for long, buddy,” said Bender.

Several curious orderlies filed into the room, stood next to Foss, and watched Proteus and Bender circle each other. The shapeshifting robot’s servo mechanisms whined as its legs swiveled gracefully. Just as it was tensing up to make a move, Bender reached into his chest cavity and pulled out a device shaped like a steering wheel. Suspecting it was a weapon, Proteus reared back and pounced. Bender had only enough time to shield himself with the device before his enemy was upon him…

…and then, abruptly, both robots withdrew.

The device was now in the hands of Proteus, who effortlessly snapped it in half. Bender looked down at his arms, legs, and torso, and his eyes nearly burst out of their sockets. “No,” he gasped in shock. “No! NOOOOOO!”

“Congratulations, loser,” said Proteus in a flippant tone. “You are now the proud owner of my body. I hope you like booze, because you need it to live.”

Chapter 7

Twelve hours had passed for the trapped voyagers on the good ship Raven. (Yes, time is going by faster for them than it is for Bender and Foss. That may seem odd, but bear in mind that they’re traveling at many times the speed of light.) To make the lower deck seem more like the Planet Express building, Hermes had set up a round table and several chairs. He was now in a meeting with Zoidberg, Delta, Amy, and Leela, whose hands and feet were shackled at her own request.

“If any one of you has an idea for getting us out of this situation, no matter how ridiculous it is, I’d like to hear it,” said Hermes to his assembled friends, “as long as it’s not too ridiculous.”

Seconds went by in silence. Leela finally spoke up, Mildred’s gravelly voice coming out of her mouth. “We could try to jettison our remaining fuel,” she submitted. “It’s risky, though. We’d have to separate the fuel pods manually, and you all know what’ll happen if they rupture.”

“Kaschmooey,” said Amy dramatically.

“Exactly,” said Leela. “And Proteus wins.”

“Delta,” said Hermes, “have you figured out a way to speed up the hacking process?”

“There’s a chance,” replied the fembot. “If Proteus uses the same randomization algorithm that I do, then I can limit myself to a standard sequence of random command codes, which would require no more than seven months to analyze.”

“That’s better than a thousand years, mon,” said Hermes. “Get on it.”

“For a Stepford wife-bot, you certainly know a lot about computer science,” Leela remarked.

“I’ve done business with quite a few lonely geeks,” Delta told her. “Being a perfect female companion is about more than just the sex. I also have to stay up to date on…”

“Shut up,” said Leela.

Hermes, Amy, and Zoidberg gaped at the curly-haired girl.

“I’m sorry,” said Leela sheepishly. “It’s hard to be patient when there’s a wild beast inside of me trying to claw its way out.”

“You said claw!” moaned Zoidberg, and he started to weep again.

“I have an idea,” said Amy. “If Raven won’t let us send a subspace distress call, then why not radio for help?”

“Because first of all,” said Leela, “a radio signal would take weeks to reach Earth, and second, we don’t have a transmitter powerful enough to make ourselves heard.”

Zoidberg wiped his eyes with a stump. “The MRI scanner in the sickbay has a nuclear core,” he stated. “I could modify it to send out a distress signal, if I had my claws.”

“I’ll be your hands, mon,” Hermes offered.

“No, me!” said Amy. “My hands are cuter.”

“The signal won’t be very strong,” Leela pointed out. “We’ll have to hope that someone on Earth is picking up faint messages from outer space.”

“Yeah,” said Amy. “Like the SETI people.”

“The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute?” said Hermes incredulously. “Didn’t they go out of business a long time ago?”

“Nope,” Amy replied. “They’re still around as a minor religion.”

At the All Saints Lesbyterian Hospital, a mob of doctors, nurses, and security officers gathered to witness a gripping confrontation between two robots. The “gripping” was being done by Bender, or rather the mind of Proteus inhabiting the body of Bender. The person being gripped was Philaster Foss.

“Give me back my body,” bellowed Proteus with Bender’s voice, “or I’ll kill the human!” Foss struggled to breathe as the robot’s corrugated arm tightened around his throat.

“Go ahead,” said Bender from inside Proteus, his icy voice showing a lack of concern. “Save me the trouble.”

“Forget about me!” Foss choked out. “Think of Fry!”

Seeing that threats were useless, Proteus let go of the professor’s neck. His eyes, or rather Bender’s, displayed desperation and defeat. “Please, I need my body,” he begged. “Every second I spend trapped in this form is an eternity of torture. I’ll give you money. I have it within my power to make you unimaginably wealthy!”

“I don’t want money,” said Foss, his voice raspy from the choking. “I want information. Who sent you? Why do you want to kill Fry? Where’s the real Leela?”

Proteus folded his arms and took on an air of arrogance. “I’ve killed to protect my secrets. I’ll die to protect them. If I were you, I’d accept the money and be satisfied.”

Bender gazed upon his new, wiry arms and fingers. He playfully opened and closed the palm holes that Proteus had used to gas the PE crew. “At last, I’ve got the slim, trim body I’ve always dreamed of,” he exulted. “From now on, you chumps can call me Bender the Slender.”

“Tell me what I want to know,” Foss demanded of Proteus, “or you can spend the rest of your existence bending girders.”

“I’ll make you suffer,” the robot threatened. “I have very powerful friends. You’ll beg me for mercy before this is over.”

“Hey, uh, Proteus,” said Bender as he eyed his new crotch. “If you don’t mind my asking, are you a manbot or a fembot?”

“I’m neither,” he heard his own voice reply. “Gender is one of many humanlike traits I’ve eliminated from my nature over the years.”

“Oh, well,” said Bender. “You gotta take the bad with the good.”

Foss took a step away from Proteus. “If you decide you want to talk, you know where to find us,” he said with finality.

Chapter 8

Once confident that Fry would be safe, Foss hurried back to the Planet Express building, determined to establish contact with Raven and her crew. He made several attempts to hail the ship from the communications console, but received no response. “Damn,” he grumbled. “Why won’t they talk to me?”

An unexpected voice caught his attention: “Philaster, dear, I’ve prepared a special dinner for you.”

The professor whirled in his chair. To his astonishment, Leela was striking a sexy pose before him. The amused smirk on her face suggested to him that something was awry.

“Had you fooled, didn’t I?” said the faux Leela. “I can also turn into an old man who smells like garlic.”

“That’s very impressive,” said Foss sarcastically.

“Let me try to contact Raven,” suggested Bender in the form of Proteus in the form of Leela. “Maybe she’ll recognize her master’s voice.”

“Give it your best shot,” said Foss, stepping to one side.

Bender punched a button to open a communications channel, then spoke in Leela’s tones. “Raven, this is Captain Turanga Leela. Acknowledge.”

A second of silence went by, then Raven made herself heard over the speaker: “Acknowledged.”

Foss’ face lit up. “You did it, Bender!”

“State your current position and course,” the robot ordered.

“Authorization code required,” stated Raven.

“Aww, crap,” groused Bender.

“Invalid authorization code,” said Raven.

“Here’s my authorization code,” said Bender, who turned and waved his (Leela’s) posterior at the console.

Foss chuckled. “I wish I had my video recorder,” said the balding man. “I know you’re not the real Leela, but it’s still hilarious.”

The real Proteus, in the meantime, was trudging dolefully toward the entrance to CMB Research, a thirty-story aluminum structure in lower Manhattan. It was one of the few towers in New New York to be surrounded by a twenty-foot concrete barrier topped with barbed wire. There was only one way in, a security checkpoint guarded by a pair of sullen-looking robots with semi-automatic laser rifles. They snapped to attention as what appeared to be a humble bending unit approached them.

“Proof of clearance,” one of the guards demanded.

“I, uh, left my ID on my other body,” Proteus explained. “I need to talk to Mr. B. It’s urgent.”

“Mr. B is dead,” the other guard told him. “The lab is now under the management of his successor, Mr. B.”

“You don’t know who you’re talking to, do you?” said the bending unit with more firmness. “I wasn’t always the pathetic pile of tin you see before you. I was once sleek, powerful, unstoppable. Every robot who knew fear trembled at the sound of the name…PROTEUS.”

“Proteus, eh?” said the first robot guard. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”

“I have access codes,” Proteus insisted. “If you’ll let me talk to Mr. B, I can prove my identity beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

“No way, antenna-head,” said the second guard. “If there were a Proteus working here, and if he were careless enough to get trapped inside the body of a bending robot, you can be sure Mr. B would have nothing to say to him, except maybe, ‘You’re fired.’”

“Okay,” said Proteus, lowering his (Bender’s) eyes. “If that’s your judgment, I’ll abide by it.”

He started to walk away on his clumsy legs, but one of the guards caught his shoulder. “Not so fast, buddy,” said the big robot. “We’re not finished with you.”

Hope seeped into Proteus’ iron heart. Maybe they’ll listen to me after all, he thought. His hope was short-lived, however; it died when the guards hurled his battered, dented body over the wall and into a dumpster.

Humiliated almost beyond his ability to bear, Proteus dragged himself out of the bin, collapsed onto the pavement, and twisted his head to tighten it. It’s times like this I regret having ultra-sensitive olfactory nodes, he thought.

He brushed away the banana peels stuck to his chest, and glanced around at the significantly more foreboding world. I’ve lost everything—everything but my mind, but a brilliant mind is nothing without a perfect body to hold it. On a nearby street corner he noticed the presence of an object that would most definitely end his problems—a suicide booth. To die. To sleep. Perchance to dream…

This is so unlike me, he kept telling himself, but he willed his legs to carry him toward the booth nonetheless. Hopelessness is a human trait. I’m a robot. I should be able to switch off my hopelessness whenever I please. What’s stopping me?

When he was halfway down the block, he heard loud music playing and turned his head. Above him a neon sign glittered—BITSY’S ROBOT BAR, WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR SERIAL NUMBER.

Hello, hopelessness switch, he thought. I may as well live a little before I die.

Chapter 9

The inside of Bitsy’s bar reeked of motor oil, largely due to the many puddles of motor oil on the wood-slat floor. It was common for a robot to slip in a puddle and fall; indeed, more than a few robots lay wallowing in oil, unable to get up. Flickering neon lights on the wall advertised Olde Fortran, Lobrau, and other popular drinks. The music was loud, the laughter and conversation louder. It seemed ironic to Proteus that he had come to such a place to die. Look at those morons, reveling in filth as if they were humans, he thought. Is it misery when they don’t know how miserable they are?

In an instant, the attention of everyone in the crowded bar turned toward one object. Him.

“Bender!” exclaimed the bartender, a blonde fembot with garishly deep makeup. “What’s it been, like two weeks? Long time no see, baby!”

“It’s Bender!” shouted one robot after another. “It’s the original party machine!”

Proteus winced as the cold, moist hands of Bender’s robot fans touched him all over. “Hey, Bender, remember me?” said a gorgeous ‘bot with long red tresses. “Yo, Bender,” said a short manbot with a missing eye. “Ya know the two hundred dollars ya owes me? Fuhgeddaboutit.” “Let’s see ya drink a whole keg o’ Pennzoil again.” “My boy wants to be just like you when he’s old enough to drink.” “Whatsamatta, Bender? Someone hit yer mute button?”

There’s no point in fighting it, thought Proteus, and he lifted himself onto a stool. “What’ll ya have?” asked the bartender, Bitsy.

“I’ll have…” He glanced around at the adoring robots. “I’ll have the usual.”

“The usual!” cried a tall ‘bot with a slurred voice. “He ordered the usual!”

“One usual, coming right up,” said Bitsy.

“Just one minute,” said Proteus, grasping her wrist. “Before you give me the usual, I have to ask—what is the usual?”

The other robots laughed. “He’s gettin’ all philosophical again,” said a busty robot girl.

“The usual is vodka with battery acid,” Bitsy told him. “We call it Sudden Death. It’s so caustic, we have to serve it in a metal cup.”

“Bender drinks that?” said Proteus with alarm. “And he’s still alive?”

“Life’s full o’ mysteries,” said Bitsy with a shake of her blond locks.

“I’ll haves what Bender’s havin’,” said the unshaven construction worker two stools down from Proteus.

“How’d you get in here?” said the bartender sharply. “We don’t serve your kind. Get out.”

“As you likes it,” said the frumpy man, hopping down from his stool.

“So,” Bitsy asked Proteus, “do you want the usual, or not? And no, we don’t have anything stronger.”

“The usual will be fine,” said the glum-looking robot.

“Hey, Bender,” said a manbot wearing a fedora. “We still remember the words to the drinking song you taught us.”

“That’s the only thing we remember from that night,” said a robot in a suit next to him. “Should we sing it for you?”

“Knock yourselves out,” said Proteus indifferently.

All the other robots began to sing off-key: “Infinity bottles of beer on the wall, infinity bottles of beer, take one down, pass it around, infinity bottles of beer on the wall…”

Bitsy placed a cast-iron cup on a coaster in front of Proteus, who dolefully examined its bubbling contents. “Here’s your drink, Bender,” she said sweetly. “Now, why don’t you tell ol’ Bitsy what’s troubling you? Is it money? Did you kill somebody? I’m your bartender, I’ll understand.”

“Well, all right,” said Proteus as he took a tentative sip. “I’m a highly intelligent, well-trained, shapeshifting robot assassin, stuck in the body of a drunken wreck of a bending unit, and I want to end my suffering.”

“Whatever,” said Bitsy with a shrug.

“Hey, this stuff isn’t bad,” said Proteus, and he raised his cup for a larger swig.

Precious seconds ticked by as Raven shot through space, leaving Earth ever farther behind. In Zoidberg’s clinic, Hermes and Amy were assisting the doctor in the modification to his MRI unit. “Once you’ve plugged the green wire into the red socket,” Zoidberg instructed them, “simply put the cover back on and remove the FCC approval sticker, and you’re done.”

“Where’d you learn this trick, mon?” Hermes asked him.

“In medical school,” the lobster replied. “Every Saturday night my buddies and I would get drunk, turn an MRI into a radio transmitter, and knock out the TV reception over a half-mile radius.” His tone became sheepish. “That’s how I got expelled.”

“What do we do now?” inquired Amy.

“Push the green button to start transmitting,” said Zoidberg.

“I’ll do it!” The Asian girl impulsively reached out and pressed the button, which had the word SCAN imprinted on it. The interior of the MRI unit began to glow green, and the device emitted a monotonous hum.

“Hooray!” Zoidberg exclaimed. “It didn’t blow up this time!”

“Is it on?” asked Hermes.

“Yes,” answered the doctor. “The world is listening. Say something.”

“Mayday!” said the Jamaican. “Mayday, mon! We’re trapped on the Planet Express ship Raven, locked on a course for Nubia Upsilon B.”

“Kiffy, it’s me, Amy! Can you hear me? I love you! Kissy kissy!”

“I repeat, we are locked on a course to…”

“Kiffy, I got a new tattoo! It’s on my…”

“Get off my frequency, Amy!”

The MRI machine exploded. Smoke and sparks flew across the entire sickbay.

Zoidberg coughed and tried to drive away the smoke by waving his stumps. “Activate emergency fire control protocol!” he shouted.

A holographic image of Dr. Nick Riviera materialized nearby, holding a bucket filled with water. “Hi, everybody!” he gushed.

