-The Marriage of Figaro, W. Mozart
Prof. Hubert Farnsworth slept slumped in his hoverchair in his laboratory. He had been working on his latest doomsday device, but he had dozed off while reviewing the quantum field equations in his head, and had begun dreaming of younger times with Mom. He dreamt of mottled flesh and creaky joints, of a mix of solder and sweat, as a gentle breeze tickled his nose. Something wasn’t right…
And in response his dreams shifted…
“Thanks Professor, for everything.”
He was sad to see him go. It would be hard to find a test subject with a slower learning curve than his remote ancestor. Most sentient beings would have learned to stop pressing the button to get the cookie after the fifth shock. He had hoped that years of careful observation of this young man would cumulate in a revolutionary theory of the minimum number of neurons required to sustain an approximation of intelligence. Take that, Wenstrom!
“Neat! What’s that you’re working on?”
Maybe he wasn’t that sad to see him go after all.
“Oh, sorry! Didn’t mean to knock that over.”
It had taken months to develop that fermion foam for his latest power source, and now a dark stain was creeping along the floor.
“I’ll try to wipe it up with this towel here. AHHH! It’s moving! Get off me! Get off! I don’t like towels! Help!”
Life was so fragile, so delicate. Stupid life. The universe should have been able to do much better. He had done much better. He had worked years to create a life form as life should be—indestructible, able to survive any temperature, any radiation, any environment, any emotional crisis. This “towel” was actually a colony of artificial single-celled nanotube-strength bacteriolichezoa that could survive anything thrown at it…
“Uh, geez, Professor, is it supposed to shrivel up like that?”
Anything, apparently, except fermion foam.
“Well, uh, I guess that’s a little better, even if it’s on fire.”
Two projects ruined within seconds. The tarred remains of the bacteriochezoa mixing with the half-spin foam were making really pungent vapors. Entropy, thy name is—
“Gosh, it’s eating a hole in the floor. I’m really sorry about that –oh look! It made another hole down there! And another hole! Whooops, almost got Zoidberg there!”
“Well anyway, I need to go. Hermes has taken care of everything. I’ll be hard to find, so no point in looking for me. I might be back someday. But for now, thanks…”
Suddenly he couldn’t breathe as two arms cracked a couple of ribs. Damn you humanity and your stupid emotions! Damn these hugs and other germ-spreading social artifacts!
And yet he found himself a little sad that his only genetic relation was leaving. It was strange to be relieved yet despondent at the same time. And as the red head vanished through the door, and he surveyed the ashes of his latest research efforts, all come to naught, he thought that this was definitely a day he wanted to forget…
The breeze tickled his nose again, and he smelled a hint of flowers and hot asphalt. Something was not right. A breeze? In his laboratory?
Farnsworth opened his eyes. An owl stared back at him, blinking its eyes in the bright sunlight. Sunlight? He swiveled in his chair.
The entire wall of the lab was missing, and he found himself staring down into the main hangar of Planet Express. The ship was gone, but the floor was buried under a pile of twisted, smoking debris. Squinting his eyes, he looked up. The roof of the hangar was gone, and as he looked a butterfly languidly fluttered through the hole, and white clouds idly drifted across a brilliant summer sky. Had his doomsday device gone off? But if it had, wouldn’t his molecules be floating over Europistan by now? He felt his face. Yes, it was still there, so he wasn’t an astral projection. So it wasn’t a doomsday device. More like a doomlet device.
“What’s a Woolong?”
He spun his chair around and saw three figures clustered around a holographic display. He could see a virtual banner titled “IBHG” flapping on the screen. A female in a pink sweatsuit and a purple-headed one-eyed woman were both looking at a dark-skinned human, who was typing information into a keyboard underneath the projection. They looked familiar. He felt a desire to dissect the Cyclops, but something told him she was more valuable alive. Besides, she looked disappointingly healthy.
“It’s a traditional unit of currency among bounty hunters, Leela. It dates back to the 21nd century, I think. Dey’re a traditional bunch, these bounty hunters. The Hunter’s Guild only started accepting credit cards three centuries ago. Let’s see… 2 million Woolong translates into abou’ $2,000,231.25, give or take $125.67.”
“Is it enough money to make it worth it, Hermes?”
“Well, it’s not the Wong fortune, Amy, but it’s enough to keep us from going out of business. Dey didn’t just take the ship. No mon. They also took all of Planet Express’s petty cash and hacked our other short-term assets. If we don’t find them soon, say within two weeks, this company’s in deep voodoo.”
Farnsworth was distracted by a faint yet familiar voice. Looking up, he saw most of the lab roof was missing, and he could stare into the lounge, where the TV was precariously perched on the lip of the hole.