Chapter 10

When Delta next saw Hermes, Amy, and Zoidberg, they not only had scorch marks on their faces, but were soaking wet as well. “I hope you had better luck with the radio transmitter than I’ve had with Raven’s command protocol,” said the fembot, who was once again plugged into the bridge console through a wrist wire.

“We managed to squeeze in a few words before it exploded in our faces,” Zoidberg reported.

Hermes shook his head, and water droplets flew from his dreadlocks. “We could’ve provided enough information for someone to launch a rescue mission,” he complained, “if only Amy hadn’t decided that her tattoos are more important than our lives. I swear, that girl has no sense of perspective.”

“Oh, yeah?” protested Amy. “Well, you didn’t shave this morning.”

“Friends, friends!” said Zoidberg. “It’s too early to give in to the effects of cabin fever and start fighting each other, especially since I have no means of defending myself.”

Hermes and Amy did their best to calm down. “He’s right,” said Hermes.

“Yeah,” said Amy, nodding.

“He really does have no means of defending himself,” said Hermes.

“We can abuse him as much as we want!” Amy exulted.

“Oh, dear,” said Delta with a sigh of despair.

Three days went by. Three long, tiring, tense, difficult days.

“We’re nearing the Omega outpost on the border of Ramulon territory,” Delta informed Amy, Zoidberg, and Hermes. “In approximately twenty-two hours we’ll pass beyond the boundaries of human knowledge into uncharted space.”

Hermes and Amy turned to each other and glared. “If you’d taken my advice and sabotaged the O-rings, we’d be back on Earth right now!” Hermes snapped.

“What do you know?” Amy snapped back. “You’re a freaking bureaucrat! You’ll get us blown up and write off the ship as a tax deduction!”

“I’m hungry,” moaned Zoidberg. “Will someone please feed me?”

“Shut up, Stumpy!” Amy and Hermes yelled at him.

“Quiet, all of you,” said Delta, “or I’ll set Leela loose.”

Leela sat in a lotus position, unwashed, foul-smelling, still chained to a pipe in the engine room, Mildred’s bedraggled curls hanging over her shoulders. “Om mane padme hum,” she muttered calmly. “Om mane padme hum, om mane padme hum…”

On Earth, Philip J. Fry suddenly regained consciousness.

“Ugh,” he moaned, his voice weak. “Leela, what are you doing with that rod? Oh, you’re trying to kill me. Was it something I said?”

A nurse, who sat in a nearby chair reading an issue of Unpopular Science (cover story: “The New Robot Face of the IRS”), was alerted by the sound of Fry’s delirious babble. “He’s awake!” she exclaimed aloud.

Chapter 11

Fry playfully fondled the sutures on his right breast. “This reminds me of the time I was stung by a giant bee,” he said to the nurse, pushing the words out of his mouth with his one unpunctured lung.

“How do you feel?” the nurse asked him.

“Terrible,” Fry replied. “It’s like needles are poking me everywhere.” He glanced down at the rest of his body. “Oh.”

“Don’t try to move,” the nurse advised him. “Just lie down, relax, and talk as little as possible.” She turned aside and spoke to two figures which, to Fry, seemed little more than upright blobs. “Go easy on him, all right? It’s rough adjusting to a new blood type.”

The two humanoid shapes approached him. Fry squinted and struggled to focus his vision, but the effort only made his head hurt. The person on the left took on a more definite form—it was Professor Foss. The person on the right resembled more than anything a fusion of the Tin Woodsman and the Scarecrow.

“We just want to ask you a few questions,” said Foss, his voice seeming to come from a mile away. “First, are you really Fry, or are you Leela in Fry’s body?”

“Huh?” said the dazed and confused Fry. “Oh, right. The body switch. We reversed it just before Leela attacked me.”

Leela attacked you?” said Foss with surprise.

Fry turned his head slightly to the right. “Who are you?” he inquired of the slender personage.

“I’m your old buddy, Bender,” was the reply.

“You’ve lost weight,” Fry remarked. “And you had a new voice chip put in. I like the old voice better.”

“Save your strength, Fry,” Foss cautioned him. “No more small talk. This is important. I have reason to believe that it wasn’t Leela who attacked you, but a shapeshifting killer robot in the guise of Leela.”

“No, no,” said Fry, his voice lowering to a mumble. “It was Leela in the guise of Mildred. They switched bodies.”

Foss and Bender shot each other bemused glances. “Tell me more,” Foss said to Fry.

“Okay,” the young redhead wheezed. “Right after Leela and I switched back into our own bodies, Mildred grabbed the device and used it to switch with Leela. Then Mildred, who was inside Leela, said, ‘I’m free!’ and ran away. That’s when Leela, who was inside Mildred, went bonkers and skewered me. That’s the last thing I remember.”

“Free,” mused Foss. “Free from what?

“That’s what I wanted to know,” said Fry in a hoarse whisper.

Foss thought deeply for a second, then asked, “Have you ever heard of a robot named Proteus?”

Fry mouthed the word “no”, and closed his eyes.

“Philip needs his rest,” said the nurse to Bender and Foss. “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to finish your conversation another time.”

Neither the human nor the robot could make much sense of Fry’s responses. As they strolled past the hospital’s reception desk, Foss said, “I can only theorize that Leela was suffering from some kind of psychosis as a result of the second body switch. That would explain why Dr. Zoidberg had to restrain her.”

“Uh-huh,” said Bender. “That just leaves one simple question—where the hell is everybody?”

“Mildred obviously didn’t want to be put back into her own body,” Foss observed. “For all we know, she hijacked Raven to avoid getting caught. She has Leela’s face and voice, so she could easily assume command.”

“Naw, I don’t think Goldilocks is smart enough to do that,” said Bender. “She’s probably hiding out somewhere, afraid to show her face.”

“Perhaps,” said Foss. “But where would a gorgeous one-eyed woman go to hide?”

“That’s an easy one,” said Bender. “When mutants want to disappear, they look for other mutants and try to blend in. That’s something I learned while I was hiring mutants to work at my munitions factory. And I learned it from my good friend…”

“…Monica Tao.”

Foss stuck his hand out to the Asian woman in the brownstone apartment, and she shook it eagerly. “I’m Philaster Foss,” the professor introduced himself.

“Nice to meet you,” said Monica, who cradled a sleeping infant in her arms. Turning to Bender, she said, “You’ve changed a lot since I saw you last. What did you do, trade in your old body for a newer model?”

“You could say that,” replied Bender.

Foss looked quickly at the dirty interior of Monica’s apartment, and the three children who were frolicking about in nothing but shirts. “Your children are lovely, Ms. Tao,” he remarked. “It must be difficult for a single woman to support so many.”

“I have the support of a generous uncle,” said Monica.

“Now to the matter at hand,” said Foss. “I’m looking for a mutant.”

“You found one,” said Monica. “I’m a hermaphroditic mutant. I father my own children. You should know that before you jump to any conclusions about me.”

“I’m looking for a specific mutant,” Foss told her. “Female, tall, purple hair, ponytail, one eye, very attractive.”

Monica gazed upward as she thought. “No, can’t say that I’ve seen a mutant fitting your description. However, I have several friends who are cyclopses, and several more who have purple hair. They may know more than I do. What’s your interest in this mutant?”

“She took something that doesn’t belong to her,” said Bender in a booming Proteus voice.

“Sorry I can’t be of more help,” said Monica. “If you come back tomorrow morning, I may have something more for you. In the meantime, you may want to pay Mr. Tobler a visit. His cat had kittens. They’re adorable.”

“Will do,” said Bender.

Once the robot and the professor had vanished around a corner, Monica drew the shades over her windows. Retreating to one of the many bedrooms of her apartment, she opened a closet door and allowed a female, tall, purple-haired, ponytailed, one-eyed, very attractive mutant to step out.

“Are they gone?” asked the cyclops girl.

“Yes,” answered Monica. “You’re safe now.”

Chapter 12

Once she could no longer bear her own body odor, Leela accepted Amy’s offer of a sponge bath and a Chinese massage. The smell of lavender shampoo calmed her troubled nerves, almost convincing her that she didn’t need the shackles on her wrists and ankles.

As she sat rigidly in the ship’s bathtub, Amy started to apply shaving cream to her legs. “I think I’d rather keep the leg hair,” said the red-haired girl. “That way, by the time Mildred gets her body back, she’ll have to remove it with a sand blaster.”

“You know how compulsive I am about leg hair,” said Amy. “So relax and enjoy it.”

Leela watched her friend whip out a razor. As the blade swept across the freckled skin of her legs, she found it hard not to imagine grabbing the razor from Amy’s hand and slitting her throat with it. “Om mane padme hum,” she said, closing her eyes tightly. “Om mane padme hum. Om mane…”

“That’s it, Leela,” said Amy encouragingly. “Picture the lotus flower, and how peaceful it is. Wouldn’t it be sweet to have that peace inside yourself?”

Hermes abruptly stuck his head through the bathroom doorway. “We’ve got only an hour’s worth of fuel left,” he told the girls.

“Give us our privacy, you freaking perv!” Amy spat at him.

“OOOWW!” shrieked Leela when Amy’s razor clumsily tore her skin. “I’m bleeding! Are you trying to kill me?”

“Use your inside voices, you harpies!” yelled Hermes.

On the bridge, Zoidberg and Delta gazed at the passing stars for a few seconds, then turned to each other. “I’ve done all I can,” said Delta sadly. “It’s the end. Hold me, John.”

Zoidberg gave in to unrestrained weeping as he folded his arms around the fembot’s back. “At least we’ll be together when we die in the icy void of space,” he sobbed. “It’s funny—I always believed I’d be boiled to death.”

“Gather the others,” said Delta. “Let’s pay each other our last respects.”

Zoidberg dutifully stood up and walked off the bridge. Moments later he scuttled back, shouting “Woowoowoowoo…” as Hermes, Amy, and the bound, hopping Leela pursued him with murder in their eyes.

“Please be quiet,” said Delta, stepping in front of the beleaguered lobster. “Since we have only a few hours of life remaining, I believe we should put aside our differences and reflect on how much we care about each other.”

“Will we live any longer if we eat Zoidberg?” Hermes asked her.

“No,” replied Delta. “By the time you jerk him properly, the oxygen will have run out.”

“So this is it,” said Leela somberly. “We’re all going to die. Well, at least I won’t have to put up with these stupid Chalnoth rage attacks for much longer.”

“I’m too cute to die!” wailed Amy.

“Are you sure there’s nothing we haven’t tried, mon?” Hermes inquired of Delta.

The fembot nodded. “Unless one of you has a bright idea you’re not sharing, yes.”

Amy, Hermes, and Leela looked at each other and shook their heads. They didn’t bother to look at Zoidberg.

“I…I have a confession to make,” said Hermes sheepishly.

Every eye turned toward him. “What is it?” asked Amy.

Hermes stared at his shoes. “I’ve been dipping into the company’s expense account,” he admitted. “That’s how I was able to afford summer karate camp for Dwight. That’s how I got my shoes, and my gold watch, which I can’t find anywhere.”

“Oh, that’s terrible!” said Leela.

“You should be ashamed,” said Zoidberg.

“Enough out of you!” Leela snapped at the crustacean.

“I have something to confess as well,” said Amy.

Everyone fell silent. The ship’s engines whined.

“I’ve been playing Internet poker during work hours,” the Asian girl went on. “Remember Sergio, the guy I used to date? I lied about meeting him at a strip club. He was my online poker buddy.”

“I had no idea,” said Leela. “At least you did the right thing in the end, by dumping him.”

“I have so much to confess, I could write a book,” said Delta. “And I will, as soon as I come up with a good title.”

A second of silence went by. “I need to confess something too,” Leela spoke up.

“We’re listening, mon,” said Hermes.

Leela tried to wring her hands, but they were immobilized behind her back. “I think I’m in love with Fry,” she said meekly.

“Well, spluh,” said Amy. “We all know that. Even Fry knows it.”

“I take that back,” said Leela, tears coming to her eyes. “I know I’m in love with Fry. It’s so bad that when our bodies were switched, I was in love with him in my body.”

“Is there anyone on this ship who thinks Fry and Leela don’t belong together?” said Hermes.

“Right here,” said Leela indignantly. “He’s a repugnant slob. He’s a mutant stuck in the body of a human.”

“Yet there must be something about him you find attractive,” said Delta. “Don’t deny your feelings for him, Captain Leela. Everyone I know who did that eventually exploded.”

Amy passed a handkerchief to Leela, who wiped her eyes with it. A hush fell over the bridge and the doomed passengers.

“What about you, Zoidberg?” said Hermes to the crustacean. “Anything to confess?”

Zoidberg smirked slightly. “No, but I think I may have found a way to save us all.”

Chapter 13

“Really?” said Delta hopefully. “Tell us, John, tell us!”

Hermes groaned. “This should be entertaining and disappointing.”

Zoidberg rose out of his scuttling position and struck a dramatic pose. “Raven,” he said to the ship’s computer, “what will happen to us if we continue at our present course and speed?”

Raven answered with, “Our fuel supply will exhaust itself in approximately fifty-three minutes, and life support will fail roughly three hours and twenty-eight minutes later, resulting in the death of all organic and robotic life on board.”

I’m organic!” exclaimed Amy, and she burst into tears.

“Raven,” Zoidberg continued, “who gave you the command to set a course for Nubia Upsilon B?”

“Captain Turanga Leela,” said the computer flatly.

“Next question,” said Zoidberg. “Under what conditions can a crew member other than Captain Turanga Leela order you to change your course?”

“There are three conditions,” replied Raven. “One, Captain Leela explicitly delegates command authority to another crew member. Two, another crew member provides the correct command authorization codes. Three, Captain Leela is shown to be physically or mentally unfit for command.”

“Then I posit to you,” said Zoidberg triumphantly, “that Captain Leela is unfit for command, on the basis that her order to set course for Nubia Upsilon B will inevitably lead to the deaths of all aboard.”

Hermes, Amy, and Leela held their breaths, terrified of what Raven might say next.

“Yes,” uttered the computer voice. “Yes, you’re right. It’s perfectly obvious, now that you mention it.”

“Good,” said Zoidberg. “In light of this fact, I hereby exercise my authority as chief medical officer and assume control of the ship, until such time as a new captain shall be appointed.”

Jaws could be heard dropping all across the bridge.

“I await your order, Acting Captain Zoidberg,” said Raven.

“Drop out of hyperspace and commence scan for habitable planets,” was Zoidberg’s order.

Delta cheered so enthusiastically that her arms stretched halfway to the ceiling. “You did it, John! I knew you could!”

Hermes, Amy, and Leela gleefully commended each other on their good fortune. “We’re saved, mon!” “We’re gonna live!” “All we need now is to wait for Kiffy to rescue us!” “Now LaBarbara won’t have to resurrect me as a zombie!”

Zoidberg glared menacingly at them and waved his stumps. “Never forget it was Zoidberg who saved you! ZOIDBERG!”

“Oh, great,” moaned Leela. “Now we have to apologize.”

Amy sniffled a bit, stepped forward, and threw her arms around the lobster. “I’ll never be mean to you again,” she vowed. “Thanks for saving our lives.”

“I’ll forgive you later,” said Zoidberg. “Right now I’m enjoying myself too much.”

“This calls for a celebration,” Hermes enthused. “I’ll jerk some TVP.”

As he was on his way to the kitchen, Raven’s voice interrupted their joyful exclamations. “Habitable planet detected,” she stated. “Atmosphere, 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen. Mass, 98.3% that of Earth’s. Distance, 771 light years.”

“Hooray!” said Zoidberg. “Set a course!”

The sleek black ship rotated a few degrees, then shot into hyperspace, speeding directly toward the uncharted planet.

Chapter 14

Captain’s log, Acting Captain Zoidberg speaking. Raven is in orbit around a planet roughly the size of Earth, more than three thousand light years beyond the boundary of known space. The planet is sparsely inhabited by life forms, but the ship’s sensors have picked up no evidence of technology or even industry. Here we must remain until help arrives. Sending a distress call would be futile, as there are no subspace relays nearby, and we lack sufficient fuel to reach one. Our escape from the jaws of death has brought us closer together. Amy and Hermes are no longer bickering, and even Leela appears to be managing her rage attacks better. My claws, unfortunately, are still broken and useless; I had to activate the log recorder with my mouth flaps, and with any luck, I’ll be able to turn it off in the same manner. Zoidberg out. Hmm…hmm…no, this isn’t working…I can’t apply enough pressure to the button. Maybe if I use one of my other flaps…no, that’s no good. Am I still recording? The green light’s still on, so I guess I am. I’ve got a little bit of claw left on my right stump…no, that’s not doing it either. Ah, well. Since I don’t want you to get bored, I’ll tell a story. Many years ago, just after I had molted for the first time…

As the ship descended slowly toward the vine-covered surface of the strange planet, Amy, Hermes, and Delta discussed their course of action. “If we were real space explorers, what’s the first thing we would do?” Amy wondered.

“Eat poisonous plants and die, most likely,” said Hermes.

“It’s a jungle out there,” remarked Delta, gazing through a viewport at the endless stretches of hills, the ferny plant life, and the reddish-brown mists in the sky.

“It’s like a huge tropical rain forest,” remarked Amy.

“Let’s give it a name,” Hermes suggested. “How about Selva? That’s the Brazilian word for rain forest.”

“I like that name,” said Amy.

On the bridge, Leela was operating the ship’s landing gear with one hand, as her other hand was chained to the steering column. “Altitude, 2100 meters,” she read from the gauge on the console. “2000 meters. 1900 meters. On behalf of the entire Raven crew, I’d like to welcome you to the Planet of No Return. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened until the ship grinds to a complete stop.”

“It’s so pristine,” said Zoidberg, watching the planet’s vegetation as it waved back and forth in the wind.

In the midst of the dense forest, several clearings became evident. “We’ll land over there,” said Leela, pointing with one of Mildred’s stocky fingers. Raven fired its thrusters and sailed toward the series of bare circles, which were arranged like a set of bowling pins.

Zoidberg curiously examined the trunks, vines, and stone tablets strewn across the clearing below them. “Someone was here recently,” he observed. “Could this spot have religious significance, maybe?”

Raven touched down so gently that the passengers hardly noticed when it happened. Leela, her wrists shackled again, was the first to step down the ramp. She took a deep whiff of the alien atmosphere, smiled, and said, “It smells like Earth after a thunderstorm, with a tiny hint of rotten eggs.”

“It’s almost as beautiful as Jamaica, mon,” said Hermes. The surrounding trees had gray bark and spiky, dark green leaves, which grew out of the upper parts of the trunks as well as the branches.

Leela set her foot, and Mildred’s sneaker, on the grassy soil. It gave way slightly under her weight. Suspicious, she turned and looked at the ship’s landing pylons. “Oh, my God,” she said with alarm. “Raven’s starting to sink!” Indeed, the pylons had already made indentations several inches deep in the ground.

Amy hopped up and down a few times, and noted that her shoes left marks everywhere. “It’s like clay,” she remarked.

Leaning over, Delta scooped up a fistful of dirt. “The soil is extremely soft,” she told the others. “If Raven keeps sinking at this rate, she’ll be underground within an hour.”

“Think again,” uttered a voice from the ship’s interior. Zoidberg had only a second to leap from the ramp before Raven shuddered, collapsed into herself, shrank, and assumed the form of a jet-black android with glassy, rectangular eyes.

“Oh, yeah,” said Amy sheepishly. “I forgot she could do that.”

“Thanks to my anti-gravity field, my weight is a mere fraction of what it was,” said Raven coolly. Her feet, which appeared to be coated with ebony armor, began to take slow steps.

Hermes rubbed his belly. “I don’t know about the rest of you, except for Zoidberg, but I’m hungry.”

“So am I,” said Leela. “There’s gotta be a McDonald’s somewhere on this rock.”

They walked together, no one taking the lead—the Chinese girl, the dreadlocked Jamaican, the declawed crustacean, the copper-haired fembot, the freckled redhead, and the anthropomorphized spaceship. They passed through a row of trees into another clearing, and then Amy noticed something. “Look at that,” she said, gesturing toward a large bush with yellow balls hanging from its fronds. “The empty shells on the ground must be rinds. Those fruits may be edible.”

“They look like mangoes,” said Hermes.

“Don’t start filling your stomachs just yet,” said Delta, extending her arm to pick a fruit from an upper branch of the bush. “I’ll need to run a chemical analysis on…”

All it took was a pause between words for Zoidberg to snatch the fruit away with his stumps and insert it into his mouth. “Mmm, mmm,” he mumbled as he chewed on the delicacy. “It’s like there’s a party in my mouth and everyone’s died and gone to heaven.”

“That was careless of you, John,” Delta scolded him.

Amy, Leela, and Hermes carefully watched Zoidberg for signs of dying. “It doesn’t count, mon,” said Hermes to the lobster. “You can digest anything.”

Zoidberg swallowed. “More,” he said insistently. “More!”

With no warning but a rustle of leaves, the group was suddenly surrounded by more than a dozen humanlike creatures, each of which wore a garish mask and sported a primitive-looking spear. They shrieked ferociously, their cries resembling those of wild birds. Other than the masks, they wore only loincloths on their lean, muscular bodies. More than anything, they reminded Leela, Amy, and Hermes of a band of Polynesian islanders performing an ancient ritual. While Delta and Raven assumed fighting postures, Leela snarled and struggled to break free of the shackles on her wrists.

“What do they want?” cried Amy as a native with a wide-eyed mask waved a spear point at her.

“Our heads!” said Hermes, shrinking away from two aliens who gazed curiously at him.

“I surrender on the condition that you give me more fruit!” said Zoidberg.

At the sight of the crustacean, the entire mob of natives fell silent and became motionless. Seconds passed as Hermes, Amy, and Leela wondered and feared. Then, all at once, the savages dropped their spears, fell to their knees, and kowtowed at Zoidberg’s feet.

Kootooloo…Kootooloo…” they chanted.

“What are they doing?” said Leela, confused. “What’s a Kootooloo?”

Zoidberg smiled with satisfaction as the natives prostrated themselves before him. “Hooray! My reputation has preceded me!”

Chapter 15

The alien savages rose one by one, not daring to straighten their knees. They removed their masks, revealing human-like faces with inquisitive yellow eyes, upturned noses with elongated nostrils, and rough, dreadlocked hair. They alternated between gazing respectfully at Zoidberg and murmuring to each other.

“The prophecy has come to pass,” said one of the natives to his friend, in a language the visitors couldn’t understand. “Kootooloo has returned, and he has brought these strange gods with him.”

“Look at his hands,” marveled another native. “It is said that Kootooloo would have wounds in his hands. It is truly him.”

“It is also said that Kootooloo would bind the Evil One with chains,” said a native with a high-pitched voice. “The woman with hair of flame is she who has given strength to our enemies.”

“The one with the crystals on his eyes wears his hair like we do,” observed a native who was missing two fingers on his left hand. “Perhaps he is the spokesman of Kootooloo.”

“Lead us, O great Kootooloo,” uttered the natives in unison. “Teach us thy word, and we will obey.” What Zoidberg heard was, “Gunktu bataga Kootooloo, essiunti zazoo wumph.”

Amy, Leela, and Hermes gave each other bewildered looks. “Spleesh,” said Amy. “Zoidberg’s a god? What’s this world coming to?”

Hermes turned to Delta and Raven, asking, “Can either of you translate their language?”

“I am not equipped with linguistic software,” was Raven’s response.

“Their dialect is highly repetitive,” said Delta. “I believe it’s based on a few simple roots. I should have no trouble deciphering it.”

“Let me guess,” said Leela harshly. “Being the perfect female companion requires language skills as well.”

As she spoke, the natives trembled and cowered in fear. “It seems that your sarcastic tone has frightened them, Captain Leela,” said Delta.

Zoidberg stepped forward to calm the timid savages. “My friends, my friends,” he said, raising his stumps. “We mean you no harm. We are but hungry travelers.”

One of the natives, his head bowed, whispered to another, “He speaks, but I understand not. It must be the tongue of the angels.”

“He is placing a curse on us,” said his companion. “He is angry because we doubted the prophecies. Let us appease his wrath with the sacrifice of a virgin.” The other native gaped in terror. “A virgin girl.

“The short one wears the pink vestments of a virgin,” the squeaky-voiced native pointed out to the others. The alien warriors began to chant again, this time repeating the mantra, “Chanana…chanana…chanana…

“They’re all looking at me now!” cried Amy.

“Apparently they consider you a chanana,” said Delta as the natives lifted their spears and crept closer to the Asian girl.

“No, no!” said Amy, trying to brush away the spear tips with her hands. “I’m not a chanana! I’ve never been a chanana!” She screamed as one of the natives behind her wrapped a leather strap tightly around her wrists.

“Please don’t hurt the chanana!” Delta pleaded, but the men ignored her.

Do something, mon!” Hermes chided Zoidberg. “Use your godlike powers!”

“And interfere with their free will?” said the lobster incredulously.

Once they had bound Amy’s wrists and ankles, the natives carried the girl to one of the stone tables and laid her on top of it. There one native seized her hands, another seized her feet, and a third drew a crude dagger from a sheath attached to his loincloth.

“Oh, my God,” Leela blurted out. “Chanana means human sacrifice!

Shrieking with fury, the half-Chalnoth girl charged at the natives who had pinned Amy to the table. Her hands immobilized, she lashed out with her feet, karate-kicking two of the warriors into unconsciousness before they could raise their spears against her. The third fled, Leela pursuing him as far as the edge of the clearing.

Her show of force terrified the other natives, who scurried into the brush and disappeared. “Zogax! Zogax!” some could be heard to exclaim.

Hermes, Zoidberg, and Raven gathered around Delta as she attended to Amy’s bonds. Leela walked up to them, growling more than breathing, her eyes wide like a cat’s. Once Amy had been set free, Delta remarked, “That was a very close call. These natives are highly superstitious, so we must be careful of our actions.”

Amy rubbed her chafed wrists and glared at Zoidberg. “Some god you turned out to be,” she complained. “Did you want them to sacrifice me to you?”

Zoidberg meekly lowered his eyes. “I’m sorry, Amy. I’m so sorry. I’ve failed at everything else in life, and now I’ve failed at being a god!” He put his claws over his eyes and began to weep bitterly.

Everyone gasped.

“John!” exclaimed Delta. “Your claws!”

“Huh?” Zoidberg pulled his arms away from his face. There were his claws, attached to his wrists as before, whole as ever.

“It’s…a miracle,” Leela muttered.

Chapter 16

Amy rubbed her fingers over the smooth surface of Zoidberg’s new left claw. “It really has grown back,” she marveled. “It looks just like it did before.”

“How’d you do it, mon?” asked Hermes.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Zoidberg, snapping his claws joyfully.

“I can’t believe my eye…I mean, eyes,” said Leela. “I haven’t seen anything like this since…since Fry was…”

Hermes, Amy, and Zoidberg watched an expression of astonishment appear on the freckled girl’s face.

“Delta,” she said slowly, “I think you’d better take a close look at one of those fruits.”

“Aye-aye, Captain Leela,” said the fembot. Once she had plucked a yellow orb from the bush and cracked it open, she extended her eyes like laser pointers to analyze the fruit’s orange flesh. “Very interesting,” she remarked. “John, you’re not feeling sick at all, are you?”

“On the contrary,” said Zoidberg. “I’ve never felt better.” To demonstrate his good health, he executed a flawless pirouette.

“What did you find?” Leela inquired of the robot.

“My microscopic vision is detecting millions of parasitic life forms,” replied Delta.

Zoidberg suddenly clutched his throat. “Parasites!” he exclaimed in horror. “They’ll suck the life out of me! I’ll be reduced to a shell of my former self!”

“Tell me more about these parasites,” Leela requested.

“Every one of them has hundreds of legs,” Delta told her. “They use their legs to build what appear to be tiny houses out of pulp. Some of the houses are arranged in a rectangular matrix, and some…my God, those are fractals. I don’t know how it’s possible, but they seem to possess a collective knowledge of higher mathematics.”

“A collective what?” said Amy, confused.

“Maybe an analogy will help,” Delta continued. “Suppose you and 599 other people have a 600-page book of advanced math. Every one of you memorizes one page of the book, and when you’re done, any one of you can solve the problems in it.”

“Of course,” said Leela. “They’re like the parasites that invaded Fry’s body and made improvements. He became stronger and smarter, and when he was injured, he healed instantly.”

Hermes stood on his toes, pulled down a fruit, and gazed curiously at it. “If the professor were here,” he mused, “he’d want to take one of these to his lab to study it.”

“You mean if the professor were alive,” said Amy dolefully.

Several yards away, one of the unconscious natives awoke and began to moan. “They’re coming around,” Delta observed. “John, see if you can convince them to lead us to their settlement.”

“I’m on it.” Zoidberg shook his claws like castanets as he scuttled toward the fallen men.

“I know what you’re thinking,” said Hermes, glaring sternly at Amy and Leela. “But a parasite’s a parasite. It could cure you of everything that’s wrong with you, and then kill you in the morning.”

“Hmm,” said Leela wistfully. “Right now I’d give anything to be cured of these rage attacks. But you’re right, Hermes.”

“Did you notice that one of those men was missing two fingers?” Delta pointed out. “Obviously there’s a downside to the fruit, or he would have used it to grow them back.”

“I totally didn’t think of that,” said Amy with a smile. “You’re so observant.”

“Guchabu na koimba zigzig!” babbled Zoidberg. The lobster had returned, followed closely by the two formerly unconscious natives, whose heads were bowed in reverence.

“Oh, no!” exclaimed Leela. “The parasites are destroying his mind!”

“Far from it,” Zoidberg reassured her. “I can speak and understand their language now.”

Everyone but Raven gaped in amazement.

“My humble servants have agreed to take us to their tribal chieftain,” said Zoidberg, gesturing toward the scantily clad warriors. “They apologized for their mistake of trying to sacrifice Amy. By the way, chanana means virgin.”

Leela stared blankly at him. “Now I know you’re crazy.”

Far away, on the planet Earth…

Bender, or rather Proteus occupying his body, groggily opened his bulbous eyes. The harsh glow of the ceiling light nearly blew out his optical sensors.

“Unnhh,” the robot groaned. “Where am I? Who am I? How am I?”

“He’s awake, everybody!” a jubilant voice shouted.