“Once again our top story. At seven this morning the Big Apple Bank was robbed by two individuals threatening to detonate a bomb. After snatching Mom’s Robot Corp’s payroll, the robbers stole a police hovercar and went on a rampage through the streets.”
“I’m going to need names to register you into the Guild. Do you want to use your real names?”
“It’d be safer to use fake names, so our identities can’t be traced as easily. We’ll need names that are completely different from our real ones. Let’s see, I’ll be Lola.”
“And I’ll be KiffiePoo.”
“That’s really lame, using your boyfriend’s name.”
Among the injured was the second assistant aide to the mayor, Chaz Smythe III, Jr. But he got the VIP suite in the hospital. He’s that important.
“Don’t take your bitterness out on me, Leela. Remember our discussion about moving on?”
“Moving on, I’d say that’s a pretty lame name. Why not just use Valentine and make the lameness really obvious?”
“Fine then. I’ll use one of my favorite Bugaloo’s names, like Faye. Oh hey, why don’t we pose as sisters? That’d be fun!”
The tall purple-haired woman rolled her eye, a motion so familiar to Farnsworth that he suddenly remembered that the freak worked for him.
“Oh yeah, we look soooo much alike. I don’t even look human, remember?”
“Oh com’mon, you can be adopted.”
“No, you’ll be the adopted one.”
“Greck-leh! I hit a nerve there, huh? Fine, have it your way.”
“Ok, then ladies. Lola and Faye Valentine, it’ll be.”
“After a dramatic chase, the thieves holed up inside a local delivery service, where we have unconfirmed reports that they took hostages before hijacking a space ship and destroying much of the building. Well, Morbo, we haven’t seen this much carnage on the streets since the fast-food industry managed to get McPluto declared an official planet!”
“Wow, we’re going to have to get totally new outfits to go with those guns and knives! It’s gonna be tough to find a summer color that matches with blood-stains…”
“Our outfits are just fine. What I want to know, Hermes, is when the rules say “alive,” how alive do they have to be?”
Only now did Farnsworth notice how the purple-haired freak was walking with a limp. Her shirt was torn, her face was bloodied, and she cradled her left hand as she asked the question. She shifted position, and now he could see two fingers were splinted together. Perhaps a dissection in the near future was not out of the question after all…
“Morbo is disgusted with the pitiful security system of this puny planet. Your defenses are laughable, and our invasion force will crush you like sunflower seeds. Morbo likes sunflower seeds. We will let those exist. But Chihuahuas. We will destroy your Chihuahuas.”
“It’s right here, Leela. According to the latest agreement signed by the Guild 15 years ago, a suspect mus’ retain at least half their limbs and recover 75% of their original cognitive capacity within six months to qualify as “alive”.
“Ha Ha Ha, how funny you are! But now the latest developments—a reward for the capture of the suspects has been posted by an anonymous donor, with the restriction that the suspects be captured alive and deposited at an as-yet unspecified location. The size of the reward is such that a crowd of bounty hunters is descending onto our system to try to pick up the trail! The Intergalactic Bounty Hunters Guild has reported a 10% increase in membership over the past two hours. Who knows? Maybe your co-worker next to you may be taking out a hunting license right now! Right Morbo? Morbo? Where’d he go?”
“What’s happening here? Did I sleep through something?”
All three turned to face him. Yes, he definitely knew their names. But he didn’t really care.
“Professor, I’ve just reregistered Leela and Amy’s career chips as bounty hunters. They’re leaving as soon as possible to recapture our stolen ship before anyone else can do so and claim salvage rights. Are you sure you’re up to this, Leela?”
Leela was pale and trembling, but to Farnsworth’s disappointment he saw that her shaking was not due to shock or death throes, but to a barely-contained fury.
“Oh yes, I can’t wait to see them again. And when I get my hands on them, they’re going to wish someone else had found them. And then they’ll be out of our lives for good.”
She didn’t shout, and she made no threatening motion, but something in her voice caused both Hermes and Amy to step back a couple of paces unconsciously, as did Farnsworth’s chair.
“Come on, Amy. We’re going to have to use your Beta Romero to start, so let’s get it loaded up.”
“The bank has just released holographic footage of the two perpetrators, and we’ve been able to obtain names.”
As the two women left the room and Hermes turned to fill in the still groggy professor, the slightly distorted voice of Linda the newscaster floated through the lab.
“And it looks like practice makes perfect for these two! Just a few years ago both served prison sentences for robbing this same bank!”
There was a pause, and then,
“The names of the suspects are Robot Bender Rodriquez and Human Phillip J Fry, both former employees of the Planet Express delivery company, although Mr. Fry apparently left the company a year ago. We’ll keep you updated throughout the Sol diurnal cycle. We’ll now turn for our one-second opinion to our psychologist.—“