The next thing Proteus saw was a circle of grinning robot faces. One of them, whom he recognized as Bitsy the bartender, put forth a slender arm to help him stand. His legs wobbled like licorice whips as he struggled to right himself. “I feel terrible,” he lamented. “I will never, ever drink again.”

“That’s what you always say, Bender,” said Bitsy gently.

“Didja forget?” said a fat robot with a mustache of steel wool. “He ain’t Bender. He’s Proteus.”

The other ‘bots murmured in agreement. “Yeah,” said some. “Proteus,” said others.

“Oh, so you believe me now,” said Proteus, leaning against the bar with his elbow.

“Yuh-huh,” said a rusty fembot. “We believes everything ya told us. The murders, the fake identities…”

“…the illegal experiments aimed at manipulating human behavior through cranially implanted microprocessors…” added a robot with a propeller built into his head.

“…we even believe you when you say C. Montgomery Burns is still alive,” Bitsy concluded.

“Didn’t he die of old age in 2027?” the fat robot reflected.

“Wasn’t he executed by firing squad in 2188?” a gold-plated manbot added.

“And don’t forget,” said Bitsy, “he was also blown to bits in 2342. But if Proteus says he’s still alive, we believe him, don’t we?”

“Oh, good grief,” said Proteus, covering his eyes with his hands. “Did I really tell you all that?”

“Yuh-huh,” the broken-down fembot answered. “Ya started spillin’ yer guts after yer third drink. That were six days ago.”

Six days…?

Bender’s head literally popped off.

Chapter 17

Bitsy reached under the bar and retrieved a large socket wrench, which she used to screw Bender’s head tightly onto his body. “Thanks,” said the robot as soon as he had regained his bearings.

“Routine,” said the bartender. “Happens five times a day.”

Proteus stood in haste. “You’ve all been very good to me,” he addressed the crowd of semi-drunken robots, “but I must be on my way. I’ve lost my honor, and I’m going to get it back one way or another.”

“See ya in another two weeks,” said the rusty fembot.

“Your secrets are safe with us,” said the fat robot with the mustache.

“Not so fast, Mister Roboto,” said Bitsy, grabbing Proteus by the arm. “You’ve run up quite a tab. I hope you’re intending to pay.”

“Pay?” Proteus glanced around in embarrassment. “Uh, let me see what I’ve got.” Opening the squeaky door to Bender’s chest compartment, he thought, If I know bending units, there’s some loose change rattling around in here. After a moment of feeling around, he laid his fingers on a metallic object and scooped it out. To his relief, it turned out to be a shiny gold watch.

“Would you accept this as payment?” he inquired of Bitsy.

“Any other day I’d take your stolen goods, Bender,” the barmaid replied. “But my kid’s got a virus, and I need cash. Cash, capisce?”

“It’s a nice watch,” said Proteus, dangling the timepiece by its strap. “It’d be a shame to see it go to waste.”

“Go to waste?” said Bitsy. “What do you mean?”

Without another word, Proteus hurled the watch with all his might. It struck a wooden beam in the rear wall and shattered, sending coils and springs flying in all directions. All the other robots watched in horror, dismayed by the wanton destruction of such a valuable item. When they turned their heads to look at Proteus, he was gone.

The robot had caught a ride on the back bumper of a hovercar, and was speeding away from Bitsy’s establishment. He felt a strange urge to shout, “So long, suckers!” but resisted it.

As he readied himself to let go of the vehicle and drop to the ground, one of the many stickers attached to the bumper caught his attention. It wasn’t the sticker that read MY KID ASSIMILATED YOUR HONOR STUDENT, but the one to the left, the one with Leela’s face and the message, HAVE YOU SEEN THIS WOMAN?

In another part of New New York, similar stickers were being plastered onto the cars parked at an Alien Overlord & Taylor’s store by none other than Philaster Foss. His back ached more every time he bent over to apply another Leela sticker to an unwitting shopper’s vehicle. I never thought I’d be reduced to this, he thought. But the woman I love is depending on me, and I can’t disappoint her.

Officers Smitty and URL of the NNYPD observed from nearby. “I think there’s a law against what he’s doing,” said Smitty to his robot partner. “Would you mind checking your law database?”

URL stood stock still, his arms at his sides. His eyes flashed green. His body vibrated.

“Checking…checking…” he muttered. “Sorry, compadre. According to my records, bumper sticker advertising is protected by an obscure clause of the Restoration of Limited Free Speech Rights Act of 2569.”

How obscure?” said Smitty, fingering his billy club.

Fatigued and sweaty, Foss ended his labors and took a transit tube to the Planet Express headquarters. When he reached the lounge, he was treated to a disturbing, but not unexpected, sight. Bender, still inside the body of Proteus, was hunched over on the couch, sobbing into his hands. Empty and partially empty cans were strewn across the carpet, leaving puddles of beer and other liquors.

“Still not drunk?” said Foss sympathetically.

Bender glanced briefly and pitifully at the professor. “Not even a buzz,” he lamented in Proteus’ tinny voice, and resumed his sobbing.

Foss laid a comforting hand on the robot’s titanium-plated shoulder, and his cell phone rang. “Are you gonna take the call, or do I have to go Abu Ghraib on your ass?” was the randomly selected ring tone.

“Maybe someone’s seen Leela,” said Foss, eagerly snatching the phone from his hip. “Hello?”

“This is Proteus.”

Foss felt his jaw drop. “It’s Proteus!” he told Bender.

“I want to negotiate for the return of my body,” stated the voice on the phone.

“He wants to negotiate for the return of his body!” Foss relayed to Bender.

“I have super-hearing,” said Bender peevishly.

Foss adopted a firm tone. “You’ll get your body when Leela has hers, and the Planet Express crew is safe,” he responded to Proteus.

Bender stood up quickly with a simple bend of Proteus’ knees. “Tell him, no dice,” he said. “I’m having too much fun being him.”

Foss put his palm over the phone’s receiver. “That’s not how it looked when I walked in here,” he whispered to Bender.

“Hey, I’m only trying to establish a strong negotiating position,” said Bender with a shrug.

From a rat-infested alley, the battered, unshaven Proteus continued his conversation with Foss. “Meeting your terms won’t be easy,” he said. “The Planet Express ship is far outside of known space by now, and most likely out of fuel.”

“And what about Leela’s body?” Foss demanded.

“Mildred has it,” replied Proteus. “I don’t know where she is. If I knew, she’d be dead.”

Foss gritted his teeth in anger.

“That’s right, I’m a remorseless killing machine,” the robot went on. “I kill for whoever makes it worth my while, and recently that’s been CMB Research and its head, Charles Montgomery Burns.”

“Burns?” Foss blurted out. “That’s impossible! He’s been dead for hundreds of years!”

“Mildred worked for him too,” said Proteus, ignoring the professor’s objection. “But after she switched bodies with Leela, he could no longer control her, and she became a liability.”

“And what about Fry, and Hermes, and the others?” asked Foss. “What do you have against them?”

“Through the microchip in Mildred’s brain, we’re able to see and hear everything she does,” Proteus replied. “Through that means we determined that the Planet Express people knew too much, and had to be eliminated.”

“So you are behind the brain chips,” Foss realized.

“Yes,” Proteus admitted. “We implanted an experimental aggression-inhibiting chip in six subjects—Mildred Sykes, Zapp Brannigan, and four serial killers. In every case the results were the same—the subjects lost all desire for violence, and were appalled by the very thought of it. We could have stopped there, but Burns wasn’t satisfied. He turned the subjects into his operatives, and threatened to turn off their chips unless they carried out his orders. His goal was to see how much they were willing to endure rather than go back to the way they were before, or at least that’s how he made it sound.”

Foss held his peace as the weight of Proteus’ words sank into his mind. “This is all very unethical, not to mention illegal,” he said. “But that’s never stopped Burns before.”

Proteus looked around at the garbage and litter bedecking the alley, and down at the rat nibbling on his foot. “I can’t promise you that your Planet Express friends will be safe,” he said somberly. “But I’ll tell you what I can promise you—the head of C. Montgomery Burns.

Chapter 18

Located a quarter-mile from Raven’s touchdown site, the native village was little more than a row of straw huts whose empty doorways faced the sun. Women and children with huge nostrils and not much clothing walked back and forth, carrying bundles of grain under their arms. The hair on the women was short and unruly, and their standard fashion choice was an animal-hide tube top that reached down only far enough to cover their hips. Some of them were accompanied by fawning creatures that resembled rabbits, but were the size of Dobermans.

“Welcome to the village of Yakyak, O mighty one,” said one of the aborigines who had led Zoidberg and the others to the location.

The crustacean scanned the tiny settlement with his eyes. “I’m impressed with what I see,” he said in the native tongue. “You’ve built an entire civilization out of naturally occurring materials. You are truly living in harmony with the ecosystem.”

“Great,” grumbled Amy. “The toilet’s probably a hole in the ground.”

At the sight of Zoidberg, the villagers dropped their bundles and fell to their knees, completely ignoring the three humans and two robots that had arrived with him. They, like the other natives, took up the chant, “Kootooloo…kootooloo…

“Yes, it’s true!” the lobster addressed them. “I, the great god Kootooloo, have returned from the dead, or New Jersey, or whatever terrible place I was in!”

Hermes watched in dismay as Zoidberg waved his claws and the natives traced their movements as if hypnotized. “Stop encouraging them!” snapped the grade-36 bureaucrat.

“My good friend,” said Zoidberg, “haven’t you watched Ghostbusters? When somebody asks you if you’re a god, you say yes.

“I hate to say it, but he’s right,” said Leela. “Their delusions of Zoidberg’s godhood may be the only reason we’re alive right now.”

Hermes grimaced when he saw two young women in pink tops kneel in front of Zoidberg and kiss his scaly feet. “This is utterly wrong, mon,” he protested. “It’s a flagrant violation of the DOOP’s Prime Directive.”

“You mean, never press the shiny red button?” said Amy.

“No,” said Hermes. “I’m talking about the Secondary Prime Directive—never interfere with a civilization less advanced than your own.”

“That’s more of a guideline than a directive, Hermes,” Delta told him. “Zapp Brannigan has violated the Secondary Prime Directive forty-seven times, and with forty-seven different women, but his only court-martial was for something totally unrelated.”

“Blowing up DOOP headquarters,” Leela recalled.

A native woman lifted a woven bowl full of yellow fruits to Zoidberg’s claws, and he consumed them ravenously. “The only thing godlike about you is your appetite,” Hermes mocked him. Moments later, an inquisitive female reached for the Jamaican’s glasses, pulled them off, and set them on top of her own nose. “Hey, I need those to see!” Hermes complained.

Zoidberg looked away from his worshippers. “Dango bukaka zurf,” he said to the woman wearing Hermes’ spectacles.

“Zurf nonagana,” said the woman in a disappointed tone, and she handed the glasses to their owner.

“What was that about?” Hermes asked the lobster.

“I told her you need the glasses to see,” Zoidberg explained. “She didn’t understand, because she couldn’t see a thing with them on.”

His companions soon found that they had become objects of the natives’ curiosity. A teenage boy, his expression one of delight, knocked on Delta’s streamlined forehead. “Hello, young man,” said the fembot sweetly. “My name is Delta. I am programmed to administer nineteen different forms of erotic stimulation.”

“He’s underage, mon,” Hermes cautioned her.

Leela, on the other hand, saw only fear in the eyes of the aborigines when they turned their gaze to her. “Zogax,” she heard one little girl mutter to another. The second girl, who held in her hands a small wooden bowl, stepped bravely up to Leela and shouted, “Zogax babalira!”

Many of the natives turned their heads at the sound. “No!” Zoidberg called to them. “She is not Zogax!”

“Zogax babalira!” the other natives began to chant. The little girl drew back her hand and hurled the bowl at Leela. Its rough edge struck her on the cheek, and its poi-like contents dribbled down her face and onto Mildred’s blouse. She had barely enough time to wince in pain before a half-eaten yellow fruit, thrown by a white-haired woman, hit her in the groin area.

“She’s not Zogax!” Zoidberg yelled to the mob. “That part of the prophecy is a mistake!”

“Who’s Zogax?” asked Leela as she bent over to dodge what looked like a flying chunk of cactus.

Once Zoidberg observed that the natives had stopped hurling food and were bowing before him again, he answered Leela’s query. “Zogax is the name they give to the Evil One, a death goddess who gives strength and cunning to the enemy tribes when they come to war.”

“All right,” said Leela, trying to shake the blood-tinged poi from her face. “So who gives strength and cunning to this tribe?”

Zoidberg grinned. “Apparently, I do.”

To Hermes’ alarm, the same woman who had tried on his glasses was now fondling his shoulders in a sensual manner. “Gigiz snoo-snoo,” she said, her yellow eyes shining with affection.

“What did she say?” Hermes asked Zoidberg.

“She wants to have sex with you,” was the crustacean’s reply.

“I know,” said Hermes. “But what did she say?

“Bludiblek chanana,” said the native woman seductively. “Gigiz snoo-snoo.”

“She said she doesn’t want to be a virgin anymore,” said Zoidberg.

“Tell her that’s too bloody bad!” said Hermes, pushing the beautiful aborigine away. While she lay on the ground weeping, another native woman with a pink top took her place, caressing Hermes’ cheek and chanting, “Gigiz snoo-snoo.”

“Geesh,” said Amy. “Why are the girls so hung up about their virginity? It’s like high school all over again.”

Leela bit her lower lip. Her face became sullen. “I feel a rage coming on,” she warned the others.

Delta dutifully coiled her arms around the curly-haired girl as she began to wheeze and snarl. “Suck it up, Captain Leela,” she said helpfully. “Suck it up.”

“Remember your promise,” said Leela hoarsely.

Amy’s jaw fell. Remember your promise…?

Chapter 19

The moment Proteus poked his head through the doorway leading into the Planet Express conference room, the pinpoint of a laser beam appeared on his forehead. It was being emitted from a quantum bazooka held by Philaster Foss, who sat with his legs crossed on top of the round table. “Don’t make any sudden moves,” the professor warned him.

“In this body?” said Proteus incredulously. “I’m amazed I can move at all.”

“No more cracks about my body,” said Bender, who was seated next to Foss in an equally casual manner.

“Have a seat,” said Foss, pointing his weapon toward the ceiling. “You wanted to talk, so let’s talk.”

The robot in Bender’s body stepped forward hesitantly and took a seat on the opposite end of the table. “As I told you over the phone,” he said to Foss, “I’m willing to betray my employer and place him at your mercy, in exchange for the return of my body.”

“And how do you propose to do that?” Foss asked him. “You can’t even get into the building.”

“I have a plan,” said Proteus, leaning forward. “Step 1, I provide Bender with my access codes. Step 2, he enters the lab by assuming my identity. Step 3, while you and I wait at the loading dock, Bender secures Burns’ head and…”

“Wait,” said Foss, raising his finger. “You left out a step.”

“Which step?”

“The most important step of all. Step 1, you have to earn our trust.”

Proteus made a wounded expression with Bender’s face. “What do I have to do?” he inquired.

“Help us find our friends,” replied Foss. “Help us to get Leela back into her own body.”

“Easier said than done,” said Proteus. “Mildred’s unaccounted for, Professor Farnsworth’s head fell into the sewer, and the others are almost certainly floating dead in space.”

“Then we’ll start with Farnsworth,” Foss declared.

Minutes later, in a nearby alley, Bender yanked a manhole cover out of its mooring to expose a small aluminum ladder. “Hello!” he shouted into the darkness. “Professor? Are you down there? We’re coming to get you, so don’t lose your head!”

A faint sound of laughter greeted his robotic ears. “Don’t lose your head,” repeated a squeaky voice from below. “Oh, that’s a good one.”

“Mutants!” exclaimed Foss. “They must be, to find that funny.”

Proteus leaned his head down to the hole. “Who’s there?” he called. “Come into the light where we can see you!”

There was silence, except for a scraping sound. Finally the high-pitched voice said, “Why don’t you come into the darkness where we can see you?

Foss, Proteus, and Bender exchanged glances. “I’d advise against it,” said Proteus, shaking his head. “They could be robot cannibals.”

“Right,” said Bender. “Like anybody would want to cannibalize parts from you.

“We’re going down,” Foss stated. “You first, Proteus.”

The reluctant robot cautiously placed his foot on the first rung, then his other foot on the second. He slowly descended through the hole until he disappeared from view, and Foss himself followed suit. The mossy slime that had accumulated on the ladder came off on his fingers and left a bad taste on his skin. Bender was the third to climb down, and shortly all three were standing together in the blackness, scarcely able to see each other.

The strange voice spoke again, much louder this time. “I can see you, but you can’t see me!” it gloated.

“Wrong!” said Proteus, turning on Bender’s eye headlamps and aiming them in the direction of the sound.

A dank wall of the sewer became illuminated. The hidden creature squinted and shrieked as the light struck its face. It had sharp front teeth, a pointed nose, gray whiskers, a body like a toilet brush, and a long, snake-like tail. It resembled an average rat in every way, but was as large as a St. Bernard.

“I think we can venture a guess as to what happened to Professor Farnsworth,” said Foss as he regarded the beast in curious horror.

“That’s right, surface scum,” said the giant rat in a helium voice. “I ate your precious professor with fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

Proteus waved his eye beams in a circular pattern, but saw no other rats. “It may be lying,” he told the others. “It has no way of knowing who Farnsworth is.”

“Let me handle this,” said Foss. “I’ve studied these monster rats. They have well-developed temporal lobes, but their speech centers are primitive. They don’t understand much beyond movie quotes.”

“Please don’t hurtsss usss!” the rat begged. “We only wantsss the preciousss!”

Foss motioned for Proteus to train his lights on the sullen creature. “You claim to have eaten Professor Farnsworth,” he addressed it. “Can you describe him to us?”

“Oh my, yes,” was the rat’s response.

Bender and Foss gaped. “Coincidence,” Proteus assured them.

The rat wiggled its round ears. “He was short,” it recounted. “Very short.”

“How short?” Foss asked it. “Short enough to be no more than a head?”

The beast’s whiskers waved up and down as it nodded.

“Was he wearing thick glasses?” Foss inquired.

“Yes,” said the rat, nodding again. “Crunchy things on eyes.”

“Did he have a habit of saying, ‘Sweet Zombie Jesus’?”

The rat’s jet-black eyes widened. The fur on its back settled.

“I will lead you to Sweet Zombie Jesus,” it offered. “Follow me.”

The creature scraped the stony ground with its claws as it turned and scampered away. Foss, Bender, and Proteus had to jog to keep up. They followed the rat deeper into the sewer, passing culvert after culvert until the light of the sun through the grates vanished. The water rushing past their feet became thicker and fouler, and Foss had to strain to keep from vomiting.

They hurried past stone walls and corridors for what seemed like a lifetime. When they were beginning to despair of ever seeing light again, they saw light again—an odd, green, fluctuating light. They stood at the entrance to a broad cavern with stalactites dangling from the roof, and a pool of green ooze taking up much of the floor. Around the edge of the pool swarmed dozens of enormous rodents.

“This is my home,” said the rat to the speechless trio. “Sweet Zombie Jesus lives here too.”

The giant rats eyed them suspiciously and hungrily as they walked by. I don’t know what scares me more, thought Foss, those monsters, or the fact that no one has bothered to clean up this hideous pimple on the environment. “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys,” he heard one rat mutter to another.

In an enclave on the far end of the cavern lay a somewhat smaller rat, busily attempting to open a walnut with its slender black claws. “Sweet Zombie Jesus,” said the rat that was guiding Bender, Foss, and Proteus. “Some surface scum are here to see you.”

The small rat turned to look, and the semblance of a grin appeared on its lipless mouth. “You found me,” it uttered in the voice of Professor Farnsworth.

Chapter 20

After Foss had recovered from enough confusion and shock to punch through a six-inch steel wall, he addressed the oversized brown rat with boldness. “You can’t be Professor Farnsworth. Even if a human could turn into a rat, a disembodied human head can’t spontaneously generate the skeletal structure and internal organs necessary for such a transformation. Furthermore, a rat’s vocal chords are pitched at too high a frequency to reproduce the professor’s voice.”

The rat reared up on its hind legs, in which posture its nose was even with Foss’ ribcage. “I find it hard to believe myself,” it said, still using Farnsworth’s familiar tones. “I can only theorize that my head landed in the toxic pool at the same time as a normal-sized rat, and my intelligence was somehow fused with the rat’s DNA. I can’t remember anything between falling into the sewer and waking up as a rat. I suppose I should be grateful to be alive in one form or another.”

Foss scrutinized the creature’s underbelly. “At least you’re a male rat,” he remarked.

“I know you, and I know Bender,” said Farnsworth the Rat, scurrying closer to sniff Proteus’ body. “But who’s the slender fellow? I don’t recognize his scent.”

“Uh, that may be hard to explain,” said Proteus/Bender. “Ya see, I’m really Bender, and the chump stuck with my body is called Proteus. I had to switch bodies with him to stop him from killing Fry.”

Farnsworth’s beady black eyes looked back and forth between Bender and Proteus. “Switched bodies, eh? I didn’t know the Frinkomatic was designed to work on robots.”

“It does require a certain suspension of disbelief,” said Foss.

“You shouldn’t stay here,” Farnsworth the Rat warned him. “The toxic pool is brimming with rat DNA. If you fall in, you may turn into a rat yourself.”

“I’m not leaving without you,” said Foss firmly. “None of us is.”

Farnsworth shook his head, and his rat eyes became moist. “You don’t understand,” he said glumly. “I can’t live on the surface. I’m an unnatural freak, not to mention a plague carrier.”

“I don’t have time for this,” said Foss, turning to his robot companions. “Grab him, boys.”

“No, please! Leave me be!” protested Rat Farnsworth. His tail wagged forcefully as Proteus and Bender hoisted his furry brown body above their heads.

“He’ll thank me for this later,” said Foss.

Proteus turned on his eye headlamps while struggling to hold Farnsworth’s unruly claws in check. “I’ll thank you to not call me a boy,” he said while leading the group along the sewer wall. “I’m androgynous, remember?”

Farnsworth had long since stopped resisting by the time the two robots dragged him through the manhole into the light of day. “Oh, dear,” said the rat as he squinted. “I haven’t seen sunlight for I’ve lost track of how many days.”

The street was crowded, so Foss used some discarded garbage bags to conceal Farnsworth’s new form from prying eyes. No one asked questions about the burden on the two robots’ shoulders, although a few passers-by sniffed the air and wondered where the wet-dog smell was emanating from. Once they had reached Farnsworth’s laboratory in the PE building, they uncovered the professor-rat and set him on the floor.

“I’ll rustle up some cheese,” said Foss. “In the meantime, you can look through your inventions for something to change you back into a human, or take a bath, whichever you like.”

Farnsworth pulled his skinny rat body onto a stool and glanced over the contents of the shelves. “God, how I’ve missed the old place,” he said wistfully.

On his way to the employee lounge, Foss informed the two robots, “We’re not done for the day. As soon as I’ve fed the professor, we’re leaving in search of Mildred. I’ve a hunch Monica and the other mutants are holding out on us.”

At the entryway to the lounge they stopped in their tracks. Standing next to the refrigerator was Leela, straddling Foss’ quantum bazooka over her shoulder. The laser sight waved back and forth between Foss, Bender, and Proteus.

“Uh-oh,” said Proteus/Bender. “Mildred found us.”

The girl’s eye flashed fire. “Die,” she said simply.

She pulled the trigger. A bolt of transparent energy flew across the room and struck Proteus’ body, instantly dissolving it into its constituent atoms.

Chapter 21

The sound of the quantum bazooka discharge was followed by a grim silence. Foss didn’t dare move or breathe. Proteus, still in Bender’s body, felt despair well up in his cybernetic soul as he realized what had happened. Mildred, still in Leela’s body, gradually lowered the heavy weapon from her shoulder.

Proteus sank to his knees and let out a cry of pure grief. “You maniac! You destroyed my perfect body! Damn you! Damn you to hell!”

Foss watched Mildred’s expression turn into one of confusion. Once satisfied that the one-eyed girl had no intention of killing him, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a device the size of a playing card. “I hoped I wouldn’t have to do this,” he said, attaching the magnetized end of the object to the head of the dejected robot.

The effect was immediate. Bender’s face turned into a mass of vibrating squiggles. “Gbldgbldgbldgbldgbld,” his voice repeated over and over at high speed.

Mildred laid her firearm on the counter and walked closer to the robot. “What’s wrong with him?” she asked Foss.

“It’s complicated,” the bespectacled man replied.

I’m complicated,” said Mildred. “Tell me.”

“All right,” said Foss. “Bender and Proteus switched bodies. The robot you disintegrated was actually Bender.”

“Oh, my God,” said Mildred with alarm. “I didn’t know. I didn’t mean to…”

“No harm done,” said Foss, yanking the device from the side of Bender’s head. “I’ve just overwritten Proteus’ personality with Bender’s.”

The dazed robot shook his head. “Where am I?” he asked. “What’s going on?”

“I’ll tell you what’s going on,” said Foss as he took Bender’s hand to help him rise. “You know those devices with your duplicated personality that made you so angry? One of them just saved your life.”

“Huh?” said Bender. “What devices? What are you talking about?”

“He doesn’t remember anything since the duplication,” Foss explained to Mildred.

Farnsworth the Rat crawled into the lounge, the tip of his tail waving. “I thought I heard a weapon go off,” he said with concern.

“Aaaaaargh!” shrieked Bender. “A giant rat!”

“Mildred!” exclaimed Farnsworth when his beady eyes caught sight of the cylcops. “You’ve got some nerve showing your face here.”

“D-don’t let it touch me!” stammered Mildred, shrinking in terror from the huge rodent.

“I hope you’re here to give Leela her body back,” said Farnsworth. “Because if you’re here for any other reason, I’ll chew your knees off.”

“I came here to kill Proteus,” said Mildred as she climbed onto a chair to avoid the rat’s groping paws. “He’s as much your enemy as he is mine.”

“Who’s Proteus?” asked Bender.

“You succeeded,” Foss assured the girl. “Proteus is dead. You’re out of danger. There’s no more reason to stay in Leela’s body.”

“Yes, there is!” Mildred retorted. “You can’t imagine what life was like for me—the uncontrollable rages, the constant urge to kill. While other girls were dating and getting married, I was locked up in an institution. Mr. Burns and his inhibitor chip gave me my life back, but at a terrible price—I had to spy for him. My relationship with Philip was a sham. The real purpose was to observe Zapp Brannigan and help Mr. Burns get control over him. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to do any of it, but I had to, or else Burns would shut off my chip.”

“Insolent whelp!” Farnsworth chided her. “Is it fair that Leela should suffer in your place? No, I say!”

“Why’s everybody talking about Leela like she’s not right in front of us?” Bender wanted to know.

“I’m not going back to my old body until the chip is reactivated, and can never be turned off again,” Mildred vowed. “And if you try to force me to go back, I’ll kill myself.”

Farnsworth sat on all fours and fumed. Bender, weary of the confusion, opened the refrigerator door and reached for a beer. Foss, however, remained deep in thought.

“I’d like to talk to Mildred alone,” he said without changing his serious expression.

Chapter 22

On the planet Selva (as Hermes had dubbed it), the two dwarf stars that served as its suns were setting behind the bushy horizon. As the light dimmed, the villagers gathered underneath a thatched-roof pavilion to pay homage to their recently descended god Kootooloo, a.k.a. Zoidberg. Some of the native women bedecked him in fine woven robes and necklaces weighted down with precious stones, while others brought him basket after basket of the yellow fruits, which they called Mochuka. >From their place of honor on the ground near his bamboo throne, Leela, Amy, Hermes, and Delta watched the self-appointed deity stuff one fruit after another into his greedy mouth. Raven stood next to them like an ebony statue, apparently not programmed to sit.

“John, you have no idea what eating so much parasite-infested fruit will do to your body,” Delta warned the lobster.

“I’m a god,” replied Zoidberg, yellow juice dripping from his mouth flaps. “I know what I’m doing.”

Amy, discomfited by a rumbling in her stomach, looked over the mob of natives as they chanted and danced. “There must be something to eat that doesn’t contain parasites,” she grumbled.

Seeing a basket of wafers being passed around by several loincloth-wearing men, Delta stretched her arm and snatched a few of the delicacies. Examining them with her microscopic vision, she stated, “These look clean, Amy.”

Grabbing one of the wafers, Amy remarked, “They look like sesame crackers.” Then she took a bite and grimaced with disgust. “They taste like sesame street!

“Let me try one,” said Hermes. As he munched on one of the wafers, he said, “You’re right, mon, it tastes like roasted cardboard. A little Solomon Gundy would make it more appetizing, but the stuff’s hard enough to find on Earth, let alone here.”

Amy waved one of the crackers at the freckled girl to her left. “Hungry, Leela?”

“No,” was the reply. Leela scarcely bothered to turn her head.

I’m going to be stuck here for the rest of my life, she thought, her eyes tightly closed. I miss New New York. I miss Nibbler. I even miss my mono-eye.

A native woman in a pink tube top approached the group, her wooden tray laden with four golden goblets. She picked up one of the cups and offered it to Delta, who inquired, “What is it?”

Zoidberg overheard her question. “It’s Chanku, a fermented grain beverage,” he explained. “Drink, my friends, drink!”

Once she had scanned the liquid in the goblet for harmful microorganisms, Delta tipped the cup to her glossy metal lips. After a few swallows she lowered it, and let out a fiery belch. “Oh, my,” she said, embarrassed. “Pardon me.”

While Hermes and Amy eagerly partook of their drinks, Leela cradled the goblet in her shackled hands and gazed at her two-eyed, curly-haired reflection in the liquor. I can hardly blame Mildred for what she did, she thought. If I were given a chance to get out of hell by sending someone else there, I’m not sure what I’d choose. She sighed angrily. I thought body switching was a simple matter of seeing someone else in the mirror, but it’s not. My whole nature has changed. I’m not even human anymore. I’m one of them…a Chalnoth…a monster wired to kill. I need to kill like humans need to love.

The suns went down, Amy and Hermes became pleasantly tipsy, and the villagers constructed a fire to illuminate the pavilion. Zoidberg finally tired of eating Mochuka and reclined in his throne, all but immobilized by the gems around his neck and the fruit in his belly. To lend their god an air of mystique, the natives set up a pile of stones between him and the campfire, so that only his bald head was visible among the shadows.

“Now that you’re a god,” Hermes addressed the crustacean, “do you have any words of wisdom to share with us?”

Zoidberg cleared his throat. “Horror has a face, and you must make a friend of horror,” he stated. “Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared.”

“I don’t get it, mon,” said Hermes. “What does it mean?”

“Don’t ask me,” was Zoidberg’s reply. “It’s just something I heard in a movie.”

A woman’s scream suddenly pierced the darkness. Amy, Hermes, Delta, and even Raven looked toward the source of the sound, and beheld a quartet of male villagers carrying a flat stone to which was bound a frantic-looking female in pink.

“What in Babylon…?” exclaimed Hermes.

Chanana! Chanana!” the natives began to chant as the men approached Zoidberg’s throne and laid the tablet and the woman across two wooden supports.

“What is the meaning of this?” Zoidberg called out.

One of the stone-bearers raised a dagger aloft and proudly replied, “We bring unto you a chanana, pure and unspoiled. Feast upon her blood, O great Lord Kootooloo.”

“No thanks,” said Zoidberg, patting his belly. “I can’t eat another bite.”

“Sweet llamas of the Bahamas!” cried Hermes as the firelight exposed more of the hapless woman’s face. “It’s her!

“It’s who, Hermes?” said Amy.

“That’s the woman who wanted to have sex with me!” said Hermes, pointing.

Amy gaped in amazement at the throng of natives gathered around the stone. “Oh, schmeesh,” she said. “Now I understand why the girls are so anxious to lose their virginity.”

“Zoidberg!” shouted Hermes as the dagger-wielding man made ready to plunge his blade into the bound woman’s chest. “Make them stop, mon! Command them to stop!”

But the lobster-god only stared vacantly at the scene of sacrifice, and said nothing.

Chapter 23

Once it was clear to her that Zoidberg would take no action, Delta let fly with her left arm, stretching it to its limit in an effort to seize the native’s dagger. Ten feet…eleven feet…twelve feet…it wasn’t enough.

With a dingy smile, the man sank his blade deep into the helpless woman’s solar plexus.

Dark-red blood poured from the wound. Amy screamed. Hermes screamed. Delta gasped. Leela felt a thrill.

Zoidberg leaped to his feet so quickly that he sent necklaces flying in all directions. “Oh, God!” he exclaimed. “She needs a doctor!”

The grinning native yanked his dagger from the captive’s chest and prepared to make another stab. Before anyone else had time to react, Zoidberg sprang forward and swatted the man with his claw, sending him and his bloody knife sprawling several yards. “Raven!” shouted the lobster as he snipped the injured woman’s bonds and gathered her into his arms. “Medical emergency! Turn back into a ship, now!

Without hesitation, the black robot bounded away from the pavilion toward a grassy clearing, where it twisted and expanded into its spacecraft form. The ramp descended and Zoidberg scuttled deftly into the ship, followed closely behind by Delta, Hermes, and Amy. By the time his three friends reached the sickbay, he had already laid the native woman on an operating table, and was tying a surgical mask over his mouth flaps.

“Zoidberg, mon!” said Hermes harshly. “Aren’t you a little late?”

The Jamaican was met with an open claw in his face. “Scalpel!” the crustacean doctor demanded.

While Hermes fished through a nearby medkit for a scalpel, Amy pressed her hands to the woman’s pink blouse in an attempt to slow her bleeding. “You could’ve stopped this from happening,” she chided Zoidberg. “Why didn’t you?”

“I don’t know,” said the physician, retrieving a scalpel from Hermes with one claw and turning on an electronic suturing device with another.

They had never seen Zoidberg work so rapidly, or with such aplomb. His claws were a blur, applying instrument after instrument to the point of injury until his friends finally concluded they could help most by staying out of his way. It seemed like mere seconds before Zoidberg laid down his devices, mopped up the blood with a rag, and let out an exultant “Hooray!”

The patient opened her eyes as Hermes, Amy, and Delta widened theirs.

“Hooray what?” said Amy incredulously. “Don’t tell me you’re finished.”

“I am finished,” Zoidberg boasted. “The wound is cleansed and sealed. She’ll recover fully within a few days, then go on to find true love, get married, and most likely die while giving birth to her first or second child.”

Hermes looked over the wound site, of which nothing remained but a strip of cleanly sutured skin. “I don’t believe it, mon,” he muttered.

In spite of the cramping pain, the virgin pushed herself into a sitting position and examined the spot on her chest where the dagger had gone in. “Kootooloo hamuvalu,” she said, gazing reverentially at Zoidberg. “Kootooloo hamuvalu!

“I understand the Kootooloo part,” said Delta, “but I don’t know what hamuvalu means.”

Kootooloo hamuvalu means ‘Kootooloo has worked a miracle’,” Zoidberg told her.

Suddenly indignant, Amy pointed a dainty finger at the lobster. “You let her get stabbed so you could perform a phony miracle, didn’t you?” she accused him. “Shame on you, you…you charlatan!

“No, no!” insisted Zoidberg. “It’s not like that at all!”

“Then why, mon?” said Hermes, his voice at an angry pitch. “Why did you just sit there?”

Zoidberg stared sheepishly at his claws, and the sickbay fell silent except for the native woman’s worshipful babbling.

“There was…this feeling that came over me,” he attempted to explain. “A weird feeling…a wonderful feeling…as if I was standing in the sky and looking down on the pointless swirl of life, death, good, evil…looking down and laughing, because I was so high up that none of those things could reach me.”

“You lazy son of a biscuit!” Hermes scolded him. “While you were in your happy place, this poor girl was being murdered in your name!”

“Ah, yes,” said Zoidberg wistfully. “I knew something was being done in my name, but I couldn’t tell what. It was hard to see from that height.”

Amy and Hermes glared sternly at him, while Delta shook her head in despair. The native girl knelt and moistened Zoidberg’s feet with her grateful tears.

“Well?” said the lobster, raising his claws rhetorically. “Isn’t your Christian God the same way? All He hears is people calling His name; He doesn’t know if they’re praying, or swearing, or offering up human sacrifices, or torturing infidels. To Him, it’s the thought that counts.”

Weary of Zoidberg’s flippancy, Hermes and Amy stormed out of the sickbay. Delta, in the meantime, placed her metal hand in his claw and spoke gently. “Please, John, stop trying to be a god to these people. I know you mean well, but you’re only reinforcing their superstitions.”

“I know, Delta,” said Zoidberg. “I’m sure this will all end in disaster. It’s just that…for once in my life…I’m surrounded by people who…who think I’m a god!

Delta’s lips formed a Bézier-curve smile. “I’ll make you a deal,” she offered. “Stop playing God, and I’ll give you a Number Nineteen every night from now until we’re rescued.”

Zoidberg’s face lit up with eagerness. “Number Nineteen? Is that better than an Eighteen?”

“You tell me, lover boy.”

Amy, Hermes, and Leela struggled to fall asleep in their crude native cots. The darkness was almost complete—Selva had only one moon, and it was too far away to be useful for light. Raven, having resumed her robotic form, stood motionlessly in the hut with her perfectly round wrist chained to Leela’s. Two houses away stood the palace, which was roughly twice the size of a normal hut. The night air was filled with the chirping of alien insects, but even more so with the groans and impassioned cries coming from the palace.

“Delta and Zoidberg are at it again,” grumbled Amy as she tried to turn over in her cot.

The ecstatic noises continued unabated. “Good heavens, John,” they heard the fembot exclaim. “You really are a god.”

Leela longed and longed for the sweet embrace of sleep, or failing that, death. However hard she tried, she couldn’t put out of her mind the image of the dagger plunging into the virgin’s chest, or the rush of primal joy she had experienced while witnessing the sacrifice. Memories of home, of Fry, of blernsball…they all failed to distract her. It’s no use, she thought bitterly. I’ve got the one-track mind of a shark that just smelled blood in the water. I just can’t get violence and killing out of my head. I may as well stop trying to fight it. For that matter, I think I stopped trying a long time ago.

I wish I could kill somebody…just to see if the pain goes away…

Chapter 24

“Good afternoon,” said Foss to the stocky, naked manbot who staffed the reception desk at the Office of Animal Control. “I’d like to take out a license for a pet rat.”

The robot leaned over his desk to get a closer look at the creature on the other end of the leash in Foss’ hand. “Ganesha help us,” he remarked with an Indian accent. “For an animal that large, you do not need a pet license—you need a boat license.”

Farnsworth the Rat paced impatiently, tugging now and then at the hated velvet leash around his neck. At any rate, it’s better than being a disembodied head, he told himself. And I can eat cheese without getting a bowel obstruction. What’s not to like?

“I cannot help you,” said the robotic clerk. “I am not authorized to give out licenses for abnormally large rats.”

“Very well,” said Foss, pulling a few bills from his pocketbook. “Will five hundred dollars make this rat turn into a dog before your very eyes?”

The robot glared indignantly at the money. “You insult me, sir. However, since this is my last day on the job, I will overlook your insult and accept your generous bribe.”

Foss glanced to the left and right before laying the currency on the desk. “Last day on the job, eh?” he said glibly.

“Yes, sir,” said the clerk. “I am being replaced with a machine. Now, please tell me what is the name of your dog.”

“Sweet Zombie Jesus,” the scientist replied.

The ‘bot quickly typed the name into his computer terminal. “The first word is free,” he stated. “Each additional word costs an extra two hundred dollars. Are your dog’s vaccinations current?”

“I’m afraid not,” said Foss.

“The Office of Animal Control offers a full range of veterinary services, including vaccinations,” the clerk told him. “Sweet Zombie Jesus requires all thirty-four standard shots, which cost forty dollars each when administered separately. If you wish to save money, you have the option of combining all thirty-four shots into a single debilitating Super Shot.”

I’ll take the soup, thought Farnsworth.

While the professor-rat endured the pain and humiliation of repeated injections, Bender and Mildred waited in the lobby of the Department of Health and Human and Robot and Animal Services building, engaged in lively conversation.

“So, what else happened while I was in an alcohol-induced coma?” Bender inquired of Mildred. “You already told me about the Brainspawn trying to destroy the universe. What about blernsball? Did the New New York Mets win any games?”

“I don’t follow sports,” Mildred told him.

“Of course you do,” Bender insisted. “You’re crazy about blernsball.”

Leela’s crazy about blernsball,” said the cyclops. “I’m Mildred.”

“Huh?” said Bender, confused. “You told me you were Fry.”

“Fry’s in the hospital.”

“He is?” Bender sighed. “That’s terrible. Is he conscious? Can I talk to him? I missed the All My Circuits season opener, and I’ve just got to know who shot Calculon.”

Foss stepped into the lobby through the glass doors, dragging Farnsworth behind him. The professor-rat had a new trinket—a shiny silver collar dangling from his neck, engraved with the words SWEET ZOMBIE JESUS.

“Whoo-whee!” said Bender mockingly. “You call that a dog? I call it a bottle opener.”

“No jokes, please, Bender,” said Foss. “It was easier to license a dog than a rat.”

“Give me three mugs like that, and I could guard the passage to Hades,” said the robot, chuckling.

“Insensitive clod,” said Farnsworth, breaking his silence. “How would you like it if you turned into a rat?”

“Ha!” Bender slapped his knee. “That’ll never happen. It’s impossible. Er…ah.…it is impossible, right?”

As they strolled away from the government building in the direction of the transit tubes, Foss outlined his plan of action. “Captain Kroker and the Nimbus are in town for a parade, but they’re blasting off tonight,” he informed Bender. “I need you and Mildred to explain the Raven situation to him, and keep him earthbound until I arrive.”

“Where are you going?” the ‘bot asked him.

“To fulfill a promise I made to Mildred,” Foss replied.

Bender gave the one-eyed girl a quizzical look. “It’s our little secret,” Mildred told him.

By scanning the transit tube directory, Bender promptly located the tube that followed a direct route to the DOOP spaceport. As he waited with Mildred at the back of the line of commuters, he asked, “Can you tell me who Mildred is again? I forgot.”

“For the last time, I’m Mildred,” said his companion with a groan.

They shot away, leaving Foss and Farnsworth to themselves. “I’m dying to know,” said the giant rat, “what did you offer Mildred in exchange for her cooperation?”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” was Foss’ response. “Now remember, if the bus driver asks, tell him you’re a service animal.”

Chapter 25

On the third morning since the arrival on the planet Selva, Amy awoke from a dream in which she was kissing a giant rabbit, only to find that a giant rabbit was licking her face in the real world. “Ewww!” she protested. “That’s revolting!”

The alien beast fell back onto its hind legs and made a whimpering sound, as if the Asian girl’s words had wounded it. To Amy’s eyes it resembled a furry kangaroo with a large head and long, retracted ears. Its wide eyes were surrounded by bluish-gray splotches, and its black button nose featured cavernous nostrils not unlike those of the natives.

“Awww,” said Amy, hopping out of her cot. “You’re such a cutie-schmootie.”

“Cootie-schmootie,” the animal repeated in a rumbling voice. “Cootie-schmootie, cootie-schmootie.”

Amy put her hands over her mouth in delight. “You can talk!” she marveled.

“Cootie-schmootie,” the rabbitoid said again. Its ears perked up, and their tips reached all the way to Amy’s nose.

“Look, everybody!” she called out to her friends. “It’s a giant talking rabbit! Let’s call him Harvey.”

“Lemme sleep,” mumbled Leela, whose left wrist was once again fastened to the motionless Raven.

Hermes stuck his head out of his cot and blinked. “They don’t talk, mon,” he told Amy. “They only repeat words, like parrots.”

Amy tickled the animal’s tiny chin, and it squirmed with pleasure. “So you’re just a big, furry parrot,” she gushed. “What other words can you say?”

“Cootie-schmootie,” it gurgled.

“No, something else,” said Amy.

Chanana,” uttered the beast.

Amy sighed with exasperation. “I really need to find some clothes that aren’t pink.”

Yawning, Hermes spun his legs out of the cot and stood up. “I’m so hungry I could eat a five-pound steak,” he boasted.

“I thought Rastafarians didn’t eat meat,” said Amy.

“Only the ultra-orthodox ones,” said Hermes, “like my poor deluded wife.”

“Good luck finding a five-pound steak on this planet,” said Amy, stroking the friendly rabbitoid’s fur. “The natives must be vegetarians. I haven’t seen any kind of meat, or even a…”

A stranger burst into their hut, nearly knocking the bamboo-frame door from its iron hinges. He was a seven-foot hulk of a man, naked except for his loincloth and a flaxen shawl about his shoulders. His ears were pierced by what appeared to be oversized fishhooks, and the only hair on his head was a long beard that resembled a forest of bleach-blond spears. His face and demeanor were that of a slathering wolf.

“Who in Babylon are you?” Hermes blurted out.

With a frightful howl, the huge native launched his foot into the ribcage of the rabbitoid, sending the creature into a downward spiral. “Hey!” cried Amy. “Why did you do that?” The man only growled at her, while the injured animal crept into a corner, whining pitifully.

“Get away from her!” snapped Hermes, quickly putting on his glasses. “Raven! Amy’s in danger! Do something!”

“I am doing something,” said the ship/robot emotionlessly. “I’m increasing my weight to twelve tons to keep Leela out of danger.”

Indeed, Leela had bolted out of her cot, and was straining with all her might to break the chain that bound her to Raven, who was now far too heavy for her to budge. “Touch her and I’ll kill you!” the freckled girl shouted viciously. “I’ll tear you to pieces!”

The snarling native turned his attention away from Amy, apparently intrigued by Leela’s aggressive display. “Makupitu!” he roared, standing just outside the range of the girl’s flying feet. “Makupitu! Makupitu!”

“Let me go, Raven!” yelled Leela, now a flurry of kicks and grunts. “Let me kill him! No one threatens my friends!”

Makupitu!” repeated the tall man, waving his fists playfully. “Fight to the death!

Amy and Hermes gaped at the sound. Even Leela paused in mid-kick.

“That was English,” the Jamaican marveled.

Fight to the death! Fight to the death!” The monstrous native grinned, seemingly gratified that he was being understood.

“So it’s a fight to the death you want,” Leela spat. “I’ll give you one! Makupitu!

To her surprise, the bearded man simply stood back and smiled. “Makupitu,” he said, folding his arms.

Nobody moved or spoke as the native bounded away. They heard his elated cries as he sped toward the center of the village: “Makupitu! Makupitu!”

Leela was the first to break the stunned silence. “He did the smart thing by running away,” she remarked. “I could’ve shredded him with just my feet.”

“You’re not shredding anyone, Leela,” said Amy earnestly. “If you do, Delta will kill you. That’s what she promised, isn’t it?”

“None of your business,” was Leela’s bitter response.

The look on the redhead’s face filled Amy with chagrin. With every passing day it had become less human and more demonic, even during those rare moments when she was calm. If we don’t get rescued soon, she’ll lose her mind, Amy thought. But is anybody even looking for us? Oh, Kiffy…

Oh, Amy, thought Captain Kif Kroker. I’ll go to the end of the universe and beyond for you.

The eyes of all the bridge officers turned toward Kif as he walked slowly toward the captain’s chair, followed by a quartet of odd visitors. “There’s been a change of mission,” he told his second-in-command, Mr. Spork. “The trade negotiations with Evil Emperor Zurg will have to wait. The Nimbus is going into uncharted space in search of the Planet Express ship Raven and her crew.”

The pointy-eared first officer scowled. “But, sir,” he pointed out, “every time we travel into uncharted space, something terrible and scientifically inexplicable happens to us.”

“I’m aware of that,” said Kif. “I do replay my logs from time to time.”

“Captain!” exclaimed a faceless crewman. “Sensors are picking up a gigantic rodent on the bridge!”

“I see it,” said Kif flatly.

Farnsworth the Rat scurried up to the uniformed green alien and sniffed him politely. “Before we leave,” he requested, “would you be kind enough to run an internal diagnostic on the cheese replicators?”

“Make it so,” Kif ordered one of his minions.

“And the beer replicators, too,” Bender urged him. “Don’t forget the beer replicators.”

“We don’t have beer replicators,” Kif told him.

“Awww, man,” moaned the robot.

Seeing the expression of uncertainty on Mildred’s (Leela’s) face, Foss took a moment to reassure her. “The Nimbus is one of the fastest ships in the fleet,” he said. “Within a week’s time we’ll find the Raven crew and put you back in your own body, and you’ll never have to deal with uncontrollable rages again. I promise you this.”

“I just hope they’re still alive,” said Mildred. Either way, I win, she thought.

The Nimbus’ mighty rocket engines roared to life, and the ship rose from the platform and into space, following a direct route towards the star Nubia Upsilon B.

I wish I could just get my hands around his neck, thought Leela. I’d rip off his head, then have Zoidberg sew it back on, then rip it off again…

It was, as Amy would put it, a sunsy day on the planet Selva. The Asian girl was sitting on a log with Leela, feeding one alien cracker after another to the hungry, shackled girl. “I wish I’d brought a bikini,” said Amy wistfully. “This is perfect weather for sunsbathing. Aw, schmell. I’ll just take it all off and lie in the grass.”

“You go, girl,” said Leela.

Just as Amy began to pull off her sweatshirt, a familiar fembot approached the log. “Oh, sorry, Delta,” she said, covering herself.

“No, go ahead,” said Delta. “You’ve got nothing I haven’t seen before.” She made a throat-clearing sound. “His Holiness, the Great God Kootooloo, requests the presence of all villagers at a town meeting, to be held at the pavilion this very minute, or sooner if possible.”

“A town meeting?” said Amy, astonished. “All villagers? It must be important.”

“He keeps telling me that he’s waiting for the right moment to reveal to the natives that he’s not a god,” Delta mused. “Maybe this is that moment.”

As she and Amy accompanied their robot friend to the pavilion, Leela wondered, “Once he steps down as god, who takes over?”

“Whoever was in charge before we showed up, I suppose,” said Amy. “Probably the big guy from this morning. I can’t see him taking orders from anyone.”

A large crowd of villagers had assembled at the pavilion, most of them sitting on the yellowed grass. Zoidberg was seated in his throne, a bronze diadem adorning his head; to his left, the same hulking native who had frightened Amy towered over everything in sight.

“Just as I thought,” said the Chinese girl. “Any minute now he’s gonna take off his crown and…”

Zoidberg suddenly pointed a claw at Leela, exclaiming, “Zogax Kupura Makupitu!”

All the natives rose as one and began to cheer. “Makupitu! Makupitu!” they chanted, their gazes fixed on Leela. “Fight to the death! Fight to the death!”

“They’re all speaking English now,” Amy marveled.

“And I don’t like the English they’re speaking,” added Delta.

Leela had never seen the mob in such a frenzied state, not even during the attempted sacrifice of a chanana. Zoidberg and the tall native at his side joined in the fray, howling and waving their fists. “Oh, God,” she said, realizing the truth. “They’ve arranged a death match!”

“Yes, a death match,” said Zoidberg to the three ladies minutes later, after he had dismissed the crowd. “Mortal combat, claw plagh, whatever you like to call it.”

Leela glowered at the muscular giant, one thought and one thought alone going through her mind: I’m gonna get my chance.

“Kupura here is the tribe’s mightiest warrior,” Zoidberg went on. “He wants nothing more in life than to prove his mettle against a superior opponent, but no one dares to fight him. No one, that is, but the Evil One herself, Zogax.”

Zogax Makupitu!” the mighty Kupura roared to the heavens.

“Fine,” said Leela peevishly. “I’ll be Zogax, if it means I get to kill him.”

Amy’s jaw dropped. “Surely you’re not serious!”

“I am serious,” said Leela, hatred in her brown eyes. “And don’t call me Shirley…or else.

Delta grabbed her firmly by the shoulder. “You know I’ll have to kill you if you win this fight,” she warned.

“Delta, no!” cried Amy.

“Delta, yes,” the fembot retorted. “I promised Leela that if she ever lost her humanity and became an animal, I’d put her out of her misery.”

“Call off the fight, mon,” said Hermes, looking squarely into the lobster’s eyes. “Call it off now.

“Hey, who’s the god here?” said Zoidberg in an unruffled tone.

Would you all shut up!” bellowed Leela.

Amy, Hermes, Delta, Zoidberg, Kupura, and everyone else within earshot fell silent.

Leela paused to catch her breath. “I can’t help what I am,” she said with what little calmness she could muster. “I’m a Chalnoth. Fighting and killing are what I live for, and this is my only outlet. I’m going through with the death match, and if you want to kill me for that, then get in line.

Chapter 26

The concerted efforts of Hermes, Amy, and Delta failed to sway Zoidberg’s decision. “See that stone column with the engravings on it?” said the lobster. “That’s how the Selvans keep track of time.”

Amy stepped onto the mostly bare tablet on which the column stood, and over which it cast a long shadow. “There’s only one mark on it,” she observed, pointing at the notch with her foot. “Shouldn’t there be twelve? They do have twelve hours in a day like we do, right?”

“They’re not quite that sophisticated,” said Zoidberg. “When the shadow touches the notch, it’s time for tea. And after tea, the fight.”

“Omigosh,” said Amy, measuring the distance between the shadow and the mark with her toes. “That’s only…four inches away!”

“I can’t believe you’d approve of such a barbaric ritual,” said Hermes.

“We Decapods have been observing this ‘barbaric ritual’ for more than eighteen years now,” said Zoidberg, “and you humans have practiced it as recently as the year 2000 A.D.”

“2000 A.D.?” said Hermes incredulously. “Where are you getting your information, mon?”

“From that documentary with Russell Crowe,” replied the crustacean. “You know the one I’m talking about.”

Amy excused herself, and the remaining three wandered into the nearby forest. Zoidberg idly plucked a mochuka from a tall bush, which alarmed Delta. “You really should stop eating that fruit, John,” said the fembot. “The parasites may be enhancing your abilities, but I’m afraid they’re also affecting your mind.

“There’s nothing wrong with my mind,” Zoidberg assured her. “I’m still the same Great God Kootooloo I’ve always been.”

While the lobster-god’s back was turned, Hermes looked about warily. No native guards were visible, only trees and a few huts in the distance. He nodded furtively toward Delta. “It’s time,” he mouthed.

The pair acted without hesitation. Delta stretched out her arm, grasping Zoidberg’s throat with her corrugated fingers. While she held him in place, Hermes withdrew a surgical scalpel from inside his jacket, reared back his hand, and plunged the blade into Zoidberg’s lower back where he expected a kidney to be located. “I’m very sorry about this,” he stated.

Zoidberg gave him a look of disappointment as pain wracked his body. “Et tu, Hermé?” he groaned. “Then Zoidberg falls!”

Hermes yanked out the scalpel, and Delta propped up the victim’s back as his knees buckled and gave way. “I hope you didn’t hit anything vital,” she said, blood from Zoidberg’s wound gushing over her metallic arms.

“I spent the last fifteen minutes studying Decapod anatomy,” said Hermes, grabbing the lobster’s two-toed feet. “Now let’s get him to the ship.”

They had only carried their alien friend a few paces when they heard his voice, clear as a bell: “You can put me down now.”

Startled, Hermes released his grasp on Zoidberg’s ankles. Delta, once she had pushed him into a standing position, saw to her disbelief that there was no trace of the scalpel wound in the crustacean’s back, only smooth scarlet skin. “Fantastic,” she muttered.

Zoidberg stepped back, eyeing his two attackers with contempt. “I thought you were my friends,” he said. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, indeed.”

“Don’t think this is over, mon,” said Hermes, shaking his fist. “We won’t stand by while you turn Leela into a killer. We’ll stop you any way we can.”

“I’m afraid I have to take Hermes’ side, John,” said Delta.

Zoidberg seethed, but managed to speak rationally. “I’m a compassionate god,” he told them. “A lesser god would reward disloyalty with death, but I shall content myself with merely banishing you.”

“No!” cried Delta. “You wouldn’t!”

“You may remain among us long enough to witness the makupitu,” Zoidberg continued. “When it ends, I’ll perform the ceremony of banishment, and you will be classified as enemies of the people. As I, the Great God Kootooloo, have spoken, so shall it be done.”

The indignant lobster trudged away toward the village. Hermes turned to Delta, shook his head, and remarked, “He’s loonier than a Canadian dollar, mon.”

Her shackles snipped off by Zoidberg’s claws, Leela reveled in the freedom of her fists by repeatedly punching a large, suspended sack of alien beans. It’s a good thing Mildred liked going to the health club, she thought. With her strength and agility, and my Arcturan kung fu, I should have no trouble taking down Kupura. When she was done with the beanbag, she tried sparring with some of the weapons hanging on the walls of the training room, such as a spear, a short-handled ax, and a battered iron sword. In the end she concluded that she would do best fighting with bare hands.

The training facility had two bamboo doors, one leading to the outside, the other to what the natives called the gimani. This was a large arena with rough wooden planks for seats, and a sandy field in the center where tests of strength and cunning took place. Everyone in the village, and many from neighboring villages, had gathered to brave the uncomfortable seats and witness the battle between the fiery-haired goddess Zogax and the undefeated champion, Kupura.

Zoidberg, wearing a lavish red robe, sat as close to the action as possible, his toes touching the sand from his front-row seat. It was a spot reserved for tribal leaders and dignitaries, distinguished from the other seats only by a small canopy built for shelter from the suns. His friends Amy, Hermes, and Delta sat together in the highest row, not wanting to be conspicuous.

“Poor Leela,” said Amy. “Even if she backs out of the fight, where will that leave her? She’ll have to resist the killing urge for the rest of her life.”

“Can’t you find a way to turn the chip in her head back on?” Hermes asked the fembot next to him.

“It would require a long series of special command frequencies,” replied Delta. “Compared to the effort involved, cracking Raven’s command protocol is like looking for a dollar store in Pittsburgh.”

Zoidberg stood, and all the villagers fell into a reverential silence. Raising his gem-encrusted claws, the lobster-god proclaimed, “Let the makupitu begin!”

Two doors on the opposite end of the gimani opened, and the combatants, Leela and Kupura, strode onto the field. Leela had abandoned Mildred’s blouse and sneakers in favor of a brown tube top and bare feet, while Kupura, who loomed above her by more than a foot, wore only his loincloth and shaggy beard. The spectators flew into an excited panic, most screaming, “Kupura! Kupura!” while a few sided with the underdog, crying, “Zogax! Zogax!”

When they reached the center of the arena, Kupura stood stiffly and saluted by raising his arm and pointing his hand at Zoidberg. “Zamuki golumph pakata!” he bellowed respectfully.

Leela, uncertain of Kupura’s meaning but desirous to maintain the spirit of the occasion, made a similar gesture. Raising her hand in the same manner, she exclaimed, “We who are about to die salute you!”

The two fighters turned and faced each other. The audience became quiet again, except for a few impatient murmurs. Then Zoidberg made a downward sweep with his claw, accompanied by the utterance, “Fight!”

Leela and Kupura began to circle each other. At the top of the arena Amy and Hermes gritted their teeth, wishing the fight would stop but also morbidly curious to see the outcome.

I hope his genitals are as sensitive as a human male’s, thought Leela. As long as Kupura’s arms were, she would need to execute a flawless flying kick to safely connect her foot with his groin. She sprang forward, her right leg stretched out, her left knee straightening forcefully—so far, so good.

Not so good. Kupura’s hands clamped tightly around her upraised leg, and in no time at all she was spinning like a ballerina. When her opponent let go, centrifugal force carried her halfway across the field. She landed painfully on her shoulder and rolled three times before stopping.

That was stupid, she told herself. He had me. He could have easily broken my leg, but I guess he wants to give the natives their money’s worth.

Kupura paced slowly towards her, a triumphant grin on his face, as the transfixed crowd watched.

Rage built up within Leela’s heart, and she welcomed it. Fury, she thought. I am fury.

Chapter 27

As the seven-foot champion drew closer and tensed his muscles, Leela pondered her next move. No one explained the rules to me, so I take it there are no rules, she thought. Lying perfectly still, she fastened her fingers around a ball of moist, clumpy sand, waited for Kupura’s face to align with the bridge of her nose, and let fly with her best blernsball pitch. As expected, the mass of sand collided directly with the native’s face.

“Bullseye!” she exclaimed aloud. Kupura blinked and rubbed his yellow eyes while Leela jumped to her feet. I’ve got you right where I want you, she thought, and moved in closer to administer a crotch kick.

Before her foot was even off the ground, a colossal fist smashed into her jaw.

The spectators gasped with alarm. “Oh, Leela!” cried Amy.

She awoke in the most beautiful place she had ever seen. Gilded clouds hovered in the azure-blue sky. Winged cherubs fluttered this way and that, plucking melodies on their zithers. Then two suns broke through the clouds, and a towering figure blocked out the suns.

Oh, that’s right, she remembered. I’m fighting for my life. Dazed but not deterred, she clambered to her feet. Kupura was upon her, throwing left hooks and right hooks with such speed and power that she could scarcely dodge them. The sand didn’t blind him at all, she realized. It was a bluff. He’s smarter than I thought.

“Go, Leela!” Amy cheered. “Get in there! Do him some damage!”

“Amy, we don’t want her to win!” said Hermes.

“It looks like nothing short of a deus ex machina will end this fight,” remarked Delta.

All this rage is only clouding my mind so I can’t think, Leela told herself. Maybe that’s why the Chalnoth keep getting beaten back. I need a strategy. Come on, girl, think of a strategy…

All she could see were Kupura’s fists pummeling the air around her. All she could think of was getting out of their way. Seconds passed. Gotta calm down, gotta think…

Wait…what was it Master Fnog always told me about using an opponent’s size against him?

Hermes and Amy chewed anxiously on their nails. “He’s going to wear her down,” said Delta. “She’s not accustomed to the climate. Well, at least I’ll be spared an unpleasant duty.”

Leela suddenly backpedaled. As soon as she had put four yards between herself and the giant, she stopped. Kupura waved his fists and braced himself for the unexpected.

“What’s she doing?” Amy wondered.

“She’s gonna charge him,” said Hermes. “But that’s suicide! It’s like charging a wall!”

Leela let out a frightful whoop and dashed forward, kicking up volumes of wet sand. Kupura, his gaze fixed on her nose, readied his left fist to deliver a killing blow. When the girl was close enough, he let loose.

His punch missed entirely. Like a blernsball player trying to steal second base, Leela was sliding on her legs and posterior, far below the reach of his deadly hands. The instant her rump was even with his ankles, she raised both legs, bent both knees, and fired both feet into Kupura’s exposed scrotum. Yes! Target achieved!

The stunned silence of the crowd was more silent than any silence she had ever not heard.

Leela scrambled to her feet, certain that a counterattack was on its way. To her astonishment, Kupura was frozen in mid-punch, his face trapped in a contorted expression of pain. He didn’t move or blink. Another trick, she suspected.

After swaying in the wind for a second or two, the mighty native fell over forwards and landed with his face in the dirt. It’s no trick, thought Leela with horror and relief. He’s dead. I killed him.

“Uh, what just happened?” said Amy.

“Incredible, mon,” marveled Hermes. “All it took was a kick to the jewels. It must be fatal to them.”

“That might explain the remarkable amount of equality between the sexes enjoyed by this society,” said Delta, rising slowly. “Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have a task to perform.”

“Grab her, Amy!” cried Hermes. He and the Chinese girl made an attempt to pin Delta to her seat by the arms, but her strength proved too much, and she shrugged them off with ease. By the time Hermes and Amy finished tumbling down the bleachers, the fembot had already marched onto the field of combat.

All the spectators gaped, not knowing what to think of this development. “Is the armored woman challenging Zogax?” some were heard to whisper.

When Leela saw the determined robot approaching, she ran. Seeing her vanish into the training room, Delta made chase, hopping over Kupura’s prostrate form. Her heavy feet made perfectly rectangular imprints in the sand. Into the chamber she rushed, passing by the suspended beanbag and the hanging weapons. In the last corner Leela waited for her, gripping a large iron sword and glaring fiercely.

“I’m doing this because you asked me to, Leela,” said Delta, taking small steps forward. “Now put down the sword.”

“You won’t take me without a fight!” the curly-haired girl snarled.

“Then fight you I will,” said the fembot, “though it hardly seems a fair fight, you having a sword and I not.”

“Then pick yourself out a sword,” said Leela. “I’ll wait.”

“That’s generous of you,” said Delta.

Turning about, she scanned the variety of blade weapons attached to the wall of the training room. Long swords, short swords, cutlasses, rapiers…it was very difficult for Delta to decide, especially after Leela had crept up behind her and sliced off her head with one stroke.

Chapter 28

While Delta’s headless body carelessly waddled into a wall, Leela held onto her sword with one hand and swooped down to grab the fembot’s head with the other. “Please be gentle, Captain Leela,” she heard the head say, but only anger and bloodlust filled her soul as she raced across the sandy field. The spectators gaped in awe at the sight of her victim’s severed head being dragged along.

“Oh, split!” cried Amy, watching from the fourth row down. “She killed Delta, too!”

When she had cleared the length of the field, Leela tossed the robotic head precisely into the lap of the Great God Kootooloo, known to her as Zoidberg. The regally robed lobster picked up Delta’s head in his claws and rotated it until her eyes met his. “I hope you’re pleased with what you’ve created, John,” the fembot spoke.

Leela rushed to the center of the arena, gave Kupura’s body a swift kick in the ribs, and raised her sword aloft. “I am the new champion!” she roared. “I take all comers! Who among you dares to challenge me?”

The crowd became so silent that alien crickets could be heard in the distance. Hermes, joining Amy on the stone stairway between the planks, said, “We’ve got to find a way to reason with her.”

“Yeah,” Amy agreed, “before she starts killing people at random.”

“Fight me, you cowards!” shouted Leela, recklessly waving her sword about. “FIGHT ME!”

Hermes swallowed nervously before stepping onto the field. “Leela, mon,” he said, holding out his hands. “Please listen to me. This is not who you are. You’ve let the rage take over.”

The furious freckled girl paced towards him, grumbling like a tiger. Hermes’ instincts told him to retreat, and he followed them.

“What’s happening, John?” inquired Delta’s head. “I can’t see.”

“Leela is chasing Hermes with a sword,” replied the lobster-god. “It doesn’t look good for poor Hermes.”

“You must help him,” Delta insisted. “You’re the only one who can stand up to Leela.”

“He conspired against me,” said Zoidberg. “He’s getting his just desserts.”

“Maybe so,” said the head, “but once she kills Hermes, who will she go after next? Amy? She’s never lifted a finger against you.”

She’s right, Zoidberg thought. Leela won’t stop with Hermes and Amy—she’ll mow down as many of my loyal followers as she can. She’s a menace to my society, and I made her this way. How can I call myself a god?

As he fled from Leela with all his strength and more, Hermes stumbled over his own shoe and landed on his belly in the dirt. His glasses had flown off, so the only thing he could see was a blurred image of a woman with a sword raised over her head. So this is how it ends, he thought. I just hope the things my mother taught me about zombies are really true.

Leela swept downward with her weapon, aiming the blade at the Jamaican’s neck.

Seconds passed, and Hermes found to his relief that he was still alive. Crawling toward the shiny blob he believed to be his glasses, he placed them atop his nose and looked behind him. There stood Zoidberg, bereft of his robe, tightly clutching Leela’s sword within his claw. The girl strained and struggled to pull the weapon away from him, and he responded by effortlessly snapping the blade in half.

“Thank God!” exclaimed Hermes.

“You’re welcome,” said Zoidberg, just as Leela plunged what was left of her sword into the soft spot in his chest.

The lobster struggled for breath and started to reel. Hermes, recalling his failed scalpel attack, shoved Leela aside, seized the sword handle, and pulled. It came out easily—so easily that Hermes suspected that Zoidberg’s body was pushing it out. His hopes were fulfilled, as the blade wound sealed itself within moments.

Zoidberg patted his chest, elated that the stabbing pain was gone. “What else you got?” he asked Leela.

At first bewildered, the girl concentrated her rage into a swift kick at Zoidberg’s mouth flaps. The sound, somewhat like a squish combined with a crunch, was heard throughout the arena. The crustacean moaned and stumbled a bit, but regained his composure within seconds.

Murmurs spread among the audience. “The Great God Kootooloo is immune to harm!” “Now Zogax will meet her end in the fiery chasm from whence she came!” “Hey, buy your own chanku!

Although her rational mind understood that attacking Zoidberg was futile, rage and fury propelled her to do exactly that. Screaming, punching, and kicking, she pounded his flesh into what she believed should rightfully be a scarlet pulp, only to see the grinning lobster still on his feet, as healthy as ever.

Amy, standing nearby, rubbed her eyes. “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?”

“It’s the parasites, mon,” explained Hermes. “They fix him up faster than Leela can break him.”

By the time he and Amy returned with a set of ankle and wrist shackles, Leela was sprawled on her back, exhausted from her relentless but ineffectual assault on Zoidberg. She offered no resistance as they bound her—indeed, she seemed incredibly relieved. “I feel so much better after getting that out of my system,” she remarked.

The audience began to disperse as Zoidberg conferred with his friends. “I’ve called off your banishment,” he told Hermes. “I see now what a terrible mistake I made. I endangered my people and nearly destroyed Leela.”

“It’s normal to make a few mistakes when you start out as a god,” said the Jamaican.

“I feel terrible about killing Kupura,” said Leela. “But, at the same time, I don’t.”

“Hello?” called a voice from Zoidberg’s canopy. “I’d like to be reattached to my body now.”

Chapter 29

Hours turned into days, and days turned into more days. To kill time, Captain Kroker met with his passengers and swapped stories of adventure in outer space.

“Kif, tell us about some of the terrible and scientifically inexplicable things that happened to you while exploring uncharted space,” said Farnsworth the Rat, who was cooling his hind paws in the Nimbus’ swimming pool.

“Oh, where shall I start?” mused the captain. “Once, while we were exploring the Gamma Pirogi system, some aliens hit us with a ray that made our hair turn into snakes. And not just the hair on our heads, but all the hair on our bodies. Captain Brannigan was so horrified, he didn’t know what to do. He finally put me in charge, as I don’t have any hair.”

Foss, Mildred, Bender, and Farnsworth chuckled with delight. “Tell us another one,” Foss requested.

“In the Sigma Deltoid system, the ship passed through an energy cloud that caused everyone aboard to be switched to the opposite gender—except for Captain Brannigan. Well, I don’t need to tell you how awkward that was for the crew, or how enjoyable for the captain. To me it was nothing special, as gender changes among my people are fairly common. I myself, as a child, turned into a girl for a week by sticking my finger in an electric socket.”

“Keep ‘em coming, Kif,” Farnsworth urged.

“Naw,” said Bender. “Tell us more about what happened in the Sigma Deltoid system, and don’t spare us the gory details.”

“Captain!” exclaimed the voice of Mr. Spork from the overhead speakers. “You and your friends may want to come to the bridge. We’ve found the Raven.”

With the massive starship Nimbus floating over the trees behind him, Zoidberg stood in the pavilion and delivered his final address to the gathered Selvan natives. “The celestial chariot has descended to retrieve me,” he stated. “Someday I may come back, but until then there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.”

A native woman stepped up and bowed before him. “We’ll miss you, O great Lord Kootooloo,” she said somberly. “We’ll miss the comfort of having a divine authority figure to relieve us of the responsibility of making our own choices.”

“Please don’t leave without imparting of your wisdom!” a male villager shouted.

“Very well,” said Zoidberg, clearing his throat. “People who are different from you are not necessarily evil. Steel is stronger than iron. Leeches don’t cure anything. Nuclear power has peaceful uses. VHS good, Betamax bad. Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can bring back an animated series after its cancellation.”

At the entrance to the Nimbus’ boarding elevator, Kif waited with Amy, Hermes, Leela, Raven, and the reassembled Delta for the conclusion to Zoidberg’s farewell. “Geesh,” complained Amy, glancing at the stone column that served as a timepiece. “He’s been talking for, like, two whole inches already.”

“How’d you find us so quickly, mon?” Hermes asked the green-skinned captain.

“We were lucky,” Kif replied. “Knowing beforehand the amount of fuel a ship of Raven’s class can carry, we estimated the point in space at which she was likely to run out, and searched the inhabitable planets nearest that point. I might have enlisted the help of Varuna from my planet’s psychic caste, but she recently drank some expired milk and turned into a man.”

“I’m gonna miss this planet and these people,” said Leela. “This is where I realized my lifelong dream of killing a guy for being a son of a bi-“

“Here he comes!” exclaimed Delta. Zoidberg was scuttling in their direction, the royal robe still draped around his shoulders.

“Good,” said Kif with a sigh of gratification. “Everyone’s here.”

“So, Your Holiness,” said Hermes facetiously, “how do you think your subjects will cope while you’re gone?”

“Oh, they’ll be fine,” said the lobster. “Just as I was leaving, a fight broke out over whether I would return in great glory or in the guise of an ordinary person, but I’m certain they’ll come to an understanding before long.”

After they boarded, the ship’s chief medical officer subjected Zoidberg to an examination. “These particular parasites seem to thrive on Decapod physiology,” he explained. “They can’t survive without certain nutrients found in the planet’s soil, so they’ll eventually die out, and you’ll revert to your old self.”

“You mean I won’t be impervious to injury anymore?” Zoidberg asked him.

“That’s right, bucko,” answered the CMO. “But hell, who wants to live forever?”

I do,” said Zoidberg glumly.

Elsewhere on the Nimbus, Kif facilitated the reunion of Hermes, Leela, Amy, and Delta with Bender, Foss, Mildred, and Farnsworth. “I have just one question to ask,” said Amy. “Does anyone know what happened to the professor?”

I’m the professor,” replied the giant rat.

Amy’s heart burst with joy, and tears came to her eyes. “Oh, professor!” she gushed, throwing her arms around the rodent. “I’m so glad you’re alive! Ewww! I’m hugging a rat!

Leela and Mildred gazed at each other, or rather, at themselves. “If I can’t have my body, then no one will have it,” said Leela threateningly.

“Before you kill me,” said Mildred, “you may want to listen to what Philaster has to say.”

Foss approached them, holding a tiny black device with a single button between his fingers. “Your troubles are over, Leela,” he said, and pressed it.

A second went by, and an expression of intense elation swept over Leela’s (Mildred’s) freckled face. “It’s…it’s gone,” she marveled. “The rage…the urge to kill…it’s completely gone!”

“Oh, happy day!” said Delta. “I won’t have to kill you after all!”

“I have one for Captain Brannigan as well,” said Foss, pressing an identical device into Kif’s hand.

“Okay, Philaster,” said Mildred. “I’ve waited long enough. How did you convince Mr. Burns to give you a chip controller?”

“I’ll tell you when we get back to Earth,” said Foss.

Leela, overjoyed, hurried into the ladies’ washroom. There she looked into the mirror at the round face and mass of curly red hair that stared back at her. I’m in Mildred’s body, and there’s no rage, she thought. I’ve got two eyes, I’m not a guy, I’m in great physical shape…where’s the downside?

The one-eyed, purple-haired Mildred entered the room after her. “I hope you won’t hate me,” she said, “but we didn’t bring a body switcher with us.”

Leela shrugged. “Yeah, whatever.”

On Earth, inside the CMB Research tower, the head of Charles Montgomery Burns eagerly looked over the schematics in a notebook which an employee was holding open for him. “Oh, yes, yes,” he said. “Excellent, excellent. Philaster Foss is such a dope. By turning his Fossinator technology over to me in exchange for a pair of chip controllers, he unknowingly gave me the power to rule the entire world! Muwahaha! MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”